Boxing day 2023

Boxing day was a fun little distraction yesterday with five matches on TV as I sat with very little to do at work. There was a last-minute decision to close this week and we have caught up on all the work for the year so, I was left with little more than planning and writing which I knocked out in almost no time. I would have just taken the day off, or worked from home, if I’d known we were going to be closed. But to be absolutely clear I’m not complaining.

The early match was Newcastle v. Nottingham Forest and my only observations there is that Newcastle are a bunch of snide players. That’s not news to Arsenal supporters. We remember how many times Bruno and Joelinton got away with some atrocious tactics in our “defeat” to them. After watching them in a losing effort at home to Forest, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is just how they defend: they are going to barge into someone, kick them, trip them, pull them, and so on because they can’t seem to cope with counters or they aren’t quite set up to deal with counters.

I’m aware that “all teams do this”. It’s not that they do it once or twice a game, it’s that they do it on nearly every counter attack. It might explain why their away record is so bad – they have lost 4 away matches in a row and haven’t won an away game since the 8-0 win over Sheffield United on September 24th. This could also explain why I keep hearing that Eddie Howe’s job is under scrutiny. They are 19th in the away table, with 14 goals (8 of them in that one game). When it comes to away day losers, Eddie Howe has to be the absolute worst (considering budget, etc.).

But crucially, this wasn’t an away game. The Newcastle faithful were there and cheering on their players (sometimes). So, it’s a bit of a mystery. You could say that Forest got a bit lucky – the xG was in NUFC’s favor – but I don’t think that tells the whole story. Newcastle just looked out of sorts, tired, and of course, snide.

After that I watched Luton get a very very fortunate win over Sheffield United. The score was 2-3 for Luton but the xG was 3.62 to 0.72. Football is amazing.

Arsenal loanee Albert Sambi Lokonga played in this match and I think I saw him personally save at least 3 goals with blocks, tackles, and clearances off the line. Despite that herculean effort, watching him was a bit sad because it looks like he has not kicked on from where I thought he was developmentally two years ago. In fact, in terms of ball progression, I’d say he’s regressed. He had a number of shockingly bad turnovers in this game and if it wasn’t for his game-saving heroics he might have been pegged as the worst player on the pitch.

After that was the only dour match of the day: Burnley v. Liverpool. Liverpool trundled on to a 2-0 win away at 19th place Burnley. It was an incredibly boring match, no notes.

And then the big payout: Man United v. Aston Villa. Unai Emery’s Villa jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to some set-play trickery (they fooled Raphael Varane into playing for Man U) and then did the thing that Unai Emery is best known for: Turtle.

To be fair, Villa were somewhat progressive after taking their 2-0 lead and had 2 good attacks in the second half – a huge chance by McGinn, blocked in the 71st minute and a couple of chances in the 59th minute. And to be fair, “all teams do this when they take the lead”. But like I said about Newcastle, it’s not that Villa play defensively when they have a lead, it’s HOW incredibly defensively they play when they have the lead.

Not to celebrate anything Man U, but I guess it was “nice” to see them win? I was more wishing for them to have a 4-4 draw or something like that but if this will maybe, please, start the end of the “Unai Emery is a GREAT COACH akchually” nonsense then I will accept a Man U win. Unai is fine. Not great. Not bad. He will be remembered and celebrated for his Europa League trophies, but I think his away record will always haunt him, for good reason.

The funniest part – for me – was when the Villa away fans were singing “sacked in the morning” to Ten Hag in the 30th minute. He really does have the look of a dead man walking and that team didn’t play their best for him yesterday. There were so many defensive possessions where they just looked lost and not up for the fight. I think they won because Garnacho is maybe a real talent and got on the end of some very fortunate open play (hey! Villa didn’t turtle the whole time).

It was a fun match to watch though because it had five goals!

Anyway, that’s it for today. Maybe more tomorrow.*


*He blogs when he wants, he blogs when he waaaaants, 7amkickoff, he blogs when he wants.


  1. A surprise blog post, thanks!

    I watched the 2nd half of ManU vs Villa thinking, there’s not much hope for ManU and it would be fun to watch them (or Villa) lose.

    The ManU win, if anyone believes in superstitions, ManU have never lost when I’ve watched them. Hence, it’s been a long time since I’ve!

  2. I’d prefer if you blogged when we wanted you to (twice daily) But grateful for the Koscielnian frequency regardless

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