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Arsenal tactics review, part one: set plays and centrebacks

By Phil Gregory

After a season that ended in so much disappointment, many fans are calling for changes in the system we play, as well as the personnel themselves. Leaving aside transfer stories for now, let’s have a look at the tactical issues Arsenal had last season.

As the most widely criticised area of our side, it makes sense to start with the defence. The goals conceded stats are not good viewing: we conceded significantly more goals (ten) than Chelsea and Manchester City and it was only by outscoring those sides that we managed to stay within three points of them in the table.

According to stats I pinched from a Guardian article, we conceded 53.5% of our goals from set pieces, which is a substantial number. Only three teams in the league conceded a great number of goals from set pieces, all sides who conceded vastly more goals than us anyway (Sunderland, West Brom and Aston Villa). So it’s clear we have a big problem at set pieces. How do we remedy it?

Well, the traditional pundit prescription is a big, English centreback. Whilst anyone who watched England versus Switzerland recently knows that the best England has to offer may not remedy our defensive woes   , there is another flaw in that plan. When you look at the sort of defenders Arsène buys for us, they tend to be good on the ball as well as capable defensively and he does that for a reason. Whilst not all commanding English defenders play hoof-ball, the attributes of aerial dominance, pace and ability on the ball rarely go together. Factor in the English price tag, and you can see why Wenger is wary and looks abroad. Interesting then the stories of £16m for Phil Jones (though he can play in midfield, so can surely pass)…

Many may think that that approach is wrong, that if we signed a brute defender and had one ball playing defender we’d defend set pieces better for negligible loss to our play going forward. In my view that’s not true: look at how many players are in the mixer at set pieces, and the ball can only go to one of them. This mythical aerial monster of a centreback can’t mark the entire opposition, and even if you set him up marking zonally, aiming to attack the ball as it comes in, there is still a lot of places the ball can go to that he couldn’t attack it from. Near post, far post, deep etc, one defender can’t cover all those positions. Clearing out all our centre backs for Roger Johnson types isn’t an option either.

Are we too short? While I didn’t fancy calculating the average height of every team in the Premier League, the evidence seems weak. None of our centrebacks are small, whilst players such as Diaby and Song are bigger than most midfielders. Anyway, height is largely irrelevant to aerial ability. I’ll take a 5’11” centreback with a good leap over a 6’3” clogger who is glued to the floor any day, as my man will get higher in the air, despite his starting handicap.

For me then, the problem is simply one of coaching. I can’t remember the game (it might have been Stoke away) but an opposition player scored simply by chesting in a cross/corner. If my Saturday morning team conceded goals like that I’d be livid. Notions that Wenger doesn’t know how to coach defences are ridiculous – the Invincibles, anyone? – but clearly something has to be done once pre-season training starts. Perhaps we just struggled this season as it was all change in the defence (compared to last season, you can argue that all of Squillaci, Koscielny and Djourou are new arrivals in some shape or form, whilst Vermaelen was AWOL for the majority of the season). For me, it is a matter of getting busy on the training ground and rectifying basic errors. Who is tracking who, who is marking where… working on the cohesion of the defensive unit on the pitch and getting the tactics board out to look at positioning. Considering the majority of our goals come from set pieces, improving the defence from those situations even 50% would bring down the number of goals we concede overall down massively: a silver lining perhaps?

For me then, it’s not all woe. Our defending at set pieces is shockingly bad considering our targets in the Premier League, but with a never say die, 6’4” Pole in goal for a full season and greater understanding between the defenders and keeper next season, we should see a substantial improvement. If not, we really need to be calling for Keown and Adams (though surely Bould has a word from time to time?)

This article turned out to be quite a longer than I anticipated, so I’ll do it as a multi part series. Part two: playing out from the back and goalkeeper distribution.

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Note: As you know we accept articles from people who want to write for Untold. For the moment Tony Attwood is enjoying a holiday and will not be able to come online.  So if you have written an article and there is no hurry to see it published you can send it to the usual mail address. If you want to see it published in the next days you can send it to my mail address  walterbroeckx(at)hotmail.com and then we can see that it gets published as soon as possible. Walter

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90 comments to Arsenal tactics review, part one: set plays and centrebacks

  • mandeep

    i agree. it’s exactly as adams said in the week…wenger is a great manager….graham was a great coach…..wenger is gud at developing players offensively but not defensively….how many world class defenders has he developed from a teen age…none…
    anyone for adams as assistant coach….remember him at pompey…??

  • Chevre Chaud

    Are penalties considered set pieces? If so stopping conceding these would help a great deal.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Interesting read. I think some of our defensive issues, such as set pieces have become a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy as confidence has eroded.
    There are other issues, Kos and Squillaci clearly do not work together. And some MFs have a tendancy to lose the ball and not track back, putting a stretched defence under even more pressure, the more defensive teams play 2 banks of 4, any defender can look good in such a formation. We just do not play like that.
    Having said that, Wenger is crazy if he does not let Bould have at least some sort of input.
    I think defence issues are a microcosm of other issues affecting the team – lack of confidence, constant injuries hindering true understanding of other team mates, new faces last year, inexperience, maybe at times lack of leadership. I have also noticed that Chesneys distribution is not yet as good as the oft slagged off Almunia, a poor keeper but in my mind at least, his distribution was excellent. I do also believe the work ethic of some of this team can be improved.
    After last season and with new owners, maybe Wenger has less clout than he once did. An American owner who sees the value of marketing the club may be asking questions – I have spent several hundred million on a team that defends like that? Things that happened last season were not acceptable. Wenger will now be under a lot more pressure than before to make sure past mistakes are not repeated. If as some say he has taken his eye of defence / keepers, Wenger will now have to get things right – which will be good news for Arsenal fans of all persuasions. I think we all expect a few changes next season – maybe, just maybe he will get the Invincibles bug back?

  • Stevie E

    @phil – nice post interesting read. I seem to recall reading a fee weeks ago that pens are classes as set pieces ( I may be wrong) but if that is the case, that would make a big difference to the stats. We all know that refs like to give pens against us for no reason, so it would be interesting to see how many goals we concede in comparison to everyone else if we take pens out of the equation. I have a feeling it will put us more in line with everyone else. I also think the loss of tv5 cannot be underestimated and we will see a marked improvement next season purely from having him back in the team.

  • Phil

    Stevie E – that’s actually a very good point. AS with any statistic, a lot depends on how they’re calculated. (At what point is a goal scored after a corner not a set piece goal? What if they play it short, or it gets cleared and then goes back into the box and they score?)

    I may take a look at the goals conceded stats sometime via Arsenal Player highlights

  • walter

    For those interested the questions about how many goals and what is included will be in more highlighted in my more statistical articles that will be on the site in the next days.
    Because I can tell you if you take away the penalties from the set pieces you suddenly see a what different picture.

  • walter

    A good article Phil and I must say I agree a lot with what you say. Without wanting to give awat too much of my articles that are in the pipeline I would say that Cahill is not the answer. Samba could be a better answer. 😉
    I also think that it has a lot to do with the fact that we have had a completely new set of centre backs this season. None have played together before and some of them had to work on a partnership.
    I think the Djourou-Koscielny partnership worked rather well for a long period (december-january-february untill the CC final). But because of the fatigue coming in because Djourou was his first season back after almost having to fear for his career and Koscielny for his first season and have to play so many games they got exhausted in the end.
    Having said this all I wouldn’t mind us getting a “Samba-type” defender who can be used against the lower league teams against whom we struggled at times. I think such a type of defender could have been helpful in the final weeks of the season with a somewhat more pair of fresh legs in defence.

  • Phil

    Great stuff Walter, look forward to the articles. As for Samba-type defender… well, I’ll cover that in my next article on playing it out from the back!

  • Egil Smith-Meyer

    Remember also that you can defend by attacking. Remember the invincibles against M´boro (5-3 to Arsenal)? It´s like Barcelona. You prevent the opponent from scoring by going at them yourselves!

  • meditation

    http://twitter.com/#!/footballisfixed Different topic but interesting to follow. May be of some use to Dogface.

  • meditation

    for some reason it didnt show the full twitter address.This is it. http://twitter.com/#!/footballisfixed

  • meditation

    Dogface. Im sure you will find my last two comments funny and ironic. I did. I just looked at the followers of that twiter address after i just posted the comments. I have read their website for a couple of years ever since the 2007/08 season dint feel right. I dont actually use twitter i was looking for new puplished articles from footballisfixed as they had seemed to stop publishing. My aim is always to collect information to appease my instincts.

  • Mandy Dodd

    I think a major tactic Wenger needs is to toughen some of this team up. Wenger is going to change his philosophy a bit, I am convinced the poster boy for the recent philosophy will go, Nasri will stay, become the main player and we will add a bit of steel and experience.
    I do not know why but for some reason, I am more optimistic about this team than I have been for some time, even though I am convinced we are about to lose our best player.
    On the subject of defence, lots of chatter about an imminent bid for Samba, for what that means

  • Dark Prince

    The article has definately highlighted our issue. And yes, the problem is definately a problem of coaching. But is it that Wenger himself is not a good coach?? I dont think so. Infact Wenger’s defensive strategies should be among the best in the world. C’mon, he’s the same guy who coached the Invincibles and also, if nobody realised, Arsenal has the best defensive record for the champions league – and thats in 2006 when they went for 10 consecutive games without conceding a goal.

    So what exactly has changed since then?? Its our PLAYING STYLE!!!!

    If you look closely, during those days, we used to have defenders who played a more physical and more tackling game. And what we have now, is a defence which is more good at interceptions and offside trappings. Thats why our defence shines when we play a team like Barca against whom a offside trappings and interceptions will be more helpful than a physical game which includes more of tough tacklings.
    But then again, this style is not appropriate for EPL where you have teams which hoof the ball and are more threatening via crosses. Remember, during the invincibles, we were least afraid during set pieces, bcoz the defensive style we used during those days was simply the more attacking and tough tackling style. But now we a more cautious and look for interceptions and trying to catch opposition players in offsides.

    I can understand that Wenger changed it bcoz he was trying to make our team more technical in every department. But its simply not the style that will be fruitful in EPL where every team plays a style of football which consistently exploits our defensive style.

    Though i believe Wenger can change this. But will he?? Hmmmm…..very tough question to ask….

  • BobbyP

    @meditation

    Sample quotes for your (totally off-topic) Twitter link:

    ‘England’s match with Switzerland was a fix. Check the private bookie markets. Bookies want Capello out’

    (On Champions League day): ‘A great w/e for Fergy. Play the polygamist, ban the Bulgarian, negate Nani and bet on Barca. No wonder the Knight was smiling’

    Why are you trying to derail a nicely written article with rubbish like that?

  • Phil

    Dark Prince: Interesting comments on interceptions versus tackling, that’s something I plan on picking up on later on in the series.

  • BobbyP

    @DarkPrince

    re. the 2006 Champions League run without conceding a goal, wasn’t Martin Keown involved in coaching that team? I’m sure I read somewhere that his input coincided with a dramatic improvement defensively

  • Wrenny

    Great article. I was thinking of writing an article myself about some of my thoughts on this topic but I’m moving house soon and am strapped for time.

    Clearly the set-piece defending has been poor at times this season and has been somewhat of a weakness for us. Defending a set-piece has nothing to do with the team’s formation so I’m perplexed at how some people mention that as a source of the problem…

    We’ve conceded a higher proportion of set-piece goals than anybody else, yet on the flipside that means we have also conceded the LOWEST proportion of goals from open-play than any other side in the Premier League. Having achieved that with just 3 CBs, all of them strangers to each other at the beginning of the season (and Squillaci didn’t even have the benefit of a pre-season with us to learn the system), to me that demonstrates two very clear things: 1. the formation and system are very strong, and 2. our defensive coaching has been excellent.

    You can’t put together a defensive spine of new signings (Koscielny, Squillaci) and rookies (Szczesny, Wilshere), and turn them into the hardest team to score against from open play in the league without knowing a thing or two about defending! This myth that Wenger is weak defensively is preposterous, and few things irritate me more than hearing about it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we’ve clearly built an already strong defensive base this season that we can on build on and improve with some judicious tweaking, plenty of training on those weak spots, and a clever defensive signing or two that can play the system.

  • Stevie E

    @wrenny – excellent points, I firmly believe the set piece goals is unbalanced by pens and the fact we can’t defend is yet another myth perpetuated by the press and aaa. Yes, mistakes have been made, but every team makes mistakes, just like every team scores own goals and all keepers make errors. This hyper critical analysis of everything an arsenal player does is an absolute joke, it is one of the reasons for a lack of trophies in recent years (in humble opinion). The fans get disgruntled and angry at even a slightly below par performance, which in turn has a detrimental effect on morale. When the team really needs backing, they get shit, which is exactly what the press want, yet another season without a trophy so they can churn the same garbage again and again.

  • Dark Prince

    BobbyP- if thats true then it would highly advisable that Wenger again brings a Martin Kneown or a Tony Adams to help him in the defensive sector.

  • Wrenny

    @BobbyP
    I think that’s a common misconception, one of those myths that have grown legs. I’ve heard from a few people that Keown had no involvement with the first team whatsoever, he spent some time at the club doing some coaching badges but his input was entirely limited to working with youth players as part of working towards those qualifications, which would be the most logical thing.

    Anyway, our CL run of clean sheets came about mainly because of Wenger’s tactical switch to a deep 4-5-1 due to the injuries to Campbell and Cole. Wenger was forced into playing young rookie Senderos in Sol’s place and pushing (the also young) Flamini into LB. Their inexperience and Senderos’ lack of pace is likely to have lead Wenger to switch to a 4-5-1 to offer them greater protection. And none of that would have been down to Keown, even if you choose to believe that he was involved in first team defensive training.

  • BobbyP

    @Wrenny

    Fair enough, was just a rumour I heard – thanks for the clarification. Wenger definitely did amazingly well to put together such a robust defence, given the limited resources available at the time

  • Ugandan Goon

    thank you phil for the article, pretty good stuff although i get the feeling you might analyse just what tactics other teams use against us and what they might do when they play other clubs.
    are we seriously going to discuss this or are we playing the media game?
    considering the antics of the jermaine pennants, the charles nzogbia or ashley youngs of this world- the set piece is one of the few ways most teams are going to get a result at arsenal- so they play for set pieces-
    A few of the comments have brought up the issue of hardening the team – i cannot praise the team enough for the discipline the show when match after match they run the gauntlet of career threatening tackles without adequate protection of the likes of dowd and webb- while any infringement they might commit on the rules is punished ruthlessly- lets find a way to deaden the nerves of arsenal players or implant steal in their backbones or something
    if we need to talk about anything then it has to be how to get the players to mature in football terms enough to move the ball intelligently and move off the ball fast enough to destroy the 10+1 defence in the final third of the pitch.
    I am in hibernation at the moment because the close season depresses the shit out of me but a couple of comments just irked me enough to think arsenal
    P.s can all the people with suggestions about magically transforming the club into god knows what please do something about the shit laden couple of months before the boys jog out again to give me what i neeed!

  • TommieGun

    Hi – great read. I thought i read here on untold that pens counted in the set piece stat thing. Maybe my memory is betraying me…

    The analysis plus dark prince’s comments seem solid to me. However, i tend to rely more on what i simply see and it seems that the defensive woes were part of a bigger thing happening with team – lack of faith/desire. We got less of a collective team effort, to me.

    Lets see who stays first, i really want nasri to secure his place.

  • Ugandan Goon

    keown, adams- paleese
    adams showed his capabilities at portsmouth, end of discussion
    keown- whatever
    why do we perpetuate the cycle of”jobs for the boys”- these guy haven’t got the intellectual abilities to see beyond their noses
    the difference between wenger and most managers is that i can actually listen to this guy talking about anything, it amazes me when you see a keegan getting a job, or fan pressure causing newcastle to do whatever they do up there.
    Can we please just discount these idiots and their utterances as just a scummy meal ticket and try a serious analysis of our playing style and real possibles- who can we poach from barca, perhaps a lower league manager willing to settle for the number two’s job at arsenal, that is the reality of our situation we are not going to get wheer we are going if we are looking at ferdinandor terry or vidic as credible role models for our defenders- they are thugs who would never cut it without the aura/ corruption that allows refs to protect the thugs

  • Phil

    Ugandan goon – I agree with you in general, but blokes such as Keown and Adams were “degree level in the art of defending” according to Wenger (IIRC) so I daresay that despite their likely lack of pub quiz knowledge, they could do a good job at drilling a back four.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Sometimes the best players turn out bad managers and sometimes bad players become the best managers.

    I’m not convinced of what Tony Adames has done as a manager how much I wanted and still want him to be a succesfull manager.

  • bjtgooner

    Phil, that was good post and touches on a huge area of concern. Regarding training – can anyone advise how much set piece training is carried out?

    It has been correctly pointed out that our 3 main center backs this season had no prior experience of playing together, I agree but feel the understanding between the back 6 is critical (GK, back 4 and DM). For defence against set pieces most of the team is involved – very often we see VP getting to the ball first. So the understanding, which can only come from repeated training and drills needs to involve all of the team.

    We also need to try to score more goals from corners and perhaps need to work on those also. We took some very good short corners last season but not often enough – if we don’t have a lot of tall players on the field and we are playing against tall rugby teams we should play it short more frequently. I am not sure how many corners we win compared to other teams but, at times it seems a lot, too few result in goals.

    I agree that a Samba type would be a useful addition to the squad. This is not intended as criticism of the incumbents, rather to give us more options when facing the “big boot up the middle” teams.

  • Kentetsu

    Excellent point by Wrenny: If Arsenal concede the relatively the most goals from set pieces, then at the same time we concede the least goals (relatively) from open play. It was the first thought that crossed my mind when the story about Arsenal’s poor record with set pieces first appeared in the news. That our defence performs so well in open play – even with a number of egregious cock-ups – is a comforting thought.
    Regardless of whether penalties are included or not, it is clear to me that defending set pieces are not Arsenal’s forte. But I think, as mentioned before, that with good training on set pieces, good communication, and with a prolonged defensive partnership of Vermaelen and Djourou – with Szczesny in goal from the start of the season – the number of goals conceded from set pieces will go down a lot.

  • Shard

    That statistic includes penalties, free kicks, corners, and throw-ins. It comes from OptaJoe or Orbinho whom I think it would be worthwhile following on twitter. (Even though I’m not on Twitter myself).

    We have conceded 8 goals from corners if I remember correctly, and 6 from penalties (9 awarded). League average for goals conceded from corners is 7.3..

    Another thing that can be debunked is that height is the way to solve the problem. This I am pinching from another site, but apparently, Stoke conceded the most goals as a percentage of free kicks in the final third.

    I agree that it is a problem of coaching, but also, how do you coach the players to deal with long throws and fast, well flighted crosses, when we have no one who can deliver them in the first place? We are as poor if not worse from set pieces offensively (Only from instinct, that might be worth checking out Phil) If we improve on that, maybe it’ll help us improve on defense.

  • RedGooner

    Having watched Ray Parlour discuss our defence the other day I think I more agree with him its not all about the players we have its what they are doing or rather not doing.

    He was mentioning the way Arsenal players back then played more zonal and attacked the balls comming into their area of the box rather than trying to man mark.
    Like he said though you need good players who read the game well for that to be sucessfull unlike the way liverpool try it but dont get it right.
    Im not sure we teach defence right and the way we were better when Keown helped out that year on our way to champs league final I dont think we will improve until someone helps out again.
    Our players may be good enough just theres a lack of organisation through poor defensive coaching methods.

  • Pat

    Thanks for reminding us, Ugandan Goon. Yes it does take guts, as you say, to run the gauntlet of career threatening tackles without adequate protection. This is just one more aspect where the Arsenal team does not get the credit it deserves.
    A number of journalists have chosen Newcastle – Arsenal as one of the matches of the season. They must have forgotten – or chosen to forget – some amazing refereeing decisions, well documented on this web site. Coming back to four four in these circumstances is not an achievement like coming back as Arsenal did once with four great goals from Andrei Arshavin.

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    Going by this analysis what we need to stop doing is conceding corners, penalties and free kicks, in which case a classic “English” centreback is not what we need at all. We will always struggle with the English referee’s notion of ‘fair play’ whereby a defender in possession is considered fair game for a dubious tackle by the striker, it’s one of the things that makes the EPL so appealing abroad. There is a statistic showing a clear bias in free kicks awarded in the opposition’s third of the pitch, as opposed to the more normal 33%/34%/33% distribution you’d expect. This is of course also tied in with the PGMOL anti-Arsenal bias, which I expect will disappear as we supply more English internationals.

  • FunGunner

    Very intelligent article, Phil. Thanks. If only I could hope that this could slay the belief that all we need is a stopper.

    Just two points – I thought the numbers for goals conceded through set pieces included penalties?

    Also, I would say that the problem is not coaching so much as execution – in oarticular the execution in the last third of the season. Remember Fabianski manhandling Cesc into the right position to head away a ball at a corner? Or RvP guarding the near post? I think they do know what to do but don’t always bother. Which is a problem, but a slightly different one!

    @ Mandy
    good points about the self-fulfilling prophecy and confidence issues, but I’m not sure it’s as simple as “get Bould in to coach”. Bould is already at the club and has input.

    @ Dark Prince
    I think you could be onto somethng when you talk about our style of play. I think Wenger had a difficult job of creating a team which could compete in the CL AND in the PL. Having said that, I feel our current style is the way to go but I am sure he will be looking at tweaks.

  • FunGunner

    Looking forward to the article, Walter.

  • bob

    Let’s understand that Barca’s swarming, all-hands-on-deck defense greatly complements their offensive prowess. They seem to allow fewer final-third chances to develop in the first place. My recent memory of some of our defensive lapses – not mythic – is how, for example, the Clichy/Arshavin channel often (chronically) opened the way for too many dangerous opportunities. I feel this obvious channel passage has to be analyzed; but, most important, eliminated by any means necessary. Going further, whilst FAR easier said than done, perhaps Arsenal need to focus on bringing in/developing/splashing for players who are able/willing/eager to commit to a swarming collective committed defense and to have an assistant coach whose mission statement is to demand/bring this about.

  • kodjo

    Whilst the writer makes a good point one thing you cannot ignore is the psychological aspect of the game. Currently arsenals inability to defend set pieces is well known as such teams will always have a punt. The presence of a big cenre back or backs psychologically will make opposing teams think twice b4 launching the ball into the box. Fair enough the ball could go anywhere in the box out of the reach of the centre backs but the average height of our players in midfield counts bcos heightwise arsenal are disadvantaged. The likes of Wilshere, Walcott, Nasri, Arshavin, Cesc to a lesser extent Clichy does not strike any fear in opposing teams. That is more than half of the team.

  • Anne

    Wow, this is a good thread. I’m not even sure who to respond to, because nearly everybody has said something that’s worth a response. And each time I think of a point I want to make, I see that someone else has made it first 🙂 But here goes:

    First, I agree wholeheartedly with everyone who has mentioned the lack of experience the Arsenal back line has playing together. I think that the significance of that fact cannot be understated, especially when you also factor in the constant changes to the line that were forced by injury.

    One thing I noticed watching the Arsenal defense this season was that, despite their many lapses, there didn’t seem to be any one chronic problem that was CAUSING the lapses, aside from simple lack of communication and organization. And that’s a problem that will improve with more time playing together. I’ve also seen moments of brilliance from Arsenal’s current defenders (even Squillaci 🙂 ), which is why I’ve never been keen on the whole “Arsenal needs to buy a new defender” thing.

    I’d say that Arsenal’s biggest defensive challenge next season is keeping their defenders healthy so that they can get more experience playing together. Everybody talks about how Arsenal fell apart at the end of the season, but nobody seems to mention the fact that Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Gibbs had hardly played together AT ALL prior to that time. I personally think that’s the main reason (or at least the main reason w/in Arsenal’s control) that Arsenal finished 4th instead of 2nd.

    Unfortunately, the EPL refs seem dead set against helping Arsenal keep their defenders healthy, which makes it a much bigger challenge, really. That’s one of the main ways that refs are really able to hurt Arsenal, in my opinion, and it’s something that Arsenal has very little power to overcome by improving their own performance. No easy answers there.

    But the bottom line is that Arsenal’s style of football absolutely REQUIRES them to have defenders that are extremely good on the ball. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to find big, physical defenders that also fulfill that requirement. Something has to be sacrificed, and Arsenal can’t sacrifice the ball-handling skills. Again, no easy answers.

  • Anne

    @bob:

    Very good point about Barcelona. I was planning to use them as an example myself (big surprise, right? 🙂 ), so I’ll just elaborate on your point. The main thing I was going to point out is that Barcelona is also extremely weak on set pieces. So weak, in fact, that I’m absolutely biting my nails whenever an opponent has a set piece near their penalty area. (For an example of what I’m talking about, you need look no further than Busquets’ own goal against Arsenal in the CL 2nd leg). It ties in with what I said above about having to make certain sacrifices on defense in order to have defenders with the ball-control skills that the team’s style of play requires.

    The way Barcelona gets away with it is simply by conceding very few set pieces near their penalty area, which is something that Arsenal can improve on as well. Unfortunately, in Arsenal’s case, you have the situation with the refs that makes it much more difficult to avoid conceding. The Newcastle match is the perfect example of that. Aside from the dubious PK decisions, the way that Dowd was really able to get Arsenal in that match was by calling bogus fouls around the penalty area.

    As an interesting side note, the TV announcer in the U.S. actually mentioned that Newcastle had spent their entire week in practice prior to that match working on set pieces around the penalty area. It’s funny, but it’s almost as if they were EXPECTING a lot of those calls to be going their way, isn’t it? 🙂

    As for how to resolve the ref problem, it won’t be easy, because a lot of it is completely outside of Arsenal’s control. However, there’s one tactic Barca uses that’s available to Arsenal as well, and that I think Arsenal is capable of capitalizing on. Specifically, I’m talking about the fact that Barcelona rarely allows the ball to even reach their own penalty area. They push up suicidally high, and use their ball-control skills to maintain possession of the ball in the midfield and their opponent’s half.

    As soon as the opponent DOES gain possession of the ball, Barca’s entire team is swarming around them like mosquitoes, the strikers track back, etc., and they typically regain possession before the ball even reaches their own penalty area. I’m not saying that’s easy to do, but I think that Arsenal’s players do have enough skill to accomplish it.

    Unlike the player protection issue I mentioned above, this is one area where Arsenal DOES have the ability to neutralize the refs’ ability to harm them in this particular way. And the way to do it is to minimize the amount of time the ball spends in those dangerous areas in the first place. A tall order, I know, but I strongly believe that Arsenal IS capable of doing it. They just need a little more time to develop. As more time passes, I’m personally expecting to see Arsenal improve enough in that area to start minimizing the damage to their scorelines.

  • Stevie E

    @anne sorry, totally off topic but do you have any “best practice” advice for researching/data gathering? I’m not sure but I don’t think there’s anyone else on this thread 🙂

  • Anne

    @Stevie E:

    How do you mean? What type of researching and data gathering?

  • Stevie E

    @anne – its for the ref review stuff, basically I know you’ve done a lot of work with the cesc/barca thing so basically wondered if you have any tips etc. Cheers 🙂

  • Anne

    @Stevie E:

    If you’re talking about the emails that Dogface sent out, I’m actually just about to take a look at that myself. Check back in a few and I’ll let you know what I think.

  • Anne

    @Stevie E:

    Ok, just took a look at the spread sheet they sent us, and at first I was really confused about exactly what it was that they were wanting us to do. Is that where you’re at right now? 🙂 I’m going to respond as if it is. If you already know everything I’m about to tell you, sorry for wasting your time 🙂 But actually, I would also really like to hear from you whether you think I’m going in the right direction on this. So, without further adieu:

    After I looked at the spreadsheet and got confused, I went back and re-read the original “call to arms” post, and I think that cleared it up for me. This is what they said:

    “Finally I could do with a researcher to help me make sense of some of the data I have – I will just dish out a list with the player name and the time in the match (to the nearest second) and you need to take note of what happened – to explain, I have been given some data relating to match events but everything is encoded – this would help me enormously to crack the code by way of a lookup table – this data (if it does, as I suspect, contain referee decisions) could then hopefully be used to pre-populate a web form detailing the referee calls to save time when our assessors do their match referee reviews.”

    Basically, here’s what I make of it. The spreadsheet they sent us is a data set that has the name of a player, and then the time in the match when some event occurred in relation to that player. The data then notes whether it was a “success” or a “failure,” and then has an “event ID” column where they give a number, which is presumably is some sort of code that tells us what the type of “event” was that they’re referring to.

    Just taking a quick look at the list, there seem to be a lot of “1”s, so I’m guessing that a “1” is some type of event that happens really frequently throughout a match. In fact, “1”s seem to happen every couple of seconds. I haven’t actually watched my match yet, but I’m guessing that a “1” is an attempted pass, because I can’t think of anything else that happens that frequently. So, if I’m right about that, the data would be saying something like “Thomas Vermaelen attempted a pass at 0 min. 58 sec.,” and then whether he succeeded in completing the pass or failed.

    Looking further, I’m guessing that “event type” number 52 is a save, because it’s mentioned in reference to Almunia on my sheet. For example, my data says that Almunia made a “52” at 0 min. 36 sec., was successful, and then made a “1” one second later at 0 min. 37 sec., and was also sucessful. So if I’m right about what the numbers mean, that would mean that Almunia made a successful save, and then successfully distributed the ball to a different Arsenal player.

    There’s no way to know for sure exactly what these “event IDs” translate to without watching the match, and noting what happened to the designated player at the designated time. And I think that’s what they’re wanting us to do. They want to know what’s a “1,” what’s a “52,” what’s a “9,” etc., so they can look at these data sheets and interpret what they’re saying about what actually happened in the match.

    As for tips on how best to do that, I think the only way is to just watch the match, look at what happened at the time designated, and from there figure out what the numbers mean. Specifically, I think they’re trying to figure out if one of those numbers translates to “the ref called a foul,” although I’m not actually positive about that. But in any case, they want us to figure out what all the different numbers mean. And once we’ve figured that out, they’d like a table that they can refer to so that they can just look up a number “9” and find out what it is, so that they can interpret the data without having to actually go back and watch the matches themselves.

    Does that help you out at all? Just let me know if there’s anything else you were looking for help on, and please, definitely let me know if you think I’m wrong about what they’re wanting from us on this! Cheers 🙂

  • Shard

    @Anne

    You are (of course) right about Barcelona and the way they deal with set pieces. Arsenal also do concede a lot of free kicks in their own defensive third. Of course that is just a statistic and how much of it is down to the players and how much to the referees is subjective.

    the solution you offer by saying that it is how Barcelona handle it is fair, except I think you underestimate the impact referees can have. If we do push up that high and with our skill do manage to keep the ball, it STILL only take one push going unpunished, or an offside not being called, to create a hole in that defense. I’m not sure how exactly to solve the issue. I think we can only improve our set play defending so as to minimise the impact of the free kicks we concede or are deemed to have conceded.

    Infuriating and worrying though, is our inability to deal with the straight long balls over the top of the defense. We keep pushing up even after the ball has been played. The awareness of NOT pushing up unless the person on the ball is being closed down is lacking. It could be a communication issue, or just poor understanding of the game. Of course the midfield can and should help out more too by closing people down.

  • Shard

    @Anne

    After reading your post, I think that is what they are looking for indeed. (Though how they got such data is still confusing me :)) Kudos to you for figuring this out (At least I think you have). I sent a mail back to Dogface anyway so maybe he will clear it up, but yes, this makes sense. I’ll start downloading the match and watch it tomorrow, and perhaps then we can understand it even better.

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    Hopefully we’re right about what they’re wanting us to do with the spreadsheet stuff. If not, Tony’s going to be very disappointed w/ what’s waiting in his inbox when he gets back from vacation 🙂

    As for the Barcelona comments, and what to do about the refs calling fouls outside the penalty area, I wasn’t trying to present my comments as a complete solution. Not by any stretch. In fact, I think it’s a very difficult problem to address and there aren’t any easy solutions.

    I just wanted to come up with something constructive, and that’s honestly the only thing I can think of…if refs are determined to award free kicks around Arsenal’s penalty area, the only way to neutralize it is to keep the ball away from those areas. Not saying it would be easy, but it is what it is.

    Obviously, improving set piece defending would work too, but that’s something that comes with it’s own complications, due to the other needs that Arsenal has with regard to the skill-set it requires from its defenders. Again, no easy solutions…

    As for Arsenal’s other defensive lapses, I think you pointed out some good issues that they need to work on. There’s something refreshing in thinking about obstacles Arsenal faces that can be addressed simply by improving their own performance. I have to completely shift gears to even go there on this blog, but that kind of stuff is definitely a lot more fun to analyze. Cheers 🙂

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    I’m planning to do my match tomorrow too (or later today, more accurately…Jesus, I need to go to bed 🙂 ). When I do, I’ll come back here and post what I found. I would be interested in seeing whether we came up with the same thing, if that’s something that you would be interested in. It looks like this thread is pretty much done for anyway, so I don’t see why we couldn’t use it to compare notes.

    @Stevie E:

    Same goes for you if you’re still checking this.

    Either way, I’ll post my stuff here. So, to anyone who is looking to crib their research, you’re on notice 🙂

  • Shard

    @Anne

    What happened? I’ve already done my research and sent it to Dog Face. I didn’t expect such tardiness from you 🙂

  • Stevie E

    @anne – I’ve not got anything to research… I guess Dogface is saving me for a greater purpose 😀 great to hear it beginning though, really looking forward to seeing this being built and what the results will show… Are we all crazy? I don’t think so.

  • chris

    Sorry Phil,

    A thoughtful article but not all correct. M. Wenger INHERITED the old back 4 / 5 for his 1st great team. They had long since been coached and drilled into how to defend better than any other. Onto this he grafted mid field and attacking talent.

    Then there was continuity into his 2nd great team with one or two of the old back 4 / 5 still there plus Sol Campbell and Martin Keown. They too already knew how to defend.

    Fore the 3rd (unsuccessful) team we have had none of those players left and little sign of a drilled defensive unit, working as one. We have developed some technically good young players … but NOT good defenders eg Senderos, Clichy, Djouro .. the error prone ball watchers. Those we have bought who defend more safely were established defenders already … eg. Sagna, Vermaelen.

    The club needs a strong number two coach who knows defence and knows tactics. Someone the boss has to listen to. But that is exactly what Wenger does not want. He has persuaded poor old Yes Man Pat Rice to stay on !!

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    So, you say you’ve finished already? I’m actually having a little difficulty with mine. I’ve only done the first 10 minutes of my match, but so far, it’s looking to me like this data doesn’t have anything to do with refereeing decisions. It seems to relate more to possession of the ball, and changes in possession.

    I guess the main problem that I’m having is that, while almost all of these numbers seem to relate to either a play that successfully maintains possession (ie a pass), or a play that turns over possession (ie conceding a corner, intercepting a pass, etc.), I’m having a hard time figuring out the nuances of exactly what type of change of possession or whatever each number refers to.

    Did you have any problems like this when you were doing yours? I’m assuming that they gave us different matches that relate to the same data set…I think it would really help me to know what you came up with, if you feel like sharing.

  • Anne

    F***!!! F******, F***, F***, F***!!!! I just realized that I accidentally deleted EVERYTHING I did so far! Oh well, not that it was going all that well anyway…:)

  • Shard

    @Anne

    You are correct in that it doesn’t relate to referee decisions. As far as I can tell the referee doesn’t figure in the data at all.

    Anne, I think you might be doing too much. You DON’T have to do the entire match. It is only the sheet 2 of the spreadsheet that is important. The sheet 1 can and should be used as confirmation and cross checking to see if the Event ID corresponds to what you think it is.

  • Shard

    @Anne

    Yes, I had the same problems figuring out what each number means. But that is exactly what Dog Face needs to find out, and independent recordings are the way to do it. So I don’t think I should say what in my opinion each number relates to, until you have done your research and sent it.

    Just to be clear, it is the COMPRESSED match data spreadsheet that needs to be filled. My suggestion is that you look at each event of the compressed spreadsheet once, and then look for the same event number in the full match sheet and watch that, and try and figure out what it means. Once you think you know then move on to the next event.

    Hope it helps, I really don’t know what else to tell you.

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    Thanks for getting back to me. I guess you’re right that you shouldn’t tell me what you came up with because it would influence my own interpretations. I wasn’t actually planning to do the whole match, but when I couldn’t initially tell the difference between the 8s and the 9s, etc, I just decided to go through the whole thing and keep watching until I figured out what they meant.

    As you can probably tell from my posts, I was frustrated and going slightly crazy after just 10 minutes of that 🙂 But I think that your suggestion of starting with the compressed spreadsheet and then going back to look for the numbers in the full match will work a lot better than going through the whole match chronologically.

    Thanks for your help. I’m planning to have my spreadsheet finished by the end of the day, and after that I really would be curious to know whether you came up with the same things that I did, if that’s something that you would be interested in as well 🙂 Thanks again.

  • Shard

    @Anne

    No problem. Hah. I knew I should check back in about 12 hours to catch you on here. Half a world away and all that.. And good job finding me on another post. I haven’t been very active on here lately.

    And yes, I could tell how frustrated you were. I especially liked that the second expletive in your expletive ridden post had more letters 🙂

    I trust you’re working on your research now. Yes, I’d be interested to know what you came up with too, and if our conclusions match. There are one or two I’m not completely sure about so it’ll be fun to compare notes.

  • Richard B

    Defending set pieces is as much about forwards dropping back and being better at defending than the oppositions defenders are are attacking. Our forwards aren’t as good – especially if the referees turn a blind eye to the blocking off of the keeper.
    Our record (in the past, at least)of defensive exce;;ence in Europe is mainly because European teams of the quality that we tend to face don’t rely on Stoke/Bolton/Sunderland/Blackburn etc. tactics. They try to break us down in open play (where our defence is amongst the best) rather than seeking to win set pieces and exploiting the lack of height that exists amongst our forwards.

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    Here’s what I came up with on my research:
    1 = any attempted connection btwn players on same team (could be pass, kickoff, corner, distribution from keeper, etc.)
    2 = Arsenal player distributes ball to Arsenal player downfield who is then flagged offside (best I can come up with based on only 2 event occurences)
    4 = handball while attempting to control pass
    6 = wins or concedes corner (if “success” wins corner, if “fail” concedes corner)
    8 = player breaks up pass without gaining possession (I think?)
    9 = I’m really having difficulty figuring this one out. It seems to have something to do w/ deflecting a pass (from own side or opponent)
    10 = gk saves shot on goal
    11 = gk intercepts cross (including from corner)
    12 = attempted clearance
    13 = shot on goal, off target
    15 = shot on goal, on target (“success” doesn’t mean the shot actually went in)
    16 = scores goal
    17 = booking (yellow card)
    18 = subbed out
    19 = subbed in
    24 = shot on goal that doesn’t reach gk (leon cort credited w/ “save,” ie “10” on this one)

    41 = Almunia punched ball out, follow-up shot went over goal. (41 and 51 came in sequence, only event occurrence for either in match)
    42 = couldn’t completely tell about this one (only 2 event occurences) Appears to be that player put ball into opponent’s box?

    45 = challenge for ball between 2 players. “Success” means player won challenge, “fail” means lost challenge
    49 = player obtains ball in way that achieves a change in possession
    51 = Almunia punched ball out, follow-up shot went over goal. (41 and 51 came in sequence, only event occurrence for either in match)
    52 = gk has ball in his possession, prepared for distribution
    55 = player plays opposing player offside? (only had 2 event occurences)
    56 = I don’t know what this one means. Only had 1 event occurence. Clichy took throw-in after Burnley player put Burnley throw-in out
    .
    59 = gk makes save with feet

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    Oh, and just to be clear, the 2nd expletive in my expletive-ridden post had exactly the correct number of letters. It’s just that that one was supposed to be “f***ing,” whereas the others were just supposed to be “f***” 🙂

  • Shard

    @Anne

    You had a lot more to do than I did. Many of those Events did not occur in my match at all. I think there might be a few minor differences between our conclusions, or at least in the terms used.

    1= Pass (I counted any lob, GK kick, corner as pass) So same as yours I think.

    6= Winning a corner (success)

    8= Interception (You say it is WITHOUT winning possession? I thought it was simply about cutting out a pass.

    9= Yeah this was a real pain to figure out. Like you I struggled and our conclusions are similar. I just put it down as a poor touch.

    10= Shot blocked (outfield player) Shot saved (GK)

    11= GK claiming ball from corner (I don’t think it happened from a normal cross though I could be wrong)

    12= Clearance (Success if falls to teammate or out of play)

    13= Shot off target

    15= Shot on target

    16= Goal

    17= Yellow card

    18= Sub off

    19= Sub on

    24= A shot by an attacker, which was blocked by defender (10 and 24 were always together)

    26= Own Goal (Almunia unfortunately)

    42= This is interesting because I have my confidence knocked by your take on it, and cos I saw it some time ago I can’t remember details. I have it down as a dribble past challenges.

    45= Win tackle (Success) I think we both agree on this.

    49= Claim possession of loose ball. As opposed to a tackle/challenge.

    51= This only occurred twice so couldn’t be sure. I put it down as lose possession leading to opponent shot/attack. On one occasion 9 and 51 were simultaneous.

    52= GK picking up loose ball

    Those are all I had, so you had to do more work than me.. hehe.. Still I think I’ll watch it again in a few days for the events that don’t match here. Looking at both our research together, I think we can conclude that 41 is GK punching the ball, and 51 is giving up possession when it leads to opponent shooting. Your thoughts?

    And Anne, I knew that. That attention to detail, even in swearing, is exactly what I liked about it 🙂

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    I think that your take on 8 is probably better than mine. I was just trying to think of a way to differentiate between that and all the other pass interceptions that seemed to be reflected in the numbers. 8 and 9 were really the most difficult for me to figure out.

    I also think that you’re right about 10 being “Shot blocked (outfield player) Shot saved (GK)”. If you look at my no. 24, I actually pointed out that a defender had been credited with a “10” as well, so my saying that it only related to a save by the gk was actually an oversight. I might actually email Dogface back and correct that one.

    As for 11… In my match, I’m pretty sure that I saw it apply to other crosses in addition to just corners. I might go back and double check, but I’m pretty sure about that.

    Where 42 is concerned, I wouldn’t question your judgement based on my conclusions. Like I said, it only happened twice in my match. On both of those occasions, an Arsenal player succeeded in putting the ball into the box. But if it happened in other areas of the pitch in your match, you’re probably right.

    I think that we mostly agree on 49, as far as possession is concerned. I didn’t notice that it wasn’t linked to a tackle or challenge, but I don’t remember noticing that it ever was, either.

    I think you’re right that 41 probably means punching the ball out. That would make sense with 51 being a shot on goal following loose possession. I couldn’t tell because both only happened once in my match.

    In the end, I’m actually really glad to see that we agreed as much as we did. I was really afraid that the stuff I had come up with would seem completely out of left field compared to what you came up with. This was a lot harder to do than I anticipated, and I wasn’t completely confident in my conclusions.

    Aside from that, I’m glad to know that you appreciate my proficiency in swearing. I honestly wish that more people felt the same 🙂 Btw, which was your match? Mine was Arsenal-Burnley in March of 2010.

  • Anne

    Oh, and one other thing. For my 52, I said:

    “52 = gk has ball in his possession, prepared for distribution”

    My first inclination was to define 52 in the same way you did. But then there was one point where Almunia saved a shot on goal, was credited with a 10, and then a few seconds later was credited with a 52 as well. The only thing that had changed in the match was that Almunia had gotten to his feet and had the ball firmly within his possession, so that’s why I defined 52 the way I did.

  • Shard

    @Anne

    Oh it was definitely harder to do than expected. There were huge problems in defining what the event actually is. Plus my computer conked out in the middle when I hadn’t saved the data. I think when I started again, I did not go through every incident of each event. Which is where I might have missed the 11 being even a cross being claimed, or 52 being what you say. I will go back and take another look in a couple of days.

    The problem with 6 (failure) being defined as conceding a corner is that at times a corner being conceded is shown as 12 (success). Things like that probably make it hard to exactly define what the event is, but at least our general ideas to match.

    Oh Arsenal-ManU in Jan 2010. A 3-1 loss 🙁

  • Shard

    Oh and Anne, when we disagreed (sort of) on bureaucracies being unfairly maligned, I think it’s probably a cultural difference. Here people always seek to blame the administration. For everything that may be wrong.

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    Wow, you lost all your data in the middle of doing your match too?! What are the odds? I guess I have to give you credit for handling it with more grace (and fewer obscenities) than I did when it happened to me 🙂

    I didn’t notice what you said about conceding a corner being defined as both a 6 and a 12, but I guess our perceptions are going to be shaped a little differently based on the different events in our matches. Overall, I think we did a good job. Oh, and I’m sorry that you got landed with a loss to ManU. I would have hated to have to watch that one over and over again.

    Interesting your point about our opinions on bureacracies being a cultural difference. I guess I don’t know very much about Indian politics at all. And when you told me you were living in India, I honestly wasn’t sure whether you were natively from there, or perhaps a foreigner temporarily working over there or something.

    Mainly because, from reading your comments, I never would have guessed in a million years that you aren’t a native English speaker (if you’re not). I can almost always tell, but I guess it’s possible that you’re just uniquely intelligent (something I already thought anyway). 🙂

    My opinion on bureacracies is shaped less by my “culture” and more by my libertarian (for lack of a better word) political beliefs. I myself have something of a tendency to blame the government whenever anything goes wrong, so maybe it’s not so much of a “cultural difference” after all 🙂 Of course, considering the kinds of things that the US government gets up to, perhaps there’s more basis for me to apportion blame for the world’s problems to them.

    In fact, I would even go so far to say that US intelligence is most likely getting a cut of whatever proceeds are being generated through match-fixing in the EPL 🙂 But anyway, talk about going off-topic…For future reference, a comment about politics creates more temptation for me to stray off-topic than even a mention of the Cesc transfer saga 🙂

  • Shard

    @Anne

    You are too kind.. Much too kind 🙂 You’d be surprised, I think, at how many people in India these days are comfortable with English, probably at times at the cost of their ‘mother tongue’ (There are 22 official languages in India so I guess English plays a role as a bridge between them). We watch the same shows that you do, we read English papers and books, we buy the same brands, and our popular culture seems to just ape the US in many, mostly frivolous, ways.

    Politics is something I love discussing too. Maybe we should recommend Tony to start an open thread on Untold where the readers can just talk about any topic and get to know each other better. I could go on and on about politics and all that goes with it. I still maintain there is a cultural difference in terms of how people view their governments. You’d probably be in a minority if you are seeking to blame the govt, and I’m sure you wouldn’t do it unfairly. I’m not so sure that is the case here. But yes.. should stop.. **takes deep breath***

  • Shard

    And since I don’t want to appear stupid now, I should probably say that it should have read, recommend to Tony that he start an open thread 🙂

  • Shard

    Ok now I’m obsessing over that sentence and it has completely stopped making sense to me and I don’t know if I was right before or later or in neither case. I’ll leave it to other people’s judgment what it should be 🙂

    Oh and Anne.. Since you shared the fact not too long ago, I feel it’s only fair that I tell you that it was my birthday today 🙂

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    Happy Birthday. How old are you?

  • Anne

    So, are you seriously saying that English isn’t your mother tongue? I guess so… although I still don’t completely believe it (Indian or not, I can usually tell 🙂 ) So, what is your mother tongue?

    And when you say that “We watch the same shows that you do…and our popular culture seems to just ape the US in many, mostly frivolous, ways,” how do you mean? What shows do you watch in India that you think that I watch here? (and football matches don’t count 🙂 )

    And btw, in worrying over that minor translation error, you’re displaying a level of obsessive-compulsiveness that I wouldn’t accept in anyone other than myself. So knock it off…It’s your birthday, after all. And I never would have even noticed that you made a mistake if you hadn’t gone to such lengths to point it out 🙂

  • Anne

    Um…I’m sorry, but I think I might have actually just gotten you stuck with another match to review. DogFace asked me to do another one, and I said something along the lines of that I would be happy to, but make sure you send Shard another one as well so I’ll have company while I’m doing it. And I think he might have actually taken me seriously… So, anyway…Happy Birthday 🙂

  • Shard

    @Anne

    GRrrr.. I go out celebrating one day and you drop this bombshell on me? 🙂

    Yes, English isn’t what would be called my ‘mother tongue’. that is Hindi. But the Hindi we speak today isn’t the pure language. While speaking we often combine it with English. You know, English words thrown in here and there, adjustments of grammar made. It’s quite fascinating actually. Oh, and there was no ‘translation’ that I did there. I think in English usually.

    About the tv shows. I didn’t mean you specifically, but Americans in general. All the English content on tv is American shows (though BBC is there too). Name any show you watch and I could tell you if it’s on here.

    And I have a level of OCD I think. Actually it’s not a disorder. It works 🙂

  • Shard

    Oh and if you had to guess, how old would you say I was? 🙂

  • Anne

    I wasn’t trying to imply that I thought you watched any specific particular shows…I guess I just don’t know much about India in general, so I’m trying to find out about it from you. As for the TV shows I watch…well, aside from the ones DIRECTLY related to football matches, I really love Crackovia, which is Catalan, as opposed to American…I think my favorite American show is South Park, but I don’t know if you get that one. I like the older Simpsons episodes too, which I’m guessing you do get 🙂

    Let’s see…as for guessing your age…I don’t think you’re THAT far from where I am, but I could see you being either a little older or a little younger than I am. Honestly, right now I’m tending towards younger…I would say somewhere between 25 and 37. Am I close? 🙂

    Oh, and sorry again for getting you stuck with another match (if I did). I wasn’t trying to. It’s just that sometimes I have this tendency to speak before thinking…you might have noticed 🙂

  • Shard

    @Anne

    A 12 year range is quite a lot don’t you think? 🙂 I just turned 25 so right at the lower end of your large range..

    You most certainly did get me stuck with another match. I haven’t even had a look at which one it is so far. Getting some other stuff back on track right now. It’s ok. I like that you act on instinct and I don’t mind researching again. Seems more detailed too.

    We do get South Park on TV but mostly older seasons. I used to love the show but it seems to have lost it’s way a little bit. Oh we got the show LOST too 🙂 Almost anything you can think of. House, 24, Castle, Modern Family, Desperate Housewives, How I met Your Mother and many many more..If you’re interested in knowing anything about India you can ask me, even though India is a very very diverse country, so my views will only be very limited.

    Oh and happy 4th of July..it’s probably 5th by now but this is when I caught you on here 🙂

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    You’re only 25? Wow, you’re so young…you display the sophistication of a much older man. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed. I’m just starting to get old enough that I’m jealous of people who are younger than me 🙂

    But I’m glad I at least caught you within my range…Oh, and I agree that South Park has gotten much worse recently. As for the other shows you mentioned, South Park is the only one that I watch.

    I guess that I’ll ask you this one thing about India. How did you get interested in football and become an Arsenal fan when football isn’t really the primary sport that people in your country watch (as I understand it)?

    Oh,and thanks for your congratulations on July 4…I take it w/ a grain of salt because I generally tend to hate anthing politically that has to do with America, but I guess any holiday has its advantages…

    And speaking of that, you should see the fireworks that I was able to get my hands on last weekend… I had to buy them on the black market, but I promise you that I was able to set them off all by myself and it would have competed with any fireworks display that you’ve ever seen (and yes I still have all my limbs 🙂 )…

  • Anne

    Oh, and I did tell Dogface to make sure he sent you an Arsenal victory if he did send you another match, since you got stuck w/ that ManU loss last time.

  • Shard

    @Anne

    Kudos on keeping all your limbs. Fireworks aren’t really my thing though. Had too much of them at Diwali (an Indian festival-supposedly of lights but now only of sound and pollution) when I was a kid I suppose. Hopefully you didn’t set off a huge snake with 27 blowtorches which threatened your entire town 🙂

    there’s no need to be jealous of me. I feel like an old man at times..My knees and ankles have taken quite a beating, so maybe that is what makes me sound older 🙂

    About how I got interested in football. Well at the time all I and most people knew here was Ronaldo. Anyone who dribbled past people would be told, “You think you are Ronaldo?” The TV coverage was poor, but I remember watching Euro 96, which made me understand the patterns of play more. (You don’t just mindlessly thump the ball closer to goal). Beckham’s halfway line goal, and the famous ManU name were the next thing to find it’s way to me. Enough to get me interested and want to learn more about the world game.
    Arsenal, for me came about from a computer game actually 🙂 It had the shirts of all English clubs and it would show the name when you roll the mouse over it. ManU was known to me. The others were new. Most were just red or blue shirts, and had boring city names. Arsenal was a name that jumped out and it’s white sleeves were distinctive too. I decided to support them thinking they would be a regular, mid-table club. We won the double that season. (Blue was a colour I liked and i almost went with Everton. Dodged a bullet there)

    Gradually, the TV coverage improved. World Cup 98 was probably a big boost for that (where the entire country seemed to be rooting for Brazil) The Dutch, and Bergkamp were my favourites there, and it helped that Dennis was at Arsenal.

    So we started getting more EPL matches(now we get them all), La Liga matches, some Champions League. The FA Cups came later and the carling cup on tv only 3-4 years ago.

    Exhaustive, and probably exhausting to read through all of that, but it is how I gradually got into the game, and particularly Arsenal. basketball was my first sport though. Pity that I didn’t get to see much of Jordan. The NBA for the longest time lost it’s soul after that, and seems to be doing so again.

    Oh and thank you for ensuring I get a win this time 🙂

  • Shard

    @anne
    ‘I generally tend to hate anthing politically that has to do with America,’

    I think that just makes me like you more 🙂 Though politics everywhere is the same pretty much..

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    LOL!! That’s one of my favorite South Park episodes. And what makes you sound older is the fact that you’re extremely intelligent. I’m not saying that to flatter you or anything. I just try to call the facts like I see them 🙂

    That’s funny that you first got interested in Arsenal because you liked their shirts. It reminds me of my Dad, actually. I’ve been trying to get him interested in watching football with me, and he always says that he likes Arsenal because they have the best name of any sports team he’s ever heard of 🙂

    I know you didn’t ask, but reading that made me think about how I first got into watching Barcelona…Looking back on it, it’s actually a funny story, so I’m going to share it with you anyway 🙂

    Similar to you, I first got interested in football generally through the World Cup, because it was all that they ever showed on TV here. However, that still hasn’t changed. But I got interested in Barcelona because I studied abroad in Barcelona when I was in college, and lived there for awhile.

    But I actually wasn’t that much into the football when I was there (I could kick myself now, but I never even went to the Camp Nou). I was really young, and to be honest, the main thing I devoted my attention to was partying as much as possible without failing my Catalan language course :)But I had this one best friend there, and we spent all of our time going out together.

    And like many American women, she was completely crazy about the Spanish men (I was too, to be honest 🙂 ). But she was…how shall I say it…a little bit more “promiscuous” about it than I was? 🙂 So, the way our nights usually went was as follows:

    We go out, and she follows some guy back to his apartment and takes me with her (I don’t why…maybe it was for moral support or something? 🙂 ). But anyway, she heads off to the bedroom with someone, and I’m inevitably left sitting on the couch with one of the guy’s friends, who fully expects that he’s going to have sex with me. (And if he can’t, you know he’s at least going to die trying, because he can’t think about anything else under those circumstances.)

    Anyway, that tended to be a little bit awkward for me…So, for purely pragmatic reasons, I actually discovered that Barcelona football is the one thing that will get a Catalan man out of that particular mindset 🙂 Watch a match, start talking about it, whatever…His mind will switch gears (at least partially), and my morning will be a lot more pleasant 🙂

    So, those are my first memories of watching Barcelona football. Sitting on the couch after a night of partying, trying to keep one eye on the match, and the other eye on the guy sitting on the couch next to me. Somewhere in there I discovered that I liked the football as well 🙂

  • Anne

    Oh, and I hope that I DID actually ensure that you got a win this time. In that same email, I actually told DogFace that I was kidding when I volunteered you for another one, and that I didn’t have your permission. Considering that he obviously didn’t pay attention to that part, who knows what kind of match you got? 🙂

    And as for American politics…I agree that politics are the same everywhere to some extent, but considering that the American version is uniquely lethal to people all over the world, I feel justified in saying that it’s worse.

  • Shard

    @Anne

    Hahahaha.. So you learned what women apparently complain about all the time. A TV in the bedroom with football on.. Except in this case, you wanted it on and you actually got infected with it too 🙂 (Better that infection than anything else I suppose 🙂 :))

    Hang on. How long were you in Barcelona for? You did not go to the Camp Nou? How did any of your Catalan friends let you get away with that?

    I just had a look and it seems that I got the home match against Chelsea this season. Probably our best performance. So Yaayy..

    As for American politics, I completely agree with you. I’m not too sure about the domestic politics though. I feel there are somethings that perhaps India can learn from the US.. Oh and I’m guessing you either don’t vote (unlikely) or you are a Democrat. Am I right? 🙂 Or is Georgia a red state?

    And thank you for that compliment. I’m not sure about the ‘extremely’ part, but I shall accept what comes my way gleefully 🙂

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    Lol. So, that’s something that most women actually complain about? Well, I’ve never been your average woman on that score. 🙂 I’m actually the exact opposite. Before I even got into real football, I was the same way with American college football (which is really big in the South).

    I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten in trouble because I was watching college football with the guys when I was supposed to be helping the women cook dinner or something (which I’ve never quite learned how to do anyway). I’ve actually seen my mother cry recently because I set the table incorrectly…She thinks that it’s all her fault because she let me spend too much time with my dad and brother growing up 🙂

    This year, my great uncle is finally retiring from running the annual college football betting pool at our family reunion, and my mother insisted that I inherit the job and be put in charge of it. Personally, I think she’s finally given up on me, and is just hoping that I’ll do something useful for a change…And I’m happy to do it…Of course, I won’t be able to bet, which I’m disappointed about, but I’m sure that other members of my family will be grateful to see the end of my lengthy winning streak 🙂

    And as I’ve hinted at before, my husband is actually on the verge of divorcing me over the amount of time that I spend watching real football…But I don’t really care. Between him and football, I’ll choose football. Does that make me evil? 🙂

    Oh, and as far as not visiting the Camp Nou is concerned…I was only in Barcelona for the summer, so I missed most of the football. I was watching re-runs for most of the time. I got there in time for the end of the regular season, but I missed it while I was getting settled in. It’s a shame, but I do hope to visit the Nou Camp at some point before I die. And the Emirates too.

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    So…politics 🙂 I saved your question about that for a separate response, because my answer is so complicated…In fact, it’s too complicated to do anymore that just give you a brief overview, which will still be far too long :).

    The short answer to your question is that no, I’m not a democrat, and no, I don’t vote. I used to vote libertarian, but I’ve even given up on that. The reason that I don’t vote is not that I don’t care, but because I believe that the system is completely rigged and it’s not worth my time. Georgia is most definitely a red state, but that doesn’t influence my political beliefs. In fact, I consider partisan politics to be entirely obsolete in today’s world.

    As far as where I stand on politics is concerned, the amount of time that I spend analyzing EPL match-fixing, media manipulation and the like, and the conclusions I’ve come to in that area, are child’s play compared to the amount of work I’ve put into researching politics and the conclusions I’ve come to.
    In fact, stuff like my research on the Cesc transfer saga is something that I actually do for fun to distract myself from these more serious issues. 🙂

    I guess, to sum up my political beliefs, my opinion is that to understand the world you have to understand the flow of money. And I’m talking about all of it, including government budgets (“black” or otherwise), organized crime and black market funds, banking and investment, central banks, the consolidation of personal wealth, you name it…

    The main problem with the world today is that very few people in the world actually understand how these things interconnect, and how the money works. To understand it, it takes a lot of time and effort to plow through very dense subject matter, which will enable you to decode all the complex theories and terminology and such that reveal how global finance actually works.

    Very few people ever take the time to do it, and understandably so. However, one thing I can promise you is that, if you DO take the time to understand it, you’ll find that everything that’s going on in the world today suddenly makes sense to you. Not that that will make you feel any better about it, but at least there’s some comfort in knowing what you’re up against.

    So, on that note…if this is something that you’re actually interested in learning about, I higly recommend the work of Catherine Austin Fitts. For just an overview, I would suggest that you take a look at her article here entitled “the American tapeworm,” in which she summarizes what she describes as “the corporate and banking economic warfare model of globalization”:

    http://solari.com/archive/the-american-tapeworm

    I personally prefer the term “black market capitalism,” but I agree with her in principle. An excerpt:

    “The American tapeworm is a symptom that the central banking-warfare model that has created the supremacy of the English-speaking people since the time of Queen Elizabeth I is dying. It is dying not because it is wrong but because it is weak. It is dying because — like a tapeworm – it has begun to create a rapidly weaker system. Hence it is incumbent upon the English-speaking people to reinvent themselves by engaging globally to invent a new model.

    Yet, the opportunity to move to a new model requires the ability to see where we are and to outline a vision to those in the system that there is hope. Doing so becomes progressively more important as who is in charge is less important than how many of us are dependent for our bread and butter on a negative return on investment economy as it tapeworms its way towards planetary extinction — and all of us with it.

    In short, the primary problem is not that the folks in charge are centralizing wealth in a destructive way or that some have too much money. That’s a problem – but a secondary one. The problem is that from the point of view of the dolphins, the plants and the trees, the planet is worse off for the presence of humans.

    All solutions are found when we realize that this is something you and I can correct without wasting more time trying to find someone in charge of the tapeworm to persuade them to change its ways. It can’t change — its too busy finding food to feed all of us.”

    So, anyway…I realize that this is all highly complex, and much more than you probably wanted to know about when you asked me about politics. But you did ask, and that’s the best answer I can give you…:) And I do feel a moral responsibility to try to share this information with any person who even shows the remotest interest…:)

  • Anne

    Oh, and one more thing…Sorry, I know that I’ve already given you way too much to read and everything, but I just want to take back that part about not caring about my husband…I didn’t really mean that, and now I feel bad about saying it… 🙂

  • Shard

    @Anne

    You wouldn’t happen to be the Anne Williamson mentioned in the article, would you? 🙂

    Hmmm. I’d like to say interesting piece, but I’m not so sure. There were a few things in there that I had absolutely no idea about (DynCorp being given a contract to run the police and judiciary in Iraq?? Is this true?- That is eerily like what the British did in Bengal)I suppose as a starting point it is a good write up. Seemed quite generic to me. Also, I guess it is such a vast subject that unless each part of the world’s economy and system is studied separately it will appear as a very general outlook.
    All in all, I’d say it’s a good piece as it got me thinking. Not sure I agree with everything there though. I wish we could have more detailed discussion on such things. Untold will probably kick us out though 🙂

    And it’s funny that you felt the need to clarify, and retract that statement about your husband and football.. It probably makes me think it just might be true 🙂 (Please don’t kill me for saying that. It was a joke…And now you can say that it’s funny I felt the need to clarify that)

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    Yeah, it’s a huge amount of subject matter. And really, you’d need to have even more background information to fully understand what it was talking about. And no, I’m not the Anne Williamson mentioned in the article 🙂

    And honestly, my comment about my husband and football is kind of true. But that’s a whole other issue… 🙂

  • Shard

    @Anne

    You know in the book Fever Pitch.. The author once recounted some story of where he was at the stadium and his girlfriend/wife was falling sick or something and he had to take her to hospital and all he could think of was the match.. I can’t remember if he said this happened or was imagining it, and indeed what he did do if it was real. But I don’t know what I would do in that situation.. I really don’t. So maybe that makes me evil too? I understand where you’re coming from there 🙂

    Again. Perhaps we should request Tony to start an open page for all the Untold members to indulge in informal and unrelated discussions. Sort of like a community page where people can get together and talk about whatever they feel like. I would like to know more about the politics and economics in the world and your take on it.

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    I think it would be a good idea to start a community page, since a lot of us seem to get along pretty well. In the meantime, you should friend me on facebook. Anne Thompson Tatum. If you want to, just include a message letting me know that it’s you.

    And I guess since I just posted that information, anyone else who is still reading this can friend me too. Just no trolls please. If I don’t know who you are, I’ll ignore you 🙂