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July 2021

The Ox will make it, even though a cow might break its leg.


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By Walter Broeckx

A few weeks ago Robin Van Persie said that there will be moments when things don’t work for Oxlade-Chamberlain.  It was a good point, made by exactly the right person for Robin has seen it all in his own football career. Stepping up at a young age. Having a great start and then you fall back a bit. Robin knew what he was talking about and I think that he will be there to support Oxlade-Chamberlain in the coming days and weeks.

Last week Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t have his best week for Arsenal. He was a bit anonymous in the first game we played at Sunderland in the first hour. But he worked hard but not much end product.

At the San Siro he came on after one hour played and with Arsenal 3-0 down and not much happened for him.

And on Saturday in the FA cup game at Sunderland he was very unlucky. As he tried to dribble his way through 3 Sunderland players he lost the ball and Sunderland could start a counter. The end result of that counter was…. Oxlade-Chamberlain putting the ball in his own net.

That is a blow for anyone’s confidence.  Losing the ball that leads to the other team scoring will bring a bad feeling. Imagine putting the ball in the net yourself must feel.

But in a way after the first angry feelings, disappointment, the feeling stupid, whatever negative feeling this will have given him it also shows something good.

Losing the ball where he lost it, shouldn’t have been a big deal. But with the whole team pressing for the equaliser it turned out to be a big deal. But we want our strikers to dribble in that area. If the dribble had been successful he might have had a chance for Arsenal. Now it didn’t but we can’t blame Oxlade-Chamberlain for trying to dribble his way right on the edge of the Sunderland penalty area.  That the rest of the team was pressing forward in numbers was not really his fault.

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With 13 minutes to go this is what we expected the team to do. Look for the equaliser and then the risk is there for the counter attack. This has nothing to do with bad defending. This is something that all teams face every now and then. Sometimes you press and do get the equaliser and sometimes the counter attack of the defending team is successful and the game is over.

But in a way we should take a moment to think back at the whole situation. And we must in a way be happy with how Oxlade-Chamberlain reacted. I’m not saying we should start celebrating his own goal but in fact this was an utterly amazing performance from this future superstar of Arsenal.

Because how many strikers would have just stopped after losing the ball over there? I think it is fair to say that almost 95% of all the other strikers in the world would just have get up slowly and look at the way the play developed. They would have picked themselves up slowly from the floor and just watch how things go.

But Oxlade-Chamberlain with all the passion he has and all the anger about losing the ball ran almost the whole length of the pitch chasing the ball he had lost. And this chasing back is what made me happy. This wanting to make things up for him losing the ball is something that we should highlight. In fact it doesn’t matter for me that he was unlucky to push the ball bouncing from the post involuntary in his own goal. No, most strikers wouldn’t have been there. Not even close of being there. Most other strikers would have been some 50-60 meters away if not more.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was there and messed it up when trying to avoid the rebounding ball. But what an effort he made. He was on the floor when he lost the ball, got up and ran after the ball to only force it in his own goal.

I have never seen any striker doing this before. And so we know that Oxlade-Chamberlain will become a really valuable player for us. By tracking back like he did he showed his passion. He showed that he cares for Arsenal. He showed that he wanted to put his mistake right himself. A striker tracking back like that deserved a better fate.

But for me Oxlade-Chamberlain has showed that when he plays he will play with his heart and give it all. And this is something we should be happy about. Not with the outcome, but with the commitment shown by this young player.

Finally I would like to give my own reasons for why Oxlade-Chamberlain wasn’t that influential in the last 3 games. For a player like him who is relying on his natural speed and technical ability it is very important to have a very good pitch to walk on. In Sunderland the pitch was a disgrace. We lost a few players last week and also this week.

And for those who say that it doesn’t have an influence I can tell you that even in my country we have seen to what a terrible injury a pitch can result. FC Bruges Swedish defender Stenman ripped his Achilles by just running on the bad pitch yesterday. A pitch that looked a lot like the San Siro and the Sunderland pitch.  He will be out for another year. The FC Bruges manager Christoph Daum was furious and said that on such a bad pitch even a cow would break its own legs. He was furious because the city of Bruges first had to approve laying the new pitch before they could remove the old bad one and have the new installed. So a bad pitch results in more injuries.

But for a player like Oxlade-Chamberlain it brings a second handicap. The ball doesn’t run like it would do on a good and perfect pitch. So you want the ball to go left and it wobbles to the right and the other way round.  You’re never sure of what the ball will do and this is a big handicap for any striker and certainly for one like him who wants to take on defenders on speed and skill. Bad pitches always give a benefit for the team that wants to defend. So it wouldn’t surprise me that Sunderland will lay out a new pitch this week after the old bumpy one did its job.

And Oxlade-Chamberlain will have learned a tough lesson this week. He will have learned how difficult it is to play in the EPL or the CL. You need to work harder and harder each game. But with his effort that took him the whole length of the pitch and with his working ethic he will be able to overcome this set back. He looks a very mature man for his age and the best is yet to come for us Gooners.

He will make it up for that error.  Of that I am sure.


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25 comments to The Ox will make it, even though a cow might break its leg.

  • I am really glad you raised the topic of pitches Walter, because it has struck me of late that some clubs really are mucking up their pitches to stop football playing teams like Arsenal.

    Really the EPL and Uefa ought to have minimum standards of pitch maintenance, because at the moment the ploughed field can be used and there is little that can be done about it.

    Mind you, the Sunderland support didn’t seem especially impressed by O’Neils antics. The ground looked about half full, even though prices were reduced to £20 with only the Arsenal end packed, as usual. Ah, the magic of the cup.

  • John Gee

    Well said Walter. A good comparison to cite would be Arshavin !! He could learn a lot from AOC.

  • legolas still trust Wenger

    100 % right guys about the pitch i hate pitch @ Wigan by the way and @ sunderland we lost Per Mertesacker 🙁 . OX is becoming like rooney he can play CAM , Winger and Striker i hope a decent veteran striker like V persie stay to nurture him well.

  • bob

    It would be good to hear from the players as to what difference the pitch made in the last two big matches. That might go a huge distance to changing the atmosphere and bringing some fresh light to where there’s baleful heat. Has there been any word from the players, and if not why not? What a difference, in this moment, their views on this could make.

  • Neil Stanbra

    On the pitch topic it was interesting that Sunderland were watering the pitch at one end of the ground only before the match.
    It was the end which Arsenal had to defend in the first half, this was before the choice of ends had been made, but in the likely event of Arsenal wanting to play the second half towards their own fans.
    There was no need to water the pitch at all, there isn’t enough grass on it to be of any benefit, but it does make defending more difficult. Maybe I’m paranoid, but with Howard “Webb of deceit” refereeing as well it just makes you wonder.

  • Toye

    I look back at the game in San Siro and feel like being ripped off by a con artist. I have refused to talk about it because it makes one look like a bad loser.
    Why should the pitch be that bad for a club like AC? We’ve been told that Mourinho once ripped up the pitch when Chelsea had a game against Barca.
    In the game against Milan, our width was rendered ineffective by that portion of the pitch thereby narrowing play and giving Milan advantage.more like playing on half the pitch.
    it also looked as if Arsenal players had to walk gingerly on the pitch to avoid slipping which is why they could not close down and a not-so-good at kicking the ball SZCZ will become worse.
    I need to ask though,Is there a type of boot that can be used to play on that kind of surface? If yes , why didn’t we use it

  • AJW

    Sunderland fan here in peace (again)

    Not a pitch expert but it’s not a deliberate tactic from ourselves, more some problem with the maintenance side following the recent freeze. That said it was the same for both sides and while Arsenal had a few problems on the day it think the defensive work and midfield pressure had more to do with the way the game panned out than the pitch.

    On the watering when I got to the ground at about 15 minutes before kick off the sprinklers were on on my side of the ground and were spraying the home end (the end we run out into and defended in the first half). We were not turned around so sorry Neil above i’m afraid your conspiracy theory doesn’t really hold water (sorry!).

    On the crowd – £20 was not really a reduction to be honest, I pay a fraction over that for my season ticket (£400 for 19 games) and the £10 for my son is about 3 times what his ticket works out at. It was a discount compared to the previous week against Arsenal in the league but not compared to other home games, some of which can even be lower. The crowd level has been the subject of much discussion on our message boards which I’ll not bore you with but safe to say “O’Neil’s (sic) antics” are not one of them. He’s got us playing again and I think if you’d have our form since early December your audience would be much happier with AW than they seem to be.

    Sunderland are set up to play to the strengths of the players we have and therefore as a counter attacking team, any person who’d watched our recent games could tell you that. Indeed Saturday bore a strong resemblence to the recent home game we had against Swansea where they passed and passed and had loads of the ball in non-threatening areas, until ultimately they were pressured into mistakes and went home with a 2-0 defeat for their troubles.

    Finally on AOC – one thing you don’t mention is that at the end of the game he was clearly very upset at the defeat, moreso than most of his team mates, though the only people seeking to pick him up and console him seemed to be home players rather than the more experienced members of your side which was a real surprise.

    Also – where is the ref report on the Cup game, seems long overdue!

  • WalterBroeckx

    Thanks AJW for your comment and some clarification on some things.

    a lot of Arsenal supporters have asked me the same for the ref review but because of one of our ref reviewers being “injured” for the moment and we have some games to catch up from the EPL for the moment there will be no review of the cup game. Until now we didn’t cover the cup games at all. But I have recorded it so if I find the time (can you search with me 😉 ) I will still do it but it is not possible for the moment. Sorry about that.

    If I only had time, only time…. 😉

  • AJW

    It’s ok Walter i can see why you wouldn’t wnat to sit through it again.

    One thing – I know after the game you were adamant that it was a penalty when O’Shea tackled RVP. Having watched the highlights do you still hold that view?

    Sorry also as I know you are not the biggest fan of Howard Webb if your copy of the game includes the pre-game team and officals names being announced then listen to the home reaction to his name following his “penalty” decision in our 1-1 draw with Everton when Leon Osman kicked the ground and fell over and got the decision!

  • Thanks for a great article Walter, and AJW for an opposition fan view written in a decent way. Always good to have different insights.

    I thought we defended poorly, and didn’t do much with our possession but I did feel Webb was a load of bollocks – admittedly Djourou should’ve seen red for a two footed challenge and his yellow was deserved, Webb missed many, many yellow cards for Sunderland players who were fouling with impunity.

    I do wish we could have a ref review for this game, but I appreciate the time concern on Walter’s and the team’s behalf.

  • Cape Gooner

    I’m not a ref so I’m sure that my opinion is worth anything, but here it is.

    O’Shea touched the ball but didn’t cause it to move away from RvP. After O’Shea touched the ball, RvP had the ball at his feet and was one on one with the goalie. O’Shea (in the same movement) then brought down RvP. He denied RvP a clear goal scoring opportunity. The result should have been a penalty and a red card.

    Walter, have I got that right?

  • WalterBroeckx


    I (and my colleagues ref reviewers) have been going through some difficult game. It’s a dirty job and someone has to do it.
    For the moment I haven’t seen any images back after the game. No MOTD about cup games so not more angles to see (if there were more angles).

    Now off to start the review of Liverpool – tottenham….
    Talking about dirty jobs… LOL.

    I remember that moment but didn’t remember it was Webb that day. Maybe we can agree that he is not the best ref in the world.
    He sure ain’t the best ref around in my books… (not just for last weekend…)

  • DC

    Thanks for your measured and insightful post. Your side played very well and the pitch was indeed the same for everyone (plus the windy conditions too); although I think we suffered far more both physically and mentally from playing on a far worse surface at the San Siro in midweek – that really does tax a player’s body and their ability to recover fully!
    With regards the consoling of Ox-Chamb, or lack of, both after the goal and after the final whistle, that was shameful from the other players particularly the more senior ones including the captain. Unfortunately it gives the impression that they are currently not supporting each other wholeheartedly at this difficult time! Very disappointing to see that.

  • Arvind

    @DC: wrt AOC consoling. I feel that’s an assumption you make there regarding the support between players. I do think (and hope) that everything is okay in the dressing room. The players were all probably gutted at going out(more or less) of 2 cup competitions in 1 week.

  • DC

    I see, so if you have been there so many times (as so many of the senior players have both in the EPL and high-profile International matches) and a young boy never has been, shouldn’t you out of empathy and responsibility recognise that or is it just a few of us, me included, that that strikes as somewhat self-important?!
    Try taking a young son or nephew next time you go to a match; you lose and he’s sad – what would you instinctively do?

  • AJW

    I like you. You’re not like one of them damned spuds. You’re always welcome here.

  • Neil Arsenal always copiously water their pitch both before matches AND at HT.This is our perogative as the home team;it supposedly helps our passing game and hinders the opposition.You cannot criticise any one else for doing the same.

  • nicky

    If you have time, I’d like to swap my 😆 for your smiley. Please tell me how. Ta!

  • Gord


    You’re talking smilies? There have to be 100 of them, all are typically run-together punctuation. The web server program then substitutes an image for the punctuation in sending it to a web browser.

    The standard smiley is full colon, dash, right parenthesis.

    Walter appears to be using a wink, which uses a semicolon instead of the full colon. But most search engines should be able to point you at some collection of these things.

  • Kentetsu

    @Neil, Basil: Watering the pitch makes the pitch faster, meaning it allows for the ball to retain its speed better. With our passing game it is therefore desirable to water the pitch before a match.

  • Damien Luu

    I am playing Fifa 11 in “Pro player” mode right now and every time I (in a striker role) chase the ball down to my own box I have minus points for not keeping position! And worse, my “team mates” run out of their positions like crazy! I mean what on earth does Djourou do up there?

    So maybe this is not a wise idea IN FIFA 11 😉

  • Arvind

    @DC: Yes ideally that’s what should happen. I’m just saying the players on the pitch are also human ad also feel disappointed themselves. Its hard for a person when he himself is down, to find the strength to go and pick someone else up. The best will do it..but its not easy…that’s all.

  • Sammy

    Great article Walter. I really like the skills and attitude of the Ox!

  • Pat

    On players’ views of pitches – I think it was after the Milan game that Arteta in his interview said you couldn’t control the ball at all. That is a serious problem for a team that plays like Arsenal.

  • DC

    Of course you’re right but it’s at such times that the team’s on-pitch leaders should come to the fore and take the initiative, regardless of how hurt you might be. That’s what I consider good leadership and seniority. With all that said, it is very difficult when you have such disappointment in such a short space of time; I only hope that the next 4 matches eases the overall tense atmosphere, as Ryo Miyachi stated, exists at the club. A victory against the Spuds and a Villa-like come-back against AC Milan would do wonders for EVERYONE!