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July 2021

Arsenal invent Rotational Football. Michael Owen wishes he’d never got into journalism

By Tony Attwood

On September 28 2013 Michael Owen gave his assessment of Arsenal in the Telegraph.   Some readers picked it up and commentated on it.

Of course the “eight years without a trophy,” was there.  Plus the “fact” that Arsenal “no longer have the strength of Vieira and Petit, the pace in wide areas of Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg and the guile of Dennis Bergkamp, not to mention the firepower of Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie and Ian Wright.”

And later, “When I look at a squad I see a decent collection of players but not a top-four operation.”

I won’t bore you with all of it but here are a few goodies:

“Wojciech Szczesny is capable but I would have the keeper of all the other top teams ahead of Arsenal’s. David de Gea (Manchester United), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Petr Cech (Chelsea), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham) and Simon Mignolet (Liverpool) would all get my vote ahead of Szczesny….

“If I look right the way through the Arsenal team, with a view to picking an all-star side from the top six clubs, I would struggle to nominate one Arsenal player. Mesut Özil is the only one who would have a chance….”

“The Özil deal lifted the spirits of Arsenal fans, and kept the critics quiet, but they still need a couple more of that calibre to be considered title contenders. Giroud has made an excellent start to the season, but, again, he would not make the starting XIs of Manchester United or City. If United have an injury to Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie they can call on Javier Hernandez or Danny Welbeck. City can choose from Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko and Sergio Agüero. Giroud is a very good player, but no Henry, Wright or Van Persie.

“I want Arsenal to do well …

“If you can’t beat them, you just have to join them, even if the prices are inflated. Wenger stood back from that until the Özil transfer, which, I suspect, was to ease the pressure building from Arsenal’s fans, who were angry that no marquee signing had been made earlier in the summer. It was too late to bring two or three in, so they went for one superstar, whatever the cost, to keep everyone content…”

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Ah well Mr Owen, this old journalism lark is difficult ain’t it?

You see what you really ought to do is go with the flow as all the other journalists do.  Last week it was “Arsenal ain’t played no big teams yet.”  This week Liverpool and Tottenham are now officially classified as “not big teams” and the new phrase is, “The next few months will still expose just how prolonged his team’s challenge can be. There are awkward games ahead…” (that from today’s press – I won’t even bother to say the paper, it is everywhere.)

Although there is one good point made in the papers today.  That Arsenal don’t go around worrying about any weaknesses that others perceive.  Instead they start with their strengths and build on those.   The match against the Great (but now invisible) Gerrard and co showed that.

First off this season we had rotational midfields.  The Anti-Wengerians couldn’t quite get it (what with it requiring brain power to track it) and so the prediction was made that the side would obviously fail because there were no defensive midfielders.

Then we saw that the idea was also that those rotating midfielders would score a lot of goals – something redoubled with Theo out.   Pesky thing this midfielders always scoring.  Centre forwards score.  Arsenal are not playing this proper.  They don’t have a proper centre forward so should be like Tottenham, not scoring much.

What else?  Well, Mr Owen, there is another key word you ain’t got either: discipline.  Arteta is disciplined.  I know this because I read it in the papers.

Özil, Ramsey and Olivier Giroud are now joint-top of the Premier League assists table, while Ramsey has 11 goals for the season, but they don’t count because Arsenal “need a centre forward” (I know this because I read that in the papers too).

What we have here is a new approach to football, a different approach, as much a revolution as Total Football was.  So much of a revolution we haven’t got a name for it yet.   Rotational Football sounds good (and I think I invented it, although maybe others said it first but I’m claiming it anyway).    Rotational Football, perversely, has a settled back four and then a protector.  After that everything breaks loose.   (Poor Kolo he didn’t have an idea of what the hell was going on.)

For Rotational Football you need stunning midfield players like Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Theo…

And oh look.  That’s what we got.   With Gnabry and Zelalem coming up behind.

Anyway back to the press.  The key words are, that Arsenal’s “bench is short” (put my seats in then is my advice), and that they will be exposed over time because they only have one centre forward (so the rule is, forget Podolski, forget Theo).

What Arsenal is doing is showing that creativity in midfield count outflank a modern defence more readily than the classic centre forward approach.  And when you look at our injury list, it is packed with midfielders.  Doesn’t that tell you something?

But that’s a bit too complicated for most journalists so they have not got there yet.  As for Mr Owen, well.

Better luck next time old chap.

Just a final word on Brendan Rodgers the manager fellow from Liverpool.   We heard him do an interview on the radio as we headed north after the game.  It was courteous and reasoned.   I think he deserves credit for that.  If only others could be so reasoned when defeated.


44 comments to Arsenal invent Rotational Football. Michael Owen wishes he’d never got into journalism

  • para

    I dont know where liverpool was but that is not to discredit Arsenal, we kept them quiet. No doubt fergie will be taking over Manu for one game to try and combat Arsenal next week, poor Moysee.
    But next up, Dortmund at home and hope our team do not have to work too hard and tire themselves out too much for Manu.
    I really really really want to smash Manu, revenge for that unmentionable defeat some time ago.
    Forward gunners.

  • colario

    I have lost count of the number of times I have read/heard the Arsene critics say ‘Arsene doesn’t do tactics’. How little they know about Arsene.

    As you have rightly pointed out Arsene’s knowledge and use of tactics is way beyond the understanding of his critics knowledge of football full stop.

    If they were to read your article they just might learn something about football as it is not as they dream it.

    I love this quote. For me it says everything about our critics.

    “As positive as Arsenal were, I thought they were quite negative.”

    Peter Reid

  • Philbet

    I am so tired of this Wenger bloke,he no listen to pundits or fans,he just want our great club to lose,he no buy big player,he stick wiv rubbish like Ramsey (please loan him)and Oxlade/Chambo, (he’s been invisible this season), He just wants us to go all way down league…. and dont get me started on Zonal marking,we look fools every week,we are just so exploitable at the back,
    Sometimes I get so ANGRY…..

  • The font

    Willian said words to the effect we went to the emirates and mugged them in there own back yard
    I wonder whether he would like to swap the three points for that victory.

  • trugun

    Excellent piece, cutting without being churlish, get in there my son!

  • Tasos

    Football punditry has spiralled to new depths with the likes Michael Owen, money for old rope. Let the doubters doubt.

    Arsenal have momentum with the promise of much more to come.

    Theo Walcott scored 21 goals last season, Lucas Podolski scored 16 goals last season. If you add the assist’s from both players to the list you quickly come to the conclusion that Arsenal have plenty more to offer this season.

    But beware, Old Trafford is looming large and Mike Riley’s phone must be on fire right now. This Arsenal momentum must be halted. Who will be the commissioned executioner? My money’s on the Dean.

  • bc

    the cap1cup proved that Chelsea have a deeper squad than us and because of their freshness (less injuries) their reserves beat ours because our reserves have in the main been playing every week.

    we simply need to buy a few more top players so that we are not relying on the likes of fabianski, jenkinson, diaby, frimpong, zelalem, gnabry, ryo, park, sanogo, bendtner, plus bellerin, olsson, eisfeld, hayden, yennaris and akpom.

    I have nothing against any of them, I simply feel that they are not at the level required to be relied upon, for one reason or another, in some cases that time will come in other cases that time has past.

    if you take those players to one side we are still not far off of having 2 decent teams

    szczesney, viviano
    koscielny, vermaelen
    gibbs, mnnreal
    arteta, flamini
    ramsey, Wilshire
    Walcott, chamberlain
    ozil, rosicky
    cazorla, podolski

    so I would like to see those spaces filled FIRST namely RB, CB, & CF. Some of the players mentioned above these are good enough to be 3rd choice in those positions but many are not. for example I think fabianski is a decent enough 3rd choice keeper, but I think we need to give up on frimpong, diaby, park and bendtner. whilst jenkinson, ryo, gnabry, zelalem, ryo, sanogo need to go out on loan, once chamberlain, Walcott, podolski, flamini and Wilshire return from injury.

    As for owen well he need to just button it

  • AL

    I also thought(and said so) Brendan Rodgers was gracious in defeat and conceded the better team won, that’s what we like to hear, giving credit where it’s due. As for Owen, never rated him as a footballer and seems he’s even worse as a pundit.
    I too fear the utd game could be used to halt our momentum. It’s not like they haven’t tried, just that we might see some very blatant and psychologically damaging officiating that will not only stop us but also kickstart utd’s season.

  • Arnold

    My take is that Arsenal’s number one is the third best in EPL after Cech and Hart. And to judge with the current form Szczesny is better than the rest. Lloris is not as quality as he use to be, Migolet who’s second to a 20 year old in Belgium’s national team, De Gea is still coming up but Szczesny is more valuable and estimable. And our dear Hart is out of form. And when it comes to selecting a first XI for the EPL, I don’t see any reason why the likes of Sagna, Ramsey and Carzola shouldn’t be in it. Carzola and Ramsey are better than any Manchester United, Liverpool or Spurs mildfeilder, while Sagna is the best right back in EPL to me.

  • Dave Highbury

    Just a quick added dig for ‘Le Grove’ (le sulk and the Anelka in-breds) Arsenalnews and Arsenal for life and Piers Morgan, Alan Hanson and the sad twat with mums sandwich infront of me at the Emirates….. pffffft hahahahahahaHAHA!
    Big up the away crowd and bloke with the balls to shout “THERE’S ONLY ONE ARSENE WENGER” at Highbury. Nice one mate!

  • Gaurav

    I get irritated too. By Mr. Owen, Mr. Hansen, and the list goes on. But changing opinions of these guys will not give us titles. Winning games against your next opponent does. This week is important. But I have given up on these so called tests for Arsenal. Winning against Chelsea, ManU, City wont give us titles, consistency in our results for the next 7 months will…Oh i repeat.

    Also I hear the support for Arsenal in games has been fantastic. And the fans need to congratulated. Well done guys, really well done. I hope we keep that up for EVERY game and EVERY player for Arsenal till the end of season. 🙂


  • Mandy Dodd

    Some great points remember mr jol pointing out some similar things regarding our mf. Guess Owen has a point in that we cannot play currently the biggest team in that league. The reason being we are that team. Looking around blogs there seems to be a lot of reaction against lazy biased journalism and punditry and not just from the more enlightened of arsenal fans. Basically the written and broadcast media has huge bias towards the northern big boys and if a southern team is ever to be bigger up it is kept to Chelsea or the spuds. Still not that wenger needs care top of the league and with an injury crisis. And as even shearer noted the best player in the league at the moment. I will take Rambo over the SAS

  • Mandy Dodd

    A bit off topic and a bit of a read but an interesting independent analysis from a very good source on what our manager brings to this club

  • TommieGun

    Great performance, and me especially waiting for the muppet Hanson (or is it Hansen I get confused all the time) to explain how we turned the SAS into something more resembling the military unit in charge of catering.

    However re the tactical rotational thing, well hate to break it for you, but in my hubmle opinion me the idea is very similar to Prandelli’s Roma playing 6-4-0 and Del Bosque’s Spain doing the same. I know that we have Giroud up front but the rotational idea was completly present at both those sides I mentioned. By the way I do honestly think that this has much more to do with necessity than tactical preference- I am sure Wenger will choose Theo and Flamini when he can, which will commit Arsenal to a more fixed shape (albeit with its many, many advantages).

  • Gooner forever


    Another thread the media have banged on about is that The Arsenal have less points this season against the same opposition than they had last season.

    One journalist described Arsenal’s league position to be a false dawn for this reason

    This is total nonsense of course and totally irrelevant.

    This is a new season and all that matters are the points that have been accumulated THIS SEASON and how many points in relation to the other teams in the league.

    It also presupposes that we will get the same points (this season) against the teams which we have yet to play and presumably finish in fourth place.

    Lazy journalism would suggest that every team will finish this season in the same place as last.

  • Off topic.

    Is it me or is Gary Lineker becoming embarrassed by the anti-Arsenal bias amongst his guests? When he asked if Arsenal can go all the way last night, you could see a look of disappointment/embarrassment on his face as they all said no. He raised the issue 3 times during the show and even provided an opinion poll to show the two tossers that they are wrong, at least according to the public.

    Anyway, it’s just something I noticed. Not a big deal.

  • jambug

    To be fair I have always felt that Lineker, by and large, stood apart from the rest of the muppets on MOTD in the fact that he actually loves the way we play and genuinely seems to like it when we do well.

    Unforetuneatley Lineker, like a few others in the media, Charlie Nic for one, allow themselves to be shouted down.

    This can be for a number of reasons, the main one probably being the risk of being outed for failing to fall in line with the anti Arsenal agenda that is so prevelant throughout media.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Noticed that too bootoomee I almost got the impression he was winding them up a bit especially shearer. Gl did point out consistency wins titles and we are the most consistant of the lot to me this was seriously questioning their stance. Maybe motd are still stuck in the days when arch spud mehir Bose was chief sports editor of the bbc. And I have met mr Bose believe me he loaths arsenal

  • jambug

    @Mandy Dodd.

    Alas too many ex goons seem to loath us as well.

    Robson, Wright, Merson, Smith to name but a few.

    Even Adams on the Goals on Sunday couch this morning was having trouble giving Arsenal and Wenger in particular, any credit.

  • To u ex player turned pundits. Football is beyond paper or individual quality its abt working 4 each other as a team nd Arsenal is quite proving that. F***k off owen nd carrager arsenal is provin u wrong u didnt even deserve to be pundits cox ur analysis is rubbish.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Afraid you are right jambug. A couple of that lot seem bitter over lack of employment at the club. Others maybe need the money the well paid media work provides and are desperate enough to whore themselves to the agenda of others. And maybe some just don’t rate us. Strange though the truly independent voices like g Neville and even carra do rate us quite highly

  • Jambug,

    Disregard Adams’ opinion on the current Arsenal team. He is a bitter loser. And yes, before anyone accuses me of sacrilege for calling a ‘legend’ a loser, Adams was a drunk whose career was given a lift by Arsene Wenger. Since he has been left on his own, he has failed at every gig he attempted. He is perfect as a pundit though: it is one profession where there is no accountability. Being perpetually wrong never costs anyone their job. All they have to do is parrot the prevalent beltway opinion while spicing it with their personal retarded ones.

  • Pat

    Many thanks Tony – very enjoyable article to read, especially basking in the glow of yesterday’s victory!

    On 1 November before the Liverpool game – Arsene Wenger said: ‘In the kind of games we play [against Liverpool], you always find out a lot about your squad. I don’t need to find out too much because we are a very stable team who since January 1, has taken more points than anybody else.

    ‘I learnt a lot about my team through the spring period when we had our backs to the wall and had to win every single game. I know how strong these guys are and how much they want it.’

    @Mandy Dodd – this ties in also with the point made in the article you linked to, where the writer says that Arsene’s least successful season (measured against what was available to him) was the one where he had the least stability in his teams.

    This throws light on some of his comments about not bringing in too many players at once.

    He always emphasizes solidarity and team spirit and I think we really do have it in the team at the moment.

  • san

    Who cares about the media and what they say when we can talk on the pitch? I will rather they write us off and we keep on winning than the other way round

  • Mandy Dodd

    Agree Pat think that article goes some way to explaining some things about wenger that a few find difficult to understand. Not just any old player can come in and play wenger all and solidarity is vital not sure we have always had that in the way we do now

  • bob

    “I do honestly think that this has much more to do with necessity than tactical preference- I am sure Wenger will choose Theo and Flamini when he can, which will commit Arsenal to a more fixed shape (albeit with its many, many advantages).”
    Tommy Gun,
    Yep, agreed. But what an amazing Plan B, or is it Plan C. Point is, we have several faces and dimensions that can at least in the short run manage the chronic injury crisis. Still, shorter term injuries please! COYG.

  • bob

    Mandy Dodd,
    Please tell more about Bose and how he fell to the top of BBC/Sports if you know. What teams did he support and did he handpick a successor? Trying to get more of a take on the Beeb’s biases against us.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Agree on the injuries they seem to be creeping back into the mix again hope the club are looking at this

  • bob

    “This is a new season and all that matters are the points that have been accumulated THIS SEASON and how many points in relation to the other teams in the league.”
    Gooner forever,
    Exactly, especially how in the previous breath they bang on about how (and in this case it’s true) the league as a whole will have improved so that on any given matchday anyone will get a run for their money.

  • bob

    Can’t wait until Manure is spread thin. Moyes is banging on about how RVP/Rooney know each other’s game and feed each other. I think that the SAS experience will prove invaluable for dealing with the child within and the child without.

  • TommieGun

    @ bob – lemons # lemonade.

    Nuf sed.

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Boo @ 1.09pm:
    Look at it this way: season after season, they took votes on whether or not Arsenal would drop down from the top4. And majority always gave Arsenal the thumbs down.
    However, under their very noses, Arsenal has changed the question to: would they go all the way this season? It would be a surprise if they suddenly lined up behind Arsenal on the new question.
    Now I am looking forward to the future when Arsenal would have, once again, changed the question to: would they go all the way this season AGAIN, as they did the season before, and the one before that and the one before the one before that and the one before….

  • The font

    Dead right with your 1:49 Adams had to much to say about how arsenal would be no good after he retired . Legends need to stay loyal

  • GoingGoingGooner

    I find it uncharitable at worst and curious at best that the MOTD talking heads say that Arsenal are not a contender for the title WITH SUCH ZEAL and ASSURANCE. We are contending (actually leading the league by 5 points) right now…1/4 of the way through the season.

    A commentator can still have preferences but I find it strange that they should feel that there is absolutely no way on this beautiful planet that Arsenal should be regarded as a contender. Note the question isn’t: WILL Arsenal win the title? but simply are they contenders? In other words, are they going to be in the mix or affect the outcome near the end of the season? I would say with a bit of luck with injuries (and 2003-4 we were lucky there), yeah, Arsenal should be contending.

    Before Tottenham, we were told we hadn’t played any of the big 6. Before Liverpool, we were told we hadn’t played any of the big teams (notice the omission of Spurs). After yesterday’s game, we were told that we hadn’t played the Manchester teams or Chelsea…blah, blah, blah. I can’t wait to hear what they would say if we draw at Old Trafford, or …shock…beat ManU.

  • Florian

    Something interesting occurred yesterday on NBC’s MOTD version, with Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe (hm) having to answer the same question – are Arsenal genuine title contenders – and when Mustoe answered no, Earle slapped his front as in “what do they have to do to convince you”. Mustoe actually tried to defend himself stating that he’ll be convinced of that when we’ve passed the “tough winter” and dealt with the money pits. Interesting because on one hand Robbie Earle’s reaction demonstrates a significant if not radical shift from the early season general opinion, and second, what kind of lame pundits some are if they are only able to make title predictions after the season is more than halfway through.

  • Pat

    After the match on Sky there was quite a contrast between the enthusiasm for Arsenal of Jamie Redknapp and the grudging and shifty half praise from Alan Smith, with many a negative qualification thrown in. What is the matter with the man?

  • Gord


    You are calling it Rotational Football. A headline at GoonerNews from some Arsenal site, says Özil is calling it “Formula 1 Football”. Well, there are tires on Formula 1 cars, and they rotate, so you an Özil agree on that.

  • Pad Gooner

    Thanks Tony. I was so annoyed after reading Owen’s article not because it bashed arsenal but it lacked any logic. Even for Ozil he wrote something like “he has a chance”, Chance? Any premier league Team would love to have the midfield that we have but unfortunately Owen couldn’t see it that way.

  • nelson wong

    I think we will call it 4 6 0 diamond of some sort. Giroud with his constant fall back, hold up and link up play is operating from area( not role) occupied by attacking midfield all the way up to front three. Many underestimate his importance but I think we can see that from those occupying the attacking side, he is the most physical, best with headers and has excellent work rate. This is. Something the team lack for a long time.

  • Gooner Murphy

    IN the majority of BBC Sport programmes over the weekend all the “Expert” pundits lined up for Fulham’s Kasam’s goal over Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere’s top glass finish,the BBC’s contempt of all things Arsenal however was knocked into touch when Wilshere’s vote amounted to 50% with Kasami’s on a lowly 28%. Reminds me of the old quote, You can fool some of the people some ofthe time, But not all of the people all of the time.
    Rock on Arsenal!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    You’d learn many a humble lesson if you listen to your elders and getting down and dirty . As in this case….

    The country doctor
    A young doctor had moved out to a small community to replace a doctor who was retiring.

    The older doctor suggested that the young one accompany him on his rounds, so the community could become used to a new doctor.

    At the first house a woman complains, “I’ve been a little sick to my stomach.”

    The older doctor says, “Well, you’ve probably been overdoing the fresh fruit. Why not cut back on the amount you’ve been eating and see if that does the trick?”

    As they left, the younger man said, “You didn’t even examine that woman? How’d you come to the diagnosis so quickly?”

    “I didn’t have to. You noticed I dropped my stethoscope on the floor in there? When I bent over to pick it up, I noticed a half dozen banana peels in the trash. That was what probably was making her sick.”

    The younger doctor said “Pretty clever. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll try that at the next house.”

    Arriving at the next house, they spent several minutes talking with a younger woman. She said that she just didn’t have the energy she once did and said, “I’m feeling terribly run down lately.”

    “You’ve probably been doing too much for the Church,” the younger doctor told her. “Perhaps you should cut back a bit and see if that helps.”

    As they left, the elder doctor said, “I know that woman well. Your diagnosis is almost certainly correct, she’s very active in the church, but how did you arrive at it?”

    “I did what you did at the last house. I dropped my stethoscope and, when I bent down to retrieve it, I noticed the vicar under the bed.”

  • Stuart

    Some pundits over the weekend seemed to have turned a corner and are now rating us as contenders however it is probably best that the majority go against that view in the hope that the other teams are also hearing this. They will naturally be affected and may play slightly under par allowing us the advantage perhaps.

  • Gooner S

    Yes, of course some of the comments made (e.g by Owen) are now in retrospect churlish but at the time with Tottenham buying everybody, Chelsea and City having strong squads and of course United as Champions it was ‘easy’ of Owen to trot out the few paragraphs he did. Easy money! Who knows he might even have benefited from a helping hand in writing it!

    At this point, like some Arsenal supporters, I could gloat if I wanted to, I wont. The same logic that kept me supporting Wenger and players like Ramsey is a similar logic that says we need a little more strength in depth. Come January, if we are still top or within a few points of the top, I’m sure AFC will push on and add a couple of quality players if they can. If we dont we’ll still do well but I think Chelsea and City will have a little too much strength in depth that will show over a full season. It will be a fun ride though.

  • jambug

    @Gooner Murphy

    Exactly. The general public voted Jacks goal as the goal of the month with more votes than the rest put together and by almost 2 to 1 over the nearest rival.

    Yet MOTD manage to assemble a ‘panal of experts’ that manage to vote the complete opposite.

    Well there’s a surprise.