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April 2021

Unbeaten run gets to 11: but were the press actually there?

By Tony Attwood

This was quite a night in the Emirates.  Noisy, some serious long-term chanting, nervy.  I thought the elderly gent (well, my sort of age) just along from me was going to have a heart attack but his wife helped him up at the end and he made it out.  You could feel the relief.

There was also trouble at the visitors end, and rarely for Arsenal, there was a notice given out at the conclusion that the away support was being held back.   A flare went off down there end too, showing the stewards are still struggling to ensure the safety of fans.

So what did the “experts” in the newspapers in London make of it?  Of course following their odd reporting on our last home game we don’t know if they were there or just watching it on TV, but still they scribbled away.

The Guardian started poorly but ended ok.

It called the game “scrappy”, and said “Alexis Sánchez flitted in and out” being “lonely on the periphery”.  The goal came from “the mess that ensued… there were touches from Jack Wilshere and Mesut Özil before the German’s pass was slid between opponents and the Chilean sensed his moment.”

(One wonders, why are nationalities important at this stage?  Is Ozil different because he is “German”?

Then suddenly we slip back in time to be told re Giroud “it should be acknowledged the Frenchman had been desperately disappointing in Istanbul” – just in case the message hadn’t been clear before.

But we had “all the energy of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere’s urgency to dart through the centre”.  (“Wilshere is erratic, but this was a hearteningly forceful display. Yet the approach requires accuracy and composure”) Then there is the contrast between our man and Demba Ba “the brawn leading Besiktas’s formation and a player Wenger had sought to bring to the Emirates on loan from Chelsea a year ago”.  That story is going round all the time, and of course ignores the fact that a lot of these tales are untrue, some bids are vapour trails and some phantoms.  Last summer was the heart of these as Arsenal did everything imaginable (including allowing the nonsense about us signing some striker from RM now with Napoli who was seen flying in to Heathrow every day) to stop anyone knowing about Ozil.   But let’s not bother with detail – Arsenal were led up the garden path by Chelsea according to Amy Lawrence in the Guardian on 26 August – taking the view that this transfer lark is dead simple cos everyone tells the truth.

They acknowledge that “This will be the 17th successive season they have competed in European football’s premier competition” but without comparison to the “achievements” of other clubs that they idolise, such as Liverpool, Man C and Chelsea who can only dream of such an achievement.

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So we have “fraught, nerve-shredding moments” but ultimately a grudging acceptance that “overall, were the better side and could reflect on several opportunities to score the second goal they had desperately craved,” but compliments are never given without a backhander.  “Wenger could probably be forgiven for thinking his team should have made lighter work of it.”

“Mesut Özil started to demonstrate a wonderful ability to come off second-best in challenges that were stacked 70-30 in his favour. Passes were misplaced and a better side than Besiktas might have made the home side pay once Debuchy had gone off.”  So we were lucky the opposition was rubbish.

“The Portuguese referee, Pedro Proenca, had a poor night” but not over his outrages against Arsenal, but for not seeing a supposed foul on a Besitktas player.

But on the sending off there is more balance.  “Debuchy, already booked for clattering into Sahan in the first half, was unfortunate because he took the ball in the challenge on Mustafa Pektemek that ended with him being sent off. Wenger immediately brought on Calum Chambers at Özil’s expense and the substitute was booked, farcically, for coming on too early.

“It was a raucous finale, with the home crowd shrieking and whistling for the final whistle, and Wojciech Szczesny was also booked before the end for alleged time-wasting. Yet Arsenal played with great togetherness in the closing stages and it was noticeable how Wenger did not praise Sánchez only for his goal but also for his “fighting qualities”.

“They formed a stubborn line in front of Wojciech Szczesny’s goal even if the statistics showed Arsenal’s pass-completion rate went down from 89% in the first half to 66% in the second. “We had them on the ropes,” Bilic said, choosing not to dwell too long on the non-penalty decision. But the 10 men held out for that now-familiar mix of joy and relief.”

Moving onto the Independent

If you want to see how the phraseology of football works, just note that here again we have the “17th year in a row they are in the Champions League group stages, a record unparalleled in English football and the cornerstone of the Arsene Wenger era.”

But enough tributes.  Back to business.  “There should have been many more [goals] for Arsenal and, with or without the injured Olivier Giroud, that will be a concern for Wenger. His side failed to score the goals to kill off an opponent that fought admirably to the very end.”

However “The Arsenal manager denied an interest in any of them.”  Them being the list of replacements for Giroud the journalists made up.

So we have the denigration of Wenger “who is adamant that he has more than enough strikers to last him to the New Year. Could Sanchez play at centre-forward, for the time being? “He could play there for the rest of his life,” was Wenger’s lyrical response.”

On the positives, “There was a good performance from Jack Wilshere, the architect of the Sanchez goal and no shortage of the spirit that they have lacked at critical points in past seasons.”

And a nice touch about Slaven Bilic “obliged to watch it from the stands, banned because of his red card in the first leg and consequently one of the livelier spectators the club’s august directors’ box has known.”

For the goal Sanchez’ “finish was magnificent. The move had been started by Wilshere whose first half had veered between the kind of suicidal sliding tackles that have partly become his trademark and the edge-of-the-area trickery that represents the best of his game.”

“Debuchy’s driving run…” there’s a phrase that you will see again, and again, and again.  The journalists have got that in their note books.  But there is a better description of the goal here…

“No sooner had the ball left his boot that Wilshere set off in pursuit of the return which was sent back with the requisite weight and speed by Ozil. However, it was Sanchez who was better placed, advancing past Wlshere’s right shoulder, and the striker hit the ball first time, with the inside of his right foot past the goalkeeper Tolga Zengin.”

“The Portuguese referee, Pedro Proenca, who had an erratic game, waved away the appeal.”  Erratic… well, at least its a start.

There is also a very curious comment from the second half.  “One more goal, you felt, would seal the tie and deliver another year in the promised land of Europe’s elite”.   No, one more goal would have relieved the tension, for it would have meant the visitors scoring two.  I can’t imagine how they could have done it.  They came for one goal, and failed to get it.

But still this worry – were the journalists actually there?  “The Besiktas striker turned sharply, too quick for Laurent Koscielny, and unleashed a shot that billowed the side-netting and briefly had the travelling supporters on their feet.”  No, the visiting fans were on their feet the whole game.  How could you not see that?

The Inde does well however in pointing out the stupidity of Chambers booking: “With the right-back sent off, Wenger sent on Calum Chambers for Ozil but some nonsensical departure from the protocol caused the referee Proenca to book the young Englishman as soon as he ran onto the pitch, instructing him to return to the sideling and do it all over again.”

The end with the “Match in numbers

17 – Arsenal have reached the group stages for the 17th consecutive year

0 – Shots on target for Besiktas in last night’s second-leg defeat

12 – Matches since Arsenal last lost – a 3-0 defeat at Everton last April”

In a separate article the Independent tells us, “Arsenal’s switch to 4-3-3 looks to be permanent” which is odd because I haven’t seen anyone suggesting it was otherwise.  Just how long as we been playing 4 3 3?

“When Arsène Wenger started this season, in the Community Shield against Manchester City, with a 4-3-3 system, it felt like a temporary measure to give games to both Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, one that would not survive the return of Mesut Özil.”  Well, I’m surprised.  Because most of the time it looked to me like 4-2-3-1, but often referred to as 4-3-3 for simplicity.

Here’s another: “Even at refined Emirates it became a bit of a scrap”  “It was the type of aggressive, combustible game which is usually restricted to English domestic football.

They are positive about Sanchez who “continued to work in the second half, running the channels, holding the ball up and trying to delay Besiktas as Arsenal hung on. He made one great chance for Cazorla, which was blocked by Franco, and nearly scored a second from Calum Chambers’ low cross. With time, he could become an excellent No 9, and save the club some money as well.”

And they end with “Will draining encounter bring another thrashing?

Of course someone had to do that.  “The last time Arsenal qualified for the Champions League group stage in such difficult circumstances was in 2011, when they took a slim 1-0 lead to Udinese, saved a penalty and eventually won 2-1 in the draining heat. The consequence was that, four days later, they went to Old Trafford with nothing left in the tank and lost 8-2. If Arsenal are worried about a repeat this time, they can afford to relax slightly. This weekend they play at Leicester City.”

So, finally, the Telegraph.   What pray did they make of it?

Arsène Wenger’s side were jittery at times, being fortunate not to concede a penalty and playing the last 14 minutes with 10 men after Mathieu Debuchy was dismissed…”  At least they didn’t tell us Mr Wenger was French although apparently “this game was watched on television by Olivier Giroud.”

“Wenger turned to Sánchez as the front focus of his 4-2-3-1 system,” so oh, look an agreement between Untold and the Telegraph.

“Sánchez was marvellously willing, working tirelessly for 90 minutes, almost collapsing on the pitch at the end such was the shift he had put in.”  Absolutely.  Wow!  Is this really the Telegraph?

“As he rose to his feet, the Arsenal fans saluted his sweat-stained efforts, chanting “Sánchez, Sánchez”. They had admired him from afar during Chile’s World Cup exploits. They had seen his qualities that were rarely fully utilised at Barcelona. They loved his goal here, but also his refusal to become frustrated when the ball was not coming his way, when hulking Besiktas players were blocking the way.”


“He seemed trapped, isolated from team-mates, hemmed in by opponents. Suddenly, using that astonishing flick of pace and that refined touch, he eluded Necip Uysal, Atiba Hutchinson and Ramon Motta, spinning in from the flank, breaking into space until Hutchinson scrambled back to bring him down.

“He loves such challenges, taking opponents on, and the feeling remains that his many traits will still serve Arsenal best when unleashed from wide, linking, creating, ghosting into the box, looking for the return pass. What is absolutely certain is how prodigious his industry is; it even grew with the game. When Debuchy was sent off, Sánchez seemed to work even harder, being a willing target-man, holding the ball up, running the clock down until that moment of pure relief when Arsenal were confirmed in the group stage for the 17th successive season.”

It goes on like this in describing the goal – quite a eulogy.  And try this from elsewhere…

“Sánchez provided the pass and Debuchy advanced before crossing into the box. Besiktas’ defence scrambled the ball clear but Mathieu Flamini regained possession, heading it to Jack Wilshere. These are the situations the No 10 loves, running into the area, juggling the ball, and this proved one of the Englishman’s best performances; he seemed to have regained that burst of pace, and happily took the ball under pressure, always being prepared to take responsibility. If the timing and angling of Wilshere’s tackling still leaves plenty to be desired, this was still a hugely encouraging performance, not least when taking Flamini’s pass just before half-time.

“Wilshere drove at Besiktas, then laying it off to Mesut Özil. The German World Cup-winner, who quietly did some good things on his return, played the ball back inside to Wilshere, whose touch was slightly heavy. The ball still ran invitingly on for Sánchez, who swept it past Tolga Zengin.”

That’s all great, and only spoiled by “The visitors, backed by their marvellously raucous support…”   Hmmm.  No mention of the flare or problem in the crowd though…

So were they at the game?  No mention of the way the Besiktas coaching staff packed their technical area, ran onto the pitch at one time, approached the ref, overflowed their own areas so much that they ended up confronting Mr Wenger dutifully constrained in his tech area.  If Wenger and Bould had done that can you imagine what would have been said.

But still, not as critical from the Telegraph, as elsewhere.

The books
The complete Arsenal Anniversary series is to be found on the Arsenal History Society site.

42 comments to Unbeaten run gets to 11: but were the press actually there?

  • Pete

    Tony – were you in the concourse somewhere in the vicinity of Block 102 about 15 minutes before kick off? If so, I will introduce myself next time I see someone looking vaguely like you!

  • Mike

    Vis a vis the Telegraph, this is getting scary. For the first time in my life, I found myself totally in agreement with them earlier this week…..and for anyone who thinks Robbie Savage is vaguely inept try this:

  • Rantetta

    Excellent, Tony.

  • menace

    Girouds leg was broken by a Distin kick that caught him in the follow through. It was in the last minute of added on time. It was not deliberate. The officials were in close proximity but the referee reacted like an idiot.

    The shin guard was not sufficient to protect his leg from the impact.

    I hope he is a quick healer and look forward to seeing him back on the teamsheet.

  • esxste

    With Giroud’s injury, the media would have you think he picked it up like a bad case of crabs, not that he was the victim of a poor tackle.

  • AL

    I was angry with the ref too for his treatment of Giroud who obviously appeared to be in distress. Instead of checking to see if he’d been injured he told him to get off the pitch, shouldn’t he have been signalling to our medics to come onto the pitch to attend to Ollie? Common sense should have told him he was injured as why would Giroud pretend to be injured when we are on the attack in the dying seconds of the match.

  • menace

    Looking for common sense in PGMOL & their staff is believing that scotch mist is a salable commodity.

    Excellent article. Alexis leaps like a salmon and has stamina for two marathons.

  • menace

    Watching the warm up, Alexis was shooting at the goal and was able to curl & dip the ball into the top corner of Cheznys goal. I was disappointed he didn’t do that with the kick he took. His technique is fantastic and I hope some of it rubs off on Jack.

  • And this is one of the reasons i like reading Untold.

  • oldgroover

    Distin didn’t touch Giroud, it was the ball kicked by Distin.

  • Pete

    Fingers crossed for the draw…

  • akasuna

    Walter will be happy with the Champs League draw. I’m envious…:-P

  • Pete

    Group D: Arsenal, Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht.


    Bayern, Man City, CSKA Moscow, Roma

    Real Mad, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets

    Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor

    As the famous quote went: “It’s Deja Vu all over again”.

    This is tricky indeed – but nice for Walter…

    Chelsea, Liverpool very fortunate. Man City very UNfortunate.

  • AL

    You know Pete listening to the BBC one would think Arsenal had the best draw.They say City and Liverpool have tough groups, simply because liverpool have madrid in their group! The other side in there i’ve never heard of. Chelsea ave the easiest group, liverpool will be runners up, ours and city are the groups where who will be group winners is not clear.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    You knew it had to be Anderlecht ! Walter will be overjoyed.

  • dan

    Oh Lord could we pick a tougher group?

  • WalterBroeckx

    Brickfields as I was at work (still am) I couldn’t really jump up and dance around the room. But in my mind I did.

    Our supportersclub has gone crazy for the moment and we all hope for lots, lots and even more than lots of tickets for our supportersclub.

    Do you read this Arsenal? DO YOU READ THIS????? LOTS I SAID! LOTS!!!

  • Jerry

    I’m happy with the group, I was expecting the worst before the draw w/ Dortmund (2nd pot), Athletic Club (3rd pot), and Monaco (4th pot), so I’ll gladly take this group.

    Dortmund will be tough, but think we have enough to win out. Galatasaray will be a tough away game. But considering what our group could of been, this is great.

  • Apparently, it is now a taboo to talk about Arsenal in any capacity without talking about how many players the club still need to sign.

    I missed those days when pundits talk about strategies when discussing teams. Now it’s all about buying players to address whatever issue a club may have. Sometimes teams under-perform because of strategy employed and not just because their players are shite. But listening to the so called “experts” yap on about buying players for every problem teams face makes me wonder sometimes why we need managers because the experts’ opinion is the same as those who play Football Manager on the computer.

    OR maybe they just allow every moron who once kicked the ball to talk about the game on TV now.

  • Tom

    If that is a fact , it puts a major dent into the theory some choose to believe that Arsenal players get only injured because they get kicked more than other team’s players.

    Just from memory; Wilshere , Ramsey , Walcott , Ozil, Gibbs , Arteta and now Giroud were or are sidelined with injuries and only Wilshere’s was a result of a bad tackle by Agger in a friendly last season.

    Re: Giroud , I didn’t see the game as I was traveling but I’m not at all surprised he was the next Arsenal player to get a long spell on the sidelines. As I posted on another thread the amount of games Giroud has played over the period of 12 months or so is extraordinary and should’ve been of some concern .

    Good luck to him and speedy recovery.

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    re the CL, BVB are feeling confident by the reports over here, but thats the way the German press tends to whip up positivity to get the fans behind the German teams.
    However after the grit and battle we are showing at the moment which will evolve and combine with our normal more confident style, I think that BVB are going to find us tough.
    Boo, I youre spot on about the state of things in your post at 6.19pm, I would rather read what the people at Untold have to say than the pundits.No doubt Darth S.Robson will chime in soon enough even if we carry this unbeaten run.
    COYG! Aha and Amen!

  • Va Cong

    Kenneth all the poodits say is new striker and defensive midfielder blah blah blah someone tall blah arsenal players weak blah blah

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Va Cong, youre spot on– what a big yawn the hindsight of punditry is. As for the term “poodits” thats cracked me up laughing!!
    COYG! Aha and Amen!

  • Kenneth Widmerpool & Va Cong,

    My comment was inspired by the Sky panel after the draw. They are supposed to be experts and you would think their conversation will be about the way each of the teams in our group play (which is always different) and how Arsenal should play them; you know, a discussion of tactics and strategies. But all I got was the usual bullshit which I see on every football blog and story on the Internet: BUY PLAYERS but without any clear definition of which player to buy, where to get them from and if they are willing to move and whether their clubs are willing to sell them.

    You would think that they will take a break sometimes on this “buy player” nonsense but you’d be wrong. Why are they panel of experts if their contribution is no better than that of a typical online commenter?

  • oldgroover

    Yes, completely out of the norm for one of our players. Take a look at this curtesy of Arseblog & you’ll see the ball strike his shin a fly off. Bit freaky really.

  • El Gringo


    Arteta was injured in a tackle by a Besiktas player. Walcott was injured after being stamped in the heel by a Spurs player. I don’t know how all the others were injured.

    The argument you’re criticizing is not that Arsenal players ONLY get injured because they get kicked, but rather that they get kicked more, and therefore they get injured more.

    For example, Rosicky had his nose broken last year in a challenge that should have resulted in a red card but (iirc) wasn’t even called a foul. Arteta had his shinguard broken in a similarly unpunished tackle; he also lost a tooth. Such injuries (I’ve listed 4, and I’m sure there are more) result directly from unpunished foul play. Sure they’re not the only injuries, but they certainly support the argument that part (not all) of Arsenal’s injury problems is caused by unpunished or underpunished fouling.

  • El Gringo

    I can’t count. 4=several.

  • Drew Gray

    great article Tony, from where i stood (for the whole game despite being dead on my feet after the day I’d had) we were much the better side. The ref was awful, the Besiktas fans loud in patches but nothing compared to other Turkish fans or Dortmund (welcome back folks!; Alexis was everywhere and nailed on MoTM. I think they watched on telly or on their monitors while they sipped cappuccino (or milky coffee prepared by an ‘on boader’).

    Walter I want to come to Belgium to see the Gunners, we need to make this happen! 🙂

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Youre right Boo, in fact the whole notion of “experts” is often a joke. These days how often do we see documentaries that are augmented with an “expert” who is filmed saying next to nothing to illustrate a point that either the narrator or the images can say/show.But in football its even more nuts! As I said I enjoy the observation and thought of people at Untold than on some post game analysis.
    COYG! Aha and Amen!

  • Va Cong

    Kenneth Widmerpool the problem with common sense is its not very common!

    Its the big brother generation you don’t need talent to be a celebrity, you don’t need a brain to be a poodit!

  • Va Cong

    El Gringo do you think making a video montage of all the events to the leg breaks and compare to other teams would make a difference?

  • Pat

    Great article, Tony. Thanks for putting all the work in to give us the reports from three different papers.

    Mike – thanks for the link on Savage. The article is very funny but does make a serious point – why should stupidity be paraded on football programmes as it is? It’s just annoying.

  • Will

    All I’ll say is, if this had Been Liverpool or Man Utd, it would have been reported as a backs to the wall win that champions are made of.

  • Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    North London at South Brussels.
    I wished I could make it…

  • jambug

    Unfortunately pundits are not employed on the depth of there knowledge but on there allegiances and willingness to follow the party line without question.

    And I think we all know what particular ‘party line’ we are talking about

  • finsbury

    Re: the performance from the UEFA representative on Wednesday night:

    Szczesny’s yellow for time wasting came 19 secs after the award of the goal-kick.

    Besiktas GK took 31 secs to take the goal kick after 8 mins…
    …24 seconds in the 9th minute.

  • finsbury

    El Gringo,
    You covered a number of deliberately ignored fouls there, good list

    “Arteta was injured in a tackle by a Besiktas player”
    Also called a foul. Very strange call. I wonder why Arsenal pick up more injuries? Duh!

    There’ll be a few of those on Arsenal players on Sunday, though any retaliation will be called, as we have seen previously from this upcoming and upstanding representative of the PGMOB.

  • finsbury

    Corr: also NOT called a foul 🙂

  • jambug


    Great spot.

    And what that highlights is the basis of a what a lot of us are saying, which is.

    Yes, at a push, and going by the ‘letter of the law’, you are entitled to book someone for holding on to the ball for 19 seconds, but you have to be consistent. When you have let worse infringements go you open yourself up to accusations of incompetence, or worse, bias.

    Yes, at a push, and going by the ‘letter of the law’, you can book someone twice for two ‘tugs’ but when you are happy to let bad injury causing tackles go without a word you open yourself up…..well you get the picture.

    On Saturday I saw Alex get pulled up for ‘turning’ a player then not 10 minutes latter worse was done to BFG and nothing happened.

    Consistency ??

  • finsbury

    I have to come someone else the credit for counting the seconds 🙂

    Not for the first time it is clearly obvious that using a stopwatch is clearly an unnecessary burden on the official in the super fast modern game, especially when you have a colleague employed whose only job it is to hold up a board.

    But, it’s also true that using common sense is an outrageous suggestion for the likes of FUFA or the PGMOB. How dare us football fans think such things! No wonder the friends of untold like to sneer into their own reflections when discussing this indefensible malarky. Common sense, who needs it?

  • finsbury

    < Have to give someone

  • finsbury

    The fourth officials in the PL seem to be aware how Wonga the away fans have to pay to watch their football games. We have seen the evidence.

    Do you think they could be kind enough in future to give the home fans their money’s worth, and reward them with the minutes that they have paid to watch? Perchance. What with the kindly PGMOB officials being so concerned with what people have spent upon the game you’d think it would be a priority. Maybe. Maybe not.