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April 2021

Five things we learned this weekend and a few we didn’t.

By Tony Attwood

Lots of writers love the notion that there are “five things we learned over the weekend,” but if I ever read them I am left with the notion that two of them I already knew, two of them I disagree with and one of them might well be a new thought – although not normally something I learned.

For example this weekend I could say that one of my five things learned was that radio commentators are sniggering turnips, if there is such a thing – but of course I knew that.

Driving the last leg of the journey back from the Emirates on saturday night I listened to the radio commentator on Five Live doing the prelims to Liverpool v Aston Villa saying that “if Liverpool win they’ll go second”.

It was a fitting end to what broadcasters call “the build up” and most of us call “an hour in the pub”, or sometimes “the walk to the ground” in which the merits of Liverpool the brand had been eulogised.  However there was a bit of chirpiness in the studio host who pointed out that likewise, if Villa won they would go second.  Cue: sniggers all round, and then on to something else.

Villa second?  Can’t be.  They had a net spend of £6m in the summer, are up for sale and came 15th last season, missing relegation by five points.  Snigger, snigger.

But as we know, they beat Liverpool 0-1 and are indeed second.  Liverpool, the club most deeply loved and revered by football journalists in general, suddenly are not flavour of the week, or even month.  Suddenly, “Liverpool lament a lack of plan B”, and “Rodgers team are exposed in attack and defence” and “Rodgers admits defensive problems” and “Rodgers keen to reconcile attack and defence”.  (I wonder if that counts as what the journalists learned this weekend).

Liverpool had a net spend in the summer of £36m, and that after they sold that guy for a lunatic sum, considering he is not allowed to play because he did some biting in the world cup.  Liverpool must be better that Villa.

Now of course some transfers are good, and of course I am pleased to watch Alexis at the Ems, and indeed Welbeck, Chambers, Debuchy and Ospina although I ain’t seen the latter play.

But the notion that spending money is good is simplistic.  Not every transfer works, and clubs that spend the most, often don’t win the league.  And that’s the problem with football – the simple explanations don’t work.

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The same can be seen with the other issue the press are fighting to come to terms with: Jack Wilshere.  He was, you may recall, totally to blame for the abject failure of England in the world cup, even though he hardly played.  Indeed even the notion that Wilshere is suddenly born again, or having a “fresh start” or is “back to his best” or whatever is greeted with yet more sniggers.  Arsène Wenger explaining what has been wrong with Jack doesn’t help the press, because it is “technical”.

So the idea now is to make Jack the new great hero before knocking him down again.  To see him “generally in exciting harmony, his acceleration and the vision and execution of his approach play topped only by his silky smooth equaliser. Wilshere knows that he needs to add goals to his game, as his team-mate Aaron Ramsey did last season. This (the Man C game) was a statement of intent.”  Next week: “Wilshere flatters to deceive.”

What Mr Wenger actually said was, “For a long time Jack did not kick the ball well because of his ankle.  Now, in training, you see he kicks the ball well and he works on his finishing. I feel his shot, with his ankle, is clean again. He has found his power back.

“He stays on his feet, which is the big difference. When he was not as confident, he would push on his ankle and go down on his body. He is more solid in this aspect. I was very happy with his finishing and he looked dangerous in the first half as well because he has found his pace back. That, for a while, was not the case.”

So, yes Jack is delivering, and that is really exciting – I can make that the second thing I learned this weekend.

I didn’t learn that Alexis Sánchez is a wonderfully exciting player, but I did like watching him play even though I can’t put that down as third.  Likewise I could include the performance of Wojciech Szczesny as suggesting that maybe for once, just once, we might go through a season without endless cries for a new goalkeeper, because Wenger doesn’t know how to select goalkeepers.

So for the third thing, I learned that the silliness quota of Transport for London has now reached a new level, and Britain’s road system continues to decline.  The M1 (the motorway that Drew and I use to get from Northampton to north London) was blocked completely, and we had to make a huge detour via Bedford and Hatfield, both extremely charming places, but not where we wanted to be.

As for TfL they were reported to have shut Cockfosters car park, but it seemed to be open, and they had shut the Northern Line, making it very difficult to park and get to the ground.  Worse, before the game when I went on their web site before leaving for London to check some details, and tried to log in, for the fifth day running I couldn’t.  Frustrated I called them, and the gent at the other end said, “what browser are you using?”  “Chrome,” says I, to which he replied, “the TfL web site doesn’t work with Chrome”.

So here we have the total transport system of London, one of the busiest cities in the world, an organisation that has a bigger turnover than half the members of the UN, and its web site doesn’t like Chrome.  That’s my fourth thing.  Our transport system is as knackered this season as it was last.

But in the end of course, life goes on.  Arsenal are, according to the press “flighty, prone to dramatic extremes and with fragility in their make-up”.  Man City are “consistent and assured”.

I didn’t learn anything there – that’s what the press always say.  But it was interesting to hear Mr Wenger speak of “systematic fouls”.  Now if you are a long term reader of Untold’s ramblings you might recall that one of our earliest campaigns was to try and do something about “rotational fouling” as we called it.   Refs can punish players for “persistent fouling” but there is no way they can take action against a team in which one player after another delivers a cynical bruising foul.

I must say, watching the game, once I had got my breath back from running up the stairs, what with being late because of the M1, no northern line, car parking (as previously announced) I was taken back to the rotational fouling days.   Pellegrini got worked up about the ref, but then that is always a good way to deflect attention from a tactic which is at the height of cynicism.

Sadly the press didn’t want to see it just as they never recognised rotational fouling in the past.  So nothing new at that point.

But here’s my fifth learning point, the press have finally realised that we have another defender: Héctor Bellerín, who is, I think, the same age as Chambers.  Maybe we are not so short in defence after all.  But don’t tell the media that.


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47 comments to Five things we learned this weekend and a few we didn’t.

  • TommieGun

    Nice read Tony.

    My 4 points of the weekend:

    1. Ozil needs his confidence back and Wenger is working at it (even at the expense of perhaps dropping a few points). It will pay off.

    2. We are always unlucky with injuries: Debuchy had a cracking start of season. It’s a shame to lose him. Another point: there are a lot of long term injuries, which are the result of a bad movement – and not a bad tackle (Theo last year, Giroud, Debuchy). I’m sure I can come up with more. It think that, to a very large extent, this fact disproves the notion that was suggested in UA last year about the persistent fouling leading to long term injuries. It is probably luck (or some medical conditiong stuff which I have no idea about).

    3. Man United. I wrote 3 weeks ago that I felt sorry for them, the Joker and Darth Vader and all this shit. Fuck what was I thinking about. They bought one of my favorite players – Di Maria, and sadly they will be a threat this year.

    4. Was astonished to see how the commentators in our game just LOVED it when Fernandinho kept on fouling our players. What the fuck! The guy is a brute.

  • An enjoyable read. My reaction to the anti-Arsenal negativity is simply to read and listen highly selectively. Does that mean that I don’t have an open mind willing to listen to an alternative point of view? Well, that depend, I’m certainly not open to feeling my blood pressure rise on the back of some rhetorical rat vomit on the airwaves or in print or digital media. I sit above the visiting fans at the stadium. On Saturday, every one of the rotational fouls you mentioned was greeted with ‘dive’ gestures by those in blue. In more recent news, isn’t the euphoria that is greeting Di Maria’s first goal and Luncheon Voucher Guys first competitive win in today’s media highly amusing. The new reign and journey to glorious triumphs is now officially underway apparently.

    Sanchez was superb on Saturday. His work ethic is outstanding and I think there are signs that his attitude is rubbing off on those around him. Danny Wellbeck had an impressive debut, has an inherently high work rate combined with great technical ability and will be a fantastic asset for Arsenal. Why is it then that I suspect our press will always refer to him as “former Man U player Danny Wellbeck” than “Arsenal star DW?”

  • Fernando and Fernandinho are two of the brattiest brutes in the game, TommieG. When they, Kompany and Toure all play, $iteh are physically formidable. We could do with one similar player – although I though our midfield more than held its own in a physical sense on Saturday.

  • Tram

    Rotational fouling – i.e. using persistent violence to disrupt creative football, will always be the curse of Arsene’s style, which is creative, hence the cries by some amongst us for a ‘big defensive DM’, i.e. our own violent player. This violent cheating is far less prevalent in the rest of Europe. Clearly it is a failure of English refs, but the English managers use the tactic so they won’t want to see their refs prevent it. The relegation-battling clubs are joined in this approach by tacticians such as Mourinho and Pellegrini who don’t need to do it, but choose to, so like it or not we’re stuck with it. By comparison, a nibble on the neck by Suarez, clearly done to incite rather than to hurt (or feed), is far less dangerous than (say) a Shawcross tackle.

  • Florian

    1. Jack seems a few centimeters taller this year.
    2. We had the lead against a top 4 team (Pool are for now excluded), and with a bit of luck we could have won. A lesser bit than last year:)
    3. We kept our record of invincibility, and we are by now one of the only 4 teams to do so.
    4. Alexis is a player that delivers consistently in the big games.
    5. MotD failed to improve from the abject display of last year. Actually, what was I expecting from a declared Cheatski fan (Mrs. Lowe).

  • john

    Another thing we learned (but could have confidently predicted) is that Man U are reinstated as favourites to win EPL, after their “hammering” of QPR. (who didn’t seem to try very hard, despite them having that inspirational manager and experienced centre-back who used to play for England on whom Mr. Wenger “lost out” in the last transfer window.

    Also we learned that Jack “got away with” a “blatant” hand-ball in the penalty area. No mention at all of Man City’s persistent fouling, so it can’t really have happened.

  • Chapman's Ghost

    I feel your whole piece, Mr.Attwood, has been undermined by claiming that Bedford and Hatfield are charming places. They are not. Please do not misinform our foreign fans, many of whom when they first come to visit England will be dashing off to see the delights of “Deadford” and “Shatfield”, when they should be visiting really charming places like Stamford or Norwich.

  • Mick

    One thing I learned was that Arsenal benefitting from ‘getting away with a penalty claim against them’ gets a hell of a lot more media attention than we get when denied the same at the other end of the pitch, which generally doesn’t even warrant a mention.

  • Another thing we learned is,

    even though chelsea has only played one of the top 5 of the previous year and they sit top currently, they will win the league , when last yr we had the same situation ( we had played Totenham in first 4 matches once) and sat top, eveyone was adamant it will be chelsea or MCity winning the league.

    You have to praise the journos for their strong will in repeating the same statements 🙂

  • bob mac

    Systematic fouling is endemic in the PL, shitty obviously used this tactic to great effect.

    Clatt could have stopped it by more robust use of yellow cards.

    You wish !!!

  • Robl

    @ Chapman’s Ghost, it’s not often that I find myself in total agreement with you, but on this occasion, good call.

    We can only be thankful it wasn’t Stevenage and Luton…

  • nicky

    @Chapman’s Ghost,
    As a Bedford visitor attraction, are the airship hangars still standing at Cardington?
    I remember attending an RAF Selection Board there in 1942 in a vain attempt to join air crew training.

  • Robl

    @ Nicky, still there 3 months ago when I last drove past.

  • Tom

    Five things I learnt this weekend, all of which I had already known.

    1. No manager is immunned to making a total ass of himself by making ridiculous statements, how it was the referee that cost his team the points .

    2. Jack Wilshere is at his best in a position of a creative midfielder and he can be a physical presence on the pitch while staying on his feet.
    E.g, smacking Lampard across the face in traffic with his arm and throwing Nasri to the ground with his upper body strenght and his low center of gravity.
    In fact, it’s when he leaves his feet he gets himself in trouble( usually) like his attempt at diving or his high studs challange on Clichy.

    3.Arsenal players don’t communicate nearly enough with each other on defense, and this includes the keeper and both Center Backs and that’s a real problem.

    4. Zonal marking at set pieces only works if there are enough players willing to sacrifice their bodies for the good of the team. In Arsenal’s case it doesn’t because most of our players are by nature ‘creative’ and as such avoid contact. Nine Arsenal players being outmuscled ( read; failing to make any contact whatsoever) by four City players a prime example.

    5.Arsenal players get injured mostly because of bad challenges by opponents.

    6. In this league ,like it or not, no team will ever win the title without a strong, mobile and technically gifted DM , who can also pass the ball well.
    Chelsea have two and Man City have three , if you include Toure.

    Arsenal will not even come close to winning the league until they get a player like that themselves.

    ‘ I always like to start a game by making a strong first challange on my opponent, to let him know that I will be there all game. Intimidation is a part of playing football at the highest level…..’
    Patric Veira

    All right, so that’s six things.

  • menace

    @tommygun Girouds broken leg was because of akick by Distain. It was not deliberate. Distain kicked the ball and caught Giroud in the process. Theo was also injured by physical fouling during the spuds match. Debuchy fell awkwardly after an attempt to head the ball. His leg twisted and initially I thought his knee had gone. Luckily it was his ankle. This being a less complex joint and quicker healer. Wishing them all speedy recoveries.

  • Tom

    ‘Girouds broken leg was because of akick by Distain. It was not deliberate. Distain kicked the ball and caught Giroud in the process. Theo was also injured by physical fouling during the spuds match’

    You could say that , or you could also say;

    Giroud got injured because he had played more matches in one season than physically possible( over sixty I believe) and didn’t have a proper summer brake because of World Cup , and Theo got injured because after coming back from a serious injury, he played in six games in 21 days.

  • bjtgooner

    Headlines of the type “five things we have learned since…” are usually designed to procure five hits from an inquisitive surfer. I avoid such sites/headlines, but made an exception for UA!

    Post match the press usually find some reason, real or imaginary, to undermine Arsenal – just part of the ongoing campaign – unfortunately too many neutrals and AAAA types fall for such mis-information.

    What is equally revealing are those key facts that the media/press avoid – in this case we have duplicity not just from the media but also Pellegrini, neither of which noted rotational fouling, or asked the question “how did Milner stay on the field”. Pellegrini is culpable as Milner must have been operating under instruction.

    It could be theorized that Milner, being one of the least skilled players in the oiler team (and therefore expendable), was selected to be the initial hatchet man & to test the ref reaction to serious fouls.

    It is a sad reflection on the mentality of some in the EPL, that the oilers, having spent a vast (unearned) fortune on their team, have to resort to rotational fouling to stop Arsenal – the prime example of a team built using a sustainable model.

  • Emmanuel, Abuja-Nigeria

    I enjoyed the game, though wished it was a win for Arsenal. The Gunners, especially Wilshere, Welbeck, Debuchy, and Alexis, were brilliant. On another day, we would have won. English referees still have a lot to do to convince me that they are as good as the EPL. I wish the club I have loved over the years better luck next time out.See you on Tuesday.

  • nicky

    Much obliged for that, my friend. 😉

  • Pete

    Two things:

    1. Welbeck going off left us vulnerable in the air at set pieces. Need at least 3 big uns on the field at any one time.

    2. Emotional impact of Debuchy’s injury on his team-mates was a major factor in our flagging right at the death.

    3. Ozil is limited out wide – but can only be played centrally against slightly weaker teams as need three workhorses in there against the likes of Man City.

    4. Ramsey is not quite there yet this season.

    5. The Villa match is looking significantly trickier than it did pre-season.

  • Pete

    Sorry – five things!

  • Tom

    I liked your post and I agree with most of what you said. Milner and Fernandinho were most definitely under instructions from Pelegrini.

    You could see some City players smirking while walking away after getting a talking to from Clattenberg. This goes back to what I said many times before about PL referees talking to players about what they should or shouldn’t be doing. There’s no other league in the world where football players are so seemingly unaware of the rules:) .

    And as for City spending all this money and still having to resort to dirty tactics to get the better of Arsenal, well it goes back to trying to take away what your opponent does best and in case of Arsenal it is the intricate passing game. Nothing disrupts it more than getting in one’s face or a hard tackle. City , on the other hand, play a direct style of football and fouls or game stoppages don’t effect them as much.

    I don’t see the PL changing it’s style any time soon, so we need to adapt.

  • Mjc

    Someone having a go at Stevenage?? Birthplace to such world-class sportsmen as Jack Wilshere and Theo’s twin, Lewis Hamilton. And also Ashley Young….

  • ARSENAL 13

    Five things I learned, rather media tried to shove up my @#$%….

    1. Yaya Toure is equal to 3 midfielders. Without him City cannot play football.
    2. Chelsea will win the league.
    3. Chelsea will win the league.
    4. Chelsea will win the league.
    5. Chelsea will win the league.

  • Ingo Marchand

    I remember at least 4 incidents good enough for a yellow card. How city ended up with 11 players on the pitch is beyond me. Funny to hear Pellegrini complaining!!

  • para

    “systematic fouls” is just a polite way of saying, they blxxdy targeted our players to deliberately break up play and injure them, which he has to say else he will be penalised.

    What i want to see, is if an opposition player targets one of our players, one of our players should target him back, just to let him know it was noticed.

    This is of course fraught with danger, but if not done, the opposition will benefit from it.

    A little more sharpness and focus, and above everything, getting the team selection right according to their performances.

    So on to Dortmund.

  • Mandy Dodd

    As has been mentioned many times on here, if we had a player like Fernandinho, Milner or Matic, he would see red in just about every game with the refs we get….in England and in Europe. Flam had a go at a bit of fouling on Sat, booked first time. Same happens to Arteta regularly.
    Vieira mentioned , but look how often he was in the dock….and could you imagine how much worse his disciplinary record would it he played for us…now…with these refs?
    I would love to see a beast in MF for some games, but the refs would use any excuse to stop him in his tracks. Perhaps Wenger is aware of this..
    We will never regularly get away with what the likes of City and Chelsea do on this issue.
    BTW- is there any news on Diaby?

  • para

    you said “Arsenal players don’t communicate nearly enough with each other on defense,”…

    I agree, but i think they are doing that across the whole field at the moment. Obviously they are still bedding in the new arrivals in the team, and getting to know the movements of the other players.

    Also i miss some of the innovation, no that’s the wrong word, spontaneous (that’s it) actions by our players, they seem to stick to what they have trained only, which is more easily countered by opposition.
    I suppose this will come with more confidence though.

    What i learned( AGAIN ) is that i should always try to get a foreign language stream.

  • Mick

    Mandy, apparently Diaby played the full game for the U21’s a couple of days ago. I think the fitness guys are gently and carefully getting him back up to speed.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Thanks Mick, wish them well, if it could happen, a fit Diaby could do wonders for this team

  • gouresh

    Another thing we learnt, or lets say, know. The so call pundits who present the games on EPL really don’t know shit and their favourite topic is Wenger bashing and constantly try to prove how stupid he is & failing miserably. here’s an eg. in the game with Man City, before the game Paul Scholes very confidently says that he does not know Jack Wilshire’s position, attacking or holding midfield and put the blame squarely on Wenger for his non development. After the game he was asked and he, like an expert said, AaaH Jack’s position is a attacking midfield. Hindsight can be such a bitch. If Jack had played a defence midfield and played well, that answer would have been, yes a defence midfield. It really shows how shallow these so called expert’s knowledge is. But not once has he said a word against red nose for the state he left ManU, or how many young players have been groomed after the 1999’s batch or what a shambles the Manu academy is in.
    Another eg: earlier in the season, another so called expert, Jamie Rednapp was criticizing Wenger that he does not do tactic @ the game against Everton and what a master tactician Martinez was. Why? Well….last year Martinez, played Lakaku against Monreal…so? Well Lakaku is a giant and Monreal is not. So apparently Martinez spotted this mismatch and played Lakaku and was successful and he did the same thing in the match this season. Wenger, since he does not do tactic, could spot this and still played Monreal. Jamie’s words were “it was a masterstroke from Martinez”. WOW, what a genius Martinez is… yes Jamie?..…so to spot the mismatch one has to take all the coaching / training classes, pass them, get those training / UEFA / FA coaching badges and licences? Then by the same definition we, I mean Shivijaians , now called DSK Shivajians, [based in Pune, India] should be called gods of tactics….here’s why. When we played against Sudan’s collage team back in the days, we played tactically. Hustle them of the ball in the midfield and win it, pass it to our midfield, who would put a through or long ball to our fast strikers and would score….why? we know that they did not like playing against long balls or short passes. Or when our long serving right wing back [who loved to get forward] joined our greatest local rival. The plan was simple, the moment he overlapped, again hustle and get the ball in the midfield, pass it to the striker, would run in the space left. They, with their pace to kill the teams off. Now seriously, this is not fucking rocket science is it? even a monkey with a pea brain can work this out.
    These so called experts, rather than criticizing, should get off their sorry arses, get the coaching badges, manage a team and achieve even 0.000001% of what Wenger has done. We’ll then see if these experts have the balls to criticize anymore.

  • Franck

    Systemic fouling…..what fletcher did so well against us anytime we played Manchester United.really i am loosing the love i have for football,its not a fair game any more and i seem to have the notion that organisers of championships and tournaments delibrately coach refs to be soft on so called ‘favourites’.I might be wrong but how would you explain how fernandinho got away with all wat he did in the game and flamini getting a Bayern Munich got a yellow card and how we got a red card in the same game for the same offence,and also how franck Ribery and Dante didnt get sent off in the UCL final against Dortmund.its just a matter of time before i stop watching the game i so much love cos wat we are seeing these days isnt wat made us love the game in the first place.

  • Mandy Dodd

    you are not wrong Franck, look at what said player was getting away with for Brazil this summer,

  • jambug

    @Tony Attwood

    I agree whole heartedly with your footballing observations but like Chapmans Ghost I have to take issue with your misleading description of Hatfield as ‘Charming’.

    Being born and bred in the genuinely ‘Charming'(well almost) Welwyn Garden City, just 5 minutes down the A1M, and having worked in Hatfield for British Aerospace, I can confidently confirm that save from the ‘New Loon Che’ Chinesse takeaway, there is nothing what so ever of interest or charm about Hatfield.

  • jambug

    Mandy Dodd

    Ref your 12:10pm post.

    Absolutely 100% spot on.

  • TommieGun

    So, based on all opinions in this thread, I think that the next Gun family vacation will be in Hatfield.

    Eating Chinese.

  • jambug


    Don’t forget your vaccinations 🙂

  • doug

    Quite like Hatfield, couple of pubs with good ale and tasty food. Couldn’t ask for more.
    As for Bedford……… enough said.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    All men are born equal , but some are more equal than others !

  • Florian


    I beg to differ. Distin’s clearance was very intentionally aimed at Giroud. It is absurd to think that Distin didn’t see our player in front of him. He literally wanted to perforate him from 1 foot away.

  • bjtgooner


    There was a facility in Hatfield around the time of the First World War and thereafter which manufactured ammunition for heavy caliber naval guns (some of which were made by Woolwich Arsenal) – did this Hatfield facility later become part of British Aerospace or was it a totally separate item?

  • mk


    Debuchy was fouled at least 3 times before he pulled up injured, it could have been that these ‘robust challenges’ caused some damage to his ankle before he went on to presumably tear his ligaments while stretching for the ball.

    Same with Theo in that game, a few bad tackles on him and then a while later his knee goes.

    We can’t be sure they are 100% connected but it seems highly likely that they are and certainly shows that if anything these instances give more credence to the idea that persistent fouls cause long term injuries rather than disprove the idea.

  • TommieGun

    @mk, Are you a doctor? A physiotherapist?

    I’m not. However I spend huge amount of my free time doing various sports: running, cycling, weight training, swimming, snowboarding and MMA.

    I get injured once per year, in average. My worst injuries are recurring ankle sprains and muscle tear in my hamstring (running), and a dislocated shoulder (snowboarding).

    I get bruised a lot doing MMA but it’s never serious (it’s not competitive).

    So just from my own experience, I can’t imagine the connection between tackles and those kind of injuries.

    With all due respect, unless I read something regarding this issue from a professional, I stand in my opinion.

  • jambug


    I’m not sure but it is perfectly possible. The site I worked at was massive.

    Back in the day it was called Hawker Sydley dynamics and was most famous for the design and construction of the first commercial jet aeroplane, the ‘Comet’.

    Alas it was plagued with problems, having I believe, several accidents, and was ultimately a failure.(I think the issue was metal fatigue)

    When I was there they where building a new generation of short haul passenger planes that they where struggling to sell against superior American competition.

    It sounds perfectly feasible that ammunition could of been made on the site.

  • bjtgooner


    Thanks for that info, I have written one or two pieces on naval history & always like to expand the database.

    Many thanks.

  • bjtgooner


    Forgot – the Comet problem related to the window design, rectangular windows with sharp corners. The corners became areas of stress and fatigue.

    The rounded windows fitted later solved the problem, but by that time Boeing had overtaken HS (or it may have been de Havilland) in commercial airliner sales.