Arsenal v Zagreb, the world turned upside down.

By Tony Attwood

Arsenal have a mega injury crisis.  We know that because it is in all the papers.   But the Daily Mail today publishes a piece bemoaning the fate of poor Joel Campbell who, Adam Shergold writes, “produced one of his best performances in the red shirt as the Gunners won handsomely by 3-0, seizing back control of their Champions League destiny. His night was capped by a splendid reverse ball assist for the third goal, finished by Sanchez.”

Watching the game at the Ems from the luxury of my new front row seat in the East Upper I have to say that I rather agree with the fact that he was terrific (the point of the seat ref being that in the second half he was chugging away right in front of me).  And we were saying during the game yes, he really has come on.

The Mail continues, “He was, by anyone’s reckoning, in the top three Arsenal performers. But Ozil and Sanchez – in whatever order – come above him.

“And I’m afraid because Campbell didn’t quite manage to conjure an x-factor – more specifically a confident-boosting goal or two – he will again be shoved aside when Arsenal emerge from their present injury crisis.”

So, not that much of an injury crisis then.   We are apparently in the depths – nay, we are below the depths – of the crisis, and yet the team we put out didn’t look that bad to me and included (according to the Mail, and me, a really good forward who is growing into his role all the time.

Indeed the team we put out looked fairly decent to me as well: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla, Campbell, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud.

On the beach there was Ospina, Debuchy, Gibbs, Gabriel, Ramsey, Chambers, Reine-Adelaide.

I don’t think that was too bad a squad.  Gibbs, as we know, has made some great contributions of late, not least against Tottenham, and Chambers is still developing – there are even stories around that he can play defensive midfield.  But for last night Flamini did his job perfectly well.

Which leaves me wondering – what is a “crisis”?   My Oxford Dictionary defines it as “A time of intense difficulty or danger.”  And I am not sure if Arsenal, sitting two points off the lead in the Premier League is in a period of intense difficulty or danger.  In fact we are not even top of the injury table, we are fifth, three injuries behind the leaders.  So if we are in a crisis what on earth are Newcastle, Man U, Liverpool and Bournemouth in.  A new word is required for them I guess, unless they are in a crisis and we are in a crisetta.    Yes we have had a cock up or two this season, but so has everyone.  That’s why we are within two points of the leaders.

So where is our intense difficulty?  Not really against WBA in my view; we just had a grotty game, not helped by two players going off injured during the match.  And the intense danger?  The danger that we might not win the league, I suppose.  But then Man City has that problem too, and presumably everyone below them.  Thus 80% of the league is now in crisis.  A bit odd that.

But of course periods of great difficulty or danger need a solution, and the solution often suggested is that we should spend more money on more players.  My oft-stated view is that players won’t come to a club if they see a better player ahead of them, unless they are young and learning their trade.  So Coquelin and Bellerin came to us in that situation.  But neither would now go to another club unless guaranteed a starting place.

However leaving that oft-repeated point aside, how have the big money spenders of last summer done, vis a vis Arsenal?

Last summer Man City spent £124 million more than they received from player sales, and so far this year it has got them… level with Arsenal.  Man U spent £33m more than received, and Chelsea spent £32m more.  Actually perhaps we ought to mention Newcastle who spent £46m more than received.  Honourable mentions also to West Ham and WBA both on £27m more than received from transfers.

Now I don’t see these clubs streaking ahead of us – so even if there is a crisis, which I don’t think there is given the normal definition of crisis, then the solution of spending a lot, doesn’t actually look like a very good one.  At least to me.  But maybe I am too simple.

Anyway, back to the Mail, who conclude of Joel (who was, you might recall, scouted by Untold’s correspondent on scouting matters, Danny Karbassiyoon – click here for his latest article) “It seems to be the story of the young man’s career. He has indisputable qualities. But here at Arsenal, there are others who are superior. Campbell will soon be back down the pecking order I’m afraid.”

Anyway, it was a jolly, if quiet time at the Ems last night.  There was indeed more security – we had to reveal that there was nothing untowards in our coats before we even got near the walkways around the outside of the ground, and lots of frisking to get in the ground.

But of course when not trumpeting the crisis, the Guardian couldn’t reveal a snide comment on this.

“The unusually large expanses of empty seats – Arsenal’s official attendance of 58,978 was deceptive, calculating the number of tickets sold rather than an accurate crowd figure – indicated that many supporters had started to lose hope about this campaign.”

That is a possible explanation, but also, as Blacksheep and I felt while sitting in the Swimmer for our customary pints before the game, people were nervous.  Indeed the Zagreb fans only took up a tiny fraction of their allocation.   The Guardian could have said, “might have indicated” which would have been true – but no – their telepathic powers are supreme – they know what we are thinking before we do.  Scarey or what?

Moving on, Arsenal Under 19s are joint top with Dinamo Zagreb in their UEFA Youth Team Group F – a reversal of the Champs League table, and a reversal of results – Zagreb under 19s beat our team 2-1.

Cue lots of pics of Thierry Henry coaching the side, and he has indeed done an excellent job so far this season for it was the first defeat after three wins and a draw.

The team was: Keto, Eyoma, Bola, Agyei-Tabi (Bennacer), O’Connor, Pleguezuelo, Hinds (Robinson), Iwobi, Malen, Nelson (Mavididi), Willock

Zagreb went two up, Mavididi pulled one back in the 78th and Ismael Bennacer and Chris Willcock went close for an equaliser.  Here’s the table, and no I have not printed the names in the wrong order.  Bayern’s under 19s are cannon fodder.

Clubs P W D L F A +/- Pts
Arsenal FC Arsenal FC 5 3 1 1 9 5 4 10
GNK Dinamo Zagreb GNK Dinamo Zagreb 5 3 1 1 9 7 2 10
Olympiacos FC Olympiacos FC 5 2 1 2 7 8 -1 7
FC Bayern München FC Bayern München 5 0 1 4 2 7 -5 1

The group winners progress to home ties in the round of 16 on 22/23 February.   The eight runners-up will be drawn away to the eight Domestic Champions group winners on 14 December to play for the right of entry to the round of 16.

Meanwhile, as we all know, Arsenal first team have to beat Olympiacos by two clear goals to go through in the Champs League.  The Mail said of this,  Great Escape is on: Sanchez and Ozil give Arsenal a Champions League lifeline to set up all-or-nothing clash with Olympiacos

As for the Telegraph, inevitably they are off on their own little cloud on some other distant planet with

Ozil is repaying his record transfer fee

Ozil carrying Arsenal like Sanchez did last year

Ozil is finally repaying his record transfer fee

Those first and last headlines look a little similar, but they are all presented as news on today’s Telegraph web site.   However I rather like Ozil carrying Arsenal like Sanchez did last year; it is as if Sanchez isn’t playing, Giroud isn’t scoring, Koscielny isn’t a really top class defender, Cech isn’t a good keeper… but I suppose in the world of the Telegraph, that’s how it is.  If it isn’t a crisis, it isn’t news.

Some anniversaries

The Untold Books

Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football, is now available on Kindle at £9.99.  For more details and to buy a copyplease click here or go to Amazon Kindle and search for Woolwich Arsenal.

Forthcoming titles:

  • Danny Karbassiyoon – what’s it like?  By Danny Karbassiyoon
  • Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970.  By John Sowman.  Introduction by Bob Wilson.

14 Replies to “Arsenal v Zagreb, the world turned upside down.”

  1. A typical Arsenal display against many odds.
    When all around are faltering and forecasting doom and gloom…..the Arsenal Way is to respond with a fighting performance.
    Every player earned his corn. Alexis, despite constant contact with terra firma, never gave up and was rewarded by two sublime goals, his second the result of a masterly through ball from Campbell, playing his best game for Arsenal since leaving the cradle.
    More please. 😉

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed ‘thumping’ the cheers last night.

    Campbell put in by far his best performance in a Gunners strip – long may he continue on an upward trend.

  3. Hey good job Tony. I wonder why you bother with these clowns and their papers. I bet they write rubbish even in their sleep.

    Those who have been slating Joel Campbell should now have a rethink. If Wenger stuck with him till now, then there has to be something about the boy that he alone sees I believe we are yet to see the best of that lad and if there is an upside to our injury ‘crisis’, then the emergence of Joel is it.

    This team is loaded with quality and I want to insist that, barring a run of ill-fortune or the design of bad people, we should be the champions of England come season’s end May 2016.

    I don’t envy Mr. Wenger in a few weeks when Walcott comes back to fitness. What do you do to a fit Joel Campbell who probably has a handful of goals and assists to show for his endeavour on the field of play? Bench him perpetually till he cries or what?

    Like Tony said, this team is doing this well, at least compare to the front-runners in the EPL. Goodness, we are one of the front runners. Yet we are having a ‘crisis’ on the injury front? I wonder what the full picture will be when all the boys are fully fit and in form! This team is an absolute behemoth waiting to be unleashed. People should take note that it was no empty boast when Wenger said if we indeed manage to qualify, we will be very dangerous to anybody.

    Fingers crossed till the night of December the 9th, after we might have broken some Greek hearts on Greek soil.

  4. Great win today, next up in CL is Olympiacos it will be a difficult match because we have to score 2-0 or 3-2 to qualify. Olympiacos will sit deep and play the counter game as they only need to draw to qualify. It will be difficult but I believe it’s achievable, last season we scored 2-0 away against Monaco who was playing deep and try to counter, so 2-0 is achievable.

  5. I thought that was an excellent performance. Nobody can complain about the movement, interchange play and the tempo last night. Typical entertaining Wengaball. I thought Flamini did a good job and Joel Campbell is benefitting from game time.

    If fans cannot be happy after that performance, you just have to shake your head and wonder. How can an agenda mean more than a good performance and a good result? I do not get that type of fan, it seems weird. Instead of cheering, they moan. Truly bizarre.

    All good news: Aaron Ramsey was back last night and Theo, the Ox and Danny are not that far away from a return. Despite all the injuries we have had, we are in a great position in the League and have put oursleves in with a shout of qualifying from our CL group, for the 16th consecutive season.

    The usual suspects, I notice, are back bashing Wenger and Giroud, the latter is apparently ‘sh*t’ and they are claiming Campbell should repace him up front. These idiots are so desperate to find fault they have forgoten what it is to be a supporter.

    This is everything I talk about with the Fantasy Football Managers, bring back the old days I dont like these modern fans who try to suck all the fun out of being a supporter.

  6. Rantetta – the knee from Pinto in the back of Alexis’ right hamstring is a red card offence if any official understands physical assault. It damages the muscle by forcing it to contract. The damage will manifest itself in 10 or so days by a pulled hamstring. I have commented on this injury in the past.

    Alexis is special as he has an incredible tolerance of pain. He just keeps going & allows his body to recover naturally.

  7. Menace.

    Yes, thanks. That ref made it clear to DZ that they can do whatever they like, which is why he was picked for the match. How many penalties would’ve been given against us if we done what they did, but n our box?

    I haven’t looked at anything relating to Clatters match for WBA but it’s sometime since I’ve seen him be fair towards Arsenal, or indeed, all our players leave the field in one piece.

    To me it’s strange how anyone sees him as a good ref, even in comparison to the others.

  8. Menace,
    a kick or contact like that on the muscle can indeed cause an injury on the hamstrings a bit later. And then some come out and blame Wenger for all the muscle injuries……
    The same for Arteta his calf. This can be caused from a kick on the muscle. Not saying it is for 100% but it can be that one bad kick on the calf can cause muscular damage and an injury.

  9. Walter – that is exactly what impact muscle injury is. It contracts the muscle (natural reaction of muscle protecting itself) then it fills with blood & eventually hardens. Officials do not realise the resulting injury of a kick to a muscle. The reaction to a slap is red card -raised hand. The kick is mistimed but not always. The knee to the back of the leg is deliberate assault. Arsenal players get kicked more often on the ankles & calves if they keep the ball. Passing early is usually safe but late tackles or common assault is passed by as accidental.

    Given match footage, I could make a case for jail terms for several robust tackling footballers. Problem is the term ‘football is a contact sport’ will be used as a cover. Football is abused by its interpretation of its Laws (not dissimilar to the good book).

  10. A ‘contracture’ it is called in English I think Menace. But when it is put in the statistics it is a “muscular” injury and thus Wenger is to blame according to the “specialists”…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *