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October 2020

Do you have faith in Fifa? And Arsenal v Barcelona, player by player.

By Bulldog Drummond.

If you have read my match previews from time to time you’ll know that I sometimes quote – an interesting source of statistics.  Unfortunately today that site doesn’t seem to like my login and thus I’m being barred from seeing some of the more exciting bits of the site.  So instead I went for a wander and discovered two sites making a bit of a noise today with their research and findings.

I am sure these sites have been on everyone else’s radar for centuries, and it is just me that is left out in the cold, but on the basis of better late than make something up, here’s the bits I’ve found.

First off,  I am not quite sure as to whether this is a newish site or if it just doesn’t leave its old posts on line for long, but either way, tucked inside one article there is a survey which asks the question:  “Do you have confidence in FIFA?”

A rather good question, since Untold’s position since around the time of the Black Death (for which Fifa was obviously responsible) has been that Fifa should be thrown on the bonfire, and then not replaced.

The media in the UK have only just (rather late in the day it must be said) actually recognised that there is a fans’ viewpoint that says there should be no Fifa, and that viewpoint got a boost here. In answer to the question above the answers were

  • Yes: 17%,
  • No: 69%
  • Don’t Know: 14%

The five countries with the least faith in FIFA were: Chile 2%, Colombia 4%, New Zealand 7% and Spain 7%, Luxembourg 8%.   The site doesn’t publish figures beyond that which is a shame, since I’d love to know what they found for the four constituent parts of the UK.

But they do have the five countries with the most faith in FIFA: Qatar 60%, Saudi Arabia 32%, Canada 25%, USA and South Africa 24%.   Strange about Canada and the US being up there – maybe there was an additional faith because they think the extradition treaties will finally work and get the Fifa renegades out of Switzerland and into the US for trial and public execution.  Or maybe the people asked were not football fans.

Anyway, on to the second site just discovered, and undoubtedly one that everyone other than the massed ranks of Untold researchers (who were down the pub at the time) already knew about.

It is Oulala – a charming website that has done a position by position comparison of the two teams looking for the better player in each of the eleven positions.  Quite interesting it is too since Arsenal come out on top most of the time.

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Petr Cech beats Claudio Bravo (I have often wondered, just as we all shout Ooooooospina when he kicks the ball, do they shout “Bravo!” in the same manner?)   Cech has kept more clean sheets, more saves per game, more catches and more punches clear, and so wins.  Although I thought that a little unfair since Bravo! has let in fewer goals.

Nacho Monreal comfortably beats Jordi Alba with more tackles won,  more interceptions, more blocks, more clearances, more successful dribbles and more chances game by game.  Where are those people who criticised our buying cut price players from clubs having fire sales?  Monreal and Santi C.  What a waste of money!

Laurent Koscielny is the player Mr Wenger has said has been his best buy for this team in terms of value in recent years, reflecting the modest price, and the way he has come on over the years to be rated in the top 100 players in Europe.   According to these figures he has outperformed Javier Mascherano with more interceptions, more blocks, more clearances and more aerial duels won.  Mascherano wins on tackles however.

Gerard Piqué beats Per Mertesacker on tackles, interceptions and blocks, but our man makes more clearances, and has more successful tackles.

Hector Bellerin who was so widely panned by critics of Wenger when he was first introduced to the team, and yet now beats Dani Alves, although to the fair, only just.  On most counts they are equal, but Bellerin has more clearances and more successful dribbles.  Alves creates more chances.

Francis Coquelin, the man nominated as likely to be a success at Arsenal by Untold when he was first seen at an Austrian training camp,  has had an extraordinary rise, from not very successful loan spells to being better than Sergio Busquets in terms of better pass completion rate, most tackles won, interceptions and clearances.  And, wouldn’t you know it, like Kos and Bellerin, we were told he was rubbish by those who seem to know it all.

Maybe we should keep listening to the critics of Wenger, but then just believe the opposite, without wasting all this time on debate.

And talking of players who were called absolute rubbish, there is Aaron Ramsey – the man Barcelona have made repeated attempts to buy.   Ramsey vs Ivan Rakiti is interesting as our man wins on successful passes, more key passes, more chances created, more tackles per game, more assists and more goals.  That’s why they want to buy him.

Speaking of assists we come to the man on whom the jury is still out, who is nicking a living etc etc.   Is Mesut Özil better that Andres Iniesta?   On pass completion no, they are equal.  On the number of passes per game, Iniesta wins.  But on everything else yes it is Özil all the way.  Four times more chances 3.5 times more passes, 17 times more assists, four times as many goals.

But all good things come to an end and unfortunately, when we come to the forward line this all gets a bit unstuck.   Neymar outdoes Alexis Sánchez on everything except pass completion.    Messi of course is the master at beating everyone except the taxman just as Luis Suarez beats Olivier Giroud in every football zone and in terms of biting opposition players also.


However there is a nice little twist at the end.   Messi, Iniesta, Suarez and and Neymar have pay rises built into their contracts according to quite a few Spanish papers.  That’s hardly a new story, but these and other already agreed pay rises will add around £25m plus to Barcelona’s wages next season.  Sergio Busquets is also due for a contract renewal which leads to … more pay rises.


But La Liga has a salary cap of €421m per annum, and Barcelona’s wage bill is currently €419m, before anyone gets a wage rise.  Last season Barcelona exceeded the agreed ratio of income against tax and repayments of loan, which is also a concern, and must now bring that down.

Now of course the Spanish League has a regular habit of looking not just the other way at such moments, but often of not looking at all, allowing a handful of clubs, for example, to stay outside the regulation that says all clubs must become PLCs – in order to ensure greater financial transparency, approving the transfer of children without their parents etc.

So it is not too likely that the Spanish League is strong enough to take on Barcelona but curiously enough Fifa might have another go.  Which takes us back to the start.   Most of us don’t have faith in Fifa.  But they did stand up to Barcelona over the child trafficking issue, so maybe there is hope after all.


  • 23 February 2008: Birmingham 2 Arsenal 2.  The day that robbed Arsenal  of the title as Eduardo’s leg was broken.  He never recovered his amazing potential.  Arsenal won just one of the next seven.  Walcott scored both goals.
  • 23 February 2008: The Aliadière scandal in which the player was sent off wrongly and had his sentence increased on appeal.  It revealed just how corrupt (or erratic depending on your point of view) the English refereeing system had become.

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The latest Untold book is Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 with a Foreword by Bob Wilson, available both as a paperback and as a Kindle book from Amazon.   Details of this and our previous and forthcoming titles can be found at Arsenal Books on this site.

16 comments to Do you have faith in Fifa? And Arsenal v Barcelona, player by player.

  • colario

    According to the President of Barcelona, the law that allows Barca and Real Mad to make their own TV deals has been abolished.

    In future TV money will be distributed to clubs in a similar way it is in England. He didn’t say when the law will come into force.

    When it does, will it mean that these two clubs lose some of their spending power? will it enable other clubs to knock the two off the top?

    In the same interview he also suggests that if a ‘big club’ doesn’t qualify for the Champions League they should be given a ‘wild card’.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Hope our boys are ready and raring to go . Keeping a clean sheet is paramount , while waiting for the chances to break away and score. Having to keep their front 3 quiet will be the key .
    Come on your Gunners !

  • Va Cong

    Hopefully 2-0 brickfields! Colario that just sounds like filth from the Barcelona scum.

  • nicky

    If only 69% of UK citizens could be found to have no faith in FIFA, one wonders at whom the poll was directed.
    Rugby players?
    And insofar as tonight’s game is concerned, there will be righteous worry in the Barcelona camp. The Catalans will know Arsenal’s reputation when not the favourites to win. In players like Ozil and Sanchez, the hosts have world class performers, capable of changing the course of a contest in an instant.
    So it’s no pushover for the favourites tonight and they know it.
    And the Ems faithful mustn’t forget the vital role they have to play. Constant support for the lads from start to finish. Ignore mistakes and cheer every success.
    And at the end of the two legs, remember…’s only a game.

  • Tai

    Today Is Here…

    Yes.. Barcelona are in town – town here is London – to brush aside Arsenal, or so it seems.

    Right from the day the draws were made, pundits, football followers, including most Arsenal fans, had concluded the second round was the Gunners final bus stop as long as this season’s UEFA Champions League was concerned. Bets were even overwhelmingly in the Catalans’ favour that Arsenal would be thrashed both home and away.

    Nobody would be blamed for joining this bandwagon. Barcelona is the team of the decade. Under Pep Guardiola they played football like aliens. Today, they may not be that ephemeral but are still very much the best team on the planet.

    However, there is a significant change from Pep’s to Luis Enrique’s Barca. Guardiola’s first principle is – keep possession and regain it like a swarm of bees once lost. Enrique’s principle is win the game, whatever you do. Today, Barca still have players that can achieve a 90% possession in most matches but the focus has changed from possession-crazy football to strictly result-oriented one. Unlike Pep’s days where Barca could initiate 30 passes to goal from Victor Valdes, between eight and 10 passes do these days.

    And these days Barca are far more clinical. The famed MSN – Messi, Suarez, Neymar combination is not mere media conjecture. They trio are the most devastating set of forward line the beautiful game has witnessed. And they grow in amazing telepathic understanding game from game. Messi is still a football god. Suarez and Neymar have effectively taken the solo burden off the Argentine dynamite but all his arsenals are still intact. When it becomes necessary, the five-time Ballan D’or winner can still single-handedly win matches.

    Therefore, Arsenal face a more daunting task today than they faced in all the former encounters with the Spanish outfit. This is the most dangerous Barca team in history!

    However, the Arsenal of today is neither the other Arsenal teams Barca have been brushing aside, many times with minimal efforts. From Petr Cech in goal to Theo Walcott in attack, Barca have never faced a more talented and balanced Gunners. Therefore today’s match offers a new era of expectations. Arsene Wenger, about the only constant in all matches between these sides is a more calmer manager today. He’s added winning ugly as well to his repertoire. So if Barca are expecting an open end-to-end game today, they’re up the wrong tree.

    Wenger has enough fit players to make things difficult, if not very difficult, for the Catalan giants. In his shoes I’d start Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Elneny, Ozil; Ramsey, Walcott, Sanchez.
    My choice of Cech is very obvious – the best keeper in EPL who has veteran of battles against Barca. Bellerin is about the best 20-year old wing back in world football. I’m sure Dani Alves at the opposite flank will appreciate his days are numbered as the best right back in the world after today’s displays from Bellerin. If Spain pick their first squad by current form today, Monreal will occupy the left flank. Metersacker is an intelligent calm defender once Arsenal are not adopting a high-line defense. With MSN coming at you any team attempting that is signing death warrant. So, the German giant will be fine today. Koscielny needs no advert – the current best CB in England.

    In the middle, Coquelin has proved his reliability – fast, strong, combative and reads game excellently with timely interceptions. He should be partnered with Elneny, who is very mobile, has long-passing ability and can run tirelessly for a box-to-box role. In front of them is Ozil, who knows enough of Barca to understand he shouldn’t waste any moment on the ball. Right midfield should be Ramsey…for his energy, eye for pass and goals, Ramsey should help Bellerin checkmate Neymar’s artistic dribbles as well as offer perfect cover when Bellerin sprints to the opponent’s byline.

    Then Sanchez and Walcott should complete the team. I chose Walcoot over Oliver Giroud for many reasons – First is pace. All Pep’s time while facing Arsenal, the Bayern Munich manager feared Walcott most. Arsenal never lost to Barca with Walcott playing. With Walcott Pique and Mascherano will think twice before crossing the half-way line. Walcott’s smart movement is a delight, his pace is a killer. Unfortunately, his finishing has been abysmal this season…if only he could wear scoring boots today! And Sanchez needs no introduction.

    The one player I pity most today is Monreal…he’s the one with the primary task of stopping Messi. No defender in the world can do that. So, sorry, Nacho…do your best, even if it’s not enough.

    In all Wenger should feast on minimal retention of the ball the few times arsenal get possession – play with precision, electric counterattacking and near-perfect clinical. Pace is they key … and in Walcott, Sanchez and Bellerin, Wenger has enough to win this first leg, at least.


  • JohnW

    No we may not keep a clean sheet, but I want our focus to be on winning the game. Why? Because even if we take a 2-1 win; one goal is better than zero, we will have some where to start. Besides, I think we will stand toe to toe in this one, we have a real chance of knocking Barca out, because we have a good team but no one gives us a chance. How Arsenal-like, to do the impossible.

  • Great work Bulldog. I couldn’t but chuckle at the prospect of a public execution in America when you mentioned it. Such dark thoughts!

    @Tai, like I said yesterday in response to your post, yes we can! On form and and in the mood, our players can give Barca a bad scare, the ref allowing. We don’t play rough, we don’t go for people’s ankle with the sole aim of sending them to the surgeon’s table to be reassembled… we just don’t play like that. But on their day, our boys can sure play. So, Barca better beware! Today might just be that day!

  • Samuel Akinsolas Adebosin

    Arsenal will rise above their known highest level we’ve seen them risen before and be very ruthless in their gaming against Barca on the Ems football playing turf. And take the MSN to Ems school of footballing to receive lessons afresh, as the Gunners look to take them to the cleaners to be cleaned after getting battered by the unpredictable quantity Gunners. Ooh! Arsenal how mighty have you risen again?

  • ob1977

    I am equally excited and petrified of this game, both because I know what we are capable of, second guessing our lineup by the team that played weekend I would suggest Pete, Hector, BFG, Kos le boss, Nacho, Le Coq, Rambo, The Ox, 20/20, Road Runner, and Beauté, this could be the making of The Ox like Jackie boy before….

    It’s a shame that it may have come too soon for Dat Guy Welbz, but who knows either him or Theo could get a starting berth if we want pace… All I know is I won’t be shouting I know more than le professeur if it all goes wrong…


  • Andy Mack

    colario, the Spanish TV deal won’t knock Barca and RM off the top but it will make some of the games less of a forgone conclusion and possibly bring a little more consistency to the Athletico and Valencia teams who have occasionally competed for the top slots.
    But Barca and RM are too big to suddenly drop to mid table even (in the same way ManU won’t drop below Europa league level at the worst).
    At the moment many of the teams in La Liga wouldn’t survive in our ‘championship’ level (a bit like the bottom half of the French, German and even the Italian leagues). The improvement in the lower teams means Barca and RM wouldn’t be able to rest their squads the way they do now, which would even things up a bit in Europe at this time of year when most PL teams are getting seriously fatigued.

  • Andy Mack

    Bulldog, you say “The media in the UK have only just…actually recognised that there is a fans’ viewpoint”. This is wrong. They’ve known that the fans have a viewpoint, but they insist that it’s whatever the Media tell fans it is, rather than actually listening to them…

  • Polo

    I would love Arsenal to win but it will be a very difficult match, Suarez alone scored more goals than our whole team this season, you add the genius of Messi and speed and flair of Neymar it’s going to be very difficult to stop. They dismantled Real Madrid in Madrid 4-0 and currently on 32 games winning streak and they pretty much the same team that beat Juventus 3-1 in the UCL final last season.

    If we are clinical with our set plays and headers from crosses we might have a chance of getting a result.

    Definitely will pray and hope luck will be on our side and get the win like against Bayern. Whether win, lose or draw let’s hope our boys play to their potential and the match be a thriller.

  • Andy Mack

    Polo, yes it’ll be very difficult. But although the number of goals Suarez has scored does help his confidence (and he’s very good anyway), it’s a little false as some of the competition they play against is so so poor.

  • Menace

    The Barca trident has an excellent diver, a talented footballer & more than dent, a full bite. The Bussacca appointee will also have to watched. Arsenal will have to be distinct with our passing & clinical with our finishing. We should win but need to be smart & not lose focus on defending against the break & overlap. Be prepared for the dive from Messi & Suarez. If Vardy was clever, these guys are scientific!! If you avoid physical challenge, they will dribble past you. They are very skillful, fast & can cheat to order.

    Wenger will have prepared our boys well. Come on you Gunners & clean the media of their teeth so that it inhibits their smiles.

  • Menace

    Amazing call by ref in under 21 CL penalty shoot out Chelsea v Valencia). Ball by Valencia hits angled support in goal but not give by ref!! Ckearky shown on TV as goal. Boal line official blind not yto see the ball penter the goal & bounce out.

  • Menace

    Amazing call by ref in under 21 CL penalty shoot out Chelsea v Valencia). Ball by Valencia hits angled support in goal but not give by ref!! Clearly shown on TV as goal. Goal line official blind not to see the ball enter the goal & bounce out.