Ripping the heart out of the Arsenal midfield


By Tim Charlesworth

A season of gambles

All managers have to take risks with the way that they put their squad together.  It is not possible to have two or three world class players for every position.  As well as being prohibitively expensive, world class players will not tolerate long periods on the bench.  So managers try to provide a squad large enough to cover for rotation and injuries.  

Rotation is reasonably predictable because we know roughly how many games Arsenal will play.  Injuries are, of course, unpredictable.  Particular problems come when a player and their backup both become injured.  This happens more often that you might think. Often the backup is suddenly thrown into playing a lot of games after a long period of inactivity, and this is a great recipe for injury.  In such cases, the manager must go to the third choice, or play someone out of position, and this starts to weaken the team considerably.

If we look at the season as a whole, Wenger took two big gambles.  Neither came off.  He gambled on Coquelin being an effective defensive midfielder and he gambled that Walcott could be an effective striker.  The result of these failed gambles was that our central midfield was weak and we didn’t score enough of the chances we created.  That was enough to cost us the title.  Of course there are other issues that have affected the season (Sanchez’s form and injuries, the Ox disappointing again, Ramsey disappointing), but these two are the big ones.  In the end, Walcott was only effective for a couple of months, and I will examine the striker situation in a separate article.  In this article we have a look at the midfield.   

Cazorla’s disappointment

One of my lasting memories of the season is watching Santi Cazorla warming up against Manchester City in the penultimate game of the season.  It was sad because it reminded us of what we missed.   It was also sad because, after Sanchez’s equalizer, Wenger changed his mind and bought Coquelin on instead to try to cement the point.  Santi looked crestfallen, and who can blame him.  The bemused look on Santi’s face reminded me of Robert Pires being substituted in the 2006 Champions League Final.  Pires’ substitution appeared to be entirely sensible to us (following Jens Lehmann’s red card), but Pires could never reconcile himself to it.  He left the club, and despite having a basically good relationship with Wenger, he still can’t accept the decision to this day.

This reminds us that footballers are individual sportsmen at heart.  Although they play a team game, they can only focus on being the best that they can be.  Pires and Santi are great team players, but they cannot control what everyone else does, and they necessarily see the world through their own narrow lens.  And its not difficult to sympathise with Santi.  He had waited nearly six months to return to the first team.  He had the European Championships coming up.  He is 31 and has always been slightly on the fringes of the Spanish team.  He is unlikely to get another chance to go to a major tournament.  He desperately needed to prove his ability to play at the top level before the end of the season, and it was torn away from him by a Sanchez goal.  Of course he should be pleased about this, and the bemused look on his face suggested the internal struggle internally between the happiness at our goal, and the personal disappointment of staying on the bench.  

Predictably, the one start against Villa in the final game of the season, was not enough to get Santi one of the highly competitive midfield spots in the Spanish squad.  In reality, an additional substitute appearance at the Etihad probably wouldn’t have made any difference, but I can’t help but sympathize with Santi being denied his opportunity.

Cazorla the deep lying central midfielder

Amidst another midfield injury crisis, around the new year 2015, Santi moved to a deeper midfield role alongside Francis Coquelin.  The experiment was an instant hit and the two stayed together during a very successful period which included a strong run in the league and a triumphant FA Cup campaign.  We all hoped that the partnership (and the success it brought) would stay together in the new season, and it did.  Their run in the team coincided with Arsenal comfortably scoring more points than any other team during calendar year 2015 (81 points in 38 games in 20015 is champions’ form – Leicester won with 81).  Cazorla’s career had a new lease of life, and he was arguably playing better than at any time in his career (and he has been pretty good at other times)

The November curse

Coquelin was injured in a horrible away defeat at WBA on 21st November 2015.  Arteta replaced Coquelin, played poorly and also got injured.  It was effectively the end of Arteta’s Arsenal career.  Coquelin returned in the new year, but was not the same player.  This can happen sometimes.  We have seen something similar with last year’s player of the season, Hazard, who has seemed to struggle to overcome the after-effects of injuries.  Coquelin, like Hazard, is a player who relies on his athleticism, and for whatever reason he seemed to have only recovered 95% of his full athleticism.  Although he returned in February, our initial euphoria was misplaced, he was dropped again as the season wore on.  

The following weekend, 29th November 2015, we drew 1-1 away with Norwich.  This didn’t look like a difficult fixture, and a win would take us to the top of the league.  Instead we got injuries to Koscielny and then Sanchez.  As a result, we had no substitutes left when Cazorla injured his knee, so he stayed on the pitch.  Did Santi make the injury worse by staying on the pitch?  Probably.  Either way, his season was over too.

So a horrible series of misfortunes within seven days denied us our two starting central midfielders and one of their reserves.   Although we didn’t know it at the time, we had effectively lost Santi, Coquelin and Arteta for the rest of the season.  In Arteta and Cazorla we had also lost the only players in our squad really capable of playing the ‘second playmaker’ role.  Hereafter the creative burden fell too heavily on Ozil, and it was too easy for opposition teams to stifle our creativity by heavily marking Ozil.  In the second half of the season we seemed to lack imagination and this was very much a result of Cazorla’s absence.  Can any team be reasonably expected to survive this?

On the one hand, this is an unfortunate series of events.  On the other hand, statistically speaking,  you can expect a run of bad luck to occur, at least once, in a long season.  We seem to have had many consecutive seasons where we suffer bad luck in a crucial position.  If something keeps happening, you have to conclude that it is not unusual.  Although we have been unlucky in central midfield we have had a ‘fortunate’ season in other respects:

  • Mesut Ozil has been basically fit all season
  • Our starting centre backs have basically all been fit all season.
  • Bellerin has been largely available all season, which was particularly important in the context that Debuchy went AWOL.

So the question we have to ask is whether or not Arsenal should have been prepared for this kind of eventuality, and have had a better ‘plan B’ in place.

Coquelin was an obvious risk

Certainly Coquelin was an obvious weak point in the team.  He had never completed a full season as a first team regular.  Despite his brilliant displays in the early months of 2015, it was not clear that he could sustain this for a whole season, or that his body would hold up to the challenge.  Right from the start of the season, we looked vulnerable to any major injury he might sustain.  I suspect that Wenger seriously toyed with buying another midfielder in the summer.  The rumour mill suggested that he was flirting with Morgan Schneiderlin amongst others.  In the end, Wenger decided it was silly to spend a lot of money on an expensive reserve (or the players decided to go elsewhere?).

His back up was Arteta, but Arteta has been next to useless this season.  A combination of age and injury have robbed him of both game time and effectiveness on the occasions he has been on the pitch.  With the benefit of hindsight, it obviously was a mistake not to acquire a backup for Coquelin in the summer.  The purchase of Elneny in January implicitly recognised the error.  But should we blame Wenger for the initial decision or was it an ‘understandable error’, only detectable with hindsight.

When I examined the question myself pre-season, without the benefit of hindsight, I basically concluded that the lack of cover for Coquelin was a risk, indeed the greatest risk in the squad, but that it wasn’t really practical to sign a top class replacement:  

  • Firstly, that would be a very expensive solution to a relatively small problem (it looked small at the time anyway).  
  • Secondly, a player like Schneiderlin would not join Arsenal on the basis that he would be a reserve for Coquelin.  Signing a lesser player was pointless when you already had Arteta and Flamini (and maybe Wilshere).  
  • Thirdly, Arteta was a faithful servant of the club, and a reasonable (if not convincing) backup.  It was not reasonable to sign a replacement that would effectively consign Arteta, our club captain, to the rubbish heap.  
  • Fourthly, we had further backup in the form of Flamini (and possibly Wilshere as well).  Had I known that Flamini would basically get as much game time as Coquelin, I might have concluded differently, but Wenger couldn’t reasonably be expected to know this before the season started.

Was the ageing of Arteta predictable?

Mikel Arteta was 33 at the start of the season.  Before the emergence of Coquelin, he was a vital cog in our team, and the team visibly suffered in his absence.  33 is an age when some players seem to lose the ability to play at the top level, but others seem able to continue.  It was not ridiculous to assume that, with a lower playing workload, Arteta would thrive.  We have seen this effect with many players, like Teddy Sheringham, Ryan Giggs and Lee Dixon, who could continue to perform well into their late thirties if playing less games.  Wenger obviously thought that Arteta fell into this category.

In reality Arteta’s season was ruined as much by injury as age, and this might just be bad luck.  It is all too easy to assume that a player gets injured because he is old, but this is not necessarily the case.  He may have just suffered an unfortunate series of injuries like Hazard.    However, we might observe that it appeared to fans that Arteta was losing pace and agility as early as the second half of the 2013/14 season, 18 months before the start of the 15/16 season.  

Of course, I don’t see Arteta on a daily basis.  I don’t have access to his fitness performance stats (and wouldn’t know how to interpret them if I did).  Wenger presumably had this advantage over me, and made the wrong call.  We could criticise Wenger on this basis, but I think that this sort of thing is more an art than a science, and I don’t think that Wenger really had a lot more useful information than me when making this judgement.


So certainly Wenger took risks in midfield when finalising his squad in the summer of 2015.  We don’t know whether he tried to cover these risks by signing a new player, or he simply decided that these were risks worth taking.  We can certainly question whether or not an emotional affection for Mikel Arteta coloured his judgement about his usefulness as a back up to Coquelin.  Overall, I think risks have to be taken, and that Wenger probably took a sensible risk, and got caught out.

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44 Replies to “Ripping the heart out of the Arsenal midfield”

  1. given the comments from the Marquis Cazorla wasn’t making the Spanish squad, he’s played a lot less then Sir Mendes Costalot of late.

    The real reason that Cazorla and the watching world have been denied a glimpse of Peak Cazorla ahead of the older Iniesta inn that Spanish midfield is because he was given less then Zero protection by the pgMOB representative during that Norwich Fix.

    Like Debuchy. Like Sagna. And so many others before him. Not the frequency but the impact of the, well, the impact injuries (as in the Hacking – outlawed C1850).

    pgMOB Rules Football. Ok?
    It’s football, but not as you know it (please refer to Clattenburg’s ‘performance’ at the weekend. Bells and whistles included.

  2. The risk that you talk about that Wenger took, I think it was a good one. Considering we had Coquelin-Cazorla our two main central midfielders at the start…

    We had Arteta has backup for Coquelin, and Flamini as backup for Arteta. And Ramsey as a potential backup for Cazorla and Wilshere as a hopeful backup for Ramsey. Just for a second look at this, look at how much depth we had (and still have). You don’t get to see this much quality of depth anywhere. Apart from Wilshere, we had all this players fit before November.

    Wilshere had a very good preseason and looked to have integrated back in to the squad. Unfortunately just at the start of the season he got injured long-term. Okay alright not a major problem, our depth was still strong…

    August, September, October… Three months without any frustrating, squad disturbing injuries. Up comes Nov, we lose Ramsey for 1 month, we lose Arteta for 3 months, we lose Coquelin for 3 months, we lose Cazorla for 6 months. None of was muscular injuries, it was all contact injuries. That is 4 central midfielders in one week.

    That left us with only Flamini as the only fit midfielder. No one can prepare for such a 5 player handicap in week. And please don’t say that we should have spent $$$ for “beast midfielder in the summer” our squad was already full 25 players.

    The signing of El Nenny was not a panic buy like many people say. I believe there were two main reasons. 1- Our club had been scouting El Nenny for nearly 1.5 years very closely. 2- Before he joined us he was having the best season of his life at Basel and already had played 30 games by December-end. That what I think resulted in us buying him.

  3. Arteta?
    Stomp right in front of the official in the first match of last season during the CL qualifier by the former Chelsea player Ba.

    Ended his career.

    Not even a foul called.

    No protection = Serious injuries that ruin the careers of Arsenal Footballers. Beyond a certain number, long exceeded, it becomes unreasoable to ignore this pattern.

    Should Arteta have been ruthlessly replaced? Yes. But given what he had done for the club, the manager who had just won two back to back FA Cups was entitled to indulge the man and the player who had done so much for the club, as expressed by so many at the end of the season.

    “This club is class”, and we’d have it no other way.

  4. The other problem having 2 ‘top class’ players for one position is that the ‘2nd’ pretty much always needs a run of games to get up to speed. As you mention, they often get injured during this time as they’re trying too hard to get back to form which leads to strains etc., but they want to make their mark before ‘1st’ returns.
    From a defending point of view it can be beneficial having someone like Chambers that covers 2 or 3 roles and can come on late in a game when defending a lead, so it’s not exactly a ‘like for like’ sub but it’s giving a player a bit of game time in case he has to cover RB, CB or even DM in the next game.
    Unfortunately far too few ‘fans’ really understand the meaning of ‘Match Fit’, but I guess that’s not an issue on computer football.

  5. Balanced assesmenent of our midfield situation. My opinion we can only accuse AW of not being the perfect coach that all gunners expect him to be.

  6. I was incredibly keen on another defensive midfielder, and was commensurately disappointed we didn’t get one, but I think the mitigation was pretty strong.

    My best guess is that it was a case of reviewing our midfield options and deciding that ,unless there was some really bad injury luck, it could be tricky giving everyone enough playing time to keep them happy.

    I had hoped that Coquelin’s emergence would lead to a different way of thinking- we must have someone who can offer as much defensively to the midfield, even, and perhaps preferably, if they have a different skill set to Coquelin.

    Supposing Xhaka happens (I’m a worrier) we pretty much have exactly what I hoped for, maybe more than I hoped for. 3 players- Elneny, Coq, Xhaka- who are strong defensively yet each in different ways.

    As we’ve seen with Cazorla/ Coquelin, such players can make our other midfielders, or rather the team, function better in defence as well as attack. Wilshere and Ramsey for instance can make valuable contributions from deep and do some good work defensively, but to me they are almost bonus (midfield) defenders, i.e they can never be the principle players you rely on to protect the defence.

    Coq the interceptor who is an excellent tackler, and can press to great effect high up pitch; Elneny with the engine, neat passing, solid in all aspects of the game; and ****, a powerful aggressive player, with composure and good passing ability, and a left foot, for balance, to boot.

    It would put a tremendous squeeze on everyone- i.e too many good players to keep happy- but I think the circumstances, particularly the injury record for midfielders for the last 6 or so years, justifies doing so.

  7. I don’t know about all of this ‘taking a risk’ business because I can’t see a like for like replacement for Cazorla nor anyone approaching his ability being readily available. We can always buy another ‘good’ midfielder but we have ‘good’ midfielders. What we don’t have is 2 Santi Cazorlas.

  8. Usama, I don’t think we actually had a ‘full 25’. I think with the under 21 exclusion we only had 23 or 24, but I agree with everything else you said.

  9. Great article. When examining the reasons that a back-up for Coquelin wasn’t purchased you mentioned Schniederlin. Or alternatively a world class player that wouldn’t come in to play second fiddle to our current roster. In actual fact the solution that arrived in January was Elneny and he didn’t fit either of those criterion. Is the question therefore in fact not, would the summer purchase of Elneny won us the league?

    As Finsbury Parker mentions above, the word is we watched Elneny for a good while. Perhaps the decision hadn’t been made on his quality but it did represent a much lesser risk.

    Saying that, I think if it’s not one thing it’s the other. Who’s to say that purchasing another player doesn’t add a different batch of squad problems. It must be awkward to spend millions on a player and not use him at all. Would we have sacrificed the coquelin-cazorla midfield in the early part of the season to give game time to a newly purchased back-up player to bed them in a little. I think it’s not a stretch to think it would happen. That could change the season ahead massively.

  10. GoingGoingGooner

    I take your point about the irreplaceability of Cazorla. In fact, this point applies in varying degrees to all players. No two players are really the same. An example of this is Mertesacker and Gabriel, who have been vying for a spot in the centre of defence all season. Gabriel is quicker and less aerially dominant. This means that when he plays, Arsenal can defend higher up the pitch. Also, Koscielny can take more risks darting forward for interceptions, knowing that he has the pace of Gabriel to cover him. Similarly, we are arguably exposed to set pieces without Mertesacker, and this possibly argues in favour of the inclusion of Giroud, who is a powerful defender of set pieces.

    I think Wenger is less inclined than most to treat his players are ‘replaceable units’ and this may be what lies behind his reluctance to rotate. He sees the subtle changes of balance that result from rotation and tries to avoid it.

    However, for the purposes of analysing the squad, it is necessary to make generalisations and simplifications. Otherwise, it is impossible to plan for injuries and rotation. Cazorla is a particularly difficult player to cover for (indeed that is one of the main points of this article). Ozil is possibly the most difficult to replace, as he is unique, not only in our squad, but in world football generally.

  11. Tim
    Koscielny got injured early on and was substituted on 11 minutes in the Norwich game.
    Santi injured himself in a 50/50 challenge with O’Neil just after the restart in 46 minute, Alexis got injured and substituted on 60 minutes, and the final Arsenal substitution was Ox for Ramsey on 74 minutes.

    Given these facts, I find your statement below very strange

    ..”instead we got injuries to Koscielny and Sanchez. As a result we had no substitute left when Cazorla injured his knee, so he stayed in the pitch”….

    For me personally, the two biggest gambles of the season were playing Sanchez with the risk of hamstring injury being higher than average, and leaving Cazorla to finish the Norwich game when he should’ve come off right after he got injured.
    Like you said there’s no way of knowing for sure how much worse his knee got but it certainly didn’t help.

    Incidentally, many regular contributors on here keep harping on how uneducated and simple footballers are , yet when it comes to injuries ( some of which not so long ago might’ve been considered career threatening) they want those same uneducated footballers to make these decisions for themselves on the fly, while under a serious dose of adrenaline flowing through their veins.

    Well, I’m sorry but you can’t have your cake and eat it too I’m afraid.
    That’s why you have doctors and physios and the manager with a combined live time of education and experience to make these decisions.

    Cazorla was left on the pitch because Arsenal needed a goal and he was a creative force even if on one leg.

  12. Els, you miss out two other points. One, Elneny’s club almost certainly would not have sold him unless they had someone lined up to take his place – they wouldn’t just leave a hole in the team. Yes, they would sell him, because they need to show top players that they are not blocked from progression, but not to allow their league season to fall apart. The other is the Elneny and his agent would have asked, “where would I be in the pecking order”. Now some clubs lie about such things, but all that happens is that they get the reputation for telling fibs, and players know not to believe them (players do talk to each other after all). So Arsenal would have answered honestly at the start of the season, as they would have done in December / January.

    This is the problem with many analyses of transfers – they focus on only some of the multiplicity of factors involved. I’ve picked on two here, there are many more (such as, to take just one, was someone else trying to buy Elneny in the summer?)

  13. You are right there Tony, there are many key details that initiate the process of a transfer and they can fluctuate day by day. For ex. the agent you just mentioned.

  14. Tim, you forgot to mention Fredrik Ljungberg who was one of the greatest attacking midfielder Arsenal have ever had. Was he better than the peak 2014-15 season Eden Hazard of Chelsea? I think he was as he often scores many goals for Arsenal in every season during the peak of his career at Arsenal.

    Was Ljungberg better than Cazorla? I think he was on the regular goals scoring front. Can any of the midfielders presently at Arsenal be compared to Ljungberg? No Sir.

    Arsenal are reported to be signing DMF – Xhaka. But I would have loved it if Arsenal will add Paul Pogba to him to complete their bolstering their midfield ahead of next season’s campaign. It’s all about the money to sign Paul Pogba, isn’t it? God shall provide the money if at all Arsenal are interested in signing him.

  15. Tom, a manager and his backroom team aren’t mind readers. Santi said in an interview afterwards that he didn’t think it was a bad injury and that he could run it off. Obviously he was wrong but you have to go on what the player says or every team would have to take 3 players off within the first 10 minutes of a game. The majority of players are carrying a knock, it’s the nature of the game.

  16. Samuel, you’re comparing very different types of player when you mention Santi, Freddie and Pogba. 3 very different styles.

  17. Tim- Interesting article.

    My personal belief was that Flamini was fine as a first line back up for Coquelin in DM. He played more games than we liked – but still think he was more than adequate. We fell short this season because of problems further upfield.

    Given finite funds, which despite what some of the lesser educated believe, is a factor, I would have thought that centre forward and centre back were more needing of investment. Also need cover for Bellerin although suspect that might be Jenkinson – although unclear how long he is expected to be injured for.

    In fact, no one seems to have picked up on the Bellerin situation. We were lucky that he stayed fit after Debuchy was allowed to leave otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to move for the toxic comments all over the web. I guess the cover would have been Flamini but, if Flamini goes, who can then fill in? Bellerin won’t be able to play 60 games even if he avoids injury.

  18. Very good analyses by everybody. But nobody mentioned TR7 as a possible solution to at least one of the injury scenarios we had. That was a great footballer we lost there. Left thinking what might have been if only….!

  19. Nice article.season is done now. We may have lost the league and the fear factor but that could turn to our advantage next season.lets trade well this summer and give the squad a good preseason. Forgive me all but am happy that quite a sizeable number of our possible 1st teamers aren’t going for the euros.france will be watched with bated breath( kos & OG). The unrest last season plus last year on contract cld may peharps spur Wenger to do great things next season….we can only hope. And congrats to Wenger for getting a stadium named after him @ his hometown. Thoroughly deserved.cheers all.

  20. Tim, please allow me to say this if I am not sounding boring. Arsenal midfield that’ll include Paul Pogba, and the envisaged to come Xhaka, with on the ground – Ramsey, Elneny, Cazorla, Wilshere and Coquelin. Those are 7 AMFs, DMFs & DLMs and a promoted Arsenal Under 21 player to make up the numbers to 8 as usual. Will be awesome, fearsome and a phenomenal Arsenal midfield to watch next season.

  21. We are going to get injuries and no one can say exactly who will be injured, but i think we get a sense of who will be targeted by opposition players (after some sort of whisper in their ear). The ones who are performing and propelling Arsenal at that immediate moment.

    I stand by my observation that players are not as “innocent” as the commentators like to make out. I have seen countless incidents where it is clear that the player did not care if he got the ball or not, but rather cared more to injure(if not always severely) at least for the immediate game.

    Until the whole ambiguous nature of football rules is sorted, this sort of thing will go on, especially in the UK who(certain parties) seem to love this sort of “battle/war” rather than playing an honest game of football.

    No wonder then that Arsenal sometimes falters, because our players are indecisive sometimes of tackling and being tackled, which causes the team to lose it’s flow.

    I have see our players “almost take off to the moon or beat the high jump record” trying to avoid some incoming tackles.

    Maybe a correlation can be made between injuries and the players who are causing them, when they take place in Arsenal’s season etc etc?

  22. Samuel, no amount of money will lure Paul Pogba to Arsenal, that is unless he truly wants to come here. He will probably have set his sights higher(that is in his own opinion) than Arsenal.

  23. On a side note, it is rather unfortunate that AFC was robbed of winning the league by the referees either through incompetence or through deliberate bias.

    The hypothetical league also had AFC winning the league while only considering events leading to goal.

    I wonder what AFC and/or her fans can do to prevent these recurrent robberies.

  24. Andy Mack
    Show me a game where three players got a knock on a knee in the first 10 minutes and I will admit your post makes sense.

    Exaggeration to make a point doesn’t work for me.

    Better yet, show an example of player who got a knee knock, the sort Cazorla did, and didn’t end up on the sidelines for an extended period of time.

  25. I find this a strange article – not a unique experience with Tim’s articles.

    The apparent Cazorla disappointment about not coming on against Man City is described in a manner unsympathetic to Wenger’s decision – yet AW explained his decision at the time & further secured the point in that game – in the final analysis that point was rather valuable wasn’t it.

    The pulling together of the apparent disappointment by Cazorla and Pires from incidents ten years apart could make readers question your motives – a concrete thinker with latent aaaa tendencies?

    The implication that AW gambled with the midfield numbers looks a bit contrived to me – he did have nine midfielders on his list at the start of the season – which did provide a good degree of cover.

    I don’t think your conclusion is valid, it rather looks as if your conclusion was your original thought, which you then tried to substantiate by the formulation of a rather disjointed article. In other words it appears that your conclusion was not the result of a logical and questioning thought process.

    Tim, I am assuming that you are not qualified to manage an EPL club and further you do not have inside information on AW’s decision making process – so unless my assumptions are wrong – are you qualified to write an article second guessing our manager?

    “Ripping the heart out of the Arsenal midfield” – I don’t like this title – looks like the wild sensationalism used by some red tops!

  26. Yes fair point Tony. I think it’s practically an impossibility to second guess all of the what ifs. There’ll also be a hundred more decisions made that Wenger gets so fantastically correct they never materialise as issues at all. All I know is we beat Leicester twice, we did our bit. We came in second and we had a good run in first only to be derailed by injuries, yes that’s a bit of repetition but I think that overall it’s progress. Excluding potential departures the current squad will be in fine shape to mount a title challenge at least. We could probably do with someone to step in for DW though.

  27. @ Tim – You say ” Pires’ substitution appeared to be entirely sensible to us (following Jens Lehmann’s red card), but Pires could never reconcile himself to it. He left the club, and despite having a basically good relationship with Wenger, he still can’t accept the decision to this day.” ; but I believe that we all knew that he was leaving the club, and that it was his last game .
    He may have been be justifiably disappointed to be the one to be subbed , but it was the right move .If we had held out or if Henry had scored late his late chance , the narrative would have been different .
    As for not accepting the decision to this day , then why would he allow his son join the club ?And his comments about AW and the club in the press have always been very supportive . Even when he was being lead up the alley by the experts that we get here.

    For me , it always will be , PIRES – ARSENAL LEGEND !

  28. Prepare Yourself

    Jennifer visited a psychic of some local repute.

    In a dark and hazy room, peering into a crystal ball, the mystic delivered grave news:

    “There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just be blunt – prepare yourself to be a widow. Your husband will die a violent and horrible death this year.”

    Visibly shaken, Jennifer stared at the woman’s lined face, then at the single flickering candle, then down at her hands. She took a few deep breaths to compose herself.

    She simply had to know. She met the fortune teller’s gaze, steadied her voice, and asked: “Will I be acquitted?”

  29. The Psychic Hotline –

    A frog telephones the Psychic Hotline. His Personal Psychic Advisor tells him, “You are going to meet a beautiful young girl who will want to know everything about you.”
    The frog is thrilled, “This is great! Will I meet her at a party?”
    “No,” says his advisor, “in her biology class.”

  30. Hi bjtgooner. Sorry if you find my articles odd.

    For the sake of clarity, I am not making any criticism of Wenger’s substitution at Man City. It looked to me as if Wenger had told Cazorla to get ready to go on in a few minutes. Cazorla is a creative midfielder, exactly what you need when you are 2-1 down and the game is closing in. Whilst Cazorla was warming up, Sanchez scored. The tactical situation was now altered. As you say, a point was valuable to us, and so Wenger decided to send on Coquelin instead, a more destructive and defensive minded midfielder.

    Wenger did the right thing for the team in that situation, but from Cazorla’s point of view, it was very disappointing. He was desperate to play, with the season running out and needing to prove his fitness for Euro 16. Personally speaking, I feel sorry for him, and I could understand why he was disappointed.

    I made the link to Pires, simply because I was reminded of the incident. I also happen to think that Wenger made a sensible decision in the 2006 CL Final, when he took Pires off. I can understand Pires’ disappointment too. It was his last chance to play in a big match, and he was substituted, 16 mins in. Who wouldn’t be disappointed in these circumstances? I was merely making the link that both situations were good decisions, but very disappointing for the players involved.

    Sorry if you find the title sensationalist. I think it is justified in these circumstances. The destruction of our midfield resources in late November was dramatic, and in my opinion, had major consequences for the outcome of the season.

    Not sure I get the comment about being ‘qualified’. Nobody who writes for Untold is a Premiership manager (unless someone is very well disguised), so if you only want to read stuff written by qualified premiership managers, you are not really in the right place. I believe that the opinions of Harry Redknapp (if he’s not qualified, who is?) are widely available around the internet.

  31. The Blonde –

    A brunette, a redhead, and a blonde go to a carnival and spot a fortune teller.

    Above the entrance it says “Will only work if you tell the truth” The girls walk in and the brunette goes first and says “I think I am the prettiest girl on earth”.
    And , POOF shes gone.
    The redhead walks up and says “I think I am the smartest girl on earth” and , POOF shes gone.
    The blonde go’s up next with an idea of what to do and says “I think……..”
    And POOF shes gone.

  32. Hi Brickfields

    Pires’ attitude towards Wenger is indeed an odd one. Have a look at this article:

    Despite the title, Pires does sound angry, and I have seen similar sentiments expressed by him elsewhere. Pires is most definitely an Arsenal man, and his relationship with Wenger seems to be basically good. He doesn’t hold a grudge, but as you can see, he cannot accept the 2006 substation, and still seems to think that Wenger got it wrong.

    As you rightly say, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable decision to us at the time, and indeed still looks reasonable with hindsight. However, I think Pires was too close to it, and too badly hurt to be able to see it objectively. For me, its an interesting insight into how a top professional footballer thinks. Like many very successful people, I think they find it hard to see things from a point of view other than their own. This seems to hold true, even though they play a team sport. You have to remember that people like Pires are not ‘average’ people. His success is almost certainly the result of gargantuan determination, belief and application. It takes a certain kind of personality to produce that.

  33. Tim

    You misunderstand – deliberately?

    I do not expect to read an article by an EPL manager on Untold, nor did I state that I do, what I do question is your qualification to second guess our manager.

    Cazorla may or may not have been disappointed at not coming on against Man City – but I would imagine that Carorla, being an intelligent player, would ralise just why AW changed the substitution.

    I’m glad you agree with AW’s decision.

    A sensationalist title six months after the “event” – it does not really work – another “after thought”? 🙂

  34. every time coquelin was tackled I got a shiver, it was like our good players are always targeted somehow. Two or three fouls on him probably went unpunished before he was taken out finally

  35. Tom,
    1) pretty much any game any team plays against a Pulis side (OK maybe 20 minutes but the point stands).
    2) So is a Knee worse than an Ankle Or a Hip Injury?
    The answer is sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

    Most players may not be the brightest (although I think Santi is a bit better than many) but one of the things they do know about is their own body/physical condition. It’s what earns their salary.

  36. Tim, I enjoyed your article.

    As a fan only, I must admit, before the season began, I really wanted Mr Wenger to get cover for Coquilan. It seemed to me, during the previous season, Le Coq had made a difference with his holding discipline, energy, and combative tackling. My instinct was, we needed to have another player with similar qualities who could play at the same level to cover for him if injured or tired, replace him if his formed dipped or play with him if we needed to battle to keep a lead. Relying on existing players in the squad to cover would be, I felt, a drop in quality. I hoped Mr Wenger would have noticed that difference/improvement in midfield from the previous season and built on the prowess of the young Frenchman.

    For whatever reason, he didn’t. As bjtgooner says, none of us know what decision making process the Manager went through; whether he took a gamble because a good deal wasn’t on or whether, in fact, he felt, unlike me, the team was adequately covered.

    Based on what’s happened in previous seasons with the holding DM role, it seems to me Mr Wenger has never really cracked that position post Gilberto. He tried the younger Flamini (more box to box I know ), Denilson, Song, Arteta, and Flamini again. These players all contributed to the teams they played in for sure (Arteta especially) but for different reasons none were totally convincing. Until Le Coq (in my opinion).

    Also I think I’m right in saying Mr Wenger have never prioritised that position in terms of investment. All of the above players were either youth products (Denilson, Song) , a last minute dash (Arteta) or convenient (Flam 2, Le Coq). Until now …armed with more resource, Mr Wenger has spent a shed load on Elneny and now (awaiting confirmation) Xhaka.

    Personally I’ve longed for this kind of player. Thank you Mr Wenger for getting there.

  37. Andy Mack
    No , your point doesn’t stand unless you back it up with evidence.
    Also, you would be surprised how very few professional players know their body’s anatomy.

    Unless a player had a knee injury, there’s very little reason for him to know the details of his knee joint.
    And yes, a knee injury is by far the more serious injury than hip or ankle.
    Just ask any one who’s had one.

  38. How the injury occurs may not be simply a kick to the knee. A pull or push to unbalance a player in full flight is sufficient to tweak a joint. Danny got lent on & his knee twisted sufficiently to damage cartilage. The most regular contact is kicks to the achilles on ball playing players. This eventually either causes a muscle pull higher up the leg or an ankle problem.

    The Laws state that contact with an opponent before contact with the ball is a foul. This is never practiced by officials. If it were, the game would initially seem very stop start & then get back to being beautiful, because players would focus on making contact with the ball rather than grabbing the opponent.

    Fishpie – your shed load was not really a lot (5 million if I’m not wrong) on Elneny. I agree Gilberto was a gem of a player that is irreplaceable.

  39. With xhaka as good as confirmed, alongside cazorla coquelin elneny wilshire ozil iwobi toral hayden alexis campbell Walcott chamberlain gnabry and possibly 1 more, the midfield 5 look to have more than enough to protect the back 4 and hopefully create the chances for our new striker, plus giroud and then welbeck when he is fit.

  40. Tom, having had ankle, hip and knee injuries, I can assure you that any one of the 3 can be serious and any one of the 3 can be minor. I stopped playing because of an Ankle injury but a serious knee injury just slowed me down.
    I’m beginning to doubt you’ve ever played above schoolboy level if you haven’t been involved in games where the game gets stopped 3 times in the first 20 minutes…
    It’s a very regular occurrence.

  41. I believe the biggest loss was clearly our CM with Coquelin and Santi injured, and the poor form of Ramsey, not the I’ll form of Walcott who I believe wasn’t nearly as bad as some have made out, as when up top was effective but was in and out when playing wide.

    This couldn’t be predicted by Arsene, and the supposed lack of midfield had Coquelin, Flamini, Arteta, Santi, Jack, Ramsey, and Rosicky, with 5 of them injured for half the season or more, and 4 of them creative players, just how many options do you think A) Arsene should have. B) How many more do you think the club would allow on their books as they need to pay them all. C) How many players will keep coming to the club knowing the amount of players and talent that already exists at the club in their position…

    The balance, creativity, and fluidity or our side suffered which in turn massively hampered the effectiveness of our front 3, Walcott included and maybe most notably.

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