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March 2021

Football clichés: a game of two halves

By Walter Broeckx

Last night I was watching the match on the German TV channel ZDF. This is a channel that is a standard in the packet we get from our cable TV provider. On rare occasions when Germany play and with a few German players on our books over the last years I have watched some German matches to check how our players were doing. As I understand and speak German it is also a good way to keep in touch with the language as for the rest I don’t use it a lot anymore.

Now I must say that as I was watching with the sound on (to practice my German) I was baffled by the knowledge of the match reporter. His predictions almost all came out and his knowledge of the laws of the game was unheard and unseen when I watch football matches in England or in Belgium. An amazingly correct interpretation of the laws. Of course hearing him shout of pleasure when Bayern scored was a moment when I wished I had turned off the sound but for the rest he was very measured in how he looked at the match.

So when deep in to the match near the end of the normal 90 minutes he suddenly said something that sounded rather unbelievable. After Bayern committed a foul on Alexis he said that in the second half Arsenal hadn’t commit a foul. And he said that this was one of the reasons and indications on why it went completely wrong for us last night.

Now I must say I don’t know where you can find fouls per half stats but as for the rest of the match he talked real sense I didn’t really had any trouble of believing him.

When looking at the stats I could find over the whole 90 minutes I found that Arsenal committed 11 fouls. So if my match reporter was correct we committed 11 fouls in the first half and non in the second half. Xhaka committed a foul and got a yellow card for his effort but the ref had then given an advantage so it doesn’t count as a foul.

But for the rest… no fouls… That really is a strange stat. But it also shows that something went completely wrong in the second half.

In fact when the ref blew his whistle at the end of the first half I was very pleased with how the match had gone. After our opening minutes where we tried to go forward a bit the Bayern machine came under steam and rolled their attacking waves as they usually do. We struggled and we conceded a goal that one could see coming when Robben cut inside. I can imagine that we had said before the match: don’t let Robben come inside and let him have an open angle on goal. He is lethal when he can do that and he showed it. But that was the only moment we really gave a player a free run with the ball without being on him.

But for the rest we tried to make the little fouls when it mattered, the bigger fouls when it even didn’t matter and got some yellow card for it. But we battled them and slowly we came on level terms on the playing field and on the score sheet. I even said to my son who was at our home in the first half that we were playing it clever by making such little fouls so that they could not keep their rhythm anymore of the opening 10-15 minutes.

We had the best chances even then in the first half with Xhaka and Özil right at the end of the first half to get in front. Missing those chances was something we paid for later in the second half.

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But I really like to know what happened at half time. How come the battling team from the first half was nowhere to be seen in the second half? Was there something in the air in the Bayern stadium in our dressing room? Was it really the loss of our captain on the field that made us lose our battling attitude? Of course Koscielny is a battler and one who will stick out his foot but surely if he doesn’t play others could still continue to do what they did in the first half?

But as the stats show we completely let them play their game. And if you do this against a Bayern team… they will take advantage.

I really can’t imagine that at half time Wenger would have said to his players: ‘ now boys you have made too many fouls, stop making fouls and let them play a bit’. No way Wenger would have said such a thing. But then why did the players not continue the way they were playing and being better and successful at it as we matched them in the last 20 minutes in the first half. Did someone put sleeping pills in the half time tea?

Because the loss of a healthy and much needed dose of aggressiveness cost us this match and the tie. I really can’t understand how we became from a good aggressive team in the first half to a team of soft players in the second half. If we had been soft all match, then one could say we didn’t prepare properly. But now we had shown how to frustrate them and how to gain momentum in the last 20 minutes of the first half. And then….suddenly nothing of that kind anymore.

As I said I can’t believe this was the managers order to not make any more fouls. So the players have to look at themselves as a collective failure. Add to that a slip, a deflected shot and a big personal error against a Bayern team that was allowed to play as if it was indoor soccer and you get the final result we have seen.

Finally a word about something I said on the facebook group of the Arsenal Belgium supporters club some 24 hours before kickoff. I gave my preferred starting line-up. And it concluded Per Mertesacker. People laughed it away of course. Using Per against Bayern? What a stupid suggestion they called it.

But look at their goals again. If Per had played it would be him up against Lewandowski and I am not sure that Lewandowski would have won the header like he did against Mustafi or he certainly wouldn’t have had such an easy header. If Per would have played at the right hand spot it would have been Mustafi or Kos and they both are defenders who come in to the back of strikers and so Lewandowski wouldn’t have had so much room and space to make his backheel. Even the deflected shot after the corner might have been different as I think that Per might have done a better job in heading the ball out. With Kos being out I think it is time to bring Per back and let the captain be the level head on the field. The cool leader we lacked after Kos had to come off.


48 comments to Football clichés: a game of two halves

  • Norman14

    In the 2nd half, if we’re honest, we didn’t get anywhere near enough to them to foul them!

  • osehike

    Lol…so you are now encouraging fouling or what?
    We were poor as we’ve been poor 7 years consecutively at this stage.
    Different players same result.
    But who has been constant? Arsene Wenger
    Its time up for him please,lets get someone new with something diffetent. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is lunacy

  • WalterBroeckx

    No Osehike, I am encouraging making life difficult for the opponent like we did in the first half. This can result in small fouls as in the first half. Bayern did this and the ref gave the fouls when he had to. We didn’t even came close to making life difficult for them in the second half.

  • Tommo

    Not sure that we would want to turn in to a Chelsea or Man Utd with their brand of persistent fouling and flouting of the rules. Isn’t that why they are both despised? We’ve probably learnt that refs in Europe are card happy for the littlest of misdemeanors. The high foot, the red card for RVP for shooting a fraction of a second after the whistle. If we have to win by resorting to cheating then its a sad day.

  • Saadman

    Walter, why do you think the manager keeps playing iwobi again and again even though he has been underperforming. And also why is ozil still not being rested even though he too has been off form?
    And do you think playing ox in midfield would have helped us gain a better footing in the game last night?

  • Flares

    Knives are out in the media this morning, as per. Curiously, Sky Sports reported this as the latest in a ‘series of poor results’…since January 1st we’ve recorded 6 wins, a draw and 3 losses. Nothwithstanding this bad result against Bayern, how does the rest qualify as ‘poor’?

  • Vivek Arulnathan

    It’s hard to agree with the thought that the 1st half was a level playing field. Yes we grew into the game in the last 20 mins of the 1st half but the sheer gulf in class and technical ability was mind boggling.
    I was sitting with Bayern fans at the Allianz and some of them were stunned by how bad Arsenal were. While I get that the instructions would have been given to not allow Robben on his left foot, it’s still the manager’s fault for picking Coquelin who has played enough big games to show that he can’t perform at that level. He did have other options so you can’t excuse that decision.
    Also watching from the stands clearly shows we lack a coherent plan. Making clever fouls isn’t a plan. I lost count the number of times players were looking at each other bemused. Some press while others stay behind. The Ox and Iwobi had to be repeatedly pointed out that their men were overlapping. All our four wide players were consistently late to react. And with Ozil playing so high up the pitch, we were repeatedly overloaded in the middle causing our wingers infield which resulted in their free progress in wide areas. We were neither prepared for a rearguard action nor for a intense high pressing game and looked confused and at bay for most of the game.
    And finally to the attitude of the players. It was pathetic that only 3 players ( xhaka hector and ox) applauded the away fans for more than a second. Only the Ox came anywhere close the advertisement hoardings. Even Cech stayed longer than the players who had woefully failed. Alexis body language after the third goal was infuriating. He refused to track when pushed wide and except when he had the ball, sulked his way through the remaining time. I wish Wenger or the captains would remind the players who they are playing for. Just applauding the fans would go a long way in dispelling the notion that the players don’t care.
    I am not sure who to blame but two successive years we’ve lost 1-5 in Munich. And having watched it in the stands than on TV, I am really struggling to find any positives.

  • Vivek Arulnathan

    Losses to Chelsea and Watford and a win against Hull before this thrashing in Munich. So if I took just February, it would be a series of poor results. Since December we’ve been poor. No denying that.

  • ARSENAL 13

    cool it guyz, one more game and all our players can have a couple of weeks off. Why omly Iwobi and Ozil.

  • para

    We know that when Arsenal foul we tend to get punished more readily but that is no excuse to not put what you know into play.

    Play to our strengths, which is attacking, they may counter, but so can we, result could not have been much worse, but we would have had a chance at scoring and may have ended 5-5 or even 5-4.

    When we defend packed at the back (we usually do it a little better) for the last 5 mins is one thing but to do that with 35 mins left is suicide, as we saw yesterday. We end up doing this all the time, a big failing of Arsenal. Sometimes we are lucky and the opposing team can’t score.

    Yet to think that we can’t score 4 goals against Bayern is giving up even though most think it’s a dream. Hey, we know what happened last season!

  • Leon

    This is really, really clutching at straws, and I can’t say that I’m in the least bit surprised.
    Anyway, up until Kos was injured we were pressing Bayern and remained competitive until the second goal.
    Playing an un-match fit Per would have been an invitation to Lewandowski to score a hat trick. He’s a world class striker who would have been too much for any central defence combination we could have put out on the day.
    The season still has something left in it for us. FA Cup (which I love) and an attempt to make something out of the PL without any draining CL games.

  • Meusenge

    The comments on here are bordering on the senile now. Thank God he’s decided to leave at the end of the season.

  • Meusenge

    Wenger rightly looked a defeated man at the final whistle but no one except ardent Arsenal fans would have expected anything else. Arsenal had done fantastically well to get back into the game by half time and actually looked very dangerous on the break. But you have to wonder what was said to the players at half time. They came out frightened and ended up getting what they deserved. Of course things didn’t go their way with the injury of Koscielny, but that isn’t the reason they fell apart, it is far more deep rooted than that. The team just didn’t seem to believe they could go on and get a result and looked tactically naive in the second half. The must frustrating aspect of this of course,is that it was no surprise.

    It has always been levelled at Wenger that his in-game management is poor, and never was that more evident than in the second half last night. Arsenal needed to come out fighting, take a couple of bookings if necessary, break up play and make sure Bayern don’t get into their stride. Those first 10 minutes in the second half were vital, but I don’t think Arsenal even touched the ball. There was no pressure on the Bayern team at all and it was inevitable the direction the game was heading in. A one-man press from Sanchez is no good unless everyone else is on board. I just have no idea what the game plan was, and I doubt the players knew either.

    Wenger has been great at Arsenal of that there is no doubt, but the game has long since passed him by. It really was sad to see his interview after the game, he was completely beaten. He appears to have lost the faith of the players who just don’t appear willing to fight for him. In my opinion, the best thing he could do, would be to publicly announce he is leaving at the end of the season. Surely this would galvanise the squad for the remainder of the season, going all out to win an FA cup for their departing manager, whilst also auditioning for next season under a new regime. Arsene is Arsenal’s greatest manager of all time, and that is unlikely to change any time soon. So please let’s make this a dignified exit, hopefully with some silverware on his final day.

  • kevn42000

    Arsene is Arsenal’s greatest manager of all time, and that is unlikely to change any time soon. Really? Herbert Chapman is actually that. He built the team that dominated the 1930s, and won more league titles than Arsene has managed, and was far more of an innovator. If the Champions League had existed in the 1930s, the Battle of Highbury suggests that Arsenal would have had a much better chance of winning it than they have had under Arsene.

  • Ken

    So… Who’s responsible for this latest embarrassment? The referee? The fixture list? Injuries? Bad luck? There’s only been one constant since we became predictably beatable by any team with half a game plan and anyone who isn’t totally blinkered knows who it is. It’s all very well claiming to “support the manager” but people in Germany supported Hitler before he became a complete mentalist, it didn’t mean it was a good idea to carry on supporting him indefinitely. And before anyone (omgarsenal) tells me to “f**k off back to” somewhere I have no affiliation with, I’ve supported Arsenal for 33 years and would like nothing better than to see my beloved club win every game from now until the end of time. It takes a lot for me to be arsed bothering to comment on any website but the constant stream of weak excuses on this site does my head in and it doesn’t help the club. It’s just kind of sad. If we never take a chance, we are extremely unlikely to progress. I’ve heard the tired old argument of “who can we get that’s better” a million times but how are things looking over at the Chelsea scum these days? Would anyone who is a true supporter of the Arsenal really not happily swap their position for ours right now? If you wouldn’t,  you can’t really claim to be an Arsenal supporter.

  • Zedsaunt


    there’s shit and there’s shit.

    What’s this – ”It has always been levelled at Wenger that his in-game management is poor, and never was that more evident than in the second half last night?”

    Bayern have been near to the top, or at the top, of European football for four decades, Arsenal have been where exactly?

    When did European clubs ever tremble at the prospect of drawing Arsenal in a European game?

    ”in-game management” – imagine talking to Brian Clough about ‘in-game management?’ Mr Wenger has succeeded in putting Arsenal in the draw every season.

    Do you realise than when Brian Clough twice won in Europe nobody ever used the phrase ”in-game management?” Don’t you ever think about where your language comes from?

  • BEW75

    That’s it folks – the game is up for Wenger. Time for a change has never been more obvious or needed. I know some of you here are scared stiff about change and taking a chance on a new manager but that is exactly what the club did when appointing Wenger and look at the success that brought. Accepted it may not work out first time but replacing Wenger is the initial step in having us seriously challenge for major honours again.

  • dan

    When we play well, we all come out and congratule the boys/manager and rightly so. So to all those now coming out and saying “well nobody thought we would win against Bayern”, to them I ask – do you think it was OK to capitulate like we did?

    Why every season us Arsenal fans dread feb/march, it’s so predictable it’s not even funny. So far the constant season after season, bad 1st home game (season kick off), make past the CL group, dip in November, fail to turn up in the big league games (especially at the Bridge), our annual CL draw against Bayern/Barca – get thumped, and scrap our way back in the top four. This has been the norm for so long now!

  • Zedsaunt

    Turn it around dan – ”This has been the norm for so long now!’ What happens if Mr Wenger’s successor does not get into the Champions League? What happens if several seasons pass and there is no Champions League football?

    It is Mr Wenger who has made it ”the norm”’ and as ”the norm,” as something as predictable as the cafe menu on the way to work, we get this season after season, what gets hidden – Mr Wenger’s achievement in getting top 4 finishes season after season, the actual reality of the quality of European club football.

    If Bayern, Real, Barca, are the mountains, Mr Wenger has managed to get Arsenal into the foothills. What do we do? We flatten the mountain. Europe is as good as us, we are as good as Europe. Mr Wenger is a failure.

    Why do we fail to turn up in big games? A good question. I would argue that it’s because the professionalism of the footballer has been replaced by the circus of the game as an entertainment. Whatever you hear from the TV must be true because I am getting paid this money for it. Get onto a football pitch reality kicks in. I must prove I am worth it.

    If this argument is right the players are doomed to fail unless – until – a culture is established in society where reality is known as reality and the real value of everything is recognised. That would mean a society where Bayern is acknowledged as a mountain top, and Mr Wenger is recognised as the manager who took Arsenal into the Champions Leage season after season.

  • Matt

    Whatever you think of Wenger he’s been our greatest ever manager and a very decent bloke. For his own good it could be time to go he looks fed up with the whole thing and lots of the fans just need a change most of whom have huge respect for Arsene.

    It’s not just about getting the CL or winning trophies he and the fans look like they are ready for a change that will benefit all. Even if we do need to take 2 steps back to come forwards again.

    I don’t fear for the club we have been in existence for 130 years and a change of Manager won’t doom the club.

    There is no buzz for teh games or in the stadium at the moment which tells you the time is right.

  • Mike T

    Of the 11 free kicks awarded against Arsenal two were awarded in the second half
    The first on 51 mins awarded against Sanchez for handball and the second on 70 mins was deemed a yellow card for Xhaka

  • WalterBroeckx

    Mike T the ref gave an advantage for the foul from Xhaka and the match restarted with a free kick for Arsenal for offside if I saw the images correct on my TV.
    You are right about the handball but my match commentator (and I forgot to add this) referred to regular fouls against opponents: trip, push, pull, kick,…
    So apart from the foul from Xhaka no other player fouled a Bayern player.

  • dan


    Some fair points, but, going with that logic we only make up the numbers in Europe, then there is no need for us to get our hopes up.

    For better or worse Wenger will be gone, retired. So we will have change whether we like it or not!

  • Mike T

    Bayern were special last night, truly special, was that because they were better set up, stronger mentally or what? Far too many have been understandably quick to point a finger but sometimes you just have to stand up and applaud a teams performance. Their big players lived up to their billing and reputation and delivered . Hey we didn’t even qualify this year so no gloating in theMike T household for it’s importnat that all the English clubs, without winning it, do well to number of PL clubs that qualify in the long term

  • Usama Zaka


    Mark Clattenburg quits as Premier League referee to take job in Saudi Arabia.

    Here he is being unveiled at Minute 40 and onwards.

  • Mandy Dodd

    sorry, off topic, but BBC announcing Clattenberg heading to Saudi!

  • Norman14

    It’s been rumored for a couple of days.

    Fans should crowd fund to outbid PGMOB for his loyalty.

  • Norman14

    Disillusioned apparently – join the club Mark!

  • Menace

    So many of you point to Wenger as being the constant. You are right off course. Ever thought of looking in a mirror & asking yourself if you were also the constant? It is time you learned to support your team by being positive & grateful for everything that you have. Don’t worry about what you do not have or what someone else has just be grateful for what you have.

    What you have as an Arsenal supporter is the greatest economic & sporting brain in football. He ha s brought a class of football that is truly beautiful to watch. It is easy to be a fantasist & ignore the reality of where we are as a club. We cannot all be Barcelona, PSG, Bayern, Man U, City &/or Chelsea.

    We are the Arsenal. If you do not support Arsenal warts & all please find another club. Support is not just in victory. Support is eternal – at least it is for me. I have supported Arsenal in blizzards with less than 17,000 fans in Higbury & loved them. Win or lose just loved them. You who do not understand this passion do not know what support is.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Back on topic, agree on Per.
    He,along with Arteta once stood up and helped change the teams fortunes during some….relatively….dark times. It is time for our captain to step up once more, there are still things to fight for this season, the summer and future can take care of itself

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Mr Broeckx, being the one in charge of UA now as Mr Atwood is on visit vacation to Australia, please why has my last comment posting on this current article posting that is threading blocked from been published? Have I said anything against the policy of the UA site that has made you to block this my particular comment? If you think I have, please endeavour to publish it for the UA readers to read it and judge my sayings for me to known if I’ve wrongly commentted or not.

  • Scuba

    If Per had played, Arsenal might have lost by ten. He’s so ridiculously slow at this point that Bayern players would have been in behind him every ten seconds. There are still probably plenty of Premier League opponents against whom he’d be a useful asset, but he’d have gotten shredded by the speed of the Bayern attack.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Can this notion of, if you don’t support Arsenal, go away and support another club to be dropped? In the first place, Arsenal FC is like the biological parent of a child whose allegiance is first to his or her parent. So how can a child or the children in the case the Arsenal supporters forsake their parent- Arsenal and go give their allegiance to another person -club who is not their parent? I think what some Arsenal supporters are saying is, they no longer want the person who their parent has employed to work for them in their house to continue working there . So, they are asking their parent to let him leave. But if their parent refused to succumb to their demand, does that means they should forsake their parent and go away to find another person to become their parent? Will that be possible?

  • Norman14

    One thing that really surprised me was how they (Bayern) players surrounded the ref at every decision. If it was against them, they were demanding he change his mind; if it was in their favour, they were demanding cards.

    Most unprofessional – and not something that tends to happen a lot outide of Chelsea, Tottnumb and Manchester.

  • Leon

    It doesn’t matter one bit what you have or haven’t done, how you support Arsenal and in what weather you do it.
    Most of us have been there through good & bad times, at Highbury & the Ems, and we all have our own special little ways of showing joy & disappointment.
    This is an opinion orientated blog and people are opinionating in their own special ways.
    It doesn’t matter.

  • ARSENAL 13


    Per Mertesacker is precisely what’s missing from the ARSENAL defense. A clam presence.

    Speed is not all. Mertesacker is hardly out of position. More than speed positional awareness is important in defense. Therz always someone faster than you.

  • Leon

    He hasn’t played this season and you want to put him up against Lewandowski?

  • @Swales1968

    1st half 9 tackles 8 successful 1 missed. 10 fouls
    2nd half 18 tackles 13 successful 5 missed. 1 foul

  • Menace

    Norman 14 – surrounding the ref is part of good aggressive performance.

    SAA – When the child wants his father to be replaced, it must be time for the child to fend for itself. Do you not respect your father unconditionally? Well it is time for these spoilt children to learn respect for their father.

    This is another society – so father is not the same.

  • Menace

    Leon – teaching grandma to suck eggs.

  • Freddy Uzambiana

    arsenal dominate first half and unlucky to not be in front. second half more close – fowl by lweandowski not given. REFEREES!!!

  • Jerry

    Good article! I agree the second half showed a lack of fight, most likely due to the loss of Koscielny in the back.

    Interesting analogy in regards to children (Arsenal supporters) and the parent (Arsenal FC). Good children listen to their parents because good parents will try to do what is best for the child and family. A bad or spoiled children will continue to complain or whine to the parent thinking they know better. Perhaps, they should listen to their parent’s decision (i.e. Arsenal’s to stay with Wenger) instead of sulking on the couch (AAAs).

    In Arsene we trust!

  • Pat

    Menace at 2.12

    Very well said! We should appreciate what we have and what we have had for the last twenty years.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    As one gets older ( and hopefully smarter ?) one tends to understand the ways of the universe better and accepts that there are somethings beyond our control.
    We become more pragmatic and complain less . Unless of course complaining does gets things to change dramatically in your household , town or country.

    As for the game we were very poor in the second half , appearing to be truly rudderless . In the first half there was some semblance of teamwork and urgency, although Bayern were superior in all departments . Why the meek capitulation in the second half? Your guess is good as mine . Others appear to miss by the proverbial mile .

    I an looking forward the games to come , and am hoping we improve and finish the season well . One game at a time .
    Up the Gunners !

  • Jammy J

    @ Meusenge – How embarrassing that you can’t think for yourself and have to copy and paste your comments from Really says a lot that so many of the anti-Wenger idiots on here can’t come up with their own arguments, so they have to let other people do their thinking for them.

  • Polo

    @Jammy, Meusenge is probably a sad troll so let him have his therapeutic session. Don’t want him to go around shooting people.

  • Bobome

    When Arsenal loses a match, there is a bunch of guys who come on to Untold to spew their negative vibes and generally try to spread their misery to others. Can these people really be happy in other spheres of their lives? Why vent so bitterly over a situation over which you lack any control? Why make your happiness so utterly dependent on how well or badly Arsenal plays or the match results favorable or not?

    When they do this they also fail to accept responsibility for their misery but would rather someone else take that responsibility by asking for the sacking of Arsene. Are these two things connected? Really? They need to master their emotions and stop allowing Arsenal’s poor or good match results to dictate the level of happiness they enjoy in life.

    Sacking Arsene and replacing him with someone else will not bring that joy either unless they choose not to make the outcome of events they have no control over be the root source of happiness to them.

  • sievezone

    osehike, you said “Different players same result.
    But who has been constant? Arsene Wenger
    Its time up for him please,lets get someone new with something diffetent. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is lunacy”

    This I believe is not a logical sentence, having the same recipe (Arsene Wenger, overall scheme) but having different ingredients (players) do not constitute doing the same thing over and over again, by definition, having different players mean you are indeed doing something different. So not insanity/lunacy.