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June 2021

Arsenal: The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By Walter Broeckx

After a painful defeat it is always difficult to keep perspective. Yes it was a bad result. We could point at some decisions from the ref not going our way that cost us. But I will leave the ref out of this. So no need to comment on that.

What I find strange for the moment is that we seem to have turned in to a Jekyll and Hide team.  And the problem is that we never know which team will be out on the field. As we played against two teams with somehow similar styles in consecutive matches the difference became very obvious.

The match before we played against West Ham. Their tactic for the moment is to throw the ball up high in the air and hoof it in the direction of Carroll. In that match I was really impressed by the way that both Gabriel and Mustafi was dealing with Carroll in the air. Each time the ball was hoofed in his direction one of them was up with him in the air and competing for the ball.

And it worked brilliantly against Carroll. He could do nothing all evening and in the second half he was taken off the field as it was clear to Bilic that our defenders were too much for him.

So with now playing Crystal Palace I was expecting the same. They just hoof it up to Benteke and hope he can produce something. So it was obvious that the tactic we should have used against Benteke was the same as we did against Carroll.

But for some reason we didn’t. Okay Benteke is a bit quicker than Carroll and can be more effective in shielding the ball but that isn’t an excuse to just don’t attack him when the ball is hoofed in his direction. I know that Benteke was using his body and was allowed to use his body (also in illegal ways at times) but why wasn’t Mustafi and Gabriel battling with him in the air is unknown for me.

Mustafi and Gabriel have shown that they can deal with such big centre forward if they really get stuck and make him uncomfortable but this time it was Benteke who just won the balls and both of them just stood by and even gave him space to bring his teammates in play.

I have said it a few times in the last weeks and certainly now Koscielny is injured that I want Wenger to put Per Mertesacker on the field again. Per has played a few times against Benteke and with his body and know how he seems for me the perfect player to play against Benteke.  To be honest I really don’t know why Wenger doesn’t use him anymore. He is fit for some 2-3 months now but we never see him entering the field. If he wasn’t match fit then he shouldn’t be on the bench but he is on the bench, but is never used.  It’s a mystery to me.  But then again what do I know…

But this lack of aggressively defending seemed to filter through to the whole team. If the ball was stuck in a duel between two players it was the Palace player that won the duel most of the time. They battled harder for the ball than we did it seemed.

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Our attacking line was almost invisible for most of the match. I think that Welbeck hasn’t played a good match since he returned and is lacking something still. He looks slow in his thinking and he looks to struggle for confidence. Getting match fit is about playing matches but for weeks now he has been a very invisible man in most of the matches he played.

As was Walcott. Theo can score a goal from time to time but when it comes to battling he will never be the first of the class. And as long as he scores in a match he makes up for that but when he doesn’t score he becomes another invisible player.

If 2 of your 3 strikers are almost invisible in a match it gets very difficult for the midfielders to get things going. Alexis tried more and battled a bit more but he was completely isolated and his dribbling was ineffective for most of the time. Mind you he was the only attacker that was dangerous.

All that was good in our match against West Ham was forgotten as soon as Crystal Palace scored their first goal. Our passing was too slow. Maybe because we tried to play the ball over the ground and it sure looked to be a slow pitch. That is no problem a team that plays more in the air faces.

From being Dr. Jekyll last week, this week we turned up in the ugly Hyde character.

And to make the comparison complete I have to take a look at the long run of this season. I remember a time when we played better away from home than we played in the Emirates. For a while we were the best away team in the league. And now I think we are one of the worst away teams in the last months. Again from being good we have turned in to ugly.

Yes in that period when we won match after match away from home Santi was a key factor and since his absence we have lost a lot of what he can bring to a team. I know he is a somewhat unique player but that should be no excuse for the rest of the team to hide themselves in a match.

But players hiding is something that happens when teams are low on confidence. And we seem to be low on that front for the moment. If I would know how to turn that around I would probably be the Arsenal manager. But I don’t know, so I am not.

All I know is that I will support our players once again come next Monday and hope they can have a better performance.  Time for everyone to look in the mirror and look at themselves and ask themselves if they have done everything they could in this match.

Oh and finally bring in the video ref, don’t you think Mr. Oliver?

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44 comments to Arsenal: The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

  • Matthew

    Everything you’ve written is true but it’s been happening for years. Why are you writing like you’ve only just noticed it?

  • Rich

    I thought Mustafi strained every muscle to compete with Benteke on the ground and in the air. He was just too much for him.

    Don’t think Benteke got on the end of any corners or shorter crosses so it was just those long balls falling from a great height which did the damage.

    Think Gabriel can get higher in air than Mustafi but decision must have been made for Mustafi to stick with him.

    Not hard to recall how well we neutralised Benteke in the cup final. We had settled partnerships all over the field and were functioning well in a lovely winning groove on that day. I’d guess that might be the reason we still haven’t seen Per.

    There’s been a lot of disruption in the team, and maybe Wenger knows it would take Per some time to get back into a groove and that the better bet, to date, is sticking with Kos/ Mustafi and latterly Mustafi/Gabriel, who, as you say, did well last time out.

    If you were looking to reintroduce Per, you’d want it to be with Kos and, ideally, not in a must win game.

  • Will

    I think Benteke was well marked in the game though. It was the ball players and runners like zaha, townsend and cabaye that did the damage

  • 49Unbeaten

    As much as it pains me to say so Walter, I think that’s the first article you’ve wrote that’s genuinely not typed wearing rose tinted glasses, honest, open and true and I agree with pretty much everything. Good read. Light switch moment for you my friend. Painful isn’t it?!

  • OlegYch

    Benteke wasn’t posing any threat in the air
    and two times he had promising position to shoot and was either blocked or driven into a corner
    Per wouldn’t have been any better than Mustafi or Gabriel

  • OlegYch

    two of the goals came from bad refereeing and one from one in a million shot, that can’t be blamed on defence

  • Steve

    Another deflect blame off of Wenger type of article. It’s the players, it’s the media, it’s the rain, it’s the ref etc. When are you guys going to call it like it is?

  • Scuba

    In all honesty, I was more surprised that the center back pairing did as well as they did against big Andy than I was at their terrible performance yesterday. Sadly, without Kos, we don’t have very good center backs, and Big Sam was spot on in that they’re left exposed an awful lot.

    It was obvious that the pair were struggling even before the first goal, and continued to struggle after conceding. Why didn’t we adjust our shape a bit to help? If anything, we pushed the fullbacks even further forward after conceding, and once Ramsey came on and started playing his central mid/center forward hybrid role, those two had absolutely no cover at all.

  • Rich


    Maybe my memory is faulty then, but I thought it happened three or four times similar to 1st goal in similar areas of pitch where they tried to jump with him but looked a long way off being able to win ball.

    Mustafi often seems to be straining at his absolute limits for headed balls or when battling a big physical centre forward. A matter of pure physics. It’s possible to be on the short side and be a phenomenal centre back but I’d guess that in case of Cannavaro and other top cd’s who are 6 foot or under, they tend to be paired with a taller man who takes on marking the tall centre forward if one is playing.

    As for excellent cb’s in the recent prem era who are 6ft or under, I can only think of Carragher- at his best with the giant Hypia to handle the aerial stuff.

    We’ve got the complete nonsense today of Neil Warnock claiming his centre backs are better than ours. While this is no doubt completely untrue his, guys will certainly be more dominant in the air (he probably has a couple who are well over six foot -one I remember from Reading, morrison, 6 ft 4 and monstrous in air; Sol Bamba 6ft 3 and another aerial beast) and almost certainly aren’t left having to win duels where if they lose the opposition are right on his team.

    So he feels he can talk that crap, and maybe partially believes it.

    Like most teams, his side will train for a limited, defence-first style of football. Our guys have all their duties for trying to play out from the back efficiently and have to win physical duels, often against bigger men, frequently with large areas of space around them and not much protection-i.e if they can’t win the duel there’s a high possibility of danger. Apples and pears in terms of what Warnock’s big lads have to do, but also with most premier league teams.

  • Hunter13

    we need to stage an event where the f.a punishes arsenal to play behind closed doors away from fans. say 4-5 home games.

    the team needs to breathe and play alone for a while away from media and fan pressure.

    it might be a hit to kroenke but i dont give a shit. im more interested in seeing our players rediscovering their true selves and right now its not going to happen with every depressed maniac screaming every 10 seconds….

  • Josif


    Great example with Cannavaro. At WC 2006 he had Materazzi next to him and at EURO 2000 it was Nesta. As you might recall, Cannavaro and Nesta completely cancelled Henry in the final but Bobby and Wiltooooooooord were there to save the day for France.

    It’s usually the best combination – the cheese and chalk thing. For instance, Koscielny did well with Per and pre-injury Djourou but he never got along with TV5.

    I will be very sad if Chambers doesn’t fulfill his potential as well as Holding. I am not very excited about English players but central defenders like Adams, Keown, Ferdinand, Terry, Cahill, Campbell and even Stones are a different thing.

    The thing is, defence is not just about those five at the back. It’s a team task. Mustafi, Nacho, Coquelin, Bellerin… They didn’t forget to play football over night. They just need to work as a unit with Alexis, Ozil, Ramsey, Elneny, Theo…

    And, yes, there has to be a leader in the team. Someone who will speak and others will listen. Once Arsene said that about Mertesacker.

  • Gooner in Exile

    Nice to see that you are now seeing what others have seen for weeks, Walter.
    Why is Welbeck picked game after game he has not played well in any game since he came back into the side.
    Also Iwobi was dreadful week after week until he has finally been demoted.
    Bellerin looked one of the best full backs in Europe last season, this season he gets worse with every game. Ozil and Walcott disappear, the list is endless.
    Wengers big plan for next season is offer new contracts to Gibbs, Wilshire and Oxlade Chamberlain god help us.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    I don’t know if Coquelin was match fit or not. If he was, I don’t understand the rational behind Le Prof bringing on Ramsey for Elneny instead of to have brought on the DM Coquelin to give protection to our back-line as Elneny was shot in that role and neither can Ramsey too much when it come’s to protecting the back four.

    Sometimes when Le Prof has made up his mind to start a player, he can become obsessed with it until it’s finally failed. After watching Welbeck coming on as a substitute and starting, it was obvious he was short at leading the line for Arsenal as he struggled with being efficient in that role. I’ve said it before, for England, he played the striker role efficiently under Hudgson by drifting to the right as he played centrally. But at Arsenal, he can’t play centrally in the efficient way as he hardly scored from that central position whenever he manned it for Arsenal.

    For an efficient Arsenal front strike force at Boro, I think Le Prof should eschewed hardness and allow Sanchez to lead the line for Arsenal at Middlesborough on Monday night. And Welbeck should operate from the left wing if he’s versatile efficiently with Iwobi as his substitute or the other way round, i.e. Iwobi starts and Welbeck becomes his substitute. Ozil of course will play behind Sanchez as playmaker and Ramsey should be his substitute. Walcott should mann the right wing and Chamberlain will be his substitute. The midfield base should be manned by Coquelin/Xhaka axis with Coquelin as DM while Xhaka is the deep lying. And Elneny will be the substitute for both of them.

    The defense-line will be manned at right back by of course the preferred Bellerin. But I think for a change, Gibbs should start the game at Biro ahead of Monreal who had been in the receiving end in two consecutive away matches at WBA and Crystal Palace. If Koscielny is fully fit to start, he should start the game in conjunction with Mustafi at centre back. Alternatively, Paulista and Mustafi should still start with Holding as their substitute. Martinez has conceded 3 in his first PL away game this season and that’s a disaster. If Ospina is fully fit to start, I think Le Prof should start him for this away match. But if he’s not, I think Macey should be given a chance to start.

    Osipa orMacey
    Bellerin Koscielny or Paulista Mustafi Gibbs
    Coquelin Xhaka
    Walcott Ozil Welbeck

  • Pat

    Well it is strange to read ‘it’s been happening for years’ when this is the worst away run for a very, very long time. The reason Walter didn’t write this before is because it didn’t happen before.

    Arsene Wenger said it and maybe just now we need to remember it – confidence goes quickly and takes a long time to return. I’m sorry our fans couldn’t manage to stick by the team for longer than two games. We’re supposed to be supporters in bad times and good times for a reason. Negativity breeds negativity.

    Have a look at West Ham and Bournemouth and you have a better idea about how quickly things can go sour.

    If anybody can turn the tide Arsene Wenger can.

  • Rich

    Josif, couldn’t agree more that defenders are only a part, not much over half, of defence.

    Leicester is the ultimate example. Play Huth and Morgan high, without a team built expressly to protect them, and they will be eviscerated. Play them deep with loads of protection around them (and referees who are blind to any fouls they make) and they kept lots of clean sheets, rarely got caught out, could play to their strengths constantly, and won the fricking premier league.

    Best game I ever remember from Per was at White Hart Lane when Rosicky scored the early opener. At some point in the game, we made the decision to drop deep to protect that lead. I remember them trying everything but getting almost nothing from us, with Per’s positioning immaculate as he cleared time after time. Defensive situations like that are barely comparable to me with defending large spaces and trying to repel counter attacks.

    We know we are not a team who regularly look to defend deep like that, certainly not from the start of games and unless we have something to protect entering the latter stages, so it’s about whether or not we are well enough equipped to deal with that remarkably different defensive challenge : breakaways, large spaces, full backs often committed high, cb’s pulled wide, spaces between mid and defence, players turned, gaps behind defence.

    The pressure to do that is eased or increased by how well your attack is functioning, how often they can get the first goal, how much they are stretching the opposition and making them fearful of sending numbers forward.

    What we ask of our defenders is damn near unique in world football.Not easily solved in my opinion either. All of Xhaka, Elneny, Ramsey, the Ox and Coquelin are good players in my opinion, and yet we’ve rarely looked like we are close to the formula for protecting the defence adequately.

    We’re in a bad place at the moment.

  • Paul the gooner

    A very fair article.Ramsey is not a holding player.He has to play at 10, or not at all.Sometimes he plays like a 10yr old, runs e everywhere to get the ball.He has no idea of positional play.
    AW decision on his contra t must come this week.Very unfair to everyone if not.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    I wonder about Per in the centre of a back three – just a thought!

  • Zedsaunt

    A good article Walter and I agree with most of it. Thank you.

    I would add – without Santi, without a Rosicky, the team lacks a player who can change the dimensions of the space, and thereby the possibilities open, with one accelerating ten yard run. Until Santi was injured his runs could bring in Bellerin, Ozil, and Sanchez. Now it’s slow motion.

    I would further add – the passion of the Palace fans ignited their team. The fans of most clubs are just like the Palace fans. The money they spend on the ticket they buy does not equal their love of the club. They wanted something – to stay up. The team wanted something – to stay up. What do Arsenal want?

    The FA Cup? Not worthy of the money they pay for the ticket. That’s not a trophy. A top 4 finish? GroundHog Day. Who wants that?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    I made a comment after Sellback last played for the U23s that I thought he was nowhere near ready for the first team. May be the time to bring back Yaya after his hat-trick against Readingat the weekend?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Sorry I typed Wellbeck and the bloody computer changed it!

  • Rich


    I’m pretty sure Wenger won’t try the back three experiment, certainly not at this stage of season.

    I only know, vaguely now, of him trying it in that early stage 20 years ago, when he did a lot of experimenting with the squad to see what he had, and I imagine the pressure is effectively insurmountable to try stick with the relatively known at present. Maybe there was another time about ten years later when he tried it for a game or two…stepanovs, maybe? Can’t remember.

    Might consider it in pre-season and for next year if he signs on. If he doesn’t stay ,there’s a good chance the next manager will try a three-man defence. We have a number of players, including Chambers, who might prove well suited to it and excel in a three.

  • Sammy The Snake

    You lost me with your first words “after a defeat”!
    “A” defeat?!?!?!?!?
    We are relegation ready since the turn of 2017.
    AW’s refusal to clarify his contract is only bringing the team down, and he’s putting his interest before the club. He has never done this, and it’s not fair of him to do it just because he is sh!t scared of retiring.

  • para

    The whole training system seems to need change as it has become ineffective and this will mean an AW change as he is supposedly responsible for the training(how, type of) of the team.

    This training has become moot and does not seem to work, players coming through are tending to be on the “soft” flimsy type of player, who is afraid to tackle, arms spread wide prancing around like a ballet dancer, and missing too many sure shots at goal.

    The problem with changing too many things all at once is apparent, but sometimes one has to do this to avoid further fall.

  • gouresh

    Has anyone wondered why the boys are playing or in this case not playing for the manager or club? Don’t you get a feeling that there is something seriously wrong? Rather than constantly attacking the refs, shouldn’t we look at our own problems? I have serious issues with the defensive ability of Xahaka. He is a very good passers of the ball, but players seem to go past him like he does not exist. Most of the players seem to have given up on AW. Again, let me point out, looking at the way the players are playing, there is something very seriously wrong within the dressing room. Theo’s post match statement summed it up. “CP players wanted it more.”

  • para

    Statements are moot really(like all those “apologies”).

    What player will come out and say he wants a change of manager? It ain’t going to happen however much the player(s) want change.

    Think again. Not one of them will tell it against the manager/coach, at least not publicly.

    It must be clear that AW has never been a tactical manager, his style is to let his players be the focus of the team, but the quality of the players he can get NOW does not allow them to take control on the field, and i see them floundering and looking for help from time to time, a help that does not come.

    All they see when looking at the bench is a Manager with his head in his hands. How are they supposed to pick up their game?

    The refs are just one of the problems, the media too, that Untold can do something about. When it comes to the club, Untold can not change anything there.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

    “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

  • gouresh

    Hi Para. The refs could be the problem or could not be. The club has been quite on this for yrs. So, lets not go there. My biggest concern is the way we play, our focus, our game plan, our ability to deal with situations. Which is non existent for the moment.

  • Zuruvi

    Welbeck is a hardworking honest player but he simply isn’t good enough to be striker at a big club like Arsenal.
    He runs hard, he runs fast but he scores very, very few goals.
    We had about 65% ball possession but only three shots on target. And I don’t think Wellbeck had any shot on target.

    Crystal Palace had 35% possession but managed about 7 shots on target.

    Our squad has too many average players. We need better quality players. We need proper strikers and not the quality of Welbeck, Sanogo, etc etc.

    Arsenal has always been an offensively set-up team under Wenger. Our biggest strength during the winning years has been having strikers who could score. These days we don’t have such players. When we don’t score we often lose the game. Arsenal rarely does a 0-0 game.

    Rashford is a far better finisher than Welbeck. Rashford is only 19 and only just starting his career. Welbeck has been around in the Premiership for 6 or so years. Both players were coached at the same academy in their boyhood. One is a clinical striker. One is a dud when it comes to scoring.
    Welbeck is only slightly better than Nikolas Bendtner at converting opportunities to goals.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    In the Solomon Islands, when the people want to clear the forest for planting or development, they just gather around the big tree, stand around it holding hands and hurl abuses at it the tree – they curse it.

    Slowly and surely the tree begins to wither and it dies on its own.

    Can a club be destroyed by screaming maniacs !
    Rajasekaran Murugan, Soil scientist
    Written 15 Aug 2012
    Yes its certainly true.
    Pick two similar leaves of any plant and keep them in your room at two feet distance. Talk good words to one and bad word to another one and you will see the difference in two weeks. Its now widely called as perception science, yes plants do have a memory power and it can able to react to their surroundings and environment that also includes human!! Plants also possess what we know as consciousness in ourself, which was proved by Jagadis Chandra Bose in his experiments; those results can be found in his book Plant autographs and their revelations during 1927. Most of the plant memory researches are being carried out based on “Boseian” concept…

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A ******* family in the US admitted their grandfather into a nursing home.

    After sometime they visit the old man and ask, “How do you feel here ?”

    He replies, “It’s wonderful. Everyone here is so courteous and respectful.

    There’s a musician, 85 years old, hasn’t played the violin in 20 years and everyone still calls him Maestro.

    There is a Judge, 95 years old, hasn’t been on the bench in 30 years and everyone still calls him Your Honour !

    There’s a Dentist, 90yrs old, hasn’t fixed a tooth for 25 years and everyone still calls him Doc.

    And then there’s ME.

    As for me, I haven’t had sex in 35 years, yet they still call me “The Fucking ******* !”

  • Al

    Well, I had a convo with a friend where I made some observations I think maybe worth looking at going forward. He was of the opinion we’d beat Palace without issues, but I said I thought it’d be a difficult match and it’d go down to who scored first. Coupled with the fact it’s a derby (London teams have the misfortune of taking part in an average of 8 or derbies every season) then we will be in for a tough match.

    But back to my main point, apart from Arsenal, the only other team I make the effort to try and watch play is Barca, and the reasons should be obvious; like us they’re never set up negatively and can’t really recall them kicking lumps out of other teams (the RvP incident wasn’t really their fault but the ref’s, and I’ve since moved on).

    So I said to my mate Arsenal are like Barcelona; teams have developed templates to beat them by simply stifling the life out of matches that it’s very common to find both teams having stats such as 70% possession but losing 2 nil or 3-1. I mentioned that I had observed both teams suffering more and more from this, esp this season. I pointed out that out of a season we only play 3 or 4 matches where the other team doesn’t sit back and also attacks. Even big sides like utd and Chelsea play park the bus against us it’s frustrating.

    In such matches it becomes vital who scores the first goal; if it’s the attacking team then you get an open match. And if it’s the bus parkers then you get the 70-30 scenario where the team with the least possession almost always scores on every rare foray up front where they’ll gave acres and acres of space to exploit.

    Arsenal and Barcelona’s matches from last week to last night demonstrate this. As Zuruvi inadvertently (while presenting a diff argument) points out, we had 65% possession but only managed 3 shots in a congested box. Barca also averaged like 70 possession in their last 2 matches but lost both 2 nil and 3 nil. And Barca have the deadliest strike force in the world. What does that tell us? Welbeck isn’t rubbish at all. Put Messi, Suarez or Neymar in his place and we still end with sane result!

    Like a fire that requires oxygen to burn, football requires space for a team to succeed. The anti football managers have cottoned on to the fact that simply deny even the best players in the world space and they’re reduced to nothing. Leicester won the league by playing this 70-30 style. In a sense I feel pep’s city are also starting to suffer from this. I watched Barca lose a game on paper they should have got something out of last night due to this. In the return leg if they manage to score first, say in first 20 minutes, anything can happen. But if Juve score first then you know what’s coming.

    We will continue to suffer from this type of football, unfortunately. The difficult thing is do we abandon our brand to match these play styles? I don’t know what I would prefer, but I love the way Arsenal play and changing that might leave me feeling very different about everything.

  • Al

    ..they’ll **have acres and acres of space…
    ..Suarez or Neymar in his place and we still end with **same result!

    We had this conversation at the weekend, btw, before our match on Monday evening.

  • Rich


    I’ve had similar thoughts about the game for a few years now. To make matters worse the bus-parking, defend and counter attack mentality quite obviously goes hand in hand with playing cynically in all situations.

    Extra fouls, rotational fouls, incredible feats of time-wasting depending on the stage of the match. It’s common now, in the prem at least, for Palace type teams to take an age on throw-ins et al while the score is still level, at home. Oh, and of course those teams protest loudly at every decision and all seem skilled at Townsend type penalty winning.

    It’s a grim picture. At home, the encouragement for it is obvious : no criticism from media, massive monetary incentives to stay in league, referees who do nothing to stop it and much to encourage it.

    Don’t know if you saw Ben Arfa’s comments last week but there’s truth in them for me.

    “Luckily Barcelona are here. Without this team, we would say that football had ended, it’s dead
    Barcelona show they can play at a high level without spoiling the spectacle. Football is a spectacle. People come to the stadium to entertain themselves.”

    Asked about Mourinho he said: “The guy who’s coaching Man United? Mourinho like Simeone is the opposite of Cruyff and freedom. There’s no place for that in a coach.”

    Unfortunately there’s obviously still enough entertainment around to prevent a backlash against anti-football. Barca and Bayern play an important part in this, but there’s also the fact teams will ease up on their defensiveness depending on the situation and opponent, and the fact that deep defence and counter can be extremely enjoyable for a fan on the days that it works for their team.

    Palace and West Brom fans will have found their recent wins over us extremely enjoyable. When it works, great; if it doesn’t, fans seem to understand and, so long as the team aren’t struggling, have few complaints. There’s no resistance to it.

    Then the bigger teams who have that defensive mentality- Chelsea, A Madrid, Juventus- do have some wonderful technicians in their team, and are strong enough to ease up on defensiveness much of the time against weaker teams, or open up and do plenty of deadly counter-attacking once they’ve established a lead.

    So, what do we do? Our different approach surely helps the league entertainment wise, in that any game involving us provides the prospect of us trying to play a lot of football and our opponents being guaranteed space for counter-attacks, but I’m sick to death at this point of watching games with that pattern.

  • Al

    Thanks for highlighting Ben Arfa’s comments, hadn’t seen them and just went and did a quick Google search, and boy is he telling the truth. Very refreshing to hear this from a professional player.. I’ve been keeping half an eye on all things football these last few days that I had totally missed his comments. Mourinho, Simeone, (& yes kudos for throwing Ronaldo in there too for his cheating..) perfect examples of those killing football but somehow revered for it.. well said Monsieur Arfa??

    This is the frustration with football right now; too many coaches who kill football are being lauded for literally killing football. To be honest my interest in the game has come down by say 40%, and it’s a continuous downward spiral that at this rate wouldn’t surprise me if I’m totally off the sport in a few years time.

    You also nailed it with your comment that the counter attacking teams employ cynical play all the time. Watching mandzukic last night was like watching a wwe villain.. this isn’t football. Nauseating.

  • Gouresh

    U see not every club plays attacking football like us. It’s subject to the financial situation. They have to çope with whatever resources they have. Every top team has to deal with the situation. The best or savy managers find ways out. Even if it means abandoning our system. So may call it blasphemy. But look at it this way, it keeps the opponents guessing. At the moment we are very one dimensional. Every thing goes through the middle. When we get Oliver, no one can cross. This makes it very easy of teams. It’s quite a simple tactic, sit back and allow us to do our left to right and right to left dance, and hit us on the break especially with our wing backs in the opponents half.

  • Pat

    But Gouresh, we’re talking about top teams with plenty of money who play this kind of football.

    On Xhaka – just watched Adrian Clarke’s breakdown of the match on He was full of praise for Xhaka, especially his consistent drive to move the ball forward. This is the true Arsenal style.

    Although he pointed out our lack of energy and running compared with against West Ham – and it would be interesting to know what contributed to that – the footage clearly showed the foul on Gabriel and the clear penalty which were not called, and the fact that Townsend faked the penalty at the other end.

  • Rich


    I’m watching less,too. Or half watching a lot of the time now.

    Think a team gets far less criticism these days for playing defensively and falling short than they do for trying to attack and falling short. With the first you might get some grumbles, with the second everyone will go to town about naivety, not trying,etc. With the first, if it doesn’t work, general attitude is, ‘oh well, it was a sound enough plan’, with the second you are treated as though you’re a fool- even I struggle at times not to see it as playing the role of the sucker.

    There’s the danger of that in every game : you attack, and it’s bloody hard work unless you break through, there’s little or no space to attack in; while at the other end, should the opponents get one relatively simple move right, they’re in on you. There was a quote in a book around Mourinho when he described the essence of his philosophy as ‘i score first, I win; you score first, maybe you win’. Ironically that was him boasting to maradonna, one of the most brilliant footballer’s of all time

    He’s changed his tune a bit now, but he elaborated on that previous philosophy a while back

    ‘There is no new generation (of managers),’ Mourinho said. ‘What it is, is people who got some idea, some philosophy, and want to create something like, “we build very well from the back, we have a very good ball possession, we don’t play counter-attack”.

    ‘But if you don’t play counter-attack then it’s because you are stupid. Counter-attack is a fantastic item of football, an ammunition that you have, and when you find your opponent unbalanced you have a fantastic moment to score a goal.’

    That was him, with typical dishonesty, countering claims about being overly defensive. The truth is nobody is arguing against counter-attacks being a potent weapon or an important and exciting part of football. The argument is that if both teams were to play very defensively and focus primarily on defence and counter, you get shit games of football. If every last team played that way, then the sport would find itself in dire trouble. True counter attacks only exist when the opposition is willing to commit numbers into the opposing half.

    Look at Middlesborough. They seem sure to go down now and it’s almost as though they haven’t even been here. Not much has even been said about them. Blackpool a few years back gave it a hell of a go, were involved in a lot of entertaining games, and pundits and journalists had about 50 times more to say about their failings than Boro’s

    I see it much like diving and cheating. There is no genuine pressure to change it, no shame in it, and that combined with other factors, money primarily, ensures that it will continue.

    Still leaves the problem of what should we do. My thinking has always been- like we do, but don’t leave those spaces behind, especially not early in the game. Increasingly, however, I am starting to think that must be a lot harder than I imagined, though I also think Wenger’s longevity works against him in a number of ways here.

    If he was coming into it fresh, he’d be afforded some time ,without hideous pressure from all quarters, to experiment, and might well be more willing to say, ‘right, in the games opening stages, we’ll massively prioritise defence, we won’t commit numbers, and we’ll see what happens’. People might claim that they’d be willing to support that right now, but the majority would be lying and would howl if we sat back and nothing much happened- and if we lost, which we may well do, particularly as the players aren’t used to it and haven’t been signed for it, like that!

    In all likelihood ,the next manager will experiment early with more defensive football, the pundits will hypocritically criticise this and tear into us if we do it a lot or any time we lose like it, but there will be a small window where even the most critical fans are somewhat accepting of it. From there we see what happens, but the pressures of football will be working inexorably towards us moving away from our attacking style to a more defence first one.

    Wenger will fight his way, which happens to be for the good of football-i.e if nobody fights for that football the game overall suffers greatly- to the last.

  • Al

    Another insightful post again, Rich. Some very good observations.. The irony is that those asking Wenger to change and adapt, won’t allow him the time to do just that. As you say, our type of players aren’t suited to that type of play and overhauling the system will require some personnel change, experimenting and lots of tweaking. But he won’t be afforded the time, they expect him to change the whole system at the click of his fingers like some magician…

    Another irony, that can also be drawn from one of your observations, is the teams that are saving the sport by keeping the entertainment factor in the game are also getting slaughtered for being “naive”, a la Blackpool. Overall, it’s apparent something is broken in football and will need fixing sooner rather than later, or the sport risks dying. In my view, most should be capable of seeing most if not all of what you say here, not very difficult is it. But you know, people being people, with all the shite the pundits spout…

  • andy1886

    Sorry, I really don’t get this blinkered Barca love-in some people seem to enjoy. On a site where refereeing decisions are continuously under the microscope it’s hard to believe that no-one has noticed the outrageous favouritism that they receive from officials week in week out. Mr Bitey could literally throw himself on the floor ten yards from an opposing player and win a penalty. Barca routinely get away with fouls that see their opponents booked at the first opportunity. I wouldn’t take Ben Arfa too seriously, he’s not exactly known as a good honest pro by any means. If any club should be worried about the introduction of VAR then it’s not City, Chelsea or United, it’s Barca.

  • Rich


    There’s only so much I can complain about in one post, but,yes, Barca are rotten for diving and other types of cheating/gamesmanship.

    I was disgusted with how they won the Psg game and probably mentioned it here. Lots did, I’m sure.

    They do play some glorious football to go with it. The best the game has seen in recent times and some of the best ever. That’s outside of the cheating and diving, which has no doubt increased a lot thanks to Sanchez.

    I bet they tell themselves, unless they’re in denial, that everyone is at it, teams constantly try stop them through foul play,etc, but yeah, they’re as bad as anyone at this point for cheating.

    It makes it pretty sad., then, that they stand as the games great answer to ultra defensive- or anti-football, but that’s how it is, at least until Messi goes ( quite likely they will change then).

    Doesn’t alter the fact they have clearly reached the highest level in terms of breaking down massed defences, so I am bound to look to them and praise them for that part of their game when thinking of the challenges we face and in fact football faces.

    As I said, it’s just sad that there’s all the cheating to go with it, and it’s what makes our challenge look all the more daunting : we’re trying to do it like them, without all that cynicism and cheating brings you in football, and without Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Iniesta and Busquets. In England. With no protection for our players.

    You tell me not to take Ben Arfa seriously. I’m well aware of his problems and flaws (he was stupid to move from a club where he finally had finally a good platform and was doing brilliantly, Nice, to where it was inevitable he would play very little, PSG) but he hasn’t influenced my opinion one bit ; it was merely unusual and welcome to see someone discussing what to me is an obvious truth, an opinion I formed over many years watching hundreds and hundreds of games.

    Sometimes flawed people- who isn’t- can tell the truth when others aren’t, and I think he did, though he left out the part about Barca unfortunately cheating a lot.

  • Gord

    Where PGMO comes from

    Many years ago, some football people bumped into some researchers at a pub, not too far from the Mersey River. Of course there was too much beer. In the end, it was decided that a new top league in England would be formed, and the researchers were sure that they could come up with officials to work in that league.

    Well, the EPL duly formed, but the researchers were a little late in delivering their officials. So, stop gaps were placed. In about 1989 (perhaps a little earlier), the researchers finally realised that designing an official based on a worm found in the vicinity of the Mersey was practical.

    Most people think that the first cloned animal was Dolly the sheep. But actually, the first living product of genetics experiments was Mike the worm. The researchers weren’t really happy with how Mike had turned out, for one thing it took entirely too much lysergic acid diethylamide in culture to produce Mike.

    Mike the worm was put to work officiating football, including a run of games in the English Premier League.

    Eventually the researchers found a solution to their problem or producing football officials. It was discovered that members of the Blattodea family could produce glycerol (to cope with freezing temperatures), and somehow the gene responsible was also responsible for selective vision. Instead of lysergic acid diethylamide in culture, it was found that quetiapine (an anti-psychotic used to treat schizophrenia) should be used.

    The researchers started producing officials (the rate hasn’t been high enough). After a little thought about it, they had a name

    Psychotic, Genetically Modified Organism => PGMO

    And now you know, the rest of the story.


  • BRICKFIELD loved the wolves fable. The media won an election and misrepresented the facts behind a referendum sparking a similar outcome in Trump campaign, yet you expect football to transcend these factors? Naive!

    What Barca prove is if your front 3 don’t defend you are in trouble and if Surrey gets the goals and puts in the graft and then observes his team mates do not, he gives up.

    Ozil, Theodore and Relatively static Giroud, are lacking here, Iwobi also and Oxford get sold often, all of the first leg, but Wenger didn’t play to win, he knew the problem as did I.

    If they investigated, we’d end up top, see Italy for reference, if not then change of philosophy, but the question is top four or no Europe. He has to find his men, without giving it away to early. Us,a novel could help here a lot. ,are the takeover bid my friend, what he was trying to tell you is he’s silent on the board because of Stan sounds like a good majority shareholder to me. He respected our stability clause at our detriment, by refusing to make the takeover bid he was entitled to. The only way to do it now, is to inform vest a couple hundred million, that goes into to reserves, we could unlock all of our spending power, which would mean we would be second most lowerfuk spending power bwhind Real and United and more desirable than the latter.

    Alexis is out only attacking focal point, 3 on 1 everything he received the ball, never happening, to combat Ozil lack of energy I would shift him left and allow the drift like Eriksen at those who should not be named. The anonymous, the coffee machine was his wife’s disclaimer, thought they been together since he plumped up the courage to go after a blonde I a shopping centre, a decade to get a coffee machine and ten goals, it’s not the managers fault, he needs to do something different to develop, Liverpool I say, win, win, win!

    Iwobi burned out, he didn’t get bad, he was thriving then Bayern was that step too far, I said his defensive work rate and final third key passing game, lose the ball in Bayern third and you will know about it. But asking AW to get his LB to clean out first half and replacing him with the other second half, not his style.

    Xaka, lacks the discipline, we knew, utility the media made sure he was going to get reds before he even touched down and THE central figure something duly delivered. He’s responded badly to those mishaps and has been culpable for a few goals, simply not tracking back, but this the guy who refined Patrick, Angela, Thierry, Lauren, and no player has outshone his Arsenal days after departure under his tutelage.

    Ramsey hasn’t quite been the same since the marriage and the baby, but any material can tell you these things play a massive role in your work output. Theory likewise. Ellery is a Ramsey type player and we have no creative midfielder.

    Up top Giroud hasn’t the pace for our game, required in transition, although his technique is splendid, our crossing doesn’t suit his prowess with the players we have.

    Welwick, good guy, but the wrong purchase, Chicorito was it, and now with another injury hit season,, we understand all too clearly he lacked the quality required. Sahara esquire, needs 5 chances to pop 1 in.

    Ballerina simply got injured at an unfortunate time and has been rediscovering his former he has been much more effective, Sane goal, he checked exactly the wrong time and everyone else reacted too slowly for him to commit the necessary foul, being astute to the bias of the officials and the fact he was last man. It was a clip on the edge of the penalty box, he paused to consider (the window was gone) experience and quality of personal, he’ll learn.

    BRAMAL will come through next season, it’ll be a similar situation with Hector, luckily we may be able to have a senior deputy, where as Ballerin commands a birth and you need vast quality to curb his development and production idea better quality. Cut backs a plenty, nobody checked out of the 6 yard box last 3 games.

    WE have been sussed but MOTD literally decipher our game and then wax lyrical about the other teams performances, translating into a lack of confidence. Anyone who played knows confidence shot or not being in your groove is the same as carrying a knock. And if you get smacked about for 50mins nothing given, you wear down physically and mentally knowing you are fighting the game itself.

    Zaha slipped twice and made unintended passes twice. Foul goal 1, dive for the penalty after 2 subs, Ramsey the wrong sub and Giroud should have started along with Kieran. Coquet in should have came on to pick up the ball as we need to transition twice as fast as goal down.

    The failure, to identify the fact that teams are lying and waiting for us is folly, we can use some tactical no use in terms of sitting deeper at times, but it was down to Xaka not screening so early on in, Ellen was likely given license to roam and Granite let us down again.

    But this is how you identify the weaknesses in the battles you lose, he shouldn’t hound out players he is not Mourinho and we are not United. But I can see who isn’t performing and we are due to transition and I think some players are undermining his authority to save face.

    If Chelsea finish outside the European spots they get a clean run, but some seem to think top four is a given, yet do not accept it’s importance on the other hand.

    And this is why you got a government who let you down for 5 years, because people listened to Russel Brand, said they didn’t trust the politicians, forgetting the savvy conservatives all turned up, smelling a free run. Now they tell you its Europe and you believe them, when they underfunded everything to cause economic instability and start a blame game and you want to idle by why corals die and they have you looking at colour, rather than our lack of manufacturing, comparably high wages and dependence on the public sector.

    Stop smoking and go private, for those who need the NHS, parent your children, so they do the stealth sugar tax everyone. Know that the 88% tax on cigarettes pays the euro contributions, ever heard of a cheap divorce, especially when the other half won’t sign?

    You think that those who have no plan 9 months after they called that early referendum can negotiate a world changing trade deal and re-enter the law is 2 years?

    The fans calling for the departure of the man that brokered the deal that financed emirates, brought you maybe ten of the last half dozens years World Class talent lost it. You are spoiled and deserve to be heckled in the pub until you cry for his blood. Gary Neville and even Nasrallah defended him, class. When your enemy calls for his resignation, have the scruples to understand why.

    We are standing on the precipice of greatness, I said the two clubs best positioned for the next 10 years were us and Bayern, grosslycorrupt UEFA put us against each other.

    Meanwhile Levandovski gets injured, Martin ex walks and CR7 says oh let me get it done myself. BAYERN LOSE AT HOME, but do Real stick or twist, the second leg is set nicely now.

    Arsenal shirt on after we lose, that’s how you know a Gooner!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Gord -12/04/2017 at 8:49 pm – Rather apt in describing that lot .

    For quite sometime I have come to believe that most members of the BIGMOB were not human per se , but either –

    1.Clones , probably made by those famed Kamino cloners , who escaped during the Clone Wars .

    2.Genetically modified (as you postulate ), but I am thinking that leeches were used. They really suck !

    3.Cybernauts( cybernetics. : the science of communication and control theory that is concerned especially with the comparative study of automatic control systems (as the nervous system and brain and mechanical-electrical communication systems). Think about it , they are all have bald and shiny domes , as hair interferes with reception !

    4.Genitally modified – Very few men present as inborn cunts . But in truth ,I ‘ve seen quite a few on this site !

    5.Robots – I’m thinking of Micheal Crichton’s Westworld meeting Ira Levin’s The Stepford wives .

    6.Night Walkers – ‘The White Walkers are an ancient race of humanoid ice creatures, who come from the Far North of Westeros.’ Most of us have taken it as a hint that they are from a crappy northen part ancient Albion .

    7. Just empty shells – or vessels or vassals . One could then fill them up with whatever crap they wish.

    And as I make more findings , I ‘ll keep you all informed.