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June 2021

The aftermath of Stoke: kill the cat or take on the world.

by Tony Attwood

Some things change, some don’t. That of course is how it goes.  Mr Wenger’s criticism of Granit Xhaka was unusual for him – and in not staying positive the manager has distanced himself from the standard line of Arsenal managers through the ages.  I can well remember the joke we had about George Graham and his comment after each match (or so it seemed at the time) – “I thought we played  well.”  Now we have Mr Wenger as Mr Angry.

Indeed Mr Wenger was particularly direct yesterday.   “This is a kind of night when you are angry because not only did we not score for the number of chances we had, we made stupid mistakes centrally – first by losing the ball and then we didn’t defend properly for the goal… We should have scored and it’s just another detail that didn’t go our way. I believe we lost three big points today. In football when you don’t win games you should win you can only look at yourself.

“Of course – we don’t get penalties, we know that,” he said, and watching the journalists do the sniggers that they always come out with in press conferences with Mr Wenger added, “I can get the numbers, you will see. Look at the statistics.”  He then added that last season “we had the highest penalties against us at home by a mile, and the lowest for us.”

So the criticism pours in.  And as I drove off after the match to what I was hoping would be a more uplifting part of the evening, I found myself reflecting on the way in which different people respond to such events.

Mr Wenger was not speaking literally when he said we don’t get penalties – we do of course.  We got six last season.  Of course the likes of Tottenham and Manchester City got twice as many again, but we did get six.  But he was annoyed and hadn’t checked his facts.

And besides, it is obviously Wenger’s job to respond to press questions, as it is his job to get the playing team right for each match.  He knows that he has to lift the team ready for the trip to Liverpool in a week’s time, and by and large has to be positive in public.  But in private – like all of us he has the choice of being a “glass half full” person or a “glass half empty” person – as always.

In as, by curious coincidence, I wrote yesterday on the Arsenal History Society’s list of anniversaries for the day, “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”  (Groucho Marx).

And in the end that is a choice: it is not a reflection of reality, it is choice of how we see reality.  Being a fairly positive sort of bloke and having watched Arsenal for soooooo many years I can think of many such occasions when I could have got very down.   But here we had a run of eight successive wins including beating the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea (twice).  The question is do we see that defeat in the context of that run or do we see it as a disaster on its own – we still can’t beat Stoke.  Well actually we beat them twice last season, but for the glass half empty person, that is how it now feels.  If we can’t beat Stoke what chance is there?

It reminds me to some degree of 1970.  We had just won our first trophy in 16 years (and in that calculation I include not just the FA Cup, but also the League Cup, and the Fairs Cup as trophies) and life at the end of the season had been buoyant.  Then we drew the opening two games of the next season, and for people who consider league tables at such a moment, the pack (well Leeds who were the main rival in those days) were already pulling ahead.   Glass half empty.  We should have bought many more players in the summer, but instead there was talk of players leaving.

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We didn’t play Stoke that season until September, but the result was a disaster: it was 0-5.  Glass totally empty and some people were extremely vexed (if I may put it like that) and made their feelings clear, even though there was no social media to help them.

Of course I was disappointed yesterday, and disappointed too to see Man U scoring freely and already pulling away.  But fortunately I had distractions, none of which involved kicking the cat.  Actually I don’t have a cat, but even if I had a cat, kicking it would not have been an option.

After much debate with myself I had yesterday decided to tackle the second volume of  Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy, having found the first volume very, very disturbing. (It’s what is known in literary circles as “New Weird”, and that certainly is an apt description).   And now  I’m so glad I’ve plucked up the courage.  It’s staggering brilliant.  And last night, after a really fairly awful and very disappointing night out on Friday, and feeling low about the Stoke game, I plucked up the courage to go to a club I’d never visited before, and had the time of my life.  A new club to visit, new friends made, old acquaintances unexpectedly renewed.  Glass running over.

This is the half full life: get knocked down and get up again, and remain positive.  I get laughed at by a lot of people for remaining positive but in the end I think I do get more fun out of life than the negativists who keep their lives the same other than varying the level of moaning.  I don’t expect everything to be wonderful, I just expect there always to be new hope.

Next weekend, with a bit of luck Alexis Sánchez will be in the squad.  It could make turn matters upside down in terms of yesterday’s form.  And given that he will almost certainly leave at the end of this season, we’ve got a whole season to search out and choose his replacement.  Wenger found Alexis once, he can find another one.

And we’ve still got the rest of this season to make that awful Gerrard manifestation eat his words.

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28 comments to The aftermath of Stoke: kill the cat or take on the world.

  • Richard

    It is just a shame really.I felt distraught yesterday by that awful defending from Monreal (I have to forgive him really because he is not a CB).Felt undone by Xhaka’s wayward passing in the middle of the pack.Welbeck not wanting to square the ball properly to a team mate in the final third making us loose chances.Felt dismayed by the officials denying us a penalty twice or so .Livid (almost ruptured a coronary) when the linesman erroneously ruled out Lacca’s goal for an offside.Frustrated that Arsene has refused or is unwilling to go into the transfer market to a get a proper CM and CB.Disturbed because we might as well give the title Man.Utd already in August.Appalled that we are not ruthless on the field of play and on the transfer front.
    Scared shitless because our season is panning out as always.

  • Arthur

    to be an Arsenal supporter you need to be able to handle biased referees/media and a fanbase that falls apart after one loss! If you can’t handle that, then stop supporting Arsenal.

    i read somewhere that supporting Real Madrid is like having inherited wealth – everything is set up for you

    maybe supporting Arsenal is like being an immigrant from Somalia coming to live in the UK – everything is against you!

  • Malaysian gunner

    Wenger is blaming everybody except himself.Even Gerrard has said its easy to play against the gunners ie let them have possession nd let them pass all day long.
    This sums it up. When you see how other top teams play,its no wonder the gunners find it hard to score against Stoke with a 9/10 men wall.
    The speed of the attack is slowed down by the relentless passing.
    No wonder the Nigeria oil baron will fire the fm if he buys ove the club.He knows whats wrong with Arsenal.

  • Flares


    The disallowed goal was due to Lacazette’s foot, as demonstrated on MOTD. Pedantic, but the correct decision. The real question is how a linesman could be that precise in a split second whereas his colleague, and the referee, failed to give a legitimate penalty for Bellerin. It’s the inconsistency which rankles in conjunction with the complete lack of accountability of the officials.

    Don’t fall over your skis about Untied – they’ve beaten two absolutely rubbish teams. As I pointed out in another thread, we also put 4 past Swansea away last season and 5 past the Hammers at theirs. Swansea were absolutely dreadful yesterday; for the last three goals Man U were practically walking the ball into the net. The marking and closing down was non-existent. Everyone was gifting City the title last time out after their fabulous early run and look what happened. We’ll get a clearer idea of United after they play somebody decent.

  • Flares

    Best and most befuddled headline of the day goes to MSN. They lead with Arsenal’s ‘same old problems’ then continue by saying it’s the first defeat in five PL games at Stoke but this was ‘different to those we used to see’…so which is it? Same old problems or different than before?

    Somebody got out of bed the wrong side…

  • Malaysian gunner

    Agree with Flares on the accountability of mo.
    To me there is no consistency in the award of penalties.
    Some are given even for the slightest contact.
    What has the ref boss got to say?
    As for the so,the epl is unlike the German and La liga where Rm/Barc/BM can reign supreme forever.
    Until they can hit 4 past any of the top 12 epl teams,I will reserve judgement.The so is a shrewd transfer operator.To win the epl,you must get proven epl material.
    These are still early days but it wouldn’t surprise me if he were to get the epl crown unless the other bosses can thwart him.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Gerrard, pundit with an agenda.
    Unfortunately, knives out for Wenger from all directions this season, the punish him for renewing

  • para

    “and by and large has to be positive in public”

    I see this as one of the bases of the problems of our society, no one speaks it from the heart, everyone speaks what “society” has dictated to be “proper”.

    One could analyse the reasons for this and come to some disturbing revelations. After all, if everyone is “positive” all the time, no one will question society and its values to change the things that need changing.

    The fact that UNTOLD did a ref review shows that UNTOLD can see negative things and address them, if we all did that maybe, just maybe we would get more things changed.

    Everyone “pretends” to be positive, when everyone else can clearly see that one is not positive at all, which gives a false impression to youth.

    So most end up in a sort of “pretend” world, pretending to be happy when not, pretending to be positive when there is great reason to be negative, pretending to be… the list goes on and on, no wonder the world is such a mess with all the pretense going on.

    Dont get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in highlighting the positives but there should not be anything wrong in highlighting the negatives either, yes in public too.

    If there is i wonder why this sort of mentality has been pushed unto people when the common sense tells us that it is flawed.

    I keep saying a battery cannot function with just a positive pole, no one listens, yet everyone knows this to be 100% true.

    We need to be able to accept when something is negative, address it and move on just like we accept it when it is positive and move on.

  • Dom

    I think Arsene took the criticism along with the players…he’s no fool.
    He knows that on paper we have a squad capable of taking anyone on, however he has supported to the hilt a number of players that are not repaying his trust.
    In my humble opinion i do not think that Ozil implicates himself anymore, Welbeck has never convinced me of his utility to the side and of course Bellerin who seems lost and out of place somehow.
    What worries me most is that the other PL sides are taking on board all our defensive woes and preparing to exploit them to the full.
    What the reality of winning the PL or even reaching the top four this season demands, is not just the hope that the match officials relent from this perceived conspiracy of doing us down (which may or may not be the case) but that this team starts functioning as a team and plugs the holes in our defence that it drills itself.
    Finally, no one here can deny that even with the match officials ‘against’ us, we didn’t create sufficient chances to have romped away and bagged the points.Sorry all but i feel better now and looking forward to L’Pool 🙂

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    @Malaysia gunner.
    I agree with you on one point that Le Prof who was mostly blaming Xhaka and Monreal for their passing and defending ineptitudes which gave away a goal to the bulky looking Stoke deputant Rogriques which cost us 3 points but looked to exonerate himself from any blames in that our lose.

    Le Prof should for truth sake accept all responsibilities for that our lose to Stoke City yesterday because he is the Arsenal manager that did the starts and bench for that our away PL match against Stoke and no any other manager else did it.

    The questions which now begs for answers are 1. Didn’t Le Prof knows that Monreal is not a specialist central defender (CD) but a leftback specialist who is better in playing in that position in a back three or back four defense-line before deploying him to start as a centre defender in two consecutive Arsenal PL games? 2. Why didn’t Le Prof start one of his two specialist central defenders of Mertesacker or Mustafi who were available to start at central defence? And start Holding at rightback and Monreal at leftback in a back three defence? Then start Kolasinac at left wingback position or Monreal if he preferred Kolasinac to start at leftback? Then start Bellerin or the lackluster for Arsenal yesterday, the Ox at right wingback against Stoke? 3. Why did he not warn Welbeck at half time who was wasteful for Arsenal to stop playing to the gallery as he was holding on too long to the ball to display his dribbling skill instead of been positive for Arsenal by passing the ball in time to accelerate attacking play for Arsenal?

  • ray calleja (malta)

    Hi Tony good piece and fair comments. Keep smiling and like you i try to see the glass half-full. And that coming from a die-hard Stoke fan ain’t always easy. 😉 Good luck for the rest of the season bar our away trip to the Emirates. 🙂

  • Jimbo

    I can understand why sometimes our players don’t always go in for a tackle,as any slight contact seems to end up in a free kick or penalty for the opposition.Stoke learned this early and soon found out that they could also foul our players willy nilly in or outside of the box and the ref would turn a blind eye.There is no way that linesman would have stuck his flag in the air had Stoke have scored that goal.TV technology would have probably resulted in a comfortable 4-1 victory again,yet until things change I can see us getting screwed most weeks.Our players need to be a bit more savvy as well,serial cheaters like Tottenham and Chelsea know how to exploit the situations when their players are touched or not in many situations.Our players are too honest,Wenger needs to tell them to go down and vehemently appeal when fouled otherwise a frustrating season awaits..

  • Bobome

    “We don’t get penalties….” Arsene Wenger, so what will the FA do about that? Probably throw the book at AW for bringing the game “into disrepute”. Life goes on after that and the “cundits” continue to berate AFC ad nauseum.

    I choose to remain positive regardless; the tyres of the PIGmob rickety officiating are bound to come off one fateful day and we shall then see who brought about disrepute to the game of football in UK.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Okay. We all know too well and familiar with the Pgmol officials anti-Arsenal agenda referring in our PL games over the years. But since the FA are yet to introduce the VARs into the Premier League games officiating, but could do so next season. The debates that have surrounded Lacazette’s foot was in micro offside position when he nodded the ball into the back of the net for what was thought to be Arsenal equalising goal in the match but ruled offside by the referee assistant flagging, we take it on the chin until the VARs are introduced to ascertain certain uncertainties in referees decision making. But with the numerous chances the Gunners had during the course of playing this game, why didn’t they score goals which will not be in disputes? Is it because we didn’t have Sanchez and Koscielny for this our lose Stoke match, which if we had them we would have won it?

    Le Prof said his 33 in number senior squad seize is too large this summer for him to manage and thus would like to cut it to a manageable size before he will consider further signing in this summer widow before it closes. Let’s hope he will be able to sell as many of his fridge Gunners he wants to sell before the deadline day so that he’ll sign Lemar if he still want to sign him and can persuade Monaco to sell him to Arsenal.

  • blacksheep

    I think the safest thing to do is to forget all about football for a few months, our season is effectively over before it has started and I have already booked a few aeroplanes to started flying banners over the Emirates and Anfield.

    I jest of course

  • Polo

    @ Flares, I think the ball came off one of the Stoke defender which would have put Lacazzete onside, therefore the goal should have been given. Anyway, if the linesman were so eagle-eyed on the offside, let’s hope they will be consistent with other teams.

    @ Malaysian Gunner, ‘This sums it up. When you see how other top teams play,its no wonder the gunners find it hard to score against Stoke with a 9/10 men wall.’ Let see Arsenal scored 77 goals in the PL last season 5th highest, 9 goals behind Spurs the highest goal scoring team, 8 goals behind Chelsea the eventual winner, not a big difference in goals scored for a whole season. Oh Manchester United scored 54 goals last season, and they were supposed to be one of the favourite to win the league, with Zlatan The Great (he is top top class by the way). Let’s take it into perspective, had Arsenal were clinical with the chances and the referee’s decision was correct, your comment would have been foolish.

  • Menace

    For the idiots that are celebrating the Man U score just remember that Moss the cheat allowed Pogba to remain on the pitch whereas others would have had an early bath. Two bookings are not the choice of the official, they are the Law that he needs to apply.

    In the Chelsea match the card given to Fabregas for clapping is not clear in the Laws but he got his second yellow without any Moss type thought. The PGMOL & their officials are corrupt & do not have any level of equity (fairness) in their method of work.

  • Alex


    How could you question Wenger decision ??
    Have you ever kick a football yourself let alone to criticise Le Prof that he has done it and win it before you where born ?

    Sarcasm mate

    Wellbeck was/is well known goal scorer…right ?Nope

    LVG he stated clearly that the very first reason he sold it to us is because his statistics shows clearly does not score enough goals.Period.He is a player he gives all but infront of the goal is crap.Le prof plays him because is one of his elected un-droppables.

    Le prof has his preferred choosen and no matter what other say he will carry on playing them he will extend their contract and pay them handsomely.In return he will get absolute Loyalty and we reach to the point that it become impossible to off load them.

    Talk about management!

    Bellerin is ages since is not contributing either defence or an attack.If truth is been told

    Every idiot in the planet can see the Ox and him are playing because they are elected to play no matter what.Yesterday he was playing him on the left. Bizarre

    By any means has to play XAKA .£35000000 for a midfielder that cannot keep the ball confidently in him and pass dribble one opponent?
    He is missing balls because his forte is only when he have time on the ball.When rushed all he does is kick the ball anywhere.
    We have seen the likes of Santi how he manage to get out when is surrounded by three opposition players.Xaka cannot do that and is not fast.To me is wrong buy.

    In that midfield name one player can substitute Santi? None.
    Yesterday left to right passing and viceversa will give us show ample statistical dominance but reality there was no substance and it will remain so unless its addressed that position not by one but two players.Is completely empty the midfield as it is.
    The likes of Coq or Neni or Ramsay or Ox or Xaka would never address the situation.

    The talk is now is the referee and played big role on the result.Yes is partially true.

    I say we lost the Stoke game due to not addressing our glaring difficulties during the T.W. by not buying the Midfielders required to replace Santi and not having in the bag a propper defenders.I hope i am wrong but i dont think will be addressed.

    When one see in the opposition list that Fletcher is playing would rang bell that Ozil will not cope as fouling professionally it is how is known since Fergie era.Rightly so Ozil was out of the game.

    Another two years of this i very much expect it

  • I just think some fans are secretly wishing we lose and then all hell breaks loose.
    remember after chelsea lost against arsenal last season most of their fans and pundits predicted doom but content turned everything around.
    l know the last two games we had about 30 shots on target and I believe if they start getting in only the pgmol can stop us.
    I have no doubt we can win this title. just get behind the team all you AKBs

  • Sammy The Snake

    Thanks for your everlasting optimism, Tony. We all love Arsenal, but we have to keep things in perspective. Gunners are only a part of our lives. Win, lose or draw…

  • Gooner in Exile

    I have defended Arsene Wenger for the last few years but am getting concerned that he is losing the plot.
    We had 4 fit central defenders who could have played in the back 3 Mertsacker, Holding, Mustafi and Chambers. WHY then do we have two left backs playing there.
    We have 3 fit left backs Monreal, Kalasinec and Gibbs, so WHY do we have a right back playing there.
    The mind boggles does Wenger dislike 3 at the back so much he is deliberately sabotaging it.

  • Olanipekun

    I’m a little late to this because I’ve been so angry and my rant would have taken forever to type out. Now I’m a bit calmer so here goes.

    I’m bitterly disappointed with the way the players performed on saturday. Yes, The World was against us, but we should still have won the match. Stoke’s counter was laughable at best and they had one really good chance. One chance. And they took it. We had many chances that we didn’t take, true, but we should have created many, many more…

    When a team parks the bus the way Stoke did (at home, no less, which tells you how much they know themselves and who they were playing against) our passing game doesn’t work well. It’s been this way for YEARS. Other passing teams have this same issue, even the Barcelona of old (snigger). But what has been done about it? There’s three ways to solve this, methinks:

    Bully your way into the box (Giroud, Welbeck and The Ox can do this but the Refs…)
    Float balls into the box and head (won’t work because our crosses are terrible most times and the Refs…)
    Run at defenders and mix in some short, evil passing to get past the defence (strangely we rarely do this unless Santi and/or Wilshere are playing, especialy Wilshere, Giroud and Ramsey playing together)

    That last option is something Barcelona were been doing for years with Iniesta and Messi and Pedro and the like, and it’s very, very hard to stop. Eventually even the most dubious Ref will have to give fouls and award cards against the defenders. Do we do this? No. We pass the ball sideways forever and make one or two silly runs…

    You could see from Saturday’s game why Alexis and Ozil kept passing the ball to each other last season. No one else was on the same wavelength. Ozil was just rubbish for most of the game against Stoke because he needs a complement and there was none. The Ox was shunted to right back, where he could not affect the game with very direct assaults without overly exposing the defence. And Theo Walcott! Let me say this, and mark my words.



    I honestly think our team as a whole lacks proper motivation. The first team is basically set in stone (especially the midfield) and aren't really worried they'll lose thier place when they're off colour. And they're off colour a lot. It's soooooooooooo frustrating watching the players dance around without doing anything. You see the team flying forward on a counter and the player just stops, like he's waiting for the opponents to put themselves together so the sideways passing can begin. The pain is almost palpable…

    I really don't think changing managers is the solution. Changing attitude and priorities is far more important. Equally important are getting rid of Theo Walcott, getting a dedicated DM and an attacker that runs at opponents regularly (that we can turn to sometimes), figuring out where exactly The Ox should play, getting Ramsey a psychologist to sort out his lapses in concentration, teaching Bellerin how to pass and cross the ball better, teaching Reiss Nelson to understand Ozil and Alexis and drift around like them (he can do that), checking out some fringe players who remain with us even though they could have left like Toral (I think he could be great for us), learning that sometimes different formations for different games is better, wishing all our players had the attitude and determination of Alexis and Welbeck, and GETTING RID OF THEO WALCOTT.

    Nowadays I can tell most times after about half an hour if we're going to lose the game. I don't like that. It's depressing…

  • Flares

    So you’re not a fan of Theo Walcott then?

  • Olanipekun

    Not a Theo Walcott fan?

    Not even close. Just when you think he’ll finally be dropped he does something. The media makes likes a million noises about him, then he goes dark again.

    Walcott almost never decides to go on a run by himself. Almost every single time I’ve seen him going on one of his “great” (very rare) runs, he starts by chasing down a ball. He’s already running so he continues, but start from standing? Very very rare. Probably done it less than 20 times in his 10 years with Arsenal. He also has almost never dribbled past an opponent from a standing start. The ball usually gets mixed up and he loses it. He’s basically the fastest person on the pitch and should be making defenders wet themselves. Instead they just stay put knowing he’ll run into them and bounce off in a different direction than the ball. Seriously, he makes the silliest decisions on the pitch when he’s there (I think Bellerin is learning from him).

    After 10 years of playing for The Arsenal, some of which he played as a striker (he groused and complained to get it and promptly did nothing with the chance) he only recently notched a 100 goals. Alexis spent 7 seasons less and still got there before him! Even Giroud is just behind him, despite being demoted to subsitute. And Theo walcott was a primary goal threat for The Arsenal for YEARS. Not a supplier like The Ox, mind you, but a finisher. A FINISHER…

    It’s like the press keep harping on about how great he is so that we can keep failing. He’s not really good. He’s been pretty much at the same level for the past 4 years or so. Methinks players like him are why Alexis and co don’t have enough faith in the club to sign a new contract. I know Alexis wants more money but if the supporting cast were better he wouldn’t be in such a position of power. He could be repaced or sold without qualm and everyone would be happy. But no, we have Theo Walcott…

  • olanipek
    am quite sure u thought we would lose against leicester.

  • As if you had to prove we need a CB, or with Cohen and Jenkinson off on loan, we need extra full backs with Gabriel off to Valencia. Welbeck is good enough and Theo not featuring, we don’t need to offload and replace a RW?

    and Ramsey is supposed to run beyond the forwards, so we need a dedicated defensive Midfielder, Couquelin and Ramsey should have started and Kalasanic should have played left and Bellerin right on a back four against Stoke!

    Thank heavens only United picked up 6 points of the big four and Liverpool of the top six, with City losing to Everton!

    We need to buy!

  • Olanipekun


    I actually didn’t. We played with some purpose in that game. The difference was clear

  • Tony. Just want to say thank you for being the kind of person who, when knocked down, gets up again to continue the fight. Not an easy thing to do at all.