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The tumultuous and disturbing Two Thousand Twenty Common Era finally gave way to a new number in the Gregorian calendar, and contrary to our worst fears time’s steady and irreversible march didn’t get caught in some kind of infernal loop where we are forced to relive the surreal nightmares of the last few months. If that alone was worthy of joyous celebrations – responsibly done, of course – the Arsenal’s recent upturn of form and results in this (in)famous festive period in English football calendar added a glass or two of spirits to that festive cheer.

So, we approached the Hawthorns with a certain jauntiness in our steps and sparkle in our eyes. Some of us were feeling optimistic enough to even hopefully predict an old-school thrashing of the West Bromwich Albion team who just a couple of weeks back were our fellow fighters in the lower half of the table. Since then Mikel Arteta’s merry men in red and white were dragged up the table by the youthful energy of returning Gabriel Martinelli and the two supremely talented Hale End scholars Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe. WBA now being managed by that great Italian tactician of the relegation battles – Sam Allardici – on the other hand had a more of a mixed bag of results. A typically rearguard 1-1 away at Liverpool followed by a 0-5 demolition at the hands of Leeds. Football has moved on very fast in the last few years and Sam’s old playbook of survival may be in need of some thorough rewrites. 

Even though David Luiz and his childhood friend Willian returned to the squad following a short stint at the sick bay, Arteta kept his faith in the players that have been instrumental in the last two wins and in the 4-2-3-1 formation which is where I think the team has been evolving towards. Martinelli though was dropped to the bench to accommodate the captain and Lacazette both in the starting eleven, and Dani Ceballos starting instead of Mo Elneny. Based purely on current form and the balance of the team Gabi probably deserves to start ahead of Auba, but it is in our very best interest to help our captain find back his goalscoring form that had really saved us from calamitous league positions in last two seasons and was instrumental in helping us win a record setting 14th FA Cup in Mikel’s very first season as a manager (he was “head coach” at that time but you know what I mean). If needed we can always bring Gabi in the second half to introduce energy, directness and goal threat. 


Bellerin – Holding – Mari – Tierney 

Saka – Ceballos – Xhaka – Aubameyang 



The WBA squad had a smattering of ex-Gooners. Our long serving left back and a member of the “British Core” Kieran Gibbs was on the bench, as was Kyle Bartley who came through Arsenal academy and had a solitary senior appearance for the Arsenal. In the middle of the defense was Semi Ajayi, another Arsenal youth product who in a recent interview – following his equalizing goal against Liverpool – highlighted how much of an influential role Arsenal set-up has played  in his career with particular mention of admiration and gratitude for Per Mertesacker.  

We started brightly, with a good cross by Auba from the left. First Bellerin shot at goal which was saved by the Baggies’ goalkeeper and Saka’s attempt from that clearance was blocked by the defense. 
Around 5th minute ESR, dropping deep, almost put Saka through for a clear run at the goal. The fluidity and intelligence of ESR’s movements and his spatial awareness – even on a TV screen – was noticeably encouraging. Given that how he was fouled a few times in the early minutes it was clear that the WBA defense too was aware of the danger he can cause. 
First creative involvement from the midfield came via Dani on 7th minute. His chipped pass over the defense deserved someone to run onto.  A couple of minutes later Laca played his 9-and-half role perfectly by dropping deep and passing on to the path of Saka who shot at goal. The keeper made his second save of the match. In less than 10 minutes after the start of the match we were able to engineer two shots on goal!  Almost like the good old days. 

ESR was playing with a well-earned freedom to roam which he used cleverly to both keep possession and to trigger attacks. He earned a foul near the penalty box and Dani’s free-kick was thumped out by the goalkeeper and Tierney’s attempt flew over the bar. 

On our right side Saka and Hector continued their good understanding. On 16th minute Bellerin put Saka through by a great pass. Saka made a typical surging run and his left footed attempt at goal from the right evaded the goalkeeper, the post and our captain who made a late attempt to steer the ball in. A couple of minutes later Saka crossed from a similar position for Aubameyang to head in but Auba was well managed by the defense.

We almost conceded a goal from a rare WBA foray into Arsenal end of the pitch. It all started with Martin Atkinson refusing to award us two fouls in a row near the opposition penalty box and from the counterattack the WBA forward line kept possession impressively and created a very presentable opportunity. But the shot was relatively simple for Leno to save. If that goal went in would VAR have reviewed the two non-foul decisions which were clear and obvious errors? The snow had started to fall heavily by then and it felt that the game now might turn on small margins. We hadn’t been able to capitalize on our early prominence and the conditions were definitely going to make playing incisive football harder. 

A minute later a wonderful moment of individual brilliance easily made us forget this near mishap. Kieran Tierney – playing in half-sleeves and rolled socks in sub-zero temperatures, later Arteta marveled at his overall physical resilience – received a pass with a lot of ground to cover before he can cross or provide a cut-back. He also had to beat their right back who was in front of him. KT ran with the ball, ran past the defender and then turned him inside out and cut through in the penalty box. With Lacazette and Saka waiting in the box it was expected that Kieran will either cross in or run further and then provide a cutback. He did neither but curled in an accomplished finish from his lesser foot, and the ball flew in past the outstretched hands of the goalkeeper who was caught by surprise like everyone else. It was a goal that Aubameyang would have been proud of, and was a clear indication of how Tierney is rapidly growing in stature and self-confidence in his role in this team. He is marvelous player of considerable talent on the ball and extraordinary work ethics and intelligence off it. We fans can be rightly excited about his growing influence in the team.

WBA 0 – Arsenal 1 (Tierney 22’) 

On 25th minute Lacazette showed great control and composure but couldn’t quite curl in his finish. A few minutes later we scored a signature Arsenal goal that we haven’t seen for a while. A series of quick, precise one-touch passes cut through WBA defense at the end of the move ESR from the right set-up Saka for a close finish. The goal involved this passing sequence: Dani‑> Bellerin‑> ESR‑> Saka‑> Laca‑> ESR‑> Saka. A sumptuous team goal that should do wonders for the players’ self-confidence about their own creative potential. A goal like that instills a lot of faith in their training regime and in their coaches.

WBA 0 – Arsenal 2 (Tierney 22’, Saka 29’) 

The snow started to now accumulate heavily on the ground, dragging the ball and creating very challenging conditions for a passing game the players did well to still manage the tempo of the game and continue to create opportunities. At the end of another flowing move Laca’s attempt was deflected goalward by Ivanović – the Serbian defender who we are well familiar with from his many years at Chelsea, who is now back in PL following a stint in Zenit – and was saved well by Johnstone who, despite conceding two goals that he could do nothing about, was having quite a good game.

The match slowed down after that as the Arsenal players were being extra careful about the weight of the pass and the slipperiness of the surface. The team focused more on retaining the possession and seeing the game out until the half time without conceding. Mari and Holding were both playing with calmness and composure, and Xhaka was circulating the ball well. Mari and Tierney seemed to have built a good understanding between themselves and Mari’s crisp, unhurried forward passing meant we didn’t miss Gabriel – still in isolation after contacting Covid-19 — as much as we were concerned about. The part that the conditions can still play was further highlighted when Holding’s attempted pass back to Leno spun out of control and went straight for a corner. Around 41st minute Bellerin saw a yellow for a tackle that he couldn’t quite control because of the surface conditions. The half ended with Laca’s turn and shot saved again by the goalkeeper.

Arsenal came out in the second half with an unchanged team, but WBA brought in Charlie Austin who has a history of scoring goals against us. WBA started with purpose in the second half and scored a well worked goal just couple of minutes into the half, but it was a clear offside.

Controlling tackles and passes were getting harder by the minutes. Hector was taken off by Mikel on 55th minute and Ainsley Maitland-Niles was brought in, most likely because Bellerin was already on a yellow and on a surface like that it was quite likely even a well-timed tackle can go easily wrong and earn him a second yellow. AMN the London boy was dressed up for the occasion, unlike the flying Scotsman on the opposite flank. 

Another most pleasing aspect of ESR’s play – and Gabi and Saka too share that same quality – is his impeccable defensive awareness and willingness to help the defense out. He showcased that in this match too, noticeably so around 58th minute. The game was entering a phase where one WBA goal would have made it very tense for us.

Couple of minutes later it was Arsenal that scored to settle any nerves. Saka curled in a good looking cross from the right, Ajayi’s clearance beat his own goalkeeper but hit the bar, ESR followed in with his late run in the box and his goal bound shot was blocked by the defender, but his clearance fell to Lacazette who provided a simple finish.

WBA 0 – Arsenal 3 (Tierney 22’, Saka 29’, Lacazette 60’)

We scored three goals and not a single one of them by Aubameyang! That has been a rarity in the last couple of years. It was credit to Auba that despite losing his scoring touch he continued to work at his role diligently, even adding more of the inside forward movements and presence that Mikel likes to see from his “wingers”. From one such movement Auba set Tierney up on the left and Kieran’s precise cross was turned in by Laca with his knees from close range. There might have been a hint of offside but neither did the assistant referee raised his flag nor did the decision go to VAR.

WBA 0 – Arsenal 4 (Tierney 22’, Saka 29’, Lacazette 60’, Lacazette 64’)

Saka was subbed on 70th minute by Willian immediately after being fouled off the ball. It was one more sparkling performance from a player who at the age of 19 plays with a confidence and maturity far beyond his years and with the talent and creativity he already possesses let us hope everything else in his career goes smoothly enough to see him fulfil his immense potential. It would be most gratifying to have a genuinely world class player come through Arsenal ranks. 

Willian – hopefully inspired by the young talents – played with a bit more purpose and forward movements that had been singularly lacking in his disappointing performances until now. Some of his defensive work was still questionable but on the final third he showed glimpses of his abilities that had Mikel so convinced about his usefulness in the squad. Towards the end of the match – on 92nd minute – he made his second attempt on goal in his PL appearances in Arsenal colors. It was saved by the goalkeeper.

On 77th minute Joe Willock replaced ESR. Joe in his cameo demonstrated the difference between him and Emile. Whereas ESR already possesses close control passing range and spatial awareness that are equal to the level needed at PL, Willock — despite all his abilities complemented by great attitude and work-rate – have a bit to travel to get to. He is still very much a highly useful squad player, but if he needed any reminder about the level that he should aspire to ESR’s latest performances must have been inspiring.

The match ended without much significant action after the 4th goal. Dani was handed a booking, Leno saved a long distance shot at 89th minute, there were a few crosses thrown in the Arsenal box that between Holding, Mari and Leno were dealt without much fuss. On 93rd minute – just before the final whistle – there was a rare attempt at Arsenal’s goal which Leno saved well.

Arsenal had entered the festive schedule with a lot to play for, and Mikel with enormous pressure on his fledgling managerial shoulders. Three wins out of three league matches in this very busy period, conceding only 1 goal and scoring 8, with two matches away at desperate relegation fighting teams and a home match against potential title contenders Chelsea is an impressive turnaround of performance and results. Out of such experiences are born resilience, solidarity and self-confidence. All credit must go to Mikel, his coaching team and the players. Everyone has played with full commitment and professionalism, and a few of them with quality and creativity that bode well for the future.

Let us hope we maintain and then improve upon this forward momentum.

Happy New Year everyone!

90 Drinks to “A Promising Return To The Old Normal”

  1. 1
    North Bank Ned says:

    As merry a report as our performance deserved, Dr. F.

  2. 2
    TTG says:

    Thankyou for a well-balanced and comprehensive report which was a good summary of a very encouraging match . I have little to add beyond my note in the previous drinks .
    In that note I commented on our centre backs and C100 asked me if I thought Saliba was likely to have a future with us. The last week has shown us how quickly fortunes can change in football but I’m highly dubious about Saliba’s prospects especially if , as we hope Arteta remains with us. He clearly does not rate the lad at all . One’s heart bleeds 5o see the waste on players like him, Willian and Pepe who are very expensive although if we do sell him we might get a significant proportion of his value back. Before that though I would like to see how he copes with English football. His ex- St. Etienne colleague Fofana is pulling up trees at Leicester and Saliba was reckoned to be better . But I sense Arteta has given up on him
    Good work Dr.F

  3. 3
    Countryman100 says:

    A fine and comprehensive report Dr F. A night of unalloyed joy for Gooners everywhere, due to the result, the performance and, not least, who the opposing manager was. As a supporter there is no greater pleasure than watching callow young colts become key first team players.

  4. 4
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Nice report Doc. Cheers.

    Wise words on Saka, Tierney and ESR.

    Beating Fat Sam is always satisfying.

  5. 5
    scruzgooner says:

    well said, doc. it was so pleasing to watch and to be able to react with instinctive, positive punches of air and shouts of “yes!” rather than sit quietly by shaking my head and sighing. i am going to have to rewatch the second goal, but i recall it being the end result of a longer series of passes culminating in the “slow-fast-fast” finish. great stuff.

  6. 6
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Another excellent performance from Lacazette – look at his run for the fourth goal. And to think that many, including well known bloggers, had written him off and wanted him gone.

  7. 7
    Goonersince54 says:

    HNY to everyone.
    Having last posted pre Chelsea game, in part because i was getting somewhat exasperated with the doom and gloom in the bar, the hand wringing and tremulously voiced fears of possibly being drawn into a relegation battle, along with the usual rubbishing of certain players when things go pear shaped, and in part due to family duties, the fickle hand of fortune/happenstance, saw the 3 young jewels of our youth players all line up in the first eleven on Boxing day.
    The result was to put it bluntly, totally unexpected, playing with a verve and style not seen for a long time, and spanking a team that had spent 220 million in the summer, and making them look very average indeed.
    Whether Gabi or ESR would have played if Auba had been 100% or Willian hadn’t been indisposed, is a question we will probably never know the answer to.
    But whatever the reason for it, it worked big time, and the change in the squad was immediate, and has been followed by a gritty win at Brighton and a very impressive win at West Brom.
    What cheered me the most was Arteta with the odd prudent change, sticking with a winning team.
    We now have a full week off to recharge the batteries after a very tough, turbulent and stressful period at the Club, and with Gabriel and Partey due back shortly to strengthen the squad, the future is looking much brighter.
    With Kola now off to Schalke, that will free up a Europa league group stage squad spot for Martinelli which will be most welcome, and with an already bloated squad, i cannot see us adding to the problem with any additions in the Jan transfer window.
    A clearance sale, ” buy one get one free ” would be more appropriate. !!
    On a separate note,
    TTG @2
    I must disagree with you re Saliba.
    I don’t think Arteta has given up on him atall.
    The poor guy has been a victim of circumstance which Arteta has apologized for.
    He was supposed to go back to Saint Etienne on loan for the season, but the Arse were too late filing the paperwork and it was knocked back.
    With the squads for the Europa league group stages and the first team league and Cup games already chosen, he was in limbo with nowhere to play except for the under23’s/21’s.
    Arteat has confirmed he will go out on loan in the Jan window, to get some proper playing time.
    He is still very young with plenty of time to make his mark at the club, is clearly quicker across the turf than either Holding or Chambers who are his main rivals for the right side of central defence, and i fully expect him to become a regular in years to come.

  8. 8
    TTG says:

    I always respect your opinion but I think you’re wrong. We made an almighty mess up of his intended loan and my understanding is that we are now discussing a permanent sale or a loan. The source is L’ Equipe which is a very strong source for news on French players .
    If Arteta rated him he would have put him in the Europa League squad. With some of those games it would have been a perfect opportunity to see what he could do

  9. 9
    Goonersince54 says:

    I respect yours as well.
    We will have to agree to disagree. !!
    I expect all will be revealed this month.
    But from Arteta’s own lips were the words that Saliba needed a season on loan, given the number of central defenders we had in the squad.
    Time will tell.

  10. 10
    bt8 says:

    Must admit that when Tierney’s magnificent goal went in it was the most involuntary noise I have made in watching Arsenal play in quite some time. Thanks, Doc. COYG

  11. 11
    Esso says:

    Cheers Doc!

  12. 12
    bathgooner says:

    Fine report, Dr F. It’s always a pleasure to re-experience a fine Arsenal performance yielding a comprehensive victory. I hope it becomes a habit. This well-earned run of three victories makes the table and even this sick old world look healthier. COYG

  13. 13
    BtM says:

    Good win. Should have scored six.
    Keep winning. Play better.

  14. 14
    BtM says:

    @7 : Excellent post, Clive. Sentiments shared.

  15. 15
    Osakamatt says:

    Great report Dr F, thanks.

    On the transfer front I don’t think
    it will be easy but be good if we
    could find somewhere for Mus &
    Papa this window and buy an
    experienced back-up keeper on a
    short term deal.

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    For those who, like me, are badly missing going to games, this is a nice piece. https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/jan/04/life-in-the-football-cocoon-photo-essay-premier-league-coronavirus-lockdown

  17. 17
    TTG says:

    Following our discussion on Saliba I learn from Charles Watts that he is off on loan to Nice until the end of the season . From what Charles says there is no option for Nice to buy him and that Arsenal see a future for him which underlines your view that he is in Arteta’s plans . That may be a negotiating ploy by Arsenal but I agree that it would be terrific to see him come through next season . Certainly we’ve rather wasted his first half of the season excluding him from first-team football, so we hope this is a positive reset and he stays away from those girls on the beach in bikinis !

  18. 18
    Steve T says:

    Nice stuff Doc. Many thanks.

    Like you, I’m really happy for Arteta. Nothing would make me happier to him succeed and I’m know I’m not alone in being someone who had doubts. I hope he manages to turn this into something quite special in the coming years.

    The performance against WBA was just what the doctor ordered. A tough old game dealt with by some considerable ease. KT3 is Arsenal gold. You’ve got to love everything about the lad. The performances of ESR have been sublime. They beg the question as to why he’s not been used before. Saka just shows you what a £72 million problem Pepe is. Certainly not his fault the transfer fee but whoever sanctioned that amount of money for that deal needs shooting. The young lads have certainly given a very welcome and added spark to it all. Long may it continue.

    Just heard that Saliba is off on loan, but interestingly we have not included and offer to buy. I must say that the Saliba deal for me is bizarre in the extreme. We’ve paid £28 million for a player that won’t play for us for at least the first two years of his contract? I have no idea what has gone on there but then the whole recruitment policy needs to be called into question.

    Positive signs boys and girls. Let’s hope 2021 is the real turning point. Onwards and upward people.

  19. 19
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words.

    About Saliba — I have seen him play for St. Etienne after he was loaned back. It was an injury disrupted season for him but he still looked quite good. Sure it is Ligue 1 and not as fast or physical as PL, but it still is a top European league and he played with unhurried composure demonstrating good technical abilities, and already has an imposing physical presence. When we had signed him he was a much sought after young talent and given the market back then (even Harry Maguire transfer was if I remember around 80m!) it was not as inexplicable an investment as it may seem like, the rationale being that by investing early we will reap the benefits few years later when he was expected to evolve into his full potential. The unfortunate thing that happened was his injury in the season he was loaned back which curtailed the natural progression. And then we messed up a second loan at the beginning of this season.

    We don’t have a world class right sided center back. Holding and Chambers are both good but both have limitations. Mavropanos is loaned out and after spending quite a few years around the first team he doesn’t look to have impressed us enough. Papa and Groucho (copyright BtM) both should be off at the end of this season. So should be old man Luiz. If Saliba comes through this loan with confidence and physical fitness I think the club will definitely find a place for him in next season’s squad.

    If it is of any interest, he is also a childhood Arsenal fan (like a lot of French kids :-)) .

  20. 20
    TTG says:

    In response to Countryman’s suggestion about raising topics in this long week between matches I commend this table to you
    It shows the difference between home and away form this season. It indicates that the percentage of home wins is slightly less than away wins and that only two teams – Liverpool and Man City are deriving significant home advantage . Two front-runners – Man United and Leicester have away records that are significantly better than their away records . United have lost at home to Palace , S**s and us but haven’t lost away . Leicester won 5-2 at the Etihad but have been beaten by Fulham and West Ham at home .
    In a hitherto indifferent season we have fared better away from home than at the Grove . We have all come to dread late Sunday evenings at home !
    I was reflecting on the abuse some of you nasty people were giving that nice Fat Sam . He has just seen his team draw incredibly at Anfield . In their last away game before he joined they drew at Man City ! Yet in the last week they lost 5-0 at home to Leeds and 4-0 to us .
    Clearly part of the reason is that with no fans in place home advantage is much more marginal and that is to be expected . But another big reason is that the style of football being played by most clubs lends itself much more readily to counter-attacking rather all out attack. Most away sides employ a deep block and break rapidly having lured the other side forward in numbers. Remember the Leicester game where the wretched Vardy did for us?
    The Chelsea game saw a change in approach with a quicker passing team with smarter approach work , even Xhaka was prompted to play forward in a more positive role . Away from home our new team is perfectly set up to counter-attack at pace . Perhaps we will see an improvement in our home record..and a step-up in our away record wouldn’t be bad either !

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    Clive and TTG are both half right about Saliba. He was regarded as the outstanding CB prospect of his generation when we bought him and remains a player of huge promise who could be alongside Gabriel in the heart of our defence for years to come. Arteta is as cautious as his mentor Pep when establishing young players in the first team (Exhibit 1: Foden). I never fully understood what Arteta meant by Saliba needing a ‘transition year’ beyond it being the bridge between age-group and senior football.

    Nonetheless, a combination of injury, the pandemic, a botched loan and personal circumstances meant Saliba didn’t get it. His time in the U-23s this season started unimpressively, to put it at best. As I recall, Arteta was pretty blunt about that and again talking about the need for the transition year.

    However, Saliba seems to have improved by leaps and bounds in recent months. The loan to Nice for the rest of the season seems a logical next step to get him playing time in senior football. Nice look to be short of CBs having shifted out two in the summer and then lost their veteran captain to injury, so Saliba should get minutes. (Jeff Reine-Adelaide, formerly of this parish and still only 22, has just joined Nice on loan, too.)

    So all in all, Saliba remains a work in progress for Arteta even it is one that has been more frustrating and protracted than both would like. But as others note, the loan terms suggest anything but that Arteta has given up on him.

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@20: It begs a question of why teams play differently at home and away when there are no fans in the stadium, as it is their presence that is really what home advantage means.

  23. 23
    bathgooner says:

    Whilst the manner of our management of Saliba since his signing for us has been little short of criminally inept, I have little doubt that we will either reap the benefit of our relatively large outlay for his services or recoup most if not all of our investment due to his youth and perceived potential.

    The consequence of our ineptitude in our management of Saliba and his contract is therefore a minimal black mark on our executives compared to the catastrophic waste of our relatively limited financial resources on:

    1) Pépé – the physical manifestation of the emotion “Just spend some ferking money!” – a reasonably talented but questionably motivated player who is clearly not a £72m player – and for whom we will be doing extemely well to get a third of that sum in the market.

    2) Willian – like Arteta, I thought he would bring something to the team (though not for three years!) but he has clearly already retired from active sport. He will no doubt inherit the Mess Özil Chair in Unproductive Economics for another two years when it becomes vacant this summer as his priority seems to be to continue his comfortable London lifestyle rather than put in a proper shift on the pitch.

    3) Luiz – the third incumbent of the Chavski North London retirement community after Gallas and Cech and another whose net positive and negaive contributions to date are finely balanced. How did we manage to sort out his extension but not a sensible development plan for Saliba?

    4) Failing to shed unwanted players while letting talent in the form of Ramsey, Welbeck and Wilshere walk away for nothing.

    I very much hope that this era of executive profligacy and incompetence is behind us.

  24. 24
    Doctor Faustus says:

    bath@23: To that list I will add — even though this happened a little earlier than the very recent past — letting one of the most talented young goalkeepers in Europe (who himself wanted nothing more than staying at Arsenal and fighting for the #1 spot which on pure performance and potential he deserved ahead of late era Cech or Ospina) to leave for absolute peanuts to Juve who couldn’t believe their luck in getting a ready-made understudy-cum-replacement for Gigi Buffon for just 12 million.

    Szczęsny in my opinion is a perfect combination of ability and character (that edge, a bit of madness) for a goalkeeper.

  25. 25
    Countryman100 says:

    Bath Loved “ The Ozil Chair in Unproductive Economics”. Heh. 🤣🤣👏👏

  26. 26
    TTG says:

    A very good post and like C100 I love the Willian reference although I wish we hadn’t invested in him. Edu’s fingerprints are all over this . I was speaking to my friend who is extremely close to Chelsea ( not a happy man at present) this morning and he confirmed a conversation he had with me before Arteta joined when he said a three year deal for Willian was done at least a year ago . That ties up a lot of capital and added to Pepe ( Sanllehi’s mitts on this one ) we’ve pissed an enormous amount up the wall . Going back to Colin Pates Chelsea have sold us a lot of dross . The last good signing we made from them was George Graham!
    It all smacks of poor judgment which opens up the debate about organisational dysfunction which we had a few weeks ago. We do need a steadier hand on the tiller working with Arteta . I’m happy to consult over Zoom with Vinai for £300 an hour. Mates rates !

  27. 27
    Countryman100 says:

    £300 an hour mates rates indeed. A consulting pathologist would swoon at so little.

    Reminds me of the old story of when New Labour introduced the minimum wage in the late nineties. The Lord Chancellor was Derry Irvine, a mentor of Blair and a very well paid silk. “I don’t understand why people are complaining about three fifty an hour. It’s perfectly adequate, not generous, but adequate”. “Derry that’s three pounds fifty an hour …..”

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath@23: I think you are harsh on the Saliba situation. It has not been handled optimally, but I would argue that is as much ill-luck as poor management. We are talking about a 19-year old with fewer than 25 Ligue 1 starts under his belt. On loan last season, he missed more league games through injury than he played.

    As you suggest, we will either develop him into a world-class player or likely recoup our investment. Plus he is on £25,000 a week, thus not an Ozil-like chair weighing on the wage bill. I only hope he doesn’t become another Kelechi Nwakali. The winner of the 2015 U-17 World Cup Golden Boot was meant to be our No 10 of the future, but somehow just faded away without ever breaking into the first team.

    No argument over Pepe and Willian. We overpaid by 20-25% for Pepe and he has underdelivered by that and more. The Willian contract reminds one why Arsene Wenger would not give contracts of more than one year to players over 30. Luiz has been a mixed ticket, but probably just about redeemed himself in silverware won. He is out of contract at the end of the season (as are Mustafi and Sokratis). I don’t think he has an extension option as he did last year. So he should be gone by then, too.

    Dr F is right about Woj. A touch of the Arteta-Ozil rutting about that, too, if I recall. Wegner thought him a little bit ill-disciplined. Woj is one of the top keepers in Europe and still only 30.


  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@27: 🙂

  30. 30
    Goonersince54 says:

    Well Saliba has certainly got a challenge on his hands at Nice.
    The Club sacked PV14 at the beginning of December, and have won only 1 game in the entire month since.
    Their record of 6 – 4 – 6 is not dissimilar to ours, but they are clearly not travelling well at the moment.
    They sit just below mid table, so they look as though they are in for a tough 2nd half of the season.
    if he can avoid injury, it could be an interesting 6 months in his progress.
    I for one will be keeping an eye on him.
    On another matter,
    My brother texted me to tell me Holding is being offered a new contract, but the thing that stunned me, was that he told me that on his current deal he is earning less than our butterfingered new back up keeper that we recently signed. !!
    Can that be true. ??

  31. 31
    TTG says:

    I would not be at all surprised if that is true . Holding may be on his original contract or one upgraded shortly after he joined . I think he is a terrific club man and well worth investing in. Had he not suffered his knee injury I think he might be on England’s radar .
    Your reference to Runarsson and the comments by Ned and Dr.F suggest we haven’t been getting good input on goalies for some time . Without disclosing confidences I’m not sure Gerry Peyton was top quality . We were close to signing Pepe Reina a few seasons ago but we had Szczesny and Martinez on the books then .
    As for now ,how we decided on Runarsson I cannot fathom . In our situation this is one area where I would go for experience – maybe Tom Heaton, Romero at United , Fraser Forster or someone like Ben Foster at Watford.
    It is vital we sign someone good to back up Leno with two Cup competitions coming up . Runarsson mustn’t play again

  32. 32
    Goonersince54 says:

    Rob must be on a very low wage then, as i cannot see us paying too much wedge to the new back up keeper.
    To your point about how we ended up buying him, i believe from memory it was on the recommendation of our keeper coach who knew him previously.
    Funny you mention Fraser Forster as an option, as he played for the Saints tonight in his first appearance for a long time due i think to injury.
    In any event he kept a clean sheet as the Saints surprisingly beat Pool 1- 0.

  33. 33
    Osakamatt says:

    10 points off the lead in January,
    3 wins and a draw.
    Same as the 70-71 season then.

    If we really think the executives are
    incompetent and our whole transfer
    and loan policy should be questioned
    then we should have some parameters
    for what exactly is expected. Just picking
    out mistakes on two or three players is
    unfair as we make about 10-15 decisions
    on the 1st team squad a year. Recruitment
    and retention are difficult to get right as
    people are not machines and there are many
    factors which may influence a situation where
    people performance is the key factor.
    Personally I think getting more than
    half right is acceptable and getting
    towards 75% is excellent.
    In the case of Pepe, if as I’ve seen
    suggested financial shenanigans were
    involved, we should have called in the
    police and handed over the evidence.
    At the moment that would be my only
    question about the fitness of our
    executives for their current jobs.
    Have we got some wrong? Yes, of
    course we have. We’ve got some
    right (on current evidence) too.
    At this moment I’d be handing out
    a C+ for the last two seasons just
    in terms of recruitment but
    of course it’s a fluid situation and
    that could go up or down by May
    depending on outcomes in terms
    of performance and results.

  34. 34
    North Bank Ned says:

    It isn’t easy to get categorical numbers for the obvious reasons. The widely used sources suggest that Rob Holding is still on his 2016 base contract rate of £25,000 a week. Alex Runarsson signed for £40,000 a week, which is double what Emi Martinez was getting. Those numbers do not include bonuses or incentives. I have seen reports of Rob being as high as £65,000 a week, which I doubt, and Runarsson as low as £15,000, which I also doubt, though on the League Cup performances you could argue that would be overpaying him.

  35. 35
    TTG says:

    Very fair points OM
    From memory our last four windows saw us recruit
    Dennis Suarez- disaster
    Saliba – no way of knowing yet but handling looks very odd
    Martinelli – triumph
    Ceballos – I’m pretty positive but not everyone shares my view
    Luiz- good in parts but not sure about his influence
    Tierney – triumph
    Pepe – wildly overpaid
    Mari- impressed so far
    Soares – not desperately impressed
    Gabriel – triumph
    Willian – shaping to be a disaster
    Partey – likely to prove a triumph
    Runarsson- utter disaster but a cheap one
    ( Ceballos – less good this season but I’m optimistic)
    We sold Iwobi and Bielik for good fees and lost 17 from the squad in the 2019 close season . Lost Ramsey on a free
    We sold possibly the best goalie in the PL for £17m but we needed the money because we wasted it on Pepe, Willian, Luiz etc . Failed to find cash buyers for Ozil, Guendouzi, Mkhitaryan, Sokratis , Mustafi, Torreira , Mavropanos ( some loans achieved ) Two players kicking their heels costing £450 k a week ( £20 m a year) .
    So it’s a mixed bag. I’m not impressed by Edu but he was left a dogs breakfast by Sanllehi. Your C+ looks about right Matt but my Dad gave me a clip round the ear with marks like that😀
    Big plus at the club is development of Saka, ESR and Martinelli with several tyros coming through behind them. But we may lose Balogun on a free

  36. 36
    Osakamatt says:

    looks a fair summary to me TTG,
    and pretty much what you’d expect.For
    every Martinelli there’s Suarez.
    I suppose we could include new contracts
    as well – eg getting Saka to extend is
    working out well, Auba not so much 😉
    The failure to move players on looks
    the biggest minus at the moment.
    I suppose I should clarify I fully expect
    Auba to be scoring again soon

  37. 37
    TTG says:

    Re Auba
    Me too
    There would have been uproar if we hadn’t got him to sign on in the summer . Lots of wise after the event people in the Goonerverse !

  38. 38
    Cynic says:

    Of the keepers mentioned above, Fraser Forster is probably a better keeper than Leno, who I will always think of as dodgy, but he’s pretty dreadful with his feet, which would rule him out even as a backup?

  39. 39
    TTG says:

    Good point – the big goalie link is with the QPR goalkeeper Dieng . I spoke to my mate who is a QPR season ticket holder and though his knowledge is all based on watching on telly he tells me he is big, very good with hands and feet but very inexperienced. He has only played 20 games for QPR but was with Doncaster last season. That’s too much of a punt in my view. If Heaton is fit he would be a terrific back-up and using keepers in Cup games you can give them regular action ( if you stay in the Cup!) I assume Arteta won’t trust Runarsson against Newcastle.

  40. 40
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@35: Good summary. You can have an A for that.

    I know Matt Macey wants to leave to play regularly, but I never understood why he wasn’t made the No 2 when Emi left, with perhaps Karl Hein joining the first team squad permanently as the No 3. It would have been one thing bringing in a proven, older keeper as Leno’s back-up. But I don’t see that buying a young, inexperienced keeper like Alex Runarsson made much sense, especially as I don’t think anyone sees him as Leno’s long-term successor.

  41. 41
    TTG says:

    I totally agree
    I’ve seen Macey and he is a proper goalkeeper. Sadly I’m not sure Runarsson is

  42. 42
    TTG says:

    RIP Colin Bell
    A terrific player

  43. 43
    bathgooner says:

    Very sad news.

    A very classy player.

    Taken far too young.


  44. 44
    North Bank Ned says:

    Colin Bell was a great player. Probably the finest midfielder of his generation. Grace personified on pitches that would be declared unfit for play today. RIP.

  45. 45
    Esso says:

    Fucking ecstatic if there’s anything in this;

  46. 46
    TTG says:

    If he goes now and has no ‘ loyalty ‘ bonuses this would save us £8 million plus
    Let us hope it’s true

  47. 47
    TTG says:

    There are various stories that we are close to offloading Sokratis and possibly Mustafi.
    If we get rid of both of them and Ozil , added to Saliba going to Nice we would take about £13 million off our wage bill. If we were to lose Chambers ( even on a free ) and maybe Nelson on loan we might add another £2 million to that .
    This might give us a very good shot at signing someone in midfield either on loan or permanently and hopefully a back-up keeper

  48. 48
    Steve T says:

    Let’s hope so Esso. Then if we get the opportunity to get shot of some more of the deadwood then happy days indeed.

    Fingers crossed.

  49. 49
    North Bank Ned says:

    You might be able to throw Joe Willock’s wages into the pot, too, TTG, if there is anything to the rumour that we are considering swapping him and/or Nelson for Norwich winger Emi Buendia, although I suspect neither of them would be ecstatic about dropping down a division and losing both of them for the Argentine would be rich price.

    The DC United rumour has surfaced before. From Ozil’s perspective, moving to the US would be the best thing he could do for his M10 esports business.

  50. 50
    Doctor Faustus says:

    I am assuming many of you will have some memories of him?

  51. 51
    TTG says:

    Yes- not great ones Dr.F !

  52. 52
    Cynic says:

    Apparently part of the bait for the Ozil deal is that they’re going to sell his coffee brand inside the stadium. That just about sums him up as a footballer.

  53. 53
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks TTG. 🙂 Yes I get that he wasn’t really a footballing success at the very top level. But playing for both Liverpool and Arsenal is an achievement by itself.

    Reading the story I have a lot of admiration for his father.

  54. 54
    Osakamatt says:

    that Millwall team with Sheringham
    and Cascarino was perfect for
    Carter – two target men to aim at.
    He was never as effective for us

  55. 55
    Osakamatt says:

    Share your hope that we will
    shift Mus, Papa and Ozil. Just
    wondering why we would lose
    Calum on a free?

  56. 56
    Esso says:

    Remember seeing Jimmy Carter play for Millwall at Arsenal – FA CUP tie 1988 from memory. Events off the pitch that day perhaps more attention seeking than the on-field action?

    Seems the Ozil MLS thing is bollox. If there was anything to it, merely for him to negotiate a contract before going on a free in the summer.

  57. 57
    Osakamatt says:

    reports that Athletico don’t want
    Torreira. Not sure why managers
    don’t seem to want him, he really
    isn’t that bad to me, yet they keep
    playing Xhaka.

  58. 58
    Esso says:

    Now saying Ozil off to Turkey, we pay rest of his wages for this season?

    Is this any good for us? And believe it when I see it.

  59. 59
    Cynic says:

    If it gets him out of the door, it’s good for us. It gets him away from the training ground and hopefully the rest of his little fan club (if one really exists in the squad) is going as well.

    It will be like having a boil lanced.

    On your arse(nal)

  60. 60
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@55: Calum Chambers’s contract runs out in June, so his resale value is minimal. If he is now surplus to requirements, might as well ship him out this window on a free and save £1m+ on the wage bill for the rest of this season, rather than holding out for a couple of million and risk not finding a buyer. If he signs a four-year contract elsewhere at around his current wages, a free would be like a 20% discount for the buying club, making him more marketable.

    Cynic & Esso: The Ozil to Turkey and Ozil to MLS rumours get recycled like stale air on a long flight. I won’t believe he has gone until he has gone.

  61. 61
    Cynic says:

    Supposedly having a house built next door to the President.

  62. 62
    Osakamatt says:

    Thanks Ned. I hadn’t realised we
    were letting his contract run out
    and thought he’d signed an extension.
    But I guess that must have been a
    couple of years ago now – time flies.
    Pity, I’d always thought there might
    be a decent player there but another
    who got injured too often to tell in the

  63. 63
    Goonersince54 says:

    Well talk about quick. !!
    Saliba played the full 90 minutes tonight in Nice’s 2 nil loss in League 1 away at Brest.
    Reports are he had a mixed debut, well what do they expect having only been at the Club 5 minutes. !!
    Given Nice are not a very good team, he is going to get plenty of defensive work over the next 5 months, which will be a good test of his mental and physical capabilities.

  64. 64
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@62: My bad (monks being chastised as you read this!). You are right. He signed a four-year contract extension in 2018 which takes him to June next year, not this. If anything, that makes a case for letting him go on a free in January more compelling as the club would save £3.6 million in wages over the 18 months. His market value is much closer to £3million-6 million than the £10 million-plus often quoted.

    You are also probably right that injury has blighted his career. At 25 he is still young enough to establish himself as a Premier League defender, but not as a starter with one of the top teams.

  65. 65
    North Bank Ned says:

    Brest v Nice highlights:

    Not a lot of Saliba, although those long legs of his kept a Brest forward onside for the first goal.

    Clive is right that Nice are not very good.

    Worth watching for an eccentric bit of playing out from the back by the Brest goalkeeper.

  66. 66
    Osakamatt says:

    Even the holy brethren make
    mistakes 😉
    I see your point on letting Calum
    go now, certainly from a finance
    PoV. But letting three right-hand
    side CBs go in one window might
    be a bit risky football wise.
    I guess Papa is first and then one
    of Mus or Calum. I’d prefer Mus to
    go but he seems to be ahead of
    Calum in MA’s thinking. That’s just
    a guess based on Mus being on the
    bench in front of Calum in recent

  67. 67
    Osakamatt says:

    I suppose in the end it will simply
    depend on the market and who
    we can move on. I wouldn’t have
    guessed Rob as the one to come
    through that group a year ago.
    I wonder what I’m guessing wrong

  68. 68
    Osakamatt says:

    Perhaps Runar will be our first
    choice keeper😃

  69. 69
    Osakamatt says:

    Cedric Mus Luiz Kola
    Guen, Xhaka
    Nelson, Torreira, Pepe

    Our first team in Jan 2022 if all
    my guesses are wrong and the
    loanees return in triumph

  70. 70
    Osakamatt says:

    that team would still be mid-table

  71. 71
    TTG says:

    Quite right Matt
    But in the Championship! 😃

  72. 72
    OsakaMatt says:

    Surely not 🙂

    We are apparently signing a young CB from Hertha Berlin
    shortly but not for the 1st team I guess.
    I also saw the Joe W story – he is generally in the match day squad so
    personally I wouldn’t loan him out just now. Maybe in the summer would
    be better, Reiss Nelson seems the better bet for a loan now.

  73. 73
    Cynic says:

    Looks like Balogun is going but it’s hard to be sad about a guy who’s never had a chance to show his potential in the first team. I’d rather keep him and sell Nketiah on that alone, as we’ve seen enough of Nketiah to form an opinion and, in my humble, he’s not exactly going to be a prolific scorer in the top league.

  74. 74
    North Bank Ned says:

    Turkish reports say Ozil has signed for Fenerbahçe on a three and a half year deal. Arsenal will continue to pay him for the rest of this season, but he then Fenerbahçe picks up the tab, which will drop to 5 million euros a season (£87,000 a week) with a 2.9 million euro signing-on fee. As ever, I will believe all this when it is officially announced.

    Would be sorry to see Balogun going. He looks like a top prospect and well suited for Premier League football. Nketish will get goals a plenty in the league, but I suspect most of them not for us. He will flourish in a team where the striker is deployed as a fox-in-the-box not as on old-fashioned inside forward.

  75. 75
    TTG says:

    Presumably he loses his £8.5 million loyalty bonus ? That’s the only financial saving to us . We are paying him a fortune to play for someone else ! What a farce ! Thankyou Ivan Gazidis for saddling us with that inspired deal .
    The boy Rekik has been a first-teamer with Hertha and is a full international with Tunisia who are decent so he can’t be too far away from first- team level. We signed Martinelli on a similar basis and he got into the first team very quickly . He’s only a year younge4 than Saliba but Saliba is 54 times more expensive!

  76. 76
    TTG says:

    Balogun is signing for a foreign elite club ‘ for a minimal fee’.
    He could have gone to Brentford or Sheffield United in the summer for £8million.
    Anyone else losing confidence in Edu? The only fee he has got for anybody was Emi Martinez who we shouldn’t have sold anyway and arguably was sold too cheaply .
    Come back David Dein please

  77. 77
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@75: There is nothing in the Turkish report I read about a loyalty bonus. Reading between the lines of Arteta’s press conference, his comments on Ozil suggest some sort of deal is close but not all the ‘I’s have been dotted and the ‘T’s crossed. The loyalty bonus may be one of them. The Turkish report also detailed what DC United of the MLS were offering. If I were Ozil, I would have found those terms far more attractive as the basis of a post-playing career. More twists in this saga to come, I suspect, with the only certainty being that one way or another we will be paying out the remainder of his contract in full.

    I found this comment by Arteta on Balogun concerning: You need three parties to make a deal. For sure, the club wants to make a deal, the manager wants to make a deal, the player wants to stay and I’m not sure about the agent. I, for one, wouldn’t be happy if we lost a top prospect because an agent was looking to line his own pocket.

    Arteta was also very positive about Saliba, saying he had made good progress, had gone to Nice for playing time and would be back for pre-season training in the summer.

  78. 78
    bt8 says:

    The apparent good news excerpt from the dot.con:

    “Thomas is now back in full training with the squad after recovering from an injury to his left thigh. Thomas will continue to work hard to establish match fitness after being out of action for a month. He will be assessed regarding his availability ahead of Saturday’s match.”

    Time to get back to steamrolling the oppo.

  79. 79
  80. 80
    Cynic says:

    We’ve taken a £120m Covid loan from the government. Oh dear.

  81. 81
    Countryman100 says:

    As trailed above by OsakaMatt

  82. 82
    TTG says:

    Why the long face ?
    We are about to sign Mbappe obviously ! 😀

  83. 83
    Cynic says:

    I don’t think any Premier League club should be taking a loan like that, even though it has to be paid back in under six months, when every club in the league should have more than enough to cope. That’s if they weren’t bunging tons of cash into the pockets of players and agents of course and treating (in our case) hundreds of millions as essentially burned money.

    I think any club going cap in hand to the govt should have such a stringent set of conditions placed on the loan that none of them would want the money in the first place.

    I’d say that whoever it was, from top to bottom of the Premier League.

  84. 84
    bathgooner says:

    With that quick turnaround Cynic, I’m guessing it’s about cash flow. Although our executives have demonstrated fiscal incompetence over the last several years, I sincerely hope that the new team have their eye on the balance sheet. Clearly with several high value contracts coming to an end in June and feverish activity to offload some ‘dead wood’ this month, our finances have to improve next summer, provided we don’t have another spasm of incautious purchasing.

  85. 85
    Osakamatt says:

    Seems better than laying off more
    staff to reduce short-term outgoings
    if your business model is basically

  86. 86
    North Bank Ned says:

    Under the Bank of England Covid Corporate Financing Facility, the club will issue commercial paper (unsecured, short-term debt instruments) that the Bank will buy for cash at a discount. Issuing commercial paper is a common way for companies to meet short-term liabilities such as payroll and the bills they have to pay. It is typically a cheaper way to borrow to cover short-term cash flow needs than going to a commercial bank for a line of credit or overdraft, and companies can usually roll it over when it comes due. The neighbours borrowed £175 million at an interest rate of 0.5% last year using the Bank of England’s facility.

  87. 87
  88. 88
    TTG says:

    I don’t blame Macey for leaving and I wish him well. If you’re behind a goalkeeper as awful as Runarrson you have no prospects .I thought he was a decent keeper not a pub team keeper like the Icelandic lad. I strongly believe we will sign another keeper in January. I think this makes it more not less likely . .it better have!

  89. 89
    bathgooner says:

    Macey clearly felt he had to leave to progress. Good luck to him. Hibs are a club on the ascendancy at the moment. The keeper situation at The Arsenal needs to be sorted out. Never has the truism that you get what you pay for been more apt with regard to our current backup.

    Are the rumours about Özil finally being in the departure lounge rather than chained to the railings true?

  90. 90
    Bathgooner says: