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Tonight we beat Chelsea in the league for the second time this season. I think that is something to be pleased with!

And yet, I’ve gotta say that it hurts how little that actually matters…

When the fixture list came out, perhaps a few of us looked at this game, so close to the end of the season, and wondered what might be riding on it? The answer is not a lot. Chelsea themselves still look good for 4th place and guaranteed Champions League football. They also have the FA Cup final and the Champions League Final to look towards.

We have an outside chance of playing in a new European Competition that is for teams who have not proven themselves good enough for the Europa League *cue Mr. Burns-style shudder*

However, results against lesser lights have been our downfall in a season when we have been the masters of our own mediocrity.

The funny thing is that after Jorginho gifted us a goal I actually felt quite confident we would win. Or at least I think I did – perhaps I just did not care very much if we lost?

The Portuguese made an awful backpass that Kepa just managed to paw off the line. However, it went to Auba who squared for ESR to bobble one in. The SKY team were desperate to give Andre Marriner credit for not giving an indirect free kick for a backpass. I am no expert, but Kepa looked well within his rights to make a goal-line save, and if that was what was the backpass rule was meant to prevent then I’ll drink a beer.

*two minute pause*

Well, perhaps that was what the backpass rule was meant to prevent, as I am bravely drinking a penance beer.

Apart from being given a goal, we were not great (although I should point out that our high-press was effective in forcing an error, even if we were fortunate that it was such a calamitous one). Saka was out of the game as a right wing back. Holding, Mari and Gabriel played in a three at the back with KT on the left. Elneny and Partey played central. Auba floated about ineffectively up top (no service and he does nothing if you don’t feed him) with ESR and Odegaard behind him on the left and right, respectively. It was a bit of a mishmash of a team and a formation, and perhaps it was a judgement on the players in our current squad that the manager felt it was his best option. Or perhaps it was just a shot in the dark to try to get a performance from us?

Who knows?

At this point in the season it is hard to suggest that we have any revelations about the team heading our way.

So, what else did we learn, if anything?

Partey needs a proper partner before we judge him, but he has not convinced anyone yet… Apart from me. He has convinced me that, whatever aspirations he has to play further forward, he should be the deep-lying midfielder. He was harshly given a yellow in injury time when he went down asking for a penalty. That would have been a soft decision, but I thought he might be busting a gut to get a shot away for his first Arsenal goal. Apparently not. He made a great run and then allowed himself to be funnelled safely into the channel. If only the chance had fallen to Elneny – he would have put his foot through it!

Chelsea actually put in a performance quite reminiscent of us this season. They controlled possession, were the better side, created some decent chances, missed those chances, gave away a needless goal, and could not find a way back into the match against a determined side who defended deep.

They were unlucky to hit the bar twice in ten seconds at the end. Apparently, there are some Gooners who do not consider hitting the woodwork twice to be a sign of nearly scoring a goal because these efforts do not count as shots on target. Personally, I do not see it like that, and when Giroud volleyed a lovely effort into the bar after Leno pushed Zouma’s header against it, I thought Chelsea were unlucky not to score. Which made me quite happy.

Then again, early in the game Mari hesitated to step onto a Gabriel pass to allow Havertz (whose face seems to have too much bone but not enough flesh – I bet he is a mean vampire at Halloween) to run through at Leno and, luckily for us, Lacazette his one-on-one chance over the bar. (Bit harsh on Laca, I know, but he has missed a few this year.)

The team in blue also had a goal rightly disallowed for an offside after a ball was flicked on from a corner. Before VAR intervened, the sound system belted out The Fratellis’ ‘Chelsea Dagger’. If only the disallowed goal had been a dagger to their hearts, instead of just a minor frustration in the least important match they will play anytime soon.

Whoever our set-piece coach is he needs to take a long look in the mirror. We do not look secure defending corners. Our own short corners are woeful. Our corner takers consistently take corners that do not provide anyone a chance to attack them. When anyone attacks one of our corners they never seem to have any conviction that they will score. All of which means we score very little from corners. It is such a basic area to improve and the fact that we have a bloke who is supposed to specialise in this rubs salt into the wound. As does the fact that Bellerin cannot take a legal throw-in.

Speaking of Hector, he came on and had a shot on target after our best move of the night before injuring himself as he stretched to clear a lofted ball. Soon after he was replaced by Chambers. Personally, I have no idea who our first choice right-back is, so I wanted Cedric to come on for Chambers, so we got a look at all of them in the same game!

There was a first half moment when Holding blocked a shot after a move that was partly excellent from Chelsea and partly us ball-watching. I am pretty sure he blocked it with his hand but we won this evening’s VAR lottery and no penalty was awarded.

Mikel Arteta was bullish after the game in his interview. He was extremely angry with the way some of his comments in his last presser had been construed, and it is hard not to believe a bloke so visibly furious at stories in the papers that he had thrown any of his players under a bus. Which is fair enough. How would you feel if the national press said that you were like Jose Mourinho?

Yeah. Pretty angry, right?

In such circumstances then well might you, too, look like a human velociraptor as it readies itself to go in for the kill. All eyeballs and tight skin and the menace of hidden incisors.

What? It was only me that got that impression? Nah, you lot are lying.

One thing I think we must take serious note of is how hard our players worked and how much they wanted to win. In a match that will probably prove a dead rubber there can be no doubt that they gave their manager everything tonight, and I think that is another reason to be encouraged ahead of next season. Elneny got MOTM and fair play to him. I also thought ESR worked his balls off.

Right, I have started on a high and ended on a high. As this awful season limps to a close you could not ask me for more than that!

I hope we manage two more wins to end on as much of a high as we can.

Until next time, have a good one, Holics.


And again…the second part of the conversation, and the second part of our Double Celebration!

GHF.com are pleased to release this, especially considering the Arsenal events of these past couple weeks. Lift your spirits by watching the second episode of two video conversations with Bob Wilson and Pat Rice about Arsenal’s 1970-71 Double year, on the 50th Anniversary of our FA Cup win over Liverpool at Wembley. Remember to donate to Willow, or bid on the GHF.com Auction!

Click on the image below (or on the Youtube link below that) to watch

“Episode Two: Double Glory — The 1971 FA Cup Run”

Or, watch here: Episode Two: Double Glory — The 1971 FA Cup Run (on Youtube). This is especially helpful if you’re having any loading issues with the link to the one the site is serving above.

Let us know what you think in the “drinks” section below!


We are also pleased to remind you that our auction of signed 1970-71 Double memorabilia is now open for bids! For full information, please visit The Double/Willow Auction tab above.

Just a taste…the lots offered are as follows:

Lot 1: A 1971 Cup Final replica shirt signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 2: A 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 3: A second 1971 Cup Final programme signed by Bob Wilson, Pat Rice, Frank McLintock, George Graham & Charlie George.

Lot 4: Bob Wilson’s autobiography, ‘Behind the Network’ signed by Bob Wilson & Arsène Wenger.

All proceeds from the auction go to the Willow Foundation.

62 Drinks to “Bus Parked at the Bus Stop”

  1. 1
    North Bank Ned says:

    You deserve a high five for that rapid report, GSD.

  2. 2
    North Bank Ned says:

    I got chevroned out in the previous drinks trying to post this:

    The monks’ back-of-an-envelope calculations are that if we win both our last two games, then, Man City, Man Utd, Leicester and Chelsea finish ahead of us regardless. To do the same, West Ham would need four points from three games, Liverpool four from four, the neighbours five from three (both Liverpool and the neighbours have a superior goal average that we are unlikely to erode unless we run up cricket scores against Palace and Brighton), Everton need seven from four. No one else, including Leeds, Villa and Wolves could catch us. (So a Villa win over Everton on Thursday, please. If we get four points from the final two games, the asks for the other clubs drop by two points and Leeds and Villa are back in the picture. The lowest we can end up is 11th.

  3. 3
    OsakaMatt says:

    Lightning quick even with the beer stop GSD👍
    And the monks working as hard as our team tonight Ned.
    Always nice to beat that lot, could easily have got a whacking with the form they are in but MA got the formation right, credit to him, the players put in the effort, credit to them, and we got a bit of luck, credit to Dennis.

    Last time we played Palace we were on a 3 game winning streak too.
    Hope this one goes better.

  4. 4
    scruzgooner says:

    bottoms up, dino. about where i am at with what we witnessed, absent the beer. i had to work 🙂

    ned, if everything goes by your points totals -1 for each of west ham, liverpool, scum, and everton, and we win out, we’re 5th? or am i misunderstanding what the monks are calculating? if that’s europa league, well, i think i might take that…

    and matt, hush your stuff about palace. if we can’t stuff them then to hell with europe, we might not make top half of the table.

    i was particularly impressed by our defending. if we learn to park the bus like that against our betters, we might actually be able to rise up the table next year. of course, that would also mean we’ve figured out how to beat that sort of thing from our lessers.

  5. 5
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  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    If ye want the vowels it’ll cost ye

  12. 12
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Fuck it bt8.

  13. 13
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    What will it cost me?

  14. 14
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I’ve got nuthin to offer this blog that I won’t offer to my team.

  15. 15
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Tears, hope, joy, love and all my vocal chords have to offer!

  16. 16
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I miss Chris.
    And his big TV.

    And cba.
    And his big self.

  17. 17
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Remember Delia?

    Where are ya?

  18. 18
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Behind the scenes what is going on?

    Who is responsible for the centuries in the drinks?

  19. 19
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    cba tribute bands?

  20. 20
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Who posts here?

  21. 21
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Who is holier than thou?

  22. 22
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Who is just people who care?

  23. 23
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Ain’t that enough?

  24. 24
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Can we come together as fans?

    What do I know?

  25. 25
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Pay me no mind. I’m just a fool who chats shit.

  26. 26
    bt8 says:

    Surprisingly enough there is no “i” but that’s the end of yer free hints GSD.

    How many goals did the Chavs get off us?

    Great report by the way. 🙂

  27. 27
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:


    Lemme have a swally o’ yours.

    Someone has to keep the light burning. I know I’d not be your first choice.

    But there is a nice irony in someone you’d have told not to live in their own arse pointing out to others that there are other places to live.

  28. 28
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    This place is the mutts.

  29. 29
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    And it is what it is.

    And that’s okay.

    Personally, I love it.

  30. 30
    North Bank Ned says:

    Scruz, even if we win our last two games, West Ham, Liverpool, the neighbours and Everton can all still end up with more points than us.

    Assuming we get six more points off Palace and Brighton, to end up above any or all of those four, we need:

    West Ham to lose at least two of their last three (Brighton, WBA and Southampton) or draw all three; then we would be level on points but should have a superior goal difference;

    Liverpool to lose three of their last four (v Man U, WBA, Burnely and Palace);

    The neighbours to lose one and at least draw another of their last three (v Wolves, Villa and Leicester); and

    Everton to lose at least two of their last four or lose one and draw the other three (v Aston Villa, Sheffield Utd, Wolves and Man City) which would leave us level on points but with a superior goal difference.

    We need all four of those sets of results to happen if we are to end up fifth, three for sixth and two for seventh.

  31. 31
    North Bank Ned says:

    Which is probably as clear as bt8’s well-laundered bed textiles or GSD channelling his inner cba.

  32. 32
    Noosa Gooner says:

    I still don’t understand how my man Willian didn’t get a look in.

  33. 33
    OsakaMatt says:

    Be nice to finish above the spuds of course

  34. 34
    OsakaMatt says:

    Be nice to finish above the spuds of course, could certainly see them losing to Leicester and drawing with Wolves or Villa.

  35. 35
    OsakaMatt says:

    That’s what I meant to say before I pressed the submit button too soon

  36. 36
    ATG says:

    Great match review GSD! Thank you, it would be nice to finish the season on the high above those c*nts up the road!

  37. 37
    TTG says:

    A very fair summary GSD with great philosophical insight and a killer Havertz observation – which was that Havertz be one of the undead. I think he’s a vampire permanently not just at Halloween . He’s much happier playing in night matches .
    Funny old bar this . We’ve been underwhelming all season , can’t beat Fulham, Burnley and Wolves at home and then we go to the potential European cHamptons on their own ground and beat them and people are unhappy because we didn’t dominate possession. Nobody dominates possession against a side that good. Citeh have just lost twice to them We had a bit of luck and Andre Marriner played on when Mike Dean would have given us an indirect free kick in the six yard box.
    ESR and Elneny were the pick . I agreed with your comments on Partey today , he needs a dynamic , assertive partner and Auba is not good at holding the ball up so you can’t build off him . And your point about set pieces is bang on . If that’s all the fellow does he needs to rethink his life .
    Good work GSD

  38. 38
    OsakaMatt says:

    We just didn’t need his stunning last minute free kick in this one.

  39. 39
    Countryman100 says:

    Many thanks GSD for a very rapid and stylistically pleasing report. I have to say I enjoyed that game. Must be the old George Graham Gooner in me. Credit to the team for a really gritty performance. I thought Rob Holding was terrific last night, putting his body in the way of the ball. Saka at right back should not be repeated. And, coincidence or not, our PL form since Boxing Day , when ESR came into the team, is the third best in the league, behind only the two Manchester clubs.

  40. 40
    OsakaMatt says:

    I suppose people will say we had a bit of luck as they hit the woodwork twice but the first one was an excellent save by Leno so no luck there, and Giroud has been missing those for years for the second one, so not luck just the law of averages.
    Now us hitting the woodwork twice against Villarreal, that was definitely bad luck.

  41. 41
    Bathgooner says:

    Thanks GSD for a speedy and entertaining report. A bit of luck, a well taken opportunity and a gutsy defensive performance. It was very much on the model of our performances a year ago that won us the FA Cup.

    That unexpected throw-back performance crystallised a few thoughts for me. We do have some decent defenders when they aren’t being exposed by absent midfielders. Saka CAN play RB but he has 4 better positions – why play him there when we have three RB’s on the bench? What did Cedric do, say or not do? Partey isn’t the player he was cracked up to be but he does provide a rock for our midfield to be built round. ESR is way better than Odegaard who does complement our MF but not for the price Real will ask. Auba needs service and his irritated demeanour on coming off may indicate that his patience is running out.

    Thanks Ned for the details of who we need to do what for us to finish in a semi respectable position. Sadly there are too many variables for that to happen imho.

  42. 42
    ksn says:

    In the previous drinks, I said we were shit on the night because of the way we played. We were ten behind the ball and defending deep in our own half for much of the game. We couldn’t get he ball off them and when did we couldn’t keep it let alone get into their half and pressure their goal. It reminded me of the way Bolton, WBA etc used to set up and play against us in the good old days. A team that prided itself on being a top four side till recently, could not even get out of its own half for much of the game could, I thought, be described as being shit. No disrespect to the club or anyone here; it was just our performance on the night.
    But the day after brings new perspective and I think the manager set the team up to play that way and the players did an exceptional job to nick a goal and hang on to the lead for nearly eighty minutes. It is great to beat Chelsea twice in a season so I am happy.

  43. 43
    Uplympian says:

    Excellent report GSD along with impressive speed – you hit exactly the right tone with it.
    We’ve had several matches this season where we have dominated the proceedings but lost to a stupid defensive error and bad luck at the opposite end of the pitch so I’ll take it going our way every time – enjoyably enhanced as it was at the Chav’s expense. The whole team put in a shift and it showed in the result.
    The team formation of 3-4-1-2 was very effective as it stifled the game plan of Tuchel though like others have already said, the selection of Saka at RB was odd when we already had 3 RBs available to play. Bakery has looked tired & he looked a little below par yesterday evening – it was a good decision to sub him, nothing to gain by playing below par.
    As Bath alludes to above, what has happened to Cedric who is a capable back up at both FB spots. It appears when a player falls out of favour with MA for whatever reason, they become persona non grata with Arteta – Reiss Nelson is another example.
    It’s been an up & down season for us ( more down than up ) but let’s see 2 good performances and 6 points for the remaining matches.

  44. 44
    ksn says:

    Thanks GSD for a quick and fun review. Chuckled a few times. Jorginho is a Brazilian (of Portuguese descent) who plays for Italy. So he could rightly be said to be Portuguese, Brazilian or Italian, I guess.
    I too hope we win the next two game and others around us, especially the swamp dwellers have a terrible run so we qualify for Europe and if not at least finish above the neighbours.

  45. 45
    ClockEndRider says:


  46. 46
    Trev says:

    Nice one, GSD !

    I’m not sure I understood your stance on the Kepa saving of Jorginho’s back pass but here’s mine – Jorgin-oh ! played a back pass that was about to roll hilariously into the Chavs net when Kepa dived to handball it out again. That clearly denied a goal scoring opportunity and following a deliberate back pass was handball by the keeper. Deliberate handball to deny a goal scoring opportunity is a red card offence – ask Leno. Does the fact that we subsequently retrieved the ball and scored wipe out the offence ?

  47. 47
    North Bank Ned says:

    Law 12 says it an offence if the ball ‘has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate’. Jorginho clearly did not kick it to his goalkeeper, whatever his intention.

    For what it is worth, the original intention of the back-pass rule when it was introduced in 1992 was to stop timewasting.

  48. 48
    North Bank Ned says:

    The other thing about the goal that has not been picked up on is ESR’s early movement to put himself in a good position for Auba to pick him out. He showed the awareness and anticipation that marks out top-class players.

  49. 49
    Osakamatt says:

    Thanks Ned, I was wondering
    about that. So the ref wasn’t
    playing an advantage then.

  50. 50
    bt8 says:

    Re: 48. It is also significant that ESR has scored twice in a week. A sign of increasing confidence and influence, not to mention Spud-crushing potential.

  51. 51
    TTG says:

    Some themes are emerging in relation to Arteta .
    1) he appears to take seriously against players eg , Cedric and Nelson
    2) his default style of football appears to be back foot rather than front foot as Bath illustrates in relation to our Cup success last year
    3) he likes his team to play out from the back and take risk in passing the ball. But his teams don’t okay adventurous passes near the opposition goal in case they lose possession. I think I read we play the fourth highest number of backward passes in the league.
    3) he does like to tweak a formation . We rarely play the same style/ formation twice in succession
    This latter point is a little bit of an affectation. If your squad is uneven in quality it means your performances are likely to be uneven . Quite often ( notably Villareal away when we played a false 9 ) the squad look confused about what is expected .
    In terms of next season I agree again with Bath . Odegaard isn’t worth £50 million if you already have ESR and have Azeez coning through .
    Lastly we ought to find a consistent role for Saka . The kid is brilliant but we need to use him more regularly in a particular role rather than switching him all over the place. I’d use him in wide left midfield to dovetail with Tierney and play Pepe on the right and ESR at 10. I’m not sure if we have the right central striker to play that role in a 4-2-3-1 formation .
    For example the lad at Brentford, Toney, has scored 31 goals this season after a stellar season with Peterborough . We need to identify top talents early which means gambling on potential if we are to develop a sustainable model .

  52. 52
    TTG says:

    I repeated 3) twice ( because I thought of another point and didn’t relabel ) .So the second 3 should be 4 !

  53. 53
    Bathgooner says:

    Trev, I like your thinking @46. I don’t think the ref played advantage as it all happened too quickly for his small brain to process otherwise he would have blown for a foul on the 6 yard line to make it virtually impossible for us to score.

    As Ned points out, ESR’s positioning was superb as Auba’s angle for a successsful shot was, if not quite Kanu-esque in its challenge (what a goal that was!), bloody difficult.

    Agree on Saka, TTG. However as with many before him, his versatility is his strength. I would like to see him in a fluid forward position next season, interchanging with ESR and Pepe alongside Auba or a mobile striker who can hold up the ball – is Balogun that man? I haven’t seen nearly enough of him to say.

  54. 54
    Trev says:

    Ned, yes I did notice ESR’s movement for the goal – pulled back perfectly so that Auba could reach him with the pass.
    Re the pass back – Jorginho clearly intended to pass back to the keeper as he played it right to the centre of the goal where he would expect the keeper to be. Kepa just happened to have gone walkabout and had to scramble back leaving him with handball as his only option. Personally I don’t think the referee twigged it but in the event a goal was better than a penalty anyway.

  55. 55
    bt8 says:

    Villa to give our cause a small boost with an Everton killing tonight and a Spud killing a week on?

  56. 56
    ksn says:

    Villa and Everton play out a goalless draw.

  57. 57
    TTG says:

    Extraordinary that when United get their next penalty it will be the 40th that they have received in the last two seasons . Ned will know how far that puts them ahead of the pack in this country . Assuming that is about 120 games they get a penalty every 3 games . I suspect we have had about 7 this season which is one about every 8 games . That’s a huge advantage

  58. 58
    Cynic says:

    Martinez had another blinder I’ve heard (I was out and missed both games tonight).

    I’m still baffled as to why we sold the fella in preference for Leno, especially as his distribution is so good and Arteta is obsessed with playing out from the back. Leno reminds me of a keeper my local non league side had, whose terrible kicking once resulted in an exasperated cry of, “Try kicking it at the fucking conifers and you might land it on the pitch” from someone who may or may not be typing this particular drink.

    OK Leno is not THAT bad at kicking the ball but his distribution is weak, both in accuracy of passing and decision making on exactly which tightly marked defender to pass it to.

    And then we have the rumours of him wanting a move, which were floating around before Christmas and are back in the mill now. Thanks for committing once you’ve got rid of your rival, Bernd…

  59. 59
    North Bank Ned says:

    Law 12 makes no allowance for a defender mis-kicking a pass intended to go back to his keeper. All the wording that a referee has to go on is

    An indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area, commits any of the following offences:

    controls the ball with the hand/arm for more than six seconds before releasing it

    touches the ball with the hand/arm after releasing it and before it has touched another player

    touches the ball with the hand/arm, unless the goalkeeper has clearly kicked or attempted to kick the ball to release it into play, after:

    it has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate

    receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate

    Make of that what you will.

  60. 60
    Osakamatt says:

    A number of interesting points TTG
    Though I thought at least seven rather
    than three or four 😃
    I think the table doesn’t really lie
    and we are currently among the
    also ran 6th to 10th range with a
    solid defence (3rd best) and a
    misfiring attack (8th or 9th).
    The improvements in defence are
    a positive this season and exactly what
    MA said was his priority. To me
    the themes emerging are that
    1) MA does what he says
    2) there is always a plan even
    if it sometimes doesn’t work
    3) he has been hugely influenced
    by Pep rather than AW – tweak,
    tweak, tweak, control freakery
    4) he is trying to do it at a club
    that doesn’t have the financial
    clout that Pep’s clubs have had

    Next season I hope to see better
    passing and finishing, which are
    things we can work in pre season
    (and midweek if we are fortunate
    enough to avoid the 3rd tier
    european competition)

  61. 61
    Noosa Gooner says:

    I like Leno but if he goes I have no problem with Mat Ryan as #1. He is an excellent keeper.

  62. 62
    scruzgooner says: