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I eagerly volunteered for this match report because I was hopeful of getting a ticket in the ballot and returning to the ground for the first time since March 2020. I wanted to write about the pub beforehand, how the organisation of getting into the ground worked and the protest outside as well as the game itself. Sadly it was not to be and I ended up on Sky Sports Arena listening to a lugubrious Scot with an agenda against Arsenal together with a commentator who had a PhD in stating the bleeding obvious. One thing I will not miss is watching every game on TV and I have every sympathy with those of you who have no other way of following The Arsenal. 

Josh Kroenke decided to grace the game with his presence, as well as turn up at the training ground to speak to the players and staff (haven’t they suffered enough in this awful season?). Periodically through the game you could hear anti Kroenke chants and there was a small protest outside with maybe 200 good folk according to Twitter, but in all honesty it was far smaller than last time and not a patch on what’s going on at Old Trafford. It feels like the initial momentum has gone, but the grumbles will continue for some time. There was lots of moaning on social media about a technology failure (ability to read tickets on phones and e-wallets) making it a bit shambolic getting into the ground with long delays.

The match situation was well explained by Ned in his excellent preview. Brighton were safe, come what may. Arsenal needed to win, and Everton and Spurs to lose, to gain seventh place, St Totteringham and the debateable trophy of participation in the new Europa Conference League. 

Time for team news:

Leno, Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Xhaka, Partey, Pépé, Ǿdegaard, ESR, Aubamayang.

Subs: Runarsson, Saka, Ceballos, Lacazette, Cédric, Marí, Elneny, Nketiah, Martinelli

The fans sounded right behind the team as they ran out (although Sky did their best to miss this moment). As the game developed it was fantastic to hear the 10,000 fans chanting and singing again. Truly football does not really exist with no fans. Let’s hope this is now realised and some fan friendly policies are introduced.

In the opening half an hour, there was some good lively stuff from the Gunners with ESR, KT3 and Ǿdegaard showing well. Thomas Partey was shooting frequently and shooting somewhere near the goal – a positive development! A corner saw Holding collect a flick on and force it over the line, but he was (correctly) ruled offside. Just before halftime Xhaka pumped in a clever cross. It was met by Gabriel who put in a clever looping header which hit the bar before being scrambled away for a corner.

HT Arsenal 0-0 Brighton

Some pretty stuff but no cutting edge from the Gunners, with Brighton, though having to defend most of the time, looking dangerous on the break. 

No changes at the break, but three minutes into the second half a quite brilliant goal. A series of slide rule passes from our own penalty area ended up on the right side of Brighton’s box where Calum Chambers hit a first time pass to Pépé. He took one touch and then slammed it in with his right foot. A lovely goal.

Arsenal 1-0 Brighton (Pépé, 48)

Just a few minutes later Auba was put through by Ǿdegaard. He squared it back to the Norwegian who had continued his run. Just as he was about to pull the trigger he was pushed in the back by Lallana and … no penalty. Arguably the worst referee in the Premier League and unarguably the fattest, Jon Moss, had struck again.  

On the hour and it’s that man again! Pépé was played in by Ǿdegaard on the right but there was a lot to do as he had three Brighton defenders around him as he dribbled into the box. Nutmegging one of the defenders he played a precision pass/shot into the far corner of the goal. Wonderful stuff!

Arsenal 2-0 Brighton (Pépé, 60)

Your correspondent has gone on record, to some debate in the bar, in saying that Pépé will be a 20 goal a season player. This year he has scored 16, with 10 in the Premier League and here was more evidence. As he has played more and more, he has looked better and better. Playing Willian ahead of him in the early part of the season now looks like Arteta’s worst selection error of the season and one that may have cost us a European place. Pépé will never be the silkiest player and he can give the ball away easily or miscontrol badly. Yet, he carries an undeniable goal threat and a willingness to push into the box that few others do in this team. I have huge hopes for him next season. 

Thomas Partey came to this game determined to score and he came so close when Xhaka (who had a fine game) laid him in with a pinpoint and fiercely hit pass. Partey controlled the ball and then hit a thunderous volley that crashed into the bar. So unlucky!

That really was that as we played the game out easily. Saka came on for ESR, Laca for Auba and Martinelli for the excellent Ǿdegaard. Will we see him in red and white again? It depends on Real Madrid.

FT Arsenal 2-0 Brighton

In truth and despite the goalless first half, most of our players were very good in this game. The whole back four looked assured, Xhaka and Partey ran midfield. Up front, the excellent Pépé, Ødegaard and ESR looked lively quick and creative. Only Auba, who clearly needs some downtime and further treatment for malaria, was still wading through sand. 

Meanwhile, Everton were being buried at the Etihad, but with ten minutes to go at the King Power, Sp*rs equalised against Leicester. Our attention was rather diverted from our game as we prayed for the lady of St Totteringham to make an appearance for the first time since 2016. Sadly it was not to be as Sp*rs scored twice more to win 4-2 as Leicester collapsed like a soufflé not brought to table quick enough. We had done our bit, but finished eighth and out of the European positions. Since Boxing Day we have been the third best team in the league, but we could not overcome that dismal run in the autumn.

Many Gooners, whilst wanting us to finish above Sp*rs were more ambiguous about going into the new third tier Euro competition. There are both pros and cons. Not having constant mid-week football for a season can allow us to concentrate on a real effort in the league and the domestic cups. On the other hand we damage our European coefficient (which may prove important) and lose an opportunity to blood our young talent in Europe. For myself, I regret the opportunity missed, but it is what it is, and we must make the best of it. 

We’ll be having much more analysis of this season’s performance in this blog over the next few weeks. In the meantime I am very encouraged by our good finish and the spine of top talent we have. A good summer and we may be competitive again next season. And, most of all, those of us who are lucky enough to have tickets will be watching our football live again. I, for one, can’t wait.

140 Drinks to “Five In A Row But St Totteringham Misses Her Cue”

  1. 1
    North Bank Ned says:

    Top match report, C100. We saw the same game. Not a word to disagree with.

  2. 2
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bissouma seems to be being priced out of our reach, with Brighton reportedly asking more than three times market value for him. The Scousers might be ready to pay that, but not a team without any European football to fund it.

  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    Very enjoyable and fair report Countryman. Many thanks, and happy summer. Can’t wait for the new season and hoping it has more of the traditional accoutrements or at least some reasonable facsimiles.

  4. 4
    bt8 says:

    Excellent call on Pepe, but only four more goals than he scored this season? He could get those in one game!

  5. 5
    Countryman100 says:

    Well I think six of his goals were in the Europa. So what I’m hoping is that he scores 16+ in the league, plus 4+ in the domestic cups.

  6. 6
    Pangloss says:

    A very fair report, C100. I don’t have a pay TV subscription so have only MoTD, your and other published reports from which to form an impression of the game; they are all quite consistent. Can anyone shed any light on whether or not the broadcasters are now, and will in the future be using live crowd noise or are they persevering with recorded chanting etc? I do hope it is the former since, a) real crowds are much faster to respond to events as the match continues, and b) it is, admittedly only slightly, harder to doctor genuine crowd noise to fit the broadcasters’ agendas.

    Regarding the season as a whole, I published my success criteria back in September. I stand by them, so must rule it to have been a disappointment.

    My feelings about the likely future remain unchanged, despite constant review; I won’t bore readers by repeating them.

  7. 7
    TTG says:

    Your positivity and optimism have been a tonic during a tough season . It’s impossible to be optimistic or pessimistic about next season at this range . Arteta was a long-term appointment and despite making huge mistakes , especially in the Europa League semi I’m happy for him to carry us into next season . I’d prefer owners I respect , I’d like much more dynamic football at home and I’m yet to decide whether I shall return .
    Can I just check with Pangloss that you didn’t watch a live match last season ? If your football quota is a few minutes on MOTD or MOTD 2 that’s meagre rations .
    Re yesterday I’d point out that unless we get rid of Xhaka who seems to elicit wild praise for being bang average we are stuffed . Bissouma played three times as well as he did yesterday . He played one great pass in the second half . The game lasted ninety minutes. Upgrade please.

  8. 8
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent report Countryman! Looking forward to your reports from the grounds all over England (and maybe even Wales if Swansea manages to get back) next season. 🙂

    I am looking forward to the next season. Mikel will have time to introspect in the summer to make some changes as necessary to his approach to the games, our schedule will allow us to be focused on the league and have more work done on the practice ground, and if we can manage to do the right business in the summer to build on the qualities we already have to create a trimmer, more efficient, and PL ready squad we should be able to fight at the top end of the table.

    I know opinion about Ødegaard is divided here, but yesterday’s performance was another indicator of his quality. He is only 22, he joined us after half a year of rustiness being sidelined by his previous manager (following an excellent season out on loan in Real Sociedad in 19-20), and except for a few matches while returning from the ankle injury never looked out of his depth against any opponent. Two qualities I like a lot about him (in addition to the well-known skills and vision) is his ability to combine well with players of different types and strengths — he has integrated seamlessly with ESR and Saka, and has helped to bring out the best of Pépé — and well honed defensive awareness. Him and ESR are both somewhat similar in that respect, and when they play together they complement each other well but at the same time only one of them can be used too as needed (or forced). I think we can evolve to be a more attack minded team with a 4-3-3 formation in a flat midfield of 3 or Partey, ESR and Ødegaard.

    The failure in the first half of the season has its roots in our pre-season planning when for some inexplicable reason we brought in an aging winger, apparently with the hope that somehow we can transform him at his twilight years into an attacking midfielder, and failing to get a truly creative midfield player. Maybe it was because we were still dealing with a few players high on wages whom we no longer wanted, but that decision alone — and its cascading effect on lesser game times for Pépé and Reiss, depriving us of much needed directness and speed — had contributed a lot to the funk of the first half. With Emile’s introduction on the boxing day match things have started to change and our results in the remaining 23 games is respectable enough to build upon, though performances are not consistently so.

    Defensively we have improved a lot, and I think we conceded the third fewest goals in the league (I could be wrong).

    The entire club set-up has absolutely no excuses left for the next season and a return to CL is a bare minimum.

  9. 9
    Bathgooner says:

    Very much the game I saw, C100.

    Yesterday we saw a better performance than the average we have produced this season and Pépé’s goals (especially the first) were top drawer. I do hope you are right about his future. For a player capable of sublime control, I remain perplexed by his periodic crass ineptitude.

    I thought Xhaka had an excellent match. Not only did he make that defence splitting pass to Partey for his fine, but not quite excellent, strike, his distribution throughout was key to our control of the game and his tackle on a breaking opponent led directly to Pépé’s second. I do think he will be on Arteta’s ‘keep list’ and moreover still be one of the first names on his starting line up. I share the frustration with his lack of pace and frequently slow execution of forward passes but the former can be compensated by appropriate partners (his dovetailing with KT3 is a key feature of the latter’s success) and the latter is usually the result of inadequate movement ahead and blocked passing lanes. The coach’s instruction is clearly to retain possession rather than to play a 50:50 forward pass.

    It’s a shame about St Totteringham having to remain in his crypt but the inevitable corollary of a place in the Intertoto Mk 2 may prove to have been a fate worth escaping. It’s down to the custodians of the club to prove that to have been the case. Over to KSE, their apparatchiks, Edu and MA8 to make the correct decisions on comings and goings. Be ruthless, if you must but primarily be bold!

    Talking of which, thank you Bouldy for 30-plus years of sterling service. I will never forget that performance at Anfield in ’89 nor that sublime chip to TA6 for his goal the day we won the Premiership in ’98. One of the best centre backs I ever saw play the game. Massively underrated.

  10. 10
    Countryman100 says:

    I agree with you about Xhaka Bath ( and so disagree with TTG, unusually). Possibly the second most egregious selection error of the season was pulling Xhaka out of midfield and putting him at left back for several games, rather than putting Saka there. A double whammy, greatly weakening midfield and reducing our attacking options at LB.

    I don’t think we will get Bissouma because everyone else is after him and will pay more (despite the fact that he’s Pepe’s mate). If he doesn’t come then Xhaka is the best option to play alongside Partey. I thought the two of them dominated the midfield yesterday.

    I will say this about Pepe – he scores some great goals!

  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    What Bath said about Steve Bould. 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

  12. 12
    North Bank Ned says:

    Some interesting thoughts, Dr F. Unfortunately, there are still the Euros and a Copa America, both mid-June to mid-July, to get in the way of Arteta’s training-ground work.

    Ødegaard often plays on the right of midfield four for Norway, so your suggestion that he and ESR play either side of Partey in the middle of a 4-3-3 is feasible. My questions would be whether that would maximise ESR and Tierney on the left or whether (TTG, cover your ears here) without Xhaka providing defensive cover when the two youngster bomb forward, we would be too vulnerable to counterattacks. Would Partey have the defensive discipline in such circumstances? That said, a front six of Ødegaard, Partey, ESR, Saka, Auba/Martinelli and Pepe should frighten most defences.

    Willian is baffling. I can understand the logic of signing him (if perhaps not to a four-year deal) but the extent to which it has not worked out has been spectacular. He has gone from being a 31-year old who scored 11 goals and had nine assists as a regular member of a Chelsea side that was none too shabby to being a 32-year old who has scored one goal and has seven assists and never looked the part with us. There must be more to it than just physical deterioration over 12 months, but what that is, I have no idea.

  13. 13
    North Bank Ned says:

    Hear, hear to the comments about how good Steve Bould was as a player. One of the best defenders the club has had, and there are impressive names in that pantheon. Bouldie was also successful in his early days as a youth coach. He had not matched that in his later years, either as AW’s first-team coach or most recently with the U-23s. It is probably right that he is not the optimal coach for the exceptionally talented group coming up from the U-18s and that it is the right time to make a change. However, the club has mishandled a situation in which he should have left the club with the dignity and plaudits his career merit. Yet it did nothing to counter The Athletic’s scoop that established the narrative that he was ruthlessly sacked, a line that social media rapidly amplified into ‘club legend sacked by classless Arsenal’. Either the club’s comms team were asleep at the switch, or they were sending a message about how resolute the club would be in the ‘difficult conversations’ to come. When it comes to cock-up or conspiracy, it is usually right to go with the former. But it also reinforces the view that the current management is tone-deaf to the club’s values.

  14. 14
    Uplympian says:

    Very good review c100. A decent performance against a team set up with a massed low block which made life difficult. I thought there was a lot of crisp, accurate passing….more than the normal amount were actually forward!
    Pepe is going to be one of those players who delights and frustates equally. His unique skill set when it comes off with goals & assists as against his propensity to give the ball away so often. He is definitely improving his contribution to the team collective and next year coulee be even better.

  15. 15
    TTG says:

    I respect my colleagues’ views enormously but what in heaven’s name has prompted this outpouring of respect for a man who has consistently failed to help us towards the Champions League ? We’ve never qualified for it since he joined . Go figure .
    Apart from producing the most errors leading to goals in the Premier League over the past couple of seasons ( nine) he got sent off helping to lose at home against Burnley 🤢
    Still he would make up for it in the return – oh no , that’s right in a game we were strolling he laid on an assist for Chris Wood by passing across his own area on his wrong ( only) foot. A less petty man than me might suggest that mistake cost us St.Totts Day .
    Look at his league stats since he joined .
    In the last three seasons he has amassed two assists each season. From an almost ever present central midfield player ! He didn’t score from open play last season ( in thirty one games ) . His duels won and successful tackle rate is just over 50% . He is the definition of Mr. Bang average . He can’t defend or attack but is the best sideways passer in the league Oh and he covers Tierney when he goes forward ( I’d prefer someone quicker , less error-prone who could tackle ) . Still the lads say he always remembers their birthdays 🎈
    Please don’t accept a journeyman at his level if you want Arsenal to improve.

  16. 16
    Countryman100 says:

    I declare the TTG “Xhaka aht “ campaign well and truly launched! But if we can’t have Bissouma who is an alternative, within our price range, who is an upgrade? Hmm? Hmm?

  17. 17
    Countryman100 says:

    TTG tirade incoming in 3,2,1

  18. 18
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks Ned. I think the “two deep lying midfielder” set-up is a serious handicap against playing progressive attacking football in the modern game of high press and compressed space. We need midfielders to recover possession and carry the ball forward quickly, or release a forward pass. A flat 3, all with good skills on the ball and defensive awareness serve us better. There would be the odd match when we will need to play that ultra-tight 30% possession counter-attack (something Mikel seems to be rather good at) against much better oppositions but lining up with two defensive midfielders against teams like Burnley or Spuds are regressive. 😉

    On loan watch Joe can’t stop scoring goals and Saliba ended his fine stint at Nice with his first goal for them as Nice came from behind to beat Lyon.

  19. 19
    Bathgooner says:

    All very valid points on Xhaka, TTG and I have been amongst his biggest critics over the years but this season has been his best in red and white and his absences from our midfield have underlined his importance to this team and exactly why four Arsenal managers played him whenevet he was available. An objective analysis of Xhaka and his peers has put him in the team of the season:


    Needless to say, he’s our only entrant though KT can’t have been far off.

  20. 20
    TTG says:

    I saw that and checked the date ! That analysis is ridiculous .
    I had a chat with a City fan last week who thinks their two worst players this season were Rodri and Sterling. Sterling has been wildly out of form for months ( ever since he scored an unchallenged header against us !)
    Fernandinho has played much better in central midfield for City ( as has Gundogan ) than Rodri . I can think of any number of midfield partnerships that would annihilate Rodri and Xhaka including a combination of
    Kante, Fabinho , Wijnaldum, Hjobjerg( Sorry ) , Ward- Prowse , Rice , Souchek , Mctominay , Douglas Luiz, Allan , Phillips , Bissouma , Ndidi , Anguissa, Henderson , Berge, Ndombele . I’ve stopped at 17 . That didn’t include multi-purpose midfielders who can play deeper .
    If Xhaka is that good we can expect a queue of teams waiting to snap him up . After his blow-up when he wanted to leave the only candidate to purchase him was Hertha Berlin . Now of course he is the best midfielder in England that may change of course 😀😀😀
    To answer C100’s question about alternatives to Bissouma , there are Berge of Sheffield United if he’s fully fit, Soumare of Lille , Idrissa Gueye of PSG , Llorente of Atletico , Anguissa at Fulham , Pereira of PSG or if you want a cheaper box to box alternative you have Powell at Stoke but he may be a bit old . They give you more mobility and ball-winning ability than Xhaka .

  21. 21
    Trev says:

    Some really good drinks above.

    Xhaka is a weird one. Drives you mad with the lack of pace and the petulance that has earned wholly unnecessary red and yellow cards. However, he does tend to play a lot more positively when there is more youth and movement ahead of him and, like it or not, we have often looked a shapeless mess when he has not been in our midfield. He does have a terrific passing range and a thunderous shot which we see about once a season.

    He could well be on the keep list if all his best qualities could be honed into consistent use. But, TTG, I agree that a more mobile, less volatile alternative should not be impossible to find.

  22. 22
    ATG says:

    Dani leaving just confirmed on his Insta account https://www.instagram.com/p/CPRAwVJh74T/?utm_medium=copy_link

  23. 23
    TTG says:

    Dr. F made a very good point about midfield shape .You can have more mobility in midfield with a holding player and a runner or if you think back to Vieira and Petit they could both play both roles . Gilberto was another very flexible player but PV4 pushed forward more with him behind him . All these players were in a different constellation to Xhaka

  24. 24
    Trev says:

    Ned @ 12 – I do !

    He is a 32 year old who has realised the immediate future at the Arsenal is most unlikely to reach the heights of his time at Chelsea – yes, I dearly hope I’m wrong about that but ….
    He has landed himself a long term, absolutely bumper deal at a club he clearly couldn’t care less about, and is unfortunately content to take the money as his career grinds to a halt. A season of shameful, disinterested performances but will he walk ? Well, he has done all season so there’s hope.

  25. 25
    Bathgooner says:

    You’ve convinced me TTG! That analysis must be flawed. We do need an upgrade for Xhaka but I suspect that unless he wants out now, there will be other priorities this summer.

  26. 26
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@24: 🙂

    btw, almost half of what Willian receives in his pay packet each week is accounted for by a £14 million signing bonus that is being spread across the duration of the contract. Even if he was to move on in the summer, we’d still be on the hook for that, as I understand it.

    To be eligible for CIES’s league teams of the season, a player has had to have played two-thirds of all possible minutes. For the Premiership that would be 2,280 minutes, which must eliminate a huge number of players from consideration. Among DMs, Fernandinho, for example, did not. Nor did Kante. We had only six in any position who met the criterion, Leno, Tierney, Holding, Xhaka, Saka and Aubameyang.

    You can only see the detailed rankings by position for the last week, last month, last three months and last six months, not the whole season (or at least not without paying), but in three of those four of those time periods, Chambers ranked above Tierney. In fact, over the past month, Chambers is ranked the No 1 full-back in the Premier League, with KT3 joint fourth.

  27. 27
    Trev says:

    I think Chambers had done really well. It’s also handy that he is relatively tall for a full back – useful for defending set pieces. I was a bit concerned on Sunday, watching Tierney trying to Mark one of CERider’s “circus freaks” at a corner. Surely one of our CBs should be doing the man marking job on their aerial threats.

  28. 28
    Bathgooner says:

    Trev@27, I noticed that too. KT3 came up to the fella’s nipple line. Whoever organised our set pieces needs to pay attention to such details.

  29. 29
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks C100, a fine report and nice to hear our support at the ground again.
    Without going into any detail, I agree with TTG on Xhaka, I gave up on him about two seasons ago and he hasn’t changed at all. I don’t think he has been better this season, we have just been better organized defensively and more able to cover for his shortcomings.

    C100, poor management to leave out Pepe at times or a fine piece of management that galvanized Pepe into the improvement we’ve seen second half of the season😁?

  30. 30
    OsakaMatt says:

    Best of luck to Dani if he is leaving. We will need to get someone in.

  31. 31
    North Bank Ned says:

    Matt Smith, Cottrell or Azeri for Dani, OM?

  32. 32
    OsakaMatt says:

    All a risk that I don’t mind as a 4th CM Ned. Of course we also have AMN, LT, Guen, Joe W or even Calum to sort out this summer. I could see ESR there too given his excellent close control and passing, though we’d need Partey to step up a level if we were going to try that.

  33. 33
    ksn says:

    Thanks for an excellent report C100, just the match I watched again today. One of the worst seasons in recent memory is, thankfully, over but the way we finished the season gives us some hope for the coming season which is just around eighty days away. We have the core of a good team in place and if Edu and Arteta manage to get some good players in, we could have a good season ahead. We need a goalkeeper, a right back, a creative midfielder who can also score, a stand by left back and a forward and getting them should not be a problem if Arteta gets the financial help he says he has been assured by the Management. Arteta has a number of decisions on his hand like what to do with Willock and AMN, how to fit in Saliba, whether to get in a new right back or continue to manage with Chambers, whether to replace Xhaka etc. Interesting times ahead during the pre season.

  34. 34
    OsakaMatt says:

    Not sure Ryan’s plans but I’d be fine with him for another season as he is a good back-up and a credible challenge to Leno. KSN’s list looks about right, a CM who can get six goals a season would be a step up from the combined efforts of Xhaka, Elneny, Dani and Partey this season I think!

  35. 35
    North Bank Ned says:

    There was talk a while back that we were trying to turn Ryan’s loan into a permanent move. As you say, OM, Ryan is good enough to be competition for Leno, not just a backup. Release Runarsson and use Okonkwo and/or Hein as the backup’s backup, and we would be set in the goalkeeping department.

  36. 36
    North Bank Ned says:

    Arteta is up for the Premier League’s manager of the month award for May.
    You can vote for him at https://www.premierleague.com/news/2153014
    He is up against Bielsa, Moyes and Klopp.

  37. 37
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers for a great report to close out the season with Countryman.

    The only thing that I would disagree with is that, I believe, we have been the second best team since Boxing Day, not the third.

    I agree entirely with TTG on Xhaka. He is just not good enough. The idea that our midfield looks better with him in it does not strike me as a proof that he is any good as much as a proof that Elneny and Ceballos are also not good enough. CM is where we need 2 signings.

  38. 38
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Good discussions about Xhaka.

    I think his primary problem is that he is playing in the wrong league. He is not quite Daniele De Rossi but if he were say playing for a team like Roma or Napoli in Serie A he will be consistently hailed as an excellent central midfielder who is both technically and tactically strong. His Achilles heel, a fraction of a second slower response speed than a real top level midfielder, would be less of a problem. He will take that extra touch, get the time to look up, and send in one of those excellent long passes. He will provide a structural pivote around which the rest of the team can orient them spatially.

    This last quality is what I think made him valuable to managers as different as Wenger and Arteta. Completely agree that by itself alone is not a good enough quality to take Arsenal forward but in absence of true verticality in the midfield since the days of Santi and TR7 a pivote to signal transitions has been useful.

    It has been calamitous how Arsenal mismanaged its midfield squad. We lost TR7, Santi, Rambo, Jack one way or another within the span of 2 years coinciding with Mesut’s precipitous fall in form and intensity, and somehow the club felt no actions are needed to fill in that vacuum.

    This is why I have immense respect for Auba and Laca. They kind of carried the team with an entirely second rate midfield behind them for two seasons, kept us up the table, got us to Europa final, and in last season with some help from KT, Pépé and the defense got us the FA cup.

    The midfield needs real quality upgrade. Including individual improvements in Partey.

  39. 39
    Bathgooner says:

    Tim (7am kick-off) has produced a detailed analysis of our season that rather disappointingly totally disproves the optimistic belief that we were the second or third best team since Christmas.

    Was it really that good?

    I’ve been watching football for over 60 years. I watched every minute of every Arsenal game and a bunch of other teams as well. I know what I saw and I don’t need Tim’s analysis to tell me that we were far from being the second best team in the PL since Christmas.

    This Arsenal team was bang average. It produced some good moments but generally played poor and frankly boring football. As Tim’s analysis and frequently even Arteta’s post-match comments (especially after defeats) emphasise, most of our games (W, L or D) were games of fine margins. We rarely dominated matches, we almost never controlled games.

    We are where we are in the table for good reason. This team, whether due to its players or its coach’s tactics is mediocre. Believing otherwise is setting yourself up for deep disappointment next season. We need a summer of major transformation the like of which we have rarely seen at the Arsenal and we will still not be challenging for the top spot.

    Sadly I do not believe in miracles. Nor in fairy godfathers called Stanley!

  40. 40
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for the link Bath, and your astute comments. It puts me in mind of Trev’s U-bend of Doom, if that’s his exact phrase, reading Tim Stillman about our season since Boxing Day: “I remember a lot of games where Arsenal played some extremely conservative football, took almost no risks, created just a few precious chances, and got quite lucky.”

    Of course in the rest of the season the U-bend was also an ever present, but not the getting quite lucky.

  41. 41
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I don’t really care if Tim wants to use XG and conversion rate statistics to ‘prove’ our team wasn’t great. I certainly do not think he has ‘totally disproved’ we were the second best team since Christmas.

    The league table doesn’t lie. In ACTUAL POINTS scored (as well as ACTUAL GOALS scored and conceded) we did pretty well in the second half of the season, but overall were the 8th best side. I don’t think that is so controversial that we should be scrabbling around to finds ways to discredit it. Yeah, there are different ways to measure how good a team is. But ‘points won’ is still the one that matters most.

    I too watched us play this year and I am under no illusions that we were brilliant in the league since Christmas (to say nothing of a series of underwhelming Europa performances) but I also think we currently have one central midfielder fit for purpose, so I am not going to lose all hope that we may improve next year if we make the right signings. Frankly, I am amazed we did so well given how much I watched Xhaka, Ceballos and Elneny do fuck all backwards in the middle of the park.

    Manure were shit until the signing of Fernandes transformed them. If we get Partey a proper partner that would help us a lot too.

    Next year the goal will be to qualify for the CL. I hope we make it. If we do come fourth I won’t be suggesting we give our CL place to fifth-placed Leicester because they have better XG figures. Who cares?

  42. 42
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks for thé link Bath.
    Tim is honest I think, as he says he doesn’t like Arteta and wouldn’t want to play for him.
    I suppose it’s all in the eye of the beholder but after reading what, to be honest myself, seemed like a hatchet job I think I’ll go with optimistic.

  43. 43
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Bath @ 39: I haven’t really watched much of other teams — unless they are playing against us, obviously — but I fully agree with you that even after the post-Christmas (relative) turnaround of results we really didn’t play consistently well enough. We played some of the worst football I have ever seen us play, with no courage, conviction or creativity. That home performance against Villareal was diabolical.

    This upcoming season the club and the manager has absolutely no excuses left. No European football, no midweek distraction, the various “troublemakers” (as per the manager, even though there’s always two sides to a story I will support Mikel simply for the fact that he is still our manager) are moved on, the big gaps in the squad are glaringly obvious. No long distance pre-season tours.

    Get the right players in. Early. Not wait until the last day. Integrate them. Create a strong playing template that the players can refer to in the game and not try to micro-manage every single position and passing. Get rid off that over-orchestrated approach from matchday to matchday. Create a culture of accountability and complete commitment to the cause. No partiality and favoritism. And treat every weekend as an absolute must-win.

    If we see those happening, the occasional bad results that will be inevitable can be better accepted.

    I really hope that the club realizes that this past season must have to be the rock-bottom and there needs to be a speedy turnaround.

  44. 44
    Bathgooner says:

    All good points gents. I am no great fan of statistical analysis of the game but now and again it underscores a point. Notwithstanding GSD’s inescapable point that point-gathering is both the most relevant measure to success in the league table and that we gathered the 2nd or 3rd most points since Christmas – I care not which it i – the cut off point of Christmas feels relevant because we sensed a turning point with the unexpected victory against the Chavs and the addition of the exciting ESR to the team. Tim’s point is that that obviously artificial point in the season from which to date an apparent upswing in our performances does not actually merit the weight of analysis that it is given. There is no great frame shift in our performances and a superficial analysis of the two ‘halves’ of the season conceals the different opposition therein. The bottom line for me is that the apparent improvement in the second half of the season is down to some lucky breaks and therefore to believe we turned even a small corner is self-deceiving and that there’s a hell of a lot more work to be done on this team than that optimistic interpretation implies.

    I think Arteta will get the chance to add to his squad and as Dr F observes, next season will be a test of whether he is the man to restore Arsenal to the team we all want it to be.

  45. 45
    TTG says:

    It’s great to see the spirited and intelligent debate about the team during the last season . It’s interesting that most of us saw every kick last season albeit through the tv screen . In previous seasons we’ve only seen some games via MOTD but some have watched all or most of the home games in person . Strangely until this last season and a half overseas viewers saw more TV games than locals and their dedication in the wee small hours sometimes is praiseworthy. I have to say I prefer to make my own judgements on players and formations based on the ability to observe with my own eyes. Watching a season of football on TV ensures you only see what the TV editor wants you to see and the opinions of the commentator and summariser can affect your judgment on the game .
    Sky, particularly, but BT also , has too many subjective opinions. Souness, Keane, Redknapp, Neville , Owen, Mcmanaman and Ferdinand dislike Arsenal and it is very evident. A combination of those covering an Arsenal game would leave you slitting your wrists at the end of the match . And this XG stuff is absolute bollocks again an experienced football watcher has an intuitive appraisal of a game and doesn’t need to be told who deserved to win .
    It will be interesting to see how much live coverage we get next season in UK

  46. 46
    Cynic says:

    And this XG stuff is absolute bollocks
    Anyone who uses that bullshit loses any and all credibility, if they ever had any anyway. That and the phrase “false nine”.

    That Jonathan Wilson git has a lot to answer for.

  47. 47
    Cynic says:

    The main reason I wouldn’t cry if Arteta was fired, and why I think he’s nowhere near the man for the job, is that his Arsenal side is utterly unconvincing in almost everything it does. Or tries to do.

    I don’t think he has a style of play or a plan, he switches things too often from game to game and none of it really works, even if a few results get fluked along the way. Which might be harsh, but I don’t see any signs of improvement at all.

    PS – One other phrase that can go on the bonfire is “Arsenal DNA”. Spare me.

  48. 48
    Countryman100 says:

    Who would you appoint instead Cynic?

  49. 49
    scruzgooner says:

    ttg, a suggestion (though with fans back at the stadia it won’t matter as much): turn the volume off while watching. i have found i enjoy much more the football when i am reacting to what’s being shown (tv editor be damned), rather than filtering/augmenting it through/with the prattle of euell fitzgibbon and gürdle hartog.

    watching the game in the stadium is completely different, and i look forward to my next time in the grove. hopefully watching another arsenal win. 🙂

  50. 50
    Bathgooner says:

    Exactly the right strategy, scruz. I used to occasionally listen to the radio commentary when they had decent match reporters. Not for years now though.

    I also ditched the pre-match ‘build-up’ and half-time ‘analysis long ago. I do occasionally watch the half-time highlights and even the post-match wash-up depending on whether I have any interest in a particular pundit’s opinion on an aspect of the match. Usually I don’t.

    Much like my approach to match of the day.

  51. 51
    Countryman100 says:

    Genuinely interested in this “watch in silence” thing. I don’t think I could do it. Football’s an emotional sport for me and I need the noise.

  52. 52
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100: The alternative is to watch with commentary in a language you don’t speak. You get the sound of the ebb and flow of the game, but not the gibberish and punditry. Occasionally, I happen on a stream in English. The inanity of commentary — particularly the ‘colour commentary’ of some hack old pro — is mindnumbing.

  53. 53
    bt8 says:

    Dr. F that was a great drink filled with a blueprint for success from the off next season. Must say though I particularly liked your alliterative success in “Create a culture of accountability and complete commitment to the cause.” Sounds good to me.

  54. 54
    North Bank Ned says:

    We love our stats as much as the next monk, but there is a lot of hype around xG. It is only as good a metric as its underlying statistical model and the quality of the data set that trains the model. Different football statisticians build different xG models using different parameters. It is not an unambiguous metric like points per game. xG has a legitimate place in the football analyst’s toolkit, but it is just one metric among many.

    You often read that xG is the best predictor of a game’s outcome. However, there does not seem to be compelling evidence that it is any better than, for example, points per game or total shots ratio.

  55. 55
    bt8 says:

    euell fitzgibbon and gürdle hartog? 🤣

  56. 56
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath@39: The nuanced analysis would be that the second half of the season was better than the first but that the second half was far from one of linear improvement.

    The runs of games I laid out in the Brighton preview is one way to tell the story:
    P4 W3 D0 L1
    P10 W1 D2 L7
    P6 W5 D1 L0
    P5 W1 D1 L3.
    P5 W2 D2 L1
    P8 W6 D1 L1

    Another is to plot a graph of our points per game on a five-game moving average — a reasonable proxy for form. It shows a plunge until mid-December and then an upward trend thereafter but with a couple of big plunges along the way until the final eight-game spurt.

  57. 57
    bt8 says:

    How many points do you expect to win against Brighton at home?

    Depends whether I’m talking to my wife quite frankly.

  58. 58
    bt8 says:

    In effect Barcelona, Madrid and Juventus want to join the Premier League and end relegation after relegating 3/4 of its clubs on a one-time, permanent basis. Shouldn’t be allowed. Shouldn’t be contemplated. UEFA is “investigating”


  59. 59
    North Bank Ned says:

    You may have hit on the solution, bt8. A two-division Premiership with one division of 20 British teams and one division of 20 non-British teams. Split each division into two seeded groups of 10, who play each other home and away. 18 games each. The top five in each of the four groups advance to the second phase of two seeded groups of ten playing each other home and away (these groups would be mingled regardless of origin). A further 18 games each. The top two in each group then go into the hat for a knock-out semi-final playoff over two legs, with the winners contesting the final. A 39-game season in all, with all the second phase games being top clubs v top clubs. There would be a parallel second phase for the clubs that came in the bottom half of their first-round groups, providing European football for many teams that now don’t get it. However, the added peril for the clubs in the second phase lower half is that there would be relegation at the end of it. Clubs in the top half would be safe by definition, so the arrangement might make an acceptable alternative to a closed league.

    Alternatively, UEFA could replicate the English football league pyramid system on a continental scale, with a Euro Premiership at the top and going down to regional and national feeder leagues at the bottom. Not sure if the economics of that would work given the scale of the undertaking. Based on current UEFA club coefficients Burnley would be playing Qarabağ in Euro Division Four, for example. There would probably be TV money for a two-division Premiership though.

  60. 60
    Cynic says:

    I’m not going to give a name for who I’d appoint because all it does is invite ridicule, which I’m guilty of doing myself when a denizen of this bar was saying a certain name to replace Emery, who had a nightmare this season and got sacked, with his team relegated.

    I want someone experienced, with a defined way of playing, whose name alone could perhaps attract players to a team that, on this season’s evidence, might be out of Europe for two or three seasons if we stick with who we have now. But who is NOT Jose Mourinho. Or Arsene Bloody Wenger 🙂

    The Europa League semi final was the final nail in Arteta’s coffin for me. Both legs, where he made ridiculous tactical decisions that showed him up badly and seem to have been forgotten because we won four games after that which really didn’t matter. Even a couple of those were unconvincing to say the least.

    It is hard to think that a man who believes playing a semi final with no striker, then follows that stroke of genius with one central midfielder in the second leg, is the right man for this job. Particularly as it was the only credible path this club had to getting into Europe next season at the time and which ultimately proved to be the case.

  61. 61
    TTG says:

    I can’t watch football in silence either . Normally if it’s quiet I get some extraneous noise from my current wife reminding me ‘ that it’s only a game and don’t use that sort of language if you are watching it with your grandsons ‘ Or ‘ you don’t like that Xhaka do you?’
    The point about Arteta which is very important and where I agree with the writer of the article Bath kindly attached is that Arteta is a very conservative coach . That helps to explain why we play so much better away from home where we don’t have to break a deep block . He isn’t good at setting up teams to do that. We won the Cup playing counter-attacking football against sides that were basically stronger than us .
    Next season he needs to convince me that in the twenty two or so games at our place the team can play with excitement and incisiveness. We certainly can away from home but I saw little evidence of being able to do it at home .
    Before Christmas with Willian usually replacing Pepe we saw him at his most conservative . Since Christmas with ESR and Odegaard added we’ve been better but we were still quite awful against Liverpool , Olympiakos, Slavia, Fulham and Everton at home . That’s the big decision I’m pondering – can he make The Grove a happier place next season? It’s a very long time since the natives there really enjoyed themselves as we used to when Wengerball was played so beautifully – Fabregas/ Hleb/ Rosicky/ Ramsey/ Wilshere / Cazorla / RVP ……remember those days?

  62. 62
    scruzgooner says:

    ttg, when you have the kid’s bedroom next to the living room and it’s 445 am and arsenal give the ball away for a goal, you can bet it’s an advantage not to have the sound on. it’s why i had to develop the “silent scream”, which allows me to get the same energy out as with a real scream, but without waking the family.

    i agree with ned that watching in another language is a good thing, instead of listening to messrs. fitzgibbon and hartog. problem is, that’s generally spanish, and i speak spanish just enough to be irritated at *those* announcers. my emotion and passion are so conditioned to exist without sound that i go absolutely raving when i have the chance…

    and ttg@61, i remember those days…we didn’t win anything those days, either, and flattered to deceive too many times. i can see what arteta is doing, trying to get us on a solid defensive footing and slowly expanding our offensive capability beyond the u-bend of doom (tm trev). we’re just not there, yet. i have to have faith that we’ll get there, though. 10% fewer defensive mistakes and 10% better offense and we’ll be in the cl places next year, and possibly with a cup or two. we just have to keep moving forward.

    though i do agree with you, cynic, about the dire twin legs of the el semi. ugh.

  63. 63
    TTG says:

    I was the denizen who wanted Chris Wilder to replace Emery . At the time he was coaching much better . I think Cynic favours Rafa Benitez. He would be a decent shout if we had to part company with Arteta . But let’s think positively .

  64. 64
    bt8 says:

    Quite an elaborate scheme @59 Ned but those 39 games would be a significant reduction compared to the present (38 PL matches + however many European matches we play). Otherwise it may have some improvements on the ESL proposal but smaller clubs would still be justifiably opposed I would expect. Interesting idea though.

  65. 65
    bt8 says:

    Didn’t think I could remember anybody in the bar suggesting Fat Sam to replace Emery. And so there wasn’t, suitably enough. Wilder stock has indeed plummeted but maybe not for long, if not necessarily for Arteta.

  66. 66
    Osakamatt says:

    Ancelotti was quite a popular choice
    too as I recall. Though his stock has
    better fundamentals than Wilders😄

  67. 67
    Osakamatt says:

    I generally go with the Japanese
    commentary myself scruz, though
    I’ve always liked Ned’s suggestion
    of Serbian. I’m used to phasing out
    the language I suppose and can
    ignore it in a way I can’t with
    English. The English punditry is on
    a level with the refereeing sadly.

  68. 68
    Osakamatt says:

    “why do you watch if you’re going
    to get so angry” is one from my
    wife that always made me even
    more annoyed.
    Fortunately we’ve got some big
    soft cushions for when the silent
    fume isn’t enough at 5AM 😂
    It’s tough being an Arsenal fan but
    now my son has moved back home
    I’ve got some back-up in the over-
    reaction stakes

  69. 69
    Cynic says:

    Ancelotti would have been a decent choice too. I know there’s this view that he’s somehow blown it at Everton (or appears to be) but who’s he got to work with in that squad? Their best player, at least in terms of reputation and ability, is one not really suited to the Premier League and their most productive blows hot and cold.

    TTG – Rafa was a name I threw out into the ring a few weeks ago, but to be honest that was all about frustration at Arteta confirming to me that he’s not right for the job and Rafa was on the tellybox, I think the day after we had been so abject in the second leg of the semi, talking about how he wants a job where he can build something for the future.

    “I am watching the Serie A because it is a good league for me but there, in France, in Germany, in Portugal, I don’t see too many options in these countries to have a project where you can develop players and make the team more competitive.”

    He sounded perfect for us in that interview and I thought he would lift the club and energise the fans in a way that Arteta never will.

    Arteta has already wasted a year and a half standing still, or even going backwards. If it’s going to take him another two or three years, at best, to get this club where he wants it to be you’re looking at a five year commitment to a rookie boss who’s shown very little to make me think he’s got the ability to turn this around.

  70. 70
    Countryman100 says:

    Season ticket renewals out today. Cheapest ever at the Emirates. 19 league+2 FA Cup games.

  71. 71
    North Bank Ned says:

    Neither Ancelotti nor Benitez would have been ‘wong’ choices. Both would have been ‘safe hands’ for a season or two, settling the ship after the Emery era. Perhaps they would have got more out of the squad they would have inherited than Arteta has. Perhaps not. Difficult to guess, especially in a Covid-distorted season. However, they or their successor could not escape the fact that the squad does not have the depth and quality needed to sustain a top club, and would need root and branch rebuilding. Disruption would have to come at some point.

  72. 72
    North Bank Ned says:

    Conte out at Inter. Galtier out at Lille. Dangerous business for managers to win their league title.

  73. 73
    bathgooner says:

    It’s once again time to get behind Unai Emery’s boys. Come on you Yellows!

    Let’s hope the Yellow Submarine can sink the Manc junk.


  74. 74
    TTG says:

    How on earth did we go out to Villarreal? Arteta made two huge errors in setting up those teams – the false 9 away and isolating Partey at home .

  75. 75
    ksn says:

    Villa real lead 1-0 at 30 minutes.

  76. 76
    ksn says:

    Villareal 1-0 Manure…..

  77. 77
    scruzgooner says:

    ole looks like stan laurel.

  78. 78
    ksn says:

    Ole looks just as sad as Stan at the moment.

  79. 79
    ksn says:

    United equalise. 1-1.

  80. 80
    Countryman100 says:

    So. Villareal remain unbeaten in the competition, real time, and it’s to be penalties.

  81. 81
    bt8 says:

    Haven’t watched the game. It’s our annual day of nice weather doncha know. C’mon Unai and his Coq.

  82. 82
    Countryman100 says:

    7-7. I feel so sorry for whoever misses.

  83. 83
    Countryman100 says:

    Coquelin buries his penalty.

  84. 84
    ksn says:

    Villareal win on penalties 11-10. Coquelin took his penalty with aplomb and wins a medal.

  85. 85
    Osakamatt says:

    De Gea misses and it’s goodnight

  86. 86
    ecg says:

    Ouch! That’s gotta hurt!!

  87. 87
    bt8 says:

    Congratulations to the “shit” team. Amazing, how many shittier teams they had to beat to win the trophy.

  88. 88
    Osakamatt says:

    Well, Rulli saved rather than De Gea
    missed to be fair. UE wins EL again.
    Good luck to him I suppose but it’s kind
    of annoying that we were the one he

  89. 89
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Well done Unai.
    (Although he get no credit for saving his worst Europa Final result for when he was our boss!)

    Hard one to take for De Gea. That’s tough.

  90. 90
    Tapera Doma says:

    I have a question about the just completed Europa final. What would have happened had De Gea scored his penalty kick, given that all 11 players would taken their spot kick?

  91. 91
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:


    Sudden death continues. All players are eligible in a new round of penalties.

  92. 92
    Tapera Doma says:

    Thanks @ #91. Further question – even if players have been previously substituted?

  93. 93
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Only the 11 players who finished the match on the pitch.

  94. 94
    North Bank Ned says:

    TD@90: Sudden death continues with the players having a second round of kicks. They don’t have to go in the same order as the first round, however.

  95. 95
    North Bank Ned says:

    GSD there before me! But it has to be the same set as took the first round of kicks, and they are those who were on the field when the final whistle was blown. There is a possibility of substituting a goalkeeper who gets injured:

    A goalkeeper who is unable to continue before or during the kicks may be replaced by a player excluded to equalise the number of players or, if their team has not used its maximum permitted number of substitutes, a named substitute, but the replaced goalkeeper takes no further part and may not take a kick.

    A goalkeeper who is sent off during a penalty shootout (red card of for getting two yellows) may not be substituted; one of the others has to go in goal.

  96. 96
    TTG says:

    About 2003 we played Rotherham in the League Cup and we went round again . Wiltord was the only Arsenal player to miss the first time around and he scored tte winning penalty . Many of the lads were playing their first match. Cesc made his debut that night . He was 16 !

  97. 97
    North Bank Ned says:

    Villareal not so easy to break down, after all. The Mancs managed the same number of shots as we did in the second leg of our semifinal (14) and only two on target versus our one. I wonder if OGS will get the same sort of paddlin’ from the press that Arteta did for being outcoached by Emery.

  98. 98
    Countryman100 says:

    NBN – or indeed from our own supporters.

  99. 99
    North Bank Ned says:

    In the Namibian Cup Final in 2005, the penalty shootout went to three rounds — 48 kicks in all. Lots missed, though. The final score was ‘only’ 17-16.

  100. 100
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@98: Fair point!

  101. 101
    Osakamatt says:

    or perhaps even some admissions of
    wrong? “I slaughtered MA for losing to
    Villarreal but it turns out he is not the
    utterly incompetent halfwit I suggested
    he was, I was wrong and I apologise for
    jumping to ill-considered conclusions based
    on my own misinformed opinion”

  102. 102
    Countryman100 says:

    Well in for the ton Ned!

  103. 103
    Osakamatt says:

    ooooh – missed the ton. Well in

  104. 104
    North Bank Ned says:

    Thank you, gentlemen. Taken with all the assurance of a, er, de Gea penalty…

  105. 105
    Cynic says:

    Villarreal beat Man U, which somehow means Arteta didn’t fuck it up completely in the semi final?

    If that’s how you wish to see it, you go right ahead.

  106. 106
    Osakamatt says:

    Arteta tried something and it didn’t
    work. Shit happens. Doesn’t mean he
    is useless etc etc
    He tried something in the Cup Final
    and it did work, doesn’t mean he is a
    tactical genius.
    That’s how I choose to see it.

  107. 107
    Tapera Doma says:

    Thank you guys for educating me.

  108. 108
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    This ain’t Twitter. Not everything is black and white.

    We do not all need to choose one of two opposing opinions and then argue for our own cause. Neither do we need to have a range of nuanced views shoehorned into this false narrative.

    Public debate is being smothered by modern cancel culture and I cannot see how this encroaching ideology fits in with the ideals of this bar.

    It is perfectly possible to believe that Arteta is a good coach (and refrain from abusing him or his team), that Villareal are a functional yet limited side whose playing staff are individually less capable than those of Arsenal (or Manure) whilst refraining from abusing them or their manager, AND that Arteta made poor tactical choices in the semifinal.

    When did we lose the ability to discuss the manager’s choices without being in a ‘for’ or ‘out’ camp, or every discussion becoming a referendum on whether the bloke knows what he is doing? Or what type of fan we are?

    I’ve consistently been a fan of Arteta. And I understand why some people are not, and I have enjoyed reading a range of views in this bar, not all of which agree with my own. And I have no desire to use hindsight, or the changing of an accepted narrative, to relegislate legitimately held views expressed by passionate fans in a specific moment.

    People on the internet have often expressed views I disagree with. It is nothing to worry about. And many of those people are thoroughly decent, even wonderful people, who happen to disagree with me about stuff. Excellent! What a thoroughly good thing!

    Part of being a fan is having views on the manager’s tactics. And this is the place to express them. And a place we can celebrate the diversity of opinions.

  109. 109
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Personally, I think Emery’s cautious tactics in Europa League finals are risky. They came off yesterday (in the sense that his team scored from their only shot on target and then clung on for penalties) but it would only have taken one bit of luck to go the other way and the wheels might well have come off as his side crashed to a 4-1 defeat. We’ve seen that before.

    I have always said Emery is a decent coach. Perhaps it was the language, perhaps other factors, but we never looked defensively solid under his guidance. However, because his team scraped by the doubtful tactical genius of OGS, I am not going to reassess him and claim the Spaniard is suddenly a much better coach than I thought last week.

    Neither am I going to conclude that Arteta’s poor choices in the semifinal were somehow a sign of Emery’s skill. Not playing a striker in the first leg was not a good choice from our manager. I expect that, privately and upon reflection, he agrees – and that he will learn from that experience.

    I bet Arteta was as gutted as any fan last night. We missed a big chance to be playing in that match.

    Still, I was chuffed for Villareal, and indeed for Unai. Glad they kept the trophy out of Manure’s hands.

  110. 110
    bathgooner says:

    Superbly put, GSD.

  111. 111
    Osakamatt says:

    Pleased for Coquelin too, he was
    an honest player for us

  112. 112
    Countryman100 says:

    GSD @108. An excellent and eloquent contribution. Well said sir.

  113. 113
    Countryman100 says:

    LJW released by Bournemouth


  114. 114
    North Bank Ned says:

    GSD@108: Top post. The Guv’nor would be proud.

  115. 115
    TTG says:

    May I add my praise for two excellent posts . I’m of a very similar view about both gentlemen . One thing worth considering closely is that football tactics are constantly evolving . Emery’s early success at Arsenal nosedived possibly because under analysis other coaches worked him out . I think his final days coincided with the most disorganised defence I’ve seen at Arsenal. Linguistic difficulties may have been partly responsible . Certainly for the first time since the mid 70s I thought it was not inconceivable that we could be dragged into a relegation fight with Emery in charge . Ironic then that this triumph was built on a brilliantly orchestrated set of tactics which may have made excruciating viewing but were very effective
    Arteta definitely underwhelmed in the two semis. He is a young coach and most fans are prepared to give him time . I have doubts about his approach to deep-lying teams ( like Villareal) but time will tell how quickly he learns and how soon he can find the team he wants . But the extreme views expressed about him by the Twitterati are ridiculous and unfair

  116. 116
    TTG says:

    Roma have apparently opened talks to sign Xhaka .
    How I love that Jose Mourinho. A league like Serie A will suit him much better and playing in an unadventurous Mourinho team would too

  117. 117
    North Bank Ned says:

    Zidane’s departure from Real Madrid would not seem to bode well for Arteta’s hopes of retaining Ødegaard, especially if the Frenchman’s successor executes on Perez’s wish to rejuvenate the team. Zidane did not have the stomach to take on culling his old guard. The question will then be whether the new boss sees Ødegaard (and Ceballos, come to that) as integral to a midfield built around Valverde, and if so, how quickly he will phase out the old lags, Modric (who has just got a one-year contract extension), Kroos, Casimiro and Isco. A report in AS, the Spanish football paper, says the Real board is split on whether Ødegaard is the future or should be cashed in on to fund the rejuvenation. Real also has other promising young attacking midfielders such as Brahim Diaz, most recently on loan at AC Milan, coming through. The same AS report says, however, that the Norweigan has ‘a crush’ on Arteta. So which will rule? Heart or head?

  118. 118
    bathgooner says:

    That’s extremely saddening news about Jack. He showed such promise when playing for the kids on the old Arsenal TV Channel and sadly had only a fleeting period in the sun where he began to fulfil that promise only to succumb to accumulated ankle damage from repeated strong challenges and some terrible thuggery. He played with such verve and clearly loved the club. However the trajectory of his career after leaving the Arsenal shows the wisdom of that last contract offer by the Arsenal. If only all our contract offers were informed by such wisdom.

  119. 119
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@116: I know you are no fan of Xhaka, but I had always pegged you as being more kind-hearted than to wish anyone on Mourinho… 🙂

  120. 120
    bathgooner says:

    I find the news on Xhaka as surprising as the news that Poxy Tina may be returning to the Marshes. If Roma offer anything north of £20m we should certainly sell him given the well aired limitations we have seen in his game over the years. That would require us to buy three midfielders unless we see either AMN, Willock or Elneny as decent back-ups for a Xhaka replacement – Bissouma? (no ITK, just noticing the Twitter noise) and Partey which I don’t really.

    I trust that we are already deep into negotiations for a creative midfielder to complete the threesome – Ødegaard (seems unlikely though another loan may not be out of the question), Buendia (a fair amount of noise), Aouar (some noise – seems unlikely), Grealish (practically no noise at all) or A.N. Other. I would certainly be interested to see how a midfield threesome of Bissouma – Partey – Ødegaard/Buendia/Grealish might improve our control of games and enhance our chance creation rate.

    Without question an injection of quality into our midfield is the paramount requirement for the new season. It will hopefully be an interesting summer in that regard.

  121. 121
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Rather happy for Villareal, Unai and Francis. Emery has tactical chops — the year Sevilla beat Klopp’s ‘Pool in Europa final for example, or when PSG thrashed Barca at home — and maybe if he communicated himself in Spanish and use translators in Arsenal he wouldn’t have lost the team the way he did.

    GSD@109: Excellent post. Mikel was always going to learn in this job and that was the risk we took, knowing that if he can learn quickly enough he has all the other qualities to become a good manager. Even when he was playing for us all his teammates would say in interviews that they see Arteta being a natural manager in future. That promise is still there, and he has shown that he really knows how to get results against superior oppositions, and let us hope that his learning curve has a steep upward slope, and his enthusiasm and desire are matched by the club hierarchy in getting him the players that we obviously need.

  122. 122
    Doctor Faustus says:

    We have won two FA cups since Manure last got a trophy. Don’t see the English football media talking about crisis or “meaningless top 4 place” etc. 😉

    Looking forward to the next season. 🙂

  123. 123
    bt8 says:

    Dr. F. It was indeed a meaningless top four trophy. As a matter of fact they have rechristened it as the OGS/Chevrolet meaningless and useless top four trophy. 😆

  124. 124
    TTG says:

    Many of the more vociferous Arsenal blogs crucified Wenger for pursuing a top 4 trophy . Remember Roy Keane ridiculing Arsenal for celebrating a CL qualification ? It seems that it is now a prime target for all clubs . Klopp was very excited to achieve it this season and United were focused on it for some time .
    Wenger was shrewd enough to realise that it gives you a serious cash benefit, a chance of glory and it attracts the better players to the club . It was an extraordinary feat to qualify season after season. What started to become a problem was how far we slipped behind the better teams in the knockout stage – we always seemed to draw Barca or Bayern Munich and our last efforts were a bit humiliating .
    As ever Wenger ‘s remarkable record was taken for granted and although he stayed a few seasons too long it’s worth noting that in the first season we failed to qualify for the CL we finished one point behind Liverpool in fourth place …and won the FA Cup !

  125. 125
    Countryman100 says:

    Value of Arsenal drops 22% according the KPMG. They use Enterprise Value, which is the value of a clubs assets less its debt. At an EV of £1.3B, Daniels Ek’s mooted bid of £1.8B would be at a substantial premium.


  126. 126
    Doctor Faustus says:

    TTG@124: Thanks. Exactly my point. He made the year-in year-out CL qualification looked much easier than it really is. Even when key players missing out significant parts of the season due to injuries. Anyway, the past is past but his achievements in maintaining that consistency in the Emirates era never really got the recognition it deserved …

    bt8: 😂

  127. 127
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@115: All the top managers in Europe are looking for a tactical solution to the low-block. Now good teams deploy it, even the best teams can no longer rely on breaking it by their superior players producing moments of individual brilliance.

    Pulling the block out of shape by patient, possession passing in the final third to open gaps to get through and behind, creating midfield overloads between the lines, and switching play to opposite wings with long diagonal balls seem to be the blueprint most are working from.

    Guardiola has probably been at this the longest, back to his Barca teams with Messi playing as a latter-day Hidegkuti (Google him, young people). He is also most advanced at pushing the tactical envelope to its limit, morphing his 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 into a 4-1-5-0/4-2-4-0 to get maximum leverage out his midfield overloads.

    I would hazard that Arteta was trying to do the same in the first leg against Villareal. Unfortunately, he does not have the depth and quality of his mentor’s resources to call on to play without a recognised striker.

    Guardiola has used De Bruyne, Silva, Foden, Mahrez, Sterling and Gündogan as false nines or deep-lying centre forwards in the old money. With all respect to our Croydon tyro, ESR would not displace any of them as the first choice for the role. They are also all goalscorers, 49 goals between them in the league, which is only six fewer than Arteta’s team managed in total. Such firepower meant Guardiola hardly ever lost when playing without a recognised striker this season.

    I don’t criticise Arteta for gambling on the same tactic against a low block in the first leg against Villareal or for trying to compensate for its shortcomings in the second game by playing Partey as a single pivot. A cynic (and I don’t specifically mean Cynic) might doubt the wisdom of deploying Guardiola-grade tactics without having a Guardiola-grade team. However, a more experienced or flexible coach would surely have switched to plan B in both games much sooner than Arteta did when it became clear that Plan A was not working.

  128. 128
    North Bank Ned says:

    Enterprise value (EV) is the value of owners’ equity PLUS net debt; ie, (market cap plus total debt) minus cash and cash equivalents. It basically tells you a company’s fair-market price tag.

    KPMG’s report shows the EV of the top 32 European clubs is down 15.5% year-on-year overall, so we are worse than average but not an out-and-out outlier. However looked at on a five-year basis, it turns ugly. We are down 13.1% in value, 2016-21, while the top clubs overall are up 27.4%

  129. 129
    TTG says:

    Very good post . My Dad was at Wembley in 1953 when England lost 6-3 to Hungary. The result sent shock waves through English football because England had never lost at home before ( let alone been gubbed!)
    Football formations were very formulaic then. My grandson could not believe it when I told him about the 2-3-5 formation that all sides played when I first started following the game in the late 50s. Hidegkuti , Bosczik and of course the incomparable Puskas were incredibly creative and were great finishers as well. But their positional switching was so unusual then .For some reason BBC showed live transmissions of Hungary internationals on Sunday afternoons from Budapest and I was also lucky enough to watch the 1961 European Cup Final between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt . It had an incredible impact on me and I was amazed that the incredibly unathletic Puskas had such explosive skill . For those who haven’t seen it it’s worth You Tubing .
    Around that time England moved to a revolutionary 4-2-4 formation and produced some extraordinary results which presaged their eventual move towards becoming World Champions. This included a 9-3 victory over Scotland which will clearly not be repeated in the Euros .Scotland will never get three 😃😃

  130. 130
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Ned@127: Great post. Another problem with us that even against low blocks when the inevitable 2 or 3 counter attacking chance opens up we are imprecise and lack transitional swiftness to make them count. I think this is where Arsène’s teams always had an edge because of technically strong players in the midfield and wings.

    The overall loss of technical quality throughout the squad in the last 3-5 years has been mind-boggling.

  131. 131
    Bathgooner says:

    Excellent analysis Ned @127. You have identified a chilling gap between the champions’ strength in depth and our own playing resources. Without access to the national treasury of an oil state, we will have to start getting our executive decisions right to maximise the efficiency of the resources at our disposal. If we haven’t sorted that out then we can forget about competing at the top again while under this ownership.

    We need to bring in quality players in several key positions to complement our talented young players, much as the Dippers did over the last several years to produce the team that won the PL last season. We can no longer afford a dilettante approach to contracts or signings wasting resources on players the coach won’t use, players who are over the hill or players who are allowed to walk away for diddley-squat. As MA8 observed, we have to be ruthless and there may be some surprising departures though the prospect of raising major sums from player sales in the post-Covid market is probably quite bleak.

    MA8 appears to have a clear vision of the team that he wants to build and I am confident that we haven’t seen Artetaball Mk 1 yet. I suspect he has prioritised sorting out our leaky defence and he has certainly achieved that though at the cost of chance creation. His next challenge is to improve creativity without losing defensive security. As Dr F has said, we appointed a rookie coach so we have to accept that he has to learn aspects of his new role and he must also be given the time necessary both to learn the job and to deliver his vision. The business the club does this summer will show whether KSE are fully on board and going to back him to take a further step towards his vision. If he isn’t supported this summer then we probably have to accept that our worst fears about our owners may be realised.

    Our current situation is not good but at least it dictates that the club must act decisively and we will see this summer whether the owners will do that. We have absolutely no idea whether Edu and/or MA8 and his coaching team are capable of delivering a team capable of winning the PL but at least this summer we will see whether the owners are prepared to give them the tools.

  132. 132
    TTG says:

    The transfer fairy ( that doesn’t sound quite right !) has brought me my first wish of the window if, as has been reported Granit Xhaka wants to move to Roma where he can resume his immensely successful partnership with Henrik Mkhitaryan .
    If we get a decent fee and Roma are notoriously tight-fisted and Brighton will accept Eddie Nketiah in part exchange a deal for Bissouma starts to look very feasible. I’m a bit worried that there is a suggestion that Bellerin will leave on loan to Betis – an increasing trend since Edu arrived . We sign players for cash and loan out our surplus and then notice a hole in the balance sheet .Maybe Dicky Garlick will reveal balls of steel in negotiation. Not quite sure where his brief begins and Edu’s ends but it looks like two jobs might shrink into one soon
    And for those suggesting that because Mourinho wants to build his team around Xhaka it is a sign that the Swiss superstar really is a player we will miss , I refer them to Mourinho’s recent record

  133. 133
    North Bank Ned says:

    Nketiah has a higher market value than Bissouma. Even in a straight swap, we’d theoretically be leaving money on the table. Brighton might also seek a ‘top-up’ to offset the higher wages they would be paying. Nketiah is on £45,000 a week currently; Bissouma gets £25,000 a week. We’d have to pay the Malian more than that. The £110,000 a week Edu could save by loaning out Hector would then look useful, especially if the loan deal required Bettis to purchase at the end of the loan and contained a sell-on percentage clause.

  134. 134
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bringing in a senior anchor for his teams is classic Jose. Xhaka could be highly successful at Roma which has an up-and-coming, still mostly youngish midfield. Italian football suits Xhaka’s technical strengths and won’t so readily expose his weaknesses as the Premier League does. Mourinho’s innate defensiveness could also suit Xhaka.

    Mkhitaryan is out of contract this summer, btw.

  135. 135
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Ned@134: Xhaka is suited perfectly to Italian football. On a related note, and this might be a controversial opinion, I think the decisions by Pirlo and De Rossi to never join any PL clubs despite huge offers demonstrate not only their love of Italy (and in case of De Rossi that connection to Rome, same with Totti), but deep self-awareness about their strengths and weaknesses. In PL the midfield game can and often does turn an unstructured free-for-all battle for possession and physical (both strength and speed) dominance.

    About new midfielders for us, my hope is that we get at least two technically strong versatile players who can drop deep as well as contribute creatively. A line of two defensive midfielders passing to each other is not going to get us up the table in a hurry.

  136. 136
    TTG says:

    Dr.F/ Ned
    I agree with both of you about Xhaka . Serie A is much better suited to his game because of its pace . I suspect Mourinho would use him in a deep-lying role as you suggest .
    I went to Fiorentina a couple of seasons ago to watch them play Cagliari . It seemed to be played at a funereal pace compared with the Premier League and I was very unimpressed by the fare on offer although it was very windy . The main thing I remember is the number of Carabinieri needed to contain the Cagliari Ultras. It felt like going to West Ham in the seventies !

  137. 137
    North Bank Ned says:

    Dr F@135: The other side of that coin is how relatively few English players have succeeded in Italy while so many who went there have not.

  138. 138
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Ned@137: Exactly! In recent times don’t really remember any great footballer growing up in the UK system being consistently successful in Italy. Not many make that move as well.

  139. 139
    Doctor Faustus says:

    TTG @ 136: True, but even in recent times — years after the halcyon days of Serie A when all the best players used to gravitate towards Italy — Italy has had more success in International football than England. 🙂

    I think the combination of tactical understanding of the game and technical skills among the top players in Italy are still some of the best.

  140. 140
    Pangloss says: