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Third PL Match Lucky?

From Pulse NG

Where do I begin? (Hums old tune and conjures up the image of the young Ali McGraw)

“Begin at the end!” said a wise elderly GP on being told by a notoriously garrulous patient that her current ailment was “a long story” and she was “not sure where to start”.

I must confess that I wrote the title for this piece before our first home game. Those of a sensitive temperament or in need of constant optimism should look away now.

Rather than a gentle introduction to the new season, the PL fixture computer posed Arteta a challenging triplet of matches to begin the 2021-22 season in what at the end of last season was already being labelled as his “make-or-break season”. That challenge was significantly magnified before our opening game at Brentford by four members of the match squad testing positive for Covid-19. This clearly disrupted the team’s preparations 48 hours prior to kick off against a team riding high on a wave of enthusiasm generated by their first match in the top flight in 74 seasons. A disappointing outcome to that match appeared highly likely to those of us of a less than incautiously optimistic disposition even before the outbreak of Covid-positivity. Certainly no surprise.

The lessons for me (you will no doubt have your own) from that Brentford game were: 

(1) if we are to take any points even from newly promoted sides with limited players, we need to be ‘up for it’ and show more determination to win; 

(2) Leno appears to have become a highly jittery keeper especially with the ball at his feet; 

(3) if Calum Chambers is our best RB we are in trouble;

(4) it takes time for a new CB to integrate into a back four, especially when there is little organisation and no leadership; 

(5) Ben White needs to learn how to compensate for his lack of height and bulk or Arteta needs to do get others to do so; 

(6) Mari is probably not our best option at LCB; 

(7) KT3 cannot be our best attacking option again if we are to win matches;

(8) the back four desperately need organisation – are we missing Luiz’s experience already? 

(9) Lokongo looks a player but must not be flogged to death;

(10) Xhaka cannot be allowed to see out his contract; 

(11) ESR is a vital creative force for this team and must be kept fit; 

(12) Pepe is our most frustrating player since Hleb and needs to improve his output this season consistently, otherwise he must be sold; 

(13) Balogun is too inexperienced and lightweight to lead the line this season and must go out on loan to learn his trade; he needs competitive game time.

(14) Martinelli is a willing runner but needs to be more involved in games and be stronger in challenges.

Our second game against the European Champions was preceded by the boost of a negative Covid test for Aubameyang but sadly he was deemed unfit to start and we experienced another late sucker punch 24 hours before the match when Ben White dropped out of the squad with a positive Covid test. We will have to be prepared for such setbacks to become a regular feature of this season without the strict bubbles of last season. At least we got a pre-match lift through the announcements of the signings of Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale though the former could not provide his much-needed skillset due to the absence of a visa/work permit. However, we have finally addressed the need for a decent back-up keeper and taken a step towards fixing the creativity deficit. I think that Odegaard is an excellent addition to this team despite the hordes for whom familiarity has bred contempt. In the first half against the Chavs, after a brief opening flurry, we were clearly second best with Mari bossed by Lukaku and James given acres of space on the left side of our defence throughout the first half. Surprisingly, James’ freedom pass wasn’t addressed by the coach until the second half as a result of which it could easily have been 0-4 or worse at HT. However, we did put in a more spirited performance in the second half.

The lessons from that game (again, for me) are stark: 

(1) despite beating the Chavs twice in the PL last season, a decade and a half of under-investment in this squad has left a quality gap between us and the big spenders; only organisation in the press, at a throw-in, in defence, playing out from the back etc. can compensate for that quality gap – we clearly have a lot of work to do at Colney!

(2) Leno is still a reliable shot-stopper; 

(3) our defensive organisation needs a massive amount of work – I hope we can find a reliable pairing in this squad and a leader in the back four (think Bob McNab!); 

(4) in-game adjustments have to be made when things are going badly – that freedom pass on our left flank should have been revoked after 15 minutes; 

(5) see (9) above, we can’t get Partey back to partner him soon enough! 

(6) Xhaka will never change, there’s no good moaning about him, see (10) above; 

(7) we have recently been pretty toothless upfront and for the second week running our forwards simply bounced off a defensive wall without creating good scoring opportunities; perhaps we aren’t yet in a position to dispense with Auba and Laca despite their familiar deficits;

(8) there were encouraging hints of sharpness from Aubameyang in his brief late cameo but unless he or Lacazette rediscover the way to goal we are going to need to acquire a mobile striker who is not a callow youth – our young strikers have talent but are far too lightweight to lead the attack.

Our unaccustomed midweek foray into the second round of the Carabao Cup (forever the League Cup to those of a certain age) saw us trounce 6-0 a juvenile Baggie selection – albeit a meaty bunch of juveniles. That opposition is not a reliable yardstick of our PL potential but the result and performance provide essential balm for our damaged morale before the third and most daunting of our opening trio of challenges. Unreliability of the yardstick notwithstanding, we saw confidence surge back into the Gunners on the pitch, Odegaard pulling strings for 60 minutes and providing midfield urgency, Auba looking lively, scoring a hat trick and suggesting that his radar may be sorted, Saka returning to energetic mode, driving us forward and scoring a lovely goal, Laca linking well for 20 minutes and scoring with a stunning strike and Ramsdale keeping a clean sheet, making a couple of good saves and looking comfortable with the ball at his feet while showing a good range of passes. That match brought a welcome and much-needed blast of positivity. More like that in this match would be nice!

Our opponents this weekend, the current PL champions, looked a shadow of themselves in their opening game at the Armitage Shanks Stadium and managed to lose to the solitary goal. However, in their last game they produced a 5-0 drubbing of a lacklustre Norwich team and they represent a huge hurdle for Arteta and his young team. Shitteh’s rise to their current pinnacle – the obverse of our decline – is of course the result of unprecedented spending on players which has apparently topped £1billion in the last decade. Their starting eleven for this season’s opening match cost over £500 million whilst every member of their bench that day would walk into almost every other team in the Premiership. Guardiola recently claimed that Manure and the Arsenal dominated the league at the turn of the century due to greater financial investment than their competitors but this is arrant nonsense. But for the funds from the UAE Treasury, Shitteh would still be languishing in their previous habitual position of mid table or below and they epitomise the distortions that result from financial doping first identified by Arsene Wenger. A far worse result than the artificial enhancement of a bang average club from east Manchester to become a PR vehicle for an oil-rich feudal state is their distortion of the transfer market that affects every club without access to a bottomless pit of petrodollars. They have risen close to the top of my ‘Hierarchy of the Despicable’ (other epithets are available).

We can predict this match will be a struggle against another clutch of talented mercenaries and we are going to have to be at our best if we are to take anything from the game. At least the midweek outing at the Hawthorns, despite the paltry opposition, provides a glimpse of what we are capable of achieving (under optimal conditions)! However, we cannot be naive. I was surprised that we didn’t play three at the back against the Chavs and I thought Arteta extremely incautious not to do so, despite being at home. A more cautious approach to this match will serve us better. We must recognise where we currently stand relative to the top four at the moment, in particular to these two petro-dollar fueled opponents. That is not defeatism, it’s recognising how things stand.

In truth, history tells us that the odds are stacked against us even without the recent effects of Covid-19 and injuries. A traditional procession of home and away victories against the blue side of Manchester began to falter after their acquisition by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, further aggravated by their early cherry picking of Arsenal talent. It then got worse. In 9 league games since the arrival of Guardiola in July 2016 we have garnered a solitary point from a home game in April 2017, during his first year in the job. We lost every other match home and away. A modicum of hope can be gleaned from the two cup semi-final victories in April 2017 and July last year when we frustrated Shitteh with stolid defence and strikes on the break. We have been universally written off for this match. Can we surprise everyone again? Can we get lucky again?

At the time of writing, Ben White is expected to miss this game but Lacazette returned with a 20 minute cameo against the Baggies and looked sharp both in his passing and in scoring his goal. The injuries to Tierney and Martinelli forcing their removal against Chelsea were simply cramp and they too are fit to play. Bellerin is also available again. Willian is now Covid-19 negative but remains in limbo. Frankly he can remain there for all time but he won’t get under the bar with a belly like that. As I have already inferred, I think we should play 3-5-2 against Shitteh and aim to strike on the break. This is an away game against the champions – the best team in England last season.  We sit pointless and goalless in 19th position in the table so this is a time for pragmatism.

Shitteh are a well-oiled, expensively assembled machine with a coach who knows how to take advantage of opponents’ failings. We are still getting our show on the road and have several failings that Pep will have noticed. Over the years we have seen many sides come to our place and stifle us to steal a point or even three. It’s not pretty but needs must when facing a dangerous opponent! I remember Mancini’s Shitteh trying to do exactly that despite their already expensively assembled team but losing out to a late Arteta piledriver in April 2012 (always a risk when all you do is stifle and you don’t take your few chances). We haven’t created enough chances in either pre-season or our PL matches to believe we can go toe-to-toe with a Shitteh side that will dominate possession. However, I do believe that with a rejuvenated Aubameyang we can perhaps steal a goal (or two?). We should set out to stifle the opposition in the best George Graham tradition, frustrate them and their support and strike when we get the opportunities. Facing Shitteh’s offensive quality and strong defence every one of our players will have to be at their best, work hard and be lucky! It’s not an impossible task.

To this end I would play 3 – 5 – 2 (3-5-1-1 if you like) with an emphasis on parking the bus, keeping things tight and frustrating the oilers. My team would be:


Holding  –  Mari  –  Tierney  

Bellerin  –  Sambi  –  ESR –  Xhaka  –  Saka

Odegaard –  Aubameyang

The Holic Pound?

Although I believe that we will do well to take a point from this match, and I would bite off your hand if you offered me a draw now, bet365 are offering 50/1 on a 2-0 win for the Arsenal. Unexpected riches if we can just pull off a miracle! And, with a wing, a prayer, a chapel full of candles and a Roman altar drenched in bull’s blood, it might just happen.

I hope our travelling fans enjoy the game. I shall be behind the couch with a bottle of Highland Park.


115 Drinks to “Third PL Match Lucky?”

  1. 1
    North Bank Ned says:

    A realistic and well-argued preview, bath. Your 22 lessons have an appropriately Biblical scale to them. If we are to win, I think it will be by the classic scoreline of 1-0 to the Arsenal.

  2. 2
    Countryman100 says:

    Excellent preview Bath. I too was encouraged by the way we visibly gained in confidence on Wednesday and hope it will translate to tomorrow. I would play, as you suggest, a back three, although with White and Gabriel out, it will probably include Mari. We could use KT3 at centre back, as Scotland do, and play Tavares at left wing back. We badly need Partey back – that will come against Norwich. It is helpful that de Bruyne is ruled out, but they are hardly short of substitutes. I will travel more in hope than anticipation.

  3. 3
    Trev says:

    Great work, Bath !

    Sadly I can’t disagree with your list of lessons to learn – you might hope the learning would have been done by now !

    On a positive note, it was good to see some smiles back on the faces of players who had both been questioned and looked pretty fed up last season. And whoever we do or don’t bring in over the remainder of the transfer window, our two best pieces of business have been to secure extensions for Saka and ESR.

    Odegaard, Ramsdale (impressive at WBA), Lakonga and Tavares look to be signings with great potential. The hard yards start now.

  4. 4
    ClockEndRider says:

    “ But for the funds from the UAE Treasury, Shitteh would still be languishing in their previous habitual position of mid table or below and they epitomise the distortions that result from financial doping first identified by Arsene Wenger. A far worse result than the artificial enhancement of a bang average club from east Manchester to become a PR vehicle for an oil-rich feudal state is their distortion of the transfer market that affects every club without access to a bottomless pit of petrodollars.”.
    The high point of a very, very good preview. A pint or measure of your choosing on my slate, Bath.

  5. 5
    Trev says:

    C100 – just read your WBA report – usual good stuff from behind the lines.

    Safe trip on Saturday !

  6. 6
    ClockEndRider says:

    C100 @2,
    Gabriel played for the U 23 s this pm vs the Mini Marsh Dwellers at the Crews Hill Crappydome. So at least he’s firmly in the way back. Although to call them mini is well wide of the mark as they were mostly big enough to play for Pulis or Allardyce. 0-0 at half time at which point I could put off the required evil of work no longer. As a wise man once said, working is no way to make a living……

  7. 7
    Trev says:

    By the way, did anyone else catch Sky’s clips of $ity in the week with mostly Martin Tyler commentating on some of their goals ?

    Roughly it went “ Sterling, Aguerooooo, blah blah blah – and yet another trophy for Manchester City and their golden generation.”

    Yes, indeedy….. a golden generation of which they had produced not one single player. Pffttt !

  8. 8
    ClockEndRider says:

    A quick look on the Inter web shows i watched the wrong half. Final score 1-2 to the good guys with Taylor- Hart scoring both for us. And the MMD ‘s had a player sent off.
    Omen, anyone?

  9. 9
    TTG says:

    A very comprehensive and well-argued preview Bath. You have got a lot of things off your chest ! I agree with almost everything but I reserve the right to moan about Xhaka as I cannot watch him play without that release valve .
    Frankly we have no chance tomorrow and we will do well to hold them to two goals . But we need to play well and move forward as we prepare to start the season properly against Norwich . We have great quality in the squad but it is uneven. I like your suggested team but would play AMN instead of Bellerin- AMN is a far superior footballer even if he has an inferior line in vegan- friendly fashion .
    Taking up CER’s point we won the first competitive NLD of the season playing with a back 3 . Gabriel played the first half . I think the stiffs should play the same formation as the first team ( as we did under Wenger ) and the first team should not switch between three and four at the back too often . So does Betsy’s selection presage Mikel’s preference for a line-up ? It would be ridiculous ( but emblematic of the Kroenke era) if the U23s follow a playing philosophy which bears no relation to that of the first team . Tactical tweaks yes but we need to develop a playing style .
    Finally I have had some contact with an ex-goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach of ours today . He lives in Christchurch and has seen a lot of Bournemouth and a lot of Ramsdale He is a big fan and believes he should get the first-team jersey . He believes Leno is unhappy at the club which underlines the reasons for picking Ramsdale . Bob counsels patience which is wise advice but not always easy to put into practice

  10. 10
    Bathgooner says:

    It’s very reassuring to hear that expert assessment of Ramsdale, TTG. Good news.

  11. 11
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent preview Bath! The key to this match would be what we can do with the few opportunities we will get. Our forward line will make the necessary runs and the right combination play to release them early enough would be necessary to create a sense of threat — and score the odd goal or two, of course — such that the opposition is pushed back a bit and not get as much chance to overload the inside forward positions and create the 2-v-1s that they so excel at.

    I like your team, and most likely what Mikel will play. But I was wondering how about a 3-4-3 in possession which without the ball while defending transforms to a more crowded 5-4-1?
    Chambers – Holding – Mari
    Bellerin – Ødegaard – Sambi – Tierney
    Saka – Aubameyang – ESR

    In this formation we do not need a double pivot because of the extra man in central defense, while defending the two wing backs drop back and ESR and Saka take their positions, even drifting inside a bit to match against Pep’s favored inside-forward movements. We do not play a high line but defend with the ball in front. Sambi’s best skill is the quick getting out of tight spaces and release an accurate mid-range pass. With Ødegaard to receive those passes the options open up in front of him. And if Martin is being man-marked then Sambi can ping the balls through to Auba or down the line to ESR or Saka.

    Mikel has already beaten all the other big clubs in the league — Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool. Time to get a result against his mentor?

  12. 12
    Steve T says:

    Good stuff as always Bath. Nothing to disagree with there. A few things I would point out though. Clearly we lack leadership and as you highlight, especially at the back. To me, Mari looks out of his depth at this level. So that begs the question as to why he is still here and Saliba is out on loan?

    I would swap Hleb for Pepe in a heat beat. I’m not a fan of Pepe. If anyone thinks that’s good business then I respectfully disagree.

    We can moan about Xhaka. The whole Xhaka situation is just bizarre in the extreme. Again, I think he brings very little to this team. At his very best he is below average. He wanted to leave. Roma wanted to buy him. They offered £18 million of reports are to be believed? Xhaka agreed personal terms. The deal didn’t happen???? He is then given a contract extension and the armband?????? Go figure. Personally, I would have swapped him for a toaster and a second hand kettle. I would have also thrown in a free lift to the airport of his choice. How that has happened and the likes of Bissouma is allowed to ply his trade at Brighton is beyond me.

    Martinelli has loads of potential and needs a chance this season. Balogun has loads of potential apparently, but clearly lacks experience. I say apparently because I’ve probably only seen him play for a few hours. He would massively have benefited from following Azeez out on loan. If we are seriously thinking about letting one of PEA or Laca leave then we really have no one to blame but ourselves.

    Who knows what will happen tomorrow. Our defence at the moment genuinely worries me. Especially with very little protection being offered by the midfield. I hope that Sambi plays. I have been very impressed with what he has produced so far.

    If offered, I would take a point now. Let’s just hope that we do not go into the international break having played 3, lost 3, and bottom of the table.

    4-0 to the mighty Gunners. Another hat-trick from the skipper.

  13. 13
    Trev says:

    A pint of whatever Steve’s on, please 😜

  14. 14
    Steve T says:

    A nice drop of Adnams sat waiting for you on the bar Trev.

    Cheers 🍺.

  15. 15
    Trev says:

    Cheers, Steve –

    We could all do with a bit of Tony Adnams 👍🏻

  16. 16
    Bathgooner says:

    Steve, we apparently wanted £18m for Xhaka and had Roma offered to move towards that figure from their offer of 15m Euros (ca. £13m), I think he would have been sold. I appreciate that sum is still a lot more than a toaster and a second hand kettle but I understand that we felt that we were being treated by Italian clubs (Inter re Bellerin too) as a soft touch (which indeed we have been) and it was felt that it was time to stop being a chump. There are alternative views.

  17. 17
    TTG says:

    Steve T
    Cruel comments about Xhaka ….but absolutely spot on . A decision that may cost us any chance of advancement this season. The idea that we should not sell a player with negligible value below a perceived price ( that nobody in Europe was willing or able to pay) was misguided in the extreme . We need another midfielder because Partey is injury prone, Lokonga inexperienced and the other two meh .
    I fear a late Juventus bid for Auba just as he comes back into form and too late for us to find a replacement . The Ronaldo deal is extraordinary, like the Messi deal and the putative Mbappe deal. There is an elite …and we are nowhere near it . I found myself reflecting on this silly rumour about the Quatari Royal family and reflecting that it is the only way we may ever see Arsenal in the top tier in Europe again . How sad is that ?

  18. 18
    bt8 says:

    A chicken’s claw and a bat’s tooth could be useful additions Bath to your wing, prayer, chapel full of candles and Roman altar drenched in bull’s blood. Psychological factors could (emphasis on could) surprisingly be floating positively in our direction with Pep having announced this week that he won’t sign another Shitty contract.

  19. 19
    Silly Second Yella says:

    Where’s Joe Royle when you need him


  20. 20
    Doctor Faustus says:

    TTG@17: If we are to sell Auba as the transfer window is closing down just when he seems to have been getting back to his sharpest it will be stupidity beyond belief. It will not only deprive the team of possibly the only world class player (we have a few world class promises, but they all have a way to go) but will seriously demoralize the squad.

    88 goals in 150 matches playing in front of the worst Arsenal midfield in 25 years. He has kept us just respectable enough, when everything else around the club has been chaotic at best, catastrophic at worst.

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@7: Its only called the golden generation because that is what they were paid for with.

    Steve T@12: I’ll take your 4-0 in a heartbeat. 🙂

  22. 22
    TTG says:

    Yoonited have spent less than us ( in fees) in the window ….and signed Sancho, Varane and Ronaldo . It’s an unfair world sometimes

  23. 23
    TTG says:

    Dr.F- absolutely agree . He’s been a good signing for us .He won us a trophy almost off his own bat .
    SSY – Joe Royle ? Am I missing something ?

  24. 24
    North Bank Ned says:

    It is a funny old world when you can buy Ronaldo for less than Xhaka.

  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    Balogun joining ESR in being called up for England U-21s. So, too, Tyreece John-Jules, currently on loan at Blackpool.

  26. 26
    Silly Second Yella says:

    April, 2001, 0-4

    with Oleg and Igors

  27. 27
    OsakaMatt says:

    Just catching up on some reading so
    firstly thanks for a fine report of an
    enjoyable game TTG. We remembered
    where the net was😀
    An excellent analysis of our current
    situation in the preview, thanks Bath👍
    Our recent terrible record against Shitteh
    doesn’t leave a lot of room for optimism
    but anyway I’ll go for 2-1 to The Arsenal.

  28. 28
    OsakaMatt says:

    I’m curious to see how an aging Ronaldo
    does in the PL, he’s certainly taken
    a more challenging path than

  29. 29
    bt8 says:

    Not a lot of room for optimism you say OM?

    Consider this.

    What time do we annihilate the Mancy Mancs then?

  30. 30
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@28: Solskjaer will have to manage Ronaldo’s minutes carefully. Not too many wet Wednesday evenings in Stoke. But I suspect he has been bought with the CL in mind rather than the grind of the league — that and the shirt sales.

  31. 31
    OsakaMatt says:

    I considered it carefully bt8 but I don’t think any of them will help in our defense.
    Well maybe the red one on the right then…….

    Quite probably right about the CL Ned, though he certainly couldn’t win Juventus one and they bought him for the same reason I think

  32. 32
    ClockEndRider says:

    Morning All,
    Nervous for today. Just as well I have some friends calling for me to take out to play and have my first beer for 6 weeks.
    Must be an omen, right? Right? I’m happy clutching at straws.

  33. 33
    TTG says:

    I’m taking a Spitfire flight over South- East England tomorrow to celebrate my three score years and ten. Hopefully after today it won’t be with a kamikaze pilot !
    Interesting that it is now exciting and adventurous to sign veterans on very much a downward curve on unsustainable wages but Arsenal’s transfer policy is flawed !
    Shirt sales only take you so far . Sadly we can’t sell well or at all. Torreira a current international is fetching a loan fee of €1.78 m with an option for Fiorentina to buy at the end of a season when he will be out of contract . We don’t know how much of his wages we are paying.
    Edu does not have the magic touch as a salesman

  34. 34
    ClockEndRider says:

    Now that is the way to celebrate such an auspicious occasion. Have a great time.
    Torreira is out of contract at the end of the season? I had assumed he was contracted for another couple. Poor. Very poor.

  35. 35
    Uplympian says:

    An excellent synopsis of where we are at this moment Bath. We have to somehow keep the faith but that’s a hard ask for the like period of time involved.
    Onto today’s match and my only ask is for the team to put in an organised and concerted effort. A draw would be an excellent result. To get this Arteta must have a well executed plan that the players buy into – do not try and be too clever trying to out think Guardiola.
    Wishing you a double enjoyment on your visit to a bar CER – may it be good beer & an even better result, though if it’s only one of these we know which one 🍻.

  36. 36
    ClockEndRider says:

    Cheers Uply,
    Bad beer I can put up with…..

  37. 37
    TTG says:

    I’ve seen the defence – Cedric, Kolasinac and Chambers . Does anyone know a priest ?

  38. 38
    ClockEndRider says:

    But probably in their best positions. Chambers and Kola at full back are a pair of liabilities. This way they ought to beanchored at the back.

  39. 39
    OsakaMatt says:

    Difficult to include Mari after last week I guess, come back soon Gabriel.

  40. 40
    Doctor Faustus says:

    That is an unusual starting eleven and quite the unique formation. Let’s see how the team actually shapes up on the pitch.
    Cedric, Kola … sigh!
    No Sambi? Has been our best player in league until now …

  41. 41
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Gundogan with a headed goal … 🙁

  42. 42
    OsakaMatt says:

    A bad start got worse, stay behind
    the sofa Bath and drink the highland

  43. 43
    Cynic says:

    This team is in dire need of a proper manager.

  44. 44
    Cynic says:

    Excellent little summary of the shambolic team selection by the commentators.

    I know we had a rough start to the season playing Chelsea and City in the first three games, but is it too soon to be be fearing a relegation scrap?

  45. 45
    Las says:

    Thanks Bath! Excellent writeup.
    But the real life…
    TBH I don’t mind losing against whoever it is.
    But please, can we put up a fight.

  46. 46
    Cynic says:

    Oh dear, Xhaka. New contract for a bellend like that is another fucking stupid decision made by management of this club. And then Arteta give the twat a pat on the back as he goes off. Fuck them both.

  47. 47
    Bathgooner says:

    Oh dear. Worse than my worst expectations so far.

    Once upon a time, we COULD win with ten men. 🤞🏻

  48. 48
    Sancho Panza says:

    Everything about this club is fucking woeful at the moment.

  49. 49
    Cynic says:

    Might as well take off three defenders, put three attackers on and get fucked up going for goals as try to play properly and get fucked up anyway. We’re going to let in five or six so might as well try to nick a couple ourselves.

    This is not an entirely serious suggestion but it’s about as tactically sound as anything Arteta has done since he rocked up at the club.

  50. 50
    Cynic says:

    Arteta goes off with a face like a dog’s arse with piles but might I suggest if he’s going to be shouting at anyone, he should lock himself away and do it into a mirror?

  51. 51
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Not starting Sambi in this match and let Xhaka just run around everywhere was one of the stupidest decisions Mikel had made.
    As well as starting Cedric and Kola against City …

  52. 52
    Doctor Faustus says:

    This is no different than the last six months under Emery …

  53. 53
    Steve T says:

    I’ve not seen anything yet as I’m at cricket with my youngest. However, my offer of a toaster and a second hand kettle would seem to be over generous…..

  54. 54
    Cynic says:

    Can’t even escape this by watching the test match instead.

  55. 55
    Cynic says:

    Elneny on for Saka? Oh joy.

  56. 56
    KS_Gooner says:

    Which manager is winning? The bald one is more concered with his players’ performance 🤦

  57. 57
    Sancho Panza says:

    Just take Cedric off and play with 9. We’d be better off.

  58. 58
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I’m only listening on the .com commentary but this is still painful.

    I’ve never been so gutted that England bowled beautifully to wrap up a test win before lunch.

  59. 59
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Arsene actually made Holding look good enough. Players seem to be regressing under Mikel now …
    Playing Cedric and Kola in a back line against city with Xhaka as the only holding player is possibly the worst of Mikel’s series of strange team selections .

  60. 60
    North Bank Ned says:

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

  61. 61
    Home 2 says:

    To the naysayers here: at least we didn’t lose 8-2. That’s some progress there. Just shows we should’ve sacked Venga earlier. FACT!

  62. 62
    Doctor Faustus says:

    This tactical “intent” behind our set-up would have been better served by playing players who are actually good on the ball. Tavares for Kola, AMN for Cedric. And dare I say Sambi for that hard-headed parasite in the midfield who just doesn’t get it …

    This was the lowest of the low performances because the team was set up not to succeed at all. It was a completely bizarre team selection, shape, and the moment the first goal went in you could see that the team has no faith in that system to work …

  63. 63
    KS_Gooner says:

    Any chance of getting Conte?
    We so desperately need a manager

  64. 64
    Cynic says:

    Keown had it exactly right when he said that Arsenal’s tactics are like an experiment. It’s like that every game, there’s no real plan at all it feels like pages from a coaching manual that Arteta looks at and thinks, “Let’s try that”.

    We had three players in that team today who we’ve either been trying to get rid of are planning to dispense with very shortly and that’s before you even think about players we should never have signed or who are square pegs for round holes, like Odegaard. I still don’t see how he fits into this team at all, but he’s the least of our problems.

  65. 65
    Las says:

    Except, MA is a genious. He expected this demolition by Man City and he choosen this lineup for two reasons:
    – wanted to show that this set of players are useless (it is still a compliment) and this one went well
    – and he wanted to save the young guns from such disastrous experience and he decided that our league starts after the international break.
    (I tried hard)

  66. 66
    Cynic says:

    Leno – We’re going to ship him out, he shouldn’t be playing on that basis alone and if Ramsdale is the future, get him in now.
    Cédric Soares – We should never have given him a contract although the initial loan was not a bad idea
    Chambers – I like him but he’s a bits and pieces player. Capable of being brilliant, more likely to be average
    Holding – I like him but he needs the right partner and I don’t think we have one to play alongside him.
    Kolasinac – Never been any good, trying to get rid of him for over a year, a poor signing.
    Tierney – Love the guy but not the best defender. Nobody ever mentions his defending anyway as a positive, it’s all about his desire and his attacking play.
    Saka – Think there’s a danger he might end up getting all the life sucked out of him by playing for such a poor side and with all the expectations piled on him. I hope we don’t look back on him as a lost talent who went nowhere in a few years time.
    Ødegaard – Good player but no idea why we signed him.
    Xhaka – Not going to pile onto him, but when you’re actively trying to push someone out of the door and somehow fail to get them out, don’t giv them the keys to the house.
    Smith Rowe – See Saka
    Aubameyang – Must be wondering what he’s doing here. I am.
    Lacazette – Another one with no future
    Maitland-Niles – See Lacazette
    Tavares – Should have played ahead of Kolasinac. Let nobody try to convince you we were playing with three centre backs, it was a random five that was often a four.
    Marí – Terrible signing, should never be anywhere near the squad.
    Sambi Lokonga – Best player of the season so far. I can sort of understand not picking him, in case he got swamped, but ONLY if we’d got players who you could have had any confidence in to be better than him. We don’t.
    Elneny – Another player we obviously don’t want.
    Ramsdale – Start him. I’d still rather have Emi but he’s here so start him.
    Okonkwo – No comment
    Martinelli – Manager doesn’t want him. See Saka and ESR

  67. 67
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I don’t think we will fire Arteta yet. I reckon he has a couple of months to work with the squad. In the meantime, we should be drawing up a shortlist and getting a plan together for who we want if Arteta gets the sack. And a couple of months in football can be a long time, so at this stage I think it is contingency planning, rather than a dead cert. But, also, that we’d be negligent not to have a serious look at our options so we are ready to move if necessary. There is no point bringing in a new guy once the season had already been pissed away.

    At the same time, the bloke I’d fire straight away is Edu. He has been poor and we need a proper TD. He cannot be allowed to choose another manager.

    So, what’s the plan? We fire Edu and hire a new guy and task him with either providing Arteta with the kind of support/advice/guidance/oversight that he should have had all along? And, meanwhile, he keeps his ear to the ground in case Arteta’s cause is beyond help and we need the new guy to bring in an appointment of his own?

    Or we keep Edu? That’s a recipe for future failure regardless of what we do with Arteta.

    What do Tim Lewis and Richard Garlick think?

    What is going on?

    Our executive team are a shambles. So was our team today. Something’s gotta give.

    (Also, as always, Xhaka is a liability. Sorry, but I can’t not write it.)

  68. 68
    Cynic says:

    They both need to go and go right now, but they won’t. Edu doesn’t pick the team or stick a pin in the tactics board to sort out “the plan” but they’re supposedly a pairing working closely together, so both are responsible.

    Problem is, we have nobody in place with the required knowledge to find a replacement. For either of them.

  69. 69
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Mikel has chosen to risk his fledgling career on Xhaka. Good for him. I think Basel is looking for a new manager and Xhaka should always feel welcome home. 😂

    We play Kola in back three while Saliba starts impressively for Marseille, picking up from where he left off at Nice.

    It was a completely suicidal team selection and shape. If a tactics is so clever that it makes no sense then the players no wonder will have a hard time following it.

  70. 70
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Arteta needs a TD with actual football knowledge, and one who he respects enough to listen to his footballing opinions. Otherwise there is no check and balance to him trying out a bunch of stuff that should not be allowed to happen. Today’s formation and personnel being a good example.

    Your last line Cynic sums it up for me.

    I’d fire Edu first. But, as you say, who picks his replacement?

  71. 71
    Doctor Faustus says:

    GSD, denote Mikel to head coach again, maybe throw a lot of money and promise to Overmars and put him in charge of footballing operations with Mikel reporting to him.

  72. 72
    Cynic says:

    I’d like to head off the inevitable “We should never have got rid of Ozil” nonsense that’s bound to happen on Twitter, as it tends to do, by saying we have never been the same since Feo left 😉

  73. 73
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Well in, Cynic 👏👏👏

  74. 74
    Doctor Faustus says:

    I meant demote Mikel …
    There has to be someone he needs to be accountable for after every match for each decision that doesn’t go right. He shouldn’t feel so free to make stupid experiments at the club’s expense.

  75. 75
    Cynic says:

    GSD – I don’t think you should be imposing someone over the head of a manager, or head coach, to try to keep him in check. If you feel the need to do something like this, it’s surely obvious that the guy doing the job shouldn’t be in post at all.

  76. 76
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Doc @71.

    Maybe. I obviously don’t have the answers. I am not qualified to be making these decisions (Much like Edu, although I will say for the chap that he is a better TD than I am!)

    It’s just frightening to think how little confidence there is that anyone knows what they are doing. Does Richard Garlick have the knowhow and contacts to sort something out here? He is about our last hope, no?

  77. 77
    bt8 says:

    Have not seen the game but already spotted a silver lining: Xhaka misses the next game.
    Result was more than predictable

  78. 78
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cynic @75. Twenty years ago I would have agreed. But things have changed now and that’s a very common model. And exactly how that gets structured is up to clubs to work out. Most don’t give the TD a veto on playing decisions, which I think is sensible. But neither do they exclude them from having an influence.

    With a rookie manager especially I think having someone experienced to talk about football with would have been helpful. Especially as we have seen how our transfer policy has suddenly flip-flopped in the last few months. A TD to say to Arteta, when he was appointed, that the direction of our transfer policy would be to buy younger players and develop them and that it was his job to find a way to play them and build with them would have been very helpful. And it would have avoided Willian. (And a wise, old head to tell him to swallow his pride and to stop playing Willian once it was clear he was a busted flush would also have been very useful). Arteta is stubborn – which be a great quality, but, unchecked, has led to some poor decisions.

    It’s like putting an inexperienced head chef in charge of a restaurant without a seasoned advisor to provide feedback and guidance. They will make some good calls and serve some good food – but it is rare they will be consistently successful.

  79. 79
    Bathgooner says:

    Lots of great calm reflection and sensible suggestions in the Drinks after that shitshow. One of the reasons this place is such an oasis of sanity.

  80. 80
    Bathgooner says:

    If Edu fails to offload Willian, Kolasinac and one of Chambers/Cedric/Xhaka this window then he has failed in an essential aspect of his role and should either fall on his sword or be shown the door. I think we are such a mess that we should take what we can get for those numpties.

    Edu should be replaced by a TD/DoF with experience. I would be happy with Overmars but am now very suspicious of heart-string appointments. We need a cold hard bastard to hold Arteta accountable with a few non-negotiables of his own. If Arteta objects to being effectively reduced to a coach again, he can resign and we can appoint someone with experience of building a team to exceed the individual talents.

    We are where we are at the moment so I would be happy with Potter who has learnt his trade and made average players good at three clubs now. Can he make good players great? That remains to be seen. But he doesn’t bamboozle players with astrophysics. It’s a simple game. If you do the simple things right, you don’t concede the first two goals today or get sent off. If you do the simple things right, you don’t select a single slow defensive midfielder to screen the entire defensive line.

    Life is about the decisions one makes. One then has to live with the consequences.

  81. 81
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    “A cold hard bastard”

    Yes please, Baff!

  82. 82
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Bath@80: I agree with worries about sentimental appointments. I think if we can convince Overmars to take on this huge responsibility it would be based more on his experience at Ajax after his playing career, and not his few years with us. He has shown himself to be astute and ruthless and if anything Ajax model has an innate efficiency that is completely missing from our chaotic operations. I hope it won’t be one of those “I operate by my little notebook of contacts” guys that still weirdly has so much footprint on football administration.

    We have all been through bad results and performances before but never have I remembered a starting eleven that is so completely inexplicable in personnel and shape and crumbled that completely after the first goal went in.

  83. 83
    Home 2 says:

    With all the doom and gloom here you’d think that the mighty Citeh were more than a mere 6 points away from us!

    Meanwhile lets all laugh at Wolverhampton Wanderers – the only team in the table to not have scored a single goal over 2 matches played so far. They must have hired the so-called “Le Prof” to be in such a state! MUST!

  84. 84
    North Bank Ned says:

    Reality check: Three games into the season, two of which were against last season’s CL finalists. Pre-season, the proverbial man on the Clapham omnibus could have expected our record at this point to be, at best, P3 W1 D0 L2 GF 3 GA 7 Pts 3. That would also have been the expectation of many of the denizens of this fine establishment, myself included. Some might have feared an opening day draw, or worse, although none, I hazard, would have expected both no points and no goals after three games. Covid-19 and injuries are mitigating circumstances; a full-strength side is yet to be fielded. Rebuilding a broken team takes time and setbacks along the way. Unfortunately, that concludes the case for the glass half-full.

  85. 85
    Bathgooner says:

    Fair points well made, Ned @84. I still think Edu should be given a non-negtioable ultimatum. Either Willian leaves during this window or you leave at its end. You brought him in (along with Soarez and Mari) at huge expense. You get rid of him or you leave yourself.

  86. 86
    Silly Second Yella says:

    We are not mid table team anymore.

  87. 87
    Cynic says:

    It’s not the results so much as the piss awful performances, the lack of a plan, the clueless tactics, the feeling that he’s making it up as he goes along and the team selections. It’s just nowhere near good enough and there’s no sign of even a glimmer that it ever will be.

  88. 88
    Sancho Panza says:

    Ozil sarcastically stating “trust the process”. Lazy fucking arsewipe.

  89. 89
    Countryman100 says:

    Best part of today

  90. 90
    Bathgooner says:

    It does look a lot better than the game. Very considerate of you to eschew the beans too. A regular well-researched stop off or serendipity?

    C100, when you posted it in the other place, I was going to observe that a condemned man should always be given a hearty breakfast but decided not to tempt fate any further.

  91. 91
    Countryman100 says:

    Total serendipity Bath. A delightful find in the high peak. I’ll put a bit more in the drinks under the match report. I won’t be writing about the football.

    Countryman junior (opposite me) is a young man of hearty appetite.

  92. 92
    Bathgooner says:

    Very wise decision, sir.

  93. 93
    Tapera Doma says:

    Does anyone know when we found out that Gabriel had a knee injury & when did Saliba sign his loan contract? Is there a way to break Saliba’s loan contract now?

  94. 94
    Cynic says:

    Does anyone know when we found out that Gabriel had a knee injury

    Knowing us, probably during the medical when we signed him. 🙂

    I just caught up on the post match stuff, as I recorded that bit to watch the F1 qualifying. I was interested in what Martin Keown had to say and it is so dispiriting to hear the three pundits talking about excuses on the second goal and Chambers going down being symptomatic of how soft we are, because it’s like he expects VAR to get him out of trouble and then we go to a live interview with Arteta and he’s banging on about a clear punch in the face and the goal should not have stood. It’s so weak and proved the pundits right within seconds of them saying it. Just do the job.

  95. 95
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cynic @94.
    Does anyone have a video link for this?

    I am always a bit suspicious when pundits say a decision is soft and yet it is difficult to get a replay of it. If it was not worthy of a foul then fine, why not show us the incident? I’ve been searching and I can’t find a replay. Can anyone help out?

  96. 96
    Silly Second Yella says:



    someone’s gotta pay

  97. 97
    ecg says:

    5 to nil, 19% possession, and 1 shot all match, and Arteta has the gall to complain about a foul?!?! And tomorrow it is likely that the neighbors will be at the top of the table and Arsenal at the bottom with no goals in 3 matches. The only person who needs to look in the mirror is Arteta, and I suspect he is too arrogant to do so.

  98. 98
    TTG says:

    Lots of sensible comment although the pain which we are all feeling is clear . I think Ned hits the nail on the head. We could never expect to get much from two of our first three games although last year we lost 1-0 at Citeh and beat Chelsea at home. I didn’t expect us to win but I expected us to be competitive certainly not so comprehensively outclassed
    I hold my hand up that I wrote a very positive preview a few weeks ago. It was based on the belief that we would clear the decks of our liabilities – Xhaka, Bellerin , Willian , Cedric and Kolasinac . Not one of those has yet left and Xhaka has signed an improved contract .
    I also expected us to bring in exciting young players with a high ceiling and we’ve done that and I hoped we’d introduce the best of Hale End’s talent . Balogun has shown it’s not easy to jump into the Premier League. None of the very exciting lads we have coming through should be pushed too quickly .
    I renewed my season ticket but a worsening of the Covid situation and the retention of Xhaka mean I will not be attending for the foreseeable future ( I have a lot of friends who believe they have caught Covid at the Euros or other matches so be careful )
    Edu must go he was an awful appointment. Arteta is in the last chance saloon . Many would move for Conte now. I’d like to see Arteta’s best side with White, Gabriel , Partey , Lokonga and Odegaard plus a right back and new striker play but you can’t blame the board if they push the button. Arteta is running out of time and sympathy

  99. 99
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Well, someone who loves our club should score today…

  100. 100
    bt8 says:

    Singlehandedly improves our goal differential by quite some margin.

  101. 101
    KS_Gooner says:

    @GSD 95

  102. 102
    Cynic says:

    Just watching MotD and Arteta reckons we were in control of the game until they scored. Which is delusion on a grand scale.

  103. 103
    Bathgooner says:

    Well in for the ton, bt8.

    Elegant set up, GSD.

    Delighted to have something to cheer. Thank you gentlemen.

  104. 104
    TTG says:

    Willian us ripping up his contract saving us about £20 million if latest reports are to be believed . As I predicted Fenerbahce are proving difficult to deal with on Kolasinac. Surprise, Surprise

  105. 105
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:


    It’s easy to get down. Ned makes a great point that we are, at worst, only 3 points down on where we expected to be (and both sides that beat us were very, very good) (and we really got screwed by Covid in the first game).

    Let’s see what happens.

    Err, did I say COYG!

  106. 106
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    KS @ 101


    I had to adjust the size and zoom a bit on my phone to get a clear view but it is the best I’ve seen (because no other provider has shown it within the 4 hours after the game when I checked) and I am grateful.

    Did they show it on MOTD?

    That looks like a blatant foul to me (red card?) That is a punch. In the face. I, fool that I am, thought that was illegal.

    I will look forward to Steve telling me that it isn’t a foul, and I am just making excuses (for pointing out that the rules of the game were applied with much discrimination in a match that our baffling lineup and tactics destined us to lose) and backing his assertion up with the opinion of Peter Walton or Dermot Gallagher or Kermit the Frog.

  107. 107
    Silly Second Yella says:

    Varane and Ronaldo – 50m

    Ben White – 50m


  108. 108
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks C100 for promising to spare us the match report, what a nice man you are😉

    A sensible summary @98 TTG, hope you and yours will stay safe in these risky times.

  109. 109
    Bathgooner says:

    A little schadenfreude does cheer one up when things look gloomy. This superb analysis shows that we aren’t the only club to succumb to a foolish sentimental gesture and the charms of an ageing starlet:


  110. 110
    Cynic says:

    I think those who see that second goal as a clear punch have been watching too much football in the modern era, where every contact is a foul. I’ve seen the phrase “he’s entitled to go down” used a lot around this goal, but he’s not entitled to do anything of the sort.

    What I see is one player busting a gut to get after the ball and one who’s looking for a way out. Yes, there’s contact to the face but it’s not a deliberate punch it’s a forward being physical and trying to get on the end of something. I also don’t think the contact is enough for Chambers to go down as if he’s been shot. It’s a modern day defender relying on soft refereeing to get him out of trouble when he doesn’t fancy it.

    That might sound harsh but based on the rest of his performance, I think it is a view that stands up. Unlike Chambers.

    I would have understood it being given as a foul, but I also understand why it wasn’t. If Chambers does his job and is more physical in the first place, shows more desire to get to the ball or have a bit of a scrap with the attacker, it wouldn’t have happened.

    The modern player (and watcher) has been conditioned to expect players who clutch their face at the slightest thing to be rewarded. We see players holding their face if they get an arm across the chest all the time, including our own. I’ve seen Tierney do it multiple times and yesterday we didn’t get away with it.

  111. 111
    Bathgooner says:

    Cynic @110, I think the failure to penalise a fist to the face is a highly debatable point and further evidence against Atkinson’s Arsenal-related decision making but Chambers’ choice to go down is as you suggest, consistent with his generally weak performances. He has never looked like anything other than a squad player at best and it’s a legitimate question to ask why he is still at the club?

    Like you, I am very disappointed by KT3’s tendency to go down clutching his face. He will have acquired a reputation amongst officials and opponents and we must expect him not to get some decisions for legitimate fouls that being the nature of things. He has been spoken of as a future captain but Arteta’s preference for the highly questionable Xhaka suggests that despite his on field displays, Tierney lacks some essential attribute for the job.

  112. 112
    Steve T says:

    I wasn’t brave enough to watch MOTD last night when I got in, so I caught up with it this morning. When you see a team that starts with Kola, Chambers and Holding at the back then you just know there are major problems before a ball is even kicked. Xhaka was Xhaka. No one will be surprised at his red. Everyone will be surprised he’s still at the club.

    Re the “punch,” I’m very much with Cynic. Perhaps my TV is just not good enough but it wasn’t a clear punch to me. There was definitely hand to face between two players tussling on the edge of the box. It’s nowhere near the ball so I would not expect the ref to see it. It could gone either way, but I don’t see VAR getting involved in that one.

    GSD. I wouldn’t dream of trying to tell you anything. Your knowledge of decisions made like this is far above mine and any fully qualified official, so I will happily leave it with you.

    Drink on the bar for anyone that fancies a Sunday lunchtime scoop.

  113. 113
    bt8 says:

    Could it be the start of a new era? Harry Kane 1st minute penalty shout v. Watford not given. Sissoko giving the Hornets some midfield gravitas it appears.

  114. 114
    North Bank Ned says:

    Like Steve T, I find it difficult to assess from the one clip of video available the severity of the blow to Chambers and the intent behind it. But you regularly see worse go unpenalised. That said, the hand across the face that got Kola a yellow looked far less serious than the one on Chambers. It is the inconsistency of the refereeing that is so galling. We probably wouldn’t be so exercised about the Chambers incident had a goal not been scored.

    Incidentally, the League Cup rules contain a specific ban on showing replays on the big screen in stadiums of ‘any incident which may bring into question the judgement of any match officials’ ie, anything that shows officials got something wrong. I can’t find anything as candid in the Premier League’s rules, but do wonder if a similar unpublished guideline exists, which might also explain the paucity of replays of the Chambers incident.

  115. 115
    Bathgooner says: