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Coming Together

My favorite moment in this Boxing Day away fixture against Norwich came just before the half-time around 44th minute, when despite their dominance on the ball and being in complete control of the game Arsenal was winning by a slender 1-0 lead.  And entirely hapless even though the Canaries were, they had by then decided on the cunning strategy of kicking their opposition out of the game, and in the process hoping to find a slice of fortune, if not a moment of footballing inspiration, to get something out of the game. Given that one of Arsenal’s veritable leaders is particularly gifted at walking straight into any trap of red card provocations, and given how many times in recent years we had allowed struggling teams to come back against us from unlikelier positions, I felt another goal before the half-time would be the best way to nip that possibility in the bud.

Gabriel Martinelli – who has now formed a habit of responding to losing possession, anywhere on the pitch, with a serial duelist’s sense of personal honor – dropping down all the way into the right defensive midfielder position won the ball back, and immediately fed it to Martin Ødegaard. The Norwegian has lately been using his left foot with the self-assuredness of a philharmonic conductor waving his baton, and in one single turn and move he passed the ball, with the characteristically precise weight and spin, onto Kieran Tierney’s path. Tierney’s first touch may have moved the ball just a bit further forward than what he had hoped for, but still he had enough time and composure to place a clinically precise side-foot finish on the inside of the far post into the net.  Since our super Scot had joined Arsenal, he has shown glimpses of his striking abilities with a few well taken goals and some fierce drives onto the posts, and without having to go full Roberto Carlos on us I hope he would take more such attempts in the coming days and years. Especially if he celebrates like that, connecting so directly and wholeheartedly with the ever-spirited traveling faithful. 

Norwich City 0 – Arsenal 2 (Saka 6’, Tierney 44’)

The two-goal lead going into the break was the minimum Arsenal deserved after completely outplaying Norwich with a pleasing authority. Mikel started mostly an unchanged team from our last Premier League victory against Leeds, the only exception being Tomiyasu’s Covid-enforced absence. It seemed his other immediate replacement options were all unavailable for the same reason: Cedric, Chambers, Maitland-Niles. (We live in such perplexing times that strange coincidences no longer stir our abilities to be moved).   Holding came into his place, slotting in Benjamin White’s right-sided central defensive role while White himself shifting towards the right back. Tomiyasu has been one of our most consistent performers this season and even when we as a team are not playing well, he has provided a reassuring security and control on the right side of the pitch.    


White – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney

Partey – Xhaka

Saka – Ødegaard – Martinelli


Sambi and Mari were back on the bench following the end of their quarantine periods.  On the bench too were Eddie Nketiah, Pépé, Patino (all goal-scorers in our last match in the League Cup) and our highest goal scorer for this season, one Emile Smith-Rowe, who nowadays seems to need only 10-odd minutes of sub appearance to score his customary Premier League goal.

Our bright and purposeful start was very quickly rewarded when Martinelli chasing after a ball forced Norwich central defender Kabak into an ill-judged pass that was snapped up by Tierney. Arsenal moved the ball rapidly forward through interchanges between him, Laca and Gabi, who promptly passed the ball to Ødegaard, who had taken a central position. Martin fed it to Saka inside the penalty box. Within a few seconds Arsenal had moved the ball from left-midfield position to the right side of the opposition penalty box. Saka hesitated just the right amount of time, the defense had no clue whether to close him down or look after the movements of Laca and Gabi, and Saka took full opportunity of that uncertainty with a precisely placed shot between the defenders’ legs. Gunn in Norwich goal didn’t see the ball until the last moment and his reaction was too late to stop conceding.

 Norwich City 0 – Arsenal 1 (Saka 6’)

In between these two goals we played some enjoyable football. Partey seemed to have sped up his forward passing and was much less inconsistent on the ball and looked more like the player we hope he would eventually be for Arsenal on a consistent basis. Gabi and Saka terrorized the full backs, Laca nicely knitted the movements together, and even Granit looked for the forward pass with an unusual frequency. 

But my favorite performance was by Ødegaard in that half. As the story goes, he could have joined us when he was a teenage sensation before he eventually went to Madrid, and I myself had always wanted Arsenal to get him on a permanent move this season among all the attacking midfield options we were being linked with in the summer, even though his short spell on loan last season was somewhat inconsistent. I love the intelligence of his positioning, his wonderful understanding of the half-spaces, the skills on the ball and the subtlety of his passing that is reminiscent of another left footed player who too had joined Arsenal from Madrid, added to that a solid defensive awareness and praiseworthy work rate off the ball and I think we have a player who can become one of the best in that position. He has lately been producing goals and assists, and the first half performance by him in this match was simply outstanding.

Our most worrying moment in the first half came when Xhaka, in an inimitably Xhaka-like fashion, nearly manufactured a sending off for himself. Thankfully Arsenal players came to rescue him from his own petulance. Norwich was very poor on the ball, so the Xhaka-Partey partnership was not particularly tested, but I thought I saw a few glimpses of clarity in their interchanges and intent.

The second half continued that theme of Arsenal dominance. Martinelli started to torment the right side of the Norwich defense incessantly, had a goal from a deflected shot ruled out because of offside, and even though Norwich enjoyed a bit more possession in the Arsenal half and got a few corners, it felt like only a matter of time before Arsenal would get a third. Which Bukayo Saka delivered on the 66th minute. Following a period of patient build-up play through the midfield and then the Norwich right side, Lacazette found Saka on the edge of the box. Recognizing the tentativeness in the Norwich defense Saka quickly maneuvered himself into a position from which he curled in a cultured finish from his favorite left foot. Saka – already precociously intelligent on and off the ball to complement his superlative technical skills – has this season started to demonstrate an ability to quickly assess the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition defense and vary his approach accordingly. His attempts used to be more instinctive in and around the box, but now he seems to be thinking a few seconds ahead all the time and constantly looking for the most efficient option.

Norwich City 0 – Arsenal 3 (Saka 6’, Tierney 44’, Saka 66’)

Elneny replaced Partey around 75th minute and soon after Pépé came on for Saka. Ignoring the travelling supporters’ musical plea of “Charlie Patino” Mikel brought on super-sub Emile Smith-Rowe – but jokes aside, I think Mikel deserves credit in how he has been handling Emile’s return, keeping him fresh for the latter period, though the brilliant form of Martinelli & Ødegaard definitely have helped – for Gabi with less than ten minutes of regular time to go. ESR was involved in a flowing move immediately after entering the field, and with a delightful reverse pass into the penalty box set up Lacazette, who was then clattered for an Arsenal penalty. Bucking our recent trend, Laca made no mistake from the spot.  

Norwich City 0 – Arsenal 4 (Saka 6’, Tierney 44’, Saka 66’, Lacazette 84’)

In the injury time Arsenal managed to score once more, as Emile inevitably found the net following some good work by Martin and Pépé on our right side, smartly finishing from Pépé’s deflected goal bound shot. 

Norwich City 0 – Arsenal 5 (Saka 6’, Tierney 44’, Saka 66’, Lacazette 84’, ESR 91’)

This was Arsenal’s 4th consecutive win in Premier League, scoring 14 and conceding only once in that time period, playing energetic, enjoyable football without jettisoning the basics of defensive solidity. There is a pleasing degree of cohesiveness and unity of purpose in the on-field demeanor of the players, and we head into the new year – as of the time of writing this review the home match against Wolves has been postponed, so our next match would be on the New Year’s Day, against the champions and league leaders Manchester City – with a renewed sense of optimism about the squad. Before the season ends there will of course be a few jitters along the way, especially given how young most of these players are. But the planned evolution of the squad is more tangible now to us the supporters, and the clarity of purpose in the football we play more relatable.

111 Drinks to “Coming Together”

  1. 1
    Ollie says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive match report, Doctor.
    A very pleasant win, and indeed how we managed to ride over Norwich’s attempt to ‘pourrir le match’ at the end of the first half (sorry the English equivalent phrase doesn’t spring to my mind) was a key moment, crowned by that second goal.

  2. 2
    TTG says:

    Thankyou for encapsulating the performance so well Dr.F in a really excellent and analytical report. I only saw the highlights as my football time was spent with the family watching Tottnumb ( a much improved Tottnumb) overrun Palace .
    A much improved Arsenal are finding their scoring form without the player I thought made them tick . Odegaard has stepped up brilliantly . He plays between the lines so intelligently and the diligence of Martinelli and Saka’s return to his best form have coincided . But not perhaps a coincidence?
    Losing the Wolves game shouldn’t be a major problem and as AFCON looms only Partey is likely to prove a great loss. As we appear to be letting AMN go to Roma we must have a solution lined up in the window . I personally hope it is Sanches or Guimares to provide the mobility we need . Norwich looked pathetic but you can only beat what is in front of you and a 5-0 away win is a serious beating .

  3. 3
    TTG says:

    If the eventual fee for AMN is £8.5m as rumoured we really do need to get someone better at getting value for our players. If we are to get €6m for Mavropanos who will be sold on for circa €30 m then Tim Lewis really needs to have a look at sales .

  4. 4
    Mulerise14 says:

    Good one doctor….. very enjoyable match.effectively we now have four top-notch young players jostling for 3 spot.thats why I don’t understand the link to countinho or any other wide player for that matter.we just need an upgrade on Laca and a quality CM for this project to explode

  5. 5
    Mulerise14 says:

    The match against wolves has been postponed

  6. 6
    ClockEndRider says:

    Excellent report, Dr F. Exactly as I saw the game. Especially liked the description of Odegaard in the second para.
    I wouldn’t particularly want Sanches, TTG. He was at best uninspiring at Swansea and never looked too clever at Bayern. And, as we know, succeeding at Lille is no guide to performing consistently in the Premiership.

  7. 7
    Esso says:

    Cheers Doc!

  8. 8
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great stuff, thanks Dr F. I was pleased to see the players standing up for each other when Norwich were trying it on. A good drubbing and their new manager bounce is well and truly buried.

    Few extra days off before the Man City game isn’t a bad thing I think.

  9. 9
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for an excellent report Dr. Faustus. I didn’t get to see this or any other football this round what with family in town but the timing of Kieran’s goal must have been highly beneficial, and the postponement of the Wolves match may not be to our detriment either so long as we can at least put in a solid performance against City. Onwards.

  10. 10
    bt8 says:

    Sky report a coupla fab factoids:

    “(Arsenal) have netted four or more goals in consecutive away games in the competition since April 2009.

    This was Arsenal’s joint biggest margin of victory away from home in a Premier League match, level with 6-1 victories at Middlesbrough in April 1999 and Everton in August 2009.“

  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    Also this:

    “At 20 years and 112 days, Saka is the second youngest player to score 10 or more Premier League goals for Arsenal, after Nicolas Anelka (19 years 225 days).”

    I was gonna say watch out for ESR or Gabi but it turns out both are slightly older than Saka.

  12. 12
    bt8 says:

    A big Howdy-do and seasons greetings to Ciarán of the not forgotten cba crew at #39 in the previous drinks. (Can’t be arsed to us, Kevin to you). Hope all’s well with you.

  13. 13
    bathgooner says:

    Dr F, an excellent overview of as fine an away victory as we’ve achieved in many a year (c.f. bt8 @10). If Ødegaard and Partey can reproduce their interplay and incisive passing against Shitteh then we might just make a match of our next fixture and we might just have 66% of a proper midfield trio to take us up to the next level.

    As you observe the only fly in the ointment was Xhaka’s characteristic needless yellow card. However it was good to see teammates backing up each other as Norwich tried to start a melee.

    I can’t say I’m disappointed that our intervening match against Wolves has been cancelled. It was a potentially disastrous fixture only 46 hours after the Norwich game for us with Shitteh on the horizon and after a full 10 days focused preparation for Wolves. We should be in better shape when it’s rescheduled (fingers crossed).

  14. 14
    bathgooner says:

    And good to see Ciaràn in the bar with a fine sentiment and a song that cba might himself have posted. Yer da’ is also sorely missed in this hostelry.

  15. 15
    North Bank Ned says:

    A comprehensive and insightful report, as ever, Dr F. I, too, like your conductorial analogy for Ødegaard. He is growing into his role impressively.

    TTG@3: £8.5 million for AMN would be around fair market value in the real world of buying and selling player contracts, as opposed to intrinsic worth. Mavropanos’s valuation is complex. it is probably 10-15 million euros. I don’t know when the 6 million euros fee was agreed and if it accounts for loan fees paid in the interim, but there is little doubt that his valuation has increased substantially while at Stuttgart, and the German club no doubt feels that a decent chunk of the increase should accrue to it for its development work. You have mentioned before the selling on of the player for 30 million euros, which raises the question of why the prospective buying club does not come to us directly to get him for far less.

    bt8@12: Good call-out to cba’s kith and kin in the previous drinks. cba was one of a kind and is much missed.

  16. 16
    TTG says:

    Re Mavropanos I understand that Mislintat negotiated that fee with us. There is no sell-on clause for us to benefit and I wonder if there is any sense of recompensing Mislintat informally in some way by letting his club negotiate a killing. As a I write this I still find that incomprehensible but your point about the difference in contract and intrinsic worth is very well made .
    Re AMN , I’d just point to what we got for Willock. AMN is a full international, plays several positions and is a similar age . Why we want to sell to Roma who dicked us about over Xhaka and who are managed by our nemesis is odd.
    My sense is that the PL is MUCH richer than any of the other leagues and if a player is bought by anyone outside the PL other than Bayern or PSG , the deal is likely to see Arsenal lowballed or to be a loan deal with an option to buy . Arsenal seem keen to get wages off the books and less fixated on transfer fees . If so why oh why did they not accept €20 m for Xhaka ?
    I’m told we are very keen on Zakaria . A Swiss midfield player joining us from Moenchengladbach . What could possibly go wrong ?😀😀

  17. 17
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks for a detailed and enjoyable report Dr F. Like most fans, I consider Boxing Day football to be an essential part of the Christmas festivities. New Year’s day football, however, especially with a 12.30 kickoff, can get in the bin.

    I spent three enjoyable years at University in Norwich in the late seventies and arranged to meet with an old friend and fellow member of our University cricket team for a drink before the game. Like so many, he never left the City (which is an excellent place to live) and spent his career teaching in Norwich. We spent an enjoyable hour catching up, then I wandered down past Norwich School and the cathedral along the river before coming to the railway station and, just beyond it, Carrow Road and the stadium. It was, by the way, pissing down (again).

    Our seats, in our block of visiting supporters stretching from the half way line to the corner flag, were sideways on to the penalty area, with an excellent view. Many of the folk around me were East Anglian Gooners, who regarded this as their home game, and fine company they were.

    The singing was epic, loud, almost continuous and largely based on players. Most frequent was the chants for our goalie, almost unemployed in this game. England’s number 1, and the remake of the other AR song, duh, duh duh DUH, Aaron Ramsdale, were sung with verve. We were rewarded with acknowledgment half way through the second half when, with frankly little else to do and leading 4-0, we got a wave. Other songs to feature were of course Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, Gabi Martinelli and Laca. Rocky and So Paddy got up made an appearance. The alleged inbreeding habits of the East Anglians, (NFN= Drs shorthand for Normal For Norfolk) used to be serenaded by an Addams family chant finishing The Norwich Family. This has morphed into a rather less subtle chant to the seven nation army tune “You’re shagging your sister” which amused Gooners hugely. When we went 4 up, we went into full arrogant Arsenal mode. The Ole’s came out, You’ve only come to see The Arsenal and We’ll never play here again. Charlie Patino got a chant as we implored Arteta to bring him on.

    This was such a dominant performance. We seemed to win every second ball, snap back to win back the ball if we lost it and pressed so well. Odegaard had a masterful game at 10, ahead of a highly effective Xhaka and Partey. Martinelli was quite brilliant. Saka has added clinical finishing to his game on a day when he couldn’t just skin his full back. Laca is another one who now takes the ball on the half turn and goes straight upfield (see Odegaard and ESR). Rob Holding harnessed the dangerous Pukki very well. And I thought Ben White was terrific at right back, as was the irrepressible Kieran Tierney on the left.

    A great away day, up there with Leicester this season. Off home to a traditional Boxing Day supper of cold meat, pickles and bubble. I love Boxing Day football.

  18. 18
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words.

    Countryman, is this the University of East Anglia (forgive my ignorance)? I think W.G.Sebald studied/taught there … I remember he died somewhere near Norwich. “The Rings of Saturn” has some of the most hauntingly enigmatic descriptions of English countryside and the connections to the bygone era.

    About the various transfer links etc. I think the acquisition of Sambi, Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White and Ødegaard over the summer had earned Edu, Arteta et al. a lot of respect in my book and it feels like whatever maybe the underlying process in identifying targets it is more comprehensive and meticulous than it has been in recent years. I do find Ainsley’s yo-yo status in the team a bit puzzling but squad building does come with decisions that look inexplicable from outside, and some of those work and some don’t. The Auba decision turned out to be a a very good one providing both a tactical reboot and a galvanizing impact. And a fickle fan that I am, I am happy when the performance and results are so positive. :–)

    I read somewhere that this is the first time sine 1991 Arsenal scored four goals or more for three consecutive matches across all competitions. Also first time in Arsenal history for a single player (ESR) to score goals in sub appearances in four consecutive matches in PL. I am not taking either of these impressive stats for granted. :–)

    I am sure our weaknesses will be exposed once again against City, but I think as long as we keep beating the teams we should beat in a consistent and emphatic fashion we are making progress.

  19. 19
    Countryman100 says:

    Dr F, yes it was the UEA where I did my undergraduate degree . Sebald was on the English faculty when I was there, but as I was studying Biological Sciences I had no contact.

  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@16: Newcastle overpaid for Joe Willock. I guess that in the transfer market, you win some, and you lose some.

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@17: Excellent. Your report does justice to your day. The singing came through loud and clear on the stream I was watching, especially the Olés and the calls for Patino late on.

  22. 22
    Countryman100 says:

    There’s no doubt about it, when we’re playing well and crushing somebody we are a bunch of arrogant f**kers. No wonder lots of clubs actively dislike us. Tee hee.

  23. 23
    Las says:

    Thanks, Doctor F. a comprehensive and very enjoyable report. Starting strongly and then emphasizing every phase when it is just needed. Just like The Arsenal on the pitch. 🙂
    I really enjoyed this match. It was so many mature and/or complete performances.
    Lacazette keeps his good fighting spirit, Gabis play was breathtaking as he was winning back balls left, right and middle of the pitch while giving hard time to the Norwich defence and I just can’t sing a beautiful enough ode to Odeegard about his vision and intelligence.
    I feel sorry for AMN I did think he is a good player who showed his talent many times not least at the FA Cup final against Chelsea. But Edu and Arteta showed so much composure on the transfer market last time out that they earned my belief regarding their team-building process.
    I hope we will put up a good fight against ManCity.

  24. 24
    TTG says:

    Enjoyed your recollections enormously C100. I know that area very well .
    The race for fourth this season is going to be titanic and if the Chavs drop off as they had been until yesterday it might be a race for third . I hate to say it but Conte has worked wonders with the Spuds and Rangnick will probably do similar things with ManYoo. The effect of playing in Europe is not to be underestimated and will take its toll on the teams involved that’s why I hope the appeal is successful . West Ham are running on fumes . I’m really positive about the progress made this season and believe we might give Citeh a much better game than we have recently .
    Just a plea to try to give anything you can to Willow this Christmas. I know it is a difficult time for everyone at this time of year but it’s a terrific cause . Just click on Santa and our Giving Page will appear

  25. 25
    Countryman100 says:

    Many people don’t appreciate what a great city Norwich is TTG. Stuck out near the Wash, two hours from London, it’s a bit of an undiscovered gem. Closest to it I can point to is York.

  26. 26
    Countryman100 says:

    So Man United start tonight eight points behind us, three games in hand and with an inferior goal difference of 7. They haven’t played for two weeks.

  27. 27
    Ollie says:

    I think the League table will be confusing for a very long time, C100.
    Good first half score though.

  28. 28
    bathgooner says:

    C100 @22, sadly this is true.

  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:

    Now Man U are seven points behind us with two games in hand and still an inferior goal difference of seven.

    Make what you will of this, but last season, after 19 games, we were 13 points off first place and eleventh in the league. This season, with eight more points in total, we are 12 points off first place and in fourth.

  30. 30
    Countryman100 says:

    OK, let’s say it bravely, we have a chance of at least a point against City on New Year’s Day. Having dragged up to the Etihad and witnessed that miserable performance, I would luv it , luv it, if we got something from that game.

  31. 31
    Ollie says:

    We now have more chances than England winning the Ashes…

  32. 32
    OsakaMatt says:

    Nothing wrong with a bit of bravery! Get through the first 15-20 minutes without giving a silly goal away and the confidence in the team should be good.

  33. 33
    TTG says:

    Happy birthday Frank Mclintock OBE
    82 years young today

  34. 34
    Ollie says:

    Cheers TTG. Happy Birthday to him.
    Double for everyone in the bar then?

  35. 35
    TTG says:

    I received a programme from a friend in Poole over Christmas- Bournemouth v Arsenal in early 2016 . Arsenal had a roster of 32 players named but only 2 are in the current squad eligible to play in the PL this season.
    Any guesses who they are?

  36. 36
    bathgooner says:

    Happy birthday to the skipper! 🥂🍾🎂

  37. 37
    Countryman100 says:

    Calum Chambers

  38. 38
    Trev says:

    Thanks Dr F for a comprehensive report. I’m a bit late getting to read it as we’ve had a couple of days of family visiting time – starting at 3-0 up against Naaarch, I just couldn’t hold out until the end.

    Man City are in scary form. It seems inevitable that Xhaka will play. If we are to have any chance at all, he will have to be on his best form and his very best behaviour.

    C100, Another enjoyable away day account and a good repertoire of songs. Cheers !

  39. 39
    Trev says:

    TTG @ 35 – I was going to say Chambers too – and Maitland-Niles ?

  40. 40
  41. 41
    bathgooner says:

    An interesting observation on the Wolves match postponement from our friends at ‘She Wore’. A very good point too.


  42. 42
    TTG says:

    Chambers is correct
    The other player…and this surprised me was Elneny !

  43. 43
    TTG says:

    Bath @41
    It’s a well-made case. I suspect Covid is treated as a special case as if they have a lot of Covid cases in the camp there is a risk that more may have it and this might put teams at risk through asymptomatic transmission . Sp**s started this trend by getting their game cancelled , several games in fact when they could have fulfilled the fixture using the criteria She Wore suggest .
    Every team seems to get dispensation for Covid….except Arsenal at Brebtford ! By the way it seems to be a virus that particularly affects right backs !

  44. 44
    TTG says:

    I’m normally a big fan of the Athletic. It carries detailed and balanced reporting along the lines of Sports Illustrated . But Amy’s article is very superficial . It basically says ‘ lay off Granit he’s a lovely chap who is very popular ‘.
    Everything I’ve heard from inside the club or those much closer to the inner sanctum than me all say the same thing. Xhaka is a really nice bloke who is very loved by his team-mates . But it doesn’t deal with the ‘ Is Xhaka the right player to help run midfield for Arsenal. Is he quick enough or creative enough ? ‘ It also glosses over the brainfarts . You were there on Boxing Day when he had a quite unnecessary meltdown that could have got him sent off . The week before he was a very lucky boy to get away without a red at Leeds( and seemed to think it was funny ). We could have thrown away valuable points at both places going down to 10 men .
    I’ve just done a piece for the Gooner looking back at past games with Burnley . He got sent off in 2017 in a game at hone which we were winning and nearly dropped two points . Last year he was sent off again against them and we lost at home …..to Burnley for goodness sake. In the return fixture we were cruising it when he passed across our area and Wood tapped in a sitter . Remember the ridiculous tackle on Kane in the NLD a couple of years ago ? A penalty and he should have had a red card let alone this stupid ‘ WIITWGX’ or whatever . He’s cut a huge amount of slack.
    He’s a massive playing liability and on pitch temperamental liability . I’m so glad he loves his old Mum though . That makes it all right

  45. 45
    North Bank Ned says:

    The Ox scored his first away goal in the Premier League in that Bournemouth match in 2016.

    Our starting XI that day was:

    Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel (Paulista), Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Sanchez, Giroud

    Bench: Ospina, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Coquelin, Campbell, Iwobi, Walcott

    That’s quite a turnover in five and a half years.

  46. 46
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@44: You ask the right question about Xhaka.

  47. 47
    Countryman100 says:

  48. 48
    North Bank Ned says:

    Cuts both ways as City get to have Mahrez available.

    Liverpool may suffer most of the top clubs from AFCON as they will lose Salah and Sane.

  49. 49
    TTG says:

    Glad we have Partey v Citeh .As Ned said I’m happy to trade his absence for both Salah and Mane and Keita missing the two semis against us .

  50. 50
    Ollie says:

    Being able to put our feet up and see that lot drop two points against ten men.

  51. 51
    Countryman100 says:

    Spurs drop two points vs 10 man Southampton. Now five points behind us with two games in hand and an inferior GD

  52. 52
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well in for the half-ton, Ollie.

    Yet again Elneny is the forgotten man. He, too, is off to AFCON.

    So, too, Pepe and Auba.

  53. 53
    bt8 says:

    Elneny’s Besiktas stint makes it easier to forget how long he’s been with us I guess, Ned.

    Re: TTG @44. I had a similar reaction to that article. Knowing that three managers have stuck with him I think I already knew somehow that he must have some redeeming personal qualities and they must help with team cohesion, but his continuing on-field performance glitches of all sorts are a different issue altogether.

  54. 54
    ecg says:

    Hard to believe we are only 6 points behind Chelsea and Poo.

  55. 55
    TTG says:

    Boxing Day 20- Boxing Day 21 we have the second highest points total in the league . That suggests ‘ the process’ can be trusted .

  56. 56
    bathgooner says:

    egg @54 & TTG @55, those are both remarkable observations and certainly a cause for optimism about ‘the process’. Few of us would have predicted that either this time last year or in August. Our first hurdle in January will tell us a little more about our progress.

  57. 57
    Countryman100 says:

    Arteta has tested positive for Covid and so will miss our game v City

  58. 58
    Countryman100 says:

    Just checking on my attendance. So far this season I’ve been at 16 games, 10 at home and six away.

  59. 59
    Ollie says:

    Good stuff C100. Keep the flag flying!
    Still haven’t been since the last pre-Covid match vs West Ham in March 2020.

  60. 60
    Countryman100 says:

    Football Arsenal can e annoyingly inconsistent, but this is a nice piece about our head of emerging talent.


  61. 61
    Ollie says:

    Thanks for the article, C100, very interesting.
    Silly URL for the link, but I guess it’s how the internet work these days.

  62. 62
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@60: Interesting read, and encouraging in its way. If that champion mentality can be transmitted to the first team, then the project/process/whatever it is called these days has prospects of success.

    The last time Arteta tested positive for Covid, it triggered the suspension of football. Let’s hope that lightning doesn’t strike twice.

  63. 63
    TTG says:

    Thankyou for that article . I’ve not got an organisation chart for Arsenal as it seems to me that there is huge overlap in some of the roles . I’d be particularly interested in CER’s take as a management consultant . I still twitch when I see structures that don’t make sense to me . But this appears to be a club moving in a coherent direction with good people in key positions.
    Staff numbers have grown enormously at the club but there does seem to be a very strong strategic focus that didn’t exist before . There were basically two different ways to go and under Gazidis we tried to go both simultaneously. Mislintat spotted the talent , Sanllehi schmoozed with agents . It seemed incompatible and probably was. Sanllehi forced out Mislintat but didn’t survive the scrutiny of Tim Lewis. Our direction now seems data-driven and Arteta and Edu seem to believe that there is a blueprint of an Arsenal player. We either develop him at Hale End or spot him elsewhere and bring him in. There is a pattern of play and players must fit it . The determination to sign the players we did this summer was commendable . That’s why I can’t believe we are going to take Coutinho . Where would he play and what would he add? Sounds like Willian Mark 2 to me . Unless he can play in a deeper role I think he might get in the way of Odegaard and ESR. Only other thought is that he might be able to play the role Lacazette has been playing ?

  64. 64
    TTG says:

    And we were about to play Manchester City ! This time I think we have to decide if the high level of infections is as dangerous as it was then . I’m personally of the belief from the data I’ve seen so far that Covid 19 will become endemic and we are looking at annual outbreaks similar to flu. With vaccines and boosters I think we will start to carry on as normal when numbers fall . I’ve been very conservative about my behaviour because of my wife’s vulnerability but if we protect health services from being overwhelmed I suspect there may be a substantial change in thinking after the leak of Omicron subsides .

  65. 65
    bt8 says:

    Albert Stuivenberg our stand-in manager features prominently in the training photos on the official site, at #10, 12, 23, 24 and probably 30 (of 30 photos).

  66. 66
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@64: That is sort of what happened with the H1N1 Influenza epidemic of 1918. Four big waves in a couple of years and then a gradual petering out until it disappeared as an endemic seasonal ‘flu at the start of WW2. The worry about Omicron is that it appears to affect the young in a way that Delta and earlier variants did not. We don’t know the long-term consequences.

    In the US, there are signs that Omicron is starting to overwhelm health services, in part because so many health workers are getting infected, and in part, because Omicron is striking nationally, not regionally as happened with the initial Covid-19 outbreak. This time around, resources cannot be reallocated around the country as was done so effectively in 2020.

  67. 67
    ClockEndRider says:

    Thx vm for the link, C100. An interesting read. TTG, I haven’t seen an organisation chart from the club since the one which the Iberian crook put together which, to be fair, made sense. But then all the best fraudsters are plausible…..

  68. 68
  69. 69
    Gooner_KS says:

    Welbz grabbed a point for the BHA against Chelski.

  70. 70
    TTG says:

    Win our game in hand and we are four points off second! Chavs and Bindippers look very tired and Citeh were flat tonight . Being out of Europe isn’t always a curse

  71. 71
    bt8 says:

    Danny’s equalizing goal at Stamford Bridge was Brighton’s first ever goal scored at that venue (according to https://www.chelseafc.com/en/news/2021/12/29/match-report–chelsea-vs-brighton)

  72. 72
    bt8 says:

    And it deducted a big two points from the Chavs’ league standing. Agent Danny on the double.

  73. 73
    bathgooner says:

    It’s been an interesting set of results this week that open up all sorts of hopes and aspirations (N.B. it’s the hope that…, well you know!). Although I would have been delighted to see Brentford get the goals their play deserved, I think the fact that City won that game may help us on Saturday. I agree they looked flat and and it may be tougher to bounce back from mere flatness than from a surprise defeat. While our season will not be defined by our games against City, provided we don’t lose key players to Covid, our team will be both better manned and in better heart than when we met them at their place. COYG

  74. 74
    Gooner_KS says:

    Reminiscing his goal vs Leicester, man what a joy that was

  75. 75
    Ollie says:

    Indeed bath. Don’t know about City because I only caught the end of that match and Guinness made it a bit blurry, but there’s been some good results for us and despite the COVID stuff, let’s hope the impromptu midweek break will help us for Saturday.
    The other one about hope is: hope springs eternal. 🙂

  76. 76
    North Bank Ned says:

    Unfortunately City has the depth of squad to refresh its starting XI.

  77. 77
    bt8 says:

    McTominay on body language is pretty revealing as to the reason one or two players weren’t in Rangnick’s team against Burnley.

    “Body language is one thing and the manager has come in and said he wants to cut that out, so that is final. We have taken it on board.”

  78. 78
    bt8 says:

    Not sure the body language situation will ever be cleared up at Spurs, mind you. 😉

  79. 79
    TTG says:

    The excellent Mike McDonald analyses virtually every possible midfield option for us in this long but fascinating article . I thought I was a football nerd but this chap …..
    It’s a long read but he touches on the two names I’ve heard – Svanberg of Bologna ( sale) and Gigi Wijnaldum ( loan ) . If AMN is off someone on this list will have to be arriving very soon with the AFCON happening .

  80. 80
    North Bank Ned says:

    Thanks for the link, TTG. A most comprehensive shopping list, with some new names to me, too. I’d be happy with Napoli’s Ruiz but I expect he is both too expensive and not readily available. What sort of CM we buy will give a big hint as to Partey’s long term future. Does Arteta want a replacement or someone who can provide an alternative and/or competition there and further forward?

  81. 81
    bathgooner says:

    Thanks for the superb link TTG @79. A tour de force from Mike McDonald.

  82. 82
    bt8 says:

    Interesting article you’ve cited there, TTG.

    Unfortunately it is likely that City and the Chavs, and possibly Newcastle, will buy all those players and loan many of them out to their continental affiliates. Sorry to have spoiled your fun.

  83. 83
    bt8 says:

    Suppose we may have a chance at one or two of them but it’s tough seeing as how many clubs at or near our level are also in the market.

  84. 84
    North Bank Ned says:

    bt8@83: There are 81 names on Mike McDonald’s list. I would be surprised if you couldn’t count the ones who change clubs in the January window on the fingers of one hand.

  85. 85
    bt8 says:

    Just thinking, cba would have proposed a countdown to the century before the old year ran out.

  86. 86
    bt8 says:

    Proposed and disposed, actually

  87. 87
    bt8 says:

    Always liked the sound of Lisdoonvarna

  88. 88
    bt8 says:

    Howdy Ned. Don’t doubt you for a second.

  89. 89
  90. 90
    ecg says:

    Speaking Lead Belly…

  91. 91
  92. 92
    ecg says:

    In honor of cba, although I should have posted this last night at midnight

  93. 93
  94. 94
  95. 95
    bt8 says:

    Hey there ecg, happy new year to you!

  96. 96
    ecg says:

    And to you too, bt8! Hoping you are staying healthy and safe.

  97. 97
  98. 98
    bt8 says:

    Sneak preview on the preview. It’s gonna be either CER or Dr. F. They may be drawing straws but I’m betting on the doctor.

  99. 99
    bt8 says:

    Kicks one low and far with Rambo technique

  100. 100
    scruzgooner says:

    jumps onto the pitch as a sub and turns it in a la ESR.

  101. 101
    ecg says:

    Slams it into the back of the net off the far post, Tierney-style, and celebrates wildly with the home fans

  102. 102
    ecg says:

    Nicked by scruz! Well in!

  103. 103
    bathgooner says:

    Happy Hogmanay, Holics!


  104. 104
    bt8 says:

    Well lurked Scruz at the century. Looks like you’re in fine form for the coming New Year fixtures. We could use some goals. 👍🏼

  105. 105
    TTG says:

    That’s a hugely pessimistic view Bt8 @82 .Firstly about 60 of the 81 are credible buys . Our competition is Chelsea, Citeh and in the unlikely event that they like playing Championshio football, Newcastle . On the continent there are two well-heeled glamorous clubs- Bayern and PSG . None of the Italian clubs , Spanish clubs or other German clubs can contemplate much action .
    Secondly I was just reproducing a very detailed piece of work by the estimable Mike McDonald . I probably knew only about 20 of the players . His detailed insights are remarkable . I wasn’t attempting to have ‘ fun’ but it does illustrate there are deals that can be done .

  106. 106
    bt8 says:

    TTG, My apologies for a poorly worded post. It’s an interesting, informative article and I didn’t mean to suggest you thought we could buy all 81 players although it may have sounded like it. But aren’t Spurs, Liverpool and a few other unmentioned English clubs capable of matching or outbidding Arsenal for some of the players on that list?

  107. 107
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well in for the ton, Scruz. Top-notch lurking.

    You must be among the last in this fine establishment to welcome in the New Year, unless we have ‘holics in Alaska, Hawai or American Samoa.

  108. 108
    North Bank Ned says:

    As cba would have said, bt8, you I always liked.

  109. 109
    Uplympian says:

    Happy New Year to ‘holics wherever you are ( and whatever condition you may be in )🥴
    Well in for the ton Scruz – old stylee lurking there.

  110. 110
    North Bank Ned says:

    Svanberg would cost around 20 million euros, so in our price bracket. My questions about him are, first, whether the Premier League will be too fast and physical for him (I ask that purely on the basis of the YouTube clip that Mike McDonald posted, where he seemed to be allowed a lot of time on the ball, but also got knocked over a lot), and second, whether his defensive game is strong enough (the stats suggest it is much weaker than his attacking attributes and his defensive stats are poorer than both Partey and Xhaka’s). At 22, even though he has 100 Serie A games under his belt, he would be a development project.

    If we could push the boat out a further 10 million euros, I’d like Monaco’s Youssouf Fofana, the same age as Svanberg but looks built for the rough and tumble of the Premiership. His youth gives him the nod over the similarly priced Kessia at AC Milan, who would cost similar money.

    If we could go another 10 million euros further Napoli’s Fabian Ruiz would be my buy and over Real’s Valverde. Ruiz will be 26 next season, so coming into his elite years, although he is playing so well this season, I doubt Naples would willingly let him go.

    Wijnaldum would seem to tick multiple boxes for a stop-gap loan: bags of proven Premiership experience, good distribution and a progressive passer, decent ball winner, and comfortable with the ball at his feet all attributes Arteta values. But borrow, don’t buy so he isn’t around long enough to block Patino’s progress.

    Also, is Guendouzi still on the naughty step? He fits the new Arsenal profile technically but may fall down on one of the other ‘four pillars’, notably being a team player.

  111. 111
    Bathgooner says: