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Most season reviews are relatively easy to format. You ask, “Was the season a success overall, and if so why, and if not why not?”

I guarantee that if you asked these questions  of most reasonable Arsenal fans about the season just ended,  they would find it hard to answer unequivocally either way. This was a curate’s egg of a season and to be fair it was more good than bad. But I take only moderate satisfaction from it because of what might have been and because I am notoriously picky!

Two years ago I performed the task of reviewing the season during the first pandemic hit campaign. The story was fairly clearcut. Initially we started well, then Emery seemed to lose his mojo and by the time of his departure we were a basket case. Arteta came in and slowly turned the ship around, finally sailing it triumphantly to Wembley where we claimed the FA Cup. Simples —as a Meerkat might say (if he could talk)!

Success, failure or something in between?

But the 2021/22 season is much harder to categorise. I’m left with a huge feeling of disappointment and anti-climax. We qualified for the Europa League very easily. We were 11 points ahead of the sixth team Manchester United who brought in Ronaldo, Varane and Sancho in pre-season! We won 22 games and at times we looked a very good side indeed. We approached the season with a coherent vision of buying young adaptable players with their best years ahead of them and high development ceilings. We’ve consistently fielded the youngest team in the league. Yet, after three games we were apparently (according to the media) in crisis, having lost all of our matches and with a goal difference of minus 9. We didn’t register a goal in any of those games. And yet, all those returning joyfully to The Emirates reported a buoyant and supportive atmosphere. Gone was the toxicity of the late Wenger and Emery years. Our beloved travelling correspondent C100 was by and large loving his trips to far flung parts of the land and reported huge belief, high morale and patience among the away fanbase. That was great to hear! When I returned to watching matches the positivity of the crowd was striking. Curmudgeons were notable by their absence. 

The mismatch between achievement and fan sentiment soon started to adjust itself. After a narrow win against Norwich at home it began to occur to all but Garry Neville that a Covid outbreak had decimated the squad just before the first game against Brentford in their new stadium and with an emotionally charged atmosphere marking Brentford’s return to the top flight after seventy long years, it was a huge challenge to deal with that first game. We then played two of the three best sides in the country with a very weakened side. The City defeat was by 5-0 and many blamed it on a typical Xhaka brain fart which saw him sent off. This is manifestly unfair to Xhaka. We were already 2-0 down when it happened and in six years a Xhaka inspired revival from a position of seeming crisis has been as rare as hen’s teeth …indeed rarer!

We began to climb the table after this awful start and in doing so swept aside the old enemy from the wrong side of Seven Sisters Road with a vibrant performance in a 3-1 win. Belief began to course through the team. New signings like Tomiyasu, White and Ødegaard were increasingly impressive and in goal, Aaron Ramsdale soon dispelled the misgivings generated by his record of successive relegations. He was a galvanising and inspiring presence when he arrived in the side, able to play effectively with his feet and to pull off stunning saves. A save against Leicester, from Maddison’s free-kick was arguably the save of the season.

During this time it was noticeable that Aubameyang who had suffered an injury and illness hit campaign the season before, was not at his best, despite the fact that he still notched goals from time to time. He didn’t fit the style that Arteta wanted to play. He wasn’t a player who could hold the ball up and bring others into play and was more effective playing out wide – but not as effective as he had been and nowhere near as effective as Martinelli or Saka.  One game at home against Watford saw him caught offside for a goal that was chalked off by VAR, block a goal-bound shot on the line, miss a penalty (his second miss in succession), waste several easy chances and generally look very disaffected! The team’s goal scoring burden was being borne by Smith Rowe and Saka but we lacked a consistent goal threat from our designated strikers.

Our revival reached November/ December and then saw us produce two awful away performances at Manchester United and Everton. We lost both games and the Everton defeat was their only victory in a long and otherwise fruitless run which led  to the demise of Rafa Benitez. Everton couldn’t buy a point until they met us …when they looked likely to score every time they attacked and had two goals disallowed by VAR. Demarai Gray gave them a deserved victory. United saw us off with two Ronaldo goals. Clearly our bubble had burst?

But no, we rebounded back with a  series of very impressive wins putting Southampton, West Ham , Leeds and Norwich to the sword. Running into Liverpool we were ultimately outclassed but our momentum was growing and we were scoring goals. ESR was particularly effective but tended to appear from the subs bench as Arteta tried to manage his questionable fitness. Our game on New Year’s Day against Manchester City was massively  encouraging. Ahead through a beautifully worked goal by Saka and with Martinelli and Saka running riot on the flanks it was hard to remember any side outplaying Citeh so comprehensively in the first half. VAR refused to review a highly dubious challenge by Ederson on Ødegaard which was a clear penalty. Then in the second half, a series of horror moments followed one after the other. Xhaka gave a stupid penalty away, Martinelli missed a completely open goal and Gabriel collected two yellow cards for naive challenges. We even looked as good as them with ten men but Rodri’s very late goal gave City victory.  Aymeric Laporte thought it was the toughest game City had played this season because they rarely get as comprehensively outplayed as they were in large parts of that game.

Covid was biting hard. We postponed the home fixture with Wolves and saw the order of our Carabao Cup semi-final legs with Liverpool reversed. The away game came up first and for once Xhaka’s early sending off didn’t cost us and wasn’t a product of his stupidity like most of his red cards.  Buoyant Gooners suspected that the initial cancellation of the first tie at Arsenal was a piece of subterfuge by Liverpool who subsequently claimed they had registered an inordinate number of false positives. Oh yeah! It seemed to us that they wanted to defer a tricky tie with Salah and Mane away at the AFCON.

To buy or not to buy ….or loan?

As the most successful team in FA Cup history we expected an away tie at Nottingham Forest would be well within our compass but we were overwhelmed in a very disappointing third round tie. Shortly afterwards Liverpool outthought us in a cagey semi-final second leg after we had emerged at 0-0 from the first leg despite Xhaka’s dismissal. We therefore only had the League to focus on for the rest of the season and this may have informed our approach to the window.

We shipped out a lot of players. We negotiated loans: Maitland-Niles went to Roma, Balogun to Middlesbrough, Saliba and Guendouzi were already at Marseille and Torreira was with Fiorentina. Kolasinac left permanently as did Chambers and on the last day of the window, Aubameyang departed to join Barcelona. If ever a deal can be shown to work for both parties Auba’s was it. His subsequent goalscoring burst for Barca was notable  but at the same time Arsenal had seemed to play with more attacking zest and freedom after he was dropped. Arsenal made no immediate purchases and took a deliberate decision that if they could not sign the Fiorentina striker, Vlahovic they would sign no one. It was a big and divisive call and one they possibly had subsequent cause to regret although it was widely supported by a lot of the fanbase, including many Goonerholics. I disagreed with it strongly at the time and while I accept good strikers do not grow on trees a top Director of Football would have found a better solution than continuing with Laca and Eddie up front. Arteta exacerbated the problem by continuing to pick Laca ahead of Eddie as a starter. Eddie contributed five goals after his introduction against Southampton. Laca notched two goals from open play all season!

By now the contenders for European places were emerging. There were effectively two Champions League places up for grabs and two Europa League spots.  Added to that there was likely to be a Europa Conference League spot for the seventh placed team. At this stage it was probably fair to say that Arsenal were more focused on Europa League qualification than anything else but a double success  against Wolves pushed them up the League and the more optimistic supporters started to feel that Champions League qualification was a possibility. We went through a couple of interminable interlulls and then headed for the run-in fresh from a solid and convincing win at Aston Villa. 

Well placed as we were we then suffered three hugely disappointing defeats in succession to Palace, Brighton and Southampton, who like Everton a few months before couldn’t buy a win (and had just lost 6-0 at home to Chelsea in their previous fixture) …until they met us. We scored one goal in those three games and Gooners prepared for a bleak end to the season given a stiff upcoming series of fixtures against rivals challenging us for European places. To compound our anxiety, Partey and Tierney were ruled out for the season. 

Lo and behold, we triumphed 4-2 at Stamford Bridge, beat United 3-1 and triumphed away against West Ham 2-1. Elneny and Xhaka did a very serviceable job in midfield but the left back position was a concern as Nuno Tavares began to show his deficiencies as a defender while driving forwards to good effect. Our win against Leeds saw us go into the North London Derby four points ahead of Tottnumb with three games left. 

The 3-0 defeat was a bitter blow exacerbated as it was by highly dubious refereeing (of which more anon). Arteta’s tactics at the Toilet Bowl felt as if they were as misguided as those he adopted at Villareal home and away, almost exactly a year before. It was a hugely disappointing result but victories against Newcastle away and Everton would still secure a Champions League place. The pathetic 2-0 capitulation at St. James Park was as poor a performance as any of us can remember and represented our thirteenth defeat this season. That is a colossal number of defeats for a team with serious pretensions to a Champions League place and was the same number we sustained in the previous season when we finished eighth. Somehow the 5-1 win against Everton in the last game just seemed to underline our status as flat-track bullies rather than suggested we were a hairsbreadth away from glory. Big teams win when it matters like at the Toilet Bowl..and Newcastle ..or at least they don’t lose ..and if they do they at least turn up!

So should we be content with what we’ve achieved?

The Goonerholic bar is, generally speaking a wise and measured place. No AFTV -style rants, no toys thrown out of prams but there are clearly contrary positions on how good this season was. Serendipity plays a part in football. If Tottnumb had lost at Norwich while we  prevailed against Everton we would have been in the Champions League but it would have come about because of one of the shocks of the season. That vague hope lasted about fifteen minutes. 

The general view (but definitely not mine) was that had we been offered fifth place in August we would have accepted it gratefully. My view is harsher. We bottled an incredible opportunity to transform the club and in so doing helped our biggest rivals to rejuvenate themselves despite a flawed strategy, because they have a very driven and experienced coach. The arrogant drivel I’ve had spouted at me by various Spuds is tough to take and so, so avoidable.

There were huge positives and signs of progress this season compared with the two profoundly disappointing league seasons preceding it. The team can compete (at times) with the very best. But we still took zero points from our games with the top two so that an ability to compete needs to become much more deeply ingrained. We are hugely inconsistent and we can lose to anybody in the league. Last season we lost to Brentford, Everton, Palace, Southampton (all away) and Brighton at home. Of the top six we beat Chelsea, Spurs and West Ham. Twelve points from a possible thirty. Spurs took fourteen from those games, but tellingly eight points more than us from games with the top two. 

Perhaps one of the most worrying statistics is that only once all season have Arsenal come from behind to win a game – against Wolves at home,  and only once have they saved a game with an equaliser after being behind – Palace at home. That points  perhaps to a style of play that makes  it difficult to chase a game but more worryingly does it suggest that the team lacks the resilience to recover from losing situations? Apart from those games we only equalised once after going behind all season – against Manchester United away, a game which we subsequently lost. That is an astonishing statistic and is something that should challenge Arteta. Has the side got enough character? After folding like a tent in the last week of the season I suspect a number of us would answer in the negative. Perhaps it is an indication of the problems you encounter with young sides. Do we need more experience in the team? Granit Xhaka is often praised for the impact he has on the side as the older hand steering the young players through. As many regulars here will expect, I don’t see much sign of this and these astonishing statistics bear me out. If Granit is truly the heartbeat of our side, I suggest we need cardiac surgery. Six seasons at the club and six seasons without qualifying for the Champions League. A statistical anomaly or a glaring indication of a problem? Go figure! Perhaps what we need as much as a prolific striker and a top box to box midfielder are some players with balls. Certainly, if Partey’s first choice partner in midfield is still Xhaka next season it is hard to imagine us moving to the next level. 

There are lots of clichés that develop during a season and they don’t always stand up to scrutiny. One is that our defence is significantly improved. Strange then that we have conceded nine more goals this season than last. Until the very end of the season we did not concede from a set piece which was clearly due to the efforts of our set piece coach. Another is that we ‘share our goals around’. Son and Kane, the Tottnumb strikers scored almost forty league goals between them. Auba scored four, Nketiah five and Lacazette six but three of those were penalties. Martinelli is a great talent but over the season he scored once every 389 minutes. Son scored every 146 minutes, Kane every 167. Nketiah notched a goal every 122 minutes but didn’t start a game until 16th April. Saka and ESR had impressive campaigns but there was a massive hole in the centre of our attack for most of the season. If we do share our goals around we need to score another twenty five of them next season to be anywhere near contention for the league.

Several players took big leaps forward. Saka is a star and a durable one. He played in all our League games despite being kicked from pillar to post all season. Martinelli reclaimed a regular starting spot and showed huge potential but needs a more consistent end product. Hardly anyone in football doubts that he will become a top-class player. ESR was the standout player in the side in the late autumn but we’ve been managing his fitness since Christmas. He is nowhere near as durable as Saka but like him is hugely talented. Partey began to show around Christmas just how good he can be and his loss was the biggest blow we suffered last season. His creeping fragility may just be a reaction to the intensity of the Premier League.

We bought well in the summer but not flawlessly.

Ben White is a Rolls Royce of a player who may be the best English centre back around in two years time. He had a fine season. Tomiyasu arrived with very little fanfare and for half the season was superb with the very odd blip (eg, Brighton away). Ødegaard looks likely to be our next club captain. He is mature beyond his years, hard-working, subtle and creative in his passing but he disappears from some games almost completely. Sambi Lokonga had a first season that was intermittently promising but nothing more. The jury is still out but he is clearly a talent. I’m one of the few fans who hasn’t embraced Ramsdale as a goalkeeping superstar. He began incredibly well but I think his handling is sloppy, his judgement on crosses highly flawed and the macho element of his goalkeeping can alienate defenders. But his distribution is excellent. Tavares arrived after a poll among Benfica supporters suggested that they were delighted he was leaving them.  His attacking sorties in his early games confounded this but defensively he is a disaster…and he can’t take throw ins!

Four of our finest players – Tomiyasu , Tierney, ESR  and Partey are very injury prone and we need to have contingency plans in place as they all may miss at least a third of our games . If we have a successful Europa League campaign (and this trophy has been won in the last four seasons by Chelsea, Seville, Villarreal and Eintracht Frankfurt so why not us?) it will stretch our resources. Young tyros often emerge stratospherically but at the moment while there are high hopes for Hein, Norton- Cuffy, Awe, Rekik, Patino, Salah Oueddine, Hutchinson, Flores, Balogun and Biereth there is of course no guarantee that any will make it as a regular first-team player. Patino ramped up expectations with a scoring cameo in the Carabao Cup quarter final a few minutes after coming on. But playing regularly for Arsenal in the Premier League is a challengIng endeavour. We may need to bring in half a dozen players to be able to sustain challenges in the Europa League and the Premier League. That is in addition to our new American keeper. We may need to part company with around nine players. That’s a lot of disruption during a close season.  

You’re bent ref!!

In keeping with the traditions established by the Guvna, debate in the Holic bar is generally civilised and restrained but the one topic that does cause passions to rise is that of refereeing decisions. To be honest, I eschew conspiracy theories and just can’t accept that there is an agenda based on trying to discredit Arsenal and reduce any success we might have BUT there have been some extraordinarily poor decisions visited on Arsenal this season. In our home game against Palace we were leading 1-0 when McArthur kicked Saka’s thigh violently with the ball nowhere nearby. Mike Dean refused to refer the decision to VAR. It had to be a red card if he had done so. A month or so later Ben Godfrey of Everton launched an out of control studs up challenge into Tomiyasu’s head and amazingly stayed on the field. The inconsistencies in the game against Man City have already been mentioned but surely the most extraordinary decision was taken by Michael Oliver in the game at Molineux where he gave Martinelli two yellow cards within five seconds of each other. It felt vindictive but failed to derail us on the night as we held on to win 1-0. 

VAR has not been a great friend to Arsenal and the recent game at The Toilet Bowl was tilted strongly to the Marshdwellers by the gift of an exceptionally soft penalty , followed by a (justified) sending off for Holding ignoring the fact that Son had gone completely unpunished for an elbow on Holding a few minutes before . 

A study produced by Untold Arsenal (what has the world come to when I am quoting them?) in January this year showed that Arsenal had committed far fewer fouls than any other team in the Premier League yet our tally of cards particularly red cards, does not remotely reflect this. 

What conclusions do we draw? GSD has a pithy phrase that encapsulates his feelings towards Mike Dean succinctly but Dean is thankfully leaving us at the end of the season together with Jon Moss (who unbelievably is becoming a refereeing mentor – akin to Herod taking over as CEO of Mothercare) and Martin Atkinson. The next generation of referees like Tierney, Kavanagh and Gillett are every bit as  awful as their predecessors and unless the quality and consistency of refereeing is addressed the game will continue to be mired in controversy – but isn’t that  what Sky secretly want? The best English referee I saw last season was Craig Pawson. But if we bring in top foreign players and coaches, why not bring in the best referees from abroad? And put a proper organisation in charge not the unfit for purpose PGMOL.

Arteta – is he the answer?

Arteta has definitely justified the faith that this bar showed in him pre-season but has yet to exceed those hopes. Occasionally, as in the recent Tottnumb game and the match against Palace he can look like a rookie coach. Some doubt his man management despite the fact that he has had to face several major personnel issues and has ducked none of them. The club is undoubtedly better off financially and moreover in terms of dressing room morale without the likes of Ozil, Mustafi and Aubameyang. Some criticise Arteta for lack of proactivity in tight or difficult matches, others for our generally slow starts to matches. Last season we were 6th in the League for goals scored (4th for expected goals), 4th for shots at goal and touches in the opposition box but 12th for shot conversion. We were also 17th for big chances created despite the fact that statistically Ødegaard and Saka were two of the most creative players in the league. Clearly we have to improve our shot conversion but possibly our creativity needs to be spread across a wider number of players. Some blame Arteta’s preferred style of play with its emphasis on creating overloads on the opposite flank but I genuinely see us as a work in progress and expect those statistics to improve. 

Whatever criticisms there are of Arteta, there can be no doubting his ability to improve players, some of whom have been around for years. Examples that come to mind are Elneny, Ødegaard, Partey, Saka, ESR, Martinelli and most recently Nketiah. He has much to prove but Arsenal (who have just given him a new three year contract) would be ill-advised to give up on him as he now has a squad which is authentically his own and a feasible replacement who would outperform him would be hard to find (Vieira and Potter are largely unproven too).

The forthcoming transfer window is extremely important and we need to scale up in terms of quality and numbers in several positions. Amazingly, as I edited this article on a mid-morning train to London a group of quite unconnected Gooners coalesced in my carriage and began to discuss the season just ended. They were generally happier than I was and seemed to harbour high hopes for a number of the emerging stars. Fifth place is not a major let-down unless viewed in the context of what lay before us a fortnight ago. Our big choke might be entirely explicable but it does suggest to me that while this squad is indeed a work in progress it has a big job ahead of it to emulate some of its predecessors. It is also the second time recently that we have blown up when clearly in sight of a return to the Champions League. I share the concern of many fans that choking may become a very costly and frustrating habit. We need stronger characters, the much vaunted ‘leaders’ so often referenced by old Gooner legends. If you look at our great sides and look at this one, the deficit in character is fairly obvious. That is my big takeaway from the season. 

So, 2021/22 is over in a flash, it seems. It could certainly have been a lot worse and there is much cause for optimism next season, but when I look back to that blissful moment after the Leeds victory when Louis Dunford’s anthem rang out exultantly over the ground and Champions League qualification looked almost assured, I realise that it could also have been a great deal better!

85 Drinks to “A Tale of What Might Have Been (Long read)”

  1. 1
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Mike Dean is a runt!

  2. 2
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Bloody spillchucker 😉

  3. 3
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers TTG. Absolutely comprehensive, great style and a fantastic piece to round out the season in the bar.

    I’m generally happier than you. I’m less concerned about us lacking character – I see us lacking experience. White, Gabriel, Saka, ESR, Gabi and Ramsdale don’t lack character, they lack experience and know-how, and they will have gained plenty this season.

    I’m fully behind Arteta. It is his attitude that has won me over. Its like watching any top, top leader come in and transform a body (sports team, business etc). He relentlessly applies a set of standards and a code, even when he gets stick or other people cannot see the vision (or want to sacrifice it for short term gain) and that determination and steadfastness is what will bring success, as well as being exactly the type of leadership our young stars need to flourish. When Gabi, Saka, ESR etc. are all signing new deals with us, instead of going to other clubs, you can bet every one of them will be citing the gaffer’s presence as a reason they are staying.

    A top, top team goes out to win every game, without fear of the opposition or the situation. And to be a top team the first step is to act like one. Our approach to the Spuds game was spot on, and we were unlucky with refereeing and Holding’s naivety that it didn’t yield results. In a couple of years time we will have a team that has this relentless attitude – just the same way Pep’s first PL team played out from the back and took a huge amount of stick for errors, but now most clubs do it – or Klopp’s first Liverpool team pressed relentlessly but dropped points and took stick when teams broke the press, yet now it is an ever present PL tactic. It was the manager who gave those players the permission and belief to stick with the plan and it worked out for them pretty well in the end.

    Arteta can see what he wants from this team. He is putting it together piece by piece, and he has the passion, energy, integrity and commitment to bring this vision to fruition. In a couple of years no-one will remember Spurs’ triumphant run to the last 32 of the Champs League, so fuck them. But this season will be seen as an important step on our upwards trajectory.

    We need a good summer in the transfer market. That is the priority. If we get this right then next season will be the one that takes us above the Europa League spots, and the season after we can challenge for the League. Arteta is nothing if not ambitious. He wants to win it all. And he wants to do so with us. He wants to be the next Pep, the next Klopp, the bloke who takes a club and brings them to the very top of the football world. I’m excited to see him try!


  4. 4
    North Bank Ned says:

    A clear-eyed and honest assessment, TTG. As GSD says, comprehensive and written with style and, I would add, lucidity.

    My pre-season forecast was 1. Man City, 2. Chelsea, 3 Liverpool, 4 Man Utd, 5. Leicester, 6. Arsenal, 7. Tottenham. So at season’s end, I was predisposed to being in the willingly-take-fifth camp. But I find myself drifting more and more to your viewpoint of being disappointed at letting fourth slip from our grasp, doubly so given who got it.

    Few in this fine establishment will disagree with your shopping list for next season: goals, fitness, squad depth and big-match experience. Arteta, too, is a work in progress, one harder to assess than the team’s progress. However, like his young team, he will be a year wiser and more experienced next season.

    The disruption of the Qatar World Cup will bring a new set of squad management challenges to PL coaches next season, as will our first Europa League group stage game being as soon as September 8.

    We have much to be optimistic about but need to temper that with realism, especially when the squalls arrive next season as they inevitably will. The summer’s transfer/loans business will be critical.

  5. 5
    Bathgooner says:

    Thanks for an extremely comprehensive and entertaining season review, TTG. Your memory for detail is extraordinary and was (mostly) a pleasure to revisit.

    I am somewhat more forgiving overall than you (especially of Xhaka) though I too am very disappointed that we failed to take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to us by the incompetence of those around us. I am not convinced that, having failed to secure the signature of Vlahovic for whom we appeared to ‘go all in’, that signing anyone who was available for a no-strings loan in January would necessarily have secured a CL place – though I am told that we did look at the Swede who has been impressive up the road.

    I am more inclined to blame our ineptitude against Brighton and Southampton than the failure to show up against the Magpies after the calumny committed by Tierney at the New Toilet. I ascribe our failure to grasp that CL place to youthful inexperience and to mental and physical exhaustion than to any coaching deficit. However I too fear it may be a ‘sliding door moment’. The angst expressed by much of the Goonerverse would have been significantly less stridently expressed had the team that benefited from our failures not been the foetid shower from up the road.

    Like yourself and GSD, I am optimistic for the future, provided we can retain our young talent and add a top quality, effective striker (or two) and a top quality midfielder with both creative and defensive instincts.

    COYG (LMBD modified from Lonestar Gooner)

  6. 6
    bt8 says:

    A very fair and comprehensive review of the season, TTG, if it made for some difficult dredging up of disagreeable memories at points. Champions League would have been nice, but beating the Spuds would have been so much nicer. We just weren’t good enough to do either so at least we won’t be Champions League fodder next season. You pointed out the many positives too but the hard part was coming so close at the end only to disappoint. A year of maturation should help the youngsters, but reinforcements are required. Not losing our first three matches next time could be a bonus, if it happens.

  7. 7
    Bathgooner says:

    In the spirit of TTG’s aim to stimulate discussion in the bar, I present my personal proposals for the Goonerholics Forever Awards 2021-2022. Other options are available.

    GHF Player of the Season: Bukayo Saka

    GHF Young Player of the Season: Gabriel Martinelli

    GHF Signing of the Season: Takehiro Tomiyasu

    GHF Individual Performance of the Season: Bukayo Saka vs Norwich away

    GHF Team Performance of the Season: Arsenal vs Tottenham home

    GHF Goal of the Season: Emile Smith Rowe vs Chelsea away

    GHF Most Underrated Player of the Season: Benjamin White

    GHF Flop of the Season: Nicolas Pépé

    GHF Surprise of the Season: Mohammed Elneny

  8. 8
    ecg says:

    Bath – those are all good choices. The only counter proposals that I might offer are:

    GHF Signing of the Season: Martin Ødegaard – if Tomi wasn’t so injury prone it would have been a toss up

    GHF Flop of the Season: Alexandre Lacazette – when your main striker only scores 4 goals in the league, one less than one of your CBs (Gabriel) that can’t be considered a good season.

    GHF Surprise of the Season: Edward Nketiah – 5 goals and 1 assist in only 8 starts (see flop above)

  9. 9
    TTG says:

    Thankyou for your suggestions and thanks to everyone who has responded so far. There are some excellent points made in the various posts
    My suggestions for the awards
    GHF Player of the Season: Bukayo Saka

    GHF Young Player of the Season: Ben White

    GHF Signing of the Season: Takehiro Tomiyasu

    GHF Individual Performance of the Season: Thomas Partey v Man City H

    GHF Team Performance of the Season: Arsenal vs Tottenham home

    GHF Goal of the Season: Alexander Lacazette vs Southampton H

    GHF Most Underrated Player of the Season: Martin Odegaard

    GHF Flop of the Season: Nicolas Pépé

    GHF Surprise of the Season: Aaron Ramsdale

  10. 10
    bt8 says:

    The most underrated player depends on who does the underrating, so that could make Xhaka a serious candidate considering he outperformed the expectations of many (on those occasions when he wasn’t messing up)

  11. 11
    North Bank Ned says:

    bath@7: excellent idea. My 2-cents:
    GHF Player of the Season: Bukayo Saka
    GHF Young Player of the Season: Ben White (assuming Saka can’t win both awards)
    GHF Signing of the Season: Takehiro Tomiyasu
    GHF Individual Performance of the Season: Thomas Partey v Man City (H)
    GHF Team Performance of the Season: Arsenal vs Tottenham (H)
    GHF Goal of the Season: Alexander Lacazette vs Southampton (H)
    GHF Most Underrated Player of the Season: Gabriel
    GHF Flop of the Season: Shared between Pépé and Auba
    GHF Surprise of the Season: William Saliba

  12. 12
    OsakaMatt says:

    Fair and comprehensive seem to be the two most common adjectives to describe your review TTG, and I fully agree with both. I am probably more inclined to the view of the unnamed gooners you encountered on the train (we are everywhere) with regard to the season gone and the season to come. It was a good season I felt and I enjoyed watching us more than I have for several years, it’ll be great to see how the young players develop next season. In the end, fundamentally, the spu*s and Newcastle games were a knee to the groin and tough to take, and next season the biggest challenge to the team will be to stop the defeats coming in clusters. Thirteen was too many defeats for the season, though conversely the 22 wins was our best since AW left. Let’s learn to draw ugly first, then move on to winning ugly. CL qualification will take care of itself if we buy well and the young players continue to progress, but anyway that’s just a step and I’m more interested in how we manage on closing the gap to the top two.

  13. 13
    OsakaMatt says:

    Saka was the player of the season by a mile for me due to his consistency, Ramsdale and Tomi were both a happy surprise, so a shared award. The best decision goes to letting Auba go, and the worst to the PGMOL for reasons too numerous to mention, though Steve Clarke put in a strong challenge there. Must give something to Mo, so the best attitude award to him.

  14. 14
    Countryman100 says:

    A wonderful, nay magisterial review TTG. I have enjoyed this season so much (most of the time). After the restrictions of Covid it was so good to get back in the ground and I took to it like a kid in a sweet shop. In total, Arsenal played 45 competitive games this season. I was lucky enough to attend 32, 21 home and 11 away. 71% of Arsenal’s games. From start to finish it was a joy, enthusiastic, positive non nit picking fans, new songs, some new grounds (e.g The London stadium) and of course no agenda driven TV pundits. Here’s some lists.

    Best 3 games (that I was at)
    Leicester Away
    Wolves Away
    Everton Home

    I missed the home game against Spurs because I was on holiday. My son (who took a mate on my ticket) has spent the rest of the season telling me what a great game it was!

    Worst 3 games (that I was at)
    Newcastle away
    Southampton away
    Nottingham Forest away

    Best away ground
    It has to be Anfield. It seems to be fashionable to knock Liverpool and call them demeaning names, but I love the City and far prefer it to chippy Manchester. They have turned Anfield into a great ground, and the welcome to away fans is easily the best in the league. Welcoming signs all round the ground , the bar staff in the away end wearing Arsenal tee shirts, cheap beer and no bother mingling with their fans walking back to the car. The Hillsborough memorial is modest, respectful, tasteful and brings a lump to the throat. Oh and their team isn’t bad.

    CBA memorial match day meal
    1. Bombay Bridgford, Nottingham.
    Third time we’ve been to this Indian opposite Trent Bridge. Very original menu and the best garlic naans I have ever tasted.

    2. Lamezia, Holloway Road
    Family run Italian trattoria. Great food, lovely staff and a real buzz on match days.

    3. Burnley cricket club
    Right next to Turf Moor, away fans congregate to eat meat and potato pie and have pre match beers. The home of the Burnley Lara (Jimmy Anderson)

    Best ground based match day scran
    Wolves. Roast Pork, apple sauce and crackling in a bun with roast potatoes.

    Best new songs
    Saka and Emile Smith Rowe
    We’ve got super Mik Arteta
    North London forever

    Best old song
    One nil to the Arsenal sung deafeningly as we walked out of Molineaux

    Fan favourites
    Ramsdale, right from his first game at WBA
    Super Tomiyasu

    Taken overall, I am more inclined to GSD’s view of the season than TTG’s. I am happy at the outcomes, bar the early FA Cup exit.

    My thanks to all the fabulous writers who contribute to this blog. The standard is incredibly high. And I concur with young writer of the year being 21CG. The image of him rising in a Manchester pub to shout “get in” when we scored against United will live long in the memory.

  15. 15
    Trev says:

    Wow ! Thank you, TTG – that must have taken hours and a huge draw on the memory banks. Superbly put together. Unusually, I disagree with a few points – I unfortunately have to go out for a while now but “I’ll be back” as someone once said, if more ominously than my own intent. 😏

  16. 16
    North Bank Ned says:

    GHF Roving Reporter of the season: C100.

  17. 17
    Cynic says:

    GHF Player of the Season: Ramsdale

    GHF Young Player of the Season: Martinelli

    GHF Signing of the Season: Tomiyasu

    GHF Individual Performance of the Season: I can’t recall a truly outstanding one

    GHF Team Performance of the Season: Arsenal vs Tottenham home

    GHF Goal of the Season: I don’t really remember any!

    GHF Most Underrated Player of the Season: Granit Xhaka – yes he’s a bellend, but he’s OUR bellend.

    GHF Flop of the Season: Nuno Tavares

    GHF Surprise of the Season: Tomiyasu

  18. 18
    Cynic says:

    It might be my age, or that in the long run none of the games were memorable, or that because the season ended in failure that’s erased everything… but apart from about two goals, I can’t remember any of them.

    For underrated, read underappreciated.

  19. 19
    Bathgooner says:

    bt8 @10 & Cynic @17 & 18, it was a fine line by which Xhaka missed out on my underrated award and underappreciated is spot on.

    We always seem to have had an inappropriately underappreciated player, all the way back to Jon Sammels in my experience. Is that true for every club or is it a particular feature of misanthropic Arsenal fans?

  20. 20
    TTG says:

    In my long years as an Arsenal fan we’ve had several people who have been the butt of the crowd. Skirton , Radford ( when he started ) , Bendtner, Eboue all attracted serious criticism at times .The Sammels situation was terribly unfortunate. He was incredibly popular for most of his time and you may remember the book about him written by James Durose Rayner which suggested he was a star who never got the acclaim he deserved . But in the Double season a section of the crowd got on his back and he felt he had to leave . I’d take Xhaka over him now..just ..but then Jon is about 75!
    Torres and Jorginho have had a tough time at Chelsea and in the sixties and seventies the Spuds were very critical of some players
    These are Xhaka’s statistics from his ‘ wonder’ 21/22 season .
    One goal , two assists , ten bookings and two red cards . Extremely poor stats on tackling.Without his massive contribution we’d have been lost .
    Elneny started eight games and had the same number of assists

  21. 21
    bt8 says:

    Great stuff c100 👌

  22. 22
    Bathgooner says:

    Well argued, sir. I defer to your data based opinion.

  23. 23
    bt8 says:

    What is our record against top four sides with Xhaka in our midfield? Pretty abysmal I would bet, and Xhaka is a significant part of that record. Sell-by date long past, even as under-appreciated as he gets called when he goes five straight games without a red card or other major mishap.

  24. 24
    TTG says:

    Ned is the Oracle but I reckon we’ve not beaten Citeh since Xhaka joined us in the league but we won two semis against them at Wembley . We beat Liverpool at home in Arteta’s first season but Anfield has been a disaster zone for us since Xhaka came. We did win the Community Shield against them though

  25. 25
    OsakaMatt says:

    You may have forgotten the legends that were Lee Chapman and Jeff Blockley TTG.

  26. 26
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great stuff C100 @14. It’s the first season in a while that I’ve really missed not being there on match days.

  27. 27
    North Bank Ned says:

    The last time we beat Man City in the league was in December 2015, six months before we signed Xhaka.

  28. 28
    Cynic says:

    You could blame those recent defeats on Saka as well, or Odegaard, or anyone else who played because we were nowhere their class as a team. You could also “blame” Xhaka for wins over Spurs, or for winning the FA Cup twice but nobody will.

    It’s a bit mad to blame one player as the root of all our evils, rather than a coach being completely outclassed by his opposite number, or having a team/squad that’s several levels below where it should be but I’m not surprised. 🙂

    Should we do better than him? Absolutely. But you could point at any position on the field and say we’re weak. Partey’s absence, for example, has dragged everyone into the “He’s a better player when he’s not playing” trap. He’s been a poor signing, over all, and a far greater flop than Xhaka.

    Xhaka suffers from being a moron and daring to have a go back at the crowd that time.

    He’s nowhere near as bad as his rep. He’s not great either and I would gladly see him go if we could upgrade. But I would say that about every player we have.

  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:

    Xhaka played in 55 of our 64 games against Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd in all competitions since he joined. Our winning percentage with him in the team is 32.7% against 11.1% when he hasn’t played. Cynic@28 is right to point out that correlation is not the same as causation.

    With Xhaka:
    v Chelsea P15 W8 D4 L3
    v Liverpool P13 W3 D3 L7
    v Man City P15 W2 D1 L12
    v Man Utd P12 W5 D4 L3

    Total P55 W18 D12 L25

    Without Xhaka:
    v Chelsea P3 W1 D0 L2
    v Liverpool P4 W0 D0 L4
    v Man City P1 W0 D0 L1
    v Man Utd P1 W0 D0 L1

    Total P9 W1 D0 L8

  30. 30
    bt8 says:

    Thanks to the monks for their impressive research on all matters Xhaka. The numbers represent quite an astounding testament in Xhaka’s favor even as correlation is not the same as causation. I have been wondering why he has been chosen so consistently by three managers in his time at Arsenal, and these numbers provide some clues. But how much better could the team have done with a more mobile version of Xhaka, and/or a Xhaka who didn’t accumulate red cards?

  31. 31
    TTG says:

    I’m not blaming all of our deficiencies on Xhaka but making the point that you can’t afford to have such an average player in your midfield engine room if you hope to reach the Champions League . While Partey started very slowly and his fitness has been a major frustration the level he reached between November and March is way above anything I’ve ever seen from Xhaka .
    I think we need a majority of 7/10 players to reach top four and if they are higher than that so much the better . Last season I’d rate at 7 or above –
    Ramsdale , Tomayisu,Tierney, White , Gabriel , Partey ( when fit) ,ESR, Saka and Odegaard.
    Martinelli wasn’t quite consistent enough for me and late season Nketiah was certainly a 7.

  32. 32
    TTG says:

    Great research but re Man U didn’t we win at OT last year with Elneny and Partey in midfield ?
    Despite my misgivings on Xhaka I remember several great performances against Chelsea . He played emergency centre back when we drew 2-2 there when Luiz was sent off and was excellent , he did very well in both winning Cup Finals , he scored a cracker from a free kick in the Boxing Day fixture and he put us in the Carabao Cup Final with a goal too. If we played them every week,he’d be our man !

  33. 33
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well spotted, TTG. Xhaka was on the bench that day. I see I gave Man City’s numbers to Man U as well. The without-Xhaka ones should be P3 W1 D1 L1

    The corrected table is:
    Without Xhaka:
    v Chelsea P3 W1 D0 L2
    v Liverpool P4 W0 D0 L4
    v Man City P1 W0 D0 L1
    v Man Utd P3 W1 D1 L1

    Total P11 W2 D1 L8

    That puts the winning percentage without him at 18.2%, still well below the 32.7% with him.

  34. 34
    North Bank Ned says:

    Here’s a stat to ponder: In the past five years, three-quarters of CL semi-finalists came from just six western European cities: Paris, Madrid, Munich, London, Liverpool and Manchester.

    Courtesy of an FT analysis of the increasing financial concentration of European football.

  35. 35
    bt8 says:

    Xhaka underappreciated? Based on the monks crediting him for Partey and Elneny’s work at Old Trafford maybe overappreciation is the bigger issue. 😉

  36. 36
    Countryman100 says:

    Looks like I’ll be making a return to Bombay Bridgford next season. Mmm those garlic naans!

  37. 37
    North Bank Ned says:

    Enjoy those garlic naans, C100. As I said in my preview of the Cup game against Forest:

    this will not be an easy game against a team that could be in the Premiership next season.

  38. 38
    TTG says:

    Garlic naans aside we thought fortune had smiled on us when we drew Forest . It was a much tougher draw than we envisaged. They are a capable, well-managed team .So in place of Burnley, Watford and Norwich we have Fulham, Bournemouth and Forest

  39. 39
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Xhaka takes up a position as a ‘first choice’ midfielder. So, inevitably, when he doesn’t play he is replaced by a bloke deemed less good than him. It is hardly surprising that a team does better with their best midfielders playing.

    The issue is that Xhaka is one of our first choice midfielders. Giving him credit for being better than Elneny and Lokonga, or Guendouzi, or Torreira, or whoever else we have had for the last few years, strikes me as very faint praise indeed. So what?

    He wouldn’t get into any of the teams ahead of us, and many of those below. He’s just better than our other options. That’s a scary fact.

    We win just over 1 in 3 games when he plays. Evidently, that is not good enough for Champions League football. And he’s boring to watch with his slow paced backwards passing not made up for by the occasional incisive ball out to the left wing.

    He is made for Italian football. He’d be genuinely excellent in that league. All of his weaknesses would matter far less, and his strengths would be just what’s needed. Edu, please give him the opportunity he so richly deserves…

  40. 40
    OsakaMatt says:

    Forest had one point after seven games apparently – and we thought we had a bad start😂

  41. 41
    OsakaMatt says:

    RIP Lester Piggott, a true great in horse racing.
    A household name when I was growing up.

  42. 42
    bt8 says:

    Nottingham Forest circa 1977/78. A club assumed to be a permanent member of the top flight when I first watched English football and hadn’t understood the concept of promotion and relegation.

  43. 43
    bt8 says:

    Too bad they won’t still have Viv Anderson and Brian Clough, but the City Ground should seem familiar.

  44. 44
    North Bank Ned says:

    The squad that won Forest two European Cups some 40 years ago was Peter Shilton, Viv Anderson, Larry Lloyd, Kenny Burns, Frank Clark, Gary Mills, Stuart Gray, Trevor Francis, Martin O’Neill, John McGovern, Ian Bowyer, John Robertson, Garry Birtles and Tony Woodcock. Some very good players, at least a couple of great ones, but you can’t imagine them winning anything without Clough and Taylor.

    Also difficult to imagine the semi-finalists of Europe’s elite competition today coming from Nottingham, Cologne, Vienna and Malmo.

    My early doors prediction is that Forest will end up above Fulham and Bournemouth in the Premiership next season, and avoid relegation.

  45. 45
    bathgooner says:

    The history of Clough and Taylor is one of those that demonstrates the importance of having a good coach. It’s a pity for England that the FA were too intimidated by his bracadoccio to offer him that job. He was able to make journeymen into good players and good players great and he had no truck with posers but his sides were often dreadful to watch when they had to face a top team.

  46. 46
    bathgooner says:

    I think Forest will go straight back down, as I suspect will the other promoted sides. Cooper is clearly an able man motivator and a promising coach and Forest appear to be defensively sound but up front they are unimpressive at Championship level and they will struggle to score goals against decent PL defences.

  47. 47
    Cynic says:

    It’s a pity for England that the FA were too intimidated by his bracadoccio to offer him that job.

    It’s his own fault for turning up for an interview with a takeout coffee in his hand.

  48. 48
    North Bank Ned says:

    He was probably right that the FA wouldn’t have offered him one.

  49. 49
    TTG says:

    Did they have take out coffee when Clough was interviewed? The big coffee revolution in the UK started in the late 1990s .
    If that is the sort of thing that affects the FA’s judgement it would explain why we still have only one major trophy .

  50. 50
    TTG says:

    Ned @44.
    You make a great point but one of the things about great managers is their ability to take average players and improve them or at least integrate them into a team. It’s also very hard to compare football in the 1970s and early 80s to now . It’s a game with very different rules , umpteen subs, much better pitches, balls that are radically different to what Forest then would have played with and financial restrictions that aren’t in place nowadays .
    Of that team the standout players were Shilton, Burns, Francis and Robertson. I liked Woodcock a lot as a player and he joined us at perhaps the wrong time but players like Clark , McGovern and O’Hare were incredibly average .

  51. 51
    Sancho Panza says:

    A bracadoccio is very much a type of take out coffee. It’s basically a heaped teaspoon of Maxwell House and 85 degrees water with a sprinkling of Embassy no 6 cigarette ash.

  52. 52
    Cynic says:

    It was in the canteen and he took it to the interview which, in my world, counts as a take out 😉

  53. 53
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well in for the half-ton, TTG.

    Autre temps, autre moeurs. I think that Forest midfield would have racked up plenty of reds if they were playing today.

  54. 54
    North Bank Ned says:

    bath@46: I agree with you that Fulham and Bournemouth are relegation candidates from the get-go. Not so sure about Forest. Once the transfer window is closed, in the spirit of your awards for the season, we should have a round of predictions from the denizens of this fine establishment of which three will be relegated. Would we also dare do top six — in order?

  55. 55
    OsakaMatt says:


    Ivan speaks. Never saw the value of Ivan myself and was happy to see him go but he always waffled well. Though some may point to Maldini as being more responsible for the resurgence at Inter.

  56. 56
    Cynic says:

    What I take from that interview is the validation of my view that Wenger should have left at least ten years before he did, as change couldn’t really happen with him hanging about.


  57. 57
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Today Blogs has linked a really excellent video of Brooke Norton-Cuffy, our young right back on loan at Lincoln City. Well worth 7 minutes of your time.

  58. 58
    North Bank Ned says:

    We signed players from relegated teams. We signed players that were castoffs or had no development pathway. We identified them using modern analytics and modern scouting methods and then we provided an environment where Paolo Maldini imbued them with the values of Milan.

    Sounds like Clough and Taylor at Derby and Forest, except for the modern analytics part.

    Telling point in that Guardian piece about the value of having a veteran striker scoring goals at the end of a season to help a young team over the line, and in Milan’s case none other than Ollie G, once of this parish.

  59. 59
    TTG says:

    Dave Faber and I attended a couple of the supporter’s meetings in the summer and I think we both came away thinking Gazidis is an arch bullshitter . Simply it’s easier to win the Scudetto than the Premier League but I think most of us agree that Wenger should have left several years before he did .

  60. 60
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Wenger with Dein at his side was a differential animal to Wenger with Gazidis at his side. Dein knew how to keep Arsene focused and use his energy where it was most effective. If we had replaced Dein properly (or he had not sold out to Usmanov just when we most needed his guidance) then Arsene would have achieved much more. As an employee, he was not given a strong platform to perform at his best for much of his tenure.

    To be fair, Gazidis never looked likely to be the sort of savvy, strong-willed, well-connected operator that Dein was, and that we needed, so it’s no surprise he was so poor. He was a terrible appointment, and that’s not his fault.

    We can only hope that Dicky Garlick and Tim Lewis are providing the required oversight so that gone are the days when we had people hanging around in positions long after they should have left. And, hopefully, that we have hired the right people in the first place.

    So far, I am enthused by the current setup, although other opinions are available!

  61. 61
    Ollie says:

    Cheers TTG!
    Great review, I revived the ups and down as I was reading, and in the end, I am left with no definitive conclusion.
    I essentially agree with you and can’t really go with a great satisfaction overall, as whatever the initial expectations, however we felt before the Chelsea match, we got it all back in our hands and it was still there two matches before the end even after losing to that lot. And you can’t just ignore that I’m afraid.
    Plenty of question marks remaining, especially with having to cope with the extra European fixtures next season.
    Hugely ‘successful’ transfer window is needed and we need a much bigger squad and injury-prone players to ‘unprone’…
    With the added experience, I think next season is make or break for Mikel.
    The biggest postiive in a way is the return of a much better atmosphere.

  62. 62
    Ollie says:

    Relived rather than revived, my French mind lazily fooled me.
    Although revive could nearly apply I suppose.

  63. 63
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Oh Dear, Ivan Perisic.

    What have you done?

  64. 64
    TTG says:

    Agent Perisic
    ‘ You understand your mission ? Our thoughts go with you !’

  65. 65
    Las says:

    Thanks TTG, you have done a fantastic job.
    I run out of the objectives as others already praised you.
    This was really a half full/half empty glass season. Not just because of missing out on the 4th place but more because excellent performaces were marred by poor ones and most importantly because we still were not able to grab our chances.
    For me personally it was a season when I was able to watch the games properly and not being behind the sofa.
    My last game out was the aformentioned game vs Citeh in 2015 december. At that time I thought it was a season decider only to find out later it was not.
    A big-big thank you for C100 covering most of the grounds taking atmosphere closer to us ordinary not-travelling fans.
    I think it says a lot about us if our best midfielder is Xhaka. He might be a leader by personality and could have an exemplary behavior on the training pitch but he is simply not good enough of a player. Period.
    MA8 is still learning on the job good tactical decesions followed by bad ones. I hope he still will be able develope with the team of youngsters we have.

  66. 66
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks TTG
    A good read and not much to disagree with.
    I’m in the Xhaka out camp. Never mind the red cards, are there any statistics how many goals against us were a result of his dumb-ass passing from non-threatening positions?
    We can do so much better and hopefully will.
    Personally I’m not that fussed about the Europey next season other than to give some non-first choice some gametime. Let’s focus on the league to ensure entry into big-ears again.
    I like Arteta and hope he continues and comes good. I will also continue to be eternally grateful to Arsene for what he did for the club. He did stay too long but maybe for three years – to suggest 10 years is frankly insulting to a legend of our club..

  67. 67
    Countryman100 says:

    Came across this today

  68. 68
    Countryman100 says:

    Prices are from 1981

  69. 69
    Esso says:

    Cheers TTG!

    If we could score more goals, a lot more goals, we would actually be dangerous. We’re always on the edge because of this lack. Go 1 behind and we’re in trouble.

  70. 70
    North Bank Ned says:

    Also, we don’t have anyone who can score the proverbial goal out of nowhere. Pepe is the closest, and he barely plays.

    GSD@63: Lured by Conte and a chunk of the £150 million bait dangled before Conte to get him to stay.

  71. 71
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@67: Those were the days, eh? You could get a threepenny bag of chips and still get change from a tanner.

  72. 72
    North Bank Ned says:

    Jorge Bird reports that Balogun is training with England senior squad.

    Folarin Balogun trains with England senior squad

  73. 73
    Countryman100 says:

    Looking forward to the Test match starting at Lords tomorrow. TTG and I will be in attendance. The Guvna loved his cricket. I found him once in the Tolly oblivious to the world, bent over his phone watching the Test.

  74. 74
    Countryman100 says:

    Naturally a pint of Guinness was also to hand.

  75. 75
    bt8 says:

    Cricket season? Here’s what you might want to know.

    Crickets have mainly cylindrically-shaped bodies, round heads, and long antennae. Behind the head is a smooth, robust pronotum. The abdomen ends in a pair of long cerci; females have a long, cylindrical ovipositor. Diagnostic features include legs with 3-segmented tarsi; as with many Orthoptera, the hind legs have enlarged femora, providing power for jumping. The front wings are adapted as tough, leathery elytra, and some crickets chirp by rubbing parts of these together. The hind wings are membranous and folded when not in use for flight; many species, however, are flightless. The largest members of the family are the bull crickets, Brachytrupes, which are up to 5 cm (2 in) long.

    Pleasant cricketing to all who are engaging in the hunt.

  76. 76
    TTG says:

    Interesting to watch Aaron Hickey tonight.He played at RWB although he plays LWB for. Bologna.I thought he looked a tidy player and that sort of versatility could prove very useful.
    And Zinchenko was sensational in midfield

  77. 77
    Countryman100 says:

    Interesting re referees

  78. 78
    bt8 says:

    Excellent article by McNicholas and de Roche in The Athletic reviewing Arsenal’s options for signing a new striker. It’s a big and complicated decision about which ones to prioritize, to be followed by a big and complicated negotiation to bring in the best choice(s). McNicholas says in the comments that Abraham would be his first choice, but the article itself suggests that Gabriel Jesus is the more likely to happen. Scamacca is an interesting alternative lurking in Italy.

  79. 79
    North Bank Ned says:

    Your presence seems to have shaped up the England cricket team, TTG @C100.

    bt8: Apparently Napoli has pencilled in Scamacca as Osimhen’s replacement should the Nigerian leave.

  80. 80
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG & C100: It appears I spoke too soon!

  81. 81
    bt8 says:

    BBC report: “Since tea, New Zealand have shown why they’re the world Test champions.”

    Performance enhancing tea?

  82. 82
    North Bank Ned says:

    They must have hired Prof. Elemental, bt8.

  83. 83
    bt8 says:

    Lovely jubbly, Ned. 😂

  84. 84
    TTG says:

    C100 and I had a magnificent day at Lords .Beer and comestibles were sampled and we got to see nearly everybody on both sides bat ! England are a work in progress but as far a# their batting is concerned they haven’t made very much progress!
    It was my second game of the week having caught the T20 at the Oval on Tuesday . I’ve scarcely seen a catch dropped in either g@me. The quality of catching and fielding in the professional game is awesome

  85. 85
    Bathgooner says: