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Merry Christmas Gooners!

Arsenal ended the first half of the season (which to be pedantic is not the first half of the season as only 14 games have been played) five points clear of the pack after a 2-0 win at Molineux tonight. It was a measured performance, far from the commanding effort we saw at Stamford Bridge last week but Wolves were obdurate opponents.

I had a very strange day today. It was streaked with a mixture of normality interspersed with some odd moments. Mrs TTG and I made our way up to London, she for a school reunion and I to Ashburton Grove for the match. Nothing unusual there save for the fact that the match was a Rugby League match – the World Cup semi-final – which we lost surprisingly since we beat the same team by about fifty something points a few weeks ago. It went to a golden point and Samoa got it. A very surprising result following on from an amazing result at the Emptihad where Brentford took all the points against Citeh, a result very few people expected and one which ensured we would top the table over the World Cup break whatever happened at Molineux, and also at Christmas. If only Leeds could hold onto a lead it might have been even better! 

Our game with Wolves therefore came without quite the pressure it might have had, although watching Arsenal, even this team, makes me nervous. Wolves had their new manager in the building, even if he wasn’t officially in charge and they gave us a difficult first half. We enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession but sadly lost Granit Xhaka early, with what looked like the effects of an illness. After the game Arteta mentioned that several players had the same bug. He needed very early treatment and was eventually replaced by Fabio Vieira. Vieira is a VERY different player from his namesake Patrick; he really needs a good course of protein and gym work to build him up but he has a silky touch with his left foot which was later to stand us in good stead.

We dominated the game without looking continually incisive and on 8 minutes Guedes who looked offside to me tangled with Saliba on the edge of the box. Nothing nasty was given, which, given that GSD’s favourite VAR official Mike Dean was in charge, was surprising. We had two players sent off here two seasons ago and Martinelli was sent off for two offences in 6 seconds last season, so we had a precedent for calamity here.

Guedes fired over later but the main attacking protagonist in the first half was Jesús who had a goal ruled out for offside, hit the bar and flicked a header wide. Wolves sat behind the ball and denied us space out wide where Saka and Martinelli were well contained. It was a pretty flat first half but we were not hugely troubled. We clearly needed to move the ball faster!

The second half began in a similar fashion but we broke the deadlock in the 55th minute as our quicker passing paid off. Jesús found Vieira with a delightful ball and Paddy lite chipped it over Sá for Ødegaard to just beat Saka to the finish. After this the main danger was the huge and fearsome Adama Traoré. Ramsdale bravely foiled him after a one two with Guedes. Ramsdale took a blow to the throat from which he made a blessedly quick recovery after blocking an effort from Traoré. Wolves tried a number of substitutions but lacked a focal point in a lightweight attack and Gabriel and Saliba were largely untroubled at the back.

The game was effectively settled in the 75th minute with a not dissimilar goal from our first and the same eventual scorer. Martinelli robbed the Wolves right back and backheeled the ball to Zinchenko who hit a hard cross which was deflected to Martinelli. His shot was blocked and fell to Ødegaard who blasted it in. After this, we ran the clock down sensibly and made a lot of substitutions bringing on Cédric, Nelson and Elneny for Vieira, Saka who was not at his best tonight and Zinchenko who I thought was less effective than I suspect Tierney might have been. He is not match sharp yet and that may be why he made a number of small mistakes.

Like last week, I thought Partey was immensely effective throughout the match. Tonight, he was hugely influential in an understated way but he is a massively important cog in this team. Ødegaard stepped up tonight and executed a particularly beautiful turn at the end. He is another understated player but he does a fine job. Ben White was similarly excellent as he so often is and Gabriel Jesús was a one man attack without the goals. Whatever, he is immensely valuable to this team.

So, who honestly thought we would be 5 points clear of Citeh at the break for the World Cup? We are 8 points clear of the Spuds with a game in hand, 15 ahead of Liverpool and 16 ahead of Chelsea. These are heady times but we face the unpredictability of this break for this ghastly World Cup. Many players will be injured, mentally and physically exhausted and who knows what the impact on the title race will be? But, how exciting is it that we are even asking that question with a very strong vested interest?

So, that’s our last league game before Christmas. An ecstatic C100 felt compelled to bare his remarkable torso and was caught on camera in an early Christmas celebration. Merry Christmas, Holics. Let’s hope the lead stays in place.

92 Drinks to “Merry Christmas Gooners!”

  1. 1
    Noosa Gooner says:

    First! As are the Arse.

  2. 2
    bt8 says:

    As delightful report to read as it sounds like it was to write. Many thanks TTG, and Merry Christmas in November to all the deserving holics. Damn the unknown effects of this bizarre mid-season World Cup, but the good news is we have Super Mik Arteta in charge and he’s thinking a few steps ahead of most of the rest of those guys. Also, big kudos to all the players. They have been immense.

  3. 3
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks TTG, excellent report, champion-like performance and a couple of nice goals.
    As you say TTG, who expected to be talking of title chases? I think most of us hoped for a successful run at the Top 4. It’s no wonder that C100 is struggling to keep his clothes on!

    I must admit to a few doubts when we signed Ode, but unsurprisingly MA was right and I should have had more faith – looks an absolute steal for 30m now. In fact as I look across the team now it’s hard to find anyone we overpaid for, even Xhaka and his upset tummy are looking fair value. Lucky we told Roma to pay up or fuck off. It is an amazing turnaround from the old bloated squad. And I wonder exactly who spotted Saliba three seasons ago – an appreciative nod to a man who knew what he was doing.

  4. 4
    Ollie says:

    Merry Christmas indeed. Cheers TTG!
    Went to Rue du Chevaleret for this one, and despite the competition of the rugby, great Arsenal atmosphere. That was a most enjoyable first part of the season.
    Now this damned World Cup will break all momentum, but let’s hope we can restart the same way on Boxing Day. Say we….are….

  5. 5
    BtM says:

    Excellent review, TTG, very much the game I saw. Fantastic positioning for the WC/Christmas break – Qatar? WHY?? indeed.

    When Xhaka left the field, I would have moved Zinchenko into his role, replacing Zin with KT. Vieira was inept and nearly invisible against Brighton in midweek and I feared for him at Wolves. MA8 clearly wants to give him every opportunity to succeed and FV’s beautiful chip for the first goal vindicated his choice.

  6. 6
    MMTWP says:

    Nice one TTG….Qatar…why…indeed…quite a number of FIFA people of old, know full why….did they still use brown-paper bags back then?? I’m a sucker for the WC & it will make a change from T50/BIG BASH or the other variants that in my humble view have ruined cricket…Downunder we’re (apparently) getting all the WC games on Free-to-air…so will be watching a few
    Great start to the day early here, watching the Lads put on something of a performance as i had my porridge & cups of coffee….off to the pit now with a 5-point lead…7th heaven..
    Finally, i may have mentioned it before but QR is a mighty fine airline to fly on…and i think still in OneWorld -same as BA, Qantas, American & JAL
    Sleep tight ‘Holics and enjoy the ride….its been a while

  7. 7
    Trev says:

    Well done,TTG, a fine summary of a less than thrilling game that nonetheless provided us with the excellent, if unexpected, assurance of being top of the league until Christmas.

    The manager and these players have bonded brilliantly to reach this position. The fans are back behind the team and the club, and the away fans were there in numbers and fine voice as ever. Some of them had obviously had a more than adequate lunch too – or was the away end invaded by stray Newcastle fans on their evening journey home ?

    The question I can’t escape this morning is what the hell has happened to Mike Dean. Not for the first time this season he has spurned the chance – even if correctly – to cost us points as the VAR for this one. Let’s say no more and not tempt fate.

    So with the ridiculous upcoming events in the desert replacing Arsenal football for six weeks, all we are left with at weekends is to support our captain. Tony Adams, through the second half of Strictly Come Dancing. We Arsenal fans have become our own bizarre version of VAR over the last seven or eight weeks. Every week the dance judges laud our Tone for giving his all, but completely rubbish his attempts at actual technical dance steps. They continually banish him to the bottom of the leader board it then …. up step 100,000 Gooners to overturn their judgments and vote him back for another week !

    By the time we see the Arsenal play again, Tony Adams could be the Strictly Come Dancing Champion ! Just one more thing we weren’t expecting in this amazing season !

  8. 8
    North Bank Ned says:

    And a very happy 2023 to follow, I hope, TTG. Thank you for an engaging match report. Your point about Partey and MØ8 is well made. If Partey is the essential cog, Ødegaard’s ability to play the incisive first-time pass is the oil in the machine.

    OM@3: And to whoever signed off on paying 30 million euros for a 17-year-old.

  9. 9
    Countryman100 says:

    I did write quite a long report on our excellent away day at Molineux. Unfortunately I tried to include a video of the singing in the concourse and everything disappeared into the ether. I can’t face writing it all again so will just share one anecdote.

    The funniest part of the game from our location, by the corner flag near the Wolves hardcore support, was the way Aaron Ramsdale kept winding up the local fans. He’s a boyhood WBA fan, huge local rivals, and the they knew it and booed him on every occasion. In the second half, every time he collected another fruitless through ball, he would turn and grin at the fans behind him, starting them off again. Towards the end of the game, he was caught and fouled by a Wolves player and our trainer had to come on and attend to him. “Let him die, let him die, let him die” roared the yam yams. 🤣🤣

    I’ve seen a lot of our recent games at Wolves and this felt like the easiest, even though we weren’t quite at our best. A great day out, with Super Mik Arteta being lustily sung in the echoing away concourse as we walked out. No Arsenal now until Boxing Day. How will I cope?

  10. 10
    bathgooner says:

    Good stuff, TTG. This game required steely determination to take the three points. Several players weren’t quite on their game whether from the bug that snookered GX34 or from focus on the ghastly forthcoming WC.

    We may not ultimately lift the PL pot but that was the kind of game that champions win and also-rans draw or lose so it’s yet another encouraging indication that MA8 has built a team that will present a serious challenge this season.

    I pray that our boys going to the shameful competition in the desert, come back with intact limbs, a period of rest and a focus on finishing the job to which they’ve made a superb start.


  11. 11
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG: I was remiss earlier in not commending you and the rest of the editorial powers that be earlier for the Qatar statement, both in style and substance.

  12. 12
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Keenly observed and succinctly articulated review TTG!

    The stomach bug that forced Xhaka to be subbed may explain a rather uncharacteristic relative sluggishness from some of the other players, most notably Saliba and Zinchenko.

    The goals or assists stats won’t do any justice to the importance of Gabriel Jesus’s outstanding performance. That tireless work rate, professionalism and a complete selflessness — which is rarer among central strikers than he gets credited for — I think has a genuinely inspirational impact on the entire squad.

    Best wishes to all the Arsenal players going to the World Cup. Whatever may our sentiments be about the ethical dimensions of this year’s event, for the players themselves it’s a moment of great pride and achievement and they should enjoy this rare opportunity. Let’s hope they all return fully ready, physically and mentally, to get going again for the Arsenal.

  13. 13
    OsakaMatt says:

    True enough Ned@8, Saliba was a gamble.

    @7 😂😂Trev. The gooners have subverted strictly come dancing! I wonder if the non-football folk watching each week realize what’s happening.

  14. 14
    bt8 says:

    Just to agree, emphatically, with Dr. Faustus’ comments @12 about the impact of Gabriel Jesus’ forward play. What a positive transformation in comparison to our forward play prior to his arrival.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@15: Thanks for the link. Thoughtful analysis by Macdonald, as usual. Interesting that he thinks Tierney and Holding will be sold in the summer. I can see that KT3 might be tempted away by the prospect of starting elsewhere and decent money got for him, but that would leave Tomi as the cover at both full-back positions unless Arteta thinks Ruell Walters is ready; too thin otherwise. Rob seems content to be a backup, or at least as happy as any player is not to be regularly starting, but he is a very reliable player in that role. Trusty, who, reports suggest, is doing well at Birmingham, is left-footed, so backup for Gabriel, but we still need cover for Saliba if Benny Blanco is to continue at right-back. Perhaps Arteta thinks one of the Academy CBs has got what it takes to make the first-team squad, Rekik, Monlouis, Awe, Foran or Clarke, perhaps, though whomever it is will need a Saliba-like transformative loan, I suspect.

  17. 17
    TTG says:

    Thanks for the link to Mike. He is always very interesting and thought-provoking
    A mixed weekend for you as you were pictured flaunting your enviable physique on Sky but saw Big Tone bow out, gone in the fetlock . So no Tone and no Arsenal for six weeks but it’s six weeks where we are five points clear .
    If only we can shut up the nauseous pundits / tweeters like Gary Neville ( ‘ City to win by 15 points ‘ – that means they have to get 20 more points than us out of the 60 available . Back to school Gary or to Qatar to make a fortune from the tournament you condemn ), Piers Morgan ( ‘ Arsenal should sign Ronaldo ‘- does he not appreciate what the model that has put us top is? ) and Richard Keys who hates the triumphalist celebrations at our place but has no objection to them anywhere else . At least the arch misogynist should be happy in a repressive society like Qatar that severely restricts the freedom of women and LGBT+ folks.
    At least the interlull started with a wonderful victory for England in the World T20 cricket !

  18. 18
    TTG says:

    Ned @16
    I think the plans at full back are for Norton- Cuffy to return and Lino Sousa to be promoted.Walters is another super candidate and Trusty is doing very well although we may invest in N’Dicka if we can get him cheap . I think you are right about CB loans . I think the excellently named Awe is the highest rated but needs to play first-team football. Rekik seems very fragile and it seems alarming that so many youngsters are getting regularly injured . John- Jules sustained a serious hamstring tear on Saturday , the latest in a string of injuries . It’s hard to manage growing lads. I have a fourteen year old grandson who has shot up by several inches in the last year and shows no sign of stopping . It must be a big challenge for Academies .

  19. 19
    Trev says:

    Would it be a shock if Awe made the first team next season ?

  20. 20
    TTG says:

    The Online Gooner and Morning Star have featured our banner slogan today. Who knows it may go viral !

  21. 21
    bathgooner says:

    It’s a tad tidal!

  22. 22
    Bathgooner says:

    Time for another wave:

  23. 23
    Ollie says:

    Why indeed? And why did we all get fooled into not taking a stand against the World Cup in Russia too? (For slightly different reasons)

  24. 24
    Bathgooner says:

    Indeed, Ollie.

    I’m currently watching ‘FIFA Uncovered’ on Netflix (highly recommended) which shows that the corruption began with Havelange with Blatter as his sidekick and the ’78 WC awarded to the Argentine Fascist Dictatorship actually had active organised protests of which I was unaware (but it was the year I was a houseman working a 1 in 2).

  25. 25
    Ollie says:

    Oh yes, heard about that, thanks for the reminder, bath. I’ll add it to my list for one of those long Arsenal-less weekends!

  26. 26
    scruzgooner says:

    ttg, thanks for the review. it was another game where we largely controlled it, and came away rightful winners at 2-0. credit to vieira for a lovely ball, and mø for taking his chances. and to paul, for the shirtless moment we’ve all been waiting for. i’ll make no other comment 🙂

    ned@16, i agree, i don’t think we’ll get rid of both of tierney and holding. much as i love capitola rob, i’d rather see him gone than tierney, not least because of zinchenko’s seeming fragility. tomi in left back is a strategic decision, not a long-term solution; i like the idea of he and benny blanco working to outplay each other, and having either of them, plus rob (if we keep him), to settle into the middle. white/tomi/cedric and zinchenko/tierney/tomi seem to be good, though we could improve on cedric; he’s ok for third choice, really.

    looking forward to watching the women play as i can during our enforced break for this inhumane world cup, too.

  27. 27
    Sancho Panza says:

    Gyokeres at Cov could be worth a pu….zzzzzzzzzzz

  28. 28
    OsakaMatt says:

    Just watching FIFA uncovered as
    well. Impeccable timing by Netflix.
    Basically, organized crime parasites with
    football as the drug. No real surprises
    though the actual naming and shaming
    is symbolically important. FIFA hasn’t
    been fit for purpose for a very long time.

  29. 29
    Bathgooner says:

    Check Infaantino’s Wikipedia page. Still smells like the same ol’ cooking to me!

  30. 30
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@18: I wonder if Norton-Cuffey will get at least another half-season of senior football next season. He will still be only 19 when it starts. It might depend on what happens to Cedric, whose contract runs out in summer 2024, so would likely be moved on next summer if the idea is to get some money for him (is that the sort of thing Edu does?). BNC seems to be playing all over the shop for Rotherham — left midfield, right back, right wing-back, all good experience, no doubt, and the sort of versatility Arteta values, but the youngster probably needs a spell in a settled position.

    Ruell Walters’s versatility is more Tomiesque, right back and CB. He is only 17 so a loan looks most likely for him. Sousa is doing well in the U-21s but the path to the first team 3 shirt (in the old money) is a crowded one, so a loan looks likely.

    Of the CBs, there is a touch of Saliba in Awe, the deceptive languorousness that comes with being tall and long-legged; a prospect certainly. Monlouis seemed well regarded, but since his injury, the man mountain that is Forlan has grabbed his chance alongside Awe. He is the opposite of Awe in that he looks a far clumsier player than he is. Rekik is a full international but was struggling to get into the Sparta Rotterdam team even before he was injured.

  31. 31
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath@29: As they used to say in US labour circles in the 1930s, if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck…

  32. 32
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yes, in my opinion too, Infantino is just same old, but FIFA is basically irredeemable anyway. Same old tired nonsense about this is the way the world works blah blah blah. Too crooked for too long.

  33. 33
    Bathgooner says:

    Good old Gary with his heart on his sleeve about inequities in the UK but off to the Qatar WC to earn a buck or three…

  34. 34
    bt8 says:

    Cristiano Ronaldo feels he has been “betrayed” by his current club. Solution? Why not auto-exile to Qatar? The person and the place seem to deserve each other

  35. 35
    Countryman100 says:

    Bath @34. Ian Hislop eviscerated Neville over his hypocrisy on Have I got news for you. Hilarious. All Neville could do was to giggle nervously.

  36. 36
    Countryman100 says:

  37. 37
    Bathgooner says:

    C100 @35, I saw that. He was squirming the way he did when faced by TH14.

    Here’s a superb catalogue of shame:


  38. 38
    Ollie says:

    Sound idea, bt8 at 34.
    And what bath said at 37, C100. Saw it the other day, and it was like. Bang! Bang! Bang!
    Absolutely nothing Neville could defend.

  39. 39
    Bathgooner says:

    A thoughtful take on Qatar by a very good German ex-footballer. Pity none of ours have, to my knowledge, been so articulate:


  40. 40
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks Bath, a superb piece by the tournament director of Euro 2024.

  41. 41
    Bathgooner says:

    I am making rapid progress through this excellent book by the fine writer David Conn which I heartily recommend. He was one of the ‘talking heads’ on the Netflix series FIFA Uncovered. At the Kindle price of £0.99 it’s a gift! I’ve also ordered another impressive talking head from that documentary, Bennsinger’s Red Card as he has insight into the FBI operation.

  42. 42
    Bathgooner says:

    This book:

  43. 43
    North Bank Ned says:

    bath@39: Not to be churlish (well, actually, to be completely churlish :)), I thought Lahm was nuanced at best and ambiguous more realistically in his comments on the World Cup. Not going, purportedly to signal disapproval, but supporting the tournament by watching it on TV strikes a jarring note for me, even though I understand that as the tournament director of Euro 2024, he has some skin in the game and would be circumspect in what he says. In his defence, I will say that he has spoken out against homophobia in football for more than a decade and should be commended for that, as he should be for the work of his foundation to help underprivileged children.

  44. 44
    North Bank Ned says:

    Aaron Lennon announces his retirement from football? Didn’t that happen when he joined the neighbours?

  45. 45
    North Bank Ned says:

    A bit of telly from the days when commentators commentated and football was still in black and white.

  46. 46
    Bathgooner says:

    Ned @43, I agree. I too was disappointed with Lahm’s position on watching the WC on TV but he has been more critical of this WC than any UK ex-pro of whom I am aware. I totally understand current players going given their short careers but others should have voiced criticism. Props to the new Prince of Wales declining to attend in his FA capacity.

  47. 47
    Bathgooner says:

    Arseblog has an excellent piece today on the scandal that is Qatar 2022 and links to David Squire’s superb cartoons. Here is the first of these:


  48. 48
    Bathgooner says:

    Ned @45, those were the days, my friend, mud baths down the centre of pitches, rain sodden balls that were like heading a brick and if you were a ball player, real men (vicious thugs) to negotiate.

  49. 49
    Ollie says:


  50. 50
    North Bank Ned says:

    Slides through time-ported mud patch and sand in the goalmouth for the tap in.

  51. 51
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath@47: An excellent piece by Arseblog today. Every word on the money, so to speak. Thanks for the link.

  52. 52
    Bathgooner says:

    Well in, Ned.

    Fine assist, Ollie.

    Ned @51, Blogs nails it nicely. Those three Squires cartoons nicely illustrate the experience of at least some migrant workers. On the BBC World Service this week, I heard the celebrated American architect of the tallest building in Dubai dismiss as misconceptions any concerns over the conditions migrant workers had to live in as far better than those they left in India and Africa and moreover they get trained in new skills and even get paid! It takes all types!

  53. 53
    Ollie says:

    It’s good for the skin too, well in Ned! (well the mud maybe, the sand not so sure)

  54. 54
    Ollie says:

    I have partly seen the conditions first hand during my three months in Qatar (2013, doubt it was that much better in Dubai, though only six days in 2006 spent just between hotels/malls/work site did not give much opportunity to observe). These are not decent conditions by any standards.

  55. 55
    North Bank Ned says:

    This explains why Toney isn’t in Qatar.
    Ivan Toney: Brentford striker charged by FA with 232 breaches of betting rules

  56. 56
    bt8 says:

    Re: Toney’s likely punishment. Simple math, really. Barton got 5 months (a slap on the wrist) for betting on 1,260 matches so Toney should get x months for betting on 232 matches. With many of the Premier League clubs now sporting shirts with prominent adverts for betting firms it will be a wonder if Toney is penalised at all.

  57. 57
    OsakaMatt says:

    Bet you a pound he gets 6 months bt8!

  58. 58
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks for posting the match of the day rerun. A real trip down memory lane – no playing out from the back, the three-step rule in place for keepers and opposing players actually sharing a laugh with each other as they walked off.
    Also, I had forgotten what a very decent winger Willie Morgan was and that George “stroller” Graham actually did do defensive duties on occasion.
    Finally, what a player Bobby Charlton was – spraying balls all over the park with both feet and always moving forward. Scored some wonderful goals along the way as well.

  59. 59
    North Bank Ned says:

    The past is a different country, Noosa.

  60. 60
    North Bank Ned says:

    bt8@56: I hope that the NBA and other US major leagues, who have embraced online sports betting as it has become legalised across states, throwing out their reservations about the threat gambling posts to the integrity of any sport, take note.

  61. 61
    Countryman100 says:

    Speaking as a non gambling man, and being somewhat naive in matters pertaining, can someone explain to me what harm Toney could do by betting on football matches, assuming of course, that they didn’t involve his own team?

  62. 62
    bathgooner says:

    C100 @61, fair point, sir.

    I too am a non-gambling man except for a very occasional punt over the years on the nation’s great race days. I therefore answer from a theoretical perspective. The sanction on such activity comes either;

    a) from the founding principles of the FA which were idealistic (it’s about the game!) and almost Calvinistic, proscribing ownership by a limited company, owners taking profits etc, all of which were seen to be restrictive by the late 1980’s and, along with the desire to keep more of the newly lucrative TV contracts to the ‘elite’ clubs, led to the PL breakaway and the sorry state of the game today;


    b) from a similar Calvinistic ethos, the view that such an activity by people with a role and contacts within the game is a slippery slope to worse things and moral turpitude akin to insider trading with their opportunities to influence or gain knowledge from fellow players .

    Pure conjecture though.

  63. 63
    bt8 says:

    Re: Matt @57, You’re on! 😉 Brentford wouldn’t be at all happy with those 6 months though. Just as a matter of curiosity I googled “Brentford shirt image” and it turns out their shirt has “Hollywood Bets” written all across the front of it. PR disaster expert needed in West London I believe 🤣

  64. 64
    OsakaMatt says:

    As no gambling men have replied C100, let me answer with my own tuppenceworth. To me it is obvious that footballers should not be allowed to bet, in the same way that jockeys are not in horse racing. Gamblers are by and large a suspicious bunch, especially when they have lost, and are quick to allege the fix was in (to be fair they have some historical justification for their skepticism) whenever there is even the slightest doubt as to what has happened e.g. the jockey deliberately lost the race, the footballer deliberately gave away the penalty etc etc. Collusion between players is very easy to allege, and very difficult to definitively prove as to innocence or guilt. In those circumstances gamblers will draw their own conclusions and in my experience those conclusions are not trusting, positive ones.
    As there are a great many gamblers in this world it would be a truly bottomless can of worms for the FA to open if they were to allow footballers to gamble.

  65. 65
    OsakaMatt says:

    bt8, a pound it is! Of course as I explained above if Toney doesn’t get 6 months it is a total fix by the FA 😂😂

  66. 66
    TTG says:

    Edu has been appointed Sporting Director ( not Head of Sales!) at the club.
    A significant and well-deserved promotion no doubt precipitated by interest in him from big clubs in Europe . Bloody Edu !

  67. 67
    bathgooner says:

    Twelve years ago, we promised but we didn’t really mean it…


    Further announcements on press freedom, women being allowed into stadiums and LGBTQ+ fans being allowed to jump from roofs of stadiums may be forthcoming shortly.

    Meanwhile, special FIFA champagne will be available if you’ve shelled out for a box. You’ll be OK.

  68. 68
    bathgooner says:

    Well said, Leah Williamson and Izzy Christiansen! Where are the male footballers?


  69. 69
    bathgooner says:

    Did we know that Infantino is a long-time Qatari resident?

    Another fine article. How many more commitments are to be reneged upon by Qatar?


  70. 70
    scruzgooner says:

    at least we know FIFA and infantino don’t have any conflicts of interest re qatar.


  71. 71
    bathgooner says:

    As Steve T has observed to me elsewhere, if they are that brazen about it, what do they actually keep secret?

  72. 72
    scruzgooner says:

    truth, baff@71, assist to stevet.

  73. 73
    TTG says:

    You make, as you so often do, a very good point about the lack of public opposition to Qatar 22 from our top players . I do have to say I wonder if Leah and co would say the same things if we were looking at a Women’s World Cup ? It may well be that they do. Many of our Lionesses are part of the LGBTQ+ community and will feel particularly affronted by Qatar as a host , but I have some sympathy with the men’s team. FIFA’s crass decision has made it very hard for players who should be facing tye most exciting moments of their careers to speak out about it. Lads like Sterling, Saka and Dier are bright and have strong principles about issues like racism and equality but English male footballers have never been , as a breed, the most articulate or compelling of commentators on social issues . I’m sad that their enjoyment of what should be a special moment will be tarnished by all of the negative associations of this tournament

  74. 74
    bathgooner says:

    I didn’t expect any of the England squad players or even some of those who missed the cut to make any public comment on the award of the WC to Qatar or the tawdry record of that nation. The former might as a result have been subject to opprobrium or sanction from the FA, FIFA or the hosts, the latter deemed to be displaying sour grapes at not being selected.

    However, thoselonger in the tooth and ex-pros who are so opinionated on everything to do with the game and especially those who share their political views so readily in the belief that they are opinion formers for the huddled masses might have been expected to take a public moral stance on the matter. Then again the most prominent of the latter group, Beckham and Neville are so venal that they are taking the Qatari shilling.

  75. 75
    scruzgooner says:

    well the english team is at least doing *something* in defiance of FIFA: https://sports.yahoo.com/england-players-meet-migrant-workers-192424157.html

  76. 76
    bathgooner says:

    scruz, that event was apparently arranged by FIFA and Qatar and the workers involved were selected by a subcommittee of the Qatar organising committee. One was interviewed at the end and claimed that migrant living and working conditions are ‘good’!

    These people are experienced at sports washing.

  77. 77
    scruzgooner says:

    interesting, bath. the independent says it was defiance. just great. i feel thoroughly sportswashed…now i need a shower to get clean again.

  78. 78
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@61: as a cricketing man, I suggest you take a look at why gambling was ejected from Lord’s in the Victorian era.

    bt8@63: Brentford’s owner made his money in sports betting.

  79. 79
    Sancho Panza says:

    Of the top 10 things to do i just googled instead of watching the World cup the only thing I can afford is to read lots of books. So I am after some recommendations.

  80. 80
    scruzgooner says:

    sancho, some recent reads by my bookgroup:

    “how to change your mind”, michael pollan
    “frankenstein, 1818 edition”, mary shelly
    “the songlines”, bruce chatwin
    “wind, sand, and stars”, antoine de st.-exupéry
    “heavy: an american memoir”, kiese laymon
    “drive your plow over the bones of the dead”, olga tokarczuk
    “a life discarded”, alexander masters
    “the leopard”, giuseppi di lampedusa
    “i contain multitudes”, ed yong
    “the souls of black folks”, w.e.b. dubois
    “the songs of trees”, george haskell
    “braiding sweetgrass”, robin wall kimmerer

    that ought to keep you busy for a bit. enjoy!

  81. 81
    Sancho Panza says:

    Thanks Scruz! And I can recommend Don Quixote obviously.

  82. 82
    bathgooner says:

    Here are a few more to add to scruzgooner’s excellent list:

    Guns, Germs and Steel – Jared Diamond
    The Gates of Europe – Serhi Plokhy
    In the Shadow of the Sword – Tom Holland
    A History of Civilisations Fernand Braudel
    The Social Conquest of Earth – Edward O Wilson

    The Way We live Now – Anthony Trollope
    Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
    Middlemarch – George Eliot
    Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev
    Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
    Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
    Billiards at Half Past Nine – Heinrich Böll
    Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
    Butcher’s Crossing – John Williams
    Stoner – John Williams

  83. 83
    Bathgooner says:

    Further to C100’s question @61 why the FA are concerned about players betting on games, or indeed anything to do with the game: cards, corners, fouls, transfers etc; there is a deep angst that something like this could be repeated:


  84. 84
    North Bank Ned says:

    I await the well-read Dr F’s reading list with keen anticipation.

  85. 85
    Countryman100 says:

    Bath @83. OK, I get it. Then why do we allow betting companies free access to radio stations, advertising on shirts and even ownership of teams (e.g Stoke City owned by Bet 365)?

  86. 86
    Countryman100 says:

    At the Emirates, in the North Bank concourse, it’s as easy to make a bet as it is to buy a beer or a slice of pizza.

  87. 87
    Sancho Panza says:

    Arseblog is recommending a book called Inside Qatar by John McManus. Sounds intriguing.

  88. 88
    Bathgooner says:

    This (courtesy of scruzgooner) can be strongly recommended and covers much of the ground that McManus appears to cover:

  89. 89
    Bathgooner says:

    C100 @85 & 86, indeed. Personally, I think it’s reprehensible. However that’s about taking more money from punters, via sponsorship by betting firms. Although the lines are blurred, clubs and the PL would claim there’s clear blue water between betting by punters and the clubs themselves as long as the risk of insider betting and of match fixing is prevented.

  90. 90
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@85: We come from a different age when football was about going to games. It is now part of the converging sports, media and gaming industries. Football (and every other sport) is primarily consumed via screens and must compete with a zillion other forms of content for audiences’ attention. ‘Fan engagement’, in marketing speak, becomes all important. Gaming is seen as critical to that. I recently heard an executive from the National Basketball Association in the US say their research had found that basketball fans who bet on sports consume 40% more NBA media content than the average fan. Why wouldn’t they want to encourage as many fans as possible to bet? The NBA now has live match casts in which the commentary is geared to gamblers. You can bet football won’t be far behind.

  91. 91
    TTG says:

    During the recent Spuds v Liverpool game a What’s App group I belong to were broadcasting the in game odds . Watching Arsenal I’m too engaged in the game 5o think about betting. Added to that I’d never bet against Arsenal and I worry if I bet on them I would jinx them!
    But Ned makes a very powerful and worrying point

  92. 92
    Bathgooner says: