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Three points

First game of the season for me and like a 6-year-old eagerly anticipating Christmas, I couldn’t wait until the one-more-sleep was over and I could finally open my presents. Hence I was up, to use The Guv’nor’s term, at sparrow’s fart, anxious and excited. 21CG, with all the wisdom of youth, looked at me sideways as if to say: “Take it easy; you don’t want to be getting overtired now…”.  Of course, now I’m all grown up, “presents” means meeting old friends in familiar places, chewing the fat and then watching the club we love amaze, engage and enrage in varying and unpredictable measure. 

Pre-match talk in the pub garden, as across a whole swathe of the right-thinking portion of North London, was around the nature of the team for today and the extent of change from last season – Would Big Gabby return to fulfil the role he so manfully occupied last season?  Would The Boss persist with the 3-at-the-back experiment which has yielded 7 points from three not entirely convincing performances? Discussions continued on the walk to the ground. The weather, in a British summer which started and ended in June, was benign. We approached the ground wearing the familiarity of both surroundings and the time-worn pre-match build up like a favourite old T-shirt, taking for granted its comfort and the perfection of its fit.

The ground was humming, and the North Bank Lower faithful were giving it full beans at Block 10.  The pre-match rendition of “North London Forever” stirred the crowd to its core.  As an N1 boy, I too gave it full beans.  So much and so many to remember.

Now rather than give you the experience I saw from the North Bank Lower, I think it is only fair to offer a match report taken from the full match TV replay I have watched. To view from behind the goal is not necessarily conducive to being on top of all the important points of the game.  The first thing I noticed from Sky’s match coverage was that they chose to have the Lack of Brains Trust panel of Gary Neville and Mike Dean on the panel. So, one bloke who is famed for having an utter inability to separate the personal from the professional. And Gary Neville. They did this with apparently no sense of irony. Am I going mad?  No. It’s pure gaslighting.

We lined up with Zinchenko at left back and a back four with Gabriel thankfully returned to his regular role and Ben White moving over to right back.

The opening period saw Arsenal play some good possession stuff without really threatening.  United were clearly happy to try to draw us on to them from goal kicks, which was odd given that their playing out from them was pretty mediocre. In the 25th minute, one such fairly fruitless period of playing around their own box resulted in one of their defenders punting the ball forward aimlessly. Saliba headed the ball forward towards Gabriel. Before he could control and move it on, he was fouled by Antony – seemingly a man for whom a prosthetic – right leg would in no way diminish the choice of which way to move the ball – who then proceeded to kick the ball away. The referee then made out that he had blown the whistle after the aforementioned uniped had quite deliberately kicked the ball into acres of free space with nary a United shirt in sight. Had, say, Maguire done it, then perhaps this would have been credible.  A couple of minutes later, United scored. With United playing some fairly typically lacklustre possession football at the back, the ball was deflected by Eddie into the path of Havertz, 10 yards from the edge of the United box. With all the deftness of a bull in a China shop, he proceeded to pass first time straight to a United player who pushed the ball forward to Rashford., who, by now well inside the Arsenal box, came inside Ben White and Saliba and hit an excellent shot into the bottom left past Ramsdale who had no chance. It felt as though the goal on the break was their only way they were going to score against us. It feels like they have been scoring this kind of goal against us for way too long.

Never mind, it only took around 30 seconds from the restart to level the score.  Gabriel played a pass to Martinelli who in turn played a clever back heel to Zinchenko on the left wing.  The automatisms kicked in and the pass to Eddie yielded a first-time pass to Martinelli, now inside the penalty area. He took a touch, looked up and played a perfect lateral pass to Odegaard who placed it into the net past the left hand of Onana from just outside the penalty spot.  A super goal. Which begged the question; why didn’t we play like this before going a goal down?

On 37 minutes the Slow-Motion Running High Street mime artist that is Lindelof fouled Eddie as he looked to break down the left side of United’s half and the referee had no option to but to reach for a yellow.  A couple of minutes later the referee had the opportunity to level up the cards by correctly booking Saka for following through on the obvious favourite for this year’s most punchable face in a United shirt competition, Fernandes. The game inexorably petered out as it approached half-time.

Half Time Arsenal 1 United 1

Arsenal started the second half the stronger without really threatening.  On 58 minutes, a clever through-ball from the ever willing and excellent Nketiah put Havertz through on goal.  As he was sandwiched between 2 United defenders he went down, and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.  Standing right behind that goal, it looked to us that it was soft and, sure as night follows day, the referee was called over by VAR to chalk it off.  There was contact but it’s a contact sport and it didn’t look deliberate. I’d have been unhappy if that had been given as a penalty against us.

After a period of possession from Arsenal to no real end, in the 76th minute we brought on Jesus, Tomiyasu and Vieira for Eddie, Zinchenko and Havertz respectively.  On 80 the game should have been over when a jinking run from Martinelli enabled Odegaard to shift the ball out wide to Ben White who in turn banged in a low cross behind the United defence.  Saka hit his short poorly first time and the keeper saved.  If only he had taken the time to control the ball and then shoot. United made some changes seemingly bringing on a number of characters from the Chamber of Horrors. Someone has truly been round there with the Ugly Stick. On 87, said Ugly Stick victim Garnacho scored on a breakaway. VAR did its job and cancelled it out for offside. As far as I could see, VAR got it wrong but who cares.  We then moved into 8 minutes of time added on, largely for the time wasting Onana had perpetrated.    

Arsenal piled on the pressure during injury time, moving the opposition around, to no great effect, other than pure attrition. Then on 96, Rice controlled a corner at the far post and hammered a shot which took a deflection off Jonny Evans past Onana.  The stadium went nuts. Arsenal then went and added another, from our own breakaway with Vieira passing into space behind the United defence for the excellent Jesus to wrap it up. Limbs. Pandemonium.

Final Score Arsenal 3 United 1

Reflections: 3 points

  1. Havertz is not doing enough to merit his place in the first XI. This is not an apprentice, learning on-the-job. He has come in as a German national team regular on a big ticket (not his fault) and big wages (nobody else’s fault).  His air shot on 12 minutes when he was unmarked in the area could happen to anyone. The terrible pass which led to the United goal was straight out of the pre-2021 Xhaka play book. The crowd continue to be very patient.   If he is going to play the Xhaka role then we need someone who is an improvement.  He does need to up his game markedly.
  2. United have been scoring breakaway goals against the Arsenal, when pinned into their half for extended periods, for more than 20 years. They scored one today and could have had more. Outside of his goal, Rashford, a hugely talented player, barely had a touch. At some point, we need to understand they are going to use this is their primary strategy and prepare accordingly.
  3. We have gathered 10 points from 12 without being anywhere near our form of last season.  This is encouraging.  At the same time, even when we weren’t playing well last season, we didn’t look as disjointed and out of touch as we have so far this season.

Were now a little more than 10% of the way through the season so there is plenty of time to settle, develop and iron out the faults.

33 Drinks to “Three points”

  1. 1
    Ollie says:

    I’ve not calmed down enough to read a match report yet…but will in a couple of minute. 🙂

    Cheers CER.
    Bit gutted to not have been able to be there, but mad atmosphere in the Lions, I had a blast!

  2. 2
    TTG says:

    Thankyou CER for a report that provides colour and atmosphere as well as all the key moments of the game . I missed last week’s game live but was filled in by those around me and while not restless the natives were concerned .
    I preferred the conventional back four . It’s not that with the new system we lose Partey from midfield, he’s just not anything like as good a full back as Ben White . Declan Rice has immediately stepped up to be exactly what we wanted him to be and with him and Ødegaard in midfield we have enormous quality .
    One has to mention Havertz although I am loath to do so after sone of the comments I’ve received. I want anyone in red and white to succeed lest there be any doubt about the matter .
    I am a huge fan of Arteta and he has gone out on a limb to bring Havertz to the club . The fee was extraordinary for a forward with the lowest Xg in the Premier League last season . Jonathan Norcross wrote a balanced piece in the Sunday Times which effectively said he could be a world beater but is unlikely to be because his personality is so passive . Whatever, he received good backing from a sceptical crowd and he will need time to find his niche in the side and we have to give him that. For what it’s worth I thought Wan- Bissaka fouled him enough to secure a penalty for United at Old Trafford in similar circumstances and I had an excellent view of it .
    Otherwise nobody other than Rice was particularly on song although Ødegaard worked his socks off and Gabriel was sound and reassuring alongside Saliba . Gabriel Jesus took his goal brilliantly after a superbly timed and angled pass from Vieira who had more impact in a short cameo than Havertz had hitherto.
    It was hard not to believe we were playing Newcastle from last season in that kit that United wore and they played like them with little ambition confining themselves to breakaways. Rashford is our nemesis and Garnacho looks like he could become another . Fortunately they started with Anthony and persisted for most of the game with him, another with Fernandez in the queue for the most punchable face
    A very satisfactory three points not because we played well but because we showed spirit , belief and more organisation than we have up till now and we managed to achieve another late win to break arrogant United hearts . I thought the crowd were brilliant, patient and passionate in equal measure but one mystery remained . What route did Mikel take to the ground?
    Great work CER

  3. 3
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks CER, great report on an excellent day, well an excellent 5 or 10 minutes anyway.
    Big win,as Declan said afterwards, in terms of going in to the break in a cheerful upbeat frame of mind. And we wouldn’t want the greatest serial cheats in the history of football to get too far in front.

    I enjoyed Not Red Nose’s whining afterwards, I laughed out loud when he trumped that it wasn’t offside. Personally, I thought the Havertz one might or might not be a penalty depending on your luck on the day – certainly wasn’t a clear and obvious mistake that VAR needed to intervene in either way. No doubt Webb will put the apology in the post together with the Tomi one for the red card.

  4. 4
    BtM says:

    Great match summary and I liked and enjoyed your reflections, CER.

    I was pleased to see the starting back four. In Timber’s absence that’s the best defence we have. Did everyone notice Gabi’s backward movement to ensure Manure’s second ‘goal’ was offside? Top quality. Having said that, I’m all for innovation and intrigued to see MA8’s ideas for the same (all over the field, not only in defence – where does ESR fit in?).

    I think our strongest team at the moment probably has Partey as DM with Rice in the Xhaka role and possibly Jesus for Eddie. But I’m all for persevering with Havertz. I think we’ll see him come good.

    The match wasn’t really a great watch. I missed the period from 60 to 96 minutes (granddaughters visited for a bright summer sunshine bbq) and so I didn’t see the Saka miss (but by the sound of things didn’t miss much else). Great fun to dance around the house with those two young Gooners when goals two and three hit the back of the net just after they’d polished of their sausages – and then out for more garden golf. The Benefits of a broken ballot system are multiple*.

    I watched on SKY. I never listen to their commentary, The lads on Arsenal.com, (Jeremy Aliadiere is a fireball, albeit out of sync) are a much better accompaniment to the visual spectacle.

    COYG. Keep on winning.

    * Neither of my two Silver tickets for Man City were successful in the ballot so at the moment, I’m not going to that game either. I’ve struck out every single time. My Singaporean friends enjoyed yesterday and are secure for City’s visit too. Good times, Arsenal.

  5. 5
    Countryman100 says:

    That is a great report CER and almost reflects my view from the other side of the goal (I’ll explain the one point of disagreement). Football, for me, is primarily an emotional, not an analytical game. This was a very emotional afternoon, not least because of the whirling dervish by my side. For my son, amongst whose close friends are many United supporters, this is always the biggest game of the season. He, and everybody around us, gave it full beans for the whole game up to and including the manic finish deep into added on time (cheers Onana). This was comfortably the loudest game of the season so far at the Emirates.

    My positives were of course Rice, Rice baby, who covered the pitch to huge effect as well as his goal, Vieira who again in his cameo showed his progress since last year not least in his reprise of his raking pass for the third goal, which brought back memories of our fourth vs Villa last season and the receiver of that pass and goal scorer Gabriel Jesus who showed us his skills to huge effect when he came on. Odegaard looked good, pulling the strings with his right sided triangle of Ben, Saka and himself renewed.

    The defence looked so much more comfortable with this back four. In particular the centre back partnership was renewed. They both made mistakes, but their mate was there to support them.

    We deserved to win. But we didn’t play well. There is still much to do and the turning point of the game was the offside Garnacha goal. After the game I have seen the Gabriel moment, when as Garnacha ran by him big Gabi stopped dead, went up on tiptoes and sucked in his stomach like a Dad having his picture taken at a wedding. Unorthodox, but it worked! But we could have won the game twice before that. The first was the Havertz penalty. Now I sit in row nine, right behind the penalty area. I was in line when Havertz went through and was clearly, clearly kicked. A definite penalty, correctly given by referee Taylor who was in a great position. Quite how or why it was reversed defeats me. The second time we should have won the game when when Saka about eight yards out only had Onana to beat. Somehow he didn’t. It happens.

    But all of this lead to the most amazing finish since Reiss Nelson scored the late, late winner against Bournemouth last year. Amazing. First Rice, then Jesus, made it a three one win. As CER said, total pandemonium in the stands. In Rice, a new legend is born.

    So we have 10 points from four games. We haven’t played well in any of them, nor have we worked out our best starting eleven. We move to twice a week football after the international break and the pace picks up. I’ll be attending my first away day of the season first game back at the Old Lady of Goodison where we seek to lay that hoodoo.

    Well played Arsenal. Play better.

  6. 6
    TTG says:

    I attach an excellent report from Mike Macdonald part of which I agree with and part I don’t

    Thunder at the chess match: a VAR-latile game ends well for the Gunners [ARS 3-1 MUN]

    I don’t agree that United played well, they were very defensive but they could have won it . I also think his statistic about Jesus is wrong. He hasn’t played anything like 57 games for us. I think he means, if he scores we win .
    But his point about speeding up the play for our first goal was spot-on , our build up was usually ponderous and unimaginative and United’s full-backs shut down our wingers , I didn’t share the view that Martinelli was our best player . His assist was brilliant as was his attitude but Wan Bisakka largely contained him .
    C100 makes some excellent points . I was like Countryman Junior during the Palace game as I get enormous stick if we lose to them . He must be delighted with the outcome.

  7. 7
    North Bank Ned says:

    Excellent match report, CER. We saw the same replay.

    C100@5 nails it. ‘We deserved to win. But we didn’t play well.’ I would only add that we played better than we have been doing.

    On the Garancho offside, watching it live on a stream, my first reaction was that he was offside. VAR got that one right. Similarly, for the Havertz incident, my first reaction was that there was not a foul, or at least not one for which a penalty would be given. The replays from the front made me change my mind, but the replays from the back made me reverse it again. VAR may or may not have got that one right, or wrong!

    Also, the Predictathon Leaderboard for Match Week 4 has been posted. Check how you are doing via the GHF Contests tab.

  8. 8
    bathgooner says:

    I’m delighted that Arsenal came through to put a big glossy red cherry on top of your present, CER. Great report, full of the atmosphere of a day out at TNHOF and very much the game I saw.

    I thought Declan was colossal and dominated the midfield. His touch map (85 touches, second only to Saliba on 86) shows that he covered nearly every blade of grass. He fully deserved his goal – first of many for the Gunners, I’m sure. He also conclusively demonstrated that he can play the single pivot previously the sinecure of TP5.

    It was so good to see Gabriel demonstrate how useful it is to have two CBs in the middle and his wisdom to lean back and pull in his belly rather than follow instinct and fruitlessly run with Garnacho was crucial to that VAR offside decision going our way.

    Although Eddie had a good game, Jesús showed the upgrade he brings to the attack and his ball control in the box from minute 1 was superb, capped of course by that sweet goal that he scored after sending Dalot sliding up the west end. Credit too to Vieira and Nelson who also perked up the attack that had begun to flag late on.

    Final props to the guys involved in that 35 second equaliser. That’s the silky movement we need to see more often. Super strike by the captain.

  9. 9
    Trev says:

    Thanks CER – great report and, like C100, only the Havertz penalty decision to disagree with. I think he clouded the issue with the unnecessary trailing leg searching for a contact but he was already on the way down from a definite contact before that happened.

    Was it a contact that should produce a penalty in a contact sport ? No. But under the rules it is and it would be given every single time to Man Utd at Old Trafford – and we do want consistency, don’t we ? 😉

    Your Havertz comments are spit on and Vieira will get very frustrated if he is consistently overlooked for the German. I also love Reiss Nelson – cones on and injects pace and purpose into us every time.

    What others have said about Declan Rice. Looks to be a brilliant signing.

  10. 10
    Up4GrabsNow! says:

    Thank you CER for a balanced report. Agree with your Reflections 100%. Havertz needs to sit. Rashford gave Ben White problems more than once. VAR (Gabriel really) saved us on their offside goal. Saka and Havertz both guilty of bad misses. Declan Rice was immense even before he scored. We have not been great so far so to have 10 out of 12 points is welcome. Make no mistake, this is a bad Man U team. With Jonny Evans and Harry Maguire at CB, they will leak goals. The Interlull will give Mikel a chance to reflect and tweak.

  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    Cheers CER and thanks for an informative report on a game I still haven’t seen but for the last 15 minutes. I’m having a harder than normal time getting into this season so far, probably due to the combo of World Cup aftermath and end of season disappointment last year. At least I have all 4 games recorded for an watchathon one of these nights. Come n the injury free interlull for Arsenal and the serial injuries for our rivals. Loved Jesus ‘ goal and I hear Dalot is still sliding. COYG

  12. 12
    bt8 says:

    Partey reported to be out for 6 weeks so it’s time for Declan to shine even brighter.

  13. 13
    bt8 says:

    Manchester United values shining through in the story of Antony, following in the wake of Greenwood.


  14. 14
    TTG says:

    Rob Holding £4m
    Davinson Sanchez £13m
    Bit of an imbalance in fees gained I think . Who would you prefer at Centre back?

  15. 15
    Esso says:

    Cheers CER!

  16. 16
    Trev says:

    TTG @14 – what were the respective salaries ?

  17. 17
    TTG says:

    I think in the last drinks I put a table in of our player earnings. From memory Rob earned £40k pw. I’d imagine, although the Spuds pay less Sanchez earns between £60- 80k . But that is a fee discrepancy that looks odd to me

  18. 18
    Uplympian says:

    Many thanks CER for a lucid report highlighting all the good bits. An excellent result – hopefully we can match an excellent result with an excellent performance simultaneously.

    TTG /Trev, Romano reporting the Davison Sanchez fee as 9.5 million euros payable over 5 years. Still seems way too much but maybe they believe they can de-spud him in that length of time.

  19. 19
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@16: Sanchez was on £65,000 a week, and Capitola Rob on £40,000 a week, as TTG said. Sanchez would have been out of contract at the end of this season; Holding had one more to go after this one.

    Sanchez’s fee is around £8 million, very Spurzy business for a player Poch paid £32 million for in 2017.

    Uply@18: Is de-spudding even possible?

  20. 20
  21. 21
    TTG says:

    Ned/ Uply/Trev
    Looking at the Sanchez fee it’s not a major issue and certainly not the discrepancy that was first reported . The Holding fee is very low and I am charitably going to assume that we facilitated a move for a great servant so he could find a convenient Premier League move . I’m very happy about that . He served our club well and one could tell from the AON documentary that he was a very positive influence around the club. It’s tempting to keep players like that around but he needs to play more games than we were able to offer him.

    It seems that Pepe may be sold to one of the Saudi clubs for a very small fee. That has to be preferable for us to terminating his contract . Given the pressure on Saka and my own sense that he can (very occasionally) be a match winner I would have been tempted to keep him but is that fair on Cozier- Duberry , Flores and even ESR ? If he never plays and is rarely on the bench it is hard to expect him to remain motivated .

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@21: My guess would be that the Holding fee was a combination of making sure Rob got the good exit he deserved and making it feasible for Palace to pay him enough so his wages did not drop off. He was once talked of as a future England center-half (if Maguire is, then why not?) and I have said here before that he is good enough to be a regular starter for many Premier Leaguw teams, just not the elite ones. Defenders at those now probably have to be able to play as a full back, as a wide CB in a back three and as a CB in a back four with equal facility and elite quality, and be able to step into midfield as an auxiliary 6 or a wing back; that is Benny Blanco and Jurien Timber. Otherwise, they have to pure CBS like Saliba, big, fast and ball-playing.

  23. 23
    Sancho Panza says:

    It’s when Tangaga goes for 10 million we know Levy has one over Edu. Or when Eric Dier goes for absolutely anything.
    I see a media love in for all things Maddison. Don’t panic, his annual disappearing act for 6 months hasn’t kicked in yet.

  24. 24
    bathgooner says:

    Spot on Ned @22. The fee we get for our players is affected by their wages, the length left on their contract, their reputation, their recent performances or absence from the first team and how much we want to offload them or give them a good send-off as gratitude for good/long service (which, like TTG, I believe to be a very positive and longstanding attribute of our great club). I suspect it’s probably even more complex than that.

  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath@24: Transfer fees fall at least in part into that metaphysical basket that economists call non-value-anchored pricing (not to be confused with the cognitive bias of price anchoring). Essentially they are indemnities paid by buying clubs to the selling clubs for cancelling players’ contracts. As you say, there is a lot that goes into how each side calculates fair value in such a transaction, and a lot of it is subjective.

    Back in the real world of hard cash, we had the fourth highest net transfer spend over the past decade, at €872 million, outspent by only Man U (€1.4 billion), the Chavs and PSG (both just north of €1.0 billion). Since 2019, we are third at €625 million behind the Chavs (€852 million) and Man U (€765 million). The blue Mancs have sold well; their net spend since 2019 has been only €177 million.

    The Saudi club, Al-Hilal comes seventh in the post-2019 table, with a net spend of €470 million, more than three-quarters of it this year, second only to Burn-A-Hole-In-My-Pocket Boehly at the Bus Stop (€558 million).

    Over the past decade, no current PL club has made a profit out of their transfer dealings. The least profligate is Brighton & Hove Albion, with a net spend of €65 million even though they have made a net profit of €180 million over the past couple of seasons.

    The really eye-popping number is that transfer fees globally topped the €10 billion mark for the first time, with not all the windows closed yet.

  26. 26
    North Bank Ned says:

    Congrats to Arsenal Women on beating Linkoping 3-0 in their UEFA Women’s CL qualifier.
    On to a play-off on Saturday against the winner of Paris v Kryvbas for a place in round 2 next month.

  27. 27
    Ollie says:

    A great evening of stand-up comedy with Ian Stone tonight. Long time since I’ve laughed as much. Partly because I haven’t seen stand-up for ages but he waa genuinely hilarious.
    Got q chance to have brief chat at the break. Asked him if he was still ok block 32.
    Mentioned Dave, he said they miss him a lot.
    Having a last drink before going home. To Dave.

  28. 28
    bt8 says:

    Just for the benefit of me and anybody else who doesn’t know Ian Stone, it seems we have a fair amount in common in the area of carrying around bags of shit. Cheers, Ollie.

  29. 29
    TTG says:

    Ian Stone is very amusing and an Arsenal nut. His podcast on the Athletic with Amy Lawrence and various guests ‘Handbrake Off’ usually makes excellent and informative listening.I recommend it
    It’s hard to believe the young lass who wrote for the Gooner is now one of the most respected football journalists in the country . That’s never happened to me 😃😃

  30. 30
    OsakaMatt says:


    A review of the new VAR review program. Haven’t seen it but anything with
    Michael Owen is already in trouble.

  31. 31
    North Bank Ned says:

    Mic’d Up seems an exercise in explanation without accountability; we made mistakes, but what are you going to do about it? Nadda. Same old, same old next week.

  32. 32
    OsakaMatt says:

    I guess so Ned, however it is a step forward from the previous policy. Personally I would prefer root and branch reform but as that seems extremely unlikely I will hope this can shine a light on some of the most incompetent – that is as opposed to the merely mediocre.
    I saw that it was confirmed that Garnacho was offside but we already know that – I would have preferred to see some discussion on the Havertz one (maybe there was?) as it was much closer to one of the key issues with VAR.

  33. 33
    scruzgooner says: