Wenger Protests: Enough Is Enough


Apparently, now is the time for change …

Just prior to kick off, the above scene presented itself to thousands of fans arriving from the south east of England ahead of the crucial Manchester United encounter.  This was a game that had United won, would have seen one of our greatest rivals consolidate their unlikely position at the pinnacle of the Premier League, one point ahead of Citeh, six points ahead of Arsenal and eleven points ahead of the Champions of England.

The timing of the protest left everything to be desired, not least some support, and even managed to clash with the nationwide “£20’s Plenty” campaign to reduce ticket prices for fans of visiting teams.

Positively Arsenal would like to take the opportunity to apologise for the size of the photograph illustrating this article.  As you can see, it is a very small banner with an even smaller turnout from the supposedly seething anti-Wenger ‘masses’. Forensic examination of the image reveals as many as nine gathered around the bannerette which reads:

“ARSENE Thanks for the memories but it’s time to say goodbye”.

The image was tweeted just before kick-off, supposedly a contemporaneous scene set above the Armoury Superstore. It’s as laughable as it is inconsequential but it did lead this writer to wonder: just how many people really do want to say goodbye to Arsene Wenger?

Naturally there are many of us not backward at coming forward to express disappointment at the occasional under-whelming performance/near total disaster in Europe. One of Wenger’s greatest achievements is that few of us can actually quite believe our eyes when our boys lose the occasional game. But reading Twitter from a safe distance suggests that there are followers of the club who think it’s time for Arsene to hang up his zip-unfriendly coat and say farewell. After match-day setbacks, the numbers of these fans seem to quell exponentially, as shrilly hysterical on Twitter, blogs and radio shows as their incoherent, and generally random, blunt barbs are hot-headedly inconsistent.

Yet when the team is doing well, these ‘contributors’ to the Gooniverse are largely silent.  At such times, the phrase ’empty vessels’ springs to mind and the quieter majority bask in the golden sunshine of an Arsenal era quite unlike any other.

So just how large is their number?

Well, in the aftermath of the Olympiakos defeat, an online petition was launched to have the evil dictator, I mean Arsene Wenger, removed from office once and for all.

“Now is the time for change, do the right thing Arsene Wenger and GO!” exhorts the internet petition, replete with its own little red logo of a cannon and the words ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH WENGER OUT!

Ah-ha, at last, a handy metric for calculating the true scale of this pluckily determined protest group seeking to mobilise the views of the dispossessed, the disheartened and the disbelieving. And, at the time of writing, some seven whole days after the launch of the petition, the numbers signing it have risen to the heady heights of almost 1,300. Numbers seem stuck on 1,265 today and if the instigator of this petition and the carriers of the banner, above, were hoping for support to match the recent Mike Dean petition (106,445 signatories and still rising), then they have been badly misled.

However, all is not lost for the would-be revolutionaries, as there have been at least four other ‘Wenger Out’ petitions in the last year alone and support for some of them have even reached double figures. No fewer than forty end-of-their-tether types have pitched up to sign up to see off Arsene. So the latest petition, with nearly 1270 names has actually done comparatively well.

However, when you consider the official Arsenal Twitter account (@arsenal) has 6.3 million followers and Arsenal Facebook has 33.5 million ‘likes’, then it looks as though the petition has a fair way to go yet.  As a percentage of Arsenal’s Facebook following, the petition has attracted almost 0.0037% of the fanbase. By comparison, the organisers of the banner-led mass-protest achieved a far superior result, attracting nearly 0.016% of the estimated 57,000 Arsenal supporters swirling around the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Cleverer statisticians than me (that’s most readers) will point out that even if all 57,000 had joined the banner protest, this would still have been a small percentage of the club’s total global following.  But the fact remains that online, there are (virtually) no geographical boundaries, so a petition conducted in cyber-space really should be doing a little better.  Indeed, to achieve parity with the laughably slim turn-out at the Emirates, the petition should by now have reached an absolute minimum of 3,500, which would of course, give it 0.016% of Arsenal’s Facebook following.

Yep, all of us hate losing games and most are fed up when the team doesn’t appear to fulfil its potential.  A fair number will make a fair racket on Twitter.  But very, very few, actually want Arsene Out, it would seem.

So maybe, as far as the Wenger Out Brigade is concerned, enough really is enough?


Arsenal: 74 seconds of smooth silk and sharp steel

Good morning,

I am almost embarrassed to write a review of yesterday’s game as it was one which every reader will have watched, re-watched, read what the media have to say and for those of a robust constitution have probed the deep recesses of social media, Twitter and blog wise. I can tell you little more than you eyes saw and your ears heard. But I shall try.

I had hoped to inset a 13 second clip of my view  during the game above but technology has robbed me of that pleasure, for the moment.   My back row spot perhaps in visual terms less was less than than perfect and we had to bend double to see the replays of the first two goals on the screens before we could settle on who had put the ball in the back of the net. There was no doubt about the third though, we were right in line, the finger was raised, pandemonium X3 and a formidable sense of relief that we were going to crush the Northern monkeys. I have two new best friends, Steve and Steve. Neither had an actual seat and they just bowled up to stand in a convenient gap between the rows. As everyone stood up all game it was no inconvenience. I had the opportunity to see the goals again on the box last night properly and they were superb, the first two the root of the title. I see LvG appears to blame his defenders for those goals. Listen son, no team anywhere will resist the accurate passing, quick player movement and exact finishing that we saw in those 74 seconds. Don’t beat yourself or your players up about it Louis. Move on.

My substantial advantage of watching from the North Bank in the first half is that I was able to see close up how much good work, invaluable exertion, that Gabriel and Per put in to keep the visitors at bay. Santi put in a remarkable shift in front of the back four and alongside Coquelin. That save from Cech from Martial just before half time was important. I see the young Frenchman’s shot hit Petr’s legs and could have gone anywhere. As important a moment in the game as any goal though, in my opinion. Cech was in command all afternoon, a man thoroughly at ease with his responsibilities.

I have no intention of naming names among our attacking and other midfield players. A magnificent team performance from every man. The most satisfactory way to move into the international break and, for Arsene at least, to plan for Watford in a fortnight. I have not consulted the history books but a very long time since we lost to the Hertfordshire Hornets. It serves no purpose in hammering the red side of Manchester only to trip up at Vicarage Road so I imagine our manager’s brow will be carefully furrowed over the next ten days.

As I mentioned yesterday the next two rounds of round of games brings the Manchester derby, the Red Mancs travel to Goodison, and among our chasing pack Palace play Leicester and the ‘Ammers, the ‘Ammers are at home to Chelsea etcetera. If the cards fall right it could be a very important two weekends after the international break.

A word for the Mancs ? In spite of myself I was impressed with Martial, very strong and confident for a youngster. We shall have to watch him.

A final off topic observation about yesterday. I have been going to Mancs games at Highbury and the Ems for six decades, a high spot of the calendar and I can remember 63,000 in the ground back when safety regulations did not apply to football. Yesterday is the first time I can ever remember that there were no police anywhere in attendance I could see, no banks of plod massed around the tube or railway stations or packed in carriers in side streets, visors up and shields at the ready, no police horses traipsing backwards and forward, up and down Hornsey Road or the helicopter hovering beady-eyed over proceedings. I From what I read Ken Bates (of all people) won a case against West Yorkshire Police that clubs only have to pay for Police inside their grounds or on their land. If the police want to impose martial law and draft hundreds of officers into an area then they can pick up the tab themselves. Oddly enough they don’t. A significant improvement I think.

And with that I shall leave you to glow through Monday and into a promising week.


Arsenal Versus Manchester United: League Of Legends


Cormac was discussing the match yesterday. He and my daughter’s boyfriend were very dismissive of the team. We may have enjoyed some early dominance they agreed, but somehow we always manage to flatter to deceive, to pull an ignominious defeat out of the hat when ostensibly playing well. I reclined into the unseasonal October sunshine, warm and relaxed, nodding sagely to myself, and fully in accord with the two young men.

As a cloud passes the sun so a shadow of a thought distracted me in my reverie. A frown pleated the otherwise untroubled forehead and it gradually dawned upon me. Neither my son nor my daughter’s boyfriend have the least knowledge of nor interest in football, never mind Arsenal. This is of course a stain on my character.

As a parent we know we will not be able to predict nor overly influence the significant attitudes our offspring will assume as they pass from awkward adolescence into adulthood. They will vote with their consciences, specialise in subjects of their own choosing, dress how they like and make their own friends regardless of what we think. We can make only one guarantee. There is a solitary area of their lives we know we can affect. In fact it is a solemn and traditional duty. To this end I told all of my children, as soon as they were old enough to understand me, there was nothing they could do in their lives to disappoint me. I would be the one to visit them in prison no matter how heinous their crimes, I would always stand by them, always be there for them. Unconditional love meant just that.

Except. Except for just one thing. If they ever, for even one fleeting moment considered supporting any team other than Arsenal then they knew where the door was and any dreams they may have been harbouring about inheriting my debts they could forget then and there.

I need not have bothered, they don’t even like football. None of them. So what were the lads discussing? Enquiries produced the surprising answer. E Sports. Video games, to you and I. It transpires there is a whole world of computer gamers, organised into national and international leagues, with their own hierarchies, supporter groups, sponsors, rivalries, high profile transfers, the lot. These guys take the thing every bit as seriously as we do football and with only a couple of significant differences – the commentators (or shout casters as they are rather splendidly known) are widely respected and play an important role in spectators’ enjoyment, also fans choose which country they support, their own nationality is irrelevant – they follow their sports with just as much fervour as we do ours.

The comment which rang the loudest bell with me came when I asked who had the strongest team. Cormac and George exchanged rueful glances, pursed their lips and muttered “The Koreans”. I detected a certain asperity in their tone and when I asked why my son informed me “They are the best, there’s no doubt about that, the play the best game. But the best team winning all the time just gets boring no matter how good they are.”

I returned to my seat to mull. You’ll find you mull a lot more the older you get. It burns few calories and doesn’t require any complicated equipment. The main thrust of my mulling was today’s encounter with Manchester United. For a very long time I disliked the red Mancunians above all other teams. Before that I can recall not warming to the red half of Liverpool over much and when my interest in football was first kindled it was Leeds United that made my normally benign features sour to a grimace. Nowadays? Chelsea. Without question.

The only poisonous rivalry that never changes is, it seems, that involving local teams. If either daughter brought home a Bristol City fan they had just as well turn in their latch keys without further ado. I suppose this is why the North London contingent of our fan-base still holds Spurs in the lowest esteem and probably always has done. So what lessons can I draw from Cormac’s observation? Did I really detest Man United for all those years simply because they kept winning? Was there nothing in all those hours you and I have spent discussing the refereeing bias, Fergie time, the Old Trafford penalty phenomenon and the rest? Is there a pan sports truth that people will rebel against whoever is successful then find reasons after the fact to support their position?

My antipathy towards United certainly abated during the Moyes era, and even now that they are resurgent under Van Gaal I don’t have the same depth of loathing for them as I used to do. Rooney excepted of course. Perhaps I shouldn’t gaze too closely towards my navel on this one. It wouldn’t do to suggest that my bitterest footballing rivalries are all born of petty jealousy. Hard to maintain the moral high ground under such conditions isn’t it?

So what of our opponents today? This current incarnation of Man United sits at the top of the current form table. We are one place below them. In fact the form table looks a bit like the league table used to look in the good old days. A perusal of the six most recent results tells us both sides have won four, drawn one and lost one. The subtle difference being we have lost one of our last two whilst they are on a three game winning streak. Which neatly sums up the two sides. Both doing well but our recent results suggests a tendency towards the unpredictable.

The form table, while unable to lie, does mask a certain truth. The defeat which we suffered had as much to do with Mike Dean as with our footballing performance. The Champions League may have started in a forgettable way for us but in the league we have been, if not rampant, then steadily improving. This should be a humdinger of a game. Chelsea’s collapse combined with City’s unpredictability has left the door to the top tantalisingly ajar and the sleeping giants of the Premier League must be sniffing the air, scenting weakness in the bloated cash rich beasts who so rudely trampled all over their one time dominance of the landscape.

Today is a test for both sides, the chance for our players to shuck off the disappointment of their midweek Greek théâtre de l’absurde and for United to prove their recent form has not been a flash in the pan. One might assume with the stakes so high and both teams in reasonably good nick that a draw would be the favourite result. I believe this season is shaping up to be the least predictable, most open contest in a long time and the team that can string a run of victories together could well establish a very important lead over the other pretenders to the throne. To that end I’ll be amazed if both sides don’t go for it. LVG may be taken in by the silly idea that we have a suspect defence (says so in the papers ergo it must be true) and if so our lightning counter attacking game will be well suited to capitalise on any misplaced bravado.

We have much to be positive about right now. Theo keeps scoring, Alexis is back to his best and the two of them combined superbly in their last match together. Aaron Ramsey was head and shoulders above every other player when he came on as a second half substitute on Tuesday and with him and Mesut supplying our fast and in form goal scorers United will need to defend very well to stop us.

I don’t watch teams unless they play against us (I confess I’ve made an exception where Chelsea are concerned – that’s a gift that just keeps giving) so I’ve had to dig around to find out who is currently doing the business for our visitors. Juan Mata, so says the Manchester Evening News, has been involved in forty four percent of United’s goals so far and as such has been ‘pivotal’ to their start to 2015/16. Metro thinks Martial is the signing of the season. Which in the first week of October is an hilarious assertion even for a newspaper to make. The moment he was injured, Luke Shaw was immediately promoted by pundits far and wide to Man United’s best player, which smells of cant to me. As reprehensible as he may appear, Rooney has an irritating habit of doing well against us, so we need to hope his goal scoring problems continue for at least another game. What he does in an England shirt is, for me, a matter of complete indifference.

So there you have it. My prediction is for another fast, exciting game much like that between ourselves and Leicester. Plenty of goals and a feast of fun for those fortunate enough to be in attendance. If you’re one of those who shakes a weary head and says ‘Pah’ and confidently anticipates a dour struggle settled by a dubious penalty then perhaps you are following the wrong sport. Optimism and excited expectancy costs precisely the same as pessimism you know. Although come to think of it, given what I discovered yesterday about the hitherto unknown world of Electronic Sports it probably doesn’t matter what game you choose. It isn’t the team, the style or even the format which dictates your response to the roller coaster ride, it’s you.


Arsenal: Quality Is Not An Act, It Is A Habit


Good morning Positivistas from a dark Norfolk at a little after 6 this morning.

An early start to Wednesday and just the vaguest lightening in eastern sky as I ponder last night’s events and how to describe and interpret them.

A howl of frustration and a shriek of disappointment would be appropriate to clear the system. With that important emotional ablution performed so to the game.

After the sumptuous enjoyment of the Leicester game I quipped that last night was all about the result and sod the quality of the football. And so the evening turned out. 94 minutes in which for long periods Arsenal dominated possession at above 70%, played attractive football, 654 passes, and had 18 shots, 13 on target. For long periods of the second half the visitors were penned up in the final third of the pitch and with all eleven men behind the ball. And yet the evening ended in defeat for us and triumph for the men in blue.

The events of the game I am reasonably sure are vivid in all our minds hence to repeat the sequence of events again does not seem sensible. A couple of the incidents will linger longer in the mind than I might wish.

Let me attempt to say what went right last night.

Alexis ran his arse off and was a constant threat to the Greeks every time he was on the ball. His second headed goal in a week, this time from a lovely chip from Theo was of the best quality. Theo finished his chance well and looked full of confidence in the first half. In the second, as space reduced and the Greeks were packed back around their box he was less able to contribute. Another useful learning night, and a goal to show for it. The introduction of Ramsey appeared to have been the key to breaking Olympiakos’s resolute defence and he was superb for the 30 minutes he was on. Ox’s performance came in for some ‘stick’ last night and I thought that was unfair. Being blamed for the own goal was ludicrous as the shot hitting the outside of his boot was unavoidable. He worked hard, won the ball and like Sanchez was a persistent thorn. Our attacking play and two goals were enough to have won that game.

What went less well was the defence. Clearly the finger of doom must point at our Colombian stopper for a moment of pure madness but from the outset the back five looked nervy, as though they had never come across opposition who wanted to take them on. Most uncharacteristic of Kosc and, from the times I have seen him, Gabriel. Kieran was uncomfortable all evening. Very little was smooth at the back, players showed almost no composure and that edginess encouraged the Greeks.

And to concede a soft third when we had battled so hard to score our equalizer ……….

That is one of the incidents that will stick in my mind, for all the wrong reasons.

There are lessons to be learned from last night, and mainly I think they are lessons about the players’ approach to the game. It may be that like me the players were too focussed on the ‘result’, not concentrating on their own football. I have in mind also preparing insufficiently for opponents they do not know well. And concentration – ah yes concentration – for every single one of those 94 minutes.

And our opponents ?

A really competent display from every man in blue. They came with a reputation for solid defending but having seen Olympiakos before I took that with a pinch of salt but that proved foolish on my part; Siovas and Costa were rock like, the clever Elabdeloui a top quality full back. At times they were severely stretched and twice broken open by Arsenal goals. They regrouped and stuck to their plan though. Their coach Marco Silva must be delighted.

So what next?

As with our previous recent defeats we have the benefit of no time to dwell on our disappointment with the red Mancs due on Sunday. Indeed the table-topping Mancs due, and the proverbial “six pointer” for both clubs’ PL hopes. No time for regrets or for hiding. We have hills to climb together on Sunday. Bavaria can wait, for now.

And as I draw this epistle to an end the sun is up, the day is begun, enjoy yourselves!


Arsenal Versus Olympiacos: Sweet Surrender

One Charmin Pig

Bloody football. Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn’t be better off without it. Sorry, getting a little ahead of myself. Let me rewind. Steve Coaches was round my drum for a cuppa and a catch up yesterday afternoon. Since getting out of the rat race I don’t see much of him or anyone else for that matter. He used to drive his fifty two seater into my car park every morning and we would pass the time engaged in pleasant badinage and all the usual meaningless conversational fripperies with which everyone attempts to season the tasteless fare that is working for a living.

So yesterday was going well. We’d covered marriage, the state of the nation and had slid inexorably towards the beautiful game. Steve was reminiscing about the good old days, and I, nostalgia never being far below my surface, was a willing ear. He recalled how on a Saturday lunchtime he might open the paper and on reaching the back pages notice that Bury were at home. From there it would be the work of an instant to phone a mate and suggest popping over to Gigg Lane. As easy as that, they would find themselves half an hour later with the newspapers blowing about their ankles, breathing Bovril fumes and complaining about the pies. Nowadays he drives coach loads of West Country Manc fans to the Old T and he couldn’t afford to watch Bury even he hadn’t moved two hundred miles south. Things change, the game is global now, not many support their local team and those that do still prefer the Premier League on the telly to a windy and overpriced terrace.

If only we’d left it there. Sadly my old pal went on to bemoan the state of the English game and trotted out the tired old line about how it was all the foreign players had caused the demise of the national team. I tried to counter but he became hot under the collar. I tried to point out how shit England was before the money came and changed the landscape, I tried to suggest that growing up among the world’s best must have made Jack Wilshere better and not worse, I tried to suggest that shit managers, shit tactics, a backward football culture encouraged by an idiot press had far more effect than foreign stars, but all to no avail. He was adamant. He was furious. He was boggly eyed in his passion.

Surrounded by a select few of the very best Twitter has to offer and coming here where the closest we get to an argument is over whether a player is actually great or just nearly great I hadn’t realised how cocooned my existence had become. Not going to the office or factory to be exposed to the full ferocity of ill informed opinion every day has left me bewildered by the zealous conviction with which people can regurgitate the lies and nonsense with which they are constantly bombarded. I was, to put it mildly, taken aback.

I read Eduardo’s excellent piece on PA yesterday and thought how helpless we are to turn this tide. The ‘Arsène Wenger doesn’t do tactics’ mantra he so adroitly exposed for the flim-flam it is nonetheless has such deep roots beyond our walls that we have not a snowball in hell’s chance of changing anyone’s mind. I had simply failed to realise the extent that the misinformation had gotten right into people. Until you sit face to face with someone ignoring facts and parroting nonsense when in all other respects they appear to be a reasonable human being you can’t comprehend how absolutely the battle has been lost. I felt like Hirō Onoda, stumbling down from the mountain thirty years after the end of the WW2 blinking, bewildered and barely able to believe that no matter how many Phillipino fishermen and farmers I shoot, the truth is I’m never going to return home as part of a winning army.

So what can we do? Not much to be honest. Watch the Arsenal and try to enjoy the football is all I’ve come up with. Although, put like that it doesn’t sound so bad does it? All football clubs have better and worse times, at the moment we as Arsenal fans have plenty to be happy about. Tonight for instance we host Olympiacos in the Champion’s League. That’s more than a good enough reason to cancel our radio shows, get in a bumper bag of midget gems and break open the cranberry and mango tea surely? So what if people are saying Arteta is past it, Arsène can’t manage and Ramsey is out of position? So what if thousands all over the world believe it to be true and repeat these and a hundred other specious facts and bits of meretricious wisdom?

Rather than waste our time trying to fight, not a losing battle but one that was lost a long time ago, why don’t we just get on with watching our team, celebrating the victories and commiserating with one another after a defeat? No one has ever succeeded, to the best of my knowledge, in teaching a pig to sing, indeed as Heinlein observed ‘…it wastes your time and annoys the pig’ so for goodness sake let’s put the sheet music away and give it a rest. I’m not talking football with anyone outside of a certain demographic from now on.

From the moment the team is announced I will be excited, anticipating how the players will line up, wondering who might be the hero on the night. Instead of bemoaning the hand wringing and predictions of disaster, which these days accompany the release of every team sheet, I’m just going to savour being part of this wonderful club competition. To relish the great good fortune that led me to support Arsenal and not any one of the lesser teams, teams that simply do not get to experience this every season. I’ll find a foreign stream or I’ll mute the commentary and I’ll envy those who can afford to go to the match in person but apart from the inevitable exasperation with the referee that envy will be the only ill feeling in which I will indulge.

This supporting lark is from now on going to be about thrills and spills and not about the bellyaches. I’ve simply had enough of the tedious arguments between people who will never change their views. The name calling, the finger wagging, it’s all so pointless and it only serves to detract from the simple pleasure of watching my team pitting its wits against the best that the opposition can throw at it.

So in a way I’m glad Steve came round and cast all this into such clarity for me. The simple pleasures of strolling through the cobbled streets of his home town, whippet at heel, sparks flying from his clogs as he headed to a cold, crumbling concrete stadium to shout abuse at his local team contrasted so sharply with the spouting gibberish he has learned from the modern day anti experts and helped me to reach this minor Damascene moment. Why not give it a try? Why not join me and just enjoy the football and leave the porcine singing lessons to somebody else? You never know, we might just like it.


The Great Ramsey On The Right Debate

Today a post by regular contributor Eduardo which originally appeared in yesterday’s Comments section of PA.

Those with an agenda against Ramsey like to parrot the pundits and commentators who spout rubbish such as:

Ramsey unbalances the team ‘cos he moves central and [amazingly] to the left, during games.”

This one “soundbite” suggests that many don’t actually know:

1. What ‘team balance’ actually is.

2. What Wenger’s tactics are (despite AW actually having explained his exact thinking in playing Ramsey on the right of midfield).

3. That this is not something new from Wenger.

So let’s shed some light on all of this, starting with team balance.

The Ramsey haters, it seems, only do simplistic thinking. In their world, to have a balanced team you have to have the same sort of player on each side, doing the same things. Of course, this is only true from them when it actually suits their argument. They will therefore tell you we need one attacking fullback and one who stays back. One ball playing CB and one brute. One ball winning CM and one passer. And finally, up front, a big one and a little skilled one. But, for some unexplained reason, we need two line-hugging wide men, who only cut in to have a shot or get in to score. Thus the wide role is the only one where it’s yin and yin – no yang to be seen anywhere! I always knew they hadn’t a brain cell between them, but now I realize they don’t have a yang, either (explains a lot about their —– envy).

This brings me on to point number two – ignorance of Wenger’s tactics.

Well, in thinking about why the Ramsey Haters don’t actually know what Wenger’s tactics are, I would actually suggest that this is a deliberate act. This disingenuity reveals itself when you match up the Ramsey Haters with the Wenger Haters – it seems there is a massive overlap.

So Ramsey, it would appear, is merely collateral damage in the ongoing agenda they have against Arsene Wenger.

Anyway, back to what they fail to understand about Ramsey’s role and the tactics behind it. As stated in point 1, they think we need the same on the left and right of midfield, but that little tactic died a tragic death when 4-2-4 outgrew its usefulness. It was only a bit-part tactic when 4-4-2 was the norm. I don’t see any of the successful teams who use 4-2-3-1, actually using their wide midfielders in a rigid role. I don’t see any of them having similar players on opposite sides, either.

As I said earlier, it is a conscious act to seemingly not know what Wenger’s tactics are with Ramsey wide midfield. Its deliberate nature exposed by Wenger having, on multiple occasions explained the thinking behind it. And believe it or not, it’s all about team balance.

Wenger has explained that the reasons for selecting Ramsey wide midfield has many aspects, including:

a) Wanting someone who brings a different kind of game than Sanchez. Alexis takes on players, dribbles a lot, is more of a striker kind of wide man, whereas Aaron is more of a midfielder type – someone who will help support our central midfielders, especially when opponents put three players in there against our two.

b) Bellerin is a very attack minded fullback, and Ramsey’s game complements Hector’s game in two critical ways. Firstly, Ramsey has the discipline to track back and/or block opponents’ attacking lanes when Hector charges forward. Secondly, the fact that Ramsey moves infield also leaves the space for Hector to run into – that space is not only there because Ramsey is not, but often because opponents have also followed Ramsey infield.

c) Wenger has also explained that it’s a deliberate ploy to have Ramsey pop up on the left. AW wants to “overload” on that side. Opponents already have their hands full trying to plug the holes caused by Alexis and Ozil (and even Santi drifts that side), so in a way Ramsey going there too, is to ‘bust the dam’. Acknowledgement of Wenger’s explanation of Ramsey’s role by these critics has so far failed to materialise, as to do so would be tantamount to accepting that Arsene does, after all, do tactics!  And that would never do, now would it?

Finally, point number three – it’s not something new from Wenger.

And no I do not mean, as some like to claim, playing people out of position.

In fact, in his 19 years in charge, Wenger has by and large had different types of player on either side of midfield.

Consider who was on the right when we had Overmars on the left. He was STILL on the right when Pires showed up on our left. I’m talking about the type of player whom many of the AAA/WOB say we should have bought in the summer – a player that for me, Ramsey is most like in so many ways.

Of course, I’m talking about The Romford Pele himself, Ray Parlour.

Was there ever a more opposite player to both Overmars or Pires. Didn’t Parlour, just like Ramsey, drift infield, go box-to-box, but from a wide base?

Parlour was replaced on the right by Ljunberg. Although Freddie, as a player was dissimilar from Parlour, he still played a different role to Pires. He was the off-the-ball runner; he was the guy to get on the end of God’s and Pires passes.

Freddie, just like Ramsey, would pop up all over the place.

Pires and Ljunberg were replaced by Nasri and Hleb. I don’t think anyone would suggest that Nasri and Hleb had similar types of game or roles. Then Theo became our wide right player. Again we never had anyone similar to Theo on our left playing in games at the same time.

And the reason for that, just as it is now for having Ramsey on the right and Alexis on the left, is team balance, and of course tactics.

But don’t shout it too loudly, it might upset the moaners.


Arsenal and Sanchez Meraviglia*

Good morning ++++ers,

And a fine one it is.

If last Sunday morning’s blank screen presented me with something akin to rolling large rock up a steep hill yesterday’s events in Leicester offer not even a vaguely similar challenge. I have had to search deep in my superlative drawer however to do the game justice.

An exceptionally enjoyable game of football played by two sides who set out to play fast and inventive football and maintained that approach to the 93rd minute. They treated each other with respect, no diving, hard challenges but no malice, and who gave referee Pawson very little to whistle about. The final score could have been 7-12. Even at 1-4 the home side were hurling themselves at Cech’s goal as if their lives depended on it. 22 shots for us from inside the box, 4 from outside – 92% on target – ridiculous !

Our lot ?

The headlines go to the goal scorers and to Alexis’ return to net stretching proficiency. If the Chilean has not been back to 100% efficiency then the Foxes offered him the stage to show what he does best. An extra half yard of space or split second allowed him to shine. His second and third goals were super strikes. I say the second was the standout, made by the perfect chip from Ozil, but Sanchez’s leap above the tall defender was masterful.

Theo made further progress, more confident, a little sharper and proactive in his movement than where six weeks ago he was not there. His craft is coming, incrementally, a game and a goal at a time. Next Sunday will be an important test to see if he can spring what is, surprisingly, quite an efficient ManYoo defence.

The relatively unsung heroes of the afternoon I would pick three; Cech and Kosc for withstanding an opening 15 minute battering with just a one goal deficit. And third Hector Bellerin who I thought again had outstanding game. Young Hector was pressed hard by Danny Drinkwater in the opening but gradually tamed the brute. His flank play going forward was brilliant yesterday. That young man is going to be HUGE.

Them ?

That Jamie Vardy did not earn the game’s second hat trick is a bit of a mystery. The goal frame was badly bruised. He is about as far from the “world class” goal scorer model as I can imagine. His touch is a bit scruffy, his movement and running is untidy, he is all ‘rough edges’ including his haircut, but what he has got he uses to the nth degree. Playing non league until he was 25 and joined Leicester so his chance in the top flight came late on. I hope that Leicester are able to hold on to him as anyone who scores goals these days is prone to be lured for big money. Stay where you are son. They love you.

Robert Hoof and Wes Morgan deserve an honourable mention in despatches. I doubted either would last on a hot afternoon and chasing Sanchez and Theo up and down. At the end I suspect both were on their proverbial knees but they kept throwing themselves about.

One mild shadow on an otherwise perfect afternoon was the injury to Flamini – after weeks of waiting quietly he steps up to his triumph at the Lane, followed by a second chance to perform against a side who I think would suit Matty’s style. Then his hamstring pops 20 minutes in. How unlucky is that ?

Onward to Olympiakos on Tuesday evening and a little more pressure for a good result than is ideal. And unlike yesterday Tuesday is about the result, not the quality.

Enjoy your Day of Rest.

* And thank you to Claudio Ranieri for the Italian term for yesterday’s contribution from Alexis


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