Pills And Soap


This time last week I was writing about the Arsenal first team playing yet again in the knock-out stage of the Uefa Champion’s league, then at the weekend I looked at our vital premiership away game with the league cup winners of Swansea. Exciting, nail biting encounters with much at stake, the very stuff we all signed up for and the kind of matches that define our season. And then like a child who walks through the bright lights and loud pulsing rhythms of a funfair only to find himself suddenly outside the line of marquees and beyond the rides and candy floss stalls in a cold darkness surrounded by whisps of mist and chilled by a wintry wind, we find ourselves plunged into the miserable wastelands of the International Break.

Could it have come at a worse time? We certainly had a good shape and were winning in some style before it landed like a plague carrying dirty bomb in the midst of the footballing schedule.  Funnily enough we always seem to feel the IB comes at the worst possible moment. I think it’s probably because it means we have to go without our football fix, let’s face it there isn’t a good time to have no Arsenal to watch. To then be presented with the possibility of our players coming back injured after performing for teams who we don’t support and who don’t pay their wages makes the whole thing as easy to digest as a dry shredded wheat in a sandstorm.

I don’t know about you but I can’t discuss football at work. My colleagues are at the mental age of an eight year old in the early nineteen seventies when it comes to the beautiful game. They believe everything they hear on the radio or read in the back pages. Their ideas and opinions are anything but their own and anything but informed. We will only end up coming to blows if we try to talk sport.  International breaks are the absolute worst though. Suddenly we are all supposed to give a hoot about England, talk about the manager and players he picks as if we care. Honestly,  tripping merrily through the mine field of sport related chit chat has been an exercise in obfuscation and temper control all week.

And so you can only imagine my relief at discovering the cameras were at Underhill last night. It was the second part of our Arsenal midweek methadone treatment. We couldn’t watch the ladies take a first leg lead in their Champions League match but we could and I certainly did watch the reserves (or whatever the Sam Hill they’re called these days) take on Man United’s youngsters. Many of the boys pulling on the red and white are familiar names having featured in first team matches on several occasions. But it only took three minutes for the less well known Hector Bellerin to announce himself with probing fast attacking forays down the right hand side. All too often mass defence prevented any clear opening and in the end too many short passes in and around the box ended in lost possession.

line up

Coqelin and Eisfeld’s presence in the middle of the park provided a really classy fulcrum but it was Henderson who had the first decent shot from a free kick sending a skidding effort in to test the young United keeper after eight minutes. This was one way traffic. We were passing crisply and accurately at speed, and United were reduced to long punts up-field and scraps of possession. Martinez didn’t touch the ball until the eleventh minute and yet somehow the next thing he had to do was pick it out of the net half an hour later. It was a long shot by someone or other out of nothing and after we had dominated most of the half. Bellerin especially had caught the eye with quick feet, and direct running. United’s celebrations were mercifully short lived however, as Henderson equalised from the spot after that man Bellerin had bewitched the United defence once again, and they resorted to the Man United tactics we know and love by scything him down. Don’t worry boys, if Old Red Nose ever picks you for the first team you will never be penalised for kicking a skilful Arsenal player whether in or outside the box.

I’ve mentioned before that for a time in my adolescence I used to go to watch Bristol Rovers. I was taken to Eastville as a young lad by a neighbour and his dad but went more regularly when they played at Twerton Park. The Azteca Twerton was then and almost certainly still is now, famous for it’s sloping profile and watching the teams scaling the slope at Underhill last night certainly brought back memories. I could never decide whether it was better to unleash Rovers on the down hill run in the first half in the hope that they might build a lead before the opposition had gravity on their side, or save the advantage for the second half when the visitors would be tired. In truth it mattered little, as the ball spent most of it’s time flying back and forth through the air in those days the wind had a bigger influence on the match than the angle of the grass. Last night however, the ‘home’ side were determined to keep the ball on a bumpy wet surface and they certainly seemed less dominant in the second half whilst scaling the face of the pitch. Either that or Man U came out with a bit more fight. They certainly came out pretty aggressively , Francis Coquelin was hacked down on the hour by some bloke I’ve never heard of in a horrible foul. Unlike his counterparts in the Premiership the referee had no qualms in actually punishing United players and another one went into his book. Three minutes later and Hayden was chopped down and Arsenal made their first change, like for like Eastmond for Yennaris. Slowly but surely we began to tighten the screw creating more and more chances. Eisfeld, Ansah (substitute for Watt) and the busy Hayden all went close but were stopped by last ditch tackles or wasteful finishing.


It was a familiar tale for Arsenal fans. A lot of the ball, a gradual increase in pressure but a scoreline that didn’t reflect our dominance. Having said that there were some beautiful moves, excellent passing and some players who were quite simply head and shoulders above every one else on the pitch. I’ve mentioned Bellerin, and I know our own Arsenal Andrew really rates the lad having seen him in the flesh but for me Miquel looked a class apart last night; dominant, skilful, strong and decisive. Ansah looked very good when he came on and drew yet another clumsy foul from some United player or other as we entered the final ten minutes. From the free kick Henderson should have doubled his tally and put us in the lead but contrived somehow to bend the crossbar with whoever plays in goal for United well beaten. But then, just as a draw appeared inevitable, Señor Bellarin showed impeccable calm and control to bring the ball down in the United area and lash it home.

I enjoyed seeing the youngsters who were obviously thoroughly schooled in the Wenger Way and it isn’t hard to imagine many of them stepping up if called to plug a gap in the first team. Corporal Jenks could certainly have a very useful understudy in a couple of years time and Miquel is already really close to joining the elite.

Now pass me the syringe and the rope, this international break is about to begin in earnest and the methadone can only take you so far.

About steww

bass guitar, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

22 comments on “Pills And Soap

  1. Tremendous write-up, thanks – you’re right, looks like a very strong line-up. Was sorry I couldn’t get to the game myself.

    Wonder why Gnabry wasn’t in the line-up?

    Have certainly come to dread the interlulls, they so rarely seem to work in our favour as you say, serving only to break up a good run of form or damage the health of our players …

    Some terrific posts here on PA yesterday, really good comments and arguments. Nice to know they will all be safely tucked away in the ‘archive’ for future reference.


  2. I couldn’t watch the game, thanks!
    That starting midfield looked quite good, add Eisfield in a forwardish role…& you’re getting serious.


  3. Shotta,
    The interesting thing about that By The Numbers column on Diaby was how many of the comments below (I had a quick skim) were positive. A very very large proportion.


  4. Meh! hopefully this link to Bellerin’s winner will work:


  5. Fins – Both links worked.

    Re: Diaby – Thanks for the update. Positive comments are ok but what if the match was a draw or we lost. For many Diaby was a scapegoat-in-waiting. I am glad 7amKickoff did an objective analysis, like Aman, the Tactics guy. But too many bloggers are willing to pander to the biases of their readers.
    BTW: That is why I strongly support Positively Arsenal. There needs to be a strong antidote to much of this online nonsense. Take it away Steww.


  6. “what if the match was a draw or we lost”


  7. Stews right,this international break is a killer,a more condensed club & international football calendar is the only answer,how long will it take for Uefa & Fifa to sort it out?, it’s gonna be 2022 for the Quatar World Cup isn’t it? Fuck the fans and the players till then…..


  8. Great write-up. steww. Can’t wait for the highlights clip.

    @ Mel
    Totally agree about more compact and separate club and international seasons. I cannot see the point in continually breaking up the season for internationals.


  9. From what I saw on a dodgy stream that Eisfield kid is quite special


  10. Thanks for this Steww. I almost felt like I was at the game!

    Its a pity you did not say Arsenal vs “some team or another”.


  11. I have always thought that this is a golden generation at Arsenal. If they can stay hungry, humble and patient, the sky is the limit for this crop.


  12. If anyone has some spare time on this boring weekend this is quite a good site, You can plug in predicted scores ffor the rest of the season and get an updated table.

    I get us finishing 4tth a point clear of the spuds



  13. you done well to watch the game on pc last night as I froze my tits off, got to say I thought although le coq controlled the game and you can see he is a class apart special mention should go to nico who was industrious and did the unselfish stuff well. also issac hayden played well considering he has been asked to play in just about every position and is still very young, he is a player I really rate.


  14. a or b -0 always a better perspective when actually at the match. Hayden looked like he was really involved throughout the game. A lot of character that boy too.


  15. found out today jack has fluid on his ankle (not his bad one) pencilled in for west brom


  16. stew : I thought hayden was an excellent defensive midfielder until Id seen him so commanding at cb , Id seen him pushed up for the last ten mins of games when we were chasing results. Last night playing at a higher level and starting up front proved his true versatility


  17. Thanks for the write up steww. It’s nice to have some football as the topic of conversation at this time. I hate the interlull it is so disruptive to our momentum.


  18. steww your addiction for the academy and the mini-guns is an example to all. i praise. you understand continuation/chain, olympic cycles, you see ahead too..and beyond.

    george what if we destroy the akb myth next..im sick of wallies who use that term to describe fellow fans , fans who have been following this club way before wenger…fans who have a much better understanding of the game than the one using the term derogatory … i have a few ideas…..


    n : “oh here come the akbs”
    p : ” the what?”
    n : “AKB”
    p: ” i know a.c.a.b….all cops are bastards…”
    n: ” No no no …it stands for “Arsene Knows Best”
    p: ” Well..doesnt he?”
    n: ” Ehmmmmm …hmmmm…. help…anyone
    n2: ” Yes of course he does but its more a dig to his blind followers”
    p: ” What if you agree with his philosophy and are convinced of his attributes? Are you still a blind follower then? How ? You cant call an educated and informed choice as blind following. There is a solid arguement and a solid career path and achievements which can back up the claim anyway…”
    n2: ” But……but…..they never critisise him”
    p: ” And who are we to critisise?”
    n2: ” We are fans ffs..we have a right to critisise…dont we?”
    p: ” How can you critisise when you dont know all the facts?”
    n2: ” Ehmmmm ….errrrrr ”
    p: ” Come on, spit it out”
    n2: ” Results dont lie, we are shit…we lost from babaloo in the fa cup”
    p: ” Ah so youre frustrated, ah why didnt you say so?”
    n2: ” What you happy we couldnt get past babaloo and go on and win the cup?”
    p: ” My friend, you have been moving the goalposts the whole time, you started of with ironic calls about wenger not knowing his football better than us, the fans. You then went on being ironic towards fans who can, by all accounts, agree with what that manager gives to arsenal, thus you cant call it blind. You then get on your high horse of arrogance and want to critisise when your field of exeprtise is miniscule compared to the person/people you wish to judge like some critic, and then you finnish off with a cup exit which in the grand scheme of things is a grain of sand in the ocean. In your inability to explain what is going on the last few years you choose to be ironic towards people who get it. Fuck off you ridiculous subhuman with your absurdity and your audacity. ”

    🙂 with love to all those who equate….a joey barton ..with a roberto baggio


  19. id love to see pimp and his photomontaGgze to have a go at them ..we can combine in midfield him the creative me the ramsey role ….spread play to flanks steww right…shotta left …george will hammer them in with bicycle kicks and kung fu headers ..sav will be support striker ala theo…young fresh enthusiastic run at them old guards tired legs… passenal goalkeeper..best view to direct …paul n right back ..old school ..fins left…andrew libero….fun stopper…zimpaul coach ..and we have bob steve georgaki to mix it and plenty more to shock the nation…mmmhmmmm

    i wonder why ian wright pressed to leave from his big club to go to benfica the season after he broke bastin’s record … wasnt fond of the brocoli apparently..he threw a fit in december then got injured…anelk stepped in bye bye ian….didnt go to 1998 world cup…then we rejected his son…..and now everything makes sense.

    tony banfield : “football in europe cannot be viewed as being english, french or german anymore – its european. we cant go backwards. […] regarding the produce of arsenal’s academy gaining first team places, it will get better, we will have players who come into the side in the future”

    haha….. some imposters with cannons as their photos need to research a few things before commenting


  20. Hay HUNTER 13
    You Forget to put me in son. I want to be DM or the majority share holder.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: