Arsenal Are Doing Well, Despite Doing Badly !

A guest post from Tim @foreverheady


A few random thoughts about where we are: mainly talking to myself, but thought I would share them.

We are out of form because our collective timing is out of key: miss-hit passes that fail to find their mark have been replaced with passes which though accurate are delivered slowly because each player is too anxious to get it right. The handbrake is on because all drivers are too careful, and when passes do arrive the opportunities have gone. Repeat ad nauseam until all the opposition is behind the ball, and there is literally nowhere to go. Add to this mix anxious players not wanting to excite the opprobrium of crowd, pundits, team mates or manager and you have no one willing to make themselves available to break the deadlock until they are absolutely certain that the goal is open – by which time it isn’t any more.

Ramsey and Ozil have yet to fully recover from the hamstring injuries they suffered last year and their play this season (and during the World Cup) has been typical. It is a major explosive muscle and perhaps more than anything affects a player’s confidence to run at full pace: psychologically you hold something back. As a result, both players who often float effortlessly past players have not been doing so: killer pace is gone and with it the space they normally make for themselves. As arguably the two key players in last season’s run of form that saw Arsenal top of the league for an extended period, it is no wonder that the whole side has suffered. It is not coincidental that both players have succumbed to further injury this season in their attempt to force themselves back to their best.

Which brings us on to the whole injury and unavailability issue. If I were to pick my best 16 players from the current squad I would choose: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Arteta, Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Walcott, Sanchez, Cazorla, Welbeck, Giroud, Chambers, Gnabry. Of that 16, eleven have been unavailable for at least three matches since the start of the season, many for considerably more.  It is a massive testimony to the strength of the squad, the resilience of the players and the ingenuity and tactical acumen of the manager to have reached this stage of the season in such reasonable shape: 5th place in the table but poised to mount a proper challenge, qualification to the final 16 of the Champions League all but assured. The reasons for such a potentially crippling series of unfortunate injuries is unclear: the pitch, lack of rotation, training methods and the strength of our players have all been under scrutiny, as have the unwanted attentions of opposition players, seemingly given carte blanche, as opposed to carte jaune or rouge, by the referees to do as they please. Whether it is some or all of these things together remains open to debate, but the fact remains that any appraisal of Arsenal’s current form or lack of it that seeks to underplay the effect of injury is probably not worth considering.

If opposition players seem legitimised to dish out rough treatment to The Arsenal, then it is worth thinking about the role of the men in black. Long story short rotational fouling seems to go unpunished, career threatening tackles waived away as just part of the English game, yellow cards dished out easily to The Arsenal, cardless tickings-off the norm for the rest. Penalties for? Not often, but in fairness not often against either. There are better bloggers than me with statistics to hand to prove or disprove institutional bias against The Arsenal, but already there have been too many game-changing decisions that have gone against us for it not to be discounted in any discussion about the side’s current position. Just for once I would like to see some of our more vocal critics acknowledge that refereeing does play a significant part in a side’s form – and it would, of course, do wonders for the integrity of the game as a whole if there were to be a proper and transparent investigation into the performance of the referees over the season as a whole.

The manager of course must come under some scrutiny when assessing a side’s form, and it would be strange not to wonder whether the team selection is always correct, whether substitutions are used to the best effect, whether game preparation is as scientific and assiduous as it might be, whether some times our tactics are too offensively minded. But it is also worth remembering that getting your tactics right often means second guessing your opponent, of successfully predicting an outcome to a future event – and then using your available resources to the best effect. Passing the ball sideways and maintaining possession goallessly for 70 minutes, but in the process tiring out the opposition before exploiting gaps and scoring two in the last 20 is just as much a legitimate tactic as conceding possession, parking the bus and then hoping to score on the counter. To my untrained eye we have tried both those tactics in our two Champions League away games this season: one worked, one didn’t – but in both cases the margins between success and failure were slim. I think it is reasonable to say that managers will also have runs of form, times when every decision seems to bear fruit, others where however carefully thought out the plan the cards just don’t fall right. With so many players unavailable due to injury many of the manager’s options have been denied, and the lack of tactical reinforcements coming off the bench has cost us more than many appreciate. I happen to think that our manager gets it right far more often than most – but that strangely when he does it is seen as nothing to do with him.

Do we always buy the right players, and does the manager have his finger on the market’s pulse these days? Not every purchase is a success, but I like to think that in recent years we have been more hit than miss, especially now as there is a little more money available to spend: quite a lot more, in fact, but still not as much as the three UK clubs we hope to compete with. The cry goes out that we are too full of small skilful players, but perhaps the truth is that these days big skilful players are out of most clubs’ price range – and that a decision was made a few years ago that small and skilful will still beat big and unskilled more often than not. It is also hard to have top, top quality players content to act as understudies for any length of time, which perhaps explains why our current shortage in defence was always intended to be covered by younger players like Chambers, Bellerin and Hayden: there are only so many injuries that can be planned and paid for, after all. Do we need more players in January then? Probably, given the way things have turned out. I like to think that we were chasing a specific target all summer who would have given us a bit more physical and skilful presence, but for reasons I do not know he was not available, and there wasn’t time or inclination to go with a plan B at the last minute. I think that plan B will have been identified now and that we also might need another defender too, given the injuries to both first-choice full backs and to a central defender too. Will the signings happen? Only if the right players are available at a price we want to afford and whose wages will sit comfortably with our current structure. As ever, we will probably be the last to know who we are going for, although the papers already tell me that signings are as good as done. I shan’t hold my breath, mainly because I feel certain that should key players return to fitness we will find that the squad is a lot, lot better than it is currently given credit for.

Are most fans happy with the way things are going? Not if you read Twitter or listen to the louder pundits, but empty vessels often make the most noise and The Emirates still seems fuller than most grounds every week. I think most are unwavering in their support, but inevitably have their views coloured by results and pundits. Weekends like this last one do help of course: suddenly a pedestrian away win against Sunderland doesn’t seem too bad in the light of other results, especially as it has seen a movement up the table. Tottenham slipped badly, as did City.  Liverpool continued to misfire and Chelsea suddenly looked all too vincible when key men were unavailable and cards were correctly given.  Perhaps it is dawning on a few that the season is anything but a forlorn hope for The Arsenal after all, and that is certainly how it looks to me. There are important matches coming up, but at last the players and management have a week to rest and prepare properly, with no distractions from International breaks, European travel or essentially meaningless cups. I hope they use it wisely and if they are half the players I think they are I am sure they will.


50 comments on “Arsenal Are Doing Well, Despite Doing Badly !

  1. Ah ha – I wondered about the ending ……..!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cut off in my prime!


  3. Difficult to have a go at the boss about team selection when you’ve already pointed out how well we’ve done considering injuries. player purchases is difficult when your club is about eighth choice of some of the top players and even those who have had first choice have made mistakes.
    Personally I think our slow play in the final third and some of the teams mistakes defending is down to the constant changing because of injuries.
    What I should of said at the start of this post was I really enjoyed this piece Tim. Bad etiquette on my part

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A jump into hyperspace back to here.
    Good job I always carry a towel.


  5. Nice article Tim

    Pundits never influence my views of how we play. It;s the results and whether we play well or not which influences my mood. But being honest I can’t really say we are playing well at the moment, we are surviving, just about this season. Which is good, but taking into account we’ve strengthened well this year, we are not doing as well as last season.
    This time last season, we we’re topping the league and playing some excellent football. I’m not sure if anything has gone wrong, change of tactics perhaps, two new forwards to integrate into the team, injuries of course but also some substitution decisions which are difficult to fathom.
    I’m still optimistic for a good top four finish and a good run in the Cups, but I doubt we’ll have a trophy at the end of the season. I would love to be proved wrong.


  6. Ah unfathomable substitutions? That old chestnut.


  7. amazing amazing writing..thanks!


  8. Great post. Measured and insightful.


  9. A week off is just the ticket I think at this moment.

    Gibbo seemed to thwack his leg during that first half, it only looked like a dead legish type niggle and he should be fine even if he needs to miss the Burnley game. Which he probably won’t.


  10. Players available for Saturday:
    GK- Szczesny, Martinez:
    DF- Mertesacker, Monreal, Chambers, Bellerin, Hayden, Gibbs(?);
    MF- Arteta, Flamini, Rosicky, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Gnarby; Diaby(?) Cocquelin (?)
    FW- Alexis, Welbeck, Podolski, Walcott, Campbell, Akpom, Sanogo

    Near returns, this side of December: Koscielny, Debuchy, Giroud, Ozil.

    It’s a crisis , I tells ye !!!!!

    ..staggers back to bench in Finsbury Park with my breakfast cans of special brew.

    Arsene Wenger’s real job will be to manage all these players expectations when they are looking for game time.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. “The boss told us before the game to press their back four and try to force mistakes. The first goal came from that, so it was something that worked quite well today,” Welbeck told Arsenal Player.

    Go figure.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. And you could probably point the finger at the four major player’s injuries on over training at the World Cup with their national team. They certainly have noting to do with Arsenal’s training methods or injury treatment.
    Kos – Achilles tendonitis
    Debuchy – Ankle ligament tear
    Giroud – Broken ankle
    Ozil – Knee ligaments

    At least all are getting reasonable post WC rest now, and are beefing-up a bit in the gym.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. And fortunately with the likes of Walcott and even Gnabbers back before the Xmas Crunch it should be possible to give a Sanchez a breather here and there. The WC, the move to the PL will catch up with him at some point, if the PGMOBs hatchet goons don’t, and he’ll need a week or two of relative rest at some point. At a guess. No mountain top runs on his holidays!

    And the Groaners expect others, players, who haven’t lived and trained at a relatively high altitude for a large chunk of their time upon this earth to have a similar type of conditioning? The mind boggles. No wonder they are WOBs, that’s all I’m saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Not being an expert, sat here on my arse in front of a computer, but it’s either the altitude or Something like that (maybe genetics – many generations at altitude, heh!) or Sanchez is suffering from a case of the Lauren’s after his move to the club *coughs*


  15. FINS

    Alexis was back home running at high altitude after the WC and before he signed for AFC.
    The man has dedication – I grant you that.

    Rumours that Barca would sell Pedro, He’s a ‘nice to have’ – if we sell Podolski.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I think we should keep our cash to one side at the moment. When Dortmund sack Klopp in a few weeks there are a couple of their lads who I would not be sorry to see with a cannon on their chest.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. However it is not Dortmund or anyone else we need worry about this week but Burnley. Now there is a club steeped in football tradition, a club so immersed in the pond of collective English footballing memory that they have developed webbed feet.

    My eye was drawn back to BFC four to five years ago I think it was when we met them, and they beat us, in the Carling Cup. It was not so much the quality of their football or the sprit that they showed, or even the shocking miss by Bendtner on the night, that caught my gaze but the fact that their shirt sponsors were the local pie manufacturer named “Holland Pies”.

    Slogan “Pies and Puddings since 1854” – Marvellous.

    In a world of global corporate reach, of £100 million stadium naming deals, of half £ billion long term contracts with adidas and Nike, where offshore internet gambling lures the viewer and spectator toward the reef of ruin, how cool, how “up yours”, is being sponsored by the local firm that brings the fan his daily meat and potato ?

    Its gone now on the Burnley shirts sadly, replaced FUN88 ( founded in 2008 in case just in case you wondered) a Chinese owned cyberspace venture existing only in a group of tax evading servers fifteen meters under the plains of Szechuan.

    Now where is the gravy in that ?

    Liked by 6 people

  18. ha ha George at 8:48pm

    Old chestnuts indeed


  19. Anicoll

    It all boils down to Power, Corruption & Pies.


  20. DC: that injury update has turned me into a banned smiley.
    Andynic: excellent as ever! See you Saturday.


  21. PG, I can inform you that Arshavin scored in the 20th minute against Arsenal!

    Unfortunately, FC Zenit were beaten 2-3 by FC Tula Arsenal, in the quarter-finals of the Russian Cup.

    AA, was never injured playing on some of the cabbage patches, in Russia. According to an interview with a Russian daily sporting paper, the doctor visits London Colney on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays! A doctor has to be present at all matches, it would seem the reporter was not well-versed in the procedures for the English game.

    Burnley ???, Bob Lord is about the only person, I can think of. Like ALL owners, he was a despot..


  22. Shambles at the Etihad tonight – praise for a young Toon side but Pelligrini must be in there screaming the odds at that sad display from his lads.

    You’ll be pleased to know the substitute Nasri was substituted. Embarrassing he ever wore an Arsenal shirt.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. And Bac?
    Well I hope the cash is good and the bench comfortable son

    Liked by 5 people

  24. Bac decided to go for early retirement obviously!

    Liked by 3 people

  25. News has it that City suffered a few key injuries tonight.

    Hopefully they will be nice and jaded enough to barely manage a 1-1 draw with Utd.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Chambers cost half but looks twice the player when compared with Mangala, who’s about three years older then the teenager.

    Truth is they’d be better off playing the experienced Sagna at CB, who knows the league, is experienced, and has done well at CB whenever asked.



  27. Nasri: There was a footballer in there once upon a time. Probably a long time ago.


  28. A logical, level headed post by Tim. Imagine a blogger not depending on sensationalism, scare-mongering and propoganda like much of the mainstream media. (How soon will we start reading that Putin and Russia is destabilizing Arsenal and the Pemier League btw?)

    Even better comments. Good job lads.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I have checked the Met Office forecast for Saturday and we are due for a dry afternoon with the sun breaking through about 3pm.
    Accordingly I will be outside the George from 1.30 ish should anyone wish to share a glass of ale and a Positive vibe.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Fully agree with this!

    All the carrying on by many and we still find ourselves in a decent position. You would think we were in the relegation zone! What surprised me even more is that our goals against is not as bad as we would be led to believe. Chelsea have conceded 9 to our 11. Now, we have conceded some sloppy goals, but it’s simply not as bad as it is being made out to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. You couldn’t make it up, except someone has. Alexis doesn’t like Mesut has been the lame story of the day, seized on with vulture-like rapacity by tweeters and bloggers alike. Fortunately the image of the two of them celebrating Alexis’s goal from Mesut’s assist in the Gala game is worth a thousand of the chief groaner’s words, but what sticks in the craw is the utter predictability of it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I just found this – “Arsene Wenger vs Wolf of Wall Street”:

    Liked by 5 people

  33. That is brilliant Rantetta
    I just watched WoWst a couple of days ago for the first time so I was aboard


  34. “Chambers cost half but looks twice the player when compared with Mangala, who’s about three years older then the teenager.”

    I was saying this all summer. They’re going to suffer if either Kompany or DeMichelis go down injured for any significant length of time because Mangala is not as good as his hype suggests. With the loss of Silva, they will hit a rough patch.


  35. A ood read about Southampton academy for those who are interested and some time to spend. Some of our players are mentioned.


    Just an interesting bit from the article:

    “Hunter’s expertise is so respected that he was recently asked to talk on the art of defending at a seminar organised by the Professional Football Coaches Association at West Brom’s training ground; it drew an illustrious gathering including the likes of Martin O’Neill.

    “Tackling is going out of the game so it’s more about interception,’’ said Hunter. “We give our players clips, showing them about timing. We still want players to tackle – in the right way. Clyney can tackle. Matt Targett can tackle. Ryan can. We have to produce a modern defender. We want defenders to sense danger. With a 15-year-old full-back now, we’d expect them to have a grasp of 1 v 1 defending, deal with a winger, stop crosses, block crosses, intercept the ball and spring counter-attacks.’’”


  36. Paul N: “All the carrying on by many and we still find ourselves in a decent position. You would think we were in the relegation zone! What surprised me even more is that our goals against is not as bad as we would be led to believe. Chelsea have conceded 9 to our 11. Now, we have conceded some sloppy goals, but it’s simply not as bad as it is being made out to be.”

    Chelsea had a very favorable schedule at the beginning of the season as well. They’re going to face bus parkers for the next few games and they will drop points.


  37. Happy birthday to the Great Bob (Wilson)

    Liked by 3 people

  38. Interesting post apropos

    “Tackling is going out of the game so it’s more about interception,’’ said Hunter.

    More evidence that we in Britain are behind the times. Xabi Alonso famously was puzzled by the respect afforded to ‘tackling’ in British football. He came from a culture of ‘reading the game and intercepting’.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Rantteta,ive nicked that for twitter should have a few wobs hitting the roof
    Apropos thats a very good article although our youth set up does alot of the same things. Alot of players are promoted above their age group and weve always had youngsters trfaining with the first team.
    Fins ill second that


  40. I recommend everyone listen to todays Arsecast.


  41. Nice link apropos.


  42. Hi guys. I just wanna paste following letter I found a Santi Carzola fanpage. It’s from a Spuds supporter. Good read, like most of the posts and comments up here in PA. Arsenal and esp Arsène hv a lot of respect from rivals fans. Hope you guys like it as much as I did.

    A Tottenham Hotspur Fan’s Love Letter To Arsenal;

    I’m as big a Tottenham fan as you’ll meet, but I can’t help feeling that if you hate Arsenal then you don’t really like football…

    Football rivalries, when embraced by the wrong people, can be one of the world’s most depressing sights. I’m as big a Tottenham Hotspur fan as you’ll meet, but when I was at Wembley last year and sat behind four coked up-up, middle-aged, Stone Island clad monkeys who spent the entire game screaming at the Chelsea fans sitting 500 off metres away, punctuating every other sentence with a ‘f***ing blue c**t’, despite the presence of kids all around, I was embarrassed to say they supported the same team as me. This wasn’t because I’m a prude, or a fair weather supporter, but because no amount of footballing rivalry justifies being an awful, xenophobic human being.

    Whether or not this makes me well placed to writing a guide to Arsenal I’m not sure, but I am sure of one thing that has made many Spurs fans crow in anger.

    I like Arsenal.

    I like the football they play, I like the way they do their business, I like (most of) the players they buy, I like their fans more than most teams fans. I even quite like Wenger. This isn’t to say that I don’t get an extra buzz out of beating them on derby day, but that’s more because of the atmosphere at those games than any heightened personal antagonism towards them as a club. In real terms, it’s now much more exciting to beat a City or a Chelsea than an Arsenal. These are the real glorious wins- David, Goliath and all that- not beating a club who, in essence, encapsulate everything we aspire to be.

    Despite operating well within their relatively-paltry means, there is a large contingent of Arsenal supporter who go up in arms and demand a new striker every time one of their strikers misses a couple of chances and that’s not to say their point of view is not understandable,especially when you consider that the most expensive low cost season ticket, priced at £1,014, but this price is surely reflective of a couple of major factors: not least that they’ve got a massive great stadium to pay off. Other than that there’s also Arsenal’s geographical location to take into account, and the profile of their average supporter; Islington is just down the road, they’re a stone’s throw from Finsbury Park and King’s Cross. These are affluent areas full of (reasonably) comfortable people.

    As a Spurs fan who sweated through the grey 90s, I’ve started to come to think of us Spurs fans as being spoilt. In recent years I came to expect glorious comebacks and Gareth Bale hat-tricks. Therefore, it’s understandable that when you are an Arsenal supporter who experienced the Invincibles, it must be hard to recalibrate your expectations, especially when you know you have money on the bank. But what Arsenal are doing is behaving the way that the rest of the world should. And with even more financial fair play regulations about to come in, it seems that eventually the rest of the world will catch up with them, except by then Arsenal will be two steps ahead.

    Whether or not Wenger will still be at the helm them is another question altogether. In real terms the man should have enough credit in the bank to stay for as long as he can walk, especially with the future looking promising and the potential levelling of the financial playing field. But are they happy to put up with perhaps yet another yet without a trophy? It seems nonsensical to talk about getting rid of someone when all they’ve done is continue to make you competitive in a world that is doing everything in its power to make you uncompetitive, but you sense it might be one season too far.

    Regardless, I gave up the ghost on hating Wenger years ago. Without him the Premier League would have been a much sadder place, and United would have had a lot more titles: His three title winning teams, unbeaten seasons, the development of Thierry Henry and later Robin Van Persie into possibly the two best (certainly the classiest) strikers the Premier League has seen, the continual (occasionally misplaced) dedication to youth, the refusal to compromise principles of football as entertainment, the 40 odd minutes in the Stade de France where it looked like Lehmann might somehow emerge forgiven and victorious, that Adams goal. These are all moments and instances that any fan of football should revel in, regardless of geographical rivalry.

    One final note: The chants of ‘stand up if you hate Arsenal’ are now much less regular at Spurs and this has been in direct correlation with us (almost) catching them up. I always thought it was a inane one at the best of times, but when it used to get chanted at teams other than Arsenal it was another time that I felt Spurs fans didn’t do themselves justice. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to get myself a ticket at Ashburton Grove any time soon, but I can’t help but think that if you hate Arsenal then you don’t really like football. ‪

    Liked by 3 people

  43. Labo_Goon that should be a post in its self. Its ironic that there are many fans of many clubs that admire our club and our manager more than some of our own fans.
    Apparently Jack has a knock on his knee and is out for today but keiran should be ok.


  44. I haven’t actually seen whatever film that clip came from I must admit. I just like the ‘I’m not going anywhere’- ness of it.

    Nice post, Labo Goon.


  45. Those Chilean experts know their Alexis
    The man is a leader not a follower


  46. time to say COYG


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