So, You Think You Know Football ?

Today a guest post from Rich @AlternativeArse 



It’s often been something that makes me think. How many Arsenal fans actually play/played football on a regular basis? From their apparent understanding of the game, it would appear not that many.

Now, I’m not a qualified coach, nor am I that good at football. I can run fairly fast, like to think I have an eye for a pass and understand how to play. I played to decent standard at school, have made a few cup finals in the local Sunday league divisions and even played Saturday football for a brief period.

Nowadays, I play 5-a-side in a local veterans league. I think the standard is pretty high; I’ve come up against goalkeepers who have played for Luton Town, and even teams that take part in annual international tournaments, but no matter who I’m up against, the football is often quite good.

On a Friday nights, we play a friendly match. It’s usually 6-a-side but it’s more of a practise than a full on competitive match. There is no ref, so it’s not quite as combative, but still people like to win and score plenty goals.

One chap I play with is renowned for having a very accurate left foot. He will shoot on sight from just about any distance and usually the ball will end up in the back of the net. However, one week, he couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo.

He did hit the woodwork 3 or 4 times, but we laughed at his inability to score because of how out of the ordinary it was. The more he tried, the worse it got. His usual accuracy had deserted him for that period of 60 sweaty minutes.

Another story of randomness, would be a game I played in last Friday. My team found itself losing by about 9 goals with about 10 minutes to play. Not only were we getting pummeled, but also frustrated with our inability to hit the target as the opposing team enjoyed an almost unopposed goal fest.

That was until one of my teammates scored a halfway line belter.

That was swiftly followed by a flurry of around 10 strikes with only a couple in reply. Sure, we ended up beaten by the usual last goal wins, but the scoreline was a much more respectable and pride had been restored.

Why did all that happen? Really, we had no idea.

Football can be a funny old game.

Those of you that play or have played, I would hope are able to appreciate this viewpoint, especially if you played regularly to any standard.

The unpredictability of the game is something that can’t be explained. It’s human, it’s random and it’s something that you can’t manage or control, no matter how good the players are and no matter how assured the tactics, the human influence that is involved in football, will always affect the outcome.

My point is, that my experiences playing in the veterans league, and other’s experiences playing football, can easily be compared to how the Arsenal are playing this season.

You see, I would argue that Arsenal aren’t playing as poorly as people make out.

I would argue that Arsenal don’t need any more signings in the January window.

I would argue that Arsene Wenger is as tactically astute as the next manager.

Why? Because football really is a funny old game.

Arsene and Arsenals task is to try and effect the random elements and turn them in our favour, but there certainly isn’t any call for sackings, players being dropped to the bench or the back room staff muttering of discontent and disillusionment.

Fans need to be a bit more realistic in their assessment.

Our league form is, well…as normal…

This season, folks are getting very wound up about our position in the league and our lack of progression up the table. The latest loss to Swansea went down like a lead balloon amongst the Arsenal faithful, and subsequently we dropped from 5th to 6th.

6th position and 17 points. Ohh the terror.

With only another 27 games to play, you might think we are fighting a relegation battle, judging by some of the reaction. If you look to past seasons league positions at this stage, you might be surprised we are actually par for the course;


Premiership Table 2014 & 2013 to November 13th


Premiership Table 2012 & 2011 to November 13th

Our league form fluctuates in the top half of the table every year as our squad looks for form and players get on their game and grow in confidence.

Such is the way of football. It’s difficult to predict, and this happens every year, with a few exceptions of course; last season for instance.

We might not be top this season, but Arsenal are still competitive.

This season, the knives appear to be out in a big way, probably because in comparison, we had such a good start last time round and Chelski are running away a little bit. But there are plenty of games to go, and don’t forget the players we have out injured.

Injuries?!? Arsene should have prepared by buying more players!

I disagree. The players that we have already are good enough and despite the absences, Arsenal are still playing very decent football.

Those of you who aren’t convinced that we are playing well should also pay a bit more attention how we are playing, not just the results.

But the results are what matter!?

Yes they are. But we have to be playing well in the first place to achieve better results. And Arsenal are set and ready to go in that respect.

Defending is not the issue…scoring goals is.

Some ans are currently talking about the need for a new centre back and a new midfielder, as we are apparently scoring goals with abandon through Alexis Sanchez.

But we are not.

Despite the heroics of our Chilean and his firey boots of thunder, putting the ball in the back of the net appears to be Arsenal’s undoing, again.

Our ability to convert the chances we create is letting us down, big time;

Chances created by premier league teams so far this season.

Chances created by premier league teams so far this season.


The statistics speak volumes. Second in the chances created table for the Premiership so far. It’s a a pity that the assist figure isn’t higher as if it was, we would be winning more games.

This can be reinforced further by looking at how our shooting fairs against the other sides in the premiership, as in the past, that’s always been a quandary;


Shots taken by teams in the premier league this season

Oops. Second again. Higher than all the teams above us in the league, bar Man City, and we are taking the most shots outside of the area. Plenty of shots…just not many goals. Be that because our players go boss-eyed at the sight of the sticks, or that opposition are literally sacrificing themselves to keep the ball out of the net, who knows, but if you don’t take shots, you don’t score goals.

Just to appease you, as you probably don’t believe those figures…I took a look at our defensive performance too;


Defensive performance by Premier League teams so far this season.

Huh? Third ? According to the statistics, we have a better defence than Chelsea ? How can this be ?

Well, there are several factors that can influence these figures, and this is how I interpret them;

The lower the score, the better a team is at dealing with opposition through it’s midfield, with the forward players tracking back to defend. Either that, or the defenders never really have to do much defending, because we are always attacking, or we maintain a lot of possession.

That is the best way to stop the opposition scoring – don’t let them have the ball.

But those defensive numbers don’t take possession into consideration – that’s a different statistic.

The numbers would suggest that we are actually defending very well, all over the pitch.

Of course, there will be anomalies, but what you can’t count in all these figures is the number of goals we concede through no fault of our own. Through elements out of our control. What I mean by that is the oppositions ability to fashion a chance themselves – be that from a free kick, good play or how the ball bounces.

Gylfi Sigurdsson’s epic against Swansea is a prime example, as is the Anderlect offside goal and Southampton’s Clyne strike in the Capital One cup. They aren’t errors of Arsenals making, rather the oppositions ability to capitalise on brief opportunity, and you can’t do much about that.

Arsenal are creating a world of opportunities to win matches, we simply aren’t making the most of then at the moment.

Still not convinced ?

Well how about if I show you that Arsenal are currently 12th on the list of chances created per game in Europes top 5 leagues;


Chances created – Top 5 European Leagues this season.

Or how about that statistically speaking, Arsenal are the 7th best performing team out of those same leagues ?


Team performance score so far this season – Top 5 European Leagues.

Yes so it’s a performance score…that really mean nothing, but it’s applicable to all teams and a good way of measuring how you are playing, and Arsenal are playing very well. We are not winning, but we are playing very well.

The fact is, that you can play very well in all your matches, you can create the chances and defended resolutely, but if the ball simply won’t go in the net…then it’s not going to be your day.

Scoring more goals than the opposition is what really matters.

But isn’t that just the point?

Regardless of how you play, regardless of the statistics and numbers, from veterans league, all the way up to the premiership, there is no football script. There is no “win the game” power up, nor is there a switch that turns on skills or goals.

In reality, it’s all about specific moments on the pitch and how individuals deal with them in a split second. Even the galactic mind powers of Arsene Wenger, controlling all he surveys like a zombie king, can’t stop Arsenal’s opposition from having an excellent match winning moment or give the referee sight beyond sight.

That is after all what they are are also on the pitch for and if we can’t get the ball in the net, we’re not going to beat them no matter what we do.

That is just how football goes.

158 comments on “So, You Think You Know Football ?

  1. Good job, Anicoll! Alas, I, like Passenal, seized a chance for an expensive club ticket. But thanks for posting the info; hopefully some others made use of it.

    A Gooner parent at my son’s school might also be getting me a ticket for MU, so I am really stretching the budget! Scratch that ticket to the Jazz Festival…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hunter has taken up residence on Untold Arsenal. Doing a fine job too. But ……………


  3. Club Class eh ! Well I hope you and Pass have a cracking time, I have never been in there but you may seen my little face pressed up against the window on the day in question.

    Unusual the return of two blocks of tickets by NUFC – always been a very well supported side even for midweek matches. For the Capital One Cup tie at the Etihad a few weeks back and when they were in shocking form they had a sell out in the away fans section. At £36.50 a ticket I cant see it was the cost that would have put their travelling fans off.

    Ah well every cloud

    Liked by 1 person

  4. DC / Eduardo

    Not sure I care about such things, but do these figures for Gazprom wages include the subsidies they will be paying for the twenty odd players they have out on loan at various Gazprom franchises etc.? Given the past form of the Experts out there, the consistency of the gibberish, perhaps not?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is perhaps just me being a little paranoid but I always imagine that the published wage bills bear little correlation to the actual spend by each club on players. At what point does a signing on fee become part of a wage? How much income tax does the club pay for each player? What are the bonuses? Payments in kind? Etc, etc. It is probably best for the fan not to know these things, and I am sure that much accounting time is spent presenting the figures as transparently as they feel the need to be presented. I can also imagine an unscrupulous blogger comparing the total wage bill of one club with just the players wage bill of another. In other words, I need to be able to believe that Chelsea, City and United spend far more on first team players’ wages that we do, because it is only by believing that that I can then believe my particular narrative.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am told by my nearest and dearest that Club Class is very dead posh. Two seasons ago someone on holiday allowed me the use of three season tickets in Club Class: pretty much behind the North Bank goal. My wife and two kids saw us put seven past Newcastle (while only conceding three) from there and were full of the splendours of it all. I saw it unfold from the Upper, Upper tier of The Clock End and wished I had taken binoculars. Never let it be said that I don’t know my place.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Eddy,

    If you want to establish what the Chelsea Football Club Limited pays in wages in its most recent accounts they can be downloaded for £1 from the Companies House. The most recent annual accounts are for the year to 30th June 2013. If you go on the Companies House webcheck page it will take you straight to all the CFC Limited company’s records over the last decade including the accounts.

    Unfortunately the accounts will not however tell you what part of the total wage bill is paid to players and nor will it say whether the single source of income for all footballers, managers, coaches and officials at the club is Chelsea Football Club Limited.

    Personally I would not bother but if you have an itch it is easily scratched.


  8. “The BBC has apologised after a radio presenter said women should “keep their knickers on” during a discussion on convicted rapist Ched Evans.
    Nick Conrad, a talk show host on BBC Radio Norfolk, made the comments in a live…”

    Said it before and I’m happy to say it again.
    Alan Partridge (of Radio Norfolk fame), fifteen years ahead of his time. Timeless.

    “I believe the target of anything in life should be to do it so well that it becomes an art.” A Wenger

    It’s also true that real life can mimic art. And Steve Coogan is a comic genius.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. There is sometimes a peculiar culture around Football Plunditry and Hunter has described it well, when not arguing with his own tail. So have others!

    Alan Partridge the leather pant boggle dancing football plundit extraordinaire hit the nail on the head. And then “smashed it” all the way through down into the timbers

    “Great banter…”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Not the half of it Fins, even up here in Norfolk his comments caused a stir.

    “And it’s the old adage about if you yank a dog’s tail then don’t be surprised when it bites you.”

    Back of the net Nick

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Some current stories in Football only reinforce how & why Arsenal Football Club stand above the rest for me (warts an ‘all!).


  12. Not that there was ever any doubt about any of the above…


  13. What is slightly uncanny is that Alan Partridge bears more than a passing resemblance to Santi Cazorla when he smiles.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. “He could succeed as a striker; he scores like Thierry and he is starting to operate the channels….You know, the first quality of a striker is to go into these empty spaces where you can be dangerous and Welbeck still needs to improve that”

    “There are no regular starters at a big club, only players who are in good shape”,
    regarding all the forward options and the rest, in case there was ever any doubt about how and why players are selected (conditioning and form!) or substituted (on most occasions).

    – AW

    I remember it took at least ten games before we saw the player who got played by Ferguson and Wenger during his transfer saga making instinctive near post runs and the type. I certainly am no expert on forwards and strikers but everything we’ve seen so far from Welbeck indicates that he can, fitness providing, only improve and get better over the next stage of his career *rubs hands with glee*

    Observing the difference in the plundits demeanour and the honest mind can accept that the coverage of AW on Sky and MOTD is biased and xenophobic, at best. More interestingly, they are actually talking about the football, and not whether someone likes it up ’em or other strange stuff involving leather straps and whips (back to Mr.Partdrige and Mr.Keys again!).

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Anicoll

    I imagine the poor Geordies would have to be down to King Cross train station at 8 or 9pm and god knows how long a night trip back up north. The telly channels really do shaft the northerners with travel times on match days.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Arsenal’s wage bill incudes all of the players, coaches, management, academy players, ladies team, youth teams, directors, full time staff, grounds persons, sports fitness and medical staff, admin staff, box office staff, retail staff, match day staff and Rob the chef, Gunnersaurus, Arteta’s hairdresser, Poldi’s media team and Doris the Tea lady’s (aka the tactical guru) wages.
    All in all over 1000 persons, but the 1st team definitely get the lion’s share of the bill.


  17. I was in club class once.
    Birthday present from my brother.

    There was all the wine you could drink for free.
    …….A terrible, tragic mistake.


  18. Am I the only one who has not been in Club Class ?? ( banned sad face)

    And free drink – FREE DRINK ???

    The train service from Kings X to Newcastle is excellent DC, even on a Saturday night with trains every hour. I know cos I use it from Peterborough and it is about three hours from KX to Newcastle Central.

    They’ll be home before me !


  19. why is it that the media do not report that 13 clubs charge Arsenal fans more for a ticket than AFC charge their fans for a ticket at the Emirates, why is this detail ignored. Surely they don’t have an agenda.


    Liked by 3 people

  20. PG, I have gotten the timing wrong!

    PG, November 19th, 2012 at 8.04 p.m.

    “I am beginning to lose the will to live coming in here. What a load of moaning Minnies”.

    Is it that time of the year, George?


  21. Sanchez with another header.


  22. Really looking forward to Saturdays game although anyone thinking the utd that has turned up and played so poorly this season will turn up at the emirates is mistaken, I think they’ll be up for this one and we need to be on our metal

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Ianspace2014 @ 9:41am – Anybody thinking United won’t be up for it need to be sent to the looney bin.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. @ Andrew, if its any consolation, i have not been in club class level too but since i am not even in the UK, i guess that will not be much consolidation eh? LOL


  25. Well that sort of puts my mind at rest Team

    As for Manyoo always one of the games to look out for when the fixtures are announced and even during the seasons they were crap and we were crap, and sometimes both, the game was always one to look forward to.

    And so it will be on Saturday, both sides have tremendous attacking players, individuals who can score a goal and turn a game in an instant. Both are however struggling at the back with neither defence looking confident and injuries keeping out first choice back four players. Both managers looking to get a result out of he game which will set them on the road nicely towards Christmas. I fancy a low scoring contest.

    I hope that we take it steady on Saturday and don’t go all gung ho as it there will be a few pumped up young players out there in their first AFSvMU game -keeping 11 players on the pitch for 90 minutes is a must – I don’t wont Dean’s name in the headlines on Sunday.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. It was ZimPaul who adviised me that Rooneh still had time on his side, enough time to start training harder and to regain some form. And his recent ban would’ve helped keep him fresh for this game. What was it Steww said, after a run of five or six intense top level games playing every three/four days most players will need a breather. Conversely the recent internationals may have helped both Rooney and Wilshere find their rhythym. But di Maria looks like he might try to play with a niggle, and Blind has picked up a knack so that makes a nice change.

    Without any hope of any trophies, without the CL games to feed the players’ egos the Utd players will throw everything they have into this game.

    No comment on the translucent skulking gollum (Deano) from me

    *gollum gollum*

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Both sides on Saturday desperately need the win to re-boot their season. Whoever loses will be in a world of pain from the media and over-sensitive fans.

    Utd. still have Rooney and Grecian 2000 fit and available, and they can score from half a chance. Arsenal need to dominate them in midfield so that Utd. can’t get the ball up to their strikers.

    I expect Utd’s midfielders to do some serious kicking before Dean decides he’s seen enough, and will then hand out the yellows to Arsenal for retaliating. We have seen the same old pattern so many times before.

    Liked by 4 people

  28. Good little blog from North Bank today on the ACLF site – Loneliness and the Long Distance Gunner – strikes a chord

    Liked by 1 person

  29. It does indeed, Anicoll. I also expect a perversely low scoring contest this weekend. Both teams will look to shore things up defensively while trusting their attacking quality to score. Arsenal could really use the points but a good performance above all would lift confidence.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I am told that Falcao won’t play, so that removes the scenario that I’d dreamt up of Welbeck missing a couple of easy chances and Falcao scoring the winner, to a general chorus of that’s why Utd have ambition and Arsenal only operate in the bargain basement.

    But not to worry – there are plenty more doom laden possibilities where that came from. I am one of the few who like International breaks as they give some respite from the crippling anxiety of it all. Its not easy – its not at all easy.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. isn’t it odd how SKY and co are going on and on about Utd’s injury list, we’ve had worse for years, and we are told its our own fault or its only making excuses.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. The funny thing about the Man Utd injury list is that on PhysioRoom it lists most of their injured players as due back on Saturday, which will mean that both teams are essentially in the same boat. Arsenal will be without Ozil, Kos and Dubuchy, arguably a greater inconvenience than being without Falcao, Rojo and Blind, especially when you remember that although technically fit we don’t know how much of a part Walcott, Giroud or Arteta will play.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. typical sky – man u friendly


  34. That’s dead right just checked that out myself its 5/4 on injuries and ours are more likely to be in the first team and on the bench than theirs so onceagain we have been misrepresented, no change there then.
    Its probably so whatever the score the media can go with brave utd and lucky ARSENAL

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Come on guys – this is Positively Arsenal – none of this negativity please.
    I say 4-2 to AFC.
    And a red for Rooney.


  36. So with Theo out and Danny having a late test we actually have more injuries than utd I wonder if the press will report that.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Theo’s out???


  38. I doubt Theo would have played anyway.


  39. dkgÖÖnér – that is what I want to hear dk – the faith that moves mountains !


  40. “And when one man asked ( Per) a lengthy question about Arsenal’s tactical shortcomings, he replied, to great applause, “You’d make a good manager. Maybe you can come to the dressing room and tell us how to do it.”

    And some people say Germans have no sense of humour (slaps lederhosen loudly)

    Liked by 2 people

  41. A pity about Theo but I suspect it is no bad thing to leave the opposition guessing as to whether he will or won’t feature. But yes, I would confidently expect us to have at least as many first team players out as they do, but of course it will not be mentioned.

    Per’s performance sounds excellent and makes me wish that the Youth game in England was set up in a way that made a professional career a real option for the sons of the middle classes, as would seem to be the case in Germany.


  42. Anyone up for writing the preview?


  43. I am happy to do it if no-one else fancies dipping their toe in the creative pool ?


  44. You have the gig Andrew, Thanks,

    Liked by 2 people

  45. A shame a Welbeck might not be ready to start, or fully fit if he does

    Two massive games coming up, it is exciting. I read that LVG and AW have only had one encounter previously.
    I remember that Ajax team, haven’t seen much of LVG’s teams inbetween so I’m looking forward to this game of football.


  46. Alexis may be injured as well. Why do the Chileans insist on playing him so damn much?


  47. I know you’ve all seen it – but I rarely tire of this appetiser for tomorrow’s meeting;

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Alexis, Welbeck and Walcott all trained today, Wenger had given his press call before the training so not sure if any of them will miss out tomorrow

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Anicoll, that is good news – a pre-view from you will be worth waiting for.

    Without wishing to be over-familiar, can I possibly tender some advice on writing that my old gran’ pappy gave me when I was a fledgling 78.

    Your best chances of surviving an article is to remember that when the sun’s in the west keep your laptop to the east. If you’re sitting up tall, you should squat down low, and if you type with your right, lean to the left.

    Now remember, if the sun’s up tall, lean to the west., if you squat to your right, type down low, and most importantly, if you are sitting to the east — type what’s left.

    Just remember that – and your writing fame will reverberate — somewhere!

    Go on my son! [scratches ass, and nods head sagely – just like ol granpappy].

    Liked by 2 people

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