Arsenal Versus Villa: Sober Reflections


In my pre match midweek blog I focussed on Aaron’s performance against Sunderland. I was able to do this because I had studied the game after the event with a particular eye for our Welsh Wonder and his contribution to the cause. I’ve long held the view that the heat of battle is not the time to asses either individual or team performances with too critical an eye, a fact emphasised by our very own Arsenal Andrew on Thursday morning after the Greek triumph.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with excited reactions to a moment of magic or a goal – shared joy is joy enhanced and shared pleasure is magnified and that surely is why we all come here. However if you were defending a castle against the besieging barbarian hordes in fear for your pigs, chickens and your husband’s life you probably wouldn’t be in the best frame of mind to judge how well your archers were aiming their bows. Every wasted arrow would seem like a disaster, each drop of hot tar which failed to land on the bonce of the bloke on the ladder a hugely wasted opportunity.

Only after the event could you see how, in the scheme of things, the flying arrows and the pouring pitch all helped to dissuade the enemy and actually a few of the defenders on the walls put in some fearless and life saving performances with both sword and shield.

Don’t rush to judgement when your blood is up. That’s all I’m saying. Wait until the result is known and the dust has settled and have a look in calm sober earnest at what actually happened. You’ll find that when you’re able to sit at the back of the armchair rather than the edge of it that perhaps we weren’t in quite as much danger as you originally thought. That maybe the lads were playing with steady professionalism and not a lack of verve, or that the luck we rode so perilously in fact amounted to no more than our opponents badly missing a couple of half chances.

If today Petr Čech makes a fine save after we are outflanked or a penetrating pass splits our defence, he’s doing his job so why not applaud him? Why bother wasting your breath saying how ‘a better team would have scored there’ why turn what is in effect a positive into a negative? All you do is show yourself up and waste your equanimity on unnecessary anxiety.

Please don’t misunderstand me I get just as jittery as the rest of you when the match is in full swing. I too exaggerate the importance of each missed pass or lack of control, each attack snuffed out by an opposition boot. I just don’t see the point in sharing that lack of faith or parading my mental weakness.

Imagine, if you will, our players shared such a tendency to rush to judge themselves. On Wednesday Mesut attempted several through balls which either fell short or were read by defenders. What if he’d let his head drop with disappointment, decided he just wasn’t up to the job because things hadn’t worked out for him. I am much happier that he just kept on doing his thing, knowing that over the entire game only good could come from his persistent harrying of the Olympiacos defence, continually testing them and pushing them onto the back foot.

I don’t know how the manager prepares his players to maintain their belief to the very last kick no matter what. Is it down to his work on the training ground or does he recognise mental strength in the players he buys and nurtures? Do they even care about the armchair managers and twitter experts? Do they hear the groans, read the bullshit? If so does it anger them or do they simply shrug it off as so much pointless white noise?

It is a human trait to believe we know more than the people actually doing the job. I’ve experienced this in my own life on more than one occasion as I’m sure have you. Back when I was a labourer mixing muck for a couple of stone masons, we’d sometimes have customers come onto the scaffolding making ill informed criticisms of the work in progress. One even picked up a spirit level and tested the upright on a door frame. It hadn’t even been secured in place but that didn’t stop this chinless buffoon from pontificating on the out of centre position of the bubble. I recall the builder I was labouring for, without hesitation, dead-panning a reply, “Oh that’s a broken level mate. We only use it as a straight edge.”

I learned then the best answer to theses so called experts is contempt. When I ran my own bar, which I’d done with varying degrees of success for thirteen years, I learned to cope with the ‘experts’ on the other side of the counter who loved to tell me where I was going wrong. In the early years any sentence beginning “You know what you ought to do Stew…” would drive me to fury. One night I even invited the bloke to come round behind the bar throwing my keys at him “Go on then, show me how it should be done” In time I just learned that it’s easy to sit on the outside and peer through a crack in the curtains seeing the flaws in a small part of the scene within. Better surely to accept we know so little of what goes on and simply revel in the good bits, non?

I intend to revel in everything that goes well today. Enjoy the adrenaline of the occasion and reserve deeper judgements for when the buzzards are feeding and the corpses are being robbed on the battlefield. Like everyone else I’m subject to the preconceptions that because Villa have had a poor start to their season and we have been flirting with the number one spot we ought to put them to the sword in no uncertain fashion. I am, on the other hand, fifty two years old and have seen enough football in those years to know that is bollocks.

There is no must, or ought, or should, or will about a sporting encounter. There is too much human nature involved when twenty two blokes (twenty five counting the all too significant officials) take to a rectangle of turf and play out a game of skill and chance. I’m happy to say we have enough to beat them. That seems uncontentious. We have enough players. We have enough experience. We have enough nous in the management team. We enough skill, talent, ability call it what you will. Then, we had enough of all that against West Brom. Bayern had enough of all that when they visited the Emirates and look how that worked out.

Let’s not allow ourselves to get hung up on predictions any more than knee jerk reactions during the game. Why not just enjoy the match as it unfolds? You don’t pick up a book and spout off to your mates how it’s bound to be a brilliant read with an exciting denouement and some great characters do you? You read the bloody thing first and then make up your mind.

Now, I know what you’re thinking . What the Sam Hill was George thinking of giving the match previews to a man who won’t make sweeping predictions? To someone who uses tea bags and cannot therefore even read the leaves in the bottom of his cup? Well, all I can say is we like to do things differently around here.

The closest I’ve been to prophesy in recent times was when I told you all how good I thought Joel Campbell might be and how concerned I was that he might not get enough games to show it. After his Bergkamp like cool in the Olympiacos area to bring down the high ball hold it up with quick feet as he waited for a runner and then slide rule a reverse pass of such sublime beauty that I dribbled my camomile tea down my frock shirt, I might have been excused for feeling a little smug. Of course I didn’t because predictions can just as easily go wrong as right.

The only man I listen to when it comes to reading the bones is Mel O’Reilly who has correctly intuited more final scores in advance of the match than he’s had celebrities in the back of his cab. The rest of us mere mortals are not possessed of his gifts and should content ourselves with gathering our chickens into their little wooden crates and cheering on the blokes on the battlements.

About steww

bass guitar, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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149 comments on “Arsenal Versus Villa: Sober Reflections

  1. Chelsea just a point above the relegation zone.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. There is an allmighty race going on now for clubs to avoid the Europa Cup positions.


  3. I see what Stew did there with his “sober reflections”. Absolutely spot on. Just wanted to say that after today’s result I felt Arsene Wenger is given very little credit for rebuilding this current squad after the heart of the “youth project” was ripped out by the loss of Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie. Looking at the current turmoil at United and Chelsea, it is telling that Arsenal is still competing at the top level, consistently in the last 16 of the champions league and now challenging for the Premier league title. Today was a perfect example that despite the loss of key players, Arsene build teams that can compete because of the way they are organized and coached to play beautiful, effective football.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. wow what a day/weekend for AFC,

    I went for a walk at HT of the evening games today, with LFC 1-1 WBA, and spurs 1-0 toon, and on my return I find out it ended LFC 2-2 WBA, and spurs 1-2 Toon, fantastic.

    the Klopp revolution continues unabated

    LFC 8 BPL games this season under Rodgers – 12 pts

    LFC 8 BPL games this season under Klopp – 12 pts

    don’t anyone tell the media, it would not fit with their agenda


  5. Sky Sports Statto ‏@SkySportsStatto 3h3 hours ago
    Man of the match, Aaron Ramsey
    98 touches
    78 passes (91% accuracy)
    12.37km covered
    Scored the 2nd goal


  6. Chelsea Stats ‏@ChelseaStats 33m33 minutes ago
    A win or draw at Leicester will see us go back to 14th.



    The boss faced the media after Arsenal’s 2-0 win at Aston Villa. Below is a transcript of what he said:

    on a good week…
    I was a bit anxious today as we had given a lot on Wednesday and came back very, very late on Thursday morning. I know that Villa was fighting to survive and it was maybe a set of important points to win against a team low on confidence. [At] 2-0 at half-time, I knew the second half would be more difficult and then they did well and there were some opportunities for Aston Villa, but we didn’t manage to score the third goal. Overall, it was a controlled performance and a great week for us. Don’t worry, I have already had a few bad weeks so it balances itself out a little bit.

    on Ramsey…
    He had an outstanding performance today. I think of course he is naturally more of a central midfielder and I pushed him out wide for a while because I believe we have seen many times that when players are pushed against the line they need to shorten their technique. When they come back into the middle again, they are better players.

    on Giroud’s 50th Premier League goal…
    I believe he is at the top of his game and he is questioned sometimes. Finally, the numbers get people to realise he is a good player. [With] Petr Cech they didn’t need [the numbers] but for Giroud [he needs it]. He has improved, his link play is better and when we have the option for a long ball he is a very interesting option.

    on why Giroud does not get so much praise…
    Because he does not have electric pace. He is more of a player who plays with his back to goal and brings other people in, so maybe he is spectacular individually with his runs without the ball. He is very efficient and a very important player for the team. He is also mentally very strong.

    on injuries…
    The closest to having a chance is Alexis. Medically, we think – my people think, he will not be ready [for Manchester City] but Alexis being Alexis, you never know.

    on Remi Garde…
    His team looked in good spirit with good cohesion and they are a bit short of confidence. But I believe he has done a good job here. The people that are in charge here have worked at Arsenal and already knew him. I think he will do a good job and he needs to be given time here. Time in the Preimer League is difficult to get now but I encouraged him to come because I believe he has the intelligence and the quality, a good eye and good personality.

    on if Aston Villa could stay up…
    It is difficult to predict you know. Every year we have seen teams survive that were there before Christmas and we would say ‘they have absolutely no chance.’ This year one of them was Leicester so it is not completely a lost cause.

    on Manchester City…
    Let’s see tomorrow. We have Leicester [against] Chelsea and if Leicester beat Chelsea they have a very good chance to be top of the league at Christmas. It is a big game and we want to win at home and beat City at home. There are now eight days to prepare and it will be a interesting one but we can at least recover and prepare then.

    Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the source

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20151213/the-boss-on-the-win-giroud-and-ramsey#sShIeUpyCX4U2Wik.99


  8. Just another thought – today’s results bring St. Totteringham’s day one week closer.


  9. Szczesny keeps a clean sheet for Roma away to Napoli today.


  10. I see George has been interacting with some real brain dead muppets on twitter this evening, the poor lads have lost the plot with AFC going top of the league, they just can’t take it. Amazing that the club they claim to support, doing well, makes them so unhappy


  11. to be honest only one player in our squad is better than Santi in that role and that is Ramsey..

    what a player. he inspires in so many ways. what a gem of a person he must be too!

    It is scary to think what Wilshere can do when he establishes himself in the team..imho a young Wilshere had more potential than a young Ramsey..darn those injuries.

    Giroud must now be counted among the top strikers in Europe..no doubt about it..Walcott getting quality game time was an added bonus..

    With Alexis’ return not too far away now..i think we are set for a brilliant Christmas run-in..we should aim to break free by 3-5 points by the time CL resumes (by which time we will have Welbeck Coq and Rosicky back wow!)..which will set us up nicely for the last 2 months of action.

    Onwards and upwards! Arsene lead the way please!


  12. Update on the Home-Away games played:
    AFC 7-9
    City 9-7
    Leics 7-8
    Utd 7-9
    Spuds 9-7
    Palace 9-7

    Very significant because City’s away form is piss; W3 D2 L2 F7 A6
    But they’ll be up for it next week and no mistake.
    So will we.


  13. AFCPressWatch™ ‏@AFCPressWatch 2h2 hours ago
    No player completed more passes (71), won more tackles (five), made more interceptions (two) or had more touches (98) than Ramsey. #AVFCvAFC


  14. “Parading my mental weakness” that’s gold Steww!

    Lovely game, very controlled effort, still gelling to come for the unit but we look good,..



  15. Just went over to Le Misery Grove – wasn’t going to say anything but couldn’t keep my mouth shut. They’ll probably delete my post but who cares.


  16. oh no Klopp refused to shake hands with Pulis after the LFC v WBA game today, fully expecting all the journos to write many column inches about how petty and small minded Klopp is, and to remind the German that this is England, and certain things are expected, and that there is no place in our game for such behavior. After all isn’t that what happened whenever Wenger has not shook hands with an opposing manager.


  17. Ramsey covered 12.37 km today, a BPL record this season


  18. just seen the disallowed Walcott goal again, and for me he was certainly on side, what a pity the officials got it wrong, hopefully TW will get us the winner v city to make up for this wrong.


  19. Mesut Özil ‏@MesutOzil1088 12m12 minutes ago
    Congratulations Santi! I hope we could assist you having a pleasant 31st birthday with our away win!😉😉 #GetWellSoon


  20. just been told by a LFC supporting mate that some LFC fans cheered when Lovren got injured today, it seems all clubs have idiots among their support


  21. What a week-end. Top of the league and the Front National fascists win zero regions in France.

    I lost a bit of money on the Bournemouth and Newcastle matches, I had them both drawing, but I don’t mind because the results are magnificent. Spuds are now seven points behind us, despite all those games unbeaten, and the Mancs are shot of confidence for the next few weeks.

    Thanks to the way Campbell, Flamini and Ramsey have played in the past few games, I have complete confidence that we’ll get a good result at City next week. I can’t wait for Jack and Welbz to come back from injury.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Daily Cannon ‏@DailyCannon 2h2 hours ago
    Boos at Tottenham after their first defeat in 14…..wankers

    Liked by 1 person

  23. no one does crisis quite like Arsenal

    top of the league


  24. I know I am supposed to squeak with terror at the prospect of Real Madrid’s name being pulled out of the Champions League hat as our next opponents

    I am watching them against Villareal 1-0 down – and lucky that is only 1

    Even making Soldado look good – incredible as that sounds to anyone who recalls the Tottingham hit man

    And Rafa in charge

    Bring em on – really – get them on the pitch

    Liked by 1 person

  25. My what a beautiful day! Still haven’t seen the second half, but I’ll sit down to watch it later. Potential MOTM performance from Aaron, some tell me. I’m sure I’ll think so! I love seeing the Ozil/Giroud/Ramsey combination syncing up again.

    There must have been some tired minds and legs out there after the mental/physical exertion of Wednesday night, so taking this one in low gear was the right thing to do, IMO. I know people want a mauling, but that was never happening today. A professional win was what we needed, and that’s what we got. Well done to the boys!

    Liked by 3 people

  26. I know Chambers was not on for long, but in his short time on, I thought he looked at home in midfield.


  27. Well
    This is awkward for the BBC


  28. Our George has managed to find some of the WOB hardcore tonight who actually still believe Arsene Wenger is holding the club back.
    Let’s see – We are top of the league with several key players still out, in R16 of UCL for umpteenth year in a row, and haven’t lost an FA Cup for 2 years.
    They’re right – it’s a nightmare world we are living in as Gooners.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. DC some of them won’t be happy till AW is gone, and the new manager spends loads, and we struggle like man utd, go out of CL at group stages, finish below spurs, play dull rigid football, have a team packed with big powerful physical English players, have a half empty stadium, with mostly “local fans”,

    but remember this, if any or all of the above happens, the WOB will blame Wenger for leaving us in this mess, it will remain all his fault, and what little might not be laid at his door, will be laid at the collective doors of Kroenke and Gazidis.
    usmanov and dein, with graham back as manager, will be the holy trinity.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. the big question that needs answering after today’s results

    Is Arsenal trying to win the BPL.

    After all in the last few weeks all that the journos and pundits have been saying is “only Leicester trying to win the league”

    of course if Arsenal are indeed trying to win the league, it must mean that the league is useless
    and if we do win it, then the BPL will be worthless, just as the FA Cup has become worthless in the last couple of years.


  31. Another heck of a preview, thanks.

    Except, upon getting up-ness, and having retrieved the tablet, I tuned in here and saw this mayhem picture at the top of the article.
    I read away, nodding my head, etc.

    Suddenly I was back in olden times trying to climb a ****ing wall!
    I’d lain back down and fallen asleep. Next thing, I’m having a pre-brunch ‘mare.
    Thank you very much, I’m sure.

    What’s worse, (or better) is that I’d clearly taken on board those parts of the text that said summat like: if Čech saves after we’ve fkd up, that’s his job. Stop moaning, et al.
    Whilst reading those things, I thought ‘that don’t apply to me but all the rest of you better take note’.

    I then noted during the match that Kos6 misplaced 3 ground passes (in the whole game) that went directly to the opposition. (Note: I noted them).
    I watched Čech clear a ball upfield with his Paczki leg, and I thought about how comfortable he looked executing that, and how my beloved WS1 might’ve sliced into his own net (during my “daymares”).
    Shezza having a year in Roma would likely be less harmful than I first thought, I thought – when suddenly Petr had a flight-of-ball fkup – almost of Kos-Shezzer dimensions. (If that’d ended badly would the showers be filled with smoke? – Obviously not. You effing paranoid or what?)

    One only has to look at other teams who played midweek to see how much that took out of them. Then apply some Context to our 2nd half of play.
    And then I think back to our Game against ManU. It was a case of keeping what we had. Don’t do anything rash. Just be professional, blah, blah.

    This was a magnificent performance once context is applied.

    And also, as usual, a magnificent preview.

    I’m trying to de-smugify myself now I’ve seen today’s other scores.

    A massive Like to Shotta re Youth project/Arsène builds post.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Spurs should know by now, the Thursday night games are unnatural. The FA Cup is a better target!

    Petr Cech equals David James’ all-time Premier League record with 169th clean sheet in Arsenal’s victory at Aston Villa.

    I am not allowed by the Judge in that divorce,, to reveal the player’s name. Just like the Parlour case, the wife was the one with the financial foresight. Invest £1 million pounds in a loss-making digital company, and treble the return!

    Alan Hutton was possibly Dorchester in the First Tier Tribunal in respect of Glasgow Rangers. The Hutton “loan ???” was for £364,000.


  33. shotta do you think Rafa will still be in charge of Real Madrid by time the CL resumes, I very much doubt it, I think Ronaldo will get him the sack.


  34. Apologies to Stew.

    Leave them asking for more and PG will be a happy convalescent.

    He is a jolly good fellow, is Stew!


  35. Eddy
    I said it at the time that I was happy Arsenal dodged a bullet when Klopp took the Liverpool job instead of waiting for a chance at Arsenal if Wenger retired.
    The more I see of Klopp – the more I’m happy Arsene is going to stick around for longer.
    And Pep can go fuck off.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. is it true that since klopp took over at lfc that 3 of their players have suffered major knee ligament injuries. JK is meant to be one of those modern progressive up to date managers whose players never get injured


  37. well DC as I said earlier re klopp, long may the klopp liverpool revolution continue, he has the exact same results as lfc under rodgers, 8 games each, 3 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats, so 12 pts each.
    When Rodgers was sacked, lfc were 3pts off 4th and 6pts off top, now lfc are 5pts off 4th and 9pts off top, and if lcfc win tomorrow lfc will be 11pts off top. Now that is the sort progress I as an older gooner, like to see from lfc, can’t stand the cunts, and I have an uncle who is a massive lfc fan, but he is as deluded a fan as the rest of them lot.


  38. Anicoll, I think we can take whichever team we have to face. I legitimately think this is our best chance at winning the Champions league before Arsene retires.


  39. dc- exactly – pep can fuck off.
    Until he’s been given the job and then he’s welcome, of course.


  40. Real Madrid is doing a Man City. There are so many sub par coaches one can hire before it starts biting one in the ass.


  41. Eduardo: “I know Chambers was not on for long, but in his short time on, I thought he looked at home in midfield.”

    Wenger has been turning him into a DM for some weeks.


  42. by the way Arsenal’s first 8 games compared to our last 8 games breaks down as

    first 8
    W5 D1 L2 GS13 GC7 GD6 Pts 16

    last 8
    W5 D2 L1 GS16 GC6 GD10 Pts 17

    Liked by 1 person

  43. as to who I want as our manager when Wenger leaves, I’m not at all sure, the likes of Pep, Klopp do not seem to be long term managers, like the poison dwarf, no matter what success they have, they don’t want to stick around, or maybe to be more precise their style of play and man management is not suited to staying long term at any one club. too many fall outs,(often due to the managers ego), too many big injuries(due to a style of play that burns players out), too much check book management(due to lack of managerial ability and stroking of their own egos).
    so not sure how these sort of guys could ever be a long term success if they became Arsenal manager, as our club is run as a self sustaining club, long term planning has to be part of the first team managers job, sticking around even if not top dog also has to be part of it, and far too many of the modern managers have no affinity for the club they manage, its just a means for their own personal glory. sorry but I don’t want that sort of manager, I want a manager who wants the best for Arsenal FC, now only in the short term, but in the long term.
    I’m still of the opinion that when a club appoints a manager, the club should be hoping that the guy will be our manager for ten, fifteen, twenty years, as long as he is doing a good job, and of course when someone takes the Arsenal job, he should be hoping that he will be our manager for ten, fifteen, twenty years, as long as he is able to do a good job for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. so can someone tell the BBC MOTD commentator that “kane who scored in six games in a row, before the last two” actually means “Kane has now not scored in 3 games”


  45. so Arsenal are third match on Match of the Day, must be keeping the best wine till last


  46. afcstuff ‏@afcstuff 4h4 hours ago
    Giroud has been involved in 100 goals in 148 appearances for Arsenal (37 of them as a sub), scoring 72 goals & providing 28 assists. #afc

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Another fantastic write up by Stew,I wouldn’t have too much faith in my predictions though mate,I’ve lost more money to bookies than Stan Bowles.

    Liked by 1 person

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