Arsenal: As 99 Red Balloons Go By

99rbLadies and gentlemen of the Positively Arsenal persuasion I bid you good morn,

Distinctly grey and damp up in Norfolk. There will be calls for “heating” later I suspect.

What of yesterday’s game ? I admit I settled into the game confident of the three points and a decent ++score although, given that Hull’s previous home games this season had been a win against the Champions on the opening day and a last, last minute one goal defeat to the team currently managed by a Portuguese from Salford, quite why I was so entirely nerveless I am unsure.

Irrational though my certainty may have been as the afternoon developed my position was justified by our dominance of the ball, our slicing the home side apart at will and, but for some tidy keeping and less than clinical finishing on our part, we would/should/could have been 4-5 ahead by half time, and into double figures by the time Mr East halted the event. I saw the possession statistics were just 60/40 in our favour. If that is accurate then all I can say is all our possession must have all been in their half and around their penalty area. The home side barely crossed the half way line with serious intent.

With a final score of 4-1, reliant on two late strikes ironically, the gulf between the sides was not demonstrated. Nevertheless it would have been unnecessarily cruel for Hull to have been entirely thrashed and for the 7-8 goals our performance probably should have racked up. The home side did their best, did not resort violence and when they went down to ten men their dogged refusal to give up is to their credit.Would it have made a jot of difference if Livermore had stayed in ? No.

Analysis ? Wenger has decided that Sanchez is a striker and is persevering in that project. I am delighted. The Chilean certainly has the raw talent to play in any position on the field, and to play well. I thought he was excellent yesterday. I see it was Alexis’ 99th game for us yesterday, hence the photograph above.

Iwobi was in for the Ox I think and he too had a fine afternoon. For such a young player to exert a decisive influence, to change the course of a game for the second time in four days, is the mark of real talent. The stats record six shots from him in his 77 minutes, and that strike rate is what we need from our midfield. I expect I shall soon forget his age.

A third laurel wreath for Mustafi who, as I said after his first game, looks like he has been playing for us for ages. Defensively he did not have much to do yesterday but after a hard game on Tuesday he was probably due an afternoon with his feet up. What struck me yesterday about our new German centre back is that, unlike Per, when the ball is passed to him at the back he is a) almost always further forward on the pitch rather than lurking in 10 metre square empty quadrant, and b) he distributes it forwards quickly. There is a little bit more speed/urgency in which we start attacking moves because that first pass gets off quicker. To be fair to the player also he is a confident passer, a typical Wenger footballer who looks up and sees the whole pitch.

Forward guidance ? Third in the League and not, despite our total dominance at the KCOM, quite hitting top gear yet, though each game has seen the fitness and meshing of our players improving. A sideshow on Tuesday, though one I am looking forward to as Forest are an old opponent whose virtue has been besmirched by poor owners and bad personnel decisions. And then, next Saturday, Conte, Costa and their Satanic Majesties roll into the Ems. I can feel my pulse beat just a little faster at that thought, and that is the exquisite pleasure of being a football fan.

Have a restful and contemplative Sunday, I shall.

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53 comments on “Arsenal: As 99 Red Balloons Go By

  1. I didn’t get my headline I see. Take this as a written warning.
    As good as young Iwobi was going forward, the only problem we had all afternoon was that he left Monreal exposed. The learning curve needs to put this right.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I spent all afternoon blowing the balloons up – give me a break !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely lovely stuff Andy. And ref your Twitter comment we obviously saw the match in a very similar light.
    George – I saw one error defensively from Iwobi when he went to close the man Nacho was already closing thereby leaving the runner free. Watch the highlights and you’ll see Mustafi graphically point out his error. I didn’t see any other defensive mistakes from him so I’m a little surprised you did. But then we all see the match differently. Some for instance are unaware of how good a player Coquelin is. The only thing he lacks is a goal and he is coming damn close.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Lovely stuff Andy (and from Stew yesterday),gonna be interesting to see who starts on Tuesday night.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Unless I’ve imagined it (would be a bit worrying), Wenger said something interesting about Sanchez up top yesterday. He was talking about what Theo offers and how his runs are important when we have a striker looking to come short to receive the ball.

    Basic, sensible stuff and, as is often the way with Wenger pronouncements, I find myself hoping I’ve made that observation before but not sure if I have.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Good morning Andy.
    Top top stuff, as scintillating as yesterday’s football.

    We can really begin to believe that there is more, and better to come from this team.
    George is right about Iwobi, who is following a long standing tradition of left sided attackers in leaving our RB exposed.

    This won’t be a problem when we play the likes of Hull.


  7. Oh, and I havent commented much on recent blogs.
    Stew and Shotta have been doing the business for us.
    Tis a privilege to read on here.


  8. George
    About the defensive responsibilities of our wide men : I fear that at heart I may be more Pulis than Wenger on that one.

    I absolutely loathe seeing us exposed in defence and, hypothetically, I guess that means that if I had my way I’d end up selecting for defensive capability instead of attacking strength in the wide positions.

    It’s probably the most interesting position in football today, and surely the hardest to judge fairly.

    I’ve got no excuse as I played 90% of my football right midfield/wing and know so well that if you’re to concentrate of defending then you can’t be there in attack very often, or vice versa; or you can find yourself in no man’s land making endless runs and not quite being there in defence or attack. Yet I still struggle to apply this realistically to our games.

    Clearly, we are strongly geared towards our wide men being true attackers. We’re in good company as that’s how it is with most of the world’s best teams – Barca, Bayern, Real, PSG.

    Mou and Simeone represent the opposite: they’re happy with attacking wide players against weak opposition, but in the tight games they are appalled by the thought of leaving the defence exposed.

    Hazard is one of the only ones Mou has been able to accept as being so good he can be allowed, eventually, to do his attacking thing, but even that broke down spectacularly. Martial is the latest huge talent out wide in danger of being damaged by Mourinho

    Hopefully we’ll never send one of our promising wide attacking players to learn with the budget versions of these guys again. Terrible mix.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. AndyNic: How could you be so blase, so matter of fact, so confident? Where is the outrage? You are a blogger and a denizen of twitter. Have you forgotten your talking points?
    * Sanchez as a central striker.
    * Coquelin playing instead of Xhaka.
    * Arsenal lack cohesion.

    Here is a gem that will not surprise PA readers. On my twitter someone observed that Wenger has changed the tactical setup and is playing a formation popularized by the greatest tactical innovator of modern football Rinus Michels when he was at Ajax. The writer said it was a false diamond which was a very difficult system for players to learn and play. BTW: When Ajax mastered the system they were unbeatable across Europe. Dang. How did our uber bloggers and podcasters miss that.

    Tactics is not my expertise but I saw something different in the way we played Hull off the park yesterday and Andy Nic is right; with or without Livermore they were going to get a thrashing.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. How can Anicoll’s prose not be enjoyable after that yesterday? I still feel we could be more ruthless and actually score more, but them I’m a harsh bastard.

    Another wonderful consequence from being a positivista is that I’m taking up “Out for a corner’s” (Twitter handle) offer of joint him on Tuesday evening in Nottingham. I’m very much looking forward to that game as I love watching the up and coming talents…

    Liked by 4 people

  11. The old fart’s thoughts:
    Isn’t it great when at last you see all the potential of a young player arrive in the space of 5 days? Young Alex shone like Lighthouse of Alexandria yesterday. To my mind, his performance left all his others way behind. Hopefully it’s not just a flash in the pan. When you see him outperform such as Mesut and Santi all previous concerns have an ability to disappear with the admission that AW was right again. Still not sure of Alexis in the middle though! (and certainly not as a penalty taker for Arsenal!)
    Equally impressive were Kos. Mustafi and Le Coq. If the three of them made more than one mistake each, then it’s slipped from the memory.

    Almost a pity that Hull went down to 10 men halfway through the first half. It not only allowed Alexis to blot his copybook but allowed us to take the foot off the pedal. The way we were playing, 8 or 9 goals seemed more likely. The one up that saw us to half time was somewhat disappointing. Theo was on song as well and we really could have had a hatful.

    But the frustrations of the first half were tempered by one of the best goals we’ve had the pleasure of seeing for a long time. The interplay of Theo and young Alex whose backheel gave Theo a clear run was magic. A goal to remember.

    But we remained at training ground pace up until Petr conceded a penalty and Hull’s 10 men started thinking they might snatch a point. That was sufficient to re-light the blue touch paper and Alexis took advantage of Theo’s blocked shot to restore our two goal lead. And that just set the scene for a goal of great power and accuracy from Granit. 30 yarders are all too uncommon these days so this is one to savour and taste it like a rare claret.

    Forest on Tuesday so doubtless we’ll see many changes. Just let’s hope the game isn’t as destructive as last year’s against Sheffield Wednesday which may well have cost us the championship.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Shotta

    Michel’s book is fantastic, easily the best football book of its kind I’ve read (the only one of its kind I know of : a great coach who set out to share his best insights. Ferguson’s books are weirdly empty of real tactical detail)

    The book is jam-packed with great insight and it is abundantly clear his vision is fairly close to Wenger’s (or maybe it’s the other way around)

    Here’s a half random * selection of some of the good bits I highlighted


    ‘An attacking style of play requires players who grew up playing this style of football as youth players. This is not as necessary when playing counter style football.’

    ‘It has become more difficult to create chances against increasingly better organized defenses. This is understandable because it is easier from a team tactical point of view to defend and adjust to the opponent than to build-up and attack yourself.’

    ‘Players who can set the pace of the match are the diamonds of the team. However, they can not afford to be the odd man out concerning the defensive team function. This is their vulnerable side’

    And still, each player can increase his value to the team by increasing his insight

    This mental willingness to function as a team player under all circumstances is not a natural human behavior. There is always tension between self-interest and the interest of the team

    Every system has its pros and cons. It is all about minimizing the cons and taking advantage of the pros

    If you often lose possession of the ball unnecessarily in the 4:3:3-system, then you will be vulnarable against a team who can execute the counter attack with great efficiency. After all, you give the opponent a lot of space behind your defense. Thus you have to be able to count on an excellent defensive line, who are great in the 1:1 duels and are also able to defend space. They must be strong, both mentally and tactically. It is extremely important that the central defender is fast, because the second central defender will move up during the build-up. There will be no one to cover his back.

    You must never choose to play 4:3:3 if you do not have fast defenders who excel in the 1:1 duels and who are exceptional in the positional play to dominate large spaces


    * half random because i was very keen to get the last two points in. These made the biggest impression on me at the time as they fed into my concerns about Mertesacker and Chambers’ pace issues.

    Wenger seemed to contravene Michel’s strongest rule about playing 4-3-3.

    Arguably, he defied him in a much bigger sense: the main message of Michels book is probably : play total-football-style 4-3-3 if you have the right players for it, i.e if you have really, really good players; but if you don’t have the best players, defensive counter-attacking football is the better bet for you.

    We were close to the border of not having the right players for that style, but we did and we succeeded by the only true measure (consistently outperforming the budget).

    Now a bigger budget and now we have been building the team accordingly. The budget increase was not big enough for us to instantly jump to an ideal set of players for our style, and our finances still mean an absolutely ideal (two lightening fast ,superb one-on-one cb’s for instance, plus a Griezmann) set of players could be a little beyond us.

    But we’re certainly moving closer to it, and it may well be enough for some great times.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. £6.99 on Kindle – I shall buy it

    Because we have been so cursed with injury season after season it has been very difficult to get a picture of how strong our squad was.

    This season, and I probably go back to Christmas we have had much better fortune with injury, and the depth of the squad, the quality of the players not playing, is the best it has ever been.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. the really big noticeable tactical change I seen yesterday compared to other games this season was that unlike in recent games without Giroud on the pitch, we did not lump in high crosses, it was more low driven passes, Alexis and Theo both had good chances from this sort of play, Iwobi is not your winger type wide man, he is more of a no.10 wide man, a Pires if you like, he is more likely to play a pass through the lines than he is to loft in a cross, and he is more likely to play a one two than he is to go on a mazy run. I mentioned in the match thread yesterday that its impressive how strong and good he is at taking the hit from a defender and still retaining the ball. Wenger mentioned after the game how Iwobi is much stronger this season. I would also put yesterdays performance from him down to the confidence he surely got from coming straight back into the side for the PSG game, and even if ox has not been doing great this season, a young player like Alex will still fell getting in ahead of AOC is a major vote of confidence from the manager, and he will have gained belief from it.

    Coquelin had probably one of his best games for us yesterday, certainly best for its all round midfield play. He is showing he is not a limited DM who just runs and tackles. Now his extra time spent in attack might have more to do with Cazorla’s aged and short legs being unable to get up and down the pitch as much or as fast as is required from one of the midfield two, so it falls on Coquelin to add this aspect to his game.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Well the Forest game is likely to see us have 11 changes from Hull, with the starting point the yesterdays 7 subs – ospina, gibbs, Holding, xhaka, elneny ox, lucas. Add in players returning to fitness and in need of games, Gabriel, maybe Giroud, we are told Ramsey will not be considered yet, the big question is who plays right back, Jenkinson is still out, and Debuchy has not appeared in training photos lately, with unconfirmed reports he has been injured, So right back might be the one starting spot for a youth, there are three options here, Johnson, Sheaf and Maitland-Niles. Johnson is the only one who is actually a right back, but I think Sheaf and Maitland-Niles are more likely to be picked, especially Maitland-Niles. Of course we might see Bielik at CB alongside Gabriel seeing us play Holding at right back.
    Zelalem, C Willock, Reine-Adelaide, Akpom, Bennacer and Mavididi are the most likely youths to be also in the squad.

    so injury permitting something along the lines of

    holding gabriel bielik gibbs
    elneny xhaka
    oxlade-chamberlain reine-adelaide lucas

    subs: martinez maitland-niles, sheaf, bennacer, c willock, zelalem, akpom

    some reports yesterday suggested that nottingham forest actually rested several players yesterday in their 2-1 loss at home to norwich. rested or dropped, either way they made a number of changes from their last game, with ex arsenal player henri lansbury one of those not starting yesterdays game.


  16. seen this tweet by one of our very own

    Positively Arsenal ‏@Blackburngeorge 3h3 hours ago Blackburn, England
    You don’t pick the 11 best players .you pick the 11 that make the best team.That’s where we twitter experts fall down.
    We think we can do it

    and it begged the questions,
    1. what is the best player or favorite player in each position you have seen play for arsenal

    2. would that 11 actually work as a good team, would they actually suit each other

    my 11

    anderson o’leary adams sansom
    brady vieira
    rocastle bergkamp pires

    I think that 11 would work, the only doubt is would the midfield two work


  17. Paddy Power ‏@paddypower 4m4 minutes ago
    Do my eyes deceive me? Has Wayne Rooney actually got cautioned for snarling in an officials face? Well I never!


  18. Simon Dawkins ‏@simondawkins23 3h3 hours ago
    Sunday supplement blame Pogba’s form on “not having the right players around him” if you cost £90m you should be able to play wearing Crocs


  19. Futbol Agent ‏@Futbol_Agent_ 2h2 hours ago
    Pep Guardiola: “Bournemouth are the best side we have faced this season. Others just used the long ball.”


  20. joe say has not lost 14 of his last 32 games as a manager. what was that phrase he used -“specialist in failure”

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I want my LVG back.


  22. Well written andy… enjoyed that

    so… JM lost again… In my mind it is JM that lost and not man u.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Eddy – if you look on my Twitter feed I have posted a Danny Finkekstein piece from yesterday’s Times which has all the figures for Giroud – shots, headers, crosses etc – it is illuminating to say the least

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Not just AW but World Cup winning Jogi Low played the BFG as he was simply Germany’s best defender, and only a highly charged hard running hopefully non-snorting Algerian team led to an aging Mertesacker not starting Germany’s final two matches of that tournament.

    The BFG came in for AFC as a replacement for TV5 who had been lost to injuries. And he did the job on and off the pitch.

    I was worried how the team/club/dressing room would cope with his loss following hard on the heels of Arteta but it looks like the gaffer has bought well!

    Watching the BFG you’d notice, for years, how opposing attackers were terrified of running at him with the ball. They’d often simply give up on the opportunity and look for an easier option. Germany’s best defender (of his generation) seemed to have a well earned reputation amongst his peers, in addition we could see that AFC coped by balancing out his minor weakness’ with teammates either side who could compensate and then some.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I wonder what Bastian Schweinsteiger is up to this afternoon?

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Eddy,

    AFC had managed to find combos that worked well with Alexis up top towards the end of the previous to last season, the FA cup final being a good example.

    Sometimes it just takes a few games for it to click? I don’t know but in addition to the truncated pre-season and the up and down form and injuries with players like Walcott, and the understanding that some of the midfielders behind are different to that year, maybe they’ve just needed some time to add those extra strings to their bows?

    And perhaps watching videos of the first half passing at PSG helped the team figure it out again? Certainly it was obvious that AFC were trying to avoid playing hopeful crosses or long passes up to Alexis yesterday! (But not completely, you don’t want to lose the element of surprise).


  27. Not sure why utd don’t just do away with the middle man and hire Mino Raiola as their manager.

    Liked by 4 people

  28. Tom Williams ‏@tomwfootball 6m6 minutes ago
    Lots of stick for Mourinho, but he’s actually ahead of schedule. Usually takes two seasons for his teams to play this abysmally.


  29. The Spend Spend cult just suffered another defeat today.

    Liked by 5 people

  30. Say what you will about Giroud, but he’s very rarely as quiet as Zlatan was today.


  31. So the wobbling Mourinho and his misfiring Mancs play host to Leicester City next Saturday, a game that Ranieri must surely fancy three points from, not to mention a little personal business to settle. I see the fixture fairy has been playing tricks again.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. stoke bottom of the table after a 4-1 loss at crystal palace

    Liked by 2 people

  33. with southampton getting a win over swansea it leaves west ham in the bottom 3


  34. Rich at 12:26pm – I too have got to get that Michel’s book, my credit card willing. Unlike AndyNic I prefer the feel of parchment. Most I know about Michels is 4-3-3, total football and an European Cup with Ajax. I just Wiki’d him and he was named FIFA Coach of the Century in 1999. if the boss is borrowing from him then he is worth studying.


  35. Steww although Iwobi made only one glaring defensive mistake he was missing all afternoon. All good wide midfielders have to track back in the premier league but its a running theme amongst our wide men. Theo yesterday was mutch better in this respect but has been guilty in the past, Alexis will chase the ball he loses but if the play develops on the other side and is then switched he too is often missing. Our full backs probably work harder than any others in the league and it does leave vunerable sometimes.
    Going forward Iwobi was brilliant yesterday, strong, decisive with good vision and accuracy. As he gets more experienced he can become a fantastic all round player and may end up as a number ten where he may not need to track back quite so much.
    Cant wait for tuesday and to see Henri again I watched him in a forrest win the other week and he was very influential. I really liked him when he was with us and in my opinion is a premier league player all day long. Obviously scoring that goal against the spuds helps.
    Rich, while I understand your point about 4/3/3 even when we start like that we normally defend with a 442 or 451 as formations are not rigid. Most teams still play with a stopper (often not the quickest but a good tackler) and a faster sweeper type. The trick is not to leave the slower man exposed as last man with the other CB or FBs always covering. Ironically our spankings have in the main come from errors in midfield or in the case of the 8-2 at manure everything they hit going in forcing us to take Le Coq off at 3-1 and go for a risker formation.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. This is pure gold
    @UnitedStandMUFC: Rooney & Fellaini OUT!!! Don’t Miss Mark’s rant https://t.co/FGz37pidDe

    #MUFC https://t.co/DTBFkioVu1

    Liked by 1 person

  37. shotta

    I prefer paper books as well, but couldn’t resist ease of ebook that time (think it might be a tricky one to get hold of).

    There are some benefits of ebooks, mind- highlighting and making notes are so easy.

    I found it incredibly convenient earlier to look at what I’d highlighted (large proportion of my notes said stuff like ‘fuck off Mourinho!!’ but I’m sure I had my reasons)

    Michels influence is pretty incredible- he was behind the Ajax team that conquered Europe, then the Netherlands team which delighted the world, then 14 years later he led them to European success; finally, his greatest player took over at Barca, completely changed that club’s ideas, and the rest is history.

    Not sure if Wenger borrowed anything from him. More likely a case of great positive minds thinking alike or arriving at same ideas. Bet Wenger has read and enjoyed the book,though.


  38. Enjoyable article, thanks Andrew, about an enjoyable result.

    Half followed the game live on Twitter and never fail to be amazed at the gap between how Twitter sees the footballing universe v the actuality (or at least another version represented by Match of the Day highlights).

    On Twitter, just about every player was ‘shit’ at one point or other and as someone later tweeted, given we’d just won 1-4, as a fanbase we certainly complain a lot.

    Embarrassing really.

    Liked by 3 people

  39. Rich

    I remember there was one press conference some 4-5 years ago where Wenger was accused of trying to copy Barcelona, and he bristled and replied something along the lines of ‘you lot pretend as if Barcelona invented football’. (Obviously with more class than that) And he then went on to say the tactic of total football and 433 was created in the 70s by Rinus Michels and that everyone builds from that.

    So you might be right that he’s read and studied Michels’ work, and also that his ideas and Michels just coincide. Cruyff certainly learned from Michels and he was one of the most famous supporters of Wenger and his work at Arsenal.

    Liked by 3 people

  40. got to love the logic or lack of it, from football fans, on bbc 606 yesterday an Arsenal fan came on whinging, and he came out with the gem that missing out on Vardy was a disaster and that he is world class, and we should try again for him in January cos – wait for it – Vardy is likely to have lost his place in the LCFC side to Slimani by then. anyone see the flaw.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. sunderland really fucked it up today, missed an open goal at 0-0 and then some of the most laughable defending to let kane score the winner.

    would be happy to see todays bottom 3 all go down, west ham, sunderland and stoke


  42. Kaylen Hinds ‏@kaykaymiles_ 4h4 hours ago
    Happy to be back training after being injured for 3 months soon be back on top ❤️⚽️🔜🔙🔛🔝


  43. I really hope that Match of the Day 2 wins the comedy award it deserves, or to be more precise double act Danny Murphy and Trevor Sincalir. The “Rooney is great” routine they have just performed is unlikely to be better, its comic genius.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. murphy and sinclair’s “andros townsend has end product” routine is funny, but not in the same class as their Rooney routine.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Pogba was all over the shop for Watford’s second goal. It was laughable.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. afcstuff ‏@afcstuff 4h4 hours ago
    Most missed Arsenal penalties in the Premier League:

    Wright 6
    Bergkamp 3
    Van Persie 3
    Alexis 2

    [@Orbinho] #afc

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Not the worst week in Arsenals long history , despite some who would have you believe otherwise

    Liked by 2 people

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