Is Defensive Improvement Permanent


The usual speculation of the transfer window is right old Carry On this morning with numerous reports suggest that Julian Draxler is an unpolished gem whom Arsène wants to turn into a centre forward. At a rumoured cost of £37m, that is one hell of a rough diamond. Or present to himself on agreeing his new contract, which former house paper Daily Star believes is the case. The announcement is on hold whilst new deals for Bacary Sagna and Per Mertesacker are finalised. The latter is signed but Arsenal want to send the feelgood factor through the roof by announcing all three at the same time. If it is two, then we can assume it is a BOGOF day with the third telling the club they can…well, you know where that one was going. With the reaction the last time around to strong media stories of his contract being signed, I think I’ll wait until it is announced before commenting.

Like Sagna, Mertesacker is well worth his new deal. Having adapted to the English game, the German is showing his value to the squad through his leadership and performances. It was an interesting – and surprising – statistic that he and Koscielny have not lost a game where they have played the full ninety minutes together in the past two years. The pair are no doubt relieved that the Frenchman was replaced during the defeat at Eastlands last month; their record would have been in as much disarray as the Arsenal defence that day.

The context of that flippancy underlines what a pivotal role the pair have played since Arsène’s patience snapped following the debacles as winter turned to spring in 2013. Tiring of sub-standard performances from key players, Szczesny and Vermaelen were omitted from the team which went on to win in Munich and the Belgian has never been able to usurp either Koscielny or Mertesacker since. We got our Arsenal back with the arrival of a parsimonious defence. The fine run of results which propelled the club into a fourth-placed finish last year relied on slender leads being protected. They built the basis for this season’s confidence at the back, the less convincing nature of last term’s performances bred belief in what might be achieved. Now that belief is confidence in themselves and each other, reflected in the solidity of the central pairing and when one is missing, their replacements. Vermaelen looked a better player, more like the one Arsenal signed, when he deputised for Koscielny.

Mertesacker warmed to that theme after Monday night’s win at Villa Park, the confidence manifesting in his eyes as the squad “responded” to the pressure of Chelsea and City winning at the weekend. Arsène acknowledged the key role his back four played in that win, in what was a microcosm of the season as Arsenal sailed through most of the game before giving themselves a nervous moment or two,

I would say our centre backs, our defence, kept us through that difficult period and they did extremely well. I am very pleased with that, when we are under pressure we can respond.

Outside of the club, recognition is coming. The praise is effusive, notably from Martin Keown. The former defender is one of the more measured pundits in his analysis and if he believes that the Mertesacker / Koscielny axis is on a par with the best in Arsenal’s history, who am I to argue? I like the caveat that the pair need to win trophies if they are to assume that mantle without questions being asked. Harsh in that it is not purely down to their performances but fair in that a solid defence has always underpinned the club’s success. Flamboyant attack will only get you so far.

For Mertesacker, recognition of his performances has been slow in coming. Dismissed in his first season for lacking pace – a slower turning circle than a barge was one particular barb which struck – there was little accommodation for adjusting to a new life, culture and style of play which even though the Bundesliga is widely regarded as being closest to the Premier League in style, would still have come as a shock to the German international. It is those two words which are key. Players are not called into the German squad on a whim; unlike England, they are expected to be excellent. They don’t stay there unless they are consistently excellent and Mertesacker has stayed there. Koscielny regularly features in the Man of the Match recommendations but his improvement is in no small part due to Mertesacker’s influence; his experience, calmness. Koscielny continues to improve but has yet to fully shake the disposition to costly errors early in the season. He is a slow starter but as the flow of games builds so does his form. For a man plying his trade not so long ago in the lower divisions of French football, the progress has been immense. If he can shake those early season cobwebs, Koscielny has the potential to be considered one of the best centre backs in the game at the moment.

Steve Bould deserves immense credit for this improved focus but so does Arsène. You can see the organisation which Bould has brought to the defence, the coherent positioning but it takes a good manager to acknowledge that he has coaching staff who are better qualified to correct this than himself and then let them get on and do so. Too often that aspect of the manager’s influence in this area is overlooked or dismissed. For a man whose reputation is built on the attacking prowess of his teams, this transformation is crucial. Hopefully the stability will continue to underpin what has been a marked improvement in the team’s form this season and long may that continue.

’til Tomorrow.



174 thoughts on “Is Defensive Improvement Permanent

  1. Seems there’s only 1 player in the EPL named to UEFA’s Team of the Year. Any guesses………………………………………

    He’s German and a magician. Congratulations for taking Messi’s spot.

  2. @c

    As I said yesterday mate, I think Podolski will be on his bike in the summer and clearly is not in Arsene’s plans.

  3. Bill,

    Sorry, think extremes of language are being used. Sure, there is an argument that if Wenger had prioritised defensive thinking, rather than “neglect”, which was my word, then there could have been room for improvement. I think to me, this is a debate about tactics. For others, it’s of course about Wenger’s achilles hill. If you are arguing, that at some point, that there has been a shift, a sea change to a more pragmatic philosophy, and it’s now bearing fruit, then of course, I can see what you are saying but disagree to a certain extent because I think we don’t know how much of our recent success is down to this, as opposed to, a general improvement in the quality of the squad through new player acquisitions and existing players fulfilling their potential.

  4. Miami @ 6:25 and 6:31

    That opens up another direction that this debate can go down. We have discussed this in much detail in years past.

    The bottom line is that playing good defense does not have to inhibit your ability to score goals. We are currently on a pace to score almost exactly the same number of goals this season compared with each of the last 3 seasons and we certainly did not defend with anywhere near the same intensity or effectiveness in the last 3 seasons.

    In theory scoring one goal should give the same amount of positive effect on results compared with the negative effect that you get from conceding 1 goal. However, it seems that conceding goals hurts your chances to win more then scoring a similar number of goals improves your chances. I don’t know if I can explain that in a reasonable way but it seems to be true if you look at the tables in our league and the rest of Europe in this century.

    The bottom line seems to be that no matter how hard you try, you can’t score enough goals to compensate for poor defending. Compare our results to Liverpool who have become a relative attacking juggernaut this season but still are 6 points behind us. Man City is an even greater attacking team and we are still ahead of them.

  5. Bill.

    As I said, the danger of coming into an ongoing discussion/argument is that you cannot always get the nuances correct.

    I accept your clarification of what was meant by ‘neglect’ as it takes the sting out of it and would not have made me feel the need to open my beak.

    The old adage still holds true;

    “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” 🙂

  6. Muppet:

    If you at the numbers our improvement this season compared to the last 3 years is because of our defense. As I mentioned above we are on a pace to score almost exactly the same number of goals this season as we have in the 3 previous seasons. The last 3 years we have score 72 74 and 72. This season at current pace we will score 74. Clearly we are a better team this season despite having the same level of attacking effectiveness as we have for the last 3 years. Hard to argue with that objective evidence.

    Subjectively its pretty clear if you read the comments in the blog or watch the games that we have been much more intent of defending well as a team. That is a subjective opinion but if you believe that coaching staff has any ability to influence players then you have to think that the defensive improvement is part of the coaching staffs plans.

  7. Muppet

    Belated seasonal greetings, etc.

    Whilst I feel that AW has his weaknesses – as we all as people do – to have an “achilles hill” as you suggest at 6.51pm is a bit harsh. You old doomer, you 😉

  8. He always was a miserable bugger, YW.

    When was the last time he bought you a pint? As for all those “funny” posts, well.

  9. Well well well, seems reports are surfacing that Arsene might be tempted to swap Podolski + cash for Draxler as he has a desire to turn him into a RvP type striker.


    You leaking stuff to the media mate?

  10. @Muppet

    No you didn’t but it makes sense. Do me a favor and have them make a call to Lyon and tell them we want Gonalons in the summer.

  11. @C

    Sure thing. Another french player ? You sure ? Thought we had ended the french obsession, and we’ve moved onto german/spanish obsessions ?

  12. @C

    It is pretty obvious that Podolski is not injured (contributes in every training session) and it is also obvious that unlike other players coming back from injury, he is not allowed to do so with pitch time. It therefore seems very likely that Podolski is seeing his last season with Arsenal. Actions speak louder than any words, and Arsene’s actions are quite opposite to his language with regards to Podolski.

  13. @Bill

    I have absolutely no issue with a mentality of defend first and attack second. I just also wanted to make sure that all the calls for more goals scored are put in light of the this mentality. It is easy to sit in an armchair and say he should be able to a great defense, whilst maintaining an extremely good attack. Practically, it is not so easy as I imagine that the players are thinking about not getting caught out of position whilst streaming forward in to advanced positions.

    I’m personally quite happy with the way we are going about our business, whether that is due to a change in focus by the coach or indeed the players make zero difference to myself. We have midfielders scoring, though this had slackened some what with the injury to Ramsey. We have a striker who is scoring at basically a goal every other game (19 appearances 9 goals). This ratio, is after all the same one we were adamant we needed over the summer.

    Now, if I could just get Arsene’s personal email address I could try and enlighten him on the benefits of playing Podolski in the odd game or two.

  14. I think that was right, YW. Mind you, it was raining so hard he could have given me cold tea and I wouldn’t have noticed.

    Anyway, if it’s not Muppet that owes us a pint it must be Jonny. He definitely didn’t buy us one last match.

  15. @MA

    Trust me, I’m intrigued to see how this all plays out and what happens in the 2nd half of the season. Is the writing on the wall, by Arsene’s talk you would say absolutely not but his actions you would say more than likely.. Here’s my thing, if Arsene is going to let Podolski go in the summer, why not get the most out of him until then and let him help us win the league which would in-turn drive up his price.

  16. @C

    “why not get the most out of him until then and let him help us win the league”

    Just a guess, but the assumption is that there is either a personal dislike (issue), or he does not trust the player.

  17. MA and C, I think there’s a subtext to AW’s words about Podolski too. For me, alarm bells start ringing whenever he mentions a player needing more fitness, which he’s done for most of the time Podolski’s been at the club. That sounds like he’s saying he needs to work harder in training, and I suppose this might be backed up by AW subbing him in almost every match last season.

    From the outside it’s hard to know what to make of him. I know he had a reputation for not giving everything at Bayern, but on the pitch for us he seems very committed.

    And just as a fan I’ve got to say he hasn’t really shown the explosiveness he’s meant to be capable of. I know he was carrying an injury last season. Really it’s a shame that he got injured so early on, especially after coming through a promising preseason.

  18. @Al

    Like yourself I have no idea what is going on and all I can go on is the information provided by Arsene with regard to the player.

    Podolski’s EPL record for Arsenal is 37 appearances, 13 goals and 9 assists. Now, this from mostly the wider left role. It really isn’t a terrible record to have is it?

  19. Forgot to say earlier, C. It’s such a shame about Rossi. With him fit I’d have put Italy among the favourites for the summer, but when they’re relying on Balotelli, who we know can blow hot and cold, things might be tricker for them. There’s even talk about including that Berardi lad who scored against them on the weekend.

  20. So going for a drink with the Muppet or the jonny would have been like going for a drink with the old Wenger.!

  21. True Bob but then would you trust Jonny to bring anything back from the bar without breaking it? Always breaking something. If it’s not t’Interweb, it’s his arm, wrist, thumb or whatever…

  22. No, not a bad record at all, MA. Obviously I’m speculating, but I’m guessing AW was sending a message by hauling him off in so many matches last season; that he needed more stamina to last the 90.

    When AW was getting ready to offload JET a few years back, he was saying that he had quality but needed fitness. It wasn’t much of stretch to imagine that the lad needed to train harder.

    Let’s say AW kept hooking Podolski because of his fitness, which his quotes seem to suggest, then there might be lots of reasons why, despite his numbers, he might be reluctant to trust Podolski too much in the future.

  23. @Big Al

    Understandable about the training thing which some managers stress and some don’t, the thing is though you look at his production and you can’t argue he’s a gamer.

    When Rossi was fit, only “The Other” Ronaldo and Suarez had scored more goals this season basically scoring for fun. I do wish somebody would be able to figure out Balotelli because when he is fit, focused and firing he easily one of the best in the whole of Europe.

  24. Miami.

    I too am happy with playing solid defense and not conceding goals as the number 1 priority since this season has clearly demonstrated that approach has significantly improved our results. Even with a great defense you still need to score. The least number of goals that has won the league in this century has been 72 and we are on pace to score 74 so we are playing with almost no margin for error. Obviously the easiest way to improve our chances of winning is to improve the number of goals we score. We can’t really improve our defense. Lots of teams in the PL era in the past have proven you can defend well and still score plenty of goals

    Regarding girouds scoring rate, at the start of the season I think we were hoping he could get up to at least 1 every other game but that seems to me to be a minimum requirement for a striker on a title contending team. it’s not a goal to shoot for or something to be really happy about. Right now Giroud is on a pace to score 16 league goals this season. I doubt that there has ever been a PL team that has won a title when the leading scorer had 16 league goals. Reality is that we will probably need Giroud to have a better finish to the season and get significantly more then 16 total goals or someone else is going to have to get really hot for the rest of the season if we are going to hold on.

  25. Mertesacker for Chancellor!

    Captain will do until The Angela of the East has done her time.

  26. @Bill

    “Regarding girouds scoring rate, at the start of the season I think we were hoping he could get up to at least 1 every other game but that seems to me to be a minimum requirement for a striker on a title contending team.”

    This is what makes me laugh. The requirements is this, but when that is being achieved we want it to this. At work they call it shifting the goal posts 🙂

  27. @Bill

    “now Giroud is on a pace to score 16 league goals this season” Actually, 9 in 19 is on pace for 18 my friend 🙂

  28. If only wenger treated the infamous deadwood like he is podolski eh….could have saved a lot of tears….depression….blog wars……..

  29. Excellent discussion between Cbob, Bill, Harry, Muppet, Jonny, Big Al–interesting points, well articulated, civil, good-natured, entertaining, informative, and full of counterpoints partially resolved but not fully reducing all opinions into wishy washy agreement. My idea of an Arsenal football blog!

    Good to see Muppet in the house. Thanks all! Just sad to be coming so late to the party that I don’t have anything serious to contribute.

    I’ll offer one point. In the past when there were individual errors made by GK’s and back line defenders that led to bad goals being conceded, we were often reminded that defending is a team responsibility and it wasn’t just the fault of the players in question. To that extent, I think the difference isn’t just the brilliance of Merts and Kos who have bedded in and adapted to the league. I think the team as a whole has approached situations tactically to insure good team defending, good effort and also a cohesive shape. Some of this is due to continuity and time to work with an effective system but some of this is down to defensive ideas and emphasis that the team has implemented and the players have adopted. I have no idea if this is Bould’s influence or specific contribution, but I credit AW who has displayed pragmatism last season in the second half and built on that to express a variety of tactical and stylistic developments with a settled and more experienced squad. I do think that at some points he was very interested in a core of young players playing a brand of attacking football–we still had a pretty strong defense but just not the best or second best in the league. Since 2011 he has had more funds and while I would have been excited to see more aggressive use of whatever was available, there has been a shift toward more experienced players. Certainly a combination of factors are involved but there is some element of adjusting approach as the situation has warranted and conditions have allowed. The only thing is this progression might have happened faster or we might have had better luck but on the whole I celebrate AW’s management. He’s been terrific.

  30. Miami.

    He has scored 9 in our first 21 league games. That is a scoring rate of 16.2857143 total goals this season. Almost no striker plays every game in a season and very few teams win titles with a leading scorer/ striker that scores only 16 goals in the season unless that striker is injured for a significant length of time.

    I am not sure where you came up with the idea that the requirement was a goal every other game. I agree that would be a decent return from Giroud but if you look at the strikers on most contending teams I doubt that a goal every other game is even an average scoring rate for their striker. The reality is that with Walcott out he will probably have to a lot better. Hopefully he can step up.

  31. I think wengers definately changed.

    i dont think this season has been a result of some grand master scheme and its all come together as planned..
    far from..theres been too many gambles when squad building and too many mistakes when buying and selling players, offering new contracts to previous batches of project youth that took us years to recover from and put right, for this to be any sort of plan that was drawn up years ago..

    that plan failed and got torn up and this is the phoenix from the ashes if anything..

    i truly beleive he had his own philosophies and he was determined to make it work his way..before he knew it his best players were abandoning ship, project youth mark 2-3 had failed miserably and some of the signings he made ended up having to be released or sold at discount, because nobody else wanted them and the wage bill had spiralled out of control…..
    the defence was a joke with the infamous drive a jumbo jet through midfield that wasnt there and then come up against a back 4 shaped like a fucking zigzag.. he’d gone nearly a decade without any silverware and now his contract is up for renewal…
    the pressure was really on, the fans were losing faith, turning the screw and putting the pressure on him to sort it the fuck out or step down…well some of us were anyway…
    i lost count of the amount of times he used to say our defensive frailities were a result of us ‘paying the price’ for our attacking game…and i remember in one interview when he was asked how he was going to deal with it and he said ‘i dont know’..
    it really pissed me off becuase this is a man who knows how to win trophies this is a man whos record in the PL is amazing and he was stood there telling us he knew we couldnt defend he knew the reason why but he didnt know how to put it right, .

    well its a good job bouldy did..
    and its a good job wenger finally lost patience with tv…. but he shot himself in the bollox to begin with by giving TV the captaincy when rvp left.. we all knew bfg and kozzer were our better pairing then but in giving the armband to tv it meant he wasnt going to be dropped and it took wenger until we’d been knocked out of everything in february to realise it and accept he got it wrong and change it.

    youve gotta credit wenger becuase it looked like he’d lost the hunger and he was just content to do it his way and win his personal trophy of keeping us in the CL, but this season hes had the eye of the tiger again and the help he much needed with transfers and tactics he ended up asking for and getting and now we are fighting for something thats real and not made up..

    we needed a marquee signing to make up for all the players that have thought fuck this and left to win trophies, and we got him,
    but fixing the defence was never about spending money, weve had good teams but we werent getting the best out of them becuase we could attack for fun, but we couldnt defend, our defending was with the league cup at priority level and there was one or two seasons it was obvious to stevie wonder we didnt give a fuck about set pieces because we couldnt score from any and we conceded loads
    we also neglected the GK position becuase almunia for years was ridiculous..

    he made compromises but we should still not get carried away and reserve judgement until the end of the season becuase for all the compromises hes made and the positives that have come from it we are still to see whether weve overcome our mental hurdle of falling apart when it matters and being knocked out of everything in a fortnight and finishing 4th in a 3 horse race..

    hes still got to win something this season..even if its just the FA cup, because one thing weve learned is the best players in the team dont stick around for long if they dont win anything.. so now weve finally got a balanced team that looks like it can challenge lets win something with them and keep them all together for once and if that means buying a top striker for millions in jan to help us then do it 🙂

  32. Well, duke, you know where we are when the missus can spare you. Baby must be big enough to go to work now!

  33. @Bill

    Has scored 9 in his 19 appearances. Whilst there have been 21 league games he as not featured in all of them.

  34. Bob,
    Yeah he is big enough to go to work now, I was thinking of putting him in for a pampers advert or something .!! .

  35. Miami.

    I understand that he has not appeared in every game. Very few strikers actually play in every game. The point is that very few teams win titles with a striker who scores 16 goals in a season even if that striker plays only play 32 -34 games.

    We have talked about this many times before. Right now we are playing with almost no margin for error and although anything can happen it’s unlikely we will win if we continue to play that way. I suspect, we need to maintain our defensive solidarity and score more goals if we want to hold on. The easiest position on any team to score from is striker. The reality is that it will be difficult for us to win when we have a striker who will probably max out at 16-18 goals/ season, especially this season since Walcott is lost. It’s simple math. We don’t have any other options this season and hopefully we can win with what we have, but over the long term I think we need more production from that position then a goal every other appearance. That seems pretty straight forward to me.

  36. Some people contrive to paint AW’s contribution these last few years in the worst possible light and explain our good form as AW stumbling upon the message they sent him in a bottle a few years earlier. Amongst other things I find that pretty vain.

    Really, I think LG’s explanation is probably the fairest.

    And I think there was an element of trial and error in the 06-11 period. Which is natural because nobody had tried it before. It was so close to paying off that it’s sad to think back to it. Winning something with that group would have been an amazing achievement.

  37. Didn’t jj pretty much say the same sort of things as limestone….only in a more shall we say elegant way.

  38. Just running through a few other points.

    Someone mentioned AW bringing on Monreal as proof of his transformation. I’d say that for a long time this season, because of injuries, Monreal was the fittest and most senior player available on the bench. He’s also a proven international. I’d look at him regardless of the circumstances because he’s flexible; he can attack and defend equally well.

    Others have pointed to a change of demeanour and treatment of the first team players. The explanation there is pretty simple. In 2011 when that particular side had run its course, replacing experienced first-teamers with youth would have been mental. Nasri, Clichy and Cesc weren’t staying so we had to bring in older footballers. These guys had been round the block, and AW’s adapted his decisions and language about them in public accordingly.

    When they underperformed he’d rip into the side in a way he hadn’t done for years because, being a smart man, he sensed what would get the best out of them. And here we are, at a point where he’s comfortable criticising the players lightly to the press, most of the team appears to be happy and we’re all puling together as the most consistent side for more than a calendar year.

  39. @Bill

    “Right now we are playing with almost no margin for error and although anything can happen it’s unlikely we will win if we continue to play that way.”

    You are definitely a have the cake and eat it to type of lad. You stated earlier that our defensive focus wins us games, but you are now saying that the way we play is unlikely to win us a title. It almost sounds like you are just looking for reasons to criticize or complain 🙂

    To be fair mate it is only simple to you because it is actually what you want to demonstrate as your point. It doesn’t matter whether we have a scorer scoring 30 goals or 3 players scoring 10 goals each as long as we win. 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 what ever the score it doesn’t matter as long as we get the result. I don’t care whether Giroud scores 10 or 30, in either case we require the team to still score goals. We are not a one man team, unlike the years with RvP doing all the scoring. We are not Liverpool with Suarez accounting for 42% of the teams goals. Arsenal play with movement and a floating midfield able to penetrate with runs, exactly as Ramsey and now Wilshere has demonstrated. We have the 3rd highest goals scored at 41 and tied for the best defense at 19 conceded. Oh, and we are also top of the table so whatever we are doing can it really be that bad?

    By the way, rather than constantly quote “history tells us” why not encourage the team to make history? Perhaps we’ll be the first title winners with a leading goal scorer at 16 goals. Wow, now that mate would be history and more over something you can later quote as an anomaly in your future math 🙂

  40. Al

    Some people contrive to paint AW as omnipotent. They might admit that everyone makes mistakes as a general point but whenever a specific topic is discussed they will defend AW to the death and never admit a specific action actually was a mistake.

    Overall Arsene has done amazing things to keep us in the CL all these years but he screwed up big time with the whole thing about the teams defense for a lot of years. IMO. I think it’s also clear that the way we are defending this season is different then it has been in the past. The way Arsene has used defensive subs in the last 20-25 minutes of the game and defended deep while holding on to a lead is plenty of evidence for that. As yogi pointed out something changed rather dramatically last year around February. That does not mean that Arsene found a message in a bottle, but I think Cbob said it the best earlier this year when he said “Arsene just got tired of losing”.

  41. @Bill

    Also, using your logic then Chelsea cannot be title winners either right? I mean they don’t have a striker who has scored more than 4 goals this season 🙂

  42. @Bill

    “The way Arsene has used defensive subs in the last 20-25 minutes of the game and defended deep while holding on to a lead is plenty of evidence for that.”

    Come on mate, call BS where it is BS. Are you really suggesting that Arsene makes substitutions in the last 20-25 minutes? Usually it is the last 6 minutes plus injury time 🙂

  43. “Usually it is the last 6 minutes plus injury time 🙂 ”

    On a couple of occasions, none at all 🙂

  44. Our defensive record is keeping us from fighting for fourth. But I do think the margin for error is fairly thin at the title level because we have trouble scoring against the better defenses: City, United, Everton, Chelsea. What we have is an experienced team with high spirit and confidence that defends well and can play astutely and variously in tactics/style. What we are lacking is a free flowing attack behind a prolific scorer. We’ve seen a few games like Liverpool and Napoli at home where we played great football against a fairly strong team. Giroud has been great and has a strong all around game but you need more options, I think. When Ozil and Ramsey are on we can play that Wengerball without losing defensive solidity and make the most of our skilled attacking midfield talent. But the key to reaching the team’s potential is another forward/ striker and no injuries to Mertesacker, I think!

  45. I for one think it is less about changing defensive philosophy and more about certain players not fulfilling their potentials for us. Who would have expected the breakdown between Gallas and Toure? None of those two were bad in themselves. The team is generally happier, more bonded as a team, less of changes… all contributing their quota. Adebayor likely did less defending than Giroud does for example

    Even the more recent cases of vermalean and Kos spring to mind… Am sure if they continue they can work out their differences but hey? why change a winning team except it cant be helped.

    I still think it was less of not paying attention to defensive duties and more of some things not working out one way or the other; and yes including certain ref decisions which also applies to Vidic getting away with shirt pulling in the box as an art!

    I remember the rant and rave and shove that RVP got away with as a Man U Player that would likely have earned him a red card as an arsenal player

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