72 Seconds To Win The North London Derby

loshTottenham Hotspur 0 – 1 Arsenal

0 – 1 Rosicky (2)

On a day when Arsenal had to win to keep their title hopes alive, they won. At a ground where they had not tasted victory, Arsenal won. The skies over North London remain resolutely red. Whatever argument may be put forward, the trump card of “It was good enough to beat Tottenham” will always lurk, unsaid but waiting to pounce.

Tomas Rosicky’s second minute strike was enough to win the match, it was so good that it deserved to win the match, a crisp, rising drive that curled majestically into the top corner with Lloris not so much straining to reach it but flailing helplessly in its vapour trail. Arsène Wenger’s choice to select the Czech international ahead of Mathieu Flamini found an immediate and definitive reward. Rosicky’s industry helped to protect the back four as Arsenal retreated into their shell and allowed Tottenham to press on with their ultimately futile attack.

It is hard to choose a Man of the Match with Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny both performing exceptionally to keep Tottenham at bay. Which was just as well since budding photographer Wojciech Szczesny chose the match to have a nervy ninety minutes where you were never quite sure what was coming next, particularly from crosses. And Tottenham had a lot of them. Lots of them yet they were delivered comfortably to either of the centre backs for the most part. It culminated when the Pole came and flapped at a cross and found his defence willing and able to clear up the mess, only to repeat the feat minutes later, leaving the goal at Chadli’s mercy. As the Tottenham striker took aim, he found formidable barriers in his way in the form of the Arsenal central defensive duo with Koscielny proving to be the final protector of the single goal lead.

The pair’s contribution was not overlooked by the manager,

They were exceptional for the whole game. They were already at Bayern I think and even after when Vermaelen came on we finished with the three [centre-backs] and they didn’t create the chances anymore.

It has long been perceived as a weakness, back through the various incarnations since The Invincibles where Wenger has struggled to find a reliable pairing. Now he has one and is being repaid by continually improved performances. It is reminscent of the Graham era and the early years of Wenger’s reign; a solid defensive pairing underpinning the progress from attack. He would no doubt prefer more goals from his central striker – we all would – but at the moment the midfield is compensating. Which was previously designated a problem as well. 

No doubt that Arsène will look at the performance critically and be concerned how deeply his team retreated. Popular mythology will no doubt have Tottenham pinning them back but that wasn’t the case; Arsenal were comfortable in letting their opponents have the ball, perhaps confident that it would amount to little threat. It was the same at The Emirates as Mesut Özil contemplated life in the capital. Whilst it wasn’t the sort of performance which excites or enthrals, it was enough to win the game and on a weekend where rivals who needed to drop points did so, pressure emerged with Liverpool and Manchester City winning.

Wenger believes that influenced Arsenal’s match,

We were under pressure to win before the game because of course it was a very important game. After that it was a mixture, our early goal a little bit influenced too much the way we played because we missed the second goal and after that we wanted to protect the lead. Sometimes we were under pressure, Tottenham played well you must say. For me they were absolutely up for it and we needed some special resilience to get away with it.

There wasn’t much evidence of trying to get the second goal beyond two chances scuffed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain which will concern the manager. Too often possession was ceded carelessly which is a major flaw when trying to settle a match by concentrating on defence. It also renders your strikeforce impotent and with Giroud foraging for scraps on meagre service, a more effective Tottenham might have capitalised. At this point, you sense the post is about to meander into the ‘what-if’ territory. What if we play this way against a better opponent, for example Chelsea this coming weekend.

That is a massive ‘what-if’ because the match will be different simply because it is another day. At this moment, we can’t say whether the same XI will start; we know substitutions will happen around the same time in the game but the same players? Too early to say. It seems from Wenger’s comments that the players took it upon themselves to settle deep and play cautiously once Rosicky scored. In some respects, that is no doubt true with caution creeping in and once you go down that route it is hard to break out of that shell. Arsenal lacked the pace to exploit Tottenham’s high defensive line. How much havoc the likes the Walcott could have wreaked was seen in Oxlade-Chamberlain’s bursts to bring about the memorable opportunities after the goal, reminiscent of the League Cup tie when Theo enjoyed the freedom of White Hart Lane in extra time.

But the focus ought to be on praising Koscielny and Mertesacker, with an honourable mention to Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard worked hard in front of the back four, scurrying into tackles and mopping up loose passes. But the centre backs worked hard to contain Emmanuel Adebayor. He wasn’t the world-class striker his manager made him out to be but certainly he was a nuisance and the likeliest source of an equaliser, beyond Szczesny’s butter fingers. And the Arsenal pair did contain him for large parts of the game with solid positioning and reading the game, understanding the predictability of Tottenham’s attacks and concentrating on their own game to prevent the equaliser.

Tim Sherwood sought to use smoke and mirrors to divert attention away from his own team’s shortcomings. Whilst Alan Shearer preferred creosote, Sherwood has obviously been doing some cowboy decorating with all the cracks being papered over. Crucially, Tottenham are rooted in fifth, nine points adrift of Arsenal having played a game more. With Everton breathing down their necks, two points behind with two games in hand, the irony is that Sherwood needs others help to qualify for Europe next season. He needs United to continue to implode as well because Tottenham’s challenge for the top four has turned into a dogfight for the scrap made available by Manchester City winning the League Cup.

Arsenal in the meantime will focus on challenging for honours.

’til Tomorrow.

194 thoughts on “72 Seconds To Win The North London Derby

  1. In that kind of game, C, there’s a different psychology at play. Any other match and we’d be trying to build patiently, but I think once we got to half time we decided to sit on what we had, because it wasn’t like Tottenham had us rocking up to that point. It seemed like the simplest way to win the game. Fatigue also game into play, especially mentally because it’s tiring to have to remember where to be positionally, while chasing the ball around too. So people started making poor decisions. It happens to the best teams in that kind of match.

    The match would have been a hell of a lot more comfortable had AOC put that first-half chance away. I guess we would probably have closed the match out passing the ball around with freedom.

  2. “@MA

    My 2 would be:

    1. The summer and winter fiasco, and bringing in pace and more finishing specially.
    2. Arsene’s inability to play to the strengths of Ozil and this squad.”

    C, I think your number one answers number two 🙂

  3. @Jonny

    We have players that run and are willing to run past Giroud and get into those positions. The strangest thing for me is the fact that until now, those players were only bit parts, in Ox and Podolski. Watch the last 2 matches when Arsene seems to have let Ox and Podolski play to their strengths and they have looked are best attacking threats.

    Both willing to not only run at defenders but get behind them and neither is scared to shoot. Against Bayern and yesterday against Spuds, both were willing to run and get beyond their back 4. Now the question is IMHO, why haven’t we played like this since Theo went down and what is wrong with our midfield that they can’t seem to stop being over run for a moment to pick the pass to them?

  4. @Big Al

    Yeah, I was disappointed with Ox’s composure yesterday. I feel (I don’t know) that at 2-0 the wheels would have fallen off the cart for Spurs. Certainly the high line would have been shifted because the concern of Ox doing it again. It was a telling miss and at the time I couldn’t understand whether he intended to chip the keeper or try and feed Podolski. Replays showed it was the former.

  5. Giroud knew he had to emulate Adebayor’s record while at Arsenal, but sadly tried to do so by attempting to beat his world record for number of offsides!

    In my not so humble opinion, he’s great at what he does, which includes most things but not pace. He is certainly a striker – and one of the best hold up players in the league, but best when other members of the team run past him to pick up his clever through balls – and possibly, although not yet tested, when playing in a front two with a Suarez type player (perhaps even Theo)

  6. And oh man, the positives for this season blow the negatives away completely. From team spirit, to outrageous goals to players developing amazingly to being in the title race so late and having a good chance to win the FA Cup. People getting off AW’s back too (mostly).

    Also, our best players signing on too. This is all great news and bodes so well for the future. Sagna’s the exception, but we’ll see what happens there.

  7. Oooh, to add another:

    3. The bungling attempts to sign a striker in the summer. Higuian was seemingly in the bag, but we hesitated and lost out on a top drawer striker. The fact AW was set to spend big bucks on him or Suarez just evidenced that the manager was desperate for an addition in that area. Yet we didn’t manage it and given how well we are doing, it could be something that costs us dearly.

  8. Hi Miami,

    If I was to say what things have caused me unnecessary frustration this season, it might say more about me than anything, but there are a number that spring to mind.

    Having filtered out the obvious, I have settled on two matters that relate to the coaching regime and which I do not comprehend why they should be our tactics of first choice – or lack thereof.

    First, all the best teams we have played have perfected the art of closing down play when they lose the ball, and when we have employed the same tactic it has worked very well — but — we so seldom use it!
    Is that because it is not ‘our style’ or that we have players who cannot physically come to terms with it?

    The second one is the Zonal Marking bollix that we prefer when defending corners or free kicks.
    Again, almost every top team adopt the ‘friendly arm around the waist’ or the ‘blocking of the oppo forwards run’ in those circumstances, and although that makes the defender open to being pulled up for fouling, it rarely ever is picked up by the referees.

    We on the other hand adopt the ‘after you Claude’ gentleman’s attitude forced on our guys by the zonal marking convention.

    Oh, what’s the problem, I can almost hear you ask, our defense is amongst the best – and that is true, but it all seems such a fragile way to play, and frequently seems to rely on the speed of recovery of Kozzer, and that makes my heart thunder in my agitation! 🙂

  9. @MA

    Agreed. That is why I wouldn’t be opposed to having Ox play on the right wing ot use his pace until Theo comes back which brings me to something that I’ve been thinking about over the past couple of days inregards to Ox centrally. If Arsene is breeding Ox to play next to a more defensive pivot, then that would make 3 to play that position all within a couple of years of each other in Jack, Ramsey and Ox. Would Arsene actually offload one of them?

  10. We have no luck with injuries but what they actually expose is insufficient depth in the squad. If anything we have actually been blessed with the everpresence of Koscielny, Mert and Giroud. Injuries to them could have truly derailed our campaign.

    I am delighted with how well we have done this season, but let’s not pretend that we once again went into the season a couple of players short of convincing.

    The good news is that it in previous years it was 3-4 rather than 1-2.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Andy’s comments about the balance of the team but in addition the issue is squad depth.

    I feel as though we are getting there but then I remind myself we may well require 5 new signings in the summer!

  11. @Big Al

    Yea I do think that the some of the players were mentally drained not just as the NLD drew on but also from doing the same against Bayern while still trying to win the tie. I think with that though, it was baffling for me that our passing game which we are one of the best in Europe at making teams chase the ball broke down which lead to poor decisions as well.

    If Ox had put away or made the correct pass in the 1st half that would have broken their spirits and we could have passed around them and really have made the 3 points much easier than it actually was. With that, sometimes in seasons like this you have matches where mentally you at fatigued and you have to battle for a 1-0 draw and for that I applaud the lads.

  12. The pure positives of this season and even the NLD are there to be seen.

    We won a match were we didn’t boss possession not to mention a match were in previous years we would have found a way to lose.

    The emergence of a rock solid CB pairing coupled with Sagna, Gibbs and Nacho all contributing at a high level.

    While we boast about the emergence of Ramsey, we need to talk about the continued deverlopment of Sczny who has been terrific all season(outside of his blunders yesterday).

  13. I think that’s a bit harsh on squad depth there, Jonny. Here we are without Ramsey, Özil, Wilshere and Walcott, all internationals and stars to different degrees, and we’re still able to field strong teams. In the cup we rested players against Spuds, Liverpool and Everton and beat them all.

    Light up front? Yes, but not so much at the back, where Vermaelen for his faults is solid, and Sagna stood in capably earlier in the season. Also CBs won’t cover crazy amounts of ground so can be expected to play more games and not pick up so many injuries.

    On a tangent Dortmund have truly entered Arsenal’s world this season. They’ve had a few injuries, had to cope with bigger teams poaching their stars, and have gone to pieces.

  14. @Jonny

    I agree with the number of signings, my worry is the time it takes to settle. We have a very good nucleus (core) of players, that and the blend nicely balanced between youth and experience. We need another striker and a winger, these two are higher on my list than a replacement for Arteta or Flamini. We then have to replace Sagna, Tv5 and Fabianski. That makes 5. If Giroud does move, they add another wrinkle. I’d add Ginter or someone of that type to replace Tv5 and also add a little back up behind Arteta and Flamini.

    My 5 additions if I had the chance…

    1. Ginter
    2. Begovic
    3. Lacazette (wing/striker)
    4. Coleman (for Sagna)
    5. Costa

    I’d also bring Campbell in to the fold to add depth to the squad.

  15. It’s one of the many things I haven’t understood about Moyes at Manure. OK, rotation is important.

    But if there are two positions in which modern teams don’t really need to chop and change it’s GK and CB. They just don’t have to put in the miles. Mental fatigue might play a part, but it won’t need the same kind of attention as physical tiredness.

    I don’t get why he messes around with their back line so much! Same goes for other parts of his team, but especially defence. He’d get a good result with one side, then use a completely different lineup in the net game and lose all the momentum. I’m not complaining of course!

  16. Miami – Begovic? I can’t see him or Szchney being happy to sit on the bench. They are both too established, and both young. Coleman is OK, but a massive downgrade on Sagna. Bringing in somebody like Costa and adding Campbell to the squad would leave us well stocked, that would be great.

  17. @GA

    Isn’t the point to create competition? Would Wojo really benefit if we just bring in someone content to sit on the bench and earn their cash?

    I think Coleman has been a stand out this season, but just because of his goals (though he gets forward with more propose than Sagna does). I think Sagna is the more effective defender, but we need a blend of both skill sets. Of course naming potential targets is never going to be something universally shared with all supporters. I like Debuchy as well, done well in a terrible team.

  18. goonerandy,

    I read an interesting piece over the weekend that related to AW and the ‘missed opportunities’ to buy a CF in the transfer window. [written by Patrick Barclay – I think]. In my words, this is a retelling of that article, with my personal embellishments, I suspect. 🙂

    Apparently, David Dein was perfect as a counterweight for Arsene in the transfer market, because they were such a contrasting personalities.

    On the one hand there was AW who by nature is cautious, excessively careful with other people’s money (rare in this day and age) and deeply introspective.

    On the other there was Dein, much more extrovert and ebullient, with a flare and an attitude that helped him see the bigger picture ( well he turned £500,000 of apparently worthless shares – according to Hill Wood – into hundreds of millions of pounds, sterling) and he was always ready to give Arsene the gentle push he needed when he was deliberating over whether or not a player he wanted was worth the money being asked for him.

    That all stopped when Dein was given the heave ho, although the pair remain firm friends.

    So, last summer, Arsenal agreed a deal both with Real Madrid and the player for the transfer of Higuain to Arsenal, and all it needed was for AW to sign off on it.

    At the last moment, AW knowing that Mourinho has been appointed as Chelsea manager, heard on the grapevine that the Big Tart was looking for a new CF (eventually he signed Etoo) and wondered why he did not try and sign Higuain himself, especially as he had coached the player at Real.

    Whatever went on in Arsene’s head, made him stop and wonder – and eventually decided that with the top money involved in the Higuain deal, that if he was not good enough for Maureen he was probably not good enough for Arsenal, and pulled the plug on the deal.

    So it was not so much that Wenger ‘missed’ the chance to buy Higuain, it was his choice not to proceed and the feeling was among Arsenal ‘insiders’ that if Dein was still around, the deal would have gone through.

    Now I do not know whether the story is correct, or not, but if it is, it does not bode well for a smooth transfer window next summer, as the leopard cannot change his spots.

  19. Miami – It is, but goalkeeper is a bit different in that respect I think. You don’t rotate your keeper. I take your point about Coleman going forward, but we have a really good balance at the back. Sanga is a powerful player and if we lose him I would like to see it replaced like for like.

    I bet most wingers don’t relish the though of playing against him. I also bet that coming up against Coleman, is not a particulalry scary prospect.

  20. @MA

    I would love the addition of Ginter as he is set versatile and athletic enough to play both CB and CM. Also he is the natural understudy of Mert in the German national squad and would be the perfect player to have as a 3rd CB.

    I do think that a striker is mandatory and Giroud leave I would still only go after 1 striker but then would want a winger that can score goals but both player must have pace.

    the biggest thing for me is playing to Ozil’s style and his strengths. Getting Theo back fit will surely help not to mention a CF like Jackson Martinez, Costa(who I don’t see leaving Athletic Madrid) or even somebody in that mold whether it be from Germany or not. I honestly wouldn’t even mind us bringing in wing players with pace and using Podolski centrally with Ozil behind him and pacey players around him and allow the front 3 to interchange and plya with pace, finishing and movement and allow Ozil, Ramsey, Mozart, Santi and Jack to pick teams apart.

  21. Henry – Worrying indeed. Shame that Dein ended up acting the way he did, but he try to sell out the club which was unforgivable.

    To get the top players, sometimes you have to go over your valuation. Unless AW comes around to that way of thinking we will still be picking scraps.

  22. @MA

    What about Elsharraway as a striker/winger and a player that could play centrally regularly but can also play on the wing and his pace, power and finishing would be the ideal fit for Ozil.


    I agree with your whole post. Personally, while Coleman has done well, I’m not a big Coleman fan because of his lack of defensive prowess.

  23. @GA

    With Sagna gone (which will happen) and Jenkinson and Bellerin on the books where would you shop for a right back to slot in?

  24. Miami – I have no idea. But the club should have. If we lose a world class full back, we should replace him as such.

    Jenkinson and Bellarin should not even be in the equation if it comes to replacing Sagna. If getting a better player “kills” one of them, then that is just tough tits.

  25. @GA & C

    Coleman v Sagna statistically…

    Premier League* 26 (appearances) 2 (tackles per game) 1.5 (interceptions) 2.5 (clearances)

    Premier League* 26 (appearances) 1.7 (tackles per game) 1.5 (interceptions) 4.8 (clearances)

    I think if you look at these more important key defensive stats they are both similar players, and it is only in clearances that Sagna takes a significant lead.

  26. I agree with Al that Ox would be great in the midfield against a team that we have no trouble keeping possession against such as the game against Crystal Palace at home. However, he is not the type of player who will improve your ball possession.

    I agree with C it makes no sense to me to start Ox in the midfield and TR7 out wide. We need more dynamic players upfront with the ability to stretch the field from front to back. In the deep midfield it’s harder for him to use his pace and his ability to take on a defender with ball at his feet and get himself open closer to goal or get to the byline and potentially create opportunities for other players. There are fewer defenders between him and the goal when he plays out wide so he can use his dribbling skills and pace to greater advantage.

    IMO We should only use the Ox in midfield when we have at least 2 other players who do can do some of the things he does on the wing. Even with all the injuries we have good players for the midfield but we are extremely thin up front. Next year the center of midfield will be crowed when Ramsey and wilshere are all back but unless we spend a lot of money this summer we will still be thin upfront, especially if Walcott does not come back at 100%

  27. I agree re not playing to Ozil’s strengths, but i feel that’s sometimes due to injuries to Ramsey and Theo. Ramsey brought Ozil into play IMO and with Theo and Ox out for long periods we lacked pace to use Ozil’s vision. The too many players grivitating towards the ball was a direct lack of a driving force in middle of the park! We need and out and out winger and Theo back next season alongside a fully fit Ramsey to get the best out of Mesut

  28. Miami – Serisouly mate, you can’t use stats like that to compare the players. They are basically worthless. If you considering that Everton are probably “under the cosh” much more than we are, it sheds a different light on the stats. there are too many variables for them to be useful. The only stat worth using in football is goals scored. I prefer to use my eyes when judging a player.

    Anyway, nice chatting. Off home.

    Laters 🙂

  29. If Arsenal are letting Sanga go to Liverpool i would be majorly pissed off. They will be direct rivals next year and he would take their defence up so many notches that they would actually become a good defensive team.

    He cannot be allowed to go to a domestic club. Arsenal do something O.o

  30. @GA

    “Jenkinson and Bellarin should not even be in the equation if it comes to replacing Sagna. If getting a better player “kills” one of them, then that is just tough tits.”

    fair enough, lets sell them now and try and get some value for them if they aren’t good enough to play at the top level require for Arsenal.

  31. One of my peeves from last few games is the amount of times a high ball will go up top and our midfieders stand in front of opposition players but don’t challenge or jump for it and then we don’t win the ball. Why we need a Diaby type in that short midfield, someone who’l challenge. We’ve also still failed to master the whole getting onto any girouds flick ons

  32. @GA

    “I prefer to use my eyes when judging a player”

    Which is more subjective than some form of statistical observation. Fine, I think Coleman would be better at Arsenal than at Everton and would make a fine addition 🙂

  33. goonerandy,

    AW has already said that he did not buy a CF in the January transfer window because he knew Sanogo was almost recovered from injury and we did not need another one.

    Presumably if Giro does not leave and create a ‘gap’ that will not change??

    I have never understood the ‘Dein sold out the club’ line, as the man he introduced to the Board to try and inject more cash into the club, Kroenke, was effectively told to fcuk off by Hill Wood, who along with all the rest of the shareholders then proceeded to sell their shares to him.

    Anyway, the club stands as a legal entity in its own right, and effectively is ‘owned’ by the fans in perpetuity.

    The previous shareholders and the current ones only hold the shares, and with it the ownership of the club, on a temporary basis and eventually will sell up and either die or move on.
    This has happened many times over the past 100 years or so, – (how else did the Hill Wood family become the owners?) and that is why I do not understand why it is held that Dein is somehow different.

    I suspect it was a clash of personalities, with Dein wanting to spend the available money on players, while Fitzman wanted to spend the money on building a stadium.

  34. If the Ox tries to dribble around a player and loses the ball on the wing it’s not as potentially damaging as it can be if he loses it in the center of the pitch, deep in the midfield. He can be a whirling dervish of a player on the wing because he has more freedom. The consequences when the things he tries don’t work on the wing are much less severe.

  35. if they keep Sanga for 1-2 more years, either Jenks or Bellrin will be ready to take over the mantle when he goes. Would be the best option imo. I think given a run of games Jeks would surprise many. But he needs a run of games and could benefit from one more year under Sanga imo.

  36. @MA

    While Coleman might be a good addition, personally I think the thing that we will miss most about Sagna is his ability to basically close down the right flank with little support and his versatility.

  37. @Bird – I am being harsh but I think that is no bad thing.

    We knew we needed a top-class striker and have failed to address that in the course of two windows.

    I agree CBs suffer less wear and tear but, given that we rarely have any luck at all with injuries, we were tempting the gods by going into the season with only three specialists for two berths. I don’t know quite what our options are should we be unfortunate enough to be missing both first choices simultaneously.

    Sagna and Vermaelen would be interesting but I doubt it would stand up to exacting tests over any length of time.

    I used to love TV but the increasing prevalence of his rash moments have made him enough of a liability that AW has very little faith in him and has reduced his role to domestic cups and/or when his hand is forced.

    The usual response to this is that you don’t disrupt a brilliant CB partnership and that he is a victim of the success of the duo in front of him. There is undoubtedly some truth in this but I had hoped he would put up a more convincing fight for his position.

    In his last performance he distinguished himself with one of his very worst such moments. It should have cost us a goal, instead it served as a painful reminder as to why he lost the manager’s trust to start with.

    Is he a bad number 3? No, but he isn’t convincing either.

    To my harsh mind it is poor management that upon realising Sagna’s versatility we have effectively let him go for free. But I maintain that going through the season with three CBs to every other club’s four was risky.

    And that’s my overarching theme – season after season we go in knowing that ‘if things go our way’, we are there with the best. They never do and then some fans look for excuses (injuries, conspiracies, financial doping and other topics to pandiculate to). I prefer to note that most thinking fans, and pundits alike, said we were short of 1-2 quality players and that is currently how it looks to be playing out.

    It washed when we were poor and it’s forgivable now, as we do seem to be moving in the right direction, but it can’t continue inexorably.

    If this all sounds unforgivably pessimistic on the back of beating the Spuds then forgive me – it’s been a great season and I have enjoyed almost every minute. I still feel the squad is very close and exciting but just fractionally short and I cannot help but wonder ‘what if’?

  38. @C

    I think the situation with respect to Sagna has been managed poorly, however we are going to have to move on whether we wanted to or not. Sagna has been a great player for Arsenal and moving on from those types is never easy, alas, it must be done. We need a target, we cannot just say someone world class because Sagna wasn’t before he arrived was he. I do think Jenks has a future with the team, but I am not convinced it is next season as a full starter. I do think he is in the conversation, to suggest otherwise which is what GA did, then he is saying that the players(s) are simply not good enough for Arsenal (which surely must include as a back up). In that case selling makes sense. We can then try and find a replacement for Sagna and a back as well.

  39. It has to be a mix of eyes and stats, GA and MA. Too much happens on the pitch for anyone to follow completely, even on two or three viewings (and who has the time for that anyway?!), so stats can help with stuff you miss. While football is way too complex to be boiled down to statistics.

    Whoscored for instance is a handy guide, but should never be gospel. For instance, I bet there are loads of players doing vital work for their teams but not scoring high on there because it’s stuff that can’t be picked up with numbers as the relationships between players are too subtle. Their player ratings should be taken with a hefty dose of salt.

  40. Special mention for those that follow Brasilian futbol.

    Rivaldo Vitor Borba Ferreira better known as “Rivaldo” has retired from futbol at the age of 41. Personally I never thought that he got the recognition that he deserved in Brasil and constantly fought for respect but what a truly brilliant player he was to watch. I hope that in life after futbol, his futboling prowess gets the recognition and respect that it so rightly deserves.

  41. I hope you will not object to a dissenting opinion, but here goes.

    I think Sagna’s best days are well behind him. Yes, he has been a valuable member of the team, but realistically he has suffered a major lack of pace since he broke his leg and that often shows in two areas.

    First, if Sagna is matched against a speedy winger he often comes off second best in the match up, needing to be bailed out by Per or Kozzer.

    Secondly, he rarely ever goes ‘marauding’ down the wing, but instead nine times out of ten he cuts back inside, and almost invariably passes the ball back to the CBs or the Keeper.
    He knows his pace has gone or been very reduced, and like for all of us, tempus fugit, and injuries and Old Man Time will have their say in his value to the team, and no amount of wishful thinking will change that. Sorry.

  42. We are very deep in central midfield and fullbacks, but thin upfront and CB. We are very very lucky that we have had no significant injuries at CB or striker and our lack of depth on the wing has been exposed.

  43. @MA

    Fair enough mate! I know Sagna wasn’t World Class when he got here and I’m not saying go out and buy a World Class striker(unless we find a reasonably priced one) but a top top top quality replacement for Sagna is required. Do I rate Jenks and Bellerin?, Yes I do, but neither is ready next season to be a full time regular starter on a team or at a club that is fighting and challenging for silverware and EPL titles.

  44. The best part of the NLD, is the fact that for all the money Spuds spent, very few of their players have been worth it. Spuds fans are even calling for Paulinho to be sold(would gladly take him off their hands).

  45. BirdK,

    Statistics are a way of quantifying information/data that otherwise might elude us when deciding on the comparative attributes or value of players to a team, but they have to be carefully and sensitively analysed to be of practical use.

    I could go into details to explain more fully the use of statistics in every day life, but this is a footie blog and I can imagine eyes are glazing over already – so, I won’t. 🙂

  46. We only have 1 “winger” out with injury right now but our best possible bench players right now for those positions are Gnabry and Ryo. We have had to use Ramsey, Wilshere, and TR7 as wingers this season. The situation would be even worse at CF if Giroud tore a hamstring.

  47. I largely agree with Henry on the Sagna situation but disagree on the Dein business. The issue there was that he did it behind the Board’s back.

  48. You know I never go in for conspiracy theories, Jonny. Don’t make the mistake of expecting me to answer for the more intense fringe of Arsenal support, just as I won’t be calling you a “thinking fan”. What the hell’s a thinking fan anyway?! Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? A thinking fanatic!

    But injuries are a valid reason for a couple of title charges faltering, while financial doping is just a reality of the Premier League. It’s no coincidence that the teams with the deepest squads have the most money. And it doesn’t get more laughable than Mourinho calling his team the little horse after ten years of spending, the likes of which the PL has never seen.

    For us the overarching theme of the last few seasons has been losing players and then having to build a team that works from what’s left over. I bang on about it all the time, but that cycle was finally broken last summer. That alone gave us something to build on.

    At CB I’d argue that three specialists and a versatile defender is adequate cover. You have to stick with a unit, but you don’t want players kicking their heels either. The reserves need to get occasional matches otherwise they’ll go stale. So I think 3+1 is safe enough.

    So you say we needed one or two more players. Say it’s one, and that one is a CB. How could we possibly have been better off? That would have been a new face disrupting an established defensive unit. It takes time to build an effective defence. Who would he have come in for?

    CF yeah, we’re light. I’m not going to say we’re not. AW tried to sign players, but didn’t pull it off, for different reasons. The only thing I can come up with there is that AW was entitled to expect big second seasons from Podolski (hasn’t delivered, partly because of injuries, but might be improving now) and Giroud (delivered, but has suffered because of lack of rotation). While he seemed to have big ideas for Sanogo, who while raw has a lot going for him, it has to be said. At that late stage on deadline day he might have looked at those three and decided, after Ba fell through, Suárez failed and he baulked at Higuaín (not without reason I must add), that we had enough.

    The original point was on squad depth after losing some of our big names—feels like a long time ago. I’d like to see four players of similar import ripped from a title rival. Say Touré, Agüero, Kompany and Nasri (Wilshere equivalent) from City. Doesn’t look as capable does it.

    Two things to consider about Sagna. OK, first off he’s still here, and hasn’t signed for anyone else yet. Second is that he’s 31. For an fb in the modern game that is pushing it. Right now he’s performing well, but it’s not the world’s biggest disgrace if we’re a bit cautious about offering him big money however many years he wants. The slump will come before he’s 33; that much is almost certain. It might not be for another year or two, or it could happen sooner. Who knows for sure?

  49. It interests me, but only as someone looking in from the outside in confusion, HenryB.

    I agree that they need to be treated sensitively—that’s a good way of putting it.

    I get annoyed when stats are quoted as if they’re supposed to end the discussion, when really in football many stats just create more questions. To put it in a not very smart way—you can’t nail things down with stats in football the way you can for other sports.

  50. Not sure who can come in and fill the boots of Sagna. It’s a very tough decision and, personally, would think that convincing him to stay would be the best difficulty to guaranteed player quality ratio – if such a thing exists!!

    On the GK slot, do we think that Fabianski is off this summer? I personally do. Wouldn’t be opposed to try to bring David Stockdale in from Fulham. Young, promising, English. Thoughts?

  51. On Sagna, and this isn’t meant to be a decisive point—of all the first-pick full-backs at Europe’s top clubs, only Maxwell at PSG is older. And he’s pants!

  52. BirdK

    re. Sagna, “The slump will come before he’s 33; that much is almost certain. It might not be for another year or two, or it could happen sooner. Who knows for sure?” Well that’s the point really – we presumably can all agree that Arsenal are where they are today for being properly and prudently run.

    Spending, or committing upwards of £20m over 3 years on one player is neither, and I hope we say thank you, wish you well and goodbye.

    Of course, anyone who finds it easy to spend other peoples ** money may see it differently.

    ** [other people’s money coming from those paying huge prices for tickets etc]. 🙂

  53. Birdkamp

    “you can’t nail things down with stats in football the way you can for other sports.”

    Other then the number of goals scored, I agree that the majority of stats in football often confuse much more they enlighten. Many of the football stats especially the passing and defensive stats are easily misinterpreted and more often then not give a false impression.

  54. ConsolB,

    You don’t say which part of the Dein comment you don’t agree with.

    It is many faceted and some of it is simple Companies Act rules.

    Some of it relates to the reason for the establishment of football clubs and why they exist — formed initially mainly from the working class either and/or from geographically located areas. Hence the ‘real’ owners are the fans and they are always going to be there, while the shareholders are just keeping the club ownership for the next generation of fans.

    What’s left? 🙂

  55. good review yogi..
    i dont really care how we win as long as we win..
    ive always been a huge fan of doing whats required to get a result and yesterday we did just that..

    the defensive display was awesome..i wouldnt go as far as to say kozzer and bfg had adebayor in their pocket, nor did they contain him, he was very much in the game and controlling the tempo of spurs attacks, the ball seemed attracted to him wherever he went and they were all over us, on his day hes unplayable and we remembered how much so yesterday, the only thing that got in his way was kozzer whos performance was one of the best cb displays ive seen for years from anyone..even when ade had a sight of goal it wasnt made easy for him, they had no clear cut chance other than chezzers cock up, it was one of those days where our cb’s put their tin hats on, dug their trench and told them they shall not pass and kozzer was just magnificent…

    and if it means we win one – nil then so be it..

    girouds form in the big games is a concern..its ok saying he feeds off scraps but hes our outlet…ade was feeding off scraps too but he was winning it and it was sticking to him and they were able to swarm as a result and build momentum…we were looking to get out but giroud was nowhere, it wasnt sticking even when he was, it was coming straight back which was our problem for 88mins of the game..

    if liverpool had kozzer and bfg they’d storm this league..

  56. We`re well short of real depth IMO.

    To have Sanogo & Bendtner as forward cover for a whole season is pushing your luck (yes , Theo can cover the odd game) & we HAVE been fortunate there.

    Similar with the centre backs. Sagna can provide cover but he`s not a centre back. Again we`ve been lucky.

    That said , the players have generally been fantastic. For this team / squad to still be in with a shot at the title is quite exceptional.

    On summer buys, though I rate Coleman , it`s a big step up in terms of pressure from Everton plus he`d cost an arm & a leg.

    I`ve never heard of Ginter – does he sell pasties ?

    We need a big forward with pace, a good touch, a spotless injury record, can finish , be a team player, won`t cheat on his missus or get involved in aggro with taxi drivers in Copenhagen.

  57. If we had another CB it would not have materially affected our season but that’s not evidence of it being sensible cover. I think AW has been slightly guilty of hoping for the best rather than planning for the worst.

    Our luck has been intolerable at times but we have not exactly done all that we could have to immunise ourselves against unfortunate events beyond our control.

    It’s interesting that you chose CB rather than CF as your starting point – though you do at least acknowledge our shortcomings in the striking department. I don’t buy into the AW ‘tried’ line – as ever, recently I feel you are defensive when it comes to anything critical of Arsene.

    As for a ‘thinking fan’, surprisingly it seems you’re intent on playing in the margins with semantics – you surely know exactly what I actually mean (woolly though it may be) without having to delve into the etymology of the word ‘fan’ which, in terms of root meaning, clearly no longer applies by that definition.

    Whilst that may sound harsh and insulting, it’s honestly not meant as such – I consider you a thinking fan even if I disagree with you and I draw the distinction only because it is not the majority rule.

  58. we are definately short of depth..
    midfeild fb and gk we are good but up front weve got very little and as a domino effect its impacted on our midfeld because weve had to play midfielders in a 451 instead of 433 and although we are well stocked in midfield weve been rattled and down to bare bones a few times..

    thats not to say arsene hasnt got the numbers right because he has, with bendtner, sanogo, park and ryo to consider at the beginning we are well stocked..the problem is/was…we cant use them because they aint good enough..so its a case of what do you do beside play giroud all the time and a bunch of midfielders.. which some would say arsene wants to do anyway…

    should have signed a top striker…we needed one when we sold rvp so basically weve had 4 windows to act but weve done not much.. and in the big games it shows..we aint really that potent especially against utd..scored no goals and dropped 5 points….pathetic..

    its been mostly about the defence this season. which is a massive positive this season but its still only progress and a success if we win a trophy,…and weve got a great chance in at least one..and if we get that i’ll take 4th to go with it…

  59. Henry, I’m not sure that Tam or even Kroenke would agree with your notion of ownership.

    I think your view is a romantic one and I actually agree with it but it’s not a ‘de jute’ view. Actually, if we take the passage of time into account, then the fans change as well as the owners. We all shuffle off from the stage sooner or later.

    As for Dein, he tried to bring Kroenke in without informing the Board of which he was a member, let alone gain their consent for such an action. That the situation later changed doesn’t make Dein’s actions any more appropriate.

    Dein and Fiszman certainly saw things differently and it is likely to be Fiszman’s legacy that will count for most in the history of the club. That said, I think Dein was good for Arsene and that made him good for the club until he acted as he did over Kroenke.

  60. That, for the benefit of Apple, should be ‘de jure’ not ‘de jute’.

    Quite why they should think that the latter makes sense and the former doesn’t is beyond me.

  61. @Bill

    I get it if you don’t like statistics, I get it if you don’t think they have value in football. What I don’t get it is cherry picking of stats. So goals scored matter, but assists would not? nor the number of times a player intercepts the ball or makes a tackle. Why in your opinion do defensive statistics often mislead?

    I understand Big Al observations that you cannot judge on statistics alone, which is why scouts use both methods. They look at a players prior contributions (history) and attend matches to cast an eye of them. Not, as it turns out un-similar to Baseball minus of course the extra 100 pointless stats the latter have to additionally deal with.

    Certainly football has been inundated with a number of statistical categories over the last number of years, whether or not they have value is beyond me because I don’t need to rely upon them. I do recall Arsene saying something about an American company providing statistically information to the club, but in truth I don’t know why it is needed per say. I’m sure he thinks they have value, or he wouldn’t be getting them.

  62. perhaps statistics were introduced to appeal more to the US market, where there is no such thing as to many stats.

  63. @MA

    I hate the fact that there are stats about stats about stats about stats and so onand so on here in the States. It drives me nuts and why when they start spewing to many stats I tend to watch tv or put m earbuds in to drown the white noise.

  64. @C

    Baseball is one the that gets me. Stats about a players batting percentage against a left arm pitcher who was born in May on a leap year and who’s granny is call Norma. It does get a little silly.

    In using the stats for Coleman v Sagna, whom both play for sides with an identical goals against record though Everton have a game in hand seemed fair. Is it absolute? No. However, in revaluating both players you cannot just pretend you see everything they do week in and out by casting an eye in the odd game.

  65. “Careful now, no one likes stats more than AW.:

    Perhaps that is the answer, the doctors are hiding the excel column with player injuries and Arsene is not that excel literate?

  66. Miami

    Goals scored and perhaps assists are reasonable stats although the latter is more dependent of the quality of the finishers around you. The passing stats are completely dependent on how much pressure there is on a player when he makes most of his passes. A CB or a deep lying midfielder should have almost 100% pass completion and they should make lots of passes. A CF should a much lower pass percentage completion.

    A player on a team that has a low ball possession will see a lot of passes from the opposition and has a lot more opportunities to make interceptions no matter how well he defends. A poor defender can throw in a lot of last ditch tackles because he is not very good at staying on his feet and defending.

    Best example recently is the stat that Giroud is in the top 5 in turnovers in the league. I don’t think that is a function of his ability, but it’s inevitable given that he has lots of touches in the final 3rd and he tries to thread passes into tight spaces around the penalty box. It’s inevitable that most of those passes won’t work. The only way OG could keep his pass completion percentage up and his turnovers down be to avoid trying make any difficult passes.

    Sagna might not have as good of defensive stats for tackles and interceptions as some fullbacks but that could easily mean that he defends on his feet and because he is so good the opposition teams tend to attack on the other side of the pitch.

    Analogous situation in American football is that the best cornerbacks usually don’t lead the league in interceptions or breaking up passes or tackles because the other team avoids throwing the ball into their area.

  67. @MA

    While I enjoy baseball(sometimes, being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan is brutal) but watching it and listening to the stats they spew is absolutely nauseating. You know I love stats but the stats that they spew based on if a pitcher has had coffee or tea before the game or if how many seeds he has eaten before and during a game will tell whether or not he will pitch well.

    I agree you can’t see everything week in and week out but you can most certainly tell the difference but even defenders stats can very and you know how much I love stats but you also have to take in account what kind of style do they play, how often and how many matches they play, etc. but o well I love enough stats.

  68. @Pistol

    I’m American and i do love most stats but sometimes they go over the top with stats that don’t make sense or you have to be a bloodie rocket scientist to understand or even worse, spend a whole match trying to understand!

  69. @Bill

    All of that last post of yours was very sensible. The other view is if a player has a lower passing percentage it is because he not accurate or as accurate as he could be. A player awarded an assist is merited as much because he was the last man to play the ball to a scorer. All stats represent is a fact, they are not intended to demonstrate anything else. Gerrard for example has now scored 10 goals in the EPL this season, which for a midfielder seems a terrific goal return, whilst not on the face acknowledging that 8 of those have been from the spot. Application of stat is just the marking of an event in a game. If Sagna records less tackles say than Coleman it may imply he is not as good in the tackle, or may haps he is simply not as active a player as Coleman. 4.8 clearances a game would suggest to me that Sagna is the man most likely to be found in the right place at the right time.

    “Best example recently is the stat that Giroud is in the top 5 in turnovers in the league”. As pointless as that stat may or may not be, it is merely pointing out that Giroud is indeed in that category. It really doesn’t have any more or less merit than any other stat.

  70. 9 penalties awarded to Liverpool this season, 6 away from home and 3 at Anfield. The next best on the list is 4 awarded penalties. Arsenal have been awarded 3 and conceded 5. We have scored all three. The last time we received the most penalties in the EPL was the 06/07 season, where we got 10 awarded.

  71. ConsolB,

    I cannot stay, but perhaps tomorrow I can address your comment @ 6:39 regarding Dein.

    For the moment, you seem to have put a lot of faith in the rumours of what Dein is alleged to have done or said – still you have until tomorrow to research your evidence to back up your comment that Dein “tried to bring Kroenke in without informing the Board of which he was a member, let alone gain their consent for such an action.”

    Crowd sourcing, hear say or fans’ folk lore doesn’t count as ‘evidence’.

    Good luck with that! 🙂

    Until tomorrow.

  72. More importantly stats, don’t tell you what a player hasn’t done. How many times he has been positioned poorly, how many times he has not tracked his man, etc, etc.

  73. Statisticians love their stats — properly analysed and applied! 🙂

    Stats are used all over the world and influence the lives of every single one of us, let alone in football discussions.

  74. goonerandy,

    You said, “More importantly stats, don’t tell you what a player hasn’t done”.

    I presume you mean that stats have not been collected or collated about a player’s down time.

    That’s a bit like saying, the bus timetable tells you sod all about the time of the trains from London to Edinburgh – isn’t it? 🙂

  75. I really wish we had a Keown type for the game this weekend, someone to throw a handbag at the Odious One.

  76. Miami:

    As you note the number of clearances and tackles that Sagna makes could have multiple different explanations and it is very difficult to pin down which of those possible explanations it is. In many cases one of those explanations could mean he is a better player while some of the other explanation could mean he is worse. Sagna could be making less tackles because he is more less active then Coleman but it could also mean that he is a better defender because he defends on his feet and does not put himself into a position that he has to make tackles.

    I guess the problem in futbol is that as Al pointed out, the stats are more difficult to interpret then most other sports. .

    To give you an example of how stats can be misleading in other sports.

    The top 10 all time leaders in the NBA in career turnovers is

    Karl Malone, Moses Malone, John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Julius Erving, Kobe Bryant, Isiah Thomas, Hakeem Olujuwon, Pat Ewing, Magic Johnson.

    Turnovers is highly negative stat yet all of those players clearly belong in the hall of fame.

    American baseball on the other hand is a very stat friendly sport and its much easier to interpret the meaning of the vast majority of stats. The players batting average and slugging percentage on a curve ball on the outside half of the plate from a left handed pitcher is incredibly important because it really gives you a very good idea of how to pitch to that player.

  77. Henry – No, I mean they dont tell you what mistakes the make. When they fail to do things that they should be doing. For example, stats could show that a player won every single tackle her ever attempted. Ever. That would be pretty impressive eh? However, if said player continualy failed to track his man which cost his side loads of goals, there would no no stat to show this. Would you want him in your team, even with his amazing stats?

  78. I think not having Ramires and William to players that have such high work rate but do the dirty work for them is going to hurt them more than I think people realize. For all of Matic’s shielding of the back 4, Ramires is the one who covers all the ground and you saw that against Villa, while they were down to 10 men, Chavs still had the better possession but Matic doesn’t cover nearly as much ground thus there will be space to be had.

  79. C

    No Ramires is a big one, he’s there key for transitioning defending and attacking with his work rate. Lampard will start so i’m hoping that Wenger deploys Ox on him as there’s no way he can cope with his pace! I think we need to throw a wild card and start Ox LW, Gnabry RW with Santi and Rosicky interchanging in the middle and hit them down the sides with pace! Get behind them and Terry won’t have the pace to catch either Ox or Serge and if Giroud can find space in the box we could find victory that way. We’re far to central as Miami mentioned, doing this would revert to old Wenger ways and i don’t think Jose will expect Wenger to do it…But that probably means he won’t.

  80. Miami

    In your 5 players in section, what about a CDM? Mikel and Flamini have been good this season overall but another season i don’t think so…We need a Bender/Kondogbia physical player in middle to contest for title. too often we’re out muscled against top 6 teams. I’d have Diaby back in a second, but he’s not reliable enough fitness wise.

    IMO, add a player like Sami K beside Ramsey/Jack and we’ve got a strong midfield in terms of strength and attacking as both can pass as well as they tackle. Losing out on Draxler isn’t a big loss ino, £37million was always going to be a tall order for someone so young and untested, i’d rather that but towards some of the others you mentioned like Ginter, a winger and spend big on a CF!

    interesting to see if Campbell is included in our squad for next season….Positive reports from Greece, never know he could be what we’re missing, he’s definitely not scared to take a shot anyway

  81. “I really wish we had a Keown type for the game this weekend, someone to throw a handbag at the Odious One.”

    Kidding…We’ve got Flamini ;)!

    His bust up with Spurs bench when they placed AC Milan was fantastic.

  82. @MLF

    I I like the idea of starting Mozart and Santi centrally but there is no way that Podolski and Ox shouldn’t be starting on the wings. They have been our most dangerous and most likely to score goals over the past couple of matches and more importantly when played opposite each other on the wings has given us the width that we have longed for. William does so much work defensively on the flanks that he will be missed. If anything I would start Yaya because of his pace and ability to get behind the back 4. Giroud will really have to be up for this match because his strength and Terry’s strengths are the exact same so they will either cancel each other out or one will get the best of the other. The big thing will be stopping Hazard with Ox and Sagna.

    I would bring Gnabry on late to let him run at tired legs but not start him.

  83. @MLF

    Flamini won’t start the game against Chelsea, but I get what you are saying he certainly isn’t afraid to mix it up.

    In respect of the DMC, whilst I am a fan of the notion of obtaining one the problem becomes the needs before the wants and the DMC is a definitely a want. The needs are replacements for CB, RB and GK. I further maintain that a winger/wide forward and striker are also positions of need. If this was to happen that is already 5 lads to come in and find their footing. The idea of adding more quality works for me, but two areas of concern arise… 1. money and 2. new players settling in. I think Ozil has had a fine season to date, could have been better given his ability but the lad is settling in a new country where he get no winter break and players against more robust foes.

  84. Goals and assist are my favorite two. They other probably have their merit but Im not that interested to be honest. Diving might be a interesting one.

  85. One of life’s great joys is winning the NLD.
    Great win. Cracking goal.
    I dont really care how we played, it was the outcome that is critical.
    actually thought we set up pretty well, and were comfortable letting them have ball.
    Yes we gave back possession a bit, but they really didn’t do a lot with it.
    The good news is we are still in the hunt , for something

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