STONE COLD FRIDAY: Arsenal Show Their Cojones As Red Mars Belgrade Performance

Nine changes in Belgrade and one would argue that it was a cojones laden performance. You never can tell which Arsenal will turn up especially after the team left the crime scene at Vicarage Road last Saturday night. A professional job was required, one was provided. This despite the profligacy in front of goal that we at times saw from Giroud and Walcott. The Frenchman had one howler of a miss that everyone in Serbia seemed to laugh at.

So far, the second string on Europa League duty seem to be immune from the inconsistency plaguing the Premier League 1st XI. Top of the group with two home matches against Red Star and Bate Borisov gives Arsenal a good chance of qualifying top in the group and waiting to see what competition will drop our way from the Champions League.

Shine Bright Like An Immortal

Martin Keown is not only content with declaring that Reiss Nelson is a diamond geezer with a bit of a Neymar in him. He also believes that Jack Wilshere has a talent that mere mortals are incapable of grasping. Indeed our Jack had a man of the match performance, playing a critical role in setting up Giroud’s acrobatic 86th minute winner. This was a match where Arsenal had to grind their way to the finish, wearing down the opposition to submission. There were certain qualities of grit and determination that the team and make shift defenders showed in a raucous environment. Considering the performance at Vicarage Road last weekend, this was the sort of match Arsenal was expected to slip up on.

Li’l Jack drove Arsenal forward, and surely we must now see him in the Premier League. Arséne said as much:

He will get a chance in the Premier League don’t worry about that. Games of that intensity will help him a lot.

I’m sure the England Manager will also now be watching Li’l Jack. Wilshere has more than an incentive. A place in England’s World Cup team and a place in the Arsenal starting XI are prizes to behold for someone who has been on the side-lines too long.

With Mesut Ozil’s mind at Old Trafford – well, who knows what to believe except that his mind isn’t at Arsenal – let’s hope Li’l Jack can continue his key performances.

We have Cojones we do, we have Brawn

After the game, Arséne was desperate to point out the character that seemed to elude the team last Saturday.

In the end we got a win that gives credit to the mentality of the team. Overall the spirit we showed was remarkable, fighting together. They defended very well, with a lot of determination. But the goal was the consequence of us wanting to play through them.

For most people though, the question still remains why this grit and determination isn’t seen in our bread and butter competition, the Premier League. Surely if we wanted to challenge – even if for the top four – we should be beating teams like Stoke and Watford. Not to say that they’re push overs, but Man City put 6 goals past each of those teams.

Look Ma! It’s Mathieu Debuchy

326 days is a long time to wait for your first Arsenal start after your last injury. The forgotten man was finally on the team sheet. Despite having the sense that he has moved on, it was good to see him on the pitch. I would hope that he starts getting some confidence back because the time is surely coming when we will have to use him in the Premier League.

Wenger clearly took a calculated risk to put up such a makeshift defence with 17-year-old Reiss Nelson and 20-year-old Maitland-Niles as wing backs. I still can’t get my head around Mohammed Elneny marshalling the defensive line. For most part, we defended well, with the header onto the post the only notable scare from the Serbians. We’ve had too many square pegs in round holes for my liking though. That strategy will only take us so far before we get another hiding. We might get away with it against Norwich and even Red Star in the return leg, but surely this can’t be a long-term strategy.

Deja vu or Groundhog Day – Take Your Pick

We’ve been here before. A stumble in the league, a game against a team that can’t buy a win. But we still manage to make hard work of it. I recently watched a re-run of the 7-0 Arsenal v Everton game. It was the last game Edu played for Arsenal at Highbury. We even had the luxury of Thierry Henry and Robert Pires deliberating over who will take the penalty before the captain Vieira sorted it out by pointing to Edu – surely a beautiful gesture for the Brazilian to get a last goal at Highbury.

Those were the days, right? When the defensive line had hard men like Sol Campbell and Lauren. When our front line was as scary as Henry, Bergkamp and Pires with a young Van Persie and Reyes lingering in the background. Boy don’t I wish for one of them days on Sunday at Goodison Park. Just one day that will give Arsenal fans a feel good factor.

What am I talking about, Duh? Matches like those will probably soon only be available on the footballing equivalent of the History Channel. After last weekend, I’ll take a draw away at Everton and run back south very fast.

3 points will be nice though.

43 thoughts on “STONE COLD FRIDAY: Arsenal Show Their Cojones As Red Mars Belgrade Performance

  1. A win’s a win, but what a turgid game. It looks like we can win the group in 2nd gear, without risking many first teamers. Wilshere made a good case for his inclusion in the first team, but nobody else stood out.

    Has Giroud taken a flutter on himself to score overhead kicks?

  2. I hated it last night.

    The Toffees match feels up for one of our magnificent stumbles – where the team in crisis that cannot buy a win gives us a beating…….

    Oh woe is me.

  3. Mo,

    I don’t think any of us wanted to sell a fully fit Jack Wilshere, we all know he has the talent but his injury record prevented him from applying it.

    We can only hope he can remain injury free for long enough to warrant keeping him.

  4. First there were the invincibles , then the move to the new grounds and the project youth, then the British core project followed by the loosening of the purse strings era, and finally the last period of Wenger tenure will be remembered as the ” mental strength ” period.

    Every win after a disappointing loss isn’t just a bounce back into the winning column anymore, but rather a testament to the tremendous mental strength of the Arsenal players, no matter the quality of the opponent.

    Lose to Liverpool in an embarrassing way but in the next home game get the better of the relegation candidates, Bournemouth , mainly due to the mental strength of course.

    Put in an object performance against above average Watford in a losing effort but follow it by a win in Europe and yes, you guessed it , the mental strength factor again.

    Thank goodness Arsenal do have the mental strength these days because if they didn’t who knows where they might’ve finished last season in the PL .
    Probably bottom of the table.

    In the Guinness book of records surely Arsene Wenger holds the world record for any football manager uttering the phrase ” mental strength” most times in a season , surely.

  5. “We can only hope he can remain injury free for long enough to warrant keeping him.”

    Or for long enough to sign a new lucrative deal more like it 🙂

    Sorry for being cynical but something tells me Jack will be on his best behavior on and off the pitch since he’s in his final year.

    Perhaps he might even avoid going to ground for unnecessary 50/50 challenges this season too.

  6. Superb Post, Isaac. 😉

    Yogi said yesterday that he could not find the name of the Red Star stadium, so you can be the first to tell him it is Rajko Mitic — just rolls off the tongue!

    The problem for lowbrows like me, is that our Post makes it difficult in its completeness to fins anything much to say about the game or anything connected with it.

    One thing – which in fairness has been touched on obliquely is that there are a number of players who had been slated to leave Arsenal in recent transfer windows, or who may be given the boot in the nearish future, who turned up and played pretty well last night, even if in an underwhelmingly unentertaining team game.

    Debooshy, you mentioned specifically, then there was Elneny, Giro, Walcott, Coquelin and Wilshere.

    OK, that was very definitely a B team put out for Red Star, and also contained some skilful tyros all looking to make a career at the Arsenal, but it is odd how many players seemingly teetering on the edge of leaving recently managed somehow to stay — and one or two, like Eleneny and Wilshere may have turned the corner and might stay longer term. Who knows? Player selection or player disposable seems to be in the lap of the gods — as there does not seem to be too much management intervention.

    I better go ask C. 🙂

    Anyhoo – thanx for the Post.

  7. Great review Darius

    I know how much everyone loves jack but I think we have to be realistic in our expectations. I think played more games last season then at any time since 2010 and he was completely underwhelming against PL opposition. I think that probably gives us a much more accurate indication of what we might expect if he can stay healthy enough to play more then an occasional cameo for us this season. Perhaps an even bigger problem is his injury history. We can’t count n him to be available and you can’t build a team that is counting on him to be an important player who you can expect him to be ready to play a significant number of high leverage minutes. You certainly can’t build a team that has him I’m the starting 11 and expect him to be available. You have to think of him like Diaby and anything positive you get would be an unexpected bonus.

  8. We kept a clean sheet with a makeshift defense so that is certainly positive. Cech is probably not the world class GK he was in 2005-10 but he is certainly not one of our problems and I think he can be a good GK for a few more years.

    Giroud is remarkably frustrating and he has not come close to replicating last years world class impact sub performances. However the way this squad is built he is one of only 4 players who you consider a threat to score a goal. Same with Walcott. Thankfully we did not sell either of them because they are going to have to carry us in the group stage of the Europa League and in the early rounds of the FA cup. None of Nelson, Willock, Maitland-Niles, Wilshere, Le Coq, Elneny etc etc are going to score a goal and we can’t win those games 0-0.

  9. HenryB,

    Ask me what?

    Your spot on, it is strange that of the ones that you spoke of that were out the door, remember Arsenal actually agreed deals for Elneny and most truly think the Chambers deal was agreed but Chambers wouldn’t leave and you look at this season and Elneny’s versatility has been key for us this season. Jack is very interesting because we know he has he talent and he has definitely shown very well, BUT the biggest question is should Jack get a new contract? I’m not sure that I would but I think the overwhelming majority of Gooners would especially if he stays fit until December.

    Debuchy, well I’m not sure I have seen a stranger situation because Arsenal literally couldn’t give him away, I mean literally give him away. The one team in France that wanted him decided against even a LOAN spell in order to buy a RB that is OLDER than him!

    What’s more likely: Arsenal giving Debuchy away or Bill getting excited for a youth prospect? My money is on Bill 😉

  10. You have hit the nail on the head there, C, @1:21 and that was a comprehensive answer to the question I was hinting at 🙂 — but of course I do not have any special contacts with Arsenal, so the future of the players I mentioned in my comment above were only those ‘reported’ by the media — and that can be ‘iffy’ at best.

    You are right that the Elneny deal seemed almost complete, as did the one for Mustafi – and yet here they are, with their deals ‘withdrawn’??
    And, Yes, Chambers was also allegedly out the door, as was Sanchez and the Ox (the only one that left Arsenal of that threesome) — so overall, if only half that was true it is an amazingly strange transfer strategy. And that does not even mention the strange case of Özil.

    As for what is the more likely to happen; Debuchy clinching a transfer, or at least a loan deal – or – Bill getting excited by a youth prospect — well, I have to disagree with your guess — the Debuchy affair would beat anything else hands down — but Bill getting excited about one of our youth prospects? No Chance!! 😀

  11. Henry

    I was as excited as anyone about the whole group of youth players in the Nik bendtner early emirates era and then I got excited about Ox Ramsey Jenks and Wilshere. However my goal has always been to get the right answer when we talk about a player and I have long ago learned my lesson about getting overtly excited about the long list of youth players who have been hyped as the next great thing.

  12. We debated a lot over players like Joel Campbell and Perez but the one thing guys like that give us is a stronger team against Red Star or Nottingham forest. The problem with having Perez is that it leaves less minutes for players like willock or Nelson or last years favorite Jeff

  13. Tom,

    That would be interesting, as also how many times he has flung his water bottle to the ground when he disagrees with a refereeing decision, and how times he failed to close his damn garment properly in cold weather.

  14. C

    I agree that having Elneny’s versatility somewhere near the back end of the squad is useful. However we can only hope that Arsène can buy someone with upside so Mo can slot into his role as utility player. We are probably not going very far if we have to use him very often as a regular starter

  15. I hear you, Bill, and it does not do to put too much pressure on youngsters by hailing them as the next best thing since Neymar.

    On the other hand, it does not do to discard a young player as last year’s left overs, like you have just done with the Jeff. Well, actually that’s a bit strong as you can say what you want, of course, but you know very well that he avidly reads your comments every day and will be disappointed! 😀

    In fairness, as with many other growing, young athletes, like C, he has suffered quite a number of unforeseen injuries, and that is different to being found out as talentless. isn’t it?

  16. From the standpoint of advancing his football career Elneny would have been better off if he has been moved to a smaller team. However, I doubt that he wanted to take a pay cut so I don’t blame him for not agreeing to a move. We are fortunate that he did not move because we are so thin in the midfield and he can slot in as a CB against teams like Red Star or may be against lower league teams in the FA and league cup games.

  17. Elneny’s failed sale also throws some doubt into the notion that Arsene makes player decisions based on playing favorites or that he shuts players out just because he does not like them. If Arsene held grudges then you would think he would have shut out Elneny when Mo scuttled his plans and refused to move.

  18. I am not a huge fan of Elneny but he does not hurt us when he plays and we certainly need the bodies in the midfield. Neither Ramsey or Wilshere are very durable.

  19. Bill,

    You say wages would have kept Elneny from moving to become a bigger fish in a smaller pond, Bill. Got me thinking. Isn’t a more likely scenario that he – and possibly others who have been reluctant to move away – have fancied their chances of getting a lucky break and making it (back) into the 1st XI, either through a first team player’s injury (would Elneny have got so much game time if Santi were fit?) or through Arsenal having a lengthy cup run where second stringers get their chance? It must be hard to give up on one’s dream of being a hero in the Arsenal first team. “I know I can make it – I just need the break.” They look at Le Coq and see a tale of Zero to Hero (for a season and a half, at least).

  20. Isaac,

    And after his terrible bad luck with engine and brake reliability last year [funny it never affected Rosberg??] he deserves it!! Come on Lewis! 🙂

  21. I thought this, from the Guardian, was interesting after last night’s game:

    Arsène Wenger chuckled afterwards as he confessed that Giroud had come over to the dugout during the game with a special message. “He came to the touchline and told me: ‘We will score.’ He knew more than I did. That’s Olivier Giroud. He keeps belief when it is tough. That’s why he scores at moments you didn’t expect him to score.”

    If true, that little anecdote tells us a lot about the guy’s character, because it certainly didn’t look as though we would score, we were so laboured – and particularly not courtesy of him.

    Dare we log that as a sighting of the shy, migratory “Mental Strength”?

  22. HenryB,

    It is the strangest transfer strategy that we have seen. The fact that Elneny, Ox, Sanchez, Chambers and Mustafi; 4 our of the 5 in some form or fashion key pieces to the squad were all set to leave and the only close transfer that was muttered about was Lemar has to be head scratching.

    I mean take a look at the players that played against Belgrade, of those how many would actually bring an impact to or replace the senior players that were all but set to leave before their deals collapsed / withdrawn; maybe Maitland-Niles for Elneny and Nelson for Ox but otherwise nothing else made sense especially hoping Jack stayed fit which seemed to be part of the plan.

    I figured you would disagree, but I have faith in Bill to one day get excited about a youth prospect; Debuchy leaving before his contract is up (does anybody know when that actually is) no chance 😉

  23. Noon Gunner,

    Personally and this is nothing to you so please do not take it as a slight, but fuck mental strength and if Giroud had such mental strength he would not be one to flail about like a school girl as Bob has said nor would he put in the performances he has.

    As to his comment, I think part of that is the arrogance of a striker, always thinking they will score a goal. Problem that we have with the likes of Giroud that makes him different from say a Lacazette, Henry, Kanu, Anelka, RvP, Wrighty and that lot is that they worked hard for the team and were always looking to help create that chance not hope that it falls to them.

  24. Back to the game though, I continue to be impressed by Maitland-Niles defensive work and he might not be the best going forward in the LWB role but when he has played centrally he has done well not only that but defensively as a LWB he gives of a solid presence and though slight of frame, doesn’t shy away from the physicality in the match.

  25. Arsene pre-match presser for Everton updates us on injuries:

    “Alexis, Koscielny and Ramsey will be alright,” Wenger said in his pre-match press conference.

    “Welbeck is out. He has a groin problem, I think it will be two to three weeks before he is back. He will not be back before the international break.

    “Mustafi will not be back before the break, and Ospina as well. Ospina is not very bad, he has a grade one [groin problem] so it’s just a couple of weeks. Mustafi is a bit worse than Ospina.

    “Calum Chambers as well will be back after the break, and everybody else is alright.”

  26. C,

    I concede on Giroud and mental strength – I never had him down as a candidate before and his gesticulating antics have always irritated me. And I’m solidly with you on Ainsley – he looks to have serious competitive character combined with a very calm temperament, quick reactions and fast legs. What’s not to like?

  27. Henry

    When was the last time our excitement about a youth such as Jeff has actually been rewarded with getting a player who actually became a difference making player for our first team. I would argue that our biggest success stories from the Emirates era are Theo Walcott and Ramsey and may be Ox and none of those were academy players. Perhaps the most influential academy player during the Emirates era has been Gibbs and that is not saying very much. Hundreds have come thru with various levels of hype and the same thing has happened to nearly all of them for 13 years. It seems that we should figure out that getting excited and believing that Jeff or Akpom or Nelson is going to be the next big thing is probably not going to give us the correct answer. No?

    All that said if you don’t care about getting the correct answer and you enjoy getting excited about the next heavily hyped player coming thru the U21 ranks then to each fan his own and knock yourself out.

  28. Noon Gunner:
    Bill,

    You say wages would have kept Elneny from moving to become a bigger fish in a smaller pond, Bill.Got me thinking. Isn’t a more likely scenario that he – and possibly others who have been reluctant to move away – have fancied their chances of getting a lucky break and making it (back) into the 1st XI, either through a first team player’s injury (would Elneny have got so much game time if Santi were fit?) or through Arsenal having a lengthy cup run where second stringers get their chance? It must be hard to give up on one’s dream of being a hero in the Arsenal first team. “I know I can make it – I just need the break.” They look at Le Coq and see a tale of Zero to Hero (for a season and a half, at least).

    Noon Gunner

    You can believe whatever you like but I think if we are looking for the right answer instead of the answer we want to hear then I suspect wages are usually a stronger motivation then the desire to stay and hope to find future glory playing for Arsenal. Players only have a short time to make the big wages and they have to make as much money as they possibly can in that short time so they can hopefully support themselves and their families in the style they have grown accustomed after they leave football.

  29. Its just my opinion but I think the #1 reason that all of the best players tend to congregate with a few of the worlds big teams is because those teams generally pay the highest wages. With the exception of Arsene Wenger managed teams there is generally a very strong correlation between team wage bill and the number of big trophies in the silverware collection. If Real Madrid or Barca decided they wanted to trim their wage budgets then I suspect their remarkable history would not stop them from dropping off the top of pecking order as the worlds dominant teams.

  30. Bill,

    And what of Juve? I would also say take a look at Bayern, how many players have they either let walk or told they aren’t paying the wages because they refuse to do that? I think a large numbers of player join the biggest teams because they have a lineage of winning. Yea some of the teams like Citeh and PSG go from nothing to something because they spend massive wages and give certain players massage wages but I think wages isn’t the whole reason because if that’s the case then more players would come and stay at Arsenal; I think big clubs pay top wages to the best players and everybody is on some sort of pay structure. I think your world is very black and white my friend and I respect that because you stick to your guns but I also think that futbol has a massive gray area and because of that you simply can’t lump everything and everybody in to general categories.

    Are players mercenaries; sure most of them might be but there are also some they aren’t.

  31. The latest stats I have seen is Juve has the 10th highest wage bill the world and Munich is #8. Its not like they don’t spend a lot of money. Both easily lead their leagues. Real Madrid is #4 and Barca #1. Arsenal is # 7.

  32. C

    Its no coincidence that teams like inter or AC Milan struggle is there wage bill is no longer in the top10.

    Trying to make the as much money as possible is not mercenary. Its part of the human condition. You won’t admit it but you and I and most fans would do the same if we had the opportunity. Its critical for professional sports players to make as much as possible while they can because of how much they can make but they only have a very short window of opportunity and they have to get themselves set for a full lifetime in that short window. How can we criticize players for doing something almost any of us would do

  33. Teams like Atletico Madrid and Dortmund are going to always be feeder clubs as long as they can’t afford to bring their wage bills into the top 10.

  34. The reason I don’t complain about Stan as much as some is not because I like the guy but he has allowed Arsene to spend tons of money in this decade and that is all you can really ask from your teams owner. We can’t really blame Stan for our stagnation in this decade. We have the worlds 7th highest wage bill and we have spent plenty of transfer fees. Stan is not a football person and he can’t be part of the decisions on how and where all that money is spent. The problem has been that our football people have not a good job of managing all of that spending.

  35. Figures from UEFA show that Arsenal received £58m from participation in the CL last season whilst United only received £40m from winning the Europa League. Leicester were paid more than Real Madrid as the share of the market pool (allocation of TV monies) is much higher for English clubs than for Spanish.
    With the gamble on Ozil and Alexis this season it seems unlikely that we will fork out a big net spend in the transfer market this summer to get back into the CL if we don’t make it this season. A minimum spend to get even close to replacing both players has to be £100m (and realistically it’s a lot more). If we were to get £20m – £30m from the Europa League we are only earning an additional £30m by being in the CL. From a financial point of view it seems a bit of a gamble to pay in excess of £100m for a pick up of £30m. By settling with the Europa League model going forward we could be looking at a spend of only around £50m to replace the two players in the summer, or we could gamble on Jack and Theo with new contracts for both (which would seem more likely).

  36. Bill,

    Which suggests that it is much harder to do it in the PL as 3 of the top 5 wage payers are here. Leicester has proved it is possible and Spurs have started to punch above their weight as regards wage payers. A reversion to the norm seems likely this season with 1 of the big 3 wage payers winning the league, but Arsenal is underperforming. This goes back to your point as regards mismanagement. It’s not just a problem for now either. The idea that we should be lucky that we have managed to get top 4 every year is a complete nonsense and the randomness of football means that the positions are not going to match up exactly with the wage bills every year, but Arsenal should at least have been close to winning the league more often than we have with 4 being the bare minimum. Scrapping into the top four year after year when it should really be fairly comfortable given our spending is pretty poor. The spin coming from Arsenal and its pet journalists is that we should be proud of our achievements.

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