STONE COLD FRIDAY: The First £1 Billion Match, Or Just Another 3 Points

9 points, 8 goals, 3 clean sheets, and an 8 point swing against the swamp-dwellers in 3 Premier League games. Throw in the swagger and flashes of Wengerball, as well as the team ethic. Mix in a determined defensive trio and it’s hard to fault the team’s current form or mental strength ahead of United’s visit.

We have another chance to get up close and personal; a third win in three against United at home cuts the gap to them to just a point.

They’re calling it the first £1 billion football match in the world. Who knows; Super Saturday obviously isn’t hyperbolic enough. I believe someone just added up the revenues of the two clubs from last year and had a light bulb moment…forgetting that Real Madrid play Barcelona every year and probably passed that mark a decade ago.

It only seems like yesterday when the Gunners blew United out of the park, smashing in 3 goals without reply in one of the best 45 minutes of football we’ve seen in recent years. The form continued last year with a 2 – 0 victory; let’s keep faith with the conventional wisdom which says good things come in threes.

It is this hope that makes you wake up bright and early, willing the hours to pass by quickly so that we can get on with it. You damn well know that it’s also the same hope that will kill you depending on which Arsenal turn up tomorrow.

Alan Sugar and the nonsense ‘power shift’ talk by the media did the team talk for Arsène a fortnight ago. Mourinho coming to town should also be enough of a team talk; just post his mug shot in the dressing room, I say.

 

The Silly Season Is Round The Corner

Few can argue against the reality that Arsenal is indeed going through a purple patch. In the mini-top 6 league, it’s still early to judge whether a corner has been turned.

We’ve only played one of the top 6 at home and bagged the 3 points and bragging rights. It is imperative that we beat United, Chelsea, City and Liverpool at home, a task we’ve done well in the last few years.

My sense is that not being in the Champions League and having the option to play the 2nd string in the Europa League has helped us so far, despite the indifferent form at the beginning of the season.

It’s hard these days though, to pick up a paper or read any article online without the mention of Alexis and Ozil’s contract situation. It doesn’t matter what the article is about.

A story on Santi Carzola’s operation will have the pro-forma paragraph in there about the two contract renegades. An article on FC Koln being fined for the crowd trouble they brought with them to the Emirates, and that ubiquitous paragraph of Alexis and Ozil not signing contracts is there.

Mind you, the transfer window isn’t open yet. I’m reconciled with the fact that the duo will leave at the end of the season, but the incessant noise about when they’ll leave or where they’ll go is now becoming annoying.

Of course we’re likely to lose money, but if the duo play like they are doing and inspire the team for the rest of the season, who is to say that letting them go on a free wasn’t a good thing. One has to wonder what effect all the “will they stay or will they go” talk has on the other players. It did with Arsène’s situation…

From Russia With…Well, Something

Not exactly the picture of Sean Connery cosying up to Bond girl Daniela Bianchi, the world of sport turns to Russia today. As if all the attention from the Olympic doping saga wasn’t enough for Russian sport, there’s just that small matter of the draw for next summer’s World Cup.

As Jack Wilshere looks at today’s events, his thoughts must turn to his lack of pitch time in this Arsenal team. If he wants to play for England, he’s going to have to leave Arsenal. Who can blame him? No player in the world would want to miss out on Russia 2018 if there’s the slightest chance they can grease themselves through the door.

I don’t blame Li’l Jack. I would be begging for another loan so I can get more playing time to increase my chances of selection. A club like Burnley maybe, if they’ll have him. Rumours that Arsenal is still chasing 21-year-old Udinese playmaker Jakub Jankto don’t help. That Arsène tried to sign him this summer twist the knife a little more. Jankto is more likely an alternative for Wilshere than for Ozil.

A few years ago, there was a picture captured of Gibbs, Jenkinson, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott all trudging off the pitch together. They were the future of England, a core that Arsène will nurture. That sure feels like a very long time ago, all five dropping out of the radar of every England manager.

England’s Dreaming

I do feel Walcott should at least get the chance to represent England at a World Cup. Sven Goran-Erikkson didn’t do him any favours by calling him up at 16, drawing unnecessary attention to him. He was injured for one and Fabio Capello didn’t pick him for another, preferring Aaron Lennon. That decision went well.

One would hope for Wilshere and Walcott, that the absolute hunger that they have to get to Russia 2018 will galvanize and inspire them to have a season of their lives for Arsenal. One would hope that they can be that extra muscle that pushes us over the line in salvaging the season and making a mark in the Premier League. They have to get the chance first, but there’s plenty of games coming up with the Europa League and the two domestic cups.

It isn’t the failure which kills us; football people can deal with that. It’s the hope which eventually does for us.

Have a great weekend good people.

 

52 thoughts on “STONE COLD FRIDAY: The First £1 Billion Match, Or Just Another 3 Points

  1. Good morning everybody, or in Arsetralian’s case, goodnight.

    Great post, Darius, thanks.

    The silly season is back, did it ever go away? Once again we’re “linked” with Jonny Evans, a centre back too far as far as I’m concerned.

    The World Cup draw today will provide Vladimir Putin the opportunity to strut around a bit, you can bet your life the will be no questions asked about doping in Russian football. Of course there is no need to ask questions, according to FIFA’s first female General Secretary Fatma Samoura there’s no problem with doping in Russian football. Yet her own organisation is to exclude all Russian officials from drug tests and all samples of blood or urine taken from players will be flown to FIFA’s own laboratories in Lausanne in Switzerland for testing.

    That’s all right then, one of the most historically corrupt organisations in World sport will carry out the drug testing rather than trust the host nation to which they themselves awarded the privilege of staging the tournament.

  2. Orson Kaert:
    Good morning everybody, or in Arsetralian’s case, goodnight.

    Great post, Darius, thanks.

    The silly season is back, did it ever go away?Once again we’re “linked” with Jonny Evans, a centre back too far as far as I’m concerned.

    The World Cup draw today will provide Vladimir Putin the opportunity to strut around a bit, you can bet your life the will be no questions asked about doping in Russian football.Of course there is no need to ask questions, according to FIFA’s first female General Secretary Fatma Samoura there’s no problem with doping in Russian football.Yet her own organisation is to exclude all Russian officials from drug tests and all samples of blood or urine taken from players will be flown to FIFA’s own laboratories in Lausanne in Switzerland for testing.

    That’s all right then, one of the most historically corrupt organisations in World sport will carry out the drug testing rather than trust the host nation to which they themselves awarded the privilege of staging the tournament.

    They might as well hand over the testing to the SVR station chief and his staff in Switzerland. I’m sure they still have sources and methods from the archives of the KGB

  3. “who is to say that letting them go on a free wasn’t a good thing?”

    Well, me for a start 😜

    The very best likely outcome if they stay til the summer would be a top four place and CL qualification, which means that we get to repeat the same experiences of the last decade (boring group stage followed by a kicking from Bayern or Barca in the first knock-out round) which is hardly inspiring. Then they are gone, leaving a large expensive hole to fill without the say £40m to help fill it.

    Worst case scenario is this good form is a flash in the pan and both determine not to risk injury leading up to negotiations with interested parties in the new year, we fail to make top four, and get to the summer with no CL football and short of the £40m we may have got in January all of which hampers our ability to sign replacements.

    Personally I take the longer term view, sell and rebuild as a team rather than pin hopes on individual flashes of brilliance, a strategy that has failed to work up to now.

  4. Good post – but…..

    Even as a non englishman and one who likes to see England fail almost irrespective of sport and opposition, I would see taking either of Wilshere or Walcott to Russia as being borderline negligent by an England manager.

    For some time neither of them has showed anywhere near the form or consistency to be worth a call up for the national squad…

    Arguably IF either or both shouldered their way into our first team on merit, retained their place and made exceptional contributions between now and the end of the season that view could change!

  5. Orson from yesterdays comment section

    Bill,

    Prolific strikers are largely reliant on the service they receive from……world class creative midfielders. So here is one blogger who disagrees with your premise that Higuain or Suarez would have been a better

    8 of the last 11 PL champions have won without a world class creative midfielder. None of Fergies last 5 championship teams had one and Ronaldo, Teves, Rooney, RVP were all able to thrive. Same with Drogba and Anelka in 2010, Vardy and Mahrez in 2016, Costa and Hazard in 2017. The forwards scored a lot and their teams won the league without a creative #10 in the midfield. The best strikers can create their own chances and you get the service they need from anywhere on the pitch. However no team can win without high scoring forwards.

  6. I agree with Damon’s comment from yesterday. Suarez was the sort of player who created his own chances and he also created chances for everyone else on the pitch. We had more then enough creativity with Cazorla and Higuiain would have scored plenty of goals for us but Suarez could have been a complete game changer he was the real miss from that summer in 2013.

  7. Hey, Isaac.

    A very enjoyable top of the tree article to read, with your usual quality as a blog author showing thru. Thank you. 🙂

    I noticed your reference to some once glittering Arsenal players [Gibbs, Jenkinson, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott] who had lost their way in the England scenario, and for me, they have all lost their way at Arsenal, too, and I include Jack and Theo in that.

    I noticed that you have parsed and adopted YW’s ‘it’s the hope that kills you’ at the end of your Post, and of course that’s OK, if it is how you feel, but to despair over the short term ignores the expectation of good things to come, like Xmas, and I just don’t see that fits with your talent — of course, if it is only football related — then — the above still holds!! 😀 😀

  8. Fergies teams moved the ball forward at pace and they got the ball into the dangerous attacking areas before the defense was able to set up. When you attack at high tempo it becomes much easier to find time and space in front of goal and you get the service your strikers need without the world class #10. Same thing with the 2010 Chelsea team. Leicester in 2016 was the ultimate example. Their attacking strategy was win the ball back and immediately fire it forward and for Vardy and Mahrez. Liverpool scored more then 100 goals and almost won the league in 2013 without much of a midfield becasue Suarez was a 1 man counter attack and he would either score or Sturridge/Sterling would feed off of what Suarez did.

  9. Good stuff Darius!

    Ozil and Sanchez are the great debate and if you want you can throw Jack into the mix. The funny (and I use the term loosely) thing is, come next summer we will have Cech, Ospina, Ramsey, and a couple others if I’m not mistaken that will/could be out of contract.

    At the end of the day and I know most possibly won’t agree BUT who cares what happens at the end of the season and next summer and more crazy is, I like many don’t seem either leaving in January so while we have them lets enjoy them and Arsene should ride them until they finally either leave or sign.

  10. Bill,

    Not for nothing mate BUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

    Fergie’s team always had Scholes and say what you want about his defending but he was class and quality in midfield and dictated and was as creative as they come. Not to mention he also had players like Fletcher and Carrick who might not have been considered world class but they were brilliant players during those years.

    Chelsea with Drogba and Anelka had Lampard who while he scored loads of goals, regularly would get 10+ assists and create chances for Drogrba and Anelka but they also had Florent Malouda.

    Vardy and Mahrez were certainly a product of everything that was Leicester.

    Costa and Hazard, ummmmmmmmmmm did you forget that Cesc was sublime that season and I think only trailed De Bruyne in assists. Don’t forget that the vast majority of Costa and Hazard’s goals that season came from Cesc playing brilliant through balls and balls over the top to get both of those players either one on one with the GK or needing to beat one man.

  11. I see Ox is taking subtle digs at Arsene in a recent interview:

    “This manager prides himself on things like pressing and counter-pressing and what areas he wants to win the ball back is more specific and I’ve had to learn those things a little bit, to what I’m used to,”

    “I think the other main thing is how positive he is and how he wants his players who are good at shooting, are good at dribbling, he pushes you to keep doing those things always. I think that’s maybe why you see our shooting stats are always quite high!

    “But it’s nice to see that from a manager, because some managers only want you to shoot when it’s maybe ‘right’, whereas this manager wants you to make the decision and whatever it is he deals with it, he’s happy with it, he encourages it.”

  12. You’re correct about the media and ex Spur, Sugar, doing the team talk for Arsenal before the Tottenham game, but the Mourinho mug shot pinned to the lockeroom wall won’t do the trick.

    The long history between he and Wenger has been largely lost on Arsenal players and Wenger has too much class to make it personal.
    Say what you will about Arsene but that’s not how he rolls.

    This would have to come from the players themselves but who’s the type to fire up the troops to have their manager’s back?
    The short answer is no one.

    Koscielny and Cech are the quiet types.
    Mustafi hasn’t been around long enough. Sanchez and Ozil are just weighing their options at the moment. Besides , Ozil might end up playing for Mourinho before the season’s end so don’t expect him to have a good game anyways.

    Mourinho will sweet talk Mezut before the game and put one of his dirty henchmen on him to rough him up during the game the way he did while at Chelsea. My bet is on Ander Herrera.

  13. C.

    Yolks has an lpppu know as well as I that Cesc was not a regular starter for the vast majority of last season. Their starting midfield was Alonso Kante matic and Moses who are all good players but none is a creator. You also know that Paul Scholes was a shell of himself by 2007 and he was injured much of time and Scholes was not influential in any of Fergies last 5 titles. Lampard was a great player but he was never a creative midfield hub.

    The only 3 of the last 11 PL champions who regularly used a creative #10 were David Silva at ManCity and Cesc with Chelsea in 2015

  14. On to Manure, well I think the line-up pretty much picks itself but if I were manager I would do make 2 changes (one forced and one preference).

    Cech
    ——-Kos——Mustafi——Nacho
    Bellerin—Xhaka—-Jack——-Sead
    ——Ozil——Welbeck—–Sanchez

    I would go with Jack because of the style Manure play of pressing in midfield (if they don’t have Matic that could change things as Fellaini has been ruled out) Ramsey struggles when he is pressured as does Xhaka and whether the rest of Jack’s physical play might be questioned, the one thing that I really like about Jack is that he is still very good when pressured of picking a quick pass or getting fouled and not loosing the ball. The other thing is that with Bailly and Jones both out, it will be imperative that we continue to play quickly like we have and get at their shit backline and Jack in there could see us do that then we can bring on Ramsey for his work-rate and hopefully we are up and can play on the counter where Ramsey can use his endless battery. I also start Welbeck over Giroud for what he brings and how it compliments Sanchez and Ozil. Giroud simply doesn’t give us that work-rate and tireless running that Welbeck does and that is what best suits Ozil and Sanchez and one of the MANY MANY brilliant things that Lacazette does. Naturally Welbeck won’t be able to do it at Lacazette’s level nor will he be able to do it the whole match but he will work his socks off and then we can sub him off and bring on Giroud.

  15. C,

    Thanks for that, but I think I’ll decline your kind offer.

    Bill opinions of what makes a world class player are entirely subjective, it is obvious that you and I are never likely to agree about individuals, so let’s agree to disagree and I’ll read your comments with interest but won’t get into discussions with you.

  16. Damon

    Fair enough

    C

    I understand that Ramsey divides opinions but do you even consider dropping him after the way he and the whole team played in midweek? Why break up something that is working right now? It looks like we are in our annual good part of the season. We need to roll with what has been working and hope we can collect enough points to survive the down turn.

  17. C

    We have talked about this endlessly but England has never had a wealth of creative talent but Paul Scholes play had faded enough by 2006 that he did not even make the England 30 man World Cup roster in 2006 or 2010 and he was not on the Euro 2008 or 2012 roster. Fergie was only using Scholes sparingly by 2007 and suggesting that he was a big part of the last 5 ManU titles is not accurate.

  18. Orson Kaert,

    Not a bad draw for Brasil or England.

    The toughest Group maybe looks to be Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria if your basing it off of overall balance in the group.

  19. Whenever we talked about England in the last 10 years the biggest complaint has always been the fact that they have direct midfield players like Lampard and Gerrard but they were completely devoid of creativity. You can’t have it both ways in order to make your argument fit the agenda of the current discussion. Lampard was a true world class player and arguably the most influential PL midfielder of the last decade because of the goals he scored but his effectiveness was never because of technical skill and creativity.

  20. Bill,

    Mate, if we are judging players based on if they got called up to their international team then based on that one could conclude that Giroud is a better striker than Benzema……..

  21. Bill,

    That’s complete bollocks my friend, the problem with Lampard and Gerrard wasn’t that they were direct players, its the fact that they couldn’t play together because they were so similar. You do realize that Lampard’s creativity was just as big a part of his game as his goals. Sure he wasn’t Ozil and neither was Gerrard but that doesn’t mean they weren’t creative and it doesn’t mean they weren’t their respective teams creative hub. I mean FFS, both Liverpool and Chelsea built teams around those players and what they could do.

    We will disagree about how you define creative players because Lampard routinely had 10 assists which makes him pretty creative and Gerrard was really good at playing those through balls that Torres feasted on.

  22. The think the biggest reason England struggled in the Lampard/gerrard era was the defense was never a shut down type team and you could never count on a clean sheet. The other problem was the lack of quality upfront. Rooney was only decent option and after that you were left with Emile Heskey, Theo Walcott and Peter Crouch.

  23. C

    I think lampard was one of the best midfiekders in the PL era but you are now changing the things you have been saying about him and the England teams for years.

    Even I give give you Lampard and Chelsea in 2010 we still have 7 of the last 11 PL title teams didn’t have a world class #10 which is a significant majority.

  24. Bill,

    Nope, been saying the same thing about Lampard, he is a goal scorer and created chances for Drogba. The thing that I have been saying for years is that Lampard wasn’t just a #10 but he was “their” number #10.

  25. C

    I think lampard was one of the best midfiekders in the PL era but you are now changing the things you have been saying about him and the England teams for years. Despite that I will give you Lampard and Chelsea in 2010 but we still have 7 of the last 11 PL title teams didn’t have a world class #10 which is a significant majority.

  26. Typically we tend to think of the #10 as a purely creative player like Fabregas, Ozil, Silva or Cazorla. In 2005-10 a lot of us thought Cesc was the best central midfielder in the world. Lampard did not have the technical skill, continental flair or pure creativity of Ozil or Cesc but I would certainly take Lampard over any of those other creative #10’s.

  27. Back at the height of the Wengerball/Fabregas era we used to make a lot of fun of Fat Frank for his typical agricultural English ethos and we used to think he would never make it on a team which played with any style. Many of us thought the only things he was good at was tapping in rebounds and taking penalty kicks. How silly does all of that sound in retrospect.

  28. C

    I will probably cheer for England since they are heavy underdogs and no one expects much and we know all of the players very well and we interact with Englanders all the time on this blog.

    Messi is the consensus best player of this century and part of me would like to see him dominate and win a World Cup.

  29. andy1886,

    It is probably just as well we are like ships in the night metaphorically as we are literally poles apart too.

    My condition to us selling both players in Jan for peanuts is for you to keep us positive over the next few years as we build our team which of course will win the league.

    More likely our top 5-8 finishes will bring yet more ‘told you so’ Wenger out during the lean stadium building years.

    So no, on consideration, let’s try and do the best we can with what we have and if that is another 3 fa cups and top 4 finishes maybe that is not so bad.

    It is quite competitive out there and the prize money for a good finish, Europa Cup (?!? chance) and CL attracts the best players. Alexis may even stay then…

    Think positive dude

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