STONE COLD FRIDAY: Of Lights, Tunnels And Oncoming Trains

An hour before last night’s match, my friend Eric gives me a call. He and I grew up together, him supporting Liverpool and me Arsenal. We normally chew the fat before and after our respective games, analysing, moaning, bragging – whatever the results. “You guys need to get rid of Uncle Bob”, he says referring to his nickname for Arséne Wenger. He gave that nickname to Wenger in reference to Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe, who at 92, was hounded out of office kicking and screaming. There is something Mugabe-esque about Wenger, particularly the inability not to recognise that the natives are revolting, and clinging onto power at the cost of the collective.

Wenger is our Lucy, and like Charlie Brown, Arsenal fans are suckers for hope. How many times has Lucy put the football in front of Charlie only to yank it away, sending him flat on his backside. Eric chuckles and says, “you know, Bob is probably going to win the Europa League and you all are going to think he’s still the cat’s pyjamas”.

It’s that unnerving feeling that the light you’re seeing at the end of the tunnel is an on-coming train. How many times have we been here. That head scratching moment when you ask yourself where the hell have these players been, just before we revert to type in the next few games.

A Good Day At The Office

Take nothing away from last night’s performance, while wearing the dreaded blue I might add. It’s a travesty that before last night, Arsenal had only won one away game since new year’s eve.

Coming to the San Siro to face a rejuvenated Milan under the stewardship of Gennaro Gatuso was daunting. The Italian club was in fine form, 13 games unbeaten and only conceding 4 goals. They had also only lost one of the last 18 European fixtures that they had played at the San Siro. With pedestrian losses to Brighton, Swansea, Watford and Bournemouth, you had to be thinking “here we go again”.

The first few minutes of the match played out to the script. If you think that Milan had 11 corners during the game and that Arsenal defended all of them diligently, no one will hold the confusion you have against you. Clearly, Milan had been watching Arsenal’s last few games and they came out guns blazing.

In fairness, the Gunners had to earn the right to play and they did so with purpose and determination, a unity in defence from all the players being the foundation of a professional and positive performance.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

What was clear was that the players took responsibility and went back to basics. We pressed high up the pitch, squeezing space out and leaving Milan baffled about the team they thought they were playing. The passing was slick and sharp, and Welbeck, Mkhitaryan and Ramsey were willing runners behind Milan’s defence.

Ozil was commanding in midfield, combining well with Wilshere and Mkhitaryan to give Milan a run for their money. The breakthrough came 15 minutes in from the German’s pin-point assist for Mkhitaryan to cut back and do a ‘Frank Lampard’. Yes, even deflected goals count.

Arsenal could have scored two more with Chambers coming close and Mkhitaryan testing Gianluigi Donnarumma’s resolve. The Armenian was unlucky to clip the cross bar soon after, a moment that got you thinking – are we going to rue that missed opportunity?

Ramsey had other ideas and clearly Ozil was operating on the same frequency. A slick pass to present the Welshman with an opportunity to dummy Donnarumma onto his arse and effortlessly move past the keeper to slot the ball into an empty net just before the break.

Look Ma! Arsenal Are Doing Tactics

If you get another chance to watch the game, try and observe Arsenal off the ball. Jack Wilshere in particular was brilliant, holding back and police marking Milan’s front man with that resolute “Hell no, not tonight”. Arsenal anticipated and dealt with any counter-attacking threat decisively.

Sead Kolasinac was even smart enough to take one for the team, deliberately handling the ball because he knew that he was never going to catch the Milan runner. The Bosnian also knew he was coming off after injuring himself tackling Suso on the byline a few minutes earlier. An excellent yellow card to pick up if ever there was one.

Our midfielders constantly tracked the runs of Milan players and contributed to an excellent defensive effort. Calum Chambers was being targeted, especially in the first period of the game, but the young chap stood resolute and probably had his best game for Arsenal for a long time. It made you wonder whether defensively, he’s going to give Little Belly Button a run for his money at right back.

Ospina was also commanding when he needed to, at one point, taking out Mustafi by double punching the German’s head and the ball. Dare I say that even Xhaka had a very good game, helping to marshal the midfield and sticking to his defensive duties.

It’s The Hope That Kills You My Friends

It’s been a while since Arsenal dominated a game and ruthlessly dispatched a worthy opponent. Taking last night’s match in isolation, there was a feel good factor around the Gooniverse. Short lived I’m sure, but you can’t refuse to acknowledge the team effort, commitment and determination to perform and play themselves out of a rut.

Which then begs the question – “What the hell have you folks been doing all season?”. Why do we have to wait until we’re down and out to play this way? Setting aside the fact that Wenger has to go, it was great to see the players take responsibility and play with pride and determination. It’s the dropping of heads and the hopelessness of rolling over and being tickled on the tummy by teams that frustrates.

I would be happy to watch performances like last nights for the rest of the season, a mix of brawn and brains; the attacking verve and finesse with goals to show, and the ability to get ugly and employ the dark arts when it’s called for. While you’re at it, no one is going to complain if you throw the Europa League Cup into the mix.

I guess we get to find out who has the cojones on Sunday afternoon, seeing as the captain of our noisy Hertfordshire neighbours has a bit of mouth on him.

Have a great weekend good people.

61 thoughts on “STONE COLD FRIDAY: Of Lights, Tunnels And Oncoming Trains

  1. A cynic in me says “Well it’s just one game, practically a halftime. So don’t get your hopes up!” and I agree with him.

  2. Morning!

    I didn’t see the game yesterday (undertaking babysitting duties in a house with no BT/Sky or WiFi connection) but did manage to keep up to date via the BBC.

    A surprising win but most welcome. Was this AW ditching his hippy principles of free styling to save his ass? Maybe. But it’ll take more than one performance even for Stan (for many others that ship has sailed of course). Can we do it on Sunday and beyond? Is Bouldy actually allowed some input now? Time will tell.

  3. A quote from the BBC posted this morning:

    “Jack: As a devoted Arsenal fan I think it’s disgraceful how our fans are demanding Wenger to leave. I was Wenger out as well until last night but that result changed my mind completely. Shows Wenger still is a class act who can take Arsenal forward.”

    F*ck me, with fans like this doing the Hokey Cokey every time we win or lose no wonder we’re in a mess on and off the pitch.

  4. andy1886,

    Unfortunately common sense isn’t very common.

    Its also clear that the average dude walking past on the sidewalk is also as thick pigshit.

  5. Morning YW morning gang. Massive congratulations to the team and the manager, like many others I wasn’t very optimistic the 1st goal was the key and the second goal gave the players the confidence to see the game through. Wenger always seems to pull it out of the bag when his back is right up against the wall and Ramsey for his faults always seems to be at the center of a mini Wenger renaissance.

  6. Morning,

    A great result and performance. It raises more questions than it answers and proves that we have players who can play as a unit with work. The concern is that, as usual, we will slide back into the same old patterns as before. This should be a wake up call for Wenger and he should realise that a more organised unit could save his job. I don’t think that will happen and clearly he still needs to go. A manager running a team like last night could actually battle for trophies, but that manager is likely to have to come from outside the club.

  7. Good morning everyone. Nice post by the way, I saw little Belly button and I just couldn’t help but laugh at Bellerin’s alias.

  8. So Arsenal turned up last night. About fecking time!

    The midfield covered the back four and the forwards tracked back. Did the players do this themselves or was there some tactical planning?

    A great team performance and props to Welbz who may not score many but he stretched the Milan defence repeatedly, and created space for the midfield runners. Micky can become our Deflection Lampard and Ramsey heading towards being top scorer for the season.

  9. The wengerites are proclaiming victory again! They are celebrating this morning with an extra weetabix. Will they ever learn!

  10. Have to wonder how Milan have been so good recently. I didn’t recognise most of their team outside Bonucci and the hyped keeper. Gattuso looks a manager out of the Keegan mould.

    I fancy us to go all the way to Lyon in the EL.

  11. Is that Jack Wilshere?

    A quote from the BBC posted this morning:

    “Jack: As a devoted Arsenal fan I think it’s disgraceful how our fans are demanding Wenger to leave. I was Wenger out as well until last night but that result changed my mind completely. Shows Wenger still is a class act who can take Arsenal forward.”

    F*ck me, with fans like this doing the Hokey Cokey every time we win or lose no wonder we’re in a mess on and off the pitch.

  12. Morning.

    I’ve criminally not checked in for a while. Top quality as always Mr Kute.

    It was a fantastic game. If watched without the doom and gloom context it would / should have been a real reason to get excited about. Performances all over the pitch from players that I’m often told aren’t fit to wear the shirt. Chambers, Xhaka and Ospina for the most part.

    As you say it’s that glimpse that gets hopes up again. But why is it just a glimpse? I don’t think you can blame it exclusively on the manager. It’s a confidence issue surely? In recruiting ‘nice guys’ for a ‘family club’ perhaps we don’t have a killer instinct. If that is the case then the excessive negativity is as much to blame as everything else. The fact that opinions have already started to grow negative toward Mkhi and Auba is telling enough. People have had enough and I can understand why, but the negativity has to be taken as a factor for the spiral.

  13. Bonjour à tous. I didn’t think we would win last. A decent performance taking into account all of the circumstances.

    The victory changes nothing.

  14. A most unexpected performance and result last night. The best thing about it for me, is that this screams out that the players (well most*) have the potential to deliver. Somewhere out there, across Europe or even the UK – but not Celtic Park please – there are younger, fresher managers who were thinking “I could do something with that squad”.

    *So Xhaka had a better game, but he is still thick as two very short planks. What on Earth was he doing blasting a shot over from 35 yards late in the game?! He clearly hasn’t got a clue about game management. Even Wenger reacted to his nonsense.

  15. A jolly good morning, a very jolly good morning
    Where did that come from?
    I had the feeling Mikki & Mesut would prosper against an Italian team but that was beyond my wildest hopes.
    Next stop, wiping the smile of that wannabee Goonie Troy Deeney’s grotesque face.

    It’s quietened the noisy neighbours for a while too

  16. Really good performance and even more importantly it was an away match against an in-form side and equal good write up Darius.

    It was great to see some of the players that were apart of the group that players and supporters were on show their quality. Ozil was efficient and effective and grabbed 2 more assists and the part that was good is that Mkhitaryan and Ramsey grabbed the goals. It was also good to see the likes of Xhaka and Sead play better especially Sead showing the form when he first came to us, shame he picked up an ankle injury.

    Long may this continue.

  17. So apparently there has been no movement on Jack’s contract and I think the closer and closer it gets to the summer the greater possibility that he will leave. I wonder how people would feel if Jack left for more money…

  18. Els,

    It isn’t just down to Wenger, but he has to be responsible for the majority of what is going on. The same thing happens too often with different sets of players and the constant is Wenger. When it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

  19. C
    So he should except a pay cut and certain conditions the likes of diaby and rosicky were never offered.

  20. Enjoyed the post and, more surprisingly, last night’s game.

    Just one complaint: having been subjected to the traditional crying Arsenal child shots at Wembley, I was hoping to see footage of a similarly beside himself Berlusconi. Great orange ballsack as he is.

  21. “Take nothing away from last night’s performance…”
    Aside from the three preceding paragraphs’ — correct?

    *sigh* Can’t even feel good about feeling good about it.


  22. C,

    I wonder if anyone in the higher wages stratosphere will offer him more? A calculation of potential + homegrown vs injury likelihood. Of course, Mourinho would probably do it just to do us.

  23. Dukey,

    Not at all, I don’t think that he should take a pay cut but would it not be reasonable to say that a contract at or maybe with minimal pay raise with built it raises for number of matches and things like that would be reasonable.

    Honestly, I think if contract offers are made to Jack and Ramsey that they BOTH should receive the same sort of deal.

  24. Woolwich Freddie,

    Yup, I mean and the other question would be which of the bigger clubs would be willing to take that risk. Citeh don’t need him, Mourinho would do it just to fuck with Arsene, Liverpool have Keita coming in, Chelsea maybe but it also depends on who they bring in after Conte.

    I could possibly see him going abroad but I do think that if he can stay fit and show consistency and form he would be automatic first choice next to a DM for me.

  25. silvergunner:
    Morning YW morning gang.Massive congratulations to the team and the manager, like many others I wasn’t very optimistic the 1st goal was the key and the second goal gave the players the confidence to see the game through.Wenger always seems to pull it out of the bag when his back is right up against the wall and Ramsey for his faults always seems to be at the center of a mini Wenger renaissance.

    Seriously, I know we have to get behind the team and praise them when they’ve done well. But let’s not forget the misery this manager and same bunch of players have heaped upon us season after season. Is it any wonder they performed last night, when they have a biggish stage to perform on. “You never know who might be watching” said their agent’s gleefully. Clearly a lot of Arsenal supporters can’t see the woods for the trees.

    If you think we’re going to win the Europa league because we happen to win a game against a distinctly average AC Milan, (who were very poor on the night) then think again.

    Don’t be surprised if we surrender the second leg to them 1-3 and get dumped out. It would take a tremendous amount of luck for this manager and this group of players to win this competition. I can’t see it happening myself and I actually don’t want it to happen as it will give Mr Wenger yet another stay of execution, to fulfill his contract and have one more season. In all honesty it will be touch and go whether the board have the cajones to press the eject button on Mr Wenger’s time at our great club. So let’s not get carried away chap’s and chapesses

  26. Pete the Thirst:
    Have to wonder how Milan have been so good recently. I didn’t recognise most of their team outside Bonucci and the hyped keeper. Gattuso looks a manager out of the Keegan mould.

    I fancy us to go all the way to Lyon in the EL.


  27. xx

    he will not surrender his desk
    his post match smile
    as though he has not lost in a while.

  28. I’ll eat my words and take it all back if we beat Watford on Sunday. But I bet you we won’t!

  29. Wavey,

    That sounds like it may be related to player type. I expect that to change a lot. I think that’s the main reason for the Mislintat appointment. In my eyes we owe it to Wenger to give him the opportunity to work in the new framework. I have begrudgingly come to the conclusion that our team may be full of too many nice guys. Too much emphasis on players that wont rock the boat and fit into the atmosphere. Takes time but that may have been addressed.

  30. Arrogant son of a… springs to mind. Simply couldn’t give a flying rat’s ar$e about the fans. Over paid prima donna’s. Bring back David Dein

  31. Els,

    To some extent I agree, but I think there are a few in the squad that could be nasty, if they were allowed to be.

    There’s a culture of not rocking the boat, as you say. It’s human nature to adapt yourself to your surroundings. I’d think Jack, Xhaka, Sead, PEA and possibly Mykitharian and Lacazette would all adapt to a more physical and cynical approach. Again, lends itself to my recent narrative that I think what we’ve got doesn’t need a lot of transfer business, more a new approach and some discipline. Borne out of last night’s performance and result as well

  32. Shinji Kagawa is a nice guy and he didn’t make it at Utd, so I don’t get the point you’re making. Wenger doesn’t deserve anything. He cannot man manage. He isn’t tactically astute. Let Mislintat work with someone who can make use of the talent he will bring in. Not someone who will wreck young player’s carreer’s. Remember Joel Campbell and how good he was at the 2014 world cup. Any of the top European club’s would have developed this player into a major talent. Not under Wenger

  33. Els,

    Sorry but I don’t think we have nice guys, I actually think, as Damon rightly points out, we have some players who have a physical aggressive streak in them that they have either shown at another club and only changed over time at Arsenal or they showed glimpses of it at Arsenal and it was told its not allowed. For instance, look at Xhaka when he came: tough, aggressive (maybe to aggressive at times but that was down to being a rash tackler at times), took no shit but gave plenty of it; then you would hear Arsene talk publicly about how he needs to be less aggressive when IMHO he should have been saying stay aggressive but don’t put in the rash challenges. We have seen it from Jack, Aubameyang and Sead are players we have seen with it. The strange thing is, Arsene’s best Arsenal sides had that and players that had it and showed it whether it was Vieira, Henry, Freddy, Bergkamp, Keown and that lot or it was Flamini(yea I know), Mozart, Ashley Cole, Sagna and RvP.

    Under a different man I think we would see those players more aggressive but coached up and that is taking nothing away from Arsene.

  34. Give Wenger another chance!!!!!!!!!!


    Jesus fucking wept, how many fucking chances are we expected to provide to this clown who’s steadily fucking the club down into the depths?

    Just fucking NO!

  35. HenryNorrisDialSquare,

    I don’t think any serious Arsenal fan will disagree with you on the fundamentals most pray that Wenger can win and be forced out with some modicum of dignity “mutual termination” because like Darius intimated Wenger will want to see out his £10m a year contract like any dictator who’s grip of power is showing signs of waning is going to need outside intervention.

    I just pray that its at the end of the season not in another season.

  36. C, Damon

    I think there’s more to it than that to be honest. No doubt that a bit of shit housery could do with being turned up. The nice atmosphere / lack of fight creeps up. I doubt that Wenger decided one day to insist on a friendly atmosphere. No doubt that something needs to change or be addressed. I just think that it’s not a black and white world. Wenger has proven that along with his shortcomings he also has serious abilities and fantastic football insights, that most of the names being touted as a replacement would be in awe of. Augment him don’t replace. If he isn’t willing then that’s another story, but changes have happened and for a team operating the same way for 20 years, this has no doubt rocked the boat. I wouldn’t bet against him to make it work.

  37. Els,

    If that’s the case the blame lies right back at Wenger’s feet then. If, as you suggest, he has identified a specific type of player who ends up being too ‘nice’ for the PL it wouldn’t be a surprise if they don’t perform on a consistent basis. I think its more along the lines of what C is intimating, that Wenger actively discourages an aggressive approach.
    He has also been harping on about his favourite topic again recently, leaders on the pitch. He will not accept the need for a strong captain on the pitch even though all of the evidence suggests that is exactly what is needed in the PL. It’s the constant ‘I’m right’ attitude which is the most frustrating, because clearly he isn’t.

  38. Further comment from an ex-youngster Reiss Greenridge on Arsenal’s focus on the technical rather than on the tactical side of the game:

    “At Arsenal the training was very technical based,” Greenidge says of his early football upbringing. “There wasn’t much tactical training, there were lots of games, very attack focused.

    “They encouraged individuality on the ball, dribbling skills, and we used to win all our games as a youth team. I was playing with Chupa Akpom and Alex Iwobi, who’s a good friend of mine.

    “At West Brom, I don’t know if it was because I was there full-time, whereas I was at Arsenal three days a week, but it was very tactical. They did a lot of video analysis, strength and conditioning, stuff like that.

    “It was still technical based, they loved technical drills, but I learned a lot more tactically at West Brom.

    “I learned how to play football at West Brom. At Arsenal I knew how to play football, but at West Brom I knew why I was doing this and that and why I needed to be in certain positions.”

  39. Els,

    It’s easy to make bold statements, so what exactly are Wenger’s ‘serious abilities and fantastic football insights’?

  40. Wavey. I agree yes it has got to be Wenger’s fault that we are too soft. I’d suggest it’s more determination and fight rather than physically soft.

    I just think his pros out way the cons. My preference would be for him to stay on with that in mind. I think the changes that have taken place suggest it’s happening. He just needs time to get used to a difference after 21 years.

  41. Well, Andy if you can’t see that I’m already on to a loser. You won’t (never have) give any credit.

    Listen to the guy talk. I’d love to see some of the so called experts have a face to face with him and see who came off best. He’s a fantastic man manager. He protects his players which has pros and cons. The pros being the fact we get more out of players than other managers do. That’s crucial when you can’t compete for the elite players financially. Tactically he’s excellent. That won’t go down well but our short falls aren’t tactics. That’s utter bollocks. He can spot what players are doing wrong/right. Plus he knows the club and squad inside out. He can manage within the restrictions….

  42. (not really)

    Sat in the pub yesterday evening and was very pleasantly surprised and tbh have to enjoy the moment in isolation. Lovely feeling.

  43. Els,

    Is he a great man manager that gets the best from his players though? The opposite seems true. Ozil makes an impact occasionally rather than often, Mustafi was a German World Cup winner who now seems more like a Championship player, Xhaka was a player with a big reputation who has been rubbish most of the season. You could go through the entire squad and struggle to find a player that Wenger has ‘got the best out of’ this season, or in many cases for several seasons. If he’s a great man-manager why all the disharmony in the squad?

    By mollycoddling his favourites he hasn’t protected them at all, he has failed to challenge them to be the best that they can. As for listening to him talk I have frequently. Mostly it’s half-truths, unsubstantiated claims, weird analogies (wtf was the trouser thing all about??), and some gibberish thrown in for good measure.

    Obviously I’m not a fan but I guess we will see when the new coach comes in if he can get more from the players. My suspicion is that just simple organisation, focus on the basics of defending, and a more rounded training regime will improve us immediately. No need to be a ‘genius’, just do the basics.

  44. andy1886,

    We will no doubt see soon enough.

    He can’t continue without the fans backing IMO. I think it’s the atmosphere created by them that is worsening much of what you said.

    You literally can’t compare Mustafi playing in the German squad, with him in ours. Ozil has played some of his best football with us. Technically players really only ever improve under Wenger.

  45. Els,

    I think that’s the thing, when you are in a position for that long, especially in an ever changing landscape like professional sports, and you are so bedded to a style, system and way of thinking, complacency is just something that can happen even to the best of managers. The other thing that happened IMHO is that the key players both on and off the pitch that challenged Arsene and ran the club with him, all left and with that more power was gained by Arsene to the point where he was virtually unchallenged simply because they became in awe of him and his accomplishments. I think the biggest thing now is that futbol has passed him by and sure Arsene has been a brilliant servant but I think in modern futbol and for the good of both the club and the man, a clean break is needed. Sure Arsene can get results like last night or the run to the FA Cup every now and then, but the problem is that the current state of the club leaves and needs a freshening up and the reluctance of Arsene to accept that is damaging the Goonerverse in general.

    Personally I will always have respect for the man and still think that in certain occasions somehow he can rally the troops to produce but we need a manager that understands modern futbol.

  46. enough talk about Arsene,

    The match yesterday was quite enjoyable and more of that please because I think we have the players too. Just a though but I wouldn’t be opposed to going with Welbeck on the RW in a front 4 with Aubameyang at CF, Mkhitaryan at LW and Ozil behind Aubameyang.

  47. Els,

    You’ve probably got a point if you’re referring to the first half of Arsene’s tenure but the last decade , particularly the past two or three seasons seem to indicate his powers have waned dramatically.

    Ozil has been with us during his most productive playing years so you’d expect him to play some of his best football at Arsenal.

    As for tactics ….excellent ? Please explain.

  48. oh ffs
    we’ll go on a 4-5 game unbeaten run , full of draws and then start getting twatted again.

    nice to see the team halt the slide but all the talk of vindication for the manager and whatnot is dillusional.

    its 2 wins in 6

    and if a team full of fishermen can beat us at home im pretty sure a milan side (no matter how poor they are now) can turn us over and go through.

    im not even confident we’ll beat watford.

    one result doesnt change a thing.

    he still needs to fuck off.

  49. Wow,

    it’s the players’ fault, no it’s fans, no it’s both.

    And that’s where the discussion got silly. I think that’s as far as I need to go with that one.

  50. Paulie Walnuts,

    Well personally I think he did a fantastic job in the FA Cup game against Forest. He had exactly the right tactics to ensure that we didn’t have to waste time playing another game in that Cup this season. It gave us time to concentrate on the League and the Europa League. And I shouldn’t forget the League Cup.

  51. The back page headline in The Times of India, Kochi edition, “Arsenal, Wenger find solace in Milan”.

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