Östersunds Preview: All’s Welbz That Ends Welbz

It’s always interesting when you find something new out about Arsenal. Granted it’s not up there with when we wore the iconic red and white shirt for the first time, but it’s still new nonetheless.

And what is this nugget, I hear you ask? The club runs its’ annual leave policy on a financial year basis. We know that because Mesut Özil is pulling another sickie. Did he get his fiancée to phone in sick or did he put his best sick voice on? You know, the one where you sound like you spent the night drinking malt vinegar and tabasco sauce. He must be careful though. He’ll find it a shock to go onto SSP from his salary level.

Not that his absence matters this evening. No disrespect to Östersunds, but they shouldn’t beat us even if they even with the help of the swords of a thousand men.

Arsène made it clear he’s fielding a side to win the tie, meaning a smattering of youth and ineligible seniors. Surprisingly, Dave is in goal. He will be busy on Sunday so Wenger is keen to sharpen him up ahead of the final.

Mkhitaryan, ineligible for Wembley, plays and Danny Welbeck leads the line. Beyond that, guess away. Calum Chambers accompanied the manager at yesterday’s presser so he’s in for Hector Bellerin, I’d guess.

Welbeck was the subject of Wenger’s pontifications and it’s true that he’s been extraordinarily unlucky with injuries. Not as bad as Diaby or Rosicky, but in the Ramsey and Wilshere scale. A panic buy when Olivier Giroud broke his toe at Goodison Park, Welbeck craved a central striker role. We gave him it and he was found wanting; he’s not ruthless enough, despite scoring some vital goals (at the time).


Like Aaron Ramsey, he rejected Arsenal’s initial contract offer. Unless significant progress is made between now and June, his will be one of the names heading through the Colney door marked ‘do one’. To the chagrin of some, there’s a strong case for Ramsey’s retention. Indeed, letting him go would be a mistake in my view.

I can’t say the same about Welbz. He’s the new Theo Walcott, destined to see his England career vanish as he sits on the Emirates benches, week in, week out. He ought to go to Russia this summer though; Daniel Sturridge is proving more injury-prone than he.

However, beyond fleeting appearances when injuries demand, it’s hard to see him making any impression at Arsenal outside of the cup teams. Arsène talks well about him, but I could insert any players name here and it would be the same story. I could also have ended the sentence after “well” and it would be true.

Yet you only have to look at the squad to understand Welbeck’s problems. £110m-worth of strikers are ahead of him centrally with Eddie breathing down his neck. There’s precious little space on the flanks as well; he’s struggling to get a look in.

It may sound harsh and I do have a lot of sympathy for him. He joined the wrong club to fall injury-prone at; Welbz went into the black hole of the treatment room, visiting the real world as frequently as Haley’s Comet. On a day when more pills should be popped according to the medical profession, it’s trite to use his salary as a compensating factor in being injured and the mental toll that sustained absences from the pitch take on a player.


Hector Bellerin mentioned mental illness at his Oxford Union talk and football has much work to do in that field. Looking after players who are frequently injured or out for a sustained spell is part of the problem, as well as the myriad issues which affect players just as they do in ‘normal’ life.

But Welbz is back, regaining confidence and belief although you sense with players that this is a facade, built on the shakiest of foundations so easily are they lost. A goal or two would go a long way to restoring him to his former glories and tonight is the perfect opportunity to do so.

I think he faces the same problem as last week though: we’ll play within ourselves. That makes the prospects of him scoring tonight slim. There’s no need to take any risks on our part; let them attack and then hit them on the break. It could go one of two ways: an annihilation on our part or as dull as dishwater. I’m going with the latter, since you ask.

The team:

Ospina; Chambers, Mustafi, Holding, Kolasinac; Elneny, Maitland-Niles; Mkhitaryan, Willock, Nelson; Welbeck

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

159 thoughts on “Östersunds Preview: All’s Welbz That Ends Welbz

  1. Don’t forget that we now have a bit of a reputation for coming out for the second half asleep. If they have done their homework at all, and they seem to have so far, they will come flying out of the blocks and catch us cold.
    I’m really not sure where a goal is going to come from either. Have we actually had a shot on target?

  2. I hope the boys come out pissed and ready to tip them to pieces.

    I think the biggest thing though is that Welbeck and Iwobi need to offer more and really offer a presence cause as the commentator said: Mhkitaryan is looking up in the box and Welbeck nor Iwobi are there.

  3. That was Welbeck in a nut shell:

    Work your socks off to get the ball back off the CB and then cock up the end product

  4. Wavey,

    Yup, its why he is CF3 but I would actually think CF3 is perfect for your U23 striker similar to what Manure did with Rashford, Citeh did with Iheanacho and so forth and so forth even down to Madrid with Morata and Jese when they were there.

  5. We have been having a moan about various players — but Jack has gone under the radar — he has had a stinker — no contract for him if I was boss !!!

  6. Welcome back Xhaka. We’ve missed you giving the ball away in dangerous areas to put our defence under pressure.

  7. Snip out that 30 seconds of Kolasinac old-style magic and this half has been as embarrassingly bad as the first.

  8. Hi Wavey,

    Xhaka is the perfect sub– at just the right level for the rest of them.

    Why not bring on the best goalscorer Nketiah — no, AW wants to bring on Bambi on Ice AKA Pillock.

  9. Looking forward to the accusation that we’re all moaning minnies because we won the tie so what’s the problem? It’s that blind acceptance of mediocrity (and worse) that has brought us to this point. If we get hammered by City on Sunday then it’ll be what do you expect with all that oil money, if we win it’s because Arsene is a genius.

  10. Right on queue here are some texts sent to the BBC commentary team:

    Moan, moan, moan. Premier league teams lose to league 2 team in the FA cup, how is this any different. Arsenal are still in the competition and they’ll probably qualify to the next round.
    Antoine, Buckinghamshire.

    I wish so-called fans would give the anti-Wenger rhetoric a rest. It’s boring. The man has brought us more successes, more stability and a complete culture overhaul. He’s been loyal when many big clubs have come calling, holds Arsenal dear to him and deserves respect. Get behind the team, manager and club and push us to do better! Don’t bring the toxic atmosphere, help the team.
    Ant, Arsenal fan

    A lot more entertaining than a certain match in Seville last night.
    Simon Richardson

    Bunch of losers.

  11. If we beat Citeh on Sunday after this performance, Andy — Wenger will have to be a genius.

    This has been shocking.

  12. Jack has had a stinker and the worst part is that others have been so poor that Jack has slipped through the cracks as Henry said.

    The good thing us that bar Bellerin, the rest won’t feature in the Final.

  13. We are an unremitting joke.

    I find myself longing for another Ostersund goal, just to underline the completely dismal nature of the performance.

  14. Thought our crosses into the box were amazing tonight. Well, it was amazing that almost none of them reached a striker (or even Welbeck)

  15. I did not watch the game. The snow is awesome right now and there were better things to do. I was very confident we would win the tie but I had no idea what sort of performance we would have. Sounds like it was mostly bad. No surprises and in reality it does not matter.

  16. This season’s blue jersey is spiced with ill luck. But our U-23 team might have done a better job if they had played tonight.

  17. HenryB:
    Hi Bill,

    I would not want you to stop and take a breath on my account — but your comment at 4:53 is like a horse on a carousel — it keeps on going round and round.

    As I remember saying to you several times in the past (see you have got me doing it)– if all clubs took your attitude, there would be no star players coming thru, as no club would take the time or spend the money to achieve nothing but a cattle-market to breed sub-standard players that no one else would want — and the lights would go out – football would cease to exist.

    And it would all be your fault !!

    Henry the point of that comment was that the worlds big teams can not afford to spend important high leverage minutes to develop their younger players when they know that the vast majority are not going to make it with the big club. Arsenal has been the most patient big team in world football with its younger players. We spent 5 years trying to develop players like Wojo and Ox and we ended up with almost nothing. We can’t compete with team like Man City when we use tens of thousands of minutes trying to build our own superstars such as Iwobe, Wojo, Ox, Jenks, Gibbs, Le Coq, Walcott, Denison, Song, Welbeck, Sanogo etc etc etc etc when its been clear for years that almost none of them will end up making it.

    Real Madrid can’t compete with Barca if they use a lot of their minutes to try to develop a player like Jesé who had a lot of promise but ultimately ended up with Stoke when Barca buy Neymar and Suarez and Coutinho.

    There is a whole world with thousands and thousands of smaller teams who develop players and then the big teams buy them when they come up with a player who ultimately turns out to be Harry Kane. That is how football works in 2018.

  18. What an utter disgrace!

    What in God’s name has happened to the once great club that was Arsenal?

    The entire team should publicly apologise to the fans who paid good money to watch what was absolute garbage.

    We had an entirely non functioning forward line consisting of two hopelessly inadequate players in Welbeck and Iwobi and the completely ineffective Mkhitaryan.

    Wilshere was just plain bad.

    The only member of that team to deserve any praise whatsoever is Ospina for a couple of saves that probably kept us in the competition, at least until the next round.

  19. Its funny because if Ozil was playing and the team played like that, people would be calling for his head.

    I think two things were made even more crystal clear and can’t happen again: Welbeck shouldn’t lead the line and Iwobi needs to be dropped.

  20. Elneny is worse than denilson, welbeck is worse than necklace, chambers and holding are worse than djorou and senderos. Iwobi is worse than eboue. Xhaka is worse than flamini.
    We’re doomed.

  21. Orson Kaert,

    I thought Mkhitaryan tried, but the options around him just weren’t there whenever he was on the ball. As C said, if Ozil had been on the pitch he would likely have received a fair amount of the blame but Iwobi and Welbeck were shocking (again).

  22. Just seen one hell of a stat – we have now lost the home leg of the knock out phase of European competition for 6 years in a row. The last home game we won was against Milan in 2012 (3-0) when we were chasing a thrashing in the San Siro.

  23. Reading this I feel a bit sorry for Welbeck:


    but he doesn’t even appear to be trying any more and that’s the real shame of it. The Welbeck who did a great job in disrupting the Chelsea defence in the FA Cup final seems to have disappeared. It doesn’t help playing with Iwobi either. Wenger held Ozil back because he was still feeling a bit tender following a bout of illness, but it might have been worth giving him a run out and having him and Mkhitaryan as the two ‘wingers’ in the front line to see if they could get Welbeck going between them. Maybe we could have put Nelson on from the start as a youngster with something to prove. It just doesn’t appear to make sense to be playing two players who are both struggling as two of your three man front line.

  24. “We prepared properly and in a serious way,” said Wenger. “But you have external circumstances such as the fact we won 3-0, the fact that we have another big game on Sunday, the fact that people subconsciously think you just have to turn up to win the game. Football doesn’t work like that.

    “It’s better not to talk too much tonight, and focus on our next game.”

    And there lies one of his big problems, he appears to have no interest in reviewing the issues with his players. It’s always straight on to the next game without considering the issues arising from the previous one.
    He has a dilemma on Sunday as he has to choose between levering all of his lads into the team and ensuring that we aren’t too open at the back. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is Ramsey and Xhaka in the middle with Ozil, Aubameyang and Iwobi as his three front men. He’ll then go with three at the back, as he thinks that is the way to shore up the defence when he has a weak midfield defensively.

  25. People on here, and elsewhere, have been calling for Maitland-Niles to be given his chance in midfield, well that went well didn’t it? Hooked off at half-time.

    On a couple of occasions Bellerin got behind their fullback and put a dew decent crosses in, but where was our central striker? ON THE BLOODY LEFT WING!

  26. Wavey,

    Yes I read that this morning….and re-read it with growing incredulity. “Prepared properly and in a serious way”. He has to be fucking joking!

  27. Actually I am glad I didn’t see the game or else I would be in the worst mood now. How can Wenger claim he was seriously prepared?

    Part of the ‘sticking square pegs in round holes routine’ is what must have made Welbeck shunt to the left. A lack of established playing patterns, poor coaching, poor defensive preparations, poor positioning, stagnant tactics.

    How much longer do we bear this sham ? Arsenal must be the most incompetent club at the top echelons of European football, with the most spineless BOD, and the most complacent owner.

  28. What annoys me most is AW continual post match failure to talk about the sides shortcomings without making any link to the fact he’s the f*cking manager!

  29. Orson Kaert,

    Not sure what happened to AMN on the night. I would have thought being alongside Elneny would have helped him settle in, but he was like a rabbit in the headlights. He was completely unprepared for their pressing and struggled, badly. I do think that part of the reason we struggle so badly against pressing teams is because no one is being told to support the man on the ball. It’s all well and good making a pass to someone else and then thinking your work is done, but we need to see players passing and moving. It’s almost as if we pass a ball onto another player and then regard it as their problem. If there were was more movement off the ball we wouldn’t see the defenders and midfielders being caught out in possession so much, or trying to squeeze in a pass when the space just isn’t there. We used to be a passing team, but that rarely happens now.

    A shame the autocorrect changed Willock’s name on Henry’s post last night, but I did think he played like a bit of a pillock when he came on. He tried to overdo everything when what was required was to keep things simple. He didn’t need to go on and prove he could change the game, he needed to prove that he could go on and be a working part of the team. With so many parts not working last night, it needed a steady performance from the bench. It appears that he was another player told to go on and do his stuff, rather than being given specific instructions. It’s interesting that so many teams have a coach talking through tactics before a player comes on, whereas we just get them warmed up, stripped off and on the pitch.

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