STONE COLD FRIDAY: Arsenal Sucker Punched Into Second-Round Dog Fight

Possession may be nine tenths of the law, but it’s that damn sucker punch, that remaining one tenth that kills your spirit. I must admit, I had this déja vu moment in that 82nd minute. It was a Wembley Cup Final, the same script being replayed. Laurent Koscielny still had his starring role; only Obufemi Martins and wochiech szczesny were replaced by Antoine Griezmann and David Ospina respectively. You remember that match, right? When one moment of madness leaves you scratching your head and wondering what the hell just happened. Nothing like a sucker punch quietens down a previously raucous stadium. The natives were stunned.

Two weeks ago, I stated my preference for playing Atlético Madrid in the semis. If Atlético Madrid’s goal came in the 82nd minute of the final, the pain would be excruciating. Somehow, I’m not surprised, Arsenal will always be Arsenal. We don’t like to do things the easy way – you know – step on the opponents neck when they’re one man down and reeling. You did wonder whether this was going to be another Man United-esque performance where Arsenal would throw everything including the kitchen sink, and yet only an Alexandre Lacazette goal would stand to be counted.

Gift Horses Don’t Like You Looking In Their Mouth

For sure, the right Arsenal turned up last night. Quick off the blocks with speed and crisp passing. Sime Vrsaljko was the first casualty, a second yellow card within 10 minutes guaranteeing the Atlético defender an early bath. Within 3 minutes of that, Diego Simeone decided he wanted to check out the Arsenal Director’s box, just in case he got a job at the Emirates. It’s often said that going down to 10 men can galvanize the remaining players. With a well drilled defence, it was clear that Atlético were going to revert to salvage mode, the first tie seemingly out of their hands. Smart strategy you would argue, close shop and try recover back home.

The onus was on Arsenal. Patience was required, our full-backs both capable of stretching the Emirates turf and tiring the remaining 10 opponents. For this, Granit Xhaka was key; spraying the ball from left to right at every possible opportunity to use Monreal and Bellarin to stretch the opponent. The Arsenal heat map at half-time was interesting, 7 of our players literally camped in the Atlético final third. Arsenal huffed and puffed, but Oblak refused to let the visitors door tumble down. That dreaded question lingered. Are we going to rue the missed chances?

Woe betide you if you think a lion that has been rained on is a pussy cat

Any tactical observer would have known Atlético’s strategy. Absorb the relentless heat and punt the long ball up the field, or wait to counter attack. It didn’t matter that Arsenal had 76% possession in the first half and 83% in the second. Atlético still had the skill, the quality and the ability to punish any team in Europe regardless that they were 10 down. Antoine Griezmann had already given notice several times that he wasn’t just there to make up the numbers. Lose the game or not, an away goal for them would be a good day at the office.

It took a Jack Wilshere cross and an Alex Lacazette salmon-like leap to breach Oblak’s goal in the 61st minute. You could feel the relief at the Emirates. 6 minutes later a Lacazette cross was begging for Welbeck to throw himself at it – just a touch, any touch, but alas, the second goal didn’t come. Aaron Ramsey beautifully did his ghosting act into the box, but Oblak was equal to the challenge, making an excellent save to push the goal bound ball out for a corner.

Who Said Route One Doesn’t Work?

You’re thinking, 80 minutes guys. Take the ‘One nil to the Arsenal’. Pull the shutters down, shut shop and let’s call it a night. More goals would be nice, but a single goal also works. The script was written; Welbeck losing the ball; Jose Maria Gimenez punting the ball forward; and then the pantomime. There is no excuse for a player of Koscielny’s calibre and the club captain to have a howler like that in the 82nd minute. The worry at that point was whether Arsenal would panic and even do something more ridiculous. The sucker punch delivered, the only other job remaining was to close out the game and focus on the return leg.

For many, the end of the match must have left a bitter taste in the mouth. In the cold light of day, 1-1 in a semi-final tie against Atlético Madrid is a decent score under normal circumstances. Last night was not normal. The gods handed Arsenal a gift in the 10th minute; the natives were back and totally behind the crowd in an electrifying atmosphere; and it was Arséne Wenger’s final European game at home for Arsenal. It’s easy enough to ruminate about the lost opportunity, the chance to even kill off the semi-final in this first tie, but we are where we are.

Did Someone Mention Old Trafford?

I don’t know about you, but I feel this weekend’s match against United is a total distraction; a Premier League dead rubber if ever there was one. Arséne should just put the Chuckle brothers – Chambers and Holding, throw in Kolasinac, Iwobi, Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and the lot and let them enjoy themselves. Oh, that fella called Aubameyang too. He needs to be kept gainfully employed.

The rest of the team should focus, get themselves in the right head space and understand they have a cup final on Thursday in Madrid. We’re 180 minutes away from a trophy and that takes precedence over stroking the egos of Moaninho and that fella that used to play for us a few months ago.

Have a great weekend good people.

51 thoughts on “STONE COLD FRIDAY: Arsenal Sucker Punched Into Second-Round Dog Fight

  1. Good Morning I and all.

    I knew you would post quite early. Well it was as Wengeresque as Arsenal could get yesterday.

  2. Fair summary
    Just been watching game on demand sadly
    (Worse with an old man city fan in the pub)

    Hindsight

    I did want back 3 but we’d need to go into black holes to discover if the red card would have happened

    Welbeck does work hard. He does.

    But is he good enough?

    I am not sure he really has that instinct necessary at this level.

    Back 3 means he misses out in the 11.

    Let his energy work as a sub.

    Myki to start next week

    Exciting 2-2 please

  3. According to the Sun: Luis Enrique wants a £200m transfer war chest to overhaul Arsenal… and only the strikers are safe from the axe.

  4. Same old Wenger. Far too cautious when Madrid went down to 10 men.

    Why not sub a Xhaka for a more attacking player like Iwobi? Stick Welbeck up front rather than on the wing? Why no subs?

    Koscielny made a mess of pretty much the only thing he had to do all night. He has plenty of experience of this.

    Not all hope lost, but a big ask now.

  5. A draw that felt more like a defeat, Lacazettte’s goal though was superb.
    I think we are done for in Spain next week, maybe next season will be our year lol.

  6. typical athletico, typical arsenal.

    28 shots to 6 and they come away with a draw. all too predictable really.

    no way back from this – they can have 2 reds in the next leg and we still wont score at their house.

  7. Nicely done Mr Kute,

    Goodly mourning All, beautiful day don’t you think. Imagine, a month ago a result like this would have been added to the dossier Ivan handed to Josh. That book has been closed and burned. Players make gaffs all the time but hopefully this summer we can reduce our reputation as jokers. That said I enjoyed Antoine’ piss take celebration.

  8. lari03:
    According to the Sun: Luis Enrique wants a £200m transfer war chest to overhaul Arsenal… and only the strikers are safe from the axe.

    Not overly keen on Luis but I can completely get behind talk like that. If it wasn’t for his arsenal connection whilst working for Nike I’d be lookin at sanllehi a bit sideways due to his Barcelona history. So to bring in another barca bloke would niggle me slightly.

  9. Surprised, no. Bitter taste, definitely. We always know there is a calamity in the locker.

    Those managers, who are considering the role of next Arsenal manager, must have watched and have thought:

    Forwards – yep, they’ll do especially with PEA to fit it.

    Midfield – can work with that. Needs a bit of coaching, pruning and tweaking but largely ok.

    Wingbacks – fine. Great going forward, but need some coaching defensively. LB to replace in a years time due to age.

    Goalkeeper – Mmm, well if I can’t get anyone better he’ll do, but would like to replace. Good distribution though. Decent back up keeper.

    Centre backs – Oh dear, oh deary deary me. Do I drop this on the table at the interview or wait until I’ve got the job. Those clowns need replacing pronto. Fifty million and a few sales may do the trick, but I want more than that and I want them in right after the World Cup.

    Translate into Spanish, German, French etc as appropriate.

  10. Great post Isaac/Darius.

    Last night is the best possible example of why I would like Simeone to be our next manager. His teams gets results in spite of tough odds because his teams play solid defense. Simeone’s pragmatism would be the perfect antidote for the problems that have become part of our Wengerian culture in this decade. IMO.

  11. Good summary. Just the way I’ve felt since Waiting long at Finsbury Park, getting home at 12.30 then rising to chew through my porridge. Just think how good we’ll feel when we win in Madrid though!

    Kos is past his sell-by date and Moustafi is a misfit.

  12. Good stuff Darius!

    1-0 I would have gladly taken, 2 or 3 -0 (as it should have been if Welbeck would have even gotten a toenail on it and if Jack looks to shoot instead of cut it back off an Ozil pass) would have been brilliantly but 1-1 in that way is just fucking annoying.

    The sad thing is, for all the talk of Mustafi……Kos has literally had a mistake like that in a moment when we need him to be quality since his arrival. Darius posted one, what about the straight red last season in the PL prior to the FA Final, or how about the many penalties he gave away and we all said, ‘Kos will be Kos and will always have that mistake in him’.

    I actually still fancy us in the 2nd leg because we did create chances.

  13. The good news is that I firmly believe we can score at their place…. the bad news is I think Atletico will score a few more 🙁

  14. The only good news we have is Wenger is dead gone. I even don’t have time explain the obvious mistakes Wenger made.
    United is gonna hammer Arsenal on Sunday and Wenger excuse will be fatigue.
    You are beaten by 10 men and a coachless team at your own tuff. Assistant coach should replace arsene till May for fucks sake

  15. Even with 10 men it was always going to be tough to score against a resolute and organized defense and well drilled defense such as Atletico. Tactically we did everything right and played with a lot of width and moved the ball reasonably quickly. Still in the end we need to score more then 1 goal when you have a numerical advantage for about 85 minutes. Obviously the worst thing was the defensive mistake and the away goal that will probably cost us whatever chance we might have had to win the tie. Kos made a massive mistake and Mustafi was ball watching thinking that Kos would handle the long ball and did not try to get back into a position until it was to late and then in his rush to make up ground he slipped. Its such a typical Arsenal mistake.

  16. I actually liked the look of Diego’s right hand man who replaced him once he got sent to the stands…..Cheech Marin!

  17. C

    I am not defending Kos because yesterday his was the biggest blunder but if we were going to make an accounting of all of the individual mistakes that have cost us goals over the last couple seasons then mustafi’s list would definitely be longest.

  18. What happened to ozil yesterday??

    Started off playing really well, second half he couldn’t trap a bag of cement.

  19. Actually if we were making a list of individual mistakes that have hurt us over the last 2 years then Xhaka’s list would probably be longer then Mustafi’s.

  20. Bill,

    Maybe but how many have potentially cost us either in Finals or going to Finals…..2, Kos’s pointless red at the end of the PL season that had him suspended for thr FA Final and yesterday when we were up 1-0 and he literally could have done anything else in to put out the fire EXCEPT the thing that he did.

    Sorry, those two outweigh Mustafi’s from the simple fact that were weren’t going to win the PL anyways.

  21. More like he ate Cheech Marin !!

    I actually liked the look of Diego’s right hand man who replaced him once he got sent to the stands…..Cheech Marin!

    Dukey,

  22. The George Graham version of Arsenal would not have let that 1-0 slip. Next manager needs to know how to drill a defence. Apart from the CB’s, it’s a good squad for the new guy to work with. Big ask now in Madrid.

  23. Emery is officially leaving PSG, which means Arsene could go there and we could potentially end up with Tuchel.

  24. On a positive note, I thought Lacazette was brilliant last night and showed an all around style that comined his years as a winger and as a striker.

  25. C

    I think everyone understands that Kos made the critical mistake yesterday. Mustafi might have been able to compensate if he had moved into a better position sooner but that is only speculation. I think Mustafi came into some criticism simply because he has been a high profile mistake machine all season and most of us don’t have the same patience that you have for certain players. I think realistically both Kos and Mustafi need to be replaced ASAP. Kos is probably not worth much in the transfer market but we could probably raise some cash by selling Mustafi and our other mistake machine Xhaka.

  26. man didnt you guys just know that one of our CBs would fuck it up? We totally arsenal’d it. Kos & Mustafi are kind of CBs would do not inspire confidence. How many times have teams just hoofed it over everyone, our CBs are trying to play offsides or something cute, and the other team gets a brilliant chance. Over the weekend Shelvey hit the same pass two or three times in a row in a span of 5 minutes, each time their striker was through and finally he scored one.

    Thanks for the birmingham reminder as well, i forgot about that one. Poor kos, so close to a win tonight and he cleared the ball off his own face to the opposing striker. I think we have maybe a 20% chance to win next week. In truth this is probably the most fittin send off for wenger, we’ve been doing it for about 10 years so why stop now? Couple soft goals, real gut-punches right when that trophy is nearly within reach.

  27. Bill,

    Thats fine but it was amazing how many people I saw and talked to that immediately pointed to Mustafi, I mean FFS Kos was clearly in decline last season and sure Mustafi has made some mistakes but Kos makes those BIG MISTAKES in massive matches. Imagine the difference in mood if Kos deals with that ball and the match finishes 1-0? Mustafi actually tries to cover for him and he slips (something that was happening all night to the players). The problem I have is that since his arrival Kos has ALWAYS made that mistake or had a mistake in him whether it was the penalty year as I like to call it or blunders like that, for such a quality CB you think he should be dealing with thise better.

    As far as bringing in a CB, I’m all for bringing in a commanding CB and keeping Mustafi to see what could happen because I think he is a good CB and just needs proper coaching and a commanding CB beside him. I think both Mustafi and Kos need a commanding CB presense beside them….think about Kos’ best years, they all came with Mert being that commanding, organizing presense.

  28. .C,

    I’d definitely like to see what mustafi would be like next so say, manolas or koulibaly under a tuchel. He’s still like 23 isn’t he?

  29. Colts,

    I think Mustafi next to a commanding CB I think would bring the best out of him, well that in some coaching. According to what I saw he just turned 26 this year.

  30. C

    The first reaction to blame Mustafi happens because he has made so many mistakes this year that we have come to expect it from him. After a while a player loses the benefit of the doubt. Once you watch the replay then it becomes clear who made the critical mistake.

    I know you will never throw a player you like under the bus but if we are going to keep Mustafi to see what happens with the new manager then you have to make the same argument for every player on the team, even the ones you don’t like such as Ramsey, Wilshere, Kos and Welbeck etc etc etc. I guess we could just keep everyone and see what happens but unfortunately we are probably going to have to raise some cash in order to start the rebuilding and we can’t let emotion get in the way of making the tough choices. Mustafi and Xhaka have been the biggest culprits in terms of making individual mistakes and off the players that we could potentially sell they had the highest transfer fees when we bought them and they will bring some of the bigger fees if we sell. We could sell Bellerin and replace him with someone much cheaper who is just as good.

    I think the only players who should be unsellable are PEA and Lacazette because we need to keep all of our firepower and it would cost a fortune to buy another goal scorer. Unfortunately Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Kolasinac should be on the selling block but they are on such high wages they are probably unsellable.

  31. Cech was a world clsss GK and if we are going to wait to see what happens with a new regime then he deserves the same consideration.

  32. After watching Almunia, Fabianski, Wojo and Cech you could argue that GK has been the position which has been the hardest hit by Wengerball.

  33. I see those and raise you Stepanovs, Silvestre, Koscielny, Cygan, Gallas, Mustafi, Squillaci, and Senderos.

    Mikael bloody Silvestre.

    Centre-back is a bit more of an issue.

  34. YW,

    The way things are going you may be adding Chambers and Holding.

    Funny that Keown could…maybe I shouldn’t cause nicky is lurking

  35. The more I think about it, I wouldn’t mind seeing Ozil, Mkhitaryan get a run out against Manure playing alongside Aubameyang. Welbeck, Jack, Ramsey and Kos should be put in bubble wrap(though I wouldn’t mind Holding over Kos honestly) because their made of glass. Rest Bellerin and Nacho unfortunately Xhaka has to play but I would pair him with Iwobi.

    Cech
    Maitland-Niles—Chambers—Holding—-Sead
    —–_————Xhaka———-Iwobi
    Nelson———-Ozil———–Mkhitaryan
    Aubameyang

  36. .C,

    Nicky’s lurking?

    Well, I’ll just take advantage of that in case he missed my message yesterday.

    Hey Nicky, you sniveling, grovelling arsecreep, go fuck yourself.

  37. Yogi,

    nelson vivas.

    Talking of keown I still think he was totally underated. What a beast. I wish whoever comes in asks him to come and work on the defence.

  38. nicky,

    So C was correct, you were lurking like the little sniveller you are.

    So glad I was able to let you know what a cunt you are.

    In army terms “jy is ‘n dom onnesel poes en jy hoort jou bek stil te hou”.

  39. YW

    Great point. Don’t forget my personnel favorite CB pairing of Gallas and Vermaelen. What a Charlie Foxtrot that one was. Our CB and GK’s have almost universally been devastated playing the post-invincible version of Wengerball.

  40. C,
    I find that I agree with you quite often in retards to certain players.
    – OZil, Bellerin, Podolski etc.
    Think we might differ on Holding. I see him as a real leader as a CB. Wish he was given more games to fast track his development.

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