How Can Arsenal Create More Chances?

Highbury Harmony wrote (in the previous post):

Hard to accommodate an Ozil like player while remaining in the current formation, though!

I’ve seen Partey play some exquisite passes and same with Dani and Saka (even Xhaka too). I feel like part of the problem is our front three are all more inside forwards than true wingers looking to create. The chemistry and directness is still not there yet, as the understanding of where to move and pass to, in order to combine and break down a team is still a work in progress.

Fulham game aside, we looked our best in attack this season with Willian central, Auba up top and Saka/Pepe on the wings. If Arteta dares to move to 4 at the back, there could be a solution. I am maybe just a bit naive to think there’s still more we can maximize in the 3-4-3 to create more chances.

I agree with HH. An Ozil like player is unlikely to get a foot in, unfortunately. Also a good point about chemistry. I think our attackers simply get outnumbered a lot at the moment, so excellent mutual understanding and blind connectivity is key. However, if you look at Pool and MC they push up and then have the numbers around the oppositions’ boxes to do the passing and finding the gaps and cracks. They also have established that vital chemistry between the attackers. Numbers + chemistry = increase in chances and thus goals.

It takes us a lot of effort to get to the same potential overload situations at the moment. We still sit too deep and don’t dare to push up quickly, because we cannot afford to fall back into ‘Emery-ball’ in which we create and give away equal numbers of chances with the hope that we score one more than them…

It is a work in progress and for me it is vital to sort out the right wing of the team next.

Ceballos has a tendency to veer leftwards, where Xhaka is at home. We need him, or most probably Partey, to sort out the right side the way Granit bosses the left side of midfield. That is why I am so hopeful Partey will make a big difference in terms of improving our attacking play. He can do the b2b in an athletic sort of way. Only Elneny could do this until now, but I see him more as back up to Granit.

So Partey (and Ceballos as back up) can help us with the link up on the right, and Arteta will now have to put his plan in place for our right side of the team. It is not clicking at the moment, although there was progress v the Blades before the international break.

Arteta will need to get the right set of players together. Who should be our nr1 RCB, nr1 RWB, nr1 RFW? Their style of play and key skills need to fit well with each other and make the whole more than the sum of its parts. I have a feeling that Holding has won the RCB spot, that there will be a battle/competition between Hector and Soares (and AMN) for the RWB position, and that Willian is ahead of Pepe for the RFW role (like you I see Auba and Pepe as ‘Inside Forwars’).

So I am most excited about the way Partey will play and how he will help us to get the right wing working much better, and with that improve our attacking play significantly. For me he is the missing link. I see potential in Ceballos and it is great to have him in the squad but I think Partey will push us to another level. Mikel has to make some difficult decisions, but I reckon sooner or later we will see an established right side of Holding, Soares, Partey, Willian/Pepe – with back up of Bellerin for Holding (if we play 3 at the back, until Chambers is back) and Soares; Ceballos for Partey; and, Nelson for Willian/Pepe.

Finally, I am hoping that we will have a player who occupies the area in front of the opposition’s D a lot whilst connecting well with our central midfielders AND fellow attackers. Laca has been our main player for this and Willian did in my opinion a good job of it on Saturday. The false nr9 things makes sense when we have lethal attackers like Auba and Pepe on the pitch. We need a proper goal threat from such a player so I am happy with either Laca or Willian to play there. The latter is the better passer, and the former the better finisher but they are both great players and will benefit tremendously from a well-balanced and constantly connecting midfield and a much improved right wing.

My final, final point is whether we can improve further on this ‘false 9’ position and whether there was genuine interest in Aouar this summer? Or do we have an even better internal alternative? I would play a young man in that position, one who can defend like a full back or a DM, can dribble and can pass billiard balls when others are playing cricket and can score goals from all angles and even with his head. 🙂

By TotalArsenal and Highbury Harmony

Posted in Uncategorized | 32 Comments

The New Sol, What a difference in 4 months, A beautiful Partnership at LW: 8 Observations

The morning after the night before and I am sure not to be the only one who feels a little bit deflated. There is a feeling that we could have gotten more from that game but lacked a bit of confidence to go home with a point (or more). What it demonstrates, however, is that we are making progress but aren’t there yet. This should of course not come as a surprise, but we just cannot help those high expectations creeping in; and when this happens we will sooner or later get a little disappointed. The Big picture is good, very good, though.

Raheem Sterling

My player ratings would be a bore for you. I would give everyone a 7, except for Gabriel, Tierney, Xhaka and Saka who all had excellent games. Everybody worked hard and stuck to the plan, very few mistakes were made, chances were created. We just did not get a result.

Instead, I will give you my eight observations of the match and these may be better discussion points for all of us:

  1. The key stats for this game tell you a story, a big story of progress. It feels like ages but we played MC away only just four months ago exactly. This is how the two games compare (17/6 v 17/10): possession (%) 67/33 – 59/41; Shots 20/3 – 13/11; Shots on Target: 12/0 – 5/3; fouls 9/7 – 15/10 and corners 5/2 – 6/6. Okay we played a big part of the June game with 10 men and Citeh missed KdB yesterday, but to have almost equal numbers of shots on goal and shots on target and equal numbers of corners tells us that we were much closer to a result in this game – it could have easily gone our way – and tactically so much better than in previous games at Man City.
  2. We gave that one goal to MC away very cheaply and that will hurt Arteta and the team. It was a simply break from midfield and Foden was able to cut in with ease past scrambling Bellerin and hit a strong shot at Leno. The German saved the shot but it spilled into the danger area and Sterling could not miss. Xhaka had been ahead of Ceballos, and when Mahrez found Aguero in free space in midfield the rusty Argentinian was able to run away from Ceballos and feed the young Englishman. We had three in defence but all were running back and there was no shield for the defence from midfield. It was poor positioning by the team and Luiz should have provided better cover for Bellerin as the cutback should have been anticipated. Some have criticised Leno for palming the ball away to the danger zone but it was a reflex safe (and Martinez would not have done better!) and it fell fortuitously to a free Sterling. That’s football.
  3. Once again our left side was our most dangerous one and it was a joy to watch how Tierney and Saka – often left too isolated by fellow ‘attackers’ – made things happen and almost got a reward for it. Saka was our most dangerous attacker and was a bit unlucky to meet a goalkeeper in form on the night. But the boys worked together really well and they were the only ones who really tried to take the game to MC without thinking too much about their tactical instructions.
  4. Our right side was once again too quiet, and I reckon this is due to Pepe’s lack of ball controlling and passing ability and Bellerin just not being a wingback for the Twenties. Launch Pepe into space and he can be a menace but in these dense, space-less games we need him to hold onto the ball and do the intricate passing football with his teammates. Willian played a more central role and was often too isolated, and his partnership with fellow players is as yet not ideal shall we say. There is more to come from Pepe and Willian of that I am convinced, and we need it as we cannot rely too much on our left wing for our attacks at the moment. I also believe that Soares is the better option as wingback.
  5. Our biggest issue is that, once we got unluckily behind, we were not able to, or did not dare to, push up and put Citeh under more sustained pressure. When you saw how easy it was to score against us when we are out of position, it is not hard to understand our reluctance. Arteta knows that and was hoping that we would once again take one or two of our (few) chances when they would occur (which they did eventually). I applaud this as many a 2010-18 Wenger team went out on full attack after conceding the first goal at Man City and got then punished mercilessly. Once again we were in this game till the end, as we were v Pool in the league, and that is progress. We want more and it will come but we need to remain patient.
  6. Unfortunately, we tired in the last 25 minutes and this was to be expected. Xhaka (after full on international games v Spain and Germany the week before) especially became less effective then and Ceballos – who played overall a disciplined game – was also tiring. Partey got only 10 minutes and maybe Arteta should have put him on earlier as to reinvigorate our efforts. I guess the game just came too early for our new shiny signing but I liked what I saw of him nevertheless.
  7. Instead, Arteta had hoped for re-invigoration to come from the introduction of Laca but this backfired. His passing was rusty and his runs and positioning did not cause the Citeh defence any issues. I don’t think Alex is suitable for being the supersub for us: this man needs to grind out performances from the start: he is more of a wolf than a jaguar.
  8. My final observation goes to Gabriel dos Santos Magalhaes who looked solid and confident. Yes our player with the highest number of passes this season misplaced one or two balls, but I never worried about him and he looked so at home in that game. He so strong in the air and on the ground and he combines great intensity with calm almost continuously. This is Sol Campellesque if you ask me and a big positive to take away and build on.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 34 Comments

Arsenal v Man City Preview and Ideal Formation and Lineup

Arsenal v Manchester City  –  October 17, 2020

See the source image

The club City was founded in 1880, 139 years ago as St. Mark’s (West Gorton). And on 16 April 1894, 124 years ago, it became Manchester City.

They won their first major honour with the FA Cup in 1904. The club won the First Division title for the first time in 1937, but were relegated the following season, despite scoring more goals than any other team in the division.

Inspired by a tactical system known as the Revie Plan they reached consecutive FA Cup finals in 1955 and 1956. They lost in 1955 to Newcastle United but they won the second, the 1956 final, in which they beat Birmingham City 3–1. It is one of the most famous finals of all-time, and is remembered for City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann continuing to play on after unknowingly breaking his neck.

They had a period of success in the late 1960s, winning the League, FA Cup and League Cup under the management of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. After losing the 1981 FA Cup Final, the club went through a period of decline, culminating in relegation to the third tier of English football.

See the source image

Pep Guardiola, former manager of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, is the current manager, who has been in charge since the dismissal of Pellegrini in 2016. Under Guardiola, Manchester City won the 2017–18 Premier League title with the highest points total in Premier League history and broke numerous other club and English league records along the way. They also won the EFL Cup that year and Sergio Agüero became the club’s all time leading goalscorer.

Guardiola then guided the club in 2018–19 to retain their Premier League and EFL Cup titles; the first time in Manchester City’s history that the club had completed any successful title defence. The team then went on to also win the FA Cup and so complete an unprecedented treble of English domestic men’s titles. In 2020, UEFA banned the club from European competition for two seasons for alleged breaches of the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations; the club appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who overturned the ban within months, finding that some allegations were above the five-years-old limit for such UEFA investigations, while the other allegations were unproven. However, CAS fined the club 10 million euros for failing to produce significant amounts of evidence to UEFA in an obstruction of the investigation.

In reviewing the history of their excursions through the various divisions of English football it became apparent that in order to detail them I would need to write a book – instead I created a spreadsheet (surprise, surprise).

Man City League History
1892–1899 Division 2
1899–1902 Division 1
1902–1903 Division 2
1903–1909 Division 1
1909–1910 Division 2
1910–1926 Division 1
1926–1928 Division 2
1928–1938 Division 1
1938–1947 Division 2
1947–1950 Division 1
1950–1951 Division 2
1951–1963 Division 1
1963–1966 Division 2
1966–1983 Division 1
1983–1985 Division 2
1985–1987 Division 1
1987–1989 Division 2
1989–1992 Division 1
1992–1996 Premier
1996–1998 Division 1
1998–1999 Division 2
1999–2000 Division 1
2000–2001 Premier
2001–2002 Division 1
2002– Premier

Manchester City Club Honours


Division 1 Winners (2): 1936–37, 1967–68

Premier League Winners (4) 2011–12, 2013–14, 2017–18, 2018–19


FA Cup

Winners (6): 1903–04, 1933–34, 1955–56, 1968–69, 2010–11, 2018–19

Football League Cup / EFL Cup

Winners (7): 1969–70, 1975–76, 2013–14, 2015–16, 2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20

FA Charity Shield / FA Community Shield

Winners (6): 1937, 1968, 1972, 2012, 2018, 2019


European / UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup

Winners (1): 1969–70


League and EFL Cup (2): 2013–14, 2017–18

EFL Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (1): 1969–70


Domestic Treble (League, FA Cup, and EFL Cup) (1): 2018–19

Our Premier league record is deceiving as even though we hold the superior record away to Manchester City we have not beaten them since Januray 18th, 2015. and have been outscored 13 to 5 since our last win.

Arsenal v Man C  EPL Away Results
116-Jan-931  10
215-Jan-94 1 00
312-Dec-941  21
410-Sep-951  10
511-Apr-011  40
622-Feb-031  51
731-Aug-031  21
825-Sep-041  10
904-May-061  31
1026-Aug-06  101
1102-Feb-081  31
1222-Nov-08  103
1312-Sep-09  124
1424-Oct-101  30
1518-Dec-11  101
1623-Sep-12 1 11
1714-Dec-13  136
1818-Jan-151  20
1908-May-16 1 22
2018-Dec-16  112
2105-Nov-17  113
2203-Feb-19  113
2317-Jun-20  103
Arsenal v Man C  – All Away Results
 Division 2115617
 Division 12218228786
 Premier League11393834

Our best hope of gaining a result would appear to be the “Arteta effect”.


TA’s Preferred Lineup

I will probably do a predicted line up post tomorrow, based on injury updates etc, but below is my ideal formation/ line-up to beat the Northern Oilers:

What is your ideal lineup tomorrow?

Posted in Uncategorized | 53 Comments

All Arsenal Transfer Window Activities Scored 1 – 10

The assessment of the summer transfer window

While the international break takes over our weekly Arsenal schedule, let’s use the time to reflect on the rather interesting and intensive transfer window. With the following disclaimers:

I will base my evaluation based on the public information. The actual outcome may vary. Many players develop synergies with Arteta, but not everybody progresses in the optimistically expected trajectory. We’ll see…

A particular player, Arteta or time obviously may prove me wrong (in some cases I hope for that), but I did base my assessment on the most likely scenarios as of today (last weekend).

As many of you already know I honestly don’t believe in the „the bigger the better” squad theory. So I rate a signing high if – and only if – it improves on the first team. Squad depth is not my main concern.

Since some country’s (Netherlands, Russia, Portugal) as well as the domestic EFL transfer window closes later, there might be a few transfers (mostly loans) in the queue this year. I hope there will be players leaving the squad temporarily, but I assumed only a ’Saliba going on loan to the Championship’ at this point; which is not even an ’almost certainty’ since Monday morning…

Transfers and loans in the U23 team – albeit interesting – are out of the scope from this analysis.

Within the respective categories I tried to list the transactions chronologically, or position-wise (from defense to attack). Value or importance have nothing to do with the order. However the financial aspects of the transactions were taken into consideration.

High scores represent proper decisions and good news, low scores imply errors in judgement, bad decisions and missed opportunities, or just my sorrow that it turned out that way.


Permanent signings:

Pablo Mari – 4 – he came on a cheap for a tall, left footed center-back, but eventually this is not a niche position any more. We saw him play only a couple of games before his unfortunate and long injury. While familiar with the PL, speaks a few languages, I wonder where and how he will be reintegrated. It would be a shame if he finds himself on the periphery, but the odds are against him.

Cerdic Soares – 6 – a free transfer is (almost) always welcome. Soares is an experienced and reliable player, and he made a great debut as a supersub against Norwich. He didn’t really shine ever since, but he wasn’t the weakest link either. With the dramatic improvement of AMN I’m not sure we needed Cedric, but he provides competition and alternative to Hector, which is a good thing.

Willian – 7 – another free transfer, but cost an arm and leg on salaries and signing on fees, as he became the club’s second highest earner. (He slipped to the 4th place now, as PEA and Partey overtook him, though.) Willian had an unbelievable first game – with 3 assist in the opening round – but nothing spectacular ever since. He is contracted till his 35th birthday, which is kind of a liability, but that is a risk we had to take for a marquee signing. +1 point already added for sucking Chelsea in.

Gabriel Magalhães – 10 – unexpected as it is, the fairy tale and clear winner of the transfer window is the tall young Brazilian. Settled to London and Arsenal quick and vell, played great in each of the games involved (won all 3), Gabriel is commanding in the air and unaffected by the concentration curse that is typical of Luiz, Shkodran, Rob and Sokratis. He even scored a goal. And the best is that we bought him for a reasonable price. Sven ’diamond eye’ Mislintat would be proud of such a signing – the next Virgin van Dijk…

Rúnar Rúnarsson – 3 – apologies for the low score but/albeit I haven’t seen him play. Rúnar, 25, became a Gúnar for a low price based on his history with our goalkeeping coach – that is a promising sign. He is surprisingly short for a keeper yet has huge shoes to fill taking Emi’s place at #2 (pun intended). I hope that we can see him play in the Europa League and the early rounds of the FA Cup, so he can convince us.

Thomas Partey – 8 – I admit if this post would have been created a week ago I would have given Thomas a 6. I don’t follow La Liga that closely and while I appreciate I don’t really like Simeone nor Atletico. We paid a 60% surcharge on his TM market value, and we already had capable DMs. But reading posts and comments on Bergkampesque the enthusiasm here infected me, and reading how much more than a brutal enforcer he is made me infatuated with Partey. He earns double than he should, but if he really becomes the missing piece from Arteta’s master plan, then he can earn it next year in the Champions League.

Coming back:

Mohamed Elneny – 6 – another case when I have to admit being wrong (don’t get used to that). When I learned that he didn’t stay in Turkey I quickly jumped to the conclusion to sell him at almost any price as the reduced wage bill should have been the main target with Mo. But he put in some mature and disciplined performances. Still nothing spectacular, but more reliable and versatile than he was under Wenger. Even though we won’t see him playing in the PL much when Partey settles in, he could be the calm midfield presence our youngsters need in EL and cup games. And he is still the great amiable guy that he always was.

Emile Smith-Rowe – 5 – I’m genuinely glad he’s back, but I’m not too happy if he stays for the season with us as our central midfield is already crowded, and so far the AM role is not-existent in Arteta’s main formation. (Even if that changes there are players ahead of Emile in the pecking order.) He is a good boy who will surely become a great player, but could probably use another loan stint in the Championship. I see him in Arsenal’s future, but maybe not in the immediate future, and playing 270 minutes a season would be arrested development.

Loan players:

Dani Ceballos – 8 – his second spell at Arsenal obviously makes the squad stronger and tactically more versatile. The midweek international game showed that he can be deployed even further ahead, even though he has remarkable defensive statistics with us. He wanted to come back, which is always flattering. I know I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, but if his cooperation with Partey (and Xhaka) turns out to be fruitful, he should be our #1 priority signing in the next transfer window. Let’s hope, Real Madrid won’t be aware of that.

Misses (didn’t come):

Hossem Aouar – 3 – let’s face the reality: without selling Guendouzi and Torreira there was no way to buy both Partey and Aouar. From the age, technical skills, market value and chance creation points of view I would have gone with Hossem, but I can easily accept that the purchase of Thomas was more urgent and pivotal to Mikel’s plans. Again, Arsenal is known to suck at selling players, and unfortunately this case we needed that to buy proper reinforcements.

David Raya – 10 – this rumor was nonsense from the start. No doubt David being a fine keeper, but Arsenal’s 10M offer for him (which was allegedly turned down) was probably a lie fabricated by rubbish journalists or his agent; as Raya is 25 years old, has never played in the top division – in fact he played against a PL team only once – is 183 cm tall, thus would never justify us paying 87% of Martinez’s fee for him. There were similar stories where Arsenal was rumored to pay crazy premiums for unproven players (most notably Sporting teenagers Joelson Fernandes and Nuno Mendes), but only David Raya was taken seriously by sane people…

Donny van de Beek – 4 – we let another gem fall to the wrong hands. The young Dutchman can play CM and AM and is a key pass machine. It breaks my heart that MU will inevitably ruin him playing second fiddle behind Fernandes who is his more experienced, more successful clone. Solskjaer didn’t really need him, the 35M is a steal for a player who is already (or soon will be) as good as Coutinho was before being sold to Barcelona for 130M. And he dates Bergkamp’s daughter, so joining Arsenal would have been the obvious – as well as win-win – solution. Maybe we can sign him in 2-3 years if ESR might not live up to the expectations.

Zaha – 9 – come on; not another expensive winger. No disrespect to Wilfried, but we are properly packed on the wings, and then some. We have some proven professionals as well as young starlets, so Zaha and Arsenal is not a match made in heaven. There will be rumors on our scouts eyeing the Ivory Coast international in every transfer window, but don’t worry: they won’t be true.


Permanent sales:

Emiliano Martinez – 2 – my biggest sorrow for the window, but I don’t really know whose fault it was, if anyone is to blame at all. We had a nothing short of fabulous setup with Bernd and Emi, that is unfortunately gone now. They both played more than 2000 minutes last season, were incredibly popular and the „there is no dedicated #1 keeper” principle provided healthy competition keeping both guys on the edge of their seat in a positive way. Apparently Martinez couldn’t accept him not being given the #1 pledge, and became discontent after his first – but truly incredible – streak of remarkable performances, so Arsenal had no choice, but to sell him below his value.

Henrik Mkhitarian – 3 – this is a similarly low score, however for different reasons: I’m less upset about Henrikh leaving than how he left. Terminating a contract in order to let the player leave on a free transfer is a beau geste. Something that was apt in Jack Wilshere’s situation, but an unexplained 20M gift to Rome this case. We were interested in a few players from AS Roma anyway (Diawara, Ünder, Kluivert), at least some swap or player + cash deal would have been reasonable. I know we managed to remove his 180k salary from the wage bill, but that was a sad – and seemingly unprofessional – depreciation of what Alexis Sanchez was for Arsenal in 2016.

Loan players:

Konstantinos Mavropanos – 5 – I’m not at all prone to conspiracy theories, but it is hard to find a reasonable justification how come the career of the promising yet low-concept Mislintat signings (Guendouzi, Mavropanos Torreira) turned into a disaster in the last 6-8 months. Mavro was probably our best performing loanee last season, and since we are packed in the back a last Bundesliga trip could be understood. I hope we’ll not let Konstantinos get wasted and give him a chance to prove himself next season (without Luiz and Sokratis ahead of him in the team).

Matteo Guendouzi – 7 – probably the best outcome would have been selling him for 43M realizing a profit of 500% in 2 years, but since nobody was willing to pay him above 20M sending the young Frenchman on loan was a reasonable alternative. After a good season in Berlin Arteta can reintegrate him into the team, to continue his stellar trajectory under Emery, but it would definitely increase his value as well as marketability, so if we sell him eventually it could be for a decent fee. I wasn’t a huge fan of Matteo, but he didn’t cross a line to deserve being buried, which wouldn’t do the club any good either. I hope this story is still salvageable.

Lucas Torreira – 3 – the other painful decision besides Emi, and it was at a similarly large extent the player’s fault. But while Martinez left on a high, Lucas failed to adapt to the new environment, language and culture. I don’t think his downfall had much to do with the physicality of the PL, as 12 months ago he thrived here and was considered one of the world’s top6 DMs and a signing masterstroke. Maybe he’ll rediscover his future in Spain, but due to the loan contract details with Atletico we will not benefit from him getting back to his proper 50M value. The only positive thing about his suspenseful transfer saga is that we didn’t sell or loan him to those stingy, petty Italian barstewards.

Deyan Iliev – 5 – some may not know him at all, but we have the future North-Macedonian keeper in our books (for 8 years now) who never featured for the first team in competitive games, but has 13 junior caps under his belts and sat on the bench of his country’s senior team 17 times already. He is tall (Runarsson + 20cm / 8 inch), but no other traits of a world class keeper. It would be fair to sell – or even release – him as this neverending loan pressure is a lose-lose. Deyan is 25, worth 270k, contracted to Arsenal until 2022 and not among our top 4 keepers.

William Saliba – 4 – I didn’t want to include him in 2 places as he recently joined, but (hopefully) already on his way to the Championship. To summarize his story it is rather sad, as we were so proudly bought him as one of the most valuable U18 player in the world, solving our defensive woes, but due to a nasty injury, the coronavirus, the cancelling of Ligue 1 last season, the low-life negotiation tactics of Saint-Etienne with regards to the French cup final, a personal tragedy and some unfortunate mis-coaching he slipped from his supreme trajectory. From the loan point of view it is positive and necessary to bring him up to speed for the PL, but William’s journey from being our defensive savior to looking for a lower league host team is just painful.

Misses/fails (didn’t leave):

Sokratis Papastathopoulos – 2 – that was lame. Sokratis is 32, yet has market value and suitorsd all over Europe. The Greek – who helped us big time when the club was in an injury-stricken defensive crisis – is no longer a first team contender under Arteta, earns around 5M a year, and is in the final year of his contract. He should have been sold without hesitation. Period. PSG wanted to sign him on a free (when did the club funded with oil billions become so pathetic?) which we properly turned down, but some of the 5-7M proposals from other clubs should have been accepted as Sokratis will not play much this year. And if he does, it will be on the expense of other defenders.

Rob Holding – 7 – young Rob arrived with plenty of promise and ambition, but after convincing performances injuries set back his development and his position in the pecking order, hence not-so-young Rob is not an obvious starter albeit his fine performances in the last 2 FA cup finals. Therefore it was a major surprise that he started the first 5 games of the season alone, and while made a few mistakes under pressure, none led to goals conceded. Holding is not particularly fast, but makes it up with clever positioning, winning most of the aerial duels and providing plenty of clearances. With Luiz and Mustafi back to fitness he is no longer the first choice RCB, but could get plenty of further minutes in cup ties. He has a great personality; I’m happy he stayed, and hope he remains injury-free this season.

Sead Kolasinac – 4 – I always liked and appreciated him more than the average fan, but Sead could have been sold too, as he is #3 at LB/LWB, however he is still a more active and useful player than Papa. If rumors were true (which surprisingly often not true at all) he had some serious offers from Italy and Germany. Arsenal should have been following them through. He is not that marketable as – being a free transfer – Arsenal pays his signing on fee in his 100k weekly salary, but it didn’t seem impossible. Sead is contracted to us for 2 more years, but we should sit back to the negotiation table during the winter transfer window. He can still be a frequent (super)sub this season with his versatility, but I don’t see the club really stronger with him sitting on the bench.

Shkodran Mustafi – 7 – the German-Albanian world cup winner is difficult to sell when fit (due to his 90k salary and unfairly bad reputation), and it is practically impossible when injured. He is in his last year of his contract, but this is not a bug but a feature in his case. Let’s not forget that Shkodran is our best man-marking defender, the true clearance master; only his frequent lapses of concentration made Mustafi a constant liability under Wenger and Emery. He clearly improved under Arteta, and could return to the first team in a back three. So at the end of the season we can decide whether to offer him a new contract, or part ways. Unlike Sokratis, he does make Arsenal a better team.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles – 8 – for long years Ainsley was kept around the first team for his loyalty and history with the club rather than his performance, but the investment in his career finally started to pay off. He is not merely a versatile sub, but a proper substitute for either side wingbacks and could become more in midfield. AMN is not yet first team material, but in the cup matches he is no longer the main liability any more, and his penalty kicks make up for all the dull moments in the game. I’m glad he stayed, and good luck to him with his England career.

Joe Willock – 4 – I expect this being the main area of disagreement, but I would have sent young Joe on a loan. Regular minutes could have done good to his confidence and tactical maturity, as currently only his relentless pressing is his main asset. Apparently I’m not his only critic; he lost his place in the England U21 setup as well. At Arsenal he is far from the top of the pecking order in CM/AM/RM position, but his pace and strength can still be useful as a late substitute. However we are full of players who can make game-changing supersubs (Pepe, Saka, Ceballos, Nketiah), so keeping Willock at the Emirates without giving him 1500 minutes is a bad decision for me.

Mesut Özil – 6 – this is not just me being a fan of Mesut’s technical skills as well as charitable personality, but due to his astronomical wages there was never a chance to sell him, and almost 0 probability to even give him away wrapped up in a gift box. Arteta’s principle about everybody starting with a clean sheet is promising, but is probably not literally true either. Whatever happened to Özil – starting from him reaching his final year of contract without a proper extension offer, through to his weekly 350k new contract without performance bonuses, to his underutilized (forgotten?) talent in the last couple of years – were/are all signs of serious unprofessionalism, that would call for board member(s) to be fired in a proper company, but somehow Mesut ended up being the lazy and greedy bad guy. It will be a shame if we won’t see him in an Arsenal jersey, but even so it is 8+14 million pounds away.

Reiss Nelson – 3 – we had this argument with TA (and many others when Willian signed) 2 months ago, but 8 attackers is way too many, and Arteta didn’t yet prove otherwise. Since Martinelli is currently injured so far only Nelson seems to be the victim to our oversized attacking contingent, but unless Mikel starts employing Saka or Willian in an AM capacity it is going to get worse in 2021. While the Championship would be a clear step back from winning young player of the months awards for Hoffenheim, I think Reiss should go for loan this season as he is not any less talented than Saka, just didn’t get the same opportunities to prove himself as young Bukayo (whose luck was his ability to play LB). Throwing away a talent that was often considered ’the twin of Jadon Sancho’ would be a federal offense.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 9 – I am really glad that our Gabonese captain decided to pursue his legend status rather than a CL title with Barcelona or Real Madrid. So far his new contract that put him on par or even ahead of Mesut Ozil didn’t improve his effectiveness and clinical finishing, but that might not be such a bad thing as Arsenal was too dependent on Aubameyang scoring the equalizer or the winning goal. I’m not happy that we had to make a habit out of astronomical wages; but if it is the economical necessity to fight for trophies then I’m glad PEA at least has performance related bonuses in his contract.

Alexander Lacazette – 7 – I’m not sure that young Eddie and Auba (moved to ST) would have been sufficient in covering the central forward position, and I would have been strongly against replacing Lacazette with Jovic, Daka or Edouard, who would cost around the same figure what we could have received for Alexandre but have no PL experience. I think it is great he stayed and he already proved Arteta right by scoring goals in every game he started. And let’s not forget, his 3 goals came in 238 minutes (he was substituted in all his 3 PL games), so mark my words: there is more to come.

Final words

In spite of my best efforts, this list is inadvertently subjective. We see players, we treat news sources, we assess possibilities and we evaluate outcomes differently. It is absolutely natural that we celebrate and complain about different events. Don’t hesitate to challenge my views; especially if there is more than 2 points between your score and my rating.

The average of my 30 evaluation above is 5.7 – however the scores should be weighted as the signing of Gabriel or Partey are obviously not at the same importance as sending Iliev on loan or failing to sell Kolasinac – making me generally satisfied and slightly optimistic about the future (as delineated in my reply to TA’s previous post); but I indeed wish we didn’t sell Emi, sold a handful of fringe players, and sent more youngsters on a meaningful loan, as the current squad size of 31 is way too large to my liking. Overall this was a good, but not great transfer window in my opinion.

By PBarany

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Arsenal Manager Have Come and Gone But How Do They Compare to Each Other?

The History of Arsenal Managers

The following is the complete history of Arsenal managers, my research includes information from my own data base,, “Arsenal, The Complete Record” by Josh James, Mark Andrews and Andy Kelly and multiple other sources.


Management Committee 1893 – 1897

In the early years Arsenal were managed by a players committee.

Win %44.92%Pts %50.00%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

Thomas Brown Mitchell 1897 – 1898

Thomas Brown Mitchell was Arsenal’s first professional manager, joining the club in 1897. A Scotsman from the Dumfries area, Mitchell moved south of the border around 1867 and held the title of secretary at Blackburn Rovers for approximately 12 years. He spent less than a season at Arsenal but in that time, managed to guide the club through three FA Cup qualifying rounds before succumbing to Burnley in the first round proper. He also took the club from tenth to fifth place in the League before resigning in March 1898. Mitchell later rejoined Blackburn, where he passed away in August 1921, aged 78.

Win %53.33%Pts %58.89%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

George Elcoat 1898 – 1899

George Elcoat, like his predecessor Thomas Brown Mitchell, only remained at Arsenal for one season. Elcoat, who hailed from Stockton-on-Tees, showed a strong preference for players north of the border as illustrated by him having eight Scotsman in his first-team at one stage. Arsenal finished seventh under his leadership but as the League has been increased to 18 teams, it was on par with the previous season. Arsenal were heavily beaten by Derby in the first round proper of the FA Cup having been given a bye to that stage. He passed away in Stockton-on-Tees in 1929, aged 65.

Win %52.94%Pts %57.84%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

Harry Bradshaw 1899 – 1904

Harry Bradshaw took over the reigns from George Elcoat and in the space of five years, had transformed the fortunes of the club. Regarded as Arsenal’s first successful manager, Bradshaw built his reputation at Burnley from 1891 to 1899 and was a clever tactician, guiding Arsenal to a top-three finish in the League in 1902/03. Bradshaw moved on to Fulham and later became secretary of the Southern League before his death in 1924.

Win %52.94%Pts %59.02%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

Phil Kelso 1904 – 1908

Phil Kelso was a hard, rugged Scot who was a coach at Hibernian, before taking over as manager of newly-promoted Woolwich Arsenal from 1904 until 1908. Kelso guided the club to two consecutive last-four finishes in the FA Cup but did not make much progress in the League. After leaving Arsenal, he returned briefly to Scotland to run a hotel in Largs, before becoming manager of Fulham in 1909. He stayed with the West-London outfit for 15 years before his death in 1935, aged 64.

Win %39.86%Pts %47.07%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

George Morrell 1908 – 1915

George Morrell was manager of Woolwich Arsenal from 1908 to 1915, and oversaw the club’s move from Plumstead in south east London, to it’s former home at Highbury in North London. Morrell was forced to sell many of his best players but still guided the team to sixth in the League in his first season. Unfortunately, he holds the distinction of being the only Arsenal manager to have experienced relegation; Woolwich Arsenal dropped from the First Division to the Second after finishing bottom in 1913. But Morrell’s Arsenal finished 5th in the Second Division in 1915 – high enough to get them elected back into the First Division.

Win %35.71%Pts %43.86%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

Leslie Knighton 1919 – 1925

Leslie Knighton was appointed manager of Arsenal in 1919, following stints as an assistant manager at Huddersfield Town and Manchester City. He was manager for six years, but Arsenal never finished higher than 10th, coming 20th in 1924-25. Knighton was sacked at the end of that season, and was replaced by the now legendary, Herbert Chapman. After leaving the Gunners, Knighton went on to manage Bournemouth, Birmingham City and Chelsea.

Win %34.52%Pts %42.06%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

Herbert Chapman 1925 – 1934

See the source image

Sheffield-born Herbert Chapman not only established Arsenal as English football’s dominant force, but his football concepts and ideas served as a template for teams and managers the globe over. He managed Leeds City and Huddersfield Town before taking over at Highbury where he introduced the 3-3-4 or ‘WM’ formation, winning the FA Cup in 1930 and the First Division title, scoring a club record 127 goals, in 1930/31. He won a second League title two years later before his tragic, sudden death in 1934, aged 55. A bronze bust of Chapman stands inside Highbury as a tribute to his achievements at the club.

Win %48.15%Pts %56.35%

Trophy’s won: –

3 – League Championships

1 – FA Cup

4- Charity Shields

George Allison 1934 – 1947

George Allison was born in Darlington and was a journalist before moving to London in 1905. He became Woolwich Arsenal’s programme editor, and later commentated on the very first FA Cup final to be broadcast on the radio, between Arsenal and Cardiff City in 1927. He later became the club’s secretary and then managing director, before taking over as first-team manager in June 1934. Allison added to the Club’s two successive League titles, by winning a third in 1935. He also won the FA Cup in 1936 and the League again in 1938. Allison decided to step down and retire from the game in 1946-47.

Win %44.44%Pts %53.84% 

Trophy’s won: –

2 – League Championships

1 – FA Cup

1 – Charity Shields

Tom Whittaker 1947 – 1956

See the source image

Thomas James Whittaker was born in Aldershot, Hampshire and joined Arsenal in 1919 before becoming the club’s first-team trainer under Herbert Chapman in 1927. Whittaker had an important role under Chapman in reforming the training and physiotherapy regimes at the club before taking over the reigns from Chapman’s successor, George Allison, in 1947. He won the League in 1948 and 1953 and the FA Cup in 1950 before his tragic death from a heart attack in 1956, aged 58.

Win %45.24%Pts %54.14%

Trophy’s won: –

2 – League Championships

1 – FA Cup

2 – Charity Shields

Jack Crayston 1956 – 1958

Jack Crayston was born in Lancashire in 1910 and was appointed manager of Arsenal in November 1956. A former player with 187 appearances for the Club, Crayston elevated Arsenal from eleventh to third place in the Leauge, before eventually finishing fifth in his first season. He resigned after 24 years’ service at the club in May 1958 and went on to manage Doncaster Rovers. Crayston passed away in 1992.

Win %44.05%Pts %50.00%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

George Swindin 1958 – 1962

George Swindin, a former Arsenal goalkeeper with 297 first-team appearances to his name, was invited to take over the manager’s reigns at Highbury in 1958, following a successful stint as manager at Peterborough United. He oversaw a drastic overhaul in the playing staff at the club during his first season in charge and guided the team to a third-placed finish. After leaving the Gunners, Swindin went on to manage Norwich City, Cardiff City, Kettering and Corby before retiring to Spain. Sadly, Swindin paased away in October 2005, aged 90.

Win %39.88%Pts %47.62%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

Billy Wright 1962 – 1966

Billy Wright was born William Ambrose Wright in Shropshire in 1924 and was the first player to win more than 100 caps for England, captaining the national side no less than 90 times including their campaigns at the 1950, 1954 and 1958 World Cup finals. He became manager of Arsenal in 1962 but Arsenal never finished higher than seventh under Wright and he left the club after the 1965-66 season, where Arsenal finished 14th and were knocked out of the FA Cup by Blackburn Rovers. Wright left management and later became a television pundit for ATV. He was made an Inaugural Inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 in recognition of influence on the English game.

Win %38.10%Pts %46.23%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

Bertie Mee 1966 – 1976

See the source image

Bertie Mee was born in Bullwell, Notinghamshire and managed Arsenal to their first League and FA Cup ‘Double’ win in 1971. He became manager in 1966, and recruited Dave Sexton and Don Howe as his assistants. Under his tutorship, Arsenal reached two successive League Cup finals in 1968 and 1969, but lost to Leeds United and Swindon Town respectively. However, the following season, the club won it’s first trophy of any kind for 17 years, beating Anderlecht 4-3 on aggregate, in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Having lost the away leg 3-1, Arsenal beat the Belgian side 3-0 at Highbury. The first part of the Double – The League title – was won at White Hart Lane, home of local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, on the last day of the season. Five days later, Charlie George scored the winning goal as Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wembley after extra-time to claim the FA Cup. Mee resigned as Arsenal manager in 1976, later joining Watford as assistant to Graham Taylor in 1978. Sadly, he passed away in 2001, at the age of 82.

Win %38.10%Pts %46.23%

Trophy’s won: –

1 – League Championships

1 – FA Cup

1 – Inter Cities Fairs Cup

Terry Neill 1976 – 1983

William John Terence “Terry” Neill was born in May 1942 in Belfast and moved to Arsenal in 1959 as a player. He retired from playing in 1973, and succeeded Bill Nicholson as manager of Arsenal’s local rivals, Tottenham Hotspur. He managed Spurs for two seasons, nearly getting the club relegated in the process, before being recruited by the Arsenal board as manager in 1976 – becoming the youngest manager in the club’s history. The club enjoyed a minor revival under his management, reaching three FA Cup finals between 1978 and 1980, though only winning in 1979. He also reached the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1980, losing on penalties to Valencia. He was dismissed as manager in December 1983 and retired from football.

Win %43.20%Pts %53.06%

Trophy’s won: –

1 – FA Cup

Don Howe 1984 – 1986

Donald ‘Don’ Howe was born in October 12, 1935 and was a player with West Bromwich Albion before Billy Wright signed him for Arsenal in 1964 and made him club captain. Howe retired from playing and became Arsenal’s reserve team coach under Bertie Mee, before stepping up to the role of first team coach after the departure of Dave Sexton in 1968. He later returned to his old club, West Bromwich Albion, as manager before stints as coach of Galatasaray, Turkey and Leeds United, before rejoining Arsenal in 1977 as head coach. Howe succeeded Terry Neill as Arsenal manager in 1983 and brought through the likes of Tony Adams, David Rocastle and Niall Quinn before resigning in March 1986.Howe was later assistant to Bobby Gould at Wimbledon and then had spells managing Queen Park Rangers and Coventry City before moving into journalism and broadcasting.

Win %45.24%Pts %52.38%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

George Graham 1986 – 1995

See the source image

A former Arsenal player, George Graham rejoined the Club as manager in 1986 after three years in charge of Millwall. He won two League Championships, two League Cups, an FA Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup in eight years, making Arsenal one of the dominant teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was renowned for building his team on the meanest of rearguards, perfecting the offside trap along the way. He also bought Ian Wright, until recently Arsenal’s all-time leading goalscorer, from Crystal Palace. After leaving the Club in 1995, Graham went on to manage Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur. He is currently a football pundit.

Win %45.88%Pts %55.77%

Trophy’s won: –

2 – League Championships

1 – FA Cup

1 – Charity Shields

2 – League Cups

1 – Cup Winners Cup

Bruce Rioch 1995 – 1996

Bruce Rioch left his post as manager of Bolton Wanderers to succeed George Graham as Arsenal manager in 1995 and stayed for just a year. He guided Arsenal to a UEFA Cup place in 1995-96, securing qualification on the last day of the season at the expense of Everton, Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur. He also reached the League Cup semi-finals but lost on away goals to Aston Villa. After leaving the Club he became assistant to Stewart Houston at Queens Park Rangers. He later managed Norwich City and Wigan Athletic and is currently in charge of Danish club Odense.

Win %47.83%Pts %57.25%

Trophy’s won: – Zero

Arsène Wenger 1996 – 2018

Arsène Wenger joined Arsenal in September 1996 following spells as manager with Nancy and Monaco in his native France and Grampus Eight in Japan. He guided the Club to their second League and FA Cup double, in his first full season at Highbury in 1998 and won further League titles in 2002 and 2004. He won seven FA Cups, which is the most won by any manager to date. He also guided Arsenal to the UEFA Cup final in 2000, losing to Galatasaray on penalties and through an entire unbeaten league campaign on the way to the title in 2004. In 2006 he took Arsenal to the UEFA Champions League Final, where the team were narrowly defeated by Barcelona.

Win %57.49%Pts %65.54%

Trophy’s won: –

3 – League Championships

7 – FA Cups

7 – Charity Shields

Unai Emery 2018 – 2019

After a modest playing career spent mostly in Spain’s Segunda División, Emery transitioned into coaching after retiring in 2004. He began at Lorca Deportiva, where he achieved promotion to the Segunda División in his first season. He then joined Almería, who he led to promotion to La Liga for the first time in the club’s history. He subseuently moved to Valencia, leading the team to top-three finishes. After leaving Valencia, he coached Spartak Moscow for six months, before moving to Sevilla in 2013.

At Sevilla, Emery won an unprecedented three consecutive Europa Leagues, and moved to French club Paris Saint-Germain in 2016. There, he won a Ligue 1 title, two Coupe de France titles, two Coupe de la Ligues, and two Trophée des Champions, which included a domestic quadruple in his second season. After the expiry of his contract, Emery was appointed as head coach of English club Arsenal in 2018, succeeding Arsène Wenger. He finished Europa League runner-up in his first season, before being dismissed in November 2019 after a series of poor results. He was hired by Villarreal in July 2020.

GP51, W25, D13, L13, Gf89, GA68, Win % 49.0, Pts% 57.5

Trophy’s won: – Zero

Mikel Arteta – 2019 – Present

Born in San Sebastián, Arteta began his senior career at Barcelona in 1999, but limited playing time led to a loan move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2001. He then signed for Rangers, winning the domestic double of the Premier League and League Cup in his debut season. After a brief return to Real Sociedad, Arteta joined Everton on loan in 2005; he then signed permanently. He moved to Arsenal in 2011, where he won two FA Cups and served as captain from 2014, until his retirement in 2016.

Arteta represented Spain through several youth levels, but never played for the senior national team. After retiring, Arteta was appointed as an assistant coach at Manchester City in 2016. In 2019, he returned to Arsenal as head coach and went on to win both the FA Cup and the Community Shield within his first year.

GP21, W10, D6, L5, GF40, GA 25m Win % 47.6, Pts % 57.1

Trophy’s won:-

1- FA Cup

1:- Charity Shield


Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Arsene believes Arteta’s Arsenal Can Be the Surprise Package to Win the League: What Do You Think?

Let’s have discussion.

Arsene believes Arsenal can win the league as we have ‘every ingredient and no real weakness’. This was his advice to Arteta:

“To continue to have a grip on the team, as he has at the moment. And to go to the end of his beliefs. I think there is a good team spirit and they have a good chance to do well. I believe it will not be very difficult to improve on the number of points they got last season. But I’m convinced Arsenal can be in the top four, if not more. Why not more? They can be the surprise package for me this year: they bought well, they strengthened the defence well. And they kept the players who were already there. In my last year I bought [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang, they kept him. They have every ingredient and no real weakness.”

The above quote is from this fabulous Guardian interview with Wenger:

This could be unwelcome pressure on Mikel who is clearly rebuilding the team to his vision of beautiful/winning football, or it could be the sort of encouragement the team needs right now. What do you think?

But more importantly, do you believe we have a realistic chance to win the league this season?

Pool and Citeh have shown vulnerability – and the Merseyside derby next weekend may expose more of the Champion’s weaknesses – Manchester United are doubting whether OGS can take them to the next level, Spuds blow hot and cold under Mourinho and the Chavs are an impatient bunch and will need time to embed those expensive toys they bought during the C19 summer.

There is no doubt that Arsenal are in transition but could Wenger have a point that we now have ‘every ingredient and no real weakness’, and therefore can be the ‘surprise package’ this season?

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments

The One Player To Solve Arsenal’s ‘Creativity Dilemma’

With the arrival of Partey, Arteta has options as per my previous post. I would like to hear bloggers’ views regarding a thought I have been having re ‘our creativity dilemma’. I am a firm believer in sharing the key passes, pre-assists and assists between the team, but I can also see that one or two players are required who have a natural tendency and gift to produce the gem of a through ball, cross or lob that will break the deadlock, crack the defensive walls and make us whoop with joy.

It is quite possible that Mikel will go for a solid DM base with Xhaka and Partey forming that movable yet impenetrable wall that protects the defence and shores up our attack. The back up players would be Elneny and Ceballos, but both AMN and Willock will also have a chance to play in these positions at some point I reckon.

Say we go for a solid 4-2-3-1 to get the best out of the squad. I would like Arteta to try this and it may well happen, but we will have to see. The key and exciting question for me is who will play in the three behind the CF? And especially the one in the middle of the three is pivotal in terms of adding creativity.

There are three senior options right now, as I believe ESR or Willock not to be ready yet for this key position:

Auba on the left seems a given, even though I would also like to see him as our sole CF. Back up is Saka or, once he is fit again, Martinelli. Nelson can do a job there as well, and even Willian can play there. Plenty of options.

Pepe and Willian can play on the right, and so can Nelson. Once again, plenty of options.

But who to play in the middle of the three? A player with an eye for goal, work rate to support the ‘DMs’ in central midfield and the touch of silk in their boot? We all know that Ozil has not convinced Arteta to be in this team any more and I think we have to move on now.

For me the main options are (in no particular order):

  1. Ceballos
  2. Saka
  3. Willian

I would like to see Ceballos tried in that position. I think it is the one he wants most. He has the work rate and passing range, would be a good support to Xhaka and Partey and could make those vital blocks that lead to quick turnovers. Goals and assists are a work in progress for Dani so that’s a challenge. But he has that drive and desire to do well and will give his all till he falls over.

See the source image

Saka, oh Bukayo you play billiards with the ball at times. We are all so excited about this super talent, but where will we get the best from him? The man can do anything it seems. He has the workrate and stamina to help out the central midfielders, sublime passer of the ball and has started to score goals from inside and just outside the box. He can also take on a player and put in a peach of a cross.

Willian has all of the above mentioned qualities but offers experience on top of it all. And not just any experience… PL and CL winning experience, so a very strong candidate for the position if you ask me.

See the source image

I am torn between the three to be honest. What are your thoughts?

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 40 Comments

There is Only One Arsene Wenger: His Regrets, Insights and Hopes!

At Bergkampesque we are lucky to have a life-long Gooner who lives in France and is fluent in both his mother tongue and English. Last week a big article about Arsene was published in L’Equipe, and LE GALL did us a mammoth favour by translating it in its entirety for us:

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : As you had to turn your coaching, as well as your personal, life into words, what were your feelings?

Arsène Wenger : At first, I felt bored, frustrated, because the past was blurred in my mind. As a coach, you always look ahead, you don’t look back much. That’s why I had to put in a real effort so I could see clearly what had happened in my life. And doing just that is like denying your future. This is not a comfortable mental process. At the beginning, I couldn’t see what might be interesting about telling the story of my life. But answering in the negative proved to be more and more difficult, and this was not an overbooked period for me either. So I did it, at least for my family. I thought to myself, that someday, someone might wonder: “What was the old chap up to, precisely?”

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : You tell the story of a coachless, tractorless, Alsatian childhood …

Arsène Wenger : Being without a tractor was more harmful to me, than being without a coach (laughs). In hindsight, it’s hard to picture out the life of someone who doesn’t have any coach until he turns 19, and who spends his whole life in football. Yet it did happen this way. I would play in my village. There were no floodlights for a long time, so we couldn’t train after nightfall. We would play on Sundays, after mass.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : You are attached to your land, yet you wanted to get away from it as soon as possible, didn’t you?

Arsène Wenger : I’ve been thinking about that quite often. My brother received the same education as I did, but he never left. Was it something I had inside me? I was curious. There is this thing I do not mention in the book: when I was 25, I went over to Hungary, with a friend of mine, in order to see for myself how things were working in the communist bloc, and I came home thinking it was about to collapse. Seeing the world was my plan,, and to this very day I’ve been asking myself the same question, as we have to face cultural differences that prove difficult to cope with for some: in football teams, racism has never been an issue, nor has cultural difference. Whereas in real life, and in the long run, cultural difference might prove more difficult to deal with than racism.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : In hindsight, what do you think you had which others didn’t, and which allowed you to have lived such a life?

Arsène Wenger : I don’t think I had anything more. I was lucky enough to have been born a passionate man, and to have come across people who put their trust in me, at various stages in my life. But I also had a genuine passion, which is still there today. When I get up in the morning, knowing a good game will be on at night, this is a special day for me.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : In an interview, you said that as a young footballer, you used to pretend you were a student in order to look more attractive, and that today, on the other hand, it would be the other way round …

Arsène Wenger : When I was young, athletes weren’t supposed to be very bright. We performed a miracle, when we brought intellectuals into sport, so much so that they no longer know whether we’re stupid or not (smiles). I, for one, was nicknamed “The Professor”, because I wore glasses, but the very definition of a coach is that he’s not just an intellectual: he has to think clearly, but more importantly he has to make his players buy into his ideas, he must prove his point, talk them into buying into the plan. Ideas alone aren’t enough.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : Why are you no longer a coach?

Arsène Wenger : Because somehow,  the way I worked was one-of-a-kind, and there are no instances of it left, anywhere in the world. In England, it was difficult for me to go anywhere else, and I turned the offers down. At the same time, I was 70, wondering if I wasn’t going to put up one fight too many. Besides, I was made to feel like I was, sometimes. I had the example of Guy Roux in mind, somehow, he had left Auxerre after staying there for a very long time (in 2005, after 44 years in the club), and he hadn’t been too happy about it (in Lens).

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : By the way, Guy Roux once said that the energy of a coach was just another kind of libido, and that when its level started going down, it was time to quit …

Arsène Wenger : I hadn’t reached that stage yet, even though sometimes you may have,  but are not aware of it. Today’s coaches do not have to do the things they can’t do. There are so many assistants! You can always delude yourself into thinking you make up for the physical strength you lost, through your improved anticipation of problems. You do have to be physically strong to be in that job, that’s a fact, but this was not the main reason: I hadn’t had a single break, and after an uninterrupted 36-year run on benches, I needed time to consider things. Obviously, my special relationship with Arsenal (from 1996 to 2018) made the move from one club to another more difficult. Today, I sometimes wonder whether I might have been wrong not taking Lyon over, when I was offered the job.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : Why did you turn Lyon down after you left Arsenal?

Arsène Wenger : I wasn’t ready. I felt it was too early to jump back in. I was still mourning. I talked to Sylvinho (who was coaching Lyon in autumn 2019) – he gave me a call lately. His experience in Lyon harmed him, because he’s a sensitive guy.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : It’s been two years since you quit. How do you feel: free, or regretful?

Arsène Wenger : Free. I was in this job so long. And I wasn’t committed 50%. 24/7, that’s all I was doing. Therefore, I can enjoy a form of freedom.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : Is freedom as good as you expected it to be, or not as good, even slightly?

Arsène Wenger : Not feeling the pressure of time is good. No longer having specific aims is not as good, not at all. It’s tough, this. What is definitely not as good, is having broken up with the club where I laid every single brick. All of a sudden, you get up in the morning, you feel like going to the training centre, but you can’t, it’s over. When you’re the one who purchased the ground, picked the spoons and forks, it isn’t easy.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : Your discretion is like a veil hiding your last day at Arsenal from us.

Arsène Wenger : That day … I had taught myself to hold my emotions back. Twenty years of your life gone, vanished. Everything I had learned as a coach allowed me to get out of this moment alive, to keep my emotions under control. When I started being a coach, I was in so much physical pain, that I thought I would never be able to make it in that job. I learned how to keep myself under control. So, this very day, the day I was leaving, I wanted to be up to it. I didn’t want to break down, I wanted to show I was in control. But the aftermath was tough. Arsenal was my home. And being shut out from home overnight isn’t easy. When I went back in to pick up my things the week before our last away game to Huddersfield (W 1-0), I was alone. Ever since that day, I haven’t gone back to the Emirates, nor to Colney. This is an actual breakup, in the sentimental sense.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : Is getting over it even possible?

Arsène Wenger : Time’s a healer, a good one, but my love for the club hasn’t vanished. Nor has the pain, not completely. The feeling of withdrawal’s still there too. Max Hild, who gave me a leg up when I was in Strasburg, , told me once that when he had stopped coaching, it took him two years to get over it. That’s about what it normally takes. I try to live with that feeling of withdrawal, rather than expecting it to go. As a matter of fact, I have difficulty saying a final no when I’m called upon, giving up being part of that world. I need to keep being an option. I can’t say it’s over, not yet. But having said that, the further away it gets, the more difficult it is to come back.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : What would be the right way to come back to Arsenal? How will you pick the right day?

Arsène Wenger : Take a leisurely stroll to the game. I’ve often been asked to go back. But I think the club is going through a reshuffling period, former players of mine are taking things under control. You have to wait and see. Right now, I’m not ready.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : What would be the right  way to make it back to the world of football?

Arsène Wenger : I’m not out, I’m 100%% into it. But I’m no longer 100% into getting results. If I should make it back to the pitch, I think it’d be around a national team. But this is no longer my obsession, I experience football differently, not as a spearhead week in, week out, anymore. If I was itching to do it again, the national team path would the shortest, and wisest. I gave my all to club football, and since I am a long-term kind of guy, it will get more and more difficult for me. The next 22 years are bound to be tougher (laughs).

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : In the book, you give the three keys to assessing a player: first touch, making a decision, turning this decision into action. Is it still your way of watching games?

Arsène Wenger : Let’s talk about the Bayern-PSG final; I found, for instance, that the Bayern players’ decision-making level had been consistent throughout. As had the way they made themselves available again in no time, when they had to retrieve the ball; they kept wanting the ball, even they were 1-0 up. Not taking the scoresheet under consideration when you have to make a decision is vital in top-level football. But when I watch a player, I try to see how clever he is whenever he makes a decision.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : You also quote the number of times top-level players look around to collect information before getting the ball, as opposed to average players …

Arsène Wenger : There’s the difference. The number of times a player looks around before. You can see it, because he has an available solution, right away. We all know we have to collect information, but what was interesting in that survey of mine, was the number of times he looks around before getting the ball. A top-class player does it six to eight times, a good player four to six. But sometimes, in some games, I showed FIFA instances of great players who couldn’t keep their eyes off the ball.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : In the book, you explain how lonely a coach may feel. Now that you no longer coach, do you feel less lonely, or a bit more?

Arsène Wenger : Sometimes, I do feel more lonely, because I no longer share anything urgent, important, on a daily basis. But I am not as lonely as I used to, in my social life, my family life, because I have more moments to share. But there are more moments of loneliness, and they last longer. This change in my life is hard to cope with.  At Arsenal, whenever I turned up, three guys were already there, waiting for me. Now, I got nothing.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : Was the difficulty you had getting over defeats, one of your reasons for quitting?

Arsène Wenger : Not succeeding in making the club go forward at European level is tough. But I keep cursing our unlucky draws, Barça, Barça, Barça, and then Bayern, Bayern. Only once did we not pick one of them, we got Monaco and we were tricked out, like a bunch of idiots (2015). Even though Monaco were a good team, back then. Draws do matter, as we saw with PSG in Champions’ League this season. The Paris guys may have regrets, but I think they overestimated what they did in their semi-final against Leipzig.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : So, defeats …

Arsène Wenger : Each and every one of them is like a scar carved across my heart. We all stand halfway between our love of victory and our hatred of defeat. But I couldn’t stand losing, not at all. I can tell how things turned out, the guy who didn’t put his foot in, the other guy who didn’t pick the right spot when a cross came in, the keeper who should’ve caught it … You could go insane! That was the main characteristic of my career, the harm losing did to me. That’s also one of the reasons why I haven’t jumped back in. I have no doubt it takes a toll on our health. After giving a goal away, I sometimes felt like my arteries were getting clogged. My final record is 58% wins, 20% draws, 20% losses: losing one in five games is tough enough. But I think of the guy who wins one in five!

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : In the book, you don’t name names; out of contempt, or out of grudge?

Arsène Wenger : Neither. But it’d rather be out of contempt (smiles). What this book, this life, have left me with, is that with a bit of luck, we can live a life that outshines the one we had figured out, and also that there might be an interest in sharing what you’ve been taught. That humans could do much better, but also that they can surprise you in a positive way. Enmities and pettiness are not what I’m left with.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : Nevertheless, you skim over the part of your record that was stolen from you, don’t you?

Arsène Wenger : Yes, I do. But what can I do about it, today?

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : Telling or not telling, you had a choice.

Arsène Wenger : I could tell, but how could I prove it? Moreover, most of the players who were involved back then are going through very hard times now … At the end of the day, it’s up to each and everyone of us to live up to their own values. It can turn out well, or not so well, but there is no other path in life you can tread on.  We’d better not dwell on the backstabbers, otherwise we might end up cutting frustrated, angry figures.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : You were a coach thirty-six years, how many of them found you a happy man?

Arsène Wenger : Overall, I was truly happy to be in that job. But the moments of extreme joy are few, 2 or 3%. Searing intensity’s a rare thing. You feel joyful on a winning night. If happiness is loving the life you live, I’ve been a happy man. Moments of joy are something different. But I happened to be there at training sessions when the team started playing at an unbelievable level, and then I thought to myself I’d be willing to pay to see this.  Now that I know about life outside football, should I be born again tomorrow, I’d be a coach again, and for forty years just the same.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : One of the last sentences of the book is: “I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as a fulfilled life”. What is it that you’ve left unfinished?

Arsène Wenger : There are many things I haven’t won as many times as I wanted to, and others I haven’t won at all, but also many things I’ve neglected, my family in particular. All lives are cut short, that’s the very definition of it, you just can’t achieve everything.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : You turned down Real, Bayern, PSG, in particular, France as well. Do you wish you hadn’t?

Arsène Wenger : Yes, I do, somehow. They were great clubs. Jean-Claude Blanc insisted I should go to Juve, too. I feel regret, but at the same time, I take pride in having served my club to the very end, in carrying the project through. To me, this goes beyond winning any title. I’m the longest-serving Monaco coach, I stayed there seven years. I was made for this kind of loyalty. I’m also the kind of guy who has a built-in motivation. I am always keen on improving myself, and people like me want to do their job their own way. I‘m not sure I could have done this in Madrid.

Vincent Duluc (« L’Équipe ») : Was it difficult to talk about yourself, in this book?

Arsène Wenger : Yes, it was, very difficult. I don’t like it. I am a discreet person. I belong in a generation of people who didn’t talk about themselves. It was a kind of torture. I’ve never been outspoken in the media, nor have I been written about in papers, for other reasons than being a coach. That was tough. But writing this book was also my way of saying: my coaching years are over. That’s why I refused to do it before. Getting old is no weakling business (smiles)

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Partey Gives Arteta Options: Not Ozil But Another Unloved Midfielder to Benefit

Mikel has got his man. Now he can play football the Arseteta Way. He has a vision and he knows what he needs: he has got it now.

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Signing super-talent Saka was key – the biggest Arsenal talent since Cesc. Getting Willian was shrewd – free and PL/CL experience. Auba staying was a statement – it meant that Mikel’s vision was mesmerising. Gabriel the Rock was another vital purchase. But now he really can get this Partey started.

Some will dream that Ozil will somehow reappear now and will get back in the hole from the one he dug for himself, but I think football has moved on. We don’t need a supersalesman, we need commercially minded, multi-skilled account managers. Everybody can play a key pass, produce an assist and score a goal up-front, and we need that unpredictability, that extra dimension.

For me, the issue is not that we did not have a creative player up-front of (former)Ozilesque or KdBruine-esque quality, but the lack of pressure and numbers in and around the opposition’s box. We sat too deep and did not push up enough, leaving the attacking moves to the ‘specialists’. The game v the Blades showed this very clearly. It was dire in the first half, but then we pushed up in the second half and soon the chances came. Bellerin had the assists, Auba had THE key pass for our first goal, Saka and Pepe scored. The much patronized Elneny had half a role in these goals too.

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I grew up watching the Ajax machine in full swing: everybody could score, assist or play the key pass. Total Football. And then there was Wengerball when we had the perfect balance ourselves: goals, key passes and assists from everywhere. It was party football and the opponent did not know how to stop us. I reckon Arteta wants to return this to the home of football.

Partey will give Arteta options to tweak the formation per game but, most importantly, it will give us also the opportunity to push up and not worry too much about the space we leave behind. This will not happen overnight of course. Partey’s impact may not be really felt till come February. Evolution takes time. Key to all of this is his mobility, intelligence, excellent passing ability and athleticism. He will help us to better connect defence with midfield and midfield with attack. If we then dare to push up and play more in the opponent’s half…. we should see real progress with more chances and goals, and better football.

I know there are still some Xhaka-haters out there, but I have got to disappoint you: Partey will not replace Granit but help him to be the beast of a midfield-organiser he is. We will see the very best now of Xhaka:

Partey will allow Xhaka to push up and spray his one-touch passes where they can do most damage – as he does for the Swiss national team so often (watch him v Spain and Germany this fortnight!). With our strong use of the wings we need to get the ball there quickly. Xhaka loves this. Partey can be that holding midfielder in a 4-1-2-3 formation that allows not one but two to play in front of him. Willian was also sold Mikel’s vision, and I expect that this included him playing more centrally. But Partey is also a good passer of the ball, short and long, so Arteta has that added dimension in midfield. I can also see Xhaka play the deeper role and Partey and Ceballos play in front of him. I have salivated all over my jumper now:

But I can also see us stick to 3-4-3 this season as it makes best use of Luiz’s leadership skills without him being exposed too much. We have an army of CBs in the team so we may as well use them! It would make sense as the team is used to this formation and we have really good quality players in all positions – in fact we have two for each position (GK is still a guess, though). And the likes of AMN, Eddie, Chambers, Mari, Kola, Nelson, ESR etc will also put further ‘good pressure’ on this squad. Once again, it is of course key to push up the team and play much more compact in the opposition’s half.

The big point is that Partey will give Arteta options and we will now see the best from the likes of Xhaka, Laca and Saka as well as Luiz. Let’s give it some time but boy this looks promising!

By TotalArsenal.

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Arsenal Player Ratings: Two MOTM, A Beast of a CB, Pepe Delivers in Style

Well that was a hard-fought victory but those three points are vital at this stage of the season, especially with the second hardest away game to come straight after the international break. The first half was uneventful but we also gave hardly anything away and were disciplined. The second half saw us press higher and put more players in and around the box, and it did not take long to reap the benefits of this. Two brilliant team goals in three minutes, based around incisive passing and clever movement as well as precise finishing, were enough to take all three points.

Bellerín leidt Arsenal naar derde zege, Wolves wint met hakken over de sloot

Sheffield United have made a poor start but they know what they are capable of and are just waiting for form to return. They gave us a hard game and hoped for a goal on the break or, more likely, from a set-piece. The Blades are physical and well-drilled site and we needed to be professional to get all the points.

This was a testing week for Arsenal and the boys did us proud in all three games. Under Emery we created a lot and we leaked a lot chances; under Arteta Phase One we create less but leak a lot less too, and we are efficient when it comes to taking our chances. It does not take an Einstein to realise that Arteta is working towards Arteta Phase Two, but this will take time. Before you put in the jacuzzi and new furniture make sure you fix the roof. So every game will be a fight for three points, not always easy on the eye but there will be gems to enjoy nevertheless!

Player Ratings:

Leno: 7 – did his job well enough against a tall and physical opponent during set-pieces. I like the way he sweeps up behind the defence now.

Tierney: 7 – solid, driven, present. Just belongs at Arsenal.

Luiz: 6 – struggled a bit to keep his composure – he was quite lucky not to be sent off – and discipline in defence today but his buddies helped him out.

Gabriel: 8 – pffff, what a beast of a player we have here. Great presence and intelligence and good positional awareness and passing out from the back.

Bellerin: 8.5 MOTM – loved the way he tried to go past defenders in the first half. Yes it was not hard to read what he tried to do and he was not successful at first, but boy did he produce a peach of an assist for our first goal. He also has the assist for our second goal and Arteta will be well pleased with Hector’s ‘bread and butter’ contributions.

Elneny: 7 – just solid and tidy, salt of the earth performance. But he was also involved in our first goal with probably the key pass in the whole move.

Ceballos: 8 – I liked his discipline and desire to make things happen in this game. He got the balance right this time, especially in the second half.

Saka: 8.5 – MOTM – Never stopped trying to find moments of quality whilst also keeping it tidy all over the left wing. I am just so amazed how this 19 year old survived so well amongst the ‘brutes’ of Sheffield United. An extra point for taking his chance so well, beating both the keeper and a player at the first post with a dart of a header. Bullseye.

Willian: 6.5 – He seems a bit lost in this Arsenal team at times but I still liked his allround game and willingness to get stuck in. Moving him to the left and putting Pepe on the right in the second half seemed to free him up to make good triangles with fellow attackers. I am sure there is more to come from him, though.

Auba: 7 – Less involved in the bread and butter stuff at the moment (goals and assists) but his presence and willingness to work still made a big difference. Could have had an assist if Eddie’s first touch would have been better.

Nketiah: 6 – Not his best game but worked hard. Not sure why Arteta picked Eddie ahead of Laca after doing the same at Anfield on Thursday. I guess we know more about this come 2300h tomorrow…

Pepe: 8 – what a cameo – an extra point for that worldy of a goal.

Xhaka and AMN – not long enough on the pitch to score.

By TotalArsenal.

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