Manchester City-Arsenal: To Stick or to Twist?

Arsene Wenger takes on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team for the first time.  Who will prevail?

Plenty of questions surround both teams coming into this one.  City finally won a league match on their home ground this past Wednesday (vs Watford) while Arsenal’s run of unbeaten matches came to an end at Everton’s Goodison Park the previous day.  Only a point separates the two clubs in the Premier League table, and both will want a good result to show they’re firmly in the hunt for the title and to calm the nerves of jittery supporters.

City’s win vs Watford was their first in five league games at the Etihad stadium and the intervening matches there saw draws with Everton, Southampton and Middlesborough preceding the 3-1 loss to Chelsea. That one saw a couple of key players come unhinged at the final whistle.  Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho will be be serving suspensions for our match due to the contretemps.

Guardiola will have to draw upon even more of his squad depth due to a knee injury suffered by one of his off-season buys, Ilkay Gundogan, in the Watford game.  Still, even with these players missing, City can field a star-studded cast of attackers including players such as David Silva, Yaya Toure, Kevin DeBruyne, Raheem Sterling, Jesus Navas and Nolito.  In Aguero’s absence Kelechi Iheanacho will likely lead the line.  Another exciting young player, Leroy Sane, might also be called upon.

At the back, City is a bit iffier.  Another Guardiola buy, goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, has yet to prove his near-suicidal “sweeper-keeper” instincts are properly honed for English Football.  Guardiola, in the absence of Vincent Kompany, has also yet to find a settled backline.  He dropped John Stones, another big buy at 47 million pounds, for the Watford match and he has also experimented with playing and then dropping others such as Nicolas Otamendi and former Gunners Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna.  Only Aleksandar Kolorov has been a consistent pick back there.  Fernando will likely takeover as midfield enforcer in Fernandinho’s absence.

However Guardiola mixes and matches his cast of big money players it cannot help but be seen an opportunity for Arsenal to recover from the loss at Everton, though that disappointing result also makes this one a real test of our resilience and character.  How will Wenger set out his team and how will he expect them to play?  Was Everton a blip or do Arsenal need a new approach?  There have been various critiques of the match.  Some suggest that Arsenal couldn’t cope with Everton’s “nothing to lose” physicality and the Goodison Park atmosphere.  Others believe we just weren’t able to push forward well enough on the break and at other times when we had the ball.  Some have criticized our wing play (Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain) while others thought the substitutes (Alex Iwobi and Olivier Giroud) forced us to play a game unsuited to the end of match situation.  Still others put it down to bad luck and failure to take our chances when they came or simply poor defending for the two headed goals that Everton were able to claim.  What do you think went wrong in that match and how can Arsenal get back on track?

With the negative result seemingly everything is called into question.  Will Wenger, perhaps stubbornly, stick with the same eleven he started at Everton or will he want to mix it up (twist) after the poor result?  I think, anticipating another open game and some chances on the break, he opts for strength at the back along with speed and direct play up front.  In other words, I believe he’ll stay with the same group.

Subs: Ospina, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Iwobi, Lucas, Giroud

But, of course, I am not Wenger in disguise, so what do I know?  How do you believe the manager should set up for this one and what sort of match can we expect?

Any way you slice it it’s a big one and a real chance for both teams to show their title credentials.  Arsenal need a response after the recent disappointment and, fortunately, they have a big opportunity to make a real statement against the big money behemoth Man City have become.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

67 thoughts on “Manchester City-Arsenal: To Stick or to Twist?

  • Fab match preview, Seventeenho, and good background info on MC’s player challenges. I expect us to start with Perez and and one of Theo or Iwobi on the wings. It would be a big mistake to start with the same wing players and Wenger will have been disappointed in them after Tuesday’s non-performances. It is indeed a big game that we cannot lose, and a win would be a big psychological boost. Let our boys become men on Sunday..

  • HT, well tilled preview soil. I expect comments to sprout quickly.

    I feel this is a game Wenger would know that possession would be conceded, and would plan to be effective on the counter. This would influence his team selection.

    Will he use Perez as the point man (Vardyesque)?

    At our defensive end of the pitch should we contain them by controlling spaces (passive defending) or by active defending? And how do we balance our need to defend, with our need to escape City’s high press and optimize our ability to trigger counters. Wenger’s tough choice appears to me to be which pair to choose between Coq, Elneny and Xhaka.

    Luckily it is five days between Everton and Manc so no fatigue issues to consider.

    My predicted line up:


    Bench: Ospina, Holdn, Gibbs, Coq, Ox, Iwobi, Giroud.

  • I was awake early. I mean early early … with ear ache. But I read your preview of Man City nevertheless. It was very good, and very frightning at the same time. Many thanks
    However, 4 hours later, still with ear ache, I have the voice of John McEnroe ring in my head ..

    …………………… ‘YOU CAN NOT BE SERIOUS !!!’ ……………………

    Luckily, with coffee and a paracetamol, the ear ache will go away.

    I am guessing that you are playing the Lawrenson’s percentages rule he applies in ‘Predictor’?
    That is simply put, do not go outside of the what normally happens and you are likely to be right 70% of the time. In his case, do not go beyond any team scoring more than two goals, and keep your correct score prediction within that limit. In your case, pick AW’s top 11 players and the likelihood you will get 8 or 9 right every time?
    This week it has been made easier for you because there are only a two options in two areas, and slightly more up front.
    Let me run through the possibilities for you:
    GK – No change.
    CB – No change.
    RB – No change.
    LB – Monreal or GIBBS
    DM – Coquelin or Xhaka, with ELNENY
    CAM – No change.
    STRS – Alexis ( No change.), and Ox, Walcott, or GIROUD, IWOBI, PEREZ

    You may indeed be quite right with that 11 (Quiet John!), and that is what AW will go for?
    But surely, in a preview of our team you might offer some reason as to why he should?
    To say I am disappointed is an understatement
    Against my better judgement to just keep quiet, here would be MY reasoning for keeping an unchanged side:
    Gibbs will be kept back on the bench so we can secure what ever points we are holding on to at the time .. (Quiet John!).
    Elneny is not robust enough in the centre of the park.
    Giroud will come off the bench if or when we need tochange tactics.
    Iwobi, is a very good young prospect, but we need experience out there today.
    Perez is a more difficult choice after his last performance, but I feel this game will be too much for him to start.
    Those would be Arsene’s reasons not to change things. His reasons to keep the same team starting…. Well he might have to defend his reason for keeping in the two players, who according to some, were entirely to blame for the defeat on Tuesday, by saying that … ‘We did not move the ball quickly enough to utilse their skills fully. They had looked very good in other games earlier, so with the extra days rest they have an opportunity to prove how good they are?’

    Reading that, had you have written it HT, I can see the logic of him sticking, and not twisting.
    So I agree, you may right, he will stick with these same players.
    (Quiet John!!!)

    So before I hear ‘ That ball was on the line!!!’ once more, I will just add that mid week I gave us a 2-nil win on the Predictor. Today I have us down for a 2-1 defeat in the hope it changes our fortune.
    If it does, then blame me for Wednesday’s defeat.

  • PE, I think the dent in mental fatigue might need a winter break, not just 5 days.

    It has a WW1 look about it … ‘Once more into the breach ….’

    It would be an enterprising ploy to have Peez in the line up, as long as you remember it will be fluid up front, but as a goal poacher inside the box he looks well up to the mark.

    I would go with (AW’s) reason for leaving out Elneny, although Coquelin is one card away from suspension, which might sway his thinking?

  • Gerry, am still wondering if your analysis for the line up is yours or you giving flesh to HT,s. Which ever, I love it.

    Guardiola is the master of dominating possession. We respond to opponent’s possession by getting men behind the ball, setting up stage for counters. The thought of Vardy M 11 (Perez) as point man, with his quick feet and pace, really excites me.

  • One thing we shouldn’t do is play Alexis as the point man when we are playing a team that would dominate possession forcing us to play deep a lot of the time. That would be leaving Alexis’s huge assets underutilized. Trust him not to allow that. He would track back as far as necessary, in which case why put him there in the first place.

  • Well written 17ht. You asked what of the reasons you quoted were the reason for defeat. Having read your options, I suspect a little bit of all of them!, I just felt we had the beating of them,, but just seemed to lack the hunger to finish them off. Imho recent Arsenal teams having established a lead have let other sides into the game by getting players sent off, stupid penalties s etc. I think we have improved this season, but still look a little fragile when protecting a small lead..

    As for you being Wenger in disguise. If you get it right today, then my theory is confirmed lol. Personally I will be very concerned if both the Ox and Theo star together. I do think Giroud and Perez are deserving of more than the last five minutes of the game.

  • Really nice preview 17. I personally think Arsenal’s flat performance versus Everton can be attributed to a couple of issues:

    1. A lack of squad rotation from the Stoke match. I don’t think Arsenal’s playing style can sustain the same or practically the same starting 11 being deployed for three games in seven or eight days, week after week and be able to consistently deliver energetic and vibrant performances in each match. For that reason I think Arsenal should rotate the starting 11 in one out of the three matches per week and against the ‘weakest’ opposition. For this week, that rotation should have occurred versus Everton (given Stoke’s form and Man City’s quality). I hold out hope that we’ll see that sort of squad management approach taken as the season progresses as the season should be viewed as a marathon rather than a sprint.

    2. Arsenal’s back four were passive defensively. There were signs versus Stoke that Arsenal’s back four were adopting a less assertive approach to defending than in contrast to the start of the season, when Arsenal’s back four were quite aggressive in their approach.. I thought that passiveness presented Stoke’s attackers with some unnecessary goal scoring opportunities in what was a match where Arsenal dominated possession. I noticed the same passive defensive approach from Arsenal’s back four versus Everton and I think that played a key role in Arsenal’s loss. I’m hoping Arsenal’s back four return to their early season aggressive defensive approach versus Man City.

    3. A lack of off the movement from Arsenal’s wingers. With the creative duo of Alexis and Ozil occupying the No 9 and 10 roles respectively, Arsenal need their wingers to make angled off the ball runs from the flank to central areas within the opposition’s penalty box, to provide Alexis and Ozil with goal scoring targets to pass to. This off the ball movement is vital for Arsenal as without it the side can often become toothless in attack. This was the case versus Everton as the Ox and Walcott simply failed to make enough of such runs. I was particularly disappointed in Walcott efforts in this regard versus Everton as while that sort of movement doesn’t appear to be a natural strength of Ox or Iwobi it is for Walcott and Perez. Hoping for better versus Man City.

    Onto the Man City match and the starting 11 I’d like to see is:

    GK: Cech
    RB: Bellerin
    CB: Holding
    CB: Koscielny
    LB: Gibbs
    CDM: Coquelin
    CDM: Xhaka
    RW: Walcott
    CAM: Ozil
    LW: Perez
    CF: Alexis

    With this being Arsenal’a 3rd game in 8 days and Arsenal having effectively deployed the same starting 11 in the two prior matches, I would normally suggest Arsenal rotate their starting 11 for the 3rd match. That said, with the opposition being of the quality of Man City, I think Arsenal will need their best available 11 for this one.

  • It was the latter PE 😀

    However, If I were playing the side that contained the Man C players that HT so excellently, and worryingly at the same time, highlighted? Then I would go for solid defence, and hope we can nick a goal. But basically settle for the point we have at the start of the game.
    Not easy. But as Goonereris pointed out so well in his post match comment on the last game, Everton were strong down both wings. Which in turn limited support for our ‘wing backs’. Particularly so for Theo.

    Now a quick glance at names coming at us tomorrow from 4.0pm onwards, we will see such names as Sterling supported by Silva v Bellerin, and De Bruyne v Monreal? So a similar scenario is likely to ensue? Therefore, the team I would suggest, and my preferred options only, not AW’s, are :

    On the Bench I would have Ox, Walcott, and Perez to come on against a tiring, and weak defence, Probably leave Perez as the last sub for Alexis, Otherwise, the first to to replace Holding and Gibbs.

    Tactics? Simply use Gibbs And Bells to attack out wide. Elneny to link closely with Xhaka, (who stays deep), in defence, and Ozil in transition,. But Gibbs and Bells to drop back quickly if we lose out when attacking, so we have two lines of 4 to breakdown, and yet still leaving a speedy threat up front in shape of Alexis, supported instantly by Ozil, when we counter. Not too mention the new wing back paring?

    Unfortunately, it only looks good on paper … until it is tested in reality?

    Basically doing what Leicester did in the second half of their season last year?


  • Gerry: “Unfortunately, it only looks good on paper … until it is tested in reality”?

    You bet it only looks good on paper; if playing a two legged cup game in Europe, maybe. In the league, against a City side with intent to get points, that selection will have them rubbing their hands in glee.

    Beyond the lack of cohesion issues it will throw up, it sends the signal that we don’t want to attack and once they pick up the scent, the City team will come forward in droves, while our side will believe the requirement is to defend thus applying little or no pressure on that City defence. What I feel is we just need to believe we can match them for quality possession and beat them for pace; so, go for an early goal, then play on the counter while holding on to what we have, to guarantee the 3points. It is going to be such a pressure filled game, with Chelsea now already 9 points ahead of the chasing pack. Another reason we just have to go for it, come what may, rather than inviting them to eat us up!

  • Yes, Goonereris, that would be the negative view.

    On the other hand, If you think more about the players involved, rather than positional choices, it looks a lot better.
    Both Gibbs and Bellerin started out life as wingers. Both have very good pace. Both can cross a ball, and both can turn inside and have a crack at goal.
    Those are the positives going forward.
    In defence, both have pace to get back quickly. Both can tackle better than the guys they would be replacing.
    This also means the full backs are not going to get caught out up field, and can easily cut out balls played over the top, or wide, as they are in the wide position.
    What you quite rightly point out, it would encourage Man C to attack down the middle. But that is where the returning wing backs would join the mid field duo, remembering we would still have a back four in place.
    We have played Gibbs and Monreal together at the end of games, so it would only mean Ballerin starting high, which should deter too much support coming Sterling’s way?

    I don’t see It changing style too much as the emphasis is on speed to give the front men space in the middle. It is that speed that might deter City from getting too ‘gung ho’ going forward?

  • Evening HT. I think you’ve called it right here. On two counts. Firstly it shows confidence in the players – the message is, you are good enough, you under-performed last time out, now go and show everyone that you can play. Secondly, it potentially vindicates Wenger – a good show from the same 11 makes it clear that it was their performance in the last game that cost us, and also that his management has picked them up again. They still have to perform of course. But if fit, I think this still looks the best 11 against City, with some debate between Ox and Iwobi. We have a team that can compete tomorrow, and frankly should have the advantage of stability. I’m cup half full for tomorrow. Let’s show the doubters.

  • AB, you are forgetting what is at stake tomorrow. Lose and the gap with the Chavs is nine points, and the shit will hit the fan. The team against Everton failed – giving a 1-0 lead away was very poor – and he will not want to see that happen again tomorrow. I will fall of my chair and eat my hat if he goes with Theo and Ox together again.

  • Hi TA. I know what’s at stake. But Wenger tends to stay firm under pressure. Sometimes too much so I recognise. But in a game where we expect them to be coming at us, with the attacking team they have and paying at home, we would naturally go with the counter-attacking pace that Theo and Ox provide; all the more so given they have played well this season. If he judges that they have lost their confidence (or he has lost it in them) or they are physically run down, then of course he will change. But….

    So I’m fully with you in recognising that if they perform the same way tomorrow as they did on Tuesday then we will not be getting the result we all want. But I’m less sure that they would be the wrong players to start the game, all other things being equal. I wouldn’t be betting my house on it! But would be less surprised than you if this transpires.

  • Hi AB, you are making fair points. I reckon that once Everton started to put pressure on us, our midwingers went missing; MC will do the same from the start, so we will need full and focussed performances, both in defence and attack, from our midwingers to really have a chance to get something from the game. Ox and Theo have their moments in every game normally, but we need more tomorrow. Let’s see how Wenger will line the team up tomorrow. 😀

  • Hi Gerry. Fair points regarding the pace of the choices of Bellerin and Gibbs in place of our usual picks of Ox, Theo, Iwobi and the possible advantages for the full backs.

    However, after this game, the players have plenty of rest time so, we have the latitude of using our best men. Based on form alone, that means any two of Theo, Ox, Iwobi and Ramsey/Perez. Those are the picks which will put any fear into Clichy/Kolarov and Sagna/Zabaletta. It isn’t likely to happen, but if Wenger does pick your suggested pair, City will use 15 minutes to have them Sussed out and then run us over.

    Anyway, this is all talk, for now. The real action is a few hours away and that’s when we’ll know.

    PS: sorry for the late response. Had to go downtown with the family for Christmas shopping.

  • Gerry, that’s a brave pick and it’s got a lot of sense in it. Defensively more capable. Pace/technique for countering, as good as any. I love it when the boundaries are pushed. The one snag is that at least 40% of the time, we would be doing a normal non counter attacking offensive build up, and your arrangement wouldn’t be our best.

    AB, I am with TA all the way that Ox and Theo should not be played together. Amongst other things why they should not be played together, counters do not require only great pace. It also requires off the ball running intelligence. Sorry to say, but Ox hasn’t got that in the least. Perez (Vardy MK2) is our secret weapon for counters.

  • No Ramsey, as he is one of our 8 players out..Sorry Goonereris.
    I am not sure if Perez would be any better at offering support for Monreal than Iwobi, and the thought of De Bruyne and Sagna having a field day down that wing is a major downside?

    I only offer my line up as an alternative. I am not a fan of Ox on the left side, although he is willing to do a job there. In the last game, I wanted to see him switched to the right in place of Theo, for the simple reason he can operate down the line without needing the full back overlapping. Whereas, for Theo to cut inside he needs a runner on his outside. Bless him, he can be great when we get our act together and move the ball quickly, but he is not blesssed with much in the way of dribbling skills. But that is less important when games start opening up in the last half hour?

    It is a pity Man C won their last game, as their disarray would help us enormously. You cannot help but think, playing us will focus their minds more than if they were playing a team in the bottom half of the table? A draw for us would not be a too bad result. Not as good as a win, granted, but it would keep them behind us? What I don’t want to see is us get hammered and undo all the hard work that the unbeaten run provided. Hence my more conservative alternative?

    p.s. Long before Bells broke into our first team I have held the view that he would be better as a winger than he is as a full back … but what do I know?

  • PE I am not sure what limitations my arrangement has on ‘non-countering’, if by that you mean keeping possession?

    Switch play from one wing to the other would fall on largely Xhakla’s shoulders,
    Pass and move goes with Elneny’s job description and style.

    But you are right, whatever team we put out, and whatever tactics are employed, there are risks attached? If we go full on attack and leave the same openings that we have got away with before, I think we will be on the cusp of a hiding. From what I have seen of AW’s comments, I am guessing that by ‘defensive discipline’, he means Coquelin will stay deep, and ‘defending collectively’, or something akin to that, he wants that same effort as when they “all clicked”.
    Will that be enough against a strong attack that may be just beginning to click themselves, is the question?

    I hope for the best, but depending how AW lines up the squad, I fear the worst …


  • My first thought; my word if we lose today then that’s it, title over, with Chelsea 9 points clear and looking so solid, they’ve come through a tough run of fixtures beating Spurs & Man C on route. They’ve now got a easy run of fixtures, looking scarey. But then I think to myself this is what being a supporter is all about we where top just last Saturday after great results against Bournemouth, Basel, West Ham and Stoke, we looked so fluent and then we have an off day against Everton. Today is a great chance for us to show case our new found fluency, we’ve got 2 world class players Ozil & Sanchez the latter really wants to prove to the board he’s world class status, so he is offered a bumper contract. Against Everton, Today’s game is all I ever ask for, we are going up against the Northern Oilers, who I truly believe we can beat, we’ve got a good record in our last 2 visits to the Ethiard, 1 won, 1 drawn. Alexis loves a a goal against City I can’t remember location or year, all I can remember is the ball coming in his direction, his volley on the turn was scintillating and the ripping off his shirt was a picture of joy. I have this feeling today, in Agureo’s absence he will want to show case he is the number 1 South American in the premier league.Ozil looked out of sorts against Everton, so a great chance for him to show why we rave about him so much.
    My team today:
    Bellerin, Gabriel, Koz, Gibbs
    Xakha, Coq
    Theo, Ozil, Ox
    My only change from Tuesday being Gibbs, I just feel Gibbs every time he’s played this year, there is a renewed drive in his play. Nacho, for me is not up to last years standard. I also like the comments on about Cech not being happy that’s been so long since his last clean sheet, so I’m going with a storming 2.0 (2 Alexis) for the gunners today.
    Let’s keep in mind that today is why we love football, for it makes me realise we’ve got a great chance this year, not because others are playing poorly but because our squad this year is playing well and that’s why I think so many of us are worried about going 9 points behind because we really believe we are good enough, if we weren’t good enough we wouldn’t be so worried about today’s game. Let’s enjoy a great Arsenal performance.

  • Kante and Costa are both banned for Chelseas next game, home to Bournemouth.

    You never know what you’re gonna get with Bournemouth so where there’s hope etc.

    A couple of draws and suddenly Chelsea are back in the pack.
    It’s just happened to us and it’s a long long season…

    Lucas Perez has to start for me.
    This game is made for him…

  • Team sheets are out… Thank god I missed one so that TA doesn’t have to eat his hat… 🙂

    Man City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Otamendi, Kolarov, Clichy, Fernando, Sané, Touré, Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling. Subs: Sagna, Nolito, Caballero, Jesus Navas, Stones, Iheanacho, Garcia.

    Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Özil, Iwobi, Sánchez. Subs: Gibbs, Lucas Perez, Giroud, Ospina, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Holding, Elneny.

    Referee: Martin Atkinson.

  • Would have played Perez, but that is a better team than the one you predicted, Seventeenho.

    I would have gone for:

    Same back five
    Perez – Coq – Eln – Xhaka (in the Ramsey midwing position)

  • We have stayed calm, after the goal and it is obvious Iwobi is under instruction not to have a right go at Zabaletta but to be more conscious of his defensive duties. Looks like a game where we need to score a second or we will be under heart-wrenching pressure from this City side.

    Again, it must be said that Ozil remains peripheral, so far. There are times you feel he can do a bit more to close Toure down, but he is allowed to amble along, even when he loses the ball. Ramsey would have enjoyed this game (in place of Ozil; yes, I know. Won’t happen even if he was fit).

  • If we have to keep passing back to Cech and he will persist with hitting it long, why not bring on Giroud so we can win a few of those aerial threats. That was offside, by the way and not a good time to concede an equalizer and we are likely to turn putty now.

  • Now Giroud is on, the long balls have disappeared. We needed our big players to stand up today and they have not. Simples.

  • I do not normally curse but I just have one word: F***

    And should I add that Citeh is the best diving synchronised team in the whole world?

  • 17, “Finishes 2-1…It’s the end of the world…”.

    You can say that again. You don’t want to go to certain Arsenal fan sites now; or a Spurs one, for that matter. Bedlam. But, that was a shambles of a performance. Whenever we try to play a controlled game, we make a hash of it because we play better on the front foot and on impulse. When we have to think about it and there’s a bit of pressure, we mess things up. I did call out Ozil, but in truth, it was collectively, a poor performance which has only given City some new found belief. Sad week it is now going to be for me.

  • A tough day and a worse week. But every team in the league will have a rubbish run at some point; that is the nature of the game. Our squad is the same it was last week and we have bought people with leadership and drive who need to come to the fore now. We have enough time in the season to get back and challenge – don’t forget who took the chavs apart earlier this season. Today was poor and disappointing. But we will bounce back strongly, and soon. We always do. No point pretending it wasn’t a rubbish day – it was. But no point losing heart either – we will be back.

  • Before the match I was worried about how to escape their high press more than I was worried about containing their offense. That was why I chose the more mobile passer Elneny over Coquelin. Coquelin played and we couldn’t pass the ball out of our half.

  • PE,

    In the first half, our counter attacks are good. It is only in the second half that we dropped together physically and could not contain Sane and co.

    It is not the wayward passing that let us down. I feel that we were too deep in our own half and Alexis kept telling his teammates to go forward, but of no avail. That is the main problem. And why does Theo likes to shoot rather than crossing to his teammates? Their defenders are not so tall, so we can exploit the air area. Bells should have passed rather than shoot in his second half chance.

    This is the third game in a row that we have played the same lineup, lest Iwobi for Ox.
    We need to keep the central part of our midfield and defence fresh.

    How to do it? Switch between Gabby and Holding. Holding is a cooler head compared to Gabby, and on the left back, rotate between Gibbs and Nacho. Unless Gibbo is injured, but I feel that he is more calm and assured compared to the tired Nacho.

    On the DM front, rotate between Elneny with Xhaka, and Rambo with Le Coq. Xhaka has been a little weird these few games, and his passes are wayward at times. Everytime he loses the ball we concede.

    Ozil is wrongly criticised in my point of view. Yes, he has dropped a little, but without the balls from DM he is nothing himself. Alexis craves for more running and action, but Ozil wants better passes and his teammates to be on the same wavelength as him.

    Cooler heads = better perspective.

    We need to rotate more, Monseiur Wenger.

  • Coquelin is not a good quick passer and to compound it he does not show himself for a pass. It needs only one weak link for our ability to escape the high press to degrade miserably as it did yesterday. We performed better when it became Elneny/Xhaka pairing. Eln/Santi is a dream for escaping the high press.

    I predicted that Manc would dominate possession, and that would cause the under utilization of our hardest worker Sanchez if played as a striker. True centre forwards never mind not being busy. They are predators who can wait patiently for the right moments to strike and with the counter attack setting of yesterday, the #9 position was begging for pacey Perez. Sanchez deeper would have helped us in escaping City’s press. It’s a pathetic sight watching Sanchez pursue lost causes all alone. We can all feel his frustration and we must remember that he is renegotiating his contract.

    The sense of adventure naturally declines with age. Got me? We are back to familiar territory, fighting not to exit the CL positions so I expect a good run to recommence. My hope is that the cycle of the expected new good run would still be on to welcome back our missing players like Musti, Pert, Welbeck and King Santi. The impetus from their return might extend this expected good-run-cycle, and who knows, that might just give us that supreme chance.

    Ozil is a special player, but not a leader in any sense. He needs intelligent players to raise his game for him to find himself. When the team is poor, Ozil is woeful. How I wish we can abbot Wilshire’s loan this January.

  • njk, I agree with you over Gabriel. He gets so psyched up, that one worries that a panoramic view, vital for good defending, is not there. Holding looks calmer and more aware, but one worries about errors from inexperience. Hopefully Musti would soon be back. What really riles me is why we have to buy a player who is not good enough for the first team. We should, policy wise, step up to the galatico policy. Known and tested quality only except when buying youngsters.

  • PE I think we can agree on Ozil too. If you read my last paragraph on my last comment I think we are on the same wavelength.

    However, Jacko is someone that works best with players clicking around him.

    I have yet to see the Bournemouth games, but I prefer Rambo to be the b2b player rather than recalling Jacko back.

  • I will get around to watching the game later. However from the comments above come as no surprise.
    In the early hours I read some comments, but Waldo’s one struck a chord when he said that our style of game makes too big a demand on players to do it every game.
    That is on the physical side.
    I think the mental stress is even more demanding, which is why we can look chalk and cheese, both sublime when good, and naff when we are not. So bear that in mind when you jump on Ozil? He is virtually our sole creator in the team. Expectation is high every single game. If he looked tired in the previous game, then mentally he needs his winter break, not have an even higher expectation 6 days later, playing with bunch of players who have been through the wringer as well.

    What about Sancvhez you might say? Well apart from being born at altitude in the Chilean hinterland, which calls for big lungs to survive, he expresses himself through physical effort. That does not mean his mental sharpness is not affected too. I ask you, how many goals has he scored in open play in these last two games. Indeed, how many shots on target, or key passes. Don’t get fooled by the physical effort he puts in. Mental fatigue affects every one.

    Waldo’s other point is on rotation, with JK also adding his support for, but the thing is it is not now, when rotation is an absolute must, but way back after the interlull when we were playing teams with less capable players. Not that it makes it any easier when games are coming thick and fast, but at least the squad would have been enlarged enough to know how good the strength in depth was. It looked pretty good when we made 6 and the 7 changes and back againrecently, that briefly put us at the top of the table ….. That McEnroe voice returns when I think of the team selected against Everton, with only a 3 day break, and bar one, played yesterday …. Arsene Wenger …

    Frustrating as that is, and him saying about the amount of games we play … and quote ‘… 4 of them away from home (this month)’ B. Hell! AW, I saw that coming two months ago! Which is why I said, without rotation early on, we would drop 10 points from my calculations … (we are currently 8 points down on those).
    No I am not being a smug fantasy manager (well not totally 😀 ironic smiley note).
    I know full well if we had have included a lot more players in the early part of this second quarter, we more than likely would not have been top of the league last weekend. I was generous and gave them points for games because my expectation level of them performing well was clearly higher than Wenger’s? That said, there is little excuse on his part , even at this late stage for not including players who to date, have not let the team down when they have played? Nor indeed for playing a player, because of his style, only lasts about 60 minutes, and then push him into 3 starts, and lo and behold, watch his hamstring go the moment he steps on the pitch in the 4th game?

    I only feel free to say this because I am not being wise after the event. But it does not make me happy. I am sure AW has been making calculations that will be aimed squarely at the BoD about the need to invest? Either with our current squad, or next month.
    The BoD are also making their calculations …

    That is my off the field assessment. I will come back to talk about the game later. Just as has been said, Chelsea will have to cope without Costa if he gets another card in their next game, and again, later in the season when he tops the ten mark. Man C are still a shambles at the back. United too are 6 players short of being very good, Spurs still rely on Kane to do the scoring. Liverpool are the biggest threat to any title hopes, or indeed a top four finish, if we are already lowering our sights?

    So all is not lost. But if I were AW, I would say to the BoD, make a decent (and equal) offer to our two main stars, and send them off for a month before the W. Brom game, and hope they listen?

    p.s. I got 40 points on the Predictor game, so not my fault they lost at Everton.

  • The sense of adventure naturally declines with age. that my friend is a big misconception.

    Look it was very disappointing and we all feel shit about it, but the season aint over yet and we will bounce back. Win the next three and we will be a lot closer to the Chavs. But OGAAT of course. Cannot wait till Boxing Day. Love the Gunners. 🙂

  • I should probably keep my big trap shut, but the next 6 league games are very winnable. Yesterday was a huge disappointment, but sadly not entirely unexpected. City looked pretty suspect at the back and having gone 1 nil up we either lacked the passion or the tactical know how to exploit it. Sadly when Chelsea go 1nil up at the moment they know how to close the game down and frustrate their opponents. Arsenal on the other hand seem to lack the know how to to this. Within minutes of scoring, Sterling has a relatively easy chance to equalise.

    If we are going to challenge we need to change the mentality of the team. I still think we need a leader and I think we need to rotate more. Virtually the same team played all three game last week, when surely the likes of Perez, Giroud and Gibbs are worthy of some game time. Ok it might involve a change of tactics…. but is that such a bad thing?

  • A day on and, though very disappointing, I’m with those who are unwilling to throw in the towel just yet. Later this week I’m off to the land of playas and siestas and little or no internet so you won’t have me to kick around for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, while I’m gone, we can take them one at a time and steady ourselves as the 2nd half of the season gets going…

    That said, the collective despair (mostly elsewhere in the Goonersphere–I was being sarcastic when I said it was the end of the world…) is over the top and outrageous but maybe that’s just the way of the world these days. (For example, do we really need neo-fascism just because we’re not all driving Mercedes?…) That’s what comes with relative consistency–it appears all too familiar and thus boring and thus depressing.

    Except (of course…) that we’re not consistent at all. Ozil hat tricks (in Bulgaria…) and he’s the greatest… Alexis does likewise (in garbage time and with one goal as offside as both City goals yesterday…) vs West Ham and we need to match any offer from China to keep him. When they go flat it’s abuse (Ozil) or at least excuses (Alexis)… The ups and downs are just too much and suddenly we’re in crisis. Pulis and West Brom, having lost with decent performances at Chelsea and ManU in their last two, will sense blood in the water…

    But, like I said, I won’t be around to write that preview. So, merry merry and all that… 😀

    Beyond the hand-wringing and other lamentations I think there are some hard realities. Defending and playing on the break is probably the right strategy but it’s also a very difficult game-plan, esp. when confidence is so brittle. I’m less worried about the lack of rotation and it made sense to play with the same group if we wanted to defend first–Theo, Iwobi/Ox and Alexis can all move forward at pace and they have been fairly sharp. (That said, Gibbs and Lucas sure looked good in transition at Basel…) It also makes sense, however, to be able to play other tactics, esp. if we plan to change them up to finish the matches. Giroud up front is an underutilized weapon, IMO, and we hardly even understand Lucas’ game due to his short minutes. Treating Alexis with kid gloves (or the opposite and letting him run around like a crazy man for 90 minutes match after match because he might be otherwise offended…) doesn’t seem wise in the longer-term. In MF, Elneny is the closest thing to Santi we’ve got in terms of possession play and might help take pressure off Ozil’s game. I know TA will wave me off, but Santi down is a big blow (just my opinion, once again, of course…) with Ramsey’s lack of fitness another option reducer. Coq can tackle and Xhaka can hit a long ball but they’re a work in progress when it comes to controlling matches through possession or really putting teams under pressure or switching to more forward play if a lead is lost. Losing first Bellerin then Mustafi is also a blow which reduces our ability to play out of the back, hence all the Cech long-balls which seem so pointless. People are calling for Holding in there and he’s played well. My hunch, with the BFG soon back, is that he becomes 5th choice and maybe even goes on loan in January…

    All the “I know more than AW” types have got an answer but, for me, they don’t add up. It may be boring and repetitive but a tough couple of away matches (against fairly desperate opponents), some bad luck and dodgy (ref) decisions along with some key injuries are limiting us. Add in the brittle confidence communicated by the support and we’re where we should be–not truly competing for the title but still within lurking distance IF we can recover and regroup. If we take these disappointing few days and throw out the baby with the bath-water (Bould in, AW out) maybe we can get down there with the Moo-crew or out of Europe entirely so (next year) we can focus on the league. It’s working for Chelsea and Liverpool–for the moment, at least–so why not? At least it wouldn’t be so boring and repetitive, right?… (That’s more sarcasm, btw…)

    So, to come full circle, time to go on vacation–or at least lick our wounds, enjoy the holiday and beat WBA on Boxing day. Enjoy…

  • This boy in Aleppo shows off his personal belongings he was able to retrieve after his house was bombed to the ground…. perspective can easily be found..

  • Retsub1 – Love the puppy photo btw – I am not sure we did that much wrong in the first half.

    From all I had read, I was expecting to see players walking around lazily watching City players go whizzing by them. But no, they close down virtually every attempt on our goal, moved the ball forward pretty well … Not vintage stuff, but 1-nil is 1- nil?
    But where it really mattered, in the final third, the decision making had all the hallmarks of a jaded brain. Two or three times Alexis would turn away from an obvious quick pass to a player in the clear, and the move would break down. The normally laconic Ozil who could trap a ball, look up to see whats on, and still retain possession with two players fighting over who will take his ankles away. From what I saw in this first half, he was a player who was not only more than a few millliseconds behind the play, but had no reaction time to retrieve it?

    Before you start asking for leaders on the pitch Rertsub1, how about a bit of input from the one on the front bench?
    What have Man U (Moo), Everton Koeman), and Man C (Pep) have in common? Apart from managing the clubs that have got results, on form they should have? … and…
    They have managers who are all very tactically aware.

    Key example follows …
    The first thing I noticed at the second half was Sane stayed nearest the camera, our right side.
    When you looked at their front 4, they looked very much how we might play in regards to a fluid interchange between them?
    So what was behind the switch? Put a different pressure on Monreal with Sterling and De Bruyne over there? I got the impression it was because De Bruyne hadn’t got the pace to exploit the gap between Bellerin, when he went forward, and Gabriel, as the latter could show him down the line and make him use his weaker left foot. Sane had both the pace and the two footedness to get into that area before Bellerin could get back. It was tried at least twice before he successfully ran through the the gap, and score a goal that Theo would have been proud of?
    At the speed he ran through the gap it would have taken a video ref to say he was off side, not the poor fella with the flag, who only had a millisecond view, either side of that moment, he was on, and then off. They don’t get a second chance at it. Stop bleating AW!

    From then on the Mancs had all the possession, numerous near misses, before our bench reacted and brought a sub on. The ill-fated Oxlade-Chamberlain. He actually made a difference. For some reason though, he came over to our right side, and nobody went over to support Monreal? The player who had given him most support, Iwobi, was the one that Ox replaced. Was Ox given instructions to mark Sterling perhaps? Whatever the reason, Monreal was left exposed, and De Bruyne took full advantage, and fizzed a cross in that Sterling finished off. It should have been ruled out because Silva made an attempt at the ball from a clear off side position … but it was Atkinson in the middle, so no surprise it stood?

    Okay, lesson learned? Or so you might think? Prior to Ox coming on, our defence consisted of hurried balls kicked out, and incessant attacks coming back in. Surely the time to bring on Giroud, with Ox?
    Oh no no no. You have to giver them 24 minutes for them to score their second goal … even though we had a chance 3 minutes earlier Ox has to come off. Not that that was done in any great pace either, as he was walking around the pitch for a couple of minutes after landing a bit on the stretch, trying to keep possession for us. Still, just time for them to make another attacking sub, before finally, Giroud was allowed his usual final 10 minutes. Actually 12 minutes, as AW gave him the hurry up call …. ironic ha ha ha.
    I despair at times. The really annoying thing is Giroud made a difference to our two key players, and they suddenly found they could find a team mate with a pass …. GRRRRRR!

    To conclude. I do not go along with the idea that we were that bad. We, collectively could have done better, but they, as expected had a very strong attack. But this time fixation as to when to bring on tactical substitutions is a killer when up against managers who know how to use their players to make a difference.

    As for Pulis and West Brom …..
    No that is for another day.

  • Gerry he certainly isn’t a puppy now, he’s nearly three and he has decided to make camp under the Christmas tree, causing carnage when he decides to barrel his way out.

    To be honest I don’t analyse games to your level but I do think this team lacks leadership on the pitch. why? I saw Alexis running around like a madman urging the team to press higher upfield and rightly or wrongly being ignored . A number of times I saw us lose the ball while trying to dribble it out of the area. I am all for the beautiful games, but on occasions it’s just necessary to ‘boot it’. Czech kicking was pretty wayward. In previous lives .(and I know I have harped on about this before) an Adams or Vieira would have been barking outside orders, urging others on etc.

    In the 2nd half we were truly awful, we couldn’t string together two decent passes together. I saw no one trying to gee the team up, chang things etc.

    With players like Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi Kos, Montreal, Coquelin ,Elneny, Alexis Ozil etc you pretty much know what to expect from them. With others like Theo , the Ox, Xhaka, Iwobi etc you can never be sure which player will turn up. Great player that he is I don’t see Kos patting these guys on the back, giving advice etc.

    Anyway just my ramblings.

    Wishing all fellow Bergkampesquers a great Christmas and best wishes to those that don’t celebrate. Let’s hope for a major turnaround. As I mentioned bofore the next six leagues e games are all winnable and then there is the little matter of a trip to Stamford Bridge.

  • He might already have gone to bed but I think Gerry might have been offended by my attempt to slip in some politics…To reiterate, IMO people HAVE lost perspective when they hurl abuse just because their football team isn’t winning–but maybe that’s just the culture that seems to be sweeping the world. Call it self entitlement, the blame game or Neo-fascism, PotAto, Potato, I say… 😀 (TA, please delete if I’m over the line…)

    retsub, the leadership question, I think, falls in with the whole business of the (massive) contract negotiations. If a player is seriously willing to play in China for the money can they be all that concerned with the needs of their club and its supporters or even very worried about playing the team game? The one thing Gerry noted (I really do try to read it all…) recently that I really agree with is that it’s a just that sort of thing (a team game) and all 11 need to work together. That’s why (as he also noted) Alexis turning away from open passes is such a killer. It shows his “desire” maybe (as opposed to Ozil’s complacency…) but it hurts the collective effort, IMO. That said, some voices to collectively move us out of defending/playing on the break could have been useful. With that in mind, their goal (the first one) came at a particularly bad time, though we didn’t do any better when Everton scored just before the half. Ox’s injury, reducing us (effectively) to two subs, was also a killer… We had slightly better urgency at the end but I would also have liked to have seen Lucas (probably for Theo) for a bit…

    Do we miss the BFG as that sort of voice? Should he get to play when he’s fit? What about Mustafi and the five languages he speaks? I also think little Santi plays a subtle leadership role that is missed. We scored first (then scored again) and held on to win this fixture (playing mostly in our own half) a couple of years ago with him right at the heart of things. (Ramsey is another one who just keeps running and running…) I don’t know the answer but I’m hopeful we can put this little run behind us and develop a greater sense of leadership in upcoming fixtures and the new year.

  • Loyalty is an interesting question 17HT. Had I ever been lucky enough to be an Arsenal player. ps I don’t think I would have got the boot cleaners assistant based on ability. Could I have transferred to another team for more money. I would like to think no, but then I was never in that position. In my mind if you are earning in excess of £100k per week, you are going to struggle to spend it, unless you develop certain habits. As the great George Best once said. I spent my money on booze, girls and fast cars and I wasted the rest”

    At the end of the day IMO no player is bigger than the club. If Alexis and Ozil hold out for stupid money, better to cash in and sell them, rather than disrupt the financial stability of the club plus team moral. I suspect I may be in the minority here.

  • No, you are not. In my opinion, the latest round of defeats may be down to the “spectacle” that both Ozil and Alexis have made their contract negotiations to be. There’s no way players are not murmuring about the sheer size of the demands we read about (if true); most will adopt what we call “Sidon look” (sit down and look, literarily speaking) in Nigeria to see if the club budges and anyone who thinks that won’t affect team dynamics knows little about team sport.

    The club has to hope for some real positive news or a clear the air meeting by the group for us to see performances close to usual, before we lose it all this season. It is very easy to collapse no find ourselves at the wrong end of that table if something isn’t done fast, including dropping players and accepting the consequences, if any.

  • Until Ozil gets seious with football lets get Jack Wilshire back. Past reputayion and price tag dont play football. Imagine had we playef Ramsey or Wilshire

  • Ozil is our weakness unless he shines in the big games he is useless to us because the games again the likes of Hull City etc can be won by players like Monreal. Arsene must akso have guts to bench players off form like Monreal and Xhaka who hasnt been to our expectations

  • No, not in bed yet, HT. I clocked in to find we are now out of the top four!

    If that does not get Kroenke’s attention, I guess only relegation will ?

    Yes, these contract negotiations need to be settled quickly. However, does the ‘no player is bigger that the club’ also apply to the manager?

    I ask this, in this climate of money being the ruling master, because if Kroenke PLC looks at not giving Arsene Wenger a further extension to his contract @ £7.2m per year, that would pay for two mega salaries?
    Just a thought.

    On the other hand, AW may walk if he does not secure at least one of them?

    As far as the players are concerned, with all the TV money sloshing about, the very top players compare their wages with others, and sadly £225000 per week is probably the minimum it will take.
    For a supposedly top club raking in lots of money, Is that unreasonable in context of what goes on around them?

  • Gerry, Wenger is on about £8.3m per the latest disclosures. And, we are in 4th place, after Liverpool snatched a win at the dead. I have no problem paying top of the range wages to Alexis; Ozil will have to do a bit more to earn anything above £200k per week, in my honest view.

    This is down to the players. We need someone who will bring them all together for a heart to heart talk about how they must all play with greater passion, respect for the club and fans and with a clear focus on the goal of winning the premiership. It has to be one game at a time, from now on.

  • Gerry, we’re still in the top 4 according to the table I’ve seen…Spurs fans, of course, would ask us to mind the gap as it’s down to a single point. Another tiny mistake you made is that Diego Costa is banned for Chelsea’s next match. Bournemouth at the Bridge probably isn’t the worst one to miss even if they lost it a season ago…

    My opinion about the contract issues are that there isn’t a whole lot the club can do. Big contracts for Ozil, Alexis and AW are the way forward and will put bums in seats. Remaking the club may be less boring but I don’t want us dropping out of the top 4 and going through the added turmoil of getting a new manager and new big name players. Talk about empty seats–try playing on Spursdays or giving up the European revenue altogether. As much as know-nothings will point the finger at Ozil (see above) it’s really more existential than all that. Being a football supporter isn’t easy work for those expecting unmitigated success and happiness. And lets not forget that the boredom (and misery) this past week was compounded by our CL draw vs Bayern…

    They also point the finger at Wenger too. Nobody is singling out Alexis due to his work-rate and exuberant personality so I doubly appreciate you noting that his play can go awfully selfish at times. People suggesting that his personality demands that he can never take a sub or get a full rest also miss that his performances (like all footballers) can sometimes fail to measure up to his own (very high) standards.

    Final item, you took me to task (a week ago, maybe) for suggesting Giroud with Alexis (as starters) yet you believe AW made a mistake not subbing in the big guy earlier. Seems a bit like cake and having (making…) a meal, too. If you ask me, it’s high time Ollie gets a start esp. in these more winnable matches against teams that like to park it. As always, just my opinion, of course. I think we’re more aligned that Elneny (esp. if Ramsey is still out) could also be very useful in these games.

    Sleep well…

  • 17HT, what is your definition of “Big contracts”, just out of curiousity? I feel a raise to £200k/per week from £140k is quite a big one. Now, if a player isn’t going to accept something around that (not that anyone knows just what the club has offered officially) and knowing the importance we attach to team cohesion & respect for players, with regards to wage disparity, surely that leaves the club with little choice. I do appreciate the need for such names on the team sheet but certainly, not at the risk of losing the dressing room.

    The point I made about Ozil is that he needs to put in a shift more often in the big games. It is a known fact that he doesn’t like to put his foot or body into it. He ducks out of challenges, for Pete’s sake! If he wants to earn top dollar, that’s not a quality to see in full view of the cameras.

    As for the contract merry-go-round, that has little to do with the players. But as discussions get protracted, the media and footballers’ agents start to create stories out of it, which is distracting. If the club can afford it, by all means, make the decision to pay, quick and allow the team play freely. If not, then make the decision to sell. The club will remain competitive still….and don’t tell me we cannot get similar quality or players in other positions, with complementary skills for whatever weaknesses we suffer as a result.

  • My, did I slip up there, I thought if we were in fourth place, then Liverpool moving to second demoted us? I am much sharper in the mornings 😀

    On your point on contract talks, I do not agree with you that there is not a lot the BoD can do. They could make a decision, one way or another, as Goonereris has said above.
    In my opinion, it is still in Arsenal’s hands to keep them. But if they delay, and the two players in question get their ‘winter break’ and go off without anything being resolved, then agents will swarm around them offering better terms than we could ever dream of. Then we are in RVP territory.

    Switching to your ‘anti-Ozil’ stance Goonereris for a moment. Ozil is only a part of the team. By singling out him as ‘failing to turn up for big games’ is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. It is the rest of the team that is either not good enough to play at the same level as they do against ‘easier’ opposition, or do they bottle it? This is why I don’t like the blame game of singling out players for solely being responsible for what is a ‘team failure’, and that goes for TA down, as I try to be consistent on this point. Fanciful statements like we will not win the league without a Pires or a Ljungberg, without reference to where these magical players may come from? Can our home grown talent develop into those roles? Do we do a Chav or a Mancs and buy our way to the title?
    Waldo with his stats based argument on how well individuals played, again without any reference to how the game was played around them, or the context of previous games. Yourself, somewhat pandering to the visual element, that HT refers to as the ‘no nothing’ brigade, is equally unhelpful when a collective failure is more apparent, and the thing that needs is proper inspection, not a scapegoat knee jerk reaction.
    In a perverse way, TA may be right, we are a couple of players light of a true title challenging team. But two things that may attract players here are; a, the continuing presence of Arsene Wenger; b, the fact we have two world class players already here. If you are so sure by just waving a wad of cash from the sale of the latter will have players falling over themselves to come here is a fantasy. Money they can get elsewhere, or indeed, where they are already, but it is not enough without winning something meaningful in their relatively short shelf life at the top. That is why the Bayern’s, the PSG”s, the Real Madrid’s, and Barcelona’s of this cosy world of football usually win out. We are very much in an unfair playing field by being in a tougherr to win domestic league. I mentioned at the time on our home leg against PSG, that they are so confident about winning Ligue Un, that despite only lying third in the table they still rested half their squad before playing us.

    That brings me back to the unseen, or usually instantly discounted reason for failure to perform:
    I keep stressing that mental fatigue cannot be seen like a misplaced pass, or a glaring miss in front of an open goal. But in is real. While you are running high on adrenalin, which success brings, the moment the that success bubble is burst it is much harder to go forward. In microcosm, snooker tournaments are invariably high pressure events in the closing stages. Last weekend John Higgins was cruising along at the top of his game, as he had been in the game before, coming back from 5-1 down to win 6-5. Now in the final, he scored 3 century breaks to go 3-1 up before the interval. Again, he appeared to have the next game at his mercy, then referee spoke to him as he went to re-spot the black ball …. Higgins got down to knock in a simple red in the middle pocket, and missed it. The bubble was burst. That session ended 4-4. More importantly in this comparison, when they returned some 3 hours later, Higgins could not refresh himself and lost 9-4. That is an illustration of what mental fatigue can do. If that had happened in an earlier round, he would have shrugged off the missed red and carried on where he left off. But the accumulation of the pressure build up exposed a player, well known for his hard battling style, to the full effect of mental fatigue. Stretch out the hours to weeks in football and you can see the parallel I am alluding to?
    We smashed a poor West Ham team. We came back at Stoke, with several changes in the line up both times. But then with the same 11 starting 3 days later we met Everton. Started brightly and got a deflected penalty goal, and it should have been plain sailing. However, relaxing a little in the expectation of coasting for a while, and then nick another one, was the same switch off that Higgins had with the innocent words of the referee. Mental fatigue does have an instant reset button, especially when the 10 other players are in the same position. I have no doubt if we had won that Everton game, we would have approached the last game with a whole different mindset. However, the fragility would be even more apparent at the slightest set back when the same players involvled?

    HT, back to you and your take on Alexis. I was making the point that when he turned down easy passes was more a case of mental fatigue. But you may be right, his internal switch with fatigue may be to get more selfish? I was also pointing out that because of fatigue, where he and Ozil had been flying high in the unbeaten run, Alexis did not have a shot on target in the Stoke game. In the Everton match he was a tad lucky with the penalty, and then the tide turned. So by the time the Sunday match arrived, I think he, along with everyone else, as the near same 11 were pushed out again, were struggling with mental demons that slow the decision making processes down, as well as the awareness of what is going on around them. Not a case of bottling it, although it gives that impression visually, just simply a mist that comes down in the brain to stop it having to make decisions?
    I don’t think you are being quite fair on the Giroud moment. It is one thing about starting a game and disrupting the flow from previous games. Quite another when fresh legs were needed, and while we were under the cosh, and clearances were going to no one who could win the ball and retain possession, I think? Hence the need for Giroud earlier.
    You may also remember I called for a more radical change at the back, by having Bellerin and Gibbs as wing backs? And if anybody cares to scroll down to the Bellerin footprint in the Stoke game, here is the link:

    I will hope that at least 5 changes are made for the W,Brom game, because Pulis will undoubtedly follow the Everton tactics. So apart from repeating the above suggestion, with Holding at RB, and Per on the bench to relieve Koscilny. I would also go 4-4-2 with Perez and Giroud up front.
    The obvious absence of Alexis and Ozil will be because they can start their winter break early,,. whether or not they sign our final offer, because after that it will be too late?

    Enjoy that over your expresso HT, and Merry Christmas to you too,

  • Amid all the gloom, here is a thought for today …

    ..when a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment
    in which it grows, not the flower.

    So get gardening …

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