A Lack of Cool and Preparation cost the Gunners but What a Passion, Pride and Quality they Showed Us

What a game that was. It was one of two parts. One lasted 12 minutes and basically meant the game was almost certainly lost, and the other lasted 80+ minutes and showed us that the Gunners have a lot of passion, pride and quality within them. We had the better players but were tactically undone by the Self-Adoring One, and that really hurt.

Just like against MC, we were undone within the first 15 minutes of the game….. through tactics. Back in Manchester we hung on a bit longer but we all knew it should have been two or three nil to the home site. Against the Northern Oilers, we tried to press them high and left acres of free grass behind us and we got punished. Against the Self-Celebrating One’s first eleven, we had no answer to the early and aggressive pressing of our mobile, but rusty looking, ‘three at the back’, with devastating consequences.

Koz made an uncharacteristic mistake that needed a lot of quality attacking moves (to be fair) to see us go 1-0 behind; and then Mustafi – normally our rock and lucky charm – was not able to get his feed sorted out in time to simply pass the ball to our deepest midfielder, Xhaka. Instead, he was robbed off the ball and they could pounce again. 0-2 and we all felt sick in the stomach. For the first goal, Koz also had an opportunity to play the ball to Lacazette early on, but he did not see his fellow Frenchman or simply made the wrong decision; who knows? Fact is, they were well prepped and aggressive from the start when our defenders were hoping to ease themselves into the game. And boy we paid for it.

The risk of playing three at the back is that they can get targeted through aggressive pressing; and we have proven to be vulnerable to  this time and again this season. Our full backs – in my view our weakest area on both sides – are often too far away or isolated to help out; and CBs like time and space to pass the ball around. It was clear that the Self-Loving One has prepared well for this game and our weaknesses were exploited to the max. The first goal is something that ‘can happen’, but the second one was utterly avoidable and therefore extra painful and very, very costly.

After going down two nil, both players and supporters, could have given up but we did the opposite. We showed real pride and belief, hunger and an ‘over our dead body will we lose this game’ attitude. This made me really proud of our boys and it is something I have not seen for a long time  when going behind against the despicable Mancs. I reckon our fine fellow Gooner on BK, Retsub, summed it up brilliantly with:

“…. I thought our boys were fantastic. The ups and downs of our team, must have taken its toll over the years, because I have to admit I haven’t found this season as exciting as previous seasons. But on Saturday they played so well, I found myself yelling at the TV, the ref, the dog and any other poor sod who walked in the room. I hate losing, even as much as I hate Manchester United, but if we  have to lose, let’s do it in style as we did. Brilliant game, I nearly enjoyed every of it. How we didn’t score 10 I don’t know.”

It is true that De Gea was outstanding, but we were also lacking coolness in front of goal. I can forgive our boys the latter. In order to put the pressure on as we did against our Arch non-North-London rivals, we needed to have extreme levels of testosterone pumping through our red and white veins, and this does not easily allow for a cool head. I guess the best opportunity we had to turn the game round was when our most experienced attacker on the field and so often the embodiment of COOL, Alexis, pounced on a rebound from another on goal effort by the very impressive Lacazette; he needed a cool head to put that one past De Gea but the Spaniard must also have hypnotized him, as the Chilean’s effort was saveable and so it was kept out.

Not much later, they restored the gap to two and we all knew it was not to be. The boys, though, did never give up and fought on and on till the 96th minute. That is all I can ask for, all we can ask for!

Still, I also ask for an urgent review of our 3-4-3 system’s defensive deficiencies and better tactical preparations from our loyal manager. The two games against our Manchester-based rivals have clearly shown that we have a very good first team but can still be undone tactically/positionally.

By TotalArsenal.

34 thoughts on “A Lack of Cool and Preparation cost the Gunners but What a Passion, Pride and Quality they Showed Us

  • Retsub, that was a great comment mate and I know exactly what you mean.
    Normally I would be seriously pee’d off after losing at home to ‘them’.
    But there was such an effort by our boys, such a spirit and desire not to give up despite the odds stacked against them, that I came out of that game more optimistic about our squad than I have for a long long time, even following victories.
    There are times when the players have to motivate themselves, find that edge from within, maybe the Spurs win and the reconnection with the fans that day was a moment of clarity for some of our players?

  • Nicely encapsulated TA. restub too.
    Glad you brought over retsub’s snippet from the previous post. Seems those in-game emotions were ones many of us experienced (my dog went hiding!).

    Not sure what to do at the back.
    Three games in a week spent what Koscielny had to give– and just now entering the festive run of matches. Till now, I’d felt Wenger had doled out games with balance for his big squad. Been fortunate with injuries as well.

    Are Chambers or Holding ready? Does Debuchy get a run? Surely not Elneny (unless/except Europa?). Tough to make this type tactical switch without the training time. Though the team looked quite good upon Iwobi’s entrance– when Mustafi went off.

    In this crunch of matches upcoming– of the ‘Big Six’ we only see ‘Pool. And a number of teams emulating United.


  • BFG is retiring, Koscielny has to be replaced, by replaced I don’t mean we dump him I mean we bring in a new, bigger more physical presence at centre-back to play with him and who can eventually take over from him.
    Arsene needs to grasp the nettle he has assiduously avoided since Gilberto Silva left, and that is to bring in a proper def/mid player to shield our centre-backs and then going back to a back-four will be possible.

  • JW, hopefully Chambers, Holding and BFG will play against Borisov this Thursday, maybe Debuchy as well, depending on the fitness of the other three.

  • It’s interesting that the group here see the game in much the same way. I agree. I can’t remember feeling so “not bad” after a loss.

  • Kev–
    In agreeing with your Kos assessment– and bringing in a ‘bigger/younger’ type?
    Does Wenger deal in January– though he loathes to?
    Does he splash requisite cash on a PL-ready type like Van Dijk?
    (Southampton’s brutal December fixtures (ARS, LC, CHE, HT, TOT, MU)– and current 17pts may make them gun-shy.)

    If Top-4 (or a Europa Cup) and CL is the target?
    IMO a buy has to happen next month.


  • TA, great review and agree with all of your assessment of how things panned out. We reacted in a way that latter day (I’d say post 2008) fans are not familiar with, which is why it grates that we haven’t won that game. Mourinho greeted their 3rd goal with such joy, you know he was feeling the pressure. Not too pleased to see how he shook hands and patted Wenger on the back, though. Not because I like me a good and long feud, but more because you know he cannot, otherwise, call Wenger to discuss either of Ozil or Sanchez. 😎

    That’s a very daunting run of fixtures for Southampton there, indeed. From their performance against City last midweek, you’d think they will be giving a couple of those big name sides a run for their money. It’s us next for them and I expect us to get a reaction to our last result, from our lads.

  • JW, if it’s feasible to sign a player who can improve us in January, then why not?

    Looking forward to seeing how the youngsters do on Thursday, hopefully Arsene will give a few of them some game time.

  • Hi all.. Great spirit from you all..

    Yes we were unlucky to lost the game..
    But still wonder why Welbeck came to replaced Xhaka.. Why not Wilshere..
    Putting so many strikers in front didn’t mean GOAL..
    With so many bus parking there.. We need some creative midfielders to break the bus wall..

    So, our main problem were 10 first minutes.. Do our soilder ready enough..??
    Maybe Wenger need to think harder to overcome this situation..

  • Yes heheheHenery, we need to celebrate the team’s efforts but also talk about the lack of preparation and tactical approach. My fellow BKers seem to be reluctant to do so. Ah well, we soldier on! 🤠

  • Great post-mortem (match) report on where we went wrong. We certainly weren’t prolific in front of goal. Whatever happened between the 5-0 win and the loss a few days later baffled me. Maybe Wenger wanted the whole team to score less?

    We needed that second goal to score better, which obviously that didn’t happen and we were frustrated. Of all places we shot straight at the keeper and we should have shot to the side or into the roof.

    We have made the same mistakes all these while and I do not forsee a spanking of the opposition in the upcoming match due to our tendency to shoot right at the keeper, and not away from the keeper.

  • Howdy Total
    Surely tactics and preparation went out the window the minute ManU went 2-0.
    All the preparation in the world couldn’t have overcome the two major defensive errors by our two experienced international defenders. Not sure anyone on Twitter could blame Arsene this time.

    And anyway I’m not sure that it was a tactical masterclass by Mourinho, he got lucky with the first two goals as they were avoidable and he got lucky with his goalkeeper who played the game of his life.
    Look at his reaction when the third goal went in and tell me that that wasn’t a sign of relief from him.

  • Well Kev, this is where for once we totally disagree. The Self-Decorating One won the game in ten minutes, through enforcing errors. For sure, the defenders should have done better, but let there be no doubt about it that Wenger was out-manoeuvred and the game was lost after 12 minutes as a result of it. And the same happened against MC.

    The boys did very, very well to fight back and I love that as much as you do…. but we were tactically undone…

  • Thanks, TA, for the post… I was just a touch worried about you when it took so long to hear from you after the match, but then you were there… (And who am I to talk when it’s taken me just as long to comment on the post?…) Good job in bringing Retsub’s comment from the last one over as it sums up the feeling I think most of us are taking from the match.

    I think I (also?) need extra explanation of the tactics critique though I agree that it seemed like the CBs were hoping they could “ease” into the match a bit, which is maybe the lack of preparation part. That first giveaway from Kos just looks worse and worse the more you see it, while the Mustafi ball clearly should’ve been played back to Cech rather than trying to turn it upfield with a series of touches. United’s execution on the counters (as you note) was flawless, however…

    After the Mustafi-Iwobi sub we were playing with a 442, right? (Speaking of switching to a 442, where’s Pony Eye?… Should we try to check on him by e-mail?…) This perhaps made us even more susceptible to the counter–and indeed they got the critical one–but our pressure was such that we were able to (mostly) pen them into their own half and keep firing away. Again, I’m not sure if you’re saying that switching to this new formation was what we should have done from the start or if it’s some other tactical nuance. Please explain. You also chided me for not understanding the (apparently obvious) tactics on display in our trip to ManCity. I’m just a beginner here, so I think I could come to understand it, but you might have to be patient with me…

    Regarding our inefficiency at their goal-mouth… Was it De Gea with the keeper performance of a lifetime? Arsenal not quite clinical enough? Hard to say and probably a bit of both. (In match, I noted that De Gea was only an inch or two from making another foot-block on the goal we did score…) In general, maybe because they gave us space outside of the box, I thought we suffered by taking too many touches before firing which allowed the United defenders to block shots at the point of attack. Many went out for corners (good) but none deflected in nor fell to us where we could bundle (or blast) them across the line (not as good). We got a lucky bounce at the other end (off the post after Cech saved from another counter-attack), so maybe (as I think you’re suggesting) it wasn’t ALL just bad luck…

    The way I look at it is this: The result stings (badly–losing to the Moo-man, at home, by the same biggish margin we lost up at City)…BUT the final 80 minutes of this game can be a blue-print for how we should play against other park-the-bus teams–which is just about the entire rest of the league. Those teams will not be as quick to block our shots nor to intercept our passes in deep positions and punish us on the counter and they won’t have keepers making stops like that. IF that’s what we can take from this match, we’ll be very well served indeed…

  • TA posted (about the tactics) while I was writing… And I’m still not clear. Are you saying that Wenger should have directed the back line to hoof the ball deep and let United have the possession? At City, (I think you might be saying, but I’m not sure…) it was too much Alexis up front and trying to press the ball which was the tactical error? Again, I’m just not sure I’m understanding things as clearly as I might… And certainly not as clearly as you are seeing them…

    Sorry for being a dullard here… And (sincerely…) all explanation is much appreciated…

  • Kev–

    I feel it’s imperative we sign a CB– and possibly an attacker.
    If the goal is CL– it has to be part of the plan. Yes. I said it. ‘PLAN’.
    If not– we don’t attract nearly the names we’d like next Summer– and possibly see more defections.

    IMO– there is a reason there is no vented public frustration than the body language seen from Sanchez and Ozil. There seems to be a quid pro quo between Arsene and the two. That would both complete their contracts– do their best to get us back in the Top-4– and then reassess their positions? That he’d setup both as successfully as possible to reap the largest possible financial benefit for each– in terms of both getting their largest and last contracts. Either with Arsenal– or elsewhere.

    So, again IMO? We must have a CB.
    And we need an attacker to ensure a number of possibilities after January.


  • 17HT, I have not much time (same as during the weekend), but here it goes it an nutshell:
    1. JM decided to surprise by not sitting back and absorbing pressure, but by aggressively pressing us high with plenty of number as back up in midfield.
    2. They were aggressive and surprised the CBs, who did not know how to respond.
    3. We were outnumbered on our left and simply did not sit/play compact enough to deal with the aggressive pressing
    4. The first goal needed some attacking skill to get the ball in the net but the second was big, easy pay back from the JM tactics
    5. When we play 3 at the back with the FB far too high and only one midfielder sitting deep, we are vulnerable to such tactics. We need to play more compact.
    6. Against City we pressed them high in the beginning, leaving lots of space behind us which they capitalised on. Again we played far too attacking and not compact enough.

  • Yeah Total, I get that absolutely what you mean, but really, do you think that ManU did anything that Wenger or his players didn’t expect, I mean Burnley did similar, but you cannot surely prepare for Koscielny to play the type of pass you are warned against playing in the youth team or for Mustafi dawdling on the ball, these guys should have been capable of dealing with the pressure in these types of games, and, if they cannot cope then maybe they’re not as good as we like to think they are.

    Mind you, it’s quite logical to blame the coaching staff for not drumming into our defenders, the need to maybe go long if put under pressure early. 🎅

  • I guess what I’m trying to say, is that Mourinho didn’t do anything ground breaking, it wasn’t a tactical masterclass in my view, we just shot ourselves in the foot for not dealing with it. 🤓

  • Good points, Kev. The defenders definitely could and should have done better. However, I reckon we should not have allowed all that space around our defenders so they would have had easier options and more support. We should have prepared better for the onslaught and I reckon that they enforced the errors to a large extent. We start those big games too aggressively and not compact enough imo, and pay for it time and again. That is why I would like us to review the 3-4-3 system and tactical preparations for the big games at least.

  • Yeah, I agree with you there TA, we’ve started quickly and aggressively before and as with Spurs this season, Chelsea last season and a ManU before, blown teams away, even the so-called top four/six teams or whatever, although never away from home you’ll notice, as I’m sure you do.
    Mind you, didn’t ManU start aggressively, it’s just their defenders were maybe more organised and had a plan, more so than ours?
    I don’t honestly think that we differ much on this point tbh.

    As for playing a back four Total, I know you seem to favour this over the current back three, again it goes down to coaching and your defence being organised and disciplined, it also is, I believe, down to the players you have and that’s where having a plan comes in because I don’t think that Arsene ever planned to play a back three, he was kind of forced into it by the results we were getting at the time. Therefore you have to ask why he has persisted in signing a certain type of player to do a certain job when he almost certainly should go in a different direction, especially when playing a back four?

    So maybe he (still) hasn’t addressed the areas of the team where I think imho, that he should. It’s not as if these gaps haven’t been apparent for awhile, but when I go on about presence (yawn) I mean a physical presence, somebody or bodies that’ll stand up to the unique issues of English football. He’s been a coach on these shores long enough to know what it takes and the type of personnel you need, because he has done it before… 👍🏼

  • Kev, HT– was going to post a sidebar to the 3back or 4back and personnel discussion– but.
    I can’t lend the necessary time to craft it now (med appts today)– and as I started it, much more came to mind.

    Then the BATE match tomorrow– beginning the festive run of matches. With all due match commentary and responses.

    So HT? I’d like to submit a piece to be considered for publishing on BK. Possibly in the interim between the ‘Pool (12/22) and Palace (12/28) matches. Might be the right time just before the January window.

    Do I send to the GMail address listed?


  • ‘Morning all… Long one coming I fear… It’s sunny but very cold outside (with no usable, read: ski-able, snow on the ground) so sitting and writing seems a decent enough activity… (before getting the dog out or maybe doing some work around here)…

    That’s an interesting discussion regarding tactics in the big matches and formations and I esp. appreciate TA writing out what he saw. I was thinking I might have to watch the first two goals and our play leading up to them… After all, it was less than 11 minutes and much of that was taken up with goal celebrations 😦 … I’ll put the game up on the telly but probably only take glances while I write…

    I think I understand what you’re getting at TA and some compactness (more bodies for outlet passes at closer range, right?…) maybe would have prevented the critical turnovers that cost us… So too would have booting the ball deep, but maybe at the price of violating instructions from the manager. The City match got erased from my DVR–I can thank my wife for that–but I think I argued that Alexis running around (to little effect), I thought, wasn’t necessarily an instruction for pressing up high, nor was the inclusion of Iwobi (instead of Lacazette). If that’s how you see it, however, who am I to argue? Best, IMO, to try and see things through the eyes of those I respect and see what I can learn.

    So, on that note, I’d still agree more about the lack of preparation or the individual players (under the advice of the coaches) simply failing to note that many of the top teams close down the ball a good deal more quickly while also not losing their shape (over-committing players forward). In my view, I’d have to say that Burnley did better than Spurs in this regard. 🙂 As such, thinking back over these past three (league) matches, 6 points from 9 isn’t such a bad take. AND, if we’ve increased our confidence and cohesiveness in breaking down parked bus teams (even if we only netted the one goal vs United) it FEELS even better (for me).

    Maybe that’s my big point: how we as supporters feel about things, match over match.

    To me, it’s quite natural–in a game of repeated failure punctuated by rare moments of success–to find scapegoats in the heat of the moment, then, over time–as the awful, gut wrenching, feelings (or, with a win, the better ones…) subside–to remember the moments of success and the characters that brought them to us. Maybe that’s a reason we wish for the players who sat out while cursing the ones we felt were ineffective (or worse…) whom we had to watch for the full 90+. As always, it’s the manager who must carry the ultimate responsibility–even if, at Arsenal only, it seems, he cannot get the sack– and who seems the easiest target for blame. Long term, as even his fiercest critics tend to admit, Wenger will get the biggest statue on the plaza at the new stadium (even as they hate on him now)…

    So, that’s how I tend to look at things… More positive when we get a bad result and more critical when we escape with the full points. Call it swimming against the tide (or the rushing river…) but I call it “keeping it real,” as we (maybe used to) say over here. We’re never as bad–nor good–as we tend to think from the latest result…

    So, long(er) term, I think this match–ironically enough–could be a real turning point for us, at least this season. Tactically–and due to a lack of truly trustworthy CBs who can play 3 times per week–there might be more 442 which might represent an acknowledgement that we need 3 points from each game for at least a while. I kind of think Wenger will not make such a radical change but maybe he will instruct for more compactness (more help from MF and the two wingbacks–which is something I’ll look for) as well as telling his CBs to fecking boot it long if there’s a risk of getting caught on the ball or making overly casual cross-field passes. Like JW has mentioned, the recent match (and Mustafi injury) might prompt action for a (high-quality, ready to go) CB in January. (Any names?…) but also more incentive for a guy like Ozil (Alexis, IMO, is already gone…) to think about signing a new contract. Moreover, there’s the breaking down of the parked-bus teams, but I’ve already mentioned that… We’ll get a chance to see at least the more immediate ideas in action during the always difficult trip to So’ton on Sunday.

    First though is the dead rubber home match vs BATE Borisov tomorrow night. Does AW go full-on youth team or part young’ns and some 2nd teamers hoping to impress? Either way, I’ll be looking to see if we can generate some real pace playing the ball forward–and who might be at the heart of such efforts. I’ll also be hoping–maybe with better play at the back–if we can control the match in much better fashion than we did in the reverse fixture (which was a nutty up and down game that ended 4-2).

    OK, enough (for now at least)… Thanks for reading…

  • Hey J-Dub… With Pony Eye AWOL (and the oldsters–Kev and Retsub–likely busy with work and or holiday festivities…) a post from you would be great! I’m pretty sure the e-mail address above works (TA can confirm…), but I also think I can go into the back channels and e-mail something to you so that you will have my address… Looking forward to a post from you, though much can change (hopefully for the better…) between now and the time period you’re thinking about…

  • Hi 17ht, I am not sure if there is any real injury to Mustafi.

    In my mind, Mustafi will come back bigger and better, and become a hulk (or Mulk (Mustafi-Hulk)), if you get my drift ;).

    I understand that back 3 does not suit many of us here, but it does make the team more compact, rather than a 4-at-the-back. The only problem is that go-direct teams will bypass all our players if they play quick passes, which we were not big enough or bad enough to make a wall in front of the keeper.

    So, it is right if we beef someone (or 2) up from within or get an actual Centre-Back from Italy or something, which is big enough and wide enough to stop crosses. Or maybe we should get a Sumo wrestler that runs fast and is huge to be our new CB.


  • Hi all..
    Nothing special about tonight game.. Nothing Will change even if we lose.. We still lead the group.. Just for the youngsters and our second team to have more playing time..

    But, it may be an advantage for the team, cause nothing to lose there.. just playing with fun.. With the same team we win 4-2 away.. Now we playing at home, so we certainly Will win more than that.. 3-0 Will be great.. hehehehe.. VCC

  • Hmmm. Team sheet is out and it looks like Wenger went for a formation change to accommodate the likes of Theo and Elneny/Coquelin in the starting 11. Nice touch; everyone gets the minutes they need while the kids may be brought on if things are comfortable.

  • So, Mertesacker doesn’t even get to sit on the bench….

    Ospina, Debuchy, Chambers, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Coquelin, Wilshere, Walcott, Welbeck, Giroud

    Subs: Macey, Sheaf, Nelson, Reine-Adelaide, Willock, Nketiah, Akpom

    Scherbitski, Volodko, Polyakov, Milunović, Rios, Dragun, Berezkin, Ivanić, Stasevich, Gordeychuk, Rodionov.

    Subs: Chickan, Yablonski, Buljat, Signevich, Tuominen, Baga, Gvilla

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