Jack’s Hammer, Hector’s Howitzer, Maitland-Niles Composure! Eight Observations.

We really needed to win last night’s game but I reckon most of us are pleased with a draw in the end. To get back into the top four, we really need a good run of games with three points from most of them. We actually have not been playing bad at all, but too many draws have left us a dangerous number of points away from the top four.

Judging from our recent performances, I reckon we have the quality, passion and perseverance to finish well this season.

Eight observations from the Arsenal v Chelsea game:

  1. We have a very strong spine. Cech-Mustafi-Jack/Xhaka-Ozil-Lacazette are all fine, top-quality players who play with passion for the shirt and fear nobody. I was impressed with all of them and let’s hope we will sign up Mesut and Jack asap. This is a spine we can build our team around (Cech may need replacing eventually, though);
  2. Mesut is playing with such joy and incision at the moment. It was not a game to nominate a MOTM as the whole team worked hard and there were many fine performances, but Ozil played with pride for the shirt and was fully IN the game.
  3. Hector Bellerin saved the game with a beast of a strike, and boy did he – and we! – need it! Many of us, me included, have been critical of him – his final attacking ball is not incisive enough and his defending should improve, and there were still such moments – but I loved his determination to fight on and not let his head drop after he gave away a debatable penalty. Games like these will turn him into a man and top Gunner.
  4. How good is Maitland-Niles?! He glides over the pitch with such composure and determination! Top performance.
  5. Oh Jackie-boy, what a goal was that! Boooooooooooooom! Another composed, passionate and wise performance: seeking out the limits and putting his heart into it from start to finish. And that hammer in the top corner will forever be in our minds!
  6. Our attacking football was awesome for 90+ minutes. The Chavs’ defence was very, very good to keep us out for so long, but I loved our intensity, relentlessness and aggression when we attacked, using the wings really well and having enough players in the box to create proper chances time and again.
  7. Really loved Alex Lacazette’s performance. He gave us his all and worked the Chavs’ defenders really, really well. We need either Ozil or Alexis to play closer to Lacazette as to benefit from all that hard work and help him to get more into scoring positions. Alexis for me is not that player. Sell him now and get new, team-playing blood this January!
  8. Our defending was poor, but the boys worked their socks off and Mustafi was immense. I still have nightmares from those fast balls over the top that undid us so easily. I have no doubt that we would have defended much better with Koz and Nacho on the pitch, but that was still a shock to the system for us. Playing three at the back does not suit Chambers and Holding, it seems. But that is for another blog.

By TotalArsenal.

38 thoughts on “Jack’s Hammer, Hector’s Howitzer, Maitland-Niles Composure! Eight Observations.

  • TA, that’s a fitting post to a match where the referee’s decision possibly caused us 2pts. The clip on Niles, whose situation was more goal threatening than Hazard’s, was a bigger penalty call than the one awarded against us.

    There is no doubt that Ozil brings intelligence into our play. I love the way he drops deep when we are playing out from the back. One can feel it that he has quietly become the leader of the team. He is the soul of our front 4 (Wilshere, Ozil, Sanchez and Lacaz) who have shown ability at dazzling football (how I wish Sanchez can trust his other mates as much as he trusts Ozil).

    Maitland-Niles is already a revelation even without yet coming out fully from his shell. I get the feeling that he is only on gear 2 and yet is threatening to make that position his own. When he grows in authority, which I bet would be soon, we’d have a Pogba in our hands, excellent all over the field.

    I liked Chambers front foot tackling. I liked his ball play but his turn around recovery is his achilles heel. A central defender needs the quick recovery bust of speed. He might never acquire it, but his repertoire of skills tells me he can make a good DM.

    High time Lady Luck strays into our patch again. Lacaz to score in his next match. Banker!!!!!!!!!

  • Good review TA.

    This is a good example of how good we are in attack, but the way that we failed to defend balls from over the top worries me.

    Both teams had good goal scoring moments, but the penalty decision is seriously bad. One earlier not given but the later one given. We should get closer to the player before we fall down eh lads, bear in mind.

  • TA–
    Was nodding up-down agreeing from start through number ‘5’– with the occasional ‘oh, yeah!’ when recalling those moments. Number ‘6’ got you an ‘Allelulljah, brother!’– with results versus Chelsea continuing (with just one exception since start of the 2016/17 term).

    Coming to grips, and in agreement, with number ‘7’. Take the cash, sell Alexis (trusting my gut hunch here). Sanchez could have been an all-timer for the club; his lustre now fading. Thirty approaching quickly, WC career over, going to either City as an aging accessory– or to a lesser league as with PSG. It”ll look like it’s just for the money and piggy-backing for a title.

    Start with Lucas Perez back from Deportiva. Perez on the right– moving Ozil left (think Germany). Laca and Lucas will be a productive pair with Mesut and Jack providing service and the occasional goal. A realistic alternative with upside.

    Number ‘8’ is for another day.
    Thanks for the write-up TA!


  • As always, TA, you make some very good observations with which I can’t find much to quibble. And, as per usual, I feel like I got my ideas out as they came during the match itself. Despite both managers (I think) wanting to play a controlled and tactical match, it soon became a wild end to end battle that featured a lot of overall quality, with perhaps more in attack than in stopping it. Both keepers, I thought, were outstanding, which is something I wouldn’t normally guess in a game with 4 (total) goals conceded. In truth, I think we had the better build-up AND finishing work, BUT all that good stuff was off-set by too many goof-ball moments that allowed them to make a LOT of chances. Their finishing let them down (but Cech still had a very solid outing). Ours was excellent, really, and, against an average keeper, we could have had at least 5 goals. It would be awfully nice if we had our own Cortois in the pipeline, I have to say…

    …Which is where I’d take the post-match discussion if I had some time. (I don’t, but maybe at a later date)…

    I’m not talking specifically about keepers coming up (or players in other positions or ones we might buy or re-sign, etc., etc.,–nor the hero vs villain stuff in which I’ve allowed myself to indulge–so much as the general uncertainty and angst I think Gooners are feeling as we head into the new year. Living match to match (and even kick to kick–I’d still like to see footage of what happened from the kick-off after Bellerin’s goal, instead of another angle of replay…) is just wearing me down, as I expect it must be doing to other Gooners. I do think we can take a lot out of the fight-back we showed–it could even be considered a turning point in terms of never giving up–and the result certainly spares us the more dire recriminations we might otherwise be mulling. Still, for me, things feel very, very fragile. We haven’t lost a match in over a month but if we do (maybe in one of the cup games where we’re bound to field weaker teams…) the sky might fall in. The same could happen if our free agents (Alexis, Ozil, Wilshere) start getting linked hither and yon. We NEED some good news, something (or things…) that really feel solid. (A young Greek defender is nice but not quite the antidote…) As the 8 observations suggest, there’s A LOT to like about our team, but it seems almost impossible to know what we can count upon, and, overall, where we are headed at the moment, making each rock of the boat feel like a full capsize is coming…

    Anyhow, just my general take on things… And maybe I’ll have some moments over the next couple of days to get deeper into the details…

    Happy Friday…

  • Just catching up, and just to add my 3 cents to your discussion with Eris on the last post Total, if what you say is right, that is the referee in our last match was maybe more keen to give a penalty against us because of Wengers comments on Dean, then that is surely dishonest…

    And if it’s dishonest then it can only be cheating.

    And if it is cheating, if Riley is putting out ‘the word’ so to speak, then I think that Wenger should go in all guns blazing because this has similarities with what happened in Italy.

    Riley doesn’t have to cheat, but he can carefully pick certain referees for certain fixtures, so, we’ll get an easy going referee when we play a physical team and get roughed up, it’s easy for Riley to manipulate when he has such a small group of referees.

    We have had history with Riley since he was in the middle, he doesn’t like Arsenal or Wenger, it’s been swept under the carpet by the media because they need the EPL to be squeaky clean, the biggest show in town, it’s all about viewing figures and the dollar bill.

    Wenger has been here before from his days in Ligue Un, it’s more subtle now but it’s still there.

  • Total, I really enjoy that post, a bit of positivity to take into the weekend.

    I saw Holding and Chambers play really solidly against West Ham in the League Cup, they had full-backs and that tightness at the back seemed to suit them as you say.
    I’d like to see Wenger choose them as a pair at Forest and against Chelsea in the League Cup, if they are to be the future of our defence, or part of it, then Arsene needs to trust them and play them imo…

    I’d be happy to see Debuchy play in both games as well, with AMN on the left I guess…

    Xhaka has put in two good performances recently, he seems to be gelling with Jack, and what of our Jack, the player who excites California like no other. 🙂
    He seems to be developing a very interesting partnership with Ozil, two players on the same wavelength, it’s all down to not consuming dairy and gluten it seems.

    As for Hector, well amigo, give the social media a break, there’s some real headbangers out there only too happy to dig you out señor, you can see its effect on him when he went straight to his pony tail after scoring.
    He took his goal with an element of anger and frustration, thrashed it home and he could and should score more goals in that vein as he has it in his locker to do so…

  • “… then that is surely dishonest…
    And if it’s dishonest then it can only be cheating.”

    I’ve had the same thought Kev.

    Not due to the article TA posted– but one similar in the Washington Post– written with a condescendingly, snarling slant.


    I’m of the same mind that if Wenger doesn’t stand firm– independent of how media wish to twist the argument? No one else has the stature– nor tenure.


  • JW, I did a bit of digging and I think that the slant of the above can be put down to the fact that the author of the piece, Rob Harris, is a Chelsea fan…

  • Nice reading your review, as always, TA. That game can provide us the pedestal to kick on and the FA cup weekend should serve to rest some players who have hardly had any rest (Xhaka, Jack) and give time for the wounded to return fit.

    Reading Kev’s post above, I can now make sense of Bellerin’s overall performance against Chelsea. He was like nothing he’s been for a long time, like a man with something to prove. I put it down to being in company of his Spanish mates but it is also not impossible he’s been seeing all the talk about his hairdo and penchant for being on social media. 😀 Long May it continue.

    Lacazette needs to get a few goals soon, for his confidence. Maybe, he plays on Sunday in the FA cup, after all, he hardly completes 90 minutes and it will give him a taste of what it’s about. I agree with you he continues to impress with his hold up play and general work rate. I feel Kolasinac will have to get used to sharing his role with AMN, unless he starts to play more dominantly. I was starting to worry about his slow recovery, when we are under attack on his flank, with Monreal at CB, made to do all the defensive work with little support from his wing back. AMN shows greater awareness and presence at both ends, in equal measure. Sorry, but that’s how I see it.

    We need to start to give Theo (if he’s staying) and Welbeck opportunities in the league because a time will come when we need them firing. However, it’s up to them to seize opportunities when they come. Pretty much like AMN and Jack have. Noticed you are preparing for life without Alexis. So hard to contemplate but I guess that’s the pragmatic thing to do.

    Our defending has got to improve. It seems to be more psychological than the impression being created that we aren’t trained to defend. I maintain we would have won that game had we had our full complement of defenders. Chambers kept being jittery and unsure while the presence of Holding (though, he did very little wrong) gave the Chavs hope of a chink in the defensive armour. Still, we need to defend better, even with everyone fit. I recall when we allowed Martin Keown join up with the team in 2005/06, to train the defenders towards obtaining his badges, and we went on the longest clean sheet run in the champions league. How about we invite Sol Campbell or Kolo Toure to hang with the lads in training, as Pires is allowed? Just saying. Maybe the presence of real club legends will fire them up to cut out some of their mistakes.

  • Kev, thanks for bringing up the closing discuss in the last thread about Wenger’s stance and TA’s view on the effect on officiating as it concerns us.

    Indeed, if it is dishonest, then that’s cheating. If Refs have to base their decisions in games involving Arsenal, on Wenger’s outburst, I say the whole system needs an overhaul. The old man is right. It’s a case of Damned if you do; damned if you don’t, for Wenger. He chose to speak and be damned.

    I feel and did say Wenger was “dying” to be charged and he is experienced enough to know what consequences his behaviour will elicit. Fergie did it for years and what we got was Refs walking on egg shells at Old Trafford and in games involving United. Jose Mourinho is another who employed the same confrontational attitude and got fined, banned but got less and less of dodgy decisions against his Chelsea side.

    Already, Wenger has been slapped with a 3 game ban and fined £40,000. Does anyone think he cares about that (he jokingly insinuated it will give him time to honour George Weah’s invitation to Liberia for his presidential inauguration), as much as it gives him an opportunity to respond in writing and maintain his position that the officiating in England has to improve and move with times/technology? He is an influential change agent of the game and to gag him when he’s at the receiving end of some dubious decisions is so wrong.

    He stated earlier today: “I think I’ve contributed a lot to give referees a great opportunity to be at their best because I’ve had a huge influence on whether they became professional or not. I believe I’ve had more influence on that and a positive one too. That’s why I can also be demanding and what I want from them is to be at the top. I’m quite surprised that that is shocking.”. He is pained.

  • Great comments, chaps. Am north of Inverness on a long weekend break. Just sat in a hot top in the woods, bliss.

    Good shout on getting an experienced defender in, Eris. We need to look at team defending too, as we leave too much space between the lines, which the best defenders in the world would struggle with.

  • I reckon Wenger will be banned from coaching for six to eight games for his comments. This will cost us dearly as Wenger’s half time talks are vital. I am also convinced that fellow referees will support their colleagues and many decisions will not go our way. This will backfire on us, I fear.

    As a fellow European foreigner, I can tell you Wenger’s approach will be counterproductive. He should have gone for the moral high ground and point out the injustices with calm and humility, rather than making it personal and attacking the whole system.

    I hope I am wrong, though.

  • Funny you should say that Total, I was chatting to an Arsenal mate just before Wenger got banned and we both agreed that we’ll probably see a couple more soft penalties given against us over the next two/three games…

    England and Italy are the only two European countries to have full time professional referees and this coming summer for the first time I can remember there will be no English referees at the World Cup, no full time professional English referee…

    What does that say?

  • A 3-game touchline ban. Some guessed additional games; some a stadium ban.
    This appears light by most estimates.

    Where did the ‘leniency’ originate? Was it the sheer incompetence of Dean’s call. Did Dean’s less-than-professional behavior post-match toward Cech lighten the load?

    (Clipped from Belfast Telegraph)
    “Wenger spoke about his controversial comments during a press conference ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Forest:

    “I maintain what I said in the press conference (after the Chelsea game) – 100 per cent. I have nothing to change in that. You imagine that I’ve been in the game for 21 years. What I’ve seen and heard in the corridors from people, you might understand that I’m surprised and shocked at having been charged.”

    Wenger has until 6pm on Tuesday to respond to the FA’s request for his observations.”

    To what end does Wenger respond to the FA? Will he likely be charged again?


  • Kev– rather suspected as much of Harris. That or Spuds, considering Wenger’s inclusion of the Llorente goal.

    Interesting: Only one loss (MC 4-1 TOT) for top-6 PL clubs since Dec 16th — 30 matches total.


  • The referees are becoming a joke and soft penalties are becoming a norm, which saddens me that the FA had to resort to these to let a certain team win the league.

    How much was paid by the team, by the way?

  • Hi fellas… Short Friday nite rejoinder…

    Consider me 1000% behind AW on the ref business (I was being sarcastic, JK, in my immediate post-match commentary). Gotta agree that he’s just taking it one (wiser) step further than what Mourinho & Ferguson have done, though I have to say, the Moo-man might be doing even better now by going blank (when asked about individual decisions) and depriving the football media the pleasure of his not at all subtle insinuations. Sometimes you gotta stand up and call it as you see it. In the long run, I don’t think it will cost us points…

    That said (and I’m repeating myself again…) I don’t think there’s a conspiracy… (And probably not any outright corruption…) Instead it’s provincial hate for the clubs in the capital and esp. for the club (and manager) that led English football into the 21st century with foreign players, better training methods, and, mostly, quality football instead of the ‘arder, more traditional variety. Of course, all the London clubs feel inferior too… Which means ALL those who follow English football–except (real) Arsenal supporters–are against us. This cannot help but trickle down to the referees AND it is most certainly not helped by our own follower who fly the Wenger Out banners or are ready to turn against the team if we falter. That’s a lot of folks against us, so why shouldn’t the refs join in on the fun and become heroes themselves… Or at least help the narrative along?…

  • Apart from being funded by the FA, EFL and the EPL, they are also allowed to sign sponsorship deals and that leaves some room for soliciting favours, in my own view. With the kind of money available to some of our rivals and capacity some of these wealthy owners have for moving funds in a manner that can circumvent regulators, I won’t rule out anything.

    Some examples of dubious actions by the body (excerpted from Wiki):
    For the May 2016 Chelsea – Tottenham match, the referee was changed because of his residence in Leicestershire. The following week Anthony Taylor, a greater Manchester resident, was appointed to referee the Man City – Arsenal match.

    In September 2016, Mark Halsey, a former member, claimed that the PGMOL asked him to lie in match reports. The PGMOL denied it. Gary Neville stated a full investigation should be carried. No further action was taken.

    See link below:


  • I know it is safer and easier to trust these men and that’s what I will propose, or it may have an effect on the entire club all the way to the fans. However, no way will I accept the individual Refs have no biases or preferences/favourites, or that they are not surreptitiously issued directives that will affect the course of games.

  • That’s a really sacarstic post match comment 17ht, but the way the ref gave the Liv penalty (soft, I heard, but I have not seen it to comment) meant that it is not just us that the refs are against.

    Maybe the FA would step in and ban the Liv player for diving, which then will come back to square one that we are the only team that our opponent does not get a FA ban when they try to mislead the ref.

    Anyway, I will continue your narrative that everyone is against us. Makes a hell lot of sense, given the recent spate of events, that the referees are not good at all and the linesmen have their own off days. Even the WOB are also up in arms over the refereeing decisions (of course our common adversary Dean), but were also against the defenders who cannot defend for their lives (not only did you said that TA, lots of Gooners, good or bad, did).

    However, we also need to take our chances and not spurn more and more. We had one of the most attempts on goal, but we could not convert our huge chances. So, is it a good time that we really get a striker to offset our bad scoring forwards?

  • My last two comments above were about the PGMOL. Just realized I have not made that connection, clearly.

  • I don’t quite know what you’re talking about there, JK… On several fronts…

    First, I thought my comment about AW was approximately as sarcastic as many of my other ones… 🙂

    Also, it might make sense to at least watch the incident (penalty) in question, you know, if you’re planning to draw your own conclusion… It was actually harder to find than usual… About 4:05 in this vid… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFFmTaFxy80 if you’re interested…

    Finally, as for getting a good striker… Maybe what we need is to not play against a keeper (Cortois) who blocks everything… I like both Lacazette and Giroud and also think that people are far too harsh on Theo Walcott, who I actually think could do quite well alongside Laca (in the huge gap that everybody leaves for Hector). He’s down the pecking order now but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he notches a few goals in these upcoming cup games… (Similarly, a non-bundled in goal wouldn’t hurt Danny Welbeck either…) What’s the latest on the Lucas Perez recall? Maybe he’s the answer… In the end, strikers who finish all their chances, I fear, are somewhat hard to come by…

  • Why do I have that thought that we sold Perez?
    Maybe it’s just me, but if we start Welbs in the Notts Forest game we should have more or less the same impact as Lacazette had. Or even lesser to a certain extent.

    17ht, i thought that that particular comment on Wenger’s post match comment stood out. If you were talking about that one.
    Other sarcastic comments were skipped by me, but that caught my attention.

  • The club moved quickly to recall Stephy Mavididi and re loan him out to Charlton Athletic and there’s been rumours that Cohen Bramall and Carl Jenkinson will be recalled from Birmingham City, but nothing more than rumours it seems.
    As for Lucas Perez, I think whether he stays at Deportivo or is recalled to London depends on any transfer business (outgoing) that Wenger concludes this month 17tino. Wenger might see him him as a quick fix if Alexis finally moves to Man City, but City will need to make it worth our while and maybe they’re waiting on reports regarding their injured forwards, like Jesus before firming up interest in Sanchez.
    Guardiola took it to the wire before tempting Arsenal to sell last August so I expect this saga to drag on for a few more weeks yet, at least Wenger has a solution in Perez, who he can bring in at short notice to fill any gap in the squad.

    I can’t see Walcott leaving this month, what does it benefit Arsenal to loan him out and probably still be paying a portion of his wages? With so many cup games in January and February we’re going to need every player in our squad in any case.

  • OK, HT? So not a conspiracy– just inherent dislike– by everyone? 🙄
    ‘Benign blanket geo-prejudice’ as it were?

    (I am chuckling BTW!)


  • Kev–
    Pep would do well to not leave it so late this time. Granted– we have a striker (Lucas) with somewhat of a pedigree waiting in the wings. But honestly? If another of City’s attackers goes injured after January– then Guardiola risks a once-in-a-‘PL lifetime’ opportunity. The squad he has now, today? Has a chance to go down as an all-time great team. There are no guarantees for next year or any other.

    Hmm. £40M-£50M or a less-than chance at a triple (or quadruple!).
    (And it’s not even his money?)
    Pep should come in with an offer now. A big one. A no-doubter– that can’t be passed up.


  • Perez in, Alexis out makes total sense. Perez is a team player and will form a good partnership with Laca. Kola Sinai will get a proper wing partner that we too. So Laca wins, Kola wins, Perez wins, coffers win. No brainer.

  • TotalArsenal says:
    January 6, 2018 at 16:18
    No English referees at the WC, Kev?! Didn’t know that…. wow!

    TA, that was the exact point Wenger made right after the WBA ref cock up. He drew reference from Italy (being the only other European football power with professional referees, other than the UK), but who have Refs going to the World Cup. I think it is food for thought for the English FA.

  • That will be a step backwards for Alexis, you’d think. Didn’t he shun them to come to us, in the first place? I am not sure if Wenger will do that business with Liverpool, unless they are so drunk on the Barca money and willing to stump up big for Alexis.

  • Off topic. It is a bit unnerving how, despite having been more successful than Liverpool in recent times, Arsenal haven’t been able to sell players for “crazy” money. We were to get CR7 before Fergie moved in; in the end, he was sold for a World record sum at the time. Spurs sold Bale for another record sum. Suarez has gone for a large sum of money (£75m) too, having arrived for £23m.

    Does that say something about the kind of players we’ve been scouting or about our negotiations? Ox’ £40m must be the highest we’ve received for a player, I stand to be corrected. It will seem the longer you hold out, the higher you are likely to get; of course, there’s is also the age of the contracts to consider.

  • He is an old man now, Eris, keen to fix his last big contract. Money talks. But would love him to go abroad of course. Somehow feel Guardiola is no longer interested in him.

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