Three Games That Say So Much About Arsenal Right Now

VTF – Volatile Tolerance of Frustration

I would like to reflect on a few Arsenal games played between the October and November interlulls, using the basic 1 to 10 scale. I’m sure you are also disappointed for most of them, but maybe the levels and the order in your case are different. Don’t hesitate to share your insights in the comments below.


We couldn’t keep a clean sheet at home against Wolves – ☼☼ (2 of 10)

A clean sheet is not everything. There could be infrequent lapses of concentration, individual mistakes, impossible-to-defend rockets or superb team attacks; so as long as only a single goal is conceded I don’t really panic. The team’s job is to minimize the number/probability of chances created by the opponent, limit the severity of such attempts, and even if we concede they should respond to it with 3-4 goals of our own. If I would be a manager, I would set a 3:1 win as an expectation and would reward my players compared to the differences with the actual result.

We dropped out from the Carabao Cup against Liverpool – ☼☼☼☼ (4 of 10)

I don’t like being dropped out. Not just because of the reputation or one less chance to win a trophy, but each missed cup game is 990 minutes lost for fringe players to gain maturity, confidence, or just to experiment with different tactics. With that being said I did not expect do go through as we were unlucky to draw Liverpool at Anfield, so we were not the favourites of this tie (well, I am quite confident that Arsenal has one of the strongest B-teams in the world – maybe behind Manchester City, but definitely ahead of Barcelona and Liverpool – but this could be the topic of another post for the future). Therefore I was a bit sad, but not really frustrated, as this was kind of foreseeable before the game – but less expected at 1:3 and 2:4.

Emery experimenting with different formations – ☼☼☼☼ (4 of 10)

As a general principle I support experimenting. So kudos for Emery for trying to change. But I still don’t understand that a manager/coach of his calibre cannot see that the number of shots on goal is closely connected to the chances created, and in order to improve that, we need either a midfield overhaul or creative players. The 5-2-2-1 formation we started against Vitoria Guimaraes realized neither. Maybe he was surprised of the outcome, but I wasn’t. Sorry to say that, but probably it was good that the Portuguese team equalized eventually, otherwise he could have thought that he found/invented something viable. Anyway, experimenting only makes sense if one is smart enough to realize if a particular alternative is a dead end.

We conceded 5 goals in 90 minutes against a ’B team’ – ☼☼☼☼☼ (5 of 10)

I’m on my way to become a Zen-master, but these 5 goals are still not such an unmitigated disaster. This defence is (hopefully) not that poor. We had an unlucky own goal, a penalty, and a few individual mistakes. If we would replay this fixture, we wouldn’t concede 5 goals, for sure. But we wouldn’t score 5 either, as we got away with an offside, a few (but huge) individual mistakes, etc. At the end of the day I think luck was evenly distributed between the two sides. Both defences were playing poor that night, but that made it quite an enjoyable game. Too bad that we didn’t have the last laugh though.

Poor game management and sub-optimal team selection again and again – ☼☼☼☼☼☼ (6 of 10)

Emery Rain

This makes me only moderately frustrated, but rather perplexed (and slightly amused). Last year Emery made Arsenal the team to salvage the most points from losing situations, now we are probably the team losing the most points from winning situations. Have aliens abducted the manager and replaced him with Sam Allardyce? Being serious, the common thing to both situations is that you need a bad starting line-up; but while last year the substitutions and the fighting spirits led to turnarounds, this year even our weaker line-ups are capable to score goals, but we don’t have neither the discipline nor the experience to save our leads – especially when unprofessionally stupid changes are made.

4 shots, 2 on target, 1 goal at home – ☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ (7 of 10)

OK, that started to p*ss me off. If we lose points it’s bad enough, but at least we should lose them in style. Have bad luck, referee bias, VAR-malfunction, act of god, etc. But – unless we get beaten by a clearly superior opponent – I want to feel proud for our play and feel angry about hitting a post 3 times and being denied multiple obvious penalties. But feeling lucky for a home draw against a weaker team is an emotion I am not familiar with as a Gunners-fan. Arsenal had a signature style of playing eye-catching attacking football, overwhelm the opponents with creativity, etc. that was one of the reasons I started supporting this great club. Oh, I miss Wengerball so much…

Double standards everywhere (among fans and bloggers) – ☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ (10 of 10)

I had to relinquish my dream that all Arsenal fans are my brothers and sisters. It was such an attractive dream, as someone cheering for the Gunners must have great taste, must be smart, and must have superior analytical skills, right? Well… not exactly. Sometimes ‘former arsenal legends’ seem to know shit about football (and I’m no expert, so if someone knows less than me, that would probably qualify for shit), and people are easily influenced by populist pundits, lousy commentators and stupid tweets. But what really p*sses me off are the double standards.

If the reaction after Luiz makes a penalty-foul is “get rid of this clown” then Martinelli should get the same treatment. Mustafi made an unforced own goal against Liverpool, but he made 13 (!) clearances in the same game. You cannot give a rating of 3 after that. If Xhaka as a CM gets criticized like “sell him now, ffs” when he doesn’t prevent a cross from the by-line, then you cannot be forgiving with Guendouzi who couldn’t head the ball away when Origi (the player he man-marked) managed to kick (!) the ball into the net.

Yes, football is an emotional game, but emotions should be limited to actually watching the game or the highlights. When reflecting, one should switch into analytical mode, and replace feelings with unbiased arguments and objective reasoning. If someone does not have the emotional self-awareness to realize that s/he is not calm enough to see the clouds in his/her judgement that should have the decency to refrain from instant reaction. Or we find ourselves in a sad and unnecessary and senseless witch-hunt like the fans have against Xhaka – see TA’s link to the great Arsenal blog post a few days ago.

By PB.

28 thoughts on “Three Games That Say So Much About Arsenal Right Now

  • Good reflections on three games in an important period for Arsenal this season, PB. It is not pleasant reading and I cannot see us improve in the areas you highlighted any time soon. More later.

  • Its not just the issues on field that is hurting us currently. Issues with the board internally had surfaced, and us true fans is wondering how long will this take to end and take us back to winning ways. It is saddening to see a club board making the same simple decision errors, but i feel that we are not seeing the issues with the club at the tip of the iceberg.

    When we had this slump and lack of tactical plans we took 3 months to get everything back to normal, with Wenger being the driving force. Now, without the vision of Wenger, how long more will we take? I shudder to even think of an answer. Years maybe?

  • Apologies for the lack of comments, PB. It is probably to do with the interlull and the BoD’s decision to stick with Emeritus for a while longer. But Let’s Be Having You Fellow BKers!!! 🙂

  • I am glad Wenger has a new role although it is not clear to me whether he is some sort of figurehead here or will be involved on a FT basis. The fact that he waited so long with taking a role like this still makes me think he was looking whether Arsenal would have wanted him back. Now that they decided to stick with Emery, despite the slide of the team in more or less every aspect, may have helped him to make that decision. For me it seems weird he waited for so long to get involved again.. I mean the man lives and breathes football.

  • PB, I have not much to add to what you have written about. I think the hardest part to accept is the way we gave away leads, or that we gave away leads. It tells us there is no balance in the team whatsoever!

  • Um PB, I get your drift, but i also feel that its a little extreme, like what TA mentioned. More politically correct sentences is better on the eye.

    You were right about poor game management, among others, but game management is the key to tie up the game after getting ahead. Time wasting and the such were tactics to manage the game well. Also, getting the whole team compact is another. We were poor on the latter.

    TA, maybe our readers are seeing more of the same on other blogs, and this period is a cautious one, so not much comments here are normal.

  • PB. Thank you for an interesting view of these games. You make some fine points about 2 frustrating and one very exciting games.

    All I want and ask for is a sense of unity from the club and in this we are sadly lacking. Whose fault is this? Everyone’s. The BoD, the manager, the players and the fans. At the moment the club is in a crisis the like of which we have not witnessed for almost 3 decades and until we remove Mr Emery this will continue.

  • Great analysis, PB. Really strong views.

    I’d just make one little remark:

    “If the reaction after Luiz makes a penalty-foul is “get rid of this clown” then Martinelli should get the same treatment.”

    This is huge “no”. Not just because Martinelli is a forward so his lack of defensive nous is expected, he is also just 18. David Luiz is 32, an experienced international CB who has won Premier League, and his EL medal is still shining in his collection. He has been an accident that is happening week in and out (have you noticed the pattern of conceding goals from/after the far post action and somehow Luiz is always around?). Those two lads can’t be compared. Mustafi literally beat us on his own against Palace last season and sent us outside Top 4. He’s been a liability for the biggest part of his Arsenal spell and number of defensive actions he performs is more down to the fact our defence is under the constant pressure – invited pressure or not.

  • Great piece pb.
    Enjoyed it quite a bit. Agree with much of it.
    I too, came to be a fan of Arsenal for the reasons you state. An ‘air of class’ about the manager, the team, it’s fans. And I’d come aboard AFTER all of the greatest Wengerian achievements (’05). There was so much to admire about how the club operated.

    As for the three contests you focus on? My thoughts and conclusions wind back a bit further. Other than the Liege and Forest non-PL matches– I don’t feel that Arsenal have won a match they’ve deserved to win– since the openers versus Newcastle (1-0) and Burnley (2-1). Those two matches were the ‘best’ this team have played– under the auspices of ‘Emeryball’. Since? It’s been regression. A good 45 minutes in some matches– and nothing better. I’m stumped by management’s claim that Leicester was ‘improvement’. Anyone here that followed the live blog– realized by the game’s end– that 2-0 was a let-off. 3-0 or 4-0 more realistic; and a possible 5-1 or worse if everyone’s chances are taken and pens are awarded.


    Can claim I am not, by any means, a conspiracy theorist. Just don’t go in for craziness. Nothing in what I do day-to-day is anything but mundane. But this– is insane. Allowing this manager to continue under present circumstances. Wasting portions of careers and devaluing assets by continuing down this path. And for what? Avoiding having to dole out an extra £20M pounds in salary to Emery, his staff, and the Nextman’s group?

    More to it than meets the eye. Something is just not right.


  • Some good and relevant comments about our current state:

    Jw1, i started becoming a Gooner in 98. Really liked their players’ willingness to work and work and at that time we had taller players who had a good head and a team of real leaders.

    Other than Ozil, Laca and Auba, we don’t have strong players with willingness to do well and try hard to defend and attack. Our players just let the opposition play past us with ease.

  • Admir, you certainly have a point.
    Maybe these examples provided in the post were far from perfect. I just tried to point out a phenomenon, that the response on an individual error is based too much on the perpetrator, and less so on the nature of the mistake. And probably the same applies for positive performance too.
    If something bad happens the reaction is dis-proportionally harsh if it was committed by Xhaka, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Ozil or Luiz, but absolutely forgiving if it was committed by Lacazette, Guendouzi, Willock, Saka or Martinelli.
    The age might be part of it, as most of the latter group are inexperienced, but I still think that the majority still contributes to bias and double standards.

  • pb, I’m sorry I didn’t put an example that would, perhaps, prove your point.

    Sokratis is the best example of a rather clumsy and not-so-good defender who gets away because he offers “pashiun” and combative presence which goes well with the fans (as you have noticed with another youngster Guendouzi and you might have noticed with our former player Wilshere – both got away with their mistakes on the ground of their appearance on the pitch even if quality of their performances didn’t merit that). Outside of that presence, Sokratis is no upgrade on either Mustafi or Luiz.

  • Thanks, njk84sg, for the feedback.
    I thought I was refraining myself with the 4-letter words limited to metabolism, but apparently I was wrong. 🙂

    Regarding the board, I don’t see them as largely responsible for the situation. At least so far…
    Appointing Emery didn’t seem a bad decision, only in hindsight. I was kind of happy when it happened, as they chose someone with international experience, trophies and method, instead of someone from the British merry-go-around who have been sacked from the PL multiple times. But apart from that I was really inspired for singing Pepe, as I did – and still – believe that he was one of the best players that changed club in the summer; maybe not as good as Hazard or Griezmann, but better than Icardi, Lukaku, Coutinho, Jovic, Fekir, Ndombele or Rodrygo. And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate signing Saliba, Martinelli, Guendouzi or Torreira, but signing a young A-level star was finally a sign that the board means business – even admitting to be on a budget. So I’m still in favor of the board after the long tradition of selling or best players cheap and gambling with affordable players from Switzerland and France (Elneny, Debuchy, Perez, Paulista, Gervinho, Santos etc.)

    The only hard feeling I have against the board – but probably has nothing to do with Arsenal, but a common theme in England, or the global football world – is that they couldn’t include clauses in the manager’s contract, that can terminate the employment in specific conditions. Because it is crazy that a team must pay the entire salary till the end of a fixed term contract, if the performance falls short from very modest expectations, e.g. going without a win for 5 games, failing to make 1,5 points per game 12+ PL matches, etc.
    If I were a confident PL manager I wouldn’t mind having such conditions in the contract; or having a performance based salary and bonus.

  • PB. 14.45.

    Why is there the difference in attitude towards mistakes? Because either the player is young and learning or they have put in the hard yards and earned their respect.

    Laca, Auba, Bellerin, make it clear that they care and that they are willing to give everything for the cause.

    Since the players became so powerful and able to run down their contracts it requires a special sort of man to be passionate about the team as opposed to passionate about his money and lifestyle.

    IMO Mustafi has excelled this season and it is only the folk who don’t think whilst watching our games that still give him stick. His only way back from the awful season he had in 18/19 was hard work and he is once again looking the quality player we thought we had signed – not easy with Sideshow Bob regularly losing his man at the far post.

  • Hi PB,
    Thank you for your post.

    At the present time I’m more ambiguous about Arsenal than any time in the last 70 odd years. I get no enjoyment watching the games and hold little hope of improvement under Emery’s “leadership”.

    It shocks me that the B.O.D. believe they have hired the right man with him in charge we are nothing more than a struggling mid table team.

    I truly believe that he should have been sacked during this interlull and Ljungberg promoted to interim manager. We need a fast injection of hope to remove the awful feeling of despair.

  • Erik, I wish it was as easy as they are merely reaping what they sow.
    At least I don’t think Torreira demonstrated he cares more than Xhaka. Or Bellerin more than Kolasinac, Sokratis more than Mustafi.
    I think there are people who are way beyond their prime but after ending their footballing career they didn’t pursue coaching, but some kind of punditry. And they neither smart enough (which could be forgiven as they have probably never studied analysis, critical thinking, decision making, etc.) nor decent enough to admit when they don’t know either the problem or the solution (but mostly neither). That apply to Arsenal legend like Adams or Merson, and opponent legends like Jamie Carragher, Danny Murphy, Jermaine Jenas or Micheal Owen. For most of these former players and wannabe pundits the goal is to maximize retweets, so they don’t mind risking to say something stupid. But this throw the seeds of the uncertainty and bias later, among those who give them some credit because they played for the national team…

  • GunnerN5 I share your impatience toward Emery, but not your enthusiasm towards Ljungberg.
    He was OK coaching Arsenal U23 last season, didn’t do anything extraordinary, nor has he enough experience. I don’t think he would deliver performance at the same quality as Solskjaer or Lampard, and I don’t think they are the right people at the job either.

  • Very little time to comment here…and, of course, I only say the same things (over and over) anyway…and some of them are pretty silly/stupid… 😉 😦 But, I think it’s good that PB has put up the post and laid out some of his frustrations with the football–and the reactions to it.

    Indeed, TA, it could be weeks (or a week or two) before I comment again…except to check in with this week’s predictions… Ah, the apostrophe…it used to be something folks (folk’s?… 😮 ) actually cared about and knew how to use…

    Sorta like our criticisms (criticism’s?…) of our club…

    I too thought Arsenal were something special when I fell into it (Autumn 2006, while living at 17highburyterrace). It DID feel like I was in the best part of London and that Arsenal fans were the smartest, most sophisticated and wisest of supporters. Along with the excellent, new (and very modern–right down to the pitch technology) stadium, we also had THE best, most cosmopolitan manager, bringing English football into the new century with aplomb–and foreign born talent, not to mention an ability to explain it all, speaking perfect (and very wise words in) his accented English.

    Plus, we had the internet…which would help me follow and stay close to this great thing as it went forward and I had to return home to California…

    Oh how naive I was…

    Now I blame (both human nature and) the internet and its (not it’s…) demand that we share our individual ideas (not idea’s) with everybody else–all from the safety of our sofas (not sofa’s)… (And, look at me…a case in point…where’s my mirror…)

    From what felt (just about…) all good (as we say in CA…), now, it feels like there is (just about…) NOTHING good at our club, which we–as individual “followers” (not supporters, nor even fans, I fear)–don’t try and undercut with criticism. A prime example, as PB notes (but which I’ll twist just a bit…), is the case of expensive (or older) player doing something good, and a certain set of followers who feel the need to remind us that that’s what they were supposed to do, as “we” paid them to do just that. In other words, seeing only the negative is (in this case at least, somehow) appropriate. The flip-side, I guess, is positive–younger guys given more rope, but that’s arbitrary too–esp. if we don’t like their hairstyle, or, I hate to say it, the color of their skin. It’s just one example, but the need to play critic (rather than supporter or fan) is insidious…

    Bergkampesque, I think, tries a bit to stay above the fray (as do some other sites), but you can’t stop the tides…And we come up with some stupid stuff, as well…

    Like (for example, sorry TA…) the idea that Wenger was not waiting to see what happened at Bayern (and if he might be needed there) before announcing his new position. The idea of him coming back to the Arsenal (madness) seems extremely far fetched, I think, (and based on not a shred of actual evidence)… But I’m just as bad as I believe that we don’t actually want to win our domestic cup matches. IMO, it’s a good thing to out of the domestic cups ASAP if CL promotion is our objective. Yes, they give minutes to the younger guys (or the older ones, like Ozil, suddenly not so expendable…but the club’s competitive goals seem very strictly limited at present. Three FA Cups (in his final five seasons) didn’t help Arsene, let’s not forget… Finally, I won’t repeat my belief that hollowing out our MF (full of expensive players and better at “creating” chances but not necessarily goals) was something that Emery’s tactics would help achieve and a reason he got the job. Oops, I just did (repeat it)…

    See, stupid stuff, from individuals–hiding behind their keyboards sitting on their sofas…that’s what’s killing our club… (How ’bout them apostrophes…or apostrophe’s….) Sorry…

    Thanks for reading… Gotta run…

  • The issue I’m having with all of this business about players caring/not caring– or making the same mistakes as one or more other players– is that all mistakes aren’t equal. Some matter more than others.

    This season for example? None of them really matter. As the club aren’t going to contend for a CL spot. At this juncture we may be at risk to claim an EL place. Sokratis and Luiz are– always were stopgap additions to the team. If either are here next season– they’ll be squad players (behind Holding, Saliba, Chambers, possibly Mavropanos).

    As for Mustafi? Bless his little heart. I’d loved for him to have done well. He did– for most of his first season. Then fell off a cliff error-wise. Well past the point of no return. Admir was spot on– as I’ve claimed many times over the past 2 seasons– that he’s cost us points. Not the occasional goal– but points (count ’em, 7 last season– Palace twice and Spurs) that made the difference in Champions League or Europa League. There’s no room for sentimentality in his case. Mustafi personally killed a season in the CL and upwards of £60M in winnings. By himself.

    Honestly? His OG vs Pool ‘B’ was a humorous reminder of why, barring a half-dozen injuries– he’ll never play for the club in the PL ever again. If your heart bleeds for Mustafi and his £140k per week? That’s on you.

    So, the idea that any of these situations of players and errors are comparable or parallel to one another? Like cotton candy. Not a lot of substance. Almost lighter than air.


  • PB, I was brief in my comment about Freddie.

    I don’t advocate for him to become our permanent manager. He has Arsenal DNA running through him and my feeling is that he could instill some much needed spirit/enthusiasm back into our players. He can do no worse than Emery and it would give the club time to figure out who CAN lead us back up the table. The youngsters are full of praise for him and I assume he has the respect of the established players.

    Frankly I would be happy with any interim manager who could bring some joy back to those of us who are perplexed by Emeryball.

  • GN5–
    When that occurs? Hit the back button.
    Your comment will still be sitting in the editing window. Highlight all of it– then copy it.
    Then refresh the blog. If it refreshes and appears– great.
    If not you can still paste it and try again.

    Saves the time/effort of recomposing it! 👍


  • Thanks JWL.
    It has happened so frequently that I usually copy it before posting – this time I forgot but it still emerged from the abyss.

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