A(nother) Howler and (Threat of More) Injuries Cost Arsenal Dearly

Let’s face this head on: Arsenal were poor and served up an awful performance. Everton were also poor but they played it well tactically and counted on somebody shooting themselves in the foot…

Statistieken tonen onmacht Arsenal aan: slechtste resultaat sinds 91 jaar

… This time it was an incredible howler by Leno that allowed the unbelieving Toffees to take home all three points for the first time in forever. And the Farce of VARce did the rest of the damage. Of course it was not all Bernd’s or even VAR’s fault. As a team we were losing most second balls and individual battles and our heads were somewhere else; and maybe understandably so given the monstrous developments in the cause of the last six days. The manager, players and the fans have had to deal with an emotional hurricane and it showed on the pitch. The BoD had made a terrible misjudgment and has now created a traumatic environment for those who both enjoy and play the beautiful game week in week out. We may want our Gunners to be mean, lean football machines but they are in the end just as human as you and me. And the same goes of course for the manager.

In a nutshell, Arsenal played at too low a tempo to surprise the Toffees’ defence either on the well-defended flanks or through the middle. Partey was doing well in midfield but looked isolated a lot. Saka and ESR played with the handbrake on and the through-treacle-running Ceballos was not made to be present everywhere in oceans of space (this role, incidentally, would suit Willock to a T). Dani is a hard worker but not an athlete and it showed painfully last night when the whole team did not press up but sat back. Eddie tried hard to play the Laca-role, but with limited movement and engagement by ESR and Saka, and the limitations of Ceballos and also Pepe, it really made for a poor showing by the entire team.

Now there is always a tendency to blame somebody when Arsenal lose a game, and indeed I have done so above. But others have started to call for the head of Mikel Arteta, even saying that he has no clue tactically. Even though we can ask critical questions of his tactical decisions yesterday, including the timing and manner of his substitutions, Arteta’s tactical ability is one of his big strengths, as he has proven many times in the past.

But let’s try and put ourselves in the very shoes that Mikel wears. That is what I did again this morning. It is all good and well to let off steam and put our keyboard-knives into some human flesh, but if you were to be Arteta how would you have managed this situation? The BoD have put a bomb under the already fragile club-supporters relationships: they gambled badly and are now licking their self-inflicted wounds from an ocean’s distance. Supporters gathered outside Ashburton Grove not to cheer on the team but to protest against the ownership right before kick-off – anything but ideal. Furthermore, Arteta knows that what this club needs more than ever is CL football; his very future will likely depend on it. European football is nice but, very sadly, the beautiful game for a club like Arsenal fully depends on the elites’ cash-cow that is the Champions League. Covid-19 has made this an even harsher reality. He clearly has prioritised winning the UEFA League over the Premier League and it showed last night.

Can I blame him for this? Of course I can because also I have a keyboard. But I am not going to. If I was Mikel I would have done exactly the same. Arsenal are missing key players and we cannot afford anymore injuries.

We are three games away from winning a big trophy (which matters more to me personally than playing in the boring Champions League next season, but now I am once again not standing in Arteta’s shoes) but with Laca and Tierney out, and Auba and Ode being fitness doubts, Arteta just cannot afford anymore injuries. Yet, for various reasons, he could also not afford to stage a second-tier team last night. So he sent out a strong team on paper with the nr.1 instruction to avoid getting injured at all costs. To me it showed as the likes of ESR, Saka, Xhaka and Partey normally always put in a full performance, but not so last night. If you think about it, it all makes tactical sense. Arteta has one golden nest for the club left and all its and his eggs are in it.

Stand behind our manager and players, put on your favourite Arsenal shirt on Thursday and sing our famous songs with existential gusto; the boys need us now more than ever.

By TotalArsenal.

46 thoughts on “A(nother) Howler and (Threat of More) Injuries Cost Arsenal Dearly

  • TA, we stand behind our beloved club Arsenal and cheer them on every game. We do that because we are fans and we don’t have a choice. Let’s say we have a choice to walk away but we are too emotionally attached to this club to walk away. That’s why whether it’s the owners, managers or players whoever breaks our heart we still manage to stand behind them and support them.
    But we do have to ask legitimate questions to the owners, manager and players. We are not powerful enough to own the club, not powerful enough to appoint managers nor are we professional footballers to play for our beloved club. But as fans who spend money and emotions we can ask legitimate questions.
    The reason we have to ask Arteta questions is that the team haven’t been able to string together a decent run of unbeaten games. Even Emerys the.out together a decent run of games. Arsene did it season after season. We can and should demand consistency from the manager and players.
    I will up watching and supporting our club on Thursday (I will be up at midnight to watch the match till 2:30 AM) and cheering them along for sure

  • All good stuff, Madhu. The good run is in the Europa League, not so much in the league. We can definitely ask critical questions of Arteta and his first full season, but this week I prefer to look at the even bigger picture.

    That will be a late night for you alright!! 😁

  • It was a chastening result for all affiliated with the club and, ordinarily, there comes a time when the group should accept this a watershed incident, making a vow to turn the bend.

    It’s tough on Arteta, after his side dominated Everton and kept their danger men relatively quiet, to lose to an avoidable goal. Even tougher when you realize VAR hasn’t been kind to us two games now, ruling out goals for marginal offside incidents (with yesterday’s the strangest, coming after two changes of phase in the move resulting to our penalty call). There was a maxim in football to give the attacking player the benefit of the doubt where a goal is scored or can be scored. What happened to that under VAR? I am happy with the VAR development to the extent that it takes away really clear errors on the part of Refs and eliminates subjectivity where technology can help. But, where I draw the line is where a goal is chalked off because a player is offside by a fraction of his toe or elbow and stuff like that. Funny thing is when similar scrutiny is administered with us at the receiving end, it goes against us(okay, I know that sounds like soured grapes, but you get my drift). It was frustrating to see last night as we just can’t seem to catch a break, these days.

    We have a semi-final to think about on Thursday and I know that’s played on the minds of the players and manager, in making selections and the levels to which the players were willing to exert themselves. So, for me, Everton were just lucky to have played against us when we had key injury doubts and a pivotal game in Europe. I didn’t like the smug look on Ancelotti’s face, to be fair. Like he is such a great tactician who has our number. His side defended well but not so well as to have not been breached on another day, with our complement of strikers and maybe, Leno keeping his legs shut.

  • Arsenal -7

    Overturns: 11
    Leading to goals for: 1
    Disallowed goals for: 2
    Leading to goals against: 1
    Disallowed goals against: 1
    Net goal score: -1
    Subjective decisions for: 2
    Subjective decisions against: 3
    Net subjective score: -1
    Penalties for / against: 1 / 0

    Game: Aston Villa (H; Nov. 8)
    Incident: John McGinn goal disallowed for offside against Ross Barkley, 1st minute – FOR

    Game: Leeds (A; Nov. 22)
    Incident: Nicolas Pepe sent off for headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski, 51st minute – AGAINST

    Game: Burnley (H; Dec. 13)
    Incident: Granit Xhaka sent off for violent conduct on Ashley Westwood, 58th minute – AGAINST

    Game: Chelsea (H; Dec. 26)
    Incident: Tammy Abraham goal awarded after incorrect offside, 85th minute – AGAINST

    Game: Wolves (A; Feb. 2)
    Incident: Bukayo Saka goal disallowed for offside in the build-up against Alexandre Lacazette, 9th minute – AGAINST

    Game: Leeds (H; Feb. 14)
    Incident: Penalty cancelled after Liam Cooper adjudged not to have fouled Bukayo Saka, 35th minute – AGAINST

    Game: Leicester (A; Feb. 28)
    Incident: Penalty cancelled as foul on Nicolas Pepe by Wilfred Ndidi deemed outside the area, 14th minute – AGAINST
    Incident: Penalty awarded (scored by Alexandre Lacazette) for handball against Wilfred Ndidi, 45th minute – FOR

    Game: Burnley (A; March 6)
    Incident: Penalty and red card for handball against Erik Pieters cancelled, 85th minute – AGAINST

    Game: Fulham (H; April 18)
    Incident: Dani Ceballos goal disallowed for offside in the build-up against Bukayo Saka, 40th minute – AGAINST

    Game: Everton (H; April 23)
    Incident: Arsenal penalty rescinded for offside in the build-up against Nicolas Pepe, 51st minute – AGAINST

  • I wanted to ask you guys about VAR. Why not make VAR based on review appeal by the team like they do in Cricket. So give each team 3 options throughout the game and if they succeed they retain the review else they loose them. Make on field referees to make decision. So for example if a team doesn’t appeal for an offside then the goal stands. For ex yesterday it looked like Pepe was played inside by a center back not the defender nearest to him and so no one appealed. In fact no one objected even for the penalty. So in such scenarios don’t consult the VAR. Only if a team is confident then they will review the decision. This makes it more favourable to attacking football. Again let VAR be for goaline decisions, penalties, Red cards and offside. For rest let the infield referees make the call.

  • Madhu, VAR has already affected and spoiled the spontaneity of football enough as it is, I never celebrate a goal anymore and I’m beginning to notice players celebrating less when the ball hits the net.

    Has VAR added anything to the experience for the customer?

  • Kev, I appreciate the time and effort ESPN put into the analysis, but – for me – that has little value. Because the fact, that a VAR decision turned against us is just bad luck AS LONG AS it is the correct decision. And some of the time they were. It is part of the sport that sometimes the assistant referee misses something, which could – and should – have been corrected by the VAR. What would be more interesting in my opinion is when despite VAR’s best efforts the outcome is a bad decision. Like when Arsenal didn’t got a penalty against Fulham after Pieters’ clear handball and VAR referee failed to stop the play. Or last night where VAR might have spotted Pepe’s offside, but there were 6-7 touches since than. I’m not even sure VAR made the correct observation as on the screen Pepe’s line seemed farther from the goal than the defender’s, but assuming VAR was right, at least one of the referees involved should have got the balls – a.k.a. professional integrity – to disregard the outcome as irrelevant. So back to my point, I would be highly interested in the number/balance where bad decisions happened despite VAR’s capability because of poor refereeing – in the expense of Arsenal (and maybe other teams).

  • keV, I agree and VAR was supposed to remove the obvious error but has spoilt the spontaneity of the game. But it’s not going anywhere but surely the option we have to look at ways of achieving the balance. The balance between spontaneity, removing obvious error, leaving it to the best judgement of infield players and referees. Keep VAR in the hands of onfield actors. Remove the option of third party inteference from the game. If the players feel that the decision is not correct then they should be allowed to review the decision knowing that they only have a fixed amount per game. So they will think twice before reviews unless they are convinced. So there is no endless check and drawing lines on offside decisions even if there is no appeal. We see that defenders instantly know Thier lines and raise Thier hands for offside.

  • Bro PB, the thing is VAR was introduced to improve the acceptability of Ref decisions where goals are involved. The game is about goals not nit-picking (drawing lines to know if the scorer was offside by the bridge of his nose, and the like). At the moment, VAR is a drag and causing growing frustrations since the decisions of the VARs may still be subjective. Hey! Had the VAR felt Pepe’s offside call was too far behind in the phase leading to goal, we get a penalty. So, it could be Man United playing and the VAR doesn’t see it as relevant (the phase of play of the offside) and they get a different decision for a similar situation.

    Today, just saw a Liverpool player get a pass in an offside position, assistant keeps flag down as it looked close, the player gets his shot off and it was deflected for a corner. VAR won’t go back to chalk off the corner kick because a check showed the Liverpool player was offside; the corner kick may have resulted in a goal and it would stand. That is the point Arteta was making. Someone needs to be explaining the flip-flops in decisions because it affects the club, its finances and the pressure fans bring to bear on the players. We need to go back to the “daylight rule”. VAR shouldn’t be drawing lines but re-enforcing the laid down principles of goal scoring in football, like giving the scoring player the benefit of the doubt. Today again, an equalizing goal by Calum Wilson was chalked off because the ball has come off his arm, well tucked to his body, after a push on him. Ridiculous! A handball has to be intentional to count as a foul where a goal is scored.

    I like Madhu’s idea of a number of calls for review, per game. Players will only seek to overturn goals if they are certain the call has merit. It reduces all the line drawing and places the onus on the teams. Of course, it is hard to determine offside positioning while the game is on, but it will only improve defensive discipline and enhance defensive training routines.

  • Couldn’t watch any of the match, but did Dani dive to win the penalty?? If he did, in my eyes the decision is 100 percent correct, regardless of any offside ruling. Okay, okay, that might not have been what the review was for (to see if he dived or not) but any of our boys who cheat get what they deserve, even if justice is reached in a circuitous manner.

    If it wasn’t a dive, then VAR got it wrong for us AGAIN.

    Win, loss, draw, dive, no dive, I’m still wearing my Arsenal cap at work today! Haha.

  • Good, feisty and calm comments today. There clearly is a lot of frustration and understandably so.

    VAR is not the problem but the rules need tidying up big style.

  • I dunno, Milo. But contact was made on Ceballos’ shin. By the rules of the game, any contact that misses the ball is subject to scrutiny. Both ref and VAR agreed it was a penalty so I won’t be one to jump on the “it was soft” bandwagon. It is easier to give a penalty after a review because you have the video angles and the rule books to help you.

  • it wasn’t a dive. Richarlison didn’t even complain or deny.
    It might not have been as painful as Ceballos seemed to suffer, but it was a clear and obvious fault.

  • Yeah, really enjoyed the comments on VAR, I personally was really pleased when it was brought in because of the many episodes when poor refereeing had cost us in the past, but it hasn’t really changed anything.

    I think the comment that was made by the ex-ref analyst on BT Sport following the ridiculous red card and penalty for Wolves when Luiz got sent off (I think I’ve got that right) and when he said that Luiz has ‘previous’ intimating that the player’s reputation influenced the decision was telling. Reputation shouldn’t come in to it, you should judge each situation on its merits as they’re all different. So let’s see VAR going back several phases to disallow goals for other teams as was the case for Pepe, if they don’t then you can make up your own mind about these scenarios and if Arsenal are treated more harshly?

  • There is simply too much ambiguity around the rules in the game. They need simplifying so that consistent ruling can be applied. Human interpretation needs to be reduced and technology/rules need to give the answers. We will get there but this summer changes will have to be made.

  • We are still reeling from this shitty week and it is hard to write about anything right now. From tomorrow we need to focus again on our important game on Thursday v Emery. The game of the season.

  • That’s a good point Total, because I was quite ambivalent about the Everton game this past Friday, was that a hangover from the Super League fiasco?

    I missed the entire 1st half as I was driving home from London and watched about 25 minutes of the 2nd 45, the penalty shambles just did it for me and I turned off and watched some TV, with my son sending me the news of the Leno cock up.

    VAR is slowly killing the game I’m afraid, well it is as it’s being interpreted, linesmen are defunct and referees are hiding behind technology. I’d like to see a few stick to their guns and go with their gut feeling, but only Michael Oliver has done that this season as I recall.

  • I think I definitely did Total 😉, although the one thing that really annoyed me from Friday was the omission of Balogun from the subs bench, Mikel does tend to be cautious in this regard bless him but I sometimes wish that he would discover his cavalier side more often…

    Villarreal vs Barcelona, 0-0 after 16 minutes, Unai it seems has picked his strongest side.

  • Eventually, Barcelona prevailed 2-1 over a 10 man Villareal side. One thing is for sure, Thursday’s semi-final (and the return) would be a humdinger of a match up and will be high on tactical input of the managers.

    I think Emery has had the team grow in confidence and with his reputation as a Europa league serial winner, the Villareal players will feel entitled to a shot at the finals. The onus will be on our lads to shake that disposition.

  • I’m not 100% sure myself about Balogun although the news on the wires was that he signed a 4 year deal over a week ago but no confirmation from the club yet. Most observers thought they were sitting on the news in order to release it at an opportune time, but if that true then it seems that we’ll be waiting until the summer.

  • Thanks for the La Liga update, bro.
    The good news are that Villarreal ain’t coming from a high note either, and also that they involved their best team – with 2 days less to rest than Arsenal.
    The bad news are that the managed to make one of the best teams in Europe break a sweat (unlike us), and also that for Emery’s side the EL seems to be their only way to Europe next season.
    I just checked out, while they are only 1 point behind 5th place Real Sociedad (go Monreal!) and 6th Real Betis, Sociedad still has a game in hand. So while reaching an EL-qualifying spot is not as hypothetical as for Arsenal, they will be coming at us with everything they’ve got.

  • So Kev it may be to do with admin more than anything else. Arteta said he rated Balogun and wants him to stay… So I trust that he has the right intentions with him.

    Do you think Eddie will still be around?

  • No Total, I just have a hunch that Eddie will be sold because of our financial situation as much as anything along with Niles and Willock if the offers match our valuations, but who knows what offers we’ll get, selling Torrieira and Guendouzi is going to be problematic as it is as nobody on the face of it has any dough.

    I’d imagine that a lot of clubs will be reducing the size of their squads this summer, or at least trying to, so free transfers and loans seem to be what’s in the pipeline.

  • If we consider Martinelli a forward/striker then the 5 players are clearly too much.
    We probably need 3, so either sell/loan one from Lacazette, Nketiah or Balogun and use Auba and Martinelli primary as LWs or maybe even sell/loan 2 and cover the positions with the remaining 3 as we are not in shortage of talented left wingers either.
    But – and that’s very important – if we buy someone for these 2 positions, that should increase the number of players we have to sell/loan as players not getting enough minutes will distort the changing room atmosphere, hinder their own development thus eventually burn money (we don’t have in abundance) in terms of both market value and salary. So keep that in mind before demanding to sign Edouard, Daka and others.

    I would personally prefer to extend Lacazette’s contract, then send Eddie on loan next season and Balogun the year after, as we will lose Aubameyang in 2 years (which we wouldn’t mourn as much as we would have if we lost him last summer) and Lacazette in 3, So we will indeed be in need for quality first team strikers around 2023-2024, and both Nketiah and Balogun have the potential to reach that level in 2-3 years, but they are clearly not there yet. (Fun fact: Sam Greenwood, Folarin’s understudy at Arsenal U18, whom we sold to Leeds this summer at the age of 18 is another candidate to be the next big thing in terms of young UK attackers, and was on the bench yesterday against MU.) We can save a lot of money if we keep them both – as they play quite different profile – but we should motivate them with minutes, as selling them soon and cheap or arresting their development are all pretty bad scenarios.

  • You are likely to have a point, Kev, but unfortunately free transfers didn’t turn out too well for us (Kolasinac, Lichtsteiner, Mkhitaryan, Sanogo, Chamakh, we’ll see about Soares), and the same applies to most other clubs and players like Solano (Hull), Bogarde (Chelsea), Cole (Liverpool), Valdez (MU), Sanchez (MU), Ramsey (Juventus), etc.

    There are only a handful of positive examples, like Lewandowski, Pirlo, Pogba (to Juventus), and Sol Campbell jump to mind. Maybe Okocha…
    By the way, look at Flamini’s profile (focusing on transfer history) just for fun. Good ol’ Mathieu was not the guy who preferred renewing a contract. 🙂

  • Ian Allison was a good free transfer signing Peter, but you’d need to get your history books out to find out about him or maybe our blog historian from the Canadian prairies can come up with a short piece about the man who broke Tottenham hearts in 1987.

    I know it would be risky but I’d be happy to go into next season with Aubameyang, Martinelli and Balogun as our strikers, I also think that Pepe could play through the middle.
    I guess it all depends on what Lacazette is looking for when negotiations open in the summer?

  • Here are the results of last weekends competition:-
    For the week:-
    1st. Kev, Eris & Total with 2/6 plus 1.33 bonus points each
    4th GN5 with 1/6
    5th PB with 0/6

    Strange but it looked like an easy week but there were only 7 out of 30 correct predictions.
    For the season to date:-
    1st Kev with 120.33
    2nd Eris with 116.66
    3rd PB with 95.66
    4th GN5 with 95.33
    5th Total with 84.99

  • My choices for the coming weekend:-

    Brighton v Leeds
    Chelsea v Fulham
    Everton v Aston Villa
    Newcastle v Arsenal
    Manchester United v Liverpool
    Rangers v Celtic

  • Thank you GN5 you are Mr Reliable and Mr Arsenal rolled into one. 👍🏻

  • I am apparently smarter in hindsight than predicting future outcomes.
    Nevertheless my commitment is unbroken, so here are my predictions up front (to help you with the wrong guesses):

    Brighton v Leeds – Away
    Chelsea v Fulham – Home
    Everton v Aston Villa – Draw
    Newcastle v Arsenal – Away
    Manchester United v Liverpool – Away
    Rangers v Celtic – Away

  • Loved the video, GN5. Thanks for the memories.

    Happy to read that Folarin Balogun has been signed up. Brilliant move; if it is true he had signed a while back with the club waiting for some opportune time to announce it formally, what are the chances the announcement was done to assuage the subsisting anger in the fandom? No matter. He deserves his chance and we can’t do much wrong with having him around. Now, it’s up to him to prove his admirers right.

    Good job, TA. Calling an away win for Burnley, against Wolves, makes you deserve your joint win.

  • I’ve just had a chance to watch that vid GN5, what a great team that was, the perfect mix of young home made players and more experienced signings like Steve Williams, Viv Anderson and Kenny Sansom.

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