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Monday, 29 February 2016

No guts and definitely no glory

Igors, is that you?

I started work at 2pm yesterday. I suppose that puts me one up on the Arsenal team who were supposed to start at the same time. As a result of being at work I knew the result, and had seen the reaction to it, before watching the game itself. I strongly suspect that any conclusions I've drawn are not as a result of the pre-conceived ideas soaked up by my sub-conscious, such was the disgrace that Arsenal's performance was yesterday.
When I saw the team line-ups it was clear that Arsenal were about to face the weakest Manchester United team we've seen for a league game in at least 30 years. Of their outfield substitutes only Januzaj was a name I had heard of. They had two midfield players at centre-back, a kid at right-back, Rojo returning from injury at left-back, and a boy up front who'd made his debut just three days earlier. I could understand the decision to leave out Giroud given his lack of goals, but up against a pair of "defenders" who don't play in that position it seemed madness to let them off the hook with Walcott playing there instead. Having left out Giroud it was downright stupid to not have Welbeck through the centre. As much as Giroud has been without a goal for a long time, what exactly has Theo done to warrant a place? Did Wenger not see him play against Barcelona?
When we played United at home we were on them from the kick-off (with Theo up top). We hounded them high up the pitch, won the ball back in their half, and then destroyed them with pace and movement. Alexis, Theo, Ozil, Ramsey were all over them. Cazorla, from the deeper role, orchestrated the whole thing - how we've missed the little Spaniard. Yesterday, against a totally inferior Man Utd team, we allowed ourselves to be run around. Quite simply a young, enthusiastic Manchester United team wanted to play more than Arsenal did. This was apparently an Arsenal side in the race for Premier League. Instead of putting ourselves right in the thick of it, this Arsenal team simply proved what we already knew - they aren't good enough and they lack the mettle to fight when it is needed. 
I was pleased to see Gabriel in the side in place of Mertesacker. However, in recent appearances there have been signs that the Brazilian may have some issues - he has a habit of diving in unnecessarily and giving away silly fouls. Yesterday he turned in to some kind of clone of Igors Stepanovs, at the very scene of his worst moments for Arsenal. He was at fault for both of Rashford's goals (and I'm not letting Walcott off with giving the ball away - again - to allow United in for the goal in the first place) and his reaction to the second was an embarrassment. I can not, for one minute, understand how he sees his failure to mark the man in front of him could possibly be the fault of Koscielny. On recent form it actually should be Calum Chambers that is now alongside Laurent at the back - though Koscielny himself is not blameless after half-turning away from the ball to allow the deflected winner instead of sticking his head in there. Ultimately, of course, we simply aren't very good at defending. It's bizarre that Bellerin, Monreal, Koscielny and Cech have all had stellar seasons, but we conceded three goals yet again yesterday.

 Ah, there you are Theo

I did a Google search for Theo Walcott pictures from yesterday's game. The one above is the only one I found. I think that says a lot about his display. I was listening to the first-half commentary on the radio and the first time they mentioned his name was when he gave away the ball for the first goal. Somehow he made it through an hour before finally being hooked. Giroud didn't do much better when he finally came on, but there wasn't exactly a lot of service. I don't know why Alexis Sanchez is still getting a start either, other than the fact that Wenger doesn't run a meritocracy in his squad - it is all about seniority. Alexis has been abysmal for over a month and even his work-rate has dropped at times - he gives Monreal far less cover than he used to - while his constant cutting inside every time he gets the ball has become incredibly easy to defend against.
Bringing on Alex Iwobi and ElNeny was another bizarre thing to do. ElNeny wasn't good enough for the bench against Barcelona, yet he was thrown on to try and rescue the game at Old Trafford. Iwobi has been very good when he has played this season, and I'd have him in front of Walcott all the time, but Wenger seems to have forgotten Joel Campbell even exists! Campbell was excellent when the chips were down before Christmas, but we've hardly seen him in the last month or so. I gave up long ago trying to understand what goes through Wenger's mind.
There is a school of thought that the players are letting down the Manager, and I have some sympathy with that. They are better players than they ever seem to show when a result is crucial. But who keeps faith with those players? Who keeps selecting them and seeing them fail when the heat is on? Who is supposed to set them up with the right frame of mind to go out and win important football matches? Yes, the players are letting Wenger (and the fans) down because he places all his faith in them and they continually fail to deliver. But Wenger is the man with whom the buck stops. This has happened year on year since 2008 when we've had opportunities to win the Premier League, only for crushing defeats in the big games to cost us and embarrass us. Wenger's quote that Manchester United fielded a very good midfield and had "spent a lot of money" was disingenuous and shameful. They could have had Arsenal's Invincible midfield and it wouldn't have excused our failure to expose their weak defence.
This season should really be the tipping point if Arsenal fail to win the Title. In the past Arsene has been able to hide behind the fact that Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd had been able to "buy" the Premier League. This of course ignores his claims that we had to leave Highbury in order to compete with these kinds of clubs. This season we look like finishing behind Leicester City and Tottenham. Thank God we left Highbury or we'd never be able to compete with such financial heavyweights as them. Silly as it seems we could actually be top again by 3pm on Saturday. Right now, however, I can't see this shower beating Swansea on Wednesday, never mind Spurs away at the weekend. It looks set to be a very long couple of months to the end of the season. We are gutless bottlers who look certainties to fail again.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Time to stop being nice

More of this is needed

When Per Mertesacker got sent-off (wrongly) against Chelsea the other week Arsene was asked why the BFG simply trotted off without so much as a word of complaint. Wenger replied that there had been a decision taken to accept the decisions of the officials without arguing. This is a very noble way to behave, especially in the face of such poor decisions as we face on a regular basis, and is certainly a fine example to set to the youngsters watching on. However, I would contend that is not doing Arsenal any good. The fact that Diego Costa got that decision, despite his long list of dives, says a lot about the way in which John Terry and Cesc Fabregas (among others at Chelsea) are constantly in the ear of the referee. They are putting pressure on him at every turn, with one of their players seemingly in conversation with the ref at just about every point in the match.
Chelsea are not the only ones who are using this tactic. It was noticeable on Saturday how the Hull City skipper, David Meyler, was basically following Mike Dean around the pitch and speaking to him constantly. Is it a coincidence that we didn't get given any of the three penalties we should have been awarded during the game? We'll never know the answer to that, but it certainly didn't do Hull any harm, did it?
When Arsenal were winning Premier League's under Arsene Wenger a regular gripe of the press was that we had a terrible disciplinary record. They were constantly quoting the number of red cards Arsenal had received under Wenger and using it to beat the team - the fact that at least 75% of those should never have been sent-off was irrelevant. Brian Clough was quoted as saying he admired Arsenal's football at the time but he deplored the lack of discipline. Did any Arsenal fan give a toss? Of course we didn't. We were winning. We were also a bit nasty when it was required. Maybe that was the difference between success and also-rans. Manchester United were similarly horrible, in fact much worse than the Arsenal players ever were (but largely unpunished) and they were also winning left, right and centre. We had the likes of the old back-four (including Keown), Vieira, Wright, Petit, Parlour, Lauren, Cole, Ljungberg and Bergkamp. Dennis wasn't interested in starting a row, but he would damn well finish it. The referee David Elleray once told me he hated refereeing Bergkamp as he "wouldn't listen" to him. That said more about Elleray than Bergkamp, but it showed that Dennis had some devil in him, and he knew the referee wouldn't protect him so he protected himself instead. Freddie Ljungberg was small, but he took no rubbish - when unfairly sent-off at Spurs he kicked the living s**t out of their dressing room door - somehow I don't see Theo Walcott doing that.
I wouldn't normally advocate Arsenal players arguing with the officials and putting pressure on the referees and linesmen. It is an unedifying sight and should be stamped out. However, the officials are doing nothing about it, and have done nothing about the likes of Rooney, Terry and Gerrard for years. Vincent Kompany is virtually refereeing games when he is fit enough to play for City, such is the influence he exerts over the weak officials. We are in a position where massive decisions seem to be going against us and our skipper stays away from the referee. I'm fed up of this callow approach. Per Mertesacker needs to get in the face of the referee. There was an incident in the Leicester game where Theo did actually go out of his way to have a pop at Martin Atkinson. Mertesacker's response was to tell Walcott to calm down. Why? Theo was doing the right thing - the ref wasn't doing his job so he needed to be told. The fact is that Mertesacker is the one who should have been doing that, but we have this policy of non-confrontation. It happened again on Saturday where Kieran Gibbs clearly had words with Mr Dean and Per was called over, along with Gibbs, for a talking to. Mertesacker should have laid it on thick that we'd just been cheated out of a penalty, and put pressure on Dean to ensure the next close decision went our way. Instead he subserviently allowed Gibbs to get a dressing-down. 
There are too many nice-guys in the Arsenal team. We are devoid of horrible b******s in this squad. I fear this is a weakness and it is going cost us more in the run-in. There is a balance to be struck, of course - you don't want to get sent-off for arguing with officials, but the role of the skipper in this is important. Mertesacker, Arteta, Koscielny, Cazorla, whoever it may be that is wearing the armband, should be all over the referee at every opportunity. We are in to fine margins as we approach the final stretch and Arsenal's players must take advantage of every little trick they can in order to get an edge over our rivals. 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

So much for momentum

Iwobi impressed again yesterday

Yes, Arsenal changed a lot of players from the Leicester game. However, I would venture it is not unreasonable to expect Arsenal's squad players to be stronger than Hull City's - they made ten changes to their starting XI. Annoyingly the fringe Arsenal players mostly lacked the desire required to beat an inferior opponent. There was a lack of effort and movement from a group of players who should have been using yesterday to lay down a marker to Arsene Wenger for the Premier League run-in. With the notable exceptions of Chambers, Welbeck and Iwobi there was nothing even remotely showing inspiration. 
Arsenal were entirely predictable in their play. Wenger got it badly wrong, yet again, by playing Walcott through the centre and Welbeck out wide. Hull played with their usual three centre-backs against Arsenal and, just like in the 2014 FA Cup Final, our lone-striker could do almost nothing against them. We all know Arsene doesn't do tactics so it was no surprise. That doesn't mean it isn't continually frustrating to watch. As much as anything else it's not really fair on Theo Walcott, regardless of his own shortcomings, to put him through the middle all alone against three big centre-halves. The decision to play Walcott there instead of Welbeck tells me that Danny would not play in the absence of Giroud and that worries me greatly.
Hull also came with the intention to get men behind the ball and make it difficult for Arsenal to get through the middle. Of course this meant that we kept going from side to side of their penalty-area with no intention whatsoever of putting a ball in to the box. Doing so would have been pointless in any case as Theo is not an Olivier Giroud who might  be able to win the odd aerial challenge - as he did when he came on later. Mertesacker was seeing far too much of the ball as Arsenal failed to break down the Hull defence. When we did get in and produce a shot we found a goalkeeper who made one or two very good saves, but largely he was made to look good by our usual woeful finishing. 
The pass, pass, pass was almost totally ineffective. Welbeck occasionally ran at a defender, and should have had a penalty for it, but it was mostly Iwobi who seemed to understand that committing a defender and going past him might actually open something up. I don't know if Iwobi is going to really make it at Arsenal and it is unclear what his real position might actually be. What I do know is that he has impressed me when he's played in the first-team because he will occasionally try and do something a bit different to the others. I fail to see how Walcott or Oxlade-Chamberlain (and on yesterday's display, even Joel Campbell - though he was desperately unlucky to not score with a superb free-kick) can be ahead of him in the pecking-order at the moment.
Mohamed ElNeny should also have been given a penalty after his goal-bound shot was stopped by the deliberately placed arm of Alex Bruce. Aside from that, and one very good pass inside the full-back to Flamini, I wasn't impressed by the new man. Against Burnley he seemed to like a shot or two, but Wenger has quickly coached that enterprising approach out of him. Yesterday he was, again, weak in the challenge and easily knocked off the ball, while displaying an uncanny resemblance to Ray Wilkins in his penchant for the square pass. I imagine the stats show he completed a lot of passes yesterday, but I'd be hard-pushed to think of too many that were in a forward direction. As my Dad said during the second-half, on that performance it is hard to think that there aren't players in the lower divisions who are at least as capable. He's just settling in still, but I haven't seen anything from him yet that makes me think he will have a massive impact at some point in the future. I don't think we'll see too much of him outside the FA Cup this season.
Calum Chambers had a decent game yesterday. He is another who should have been awarded a penalty when he was brought down by Meyler in the second-half. I've just watched Match Of The Day where they excused the tackle from behind on the grounds that he got a touch of the ball. The BBC pundits and their failure to recognise what the laws of the game actually say is becoming a weekly source of frustration. They also totally ignored the fact that Laurent Koscielny should have been sent-off for two yellow-cards by not even bothering to show it! Koscielny is a very lucky man to still be in the frame to play at Old Trafford next weekend and it was gambling in a big way to leave him on the pitch after he had been let off by the cretinous Mike Dean.
We might even have lost the game had Hull taken their best chance. Meyler got in down the left and David Ospina decided to do his best Bob Wilson in the '71 Cup Final impression by walking towards the edge of the six-yard box. Fortunately Meyler is no Steve Heighway and he mis-kicked his shot in to the side-netting. If they had nicked a winner, such was the paucity of effort and performance from Arsenal, you couldn't really have argued that Hull might have deserved it.
The draw was not ideal as it means another game. In reality the players that will largely make up the team at the KC Stadium will not be spending much time on the pitch in the Premier League and Champions League games that will surround it. Ultimately the 0-0 draw is far better than a defeat as we are still in the FA Cup at this point and that is a good thing. I still fancy us to go through as, maybe, Hull will have to come out just a little bit more at home which might leave more space for us higher up the pitch. It's also unlikely that Jakupovic could play quite so well again. The loss of the momentum and the feeling of being "up" from last Sunday is what concerns me more right now, especially ahead of what will either be a great night or an absolute hiding on Tuesday evening.

I'll be writing a post tomorrow about how Arsenal might need to change their attitude and become a lot more nasty if we are to go on from here and do something special this season.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Back in with a shout

Corner turned thanks to Dat Guy?

It makes a refreshing change to be writing something in a positive frame of mind. The sixty seconds or so following Danny Welbeck's last-gasp winner was something that perfectly sums up the reason we go to football matches. I've watched replays of it over and over again simply to watch the supporters in the stand going absolutely mental, just like I was in the East Upper. At moments like that the people who sit next to you every week, whose names you might not even know, become family. You're grabbing each other, jumping on each other, hugging each other. It's the feeling you can't explain, but you spend your life trying to explain it. For that minute or so there is literally nothing else in the World other than Arsenal. If you could bottle that incredible feeling of uncontrolled joy you would be richer than Bill Gates. 
If Arsenal go on to win the Premier League (which is still an incredibly long shot given our fixtures still to play) then Danny Welbeck's flicked header, from the most perfectly delivered Mesut Ozil free-kick, is the moment on which our season turned for the better. The fans stuck with the team throughout yesterday, as we have all season in fairness, conscious of the effort the players were making and we all got our rewards in the 94th minute. 
The game situation turned on the red card. Had Leicester kept eleven players on the pitch then we might well not have scored two goals, or possibly even one. However, to suggest the red card was harsh is nonsense. The fact is that Simpson is one of three Leicester players who should have walked on the day. Taken in isolation you could say his first booking was harsh, but the referee had let so much go from their players without taking proper action that Simpson paid the price for being the next man in line when Atkinson finally got his card out. Drinkwater had somehow avoided a yellow in the first-half, was warned a second time when Kante got his booking, and should have seen a straight red-card for a truly heinous lunge at the shins of a very fortunate Aaron Ramsey - had Ramsey had his foot planted then he would have had a leg shattered again. Wasilewski should have also been sent-off for his forearm smash to the face of Nacho Monreal that led to the winning goal - now that really is justice.
The penalty, as TV has shown, was down to Vardy deliberately running in to Monreal. It was right below me on the pitch and I wasn't sure. Vardy's spectacular fall was unconvincing. Having seen it on TV it really is "buying" a decision. Had the referee given a clear free-kick to Arsenal on the edge of the Leicester penalty-area it would never have happened, but Atkinson was as bad as ever. Cretins like Tim Sherwood on Match Of The Day say Vardy was "clever" but it is actually cheating. Thierry Henry apparently also said it was a penalty but he has taken the MUTV shilling at Sky. If Luis Suarez did that (and he did quite often) he would be held up as a diver. Vardy, of course, is English and such a noble race would never stoop to cheating. It was very similar to the penalty Robert Pires "won" against Portsmouth in 2003 and he was forever after labelled as a diver. Bobby was French, and we all know what cheats these foreigners are, coming here and ruining our beautiful game. I can't wait for the media outrage when someone does what Vardy did against England at Euro 2016.
The injury to Koscielny looked like it might be the final nail in the Arsenal coffin but Calum Chambers was outstanding when he came on. He commanded the defence in the air (take note Mertesacker) and was positionally correct at all times. I have often criticised Chambers but he was immense yesterday. Immense is also the word I would use to describe the performance of Olivier Giroud. I was pleased when Match Of The Day also pointed out his contribution last night. Against two of the most physically strong centre-backs in the Premier League I feared Giroud would be unable to get in to the game. In the first minute he won a header and held the ball up brilliantly under pressure from Huth and Morgan and he kept that up all game. He made some great runs to stretch the play, especially in the first-half, and provided a great focal point for the Arsenal team. His contribution to Theo Walcott's brilliantly taken equaliser should not be overlooked either - it was a delicious nod down in to Theo's path.
I rarely give Arsene Wenger credit. I usually sit here and point out the fact that he is totally inflexible in his approach. When Danny Welbeck came on we went to having two central strikers for the first time since the 2014 FA Cup Final. This added even more pressure to the Leicester centre-backs and gave Giroud some help up there. His presence provided Giroud the yard of space he needed for what looked like a certain winning goal, only for Schmeichel to morph in to his father with one of the saves of the season (Cech had already added another contender of his own from Vardy's first-half header). Welbeck also missed a great chance with an air-kick from another Giroud lay-off in the six-yard box. For once, though, Wenger got it perfectly right and both his attacking substitutes got the goals to win the game.
Welbeck's goal gets us back in the hunt, nothing more. If someone had offered me that before kick-off I'd have been more than happy though. It's up to the players and the manager to produce the intensity of the final 20 minutes yesterday in every Premier League game until the end of the season. Welbeck is sometimes a streaky goal scorer and goes on little runs where he gets a good few goals in a limited number of games. In 1990-91 Kevin Campbell came to the fore at this time of the season and took us to the League Championship. If Welbeck stays fit, and gets on one of those runs, he could be the new Super Kev. Time will tell. For now we can enjoy yesterdays finish until we welcome Hull City in the FA Cup later in the week.

Friday, 5 February 2016

The establishment formerly known as Arsenal Football Club

When Arsenal meant "class"

I would have liked to have written this piece this morning as everyone else has done on just about every Arsenal site going. Unfortunately some of us do have to actually work for a living so I've had to wait until now to have my say on the decision of Arsenal to thieve more money from their most loyal supporters.
The quote below is attributed to Herbert Chapman, the man who made Arsenal Football Club in to the biggest and best in the whole World:

"I would be very unhappy if any club neglected the playing side of the game or any club set out to make or hoard money"

Unfortunately our Arsenal is no longer run along those noble lines. We are the plaything of an American businessman who has no interest in either Arsenal or football. We are simply a business investment and a cash cow for a man who married in to money. He couldn't give less of a s*** about the supporters of Arsenal and nor could the man he pays to do his bidding as Chief Executive.
If you're wondering what I'm banging on about then you must have been under a rock since last night. Arsenal have chosen to send an email to all season-ticket holders informing us that, because Barcelona has been deemed Cat A for ticket pricing, we will all have money added to the price of next years season ticket. In short, the so-called price-freeze announced before Christmas is anything but. This at a time when the team is blowing the Premier League and Arsenal are about to take their share of the multi-billion pound TV deal this year. This move will generate in the region of £800,000. For an establishment with about £200m in the bank it is a piffling amount of money. 
The cost to each individual isn't that much - mine is less than £20 - but the principle of this is what matters. What kind of club has Arsenal become where they choose to fleece loyal supporters (my Dad has been a season ticket holder for nearly 45 years) simply because they can? This is nothing but pure greed. Season ticket holders have pre-paid for the first seven home ties in cup competitions (not including the League Cup) in any season. The overall price is based on the cup games being rated as Cat B. Bayern Munich and Barcelona have both been rated as Cat A. Arsenal could have balanced this by making the other five home ties so far as Cat C and done everyone a favour - nobody would have argued, but it's all about Kroenke's bank balance. At least this year he'll be able to tell us exactly what the £3m for services rendered is all about - I wouldn't be surprised to see the cost of his advice go up by, shall we say, £800k?
A football club is nothing without the supporters. We are the people who will always be around. Kroenke, Gazidis, Wenger, whoever it may be, are all transient figures. What they seem to have succeeded in doing with this crass extra charge is uniting the disparate fan groups and individuals in to a common gripe. There are going to be protests at the Leicester game and I will be advertising them heavily on this site, on my Twitter feed and on the Facebook page. Something has to be done in order to show Kroenke that, even though he may be thousands of miles away, the Arsenal supporters have had enough of him. It will probably have no effect on the man - he doesn't care - but the PR own-goal Arsenal have scored here should not be underestimated and the fans have a right to have our voice heard. 
At the same time as Arsenal were announcing their surcharge, the Daily Mail was reporting that they were among the clubs to vote down a proposal to cap away ticket prices at £30 in the Premier League. Arsenal supporters who go to away games, just like Manchester United and Liverpool, pay more to go to those matches than supporters from the likes of Norwich and Villa who have occupied the same seat a few days earlier. Wherever we go we are the big draw and have to pay the price of that. Here was an opportunity for Arsenal to reward those who are dedicated beyond belief in travelling all over Europe to watch them by ensuring a reduction in the cost of attending domestic away games. Instead of this they have been at the forefront of ensuring we all pay more than we should.
When Keith Burkinshaw got given the sack at Spurs he was famously quoted as saying "there used to be a football club over there" as he stood opposite White Hart Lane. I find myself feeling that way about my beloved Arsenal this evening. We used to have a football club, with custodianship (and not ownership) at the forefront of how things were run. The Bracewell-Smith's and the Hill-Wood's understood they were there to run a football club for the supporters. Stan Kroenke is there to see a return on his investment, nothing so romantic as actually developing a successful football team. Before anyone wants to throw David Dein in as the saviour just consider who introduced Kroenke to Arsenal in the first place. If Dein hadn't got greedy then Kroenke wouldn't be there at all.
Arsenal Football Club was a by-word for class. Doing things "The Arsenal Way" used to mean something and we were proud of it. Last night showed that the last vestiges of class have been torn from the heart of Arsenal - the ten years since our move away from the most wonderful football ground in the World has seen this gently eroded, bit by bit, until this final stone was cast - Arsenal has declared war on the most loyal fans. Now they must reap the whirlwind.

STOP PRESS: Arsenal have DROPPED the surcharge! I wonder what caused that. The principle still stands though.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Throwing it all away

Trying to be too clever

This is my 800th post on the site. I would have reached this particular milestone early last week but I have spent most of the last ten days laid out by flu. As a result I've had to pass on writing about a few things that caught my eye, as well as missing the last two home games and having to watch them on whichever foreign TV channels I could find. What I've seen hasn't been altogether inspiring and our challenge for the Premier League is, as far as I'm concerned, dead and buried barring a miracle turnaround. 
Last night was embarrassing. One killer statistic, for me, sums up the way we play football. Arsenal had 21 shots during the game, only one of which was taken from outside the penalty area. If ever you wanted proof that we try to play too much instead of testing the opposition goalkeeper properly then it is there in that stat. It also tells you how amateur our finishing was. Fraser Forster had a very good game, no doubt about that. However, if you shoot directly at a massive lump in the opposition goal then he will most likely keep the ball out of the net. Ozil, Giroud, Walcott (what the hell was that?) Alexis, Ramsey, Koscielny were all guilty of awful finishing during the game. 
I have got to the stage now where I actively dislike Aaron Ramsey. I am fed up of watching this overrated show-pony continually flicking the ball out of play, or straight to the opposition, or trying things he is simply not capable of doing. I have no idea why Ramsey has such a high opinion of his own ability, or why so many Arsenal fans worship him. He has a reputation built on a golden six months and not much else. Brian Marwood had a golden six months in 1988-89 but he wasn't able to live on it and George Graham had replaced him with a better player by the start of 1990-91. Ramsey, for some reason, plays every game and is beyond reproach. I see utter d***heads continuing to slate Mathieu Flamini for any shortcomings in the Arsenal midfield when the weak link in there is the man who thinks he's about one hundred times better than he actually is. Joel Campbell was once again substituted last night, and so was Flamini, while Ramsey was kept on. And while I'm at it, why were Iwobi and Elneny left out last night while Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chambers made the bench? And having been put on the bench, why was The Ox not used by Wenger to try something different in the last ten or fifteen minutes of the game? But then, why would you need to do something different when you've a World star like Aaron Ramsey on the pitch?
I'm not going to go in to the plethora of chances we missed last night. What's the point? I will just point out the one in the photo at the top of this post. When you see it from an angle behind the goal (which I saw on the particularly fine Kosovan channel I found last night) Ozil simply needed to push the ball straight in front of himself (at the angle he was facing) in to the wide open empty goal. Instead of this he tried to flick it over a 6'6" goalkeeper. Why would you need to try and be clever? This is exactly the sort of rubbish I have a pop at Ramsey about. My Dad, who played a high level, always used to tell us that "football is a simple game". The great West Indian cricketer Richie Richardson once told me the same thing applied to cricket. So why do Arsenal's footballers feel the need to complicate something that can be so easy? It has cost us points and goals time and time again. Last night it cost us our place in the race for the Premier League. If you think we can win the Title from here then I suggest you take a look at the fixtures we have left to play. We will finish third at best. Just imagine how different it might have been had Wenger chosen to add some genuine quality when we were top at the beginning of January and strengthened from a position of dominance. Still, it's all okay - we have that dynamic goalscorer Danny Welbeck back in training and he rarely misses chances...