Reality Dawns… Once Again

By Kevin Whitcher

Online Ed: Mourinho owns Wenger as Man Utd exploit Gunners’ defensive weakness

Firstly, a note to subscribers. Your copies went into the postal system on Wednesday morning, but the good old Royal Mail have changed their system without bothering to inform customers, regarding paperwork. So the way The Gooner has operated for a number of years no longer ticks every box, and some jobsworth decided the sacks of subscriber copies weren’t going anywhere and didn’t bother to contact us. We discovered this yesterday morning, and hopefully the copies are on their way to you now. Apologies for the delay but it was something we had no idea about.

Arsene Does Touchline Tactics

Anyway, house business taken care of, let’s move onto yesterday’s early evening match. It was a very different United from the one that had seen Arsene Wenger enjoy his first Premier League victory over Jose Mourinho last May. Then, the United manager fielded a weakened team, having decided he would rather focus on winning the Europa League than trying to get into fourth place. It was a policy that proved justified. Arsenal won that game, but Mourinho made the Champions League, unlike his opposite number. United, that day, played like a team going through the motions.

It was a far different approach yesterday. Arsenal had a surprisingly good November, but December started very badly. It should be remembered that Arsenal’s approach often leads to mistakes in their own half and opportunities for the opposition. More often than not, they get away with it. However, the top sides are less likely to be profligate. So a crossfield ball from Koscielny to Kloasinac is cut out and Antonio Valencia puts the visitors one up. This is Wengerball. Passing in their own half with the tightest of margins. The accuracy and speed of the interplay is finely honed in training sessions at London Colney. Small pitches, six-a-side – you might have seen it on a Members Day open training session at the Emirates. Thing is, the margin for error can be minimal, especially against a quality side that is expecting it, and waiting the pounce. Neither Monreal nor Cech covered themselves in glory before the ball found its way into the net.

The second goal saw Mustafi on his weaker foot looking for the perfect pass, like an American Football quarterback assessing his options. In the vernacular of that game, he was sacked, dispossessed by Jesse Lingard, who ultimately benefitted by finishing off the resultant move.

Arsenal rallied, and certainly created a hatful of chances. But it wasn't to be. David De Gea was in inspired form and his team-mates threw themselves into challenges to get vital blocks and deflections to keep the ball out of the net. This looked like a highly motivated team.

A goal did come for the home side early in the second half. A Sanchez chip to Ramsey looked like it should be a goal for the Welshman, but he knocked it back to Lacazette. Whether or not that was intentional, I am far from certain, but it worked. 2-1.

Mustafi had gone off after United’s second goal, so the team were playing 4-2-4 chasing the game. That was fair enough, given the visitors were in backs to the wall mode. However, there was always the danger of a counter attack, and shortly after the hour, it came. Pogba outmuscled Koscielny to set up Lingard for a tap-in. The latter was being tracked by Xhaka, who may have assumed his captain would deal with Pogba, and let Lingard go. So you have two areas of repeated weaknesses there. Koscielny’s lack of muscle – he is often physically exposed against stronger opponents, and Xhaka’s switching off when the opposition attacks develop.

The number six needs to get in the gym and the number 29 needs some coaching. What will happen is that they will be encouraged to express themselves on the ball, because Arsene isn’t interested in the ugly stuff. And it’s for this reason the Gunners will never win another league title until there is a change in the dugout. And if Arsenal do not qualify for next season’s Champions League there really is no reason to prolong this. The fish rots from the head down.

The arrivals of Sanllehi and Mislintat are good news for the future, but however good the players they can secure, their good work needs to be matched on the training field and on the tactics board.

After Wednesday’s match against Huddersfield – a game in which, at 1-0, the opposition were certainly presented with chances to equalize, Ian Tanner asked me to relay the stat that Arsenal had won 12 consecutive Premier League home matches and that 13 on Saturday would be record. Always the dreamer. Ian, I know you love your stats, so I’ll relay one from our mutual friend Geoffrey Silman. One point out of 12 against the top 4. Goals 2 scored, 10 conceded. Or another from Ian Henry - Five defeats in 15 Premier League matches so far. He ponders whether losing a third of the games over a season will be the catalyst for change.

So, going forward, a decent enough display. And in the old days, a solitary goal might have won this game. But in 2017, Arsenal need to score a hatful against a top side to compensate for their suicidal tendencies at the back. The bubble has burst, reality once again returns. Until the team’s approach to safety in their own half is addressed, this will continue. It’s been going on for years and isn’t about the change until we all move on from Wengerball.

Neutrals would have loved yesterday’s game. And as we approach the festive season, Arsenal are the gift that keeps on giving.

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3rd December 2017 08:58:08


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

GoonerRon  9:18am 3rd Dec 2017

All the negative stuff you’ve highlighted is totally fair, suicidal decisions costing us again. Your comment “going forward, a decent enough display” hardly reflects the dominance we had. As for the headline ‘Mourinho owns Wenger’ - I’d hardly say relying on your keeper making a record number of saves as the opposition carve you open time and again, and the ref not ginving 2 or 3 pens against you, is the definition of ‘owning’. Totally hacked off by the individual errors that keep costing us goals but very encouraged by our attacking quality, of not the result. - Post No. 110971

markymark  9:43am 3rd Dec 2017

Gooner Ron - you must recognise a George Graham performance though yesterday? Trouble was it was from UTD. Though it can never be proven and one for the debating school it’s why there is a popular opinion that a GG (best side) would have beaten the Invisibles or at worst drawn. Wenger is owned by Mourinho, there is no other way to describe it. Do you think Maureen will be left rueful thinking “oh dear we we were so lucky against this imperious side?” He’s still probably laughing now at yet another job done on Wenger. It will continue until someone finally taps Wengo on the shoulder . Let’s hope it’s not like North Korea where the great leader was left in power for 2 years after his death. - Post No. 110972

Bard  9:59am 3rd Dec 2017

Yesterday embodied Arsenal under Wenger this last decade. Scintillating football at times, poor finishing and suicidal defending. Shooting yourself in the foot in the first 20 mins was keystone cops stuff. But as we all know we don t bother with defending, its an unnecessary chore for the 'gifted'. - Post No. 110973

markymark  10:27am 3rd Dec 2017

Should also be said that the Great managers always warn against conceding goals in the first 20 minutes. Look at Arsenal’s record against the top 5 we consistently concede early and are therefore undone each time. - Post No. 110974

GoonerRon  10:39am 3rd Dec 2017

@ Marky - it is undenialable that for the most part of their time in England Mourinho has owned Wenger. His teams have been tactically better, physically stronger and more successfully cynical when needed. Yesterday was completely different to any game against his teams. They didn’t strangle the game and starve us of any opportunities like they’ve largely done before, we gifted them two goals (completely our doing, no excuses for the ridiculous errors) and then pummelled them. I’m sure Mourinho will be utterly thrilled with the win and his teams decisiveness when presented with opportunities, but probably very relieved that his team had no control of the game and could have been 2 goals up and 4 or 5 down by the end. Ultimately it’s the points that count, but I was just pointing out that the well-worn ‘Mourinho has owned Wenger’ rhetoric doesn’t apply to this game like it legitimately has in previous encounters. - Post No. 110975

Paulo75  10:40am 3rd Dec 2017

Frustrating 90 minutes but followed the same pattern of many matches vs Mourinho teams, concede first and the game is up, despite how well De Gea played. The loss of the first and second goals was of Sunday League standard - not of professionals who train all week. Despite that we could still have won it so would at least commend the effort and determination of the team, if not the defensive naivety. - Post No. 110976

Cyril  10:45am 3rd Dec 2017

Both teams, same formations and we saw how to play it defensively from Man U. If you give a Mourinho team a 2 goal start, it’s like trying to wee up a rope. Not gonna happen. To be fair, it could and should have been a draw. A bad day but tactics go out the window when you so easily give balls away like that. - Post No. 110977

CORNISH GOONER  10:54am 3rd Dec 2017

It's not all about defensive chaos - if that were to be sorted (it won't) we would then realise that City, United, Chelsea & Liverpool are far more direct & faster in their attacking qualitee. We are by far the prettiest I will agree. Felt a bit sorry for Pogba - imo Bellerin went into the challenge in a ridiculous body shape & was very lucky not to get a serious injury. Again proper defensive coaching needed. However, I am sure the AKBs will be very proud of yesterday's possession stats. - Post No. 110978

jwe1981  11:27am 3rd Dec 2017

Kevin wrote 'And if Arsenal do not qualify for next season’s Champions League there really is no reason to prolong this. The fish rots from the head down.' Didn't you say the same thing last season? What was the outcome of that one again??? Surely the truth is if AW manages to pull off a Europa League success in 2019 that will in all likely hood be enough to get him yet another new contract? - Post No. 110979

Exeter Ex  11:59am 3rd Dec 2017

GoonerRon - you still don't quite get it, do you? The 'ridiculous errors' we saw yesterday aren't things that individual players can work on to rectify. They are a direct result of how Wenger wants his teams to play. They've been happening regardless of personnel for over a decade. They're present in every match, they're just not always exploited. And when they're not for a few games in a row, the unaware start to think Arsenal could challenge for the title. There's no point in being 'encouraged' by good attacking play when it will always be undermined by the fundamental flaw in Wengerball, which he cannot and will not alter. Kevin put it all very clearly and succinctly. - Post No. 110980

GoonerRon  12:28pm 3rd Dec 2017

@ Exeter - I get it perfectly. So Koscielny couldn’t have played his pass to Kolasinac more firmly and on the ground? Mustafi couldn’t have played a left footed pass out to Monreal or back inside to Xhaka? I totally understand that our philosophy it to play the ball out and not hoof clear all the time but these are undoubtedly individual errors that could and should be avoided. Ultimately Wenger picks and trains the players so he’s partly culpable but those errors weren’t simply down to philosophy, it was poor decision making and awareness. - Post No. 110981

Exeter Ex  13:04pm 3rd Dec 2017

GoonerRon - the errors are a direct result of a philosophy which says keep possession and pass even when deep in your own half under pressure, rather than clear upfield. Players of course are not going to do this perfectly all the time so these errors crop up again and again and again season after season after season. I know you want to believe it's individual errors that can be rectified because you want to 'believe' but the only hope of ever seeing AFC challenge for a title again is a different coach doing things differently. - Post No. 110982

markymark  13:10pm 3rd Dec 2017

Ron - I accept your point the . The area of departure of Wenger in comparison to his rivals is his inability to hold steady in the first half. I rarely detect under confidence more like over confidence in a belief of off the cuff football. The trouble is any manager worth their sort can operate in the big spaces Wenger’s team leave. He’s had 12 years to work on this and he still can’t do it. - Post No. 110983

Mark Mywurdz  14:18pm 3rd Dec 2017

Wasn’t at all impressed with Mustafi going off ‘injured’ a minute after his cock up. I couldn’t see anything untoward happening to him during the incident. If that was a ‘moody’ injury, then he deserves to be given his P45. - Post No. 110984

KC38  14:29pm 3rd Dec 2017

Kevin thank you. Totally agree re defence although you are a little conservative with your version of us offensively although at 2 0 we had little choice but after seeing us play so many games where the opposition keeper does not need to make saves this was certainly an improvement. Sadly that is all pointless the same old same old defensive incompetence haunts wengers teams, we are too easy to score against either by good football or suicidal defending. It’s Groundhog Day against top quality sides, made worse when post match Wenger talks about a fantastic performance as if he just ignores the crap at the back. Xhaka is a waste of space and totally naive defensively scary as he is meant to play in front of our back four. How can any manager watch rhe same weakness’s game after game, look art the stats against the top sides the goals conceded and not want to put it right or improve it? Arrogance? Stupidly? Deluded? Just strange that the manager who is probably the worst loser in the league just carries on regardless, I hate losing and would be asking what can we do to put this right it’s total madness. - Post No. 110985

mbg  14:59pm 3rd Dec 2017

Yes back down to earth with a big sore arse, (for some anyway, and oh how it's smarting) but not for others they knew it was just around the corner, this is why some don't get all moist about a win (5-0 or not)against mediocre opposition who sit back and allow the nice boys to play because there's always a Man United/team around the corner with a manager who doesn't show us the same respect, and knows how to play us, with wenger still firmly in his pocket. wenger out now. - Post No. 110986

Paulward  15:17pm 3rd Dec 2017

A little bit harsh there Kevin. They were clinical in punishing our mistakes but I thought we looked the better team against a very dull United side One wonders how long their supporters will put up with Mourinho if they don’t win the CL or Pl this year. For us a battle for fourth awaits, and hopefully another cup run, the harsh reallity is we are out of the title race in early December , and have lost 3-1 to the two main contenders. - Post No. 110987

Seven Kings Gooner1  15:39pm 3rd Dec 2017

I had United to win 1 - 0 but having been given a two goal lead they must of felt it rude not to add a third goal. De Gea made some good saves and a world class double save and his defenders blocked several goal bound efforts - it is what good defenders do! United's third was a great counter attacking goal, although Kos should have done better against Pogba. Koscielny yet again had a poor game against decent opposition and in a nutshell we are clueless when not in possession of the ball. Most of the regular posters on this site predicted the outcome of this football match, because we all understand what a top team should look like and Arsenal certainly don't fit that bill. Just because we pour forward and attack with great vigour does n't make us a good side - let's face what else can you do at home and two nil down to boot? - Post No. 110989

mbg  16:09pm 3rd Dec 2017

How some are holding on to this record number of saves for their comfy blanket is hilarious, maybe if united hadn't took their foot of the gas having the game won (until they needed another goal) and sat back and allowed us to shoot and control the game (in between trying to tippy tappy and walk it into the net)like other teams do, I doubt if he'd have had to make half as many saves, with this decent enough display going forward not even materialising either. wenger out. - Post No. 110990

GoonerRon  16:20pm 3rd Dec 2017

@ mbg - my Goodness you really seem giddy about the team you apparently support losing don’t you? You honesty think Man U intentionally let themselves be pinned back in some sort of tactical ploy? You think they wanted to let us create a number of big chances and leave their keeper to make world class save after world class save to keep them ahead? Jeez. - Post No. 110991

Exeter Ex  16:50pm 3rd Dec 2017

The 'If it wasn't for De Gea we'd have won' school of thought. Teams are allowed to have WC goalies. Indeed Wenger seems alone amongst managers in thinking it isn't an important position. Man U deliberately sat back after going 2-0 up, though they didn't of course mean for such clear chances to be created against them - Post No. 110992

equalizer  18:09pm 3rd Dec 2017

GoonerRon, Man U sat back after pressuring Arsenal high up the pitch and going two up. When Arsenal scored Utd hit them again and sat back again. That would suggest to me that yes, it was a tactical ploy. Mourinho has been doing this to Wenger, making a complete tit out of him, for years - Post No. 110993

mbg  20:24pm 3rd Dec 2017

Exeter, a couple of great posts, of course they don't get it, they never do (or never will) they just keep thinking it's going to be different next time, this season, next season, things are going to change, things are going to get better etc, etc, especially after one of our regulation walkovers against mediocre opposition, but they never will, they just keep on doing a mulder and blaming others for cover ups, they just can't see nothing will change until the smoking man is beamed up. wenger out now. - Post No. 110994

mbg  21:11pm 3rd Dec 2017

GoonerRon, intentionally ? Where did you get that one out off ? it's called tactics, the game was won, (as far as Mourniho was concerned) thanks to your messiah's complete lack of knowledge of them, instead going all gung-ho yet again to try and win it and playing right into Mourinho's pocket, sorry hands, where then he just made sure of it, but keep on believing if it keeps you happy, and yes there's nothing that makes my day and makes me giddy as much as seeing TOF being interviewed after the game staring daggers at the interviewer, looking like thunder with smoke about to come out of his lugs after his ego has taken another battering. We want wenger out. - Post No. 110995

Scruff  22:37pm 3rd Dec 2017

Anyone see Tony Adam's today? No doubt his opinion ( opinion! His opinion! How he sees it!) will be vilified by the luvvies but the truth hurts. Proof yesterday that we are a superior team to that of MU but lack leadership. Reality check again! Tooaw any chance of a straight answer to a certain individuals questiion? If not go away you silly boy - Post No. 110996

mbg  1:09am 4th Dec 2017

What the fook is TOF doing in the caption ? certainly can't be tactics, tic tack maybe to the bookie in the stand 4-0 to United he even got that wrong. wenger out. - Post No. 110997

TonyEvans  8:25am 4th Dec 2017

If we needed a game to remind us of why we want Wenger out then this was it. Gifting the opposition two goals with our suicidal defending which forced us to chase the game and left us exposed to a clinical breakaway goal. It was all there! Yes we played some good stuff going forward but conceded three avoidable goals that a more pragmatic manager would surely iron out of our system to give us the solid platform required at the very top level to have even a sniff of a chance against the better sides. - Post No. 110998

Yes its Ron  12:45pm 4th Dec 2017

the only surprise is the some are surprised that Utd mugged Arsenal off again. Theyve been turning up there and doing what they did at the week end for 11 years. Utd were clinical and physical. Arsenal were all huff and puff and although they had a lot of possession, it was all frantic possession. Arsenal got excited again, as Wengo and his team ALWAYS do v Mourinho s teams. Like a bunch of f-----g schoolboys playing v men. No change there of course! De Gea was brilliant yes, of course he was, but it was Arsenals excitement and snatching at shots that aided and abetted his performance. - Post No. 111002

Goonhogday  13:32pm 4th Dec 2017

Well said Yes its Ron, totally agree. Fergie mastered this tactic over a decade ago and Wenger lets it happen over and over and over again! Wenger out, Kroenke out. - Post No. 111006

Alsace  20:42pm 4th Dec 2017

Gooner Ron. It's not how - it's how many. I hear people telling me that we did lots of attacking and were unlucky. These are the ramblings of the soccer loser. We got suckered three times. United can defend because they have a proper coach. We can't because we don't have a proper coach. That's it. End of . Maureen owns Wenger just as Herbert Chapman, Tom Whittaker and Don Howe would have done. ITS the DEFENCE. Today tomorrow and always world without end. - Post No. 111023

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

16th February 2018

Frozen North Provides Relief For Arsenal

Rare comfortable away win for Gunners v Ostersunds