Arsenal Are The ChampionsÖ For Entertaining The Neutrals

By Kevin Whitcher

Online Ed: A very open London derby against Chelsea

First up, in case you missed it, the campaign to keep The Gooner going beyond the end of this season was launched yesterday. Please check it out if you did not see it then. Now down to the business of last night at the stadiumÖ

Jack opens the scoring

At the conclusion of this match, Arsenal ended up with the same as they did against Liverpool in their previous home fixture. A point. And as with the game before Christmas, we witnessed another rollercoaster.

It was a kind of mirror image of the 22nd December draw. Then, the visitors went ahead, Arsenal fought back and took the lead, before being pulled back themselves. It was the other way around v Chelsea, although in both games, there were gilt-edged chances for the opposition to take all three points before the final whistle.

ArsŤne Wengerís vision of football is that the fans should be entertained, and there is no doubt that, when faced with a team prepared to play their own game rather than simply try to deny Arsenal, more often than not, itís showtime. Last nightís game was fast and furious, astonishingly open at times, especially when Chelsea had the ball, although there were good opportunities for Arsenal on the break as well.

Fundamentally though, defensively, the team is not consistent enough to challenge for the league and has not been for a long time. Itís a side of the game the manager chooses not to address, when it is obvious that they are gifting too many goals.

There were good chances enjoyed by both sides before the interval. Morata missed a golden opportunuty, as Arsenalís high and hopeless back line was beaten with a simple ball over the top, and Sanchez almost scored after Courtois tipped his shot onto the post, for the ball to bounce over to the other post and out into the Chelsea keeperís arms. It was astonishingly 0-0 at half-time in spite of all the close shaves.

Arsenal took the lead shortly after the hour thanks to the rarity of a goal from Jack Wilshere. And it was a cracker, in off the post from the angle. The lead didnít last long as a controversial penalty was awarded against Bellerin by Anthony Taylor. The Spaniard, going for the ball, kicked Eden Hazardís foot and the Belgian went down. Is kicking another playerís foot, without intent, a foul? Someone can look that one up in the refereeing handbook and there you will find the answer as to whether or not the penalty should have been awarded. As Hazard stepped up to take it, I thought it would be fitting if Petr Cech finally saved a penalty for Arsenal, given the opposition. It was not to be. Someone told me that the keeper has not saved a Premier League spot kick since 2011. Certainly, the two Chelsea penalties not converted in the Community Shield shoot-out missed the target rather than Cech getting his hands on them. In fairness to the keeper, he can be a good one-on-one shot stopper and he displayed this at times during the game.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles had a generally decent game, but the lapse he had to allow Zappacosta to set up Alonso for Chelseaís second was one he will want to forget. With six minutes left, it cued a rush for the exits amongst the home support, which meant they missed Hector Bellerinís cracking equaliser in injury time. Fair play to Arsenal for rallying and salvaging a point. Not such good marks for their allowing Chelsea to almost nick it in the remaining seconds, as Cech was forced to save from Morata and Zappacosta hit the bar from the follow up.

It was another case of entertaining the neutrals, and frankly, having given up on Arsenal doing anything in the league this season, it was entertaining for yours truly. I had a chat with an old friend after the game who said that nowadays, as fans we look too much at the bigger picture. When we were younger, we used to enjoy matches individually without worrying too much about anything outside of the 90 minutes. Maybe itís our age, and that when you are young you can get excited about things more easily. Who knows? There does seem to be a pervasive gloom around Arsenal these days, and my take on it is that there is not really too much of an element of surprise these days. Seasons are generally predictable, and sometimes matches themselves seem to be. Last nightís was an exception. It was a cracking game, with plenty of excitement and errors (Morata and Arsenalís defenders the main culprits). But a game like West Brom away, which was horrible to watch, has become too frequent in recent seasons. West Ham away less than a month ago was another.

Anyway, what is obvious is that the notion Arsenal would be able to challenge better for the title because the first team would not have the distraction of the Champions League has proved a nonsense. They have won less points in the Premier League than they had at this stage last season. One reason why was pointed out to me by contributor Ian Henry. He emailed Ė

Against the bottom five Arsenal have won 1, drawn 3 and lost 1. Convert the draws against the lower teams into wins and defeats into draws and we would be fourth. Stirring performances against Chelsea and Liverpool (in parts) are fine, but it is the failure to put away the worst teams that is the real failure of the Wenger regime. What will be very interesting to see is the team he sends out at Chelsea next week; will he throw the game?

With two cup matches in four days, my prediction is that we will see a Europa League-style line-up against Forest, and a far stronger one Ė probably the first choice eleven Ė at Stamford Bridge. The next Premier League game is away to Bournemouth the Sunday after, giving plenty of chance for recovery. My thought on the two legged-semi is that Conte is due a win against Wenger, however strong an Arsenal team is fielded. Law of averages and all that.

As for last night, a cracking 90 minutes, but a point is not much help at this stage to Arsenalís hopes of getting back into the Champions League. In four home matches against the other top teams so far this season, the record is won 1, drawn 2 and lost 1. Five points from 12. Manchester City are the only top side not played at home and that game is scheduled for the weekend of the League Cup Final. One imagines Pep Guardiolaís side might be playing at Wembley rather than the Emirates.

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4th January 2018 12:24:39


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.

1971 Gooner  13:00pm 4th Jan 2018

A very fair summary Kev (and a Happy New Year to you fellow Onlinegooner chaps by the way), although I think 'defensively, the team is not consistent enough to challenge for the league' errs on the side of generous. Our defence consistently gets done by the simplest of attacking ploys, and if he is watching GG must be chewing his loafers in frustration. On a related matter, I got the '89' film on Blu-ray for Christmas and if for those who have not yet seen it what an absolute gem. Maybe its an age thing, but it all seemed to matter so much more then. - Post No. 111561

Seven Kings Gooner1  13:03pm 4th Jan 2018

Great summing up Kev, For me I loved it, Arsene Wenger's 60's revival night was a huge hit, it was so realistic I thought I had to get up and go to school this morning. Great end to end stuff, with wide spaces at the heart of our defence, more reminiscent of a Kevin Costner cowboy epic. I am still trying to work out who, in our back three, was playing John Snedden or Terry Neill and the poster boy for Arsenal's sixties style defending Ian Ure. It's a pity Lacazette fluffed his Joe Baker role in last nights show because Joe would have definitely had a brace and likewise had Bobby Tambling had most of Chelsea's chances he would have ended up scoring four or five goals. These themed football matches that Arsene has devised are great fun - just waiting for him to attempt the more difficult 1989 tribute game, that might just be beyond his theatrical talents. - Post No. 111562

peter wain  13:08pm 4th Jan 2018

we never look like winning these games now. Need urgent reinforcements but will not get them. - Post No. 111563

Yes its Ron  13:12pm 4th Jan 2018

Great read Kev. I saw of watched it in patches and couldnt believe it when i kept getting drawn to the TV at times for an Arsenal match! Morata and Chelsea will be kicking themselves wont they. Often good games with them though and they have been for many decades. SKG - loving the analogy mate. There was only 1 Ian Ure wasnt there ........ thankfully! - Post No. 111564

GSPM  13:14pm 4th Jan 2018

Groundhog, Repeat, blame the Ref, blame the fans, blame Uncle tom and so on and so on...... Nothing will change until the old fossil leaves. Until then lets enjoy the Ups & a lot of downs of Wenger Arsenal.........I Wenger We Rust - Post No. 111565

Mike1  13:40pm 4th Jan 2018

Mike Dean deserves all the criticism he gets, but not even he can be blamed for giving the penalty last night because it was Wengers' other referee nemesis Anthony Taylor. It probably was a penalty too - a soft one, which was probably given because of an exaggerated fall - but Bellerin did kick him. - Post No. 111566

Paulward  13:42pm 4th Jan 2018

A fair report Kevin, and despite all of us on here wanting to see the back of the manager and the kamakazee defending he produces, it has to be acknowledged that some of our attacking play is of the highest quality . On Chelsea is it too optimistic to suggest we are starting to become something of a bogey team to them? Conte has beat us just once in six attempts now, letís hope that continues in the semi finals. - Post No. 111567

TonyEvans  13:46pm 4th Jan 2018

SKG1 - if it gets any worse under this clot of a manager it will be a 1977 tribute game, in a relegation battle! - Post No. 111568

The Man From UNCLE  13:49pm 4th Jan 2018

Our back three gave a textbook display in how not to defend. - Post No. 111569

Seven Kings Gooner1  14:29pm 4th Jan 2018

Ron, always remember the headlines from one of the broadsheets after the league cup final defeat to Swindon, it read "poor Ure again" We forget that Arsenal persisted with Ian Ure for 6 years before selling him to United!! Did Ure get relegated with Man U? - Post No. 111570

Yes its Ron  14:44pm 4th Jan 2018

SKG - Hi mate. If memory serves me right they went down in 74 didnt they. As i recall he only did one season at OT. Was he sold in 69? In fairness to him he went to a rapidly declining post Euro Cup winning team at Utd. He was a Wenger type Silvestre buy for them at the time. Was Wilf McGuniess who bought him,, the guy who succeeded Busby for a while? He was the late 1960s Moyes wasnt he.They waited all those yrs to get revenge when they deposited Silvestre on us!! - Post No. 111571

MAF  15:06pm 4th Jan 2018

Little did we know but Old Zipper is actually a high-risk taker. when it comes to our defence ! he is clearly a fan of laurel + hardy or perhaps Jacques Tati. it is actually funny watching some of the stuff that goes on back there. Pub Teams are more co-ordinated at the back than us. I can imagine being 1 of the front men, you must get totally cheesed off at Arsenal that no soooner do you start breaking thru at the front than you give yet another stupid Goal away at the back. Defending is clearly not practiced at Arsenal anymore. but dont worry I reckon this Young greek guy is the answer. Old Zipper is so smart. Liverpool have to pay £75m for a centre half and he finds the equivalent in greece for £1m. amazing. he then sells Alexis to City for £25m and has spotted a Young Forward @ Sunderland who is making noises. - Post No. 111572

mbg  15:08pm 4th Jan 2018

Good heading Ed, and if they weren't neutrals they'd soon change their mind and be screaming wenger out like the rest of us, I see the whinger is blaming the ref, and criticising the penalty, like the other night the old fraud wouldn't be doing it if we'd have got them, the arrogant old weasel should be thankful to the ref last night, but that only happens if we win. wenger out now. - Post No. 111573

Seven Kings Gooner1  15:23pm 4th Jan 2018

Hi Ron, yes it was later that United were relegated, can't blame Ian for that one! Great point about Silvestre, finally United settled that old score. - Post No. 111574

Moscowgooner  16:11pm 4th Jan 2018

There's nothing quite as satisfying as seeing a great goal scored right at the end of a game - knowing that all the thousands of early leavers have missed it; particularly when you've personally travelled a huge distance to be at the game. In my ideal world, all goals would be scored within the first and last minutes of each half....) - Post No. 111576

mbg  18:49pm 4th Jan 2018

SKG, it reminded me of a Kevin Costner movie too, Waterworld, also starring Dennis Hopper (ss Deacon), with Deacon standing on his deck arms flapping all over the place remonstrating, with the idiots on deck firing their guns all over the place willy nilly, when Deacon waves his arms and gives the Order Kamikaze and points his boney finger to water world, and off his merry men go, like obedient little brain washed dwarfs, on their jet ski's all over the place, they couldn't get there quick enough to commit suicide. We want wenger out. - Post No. 111577

Bard  19:00pm 4th Jan 2018

Excellent game if you ignore Morata's misses. If Drogba had been playing it might have been a cricket score. Enjoyed our commitment. As usual Arsenal tantalise without being the real deal. Another Wenger rant about the refereeing. He's beginning to sound like Untold. - Post No. 111578

mbg  19:01pm 4th Jan 2018

Yes Ed, not having the distraction of the champions league would/will give us a far better chance of the Premiership, lol, now I wonder what delusional AKB said that. You couldn't make it up. wenger out now. - Post No. 111579

BigDaveTheGooner  19:47pm 4th Jan 2018

Let's get one thing straight here before I start,I am in no way an apologist for Wenger,(I want him gone just as much as the next person) but how many more ridiculous penalty decisions are we going to have against us,as an Arsenal fan first and foremost it's getting beyond a joke. Let's take last nights for instance Hazard clearly played for it as much as Wilshire took a tumble to gain a free kick out side their box,Hazard defied physics,he took a kick on the sole of his boot and fell to the floor clutching his shin,while actually falling forward after being touched from behind and the smug little **** had the audacity after the game say that he didn't need a replay to confirm that it was a penalty. As for Carragher in his post match analysis had the audacity to Slam Wenger,which is all well and good but as I,ve said before on here when slagging off Arsenal's performance he's had the perfect opportunity to stand face to face with Wenger in post match interviews to and ask him directly why he makes the same mistakes year in year out,but like his mate Neville they stand aside and say nothing.Gutless the pair of them!!!! - Post No. 111580

CORNISH GOONER  20:01pm 4th Jan 2018

Entertaining? Oui! Top,top qualitee? Non! But this squad isn't too bad & Chelsea are way off last year - so there is/was hope. But then there is Mr Bean, always on hand to make sure we continue to underachieve year after bloody year. Quelle nightmare. As to Morata - he looks a real Rolls Royce of a centre forward but clinical he ain't. PS: I'm in for the Gooner project. - Post No. 111581

GoonerRon  20:49pm 4th Jan 2018

A hugely high tempo game of great attacking quality from both sides. Defending was dog ****, particularly from us. For the first time in a while weíve consistently given the big sides a bloody nose at home but just donít have the balance in the team to finish them off. I thought the front 3 were excellent, itís a shame they wonít play together for much longer. Pen was very soft - itís a contact sport so I donít believe a slight touch under a foot in the air would mean a standing leg collapses. We got some luck re: Wilshere second yellow so balanced out a bit in this match. - Post No. 111582

markymark  21:20pm 4th Jan 2018

The problem with us is for every dodgy penalty, we do our best to throw it all away. Letís just say the Ref had ignored Hazards protests and waived it away. The Gods of football would then have determined Chelseaís last minute break would have resulted in a goal. With our constantly exposed defence we will continually find it near impossible to beat the top 4. - Post No. 111583

Cyril  22:55pm 4th Jan 2018

I havenít been for a while and i couldnít believe how far up they pushed the 3 up. Disaster. Itís bad news. As it unfolded we pushed ahead of the halfway line. You canít be offside in that situation. Itís impossible to help. Iím concerned when the the wingbacks push to far forward as when we lose the ball, there is space between the 1st three and the next four. When a simple bent ball is played wide, there will never be an offside as itís in between the lines. Can someone explain how you can be exposed with 5 defenders like this?. It was painful to watch. Itís like playing a game of draughts, as soon as you put your counter forward, there is no turning back! - Post No. 111584

mbg  0:24am 5th Jan 2018

Cyril, we all know the explanation mate. - Post No. 111585

mbg  1:30am 5th Jan 2018

I see some of our pussy fans are at it again just sitting on their hands, or standing staring as a chav in the home end celebrates wildly as Chelsea score, oh how times have changed, softies on the pitch softies in the stands, thanks wenger, i'm not condoning violence but not even a word said ? where were these hard AKB's ? remember them ? who threaten WOB's with violence, (and indeed have carried it out, and against women and children too) ask to meet for a ruck, threaten to throw them off or over the stand for dissing their messiah, I guess he was a big chav and not a child, yes laughing stock on the pitch and laughing stock in the stands. wenger out. - Post No. 111586

TonyEvans  8:59am 5th Jan 2018

We all know Wenger hates the art of good defending, which he obviously sees as spoiling matches as an attacking free fest for all; preferring instead to leave us wide open at the back in the pursuit of free-flowing attacking football. What I can't understand for the life of me (and have long since given up trying) is how Wenger squares this with his often quoted hatred of losing football matches. Where is the balance between the two - he must know the kamikaze defence we have seriously costs us when it comes to winning football matches but he seemingly doesn't care just as long as we play good football. My question to him, should I ever meet him, would be why the hell can't we do both - like we did in his earlier years? - Post No. 111587

Yes its Ron  9:44am 5th Jan 2018

Big Dave - i agaree with you but the fact is that they cant ask direct questions to a manager such as that as it would seem to be too abrasive and controversial. Theyre so hamstrung by the TV Co's about what they can say and ask its unreal. Saying stuff as opinion in the studio is seen as totally different but even thats constrained heavily. Alan Smith last night in that spuds game said ..'oh look, theres Arsene Wengers mate' alluding to the ref Dean. Tyler nearly choked as he attempted to get past it as if viewers hadnt heard while he gently made Smith aware it wasnt right to make such a joke. - Post No. 111588

The Man From UNCLE  10:23am 5th Jan 2018

Ron - I concur. All of the media are afraid to ask direct questions because they're scared of being blanked next time. They just store it up and then when the proverbial hits the fan come out with "well, it's been known for some time now" which makes them sound like some kind of sage. I think it's called not biting the hand that feeds. Strangely enough only in sports is this kind of approach OK - in politics it's totally the opposite where they shoot first and ask questions later. - Post No. 111589

Paulo75  10:34am 5th Jan 2018

A rare instance of late when I was actually engrossed in an Arsenal match. Thought we played really well going forward but as per the general consensus we are way too easily cut open at the back. I'd like to think Holding and Chambers could improve and progress given proper defensive coaching but the back three were as bad as the front 3 were good. I've been a big critic of Ozil during his time at Arsenal but thought that was one of his best performances in an Arsenal jersey - you'd almost think he was out of contract this summer or something. - Post No. 111590

Cyril  11:01am 5th Jan 2018

÷zil lives two roads up from me in Highgate in a rather nice house I must say. He uses the local shops occasionally and it is my understanding from one of the owners that he wonít be staying. I hope this proves to be congecture. - Post No. 111591

Seven Kings Gooner1  11:10am 5th Jan 2018

Tony Evans : great post mate, how can someone who hates losing keep doing the same stupid things that lose matches for the last ten years? (Only Bournemouth & Swansea let in more goals than us over the Christmas period.) I gave up with that one years back, unless he is deliberately trying to f*ck up Arsenal to make the next managers job even harder. Don't be surprised if he flogs Jack W. Master Jack is becoming a bit of a poster boy for the fans who want to see a bit of passion from their players - Arsene does n't like anyone trying to muscle in on his plaything, that why proper players like TA, PV, DB & Henry are nowhere near the club anymore - this is Arsene FC not Arsenal FC and don't you plebs f*cking forget it!! - Post No. 111592

Arseneknewbest  11:24am 5th Jan 2018

I see Stan-K's good friend Donald Trump tweeted overnight about a made up awards ceremony for fake news. Put me in mind of a similarly deranged loon on this side of the pond. How's the orange spray tan and small handedness working out for you president badarse? - Post No. 111593

GoonerRon  12:44pm 5th Jan 2018

@ Tony Evans - great post, and achieving that (like he did earlier in his tenure) should be the holy grail again. It is being achieved this year, unfortunately, itís at the Etihad. - Post No. 111594

mbg  15:40pm 5th Jan 2018

Tony Evans, a sackable offence on it's own (one of many) at any other club in Europe, not one of them would put up with it/him. wenger out. - Post No. 111599

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

23rd February 2018

It Is Actually Getting Worse

Online Ed: Arsenalís largely unmotivated players defeated at home