AFC need an ‘ok’ Jose Mourinho| Big picture Coquelin numbers paint an odd strategy

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Good morning sports fans.

Plenty of debate over the weekend fueled by some excellent results.

Manchester United looked lost against Watford. They were well and truly beaten 3-1. They looked uninspired to say the least. There’s no vision, no style of play and the players don’t really seem to know what they’re doing. All super excellent, all lending heavily to the notion I put in place 3 years ago, just before Chelsea won the league, that Mourinho might be losing his touch.

He’s not the smartest. He used to be, but I do question some of the things he gets up to. He’s been a winner everywhere he goes, but it was a weird appointment from Man United. Firstly, he’s the love child of LVG. He’s not a nice guy, he doesn’t shower his employees clubs in glory based on his Art of War style lust for psychological warfare that borders on insanity. He also has an odd way of making a statement to players, usually by sacrificing a lamb to a brutal slaughter. He used to do that well, but look, this is a man who sold KDB, a player Pep puts up there with Messi.

Will he turn things around? I’m sure he will. He’ll get back to basics, work out the most joyless way of winning games and he’ll be there or there abouts come the end of the season… well, so I hope. Thing is, we can all gloat about his early season going down the pan, but the big thing for Arsenal fans heading into the end of this season is the hope all 4 of the top clubs in the UK retain the services of their managers.

If United ditch Jose, they have first dibs on the best name in Europe. As much as I hate to say it, if Chelsea ditch Conte, they probably have first choice over us… that said, we’re a massive pull. A management set up that frees you to do whatever you like, an owner who thinks top four is a trophy, a club that’s been stuck in stasis for 12 years.

I think we could sign any manager we wanted, however, I’d rather not compete with United for a name. So a clunky, ‘maybe next year’ 3rd place would do for me from those lot.

As for other news, there are quite a few people that are ardent Coquelin fanboys out there, and look, the guy does a job. I’m just not sure he’s going to do the job we need of that position this season. We’re supposed to evolve our game season to season, and that starts with being able to move the ball quickly up the pitch. I don’t mean to bag on the Coq, but I thought it worth pulling some numbers into a argument that seems very much fought on gut feel and love for blood and thunder.

60% of Coqs passes at the weekend were post sending off. You also have to factor in Hull having about 14 senior players available to them at the moment and being about as up for that game yesterday as Audley Harrison was whenever he fought.


Also, look how far up the pitch his passes come. I spent some time watching Julian Wiegl of Dortmund at the weekend, he made a similar amount of passes against a similarly shite team, but he positioned himself right at the base of midfield very rarely going forward, he always put his hand up to receive from defence and his passing was always intelligent. A very talented player.

Now let’s get into the detail about this season. We’re all on board with the idea that a DM nowadays needs to be more than a Robbie Savage initiating mid-waist style tackles to get the crowd going. You need to stay on your feet, read the game exceptionally well and you need to be able to pass like a demon.

Here are some stats (first number is successful passes / second total passes):


  • Coquelin (28/37)
  • Players who passed more: Callum Chambers (70/85), Nacho and Rob Holding.


  • Coquelin (38/46)
  • Xhaka (58/73) AFC top passer after playing 73mins in new league


  • No Coquelin, injured in warm-up
  • Xhaka top passer (61/71)


  • Coquelin (41/47)
  • Top passer was Mustafi (86/95)


  • Coquelin (31/37)
  • Top passer Santi, closely followed by Mustafi and Koscielny


So what we’re looking at here is difficult to peel back. Is Coquelin there to be Claude Makelele destroyer with the simple passes to whomever is close enough to receive? Is he there to press high and intercept? Is he there to act as a decoy to get better players on the ball (surely in an Arsene team there should be no weakness on the ball!)? I mean, I’m not sure here?

My view was that signing Elneny and Xhaka was our attempt at upgrading legs and skill in our midfield. Combine two defensive minded workhorse players who can distribute the ball crisply with precision with someone like Aaron Ramsey who really can press from the front… and you had something interesting. Players that sit between attack and defence (slightly more defence minded to give our defence more of a chance) who can do the work to let Ozil work the magic.

Instead, we have an old fashioned DM who isn’t the smartest doing the leg work for a deep lying playmaker who doesn’t have the power to cover ground at pace. You also have a weak cog in a philosophy that really should be demanding technical perfection. I mean, am I not right here? A player who doesn’t readily volunteer himself for the ball in high-pressure games like Liverpool and PSG? It’s a real odd selection and one that I’d be shocked could last the season looking at their fitness records of late.

We’ve also elevated Xhaka into a new position for no apparent reason. If you look at the numbers Coquelin produces and overlay them on Xhaka, it’s clear the Swiss would bring more options to our defenders from an outlet perspective and it’s clear he has more talent to move the ball up the pitch. Just seems weird we have a solve for a problem, yet we’ve opted to put him in a different position to clog up another very talented players route to the first team?

Sure, Aaron lacks discipline… but so do most players unless you whip them into shape and give them strict instructions.

Does make you wonder what the fuck’s going on? Where does this leave Aaron Ramsey? A player who apparently attracted serious attention from City and Juve this summer. Out wide for another season? Where does it leave the very classy Elneney? A man who boasts height, poise and superb distribution?

It’s odd. You could understand Mourinho not having his shit together, because he’s new. But I’m struggling with Wenger. It doesn’t look like he has things worked out. Or maybe he does? Maybe his vision for the season is making Coquelin a better all-round midfielder with more creative tendencies and praying that Santi can roll back the years / plus up his body to be a Pogba like athlete .

Maybe we just have to await a spanking by a better team to get to a better place with our starting 11?

Or maybe I have it all wrong and actually, I’m just not seeing the masterplan Wenger has concocted that is capable of winning the Champions League / Premier League / FA Cup.

Hopefully it’s a masterplan and you can all laugh at me come what May.

Fingers crossed.

Right, see you in the next life… that starts tomorrow as we gear up for a Capital One Cup preview!

Winning ugly in September. Good sign, or a worrying one?

by & filed under News Review.

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Gosh, where to go with that game?

A win is a win is a win. We took the match by a margin, but so many things about the whole thing just make me feel very uncomfortable about the season ahead. And look, you have to call these things early, because burying your head in a victory now will only leave you disappointed later down the line when it typically goes to shit for the reasons I’ll call out now.