Arsenal, underdogs?

by .

via @Arsenal instagram

via @Arsenal instagram

Arsene Wenger put up a stout defence of his Arsenal side heading into the weekend derby game.

“We have no fear, we are focused on nullifying their strengths and expressing ours. Tottenham are a good side but we have the quality to win the game.

“We don’t see ourselves as underdogs at all. I think the question about the balance of power in north London is a question we have to answer and the only way to answer is on the pitch. The comparison will be between the two performances on Saturday and we have a good opportunity to show we are strongest, so let’s do it.”


We are underdogs, of that there can be no doubt. Spurs players are better educated, have a more cohesive mindset and they work as an industrious unit.

Arsenal has more talent in their ranks, but talent without a vision or a plan simply doesn’t work in 2017. Wenger’s success was predicated on talent identification and superior fitness. When he lost his fitness edge, and other teams became smarter, we lost our advantage.

It’s interesting to hear Wenger say that he’s thinking about nullifying Spurs strengths because that at least indicates there’s some sort of plan brewing. Problem is, Poch will also have a plan and a team more capable of executing it for the full 90mins.

Arsenal had a strategy vs City that worked well for 18minutes, but then we lost a goal, focus went out the window and it was a mess for the rest of the game.

Spurs are going to come at us hard, they’re going to use their physical advantage to put us under pressure and I’d imagine they’ll have plans to exploit our weak mentality.

Arsene, I presume, will want to go toe-to-toe on the aggression front. I’d imagine we’ll see a lightning forward three, likely with Danny Welbeck sitting in the mix. Will he play Lacazette this time? It’d make sense, our most expensive signing ever put two on the scoresheet against Germany and buried a first time chance against City. The problem is you lose out on raw power, but you do have a player who is very cute at retrieving possession from the front.

Wenger also took on criticism of our soft underbelly. Not really by tackling it, but by deflecting it.

“That’s the kind of remarks I have got for 20 years”,

“I remember many people asked me [in the 2002-03 season] ‘will Pirès be tough enough to play in the derby?’ He’s the guy who scored more goals than anyone else in the derby.

“We have to agree what is tough and not tough. I believe players have to be efficient, I believe that counts the most. As a defender efficiency is to not make mistakes, as a striker it’s to put the ball in the net. Tough or not tough doesn’t matter.”

You can’t deny the truth in the comments. Being efficient is part of being a good player, but so too does having the guts to duke it out against the top 6 sides in the league. There’s no doubt we’ve not been tough over the past 5 years. Ozil is one of the most efficient players in the world, but where does that go in these major games? How are we so consistently nullified when it matters? How can you say toughness doesn’t matter at the highest level?

I think this game is going to be fascinating, and I think it’ll be far closer than you think. Spurs are good, they are getting better, but the transition is far from complete. We’re still more likely than not to take points from this game.

So let’s see what Wenger has ready for the scum down the road.

68 Responses to “Arsenal, underdogs?”

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  1. Ishola70

    Wenger dare not lose this one.

    He loses against Spurs on Saturday and his chances of top four go up in smoke right there on the spot.

  2. Jeff

    I’m going to disagree. I think the time where we couldn’t “lose” a game has passed for this season. We are playing for fourth once again and as such one more loss doesn’t make it impossible to achieve that. At least that’s how Wenger will see it if we lose. The boys won’t be performing their absolute very best either because they too know this season is over. Fourth, fifth or sixth it really doesn’t matter that much. All water off a ducks back as we stumble and stagger through another pointless season shadowed by Arsene’s inexorable ineptitude.

  3. Cesc Appeal


    I’m more thinking this is one of those games Wenger knows he cannot lose not for any reason to do with the league but for reasons of self-preservation.

  4. Ishola70

    Can’t agree Jeff.

    It would be a huge double whammy for Wenger to lose a derby and at the same time really damage his chances of top four.

    Go look at the table. These teams Wenger now competes with for top four may have their off days now and again but the days past of beating out Everton and a previous flaky Spurs are gone. There is less room for error now.

    Arsenal would be seven points behind Spurs if they lose. Others like Chelsea United etc can get six and seven points ahead.

    As said sauntering in for fourth place is over for Wenger now. Much tougher for him.

    Can also see a draw but no result would really surprise me here really.

  5. Jeff


    I had to laugh at that. I don’t think Wenger is all that bothered about self-preservation. He knows it’s a job for life. Every season we get some inkling, some glimmer of hope that Arsene’s luck has run out and just when we think it’s the end, out pops another win and the fans simmer down once again.

    Remember Ian Wright last season? He could have put his mortgage on Wenger leaving but he didn’t – he just signed another 2 years. No I’m afraid the political will to remove him is simply not there. It’s very sad for the club, very sad.

  6. Ishola70

    We know it’s over for the title of course but to be in November and top four is looking very unlikely as well would be a new low for Wenger.

    Uncharted territory for him really.

  7. Jeff


    Wenger has already passed the litmus test for finishing outside top four. In fact he was rewarded with another 2 years. So I don’t think top four is all that important any more. Arsenal would have to take a nosedive before we see any kind of shift. I am convinced that 5th, or 6th or even 7th wouldn’t be the end of the world in the owner’s eyes or anybody else on the board for that matter.

  8. Ishola70

    Not sure Jeff.

    Two seasons running without Champions League football and if he loses against Spurs the possibility of the clubs above him pushing on and pulling away from Arsenal in these top four places and we are talking about this occurring in November I think serious questions would have to be asked in whether it is worth Wenger continuing. Real serious questions.

    Of course then it would depend on the lottery of winning a cup competition to qualify for CL. Because United had to do that the previous season I suppose more than enough fans will get down with that. No other option. All the while the club would be regressing in real terms.

  9. raptora

    With Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Napoli and possibly Monaco I’m not sure how are we planning to win Europa. On paper we should have been playing better in the EPL since a lot of people, including me, thought that the secret behind Chelsea, Pool and spuds good form last season, was down to lack of or limited involvement in European competitions.

    I think that we were mostly right and both Chelsea and Pool have shown signs of problems with dealing with midweek games every week. Spuds have been doing alright but they will start to get injured as well, very soon I reckon, same as City and United.

    The thing no one talked about is if Wenger could the lack of serious European games in midweek in his favor. Truth is that we can already see that he’s been failing to show how much fresher his team is so far. City have been playing the same people since the season started and they have been hammering teams for good morning. Our main squad has been resting but it is not showing as the players legs look heavy and slow.

    Maybe Conte, having managed Italy’s NT before coming back to club football, is finding it tough to prepare for two opponents a week and it’s not so much about the players but about the managers. Maybe Pep and Poch are showing what being young, bold, and most importantly –
    talented new generation manager is all about.

    Anyhow people’s excuses that last 2 champions didn’t play any Euro football, are reasonable. But even that advantage is not enough for Wenger to compete. Nothing is.

  10. Pierre

    Our tough early fixtures of city, Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton away are partly the reason that, although “on paper we should have been playing better”, we have struggled to make a dent at the top. Plus defeats at Stoke and Watford that were clouded by, yes I am going to say it, poor refereeing decisions along with the poor decisions in the city game, didn’t help.

    Of course, this means all the top teams have to come to the Emirates starting with Tottenham followed by man u.
    We will soon find out if we can cut it against the top 6. These 2 games v Tottenham and united will determine which road we take for the remainder of the season.
    Defeats will mean we only have one option and that is to go down the same road as United last season and that is to focus on the cups in the hope of repairing the damage.
    Not ideal that’s for sure but jose pulled it off.

  11. ArseneisaFraud

    Jeff and Cesc

    For me, if we lose the game @ home vs the Spuds, this will make our return trip to Shite Hart Lane a must win game for AW. Now lose that away game (and it will be tougher as we are playing in their temporary cesspit) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more Gooners become Wenger Out.

  12. Ishola70

    There is the usual sign in the league table atm in who will get top four and who will not.

    And as so many times before Arsenal are falling down in the goals against column, In the past this weakness meant no league title but now it amounts to no top four.

    Arsenal lagging behind in this regard with Liverpool. Current top four all have lower numbers in the goals against column.

  13. Rocko

    “The comparison will be between the two performances on Saturday and we have a good opportunity to show we are strongest, so let’s do it.”

    Oh god. These statements of his never end well. Puts one in mind of those golden years when he’d mention a ‘decisive week’ coming up and one week later Arsenal would be out of two cups and the running for the league.

  14. N'gambo

    In a surprise move the genius Arsene Wenger will play Petr Cech as a striker and start Santi Carzola in goal.

    None of us can fathom the extent of his endless genius.

  15. graham62

    FROM CELL BLOCK E.( somewhere on the eastern seaboard of the US)

    Ask yourselves this –

    Do you love Arsenal, more than you hate Spurs?

    If your answer is ‘yes’, then there has to be only one outcome tomorrow.

  16. HighburyLegend

    “We have no fear, we are focused on nullifying their strengths and expressing ours. Tottenham are a good side but we have the quality to win the game.”

    Please, feel free to replace the word Tottenham by the word Barcelona, Man City, Bayern, Monaco, or any team you want…

  17. graham62


    Have been given a three hour window of opportunity by the prison warden to utilize the internet. After that, all privileges are over and done with.

  18. Leedsgunner

    This is a classic case of “Bread and Circuses”.

    In other words, keep the masses distracted and entertained enough so that that they don’t realise the the malaise that they are in.

    Sure, like all Arsenal fans I want us to win this weekend. But even if we do, where does it get us? Where is the long term vision and strategic goals for the club?

    It is like the year before last when we came 2nd… and despite falling behind in the title race to Leicester — Wenger tried his best to direct the conversation to the fact that we had beat Leicester twice over the season — rather than focus on the damning evidence — that is, he had failed to win the title again when all his main rivals Man United, Chelsea and Tottenham were in turmoil.

    Besides, even if we win — all we are doing is repairing the damage we did losing to Stoke! It’s only three points… in the middle of the season, and not the title decider in May.

    Like I said, it’s bread and circuses.

    Wenger wants to focus on “bragging rights” for individual games because they are the only realistic titles we are going to win this year.

    Whilst we boast about winning individual games… our rivals are winning titles and the Champion’s League.

  19. Leedsgunner

    Only Arsene Wenger would be so clueless and self unaware that he would be giving trophy advice to our bitterest rivals… why does he care?

    Yep, just think about that next time you hear about how much he loves the club.

  20. TonyD

    Graham 62
    Internet privileges then, have you been dropping the soap in the showers?

    Hate to think what you’d have to do to watch the match.

    We should boycott the game tomorrow to respect your suffering and stick it up Wenger, Gazidis and belligerent Chips on your behalf or behind lol.

    See if you can get more internet privlidges bud, you’ re diatribes are sorely missed.

  21. Leedsgunner

    Wenger giving advice to Spurs just cries of desperation of a man who wants to be listened to… to be regarded as an authority on something. I think deep down even Arsene knows he is past it. That’s why he pontificates. He wants to feel im portant because he knows in reality he is no longer at the cutting edge of the game.

    I can’t imagine any other Arsenal manager giving trophy advice to Tottenham and getting away with it…

    Our Board obviously won’t reprimand Wenger.

    I just hope our fans will tell Wenger that this is just not on!

  22. Frankie Coffeecakes

    King of Deflection is what Wenger is nowadays. There is so much wrong with what he continues to do that his ingrained layer of denial blinds factual reality. Tiring beyond belief and the damage he is doing to future supporters will impact this club for years to come. What is the true value in “Values” when you alienate your fan base because you are damaging the club?

  23. Marko

    “Spurs players are better educated”

    I’m all for ripping into the shite that is Arsenal under Arsene but Spurs educated? Nah mate.

    On tomorrow well hard to call darby games after an international break. We should compete it’s a darby game but in all honesty Spurs should win cause they’re the better side. Who knows

  24. TonyD

    We are educated to believe we are over achieving by Gazidis and co.

    Spuds are educated in competing to challenge and keep improving by Poch and Levi.

    We normally have a hangover from an international break.

    Still see it as a draw tomorrow, but it all depends on Wenger’s team selection. If he repeats the Pool & City fiasco, we’ll be in serious trouble.

  25. raptora

    My belief is that after Wenger, Stan K will sign a star manager. Anchelotti, Simeone, Aleggri, Tuchel etc. The new manager, alongside Kroenke, will have a big summer spending in the range of £250m. Somewhat like Man Utd and Man City but on a bit smaller scale.

    Even this summer we’ve seen Wenger making a mistake after a mistake. Do you think that keeping Alexis and Ozil was Kroenke’s idea?! It was Wenger’s. Another manager would have gotten the maximum out of the two, move them to PSG, Bayern or Milan for a £100m total. Then go to the market and buy young, hungry players, with a point to prove and who would actually want to play for us.

    Keeping two players with the fear of losing the huge number of £100m, sounds nothing like an owner who wishes to earn money from us. It is Wenger who believed in what he did that it will be a good decision but the way it’s shaping up at the moment it looks like a terrible one.

    In the end we might as well learn that it was Wenger who was against spending a lot of money on the transfer market, not Kroenke. Wenger has said it a million times how three transfers are the maximum a team can make before the team’s togetherness gets hurt. He’s the one who’s been saying that there is no £100m player and how a player like that should take the ball and score by himself every time he touches the ball. He’s the one that made the joke of a thing that our so-called “values” and “beliefs” are. No one really knows them but being self-sufficient as a club, not investing more than the club generates, keeping all the senior players on a similar wages etc, etc. I can go forever. It’s all him. Not Kroenke.

    Things will change after Wenger. There is no place under the sun for a club that is so stuck in the past. He has been the yesterday, or yesteryear, or yestercentury for a decade now. Not sure how things will work out, but at least we won’t be watching same ol’, same ol’ again and again. And mark my words – Kroenke would never give Wenger a director seat when he goes and asks for it. Because he will. Just watch.

  26. Park Chu-young's left testicle

    If we lose it will be because of the international break / early kick off / any other unreasonable excuse.

  27. Cesc Appeal

    BvB’s head scout, a couple of new football men like the Barcelona chief negotiator and then Overmars perhaps to create a DoF department with Allegri as manager.

    Stuff dreams are made of.

  28. Leedsgunner

    “BvB’s head scout, a couple of new football men like the Barcelona chief negotiator and then Overmars perhaps to create a DoF department with Allegri as manager.”

    You forgot David Dein as our CEO and an ambitious billionaire as our owner Cesc.

    All those changes in footballing personnel will be short lived if Gazidas is our CEO and Kronke is our main shareholder.

  29. HillWood

    I will miss tomorrow’s match due to being on a plane to warmer climes.
    I have been berating Mrs HillWood for weeks for booking a holiday without consulting the fixture list

  30. Marko

    All those changes in footballing personnel will be short lived if Gazidas is our CEO and Kronke is our main shareholder.

    I mean they’re pricks but our biggest problem lies on the playing side of things. Scouting recruitment and a manager afraid of pulling the trigger on signings and incapable of getting the best of what he’s got is the problem. A DOF, a new scouting network and a new manager and this club is moving forward. Whereas if we kept the manager and all that but got a new CEO we’d still need to change the everything else

  31. TonyD

    Great article. It made sense on every level and echoes my thoughts on Pocettino.

    All he needs to do in the next 2 seasons is to start winning trophies.

    It’s a paradox in that you can’t help but respect his work with the Spuds at the same time hating their achievements.

  32. Mark

    I just felt that yes we hate Spurs, but it’s childish to ignore what they are doing over there, especially when we seem to be regressing !

    I m looking forward to the day that as Arsenal fans we can be positive and happy about our club and. Enjoy the football once again. Which we will once Wenger’s gone.