Four brutal games to decide our top 8 fate

by .

So after a rough start to the season, we’re now 3 wins on the bounce and we have an FA Cup semi-final against City to dread. The big smiles are out in force; now we get down to the real business end of the race for the top 8.

Wolves, Leicester, Spurs, then Liverpool.

That’s a beastly run, but for me, it’s perfect. Being able to smash Norwich 4-0 doesn’t tell you much about the coaching or the progression of the team, extracting any sort of points out of the next 4 games will.

Nuno has done a terrific job at Wolves. He’s made them a feared outfit, he’s built a squad using the dark arts of super-agent love, and it looks like it’s working out very nicely at a club that is just happy to be back at the top.

Arteta was very complimentary of the squad they’ve built and how they play.

I think they have shown in the past few years how consistent they have been with their performances. They are a group of players, and a club with a manager that have been doing exactly the same thing for many years and you can see their style of play, and a very clear identity of what they want to do,. They have been recruiting exactly the players they need in the positions to do what they want to do. They are a really difficult side to beat.

He’s obsessed with identity, probably because he inherited a club that was severely lacking one. I think in this case, it’s absolutely clear what Nuno is doing with his team. They defend very well, they have a lot of intensity, they are extremely disciplined and they are outrageous on the counter.

They also have a lot of good players, Jorge Mendes is clearly a better super-agent than the two clowns we have making reccos at Arsenal. Jota, Mendes, Jimenez, and Traore would all walk into our squad. They will all be problematic for us tomorrow.

We have some very good players ourselves, but arguably, none better than Auba. Arteta talks about him like he has the deepest football crush of his life on the players.

I don’t know, it is the way that I feel, the way that I communicate with him, the conversations that I have with him and the people around him. It is the energy I sense. It is just my opinion, things change in football very quickly but when you ask me in that moment how I feel about Auba’s future, in this moment I feel that he wants to continue with us and keep developing and help us to become a better team.

He’s also doubling down on him staying.

I think so, he needs to feel he belongs somewhere that he believes we can achieve the goals that he has individually and collectively for a long time. He is very settled in the city, his family are really happy here as well I think, and he is loved, respected and admired nay his team-mates, which is a huge thing to have at any football club. So that’s what gives me positivity, as well because I see the enjoyment he is having, the work-rate that he puts in all the time, and the decisions that he makes every time. So that is where my feelings are coming from.

James Olley at ESPN reckons the player wants £250k a week for 3 years. It’s expensive, but as a few pals in the Whatsapp Groups have said, players go on for longer now, Auba wasn’t brutalised as a young player, making his mark later in his career, he’s also very, very fit.

From a player perspective, he seems bought in. He looked very happy in the stands the other day. Arteta says he thinks the player can match Thierry for goals and trophies, I think he’s being serious-ish. He’s not here to be a top 8 manager, he wants to challenge. Whether you think that is jokes or not doesn’t matter, that’s the way he’s thinking about the project. He’s looking at Liverpool, not Wolves, as the benchmark for success.

Why the fuck not? Give me that over someone who has a Europa League comfort blanket. Ambition has strange ways of infecting people and convincing them they can do more than they can.

That sort of chat isn’t for now though, in this moment, we’ve just got to work out a way of moving through this section of the season unscathed with more than zero points.

The two things we have to deal with tomorrow are fairly obvious. How do you create a team that gives you zero space? How do you stop powerhouse players like Traore eating you up on the break?

It’ll be interesting to see whether he’s tempted to bring Torreira back into the mixer. Full back decisions will also be important. If you are going to be low on chances, you have to make sure the people in those positions can make the most of any space they create. You also have to be sure they have the right mobility against the power and pace. Could we see a start for Soares? Will he bring AMN into midfield? Would he risk starting Dani against a team that won’t afford him the luxury of space and time like Norwich?

I’m sure whatever we offer up tactically will be close enough, the big question is whether this squad is ready to deliver a 90-minute performance. There’s always a dip. There’s always a moment where the gameplan drops off the radar. If that happens tomorrow, we’ll be lucky to survive it.

So fingers crossed we see big response.

I was sent a press release from RunRepeat about the bias in football commentary. Alfred, my woke Swedish pal from The Arsenal Opinion podcast has been pulling me on the subject for 2 years, it’s now in a study format so you can read. The numbers are miserable.

  • When commentators talk about intelligence:
    • 62.60% of praise was aimed at players with lighter skin tone
    • 63.33% of criticism was aimed at players with darker skin tone
  • When commentators are talking about power they are 6.59 times more likely to be talking about a player with darker skin tone
  • When commentators are talking about speed they are 3.38 times more likely to be talking about a player with darker skin tone
  • When commentators talk about work ethic, 60.40% of praise is aimed at players with lighter skin tone

When you first hear about this, you think it’s just another woke agenda item, but then you start paying attention, and you hear it all the time.

This sort of study is important on two levels. Firstly, it shows that football commentary is too simplistic in its categorisations of players. I’ve said this many times before, the level of commentary and punditry is often not where the game is. It’s actually embarrassing if I’m honest. Compare Roy Keane analysing a game to someone that is actually working in the Premier League for a club. It’s chalk and cheese.

‘Bang his head against the wall if you can’t get a response’

‘They need a big man in the middle to make more tackles’

‘Not enough heart’

That’s before you get into the bias. So the learning for the TV stations for me is to first upgrade the level of the talent describing the game so it can better reflect what is actually going in the game or around the club.

It can be a bit of a grey area on describing physicality. This is a game that is built on power and pace, you have to be able to call it out, but you have to be equal. The fastest player in Germany a few weeks ago was a white guy call Lewandowski, but your rarely hear him described as a beast or a brute. Sterling, one of the higher-profile cases of bias, was vilified in the press for pushing his way out of Liverpool, or having a tattoo, or driving a nice car. Matteo G, lighter skinned, is genuinely a bit of a shit and fans are running to sympathise because he’s misunderstood and he just cares too much. I’m not sure Moise Kean was given that same benefit of the doubt.

The most important part about the bias in the commentary is the intelligence piece. Why? Because it filters down into coaching. How, in 2020, can there only be 5 bame managers in English football? There have been so many incredible black players, how are none of them coach material? It is a travesty. Work rate? Please. Intelligence? My word, look at the collective of dim white coaches that do the rounds over and over again. It is a collective blindness that needs addressing. There is no excuse, there is a huge talent pool, there are plenty of capable black players, and there is clearly a massive desire for them the breakthrough. Clubs need to be better about it.

Also, before I go, make sure you read these two articles if you’re bored. I write these with a lot of inputs, so the narratives are pretty sound. Share with your pals as well. Force your dog to read it, he’ll thank you later.

Raul: Bagman to Arsenal CEO. A story that gets to the heart of why Arsenal is in such a mess.

How LFC eclipsed Arsenal with less money + what we can learn 

P.S. Jose Mourinho claiming he knew his fully fit Champions League Finalist squad wasn’t good enough to beat Sheffield United away from him. You hate to see it.

Also, I’ll just leave this here.

976 Responses to “Four brutal games to decide our top 8 fate”

Jump to comment form ↓

  1. Wasi

    ‘Instead you see yourself as a defender of a great victory that you think others want to undermine.’

    ‘I was simply pointing out to you that some on here think Wolves have been over -egged, over-praised by other posters.That’s all. Plain and simple’

    All right. Okay. 👍

  2. Pierre

    Away to Southampton, we looked a different team in the closing stages.

    Home to Norwich, we looked a different team in the closing stages .

    Away to wolves , we looked a different team in the closing stages.

    In each of those games Joe Willock came on as sub and transformed our play from negative to positive.

    He picks up the ball and drives at the opposition defence , he makes things happen and next season he will be a starter , I’m convinced of that.

  3. Receding Hairline

    Willock as a starter isn’t necessarily good news. Looking good in closing stages of games is one thing, starting them and playing well another. Thought this lesson was learnt with Iwobi?

  4. Moray

    @Northbanker, mid to late period Wenger had a hard on for central midfielders That was unholy. If he could have I reckon he would have played Batista, Denilson or Rosicky in goal.

  5. Ishola70

    At least Pierre has a new pet to feed other than Ozil now with Willock.

    That is advancement of some sort.

    Lacazette basically manufactured that goal for himself yesterday. No discredit to Willock for putting in a cross but it wasn’t even a cross that saw the striker on goal with just the keeper to beat. Lacazette made that goal happen. Percentage wise of importance to that goal, cross = 20 %, Lacazette himself 80%.

  6. CG

    Arsenals best result post Wenger.

    X 9 Wenger players on the pitch at the final whistle.

    (Luiz & Torreira the exceptions.)


  7. Pierre

    “Lacazette basically manufactured that goal for himself yesterday. No discredit to Willock for putting in a cross but it wasn’t even a cross that saw the striker on goal with just the keeper to beat. Lacazette made that goal happen. Percentage wise of importance to that goal, cross = 20 %, Lacazette himself 80%.”

    What a sad comment that you find it hard to give credit where it’s due .

    I never mentioned anything about the assist or the cross to Lacazette.

    What I did say is that Willock AGAIN came on and changed the game with his positivity on the ball and his willingness to drive at the opposition.

  8. Pierre

    “At least Pierre has a new pet to feed other than Ozil now with Willock.”

    Last week it was Eddie, the week before Saka, the week before Ozil and next week it could be Smith Rowe .

    What is the common denominator….

    They all play for Arsenal.

  9. Northbanker

    Ozil will be here next year as we won’t be able to offload him. I see no point in paying up his contract – unless a massive discount is built into that which i doubt then why would we pay the same amount and not have the player?

    Once he trains properly he will be considered for selection. Or, if he isn’t training properly, sack him for breach of contract. I would love to see a club do this.

  10. Ishola70


    “the week before Ozil”

    Are you telling us you haven’t dumped him yet?

    You’re not still feeding him are you?

  11. Pierre

    Ishola and Receding( amongst others) are what I would call “the negatives “.

    If a poster happens to be positive about a player or players, you can guarantee that one of “the negatives” will be there with their 2 Bobs worth.


  12. Northbanker

    CG – and your point is? What an irrelevant and debatable fact. Wenger was gone before he moved any further into decline. A once great manager was no longer great and needed to be moved out. Get over it , 1998 – 2004 has passed by and move on like the rest of us. Are you like this with all other aspects of your life? – hanging on to events by reminiscing?

  13. Ishola70


    You are pulled up about certain players because of your form with Ozil.

    And as you have basically admitted any player that pulls on an Arsenal shirt is great in your eyes.

    Even Lichtsteiner looked very good to you with his first few appearances lol

    So forgive the scepticism about you and your over-rating of Arsenal players.

  14. Emiratesstroller

    In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion about our midfield, but very
    little about our defence.

    Realistically I don’t think that the club will be buying this summer any additional defenders whatever are our concerns about this department.

    We have completed our incoming business this summer with recruitment of
    Mari and Soares, the arrival of Saliba and the contract extension of Luiz.

    Much as I would like Arsenal to bring in a proven World Class Centre Back this is not going to happen with current budget restrictions.

    Having said this the club is currently overstocked with 8 CBs on the books.
    Even if we were to play 3 CBs at the back we don’t need frankly more than 5
    on the books.

    I think that both Mavropanos and Sokratis will be sold this summer and hopefully that will cover the cost of Mari.

    This leaves one further offload from Mustafi, Holding and Chambers. Surprisingly I don’t think that Arteta will be selling Mustafi. He has been
    playing regularly under MA and his form has improved albeit he is always
    a potential loose canon.

    So that leaves a decision being taken about whether to offload Holding or
    Chambers. Holding is the more solid Defender but Chambers is the more
    versatile player. My view is that Arsenal are likely to “loan” out one of these
    two players.

    Despite many adverse comments about Bellerin I don’t think that the club will
    sell him. He is 24 and recovering from a serious injury. The club will allow him
    time to recover.

    The left back position is different. Tierney is clearly first choice and Kolasinac
    second string. Kolasinac is not defensively very solid and if the right offer is
    made I could see him sold. Should that happen then I think that Saka will act
    as understudy.

  15. Pierre

    “And as you have basically admitted any player that pulls on an Arsenal shirt is great in your eyes.”

    “I was impressed though Pierre with you advocating the selling of Xhaka.”

    Didn’t take you long to contradict yourself did it ..

  16. CG


    “””CG – and your point is?”””””

    To emphasize how badly the Dopes have spent £250 million on players.

    Best result for 2 seasons and they are reverting to all Wengers players and not their crappy ones they have bought to obtain it.

    (AST stating £140 million losses next season
    You can see why.)
    Hopefully Lewis does a full audit and gets them all sacked for gross misconduct and gross mismanagement.

  17. Ishola70

    “Xhaka is not going to be sold in summer transfer window.”

    I’d be hugely surprised if he was sold yes.

    I don’t think the club are adventurous enough for a complete midfield revamp.

  18. Freddie Ljungberg

    “(AST stating £140 million losses next season
    You can see why.)”

    Yeah, it’s called a pandemic. Moron.

  19. Ishola70

    I’m sure you have over-rated Xhaka in the past though Pierre.

    That would be a natural course for you.

  20. Versus

    PierreJuly 4, 2020 18:52:49
    “Arteta must get the team to the EL final as a minimum requirement. Since Emery did it and he is such a worse coach than MA. The EL is the least we should expect..right?”Congratulations, you surpassed Graham and Jamie in posting the most ignorant and irrelevant comment of the evening , which I have to say was difficult to do..well done.
    Hey kid. You must be a snot nose teenager because If you were old enough you’d know Arsenal are a big club. Wolves are a small club. When big clubs with 3 times the financial power boast and gloat over beating a small club in a match. It’s embarrassing. You know like when Arsenal get battered by a Barca or Bayern Munich. You’ll hear and read people say. “It was Barca though” or “well bayern are a big club with big players so…”
    They make excuses. Like I’m sure Wolves are making excuses now even though they are STILL ahead of us.
    So Arsenal 3rd most successful club in English history. Beat Wolves. Ok. So er.. what should we do now? Give MA and all the players statues outside the Emirates?
    Calm down and go do some history.
    So next season. That will be MAs minimum requirement.
    This season MA gets a pass. Next season. Not so much.

  21. Chris


    Nothing to do with how Arteta is setting up the team then.

    Also, Tierney, Cedric and Dani C played yesterday as well if that escaped your notice. So not quite just two players is it.

  22. Tom

    “CG – and your point is? What an irrelevant and debatable fact. Wenger was gone before he moved any further into decline. A once great manager was no longer great and needed to be moved out. Get over it , 1998 – 2004 has passed by and move on like the rest of us. Are you like this with all other aspects of your life? – hanging on to events by reminiscing?“

    The point is that there is no point , just a rambling of a semi coherent sort.
    Whilst this was an important win for Arteta it wasn’t even his best win arguably as an Arsenal coach , that might’ve been against United earlier.
    As for best win since Wenger, Emery’s sin over Spurs 4-2 surely takes the cake.
    3-1 over Leicester probably does too.

  23. Pierre

    “I’m sure you have over-rated Xhaka in the past though Pierre.”

    If you can remember that 18 months ago I said lichsteiner “looked very good “( your words , not mine) then I’m sure you can make up some adjective that I have supposed to have said about Xhaka…

  24. Dissenter

    Xhaka was the undisputed leader of the group yesterday.
    Whatever you think of his footballing ability, there shouldn’t be any doubt that he’s a natural leader. He’s always helping the younger players and reorganizing the other players.
    He never drops his head even. after calamitous errors and it’s no wonder why managers tend to like him a lot.

  25. Chris

    There were a number of very good and solid performances during Emery’s first season, but you have to whisper that in most places, not just here.

    Yesterday however was really good to see because we looked far less naive and more in control of the game than we have for some time and one can see this is clearly something Arteta has instilled, and it will only get better.

  26. Radio Raheem

    I think it harsh the treatment Leno is getting from some posters. It’s one thing to be happy with Martinez and quite another for that positive to be at the detriment of Leno.

    Leno has been an outstanding performer since he arrived.

  27. China1

    Really pleased that yesterday went as it did

    I can live with us not being perfect, I just ask to see two things – hard work and a clear roadmap towards being better each week

    It’s when I don’t see one or either of those I get really fucked off. Obviously we’re on an up turn of form now, I hope Arteta keeps it on the boil and finds another big 3 points against Leicester. It’s hard but 100% possible. Make it happen Arteta!!

  28. China1

    Yeah Leno deserves a lot of credit for the big contribution he’s made since he joined

    He’s saved our asses on a tone of occasions

    Martinez has done great tho. A pleasant surprise to have two good keepers in the squad when before last year we didn’t even have one since lehmann left (and even the mighty Jens had some frustrating weaknesses) so you can go all the way back to seaman you find an elite keeper at arsenal

  29. Receding Hairline

    Yea Chris, we didn’t amass 70 points and get to the EL final by being all over the place in every game last season, but like you pointed out such talk isn’t allowed here.

    Last season was a disaster, now we are seeing an identity (whatever that is) etc because we beat Wolves. Ignore the fact the actual football on display wasn’t much to write home about. We have seen this pattern before, just a year ago, difference this time is the anointed one in charge so more is being made of a win than usual. Posters getting called out, players who have been close to useless all season getting absolution…..

  30. China1

    Dissenter I’d rather have a better football player who is a less ‘vocal’ leader than have an average-poor player in the team.

  31. Ishola70

    We spoke about Xhaka’s “leadership” before China didn’t we.

    It’s a front and is as dependable as a chocolate teacup. Can melt instantly.

    But Dissenter is easily conned and he obviously is gunning for Xhaka to get the armband as captain permanently.

  32. Tom

    Wolves are a very dangerous team but you take away their counters and they can struggle for goals.
    United are a perennial top six club and Arteta’s record against these will become of some importance when evaluating his Arsenal tenure.
    Also when Arsenal played United we were four points off the relegation so for those facts the United win was more important.
    Never mind Emery’s record.

  33. Dissenter

    Hope you’re doing good?
    I was hoping that comment about Xhaka will lure you out of your legrove retirement.

  34. Dissenter

    Re; Xhaka
    Obviously Wenger, Emery, Freddie and Arteta disagree with you.
    Sometimes it has to be asked why Arteta went out of his way to persuade Xhaka to stay.
    Is it remotely possible that the much derided Xhaka may have some redeemable qualities that will make a rookie managers risk his first job on him?

  35. Ishola70

    Mind you when we hear comments like Xhaka is absolutely integral to the Arteta project and system moving forward then captain of the team seems a natural position for him.

    Get the popcorn ready for next season.

  36. Dissenter

    The last post should have been dressed to you, not Chris.
    ‘ Re; Xhaka
    Obviously Wenger, Emery, Freddie and Arteta disagree with you.
    Sometimes it has to be asked why Arteta went out of his way to persuade Xhaka to stay.
    Is it remotely possible that the much derided Xhaka may have some redeemable qualities that will make a rookie managers risk his first job on him?’

  37. Champagne Charlie

    Xhaka has a manager that believes in his abilities, and witnesses all aspects of his character daily to be suitably impressed with him.

    Really don’t think it matters much what a few online personalities with a chip on their shoulder think. When it’s forever the same people spouting criticising or downplaying any praise you know it’s best to ignore them.

  38. Thomas


    Every player that puts on an Arsenal shirt is by the default the best in their position according to Pierre. He’s like a five year old cheerleader.

  39. Graham62

    One of a GK’s main jobs is to command/communicate to, those in front of him.

    Martinez does this far better than Leno.

    Since he came into the team our defence looks so much better.

  40. Nelson

    So far so good. Hope that Burnley can hang on. We may secure the 7th spot. That should be an EL spot isn’t it?

  41. TR7

    Even Alex Song was a better midfielder than Xhaka and not many rated him. Kind of sad that Xhaka has become one of the main players in our team. I guess these days managers value attitude more than they value talent and ability and Xhaka is simply a beneficiary of the changed attitude of managers.

  42. G

    Have no doubts willock will make it for Arsenal.. He’s just a baby in football terms but have seen enough quality already.. Our keeper situation has turned into a real positive.. Get Partey sign Auba up and will already be looking forward to next season..

  43. Champagne Charlie


    No what’s sad is that irrespective of output there’s always people with a fixed negative view of particular players utterly unable to give praise where or when earned.

  44. Pierre

    At the end of the day Xhaka’s record and performances under Arteta speak for themselves.

    Credit should be given to both Arteta and Xhaka as so many are desperate for them to fail.

    Is he the best centre midfielder in the league , no but he happens to be the best we have at this present time and if we play better as a team with him in the side, then the fans should be happy to see him in the starting line up.

  45. TR7


    It is not really about acknowledging Xhaka’s output. Theo Walcott scored goals for us and his output was not all that bad in terms of statistics but we could all see how limited a player he was and that if we needed to be a quality team he must be offloaded. Xhaka is our midfield’s Theo Walcott without any pace.

  46. Sid

    The manager doesnt even trust Xhakalson with the ball thats why its played to the wingbacks and back to the CBs

  47. Champagne Charlie


    Theo was a good player for Arsenal, I think the notion he “needed” to be offloaded for us to be better is a complete sham. We simply needed to be bringing better players in, which is the case now too.

    Doesn’t mean the players you have performing well for the club are any less because of that fact. It’s a sly and incalculable statement with no other intention than to dismiss certain players.

    We got good money for Theo, but tell me with a straight face that we couldn’t do with a Theo in the squad currently? There’s more to success than compiling a squad of the ‘best’.

  48. Emiratesstroller

    Graham 62

    I think that Martinez may well turn out to be our No 1 GK because he appears
    to be in total command of his area which a top class goalie needs to do.

    His kicking and distribution was not initially very good but appears to have improved in last two games.

    Having two competent goalkeepers in our squad is absolutely essential and
    allows the club to develop a youngster in U23 squad to become the third string
    to develop and alongside them and sit on bench for less important games.

  49. TR7


    I never hanker for ‘best’ players at every position. I have tried to defend players such as Guen, Laca, AMN in this team who are anything but the best in their respective positions. However central midfield in my view is the most crucial position on the field and we ought to be looking at someone better than Xhaka. Take the game against Wolves for example – how many times did Xhaka receive the ball in tight areas and moved the ball forward ? Not even once. How mnay times did he win the ball back from opposition ? We can’t achieve top 4 next season if our central midfield can’t perform against the top 8.

  50. R.S.P.C.Arsenal

    Personally I like that Martinez catches the ball from crosses a throwback to the bold days…

  51. Uwot?

    To be fair Hacker had a reasonably good match yesterday & so long as he puts In a decent shift & contribution this season then fine.But he clearly is not the answer.Against the “ big boys” he’s been found wanting.Nowhere near mobile enough for what we need.Arteta I’m sure realises this . Hence the link with Partey etc.

  52. Buzzy

    I remeber Parteys game against Liverpool in the second leg in CL..absolute composure against probably one of the best pressing teams in the world…he can shield like Pogba, can turn like Fabregas, has the first touch capability of Busquets and the physcial prowess of Yaya Toure…which obviously means he aint coming to Arsenal lol

  53. Emiratesstroller

    R.S.P.C Arsenal

    Absolutely not.

    We need two top class goalkeepers on books particularly when you look at our current dodgy defence.

    However, there will come a time in next couple of years when one of these two
    goalies decide to part company with club.

  54. Northbanker

    I can’t wait for the day when we sell Xhaka bit can understand why managers want him as an interim

    If MA gets Partey and Szoboszlai then he won’t need Xhaka but we need 2 incoming decent CMs first to be able to make that decision

  55. Sid

    Xhakalson has improved under Arteta?
    Their heads are so far up Artetas rectum that they are drowning in paella shit

    Im telling you for free!

  56. Champagne Charlie

    “Take the game against Wolves for example – how many times did Xhaka receive the ball in tight areas and moved the ball forward ? Not even once.”

    Is receiving the ball in tight spaces and advancing play an ability all CM should have or they’re not any good? Because if so that rules out a lot of good midfielders and appears a purposely narrow skill set to score points.

    We play with 3 in CM, if the other two (Ceballos and Saka vs Wolves) offer those traits then we’d have a perfectly well functioned midfield, and one easily good enough for top 4.

    Thomas Partey immediately improves it alongside Xhaka, and you replace Ceballos with a mobile technician like Coutinho/Grealish and it’s night and day.

    “How mnay times did he win the ball back from opposition ? We can’t achieve top 4 next season if our central midfield can’t perform against the top 8.“

    4 times according to whoscored, which is joint most on the pitch with Kolasinac and AMN who played fullback.

  57. Gentlebris

    Sane teaming up with Bayern is improper.

    How can they be that good and still get Sane on top?

    There should be something like world class players fair play.

    Sane should be coming to Arsenal while Bayern get Mustafi.

    To balance things a bit.