Wigan Counter Punch Effectively Against Arsenal’s Predictability

Arsenal 1 – 2 Wigan Athletic

0 – 1 di Santo (7)
0 – 2 Gomez (8)
1 – 2 Vermaelen (21)

The pressure was on and Arsenal were found wanting. A win would have made them clear favourites for third place in the Premier League but this defeat has muddied the Champions League qualification waters. Sir Alex Ferguson proved to be rather better informed than we suspected as Arsenal made schoolboy errors and succumbed to defeat at the hands, or rather the feet of, plucky little Wigan.

Post-match Arsène clearly identified the problem,

I felt in the first half we had enough chances to come back to 2-2, but the second half we dropped our level, lost our team play, our cohesion and tried too much individually. There was not enough petrol left in the tank anymore. We didn’t see anyone who could make a difference. They defended well. We had a tremendous amount of possession but didn’t create a lot in the second half.

The news of Jack Wilshere accentuates that lack of creativity; the bench was uninspiring in that sense with a marked absence of creative spark. Even so, the talent was there in Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho; it never truly emerged. Fundamentally this performance was not good enough from start to finish. The players have to push it to one side and focus on Saturday. That this match was lost is not entirely surprising as it confirms the inconsistency of this season; that is the biggest barrier to making any challenge for silverware next season and is not something which can be solved with two or three signings although they can be the catalyst for such changes.

Arsenal never recovered from two brutal sucker punches early in the match. Vermaelen had gone close whilst al-Habsi made an important save from Benayoun before Wigan used the counter-attack as effectively as their hosts have ever done. From van Persie’s corner, Wigan exploited space on the Arsenal  right as Sagna had pushed forward; di Santo reacted quickest to Szczesny’s attempted block and ball was in the back of the net. Ninety seconds later Gomez capitalised on rank bad defending as a succession of Arsenal players failed to react to the ball, culminating in Szczesny’s Wilson-esque dive that failed to gain control of the situation.

Two down, both conceded with ten men effectively on the pitch as Arsenal failed to get the injured Arteta replaced in a timely manner. The reactions on the bench were as tardy as those on the pitch.

Unsurprisingly Wigan lowered their ambitions and sought to protect their advantage as Arsenal started to recover. Benayoun was once more thwarted by al-Habsi before Rosicky’s corner was met with a powerful header from Thomas Vermaelen. With sixty-nine minutes remaining, the recovery was underway. Except it never really materialised. Possession is nine-tenths of the Law but wasting that dominance is a cardinal sin.

Arsenal came close with van Persie denied by al-Habsi whilst Djourou and Rosicky threatened. At the other end, Gomez blazed over as the interval loomed. Santos and his captain were both blocked in their pursuit of an equaliser early in the second half but as much as they controlled the match, there was little end product.

The malaise which engulfed Arsenal’s performance was summed up by the difficult night encountered by Bacary Sagna. Moises got clear to draw a good save from Szczesny; an important block before an altogether more routine save from the same player when having muscled his way past the best right back in the league, Moises should have made it 3 – 1.

The visitors were content with their performance, Arsenal immensely frustrated summed up by the demeanour of Robin van Persie post-match. It shows the ambition when their behaviour manifests that way; pressure valves need a release.

This is a troubling defeat. The season has been punctuated with inconsistencies, excellent runs ended with poor defeats or nascent winning spells struck down before reaching their prime. There is enough experience in the squad that, to me at least, does not rest easy with accusations of complacency. Whether this is a “one-off” in a season of “many-offs” will be known at the end of the ninety minutes against Chelsea. However, as well as Wigan played, it was matched and exceeded by Arsenal’s sterility. No fingers can be pointed at the officials, few contentious incidents needed their decision-making flamboyance. Purely and simply this was a night where the performance was not up to the required standard.

The injury to Arteta is the most concerning aspect away from the loss of three points. The Spaniard is a crucial member of the midfield, appreciated at the club by player and supporter alike with his absence acutely felt. In that sense he is reminscent of Gilberto Silva when he joined; you didn’t truly appreciate his abilities until he is missing. The upcoming fixtures require a fully fit squad. Or if that is not possible, as much of it as fit as possible with all of the key personnel present and correct.

As it is, Arsenal sit five points clear of fourth having played a game more. What is more important; points or games in hand. Along the Seven Sisters, they will claim the latter; I’ll take the former.

’til Tomorrow.

Posted on April 17, 2012, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Soccer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 125 Comments.

  1. I do not remember another season with so many ups and downs and turnarounds.

    The result is disappointing, but I’d rather keep the judgement until after the end of the season. The manager, the team and the fans are learning hard way that a season has 38 games, not 5 or 20 or 33.

    The next four games can well be a defining moment in the history of the club (Am I overstating here)? Just lose to Chelsea, and the 3-rd is out of our hands. And then Stoke away…

    It’s a pity that RVP’s excellent form has not kept up just 3 or 4 weeks longer. But he is a human, what more can we ask from him?

  2. longblackcloud

    although not an excuse, the blatent time-wasting was frustrating in the extreme, particually when the ref waits so late to penalise it which actually penalised us by taking more time than was then added on!

  3. SV

    >what more can we ask from him?

    Too much in all likelihood.

  4. Moping in defeat? Enjoy “Tottenham’s Title Hopes Killed By Arsenal On This Day, 17th April 1985” instead. http://wp.me/p27e7J-dy

  5. longblackcloud

    Not sure RVP has lost form, seems more of a case of the service to him drying up. He is not getting on the ball any near as much and when he does its often far deeper than previously. Song Arteta & Rosicsky all contributing well but all 3 struggle to create clear chances with a bit of magic that mortal players can`t see. Against the massed defenses sat deep we face on nights like last night is when we really miss the genius of Brady, Bergkamp, Pires or Fabregas

  6. Having seen strile performances like this so many times, I was not surprised as the game went on that they seemed to have no clue. WE saw the same ecven whn CF was playing.

    It has been said many times, and was clearly the case last night, that they refuse to shoot from the edge of the box. They could have tried it many times and yet wasted the opportunity. Whilst such shots might be blocked or go away at a tangent, the readiness to shoot might bring out the defenders a little and there is also the chance of a ricoche into the goal.

    It was clear that Wigan doubled up whenever our wingers got the ball, yet when 3Gs was on on, he took on his defenders and got past them a few times, whilst Walcott barely tried once and we know that he can not dribble. If anyone should have come off when Ox came on, it should have been Walcott who had ben anonymous throughout the game.

  7. The game started in a very possible note with arsenal doing all the attacking and getting very good saves from Al habsi who had already been praise by sczsesny as being outstanding before the game.Poor passing from the corner gifted wigan the ball on their left flank,our right for an excellent counter.The replays show arteta not being able to track back although if fit could have made an intevention or a foul when the ball was been played.Such is the importance of tracking back.

    The gunners must have been searching for an immediate reply but found themselves 2 goals behind.I believe they all remembered the spurs game and had that same we’ve done it before and they we going on with a good job,got a goal back djourou nearly got lucky but by this time you would have noticed that wigan were playing from our right flank,occupied by Sagna and Walcott and both goals came from there.Either Victor Moses was exceptional or Sagna/Walcott weren’t effective although we know of their high standards

    In my experience as a fantasy football manager I think we lost the match due to the ineffectiveness of the right flank.

    Walcott should get another position to play on the pitch if he’s lost on the right wing and le Prof wants to keep him on.

    An average performance but poor on the right flank attack/defence

  8. I was more worried about this match than the Chelsea match. And I’m more worried about losing Arteta than being beaten by a hungry Wigan side who gave everything. We’ll bounce back.

  9. One instance summed last night up for me. TV5 won the ball and then moved forward into midfield to bolster hte attack. As he was doing so you could see him bollocking Song saying “why am I having to go forward, you should be here” as Song jogged out of our half. TV5 really tried to push the team forward last night; if the rest of the side had his attitude we would have won no problems.

    As YW alluded to, for all of our dominance did their keeper make a save of note in the 2nd half?

    Also disapointing to see how many people had left the ground by 85mins. It is not like we were 8-0 up and the game was over. We were desperatly trying to get back in the game and many of the crowd had left! So much for the atmosphere helping the team.

  10. Hey YW,

    I thought the players tried their best, it was not that we were complacent like against QPR. We came up against a side who are on form and full of confidence, who play a system alien to the English lague that defends solidly and breaks even more quickly. I am more disappointed because we had time to analyse all this – Wigan have ben playing like this from the beginning of February. As your title correctly points out, we were predictable – and got what we deserved, honestly. Anyway, onward to Saturday. Chelsea will be more open so we should have some joy finding space at the weekend.

    I have to go now and do something about this nausea.


  11. I still believe a win is better than 2 draws.Lets respond against chelsea

  12. Andy

    People leaving early is annoying but some have to catch last trains home due to the late KO

  13. I thought Andy summed it up perfectly yesterday in a syllable.


  14. Credit to wigan for a solid game their back three didt move and made it difficult for Van persie (who I think is looking tired). Sadly I have to attack Le prof Walcott was not in the game not for once and when he broke free could not be able to put his body infront of the defender to win a free kick. so I lacked the knowledge in Wenger taking Yosi off instead of Walcott I thought he could have taken off Ramsey for Gervinho and drop Yosi in middle of the pack and take off Walcott for the OX. The prob with Wenger is that he is so predictable and approches all games the same way.

  15. Regroup & move on is all we can do.

  16. I think Arsenal should show more ambition when playing like this.This has always been arsenal problem.Arsenal are the master of complacency…

  17. We just had too many pleyers who were a bit below par last night. Wigan were obviously going to be up for it when fighting relegation, but there were very few Arsenal players who could say they played at their best. Hopefully they’ll be more focussed for the Chelsea game.

    The only real specific point of annoyance is conceding on the break from one of our corners again. This kind of stuff is just down to organisation, it shouldn’t happen more than once.

    There were people at the ground last night slating the manager and shouting at him to “spend some f***ing money” again and even a few boos at the final whistle (and I heard one at half time!). Thankfully they were a small minority. After eight wins in ten games you couldn’t make it up really.

  18. Jeez one loss and the eejits are out in force.

    This no time for faint hearts and and brainless criticism of the manager/club.

  19. Very disappointed with this result and more to the point the performance from certain players who didn’t up their game and approached it the as they did v QPR. Very laid back after setting such a high standard.

    It wasn’t as if Wigan played out of their skin it was more to do with them wanting it more and playing for survival. RVP, didn’t even get a proper service all night which was very damaging and very naive play from our non-creative midfield. Boy how we miss Jack and for those who question Arteta, well you have witnessed what happens without him on the pitch!

    In a ideal world that would of been the perfect match for Diaby but, fate is often cruel to us Gooners. I have been defending Ramsey for the past two weeks among peers who question his ability now to create and score but, I had no case last night because he had a really shit game and if may have subbed if he wasn’t the sub already.

    He is going through a shit patch but, he will have to play through and come good ad hurry up about it. Ramsey just chased the game to no avail and it broke my heart seeing him do that last night after watching him boss entire matches not so long ago and the media have started their annual “hound a Arsenal player out” shit already and he’s their star man.

    Gervinho,Theo, Ramsey…Way too many players to have s shit game all at the same time.

    There are certain names being linked with us in the midfield area which I think is much needed because saying we lacked creativity last night is a huge understatement. Just can’t believe how we went out like a damp candle. They really let Wenger down and he must be baffled at their performance. Thought we grown as a team since Milan and that shit couldn’t happen to us anymore.

  20. Walcott was terrible again last night. He should have come off instead of Benayoun who was at least popping up in the right places and looked a threat. Thoroughly disappointed.

  21. The biggest problem for Saturday is the lack of a viable alternative for Arteta. The obvious candidate for his role on the pitch is instead busy lamenting missing out on the Euros. Bad news for him, in the short term, but probably better all round in the long term.

    Rosicky Song Ramsey is the obvious starting midfield trio – the biggest worry being that, should that be found wanting, the lack of obvious replacements is a genuine worry. I’m all for the Ox down the middle but lack of playing time in this role and inexperience mean that it is a real gamble.

    There can be no surprise in RVP’s dip – the failure of Park to impress enough for even a bench place, and with Chamakh still never considered worthy of a run out, have meant RVP has been putting in crazy hours this season.

    Still can’t quite believe Wilshere and Diaby have been absent the entire season.

    How rotten for them.


  22. our defending comical again at times but, glad djouru, again came through without any concentration problems.

    At times when they countered we they had only x2 men in attack and we had 4/5 players in an around them but, not marking them due to naiveness and no communication. Another ugly trait I thought we got rid of. Seems we do it v big teams though which is slightly concerning.

  23. I agree with block4 in that there were just a few too many below par performances last night. The two Thomas’ for us were the exceptions. Wigan on the other hand had a few players in good form and crucially the rest were solid around them. Ultimately it was our mistakes, yet again, which cost us.

    The most unnerving thing about last night is that many arsenal fans were more worried about playing Wigan than Chelsea.

    It makes for an exciting end to the season and one which I am relishing as much as any domestic cup run. Our recent form has been exceptional, so its easy to be optimistic about us finishing 3rd. I still believe we will do it.

  24. It’s a sin to have x2 midfielders with the quality of Jack and Diaby out to injury. You can’t be in this league with these kind of injuries absences and Wenger knows this and this is why I’m hoping we bring in back up for these roles. Just impossible to mount a serious anything with players of this calibre out for so long.

  25. Overly harsh I feel Goonerton.

    Nobody was truly awful let alone ‘shit’ – in fact we dominated for periods. I think most of the team had a very mixed night. Even the usual freakish consistency of Sagna was absent.

    A few costly errors at both ends of the pitch is about as much explanation as is necessary.

    Fair play to Wigan (though Niall Quinn spent so much time licking their hole last night I wonder if he has yet to emerge) and especially to Martinez.

    A likeable manager, playing the game the right way (time wasting aside), should be celebrated.

  26. Got the feeling too that some of the Wigan lads were treating the match as an audition…

  27. I thought Quinn’s statement during the match that he could see in the warm up that Wigan players were “up for it” whereas Arsenal players were playing “Tipey-toe to one another and laughing”, was quite telling. I wasn’t at last night’s game but from anybody who was there, was he right? I would hate to think that complacency is rearing it’s ugly head again. Incidentally I thought Quinn’s over all contribution was very pro Wigan, perhaps it was the underdog thing.

  28. Markus, the only one I would truly say I could see at Arsenal is Victor Moses on last night’s performance, pacy, strong and tricky, he got the better of the usually excellent Sagna. Two problems with him, one, we have a load of wide men at the moment and two, where has that kind of play been all season? He’d want to be turning in that kind of performance week in week out to be considered for the Arsenal first team.

  29. Off topic; is it only me or does it piss anyones else the fuck off when wilshire hasn’t played a single game for his club n all he does is moan bout not going to the euros?

  30. Block4, you read my mind. Actually everything you said.

  31. Rumour is they think Arteta’s ankle is broken – having a scan at the moment.

    Given that it was already clear from Wenger’s comments that he’d be out for the season a break might actually better than a sprain. Of course, knowing our luck, he’ll have done both.

    Moses is a handful but he’s not, and never will be, good enough for The Arsenal.

  32. jonny

    Not necessarily the case with Moises; club scouted him and rated him highly when he was leaving Palace.

  33. jonnyeale,

    Ok I swap shit for very crap then but, that’s a low as I go. It was an awful performance from a side who had the form we did going into the game.

    Now’s the time for us all to get behind Ramsey, because it’s looking like it’s all down to him now and he has got it in him, How peoples memory lapses and they forget things that happened not too long ago just to suit their point eh!

  34. Indeed. I thought Moses was coming to us at one point. Very good technical players who still learning the game.

  35. I don’t think it was an “awful performance”. We played OK, it is just that we lacked penertation in the final 3rd and too many players seemed half a yard off the pace. Take into account a good Wigan performance at switching off in the first ten mins and there you have it. Not awful, but just not that good.

  36. Limestonegunner

    Very fair report YW. It was a very disappointing loss. I’d like to have seen the subs earlier on and had the Ox playing wider. He’s not yet ready to carry the creative work through the middle. Well, now we must beat Chelsea and at least get a point away to Stoke. We’ll have to win our last two games. I think we need 10 from our final 12 and keep an advantage in goal difference. Now the spurned chances vs. 10 man Wolves could make things tight.

    It is in our hands but with no room for any error.

  37. As ever, just my opinion – I have watched Moses with interest this season. He always looks a handful but I feel as though something key is missing. Perhaps it will come with time but my suspicion is that it is deeply ingrained.
    In truth I had not realised he was quite so young but I still have a gut feel that he won’t go on to be a top, top player.
    He has plenty of time to prove me wrong.

  38. Wenger is too slow to notice any change in game plan and does nothing about it. Reminded me of Everton when they changed plan and we were so so lucky that day. First half was 3-4-3 and we had the space all over the pitch so we pressed and they nailed us like they’ve done since February. Again for the second and we helped by not defending. Thereafter they felt the pressure, slowed the game and under instruction changed to 5-4-1.
    No way through them and we resorted to crosses, awful ones except the one TV scored (in open play, where have you seen any other team have a CB/striker after 20 mins).

    Where’s Wenger’s plan to counter these tactics that Arsenal struggle to penetrate?

  39. Limestonegunner

    Can you send the petition in to the club? Hopefully it can be done in such a way that the club can see all the names and comments.

    Last chance: http://www.change.org/petitions/arsenal-football-club-relieve-stewart-robson-from-his-arsenal-player-duties

  40. Bradster, there is little you can do about a team adopting a more defensive formation, so I don’t see how Wenger could have changed things other than how he did, bringing on fresh legs in attack. I do sometimes agree that we play too many crosses into the box when we aren’t especially great at getting bodies in there.

  41. On an upward curve? I think so.

    There yet? No.

    Will we challenge next season? Wait until the end of the summer.

  42. Felt real rotten especially given that champions league footy isn’t yet guaranteed!

  43. Bradster – the fact that Wigan totally outplayed Chelsea, beat Liverpool at Anfield and Man Utd might give you a clue as to why you are talking out of your arse.

    If it is as easy as you think, perhaps you are in the wrong job?

    I look forward to your unheralded and meteoric rise as a football manager.

  44. I will not wait until the end of the summer. I demand answers now.

    It’s the least I deserve.

  45. Ayub- agree completely. Would find it interesting to see Yossi in the middle. Hate to bash Ramsey but he was poor. I thought the plan was to bring Ox in for Theo late but the injury to Arteta screwed that up.

    Gervinho is in the same situation as Arshavin was- not enough playing time to get out of his funk. And I think the criticism of Walcott is harsh. We had nothing going on on the left side and he never had space with the exception of his excellent run when he was knocked over(with no foul though Sagna played most of the match on a yellow for less).

    Tough match. The ref was pretty bad but we lacked discipline. 60 minutes plus to score a goal but we played like the whistle was gonna blow at amy minute.

  46. Too much being made of the game. The biggest issue is not to go down by two so fast. The game was lost right there.

    What I would like to see is us continue to play our game. It looks as if the players get overly anxious and end up trying passes that are not really there. We did that and gave the ball away quite a lot.

    The OX also tried a bit too hard (was he trying to impress?). He still has a lot to learn and he will get there.

    For me, we have a team that win the PL but that does not equate to winning every match and/or playing sharp in every match.

    The players will get it right. I would like to see more of Gervs though.

  47. that “can” win…

  48. YW – classy write-up.

    9gerianGunner @ 9:56 am

    “Either Victor Moses was exceptional or Sagna/Walcott weren’t effective although we know of their high standards;
    I think we lost the match due to the ineffectiveness of the right flank.”

    Ayub @ 10:23 am

    “so I lacked the knowledge in Wenger taking Yosi off instead of Walcott I thought he could have taken off Ramsey for Gervinho and drop Yosi in middle of the pack and take off Walcott for the OX. The prob with Wenger is that he is so predictable and approches all games the same way.”

    goonerton @ 10:51 am

    “Gervinho,Theo, Ramsey…Way too many players to have s shit game all at the same time.”

    Refreshing honest appraisals by supporters not blinded by player bias.

    goonerton, in defense of Gervinho, since his return from ACN he has pretty much been relegated to a ‘come off the bench’ role. It’s very difficult for any player to regain his usual level of form as a ‘temp’.

    I don’t see the match against Wigan as a poor performance, but an ineffectual performance.

    What was needed tactically was foiled by Arsene’s player selections. (happens to any manager)

    Some might take the position that the players let the manager down, but when some youngsters have been inconsistent all season, the risk and responsibility in selections is all with the manager.

    Sadly, this result will only provide Spuds, Chelsea, and Newcastle a glimmer of hope.

  49. A frustrating night. It was never going to be easy, we all knew that. Still, losing it is hard to take. I prefer that warm buzzy feeling than this one. Well played Wigan though. (I think.)
    As that Naill Quinn said a few times throughout the match, Arsenal are the comeback kings. And I think the boys played with patience and calmness (for the most part) in the belief that they were indeed the Comeback Kings. Nothing wrong with that at all. It’s worked in the past. It just didn’t work this time. Mainly because Martinez is a far better tactician than Redknapp (for example). And Al Habsi’s pre-match prayers worked where Nasri’s didn’t.

  50. I must admit, come half time I was still 100% confident that we would win the game. It was only once it got to 75mins or so that doubts began to creep in.

  51. Nice write up yogi.

    As you might expect the thing that was disappointing to me last night was conceding 2 goals in the first 10 minutes. Even the best teams will be inconsistent in the attacking end throughout a season. Games like yesterday where we struggle to break down a determined opponent are inevitable. Look at the top teams in the table and you see the inconsistency in goals scored but the teams that really succeed over the course of 38 games are the ones who are able to win or at least draw a good percentage of those bad attacking days because they play good defense just about every game. This year our defense has been better but it remains inconsistent and we are not really going to challenge for titles until we can fix that. Even during our run of 7 wins in a row we gave up an early first goal in a majority of games and over a 38 game season that will not work. You said it in your write up and we will not challenge next season if we alternate good runs with mediocrity.

    Mentally I had already given us 3rd place and was starting to think about next season. Oh well, now the game against Chelsea becomes a real “must win” mainly because we have no idea which arsenal will come out against stoke Norwich and WBA

  52. OK, didn’t see this at the time.

    Great stuff from Gary Neville. This might, just might, help me walk away from the sport I’m having such difficulty tearing myself away from. Drip by effing drip, the game is becoming overwhelmingly poisonous. If it wasn’t for the fact that the team I have supported since I was a 7 year old seem to be on the side of good versus evil. And honesty versus cynicism…and I desperately (but patiently) want to see “good” come out on top….I would say I’ve had enough. Stewart Robson, Tony Gale, Martin Atkinson, Adrian Durham, Ferguson, Dalglish drip drip drip drip drip drip……..Pulis…….Alan Hansen……drip drip drip…..
    Feel free to add to the list. It is effing endless.

  53. Neville is as usual very accurate in his analysis. On one hand there is contact, no matter how minimal it is, and maybe enough to put you off your stride, on the other hand we have a player going down like he is shot. But if the player stays on his feet, most of the time the referee is not going to give anything, as we saw with Aaron last week.

    Only thing I know is that this just can’t be fixed by keeping the status quo. Change is necessary because at this point diving has become a part of English football culture.

  54. It just isn’t as black and white as we’d hope it to be. When is player actively looking for the contact and when is it a case of not being able to get out of the way?

    Generally I’d like to see referees take small steps. Stop awarding penalties when it’s obvious that there is no advantage to the player. One of the routines I hate the most is when an attacking player kicks the ball away from goal, so that the keeper can’t reach it, and then gets the contact. In most cases the ball is very well on it’s way to cross the line, even if there was no contact whatsoever the player couldn’t have done anything with the ball and I’d love to see them not give penalties in such cases.

    And then there is the obvious feigning of an injury. Players lying on the ground, holding their face when their leg has been hit, writhing in agony and as soon as the foul is given they get up like nothing has happened. I’d love to see a rule that says that if a player goes down and is “injured”, he has to go to the byline, just like in the case of a proper injury. I think some players would definitely think twice if they want to concede a one man disadvantage for half a minute to try and get a player booked.

  55. This is probably one of the reason’s why I love Theo to bits. He is just so honest and completely different from the stereotypical footballer. When he had a dive against Leeds last year (and it was the kind of where there is minimal contact and a player goes down very easily) he apologised afterwards for it. He wasn’t making any excuses, he didn’t say he was doing it to “save his career”, he said he dived, he tried to win the penalty and that he is not happy with himself for it and therefore he apologised to the managers.

  56. Evil – “ On one hand there is contact, no matter how minimal it is, and maybe enough to put you off your stride, on the other hand we have a player going down like he is shot. But if the player stays on his feet, most of the time the referee is not going to give anything

    I mentioned the exact same thing earlier in the week. Again though, it comes down to ref’s not making brave decisions. Anywhere outside the area a ref would let a foul go and it said player then cocked up a pass as he was oof balance, the ref would 9 times out of 10 bring play back for a free kick. Why not the same in the area?

  57. Mingus.

    I agree with neville although i have no evidence to back it up This has been part of the game for as long as there has been a game. We know about it now because of the video replays.

  58. Evil – “I’d love to see a rule that says that if a player goes down and is “injured”, he has to go to the byline, just like in the case of a proper injury.

    But what if a player was really hurt. Get kicked, and then the team punished by temporarily putting them down to ten men?

    I know what you are getting at mind, but it is so difficult to implement. When there is contact of any type it is immidiately difficult for a ref. I do think a start would be instances where there is no contact at all and a player dives. they should start to come down on these people like a ton of bricks.

  59. I think contact is completely irrelevant. When you have attacking players actually kicking a defenders leg to win a penalty it goes out the window.

  60. Markus – I agree. But in real time that may be very difficult to spot. Even with a replay it is sometimes not conclusive.

  61. @GA
    Yes, it’s a very difficult decision to make. But it’s just so infuriating to watch a player who’s not trying to get a foul called, which is one thing, but trying to get the other player cautioned by pretending that there was more in the tackle.
    A big reason for my hatred of Barcelona was watching them last year trying to get Song sent off at very opportunity because he was on an early yellow by feigning injury. That goes beyond exaggerating contact or the little pushing and shoving we see on the field in my opinion.

  62. Evil.

    It’s completely impossible for the refs to get these decisions right in most cases. How do you know if a player is faking an injury. Unless you have slow motion frame by frame replay from multiple angles you can not be sure. Even then there are often differing opinions as a ref do you yellow card someone for simulation and potentially change a game when you don’t know for sure that you are right?

  63. Evil – What about if the physio could enter the field of play without the game being stopped? The 4th offical could control that. That would negate the need for the game to be stopped because somebody had been lightly slapped on the back of the leg.

    Failing that, encouragnig teams to stop kicking hte ball out of play if a player is down “injured”. I think most players know if somebody is serisouly injured. It is still the “done thing” for a game to be stopped if somebody remains down though and it is really a pet hate of mine.

  64. Hate the implications of the loss. It gives the spuds, newcastle and chelsea the belief they can overhaul us. Also the fact that wayne shrek, assisted by the diver young’s penalty awards, is closing the gap on RVP!

  65. @GA
    It is a possibility but I think you can foresee the problems it might cause when the play suddenly goes through the part of the field where the physio and the injured player are.

    But I agree that those stoppages for injuries can be quite annoying. If someone is down for a serious reason, the referee should and will stop the game. I think that players might get up quicker if they knew that there is no advantage to be had by staying down.

  66. @Bill
    I didn’t call for a yellow card for feigning injury. Just that if a player is injured, he has to go to the byline — every time. Nowadays we have the situation that a player will go down, get a stoppage in play, be it because someone kicks the ball out or because the foul is called, he will waste a good 30 seconds of time with his theatrics and when the play restarts he jogs on. Most of the time those players don’t even have the decency to do a pretend hobble for a couple of seconds to make it at least seem like they were genuinely injured.

  67. Evil – True. It does happen in Rugby though.

  68. Evil – “I didn’t call for a yellow card for feigning injury. Just that if a player is injured, he has to go to the byline — every time

    But then the team would be punished for genuine injuries. Would that not encourage players to go in hard(er) on opponants knowing that if they didn’t get up immidiatelty they would also have to leave the pitch.

  69. Evil.

    I agree with you that something needs to be done. I have not been following top level football nearly as long as many of you but over exaggerating injuries seems to be getting worse. It’s not just an English thing. I noticed it most during the 2010 world cup. Even the football neophyte commentators on espn here in rhe US talked about it almost every game. It does break up the flow of the game and I agree that barca are some of the worlds worst.

  70. Players should just carry on playing. We need to get away from everything slowing down to walking pace and then somebody booting the ball out of play simply becuase somebody is rolling around on the floor. Wait for the next break in play and then they can recieve treatment. If it is serious or a head injury the ref can stop the game; and in all honestly you can normally tell if it is serious.

    I have seen the ball kicked out because somebody had cramp only a few games ago That is mental.

  71. @GA
    Yes, some distinction has to be made. It’s hard and I really don’t know where to draw the line. I certainly don’t think that a player should go to the byline if he is just staying down after a tackle. But if the “pain” is so enormous that he has to roll on the ground he surely wouldn’t mind being checked out by the physio at the byline just to make sure he is all right?

  72. The problem with not stopping a game is the possibility of a truly serious injury not being treated promptly. It’s an extreme case but thankfully they got out to fabricce muamba quickly. It’s not always easy to tell if someone has a neck or head injury and seconds can make a difference in cases like that. Most of the time it’s obvious when someone is really in trouble but not 100% of the time.

  73. @Bill
    I think that many aspects of cheating in the game, be it diving, feigning injury etc. have gotten worse because there is more and more money in the game. It’s quite different from back in the 70s, when players would earn “normal” wages, some maybe even having a proper job and all that. Nowadays the stakes are much higher, therefore the pressure is higher as well and so players try to bend the rules more and more.

  74. Don’t we play on unless the referee stops the game now? In England I mean? I’m surprised that it hasn’t been adopted elsewhere, but the practice of kicking the ball out just because someone is lying on the ground has pretty much stopped in England now, it’s up to the referee, although they do tend to go over and check on the player once the ball goes dead. This should be officially brought in by FIFA, it’s obvious when someone is really injured, they don’t roll around hardly at all, it’s hurts too much.

  75. GA “If it is serious or a head injury the ref can stop the game; and in all honestly you can normally tell if it is serious.”

    You just reminded me of Drogba falling awkwardly in the FA Cup. When I saw it I could have sworn he was unconcious. He was fine. Then I remebered the time he went down and started jiggling his leg as if he was having a seizure, the big mental.

    My point being, Drogba is a master at appearing seriously injured.

  76. Evil @ 3:21

    I more I think about it, I suspect you are right.

  77. Block4 – Not really. A couple of season ago it was decided that should be the case, but it quickly wore off.

    Markus – Yeah, you are right. but 95% of the time. If the ref gets a few wrong and stops play when a master like Drogba fools him, so be it. But generally we stop play if somebody looks like they might have the smallest scrape. It really wrecks the game.

  78. Wenger’s comments were beautifully exact and succinct. You can always tell when Arsenal players attempt implausible dribbling heroics that we have losta the plotta. Well, no body’s fault but our own, defence and mid and attack alike – concentration. That said, Santos tried hard. I thought we were naive, especially when Walcott swopped with Gerv and so both were less effective. We’re firmly back in the race for 3rd/4th.

  79. No GA, it is still in force. The players rarely kick the ball out now just because someone is lying on the ground, it’s up to the ref to blow the whistle. I have seen that players asking for the ball to be put out when one of theirs is down is on the rise again, but the protocol of obliging the referee to stop the game should be reaffirmed by the FA and adopted by other associations and FIFA.

    I know I posed my last post as a question, it was rhetorical.

  80. Limestonegunner

    Cbob, very precise, eloquent and economical!

    GA, Evil, Bill et. al., The injury feigning is really getting worse and it seems very difficult to improve. It can’t be “solved” but lots of good suggestions for trying to make it more costly to do while retaining the safety and treatment of the players.

    Tough task however.

  81. Limestonegunner

    Our immediate problem is what to do with Arteta out. I am surprised Coquelin has been out for this long with a hamstring problem. He would be very useful to have in Arteta’s role as a defensive but dynamic ball playing midfielder with a decent passing ability. Ramsey can do this but it is a different role and he’ll need to make some adjustments to his game in playing Chelsea which will possibly have less opportunities for foraging forward in attack and require more defensive discipline.

  82. Limestonegunner

    We were, after all, chasing the game for the whole of his time on the pitch. The game may be tighter and less open v. Chelsea at the outset.

  83. pedantic george

    That result has me tail-spinning towards depression.

    Have we won a game without Arteta?
    Oh ,I feel sick.

  84. Drop Rosicky deeper and hope he plays another blinder. Or a surprise start in midfield in the shape of big Santos?

  85. I think we’ll go Rosicky and Song, with Rambo ahead of them. Substitutions could be very important against Chelsea, they’ll most likely be tiring toward the end.

  86. I don’t think we ever left the race for 3rd or 4th – seems like we’ve been in that particular race all season!

  87. you forgot our little relagation battle earlier in the season jonny!

  88. Limestone @ 5:16

    I agree. Most other major sports have frequent naturals breaks in play and injured players can be treated promptly without a significant change to the flow of the game. Not true in football. Another example of why I think football is by far the most difficult of the worlds major sports to officiate.

  89. other teams will continue to drop points also…
    chelsea have us newcastle and liverpool still to play
    newcastle have chelsea, everton and city
    spurs arses have dropped..

    we shouldnt have lost at home to wigan really but some of the relegation teams are really scrapping hard so theres plenty of hurdles in this run in..for everyone

    we are still 5 points clear, which was a great point in the post by the way….
    …..points over games in hand everytime.

    we would have sealed the deal last night but we are still in pole position, so we just have to re group again and re focus..

    chelseas massive..

  90. Markus.

    The arteta position is where Rambo played when he was at his best for us before the injury and I think that’s his best position. We have been a much better team with TR7 the most advanced of the midfield 3. I think it will be TR7 ahead of Rambo and song. Other option would be yossi in the arteta slot and Gerv on the left.

  91. even when we went 2-0 down i wasnt worried..
    i thought bollox, naturally, but i didnt think it would be hard for us to score 3 goals with over 80ms still to play..

    TV impressed me..his goal wasnt the first time he got forward and i thought we going to win it…
    until it got to about 52mins and i started to think we didnt have a clue how to break them down..

    we saw some top saves by their keeper in the first half, it was only a matter of time before they started going into the back of the net instead, but we forgot how to play in the second half…

  92. Forgot yossi can’t play vs Chelsea. Bummer.

  93. Don’t think Yossi can play against Chelsea Bill. Even if he could I wouldn’t put him in central midfield. Rosicky is an amazing tackler and has the maturity to partner Song. Leave Ramsey free to score.

  94. @Bill
    And how do you judge that? Before his injury Ramsey barely played in the position Arteta is playing. He was mostly used as a substitute for Cesc.

  95. pedantic george

    I think Le Coq and Diaby will share the duty .
    Song TR7 ans Coq to start.

  96. in the passed few seasons the players who have impressed me playing next to song are jack and arteta..
    if they are both done for the season then i would hope rosicky would play there..

    rambo loses the ball too much.. if we lose posession in the arteta/song areas then its going to be hard work..

    bennys not available for chelsea so go with theo and le ox on the wing
    rambo behind rvp
    rosicky with song..

  97. Markus,
    many times I swear you’re reading my mind.

    Ramsey – Rosicky – Song should be Arsene’s predictable line up.

    However, as skillful as Santos is with the ball (1 v 1), experienced, and confident in his play, I would prefer to see Santos moved into a more forward role. (than rely on the current form of Ramsey)

    Kos will return. Jenks and Sagna can handle the outside back roles.

  98. now would be a good time for diaby to return..
    but match fitness??

    if we’ve been building him up behind closed doors and hes ready to go then let him loose..
    if hes not played a minute then he might as well sit this season out as well

    le coqs a good shout but id only drop rambo for him..

    whats your line up george??

  99. pedantic george

    Le Coq Song
    Theo ,RVP,Ramsey

  100. ramsey on the left wing at home is as wierd as not having a gk 😉
    id go with le ox instead on the left..

    but id agree with the rest..

  101. pedantic george

    Ok lost the ball enough to make me long for Andrei’s possession stats.

  102. Evil @ 6:37

    I thought rambo played mostly with cesc but thats about the time cesc was starting to have a lot of trouble with dodgy hamstrings so your probably right.

  103. Paulie Walnuts

    Le Coq should come in for Arteta if fit. Ramsey is trying a little too hard & his lack of confidence is inhibiting his natural game. He shovelled the ball on a couple of times last night where normally he`d take a shot. I`m sure it`s a temporary thing though.

    The Arteta role has become pivotal in our game these past few months & his know how was missed massively last night.

    Sagna`s performance could be put down to a testing opponent & his early booking I believe. I`m glad he`ll be there against Chelsea.

    The Gary Neville piece is depressing but he`s certainly nailed it. I see no way back – football has evolved into a game of balletic , free falling illusions & circus tricks where cheats can & do prosper.

  104. @Bill
    Probably confusing him with Jack?

    Oh how nice it’d be to have Jack now to step in during Arteta’s absence…

  105. Thank fuck george isn’t picking the team…we all know ramsey on the left doenst nae work.

  106. i do remember rambo playing deeper in the eariler years..
    AW has a set pattern for his young players..they start of deep and then he pushes them further up..
    aids the development..
    cesc took the route, jack took it last year and it will be interesting to see if hes going to make the step up next year when hes back
    rambo had a phase deep….but hes better pushed further up with all those tricks and flicks he tries.
    just not on the wings… 🙂

  107. Difficult problem for the game at the weekend. I would definitely keep Rosicky as the advanced midfielder. Him playing there has coincided with his return to form. Leave him there. Plus Ramsey is better deeper and has never really been effective as the advanced midfielder.

    Ramsey is the only realistic option to replace Arteta at the moment. he is not in good form, but both Diaby and Le Coq will be way short of match fitness. Ramsey should start along side Song.

  108. pedantic george

    Duke ,someone had best tell Le Boss that “we all know” Aaron does not work on the left.Otherwise he might do it again.and again and………….
    “Duke Knows Best”

  109. Well he has not had anywhere resembling a good game when playing there, so I don’t think it is unfair to say that “it does not work”.

  110. Limestonegunner

    Is Coquelin even available for the weekend?

  111. rambos work rate would help if he played deeper..but his ball retention is not that great..
    he looks for the clever pass all the time..
    let him do it outside their box and not ours..

    he tried a little no look pass last night in our third and we lost it and the crowd didnt like it..
    AW has to be careful with him because although hes a good player his form is crap and too many mistakes like that and the crowd will um and ah louder and louder…if hes going to play then let him try be the hero in an attacking role and not give him the window to be a villian in a defensive one..

    besides..rosicky matches rambo for workrate and he can tackle..and he retains possession and has the experience…

    play the all rounder in the all round role and let the tricks and flicks player attack..

    unless we go with le coq and keep rosicky forward..
    le coq was getting some games in before he was crocked so maybe hes not as rusty as someone like diaby whos played 9mins all season..

    we are running out of numbers again in a position thru injury and form..

    and im sure robin has played one two many games now..possibly 4 or 5..his movements not there..its like hes on the pitch just to finish and we use him more than that normally..

  112. Limestonegunner

    And George, I am trying to think of the games in CL or league that Arteta has missed: Olympiakos away (loss), Swansea away (loss), ManU home (loss). But he hasn’t missed very much and we have lost many games with him in the side.

    He missed the Carling Cup loss to ManCity but we won the FA Cup match v. Aston Villa 3-2 without him.

    I’d say that it is a clear loss for our side but we’ll have to manage with a midfield of Song, Rambo, Rosicky. The debate is who sits back with Song. At least Koscielny will be back and rested so we resume Kos and Verminator with Sagna and Santos/Gibbs (though Santos has fond memories I’m sure v. Chelsea). Chelsea don’t have fast wingers–quickest is probably Sturridge, but they can be physical so I’d bank on Santos starting even if Gibbs is back fit.

  113. PG

    Isn’t that supposed to be “In Duke We Rust”? I’ll get me coat…

  114. Limestonegunner

    My side for Chelsea:

  115. Limestone – That will be the one I think.

  116. im going to email wenger the team…..


    saggy metal guru tv gibbs
    ramsey song
    walnut slicky the ox in the box

  117. pedantic george

    Yes LG he is available.
    He may not be fit for 90 though

  118. pedantic george

    Here is a midfiels we should have had
    Andrei Arshavinnnnnneeeeeeeee

  119. he scored the other day didnt he george.

  120. pedantic george

    Yes and they didn’t boo him

  121. well at least when we cant agree on the next formation it shows we all think we still have options..
    which is a good thing..

    we could have used AA..that would have been abit potent..

  122. or we could have done with arteta, jack and diaby all available..

  123. Well in Munich. I hate Madrid.

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