Wherefore the English Core

At the onset of the season I penned a piece about how Arsène Wenger was building Arsenal’s “British Core”. Wenger had added Calum Chambers and Danny Welbeck to an exciting group of established English players like Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain¹, and the Frenchman was bullish about the project bragging that he could see five Arsenal players forming the core of the English national team in the future. But here we are 3/4 of the way through the season and whether it’s injury or form, I have to admit that I can’t see any of these players making up the core of the English national team, yet. So, what happened?

The most obvious thing that happened this year is increased competition for places. Calum Chambers is a exciting young talent who can play as a fullback, center back, or defensive midfielder but has yet to really shine in any of those roles when given the chance. Chambers got handed the starting role in right back when Debuchy went down injured but quickly lost his starting spot to Hector Bellerin. The reason is simple: both Bellerin and Chambers have a tendency to get too far forward and to make defensive errors but Bellerin’s superior foot speed allows him to recover more quickly. And Bellerin is a converted winger, his class shows when he has the ball in attack. Chambers is a fine player, but Bellerin is simply superior.

Chambers also suffers a similar fate in center back and in the defensive midfield role. Mertesacker, one of the captains of the team, is going to start over Chambers at center back whenever the big German is healthy. And as for defensive midfield, Chambers got one start there and it was pretty disastrous. I would say that Coquelin gets the nod there. So, in a sense, the “problem” with Chambers is that he is a jack of all trades, yet master of none.

Danny Welbeck’s struggle to get into the starting lineup at Arsenal is very different. When Wenger made his “English core” remark, Welbz had just scored a brace for England against Slovenia. He was starting for Arsenal in his favored central role up front and things were looking good for the Englishman. But then he went down injured and Arsenal got Olivier Giroud back. Giroud has been playing well ever since and has kept Welbeck sidelined or shunted off to the wings where he’s less effective. Giroud has been in such fine form that I think most folks were surprised when Arsene handed the start to Danny Welbeck in the FA Cup quarter final against Man U. But Welbeck repaid Arsene for that chance and scored the winner with an industrious and well taken goal.

Welbeck, in many ways, symbolizes both the problem and the solution for these English players. The problem is that there is increased competition for places at Arsenal. There is nothing wrong with this, at all. Giroud may be in better form than Welbeck but what Welbeck needs to do is exactly what he did on Monday night against his former team: work his buns off and score goals. If he does that, there is no doubt that he will eventually win the starting spot from Giroud.

The other thing that Welbeck symbolizes is youth. Welbeck is 24, Giroud 28. If Welbeck takes a long-term view of his career, he will see that within 1-2 years he should be entering his prime, have more experience, and be starting regularly over Giroud. Now, I know that in our instant gratification society this seems an impossible ask but that is just the reality he is faced with.

Gibbs as well is facing rather stiff competition from Nacho Monreal. Monreal isn’t the most exciting player, he runs a bit like a duck, but Monreal is a model professional and a good example for his younger, English, counterpart, Gibbs. Monreal and Gibbs have essentially split the left back duties this season but Gibbs has youth on his side, Monreal is 29. If Gibbs just keeps plugging away and taking his chances when they come to him, he will surely get the starting role at Arsenal.

For some of the other English players, the story is a bit different. I’m talking specifically about Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. Wenger bought Özil and Alexis for a combined £70m and both of those players bring an undeniable quality to the team and both of those players start in the role that Wilshere and Walcott fancy.

Let’s start with Walcott. All the signs were pointing to Walcott having a breakout season last year. And it was shaping up to be as well, but then he went down injured. It was yet another injury in a career which is marked by his time spent in the treatment room. That injury set his career back again and allowed for other players to come in and take his starting spot. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has better close control (dribbling) and similar speed. Ox also defends better than Walcott. And, as if that all wasn’t bad enough, Wenger bought Alexis this summer. Alexis does all those things better even than Ox and the only reason he hasn’t started much on the right is that Wenger prefers him on the left where he can cut in on his right foot.

But worse for Walcott is that Arsenal have adopted an all out pressing style. This doesn’t suit his game. He is young, and he could pick this habit up. In other words, he could learn to play more like Alexis. But until he does, I can’t see him getting many looks in.

The incredible thing is that Theo Walcott is only 25 years old and his next 4 years will probably be the best of his career (if he can avoid injury). I could see Arsenal selling him this summer because he doesn’t fit our style of play and have him go to some place like West Ham where they play the type of compact, long-ball that does suit him, and where he wouldn’t have to play the type of pressing game that he would at Arsenal³, and he could score 20 goals a season. That would leave many fans wondering “why didn’t Arsene get the best out of him” and “how come we didn’t adopt a playing style that suited him” or “why doesn’t Arsenal buy him back???”

See, this is the complicated thing about Wilshere and Walcott. It’s not always down to whether they are good players or not, they are both clearly good players. Most of the time, it’s actually down to whether the players fit your system or whether you can integrate their talents into your system. And like Walcott, I also worry about Wilshere.

Wilshere wears the number 10 and he is an exciting number 10 style English player. He is very direct, he likes to attack defenders square up, and he’s got great close control so he often gets by the defender. But the problem is that Arsenal have a veritable cornucopia of these types of players. Cazorla and Ozil both play ahead of Wilshere in the central attacking midfield role.

The other problem is that Jack hasn’t proved himself adaptable. He nominally plays a defensive midfield role for England but having watched him now for several years, he lacks the passing range and surety needed for a defensive midfielder. And despite his “tigerish” reputation, he is a terrible tackler, and doesn’t pay attention to his defensive duties at times, rather looking to start the attack.

I’d like to think that there is more to come from Wilshere. His career, like Walcott, has been cut short by injury². So, there is the hope that he will come back healthy and get a run of games. He’s also only 23 years old. Players get better at passing with age. If anyone can teach a player how to pass it’s Arsene Wenger and by the time Wilshere is 27 years old, I suspect he will be calmer and more reliable with his passing.

But even if he comes back healthy and even if he works tirelessly developing his game, he still faces stiff competition in a crowded midfield at Arsenal and might be tempted to take his game somewhere else.

Some of you will read what I’ve written and say that I’m worrying about an “implosion” of the English Core at Arsenal. Far from it. I see that the English core is being challenged and that the challenge is world class. Having players like Özil and Alexis on your team should make the others better, not worse.

What I’m suggesting then, is that this project is going to take a little more time than I think many fans (myself included) wanted or expected. I think a lot of people in England expect that a 20 year old player who has a few good games is going to be the next big name, but that’s not how this works. It takes time and hard work.

Chambers isn’t a bad player, he just needs to nail down where he wants to play. Gibbs isn’t a bad player, he just has an equal challenging him. Welbeck isn’t a bad player, he just needs to keep working hard and taking his chances when they are given to him. And Wilshere and Walcott face the most direct challenge and need to figure out where they fit at Arsenal, if they want to stay.

But all of these are young players, who have at least another World Cup in front of them. If they can rise to the challenge, Arsenal could still form the core of the English national team. Of a damn good English national team, I might add.


¹This isn’t meant to discount Chuba Akpom, Carl Jenkinson or other exciting academy players but rather at the time they weren’t really mentioned as part of an Arsenal core.
²It is absurd listening to Mourinho moan about how Hazard is kicked when Jack Wilshere has had his ankles routinely destroyed by every team on the planet for the last 4 years.
³Contrary to popular belief West Ham do not force their players to play much actual defense. They rely mainly on team shape to defend spaces and are less interested in tackling the ball away, intercepting, and other hallmarks of defensive play.


Arsenal beat United at Old Trafford: it’s about time

It’s about time that we saw Arsenal beat Man U at Old Trafford. The last time Arsenal beat Man U in any competition, at any venue, was when Ramsey scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over United at the Emirates in 2011. The last time Arsenal beat Man U at Old Trafford was another 1-0 affair, this time Adebayor scored the only goal. But both of those matches were League play, and we have to go back to 2003 for the last time Arsenal beat Man U at Old Trafford in an FA Cup match. A 2-0 win courtesy of Edu and Wiltord. Arsenal went on to win the FA Cup that year, beating Southampton 1-0 at the final in Cardiff. That was the last time, until yesterday, when Arsenal ran out 2-1 winners in their biggest game of the season.

It’s about time that we saw Arsenal play a match with the kind of passion that many of us fans feel. From start to finish, Arsenal exuded an energy I haven’t seen from them in years. They were quickest to loose balls and were charging into challenges. Arsenal were seemingly all over the pitch, a blue and green swarm of players, harassing and harrying Man U into bad passes and mistakes.

The first Arsenal goal was a masterpiece of both team and individual effort. Özil played a little one-two with teammate Monreal who had come forward from the fullback position. This little exchange opened things up and gave Özil the view of the field. He then fired a pass across the field, through a crowd of United players, to find Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, swooping in on the other side of the box. Chamberlain then dribbled past three United players and slotted the ball to… Monreal who had continued his run into the United box. The Arsenal man coolly beat de Gea and Arsenal took the leas at Old Trafford.


The winning goal came from a different kind of play. Szczesny took a goal kick for Arsenal and United’s Phil Jones easily chested the ball down to teammate Valencia. Immediately, Alexis puts pressure on Valencia and Danny Welbeck starts a move to pressure Jones. Valencia kicks the ball back to his keeper but sells him short. Welbeck, who simply wanted the ball more, raced out, beat the onrushing de Gea to the ball, took a neat little touch to dribble around him, and scored easily into an open net. The former United player, who wasn’t given time under manager Louis van Gaal, celebrated his goal and the look on his face said it all “you didn’t want me? Now it’s my time.”

The match wasn’t over at that point, United weren’t going to just let Arsenal run out winners and so it’s also about time that Arsenal overcame the physical challenge of Man U. Over the last three years Arsenal had been inching closer to the goal of beating Man U at Old Trafford but each time the Gunners got close, they crumbled. And sometimes, they were shoved down into the mud and had grass kicked all over them. These defeats usually came about because United just manhandled them. In the last match between the two sides, Arsenal’s fullback, Kieran Gibbs, was literally shoved to the ground during an aerial challenge with United forward Marouane Fellaini. Fellaini fired in a cross and Gibbs, lying helplessly on the ground tried to clear the ball but scored an own goal instead.

This time? Fellaini was marked throughout the match by Arsenal’s defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin. Coquelin had his nose broken, twice, last week. And so, naturally, Fellaini bloodied Coquelin’s nose with an elbow in the first few minutes of the match. Coquelin dusted himself off, eyeballed Fellaini, and got right back to work: marking Fellaini tightly, challenging him for every aerial duel, and tackling the ball away from him any time Fellaini lost even the slightest bit of control. That Coquelin presence, his unyielding physicality, against a much larger Fellaini set the tone for Arsenal in this match.

And it’s about time that Coquelin got the praise he deserves for the performances he’s put in. It wasn’t too long ago that Arsenal were going to call time on his career. Shipped off to the Bundesliga where he was reportedly a failure, he returned to Arsenal, where Wenger is now saying that he was impressed by what he saw from Coquelin, but still loaned him out to Charlton. And then needs must and injury forced Arsene Wenger to bring Coquelin back off loan and immediately play him in the destroyer role for Arsenal where he has been a fixture ever since. If there is any criticism of his game it’s that he lacks the refined passing of someone like Arteta. But if he keeps giving Arsenal performances like the one at Old Trafford, I think we can afford to give him the time needed to develop those skills.

It’s also about time that the fans got a well-refereed match. This season, the level of officiating has been under a great deal of scrutiny. Refs have been blowing big calls time and again and nearly every pundit on the scepter’d isle has called for video replay, extra officials, and harsher penalties for divers. Well, stand up Michael Oliver and take a bow.

One of the youngest officials in England, Oliver was brave and steady throughout the match. He booked two Man United players for blatant dives and sent di Maria off for putting his hands on the official in an act of dissent over the yellow card he had just received for a dive a minute earlier. It feels like every time Arsenal go to Old Trafford the officials sided with Man U. In the infamous 50th game of Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run, the official, Mike Riley, was literally as lenient as he could have been: allowing United to tackle Arsenal from behind (Neville made two such tackles, each worthy of a red card on their own, he only received one yellow), stamp on Arsenal players (United’s van Niistelrooy received a retroactive ban for a stamp on Cole), and deny an obvious goalscoring opportunity when Ferdinand fouled Ljungberg as the Arsenal man was bearing down 1.v.1 with the keeper. It’s about time an official was brave enough to make the right calls on the big stage of Old Trafford.¹

And mostly it’s about time. About the years Wenger has been afforded at a club as big as Arsenal, about the time that Wenger has been given this season to develop and hone a new style of play, about the time the fans have afforded the club to adapt to new signing Alexis Sanchez’ style of play. In this era where managers are fired for a bad run of matches and where fans expect not just one trophy but two or three a season the fact that Arsenal gave Arsene Wenger the time to build and rebuild squad after squad in an ever more competitive landscape is incredible. And the fact that Arsene was afforded the time to develop a new style of play is incredible. This is a new style which fits his star player’s personality, one which harasses and presses, one where Arsenal try to hit their opponents with lightning fast counter attacks, and one which is able to close out matches with solid defense. And it is a joy to watch. If you watch that match again, which I recommend that everyone watches the full match at least three times, and you’re not blown away by Arsenal’s performance, maybe you don’t like football?

After all Arsenal were organized, pressed as a team, stood up to the individual challenges, were first to nearly every ball, and didn’t back down when United tried to bully them. That’s how they won that game.

Too many times  in the past, Arsenal have been handed a beating by United. Too many times we have seen our manager sent to the stands for kicking a water bottle in frustration. Too many times we have seen Arsenal pressing all the men forward, only to allow Wayne Rooney to run through the midfield and score the winner. Too many times we have seen Rooney and former Arsenal star Robin van Persie run off the pitch winners against us.

Not this time. This time, Arsenal get to take a victory lap. This time, Welbeck gets to applaud the traveling fans and instead of a frown, he’s got a huge smile on his face. Just like all Arsenal fans do today.

It’s about time.


¹Many Arsenal fans are grumbling that Bellerin got a yellow card for his first foul in the first few minutes of the game and that Fellaini got away with 6 fouls (ones that were called) before he got his first yellow card. I have no problem with the Belllerin call. It was a ridiculous challenge and deserved a yellow. I also don’t see the two as related. A lot of Fellaini’s fouls are the kind of thing that forwards get away with in these matches. Kevin Cyrill Davies was at one time the most fouling and most fouled player in the Premier League. He was the typical English Bull in a China shop, throwing himself around in every challenge, and lumbering about kicking people with late tackles. That’s how Fellaini plays and so do most forwards in the Premier League. Perhaps there needs to be some scrutiny applied to the way officials call fouls and give yellow cards to forwards, but it would have been unusual if Oliver had given Fellaini a yellow card earlier rather than waiting as long as he did.


Naveen’s Tactical Preview: Man U v. Arsenal

By Naveen Maliakkal

This FA Cup Quarter-Final match features two teams who struggle to simultaneously control space and possession. When it comes to Manchester United, this seems particularly odd, given the principles of Louis van Gaal’s playing philosophy. It seems odd that people wonder what Louis van Gaal’s ideal playing strategy is. While a brief description of Van Gaal’s playing philosophy can be found in the first part of Arsenal-United preview from earlier this season, this piece by @TikiTactic gives a more complete look at what Van Gaal wants from his teams.  While his time at AZ Alkamaar and his second stint as the manager of the Netherlands showed his willingness to abandon some of his principles in the search for short-term results, his time at Ajax probably represented the purest manifestation of his footballing philosophy. Watching this compilation of his Ajax side, in 1995, arguably the last truly special side before Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, what stands out is the quickness of the passes, the movement, and the desire to provoke defenders to create openings. This team wants to push the ball into more advanced spaces, but they do not force the play into those spaces without taking control of them first.

This is the purpose of ball circulation. By patiently, but quickly, probing the opponent’s shape, they look to draw their opponent to the ball, only to move it into the space they have vacated. Now, if the opponent has a static defensive shape, then creating superior control comes down to overloading the spaces around the ball, to give the opponent too many options to defend. However, against a more dynamic defense, one that better allocates its resources with respect to time, space, the ball, and the opponent, then such probing serves to gain control of space away from the current position of the ball. Play moves to the left to control a desired space on the right. The ball moves into a deeper area, to draw the defense out, so to gain control of a more advanced area. The side in possession has to use their opponent’s desire to control space against them.

United have gone with a kind of 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 against Newcastle and Sunderland. However, United have had issues controlling space with their possession, due in part to a problem of personnel. At the back, playing Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans is not ideal for a team looking to circulate the ball and bypass the opponent’s first and second lines of defense. The lack of a left-footed center back, at left-center back, limits the amount of passing angles that United can create from the back. Neither center back is particularly comfortable in wide areas, which, like the lack of a left-footer, limits the range of passing angles United can create from the back. Finally, neither center back is adept technically, or mentally, to effectively carry out the duties United need from their center backs. The center backs need to know when and how to advance the ball with the dribble, make the line-breaking pass, move play along to continue horizontal probing, and when to make off-ball runs into advanced or wide areas to create a numerical superiority/exploit an opening. In this sense, even though Emre Can has plenty of developing to do, a player like that, at the back for United, would provide significant value.¹ This helps to explain why Van Gaal has a strong preference for Marcos Rojo at left-center back, and if Luke Shaw is fit for this match, it would make sense to see Rojo start at left-center back.

The limitations at the back reduce the value of the fullbacks and the deepest midfielder working to create spatial advantages higher up the pitch, as the center backs cannot sufficiently take advantage of it. This leads to a predictable pattern of build-up with Daley Blind dropping deep to pick up the ball from the center backs. Ander Herrera has the task of linking the back of United with the front. However, with the inability of the center backs to contribute to potent possession, Herrera often has to come deep with Blind. While either midfielder is fine drifting into wide areas, which would make man-marking in midfield an unwise strategy for Arsenal, their options to advance the ball are limited. Marouane Fellaini has seen some time at his best position, an unorthodox No. 10 (the idea that Fellaini could operate successfully as a holding midfield remains rather comical). While Van Gaal has shown a willingness to use the Belgian the way Moyes did at Everton, it does limit United’s ability to move the ball into the space between the lines. Fellaini is not exactly Jari Litmenan. Fellaini’s skill set allows him to do some hold-up play, win aerial duels, and attempt to be physical with defenders. His ability to open up passing lanes for Herrera and Blind leaves much to be desired.

This can lead to United having to force play down wide areas. Down the right, the pair of Valencia and Di Maria does not seem effective on paper or in reality. What Valencia provides United at right-back, outside of the physical act of running, has yet to be determined. With Di Maria looking to come inside from the right, it becomes too easy for the back line to stay narrow. In a way, the lack of proper ball and man orientation by Newcastle, leading to an insufficient amount of flooding the ball side, meant that someone willing to stay wide and take advantage of an individual matchup could provide some value, as long as a speculative cross was not end-product of such play. On the other side, Ashley Young seems wedded to the idea of playing as a more traditional winger, which allowed more chances to engage in one-on-one duels, although there were in less potent areas. Young’s behavior means that the left-back can operate more as a wide midfielder than an overlapping fullback. Finally, as a center forward, Wayne Rooney appears to have horizontal freedom at the highest level of United’s shape, looking to make runs in behind the defense. Ultimately, this set-up makes United dependent on advancing the ball by using wide areas, playing balls to the head of Fellaini, or trying to play Rooney in behind.

Concede Possession, Do Not Concede Space

Given Arsenal’s own problems in possession, it seems that conceding possession to United represents the best way for them to go about this match. Although asking Arsenal to maintain their shape out of possession, move together as a unit to orient themselves to the threat of the ball and United’s players, and refrain from/limit individual duels in central areas, so to not provide easy openings for United to exploit, without Mikel Arteta as their holding midfielder, the opportunity cost for Arsenal does not seem substantial.

However, what Arsenal must avoid is ceding too much territory. They should not rely on defending around their penalty box. With Manchester United’s problems advancing the ball into the final third, ceding all that space up until the final third allows United to avoid one of their biggest problems in possession.

West Ham United made that mistake after scoring first, in their 1-1 draw against United at Upton Park. The Hammers concede all of four shots to United in the first 49 minutes of the match, as they focused on keeping United’s play stuck in the midfield third. However, after scoring they seemed to retreat back to their own box, particularly during the last 15-20 minutes of the match. After scoring, West Ham conceded 14 shots. Nine of those shots came from the penalty area, with six of the nine coming after the 77th minute.

If Arsenal can stifle United in the center of the pitch, then United will likely force their play into wide areas. There, Arsenal have the potential to flood the ball side, with the ball-side wide midfielder and the fullback, using the touchline as a third defender, engaging in pressing traps, as the rest of the team zonally marks the interior, looking to cut off easy switches of play, and/or pounce on attempt to play the ball into the center of the pitch. With United looking to push their fullbacks up the pitch to support the build-up play from the back, such pressing traps could lead to counter-attacking opportunities that force United’s center backs to defend as individuals and in wide areas.

So while it seems unlikely that Arsenal will have the confidence, coordination, and execution to pull off the proper game plan², it would be poetic for a major breakthrough against United to come via a plan Sir Alex Ferguson’s United worked so well during the Emirates era.

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Arsenal have yet to demonstrate an ability to chase matches, while still maintaining control over the flow of the game. Like most English clubs, Arsenal often resort to pushing men forward, remaining too spaced out horizontally, and losing the occupation of vertical levels. In the Stoke debacle, there exists evidence that Arsenal lost their patience in the 37th minute.

StokeIn this passage, Aaron Ramsey is on the ball with very few options to pass to, in a vertical sense. He has the option of passing to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to move the play into the wide right space. Arsenal’s lack of overloading the ball side inhibits their ability to drag Stoke to the ball, to create space on the left side. This makes Kieran Gibbs’ advance on the far left side rather ineffective. Therefore, crosses, diagonals, and interior passes all represent low success options for the man on the ball. This would be fine if Arsenal better occupied vertical levels. Unfortunately, Arsenal’s six forward players occupy similar vertical levels, decreasing the passing angles and options available to the man on the ball. Also, there exists a large distance between Ramsey and the two center backs + holding midfielder. So Arsenal have occupied a large space with their team shape, but have improperly populated the space (what we’ve got here is… failure to allocate). Specifically, that suboptimal population of space prevents Arsenal from passing the ball back, so to draw Stoke’s defense out, probe and provoke, and then exploit an opening they find, or restart the process if an opening does not become apparent.


This leads to Ramsey attempting a low percentage cross, which gets blocked. Now Arsenal have big problems, as the improper population of the vertical levels around the ball mean that they are incapable of winning the blocked ball, applying pressure to Stoke players, or make a challenge to win the ball from a Stoke player. There is also a large amount of space between Arsenal’s “front 7” and their “back 3”, allowing Stoke to safely play the ball into that area and run an effective counter-attack. Luckily for Arsenal, Bojan makes the wrong decision, allowing for a rather English counter press—a one-man press with little to no coordination in the unit—to succeed. This is a clear example of why a team’s shape in possession must be informed by the consequences of a loss in possession, as the team’s shape in possession becomes the team’s shape out of possession when the ball is lost.

When discussing some of the many problems with English football, the inane chasing of matches does not come up as often as it should. Instead of looking to pin the opposition in their half, with their control, English clubs chase games by simply increasing the variance of the expected outcome, hoping to catch the right side of the tail of the distribution of potential outcomes. Now if the opponent decides to play in a deep shell, showing no desire to move the ball out of their half, then this strategy comes with less risk. However, against better competition, particularly against competition that rely more on technique, coordinated movement, quick thinking, and quick ball movement, than the long-ball to the speedy front man/target man, or the solo effort of a ball-carrier, this high variance approach leads to significant problems. If the opposition still maintains control of the important spaces, then this high variance approach simply gifts the opposition valuable spaces to exploit, once they win the ball.

Arsenal were already punished severely for their reckless chasing of games, against Monaco. Their lack of composure and understanding that the knockout phase of the Champions League is two-legged helped make the second leg an almost certain dead rubber. And even though this is a winner-take-all match, Arsenal must not lose their heads if they trail during this match. Otherwise, their risk-seeking behavior, their push for a high variance outcome, while conceding their control of space, promises more ruin than reward.


¹Without Emre Can, the usefulness of Liverpool’s recent style of play under Rodgers falls apart. His ability to carry out the role of a wide center back, with his more dynamic game, allows Liverpool to better allocate resources in possession, so to better gain control and exploit space in possession.
²Manchester City match aside, it is not like they have been very convincing with this approach this season, and even in that there was a good 15 minutes at the beginning of the second half where they lost control over the match