Tag Archives: Champions League

Compared to west ham

If Arsenal lose in the Black Forest does anyone care?

It’s an interesting morning in Arsenal land. Arsenal were comprehensively beaten in a listless display and no one seems to care. The only thing people seem to care about is the debate over whether Arsenal should or shouldn’t want to play in the Europa League and whether playing there will harm their chances in the Premier League.

I think what happened is that most fans resigned themselves to a defeat like this being inevitable. I think most Arsenal fans know that this club isn’t at the level of a club like Bayern.

“Ah but we beat them in the first leg!” I already hear you say. Yes. The first leg was a full-blooded performance by the Arsenal, getting in their faces, tackling, staying organized, working hard, and hitting them on the counter. Pep also made some tactical, uhhh, I hate to call them errors, but there were obvious problems with the Bayern set up in that first match¹. Problems which Arsenal were able to exploit.

The result was a win for Arsenal which decimated the entire right side of Arsenal’s attack and defense. Ramsey, Walcott, Ox, and Bellerin all played, they gave everything they had in that match, and they are now all injured. The very definition of a Pyrrhic victory if ever there was one.

The problem is that Arsenal can’t play at that breakneck level for an entire season of European football. And the other problem, the problem which underlies that first problem, is that Arsenal aren’t good enough to not have to play at that level.

In other words, as I wrote in my By the Numbers piece — Arsenal are to Bayern Munich this season as West Ham were to Arsenal in 2013. Bayern are just absolutely yards ahead of Arsenal.

Another way to read my numbers post is that any time a team put in a listless performance, or as Wenger put it “we were not at the races”, against a top team they are going to get hammered. That’s the other thing that happened last night, players simply stopped playing. There were a few brief moments after Bayern scored the fourth that Arsenal looked good in the counter attack but those moments were there because Bayern let them happen. It was fairly obvious that they had applied the handbrake.

But Arsenal fans weren’t even bothered by the lack of fight in the match. What happened to all this nonsense I always hear about “fighting for the shirt”, “respecting the badge” or “I don’t mind if we lose so long as we give them a good match”? Even Tim Payton, the guy who wanted an independent investigation into Arsenal’s transfer dealings, tweeted something about “meh, Bayern are the better team”.

Perhaps this is just how we wanted them to approach the game, I did hear a lot of folks saying they didn’t care about the result as long as there were no further injuries. Congrats, you got your wish!

The second worst part about this defeat is that it means we will now have to endure this tiresome debate about whether we want the club to be in the Europa League. It’s funny, though, that the prediction was spot on: we won the first match and got the hope, lost the second match (and Olympiacos won their match) and we got the dope. It was Hope-a-Dope.

But the debate is pointless, unless your goal is to fashion a club with which to beat Arsene Wenger — “why didn’t Wenger do this differently? He’s so naive! We could have won the league!” All arguments designed to come back at the end of the season and beat Wenger with. Never mind that winning the League is 27 games away and as far removed a certainty as Sandra Bullock falling in love with me.

Speaking of which, does anyone know anyone who knows Sandra Bullock? She seems like the exact woman that I’m looking for. I mean, I don’t really know her and she was married to that American Chopper guy², but I’m pretty sure, based solely on the fact that she’s attractive and a decent actress, that we would get along great.

Sorry about that. Uhhh, football, right. This weekend Arsenal have to play Spurs and I wonder if the other reason fans aren’t upset is that a poor performance, which showed little fight, would be quickly forgotten if Arsenal saved up their energy to beat Spurs.

In a sense it makes this weekend’s match a must win for the emotional health of Arsenal fans. I guarantee if anything goes wrong in that match, we will be reminded of this 5-1 loss.


¹Pep moved Costa to the right in last night’s match and brought on Kingsley Coman in his place on the left. When he did that, we saw more of the type of attack that Pep wanted from Costa in the first leg: rather than getting to the end line and playing in lofted crosses, he wanted lofted crosses to the far post from a higher angle. It was almost constant service from left to right last night. Coman getting past his man, freeing space for an unmarked Alcantara to lob in deadly balls to the back post. Which is exactly how they scored the first goal.
²He’s one of those “curly ball cap” guys we have here in America. Gah.


Bayern Munich v. Arsenal: Sweet Dreams

Here’s something I never talk about, dreams. I have had a recurring dream now three times. It’s about me cleaning my bedroom. It’s an endless task in this dream. I don’t just have to clean the floors and make the bed but the walls are always partially painted and so they need to be finished as well. But at one point in the dream, I’m doing one of the many tasks and I get distracted by why looks like an unusual pile of junk.

This morning I was painting the walls blue, each time I rolled over a spot, the paint would go on too thin and leave a sort of shadow beneath. I tried to load the brush with more paint but my pallet was empty. So I looked for the bucket of paint and when I found it, that too was empty.

I was starting to get down on myself for leaving yet another task partially done and resolved to go to the store and get another bucket of paint when I noticed that there were some strange brown tubes hanging under my bedside table. I stooped down to get a better look and next to the brown tubes there were paper tubes with Chinese writing on them.

They looked like long, thin, sausages, like those wrinkly Chinese sausages, or perhaps like an old tallow candle, hanging by strings under my bedside table. Someone placed these here deliberately. I was just trying to think of why someone would do this when I noticed that the brown tubes had bugs on them.

Long, gem-like green bugs, like a perfectly smooth balloon animal caterpillar, with red eyes and wispy black antennae were munching on the brown tubes. That’s when I remembered that I put those there. They were some kind of bamboo and I had left them there to dry. I don’t remember why I needed to dry them or why the bedroom was the place to do that but I realized, in my dream, that this was the third time I’d encountered these tubes. The first was obviously to hang them, the second was when the wrapper had mysteriously been removed from half of the tubes, and now the third was this time with the spawning of these bugs.

Just at the moment when I decided painting the walls was secondary to this new task, that I was going to cleanse the room with fire if need be, I woke up face down in my pillow. Thus leaving the job unfinished (yet again) and leaving the dream open to further story development.

It’s obviously a metaphor for the unfinished business in my life, and there is plenty of that. I have spent my whole life with people telling me I could be more. That I could have done better with my life.  I have a difficult time focusing on things, I tend to leave things unfinished, and when I do focus on something it’s very intense for a brief period. Classic ADHD, I know, a doctor told me.

I do some things well and some things not so well. I try hard to stay on top of the mundane tasks of life and sometimes I fail. My neighbor across the street is literally building something as I write this. He is ripping boards with a table saw. It’s 7:30am and he’s improving his home. I’m writing about my dreams.

But maybe that’s not true that I could be better or should be better. Maybe I’m just the level I’m supposed to be? Maybe my walls are supposed to be half painted.

Bayern v. Arsenal: things to look out for.

In the first leg, Pep Guardiola moved Douglas Costa from the left side where he was dribbling past players with ease (he was 10/11 on the day) to the right side of the pitch. The first time I watched the match, I thought this was Pep obsessed with attacking Nacho Monreal but after a short chat with Naveen I’m convinced Pep did this to stop Costa from pumping in pointless crosses.

In the first leg, Costa went 1/11 on crosses. In other words, yes, he was skipping past Belllerin and Ramsey, but his end product after he got free was a pointless cross. Once Pep moved him to the right, Costa stopped crossing and started trying through balls to Lewandowski. It was then that he created the best chance of the match for Bayern, a through ball for Lewa, whose thunderstruck shot was parried by Cech.

Apparently, they have Robben back and he is not the kind of player who will pump in pointless crosses. Combined with whatever instructions Pep gives Costa, I expect those two to give Arsenal a torrid time.

Pep was also very public about what he expects Arsenal to do and that makes sense given the injuries Arsenal have suffered. The entire right side of Arsenal has been decimated by injury and given the fact that Arsenal are also missing Theo Walcott, I think Pep is right to say that Arsenal will probably resort to a long ball game. After all, if Giroud starts at center forward, his strength is hold-up play.

Wenger could surprise everyone and start Alexis as center forward. That would give the “pace” that Walcott gave. Plus, Alexis is a much better creator, he can hold up play better than Walcott, and he’s a much more dangerous player in terms of finishing. Still, that would be crazy and require multiple lineup shuffles to make happen.

More likely is that Giroud will start but that the team will look for Alexis on every opportunity. Giroud could flick, nod-on, and variously keep the ball moving quickly into the Bayern third where Alexis can cause trouble. Watch for Özil as well: one of his unsung talents is picking out counter attacking passes from deep. He’s normally deployed so far forward in the Arsenal scheme that we don’t get to see that skill, but today he could showcase that talent quite a bit.

Pep has also stated that he feels Mertesacker and Koscielny are vulnerable to the counter press. That’s a bold statement considering their respective passing percentages but there have been rare games where both of those players passed the ball in the sub 80% region. Arsenal lost those matches. If Pep presses them it will be crucial for Coquelin or Cazorla to open up for them. And also crucial for Arsenal’s wing players and forward to keep possession when we can.

Overall, I’m not expecting anything from this game. It’s a tough ask to go to Bayern and get a result. It’s an even tougher task when three of your starting eleven are injured and their backups are injured as well. If we can keep the game close and not pick up any injuries to Alexis, Özil, Cazorla, Coquelin, Cech, or Giroud I think we’ll be doing ok going into the match with Tottenham on Sunday.

That’s it for today. Look for By the Numbers on Arseblog News later tonight.

Sweet dreams…


Would you rather: Arsenal beat Bayern or Arsenal lose to Bayern, redux.

I don’t want to poison the well so I’m going to start this blog in a strange way and just ask you again: would you rather, win against Bayern or lose against Bayern?

That was an incredible game from Arsenal. Not just the score line but the whole match was incredible.

First, there was the game plan. Wenger didn’t just sit back in two banks of four. He did do that but there was a subtle difference in Arsenal’s execution to what we normally see when teams “park the bus”.

The key difference was that Arsenal closed off space for Lewandowski. Lewandowski isn’t a traditional target man, like Giroud, he’s a runner and he actually likes to drop deep, collect the ball, and by doing that he creates space for Muller and Costa.


Arsenal cut off service to Lewandowski by keeping the banks of four tight and letting Bayern have the ball in deep areas. The image above is a grab from the first half, when Arsenal were essentially playing with one forward and sitting very deep. Here, Bayern were choked off in the middle and had to play the ball wide to Costa, something they did a lot in the first half.


And here’s a grab from the second half when Arsenal were playing with two forwards, Alexis and Walcott. As you can see, it’s very difficult to get Lewandowski the ball in these kinds of formations. Bayern did get him the ball, he finished the match with 5 shots, his season average, and 31 passes, above his average, but he had to run 10k to get that service.

Lewandowski wasn’t entirely kept quiet. He was free on goal a few times: once when Koscielny stopped him and once when Petr Cech saved his shot. He also had a shot blocked right outside the 6 yard box. Players like Lewandowski are impossible to stop, but they can be contained, and Arsenal did just that.

Pep Guardiola did us a few favors in this match as well. He insisted on testing Nacho Monreal. So much so that he moved Douglas Costa from the left side where he was torturing Hector Bellerin to the right side so he could attack Monreal more. That move backfired.

Costa first half,


Costa second half,


Costa did take three shots and created a shot for Lewandowski in the second half. He also went 3/3 dribbling. But the way it backfired is that by not pressing Bellerin in his own half, by attacking down that flank, Bellerin was able to get free and break out for that last minute run where he put the ball on a plate for Ozil to score.

It was a strange move on Pep’s part. Costa was eating Bellerin alive down the right side, basically dribbling past him (and anyone else who tried to help out) at will and he created two of Bayern’s more dangerous shots. So, why move him to the right? I don’t know. But it looks like he wanted Costa to be more direct and less crossy.

Credit has to go to Monreal in this game, if Bayern Munich test you, and Bayern Munich are the best team in Europe, and you pass that test, you deserve full credit. So, full credit to Nacho Monreal. I don’t know what Pep Guardiola saw or thought he saw on that side of the pitch. But it didn’t work and in fact, it completely backfired.

More credit also to Petr Cech. I still can’t believe Chelsea sold us Cech. With the exception of the one clanger at the start of the season, Cech has been magnificent for Arsenal. He is literally the best keeper in the League right now and he made two more big chance saves last night against Bayern Munich, one from Alcantara and the other from Lewandowski. That’s just what he does. He’s looking so much more composed than at the start of the season.

In the “Pyrrhic victory” column, Aaron Ramsey pulled a hamstring. It’s a real shame too because he had just scored his first goal of the season against Watford and as we all know, Ramsey takes time to get back into goalscoring form.

It was a real shame about Ramsey’s hamstring but as I pointed out on Twitter last night, he was the hardest working player on the pitch last night. He ran 7439m in 56 minutes. That’s the equivalent of a run the entire length of the Emirates pitch plus 30 meters, every minute. If he’d have run the entire time, he would have totaled 12500m in that match which is pretty incredible.

The problem is that this is Ramsey’s 5th muscle strain injury since December 2013. He’s missed 38 games because of those injuries, the equivalent of an entire season. I’m not his physician and I don’t know what his body can handle. I do know that he’s missed a lot of games because of muscle strains and so I’m sure Ramsey, his physician, and the club will want to look at that so that he can play more often and get a consistent run of games.

Everything at Arsenal divides opinion and so it’s no surprise that beating Bayern Munich will raise questions for some. Some are worried that we will slip up again and lose to Olympiacos or Dinamo. That we will then finish 3rd and have to play in the Europa league. Some question why we can’t play like this more consistently. Why does Arsenal get beat by Dinamo Zagreb and then turn around and beat Man U and Bayern Munich? And, of course, questions about why Ospina started will continue, especially after such a masterful performance by Cech.

They are all legitimate questions, I’m afraid. At the moment, I don’t have an answer. I have a guess, that Wenger’s teams, with the exception of the Invincibles, always seem to need a catalyst before they crystallize into their final form. Maybe losing 3-2 to Olympiacos was that catalyst. Maybe beating Man U and Bayern will be the catalyst for the future. It’s hard to tell.

A few weeks ago I said “Bayern Munich is going to hit a bump, and when they do, don’t feel bad for Bayern, feel bad for the bump, because they are going to crush it.” We will find out if that prophecy comes true on the 4th of November. Until then, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that Arsenal beat Bayern Munich.