Tag Archives: Jack Wilshere

Man at the match; Chary: beware, Tigers poop on pitch

A stoppage time equaliser from Danny Welbeck changed an embarrassing result into a disappointing one as Assem Allam’s Tigers looked on course to snatch three undeserved points from Ashburton Grove.

Before I proceed further I will stress that what I say about the game is from a very tribal, Arsenal-centric point of view so if anyone has stumbled upon this report expecting an objective, balanced view, I politely suggest they “do one” (i.e. go elsewhere).

The overriding impression of Allam’s Tigers is of a team who waste time from five minutes into the game and then feign injury to halt opposition attacks. These tactics, combined with a pliant accomplice in the referee and a weakness in Arsenal’s defensive mind set led to two points being dropped when all three were needed.

We faced our FA Cup final victims for the first time since that epoch ending day in May on a mild October afternoon which whilst grey was far from as autumnal as you would expect and there seemed a closeness and humidity that seemed to stifle the air.

We went to Wembley, Wember-ly

We went to Wembley, Wember-ly

The Arsenal lined up as expected at the back with Bellerin replacing Chambers (suspended) who would have replaced Debuchy (injured) at right back and Monreal reprising his Emirates Cup role as centre back.

The midfield also picked itself as the fully fit players started( Wilshere, Flamini and Santi) with the three up top also being the only match fit/in form players, Welbeck, Alexis and The Ox. Arteta and Rosicky were on the bench as expected after their injury doubts but Rambo’s presence on the bench was a fillip as we’ve missed his dynamism when he is on form.

Early chants of

“Who are you ?”

from the HC Tigers fans were answered by:

“2 nil and you effed it up”

in a happy reference to our previous meeting.

An early shot from Santi, attacking the North Bank unusually in the first half, seemed sure to swerve into the top right hand corner but the first goalkeeper used by Ex Man United player coach Steven Bruce managed to palm the shot away.

The next significant action was early reward for a typically energetic and scintillating start to the game by Alexis, who controlled a high ball delivered and larruped a low drive to open the scoring.

Our free scoring Chilean

Our free scoring Chilean

Before the goal, and as noted earlier, Harper in goal for the Tigers was beginning the ritual of time wasting by approaching his goal kicks as if they were ticking bombs to be defused. Sadly the referee for the day marked his card by failing to stamp down on this gamesmanship by his inaction and as the game wore on more and more ludicrous lengths were went to in order to slow Arsenal’s attacks.

After the Alexis strike, surprise surprise, somehow the goal kicks were then taken quickly. Well, well !

It was a result of this that my main worry before the game, of our defence lacking the cohesion of a well-drilled back four that had played together regularly, came to fruition.

A foray down our left flank went virtually unchallenged and the Tigers first attack was rewarded by a goal – first shot, one goal, an infuriating characteristic of Arsenal sides for longer than I care to remember.

Top tier view

Top tier view

Even in the less rowdy upper tier I was in for the game there was fury about the validity of the goal as, after later enquiry, there seemed to be a foul on Flamini in the build up but what compounded this was the Arsenal defenders pausing to protest rather than playing to the whistle.

First test and the defence implode and a cheap equaliser conceded, albeit potentially wrongly allowed due to the foul. We just know that had it been us who’d fouled in the build up to the goal the lino would have gleefully flagged it as such and had it chalked off. Maybe it’s my Arsenal-centric view but it does feel we suffer disproportionately more than average from poor decisions.

Thankfully, the crowd still got behind the team from the restart and the half time jeering was directed at the referee.

The restart was calamitous as the defence and midfield showed a somnambulistic approach to dealing with Allam’s Tigers attack from the whistle. A dreamy, casual attitude in the midfield carried over to the defence as a cross came over from Arsenals left, again, and unfortunately the BFG’s leap was mistimed and allowed Hernandez to nod in to put Arsenal 2-1 down.

It seemed odd to me that I would be more worried about attacks down our right due to Bellerin’s inexperience and yet both goals conceded were from our left. It must be said that young Hector’s performance, his tenacity in the tackle and his good understanding of building an attack, got him many approving cheers all afternoon.

Now the Tiger’s were in front we got the “pooping on the pitch” my report is described as the time wasting went up another level and the tactic of “dying swans in the penalty area” was in full view.

As the Arsenal pushed forward, any chance possible one of the opposition defenders would hurl themselves to the ground and lay on the pitch, and then not move off the playing area as the referee should have ordered them too.

Dawson in particular, as you would expect from an ex-spudd, was guilty of this and when he was eventually made to walk off the pitch for treatment instead of taking the shortest route to the touchline he would take a long lazy arc across the pitch to maximise his meander to the more distant point on the touch line. All this was allowed to happen by the referee (even though Welbeck and Jack were pointing at the nearest touchline for Dawson to go to) who was beginning to lose control of the game.

And the Allam Tigers fans had the shamelessness to shout:

“Same old Arsenal, always cheating”

Their team were taking cheating and gamesmanship to a level only possible by the truly snide.

They were also keeping up their Cup Final habit of advancing six-ten yards further up the pitch on their throw ins and free kicks, but the Arsenal players seemed drilled on this part of the opposition play as they were quick to point out the encroachment and even the incompetent referee of the day had to act on that.

Second half pressure

Second half pressure

For the last twenty minutes the pattern of Arsenal attack-Tigers play acting-Arsenal chance continued into stoppage time of six minutes. The two bright spots in the Arsenal forward play, Alexis and Santi (who was his usual busy, creative/scuttling self, although a bit unlucky when it came to developing attacks) continued to put the opposition under pressure.

The introduction of Joel Campbell seemed to offer something different in our attacks and in the limited time available to him, gave a good account of himself. He seemed to be a bit of a provider/link-up player and not just the target man I thought he was.

Finally the Arsenal equalised when a clever bit of interplay between Alexis and Welbeck resulted in an equaliser that prevented the Arsenal faithful from suffering the hammer blow of a home defeat.

The reaction at the end of the match was muted relief with a tinge of exasperation as to why we allowed ourselves to get into a position where we have to claw back a late equaliser and also at a very late chance not quite going in for Gibbs when it looked like a repeat of the FA Cup Final result was about to happen.

If any satisfaction could be had from the game it was that Allam’s Tigers fans were minutes away from a famous win and that it was taken away from them. For the ethos of their play, and let’s be fair about it, they deserved nothing at all.

There did seem to be murmurs of discontent brewing in the feeling around the grounds after the game, not just with the performance but the squad deficiencies, and it will take a string of good displays to dispel these.

It is now down to the players, manager and club to do that in the coming games.


By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)


The year of the Wilshere?

Good morning. I have been gone for a few days but I’m not going to say sorry. I was camping in the forests of the Northwest and I have no regrets. I got to see the stars, hiked 10 miles, watched a beautiful woman swim naked in a lake, started a fire, ate steaks cooked over a fire, had a beautiful woman read The Interrogative Mood out loud to me, played rummy, and passed out whiskey drunk on a pile of rocks. So yeah, I’m not going to say that “I’m sorry” because I’m not.

I do want to say thank you to Chary for his awesome match report and to Naveen for the match preview. Both articles were perfect and much appreciated by me and the readers here.

Through the magic of DVR I was able to record the match against Manchester City and because I had no internet, no Facebook, no Twitter, and no cell phone service I watched the match as if it were live. So, I didn’t really miss anything… except maybe the people freaking out in real time on Twitter after Arsenal gave up the first goal.

As for the game, I thought Jack Wilshere was outstanding and as Wenger is saying today “answered his critics” a bit. So, I want to focus just on Jack today and tomorrow I will look at a couple of other things that stood out to me.

Paul Scholes isn’t the only person who has been critical of Jack Wilshere over the last year or so. In fact, I think Scholes took the cudgel from some of the professional Arsenal bloggers who have publicly wondered if Wilshere’s career was already over.

It’s part of the modern condition that people not only have to have an opinion, they then have to share it, and (most important) they have to have the opinion first. This leads people to making brash statements about players careers being over when the player in question is only 21 years old.

Those who feel criticized by that last paragraph will reply with “yes, but Wilshere wasn’t playing well! The criticism is justified!” and they would be right. It’s not the criticism of Wilshere’s play that bothered me but rather the proclamations that his career was in jeopardy.

Similarly, I want to be careful after one or two good games to not pretend that Wilshere is now a god among men or that he has completely proven his critics wrong. Somewhere in between lies the truth — a statement that you probably hear a lot from me.

But against Man City you saw Wilshere at his imperious best. He scored a goal, he set up a goal (with a caviar pass) and had another caviar pass to Ramsey go begging. He also showed his strength and speed with the ball at feet, showed a plethora of clever dribbling skills, and drove Arsenal’s attack forward through much of the game.

Here is his dribbling dashboard, he made 10/15 dribbles against Man City.

Wilshere Dribbles v. Man CityIn a sense, this dashboard is the perfect encapsulation of Wilshere as a player. What his critics saw last year was him trying to dribble too much in midfield, getting caught, throwing his hands up looking for the referee to make a call, and giving up the ball in dangerous areas.

But that said Wilshere is fouled a lot and when he plays regularly he is Arsenal’s most fouled player. He is fouled a lot because he is a dribbler, he loves to dribble out of pressure rather than pass out of pressure. Referees in the Premier League do not offer Wilshere any protection and add to that the fact that Wilshere was playing with an ankle which he was babying last year. That’s why he was on the floor all the time with his hands raised looking for the referee to make a call.

So, Wilshere likes to dribble (this is how he “drives the team forward”) and because he likes to dribble he is fouled often. Referees do not always call the fouls and referees do not give yellow cards to players who are fouling Wilshere. The result is that when Wilshere is caught in possession deep in his own half, it makes him look bad. Very bad.

But you can also see where Wilshere’s dribbles can be devastating. If we want to talk about ending a player’s career, Wilshere basically ended Clichy’s career with that dribble into the box which set up his goal. His dribbles deep in his own half also broke pressure, setting up situations for counter attacks and causing the Man City defense to panic.

But this was Wilshere at his best, 10 dribbles is a season high for any Arsenal player and puts him in second place behind Eden Hazard in terms of successful dribbles per game in the Premier League. When he was fouled he got right back up and played through and when he broke pressure he was dangerous both as a goal-scoring threat and as a shot creator.

My hope would be that Wilshere will tame his propensity to dribble out of pressure deep in his own half. It’s a dangerous thing to attempt especially if referees are not going to call fouls. And we know that referees are simply not going to make the calls because they haven’t been up to this point. Instead of dribbling in his own final third (he attempted 5 there and was caught twice) I would prefer him to pass and move, saving the dribbles for further up the pitch where they can cause real trouble. Özil and Sanchez combined for 14 attempted dribbles (8 successful) and only one attempted dribble in the Arsenal final third.

But still, it’s a small criticism of a player who had an all around amazing match against the reigning League Champs: scoring a brilliant goal and setting up another brilliant goal. If last year was the year of the Ramsey, and if Wilshere continues to play at this level, I think we will have to say that this is the year of Wilshere.



Pictures: FourFourTwo StatsZone App
Stats: Opta and my own personal databases


Welcome Debuchy but what about Jenkinson? And if Arsenal buy a Khedira what about Wilshere?

Not much special going on today so let’s talk a bit about transfers.

Debuchy’s signing was announced yesterday and this is fantastic news because that marks Arsenal down as having bought 2 of the 5 positions that they need filled this summer. The best part is that we have made two major signings and we haven’t yet played our first pre-season friendly.

There was some speculation earlier that perhaps Arsenal didn’t need to buy a right back after Sagna left and the Debuchy signing put that to rest. Debuchy is a 28 year old French International with 18 months of experience in the Premier League starting every weekend. I think it’s also symbolic that Wenger bought the French player who kept Sagna from starting during this World Cup. This may be unpopular because Sagna was a fan favorite but Debuchy is an upgrade on Sagna.

Debuchy is younger than Sagna and he’s a more balanced player. When I compared Debuchy to Sagna and Aurier, the difference is stark: Aurier played as an attacking wing back at Toulouse, Sagna kind of didn’t do either defense or offense and instead was more of a passing outlet, and Debuchy was smack in the middle of the two.

Particularly impressive were Debuchy’s defensive stats for Newcastle. Comparing him against his own team’s percentages he made 17% of Newcastle’s tackles, 12% of their interceptions and 10% of their fouls.

Sagna wasn’t horrible but rather Debuchy was just very active defensively. Debuchy also can fill in for Sagna in the aerial duels department: Sagna has long been an outlet for Szczesny and Debuchy will hopefully continue in that role, he did after all win 4/5.7 headers per game at Newcastle.


I know that many people thought (hoped?) Jenkinson would get the starting job and some people went so far to suggest that Jenkinson and Bellerin could do the job but I think this signing puts that idea to bed and tucks it under Jenkinson’s Arsenal bedsheets. Wenger left the door open to Jenkinson saying that he can compete for the spot and further that he hasn’t made his mind up about who will be starting but that said I see this as another transition year for Jenkinson.

The crucial pairing, and probably deciding factor, will be right back and right forward. Jenkinson and Walcott do not seem to get along well in that regard. My observations are that Jenkinson tends to park far too forward and expect Walcott to cover for him. Walcott, being a striker, naturally doesn’t like this. The two of them publicly fought on the field several times with Walcott telling Jenks to stay back and Jenkinson shining Walcott on.

That issue is only going to be exacerbated with the signing of Sanchez who is an outright striker and will not cotton to having to run all the way back to defend for Jenkinson. And I have no problem with this, we didn’t buy Sanchez for £30m to play right back, we bought Sanchez to do the minimum defense up front (pressing and harassing) and to win us games with goals.

Sanchez’ strengths at Barcelona were that he took almost all of his shots inside the opposition box, which is what led to his outstanding conversion rate. You want a striker with a 30% conversion rate? He needs to play deep in the opposition area. For Sanchez to be an efficient goal scorer we need him to have the freedom to get in the opposition 18 yard box and cause havoc. He can’t do that while defending in our final third so that the fullback can whip in crosses to no one.

One other oddity that Wenger mentioned in the interview about signing Sanchez is that Sanchez could play in any of the positions up top, including through the middle and “with Giroud in a 4-4-2″. Now, I don’t know if Wenger is messing us or not and I struggle to think who he might play on the wings (Ox, Podolski, Cazorla, Rosicky? Özil would be wasted out there) but there might be a clue in there as to why Wenger is looking at Khedira. During Wenger’s most successful era he played with two in base of the midfield: Parlor and Vieira, Petit and Vieira and it was Gilberto and Vieira. That’s why Khedira and Ramsey is a mouthwatering prospect in midfield but it leaves so many questions: where to put Özil, and probably most worryingly, where does Wilshere fit into all this?

Wilshere’s stock has fallen off a bit (and I am not at all talking about his smoking) with even some of the most famous Arsenal personalities starting to wonder about his development. At this point in his career I’m more of the mind that he suffered a bit from his injury and frankly he suffered in light of the hugely successful season Aaron Ramsey had.

But the fact remains that he can’t take Özil’s place as the creative midfielder, he doesn’t seem to have the engine to take Ramsey’s place in midfield, and he’s not a defensive midfielder (at least not that he has shown so far). He’s also not a wing player, a forward, or a defender. So, if Arsenal splash the big cash on a player like Khedira or Bender where does Wilshere fit?

With Jenkinson on the bench? And how long will he be happy doing that?