Dodgy Defence, Dodgy Ref, Dodgy Pen over shadow a Wilshere Masterclass

Having slept on yesterday’s draw, watched the highlights and both AW’s presser and post-game interview, and gulped down some validol to get over the fact how monumental an excuse of a ref Anthony Taylor is, I’m ready to say the draw was a fair result overall.

For every good attack of ours we looked just as vulnerable at the back. Chelsea matched us toe-to-toe in a very open-ended game, highly reminiscent of the Liverpool draw on December 23. Both Courtois and Cech were worked in equal measures and both had lucky escapes when Sanchez and Zappacosta hit the woodwork.

For a neutral, this must have been a highly exciting game, with two sides of similar quality fighting it out. For both sets of fans it was a signal to stock up on validol for future encounters, the first of which will happen in just 6 days. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of it.

Three at the back

Probably more out of necessity than a burning desire, Wenger played three at the back. You have to admit none of our central defenders are good enough to deal with Chelsea’s quality in a duo with Laurent Koscielny, who was himself unavailable. I’ve talked about how Wenger is hardly convinced by any of Chambers, Holding, Mustafi or Mertesacker. So he picked the former three, a right thing to have done in my opinion.

Holding getting the nod

The Englishmen deserved and needed a chance to shine too. However on the basis of that game only Holding might force his way into Arsene’s thinking. He was less noticeable than his counterpart Chambers, and that was a good thing, for Chambers stood out with some poor distribution and decision-making.

Calum is a player of confidence, we know he is better than what he showed us yesterday. He needs the support of fans and the manager’s trust and right now it looks he’ll come up short on both fronts. It is a tricky situation that needs careful management. I remain convinced he is a player of requisite quality to feature for Arsenal.

Super Jacky Wilshere

Yesterday was probably Jack’s best game in an Arsenal shirt this season. He was very good with his burst of pace, tracked back diligently to mark Hazard and Fabregas and scored a peach of a goal with a quality strike.

Also, he probably should have seen red. Having been booked for a crunching tackle on Cesc Fabregas early on, the Englishman proceeded to go down after minimal contact on two occasions, giving Taylor an earful for one of those. He was walking on thin ice, but he was integral to breaking Chelsea’s intermittent press. Go figure.

Another great performance from Jack

With Aaron Ramsey’s return scheduled before the next league game, Wenger has a decision to make. The Welshman has been one of our best players up until the injury, but Wilshere has more than delivered since. AW was full of praise for the Englishman after the game:

“I think he is at the level now where not many people expected him to be. When was the last time he played for England? Exactly, against Iceland [at Euro 2016], he came on. Since he has not played for England and I would say that means that everybody had given up on him. Today, nobody would be surprised if he was selected again. So that means instances of us being criticised for that, I think first of all he deserves a great credit for remarkable strength and we do as well.”

Personally, I think Xhaka should give way to accommodate all of Wilshere, Ramsey and Ozil. Some might say it is too risky defensively, but then again it’s not like Xhaka offers that much of a protection. There’s nothing he does defensively Wilshere can’t do, and we’ve seen it lately.

Anthony f*cking Taylor

My least favourite ref after Mike Dean. Their incompetence will go down in history. What I find the most infuriating is three days after a non-pen was awarded against us, after all the coverage thereof, after Wenger was charged, we find ourselves on the wrong end of a call again.


Bellerin certainly kicked Hazard, but:

  1. it wasn’t much of a kick
  2. not all contact in the box is a pen
  3. Hazard went down clutching the wrong part of his leg…
  4. … only to get up and take the pen in 15 seconds
  5. That pen would never have been awarded to us

It was an appalling decision from Taylor. Maybe we haven’t done enough to win, but that’s not for him to decide. We are talking about the ref again after just three days. Is this a healthy situation? How can a ref be the star of the game? How in the name of God there are so many wrong decisions every single gameweek, but nothing gets done about it?

I understand that refs are people, they have to make a hundred calls every game and that there’s a limit to their competence. However the situation is ridiculous. We don’t hear about ref controversies in hockey or basketball every single week, if at all, for that matter. The time has come for VAR, and for some goddamn transparency with regards to how PGMOL pick and control refs.

Arsene Wenger

Whatever footballing shortcomings the man might have, I can absolutely understand his fury at the absurdity of what’s happening. Yesterday he looked to have reached a tipping point, and I don’t blame him.

Arsene called out both the refs and the media and I’m with him. On the refs:

“We got, again, a farcical decision but we knew that as well before, so we have to deal with that. That’s it basically.

“I don’t know, I don’t want to talk about it. I’m fed up with that. The referees get away with you, the English press, no matter what they do.”

And on the media:

“You have watched the game last night (Swansea vs Spurs), you couldn’t read a line about it today. So nothing will change. So we have to deal with that and we have to live with that. … A refereeing decision influenced the game, no? But nobody talks about it. So that means nothing will change.”

The double standards are obvious, the stoking up of flames is obvious and the refereeing standards are also obvious. We have our shortcomings on the pitch, Wenger is a big part of that, but I admire his one-man crusade for decency and fairness in football. I’m not holding out hope he’ll be able to change anything, sadly.

Get VAR in instantly

The last word

The draw leaves us in a hard place, but on the bright side our league schedule eases up in terms of opposition and we should have some of our regulars back in no time at all. The fight for the top four is not over by any stretch of imagination.

However we do need to get our defence back in line for the results to improve. Not much we can do about refs’ incompetence, but you couldn’t have watched yesterday’s game and thought we are all fine defensively. Even if we faced the reigning champions.

I’m a bit sad I didn’t get the chance to talk about some of our better players on the night, like Ozil and Lacazette, but I’m still fuming about the whole penalty thing to an extent. We now break a bit as far as league games are concerned, so hopefully our key players get at least some rest in the next ten days or so.

And I’ll be back with you soon to cover either Chelsea in the cup or Bournemouth.

Until then

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3 Responses to Dodgy Defence, Dodgy Ref, Dodgy Pen over shadow a Wilshere Masterclass

  1. victor Thompson January 4, 2018 at 1:34 pm #

    Well Alex, the team selection was not quite as you thought but the result was slightly better than I thought, We have to play them again in 6 days and so I would like to make the following observations.

    Mustafi and Chambers cannot play together as a paring. Morata had the beating of both of them and Conte will know that. His first opportunity arose when Mustafi advanced upfield leaving a gap behind him and space between himself and Chambers. I think it was Fabregas who played a long ball over him and Morata sprinted after it. Mustafi was stranded and Chambers was beaten for speed to close him down. He was one on one with Cezh who thankfully managed to save his shot.

    Chelsea were playing a variation of Leicester`s game, hitting long balls on the break for Morata to chase and they had two further almost identical opportunities due to Mustafi and Chambers not marking him. Even their second goal was due to Mustafi standing behind Morata in the penalty box when a cross from Zappacosta came in and Alonso simply ran past him and stuck a volley in the net. Mustafi frequently demonstrates a lack of concentration at vital times and it has cost us dearly this year.

    If we do have a full squad for the next game, and Ozil, Sanchez and Wilshire play as they did, I think we can beat them. We played the better football with more variation to it than Chelsea so we gave Conte much more to think about than Wenger. They play as if Costa was still playing for them and leave Morata on his own. We must have one man staying close behind him to prevent the long ball, but a midfield of Ramsey, Jack, Xhaka and AMN ( yes AMN ) would be too good for theirs. Young Miles is a brilliantly talented young man. and he has an engine which allows him to play multi tasks. He allows us to play either three or four at the back.

    Ozil is now dominating from midfield and he is a floater just as he is for Germany, leaving Sanchez and Lacazette supported by Ramsey and/or Jack to keep them busy in their goal area. All in all Conte will probably wait to see who we have at CB, before he picks his team.

    I thought the penalty was wrongly given but on having seen the replays and heard the other refs comments I think it was a soft, but on balance, correct decision. However it was a penalty because Hazard, the master diver played for it. All he wanted was to achieve any contact at all however slight and he would fall. It wasn`t just a fall; it was the whole nine yards. Rolling about clutching his shin when it was the toe of Bellerin`s boot which barely touched the sole of his boot. As perfect justice it was Bellerin who scored that screamer of an equaliser.

    • Alex January 4, 2018 at 1:56 pm #

      I agree with you Victor, I think AW surprised Conte much more than the other way around. Agree on Mustafi too. Think he needs a senior partner to command him, Koscielny or Mertesacker. What I really want to see is Holding given a go alongside Kos. Think this pairing has potential for however a brief period Kos can remain a top-level defender.

      Let’s see what happens in six days, but wouldn’t be surprised if Conte rotates a lot, making our job somewhat easier. Chelsea’s squad depth is not as good as ours.

  2. Grandad January 4, 2018 at 2:36 pm #

    The Chelsea match highlighted our glaring weakness at centre back.Holding may well make the grade provided he is given a decent run of games but neither Chambers not Mustafi are up to the standard required as both lack speed and composure.Hopefully the new recruitment team will make the acquisition of a top quality centre back a priority in the current transfer window

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