Tag Archives: Madrid

Wenger’s tactics, Facing Madrid et al, Throwing the CL, Coefficients, Cazorla/Draxler swap and more…

Did Wenger get the tactics wrong?

Last night, Arsenal played if they had to lose by 3 goal to be knocked out. They set out defensively to do this. Was this wrong, or should Arsenal have set up more attacking to top the group? What is clear as the game went on was that we were more concerned with qualifying than topping the group. The Ramsey substitution over Theo Walcott is a perfect example. The game was opening up, Walcott’s pace could have been a game changer, yet Wenger chose the safer option of keeping the middle strong, and retaining possession. Would Arsenal fans have moaned had Wenger stuck Walcott on, he lost the ball in the build up to a goal and Napoli won 3-0? We probably would have.

From the defensive line up, to defensive substitutions to running down the clock when 1-0, Arsenal players a management succeeded in their goal of losing by 3 goals or more. We set up cautiously to ensure we went through. We got out of a tough group, but should the goal have been to top the group?

Facing Madrid, Barca et al

So finishing 2nd means we have to play one of; Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona. It is no easy task, and leaves many a fan frustrated, especially when you look at the list of those sides we’d have faced if we topped the group (Leverkuson, Galatasary, Olympiakos, Zenith, AC Milan, Schalke). I am however, a firm believer that you have to play the best to win the best. At its kindest, you could possibly avoid Europe’s top teams up to the Semi Final stage, but this would still leave us facing 2 of them. We would have to beat them anyway, so playing them in the 2nd round does not matter.

People running round saying ‘We finished 2nd, so we are out” are basically admitting that as soon as we face a big side in Europe, we will get knocked out, so surely then they are happy we finished 2nd, as in their eyes, we can not win the competition, so we are better off out early so that we can concentrate on the league?

Personally, I am rooting for either Real Madrid or PSG. For the former it is because the Bernabeu is one of the few major European stadium I have yet to visit, for PSG, the EuroStar will be messy.

Should we ‘throw’ the Champions League

Arsenal have now been in the Champions League for 16 years on the trot. Only twice have we come close to winning it. The final defeat to Barcelona in 2005/06 and the QF defeat to Chelsea in 2003/04. No other season have we had the starting 11 or the squad which is good enough to win. Therefore, it makes me wonder, what is the point of the Champions League if you go into it not expecting to win it?

The point is money, and lots of it. That money allows you to buy better players, pay higher wages, and build a team which gives you an advantage on a domestic level. Last years winners got €55m from the competition. Arsenal made €32m. That is a difference of €23m or £19m. A big difference, yes, but it is not too disastrous. It is clear that financial wise, it is just as important to qualify for the Champions League (Chelsea & City, both knocked out in the groups, got around €30m) as win it. It makes me wonder then, why do we bother? Why not just qualify, then put out or kids. Rest the 1st team for the Premier League battle. Take the €30m and run. It might be defeatest, but as we saw with Everton, freshness is a factor in the Premier League.


A discussion yesterday with @simonrichardafc about the effect that continually getting knocked out of the Champions League 2nd round could have on our European Coefficient. After studying the UEFA website, it is clear you need around 100,000 coefficient points to remain in the Top 8 of Europe. Our recent history shows that by making, and getting knocked out in, the 2nd round gets you around 22,000 points. Consistently getting through the knock-out stages is enough.

Yes, if 8 teams continually start making the QF, this will change, but that is unlikely. A look at Dortmund’s current ranking, as a team on the way up, highlights the safety Arsenal have. They currently sit on 69,000 points. If they win the Champions League this year, they will not be in the Top 8. They will have to win it this year, and get through to the 2nd round next year to make the Top 8. PSG would have to do the same. But obviously only 1 can win.

And if you agree with my ‘take the money and run’ mantra of earlier, our coefficient does not matter, as the importance, money wise, is qualifying for the Champions League, not progressing.

Cazorla/Draxler swap

Santi Cazorla is looking a frustrated man at Arsenal. He has gone from main man last year, to now slipping behind Ozil, Ramsey & Mertesacker in importance. He is continually the ‘1st sub’ and his performances this year have been poor. Yes, he has suffered from injury, and has had to re-adapt to playing left wing (although he played out there a lot), but you have to wonder, if he, due to turn 29 tomorrow, has peaked and is starting a downward spiral in performances. With the interest in Draxler, who looks most comfortable on the left wing, you have to wonder if this could be Cazorla’s last at Arsenal. With a man 9 years his junior coming in.

At best, if we sign Draxler, Cazorla will become a squad, and a bloody good one. At worse, we will get our money back on him moving him to Spain. What I do not want to see is an Arshavin type decline.

Downward Spiral

No wins in 2 games. Some Arsenal fan’s are starting to talk of a downward spiral. Hopefully it is the same downward spiral that followed defeat at home to Munich earlier this year.



Alvaro Morata – What can Arsenal expect?

Rumours seem to be growing about an agreed deal between Arsenal and Real Madrid over the 6 month loan signing of Spanish youth international Alvaro Morata in January. These rumours seem to of originated in a Spanish newspaper which many compare to the UK’s ‘The Sun’. They were thing picked up by The Daily Star, giving credence to the story. What will likely happen next is other more reputable papers in both the UK and Spain will pick up on The Daily Star’s story and run with it, giving the rumour even more legs.

Whether the deal is a ‘done deal’ yet is unlikely. Arsenal have been linked with 7 players since we started our A to Z of Transfer Speculation yesterday. What is the more likely story is Arsenal have agreed 1st refusal on the striker. That if he is available for loan, he will come to us first.

But if Arsenal do get the young striker, even for 6 months, what can they expect?

At 21, Morata has long been touted by the Real Madrid faithful as the next Raul. Not in a playing sense, but in a culture sense (He is more similar to style to Fernando Morientes). He is a Real Madrid born boy and has been at the club since 15. Whilst Barcelona have bought through the likes of Puyol, Xavi, Ineista, Valdes, Fabregas, Pique, Messi, Alba (via Valencia), Montoya, Busquets and Tello in recent years, Real Madrid have not provided a regular international to the Spanish National side since Casillas in 2000.

In a country still split with regional differences, it hurts Madridistas that over recent years, the majority of the Spanish side has been made up by Catalan’s, a region of Spain which do not accept they are Spanish. Morata is supposed to stop that rot, with him being pencilled in as a potential to lead Real Madrid’s line for the next decade, as well as break into the Spanish National side sooner rather than later.

Why would Real Madrid be looking to loan him in January? For the simple reason that he needs to play. With Karim Benzema currently number 1 striker, Morata has started just once in 12 appearances for Madrid this season. If he is to progress next season and take over the number 1 spot from Benzema, he needs to prove himself. With lack of opportunities at Madrid, the only option is a loan deal, and with the Spanish league so weak, a long deal abroad will be best.

Where does Arsenal fit in? Florentino Perez was very impressed with the way Arsenal handled themselves during the transfer negotiations with Mesut Ozil. Already a fan of Arsene Wenger, having attempted to prise him away from Arsenal numerous times, he knows Morata will be in safe hands with Arsenal. With Olivier Giroud as Arsenal’s only option upfront, Morata will get more playing time at Arsenal than at Madrid, and will benefit from top coaching. The physicality of the Premier League will also add something to Morata’s game which you do not get in Spain. 6 months in England could make him a very rounded striker for European competitions.

Morata is 6ft 3in. He is a giant of a man. He has the height of Oliveir Giroud, but not yet the core strength. This can be built into him though. To this physicality, he also adds pace. Quicker then Giroud, he might not be lightning, but he has enough pace that once he has turned his man, he can run away from him, similar to Robin Van Persie. What he also has is brilliant technique and skill, a given with Spanish players these days. He also has excellent movement, able to drift into space like a true poacher, and has the clinical finishing to match. With his physical attributes and technique, you can see why Real Madrid are keen to progress him.

Whilst he might not have much first team experience, 30 games for Real Madrid, scoring 4 goals, his appearances for Castilla (Real Madrid B) highlight his ability, scoring 45 goals from his 84 appearances. You can start to understand why Real Madrid want him to get more 1st team experience. He also scored 34 goals in a single youth season.

For Spain, his youth record is equally as impressive, scoring 23 goals in 24 games. He won the Golden Boot in both the u19 European Championship and u21 Euoprean Championship, leading the line to glory for Spain in both competitions.

If Arsenal do get Morata, they would have signed a very talented, but very raw striker. Whether he is what we need to push us to glory in January is inconclusive. He is certainly better equipped than both Bendtner (Who will surely leave if we get Morata in) and Sanogo, but good enough to take pressure of Giroud? That is up for debate. Especially taking into account his wage and whether he settles quickly.

Were we signing him on a permanent contract, I would be very happy, as he is clearly talented. A loan is a risk, although he will add depth. Also, if no one else is available in January who is of quality, it is perhaps better to not spend but see what is available in the loan market. Signing Morata would give us striking options of Giroud, Podolski.

If he does join, I hope we have an option to make the deal permanent, as Morata could become a very special player over the next couple of years.


Arsenal most followed Premier League club – Full stats revealed

At the weekend, Arsenal passed 3,000,000 followers on Twitter, making them the first Premier League club to pass through the milestone. This surprised me when I see Mesut Ozil has over 4,000,000 and Justin Bieber has 46,000,000. I thought I would explore how many followers the rest of the Premier League have;

Premier League – 3,014,009
Arsenal – 3,005,680
Chelsea – 2,970,819
Liverpool – 2,086,130
Manchester United – 1,296,966*
Manchester City – 1,275,000*
Tottenham – 689,142
Newcastle – 304,220
Everton – 267,676
West Ham United – 228,383
Aston Villa – 221,244
Fulham – 177,848
Sunderland – 176,191
Swansea City – 171,814
Southampton – 156,853
Norwich City – 155,216
Stoke City – 148,038
West Browmich Albion – 104,770
Cardiff City – 79,997
Crystal Palace – 67,720
Hull City – 59,577

Now a lot can be made from the above data. You could argue that it is a cross-section of society and therefore indicates the level of support of each club throughout the world. But it would be ludicrous to claim that Manchester United have less supporters throughout the world than those above them – their amount of followers was surprisingly low.

What it does show is, Manchester United apart – Arsenal still have a strong world-wide supporters base, still above the nouveau clubs Chelsea and Manchester City. Although Chelsea have shown the amount of fans you can gain through success. Are they now supported more throughout the world than Liverpool? Perhaps.

What is certainly shows is Arsenal’s online presence. For a long time, it has been a belief of mine that Arsenal have the strongest online presence in the UK. We have the most and best blogs & podcasts. We eat up social media. It is why media outlets write so much about us, as they know writing about Arsenal will get more online hits then any other club.

And how does Europe compare?

Barcelona (English) – 10,438,412
Real Madrid (Spanish) – 9,318,902
Barcelona (Spanish) – 5,604,562
Barcelona (Catalan) – 3,898,654
Galatasaray – 3,238,592
Arsenal – 3,005,680
Chelsea – 2,970,819
Real Madrid (English) – 2,734,033
Fenerbache – 2,490,906
Liverpool – 2,086,130
AC Milan – 1,560,114
Manchester United – 1,296,966
Paris Saint-Germain – 900,593
Juventus – 836,397
Olympique Marseille – 774,761
Bayern Munich – 714,642
Borussia Dortmund – 611,246
Atletico de Madrid – 518,833
Inter Milan – 403,667
Valencia – 322,284
Ajax – 277,414
Celtic – 189,556
Olympique Lyonnais – 187,281
FC Porto – 134,317
Benfica – 132,109

A few things jump out. Firstly the popularity of Barcelona & Real Madrid. This clearly shows them as the two biggest clubs in the world. But also shows a fascination with both clubs outside of Spain. The fact that Barcelona’s English account is has the most followers shows the fascination with them outside of Spain, and in the UK itself. Real Madrid’s English account also being high shows the unhealthy fascination with Spanish football and El Classico within the UK.

The second thing was how high Galatasaray and Fenerbache were. this perhaps shows why the ‘Arab Spring’ spread so fast throughout Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook. Twitters popularity in the ‘middle east’ and surrounding area is interesting – and not really for a football blog – but the popularity in Turkey is likely to also be the reason why Mesut Ozil has 3,000,000 followers.

Lastly is the lack of followers both German clubs and other Central European sides have. Which shows more how little Twitter has taken off in Central Europe.

A lot of opinions can be made about Twitter, including size of football following, Twitter throughout the world, and popularity of social media throughout the world. Or you can just say this was boring and pointless.

Either way, I found it interesting


*Manchester United also have an Official Indonesian account (93,747), Spanish (31,891) & Malaysian (9,551)
*Manchester City have an additional 9 foreign language accounts totaling 33,202
*All at time of writing, Noon on Sunday 3rd November