Tag Archives: Manchester United

We’re all going on a Europa League tour

So tomorrow our Europa League journey begins at home against Cologne (or Koln, or Koeln, or whatever it is called).

I for one am a little bit excited about playing in the Europa League this season, for a few reasons:

  1. It is a competition Arsenal can win
  2. New trips to new places
  3. Youngsters will get a chance

The first and third contradict eachother, as Arsenal have the best chance of winning it by putting out their strongest XI, whilst it also makes sense, especially in the group stages, to put out a complete second XI. With Chelsea coming up on Sunday, I expect no one to play tomorrow who will play on Sunday.

I have written countless times before about my boredom with the Champions League. Arsenal were only in it to make up the numbers, and it always felt like a matter of time until we got spanked. And it happened every season. The Europa League is a new journey.

Whilst it might be a lesser competition, it is a trophy regardless.

I looked on at Manchester United with a tint of jealousy as they cruised past Ajax to lift the trophy in Stockholm. Yes, I mocked as they lifted up 3 fingers as Jose Mourinho celebrated winning the worst treble ever – Community Shield, League Cup, Europa League – but the fact remained that they had secured 2 trophies (albeit minor) and won the glorified friendly that is the Community Shield.

At the weekend, I mentioned to a pal that I would rather finished 10th in the Premier League and win the Europa League, than finish 4th in the league and end the season trophyless.

I am certainly not a trophy snob, and were Arsenal to win the Europa League, it would be a 4th trophy in 5 years. Not a bad return for a club in crisis.

The chances of winning the Europa League could depend on what team we put out. I expect us to follow the Manchester United blueprint and play the 2nd string in the group stages, before slowly filtering in senior players as the competition go’s on.

As last season went on, and Manchester United’s title challenge, and then top 4 challenge, slipped away, their priorities changed. Rather than focusing on making the top 4, they realised winning the Europa League got them a trophy and a place in the Champions League.

It will be good to see some youngsters get a run out tomorrow. Some young boys we can really get behind.

Alongside the youngster, there will still be some senior pros. I expect David Ospina to start in goal. A defence with Per Mertsacker in the middle, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers either side. Both young Englishman can learn a lot from the German.

It will be interesting to see who we play at wing back. I can see Wenger giving a run out to Mathieu Debuchy on the right. With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gone, Debuchy is back up for Hector Bellerin in the Premier League. Although we might also see Maitland-Niles start there. In-fact, I think that is how he will go.

Actually, scrap that, it will be Maitland-Niles on the left, and Debuchy on the right.

With Francis Coquelin out injured, I would expect to see Jack Wilshere come into the middle of the park alongside Mohamed Elneny. An experienced middle of the park which should allow us to control most games.

Alex Iwobi will be giving a key role playing behind the strikers. It is easy to forget that he is still just 21. He is a young talent and it will be good to see him get a good run in the team in both the Europa League and League Cup this season.

Next to him is a conundrum. Will Wenger go for Theo Walcott? Or will he give a chance to Jeff Reine-Adélaïde or Reiss Nelson? Personally I would prefer the later. We all know what Walcott can and can not do, and whilst it would be tempting to give him game time to keep him sharp, it would be more beneficial in the long term to either give Jeff or Nelson a run out.

Add in Olivier Giroud up top – or Theo Walcott if we go for Jeff or Nelson – and we have an exciting mix of young talent and established players.

Hopefully throughout the campaign, we can continue watching the likes of Chambers, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Jeff and Nelson grow as players. And even see the comeback kid Jack Wilshere force his way into first team reckoning.

I have already booked up the away game against Cologne. Belgrade is tempting. Talk of a 9 hour night train? And after Christmas, we could have some very interesting trips.

Last season, in the knock-outs, Manchester United had trips to Saint-Étienne, Rostov, Anderlecht and Celta Vigo, before finishing up in Stocklholm.

It is almost tempting fate to book the Eurostar to Lyon now!



4 failed Wenger replacements: Klopp, Moyes, Martinez & de Boer

I have to start this mornings blog with some chat about Frank de Boer, sacked as manager of Crystal Palace after just 77 days.

Roll the clock back to 2013 and de Boer was top of many fans list as next Arsenal manager, alongside the likes of Jurgen Klopp, David Moyes and Roberto Martinez.

It is interesting to see how all 4 have performed in the last 4 years.

Klopp got his big move to Liverpool, where he has impressed a lot of people. But the impressive performances are more his own performances off the pitch, the way he deals with the press, the passion he shows, rather than Liverpool’s performances on it. They finished 4th in his first season, and trophyless. Fairly average.

And they have not started this season in sparkling form. Just 7 points from the opening 10 games.

Due to his relationship with the media, he seems to be able to live an easy life. Liverpool lose, he makes a joke, everything is right in the world. It will be the same if Liverpool do not win anything. He is able to create an illusion of success when there is none. He actually has a worse record than the much derided Brendan Rodgers.

It is also worth noting that Klopp has not lead a team to a trophy since the 2012 German Cup, and in his last season with Borussia Dortmund, he led them to 7th.

It will be interesting to see the response if he delivers a 2nd trophyless season, as Liverpool close in on 30 years without a league title.

Like Klopp, David Moyes also got a chance on the big stage with Manchester United where he was sacked before completing his first full season.

I actually feel sorry a bit for David Moyes as it is almost like he was set up to fail. He joined the side on the recommendation of Sir Alex Ferguson, who left him an ageing squad. They were champions in Fergie’s last year, but pretty much that summer the squad collapsed.

At the same time that Ferguson stepped down, Manchester United’s key negotiator in the transfer market – Chief Executive David Gill – also stood aside. This led Man U to have a new manager and new CEO in Ed Woodward.

A poor transfer window which saw the club miss out in a host of major targets, most famously Cesc Fabregas, Leighton Baines and Ander Herrera (who they signed the next year) and secure just one senior signing. Marouane Fellaini.

Moyes was sacked with a win percentage of 52.94%, which is favourable to the likes of Klopp (7001514000000000000♠51.4%) and Louis van Gaal (52.43%) and not too far of Jose Mourinho (57.97), who’s win %age is boosted through Europa League success.

Having been let go by Manchester United, Moyes tried his hand in Spain with Real Sociedad, before returning to England and being the man to finally get Sunderland relegated. You have to feel his reputation is now tarnished enough that he will struggle to get another Premier League job.

Replacing Moyes at Everton was Roberto Martinez. Another with a big reputation that was perhaps undeserved.

His reputation was built on playing free flowing football at Swansea City, and putting in a lot of the groundwork that saw Rodgers take them into the Premier League.

He then joined Wigan who he led to the FA Cup in 2013. Often praised for continually keeping Wigan in the Premier League against all odds, it was kind of forgotten that every time they found themselves 10 points adrift, he was manager. He was the arsonist who sets a fire and then puts it out so he can be praised as the hero.

A good first season at Everton saw them finish 5th. But they quickly slid down the table finishing 11th in the next two seasons and he was gone. It was not just the results but also the performances. Everton were trying to play like Barcelona with players who were more suited with being at Stoke.

Interestingly his replacement, Ronald Koeman has re-addressed the balance at Everton finished a solid 7uth last year.

Martinez is now manager of a very talented Belgium squad, who he has led to World Cup qualification – the first European side to be in the hat for Russia 2018 (bar the hosts). It will be interesting to see if he can complete his rehabilitation by taking Belgium’s Golden Generation all the way.

And lastly we get to Frank de Boer.

Many Arsenal fans wanted him when he was at Ajax. Partly to do with Dennis Bergkamp being involved as his assistant manager.

de Boer led Ajax to 4 consecutive Eredivisie titles, breaking a 7 year drought. Ajax have also failed to win the Dutch league title since he left. But it was a record in an inferior league. Like Brendan Rodgers in Scotland. Does it really count? Possibly not.

He went to Inter Milan in Italy, where he last 85 days before being sacked on 1st November 2016. At the time he claimed he “needed more time” in order to make a mark as manager.

A few months in the wilderness where he linked himself to many Premier League jobs, but ultimately failing to get beyond the interview stage, he eventually got himself a job at Crystal Palace.

His 85 days at Inter was beaten by his 77 days at Crystal Palace.

In hindsight, he was probably the wrong man for the Palace job.

They wanted him to change their style from a defensive, counter attacking to a possession based game. But the wish was to change tactics but without investment, using the same players who had been at the club for years. They wanted him to teach old dogs new tricks.

When Arsene Wenger came to Arsenal, he did not overly change the style of play of the club. It was still based on a solid defence, and pace upfront. It was not until his second generation of players, led by the likes of Theirry Henry and Robert Pires, when Arsenal started to play a more attacking style.

Palace seemed to demand change, but did not give him the resources for change.

He was further hampered by their two best players from last year – Sakho (unsigned) and Zaha 9injured) – being out.

After 4 games and 0 goals, Palace did the brave thing and realised that de Boer was the wrong appointment for them, Rather than battle through and risk being cut adrift before the clocks go back, de Boer was dumped.

In 2013, Arsenal had gone 8 years without a trophy. Arsene Wenger was entering the last year of his contract. Since that time, 4 of the names linked with replacing him have failed to win a trophy, have struggled at jobs big and small. In that time, Arsenal have added 3 FA Cups to the trophy cabinet.

Whilst Wenger’s time at the club is really up .The journeys of Klopp, Moyes, Martinez and de Boer over the last 4 years show just how hard it is to get your managerial appoint right.

Changing manager is no guarantee of success. And Arsenal fans need to realise that. The years of managers being in charge for 5 years, yet alone 25 years, have gone. When a man does come in to replace Wenger, it will feel like a breathe of fresh air. Until he loses that first game of the season.

I want a new manager at Arsenal .The majority of us do. But a change of manager will not guarantee a change of fortunes.

What started as a mini blog has ended up over 1,000 words as I babbled on. Sorry about that, and up The Arsenal.


Who would Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain start central midfield for?

So Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has turned down a move to Chelsea.

According to the BBC;

Oxlade-Chamberlain believes the Blues planned to use him at wing-back, and his primary reason for wanting to leave Arsenal is to play in central midfield.

This backs up the thinking that I have had all along with Oxlade-Chamberlain, that he thinks he is a better player than he is. That he sees himself as an action man central midfielder at the highest level. He has delusions of grandeur.

He is not good enough to play central midfield for Arsenal, so what makes him think he can play their for Chelsea? In fact, going through the top sides, who would he play central midfield for?

Oxlade-Chamberlain is not a central midfield, so the reality is there are 3 positions he could play. Box to box, attacking midfield, or as a winger.

Would he get into any top sides playing this position?


Box to Box – Recently signed Tiémoué Bakayoko will partner N’Golo Kante in central midfield, with Cesc Fabregas backing them up.

Attacking Midfield / Winger – Eden Hazard, Pedro & Willian.

Chelsea might not have many options in their dangerously thin skin, but the options they do have are all better than Oxlade-Chamberlain. He would provide good cover for Bakayoko, Fabregas, Hazard, Pedro & Willian, but, like at Arsenal, he will find himself at right wing back, then back up for positions further forward.


Box to Box – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has a very similar style of play to Mousa Dembélé, but is not as good.

Attacking Midfield / Winger – Christian Erickson and Dele Alli are guaranteed starters. Son Heung-min and Moussa Sissoko are options for the other wing if Spurs play 4 at the back. They are a similar level to Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Oxlade-Chamberlain might get a chance to play for Spurs if they play 4 at the back, but the favoured formation at the moment is 3 at the back. That leaves Oxlade-Chamberlain in the same position as at Arsenal, playing right wing back.

Manchester City

Box to Box – Central midfield options of Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, İlkay Gündoğan, Fabian Delph and the option of playing Kevin De Bruyne deeper.

Attacking Midfield / Winger – The aforementioned Kevin De Bruyne, plus David Silva, Bernard Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus.

Manchester City have an abundance of options in midfield and attack. Oxlade-Chamberlain would not even get into their 2nd team


Box to Box – Georginio Wijnaldum is the type of player Oxlade-Chamberlain could become, but the Dutchman is better. Chuck in Emre Can and Oxlade-Chamberlain would be 3rd choice. They have also just spent a world record fee on Naby Keïta, due to join next season.

Attacking Midfield / Winger – Even without Coutinho, Liverpool had enough going forward to destroy Arsenal at the weekend. Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were electric on the wings. Add in Adam Lallana.

The side Oxlade-Chamberlain wants to play for. But do they even want him? They are also targeting Thomas Lemar. They have better options in their squad, and better options set to sign.