West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Arsenal: Perfect Away Performance

Photo Credit: Getty Images

This may seem like an utterly bizarre thing to say after a seemingly ho-hum 1-0 win away against a bottom-end Midlands club, but this was one of the more heartening Arsenal performances that I've seen in ages.

Let me explain - I talked a bit in the Dortmund report about how much more solid we looked with our new shape and mentality. We protected the defense much better, and more intelligently used our resources to attack only when appropriate. However, it's one thing to do that when you're playing against a team with a dazzling array of offensive weapons. It's quite another to do it against the sort of team that, historically, we've been guilty of treating too arrogantly. You know, just turn up and we'll win.

Instead, Arsenal again stuck to the plan and a few wobbles aside, again looked solid and compact. It didn't always get the adrenaline pumping, but for me it's the perfect approach to these sorts of matches. Stay disciplined, don't beat yourself with preventable mistakes, and allow your superior talent to win the day in the end.

That increased solidity was greatly assisted by the return of Laurent Koscielny, a sight for sore eyes if there ever was one. So much of what he does flies under the radar - a calm interception here, an assured clearance when the ball is pinballing around the area there.

Interestingly, Kieran Gibbs was benched in favor of Nacho Monreal after his horror-show against Manchester United. Accountability doesn't occur often enough with this lot for my liking, so it was nice to see. However, he did do well when pressed into emergency duty after the Spaniard limped off with our 10,928,927,028th injury of the season.

The back four, screened well by Mathieu Flamini, allowed our attacking players to test the West Brom defenders often. It was immediately obvious that Danny Welbeck and Santi Cazorla were our main threats on the day. Olivier Giroud is clearly still shaking off the rust after his long injury, and Alexis Sanchez was only ever on the periphery of this one (that's not a criticism though - he must be knackered after carrying us on his back for months at a time).

That connection fashioned their first chance in the 11th minute, Welbeck's lay-off at the top of the area ending with a Cazorla shot that the defender did well to block. They combined at the half-hour again, this time the Spaniard's effort was weak and easily saved. Just before it, Aaron Ramsey got into the fun, his long home run pass to Welbeck leading to our best chance of the half. Sadly, Ben Foster was off his line in a flash to cut off the angle and save well.

Perhaps that passage makes it sound like West Brom were continually being cut to ribbons, but that wasn't necessarily the case. They were fairly solid, and Arsenal found it hard work to get through their massed ranks.

Giroud almost grabbed us the lead though after a moment of madness by Foster. Much like the Southampton game last year where Artur Boruc tried an ill-advised Cryuff turn in his own area, Foster was guilty of the same lunacy here. As was the case last year, Giroud busted a gut to close him down and fashion a chance, but this time he was sadly at too tight an angle to make him pay. I love the work ethic there, though.

Youssouf Mulumbu was the next to almost gift-wrap us a lead. He won the ball off of one of our guys, but then decided to hold on to it for roughly a Presidental administration. The ball bobbled out to the feet of Ramsey, who put his shot just wide of the post.

I didn't feel any frustration as these half-chances were spurned, though. The goal was always coming.

Finally, on the hour mark, Welbeck got the goal that he so richly deserved. Down the left wing, Cazorla brilliantly knocked the ball past Andre Wisdom, and torched him for pace to win it back. He curled a wonderful cross back to the edge of the six-yard box, which should have been dealt with by one of the center-halves. Instead, Welbeck was able to win the header against the left back, Sebastian Pocognoli. He easily beat the Belgian and thumped a header goalwards, but Foster absolutely should have done better. He could only claw it into the roof of the net, giving us the only goal we'd need.

To their credit, the home side were much better once Victor Anichebe came on as a sub. Suddenly, their attacks had more muscle behind them, and they were able to hold on to the ball long enough to give our defenders some problems. Saido Berahino had a free header go off the crossbar, and Craig Gardner's long-range tracer sailed wide of the far post after Anichebe had won a key header in our penalty area.

Arsenal survived those half-chances though, and held on to leave the Hawthorns with three vital points. As I said in the Dortmund report, we are still a long way from where we need to be, but the only way we'll get there is to take it one step at a time (*dusts off the cliche-o-meter*). I continue to love this new approach that we've taken tactically, and as long as we stick to it I think the results will be more positive than they have been this season. We have the horses, it was only ever a matter of deploying them properly.

We'll learn a lot in the next week, though. Southampton lurks in mid-week, and then it's a trip to the Potteries to play Stoke City at the Britannia. If we get out of that with four or even six points, we might just be able to get that 4th-place trophy again after all.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Martinez 7, Monreal 7 (Gibbs 7), Koscielny 8, Mertesacker 7, Chambers 7,  Ramsey 8, Flamini 7, Welbeck 8, Cazorla 8, Sanchez 7, Giroud 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 7)

Man of the Match: It has to be Danny Welbeck. He may have had two were it not for a great bit of goalkeeping by Foster, but either way he popped up with the winner when we needed it. You can't ask for anything more from a striker.

Preview by Numbers: West Bromwich Albion v. Arsenal

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
Saturday, November 29
7:45 a.m. EST, 12:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Chris Foy
    • Assistants: Mike McDonough and Constantine Hatzidakis
    • 4th Official: Neil Swarbrick
  • This Match, Last Year: West Brom 1 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 66 Arsenal wins, 36 West Brom wins, 31 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-D-W-W-L-L
  • West Brom's League Form: L-D-D-W-L-L
Per Mertesacker hugging Yaya Sanogo is the tallest,
gangliest thing ever.
Just what the doctor ordered, eh?

Arsenal's performance against Dortmund on Wednesday ticked off a lot of boxes: clean sheet, composed attitude, and stout defending. They got an early goal from an unlikely source and never looked back. For their efforts, Arsenal are through to the knockout phase for the 15th consecutive year, which is not too shabby. Sure, it seems unlikely they'll win the group, but we all know that if Arsenal did finish first, they'd get drawn against whoever comes in second between PSG and Barcelona.

It's a quick switching of gears, however; Wednesday night Champions League into Saturday's early morning kick-off is the quickest turnaround possible. If this were a normal season, I'd spend this preview talking about rotation in the squad, especially with a midweek league fixture against Southampton on the horizon. But, with the club struggling for victories, you can't shake up too much.

It's also hard to rotate by choice when you've got...

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Arteta (calf,) Sanogo (hamstring,) Szczesny (dead leg,) Wilshere (ankle,) Ospina (thigh,) Ozil (knee,) Debuchy (ankle)
Doubts: Walcott (groin,) Welbeck (hamstring,) Koscielny (Achilles)

Arsenal lost Arteta and Sanogo through injury on Wednesday.
Maybe we could go a match without losing two players to
injury soon?
...all these injuries!

We learned yesterday that Jack Wilshere will be out for three months after ankle surgery. Mikel Arteta will be out for a while, probably into January, after the calf injury he picked up on Wednesday and super goal scorer Yaya Sanogo limped off with a hamstring problem of his own.

Up top, Olivier Giroud is available in this competition, though if Danny Welbeck is fit to start, I think he's the better bet; the Frenchman does not likely have the match fitness required yet. In the midfield, injuries have essentially forced Arsene Wenger's hand. Among the five, it looks like it'll have to be Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Santi Cazorla.

In the back line, Laurent Koscielny made the bench on Wednesday; is he ready to start yet? As for in between the posts, is Wojciech Szczesny ready to return from his hip/dead leg problem? I don't really have answers to these questions; so I'll go the safe route and assume they're both no.

Predicted XI: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini, Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis, Welbeck.

West Brom Squad News

Out: Olsson (ankle,) Varela (groin)
Doubts: Pocognoli (hamstring)
Suspended: Yacob (first of three, serious foul)

Yacob was shown his marching orders for being near Diego
Alan Irvine will be without holding midfielder Claudio Yacob after he was shown a straight red card against Chelsea last weekend; this works out to be good news for Arsenal, because Yacob was dominant in this fixture at the Hawthorns last year and had West Brom's goal. He'll likely be replaced in the starting lineup by James Morrison, which would mean only one change from the XI that started at Stamford Bridge.

The Baggies will also be without Jonas Olsson with an ankle injuree and Silvestre Varela, on loan from Porto, who has been out after groin surgery. Sebastien Pocognoli is a doubt at left back with a hamstring problem.

Predicted XI: Foster, Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Baird, Gardner, Morrison, Dorrans, Brunt, Sessegnon, Berahino.

League Form

Arsenal's 2-1 loss to Chelsea in the snow in 2013 was the
last time, before this month, that Arsenal lost two straight
in the Premier League.
Arsenal bounced back in Europe on Wednesday, but they still have lost consecutive league matches for the first time since January of 2013, when they lost to Manchester City and Chelsea. Arsenal finished fourth that season despite being as low as 10th in the table on December 1st (sounds like this year!) Arsenal have not lost three straight Premier League matches since January of 2012, when they lost to Fulham, Swansea, and Manchester United (some striking similarities to this streak, no?)

West Brom have won just once in their last seven matches and crashed out of the League Cup to AFC Bournemouth in the meantime. Things were looking good for the Baggies for a while; they were 10th at the end of September, then lost 2-1 at Anfield. They followed that up with draws against Manchester United and Crystal Palace. A 1-0 win over Leicester brought West Brom back up to 10th. They have since lost two matches by 2-0 margins, to Newcastle United and Chelsea. The Baggies have gone three home games since winning, as well, since a 4-0 win over Burnley. They are now just three points clear of the relegation zone, despite a seemingly safe positioning of 13th in the table.

Match Facts

Both goal scorers from this match last year will be
unavailable in tomorrow's match.
In 2010/11, West Brom got away with facing Manuel Almunia twice and took four out of a possible six points from the Gunners. Since then, Arsenal have won five of their six league meetings and the Gunners are unbeaten in their last seven league games against the Baggies. This fixture last year, however, ended level at 1-1 with Jack Wilshere equalizing after Claudio Yacob's opener. They won the reverse fixture at the Emirates 1-0 in May, which was a thoroughly boring encounter. Arsenal also knocked West Brom out of last year's League Cup on penalties.

Of course, we can't talk about Arsenal at the Hawthorns and not mention the final day of the 2011/12 season, in which Marton Fulop's follies aided Arsenal to a 3-2 win and a third place finish. West Brom's last win over Arsenal at home came in October of 2005.

The Referee

I'm sure I've used this photo before...
The referee is Merseyside-based Chris Foy. Arsenal have not seen Foy since last October, when he sent off Mikel Arteta for a questionable last man foul closer to the halfway line. I'm not sure, at that distance, how you're denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity when it's Marouane Chamakh with the ball. Arsenal won that match anyway, by a 2-0 margin.

West Brom have not seen Foy yet this season either; they lost all three matches with Foy in the middle last year. They lost 3-2 to Manchester City in December, 3-1 to Crystal Palace in February, and 2-0 to Hull City in March. You would have to go back to Boxing Day of 2012 to find West Brom's last win with Chris Foy, but that fact was also true of Manchester United and last week's referee Mike Dean and we all remember how that turned out.

Foy has shown four red cards in just nine matches this season, tying him with Jonathan Moss for most reds per game.

Around the League

Here's a photo from the last Burnley v. Aston Villa match.
Saturday: Burnley v. Aston Villa (Turf Moor, Burnley)
Claret and blue alert! Aston Villa are coming off stealing a point from Southampton, while Burnley have won two straight. Seriously, Burnley have won two straight, I'm not kidding. Look it up.

Saturday: Liverpool v. Stoke City (Anfield, Liverpool)
12th place Liverpool hosts 11th place Stoke at Anfield. The Reds had lost four straight across all competitions, then drew in Bulgaria on Wednesday. They've lost three straight in the league. Stoke, on the other hand, are coming off a loss to Burnley at home.

Saturday: Manchester United v. Hull City (Old Trafford, Manchester)
Manchester United believe they can win the league now, after winning at the Emirates last weekend. This week, they host a Hull side that has gone five matches without a win, losing three since drawing Arsenal and Liverpool.

Saturday: Queens Park Rangers v. Leicester City (Loftus Road, London)
Six-pointer! Last place QPR hosts 18th place Leicester in a game that can only be described as "on this Saturday."

Saturday: Swansea City v. Crystal Palace (Liberty Stadium, Swansea)
Swansea's loss to Manchester City last weekend has dropped them to 7th in the table. They'll host a Crystal Palace side that beat Liverpool at Selhurst Park on Sunday, helping them to climb to 15th.

Saturday: West Ham United v. Newcastle United (Boleyn Ground, London)
It's sixth place West Ham hosting fifth place Newcastle! The Toon have won five straight after not winning any of their first seven. The Hammers have hit a bump in the road, however. They are now three without a win, though last week's loss at Everton was their first league loss since September.

Is it too much to ask Sunderland to snap another annoying
Chelsea unbeaten run?
Saturday (late): Sunderland v. Chelsea (Stadium of Light, Sunderland)
Sunderland are the last Premier League team to experience victory over Chelsea, after they snapped Jose Mourinho's home unbeaten streak on April 19. I think it would be delightful if the Black Cats could do it again; they're unbeaten in three themselves. Remember when United went unbeaten into February in 2010/11? Their first loss was at Wolves.

Sunday (early): Southampton v. Manchester City (St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton)
Southampton rescued a point from a trap game at Aston Villa on Monday; they had won eight of their last nine before that. The Saints are now just two points clear of second place Manchester City. This period marks a stern test for the Saints: they face Arsenal on Wednesday, then Manchester United the following weekend.

Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Everton (White Hart Lane, London)
Spurs found a way to win late against Hull last weekend, but it was another match where they benefited from an opponent's red card. Spurs, Everton, and Arsenal are now all even at 17 points.

John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and not at all a shape-shifting space lizard. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat, which he'd appreciate, because today is his birthday.

Arsenal 2-0 Borussia Dortmund: Now, THAT Was Much Better

 Photo: Wired Photos

I'll be honest - I thought that we were going to get eviscerated in this one, despite Jurgen Klopp's pre-match comments about how they were treating this as a holiday. But, after getting blitzed for an early goal by Yaya Sanogo (!!!), the Gunners utilized a much better gameplan to see off a bizarrely passive Dortmund side.

The inclusion of the young Frenchman was the main talking point from the starting XI, and you have to admit that it paid off in spades for Arsene. The match was less than two minutes old when we won a throw-in in their half. Chambers hurled it in to Sanogo in the penalty area. He did well to hold off the ball, even with a spot of juggling in there. He found Santi Cazorla trailing the play, and the Germans opted for the primary school defensive tactic of "everyone swarm to the ball". Santi stayed calm despite five or six defenders converging on him, and played it back in to Sanogo. The angle was tough, but he took advantage of Roman Weidenfeller being slow to come off his line to nutmeg him for his first senior goal.

What a weight must be off the back of that kid today, huh?

Still, the lad is far from the finished product, as evidenced in the 9th minute when he could have put us 2-0 up. The visitors were pressed far up the field, but Aaron Ramsey shredded them with a wonderful long pass. Sanogo beat the offside trap and could have been in alone on Weidenfeller, but he opted for some reason to casually stroll forward as if on a Sunday ramble. The defense were able to come back and clear the danger, when we should have had a shot on target at bare minimum.

As for Dortmund, they just never could get going. Other than one chance that we'll get to in a second, the only other half-opportunity I can recall was one excellent cross by Lukasz Piszczek that Ciro Immobile just barely missed getting on the end of. Part of that was definitely down to the odd lack of urgency that they had, but I'd say the majority of it can be attributed to a massive change in how Arsenal set themselves up.

I wish I knew if this change was at Arsene's behest or if the players decided to up and do it themselves, but on the whole we sat a lot deeper, played off the counter and took advantage of their mistakes when that happened. Frankly, this is how we should play in EVERY GAME from now on. We looked solid, compact, and protected those squad members who may not be the best in their position (cough cough Nacho Monreal cough cough).

For their part, I think Dortmund had no idea what to do with this new-look Arsenal setup. Right around the half-hour, Cazorla clowned Immobile on the right wing with a dazzling array of dribbling skills, then put in a scorching cross that was just about dealt with by the Dortmund defense. The warning signs were there, though...another goal was coming.

How different might it have been were it not for our stand-in keeper Damian Martinez, though. The one time Arsenal fell asleep was a few minutes before the interval. Henrikh Mkhitaryan snuck in at the back post and looked certain to score. However, Martinez flashed out a leg at his near post, one of those saves that doesn't look flashy but is 5000 times more difficult to make than most of those flying-through-the-air ones. I cannot stress enough how brilliant of a save that was at a massively crucial moment.

One would surmise that Klopp tore into his charges during the halftime break - but, if he did, it didn't reflect in their play at all. They still probed forward every now and then, but Arsenal stuck to the plan and hit back hard on the counter when it was appropriate. Many of those chances came from long balls, of all things, not the least of them in the 54th minute when only the crossbar spared Dortmund's blushes. On that occasion, it was the fantastic Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who took the ball down and lashed a dipping half-volley off of the woodwork. It's a bit of a shame, as his direct running and excellent midfield play deserved a goal.

Still, it did show just how oddly passive the opposition were on the day. As the long ball came in, Matthias Ginter stood miles off him, allowing him to kill the ball out of the air and set up his shot. The rest of the defense didn't do much to close him down, either.

As great as the Ox is though, there is a vast amount of difference between failing to close him down and failing to close down Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean Assassin had a bit of a quiet game by his standards up until that point, but a guy like him only needs 1/10th of a chance to end you. Another Arsenal counter saw Cazorla in absolute acres in the middle of the park. He sent it out to the left, where Alexis lurked. The pass wasn't perfect, but again, the Dortmund defense were pensive, no one taking responsibility to shut the play down. Sanchez simply looked up, picked his shot, and lashed an unstoppable curler around Weidenfeller and into the far corner.

From there, the game petered out as Dortmund seemed to accept defeat, while Arsenal were determined to stay within themselves and not give the visitors any hint of a chance back into the match. I seriously cannot stress this enough - this was a composed, professional performance on both sides of the ball by this Arsenal team. By my reckoning, it's the first one against a team that can (theoretically) fight back all season long.

So, where does this leave us? We're through to the knockout stages of the Champions League...frankly the bare minimum given the context of this group. Finishing first is now not out of the question, though Dortmund may unleash the hounds against Anderlecht on Matchday 6 more than they did here.

More importantly though, have some hard lessons truly been learned about how this particular version of the team needs to be deployed and how they need to play. My god, I hope so. Even with the last 30 minutes of this one resembling a Serie A mismatch at times, I still found that 100000000 times more fun to watch than the last few instances of us making the same mistakes over and over again.

It's a start. Now, let's ensure it continues.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Martinez 8, Gibbs 7, Monreal 7, Mertesacker 7, Chambers 7, Arteta 7 (Flamini 7), Sanchez 8, Ramsey 7, Cazorla 9, Oxlade-Chamberlain 8 (Campbell N/A), Sanogo 8 (Podolski N/A)

Man of the Match:  Sure, other guys got the goals. And, Martinez deserves a shout for how well he played on the day. But, for me it's the two-assist man, Santi Cazorla. He's been up and down this season so far, but this was his best performance in quite some time.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Borussia Dortmund, Champions League Group Matchday 5

Emirates Stadium, London
Wednesday, November 26
2:45 p.m. EST, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Viktor Kassai
    • Assistants: Gyorgy Ring and Vencel Toth
    • 4th Official: Robert Kispal
    • Additional Assistants: Tamas Bognar amd Mihaly Fabian
  • Reverse Fixture: Dortmund 2 - 0 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 3 Arsenal wins, 3 Dortmund wins, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's European Form: D-W-L-W-W-D
  • Dortmund's European Form: L-W // W-W-W-W
When you search for "draw
and tie," you get drawings of ties.
For future reference...
Pursuant to this section from last weekend's preview: yes, I would absolutely take a draw from this match.


Please, can we have a draw? I'm pretty sure we'd both be through to the knockout phase with a draw.

Please, please, please.

*looks up German word for please*

It's bitte? Bitte means everything...

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Giroud (registration,) Szczesny (dead leg,) Wilshere (ankle,) Walcott (groin,) Ospina (thigh,) Ozil (knee,) Debuchy (ankle)
Doubts: Welbeck (hamstring,) Koscielny (Achilles)

I call this pose "the Arsenal."
Okay, where do I start? How about Olivier Giroud? Isn't it great that we have Olivier Giroud back? Wasn't his goal against United a beauty, even if it was too little too late?

What's that?

Oh, he's not available.

You see, when Arsenal thought that Giroud would be out until the end of December with his broken tibia, they decided to leave him off their European registration list to make room for an extra player who, you know, wasn't injured. It made sense, but now that Giroud is back faster than expected, well, that doesn't change the fact that he's not on the list. He's unavailable tonight and on matchday six in Turkey.

And now it turns out that Danny Welbeck didn't train yesterday with a hamstring problem! Well that's just great! It's a recurrence of the injury he picked up with the England squad. Theo Walcott didn't train either with his groin problem. Wojciech Szczesny is out too. At least Welbeck is supposedly in the 18-man squad.

As for Jack Wilshere, well, there could be ligament damage after the horrendous challenge he took on Saturday; he might be out for two months at worst. He has to "see a specialist" and that's never good. As Arseblog pointed out yesterday, he'd be back faster if he got sent off for the headbutt on Marouane Fellaini, stayed healthy, and got suspended three matches. I mean, Arsenal lost the match anyway. Also, he'd have been available tonight.

So, is there any good news? Well, Laurent Koscielny is back in training. Apparently he'll be in the 18-man squad, too. That's something!

Dear God, help us...

Predicted XI: Martinez, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Alexis, Welbeck.

Dortmund Squad News

Out: Reus (ankle, Hummels (ankle,) Sokratis (calf)
Doubts: Bender (hip,) Kirch (thigh,) Blaszczykowski (thigh,) Sahin (knee,) Schmelzer (match fitness)

Dortmund players love selfies just as much as Arsenal.
Pictured here are BVB's not-injured goal scoring threats.
When Arsenal faced Dortmund on matchday one, I remarked that it was one of the only times Arsenal's opponent had a longer injury section than they did. That was probably also true last weekend against Manchester United. Of course, Arsenal lost both matches.

So, maybe it's good news that most of Dortmund's injuries have moved from "out" to "doubtful." The biggest injury is the new one to Marco Reus, who is out until at least the new year with ligament damage in his ankle (or, as I call it, the "Jack Wilshere.")

As many as eight first team players might miss out for Dortmund. Sven Bender missed Saturday's draw with Paderborn with a hip injury. Sokratis has not played since he picked up a calf injury against Monchengladbach before the international break. Mats Hummels resumed full training during the international break; the center back has been out since the first of the month with an ankle problem. Jakub Błaszczykowski also returned to training during the break; he's been out since September since a thigh injury suffered while on his way back from a knee injury suffered in January.

I believe Hummels and Sokratis did not make the trip to London; Sven Bender did. In terms of the long-term injured, Oliver Kirch (thigh) and former Arsenal loan-target Nuri Sahin (knee) both played a friendly against Dortmund's reserve squad during the last break. Both traveled with the club, but haven't played a competitive match for a while, so I doubt they'd start. Marcel Schmelzer, still on a long road back from multiple injuries, traveled with the team as well but may not be fit to start.

In bad news for Arsenal, Dortmund have no injury concerns on the attacking front, at least in terms of their potentially lethal strikers.

Predicted XI: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Ginter, Subotic, Durm, Kehl, Gundogan, Kagawa, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Immobile.

Current Form

My search for images from Saturday's match were
dominated by Reus on a stretcher.
If I told you a team took a 2-0 lead before halftime against a recently promoted side, then told you that that team proceeded to have its star midfielder get hurt before they blew the lead and drew 2-2, you could probably assume I was talking about Arsenal, right? Well, that's exactly what happened to Dortmund on Saturday at Paderborn. You probably could've guessed that, since I already talked about Reus's injury.

Dortmund are now, astonishingly, 16th in the Bundesliga, with 11 points from 12 games. They are 19 points off table-topping Bayern Munich. However, that disastrous run of form has not carried over to Europe, where they've won five on the bounce going back to last year. It seems that clubs in Germany match up well against Dortmund, in terms of stifling Der BVB's strengths; on the other hand, the other clubs in Group D, Arsenal included, seem to fall right into Dortmund's strengths.

Arsenal have lost two straight now for the first time since last December; they are without a win in three for the first time since, well... September.

Match Facts

I call this pose "the Arsenal."
What do you mean I did that already?
Arsenal will look to get some measure of revenge after Dortmund annihilated them on matchday one; the scoreline was 2-0, but the match was not that close. Dortmund outshot Arsenal 23 to 5; the Germans had seven shots on target to Arsenal's one.

When these two clubs met in the Champions League group stage last year, the visitors won both matches. At the Emirates, Robert Lewandowski punished Arsenal as they pressed for a winner, burning the Gunners on the counterattack in the 82nd minute to give the visitors a 2-1 victory. Arsenal later won 1-0 in Germany via Aaron Ramsey.

In 2011, Dortmund came from behind to draw 1-1 with the Gunners in Germany on matchday one. Arsenal won at the Emirates 2-1 on matchday five. The clubs' previous meetings in the group stage came in 2002, as Arsenal won 2-0 at Highbury and Dortmund won 2-1 in Germany, through two goals from a young Tomas Rosicky.

Arsenal have a poor record at home against German competition over the last three seasons, losing to Bayern Munich twice, Borussia Dortmund once, and Schalke once. Their last result over a German side at home was against Dortmund in 2011, 2-1 on matchday five, as noted in the last paragraph.

The Referee

"Oh yeah? Well, can you do this with your hand?"
The match officials are from Hungary; the referee is Viktor Kassai. Arsenal have an abysmal record in matches with Kassai in the middle, to the tune of three losses in three matches. They lost 2-0 at Braga on matchday five in 2010, then 4-0 at AC Milan in the round of 16 in 2012, then 2-0 at Napoli on matchday six last year. Most of those matches included terrible calls going against the Gunners, including Mikel Arteta's controversial sending off from the match in Italy last December. Borussia Dortmund have had Kassai only once, for a 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the 2012 group stage.

Kassai, despite what Arsenal have seen from him, is one of Europe's top referees and has worked a large number of big matches in his career, including the 2008 Olympic gold medal game (where Argentina beat Nigeria,) a 2010 World Cup semi-final (where Spain beat Germany,) and the 2011 Champions League Final (where Barcelona beat Manchester United.)

Around Europe

Aguero's first of three, when it all looked like it'd be easy...
Tuesday - Group E: In Russia, Roma's 1-1 draw with CSKA Moscow in the early game did Manchester City a huge favor in their hopes to climb out of the group's basement. Then, everything got all bonkers at the Etihad. City led 1-0 through a penalty and red card and everything looked brilliant for the English side. Then, Bayern Munich scored twice before halftime, 10-men and all, to lead 2-1 for most of the way. Then, Sergio Aguero scored twice in the final minutes of the game to give City a ridiculous win. The result leaves City, Moscow, and Roma all on five points with one game to play. City will play in Rome, while Moscow travels to Munich.

Tuesday - Group F: Even before Tuesday's matches began, Paris St. Germain and Barcelona had qualified for the knockout phases. But, just for good measure, Lionel Messi decided to grab a hat trick as Barcelona crushed APOEL. And, just to be sure, PSG beat Ajax in France as well to stay top of the group. Ajax and APOEL will now battle for third in the Netherlands on matchday six while Barcelona will try to climb to the top spot against PSG at Camp Nou.

Tuesday - Group G: In Germany, Chelsea decided to show Schalke how many Premier League teams have felt of late, coasting into the knockout phase with a 5-0 thrashing of the home side. Sporting's 3-1 win over Maribor gives them a two point lead on Schalke for second in the group, but they'll travel to Stamford Bridge on matchday six for Chelsea's dead rubber.

Tuesday - Group H: Both Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk have qualified for the last 16 of the tournament; the Portuguese side ran out 3-0 winners against BATE Borisov in Belarus while Athletic Bilbao picked up a surprise 1-0 win in Ukraine, clinching the group for Porto.

Wednesday - Group A: Atletico Madrid have three wins and a loss in their group, but tonight face the side that beat them, second place Olympiacos, in Spain. Juventus currently sit third due to the tie-breaker with the Greeks; they visit Malmo in Sweden.

Liverpool are in danger, having dropped consecutive matches
to group leader Real Madrid.
Wednesday - Group B: Real Madrid are running away with this group, six points clear of their opponent, second place Basel; the Spanish side can lock up the group with a win in Switzerland tonight. Such a result would help Liverpool, who are three points back of Basel as they travel to Bulgaria to face Ludogorets Razgrad, who nearly stole a point from Anfield on matchday one.

Wednesday - Group C: Bayer Leverkusen is four points clear at the top of the group as they host second place Monaco in North Rhine-Westphalia. Meanwhile, Zenit St. Petersburg and Benfica are both one point behind the French side for second; they'll meet earlier in Russia, which could put Monaco under even more pressure. Unless they draw.

Wednesday - Group D: The other match in Arsenal's group sees Anderlecht hosting Galatasaray in Belgium. The hosts will no doubt be buoyed by their comeback in London. An Anderlecht win combined with a Dortmund win in London would mean that on matchday six, Anderlecht would host a Dortmund side that has already won the group. If Anderlecht wins in that scenario, then Arsenal would need at least a point from their trip to Turkey. So let's hope Anderlecht and Galatasaray draw, which would guarantee second place for Arsenal.

John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and the secret sixth member of the '80s pop group Duran Duran. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat, because "zorro" means fox and "cat" means cat.

Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Man, I love that shrug emoticon. It fits so many situations, not least this one.

Given that I had predicted a 4-2 loss before the match started, I suppose there is some solace in the idea of only losing by 50% of that scoreline. Look, at the end of the day, if you're looking for a fiery condemnation of this match, you're not going to find it here. I'm so far past anger, I had to show my passport at customs on my way through to acceptance. At this point, I understand fully what we are - a mediocre team with a horrendous manager, one that is staring 6th or 7th place dead in the eyes.

Sure, it is galling that I have to feel this way when we're talking about unquestionably the worst Manchester United team in 20 years. There's almost an "achievement unlocked" aspect of finding a way to lose at home to a team that ended up with a defense including Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia at fullback, with Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett (fetuses both) in central defense. But, when it comes down to it, I at this point always expect an Arsene Wenger-managed team to find new and innovative ways to fail when the chips are down.

That said, don't get the wrong idea. I'm not bagging on the players at all. Right from the opening whistle, the Arsenal players pressed United's creaking backline like their lives depended on it, often forcing them into mistakes. David De Gea on several occasions gifted possession back to Arsenal with horrendous kicking errors, and Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in particular harried and hassled United players like demons.

Really, it could have been different were it not for De Gea's brilliance, and were it not for some suspect finishing from the Arsenal. Perhaps Roy Hodgson is onto something playing Wilshere at the base of a midfield diamond, especially given that he sure isn't a finisher. For whatever reason, all of our best moves ended up with Wilshere on the end of it, and De Gea repelled him each time. It has to be said, given that the guy had a dislocated finger from international duty, his goalkeeping was brave and determined. He caught and held so many shots, his positioning was so good...frankly, he got his team out of jail today.

As it was, he simply had to be good for the first half, when Arsenal were excellent for 90% of the way up the field. Once that petered itself out, we shot ourselves in the foot as we have so often before.

In the interim before the halftime break, Wilshere was hacked down in the penalty area by one of their lot, which you'll be stunned to know ended up with Mike Dean not giving the spot kick. Maybe this would have been different had the ref not been an inept shithead, but then again, scorpion and the frog and all that. However, fair's fair, he did display some sensible officiating when Wilshere got up in Marouane Fellaini's face for being a diving cheating bastard.

But, again we got rogered pretty bad by Dean when he failed to send McNair off (or even punish him at all) for a horrendous tackle on Wilshere that ended up causing him to be subbed off. It was studs up from behind, and any competent referee would have sent McNair packing.

Oh well...when things are going horseshit, they're going horseshit.

Of course, soon after, United took a lead they absolutely did not deserve. On one of their rare forays upfield, a cross came in that was Wojciech Szczesny's to deal with all day. I don't know if he called Kieran Gibbs off or not, but either way the defender should always have left that for him. Unfortunately, he clattered into the keeper like an absolute idiot, ended up on the ground, and somehow contrived to stick a leg out and deflect an otherwise-harmless ball from Valencia into his own net.

DEFENDERS, STOP DOING THIS. I swear, every time a defender tries this in desperation at any level, Premier League to Sunday League, they should be caned like they do in Singapore for spitting on the street.

Damian Martinez had to come on for the injured Szczesny, to go along with the dreadful Santi Cazorla (seriously, what's happened to him?) on for the previously-injured Wilshere. That limited the options of Tactically Inept Manager to some extent, but he did do well to throw on Olivier Giroud later on into proceedings. He almost scored with a header right away, and it looked like we might get back into it.

Unfortunately, Tactically Inept Manager struck again. It was the 83rd minute, and we knew that with all of the injuries and Manchester United time-wasting going on, there'd be between 6 and 10 minutes of injury time to go. By this point, United were parking a fleet of buses in their own penalty area. Anyone with half a brain knows that this is not panic-stations time yet. Needless to say, we had 9 men in the visitors' half, they broke on a two-on-one, and Wayne Rooney made no mistake.

How costly that would soon prove to be.

There was a hilarious miss from Angel Di Maria on a similar situation to Rooney's (Martinez did fantastically well to come out and cut off the angle, it has to be said), but soon after Giroud hammered home a thunderbastard to De Gea's near post. Despite getting a hand to it, the Spaniard was blameless on that one - it was hit at Mach 8 and his defense left him out to dry there.

But, that displays just how tactically inept that Tactically Inept Manager is. Had we not gone in overload mode so early, that just might have made it 1-1 instead of 1-2.

Anyway, United managed to see out the last few minutes, and that was that.

Still, how can you be mad at this point? As currently constituted, and much more importantly, as we're currently managed, this is what we are. We are SO the 6th or 7th best team in England, and that's about where we're going to finish.

As I was saying to some friends earlier tonight - when you already have a statue of yourself outside the ground while you're still in your current job, that is pretty much the dictionary definition of not accountable.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7 (Martinez 7), Gibbs 3, Monreal 8, Mertesacker 7, Chambers 7, Arteta 7, Wilshere 8 (Cazorla 5), Sanchez 7, Ramsey 7 (Giroud 8), Oxlade-Chamberlain 8, Welbeck 7

Man of the Match: For me? David De Gea, all day. To do what he did, to catch and hold all of those shots with a dislocated finger? That was brave and determined goalkeeping. You have to tip your cap to him.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Manchester United

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, November 22
12:30 p.m. EST, 17:30 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Dean
    • Assistants: Jake Collin and Darren England
    • 4th Official: Mike Jones
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 0 - 0 Manchester United
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 79 Arsenal wins, 92 United wins, 48 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-L-D-W-W-L
  • Manchester United's League Form: W-W-D-D-L-W
  • Weather: Cloudy, 13 C / 56 F
I think I'd enjoy matches more if they were presented in the
style of a 1980's game show.
Would you take a draw?

Now, in this scenario, you can't question whether that's one point gained or two points lost; that depends on the context of the match itself. So, if I told you you weren't allowed to watch the match and could never watch the highlights or find out what happened other than the scoreline, and you found out it ended level, would you be okay with it or would you be apoplectic? You get no other context than the result.

I would wager that a majority of you would pick the latter because this is, like last season's incarnation, the worst United team in years (more on that in the form section below.) Anything less than three points is going to feel like a potential win squandered. And, let's face it, the Arsenal fan base has been fairly apoplectic all year, just as a baseline.

Ah, but it's so much more complicated than that. Given the state of both sides' back lines, the aforementioned draw could well be 3-3 or higher (6-6, anyone?) The takeaway here is simple: Arsenal need to start winning football matches to get some sort of momentum going and therefore, they may as well start now. With a critical Champions League group match following on Wednesday, the Gunners need to find their stride sooner rather than later. Stay in these doldrums through the winter and who knows what we'll be looking at.

For the record, I will not be satisfied with a draw, but I honestly expect one.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Diaby (setback? really?) Ospina (thigh,) Koscielny (Achilles,) Ozil (knee,) Debuchy (ankle)
Doubts: Welbeck (hamstring,) Arteta (hamstring,) Giroud (ankle)

Guess whose abs are back?
That's right: that red wire guy!
Danny Welbeck may be the only casualty of the international break, after the Englishman tweaked his hamstring against Scotland on Tuesday; Roy Hodgson has said that Welbeck should be fit for the weekend, but of course the England manager would say that. However, when you throw in the fact that Welbeck would be playing against his former club, he will almost certainly do everything he can to start.

Two more injured players move from the "out" to "doubtful" category, as Mikel Arteta should return from the hamstring problem that forced him off against Anderlecht and Olivier Giroud is, surprisingly, already back in full training despite breaking his ankle just three months ago. Arteta will be good to go, but I can't see Giroud being rushed back so quickly. Theo Walcott also, apparently, picked up a little injury and will not be available.

That means Arsenal's injury list is down to just five (!) though it still includes two of the top four choices for defenders, the backup goalkeeper, the top choice for "central attacking midfielder to be shunted out to left wing for some reason," and Diaby.

So, that brings us to the question of the starting XI. For all of the issues with the back four, please remember two things: 1) Thomas Vermaelen, sold in August, has yet to feature for Barcelona due to injury and 2) any replacement for Vermaelen would not only have to be a quality center back but also be content to be third string behind the Mertescielny axis. We had a decent number three in Chambers, but two injuries have forced us to use number four. When you criticize Arsene Wenger for the lack of defensive depth (which is a fair and reasonable criticism,) just remember how difficult the situation truly is.

What is curious is how the midfielders have been used this year. For example, the talk is now all about Jack Wilshere, as he was the star of the show for two England wins over this international break, playing a deep-lying midfield role. However, Wenger continues to use Jack in an advanced role this season (when he does at all; Wilshere hasn't completed 90 minutes for Arsenal since September.) In terms of my prediction, as listed below, it's entirely likely Jack won't start at all, with Wenger often preferring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's ability to play wide.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazorla, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck.

Manchester United Squad News

Out: Blind (knee,) Rojo (shoulder,) Lingard (knee)
Doubts: Shaw (hamstring,) Carrick (groin,) Rafael (muscular,) Young (groin,) Jones (calf,) Falcao (calf,) Evans (ankle)

"It looks like a hand to me!"
Even though the length of Manchester United's injury list is so long it's approaching Arsenal territory, many of the players on the list are considered "slight doubts" and might be fit to start.

In terms of those certainly out, defender Marcos Rojo is out until early December after separating his shoulder in the derby against City. Meanwhile, Daley Blind has done some ligament damage to his knee on international duty (though reports of his being out six months appear to be premature,) while Joel Lingard is out with a knee problem as well.

As for those in more of a state of flux, David De Gea passed fit after dislocating his finger with Spain and is expected to be available. Luke Shaw is supposed to be available as well after injuring his hamstring with the England squad; that is, if you believe Roy Hodgson, which I've already established by selecting Welbeck for Arsenal above. Angel Di Maria took a bit of a stamp on the ankle for Argentina against Portugal (ironically from Nani) but has also passed fit.

Radamel Falcao has been missing with a calf problem for a few weeks, but suggested on Instagram two weeks ago that he was "ready to train" again. Look at us, getting news from Instagram now.

There are also "slight doubts" over Michael Carrick, Rafael, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, and Jonny Evans, but there also seems to be this slightly pervading feeling that any one of their doubts could be fit to start tomorrow.

Predicted XI: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Shaw, Herrera, Fellaini, Di Maria, Mata, Rooney, van Persie.

Current Form

Well, if Burnley could keep a clean sheet against United...
Arsenal's 2-1 setback at Swansea just before the international break was Arsenal's second loss in the league this season and second over a span of 16 matches dating back to last season. But, while Arsenal may not be losing a lot, they certainly aren't winning a lot either: 11 matches played, four wins, five draws, two losses. That's good for 6th place, though they are just one point out of the 4th place trophy spot. Still, this is a league game at the Emirates; Arsenal have gained at least a point from their home league matches on 23 consecutive occasions.

Manchester United's season has not been much different, aside from not being in Europe at all and falling out of the League Cup a little more embarrassingly to MK Dons. 11 league matches played: four wins, four draws, three losses. What's notable is that United have not won away from Old Trafford this season. In addition to the loss in Milton Keynes mentioned above, they drew at Sunderland, they drew at Burnley, they lost at Leicester, they drew at West Brom, and they lost at Manchester City. Going back to last season, United have gone seven road matches in the league without a victory. Their four wins have come at home, against QPR, West Ham, Crystal Palace, and Everton. For all of their fire power, the Red Devils have only outscored their opponents 17-14 over 11 matches this year (Arsenal have outscored their opponents 19-13.)

Match Facts

The BBC called this match last year a "grim stalemate."
Manchester United have had the better of Arsenal in recent meetings, which you probably know already (because I continuously copy and paste this section from my previous United previews while only changing the numbers. Seriously, go check.) In 2006/07, Arsenal won both league meetings between the sides. Since that year, across all competitions, United have met Arsenal 18 times. Arsenal have won two of those matches, drawn four, and lost 12.

United, however, have won only once in their last four visits to the Emirates, though Arsenal have not beaten them in such a match since Aaron Ramsey's 1-0 winner in May of 2011, back when Ramsey goals killed people (it was Bin Laden that day.) United won 2-1 in London the following season, while the clubs have played out a draw in this fixture each of the last two times it's been played, 1-1 in April 2013 and 0-0 in February, played days after Arsenal had shipped five in Liverpool.

The Referee

"I bet I left the iron on..."
The referee is Wirral-based Mike Dean. You will likely recall Dean from a stretch of 21 matches from 2009 to 2013 in which Arsenal only won twice with Dean as the referee. That stretch included the match at Old Trafford when he sent Arsene Wenger to the stands after he kicked a water bottle, which was done on the advice of the fourth official, Lee Probert. Just before the start of that 21 match streak, Arsenal had gone almost five years without seeing Dean for a match against United; he had worked the 2004 Community Shield, which Arsenal won 3-1. His next match between the two clubs was in May of 2009, a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford that won the league for the hosts.

However, Arsenal are currently unbeaten in their last five matches with Dean, all league games, since losing to Blackburn Rovers in the 2013 FA Cup. The stretch includes wins over Wigan, Stoke, and Spurs at White Hart Lane last year, as well as home draws with Chelsea and Manchester City from last season.

United have seen Dean once already this season for a 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on October 20. United also failed to win across three matches with Dean last year, drawing Spurs, losing to Swansea, and drawing Southampton. With a loss to City in 2013 thrown in for good measure, United have not won with Dean since Boxing Day of 2012 against Newcastle.

So, to sum up: Arsenal are unbeaten in five with Dean and United are winless in five, but try telling anybody else that. The rest of the Arsenalsphere either hasn't noticed it's Dean or is already panicking.

Around the League

Chelsea v. West Brom ended full of controversy last year.
Saturday: Chelsea v. West Bromwich Albion (Stamford Bridge, London)
A week before they host Arsenal at the Hawthorns, the Baggies will try to inflict a first defeat of the season on Chelsea; West Brom should have won this fixture last year to snap Jose Mourinho's home unbeaten streak, but Chelsea stole a 2-2 draw thanks to a highly controversial last minute penalty.

Saturday: Everton v. West Ham United (Goodison Park, Liverpool)
The fourth place Hammers will look to extend their unbeaten streak to six matches against an Everton side that have struggled this season. The Toffees sit 10th in the table, though they themselves are unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches.

Saturday: Leicester City v. Sunderland (King Power Stadium, Leicester)
Since their astonishing 5-3 win over Manchester United, the Foxes have earned just one point from their last six. As such, Leicester have fallen into a relegation place. On the other hand, after dropping Vito Mannone for Costel Pantilimon, Sunderland have picked up four of a possible six points; the Black Cats have climbed to 14th in the table.

Saturday: Manchester City v. Swansea City (Etihad Stadium, Manchester)
Third place City are already eight points back of Chelsea and they've dropped points in two of their last three. Swansea sit in fifth place after their win over Arsenal two weeks ago, but the Swans haven't won away from home since their opening day win at Old Trafford.

Saturday: Newcastle United v. Queens Park Rangers (St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne)
Newcastle are suddenly on fire, winning four straight after failing to win in their first seven. QPR have had a good run of results as well, though they still sit 19th; they picked up a win over Aston Villa and a draw with Manchester City and can consider themselves unfortunate not to have picked up anything from one-goal losses to Liverpool and Chelsea.

Stoke v. Burnley was the opening match for the Clarets on
their last Premier League excursion. It truly was a match
that happened.
Saturday: Stoke City v. Burnley (Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent)
Stoke have yet to win consecutive league matches this season, but they've gathered enough points to sit in ninth. Burnley finally won a match in the last round of fixtures, beating Hull 2-1, but they still prop up the table with just seven points.

Sunday (early): Crystal Palace v. Liverpool (Selhurst Park, London)
This match last season all but ended Liverpool's title hopes as the Reds blew a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3. This time around, Liverpool are in 11th place, but the Eagles are 17th and are winless in five.

Sunday (late): Hull City v. Tottenham Hotspur (KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull)
Hull were briefly buoyed by draws with Arsenal and Liverpool, but the Tigers followed those results with losses to Southampton and Burnley. Spurs, however, have lost three of their last four and needed an Aston Villa red card and deflected free kick to come from behind in their only win in that span.

Monday (night): Aston Villa v. Southampton (Villa Park, Birmingham)
Aston Villa had 10 points from their opening four matches; then, they lost six straight before a 0-0 draw with West Ham two weeks ago. Southampton, however, are flying high; the Saints are just four points out of first, having won eight of their last nine.

John Painting is a contributing writer for The Modern Gooner and an 800-time lottery jackpot loser. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat, which isn't a long complicated story at all.

Arsenal supporters - desperate fools at the end of our pitiful ropes

"The next time I update my resume, I'm adding to it that supporting Arsenal has given me strength of character"

If you've never seen Liar Liar, you should...it'll make the reference in the title make far more sense.  But to save you time, Fletcher Reed (played by Jim Carrey) is a lawyer jinxed by his son when his birthday wish comes true that he cannot tell a lie.  So, after taking a case where it's seemingly impossible to win without the ability to fib, he goes into the bathroom and begins to kick his own ass with reckless abandon.  The court bailiff finds him, brings him back into the court room, and just when the judge is about to rule in his favor for a continuance on the case, he asks Reed if he can continue...given that he cannot lie, he says yes he can and thus he obliterated himself for no reason at all - well my fellow Gooners, we're Fletcher Reed.

Why are we Mr. Reed? Because we're the one's currently in the proverbial bathroom trying our best to beat the ever loving stuffing out of ourselves emotionally in the hopes that we'll be able to cope...and just when we think we stopped caring, our devotion and love of the club brings us right back to the inevitable conclusion that no matter how hard this is going to get this season, we just are never able to look away.  We can't lie to ourselves, we just have to deal with come what may, figuratively and literally.

It's now come to the point, ladies and gentlemen, that when everyone under the sun (including former Arsenal players, former players who played against Wenger and every pundit imaginable as well as every armchair manager there ever was, is, and ever will be) is saying precisely the same things that once began as only a small enclave of the Arsenal faithful some seasons ago, it may just have to be time to admit you've been mucking it all up for years.
Not even Arsene Wenger's best OG impersonation is good enough...fail sauce all around...
Before we press on, I'd like to hit you with two separate bits of information if I may...one is a quote from one of the more daft people you'll ever come across (but he actually made a relevant point), and the other bit is a stat courtesy of the BBC:
"Chelsea and Arsenal seem miles apart - and that's because Jose Mourinho identified what he needed.  His team now look unstoppable as a result." - Jamie Carragher
"Arsenal have lost more points from a winning position than any other Premier League team this season." 
To be honest, it's probably a little ironic that it took Jamie (insert expletive) Carragher to reaffirm a point that so many of us have been making for quite sometime now.  The difference between Wenger and basically every other "world class" manager you'll run across, is that those managers know how to identify squad weaknesses and bring in the reinforcements to shore up the problem.  Chelsea needed a world class striker as well as a replacement for the outgoing Frank Lampard - in steps Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas and yes, now they are looking unstoppable...but it's not just Mourinho who is able to do this.

For the last few seasons, Jurgen Klopp has lost his best players at Dortmund - Shinji Kagawa shipped off to United three seasons back, and in the last two summers both Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski did the dirty on BvB and went to rival and Bavarian war machine Bayern Munich...but Klopp always did what was necessary.  To replace Lewandowski he bought the capable pair of Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos...to replace Gotze he turned to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrik Mkhitaryan - lose quality, replace it with quality...a trend you see all over the footballing world, but no no...not at Arsenal.

Now, why is this relevant? To be honest, you already know...don't you.  Thomas Vermaelen left to sunny Spain to join the worlds premier Dracula impersonator at Barcelona and he was never PROPERLY replaced (a fact that is now costing us in copious amounts).  Robin van Persie was disgracefully allowed to go to United; he was never replaced.  Gilberto Silva left the club, he was never properly replaced - these three personnel losses and their lack of a replacement have and will continue to haunt the club...if only Wenger would put aside his pet projects and do what is best for the club in the now instead of trying to relive 1999 and comb the globe for the worlds best and brightest to come in the future - a fact that has YET to pay off for the club in god knows how long.

Have you guessed yet that I am trying beyond all super human efforts to avoid speaking directly about the Swansea result?  That's because I nearly went all Bellevue earlier today and almost lost my cool to the point of no return - my own personal Department of Defense nearly pressed THAT red button to which armageddon would ensue.  What is there left to say that so many haven't said by the time this reaches you via laptop, desktop or smart phone - we were shockingly poor...and as usual, it didn't have to be that way...it's all so avoidable...it's always so avoidable.

To be fair, I was fine with the side, and then I saw that Nacho bloody Monreal was at center-back yet again, this time having the esteemed pleasure of dealing with either Wilfried Bony, Bafetimbi Gomis, or both at the same time (let's not even discuss what would have happened if Gary Monk had the testicular fortitude to play with both up front instead of the lone target man) - anyone that follows me on Twitter or Facebook would have seen my reaction at that realization, and low and behold, unwanted vindication in the form of Monreal's woefully pathetic attempt to challenge Jefferson Montero's cross into the area that saw Gomis head home the winner before the 80th minute.  If there ever was further evidence that Monreal should be no where near the center of defense again, it was that horrifying moment...an attempted leap into the air that would make even the most non-athletic fourth grader feel like he's got a chance to make it as the an olympic medal recipient in the high-jump.
Surely a distant relative of Monreal...surely...
And if you're asking yourself if I'll delve into Wenger's complete and utter tactical ineptitude yet again, the answer is yes...I will begrudgingly go into the comedy of errors that we all had to suffer on the day.  KNOWING that Swansea possess two physical center forwards with aerial ability, Wenger insisted on keeping Monreal at center-back, despite Per Mertesacker being a useless 6'8 sack of stale spaetzle as of late...ever since the World Cup to be exact.  With BFG being exposed so often this season, Monreal lacking any sort of ability as a center back and Swansea having who they have, why was Calum Chambers not selected to partner Mert in the middle?  Mind boggling...that's all there is to it.

Speaking of Chambers, he was absolutely roasted by Montero on our right flank from start to finish, and when he was eventually booked, he became that much more of a juicy target for the Ecuadorian jet-fighter with Chambers rendered basically useless at that point.  Has Wenger forgotten that we are in possession of a natural right-back that is faster than Theo Walcott?  Just what exactly does Hector Bellerin have to do to get into the XI, get some experience under his belt and let Chambers shine in the middle like he did in the early stages of the season?  Yes Bellerin is young and yes he is inexperienced, but he'll only gain experience by playing, and while he's not Mathieu Debuchy, the after-burners that have taken up residence in his rear access panel means that he never would have been strung up by his ankles in the same fashion that Chambers was...and Chambers is by no means lacking pace mind you.

Worst of all, is even if Bellerin did not get the nod from the off, once it was blatantly obvious to all that Chambers was a late afternoon lunch for Montero, why was he not brought on to shore up the problem? Any manager worth his salt would have seen that issue and rectified it with the utmost haste before it turned into disaster...you know, the kind of disaster that saw Montero skin Chambers for the umpteenth time and put in that cross to Gomis for the winner.  Pure and simple, the inclusion of Monreal and the exclusion of Bellerin spelled disaster before the match even began...truth-bombs for the lot of you.

Because we all love a good truth-bomb, especially Sean, I'll do my best 8th Air Force impression and drop a few more - first, why in gods name did Wenger not make changes before we went 2-1 down?  Right after our goal, you just HAD to know that Swansea would look to exploit the blatant weaknesses we were in possession of, so where were the changes?  Why wait till 10minutes from time to give players little to no chance of making any impact whatsoever? They'll barely get three touches in ten minutes, and one of the biggest issues for quite sometime is Le Prof's inability to read the ebb and flow of a match and recognize exactly what we need to fix to avoid losing out on a result.

Second truth-bomb; Steve Bould is clearly simmering something fierce under his skin sitting next to Wenger on the touchline.  A second in command behind the manager, with a brilliant defensive pedigree, would never allow the shocking issues we have at the back to continue, unless it's been Wenger that refuses to heed his word and listen to his counsel.  When was the last time you saw Bould and Wenger discuss matters?  When was the last time Bould even smiled?  Remember the rapport that Wenger and Rice had? Constant communication, Rice would get up and belt out orders and they would laugh/cry/throw water bottles when necessary - there is a clear and present issue between Wenger and his number two, and it's obvious.
Go on, Bouldy...hold back no longer...
For the third slap in the face, and the most painful to come to grips with to be honest, is the realization that Wenger was tactically outclassed by a first-year manager who just last season was still suiting up for the Swans from time to time before Danish legend Michael Laudrup was un-ceremoniously told to pack his personal effects and shove off.  For so many, including Wenger himself, that love to tout up his achievements and knowledge of the game, to be bested by Gary Monk is downright criminal. Fair play to Monk for being intelligent enough to know what the rest of the country knows (Wenger's weaknesses), but it's not that hard to do what so many others are now finding increasingly easy to accomplish...best one of the "best."

Finally, the coup de grace, we have 17 points from our first 11 league matches.  If you extrapolate those numbers out over the course of a 38-match campaign, we'll register a shade under 59 points on the season - not only is that not good enough for top four, but that's potentially not even good enough for top six or even top seven.  Unless major improvement comes by way of a massive unbeaten run (where draws are not the preferred method of loss prevention), this could finally be the year that Wenger's entire kingdom that has been built on our top four trophy comes crashing down harder than a Jenga tower at a college dorm party.

As I sit here transcribing this, I shutter to think what United may potentially do to us after the international break.  Wayne Rooney may not be in form, but he's still well capable on his day - as for Robin van Toolbag, Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata, Daley Blind and the rest of United's non-defenders...well, it could be a pasting if they are on song that day and we fail to threaten their own issues with their defensive lines.  Louis van Gaal may currently be a failure at Old Trafford, but nothing would help that club find some sort of morale like a win over us amidst their current struggles...we should all pray that everyone comes back healthy and fit, that's the first battle we have to win before we even line up against the Red Devils.

All in all, at the end of the day, this is just not good enough.  For a final telling moment, if you have not been glued to Arsenal Fan TV for any significant portion of time, please do so.  For a while, the fans that came on in the segments were well and truly divided - many kept faith, many wanted change and Wenger out...but now, well, you'd be hard pressed to find any positive fan come on at all - there's nothing better than a decent sounding board anyway, right?

Bottom line, we're unhappy...many of us are unhappy...change is needed, in so many ways that I have not even gone into in this piece but I am almost sure to as time presses on.  But as my friend Laura said to me earlier, she's done getting angry about the sad state of affairs...she's just gone numb to it all - when that happens, that's probably the worst realization of all, and if a die-hard supporter for as long as Laura has been can feel numb about this mess, then perhaps everyone should sit up and ask themselves why.

(P.S. don't forget to read Sean's piece that was released earlier this morning in case you may have missed it...rest assured, he's not happy either)

Swansea City 2-1 Arsenal: Bloody Typical

Well, what do you want me to say? A few days after Tactically-Inept Manager contrives to watch his team blow a 3-0 lead against inferior opposition, blowing a simple 1-0 lead wasn't really ever going to be difficult, was it? Nope, no lead is safe with Tactically-Inept Manager!

That said, don't get me wrong - Swansea are no mugs and they were always going to be a tough out at their own ground. But, 1-0 up with half an hour to play, we should have been able to see it out. Then again, if you are ever surprised at our ability to throw away winning positions, you're either an eternal optimist or you haven't been a supporter that long.

The first half was largely the equivalent of the computer in FIFA playing two evenly-matched teams against themselves. I had figured before the match that Swansea might really go for it from the off, but instead they played a bit of a hybrid of their normal style, with more men back to defend than usual.

It worked a treat if we're being honest, especially as they did much more with the ball on the rare occasions when they had it. Calum Chambers has been excellent all season, but he had a right old mare today and the Swans took full advantage. Gylfi Sigurdsson and especially Jefferson Montero made his life a living hell all game long, and there were two instances in which the young lad could have had a penalty given against him. It won't be one for his autobiography, at any rate.

Essentially, each side had one decent chance in the first half. Swansea were first in the 35th minute, when the entire left side of our defense disintegrated. Kieran Gibbs was sucked into the middle (insert my usual screed about our fullback defense here), but Marvin Emnes shot straight down Wojciech Szczesny's throat. Up the other end, a beautiful series of passes between Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck led to the latter free on the right side of the area. Our old boy Lukasz Fabianski's positioning was excellent, but frankly Welbeck should have done far better with the chance.

Right before halftime, Aaron Ramsey might have scored when he volleyed a poor defensive clearance right back in. But, when things are going horseshit, they're going horseshit.

But, Alexis is still in absolute Beast Mode, and he scored again just after the hour mark. It was one hell of a team goal, too. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - who may have been our best player on the day - began the move with a barnstorming run down the right. It was worked out to Welbeck, who destroyed his marker with a brilliant cutback. He dragged it across the face of goal, where Sanchez was waiting for the tap-in.

You know, for a minute there I thought we'd actually go on to win this thing. Oh, Sean! How could you forget the comedy stylings of Tactically-Inept Manager?

As usual, the warning signs were there nanoseconds after we scored. Wilfried Bony was presented with a gilt-edged chance after Montero skinned Chambers for the umpteenth time, but he hilariously mis-kicked it. That gave us a reprieve of ten whole minutes before they equalized, though. We gave away a dumb free kick, and Sigurdsson lashed an absolute thunderbastard of a free kick over the Mini-Mes we had in the wall and into the net. Nothing Szczesny could do about that one.

Speaking of, there was also nothing our Pole in Goal could do three minutes later when they got their winner. As had been happening all match long, Chambers got torched by Montero down the right. He whipped in a cross, and Bafeimbi Gomis was able to beat out Ramsey to the header.

Thing is, though, that was the 78th minute. Where were the substitutions before that? It was bleedingly obvious that fresh legs were needed as Swansea started to control more of the ball, and it was also obvious that even young Hector Bellerin may have been a better option than an obviously-flailing Chambers. I mean, I've managed zero games and all, but I think I know where the real farce is, Arsene. Anyway, right after the goal, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere came on for Ramsey and Flamini in a classic case of bolting the barn door after the animals have already left.

Theo did what he could, but basically all Wilshere managed was to get a yellow card and bitch at the referee a lot.

Anyway, the most amazing sub was still to come. In the 89th minute, when no one would have enough time to affect proceedings, Tactically-Inept Manager hauled off Chambers for Yaya Sanogo. Yes, the guy with no goals to his name. So, let's take inventory - Tactically-Inept Manager puts on Lukas Podolski against Anderlecht at 3-2 when we badly need to shore up, and he puts on Sanogoals when we badly need to score...and with just one minute left in normal time to boot.

On current evidence, we have the worst manager in the Premier League. Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong.

Still, it's funny - after the Burnley result, I thought we were slowly coming into our own and ready to make a run. Now? I honestly believe that this may now be the year that we don't win the Arsene Wenger Memorial 4th Place Trophy.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Gibbs 6, Monreal 6, Mertesacker 6, Chambers 3 (Sanogo N/A), Flamini 6 (Walcott 6), Ramsey 6 (Wilshere 5), Cazorla 6, Sanchez 7, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7, Welbeck 6

Man of the Match: Jefferson Montero, for his ritual humiliation of young Chambers.

Preview by Numbers: Swansea City v. Arsenal

Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Sunday, November 9
11:00 a.m. EST, 16:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Phil Dowd
    • Assistants: Darren Cann and Scott Ledger
    • 4th Official: Roger East
  • This Match, Last Year: Swansea 1 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 9 Arsenal wins, 5 Swansea wins, 3 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-L-D-W-W
  • Swansea's League Form: L-D-D-L-W-D
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 9 C / 49 F
The media now has hundreds of stock photos like this one.
I'm not going to say much more about Tuesday; odds are you have either been reading about it incessantly since it happened (likely because you're still angry and should probably calm down by now) or you've been avoiding reading about it entirely (which has been my choice.) People tend to get very hyperbolic after results like that one.

From a pure preview perspective, I do feel obligated to note that the draw leaves Arsenal's qualification to the knockout phase in a more precarious situation than you'd think: if Dortmund beat Arsenal on matchday five and Anderlecht beat Galatasaray (which is in Belgium,) then the Belgians would be just two points behind Arsenal with the ability to face a Dortmund side with nothing to play for on matchday six. That would therefore require Arsenal to get at least a draw in Turkey to be sure. Dangerous stuff, indeed.

There's an international break looming on the horizon; after Sunday, Arsenal don't play again until they host Manchester United on the 22nd. The way I see it, Arsenal can go into this break in one of two ways: with nerves settled after three points in South Wales, or with confidence in pieces after more dropped points.

Regardless of what you think about the state of the team, the manager, or the personnel, we've got to pull together through this and support the boys in red and white. Let's get back on track with a win.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Arteta (hamstring,) Ospina (thigh,) Koscielny (Achilles,) Ozil (knee,) Debuchy (ankle,) Giroud (ankle)

Theo Walcott also recently returned to full synchronized
swimming training.
The tide on Tuesday turned (well, it had started turning already, but it really turned) when Mikel Arteta was removed with a hamstring strain; Arsene Wenger reported in Thursday's presser that it's a grade one injury, which usually means about two weeks. Arteta will be out this weekend, but should be back after this timely international break.

Jack Wilshere, on the other hand, will be available after missing the last two matches with two different problems; as I reported in the picture comment on Tuesday, Jack has not completed 90 minutes for Arsenal (for a variety of reasons, both injury and tactical) since the League Cup loss to Southampton in late September.

In incredible news, Olivier Giroud apparently returns to training next week (!) which could put his return to action a full month ahead of where it was expected to be back when he was first injured in August. Theo Walcott has been called up for the England squad, which isn't rushing things at all, thanks Roy. He joins five other Arsenal players in the Three Lions squad.

Laurent Koscielny could be back in training right after the international break (please please please please please,) though it's hard to really know what Wenger means by "a little chance." That probably means no chance, right? Meanwhile, David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy, and Mesut Ozil remain long term absentees.

As for this week's XI, it's a road game, so I don't expect Wenger to shake anything up on defense, despite all of their failings. I still think Theo needs another cameo appearance or two before getting any starts; he's only played 13 minutes so far. Personally, I'd start Jack Wilshere over Mathieu Flamini, but I admit I could end up totally wrong on that.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis, Welbeck.

Swansea Squad News

Out: Britton (knee,) Richards (knee), Donnelly (ankle)
Doubts: Tiendalli (groin,) Amat (knee)
Suspended: Shelvey (one match, two bookings)

Jonjo Shelvey's red card just gives the chance for a player
on loan from Spurs to shine. That worries me a bit.
Defenders Dwight Tiendalli and Jordi Amat could both be available again after being out with groin and knee injuries, respectively; both have been back in full training. Leon Britton has just returned to training from a knee injury that has kept him out all season, but he will be too short to return to the pitch this weekend. Swansea will also be without Welsh defender Jazz Richards (I didn't realize Jazz was a Welsh name,) and forward Rory Donnelly

For the second time in three weeks, Arsenal will face one of their former goalkeepers; the Gunners will hope to have the same success against Lukasz Fabianski as they had against Vito Mannone at Sunderland. Swansea have a very threatening forward core, as Wilfried Bony leads the line with Gylfi Sigurdsson playing just behind him. The key to the match could be the holding roles played by Ki Sung-yueng and Tom Carroll, the latter of whom is on loan from Tottenham and will come into the XI after Jonjo Shelvey's red card last weekend.

Predicted XI: Fabianski, Rangel, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor, Carroll, Ki, Dyer, Montero, Sigurdsson, Bony.

Current Form

Here's Alexis Sanchez to help you feel better
about things.
Arsenal extended their unbeaten streak to five matches across all competitions on Tuesday, dating back to the loss at Chelsea, but the circumstances surrounding the 3-3 draw were, of course, less than ideal. It was the first time Arsenal conceded three at all since the loss to Everton last April and the first time they allowed three at home since the disaster against Aston Villa that opened last season. Arsenal have picked up at least a point from 14 of their last 15 Premier League matches.

Swansea opened the year with three wins on the bounce before starting to struggle. They then went winless in five, with draws against Sunderland and Newcastle, before defeating Leicester and drawing Everton. That leaves the Swans with 15 points in the table, good for 6th place. They have only lost once at home this year, 1-0 to Southampton in September. They'll be buoyed by a good road point at Goodison Park last weekend, especially in the way they saw out a 0-0 draw on ten men.

Match Facts

Is Michel Vorm wearing surgical gloves?
Arsenal took four of a possible six points from Swansea last season, winning in Wales in September while playing out a topsy-turvy draw at the Emirates in March.

The Gunners' win at the Liberty was their second straight in the league, after a loss in 2012 and a draw in the third round of the 2013 FA Cup Third Round. Serge Gnabry opened his Arsenal account with the game's first goal in the 58th minute and Aaron Ramsey added a beautiful goal just four minutes later; Ben Davies pulled one back nine minutes from time but Arsenal held on for the 2-1 victory. In the reverse fixture, played in the days following the 6-0 loss at Stamford Bridge, Swansea led 1-0 for much of the match before Arsenal scored twice in two minutes to take the lead; the Swans got out of London with a point after a Mathieu Flamini own goal in injury time.

Swansea have just the one win in four tries against Arsenal at the Liberty Stadium since their promotion to the Premier League in 2011; Arsenal led that match 1-0, then trailed 2-1. Theo Walcott equalized in the 69th minute, but Danny Graham put Swansea back ahead for good almost straight from the restart.

The Referee

"I don't know where the pies went!"
The referee is Staffordshire-based Phil Dowd. This is the first time Arsenal have seen Dowd this year (they still have not yet seen, among big name referees, Mike Dean, Chris Foy, Lee Mason, Neil Swarbrick, or (LOL) Andre Marriner this season.) Last year, Arsenal only saw Dowd twice: first for the League Cup loss to Chelsea and then again on Boxing Day for the 3-1 win at West Ham.

This is the first time Swansea will be seeing Dowd this season as well; last year, the Swans went winless in four matches with Dowd in the middle, losing 4-1 to Manchester United on opening day, drawing 0-0 with West Ham last October, losing 3-2 to Manchester City on New Year's Day, and falling 1-0 to Chelsea in April, during which defender Chico Flores was sent off on 16 minutes after collecting two bookings just 120 seconds apart.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Liverpool v. Chelsea; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Hull City; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Crystal Palace; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Leicester City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Aston Villa; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Saturday (late): Queens Park Rangers v. Manchester City; Loftus Road, London
  • Sunday (early): Sunderland v. Everton; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday (early): Tottenham Hotspur v. Stoke City; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday (early): West Bromwich Albion v. Newcastle United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich