Arsenal’s 90 Minutes in Hell and What They Can Do to Avoid A Recurrence

“If this was a boxing bout, the referee would have ended it a long while ago.” – Match commentator, Liverpool and Arsenal.

This comment came on the heels of the #MayweatherMcgregor fight in Las Vegas wherein the referee had to end the fight in the 10th round to save Mcgregor all the “Floyd punishment” he was receiving.

It was the perfect description of Liverpool’s dominance on the day at Hellfield, Anfield.

A match that was dubbed the pick of the weekend unfortunately became a one-sided affair when Liverpool controlled the proceedings from the beginning of the encounter till the blast of the final whistle. As one tweet captured it,

To equate the Liverpool player with the Algerian born French maestro was not an exaggeration on the evening going by his performance.

So, what went wrong for the Gunners – or is it the Gooners?

Make no mistake about this, Arsenal is not a bad team. A team that boasts of world class players and internationals in their own rights like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Shkodran Mustafi, Olivier Giroud, Alexandre Lacazette, etc. is not a small team. Why is a team packed with World Cup winners struggling to make an impact in the Premier League and the Champions League? The only problem I think is leadership.

Ozil reacts after Arsenal lose 4-0 to Liverpool.

Ozil reacts after Arsenal lose 4-0 to Liverpool.

Arsene Wenger has been at the helm of Arsenal affairs since the year 1996 and did achieve a lot of great things for the club; including a 49-match unbeaten record in the league that is yet to be replicated by any other team since.

A glorious 2003/2004 season if you ask me it must be said. But after their heroics of getting to the final of the Champions League in 2006, there has been a downward spiral for the club. It was as if the exit of the last notable “invincible” Thierry Henry, started a free fall for the club.

Apart from the four FA Cups won during since then, Arsenal has never looked like worthy challengers for the Premier League crown, talk more of the Champions League where they have failed to cross the last 16 hurdle since 2009 when they were defeated by a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Manchester United.

The statistics just show that it has been the case of a diminishing returns for the club. It is also a sad fact that Arsenal for 13 years have not been able to lift the Premier League crown even though they are the only team to still have consistency in terms of being managed by the same man for over two decades.

The past few months have not been exactly great times for Arsenal fans. They know it and they’ve never hidden their displeasure, expressing it with their frequent #WengerOut on social media.

It is just obvious that the hunger has disappeared from Wenger, a one-time feisty manager who was not afraid to get into a war of words with Sir Alex Ferguson in their days of rivalry and not too long ago, with Jose Mourinho while he was still at Chelsea.

The last game against Liverpool showed a man who was not bothered about the fortune of the club because even while his team was 3-0 down, he just sat in his chair and chewed on his fingernails. This is not the case for other managers that will want to salvage something from the game and will continue to charge their players to attack and play better.

Some readers might say that I have gone for the obvious by taking cheap shots at the man but in all sincerity, the buck stops at Wenger’s table, no matter how we want to look at it.

arsene_wenger_cham_3492459b.jpg

Arsene Wenger needs to do more if Arsenal are going to improve.

I think Wenger has lost the team and it will take a miracle to psyche them up for the coming campaign that will see them compete on four fronts. To salvage something for himself and the club, Arsene has to make some hard decisions. Making such hard decisions for the team is one problem that he has always had.Right now, these decisions have become a necessity.

First, there are too many unsettled players in the team. To keep them against their wishes is to create a sense of complacency and a nonchalant attitude in the team. Sanchez, Chamberlain – now reportedly off to Chelsea, Mustafi, Ozil, Bellerin and so many others are all unsettled.

While some want to leave the club to where they can win trophies, some want better contracts and some others are not comfortable with their current positions on the pitch. These issues have made the team look like they lack the focus and hunger to carry out their professional tasks.

It must be said that although the players are paid to do their jobs, it is the job of the manager to motivate, unite and psyche them up for the overall interest of the team. This job also extends to knowing which players fit the various tactical approaches to be employed on the field of play. Unfortunately, the body language of the Frenchman has said a whole lot of other things.

It is absolutely unnecessary for the club to try to run down the contract of a player that is no longer happy to play for the club. Alexis Sanchez in today’s market is worth over £90m. Isn’t that incentive to sell him off already?

With one year to go and the high probability that he will not sign a new contract, it will be better to sell him off NOW and get a hungrier player to replace him. It has to be a player who will be focused on the job and will want to make a name for himself.

Arsenal still has the players that can confidently replace him in the team. Maybe not adequately, but they will do a good job. It is now left for the manager to tweak the team in a way that the team will get over him. No player is indispensable.

Manchester United last year signed a 35-year old Zlatan Ibrahimovic and albeit performing above expectations, his role was more in the dressing room than on the pitch. It was for the same reason that Jose Mourinho brought back Didier Drogba for one year to help him win the title on his return to Chelsea.

While citing names like Ozil, Sanchez and Cech, club legend, Patrick Vieira, pointed out that the team does not lack leaders. Maybe he’s right. But what he has failed to point out is that, out of these three, two of them whom the team depends upon the most are unsettled. How can they lead when they see their futures outside the team?

Arsenal needs a leader now more than ever.

Futhermore, there is another weakness that Wenger has exhibited for some time. This is the loyalty syndrome which he bears for his older players. X-raying the team against Liverpool, Bellerin played the left wing back role even though he is a right footer and has played the right back role for over two years.

It was a wonder to see Kolasinac who has impressed since coming to Arsenal on the bench. In the same vein, what was Ramsey and Welbeck doing on the pitch while Coquelin – a much more defensive minded midfielder – and Lacazette – a deadly finisher – were sat on the bench.

Even though some will want to go with the argument of Wenger wanted to play familiar foes, you do not keep your AK 47 at home and go to battle with a revolver. It is Arsene Wenger’s team and he alone bears the responsibility.

I was also shocked that Arsene Wenger who is a world class manager, played the high line against an attack that boasts of runners like Mane, Salah and Firmino who can hold their own against Usain Bolt. It also means that Wenger’s tactics are actually questionable and even at 2-0 down before Salah went on the solo run to score, there were no answers forthcoming.

Wenger has become a legend in Arsenal and the rule of diminishing returns has set in. I do not see Arsenal getting better under his tutelage and unless the Arsenal Board of Directors want to continue being self serving in their decision making, the best time to let him go is now to allow for another manager to bring hunger, drive, vibrancy and new ideas to the team. To continue with Wenger is to continue with mediocrity and complacency.

Wenger does not believe that his actions are costing the team even as the continue to go down the doldrums. The time for the board to act is now, to save the fans of the continuous misery and shame that they have been through in recent times. He does not need to be sacked, he should be asked to save face, resign and go on vacation. It is not too late to do the right thing.

 

Author

Victor Ndulewe

This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five (Gameweek 3)

The Premier League

Another weekend of Premier League action has now come and gone. The world’s most-watched league is 3-games old and its table is gradually taking shape. Some will try to counter and say it’s still early days. That’s true but then again, there’s something about the early birds, right?

No, I’m not picking favorites to win the league just yet. After all, “nine points after three matches is nothing different… because we did that last season,” a famous manager said over the weekend.

With the Premier League set to take the backseat for international football and the grand finale of the long summer transfer window, I present to you this week’s edition of the definition. I will be taking a closer look at how the big teams in England fared, probably suggest encouragements for the superb ones and “medications” for the ailing ones.

Okay. That was just me joking. Let’s get to the meat of this article.

Ozil reacts after Arsenal lose 4-0 to Liverpool.

  1. Arsenal: Disastrous

Seeing my description of the Gooners, you’d think it’s harsh and unforgiving. But when you think of how others used words like “abject,” and “a bunch of schoolboys,” you’d rethink your judgment of my own description.

It was as if the Arsenal players had never seen Liverpool play. It was a shambolic performance by Arsene Wenger’s men. And some fans are looking past players like Ozil, Sanchez and Chamberlain and pointing accusing fingers at the French gaffer, blaming him for the heavy loss.

Why field players whose hearts are already miles away from the Emirates?” one said to me after the game. Names like Alexis Sanchez may be suspect for a poor showing on the day but, what of Hector Bellerin’s miscue that led to the third goal?  And how do you begin to explain not registering a single shot on target in such an important game?

Arsenal failed to attempt a single shot on target against Liverpool

Thierry Henry was right when he said they were “unwatchable.” Moves have to made, and quickly too, or else, the downward spiral may just have begun.

Chelsea vs Everton: The statistics

  1. Chelsea: Comfortable

What else is more comfy than beating your opponents? Maybe outscoring them on the day and making sure they don’t come anywhere near “your yard.”  And that’s what exactly Chelsea did.

In a bid to put the “blues” of losing to Burnley behind them, Antonio Conte’s side scored two first half goals – for security reasons I guess. It was all Chelsea from then on as the Evertonians could only manage three touches in the opposition box before the 85th minute and four in the final five minutes (and injury time).

Oh, there was little case of Morata setting a Premier League record too.

  1. Liverpool: Fast, Furious and Dangerous

Famed for the blistering fast attack that they boast, names like Mane and Salah didn’t hesitate to put Arsenal to the sword when the chance presented itself. In all honesty, I thought Liverpool and its shaky defense would concede at least a goal.

But the reverse was the case as the stats showed. Jurgen Klopp took full advantage of a dysfunctional side and successfully scored 2 in each half. If it was a case of Arsenal being the worse of the two sides is hard to tell.

But, it was Liverpool’s 3 points on the day. And boy did they win it in some style.

Saved by Sterling

  1. Manchester City: Struggling

For a while now, Pep has been accused of overly complicating things at and for Manchester City. Maybe that’s what made him switch to a back four against Bournemouth, playing a four-man midfield behind Gabriel Jesus.

With all the quality they possess, they still struggled to breakdown the Bournemouth defense and needed a 97th-minute Raheem Sterling goal to seal the deal. Maybe Eddie Howe’s side sat in too deep for City’s comfort. Maybe I can blame Man. City’s poor performance on that.

Bu then again, why did De Bruyne have to play so deep? Why can’t Bernardo Silva play 90 minutes? Can Yaya Toure play more often? These are just some of the questions – plus the others I asked on my Instagram page – that makes it obvious Pep Guardiola’s side are struggling.

Apart from killing games off as quickly as possible, the players need to soak up Pep’s philosophy as quickly as possible. Or maybe Pep should just learn to be flexible and switch his style of play.

But we all know Pep won’t change his style of play.

Jose Mourinho is the man.

  1. Manchester United: Marching On

In his post-match conference, Mourinho said, “I think we played well.” In all honesty, it’s hard to tell whether he was playing down the importance of 3 wins on the bounce or he really meant what he said.

The Red Devils put another foot forward in the right direction with a 2-0 win over Leicester. Unlike their last two games, it wasn’t the most glamorous of wins but then again, 3 points is all that matters, right?

Jose Mourinho’s men are being touted as favorites for the 2017/2018 Premier League title already. Why not? After playing 3 games, scoring 10 goals and keeping three clean sheets, it’s hard to argue about their title-winning chances.

There will be no Premier League games this weekend as it’s time for the international break. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will fare against each other. Hopefully both games will produce good football and I shall be entertained.

Which of the international games are you looking forward to seeing? Leave me a comment and lets get talking!

This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five (Gameweek 2)

It’s a late post that describes how the big guys fared in the second MatchDay of the 2017/2018 Premier League season. Scoring 8 goals and conceding 3 among them, I continue from where I stopped last week by reviewing the performances of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Premier League (Gameweek 2)

 

Arsenal: Sloppy and Standing Still

I have chosen to use the words of Steven Gerrard and some other pundit whose name I either missed out on or I’m forgetting to remember. Sounds harsh? Considering the way Xhaka gave the ball away in the build up to the Stoke City goal and how the Gooners failed to convert those chances, maybe not.

The inclusion of Welbeck by Wenger is still a mystery. Playing three at the back (most of which were full backs) is another mystery too. Selling Gabriel to Valencia? I’ll rather not talk about it. Since a defeat in the first game of the season was avoided, I thought it’d probably come later. Now that one L is on the books, hopefully Liverpool won’t rub salt on their injury this coming weekend.

Chelsea: Still a Team to be Feared

In his post-match analysis, Thierry Henry said, “There was something about Chelsea today. We asked them questions, and they answered.” He said this while he was talking about the way David Luiz took the ball off of Wanyama and started off the move that saw Marcos Alonso grab his second of the day.

Yes, there may be some arguments about Tottenham playing on “unfamiliar grounds.” But after losing to Burnley, Antonio Conte seemed to find a way to revamp his side psychologically. While most thought the Burnley loss was the beginning of the end, Conte found his way around and surprised all, me inclusive.

Yes, I expected Spurs to put the final nail in the blue coffin but the champ has refused to die that easily. I’ll pretend I didn’t see that Batshuayi own goal.

Liverpool: Well MANEd

Just like in their game against Hoffenheim where Mane was at the centre of everything that the Reds had going for them, Mane was the centre of attraction in the game against Crystal Palace.

The difference between the two sides was crystal clear as chance after chance fell to names like Firmino, Salah and Sturridge. Maybe they should have been more clinical than they were but they weren’t wasteful.

Yes, before I forget, there’s the argument that they’re missing Coutinho. Maybe in the game against Watford but not against Benteke and co. Mane proved Liverpool are more than just Coutinho.

 

Manchester City: Great but can be Better

Right after the game against Everton, I mentioned something about how Pep Guardiola’s side and Manchester United were the most deadly sides in the Premier League. And one reason why City appears on the list is this: the number of chances they create in games is mind blowing.

See the number of shots? The last time I saw Manchester City this rampant was they played FC Barcelona and Luis Enrique quipped, “City pressed us to the stands.

For the most part of the game, City dominated but were wasteful – a problem that just won’t go away. The Kyle Walker red seemed to wake the sleeping giant as they played like a side on fire. Sterling, Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne were all amazing.

Yes, they survived the first home game of the 2017/2018 Premier League season with a draw. But some other teams won’t balk like Everton did when they come visiting. They will make Pep pay for making that wrong selection.

Manchester United: On the Rampage

Eight goals in the first two games is not a number to overlook. When you consider the fact that Mourinho’s side have not conceded any goals this season, those numbers carry even more weight.

While the Swans were able to keep the Red Devils at bay for the most part of the first half, they weren’t able to complete the job. One way or the other, Man. Utd managed to score 4 goals on the day – 3 inside the final 10 minutes of the game.

Leicester City must be wondering how to stop them from scoring because this Red Devil is one on a rampage!

 

About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

 

This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five

With all the frenzy that the transfer market brought with it this season and the many moves we saw before the season began, it was hard to not anticipate the new Premier League. With banters going on before, player comparisons here and there, you could smell the excitement from miles away.

Add to that the fact that football fans had literally endured – well, let’s just say I’m speaking for myself here – the summer break, then you’ll fully understand the frenzy that gripped most social media channels on Friday as the kick-off between Arsenal and Leicester drew nigh.

A new Premier League season is upon us

10 games, 31 goals and three days later, the football world is still trying to recover from an “Opening Day Experience” like no other the Premier League has ever experienced. From the first class treat at the Emirates to debut goals littering the weekend and of course, the Chelsea loss, it was a season opener to remember.

While fans around the world are already looking forward to Gameweek 2 – and I’m already dreading those international breaks – I introduce to you the first of a series you can look forward to seeing on this blog at the end of every Gameweek.

This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five will focus on the weekly performances of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

I would have increased the number of teams to focus on especially with a name like Tottenham begging to become the sixth team. But the keyword there is big. Is Tottenham a side big enough to be ranked alongside those clubs listed above? You can resist the temptation to talk about Liverpool and just let me know what you think by leaving me a comment.

After the opening day of the new Premier League season, how did the PL’s Big 5 fare?

Giroud celebrates winner against Leicester City. Phot credit: Telegraph

  1. Arsenal: Game Chasers (Changers too!)

Arsenal and Leicester played the first game of the 2017/2018 Premier League. And they put on quite the show.  7-goal thriller proved again to me the current Arsenal side has not changed much from last season and here’s why.

Typical of Arsenal is the habit of conceding the game’s first goal and then using all that genius and creativity in the squad to chase the game. First, they had to make sure that the scores going into the dressing room at half-time was even.

Then in the second half, they picked up from where they stopped in the first, conceding first, then giving Arsenal fans the usual “high blood pressure treat” before going on to win the game 4-3. Arsenal’s struggle to defend set pieces was pretty evident but more obvious was the impact of the substitutes depth of the Arsenal squad.

Kudos to the Gunners for turning the game around – the banters were already lurking in the corner – but imagine if all that genius was used to dictate the pace of the game instead of having to chase the game the whole 90 minutes.

Premier League MatchDay 1 results

  1. Chelsea: Beaten

In a way, the word “beaten” in football is relative. A team could be thrashed 6-0 while another can lose a game by just a lone goal.

Antonio Conte’s men started the defense of their Premier League title by first conceding 3 first half goals, having two players sent off – Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas – and then practically chasing the game the whole second half. It was a mixed display, even for a neutral like me.

But, in all fairness to both teams, the Chelsea side seemed set up for a defeat, especially with their toothless striker up front and the very weak bench Conte named on the day. The absence of Matic was hugely felt and you begin to wonder how they’ll cope against Tottenham in their next game.

The argument that most of Conte’s regulars were either injured or suspended holds water, in a way. But there’s no denying the obvious: zero points, a goal difference of -1 and a trip to Tottenham’s new home to face a rival that will be SPURred on by the opportunity to make life even more miserable for Chelsea.

Salah celebrates scoring against Watford

  1. Liverpool: Bruised

For all the fuss about Liverpool’s fast and dangerous frontline, you would have been right to see Marcus Silva start his reign as Watford coach with a loss. But, as Premier League fans had found out in the #ARSLEI game the day before, the football gods in charge of the Premier League kind of changed their script writers.

Team Watford started like a team on fire, exhibiting that strange trait that saw Hull beat some top sides last term. Names like Okaka, Amrabat and Doucoure made life difficult for Henderson, Emre Can and Moreno. They dominated the midfield and weren’t afraid to bully the Reds in the entire first half. Did I mention Chalobah?

Klopp’s pep talk during the half time break worked like magic as Liverpool turned the tables around. Salah and Mane woke up from their slumber in time to put Liverpool in front – Firmino was still AWOL at the time – for the most part of the second half… until a lack of a “proper defender” saw them concede a 95th minute goal and share the spoils.

Lessons learnt? Coutinho was sorely missed and a very fine defender is needed. Bruised but unscathed, I look forward to the coming games and how Klopp’s army will cope.

  1. Manchester City: Strange

It’s like the start of last season all over again. Manchester City faithfuls were treated to yet another surprise team set-up and the very strange way the Cityzens played against newly promoted Brighton and Hove Albion.

Pep’s 3-5-2 formation was unmistakable from the blast of the ref’s whistle. I guess it was the one formation that could comfortably accommodate both of his South American strikers. But it meant they had to play through the middle, a path Brighton had already crammed full of players, players whose roles were hard to define.

Sometimes they were four players at the back. At other times, there were six, all moving in a form of synchronization that will make the Chinese army jealous. It was a water-tight defense system set up by a coach who seemed to want to catch Pep’s men on the counter.

But a Sergio Aguero goal and an own goal was enough to separate both sides. City won the game but left most football fans wondering how many versions of Guardiola’s team will be seen this season.

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku celebrate against West Ham

  1. Manchester United: Dominant

I was aware of the project that Jose Mourinho was looking to show off to the world with his moves for Romelu Lukaku and Matic. His team needed reinforcements and reinforce it he did. The unknown was how his team will fare, especially after losing to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

So, you can understand the surprise of many – even Manchester United faithfuls – when Lukaku grabbed two goals, Matic put on a Man-of-the-Match show which gave Pogba the freedom to roam forward and wreck havoc and Marcus Rashford put on quite the performance.

The West Ham players were overwhelmed by the 7-star performance of Mourinho’s men. Simply put, they stood no chance. And that was because every department of the Manchester United team was functioning so well.

It’s only Gameweek 1 and, like the general consensus states, it’s too early to make any calls. That being said, it was a season-opening weekend that won’t be forgotten in a hurry. And now, we can’t wait for the next Gameweek.

 

 

[BANTER] 6 Talking Points From the Opening Weekend of the Premier League

Banter is a supple term used to describe activities or a chat that is playful, intelligent and original. It is one of the key ingredients for communication amongst rival fans. We all love some good banter, don’t we?

Fantastic Banter

Fantastic Banter

However, just like it is much more pleasurable to give than to receive and not forgetting that givers never lack, I’ve applied same when it comes to banter. One sure thing is that everybody gets a turn and in this article, I take a look at some of those “talking points” from the weekend:

1. Wenger Out?
It can be argued that if the Arsenal team put in the same effort the Arsenal supporters put in during their #WengerOut campaigns, they’d win the league every year. Seven minutes was the time it took from Jamie Vardy’s first and Leicester’s second goal of the night to get #WengerOut trending on twitter barely just 30 minutes to the start of the new season.

After an extraordinary comeback (Arsenal being very good at comebacks don’t mean much), the #WengerOut band would have been delighted again with their manager (except Piers Morgan).

In what could be “their year”, the Arsenal supporters would be happy to finish in the top four, I really mean to win the FA cup and move on.
2. Liverpool Can’t Defend Corners
History merchants couldn’t do the job away at Watford in a display that typifies the club. They conceded after eight minutes from a Stefano Okaka header and conceded the equalizer in added time via a corner.

With the focus being Phil Coutinho’s transfer request, it seems that Liverpool are in need of a Van Dijk (no apologies). Saido Mane says ‘we’ll work harder’ and I’ll say maybe, just maybe next year.

Premier League MatchDay 1 results

Premier League MatchDay 1 results

3. Conte Kante
That would be my answer if you asked me if Antonio Conte could lead Chelsea to a defense of their League title. And with a thin squad and European commitments this season it seems like Chelsea might not enjoy this season.

 

A 2-3 loss to Burnley FC in which captain Gary Cahill and midfielder Cesc Fabregas were given their marching orders and Twitter striker Michy Batshuayi had no impact in the game and was substituted for 70m summer signing Alvaro Morata who immediately helped Chelsea at least finish with some dignity ensured the season started on the right note for Chelsea’s rivals.

With Hazard still not due from injury and suspensions to Cahill, Fabregas and a trip to Tottenham next, one would wonder how much weight Conte would lose.

4. It was just Brighton and Hove Albion
Former Arsenal fans, – sorry I mean Man City fans – shouldn’t get too excited as nobody expected the world’s third most-expensive defense to be breached by Brighton and Hove Albion. It would have been utterly ridiculous and Pep would have been called a fraud. There was nothing to laugh about in their dominant display and maybe the next match against Everton could bring some joy.

5. Mr. Dele
Bantering Tottenham is usually difficult. Not because they are quite exceptional, but you’d have to find their fans first and then get them to speak about any trophy they have won or nearly won or maybe a match day DVD would do then.

On the opening weekend, the verdict is banter postponed, many thanks in part to Jonjo Shelvey as he had to get himself sent off. Dele Alli delivered the first goal after getting on the end of a Christian Eriksen cross in a combination we will see many times this season.

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku celebrate against West Ham

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku celebrate against West Ham.

6. Anti-Mourinho United Display
After all summer signings scored on their debuts one would think Romelu Lukaku would feel some pressure. But there was nothing like that as he debuted in red with a brace. In what can be described as an exciting display by Manchester United, fellow new boy Nemaja Matic was equally impressive as Paul Pogba shone against West Ham in a 4-0 victory.

It seemed like an uncharacteristic pattern for Mourinho’s United charges – United under Mourinho have never won 4-0 in the Premier League and the last time they scored four was against Leicester City 4-1 at home last season. There would be plenty of time to laugh and call Pogba a “dabbing Mulumbu” but this week’s banter has been postponed.

Author

Awolope Kolawole

Arsenal 4-3 Leicester City: Premier League Back With a Bang!

Boom!

The Premier League is back and boy what a start! 85 seconds into the game and we were reminded why the beautiful game of football excites us. The entertaining opener reminds fans all over the world what the PL is about as substitutes Aaron Ramsey and Oliver Giroud seal an exciting come back.

Record signing Alexandre Lacazette put Arsenal ahead just 85 seconds into the game in a start they woul have wanted before Shinji Okazaki levelled things with a header and a Jamie Vardy brace on both sides of half time kept Arsenal second best after Danny Welbeck levelled things on the stroke of half time.

Giroud celebrates winner against Leicester City. Phot credit: Telegraph

However, a double change by Arsene Wenger saw Arsenal emerge victorious after Ramsey and super-sub Giroud banged in a header that hit the bar and bounced into the net five minutes left of normal time.

“We conceded three goals, yes but we scored four goals as well and the game was of quality”

“Overall we could say we were punished on every single mistake by a Leicester team who were very efficient going forward” said Wenger.

The result spared Arsenal a fourth consecutive defeat in five seasons and saw the gunners record a victory for the first time in eight years in the opening fixture of the EPL.

It took only 23 minutes for the ‘Wenger Out’ band to find their voice and 30 minutes to get it trending on twitter as Vardy gave Leicester the lead making Arsenal supporters seriously doubt this was their year.

Lacazette didn’t disappoint on what was his competitive debut at the emirates deftly glancing a header from an Elneny first time cross past Kasper Schmeichel into the net before enjoying the acclaim from the crowd at the Emirates with his arms spread wide.

Three minutes later, the mood was dampened as Okazaki leapt to nod home after a deep cross from Marc Albrighton was headed across goal by Harry Maguire in what looked like a well perfected routine from training.

Schemichel made saves from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and debutant Sead Kolasinac as they stepped things up in search of a goal to get the advantage but it was their carelessness in possession that helped Leicester go in front before the half hour.

A sloppy pass from Granit Xhaka was picked up by Albrighton who continued down the left flank to bend in a sublime cross for Vardy to meet with a rousing finish. They almost had a third after Okazaki’s header from a Christian Fuchs’s cross bounced just wide of the left hand of Cech’s post/

However, Arsenal were to level things up after Daniel Welbeck tapped in from a Kolasinac’s square pass after Lacazette’s shot was blocked. Leicester must have had it coming though as Wilfred Ndidi only just survived a penalty shout for handball.

Arsenal began the second half the better team but their inability to effectively deal with set pieces again saw Vardy complete a brace from an in-swinging corner from the right in a moment when Xhaka was punished for ball watching.

Schmeichel again looked to keep things as they were after denying Oxlade-Chamberlain and Bellerin before Wenger sought inspiration from the bench in the 67th minute bring in Ramsey and Giroud in place of Elneny and Rob Holding.

It seemed very likely Wenger took a gamble as Arsenal were left with Chamberlain at right back, Bellerin aat left back and left backs Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal in central defence.

However the move paid off as Ramsey controlled a Xhaka pass to drill in a shot that took Arsenal level and 2 minutes later, Giroud’s header from Xhaka’s corner completed the turnaround in a sweet fashion as the header hit the post before bouncing over the line.

Manager Craig Shakespeare concluded “we are not going to be too downhearted” after he admitted disappointment at scoring three and coming away with a defeat.

 

Author: Awolope Kolawole

Football This Past Week: The Notes…

The fever that grips every football fan when he/she wakes up on a Friday morning is one of joy, like that of an animal freed from its cage, a man liberated, from the horrors of the conventional 8-5.

I, on my part, get Goosebumps, like a man going on his first date. My love for football isn’t mutual, it is an obsession. And just like that, the liberation I felt this past Friday was immense, smacking my lips at the action that awaited football purists over the next few weeks. This was the start point of that action.

However, if there is anything we purists do, we are more of critics just as we appreciate our football and this weekend’s action brought about a few points worthy of note round the world…

  • THE REAL BATTLE IS IN BETWEEN. 

In England, all hands are on deck. As of three weeks ago, Chelsea were sleepwalking to the Premier League title. It was a foregone conclusion; the only battle was at the bottom.

That was before Sam Allardyce and Mamadou Sakho intervened.

The Blues have since lost two of their last three games while Spurs have kept up their winning streak. It was unimaginable that we would reach this stage in the league. But they brought it upon themselves.

The Blues were nowhere near their usual dominant selves in those defeats and while Sakho and Herrera put in man-of-the-match performances, Ngolo Kante and David Luiz had their performances and roles brought into question.

Spurs, on the other hand, continue to march on, and the joy in the white half of North London is in deep contrast to the emotions in the red half of the city. Mauricio Pochettino’s men have looked imperious, certain and played with a swagger and brute unlike the cowardly, uncertain and aimless football Wenger’s boys have served up since the turn of the spring.

They look like ‘WENGER’s INVINCINBLES’ right now and not the ‘INVISIBLES’ receiving instructions from the Frenchman. The desire, passion, joy and willingness to die for the shirt is there.

As for the Gunners? Not so much. For the first time, in Wenger’s time at the Emirates, Arsenal may not make the Champions league. Not because of anything, but rather because their rivals aren’t dropping points. Liverpool showed fight to down West Brom at the Hawthorns, completing the double against a team they traditionally struggle against.

Vincent Kompany showed why he is still the best centre back in the league, commandeering City and giving them the assuredness and confidence the defence has lacked in his absence.

At the other end, Sam Allardyce continued his resurgence of Palace with a draw, while Swansea are in real danger of been cut adrift at the bottom.

Only a meagre nine points separate eleventh from eighteenth, and while there is still hope, teams must look to win the war and not the battle. The attitude needed for both isn’t the same.

 

  • THE CLASICO? WE HAVE A RELEGATION FIGHT IN LA LIGA… AND IT GETS BETTER. 

If there is anygame I always mark on my calendar first once the fixture lists are released, it’s the clasico. However, while many are talking about the fact that Neymar will miss Spain’s ‘biggest game,’ it is infact at the bottom that the biggest games are taking place.

Granada and Osasuna are especially fighting for their lives. Granada’s attempt at a new approach backfired dramatically against Celta where the players did more of dancing than playing, just like their interim coach while Leganes, despite showing fight and spirit still lost to Espanyol.

The Catalans are locked in a desperate battle with the two Basque outfits as well as Villareal for a place in Europe and while the top two are well ahead of the others, a photo finish isn’t out of the picture either.

 

  •  INTER AND MILAN HAVE ONE PROBLEM: THEMSELVES. 

The Nerazurri and the Rossoneri are currently two underachieving teams. And while on Saturday they served up a fascinating game, it brought back memories of why both sides are being left behind by the two Roman sides, Juventus and Napoli.

The manner in which Inter threw away a two-goal lead was baffling and astonishing. They left a position where they could have easily seen out the game and put themselves in deep trouble. Worse still, they conceded the equalizer with the last kick of the game.

A side that lacks that mental fortitude should be nowhere near Europe’s elite. Many did praise Milan for the comeback, but it was only due to their rivals weakness that brought them back in the game. They were passive for long periods and relied heavily on the influence of Gerard Deulofeu and Suso to keep them in the game. They are miles behind Lazio, let alone the top three.

The problem at Inter is mental and psychological, in Milan? Cluelessness

 

  • THE CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE & CONFEDERATIONS CUP NEW FORMAT CAN BE WORKED ON.

It’s the first time 16 teams will participate in the CAF club competitions. However, it may be better they increase it to 32 from next year. Only diehard fans of African football have followed the qualifiers and while the group stage action doesn’t start till May, it can be restructured.

The coefficients system can be readjusted. It’s sad if we cannot see fascinating football from a larger pool of teams. The two club competitions have lost top teams in this qualification stage due to reasons varying amongst themselves.

Bidvest Wits are one of them, Enugu Rangers another. Smouha and Zesco will only be playing in the CAF Confederations Cup. It is time we have teams that would of a surety reach the group stage than have a three-tier tedious qualification system. This can be facilitated by using national team coefficients, which could even see an increase in the competition at international level.

Take South Africa for instance. They have one of the best leagues in Africa; the last three South African representatives in CAF club competitions have reached the semi finals at least.

Achievements like that can be rewarded with three or four slots the following season. That’s enough motivation, one that would spur other countries on.

African football has stayed in the shadows long enough. Issa Hayatou’s heralded exit would be meaningless if changes aren’t visible from 2018 onward

What I Learnt from the UEFA Champions League this week

One for the road: Sergio Ramos celebrates scoring for Real Madrid against Napoli. Photo credit: @realmadriden

“We are only halfway through the tie. There are 95 minutes left and lots of things can happen.

“I go into the game with a positive mood. We have to do everything really well, both in defence and in attack. PSG are a really good side.

“Of course, lots of things have happened since the first leg. We have improved and have put in some good performances. We are optimistic by nature and convinced of what we can do. We will try to make the most of the favourable circumstances.

“If a team can score four times against us, we can score six times against them. We have seen that before this season. We have nothing to lose.”

What better way to begin discussing one of the most exciting weeks in UEFA Champions League history than to start with the words of the Barcelona coach cum prophet, Luis Enrique?

The 7th and 8th day of March, 2017 will remain etched in the memories of football fans for as long as I can think of. History was made, records were shattered and the already-immortal ones became even more immortal (if that word exists).

While so many will talk about how Arsenal ’10-d 2′ bottle things up after a fine start to a football season, the major talking point of the week was the showdown in Barcelona.

It’d have been hard to think of any record that Barcelona had not shattered. But a 4-0 first leg deficit was a high hurdle, a new one for the ‘Catalan gods.’ But they proved themselves once again, as one of the best, if not the best, in the world of football.

The greatest comeback you’ve ever seen? I thought so too!

Aubameyang came to life with a hattrick. Benfica couldn’t hold on. Real Madrid stuttered at first (a trend fast becoming a norm for the Los Blancos), then came back to win in Napoli.

What else did I learnt about the UEFA Champions League (UCL) this week?

Borussia Dortmund’s Yellow Wall

1. The UEFA Champions League is in a World of its Own…

When day turns into night midweek, and the stars litter the sky, the best in Europe come out to play. The competition is the UEFA Champions League and the word ‘play’ has been taken to another level.

It may not be the most-watched football competition in the world but, the Champions League has a way of catching (capturing too) attention the world over.

It’s not certain there’s a puppeteer pulling the strings behind the curtains, but if there is, this one puppeteer is a good one, one that is getting better with each passing Matchday.

Each night, drama is expected to happen. And with each night of football, the UCL doesn’t fail to disappoint. It serves up high drama with each passing night and the fans everywhere (well almost, taking timezones and who won or lost into consideration) go to bed satisfied.

It’s fair to say it’s just the Round of 16. But that makes things scary too. What level of action awaits fans in the quarter-finals? Semi-finals? Of course, we know mouth-watering clashes await fans… but no one knows how exciting they’ll be. We can only anticipate.

 

2. … and the Premier League Can’t Seem to Keep Up

For letting Barcelona overturn such a massive first leg deficit, the whipping league for the week should be the French Ligue 1. PSG should be ashamed of themselves, right? Well, it’s a two-sided coin – and I’ll let you choose which side to stick to.

While you’re choosing, I’ve singled out England’s Premier League for some butt-whopping in this piece. This is a league that prides itself on being the toughest, – they’re closely followed by the English Football Championship. Lol, I know I know, I sound incredulous to most right now… but that’s how the bitter truth can look like sometimes. – meanest, unforgiving football league in the world.

On Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and even on some Mondays, these big shots strut their stuff, confidently and amazingly. The display takes your breath away. You see amazing goals, and master tactical plans being executed by players who are obviously close to the top of the football world’s food chain.

But when Tuesdays and Wednesdays appear, England’s top guns disappear into thin air. The fearsome English lions all of a sudden transform into harmless cubs. Then they’re knocked around haplessly by Europe’s ‘Senior Men.’

Then with repeated terrible European outings, Europe’s so-called minnows get the required confidence to step up to the plate too and either try a home run or slam dunk or a hole-in-one. And most times, they succeed, overpowering most of these ‘English Local Champions.’

The Gunners tried to prove themselves in the first half of their clash against Bayern Munich, but they couldn’t hold on or increase their lead. They had to let another five in, yet again!

I know you’re tempted to quickly mention the ref’s decision to send Koscielny off and how it affected the display of Wenger’s men on the night. But, as a football team, if you can’t keep playing well regardless of the kind of hand you’re dealt, aren’t you a spine-less, weak-hearted football club?

Sounds harsh, I know but English clubs have to wake up to the current reality. Benitez’s Liverpool, Fergie’s Manchester United and the rest didn’t win the UEFA Champions League by playing like boys. They weathered the storm, played like men and created space for themselves in history.

3. Referees?

You know, it’s almost impossible to talk about football these days without certain refereeing issues rearing their ugly heads.

The most recent episode of this unsatisfactory series before this week started was the Zlatan-Mings incident (just so you know, I still feel Ibrahimovic should have been sent to the showers earlier than scheduled. But heck, what do I know? I’m just a bloody football fan).

I can easily make a case for these referees: They’re humans, not robots or machines. As thus, they have EVERY RIGHT to make some terribly questionable calls every once in a while. But, what happens when those calls have huge, permanent effects on games?

Case 1: Arsenal, Koscielny, Lewadowski and the Red Card

It’s the responsibility of a player, defender for that matter, to know what to do while he’s sharing his own 6-yard box with an opponent. Rules are rules. Break them and get broken.

Koscielny, inside the six-yard box, stops a Lewadowski who is through on goal (stops here means he slightly touches the Polosh international who milks the situation and goes to ground faster than you can say “Alice in Wonderland.”).

Centre ref points to the spot, flashes a yellow and everything is fine. Remember, during this time, the Gunners were in cruise control. They had their hands, in a way, wrapped around the necks of the Germans.

One of the extra refs (those ones that stand beside the goal post) says something to the center ref. Yellow transforms into red and Arsenal go on to ship in 5 at the end of the day). A famous Frenchman called the ref’s move a scandalous one. I concur!

Case 2: Barcelona, PSG, and the Suarez Dive

I’ll save my breath for this one and let the gif do most of the talking.

I know they can’t see it all everytime but, arrrggghhhhh, some mistakes can’t be condoned at this high level of football. It’s just unforgivable.

Two weeks ago, Impossible. Two weeks after, “Nothing is impossible.”

4. Football Is Just Crazy

That’s the best definition I can find.

It was hard to imagine Barcelona overturn that 0-4 deficit in Paris. I thought Arsenal had learnt their lessons. I thought Cavani’s goal had put the final nail in Barcelona’s coffin. I thought Napoli would give Real Madrid a run for their money on Italy.

All these were my thoughts… until football came strolling along with its craze. All norms became abnormal in seconds with a rebirth of that famous Aguero goal by Sergi ranking high on the list of ‘irregulars.’

It’s hard to put football in a box… football is JUST CRAZY!

So far, this year’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 has been ‘goals-full.’ And the drama continues next week before the highly anticipated draws for the quarter-finals.

Quick one before I stop writing…

Are there really draws? Or is it just one of the master plans of the puppeteer hiding behind the curtains? This was the topic in the blog’s discussion room yesterday.

With repeated draws in the past like Real Madrid v Lyon, Bayern Munich v Arsenal, Barca v PSG and more, what do you think? Are draws in football, especially in the UCL, really just draws or… is there more to it than meets the eye?

Let me know what you think by dropping your comments in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.

About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst on radio (The Beat FM), and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @Rotdav

C. Ronaldo’s New Role, 1-5/02/2017, Beautiful Goals and more from the UEFA Champions League Week

Coincidence?

Coincidence?

“We have been royally treated this week in the UEFA Champions League”

– Match Commentator of the Real Madrid vs Napoli game.
Nothing could be truer than that statement. In just two days, the pain of the absence of Europe’s ‘Premier Football Competition’ was swept away by amazing contests, beautiful goals and shocking results (Hello Paris).

The stage had already been set, since last year, for exciting clashes between Europe’s best. Of course I looked forward, mouth-wateringly, to the encounter in France and the one in Spain the moment the draws were made.

But I got more than what I bargained for this week – and I’m sure I’m not alone on this boat!

After just two nights in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clash, Barcelona are already four goals behind, a certain English team shipped in 5 in Germany and the current holders had to wiggle their way past Napoli.

How about a bigger picture?

All 4 Valentine

All 4 Valentine

1. From Paris… With Love

PSG vs Barcelona, in recent times, has always been a tight contest. It has never been an affair that was too one-sided.

In one corner of the ring, you’ll usually haven’t the French, busy trying to stamp their authority in European football. In the other corner, the Catalan giants, looking to further assert their European authority.

So, you can understand why it’s almost always the classic case of a game “kinda too close to call” whenever these two entities meet. But, the meeting between PSG and Barcelona on Valentine’s Day, in Paris, wasn’t one too close to call. IT WAS A ONE-SIDED AFFAIR!

You are forgiven if you thought Barça’s MSN gang ran riot and terrorized their French hostages on the night because that’s what they know how to do best. On this fateful night, it was the exact opposite. PSG scored two unreplied goals (two beauties by Di Maria) in each half of the game to take a four-goal advantage into the second leg.

Surprised Barcelona didn’t score? With the way the PSG players played, it was impossible for the clubside from Spain to score. The closest they came to scoring was a header from Umtiti that hit the woodwork.

The work rate of Unai Emery’s men was un-freaking-believeable! Names like Aurier, Rabiot, Cavani, Veratti seemed to be on the move every time. The little pockets of space Messi’d usually enjoy in games like this were closed up. The Argentine was locked out. Neymar was isolated. Suarez? You know the rest.

The French side never seemed to slow down. For example, Barcelona were encamped in their own half for the entire first 5 minutes of the 2nd half. This is testimony enough about PSG’s resilience to kill the game – despite being 2 up already at the time. Add another 5 minutes, and Di Maria had rattled the net again, this time with a beauty from his left foot.

3 – 0.

By the 75th minute, PSG’s left-back had dribbled past Neymar, went on a mazy run, and supplied Cavani who scored the fourth with a one-timer. During this time, PSG’ had already registered10 attempts on target compared to Barca’s lone attempt on target.

Barcelona went visiting... 4 nothing!

Barcelona went visiting… 4 nothing!

The Catalan giants seemed distraught. The big and mighty names disappeared at the sight of regulars like Rabiot, Aurier, Draxler and the young Presnel Kimpembe. The fabbled “Barcelona Connect” struggled to connect throughout the game.

Now, the Catalan giants have an uphill task of overturning a four-goal deficit at the Camp Nou, a challenge no club In Europe has ever tackled successfully.

2. Real Madrid and CR7’s New Role

Before this game, there was something unnerving about the UCL form of Napoli. This was a team that could spring surprises. They won their group. It’s almighty Real Madrid, I know. But the Italians almost pulled off a Spanish surprise.

Their set-up from the word go startled and rattled Zidane’s men. Their quick exchange of passes seemed to catch Modric and co off guard. Sometimes, it looked like tiki-taka. At other times, it looked like something never seen before.

The passes were fast, the runs sharp and it didn’t take long before they opened their account, scoring inside the first 10 minutes of the game thanks to Insigne. And to think that Real Madrid had been doing all the playing during this time. That was the wake up call for the leviathan.

Realising that the ‘highly dreaded’ away goal had just been conceded, Real Madrid started creating chance after chance and Benzema found a way to pull Madrid back on level terms.

C. Ronaldo then unselfishly cut one back for Toni Kross, who finished cooly with a low shot. Then there was Casemiro’s beauty of a goal that got Rafa Nadal laughing and left Morata stunned on the touch line.

Jubilant: In case you missed Casemiro's cracker, look it up and watch it. Thank me later ;)

Jubilant: In case you missed Casemiro’s cracker, look it up and watch it. Thank me later 😉

Speaking of C. Ronaldo, it’s not exactly clear who has given the Portuguese football god this new role he now performs in: maybe his age has forced him to start operating in this new capacity, maybe it’s Zizou. It’s quite hard to tell. But the obvious remains: Cristiano Ronaldo is now more of a team player and less selfish.

Case Study: His assist for Toni Kroos Is one CR7 would usually take aim from. It was inside the opponent’s 18-yard box, a confort zone for Ronaldo. But he chose to pass Instead.

There was the 85th minute pass to Marcelo which he could have chosen to fire home as soon as he received the pass in the 18-yard box.

Seeing as the usually goal-hungry CR7 hasn’t scored a UCL goal in 523 minutes, it’s weird to see him break the UEFA Champions League assist record. Wonders, they say… http://www.goal.com/en/news/8/main/2017/02/15/32726982/ronaldo-breaks-champions-league-assist-record?ICID=HP_BN_2

3. No Love Lost at Odds of 5-1

“The game ends Arsenal 1, Bayern 5, for the second year running.” – Match Commentator.

But for Ospina, the scoreline may have had three digits. And you know whose the double digits would have been. This one was a contest between men and boys.

Forget what Arsene Wenger said about missing Koscielny. The Arsenal team that played against Bayern Munich on Wednesday wouldn’t have survived if they had a XI full of Koscielny’s. The English side was just helpless.

Swept away by the Germans: Arturo Vidal  and Lewandowski

Swept away by the Germans: Arturo Vidal and Lewandowski

It was a mismatch from the blast of the ref’s whistle and Arjen Robben’s beauty of a goal (how many times have I said this?) was a testament of things to come. Yes they got an away goal, but shipping in 5? De javu. De javu. De javu.

Is it time for Wenger to go? I don’t know. I can’t say. Ask your friend who’s an Arsenal faithful (please let me know what they think by leaving me a comment. I’d love to hear from you).

A Round of Applause please?

A Round of Applause please?

Some may say the job’s only half done for the Bavarians. And they’re right. Only a handful of German goals in England will rightfully settle this one.

Benfica beat Dortmund by 1-0. That’s still the most open game of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 so far.

The games continue next week. Will there be more beautiful goals, large scoreline margins or even more surprising wins or defeats? Fingers are crossed.
About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage him on Twitter @rotdav

There is Something Mysterious About the 2016/2017 Premier League Season

Enigma!

Enigma!

The Premier League, on any good day, is an interesting league, one of the most exciting (if not the most exciting one). One moment, you know what’s coming. The next, you’re left in awe of what just happened.

The Premier League is majorly a standout league for one reason: any club in the league, size and league table position regardless, can come visiting and steal 3 points from right under your nose, sometimes effortlessly, sometimes with the last kick of the game.

This, and not the famous English Fourth Estate (they play their part too) is what makes the league notoriously exciting. But the 2016/2017 season has been different.

No, I’m not talking about that 5000/1 kind of different. I’m talking about the 6th-position-for-months, Conte-nious-table-topping-performances, Pep-ppered-on-all-sides-by-Everton-and-Bravo kind of different.

Chelsea’s rise, Pep’s choice of Bravo despite those dangerously negative statiatics, Arsenal’s ‘upandan‘ season, Spurs, the Leicester blow-up, to mention but a few, have been mysterious and unexplainable!

There’s “almost” been more than enough excitement this season (enigma too!). Every week and matchday seems to have it’s own special surprise for all and sundry.

And in this article, I’ll be focusing on this week’s episode of mysteries served up by a mysterious season.

1. KARMA

It is believed that the world is run by a set of people, that keep the world in balance to prevent her from shutting down. For every good, there must be a bad, For every bad? A good. Its what keeps the world okay. It may seem a farce but, it is a reality which Jose Mourinho must come to terms with.

The 54-year old stormed out of his post-match TV interview apparently disgusted at the result, but it was one which had his own blueprint. Hull sat deep, refused to be bullied and had answers to all the questions United asked of them.

It was a classic Mourinho print, one reminiscent of his Inter days. He shouldn’t have been angry. He was simply being paid with his own kind of coin. His team had done the same earlier this season at Anfield.

Often times, snatching a win could be the sweetest thing in football but you being the victim? Leaves scars. However, it wasn’t the case here. Maybe Mourinho should applaud Hull’s resilience and be proud of them than putting up hypocritical behavior.

Mysterious Record: Welcome to a weird Premier League season

Mysterious Record: Welcome to a weird Premier League season

Have I mentioned the 6th place mystery? It’s been so enigmatic that I’ll just let this infographic emphasize how deep this mystery is.

 

Pep's Strongest Manchester City side yet?

Pep’s Strongest Manchester City side yet?

2. SANE, WILLY & JESUS, Guardiola’s Saviour

It doesn’t come everyday, the chance to say how much a goalkeeper saved Pep Guardiola on a Matchday. It’s usually the Spaniard’s frontment wrecking all the havoc and breaking down barriers.

But in recent times, just like a wardrobe malfunction, a “goalkeeping malfunction” has not saved Pep. It has made him look surprisingly terrible. Don’t get me wrong. The tacts have been fine.

Jesus comes from Brazil, gets a goal, an assist, runs away with the Man of The Match award and comfortably fills in the shoes left by Kun Aguero’s absence – all on his first Premier League start.

Sane’s trickery, run-ins, innovation and youth makes Man. City look alive again! I mean, Sterling is being greatly helped by the young German.

So, It’s obvious the Pep Tacts are intact. But no team can hide, for long, the pain of a bad (actually, terrible’s the word) goalkeeper.
And the Philosopher had been suffering this pain for some time. So, he decides to take a pill to alleviate his pain by replacing Claudio Bravo with Willy Caballero. The result?

Manchester City beat West Ham 0-4! No goals were conceded. Mysterious treatment of that “goalkeeping headache.”


3. THEIR OWN WORST ENEMY

Man is often said to be his own worst enemy. The architect of his downfall. And Arsenal are edging towards that spectrum.

Disastrous decision making in the stands courtesy Arsene Wenger, moments of naivety courtesy the Arsenal defence and a twirl of fate all combined to perfection against Watford. They lost the game

Being Arsenal, a loss to Watford may not entirely be a mystery. But, isn’t the mystery of CONSISTENTLY losing the “title ambitions” steam around this time of the year mysterious enough?

Season after season, the story has been the same: September to November, an Arsenal side that’ll kill all in sight. From Santa’s arrival, to his departure and the first month of the new year inclusive, you have an Arsenal side that just can’t help themselves from caving in.

They often play as if they are scared to win and while they have scored the most late goals this season, they must realize fortune will only favour the brave. It won’t hurt if they grow more cajones and played like champions. They already have the core!


4. ThE OTHER MYSTERIES

Chelsea fans have to forgive me for adding your beloved club to this list, instead of making it a point on it’s own.

Well, it seems no one else is interested in catching up. Since that unbeaten run, the only thing that can be a mystery is Chelsea losing. I’ve adjusted to this “type” of Chelsea. Nothing new to see – erm, can I mention that mysterious David Luiz goal?

Mysteriously, Liverpool were able to slow down that Chelsea train whose next stop sems to be the Premier League title. Mane is back. As such, the poor run of form should stop now.

Peter Crouch is still a prolific scorer. Scoring 100 Premier League goals is a mystery because not many made it that far. But Crouch did and celebrated the feat with his famous Robot Celebration.

Leicester’s season has been so confusing. It’s like the force of overcoming a 5000/1 odds is still with them, but this time, in a negative form.

The relegation cloud is hovering dangerously and that, my friends, is a mystery for a club that is the reigning champ.
Did I omit any other “mysteries”? Do you have some of yours? Please let me know by leaving a comment below. I’d love to talk football with you. 😉
About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav