Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Sport, Wenger

Dear Wenger 16.05.18

Dear Mr Wenger,

It’s been a couple of days since your last game for Arsenal and the dust has settled. It has clearly been a rollercoasterThis season in particular.

There have been so many ups and downs, particularly in the second half of your time at the club.  As much as the protests for your departure increased, in the last few seasons, I just want you to know that the loud people don’t represent us all but unfortunately, the loudest people are always the ones that are heard.

I’m part of the camp that wanted you to leave but to leave with the honour and respect that you deserve.

Honestly, I wanted you to leave after the 5-1 defeat at Bayern Munich. Sitting on my lonesome with the German home fans, watching my team crash and burn was quite possibly my worse football memory ever. (A close second is obviously the 8-2 loss to Manchester United.)

With that being said, you’ve given me some of the best ones too.

Lots of my favourite memories have been FA Cup wins.  People like me, that are over a certain age, appreciate the FA Cup and what it means for English football.

There is nothing like the 1998 FA Cup final against Newcastle.  The team was filled with arguably one of the best starting 11s under your management with the likes of Adams, Vieira, Dixon and Ray the Romford Pelé Parlour. (I could go on.)  The quality in the team is obviously the reason why Arsenal won the double that year.  The first goal was gold,  classic Overmars beating the goalkeeper to score the perfect goal and not to forget the assist from Petit.  As much as Newcastle had their chances, the team showed their style and togetherness.

Moving on to a slightly more recent FA Cup.  The unforgettable 2014 final against Hull was to put it lightly of epic proportion. Going 0-2 down after 8 minutes was an event that could not have been predicted.  But that’s the beauty of the FA Cup.  Thankfully, Cazorla gave us a glimmer of hope in the first half with a marvellous free-kick and then Koscielny equalised in the 71st minute.  The relief that you must have felt in that moment.  The icing on the cake was, of course, the extra time goal by Ramsey.  This was a game of twists and turns but most importantly a game where the team didn’t stop fighting and gained another piece of silverware.

This brings me to the unattainable Champions League.  The one piece of silverware that you were close to but not close enough.  The team could almost touch it at the 2006 final against Barcelona.  If only they could have held on to the lead instead of conceding two goals in the last 14 minutes of the match.

Under your management, Arsenal had more consecutive appearances in the Champions League than any other Premier League team.  Maybe, looking back, more people will be less critical of you and actually and appreciate what you did.  I guess you can take the criticism you received as a compliment.  People expected a lot from you.

I could literally write a book about my favourite Arsenal memories under your reign: the Wenger vs Ferguson feud, Sol Campbell moving across to the right side of North London and of course the 2004 Invincibles are just some more of my favourite moments.  With 823 games in charge, 7 FA Cup titles, 19 consecutive seasons in the Champions League, three Premier League titles and winning the League at both Old Trafford and White Hart Lane, you truly deserve to be in the Arsenal Hall of Fame.  Thanks for being faithful to the club.  To paraphrase, well you, it’s clear you were not just a manager but a fan too. #merciarsene

from

L.Thomas

P.S. You may have left this season with Arsenal in 6th place but still, you gained more trophies in 22 years than the numpties down the road.

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Dear Wenger: 1.05.18

Dear Mr Wenger,

So much has happened in the last couple of weeks: the announcement that you’ll leave the club at the end of the season, the terrible display away at Newcastle, the hammering of The Hammers and the 1-1 result at the Emirates against Atlético Madrid.  However, after all that, the biggest question and talking point would be our away form.  With two big away games in a row (at United then at Atlético) this would be a big test for you and the team.

Even though United’s performance against City was perhaps a perfect second-half display, they’re not the threat they used to be.  Due to this, I knew Arsenal still had a chance.  Plus, in my opinion, there was only one element that separated the two teams in the last Premier League home defeat against United: De Gea.

It looked like Arsenal had this in mind when they attempted to test the United goalkeeper in the first half.  Unfortunately, they were not precise enough to register more than one shot on target.  Whether the team is at full strength or mixed with a few younger players, we can’t seem to find the balance between taking a shot from outside of the box or thinking about how to score the perfect goal.

Some of the attempts during the game were wasteful. Thank God for Mkhitaryan.  Boy, has he been missed.  (Not to mention that he had a good game in comparison with Sánchez who had yet another average game for United.)  The joke is, the goal wasn’t an example of beautiful football but, Mkhitaryan did the right thing to beat de Gea.  He didn’t hesitate.  Hopefully, the team will take the same attitude when trying to score against Oblak on Thursday.

The game was hardly a great defensive display.  Instead of clearing balls that needed to be defended, the team would defend an attempt on goal and the return the ball to a United player.  There were so many examples of this and Lingard’s attempt in the 29th minute was just one of them.  This would be our demise at the end of the game.

After Mkhitaryan’s goal, it looked like the team were going to hold on to a point which in my opinion would have been a good point.

The game, in my opinion, was relatively even.  At times, both teams looked dangerous but at the end of the day, both teams registered three shots on target.     United had more possession but Arsenal won more 50/50s.  Then, enter Fellaini.  How many times has he beaten the opposition in the air to score? The team were warned in the 81st minute as Fellaini tried to header in a cross from Young.  After this United kept knocking on Arsenal’s defensive door.  The second warning came at the 88th minute.  United played the ball from their 18-yard box to score a goal that was declared offside thanks to Rashford.  Not one single tackle was made during this attack.

Then our defensive weakness crept in again and Maitland-Niles cleared a cross from Sanchez only for it to land back into United’s possession.  After this, it was a repeat of the warning in the 81st minute of the game and Young’s cross gifted Fellaini with the ball and this time Fellaini didn’t miss.

Sadly for the team, and all the fans, after this game it’s another point dropped and the gap between Arsenal and Burnley is now down to three points.  The away form of the team in 2018 has literally been the difference between battling with Burnley for 6th position and qualification for the Champions League next season.

From

L. ThomasL. Thomas

P.S.

With the Europa League tie looming, it was clear that resting key senior players was the right thing to do.  On the one hand, it was great to see the younger players (Maitland-Niles, Mavropanos, and Nelson) starting together but on the other hand, it shows how weak the bench is.  When you look at the likes of Manchester City, their squad is a mix of experience, tactical players and youth.  The Arsenal squad is a mix of talented players, youth and a lot of average or dare I say it below average players.  As much as we have a strong starting 11, the squad needs to be strengthened.  I guess that will be the job of your successor.

 

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Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Sport, Wenger

Dear Wenger: 11.02.18

Dear Mr Wenger,

After the disintegration of Everton’s defence last week, I assumed we’d have another Wembley victory.

The 4-2-3-1 formation, against Everton, is not my favourite, but it worked so well that I thought you would have started the game in the same way.  Wilshere could then have taken the position of the injured Ramsey and Lacazette or Aubameyang could have played on the right wing.  I hope you take this into consideration for the next Premier League game, against Manchester City, because the Arsenal team made an average Tottenham team look … better than average.

The first half was the opposite of beautiful football.  However, our back four made the necessary blocks to keep us in the game.  Mustafi was up for it.  He was not letting anything past him.  It was great to see that Mkhitaryan was ready to display his defensive qualities too.  Without his block in the 5th minute, the result could have been a nightmare.

Although at the end of 45 minutes, Arsenal had no shots on target, I assumed the team would beat Spurs.  Spurs started the second half the way our team should have.  They were looking for a goal as soon as the half started.

So much of the second half was spent in the wrong half of the pitch.  The Spurs team marked and tackled the Arsenal players before the boys in red could do anything dangerous.  If you play against a team who is hot on tackling, you time your passes!  Plus, when you actually get into an attacking situation, you stay onside.

Leading up to Kane’s goal, Dembélé intercepted a badly timed pass from Bellerin.  After that, the Spurs team passed the ball from the half-way line to the box without being tackled.  Davies had so much space before he crossed the ball into the box which found its way to Kane.  We practically gifted Kane a goal – as if we needed to do that.  This all started from an Arsenal mistake.

After that point, Tottenham was on the front foot and the Arsenal team nearly conceded a second goal in the 51st minute.  I was shouting for a substitution.  It felt like it was going to turn into a horror show – at least for us.  We needed something or someone to change the rhythm of the game.  Dare I say it, we needed Giroud.  I totally understand that the transfer of Giroud happened in order to bring Aubameyang to Arsenal but we needed a striker of Giroud’s kind on the pitch.

Instead of Giroud, our plan B was a low on confidence Lacazette and Iwobi!  Iwobi has great offensive qualities but he is not good enough to play against a team who plays that defensively.  This was obvious on Saturday.  Arsenal played slightly better after the substitutions but slightly doesn’t win games.

Lacazette gave it his all, when he was brought on, but it wasn’t good enough.  He missed his opportunity in added time and I could see how much that equaliser would have meant to you.

According to your press conference, you will not just focus on the Europa League to gain Champions League qualification.  I hope this is all talk and that you will put out a strong team for the game against Östersunds FK.  Let’s not underestimate another European team again.  Except for the Carabao Cup, where the team will have to defeat the mighty Manchester City, the Europa League is our only hope for silverware and likely our only hope for Champions League football next season.

From

L. Thomas

P.S. I’m sure the Spurs fans are still celebrating Saturday’s victory right now.  Spurs may have won the battle but since their trophy cabinet is filled with unfulfilled dreams, they haven’t won the war.

 

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Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Sport, Wenger

Dear Wenger: 4.01.18

Dear Wenger,

The fact that the team was involved in yet another ‘game of the season’ tells us a lot.  Like the Liverpool game, in December, it would have been a great watch for a neutral.  However, I’m far from a neutral.

During the first half, it looked like we had all the creativity thanks to The Conductor, Özil.  But sadly, it looked like we were all creativity and no firepower, again.

Games like this make me miss previous players like Podolski.  Players that do not have great technical ability but can still hit the back of the net.  It also shows how much Giroud is needed.  I can’t wait till he is back from injury.  Giroud wouldn’t make the World’s Most Technical Players List but the team obviously missed him when it was time for you to make a substitution.

You can tell Cech is no longer in his glory days but his great double save at the beginning of the second-half kept the team in the game. When I looked at the clock at the 53rd minute, I assumed the game would end as a goalless draw. Thankfully the British Bulldog wasn’t having any of it.  The amount of times Wilshere made sure he was in the correct position showed that he’s back to his best.  And being in the correct position is how he scored the first goal.  After Özil and Holding’s teamwork put the ball in the box, Wilshere was there to snap it up as it bounced off Chambers.  I, like so many other Arsenal fans, couldn’t be happier for him.

After Wilshere’s goal, the team kicked into fire-mode and it looked like a second goal was coming. Unfortunately, it did.  But it was not the kind of goal the boys in red were looking for. I knew as soon as we conceded the softest penalty in the world (after conceding what should have been a non-penalty against West Brom last week) that the tables had turned. Hazard shot and Cech dived the wrong way, again.

Chelsea’s second goal could have been defended.  As much as Maitland-Niles lost in the one-on-one situation with Zappacosta, Holding and Cech could have done better.  When Alonso scored Chelsea’s second goal, I thought it might be game over.  It wouldn’t be the first time that Chelsea was not the better team and still won.

Thankfully after being up 1-0 then going down to 1-2, the fight from Wilshere, Maitland-Niles, Sánchez and Özil was enough to make the team have the right attitude and go for the equalizer.  What a shot from Héctor Bellerín.  However, after all that effort, the defenders let us down and the team nearly conceded again.  Thank God, Morata missed another chance.  His miss, followed by Zappacosta’s miss, in the 92nd minute, was the best late Christmas present I could have ever been given…sorry family.

The resilience that the team showed during this game was great to see.  If we show that same resilience, with a tighter ship at the back, when we play Chelsea in the next two games this month, we’ll kick them out of the Carabao Cup.

From

L. Thomas

P.S. I heard you’ve been looking to buy Aubameyang from Dortmund in the transfer window.  I’m not getting excited but buying him as a replacement for Sánchez would be great business.

 

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Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Sport, Wenger

Dear Wenger: 19.11.17

Dear Mr Wenger,

I guess I’ll start with my favourite question: what do you think of Tottenham?

I’ll get to the ins and outs of the game in a minute, but I’ll start with the end result.  What a win! Honestly, before the game, I was thinking about what I could do to cheer myself up if we lost.  I really thought we were going to lose, not because Tottenham are a good team but because of how unpredictable we can be.  However, thankfully, this was not the case.  Well done, Mr Wenger.

I’d be interested to know what you said to the boys before the game.  This is because as soon as the whistle for the start of the game blew, they showed a must-win attitude.  It looked like Harry Winks, like the rest of the Tottenham team, didn’t get enough sleep Friday night.  Most importantly, after the first goal, which may have been a couple of millimetres off-side, the team didn’t relax and concede a goal.  Instead, they continued to pile on the pressure.  I have missed watching Arsenal play like this regularly against the top six teams but don’t worry, I won’t get ahead of myself.

My first thought of the team selection was total relief because you decided to start 50 Mill.  Lacazette’s assist, for the second goal, was absolute class.  He looks like a real force on the pitch.  Not to mention that Özil plays better when Lacazette is about.  It is clear to see that Sanchez enjoys playing with Lacazette too, possibly because he knows Lacazette has enough quality to help him carry the team.  With two assists and a goal between the three of them, may the reign of the Arsenal superpower continue.

As much as I’m not the biggest fan of Alexis Throw Your Toys Out of The Pram Sanchez, he showed that he is still playing for the badge.  After we were 2 – 0 up, and the game was in added time, he still pushed forward and tried to injure the Tottenham defence even more.  Sanchez has his faults but his determination to win everything is admirable.

Initially, I was worried that you planned to play three at the back against Tottenham.  I was hoping that you would have played four at the back in order to keep the Arsenal defence a solid unit.  But your plan worked.  The back three shutdown the attempts of Eriksen and Kane, Skepta style.  The back three worked so hard that, at one point, Alli was so quiet, I forgot he was on the pitch.  Before we get to the man of the match, Mustafi has to be mentioned.  The height he got on that header was amazing.  He made it look like he had been practising for that moment for a long time.

I understand why Özil received the Man of the Match, however, I personally would have given it to Koscielny.  Except for his misplaced pass to Bellerin at the beginning of the game, he was faultless.  When Ali tried to progress towards the goal in the 7th Minute, Koscielny was there to deny his effort.  Again, when it was still 0 – 0 and Kane was in a goal scoring position, Koscielny was there to anticipate where the ball was going to fall and made sure Kane stayed in his no-goal-scoring-lane. Koscielny repeated this countless times throughout the game.

Overall, the team put on a great performance.  I could possibly mention every player’s name in this letter and state a number of reasons for why they played well.  I’m glad they showed those clowns down the road that North London is red.

From

L.Thomas

 

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Dear Wenger: 24.10.17

Dear Mr Wenger,

The boys really know how to give you a shock on your birthday. The start of the game looked like it was going to be a walk in the park, that was until Rooney scored. Wayne Rooney the thorn in your side. Rooney’s goal changed the energy in the game. His composure in the front of the goal put Everton on the front foot. The goal showed everyone watching, every team needs a hero like Rooney on their team: a player who will take a single opportunity and turn it into pure gold. The goal put fire into the Evertonions’ boots and I thought we were going to have one of those games, again.

When Lacazette’s attempt at 17 minutes was blocked by Williams and when the poor attempt for a free kick failed in the 33rd minute, you must have thought the team was going to give you the wrong type of birthday present. Thankfully, for your sake and for the rest of the fans, a hero stepped up for us: Monreal, the real deal. Monreal showed captain-like qualities (sorry BFG). If he continues to show this attribute, I hope that you build the team around him, Wilshere, Kolašinac and Koscielny: players that show up and show the fans that they are proud to wear the badge. Monreal’s goal was not majestic but to score before half time was just what the team needed.

As I have mentioned in a previous letter, I am not a big fan of Özil but his goal was top notch. For me, the beauty of the goal was in the build-up. It’s amazing how unselfish Lacazette is. He is not one of those strikers who does a Berbatov and has one moment of magic then goes missing for the rest of the game. He is not afraid to pick up the ball and serve it up for another member of the team. The movement from Lacazette, Sanchez and Özil which produced the second Arsenal goal was brilliant and hopefully, this is the sign of the new Arsenal superpower.

Although I am sure the red card for Gueye influenced the mindset of the players on the field towards the end of the game, the quality in Lacazette’s goal after the sending off cannot be denied. At that point, Koeman could probably hear the whistle being called on his time at Everton. It’s tragic that he had to be fired a day after the Arsenal result. Football is no one’s bestie.

After the third goal, the Arsenal team were in cruise control. All five goals were something special but for me, the best goal was scored in the 90th minute. Is there anything better than a Wilshere assist? Wilshere needs a special mention. Last season cannot have been easy for him. Since his return, he has shown nothing but a positive attitude and importantly passion for the team. Wilshere is a true Gooner. I am so glad that you did not sell him in the transfer window.

With all this being said, I’m not getting too jubilant. Everton has not had a victory since 23rd September, and it is not as if the Arsenal had a massive victory over our recurring nemesis, Bayern Munich. This victory does, however, give me hope for the games to come. I hope you do not make too many changes in the Carabao Cup against Norwich; another win like this would be perfect. The team needs to carry on with this momentum.

From
L. Thomas

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Dear Wenger: 20.09.2017

Dear Wenger,

Finally, the team’s record is taking a turn for the better.  I was hoping that we were going to beat those West London Wrongens however, a draw will do.

Before the game against Chelsea, I heard a lot of the media sharing their predictions.  For one reason or another, they thought, Chelsea would have wiped the floor with us.  Honesty, I wasn’t sure how Arsenal would do myself.  Although, Chelsea are beatable – and the Arsenal boys proved this both in the FA Cup and in the Community Shield – Arsenal have Jekyll and Hyde tendencies.

Mr Hyde, reared his ugly head during the first half against FC Cologne.  Similar to the Liverpool game, the team lost the ball unnecessarily and when they actually had it, their decision making was awful.  Their heads went down after conceding the first goal and it looked more like eleven individuals instead of a team.  When the second half was about to begin, I was literally dreading the next 45 minutes – especially as I was surrounded by FC Cologne supporters.  But then the Jekyll side of the team came out.  Substituting Kolasinac for Holding breathed life into the team and the Gooners were in control.  It literally looked like a different team played in the second half.  Arsenal is an unpredictable team and that is not a compliment.

Again, at Chelsea, the Jekyll side appeared.  Cech looked confident on Sunday but a goalkeeper can only be confident when he knows that the outfield players will do their defensive duties.  The defensive mindset of the defenders, and in some cases the midfielders, seemed to have a positive effect on Cech.  What a solid save from him, with the help from Koscielny, in the 20th minute.  Hazard’s attempt, in the second half, would have made a number of goalkeepers nervous.  Not this time.  Cech defended this attempt and made it look effortless.

Monreal, Koscielny and Mustafi had a good game too. After the 15 minute mark, they settled down and they seemed to be back to their best.  They, alongside the rest of the team, planned their tackles well and more importantly dealt with dangers before they got too hazardous.  The team had a defensive mindset! Finally.  Nicely done, Steve Bould.

Wenger, I hope that after this defensive display, you can finally get the team to suppress the Hyde. As much as I love a goal spree, I would rather see more defensive displays in the next few games.  Since the next fixtures are Doncaster Rovers at home, West Bromwich Albion at home and BATE Borisov away, in the Europa League, the next three games are definitely winnable.   If the team could get a run of good results together maybe just maybe they will be ready for the back to back games against Manchester City and Tottenham in November.

From

L. Thomas

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