Posted: 6 February, 2017 by Matt Bellotti

EPL Matchday 24 talking points

The Professor That Cannot Learn

Every week I end up moaning about something or other from Arsenal. It isn’t deliberate. Really. I try to ignore them, I honestly do. But then they do something so utterly frustrating and stupid that talking about them is unavoidable. Can there be a more irritating team to support?

This week, not only did they lose a game that gifted the title to their major rivals but showed up yet again their manager’s sheer stubbornness and how both Wenger and Arsenal as a club are falling behind because they prioritise his ego over their success on the pitch.

Arsenal beating the Blues 3-0 on September 25 will probably go down as the most significant match of this Premier League season. At the time, it felt big because of what it showed of Arsenal: a team with thrilling attackers and competent defence that showed up the glamourous stars and their rookie (in Premier League terms) coach. Wenger had taken Conte to school.

However, in hindsight, its significance lay not in what it showed about Arsenal, but what it taught Antonio Conte.

From that game, Chelsea changed the whole way they line-up. Out with the flat back four, in with a new formation based around five lines that get in between sides playing the common 4-2-3-1 and disrupt their opponents with fast movement, high pressing and overloads. It’s not that new in football terms: Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff deployed a similar style at Ajax more than thirty years ago. But it’s new to English football and it has achieved unprecedented success against every team they’ve faced except one: Tottenham. Who – not coincidentally - matched the approach in their dominant 2-0 win against the Blues and have themselves largely stuck with it since.

You would imagine if some fat arsehole (me) can see this sat watching the league on a pisspoor phone screen (see below) in Australia, a man dubbed “Le Professeur” should be more than able to see it and to devise a way of combating it.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: A dejected looking Arsene Wenger manager / head coach of Arsenal sits in the stands during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on February 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)

But he didn’t. His Arsenal team lined up how they always do, played the same football they always do, which is exactly the same football that Chelsea have long since proved they dispatch with ease. Ozil predictably went missing, Sanchez was pushed into areas he didn’t want to be, the shape was all over the place, and the organization between Cech (this weekend showed how desperately he needs to be upgraded upon), Koscielny, Mustafi and Coquelin was dreadful. It was like they’d never met, which led to four huge defensive errors for the first goal, which have been largely missed with the convenient excuse of Alonso’s leading elbow. These weren’t problems that stemmed from Wenger being in the stands. They’ve been there for a long time and Arsene Wenger has done nothing to fix them.

Because he’s Arsene Wenger and he is a stubborn bastard who thinks his way is the right way and he will one day be proved right.

He won’t, of course. All that’s being proved is that Antonio Conte – and a whole new wave of managers – are more prepared to learn than he is. So they’re enjoying more success.

Le Professeur needs to get used to being L’Etudiant.

David Moyes

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: David Moyes, Manager of Sunderland gives his team instructions during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Sunderland at Selhurst Park on February 4, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Just quietly, maybe here is a manager who has learned something. A great week for Moyes and Sunderland brought four points and two clean sheets that sees them move to within two points of 15th. Yes, they’re still bottom, but the specialists of staying up, the Premier League’s patron saint of lost causes, are in a healthier position than they’ve been at any point in the past three seasons. You’d be unwise to bet against them.

One Hull Of A Beating

How are Plymouth Argyle feeling now. They are the only team to have lost to Liverpool in 2017. They’d probably fancy themselves if there was another replay tomorrow, too.

Klopp’s team are clunky and disjointed. They’re dropping worryingly fast, now moving outside the top four for the first time this season. Their problem remains clear as they have the worst defensive record in the top eight.

Conceding twice to Hull City is pretty terrible. Although the transformation in the Tigers under Marco Silva is astonishing. He is working his players hard, preparing them intensively and for the first time since their opening day win, it doesn’t seem completely idiotic to wonder if they might just do this. 

Lukaku

Scored four. Set one up. Team scores six to make it four wins on the bounce.

Messi he ain’t, but his goalscoring record is phenomenal. If he carries on like this, it may just be the difference for his team catching those above – some of whom are going backwards as fast as Everton are catching up.

Leicester City

I told you they were crap.

Optus

This weekend, I set my alarm for 4.30am. I’d been out the night before and had to get up early, but I wanted to watch Spurs vs Middlesbrough (although the 1-0 result was the weekend’s most predictable result given both sides excellent defences but Spurs having Harry Kane).

What greeted me was this:

 

I refreshed. I closed down. I reopened. I turned off. I turned back on. I went back to sleep and reset my alarm for half-time when I assumed this temporary glitch would be fixed.

I woke up. I turned on. And I got the same black screen of death and message.

An entire game of football, one thirty-eighth of the season for these clubs, was just a blank screen. How is that possible?

Normally the buffering, the freezing, the drop-outs, the having to watch on a phone screen, all that, is annoying.

This week took to whole new levels.

So, Optus. In place of my usual ‘Chant Of The Week’, I dedicate a chant just to you. All together now:

SHIT and you know you are

You’re SHIT and you know you are.

You’re SHIT and you know you are.

You’re SHIT and you know you are.

Matt Bellotti

Writer

Matt is the only member of The Greenfield Post team to have been to an Auto Windscreens Trophy Final, the Malaysian FA Cup Final, trained at Trent Bridge, and watched all nine tiers of the English football league pyramid – which he thinks makes him better than the rest of us.

He supports (not “barracks for”) St Kilda because, like the England football team, the only moment of success in their long history came in 1966. Bloody Poms.   

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