Not The Best Use Of A Thursday Evening

By Kevin Whitcher

Online Ed: Arsenal and Red Star fail to score

Yesterday evening, a significant number of the crowd voted with their feet, as they did for the first home Europa League match against Cologne, and stayed at home. In a sense, the format of European competition these days – group stages making matches less individually significant – has killed a lot of the drama in the first half of the season.

So even for Champions League group matches, often there are a good number of no shows. For the lesser Europa League, the attendance is even less. I’d estimate it at around the low 40,000s last night. Almost a third of the seats empty.

The last time I saw Red Star Belgrade play in the flesh (I didn’t attend the recent Arsenal visit in Serbia) was 26 years ago, in Bari, southern Italy. They played a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes in a European Cup Final against a Marseille side featuring Chris Waddle and Jean-Pierre Papin, before beating them on a penalty shoot-out. It was the greatest night in their history, although a betrayal of the marvelous football that side were capable of as they played a no risk defensive game. European finals were often like that back in the day, and we still see them occasionally in the Europa League.

I’ve now seen two Red Star Belgrade matches in person and have yet to see a goal outside of a penalty shoot-out. Frankly, Red Star should have scored last night, guilty of missing two gilt-edged chances as well as producing a wonder save from keeper Matt Macey, who was far more convincing than he looked against Norwich last week.

Arsenal, fielding a customary second string eleven for this competition, never really got going in the first half, with misplaced passes and a general lack of cohesion. In the group stages, with the quality of the opposition, it’s a policy they can get away with, but once the knockout stages begin, a re-think will be required. Aside from the goalkeeper, the standout performers were Jack Wilshere and Chris Willock, but we are talking meagre pickings. Theo Walcott was captain for the evening, and did nothing to persuade anyone that he deserves another shot in the first team. It’s almost as if the side is handicapping itself by starting with him, such is the paucity of his contribution. It is one of the great mysteries of modern life how this player has got rich based on his footballing ability. It is certainly difficult to believe he will get another contract when the current one expires in 2019. For me, the post-Highbury period under Arsene Wenger will always be known as the Walcott Years. Meaning, we, as fans, were sold a pup. The promise of greatness, the reality –overpaid millionaires nicking a living. The decline of a contender into an also-ran.

Let’s lighten the mood with a couple of text message offerings from Doktor Schneide, who hasn’t been in touch for far too long…

I wish their keeper would stop falling over – it’s distracting me from counting the empty seats

And turn away now if you don’t like bad taste humour…

Nearly finished. Funny, but if you draw a line between the empty sections it reads ‘Remember folks – plenty of bargains at Wal Mar…‘

So anyway, just one more of these tortuous Europa League group matches at the Emirates before things start getting interesting (although in fairness, the Cologne game was a hoot). I am predicting an attendance of under 35,000 for the visit of Bate Borisov, which will be a dead rubber by the time it comes round. The club failed to sell out last night, even with ticket prices as low as they were. Of course, they did not have the option of putting them on general sale, unlike the League Cup, although with West Ham in opposition for the quarter final, that option may not be open to them there. I think they will chance it though, with the game not being on the season ticket.

Eddie Nketiah came on to work the magic he delivered against Norwich, but the fairy tale hit the brakes and he was as frustrated by a resilient Red Star defence as his colleagues had been. Positionally, it would have made more sense to play him on the right side of the attack as opposed to the left, but that would have meant either subbing or moving Theo Walcott. Arsene Wenger did that last week, moving the espresso kid to right wing back, but not last night.

Red Star eat the clock very efficiently with rotational injuries, their fans made a lot of noise and jumped up and down in unison. I hope they enjoyed their visit to London more than I enjoyed the game. Think we’ll see more goals on Sunday for some reason…

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3rd November 2017 10:55:30


Comments and Reaction

User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.

Yes its Ron  11:32am 3rd Nov 2017

The Wally years sums up these last 11 yrs exactly. Football generally has changed to co incide with his time though as well Kev hasnt it. The changes in the rules that have made good organised defending a thing of the past and the morphing of the game to becoming one with next to no physical contact have allowed not only him, but many others like him to survive in the game where 15 to 20 years ago they wouldn't have done. Selling Walcott would indicate the start of the passing of these putrid years since the Club moved. He really is an irritating, not very good individual and those hair styles and beards he sports just make him more annoying, yet he sums up the modern game for me. Im so glad ive more or less dropped out of it. The very thought of paying to see Arsenal FC and contributing to what he earns is simply a non starter! - Post No. 110574

The Man From UNCLE  12:00pm 3rd Nov 2017

New to Arsenal TV this fall: The Wally Years. A new reality TV show where over rated footballers try to pretend they're fit to wear the famous shirt. Starring Theo Walcott. Also starring Nicolas Bendtner, Denilson, Mikeal Silvestre, Sebastien Squillaci and Juan Baptista. Special guest star Emmanuel Eboue. Tune in every Thursday night (with repeats on Sat/Sun) for the forseeable future. - Post No. 110575

TonyEvans  12:50pm 3rd Nov 2017

The 'Walcott Years' certainly sums up the last 10 years or so, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least (if Wenger is still in charge in 2019) if the useless poseur is kept on the books. Wenger never likes to admit he was sold a pup, and has a history of handing out new contracts like confetti - that is apart from offering them to anyone we would actually like to see given one! - Post No. 110576

mbg  13:18pm 3rd Nov 2017

Another bore draw from a boring team and their manager who have a couple of players who look half decent against a team as bad as themselves. So much for these great players/ strikers we keep hearing about, the cart horse will have to go and take a few more contemporary dance lessons, and wally ? lol. wenger out now. - Post No. 110577

Yes its Ron  13:26pm 3rd Nov 2017

Wally doesn't rock the boat Tony, he also buys into the philosophy. These are the main planks of survival under AW. Do that and the contracts will keep coming. Wally knows where his breads buttered too. He knows he on a good thing at the hipster social club and that nobody bigger and better than AFC are ever going to give him a game now. Hes an annoying squirt, but hes not daft, keeps his head down, spouts the party line, keeps taking the money and every now and again actually even gets his boots on for the odd low level game that wont test him too much. Hes the worst of that ilk in the Club but hes not on his own by any means is he. - Post No. 110578

norsgeneral  13:51pm 3rd Nov 2017

Was at the game last night. As poor as we were, Wenger did not help this by playing Jack in the front three in the first half. The boy needs games in his favoured spot and then finds he's played completely out of position. Once he switched him back for the last twenty minutes, Jack was transformed back into some semblance of the player we know and are desperately missing in midfield with those bursts of energy at the opposition. Jeez, this guy knows how to destroy players confidence. Just look at Rob Holding. Playing the full backs too far forward in earlier games, has left him exposed and his passing has suffered. He now looks petrified everytime he receives the ball. All the early promise gone. And constantly having different partners is awful for a young central defender trying to learn his trade at the top level. - Post No. 110580

Andrew  13:59pm 3rd Nov 2017

I think that you've got the wrong Willock there, Ed. Easy mistake to make; I had difficulty first in staying awake, then in staying until the end. It became a sort of masochistic honour thing for the next time there's a superfan argument - "I stayed until the end of the Red Star game in 2017!" - Post No. 110581

TonyEvans  15:06pm 3rd Nov 2017

You can't blame the lad can you, Ron, when you have a manager like Wenger who lets all and sundry get away with blue murder rather than admit he made a mistake! High on the list of Wenger's many annoying habits - indulging crap players. Not sure what's worse, the indulgence of crap, or consistently playing players out of position - and thereby creating more crap players! - Post No. 110582

Yes its Ron  16:32pm 3rd Nov 2017

Hi Tony . I think his biggest error with Wally not being brave enough to tell him early on in his career that he ll never make a central striker as long as he has a hole in his backside and that a wide role is all he can really be expected to do and thus he should try and do his best playing there or to move on to a lesser level of football and pursue his delusions there, given his physical frailty and lack of a deeper understanding of the game. Instead, Wengers indulged him by not having the backbone to upset Wallys feelings early on in his career. In truth despite Wallys obvious limitations, AW has not helped him by not being honest with him. Possibly, Wally could have become a better player had his illusions of playing central have been put to bed years back. Im pretty sure that in a team with some characters in it, instead of the choir boys we collect, many of his team mates would have told him, hes rubbish in the middle and done the Coachs job for him. - Post No. 110583

Alsace  17:43pm 3rd Nov 2017

The headline was very well put. The Ref's indulgence of foul play and timewasting from the etoilistas would have been irritating in any conventional game where the result mattered. As the boredom increases so does the perception of expense. Do these people have any conception of being in the entertainment industry? Nice to see Maitland Niles and Willock having a go. Walcott is an inutile object. What on earth is he for? Incidentally Napoleon Solo. Bendtner scored last night. Ho Ho Ho. - Post No. 110584

Roy  18:03pm 3rd Nov 2017

Hi Tony. You know what really bothers me in all of this ? When Wenger finally trots off into the sunset, how the hell is the new man going to sort out the culture of mediocrity that's left behind ? I can't see any top name being up for sorting it out when they discover the horrible truth at the interview for what used to be one of the most sought after positions in world football. All this because he went on too long in cohorts with an unambitious owner. I'd gladly have traded the last 2 FA cups to have seen Wenger leave in 2014, which is when he should have gone. We may have been closer to a title winning squad by now, but as it is, God knows how long it's going to take. As for Sunday, will it be a hide behind the sofa job, or will the fact that we've had the week off while they've had to travel be a bit of a leveller ? Either way it's hard to see anything other but defeat. Or will it be one of those rabbit out of the hat results exactly when Le Fraud needs it ? Personally it wouldn't bother me one jot if we took a pasting. - Post No. 110585

Redshirtwhitesleeves  19:37pm 3rd Nov 2017

Walcott winds me up like no other player. Talentless but with the beard, haircut and tattoos that are the mark of the modern player. How this coward has been indulged for 12 years is beyond me. He really is the face of wenger on the pitch. I can't stand even the sight of him let alone seeing him with the captains armband. Could you imagine GG putting up with carter or mcgoldrick for so long? - Post No. 110586

CORNISH GOONER  19:39pm 3rd Nov 2017

Roy, Le Fraud won't "trot" off into the sunset. My recurring nightmare is a vision of him slumped in his wheelchair @ Colney (think "The Godfather Part Deux") & finally shuffling off his mortal coil circa 2050. He will be like a shrivelled up stick bean by this time but will have surpassed every known footie record for longevity - if not results. The staff will be terrified & incapable of positive action (think "The Death of Stalin"). The obits will be fantastic with moving tributes from his adopted nephew Josh K, Stanley K having snuffed it a few years earlier, & the cream of the Nation's sports writers. I used to sleep much better when AFC was a football club. As Ron says, It would not be surprising if The Jammy One gets a result on Sunday as there was a slight difference in the quality between the 2 midweek fixtures! - Post No. 110587

mbg  20:54pm 3rd Nov 2017

I see the 100% fit player smoking Jack (he was hardly fit to stand up)was the latest to be wheeled last night on Thursday night C5 Highlights to tell anyone who would listen how well things are going, and did you see the set of him ? I know it was Halloween but jesus he'd scare you, grey stubble, grey head hair what's left of it, the lad has aged ten years in the last year or two, with wenger he never had a chance had he. wenger out. - Post No. 110588

mbg  22:31pm 3rd Nov 2017

Roy, good post I've said something similar myself numerous times, if we'd have gotton rid of TOF four five years ago we'd have been there by now, two three years ago we'd have been well on our way, have the inevitable down turn that man yoo went through (and any other club)over us, instead we persevere season after f*****g season with it all still in front of us and as every season goes by it gets worse, and is going to be harder and take longer, and the AKB wengerites half wits just can't f*****g (or can but won't) see it, they really do deserve him. wenger out. - Post No. 110589

TonyEvans  7:38am 4th Nov 2017

Hi Roy - re Sunday, the worst of it is that we don't really care enough anymore, whatever the result. Agree with you about the likely outcome - I can't see further than at least a 3-0 tonking. Hi Ron - I agree Wally (and many more) may have developed into better players working under a manager that knew where their best position was and was able to instil more tactical awareness and what their role in the team was meant to be. Instead Wally joined the rest of the headless chickens Wenger routinely sends out. - Post No. 110590

Bard  9:54am 4th Nov 2017

Oddly I quite enjoyed the game. If only to see note that the structural problems run right through the club. The youngsters displayed loads of talent but mirrored their senior counterparts. Talented, stylish but ineffective. They like to look good on the ball but the drive was missing. Reiss looked like he could be a talent. As for Theo what a waste to time. He seems not to have progressed at all. How can you be practising all day for years and not get any better? I thought Jack looked leggy and seems to have lost what pace he had. Onwards to Citeh - Post No. 110591

Scruff  16:31pm 4th Nov 2017

Sports reporter asks Wenger " why do you begrudge spending big money on a quality keeper as you really have never replaced big Dave Seaman" Wenger " look what's the point in wasting money on a player who can only play one position when I find one that can play up front l Will buy him " Reporter "what about a holding player everyone knows Arsenal are crying out for one " Wenger " look you lot kept on about it and I bought one for 3 million his name is Rob " Reporter "no for God's sake a holding midfielder" Wenger " is there a cheaper Holding who can play midfield maybe I can convert him into a new Henry " Reporter " you certainly have dined out on that one for 17 years why do you keep putting player's in positions they are not comfortable in it's not Ajax you know " Wenger " I'm in charge and I do what I want and tooaw says I'm beautiful so you lot from Online Gooner can **** off " - Post No. 110592

mbg  16:40pm 5th Nov 2017

Oh dear oh dear normality resumes, now whose fault was that AKB's ? no handy one after the ropey this time to rely on so someone/thing will have to take the blame, I suspect we'll see the conspiracy theories resurface again. Go now wenger your not fit for purpose. - Post No. 110593

mbg  16:58pm 5th Nov 2017

Well there we have it then, the weasel has spoken (it didn't take long) it was the linesman's fault. We want wenger out now. - Post No. 110594

Roy  17:24pm 5th Nov 2017

Yes mbg, always somebody else's fault as usual. Had it not been for City's midweek exertions, that would have been another pasting. Can we at least save some face against Sp*rs ? Eeeer...let's just say I'm not holding my breath. We'll be a mid table club before this despicable regime is finished. - Post No. 110595

Arseneknewbest  18:32pm 5th Nov 2017

Direct question for tooaw and goonerron. Do you think afc and your mate wengo can win the league? **** up or shut up time boys. - Post No. 110596

CORNISH GOONER  19:52pm 5th Nov 2017

Only a complete nutter would go into a big game without a genuine striker - & leave an international, record signing on the bench. But for the few remaining AKBs to fully realise that "The Great Man"'s time is up just look at that embarrassing grandad cardigan he now wears - I'm a fair bit older than the Old Fraud but my family would disown me if I wore that "sensible" bit of crap! Time to bugger off to Alsace. - Post No. 110597

RegW  21:01pm 5th Nov 2017

Wenger - "The level drops every season and at the moment and, overall, it's unacceptable" First bit of sense he's uttered in years but alas self-reflection is not in his nature! - Post No. 110598

Scruff  21:05pm 5th Nov 2017

Record signing on the bench useless midfielder playing centre half waste of space playing waste of space 2 so called midfielder's having a laugh enough is enough hope you are happy Wenger lovers - Post No. 110599

Rippy  22:39pm 5th Nov 2017

The tactics are just baffling !? Wenger now is beginning to resemble Brian Clough in his last years in charge at forest. Decent cup side but the Rot had set in and only his ego and reputation remained. The complacent board have already started to claw back the list CL revenue. I expect it to continue in January. It’s time to organise a supporters strike surely ! An half empty stadium should have the desired effect of shifting this dead man walking .... - Post No. 110600

GoonerRon  23:20pm 5th Nov 2017

@ Arseneknewbest - no he can’t. And to be honest, the same can be said for 18 other managers in the league this year. - Post No. 110601

mbg  23:43pm 5th Nov 2017

CORNISH, just another one of those cases and examples of wenger sticking his two fingers up at everybody especially the fans telling them and letting them know who's the boss, and won't be told what to do, and he continues to do it his way despite, even if it's detriment to the team, he's been at it and doing it for years now. wenger out now. - Post No. 110602

GoonerRon  0:00am 6th Nov 2017

@ mbg - the main thing to blame was our inability to pass around their press (especially in the second part of the first half). It was calling out for Wilshere who, in the absence of Cazorla, is probably the only one who can do that well - Xhaka and Ramsey aren’t quick enough in tight transitions. Failing to do this built up pressure that we struggled to escape from. I thought the first 10-15 minutes were really even and we pressed well high up. We (and no other team this season either) were going to stop them getting chances and overall it was a sigh of relief to go in 1-0. I couldn’t see the pen from the other end of the ground but reports say it was more pen than not so hey ho. As for their third, it killed the match and was clearly offside. Yes Citeh could have scored more but they didn’t and at that moment at 2-1 the crowd was definitely edgy and we had a chance to really put them under pressure. Xhaka should play to the whistle but that really was a simple call at this level for the lino. It’s a shame because we really could have got something, deserved or otherwise. - Post No. 110603

Arseneknewbest  4:10am 6th Nov 2017

Goonerron A rare moment of lucidity on your part. Early Nov and the season is over. See a pattern emerging here do you? Think it might have something to do with the club, the player's and wengo by any chance? - Post No. 110604

markymark  6:36am 6th Nov 2017

With the release of the Paradise Papers we have further concerning news regarding ownership of Arsenal. Will Usmanov be forced to make a choice? I suspect Kronke will be a happy man today along with the usual rag-tag band of Regime supporters, Badarse and the ToOaW / Leek / BBA - Post No. 110605

GoonerRon  8:42am 6th Nov 2017

@ Arseneknewbest - the league season is probably over for all clubs due to Citeh's record breaking start, not just us, and of course our position is down to the manager and the players. As for the rest, we're doing what we have to do in the other comps so let's not get too dramatic right now about the season being over. Oh, and I'll be forever grateful for you acknowledging my 'rare lucidity', as of course my aim in life is to seek your approval. - Post No. 110606

Seven Kings Gooner1  9:20am 6th Nov 2017

GoonerRon: Agree with you about City's start and in fact any of Arsenal's teams under Wenger would have found yesterday a really tough game. I do think however that City had the handbrake on a bit and without their midweek game this could have been a 5-1 or 6-2 result. GR, It's not so much that the season is over, for me it has never really started, it is that the season is going to be just the same as the last 8 or 9 years, except that Hipster FC will finish sixth or seventh. - Post No. 110607

mbg  13:40pm 6th Nov 2017

Arseneknewbest, he says with the benefit of hindsight, no doubt there'd have been a different answer at the start of the season, GoonerRon, and anyway wrong, any of the managers in the prem could do it with his team and the players he has, APART, from your beloved wenger (remember Ranieri and Leicester with not even half their class, of course you do) your beloved messiah would only f**k it up like he always does, he'd have them playing all over the place, out of position etc, etc, he wouldn't know where to play them trying to turn them he'd ruin half of them trying to turn them into something they're not unlike these other 18 managers you mention. wenger out now. - Post No. 110626

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

16th February 2018

Frozen North Provides Relief For Arsenal

Rare comfortable away win for Gunners v Ostersunds