It’s strange that now Arsenal are learning to win ugly as well

As many of you will know (and some are more sensitive of them than others), my opinion of the title race is that Arsenal might not quite have the mentality to get over the line.

Never meant as an insult.

Simply an observation of where the youngest squad in the division might be at in their development, and an acknowledgement of the standards Man City have set in previous seasons.

Liverpool, as an example, won every League game last season from January onwards apart from three draws, losing zero and that still wasn’t enough to be Champions.

Don’t get confused though, that doesn’t mean the Gunners both collectively and individually haven’t taken huge strides this campaign.

Whatever happens no one can take that away from Mikel Arteta.

You either  bring in proven leaders (we have tried that with a few signings ) or you have to learn from your own experience.

The 1-0 scoreline at the King Power didn’t give justice to how one sided the game was.

Yet to go away from home in the Premiership and ensure your keeper doesn’t have to make a save certainly takes some doing.

While we should have killed the match off, with such a narrow lead Leicester only needed that one second.

Yet that last push from the Foxes never came, they huffed and puffed but there really was no kitchen sink being thrown at us.

Arsenal are now comfortable if they have to see out games, to play out narrow wins, to fight for their three points, to have the game management to know how to slow things down, etc.

Our manager knows when to make subs who are designed to protect what they have.

On Saturday, Tomiyasu and Partey were reliable defensive options from the bench who could be trusted to see things out. Tierney and Holding have also been asked to do that in narrow wins.

This weekend wasn’t a one off.

Victories at Selhurst Park, Molineux, Stamford Bridge, Elland Road, the Lane …. all had aspects of grit and fight.

It’s not as celebrated as free flowing football or individual skill, but make no mistake it’s as much a factor as anything else for us being top of the Prem.

It’s also an art form.

A quality we have lacked for years, even in Mr Wenger’s final years.

Ex-players have claimed that our ex-boss had such belief in his ethos he wouldn’t tactically change no matter the opposition or score line.

The Frenchman himself claimed that injuries led to the 2005 FA Cup Final being one of the rare occasions he sacrificed his principles for the sake of a one off result.

So many Gooners were brought up seeing our team 3-1 up and still throwing bodies forward in the last 10 minutes. Sometimes that led to more goals, other times it allowed the opposition back into things.

It feels strange now to trust Arsenal to see out a 1-0 win, it almost feels un-Arsenal-like. Of course it used to be a big part of our history.

That’s why performances at Goodison Park, and at home to Brentford and Man City were such a shock, to see our defenders being bullied contradicted everything we had seen since August.

As we approach ‘squeaky bum time’, our back 5 will take massive value from that clean sheet.

We can’t win the title defending how we have in the 5 encounters heading into the weekend but we can if we defend how we  have for the majority of this season.

Arsenal have played beautiful football this season but equally can now win ugly.

Which in a weird way is just as satisfying


Tags Leicester


  1. I wouldn’t say it was ugly ,more to do with struggling to break them down .
    Leicester offered no attacking threat until the last 10 minutes and our defensive shape was on point IMO ,it was our attacking third that had an off day especially in the first half .
    We could have had a few more if they had been more clinical.

    1. Agree – and we easily/should have had two more – the penalty that wasnt called and the offsides that probably wasnt… We were in their 1/3 almost all of the first half but felt like we went for one too many passes or just didnt look on it like we have in the past. Was still a great win – and now we can give some payback to Everton…

  2. It simply shows that our attack is still not on a par with Man City’s yet

    Our players seem to have mastered the art of ball possession and interception, but they don’t have a front-line pivot with an exceptional hold-up play ability. Man City have Haaland and Man United have Weghorst to give their teammates a different attacking method

    Hopefully Balogun can do it better than Jesus and Nketiah

    1. Gai,
      From the little I have seen of Balogun in French Championat I bet he is no Lacazet in holdup play we simply need an elite CF like Dusan Vlaovic of Juventus, Jonathan Davies is also good at holdup play and Osimehin. Wether Arteta consider these strikers necessary is another thing. I hope lack of goals in front won’t cost us our chance to win the league. MCity and ManU with Rashford remains our biggest threat.

      1. I also liked the playing styles of Vlahovic, David and Osimhen. Watkins is a homegrown option with years of EPL experience

        I hope Arteta saw Haaland’s effect on Man City’s attacking improvement and look for a similar CF in the summer

        1. I don’t get. So you mean Haaland has improved man City attack?. Same man City this season that has not been able to railroad everyone and people agree they’re not as good as they were. Arsenal is just in a purple patch in terms of goalscoring. Jesus comes back and we are back to two options. Arsenal is fine

          1. I believe Man City have scored more goals that they did in the February last season

            Their problem is inconsistency. They could score more than three goals in a game and got held off in several games

            1. I don’t know the stats but the eye test shows they’re not as fluid in attack as they usually are. Their press is not as good as it was when they had Jesus or even played false 9. Almost everyone has the potential to score 3 goals in a match but when you can’t with Haaland and don’t even miss numerous chances every match, then your attack is not as good as it should be.

  3. I think what your actually saying Da, in yet another excellent article, is that we are seeing the George Graham type of football.
    Not a bad thing I would suggest, but I wouldn’t call it “ugly” as we are playing to a system (GG again).
    Playing ugly for me, would mean the type of football that Don Revie’s Leeds used to play, or United’s game where Reyes was kicked off the park.

    There is steel and determination, along with consistency and fantastic flair and that is what I am seeing in MA’s team.

    1. Yeah Ken, I love the way we’re managing games the GG way, running them down, and even time wasting where necessary. Soon to be reviving the old “One nil to The Arsenal” if this keeps up😊.

  4. I don’t think we beat Leicester ‘Ugly’. We played a totally dominating game, and won comfortably. I do agree though, that there will be more even games, that we must win ‘by hook or by crook’….ugly as you say. Teams like Liverpool, Newcastle, Man City, away we will need to win one way or the other.

  5. Ken your reference to the Leeds team under Revie led me to thinking how the likes of Norman Hunter, Billy Bremner and say Chopper Harris would cope in the EPL today where minimum contact leads to free kicks ,bookings and worse .The answer is of course, they would’nt.The physical challenges which added to the spectacle and atmosphere of the game would be outlawed today and yet I still see players feigning injury at the slightest touch and long delays ensuing whilst their “injuries” are attended to.Referees are being conned more than ever despite the introduction of the dreaded VAR and the game, as a spectacle, has lost its appeal to me and perhaps others of my generation.The likes of Hunter, Bremner and may I say Peter Storey dished it out, but they also took it back and got on with the game.One last moan as I am currently suffering from an ailment known as Piriformis Syndrome, but when are we going to come down hard on players who surround the referee on a regular basis?Every Club, including Arsenal, is guilty of what is a show of petulance more becoming of children rather than adult sportsman who are paid a fortune.I feel better now that I have got that off my chest!

    1. With the condition you have Grandad, I think you would have been better getting it off your back/legs rather than your chest!! A horrible condition, hope it goes soon.

      As for those players you mention, they would have no chance of playing in today’s game and I don’t think VAR would have been needed to red card them on every game!
      Chopper Harris, Eddie Clamp and our own LB, whose name escapes me at the moment (was it Mcullough?) would all have received early baths as well.
      I agree with you regarding the physical side now missing, but the other side of that, is the fact that players like Ronaldo,, Bergkamp, Henry etc etc were allowed to show their incredible skills and, in my opinion, improved the spectacle of the game.
      I do agree about the play acting as well, it’s a disgrace and I feel great sympathy for the referees.
      The spud game yesterday was a classic example of a player conning the official.. and VAR did sort it out!!

      1. KEN Somerandom thougfhts about your post. Yes, Billy”Flint” McCullough was that LB. As a very young boy, I was tapped on the shoulder and Billy showed me how to hold a golf club. I was of course thrilled but still cant play the wretched game properly.
        Also agree massively that the thugs, including Storey, who used to play for all clubs would and should be made to utterly change or else lose their career in todays era.
        On play acting, or to giveit it the proper name, CHEATING, I have long been saying that a mere slapped wrist(yellow card) is useless and that those who dive and also feign injury, ought to get a straight red and be banned forthe next six Prem games, irrespective of what comp it was in.
        Plus a huge fine and an official warning from the Prem.
        I would double all those punishments if it were repeated by that player in future and double still again, if it continued.
        I would use a video panel, after the game, to determine if the player was conning the ref or if he were not. And thus determine any further punishment or not.

        I would include refs mistakes by using this panel and they would also be punished by demotion for all dreadful mistakes made in games.

        THAT would stop it(cheating) but there is not the will to use proper deterrents, so it keeps on happening and always will until REAL DETERRENTS ARE USED.

        REAL DETERRENTS WORK; slapped wrists are laughed at and ignored. Reality!

        1. Trouble is Jon, it’s all down to interpretation by the referee and we know that they see things differently to each other AND themselves on a weekly basis!!

          I’m surprised that you would use it video panel, especially with your views regarding VAR!!
          What’s the difference?

          I also agree that diving is cheating and your suggested punishment seems to be a good idea.

          I felt that the referee in the spud game was completely pressurised by the players and the play acting – I wonder if both chelsea and spuds will be fined as we have? Failure to control their players and surrounding the referee?

          Thanks for Billy McCullough, my mind hit a brick wall – a bit like trying to get past him, if I remember that part correctly!!

          1. KEN I knew you’d ask that question, but there IS a huge difference between a panel of refs AND ex players sitting after the weekend games to look at all games, and on the other hand VAR during the games.

            Not at all the same thing. No long waiting around, for spectators, and no hasty, wrong VAR decisions, with so many on the panel and proper consideration, not just a daft VAR ref who is aware of the need to hurry up.

            The need to hurry up factor is what made MASON miss that offside in Brentford game. BTW, McCullough was a hero of min ewhen I was very youing.


    2. Grandad
      The rules are already in place if teams surround the ref. Has been for ages. Unfortunately not enforced
      Waving imaginary yellow cards. Not enforced
      As for the old Leeds team. They had some hard players but boy could they ay as well. They had so.e sublime players.
      It was always deemed a foreigners failing injuries but home grown players are just as bad.
      It’s shameful to watch a wsl game and see them pick them self’s up, dust them self’s off and get on with it and then watch the mens games where they do 10 rolls and lay there without moving. Jump up look around and carry on if nothing is given. So frustrating. The rugby lot must fall about laughing
      Do hope you get well soon
      Onwards and upwards

      1. Thanks Alan.Leeds did have some really great players like Eddie Gray who was a really talented left winger but who unfortunately was injury prone.

        1. They also had an excellent CF and playmaker, but my minds having a bad day today, so I can’t give you their names.
          The CF broke his arm in the cup final when they beat us 1-0.

          1. mike jones broke his arm on the cross for clarkes goal .. how sad am i for not erasing that from my memory
            play maker … will have to google that one…
            Peter Lorimer, johnny Giles

            1. Mick Jones!!! Well done AB.
              I can picture the other player, tall and skinny, but not Giles or Lorimer.
              He played in the old inside forward position.
              I’ll have to find his name, just so I can stop thinking about him!!

            2. Yes Giles WAS the play maker and a dirty little s.d too.

              As was Bremner and just about the whole team too, not ONLY Hunter !

      2. Alan, I remember that Leeds team of the late 60’s and early 70’s. When things were going their way, they were a very skillful side, but in a close game they were probably the most dirtiest team around.
        That 1970 FA Cup Final replay when they played Chelsea at Old Trafford has to go down as the dirtiest game I’ve ever seen.

  6. In the meantime, Arsenal was castigated for celebrating the FA cup sometimes back and it was stated it showed how standards had fallen at the Emirates. Several months forward, Man U celebrated the Carabao Cup as if they had won the Champions League. Where are the celebration cops?

  7. So Harland have an “exceptional hold up play”. That’s wonderful to read. Haaland is either scoring or running, hold up play should not be used in same sentence with Haaland. It will be a grammatic error underlying be Mword

  8. The ONLY occasion that we won ugly this year – “ugly” as opposed to sensible and well rehearsed defensive tactics- was in the latter stages away at Leeds in this years PREM .
    On NO other occasion have we won ugly at all.

    DAN IS MISUSING THE TERM “WIN UGLY” and it is NOT something that fits how we play at all.

    1. But you know what Dan was getting at Jon – at least I did.
      It seems many others did, from the answers above, so let’s enjoy the debate my friend.

      1. KEN No , I really do not see what DAN IS SAYING AT ALL, AS IT IS NOT TRUE.

        Ugly would be parking the bus and kicking every player who gets near the goal, and we do not do that.

        You know how much importance I always attach to using correct language , as least for native English speakers.

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