Man Utd boss cops flak for Emirates defeat as Arsenal fans begin to believe…

Erik ten Hag urges on Man Utd during the defeat to Arsenal. Credit: Alamy
Erik ten Hag urges on Man Utd during the defeat to Arsenal. Credit: Alamy

The Mailbox reacts to Arsenal’s win, with the blame for Man Utd’s defeat pinned on Erik ten Hag. Also: Liverpool, Spurs, Mudryk’s debut, and Everton’s doom spiral…

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It’s on
They’re gonna do it.

The shot of the fans celebrating, Zinchenko roaring at the winner, Saka just being incredible…they’re all just together. Aren’t they?

Great game. Must be nice to enjoy watching your football team.
Jon (away at Fulham next), Lincoln


…Arsenal is like the Miracle on 34th Street Movie.

I believe.


…I usually stay up to watch The Arsenal here in Oz. We actually spent big big $ to fly to The Emirates to watch the NLD, if I didn’t think we would win I wouldn’t have spent the money, that’s how much I believe in the ‘process’.

This Arsenal team, management, coaches, chef, everything are brimming with confidence, determination, grit and best of all joy.

Thank you to all of you, you are making a lot of fans, and let’s be honest even other teams fans very happy to see a lot of youngsters brush aside seasoned professionals and multi dollar buys.

(Except Dickie Keys of course, bet he’s screenshotted the picture of Arteta being carded)
Sarn Smith.


Arsenal’s process
Now that the collective heart rates have settled where do you start to pick the bones out of that pulsating Arsenal v Man U match. I always enjoy 16 conclusions but two things I’d counter as an Arsenal fan were even the tiniest suggestion Arsenal were fortunate and that Arsenal are further in our journey than Man U. To take the second point first of course in time Arteta is 3 years and ten Hag is half a season, but Arsenals starting 11 cost only a little bit more than ten Hag spent in his first transfer window. Arteta’s first transfer window was Cedric and Pablo Mari on loan. It’s also worth noting Arteta had to build from a much lower base – just take a look at the respective squads when each manager took over for evidence of that.

On to fortune, yes there was a deflection on Odegaard shot that fell to Nketiah who like all good strikers managed to find himself in the right place at the right time, there’s no fortune about strikers doing that. Also, as alluded to in 16 conclusions the wave after wave of Arsenal pressure in those last 20 minutes was unrelenting against a fellow top 6 team. To say Arsenal didn’t deserve that would be very one-eyed. The stats bore this out as well. This was not such an even game that Gary Neville and others were so eager to paint. 20 shots inside the box and 63 touches in man u’s box, Arsenal had Man U penned in like a frightened relegation candidate. The win was the least they deserved.

Saka and Rashford are the two best wingers in the league, but whilst Shaw continually backed off scared Arteta made the right call to bring on the ice cold Tomiyasu and negate Rashford’s influence in the second half.
Zinchenko feels like a cheat player, I can’t believe he cost only £30m, he’s a left back in name only, he just pops up everywhere and more importantly he pops up where he’s needed, usually in central midfield to give a numerical advantage.

Can we all agree that Bruno Fernandes is the most unlikeable player in the league, another sly kick off the ball and running to the ref for a penalty he dived for. I’m sure Man U fans love him as is normally the case when the rest of the league hates a player. Arsenal also rightly targeted Lloris and de Gea in their last two games and have benefited both times.

I was surprised to see no mention of how ineffective Anthony was in 16 conclusions. A £90m fidget spinner is the amusing current slur. He cant beat a man 1v1, he barely tried, he’s not quick (seeing Partey easily sprint past him confirmed that), he offers little defensive work and simply hides in open play. He may come good but I just don’t see it, but then Man U can probably swallow this £90m mistake like they and Chelsea in particular have done many times. The real measure of the difference between the super spenders and the rest is not the ability to spend big it’s the ability to keep spending big to cover a mistake.

Finally, right now the emirates has the best atmosphere in the league. Quite wonderful what can happen when you have your players, manager and fans all on the same page and pulling in the same direction. The home fans support is unrelenting and even more so in a time of adversity. What must that feel like as a player?
City should still be favourites because of the squad they have and history of winning this league, perhaps that may change if City lose their main striker to a 3 month injury just as Arsenal are having to cope with right now.
Each game as it comes, we’re just enjoying it
Rich, AFC


What. A. Game

Both sides had their moments and it was balanced till United players started to tire.

Mctominay is not just good enough even for a squad players, dude spent 90 minutes hiding and shying away from the ball.

Arteta and his boys were very good and also very brave, Arteta made the necessary substitutions and was rewarded. This is the second match cowardice from ETH has cost us. Weghorst, Eriksen, Rashford, Shaw, Wan-Bissaka were all tired and we had for subs to make. Weghoust was loosing duels, Rashford needed someone to take some attention off him but no, ETH decided to go with the tired legs even when Arsenal put in fresh legs.
Joe Praise


…Scrolling through the online channels (really mainly twitter), i have seen a lot of the usual that united needs more depth and real investments to make it back to the top. This is all extremely fair we lack real midfield depth and still lack a lot of the consistent quality to take us back to the top.

However, that does not give ETH immunity from criticism. On the day the new boss was wholly outcoached by his counterpart. The set up from the start was shaky with a man starting up top who just arrived at the club and playing for a draw almost seemingly from the start. horrific use of substitutions then failed to fix any of our problems. We did not even make a sub after Fred until the 90th minute. The manager was not the sole reason we lost today (most of the side outside of the centre backs and rashford were ghosts) but pretending ETH does not have some question marks is unrealistic.
(I will back him still of course)


…That was a good game. Kudos to both Arsenal and United. Arsenal have certainly earned the right to be at the top of the table and they showed it yesterday.

I was quiet surprised at how Erik managed his substitutions. Understood it was not a bench with lots of options. But then again what is the point in bringing on Garnacho after conceding in second half injury time. After Licha’s equalizer, expected UTD to push on for another goal but it felt like we were only preparing to defend our lead. We had quite a few pacy youngsters and we could have gone for it rather than fancying route one to Wout.

Agreed this is a team in transition and it is too early to place expectations. But we had our chance yesterday and we didn’t take it. That we had a chance in the first place is in itself proof of how much we have improved.

ETH has come in to a new league and feel he is still kinda getting acclimatised to its nuances. 2 games in a row we have conceded late and that is something he needs to look at and work on. All in all a week of what could have been has ended in us exposed to a harsh reality check.

Vasanthan, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

Read more: 16 Conclusions on Arsenal 3-2 Man Utd: Zinchenko, De Gea, Nketiah, Ten Hag, innit?

Other Emirates conclusions
That was a fantastic game, as commentators mentioned it felt like a game from the 90’s when these two were going head to head every year. Well done Gooners, a close game and Arsenal were deserved winners.

A couple of conclusions from me. Firstly, Utd did seem much more wary of Arsenal than they were of City last week. We came here to not lose and nick it on the break yet against City we had a plan to win. Arsenal seemed a constant threat whereas City were a lot easier to keep at arms length. I just feel like Arsenal have more ways to break teams down which may be crucial in the title race. Arsenal move the ball quicker and are less predictable.

I have to respect the type of football Arsenal are playing, some of the patterns of passing were such quality and executed with such confidence. Arteta has really got a good brand of football going there and given he’s not bought a squad of superstars he’s really done a great job of getting where they are. It is a proper team.

Utd were not far away from them in E10Hs first season showing how far he’s taken us in such a short space of time. Utd are a team on the up but so too are Arsenal. Whatever happens this season we must expect this Arsenal team to get better especially given how young they are. City will probably also get better next season. E10H has done a great job thus far helped with quite a few new signings, it feels like a few more still are required that fit the bill. Sorry, that sounds greedy but I’m just jealous that Arsenals whole team seem to be so much in synch. For utd, Sancho and Anthony need to live up to their billing and we clearly need a top striker.

And speaking of strikers, I’m not quite sure why Wout is straight in the team. It felt to me that he’s not up to speed yet and utd have been fine without a number 10. Utd would have been better off bringing him off the bench the last couple of games. A front three of Garnacho, Rashford and Anthony surely would have suited this game better but who knows, I think Arsenal were just ready to take the 3 points no matter what. Garnacho deserves starts for his performances but then again, maybe limiting his time is a better long term plan.

And lastly to Arsenal. In many seasons past they would have been happy to settle for the draw. And it would have been a good point. However, to go for the win and get it without really looking like conceding they deserve the respect.

Good luck to the Gooners for taking the title above our noisy neighbours and I hope we can go toe-to-toe with in the near future.
Jon, Cape Town (feels weird to not be that upset about losing a big match)


…So given United have now dropped 3 points in the last 2 games against Palace & Arsenal, and the fact they couldn’t grab a win against either London team away from home, this for sure gives United the reality check they are a Top 4 team at best. With those 3 additional points, United would have been on 42 points after 20 games, 9 points clear of 5th place in the league, taking off a huge amount of pressure in securing a Champions League spot by the end of the season. With United now 6 points from 5th place its good enough given the shambolic end of last season & start of this season, and maybe just keeps the team on their toes. Ten Haag will have been pissed off with yesterday though and the Palace game, he was correct to say in his press conference the mentality isn’t good enough to win trophies, but also his responsibilty to do something about that and change the team into a winning team. I would say it will take around 12 months for Ten Haag to get this United team into a consistent team to get into a position where United are able to win 5-6 games on the bounce, but now concerned to how United will handle being 1 goal up approaching the end of the game, they seem to not know how to handle it.

There are still a lot of noticeable weaknesses in the United team against the big teams. Disappointing to concede two last minute goals in the space of 4 days, the Palace game was definitely a game United should have won, but given United played midweek and Arsenal didn’t, no wonder Arsenal suffocated United in the last 25 minutes of the game last night. I knew Arsenal would score a third goal, but to do so in such late fashion was frustrating to say the least. Arsenal do have a great energy about them though and play with no fear and they actually believe in themselves. The Arsenal team of old around 5-6 years ago would have crumbled once that Rashford goal went in (Great finish btw, keep doing your thing Marcus), but now they actually respond in the right manner and don’t panic at all. Did it against West Ham just after the World Cup too after going 1-0 down and if they beat City on the 15th February (providing they don’t slip up beforehand) I see them winning the league with perhaps a few games to spare, Pep will be realistic and focus on Champions League instead.

Would like to mention 5 key points from the game yesterday for both teams and suggestions for improvement for United as well:

– Antony is really proving to be a human version of a fidget spinner. Worrying how United spent £85 million on him given he can’t even slightly use his right foot. Hasn’t recorded an assist in the league yet either and its end of January. Him & Sancho are proving to be complete wastes of money and they don’t seem to want to work on weaknesses & improve as players. Bin one of them off in the summer as harsh as it may be.

– McTomniay works hard, but has poor feet & technique. His link up play with teammates is astoundangly average.

– That Saka kid isn’t bad at all is he? What a player with a great attitude. Have noticed that he hardly loses the ball as well, is ridiciously quick & strong on the ball and his goal yesterday was pure class. Given he is only 21 is scary to think, he is going to become even better. Next season or two I see him grabbing 20 goals, Arsenal have to base the team around him.

– Casemiro proved yesterday just how important he is in the midfield. I don’t think McTominay did a terrible job yesterday, but you can see how much Casemiro compliments players like Eriksen & Fernandes in midfield.

– Am I the only one that thinks Takehiro Tomiyasu is immensinly underrated? I think he should potentially be starting over White at RB. White is a good player, but physically and going forward, Tomiyasu is better.

I will say again, in the summer United need a top striker BADLY. Weghorst is only at United because he works hard, presses well & links up with attacking mids well enough. Martial can’t do any of those things well to be honest, would bin him off for sure in the summer, I think Ten Haag will want to as well.

Sign Kane or Abraham as well as a decent winger who isn’t a selfish dickhead.
Rami, Manchester (How good was that Martinez header goal, such a shame it wasn’t worth a point)


…I don’t doubt there will be thousands of similar mails, but some (hopefully level-headed) conclusions from Arsenal & United this evening.

1. It always rankles, and always seems unlucky when you concede a last-minute winner, but this really, really wasn’t unlucky. United were camped on their own 18-yard line for the vast majority of the second half – with no out ball as Weghorst had also dropped in – and just invited pressure. They defended manfully, and there was no lack of effort, which in itself is an improvement on recent years, but it just wasn’t sustainable. United needed to be braver and step 5-10 yards up the pitch, and ten Hag needed to be more proactive with his substitutions. Never thought I would say this, but Fred should have come on much earlier, and someone like Garnacho maybe – just to give us some threat on the break. I suppose it didn’t help that when Erik looked around, he saw 3 defenders, a 17-year old child and one Tom Heaton. United are a good 5-6 players short of even sustaining a title challenge. Never mind winning one.

2. Scott McTominay is a game lad and always gives his best. He’s also an Academy product, which is great to see in the first team. He is not without his uses, and like everyone else today, he put in a shift, but having had the pleasure of watching Casemiro up close for the first time really over the last few months, the difference between a McTominay and a world-class DM is stark to see. Arsenal simply played around United’s midfield today, not even through them. In addition to the fact that Casemiro always seems to be in the right place at the right time, he also directs his team mates on where they need to be. A massive, massive loss. There are many higher priorities in the summer, but a capable replacement DM needs to be on the list too.

3. Erik ten Hag has made enormous strides in a short amount of time. The title race that United were never actually a part of is now over for sure, but they are still in a great position to finish Top 4. Not many thought that was possible at the start of the season, and not a single soul thought that it was possible after Brentford smashed them 4-0, so a lot of progress has been made. But to sustain the good work done, reinforcements are needed in the summer. The first XI, when fit and firing, is more than decent, but you don’t have to delve too deeply into the squad to start finding issues. Weghorst & Martial as the only strikers (no top team has ever had more goalkeepers in the squad than centre forwards). Elanga as a back-up winger. No one to come in and relieve Eriksen when he inevitably tires around the hour mark. No reliable source of goals outside of Rashford. ten Hag has repaired many of the axe wounds that appeared to be there when he arrived, but more than a few plasters are still required.

4. David de Gea is a fantastic shot-stopper. This always has been the case and still is. He also seems to have eliminated the clangers from his game over the last few months. But for all that he is, he is not a ball-playing goalkeeper like Ederson or Alisson. It’s almost unfair to ask him to be. His contract is up at the end of the season and a decision needs to be made. If ten Hag persists in playing out from the back, he really needs a new No.1. I don’t doubt that he is strong enough to make a tough decision, but finding a keeper who excels with the ball at his feet will likely mean a keeper who is not as talented as a shot stopper.

5. Bukayo Saka is an amazing footballer. Young Player of the Year wrapped up after that performance.

6. Bukayo Saka is an amazing footballer. For the love of God, don’t let him cut in on his left foot all day long. It won’t end well.

7. We all laughed at “trust the process” at various times, and any Arsenal fan who says they never lost faith or questioned Arteta is a liar, but everyone from Edu on down to the manager deserves enormous credit for being top of the table and league favourites right now. There is a clear vision, both in terms of recruitment and playing style, and they are not afraid to walk away from a deal when the money becomes silly and move on to a secondary target. I still don’t fully trust them (it has been twenty years after all), and there are still 19 games to go, but hats off to Arsenal right now. They keep checking off every challenge.

8. As much as I applaud Arteta for all of his hard work paying off, he is getting increasingly emotional on the sideline. Emotion is great, and a welcome part of the game, but the Newcastle game a few weeks ago, and losing it at a perfectly run-of-the-mill tackle from Luke Shaw. He is showing signs of how much this means to him. I get the feeling that there is a “facts”-style breakdown in the offing if Pep and City can find their consistency and put real, sustained pressure on them.

9. Martin Odegaard might be the best midfielder in the league right now. Kevin de Bruyne is Kevin de Bruyne, but Odegaard is really excelling and controlled the tempo brilliantly today. Usually good for a goal as well which never hurts.

10. United end the day in the Top 4, six points clear of Tottenham in 5th, having already played 1st-placed Arsenal and 2nd-placed Manchester City twice. It’s a perfectly acceptable position to be in at this stage of a rebuild. They now face an ‘easier’ run of fixtures going into February. Nottingham Forest (home and away) in the League Cup, either side of an FA Cup at home to 14th in the Championship Reading, followed by Crystal Palace at home in the league and Leeds away. It’s a chance for Erik ten Hag and his squad to regain some momentum before going to the Nou Camp to play a revitalised Barcelona. This loss against the best team in England at the moment was United’s first in 11 games, and they remain on target to achieve their objectives. Sections of the media will probably paint this as a failed title challenge, but that was never on the cards in the first season of ten Hag’s reign. United are still in a good place, and are potentially a month away from their first trophy in five years. Let’s everyone keep a bit of perspective.
James (new owners with deep pockets and preferably no human rights crimes would be welcome in the next few months too), MUFC


…The first half was pretty even from both sides. Rashford scored a great goal, giving us the lead only to concede a few minutes later with Wan-Bissaka falling asleep at the back post. McTominay looked poor like he always does and you could see how lost he looked compared to when Casemiro is playing. I liked how it was very 50-50 for both sides which for United against the top of the league is really good.

The Second half was disappointing for United as we conceded a world-class goal from Saka which no one is really stopping and a last-minute goal that should have been dealt with. We looked super tired after 60 minutes which is not surprising considering we had Crystal Palace on Wednesday and the only change was for Casemiro who couldn’t play. There were still positives in the game with Martinez getting a goal and we really kept up with Arsenal until the last minute which shows signs that we are getting better considering how we could have easily reacted as we did to Brentford and City early in the season.

Overall, If you told me before the game we would lose to Arsenal I would not have been surprised but it hurts when it’s closer than I thought it would be and if we had Casemiro and didn’t have a game mid-week maybe it is a very different game. Also the fact our only real sub was Fred as Garnacho got about a minute shows how weak our squad depth is and could cause real issues with the number of games we have to play up until the end of the season and hopefully, it shows the board we need more players now and not to wait until the summer.
Max of Whitegate


…Very entertaining game against Arsenal last night and a cruel way to lose, although having watched most of it through my fingers as Arsenal came at us again and again I can’t say that they didn’t deserve it. I’d have probably taken the offer of four points from our past three games (City at home and Palace and Arsenal away) beforehand so can’t be too disappointed. The only other Arsenal match I’d seen in its entirety this season was our win at Old Trafford, so I hadn’t quite realised what an outfit they’ve become. They were seriously impressive, especially in midfield—Odegaard is some player. (That having been said, I can’t help but wonder how much of a difference having Casemiro would’ve made). I’d been assuming City would eventually power through and win it, but wouldn’t be surprised if Arsenal go all the way now (God, it’s painful to even think about…) It’ll be interesting to see whether they can keep hold of this squad – I imagine Real Madrid et al. will be watching closely.

On our side, I thought it was a reality check on where things stand at the moment: ten Hag has done a very good job, but we’ll still fall short as long as we’re relying on the likes of Wan-Bissaka, Fred, and McTominay to see a game out (at this level). Antony doesn’t seem to be translating his Eredivisie form at all, and while I don’t mind the Weghorst signing it isn’t going to be enough for a title challenge. All of which is fine – nobody was expecting one, and a solid top four finish with decent runs in the cups (maybe even a trophy) would be fantastic progress and a good base to grow from. In Varane, Martinez, Casemiro, Eriksen, Fernandes, and Rashford we have a real spine at last. I think ten Hag is getting about as much as he can out of this group, so the summer window will be crucial.

Lastly, Shaw has been bang average playing at left back this season—Saka really exposed him there—but very impressive at centre back: could that be his long term future? It’d be a welcome development for the England team if so…
Tiger (MUFC) Cambridge


Steady Eddie
I’ve got a 13 year old son and if there were one arsenal player I would want to be his role model it is Eddie Nketiah. A fella who has constantly been defined by his shortcomings; released by Chelsea at 14 and seemingly heading for a career in the Champo or lower reaches of the Prem.

He’s worked his arse off to keep up with his peers and prove himself to managers and fans alike.

His instinctive box play is a wonderful throwback to a style thought rendered extinct with the false 9 and perpetual interchange modern forwards. The interview with Saka on Sky was so heart warming- genuine young men united by the shirt, the purpose, the manager and the fans.

ManUre (they’re on the way back so I’m using it again) expose the shoddy work of previous managers. How many interceptions? How many blocked shots? Well coached and committed players. Rashford is a star. Martinez showed why two clubs wanted him so much. DeGea with a phenomenal save.

Is it me or is Roy Keane resembling Begbie? The only man who could make the character more terrifying.
Roscoe P Coltrane


Arsenal will rue missing Mudryk
It took about 10 minutes to realise that Mudryk is a special, phenomenal talent. So obvious. A reminder that Edu tried to lowball Shakhtar in summer 2022 with a bid below the £30m valuation. And to all the Arsenal fans saying “I’m glad we didn’t spend that money” (is it yours?): yeah Mudryk cost £80m but will most likely be worth double that a year from now, and could have spearheaded the Arsenal attack for the next 5-6 years.

But it’s ok, because Brighton’s famous 28 year-old rebel is here! Hehe.
Stewie Griffin (Trossard is decent, but Mudryk will be world class. Yet another transfer cock-up. Sigh)


Be careful what you wish for
In the U.S. there is a joke that goes “the only fans more obnoxious than a Boston Red Sox fan when they are losing is a Red Sox fan when they are winning.” I think the connection with FSG is merely coincidental but all the Liverpool fans wanting Klopp out are the reason this club’s fans are disliked so much.

Just to remind the fans of this club, you had to wait for THREE DECADES for a League Title, while constantly being taunted by us MUFC fans before Klopp arrived. Sure it took him a couple of years to get up and running (less that it took SAF and Wenger btw!) but in the several years he has been at Liverpool, they have won the Premier League with a record 99 points, winning it the earliest ever, twice runner up, one Champions League win and two more finals, and countless other trophies. The only reason Liverpool did NOT win another Premier League a couple of seasons ago was, for a considerable period of time, all four Center Backs were injured. As recently as last year, Liverpool were on course for an unprecedented QUADRUPLE of trophies in one season.

Klopp turned players such as Salah, Mane, VVD and TAA into World Class players, added some artisan players and moulded the team into one of the most exciting and breathtaking teams to ever play football in the U.K. Yet, at the first hint of a problem, largely as a result of significant injuries again, there are calls for Klopp out? Every top manager has down years but part of their success was that their longevity enabled them to ingrain a playing style. There is probably only 3 or 4 clubs across the top 5 leagues who would NOT take Klopp in a hearbeat. Who do you think you would get who would be better? Zidane, Enrique, Poch, Gerrard?

The only argument one can make is that the team has gotten old all at the same time. Well unfortunately Liverpool does not have endless Petro Dolalrs to spend. Instead, they have been run by the excellent FSG who have cautiously added talented players who are yet to mature. If you cannot stop for a moment and appreciate what Klopp has done for your club over the last few years and allow him an off year, you really don’t deserve him.
Adidasmufc (I can’t believe I am defending Liverpool Football Club and Klopp!)


…Today they tried.
Today there was effort and at least some sort of attempt to win the game (at least in the second half).
Both teams could’ve won, Chelsea good in periods, Liverpool good i others.
But jesus christ LFC. Where is the poise, skill or smarts to score a goal?
Where has it gone?

Questions over Michael Oliver’s performance. In both directions as well.
The ref should not make me more angry then my own team.
Nik (mental how low confidence is), Munich

Let’s talk about Thiago
Another game, another…not much really.

Zero goals, zero assists this season, which is pretty much par for the course over his career.

Lovely player to watch, great control, but feels very much like a classical musician playing in Jurgen Klopp’s heavy metal band.

Liverpool Plan A is an out ball to Salah; Plan B is a Van Dijk header from a set piece or a corner. Plan C would surely involve the midfield threading it through a packed defence. You can count the assists of Fabinho, Henderson, and particularly the guy brought in to do this (Thiago) on one hand over the last 3 years.

Liverpool need to evolve – a non-scoring, non-assisting midfield surely has to be the first place to start.
Matthew (ITFC)


Ta-ra, Frank?
Full time whistle. WHU 2-0 EVE. Can I be the first to wish Frank Lampard all the best in his future endeavours?
Gitonga AKA Mr. Steal Your Girl


Everton’s doom spiral
As many supporters will recognise – particularly my fellow Aston Villa supporters – Everton are on an irreversible doom spiral. Villa went all the way through such a spiral under Randy Lerner (and Tony Xia!). If you’ve not done one, it takes a while to realise you’re in one. To outsiders – and previous sufferers in particular – it’s obvious.

Everton had a glorious escape last season. To supporters of a big club, scrapping your way out of a relegation battle feels very ‘deserved’. More than that, the scrap can make you think your team has important qualities that your Arsenals and your Tottenhams just don’t possess. Almost like the threat of relegation has given you the chance to show your fight.

But in a doom spiral – which is usually brought on by cynical ownership, shambolic recruitment, and arrogant management – fight isn’t enough. Usually, it’s all that’s left before the lights go out. That is definitely what happened at Villa, and that is what is happening at Everton.

So, when I witnessed Jordan Pickford almost literally claw Everton from the depths of relegation during the run-in last season, I recognised the situation Everton were in. Ferocious, in-game, responses from individual players to slow-moving, organisational dysfunction. And there is only so long that players can scrap against the inevitable demise of the organisation.

There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that once you finally spiral out of the Premier League, you are absolutely not guaranteed a quick return. Indeed, the cruelty of ‘big club’ doom spiralling is that you’ll have convinced yourself of your ‘fight’ and superiority. The likes of Fulham, Watford, and Norwich tend to bounce up and down because they’ve long since learned that it isn’t (all) about fight and passion, but about sensible ownership, recruitment, management, and expectations. That’s a tough lesson for big clubs to learn. On the flip side, the good news is that relegation can finally precipitate the organisational changes needed to start a new era. In Villa’s case this came via near-bankruptcy with new ownership – but, even then, we spent three full season in the Championship. Trust me though, the journey back to the Premier League is lots of fun once it starts spiralling upwards.

I should say something about Frank Lampard. I think most people probably agree that there isn’t much he can do at this point, but I would argue that he could never have done anything. He has shown no evidence that he could be a functional Premier League manager, let alone one that can motivate a struggling set of players in a toxic situation. The graffiti was on the wall from the outset on this one, and I’m sure Vítor Pereira couldn’t be happier.

On a completely separate note, can we start giving Unai Emery some credit please? Villa are second only to Arsenal in the form guide since Emery took over – with 16 points from a possible 21. That’s even more points than media darlings slash nouveau richlings, Newcastle United. Way ahead of schedule, indeed.

Conor Murphy, AVFC


Hold tight
Jaimie, who helpfully lets everyone knows he is an Arsenal fan, might well find himself guilty of the very thing he is commentating on; that is he who laughs last…

Currently, and on the whole, things are looking and feeling wretched at Spurs but go back one year, we were in a worse scenario and yet managed to go on a run of results which secured top four. This season we’re finally welcoming back players who have been unavailable for far too long. That isn’t to say that others, and the coach aside, haven’t done their bit to screw our season but it will be useful to have them back.

Son looks cooked, Kane looks miffed, the defence is laughable and the coach has one system and be damned the players he has at his disposal, that is the system he’ll employ but don’t start assuming – and sneering at pre-season predictions (365 go to lengths to be self-depricating in this instances) when the season is quite literally only half way done.
P.S – I have scant faith in the season ending in any positive manner for Spurs at all but hope springs eternal.


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