The people’s game?

UEFA said: “Charges against FC Bayern Munchen: Throwing of objects – Art. 16 (2) of DR.”

Bayern fans walked the talk, and re used the banner from their protest in 2015; credits Getty Images

As I sat in the crowd at The Emirates waiting for the last 16 Champions League tie to re-start, I had sympathy for the travelling Bayern Munich fans who had started to throw tissue and toilet paper onto the pitch.

Arsenal staff attempt to clean up the toilet paper, at least it wasn’t used; credits Getty Images 

Despite this being a dead rubber, tickets were still expensive and a friend and his son joined my son and I in catching the German champions on English soil, albeit at a cost.

With the Arsene Wenger protest outside the stadium before the game, it felt at times like this game was now being used to make political points, and of the two protests, the German one made more sense to me.

The crowd though became less tolerant as the tissue paper rained down on the pitch, delaying the game continuously, although Bayern have been here before.

In October 2015, a group of Bayern Munich supporters staged a protest against high ticket prices at Arsenal by boycotting the first five minutes of the two clubs’ Champions League clash.

Fans of the Bundesliga champions organised the protest after learning that the cheapest ticket available to away supporters for the Group F fixture was priced at £64, rising to at least £74 with fees and postage taken into account.

In the week beforehand, the BBC’s annual ‘Price of Football’ study revealed that Arsenal had the highest priced matchday (£97) and season tickets (£2,013) in the Premier League.

By contrast, Bayern offer a season ticket at a price of just £104.

Bradford offer hope

The Valley model can be a template to follow under Rahic; credits Thomas Gadd

Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp, both Germans ironically, bought Bradford City in the summer of 2016 after an extensive search for a club to invest in.

Rahic was the financial director for Bosch before becoming a private investor and has sought to bring a little of the German ticket price model to England.

Season tickets at Valley Parade are capped at £149 wherever you sit in the stadium.

The economics behind the move being, by keeping season ticket prices so low, more fans will attend and Bradford’s attendances are testimony to that.

The extra money in their pocket will see those fans spend the surplus on merchandise, food, beer, shirts and so on.

Saturday’s win over Swindon Town was watched by 17,916 fans, which places them 17th out of the 92 professional clubs from the weekend’s games in terms of attendance.

Rahic has also stated he will reduce ticket prices to only £1, if and when, Bradford make The Premier League.

He reasons the £100m windfall in TV revenue, even if you are relegated, will make the need to charge higher prices unnecessary, so why not give back to the fans?

Such a viewpoint would bring a tear to many a football fan who has had to fork out such significant sums following their team.

Someone pass the tissues.

Arsenal v Watford

Hurelho Gomes jumps for joy; credits 101 great goals.com

Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes suffered a huge blow with a shock home defeat as Watford secured their first top-flight win over the Gunners since 1988.

Former Tottenham defender Younes Kaboul lashed in the opener within 10 minutes for Watford with a shot from outside the area which deflected off Aaron Ramsey.

Just two minutes and 57 seconds later, the visitors doubled their lead as Troy Deeney tapped in the rebound after Etienne Capoue’s fine run ended with his shot being saved by Petr Cech.

The Arsenal goalkeeper was called into action again as he tipped Sebastian Prodl’s header over the crossbar and pushed away Daryl Janmaat’s curling strike.

The hosts improved significantly in the second half and Alex Iwobi pulled a goal back by steering Alexis Sanchez’s cross home.

Lucas Perez struck the crossbar with a powerful drive, but they could not find the equaliser.

Gunners failed to fire

Arsenal here lack width and depth with full backs and midfielders too compact in possession

Arsene Wenger chose a much changed team after the demolition of Southampton in The FA Cup, which may not have been much of a surprise, however his tactics were.

Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 with Oliver Giroud as a lone striker supported by Ozil behind, the two pivots and cautious nature of their play seemed to play into Watford’s hands.

I cannot see why Arsenal need to play with two pivots, and a more expansive 4-3-3 would surely serve Arsenal better?

All the pace and penetration on show at St Mary’s a few days ago had been taken out of the team with Giroud and Ozil rarely penetrating beyond the Watford defence.

The pace out wide against the Saints provided by full backs Hector Bellerin and Keiran Gibbs was much missed.

Watford’s back three played a high line to begin, with Arsenal posing little threat through the middle.

The hornets were able to be very aggressive in the early exchanges and Oliver Giroud was largely anonymous, in contrast to the effective Troy Deeney.

With no threat centrally I expected Arsenal to attack wide, however, their full backs were never advanced enough, allowing the Watford midfield to crowd around the Arsenal players when they did receive.

The Ox is no Carthorse

Alex Iwobi takes on his man as Oxlade-Chamberlain watches on.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain began the game on the bench, despite a scintillating display against his old club Southampton in the FA Cup match on Saturday, although how Arsene Wenger is utilising his talents is puzzling to me.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is an out and out winger and it was his displays for Southampton out wide that convinced Arsene Wenger to shell out £15m for his talents originally.

The Ox made his debut whilst with me at Southampton and he was always destined for the top with his wonderful talents, although I can’t help but feel that he has spent large parts of his career at Arsenal playing in the wrong position.

The Ox is being used presently as a supplier, someone who feeds others and supports behind the ball in a role many players could manage but not many have his talents when he has the ball wide, in space and is running at people.

Against Southampton and Watford he rarely received ahead of the ball, got turned or ran at defenders, all traits you would associate with his talents.

Against a weak Southampton side his range of passing was imperious but against a much better Watford team, his skills were needed higher up the pitch to break down a well organised defence.

Often, Arsenal’s most attacking threat came from their full backs but who would you rather receive in the final third, Gabriel or Oxlade-Chamberlain?

Gabriel cannot go past a player the way the Ox can and in games such as these, that Arsenal need to win, a change was needed.

I think at half-time or when Ramsay was forced off injured, Wenger could have sacrificed a midfielder and played 4-4-2 with Oxlade-Chamberlain positioned out wide in a full back or wide position, to supply a front two of Oliver Giroud and Alexis Sanchez.

The Ox is more than capable of playing two games in succession and you have to remember being a player who sits and serves, is vastly different physically, to one who attacks up and down the wings for 90 minutes.

He would have barely broke a sweat against the Saints and could have started this game to provide more penetration where Arsenal needed it most, in the final third.

Arsenal fail to cope with Troy Deeney


Deeney wins another flick on, with Arsenal providing no screen in front and Watford’s M’Baye Niang is ready to pick up the second ball

One thing Arsene Wenger would have known from Watford’s much changed team against Millwall in the FA Cup Fourth Round tie, was that Troy Deeney would start, so there can be no excuses for how they failed to neutralise his strengths.

From the first kick by Heurelho Gomes, it was clear Troy Deeney was going to position himself against the weaker of the two Arsenal centre backs, Shkodran Mustafi.

Gomes is not renowned for his kicking and his kicks are often punted high with height, which would help Arsenal in trying to screen Deeney in front.

Once it appeared Watford weren’t going to play out, Ramsay or Coquelin could have quickly retreated to screen in front of Deeney, although not once did Arsenal show any inkling to do this to prevent Watford winning the first ball up.

Once Deeney challenged for the ball, Watford had runners going in behind for the second ball and this theme continued until the second half.

At 1-2 up Watford seemed to abandon this idea to adopt a more defensive approach, where they did not commit any players beyond Deeney.

Wide players need work

Arsenal again failed to prevent balls into the box, like the Southampton game previously, and the Arsenal wingers need to improve their defensive skills.

Against Southampton in their previous match, the only time Arsenal looked in trouble out of possession was when their wide players were tasked with defending the ball.

Danny Welbeck in that game was especially slow to press the full back Cuco Martino, who was able to deliver too many crosses into the Arsenal box.

Although, as Southampton only had one up front the threat was minimal, against this giant Watford side however, any ball allowed into the box was a danger.

For Arsenal to tighten up at the back they need wingers who are willing and able to defend, particularly against sides that play in a more direct fashion or with two strikers, for example.

What next?

Arsenal face a crucial trip to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (kick-off 12:30 GMT), while Watford host Burnley the same day at 15:00 GMT.