New look Everton takes on league leader AFC :-)

February 4, 2023

Everton: 7 managers in 7 years…a new stadium being built…quite some investment…and yet 19th in the league…

Lampard tried, Lampard failed to deliver…Dyche is a solid coach known for his defensive mindset and uncomplicated direct attacking styles…

Everton has quality players in:

  • Pickford and Begovic are decent goalkeepers
  • Mina, Coady and Tarkowsky are also decent defenders, no non-sense
  • Coleman and Mykolenko have their up and downs but they have outstanding crossing ability
  • Doucoure, Onana, Gueye are solid in midfield
  • Iwobi, Gordon, Grey and Davies can drive and dribble the ball nicely
  • Calvert-Lewin, Maupay are good forwards as well

Ultimately, Dyche’s job and despite his defensive mindset is to find a formula for Everton to be more solid and yet score more as well…I can see him go for a 4231 with the following set up:

Pickford – Mina, Coady, Tarkowsky, Mykolenko – Gueye, Onana – Iwobi, Maupay, Grey – Calvert-Lewin with Iwobi playing closer to Gueye, Maupay closer to CL and Grey drifting on and off his wing.

For our coach, it will be a return to the team that welcomed him to the EPL and I think that he is preparing for a nice welcome by the club but a tough encounter on the pitch. New coach at Everton means everyone is going to be on their best behaviour and performance, especially against league leaders. Pickford, Iwobi, Gray, Maupay and CL like to play against us so we better be wary of them…

Ramsdale – White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko – Jorginho, Xhaka – Odegaard – Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli

I am not feeling the game today at all so I will go for the unlikely Everton win against us…like a 2-1 with two defensive errors from our side (White and then one of our CBs) and a goal by Nketiah. I hope to be wrong again…

COYG!

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Here is our squad for the second half of the season…and a little update on Balogun :-)

February 3, 2023

GK: RAMSDALE, Turner, Hein (sent Okonkwo on loan during the latest transfer period)

RB: WHITE, Tomyasu (sent Cedric on loan during the latest transfer period)

CB: SALIBA, Holding, GABRIEL, Kiwior ((arrived during the latest transfer period)

LB: ZINCHENKO, Tierney

Double-Pivot: PARTEY, Jorginho (arrived during the latest transfer period), XHAKA, El Neny (injured, sadly) (sent Lokonga on loan during the latest transfer period)

CM: ODEGAARD, Vieira

RFW: SAKA, Trossard (arrived during the latest transfer period), (sent Marquinhos on loan during the latest transfer priod)

LFW: MARTINELLI, Smith-Rowe, R.Nelsson (injured, sadly)

CF: JESUS (injured, sadly), Nketiah,

Starting line up given current injuries:

Ramsdale – White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko – Jorginho (or Partey, hopefully), Xhaka – Odegaard – Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli

It seems the team is well covered in almost all positions. With Lokonga gone on loan, it would have been good to get another DM/CM in case Xhaka also gets injured…Also, it would not have hurt to get a CF in case Jesus takes longer to recover…BUT overall, the Edu-Arteta combo has managed to trim and bolster the squad quite nicely with the arrival of a promising player (Kiwior) and 2 established PL players in Jorginho and Trossard. Marquinhos and Lokonga need playing time to grow to see if they can eventually become solid squad members at AFC so the loans are great for them and then Cedric really needed to move forward with his career so a good option for him to also go out on loan.

As you know, I follow the EPL but also other leagues, especially the Ligue 1 and truth be told, Balogun is on fire at the moment. He is showing great spirit for the press and defensive duties and he is becoming more and more clinical in front of goal. He is definitely improving as a player and by the end of the season, we will need to make a call on him because he will feel like he deserves regular playing time…Let us see what we do with him but our CF options next season could be JESUS, Nketiah and Balogun – not bad but also they all have similar qualities so might be worth also getting someone like Giroud in the team but then we would have 4 CFs…so another loan may on the card for Balogun next year or maybe the club may decide to sell Nketiah or Balogun with a buy-back clause…In any case, the summer will be interesting in terms of our forwards…

COYG!

Ins: Kiwior, Jorginho, Trossard

Outs: Cedric, Lokonga, Marquinhos


Kiwior…Why?

January 26, 2023

So we just registered the arrival of Polish international Kiwior. A young player who has been used as a Centre-Back and Defensive Midfield, he is known for his ability to play out from the back and pick out a pass. He played in Poland, Slovakia and Italy. He has a good interception record.

The question I am asking myself is why are we recruiting him (also instead of Ndinka)? We have White, Tomyasu, Holding, Saliba, Gabriel and Tierney that can play there…Are we trying to get rid of one them? If so, which one? Cedric is leaving for Fulham so I am thinking that White and Tomyasu are staying…Saliba and Gabriel are safe too imho so that leaves us with Holding but he is a club’s lad so…

Maybe he is coming in to play in midfield in the end…? Maybe as a support player to beef up our defensive mid or as the back up to Xhaka…

Or he could just be recruited to make sure we are covered adequately for each position

Turner – Tomyasu, Holding, Kiwior, Tierney – El Neny, Lokonga – ESR, Vieira, Trossard – Nketiah OR

Ramsdale – White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko – Partey, Xhaka – Saka, Ode, Martinelli – Jesus

Not too bad, not too bad…knowing that Balogun will come back next season…I think that the big question is about Lokonga’s credentials to be a solid enough squad player. If we are going in for Declan Rice in the summer (which I doube), it will also make things interesting for Xhaka…but I believe we may try to lure Ruven Neves, Mikel Merino, McAlliser, Fofana or Tielemans…


50 points…after 19 games and back-to-back wins against Top 6 rivals…the road is still long but hope is permitted…

January 23, 2023

Top of the League. 50 points, 19 games…

Two convincing, gritty and well-earned wins against Tottenham and then Man Utd. We can smile at the first half of the season and look at the second half with a bit of optimism. Of course, Man City have a deeper (better?) squad that is used to winning the EPL and they have a freak goal-scorer (Haaland – what a player!) but we are more than giving them a run for their money and now they have to catch us….

So against Utd, the positives:

  • Zinchenko, Xhaka, Ode, Saka and Nketiah. What a difference does Zinchenko make to our team? A clever player. Xhaka is like a new player, providing assists, pressing high and not indulging in silly defending…Ode, even when not at his best, is aggressive defensively and decisive offensively. Saka hit another level this season and Nketiah has provided more than adequate cover for G.Jesus;
  • The fans and Arteta’s fire.

So against Utd, the less positives:

  • Ramsey’s shakiness against Utd was a bit scary;
  • White and Tomyasu really struggled against Rashford and Tomyasu also at fault on Utd’s equalizer. We are looking at Fresneda, a young right back…
  • Partey – at fault on first goal and then did not reassure throughout the game
  • Saliba and Gabriel need to also cover Ramsdale better. A wake up call.
  • Martinelli, off day at the office.

Ramsdale – 4.5

White/Tomy – 3.5

Saliba-Gabs – 5.5

Zinchenko – 8

Partey – 5.5

Xhaka – 7.5

Ode – 7.5

Saka – 8.5

Nketiah – 8.5

Martinelli – 6

Was a nice game to start for Trossard. COYG! Keep going strong.


Poor Chickens! Red London! Arsenal Ecstasy!

January 17, 2023

Random thoughts on a glorious occasion.

Where to start? The players, maybe:

Ramsdale – dominant performance, saves, clearances, catching, punching – and best of all, shithousing Poorarlison, who swallowed the bate, and I’m waiting for his citing by the FA, but I won’t hold my breath

White – was… Whiter than White, does almost everything brilliantly, but needs to master his crossing

Saliba! – error free

Gabriel! – monster with exquisite distribution

Zinchenko – out and out baller, and one of the heartbeats of the team

Partey – the lean controller, very Vieira-esque

Xhaka – master of all he surveys

Odegaard – wow! Just wow

Saka – silky first touch, tormentor in chief

Martinelli – seems to have Velcro attaching the ball to his boots

Nketiah – if his first touch was as magnetic as Saka’s, he would have had three goals, but in everything else, fierce and combative

The manager: I think people – both supporters and those outside the club, are beginning to realise what a special person we have in Arteta. His tactical acumen, his technical knowledge, his teaching ability, and his player-management, are scary. In his first job as a manager. He has distilled the best of Moyes, Arsene and Pep. I hope he stays for years.

The referee: it seems unfair to criticise Pawson, considering we didn’t concede a penalty (!), and he got most of the big calls right; but how was Romero still on the pitch, after six, maybe even seven, bookable fouls, AFTER being booked.

As to the narrative of the match, all Arsenal in the first half, beautiful control and link-up play; Sp*rs resurgent in the second half, but Arsenal maintained defensive control. I was on edge until Odegaard scored, but sanguine and relaxed thereafter, so much confidence do I have in this group of players.

As noted last week, I still think a deep midfielder is more of a priority than another forward (both would be nice, of course). There are players to come in if Saka or Martinelli are injured. The fall-off if Partey’s out again is too much.

Mudryk: I can’t let it pass without a comment on that transfer. I actually feel sorry for the guy. He looks so unhappy at Stamford Bridge, one can’t help speculating that Shaktar told him “it’s Chelsea or nothing”. If he doesn’t prove as spectacular as his transfer fee, his career is almost over, tied as he is by high wages and a long contract. He might, but Arsenal were absolutely right to walk away. In fact, I think they should have abandoned talks after the second bid was rejected. And let’s face it, at that club just now, players are more likely to underperform, given the chaos between owner and manager. When Potter was asked about Mudryk, he didn’t confront the question of whether he wanted him, and was insipid in his praise.

London is red. Let’s wallow in it, and anticipate the meeting next Sunday with Manure.

Maxwell.


Mudryk to Chelsea but we will win the NLD!

January 15, 2023

So Chelsea hijacked our deal with Shaktar for Mudryk by paying 88.5 Mln pounds + add ons…crazy…

Apparently, we are turning our attention to Raphina now…potentially Diaby (but he is not worth it to be honest)

BUT they are bigger fish to fry including a savoury NLD against a resurgent Tottenham team that can now count again on Romero, Betancur and Kulusevsky…The 3 players that changed their fortune last year as they edged us in the Top 4 race. Kane is in scintillating form and Son is always dangerous against us so while we may be top of the league and playing well, we are in for a very tough and contested match today…

The key will be to really exploit some of their defensive lapses especially their full-backs and center-backs sometimes miscommunicating. There be room in between the lines so Odegaard may be able to find some space to shoot…If Partey-Xhaka and our back 4 do well today, we should come home with at least a point…

I am gonna go for a 2-1 loss to the Spurs though as I can see us lose our patience and form at some point in the game. Most likely score according to pundits is a 1-1 draw – if it is a draw, I think it will be a 2-2…Now our scorer will be Martinelli and for them, Kane will be on the scoresheet.

COYG! Make sure I get the result wrong today!

Ramsdale – White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko – Partey, Xhaka – Ode – Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli

Lloris – Romero, Dier, Lenglet – Doherty, Betancur, Hojberg, Perisic – Kulusevski, Kane, Son


Let us not totally discard the FA Cup…

January 6, 2023

Our squad is of course thin and has been made thinner with the injury to G.Jesus and is prone to becoming too thin if Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Ode, Martinelli or Nketiah get injured…Their back ups are just not at the same level…so risking an injury to them may be just too risky…YET, the FA Cup is a fantastic competition and we have a good record in it. We have to respect the competition and give it a go – a trophy is a trophy…

We are playing Oxford, not the biggest name in football so we may have a bit of room for rotation but let us not rotate the whole team and keep some first squad elements in it to put the game comfortably behind Oxford’s reach at half-time…This will allow us to bring in some youngsters to the fold…

Ramsdale – Tomy, Saliba, Holding, Tierney – El Neny, Xhaka – Vieira, Ode, ESR – Nketiah

Second half:

Turner – Tomy, Saliba, Holding, Tierney – El Neny, Lokonga – Marquinhos, Vieira, Taylor-Hart – ESR

Let us win this tie and let us keep looking at options to improve our squad’s quality and depth.


Keep calm and carry on…although it is hard not to get excited

January 3, 2023

The last matchday’s results were quite kind to our beloved club and we are now sitting with a 7 points lead at the top of the EPL…

Yet, we are still a young team that has quite some room for improvements especially in defensive phases or when facing an agressive press. Our defensive set-up sometimes loses its shape and calm when put under pressure.

We have now quite some fixtures coming up:

  • Newcastle at home
  • Tottenham away
  • Man Utd at home
  • Everton away
  • Brentford at home
  • Man City at home
  • Villa away

It is all about building a strong series so we really need to win the first 3 games of this series and then we can go in the next 4 with some confidence and less pressure. All 3 games are tough with Newcastle having a wonderful season, Tottenham who will want to play their best against us and a Utd team with a resurgent Rashford who always bothers us…Bag 9 points by hook or by crook and then we can serenely prepare for Everton, Brentford and City…If we come out with 16 points out of these 7 games, we will still be leading the EPL BUT we would still have to play City, Liverpool and Newcastle away and Chelsea at home so the road is long and while hopes and expectations are raising, we need to keep calm and carry on…starting tonight against a strong Newcastle team.

Neutralizing Trippier, Guimares, Joelington, Almiron, Maximin and Wilson. Theryare very good at set pieces with Schar and Botman in the air so that will be a tough battle for Gabs and Saliba. We need to dictate in midfield and also bully Schar and Botman’s lack of pace. Burn is great going forward but Saka can take advantage of his defensive lapses. I think this game is in Party-Xhaka’s hands to be honest – if they control the midfield, we will be ok but if not, I can see us suffer a lot…

COYG!

Happy New Year fellow bloggers!


SHOUT OUT FOR THE ARSENAL YEOMEN

December 29, 2022

We now have an undisputed hot first eleven – make that first sixteen, with the top players who can’t get into the starting line-up at the moment. I think it’s fair to say there’s not one player in that group who is not worth more than when he got into the squad. Some, if we had to move them on, would make the club massive spondulicks.

However, as the Gabriel Jesus situation has illustrated, when injuries happen, as they surely will, it’s who’s behind the superstars that make the difference to success chasing honours.

Arsenal supporters don’t seem over enthusiastic about some of our back-up players, but I would like to put in a good word for some of them.

One of my favourite players, since he joined us for diddly-squat from Bolton, while Man City were paying a sultan’s ransom for Stones, is Rob Holding. An integral part of the Mertesacker FA Cup win, he has always given everything to the cause. He’s not fast, he doesn’t read the game brilliantly in open play, his distribution can be iffy. But if you want backs-to-the-wall defending deep in your area and deep in the game, I certainly always feel comfortable when Arteta sends him on, and he holds up five fingers to indicate the strategy. Moreover, he seems totally happy with his role as back-up penalty box specialist. If he is required he’s always ready and reliable. From what one sees in training videos, he’s popular and influential.

On the same level, and all of the above, is Mo Elneny. He also lacks speed. He can be a bit lightweight in one-on-ones. But he rarely gives the ball away, has good control and reasonable vision, and also never seems to complain or sulk at his lack of minutes on the pitch.

I guess I should include Eddie Nketiah, simply because if everyone’s fit he’s unlikely to start. But really, I do believe he’s now first team quality. The way he took his goal against West Ham – well, actually, I think it was better than GJ himself might have done! The main reason for adding him is the patience and mentality he has shown, waiting for his chance – and the way he has seized it when required.

I also think Cedric Soares has been underrated, but only because of the huge drop-off from our magnificent Tomiyasu, White, Tierney and Zinchenko. Notwithstanding, he is utterly reliable, and another who is always ready to be patient and then do a job when called upon. It seems he might be leaving, which is a shame, but a couple of youngsters in the shape of Sousa and Walters are emerging to push him further down the pecking order.

Matt Turner showed in the World Cup, firstly why Arsenal were keen to buy him, and secondly, how exponentially he has improved since he joined us. He’s still a notch down from the charismatic Ramsdale, but not so much that I’d be fretting if he has to play. Another who bides his time patiently.

I only perceive one player in the entire squad who is letting the side down: Sambi Lokonga. If he survives the January window, I can see him being off-loaded in the summer. He has loads of skill and physical attributes, but his mentality has been lost. The result is that when he is given time in a game, he fails to fulfil his potential. It’s a shame, but he’s the epitome of attitude defeating talent. I believe there will be plenty of suitors on the continent, and he will flourish in the right environment.

I have no doubt that in the coming months we will need our yeoman back-ups, and I’m certainly content to see Elneny’s Nketia’s Turner’s and Holding’s name on the team sheet (and Cedric’s, should he still be at the club after January).

Maxwell


CRUEL, CRUEL ARSENAL

December 27, 2022

Come on. We’re all at it now. “Of course, I know Arsenal has no chance of actually winning the League this season”, while thinking, “Ohmigod, I can’t help believing they’re going to do it!”

And it’s all Mikel Arteta’s fault – not to mention Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketia, Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey, Kieran Tierney, Oleg Zinchenko, Gabriel Magalaes, William Saliba, Benjamin White, Aaron Ramsdale. If I leave out ESR, Tomi, Jesus, it’s only that they’re not available at the moment.

Firstly, they’re winning. This is what every supporter desires of their team, but so few of us experience on a sustained basis.

But more. They are playing with such brio, such confidence, such pace, such touch, such control, one feels swept along on this tide of belief.

They go 0-1 down to a soft penalty. No longer do we feel doom and gloom. We are happy that they will solve the problem. And we are proved correct.

A couple of favourite moments from the West Ham encounter: foremost has to be when Saka bullied Declan Rice off the ball, then grabbed it from Odegaard’s toes to instigate the move that led to Martinelli’s goal; another involving Rice, when Martinelli forced a corner off Dawson, and the camera showed a desperate and exhausted Rice trudging back into his penalty area, looking round hopelessly at his inept teammates; everything that Ben White did – this guy is just so cool, so sublime, who one dreamed of being in the school playground, who exudes not giving a shit; everything that Martin Odegaard does, with his eye for a crucial pass and his twinkle toes and his non-stop effort; Gaby terrorising defenders; Eddie’s superb roll of Kehrer and unstoppable shot.

Wow. Torn between ecstasy and waiting for the dream to crash. Is it going to be like this till May? I’m over seventy now, and not sure my heart can keep up, but still I hope so.

Maxwell.