Stretching a point – Unai discovers the limits of his squad?

November 15, 2018

It really does feel to me as if the XG chickens have come home to roost. Or at least it does until I realise that the meaning of that statement is in the mind of the writer and as such open to interpretation by everyone who reads it.

The image that this conjures in my mind is one of Emery’s team resembling an elastic band. It has been exciting watching Emery stretch it as far as it can go and I happily admit that I think he has been able to stretch it further than I expected but it is now contracting back to its original shape.In other words, I believe we have seen the collective best of the squad that Emery has at his disposal and I don’t believe that he is able to make it any better than he has.

In fact with the amount of games that we have got coming up and the continually diminishing squad due to injuries, I only see us going backwards.

A bit gloomy I know, but this is what I would describe as the reality of our situation, or ‘our lot’ if you like. There are bright spots, it could be argued that the elastic band started contracting when we lost the extremely important Nacho Monreal and his return could put us back on our expanding trajectory.

I expect Torreira to start scoring goals. When Wolves reverted to parking the bus, Emery brought on Guendouzi and pushed Torreira forward, I thought this was a clever move as I think that the Uruguayan is probably only just behind Ozil in his ability to operate in the tight space that parking the bus ensures. What I am saying is that Torreira being quick and super accurate should start getting him on the score sheet sooner rather than later.

I really like the way that Emery is able to keep players feeling part of the squad but at the same time generating competition for places. Look at how enthused and determined Ramsey and Mkhitaryan looked when they took to the field on Sunday. Emery was also able to do this with Welbeck, of course, before his unfortunate early departure.

But pointing to Ramsey’s and Mkhitaryan’s facial expressions is, in many ways, clutching at straws. The reality is the reality. Is Iwobi likely to improve further this season, well I hope so but I seriously doubt it. Is Holding going to improve this season; again I hope so but I doubt it. Both have enjoyed meteoric rises under the stewardship of Emery but Holding is not going to start to be able to run any faster than he can already and Iwobi just can’t resist a blind alley.

Emery has had a good, hard look now and must have a pretty solid idea of what he needs. I doubt that he will be able to get everything on his wish list in one go but I do expect a new arrival or two in January and, with that, I expect Emery’s elastic band to start to stretch once again.

Written with a tooth ache so if it is a bit miserable, blame the weakness of the drugs.



Can Emery’s Arsenal maintain our current League position?

November 14, 2018

The following is a tweet from Orbinho‏ @Orbinho from just before the Wolves game………………….

Arsenal seemingly worse under Emery than during Wenger’s last season in everything apart from actual goals scored and conceded (and therefore results). It’s enjoyable so far, but if things don’t change there’s probably a correction around the corner.

For weeks I’ve been reading articles from stats chaps who have predicted that Arsenal will eventually start to get results of a level corresponding to the performance level being achieved (that is, lower than at present). We all know that football is a simple game, the result being decided by the team which scores the most goals. If your team keeps pulling positive results out of the hat, even if it is slightly against the run of play, all is well and good with the world.

So, what’s changed at Arsenal this season compared to last? We have two more points after 12 games; we also have 3 more goals than the 22 we had after 12 games last season.  In effect, two defeats have been turned into two draws by those extra goals. From this simplistic viewpoint virtually nothing has changed.

The stats guys suggested that Arsenal’s league place wasn’t sustainable because we weren’t creating enough decent chances and were actually conceding more. Games against Watford and Everton (plus Wolves more recently) have seen Emery’s Arsenal confound the stats. We all know that the better team in a game of football doesn’t always win, but generally it does and only the odd exception proves the rule.

Last season under Arsene, Arsenal were creating both more chances and having more shots on goal. Is this season’s difference that the strikers are more clinical? I still believe that if Auba had scored on Sunday (when it was harder to miss), we’d have gone on to win in similar fashion to how we’ve closed out other games.

Are the stats analysts beginning to be proved correct with our last few results? Once we stop taking decent and difficult chances with such precision, will we start to slide?

I can’t really see much wrong with creating slightly fewer efforts on goal if you’re going to put a higher percentage away. What does worry me is that we’re actually conceding more chances but still, somehow, managing to concede less goals (16 goals conceded 17/18 compared to 14 conceded 18/19).

This isn’t intended to be a negative assessment of Unai Emery’s first dozen games managing The Arsenal,  just an attempt to rationalise what’s going on. We can all see the differences in personnel and patterns of play – things are changing. Team structure and tactics are also bound to be very much a work in progress and probably will be for the rest of the season.

I must admit I am seeing similar aspects of our play from the Wenger era which I’d assumed would be phased out by now. Things like……

  • Fullbacks being caught too far forward with no adequate cover (even the Terrier is struggling to get across sometimes)
  • Centrebacks being prone to both poorly thought out passes and ill-advised, lunging challenges
  • Midfielders giving the ball away in our own half leading to opposition goals
  • The front 4 players not recognising the damn huge whole in the team between them and the back 6, especially in the first half of matches

The draw against Liverpool was creditable but those two performances against Palace and Wolves were as equally dire as some from last season – the only difference being that we didn’t lose.

Are our xG chickens finally coming home to roost?

Maybe some of you more tactically astute commenters can soothe my furrowed brow and give us all some good reasons to be more optimistic? After all, we can only get better as the season progresses, can’t we?


Arsenal’s Interlull – Who’s involved and when?

November 13, 2018

It’s getting more difficult to find words to describe how horrendously tedious these regular international breaks actually are.

There will be 9 games for Arsenal in December – just imagine how much easier December could be if we dropped two of the international breaks, enabling fixtures to be more evenly spread. Injuries will inevitably mount as fatigue sets in. Clubs with the biggest squads and those teams which contain less international players will benefit.

Pros for the November break

Aside from Mesut still giving Die Mannschaft the finger, Terrier won’t have to travel halfway around the world this time around as he’s playing at the home of North London’s finest Club on Friday and then in Paris.

Cons (not A.M-N)

Two manc players have withdrawn from the French squad, so Laca has been called up.

Micki is playing away with Armenia, which means less travelling as the games are in Gibraltar and Liechtenstein

There are another 256 cons but I can’t be bothered to list them.


Mikhi – Armenia

Friday 16th Nov Gibraltar (A) Uefa Nations League (UNL)

Monday 19th Nov Liechtenstein (A) UNL


Auba – Gabon

Saturday 17th Nov Mali (H) AFCON

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Terrier – Uruguay

Friday 16th Nov Brazil (Emirates Stadium) Friendly

Tuesday 20th Nov France (A) Friendly


Granit – Switzerland

Wednesday 14th Nov – Qatar (H) Friendly attempting to pretend Qatar are part of football

Sunday 18th Nov Belgium (H) UNL


Wobbly – Nigeria

Saturday 17th Nov South Africa (A) AFCON

Tuesday 20 Nov Uganda (H) Friendly


Big Sok – Greece

Thursday 15th Nov – Finland (H) UNL

Sunday 18th Nov – Estonia (H) UNL

Rambo – Wales

Friday 16th Nov – Denmark (H) UNL

Tuesday 20th Nov – Albania (A) Friendly


Mo Elneny

Friday 16th Nov – Tunisia (H) AFCON

Tuesday 20th Nov – United Arab Emirates (A) Friendly


Bernd Leno

Thursday 15th Nov – Russia (H) Friendly

Monday 19th Nov – Netherlands (H) UNL

Getty Images

Bournemouth away will be our first fixture when we get back to proper football on November 25th, hopefully with no more casualties.

Apologies for any inaccuracies/omissions.


Arsenal FC Player ratings – Almost Savaged by Wolves

November 12, 2018

This was always going to be a tough fixture against a team known for being hard to break down and quick on the break. Arsenal’s attitude was going to be key, matching the intensity of David Wagner’s boys. 🙂

First Half

Unfortunately Arsenal’s attitude stunk the place out early on. Yet another slow start not helped by yet another dreadful referee who allowed the same niggly fouls all over the pitch as the norm. He even allowed a blatant bodycheck on Wobbly which was a stonewall penalty if you view the replay.

The stats for the first half were …… shots for Arsenal 3, with a big fat zero on target. Wolves had 7 attempts with 3 on target including a decent goal on the counter after a Xhaka-induced turnover. The only stat we won was fouls – Arsenal 1 Wolves 8 which adequately illustrated both teams’ commitment levels.

Second Half

Emery’s tactical change at half time to shore up the exposed left flank of Arsenal’s defence, was both timely and effective. The Wardrobe looked anything other than a competent left back in that first half but why the players on the pitch couldn’t see he wasn’t getting any support, Dennis only knows.

Guendouzi made an immediate difference and with Wolves content to protect their lead and hit us on the counter, the game took its familiar ‘second half at the Emirates’ shape with all the action moving towards the North Bank goal.

To be fair, Wolves restricted the red and white chances to some extent. Terrier drew a fine fingertip save from the keeper. Hector failed to keep the ball down with his left foot when scoring appeared a formality and worst of all, Auba (POTM for October due to his impressive strike rate) hit the post from the edge of the 6 yard box when it seemed impossible to miss. If we’d have scored then, I don’t doubt we’d have gone on the win even if we hardly deserved it from the balance of play up to that point.

The subs sparked new chances which found the Wolves keeper in the right place when called upon, until he was finally beaten by a fizzing curling cross from Micki which was missed by everyone and nestled into the far corner. The Wolves players bleated about a non-existent offside assuming the ref would reprieve them in the same fashion as he’d given them everything else, but hard as he tried, him and his linesman couldn’t find anything wrong with the goal.

Wolves had a couple of excellent chances to seal victory on the break as Arsenal resorted to the old kamikaze Wenger style of throwing everyone forward, even when the opposition have brought on a speedy forward who looked as though he had a dead hamster on top of his barnet.

We couldn’t quite manage an undeserved victory in amongst our attempts at professional suicide and the game ended in a draw.


Wolves played very well with little possession and are an extremely well-organised and efficient outfit. Expect them to become features of the Premier League for many seasons to come.

The first half was appalling yet again and it was a miracle it didn’t cost us defeat. Auba and Laca on the pitch from the start is shoehorning which just doesn’t work. How many more times? The back 6 and front 4 had no link. Poor.

The amount of stoppage time at the end of the second half was a complete joke. There were 5 substitutions (the Wolves’ ones taking at least a minute apiece); the Wolves lad at the end play acting was on the floor for 3 whole minutes including one of the added on minutes; the referee himself wasted 3 minutes by insisting play was halted every time there was a booking so that he could find his pen to write the player’s details on his piece of card; not to mention all of the time wasting at goal kicks and when the ball went off the touchlines. A conservative estimate would have been 8 minutes. How can you discourage time wasting if you don’t add it all on?

The unbeaten run continues ………… just. 🙂

Ratings (based on the BR ‘miffed that we played so poorly’ system)

Leno – MOTM, which says a lot …9

Bellerin – as dangerous as ever, missed a glorious chance …7

Mustafi – iffy in defence and his passing isn’t that good either…6

Holding – holding the defence together – who would have thought …8

Wardrobe – not a left back, more of a massive Welsh dresser …3

Xhaka – another costly mistake …6

Torreira – efficient and tidy – the ref allowed him to be kicked as usual …7

Ozil – before the game Arsenal put up a clip asking him who people should put in their Fantasy teams, Auba or Laca? He replied “both”, as he would assist both. Not on yesterday’s performance, Mesut …5

Iwobi – never looks comfortable on the right – sacrificed for Douzi at the break to give us some balance …6

Aubameyang – left his scoring boots at home with his award. Seems to have lost that smile he was playing with when he first arrived at THOF. Mind you, there wasn’t a whole lot to smile about for Arsenal on the pitch yesterday …5

Lacazette – not much service, but poor touches when he did get a sniff didn’t create a good impression of the Frenchman’s performance …5


Guendouzi – gave Arsenal some control back …7

Mkhitaryan – scored …7

Ramsey – popped up in a couple of good positions …6


p.s any Wolves fans daft enough to read as far as this……yes, it’s biased but if you read between the lines, you’ll see that it agrees you should have won. 🙂

Wolves: A Difficult Afternoon?

November 11, 2018

After two draws, can we return to winning ways this afternoon?

Wolves have lost their last 3 games, we are on an unbeaten run stretching back to 1982, the portents are good. But before we start assuming an easy victory Wolves are the only team apart from L’pool to take points off Man City and drew at Old Trafford – they have ability.


Every time I have visited Wolverhampton it has rained, and I have to say, it is a grim place enlivened only by its proximity to Tipton (home of Steve Bull). A historical highlight for W’hampton is that the first automated traffic light in the UK was sited in Princess St. (1927).   Slade come from Wolves as does the teams most famous supporter, Robert Plant of Led Zep fame. That’s it really.

Apart from it’s football team. Billy Wright, later to become Arsenal manager, is their signature player, a man whom in his day was the biggest star in English football.

In David Wagner they have a fine manager who is doing a wonderful job with very limited resources. By far the most impressive of the promoted sides, Wolves already have 18 points, just 2 behind the incredibly lucky Man Utd.

Mr. Emery must be delighted with his start in the PL, to take a team which is in a transitional period and go unbeaten for 14 games is remarkable. True, we haven’t hit the heights of Wenger’s first season but nonetheless the green shoots are clearly evident.  Our new signings have all bedded in well and both Terrier and Curly look amazing purchases.

My Team:


Catwalk    Mustafi    Holding   Wardrobe

Terrier    Xhaka   Mhiki


Laca   PEA

Towards the end of the Sporting Lisbon game Iwobi looked shot, perhaps he is carrying an injury because his stamina has never been an issue; as such I would start Mhiki.

Perhaps the Greek Bloke for Holding who could use a rest, otherwise the team picks itself ahead of another Interlull.

It would be excellent if we could go into the break on the back of 3 points, especially as the Top 6 are consistently winning.


Remembrance Day. 100 years since the Armistice.  5 out of the 23 Arsenal players who served died in the conflict. Humbling.


Arsenal FC – Our home record against Wolves

November 10, 2018

September 24th 1904 was the date we played our first game against Wolves and also the day we scored our first ever top flight goal.

Charlie Satterthwaite holds the honour of scoring Arsenal’s first goal in the First Division. The striker had a keen eye for goal during his six-year spell with the Club and scored 48 times in 141 appearances. Satterthwaite opened the scoring on that day in 1904 in a 2-0 victory over Wolves – both Arsenal’s first goal and also first victory of their maiden campaign in the top flight of English football. He had joined five months earlier from West Ham and made his debut on the opening day of the 1904/05 campaign in a 3-0 loss to Newcastle. Satterthwaite finished as the team’s top goalscorer that year and also in 1906/07 (with 19 goals) before retiring in 1910 at the age of 33. His younger brother Joe also played for Arsenal, which made them the first siblings to achieve the feat.

The following is an extract from the book Fighting for Football: From Woolwich Arsenal to the Western Front by George Myerson.

Getty Images

Getty Images


Poor Danny – Arsenal player ratings versus unSporting Lisbon

November 9, 2018

Arsenal supporters turning up for Thursday night Europa League football were hoping for some excitement to warm them up and also for outright group victory with a win and three points. Things didn’t really turn out like that.

First Half

The best chance I can remember was when Douzi played a sweet one-two down the right and Welbz just failed to make decent contact at the near post with the Frenchman’s fizzing cross.

After half an hour Danny seemed to catch his foot in the turf trying to make good contact with a header. You could tell he was hurt by his reaction and by the reaction of those around him. So sad. He was having a fine season getting both game time and goals. Get well soon, Danny.

Second Half

The Arsenal players were obviously deeply affected by their very popular and likeable teammate having such bad luck. Auba had a few chances he might have gobbled up on a different day. Micki got into a great position and then couldn’t quite divert Wobbly’s driven cross beyond the Sporting keeper.

Lichtsteiner pinged a hammy by the look of it so efforts to preserve the fitness of the Wardrobe had to be foregone after the hour mark, but he seemed to come through unscathed. Hopefully Nacho will be match fit soon as well.

We had 14 efforts on goal, 5 on target, Sporting had five shots, none on target. A point was good enough for them and that’s what they came for.

This clip sums up Arsenal’s night in front of goal…….


The game was overshadowed by Danny’s injury.

The foul count was Arsenal 7 Sporting 13.  Lisbon’s 13 should have been a whole lot more. Acuna, playing on the left with no neck and the gait of a simian should have been sent of several times before Mathieu’s professional foul finally saw one of them leave the pitch. Unfortunately it came too late to have any effect on the result.

I realise that the ‘Sporting’ in the Portuguese club’s name doesn’t mean the same as it did for the Sporting Corinthians but they employed every destructive and negative ploy they could to disrupt the football match, including studs down the back of calf muscles, a wide variety of trips and the use of an arm. Nani should be sent off every time he steps on to the pitch just for his loathsome ‘5 year old having a tantrum’ face.

Our unbeaten run extends to 15 games, so let’s make it 16 by beating Wolves on Sunday for Dat Guy.


Cech – nothing to do…6

Lichtsteiner – Booked fairly early after some Nani play-acting, then succumbed to his ageing muscalature in the second half…6

Big Sok – Looked very solid and he is…7

Holding – Growing in confidence in his own abilities with each game…7

Jenks – Did ok down the left without too much to trouble him…6

Guendouzi – what a great player he is at 19 years old. Just imagine what he could be like in his prime…7

Ramsey – Rambo couldn’t quite lift the game as you’d hope a player of his class might…6

Mkhitaryan – Likewise for Micki…6

Smith Rowe – Plenty of decent touches all over the pitch apart from in the final third where he sometimes lacks composure, which is only to be expected…6

Wobbly – got into some great positions but couldn’t quite seal his good work with an assist…6

Welbeck – Let’s pray his injury isn’t as bad as is feared. I was sure he was going to score last night…7


Auba – not his usual clinical self…6

Wardrobe – As with the rest of the team, he couldn’t find that killer cross after getting into some great positions…6

Maitland-Niles – looks fine as a back-up right back which may come in useful…6