Season Assessment: Centre Backs

June 24, 2017

We have a lot of them don’t we? Do we need so many? Are they all good enough to do the job? Do we need to improve on their quality?

The season was definitely split into two as regards the defence, with the move to a Back 3 making giving the CB’s more support. But … one must question why we conceded so many goals whilst operating AW’s favoured Back 4 formation, Tony Adams etc were rightly critical.

Arsenal conceded more goals from set pieces than any of the Top 10 teams. Given the quality of the individuals one can only surmise this was an organisational problem, but why did things improve with the new system? How does that affect defending a corner?

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Mustafi: First season. Started well. Got injured. Came back less assured. Has undoubted quality and seems to be a leader as he is very vocal. To be honest I expected more considering how much we paid for him but then I remember that MC paid €50m for Stones 🙂

Gabriel: Love his attitude. The man is a passionate defender, grimacing his way through the game. His spats with Costa are great fun. Prone to the odd positional error. Improving but I am not sure of his AFC future as the youngsters come through.

Koscielny. Another superb season. Probably the PL’s finest CB. Pacy, determined, intelligent. The first man on the team sheet. And … a worthy Captain.

Holding. An excellent prospect. His Cup Final performance was an indicator of how good this man will be. Versatile enough to play as Bellerin’s replacement. Mr. Wenger showing he still has the ability to find a diamond.

Monreal: Has to be included as he did some sterling work in the centre. Not sure I want him there on a regular basis. Where does he fit in when we play a Back 3 and how does he feel about the signing of Kolasinac?

Mertesacker: What can one say about his single start? Perfection. I love the BFG.

Chambers: His season in a relegated team has allowed him to mature and blossom which can be evidenced by his excellence with the England U-21’s. With Kos and BFG hitting their mid-30’s the future is bright.

We have an excellent balance of youth, age and experience in the heart of defence which is not something which could be said a few years ago. No signings needed.

written by Big Raddy.

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Mbappe to Arsenal for….how much?

June 21, 2017
  1. Mmmm, sounds like the answer is about 100M.
    Just been reading an article about Roberto Sanches. Remember him. Portuguese star of the Euros.
    Last May, at the age of 18, he moved from being the star man at Benfica to Bayern for a fee that will eventually hit €80M, and has started two games since December. To top that, he’s been dropped from the full International team, and now plays for the Portuguese U-21’s.
    “The problem is that you basically have to be the finished article at a club like that. He was learning so much playing at Benfica every week, it was the perfect environment for him to develop, but he was a still a rough diamond with flaws in his game. Portugal is well known for producing precocious young talents who get sold before they are the finished article. That’s what happened with him”, said someone.
    Now, Arsenal. Whatever the figure is, we have a transfer budget the Club are unhappy to spend this summer, and I doubt if it’s a whole lot more than £100M.
    My hope is that all key players remain, meaning that whoever we buy, and whenever that is, we’ll still hit the road running with a settled side in our first encounter against…..and Leicester.

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    So, back to Mbappe. The “someone” that said the above, felt that at Bayern, a player needed to be the finished article. Arsenal are not quite at the Bayern level (cough!), so does that make Arsenal the ideal destination?
    Would you risk the whole of our budget on him?
    I would, but then I famously have a rather relaxed attitude towards being sensible, whilst at the same time having a somewhat gung-ho take on risk. Above all, I like excitement and think he’d bring skip loads of the stuff.
    If, on the other hand, I was a remotely sensible sort and a little more mature, I’d probably say I’d prefer a player like Aubameyang. In other words, someone with a little more history, and having proved themselves in a tougher league.
    What say you. All for one?

    ps I know the bookies would probably have Lazazette at considerably better odds than Mbapp, but the principle of the post applies. All on one mega deal

    written by Micky Didit


Season Assessment: Full Backs

June 15, 2017

If you have been reading AA over the past few years you will know that BR knows sweet FA about tactics. This makes it difficult to judge the effectiveness of our full backs whose jobs change depending upon the formation. It was much easier to critique a performance in the days of Bob Mcnab and Pat Rice; things changed with the excellence and athleticism of Ashley Cole.

So, full backs or wing backs? How did they perform last season?

The first thing to say is that we improved once Mr Wenger tried the Back 3, the gaping holes in the defence disappeared but can the FB’s be blamed? You decide?

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Monreal: Dreadful start to the season. Unable to stop attacks down his flank which led to crosses and shots flying towards Petr. By season’s end he was back to being one of the best FB’s in the league but was he now a CB, a FB or a WB? Nacho has made over 150 appearances for Arsenal and as much as I like him I still hope AFC will sign a better defender. That said, one of my highlights of the season was the triple block of Costa’s shot in the FACF by Nacho, Holding and BFG. Real commitment.

Monreal always gives 100%, is passionate, versatile, combative and this season scored a vital goal at Wembley. He signed a long-term contract in 2016, so I guess it will be Gibbs who is leaving.

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Gibbs: I hate to be critical of a proper Arsenal man but Gibbs hasn’t achieved his potential. A sparkling early career leading to England caps had me thinking he was the successor to Ashley. He isn’t. Good player for sure but we need better (and hopefully we have already signed him).

Keiron started only 5 games last term, and 3 of those were at left wing back – a position he did well in and we certainly improved defensively with both Nacho and Keiron working in tandem.

For his sake, he needs regular first team football and I expect Keiron to be sold in the summer.

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Bellerin: Fantastic player when fully fit and in form. Amongst the very best in his position as is indicated by the media hyping a move to Barca. Hector had his worst season in the shirt thanks to a series of injuries. IMO he returned too early to the first team which affected his performances and it was only at season’s end when we saw the real Bellerin – a player with tactical awareness, a superb tackler and the fastest player in the squad.

Some awful haircuts this season as Hector attempted to be become a fashion icon. What is wrong with a short B & S?

I expect him to leave in a couple of season’s but by then he will have won the CL and PL with Arsenal.

Holding/Ox/Gabriel:  In here as an addendum because they all filled Bellerin’s position during the season. Not did the job as well as Hector but nonetheless were not embarrassed . The Ox at RWB worked better than expected.

Will we see the Back 3 experiment continue next season? And if so, where does Hector fit into the formation? Perhaps this is why there is so much media speculation, possibly activated by Bellerin’s agent.

All in all, our FB’s did not give enough defensive support to their CB’s and this resulted in too many goals conceded from wing positions. Could do better.

written by Big Raddy


Prêt à acheter, Arsène

June 13, 2017

Come on, you get my drift. Pret à Manger, Pret à Porter, Footballers to Buy.

Anyway, France v England tonight (and on proper telly) in a friendly, and oh garçon, do they have some good footballers.

Looking through their squad there are quite a few who I reckon would look excellent in an Arsenal shirt, and don’t forget, the list does not include Benzema or Martial.

 

Hugo Lloris

Defenders: Lucas Digne, Christophe Jallet, Presnel Kimpembe , Laurent Koscielny, Benjamin Mendy, Djibril Sidibe , Samuel Umtiti, Raphael Varane, Kurt Zouma

Midfielders: N’Golo Kante ,Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba,  Adrien Rabiot,  Moussa Sissoko , Corentin Tolisso

Forwards: Ousmane Dembele , Olivier Giroud , Antoine Griezmann , Alexandre Lacazette , Thomas Lemar , Kylian Mbappe , Dimitri Payet , Florian Thauvin

 

Personally, I can’t stand England because of the filth that follow them, so couldn’t care less who wins, but I will watch with my Arsenal eyes glued to the French.

Guessing we’ll buy three players this summer, and with one excellent looking signing in the bag already, I would be very happy to select two more from that French lot.

Written  by MickyDidIt89


Season Assessment: Goalkeeper

June 11, 2017

Dust has settled, we have silverware, no CL, the manager contract is signed. It is time to look back …

Let us start this series at the back and the men between the sticks.

Prior to the Back 3 experiment our keepers were under pressure as we conceded goal after goal. I will question why when critiquing the defence, but the fact remains that we conceded more goals than any other season of AW’s reign apart from 2011. Were the Keepers at fault?

I have to say No. There were times when mistakes were made but nothing in the Fabianski-mould. Conceding 4 goals from 4 shots vs Liverpool in our opening match may bring the GK into question but they were all unsaveable. Or the 10 vs BM? Again one should look at the men in front of the GK.

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Cech:  IMO he had a fine season belying his advancing years. A difficult start to the campaign ended with perhaps his best performances for Arsenal in the run-in.

I love to see the urgency Petr has with the ball in hand; his first thought is to get the team  on the front foot and his distribution is superb.

I am sure he would have been disappointed when missing the FAC Final but Petr must have known about AW’s Cup decision from season’s start and he seemed genuinely delighted at the final whistle (and got another medal for doing nothing).

How long can Cech continue to be excellent? He is 35 and probably has, at best, another season or two in him. Both Seaman and Lehmann were kept for too long. Will AW give more game time to Martinez or sign a top young GK? We shall see.

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Ospina: Difficult to criticise despite him picking the ball out of the net on too many occasions . Our Cup GK  and as we won the Cup it must be successful season. We were never going to win the CL though David must have been embarrassed to concede so often. Given the open spaces in our defence this was rarely his fault.

Leaving the club this summer. We must be grateful that such a fine GK chose to ride the pine at AFC since 2014 as this is a man who has been on the Ballon D’Or long-list and played 77 times for Columbia!

His two superb saves in the FA Final will live long in the memory. Thank you David.

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Martinez:  Is he good enough to be Cech’s understudy?  I have no idea. 2 PL and 3 League Cup appearances is not enough to judge, but what I have seen is a man who looks comfortable and is well prepared for an exciting future. Emiliano has been at AFC since the age of 17 and at 24 he needs to get more games or leave and develop his career elsewhere.

I expect him to stay, join the first team squad  and get more games next season.

Summing Up. Responsibility for our defensive frailties cannot be laid at the hands & feet of our goalkeepers.

written by Big Raddy


Stand up if you Love Arsene Wenger

June 7, 2017

Well I’m already standing and I have more hope for the future of our club than I have had in many a long year.

You may ask why?

The answer is that I want the Arsenal Football Club to be a club that all future generations of supporters can be as proud of as I have been in my seventy years of support. It is my opinion that in order for us to achieve that we need a manager who is honest, successful, and brings us stability along with common sense player decisions that are within our fiscal budget. Arsene Wenger brings all of that in spades and his twenty one seasons have been the most successful in our club’s history.

2016/17 was the only season that Arsene has not got us into a Champions League place – but with sixteen games remaining we were still in a good position to gain our accustomed spot. However the next eight games were disastrous causing Arsene Wenger to reconsider his tactics and switch to a back three in defence against Middlesbrough and it turned out to be very successful, as is shown in the chart below, but it proved to be too little too late as we missed our customary CL spot by a single point.

Not to be forgotten was our fantastic victory in the FA Cup Final when

Arsenal beat Chelsea 2 -1 while utilizing the same back three system.

There have been many periods; some lasting for many years, when I have been disappointed in our lack of success or ambition but my pride in the club has never waned.

The very worst period that I have personally experienced lasted for thirty three seasons.

During this period of thirty three seasons we won one League title, two FA Cups and one Fairs Cup and for the vast majority of the time we started off the season with little or no hope of winning anything. Looking back at these years is a stark reminder of just how bad we were as a team and how much we suffered as fans. Our first double in 1970/71 was, understandably, one of the few seasons when we fans could hold our heads high and we all oozed with pride.

Then along came George Graham (1986 to 1995) and he helped to lift our heads up by winning two League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups and one Cup Winners Cup, ending up with an average league position of 5.11. Unfortunately his demise was one of my lowest moments as an Arsenal supporter when he was fired after being caught accepting illegal payments from an agent whose players were transferred to Arsenal.

However the black cloud that it cast over Highbury turned out to have a silver lining as in 1996 Arsene Wenger was hired as our new manager and he quickly turned our frowns into huge grins as we won our second double in 1997 -1998. His record to date has made him the most successful manager in our long history putting him up on the same pedestal as the great Herbert Chapman (1925 – 1934) who won three league titles and one FA Cup and was a trail blazer in introducing multiple new innovations to the game.

Arsene’s level of consistency over his twenty one seasons with Arsenal is deserving of high credit and the only manager in history to have a better record over such a long period of time is Alex Ferguson. However, that is not a simple comparison as the conditions they managed under were very different.

Fergie inherited the Class of 1992 and these young players became the nucleus of the United team that dominated the Premier League; given United’s deep pockets Fergie was able to import some of the World’s top talents to round off his team.

Arsene inherited our famous Back Four – they were a top class but aging group of players. Ian Wright was approaching the end of his career while Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira had just joined Arsenal. These players formed the core of Arsenal’s initial team. Arsene, unlike Fergie, has had to work within a strict financial structure that became even tighter with the decision to build a new stadium.

With the signing of his latest contract it means that Arsene he will be with us until at least the end of the 2018/19 season. Given that we have to win our way back into a Champions League spot it will mean that Arsene will only have one season in which to win the trophy – if he wins then he will retire – if not I predict that he will extend it for a further two seasons.

Written by GunnerN5


Champions League Final on the AA sofa.

June 3, 2017

August 2016, and I was sitting next to an Italian chum in a restaurant in Northern Italy. Chum, born Italian and Juventus, has for the past fifteen years lived in North London and become Arsenal as well. The company was good and the conversation flowed merrily.

I ask him about Juve’s recent €90M acquisition of Higuain, and he responds quickly and very matter of factly “the loss in the final of 2015 to Barca hurt them badly. They have bought Higuain purely to try and win the Champions League”.

Here we are, and tonight they face Real Madrid going for their incredible 12th victory as Champions of Europe. Juve go for their 3rd.

I’m very much behind Juve, but of course, look forward to a high scoring entertaining finale to the season.

Hopefully an expert or two will join me on the AA sofa tonight and point out a few potential Arsenal targets.

I will be eating pizza.

written by MickyDidit