Where do you think we’ll finish in the Prem? – Poll

October 15, 2018

So after not quite a quarter of League games played and not quite half of all of our Premiership opponents played once, where do we stand? The table says 4th, above the spuds on goal difference and only two points behind the three-way joint leaders. The enforced interlull break gives us time to have a look at the progress of Unai Emery’s new Arsenal.

After two tricky opening fixtures against City and the chavs, we’ve had a run of 6 games that many predicted had a good potential chance of reaping a full 18 points and that’s exactly what’s happened. Has it been straightforward, maybe not?

I keep seeing articles written by analyst types who predict that Arsenal cannot keep defying the xG or expected goals stats. In at least three of our matches we’ve been predicted, using expected goals, to have drawn or lost games: these were Everton, Watford and Fulham.

 REUTERS/Hannah McKay

In two of these, Everton and Watford, it’s easy to see how we might have drawn or lost both games on the balance of play. To keep beating the xG a team has to show superlative finishing by taking chances (difficult and easy) and also be a little fortunate not to have the opposition capitalise on theirs. The Fulham game was a little different as Fulham had many efforts which were hopeful and dire in equal measure.

Enough waffle, the point being that we’ve pulled through in tight games and secured the points without playing that brilliantly. To continue and consolidate our march up the table, we’ll need to step up a gear.

How are other possible top 6 opponents getting on?

Abu Dhabi FC

City have carried on where they left off last season; in fact some analysts suggest they’ve improved. They’ve certainly made light of missing De Bruyne through injury. The borefest 0-0 against ‘Pool showed that Pep fears Liverpool after getting caned twice last season. Enough, in fact, to set his team’s stall out with the main aim of not conceding.

Dippers

Klippety has Liverpool firing again, though that front three of Salah, Firmino and Mané haven’t quite been banging the goals in at last term’s rate as of yet.

Blue London Oilers

Have, perhaps, been carried a little by Hazard’s sparkling form, though have also had the easiest start of the top 6.

spuds

Not really started that well but are on the same points as us. Their squad looks a little threadbare with Poxyttino unable to spend in the summer. Let’s hope their new ground opening at Christmas gives them a bad present rather than a boost.

Newton Heath Wealth Merchants

Their start to this season has been very amusing. Long may it continue.

Anyway, back to the poll – where do you think we’ll end up come May?

Admittedly it’s such early days that any answer is more likely to be a guess or hope than anything else………..

Up the Arse.

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Alex Iwobi – What’s changed?

October 14, 2018

Following on from Friday’s post and the idea that youth players may not have that drive and hunger to succeed, let’s take a look at Alex Iwobi who appears to be emerging from his chrysalis like a Giant Swallowtail this season. How has a player who in the past sometimes didn’t appear to know himself which way his feet were going to dance, suddenly be staking a claim for a starting spot in our first choice eleven?

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Alex came to this country at the age 4 as his father sought a new start in England. His blood is rich in footballing gravy with the magnificent Jay Jay Okocha, his uncle.

Alex Joined Arsenal while still at Primary school aged 8.

At not too far off 12 stone and a shade under 6 feet tall, Alex is a fairly big old unit to have such twinkling feet. He made his debut on 27th Oct 2015 in the League Cup and his Premier League debut 4 days after, as a late sub. Alex’s first Premier start came against Everton on 19th March 2016 and was capped by a splendid goal which featured a run from the halfway line.

Iwobi’s career at the Home of Football has flattered to deceive so far. He has made respectable appearance numbers in the past two seasons without ever really establishing himself a permanent niche. Though, it has to be said, those two seasons weren’t really Arsenal’s finest in recent decades.

In May 2018 Arsene Wenger announced he would be leaving the club, and Alex Iwobi described the great man as an “inspiration” and stated it was sad but also exciting. That ‘exciting’ reference has been echoed by everyone who follows the Gunners, as an overdue, new era beckoned.

This season has begun really well for BIG17 with 5 Prem appearances, 4 assists and the equaliser against Chelsea up to now. He started against the chavs, West Ham and Fulham, and came on as a sub against Everton and Watford.

In a 4-3-3 Alex usually plays left side in the front three. The recent Arsenal formation employed by Unai Emery in the game at Craven Cottage appeared to suit him; playing more as the outside left midfielder in a middle 4. Unai Emery seems to hold the Cockney Naija boy in high regard and this season could be a monster for the lad.

So what’s changed about Alex this season? All round, his decision-making has improved, with far less running up blind alleys. Although his finishing is still a little rushed with a tendency to lift his head and spoon the ball over the bar, his passing has been top notch. He’s far less likely to give the ball away but also doesn’t seem afraid to turn and drive forwards rather than just lay the ball back from whence it came.

Has Unai been encouraging him to take players on and thus create that vital opening needed to open up massed Premiership defences? The youtube video above amply demonstrates the many tricks and skills Alex employs to beat a man.

He also seems more tactically aware defensively, covering a tremendous amount of ground up and down that left flank. Although tackling is not his strong point, much defensive work these days is more about creating pressure on the man with the ball and limiting passing options for the opposition.

This does seem a critical point in Wobbly’s Arsenal career. He could really cement his future at the Gunners by adding great end-product to those glittering, silky skills. Good luck to the lad, he’s definitely the closest we have to a Mr Arsenal.

The change at the top of the Club is having all sorts of trickle down effects and Alex seems to be one of those benefitting.

chas


Old School Football – Better or Worse?

October 13, 2018

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Chas published this picture of a game against Leicester in ’71 (which I attended) and it sent me into a land of memories.

Black and White photography

Players wearing the same coloured shorts

Proper numbers – none of this 54 nonsense

Uncovered Clock End

Sideburns

Standing

Leather ball, and only one per game

Mud

Jon Sammels, my one time hero (playing for LCFC)

Real Arsenal shirts

No sponsorship logos

Sensible (?) hair. Not the ridiculous shaved bonces we see today

Proper cannon on the shirt

Charlie (?) on his arse

Our real home ground

Better times? No, just different.

What do you think?

written by Grandad and BOF Big Raddy


Should AFC follow the Chelsea model?

October 12, 2018

LB recently wrote (briefly) about the efficiency of the Chelsea model i.e. buying every youngster from anywhere, lending them out all over Europe, and not using their Academy to develop players.

Arsenal, however, choose to take a different path; bringing young players through the ranks at the Hale End Academy with the intention of giving youth a chance. So far we have some exciting players who have come through – Smith Rowe (Lab), Iwobi, Nketiah, Nelson and Maitland-Niles (Cons) have all been with the club since childhood. Add in Catwalk who arrived as a 16 year-old and we can see this appears to work.

But will it bring us the Title?

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The Chavs sign world class players as men and they have delivered the PL. Does it matter that they are mercenaries with no Chelsea connection? There is no JT or Butch Wilkins. Even the very best of their imported youth doesn’t get a sniff (Christensen the Danish CB is a wonderful player – are you listening Unai?)

Man City are hoovering up the best of the World’s academy players and lending them out but I expect City to use some of these Wonderkids, and they have promoted Foden into the first team squad which is good for Ingerlund and City. However, it does not stop them from having €30m+ players in every position.

Liverpool are interesting. €70m+ for a CB and Gk, shitloads on strikers and MF’s yet 3 players from the yoof and lower leagues in defence. But they have spent hundreds of millions to get where they are and have yet to win any silverware.

Spurs? Who cares?

In my opinion, the days of a club winning the PL with homegrowns is well gone. We must hope that the mix of Academy players plus World Class imports like Terrier, PEA and Laca brought in, will bring us a title. Though sadly, I doubt it.

written by Big Raddy


Who exactly is Unai Emery?

October 11, 2018

Most of us know his football CV, an underwhelming football career, moving into management after a serious injury to his knee; successfully taking lower league sides up through the divisions before landing the respected job at Valencia. He stayed there for three seasons doing perfectly well and then bizarrely he left to work with Spartak Moscow. Now for the life of me I cannot work out why he would want to go and work in Moscow, so if anyone can throw some light on this please do. He was sacked after 6 months due to bad results.

He returned to Spain to take the reins of Sevilla and, as we all know, he won the Europa three times. Sensibly in my opinion he moved on, I say sensibly because the only way was down after that kind of success. He took the offer to join PSG and won a series of various French trophies which no one cares about because it is about as meaningful as reading the list of Celtic’s palmares.

It is thought that the reason he left PSG was because he found it impossible to micro manage the likes of Neymar. I have added the word micro myself as that in my opinion is what he does and by the way I am in all favour of it as it seems to be working well at the home of football.

Gazidis gave some cock and ball story on how the club were interviewing 5 different candidates for Wenger’s job, yeah, yeah, yeah. In reality it seems we were hours away from appointing the only decent option available and that was Arteta. Now if you were not scared about the idea of someone with zero managerial experience taking the helm then you should have been. Anyway, rather than drag up the past I believe we got lucky in the sense that all of a sudden PSG wanted rid of Emery and we needed someone just like him. So, right place right time.

Interestingly, or certainly interestingly to me, we seemed to have got lucky in a similar way with our Director of Football, Raul Sanllehi. This guy’s credentials are something special; to keep it short, he really was the top dog at Barcelona for a long, long time, no easy task in that cut throat world. From what I can gather he was, among many other things, the one that was able to keep “Team Messi” on side for so long; he finally fell from grace over losing Neymar. Lucky us, right place right time.

Sanllehi (far right seated)

Back to Unai Emery, let’s start with his full name and an explanation “Unai Emery Etxegoien” It is very common in Spain to have two last names “Etxegoien” is his mother’s name and is as Basque as Basque can be, I can’t find the meaning so if anyone can please let me know?

Quick language history lesson, the majority of languages in Europe descended from the region now called India hence the name Indo European. But Basque predates all of them; it is a Stone Age language that has somehow survived. Quick story, most languages have to deal with the Anglo Saxon bulldozer, the word computer is a good recent example; most countries, in an attempt to stop even more English entering their language’s vocabulary found a replacement that sounded a bit more like their own. France = ordinateur, you get the drift. But Basque is so old that they had issues long before when the new-fangled “Scissors” came along, so being a Stone Age language their solution was to use the Basque equivalent of Two Sharp Stones, get it? You have no idea how much I dine out on that story in Spain.

Our Manager’s first name, Unai, is very common in the Basque Country and it means ‘shepherd’. His father’s name, Emery is confusing because it does not sound Basque and it does not sound Spanish, again if anyone knows the origin please let me know.

To me the Basque Country represents the industrial north of Spain; I think it is possible to draw direct comparisons with the UK: “Sophistication, I’ve been to Leeds”. I put this down to why Emery is poorly dressed: the jacket he wears fits him so badly, the shirt looks like something that the club gives out to anyone working there and the tie is sloppy.

I don’t want to be too harsh on the Basque Country because they do have the beautiful San Sebastian (or Donostia in Basque) and by way of example, it has as many Michelin-starred restaurants in that little town as we do in London. I do not pray at the Michelin Guide’s altar but it does give an idea of how the town takes its food seriously and trust me I have put in hours and hours of research into this!  That care for food does trickle down to the more everyday eateries such as Tapas Bars.

Tapas, we have all heard of Tapas, what does it mean and where does it come from? It comes from the Spanish word ‘Tapar’ which means to cover and goes back to, let’s say, Shakespearean times – a long time ago. Coachmen used to enter the inn, get a tankard of beer or wine and on top would be slices of ham or cheese covering the top of the tankard. Tapar = cover, Tapas = expensive “covers” you find in the now fashionable Upper Street, Islington. There is one last important thing here and that is because Basques want to protect their own language: remember Two Sharp Stones? Well, in the Basque Country, Tapas are called Pinxos and they are on another level of fantasticness.

Again back to Emery and in particular his hair: the style of slicked back and dyed has, without any shadow of a doubt, been influenced by his time at Seville; they take their appearance a lot more seriously down there; watch the crowd come out of the main bull ring in Seville, a very dressy occasion, and you will see half the men with that hair style.

Photo by Lindsey PARNABY / AFP/Getty Images

So who is Unai Emery? I think I have hardly scratched the surface. I wanted to go into how much he has changed the club but realised that I have waffled on for longer than I expected – maybe next time.

LB


Internationals – when and where do Arsenal players feature?

October 10, 2018

So interlull dullness hits us like a big wet sock just as the season was beginning to look so bright after such magnificent goals at the Cottage.

I’ve learnt a few things looking into these fixtures…………..

Auba, Wobbly and Mo Elneny are involved in home and away fixtures against South Sudan, Libya and Eswatini respectively in the AFCON qualifiers. Seems sensible.

South Sudan is, well, south of the much larger Sudan.

Eswatini is the new name for Swaziland.

Stephan Lichtsteiner will not be called up by the Swiss under a pre-arranged agreement to give the old fella a breather.

Mkhitaryan has long flights to and from Armenia since we now know it’s alongside Azerbaijan.

Terrier has even longer flights buzzing around with Uruguay in the Far East. He’ll feel at home height-wise out there anyway!

Mikhi – Armenia

13th Oct Gibraltar (H) Uefa Nations League (UNL)

16th Oct FYR Macedonia (H) UNL

 

Auba – Gabon

12th Oct South Sudan (H) AFCON

16th Oct South Sudan (A) AFCON

 

Terrier – Uruguay (only five foot five)

12th Oct S. Korea (A) Friendly

16th Oct Japan (A) Friendly

 

Granit – Switzerland

12th Oct – Belgium (A) UNL

15th Oct Iceland (A) UNL

 

Wobbly – Nigeria

12th Oct Libya (A) AFCON

15th Oct Libya (H) AFCON

Sticking it to Bamidele

 

Big Sok – Greece

12th Oct – Hungary (H) UNL

15th Oct – Finaland (A) UNL

 

Rambo – Wales (impending arrivals permitting)

11 Oct – Spain (H) Friendly

16 Oct – Ireland (A) UNL

 

Welbz – England

12th Oct – Croatia (A) UNL

15th Oct – Spain (A) UNL

 

Mo Elneny

12th Oct Eswatini (H) AFCON

16th Oct Eswatini (A) AFCON

 

Hot off the press……..

Bernd Leno has been called up by Germany.

13th Oct – Holland (A) UNL

16th Oct – France (A) UNL

 

Let’s say a prayer to Dennis that all the boys come through unscathed.

chas


Poll – Mesut or Miki – You Decide

October 9, 2018

Ahead for Gunners is a very long International break, so here’s an easy conversation starter.

I’m offering one formation and one positional player option.

It’s a 4-2-3-1 and today the option is Mesut or Mkhi. Obviously you vote for one, but can then elaborate in comments i.e. Mesut only starts when the sun shines and it’s a Full Moon……………

POLL – Mesut or Mkhi – You decide?

mickydidit89