Bog Snorkelling in Baku – Qarabag Ratings

Another game, another clean sheet, eight wins on the trot; ouch, it is going to hurt when we fall. Or maybe we won’t?

In trying to understand the team selection, it struck me that much of what was going on had more to do with November the 3rd than with a second tier team from Azerbaijan. As the more astute would have realised, we play Liverpool on that day and as much as we should win our two games before, we all know that will be our next real test.

And how does this all link into last night’s win? Answer – the choice of defence. Emery set the team up for the best part of the first half with five at the back:

Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Monreal, Kolasinac

Yes, Lichtsteiner and Kolasinac got forward as demonstrated by the first goal but they spent the best part of the first half in the above formation, which against a team of lowly calibre, was belt and braces and unnecessary in my opinion.

Anyway it is just a hunch but if Kolasinac and Monreal start against Liverpool, I can say I was right. Bellerin will obviously replace Lichsteiner.

Once Emery had had a chance to air this experiment, Torriera replaced Monreal at half time and everything calmed down in the way it should have been from the start. I say that as though I know how he does it, but as close as I look, I still don’t understand how the Uruguayan effortlessly seems to be able to have such a huge influence on every game he plays in.

The rest of the team selection was clear that it was designed to give more of the squad a run out. The Guendouzi/Elneny combo is obvious as is Welbeck, Smith-Rowe (Lab) and Iwobi.

courtesy David Price

So enough of that tactics drivel, let’s get onto the serious stuff: Red Shorts? What is that about? The opposition were wearing black shorts so I see no good reason why we should not have been wearing the normal time honoured white shorts. Pink sleeves? Don’t get me started.

It turned out to be a pretty comfortable win, with probably the three players on the pitch that we would most have wanted to have scored the goals, (all in the knowledge that each one of them would benefit confidence-wise from doing so), and so they did.

courtesy David Price

Leno: what a fine goal keeper we have and seamlessly slotting in? Some more great saves…. 8

Lichsteiner: an excellent stand in and proof that the powers that be in the club’s new buying system are working very well, naturally that also applies to Leno…. 7

Holding: why did we loan Chambers to Fulham? Don’t know and don’t care…. 7

Sokratis: it is going to be fascinating to see if Emery sticks with these two on Sunday — he should, they are far from perfect but it made a nice change not to have mop up Mustafi’s usual clangers…. 7

Monreal: Nacho is the most improved player of the squad; he has become authoritative, something that I would never have thought last season; he is clearly benefitting from clearer instruction, the language must help. He tucked in well last tonight as he usually does…. 8

Kolasinac: I loved the way he bulldozed down the wing early on in the game, pushing his opposing defender away like a skittle, pretty good game really…. 7

Guendouzi: getting better and better and now adding goals, it looks like he has a long future at the club…. 8

Elneny: things are moving on and Mo does not seem to be able to keep up, did ok last night but can’t see him being around for too much longer…. 6

Smith Rowe (Lab): the goal obviously did his confidence the world of good, it struck me that he is a striker rather than a midfielder, interesting to see how this one develops…. 7

Iwobi: last season Alex had plateaued; he was going nowhere fast, it is testament to Emery’s man management that he has been given new drive, direction and self belief. I am not sure where it will all end up but at least it is going somewhere…. 8

Welbeck: Danny, Danny, you know I am a fan but you have got to take those chances that come your way…. 6



30 Responses to Bog Snorkelling in Baku – Qarabag Ratings

  1. mickydidit89 says:

    Thank you LB

    I have read and agree with everything, but will save football comments until coffee no.2 has been absorbed

  2. mickydidit89 says:

    Not going to dwell on last night’s game, but I would say it appeared a little too cautious/defence minded

    Ok, serious question(s): Holding v Mustafi

    Please make the case for either.

    In the tackle
    In the air
    Compliments Sokratis
    On the ball

  3. chas says:

    Cheers, LB.

    Excellent report about a rather peculiar match.
    I was hoping that playing 3 at the back plus wing backs would be a way of playing both Laca and Auba up top rather than a means of bolstering the defence..

    Did Danny and ESR play as a two in the first half?

    From the summary of that first period that I did see, the 3 at the back became 5 and yet the defence seemed holier than my old pants.

    Big Sok seems to be suggesting we were lucky to keep a clean sheet – at least there’s some decent self-appraisal going on. 🙂

  4. chas says:

  5. mickydidit89 says:


    If we didn’t keep winning there would be a strong case for the “you don’t know what you’re doing” line

    But…..we do 🙂

  6. chas says:

    As far as Holding v Mustafi goes, the only area that Shkod appears to stronger in is that he’s more likely to get you a goal. It can’t be that simple and I’m sure much of it is an illusion caused by Shkod being the current whipping boy.

  7. chas says:


    As LB suggests, the real test comes when we play someone decent, but it does seem odd that we’ve won 8 on the bounce without really playing that well.

    What differences/improvements can we see between Wenger’s Arsenal and Emery’s?
    Where’s GoonerB and RC78 when you need them? 🙂

  8. chas says:

  9. mickydidit89 says:


    “What differences/improvements can we see between Wenger’s Arsenal and Emery’s?”

    That’s a biggie

    I’d say the addition of Torreira, Ouzi, Sok and Licht which gives us more defensive steel and overall resilience

    On a tactical basis, I’m struggling, apart from the obvious passing it about with the goalie

  10. LBG says:

    “Improvements” – less incessant side to side, more look for a dynamic forward pass, especially Ouzi and Terrier. Passion from the Boss, and for that matter, from most of the squad. Not clearly evident yet, but I believe the squad are fitter. 8 wins in a row, less sitting back and waiting for oppo to equalise.
    A new chapter, a new book.

  11. mickydidit89 says:


    “more look for a dynamic forward pass” YES, I like that and agree.

  12. GoonerB says:

    Thanks LB, excellent post. I didn’t see the game but hope to watch it either on highlights or the full game if it is re-shown. I can only comment based on what you and others are saying and from what I have seen of us over recent games.

    I am pleased that Iwobi has stepped up more this season as I was one that preached patience with him. It looks, from the line up, that he was one of the players playing just off the striker. I still maintain, from the times I have seen him play it, that Iwobi looks a really good BTB midfielder in the making, and would prefer to see him in that position with 3 attacking players in front of him and 2 DM’s tucked in behind him.

    He has good feet, can carry the ball, sees a pass, and is a reasonable physical presence that will work to win back possession. This is also where I would prefer to see Ozil play where he can operate in a greater area of the pitch as he sees fit. An Ozil 1st choice with an Iwobi understudy looks tasty to me.

    That also leads me on to your observation on Smith-Rowe. It was interesting that you saw him maybe more as a striker than midfielder. Maybe he is a classic number 10 / withdrawn striker with great potential. I have said that my first choice behind a front 2 remains Micky, but would love to see Smith-Rowe play as an understudy in this role.

    All that again leaves me to wonder why we never sold Ramsey in the summer when he didn’t sign. I just feel we are covered in any area that Ramsey can play in.

    I think UE’s improvements are what we said 2 days ago and are in 2-3 areas. I think the greater instruction, pressing and work-rate have given us an edge. Also we have very good match winners and goal-scorers and I think under UE he has instructed them to attack the box in numbers and at pace rather than try and constantly dissect a team clinically with the perfect goal.

    This always gives a chance in any game we are not performing that well in because we have a scorers chance with our better players relative to other sides. The balance still needs to be got right though because this will not be enough against opposition who mirror our quality. He has only until Liverpool to get this right I fear. Maybe, after his agents stinging rebuke and declaration he is leaving, taking Ramsey out of the consideration might actually help to strike that balance.

    BTW LB if we play 5 at the back against Pool and invite them onto us I fear we will be crucified in an Alamo style siege on our box.

  13. LBG says:

    Miguel Almiron from Atlanta, but then again it’s Fox News!!
    And one for my Bros to try to search out, “Wobbly’s nutmeg”.

  14. GunnerN5 says:

    Thanks for the summary LB, I was driving back from Boston and missed the game. Sounds like it was another game where we scratch our heads wondering what’s going on – but we somehow manage to win. Well I think that’s acceptable after all of the games we have lost but should have won.

    Chas I’ve sent you a post for tomorrow.

  15. fred1266 says:

  16. LB says:

    Poor Hector.

  17. mickydidit89 says:

    Fred 🙂 🙂

  18. LBG says:

    Watched to the end and haven’t got a clue what any of them are saying, innit!!

  19. Rasp says:

    Great report LB, I think we should all just be grateful that we’re not doing a ‘united’. Last season we’d have taken a win whatever the quality of performance.

    I do believe there is a significant metamorphosis taking place. We’ll find out more about the plan when we see what kind of midfielder UE opts for to replace Ramsey.

  20. fred1266 says:

  21. MickyDidIt89 says:


    That is fabulous news. I got up way too early and was beginning to feel a little scratchy, so such positive transfer news is a major boost

    Also, he cost a whopping 20% more than the sensational Ouzi so we are in for a treat

    ps what does he do and is he any good? 🙂

  22. mickydidit89 says:

    Wow, ok, the morning gets better and better

    Sniffing about this Almiron fella, something says: The 24-year-old – who plays just behind the main striker – has scored 12 goals and 13 assists in 32 appearances

    Then same thing says: Arsenal boss Emery is targeting Sevilla’s Argentina midfielder Ever Banega, 30, as a ready made replacement for Aaron Ramsey who is set to leave on a free transfer

  23. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    Let’s assume we are losing Ramsey. Why do we need two new MF’s when we already have Douz, Elneny, Terrier, Xhaka, AMN, Smith Rowe, Kolasinac and no doubt some yoof?

    Especially a lad who plays just behind the strikers – we already have Iwobi, Ozil and Mhiki

  24. Big Raddy says:

    Have a look at this vid. In the left hand upper corner it has a 360* feature which allows you to look around.

  25. chas says:

    That cameraman was a damn good climber too.

  26. mickydidit89 says:


    That’s unreal, both the climber, the climbing and incredible panoramic tool

    Absolutely superb

  27. chas says:


  28. mickydidit89 says:

    boooo, too early 🙂

    you may have stuff to do chas, but that’s no excuse

    …..well, I suppose it is 🙂

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