Boys will be men! – Arsenal v Vorskla Player Ratings

November 30, 2018
Well, everything seemed to be stacked against the team in the beginning. Whose idea was it to organise a long trip away midweek before celebrating some serious Spud-bashing in the weekend! Really bad idea!

And then, serious brass monkey weather in the Land of Always Winter! Note, the ref needed a replacement can to paint the ground in the second half because the first one froze in his pants! 🙂

To top it all, martial law and proxy wars of the kind never seen in the civilized end of Europe on the correct side of 1945. Who would have thunk!

And then, in a shocking late move just to disrupt our preparations, UEFA decided at the last minute to move the game to the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Surely, the sole purpose was to bring memories of another Brexit side crashing to European opposition in last season’s Champions League final!

Yes, the odds were all stacked against us.

In response, Unai Emery decides, in his enormous wisdom, to pack the team with teenagers fresh out of nursery. Bless the man and his sense of humour! In the event, we had a fantastic spectacle where the young gunners ran amok and Vorskled the shell-shocked opposition 3-0 on the night! What’s not to like?

We have struggled a bit with our academy setup in the past couple of years. But, if there was one thing we learnt last night, it was that the future is bright and shining. Yes, these young boys will be men soon enough. But will they stay and take it up the Arse? That is the long term question. In the short term, things look bright. We can look forward to another brilliant teen-show of Emery-ball against Qarabag.

Here are some quick thoughts and ratings. Please feel free to disagree.

Helmet: 6
Better with his feet than with his hands, which were probably frozen. Had to make a couple of saves, which he did, not without pretending to be nutmegged once early on. But that was just play-acting. Especially loved his bold clearance outside the box in the second half.

AMN: 6.5
Holding: 6
Jenks: 6
Licht: 6
The defence had precious little to do by way of stopping opposition attacks. It seems all aggression is diverted towards the Russians at the moment. Holding and Jenks were solid. Licht was good on the overlap. AMN was somewhat iffy in defence but linked up really well with the midfield.

Elneny: 5
Worked hard, but I thought he was the weak link on the night. Caught out of position a few times, and got himself into an offside position in the second half for what would have otherwise been Smith-Rowe’s second goal. However, decent assist for the third goal.

Rambo: 7
Almost convinced the ref and everyone else that he was attempting to dive, but in the process earned as fair a penalty as one would ever see. Wonderful stewardship of a bunch of youngsters (Cech was the captain on the night, I think, but Rambo looked very much the leader on the field). Most importantly, he got the opposition goalie on his knees for the penalty. Now, how many times have a seen a goalie defending a penalty kneeling down rather than diving! Wow!

Douzi: 6
Good solid link up play. Nothing spectacular except the hair, but valuable nevertheless.

Smith-Rowe: 8
Such games can sometimes be nervy affairs, and the first goal is always important. On the night, a wonderfully cool finish for an early first goal that set the tone for the game. To top it all, a wonderful sheepish smile after calmly finishing off a second half goal only for the goal to be disallowed very late. Just because Elneny was caught too far upfront trying to give the opposition goalie the eye!

Nketiah: 7
Tireless work throughout the game. Really gutsy, and very skillful. A fine assist to boot!

Willock: 7
What wonderful maturity, skill and finish for the third goal! A fine talent. A great pleasure to watch.

Zech Medley, Bukayo Sako and Charlie Gilmour.
What wonderful names! Never heard of them before. Medley was wonderful in defence, seems to be a real talent for the future. Sako was excellent in link up play. Both solid 6’s for me. Gilmour was not on long enough to make an impression.

Two final thoughts………..

First, a special thought for the team doctor (don’t know their name) who apparently did not travel with the team and reached late on his own. Then forgot that the game was moved to Kiev and travelled a pointless 400 miles by road to finally reach the game. What a performance!

Second. By the way, that is now 18 and counting! Look forward to some serious mauling of the blue-skinned swamp dwellers from N17 in the weekend.

A mildly satisfied,

Red Arnie

If the Kids are United

November 29, 2018

A very long trip for a game which MAY go ahead. Let’s assume it will.

The problems in Ukraine have resulted in AFC not needing to take a 400 mile round trip to somewhere out in the frozen wastes, this has to be a positive. Also, it means that it will be an away fixture for FC Vorskla.


Ahead of Sunday’s game against the chaps from Harrow, Emery will be selecting a team filled with B players and youth, though to consider Ramsey a B player could be construed as an insult (same could be said of Holding, Mhiki etc).

Strange that we are taking only one CB with any first team experience, I wonder why Pleguezuelo is not in the squad as he did well against B’pool in the Carabao. Instead we have Medley who is just 18. Could Elneny play at CB or Licht?

My Team:


Licht    Holding    Elneny    Corporal

Curly    Ramsey   M-N (Cons)

Mhiki   Smith Rowe (Lab)


Perhaps this team is a bit attack orientated and Willock may get a start or M-N (Cons) will operate in the same manner as Wardrobe last Sunday. Given Mhiki’s dreadful performance at B’mouth he needs to find form and playing time is the only solution. Playing Henrik €250k p.w. is excessive given his AFC performances and it is easy to understand why Ramsey, who has consistently done well for us, considers he should earn commensurately.

There is an interesting article on Arseblog (written by Tim Stillman) on the need for Arsenal’s youth academy to deliver first team players. We have seen Bellerin and Iwobi come through, bought some fine kids (Curly and Terrier), now we need to see if Eddie, M-N and Smith Rowe can make that huge step up from being excellent in the Academy to being reliable first team squad members.  I expect many player sales in summer which will give opportunities to those with the talent and tenacity to take them.

Those on the fringes should read this article about one of our shining lights in the Academy over the past decade.


We saw that Vorskla are a limited team who gave us few problems at THOF but tonight they will be playing a weaker AFC team and we can expect a tough fixture. A draw would be good, a win better.


Arsenal FC – Our record playing in the Ukraine

November 28, 2018

Our record in the Ukraine hasn’t been all that auspicious.  It’s a difficult place to go as winter creeps in.

Dynamo Kyiv were our first Ukrainian opponents in 1998. These were the days of playing at Wembley to allow more people in and swell the coffers that bit more. It was a dreadful idea as virtually all home advantage was lost. Kiev (as we called them in those days) had Shevchenko and Rebrov, which also didn’t help! We drew at home and then lost 3-1 away in November. (This was before Rebrov disgraced himself by going to the spuds, coming 12th and 9th before going on loan to Fenerbahce).

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In 2003 we again lost away but sneaked a 1-0 home win at Highbury with a late Ashley Cole goal. Kiev were drawn in our group for the third time in 2008. We managed to sneak a 1-1 draw in the Valery Lobanovskiy Stadium thanks to a very late Billy G equaliser and sneaked the home tie when Lord Bendtner popped up with an 87th minute winner.

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Against Shakhtar Donetsk in September 2000 at Highbury, I was proud to witness one of my favourite ever live games. Losing 2-0 early on, Wiltord gave us hope on the stroke of half time slotting in the rebound from a missed penalty. The last ten minutes will live long in the memory as Martin Keown popped up with two goals (one which appeared to be off his arm) to snatch victory at the death. Must have been his only brace ever. I smiled all the way home to Notts. The less said about the 3-0 away defeat in November the better.

We romped past Shakhtar in October 2010 5-1 at the Emirates featuring goals from the FFBW, a Cesc penalty and a Chamakh special before again losing away 2-1 in November. (Eduardo, our Brazilian Croatian ex-player, scored in both legs but shunned any goal celebrations)

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There’s a theme developing here. The later in the year you play away in the Ukraine, the harder it is to come away with a point. A proliferation of gloves and too many thermal layers probably doesn’t help.

Still all trends are there to be broken, starting on Thursday.

Update on Thursday’s game

Russian aggression towards the Ukraine appears to be escalating and in response the Ukrainian government has declared martial law. President Petro Poroshenko has said the implementation ‘aims to prevent an all-out Russian invasion’.

A statement from Uefa read: “The emergency panel has today taken the decision to relocate FC Vorskla’s Europa League group stage match against Arsenal from the city of Poltava, following the introduction of martial law into certain regions in Ukraine.

“Uefa will continue to monitor and assess the security situation in Ukraine in the coming days before making any decision on potentially relocating other matches.”

Up to 500 Arsenal fans were expected to travel to the game in Poltava and now must make alternative arrangements, with the decision coming less than 48 hours before the scheduled start time, which remains unchanged. (17:55pm)


What’s in store for Emery’s Arsenal in December?

November 27, 2018

Yep, I realise November isn’t over yet but December starts on Saturday and Europa League matchday 5 will take up the end of this week.

So, what’s in store for December – Nine flippin games is what. This is partly due to the ridiculous amount of international breaks, maybe. Injuries will abound and the clubs with the biggest squads will benefit.

These 9 games include 7 in the Prem, 1 Caribou Cup game and our remaining Europey fixture. With us still to win in Vorskla away this Thursday, hopefully Qarabag at home on the 13th December will finally be a chance to play some Academy players.

The League Cup game on Wednesday the 19th is, of course, against our loathsome neighbours from Middlesex. I’ve no real idea how we approach that tie, except to win by as many as is humanly possible.

Arsenal’s David Rocastle shows the League Cup trophy to the fans at Highbury. 11/04/1987

December kicks off, yep you’ve guessed it, against the spuds at THOF – next Sunday the 2nd, with an earlyish kick off of 2.05pm, presumably to minimise potential crowd disturbances. Three days later sees a midweek trip to Manchester – everyone gets a draw there. Can we grab a point or even go one better? These are two massive fixtures which could set the tone for the whole month.

Either side of that Qarabag fixture we take on Huddersfield at home and Southampton away. Huddersfield at home last season was a bit of a romp – hoping for more of the same this time around. St Mary’s was turning into a bit of bogey ground a couple of seasons ago; what with Szczesny smoking after almighty howlers and other such nonsense like Shane Long looking a half decent player but only ever in the one game he played against us each year. Recently, however, we’ve managed to win 2 and draw 1 of our last three down on the South coast. Definitely need to keep up that improvement.

The ground staff will have their work cut out to fumigate the Clock End lower Tier after the spud Caribou game in time for the visit of Burnley in the League 3 days later.

Our last two fixtures between Christmas and New Year involve away trips to Brighton and then to Liverpool. Both will be tricky in different ways.

All in all, a quite horrendously busy month with the only 5 day gap between matches fairly early on, after the Huddersfield game and before Qarabag. I suppose we’ll just have to take it one game at a time. 🙂

Twenty one League points up for grabs. Where we might finish in the table come the end of the season should become more obvious by the turn of the New Year.


Chaos at Dean Court – Arsenal FC ratings

November 26, 2018

First Half

We really looked poor in the first period of the game. Vulnerable on every Bournemouth attack without conceding that many shots on goal, but that ignores the balls across the box which just required a touch to be a goal. Terrier had our one moment of brightness, hitting the post with a decent effort from distance.

Gradually we took control and the magnificent OG was just reward for our domination. Everything was going smoothly up to half-time with a few half chances which might have made it 2-0.

1 minute signalled as injury time – just make sure you go in ahead at the break for the first time this season. Nah, let’s chuck 9 players forward to try to grab the second, tit about doing tricks in their area, lose the ball and concede on the stroke of half time. Wengeresque Arsenal – if that’s not being too unkind to Arsene.

Second Half

Helter skelter all the way. Shed loads of possession, some great chances especially on the break. Arsenal’s mastery over xG seems to have gone. Then bang! Auba finishes after the Wardrobe gets behind the Bournemouth full back.

All photos Stuart MacFarlane

Come one, lads, see the game out – just as a side aspiring to a top four finish would do. ‘No chance’, say the boys in peacoat mint or whatever hideous description of that colour Puma have us playing in. Chances are spurned and Bournemouth sense a way back in.

The substitutions will make us more secure, surely? Nope, far less secure. Ramsey playing in his ‘I’ll do whatever I like’ mode and Guendouzi effective but not as effective as Torreira.

Mustafi’s tackle right on the edge of the area just to give Bournemouth one last sniff was heart-attack inducing.


Written just after the game, I am struggling to understand how we made such hard work of it. Still, job done, a fine three points at a difficult place to go – what the hell am I complaining at?


Leno – had the shot covered which hit the post from our first goalscorer – playing out from the back often became, hoofing it out and losing possession. Oh well … 7

Bellerin – seemed to enjoy the freedom of not having to cover his a*se so much with three at the back … 7

Mustafi – some good, some bad – a typical performance all round … 6

Sokratis – seemed a bit baffled by the pace of the Prem but struggled manfully … 6

Holding – Our most composed centre back again … 7

Kolasinac – good going forward in the second half especially – two vital assists, extra point for that … 6

Torreira – tidied up in his usual effective way. Subbed because he was knackered? … 8

Xhaka – some good, some bad, some sweet, some sour … 7

Iwobi – tried hard, made a few poor decisions, should practice getting his foot over the ball when shooting … 7

Mkhitaryan – my personal most frustrating player of the day – so many good positions wasted – almost non-existent in the first half … 5

Aubameyang – doesn’t really lead the line – a couple of decent half chances spurned before his tap in – 20 goals in 31 games can’t complain … 7


Guendouzi – good enough but why? … 7

Ramsey – why? … 6

Nketiah – brought on to waste time which almost gave Bournemouth enough time to equalise from a free kick … 6


Bournemouth Preview. Team Lineup

November 25, 2018

Have you ever been to Bournemouth? Lovely place and a very pleasant drive (off motorway) from North London. I have never had the pleasure of going to Dean Park but I am told it is a cosy stadium.

If you want evidence that AFC Bournemouth are punching above their weight it is that Dean Court holds under 12,000 fans! Their journey in the last 10 years has been the stuff of fairy tales; to go from Div 3 (Div 4 in Old Money) and administration to be a Top 10 side in the PL is astonishing.

Proof of their improvement is that so many Gooners would take a draw from this afternoon.

How can it be that a side whose total cost is less than our front three are such strong opponents? Teamwork, organisation, very hard work, fine managership and belief. Last season Bournemouth were that hardest working team in the PL, this season it is Arsenal (I think).


Bournemouth have International players in their squad and not just chaps who represent Uzbekistan or Nepal, they have blokes who have caps for England, France, Scotland etc. They are a young team, a team to admire.

But we can beat them.

We got turned over at Dean Court last season in a topsy-turvy game we should have won. 2 goals conceded in 4 minutes did for us after Wobbly had set up Catwalk for our goal.

Defensive discipline is the order of the afternoon as B’mouth are excellent on the counter attack with speed being their chief weapon,

Much has been written about Eddie Howe, probably deservedly. He seem like a nice boy.  It will be interesting which big club takes him and which club will be first to lose their high profile manager; Klopp, Sarri, Emery, Guardiola, Poch – one of them will be on their way to Spain/France.

Arsenal go into the game on a series of draws, costly in terms of points but good for confidence. Many pundits say we are over-achieving  but if one looks at the squad I think the opposite, we are under-achieving. Bournemouth away should be a regulation 3 points, just as S’ton away was.

The recurrence of Monreal’s injury is worrying given his age, we need better cover than Kolasinac, especially against a counter-attacking team.

Post Interlull some players could be rested following draining long distance travel, Iwobi being the chap with the most airmiles.

My Team:


Catwalk    Mustafi    Greek Bloke   Wardrobe

Terrier   Xhaka

Mhiki    Mesut

Laca   PEA

Did you know that 42% of AFC attacks come from the left wing? This imbalance is worrying when one has a hefty left FB who is required to work in defence as well as overlap the left- sided MF.

Transition is a much used term about our team and there is no question we have yet to see a true Emery team. As we enter a very difficult run of PL games his main area of concern will be our defence ,especially on the counter. Let’s hope Umai has spent the Interlull working with our back 5.

Win this and we are well set up for the Miscreants from London HA9  😀


Arsenal F.C. – Our away record against the Cherries

November 24, 2018

A.F.C. Bournemouth was formed in 1890 as Boscombe St. John’s Institute F.C., they adopted their current name in 1972. Nicknamed The Cherries they have played their home games at Dean Court since 1910. Their home colours are red and black striped shirts, with black shorts and socks.

A.F.C. Bournemouth has won the second and third tiers of English football, and was twice runners-up of the fourth tier. They have also won the Football League Trophy, and the Football League Third Division South Cup.

They have spent the majority of their history bouncing between the third and fourth tier of English football. Under manager Eddie Howe, they have risen through the leagues; 2015-16 being their first ever in England’s top division.

Their most famous victory was over holders Manchester United in the FA Cup in January 1984, while they were managed by Harry Redknapp.

We have only played the Cherries on seven occasions the first being a league Cup game on October 27th 1987 which we won 3-0. Since their arrival in the Premier League we have met them six times with an overall record of W4, D1, L1, GF14, GA6.

Our away record had been spotty and we lost the last game against them at Dean Court and have not won there since 2016.