Liverpool v Arsenal … The First Big Test of the Season

August 24, 2019

Recent meetings:

18/19 Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal

17/18 Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal

16/17 Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal

15/16 Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal

14/15 Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal

Last Arsenal win:

12/13 Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal

Arsenal

After a pair of narrow victories against lesser opposition, Arsenal head to Anfield for their first real test of the season. So far, the team have shown good battling qualities and a reliance on Aubameyang’s clinical finishing in order to get 6 points out of 6, but if they are to continue with the strong start then they will need to perform much better than they have so far.

The natural thinking is that we will head into the game looking to soak up pressure in the first 20 minutes and build from there. There may even be a temptation for Emery to bring in more experienced players like Torreira and Xhaka and switch to a back 3, but I’m really hoping that Emery holds his nerve and continues with the 4-2-3-1 and the young, hungry players he’s relied upon so far.

I think this is the first time in a long time that we are going to Anfield with players who pose a real threat to the opposition and can hurt them. Based on that, I’d actually like to see us play an attacking side and see if we can go toe to toe with the scousers. There is no doubt that Salah, Mane and Firmino are a world class trio, but we have three players of our own who are just as capable and it would be a joy to watch Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang given the chance to run at the Liverpool defence and see who comes out on top in a good old-fashioned shoot out. 

Liverpool

As for our opposition, they had their usual strong first half at home to Norwich in week 1 which was enough for victory, and then struggled a little against Southampton which is understandable given they had 120 minutes of midweek Super Cup action. I don’t think Liverpool have actually started the season very well and will be alarmed at the amount of chances they have given up to lower quality opposition.

Chelsea ran them ragged at times in the Super Cup and even Norwich and Southampton managed to break through their back line. Everyone was keen to hype up their defence last season but I see the right hand side as a real weakness. TAA is a fantastic attacking full back but he gives away opportunities at the other end, and they haven’t quite decided who should play next to him with Gomez and Matip sharing responsibilities but neither being anywhere near the level of Van Dijk.

Possible line-ups ….

Key Areas

Liverpool usually start fast and can blow sides away in the first 25 minutes, so we need to take the sting out of the crowd by keeping the ball well and making sure we are able to get up the field when in possession. I think Ceballos will be key here as he is capable of holding possession in tight areas and he can draw fouls with his quick feet.

Pepe should start as his dribbling ability could be vital in launching counter attacks and getting through their press. If we can establish a foothold in the game then Aubameyang down that left hand side could be our match winner as TAA is prone to being caught up the field and can be exposed.

Our passing out of the back from goal kicks still looks like a work in progress, and if we surrender possession as much as we did against Burnley then we could end up shooting ourselves in the foot. A few raking passes from Luiz would be a godsend and could be a way for us to get through their press if he can be accurate.

Set pieces will be important at both ends. Van Dijk and Matip are very good in the air and will need to be marshalled properly as Liverpools delivery is usually spot on. At the other end, Ceballos’ delivery actually made us look dangerous from corners against Burnley and with Adrian flapping around in goal it could be a way for us to get a cheap goal.

Positives

With Spurs up next, this is a real testing period for Arsenal and will show us where we are in terms of finishing top 4. There is a lot of excitement around the club at the moment and I’d hate to see that fade if results don’t go our way in these next 2 matches. We need to remember that Spurs and Liverpool are years ahead of us in terms of their recent projects and that we are still in the very early stages of a rebuild with a lot of our new signings not even starting a game yet.

These are exciting times at the Emirates and whilst the next couple of results will be important, they will not define our season or our future and we should not let a poor result diminish the positive feeling around the club. Let’s keep it upbeat and get behind this young, talented squad.

fatgingergooner


Would any Liverpool Players get in The Arsenal First Team?

August 23, 2019

Firstly, in case any stray Liverpuddlers happen to pass by, let me just say (in the immortal words of Harry Enfield’s Three Scousers): Calm down, calm down.

This article is not an attempt to disrespect your fine team which was performed so admirably in the last few seasons.

Rather it is a chance for an Arsenal fan (that’s me, by the way) to measure our new look team against one of the best two outfits in the Premier League.

And yes, there will be room for some of your lot in my final eleven – I’m not completely partisan.

One thing to remember: if I was doing this exercise at the end of last season a combined Liverpool-Arsenal eleven would have very few Gunners in it. But things feel different at The Arsenal right now, as I hope we will demonstrate at Anfield this weekend.

Our new signings have already shown promise, some of our young players are breaking into the first team in impressive style and we have started a league season with two wins for the first time in a decade.

I have based the comparison on line-ups that might actually play on Saturday, so long-term injuries are excluded.

Right, let’s get down to business (you Scousers pay attention at the back and don’t nick the pencils).

 

Goalkeeper: Adrián San Miguel del Castillo vs Bernd Leno

Neither custodian is in the de Gea class so this is a close call. I know Hammers fans who thought Adrian was OK but nothing to write home about (a good job really given that you’d run out of ink just writing his full name). Leno meanwhile has proved himself a first rate shot stopper but can look nervous with high balls into the box.

Verdict: Leno

 

Full Back: Andy Robertson v Nacho Monreal.

This one goes to Robertson, who has been a consistent performer for Liverpool with plenty of attacking threat. Nacho has been a very solid defender but his best years may be behind him. It will be a closer call when the choice is between Robertson and our new left back Kieran Tierney.

Verdict: Robertson.

 

Full Back: Trent Alexander-Arnold vs Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Two young men with double-barrelled names, impressing early in their careers. Given that TAA has played more Premier League games than AMN and that AMN is only a makeshift fullback, this has to go to Alexander-Arnold. A different story when Bellerin is returned to fitness of course – Hector would walk this one.

Verdict: Alexander-Arnold

 

Centre Back: Virgil van Dijk vs Sokratis

Solid and consistent though our Hercules has been, this is a no-contest. VVD is one of the best centre backs in world footy.

Verdict: van Dijk.

 

Centre Back: Joel Matip vs David Luiz

Matip has been a low-key but steady performer at Liverpool for a few seasons now, but Luiz has the edge with experience, knowhow and his deep-lying playmaker ability.

Verdict: Luiz

 

Midfield: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain vs Joe Willock

We know and kinda love Oxo. He was always an ‘almost’ player for us and his time at Liverpool has been patchy and blighted by serious injury. Willock has already shown more of an up side in just a few starts for the Arse than Oxo ever did. I’m going Willock.

Verdict: Willock.

 

Midfield: James Milner vs Matteo Guendouzi

I love Gwen’s positive attitude and energy, although he is still a bit raw. Milner is one of those players who just keeps going and going, using a wise head and years of experience to make up for any decline in physicality and speed. A close one because these two are real opposites, but I’m shading Gwen.

Verdict: Guendouzi.

 

Midfield: Georginio Wijnaldum vs Dani Ceballos

I know the Scousers will be outraged, but I have to go for Ceballos even based on just one performance for Arsenal. This guy has it all and will be at the Santi Cazorla, David Silva level this year if he keeps it up.

Verdict: Ceballos.

Wide Attacker: Mo Salah vs Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

You couldn’t get a Rizla between these two. Last season Salah bagged 22 Premier League goals in 38 appearances; Auba had 22 in 36. However, given that Salah was playing in a much better functioning team last year, I’m giving it to Auba. He got the same amount of goals in fewer games with worse service.

Verdict: Aubameyang.

 

Wide Attacker: Sadio Mane vs Pepe

Mane scored 22 goal in 36 appearances in the Prem last season. Pepe got 22 in 38 for Lille in Ligue Un. I think (or at least hope) Pepe will turn out to be the better player this season but his lack of experience of the EPL counts against him, so it’s Mane for this one.

Verdict: Mane

 

Forward: Roberto Firmino vs Alexandre Lacazette

This one’s a bit like Salah vs Aubameyang. Firmino netted 12 in 34 in the league last year, Laca got 13 in 35. However, the same point applies – Firmino was a striker in a high-performing team, Laca was doing the job in a semi-struggling team.

Verdict: Lacazette

 

There you have it. My combined Liverpool-Arsenal starting line-up is this:

 

Leno

Alexander-Arnold – van Dijk – Luiz – Robertson

Willock – Ceballos – Guendouzi

Mane – Lacazette – Aubameyang

 

Seven Arsenal, four Liverpool. Seems pretty fair, don’t you think?

 

RockyLives

 


It’s not all about Arsenal … let’s not Bury our heads in the sand

August 22, 2019

As a football fan this is becoming hard to watch, minnows and historic clubs struggling to survive week on week, young pro footballers with families who don’t actually know if they are getting paid, fans who have loved a club all their lives who don’t know if they will be going to Gigg Lane again.

That is a tragedy of the modern football world and whilst we all worry about spending £45m or Kroenke putting up his own money or not there are fans who have far greater concerns.

I haven’t seen reports of just how much Bury owe their creditors and it appears the current owner is just another problem in a line of troublesome owners. It’s made all the more troubling by the fact that they got promotion last season and even then were on the brink of financial collapse.

So my question today is what percentage of EPL revenues from a TV deal alone would change the finances of clubs from League One down, and should fans from across the footballing landscape start working together to restore some balance, be that by mass protests at grounds or otherwise.

We need as fans to protect the whole game, we should know that Elite Player Development rules put into place by EPL taking control from the FA are partly to blame, if you are a small club and can’t run an Elite Academy your players are cherry picked away by clubs with better rated Academy for a pittance. Clubs that used to rely on those one or two big fees every so often for a local talent can no longer do so without huge investment in their own academy status.

I haven’t fallen out of love with Arsenal yet but I am falling out of love with football as a whole.

Personal experience to validate the above, I thought taking my boys to Arsenal was going to be no 1 in things I enjoyed doing with my kids, something that gave me an emotional moment about passing the baton etc. I’ve done it and it was great, but taking them to Latitude Festival and dancing to Stereophonics and Underworld with them on my shoulders etc actually surpassed it.

Why is that the case?

Gooner in Exile


Silent Stan… and now Jabbering Josh?

August 20, 2019

What a funny old world it is.

Josh Kroenke, son of the famously silent owner of Arsenal has given an interesting  interview about the club.

It contains more words about Arsenal than his old man has managed in public in the last 10 years. And that’s only in the first paragraph.

Anyway, I’ll ‘bullet point’ a few of the things he’s said. It would be good to see what AA-ers think about the fact of the interview and about its content.

  • Josh says our dismal effort in the Europa League final last season led to ‘aggressive’ methods in this summer’s transfer market.
  • A major concern was that being out of the Champions League places would reduce our appeal to world class talents.
  • Josh says: “As the second half of the match unfolded, understanding the position we were in and some of the targets as we headed into the summer from a transfer standpoint, we had to rethink some of our strategy based on that last 45 minutes. We knew we wouldn’t have Champions League football and that’s what those type of talents are after. My main message to Vinai [Venkatesham, managing director] and Raul [Sanllehi, head of football] coming back from Baku on the plane and then throughout meetings all day the following day with them and Unai [Emery, head coach], was: ‘Let’s be aggressive and find out what’s possible’.”
  • He also hints that the Kroenkes may have injected money into the club this summer: “I’m not going to go into too much detail – people can read between the lines of being aggressive and what that might mean. It’s going to be a private matter for us here at the club, but I hope our fans understand that by being aggressive that’s exactly what we were”.
  • He says the “aggressive” policy was NOT prompted by fan discontent.
  • He says we will be “proactive again” in the January window.

Over to you…

RockyLives


Ceballos and Luiz are Key to Beating Liverpool

August 20, 2019

Ceballos has changed my mind regarding the Pool away game. He goes straight on to the team sheet. I believe we can beat Pool away.

They are an excellent team. They press, have pace, energy, physical presence, technical ability, a formidable front 3, and have counter attacking ability – whilst we press, have pace, energy, physical presence, technical ability, a formidable front 3, and have counter attacking ability………. ooh ditto.

Our key is to get our combinations right. I buck the trend in feeling that Willock is slightly ahead of Gouzi for a game like this during to being slightly quicker and more dynamic, and Liverpool play at a very fast pace. Also he is probably ahead of Torreira fitness wise at the moment.

I dont think we can get away with 2 box-to-box type midfielders working out who goes and who covers with Pool at Anfield. Surely this is a game to play Luiz in front of the back 4 at the base of our midfield.

I see it as 2 triangles or pyramids in a mirror image sharing an apex point, that being Luiz. It is a variation on the 4-3-3 but is more a 4-1-2-3:

 

 

I believe we can topple the mighty Pool at Anfield with that. It has everything covered in shape, defence, pace and high energy, ball distribution, and goals.

GoonerB


Ceballos is the new Vieira

August 19, 2019

What on earth is he talking about? What is he smoking, is he mad? Shameless click bait headings, the site has gone to the dogs. But give me a second, there is a slither of method to my madness, do you remember how at the beginning of Wenger’s tenure he was able to scour the lesser-known parts of France and French speaking Africa capable of unearthing hidden gems such as Vieira? Well, and here is the connection, Emery seems to be doing a good job of doing the same in Spain.

Real or Barca will always get first dibs on the top players in Spain and Latin America, this level of player are not on our radar, not the first edition signings anyway but there are so many who it just does not work out for, whether it be for reasons that the competition for the position they play is so intense that the chances of braking into the first team is next to impossible and this, off course, is where we are with Ceballos.

It must be so hard for players like that whose dream it is to play for one of the big two in Spain and then finally get signed, have all there their family and friends tell them how pleased they are for them and then have to face the humbling reality that they are unlikely to make it into the first team.

It is here that Emery comes in; it is his reassuring hand that helps players like Ceballos cross the much-feared precipice that exists in their minds on the way out of Real Madrid.

It is difficult to imagine having a second team, almost impossible, if there is it is probably a token suburban entity but in Spain this is the norm. Ceballos, although born in Andalucía and I am assuming that as he played for Betis that that was his boyhood team there is no doubt in my mind that his second team is Real Madrid; he has nationalist tattoos and as such he will hate Barcelona and the symbol of desired independence from Spain that it represents to so many and that will most certainly include Ceballos.

Yes, we only have him on loan but I like the way we are going about these things; I thought Dennis Suarez was a smart piece of business, ok it didn’t work out and it might seem glaringly obvious now but it is easy to remember that he was and I assume still is a Barcelona player and that is not something that happens easily.

It was a clever piece of business because we got to try it before we bought it and hey, thank goodness we didn’t spend a chunk of our meagre transfer resources on him, again easy after the fact. The same is obviously true of Ceballos; he has had one start perhaps by Christmas other clubs could have worked his game out and found a way to nullify him – but right now, I will have none of that negativity, we have got ourselves a gem, if he blossoms so much that Real Madrid give him a guarantee that he will be a first team regular then he will obviously return but failing that he will be ours for so many obvious reasons.

Where will he play? There is little doubt that this is a long-term play to replace Ozil. That’s to say; it would be hugely risky to break the bank to try and buy a ready made replacement for him, the chances of failure are high just look at Ozil himself, everyone’s favourite for so long and is now viewed by so many as a huge expensive albatross, can you imagine accidently having two of those on the books? Ceballos like Suarez is a suck it and see type of thing, there are risks but they are greatly reduced.

Back to Ozil for a moment, in my opinion the club are doing everything they can to off load him in this European transfer window, I know I have said before things like: I loved you Mesut but you broke my heart and that certainly was the way I felt after his dismal display in the Europa final but like any lost love a twinkling of the minds eye returns after time and in this case I find myself sighing when images of his goal against Ludagrets flash in front of me.

My guess is that the club will fail to sell Ozil in this window and we will get to see the return of the Thin White Duke making for a pairing with Ceballos on certain occasions, all of which, force exotic images of Ozil and Cazorla back into my head.

Ooooooh to be.

LB


Dani’s Dazzling Debut .. against the new Stoke!

August 18, 2019

Arsenal 2 -1 Stoke

I can’t take the credit for our opposition’s name (nice one LBG) but Tony Pullis has shrunk 6 inches, put on 3 stone and gone ginger and balder. Apart from that, all’s well in The Potteries.

We started with a different line up to last week. I had Torreira and Chambers with either Ozil or Miki in my pre match. Liam had Ceballos. We thought Xhaka might not make it because of the injury. So full debuts for Ceballos, Luis and Willock, Guendouzi and Nelson also included. I liked the line-up I must admit.

We started well and for 15 minutes, I was drooling !! Laca had just missed what I thought was a really straightforward header but from the resulting corner, he scored such a Laca goal. It was awesome.

After we scored, we lost the initiative and struggled with stopping them doing what they’re good at and gave away far too many set pieces.

Guendouzi on Tarkowski at said set pieces was hard to understand but I guess we were zonal for the most part. Their equaliser wasn’t a huge surprise but I was literally mesmerized by our midfield.

Even though we went in level, at no point did I ever think we wouldn’t win this game (in fact in the end I was a little disappointed we didn’t win by more).

The second half seemed a lot more comfortable and I can’t really put my finger on why. I know Pepe came on and so I have to attribute it to that in some part.

Everyone seemed confident on the ball and after an Auba miss from a sublime ball by Pepe, he did exactly what Laca did earlier and scored a great goal almost immediately.

I thought the rest of the game was solid and the subs came in to help shore us up but we never really looked in danger of conceding.

Player Ratings as follows:

Leno – 7 : Could maybe have helped the defense out a little more but Stoke is such a hard team for keepers. Mark my words, they’ll terrorize quite a few keepers this season.

AMN – 7 : Wasn’t outstanding, wasn’t bad. I rate him at present based on the fact that he’s playing out of position and will give him the benefit at the moment. No concentration lapses.

Nacho – 7 : Nacho. What more is there to say. Tierney will probably be an upgrade but this guy doesn’t hurt us in any way.

Sokratis – 8 : He did miss a couple of headers in the first half but he was very good in the 2nd. A couple of crunching tackles and I wonder if he fed off Luiz a little.

Luiz – 7.5 : Probably as good as Sok but I’m going to be a little harsh here and say he was at fault for the goal. I know it took a deflection but he was a yard behind the line and that’s going to cost us against better sides. Looked like a Gooner and led by example and was very animated. Awesome debut.

Guendouzi – 8 : I think he showed what a disciplined DM should be. This kid is such an asset to us and I think he’s going to get better and better. Hardly put a foot wrong (I’ll take corrections on that if I’m wrong – maybe I have an agenda !!). Let’s see how he does against better teams for sure, but did everything that was asked.

Willock – 8 : I love this kid. He’s strong, powerful, confident but not arrogant. I said a while back the mark of a good player is how his opposition views him. In no time flat, teams are going to hate playing against this lad. He’s got it all. Again, he gets his grade based on the fact he’s a 19 yr old rookie. Wasn’t perfect but always showed and covered.

Ceballos – 10 : I can’t really say enough about how well he played. My son Liam has been raving about him and I think most of the comments on here have been tempered by the fact that he’s a fairly unknown quantity especially in the PL. Well here’s our answer.

Nelson – 6.5 : Didn’t have his best game but looks like he got a knock. Wasn’t scared to play against a rugged team. He’s exciting and I love the fact Dick is playing him, he’s well worth a punt. Not his best game but he’s 19. There’s a lot more to come from this kid imo.

Laca – 7.5 : Very good comeback after injury, maybe not 100% match fit but did all that could be asked and scored a very good goal upon return.

Auba – 9 : Stoke were terrified of this guy. At the moment he’s almost unplayable and the biggest surprise is that he only got 1. I guarantee he’s creating space for others right now just by being on the field.

Subs :

Pepe – 7 : One world class ball, one world class dribble and a little inconsistency. He’s going to be fun and hard to watch all at the same time but if this guy doesn’t excite you, maybe you’re not a football person !! Kidding but I think he’s going to be special for us.

Torreira and Kola – No grade, but came in to do a job and got it done.

Summary : This is very important so let me say it – we beat Burnley (the new Stoke) 2-1 at home. It’s tempting to read into all of the excitement and positivity and think we’re Spuds of 5 years ago. So let’s not be that. Instead I’ll say this. For the first time in a while, I expected us to win. I saw a midfield trio that would run through walls for each other. For their team mates. For Us fans. For the Badge. There was an attitude about Arsenal today that we’ve been missing. We gave Burnley a run for their money, struggled for a while, then beat them. We’re a work in progress with a lot of work to do for sure. But I finally think we have a map, a destination and the means to get there.

Our current squad, allowing for the loss of Ramsey but adding Pepe, Ceballos, Luiz and Willock plus the continuing improvement of Guendouzi, the top class Laca and Auba and a very good keeper in Leno is the foundation of a new era at Arsenal. That’s not really up for debate. The question is, can we go down the new road successfully.

Two games into the season against two mediocre opponents would lead most people to think it’s fanciful at best to make such an assumption. I probably agree. But I’m happy to go on the record as saying I am very optimistic for our next two games. The fear we have often displayed, the mental frailty seems a little foreign to this current crop. So if I’m wrong then it’s going to be a little longer road. But I for one can’t wait to see.

Go Gooooooooooooooners!!!

Mike M