Emery v Solskjaer … Which Manager Will Get Their Game Plan Right?

September 30, 2019

This evening we travel to Old Trafford for our seventh fixture of the season. Our away form is terrible so this will be a big test of character. Old Trafford is still Old Trafford, Fergie left a long time ago but their supporters will expect a win against us.

Going into the game we will still be without Lacazette and the talk is that Man U will be without Pogba, Rashford and Martial.

Unai Emery has had a full week to plan who is going to be in his team this evening. After great performances from Chambers and Holding during mid-week can he afford to leave them out of his starting lineup?

With Xhaka named as club captain this week he will now be the first name on the team sheet. I expect to see Guendouzi and Torreira alongside him. Maybe Joe Willock has done enough to start instead of Torreira?

Up front we have the magnificent Aubameyang with Pepe and Ceballos either side.

Back to the choice of defenders. This game comes too soon, sadly, for both Bellerin and Tierney to start so I expect we will see Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac. Fingers crossed, Holding will play alongside ……. meh, I can’t decide which other CB to play. Sokratis, Luiz or Mustafi??? I think Emery with play Luiz.

So here’s my thoughts on the team …..

 

We haven’t managed to beat a poor Man U side at Old Trafford in recent times. There is huge history between these clubs and the Wenger/Fergie years produced a great rivalry in which we won the league at their ground in 2002. Oh happy days.

I’m not convinced that either Emery or Solskjaer are the right men to lead these great clubs but this is where we are.

Both sets of supporters will be hoping that their teams don’t make silly mistakes. It’s too early in the season to say it’s a crucial game but a win puts us back in the top four. COYG

peachesgooner


Freddie – Arsenal’s Secret Sauce?

September 28, 2019

Can anyone remember the last time we had such a good crop of home-grown young players?

I’ve been wracking my brains (doesn’t take long) and I’d have to go all the way back to the George Graham era, when the likes of Rocastle, Thomas, Merson, Adams, Hayes, Davis and yes, even Perry Groves all came through together.

Prior to that it’s probably the wonderful Dublin connection that brought us O’Leary, Brady and Stapleton all at the same time in the early 1970s

We have had many “promising” youngsters over the years who shine for a while but seldom make the grade (Frimpong, Traore, Akpom, Hoyte… add your own suggestions).

Some one-offs have broken through (Gibbs, Wilshere) but there has not been – until now – that sense of a unit of contemporary players who have come through the Academy together and all look capable of commanding a first team place.

A reasonable question is why now?

Have we just been lucky? Have our junior talent scouts upped their game? Has coaching improved at the Academy? Is there something in the water?

It’s a tough one to answer without detailed inside knowledge, but Rasp made an interesting comment on Wednesday as we all basked in the satisfaction of thrashing Notts Forest. He said: “I’m beginning to love Freddie as a coach as much as I did as a player … he must take a lot of credit for the emerging players after his work in the academy … our next Arsenal manager? …. is it too early to hope?”

Leaving aside whether Freddie Ljungberg could be a future Head Coach for us, can he take credit (or at least share the credit) for the development of players like Willock, Nelson, Saka, Smith-Rowe, Nketieh and others?

The former red-haired one joined as an Academy coach on July 12th2016, working under Andries Jonker. At that time the young stars now breaking into our first team were aged 15 or 16, so they most certainly would have worked with Freddie and built a rapport with him. And they would have known enough about him to grasp what an Arsenal legend he is.

However, the story is not that simple. Because by March 2017 Freddie was gone. Jonker was lured away to be the new manager of Vfl Wolfsburg and he took the Fredster with him. Freddie’s spell with the Academy was just eight and a half months.

Things didn’t work out for Jonker at Wolfsburg. Within six months of arriving he was given the chop along with his coaching team, including Ljungberg. But Arsenal had obviously liked what they’d seen when Freddie was at the Academy and he was soon back as Under 23 coach, starting in June last year. A year after that he was promoted to the first team coaching set-up.

So yes, Freddie can take some credit for having influenced the current crop of young Gunners. Certainly the continuity for them of having been coached by him at youth level and now at senior level must have its advantages.

But perhaps the overlooked man in all this is Andries Jonker, who has not had a job since getting the boot at Wolfsburg. It is generally accepted  within Arsenal that it was Jonker who completely overhauled our Academy coaching structure when he arrived at the start of the 2014/15 season.

He changed the way players were educated within the club, which meant they could spend more time at the training ground in each other’s company. He was also instrumental in the building of the new training facilities at Hale End, where three pitches were put aside exclusively for Academy use.

So really it’s Jonker, not Freddie who is the secret sauce behind the emergence of our new generation, even though Freddie was one of the ingredients in that sauce.

If you have an alternative theory as to why the new crop are doing so well, I’d love to hear it.

And also, what do you feel about the Academy now being in the hands of the BFG? To answer my own question, I couldn’t be more thrilled. Per Mertesacker was one of the most intelligent players (and men) we have had at the club for years, as well as being an outstanding defender, a great captain and apparently a figure who was liked and respected by all. If he can build on the Jonker (and Freddie) foundations, then our Academy should be able to provide a conveyer belt of future first teamers for years to come.

RockyLives


Emery must not miss the moment!!

September 27, 2019

In football, as in many other aspects of life, there comes that moment when new possibilities present themselves and a new direction maybe needs to be seized upon. That moment is not always so patently obvious. You are potentially aware that you may have arrived at the moment, or equally maybe you are not quite there yet but are somewhere near it, so is it really the right time? Is this the actual moment or are we still approaching it? Stick or twist? If you go too soon then it could all go very wrong but dither and you miss the moment which may not present itself again for a long time.

Right then, my ears are burning. I can hear you all saying, “enough of the Machiavellian, Cantanaesque seagulls being thrown from the trawler ramblings GoonerB, what the hell are you on about?”

Well football clubs are often no different to big corporations in other industries, and also even all of us as individuals as we progress through life, in that they/we reach a crossroads at times in having to decide whether to stick on the road you are on, because its familiarity feels safer, or to take a different road that is more unknown and is full of uncertainty but that may well just have that pot of gold at the end of it.

Still too many seagulls and trawlers?……sorry, I digress.

What I am referring to is our promotion of the younger players, or the more untested ones, into the 1st team, and as importantly, into their strongest positions. Sure we have been integrating some of them recently, but is now the time to really go for broke? Is now the time to take that different road, and really push them through rather than just flirting with it?

Yesterday’s discussion threw a lot of debate up about this. Here are a few snippets:

This from JM

Chambers’s best long term position in our 1st team will be the DM/HM position, this season and the next season onwards.

He has shown to be able defend and attack competently whenever he played in our matches (EPL, EL, EFL cup).

– That all important equalising goal against Villa (collecting the cross from Guendouzi and after his intial cutback was blocked, he was first to steal ahead of the defender, calmly controlled the ball with one touch and lifted it back into the net over the GK with his next touch.
– 3 assists in the match against Forest (the first a no hesitation 1st-timed cross to pick up Gabriel from a right-side position; next a measured cut back from left-side position to Nelson; a last a nice pass to Gabriel for his 2nd goal and our 5th.)
– he has not made too many errors when he played so far in defence (CB, RB and LB in the matches against Newcastle, Villa, Frankfurt and Forest).

This season, when every 1st team player is fit, our defence and midfield could be:

Tierney, Holding, Luiz/Sokratis, Bellerin;
Chambers, Guendouzi/Torreira/Maitland-Niles, Willock/Ceballos/Ozil

Next season onwards, with Saliba coming in (excluding any newer additions),

Tierney, Holding, Saliba/Sokratis, Bellerin;
Chambers/Luiz, Torreira/Maitland-Niles, Willock/Guendouzi

 

This from FGG

Football moves so quickly these days and I think everyone gets caught up in the last 3 games and forgets everything that’s come before! I agree that there is absolutely no telling how good or bad we will be with Xhaka and Sok being replaced by Chambers and Holding, but I do think that given our current defensive frailties, it’s certainly worth finding out.

Football just seems to be so black or white these days and it becomes embarrassing at times. Saw an article the other day with Merson questioning wether Spurs should sack the manager. If they win a few games he will be calling them title challengers again! It’s utterly ridiculous.

I must say though that I do like the idea of 3 of our back 4 being British players. I think a bit of an English injection wouldn’t be a bad thing, and with Willock, AMN, Saka, ESR and Nelson in the squad we seem to be getting back to that a little bit.

 

This from LB

Some people seem to think that things can’t get worse by removing Xhaka and replacing him from within the present squad — they can, they can be an awful lot worse, same goes for Sokratis and Luiz, the idea that Holding and Chambers are some how our saviours in waiting is absolutely ridiculous.

 

This also from LB

Slim, I must say that I think I would be a liar if I didn’t admit that there is a part of me that would really like to see if Holding and Chambers could do better than Sokratis and Luiz.

Over the coarse of a long season I feel certain at some point we will find this out.

Should be interesting.

 

And finally, this from Rocky

For what it’s worth LB, I accept the caution that goes with thinking that any returning player or non-regular starter is going to be the Messiah to answer all our problems. Usually they just turn out to be a very naughty boy.

But I feel Chambo has already shown enough for us this season (on top of his ‘player of the year’ at Fulham last season) to be a serious contender for a starting place.

Context is always important. The context at Arsenal is that we are leaking goals like a sieve that’s been hit by a shotgun. We concede more attempts on goal than just about any grown-up team in Europe.

So I’d say let’s see if Holding and Chambers can do better. They don’t have to be the answer to all our problems but if they can make us 20% better defensively that will probably translate into extra points we wouldn’t otherwise get.

And I know, I know, our defensive weakness is not just about the defenders…

There were many more examples, so my apologies if I have left you out and you’d hoped to be immortalised on here. Similarly my apologies go out if I included you and you wanted to remain more incognito 🙂 I actually agree with every statement from those I put up. The general consensus is that we should try something new and exciting, but that we have no guarantee at this stage as to whether it will work out for us or improve us.

There was something else to consider from some of yesterdays comments. There was a fair bit of talk about other potential players in certain positions that we may need to bring in. How do we know we don’t already have those players in the likes of Chambers, Willock, Guendozi and ESR? If we bring in 2-3 others in the midfield department then I doubt we are asking these new players to be back up to our emerging promising youngsters. We are effectively replacing the above. How long before our own boys move on?

It is indeed far from certain whether those players mentioned, that we already have, can give us the world class we need in certain positions, but the only way to know is to find out directly. We need to play them to find out and to ensure we do not miss the moment.

What is the moment in this case? Well for me it is the next two transfer windows. We need to play these boys so that we know what we do or don’t need before we arrive at that point. Failure to do this and the uncertainties that we have currently will still be the same and we will have missed our moment. I actually felt we missed moments or opportunities in the latter Wenger years to try an alternate route, keeping on the same old comfortable pathway, but ultimately still as oblivious as ever about what we really had once transfer windows came about and decisions needed to be made.

We have literally had a failed generation of promising young players that have not been played at the right times but often, more importantly, when played were not played in their best position, the position they could potentially become world class for us in. Let’s not make the same mistakes with the class of 2019.

It is a risk assessment exercise with no guarantee. A judgement call. I personally feel the risk is at the lowest it could possibly be right now to push through the young and the untested players for a couple of reasons. As many have pointed out the experienced and the tried and tested are far from perfect anyway. Also the tried and tested will still be here, there is nowhere for them to go right now, so why not move them into becoming the back up players for the moment and try the new. The risk of it being far worse feels low to me.

As we approach the next two transfer windows we will then know far more, but with greater certainty rather than with wishful thinking. It is also the easier way of moving on certain players that may not be quite right for us. Keep playing them and they often sit tight and refuse to budge, but let them see that someone younger and better has emerged and that their time as the head honcho is over, and they make that decision to move on themselves, with less drama, and with all parties coming out of it reasonably well.

It does indeed seem that the majority of us feel that Emery and the club have arrived at their moment. We do indeed stand at the crossroads, and I for one hope that we don’t go straight on down the more comfortable, better known, but also far from perfect road. Lets take the alternative road, with all its uncertainties because it may just be the road to something far greater.

GoonerB


Is Calum Chambers Too Good To Be Arsenal’s 12th Man?

September 26, 2019

Calm down. This isn’t me having a whinge about our own fans booing Xhaka and Mustafi, or about the atmosphere at the Emirates and how it could be improved, or about how our own fans choose to be negative when there is so much good about this young, Arsenal side…..it’s actually about a player who is quickly becoming our 12th man…Calum Chambers.

It’s fair to say Calum has had a slow start to his Arsenal career. Before the season he had only 30 Premier League starts for the club despite being with us for nearly 5 years, but more recently things have started to speed up a little bit, and after some solid performances this season fans are actually calling for him to be given a chance to show his worth. I actually agree and was calling for his inclusion pre-season as I felt that he earned his chance whilst on loan at Fulham last year. He was their player of the year in that HM position and given our current weaknesses, he at least deserves an opportunity to put his stamp on that position.

I like Calum. He always seems to give 100% effort,  and as an Englishman supporting an English side, it’s always good to see an England international in the team. He has a likeable personality too, and best of all, he can actually play a bit! However, there is a question that is niggling away at me like a Jack Wilshere ankle injury….is Calum a victim of his own versatility?

So far in his career with us and on loan at Boro and Fulham he has been utilised at CB, RB, LB, RWB, RM, CM, HM. That’s 7 positions so far and at nearly 25 years of age I find it troubling that he’s yet to find his role in our squad. It seems typical of Calum that he’s been fantastic at full back in recent games just as Bellerin is returning. Is he as good as the Spaniard? No. He also did equally well at CB at Newcastle first game of the season, but again, Holding is due back to full fitness and seems to have the nod in front of him. Many fans also believe he should be given an opportunity at HM as Xhaka continues to struggle and because he was so effective in that role last season for Fulham, but again, my worry is that Calum will be ousted as Willock and Geundouzi seem to have the favour of the manager despite not being natural HM players. It seems that Chambers is quickly becoming a versatility player for Emery, which is all well and good, but for Calum’s career to really take off he’s going to need to shine in one position so that Emery feels he’s undroppable, and I’m not sure he’s at that level just yet.

He’s starting to remind me of Phil Neville, who Ferguson used in various positions to plug gaps, but it wasn’t until he moved to a smaller club in Everton (aged 28) that he finally found his place. When Phil left for Merseyside, SAF had this to say about him “This was not a decision we wanted to make, but every time I picked the team and Phil’s name was not on the teamsheet, it was very difficult for me.”

If Calum continues to put in these impressive performances whilst filling in for injured parties, i worry that we could be hearing the same sort of thing about him in the next few years and I’d hate to see him jump ship because he can’t hold down a position in the side.

Calum is a gifted footballer, and he’s an excellent player to have in and around the side, but I just worry that he’s going to become Emery’s 12th man and fail to fulfil his potential at Arsenal.

I hope I’m wrong, of course, but what do you think is Calum’s best position, and do you think he deserves to be a starter for Arsenal?

FGG


Goal fest at The Emirates …….. everyone shines

September 25, 2019

It became pretty clear soon after the start that there was only going to be one winner and so it turned out to be with the good guys cruising to victory giving the endangered Emery three wins in a week. The penny is going to drop soon! The gulf of talent between the two sides was substantial and the game was in danger of becoming too one sided but as the saying goes: you can only beat who is in front of you and that is exactly what this young Arsenal side did – convincingly.

Martinez: touched the ball two or three times, didn’t have to make a save, clean sheet so 10

Chambers: three assists, what’s not to like? 10

Mustafi: in this parallel universe Skhodran is a cool, calm, thoughtful player: 9; he loses one just to keep the collective bias going.

Holding: Big Rob is back, and scoring goals to boot, interesting to see how UE reintegrates him into the first team:10

Tierney: oooh, oooh, this boy has a brain; he is so intelligent with the ball; his passing and crossing are superb, looks about 12 from where I was sitting, again should be interesting how UE introduces him into the first team but my guess is that he is not going to rush: 10

Torriera: playing the pure DM role tonight and played it well, is Emery going to take the risk of playing him there in the EPL, watch this space, great game: 10

Willock: all over the place; as in, covered every inch of the pitch, driving us forward and finding the back of the net:10

Ozil: Classy as ever but while everyone around him was giving 110% he still gives the impression that he would prefer to be on the beach. 8

Smith-Rowe (lab) Hope the going off was just precautionary: 10

Martinelli: started very brightly and getting on the score sheet but disappeared in the second half until he popped up towards the end to score the goal of the night.10

Nelson: I am writing this in bed so I have got to hurry now, she who must be obeyed is coming. Reis, got his goal, not going to jump back ahead of Saka but still on the right track:10

Subs

Saka: growing in confidence with every minute on the big stage that he gets: 10

Ceballos: offers more than Ozil in the Emery world of things:10

Bellerin: Hector is back yayyyyyyyyyyyyyy: 10

LB


Cariboa cup Arsenal v Nottingham Forest pre-match

September 24, 2019

The Carabao Cup returns on Tuesday evening. Arsenal welcome Nottingham Forest to the Emirates, in the 3rd round of the competition.

 

Our opponents are on a pretty impressive run, not only knocking out Derby in the last round, but are also sitting in 6th place in the championship, having lost only once, on the opening day.

Forest is now home to the one and only Carl Jenkinson (we love you, Jenko!) After 8 years (& various loan spells) with us (41 appearances, 1 goal) he bade us farewell & headed for pastures new. He’ll always be welcomed back at the Emirates ……….. just a shame it won’t be tonight, as he’s injured his ankle! Get well soon, Jenko!

After our heroics, against Villa, on Sunday.. I expect a lot of rotation. Maitland-Niles will be missing through suspension, due to his dismissal. Lacazette is still out of contention. It may be too soon for Bellerin & Tierney, having only played 62 minutes for the U23’s at the weekend. Holding is now available and we may even see Mavrapanos.

This is who I’ll go with –

Martinez
Chambers   Mustafi   Holding   Kolasinac
Willock   Torreira   Saka
Martinelli   Ozil   Nelson

I also think we’ll see John-Jules and Balogun make an appearance, from the bench.

We’ve played Nottingham Forest before, at the same stage of this competition, back in 2016. Arsenal ran out 4-0 winners at the City ground. Forest had their revenge, 2 years later, winning 4-2, at the same venue, in the FA cup and completely ruined my Birthday! So come on Arsenal!!!

I’m fancying a penalty shoot out….

Mrs Kolasinac


Another rollercoaster …… Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2

September 23, 2019

This was such an interesting game. The first half was really poor, we didn’t get going and we conceded (of course we conceded). The bright spark was Saka who took a couple of marvelous shots that on another day would have been great goals – he is going to be a great addition to the squad. Late in the half, Maitland-Niles, already on a yellow, got himself sent off for a second yellow and we saw out the half with Xhaka playing at right-back.

 

The second half also started slowly, Emery had (sadly) had to take off Saka to bring on Chambers at right-back. He had done well earlier in the season so that felt like a good move. Still we huffed and puffed. Guendouzi’s energy was beginning to trouble the visitors and then he was brought down while slaloming into the box. Pepe fired home the resulting penalty. Phew ………. but then we conspired to give Villa another goal.

On 71 minutes Torreira and Willock came on for Xhaka and Ceballos and then the fun started. Guendouzi has energy  to burn, I love that guy, Willock must be terrifying to play against when you’re getting tired and Torreira was snapping into tackles. Chambers showed he wouldn’t give up the chance to score by equalising to 2-2 and then Aubameyang put us ahead with a beautiful free kick.

Now I love snatching victory from the jaws of defeat and we did just that. We had played poorly for 70 minutes and conceded 2 goals, gosh we do make things difficult for ourselves.

I have to say something about Guendouzi – did I mention that I love him. His energy is amazing but what I love also is the way he engages with the crowd while the game is going ahead. I don’t think we’ve had a player that recognises the part the crowd are playing while the game is going on. Most players play with their heads down doing their job (which is fine) but this guy urges the crowd to join in. It’s fantastic. The Emirates was still nearly full at the full time whistle, supporters were staying behind to applaud Matteo as he walked around the pitch. I love him.

Player ratings from RC78

Leno – 5. Let’s in 2 goals but did well.

AMN – 3. Started the match well but squandered a glorious chance. Then gets a yellow and another one. Clearly more at ease going forward than at defending l.

Sokratis – 4. Nothing spectacular and almost gave away another PK.

Luiz – 5. Sober and had some decent passing.

Kola – 5. Struggled going forward but defended OK.

Guendouzi – 7. This guy is a pure Ray of light this season. Doesn’t hide. Wants to win. Drives the ball forward and defends with passion.

Xhaka -4. Another lacklustre performance. Not leading by example.

Ceballos – 4. Anonymous.

Pepe- 6. Chances, a goal and lots of runs at opposition. Needs to improve but at least he played well.

Aubameyang – 6. A goal and a great effort for the team. What a player we have in Auba.

Saka – 6. Great start by the youngster. Fantastic debut and unlucky to be subbed.

 

Chambers – 6. The goal and the passion he showed make up for the second goal we conceded. Pure warrior attitude. Must be a starter.

Willock and Torreira – 5. Slotted in well. Great attitude too.

 

Emery – 5. A tough win and I hope that he’ll now drop Sokratis and Xhaka and let Chambers and Torreira or Willock start.

A win is a win 🙂

peachesgooner