Ten Goals and a Heartbreak Shoot-out: Liverpool-Arsenal Report & Player Ratings

October 31, 2019

An Arsenal team with a strong contingent of young players competed in a thrilling 10 goal classic at Anfield last night, only to face the heartache of losing in a penalty shoot-out.

Apart from the pens I thoroughly enjoyed the match. It was full of mistakes and dodgy defending from both sides, but the attacking verve made it an irresistible spectacle.

I don’t believe the performance or the result have any real bearing on our season. The Carabao Cup was far from our top priority and last night’s goalfest was a splendid one-off.

It almost seemed as if both coaches had sent their teams out to go for goal at all costs and to hell with everything else. If they did, only Klopp was smiling about it throughout the game. It may have been my imagination but he even seemed to be smiling when the Arsenal goals went in.

There were strong positives for Arsenal, particularly in the performances of Martinelli, Ozil and Willock.

Below are the thoughts of some of the AA bloggers. The overwhelming view seems to have been that everyone enjoyed the game as great entertainment.

Now that we’ve all slept on it, is the gloss beginning to rub off, or are we still basking in the glow of all that cut-and-thrust attacking? Answers in comments, please…

GoonerB

Having led twice by a 2 goal margin and winning with 1 minute remaining I am a bit gutted but not too upset. This was never the most important thing for us this year.

Many positives but also pointers towards where we need to improve. We have a lot of potential. Just need to harness it and work out the right combinations in the squad. Over to you Unai.

Peaches

A fantastic game of football as both teams went for it. Shame we couldn’t hold on but it’s a silly competition anyway

Seedee

Oh ffs. Was actually really needing a gritty win, and to have won 5-4 at Anfield in front of their own fans, even against their second string team would have been just what the doctor ordered.

(The Real) John Matthews, Legend

Pure entertainment!

RA

Wonderful game, mistakes and all…

I hope that the fans leave Embers alone today. It was a brilliant game and let’s face it there were many good things coming from the game.

Fatgingergooner

Great advert for the kids playing in this cup. Well, apart from the defenders! we should’ve won really but it’s no surprise that we can’t hold leads. It seems our most exciting performances are going to be in the EL this season as it’s only when the youngsters are involved that we are worth a watch.

Loved it. Worst bit was Klopp smiling.

RockyLives

Perhaps because it’s not that important a competition, I really enjoyed that despite the result.

Feel sad for Emery though – he could have done with that win.

Aaron

Entertainment at it’s best, unless of course you like 0-0 to the Arsenal.

Sue

Bloody hell.. was it too much to ask to hang on, with like a minute left?!! Arghhh!!!!!!

LB

How refreshing to watch a game without VAR.

Rasp

Martinelli – proper striker.

RC78

Player Ratings:

Martinez – 4
Bellerin – 5
Mustafi – 4
Holding – 4
Kola – 5
AMN – 6
Torreira – 7
Willock – 6
Ozil – 7
Saka – 5
Martinelli – 8

Subs

Douzi – 5
Ceba – 4
Tierney – 4

RockyLives


A Cup of Cheer for Ailing Arsenal?

October 30, 2019

What a ten days it’s been.

It started with a woeful defeat at Sheffield United. A couple of days later we laboured against a poor Vitoria side until Pepe played two wonderful get-out-of-jail-free cards. Then we blew a two goal lead against Crystal Palace. During that game we made ourselves laughing stocks by booing our captain. He had an on-field tantrum the ramifications of which continue to rumble. And to cap it all we discovered that all is not fair in love and VAR.

We go into tonight’s fourth round Carabao Cup tie against Liverpool at Anfield looking as wobbly as a jelly on a vibration plate.

So let’s hope that Unai Emery takes to heart the words of the French First World War general Marshal Ferdinand Foch. During the First Battle of the Marne (September 1914) things were not going well for his forces against the Germans, so he sent the following dispatch: “My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent: I shall attack.”

The philosophy is simple: one way to react to adversity is to ignore it and to galvanise your forces by taking the fight to the enemy.

If we put out an attack minded cup side tonight comprised of eager young players with a smattering of experience, there is every reason to be hopeful of a good result.

Notwithstanding the questionable display against Vitoria, the cup competitions have given us easily our most enjoyable moments so far this season.

There was the 5-0 thrashing of Notts Forest in the Carabao Cup, and the excellent wins away at Eintracht Frankfurt and home to Standard Liege in the Europa League. In those games it wasn’t just that we got the results, but that we played with a sense of purpose, swagger and, above all, fearlessness.

More of that tonight and Liverpool might be in for a shock.

For a start, there is no way our opponents will play a full strength team. The Scousers need a league title like a drowning man needs a lifebelt and they’re not going to let anything get in the way of that single-minded pursuit.

It’s not that they’ll want to lose tonight – far from it. It’s just that this trophy is a long way down their priority list and you suspect that their toothy German coach wouldn’t be too broken hearted to see them drop out of the competition.

In the last round, against MK Dons, their line-up was:

Kelleher

Milner Lovren Gomez Hoever

Lallana Oxlade-Chamberlain Keita

Brewster Jones Elliott

It doesn’t exactly have you quaking in your boots, does it? They may strengthen a little given that, on paper at least, we are a tougher opponent than MK Dons but I don’t expect their team to be anything like their Premier League starting eleven.

What about us?

I would go with the majority of the players who have performed well already this season in the cup competitions:

You’ll have noticed I snuck Mesut Ozil in there. I have no idea whether or not Emery will play him but with all that’s been going on around the club lately I’m backing my hunch that he will.

I would add some experience on the bench with the likes of Lacazette, Sokratis and Pepe in case we’re pushing for a late goal or trying to cling on to a lead.

If that eleven goes up against a similar Liverpool team to the one that turned out in the last round I fancy us to win.

A final word about Marshal Foch. His brave words wouldn’t mean much if the French were subsequently defeated. But in fact his army, from a losing position, turned the tide in the First Battle of Marne and although they didn’t exactly rout their German opponents they did grind them to a sort-of stalemate.

Which makes me think we might have to win in extra time or on penalties…

RockyLives


Emery’s Inability To Solve Our Midfield Problem Will Be His Downfall

October 29, 2019

Emery looks to be out of his depth in the EPL. I find more fault with him than with any individual player per-se. All clubs at all points in their history have a player or two that you initially thought would be something very good, but then turns out to either not be quite good enough or not quite the right fit.

It is up to the manager to ensure that appropriate changes are made to ensure progression in a different and better direction, and also to ensure that their is no major fall-out as we see now. The players need the protection of the manager in that sense as well, to not unnecessarily expose them either firstly at a level they are not good enough for and/or secondly in a team system that doesn’t compliment them. Interestingly I generally feel that we are more guilty of the latter than the former.

I have a major disagreement with the booing fans but also I have a major disagreement with Xhaka’s reaction. Perhaps more damning is that once the immediate dust and anger had settled, that he hasn’t opted to send a message and apology to the fans. It is this rather than the spur of the moment reaction that will likely now seal Xhaka’s fate.

I do have some sympathy with him though because he was what he was before he came to us. He never was a holding midfield type player and was used to playing with a more rugged positionally disciplined player tucked in behind him in the Bundesliga. Xhaka was more a deeper defensive midfield play-maker not the invisible wall, that was someone else.

All Xhaka has done is remain what he was, so really the fault is in the managerial recruitment and assessment of what role he should play, and how to balance a midfield with him in it if he was deemed an important player in the first 11.

The problem is that, arguably Torreira aside from our listed midfielders, all the other midfielders are also players that need a more rugged positionally disciplined midfielder tucked in behind them, so when we play two of these midfielders together no-one completely accepts the responsibility for this role.

I get the argument for the pivot shift in a modern game but we just look confused as to who does what so I think it is still important to have players with certain characteristics that compliment and get the best out of each other. We don’t have that 1 midfielder (among our listed midfielders) who has that one specific characteristic or skill set, arguably Torreira aside, who inexplicably seems to have dropped down the pecking order.

You could still play Xhaka if you had that specific player just in behind him but then that would remove a place for our other midfielders like Douzi, Willock, ESR, Ceballos, Torreira and, should he still be a consideration, Ozil; that one baffles me and also makes me seriously question the managerial handling of him.

The problem is actually fairly identical to what we had under Wenger in his third trimester, that we have too many midfielders who favour similar positions in the midfield and lack balance despite looking individually strong on paper.

The EPL is a very specific league with very specific characteristics, and what I think we are finding out, not just with Emery but also with other overseas managers, that sometimes a manger with a reasonable C.V coming in from abroad just doesn’t quite get what is required in the EPL.

More than in any other league you need to at least match, but preferably better, the opposition in the physical aspect of midfield. You need power pace and dynamism to match the mid to lower table teams and then, as a top club, also have the superior technical ability to go with it.

Without matching up with those clubs in the athleticism in midfield you can lose that midfield battle and surrender dominance to a team boasting less technical players. How often have we looked good on paper but not in practice? How often do we feel we look like a collection of good individuals rather than a smoothly balanced machine that connects throughout the team.

Match them physically but in addition with the better technical players then we by and large will not slip up with these teams that don’t have our resources. We will once again look like one of the top sides to be feared. We are not doing this right now and haven’t for quite a few years.

We look lackluster in attack, despite boasting some excellent attackers that many clubs would love to have. The defence could be improved in individual quality somewhat, but for me the more worrying aspect is how exposed our defence is to wave upon wave of attack rather than the individual quality of each player in our defence.

Those teams have to come through our midfield to get to the defence in the first place. Our midfield is not dominant enough to win the battle and control the play, all of which would stop many of the frequent attacks form getting at our defence, but also would provide a better platform from which to feed our attackers.

Our central fulcrum is not solid enough so everything that surrounds it, despite its quality is compromised. For an analogy I see it as a steel devise with a central core or fulcrum (midfield) with levers springing off from there to the font back and sides. All the levers could be of the most advanced and solid mettle that NASA has available but if the fulcrum is weak and bendy it makes not a jot of difference about the strength of everything that springs off it.

We have good individual midfielders but as a combined unit we are poor. Emery hasn’t got this, or at least worked it out yet, and certainly hasn’t tried anything to change it. It is as if his experience to date just hasn’t prepared him for this league, and it doesn’t look like the penny is dropping, and I tend to feel he should only have till the new year at best to show he has the ability to make the changes that improve us.

We may still need to recruit and offload to improve the midfield balance, but even before this I don’t believe that we can’t set up stronger with what we already have. Right now I don’t see that Emery is anywhere near having his Eureka moment and suddenly get it, so it seems more than likely we will have to look elsewhere, fairly imminently, for someone with that better ability and insight of what it takes to develop a top EPL team.

I do hope that if we do have some high level departures with certain players and / or the manager that it can be done with a sense of decorum and decency from all concerned with the club, including the fans.

GoonerB


Sokratis on a hat-trick was fun …….. otherwise meh

October 27, 2019

And there was me on that crisp, bright, autumnal afternoon, sitting above the corner flag where Pepe sent in his two excellent corners which helped put us two up thinking: this is going to be a stroll in Drayton Park today.

Silly boy LB, silly, silly boy, when will you learn?

No, of course, it was not going to be like that, there was much more hand wringing and frustration on its way as we slowly descended back from the high hopes of a comfortable victory to our more familiar surroundings of a deflating draw.

Before arriving at the ground my yardstick for success was that I wanted to see improvement in the overall quality and standard of play. I wanted to see us moving forward because I firmly believe that there is a good team in that squad fighting to get out, its just that it seems that after all the expectation of our shiny new summer signings it is taking longer to get to that point than we expected. Was there an overall improvement, a bit, but not as much as I was hoping for.

The game was overshadowed by VAR, it seems that the suppliers of this device do not feel they are giving their customers value for money unless they create at least one controversial decision per week. It’s just plain wrong that people who attend the games do not receive an explanation as to why a penalty is given or to why a goal disallowed. I have not seen the replays and so I have no idea whether the decisions were right or wrong. It’s ridiculous that I am in this position.

The other main talking point was the substitution of Xhaka. I cannot improve on FGG’s assessment of which I whole-heartedly agree.

“Arsenal fans are an embarrassment. Booing off the club captain because we aren’t winning…boo hoo. ‘We want our Arsenal back’ they need to grow up. He isn’t the only player that makes mistakes on that football field and he’s certainly not the only reason we aren’t performing to our best at the moment.” (FGG)

When Xhaka’s number appeared a huge cheer went up, Xhaka obviously did himself no favours by walking off slowly but the booing that followed is never acceptable. For those who disagree with FFG’s view I would imagine that you are happy that Emery has been put in absolutely no doubt about, what has to be acknowledged as the view of the majority of Arsenal supporters, that Xhaka should not be playing.

Leno: 7 I don’t know anything about goalkeepers, he always seems good to me should he have done better re the goals conceded? Didn’t look the case from where I was sitting.

Chambers: 6 Continues to improve, many might get their wish and see him playing in front of the defence sooner rather than later.

Sokratis: 8 on a hat trick for a moment, great to see him get his first goal for the club

Luiz: 7  it was all looking so good when he scored our second and then…………….

Tierney: 7started very brightly and then got more average as the game went on, everything still looking good though.

Xhaka: 5  am I going to write something sympathetic after his poor treatment? No. Doesn’t augment the attack and doesn’t add enough to the defence.

Ceballos: 5 big step backwards, misplaced passes, I don’t mind that when a player is trying something special but there were bread and butter passes going astra, poor.

Guendouzi 7 supplied me with my favourite moment of the game: his neck high rugby tackle on Zaha in the dying seconds was brilliant, if you haven’t seen it try hard to find it because it is so good, still well worthy of his starting place.

Pepe: 6 hoped he was going to kick on from Thursday in open play but he didn’t really, deserved to stay on for the whole of the game which I suppose is an improvement of a sorts.

Lacca 5 me ol mucca you ain’t quite doing it, your first touch is getting worse as you try and force the play and Martinelli is breathing down your neck.

Aubamayang: 6 no real chances; did what he could which wasn’t that much.

Song of the afternoon and sung with hearty gusto throughout the ground.

We’ve got Ozil
Mesut Ozil
I just don’t think you understand.

Make of that what you like?

Laters…………

LB


The Blind Leading The Bland? Arsenal v Palace Preview

October 27, 2019

It’s time to get some answers about this Arsenal team.

The near constant sense of frustration, argument, false dawns, rare highs and frequent lows are taking a toll on us supporters and they have to stop.

We face a real challenge from an in-form Crystal Palace, who sit just one point and one place behind us in the Premier League table.

Unai Emery’s critics say he has no idea of what his best team is or how to deploy his resources to maximum effect; that our playing style is cautious and dull with a predictable effect on our results.

In other words “the blind (Emery) leading the bland (his dour team).”

However, not all fans have given up on the head coach. See yesterday’s Post by LB and the ensuing lively discussion to get both sides of the argument.

But going back to my opening line, it’s time to start coming to some conclusions: are Emery’s limitations entrenched to the point that he will never get Arsenal properly competitive again until he’s replaced? Or are things about to start coming together?

If we’re going to get things back on track it has to start today, but it won’t be easy. Palace have beaten Manchester United away already this season and have several good results under their belt. There was an early setback against Sheffield United but since then they have lost only to Manchester City and the N17 Delinquents.

And they have weapons to hurt us with: we know how dangerous Zaha can be (in a sliding doors universe he might have been turning out in an Arsenal shirt today).  His goal touch has been missing so far this campaign – let’s hope he doesn’t find it against us.  Meanwhile Jordan Ayew also poses a threat. Roy Hodgson had his critics at Liverpool and as England manager, but he has done a good job at Palace.

I expect a typical Emery Premier League team with returning players still rested and lining up as follows:

 

If the Arsenal Board sack Emery this morning and turn up at my door begging me to step in as caretaker manager, I’ll go with this line-up:

 

When I look at our squad I keep thinking we have the talent to comfortably finish third in the Premier League this season, but when I look at our performances I find myself doubting we’ll make top four.

I am willing Emery to prove the doubters wrong and to find a way of making our team purr.

We really, really need to go on a run of good performances. We need to release Le Handbrake (or is it now El Handbrake?) and dominate the weaker teams in the league.

Confidence would have been dangerously low if we had lost or drawn on Thursday night after the dismal showing against Sheffield United on Monday, but Pepe’s late cameo saved the day and will hopefully have lifted spirits.

You know what they say about people in glass houses? Well let’s get inside a glass palace this afternoon and start throwing some stones around.

As for a prediction, well, I’m going to be glass-half-full to keep LB happy: I have a feeling that a few gears are about to click into place and we’ll win 3-1, with goals from Auba, Ceballos and Martinelli off the bench.

RockyLives


Unai knows

October 26, 2019

It was interesting to watch Unai Emery’s reaction to Pepe’s match winning goal on Thursday, not a fist pumping jump for joy, not a huge sigh of relief, just a half smile into the camera from a man who might be a little bit more aware of what is going on than some of us might think.

Emery is tasked with getting us into the top four this season and we are a long, long way off from failing to achieve that goal and he more than most is aware of that fact and as such rightly retains a calm outward appearance. How do I know that, look at his expression when Pepe’s goal flies in; he knows what is about to come from that player, am I sure, of course I am not, but I do believe that what I am writing is more likely to be true than not.

We have been poor recently capped off with the debacle at Bramwell lane, juries were out, juries were in, and people were ready to change Emery there and then.

My feelings were that things are taking longer to slot into place than I was expecting and by that I mean we can all remember the excitement of the signings in the close season and how high expectations were. I kept on saying to myself that he should not be judged until he has the use of his full squad and I still believe that — will our absent two full backs magically make a massive difference? Err yes they will and will do so in the not too distant future and that brings me to the point that I have been holding off for as long as I can: the attack.

We have not just been firing on two of the three cylinders, we have been firing on one. Aubamayang has been doing the best he can with no help from his other attacking team mates: expecting Saka to shoulder the responsibility of scoring match winning goals is too bigger ask at the moment but the biggest disappointment has been none other than Pepe.

Well the worm has finally turned and I for one now expect a huge improvement in our fortunes now that Pepe has officially joined Arsenal Football Club, evidenced by his two lazar guided free kicks against Vitoria. The Ivorian’s confidence should now be sky high and as such the goals should now start to flow; we could also see Lacazette replace Saka as was the case in the earlier part of the season which worked well, certainly better than in recent past and that could give us the much hoped for and eagerly anticipated three pronged clinical attack.

The addition is that I am far from writing Saka off; he is more than welcome to join the party and if it is he who retains his place in the starting trio because of performances that merit his selection then all well and good, the same goes for Martinelli who is probably the one new signing who has surpassed our expectations; the young Brazilian has far better close control than Lacazette but is obviously no where near ousting Aubamayang.

The peripheral stuff is that the club are obviously doing everything they can to get Ozil’s wages off of the books; he is not playing in the Europa Cup to avoid being cup tied which would reduce, even further, the small pool of clubs that might be interested in signing him. With a solution finally found to the issue that some at the club seem to have with him, it should increase the possibility of more signings that have been hinted at for January and I simply do not believe that Emery cannot see the issue in midfield, an area that I expect him to prioritise and if you doubt that look at how ruthlessly he has dealt with Ozil and Mustafi and as such I for one see no reason to believe he would not do the same to anyone else in the much maligned midfield if he could get the right upgrade.

All in all I think we still have a lot to look forward to; the pegs are starting to fall into their holes and hmmm, how can I finish this? I know, lets just remember Pepe’s two superb free kicks and purrrrrrrrrrrrr.

LB


The Nicolas Pepe (our Pepe) Show

October 25, 2019

As an attendee, and having agreed with Peaches that I would try to write something that makes sense regarding the game, here goes at 12.30am……..

As I walked from the pub, having picked up the team news as I left, a smug sense of contentment was the overriding feeling. 10 out of 11 of my earlier in the day suggestion for the starting eleven. Not bad for me! At last Dick was on the same page as many who have been on the blog in last few days!!

As the first half came to a close, I commented to the guy next to me. How can a manager select the right players, and then play enough of them out of position as to confuse all of them, and to leave one with the impression that they had only just met as a team before the kick off?!!

Willock and Torreira were playing holding central midfield, except Willock doesn’t play that role and Torreira kept passing then bombing forward and making himself unavailable for the next pass.

Maitland-Niles was playing right wing (poorly, in almost every touch). Tierney continually found himself with two wide players to mark and in the end was rarely able to mark either. Passes went continually astray, sometimes ridiculously. Every thing was slow, laboured, uninspiring. Have you ever trained together lads?

Despite having Tierney ready and able to attack and, as we know cross a delightful ball, we invariably turned in midfield and went down the right. There, Bellerin  (captain??), with no confidence going forward, was passing back or inside every time, has even forgotten what little he knew about defending and seems to want to rugby tackle/hug his opposition to a standstill.( I am also worried he has lost his pace with his injury!)

What of the opposition? Well they said, “this is our lucky day!” “We have no points and have scored no goals so far, make hay, lads!”So they scored two goals and made us look like a (poor) pub team.

In between their efforts Tierney made his one beautiful cross of the half and Martinelli proved he is a talented striker with his head again. Smith-Rowe had a goal bound shot deflected at the last, following a flowing move.

Willock and Maitland-Niles were substituted at half time and on came Ouzi and Ceballos. They were immediately man marked and not much improved initially, but slowly they and the team began to give the impression they at least wanted to win the game! Bellerin actually went to the byline and crossed for Martinelli to hit a perfect strike straight at the goalkeeper. Mustafi headed over, Holding headed into the goalkeeper’s arms. The chances were coming.

Then Pepe came on. He looked as though he had been on the sugary sweets and immediately made the opposition wet their pants with his skilful dribbling. And then we got a free kick on the right hand side of the box and Pepe bent the ball around the wall and passed a helpless goalkeeper for 2-2. Oh well, although we don’t really deserve it, a point is better than a loss! And then Ouzi drove for the box in the first minute of extra time and we got another free kick. Up stepped the “boy” of the moment and bent the ball even more spectacularly around another wall and into the top corner giving the goalkeeper no chance again.

Arsenal 3-2 Vitoria, three points; for me a completely unbelievable game, impossible to explain to anybody who didn’t witness it, that being clearly evident from these very late night ramblings. Apologies to any who saw different.

Player ratings

Martinez 6. A couple of close ish cross shots and no real chance with goals

Bellerin 4 Not very impressive at present following his long term injury.

Mustafi 6 Reasonable for him. No major errors as far as I can remember

Holding 6/7  Likewise, solid and confident generally.

Tierney 6/7 Confused defensively in.first half. Not helped much by the rest of his team. Lovely assist for Martinelli goal and much more involved in attacks in last quarter of game.

Torreira 5 Keen and energetic but Dick seems to have made him into a bit of a headless chicken

Willock 4  Felt sorry for him. Hooked again from a new position with very little support from those around him.

Smith-Rowe 4/5 Effort, but did he have a specific role that he was aware of?

Maitland-Niles 2 Nothing really worked for him. Little support for Hector on right. Flicks and ticks that irritate. Lackadaisical!

Lacazette 6 Effort throughout but nothing really fell for him.

Martinelli 8 My MOTM  Could have scored more, but energetic, determined and worthy of his place.

Subs

Ceballos 6  Usual buzzing around, without too much end product.

Ouzi 6/7 Eventually had significant influence on game with both passing and driving forward.

Pepe 7 Two wonderful strikes that obviously changed the game and will hopefully be the start of a growing confidence from the young man.

LBG