The Blind Leading The Bland? Arsenal v Palace Preview

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.



53 Responses to The Blind Leading The Bland? Arsenal v Palace Preview

  1. Rasp says:

    This comment from GoonerB on the tail end of yesterday’s post …

    Thanks LB, indeed your post has livened things up 😀

    I agree in your feelings that some things will improve with the addition of Tierney and Bellerin. I would like to see them form a strong partnership with the wing forwards ahead of them and if Pepe can kick on from here that partnership on the right flank could become more prolific.

    I think over a course of games we would see Torreura is the better option at the base of the midfield and would give us greater balance. I also though would have tried either Luiz or Chambers at holding midfield.

    I am not sure whether GIE thought trying those players there constituted them being out of position but Luiz won an EPL title in that position and Chambers got Fulhams player of the year in that position last season.

    Why not give it a go. In many ways I would argue it is not Xhakas position either so Emery is continually playing him out of position anyway.

    In many ways Emery’s CV was that of a good manager before arriving and it was an opportunity for him to show he had another level in his managerial locker. Right now he doesn’t look like he has that bit extra in him and is not right for us moving forwards.

    No point in calling for his head right now but I hope the club make a swift decision if needs be. The games between now and the new year are enough to assess his credentials with an improved direction and style being a must as well as clocking up the points. Not a long time but with the players he has one and a half seasons should allow for his ultimate vision to take form even if not quite fully perfected.

  2. Sue says:

    Thank you, Rocky.
    In your Emery team, swap Holding for Sokratis and that’ll be the team, I believe!
    Apparently we haven’t lost a home game in October, since 2002…. will that grind to a halt today?!
    Looking forward to seeing Pepe up against his compatriot, good old Wilf… who will prevail?
    Shame it ain’t on Sky… will have to stream on hesgoal.
    I hope, for a change, we see some exciting football today – no, not from Palace – after how the results have gone, so far, with Leicester, Chelsea & City.. I think it’s safe to say, we can’t afford any more slip ups!! And 10 games in to the season…. sheesh!!
    Surely Xhaka will be booked today? With Atkinson refereeing??!!

  3. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky, great post and you almost entirely echo my views in needing to see this team starting to purr. You just say everything I feel in a far better way (see above comment from GB and not, a probably currently horrified, LB).

    Palace are difficult but have limitations in their squad. Hodgson has done well to make them a difficult team but we have way more quality at our disposal. It is time for a good win, not just a win by the skin of our teeth. Another disjointed and lacklustre showing and more of those B&Q 100 for £8.99 coffin nails will be coming out of the packet.

  4. LBG says:

    I’m happy to make you manager now!
    If Emery selects the team he would normally do after a European game, I will be both unhappy and worried. I think he will play Sokratis.
    Why does anyone need resting? Holding and Tierney should definitely be in for me.
    Will be in my seat as usual and hoping those gears will be clicking into place and we are all starting next week discussing a positive breakthrough in our season.

  5. LBG says:

    LB – regarding one of your points to me yesterday on Torreira ” not sticking to the script”.

    From yesterday’s papers:-
    Seeing the Uruguay International popping up on the edge of the box raised plenty of eyebrows in win over Vitoria, but Emery explained that he is keen for Torreira to lead his pressing game.
    ” This year we are sometimes playing with one ( in deep midfield position). He (Torreira) can achieve with his quality to get to the box and get closer to score and is very intelligent about getting space around the box and taking chances”…
    Either this is a case of Emery confusing everyone, including the players, with what he expects or does he really expect the player to do both jobs. Perfect summation for me for the current shambles!!

  6. JM says:

    Unai knows …. that he could be released at the end of this season (if he is not verbally informed by Raul & Edu before then) should we not get Champions League football next season (especially after going through with our dramatic collapse at the end of last season in the league and Europa League final). He seemed to think that he has too much to lose.

    Which is why I believe our team was, is and should be setup pragmatically with a safety first approach (i.e. not to lose firstly, then hopefully sneak in a win if we could) by our coach in the league. Examples in characteristics: The playing out from the back, the hesitant (and slow) build up, cautious approach, defence sitting too deep etc. In a simpler term, “Our team is instructed to play with hand-brake on” in the league by design.

    Our players, especially our attacking and creative ones, are stifled and affected by this approach in the league. I would think that should we move on to the latter stages in the Europa League, our team could be switching to a similar safety first approach too because it would impact our current coach’s future.

    Our captain, Granit Xhaka, is currently on 4 yellows in the league and another yellow (i.e 5 yellows before 26th December) would result in a mandatory 1 match ban (with games versus Wolves at home and Leicester at away, after the Palace match). He could also playing too cautiously, especially at the holding midfield role given by our coach, and limiting his effectiveness on the pitch.

    I just wish for our players, coaches and supporters to live and breathe in the present, go all out to display their best abilities and enjoy football without any worries and overthinking about future could-be speculations that has yet to happen.

  7. RC78 says:

    I just want to say that Rakitic will be available for less than 35 mln EUR… He s only 31.
    He can defend and attack. Would be a good addition to the squad. Am sure Douzi, Torreira, Ceba and willock would learn a lot by his side.

    Douzi, Chambers, Rakitic
    Torreira, Xhaka, Willock

    He d be a good signing for us IMHO

  8. LB says:

    Quality read Rocky as ever, I like the balance you apply to it and there is always one hidden gem: “El handbrake” genius.

    If I see an improvement, in the over all quality of performance then I will be happy.

    Low bar I hear you say after the Monday night shambles, baby steps, baby steps but a big gear change, propelling us forward wouldn’t go a miss either.

  9. LB says:

    All my Christmas’ would arrive at once in this coming festive season if Rakatic were to join then.

  10. LB says:


    I doubt if you will be surprised that I did not see the Vitoria game as a shambles.


    Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding Tierney


    Willock and Torriera were playing in such a way that when one went forward the other would cover. Quite simple and quite logical, an experiment that didn’t quite work because Willock doesn’t have the defensive skill set (YET) to shield the defence on his own.

    People cry out for alternatives to Xhaka and when Emery tries to find one in a the less hostile environment of the Europa rather than the do or die EPL he is still slagged off for it.

    You can argue that Torreira should be told not to move out of the role of DM which is fine until we need to go looking for a goal and then he inevitably finds himself further up the pitch and that is what happened in the week, we won, it worked, happy days.

  11. LBG says:

    I am now completely confused on where we are in disagreement, but will try once more!!
    The point of a holding midfield player is surely to take up a position slightly forward of two split centre backs, and in doing so allow full backs to join the attack. They do not push forward looking for a goal.
    Willock should never have been asked to have the defensive skill set to shield the defence on his own. Most would never have considered him for the role.
    It was not Emery’s tactics that won the game(undeservedly) on Thurs. It was Ouzi dragging the game by the scruff of the neck, and two brilliant, almost unbelievable, free kicks from Pepe, surely!?

  12. Thank you Rocky for the post, I’m on my way to watch the game. It’s sunny and cold in London very similar to the Bournemouth game. A couple of early goals to settle the crowd would be good but hey ho if it’s a last gasp winner then I’ll take that too.

  13. LB says:

    Thanks for taking the trouble to elaborate LBG

    Where we differ is that I do not agree that the role of a DM is to stay rigidly in front of the back four; he may do at the start of a game but if we go behind, a good DM must be capable of augmenting the attack.

    This is what I believe is what happened on Thursday.

    As for the criticism of Emery’s tactics on Thursday?

    As we won it is too easy to argue that Emery deployed the right amount of fire power at the start of the game and augmented the team when needed with the inclusion of Guendouzi and Pepe by way of substitutions.

    The glass is half full, the glass is half empty…………….

  14. LB says:

    Onto today

    I think the team will be the first suggested above.

    It is really well laid out and shows how exposed Xhaka is.

    This highlights exactly what I have been saying about a DM. In Xhaka’s case he is not good enough attacker to augment the attack and he is not good enough a defender to effectively screen the defence.

    But the huge difference between me and most others is that I do not blame Emery for it — the alternatives are worse.

    Emery did not buy Xhaka and like us he is lumbered with him until he can get a replacement.

    Why make him captain? Because that is the most sensible thing he could do to try and encourage him in an attempt to get the most out of him. (Good management)

  15. Rasp says:

    Great PM, thanks Rocky.

    This Line sums it up for me…

    “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”

    A good performance and the 3 points today will make me very happy … but I will remain cautious until we are playing well consistently with a solid balanced competitive team and we can win away from home at the most inhospitable grounds.

  16. Rasp says:

    Team news …

    Chambers, Luiz, Sokratis, Tierney,
    Xhaka. Guendouzi, Ceballos,
    Pepe Aubameyang Lacazette

  17. Aaron says:

    So, no Kola, which means maybe an actual defender in there, but of course the dreaded fleet footed trio of Luiz, Sok and Xhaka, won’t even mention Guen.

    Zaha is going to eat Chambers for lunch.

  18. Aaron says:

    Enjoying the Wolves match, they are playing the second half with verve and aggression, something I would hope to see from our club today.

  19. RA says:

    Hi Guys,

    The subs are:

    Bellerin, Torreira, Holding, Martinez, Kolasinac, Martinelli, Saka

    The Rasper is too posh to bother about the underlings!! 😁

    So Willock, and AMN have joined Mesut in the naughty bin.

  20. Sue says:

    Nice team 👍
    Excited for Tierney & PAL 🙂

  21. RA says:

    Well done, Rocky, for the pre-match Post, altho worryingly, I might have to have you consigned to the draughty old barn to keep company with Peaches if things do not go well this p.m. 😛

    Your reference to a previous post – which I have not read – makes me think there has been an element of virtue signalling involved – but I will never know unless I go back and read it — but fortunately I’m a bit busy. 🥺

  22. Sue says:

    Looks like we don’t need our forwards, we have our centre backs!! 😂 Nice one Sok & Luiz 👍

  23. fred1266 says:

    All the bullshit call we must get the bad decisions

  24. Aaron says:

    Well, two gifted goals, but those guys were in the right spot at the right time! Good on them! So, what do the Arsenal do, turtle it.
    Zaha smokes Chambo and they are right back in it!

  25. RockyLives says:

    That wasn’t a penalty, regardless of what VAR says.

    Zaha dived.

  26. Sue says:

    Thought it had been quite a while since we last conceded a penalty!
    Come on PAL… we need you in the 2nd half!

  27. Aaron says:

    Arsenal need a strong second half. manure and spuds up, need to extend our lead.

  28. Aaron says:

    Yeah, right- how could it be? Arsenal hold a lead, impossible.
    Alright, let’s go, let go of the hand brake.

  29. Aaron says:

    Am I actually seeing this?? Xhaka coming off? Hell, to the yeah!

  30. Aaron says:

    Crowd cheering him off is poor form, can’t stand that kind of crap.

  31. RC78 says:

    This is our captain, come on….

  32. fatgingergooner says:


    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.

  33. Aaron says:

    Pure luck!
    But, whatever…..this team…oh my.

  34. fred1266 says:

    VAR had to screw us

    Everyone else gets a pass except us

  35. Sue says:

    Will lady luck ever be on our side?? If we played at Anfield, then I’d say yes!! 🤬
    Really disappointed having PAL and having to rely on Luiz & Sokratis… to start with I thought it was going to be a goal fest…… sigh……

  36. fred1266 says:

    Did xhaka have a bad game from lower tier didn’t look so to me

  37. seedeee says:

    With every game that goes by there is yet another reason not to be cheerful, regardless of the score line in any match there is always an extra talking point that we fans/our players give the so called pundits to ridicule us with. Why can’t we just go about our games under the radar and start playing football without any off the pitch antics or drama to go with it. There is a reason I no longer watch match of the day or listen to five live or talk sport – and also probably why my mental health suffers more lol, because of this football club.

    I didn’t see the game only read the commentary on the skysports app but to not hold a 2-0 lead is damming alone let alone blaming VAR or individual players for it.

    Must say tho, I loved the starting line up and was hoping/expecting a lot more 🙁


  38. GoonerB says:

    Didn’t see the game so will wait to hear from those that did. It doesnt look good at face value but maybe someone who has seen the whole 90 minutes will come on and say we were very good and were very unlucky.

  39. LBG says:


    TEAM 1 TEAM 2



    Half time ” Now lads let’s start the second half like we started the first, discipline, shape, confident”……..or we could give them five free kicks and a goal in the first six minutes and not get out of our own half!!!!

  40. LBG says:

    “We aim to preserve the DNA that is Arsenal Football Club”
    That DNA is slowly crumbling away to dust.

  41. fatgingergooner says:

    My guess is that we scored 2 early goals and then passed sideways and backwards in order to ‘control’ the game. We took our foot off their throats and allowed them back into the game because we were more interested in having ‘control’ if possession than we were of actually doing what it took to win the game. Then after dropping too deep and giving away a silly goal we failed to come out of our shell and ended up with only a point.

    Just a guess.

  42. Sue says:

    I really don’t like the way things are right now. All this hoo-ha with Mesut.. now with Xhaka.. oh and add Emery to that… what a mess…

  43. LB says:

    If you need a few words let me know, it will be sparse though, have to warn you.

  44. Rasp says:

    Yes please LB

  45. RC78 says:

    I just watched the game. There is nothing to say that is positive except for the first half hour. Only good thing after that was Emery taking Xhaka off.

    Leno 5
    Chambs 5
    Sok 6
    Luiz 6
    Tierney 5
    Douzi 6
    Xhaka 4
    Ceba 5
    Pepe 6
    Laca 6
    Auba 5

  46. Sue says:

    Just watched MOTD2 as my stream froze earlier & missed the end. How on earth was our 3rd goal disallowed?? For what, exactly?? It should have stood! What sickens me is you know damn well it wouldn’t have been chalked off for Liverpool or United!
    Omg and Xhaka goading the crowd… well it just gets worse for us, doesn’t it? Ozil, Xhaka, Emery… what next? It never rains but it pours…. tough times right now, very tough and it’s going to get worse before it gets better, what with Liverpool, Wolves & Leicester up next… I have no idea when it will get better though….

  47. fatgingergooner says:


    It will get better once the coach is changed. The only improvement with Emery in charge has been against the bigger teams because we’ve become harder to beat, but that’s come at a cost as we’ve lost all of our free-flowing passing game and the players look robotic at times. We wanted a bit more structure after Wenger but this is too much. He seems incapable of letting go of the handbrake and it won’t be long before players and fans turn on him. He’s lucky that Xhaka did what he did yesterday as he has taken some of the heat off him. We have an excellent squad of players which should easily be top 4 this season, but Emery is holding us back. I hate to see us turning into a club that just rotated coaches constantly but I think that’s the modern game these days and the board need to be strong and make the call soon. I fear he could last the season though and by then we will have wasted even more time and we would need a rebuild again as players will become disillusioned and look for moves. It’s worrying to think that Laca and Auba might be looking for 1 more big contract before their careers tail off. Will they want to sign that with us if the team is boring and not playing in CL? A change now could at least avoid that and mean that we can still have a good season.

  48. fatgingergooner says:

    I was so excited for this side at the beginning of the season and it’s so frustrating that we are where we are. It should’ve been the season where we started to build towards being a side that can challenge again but instead we are falling behind Leicester and a Chelsea team who can’t buy anyone! I didn’t want to believe when people said they didn’t think the coach was the right man but I guess they were right. I didn’t want Brendan Rodgers at the club but I think he’s be getting a lot more out of our squad right now. It’s so annoying to see the potential we have only to watch it wasted as we pass sideways and backwards for long periods of matches all in the name of ‘control’.

  49. GoonerB says:

    FGG, your 7.53 is spot on. It is clear that Emery’s vision and style as a coach is not of the top level. There will be a certain level in a certain league that suits him but he doesnt have it at this level in this league.

    It has crossed my mind too that certain key players will be making decisions on their future. If they decide they want away then we have a whole rebuilding process to go through again from scratch rather than adding well to an already solid base.

    What persuades them to stay? Other than the money it will be the direction the club is moving in and the ambition to challenge at the top. This is why the board need to make a swift decision.

    I don’t want us to become a hiring and firing at will kind of club, but delaying what isn’t working and doesn’t have a future too long carry’s danger, and I suspect there will be consequences if we wait even a few months too long.

  50. Morning all

    We have a New Post …………….

  51. Sue says:

    Thanks, FGG.. once again, you’re spot on! 👍

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