The Martinelli decision – Arteta’s first big test?

December 24, 2019

With all the doom and gloom surrounding the club and the unexpected rise to stardom of our young Brazilian some of us may have missed the fact that there is a very difficult decision approaching Arsenal and Arteta reacting to Martinelli.

Between 18 January 2020 and 9 February 2020 there is a football tournament taking place in Columbia, it is called the CONMEBOL it features under 23 teams from the South American nations aiming to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. I am sure when we signed the young Brazilian there was no question he would be allowed to travel to Columbia but the form of the first team and Martinelli’s obvious qualities have thrown up quite a difficult decision for the club and new head coach.

This is not an official tournament in the FIFA calendar, so there is no obligation on The Arsenal or Arteta to grant Martinelli permission to play for Brazil in the tournament should he be called up.

Currently he would miss 4 games (assuming we overcome Leeds in the FA Cup 3rd round) and he only has to arrive in South America on 18th January, fortunately the 8 February is Arsenal’s scheduled mid season break.

Undoubtedly Martinelli has been one of the players we have wanted to see week in week out, he is giving a very good account of himself, working tirelessly and one of the few players who consistently shows for the ball even when more senior heads around him are dropping.

If you were Mikel what would you do? Let Martinelli travel off to South America and miss an important cog in the team for 4 weeks or refuse permission?

Gooner in Exile


Arsenal Fan TV … An Outlet For ‘Fans’ To Express Their Legitimate Concerns … Or An Embarrassment?

December 23, 2019

There is widespread coverage of the away supporters confronting Robbie and his AFTV crew at the Everton game this weekend.

The first point we should accept is that AFTV has a perfect right to exist and is not breaking any laws by legitimately interviewing fans on public property before and after games.

I also think it’s fair to say that AFTV has become a bit of a pantomime displaying the full range of characters from Widow Twanky’s (AKA Claude) ignorance and entitlement personified and his alter ego Buttons (Ti) who is often interviewed at the same time in an attempt to offer some journalistic balance.

AFTV grew out of the disgruntlement that divided supporters in Arsene Wenger’s latter years. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if AFTV gets more hits from non Arsenal supporters who find our public self flagellation a source of great amusement. Personally I find it an embarrassment.

Let’s be honest, AFTV doesn’t exactly paint us as the most intelligent or loyal supporters. It’s entertaining viewing I suppose and I believe it has been very good for Robbie’s bank balance. Some would argue that it is a way of conveying a message to the club from ‘grass roots’ supporters.

The problem is that after the departure of the great man we’ve already made one bad managerial appointment and the need to be unified and supportive behind the new manager has never been greater if we are going to restore our club and the values we all hold dear …. and AFTV is not exactly helping is it?

Accepting that freedom of speech is sacrosanct and there is nothing we can do to stop Robbie and his crew, let us know how you feel about the idea of being represented by AFTV.

Rasp


Thank You Freddie: Everton Report & Ratings

December 22, 2019

Like two middle aged men fighting with mops round the back of the school gym after going home time, this was the battle of the caretakers.

Freddie Ljungberg for The Arsenal and Duncan Ferguson for Everton had both been parachuted in to hold the fort after their teams’ failing managers were ousted for crimes against points acquisition.

By yesterday morning both knew this would be their last game in charge, with new managers already announced: Mikel ‘Action Man’ Arteta* for us, and Carlo ‘Could Be An Extra In The Sopranos’ Ancelotti for them.

So, two temporary bosses in their final game; two teams under the watchful eye of their incoming managers; it could have turned out to be anything.

In the end it was a dull 0-0 draw with Arsenal shading it as the better team (just).

Freddie’s final game in charge ended with a clean sheet, a point away from home and a half decent performance.

Our legendary Invincible was dealt a very bad hand when he stepped up from assistant head coach to temporary head coach. The team was on a run of terrible form with confidence shot to hell and no perceptible style or tactics.

To add injury to insult, when Unai Emery was shown the door, his coaching team left with him, leaving Freddie with no back-up. Per Mertesacker joined him from the youth academy but it was still a massive ask to turn things round.

His brief tenure comprised an away draw at Norwich, a home defeat to Brighton, an away win at West Ham, an away draw at Standard Liege, a home loss to Man City and, finally, an away point at Everton: P6 W1 D3 L2.

So at this point I think I can speak for all of us at AA when I say: Thank You Freddie!

In the circumstances it was probably as well as any stand-in could have done results-wise, but Freddie also acquitted himself well in the way he conducted himself and the way he talked about the job (in particular with his courageous frankness about how little support he was getting from the club).

Throughout his tenure Freddie showed a willingness to give young players a chance and that was reflected in his starting 11 for the Everton game.

Emile Smith-Rowe was given his first Premier League start, Saka was again preferred at left back (with Tierney and Kolasinac injured), Maitland-Niles at right back and Nelson and Martinelli further forward.

If Freddie has doubts about some of the senior players, his decision not to pick Ozil, Lacazette and Pepe was an elegant way of expressing them. (Ozil was not on the bench and is allegedly carrying a knock).

After a bright first couple of minutes we fell back into some of the bad habits that have become too familiar recently: poor first touches, misplaced passes, lack of running off the ball, risky balls that fail to come off and put us in immediate trouble. David Luiz in particular seemed to want to misread every pass and foul every Toffee that came in range.

Gradually – very gradually – we settled down and although Everton had the better of the first half, they never threatened our goal and for once Bernd Leno had a quiet time.

We looked good on the break occasionally, with Saka, Nelson and the tireless Martinelli all causing problems at different times. We had one great chance to get a one-on-one with Pickford but Smith-Rowe fluffed what should have been a simple pass to put Martinelli in. And Martinelli would later get through to the left of the Everton goal only to slice his shot wide of the near post.

In the second half our confidence and comfort level grew, even if we were creating few chances. The best opportunity of the game fell to the largely anonymous Aubameyang when a ball across the penalty area reached him on the edge of the six yard box. Unfortunately it was at an awkward height and he could only shin it towards the net without much power (although it still forced Pickford into a good reaction stop).

In the end 0-0 was probably fair given that neither side’s attackers were able to make much headway.

There was plenty for Arteta to feel positive about (especially the young players) and also plenty for him to work on. I said in comments after the game that I feel a lackadaisical attitude has been allowed to creep into our squad in the last year or so. I get the impression that Emery was to discipline what Attila the Hun was to diplomacy and that players were seldom called out for sloppy mistakes.

In his first interview as Arsenal boss Mikel talked about being ruthless and about making sure the culture was right. I think he’ll need to take a firm hand for a while (and risk being disliked by some senior players) until the team learns who’s in charge.

Frankly this group of players probably need to hear some hard truths, so I hope he has at it.

*For American readers, Action Man is the British equivalent of the GI Joe toy, with perfect plastic hair, just like Arteta.

Player Ratings

Leno 6

For once had a quiet game and got the clean sheet that his excellent recent performances have deserved.

Maitland-Niles 7

A very decent all-round performance from AMN. He was alert, strong in the challenge and offered help in attack at times.

Calum Chambers 7.5

He’s looking like our most accomplished centre half at the moment (at least until Holding returns). Got the MoTM award from Steve McManaman on the television.

David Luiz 6.5

Had an erratic first 20 minutes but was pretty solid thereafter.

Saka 7.5

What a good young prospect this lad is. He did well with his defensive duties and was dangerous when he attacked. This sort of experience (playing fullback) will make him a better attacking player in the long run.

Xhaka 7.5

A really tidy game from Granit. He is always comfortable on the ball and was our best outlet when we had to play out from the back through Everton’s press.

Torreira 7

Tried one silly and unnecessary flick pass in the first half which almost put Everton through on our goal, but overall had a solid game.

Smith-Rowe 5

I was delighted to see him start, but whether it was nerves or just an off day he seemed to be playing with steel capped Dr Martens instead of footy boots. His first touch was terrible and his passing was way off. In the second half he had a decent chance to take a shot at goal but hesitated because he seemed to be intimidated by the presence of Aubameyang (who was in a worse position to take the shot). It doesn’t matter though. We’ve seen enough of this young man to know he’ll come good.

Nelson 6.5

A solid shift and some good attacking moments, but there were times when he could have imposed himself more.

Martinelli 7.5

How can any Arsenal fan not love this kid? Non-stop chasing, running and pressuring despite being kicked off the park. He could have done better with a shooting chance but his attitude is exemplary.

Aubameyang 5

Not involved for most of the game. It’s not really his fault as he does not work as a central striker with the type of system we were using. Looked a bit peeved when substituted. I don’t see him as a captain.

Subs

Willock 7

Came on for Smith-Rowe and looked pretty good.

Lacazette 6

Had about 15 minutes but the chances didn’t fall his way. His effort was as good as we’ve come to expect.

Head Coach 8 (MoTM)

Thank you Freddie.

RockyLives


Starting Art School – Everton Preview

December 21, 2019

I was amused to see that if you scramble the letters of Mikel Arteta’s name you come up with: A TITLE MAKER.

Omens are not to be sniffed at, and if that anagram is a taste of what Miki is going to do for us I’ll grab it with both hands.

Mind you, for those who think we should have waited until he’d actually managed a team before snapping him up, there’s also an omen in his letters if you care to look for it: TAKE ‘IM LATER.

Enough of such nonsense.

It’s impossible not to feel encouraged and excited about the future now that we have a new man in charge.

Supporting a football team is a mixture of hope and despair and neither can exist without the other. We have been despairing of late, but now there’s a fresh start and – for a while at least – we can hope. It’s like that feeling you have on the morning of the first day of a new season: every fan of every club thinks that this could be their year.

So what about the man himself?

No doubt he has a big task ahead of him to turn around our fortunes, but it’s not the first time he’s arrived at the Emirates with the good ship Arsenal dangerously adrift and heading for the rocks.

He signed for us at the end of the summer transfer window in 2011 when we were all over the place and had just been hammered 8-2 at Old Trafford. Along with Per Mertesacker and Yossi Benayoun, who joined on the same day, he helped us find calmer waters.

When Arteta turned out for Arsenal he was an exemplary pro. He predominantly played as a deep-lying midfielder, the link-up man between defence and attack (forming an excellent partnership with the BFG). It was not his preferred position (he wanted to play further forward) but he never complained and did his job brilliantly.

The word that comes to mind to describe him is “precise.” Precise in his play, precise in his demeanour, very precise with his hair.

He’s had three and a half years learning from Pep Guardiola, the best club coach of the past 10 years. He’ll also have learnt plenty from Arsene Wenger and, let’s not forget, he experienced the famous Barcelona academy system as a youngster.

All this is encouraging, but the proof of this Christmas pudding will be in the eating. I don’t doubt Miki’s football knowledge and insight or his coaching credentials. But it will be his character and personality that will make the difference. Can he take that most difficult step from being a good number two to being a good number one? Can he impose himself on the fractious and demoralised egos among our squad? Can he deal with the very public pressures of coaching a top club like The Arsenal?

Your guess is as good as mine, but for now I’m happy just to have the hope.

One of my hopes is that he’ll take this squad by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake. I sense that, over time, Emery lost the respect of the players and they also lost confidence in him. Miki needs to hit the ground running and show that he won’t stand for carelessness, laziness, bad attitudes and sulks.

He’ll be watching from the directors’ box today as we take on his old club Everton at Goodison Park, with Freddie Ljungberg in charge of matters for the last time.

I suspect Fred is relieved to be passing the baton. This little stint will have done his future prospects as a coach no harm at all, but it was hardly a good situation for him to step into with no proper assistant coaches and a team whose confidence is shot.

I would love Fred to go out on a winning note and I fancy he will. What his role is moving forward remains to be seen, but I hope he stays at the club.

The Everton game brings two great footballing superstitions face to face: it’s “ex players come back to haunt their old club,” versus “new manager bounce.”  We’re at risk from the ex players, but if Iwobi or Walcott manage to bag a goal against us I hope we’ll have the fortitude to score more in reply.

As for our new boss bounce, I know Miki is not technically in charge today, but all the players know he’ll have his eye on them and they’ll want to impress.

Our crop of injuries doesn’t help. With Kieran Tierney already out for weeks the last thing we needed was for Sead Kolasinac to get crocked, but crocked he did get. With Rob Holding still out and Hector Bellerin doubtful we’re looking threadbare at the back.

Here’s my wild guess at our starting line-up:

Leno

Chambers Luiz  Sokratis  AMN

Xhaka  Torreira

Smith-Rowe

Pepe  Aubameyang  Martinelli

Everton are six places and four points below us in the Premier League table, but have started showing a bit of spirit since Duncan “Elbows” Ferguson took over as caretaker manager. They’ll be up for it today and I expect a close game which we’ll shade by the odd goal, perhaps 2-1 or 3-2 to us.

It’s way beyond time that we Gooners had something to be excited about it. Let the new era begin.

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners!

RockyLives


It’s Going To Be Arteta

December 17, 2019

I’ve been following Arsenal’s transfer dealings for many years now and know the signs when a deal is done … believe me … Mikel Arteta is going to be our next manager.

He’ll know the magnitude of the challenge he is facing – he saw it graphically on Sunday when City exposed the physical, technical and cultural flaws in our play.

As a supporter … (I’m speaking to you!) … do me a favour, if you want the best for Arsenal and are not waiting for the opportunity to say “I told you so” then this is all you have to do:

  1. Be patient.
  2. Get behind the players.
  3. Get behind the manager.
  4. Don’t judge until Mikel has had a chance to work on the squad and bring in some players.
  5. Lower your expectations.
  6. Applaud and enjoy when it’s good, encourage and support when it’s not.

As supporters we’ve gained (earned?) a reputation for being flaky, for not supporting as we should and for feeling entitled.

Currently we’re not being viewed as a top six club. We are not going to turn that around over night.

If we finish the season in the top 6 that will be a major achievement. If we don’t, see it as a stepping stone and let’s be optimistic that we can improve next season.

Rasp


Onwards and upwards ……… Freddie has his work cut out.

December 16, 2019

 

Leading up to the game I really didn’t think we would actually win, but after reading yesterday’s pre match  I thought how could we not (right said Fred)?

Team lineup was as expected since it was correctly predicted by RockyLives in his pre match post.

This time,  I reached the game on time but even before I reached my seat I saw Martinelli driving into the box and getting a shot off which was saved by Ederson. My thoughts were, wow is this going to be a game and the day I see my first top 6 victory live from the Home of Football.  Two minutes later Chambers gave me an answer to that question, as a through ball was sent in and instead of Chambers dealing with it and cutting out the ball, he opted to let the attack run on to it and the delivered cross was 1 nil to Man Shitty. Why is Kolasinac ducking is he afraid of balls?

As the game continued we looked positive, but Arsenal kept playing a dangerous game by passing it around the back.

Another defensive lapse sees KBD able to roll the ball across for Sterling making it 2 nil, Kolasinac again this time ball watching.

In the 25th minute Guendouzi looked like he was fouled from the upper tier but of course not given, it seems we are the only team who don’t get home advantage.

At 2-0 down the Emirates crowd kept trying to motivate the team.

Kolasinac pick up an injury, let’s hope it isn’t serious and on came one of the players I really like in this current squad –  Saka. But before he was given a chance to bring us back from a 2 nil deficit Guendouzi let KBD in and boom is was 3 nil(cant believe I removed him from my fantasy side).

Clearly this is how the Arsenal team thinks it should defend, let the attackers run onto the ball and hope Leno could stop the shot.

Half came and I took a long walk to block 106 to meet peaches for the first time. Pleasure to meet you peaches.

Then on top of the that I was offered a set next to Ant and LBG. (Should have a picture for chas to show him how we look in the upper tier).

Hopefully some of that good fortune could be passed on to my name sake.

The second half opened with City still dominating and on one occasion KDB almost grabbed his hatrick but Leno made a great save sending it onto the post.

ESR came on for Ozil and LBG was a happy camper, he didn’t make an instant impact but he gradually grew into the game and on one occasion chipping a through ball for Aubameyang to run onto but he rushed it and dragged it wide. Arsenal’s second shot on goal.

City then began playing keep ball and weren’t really troubled.

My Current record of watching Arsenal play is 3 – 3 (rough)

Player ratings are ………. Everyone gets a 4 probably Leno could get a 6 since he keep us from being slaughtered second half.

The referee gets a 2(as Arsenal get no home advantage)

Fred

 


Too Sexy for our Shirts: Man City Preview

December 15, 2019

“Right,” said Fred, let’s be having you.

The faltering champions are coming to town and it’s time for Freddie Ljungberg’s Arsenal to stand up and be counted.

Who thinks we’re going to beat Man City today at the Emirates?

…and answer came there none.

You lily-livered bunch of chicken-poop surrender monkeys.

Of course we’re going to win. It’s way beyond time we all got out of this defeatist funk we’ve been in for months.

Here’s why I think we will prevail this afternoon:

  • Slowly, slowly you can see our confidence returning. Players who had lost faith in Unai Emery are starting to believe again.
  • I get the sense Freddie and Big Per are beginning to earn the respect and trust of the squad.
  • Our young players are turning in quality performances on a regular basis and that is bound to have a motivating effect on the senior pros. It also makes them an excellent asset off the bench.
  • We tend to perform better against top teams than against strugglers whom we are expected to dispatch easily.
  • Man City are watching the title slip away from them and their own confidence is in question.
  • Aguero will miss the game through injury and David Silva is a doubt.

I can hear the objections that have no doubt formed in the minds of many of you:

“But, but, performances…”

“But, but, injuries…”

“But, but, players are not good enough…”

“But, but, defending like the Royal Society for the Blind’s second team…”

I’m not going to argue with you, certainly on performances. We still look shaky and unconvincing, but something quite significant has happened since Emery left. We have started rescuing games from losing positions rather than throwing away games from winning positions.

The win against West Ham after being 0-1 down; the point salvaged against Standard Liege after falling 0-2 behind… these betoken a team that is starting to believe it can force results.

And how better to continue that progress than by beating the reigning champions? I reckon our lads are going to be well up for it.

Although City are without Aguero, we have our own injury problems. Tierney needs surgery on a dislocated shoulder (that young man has Debuchy levels of bad luck), Ceballos, Holding Bellerin and Xhaka are all ruled out.  The good news is that Pepe, who was a doubt, is expected to be available. I expect him to outshine Raheem Sterling today.

Here’s my predicted starting line-up.

Leno

Maitland-Niles – Chambers – Luiz – Kolasinac

Torreira – Guendouzi

Ozil

Pepe – Aubameyang – Martinelli

If we play without fear we have the ability to really trouble the City defence.  We know how good they are going forward so there’s no point trying to sit back and soak up pressure.

Let’s go at them.

Let’s be proud of wearing the shirt.

Let’s play sexy football.

Let’s leave the field with a 3-2 win for the Mighty Arse.

Ready, Freddie… GO!

RockyLives