Pablo Mari: AA’s verdict on Arsenal’s new man

January 30, 2020

Pablo Mari has finally been signed by Arsenal after an on-again-off-again courtship.

Given that our central defenders are dropping like Totteringham hopes in May, any addition to the back line seems welcome to me.

But how good is Mari? What type of player is he? What will he bring to our team in what promises to be a fascinating second half of the season?


Here is what Arsenal Arsenal regulars have had to say about him in recent days, kicking off with Fred, who was kind enough to share a brief bio of the new man:


Mari joined Manchester City in 2016 but never played for the first team, leaving for Flamengo last July after loan stints at Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna. The 26-year-old was a key figure under Jorge Jesus, who led the Rio de Janeiro giants to the Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores titles.


Mari was regarded to be in the top three CBs last season in Brazil and during the Copa Libertadores. Big bloke, good feet but slow. I suppose it’s a good back up plan to have him. He may be a slower and less aggressive version of Sokratis. Not sure we will keep him beyond the end of the season. Let’s see.

I think Mari is the cheap back up. If it works out good, if not we don’t have to keep him. Smart move by Arteta.


Mari has to be good business even if only until the end of the season. He’s 26, 6ft 3in, left footed and particularly noted for his ball playing skills and his ability to bring the ball out from the back. He would appear to be exactly what we need… a very decent signing.

Tim Vickery (south American football expert) speaks very highly of him and says it would be a major coup if we manage to sign him.


Watched him against ‘Pool, he was solid! Another BFG in speed and ability to read the game?


I had a look at clips of Mari and he looks decent, although I wondered if he was a tad on the slow side, and he did seem to go to ground a lot with his tackling. He won all of those in the clips, obviously, but I would be unsure how many he may mistime.

The premier league is faster so I hope it doesn’t turn out that he finds the sliding tackles he was making, he suddenly is just slightly late with, otherwise that would make him a slightly bigger version of Mustaffi.

That said, Arteta will already know him from his time at City so will have seen him on the training ground and, if he feels he is good enough, so be it.


Too slow? He will fit in brilliantly with the other CBs and Xhaka, and will form part of our brilliant Invincible Snails!!


Mari reminds me of BFG, reads the game with no frills defending, so are we in the process of signing a Big Flippin’ Spaniard?


My “Scousers with the mouthers” say he’s an upgrade on what we have, but slow.
I say wait until the new bigger and better Virgil van Dijk arrives in the Summer…S..A..L..I..B..A..

Mari? Hope he settles in quick.


I don’t quite get the need for another central defender, don’t we have enough to get us to the end of the season? And then we have the addition of Saliba…

So, good business? Or an unnecessary move when we might have been better coping with what we have and waiting for Saliba to arrive in the summer?

My take, without having ever seen him play, is that I’m encouraged by his size, by the good reports that have come out of South America about him and by the fact that he is well known to Mikel Arteta.

Like RC78, it seems a decent risk to take him on loan. If he blows us away with his performances we have the option to buy him at the end of the season.

Time will tell.



Aubameyang to Barca poll: take the money or keep the man?

January 29, 2020

This post is inspired by a comment put up by Rasp late last night:

I’d take £80m for Auba if it meant we could buy our own Virgil van Dijk. After all, we have a lot of emerging young attacking talent. It should be noted that none of Auba, Laca or Ozil featured against Bournemouth…”

When I read it I was shocked. Shocked, I tell you!

Sell our best striker? Sell the player who is the only consistent goal threat in a team struggling to score? Has Rasp gone mad?

The context, obviously, is the torrent of rumours suggesting that Catalonia’s finest are set on prizing away our Gabonese crown jewel and installing him at the Camp Nou.

And yet… the more you think about it, the more there may be sense in cashing in now.

For a start, we know that despite having an owner with a fortune that would make Louis Quatorze blush (and who is married to a wife whose fortune would make Marie Antoinette green with envy), when it comes to splashing the cash on new players we tend to suffer from “long pockets, short arm” syndrome.

We aspire to be a “break even” club, so we can safely assume that there will be no big outlays on world class players until we get some world class wonga coming into the coffers.

Then there’s the question of whether Auba is currently irreplaceable. Our young up-and-comers have been one of the real positives of this season (Unai Emery deserves some credit for allowing several of them to break into the first team).  In Auba’s absence, could Martinelli, Saka and Nelson make up the goals we’d lose? It’s a big ask, but who knows… maybe.

But I think Rasp’s point was that given the quality of these young stars, we would be better deploying our resources elsewhere – with a Virgil van Dijk type of world class defender or, perhaps (as Rasp later suggested) a new Santi Cazorla?

My instincts are still to keep Auba for the remainder of this season but, if the likes of Martinelli and Saka continue to progress, consider selling him in the summer (he is under contract until 2022).

Have your say in these two polls:



Saka MOTM, just brilliant

January 28, 2020

I haven’t written a match report about a win for ages. It’s actually quite a test to not go overboard 😉

Watching Arteta’s controlled post match interview was interesting. His body language is soooo calm and his words are well chosen delivered statesman like from that handsome chiselled face when I’m sure that inside he was jumping up and down with excitement at a plan executed ….. for a while …… to perfection.

Rio Ferdinand and Martin Keown, in the studio for BT Sport, were excited at what they saw. Very young players carrying out the instructions of their new very young coach.

The point they both made about how the belief in Arteta’s system builds confidence in each player is an important one. They are playing to a system now and each time it works they’ll want to do it more.

Saka has been a revelation, he’s a winger, playing as a left-back and Arteta’s system allows him to play as a winger when we have the ball. We don’t have another left back at the moment with injuries to Tierney and Kolasinac and Arteta has persuaded Saka that he can be both. A MOTM performance, a great goal and an assist. Brilliant, just brilliant.

The curse of the ‘centre-back injuries’ struck again and Mustafi’s looked nasty. I don’t wish him any I’ll will but many won’t miss him. Can Luiz, Holding and Sokratis keep us going or will we be able to add a CB before the window closes.

All in all we played the first half brilliantly going in to the break 2 up but knowing that Bournemouth would come at us second half. We did well to stop them scoring until late on. Having a bit of a wobble is part of football but oh how fabulous is the good stuff now 😁

I can’t wait for our next game.


If anyone wants to write some player ratings I’ll add them on.

Arsenal v Bournemouth pre-match

January 27, 2020

Can I just say something about Monday night football …….. I really don’t like it. Everyone else gets to play over the weekend and Monday night football just feels like an after thought. But, lucky us, we and Bournemouth get to play our FA Cup tie on BT Sport tonight at 8pm.

Bournemouth have lost their way a little this season but I’ve always enjoyed playing against them as they like to play exciting, creative football so it should be a good game.

Arteta has played down any reliance on Martinelli but he has a great opportunity to impress again this evening as I’m sure he’ll be itching to score for us.

This is what Arteta had to say about Martinelli.

“I would like to talk about potential, more than what it is at the moment,” said Arteta.

“For him there is still a long way. The stature of this club, to give him the key to do that straight away is not fair on him.

“We have to bring him down. I want him to train with his head down every day hard, and slowly he will start to earn the praise if he does what he needs to do every day, but it is not about one or two days.”

Arteta isn’t getting carried away but we can be excited.

Lacazette deserves a rest for all his running lately but needs to start scoring again so maybe he’ll play some part tonight. Please find the right boots Laca.

We are without the suspended Luiz and Aubameyang (this is his last game out), Kolasinac and Nelson are unavailable because of injuries. Sokratis should return after a bout of illness. Holding needs to improve his match fitness so maybe we’ll see those two paired together.

Here’s the team that could start ………..


Bellerin   Holding   Sokratis   Saka

Guendouzi   Torreira


Pepe   Lacazette   Martinelli

I love the FA Cup so I’m hoping we’re going to progress to the next round. The team fought hard for each other at Stamford Bridge last week, if we can see more of that passion and desire to not be beaten I will be very happy.



Radical Line-Up for Arsenal at Bournemouth

January 26, 2020

Just a quick post to float a controversial idea that’s been running around my head.

Much as I love the FA Cup, our priorities this season are, in order: 1) win the Europa League, thereby getting ourselves into the Champions League next season; 2) finish in the top four thereby etc etc.

The FA Cup is very much in third place so I would like us to use it as an opportunity to play an almost entirely youth based team when we visit Bournemouth tomorrow night.

Here’s my proposed line up:


Maitland-Niles – Mustafi – Holding – Saka

Willock – Guendouzi


Pepe – Nketieh – Martinelli

It would make for a really fascinating experiment, would give a massive morale boost to what is emerging as one of the most exciting groups of young players since the Beckham-Scholes-Giggs-Neville generation at Manchester United and will give our more experienced players a proper rest.

I don’t expect Mikel Arteta to put out a team anything like this (check back in tomorrow for someone else on AA to propose a more sensible starting eleven in the pre-match Post) but I would love it.

Despite our billionaire owner we are clearly never going to be a club that spends our way to success like Chelsea and Manchester City, so nurturing our own young talent is the next best way forward.

Our young players seem to have a great bond with each other. Let’s reinforce that bond and watch this group grow together.


Martinelli: the new Cristiano Ronaldo? Or the new Robinho?

January 25, 2020

How many times have we all watched Gabriel Martinelli’s goal against Chelsea?

I’ve replayed it at least a dozen times and I know some supporters have watched it even more than that.

We were down a man and down a goal when our young Britalian* picked up the ball just outside our penalty area, ran the length of the pitch and calmly slotted it past Chelsea’s stupidly named ‘keeper, Kepa. Along the way Martinelli threw a voodoo hex on Kante forcing him to slip at the crucial moment when he might have intercepted the youngster’s run.

It was a stunning goal combining speed, strength, control and a degree of composure seldom seen in players at the tender age of 18. But those of us who have been watching his outings for Arsenal this season will not have been completely surprised.


He has looked like a class act every time he’s stepped on the pitch and is already our second top scorer after Aubameyang despite having only five starts and eight substitute appearances.

This is normally the point at which fans, media pundits and ex-players go around saying how it’s important not to get carried away, that we mustn’t start over-hyping the young man, that plenty of young would-be stars shine brightly for a while before fizzling out.

Well to hell with that.

I LOVE this guy and I am more excited about him than any young Arsenal player since Cesc Fabregas.

Even before that stunner at Stamford Bridge I found myself thinking unthinkable comparisons with Ronaldo and Gareth Bale: players who could change a game all on their own.

Like Ronaldo, Martinelli seems comfortable on either foot and knows how to use his head. Like Bale he can tear down the wing and deliver superb crosses as well as getting in the box at the right time to score himself.

At 5ft 9in he is shorter than both Ronaldo (6ft 2in) and Bale (6ft 1in), but he has a great leap and will only get stronger as his body matures in the next couple of years.

We have had young players make a splash early in their Arsenal careers and never live up to our hopes and expectations (David Bentley anyone?).  Beyond Arsenal there are many examples of “the next Pele” whose career ends up as a let-down (like Martinelli, Robinho came out of Brazil with a ton of hype but despite spells at Real Madrid and Manchester City the magic never quite took flight).

But there seems to be something different about Martinelli.

There may be a clue to what that “ingredient X” is in the interview that Arseblog conducted with a Brazilian football journalist in his Arsecast podcast on Friday. The journo said that even though Martinelli was playing his football at a fourth tier Brazilian side, he stood out from an early age because of his dedication and seriousness of purpose.

He does not drink alcohol or even fizzy soft drinks apart from water. He started learning English while still in Brazil and had already set his heart on the Premier League. Since arriving at Arsenal he is the first into training and is utterly single-minded about improving his skills.

It’s the sort of dedication that reminds me of Dennis Bergkamp. When he joined the jolly band of alcoholic, chain-smoking, drug-toting cavaliers at Highbury in the 1990s they were stunned to see this world class star staying behind every day for extra practice. Along with Arsene Wenger’s arrival, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Dennis’s example helped completely change the culture at the club.

Martinelli needs to get plenty more game time for the rest of this season. In my eyes he is already ahead of Pepe, Nelson and Saka in the pecking order and arguably should even be selected ahead of the non-scoring Lacazette.

That said, we also need to manage him properly and not burn him out or place expectations on him that he can’t possibly deliver. Right now though he looks capable of shouldering any responsibility we place on him.

It also behoves the club to lock him up contractually for as long as possible, because if he continues this rate of progress he will become one of the most sought-after young players in the world.

Am I getting “over my skis” here? Am I buying into the hype and ignoring the usual hurdles that get in the way of a promising youngster becoming a star (injuries, ‘second season syndrome,’ fame going to their head and so on)?

What do you think?

And if he does develop as we hope, which players’ styles (past or present) do you think he’s most likely to echo?


*Apparently Martinelli has not yet decided whether he wants to play his international football for Brazil (where he was born and raised) or for Italy (his father has Italian heritage as the surname indicates).

Only one team can stop Liverpool matching Arsenal’s Invincibles

January 24, 2020

Liverpool are surging towards their first league title since 1990 with the unstoppable energy of a car full of scallies racing a stolen Range Rover through the backstreets of Toxteth to pick up a load of smack.

The way they’re going no-one would be surprised to see them finish the season unbeaten, thereby matching the astonishing achievement of our 2004 Invincibles – a feat which at the time was described as “once in a lifetime.”

But Liverpool haven’t done it yet, and there is one chance to stop them.


On April 5th they play away at Manchester City, who have the best coach in European football and the firepower of strikers like Aguero and Sterling. But that won’t be the game where they suffer defeat.

On March 14th they’re away at Everton in the Merseyside derby. The red-blue rivalry runs deep in Liverpool, but that won’t be it either. Despite the best efforts of Walcott and Iwobi Everton just won’t be good enough.

Nor will it happen on May 9th, when they entertain Chelsea. Young fat Frank may turn the Blues into champion contenders in the future, but this is a season of rebuilding for them.

So when will it happen?

The date to keep in your diary is May 2nd 2020, for that is when Liverpool head to the Emirates stadium to take on the Arsenal.

You think I’m kidding? You think we have no chance of beating Liverpool? I beg to differ and I have my reasons:

  • We can all see the steady improvement in play and confidence that is happening under Mikel Arteta. It’s encouraging us now – how will it look in over three months’ time?
  • Everyone at Arsenal is rightly proud of our amazing Invincibles and we all want to keep their achievement unsullied by being equalled by another team, so there will be strong desire throughout the club to inflict defeat on ‘Pool.
  • By the time they visit, Liverpool may already be champions or so far ahead that becoming champions is all but guaranteed. No matter how you square it, players have a different mentality when they know the job is done (that job being winning a title). Yes, they would love to go unbeaten, but that pales beside the glory of becoming champions for the first time in 30 years and, psychologically, they are bound to slacken off a little.
  • Don’t ignore the Arteta factor. There are two teams who have the biggest incentive to stop Liverpool becoming Invincibles. Arsenal, for obvious reasons, and Everton, as their fierce local rivals. Mikel Arteta embodies both those clubs. He will want an Arsenal win more than anyone.
  • While Liverpool are streets ahead as the best team in the EPL this year, we all know that our squad is good enough, when fit and functioning properly, to pull out a win against anyone.
  • The battling 10-man draw at Chelsea – coming from behind twice – showed that a resilient core is beginning to form in the team.

Naturally the bookies will give long odds on us beating Liverpool when they visit, but some things are just written in the stars and this may well be one of them.

Of course there’s a whole other hypothetical to consider: how would Liverpool of 2020 fare against Arsenal of 2004? Don’t get me started…



Is Arteta as good as Arsenal fans think he is?

January 23, 2020

Here’s a thought experiment: how would you feel if Mikel Arteta’s record for the next 21 games was as follows: Won 16, Drawn 5, Lost 0?

Most of us, I think, would feel that we finally had a manager who had put us on the right track after several years of drift and missed opportunities.

It would likely be too late to achieve much this season (apart from scraping into the Europa League places) but it might well fill us with optimism for the 2020/21 season.


Well, and here’s the kicker, there is a manager in Arsenal’s recent history who had a run of W16, D5, L0 early in his career. That man, as you may have guessed, was Unai Emery. And we all know how that turned out.

We started the 2018/19 season with two defeats under Emery (home versus Man City and away at Chelsea), but from August 25th to December 8th (three and a half months) we had an impressive unbeaten run in the Premier League, the League Cup and the Europa League.

The run ended with a 2-3 loss at Southampton on December 13th and a period of inconsistency and slow decline set in from them onwards.

Here’s my point: after the woeful final months of the Emery regime, we supporters have been quick to laud the obvious improvements in team shape, discipline, effort and confidence under Mikel Arteta.

But how can we be sure this improvement will last?

As that 21-game spell early in Emery’s stewardship of the club shows, false dawns are common in football, and fans (who are always eager to clutch at any straw) are in danger of placing too much hope in what may turn out to be a temporary uplift.

Was Emery’s unbeaten run a result of what he brought to the party? Or was it simply a group of players who had become demoralised in the final Wenger years going up a gear partly to impress the new boss and partly because ‘a change is as good as a rest’?

And if it’s the latter, who’s to say that we’re not experiencing exactly the same phenomenon now?

In fact, Arteta’s record in the short time he’s been in charge doesn’t even have the sort of clear up-tick in results that Emery achieved. Yes, we’ve stopped losing so often, but we are having a great deal of trouble pulling out wins.

I’d appreciate your thoughts on how and why we should feel more optimistic about early Arteta, although I have some ideas of my own.

For a start, I well remember that, in that long run of unbeaten games under Emery, we seldom felt we were playing well as a team. We were getting results, but usually it was as if we had ridden our luck to come away with the points.

Supporters responded to this is two different ways: the ‘glass half full’ types like me thought: “This is great! We’re getting results even though we haven’t properly hit our stride yet. When that happens there’ll be no stopping us.” The ‘my glass just smashed’ types thought: “We’re getting lucky wins, but you can tell from the way we’re playing that the underlying problems are still there.”

It turned out the pessimists were right.

In this happy morning of the Arteta era, the feeling is exactly the opposite: we are playing well, but not getting the results. That makes me hopeful and explains why some who were pessimistic during Emery’s good run are now optimistic during Arteta’s average run.

Another big factor is the demeanour of the head coach. Emery seemed a decent man, but he never came across as a strong one. Language difficulties clearly didn’t help, but his personal qualities seemed ill-suited to delivering a kick up the derriere when required or for wrangling a difficult and fractious bunch of individuals into shape.

Arteta, on the other hand, has been virtually faultless in all his public statements since taking over. He exudes confidence, strength and authority in a manner that appears to be communicating itself to the players.

Finally, I would hazard that the tactics Arteta is employing seem more likely to work with our squad in this league than those of his predecessor (although the more tactically astute among you may wish to weigh in on this point).

Am I deluding myself again with falsely-grounded optimism?

Over to you.




Slugging it out at the Bridge

January 22, 2020

 That was exhausting, in a kind of reaffirming way. All the passion and desire that had been missing from this Arsenal team was on show last night.

We didn’t win but boy it felt like we’d moved into a new era. Coming from behind against 10 men is about as good as it gets when you’re on a run of drawing games. This was a good draw.

Arteta’s decision not to add Holding when Luiz got sent off was so important for the confidence of this team. If we want them running through brick walls for each other and Mikel then they can look back on this game with pride.

Player ratings from RC78

Well well well…2 shots in the whole match, all in the second half and 2 goals and an unexpected draw playing 10 vs 11 🙂

MoTM = Martinelli

Sub of the match: Guendouzi

Opponent of the match: Hudson-Odoi

Player ratings

Leno  6; good on his line but poor in the air (tale of his season)

Bellerin 7; a goal and a shift but needs to gain defensive sharpness.

Mustafi  4.5; a first half to forget but played fine in the second half

Luiz  not fair to rate him…although he could have done better

Saka  6.5; what a shift and he is really good going forward

Xhaka  6; did well in the second half as CB

Torreira  6.5, we have our defensive pitbull.

Ozil  5; totally absent for 30 mins and then played ok

Pepe  5.5; poor first 30 minutes and then a good shift but he could have done better in some attacking situations. A talent that needs more time than expected to shine

Lacazette  5.5; A for effort and then the rest was not there

Martinelli  9. A goal, a shift and a constant threat.


Guendouzi  6 – did well and added grit to our team. Needs to be better when defending set pieces…

Holding  5. He comes in and we concede a goal. The guy needs to play in reserve for a few games to regain sharpness.

Willock  N/A

Arteta  6.5. His grit is now rubbing off on the team but thought he did not set up the team properly until we had a player off.


Blues to Lose: Arsenal at Chelsea …….. Pre-Match

January 20, 2020

It’s weird to be playing Chelsea in the Premier League again so soon after meeting them at the Emirates in the same competition.

Just over three weeks ago we were beaten 1-2 at home by Frank Lampard’s side. Many of us felt it was an unlucky defeat because we played well enough for long parts of the game to deserve the win.

But in giving up two goals in the last 10 minutes we also showed that old (bad) habits die hard – a fact that was in evidence again on Saturday against Sheffield United.


So how will it go in Round Two at Stamford Bridge tonight?

Chelsea’s form has been patchy to say the least and some of the shine has rubbed off of Frank Lampard’s early lustre.

Immediately before beating us in late December they lost 0-2 at home to Southampton. Since playing us they have drawn at Brighton, beaten Burnley at home and lost at Newcastle.

In other words, right now they look pretty similar to us (in fact, a bit worse as far as results go).

I’m feeling optimistic about us bringing home all three points. I recognise this sounds bonkers given the circumstances: we’re still without the suspended Aubameyang, our defenders are picking up injuries as fast as Spuds fans pick up fleas and we’re finding goals very hard to come by.

But I think our players learnt from the last meeting with the Chavs that we can outplay them if we want to; and that if we had applied ourselves a bit harder for a bit longer we would have got the three points that Auba’s first half strike deserved.

Aside from the long-term sick bed squatters we’re also without Reiss Nelson. Sokratis was suffering from “sickness” for the Sheffield match (it’s rumoured he took a wrong turn and ended up in N17 and caught something nasty from the odious miasma), but there’s a good chance he’ll be fit tonight.

This is the team I would go with and also the team I think Arteta will pick:


Maitland-Niles – Luiz – Sokratis – Saka

Torreira – Xhaka


Pepe – Lacazette – Martinelli   

 If Sok is still sick it will be Mustafi instead, to hopefully continue his decent work from Saturday.

We should win – goals from Pepe and Martinelli would be my guess.

My only doubt about us getting the victory is the possibility of a situation like this: one of our players is clean through on goal and the Chelsea bench responds by setting a pack of wolverines and honey badgers on him, quickly bringing him down and devouring the corpse. VAR will say “no penalty.”

Meanwhile at the other end a brisk breeze will ruffle the shirt of Tammy Abraham and the ref will point to the spot (supported by VAR) and send off the entire Arsenal defence for “looking at me a bit funny.”

Barring that, it will be Chelsea with the blues and the Arsenal feeling chipper.

Come on the Mighty Arse!