Questions, Questions…

The late, great Johnny Nash

The wonderful singer-songwriter Johnny Nash, who died two weeks ago, had a hit in 1972 with the song ‘There are more questions than answers.’

That’s a pretty good way of describing our feelings about Arsenal right now, as RA demonstrates in today’s Post.

By the way, if you’re looking for a positive omen of how things might go from here, Johnny’s other big hit was “I can see clearly now.’

We have all been happy with Mikel and the way he is reshaping the team, and it is accepted that he has a big job to pull the team up closer to the top.

He has brought a feeling of contentment to many of us, and the progress at the end of last season and winning the FA Cup and the Community Shield as well as beating Citeh and ‘Pool added to that.

We have been pulled up short with recent results, and that is only to be expected as we had all hoped we would continue progressing this season.

It is also normal for the most reasonable fans to try and rationalise what has happened, with a mention of player injuries; player tiredness; unlucky results; poor refereeing; et sequentia.

And that is an adult way to ‘box’ disappointment, with an implied feeling these things can be changed in forthcoming games.

It is also OK to use this time of setback to open our eyes and assess what has also gone wrong.

I, for one, do not want to say “Oh, it will be OK – it’s just something that Mikel will sort out,” because that is the sort of rationalising that soon starts to unleash the more morose fans when things do not get resolved quickly, and it might swiftly lead to “Arteta was the wrong appointment …… etc”.

Rationalisation is normal, but there are things that are not easily explained, such as the choice of players for the team. For example; we have an injury with Holding, Luiz, gets a hammy but don’t worry, we can bring on Mustafi (who wants to leave) — and we seem to be slipping back into the same old, same old set up.

What has happened to homegrown Zach Medley, or Saliba or one of the number of promising youth players we have sent out on loan?

What has happened to our £72m winger, Pepe – crap buy, or still settling in?

Is it possible to play Lacazette alongside Aubmayang?

Should we persevere with other players in the team who were apparently on their way out, like Mustafi, Xhaka, Kola, but are now back in the fold, which I find ridiculous, personally?

Were we not promised, by inference, that more youth players would be brought into the team, like Nketiah and Saka? There are many more of them in the U23s, and these are players for the future and should be used while the rebuild goes on, rather than using players like the above who are just waiting to be sold or for their contracts to expire. 

This is not just giving up – far from it – Mikel is the lynch pin at Arsenal, and in time will sort it out – but there short term solutions (mentioned above) and longer term solutions, and I am not happy with the former, and really would be much happier with the latter.

RA

25 Responses to Questions, Questions…

  1. RockyLives says:

    Excellent Post Redders and some great questions raised.

    I am not as opposed as you to the ‘rehabilitation’ programme for players like Xhaka and Mustafi, but it’s hardly an approach to get the spirits racing.

    I wonder if some of the issues go back to questionable transfer decisions during the period when Sanellhi was the spider at the centre of the web.

    £72m for Pepe seems a very strange deal whichever way you look at it; there now appear to be big question marks over the Saliba deal as well; the strange purchases of Soarers and Mari; then there has been our failure to move on just about any player we want to move on.

    I do wonder whether primary motivation for some of these deals (and non-deals) was not the future success of Arsenal FC, but something else altogether.

  2. RA says:

    Rocky,

    That is another angle regarding some of our acquisitions that has lead to your questions — and answers will be in short supply, I suppose.

    A major problem that caused problems in our loss to Leics was the glaring lack of creativity — and we have a great player, in Mesut, capable of supplying that — except he is mysteriously not available

    I do have a less than tolerant attitude towards the players like Xhaka, Mustafi and so on — who have had years to use their experience to make Arsenal better and failed — and there is no guarantee they will change the current team.

    But it is only an opinion, and I am happy to reconsider if they pull their fingers out!! 😖

  3. Gööner In Exile says:

    RA I must admit to being in a very similar camp to you and whilst there was early promise of putting a bit more faith and responsibility on the youth they seem to have slowly been relegated to more supporting roles.

    I was not all in for an extension to PEA’s contract, I liked the signing of Willian, and I was also keen on Partey.

    Whilst PEA may be our talisman he doesn’t have all the attributes that our formation and style needs, he is not a great passer of the ball and can often lose possession in good areas with misplaced passes, we got the most from him when other teams were playing high, they have sussed that out and now we need to find the creativity to release him, and that is something we are struggling to do with the current personnel.

    I think the thing that Mikel has struggled to find this season is balance. I hate seeing Maitland-Niles on the bench.

    With Saka and Tierney we could have a devastating left hand side if playing 4-4-2, or 4-5-1 however we seem to play this switching formation which requires a lot more effort to change from defence to attack and with the inability to retain possession up top or play ball over the top we are not getting enough time to reshape.

    My preference on the game Is have seen:

    Leno

    AMN ….. Gabriel ….. Holding ….. Tierney

    Willian……….Partey………………Saka
    ………………..Ceballos……………….
    ……….Laca……………..PEA………..

    Can happily see Pepe replace one of Laca and PEA, or Nelson in for Willian or Saka.

    Emery’s football became very one dimensional, I am not sure we are there yet with Arteta as I think he still wants more flair, unfortunately his players have not yet found a way to deliver that on the pitch or he hasn’t found the right combination of players yet.

  4. RockyLives says:

    Goof comment, as always, GiE

    It’s an interesting point that Emery appears to have been more keen on promoting the young players than Arteta has been so far.

    Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah, Nelson, Willock and AMN all got lots of game time under UE (as did Guendouzi).

    Which is NOT to say I would like to have Emery back! I just think Arteta could take that particular leaf out of his book.

    I think if Eddie had started against Leicester he would have been no worse than Laca and possibly quite a lot better.

  5. RA says:

    That is a top comment GIE, thank you.

    It’s always good to read what you think, when you get the time, and that’s probably because as an ex-Arsenal tyro you see things from a different perspective to the rest of us. 🤩

  6. RA says:

    Rocky

    Thank you, I did not know that Emery played more of our youngsters than Mikel does, although that is probably the reason we three think that the number of youthful players in recent times has decreased.

    The struggle to improve the team goes on.

    To plagiarise the comment of some wiser person than me, success is not just a matter of hauling one’s ass across the line, but that no one else should haul their ass across the line before you. 😜

    And by the by — Goof Afternoon to you too! 🤥

  7. RA says:

    Something sad has happened, as it does for most people, and I hope no one minds me singing along to the lyrics;

    I was there when it happened
    I was there when you fell
    First time that I saw you cry
    The magic died as well

    I remember you told me
    Kid, go give ’em hell
    I was always gonna buy the dream
    That you were trying to sell

    Just one of a thousand people
    Didn’t see it before
    — What am I waiting for

    Tonight is the night
    Tonight is the night
    I might have wasted the tears
    But I won’t waste the years

    Tonight is the night
    Tonight is the night
    I admit to myself
    That I’m asking for help

    Moments after it happened
    Thought ok this is fine
    Then my heart took a holiday
    And I was left behind

    So I stayed in the shadow
    Of who I used to be
    Now I look like the person
    That’s been walking over me

    I admit it — I like McFly. 😟

  8. RockyLives says:

    Afternoon Redders

    Hope all is OK and I’m sorry to hear about whatever has brought you sadness.

    Here are the lyrics to the Johnny Nash hit referred to above:

    There are more questions than answers
    Pictures in my mind that will not show
    There are more questions than answers
    And the more I find out the less I know
    Yeah, the more I find out the less I know.

    I’ve asked the question time and time again
    Why is there so little love among men
    But what is life, how do we live
    What should we take and how much should we give?

    Oh, there are more questions than answers
    Pictures in my mind that will not show
    There are more questions than answers
    And the more I find out the less I know
    Yeah, the more I find out the less I know.

    Oh, yeah
    Oh, what is life, how do we live
    Oh, what should we take and how much should we give?

    There are more questions than answers
    They’re just pictures in my mind that will not show
    There are more questions than answers
    And the more I find out the less I know
    Yeah, the more I find out the less I know.

  9. RA says:

    Thanks, Rocket,

    I have always enjoyed Johnny Nash, and that song, and many others like Tears on My Pillow, etc

    I am sad for someone I really like who is having a hard time at the moment, and as it was quiet on AA, I cheered myself up by singing along like a rusty bucket as I typed, to take my mind off things, thank you. 🥺

    Sometimes difficult to help friends.

  10. RA says:

    I meant to ask if anyone had seen Arsene’s interview with a guy called Samuel (?) in the Mail.

    It was interesting, and he confirmed what we had long known, that he twice turned down the coach job at Real Madrid, and also the England manager’s role — because he wanted to get Arsenal back to the top of the tree.

    He was not successful in that respect, and sadly his loyalty to the club eventually resulted in him getting a kick in the knackers.

    There was a lot more.

    I firmly believed some 5 years before the axe finally fell that he should have decided to move on, both for his own benefit and also for the club.

    Altho the club may have had even more problems. Who knows.

  11. RA says:

    Well, here’s a bit of news re the Dundalk Europa game;

    —– Dani Ceballos and Shkodran Mustafi both returned to to the pitch over the weekend, so they’re available for selection again now. Willian remains an injury doubt after missing Rapid Vienna and Leicester City, but he’s in full training and should make it back in time for Dundalk if called upon.

    Calum Chambers is also in full training, but we don’t know exactly when he’ll return to action. Recovering from an ACL injury, we know how long it can take to get fully match sharp again.

    Pablo Mari should be returning to full training very soon. The last update we had on October 24th was that he’d return “within the next 10 days”. As feared, Rob Holding will miss the next three weeks with his hamstring injury.

    So they’ll both probably miss the Dundalk match, but it shouldn’t be too long for Mari now.

    Gabriel Martinelli is back out on the grass playing with the ball again, but he’s still a way off a full return. Arsenal don’t expect him back until towards the end of the year.

    So for the Arsenal team news for Dundalk overall, that’s Martinelli, Mari, Holding, Luiz and Chambers almost certain to miss Sunday’s game, with Saka as a doubt and Willian still not fully confirmed back yet.

    So – how dya like them potaters? 🤪

  12. RA says:

    There was news earlier that Mustafi was offered a contract extension — but he rejected the offer’

    In fairness, altho he was always prone to an occasional defensive error, he was actually not as bad as some thought he was, especially when he attacked the ball in the opposite penalty area.

    It’s a bit of a bugger that we paid £35m for him, and because we fooked up the contract monitoring, he will leave next summer for sod all.

    Our transfer management is still not too good, is it?

  13. RA says:

    Talking about the Dundalk match, (well I was talking to myself) there is one little gift that I would prostrate myself for, and something that could benefit an Arsenal side without a creative player.

    Has anyone heard of Mauro Bandeira a 16 y.o. kid going on 17 y.o. from Portugal (soon to sign a professional contract, I understand) who has been given top ratings for his age group, as a creative attacking player much like Martinelli.

    He is also seen as a feisty tough tackling guy who is not averse to tackling back.

    My very valuable source is ……… the Portuguese gardener who looks after the garden of my friend’s house, who knows Mauro’s family, and says he thinks he is going to be a top player as he gets more experience.

    We need creativity — let him have a go at Dundalk.

    Problem solved. 🤪

  14. RA says:

    All this typing has worked up an appetite – so Kebabs it is – a lot of kebabs mind!😜

  15. RockyLives says:

    So now we’re getting scouting reports from Redders’ friend’s Portuguese gardener…

    That’s what I can a network!

  16. RockyLives says:

    And he/s off for a kebab…

    I’m expecting a full report on our new under-14 Moroccan wunderkind who has just been signed after being spotted kicking a gourd around in the local suk.

  17. GoonerB says:

    Thanks RA, excellent post and you echo many of my thoughts, particularly with the lack of use of some of our younger players. I have (in my own mind) put the game against Leicester both in a less negative perspective, but at the same time I have a couple of slight concerns that have started to take shape.

    The result against Leicester was against the general run of play and the stats were heavily in our favour in all the areas that mattered except the one that ultimately really matters….the end score.

    I saw a stat (that I can’t find anywhere now) about touches in the opposition box where we were significantly dominant. The stat for shots inside the box was 9-2 in our favour and the goalkeeper shots saved was 1 for us and 4 for them. All of this indicates a game we should not just have won but won with room to spare.

    I know some pundits, (with the gift of commenting after the game), like to portray it as a Rodgers tactical masterclass against our rookie manager but this is seriously annoying punditry nonsense.

    Arteta can’t help Laca missing a sitter and VAR chalking off a legitimate goal which would have seen us 2-0 up at half time. In fact such was our 1st half dominance, especially in terms of touches and shots inside the box, that 3-0 at half time would not have been undeserved.

    It only becomes declared as a Rodgers tactical masterclass because we didn’t capitalise and VAR failed again. Exactly the same game with VAR getting it right and us being even a smidgen more clinical and all of a sudden the pundits are harping on about how Leicester and Rodgers got it completely wrong….such is the fickle nature of todays pundit. It looks the easiest best paid job in the world.

    So with those kind of dominant stats what went wrong? In addition to the the VAR joke decision, and Laca’s sitter he missed, the other key factor was our tactical formation not being balanced enough to exploit the domination we had, at least in the first half. Here I unfortunately have to call out our young manager (for the first time really) as having got a couple of things badly wrong.

    I am still slightly unsure of our set-up on Sunday. Was it 3-4-3 or 4-3-3? Some reports have it as a 3-4-3 with Xhaka as a left sided centre back but others have it as a 4-3-3 with Xhaka as one of our midfield 3. The latter seems more true to me but maybe someone can shed some light on this. Perhaps a heat map of the midfield 3, particularly Xhaka, will shed light on it.

    Arteta has used the 3-4-3 since late last year and it served us well at the end of last year, but I think it is a system that should have been largely considered one of temporary necessity, and we should be looking to adopt the 4-3-3 moving forwards.

    We are seemingly lacking creativity and must apparently buy Aouer to solve all our problems (which I’m not against by the way) but I think we should be making better use of what we have and finding out how that shapes up before we go down the familiar path of all our problems being seemingly solved by buying this player or that.

    The 4-3-3 gains an extra midfielder over the 3-4-3 and critically that extra midfielder is the attacking (Ozil type) one that plays between the 2 (primarily) anchoring midfielders and the front 3. This is the player that looks to create for the front 3 and overlapping full-backs and also offer a goal threat as well.

    Playing Partey, Xhaka and Dani should have released Dani into the role but somehow they ended up all strung out as a deeper horizontal 3 too often rather than forming up in nice triangles to move the ball around and break their lines of defence.

    Dani was either instructed not to play the more attacking role, or maybe he is not as comfortable pushing further up. If it is the latter then keep him as one of our 4 options in the deeper 2 (Partey, Xhaka, Dani, Elneny). In reality the question is who partners Partey?

    That means we need another player to play in front of them. Personally I think Saka could shine there given a chance, but I also think it is probably Willians best position and we also have ESR coming back as well. That’s 3 good options to try in that position in the 4-3-3 formation.

    beyond this the other (and possibly more self harming) major problem, and the one I really don’t get was in playing Auba from the right and Saka from the left in the front 3. I have said this many times before but literally no top team operating a front 3 plays the right footer on the right and the left footer on the left.

    The angle for shooting on goal with the stronger foot is narrowed down compared to cutting in from the opposite flank, and it also removes that option of cutting inside and wrapping your foot around the ball starting it off outside the post with it curling back in…..far harder for the keeper to save. Henry always preferred to attack cutting in from the left when he could.

    Personally I think you increase our goal-scoring threat by some 30% if we have a lefty on the right and a righty on the left. If you look at the prolific wing forward types currently (and in the recent past) it tells you everything needed to know. Just ask yourself which side of the pitch all the following play from relative to their strongest foot; Salah, Mane, Sterling, Mahrez, Son, Bale, Rashford, Hazard, Messi, Robben, Ribbery, Gnabry e.t.c, e.t.c

    It seems utterly perplexing to me that Arteta went the other way around, and I have my first serious questions about his judgement. He is touted as being a brilliant tactician but it is almost like he is trying to be too clever at times. It felt like this with Willian as a false 9 against City as well.

    We can play Laca, Nketieh or Auba as the 9.

    We can play Auba, Nelson, Martinelli, or even possibly AMN on the left of the front 3.

    We can play pepe or Saka on the right of a front 3.

    We can play Saka, Willian, Smith Rowe, and possibly Dani as the ACM in the midfield 3.

    We can play Partey, Dani, Xhaka, Elneny as the 2 anchor players in the midfield 3.

    To me we have the players to be far more creative and carry a greater goal threat right now than we have been showing if we get them in their strongest positions.

    I am sure most of a certain age remember Claudio Ranierri “the tinkerman” in his stint at Chelsea; it failed. However, funnily enough when he got to Leicester with less options but with some good and dangerous players who he consistently played to their strengths, they won the league.

    Arteta remains the man for me and always has been for some time now, however I would like to see more basic pragmatism in playing players in their stronger positions and in a way that makes the team more balanced and stronger. I don’t want to be getting the square pegs in round holes out of room 101 again.

  18. Gööner In Exile says:

    RA, very astute point about Mustafi and the cock up, I guess we offered the extension to get some cash from selling him at end of season instead of walking for free. But he probably knows he is not in favour and therefore chose to sit it out and get a bigger pay day next summer with no transfer fee.

    There is a lot of work needs doing in both recruitment and extensions, with a bit more planning necessary.

    We shouldn’t be buying players over 28 for big fees. They have no potential resale and a limited pitch life. By the same token we shouldn’t be making huge gambles on youngsters if we have them at the club already.

    GoonerB, some very good points regarding the outcome and failure to take chances being our undoing and cause of concern, I guess the pessimist says if we can’t take every chance we need to create more. Think Ozil for Giroud, the big man was never clinical in a Vardy sense so it was up to Ozil and others to keep creating for him until he did find the net.

    I go back to youth though, Nketiah May have been forgiven for not putting his head on that chance, but then I don’t honestly believe he wouldn’t have done as he seems very accomplished in finishing.

  19. Gööner In Exile says:

    PS if you want an interview with Arsène from a fans perspective I’d heartily recommend the Tuesday Club Podcast last two episodes, Alan Davies doesn’t go down the traditional tropes of who we could have signed, when Arsène could have left etc. A far better interview than most I’ve seen and heard while Arsène promotes his book.

  20. RA says:

    Goof Morning, GB, 😄

    (Yesterday, Rocky introduced a super new word “Goof” to replace the boring ‘Good’ and as one of his acolytes I want to help it to get into the Oxford Dictionary.)

    Your 12:57 a.m. comment (You been out with that alcoholic camel against?) is a class act, with such a deep analysis, that maybe Rocky would like to use it as a Post, if you would not mind?

    I am in the middle of breakfast, so I will have to return to subject your comment (Post?) to forensic analysis of my own. [That will be fun!] 😊

  21. RA says:

    Goof Morning, GIE,

    You are spot on with the need to tighten up the Arsenal contract admin team (I would give the job to you, if I had the authority) and your other point regarding being careful with the salaries paid to people in their late 20s like we are supposed to be doing for the over 30s, is spot on, in theory — although Ozil and Auba have proved that as a club we are still very lax — both over 30 – both with huge salaries, and both struggling since they were agreed.

  22. Gööner In Exile says:

    I’ll reserve judgement on PEAs new contract, and Ozil is just unfortunate with the ownership at the time, Alexis was going and I think the hierarchy just thought they had to get a big name on a contract.

    Reports that Arteta wanted Aouar but was overruled by Edu and we got Partey instead. Hopefully not true and the club can put that to bed quickly.

  23. Gööner In Exile says:

    *ownership = ownership discontent

  24. RockyLives says:

    Morning all – great chat today.

    I hope no-one objects if I take Redders’ suggestion and post GoonerB’s comment as a new post?

    When it’s done, GiE and Redders – would you mind copying your comments into the new Post thread?

  25. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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