I am fairly confident we will pick up a red card during tomorrow’s game against in-form Manchester City.
It could be a spectacular straight red as David Luiz performs a scissors kick around Gundogan’s neck in the six yard box, or a low-key second yellow for Granit Xhaka, twice caught out in midfield and deliberately pulling back his opponent to make up for his lack of speed. Or some other catastrophic blunder.
Sorry to start with such a negative prediction, but ironically I reached it by considering our chances against the champions-to-be and surprising myself be not feeling completely daunted.
Yes, they’re unbeaten since November 19th and, yes, they have won 14 of their last 16 in the league (the other two were draws) and, yes, their goal difference is a full 15 – FIFTEEN! – ahead of the second placed team and, yes, they’re playing beautiful football but… we have Kieran Tierney!
Seriously though, I started to think through the sort of attacking players we can now put out – the likes of Saka, Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang, Martinelli, Pepe and I realised that tomorrow’s game is not automatically a write-off, even though most supporters seem to think so.
We can cause them problems. We have players who can make pretty patterns and create openings and I fully expect us to score.
But then I pondered the problems they will pose us. Apart from the general high level of quality and technical ability in their squad, it’s the speed and skill of their attacking line-up that has proved so deadly.
And that lethal strike force will probably be up against the following back line: Bellerin – Luiz – Gabriel – Tierney. Obviously three of those were starters on Thursday night and Tierney got about half an hour as a sub, but I suspect that Mikel Arteta will send them out again against the pale blue Mancs.
It’s not a great leap from thinking “Man City’s attackers play a lightning fast, one-touch, pass-and-move game” to thinking “David Luiz… Granit Xhaka… oh dear.”
If Holding starts instead of Luiz, the problem remains the same. As the City players try to weave round us into the box it will be all too easy for Luiz, or Holding, or a back-tracking Xhaka to stick out a boot and bring them down. With VAR there’s no escape, particularly as the system seems to have it in for Arsenal.
Gabriel is a much faster defender but he, too, has shown the capacity for a sudden misjudgement leading to expulsion. And Hector Bellerin has a habit of getting caught out of position and having to chase back to make amends, sometimes feeling forced to commit a foul.
Playing City with 11 men will be hard enough. With 10 men it will be almost impossible.
Am I too pessimistic? Or have I identified a fundamental weakness in our squad – something I have previously referred to as a “self destructiveness gene” in our DNA? Nine red cards so far under El Patron and counting. Will it be 10 by tomorrow evening?
A conundrum of a Post in the last stages, Rocky, and I can answer your questions from my perspective, which as you will already be aware is biased against certain players in the defense.
Am I being too pessimistic?
The answer must be a resounding “NO” — City are leagues better than the current Gooners team.
Have I identified a fundamental weakness in our squad?
There can be no other response than “YES” — some of us have bemoaned the sluggish pace and temperament of Xhaka, which often leads to fouls awarded against him; or the failing pace and positioning of Belli; and the irascible attitude and occasional stupidity of Luiz.
I think Gabriel gets a pass because his occasional lapses are a result of coming to terms with the Premier League, which are more than compensated by his arial ability, pace and determination.
The other defensive protege Tierney is fine.
I am still not sure about Leno — a great shop-stopper, but ……..
arial = aerial
I was starting to feel that I need to change my deodorant.
Hard to argue with anything you say. Except that the optimist in me thinks certain players can play better if we get some momentum and positivity going.
Xhaka is a case in point. Recently he has been very good (although you always feel there’s a horrendous mistake in his repertoire as he showed against Benfica with that bonkers ball across our own penalty area).
I suppose I am – more in hope than expectation – working on the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats.
That is a good aphorism — ‘a rising tide
sinkslifts the boats. 😷
All of our players can rise to the occasion, as you say, when the mood takes them, but a number of them seem determined to randomly head for the wrecking sandbanks.
Still, I am inclined to lean towards your optimism, and blame you, if we lose!! 😛
[Your Posts, and RC’s, too, deserve far more than a few responses]
Agree absolutely with RA’s last sentence, and wish to wholeheartedly thank you and RC for all your efforts re posts.
The difficulty I have this season with commenting is an unfortunate belief that we still have too many poor quality players in the squad, together with Mikel’s repeated decision to select them!! This makes for negative conclusions on my part, which few want to hear. I am not in the jigsol camp, but feel Mikel needs to be even more courageous.
I am grateful that those of us who called for yoof were partially listened too, but dont believe the “experienced” players Mikel selects are either good enough or the role models the yoof should follow. Xhaka, Luiz, Bellerin and, of course, Willian, are good examples for the reasons (and several others) you have quoted.
We have, of course, been unlucky with some vital injuries. I hoped before Christmas that Holding, Mari and Gabriel ( supplemented by Chambers, and eventually Medley and Mavrapanos) would be our centre backs for the foreseeable future. Tierney is a future star and captain in my eyes, and I believe we need a right back that can defend first and foremost with an attacking bent only if available.
Partey has amazed all Spain by being injury prone, but surely not for long, when we will hopefully truely benefit. And that leaves our attacking options.
Surely we believe Saka, Smith-Rowe, Martinelli are absolutely the positive future. BOdeguard looks like a keeper if we can, and Aubameyang and Lacazette would do for this season. I believe we must keep Balogun as well and I have always been content with Elneny with a fit Partey ( not Xhaka or Dani).
So my assessment of the squad is, we still need to clear out much, and just to prove I am an idiot, we will probably beat Manshitty tomorrow. Sorry for length of comment.
It is really good that youth is coming to the fore.
I remember two or three years ago Redders banging on about some kid called Emile Something Something.
I remember thinking “yeah yeah, they all look great until they try to play at the top level.”
But lo and behold, he could be the real deal.
Saka is already one of the most exciting players in European football… and we haven’t seen Martinelli get into his stride yet.
Length of comment is fine, LBG, as is the content.
I read in NewsNow a couple of days ago (?) that Arsenal were supposedly going to clear out more of the current roster during the summer transfer window.
The report said it was an article in the Sun, but others had their say too, so are they any more, or less, reliable than the other papers would be my question?
Anyhoo – the list of outgoings, as far as I remember, included Lacazette, Pepe, Elneny – a bunch of the youth team, including Balogun who wants to go, and some of those currently out on loan, as well as some whose contracts are running down, such as Luiz, Runarsson, Reiss Nelson, Nketiah, Torreira, Guendozi, Willock, AMN, Mavropanos, Saliba, and AMN.
If there is any truth in that we will be denuded unless the coffers are raided too.
Before I am abused for typing that, I that just do not think any club would have such a huge clear out in one window.
I would not object to many of the above going (and there are others, Bellerin, Xhaka, Willian, Auba (yes, really) who I would add to the list — subject to getting suitable replacements.
Thanks. Interested in your views on current “out on loan”. I dont believe Guendouzi or Torreira will return, but hope we were not wrong about Saliba.
Ashamed I didnt mention Pepe, but I am afraid it probably reflects an underlying belief that we made a big mistake. Nelson is still an enigma and certainly cant displace the current attackers fulltime.
Just to complete the picture, Bola has returned from loan, and, like Rasp, I believe Azeez is a potential talent……and Everton have just scored.😁
Rocky, and LBG,
Stars of the future:
Tolaji Bola, Zak Swanson, Zech Medley, Dan Ballard
Midfield: Azeez (first mentioned by moi), Matt Smith and Ben Cottrell
John Jules, Folarin Balogun and Trae Coyle
(LBG) I did not know, Bola had returned from his loan deal — do you know why?
Not sure what is happening with Saliba.
I think he is a talent and would like to see him at the Ems.
Unfortunately, he made some caustic comments about Arsenal not helping him with his family problems or his injury, and was quite rude about Mikel ignoring him.
Hope that was exaggerated by the papers, and maybe it will all blow over.
I agree Guen and Torreira will not return — they were both OK-ish for me, but the manager has made similar comments about them that he did about Özil — so the kiss of death for them.
Called back at Christmas. I believed that Medley was called back at the same time, but Arsenal.com seems to refute this.
I have of course also forgotten Willock and A M-N on loan. Not sure either are quite good enough. What is certain, if we sell a few we could have some good money for “quality” replacements. Mbappe, perhaps!🤣
RA.. you forgot Mark McGuinness 😁
Thanks Rocky for being a trooper these days. I have another few weeks of very hectic work…I ll try my best to support. Another wonderful post, thank you.
I am also amazed at the Nr. of reds gotten and PKs conceded since Arteta took over…
I think we will finish the game with 11 players on the field but no points to show for it…City is just hard to beat these days.
In terms of our future squad, I think that some players are clearly playing for their career/status with us this season:
– Bellerin, Chambers, Luiz
– El Neny, Ceba, Odegaard
– Willian, Laca, Nketiah, RN, Pepe (?)
I think Chambers will be gone and I believe that Luiz will somehow stay another year to be part of a rotation with Mari, Gabri, Holding, Saliba (I hope he will come back despite his comments).
In midfield, I still see Ceba as a better player than Odegaard. I think Ceba has the cutting pass that Odegaard does not have. So let us see who stays with us. It could be neither of them but I think both of them want to be part of our team next year.
Up front, I m just surprised at seeing Laca being dropped and this could be the end of his tenure with us. Same with Nketiah. I am a little more reserved for RN. As for Willian, he is an Arteta signing and I think they will try to make it work and for Pepe, it will depend how he fares until the end of the season. Now, I am hoping that Arteta and Edu will sign Balogun and tell him they will bank on him rather than Laca and Nketiah but that he is not an automatic starters.
For our loanees, I think Guen and Torreira are goners. As for Willock, I also think he is done at AFC. And for AMN, I think the club will want to keep him but as a squad player but he may reject that and decide to leave…let us see
Leno – RECRUIT, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney – Partey, Xhaka – Saka, ESR, Pepe – Auba
Ryan – Bellerin, Luiz, Mari, Cedric – AMN, Ceballos – Willian, RECRUIT, Martinelli – Balogun
I think we will be in for at least 3 players in the summer, including a Right-Back, a Central Midfielder, A FW (Giroud style) and maybe a wing player.
FAR TOO PESSIMISTIC and sadly myopic
Perhaps it is better to be a pleased pessimist than a disappointed optimist.
Yes, let’s sell everyone who came before the master tactician came and buy more of his picked players, for as much money as we can spend.
More great ones like Willian.
Surely, is it not clear that Wenger did not know best, but the master tactician definitely does.
Why, with his great coaching and tactical nous, we may manage to have a much as 4 shots on target per game.
Now, that would really be an achievement.
Trust as a ” pleased pessimist” you occasionally get some joy out of life!
Like all football managers, Wenger had at least as many complete incompetents in his list of purchases, and there were far too many in the last five years. IMO.