Real football is back at last and, from an Arsenal perspective, it returns with a fascinating fixture that could prove to be a barometer for the fortunes of two teams.
Last season Liverpool were truly outstanding champions, romping home as easily as Usain Bolt in a sprint race against John Moss, Phil Dowd and Steve Bruce.
This season, however, their title defence has been poor. So poor in fact that they’re only two places and four points above us in the league table – and you don’t need me to tell you what a disappointing campaign we’ve had.
So they visit the Emirates for an 8pm kick-off tonight on the back of six defeats in their last eight games, but with the international break having given them the opportunity for a rethink and reset.
As for us, we went into the break after a very strange game against West Ham: a game in which we played as badly as we have all season for the first 35 minutes, then played arguably our best footy of the season for the remaining hour.
Taking all this into account, this is a really tough fixture to call. If we are at our best you’d fancy us to claim all three points against a demoralised ‘Pool. On the other hand we know that their players are capable of way more than they have been showing in recent performances. If they choose tonight to get their mojo back we could be in for a bumpy ride.
A few days ago, in a Post about how we would do in our remaining nine fixtures, I put this game down as a draw. However, no result would surprise me in this one: it could equally be a comfortable Arsenal win or we could get thrashed or it could be a tight game decided by the odd goal.
Certainly at kick-off time I shall be steeped in the optimism that I always feel before any game.
If we can pick up from where we left off in our fightback against West Ham (with great attacking movement, incisive passing and dynamic finishing) we could get a glimpse of a truly competitive Arsenal side that will trouble the top four next season.
However, if we trip over own feet again with stupid mistakes or carelessness and lack of concentration then it will be further evidence that our character flaws are not going away any time soon.
Team selection is also tricky to predict after a two-week round of internationals and with most of our key players having flown to various parts of the globe.
The African players have put in the most miles, which may place a question mark over whether Pepe, Partey, Aubameyang and Elneny will be considered fit and rested enough to start.
Of the Europeans, Tierney played a lot of minutes to very good effect for Scotland and Odegaard played almost two and a half games for Norway (the knock he’d picked up in the first of those fixtures fortunately turned out to be minor). Xhaka also contributed significantly to Switzerland’s cause and was outstanding, by all accounts.
As far as I know, none of our South Americans travelled.
Liverpool play a high line in defence, so the temptation will be to put out a speedy forward line against them and that may well mean Aubameyang down the middle.
If that’s the case I would like to see Saka and Smith Rowe played at right and left attacking midfield respectively, but there are fitness question marks over both players (they were both withdrawn from the England international squads – senior and under 21 – during the break).
I’m going to go with the optimistic outlook that they’ll be fit. If Smith Rowe is not available then I would love to see Martinelli on the left, but Mikel Arteta will almost certainly start with Willian (unfortunately). Meanwhile if Saka is out it should be a no-brainer to put Pepe in.
Arguably the Europa League game against Slavia Prague on Thursday evening is a more important fixture for us, but we’re at home in that game and have five full days to recover and prepare so it should not influence selection for tonight.
Here’s my predicted line-up:
Cedric – Luiz – Gabriel – Tierney
Xhaka – Partey
Saka – Odegaard – Smith Rowe
Anyway, the main thing is that real football is back and life can return to being lived around the Arsenal fixture calendar.
After two weeks of uninteresting international games I feel like a man who was lost in the Sahara and has just been offered a glass of water. Let’s hope it tastes sweet at 10pm tonight.
Some injury updates: apparently Luiz is out (injured in training) and Xhaka was unwell yesterday.
I would imagine Holding is the most likely replacement for Luiz (although he seems to have been out of favour for a while), while I would like to see Elneny in if Xhaka can’t play.
Hiya Rocky. Thanks for your efforts.
Hope Cedric is the right back, although Chambers wouldnt let us down.
Dont think he will select Saka given how long out. Hate the thought of Willian and Pepe playing but think they will. Laca deserves a place over Aubang ( even with a new haircut).
Must win for Liverpool, and must start fast from us. Hard to split. COYG.
Great Post, Rocket,
As for Xhaka’s illness, I had a ‘flash news item’ on my ‘Phone which said 4 Arsenal players are down and doubtful with unnamed illness.
Wouldn’t be Arsenal not to end without a present from international football/and or and travel problems. 😳
No flashing now!
Interesting Redders. Wonder if the dreaded Covid has hit the squad.
T Tuchal not quite unbeaten now!
AMN is playing. Good for him.
Sorry Rocky – didn’t manage a post this week. I will write the post-match and post it tomorrow though.
I am not sure about the line-up but I would like to see Martinelli start today so why not play a 433 with:
Leno – Cedric, Holding, Gabs, Tierney – Ode, Partey, ESR – Saka, Laca, Martinelli
I am the well known Traitorous Dog, notorious for flushing, hither and thither, here a little flush, there a little flush but I draw the line at parping – that is to say I drew the parping line in the sand until I realised that happily parping drew a tangential line in the sand that pointed directly at me as the persona grata.
Damnit to murgotroyd – the overlap of US English and UK English can make no sense, on occasion.
An English ‘blush’ becomes an American ‘flush’ and an English ‘flash’ also gravitates into an American ‘flush’ for no good reason other than one often blushes at flushes, when one decidedly meant flashes.
I shall only type in German in future.
You say tom-ay-to, I say tom-ah-to.
Flushing, flashing, parping, blushing…you are in big trouble RA.
Sprechen sie Deutsch?
You probably need to burp Rocky — that will clear your adenoids and hey presto you will be freed to burble “tom-orrow – tom-orrow’ RC will drop one tom-orrow”.
If you have any problems, I’m sure Sue will tuck you over her sh-oulder.
Jawohl, Gruppen Fuhrer LBG, I ken spik Double Deutshe !!
F u ev n e worden zat needs elp, Rocken ken burble 4 U.
Yayyyyyy real football is back.
Who knows which Arsenal will turn up but the one that finished against West Ham would be nice.
I do not know why PSG got rid of Tuchel to get Pochetinno…If they got Allegri, I would have made some sense of it but Pochetinno is not a great coach. At best, he is very good…
PSG cannot win anything with a coach that never won anything – it is that simple…
And if we want a LWB or LM, let us just go for Kostic from Frankfurt. The guy is just phenomenal – what an engine and great delivery. He would be great to provide cover for Tierney or to play further up the pitch.
Once again this is the 2nd most important game over the next 5 days, even though its Liverpool, so any key player that is slightly in the red zone or not quite certain on fitness should be rested or on the bench.
In many ways I feel our position in the EPL renders those games kind of freebies at the moment where we could try something different out. I must admit to wanting us to try playing with 1 DM and a more attacking 4 behind the number 9.
Dont expect it to happen but I would love to see us set up that way today.
Chambers – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney
Partey – Ceballos
Pepe – Odegaard – Auba
Not happy about Ceballos but hopefully he won’t do his usual kamikaze act tonight.
COYG.. let’s do it for Rocky and Claude
Feel more sorry for BOdegaard with only Laca to play off. Pepe and Aubang need to work off the ball into space for him.
Evening all, I have no idea what to expect from tonight’s game … all I know is Auba better have a blinder to justify that hairstyle 😅
I am guessing that Ceballos is there to work with Odegaard but that leaves Partey to do all the shielding.
Arteta has gone from GG defensive teams at the beginning of the season to the out and out attack of Wenger.
So, what are Aubang and Pepe offering on the few occasions we go forward.
Martinelli should be on this pitch, not Willian, Martinelli!
Please, please Dani take one or max two touches and PASS.
More suicidal decision making by Leno in terms of playing out from the back 😡
This is not if but when……………..
Ceballos is becoming much worse as the season goes on.
Gosh this is hard to watch.
Just seen on Twitter that some guy walked to the ground this evening imagining that we were going to be there. Such a nice thing to do 😁
Too many loose passes.
It makes you appreciate Luiz and Xhaka who play a big part in giving us some control coming out from the back.
Gabriel is a poor passer.
Ceballos needs too much time – my heart’s in my mouth every time he has the ball.
Pepe has done virtually nothing.
Auba adopting a Gervinho hairstyle was a bad omen.
I lost count of the 50/50s we lost through not being strong enough.
BUT…. it’s only 0-0.
This is a test of how good a manager MA is. He has half time to work out a game plan for the second half.
Oh well, that was poor, what can Mikel do to change things at half time? We really miss Saka and Ode has no one to play off.
Great half for Saka and ESR!
I would hook Ceballos and put Elneny on.
Take Laca off and put Auba up the middle with Martinelli on the left.
I could even see a case for Willian who can at least hold the ball and pass well, but he’s also so physically feeble that he would probably just get bundled off the ball every time he got it.
Going the other way, not horrible considering all the changes.
Dani giving the ball away to often and slow, Pepe not up for challenges on the ground, Auba a passenger.
Hope Tierney is ok, that was not a good looking foul by milner.
What was up with foul on Laca, and we were down to 10 men and no yellow card.
So, still in this for all the possession that pool has had.
Very tight on the defensive end which is not a bad thing all things considered.
Do not know what Mikel can to to compliment Ode.
Thinking a draw of nick a goal would be a positive to start after the break.
Upside …… haven’t had to groan at Partey sending one into row Z 🤣
Maybe he’ll score one today 🤞
“control coming out from the back” depends to a large extent on the movement into space from those forward of the ball. Dani is demanding/the outlet but does not think or move fast enough to give himself a chance to play “dynamic” passes. And who to? Look at the front three’s average positions, and apart from right at the end, that was their position for 45 mins.
Hi Peaches, good to see you — not good you are suffering thru the first half — but we are all suffering together. 🙄
I am going to be critical of the team now — hopefully they will respond and prove me wrong, and just don’t lie down and give up.
Does anyone here think there has been any real improvement at Arsenal since the start of the season?
Nah, it’s going to be row Z Groaaaaaaaaaaan.
Tierney is gonna be out for at least 3 weeks I think…pbbly kneecap tendon 😦
Poor first half – Ceba was a disaster, Odegaard a ghost, Auba absent and Pepe ineffective. Chambers, Gabs and Partey did fine.
We really need to hook Ceballos off the pitch … he’s not working with Partey, I agree Elneny would be a better choice. We need someone to put pressure on them on the odd occasion when we have the ball around their box = Martinelli
Hi Redders, hope you’re well. I think it’s the lack of consistency that bothers me the most, we have seen some very nice football and some absolute dross. Sometimes the good looks like it’s part of a plan and then other times it just all falls apart.
Who knows why?????
Auba has been infuriating and I just don’t understand Pepe
When you spoke to Arteta Rasp did he say he was going to go with the Martinelli idea as well or just the Elneny / Ceballos swap?
😂LB … yes, he said he was going to leave it to the 70 minute mark and couldn’t decide whether to sub him for Pepe or Auba …
Hmmmm …. maybe he should bring him on now for Auba
Why did I just feel jota would score within 5 minutes…..
Well, either push forward to score or why bother.
Can’t say it wasn’t coming.
Time for Martinelli.
Poor from Gabriel.
Can we just give them the 3 points avoid the embarrassing thrashing and move onto Thursday?
Disappointing from Cedric, Gabs and Holding but was a cross from ATA
And now Salah scored 😦
Does Leno save anything?
Typical officiated game against AFC.
Foot stomping, knee clattering, and elbow mashing.
AFC are bleeding players and the accumulation of these type of fouls never work for us..
Close shop this game is done and dusted.
Only if he’s outside his area.
And anyone who thinks Leno is on Emi’s level this season is mad….
I’ve just done a count up and there are 15 of them on the pitch and only 7 of us.
I feel that psychologically went into this game thinking we were playing the Liverpool of last season, not the one that’s lost 6 of their last 8.
We’ve given them way too much respect. If we’d gone at them from the beginning, with their morale questionable, this might have looked like a very different game.
Mind you, with the front three and MF we’ve got maybe it was never on the cards that we’d be able to take the the game to them.
And still Aubang and Pepe are on the pitch.
Why is it that we can all see it and Arteta can’t?
Immediately Martinelli actually puts their defenders under pressure
Well done Leno … priceless …
Just embarrassing now.
Our defenders turned their backs on Leno praying he wouldn’t play them into trouble and as soon as one did look, Leno gave him a suicide pass
I like Gabriel’s defending but if we’re going to continue to play out from the back he’s just not good enough.
I’m afraid to say there’s a question mark over his position in this team.
He didn’t want the ball Rocky … there is no confidence in the keeper from the back 4.
” –I’ve just done a count up and there are 15 of them on the pitch and only 7 of us.”
If only that were true — count again and you will see that they have only needed 7 players in action — we have eleven, and our 11 are determined, when we have the ball, to pass every ball to one of ‘Pool’s players.
I know we have injuries and illness, apparently, but there is no excuses for that dreadful, gutless and embarrassing performance.
Some of us have complained about our lack of pace — just look at the ‘Pool forwards and there is no argument.
Some of us have said we have too many ‘weedy’ players — look at the number of times our players have had the ball taken off them — ‘weedy’ — that is a polite word for it.
Some of us do not rate our GK — does he ever catch crosses? No, he does not – it’s all punching the ball out – straight to the opposition.
Being beaten by a better a team is understandable — but when the balance is caused by too many poor players — they have to go.
Some of us are beginning to doubt that Arteta has the experience or the ability to improve this team.
We are right to doubt him — sorry he is no better, and perhaps worse, than Emery was — the jury is out, and I for one would not be unhappy if he is let go — I (we) have had too many years watching rubbish like this.
Peaches is right — there have been some green shoots showing occasionally with some good football from Arsenal — but it is one step forward and two back.
Simply not good enough — we are joint 9th in the Premier League — and still slipping — again.
Hi Redders, I’m not ready to write Mikel off yet. There is something deeply ingrained in our DNA that has been there through the last 4 managers (if you include Freddie) …. I understand what Mikel is trying to do. He just took full responsibility in his interview, but I can see he’s furious with the players. Auba is a problem, he’s not a leader any more.
Match Report 1
First half : Organised, but in no way the most talented, Liverpool defence, behind organised, but in no way the most talented Liverpool midfield, challenge embarrassing Arsenal team. Three talented Liverpool forwards contrive not to score.
Second half : Little change until an extra Liverpool forward decides that the now chaotic embarrassment in front of him really deserves the ball in the back of their net.
Gary Neville said two accurate things on commentary. “Today we were back to the worst “flaky” Arsenal of the recent past”.And if Mikel does not know what he needs to do in the Summer, he will never know.
My worry is he doesnt seem to know what to do now!
Hi Rasper, @10:29pm
I am not surprised with your comment — you are always sensible and prepared to give managers a chance to come to grips with disappointing results.
It hit me last night that it is many years since we played wonderful football and when we were a force in the Premier League, and it is difficult to see when things are going to improve.
Of course we lost occasional games even in the Invincibles era, but I never feared any opposition then like I do now.
Frankly, I was just waiting to see how many we were going to lose by to an average ‘Pool who were leagues better than us last night.
I am not happy to accept that we are going to stay a mid-table team for the foreseeable future.