Arsenal vs Palace, the battle of two former AFC captains…

October 15, 2021

On one side, Palace will be coached by P.Vieira – one of our legendary and most decorated captains. Since he left the club, we are still search for the “New Vieira” not only for his amazing football skillset but also for his personality on the pitch and as a captain. If you were to ask to make an ultimate AFC starting XI, there is 99% chance that it will include Vieira…His coaching career has not hit the same heights yet but he has a definite game plan, which is very much based on fast transition so his teams do not hesitate to attack from the wings with fast players or to play long balls to an anchor point who can hold up the play and then link with his teammates. Clearly, C. Palace is a team with good players all over the pitch but not great players. They re playing more consistently and are only 3 points behind us…Guaita, Guehi, Schlupp, Kouyate, Zaha, Edouard are the ones to watch for sure but Ayew and Benteke have also bothered us in the past…

On our side, Arteta will hope to see a resilient, solid and accomplished display from his team. It seems that he has found his defensive set up. There are still some question marks around his team’s ability to create and score goals but with ESR’s recent outings, there is an overall sense of optimism. I think our team will also be hard to beat but it will depend largely on our wings players (full backs and wingers) and central defenders. If they are disciplined enough, I think we can sail through another home victory. So despite not being our most decorated captain ever, Arteta has a better squad at his disposal and seems to improve his tactical nous and he may well get one over Vieira on Monday. COYG

Predicted line-up for AFC:

Ramsdale – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, Lokonga – Saka, Ode, ESR, Auba

Preferred line-up:

Ramsdale – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, AMN – Saka, ESR, Pepe (or Martinelli) – Laca

I think that ESR would be able to control the game so there would not be a need for Ode and I think that Pepe or Martinelly could hurt Palace’s defense with their pace while Laca could force them into making mistakes.

Prediction: 2-1 for AFC.

Goals from ESR and Saka for us and Edouard for CP if we play in my preferred line-up

Goals from ESR and Tierney for us and Edouard for CB if we play in Arteta’s preferred line-up

COYG!


What does AFC future look like for Saliba at this stage?

October 13, 2021

For a third successive season since joining us, Saliba is on loan. This time in Marseilles. He has become an automatic starter there and his displays get a lot of attention and appreciation. He is now also the captain of the U23 French team. In particular, people are praising his anticipation skills and his ability to play out from the back. He could be more commanding especially in the air and also physically but overall, he is in a good space now.

While his development is taking a positive turn, Ben White and Gabriel are starting to forge an interesting partnership. Both of them are older than Sailba but they are still very young especially for central defenders. They are also more accustomed to the EPL jouts.

Knowing that the squad also includes Holding, Mari and Chambers, it seems that Saliba would have to settle for a fight for his place in the starting XI. Given his age and talent, shall we just extend him at the end of the season and then ship out one out of Holding and Mari to tell Saliba that he can be a squad player. Or do we loan him out again but this time in the EPL? Or we do sell him if we can recoup our initial investment.

Who knows what the future holds for Saliba? but for sure he is really establishing himself in the top 15 of CBs in the French League, a league where there are some quality CBs like Marquinhos, Botman, Dante…


From Arsenal misfit to Marseilles’ fans’ favourite – The curious Journey of Mr. Guendouzi

October 12, 2021
Matteo Guendouzi comme un poisson dans l'eau à Marseille

A few years back, Guendouzi had us raving about his heart on the pitch and his courage on the ball. He played a lot, definitely beyond his years but his fiery persona fueld by his impetuous youth on and off the pitch led to some hairy moments, including the one with Maupay that sealed his fate with Arteta and ultimately with AFC.

From then on, he was moved to Berlin where he had a decent season and is now loaned to Marseille where he will be signing in January on a permanent deal as his contract with us would come to an end in June 2022.

In Marseilles, Guendouzi found a club, a coach, a team and a fans that love fiery characters and where he can be a key clog in the midfield. He had a very bright start of the season even scoring a goal and earned selections at youth and senior level with the French squad. But following his bright start, he is also now showing some signs of frustration and bad habits where he thinks he can do everything in midfield. Sampaoli is clearly trying to help him play better and more effectively but at 22, Guendouzi is still learning.

Guendouzi was raised in PSG academy before joining Lorent and then Arsenal and he recently stated that Marseilles is the most historic and popular club in France and that his past with PSG was just due to him being born near PSG…

So in any case, seems he has finally found a club that accept him with his flaws and his qualities.

Maybe in 2-3 years, AFC will regret letting him go but for now, it is best for everyone to see him flourish in Marseilles and who knows what the future holds?

Bonne chance Matteo but Allez Paris! Marseilles est tragique!

So how do you feel about Guendouzi?


Newcastle mode-on: If you could buy any midfielder to play next to Partey in our 4231 system, who would it be?

October 11, 2021

Imagine that all of a sudden, Kroenke decides to finally massively invest in our club or that he decides to sell to a mega-consortium with unlimited funds…Edu and Arteta are given a blank check for one player and only for a player that can play in the midfield next to Partey, money is not an issue but they can only pick one player…

In this fictional scenario, who would you like Edu-Arteta to pick?

  1. Ngolo Kante
  2. P. Pogba
  3. J. Kimmich
  4. L. Goretzka
  5. W. Ndidi
  6. K. Philipps
  7. D. Rice
  8. Rodri
  9. Fabinho
  10. Jorginho
  11. Verratti
  12. Casemiro
  13. Modric
  14. Busquets
  15. Gavi
  16. Foden

There are so many options…so would you pick?

Ramsdale – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, ? – Saka, Ode, ESR – Auba

It is a very tough choice but I d hesitate between Pogba, Kimmich and Kante. Pogba is playing at a very high level this season, Kimmich and Kante are so hard working and reliable…But ultimately, I think I d go for Kante because of his work ethics and humble disposition…


The Sands of Tyne: Will Saudi Megabucks Push Arsenal Further Down the Pecking Order?

October 7, 2021

Sheikh Wey Aye Mon

News has emerged that the sale of Newcastle United to a Saudi consortium is about to be completed.

Barcode fans will be delighted to see the back of Mike Ashley and are already licking their lips at the prospect of the spending spree to come.

But for the rest of the Premier League it’s not such welcome news.

We have seen how multi-billionaire owners have turned Manchester City and Chelsea from also-rans into being among the most successful clubs in the world. Now it looks as if Newcastle are going to gatecrash the party.

It will mean the current ‘big four’ made up of the two Manc clubs, the Chavs and the Scousers will soon become a big five. Probably not overnight, but if the Saudis take the same approach as Man City’s owners it will be only a matter of time.

And for the second tier of Premier League clubs (in which, somewhat optimistically, I am including our own beloved boys in red and white) it presages an even bigger struggle to get anywhere near the Champions League places and the huge financial rewards that accompany them.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter: we’re hardly challenging for top honours at the moment as it is, even without a fifth ‘big beast’ in the pack. Perhaps we should just accept our status as a middling EPL team.

But optimism is an essential part of the make-up of any football fan and I have been clutching at the thin straws of improvement we have been witnessing to think we might get into the top six this year, leading to a proper tilt at the CL places the following season.

A rich team on the Tyne makes that all a bit harder.

One unlikely (but not inconceivable) effect of a new financially doped team in the EPL could be to make the Kroenkes re-think their position.

Do they open the wallet and allow us to compete with the other big spenders?

Do they even think that UK “soccer” is bonkers and consider selling to the ever-eager Daniel Eck?

For what it’s worth I think the Saudis have made a smart decision picking Newcastle. They’re a club with a passionate supporter base who turn up in droves whether the team is winning or losing. If they were ever to win the title or the Champions League the whole north east would party for weeks.

Anyway, what do you think: is this news good, bad or irrelevant for Arsenal?

RockyLives


Arsenal Fans at War (Again)

October 6, 2021
Not so civil war?

There’s a strange thing with Arsenal fans historically: they like to have a fight with each other.

The biggest punch up in recent years was the Wenger debate. The IAWT (In Arsene We Trust) v WOB (Wenger Out Brigade) rumbled on for around five years before Arsene vacated the top job. Fans were going at each other in the stadium. Planes flew with banners. ‘Wenger Out’ became a Meme around the world. I still don’t think this has been put to bed as many fans want revenge over their hero being dumped.

The Ozil debate hung around like a bad smell for a long time. Some Arsenal fans thought he was the second coming. Other thought he was a poor man’s Paul Merson. Never the twain shall meet. The confrontation wasn’t as violent as the Wenger version, but it manifested itself online on the Arsenal blogs and social media. 

Which is where the latest battle is being fought. The Arsenal Blogs appear to be losing out to other forms of social media, in particular the Fan TV model. Most Arsenal fans have probably viewed Arsenal Fan TV. The channel has generated vast numbers of views and has built up a nice little business for the owner and regular contributors.

Arsenal Fan TV generates most interest on the back of poor Arsenal performances. Coupled with outspoken views from the regulars it’s a combustible mix, which has polarised the Arsenal fan base. Some love the highly emotive style and unusual characters. Others can’t stand them and feel the channel is making a mockery of the Arsenal support.

This is starting to get ugly. A few years ago Arsenal’s ‘Firm’ decided to disrupt filming after a home game. Lately the away supporters have been trying to intimidate Arsenal Fan TV to stop filming at Arsenal away games. ‘Arsenal Fan TV get out of our Club’ has become a regular chant. One of the contributors has accused these fans of racism towards Arsenal Fan TV. Other Arsenal fans accuse the channel of using hate speech towards players and the manager. 

It seems that social media, and particularly the Fan TV model, has poured petrol on the flames of Arsenal fans’ opinions. Where it used to be a select few journalists that could broadcast their opinions, now somebody willing to make a crazed minute long video can generate millions of views. There is also an element of jealousy at the success of the Fan TV format. Some Arsenal fans probably think they deserve the notoriety and money that has flowed that way.

There is trouble brewing. I expect there will be a punch up over the next few months played out live on YouTube. Then the Arsenal fans will move on to the next thing that is annoying them…

For the record, my views:

– Wenger Out – He should have left after the 2017 Cup Final victory.
– Ozil – A poor man’s Paul Merson.
– Arsenal Fan TV – Not my cup of tea, but don’t watch if it offends you.

And if you don’t agree with my views, I’ll meet you before the next match for a game of Shove Ha’Penny to settle it!

Pete the Thirst


The back 4 +1 = our biggest improvement so far?

October 5, 2021
AfcVIP⁴⁹ #KroenkeOut on Twitter: "Aaron Ramsdale 23 Takehiru Tomiyasu 22  Ben White 23 Gabriel Magalhaes 23 Kieran Tierney 24 First clean sheet  together of many for this defense!… https://t.co/D3x7bbGsir"

Arteta has opted to play in a 4231 set up again this season.

Since he has arrived, he has acquired with Edu a lot of defensive-minded players:

  • Ramsdale, Runaarsson
  • Tomy, Cedric, White, Gabriel, Mari, Nuno

So that is 2 GKs and 3 Full-backs and 3 CBs…

This year he is fielding all his latest recruits plus our most reliable defender in the last 2 years when fit (Tierney) in the starting defensive unit:

Ramsdale – Tomy, White, Gabriel, Tierney –

Since the start of the season, this unit has conceded one goal in 4 games and also kept 3 clean sheets…

Arteta, and many managers, believe that to have a solid team, the defensive unit has to be strong. Of course, the team defends as a unit but still, the back 4 and the goalkeeper have a big role to play in protecting our goal so do you believe that we finally have our much sought after solid/robust/no-non sense defensive? Are we finally going to relax when opponents attack knowing that we will not have a defensive lapse or sill mistake is that defensive unit going to emulate its glorious predecessors such as:

Lehmann – Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole – OR

– Seaman – Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn –

So what is your take? Do they have what it takes to be a “Famous Back 4”.

And does Ramsdale have what it takes to be our new Seaman/Lehmann?


A Grinder in Brighton but Arsenal Pinch a Point (Report & Ratings)

October 3, 2021
White needed to be on top form against his old club

As predicted in yesterday’s pre-match, our away day trip to the seaside turned out to be tough going.

Brighton are flying high and full of confidence and they dominated proceedings yesterday. On the balance of play they probably deserved all three points, but that’s not how it works.

Resilient defending from Arsenal plus wastefulness on the part of Brighton’s attackers saw us heading back to London with a point in the bag and our recent unbeaten run continuing.

Arteta made only one change from the team that ripped the Spuds apart last weekend – Lokonga coming in for the injured Xhaka – and it may well have been a significant alteration.

Even so, we started very brightly, moving the ball quickly and running at the Seagulls with determination. Saka wriggled through a couple of challenges and into the home side’s box, Smith-Rowe was on the front foot and it felt as if we were carrying straight on from the North London Derby win.

That lasted about 10 minutes.

Then Brighton seized control of the game and never really let it go again. Their high pressing game forced us to mostly kick long and (as Ramsdale admitted in a post-match interview) when we did go long their giant centre backs gobbled up everything that wasn’t straight to our players’ feet (which was most of the clearances).

In possession Brighton looked like a team playing with the confidence that comes from knowing a win will take them to second in the table and they created numerous chances.

However, it is important to point out that these were mostly half chances, not open-goal misses. Our two centre halves had to work their socks off and both did really well.

Ben White was returning to the club he’d left in the summer and, as a result, was on the receiving end of some half-hearted booing from the home fans. I though he seemed nervous for the first 20 minutes but then settled down and was outstanding, as was his partner Gabriel.

New recruit Tomayisu, after a flying start to his Arsenal career, had a bumpier ride in this game and at left back Tierney seemed a little subdued again. Even so, both full backs worked hard for the full 90 minutes.

In central midfield Partey put in a shift and Lokonga looked comfortable whenever he was on the ball, but that particular pairing never managed to take control of the centre of the park for any protracted period. It made me wonder whether we were missing the solid platform that Xhaka gives us. For all his faults, the Swiss offers composure on the ball (most of the time).

Up front, apart from the odd moment, things just didn’t click. Perhaps the blustery, rainy conditions played a part, but our front four of Odegaard, Smith-Rowe, Saka and Aubameyang didn’t click the way they did against the Tiny Totts. Some of the credit for that must go to Brighton’s defending as a team, but we weren’t as sharp as we might have been.

The team had clearly been instructed not to try a committed high press when Brighton had the ball at the back, but it seemed an odd approach to the game. It meant we were sitting back almost on the half way line and allowing the home team to build up their attacks at their leisure.

Plenty for Arteta to work on.

In the end it was a relief to get away with a point, particularly as we’re heading into a two week international break.

Player Ratings

Ramsdale – 7.5

He didn’t need to be too busy despite Brighton’s dominance but made a couple of key saves towards the end, including intercepting a ball that was heading to Maupay for a simple tap-in. He said afterwards that hs kicking was off and he wants to improve. His personality and commitment shone through again.

Tomayisu – 6

Worked hard but struggled at times with the Brighton press.

White – 8 (MoTM)

After a nervy start he settled well and dominated the centre of defence, making some excellent blocks and interceptions.

Gabriel – 7.5

He was fully focussed for the entire match and needed to be. His partnership with White is looking very promising and without their performances yesterday we would surely have lost.

Tierney – 6

Is it me, or does Tesco look a bit out-of-sorts? He got forward a couple of times early on to get dangerous crosses in, but his support for the attack dwindled after that. Perhaps it was just that Brighton were pressing so determinedly that he did not have the opportunity to get into the enemy half.

Partey – 7

Apart from his long distance shooting (which poses a serious threat to low flying aircraft) Thomas put in another classy individual performance even though we struggled to get any control in midfield.

Lokonga – 6.5

He looks comfortable on the ball and his commitment is there, but his lack of experience showed at times and almost put us in trouble once or twice.

Odegaard – 6.5

Worked hard as always, but he seemed to be the only Arsenal player attempting a high press (rendering it useless). He did not manage to influence the game as much as he did in the NLD.

Saka – 6.5

Some bright moments, but our inability to control midfield meant his chances to impact the game were few and far between.

Smith-Rowe – 7

Probably the pick of our attackers. Brighton had obviously spotted him as a danger man and made sure to trip him every time he looked to be getting away. A better referee would have booked someone early on for one of these small ‘professional’ fouls but Moss let them go.

Aubameyang – 6

Was caught on the back foot on a couple of the (rare) occasions when we threatened the Brighton goal and was incapable of holding up the ball when receiving it long. The way the game panned out we would probably have been better with Lacazette down the middle as he is better at holding up and laying off.

SUBS

Pepe – 5

He got a full 30 minutes after coming on for Odegaard. I honestly can’t remember anything that he did.

Lacazette – 6.5

Replaced the ineffectual Aubameyang on 72 minutes and had a couple of moments where his hold-up play helped us relieve the Brighton pressure. No real sniff of goal.

Maitland-Niles – N/A

Came on for Saka in the 90th.

RockyLives


Brighton Pose a Tough Challenge: Prematch and Predicted Line-Up

October 2, 2021
Brighton away: we’ll fight them on the beaches…

You have to give credit to Brighton and Hove Albion and their head coach Graham Potter.

Since getting back into the Premier League in 2017 they have established themselves as a good, competitive side and they’re really reaping rewards this year for the solid groundwork they have been putting in.

I doubt many of us – at the start of the season – would have expected that when we visited the South Coast in early October Brighton would be joint second in the league, only a point behind the leaders.

The Seagulls are on a great run, they’re in good form and in Maupay they have a dangerous goal threat.

So should we be scared?

Nope. Not if we can bring the attitude to today’s game that we brought to the North London Derby last Sunday.

Brighton are good, but our own team is slowly beginning to create an identity for itself and at the pointy end we have players with the creativity to hurt anyone.

On paper a draw would be a good result for us today, but I will be disappointed with anything less than a win.

Team news is that Xhaka is out with the knee injury he picked up against the N17 Miscreants, but everyone else should be available. With no midweek games ahead and an international break coming up there’s no reason to rest anybody.

With that in mind I expect to see Arteta start with the same team that blew away the Spuds in the first half last weekend, minus the injured Xhaka. I would be inclined to replace the Swiss with Sambi Lokonga, but El Patron may want an older head in amongst our precocious youngsters and might opt for Elneny. We’ll see.

Brighton are effective from set pieces so we’ll need to be disciplined about not giving up fouls in dangerous places and our defensive focus will need to be top notch. Let’s hope that the impressive Ben White reacts to a game against his old club by putting in a man-of-the-match performance.

Here’s the team I expect to see take the field:

Ramsdale

Tomayisu – White – Gabriel – Tiermey

Lokonga – Partey

Odegaard

Saka – Aubameyang – Smith-Rowe

Come on you Gunners!

RockyLives