Calvert-Lewin, Sterling, Toney, Vardy, Watkins?

March 31, 2022

Here are 5 English forwards currently playing in the EPL that have somewhat proven that they can be regular scorers for their respective teams. They have different profiles and also a different age but here is a little overview:

Calvert-Lewin – an overall young (25), good and tall striker that plays for Everton. Prone to injuries and slightly fragile psychologically, he has rarely disappointed at Everton or England levels. Question mark remains regarding his fitness levels and his ability to take his game to the next level. He is valued at around 50-60 Mln EUR.

Sterling – a diminutive and experienced (despite only being 27) forwards who took his game to the next level at Man City. A threat with his dribbles and his coolness in front of goal, he has dips in a season but he is overall reliable and has a great connection with Arteta. Would he be challenging Martinelli on the left or would he play as a CF? If he played as a CF, wouldn’t that change our whole game plan and team set-up? He would be an expensive acquisition too being valued around 70 Mln EUR.

Toney – the relentless CF from Brentford. After terrorizing defenders last year in the Championship, he has been working hard in the EPL where he has made his mark as well. This strong and tall forward does not shy away from pressing and defending, is good at taking penalties and is quite strong in the air/challenges. There is still quite some room for growth but doesn’t his hunger play in his/our favour? Brentford is doing well but AFC is a bigger and better London club so why not? He is valued at 30-40 Mln. There is still a question mark about his ability to score more in open plays and also to create more for his partners.

Vardy – the man that Wenger wanted nearly 6 years ago. At 35, he is still one of the best forwards in the EPL scoring 10-15 goals per season regularly. Maybe not as relentless as before but always working hard for the team and timing his runs to perfection, Vardy is not a CF that would play with his back to the goal so would he fit our current set-up and if we are going for this type of forward, shouldn’t we look for someone younger in the veins of Sterling and potentially even David or Oshimen or Schick? He is valued at 5 Mln…

Watkins – The 26 yo England International playing at Villa and formally playing for Brentford has scored 21 goals and provided 6 assists since joining the EPL in 2020. A good goal poacher, he did have a great first season last year in the EPL but is somehow finding it harder this season. With Gerrard looking to bring in more forward reinforcements, there may be a chance for him to request a move away from Villa Park. Would he be a good fit for us? He is valued at 40-50 Mln EUR.

So, if you were to take one player from this list and bring him to our club, who would it be and why? I did not mention Maddisson, Bowen, Mount, Barnes, Wilson, Bamford or Ings but feel free to add them to the conversation…

COYG!


Keep or sell – last series – The Forward line

March 28, 2022

Saka, Martinelli are for sure staying…So here are the question marks:

  1. A. Lacazette, current captain, early 30s and out of contract in June…

2. E. Nketiah, an academy product, an English youth international and also out of country in June

3. N. Pepe, our most expensive purchase to date. Has been showing glimpses of his talent but not on a consistent basis. Is there more time for him at AFC or is it time to let him go flourish somewhere else?

4.F. Balogun, an academy product, currently on loan in Middlesborough. Apparently, an amazing talent.

5. R. Nelsson, an academy product, currently on loan abroad. Was touted to be a fantastic talent but has not lived up to the hype – or just yet?

6. M. Biereth, a recent purchase for the academy. Scoring regularly but does he have what it takes to make it to the pro group?

My take on it:

  • Keep Laca, Pepe, Balogun
  • Loan out Nelson, Biereth
  • Let Nketiah go, for his own good.
  • Purchase a Nr.9

Forward players for next year:

Recruit (Schick? Calvert-Lewin? Watkins?), Laca, Balogun

Saka, Pepe, Martinelli, Recruit (Kostic?)

What’s us your take on it?


Keep or not: The midfielders…

March 26, 2022

Lucas Torreira, our diminutive defensive midfielder from Uruguay currently on loan in Serie A

El Neny, our tall Egyptian midfield enforcer who seems to always do well for his country and decently when we call upon him

Xhaka, our former captain and usually one of the coaches and players’ favourites but with a contrived history with mistakes, red cards and fans

Lokonga, a promising young player with a good level of intensity but also prone to being outmuscled in dangerous areas

Patino, Azeez and M’Hand, apparently the most promising young midfielder talents from our Academy

Guendouzi is already automatically purchased by Marseilles for 11 Mln EUR (10 Mln pounds).

I will talk about Nelson in the next post as he could be seen more as an attacking player and if I am not mistaken, we talked about AMN already…

Here is my take:

  • Sell: Torreira, El Neny
  • Loan: Azeez, M’Hand
  • Keep: Xhaka (but not as a starter), Lokonga, Patino

COYG!

Also: Happy Birthday to Arteta, in case he reads this blog too 😛


A dominant first half and an overall resilient performance: Arsenal wins at Villa

March 21, 2022

Arsenal absolutely dominated Villa in the first half on Saturday. Dominating in the midfield, creating chances, playing good football and nullifying Villa’s attacking threat. It was definitely a big first half from our team and we did get a well-deserved goal from our own Saka, who just terrorized Villa until he was subbed off.

The second half should have seen us score a second but clearly Villa came back with more purpose, intent and physicality and when we did have good opportunities to put the game away, Saka and Laca chose the wrong option instead of laying a good ball to Ode who was in a better position to score…That inability to score the second goal put us under pressure and Watkins nearly scored on a deflected shot and in the last moment of the game, Leno provided a good save to keep the clean sheet.

We showed resilience and team spirit and it is nice to see the team celebrate after such a win – it means they care about winning and they care about our club whether Young likes it or not. Ashley Young should have been sent off by the way – his tackles on Saka were just awful to watch. What a F…..G idiot!

So here are the ratings (feel free to disagree)

Leno – 7, a good save at the end but overall, he did not reassure me

Cedric – 6, another day at the office

White – 7, good game.

Gabs – 7.5, our rock

Tiereney – 7, good game overall but needs to rediscover his crossing effectiveness

Partey – 8.5, what a great first half. One of his best performances for us – is he the new Vieira or the new G.Silva? Not sure yet but he is putting together a good string of performances. I hope he remains fit.

Xhaka – 6.5, a disciplined display but should do a bit better when he has the ball.

Saka – 9, what a game! The guy was unstoppable yesterday

Ode – 7.5, had a good display and was unlucky not to be served by his partners when in a good position to score.

ESR – 7, willing and trying but not decisive. Nice to see him start though.

Laca – 7, same as ESR and what a hard worker he is! Should have done better in the second half when Ode was ready to score…

Arteta: 7.

Subs: No rating but Pepe and Nketiah did not help their cause…

COYG! The games against Chelsea and Tottenham are going to be huge for the Top 4 finish. Beat Chelsea, and you can dream of Top 3 but lose to Chelsea and/or Tottenham and the 4th place may even slip from our grasp…

We gotta hope that Tomy comes back soon, that Leno does not fudge up, that Gabs-White-Partey-Xhaka do not get injured and that Saka, Ode, Martinelli – Laca do not tire too much…

Our starting XI can compete but our bench may be a bit thin…


Aston Villa – AFC…The most important game of the season for us?

March 19, 2022

We currently have a good, yet fragile, grip on 4th place…which would give us a chance to land CL footie after so many years and would also make our club more attractive to top players and financially stronger as well…We have quite a few games left to play and anything can happen like Spurs or Utd going on a superb run or us faltering or the opposite as well. Strange season it is, full of inconsistencies – look at Man City being caught up by Liverpool at the top, which seemed unthinkable in Mid-January…

We just got some bad news regarding Ramsdale (hip issue) and Martinelli (illness) so they are out of the squad 😦 This leads to a start for Leno (why oh why!) and a start as left attacking midfielder for ESR so here is our line-up:

Leno – Cedric, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, Xhaka – Saka, Ode, ESR – Laca

Our bench is looking thinner now with Pepe, Nketiah as attacking options and Holding, Sambi on the more defensive side…

Our opponents, Aston Villa, are doing OK under Gerrard since he took over. There is one player that has been on great form for them in Coutinho who always caused us trouble. Their line-up is the usual 4321 except for Ings starting on the bench:

Martinez – Cash, Konsa, Mings, Young – Ramsey, Luiz, McGinn- Buendia, Coutinho – Watkins.

They have Chambers, Sanson, Bailey, Chukwu and Ings on the bench to add defensive steel or attacking threats.

Martinez is doing well there and few players at A.V are having good season in Mings, Young, Ramsey and Luiz. Ramsey is particularly dangerous with his runs while McGinn is also feeling confident…

It is not going to be easy to manage this game but we have to do it if we want to keep our hopes of Top 4 finish alive. Win this game and you send a strong signal to the rivals, do not lose this game and you are still looking quite good but if you lose this game, you will give hope to our rivals that they can reach Top 4. In that sense, this may be our most important game of the season in the sense that it comes after a loss at home to LFC and that the outcome of this game can have a huge impact on positioning our team as a reliable contender not only because of points taken but also because of the signal it sends to the rest of the EPL!

COYG! Do us proud and grab at least a point and ideally 3 points BUT do not lose please…This is going to be a tough game for Cedric, Partey, Xhaka and Ode…If they do well, we should be ok. COYG!


Our previous heroes failed us today but we matched Liverpool for a good 50 mins…

March 17, 2022

What a player do we have in Martinelli! He literally ridiculed Trent-Arnold for about an hour! Saka was almost equally brilliant on the other side and Laca did his job decently too. Partey-Xhaka held for a good hour and then the game became tough and Odegaard struggled a bit to be decisive yesterday…same could be said of Ramsdale who could have avoided the first goal. White-Gabriel more or less did the job and Cedric-Tierney did relatively well too but there is no shame in admitting it was tough against the likes of Mane, Salah and Diaz…

We were definitely giving a good game to LFC until we conceded the first goal. We actually were the better team for large parts of the first 50 minutes. We were quite good box-to-box as Arteta indicated but we were not as effective in the boxes with an unusual error from Ramsdale and then an off-key Odegaard for the last pass…

But despite the losses to Man City and Liverpool, you can see that the team is growing. It still needs improvement – we can definitely get a better CM and also I am sure Tomyasu would have fared better than Cedric who did not do poorly but not great either.

So let us take that loss on the chin and focus on getting a result at Aston Villa…

Ramsdale: 4

Cedric: 5

White, Gabs: 6

Tierney: 6

Partey: 6

Xhaka:6

Ode: 5

Saka: 7

Martinelli: 8

Laca: 7

Arteta: 6.

COYG!


AFC – Tuesday MARCH 15TH 2022. – HOW ARE WE LOOKING? A post by MikeM

March 15, 2022

Here’s a realistic look at what we have to come and probably what we need to do to finish 4th. It may be somewhat pessimistic,however based on the prior 4 or 5 years of stumbling in the biggest games it illustrates what we’ll need to do differently if we’re going to transform from 6-8th place to top 4.

Season so far:

Home P 14, W 10, D2, L2, 32 pts.   Away P12, W6, D1, L5, 19 pts.

Streaks: L3, W3, D2, W3, L3 of 4, W3, L,D, W5.

Based on expected 4th place team results:

Good wins home to Spuds, Hammers and Wolves. @ Wolves and Leicester bonus wins. Those games probably expected draws (XD)

So the 11 other wins would probably be “expected wins” (XW) (not based on the current Arsenal but on a good 4th placed finish team)

3 draws all season!!! 2 home vs Burnley and Palace both probably expected wins, draw at BHA not a bad point at the time we played them.

7 losses: to City (H/A), Chavs H, Liv A, Manure A, Everton A, Brentford A. We can almost count this as 4 losses. The first 3 games (with hindsight) were destined to be difficult. Got stomped at City and Liv (XL). We were unlucky (Xhaka’d) at United and imploded at Everton. Very unlucky at home to City. All three of those games could well have been draws.

Overall, our expected results are about right (FOR A 4TH PLACED TEAM !!!).

Fixtures left and predictions based on our current, thin inexperienced squad :

Home : Liverpool (XL), BHA (XW), Manure (XD), Leeds (XW), Everton (XW) = 10 points

These “expected” results probably are also reflective of a 4th placed team. Turning Liverpool into a point and United into 3 would be overachieving but avoiding a loss to Manure is crucial. Leeds and Everton will likely be fighting for survival and could be a lot tougher than they look, then again maybe not !! Brighton are difficult to break down.

Away : Villa (XD), Palace (XD), Soton (XD), West Ham (XL), Newcastle (XD), Spuds (XD), Chavs (XL). = 5 pts

“Expected” results away are very conservative based on a 4th placed finishing team but here, I’m looking at our actual team as it stands today – young, not much depth and going to hostile environments.  

Expected results for a 4th placed team would include probably 2 wins out of Villa, Palace, Soton and Newcastle (who are a lot better now than their position reflects), maybe 2 or 3 points @ Spuds, W Ham and Chavs.

So, how do we get into the Champions League (or at least finish 4th)? Not lose to Manure and Spuds. Win at least 2 of those 4 “other” away games. We need wins to counter losses, not draws. Sounds obvious but that’s it on paper. A good solid 4th placed team should pick up 20-21 points from the last 12 games. But we have 7 away and only 2 of those are against lower half teams (one of which is Newcastle who are probably top 5 form over their last 8 games).

Spuds host us and West Ham and go to Anfield. But still have BHA twice, Burnley, Brentford and Norwich. If they beat us, and get on a roll, they’re probably most likely to finish above us.

Manure still come to Emirates, go to Anfield and host Chavs, but also Norwich. Again, if they (Ronaldo) get on a roll, they will be difficult to stay ahead of.

West Ham seem least likely, they still have to host us and City, and go to Spuds and Chavs.

Both Manure and West Ham are also still in Europe, adding at least one more match to their schedule.

In summary, these games are not played on paper. As the season continues, matches become more difficult to win. This is where the make up of our squad may hurt us. Sure Spuds and Manure, even West Ham or Wolves could go on a run and gain an unstoppable momentum.

But what’s also for sure is that we’re already on a roll and have momentum. After a nightmare start to the season, in our last 23 games, we’ve won 16 and drawn 3, picked up 51 points from 69. City has 57, Liverpool 53 and Chavs 45 over the comparable stretch. We’ve played the matches in front of us and done an outstanding job of getting results. We don’t really have a goalscoring center forward and are still accommodating Granit Xhaka who is definitely a liability (but has improved a great deal to be fair to him and seems very popular within the squad). Admittedly we’ve had no Europe to deal with and somewhat disappointing domestic cup runs, but looking at our squad depth, that’s a blessing.

I like our chances and believe all of our rivals would swap scenarios with us. So now we have to get it done, no easy feat but we have a group of players that are working hard for each other, fans behind the team, a manager that the squad seems to like and trust and some characters in the team along with a little experience. Partey seems to be relishing his role and has the experience from Atletico. Ramsdale, Gabriel, Xhaka (hard to believe), Laca and Tierney are vocal and exemplary leaders, White, Martinelli, Tomy, and Ode work their socks off too, and the sheer brilliance of Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli and ESR is fun to watch. Add the commitment of Soares, Pepe, Holding, Sambi, Eddie and Elneny who all seem to have bought in to the culture and we have the potential to get it done.

We may fail, confidence is fragile, but at least we’ve given ourselves a chance, which I’d never have believe even in November of last year. Without the chance to fail, you never give yourself an opportunity to succeed.

C’mon you Gooners !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Top 4 again…Another win with another good attacking display but slightly worrying defensive performance

March 14, 2022

Arsenal wins again…5 in a row, is it? Meanwhile Auba is scoring in Barcelona. What if the squad actually benefited from letting go of its main striker? We have seen that it could lead to good results: ie: Owen leaving Liverpool…Anyways back to the game.

The team, especially Odegaard, was in the mood to create some good chances with silky passing, movement, sweet dribbling, decent crossing and shooting! We scored early on, courtesy of Partey on a corner from Martinelli and of a defensive lapse from Leicester. After the goal, Leicester had really good chances to equalize but they were denied by a superp/amazing/outstanding Ramsdale – what a performance from our GK during that game! The second half was not so controlled by either of the team but we managed to get a penalty, ably converted by Laca! We saw the game through, had a chance for a third but also conceded some dangerous chances…

So it seems our team is finally gelling going forward but that has coincided with being more disjointed defensively. If it were not for Ramsdale’s heroics yesterday, the game could have been a lot more edgy for us. I found that Cedric and White were not great but it did not affect the results.

The stadium was glowing and there is stronger belief that the team could achieve a Top 4 finish this season. Although, we still have tough games ahead so let us now get carried away…

Ramsdale: 9

Cedric: 6

White: 6

Gabs: 7

Tierney: 7

Partey: 7

Xhaka: 7

Saka: 8

Ode: 8.5

Martinelli: 7.5

Laca: 8

COYG! Fight for the Top 4 till then end and bring us back to CL Footie!


Keep, loan, sell: Saliba, Mavropanos, Mari?

March 12, 2022

So still looking our defense, we have three players on loan who are doing relatively well.

Saliba, until February, was one of the best defenders of Ligue 1. Great at reading the game, rather pacey for a CB and rather comfortable moving the ball forward through passing or running with the ball, he was touted for a France call-up recently. His level has dropped since a month or so though. He has been most comfortable in a back 3 system but has done fine also in a back 4 system. A clear talent, will he and should he be given a chance at AFC? He could be sold for 30 Mln+.

Mavropanos, our young Greek defender has been performing well in the Bundesliga since last year. His displays have been more than honorable and he is usually his team’s best defender but his team is really struggling this year and he cannot hold the fort alone. Another good young defender…What to do with him?

Mari, playing regularly and decently in Italy since his move. Not setting the word on fire but putting a good shift in Serie A. The pace of the Serie A may be better suited to him and he has indicated that he wants to be a starter at this stage of his career. Another player whose future will be scrutinized this summer..

We have 3 CBs: White, Gabs, Holding and Tierney could deputize as a LCB too if required but we may wish to add a 4th CB to our squad and the options are to keep one of the players mentionned above or to go into the market and look for a CB. So what is your take on Saliba, Mavro and Mari?


Keep or sell: Bellerin, Soares

March 10, 2022

So somehow, Edu found a reliable RB at last and at a good price too in Tomyasu. Hard-working, defensively sound and decent going forward. He has made the AFC RB position his…

Since Tomy’s arrival, Bellerin has left for Betis on loan, where he has had a decent season without being great or poor. He is still not the Nr.1 option there and is competing with Sabaly who is not the best RB in the world to say the least…He is still very appreciated at AFC, a club and fan’s favourite.

Soares has deputized Tomy rather decently when called upon. He is still, imho, not very reliable defensively and he has not really set the world on fire going forward either. He, however, has a very good attitude when he plays and when he doesn’t play.

So, comes the summer, the club and players would have tough decisions to make:

  • We cannot keep Tomy, Bellerin and Soares
  • We are definitely keeping Tomy so…what do we do:
    • Keep Bellerin, sell Soares
    • Keep Soares, sell Bellerin
    • Sell Soares, Sell Bellerin and make AMN our deputy RB
    • Sell Soares and Bellerin and get another player like Lamptey

So what are your views?