Bulk up your squad to meet the demands of Cups and European football…

May 31, 2022

The first round of consultation on the starting XI led to interesting suggestions. In a nutshell, it seems that Jesus has been rubber stamped by the AA bloggers as a viable option as CF but for the DM/CM position, there is a debate still especially (i) regarding whether or not Arteta would drop Xhaka to the bench and (ii) regarding whether Tielemans or Neves are good targets…All and all, it seems that Bissouma may be more welcome…my preference goes to Philips there but based on the previous post, the strating XI line-up would be:

Ramsey – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, BISSOUMA – Saka, Ode, Martinelli – JESUS

Now, there was also some discussion related to whether we needed to actually bring in a LFW to compete with Martinelli. Fair point as well but would it slow down Martinelli’s growth?

So off to the rest of the squad…In an ideal world, you have a squad of 23 players (3 goalkeepers) that should be supplemented by 5 youth players that would train with the senior team and be given playing in Cups or even at the end of games when games are under control…

So,

  • for our back-up GK: Turner has been recruited and Leno is off (Benfica pbbly). The 3rd GK would remain Okwonko.
  • for our back-up RB: Bellerin wants to stay at Betis, Cedric wants to stay with us and we do not know about AMN yet. Cedric is a decent squad player but we need a better back-up than him. As for AMN, let us bring this discussion later on. We re playing European football and domestic cups, Tomy cannot handle all the games. We do not have a stellar RB in our youth set up as far as I know so we have to go in the markey. Lamptey and Aarons could be option, no?
  • for our back-up CB: Holding has been ok except vs Spurs and Arteta wants Saliba back so we are nicely covered in this position. We have to see what we do with Mari and also Ballard…
  • for our back-up LB: Tavares has been more a miss than a hit but he shouldn’t necessarily be totally discarded – maybe we could loan him out? We do need a player there for sure – the press mentions Hickey.
  • For our back up DM/CM: We have El Neny, Lokonga and if we recruit a starting DM/CM, we will also have Xhaka as part of the rotation in this position. Will it be enough? Depends on who we recruit in the DM/CM? In terms of youth in this CM position, we have Patino, Azeez and maybe even M’Hand. Torreira, we don’t know but seems he will go. Douzi already sold to OM .
  • For our RFW position back-up: We currently have Pepe who has been really frustrated and frustrating. A clearly talented player who seems to have lost his way at AFC, a real shame…Might be time to cut the losses and to sell him to the highest bidder. This is clearly a position that requires strengthening, players like Harrison and Bowen could be nice additions. The press speaks about Marquinhos from Sao Paolo too.
  • For our ACM position back-up, we have the wonderful ESR who is decisive when he comes on. He is key to our success and definitely pushing Ode for the starting spot. There is no real need to recruit at this position.
  • For our LFW position, Martinelli has been wonderful but for all his hard work and energy, the final outputs (goals, assists) can still be improved. It would be good to push him to reach the next level. Of course, someone like Leao, St-Maximin or Raphinha or even Kostic would be fantastic but would be hard to get them at AFC…but what about someone like Barnes or A. Traore? What do we do with R. Nelson? Any kid from the academy good enough to play winder (Taylor Hart, John Jules, Akinola?)
  • For our CF position, it seems that Nketiah will stay and Balogun will come back. They are good squad players but we may need another player that brings in either more experience, depth in the game (running behind defenses) or aerial threat depending on who we recruit as our starting CF. What do we do with Biereth?

Finally, there is the question related to AMN. A very good squad player who wants to be more. He tried at AFC but did not make it. Went to Roma and there again, he did not hold a starting position. Is it time for him to go and for us to let go? He would be a great addition to a mid-table team or even to a squad like Newcastle…At the same time his versatility and physical strength have helped us with our last FA Cup…Shouldn’t we hold on to him?

Here is the back-up team:

Add: Okwonko, Ballard, Lokonga, Patino or Azeez, Balogun

Loan out to an EPL outfit: Tavares, Patino or Azeez, Biereth

Let go of: Leno, Bellerin, Cedric, Mari, AMN, Torreira, Pepe

So which squad players would you like to add to the team? Remember, not starters…


Build your starting XI for next season…

May 29, 2022

So the Champions League final was won by Real Madrid through their outstanding goalie yesterday. Liverpool was the better team for the first half but then struggled to add intensity and purpose and creativity to their game and when they did, they were denied by a superb Courtois…So a 14th CL for Real, a 30th trophy for Benzema who is now a clear favourite for the Ballon d’Or…For Liverpool, it was a very good season with 2 cup wins and near wins in the EPL and CL – the bad news for them is that they are going to lose Mane, who was a rock for them. He is off to Bayern…

Back to AFC and let us prepare next season. I think our starting line-up is more or less known for every position when key players are fit:

Ramsdale – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, ? – Saka, Ode, Martinelli – ?

Although Xhaka did have a good season, we definitely need an improvement in the DM/CM position and same goes for our centre-forward. There is a case for LB as well because Tierney has been spending a lot of time in the nursing room…but that’s another debate that could also be applied to Partey…

So who would you like to recruit as our starting DM/CM and CF? Who do you think we can attract? Which criteria will matter the most for you (EPL experience, youth…)?

Keep in mind that we will have approximately 165 Mln EUR and we will need also to buy some squad players…


Season Review: Part III: The Ugly…

May 28, 2022

This part of the review is hard…as we have covered quite some ground in the Bad part…But here is an attempt:

  1. Finishing many games without 11 players on the pitch. Our lack of discipline cost us points for sure.
  2. Recurring injuries to Tomy, Tierney and Partey – all three players were definite starters last season and have been injured regularly…They were missed…
  3. Pepe’s season has been abysmal – he is just a shadow of his best self, which we saw in Lille or even in the AFCON and apparently in training. Time to let go of our most expensive recruit to date?
  4. Auba’s end of AFC story. Auba has been one of our most reliable players since he joined us. He was amongst the Top 5 strikers in the league since joining us. He was an integral part of our FA Cup success and he also was our captain for a while. Arteta and him had a fall out and the club decided to let him go. He has excelled since at Barcelona and we will never know if he would have scored goals that would have helped us reach Top 4 in the second half of the season. Sad way to leave for a player that scored 70 goals and provided 16 assists in the EPL for us.

Must be a few other ugly points to mention but can’t think of more right now…

COYG! We need to start bringing some players in now…Aston Villa and other clubs are already adding on to their squad.


Season Review – Part II: The Bad…

May 25, 2022

Despite all the positives of the season, there are still some areas of improvement…

  1. Inability to perform when it matters. We had two dips in form when we shouldn’t have (not counting the start of the season)…Of course, the team is young but we did not have any European Cup or many Domestic Cup games…Seems at times that we just bottled it…
  2. Lack of cutting edge up front. We did create chances, especially Odegaard and Saka. Laca provided some assists but we did expect more goals. While our defensive performances still needs to improve, I believe that a more reliable goal scoring performance could have snatched a few points given the fact that we created good chances through our midfield and wingers.
  3. Our start of the season was catastrophic and did put us in a tough situation from the on-set with a mountain to climb.
  4. Our runs in Domestic Cups was poor. We should have reached, at least, the last 4 in both domestic cups given that we did not play European footie.
  5. Our inability to recruit during the Winter transfer window. Tottenham bought 2 players that made an instant contribution to the team and allowed them to have a great second half of the season…What if we had one forward or midfielder that joined us.
  6. Our recurring injuries to key players like Tierney and Partey.
  7. The lack of playing time for Lokonga and Tavares’ defensive and crossing woes (that will come also in the ugly)
  8. Finishing behind Spurs and missing out on Top 4.

I am sure there are others but here are the first ones. What are your thoughts?


A good win…but let’s focus on a season review for now…THE GOOD

May 23, 2022

As the season ended on a high with an easy win at home against a demobilized Everton team, it is important to review a season…There will be three posts: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…

Let us focus on the Good today and be positive despite the frustration of finishing 5th behind Tottenham and missing CL footie…

  1. I have not been to the grounds but apparently, the atmosphere within and around the club have vastly improved this year. There is a sense of positivity and unity, which was lost a few years back.
  2. Arteta-Edu have made some tough decisions like getting rid of marquee players like Ozil (last year) and Auba (this year) and also some less marquee players like Kolasinac, Chambers, Guendouzi…The squad was thin but seemed to adhere to the new team and game principles
  3. Our transfer window has been great. Ramsdale has been wonderful 90% of the games, Tomy was reliable when he played, White had a few wobbles but was overall very good and Odegaard has grown into his position nicely. There is still a question mark on Sambi as he did not play so much and on Tavares who showed some promises and weaknesses…
  4. Our young attacking players have performed admirably well when given the chance. Saka has had a very solid season and performed well consistantly throughout the season. ESR has been decisive, especially until February – when he was scoring goals for fun. Martinelli has been relentless too and deserved more goals and assists just for his attitude but overall, what a season for him! Nketiah did not play much until March but then when called upon, he delivered some goals but also and crucially a very good work rate and attitude.
  5. Partey-Xhaka, when fit was a solid double pivot and when Partey was injured, El Neny did a nice job too. We have seen the best of Partey so far but his injuries have limited his playing time. Xhaka has been our most reliable performer in the midfield – for all his flaws, he has kept healthy and did have a large majority of good games. He has also been working on reducing mistakes, cards and repairing his relationship with the fans…
  6. Laca was an able captain. Putting the team first and trying to motivate and guide his younger teammates.
  7. The team did create some expectations and played for CL footie until the last game, which was already a positive.

So we have a young squad that seems to be going in the right direction. The word is that AFC will have another 175 Mln EUR to spend this summer and that the Kroenkes will be backing Arteta-Edu to improve the team.

In the next few days, we will pbbly say good bye to either El Neny, Laca and Nketiah – it could be all or it could be none…Let us see. These 3 players always showed a good attitude and deserve praise for being good sports when on the pitch.

Focus on the positives in the post, we will have plenty of time to discuss the Bad and the Ugly later on…

Revelation of the year (a player that performed better than expected): Ramsdale and Tomy

Stand-out performer of the year: Saka

Most improved player: Ode/Xhaka (?)

Goals of the season: All our goals against Watford away (Ode, Saka, Martinelli)


One last time…A home win to close the season?

May 22, 2022

Today we are playing Everton at home…An Everton side that just secured its place in the EPL this week after an emotional and tough win, followed by huge celebrations…They may play freely against us, which could lead to their best game or a game that passes them by…

On our side, we have to win and hope for Norwich to miraculously beat the Spurs…That said, yesterday’s final day in the French league was crazy with the Top 5 decided in the last 3 minutes of games and for the bottom 3 as well…@Fred – Mbappe and the Club has confirmed Mbappe has signed a new contract with PSG until 2025, he will be paid 1 Mln per week and reportedly received 110 Mln EUR sign-on fee as well as some control on his image rights and various bonuses linked to goals, assists, trophies…

Let us play with purpose, guile and flair today to finish the season on a high. Let us have a win that gives us a glimpse of nice things to come…

Ramsdale – White, Holding, Gabs – Cedric, El Neny, Xhaka, Saka – Odegaard – Nketiah, Martinelli

Not sure about status of the players in terms of suspension and injuries…

COYG!


More than a loss…a symbol of our inability to perform when needed the most…YET, the season has been more positive than expected…

May 17, 2022

Well well well…Back in March, we put ourselves in a position to finish Top 4, comfortably…Then we screwed up against lower teams such as Palace, Southampton and Brighton…and then put ourselves back into contention with wins against Chelsea, Utd and West Ham…We were in the driving seat with 3 games to play. There was one game NOT TO LOSE: The Spuds game and we lost it, convincingly too for various reasons but mostly due to our own performance…We are still in the driving seat by then…Then came yesterday’s game, a must WIN game and again, what a poor performance from the first to the last minute and a game that cemented Pepe’s departure (he was abysmal) – the team did not show up, players did not show up except maybe Ramsdale and Saka…So it is a familiar AFC feeling, one that is so infuriating whereby we are so close to something very nice and we can’t finish the job. We need to strengthen our squad with players that can lift the team when needed, bring that resilience and also that energy…Really, a game to forget…

But let us put things into context again, the season is better than expected with a Top 5 finish and a young promising squad. This summer will be huge for us. Europa League will also help us attract some good caliber players but not the best caliber players…Let us see…All teams will strengthen again this summer and we have new competition in Newcastle too so…

For more context, here is Maxwell’s comment:

H! HINDSIGHT. WHAT A WONDERFUL ATTRIBUTE.

I’m with Rocky, but first a bit of CONTEXT.

Back last August, what were your predictions for Arsenal’s season? What were the predominant predictions?

After three games at the beginning of September, try to remember the same question.

After the transfer window, ‘overpaying for White’, ‘bringing in an iffy goalkeeper’, ‘taking on an unrated Japanese fullback’, gambling on young unknowns, where did you have Arsenal by now (May 2022)?

Now we come to January, and the transfer window that mass hindsight today is branding a disaster. Well, to be fair, it was widely criticised at the time. But the management was clear, there were players they wanted, but for whatever reason they weren’t available. The club were not prepared to bring in players just to make up the numbers – a strategy of previous years which had been equally criticised by the (so-called) fan base – and admitted that by waiting for the summer, they were taking a risk with injuries and tiredness in such a small squad. The injuries tolled. Young, still-developing bodies grew tired.

We’re all miserable today, and it’s exacerbated by the crowing from up the road (I firmly believe if it were Leicester or Burnley about to trump us, we wouldn’t be feeling so bleak). There have been spells throughout the season where the team spectacularly underperformed, so it wouldn’t surprise me if last night carries through to Sunday against Everton.

However, one aspect of fielding such a callow team has not been explored. Repeatedly, they have faced shocking treatment by referees. Thursday against the chickens was another example, but as is frequently the case for Arsenal players, they have been on the end of many poor decisions, and much unmediated violence. Young, inexperienced minds can take such unfairness much more to heart, as anyone who has had children can attest, than more cynical older heads.

If you look at the sudden drops in competitiveness through the season, how often do they start with a spectacular injustice – a penalty given, a penalty not given, two yellow cards in five seconds, a yellow card for multiple offences at the first foul committed, a stamp on a face, a kick in the back of the legs, raking studs.

Despite this, and all of the above, we’re going to finish fifth. Who knew?

Let’s celebrate that.


Looney Toons? What’s up Doc?

May 16, 2022

So to beat the Toons, the doctor has ordered:

  • The speedy recovery of our main CBs: Ben and Gabs…
  • A resilient, focused, passionate, effective and yet calm performance.
  • A clean sheet ideally but at least one more goal than the opposition

Well…easier said than done…

  • We re still in the dark regarding Ben and Gabs so we will pbbly put together a makeshift team, not ideal
  • We are under pressure after Tottenham’s victory yesterday and we have a history of cards…
  • If we can’t play defenders in defense, we will let some goals in but it could be that we still score more than Newcastle

Since about 6 weeks, Newcastle has found its rhythm and shape. They have interesting players all over the pitch including Wilson, Joelington, St-Maximin, Guimares, WIllock, Lascelles, Dubrovka…Eddie Rowe is doing a great job there and I reckon that this summer they will add in British talent as well as some flair players that fit into the Newcastle culture to their squad.

For now, they have secured their place in EPL and want to finish the year positively but with the fight for relegation behind them, they may not be as hungry as a few games ago so they will play more freely, which is both good and bad for us…

Ultimately, we gotta win our last 2 games to secure the coveted 4th place…Anything else than a win and we will most likely have to settle for (already remarkable given our start of the season) a 5th place…

Predicted line-up:

Ramsdale – Tomy, Gabs, Xhaka – Cedric, El Neny, Lokonga , Saka – Odegaard – Nketiah, Martinelli

Predicted score: Hard to tell…I m not optimistic but I don’t want to be too negative so…a draw maybe?

COYG! Let’s beat those toons!


Let’s All Laugh At Tottnum

May 13, 2022

Reasons to be Cheerful

Chin up boys and girls.

Last night was a mess for all sorts of reasons, including our own mistakes and a dodgy ref.

But this is not the time to be downhearted. Instead, we should look forward with optimism to what could be a memorable final day of the season.

For at 5.45pm on Sunday May 22nd we will all hopefully be able to do that thing that we love so much: laugh at Tottenham.

Their fans can gloat all they like about last night’s win, but if we can keep our heads and carve out two more victories, celebrations in N17 will turn to ashes in their mouth.

Now, obviously it’s not a slam dunk that we’ll win our next two games. It looks like we’re going to be putting out some kind of makeshift defence against Newcastle on Monday night with Holding suspended, Gabriel an injury doubt and White’s fitness still questionable.

But we have to find a way to win – and I believe we will.

With Saka, Martinelli, ESR, Nketiah and Odegaard we have plenty of goal potential to make up for any shortcomings at the back.

Arteta’s post match comments last night (where he basically said the ref was awful without directly saying the ref was awful) were exactly what was needed in the circumstances, reinforcing a sense of injustice among our squad and building a siege mentality.

So let’s write off last night as just one of those nights and start thinking positively about the week ahead.

We’re already winners. At the start of the season, finishing in the top six and getting into the Europa League were the summit of most people’s hopes. We have already achieved that. Everything else will be bunce.

Keep the faith, Gooners.

RockyLives


Pick Your Preferred Starting XI for Tomorrow’s Crunch Game at Tottenham

May 11, 2022
Come on you Reds

The boys head to N17 tomorrow night for a game that will have a huge influence on which of the North London rivals is going to be in the Champions League next season.

If Arsenal win, top four is guaranteed.

If it’s a draw, we’ll go into the final two games of the season with a four point lead, meaning one victory will do.

If the Spuds win, we’ll still have it in our own hands to secure fourth spot, but we will potentially have to win our two final games (Newcastle away and Everton at home), while the Spuds have two easier games (on paper) against Burnley and Norwich.

The logic of the points situation would dictate that the Spuds should go all out for the win tomorrow. The problem for them is that that is not how they like to play under Conte’s leadership: they prefer to defend deep and hit opponents on the break with the prolific goal scoring threat of Kane and Son.

It’s an approach that almost bagged them three points at Anfield last weekend.

I hope we don’t play into their hands by going for all-out attack. I would prefer we play them at their own game, setting out not to lose and hoping to catch them on a break.

Son and Kane may make many Gooners nervous, but the Spuds for their part will be worried about the attacking threat from Saka, Martinelli and an in-form Nketiah.

So, here’s your chance to play at being Mikel Arteta by picking the best possible Arsenal line-up for the game.

Will you stick with Cedric? Keep Eddie up front? Bring back Ben White?

Over to you, but first here’s my preferred team:

Ramsdale

White – Holding – Gabriel – Tomayisu

Xhaka – Elneny

Odegaard

Saka – Nketiah – Martinelli

RockyLives