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


Arsenal 2 -1 Leeds: Quick Player Ratings

May 9, 2022

Eddie was our Angel yesterday

Well that was a strange experience.

I managed to get a ticket for the game and went with my youngest son (19). After 10 minutes it was like the joy of Christmas morning (including surprise gifts) and the excitement of a day at Alton Towers all rolled into one.

By full time we were mentally exhausted and felt we’d spent too much time on the rollercoaster.

Nevertheless, despite making heavy weather of things in the second half, the crucial thing is that we got all three points and we head to the Armitage Shanks Arena on Thursday night with a lovely four point cushion.

A win there guarantees us top four; a draw sees us almost home and hosed; even a loss still leaves top four qualification in our own hands.

Until squeaky bum time the atmosphere was fantastic at the Emirates (with the Leeds fans contributing plenty of noise of their own). The pre-match singing of Louis Dunford’s song ‘The Angel’ was lovely. I can see that tune catching on as an Arsenal anthem.

Player Ratings

Ramsdale – 6

A low-ish rating for Aaron because (a) he had very little to do until the closing stages and (b) a couple of times in those nervy moments he seemed panicked into bad clearances. It’s not the first time the season he has tried to relieve pressure by booting the ball away only for it to scud along the ground through the centre of the park straight to the feet of an opposition midfielder. Something he needs to work on training.

Cedric – 6.5

I have finally reached an opinion about Soares – I know what I think of him: he is a very hard working, reliable squad member but he is a class below most of his team mates in terms of footballing ability. This is not meant to sound harsh – he does lots of things well and is probably a safer option than Nuno at the moment. But I watched him closely yesterday and it was clear that he just does not have quite the speed of thought and execution that most of his team mates have. It’s absolutely not his fault – you can only be as good as the gifts you’ve been given and many of the players around him are majestically gifted. Basically he’s a solid player who plays to the absolute best of his ability, but on whom we could do with an upgrade next season.

Holding – 7.5

Rob has been excellent this season – in his substitute cameos and in the recent games where he has started. He was 100% alert and committed yesterday and I loved seeing him (on more than one occasion) intervene to pull Arsenal players away when their tempers were getting overheated (I’m looking at you Granit!).

Gabriel – 7.5

Another typically reliable performance. Brings the ball out from the back very well and is comfortable in possession.

Tomiyasu – 7.5

What a player. Drafted in to LB so that we could play Cedric at RB, he looked just as comfortable on his left peg as on his right. Excellent performance. He went into several challenges where it looked like he had no chance and somehow emerged with the ball every time.

Elneny – 8 (MoTM)

Bossed midfield. Late-season Mo has been a great and timely addition to the side for our top four challenge.

Xhaka – 7

Good all-round performance from Granit. His long range goal against Man Utd seems to have given him a taste for more: towards the end yesterday he was sometimes our most advanced attacker and almost got on the scoresheet.

Odegaard – 8

Dreamboat of a player. Whenever the ball is coming to him in an awkward spot I automatically do that quick, split-second thing you do (with any such moment) where you’re trying to see what his options are. With Ode, he has already played the right ball before I have even figured out his options. This boy’s brain was created by God to translate football for mortals.

Martinelli -7.5

An outstanding attacking performance marred only by a little bit of lack of composure in front of goal. He ran Ayling ragged (leading to the latter’s two-footed lunge and red card) and continued to terrorise Leeds until substituted with cramp late on.

Saka – 7

One of the reasons Martinelli could operate so confidently was that – like many teams – Leeds felt they had to put two men on Saka at all times. Such is the fear the young man causes in opposition managers’ hearts. Some typically excellent moments.

Nketiah – 8

His two goals – one based on pure alertness and determinations and one on sharp, clinical finishing – won us the game. Enough said.

SUBS

Pepe – 5

Had well over 20 minutes to make a mark but never got into the game. Was responsible for one infuriating moment where – with the Leeds ‘keeper still in our half after going up for a corner – he got the ball near the halfway line with a clear run at an empty net. Instead of just pushing the ball ahead and running he turned backwards to try and nutmeg a Leeds defender and lost the ball. Bonkers. Hard to see how he fits in next season.

Smith-Rowe – 7

Full of energy.

Lacazette – N/A

Not on long enough.

RockyLives


Was Arteta a better player or is a better coach for us?

May 5, 2022
Arteta as a player

Discuss.


ARSENAL FOURTH PLACE? NO CHANCE! By Maxwell

May 4, 2022
Can Arteta and his team deliver CL qualification?

At least, that’s what most of us said back in August, even before the three-loss start to the season. Happy if we struggle to sixth. There are too many better squads than ours.

Well, now we have a chance of making fourth, and can’t finish lower than sixth. So will we now be satisfied with fifth (probable) or sixth (possible, but unlikely)? Of course not. It will be called a failure, forgetting what we expected at the beginning. Come on, all you online supporters, give Arteta’s boys a break. They’ve done really well. I can conceive they have even exceeded Arteta’s expectations.

I am astounded at the negativity that still prevails in parts of the blogosphere towards Mikel. I have thought from the outset that he is a truly impressive person, with an astonishing football brain. When there was muttering of an early sacking, I wrote on here that you could forget it – KSE had committed to the long haul, seduced by Arteta’s long-term vision. I have so enjoyed that plan. First he set about making us harder to beat, which meant that for a while we were impossible to watch, so turgid was the football, as he tried to get square pegs to defend round holes. He set out to bring referees more on board, with limited success, but you can see from watching his interactions with the officials that he’s determined to remain positive with them. He has worked tirelessly to bring the supporters onside, and it has been a great success. You only have to listen to both home and away supporters’ vociferous and relentless involvement.

He has steadily shifted out players not committed to his vision, and brought in youthful, energetic replacements. Step by step, the squad is being rebuilt, and the style of play evolving. We have a raft of players just starting their careers, who should only get better, and with every game, should deepen their mutual understanding. We have one or two gaps to fill with astute signings (another area where Edu/Arteta show their mettle). We have an outrageously talented group of Academy players striving to join the seniors.

If you don’t subscribe to this being the most exciting time to be an Arsenal fan for absolutely years, what is the matter with you?

Oh, and on the subject of excitement, please leave Nuno Tavares alone. I love him. You don’t know from one minute to the next whether he’s going to block a shot or drift out of position; give the ball away in midfield with no cover behind him, or hurtle past six perplexed defenders before unleashing a shot into Row Z, or possibly even the net; cross threateningly, or to no-one in particular. Re-watching the last two games, I actually think he did more good things defensively than bad. And he’s so much fun!