Arsenal v Sheffield United Pre-match

October 21, 2019

Yesterday was surprising, I was close to thinking we were going to be celebrating ‘Invincibles Day’ today when VAR couldn’t find a reason to disallow a Liverpool goal that looked off-side to me and hand them a draw against Man U.

The VAR officials had managed to ruin several managers weekends up to that point and Klopp was already incensed that Liverpool should have had a free kick in the lead up to Man U scoring. I’m sure the point of VAR is to make things easier with regard to on field decisions but there still seems to be such a lot of confusion. Hopefully we can get through this evening with VAR on our side.

This evening we travel to Sheffield United for our 9th EPL game of the season. We sit in 5th position and they are 15th. The news on the grapevine is that Tierney is ready to start, hopefully Bellerin too and Lacazette will be on the bench. Both of the wing backs will be fantastic additions to our squad and the return of Lacazette is a great boost.

The Blades have had some good results so far this campaign notably a draw with Chelsea and a win away at Everton but they’ve lost their last three home matches and won’t want that to be extended to four. Arsenal have only managed one away win so far this campaign, to Newcastle on the opening weekend but – and this is a great stat – The Gunners have won their last seven PL games in Yorkshire, the longest winning run by an away side in the county in English top-flight history 😃

After a long and incredibly boring International break it’s almost cruel to have Monday night football but here we are. Apart from the addition of Bellerin and Tierney I expect the team to look pretty much as it did before the break. The Blades are set up to defend well and so we’ll need to be a bit tricky to find space …… maybe not the night for Pepe to open his account but I’m sure Emery will stick with him. Aubameyang has scored four of our five away goals – Mr Reliable – and I’m sure he’ll be pleased to have Lacazette on the bench to come on and help out.

Our possible line-up ……..

Leno

Bellerin   Sokratis   Luiz   Tierney

Guendouzi  Xhaka  Ceballos

Pepe  Aubameyang  Saka

I’m thrilled to have Arsenal football back, the weather forecast is good, we need a win on the road ………. COYG

peachesgooner 

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Arsenal Player Nicknames

October 15, 2019

Is it just me, or are player nicknames not as imaginative these days?

Or as intimidating?

In the past, fearsome defenders had fearsome monikers to put the wind up opponents before the whistle had even blown.

I’m thinking of Norman “Bites Yer Legs” Hunter, Stuart “Psycho” Pearce, Ron “Chopper” Harris, Julian “The Terminator” Dicks. Charlton Athletic’s Derek Hales had not one but two scary soubriquets: “Killer” and “Deadly Derek.” The big centre half Barry Kitchener at Millwall was known as “Lurch.” In these more refined times you have to go to World Wrestling Entertainment to find nicknames like that.

And if they’re too red-in-tooth-and-claw for our modern sensibilities, how about humorous nicknames? Again, I would contend they’re just not as funny as they used to be.

Who could resist a smile on hearing that Ray Parlour was “the Romford Pele” or that the former Palace and Watford player Fitz Hall was known as “One Size” (one size fits all – geddit?).

In more recent times Per Mertesacker’s nickname takes some beating: calling him The BFG (channeling Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant but adding a healthy dose of irreverence to turn it into Big F_____g German) was a stroke of genius and caught on with the fans from day one, even if it took a while for Per to understand the joke (who’d have thought Germans would struggle with a sense of humour?).

So let’s look at our current first team players.

Aubameyang is Auba, Lacazette is Laca, Ozil is just, well, Ozil… I mean, come on! Surely we can do better?

I suppose Torreira/Terrier is just about acceptable (it works as a pun and sort-of describes his playing style). Doozy for Guendouzi might have some mileage (dictionary definition of ‘doozy’ – “something outstanding or unique of its kind”) but has it really caught on? Kolasinac is sometimes called “Tank”, which is fair enough (although often his defending makes him more ‘septic’ than ‘Chieftain’).

So let’s have a stab at coming up with some new nicknames for our boys. I’ll get the ball rolling, but please pitch in with your own suggestions:

Hector “The Protector” Bellerin (protects our goal from enemy wingers).

Pierre Emerick “BamBam” Aubameyang.

Rob “Small” Holding (it’s meant to be ironic, given that he’s 6ft 2in).

Reiss “Horatio” Nelson (heroic enough, but then does anyone know their history these days?).

Skodhran “Skoda” Mustafi (occasionally dependable but a bit slow and prone to breaking down).

Calum “Star” Chambers (another one for the history buffs).

Mesut “Kaa” Ozil (Kaa is the hypnotic snake from The Jungle Book: Ozil, at his best, seems to hypnotise defenders… plus there’s those big, bulging eyes).

Dani “Sasquatch” Ceballos (have you seen the size of his big feet?).

Alexandre “The Lion of Lyon” Lacazette (bit rubbish, but all I could manage. He was born in Lyon).

Gabriel “The Angel” Martinelli (simple, but I like it).

I feel a bit sorry for Joe Willock (who is a terrific prospect) because all I could think of for him was Joe “The Pillock” Willock, which is most unfair. So I won’t mention that one.

Come on you lot, help me out.

Or at least mention your favourite nicknames for players past and present (of Arsenal or any other club).

I’ll leave you with a funny anecdote. When Shola Ameobi was playing for Newcastle United under the managership of the aging and somewhat forgetful Bobby Robson, an interviewer asked him what the other players called him. The disappointing answer was “Shola.” Then the interviewer said: “What does Bobby Robson call you?” Ameobi replied: “He calls me Carl Cort.”

RockyLives


Are Our Players Too Soft?

October 15, 2019

This is just a quick conversation starter based on something that came up during Ian Wright’s interview with Dennis Bergkamp.

(If you haven’t seen the interview yet, what’s wrong with you? JM posted it in the comments in the ‘Art of Defending’ Post so go and watch it! People often ask if God is real… well, there he is, chatting away to another deity who’s not too far below him in the great Arsenal Pantheon).

There were many fascinating, touching and funny moments in the interview but one part of the conversation struck me as particularly interesting.

It starts with the two legends reminiscing about training at Arsenal (and in particular whether Dennis was ever bothered by Martin Keown’s maniacal behavior and overly physical play). Dennis naturally says he had no problem with big Martin (and implies he was more than happy to give a bit back, which we all know he was capable of).

Dennis points out that there were always two or three confrontations (or bust-ups, if you like) between players in every training session, but that he loved the intensity because it prepared him for real game situations. Then he adds: “I speak to young players as well nowadays. I don’t see that any more now. It’s just very polite and relaxed and everything.”

When I heard that it seemed obviously true (even if I had not really thought about it much before). Arsenal players of more recent vintages don’t give the impression on the pitch that their training sessions are trench warfare.

But it raises some questions. Is this how it is at all teams now? Are all training sessions everywhere laid back and respectful, with no fiery lunges or stray elbows? Would the likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Roy Keane and Steve Bruce be thought of as maniacs if their younger selves were suddenly dropped into a 2019 training session?

Or is that blood-and-thunder approach still present at some clubs? It’s hard to imagine it at Manchester City. Maybe at Liverpool (but highly unlikely). At Manchester United it probably left the building with the purple-conked Gorbalian back in 2013.

If it exists anywhere it’s more likely to be in the lower-table and mid-table clubs, especially those managed by old school British managers like Steve Bruce.

You can see why the top clubs would not be keen on seeing their best players sidelined for weeks at a time because some psycho squad member has poleaxed them during training, whereas the lower clubs probably think their best chance against elite teams is to employ greater physicality.

So here’s the question: has Arsenal lost something by abandoning full-blooded contact in training? Has the Premier League? Has football generally?

Or does the modern way represent progress, a move towards a more sophisticated way of being a footballer?

Towards the end of the Wrighty-Bergkamp chat Dennis talks about watching Arsenal these days and says: “Sometimes it’s good, but a lot of times you don’t really feel it’s the Arsenal how we know it, with the passion and a few players who make the difference…”

Would some Chuck Norris themed training sessions bring the fire back to our boys?

Over to you…

RockyLives

For those that haven’t seen it, this is the video featuring Wrighty and DB10 Rocky refers to …


The Art of Defending

October 10, 2019

We sit third but without being that convincing to date. One does worry that we have slightly got away with it till now and the performances will not sustain us in our search for a points tally that sees us have a more successful season.

We have some unenviable stats where we top a league across many leagues for shots on our goal. How is this happening? I am not sure of the exact figures and maybe one of you lovely people can shed some statistical light on it.

I have also wondered whether there are any stats out there as to how often a teams defence have to face a defensive moment. My gut feeling is that this could also be very telling if say, for instance, our defence was having to face 50% more “defensive moments” than any near rival.

The sheer numbers game would indicate that you will eventually concede more than those rivals no matter how good your dfenders are individually and as a group.

I was interested in reading that Emery was after Boly to quote “solve Arsenal’s defensive woes”. My question is this. Is it just about the quality of defender we have or don’t have right now that is our big issue, and throwing another defender into the mix will solve our defensive problems, or is it more of a whole team structure thing that sees our defence called into action far more often than it should be and our rivals, and thus explain that worrying shots on goal stat?

Please discuss ……….

GoonerB


Sell Ozil … Send Emile Smith-Rowe Out On Loan …

October 9, 2019

The title of this post sums up the consensus of opinion from yesterday’s post that asked the question of what we should be doing with the aforementioned players. The results of the polls embedded in the post showed that more than 60% of those who lodged an opinion were in favour of selling Mesut Ozil, and sending Smith-Rowe out on loan.

AA contributor Gooner4life summed it up as follows:

Having waited and hoped that Ozil would adapt to the Premier League’s athletic standards of fitness and commitment to enable a team structure that would benefit his skill set and enhance the teams resilience, I have seen that hope disappear much like Ozil himself in games. He is not strong enough or fast enough to impose himself on games or assist in stifling the opposition pressing our defenses.

The time for pastures new has arrived with a subsidised loan or even free transfer to allow his particular talents to be showcased in a less abrasive league. Ceballos Ghendouzi Willock Torreira are the go to options for a dynamic midfield (which can be supplemented by Luiz or Chambers – but NOT Xhaka).

ESR is one of a number of shining academy stars (many of whom shone through in the pre season fixtures) who have potential to become regular starters. Injuries have stifled his progression and others are presently seizing their opportunities so a loan to a competing league would be beneficial and he is already highly regarded in Germany without hardly playing.

ESR needs to be placed with a club who will develop his strength and resilience to complement his talent by starting him consistently (not bringing him off the bench when the game needs rescuing). We need to look within the club more often to nurture the wealth of talent that could have been in our team rather than looking at what £50+million stars they have become and could be saving those sums in the transfer market.

The first team squad is becoming a stronger and deeper and will provide an opportunity for bringing the youngsters into the premier league environment. This is already happening and needs to be continued.

As a clever German recently said North London is still red!

Gooner4life


Is there a place in the Arsenal squad for Mesut Ozil and Emile Smith-Rowe this year and beyond?

October 8, 2019

We discussed it many times but it seems that now (although it is not working perfectly) Emery has decided to mould Arsenal’s play based on the Liverpool model and his time in Sevilla. On the Liverpool model because it is clear that he wants that high-intensity press and quick transition bsed on 3 lethal attackers, incisive full backs and a strong/physical spine defensively (CBs+DM+CM).

Modelled on Sevilla, because he wants to set up with a 4321 with one player in the middle 3 that can defend well but that can also break the lines with dribbling or passing, which is what Banega did for him in Sevilla and what Ramsey also did last year when he was fit to play. I think Emery’s idea is to give that “Banega/Ramsey” role to Ceballos this year.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Ozil has been left out of match squads for the last few games. The reason for this could be that Emery actually does not need Ozil-type of players in his team. He wants more industrious players in the middle of the park, faster players on the wings and he already has some players that fit the bill more than Ozil.

So it is time to part with our German maestro who was delivering assists after assists in his first three years with us? I think so, not because he is not a gifted player but because he does not seem to be able to adapt his game to the demands of the coach so you are in a lose-lose situation and it is best to let go for him and for us.

I think Ozil would be a great acquisition for PSG or Juventus or Bayern – but he ll go there as a squad player but he will get plenty of game time because these teams can make the most of his skill sets. PSG for example does not have players that can break lines with exquisite passes – Mbappe and Neymar can dribble past players for fun and have quality passing but what if they were fed the balls rather than having to create the plays…I can imagine a 4231 with Verrati, Gueye – Neymar, Ozil, Mbappe – Cavani do some ravage in some games…Anyways…

Now comes the tricky question regarding Emile Smith-Rowe. Can ESR play in the middle of the park? Certainly but can he play better than Douzi, Torreira, Willok and Ceba? Does he also have what it takes to play on the wings? Not really sure.

Can he play like Lacazette? To be confirmed…So in the short-term, I think it would be in both club and player’s interest to loan him back out again in January but maybe for 18 months so he can get some solid experience and come back and maybe then, there will be a place for him in our squad depending on his development. The boy is talented, no doubt. But I can’t see him go past the mentioned players in the near future so let us not slow his progression down and let him go out on loan in the EPL or abroad but he needs playing time.

So what do we do with these 2? Keep, sell, loan…?

RC78

 


Arsenal Win Inspires Title Charge

October 7, 2019

Yes, the headline is deliberately flippant.

But look at the facts:

  • Third in the league, only a point behind last year’s all-conquering champions.
  • Four points ahead of Teeteringham.
  • Six points ahead of Manchester United.
  • Only one defeat in eight games in the Premier League.
  • In the last two and half weeks we have played 6 games in all competitions, Won 5, Drawn 1, Lost 0; Goals for 17, Goals against 3.

On paper we’re in the title race, albeit a long way behind the long-haired lovers from Liverpool.

Yet it doesn’t feel like we’re anywhere close to being able to contemplate a serious tilt at the title and performances like yesterday’s against Bournemouth don’t help.

We can take satisfaction from getting our 1-0 win and three very valuable points, but life still is not a bowl of cherries. I’ll come on to possible reasons why later, but first a quick recap of the match.

Unai Emery’s team selection was fairly predictable. RC in his pre-match write up got 10 out of 11, missing only Ceballos, who was preferred to RC’s prediction of Torreira.

At the start of the day Bournemouth were only a point behind us in the league and we all know they can play a bit, so this was never likely to be a pushover.

That said, we started well with Saka looking particularly lively on the left flank, Ceballos pulling the strings in midfield, Guendouzi surging round the pitch like a remote controlled car on Christmas morning and even Pepe showing some silky skills.

The breakthrough came early, and not from any of the attackers. A corner from our right was adroitly pinged into the box by Pepe and found the curly coiffured bonce of our bouncy Brazilian centre back. He had a lot to do to direct the ball on target, but in it went. A first Arsenal goal for David Luiz and an assist for Pepe.

For the rest of the first half we were effortlessly in control, stroking the ball about easily and looking dangerous in attack, while Bournemouth offered little threat. We created multiple good situations but the final touch or pass was always slightly off and we were not able to build on our lead. As the minutes ticked into the 40s and it was still only 1-0 despite our dominance, I began to feel some familiar nerves twitching into life.

Sure enough Bournemouth came out a much more committed side after the break, presumably after a rocket from Eddie Howe. They harried us more effectively and slowly but surely became the dominant side.

As the second half wore on and our attacking thrust got blunter and blunter, an equaliser started to feel inevitable.

Some of the most perilous moments came directly from rare occasions when we were carving through Bournemouth and looking to threaten their goal, only for a piece of carelessness from one of our players to set them on the counter attack.

In the space of one period of just a couple of minutes Kolasinac, under no pressure whatsoever, passed the ball to a Bournemouth player who launched a break which almost resulted in a goal; then Guendouzi lost the ball carelessly and again, a few seconds later, we were lucky not to concede (although to Gwen’s credit it was he who made the gut-busting run and desperate tackle that saved a goal).

And that summed up our second half: sloppy. I don’t know if the conditions were difficult (the sun was shining, but had there been heavy rain earlier?), but every time we tried to do something positive it was spoiled by a wayward pass, a piece of bad control, getting carelessly caught in possession or even just tripping over our own feet.

When the whistle blew after five minutes of added time it was a huge relief.

So we had a win, but not one to send the faithful home feeling like the team is finding its rhythm and ready to push on with a serious top four challenge.

I thought our shape and system looked OK yesterday (certainly compared with some games, such as Watford or Man Utd), but – in the second half at least – there was a lack of concentration throughout the team, particularly in the attacking half.

Hopefully it was just a difficult day at the office and the sort of sustained focus we have seen in the cup games can quickly be integrated back into our league effort.

We happen to be on one of those runs (in the league) where the results are OK but the performances are worrying. From that position things can go in two directions: either the performances don’t improve and we don’t keep ‘getting away with it’ or things start to gel on the pitch and the results stay good. Take your pick.

I’ll end with some positives, beyond just getting the three points: for a start, the important thing is that we did not let Bournemouth get their goal and that was down to some committed defending, particularly from Chambers, but with Luiz and Sokratis also having some big defensive moments, while Leno was reliable as ever with his shot stopping.

Hopefully the clean sheet is indicative of a sharper defensive focus. The danger moments came from mistakes at the attacking end of the field leading to Bournemouth counters: they did not come from our defenders putting on clown shoes and red noses in our own defensive third as they have done too many times this season already.

Now we go into the international break on the back of a good run of results and with a struggling Sheffield United team waiting for us when league action resumes.

We are third in the league I said we are third in the league… (Doesn’t have quite the right ring to it, does it?).

Player Ratings

Leno    7

Didn’t have too many saves to make but was in the right place when called on. One interception of a dangerous low cross sticks in the memory as an instance of his excellent anticipation.

Chambers       8 (MoTM)

Chambers is on a very good run of form. Made some top tackles and interceptions in our box and helped link play well when going forward. Best of all, he always seems composed on the ball.

Sokratis           7

Didn’t do much wrong and made a couple of important tackles and headers.

Luiz      7.5

As per Sokratis, but with an extra half point for the goal.

Xhaka              5.5

I’m not as down on Xhaka as some, but much of this game passed him by (although he still had time to make some stupid tackles).

Ceballos          6.5

Good in the first half, faded in the second before being substituted.

Guendouzi       7

Typically energetic performance, but his play was littered with concentration lapses in the second half.

Pepe    6

You can almost smell the crowd willing him to turn it on. He showed some great dribbling skills at times, though usually with little end product. Not a bad a outing but this was not the game where he suddenly turns the corner. Nice cross for the goal.

Aubameyang  6.5

Struggled to make an impact, but it wasn’t really his fault. Most of our moves broke down before the ball reached him in dangerous positions.

Saka    7

Very bright in the first half but was another who faded after half time.

Subs

Martinelli        7

Looked lively and clearly uses the same batteries as Guendouzi.

Willock            6.5

Another encouraging outing for Willock, but by the time he came on our second half malaise was already too deeply embedded.

Torriera           6.5

A tidy 10 minutes or so from the Uruguayan.

RockyLives