EPL – Episode 4 – AFC beats Fulham, again but it was not easy…Some retrospection on this game

August 30, 2022

This result has been portrayed variously in the media and the blogosphere – but generally, those not sympathetic to the Arsenal have called it lucky, and nothing to write home about. However, I think it is massively significant.

Firstly, let us agree that there are no easy games in the Premier League. It’s a cliche that’s trotted out when your team has lost or drawn against considered lower opposition. That does not diminish its central truth. There are eleven good players trying their damnedest to negate your superiority. There is a referee who is only human (except, possibly, Mike Riley and Mike Dean), and whose calls on one day might lean your way, and on another, might favour your plucky opponents. There is the capricious bounce of the ball. Critics who call down the Arsenal for only beating four also-ran teams heretofore, conveniently ignore that other aspiring leaders have come up short against these same teams already this season. Have Man City, Liverpool, Man Ure, Chelsea or even the mighty Sp*rs stuttered against the best opposition?

So a well-coached team spearheaded by the excellent Mitrovic was always going to prove difficult. The first half developed as one of those days, of which Arsenal has had many down the years, where possession and movement should have had us out of sight by half time. But the final pass/shot/movement frustrated. In previous seasons, we would have gone behind to a silly goal and hung on to lose luckily 1-0.

Then, early in the second half, we did go behind to a silly goal. At this point, I imagine I was in the majority anticipating the aforementioned anti-climax.

But this new team are made of other stuff. There is a steel, a confidence, a certainty about them – and that is why this was such a significant game. Not only did they keep going, keep ramping up the pressure, keep biting into challenges, keep exchanging crisp passes all over the pitch. They did it with a clarity of purpose that made victory likely. Significantly, doggy-fashion, they came from behind.

Odegaard’s deflected shot may have been lucky, but no more than half a dozen previously blocked shots had been lucky too. Gabriel’s redeeming winner may have been scruffy, but his focus was exemplary.

As to player ratings – well, I’ll give them all “tens”! With some added observations.

Arteta: unfairly criticised for his substitutions, bringing on Eddie for Tierney in the sixtieth minute. Simultaneously reactive and pro-active, and the young forward seized his moment with brio.

Saka: everyone jumping on the bandwagon that asserts he’s not the same player so far this year. Rubbish. He’s being double and triple marked and he’s still frequently wriggling clear to make telling incursions and passes. He has opposition defenders demanding brown underwear.

White: how can anyone be critical of this star? Filling in out of position, he has got better and better with every game. His defence is monumental; his attacking play increasingly varied and telling. He is undroppable – which makes Tomi’s situation interesting.

Xhaka: quite simply re-born. Moving him upfield has liberated him, and (pace LGB and LB) his contributions are a joy to watch.

Obviously, we will soon lose a game. It might be to the dreaded Manure next weekend. But whatever the results, this team are the most enjoyable and exciting Arsenal side for many, many, many a year.

A post by Maxwell The Great

Some add-ons from RC78:

  • Odegaard has been in great form this season so far and it seems the captaincy is giving him wings to do better. He has been great in setting the tempo and finding the good pass. Let us hope he continues on his good form.
  • Our CBs are showing great character and resilience. Saliba is impressing and Gabriel scored after his howler. It is great to rely on the whole team to score goals.
  • We missed Zinchenko a lot vs Fulham in our build up play – he adds another dimension to our game that cannot be denied and it will be hard now for Tierney to earn his starting spot except maybe in Europe and Cup Games but for the EPL, Zinchenko is the starter when fit.
  • While we are able to create chances, we are also giving away a few good ones in each game. We need to somehow become tighter to limit the opposition’s good chances.
  • Jesus’ off the ball movement and runs are great – he is really creating space for his partners as well as creating chances for them.
  • Nketiah had a great impact when he came on.
  • I think that bringing in another DM/CM (Tielemans? Merino?) and FW/Winger (Neto?Pino?) would not be a bad idea

COYG!


EPL – Episode 4 – Gunners host a brave and direct Fulham team

August 27, 2022

On the face of it, Arsenal would be clear favourite for today’s game given our history against newly promoted team and Fulham and also given our current form but we must not underestimate this Fulham team who has yet to lose this year and is playing smartly, bravely and directly and has a few tricks in its sleeves…

Fulham is probably going to play the same way they did against Liverpool: absorb pressure, counter-attack in number and put pressure on set-pieces. They have some quality players in Leno (whom me know well), Diop, Pereira and of course Mitrovic. They will also play more long balls too and fight for second balls. They are physically ready for the fight and for the 90 minutes…

However, they do have some issues too as concede quite some goals and Jesus should be able to capitalize on their central defense gaps.

So here is the deal:

  1. Saliba and Gabriel are going to have to face a lot of crosses and long balls so their aerial strength will be tested and Ramsdale will also need to command his area nicely
  2. Partey and Xhaka are going to be crucial today in challenging for the second ball
  3. White and Zinchenko would also need to watch the movement at the far post but also try to limit the opposition’s crosses
  4. It can be another game with a goal from Odegaard or Xhaka
  5. Gabriel Jesus is going to have chances but will also create space for both Saka and Martinelli, we need to finish our chances to avoid a nervy game

All and all, we are playing at home and we are in good form. Keep the discipline defensively and we should be able to see this game through. A 2-1 game with Saka, Ode and Mitrovic on the scoresheet.

COYG! Let the good times continue


Pepe, AMN, Bellerin…edging closer to the exit

August 25, 2022

So it seems that our club record signing is on his way to Nice where he will link up with Ramsey on the fancy French coast. He will be going there on loan without an option to buy. He has had great games and crap games and many anonymous games. He is clearly a gifted forward but somehow it did not work out for him at AFC…shame…I am sure he will help Nice a lot in the French league.

AMN is apparently closing on a move to Southampton, Not’Forest, Aston Villa or West Ham but the most likely destinations at this stage are Southampton and Forest. I think he is a very talented player who just never settled in one position. He will be the perfect squad player wherever he goes because of his versatility. Wishing him luck and sad to see a gooner leave…

Bellerin – once the Spanish jewel of our squad, the most expensive player of our squad wanted by the likes of Barcelona, Man City and Bayern Munich…An injury later, some soul searching, a new coach and a loan later…he is ready for new pastures. I think AFC is trying to sell him but he wants to end his contract to join Spain again and most likely Betis

So long good friends of AFC, shame it did not work out for you but I think that all AFC fans recognize your efforts and wish you the best!


EPL – Episode 3 – Arsenal ate the cherries away…

August 22, 2022

Hi Anyone who-might-be-there!

Ceiling? What ceiling?

The way things are looking at the moment, there is no ceiling for this group of players.

I can’t remember the last time I felt such excited anticipation before matches – and they’re delivering on my expectations. So.

Out of the blocks quickly. Dominating from the off. A miss kicked up-and-under by Benjamin. Gaby J nudges the new boy Senesi off-balance, takes the dropping ball under sublime control and embarks on a mazy, sinuous run into the penalty area. Just when You think he’ll overdo it, a neat side-foot to Gaby M’elli on his outside. Quick control and a fierce shot the goalkeeper can only parry. Odergaard, cleverly, touches the rebound into the back of the net.
1-0.

Total dominance continues (in the first half Bournemouth managed 0 shots and 0 incursions into Arsenal’s area). Moments later, Benjamin to Bukayo, overlaps with perfect timing for the return ball. Fired across the area to Gaby J who mis-controls into the swinging boot of Captain O.
2-0.

A slight drop off, followed immediately after the break by Bournemouth upping the tempo having shifted from a back 5 to a back 4. Lots of aerial balls to the mountain called Moore (geddit!), dealt with supremely by Gaby Mags. Arsenal barely out of second gear. Then a free kick on the right, taken quickly to Gaby M’elli. Deep cross from the by-line chested down by GX and passed to Tequila at the top of the D. Left-footed (supposedly his weaker), a bending howitzer into the top right corner. Cue Zinchenko clutching his head in disbelief!
3-0.

Gaby J should have been awarded a goal, but was denied – so pathetic is the off-side rule now. Subs ESR and Eddie had chances late in the day. Highlight? Possibly the away fans singing “Tequila (Saliba)” to our new defensive hero for fifteen continuous minutes before he even scored!

Otherwise, it’s not merely that we won three on the bounce. It’s the way they’re playing that is SO satisfying.

Ramsdale – 8
White – 8
Saliba – 10
Gaby Mags – 10
Zinchenko – 9
GX – 8
Thomas – 7
Saka – 8
Captain O – 9
Gaby M’elli – 9
Gaby J – 10

Subs not really on long enough, and the heat was truly out of the game by then , but a collective 7.

I loved the trolling on the BBC HYS feed on Saturday night, that we haven’t beaten anyone, that we’re now crowing we’re going to win the league, etc. They do hate us out there. Did anyone tell Liverpool, Chelsea or Manure that Arsenal haven’t beaten anyone, because they only played teams they would be expected to beat?

Ceiling? Sky’s the limit!

By Maxwell


EPL – Episode 3 – The Arsenal goes cherry picking at Bournemouth…

August 20, 2022

So our numbers against the Cherries are rather pleasant as we have only lost one out of our last 10 games against them but their performance against Aston Villa shows us that Scott Parker’s side can be tough to beat and at times entertaining to watch too. Of course, they suffered a heavy defeat last week to Man City but let us now look too much into it as the Citizens will be thrashing a lot of teams this season…

Winning this game will make it 3 for 3 for us and will help build our momentum as well as growing confidence. Let us not expect too many changes in our starting line-up and the same could be said of the Cherries…

So here is the expected line-up…surprise surprise:

Ramsdale – White, Saliba, Gabs, Zinchenko – Partey, Xhaka – Saka, Ode, Martinelli – G.Jesus

The only question mark would be White in case Tomy is fit…

As for the Cherries, the players to watch are Neto, Senesi, Cook, Dembele, Tavernier, Moore and Solanke.

It will not be a walk in the part and I expect the Cherries to go after White and Zinchenko and exploit also the space behind our advancing Xhaka…If we play with discipline at the back and in the middle, we should grab the three points.

Given the opposition, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ode or Xhaka score and then another goal for Gabriel Martinelli. I think we will edge a nervy game by winning 2-1 away! COYG! Also we have Wilshere now in our corner who can give us some insights on the Cherries…


EPL – Episode 2: AFC 4 – Leicester 2: Boom go the Gooners!!

August 16, 2022

Having taken the plunge on an article back in March analysing our run-in, I have decided in the
absence of a match report to-date, to try again.

So here goes:
Comfortable start to the match but gave up a very good chance early on which Ramsdale did
very well to smother. We looked lively and played some great football. These days it seems so
much more likely that we’ll score, I’m thinking 0-2 at Nurnberg and the rest of the pre-season,
then Palace. We needed a little inspiration. We got a lot !!! My son texted me and said that he
was just thinking Jesus was playing well but hopefully would be able to “step up” !! Then he
scores THAT goal !!

The second goal was sweet because of the Vardy assist and the fact our “fox in the box” was
there to score. Half time came with us still playing great football although we gave up a couple
more chances and the Vardy ‘penalty” was a beautiful thing. AR got a little lucky because many
times that would be given, but it wasn’t a penalty.

The own goal was unfortunate again AR rushing out. I have to say I think that’s his style and as our defenders get more used to it, I think it will cause less problems. I still prefer it to the rooted to the line style of our former (very good to be fair to him) keeper. AR is better.

Thanks to their keeper for returning the favour, then we conceded a soft one which exposed our left sided defending and was not good from Ramsdale. So panic stations and hunker down to defend the win right? No Sir(s and Ma’am’s). Martinelli won the ball back in midfield and combined with Jesus to score a delicious goal that knocked the stuffing out of the Foxes. Boom !!!!! 4-2 to The Arsenal
!!

Ramsdale 6

White 7 Saliba 7 Gabriel 7 Zinchenko 6

Partey 7 Xhaka 7

Saka 7 Odegaard 8 Martinelli 9

Jesus 10

So what to make of it? My March article was a “prediction” of how we’d finish and what we
needed to do to get C/L (Top 4). I had us getting 15 points from 12 games, 3 wins, 6 draws and 3
losses. We ended up with 6 wins and 6 losses. My hope was to turn draws into wins at mid
table teams and not lose to rivals. We did that adequately but lost to Brighton at home and at
Palace, Southampton and Newcastle, unfortunately turning “expected draws” (a draw vs
Brighton wouldn’t have been the end of the world at the time) into losses. In every game it
came down to one thing – No goals scored early enough (or at mostly at all !!) in the game to
make a difference to our opposition’s tactics and set up.

I get the feeling we have belief that we will score. Mitigating factors will be:
Better/harder opposition, Inevitable mistakes/bad luck/bad refereeing, Miserable winter
conditions, Injuries and suspensions.

What it won’t be is lack of belief, quitting or soft center. I really think we’re on the right track. I
actually believe Europa League is perfect for us also this season, remember the old saying “be
careful what you wish for !!” Lets’ see how Spuddies and Chavs fare. What I do know is there’s
only two teams with 100% records in the PL. Soft start right, easy wins? Yep, Fulham away then
Palace at home – too easy. Oh wait – that’s not us !! Hope you get my point. We will have a lot
harder tests coming soon but I love the way we’ve started. Let’s just take it from there.

A fine post by Mike M


Arsenal’s Season Up and Running: Five Takeaways from Win at Palace

August 6, 2022
Palace Coup

Watching the Amazon Prime Video series about Arsenal’s 2021/22 season brought back horrible memories of our poor start last year, not least an opening day defeat at newly promoted Brentford.

Despite our encouraging form in pre-season this summer, I was concerned that playing away at Palace for our first fixture of the new campaign was another potential banana skin.

If we slipped up, I wondered, would all the positivity around the squad start to evaporate?

In the end my worries were banished by a solid all-round performance from a much-improved Arsenal team compared with a year ago.

It was certainly no walk in the park. If pre-season was all about flamboyant cavalier football, last night’s game was trench warfare.

Palace are a team comprised of heavyweight and middleweight boxers, some of whom have the speed of sprinters.

Overall we stood up to the physical battles well and deserved the win, despite some scares.

Here are five takeaways:

Saliba is a Rolls Royce Player

I keep telling myself not to get carried away by one performance but, boy, Saliba looks good. It’s not just his physicality and athleticism, or his passing ability and the timing of his tackles. It’s that he seems to instinctively make the right decision every time. And he’s only 21!!! As far as ceilings go, this lad is heading for the Sistine Chapel.

The Defence Stood Up Well

Not many teams will withstand the sort of fast, physical onslaught we endured at Selhurst Park last night. All the defenders did well, particularly the CBs. I felt Ben White was pulled out of position at times but his stats look very good and he coped better than most with the very real threat of Zaha.

Let’s Hear It for the Set Piece Coach

The opening goal was vital in that game and it came from a clever routine from a corner. Our new set piece coach, Nicolas Jover, has already had an impact on our campaign and we’re only one match in. I’m excited to see what other tricks this magician has up his sleeve.

Starboy Keeps Improving

I haven’t seen much mention of Bukayo Saka’s performance in the reports, perhaps because we spent 60 minutes of the match on the back foot. But I was watching him closely and his ability to bamboozle defenders and drive into dangerous areas is getting better and better. I don’t think there’s a more effective winger in the PL.

Our Fans are the Best

The Sky Sports pundits made numerous comments about the intimidating atmosphere at Selhurst Park (true) and the noise from the home fans. Yet it was quite clear from the TV coverage that it was the Arsenal fans making the most consistent noise. Our away support is amazing. The icing on the cake was the rousing rendition of the Vieira song towards the end when the points were in the bag (not that poor old Paddy seemed to care).

RockyLives


EPL 22/23- Episode 1 – AFC at Crystal Palace

August 4, 2022

And so the time has come for…the season to begin! but allow me to first congratulate all our England fans here for the amazing Euro win by your Women’s team! What a tournament and what a team! 4 Gunners in it as well 🙂

Back to EPL footie now, Crystal Palace won’t be an easy game to play…especially away. They only lost 4 games at home last year and we did not beat them either last year so the reading of stats and last year’s history does not favour us…

One of the key match ups will be Zaha – White and I think Saka-Partey-Saliba will need to be strong because there is no way White will be able to contain Zaha…

So while the season is looking mighty exciting with the great pre-season and our good transfer window so far, I think that we will be missing Tomy a lot tomorrow…

Most likely line up:

Ramsdale – White, Saliba, Gabs, Zinch – Partey, Xhaka – Saka, Ode, Martinelli – Jesus

Most likely score line: 2-1 to CP with a goal from Martinelli

but I am hoping to get a point from Vieira’s den tomorrow….


Zinchenko and Jesus doing the job for Arteta and Ode as the new AFC captain?

July 24, 2022

7 things we are learning so far during the tour:

  1. Turner will definitely not be a threat to Ramsdale’s nr. 1 spot unless Ramsdale’s level drops immensely
  2. Saliba is going to push hard to be in the starting line-up
  3. Jesus seems to adapt well to the team and the team to him
  4. Martinelli is looking sharp
  5. Zinchenko had a good 45 mins
  6. Partey-Xhaka to still be our central midfield double-pivot
  7. Odegaard to be named as our captain?

So the need to trim the squad is still there and the need to get a reliable back-up option to Martinelli is still there too. As mentioned, I d go for Barnes or Kostic. I am not sure the club is looking to buy a steelier midfielder, unfortunately…

COYG! Only a pre-season game but always nice to beat Chelsea


The clearance about to start…

July 22, 2022

“We have a large squad so we have to make some decisions as well on the players that we’re not going to be using consistently and be fair and straight with them and that’s a process that is going to start very soon as well. We have a big squad and now we have to make things happen.” Arteta

So who could likely to be concerned by the squad trimming process:

  • Leno (sale), Runarsson (sale or loan)
  • Cedric or Bellerin (sale)
  • Pablo Mari (sale)
  • Nuno Tavares (loan)
  • AMN (sale), Torreira (sale)
  • Sambi (loan), Vieira (loan)
  • Pepe (sale or loan), Nelson (sale or loan), Balogun (loan), Marquinhos (loan)
  • Oulad, Azeez, Patino, Taylor-Hart (all loan)

We will be playing the EPL, Europa League and FA Cup next year…3 competitions, we need a squad of up to 26 players including 3 GKs and 2-3 youth players…we already know a large portion of our squad for next year:

GK: Ramsdale, Turner, Okonkwo (3)

DF: Tomy, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Holding, Tierney + Cedric or Bellerin (7)

DM/CM: Partey, Xhaka, El Neny, Zinchenko + Sambi or Vieira + Patino or Azeez (6)

CAM: Ode, ESR (2)

FW: Saka, Martinelli (2)

ST: G. Jesus, Nketiah (2)

That is a total of 22 players already and that already includes Patino or Azeez (one young gun).

There are 4 spots left: including 1 at ST, 2 at FW and 1 for a young player at the back (Norton?).

So we could definitely keep Balogun, Pepe, Nelson or Marquinhos but will they want to stay?

I think it is a clear departure for the Mari, AMN, Torreira though…

Let us see…what are your thoughts?