Double Pants Dilemma: Newcastle v Arsenal Match Report and Player Ratings

August 11, 2019

The first game of a new season prompts a strange mix of emotions: excitement, anticipation, hope, nervousness. Perhaps fear.

I imagine it’s the way a bride must feel on the morning of her wedding when everything has been planned just the way she wants it but she has a nagging suspicion that she might be marrying the wrong man.

Well, let’s hope Arsenal’s 2019/20 season is a ‘happily ever after’ story and we don’t end up feeling betrayed, abandoned and embittered with only chocolate and cats to console us.

The auguries were not good for yesterday’s season opener against a Newcastle United team led by new coach Mrs Doubtfire.

There were two reasons for concern: firstly, our opening day form has been pants in recent years. And secondly, for the first time in years our opening match was away from home and, as we all know, our away form has also been pants.

So we had a double pants dilemma, like an anxious incontinence sufferer.

First, our opening day form: in the previous four years, starting with last year, we have managed the following: home defeat to Manchester City; scrappy and somewhat lucky home win against Leicester City; home defeat to Liverpool; home defeat to West Ham.

Next, our overall away form: last season and the one before we contrived to lose exactly half of our away games in the Premier League (19 out of 38) and managed to win only 11 out of 38 – a win rate of just 29%.

Yet, with all that in mind, it was impossible not to feel a bit chipper going into the game.

Most of us would probably agree we had a good transfer window and this has helped the mood music around the club to be more upbeat. There’s a cautious feeling that we have started to plant the seeds of recovery after some frustrating years.

There appears to be a bit more of a clear direction at the club and it’s hard not to be excited about new signings like Ceballos, Pepe and Martinelli, and the continuing progress of home-grown talents like Willock and Nelson.

Unai Emery went with a starting line-up that will probably bear little resemblance to our eventual first choice eleven this season (once the broken ones have returned and the new ones have settled). He put his faith in some of the youngsters. Willock, Nelson and Guendouzi started, as did Maitland-Niles and Chambers (does Calum Chambers still count as a youngster?).

Lacazette, rightly, was not risked due to recent injury issues, but was on the bench in case we needed to chase a goal late on. That meant the irrepressible Aubameyang would be carrying most of our attacking hopes.

The first half was a fairly even affair. The Barcodes had a 10 minute spell when they created some half chances, including a shot from noted Nosferatu impersonator Jonjo Shelvey that hit the post (although Leno may just have had it covered).

From our side, we were finding it difficult to break down a well-organised Newcastle defence and whenever it looked like we might find a way through a wayward pass or piece of control would bring an end to things.

But there were promising signs in the way we knocked the ball around at times and it was particularly pleasing to see Willock and Nelson so involved and showing a lot of confidence. Guendouzi, meanwhile, was my stand-out player of the first period. He’s strong, competitive, always makes himself available and is ever keen to get on the front foot: he may look like the dopey sidekick from a 1990s teen movie, but this kid has future leading man written all over him.

In the second half we were the superior team overall, without creating clear cut chances until the breakthrough came courtesy of two men for whom two initials are just not enough: AMN and PEA.

Maitland-Niles showed brilliant anticipation as Newcastle played the ball out from the back. He beat the Newcastle player to the ball around the half way line, took a couple of touches and looked up to see Auba moving into space in the penalty area. Maitland-Niles’s 35-yard* pass to our Gabonese gazelle was beautifully executed. Aubameyang brought it under control and coolly side-footed it past the on-rushing ‘keeper.

Mrs Doubtfire will be fuming at the space given to our striker in the box, but that should not detract from the fact that he found the space or the sublime way in which he finished.

As Auba ran to celebrate with his Number One Best Bro (Lacazette) on the touchline I liked that he turned to beckon Maitland-Niles to join the party.

After that Newcastle huffed and puffed but caused few real scares.

It’s tempting to say that Aubameyang’s quality was the difference, but in truth we displayed superiority in most areas for the majority of the game.

We also got to have a look at Ceballos, Pepe and Martinelli as they came on for Willock, Nelson and Mkhitaryan. There were a couple of nice moments from Pepe in particular, but the main thing was they got their debuts under their belts and they can feel they contributed to a win and a clean sheet.

I think a special word is also merited for our new away kit – and that word is “Yes!” Well done Adidas.

*For younger readers who don’t understand imperial measurements, 35 yards is equivalent to 28 Ells, or 70 Cubits.

Player Ratings

Leno: dealt with everything that came his way. In particular I enjoyed the moment in the second half where he came out of his area to head the ball clear and snuff out a dangerous Newcastle attack. 7.5

Maitland-Niles: excellent overall game from the young fullback and his anticipation and skill directly led to our winning goal. 8

Monreal: solid and unspectacular from Nacho, but he did little wrong. 7

Sokratis: it’s hard to get excited about our Greek colossus, but he is a very dependable defender and had a good game. 7

Chambers: a year on loan playing in midfield has been good for Chambers. I fancy he could be one of the surprise success stories of the season. Like his central defence partner he was solid. 7

Xhaka: seemed more subdued than usual but was tidy and played some very nice attacking passes at times. 6.5

Guendouzi: all energy all the time. I love the way he turns his body as he receives the ball so he is always ready to surge towards the opposition end. 8

Nelson: confident and tidy. It’s very encouraging to have players like him and Willock coming through, not least for the way it can inspire other up-and-coming talents at the club. 7

Willock: this lad’s a class act. 7.5

Mkhitaryan: I know he’s not a fan favourite but I thought he was lively in the first half and helped create some of our better chances. His final ball let him down a couple of times and he faded in the second half. 6

Aubameyang: exuberant, talented and full of energy – what a great player to have wearing the Arsenal shirt. MoTM 8.5.


Ceballos: misplaced a few passes as he tried to find his feet, but grew into the game.

Pepe: showed one or two very nice moments of skill. Looking forward to seeing more of him.

Martinelli: a Brazilian forward at the Arsenal? What’s not to like?



The Other Three Have Won … Now Arsenal Need a Winning Start at Toon

August 11, 2019

The day has come… The Arsenal are back! Our season gets underway as we travel to St. James’ Park to take on Newcastle in their first competitive game under Steve Bruce. Newcastle are coming off a middle of the road season. They comfortably maintained their place in the Premier League with a 13th place finish. Notable departures include Ayoze Perez, Mohamed Diame, and of course Rafa Benitez. As far as arrivals, they spent big on two players, Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin and as previously mentioned, brought in Steve Bruce to take over for Benitez.

As far as our squad today, we will be without Tierney, Bellerin, Holding, and Mavropanos through injury as well asÖzil and Kolasinac due to ‘further security incidents’. Regarding Lacazette and Pepe, it seems very unlikely that they will start as the former will have to pass a late fitness test and the latter may need more time to adapt for a proper debut according to Unai. Here’s hoping that this is more about trying to keep Newcastle on their feet regarding how we are going to line up than neither of them actually starting. With that being said, I’m afraid that Unai is telling the truth and that our starting line up will be something similar to this:

Notes: Feel like he may start Luiz as he is Premier League ready but given that he signed 3 days ago also have some doubts. I also want to mention that I think this is the team he will go with, not the team I’d prefer.

The start of the season brings new expectations as well as new questions. Last season we dealt with Newcastle quite well winning 2-1 away (conceded in the 90+1 minute) and 2-0 at home. As far as what to expect from game, my guess will be that given their new manager, they will sit a little deeper and be more compact than in previous seasons. Think it’s going to be a tough match without the previously mentioned players and will be happy with any win. So with that said, I’m going to go with a 2-1 win. Goals from Aubameyang and… lets go with Mkhitaryan give us with the three points as we move on to Burnley.


Liam (MikeM’s son)




Football is back ……..

August 10, 2019

We’ve made it …………….. almost two months with no football to watch and lots of discussions about who we needed to buy and who we needed to sell. Ultimately it was a pretty exciting Transfer Window in which many football supporters – Arsenal and others – think we’ve done rather well.

We still have players out with injuries – Bellerin, Holding and Lacazette – who won’t be travelling to Newcastle tomorrow, plus new recruits who may not be ready to start. With that in mind we will probably see Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson in the line up and well done to them for working so hard to get to this point.

Reading the farewells from Alex Iwobi and Carl Jenkinson brought a tear to the eye as their love for the club shone through.

The club photographer, Stuart MacFarlane sent a message to Danny Welbeck reminding him that he was only next door and not to be a stranger. For those that don’t know, the Watford Training Ground is next door to Arsenal Training Ground.

The statement from the club about Ozil and Kolasinac not travelling because of fears about their safety following the attempted car jacking last week is worrying for everyone. Any further attempts of violence towards them puts the whole team at risk ……………….. a very sad state of affairs.

So, today we get to see Jenks lining up with Nottinham Forest v Nketiah lining up with Leeds. Best of luck to both of them ………….. obviously we want Eddie to get lots of game time and show what he can do.

Have a great Saturday ……………


Happy as a Mad Brazillian?

August 9, 2019

I said before the window that our 2 main areas of concern last season were the defence and the attacking midfield areas. Fast forward a couple of months and we’ve signed 3 defenders and 3 attacking players.

Very, very happy.

I cannot wait to see Pepe and Tierney in the side and Luiz and Ceballos should get plenty of games too and improve on what we have. Martinelli has looked capable in pre season and should develop, and hopefully Saliba will be first team ready when he arrives next summer.

We’ve gotten rid of a few fringe players in Bielik, Jenkinson and Ospina, aswell as seeing Iwobi, Ramsey and Koscielny leave. However, none of those losses feel too hurtful as we’ve known about Ramsey for a while, Koscielny is no longer what he once was, and Iwobi just didn’t seem to be developing. I really like the Nketiah loan deal to Leeds too and it would be fantastic if he could fire them into the PL and earn himself another 12 months their next season to see if he’s ready for the top flight.

A net spend of around £80m and a feeling that we’ve strengthened our attack significantly whilst managing not to make an already porous defence weaker despite losing our captain. We’ve even managed to look to the future with the signings of Saliba and Martinelli, aswell as the integration into the first team of Willock, Nelson, Martinez and Saka.

A very successful summer from the Arsenal hierarchy. The addition of Edu and the work that’s been done by the transfer guru’s might have just started to repair what was a crumbling relationship between the fans and the men at the top. It looks like we will be an exciting team to watch this season and I can’t wait for the football to start.

Over to Unai to make Arsenal great again!


David Luiz in an Arsenal Shirt … Yes? … No? … Indifferent?

August 8, 2019

When the news broke that Arsenal were considering taking a discontented David Luiz off of Chelsea’s hands, supporters heads were in a spin. Was this the best business we could do to replace Koscienly? Feels a bit like Sylvestre all over again.

Luiz, at 32, is an experienced defender, he’s played in the Premiership and won things with Chelsea. We’ve watched him for years and know that he’s strong and wily and prone to go missing. He likes working with Emery but doesn’t like to be criticized so I’m not sure that’s really the personality we want but we do need a CB ……… and he’ll be ready to go.

These comments from some of our bloggers sum up different views.

LB says:

I go out for five minutes and we are talking about David effing Luiz.

For goodness sake……………I despair.

RC78 says:

I saw David Luiz at Psg and he is a good footballer and a decent defender. I don’t mind seeing him join AFC because he also adds a very very credible option at DM. When he played there at Psg for a few matches, he did excellent because his passing and positioning is rather good. He is also good at free kicks and is a serious aerial threats on set pieces. Big issue with him is that he has lapses and can let an attacker go unmarked or he ll get Booked stupidly. Another reason to get excited is that he had his best season with Conte when they played 3 at the back and I think that he would form quite a partnership with Holding and Sokratis at the back: Holding – Sok – Luiz

LBG says:

Despair is my reaction, LB.
Following the positivity of the rest of our signings, Luiz is a backward step, and no I dont believe will be an improvement whether CB or MF. Disruptive, ill disciplined, and most of all will he knuckle down and work on combinations for the good of a team in red.
Not a chance!
And finally, why would we ever be reconsidering three at the back. Doesn’t work unless all three are lightning quick and good positionally and even Holding lacks pace, let alone the Greek barge.
Dont do it please, Dick!

And this from fatgingergooner

Only way another CB other than Luiz comes in is if we get deals sorted for at least a couple of Iwobi/Kolasinac/Elneny to leave. Surely now it’s too late to think a deal will be done for a £20m-£40m defender? Luiz and Tierney would bring our outgoing to about £140m.

Luiz is the new CB. Time to get on board and get excited about the season. He had a solid campaign for Chelsea last year in a back 4 a lot of the time. No reason he can’t do the same for us this season.

Is he going to make our defence impenetrable? No.

Realistically, is there a CB out there who could do that within our transfer budget? No.

Is it he better than what we currently have? Yes and proven in PL so can play from day 1.

Maybe Transfer Deadline Day will bring some more surprises ……………….. just a few hours to go.


Unai, Wake Up! … Xhaka + Özil + Mhki = Disastrous Defending

August 7, 2019

My take on the pre-season is now focused on what we can expect from the coming season based on what we saw, how we ended last season and what improvements, if any, we have made.

Summary of last season is that we had a very effective “new manager bump” which put us in pole position to qualify for the Champions League. However with a typically Arsenally (what we used to refer to as Spursy) finish to the season we blew it in what I think was pretty spectacularly bad fashion. There were fundamental problems:

  1. We couldn’t defend properly and conceded way too many poor goals. My humble opinion on this is that as bad as our defenders appeared to play, we just defended horribly as a team. Our pressing during the first part of the season was quite good but after March, it was amateurish. We had no one who could hold the ball and relieve pressure. We had also signed what I think is a very good keeper which made it all the more frustrating.
  2. We weren’t direct going forward and (as usual) had no plan B if teams parked the bus. Our playmakers (Ozil, Miki and Iwobi) failed fairly miserably as a group. When Ramsey finally got into the team, he offered directness and we played better. When he got hurt, we were done.
  3. We had no heart, balls whatever word you want to use. A team devoid of leadership and such a weak mentality, I thought we were Spurs during the 2000’s!!! Seriously though, both us and Manure were horribly weak mentally and the final positions reflected that.

So I was looking to Unai to change three things really. Mentality, mentality and mentality.

On to pre-season. We won our first few games, beat Bayern and went 2-0 ahead against Madrid. I wrote in my match report I wondered if we’d really turned the corner or if we’d revert to type.

We did the latter. Gave that match away, played really quite well against Lyon (apparently, I didn’t see it) and lost that one, then lost against Barca after I thought, a fairly competent first half performance and a 1-0 lead. I know it’s pre-season but what have we learned?  Apparently not a lot. Here are my concerns with the manager for the coming season.

  1. We still aren’t defending well as a team. I don’t see that has been addressed. It strikes me as strange that at 2-0 ahead against a 10 man Real, then our most experienced defender gets 2 yellows in 5 mins. We had opportunities to kill the game off. We go in 2-0 up at half time, then he brings off Willock and leaves Ozil to defend ahead of our full back. We coughed it up and if Ascencio hadn’t got hurt, would have probably lost. And we still had 2 golden chances to win the game at the end but failed to take them. We lose to Lyon after a couple of marginal decisions and AMN not having the greatest of games. Why? If he’s not motivated after pulling the shirt on, who is? (I know he’s had some problems in his personal life so I’m giving him the benefit). Where’s the manager in this? Then we lose to Barca after being ahead 1-0 at half time because again we take off our best midfielder and put Ozil to defend our right and Miki to defend the left. No wonder we aren’t happy with how they played. They can’t defend !!!!!!!!!! Does Unai know that?
  2. Granit Xhaka. I still don’t put Mustafi in this category, Granit stands alone for me. Maybe I’m mistaken but a holding midfielder needs strength, agility, speed and awareness. Xhaka has none of these. His tackling is poor, he gives away loads of free kicks and possession because he’s poorly positioned, misread the situation or just gets outmuscled, outfought or outrun. Compared him to his top 5 peers. Kante, Jorginho (who’s not great either), Fernandinho, and basically any of the Liverpool or Spuds midfield. Not only would he not get a look in at any of them, he wouldn’t even start at United. Not to mention Wolves, Everton, Leicester. What does he do well? He strikes a ball and makes the occasional sublime pass. But I see the same Xhaka as last season and for those of you that know me, what Emery does with Xhaka was going to define how I see his second season. I have been a fan and advocate of Emery since he started and firmly believed he should be given a year, which he has been. I just don’t understand his persistence with Xhaka.
  3. MENTALITY!!! We are soft. No one expects us to take the lead and hold it. Pre-season has just re-iterated that and in any sport, winning becomes a habit. So does losing and weak mental performance. I know Klopp said you can’t become a big winner without losing big first. Hope he’s right because if so, we’ll win the quadruple this year !!! But I’m not holding my breath. Liverpool, City and Spuds are miles ahead of us in this category. And it’s squarely down to their managers.

In trying to be balanced, I must say I’m completely impressed with our transfer window. Hopefully we’ll sign a central defender which will make it an 11/10 instead of the 8.5/10 it is now. I also believe the signings we have made, although not defensive, will help with our ball retention and therefore indirectly with our defending as a team.

Pepe and Ceballos look like they’ll be tremendous signings and there’s more than one way to defend. So let’s see what Unai has planned. I’m concerned we haven’t signed a CB and if Xhaka starts and Miki and Ozil are deployed in front of our full backs, I see a frustrating season ahead.

Please prove me wrong Unai and Granit !!!!!!!!!

Mike M

Shock Horror … Mustafi is a Good Defender ….

August 6, 2019

…. it must be true, the stats prove it!

With only three days to go until the transfer window closes, many supporters want to see players leaving as well as arriving. For many, Mustafi is top of the list to be shown the door.

With this in mind and to add some balance, I decided to take a look at his stats and compare them with other defenders..  I chose his teammate Sokratis; the world’s most expensive defender (Harry Maguire) and the best defender in the EPL – all of whom you might expect to shine in comparison.

The figures are supplied by The Premier League.


We all know the old adage about lies and statistics and this is by no means a definitive comparison. You would need to factor in the success rate of the team and other criteria to be objective  – specifically the players around them, how good they are in their positions and how the whole team operates when in defensive mode.

Stats such as ‘clean sheets’ (or more accurately the lack of them) cannot be blamed on just one player. I’ve included them in the analysis because they are often quoted.

The fact that van Dijk is clearly the best defender gives some credence to the figures. He only fails to come top in areas where he is less busy … this is because Liverpool are a very good balanced side that defend as a team.

Here are the results of that research, colour coded for easy recognition.

Be prepared to be shocked, it indicates that Mustafi is a hard working and effective defender.

What is impressive is that he outperforms them all in tackles made, tackles won and interceptions. It shows him to be a better defender than Maguire and Sokratis. Can this be true?


How do you produce a stat that represents lapses in concentration?

What can we conclude from all this? For some that will be whatever our ingrained bias makes us comfortable with. For others it could be the memory of yet another game changing incident.

The fact that his pass completion percentage is the lowest comes as no surprise, but coming top in the number of tackles won is unexpected.

What you can see from these stats is that Mustafi works his socks off. He probably tries too hard and make mistakes as a result … far too many mistakes for a lot of gooners.

Would he make fewer mistakes if we got off his back? Maybe.

Would he make fewer mistakes if his teammates were doing their job properly? It’s possible.

Arsenal own StatDNA, a specialist sports analytical company. The Arsenal coaches and manager will know just how  effective (statistically) Mustafi is at his job on the pitch. Their analysis will be far more sophisticated … but … if the picture they receive is similar to the above, will they ignore the booing and keep what these stats indicate is one of our best defenders … or will they succumb to fan pressure?

I think I already know the result this poll is likely to deliver … but have your say on the Mustafi question by voting …