So our Cup jousts start today with a EFL Cup game against West Brom…
Given our lack of European football and limited ambitions in the EPL, it is fair to say that Cups will be given more priority by AFC this season and that we could expect Arteta to field a strong line-up in national Cup competitions as clearly they represent a great chance for trophies, success and even European football.
So some have said that the team has been hit with bad luck through Covid-19, injuries…and others feel that Arteta needs to prove himself and turn the results around. In any case, everyone agrees that our season’s success may be largely determined by (i) a Top 8 (yet Top 8 :-() and (ii) Cup glory.
Make no mistake – West Brom is in good form under Ismael and have players to hurt us. It may be a repeat of the Brentford game …
So who will start for us today? Give your predicted and preferred line-up…and outcome:
Rather than drone on about how bad Arsenal were against Chelsea, I thought I’d give an account of my day at the stadium.
It’s been 17 long months since there has been a ‘full’ Emirates stadium. I managed to get to a game in December against Vienna. That occasion was a surreal experience sitting 3 seats from any other fans, only topped by having to order a ‘substantial meal’ with my beer that same day.
I passed up the chance of a beer pre-match and headed straight to the ground. The fans in general were in a boisterous mood aided by alcohol and a variety of other substances.
Those of us with season tickets will be aware of the new entry requirements to the Stadium with a new card and/or an App on the phone. I decided to bring both as my experience of dealing with Arsenal’s website and customer service department is akin to drinking petrol…not pleasant.
We were funneled along some queues where coats and bags were checked before getting to the concourse around the stadium. This seemed to work well as the usual queues at the turnstiles were a lot shorter than in pre-covid times. There were a few hold ups at the entrance as there were some Apps that didn’t work, but I got inside the stadium pretty quickly. The bar areas were packed, and the Arsenal fans were in good voice. I went into the seating area, took up my place and caught up with a number of familiar faces.
I would say that the Stadium was two thirds full. I know several people that have caught Covid recently so couldn’t make the game or were understandably reluctant to come along. Others are on holiday and more didn’t fancy it for reasons of their own. The game didn’t sell out, which meant season ticket holders were unable to put their tickets on the ticket exchange. Considering this was the first full capacity game in the stadium for some time and we were playing a traditional rival from London it speaks volumes of where Arsenal are at the moment. Many fans can’t be bothered to watch a team that has declined a long way from the previous highs of the early 2000s. This is natural, but it must make the powers that be nervous.
At the start of the game the sun was shining, and the fans were making a lot of noise. Unfortunately, the sun disappeared behind the clouds, the heavens opened, and it didn’t stop pouring for about 30 minutes.
Near where I sit in the North Bank there was a broken gutter high up on the Stadium roof, which meant that bucket-loads of water tipped down on some unsuspecting fans below. This isn’t a cattle shed or Stamford Bridge in the 80s, it’s not a good look. It was interesting to note that the Stadium looked a bit washed out. The seats and murals have become sun-bleached like a lot of the cheap seats in a US Baseball Park. Considering the Stadium is only 15 years old it looks a bit jaded. Just like the team really.
You know what happened in the game, so no need for further analysis here. The fans dripped away as they tend to do at Arsenal leaving a half empty stadium at the final whistle.
The crowds outside trudged along slowly towards Arsenal tube and the other destinations. A few half-witted Chelsea fans (are there any that aren’t half-witted?) aggressively chanted their way down the road, then disappeared in another direction.
My group visited a few local hostelries. The atmosphere was upbeat in these pubs. The Arsenal fans know that the team is in bad state and will tolerate the poor fare on offer for a while before things turn toxic. Lose at home to Norwich and the mood could change quickly.
I really enjoyed my day out. It’s been a long journey to get back to full stadiums. I think most fans in attendance enjoyed the novelty of watching a game in person. Here’s hoping this carries on…
Arteta has been saying that since he arrived 20 months ago, he had to change many things at the club in terms of the way it operates, its culture…and to be fair, some positivity and changes were visible in his first 6 months with a new-found defensive resilience and 2 Trophies: An FA Cup and a Charity Shield. To win both, big teams had to be beaten so when we started last season, there was a sense that we could consolidate our gains and build on Arteta’s early success with our club and with the signings of Willian, Partey and Gabriel, there was a “feel good atmosphere” around our club especially after our demolition of Fulham away with a few assists from Willian…
Then the season 2020-1 was what it was with a poor League position, performances in the Cups were not great and our run in the Europa League ended against Emery…who went on to win the Europa League
By then, Arteta had been able to shape the team to his liking to a certain extent…This summer, he managed to make new additions: Ramsdale, White, Tavares, Lokonga and Odegaard. He also managed to extend Tierney and Smithe-Rowe while Saka signed on last year. All seem to have a similar profile: young players, good potential and a good engine. Tierney, Odegaard and Saka have got some international experience too.
So Edu-Arteta say that we are building a team for the future with solid foundations but they are two major assumptions here:
They will play and improve with us
They will want to stay with us in 12 or 24 months because they (still) believe in the project/in our club.
And I am not taking into account external assumptions related to other clubs also strengthening
I am sure that Arteta will give them the necessary playing time to develop and that our coaching staff will also help them improve but I am not sure that players like Tierney, ESR and Saka would like to stick with us, if we do not (i) contend for trophies, (ii) win trophies), (iii) finish Top 4 or Top 6 especially if clubs like City, Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea, Real, Bayern, Barcelona, Juve, PSG come knocking at the door for them…
PSG needs a LB – they could easily approach Tierney. Would Tierney not want to play with Mbappy, Neymar and Messi?
Liverpool and City always looking to bolster their wingers’ option, wouldn’t Saka want to be coached by Guardiola or Klopp?
So, I understand that Edu-Arteta want more time (basically this season) but their project also need to include more instant success to ensure that the club is still competitive this season and that we can retain the younger talent extended and recruited…Otherwhise, their whole vision is doomed to fail…
Do you honestly believe that Arteta can make the following team (based on acquisition and Arteta’s formations since last year) compete for a Top 4 finish and a Cup Win this season:
I have my doubts…We had our best results with Arteta playing with a back 3 and I would be more comfortable going back to this set-up especially given the fact that we are conceding goals and chances like no one’s business….
I am 100% confident that we will beat the West London pretenders this afternoon and that will it be a VERY GOOD THING for a number of reasons.
Obviously, any Arsenal win is to be celebrated, but victory today will also silence (temporarily at least) the cacophony of negativity that has been echoing round the club since defeat at Brentford.
We have been inundated with an infestation of pundits vying to outbid each other in their forecasts of doom.
Like ants they have been crawling all over social media spewing rhetoric that gets ever more heated: Arsenal are one of the favourites for relegation; the clock is ticking for Arteta; Ramsdale is a waste of money; Odegaard is ‘bang average;’ our transfer activity has been terrible.
It’s time to call in Rent-o-Chill.
And so to today. Entertaining a strongly fancied team like Chelsea is the perfect scenario after the opening day disappointment.
Of course, seeing our injury-weakened team capitulate at Brentford was depressing, but to write off a season on the basis of a single result is a form of foolishness that any sensible supporter should know to ignore.
The same would be true if we’d beaten Brentford 5-0. No doubt people would have been praising Arteta and saying that Arsenal were outsider contenders for the title. That would have been equally foolish.
Team news remains mixed. By all accounts Odegaard is available to play and we can assume Ramsdale will be on the bench.
Ode showed enough talent with us last season to convince this observer at least that we have secured a real gem for what will turn out to be a bargain price. Yes, there’s some crossover with Smith Rowe, but they have already shown they can work well together (so it’s not an either/or situation) and, in any case, they have quite different styles of play.
As for Ramsdale, he has clearly been brought in to replace Leno in due course. I expect the move to happen in January when we sell the German and bring in a cheaper back-up or promote a goalie from the Hale End Academy.
Auba is potentially available after being Covid-pinged, but Partey and Gabriel are both still out with injury.
Worryingly, Willian is “being assessed,” but surely Arteta would not dare bring on the useless Brazilian bog-brush in front a real, actual crowd of supporters?
Torreira is back in the squad but I don’t expect him to feature as I imagine we’re still trying to move him on in this window.
Also, I would not rule out the possibility of another major transfer move as the window winds to a close at the end of the month, possibly a striker.
So let’s stop the moaning, get behind the manager and the team and enjoy a first home win of what promises to be an exciting campaign.
Ideally and by the end of the transfer window, we would be left with 6 options rather than 9. Players that could be allowed to leave on loan are Nelsson and Nketiah and players that could be sold are Willian, Nketiah (yes him again) and probably one between Laca and Auba…
Auba was named captain and handed a hefty contract about a year ago but has not done so well since…Shall we then allow him to leave and join Barcelona? If so, what would be a good transfer value? Is it too risky to let him go, knowing that prior to the previous season he has been our leading scorer for a few seasons in a row…
Some say that we should let him go, some say that we should keep him…I am on the fence to be honest as he may just rediscover his form and be our leading scorer again…
In all honesty, if we were to let one forward go to raise some capital between Auba and Laca and based on last season only, I d say keep Laca and let Auba go but if you look at their records over the last 3 seasons, Auba is the definite keeper! What to do…
And our season starts with a disappointing, but not all that surprising, defeat at Brentford. Our defense unit was tested early on and irremediably, we conceded a goal in the first 25 minutes of the game – courtesy of poor decision-making. We then tried to push harder and create chances especially through Tierney, Pepe, ESR and even Xhaka but to no avail. In the second half, the team continued to struggle with Brentford’s long balls and hussle and finally conceded a second goal – some say that Leno should have been awarded a free-kick and others say that top GKs would not even have been in that situation, it is hard to tell. In any case, with 15 minutes to play, we were 2-0 down and were not really causing Brentford any real trouble…
So we were indeed missing Saka, Auba and Laca at the start so that could explain a bit of our lack of offensive threat but what about our defense? It was bullied from minute one and Ben White was struggling the whole game while Mari was not really better…Ben White did well in a back 3 set-up with 2 big players next to him – yesterday, it seems that he was looking like a lost boy. Leno continues to be his usual self – a decent GK, nothing more. Lockonga looked promising for his first game but he still has a lot to learn and improve on. AS for Xhaka, our captain for the night, he tried as always.
So all and all, we can’t say that the team is looking more drilled or confident or improved as the same defensive frailties could be seen and the same lack of cutting edge in front of goal was also visible but for the latter, I am ready to give some leniency since we were missing 3 key players. For the defensive side, I am a lot more critical.
How shall we sort our defensive weaknesses?
Finally get a better GK?
Revert to a back 3 with Holding, White, Gabriel and set up in a 343 or 352?
Splurdge on a real midfield enforcer?
Get a new coach?
Anyways – a familiar outing and outcome yesterday against a physical team that had a simple game plan: long balls, go for the second balls and press the central defenders…
There is a bit of time to sort the team out still and apparently, the club is now open to sell Aubameyang to raise cash. Let us see…
At last…the Euro is over, the break is over and football season is back!
Arsenal starts its season with a tricky trip to the newly promoted team of Brentford – shall we consider this fixture as yet another London derby? The last time we played Brentford in the league was in 1947 and we won 1-0. Brentford is not a kind side to visit for Arsenal as we have 1 in 6 games (the first one basically) since 1947 in all competitions…But Arsenal usually does well in its opening game when played away – we haven’t lost such a game since since 2000 at Sunderland
In any case, Brentford is a well drilled side with a brave coach and quality players such as Ivan Toney who bagged 30 goals last year in the Championship. With the excitements of being promoted and having the fans back, Brentford is going to be dangerous. If we look at our pre-season form, our transfer window so far and our missing players, things are not looking too bright for the game today…I would say that the positives are that (i) Laca and Auba are looking rather sharp, (ii) Tierney, Pepe and ESR looking to take the game on; and (iii) White and Lockonga seem to be OK to start today.