Things we Learnt from the weekend

September 17, 2018

When Lucas Torreira was bought from Sampdoria, a clause was inserted in the sale agreement which would trigger large additional payments if he started a League game before Christmas.

Auba doesn’t appear to like his left wing duties and didn’t look best pleased when substituted.

No-one really knows what happened at half-time at St James’ Park. Torreira came on as sub for Guendouzi, but that still doesn’t explain how virtually every other player came out of the tunnel with a spring in their step, at least two yards quicker and with a desire to actually play some football.

The Ramsey/Ozil conundrum becomes more complex, unbalancing the side with both vying for the same free role.

Sokratis, while not quite in the Usain Bolt category, has not been taking sprinting lessons from the BFG. Catching and dispossessing  Newcastle’s speedy youngster, Murphy, was no mean feat for our Kalamata Colossus.

Sokratis gleefully runs to celebrate our second goal with the rest of the lads

Our next League opponents, Everton, were finally beaten having drawn three and won one of their opening four games. The hammers rode their luck and took chances to make West Ham Bob’s weekend. Jack is back in the sick bay with an ankle knock.

Liverpool and Citeh look strong but the chavs have somehow managed to keep pace by hook or by crook. Burnley are in an early season swamp, as are Newcastle.

The analysis around the spuds defeat centred around Pochettino having a bad game. Is he getting homesick and looking at Spanish weather forecasts with an envious eye? Let’s hope so. 🙂 (yep, I realise he’s Argentinian – his birthplace is called Murphy!)

chas

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Ramsey, Contracts and Mr Slime

September 13, 2018

Something has been troubling me, so this is more a line of inquiry rather than one of my indisputable facts.

I do not follow any Arsenal behind-the-scenes action. In other words, I’m not interested in The Board, finances, staff, training or anything much beyond our goal scorers, however, I’m slightly, just slightly, curious about the role of a football agent, who from hence forwards, I shall call Mr Slime.

Fresh in our minds are the cases of Mesut and The Dog Fancier from last term, so let’s look at the current case of Mr Ramsey.

He’s an asset. Last year of contract. So all familiar so far.

We’ve just been through his penultimate transfer window, and it sounds to me like all the power rests with AR and Mr Slime.

Naturally, Slime will be hoping for interest from the world’s finest, all vying for the Welshman’s services, but suppose nothing materialises, then what?

AFC: “Come in…..ah Slime, what an unpleasant surprise, but we’ve been expecting you”

Slime: “My member wants a massive pay rise or we’re talking to The Giants”

AFC: “Thing is Slime, the blower hasn’t sounded once, so we’re thinking of a slight wage reduction”

Ok, so this kind of conversation is doubtful to say the least, but how does it work if there really is no serious interest. Presumably, we have to sign him up so as to preserve wealth, but if there’s a gulf between AFC and Slime in terms of perceived value, where does this go?

Written by mickydidit89

International Rescue – who’s coming back unscathed?

September 10, 2018

Saturday

Along with Danny Welbeck’s five minute cameo for England and the surrounding controversy, some other Arsenal players were involved in action for their national sides.

Mo Elneny had a leisurely run out for Egypt in a 6-0 win against Niger in their opening African Nations Cup qualifier. He even managed to pop up with the final goal of the six, which apparently bounced off the keeper into the net. Sounds a cracker!

Difficult to find a photo of Mo playing but they might be his dreads in the background!

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang equalised against Burundi, thus salvaging a draw for Gabon in more African Cup action. Auba also captained the side.

Granit played the full ninety for Switzerland as they cruised past Iceland on Saturday. Granit was booked – Quelle Surprise!  Stephan Lichtsteiner didn’t even appear to be on the bench?????

Sokratis Papastathopoulos also played the full match in Greece’s sparkling 1-0 win over Estonia.

Lucas Torreira was substituted at half time playing for Uruguay versus Mexico and apparently had ice applied to his calf during the second half. Cosmic.

Sunday

Rambo lost with Wales to a couple of spawny efforts from Eriksen.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan also lost in Armenia’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Macedonia.

Tuesday

Granit, Stephan and Danny could feature in the tedious England Switzerland friendly at Wembley.

Sokratis will again have the chance to hone his skills against Hungary in one of the group C games of the UEFA Nations Cup.


Give the new guys a try, Unai!

September 5, 2018

Hopefully most AAers are prepared to give Dick a real chance to get things right before they decry too much his tactics or methods.

I for one am looking for, amongst many other things, a change in attacking style. For many of the last five to ten years of the Wenger era we heard regularly from pundits and other “experts” the phrases……..

“typical Arsenal trying to walk the ball into the net”

or

“Arsenal – always trying to score the perfect goal”.

And as we know occasionally we managed to do just that!! Witness Jack W. against Norwich. But, for me, in the last two seasons we often seemed to do away with the “ball into the net” bit entirely!

Passing for passing sake drives me mad! If you receive the ball over a short distance as, say a midfielder, from a defender or fellow midfielder, it’s not compulsory to play it back to him, once, twice, three times. You are not playing that one touch game in a circle where you try to make twenty passes, or nutmeg one of the players in the middle, so you can then make a high pitched stupid noise in unison to ridicule him.

Instead you have a choice. Receive the ball on the half turn, sense where the nearest opponent is and sometimes “turn”, then get your head up and look for a pass forward with a sense of urgency. This is one of the reasons I loved Santi so much, and felt of all the players missed most in those two seasons, his was by far the most serious loss.

I nearly left the conversation on the site post Sunday’s game to the regulars, as I didn’t feel I could add much to the debate. But then, like some kind of soft drug addict, I was suckered in by two things.

Firstly, LB’s question to himself,  which player “is decisive and moves the ball forward quicker than most any other player?” (like Manshitty and to some extent, Totteringham, I thought)

………the answer he said, was Guendouzi.

Added to this I have my own question. Who does the same, and is also more accurate than both Ramsey or Xhaka?

……….and the answer for me, is Torreira.

Play them both and alongside each other.

The second trigger for me was the degree of praise offered by a number of respected regulars to both Xhaka and Ramsey for their Sunday performances. I have a follow up question to any and all, but especially the statisticians. Of the 162 total passes made by Ramsey and Xhaka on Sunday, how many had no influence whatsoever on the game whether successful or not?

Play the new generation Dick, as part of the new chapter for our Club, and see how it goes.

Written by LBG


4-3-3 …. Who plays in the front three?

August 31, 2018

Having sorted out our right flank issues on Tuesday plus deciding who should partner Lucas Torreira on Wednesday, it’s time to shift our attention to the business end of the team and the front three.

When you’re taking half chances and scoring at crucial moments in a game, victories look easy. If the boys at the sharp end are misfiring, as against the chavs 2 weeks ago, it doesn’t matter how many golden opportunities are created, you’ll always struggle.

Unai Emery is still moulding the Arsenal players into new shapes but he does seem to favour 4-3-3 (or 4-2-1-3). The front three are a little undefined as yet. Let’s take a look at the runners and riders.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang – yet to break his duck early on this season after scoring for fun during Arsenal’s tepid second half of last season. Has a career average of about a goal every other game and was prolific for Dortmund. Our most versatile out and out striker which is probably why he gets pushed out to the left flank to accommodate Alexandre Lacazette.

courtesy GK Edits

Alexandre Lacazette – only slightly lower strike rate across his career than Auba, scoring at just under a goal in every two. Perhaps our most natural finisher. He doesn’t seem to score many tap-ins for Arsenal which either says something about the type of chances created by his teammates or about his natural positioning as a striker. Seems to enjoy bouncing off Auba, though maybe the pair are better suited to playing together in a 4-4-2?

Danny Welbeck – Danny appears to be 3rd in the pecking order of strikers, though his physicality could make him an enticing prospect as a powerful left sided attacker. Gets into great scoring positions but often seems to lack that killer instinct in front of the posts. It would appear that when everyone else is fit, he is destined to be our best hope of a goal from the bench, Lord Bendtner style.

Alex Iwobi – a starter against the chavs and hammers, Alex is the go-to player for left side wing duties when Auba is chosen at centre forward. This is probably due to his natural ability to take players on. Bit of a marmite player with some choosing to dismiss him outright.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – His high work rate and creativity up front seem to have made him one of the first names on Emery’s teamsheet. Expecting him to be constantly helping wingfender Bellerin with defensive duties is too much of an ask. I keep expecting his goals and assists figures to explode once the manager settles on a final plan of attack. Could he play as the tip of a midfield triangle?

Mesut Ă–zil – Mesut doesn’t appear to have found a conclusive position in Unai’s team structure as yet. He seems the man most likely to create a goal-scoring chance with just one pass that we possess. Does he play left side in a front three or the furthest forward of the middle three? Answers on a postcard. I’d imagine he’s hankering for Arsene to appear and to tell him, ‘just play where you like while you dismantle the opposition’.

Aaron Ramsey – the Welsh Messi would also love the free role in any set up. He’s been used as part of a double pivot, as a box-to-boxer, as a number 10 and a right flanker up front. Like Mesut he’s another who doesn’t naturally fit into any particular slot in Unai Emery’s team structure wall chart. Reading LB’s Cardiff match report from November 2013 yesterday reminded us that Aaron has goals in him. Wouldn’t it be great if he could hit double figures again?

Of the other three who had fine pre-seasons, Reiss Nelson would appear to be off to Hoffenheim this week (hopefully just on loan) and Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah haven’t made the bench in our first three games.

Similarly to choosing a midfield partner for Lucas Torriera, there will always be an element of mix and match when selecting a front 3 depending on the opposition and if we’re home or away.

On paper an Auba, Laca and Micki combination looks to have the most goals in it. Alexandre hasn’t been chosen to start a 90 minutes up to now and if he was chosen, would it mean Auba moving out to the left wing? Choosing a front three might be based on other factors in addition to goals such as team balance, the fabled high press and workrate. It’ll be interesting to see if Mesut can find a natural slot in the new manager’s plans, perhaps starting on that left side but then dropping into more of a number 10 role at times.

It was only a few weeks ago in pre-season that we were talking about an embarrassment of riches up front but we know it will take time for the new boss to find the right blend.

I’m really looking forward to everything clicking into place soon and for the goals to start raining in – as, I’m sure, are we all.

Thoughts? Who  would you have in our front three?

chas

 


Cardiff Away Remembered

August 30, 2018

Last time we played Cardiff away was at the end of November 2013 and we cruised down the River Taff to take a 7 point lead over Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the Premier League (both were playing a day later). The BBC published the following stat alongside their match report…… “Arsenal have now won 10 of their last 12 Premier League games and continue to hold the division’s best away record.”  Here’s the AA post from the day after – take it away, LB.

How good was that? It is getting more and more difficult to find sufficient superlatives to describe the Arsenal performances these days. As the first half rolled on and the Good Guys were spraying the ball around with consummate ease the term “thoroughly professional performance” came to mind. But we have used this a few times recently and somehow it didn’t seem enough to describe what I was watching, intensifying the search was the first goal and the brilliance of its simplicity: a tidy pass to Özil who sent over an inch perfect cross for Ramsey to head home and put us in the lead. As he walked away avoiding celebration out of respect for his fellow countrymen, I thought to myself I am going to need something far more complimentary to describe this.

Racking my brains, playing cards came to mind and the hierarchy that exists: a pair is beaten by three of a kind which is beaten by a straight which, I believe, is beaten by flush and then it came to me: the next up from a “thoroughly professional performance” has got to be “A performance worthy of winning the league” and that is what is was, a full house of a performance, not to be confused with a “Winning the league at White Hart Lane performance” that is obviously a Royal Flush and although rare, it does seem to happen with more regularity than many might imagine.

Wenger foxed us all again with his team selection, it made sense to all who considered it to play Flamini alongside Arteta but no, Le Boss had plans for the Frenchman and opted to start with Wilshere and within one and a half minutes we all understood why: an arrow of a shot released from the edge of the box had all the makings of goal number five for our non-attacking midfielder lol but alas at the last moment it swerved away and hit the bar.

As it turned out, as far as Arsenal taking the game to Cardiff was concerned, this was only the start, the Good Guys were brimming with confidence, chances weren’t coming as often as London buses do when you don’t need them but they were coming; the next fell to Giroud who, clean through one on one with the goal keeper, decided to “walk” before the umpire had given him out, it might be the honourable thing to do as Özil clearly touched the ball but in this day and age — really?

We had to suffer five uncomfortable minutes when Mertasacker hit the deck with the force of a felled giant redwood having clashed heads with Sagna; I defy anyone not to have worried about the possible downside of this potential calamity but luckily all was well with our Big Friendly Giant.

Still goalless, but in today’s script only one person was going to be first on the score sheet and our humble Welshman rose to the occasion and headed us into the lead that took us into the break.

Cardiff started the second half well and created a couple of chances that were a bit closer than I for one would have liked, notably a header from Campbell that brought a brilliant save from Szczesny. TPIG was looking as commanding as ever, we could have and should have made more of the breaks that were frequently arising but our interplay was not quite as good as it should have been, it seemed like Theo time but Jack was tiring and they were coming onto us with a tad more purpose than was good for the blood pressure so Wenger opted to shore things up and bring on Monreal and then Flamini.

As the Frenchman took off his track suit all eyes were on the sleeves – tradition won out and rightly so; someone had clearly whispered into his ear that he had, perhaps without realising, upset a few fundamentalists and today was not the right time to go desecrating sacred objects – best solution: roll your sleeves up and go and score a thumping second goal — and that is exactly what he did, yet another sublime assist from Özil who rolled the ball into the Frenchman’s path to powerfully hit home and put us all at ease.

Was this going to be Flamini’s day, no it wasn’t, this was Aaron Ramsey’s day; a second goal for him and with it he rightly picks up pretty much everyone’s Man of the Match award.

Somebody remind me, where are we in the League?

Enjoy your Sunday.

Written by LB


Who partners Torreira? – Poll

August 29, 2018

Having sorted out Arsenal’s right side rearguard and assisting flank provider yesterday, today we turn our attention to the midfield pivot.

Everyone is clamouring for Lucas Torreira to start just in front of the back four. Surely the only reason for this not happening so far is due to fitness and/or acclimatisation. So Torreira is a given.

The question then arises, ‘who partners him?’ or, in fact, ‘can he handle the job on his Jack Jones?’.

Let’s take a look at the candidates………………..

Granit Xhaka – building up some decent experience of Premiership skirmishes, Granit possesses a fine left foot. His passing range is good though eye of the needle passes are rare. He’s more of a spread it wide to the wingfenders kind of midfielder.

Mo Elneny – economical, functional and effective, Mo does his job with a minimum of fuss, shifting the ball to others in better positions to deliver a telling pass. Has a great engine and is very mobile.

Matteo Guendouzi – his storming pre-season earned him a place in the team for our opening fixtures. Has a keen eye for a pass and really does like to play the ball forwards into dangerous positions which makes him stand out. Let’s hope the occasional misplaced pass so far, doesn’t knock his confidence too much and he continues to shine.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles – it has been mooted that A M-N could be an effective element of a double pivot. Fast, confident and excellent in the tackle, he does seem to possess the necessary attributes. Has become a bit of a utility player with Arsenal’s need for an auxiliary left back and others suggest his natural position is further up the line providing ammo for the strikers.

Aaron Ramsey – could Aaron find the discipline required to remain in that central area of the midfield? Or maybe Lucas requires a partner with more of a box-to-box feel.  Perhaps Aaron might partner Torreira against particular types of opposition? Though maybe Rambo’s creativity and eye for goal are wasted playing in a deeper role.

Mesut Ozil – perhaps Unai has asked Mesut if he fancies becoming more of a Pirlo-style midfielder, conducting the whole orchestra from a deeper podium and that has caused some consternation. Apparently Mesut has had the highest number of turnovers so far of anyone playing in Emery’s new Arsenal high press.

What do you think? Perhaps you don’t think Lucas Torriera will be the first name on the team sheet even when he has got used to London and the English Premier League?

Maybe Unai Emery already has a good idea of his ideal team members and all with be revealed in the fullness of time.

chas