Strolling down the Prom – Blackpool Ratings

January 6, 2019

Much of the build up to the game focused on the owner of Blackpool FC who appears to want to watch the club go under rather than cede to public opinion. Hopefully the large band of travelling Gooners were all aware that money spent in the ground was only going to benefit one person. The empty stands showed the depth of contempt there is for the man in Blackpool. Really sad.

The other big concern in the warm-up was Kos suffering with his back and having to be replaced by Jenks. Hopefully it was more of a precaution due to the ropey nature of the pitch, rather than anything long term.

First Half

An entertaining opening to the game should have seen Arsenal over the hill and far away but Blackpool did have the odd effort or two. Eddie didn’t read his script. First he tried a near post shot when going across the keeper was the obvious option. Then he was unluckier in that A.M-N’s ball across the face of goal was just at the limit of his stretch causing a miss that looked worse than it was.

Eventually we did take the lead when a Rambo free kick came off Shearing’s shoulder and flew against the post but fell nicely for Joe Willock to nod into an empty net. Jenks could have nodded for the net instead of back across goal from a delightful dink from Wobbly.

Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

That man Wobbly was again instrumental in the second goal. Controlling a nice forward pass superbly on his thigh, he laid the ball into the path of the oncoming Corporal who crossed for Eddie whose little nick at the near post fell nicely for Joe to add his second.

Eddie then missed the easiest of his chances, not fooling the keeper in a one-on-one.

Second Half

Didn’t see a lot of the second period but it sounded like I didn’t miss much. Wobbly popped up to seal the victory, tapping in after Laca had set up Rambo’s toe poke.

“We want you to stay”    Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

I was disappointed that Saka was given just a few worthless minutes at the tail end of the game whereas Laca was forced to play for a full half hour. Still what do I know, Saka for Eddie wouldn’t have made sense either.

Conclusion

Job done, no injuries hopefully if the rumour about Kos being cotton-woolled is correct. Fourth Round for us this year, unlike last, with the draw to be made after Monday night’s game at Molineux.

Good luck to the Blackpool fans in their quest to remove the offending excrescence from their club’s shoes.

Ratings

Cech – only flapped at the odd one, otherwise competent … 7

Jenks – looked lively and involved in the game throughout – great for him to get a full game playing for his beloved Arsenal … 7

Lichtsteiner – a bit iffy in places but he was expecting to be terrorising a winger not having the extra responsibility of playing centrally … 6

Papa – enjoyed his duel with Blackpool’s big lad up front … 7

Wardrobe – his defensive abilities weren’t really tested … 7

Elneny – busy and efficient – not sure if he played his way into the first team though … 7

Ramsey – a class apart and seems to be enjoying his role as senior spoke in the second string wheel … 8

Willock – two goals and looked excellent on the ball especially in the first part of the game (i.e. the bit that I saw) – extra point for the brace … 8

Maitland-Niles – (definitely need a nickname for him?) another who looked above the level of the game but then again, you’d hope he would since we all have such high hopes for him … 8

Wobbly – Enjoyed himself at the seaside – another fine performance from the Nigerian Messi … 8

Eddie – shame he couldn’t take one of his chances – his running, movement and ability on the ball were excellent though … 7

Subs

Laca – When Unai was giving him instructions about coming on, you could see he would have preferred to stay snuggly in his sleeping bag – didn’t really affect the course of the game apart from freeing Rambo for the third … 6

Medley – had a nasty bump on the hip when flipped by a challenge while he was in the air, looked composed … 6

Saka – poor lad goes all that way to touch the ball three times … 6

chas  

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December starts well! – Unai pops his NLD cherry – Arsenal v spuds Player Ratings

December 3, 2018

Everything you want to happen in an NLD does happen – Christmas has come early.

Hark the Herald Arsenal Sing, Glory to our new born King.

Ratings

Leno – several decent saves from Son and Kane to counterbalance his near post calamity for the spuds equaliser… 8

Bellerin – quality throughout – his one small misdemeanour we can forgive – Hector knows what an NLD is all about … 8

Sokratis – Solid, indefatigable, rock-like, showed some pace tracking Kane … 8

Mustafi – demonstrated that he has got something to contribute – warrior-like for a derby which is exactly what’s required … 8

Holding – felt sorry for him – all that bollix about him lunging in for the pen, he was trying to block a potential shot, not making any kind of tackle – it was a dive pure and simple – Mike Dean hang your head in shame – Rob looked good in possession … 8

Kolasinac – stood like a fat sack of potatoes for the spud first goal, playing 3 players onside, but his cut backs were a feature of his play in the Bundesliga and playing in a back five relieves pressure on his defensive shortcomings … 8

Torreira – what a magnificent purchase – sets the tone of Arsenal’s performance with his energy, enthusiasm and will to win. Brings ‘La Garra Charrua’ to Islington. A glorious first goal, too … 9

Xhaka – Granit plays as if the captaincy really means something to him – love his left foot – crossfield balls opened up the spuds in the first half … 8

Mkhitaryan – gave it his all in the first half – sometimes appears a luxury player – perhaps not the blood and guts player for a derby but full of rich quality … 7

Iwobi – looked dangerous – but rightly sacrificed for the second period … 7

Aubameyang – that second goal was so pivotal to the outcome of the match – Lloris didn’t have time to move – a real peach – two goals, great celebrations, back to smiling his tits off … 9

Subs

Ramsey – Aaron is really contributing even with his contract disputes – two assists made a big difference to the game’s outcome … 8

Lacazette – the way he skimmed the ball in of Dier’s shin was magnificent … 8

Guendouzi – he loves Arsenal – I love Guendouzi … 8

Other ratings

Unai Emery – masterful half time subs – what a way to pop your NLD cherry … 10

Mike Dean – awful, egocentric performance – thank Dennis it didn’t cost us in the end … -2

chas


Stretching a point – Unai discovers the limits of his squad?

November 15, 2018

It really does feel to me as if the XG chickens have come home to roost. Or at least it does until I realise that the meaning of that statement is in the mind of the writer and as such open to interpretation by everyone who reads it.

The image that this conjures in my mind is one of Emery’s team resembling an elastic band. It has been exciting watching Emery stretch it as far as it can go and I happily admit that I think he has been able to stretch it further than I expected but it is now contracting back to its original shape.In other words, I believe we have seen the collective best of the squad that Emery has at his disposal and I don’t believe that he is able to make it any better than he has.

In fact with the amount of games that we have got coming up and the continually diminishing squad due to injuries, I only see us going backwards.

A bit gloomy I know, but this is what I would describe as the reality of our situation, or ‘our lot’ if you like. There are bright spots, it could be argued that the elastic band started contracting when we lost the extremely important Nacho Monreal and his return could put us back on our expanding trajectory.

I expect Torreira to start scoring goals. When Wolves reverted to parking the bus, Emery brought on Guendouzi and pushed Torreira forward, I thought this was a clever move as I think that the Uruguayan is probably only just behind Ozil in his ability to operate in the tight space that parking the bus ensures. What I am saying is that Torreira being quick and super accurate should start getting him on the score sheet sooner rather than later.

I really like the way that Emery is able to keep players feeling part of the squad but at the same time generating competition for places. Look at how enthused and determined Ramsey and Mkhitaryan looked when they took to the field on Sunday. Emery was also able to do this with Welbeck, of course, before his unfortunate early departure.

But pointing to Ramsey’s and Mkhitaryan’s facial expressions is, in many ways, clutching at straws. The reality is the reality. Is Iwobi likely to improve further this season, well I hope so but I seriously doubt it. Is Holding going to improve this season; again I hope so but I doubt it. Both have enjoyed meteoric rises under the stewardship of Emery but Holding is not going to start to be able to run any faster than he can already and Iwobi just can’t resist a blind alley.

Emery has had a good, hard look now and must have a pretty solid idea of what he needs. I doubt that he will be able to get everything on his wish list in one go but I do expect a new arrival or two in January and, with that, I expect Emery’s elastic band to start to stretch once again.

Written with a tooth ache so if it is a bit miserable, blame the weakness of the drugs.

LB


Arsenal’s Interlull – Who’s involved and when?

November 13, 2018

It’s getting more difficult to find words to describe how horrendously tedious these regular international breaks actually are.

There will be 9 games for Arsenal in December – just imagine how much easier December could be if we dropped two of the international breaks, enabling fixtures to be more evenly spread. Injuries will inevitably mount as fatigue sets in. Clubs with the biggest squads and those teams which contain less international players will benefit.

Pros for the November break

Aside from Mesut still giving Die Mannschaft the finger, Terrier won’t have to travel halfway around the world this time around as he’s playing at the home of North London’s finest Club on Friday and then in Paris.

Cons (not A.M-N)

Two manc players have withdrawn from the French squad, so Laca has been called up.

Micki is playing away with Armenia, which means less travelling as the games are in Gibraltar and Liechtenstein

There are another 256 cons but I can’t be bothered to list them.

———————————————————————————————————————————–

Mikhi – Armenia

Friday 16th Nov Gibraltar (A) Uefa Nations League (UNL)

Monday 19th Nov Liechtenstein (A) UNL

 

Auba – Gabon

Saturday 17th Nov Mali (H) AFCON

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Terrier – Uruguay

Friday 16th Nov Brazil (Emirates Stadium) Friendly

Tuesday 20th Nov France (A) Friendly

 

Granit – Switzerland

Wednesday 14th Nov – Qatar (H) Friendly attempting to pretend Qatar are part of football

Sunday 18th Nov Belgium (H) UNL

 

Wobbly – Nigeria

Saturday 17th Nov South Africa (A) AFCON

Tuesday 20 Nov Uganda (H) Friendly

 

Big Sok – Greece

Thursday 15th Nov – Finland (H) UNL

Sunday 18th Nov – Estonia (H) UNL

Rambo – Wales

Friday 16th Nov – Denmark (H) UNL

Tuesday 20th Nov – Albania (A) Friendly

 

Mo Elneny

Friday 16th Nov – Tunisia (H) AFCON

Tuesday 20th Nov – United Arab Emirates (A) Friendly

 

Bernd Leno

Thursday 15th Nov – Russia (H) Friendly

Monday 19th Nov – Netherlands (H) UNL

Getty Images

Bournemouth away will be our first fixture when we get back to proper football on November 25th, hopefully with no more casualties.

Apologies for any inaccuracies/omissions.

chas


Sporting Lisbon. Ramsey to Shine?

October 25, 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Quaresma, William Carvalho, Luis Figo, Peter Schmeichel, Phil Babb (!),  All played for Sporting and, had they still been in the green and white shirt, this evening would be very difficult but they don’t. In fact, Sporting Lisbon had a player revolt in summer which resulted in players cancelling their contracts and leaving the club.

7 players left including 4 Portuguese internationals, and all left on a free transfer. And we think players in the PL have too much power! Without too much research this happened because Sporting got a new Chairman who created a poisonous atmosphere within the club, they then went on a losing run resulting in some fans attacking the players on the training pitch, giving the players the right to cancel their contracts.

Needless to say, this has weakened the team and this season they sit in 5th place in the Primera Liga.

images.jpeg

As to their players I know Zip, but I am sure they will be hard working, good on the ball etc etc etc

We come into this game in tremendous form and, despite a mounting injury list, Emery is certain to play around with his squad and we may well see Smith Rowe or even Elneny in midfield.

My Team:

Lemon

Catwalk    Mustafi   Holding    Lich

Ramsey   Curly   Elneny

Mhiki

PEA   Welbz

Both AMN (Cons) and, believe it or not, Carl Jenkinson are travelling with the squad and must therefore be available. I really like Jenks – not as a player for Arsenal but as a proper Gooner. I wish him well and perhaps he will get a start in the Carabao. Maitland-Niles (Cons) has a big future at Arsenal and may well get some pitch time this evening.

Ramsey was poor in his 10 minutes at the weekend, he needs to up his game and I expect him to do so. A wonderful goal apart, he has struggled, but he remains a very influential player. Tonight he will want to show Emery he is deserving of a first team shirt.

Watching Emery’s press conference yesterday I was delighted that when questioned in Portuguese, Unai understood the question and then answered in English. This shows his commitment and also his intelligence.

Tricky away fixture (we have never won in Portugal), if we draw this and win the home tie we will top the group. but we have a very food squad in good form and there is no reason why we cannot win tonight in Lisbon then celebrate with a bowl of Sopa de Cacao.

COYRRG


Are Arsenal handling the Ramsey situation well?

October 17, 2018

Just when we thought that the Aaron Ramsey story of ‘will he or won’t he leave the Club’ had been flogged to death, flickers of new life have appeared since he scored ‘that goal at Fulham’, leading me to believe that it needs a bit more flogging and that is exactly what I intend to do.

Ramsey’s contract ends in the summer and he will be a free agent to leave at that point but he can sign a pre-contract with another European team in January. (I think) Obviously if he leaves for free in the summer, the club will miss out on a lucrative transfer fee from any potential sale. Conversely, if he is sold in January, he may miss out on a hefty signing on fee.

There are people who have criticised both the player and the club over how things have been handled. In the player’s case the criticism has been levelled for not wanting to show more loyalty to the club that has nurtured him from a raw talent to the highly rated player that he is today and, as such, Ramsey should show more willing to sign an extension to his present contract. In the club’s case, of course, the criticism is for allowing Ramsey’s contract to have run down as far as it has.

As this has unfolded I have found myself asking what could or should the player or the club have done differently and I have struggled to find an alternative. In the case of Ramsey, I completely respect his right to stay at Arsenal for as long as his contract lasts and not a minute longer and as it draws to a close I also respect his right to seek the best offer that might be out there before committing to Arsenal, and that clearly is what he is doing right now.

In the club’s case, the criticism has been for allowing Ramsey’s contract to run down to the last year, meaning that the club should have got him to sign an extension earlier. Now for the life of me I cannot see how anyone can force a footballer to sign a contract when the person does not want to do so. By way of solution, there have been two suggestions put forward as to how the club should have acted differently. The first is that the club should have offered much more, much earlier: rumours have it that Ramsey wanted his wages to match Özil, we have no proof of that but then again if it is true why shouldn’t he, or at least, why shouldn’t he try?

The second is that the club should have threatened to leave him on the bench for six months, or some such Draconian action, unless he made a decision. This suggestion is so impractical that it borders on infantile; the negative effect it would have on the other players not to mention steering other potential signings away would be profound to say the least. Most other players at the club, certainly the young ones will (or certainly would) like to envisage themselves in the same situation as Ramsey and that is, as their contracts near an end they will be in demand – having options as to where their career may take them. If that strongarm tactic of threatening to be sent to the stands is attempted on one player, it follows that other players would believe that it would be tried with them. Who in their right mind would want to work in that environment when you have other choices and how would that endear the world’s elite footballers to the Home of Football? There would only be one loser in this scenario and that would be the club. Or perhaps two losers – you and me, also, missing out on viewing the players that the club should be attracting.

The same people who criticise the club have pointed to other clubs’ success in stopping players run down their contracts. This to me is like comparing apples with oranges. In Man City’s case when a player nears the end of his contract he knows that no-one else out there can match the wages that City can pay and therefore there is no point in shopping around for a potential higher wage because it will never happen, the player is in the situation of take it or leave it and most of them take it.

Some of the same people point to Tottenham as being more comparable and sing their praises as how they have managed to tie their talent down long before they reach the dangerous area we are in with Ramsey right now. This is true up to a point; they have managed to get Kane and Alli to sign extensions and, at first sight it does looks like Tottenham have been more savvy.

But if we drill down a bit, other things appear. Firstly, there is only Kane and Alli that any other top club would fight over, so apart from increasing their wages the enticement/caveat that must have been explained to Kane (for example), is that if you leave for City (again for example) you will be fighting for your place and that might affect the upward trajectory that you’re currently enjoying at Tottenham. The same is true if you join United and even if you wanted to go back to the club you dreamed about playing for as a child, you will still have to vie for a starting berth with Aubameyang and Lacazette, whereas if you stay at Tottenham you will remain top dog. The opposite is the case with Ramsey; he is vying with Özil for prime pitch real estate.

In the last few months pretty much everything in the Ramsey case has followed the increasingly well-trodden path taken previously by Sanchez and Özil. Both refused to sign a new contract, this generated headlines that served as advertisement to the fact that they would listen to offers from other clubs. Sanchez and Ozil were pampered by Arsenal in an attempt to get them to stay; that’s to say, both players always played whenever and wherever they wanted; the same was true of Ramsey – until something totally different happened, Arsenal withdrew the offer of a four year contract – a brilliant piece of business in my opinion. Ramsey will continue as before following the usual path but, by withdrawing the contract offer, the Club are saying to other clubs that we are prepared to let him go and thereby letting potential suitors know that there will be no resistance from Arsenal if someone wants to buy him in January.

In brief, Arsenal have removed the obstacle of the four year contract and by doing so are making it easier for other clubs to believe that they can sign Ramsey which, in turn, increases the possibility of getting something from him, by way of a transfer fee, in January.

The other advantage of withdrawing the contract offer is that it frees up Emery to pick Ramsey as and when he wants rather than having to pander to him in an attempt to entice him to stay. A big part of me wants him to re-sign but another part of me really wants to hasten the time when Emery has all the players and the team that he sees in his mind’s eye. Is Ramsey part of that? I don’t know. It should be interesting to see how this one pans out.

Please feel free to disagree with anything up there, in fact, the more the better.

LB


Unai’s boys flatten Fulham with flawless finishing

October 8, 2018

Wow, it really is an exciting time to be an Arsenal supporter. With the toxic infighting of last season fading from memory and now, incredibly, nine wins on the bounce it rightly has to be said that the Unai Emery revolution is gathering pace. I can’t remember the last time I found myself looking forward to the next game with such eagerness: you just don’t know what you are going to get.

We continued to make mistakes at the back in the early part of yesterday’s game and I can’t be the only one who feels that a better team is going to punish us to the tune of three quick goals giving us a mountain to climb to get back on level terms; but, on the other hand, there are now elements of our play that suggest that not only could we get top four – we could win the league. More level-headed and certainly more annoying sourpusses will probably say that the truth is somewhere in between.

My take on what turned out to be the thrashing of Fulham was that it was a workman-like performance studded with five incredibly good goals. Our football in general wasn’t that convincing but our goals certainly were. I could go through all of them, describing each in turn but wouldn’t be able to do justice to the fine collection.

Probably the most important was Lacazette’s second; it came at a crucial time, shortly after the restart and dampened down the enthusiasm that Fulham had worked up having scored just before the break. Back in charge Arsenal went on to slowly strangle the life out of the home side and add another three important points to our growing tally.

Yes, we have to continue to fend off accusations that we have not played anyone of note during this run but as dull as the saying goes that you can only beat who is in front of you, we still have had to do it and I for one did not expect us to do it so well as we have and be in this excellent position – especially in the wake of the first two games. Still, I am happy and pleasantly surprised to write that things really are looking good.

Ratings

Leno: looking more confident and I have to say, commanding; I don’t think he could have done any more to stop Fulham’s goal. 7

Bellerin: excellent game, early criticism of his gallivanting down the wing, leaving us exposed at the back is now seen as unfounded as all have noticed that he was acting on instructions and he was not being covered as he is now successfully by Torriera. Hector looked the DB’s. 8

Mustafi: I think it was Fred who said that Shkod seems to be playing better with Holding rather than with Sokratis, this may be true; he did look a little more secure yesterday. 7

Holding: Well, who would have expected him at the start of the season to be in a position to stake a claim to an automatic place in the starting line-up? Not I, but he has. He really is improving his ability of playing the ball out from the back. Pretty much, always in the right place at the right time yesterday. 8

Monreal: everything was going down our left in the first half with he and Iwobi dominating proceedings, all marred by a really annoying bad pass that led to the Fulham goal. 6

Torreira: yep, the image of the Duracell Bunny works for me. Lacazette maybe most people’s man of the match for his goals but that is what I would argue he was supposed to do in the same way as a goalkeeper is supposed to save shots and just because Leno made some fine save does not make him man of the match. Now Torriera on the other hand controlled the game from start to finish and that is why he gets my man of the match. 9

Xhaka: Captain Granit, I know he is flavour of the month and he has been spraying the ball around well recently but he is still guilty of early lapses in concentration that seem to cause heart stopping nightmares early on in the game. We won 1-5 so I don’t want to get too moany. 6

Iwobi: confidence soaring, decision making improving, goal assists coming, what is not to like? Emery still took him off early and you could see the disappointment in his face, the aim was clear and it worked: don’t rest on your laurels Alex, more is still expected. The difference this season to last is that most people now expect him to successfully rise to the challenge. 8

Lacazette: two top goals, tons of hard work, swagger in his play. More excellent man management; he was left out of the team earlier in the season and has risen to the challenge of getting back into the starting eleven. 9

Welbeck: a fans’ favourite, everyone wants him to do well but he has two strikers around him who are at the top of their game and as such Danny is being shown to be the slightly inferior striker that he is. 6

Mkhitaryan: probably the thing he was guilty of was not scoring, that’s not to say that he had the chances it’s just that as those around him were scoring for fun and he was made to look human. I don’t think he had a bad game it’s just that he didn’t have a stellar game as some around him did. 7

Subs

Ramsey: well if that doesn’t win goal of the season then the one that does is going to be very, very special indeed. I have a lot more to say about Aaron but I will save it for another time. 8

Aubameyang: treat em mean to keep em keen. Raring to go as soon as he came on and gave a master class in finishing. 8

Guendouzi: superb cameo, ok the game was won but he offered so much to the midfield. 7

PS. If Ozil had played we would have won 1-8

LB