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Two manc players have withdrawn from the French squad, so Laca has been called up.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

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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

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Was Arsène Right?

October 20, 2018

Before I begin, can I ask that if anyone reads this who really knows about player development to kindly leave a comment, because this post is a question as much as an observation, and I suspect that like myself, most regulars on this site would be guessing.

We all heard terms such as Project Youth during the Wenger years, and we also noted that very few players emerged through the Arsenal ranks to have top flight careers, whether at Arsenal or anywhere else.

We now appear to be on the threshold of seeing a very good looking bunch possibly breaking through, with the likes of M-N, Iwobi, Nelson, Eddie and Smith Rowe.

One of my criticisms of the way the project unfolded under Arsène was that most of these players appeared during their sporadic appearances in a variety of positions, while I always believed they should be developed in specific positions.

I’m beginning to think I was wrong. Here’s why.

It strikes me that our homegrown players are relatively late developers, but perhaps there is good reason for this. I’ll expand this thought with a few questions/observations:

  • playing them in a variety of positions could simply be to give them game time when opportunities open up through injuries
  • or, could this have been a deliberate strategy to make them more complete players?
  • examples: we’ve seen Iwobi left, central and right midfield, likewise, M-N left and right back as well as defensive and attacking midfield
  • I get the impression Unai has a more structured approach to positional duties, but will he, and the players, have benefited from Arsene’s more fluid approach?

mickydidit89


Alex Iwobi – What’s changed?

October 14, 2018

Following on from Friday’s post and the idea that youth players may not have that drive and hunger to succeed, let’s take a look at Alex Iwobi who appears to be emerging from his chrysalis like a Giant Swallowtail this season. How has a player who in the past sometimes didn’t appear to know himself which way his feet were going to dance, suddenly be staking a claim for a starting spot in our first choice eleven?

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Alex came to this country at the age 4 as his father sought a new start in England. His blood is rich in footballing gravy with the magnificent Jay Jay Okocha, his uncle.

Alex Joined Arsenal while still at Primary school aged 8.

At not too far off 12 stone and a shade under 6 feet tall, Alex is a fairly big old unit to have such twinkling feet. He made his debut on 27th Oct 2015 in the League Cup and his Premier League debut 4 days after, as a late sub. Alex’s first Premier start came against Everton on 19th March 2016 and was capped by a splendid goal which featured a run from the halfway line.

Iwobi’s career at the Home of Football has flattered to deceive so far. He has made respectable appearance numbers in the past two seasons without ever really establishing himself a permanent niche. Though, it has to be said, those two seasons weren’t really Arsenal’s finest in recent decades.

In May 2018 Arsene Wenger announced he would be leaving the club, and Alex Iwobi described the great man as an “inspiration” and stated it was sad but also exciting. That ‘exciting’ reference has been echoed by everyone who follows the Gunners, as an overdue, new era beckoned.

This season has begun really well for BIG17 with 5 Prem appearances, 4 assists and the equaliser against Chelsea up to now. He started against the chavs, West Ham and Fulham, and came on as a sub against Everton and Watford.

In a 4-3-3 Alex usually plays left side in the front three. The recent Arsenal formation employed by Unai Emery in the game at Craven Cottage appeared to suit him; playing more as the outside left midfielder in a middle 4. Unai Emery seems to hold the Cockney Naija boy in high regard and this season could be a monster for the lad.

So what’s changed about Alex this season? All round, his decision-making has improved, with far less running up blind alleys. Although his finishing is still a little rushed with a tendency to lift his head and spoon the ball over the bar, his passing has been top notch. He’s far less likely to give the ball away but also doesn’t seem afraid to turn and drive forwards rather than just lay the ball back from whence it came.

Has Unai been encouraging him to take players on and thus create that vital opening needed to open up massed Premiership defences? The youtube video above amply demonstrates the many tricks and skills Alex employs to beat a man.

He also seems more tactically aware defensively, covering a tremendous amount of ground up and down that left flank. Although tackling is not his strong point, much defensive work these days is more about creating pressure on the man with the ball and limiting passing options for the opposition.

This does seem a critical point in Wobbly’s Arsenal career. He could really cement his future at the Gunners by adding great end-product to those glittering, silky skills. Good luck to the lad, he’s definitely the closest we have to a Mr Arsenal.

The change at the top of the Club is having all sorts of trickle down effects and Alex seems to be one of those benefitting.

chas


Should AFC follow the Chelsea model?

October 12, 2018

LB recently wrote (briefly) about the efficiency of the Chelsea model i.e. buying every youngster from anywhere, lending them out all over Europe, and not using their Academy to develop players.

Arsenal, however, choose to take a different path; bringing young players through the ranks at the Hale End Academy with the intention of giving youth a chance. So far we have some exciting players who have come through – Smith Rowe (Lab), Iwobi, Nketiah, Nelson and Maitland-Niles (Cons) have all been with the club since childhood. Add in Catwalk who arrived as a 16 year-old and we can see this appears to work.

But will it bring us the Title?

Unknown.jpeg

The Chavs sign world class players as men and they have delivered the PL. Does it matter that they are mercenaries with no Chelsea connection? There is no JT or Butch Wilkins. Even the very best of their imported youth doesn’t get a sniff (Christensen the Danish CB is a wonderful player – are you listening Unai?)

Man City are hoovering up the best of the World’s academy players and lending them out but I expect City to use some of these Wonderkids, and they have promoted Foden into the first team squad which is good for Ingerlund and City. However, it does not stop them from having €30m+ players in every position.

Liverpool are interesting. €70m+ for a CB and Gk, shitloads on strikers and MF’s yet 3 players from the yoof and lower leagues in defence. But they have spent hundreds of millions to get where they are and have yet to win any silverware.

Spurs? Who cares?

In my opinion, the days of a club winning the PL with homegrowns is well gone. We must hope that the mix of Academy players plus World Class imports like Terrier, PEA and Laca brought in, will bring us a title. Though sadly, I doubt it.

written by Big Raddy


Wobbly whips Watford – Deeney dismal

September 30, 2018

Well that was a really rip-roaring christening for my first game ever in the lower tier at the Emirates. Watching the game from lower down and closer to the pitch makes the whole experience more visceral. Yes, you don’t see the patterns of play in quite the same way, but footballers don’t either. Gaps and angles, space and geometry are all in a flat plane for the boys with the boots on. I enjoyed it.

First Half

Chances at both ends, the best for Arsenal was Laca’s one on one with the keeper. Robbing the hesitant lump in the Watford defence, dinking the ball beautifully over the keeper but just failing to keep the ball between the posts. Watford also had some decent efforts but were either wide or came up against the helmet.

Anthony Taylor failed to give a clear penalty when Lacazette was fouled. No wonder players go down easily when it’s the falling over that refs give decisions for rather than the actual foul itself. Poor from Mr Shiny Head.

Second Half

End to end and excitement throughout. Again Laca with several chances but none that easy. Watford not requiring large dollops of possession to create danger on the counter. You could see why they’ve been effective. Leno came on when the helmet’s hamstring pinged taking a goal kick. He proceeded to make a fine reaction save from Deeney diverting a dead ball, blocking a one on one and catching or punching everything that was launched at him.

Iwobi coming on for the ineffectual Ramsey turned the game on its head. Suddenly there was drive, pace and power down Arsenal’s right. Alex’s cross was diverted beyond Foster by Cathcart in the 81st minute and then Welbz on for Auba won the ball in midfield, Laca and Wobbly combined beautifully to slide the ball across for a perfect pink-booted Mesut sidefoot. What a wonderful couple on minutes it was!

What a fine view I had!

Summary

A clean sheet – shared by both keepers, each contributed equally. Was it the Torreira effect?  Are we looking more like the new incarnation of an Arsenal side capable of grinding out results by going up a gear or two? Or is it still much too early to tell? Either way it’s fun at the moment.

Ratings

Cech/ Leno – good stuff again from the helmet matched by his German replacement….7/8

Bellerin – better defensively to go along with always being dangerous going forward….7

Mustafi – a little bit Keystone Coppish again….5

Holding – looked the senior partner, visibly gaining confidence with each minute on the pitch….8

Monreal – as effective as ever, such a shame he couldn’t quite reach Xhaka’s brilliant diagonal pass in the second half….7

Torreira – still settling in and becoming accustomed to the type of bruising Premiership encounters teams like Watford are capable of dishing out….7

Xhaka – Love watching his glorious left foot. As TA said, him and the Terrier are a match made in heaven in midfield….7

Ramsey – Slime has got into his head and he doesn’t seem to know what he’s meant to be doing in Emery’s new team….5

Ozil – Came to life in that last segment of the game, with Iwobi on the pitch he had someone to pass to all of a sudden, an extra mark for his perfectly executed goal….7

Aubameyang – wasted on the left again, we’re going to have to move to 3-5-2 to get him involved at the sharp end….6

Lacazette – full effort and commitment. Not sure why he couldn’t celebrate the own goal – we’d finally scored, Alexandre, be happy. Excellent contribution to superb second goal….7

Subs

Iwobi – Wobbly made all the difference – thrust, power and penetration – well played young man….8

Welbeck – a significant part to play in that clinching second goal….6

chas


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 Özil – 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

 


Last Gasp Laca – Chelsea Chastened by Iwobi pen

August 2, 2018

Let’s just cut to the chase, dive straight in and talk about the best part of the ninety four minutes, no I don’t mean the last gasp goal from Lacazette that saved us from one of most horrible feelings that there can be no matter what the competition – losing to Chelsea is never a good look and never a good feeling; no, I am talking about something so much more uplifting, what is it, what is it, all this build up, is it going to be worth it? Oh yes it is – Guendouzi’s body check on Hudson-Odoi. The irritating upstart had been messing Hector around all game when suddenly bosh, have some of that you dirty chav; Guendouzi who is rapidly coming one of my favourite players showed him what is what and left the annoying blue mess writhing on the deck.

It is staggering that he is only 19 and has been playing in French lower league. There is no doubt in my mind that he has made Elneny redundant and some may say Xhaka too. Granit is a bit of a marmite player so I understand where some people are coming from but it is a bit early for that. Incredibly there is a lot of similarity in their style play but if anything the young Frenchman moves that ball around just that bit quicker, so although, I don’t expect that it will be long until Granit returns he will know he has serious competition for his place and he will not have the protection of being a shiny new Emery signing: Xhaka is a product of the old regime. Should be interesting, we shall see. Can’t stop thinking about that body check – love it.

Chelsea put out a pretty strong side and carved our defence open like a Sunday roast. You can say that with Monreal, Torreira and Xhaka in the mix things might have been a bit different – perhaps, but even with all three of them there I don’t think we would have stopped their goal and what’s more I predict we will suffer an awful lot more of that kind. Koscielny might have done something about it but that is a long way off.

The best form of defence is attack, well it is going to have to be, although, fortunately we are blessed in that department. And there is Iwobi – Barn Door meet Iwobi, Iwobi meet Barn Door, no Alex it’s over there; he should have scored and given us a slightly calmer finish.

But cometh the, (how on earth am I going to make this one work? No idea.) cometh Lacazette. We all saw it; he was more potent in 5 minutes than the rest of the attack had been for seventy minutes. The Butcher’s Dog got himself on the score sheet again and has surely earned himself a starting berth against City.

Cech was awesome. The step up for Smith-Rowe was a tad far; I bet he regrets not taking the shot on when that golden chance appeared. Kolasinac: we have done this one, he is just filling in. The central defence pairing, well if you can see some upside please let me know?

Mah, it was only a friendly and we avoided losing which no one likes. Next up, the caring sharing, kind hearted souls from Italy’s capital – Lazio. Onwards and upwards.

Written by LB