Martinelli, Nketiah, Smith-Rowe, Nelson, Willock ….. how does Arteta fit them in?

September 17, 2020

I have left Saka off this title list because I want, eventually( and sooner rather than later) for Mikel to go to four at the back as his norm and Saka IMO, should then hold down the left wide position in the “midfield”.

But my question to AAers is how does Mikel fit in to “the/his system” the other five?

And just to add to the dilemma, I want Partey and would not turn down Aouar( even with too many vowels) because from what I have seen and read, I believe in his “creativity”.

The problem, for me, as a long time demander for ‘giving yoof a chance’ is that I don’t want, at the end of this season, the horrifying prospect of five disheartened young talents angling to get away.

So, my initial, perhaps controversial , thoughts (as always)………..

Laca, for me should not be a starter. A fit Martinelli and Eddie should be given their chance up front alongside Aubang. Smith-Rowe can learn from Willian and perhaps Aouar about the No10 role. That leaves Willock and Nelson, who, if we get the two possible outstanding transfers, I have great concern for. Haven’t even mentioned Elneny and you all know my opinion of X! Over to you folks!

LBG


Arteta’s new Arsenal v Klopp’s Liverpool – Community Shield

August 29, 2020

I’m prompted to write a few words following a fairly unpleasant contact with a so-called “supporter” on an Arsenal site who described us as “serial bottlers” who will obviously lose today.

We could of course get beaten, but I challenged his description and loyalty. I then called up his profile and discovered he was in fact a Liverpool fan!!

Having referred him to 30 years of waiting for his team’s current success, and possible “bottling” tendencies in that time, I gave up with reasonable debate.

So, having finished last season on a high, including that glorious win against the Dippers, what can we expect tomorrow?

I’m inclined to believe the comment, that neither team will be particularly concerned at the importance of the game, and may pick “weaker” teams. Hope however, that Mikel will see the need to try to keep momentum up and give us a team strong enough and motivated enough to get a win.

Bernd is back in as Emi is “not available” apparently. Will Mikel persist with three at the back? Pleased with Saliba’s first game on the right and, if three is the decision, would keep the MK Don’s line up. I, however, would like him to go back to four, even against those dangerous Liverpool front three ( if they play), and would select, Saliba and Holding, with Tierney and Bellerin as full backs.

I recognise that Liverpool, with their attacking fullbacks, are probably the most dangerous team to play four at the back with, but it’s what I would try out. Dont want to scare Saliba to death but…….well just me perhaps.

I would then go ‘different’ to precisely counter those full backs with five nominally in front of that back line. Shock! Horror! Not quite as radical as it sounds!A M-N on right and Saka on left. Both pressing those full backs first when Liverpool have possession. Torreira and Xhaka (if I have to!) centrally, with Dani just in front. Aubang to lead the line centrally. Pepe/Nelson to be potential right side replacements if required. Eddie and /or Laca if extra support required up front.


I’m hoping we haven’t given up on Partey, and good news to be announced re Aubameyang and Gabriel in near future. In the meantime, do us proud Gunners and make it a competitive game with hopefully a win to celebrate.

LBG


Our defensive woes –

August 11, 2020

Arteta made it very clear in his post-match interview against Chelsea that his options at the back have been limited since he arrived with Mari being injured, Mustafi being injured, Chambers being injured…

He has also hinted that he will want to strengthen his defensive options (I am only focusing on defenders although we all know that we need to have a proper DM and a better defensive set-up overall) this summer.

So who is likely to stay this summer? Luiz, Mari and Cedric just signed new deals and Saliba is arriving so these players will be with us for sure next year- Tierney is a starter so no doubt about him staying- Chances to see Bellerin leave are also low. Verdict: Bellerin, Cedric, Luiz, Mari, Saliba, Tierney to stay

So who is likely to go out this summer? Mavropanos has been loaned out to Stuttgart already- Sokratis is likely to join Mavropanos there but as a transfer- Question marks around Chambers, Holding, AMN and Kolasinac…- What about Medley?- Arteta seems to like Mustafi so a move seems unlikely esp. since he is injured
Verdict: Mavropanos, Sokratis and Kolasinac to leave for sure and Medley to play in reserve still. Either Chambers or Holding will also leave and there is a question mark about AMN. Chambers’ contract ends in 2022 and Holding’s in 2023 so let us see which one goes. 

Based on the above, these are our defenders (before any acquisition) for next year and based on the assumption that Holding will be allowed to leave if we can cash in a good sum since his contract is longer…:
2 RB: Bellerin, Cedric ; CB: Chambers, Mustafi, Luiz, Mari, Sailba; 1 LB: Tierney

Given the above, I am rather certain we will invest in a CB and a LB. If we play with 3 at the back, then I d like us to go for Upamecano, Mukiele, Konate althouth Upamecano just signed a new deal with his current club and if we go with 4 at the back, then we should go for Koulibaly, Ruben Dias, I. Diop, Tarkowsky, Djene, Pau Torres, Diego Carlos or Fofana. As for LB, I think we should have a really good look at Estupinan as we cannot afford Man U bound Chilwell. There are also the Grimaldo, Gaya and Firpo options.

So, possible defensive line-ups 
with 3 at the back when all fit:

A team: Bellerin, Mukiele, Luiz, Mari, Tierney

B team: Cedric, Mustafi, Chambers, Saliba, Estupinan

with 4 at the back when all fit:

A team: Bellerin, Dias, Luiz, Tierney

B team: Cedric, Mustafi, Mari, Estupinan

Given that Luiz is with us another season, I d rather play 3 at the back although I like the systems with 4 at the back better but we cannot take a chance with him and Xhaka…

Any thoughts?

PS: Apologies if there is any mistake or issues with the post format, this is my first time posting…


Our central midfield conundrum

August 10, 2020

Arteta said he knows where to strengthen the team. We also know that he wants to have more control of the game and more creativity in the middle of the park. So how will he address our midfield’s lack of robustness and creativity? It will be an act that requires fine balance because we also have to make some key decisions regarding our younger players like Willock and ESR for example.

So who is likely to stay this summer?- Xhaka has won Arteta’s trust and Ceba is due to extend his loan so these two are for sure staying. – Willock seems to be seen as a massive talent and Arteta recently had some really positive words about ESR.

Verdict: Xhaka, Ceba, Willock to stay for sure

So who is likely to go out this summer?-

Mkhitaryan is most likely not coming back to us and will be staying at Roma. People say we might do a swap deal with J. Kluivert but I ‘d rather want another player from Roma like Veretout or Pellegrini. –

Guendouzi is a goner, unfortunately. He is a player that I believe will go on to become a very solid central midfielder. I believe he should leave the EPL and join a team in Italy, France (ligue 1), Germany or Spain to further ply his trade. I can seem him in a team like AC Milan for example. He d form a great partnership next to Bennacer and Kessie. –

Ozil has also been frozen out and I think for him, it will take a destination like Barcelona, Bayern Munich (top clubs) or Monaco, L.A (more glittery clubs) to end his story at AFC. We saw some greatness from Ozil but his time is up – Arteta could not be clearer. – Question marks remain around Torreira and ESR…

Verdict: Mkhitaryan, Guendouzi, Ozil to leave for sure and I believe they may be joined by Torreira. Arteta to keep ESR and if he does not get enough playing time by December, he will be loaned out again…

Based on the above, these are our midfielders (before any acquisition) for next year:

DM: CM: Xhaka, Ceba AM: Willock, ESR

Given the above, I am rather certain we will invest in a DM and a CM. We have been pursuing Partey for a long time so hopefully this move materializes but let us keep in mind that Partey is not a DM per say but could be played as a trio in midfield. As we are still looking for a DM, I would say to make a move for Brozovic, Declan Rice, Zakaria, Neves or Zubeldia or Capoue (not ideal) as the likes of Ndidi may be impossible to get. If we do not get Partey, then we could go for Vecino, Veretout or Doucoure.

So, possible central midfield options Partey, Xhaka – Ceba ; Capoue – Willock, ESR OR
Brozovic, Xhaka – Ceba; Zubeldia – Willock, ESR

Any thoughts?

RC78

Note: This post was written before the idea that Willian may be about to join from Chelsea.


AFC v Chelsea FA Cup Final – I’ll settle for the result in 2017

August 1, 2020

Three years ago, we lifted the FA Cup. The goals were scored by Sanchez and Ramsey and Giroud provided an assist. Sanchez and Ramsey are now in Serie A and Giroud has swapped teams just like David Luiz.

AFC had conceded a goal to usual suspect Diego Costa despite being a man up………..and rolled out winners 2-1. This win made Arsene Wenger the most successful coach in the competition.

We had played this final in a 343 set up with Holding as part of a back 3 expertly marshalled by Per Mertesacker. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Bellerin played as wing backs with Xhaka and Ramsey in the middle of the park  while Ozil was playing behind Wellbeck and Sanchez.

Three years have gone by and both teams meet again. This year the games between Chelsea and Arsenal were electric and fun to watch and Arteta must still rue the loss to Chelsea at home………..

So the questions are many as we prepare for this confrontation with our other London enemy. Will we play with 4 at the back or will we continue with 3 at the back?

I think we will play with 3 at the back and here are my predicted line-ups:

Martinez – Holding, Luiz, Tierney – Bellerin, Ceba, Xhaka, Saka – Pepe, Nketiah, Auba

Caballero – Rudiger, Chrisenten, Azpi – James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso – Willian, Pulisic – Giroud

I think Lampard will play it safe and will keep a lot of attacking options up his sleeve on the bench.

As for Arteta, should he continue with the 343 set-up, he does not have many options to choose from and I suppose there could be a case for Laca, AMN or Kola in the line-up but I don’t think we will see them from the on-set.

I am expecting a tough and engaged match, full of physical engagement and provocation. The type of match that may not be so pretty to watch but very stressful.

I have to say I am not too optimistic about the outcome and I think we will most likely be outgunned because they have more options from the bench to come and make difference.

That said, we love a challenge and I think that Arteta and some players like Luiz, Xhaka, Laca and Auba will want to show the fans and pundits that they are able to lift trophies at AFC and I think our young guns like Saka and Nketiah will play their heart out too so let us see…

Most likely outcome: Chelsea to win probably 2-1 but heart outcome: Arsenal to beat the odds and win 3-2

COYG!

RC78


Arteta, Lampard and Ole

July 27, 2020

Three young coaches that had the chance to play in the EPL relatively recently and under some of the best coaches…They were all given a chance as head coach this year in the EPL and here are some concluding remarks:

1. These young coaches seem to have a knack for man and team management;

2. These young coaches are not afraid of bold choices, of calling a cat a cat and in calling out the pundits whenever they can

3. They all have pretty clear game plans:- Arteta is keen on high intensity and pressing game and very much about managing spaces. – Lampard and Ole are more on the side of quick transition game as well as on stretching teams out wide so a lot of crosses going in the box and a very active role from the full backs.

4. Lampard and Ole reached Top 4. Arteta did not.

5. Lampard has really put his trust in young players this season and was rewarded.

6. Ole was able to rely on his experienced players and the eclosion of Greenwood and confirmation of Bissaka.

7. Lampard and Ole are backed by strong financial commitments from their owners and Lampard has already made some astute acquistion for next year. What about Arteta? WIll he get financial backing?

In any case – I am annoyed we finished behind Tottenham, Chelsea and Man Utd. Cannot have any complaints about LFC, Man City nor Watford. I feel sorry for Rodgers – it seems he never gets his team to finish the job…

I feel like Arteta is building his blueprint for AFC success:

1. The non-negotiables: commitment, working for the team and club success

2. Fair and performance-based squad selection

3. Growing some young players into our starting XI (Saka, Martinelli…)

I did not like Ole as a player – with RVN and Roy Keane, they really annoyed me as Man Utd players. I always liked Lampard’s game but could not stand that he played for Chelsea. However, we have to admit they did a good job and we also have to admit that Arteta has brought belief and stimulus to our team – he ll definitely need to work on game management and keeping victories (we dropped too many points from a winning position under him). Most importantly, I hope that the owners will give him the necessary means to compete next year so that he can finish in the Top 4. LFC, Man City, Utd, Chelsea, Tottenham and Everton will all inject serious cash to strengthen their squad.

Given our needs, we need to inject more to catch up…One of the major key to Arteta’s success is the financial backing and I hope that the owners will live up to their promises to Arteta otherwise, he is the type of coach that will leave at the end of next year if he does not feel supported and he will have plenty of suitors within and outside the EPL.

Come on Arteta! COYG!

RC78


Xhaka: First Name on the Team Sheet

July 6, 2020

 

Unknown-2                        Granit Xhaka: if the (horse) shoe fits…

Over the years the Granit Xhaka debate has popped up on here with the mind-numbing regularity of an Amazon delivery man during lockdown.

But – miracle of miracles – one of AA’s veteran contributors has found a way of throwing new light on this old discussion.

I refer to LB, and his post-match report on our win at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Keen-eyed LB came up with an excellent description for the way we set out to counteract a dangerous and confident Wolves side. He called it “The Horseshoe.” I’ll let the man explain for himself:

“The horse-shoe football that took place for the best part of the first half was clearly designed to drain Wolves of enthusiasm. Luiz to Soares, back to Luiz out to Kolasinac, back to Luiz, over and over creating the shape of a horse-shoe.”

It was one of those descriptions that, when you read it, you went: “Of course! That’s exactly what it was like. Why didn’t I think of that analogy.”

The horseshoe may not have been the most dynamic way to approach a football match, but it was effective in stifling a potent Wolves attack.

The formation – whether you call it a back five, a back three or a 3-4-3 – gave us plenty of bodies at the defensive end of the field including three excellent passers (Luiz, Tierney and Soares), one reasonably decent passer (Mustafi) and one just-about-acceptable passer (Kolasinac).

But what made the horseshoe function, I believe, was the loose nail sitting inside the U of the horseshoe: Granit Xhaka.

Xhaka operated as part of the horseshoe, sometimes receiving the ball from the centre backs and spreading it to the wingbacks, sometimes vice versa.

He played a crucial role in dictating the rhythm and pace of our play (I referred to him in the comments yesterday as our metronome).

Thinking about LB’s horseshoe, and contemplating how Xhaka had played, that’s when I had my “eureka moment.” It dawned on me that Mikel Arteta had designed the horseshoe precisely to allow for the best use of Xhaka.

I think we all know we have a somewhat unbalanced group of midfielders in our squad and, as a result, the centre of the park has often been the area in games where we have struggled the most (too often failing to provide a good base for creating chances and equally failing to protect our defence, contributing to the amount of defensive cock-ups we have had to endure).

If we had a Vieira, a Gilberto, a Flamini, even an Arteta things would be different and we could set up with a back four.

But we don’t, so Arteta has devised a system that best uses the resources we have.

Xhaka is not a defensive midfielder, so playing him ahead of a back four leaves us vulnerable to opponents breaking through the middle. But with a back three/five, it’s a different story. There are enough defensively minded teammates to stifle the opposition and Xhaka is able to perform his main job of keeping possession, moving the ball from side to side and occasionally probing for an opening.

It’s not a glamorous job: in this system Luiz, Tierney and Soares/Bellerin are more likely to be delivering the progressive passes than Xhaka. Xhaka just has to keep the machine ticking over, and he does it well.

We were a worse team after he went off against Manchester City and we were poor without him against Brighton.

I know some will say that Torreira could play as a traditional defensive midfielder, but I just do not see that in him. He is tenacious and hard-working, but he is not physical enough and does not have Xhaka’s positional sense or passing range.

Not everyone will agree with this (LBG mounted a strong counter argument against Xhaka yesterday in comments), but I have now arrived at the truly remarkable point where, when I make my imaginary selection for our up-coming games, Xhaka’s is the first name on the team sheet.

RockyLives

 

 

 

 


Hello, Hello, Arsenal are back, Arsenal are back.

July 5, 2020

A very clever game plan, hatched by Arteta and superbly executed by the team, enabling us to come away from Molineux will all three points. No easy task as that ground had become a fortress and seen a fair few top teams unexpectedly tumble.

Continuing with Rocky’s theme from his excellent pre-match, I wouldn’t say Wolves were slain, it struck me as being more akin to slowly having the life squeezed out of them, not the deadly rapid bite of a rattle snake but the slow asphyxiation of a large Boa constrictor.

The horse-shoe football that took place for the best part of the first half was clearly designed to drain Wolves of enthusiasm. Luiz to Soares, back to Luiz out to Kolasinac, back to Luiz, over and over creating the shape of a horse-shoe. Of course, I cannot be certain that it was Arteta’s plan to drain Wolves of enthusiasm but it certainly worked on me. Occasionally, the ball would be played to Xhaka or Ceballos in midfield but they simply played it back and the horse-shoe continued. It was starting to get hard to see how things would change. Saka and Soares looked strangers and understandably so as it was the first game they played together and you know when things are bad, when Mustafi has to shout to try and get the front line to make runs.

But then it changed, like an arm wrestle of evenly matched men, something eventually has to give and it did. A cross from Tierney was deflected invitingly for the waiting Saka to hit home. Not as easy to score as I have just said as he still had work to do to readjust his body quickly after the deflection but the young man did so superbly and deserved his first premiership goal.

Wolves naturally increased the pressure in search of an equaliser but it was back to the hypnotic defensive horse-shoe and Wolves remained under our spell for the remainder of the half.

Arteta’s game plan became more readable with the sequence that the substitutes were introduced. For a moment it didn’t make sense why AMN replaced Tierney but then it all fell into place; AMN was sent on to be the enforcer, to add some street fighting brute strength to deal with the marauding Traore and he carried it off well, controlled but forceful.

By this time Wolves had thrown caution to the wind and were coming on to us very high up putting pay to the horse-shoe, good in one sense but a bit worrying in the other as it seemed only a question of time before an equaliser appeared. Time for more substitutions; Bellerin and Willock came on to shore things up and they did so effectively. Hector looked serious; he has got some real competition for his place at last and Willock slots into that role of chasing down and carrying the ball out so well but as Wolves may have started to think that it may not be their day we were still not out of the woods. Time for further substitutions and what turned out to be the coup de gras. Is there a player who likes scoring more than Lacazette? He just lights up, it is as though it is the reason he lives, a superbly taken goal and as it turned out, game over.

Martinez: my MOTM, I arrive at this by asking myself: who played better than is normally expected? All the team played well but for me our man between the sticks certainly played better than I was aware he could. 9

Soares: defended well in his first start, obviously need more time to really get to gripes with what he is about but so far so good. 7

Mustafi: solid, no mess ups, all good 8

Luiz: back to his commanding best. 9

Kolasinac: didn’t realise he had the discipline to play in a three man back line but 2 clean sheets can’t be stiffed at. 7

Tierney: going from strength to strength. 8

Ceballos: slightly more subdued after his commanding performance against Norwich. It was his job to feed the attack which left a bit to be desired, still, very glad we have him. 7

Xhaka: hmmm, one of his key jobs as a midfielder was to create chances for the forward line, he wasn’t really doing that but there is no denying that his experience is very useful. 7

Saka: If Martinez gets injured would Saka go in goal? He probably does have the skills to play keeper. A very exciting versatile prospect, although, it wasn’t all champagne and new contracts today, but hey, if you score you get extra points. 8

Nketiah: really good first half shot that surprised the keeper, all still going in the right direction. 7

Aubamayang: got better and better as the game went on, a class act. 8

LB


“Saka signs and a 4-0 win… what a day!”

July 2, 2020

It turned out a comfortable win with a score line that we would have expected before the start. It doesn’t always turn out that way of course but I think we deserved a bit of reminding that we are the pride of London and that is how I feel again – proud.



The fitness levels are pretty much back to where they should be; Arteta is enjoying watching his plans being played out effectively and things are looking up. Hard games to come of course but winning is always good preparation.

The game: we were dominant for the majority of the first half, Lacazette should have done better with his opportunities; we got a let off when Norwich hit the post with a forty yard screamer but then it was time for Auba to get that fifty goal monkey off his shoulder and Kruel kindly obliged by making a hash of a Cruff turn in his area which Auba pounced on and slotted home. Xhaka finished off the team goal of the game all before the break, outstanding long ball from Luiz to Tierney who played a precise short pass to Auba who deftly rolled it into the path of the oncoming Xhaka who fired it under Kruels body. Norwich tried to make a fist of things early in the second half before a sloppy back pass gifted Auba his second of the game. Now you may have been happy at this stage, I certainly was but the best was yet to come: who expected that screamer from Soares, it was hilarious when the camera cut to our executive team of Edu et al falling off their seats in shocked celebration. Welcome to the home of football Cedric Soares, that was one heck of a debut.

Martinez: some fine saves, right place right time, good distribution, clearly revelling in his opportunity, clean sheet. What’s not to like? 8

Mustafi: nothing rash, kept it simple, all the cables plugged into the right sockets, not sure why he went off, injury I suppose. 6

Luiz: I have tried not to like him, I tried really hard after the City game but as hard as I try I can’t, yeah, yeah, yeah, defence schmence, I loved the long pass out to Tierney which lead to Xhaka’s goal. 7

Kolasinac: a left footed player on the left of central defence clearly goes along way. I know it was only Norwich but he looked pretty good. 7

Bellerin: Hector who? I haven’t jumped up of the sofa for a long time when someone has scored but that is exactly what I did and shouted wow in excitement when Soares scored. 5

Xhaka: looked pretty happy and the first goal of the season to boot; his experience goes a long way. 7

Ceballos: superb, back up to speed and back to his creative best, his passes were opening up Norwich like a tin of sardines in the first half and he continued to be our most creative player in the second half, probably would have got my MOTM but you know where that is going. 8

Tierney: many people have commented on the intelligence and the accuracy of his crossing and it is true but them there crosses are still nowhere near as good as Saka’s. The young Scot is a defender the other plays eemmm, take your pick. 7

Nelson: there was a time not so long ago when that left wing spot was up for grabs – not anymore it has been claimed with both hands or by the left foot of Pepe. I don’t want to be too harsh here there is still a lot more to come. 6

Lacazette: he tries too hard and his frustration is palpable, deep breaths Laca, deep breaths. Not sure how the future of this one plays out, good to have Nketiah and Martinelli knocking at the door though. 5

Aubamayang: MOTM, of course, clinical finishing, fiftieth and fifty-first goals for the Arsenal Football Club. He looked really happy today, pleased for him. 9

Ooh to be (thanks Sue)

LB


Ainsley Maitland-Niles ……. mid-field hero in the making?

June 30, 2020

I managed to see the Sheffield game and the City one, but didn’t see the Brighton game. I look at the team and currently feel contrasting emotions. It still feels like something is missing but at the same time I feel we don’t look far away either. Maybe a couple of vital cogs in the wheel still need to be addressed.

My over-riding feeling still seems to be that we lack dominance in central midfield. They are the shield to the back 4 and the link to supplying the attack. They are vital in the recovery of possession and in retaining possession and making dangerous use of it when we have it. In other words, dominating the central midfield

Both the use of the ball when we have it and the recovery of it when we don’t, seem to be a tad under par, but the latter still feels like the most deficient. The lack of dominance in midfield still seems to be our long running Achilles heel. We have had many different decent central midfielders recently but seem to have gone a long while without finding the right combinations with these midfielders. It never seems balanced

I noted with interest that the most damning stat from the Brighton game was how our central midfielders compared to theirs in successful tackles and ball recovery. Our stats were very low compared to theirs. It was suggestive of us losing the midfield battle and maybe, once again, the combination wasn’t complimentary. I think Torreira is the current key player that would make a difference and he seems to make any of the other central midfielders play better alongside him in a way that the others can’t do for each other.

I have often wondered whether we lack the pace and athleticism in too many of our central midfielders. This is perhaps why we need a player like Partey so desperately, but I also wonder (Torreira aside) if we have another solution right under our noses. This time I am not talking about Luiz because it seems he is not destined to be used in this role but I am thinking along the lines of a player that has more pace and athleticism than our other current incumbents.

A brief foray into the overall defensive stats of all our central midfielders vs Ainsley Maitland-Niles sees him coming out near the top in most defensive areas including tackles, tackle success rate, interceptions, recoveries, and duels won. He has strong stats in all of those defensive areas whereas the others (Ceballos, Douzi, Xhaka, Willock) seem to have decent stats in some defensive areas but are weaker in others. In other words he looks to be a more rounded defensive player than those others and his stats sit favourably alongside Torreira and partey himself.

I know he has played in a different position recently, so it is hard to fully compare stats with other central midfielders, but I wonder if his stats might even improve further if he was in the thick of the midfield battle. He has more pace and athleticism than the others so is it time to give him a run of games as a deeper lying midfielder whose primary job is in ball recovery but also with the ability to bring it forwards from deeper areas?

GoonerB