Arsenal’s most important player this season is _______?

January 10, 2019

This question was posed on twitter by @ltarsenal and some of the replies were quite surprising, so why not have a crack at it on here while we wait for the weekend?

Runners and Riders (in no particular order)

Rob Holding

Many were surprised when Calum C went out on loan before the season started and a certain lad we bought from Bolton for a £2m was chosen to stay and develop at his home club.  His play this season has been a revelation. Cool, composed, able to bring the ball forward and with an eye for a pass, too. Some might say our defence looking decidely ropey has coincided with his absence.

Lucas Torreira

Eased in slowly frustrating Arsenal fans at the start of the season, Lucas began by making top notch contributions from the bench before getting his starting berth. Perhaps, if LBG is correct and he’s been moved further forward in Unai’s recent formations, his effectiveness has been slightly lessened when not sat right in front of the back four receiving and destroying.

Alex Lacazette

Many replies on twitter mentioned Laca. He is a fans’ favourite and certainly brings an aggressiveness and work rate which often seem responsible for lifting the whole shooting match. Less goals than Auba from perhaps more chances but he’s often won back possession from his feisty closing down (and given away a few free kicks into the bargain!).

Granit Xhaka

To some, Granit’s inclusion in this list would be the biggest shock but he does seem Unai’s first name on the teamsheet in many respects. When we are playing well, he does seem the centre of the well-oiled machine. Countless accurate passes and an ability to switch play others lack. Detractors would say ‘yes, but how many of those passes actually achieve anything’.  Then again, all teams require water carriers, ask Gilberto.

Hector Bellerin

When he’s missing from the team, you do start to realise how important he is on the right side. Still not the finest defender in the world but such a talent on the ball. Arsenal’s right flank without the Catwalk king and, to a lesser extent Micki, has been a little lacking in punch, drive and creativity.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

Goals from nowhere, some have suggested we’d be floating just below mid-table without Auba’s 14 goals. His strike record in October/November was simply stunning, scoring from virtually all of his shots on target. A fair few of his goals have come when he’s made an entrance off the bench. Some point out his lack of fire, Laca style, but maybe that isn’t the quality he was bought for.

I’m not sure if anyone else should be regarded as a contender.

What do you think? Could you make a case for someone not listed above.

Mesut anyone?

chas

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Transfer Window Targets.

January 9, 2019

January. Same message from the Boss, “we are actively looking but it is difficult”. Cobblers. There have been some excellent signings in January – Aubameyang, Arshavin, Reyes, Louis Suarez, Van Dijk, Walcott, Giroud, Coutinho, the list is long.

It comes down to money and contracts.

Of more interest is just where on the pitch Emery will be looking to improve the squad.

So far we’ve had talk of ……

Denis Suarez, a midfielder and presumably possible replacement for Ramsey

Yannick Carrasco, a Belgian left winger

plus

James Rodriguez, attacking midfielder/winger, Galactico (seems a luxury player which is the last thing we need IMO)

All this talk of players for the front half of the team may just be clickbait, as that’s obviously where the sexy stuff occurs. Losing Danny W. also means that an injury to Laca or Auba may leave us short of experienced back up.

Surely our problems this season have come from a lack of quality in the back half of the pantomime cow? Clean sheets are a rarity and we never look comfortable holding a lead. Talking of Holding, losing him has put a big dent in the quality, composed side of our central defending and losing Nacho and Hector, the same with our full back options.

Where would you like to see Unai and Arsenal’s new super-duper purchasing team bolster the squad in the next three weeks?

BR and chas

 


The Man in Black

January 8, 2019

World Cup 2018. The England team, despite playing some of the most boring football since Mourinho arrived at MU, did well.  Who were missing? PL referees, that’s who.

I love football, always have, and football is a game of rules, rules which have to be adhered to and judged by a referee. He has a very important role in the sport (as do his linesmen). A crap ref can ruin a game and frequently does, a good one is rarely noticed.

This season we have seen some of the worst refereeing performances I can recall.

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It is not an easy job, they run huge distances making snap decisions without recourse to VAR (more later). This requires a skill level few of us can match. And it doesn’t help that players spend hours thinking about how to fool the ref to their advantage.

Players cheat. Almost all of them. How often do we see a player running with the ball into the penalty area with a defender chasing only to see the attacker slow down forcing the defender to touch him? Penalty. This is blatant cheating and almost impossible for the referee to identify. Salah is an expert, so is Sterling and so was Bobby Pires.

Some of the refs are pedants, perhaps it is a requirement for the job, after all they are Onanists in the Black :-D. Some are narcissists, some are wannabee bullies (if you haven’t seen the film Kes, I recommend, the football scene).

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I can immediately think of two methods to improve the standard:

  1. The PL is International with players from all over the globe. There is enough money in the PL, even for teams in the relegation zone, to attract the world’s best players. Why do we only have UK refs? Surely it makes sense to bring in the highest rated referees, wherever they come from. Referees are professional and the PL can afford the best
  2. VAR.  Think of cricket. Is it improved by the use of technology? Of course it is. But it took time for the tech gremlins to be sorted out and the same will happen with football. There will be disputes, there will be mistakes but eventually it will work. Perhaps it will be to the detriment of the attending fans who do not have access to TV screens but I am sure this can be resolved, it has been in every other sport especially in American Football.

It is no good complaining about the standards, words will not change anything, only action helps and these poor sods need help. Investment is needed, technology is needed,  a change in punishment of cheating is needed, though this is more difficult as it requires the authorities to prove intention.

Or do we keep things as they are and enjoy the lambasting of the poor chap in the middle? There is a gratifying unity when the whole crowd sing “You don’t know what you’re doing” or “the referee’s an onanist”.  It wouldn’t work so well with VAR, would it?

written by Big Raddy


Emery’s Bermuda Triangle

January 7, 2019

Prompted by my Bros to expand on my criticism of Dick’s current tactics evident at the Fulham game, I offer another controversial effort for the perusal of AAers the world over.

I qualify what I am going to say in advance with the facts that…….

  1. We have lost Holding for a long time.
  2. Have not had Kos (and may never have the old Kos) for  a long time.
  3. Have missed an Improved Hector and reliable Nacho in recent weeks.
  4. Let alone had no chance to see the other Greek God, Mav, who I think could prove in the future to be the solution, together with Holding, to Dick’s Bermuda Triangle.

To explain:- Dick has regularly opted recently for the following three players in the vital “central triangle of defence”, and it is here he is making his mistake. Mustafi and Sokratis as CBs, with Xhaka in the central holding/receiving slot.

I will start with the CBs (without really needing to for anyone with eyes).

Sokratis has got guts, is committed and occasionally is in the right place at the right time (See fourth goal against Fulham). But good enough for us as a CB? Nah!

Mustafi is dog’s poo (thought I’d do your job for you, ed). Positionally poor, rarely wins a header as he is a short arse, slide tackles late and nowhere near the ball. Good enough for us as a CB? Nah!

Now, given this criticism, Dick has doubled the problems in his triangle by allowing Xhaka to play at the top as holding/receiver of passes from these two! Xhaka is in my eyes massively overrated. Sure he can spray long balls, but only when the oppo back off, and these long balls are rarely “dynamic” in their effect. (He is no Alonso). Under pressure he shovels poop, and under real pressure, he makes potentially disastrous passes. (He is no Gilberto). He cannot tackle really, and is regularly booked for this (lack of) “skill”. (He is no Kante……or for that matter, Terrier). And much of this slaughtering criticism is because he is not quick enough of thought or limb.

Sorry, I seem to have been a little scathing!

Does he deserve a place in the starting eleven? Well, for the moment my answer is ‘yes’. But play him forward of Terrier and Ouzi (alongside each other and in front of the defence). Both of these two are better at the job required there and, will shore up some of the defensive frailty currently evident. “For the moment” for that is the position I advocate for A M-N in the future, and then it could be bye bye Xhaka for me.

My view, sorry if you think I am still drunk with joy from my recent Birthday.

Written by LBG

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  


Oystons Out

January 5, 2019

Is there still any Magic in the Cup? Does the prospect of a day out at Wembley still set you in thrall? It does for me but I am traditionalist (in other words … old).

I still love the Cup and although there are less upsets than in previous years it remains one of the centre-pieces of the season with today’s tie up at Blackpool way more interesting than a Europa League game.

And, of course, we all know which club has won it the most, and which manager. The FA Cup has been good to us.

Will it be this afternoon?

It is distressing to read (and hear on the Arseblog podcast) of the current state of affairs at Blackpool. The Oyston saga is a warning to all and an indication of how impotent the PL and EFL are when facing a corrupt owner.

One must assume the B’pool fans want to lose today so no  more TV money goes into the club. Non-attendance is costing the owner as is the lack of money from the sales of shirts, burgers etc. A draw today and the resulting income of a game at the Emirates would be a huge boon to the Oystons.

What would happen at Arsenal if Kroenke starts to strip the club of its assets and refuse to buy players? He can. He owns the place. Would lifelong fans and the thousands of tourists who go to games refuse to attend? Even if they did, would it affect change when the owner is a billionaire and the club runs on TV money? Do you think, in this highly unlikely scenario, that the PL would do anything but issue platitude whilst jetting off to another meeting in a 5 star hotel in Dubai?

The action of the Blackpool supporters is a credit to all football fans. Oyston Out.

This is Mr. Emery’s first FA Cup game, how will he react? Will he send out a team of children with Grandad Cech at the back of them? Or will he persuade Mesut and Aaron that they need match sharpness?  We cannot risk PEA and Lacazette. Terrier, Wardrobe, Xhaka and Kos need a rest. I predict a start for AMN, Willock, Corporal Jenks, Elneny, Saka, Nketiah and Medley.

Blackpool’s most famous player is Sir Stanley Matthews, the Wizard of the Wing. The man was Ronaldo famous in his time, a worldwide icon. I actually saw him play at Highbury but for Stoke not the Tangerines. Arsenal could use a winger of his genius now, could Saka be the man?

We should win this game.

Let it Be So

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Happy Invincibles Day!

January 4, 2019

So, the achievement of Arsene’s squad of 2003/4 remains without equal for another season.

Liverpool succumbed at the 21st hurdle thanks to a determined Citeh side keen to make a decent fist of defending their title and to 11 millimetres of a football which refused to cross a goal line.

The tide swung towards Pep’s side when Aguero lashed in superbly at the near post but Firmino’s equaliser had us all wondering if last night wasn’t to be the night when Liverpool’s Lost column clicked round to ‘1’. Leroy Sané scraped one in off the far post and via a small deflection to give us what we wanted in the 72 minute.

Dejan Lovren’s ‘Liverpool can go unbeaten’ claim a day or two ago now seems faintly ridiculous with the Christmas decorations still up. I doubt he was too popular in the Liverpool camp putting the bock on it, big-style.

The red mancs managed 24 games at the start of the 2010/11 season before losing to Wolves which remains second to Arsenal’s full season unbeaten in the Premier League era.

To go the full 38 games seems unbelievable and is rightly up there as perhaps Arsene’s finest achievement.

Maybe some club will eventually emulate the achievement of Paddy, Thierry, Sol, Ralph, Jens, Kolo and Arsene (amongst others) in the modern era, but until they do, let’s celebrate the glory of that magnificent accomplishment in the 2003/4 season with all our hearts.

p.s. it was LBG’s birthday yesterday – quite a nice present I’d say.

chas