Dani’s Dazzling Debut .. against the new Stoke!

August 18, 2019

Arsenal 2 -1 Stoke

I can’t take the credit for our opposition’s name (nice one LBG) but Tony Pullis has shrunk 6 inches, put on 3 stone and gone ginger and balder. Apart from that, all’s well in The Potteries.

We started with a different line up to last week. I had Torreira and Chambers with either Ozil or Miki in my pre match. Liam had Ceballos. We thought Xhaka might not make it because of the injury. So full debuts for Ceballos, Luis and Willock, Guendouzi and Nelson also included. I liked the line-up I must admit.

We started well and for 15 minutes, I was drooling !! Laca had just missed what I thought was a really straightforward header but from the resulting corner, he scored such a Laca goal. It was awesome.

After we scored, we lost the initiative and struggled with stopping them doing what they’re good at and gave away far too many set pieces.

Guendouzi on Tarkowski at said set pieces was hard to understand but I guess we were zonal for the most part. Their equaliser wasn’t a huge surprise but I was literally mesmerized by our midfield.

Even though we went in level, at no point did I ever think we wouldn’t win this game (in fact in the end I was a little disappointed we didn’t win by more).

The second half seemed a lot more comfortable and I can’t really put my finger on why. I know Pepe came on and so I have to attribute it to that in some part.

Everyone seemed confident on the ball and after an Auba miss from a sublime ball by Pepe, he did exactly what Laca did earlier and scored a great goal almost immediately.

I thought the rest of the game was solid and the subs came in to help shore us up but we never really looked in danger of conceding.

Player Ratings as follows:

Leno – 7 : Could maybe have helped the defense out a little more but Stoke is such a hard team for keepers. Mark my words, they’ll terrorize quite a few keepers this season.

AMN – 7 : Wasn’t outstanding, wasn’t bad. I rate him at present based on the fact that he’s playing out of position and will give him the benefit at the moment. No concentration lapses.

Nacho – 7 : Nacho. What more is there to say. Tierney will probably be an upgrade but this guy doesn’t hurt us in any way.

Sokratis – 8 : He did miss a couple of headers in the first half but he was very good in the 2nd. A couple of crunching tackles and I wonder if he fed off Luiz a little.

Luiz – 7.5 : Probably as good as Sok but I’m going to be a little harsh here and say he was at fault for the goal. I know it took a deflection but he was a yard behind the line and that’s going to cost us against better sides. Looked like a Gooner and led by example and was very animated. Awesome debut.

Guendouzi – 8 : I think he showed what a disciplined DM should be. This kid is such an asset to us and I think he’s going to get better and better. Hardly put a foot wrong (I’ll take corrections on that if I’m wrong – maybe I have an agenda !!). Let’s see how he does against better teams for sure, but did everything that was asked.

Willock – 8 : I love this kid. He’s strong, powerful, confident but not arrogant. I said a while back the mark of a good player is how his opposition views him. In no time flat, teams are going to hate playing against this lad. He’s got it all. Again, he gets his grade based on the fact he’s a 19 yr old rookie. Wasn’t perfect but always showed and covered.

Ceballos – 10 : I can’t really say enough about how well he played. My son Liam has been raving about him and I think most of the comments on here have been tempered by the fact that he’s a fairly unknown quantity especially in the PL. Well here’s our answer.

Nelson – 6.5 : Didn’t have his best game but looks like he got a knock. Wasn’t scared to play against a rugged team. He’s exciting and I love the fact Dick is playing him, he’s well worth a punt. Not his best game but he’s 19. There’s a lot more to come from this kid imo.

Laca – 7.5 : Very good comeback after injury, maybe not 100% match fit but did all that could be asked and scored a very good goal upon return.

Auba – 9 : Stoke were terrified of this guy. At the moment he’s almost unplayable and the biggest surprise is that he only got 1. I guarantee he’s creating space for others right now just by being on the field.

Subs :

Pepe – 7 : One world class ball, one world class dribble and a little inconsistency. He’s going to be fun and hard to watch all at the same time but if this guy doesn’t excite you, maybe you’re not a football person !! Kidding but I think he’s going to be special for us.

Torreira and Kola – No grade, but came in to do a job and got it done.

Summary : This is very important so let me say it – we beat Burnley (the new Stoke) 2-1 at home. It’s tempting to read into all of the excitement and positivity and think we’re Spuds of 5 years ago. So let’s not be that. Instead I’ll say this. For the first time in a while, I expected us to win. I saw a midfield trio that would run through walls for each other. For their team mates. For Us fans. For the Badge. There was an attitude about Arsenal today that we’ve been missing. We gave Burnley a run for their money, struggled for a while, then beat them. We’re a work in progress with a lot of work to do for sure. But I finally think we have a map, a destination and the means to get there.

Our current squad, allowing for the loss of Ramsey but adding Pepe, Ceballos, Luiz and Willock plus the continuing improvement of Guendouzi, the top class Laca and Auba and a very good keeper in Leno is the foundation of a new era at Arsenal. That’s not really up for debate. The question is, can we go down the new road successfully.

Two games into the season against two mediocre opponents would lead most people to think it’s fanciful at best to make such an assumption. I probably agree. But I’m happy to go on the record as saying I am very optimistic for our next two games. The fear we have often displayed, the mental frailty seems a little foreign to this current crop. So if I’m wrong then it’s going to be a little longer road. But I for one can’t wait to see.

Go Gooooooooooooooners!!!

Mike M

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Double Pants Dilemma: Newcastle v Arsenal Match Report and Player Ratings

August 11, 2019

The first game of a new season prompts a strange mix of emotions: excitement, anticipation, hope, nervousness. Perhaps fear.

I imagine it’s the way a bride must feel on the morning of her wedding when everything has been planned just the way she wants it but she has a nagging suspicion that she might be marrying the wrong man.

Well, let’s hope Arsenal’s 2019/20 season is a ‘happily ever after’ story and we don’t end up feeling betrayed, abandoned and embittered with only chocolate and cats to console us.

The auguries were not good for yesterday’s season opener against a Newcastle United team led by new coach Mrs Doubtfire.

There were two reasons for concern: firstly, our opening day form has been pants in recent years. And secondly, for the first time in years our opening match was away from home and, as we all know, our away form has also been pants.

So we had a double pants dilemma, like an anxious incontinence sufferer.

First, our opening day form: in the previous four years, starting with last year, we have managed the following: home defeat to Manchester City; scrappy and somewhat lucky home win against Leicester City; home defeat to Liverpool; home defeat to West Ham.

Next, our overall away form: last season and the one before we contrived to lose exactly half of our away games in the Premier League (19 out of 38) and managed to win only 11 out of 38 – a win rate of just 29%.

Yet, with all that in mind, it was impossible not to feel a bit chipper going into the game.

Most of us would probably agree we had a good transfer window and this has helped the mood music around the club to be more upbeat. There’s a cautious feeling that we have started to plant the seeds of recovery after some frustrating years.

There appears to be a bit more of a clear direction at the club and it’s hard not to be excited about new signings like Ceballos, Pepe and Martinelli, and the continuing progress of home-grown talents like Willock and Nelson.

Unai Emery went with a starting line-up that will probably bear little resemblance to our eventual first choice eleven this season (once the broken ones have returned and the new ones have settled). He put his faith in some of the youngsters. Willock, Nelson and Guendouzi started, as did Maitland-Niles and Chambers (does Calum Chambers still count as a youngster?).

Lacazette, rightly, was not risked due to recent injury issues, but was on the bench in case we needed to chase a goal late on. That meant the irrepressible Aubameyang would be carrying most of our attacking hopes.

The first half was a fairly even affair. The Barcodes had a 10 minute spell when they created some half chances, including a shot from noted Nosferatu impersonator Jonjo Shelvey that hit the post (although Leno may just have had it covered).

From our side, we were finding it difficult to break down a well-organised Newcastle defence and whenever it looked like we might find a way through a wayward pass or piece of control would bring an end to things.

But there were promising signs in the way we knocked the ball around at times and it was particularly pleasing to see Willock and Nelson so involved and showing a lot of confidence. Guendouzi, meanwhile, was my stand-out player of the first period. He’s strong, competitive, always makes himself available and is ever keen to get on the front foot: he may look like the dopey sidekick from a 1990s teen movie, but this kid has future leading man written all over him.

In the second half we were the superior team overall, without creating clear cut chances until the breakthrough came courtesy of two men for whom two initials are just not enough: AMN and PEA.

Maitland-Niles showed brilliant anticipation as Newcastle played the ball out from the back. He beat the Newcastle player to the ball around the half way line, took a couple of touches and looked up to see Auba moving into space in the penalty area. Maitland-Niles’s 35-yard* pass to our Gabonese gazelle was beautifully executed. Aubameyang brought it under control and coolly side-footed it past the on-rushing ‘keeper.

Mrs Doubtfire will be fuming at the space given to our striker in the box, but that should not detract from the fact that he found the space or the sublime way in which he finished.

As Auba ran to celebrate with his Number One Best Bro (Lacazette) on the touchline I liked that he turned to beckon Maitland-Niles to join the party.

After that Newcastle huffed and puffed but caused few real scares.

It’s tempting to say that Aubameyang’s quality was the difference, but in truth we displayed superiority in most areas for the majority of the game.

We also got to have a look at Ceballos, Pepe and Martinelli as they came on for Willock, Nelson and Mkhitaryan. There were a couple of nice moments from Pepe in particular, but the main thing was they got their debuts under their belts and they can feel they contributed to a win and a clean sheet.

I think a special word is also merited for our new away kit – and that word is “Yes!” Well done Adidas.

*For younger readers who don’t understand imperial measurements, 35 yards is equivalent to 28 Ells, or 70 Cubits.

Player Ratings

Leno: dealt with everything that came his way. In particular I enjoyed the moment in the second half where he came out of his area to head the ball clear and snuff out a dangerous Newcastle attack. 7.5

Maitland-Niles: excellent overall game from the young fullback and his anticipation and skill directly led to our winning goal. 8

Monreal: solid and unspectacular from Nacho, but he did little wrong. 7

Sokratis: it’s hard to get excited about our Greek colossus, but he is a very dependable defender and had a good game. 7

Chambers: a year on loan playing in midfield has been good for Chambers. I fancy he could be one of the surprise success stories of the season. Like his central defence partner he was solid. 7

Xhaka: seemed more subdued than usual but was tidy and played some very nice attacking passes at times. 6.5

Guendouzi: all energy all the time. I love the way he turns his body as he receives the ball so he is always ready to surge towards the opposition end. 8

Nelson: confident and tidy. It’s very encouraging to have players like him and Willock coming through, not least for the way it can inspire other up-and-coming talents at the club. 7

Willock: this lad’s a class act. 7.5

Mkhitaryan: I know he’s not a fan favourite but I thought he was lively in the first half and helped create some of our better chances. His final ball let him down a couple of times and he faded in the second half. 6

Aubameyang: exuberant, talented and full of energy – what a great player to have wearing the Arsenal shirt. MoTM 8.5.

Subs:

Ceballos: misplaced a few passes as he tried to find his feet, but grew into the game.

Pepe: showed one or two very nice moments of skill. Looking forward to seeing more of him.

Martinelli: a Brazilian forward at the Arsenal? What’s not to like?

RockyLives


Happy as a Mad Brazillian?

August 9, 2019

I said before the window that our 2 main areas of concern last season were the defence and the attacking midfield areas. Fast forward a couple of months and we’ve signed 3 defenders and 3 attacking players.

Very, very happy.

I cannot wait to see Pepe and Tierney in the side and Luiz and Ceballos should get plenty of games too and improve on what we have. Martinelli has looked capable in pre season and should develop, and hopefully Saliba will be first team ready when he arrives next summer.

We’ve gotten rid of a few fringe players in Bielik, Jenkinson and Ospina, aswell as seeing Iwobi, Ramsey and Koscielny leave. However, none of those losses feel too hurtful as we’ve known about Ramsey for a while, Koscielny is no longer what he once was, and Iwobi just didn’t seem to be developing. I really like the Nketiah loan deal to Leeds too and it would be fantastic if he could fire them into the PL and earn himself another 12 months their next season to see if he’s ready for the top flight.

A net spend of around £80m and a feeling that we’ve strengthened our attack significantly whilst managing not to make an already porous defence weaker despite losing our captain. We’ve even managed to look to the future with the signings of Saliba and Martinelli, aswell as the integration into the first team of Willock, Nelson, Martinez and Saka.

A very successful summer from the Arsenal hierarchy. The addition of Edu and the work that’s been done by the transfer guru’s might have just started to repair what was a crumbling relationship between the fans and the men at the top. It looks like we will be an exciting team to watch this season and I can’t wait for the football to start.

Over to Unai to make Arsenal great again!

fatgingergooner


Dani Ceballos … the ‘Real’ Deal

July 25, 2019

The smoke has turned into fire … any moment the club will announce that Dani Ceballos has joined Arsenal from Real Madrid on a one year loan deal.

The exact details of that deal are not known, the optimists will hope that there is an option to buy at the end of the 12 months … I very much doubt it, Real Madrid are not in the habit of letting developing talent go cheaply.

Ceballos is not Denis Suarez. He’s already proven quality. He has very good close control. He can weave through a defence and find a killer pass, he is a free kick specialist … he scores goals.

Feast your eyes on this  … but a note of caution, no-one can know how he will adapt to the EPL. He’ll get a kicked all over the park if he starts embarrassing opposition players as easily as you’ll see in this video ….

Dani was being courted by many top clubs and should already assume hero status by virtue of choosing The Arsenal over ‘that lot down the road’.

The boring stuff:

  • He’s 22, a Spanish national who has represented them at U19s, U21’s and in the full national side
  • He’s 5ft 10in, a midfielder who can play in several positions but is most effective in the advanced role of a No. 10.
  • He joined Sevilla as a youngster, signed his first professional contract with Real Betis and joined Real Madrid in 2017

There is no doubt that Arsenal are restricted in what they can spend. The loan deal for Ceballos (effectively coming on a free for the year) to some extent balances the plan to sign William Saliba and then send him back on loan. That deal involves delayed payment and so much of our £45m mini war chest remains … currently it may be in the region of £39m if you deduct the £6m paid for Martinelli.

Make no mistake, this is progress. We are getting a player who will significantly improve the quality of the squad. Ceballos is a Real Madrid player and a Spain International. The new management team have pulled off a major coup … the Saliba deal is all but in the bag … what next I wonder? … Would a centre back be too much to ask?

Rasp