Arsenal’s new template taking shape – FC Vorskla ratings

September 21, 2018

So, exactly what did we expect from a game against Vorskla Poltava Who?

Goals? Yes, sure, but there’s a bigger picture. We will try hard to win this Trophy for obvious reasons, and this journey will include a few more Who Teams before we get stuck into the tricky fixtures later on.

Historically, the early rounds of any tournament against Minnow Opposition are opportunities for yoof players to grab experience and shine, as well as the returning-from-injury sorts.

However, while all that was true for last night’s encounter, it was still very much in the context of a new Manager establishing his own footballing template.

Most obvious to me is the hugely positive impact the Club’s transfer policy has been over the last six odd months.

Mesut and Iwobi re-signed, Mhki and Auba brought in, and most recently the importing of Sokratis, Licht, Torreira and Guendouzi.

Last night we saw them all, and I believe the latter four will massively improve both our Europa campaign as well as in the league.

From the evidence of last night, I’m still not convinced Unai has got the balance quite right, although I do understand that when there are so many player changes, finding that fluent rhythm is not going to happen instantly.

While I wouldn’t describe either Elneny or Xhaka as offensive midfielders, neither are they true defensive midfielders in the sense of the DM sort. Both Torreira and Guendouzi are, but what I liked so much last night about their play was, having won the ball back, how quickly their heads are up and immediately looking to build/pass for forwards momentum.

When I mentioned balance earlier, I was referring to two things.  We were slightly lopsided in the first half towards the left, which, if exploiting a tactical weakness of the opposition’s right flank then fair enough, but I’m not convinced. The other concern if the balance between midfield and attack. Mhki was sent out as the link man last night, and I think given more games, it could work. He is strong and aggressive in possession and can drive forwards with the ball when the opportunity presents itself. He does also possess an intelligent final ball.

Way too early to judge, but young Smith Rowe does look to be capable of playing exactly this role in due course.  Another very exciting cameo from him.

I’m waffling, and I’m also out of time, so I’ll end with a comment and a question.

Laca looked pissed off. I would be too if I were him. Why? Because Auba looked far better central than out wide.

I’m still convinced 3-5-2 is the only way to optimise those two and Mesut. Unai doesn’t agree. What do you think about Auba being shunted back out left?

Written by mickydidit89

Ratings (chas)

Leno – did everything very well, tidy on the deck, looked to be heading for a clean sheet and then, bang, beaten by two beauties….6

Lichtsteiner – oozes experience and defensive know-how, though joined in the calamitous defending at the end….6

Holding – didn’t really do a huge amount of note but looked competent without being oustanding….6

Sokratis – growing in confidence by the day. Made some great tackles, my favourite being when he thumped the floor in celebration at a job well done – exactly what we want to see….8

Monreal – Arsenal’s left flank saw a lot of action last night and most of it was offensive. Nacho played his part as usual….7

Elneny – patrols the centre of the pitch effectively but sometimes lacks forward drive….6

Torreira – outstanding to begin with but then took a bit of a battering which lessened his impact. Let’s hope he is as indestructible as our last wee fellow, Arshavin….7

Mkhitaryan – took time for the motor to start purring but grew in confidence, contributing to most everything we did well going forward. Micky’s highlight was the commentator suggesting that in the build up to the first goal, Micki had called “my ball” in Ukrainian causing the Vorskla player to leave the ball as if dummying – as Micki played over a 100 games for Donetsk in the Ukraine, this is highly likely 🙂 ….7

Iwobi – sometimes his feet can’t keep pace with his brain but when he does get things in sync, he’s outstanding and a real attacking threat….8

Welbeck – scored with his first decent chance, looked a little confused as to where he was playing in the first half. He’s such an athlete, there seems to be a great striker in there somewhere….7

Aubameyang – two classy goals and one beauty curled against the foot of the post. The smile was back which was more than you could say for Laca on the bench….9

Subs

Guendouzi – gave Torreira a rest and proceeded to create with every touch, tackling, surging forward – the whole package….7

Ozil – bizarre substitution, didn’t need the game time but seemed to enjoy being on the pitch because he loves football so much. Enjoyed his improvised finish for the goal….6

Smith Rowe – first player born in the 21st century to make a full debut (well, I think that’s what they said). Surging runs, good on the ball, could be something extra special….7

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FC Vorskla – Who are ya?

September 18, 2018

With the much-awaited return of Thursday night football this week, it’s time to take a look at our first opponents, FC Vorskla of the Ukraine.

Based in the city of Poltava, FC Vorskla were born out of the ashes of a former Soviet trade union sports society, called Kolos. Going through a number of name changes and bankruptcy, the club re-emerged in 1986 in the Soviet third division before joining the second tier of the new Ukrainian League in 1992.

Promoted to the Ukrainian Premier League in 1996, they have remained there ever since. On the European stage, the club played twice in the old Uefa Cup  before various assaults on the Europa League, the highlight being group stage participation 2011/12. Of course that highlight has been superseded by the ultimate in FC Vorskla’s history, when drawn to play the mighty Arsenal FC in this season’s Europa League group stage.

The club play at the Oleksiy Butovskyi Vorskla Stadium which was named after a famous Poltava dignitary from a cossack family who was instrumental in the founding of the International Olympic Committee.

Vociferous rivalries amongst various Ukrainian club supporters have largely been put to one side due to the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Fans of Vorskla Poltava are fierce patriots of the Ukraine and many are said to have taken part in the Ukrainian revolution of 2014.

On 26 July 2014, the club’s president and active local politician, Oleh Babayev  was shot dead. Police opened a criminal case under Article “premeditated murder” but it appears the perpetrator was never found in the familiar fashion of disputes between Ukrainian and pro-Russian factions in the region.

Local Food – Borshch, Varenyky (stuffed dumplings) and Banosh with Brynza (corn flour cooked in sour cream with sheep’s cheese and crunchy pork fat) are examples of local cuisine along with Holodets – “This strange dish shocks tourists. But, for Ukrainians, it is the central dish served at all celebrations. Holodets is made of meat broth, frozen to a jelly-like state, with pieces of meat inside. One of the main components for this kind of aspic is pork leg. To be more specific, the lowest part, the one that ends with hoofs. During the process of cooking, the smell spreads all over the apartment. But the result is so satisfying that it is worth it.”

While I’m sure local Ukrainian food is delicious, I’d imagine Arsenal will be taking their own chef! (as most clubs seem to after the spuds’ experience of Lasagnegate 🙂 )

chas


Out with a Whimper rather than a Bang – Atletico Ratings

May 4, 2018

Looking for highlights to refresh the memory of major incidents in the game, the go-to place is often Arsenalist. The clip descriptions for last night seem to form a decent match report, illustrating the fact that we didn’t really have many clearcut chances whereas Atletico did. Fair reflection or not?  Here they are……..

First Half

Ospina punches it away early

Dangerous Lacazette cross

Huge Diego Costa chance

Koscielny injury

Oooo…Monreal almost pulls it back for Lacazette

Good Arsenal play but Bellerin’s cross is poor

Big Lacazette chance, doesn’t get shot off

Atletico volley – Ospina save

Monreal chance

Ooooo…Atletico just wide

Ooooo…Griezmann chance

Diego Costa goal 1-0

Second Half

Welbeck fouled very smartly to stop Arsenal break

Big Ramsey chance – can’t get clean shot off

Chambers bails out Mustafi (who fell) on Costa chance

Dangerous Ozil cross…nobody at the end of it

Ozil wins it back, but cross is cleared

Xhaka chance

Huge chance Costa/Griezmann, they should have scored

Bellerin cross poor

Mikhitaryan chance, over

Monreal heads it down into the box – nobody there

Great Xhaka tackle on Griezmann

Costa and Mustafi double bookings

Ozil doing stuff you expect Welbeck to do

Is this….is this a cross?

Can one of you please effin shoot

Ospina save on Torres

Ratings

Ospina – Made some decent blocks … 6

Bellerin – Wakey wakey for the Costa goal, crossing poor throughout  … 5

Mustafi – Shkodran seems a bit thick, left on his backside far too often  … 5

Koscielny/Chambers – Poor Laurent, perhaps a career-ending injury/ Calum did well with a few fine interceptions/recoveries  … 6

Monreal – Worked hard to find something for us to bite on around the Atletico goal … 6

Wilshere – Seemed to lack belief  … 5

Xhaka – Granit gave full effort but is never going to be the one to unlock a resolute defence  … 6

Ramsey – Nothing really came off, looked a bit lightweight … 5

Ozil – Some dangerous moments but couldn’t find anyone to finish off his good work  … 6

Welbeck – Gave everything but still lacking that last little bit of quality  … 5

Lacazette – Plan A requires Alexandre to have some service, Plan B may have been what Arsenal required last night … 6

Summary

Just not good enough on the night against one of the best defences in Europe.

Such a shame for Kos – his Achilles has been an accident waiting to happen. Two new centre backs please, Mr Next Arsenal Manager.

Oh well, on we go to Sunday’s 6th place decider.

chas


A Golden Chance Squandered but still only Half-time – Atletico Ratings

April 27, 2018

Massive excitement and expectation surrounded this great opportunity to send Mr Wenger off to his retirement with the decent divorce settlement of his first European trophy. Could we take some chances at the sharp end while defending successfully at the other? Simeone has constructed a team which few would want to go and see every week (I bet the Atletico supporters disagree with this assessment). Would Costa come back to haunt us or would it be a case of Griezmann up top on his own? The ground was pretty full when we arrived, the flags looked good and the atmosphere was buzzing with an electricity suitable for a game of such magnitude.

First Half

Arsenal came out of the blocks at a furious pace. The referee immediately issued a yellow card for what looked like a soft challenge from the stands. Lacazette hit the post with a scuffer and then hit the goalkeeper with a close range header. The second yellow looked soft, too, though, having seen a replay, it looked much nastier, number 16’s studs crunching down on Laca’s instep. How many players would be left on the pitch after 90 minutes if this was to be the yellow card issuing rate?

80 minutes to take advantage of playing against 10 men. Could we find a way around the biggest and most skillfully parked bus in the whole of European football? Chances came and went. Danny broke through but caught the keeper’s foot with his attempt when a far post curler was beckoning. Mesut skied one, Kos couldn’t wrap his foot around a ball dropping to him at the far post following a corner, Nacho’s right footed volley went just wide; the ball just wouldn’t go in. Atletico’s defending was magnificent, with blocks and interceptions at crucial moments littering the first half an hour.

colossal defending

Atletico finally managed to get a foothold in the game towards half time and Griezmann twice found opportunities to shoot and test Ospina. 0-0 at half time, surely the goals would come in the second period?

 Second half

The second period seemed like a non-stop procession towards the North Bank end of the stadium. Shots rained in on the Atletico goal, it had to be only a matter of time. On the hour that moment came. Jack stood up a delightful cross worthy of Liam Brady after Nacho had won the ball back on the edge of the opposition area. Laca rose Arshavin-like at the far post and planted the ball firmly past Oblak at last. The stadium erupted.

A crucial second goal failed to materialise thanks to great goalkeeping, superb body-on-the-line defending and some less than perfect finishing. Atletico used every tactic imaginable to disrupt the flow of the game, substitutions seemed to take minutes, players fell over at the slightest contact trying to buy breathing space, every restart from throws, free kicks and goal kicks was used to eat up so much valuable time.

We were all hoping that our defence would remain solid right up until the final whistle because conceding against ten men after such dominance would be heart-breaking. However, this current incarnation of Arsene’s team always seem to have one calamitous moment, locked away to disappoint us, where what can possibly go wrong, does go wrong.

With less than 10 to go, Danny overran the ball on the left flank gifting possession to Atletico. The ball was played forward to Griezmann, stood behind Kos, but both Monreal and Mustafi were playing him onside. Kos recovered beautifully judging the ball much better than the Atleti player but then decided that playing the ball back over his head was the best option. This seemed to be Kos’ only mistake of the game but what a costly one! Ospina parried Griezmann’s first effort and then Mustafi slipped as he tried to block the second but still got a knee on it.  The ball was in the Arsenal net from Atletico’s only chance of the half – a familiar story, unfortunately.

The goal brought to mind Freddie and Jaap Stam in Jan 2000

Perhaps a winner might have lifted us all from the gloom of that away goal conceded but despite good efforts from Rambo and Welbeck plus a skied blast from Xhaka, 1-1 was destined to be Atletico’s reward for soaking up all that pressure.

Surprisingly it seemed to be the Arsenal team who had run out of steam in that second period rather than the 10 men of the Spanish side.

Ratings (tempting to give all sixes and sevens, but that was only one moment in the match 🙂 )

Ospina – Fairly untroubled, did well against Griezmann and had little chance with the goal when it finally came … 7

Bellerin – Looked dangerous, especially in the first half and produced some fine moments throughout  … 7

Mustafi – Not much to do the whole game against one striker after the sending off. Why did he have to slip for the one and only time at that precise moment?   … 6

Koscielny – Such a shame his defending in last night’s game will be remembered for that crazy decision to play it clever with Griezmann … 6

Monreal – Tireless as ever, worked his nuts off – again the goal is all we will remember, jogged back after the failed step up for offside … 6

Wilshere – Still looks short of confidence but must be proud of that assist … 6

Xhaka – Granit looked good without ever being put under too much pressure  … 7

Ramsey – Rambo’s efforts weren’t quite up to his recent standards and he seemed to run out of gas more than most until that last five minutes  … 6

Ozil – Tried everything he could to unlock the Madrid version of Fort Knox  … 7

Welbeck – Came out of the blocks like a greyhound and looked likely to provide us a goal. I’m not keen on his trying to win free kicks by exaggerating falls – stop it Danny  … 6

Lacazette – A marvellous header for the goal, some brilliant turns and movement plus several other good efforts – all repelled by Oblak unfortunately … 8

Subs

There were none and when you looked at the bench you could see why.

On to next Thursday, the tie is far from over and we have to be confident we can cancel out that calamitous away goal. When our away goal comes will be crucial – score first and it’s game on.

chas


Waiting for My Man – CSKA Player Ratings

April 13, 2018

With the score from the first leg stood at 4-1 and having seen Roma rebuild an empire at the expense of the Catalonians, nerves were jangling slightly more than we might have expected for this particular second leg in Moscow. Could their away goal prove crucial? One way to resolve the issue – score one of our own and the tie would be effectively settled. Boy, did they make us wait.

First Half

CSKA huffed and puffed, gegenpress-style, closing down rapidly like high street businesses everywhere. Arsenal struggled to find any space, time and cohesion. On several occasions chances to break and grab that vital away goal presented themselves, but, on each, our attacking fluency deserted us with a misplaced final pass or failure to exploit having a man over.

I missed the goal as BT.com decided to freeze 30 seconds before it. It seemed as though Nacho was shoved in the back for the CSKA header, though I’m sure the studio ‘experts’ said that the Russian just wanted it more. Cech did well to get down to the header at such close range but keeping it out was all he did as he left a simple tap in. 1-0 down at half-time, just when was our moment of quality due to arrive? I was hoping it was before I ran out of beer.

Second Half

Shortly after the break, calamity struck again when a long range pot shot bounced back off the helmeted one into the path of the onrushing forward. Bang 2-0. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, surely another 3 goal comeback couldn’t be on the cards?

Watching without sound, I was celebrating when Elneny’s header went in as if it was job done, before realising the lino’s flag had been raised. Mo seemed to think bending his run slightly even though he was a yard or two behind the Russian defensive line, might somehow fool the official into thinking he was onside. Hmmmmm.

Arsenal restricted CSKA’s chances to score the vital third pretty well, keeping them to long shots, with Petr producing a good save from a free kick, but were still struggling to produce that one moment of quality to blast the comeback out of the water. When it finally came it was a thing of rare beauty.

Welbz was suddenly infused with the spirit of Thierry Henry, picking the ball up wide left and driving towards goal. Playing the ball inside to Bobby Pires, sorry Mo Elneny, he continued his run into the area. Elneny’s return pass was of such a delicious weight that it just invited the glorious finish which was duly applied by the Mancunian high into the corner of the net. Magnificent – all that time they had us worried, knowing full well that they had a goal of such exceptional quality up their sleeves.

You could visibly see how much CSKA were deflated by the goal, almost as if they knew it was 3-0 or nothing that would have got them through. Even the bare-shirted, gammon-fleshed hordes behind the goal Arsenal were attacking, perhaps realised that their game was up and it was time to go home to Olga.

Drifting towards a defeat but still in the draw for the semis, Aaron Ramsey then applied the cherry on top of the cake. His fragilty had seemed to rear its head again at the end of the first half when he seemed to overstretch, but he was still running in glorious fashion right up to the last few moments. Running on to another beautifully weighted and timed through ball from Mr Elneny, he lifted the ball gracefully over Akinfeev with his right seal flipper to send the best club in North London through with a comfortable 6-3 margin.

Player Ratings from LB

And there was I thinking that it would be a cushy victory……when will I learn?

Cech: since he has stopped the fancy footwork that was leading to a few too many embarrassing situations he has come back as strong as ever. I think the adjective of commanding is called for tonight. 8

Bellerin: Hector put his attacking desires to one side and focused on the defending side of his game — and he carried out that duty better than he has done in quite a while. 8

Mustafi: no silly errors just got on with the job at hand. Perfectly acceptable performance. 7

Koscielny: a good captain’s performance. 7

Monreal: I don’t need frills from our defence on games like this I just need them to read the tin and do what it says. 7

Elneny: Mo was the proverbial headless chicken in the first half; he certainly redeemed himself in the second half though with two assists to boot. 8

Ramsey: getting all the credit he deserves for being the great player that he has always been, another top drawer performance. 8

Wilshere: don’t get me started. 5

Ozil: King Mesut Rules OK. 7

Lacazzette: I heard that his goal scoring boots were held up in Russian customs and it showed. Interesting just how much he runs on confidence or not. 6

Welbeck: I stuck with Danny for so long regularly writing on here I expected him to become the most important CF in the EPL and then after finally and completely giving up on such an idea he starts to make some serious inroads into claiming that mantle. Really starting to enjoy his performances again. 9

Can I take my red and white tinted glasses off now?

The draw awaits at 11am, with Atletico, Salzburg (Lazio were on the receiving end of the comeback of the night) and Payet’s Marseille our potential opponents. Who do you fancy?  

chas

 

 


Should Arsenal be worried by empty seats?

April 7, 2018

Empty seats at a European competition quarter final? – what’s going on? Should the Club be worried about the loss of matchday revenue through advertising and corporate entertainment, as well as overpriced hotdogs and fizzy lager? With a healthy season ticket waiting list, does it matter if some regulars fall by the wayside? 

GoonerB’s take on some of these questions is below. What do you think?

Afternoon all. Went last night as got a late club level offer I couldn’t refuse. Sorry I couldn’t meet any of the guys but I was beholden to the itinerary of those I went with.

I really enjoyed the game and we were very good with the ball last night, but you could still see certain old problems bubbling beneath the surface that a better team would punish.

I know a lot of season ticket holders and meet different types of Arsenal fans all the time, and you do get an insight for the general feelings of many fans. This is how I would perceive it :

There are still some stalwarts out there who will go and support come what may and don’t concern themselves with things like the direction the club has gone in and whether Arsene is the right man. I feel these fans are becoming a very small minority. Many of these fans will probably still want Arsene to continue and feel he is the right man.

At the other end for some staying away has become a form of protest. I know some season ticket holders who refuse to step back inside the stadium till Arsene is gone. They are also still more of a minority for me.

I have to say I feel there are very few that see Arsene as the man now. The bigger group seem to be the ones that feel Arsene should have already stepped down by now and feel he churns out the same old stuff and follows the same pathway even when it proves not to work. In not looking for a manager to improve us, many feel the board are more concerned with sticking with him because he keeps us at a certain level with little outlay required. They feel the club lacks ambition and have stagnated to the point that we are somewhat regressing now.

They have now become apathetic about the club, the football we play, and even football as a whole. Some still regularly attend in their apathy, but others just aren’t that bothered anymore and have lost their love and excitement of it. If there is something else they can do they will likely often do that instead of going to the game, where before going to the game always came above all else.

This is what I feel is the majority group and the club should be worried about this. I don’t think they have been bothered about it, and as GN5 said I don’t think they have been too bothered because they just take the view that there are more fans in waiting to get a ST.

Very dangerous to ignore your long standing fan base though, because there is no guarantee that those newbies in the waiting have anywhere near the long term emotional investment in the club and their support from the terraces that the long standing fans have, and that can have knock-on effects in how the club is viewed in its standing worldwide with all the negative commercial consequences Micky mentioned.

Like the rest of you I feel the remaining EPL attendances will prove an embarrassment to us. Anyone bothering to listen could have seen this coming but there has been a fairly dismissive approach taken towards the majority fanbase, a bit like the attitude towards the public leading up to the Brexit vote. You realise, too late, that you should have listened earlier.

Written by GoonerB


The Russians are coming

April 5, 2018

The International break was beyond tedious, while the Stoke game made me beg on my knees for another international. Break.

Today, on the other hand, is the real deal, and I cannot wait.

Speaking of I, today, and for one day only Ladies and Gentlemen, I have become a Liberal. Reason being, the Russian are coming to the Ems, and therefore I will have a build-in excuse if we lose.  No more having to look critically at ourselves or our own failings, no, nice and easy…blame someone else. God, it’s good to be wet and weak. Loving. it. The level headed thinkers among you won’t like this, but I will be blaming rigged team selections and poisoning. Perfect.

Right. The game.

Laca is back. Mikhi will start and we have Mesut.

Auba, the gent, stepped aside to allow Laca the confidence boosting goal from the spot the other day.This will have made Laca feel loved, and being French, these things matter.  Mikhi has allowed me to completely forget about Sanchez, and with the shape of the side looking so much better, I think we will really come love this man in an Arsenal shirt.

Mesut…ah, the ghoulish one. Often, I look at him on the pitch, and have to rub my eyes as he appears to lose focus, the edges fuzz and blur, and then puff, the spectre has vanished. Like one of those meditative guru’y Indian fellas, who can disassemble there own molecules, vanish in Delhi and then re-materialise in Bombay just a few short moments later. Other-worldly is what he is.

The rest? Granit, Jack and Ramsey with some defenders, I’d imagine.

Tonight, we shall prevail and excuses not required. Bring it on

Written by MickyDidIt89