Poor Danny – Arsenal player ratings versus unSporting Lisbon

November 9, 2018

Arsenal supporters turning up for Thursday night Europa League football were hoping for some excitement to warm them up and also for outright group victory with a win and three points. Things didn’t really turn out like that.

First Half

The best chance I can remember was when Douzi played a sweet one-two down the right and Welbz just failed to make decent contact at the near post with the Frenchman’s fizzing cross.

After half an hour Danny seemed to catch his foot in the turf trying to make good contact with a header. You could tell he was hurt by his reaction and by the reaction of those around him. So sad. He was having a fine season getting both game time and goals. Get well soon, Danny.

Second Half

The Arsenal players were obviously deeply affected by their very popular and likeable teammate having such bad luck. Auba had a few chances he might have gobbled up on a different day. Micki got into a great position and then couldn’t quite divert Wobbly’s driven cross beyond the Sporting keeper.

Lichtsteiner pinged a hammy by the look of it so efforts to preserve the fitness of the Wardrobe had to be foregone after the hour mark, but he seemed to come through unscathed. Hopefully Nacho will be match fit soon as well.

We had 14 efforts on goal, 5 on target, Sporting had five shots, none on target. A point was good enough for them and that’s what they came for.

This clip sums up Arsenal’s night in front of goal…….

Summary

The game was overshadowed by Danny’s injury.

The foul count was Arsenal 7 Sporting 13.  Lisbon’s 13 should have been a whole lot more. Acuna, playing on the left with no neck and the gait of a simian should have been sent of several times before Mathieu’s professional foul finally saw one of them leave the pitch. Unfortunately it came too late to have any effect on the result.

I realise that the ‘Sporting’ in the Portuguese club’s name doesn’t mean the same as it did for the Sporting Corinthians but they employed every destructive and negative ploy they could to disrupt the football match, including studs down the back of calf muscles, a wide variety of trips and the use of an arm. Nani should be sent off every time he steps on to the pitch just for his loathsome ‘5 year old having a tantrum’ face.

Our unbeaten run extends to 15 games, so let’s make it 16 by beating Wolves on Sunday for Dat Guy.

Ratings

Cech – nothing to do…6

Lichtsteiner – Booked fairly early after some Nani play-acting, then succumbed to his ageing muscalature in the second half…6

Big Sok – Looked very solid and he is…7

Holding – Growing in confidence in his own abilities with each game…7

Jenks – Did ok down the left without too much to trouble him…6

Guendouzi – what a great player he is at 19 years old. Just imagine what he could be like in his prime…7

Ramsey – Rambo couldn’t quite lift the game as you’d hope a player of his class might…6

Mkhitaryan – Likewise for Micki…6

Smith Rowe – Plenty of decent touches all over the pitch apart from in the final third where he sometimes lacks composure, which is only to be expected…6

Wobbly – got into some great positions but couldn’t quite seal his good work with an assist…6

Welbeck – Let’s pray his injury isn’t as bad as is feared. I was sure he was going to score last night…7

Subs

Auba – not his usual clinical self…6

Wardrobe – As with the rest of the team, he couldn’t find that killer cross after getting into some great positions…6

Maitland-Niles – looks fine as a back-up right back which may come in useful…6

chas

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Sporting Lisbon Preview.

November 8, 2018

Win tonight. Top the group with two easier games to go. Job done.

Perhaps the post should stop here!

Man Utd and Spurs completely undeserved victory will hopefully keep them out of the Europa. There seems to be heightened expectations that we will win this tournament but, like the Carabao, it is relatively easy until the final rounds.

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Sporting Lisbon have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 30 European games, I expect that run to continue. Having said that, we have not kept a clean sheet in our last 5 European games!

We have discussed Sporting in the first leg and we have little to add. They are a decent team, strong defensively, hard working … the usual. We should beat them in a home tie.

We have injuries and players returning to the squad, they should remain out of the team. A mixture of youth and experience is what is required.

My Team:

Helmet

Licht    Mustafi     Holding    Wardrobe

Ramsey   Curly    Smith Rowe (Lab)     AMN (Cons)

Mhiki       Welbz

A strong attacking bench will allow Mr Emery to play a very inexperienced and young midfield. I very much doubt he will play this team but it would be fun. Xhaka needs a rest, and I would keep Iwobi for Wolves at the weekend, same with Laca, Hector, Terrier and PEA.

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Tonight’s 6 officials (referee, linesman, behind the goal-line linesmen and 4th official) are from Lithuania, could this be a first?

Not as easy a fixture as many are assuming, this will not be a walkover.

Enjoy the game

COYRRG


What does November hold in store for Emery’s Arsenal?

November 5, 2018

So, after October ended in subdued fashion with a ‘bridge too far’ performance away at Selhurst and a workman-like win at home to Blackpool, November began with a bang with a really decent fireworks display against Klippety Klopp’s team. How good was it to see the new Arsenal stand toe-to-toe with one of the bookies’ Prem title favourites and not look outclassed?

Some ‘pundits’ were made to look exactly what they actually are – utter clowns.

What does the rest of November have in store for us – let’s take a look?

Next up it’s the return fixture with Sporting Lisbon, this time at The Home Of Football. (I’ve never quite understood why you always play one team twice in a row in the middle of group game fixtures – oh well). Danny’s well-taken strike in the Portuguese capital has put us completely in control of our own destiny in Group E. Another decent squad performance on 8th November and the last two fixtures could be used to give pitch time for more of the youngsters.

The Europa means back to Sunday fixtures and we entertain Wolves on 11th November at the curious kick off time of 4.30pm. The game isn’t being televised and only seems to be at 4.30pm so as not to clash with the manc derby which also kicks off then. There’s no thought for travelling supporters yet again – what a surprise!

Let’s hope for a good performance against the Wanderers as it needs to carry us through yet another Dennis-forsaken interlull which begins immediately after.

Real life begins again on Sunday 25th November at 1.30pm with a televised game away at high flying Bournemouth. They will be licking their wounds and coming out fighting after being unluckily beaten at home by Mourinho’s mob this weekend. This will be another great test of Unai’s red and white machine. Anything like the performance at Palace and we could be punished.

The final game for the month is another away fixture in the Europa. FC Vorskla and a long  trip to the Ukraine. Hopefully we’ll have the group wrapped up by then and be able to rest some of the first Xl because December begins in rather tasty fashion – more of that at a later date.

To summarise, 3 home games in a week at the start of the month and 2 away games near to its end, separated by some tedious, pocket-lining fixtures for the game’s international governing bodies. (England are at home to the USA in a friendly and Croatia in the Uefa Nations League, if you’re even vaguely interested)

chas


Emery’s red-tailed Boa gently squeezes Sporting

October 26, 2018

If Unai Emery’s Arsenal were a snake, what snake would they be? What I mean is, if you had to compare Arsenal’s style of play or, let’s say, their game plan with a snake which snake comes to mind? It struck me as I was watching Arsenal beat Sporting to make it eleven wins on the trot that a clear pattern is emerging. We start games perfectly well then after about twenty minutes we start making silly mistakes; in the hope of capitalising on said mistakes the opposition are drawn further up the pitch and into the trap. What they don’t realise is that they have become caught in the snake’s coils and they are slowly closing; yes the opposition flail around for forty five minutes or so, they may even score a goal but as the second half moves on the coils start getting tighter and tighter, slowly squeezing the life out of them. The snake has surely got to be a Boa Constrictor.

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Well, you try and find a way of starting our eleventh win on the bounce “Ozil benched after pedestrian performance” lol.
There are two teams starting to appear, the one that starts the EPL and the one that starts the Europa, did you imagine at the beginning of the season that Iwobi could find himself being saved for the EPL? Me neither but it certainly is testament as to how far Unai has been able to bring him on this season. With only a slim advantage of one nil, I even found myself feeling relieved when he made his appearance. Strange times.

The other thing that surprised me during the game, was going from feeling quite neutral about little ol’ Sporting with their nice food and pleasant weather to absolutely hating their guts for their dirty fouls and their dirty play acting. This was made all the worse when I realised that the ex manu player Nani was playing for them – once a banned ‘C’ word, always a banned ‘C’ word.

It obviously wasn’t a vintage Emery display (lol), no hope long range shots in the first half; the order made all the more tall with Xhaka and Lichtsteiner as makeweights on the flanks but we did what we do nowadays and found a solution, after a good opportunity was missed by Aubameyang and things looked like they might not go for us, Ralph Coates made a schoolboy error that gifted Welbeck a deserved goal which turned out to be a deserved winner.

Onwards and upwards.

Ratings

Leno: what’s not to like, another clean sheet. 8

Lichsteiner: I loved watching him last night; it makes me wonder how they teach them in Italy, the complete gamut of Dark Arts were on display, Machiavelli would have been proud. 6

Holding: I keep on waiting for him to slip up but he doesn’t and goes from strength to strength, the weekend will tell us where he stands in Emery’s eyes, will it be him and Mustafi or Mustafi and Big Sok. A very level-headed display tonight; I suppose, as RC suggests, he should be MOTM. 9

Big Sok: When the Sporting player was through, bar Big Sok; he knew what to do; he knew how to make it look like he grabbed the oppo’s shirt without really doing so, my question is would Holding have known how to do that? This is what comes with experience which is probably why I would still plump for Big Sok with Mustafi to start on the weekend ahead of Holding. 8

Xhaka: not often I find myself having to cut Granit some slack but taking one for the team by playing completely out of position certainly deserves just that and he didn’t play too badly there either. 7

Guendouzi: yep, no probs for me, continues on his upward trajectory and long may it continue. 7

Ramsey: struggled to get a grip on the game which in my opinion was his job, got better as the game went on. Still loving the fact that Arsenal have withdrawn his contract offer which has freed up UE an awful lot. Evidence being, Ozil playing in his preferred place on Monday. Nothing to really complain about but Mesut he ain’t. 7

Elneny: he huffed and he puffed, I was surprised to see him play the more advanced player out of him and Guendouzi. His days must be numbered. 6

Mkhitaryan: did an awful lot better than he has been doing lately, a really determined performance and a hard working one at that. 8

Aubameyang: Unai Emery is playing this so well, it’s gentle rotation between him and Laca; neither feels that one is being given priority over the other and as such they are looking fresher than a lot of other strikers in the EPL but to think that UE is not purposely creating competition for places between them would be naïve in my opinion. 7

Welbeck: and on the subject of competition for places Emery should be applauded for how he is keeping Welbeck involved and clearly feeling an important member of the team and I purposely used the word team and not squad. Superbly taken goal. 8

LB


Sporting Lisbon. Ramsey to Shine?

October 25, 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Quaresma, William Carvalho, Luis Figo, Peter Schmeichel, Phil Babb (!),  All played for Sporting and, had they still been in the green and white shirt, this evening would be very difficult but they don’t. In fact, Sporting Lisbon had a player revolt in summer which resulted in players cancelling their contracts and leaving the club.

7 players left including 4 Portuguese internationals, and all left on a free transfer. And we think players in the PL have too much power! Without too much research this happened because Sporting got a new Chairman who created a poisonous atmosphere within the club, they then went on a losing run resulting in some fans attacking the players on the training pitch, giving the players the right to cancel their contracts.

Needless to say, this has weakened the team and this season they sit in 5th place in the Primera Liga.

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As to their players I know Zip, but I am sure they will be hard working, good on the ball etc etc etc

We come into this game in tremendous form and, despite a mounting injury list, Emery is certain to play around with his squad and we may well see Smith Rowe or even Elneny in midfield.

My Team:

Lemon

Catwalk    Mustafi   Holding    Lich

Ramsey   Curly   Elneny

Mhiki

PEA   Welbz

Both AMN (Cons) and, believe it or not, Carl Jenkinson are travelling with the squad and must therefore be available. I really like Jenks – not as a player for Arsenal but as a proper Gooner. I wish him well and perhaps he will get a start in the Carabao. Maitland-Niles (Cons) has a big future at Arsenal and may well get some pitch time this evening.

Ramsey was poor in his 10 minutes at the weekend, he needs to up his game and I expect him to do so. A wonderful goal apart, he has struggled, but he remains a very influential player. Tonight he will want to show Emery he is deserving of a first team shirt.

Watching Emery’s press conference yesterday I was delighted that when questioned in Portuguese, Unai understood the question and then answered in English. This shows his commitment and also his intelligence.

Tricky away fixture (we have never won in Portugal), if we draw this and win the home tie we will top the group. but we have a very food squad in good form and there is no reason why we cannot win tonight in Lisbon then celebrate with a bowl of Sopa de Cacao.

COYRRG


Sporting Clube de Portugal – Who are ya?

October 24, 2018

Sporting Clube de Portugal was founded in 1906 and is most famous for its football team. Part of the big three Portuguese clubs along with Benfica and Porto, they’ve never been relegated from the top flight in Portugal and have won the third most trophies, 48 including 18 League titles. They also won the European Cup Winners Cup back in 1964.

We’ve played them twice before in the 1969/70 Fairs Cup, drawing 0-0 away and winning 3-0 at Highbury.

Nicknamed Leões (Lions) or Verde e brancos (Green and whites), they have a club anthem called  “A Marcha do Sporting” (Sporting’s March) which is played at the club’s stadium, Estádio José Alvalade, before each home match. Sounds a bit like German/Austrian apres ski music to me. (update: video changed for a better version and includes a rendition of My Way 🙂 )

Lisbon is by all accounts a beautiful city with the Statue of Christ the King overlooking the Tagus.

Portuguese food (source culturetrip.com)

Alheira de Mirandela

The alheira, a type of fowl sausage, is one of the cheapest and most common Portuguese dishes with a fascinating history. When the Jewish population was expelled from Portugal in 1498, many hid in the mountainous region of Trás-os-Montes in the northeast of Portugal, practising their religion in secret while pretending they had converted to Catholicism. One way to do this was to ostensibly make, display and eat sausages so that everyone would think they were no longer keeping kosher. Nowadays, the dish is available in any corner eatery.

Caldeirada de Enguias

Aveiro, located between Porto and Coimbra, is famous for its eels which are most often eaten simply fried or in a soup. Fishermen at Murtosa and Torreira  (not Lucas!) beaches, just outside Aveiro, make an eel stew seasoned with saffron and accompanied by bell peppers, combining beautifully with the crisp white wines of the Bairrada region, just south of Aveiro.

Francesinha

The signature dish of Porto, the francesinha is not a meal for the fainthearted. The dish comprises of two slices of bread interspersed by steak, ham, sausage and chorizo, covered in melted Edam and drizzled in a secret, spicy, tomato based sauce, all served with chips and optionally crowned with a fried egg.

Sopa de Cação

While tubarão is the common word for shark in Portuguese, once it reaches your table it becomes cação. The fish is marinated in coriander, lemon and garlic before being brought to the boil and the soup is commonly eaten with bread, particularly a corn-flour type known as broa.

chas


Bog Snorkelling in Baku – Qarabag Ratings

October 5, 2018

Another game, another clean sheet, eight wins on the trot; ouch, it is going to hurt when we fall. Or maybe we won’t?

In trying to understand the team selection, it struck me that much of what was going on had more to do with November the 3rd than with a second tier team from Azerbaijan. As the more astute would have realised, we play Liverpool on that day and as much as we should win our two games before, we all know that will be our next real test.

And how does this all link into last night’s win? Answer – the choice of defence. Emery set the team up for the best part of the first half with five at the back:

Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Monreal, Kolasinac

Yes, Lichtsteiner and Kolasinac got forward as demonstrated by the first goal but they spent the best part of the first half in the above formation, which against a team of lowly calibre, was belt and braces and unnecessary in my opinion.

Anyway it is just a hunch but if Kolasinac and Monreal start against Liverpool, I can say I was right. Bellerin will obviously replace Lichsteiner.

Once Emery had had a chance to air this experiment, Torriera replaced Monreal at half time and everything calmed down in the way it should have been from the start. I say that as though I know how he does it, but as close as I look, I still don’t understand how the Uruguayan effortlessly seems to be able to have such a huge influence on every game he plays in.

The rest of the team selection was clear that it was designed to give more of the squad a run out. The Guendouzi/Elneny combo is obvious as is Welbeck, Smith-Rowe (Lab) and Iwobi.

courtesy David Price

So enough of that tactics drivel, let’s get onto the serious stuff: Red Shorts? What is that about? The opposition were wearing black shorts so I see no good reason why we should not have been wearing the normal time honoured white shorts. Pink sleeves? Don’t get me started.

It turned out to be a pretty comfortable win, with probably the three players on the pitch that we would most have wanted to have scored the goals, (all in the knowledge that each one of them would benefit confidence-wise from doing so), and so they did.

courtesy David Price

Leno: what a fine goal keeper we have and seamlessly slotting in? Some more great saves…. 8

Lichsteiner: an excellent stand in and proof that the powers that be in the club’s new buying system are working very well, naturally that also applies to Leno…. 7

Holding: why did we loan Chambers to Fulham? Don’t know and don’t care…. 7

Sokratis: it is going to be fascinating to see if Emery sticks with these two on Sunday — he should, they are far from perfect but it made a nice change not to have mop up Mustafi’s usual clangers…. 7

Monreal: Nacho is the most improved player of the squad; he has become authoritative, something that I would never have thought last season; he is clearly benefitting from clearer instruction, the language must help. He tucked in well last tonight as he usually does…. 8

Kolasinac: I loved the way he bulldozed down the wing early on in the game, pushing his opposing defender away like a skittle, pretty good game really…. 7

Guendouzi: getting better and better and now adding goals, it looks like he has a long future at the club…. 8

Elneny: things are moving on and Mo does not seem to be able to keep up, did ok last night but can’t see him being around for too much longer…. 6

Smith Rowe (Lab): the goal obviously did his confidence the world of good, it struck me that he is a striker rather than a midfielder, interesting to see how this one develops…. 7

Iwobi: last season Alex had plateaued; he was going nowhere fast, it is testament to Emery’s man management that he has been given new drive, direction and self belief. I am not sure where it will all end up but at least it is going somewhere…. 8

Welbeck: Danny, Danny, you know I am a fan but you have got to take those chances that come your way…. 6

LB