Arsenal 3 Valencia 1 – Cojones found – Player Ratings

May 3, 2019

Three at the back, wing backs for width, narrow up front and no Terrier. We need to score goals so hopefully our two main strikers on the pitch can do the business, but they will need service.

First Half

Things looked bleak after an early set-piece setback. The lad who looked like he’d never walk again moments earlier rose at the far post to nod home.

Arsenal’s response was majestic. Lacazette with a brilliant turn set a sprinting Auba free through the middle. Pausing to take the keeper out of the game, he laid it off for the following up Laca to stroke the ball into an empty net.

Seven minutes later, yet another spin by Laca saw him beat the offside trap and be available for Xhaka to pop it beautifully right on to his forehead. The ref’s wrist piece told him the ball was miles over the line when the keeper tried to claw it out after it had come off the post. Laca knew it was in – cue delighted celebrations and suddenly we were in front. Wow.

Second Half

We were excellent in the first 20 of the 2nd period with a full on power play. Every single player snapped into challenges determined to be first to the ball. It was a shame we couldn’t capitalise and score a third and fourth during this purple patch.

As energies dwindled, Valencia began to come back into it and Cech made a brilliant save to keep the slender lead in tact.

Laca’s chances came and went. He really should have grabbed his third but made a dog’s breakfast of a simple header and then hit the keeper’s legs in a one on one.

In the 88th minute Valencia made a time wasting substitute, keen to hang on to the 2-1 and their precious away goal. I began to think about how a slim lead was better than nothing but was doubtful it might be enough.

Then Mkhitaryan, who had provided real thrust when coming on for Mesut, had a shot blocked. The ball ricocheted back to Laca who tested the keeper with a deflected effort but again the ball found its way to Kolasinac who floated his classiest ball of the season to the far post where Auba shinned it in. Perfect. From a squeaky 2-1 to a far more convincing 2 goal cushion. Well played, lads.

Conclusion

We’ll still probably require an away goal in the Mestalla but at least we’re in there with a great chance of the Final.

The first half was pretty even but our second half dominance merited the 3-1.

Another great thing about that late goal was that those who can’t be bothered to remain in their seats until the end of the match, all missed it.

Ratings (extra point for all for us winning the first leg of a semi by 2 goals)

Cech – looked a little shaky on high balls but his save at 2-1 could well be crucial … 8

Mustafi – a fine performance from the German – pre-match worries from Gooners were banished by Shkodran’s commitment , drive and effort … 8

Koscielny – looked to have pulled a hamstring early in the 2nd half but played on fighting for the cause – hope he’s ok, his experience is invaluable  … 8

Sokratis – enjoyed the rough and tumble of the game and even smiled on occasion – he’s so likeable … 8

Maitland-Niles – some good, some not so good, but his positive contributions were excellent after he settled down … 7

Kolasinac – not brilliant in the first half but his final ball got better and better, as did his passing and interplay on that left flank in 2nd half – gem of an assist … 8

Xhaka – excellent through the game – controlled the midfield in the second period and delivered a peach of a cross for Laca’s second … 8

Guendouzi – I was surprised to see him subbed as he seemed to be playing well at that time, intercepting and interchanging to great effect   … 7

Ozil – a little anonymous in the first period but put the after burners on after half time – had a lovely time pinging the ball to and from Xhaka … 8

Lacazette – ran his socks off, scored two goals – could have had two more … 9

Aubameyang – sprinting around with real purpose, it really seemed that Auba had saved himself for this one – instrumental in Laca’s first and got that vital 3rd at exactly the right time … 9

Subs

Torreira – found his early season form with great interceptions, tackles and distribution – Unai’s substitution of the tiring Matteo was completely justified by Lucas’s performance … 8

Mkhitaryan – added much more in 20 minutes than he has done in the last three or four games combined in this little cameo … 7

Monreal – little to do as a sub for Kos … 7

Managers

Emery – Unai’s magic Europa wand appears to still be in tact after his move to Arsenal – hopefully he can come up with a plan to see us over the line next week … 9

Rob Newell – Camerasport via Getty Images

Marcelino Garcia Wagner – it was perfect that he was satisfied with the 2-1, tried to waste time and then looked crestfallen when he found his side two goals behind … 5

Ref

Clement Turpin – any lame efforts at using ‘highway robbery’ in the assessment of Monsieur Turpin were not required as the Frenchman did his best to uphold the rules without wanting to dominate proceedings in a sickening Oliveresque way – loved that moment when he pointed to his wrist to confirm the 2nd goal … 8

chas


Do AFC have the Cojones?

May 2, 2019

Two exciting and entertaining semi finals played earlier in the week, can we continue this fun?

To be honest, I know nothing about Valencia apart from what GN5 gave us on Tuesday, and I was really disappointed that they beat Villareal in the quarters, thus denying us the return of Santi. But the team sitting in 6th in La Liga are strong opposition.

Valencia have scored 40 goals in 35 La Liga games, hardly attacking prowess, they have conceded 32, and are 31 points behind the leaders, Barcelona having drawn almost half of their games. On paper this should be a home victory but we are short of players and form.

images.jpeg

Ozil has to start, this is exactly the kind of game he thrives in – opponents who are unlikely to be over-physical and rely upon breaks.

It is vital we keep a clean sheet and you all know how likely that will be! Back 3 and one with experience – Kos, Sok and Nacho. Wardrobe and AMN, maybe an Iwobi , a Xhaka and the two upfront PEA/Laca. We still lack any width relying upon the wing-backs for crosses. Lacking attacking options on the bench means Eddie could get to play in a European semi final.

Emery knows both Valencia and the EL, will he choose to be less attacking in his team selection for the first leg, trying to ensure a clean sheet at home? If so, Terrier will come in for Iwobi, and possibly Mhki for PEA.

The Emirates needs to be noisy and get right behind the team. There will be tension and there will be occasions when Xhaka etc make mistakes but this is when the players need encouragement not the frustrated moans of the “supporters”. PLease, if you are lucky enough to attend, sing, shout, chant … roar. As usual we TV viewers will be in Peaches’ pocket making as much noise as possible.

Whatever happens I am hoping for an improved performance from our chaps; we have been awful recently and thrown away the chance of 3rd place. But we can win this tie – Valencia are simply not as good as Arsenal, we have better, more expensive players but do they have the cojones?

We shall see

COYRRG

 


Arsenal FC – Our home record against Valencia

April 30, 2019

Valencia was founded as a Roman colony by the consul Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus in 138 BC, and called Valentia Edetanorum. In 714 Moroccan and Arab Moors occupied the city, introducing their language, religion and customs; they implemented improved irrigation systems and the cultivation of new crops as well. Valencia was the capital of the Taifa of Valencia. In 1238 the Christian king James I of Aragon conquered the city and divided the land among the nobles who helped him conquer it, as witnessed in the Llibre del Repartiment. He also created a new law for the city, the Furs of Valencia, which were extended to the rest of the Kingdom of Valencia.

In the 18th century Philip V of Spain abolished the privileges as punishment to the kingdom of Valencia for aligning with the Habsburg side in the War of the Spanish Succession. Valencia was the capital of Spain when Joseph Bonaparte moved the Court there in the summer of 1812. It also served as capital between 1936 and 1937, during the Second Spanish Republic.

The city is situated on the banks of the Turia, on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, fronting the Gulf of Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea. Its historic centre is one of the largest in Spain, with approximately 169 ha (420 acres); this heritage of ancient monuments, views and cultural attractions makes Valencia one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.

No link between Bruce Wayne and Valencia fortunately

Valencia Club de Fútbol are commonly referred to as Valencia CF or simply Valencia.

Valencia was founded in 1919 and has played their home games at the 49,500-seater Mestalla since 1923. They were due to move into the new 75,000-seater Nou Mestalla in the northwest of the city in 2013, but the final move date has been postponed while the stadium remains under construction.

Valencia is the third-most supported football club in Spain, behind heavyweights Real Madrid and Barcelona. It is also one of the biggest clubs in the world in terms of number of associates (registered paying supporters), with more than 50,000 season ticket holders and another 20,000+ season ticket holders on the waiting list, who can be accommodated in the new 75,000-seater stadium.

Over the years, the club has achieved a global reputation for their prolific youth academy, or “cantera.” Products of their academy include world-class talents such as Raúl Albiol, Andrés Palop, Miguel Ángel Angulo, David Albelda, Gaizka Mendieta and David Silva. Current stars of the game to have graduated in recent years include Isco, Jordi Alba, Juan Bernat, José Gayà and Paco Alcácer.

Gaizka Mendieta

Valencia has had over 60 different managers with nine of them returning on many occasions. Unai Emery managed them for four seasons (2008-2012) his record was,

W107, D58, L55, Win % 48.6.

Emery in his Valencia days and Podgytino (Espanyol) – subliminal message?

Club Honours

Domestic

La Liga

Winners (6): 1941–42, 1943–44, 1946–47, 1970–71, 2001–02, 2003–04

Segunda División

Winners (2): 1930–31, 1986–87

Copa del Rey

Winners (7): 1941, 1948–49, 1954, 1966–67, 1978–79, 1998–99, 2007–08

Supercopa de España

Winners (1): 1999

Copa Eva Duarte

Winners (1): 1949

European

UEFA Champions League

Runners-up (2): 1999–2000, 2000–01

European Cup Winners’ Cup

Winners (1): 1979–80

UEFA Cup

Winners (1): 2003–04

Inter-Cities Fairs Cup

Winners (2): 1961–62, 1962–63

European Super Cup/UEFA Super Cup

Winners (2): 1980, 2004

UEFA Intertoto Cup

Winners (1): 1998

As of April 23rd Valencia is in 5th place in La Liga and is 25 points behind league leader Barcelona. Their 2018/19 record is – W12, D16, L5, GF38, GA28, Win % 52.6.

In our three away games against Valencia our record is – W0, D1, L2, GF1, GA3.

We will need to take full advantage of our home game, where our record against them is – W1, D1, L0, GF2, GA1, in order to give us a good chance of making the Final.

GunnerN5


Napoli 0 Arsenal 1 – Player Ratings

April 19, 2019

The team selection looked ideal for an away game, compact in midfield and some heavy duty firepower up front to hopefully snatch that crucial away goal.

First Half

Napoli had a few half chances but many of their attacks were halted by the lino’s flag.

Rambo pinged a hammy and was replaced by Micki in preference to Mesut, presumably in the running about a lot stakes. Almost immediately Laca was fouled, a distance out from the Napoli goal. He stepped up, fooled the goalkeeper which side he was going and popped it over the wall into an empty net. 1-0 away from home and just what the doctor ordered.

Action Images via reuters

Napoli decided their best hope of getting back into the game was to blame the ref for their predicament in the hope of intimidating him into favouring them. During that first half he stood up superbly against their efforts.

Second Half

A couple of minutes after the restart Auba had the simplest of chances to make it 2-0 and take us completely out of sight. His 98% strike rate of early season has truly gone.

Napoli’s crossing, shooting and passing in the final third were so woeful during that second half that their best chance came when Nacho inadvertently diverted the ball towards his own net but Cech was right on the spot.

Highlight of the half was Big Sok telling Koulibaly that he was a cheating sod in Greek while making it look like he was counselling him on what a harsh world it is. Priceless.

Papa counsels Koulibaly

Conclusion

Excellent from The Arsenal.

Napoli’s first defeat at home to an English side and yet again we confounded expectations with a measured and controlled performance. Napoli were awful but let that not detract from a great team performance.

An away goal and a shut out – not many predicted that!

Valencia await in the semis.

Mertens thinks we weren’t very good. Ahem, we beat you both home and away without breaking sweat or conceding. I reckon you need to take a long hard look at yourself, pal.

Hopefully Rambo’s hammy doesn’t mean his Arsenal career is now over.

AFP- Getty Images

Ratings

Cech – great to see him kicking the ball rather than putting pressure on the defenders with that passing out from the back garbage – fine save from Monreal … 7

Maitland-Niles – a sound performance, covered well, attacked well, he continued his resurgent form since his ‘mare at Goodison … 8

Sokratis – a personal favourite – solid as a block of marble and with as much facial expression, though his counselling of Koulibaly was a joy to watch … 8

Koscielny – captain, my captain – class throughout … 8

Monreal – Nacho’s bandy legs covered a lot of turf and he played dependably … 8

Kolasinac – combative and useful in possession … 7

Torreira – terrier-like from first to last – was happy that there was a smaller player on the pitch … 8

Xhaka – did what was required before being subbed and his groin rested … 7

Ramsey – strived to create the goal which ironically came straight after he left the pitch … 7

Lacazette – looked fed up to go off – neither he nor Auba had held the ball up that well but it’s not their strength – ran his heart out … 7

Aubameyang – got better as the game went on – shame he missed the sitter … 7

Subs

Mkhitaryan – played reasonably well and nearly created that second goal with a timely challenge and then intuitive pass – so much better than Monday night (not that that was too difficult) … 6

Elneny – brought on to give Xhaka a rest – did what he’s good at … 6

Iwobi – presumably his ball retention skills were the reason for his appearance but couldn’t really hang on to it for long … 6

Managers

AP

Emery – superb – great team selection – outfoxed his opposing manager … 9

Wagnerotti – no answer to Arsenal’s superiority – bringing on a series of players whose final ball was just as poor as their predecessors was never going to work … 2

Ref – Pretty good game – not wanting to grab the limelight – Mike Dean take note, it’s not about you … 8

chas


A Massive Night ahead in Naples

April 18, 2019

The prize of a semi-final spot (probably against Valencia) awaits the winner of tonight’s showdown in the Stadio San Paolo. Having won fairly comfortably last Thursday in North London, we must be favourites to progress so why is there such an air of trepidation about Gooners everywhere. Was it the fact that we should have won by more and put the tie to bed at home or maybe it’s because we just watched our team struggle against ten man Watford less than three days ago?

Napoli are odds on to win tonight’s game, but our odds to win the competition as a whole are a third of Napoli’s. What does this mean? Who knows – all that’s obvious is that an away goal should be priceless.

Harking back to 2008 and that away win in the San Siro, it was a completely different scenario on that occasion as the Emirates home leg had finished 0-0. No away goal for the opposition was more or less the only similarity. Fans’ expectations weren’t that high for the return in Milan but were superbly exceeded. Tonight is more of a ‘sh*t or bust’ situation – go all out for that away goal or play our best effort at Islington catennacio (haha, as if).

The more likely game plan will be somewhere in between as usual.

Paul Vaessen beats Juventus’ Dino Zoff with 2 minutes to go in the ECWC semi final 2nd leg in 1980

Team News

Papa is back available to play in Europe which gives the defence a huge boost as we miss his calming influence when he’s not prowling the box smiling. Kos and Papa in the centre and we start to look a whole lot more solid.

Other news is much harder to come by at the time of writing. There’s bound to be a certain caginess about revealing too much too soon. Aside from our long term absentees, only Denis Suarez has not travelled by the look of it.

Will Xhaka start after testing out his groin on Monday? A double pivot of Xhaka and Torreira would seem the most defensive and solid midfield selection, though if Rambo plays deeper we will have more chance of scoring that vital away goal.

Will we pack the midfield and use wing backs to add further stability or are wingbacks seen as a more of an attacking move since someone like Kolasinac usually plays well forward of the halfway line? Kola was given the night off on Monday which perhaps suggests he’ll play tonight and, for balance, that means a back three and Ainsley on the right.

Both strikers to start? Or will Unai use the left and right sided attacking options of Iwobi and Micki again? The latter option would appear more defensive but didn’t provide much in the way of either security or brightness on Monday (largely down to Henrikh’s poor performance).

Thierry Henry ties Javier Zanetti in knots before blasting past Toldo in Arsenal’s 5-1 demolition of Inter Milan in November 2003
Matthew Ashton/Empics Sport

Laca was also given the night off on Monday and didn’t look too cheesed off, so you would have thought he had been promised the no 1 striker’s spot against Napoli. Maybe Auba will start on the bench and be available to add extra bang  if required in the second half. If he plays, it’ll probably be wide left which leaves that flank vulnerable with the Wardrobe behind him. I like the idea of both Laca and Auba playing as twin strikers but we haven’t really seen it so far under Unai.

How do you think Unai will set up to maximise our chances of progression?

The comments section below is ready and waiting for your opinions and score predictions!

courtesy of Gooner Frog on twitter

chas


Arsenal FC – Our away record against Napoli

April 17, 2019

We have only ever played one away game against Napoli – it was in Group F of the 2013/14 Champions League. We lost the game 0-2 after winning the home leg by the same score.

The San Paolo Stadium is a fearsome fortress and Napoli’s home record proves just how difficult this fixture will be for Arsenal.

Here is their home record for the last 9 seasons.

They possess a formidable home record in the league losing less than 2 games per season and they score an average of 3.29 goals per game while conceding only 1.39.

Their record against English sides at home is equally impressive with 4 wins, 2 draws and no defeats. In recent years, Liverpool managed a 0-0 while City, the chavs and us all lost. Perhaps it’s a record we can break just as in 2008 when we became the first English side to beat Milan in the San Siro.

Notice Carlo Wagnerotti in the background!

No matter how we look at it, we will find if very tough to get a result from this game but we are the Arsenal and it all depends on what version of our team shows up.

Two nil up after the first leg – what a strong position that is! An away goal will make a huge difference to the end result; that clean sheet at the Emirates may yet prove to be priceless. If we score, Napoli will need to score 4 to win the game. That thought will be in the backs of their minds constantly, gnawing away at their confidence to commit too many forward. What could possibly go wrong?

As a die hard gunner I never give up hope.

GunnerN5


Arsenal 2 Napoli 0 – Player Ratings

April 12, 2019

Ramsey and Ozil play together again along with our most prolific goal scorers up front. Wingbacks and three at the back. Mustafi on the bench – no sign of Xhaka.

First Half

A brilliantly constructed opener saw A. M-N set up Rambo for a pass into the far corner.

The second came after Koulibaly had blocked a couple of fine efforts on goal but his third blocking attempt diverted Torreira’s effort beyond Ospina’s replacement.

The BT Sport commentary team with Nobbie Savage and some other moron was so awful, mute was the only sensible option for the second half.

Second Half

The second period saw us have several brilliant chances of stretching our lead even further while also allowing Napoli a couple of sniffs at that important away goal.

Rambo could have had a hat trick in the end, he seems to be revelling in his his desire to win something with us in his last season. Auba’s clinical early season finishing is not there at the moment but he’ll be fine now that the antibiotics are out of his system.

Even the subs were decent, adding extra oomph when needed.

Conclusion

Brilliant result at home – a third goal would have been superb but what’s  better 3-1 or 2-0?

If we score in Naples they will need 4.

It was a fine game of attacking football, so much better than the tepid snorefests dished up by the Champions League this week.

Ratings

Cech – good fisting when required – clean sheet, all good … 8

Sokratis – excellent from Papa – Mustafi will struggle to get back his right side back three position … 8

Koscielny – how good a defender has he become? Ligue 2 defender to world class – who was our Director of Football when he signed? … 9

Monreal – the billy goat came good again even with creaking limbs … 8

Maitland-Niles – really superb tonight – sharp passing, quick to cover, bang up for it … 8

Kolasinac – likewise for Sead – contributed throughout and his passing went up a notch as it did for most of tonight’s team … 8

Torreira – absolutely majestic in the first half, interceptions and successful tackles galore – only understandable that he faded a little near the end … 9

Ramsey – playing like a man possessed – he wanted to leave for the change but wanted to stay because he loves Arsenal – scored one, could have had two more – reborn in midfield … 9

Ozil – everything was good in Mesut-world for tonight’s game – his use of the ball and ability to find space are world-class … 8

Lacazette – another banging performance just lacking that goal to cap it off – maybe one is waiting for him in Naples? … 8

Aubameyang – a few decent sniffs but no goals – what are the odds on both him and Laca scoring in Italy? … 8

Subs

Mkhitaryan – nearly got an assist for the Ramsey chance which was skied – it was the perfect scenario for him to come on with both teams going for it … 7

Iwobi – didn’t let the team down by adding drive and enthusiasm in exchange for tired legs … 7

Elneny – good that his non-performance against Everton has been consigned to the history books … 7

Managers

Emery –  dominated his much-lauded opposition manager – top marks, Unai    … 9

Carlo Wagnerotti – his side came to play football which should be praised, though the early goal forced his hand somewhat … 5

Ref

Alberto Undiano Mallenco – Spanish, so an expert at spotting diving. He has been a full international referee for FIFA since 2004. Undiano is also a part-time sociologist. He was almost invisible which is exactly what’s required from all refs … 9

chas


Arsenal FC – Our home record against Napoli

April 10, 2019

Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited urban areas in the world. It was first settled by Greeks in the second millennium BC. In the ninth century BC, a colony known as Parthenope was established on the Island of Megaride later refounded as Neápolis in the sixth century BC. The city was an important part of Magna Graecia, played a major role in the merging of Greek and Roman society and a significant cultural centre under the Romans. It served as the capital of the Duchy of Naples (661–1139), then of the Kingdom of Naples (1282–1816) and finally of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.

Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli S.p.A.

Nickname(s)    Gli Azzurri (The Blues), I Partenopei (The Parthenopeans)

Napoli’s San Paolo Stadium (capacity 60,240) was inaugurated in 1959 and is the third largest in Italy, after Milan’s Meazza Stadium and Rome’s Olimpico. Situated in the Fuorigrotta neighbourhood, it measures 110 by 68 meters. It was remodelled for the 1980 European Championship and again for the World Cup hosted by Italy in 1990, when a covering and a new 330-seat press stand were installed, the track and lighting systems were redone and the stadium was brought up to FIFA safety standards. With an 8-lane track, three sports gyms, a boxing gym, a fitness gym and a wrestling and martial arts gym.

Naples Football Club was the first true Neapolitan football club to represent the city.  It was founded between late 1904 and early 1905, after a series of meetings at the homes of an Englishman, William Poths, and a Neapolitan, Ernesto Bruschini.

William Poths

Dark and pale blue stripes were chosen as the team colours. Their first President was engineer Amedeo Salsi, flanked by Poths, Bayon and two amateur football players, Conforti and Catterina. William Poths deserves special mention. An employee of the Cunard Shipping Line, he moved to Naples from England in 1903 and quite naturally brought all his English customs with him, including an immense passion for football, which had been played in England since 1847 and was rapidly gaining popularity in Europe and Italy too. There were already several teams in Naples: The aristocratic Open Air team, The Helios team, and the Audace team.

Early games were played at via Campegna. Napoli’s early history seems sketchier by comparison to Arsenal’s. The following is a translation from a SSC Napoli history site which beautifully captures the appeal of the early rise of football in the area by describing the via Campegna playing conditions.

a rather unstable and dusty expanse of land where a group of “stoic gamblers” chased a rolling sphere in shorts and rough and often ungainly attitudes that induced the paying public (at that time half a lira) including marquises, countesses, dukes and real dudes and ” gagà ” of Naples to smile at observing that absurd race to those who conquered the ball

Napoli broke the world transfer record fee after acquiring Diego Maradona in a €12 million deal from Barcelona on 30 June 1984. The 1986–87 season was the landmark in Napoli’s history; they won the double, securing the Serie A title by three points and then beating Atalanta 4–0 to lift the Coppa Italia.

Honours

National titles

Serie A

Winners (2): 1986–87, 1989–90

Coppa Italia

Winners (5): 1961–62, 1975–76, 1986–87, 2011–12, 2013–14

Supercoppa Italiana

Winners (2): 1990, 2014

European titles

UEFA Cup

Winners (1): 1988–89

Our only home game against Napoli was in Group F of the 2013-14 Champions League – we won the game 2-0 with goals from Ozil (his first Arsenal goal) and Giroud.

The Napoli fans have a reputation it’s fair to say and caused a deal of trouble in Islington in 2013.

Getty Images

Given our away record this season we will need to take full advantage of playing in front of our home supporters and win the game with an all important clean sheet.

GunnerN5


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

March 31, 2019

Three Monday night games. Two home games, four aways in the Prem and a Europa quarter final against Napoli. Pretty exciting maybe?

Of the three Monday night games only one is at home, which just so happens to be tomorrow night against Newcastle. On April Fools’ night the UK parliament is going to, yet again, attempt to extract its head from its back passage.  Don’t hold out much hope for that, but at least we have a fighting chance of turning Newcastle over!

Next Sunday, March 7th, sees us at Goodison with a 2.05pm kick off. The Toffees are on the up and we’ll need to be better than the chavs were on their recent visit to the wild wastelands of the North West if we want to come away with something.

Mesut scores in a 5-2 win at Goodison in October 2017

We’re back at the Emirates on the 11th for the home tie of the Napoli QF. It’ll be interesting to see Unai’s priorities for each game in this really busy month. At present the League appears our best route to a CL place since we sit in a top 4 place (well we did before the mancs luckily sneaked past Watford yesterday). Juggling both Prem and Europa balls is going to be tricky. One game at a time, I suppose. 🙂

The subsequent EPL game is away to Watford on Monday the 15th April, which does gives us an extra day after the Napoli game to regroup if you were trying to look for the positives of Monday night footie. Watford are a bit up and down but can be a stern proposition at Vicarage Road if it gets buzzing and Deeney puts that hideous mask on again.

Three days later we head to Naples, hopefully to finish off the job we begun in London. This is Arsenal, though, so don’t expect 3-0 at home and a clean sheet away in Italy. We don’t do easy.

The distance to the pitch in Naples will help but it’ll still be a hostile atmosphere

Yet another three day break follows and on the 21st we entertain Crystal Palace at THOF for the 4pm kick off. I’m particularly excited about this one as it’s my next trip to see the boys in the flesh.

Wolves in midweek on the 24th of April will be a tall order after such an intensive series of games, but if we can’t match them under the Molineux floodlights ….. we shall see. For some reason, this fixture seems one of the trickiest of the month, so expect us to cruise it.

April is topped off on the 29th with the third Monday Night Football we’ll have to endure over the next month. Away at Leicester is never easy but it just so happens to be the venue for my favourite away trip fixture of recent years when we beat them 5-3 and the beer was just delicious.

All in all a very busy, very exciting and potentially rewarding month is in store for Unai’s Arsenal. After the arid, uninspiring desert that was the second half of March, it’s going to be a headlong, bumpy sprint riding on the back of a camel desperate to dip its head into the oasis.

Before you go, what do you think the dippers v spuds score might be this afternoon? Take a punt

chas 


Arsenal 3 Rennes 0 – Player Ratings

March 15, 2019

A similar line-up to the team which beat Man U was chosen to engineer our fightback. The only changes being Cech in goal and Mustafi for the ineligible Papa.

First Half

What a magnificent start to the first half – Ainsley finding Aaron Ramsey in the perfect position in the area to swivel and feed Auba for a goal poacher’s tap in. These are easy and straightforward if you have the instinct to be there in the first place.

Things went from peachy to orgasmic with the second goal after a quarter of an hour.  Wardrobe knew he was offside from the dinked ball through, leaving Auba to stand up a tempting cross Brady-style to the far post and who should be there to nod it into the net – only our Conservative candidate for Lower Holloway. Ainsley was ecstatic and from that moment on you could see him visibly grow in confidence.

Rennes struggled to put many passes together and their game was again characterised by play-acting and blatant attempts to con the ref into issuing cards. Well, it had worked once in France.

Rambo had another fine chance from Laca laying the ball back but could only find the keeper when under pressure to get a shot off quickly.

After 4 minutes stoppages at the end of the half we found ourselves up on aggregate via away goals. No chance it could stay at 2-0, surely?

Second Half

The second period started with a near calamity with Mustafi getting caught wrong side. the ball hit the post and we could breathe again. Shkodran was generally pretty solid though tonight, so we can excuse him this one because it didn’t lead to us conceding and he did get back up on his feet and block the follow up shot from the rebound.

Rennes had a series of corners and a few vague sniffs at goal that tended to be snuffed out by the gloriously erect flag of the lino at the North Bank end. Why BT saw fit to keep showing play which was after the ball was dead, is anyone’s guess. Same reason they would employ Stuart Robson as co-commentator, no doubt – to wind us up, as there can’t be any other reason. His monotone banality is enough to drive any self-respecting fan into thinking any game is full of tedium.

Emery’s substitutions on 70 minutes were absolutely inspired. Mesut had been fairly lacklustre by his own very high standards and he was replaced by Micki. Laca had run his socks off and was on a yellow so, Iwobi made sense, too.

There was an immediate transformation. We suddenly had the ball and kept it purposefully in midfield. the passing interchange was swift and decisive resulting in a beautifully constructed goal of glorious simplicity. Wardrobe’s driven cross to Auba was like an express takeaway brought by Deliveroo. Superb, three goals to nil and a mask celebration to add a further minute to injury time.

We dominated the next 10 minutes and should have had a 4th and 5th with Auba missing a one on one and then fluffing his lines when he had the goal at his mercy with his left foot from Rambo’s wonderful pass.

Lucas Torreira came on for Rambo who was, once again, quite sublime. His tackling, positional sense and ability on the ball were just exceptional. Five extra minutes were seen out without too many scares and a well-deserved passage to the quarters secured.

Conclusion

Three goals and none conceded. There were virtually no Arsenal fans predicting a clean sheet.

The Rennes players’ attempts to recreate the Papa situation were pathetic in the extreme. I suppose their only chance of winning was to play against 10 men again. Luckily we didn’t have to endure too many close ups of the hideous Ben Arfa as he was barely in the game – so much for laughing at Unai Emery mate, he done you up like a kipper. Hahahaha.

Stuart MacFarlane

Loved the substitutions. they really secured the victory.

Ratings (perhaps slightly high but, heck, the fightback was glorious)

Cech – clean sheet – took a kick in the head – didn’t have too many clear cut saves to make as Rennes were offside so often …. 7

Maitland-Niles – his first half was superb and a goal to boot – great to see him grabbing his chance with both hands …. 8

Mustafi – the much-maligned Shkodran played well tonight apart from the one slip – well done that man …. 8

Koscielny – rock, shield, bulwark, buttress, captain …. 8

Monreal –  excellent throughout – Sarr barely got a look in ….. 8

Kolasinac – our Bosnian battering ram excelled again – assists, last ditch blocks, the whole shooting match …. 8

Xhaka – the odd misplaced pass amongst hundreds – he really does ooze class regardless of what the nay-sayers think – was he a single fulcrum or was a certain Welshman providing able backup in the double pivot? …. 9

Ramsey – another top top performance from Rambo with one assist (and could have had another if Auba hadn’t failed his Football proficiency test with his left foot) – again gets my MOTM with his tireless, selfless running, challenging and top quality with the ball at his feet …. 9

Ozil – not his most effective Arsenal game – seemed to lose possession easily without too much care on occasion …. 7

Aubameyang – 2 goals, 2 misses, 1 Bradyesque assist – an elite goalscorer’s lot, I suppose – will get most of the papers’ MOTM as goalscorer’s usually do …. 8

Lacazette – the man has grand couilles – unlucky to be booked for a great challenge – didn’t have too much joy in front of goal but worked like a Trojan …. 8

Subs

Iwobi – added ball retention and availability for a pass which had been lacking further forward … 8

Mkhitaryan – his quality on the ball was immediately apparent – helped to get us over the line …. 8

Torreira …. not on for long but chased and harried …. 7

Managers

Emery – Manager of the Match, of that there is no doubt – restored his reputation from last week with a great team set-up and tactics – the subs on 70 minutes were bang on and sealed a fine win …. 9

Le Wagner – should go back to Huddersfield, but would be laughed out of Yorkshire if he asked his players to feign  injury at every opportunity ….3

Stuart MacFarlane

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The UEFA Europa League draw begins at 12 noon on Friday 15th March. The draw will be for the Quarter/Final and Semi/Final.

chas

p.s. please give your own match thoughts and ratings in the comments below