Do we need to play with a holding midfielder? If so, who?

August 13, 2019

Liam posed this question to GoonerB…

I agree that a Guendouzi/Xhaka midfield pairing isnt likely to work in big games, but what pairing would you prefer moving forward?

This is the response from GoonerB …

Liam, your question earlier about how to set up with the midfield behind our front 3 (assuming that will be Auba, Laca and Pepe as 1st choice). I am not too sure what the best answer is to the midfield 3. I feel the problem is that we haven’t been playing with what I would view as a holding midfielder.

I don’t feel any of Xhaka, Guendouzi, and arguably even Torreira, are actually specialist holding midfielders (that invisible wall) in the way that Gilberto was and say Fernandinho is.

All of them look to be more free roaming box to box or creative defensive midfielders if you like. None of them seem to be that player dedicated to tidying up and being the screen in front of the back 4. Torreira is probably the closest but even he seems to be more suited to being a free roaming defensive midfielder. Willock could also be best suited to the BTB role as well so would join Xhaka, Guondozi and Torreira on the list for that role.

I think that Ozil, Ceballos and Micki are more suited to being ACM’s, so we have a choice of 3 for that role. My feeling is that we need to have a proper holding midfielder, and I wonder if either Chambers or Luiz would make us stronger in that part of the field. Then choose 1 from Torreira, Willock, Xhaka and Douzi for the BTB CM role, and 1 from Ozil, Ceballos and Micki for the ACM position.

I would suggest that while we seem to have a clutch of ‘free roaming box to box defensive midfielders’ who also love to join in the attack there’s needs to be really good on field communication between whoever makes up the two or three in front of the defence to control a defensive screen. I would love to see a midfield that really controls the game.

On to Burnley …………. it will be interesting to see how we set up.

peachesgooner, GoonerB and Liam


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.


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?


Football is back ……..

August 10, 2019

We’ve made it …………….. almost two months with no football to watch and lots of discussions about who we needed to buy and who we needed to sell. Ultimately it was a pretty exciting Transfer Window in which many football supporters – Arsenal and others – think we’ve done rather well.

We still have players out with injuries – Bellerin, Holding and Lacazette – who won’t be travelling to Newcastle tomorrow, plus new recruits who may not be ready to start. With that in mind we will probably see Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson in the line up and well done to them for working so hard to get to this point.

Reading the farewells from Alex Iwobi and Carl Jenkinson brought a tear to the eye as their love for the club shone through.

The club photographer, Stuart MacFarlane sent a message to Danny Welbeck reminding him that he was only next door and not to be a stranger. For those that don’t know, the Watford Training Ground is next door to Arsenal Training Ground.

The statement from the club about Ozil and Kolasinac not travelling because of fears about their safety following the attempted car jacking last week is worrying for everyone. Any further attempts of violence towards them puts the whole team at risk ……………….. a very sad state of affairs.

So, today we get to see Jenks lining up with Nottinham Forest v Nketiah lining up with Leeds. Best of luck to both of them ………….. obviously we want Eddie to get lots of game time and show what he can do.

Have a great Saturday ……………


David Luiz in an Arsenal Shirt … Yes? … No? … Indifferent?

August 8, 2019

When the news broke that Arsenal were considering taking a discontented David Luiz off of Chelsea’s hands, supporters heads were in a spin. Was this the best business we could do to replace Koscienly? Feels a bit like Sylvestre all over again.

Luiz, at 32, is an experienced defender, he’s played in the Premiership and won things with Chelsea. We’ve watched him for years and know that he’s strong and wily and prone to go missing. He likes working with Emery but doesn’t like to be criticized so I’m not sure that’s really the personality we want but we do need a CB ……… and he’ll be ready to go.

These comments from some of our bloggers sum up different views.

LB says:

I go out for five minutes and we are talking about David effing Luiz.

For goodness sake……………I despair.

RC78 says:

I saw David Luiz at Psg and he is a good footballer and a decent defender. I don’t mind seeing him join AFC because he also adds a very very credible option at DM. When he played there at Psg for a few matches, he did excellent because his passing and positioning is rather good. He is also good at free kicks and is a serious aerial threats on set pieces. Big issue with him is that he has lapses and can let an attacker go unmarked or he ll get Booked stupidly. Another reason to get excited is that he had his best season with Conte when they played 3 at the back and I think that he would form quite a partnership with Holding and Sokratis at the back: Holding – Sok – Luiz

LBG says:

Despair is my reaction, LB.
Following the positivity of the rest of our signings, Luiz is a backward step, and no I dont believe will be an improvement whether CB or MF. Disruptive, ill disciplined, and most of all will he knuckle down and work on combinations for the good of a team in red.
Not a chance!
And finally, why would we ever be reconsidering three at the back. Doesn’t work unless all three are lightning quick and good positionally and even Holding lacks pace, let alone the Greek barge.
Dont do it please, Dick!

And this from fatgingergooner

Only way another CB other than Luiz comes in is if we get deals sorted for at least a couple of Iwobi/Kolasinac/Elneny to leave. Surely now it’s too late to think a deal will be done for a £20m-£40m defender? Luiz and Tierney would bring our outgoing to about £140m.

Luiz is the new CB. Time to get on board and get excited about the season. He had a solid campaign for Chelsea last year in a back 4 a lot of the time. No reason he can’t do the same for us this season.

Is he going to make our defence impenetrable? No.

Realistically, is there a CB out there who could do that within our transfer budget? No.

Is it he better than what we currently have? Yes and proven in PL so can play from day 1.

Maybe Transfer Deadline Day will bring some more surprises ……………….. just a few hours to go.


The Shoehorn Stratagem … which of Arsenal’s ‘Non-Homegrown’ Players Should be Sacrificed?

August 3, 2019

We are now approaching the climax of the silly season, or transfer window as it is wont to be known. Soon all the supporters of all the clubs in all the land will have presented to them their shiny new toys (SNTs). A Rodri here or a Ndombele there. Or not.

Many will be cursing their clubs for not buying the right toys, or sufficient new recruits.

Meanwhile, management everywhere will be vexing over the problem of fitting the SNTs into a squad that is already full of Johnny Foreigners, or non-Home Grown as we must refer to them. It is not my place, nor I’m sure is it necessary, to lecture fellow AA-ers on the Home Grown rule, on the squad size of 25, of which up to 17 can be non-Home Grown talents.

However, there are some on here, and indeed prevalent throughout the blogosphere, who recklessly demand the acquisition of countless new players who do not conform to the HG Rule, without considering the consequences. I just feel the need to focus for a moment.

Who do we already have? How many? Here’s a list, as far as I understand it:


Monreal; Kolasinac;   Koscielny;   Mustafi;   Sokratis;   Mavropanos

Xhaka;   Torreira;   Guendouzi;   Elneny;   Ceballos

Mkhitaryan;   Ozil

Aubameyang;   Lacazette;   Asano (!)


That’s seventeen. The full quota. No room for further additions.

But wait.

Pepe is here now. Tierney may be on his way (as a Scot he counts as a Johnny F). But still the mob demands more – Dani Alves, Rugani, Everton.

I read the transfer gossip and guffaw/chuckle/snort and chortle. For every one that comes in, one must leave. There are those we’d like to see go, and there are those it might be possible to transfer out.

Our Home Grown numbers are fine. We have seven (Martinez, Bellerin, Jenkinson, Holding, Chambers, AMN, Iwobi) supplemented with under-21s like Martinelli, Nketiah, Willock, Nelson, Medley, Olayinka, Thompson, most of whom seem near readiness for at least riding the pine.

But still the likelihood is the club already needs to shed players in order to conform.

I therefore suggest that for every Shiny New Toy you beg the club to acquire for you, you suggest who should be dumped to make room for them.

By the time the Newcastle game kicks off, we should know the 25. For you, who should be missing from that list?


Arsenal 1 Angers 1 – Player Ratings

August 1, 2019

This was the seventh game of our preseason and we fielded a mixed side of …….

Martinez, Chambers, Mustafi, Medley, Monreal, Burton, Guendouzi, John-Jules, Martinelli, Nketiah, and Nelson.

My initial thought was I was excited about the lineup but would have preferred Thompson over Monreal. Also there has been a lot of debate about Mustafi recently and I would have preferred to see him at RB and Chambers at CB.


First Half

Unlike majority of our preseason games we started rather slowly not doing much pressing from the get go. Martinelli was released by Chambers down the flank as he cut inside instead of looking for a team mate opted to shoot but his shot was blocked.

Nothing much happened until in the 13th minute a ball is misjudged by Medley and Martinez who sense the danger rushes off his line but is rounded by the attacker making it 1 nil to Anger.

For the rest of the first half both sides were feeling each other out with some balls over the top to NKetiah but  they were easily dealt with. Jules also tried to slip in Nketiah in but again nothing come of it. We went into the half 1 nil down and a lot to be desired.


Second Half

Second half we made some substitution bringing on AMN, Sokratis, Willock, Thompson, Xhaka. The quality didn’t take to show with Guendouzi doing some great work on the right hand side then sends in a cross which was slightly deflected causing some confusing in the box and Nelson tucking home the equalizer 1-1.

Nice to see Nelson score his first goal of the preseason. Willock was lively, as always, and won a free kick which was taken by Nelson with Xhaka attacking the ball which flew over.

Eddie and Guendouzi came off, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan came on. Thompson had a good break down the wing and put in a good cross into the area but there were no takers as usual.

Xhaka took a free kick but Aubameyang hit it wide. Then an Arsenal player put in a great sliding tackle and the ball fell to Mustafi, why is he even that high up the pitch is beyond me, who then slips the ball to Martinelli who has acres of space. This has to be 2-1 surely, but Martinelli decides not be selfish and tries to pick out Aubameyang but the pass is block which lucky falls to Nelson and I don’t know if he was trying to shoot or pass but it fell to Aubameyang who was in an offside positon. There were a few more chances to win the game but they weren’t taken. Penalties were pointless but like Xhaka in the Real game Mkhitaryan wanted to see which one of them can take a worse penalty.


The youngsters didn’t do much in the first half, Jules wasn’t able to create for the front 3.  Played much better second half when the experience players came on.



Martinez – Save a penalty controlled his area well … 6

Chambers – was solid at RB … 6

Mustafi – Caught out of position for the goal … 5

Medley – Didn’t look good for the goal … 5

Monreal – didn’t offer anything today … 5

Guendouzi – lively today and his crossed help with our only goal … 7

Burton – looked out of his dept today … 4.5

John-Jules – worked hard but couldn’t create much for himself or his team mates … 5

Martinelli – lively as usual … 6.5

Nketiah –  looked out of it today … 5

Nelson – scored a goal, missed a sitter hence why I say waiting for him to impress me, one of our few youngsters you played at a high level last season so expected a bit more … 6



They collectively made a difference to the game, stand our performers were Willock and Thompson … 6.5


Pepe to wing it for Arsenal

July 30, 2019

We have been renowned as a predominantly attacking club ever since the start of the Wenger era, but over the last few years we have arguably seriously overlooked one area of our attacking department within the squad.

Earlier Wenger teams seemed to be bolstered by high quality, attacking, goal-scoring, pacey wide players, but for the last number of years this position has seemingly been overlooked at Arsenal to the point it almost appeared as if it was deemed non important to us in the modern era. However, a good look around at the other top sides seemed to highlight that all other clubs deemed these positions to be of high importance, and most often set up with these players in a 4-3-3 system, or a close variation on this.

Fingers are currently crossed throughout goonerdom that Pepe will be the new man to wing it for Arsenal.

The modern wide player seems to be something between a winger and a wing forward that operate either side of a lead striker most often, with the majority of the top clubs, in a rotating front 3 sharing goal-scoring responsibility. These wing forward players also give the attacking width that can stretch the opposition without relying solely on the full-backs for width, so arguably also provide extra problems for the opposition in wide areas, with the wing forward and the overlapping full-back combining during the game.

Another factor in having specialised attacking wide players is that the full-backs don’t need to be permanently camped high up the pitch, and can therefore choose the right moments to get forward and join the attack, thus ensuring they are still, for the most part, covering their defensive responsibilities as part of the back 4.

I feel we have suffered a fair bit at times in not having these players in recent years, preventing us from being able to deploy a more balanced, but still attack orientated, formation. It is why I am excited this forthcoming season by the prospect of young players like Saka and Nelson coming into the first team environment and giving us something I feel we have missed for many years. If we were also to add one more top established attacking wide player, like Zaha or Pepe, to this then my legs will start to literally quiver in anticipated excitement.

One big question though is how should these wing forward players be deployed? Which particular player should line up on which side? Here are a few comments from yours truly, Fred, and LBG to get the thought process going.

Fred says:

Yea Nelson hasn’t impressed at all with Eddie I actually think je should be playing on the left on the 433 to start the season, I know it isn’t his natural position but he is a rich vain of form

GoonerB says (in response):

Fred, I had always assumed that Nelsons natural position was on the left side of the striker. I have still to watch the last 3 games which I have got recorded. Does this mean that Nelson has been operating from the right side? I seem to recall that most of the decent footage you see of him when he has done something in games, either in our academy matches or last seasons loan, seem to show him operating from the left. Either way Fred, I would agree with you that Reiss Nelson is a left inside forward predominantly, and should be utilised this way.

LBG says (in response):

Nelson is a left sided wide attacker, but as is customary left sided players nowadays are often used on the right and cut in to hit shots with their left foot. I personally want wide players to go round the fullback and cross from the byline, like olden times.

GoonerB says:

Wilf would really take up the position of Nelson while Pepe would take up the position of Saka but as I say pepe looks like he could move in centrally behind a single number 9 as well which may give us the better balance and also squad options.

Fred says (in response):

Think u got that wrong Saka plays on left and Nelson on right

So with the inside forwards, or wide attacking players, (or whichever other description you prefer), it would seem the jury is out as how to best deploy them. Academy players that are still developing should arguably spend time playing in 2-3 positions to develop their all round understanding, but I would suggest that once a player starts to become more of a first team regular that they should have a preferred specialist position (or side) where most of their play takes place.

Both Nelson and Saka, at their still tender ages, seem to have played both sides at different times, if you watch any footage of them. Maybe to date Saka has had more time on the left and Nelson on the right, but as a left footer and right footer, respectively, I would suggest it is now time to deploy Saka from the right and Nelson from the left if they are to become top class prolific goal scoring pacey winger / wing forward type players.

Why do I say this? Well if you were to make a list of all recent (maybe last 10 years) top level attacking wide players, at the top clubs, it is nearly always right footed players on the left and left footed players on the right. However I would love to hear your thoughts on this AA’ers.