A big chunk of our season is on the line today – Bate preview

February 21, 2019

First and foremost, please remember that kick off is 17:55pm UK time today. We wouldn’t want Micky rolling up at 7.30pm wondering what the team news is. 🙂

Last week in Belarus was dire, there’s no getting around it. A shapeless, ineffective Arsenal team, admittedly hampered by an appalling pitch surface, delivered a performance of virtually zero quality.

That game has been and gone – nothing can be done about it. If we play to our strengths tonight and score enough goals to get us through to the Round of 16, it will be consigned to the past as a deep and distant memory. Simple, isn’t it?

Invoking the spirit of Big Raddy in 1970

Team News

There has been a bit of a Mugabe media lockdown at Arsenal over the last week. Probably best, since any attempt to appease supporters with ‘we’ll strive to put it right’ platitudes would only be met with abuse. The only place to make amends is on the pitch.

The team news made public so far is that Aaron is fit and in full training. Big Sok is also nearing a return – whether it’s in the Europa or for Sunday’s Prem game against Southampton, we shall see.

Maybe Unai’s press  conference will tell us more.

Press conference update – Mesut has been training well this week (?) and Ainsley M-N missed Wednesday training with sickness. 

Rambo’s return will definitely help to cover that creative shortfall we saw in the away leg. Could Mesut find favour again and both of them play? Doubtful perhaps, but could work as long as both don’t attempt to play in the same position..

One thing is for certain, Lacazette will not be featuring due to the Bate lad running into his elbow, which leaves Aubameyang  as our main threat.

Possible team

………………………………. Cech

Licht (if no A.M-N) … Shirley … Kos … Nacho

……………………..Terrier ………….Granit

………………………………..Rambo

…………….. Micki ……… Auba …….. Wobbly

As far as possible game scenarios go, the only way extra time and penalties will happen is if we are 1-0 up at 90 minutes. If Bate score first, we will have to score three times to counter their away goal.

In fact, a Bate goal at any point in the match might give cause for concern (unless we’re over the hill and faraway by that stage). Perhaps dead balls are the most likely source for the Belarusians.

Having said that, this game isn’t really about how Bate play but more about the level of performance Arsenal can produce. As LBG said, three up at half-time and we’ll be laughing.

Your score predictions in the comments, please.

chas 

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Arsenal FC – Our home record against Bate Borisov

February 20, 2019

Last week in Belarus is still a very raw memory. On a ploughed field of a pitch Arsenal had a miserable night. Controlling or passing the ball with any efficiency was very difficult. Stanislaw Drahun’s goal on the stroke of half-time was just reward for Bate’s efforts. Alexandre Lacazette let his frustration boil over when he elbowed Aleksandar Filipovic late on, receiving a straight red card. Hopefully his absence from the home tie will not be too costly.

Bate Borisov’s away record in Europe includes all sorts of Champions League and Europa qualifying games along with group games in both competitions, plus a sprinkling of InterToto matches. In other words, it includes matches against a wide range of opposition in terms of quality.

Bate Borisov all European away games ——-

This is the 3rd time they’ve reached the Round of 32 in the Europa Cup. On the previous two occasions they were narrowly knocked out by PSG in 2011 on away goals, and in 2013 by Fenerbahce with an aggregate score of only 1-0.

The only other time we’ve played Bate Borisov at home was last season in the Europa League group stage.

Group H – 7th December 2017 – Arsenal 6 Bate 0

Neither Jack Wilshere nor Theo Walcott had started a Premier League game for Arsenal in the 2017/8 season before being given a starting berth against Bate in December. With the group wrapped up, Arsene Wenger could afford to field a largely second string selection.

Mathieu Debuchy opened the scoring with a thumping angled drive (a goal Fred remembers well, since he was, allegedly, in the upper tier that night).

Theo scored a simple second before Jack smacked in a similar goal to The Boosh’s but from the other side of the area. An own goal, a pen from big Ollie and a superb first time curler from Mo Elneny sealed a comfortable win.

Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

Let’s hope Bate travel as badly this time around, but with a goal start, they might prove a sterner test.

GunnerN5  


Who would you pick in Arsenal’s midfield three? – Poll

February 19, 2019

Time for a poll.

This post has been prompted by various discussions on the site with bloggers stating various individual preferences for our midfield line-up – Guendouzi, Mo Elneny, Xhaka in a double pivot or even Ainsley M-N as a box-to-boxer are among the choices/favourites.

For the purposes of today’s poll let’s assume Unai is playing 4 at the back with his first choice players available. Also assume we have three up front, perhaps in a 2 wide and 1 centre forward formation or alternatively a number 10 behind a striking duo.

Here are the runners and riders for a place in that middle three listed in the order they appear on AFC.com (let’s include Alex Iwobi even though he’s down as a striker).

Mo Elneny

An excellent squad player and perhaps a touch underrated, though rarely gets picked as a first choice starter. Why?

from AFC.com

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Often used as part of the front three on the right side to provide some width. Could he be better employed just in front of two DMs?

Aaron Ramsey

Perhaps his best position (well according to his new Juve boss) is just behind a front two and it’s difficult to deny that proposition. Could he still be used in the middle three? When tried before, his natural tendency to be looking to make bursts forward into the box has sometimes left us exposed in midfield.

Mesut Ă–zil

Another whose best position appears to be just behind the striker(s) in a front three. Then again, he often plays wherever he feels he can do the most damage which might be the cause of his contretemps with Señor Emery.

Lucas Torreira

When he first came to the Club and was being gently eased in as a sub, it seemed he was being used as the central DM sweeping across the width of the back four. Now he seems to be established on the right side. Where’s his best posititon?

Celebrating his goal against the spuds

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Mr Versatile means that we’re not sure which is his favoured spot in the team. Could he play in front of a double DM formation where his youth, energy and calmness might be perfect weapons for the position?

Denis Suarez

It’s a bit early in Denis’s Arsenal career to know where he might end up in the team. Does anyone have more of an idea they could share?

Matteo Guendouzi

Still 19, he can’t have imagined he’d play so many games for The Gunners in his first season. Not a natural DM perhaps, but another with a great engine. Maybe he’s also suffered playing in a team which is low on confidence sometimes and others look to him to provide a creative spark.

Granit Xhaka

A marmite player if ever there was one. Usually picked by whatever manager he plays for, so he must be doing something right.  Should Granit get an automatic starting berth?

Alex Iwobi

Another player maybe best suited to a front three position. Has he got the discipline to stay central? Or would he be wasted further back where his dribbling skills might be less useful?

Others

Perhaps one of the Academy lads might be given the opportunity to step up. Smith Rowe and Nelson are on loan, but Joe Willock, in addition to his 2 goals at Blackpool in the FA Cup 3rd round, has had a fine season up to now for Freddie’s u23s .  Robbie Burton and Charlie Gilmour are also getting decent reviews and are names to look out for in the future perhaps.

===================================================================

Now for the poll. Choose the three you would prefer in your midfield three.

They could be in a 1-2 formation, a 2-1 (double pivot 🙂 ) or any other variation you can think of.  Specify your preference in the comments below.

chas 


Unai Emery’s record as Arsenal Manager and before

February 18, 2019

Arsenal’s Premier League record after 26 games

As we can see, the stat that sticks out is that our goals against is the worst in our PL history (tied with 2011/12) and significantly higher than our average. But nothing else appears to be a big issue in comparison to previous seasons.

So we have to look elsewhere to find what it is that gives some of us concerns ……

The PL is a six horse race and we have been also-rans in the last 14 seasons, in that time Man U have won 5 titles, Chelsea 5, Man C 3 and Leicester 1. This season it will be either Man C, Liverpool, or even Spurs.

The Leicester win was a one off occurrence by an inspired team and manager – self belief was a big factor.

Man U won 5 titles in 7 seasons with Alex Ferguson as manager but has not won in the last 5.

Man C are the rich kids on the block and won their first title in 2011/12 and have since won 2 more.

Chelsea’s riches gave them their first title in 2004/05 they repeated in 2005/06 and have won 3 times since.

Liverpool and Spurs are still PL virgins and long may it last.

So all that said, what about Arsenal – if it’s not stats then what is it?

Arsene Wenger treated us to many wonderful memories, far too many to list, in his final 14 seasons he did not win the PL but did win 4 FA Cups and 4 Charity Shields.

Unai Emery took over the reins on May 23, 2018 and he has an array of achievements.

Getty Images

Sevilla

UEFA Europa League: 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16

Paris Saint-Germain

Ligue 1: 2017–18

Coupe de France: 2016–17, 2017–18

Coupe de la Ligue: 2016–17, 2017–18

Trophée des Champions: 2016, 2017

Individual

Miguel Muñoz Trophy (Segunda División): 2005–06, 2006–07

La Liga Manager of the Month: March 2014, January 2015

European Coach of the Season: 2013–14

UNFP Manager of the Year: 2017–18

 

Unai’s record as a manager

 

I would offer that Unai has inherited the same set of problems and issues that dogged Arsene in his final seasons.

Specifically,

  • Injuries to key players – in key positions
  • Lack of funding forcing creative purchases
  • Overpaid players
  • The Bosman Ruling
  • Inadequate positional balance
  • Over reactive supporters

Personally I’m not equipped with the knowledge to give definitive answers to these issues but one thing I do know and advocate is that Unai Emery has the future of our illustrious club in his capable hands.

He needs the support of both the management and supporters in order to achieve his goals and our dreams.

I wish him a successful and fulfilling career at Arsenal.

Give the man a chance.

GunnerN5


Emery, the master carpenter.

February 17, 2019

Unfortunately we are getting closer to the Emery in or Emery out debate, I feel reassured that this site has risen above the playground name-calling on other sites to date from the usual suspects.

I have been trying to put into words by way of comparison how I feel about Unai Emery right now. I know in the past I was one of the most loyal of Arsene Wenger supporters, the reason for bringing that up is that I just want to make clear that I am nowhere near reaching that level of devotion; AW had a bank of great Arsenal memories to refer to and as such people like me probably carried the torch a tad longer than was good for all concerned. Unai Emery has no such bank of Arsenal memories………..yet?

The comparison I came up with to describe our Basque is that of a master carpenter having been invited to work on a prestigious London project only to find on his arrival that the project managers expect him to do his job without making available a saw, a hammer or a chisel.

Did you ever wonder what is going through his mind during a game when the camera cuts to him standing in front of the dug out with that pained expression on his face? I do, and the caption I see coming from his mouth is – What did you expect?

The recent Chelsea game seems to be frequently reappearing with both ends of the spectrum being debated: Chelsea are poor so that reduces the significance of the win or that the win shows that we really are not far off where we want to be.
The truth, as is often said, lies somewhere in the middle and that certainly seems to be the case with this game.

It is correct, of course, to say that Chelsea do not offer the same threat that they have in recent seasons but they offer more of a threat than Bate for example so why the difference, why doesn’t Emery set his team up in such a way that replicates that winning formula?

The answer in my opinion is personnel, or in this example, the lack of them because as much as he might want to play the same line up or the same system, he can’t and that is through no fault of his own.

This was the line up against Chelsea.

———————-Leno

Bellerin, Sokratis, Koscielny, Kolasinac

—–Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi

——————Ramsey

—–Aubameyang——–Lacazette

I know I have said this before but I am going to say it again, the biggest loss has been Bellerin; he gave us goal scoring options from the right; he also enabled Kolasinac to do his magic on the left, this is subtle – no Bellerin = no Kolasinac magic. It is now too easy to crowd the Bosnian out and nullify his threat.
I know that GN5 justifiably points to the earlier part of the season when Bellerin’s sorties into the opponent’s half left gaps behind, but look above and notice how Torreira is set up to cover such gaps.

I don’t really need to explain the loss of calibre to the team having Sokratis replaced by Mustafi but the loss of Ramsey is underestimated. If you look at that team above again you will notice that there is a connection with London buses, we have been crying out for a defensive midfielder and now we have three, how else would you describe Xhaka, he may not be a very effective DM but he certainly isn’t a AM.

Ramsey is the only person from that midfield who could augment the front two; he is the only one who is capable of getting a goal from midfield. Unfortunately I don’t expect to see him play at THOF again, we got a flurry of determination for what looked like a final push to secure his lucrative Juve contract but from now on his foot will be off the pedal as I suspect he worries more about injury than our success.

What of Ozil? I see no reason why Ozil simply couldn’t be swapped for Ramsey in the above set up, there certainly is enough defensive cover to give Mesut a free rein; the problem is as I see it is that is like a house of cards.

No Bellerin, no effective AMN, no effective AMN, no effective Kolasinac, No effective Kolasinac, no effective Ozil all of which equates to: Arsenal 0 Bate 1

Personally I have very little hope of coming 4th, I don’t think we have the personnel to achieve that goal, I would be happy of course but I am not holding my breath. However, I do not think the responsibility for that misfire sits squarely on Emery’s shoulders; although that said, I might not be quite so sympathetic if we are in the same position this time next season after Emery has had an opportunity to buy his own saw, hammer and chisel.

LB


Arsenal’s remaining season: what’s the point?

February 16, 2019

I’m writing this on the back of the Bate result with all the despondent reactions still ringing in my ears. Now I don’t want to sound like I’m high as a kite on false hopium, BUT, pre-season, and on the back of a new manager, most Arsenal fans were pretending to show a more mature and patient side with getting back to being a top four side as step one.

We are currently sitting in 5th, with just one point separating Utd in 4th and Chelsea just below us in 6th. Hardly a time to chuck in the towel.

Beyond the League (although this post is about the League), in the Europa most think we’ll get past Bate, and we recently beat the bookies favourite, Chelsea.

Ok, the remaining League fixtures:  much will be decided by how each of the 4th spot contenders perform against the lower sides as that’s the majority for each’s remaining games, however much will depend on encounters between us, so here they are:

ARSENAL
Totnum a
ManUtd h

CHELSEA
Totnum h
Liverpool a
Man Utd a

TOTNUM
Chelsea a
Arsenal h
Liverpool a
Man City a

MAN UTD
Liverpool h
Arsenal a
Man City h
Chelsea h

I haven’t included City or Pool because they are not in the race for 4th , although interestingly, City have only one fixture left against a top six side, while Pool have three.

I have included Totnum because they are more than capable of spectacular implosions.

Some of these could end up effectively being the classic six pointers.

Can we make it? Stranger things have happened.

mickydidit89


Embarrassing in Belarus – Player Ratings

February 15, 2019

First Half

Loads of possession – Mkhitaryan one-on-one and a Lacazette header perhaps should have been dispatched. Bate look a poor side but still had a couple of good efforts on goal. Simple goal for them when it came. Poor.

Second Half

Lots more possession with very little to show for it. The number of times there was a poorly weighted pass was ridiculous. Yes, it was a terrible pitch, but really?

‘Fancy coming back to mine?’

Auba came on with us needing a goal and then played in a withdrawn inside right position. Utterly ridiculous – get him hanging round the goal or leave him in his sleeping bag.

Conclusion

As fgg says, we should win next week by a few, so maybe this isn’t as bad as it seems right now, but playing against a team which isn’t even fit as their season doesn’t start until March, we looked toothless and almost completely ineffective. Oh, if only we had a player who can play that killer pass to open up the bus!

Ratings

Cech – blocked a couple – picked the ball out of the back of his net … 5

Mustafi – not really required to do a huge amount of defending – passing very average … 5

Koscielny – slightly above average in a poor team performance … 6

Monreal – again, not much to do against a team content to defend … 5

Maitland-Niles – saw a fair amount of the ball and didn’t really achieve much with it … 4

Kolasinac – his one decent cross found Laca marginally offside according to the lino – dreadful attempt at goal when the ball came back to him on the corner of the 6 yard box … 4

Xhaka – looked rusty – silly booking – didn’t add much … 4

Guendouzi – telegraphs his passing often leading to interceptions … 4

Iwobi – a game made for him but somehow he produced very little of note …5

Mkhitaryan – pretty anonymous when we needed him to take up the creative mantle … 4

Lacazette – Frustrated with the quality of chances created for him but lacked sharpness when half chances came – in some ways the elbow into the chin of the Bate player was for all of us – him missing from the second leg may work out ok if Auba gets a hat-trick … 5

Subs

Aubameyang – the lad is a striker not a withdrawn midfielder – no efforts on goal in over 20 minutes … 4

Torreira – we needed something different than the Terrier offers – his 30 yard effort at the end was laughable … 5

Suarez – at first sight looks a typical Wenger signing, lightweight midfielder – might have been better to have left plan A (the Wardrobe cut-back) on the pitch … 4

Manager

Emery – not the result he or the Arsenal supporters were after – having neither Ramsey or Ozil on the pitch seems even more ridiculous now … 3

chas