“Saka signs and a 4-0 win… what a day!”

July 2, 2020

It turned out a comfortable win with a score line that we would have expected before the start. It doesn’t always turn out that way of course but I think we deserved a bit of reminding that we are the pride of London and that is how I feel again – proud.



The fitness levels are pretty much back to where they should be; Arteta is enjoying watching his plans being played out effectively and things are looking up. Hard games to come of course but winning is always good preparation.

The game: we were dominant for the majority of the first half, Lacazette should have done better with his opportunities; we got a let off when Norwich hit the post with a forty yard screamer but then it was time for Auba to get that fifty goal monkey off his shoulder and Kruel kindly obliged by making a hash of a Cruff turn in his area which Auba pounced on and slotted home. Xhaka finished off the team goal of the game all before the break, outstanding long ball from Luiz to Tierney who played a precise short pass to Auba who deftly rolled it into the path of the oncoming Xhaka who fired it under Kruels body. Norwich tried to make a fist of things early in the second half before a sloppy back pass gifted Auba his second of the game. Now you may have been happy at this stage, I certainly was but the best was yet to come: who expected that screamer from Soares, it was hilarious when the camera cut to our executive team of Edu et al falling off their seats in shocked celebration. Welcome to the home of football Cedric Soares, that was one heck of a debut.

Martinez: some fine saves, right place right time, good distribution, clearly revelling in his opportunity, clean sheet. What’s not to like? 8

Mustafi: nothing rash, kept it simple, all the cables plugged into the right sockets, not sure why he went off, injury I suppose. 6

Luiz: I have tried not to like him, I tried really hard after the City game but as hard as I try I can’t, yeah, yeah, yeah, defence schmence, I loved the long pass out to Tierney which lead to Xhaka’s goal. 7

Kolasinac: a left footed player on the left of central defence clearly goes along way. I know it was only Norwich but he looked pretty good. 7

Bellerin: Hector who? I haven’t jumped up of the sofa for a long time when someone has scored but that is exactly what I did and shouted wow in excitement when Soares scored. 5

Xhaka: looked pretty happy and the first goal of the season to boot; his experience goes a long way. 7

Ceballos: superb, back up to speed and back to his creative best, his passes were opening up Norwich like a tin of sardines in the first half and he continued to be our most creative player in the second half, probably would have got my MOTM but you know where that is going. 8

Tierney: many people have commented on the intelligence and the accuracy of his crossing and it is true but them there crosses are still nowhere near as good as Saka’s. The young Scot is a defender the other plays eemmm, take your pick. 7

Nelson: there was a time not so long ago when that left wing spot was up for grabs – not anymore it has been claimed with both hands or by the left foot of Pepe. I don’t want to be too harsh here there is still a lot more to come. 6

Lacazette: he tries too hard and his frustration is palpable, deep breaths Laca, deep breaths. Not sure how the future of this one plays out, good to have Nketiah and Martinelli knocking at the door though. 5

Aubamayang: MOTM, of course, clinical finishing, fiftieth and fifty-first goals for the Arsenal Football Club. He looked really happy today, pleased for him. 9

Ooh to be (thanks Sue)

LB


Ainsley Maitland-Niles ……. mid-field hero in the making?

June 30, 2020

I managed to see the Sheffield game and the City one, but didn’t see the Brighton game. I look at the team and currently feel contrasting emotions. It still feels like something is missing but at the same time I feel we don’t look far away either. Maybe a couple of vital cogs in the wheel still need to be addressed.

My over-riding feeling still seems to be that we lack dominance in central midfield. They are the shield to the back 4 and the link to supplying the attack. They are vital in the recovery of possession and in retaining possession and making dangerous use of it when we have it. In other words, dominating the central midfield

Both the use of the ball when we have it and the recovery of it when we don’t, seem to be a tad under par, but the latter still feels like the most deficient. The lack of dominance in midfield still seems to be our long running Achilles heel. We have had many different decent central midfielders recently but seem to have gone a long while without finding the right combinations with these midfielders. It never seems balanced

I noted with interest that the most damning stat from the Brighton game was how our central midfielders compared to theirs in successful tackles and ball recovery. Our stats were very low compared to theirs. It was suggestive of us losing the midfield battle and maybe, once again, the combination wasn’t complimentary. I think Torreira is the current key player that would make a difference and he seems to make any of the other central midfielders play better alongside him in a way that the others can’t do for each other.

I have often wondered whether we lack the pace and athleticism in too many of our central midfielders. This is perhaps why we need a player like Partey so desperately, but I also wonder (Torreira aside) if we have another solution right under our noses. This time I am not talking about Luiz because it seems he is not destined to be used in this role but I am thinking along the lines of a player that has more pace and athleticism than our other current incumbents.

A brief foray into the overall defensive stats of all our central midfielders vs Ainsley Maitland-Niles sees him coming out near the top in most defensive areas including tackles, tackle success rate, interceptions, recoveries, and duels won. He has strong stats in all of those defensive areas whereas the others (Ceballos, Douzi, Xhaka, Willock) seem to have decent stats in some defensive areas but are weaker in others. In other words he looks to be a more rounded defensive player than those others and his stats sit favourably alongside Torreira and partey himself.

I know he has played in a different position recently, so it is hard to fully compare stats with other central midfielders, but I wonder if his stats might even improve further if he was in the thick of the midfield battle. He has more pace and athleticism than the others so is it time to give him a run of games as a deeper lying midfielder whose primary job is in ball recovery but also with the ability to bring it forwards from deeper areas?

GoonerB


Another FA Cup to go ………. yes please.

June 29, 2020

This was a tough but overall well deserved win. I thought the team showed some real cohesion when we did not have the ball and we had some good movement too moving forward. We, obviously, had to concede a stupid goal but we showed spirit to reclaim our lead. We were also our usual vulnerable selves on set-pieces.

The positives:- Pepe had a MOTM performance, not only for his goal and offensive contribution but for his defensive contribution. The guy tracked back and then he was available to receive the ball when we recovered it. – Tierney had another spirited and quite solid performance.- Holding coming back to form and showing some solidity.- The overall team work and in some cases, we moved the ball really well. Pepe could have grabbed a double but he skewed one of his efforts slightly to the left of the post.- Martinez distribution was quite good – he has definitely improved but I’d like him to be a more commanding

The not-so positives:- We are still vulnerable on the right side with AMN, Willock, Mustafi not doing great…- AMN looks lost and it is sad to see because I think he has got the engine and the skills to succeed at our club. He looks like he is constantly interrogating his positioning, his dribbling or passing. He needs to play with a free mind…- Willok had an absolute blank or bleak performance. He needs to really make sure that he has the engine to play day-in day-out at a high level. – Mustafi and Kola – great fighters but Mustafi always struggles with pacey forward and Kola can sometimes be a bit rash with his decision-making as proven by the silly goal conceded- Besides the great goal scored, Ceballos was really transparent too. – We are playing City next – not gonna be easy…Dr Bruyne and Mahrez are really at the top of their game these days and Sterling is coming back to form.

Player Ratings:

Martinez  7……. Mustafi  6 ………. Holding  7 ……….. Kola  5 

AMN  5 ………. Willock  5…………. Xhaka  6 ………….Tierney  6

Pepe  8 ………….Laca  6 ……….Saka  7 ……….. Ceballos  6

In any case, I am looking forward to the Semi-Finals at Wembley! The opposition will be ferocious and the ambiance odd but we are two games away from the Cup and who knows, we may be able to grab the trophy! So as I am having my coffee in Brussels, here is my order “Another FA Cup to go, please – make it smooth and sweet”.
Hope everyone is well! Keep on blogging and above all, keep safe and healthy

RC78


A welcome win …… things we noticed …… and some questions.

June 26, 2020

So, we got a win – a welcome one too! We had some good movement around the park and created good chances although our goals were (s)crappy at best…

A) Things we noticed ………

1) We set up as a 3-4-3, which may be a temporary set up due to the limited availability of players or it could be a real shift. I believe in the latter as mentioned yesterday – it is the only way I could rationalize Luiz extending his stay with us. And to be fair, we did quite well defensively in a 3-4-3 set-up, the only dangerous situations faced from the right side of our defensive unit: Bellerin-Mustafi. These two clearly need to improve their defensive understanding. They were not helped by a very disengaged Ceballos…Holding had a good game and Martinez too and Tierney also showed good discipline and defensive work as LCB. Saka and Auba thrived on the left and Xhaka had a decent passing game although he did his usual mistakes that led to opposition chances. Pepe had a quieter game than last one but I think that he was hampered by Ceballos..

2) The elephant in the room or more like the Elephant not in the room…Guendouzi..Seems him and Arteta had a fall-out in February and since then, Douzi was walking on a tight rope and clearly his Maupay throat grabbing was too much for Arteta. Douzi was apparently disciplined today and asked to be allowed to leave the club. We are talking 40 Mln EUR for a player bought for 8 Mln – well done Minslat! I still think it is a massive mistake to let him go but if the coach and him don’t get along, we gotta support and trust our coach.

3). Nketiah may have the edge over Laca now, maybe mostly because he is ready to do the high-press. What is your take?

B) Some questions ……….

1) Shall we give AMN a run ahead of Bellerin in the next game?

2) Shall we stick to the 343 formation?

3) Ceballos is not looking comfortable really so shall we already line up his replacement as it seems that we are going to let Douzi go? Is Partey the player we need to replace Ceballos? If so – will our midfield options be: Partey, Xhaka, Willock, Torreira. If so, we definitely need one more option that is a lot more defensive-minded -> Brozovic?

4) Ozil has not been playing and I really think that like Mkhy, he may not be suited to the type of pressing game demanded by Artera. Shall we release him or at least convince him to move on? I am sure teams in Italy, Germany and France would welcome him. He could be a key player for teams like Monaco for example.

5) How excited are you about next game? I am looking forward to another win or at least a passionate performance with the following line-up?

Martinez – Mustafi, Holding, Tierney – AMN, Willock, Xhaka, Saka – Pepe, Nketiah, Auba

RC78


David Luiz – A change in formation for 2020/21?

June 24, 2020

So I believe we are all distraught and confused with the announcement that Luiz will stay another year and that we are also betting on two injured players (Soares and Mari) to strengthen our defense next year…It is just amazing that the club would trust players that have not been great since joining the club (Luiz) or have not really played due to injuries (Mari, Soares)…

I was left dumbfounded but I also have a lot of faith in Arteta and the only justified way he would push for Luiz to stay is if he is going to change his formation to playing with a back 3. Luiz was outstanding in a back 3 set-up at Chelsea and he had some good games with PSG in that set-up as well so for me, it leaves no doubt we are going to move towards a back 3 set-up and given our current squad and our perceived lack of financial muscle, I d say that we have only have one option, which is to play in a 343 set-up with the following players:

Leno – Holding, Luiz, Mari – Bellerin, Partey, Xhaka, Tierney – Pepe, Laca, Saka

Martinez – Mustafi, Chambers, Saliba – Soares, Torreira, Douzi, Kola – Nelsson, Nketiah, Martinelli

So you see, only one purchase in midfield and you see some players missing. If Laca goes, then Martinelli or NKetiah would start at CF and we would then probably move for a player like Fraser or Willian on the wings but I think Laca will stay in the end because if Auba goes and Laca goes, Pepe will want to move as well…
Anyways – this is the only explanation I came up with to understand Luiz extension…

Back to the drawing board

RC78


Arteta drinking a poisoned chalice?

June 22, 2020

So now we are back to doom and gloom again, a bit like the last 9 months of Emery’s tenure…the deep rooted issues that are crippling our club are resurfacing and to make things worse, some of our important players are either getting injured or are considering leaving (Auba most notably…).

Arteta came in, gave the team a shape, lifted the morale and the improved the team’s connection with the fanbase but has he taken on the impossible job? Are the issues too big to be solved? Will he be given time to succeed by the club and the fans? Will the players still have faith in the club and in him?

 I think, ultimately, it will come down to:

1. Keeping Saka

2. Showing intent on the transfermarket by spending big on the right players.

3. Axing some players

4. Building around our best talents (Saka, Martinelly, Pepe, Tierney?)

Everyone knows our gaps:- 1 RB, 1 CB (at least), 1 DM, 1 CM are badly needed- If we could get another forward and ST (espectially if Laca goes), it would not be superfluous.

Is the job too big or impossible for Arteta? Maybe…maybe not. My fear is that he needs time and financial backing. You can’t build a competitive team for the EPL title with just 3 talented players, you need a squad of 18 excellent or very good players because the EPL is too competitive and other teams have at least that many great players (Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Utd most notably)…

So will there be financial backing? If so – it needs to be clear as of NOW. Look at Chelsea, they have already recruited Werner and Ziyech and are not far away from getting Chilwell and Havertz. They will of course sell some players too but they are investing in players that are coming of age and have proven both in their league and even at European level for Werner and Ziyech.

At the beginning of the season, Chelsea was predicted to struggle but they made some investments on key positions and have also promoted the youth. Their owner is showing intent by buying these players, which will (1) give hope to the confirmed players at the club, (2) convince big players to come and I would not be surprised if Koulibaly or Ruben Dias or Sriniar end up there in the end because they want a solid CB…

So the difference between Lampard and Arteta’s coaching career could just be that one is backed up by his owner and the other isn’t? Arteta is a good coach and I think he certainly has more in him than Lampard but next year at the start of the season, Lampard could line up:

Kepa – James, Koulibaly, Azpi, Chilwell – Kante, Jorginho – Havertz – Ziyech, Werner, PulisicBench: or

Caballero – Palmieri, Rudiger, Tomori, Alonso – Barkley, Kovacic, Mount – Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Abraham
and we could end up with:

Martinez – Bellerin, Mustafi, Saliba, Tierney – Douzi, Xhaka – Ozil – Pepe, Nketiah, Martinelli or

Macey – Soares, Sokratis, Holding, Kola – ESR, Torreira, Willock – Nelson, Jules, Balogun

It would really be men vs boys…Top 4 team versus top 10 team…

So there is only one way to help Arteta and the team and it is to invest and to invest SMART and BIG to fix the gaps and retain Saka (I think we need to forget Auba, he needs to move on to a bigger team at this stage of his career. Let him go to Juve, Inter, Barcelona, Real Madrid…).

We need to build the team around Pepe, Martinelli, Saka. They need to be put in the best disposition to win games for us but that means that the players behind them are solid enough defensively and can also create…
Some free agents that are worth a look: – Verthongen, Willian, Fraser, Cavani, Ibra-> I don’t care if they played for rival teams.

Some players that want to leave their teams or their teams want them out:- Onana, Cancelo, Semedo, Koulibaly, Upamecano, Gaya, Grimaldo, Telles, Brozovic, Vecino, Paredes, Ruiz, Partey, Zubeldia, Milinkovic-Savic…

I’d rather start the season with: Martinez – Cancelo, Saliba, Verthongen, Tierney – Willian, Xhaka, Partey – Pepe, Martinelli, Saka rather than the team previously mentioned.

I love AFC but I also want them to shine again and if the owner does not back Arteta, I also fear that he will leave because he needs to also look after himself.

RC78


I Want To Scream, Arsenal.

June 21, 2020

It was odd to suddenly discover, that as an Arsenal supporter, I had an agenda during lockdown. With the various permutations of when, if and how the season would resume, it was pointed out to me by a good Arsenal friend that if the season were to be scrapped all clubs would start next season from their respective places that they finished at the end of last season — but — and here’s the kicker: with City being banned from the CL the club next in line would take that last precious CL spot – and guess who came 5th……………….Yep.

I toyed with this for a good while and then when my clutch at that last straw finally slipped I accepted football’s return with some excitement and have been trying to tell myself since Wednesday that it is better to have football back, even with the feeling of dejection that a loss brings, than have no football at all. I was starting to get somewhere with this sense of determination in an effort to force as much positivity into my life as I could. And then, just having watched Brighton take all three points with the last kick of the game all positivity vanished to the point where I am seriously starting to lose the will to live.

It’s good that Arteta is there; at least we are not all starting to run towards a cliff edge screaming change the manager. I couldn’t help but feel for him when his facial expression gave away his sense of almost disbelief as he grappled with the reality of yet another key player out for the remainder of the season. Was there anything good to say about the game, mah.

Leno: I find it hard to contain my anger at what happened, he was clearly pushed. How can I explain it: if I nudged you on purpose and you fell in front of a moving car, shrugging my shoulders and saying sorry would not cut it, the Brighton player should have been sent off at the very least. 9

Hector: lots of running, I am struggling to find the enthusiasm to do this. Pick a number?

Mustafi: ok

Holding: enjoyed watching him. Luiz set the bar so low the pressure was off. 7

Kolasinac: I was quite pleased with Said; I thought he did a reasonable job. 6

Guendouzi: also did a reasonable job, covered the defence well enough, moved the play forward. 6

Ceballos: do you still want Arsenal to sign him – really?

Pepe: I was mentally slagging this player off in my head about how ineffectual he is, running into blind alleys is a waste of time to say the least and then he scored and shut me right up. 7

Lacazette: lots of running and portrayed a sense of determination, who knows? 5

Aubamayang: slightly better than at City but it’s all about the goals, all about the goals Pierre. 6

And now I come to the only reason I have not jumped.

When all seems lost, when things seems they cannot get worse, when you have kicked the cat and said something that you regret to your wife, think of this one happy ray of hope.

Bukayo Saka………….thank you for being an Arsenal player, please stay.

LB


Looking forward to the sea air being a tonic.

June 20, 2020

Afternoon people, many apologies for not be able to publish something earlier.

This afternoon – in fact, very soon – we’ll be kicking off against Brighton, down on the south coast. All football is away to me now as the stadium is out of bounds so it’s very weird.

This is the team if you haven’t seen it:-

Leno

Bellerin  Mustafi  Holding  Kolasinac

Guendouzi

Ceballos Saka

Pepe Lacazette Aubameyang

Subs Martinez Medley Tierney Maitland-Niles Willock Ozil Nelson Martinelli Nketiah

I’m hoping we can keep 11 on the pitch and both CB’s for the whole 90 minutes. Looking forward to seeing how Holding does, I thought he was going to be a mainstay of our defence …… still time.

Ozil has travelled, he must like the seaside air 🙂

Martinelli should see some game time today and I thought Eddie started brightly the other night so I expect he’ll get some minutes.

I was disappointed with Auba and Laca against City but mainly they didn’t really get to see much of the ball so hopefully we can be a bit more creative today. Ceballos worked hard the other night ……… that front five look a mouth watering prospect. Let it be so.

Enjoy the game.

peachesgooner


Is Martinez a keeper?

March 16, 2020

While Leno is not the best GK ever, he is showing signs of improvements and is good on his line and decent with his feet.

He really has to do better with his aerial abilities but overall, I would say he is in the top 8 EPL GK.

What about Martinez? He did not really play well nor poorly. He is a bit of a mystery because we have not really seen him play too much but he is not a keeper that has given me much confidence in case Leno gets injured.

It seems that he has definitely some good shot-stopping quality about him but his aerial ability is also limited and his distribution is not great. He is 27 so one year younger than Leno and we can’t call him a promise anymore.

So what do we do? We keep him and satisfy ourselves with his abilities as a back up and hope that Leno stays fit or do we move to invest in a younger maybe less experienced but more promising GK (Areola, Lafont, Donnaruma, Maximiano…)?

So is Martinez a keeper?

RC78


Saka to Liverpool?

March 11, 2020
 
Make him an offer he can't refuse
Make him an offer he can’t refuse.
If the headline shocked you, it’s because it’s intended to.

We know that the champions-elect are sniffing around our talented young attacker/wingback and they’re not the only ones. If our club doesn’t get its act together we could lose him before his Arsenal career has barely started.

Bukayo Saka has a year left on his Arsenal contract and I would love to be able to sit here and say: “It’s OK, the Arsenal would never let such a highly valued player just walk out the door.”

But we all know that’s not true. To have earned precisely nothing from the departures of Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck last summer is evidence of serious failure at the highest levels of the club.

So how can we be confident that we won’t make the same mistake with Saka? Or that we won’t be forced to sell him at the end of this season?

After all, if he has his head turned by a club that’s currently more successful than we are he can just refuse to sign a contract extension. In those circumstances – and given what happened with Ramsey in particular – it seems inconceivable that the club would not decide that the lesser of two evils is to sell him and take the money rather than wait and let him leave for nothing.

We can only hope that behind the scenes the club is doing all it can to sign him up to a long contract extension. He has shown enough in his outings this season to demonstrate that he can play, score goals and make assists at the highest level.

We have a few things in our favour. Firstly, the fact that Saka has come all the way through the Arsenal youth system, so our club is the only one he has ever known. It has been his home, his school, his family, his place of work and the place where he gets to hang with his mates.

Secondly, he has emerged into the Arsenal first team alongside a group of young players with whom he has already been sharing the ups and downs of football life for many years. We should not underestimate the power of the friendship bonds formed between young men like Saka, Nelson, Willock, Smith-Rowe, Nketieh and Martinelli. You can imagine them wanting to go on to win the big prizes with one another.

Finally, we have the presence (in both senses of the word) of our new head coach, Mikel Arteta. If Emery were still in charge at Arsenal I could well see our best young players being tempted away by the likes of Liverpool or Manchester City. With Arteta at the helm there is a sense of direction and optimism that has been (mostly) lacking for a number of years.

But those three reasons to persuade Saka to stay will not be enough unless the club does its bit in making the young man an acceptable offer. 

Ever since the stadium move we have had a bad habit of blowing deals with penny pinching. 

Take our pursuit of Luis Suarez some years ago when he was at Liverpool. Our inept management team believed he had a £40m buy-out clause so we offered that number plus a pound for a player who was arguably the best striker in the world at the time. The bid, unsurprisingly, was seen in the Liverpool boardroom as a case of us trying to extract the urine; they dug in their heels and we never got Suarez. I’m fairly sure that if we had gone in with a £45m offer we would have got our man and the recent history of Arsenal might have been very different.

I’m not saying we should give Saka a stupidly high number for his new contract (the club has to consider the impact of any raise he gets on the other promising young players who will soon be knocking on the door asking for comparable increases).

But there has to be a concerted effort to make him an attractive offer and to wrap it up in a lovely big bundle of affection and commitment. We should be saying that we see Saka as a future Arsenal legend in the mould of Henry, Pires, Wright and Ljungberg.

If the club lets Saka go, it will be a dereliction of duty that will seriously dent our faith in the management team’s ability to take us back where we belong: competing for the Premier League and the Champions League.

A year later the same issue will be coming up with Guendouzi and Nketieh, so we should be considering extending them even as early as this summer to avoid any cliff edge negotiations in the future.

Will Saka stay? What do you think?

RockyLives