The Art of Defending

October 10, 2019

We sit third but without being that convincing to date. One does worry that we have slightly got away with it till now and the performances will not sustain us in our search for a points tally that sees us have a more successful season.

We have some unenviable stats where we top a league across many leagues for shots on our goal. How is this happening? I am not sure of the exact figures and maybe one of you lovely people can shed some statistical light on it.

I have also wondered whether there are any stats out there as to how often a teams defence have to face a defensive moment. My gut feeling is that this could also be very telling if say, for instance, our defence was having to face 50% more “defensive moments” than any near rival.

The sheer numbers game would indicate that you will eventually concede more than those rivals no matter how good your dfenders are individually and as a group.

I was interested in reading that Emery was after Boly to quote “solve Arsenal’s defensive woes”. My question is this. Is it just about the quality of defender we have or don’t have right now that is our big issue, and throwing another defender into the mix will solve our defensive problems, or is it more of a whole team structure thing that sees our defence called into action far more often than it should be and our rivals, and thus explain that worrying shots on goal stat?

Please discuss ……….

GoonerB

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Arsenal Win Inspires Title Charge

October 7, 2019

Yes, the headline is deliberately flippant.

But look at the facts:

  • Third in the league, only a point behind last year’s all-conquering champions.
  • Four points ahead of Teeteringham.
  • Six points ahead of Manchester United.
  • Only one defeat in eight games in the Premier League.
  • In the last two and half weeks we have played 6 games in all competitions, Won 5, Drawn 1, Lost 0; Goals for 17, Goals against 3.

On paper we’re in the title race, albeit a long way behind the long-haired lovers from Liverpool.

Yet it doesn’t feel like we’re anywhere close to being able to contemplate a serious tilt at the title and performances like yesterday’s against Bournemouth don’t help.

We can take satisfaction from getting our 1-0 win and three very valuable points, but life still is not a bowl of cherries. I’ll come on to possible reasons why later, but first a quick recap of the match.

Unai Emery’s team selection was fairly predictable. RC in his pre-match write up got 10 out of 11, missing only Ceballos, who was preferred to RC’s prediction of Torreira.

At the start of the day Bournemouth were only a point behind us in the league and we all know they can play a bit, so this was never likely to be a pushover.

That said, we started well with Saka looking particularly lively on the left flank, Ceballos pulling the strings in midfield, Guendouzi surging round the pitch like a remote controlled car on Christmas morning and even Pepe showing some silky skills.

The breakthrough came early, and not from any of the attackers. A corner from our right was adroitly pinged into the box by Pepe and found the curly coiffured bonce of our bouncy Brazilian centre back. He had a lot to do to direct the ball on target, but in it went. A first Arsenal goal for David Luiz and an assist for Pepe.

For the rest of the first half we were effortlessly in control, stroking the ball about easily and looking dangerous in attack, while Bournemouth offered little threat. We created multiple good situations but the final touch or pass was always slightly off and we were not able to build on our lead. As the minutes ticked into the 40s and it was still only 1-0 despite our dominance, I began to feel some familiar nerves twitching into life.

Sure enough Bournemouth came out a much more committed side after the break, presumably after a rocket from Eddie Howe. They harried us more effectively and slowly but surely became the dominant side.

As the second half wore on and our attacking thrust got blunter and blunter, an equaliser started to feel inevitable.

Some of the most perilous moments came directly from rare occasions when we were carving through Bournemouth and looking to threaten their goal, only for a piece of carelessness from one of our players to set them on the counter attack.

In the space of one period of just a couple of minutes Kolasinac, under no pressure whatsoever, passed the ball to a Bournemouth player who launched a break which almost resulted in a goal; then Guendouzi lost the ball carelessly and again, a few seconds later, we were lucky not to concede (although to Gwen’s credit it was he who made the gut-busting run and desperate tackle that saved a goal).

And that summed up our second half: sloppy. I don’t know if the conditions were difficult (the sun was shining, but had there been heavy rain earlier?), but every time we tried to do something positive it was spoiled by a wayward pass, a piece of bad control, getting carelessly caught in possession or even just tripping over our own feet.

When the whistle blew after five minutes of added time it was a huge relief.

So we had a win, but not one to send the faithful home feeling like the team is finding its rhythm and ready to push on with a serious top four challenge.

I thought our shape and system looked OK yesterday (certainly compared with some games, such as Watford or Man Utd), but – in the second half at least – there was a lack of concentration throughout the team, particularly in the attacking half.

Hopefully it was just a difficult day at the office and the sort of sustained focus we have seen in the cup games can quickly be integrated back into our league effort.

We happen to be on one of those runs (in the league) where the results are OK but the performances are worrying. From that position things can go in two directions: either the performances don’t improve and we don’t keep ‘getting away with it’ or things start to gel on the pitch and the results stay good. Take your pick.

I’ll end with some positives, beyond just getting the three points: for a start, the important thing is that we did not let Bournemouth get their goal and that was down to some committed defending, particularly from Chambers, but with Luiz and Sokratis also having some big defensive moments, while Leno was reliable as ever with his shot stopping.

Hopefully the clean sheet is indicative of a sharper defensive focus. The danger moments came from mistakes at the attacking end of the field leading to Bournemouth counters: they did not come from our defenders putting on clown shoes and red noses in our own defensive third as they have done too many times this season already.

Now we go into the international break on the back of a good run of results and with a struggling Sheffield United team waiting for us when league action resumes.

We are third in the league I said we are third in the league… (Doesn’t have quite the right ring to it, does it?).

Player Ratings

Leno    7

Didn’t have too many saves to make but was in the right place when called on. One interception of a dangerous low cross sticks in the memory as an instance of his excellent anticipation.

Chambers       8 (MoTM)

Chambers is on a very good run of form. Made some top tackles and interceptions in our box and helped link play well when going forward. Best of all, he always seems composed on the ball.

Sokratis           7

Didn’t do much wrong and made a couple of important tackles and headers.

Luiz      7.5

As per Sokratis, but with an extra half point for the goal.

Xhaka              5.5

I’m not as down on Xhaka as some, but much of this game passed him by (although he still had time to make some stupid tackles).

Ceballos          6.5

Good in the first half, faded in the second before being substituted.

Guendouzi       7

Typically energetic performance, but his play was littered with concentration lapses in the second half.

Pepe    6

You can almost smell the crowd willing him to turn it on. He showed some great dribbling skills at times, though usually with little end product. Not a bad a outing but this was not the game where he suddenly turns the corner. Nice cross for the goal.

Aubameyang  6.5

Struggled to make an impact, but it wasn’t really his fault. Most of our moves broke down before the ball reached him in dangerous positions.

Saka    7

Very bright in the first half but was another who faded after half time.

Subs

Martinelli        7

Looked lively and clearly uses the same batteries as Guendouzi.

Willock            6.5

Another encouraging outing for Willock, but by the time he came on our second half malaise was already too deeply embedded.

Torriera           6.5

A tidy 10 minutes or so from the Uruguayan.

RockyLives


Arsenal v Bournemouth pre match

October 6, 2019

Another home game but this time in the EPL. A match against a team that is only one point behind us…A win against will create a gap between us and them (and also Tottenham 🙂 ) of 4 points and it will also see us on the podium…So there is a lot to play for today in front of our crowd.

Bournemouth are no pushover. They play decent football and they have some good footballers like Calum Wilson, Diego Rico, Harry Wilson, Joshua King, Nathan Ake, Ryan Fraser and to a certain extent also Ibe and Solanke. Their form has been on and off with good wins and also big losses, mostly because of their inconsistant and weaker defensive efforts. Will they park the bus against us? Not sure. They tend to play a 442 and I expect them to play a 442 tomorrow but maybe Solanke will play a bit deeper…

So how to beat them? They like to counter-attack and they like set-pieces. They are fast on attacking transitions but struggle sometimes defensively so if I were Emery, I d make sure to put pressure on their defense and I d also block the wings…Again, the predicted line-up and my preferred line-up:

Emery’s line up:

Leno

Chambers   Sokratis   Luiz   Kolasinac

Guendouzi   Xhaka   Torreira

Pepe   Aubameyang   Saka

 

My line up:

Leno

Chambers   Sokratis   Luiz   

AMN Guendouzi   Torreira   Willock   Kola

Pepe   Aubameyang

 

I think my line up will just annoy the hell out of Bournemouth while maximizing Auba and Pepe’s offensive threat and Willock and Douzi’s attacking runs.

Anyways, this game is a MUST win especially at home. We need to capitalize on Tottenham’s poor form, Leicester loss and last season, we didn’t and this is how we missed out on Top 4. If we are to compete for the Top 4, we have to win at home especially when our rivals lose.

Let us do this and COYG! My predicted score: 3-2 with Auba, Pepe on the scoresheet together with Luiz. We will concede a goal to Solanke and Wilson (Calum).

RC78


It wasn’t 7-0 like ’93 (or 7-2 for that matter) …………….

October 4, 2019

….but how the hell it wasn’t at least that is difficult to explain.

It has been rare recently for me to start a game with a significant feeling of confidence  based on the initial team selection. But that’s how I felt tonight. And the first twenty minutes plus did nothing to dispel that feeling.

Rob Holding striding confidently, Adams-like around the back, seemingly giving even Mustafi the look of a calm centre back alongside him! Tierney showing that not only is he an excellent attacking full back with a brilliant cross, but that he senses danger defensively and goes out to meet and cover it.

Torreira playing in front of the back four and mopping up efficiently. Dani Ceballos running the midfield, and the 18 year old Martinelli showing true  pure striker skills.

Even if, to be honest, the opposition weren’t much cop, things were looking rosy!

Willock was proving a handful and took his goal with great confidence. Surely we can look forward to a hat-ful! And yet it didn’t happen as chances were spurned regularly for the rest of an exciting half.

“In the old days a game like this would be 3-0 at half time, and finish 3-0 at full time”, said one observer. Well this youthful team did not lack desire at least to add to their score in the second half, but, with the exception of a close range poke from Dani, following excellent work to the byline again from Martinelli, we did everything except collect that hat-full.

And perhaps the “youthfulness” explains some of the waste in front of goal. Shape and calmness on the ball was lost, as almost every player seemed to get carried away by the excitement. Good chances were beautifully made, but then spurned. And how the “wonder kid” did not get his hat trick, I will never know!

It was an exciting, more than competent performance, produced three points and set us up in the group, but promised initially so much more.

Player ratings ……………

Martinez 6. Little really to do other than two driven at him at a perfect height. Not sure on his coming an catching.

Bellerin 5. Seems short on confidence, especially going forward.

Mustafi 6. A couple of risky passes, but overall competent, with the confidence of Holding alongside, against a less than potent attack.

Holding 8. A solid, head up, un-rushed performance which I hope will get him a place soon in the starting team in the Premier League.

Tierney 8. All round excellent game, showing great confidence and potential both going forward and in defence. Tired at end so needs to be used progressively.

Torreira 6. Started in his rightful position with confidence. Got a bit carried away in the end with attacking, and moved out of that position when 0uzi came on. Got lost at this point a little.

Willock 7. A real handful in first half and took his goal with great confidence. Got caught up in the madcap second half and less effective if always enthusiastic.

Maitland-Niles 5. Played on the right and tucked in, but too much distance from a hesitant Hector. Most of our good work was down the left.

Ceballos 8. Ran the midfield in the first half especially. Again perhaps tried too much on the ball as the game went on, instead of playing simple first time balls to open up an eleven men defence by then.

Nelson 6. Certainly some good work in the first half. Would like to see him take on his full back more regularly and believe in himself.

Martinelli 8/9. Took his goals beautifully and should have had five or six. A willing runner and creative centre forward.

LBG


Arsenal v St Liege Pre-match

October 3, 2019

For those that do not know Liege, it is a small city in Belgium with a beautiful train station and opera.

In terms of football, Standard Liege is in the top 5 of the Jupiler League. They are not so known for producing young players like other clubs like Anderlecht, Genk or Brugges but they tend to buy well and have a solid team.

They play in a 433 formation and are a solid team in terms of their defense and midfield. They dont concede much either and have some decent players like Lestienne (Attacking mid), Poku/Bojevic (FW) and also Laifis and Gavory at the back. Their goalie is OK too.

They are second in the Belgian league at the moment and had a good start to the season but we should be able to manage them at HOME IF we are serious. Our quality is higher overall and they have weaknesses like their full backs so here is the predicted line up and then my preferred line-up:

Here is the predicted one:

        Martinez

AMN   Mustafi   Holding   Tierney

          Willock   Torreira

      Ceballos    Ozil    Nelson

              Aubameyang

 

Here is my preferred one:

Martinez

AMN    Mustafi    Holding   Tierney

Willock   LUIZ

Pepe   Ozil   Nelson

Martinelli

Let us not pull a Real Madrid and go down 2-0 at half time against a club from the Jupiler League…Let us score early and thrash these little Liegeois.

COYG!

RC78


Grabbed a draw …… should’ve won?

October 1, 2019

Not the greatest performance, not the worst either.  Should we be happy with a point? Not really. They truly are terrible. But we’re not exactly flying either.

As far as the line up goes, it’s no secret I’d rather Xhaka didn’t start but this United team isn’t good enough to capitalize on his weaknesses so I was ok with it.

It wasn’t a bad “away” line up. The quality was mediocre and the ratings are based on the fact that the playing conditions were pretty awful. It’s annoying to hear someone as experienced as Graham Le Saux say they had no bearing on the quality of the game. Anyone who’s ever played knows that’s just not true.

In the first half we actually looked to have a defensive shape and seemed happy to work hard all over the field. We didn’t have much in an attacking sense but again, I don’t expect this current team to go up to the Toilet and play them off the pitch. We certainly didn’t but 0-0 after 44 mins was ok for me.

We just needed to get to half time then ramp it up in the 2nd half. We didn’t make half time. A break from a corner where Kola and Gwen both went for the same ball on the edge of their box resulted in their goal, a well struck but ultimately deflected shot that left Leno no prayer. Annoying for sure.

The second half left us trying to chase the game but in the conditions, creating clear cut chances was difficult. Remember, we are not City or Liverpool. We have a group of good, young and improving players who deserve credit for clawing a goal back. Saka was probably our brightest attacking threat. The commentary kept swooning over the Manure left back but I thought Saka was every bit as good playing a much more difficult role. Our midfield, including Xhaka played responsibly as a unit. I was happy to see Ceballos and I thought Torreira struggled anyway. It seemed as if he was playing as our furthest forward midfielder and if so, Ceballos is much better at that role. I commented to Liam that ‘this is it” when he came on. And a few minutes later we equalised.

Saka had a great chance to put us ahead and hit the target – rule #1. It was a good if somewhat fortunate deflection from Mr £80m that stopped it. Then later some bloke who had a lucky shot at the end of the 1st half showed his true finishing potential with an unchallenged header from 4 yards which he blazed over. That was the best chance we gave up.

We never really looked like winning it, they did but only based on our potential for slapstick defending. But the game “petered out” into a barnstorming end to end Spuds like match littered with errors and fouls more than well created chances.

A couple of takes:

In OGS’s post match interview, he said Manure were not cynical or clinical enough. Someone needs to explain the difference to him because AGAIN, they were plenty cynical. Some of their challenges were borderline ridiculous. It always happens at the Toilet and refs don’t give us any protection. I don’t mind making allowances for a slippery pitch but it made me sick when the comment after their cheating dirty bastard captain held Saka back and nothing was given was “that was clever play”. That Knob is a cheat, always has been, always will be.

Ceballos’ work rate was very evident tonight. I think he’s as hard working a creative player as I’ve seen. I don’t think we’d have been defensively any weaker if he’d have started ahead of Torreira.

Xhaka had a good game for the most part but his attitude seemed much better to me. Apart from the begging for yellows which I hate, I thought he gave as much as I’ve seen of him in recent times. If being named Captain is all it took, I wish Emery had done it sooner. However with the Koscielny and Ozil situations, that is definitely a case of hindsight. I’m not sure he won’t be exposed by better teams or in better conditions but it was a good start.

Ratings (I’d have given 5’s for our average players but I thought it was a difficult game to shine in so not making mistakes was crucial – therefore 6 is an average for this game) :

Leno: Made a couple of crucial saves and didn’t make any mistakes both with keeping and distribution. Maybe could come off his line occasionally on crosses – 7

Chambers – I thought he may get taken apart by James. He didn’t he was awesome. Crossing wasn’t stellar but his overall attacking play was very good. Defensively very solid – 8

Kolasinac – Really good, especially as he spent a lot of the game defending. He has pleasantly surprised me over the last few games. His form will allow Tierney a gentle introduction which will help prevent re-injury. – 8

Sokratis – Solid and dependable – no bonehead decisions or mistakes – 6.5

Luiz – Apart from one attempted dribble that nearly cost us in the first half, more of what you’d expect from him. Played well – 6.5

Xhaka – Somewhat inspired performance. Tracked back with purpose and pace. Can’t tackle worth a lick but with this application and effort, could be an asset. A solid performance by your central midfielder will make our defenders look better, (which seems kinda obvious UNAI !!!) – 7

Torreira – Worked hard and played well positionally. Got forward a lot but he isn’t a goal scoring midfielder. If Unai thinks he is, he’ll have a lot of average games This was one – 6

Guendouzi – Yet again our best player. Was everywhere and made things happen. He takes a lot of risks and will get caught out. But his plus % over a season will far outweigh the negatives. Going from strength to strength. – 8.5

Pepe – Complete crap. He deserves criticism when he’s this bad. Doesn’t mean he’s not a great player or a bust.He will get better. But how he lasted 75 mins is beyond me. – 3

Aubameyang – Led the line well. Still looks like he’s having fun while working hard. Will benefit from a strike partner that doesn’t play like me. Took his goal brilliantly. – 7

Saka – Was awesome. He’s doing for us what I expected Pepe to do, taking players on and beating them. Held the ball up really well too, especially considering the tool he was up against. Made one or two errors but for the most part, awesome – 8

Subs:

Ceballos – I like this guy. Maybe that makes me biased but I lost count of how many times he tracked back at pace to help the defence. It means a lot to us as fans. He didn’t get a chance to shine creatively but he will if we build on this stepping stone and start defending as a team. – 7

Nelson – Wouldn’t have made this substitution, would have brought Willock on for Pepe at the same time as Ceballos came on. However, Reiss played well, worked hard to help Chambers and got forward well too. Had a chance but snatched at his shot. – 6.5

Willock – No time to make a difference but every time this kid comes on, I can’t believe he’s not starting. Probably my bias but I don’t think so.

Unai – I wish he’d give his form players a chance. Until he does so, I have reservations about him. However for this game, did a competent job. – 6

Overall, not a great performance but in the scheme of things, we may look back at a good point gained. Hopefully a turning point for Xhaka and the overall mentality of the team. Along with Xhaka, players I’ve recently citicised and doubted played well namely Luiz, Sokratis, Kolasinac. Mostly their effort and application was evident and is appreciated by us fans. Now we need to move forward instead of stepping back.

MikeM


Emery v Solskjaer … Which Manager Will Get Their Game Plan Right?

September 30, 2019

This evening we travel to Old Trafford for our seventh fixture of the season. Our away form is terrible so this will be a big test of character. Old Trafford is still Old Trafford, Fergie left a long time ago but their supporters will expect a win against us.

Going into the game we will still be without Lacazette and the talk is that Man U will be without Pogba, Rashford and Martial.

Unai Emery has had a full week to plan who is going to be in his team this evening. After great performances from Chambers and Holding during mid-week can he afford to leave them out of his starting lineup?

With Xhaka named as club captain this week he will now be the first name on the team sheet. I expect to see Guendouzi and Torreira alongside him. Maybe Joe Willock has done enough to start instead of Torreira?

Up front we have the magnificent Aubameyang with Pepe and Ceballos either side.

Back to the choice of defenders. This game comes too soon, sadly, for both Bellerin and Tierney to start so I expect we will see Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac. Fingers crossed, Holding will play alongside ……. meh, I can’t decide which other CB to play. Sokratis, Luiz or Mustafi??? I think Emery with play Luiz.

So here’s my thoughts on the team …..

 

We haven’t managed to beat a poor Man U side at Old Trafford in recent times. There is huge history between these clubs and the Wenger/Fergie years produced a great rivalry in which we won the league at their ground in 2002. Oh happy days.

I’m not convinced that either Emery or Solskjaer are the right men to lead these great clubs but this is where we are.

Both sets of supporters will be hoping that their teams don’t make silly mistakes. It’s too early in the season to say it’s a crucial game but a win puts us back in the top four. COYG

peachesgooner