Toon dooned by a Xhaka boom

September 16, 2018

First Half

Nothing happened. Hopes (and fears) for a deluge of goals were battered on a sea of directionless football from both sides. No shots on target, virtually no shots. Duller than a day trip to Sunderland.

Second half

Another half time sub, presumably a firework or two tactically inserted and a different Arsenal emerged for the second period. The ball suddenly became an important ingredient in the footballers’ toolkit. Torreira injected an urgency and positive momentum that the first 45 had totally lacked.

Ozil and Ramsey, instead of looking like Arsenal’s equivalent of Lampard/Gerrard, started to enjoy finding each other. Every player looked hungry for the ball and keen to find space for a pass when not in possession.

Auba was fouled a few yards outside the area and it looked as though Torreira had decided he fancied a pop. Lo and behold, Granit produced a peach and Arsenal’s first goal direct from a free kick for donkeys. Beauty.

The whole red and white machine was suddenly infused with extra confidence and a second looked likely as Toon heads dropped. Mesut passed the ball into the net 10 minutes later after a blocked effort from Laca and that looked to be enough to see off the demoralised barcodes.

Arsenal, being Arsenal regardless of who the manager is, still managed to give us all kittens in the final 5 minutes of the match. First Cech had to make his first meaningful save from a free header at the back post, before an identical chance was duly despatched as injury time began. Thank Dennis there were only the three extra minutes to endure.

Summary

Guendouzi must have been perplexed seeing the Arsenal side which emerged from the tunnel after half time. It looked one he might have enjoyed playing in. That first period, on the other hand, probably made him grateful he’d been hooked.

Why did we ease off after the second goal? Was the tactic to allow the opposition to come on to us and then to pick them off on the counter? Two goals rarely seems like a convincing lead where Arsenal are concerned.

Anyway it turned out that they were enough in the final reckoning. Another away win, three points in the bag plus two home fixtures next up and things look a whole lot rosier than when we were in ‘crisis’  a few games ago.

Ratings

Cech – more comedy on the floor from Petr’s feet. A couple of dangerous passes followed by humping it up the pitch. Strange. Had little to do with his hands, one decent stop from the header and numerous catches of overhit lofted balls into the area….6

Bellerin – acres of space behind him in the first half. Good job Shkodran is always there to cover with his lightning pace. Still think Lichtsteiner behind him makes sense. Hector is always dangerous going forward though….6

Mustafi – some good stuff in amongst some typically crazy moments….5

Sokratis – stoic and resolute from our stone faced Greek. Made several important tackles, blocks and interceptions plus he even showed a yard of pace. Settling in nicely….7

Monreal – competent without having too much to do….6

Guendouzi – seems to have lost just a touch of his earlier confidence. Though when passing backwards is your only option as it was in that appalling first half, it’s always going to be a struggle….5

Xhaka – grew into the game, usual high number of passes and a glorious peach of a dead ball which sailed into the net….7

Ramsey – completely anonymous and disinterested in the first period. Much better when the football began in the second….5

Ozil – looked especially pleased to mark his 200th appearance with a goal….6

Laca – tried hard to make an impact throughout. Didn’t have a great deal of service….6

Auba – no smiles in the first half and didn’t look comfortable on the ball before finally being withdrawn….5

Subs

Torreira – another 45 minutes for the Uruguayan. Seemed to make an immediate impact with tempo and forward movement….6

Mkhitaryan – tidy in possession without achieving much at all….5

Welbeck – one impressive break but didn’t have the balance to finish off a fine chance….5

Manager – changed things at half time which was much needed….6

chas

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Is Xhaka Pants?

September 12, 2018

Well. is he?

Xhaka has become the butt of the doubters and stands in danger of getting the Eboue, Cygan, Squillaci, Stepanovs or Song treatment. None of them were bad players but only two of them were able to turn the “haters” (horrible modern word).

At Cardiff, Xhaka made 99 passes at a success rate of 86%, almost all of which were forward passes, yet what do most fans focus on? A pass he made up the pitch that led to a goal. Nothing said about the awful defending by the MF’s or the defenders, No, the fault was all Xhaka’s. He was even castigated for taking a yellow stopping a counter-attack,  a tactic we have been calling for. Yes, he has lapses of concentration but he is far and away our best player to distribute the ball after receiving a pass from the CB’s.

What do Emery and Wenger see in him? There must be something as Granit has been first choice for both managers ever since his arrival 3 seasons ago.

The man has a vicious and accurate shot on him. Could it be the coaching which has curbed his ability to score from distance or could it be that he knows the crowd reaction should his shot hit Row X?

Every player needs confidence, they need to feel loved yet the modern fan expects perfection and that pressure can make a player hide. It is the manager who has to help players overcome the pressure.

There are other players whom the faithful have doubts about; Mustafi, Bellerin, Ramsey, Cech and even Ozil. Does open criticism help them improve? My hope is that the players do not watch Arsenal TV which is dominated by airheads.

So, is Xhaka pants? What do you think?

Written by Big Raddy


International Rescue – who’s coming back unscathed?

September 10, 2018

Saturday

Along with Danny Welbeck’s five minute cameo for England and the surrounding controversy, some other Arsenal players were involved in action for their national sides.

Mo Elneny had a leisurely run out for Egypt in a 6-0 win against Niger in their opening African Nations Cup qualifier. He even managed to pop up with the final goal of the six, which apparently bounced off the keeper into the net. Sounds a cracker!

Difficult to find a photo of Mo playing but they might be his dreads in the background!

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang equalised against Burundi, thus salvaging a draw for Gabon in more African Cup action. Auba also captained the side.

Granit played the full ninety for Switzerland as they cruised past Iceland on Saturday. Granit was booked – Quelle Surprise!  Stephan Lichtsteiner didn’t even appear to be on the bench?????

Sokratis Papastathopoulos also played the full match in Greece’s sparkling 1-0 win over Estonia.

Lucas Torreira was substituted at half time playing for Uruguay versus Mexico and apparently had ice applied to his calf during the second half. Cosmic.

Sunday

Rambo lost with Wales to a couple of spawny efforts from Eriksen.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan also lost in Armenia’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Macedonia.

Tuesday

Granit, Stephan and Danny could feature in the tedious England Switzerland friendly at Wembley.

Sokratis will again have the chance to hone his skills against Hungary in one of the group C games of the UEFA Nations Cup.


Give the new guys a try, Unai!

September 5, 2018

Hopefully most AAers are prepared to give Dick a real chance to get things right before they decry too much his tactics or methods.

I for one am looking for, amongst many other things, a change in attacking style. For many of the last five to ten years of the Wenger era we heard regularly from pundits and other “experts” the phrases……..

“typical Arsenal trying to walk the ball into the net”

or

“Arsenal – always trying to score the perfect goal”.

And as we know occasionally we managed to do just that!! Witness Jack W. against Norwich. But, for me, in the last two seasons we often seemed to do away with the “ball into the net” bit entirely!

Passing for passing sake drives me mad! If you receive the ball over a short distance as, say a midfielder, from a defender or fellow midfielder, it’s not compulsory to play it back to him, once, twice, three times. You are not playing that one touch game in a circle where you try to make twenty passes, or nutmeg one of the players in the middle, so you can then make a high pitched stupid noise in unison to ridicule him.

Instead you have a choice. Receive the ball on the half turn, sense where the nearest opponent is and sometimes “turn”, then get your head up and look for a pass forward with a sense of urgency. This is one of the reasons I loved Santi so much, and felt of all the players missed most in those two seasons, his was by far the most serious loss.

I nearly left the conversation on the site post Sunday’s game to the regulars, as I didn’t feel I could add much to the debate. But then, like some kind of soft drug addict, I was suckered in by two things.

Firstly, LB’s question to himself,  which player “is decisive and moves the ball forward quicker than most any other player?” (like Manshitty and to some extent, Totteringham, I thought)

………the answer he said, was Guendouzi.

Added to this I have my own question. Who does the same, and is also more accurate than both Ramsey or Xhaka?

……….and the answer for me, is Torreira.

Play them both and alongside each other.

The second trigger for me was the degree of praise offered by a number of respected regulars to both Xhaka and Ramsey for their Sunday performances. I have a follow up question to any and all, but especially the statisticians. Of the 162 total passes made by Ramsey and Xhaka on Sunday, how many had no influence whatsoever on the game whether successful or not?

Play the new generation Dick, as part of the new chapter for our Club, and see how it goes.

Written by LBG


Who partners Torreira? – Poll

August 29, 2018

Having sorted out Arsenal’s right side rearguard and assisting flank provider yesterday, today we turn our attention to the midfield pivot.

Everyone is clamouring for Lucas Torreira to start just in front of the back four. Surely the only reason for this not happening so far is due to fitness and/or acclimatisation. So Torreira is a given.

The question then arises, ‘who partners him?’ or, in fact, ‘can he handle the job on his Jack Jones?’.

Let’s take a look at the candidates………………..

Granit Xhaka – building up some decent experience of Premiership skirmishes, Granit possesses a fine left foot. His passing range is good though eye of the needle passes are rare. He’s more of a spread it wide to the wingfenders kind of midfielder.

Mo Elneny – economical, functional and effective, Mo does his job with a minimum of fuss, shifting the ball to others in better positions to deliver a telling pass. Has a great engine and is very mobile.

Matteo Guendouzi – his storming pre-season earned him a place in the team for our opening fixtures. Has a keen eye for a pass and really does like to play the ball forwards into dangerous positions which makes him stand out. Let’s hope the occasional misplaced pass so far, doesn’t knock his confidence too much and he continues to shine.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles – it has been mooted that A M-N could be an effective element of a double pivot. Fast, confident and excellent in the tackle, he does seem to possess the necessary attributes. Has become a bit of a utility player with Arsenal’s need for an auxiliary left back and others suggest his natural position is further up the line providing ammo for the strikers.

Aaron Ramsey – could Aaron find the discipline required to remain in that central area of the midfield? Or maybe Lucas requires a partner with more of a box-to-box feel.  Perhaps Aaron might partner Torreira against particular types of opposition? Though maybe Rambo’s creativity and eye for goal are wasted playing in a deeper role.

Mesut Ozil – perhaps Unai has asked Mesut if he fancies becoming more of a Pirlo-style midfielder, conducting the whole orchestra from a deeper podium and that has caused some consternation. Apparently Mesut has had the highest number of turnovers so far of anyone playing in Emery’s new Arsenal high press.

What do you think? Perhaps you don’t think Lucas Torriera will be the first name on the team sheet even when he has got used to London and the English Premier League?

Maybe Unai Emery already has a good idea of his ideal team members and all with be revealed in the fullness of time.

chas 


Arsenal v Chelsea – plans firming up

August 1, 2018

Apparently today’s friendly in Dublin is still part of the International Champions Cup so it’s all to play for!


New chav manager Maurizio Sarri will be at a similar stage to Unai with ideas forming as to who will be playing for him in the new look West London set-up.

With only today’s and Saturday’s game in Stockholm against Lazio remaining, time is running out for Unai Emery to decide which players are edging towards his first Premier League selection.

Even before this week’s return to training of Granit, Nacho, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Lucas Torreira, there appeared to be a multitude of options. Now is the time for those to be whittled down.

Historically, the youngsters who impress on pre-season tours often get moved to the sidelines once we get down to the nitty gritty of the League. In a way I’m hoping that Matteo Guendouzi and Emile Smith-Rowe are, at least, given the opportunity to claim a spot on the bench for early Prem games. They’ve been like a breath of fresh air.

Regardless of that, I’m sure Emery, Carlos Carcedo and Stevie Bould will come up with the right players and formation.

COYRRG


Which Midfielder needs to Leave??

June 8, 2018

We have signed a man at the end of his career and one whose career has yet to start. Welcome both the Swiss fellow and the French chap.

We need to trim the squad. Starting with midfield, who gets sold?

One or more of Wilshire, Ramsey, Iwobi or Xhaka.

Xhaka? Towards the end of the season Xhaka showed he is becoming accustomed to the PL. He is a vital part of the team, a player who controls the pace of the midfield. He no longer gets red cards for stupid tackles but is more considered in his work. Definitely a keeper and next season could be a when we see his true quality. A big WC and his value will rocket. We need him to stay until M-N flowers.

Wilshire? His reluctance to sign his contract is worrying but should we keep him even if he is willing to sign? Jack is a proper Gooner who has been at the club since childhood, it would be sad if he moved on but his play is simply not good enough to get us to a Top 4 place. I ask this question … would JW get into any of the 5 teams above us? The answer is No. So, he has to go.

Ramsey? You know he is one of my favourite players but does he fit into the current squad? Not really. He is a wonderful player with all the attributes for a dynamic midfielder but he just doesn’t fit with Ozil and, for me, the team has to work around Mesut as it did around DB10. If Aaron hasn’t signed a contract extension by mid-July then he has to go. We should sell him whilst he still has a value. If he signs, and it is a big IF, will he be happy playing a bit-part? I doubt it.. If he goes, we will be losing  a man who has scored two winning FAC goals. It would be a sad but necessary loss.

Iwobi? Has tremendous potential but can he achieve it? Can he do so at AFC where he will not, for the time being, be a first choice player?  Lack of true pace is his problem because he has all the other skills needed to be a fine attacking MF. Another who could have a big WC. We have to keep him.

Would it be to the detriment of the squad if both JW and AR left? Of course it would – they are both International quality players but Arsenal are no longer a Wenger team and perhaps these men are part of our past, not our future.

I could be wrong but I very much doubt both will be at Arsenal come August.

written by Big Raddy