Goal fest at The Emirates …….. everyone shines

September 25, 2019

It became pretty clear soon after the start that there was only going to be one winner and so it turned out to be with the good guys cruising to victory giving the endangered Emery three wins in a week. The penny is going to drop soon! The gulf of talent between the two sides was substantial and the game was in danger of becoming too one sided but as the saying goes: you can only beat who is in front of you and that is exactly what this young Arsenal side did – convincingly.

Martinez: touched the ball two or three times, didn’t have to make a save, clean sheet so 10

Chambers: three assists, what’s not to like? 10

Mustafi: in this parallel universe Skhodran is a cool, calm, thoughtful player: 9; he loses one just to keep the collective bias going.

Holding: Big Rob is back, and scoring goals to boot, interesting to see how UE reintegrates him into the first team:10

Tierney: oooh, oooh, this boy has a brain; he is so intelligent with the ball; his passing and crossing are superb, looks about 12 from where I was sitting, again should be interesting how UE introduces him into the first team but my guess is that he is not going to rush: 10

Torriera: playing the pure DM role tonight and played it well, is Emery going to take the risk of playing him there in the EPL, watch this space, great game: 10

Willock: all over the place; as in, covered every inch of the pitch, driving us forward and finding the back of the net:10

Ozil: Classy as ever but while everyone around him was giving 110% he still gives the impression that he would prefer to be on the beach. 8

Smith-Rowe (lab) Hope the going off was just precautionary: 10

Martinelli: started very brightly and getting on the score sheet but disappeared in the second half until he popped up towards the end to score the goal of the night.10

Nelson: I am writing this in bed so I have got to hurry now, she who must be obeyed is coming. Reis, got his goal, not going to jump back ahead of Saka but still on the right track:10

Subs

Saka: growing in confidence with every minute on the big stage that he gets: 10

Ceballos: offers more than Ozil in the Emery world of things:10

Bellerin: Hector is back yayyyyyyyyyyyyyy: 10

LB

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Cariboa cup Arsenal v Nottingham Forest pre-match

September 24, 2019

The Carabao Cup returns on Tuesday evening. Arsenal welcome Nottingham Forest to the Emirates, in the 3rd round of the competition.

 

Our opponents are on a pretty impressive run, not only knocking out Derby in the last round, but are also sitting in 6th place in the championship, having lost only once, on the opening day.

Forest is now home to the one and only Carl Jenkinson (we love you, Jenko!) After 8 years (& various loan spells) with us (41 appearances, 1 goal) he bade us farewell & headed for pastures new. He’ll always be welcomed back at the Emirates ……….. just a shame it won’t be tonight, as he’s injured his ankle! Get well soon, Jenko!

After our heroics, against Villa, on Sunday.. I expect a lot of rotation. Maitland-Niles will be missing through suspension, due to his dismissal. Lacazette is still out of contention. It may be too soon for Bellerin & Tierney, having only played 62 minutes for the U23’s at the weekend. Holding is now available and we may even see Mavrapanos.

This is who I’ll go with –

Martinez
Chambers   Mustafi   Holding   Kolasinac
Willock   Torreira   Saka
Martinelli   Ozil   Nelson

I also think we’ll see John-Jules and Balogun make an appearance, from the bench.

We’ve played Nottingham Forest before, at the same stage of this competition, back in 2016. Arsenal ran out 4-0 winners at the City ground. Forest had their revenge, 2 years later, winning 4-2, at the same venue, in the FA cup and completely ruined my Birthday! So come on Arsenal!!!

I’m fancying a penalty shoot out….

Mrs Kolasinac


Ceballos and Luiz are Key to Beating Liverpool

August 20, 2019

Ceballos has changed my mind regarding the Pool away game. He goes straight on to the team sheet. I believe we can beat Pool away.

They are an excellent team. They press, have pace, energy, physical presence, technical ability, a formidable front 3, and have counter attacking ability – whilst we press, have pace, energy, physical presence, technical ability, a formidable front 3, and have counter attacking ability………. ooh ditto.

Our key is to get our combinations right. I buck the trend in feeling that Willock is slightly ahead of Gouzi for a game like this during to being slightly quicker and more dynamic, and Liverpool play at a very fast pace. Also he is probably ahead of Torreira fitness wise at the moment.

I dont think we can get away with 2 box-to-box type midfielders working out who goes and who covers with Pool at Anfield. Surely this is a game to play Luiz in front of the back 4 at the base of our midfield.

I see it as 2 triangles or pyramids in a mirror image sharing an apex point, that being Luiz. It is a variation on the 4-3-3 but is more a 4-1-2-3:

 

 

I believe we can topple the mighty Pool at Anfield with that. It has everything covered in shape, defence, pace and high energy, ball distribution, and goals.

GoonerB


Arsenal in The Middle of a Defensive Dilemma

August 16, 2019

Let’s look at the best DM’s around and figure out who we’d take if we had our choice. Then let’s see who we have and what they’re capable of. Then come to a conclusion on how we should best set up.

For me, past best was Busquets. Best now is Kante in my opinion.

A good DM needs the following attributes in this order

1) Positional discipline
2) Ability to win the ball including anticipation and agility
3) Reading the game and opponents in possession
4) Pressure in our defensive third to stop easy balls though and behind the last line
5) Ball distribution
6) Offensive threat and creativity including goals

I think Busquets had 1-4 in spades and 5 was just a Barca thing. Kante has 1-4. Strangely enough Sarri didn’t think that was enough and brought in Georginho who has #1 and 5 but lacks the rest from what I see.

If I could pick a DM for us it would be Kante. His extreme engine makes him better than the rest just because if he is out of position his recovery speed is incredible. Leicester and Chelsea will attest to that.

So what do we have?  No Kante. That’s certain.

Torreira is the closest in my opinion. Probably a little better distribution but definitely the best at winning possession and breaking up play.

Guendouzi has the engine but lacks a little positional discipline and probably not as good a ball winner.

You all probably know how I feel about Xhaka but if not, let me clarify. He has 5 and 6. No clue about 1-4. Probably our least effective DM as far as I can see.

Luiz would be proficient at 2 and 5 and Chambers at 1 and 4.

So for me,Torreira is way ahead and Guendouzi next best. For those of you that think Willock, I’d agree 100% on one contingency. Emery.

And that’s where I see the solution lies. UE needs to act like a manager in control of his team and instruct – no DEMAND that his DM plays the role. I think Joe Willock would happily do the job if he’s given the task and he checks all the boxes. So come on Unai, sort it out and make us solid. Pep, Klopp and Pochettino would. Will you?

Mike M


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.

Subs:

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?

RockyLives


Unai, Wake Up! … Xhaka + Özil + Mhki = Disastrous Defending

August 7, 2019

My take on the pre-season is now focused on what we can expect from the coming season based on what we saw, how we ended last season and what improvements, if any, we have made.

Summary of last season is that we had a very effective “new manager bump” which put us in pole position to qualify for the Champions League. However with a typically Arsenally (what we used to refer to as Spursy) finish to the season we blew it in what I think was pretty spectacularly bad fashion. There were fundamental problems:

  1. We couldn’t defend properly and conceded way too many poor goals. My humble opinion on this is that as bad as our defenders appeared to play, we just defended horribly as a team. Our pressing during the first part of the season was quite good but after March, it was amateurish. We had no one who could hold the ball and relieve pressure. We had also signed what I think is a very good keeper which made it all the more frustrating.
  2. We weren’t direct going forward and (as usual) had no plan B if teams parked the bus. Our playmakers (Ozil, Miki and Iwobi) failed fairly miserably as a group. When Ramsey finally got into the team, he offered directness and we played better. When he got hurt, we were done.
  3. We had no heart, balls whatever word you want to use. A team devoid of leadership and such a weak mentality, I thought we were Spurs during the 2000’s!!! Seriously though, both us and Manure were horribly weak mentally and the final positions reflected that.

So I was looking to Unai to change three things really. Mentality, mentality and mentality.

On to pre-season. We won our first few games, beat Bayern and went 2-0 ahead against Madrid. I wrote in my match report I wondered if we’d really turned the corner or if we’d revert to type.

We did the latter. Gave that match away, played really quite well against Lyon (apparently, I didn’t see it) and lost that one, then lost against Barca after I thought, a fairly competent first half performance and a 1-0 lead. I know it’s pre-season but what have we learned?  Apparently not a lot. Here are my concerns with the manager for the coming season.

  1. We still aren’t defending well as a team. I don’t see that has been addressed. It strikes me as strange that at 2-0 ahead against a 10 man Real, then our most experienced defender gets 2 yellows in 5 mins. We had opportunities to kill the game off. We go in 2-0 up at half time, then he brings off Willock and leaves Ozil to defend ahead of our full back. We coughed it up and if Ascencio hadn’t got hurt, would have probably lost. And we still had 2 golden chances to win the game at the end but failed to take them. We lose to Lyon after a couple of marginal decisions and AMN not having the greatest of games. Why? If he’s not motivated after pulling the shirt on, who is? (I know he’s had some problems in his personal life so I’m giving him the benefit). Where’s the manager in this? Then we lose to Barca after being ahead 1-0 at half time because again we take off our best midfielder and put Ozil to defend our right and Miki to defend the left. No wonder we aren’t happy with how they played. They can’t defend !!!!!!!!!! Does Unai know that?
  2. Granit Xhaka. I still don’t put Mustafi in this category, Granit stands alone for me. Maybe I’m mistaken but a holding midfielder needs strength, agility, speed and awareness. Xhaka has none of these. His tackling is poor, he gives away loads of free kicks and possession because he’s poorly positioned, misread the situation or just gets outmuscled, outfought or outrun. Compared him to his top 5 peers. Kante, Jorginho (who’s not great either), Fernandinho, and basically any of the Liverpool or Spuds midfield. Not only would he not get a look in at any of them, he wouldn’t even start at United. Not to mention Wolves, Everton, Leicester. What does he do well? He strikes a ball and makes the occasional sublime pass. But I see the same Xhaka as last season and for those of you that know me, what Emery does with Xhaka was going to define how I see his second season. I have been a fan and advocate of Emery since he started and firmly believed he should be given a year, which he has been. I just don’t understand his persistence with Xhaka.
  3. MENTALITY!!! We are soft. No one expects us to take the lead and hold it. Pre-season has just re-iterated that and in any sport, winning becomes a habit. So does losing and weak mental performance. I know Klopp said you can’t become a big winner without losing big first. Hope he’s right because if so, we’ll win the quadruple this year !!! But I’m not holding my breath. Liverpool, City and Spuds are miles ahead of us in this category. And it’s squarely down to their managers.

In trying to be balanced, I must say I’m completely impressed with our transfer window. Hopefully we’ll sign a central defender which will make it an 11/10 instead of the 8.5/10 it is now. I also believe the signings we have made, although not defensive, will help with our ball retention and therefore indirectly with our defending as a team.

Pepe and Ceballos look like they’ll be tremendous signings and there’s more than one way to defend. So let’s see what Unai has planned. I’m concerned we haven’t signed a CB and if Xhaka starts and Miki and Ozil are deployed in front of our full backs, I see a frustrating season ahead.

Please prove me wrong Unai and Granit !!!!!!!!!

Mike M


The Emirates Hic-Cup … Arsenal 1 Lyon 2 – Match Report and Player Ratings

July 29, 2019

This was the sixth of our preseason games. We fielded a mixed side comprising Leno, AMN, Chambers, Sokratis, Monreal, Willock, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, and Lacazette.

My initial thought was that I was glad to see Willock playing consistently in the first team and that we are moving away from the Mkhitaryan and Mesut combo. In reality, I suspect they were probably rested because of the attack earlier in the week. With Mkhitaryan seemingly playing on the left, I wondered who’s going to be playing the Mesut role?

 

First Half

There was a minute of applause for former Arsenal player Jose Antonio Reyes who was taken from us way to soon, may he rest in peace.

One thing I have noticed is how quickly Arsenal have been starting games in the preseason, and this game was no exception. Monreal hasn’t looked up to it early in preseason, but today he was sharp, on one occasion bursting down the  left flank and crossing but not finding an Arsenal shirt, and then on another being bundled over in penalty box. Sadly the ref wasn’t having any of it.

Lacazette was replaced early on by Nelson. He was seen later wearing a protective boot –   let’s hope this was just for precaution. Aubameyang moved to central striker with Mkhitaryan now playing on the right. Willock looked really bright,  collecting the ball from Guendouzi and smartly turning for a low shot into the keeper, and then soon after was involved in an attacking move in the penalty box. But he was eventually smothered by the  amassed defenders.

Arsenal displayed some great interchanging football. The opening goal came when Mkhitaryan who crossed to Aubamyang who headed the ball home, making it 1 nil to The Arsenal. Lyon had an appeal for hand ball by Chambers turned down, I wondered when I saw it if this would have been given in the EPL this season. Willock was ever present and was our best player in the first half.

 

Second Half

The first change for the second half was Nketiah on for Guendouzi. With this, Aubameyang moved back out to the right, Mkhitaryan was now playing the link between midfield and attack which I think his best position, and with Eddie as striker.

The two sides were going at it second half with Lyon now creating more. Nketiah headed a ball over the bar, and then fluffed his lines again missing a cross from Nelson. Soon after that, Nketiah received a ball in the box and turned sharply but his shot was smothered by the keeper. The chant of Eddie, Eddie, Eddie rang round The Emirates, he really is a fans’ favourite.

Some poor defending by Maitland-Nyles  failing to block a cross led to the equaliser from Dembele. Shortly after, AMN did make a great block on Dembele showing he can play with discipline. Arsenal thought they had restored their lead when Martinelli put the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled as offside. Soon after, we failed to operate the offside trap correctly and Dembele made it 1-2 for Lyon. Arsenal had a few more opportunities but couldn’t take their chances. Lyon were crowned 2019 Emirates Cup Champions – not a big deal, it’s always been a slightly embarrassing competition, but still, it’s better to win than lose.

Conclusion

Arsenal’s second loss in preseason was frustrating. We were in control in both games and yet ended up losing. It was another promising performance by the Arsenal youngsters. Nelson had a good industrious game, although he struggled to get through Lyon’s defense. Willock was amazing once again and Eddie did the hard work by getting into the goal scoring positions but then  lacked the composure he had shown in earlier preseason games.

If only Arsenal could change how they defend. Good to see Chambers back and at least he put in a good defensive performance. There was one occasion when Sokratis brought down Dembele and was lucky not avoid a card. We’ve seen it many times before. Our defenders are too slow to play such a high line.

 

Ratings

Leno 7 – solid game but was left exposed for both goals

Maitland-Nyles 6  – needs to work on his defending

Sokratis 6 – solid today but still reckless when given the chance

Chambers 7 – was solid again nice to see him finally getting his chance

Monreal 6  – looked lively

Wiilock 9 – another great game and shouldn’t have been taken off …  MOTM

Xhaka 5 – Can the crowd please stop telling him to shoot

Guendouzi 5 – Nice to see him back

Mkhitaryan 6 – great assist for the goal

Aubameyang 7 –  took his chance well and caused trouble whole game

Lacazette 5 – let’s hope it nothing serious

 

Subs

Nketiah 7 – impressive as always, unlucky again not to score

Nelson 6  – I’m still waiting for him to impress me

fred1266