Is Guendouzi really lightweight, Mesut really lazy, Mustafi an accident waiting to happen?

April 3, 2019

One of the topics of discussion from the Arsenal Toon game was Matteo Guendouzi and how different spectators see different things when watching his performances. This brings me to ‘confirmation bias’. Basically we choose what we want to see and, one would imagine that in terms of football fans, this phenomenon is positively viral in its contagion.

Here’s the Wiki definition of the term …..

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.

Back to some specific examples. Mattteo Guendouzi is still ten days away from not being a teenager anymore. Before coming to Arsenal he played a handful of games for Lorient in his debut season of 2016/17 (Lorient were relegated). He featured 21 times in the following season in the French second tier and Lorient finished 7th. So far this season he has made 34 (23 League) appearances across all competitions for a top 6 EPL side.  This is just background and may or may not be of any significance.

Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

What do you think the answer to the question is, ‘Does Guendouzi get caught in possession more times on average than Granit Xhaka or than Lucas Torreira?’ The answer is probably that for central midfielders, they all get caught a similar number of times – it’s the nature of the position to a certain extent, especially as the high press is the current fashion for every Klopp, Pep and Wagner.

How about ‘Does Guendouzi make more misplaced passes than the other two?’ Their pass accuracy percentages are 87.7, 87.6 and 85.2. Matteo top, then Lucas followed by Granit. Granit plays twice as many long balls per game which probably accounts for part of this difference.

Is Mesut lazy? If so, why does he clock up so many k’s over a season. (2016/7 season figures given just because they were handy)

2016/7 season

Is Shkodran Mustafi an accident waiting to happen? Does he launch into ‘flat on his a*se’ tackles at every available opportunity? If this is the case, why does he top the stats for tackles for the whole Arsenal squad?

It’s not so very far back that Aaron Ramsey was always slated on Arsenal blogs across the world for slowing the game down, being ponderous on the ball and indecisive when it came to the crunch. Now that he’s leaving, he’s suddenly become the best player since Zidane and absolutely crucial to Arsenal’s team play. Where does the truth lie? Somewhere in the middle, maybe?

Many Arsenal fans (well, it’s probably true for all fans of other teams, too) like to have their favourite players and also the ones they just can’t bear to see on the teamsheet. AdeBarnDoor was a prime example, Walcott another. What I find difficult to understand is that if you make up your mind that a particular player is pants, what do you do when they have a good game? Do you celebrate any goals they might score?

My particular strongest confirmation bias is against refs. Why are they all against us? Don’t they like the red and white shirts? Are they all from the North West? (Most are, as it happens 🙂 ). I realise that a lot of the time it’s irrational, but hell, I’m blowed if I’m going to stop doing it. I love it.

Anyway, enough of this waffle. All I’m saying is that we all see what we want to see and have our own multitudinous confirmation biases going on in our heads every time we watch a game.

After all, that’s where varying opinions come from and is partly what makes blogging or shooting the breeze in the pub so popular.

Thoughts?

chas

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

February 19, 2019

Time for a poll.

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

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

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

Mo Elneny

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

from AFC.com

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

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

Aaron Ramsey

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

Mesut Özil

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

Lucas Torreira

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

Celebrating his goal against the spuds

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

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

Denis Suarez

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

Matteo Guendouzi

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

Granit Xhaka

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

Alex Iwobi

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

Others

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

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

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

chas 


Wow, that was a hell of a half time talk! – Leicester ratings

October 23, 2018

We were so poor in the first 30 minutes I was starting to wonder why I’d made the trip down from Notts. By the end of the second half I was ecstatic and delighted to clap my team off the pitch.

Occasionally under Arsene it seemed as though a half time doobie had been partaken of, because of the sluggish way we came out for the second period. Under Unai it’s the complete opposite. (Mind you, Mesut’s deliberate cannon off the post just before half time must have given the boys a shot in the arm, as well.) 🙂

Leicester looked a yard faster and fillet steak with pepper sauce hungrier at the start of the game. Arsenal’s front 4 may as well not have been on the pitch. All of the micro-management directions on how to play Leicester either hadn’t been given or were completely ignored. Free kicks were given away in the final third (partly down to an appalling display from the ref), possession was conceded in our own half playing to their counter-attacking strengths and a lethargic work rate all contributed to the feeling that it was only a matter of time.

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Bernd made a superb save from the unicorn rider before being finally beaten by a spawny deflection. One nil down and fully deserved. Finally we woke up and seemed to realise that another gear would have to be found. Wobbly cracked in a fine drive after good build up play which turned out to be the aubergine mezes before the superb Mesut inspired lamb tagine. Micki getting dragged over just as Hector returned Ozil’s pass seemed to distract the blue defence and our Mesut’s guiding of the ball sidefooted off the cushion has never been executed by Ronnie O’Sullivan with greater aplomb. Back in it right on the stroke of half time. Perfect.

The second half could not have been more different to the first. Leicester went from looking threatening to looking terrified with a red tsunami bearing down upon the North Bank goal.

Iwobi suddenly began to live up to his recent rave reviews. Mesut’s speed of thought overtook and then completely buried Leicester’s willingness to run their arses off. The substitutions were just sublime – like attaching a jet engine to a Golf GTI.

Goals two and three were just magical. As Micky said, words are a bit pointless. Rat tat tat, bish bash bosh. Mesut’s pass to Hector for the second, Terrier’s driven pass forward, Mesut’s dummy before Laca’s perfect lay off back for number three were all gems in the middle of such lush gorgeousness. Glorious team play a certain Frenchman would have been purring over. Just perfect. You could see in the celebrations of the players how much they realised they’d created a nigh on perfect team goal. We might have a few contenders in goal of the season at this rate.

Ratings (mostly second half apart from the keeper, but who cares?)

Leno – some excellent saves and many touches on the ground without ever looking too much in trouble…8

Hector – absolutely superb in the second half – two assists…8

Mustafi – pretty damn fine, especially with some intelligent covering in the second half…8

Holding – mature and accomplished – who’s Calum?…8

Lichtsteiner – out of position on the left and it showed…6

Torreira – like the central cog of a timepiece we’ve been missing for so long. Thank Dennis the nasty challenge from Albrighton didn’t cause more damage…9

Xhaka – was better at left back than Stephan…8

Ozil – a goal, an assist and a pre-assist – damaging the opposition where it hurts, what a feckin player…10

Mkhitaryan – seemed a little tired from his trip to Armenia but still contributed…7

Iwobi – looked class in the second half, protecting the ball in possession and always looking for a dangerous pass…8

Laca – appeared somewhat miffed when Auba emerged from the bench for two tap-ins and then proceeded to fluff two glorious chances of his own. His work rate was magnificent throughout and his contribution to the win not to be underestimated…8

Subs

Auba – everything went up a notch when he came on – the sexy half hour was a joy to watch…9

Guendouzi – showed his full range of passing in his half hour on the pitch. Instrumental in the shift up to warp factor ten…9

Rambo – seemed to revel in his small part of the Harlem Globetrotters half hour…8

chas


Bog Snorkelling in Baku – Qarabag Ratings

October 5, 2018

Another game, another clean sheet, eight wins on the trot; ouch, it is going to hurt when we fall. Or maybe we won’t?

In trying to understand the team selection, it struck me that much of what was going on had more to do with November the 3rd than with a second tier team from Azerbaijan. As the more astute would have realised, we play Liverpool on that day and as much as we should win our two games before, we all know that will be our next real test.

And how does this all link into last night’s win? Answer – the choice of defence. Emery set the team up for the best part of the first half with five at the back:

Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Monreal, Kolasinac

Yes, Lichtsteiner and Kolasinac got forward as demonstrated by the first goal but they spent the best part of the first half in the above formation, which against a team of lowly calibre, was belt and braces and unnecessary in my opinion.

Anyway it is just a hunch but if Kolasinac and Monreal start against Liverpool, I can say I was right. Bellerin will obviously replace Lichsteiner.

Once Emery had had a chance to air this experiment, Torriera replaced Monreal at half time and everything calmed down in the way it should have been from the start. I say that as though I know how he does it, but as close as I look, I still don’t understand how the Uruguayan effortlessly seems to be able to have such a huge influence on every game he plays in.

The rest of the team selection was clear that it was designed to give more of the squad a run out. The Guendouzi/Elneny combo is obvious as is Welbeck, Smith-Rowe (Lab) and Iwobi.

courtesy David Price

So enough of that tactics drivel, let’s get onto the serious stuff: Red Shorts? What is that about? The opposition were wearing black shorts so I see no good reason why we should not have been wearing the normal time honoured white shorts. Pink sleeves? Don’t get me started.

It turned out to be a pretty comfortable win, with probably the three players on the pitch that we would most have wanted to have scored the goals, (all in the knowledge that each one of them would benefit confidence-wise from doing so), and so they did.

courtesy David Price

Leno: what a fine goal keeper we have and seamlessly slotting in? Some more great saves…. 8

Lichsteiner: an excellent stand in and proof that the powers that be in the club’s new buying system are working very well, naturally that also applies to Leno…. 7

Holding: why did we loan Chambers to Fulham? Don’t know and don’t care…. 7

Sokratis: it is going to be fascinating to see if Emery sticks with these two on Sunday — he should, they are far from perfect but it made a nice change not to have mop up Mustafi’s usual clangers…. 7

Monreal: Nacho is the most improved player of the squad; he has become authoritative, something that I would never have thought last season; he is clearly benefitting from clearer instruction, the language must help. He tucked in well last tonight as he usually does…. 8

Kolasinac: I loved the way he bulldozed down the wing early on in the game, pushing his opposing defender away like a skittle, pretty good game really…. 7

Guendouzi: getting better and better and now adding goals, it looks like he has a long future at the club…. 8

Elneny: things are moving on and Mo does not seem to be able to keep up, did ok last night but can’t see him being around for too much longer…. 6

Smith Rowe (Lab): the goal obviously did his confidence the world of good, it struck me that he is a striker rather than a midfielder, interesting to see how this one develops…. 7

Iwobi: last season Alex had plateaued; he was going nowhere fast, it is testament to Emery’s man management that he has been given new drive, direction and self belief. I am not sure where it will all end up but at least it is going somewhere…. 8

Welbeck: Danny, Danny, you know I am a fan but you have got to take those chances that come your way…. 6

LB


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 


How Did you Rate our Debutants?

August 15, 2018

How would you rate our summer signings in their first appearance?
This is meant to be a bit of fun; mainly for Eddie who loves a poll!
It’s obviously too early to make any decisions about our new signings but first impressions often linger.

 

Sokratis Papastathopolous – looked a wee bit slow in pre-season but seemed more commanding in his first competitive game – Cretan rock face.

 

Stephan Lichtsteiner – adapted well (as the seasoned pro he is) to making his debut at left back rather than in his natural position – not short of cojones.

 

Matteo Guendouzi – a little shaky to start and then he seemed to realise he could play at Prem level – “I am not calling another man Matteo. Ever.”.

 

Lucas Torreira – only had 20 minutes or so but seemed to have an immediate impact on our midfield shape – terrier or pit bull.

 

chas