The Nicolas Pepe (our Pepe) Show

October 25, 2019

As an attendee, and having agreed with Peaches that I would try to write something that makes sense regarding the game, here goes at 12.30am……..

As I walked from the pub, having picked up the team news as I left, a smug sense of contentment was the overriding feeling. 10 out of 11 of my earlier in the day suggestion for the starting eleven. Not bad for me! At last Dick was on the same page as many who have been on the blog in last few days!!

As the first half came to a close, I commented to the guy next to me. How can a manager select the right players, and then play enough of them out of position as to confuse all of them, and to leave one with the impression that they had only just met as a team before the kick off?!!

Willock and Torreira were playing holding central midfield, except Willock doesn’t play that role and Torreira kept passing then bombing forward and making himself unavailable for the next pass.

Maitland-Niles was playing right wing (poorly, in almost every touch). Tierney continually found himself with two wide players to mark and in the end was rarely able to mark either. Passes went continually astray, sometimes ridiculously. Every thing was slow, laboured, uninspiring. Have you ever trained together lads?

Despite having Tierney ready and able to attack and, as we know cross a delightful ball, we invariably turned in midfield and went down the right. There, Bellerin  (captain??), with no confidence going forward, was passing back or inside every time, has even forgotten what little he knew about defending and seems to want to rugby tackle/hug his opposition to a standstill.( I am also worried he has lost his pace with his injury!)

What of the opposition? Well they said, “this is our lucky day!” “We have no points and have scored no goals so far, make hay, lads!”So they scored two goals and made us look like a (poor) pub team.

In between their efforts Tierney made his one beautiful cross of the half and Martinelli proved he is a talented striker with his head again. Smith-Rowe had a goal bound shot deflected at the last, following a flowing move.

Willock and Maitland-Niles were substituted at half time and on came Ouzi and Ceballos. They were immediately man marked and not much improved initially, but slowly they and the team began to give the impression they at least wanted to win the game! Bellerin actually went to the byline and crossed for Martinelli to hit a perfect strike straight at the goalkeeper. Mustafi headed over, Holding headed into the goalkeeper’s arms. The chances were coming.

Then Pepe came on. He looked as though he had been on the sugary sweets and immediately made the opposition wet their pants with his skilful dribbling. And then we got a free kick on the right hand side of the box and Pepe bent the ball around the wall and passed a helpless goalkeeper for 2-2. Oh well, although we don’t really deserve it, a point is better than a loss! And then Ouzi drove for the box in the first minute of extra time and we got another free kick. Up stepped the “boy” of the moment and bent the ball even more spectacularly around another wall and into the top corner giving the goalkeeper no chance again.

Arsenal 3-2 Vitoria, three points; for me a completely unbelievable game, impossible to explain to anybody who didn’t witness it, that being clearly evident from these very late night ramblings. Apologies to any who saw different.

Player ratings

Martinez 6. A couple of close ish cross shots and no real chance with goals

Bellerin 4 Not very impressive at present following his long term injury.

Mustafi 6 Reasonable for him. No major errors as far as I can remember

Holding 6/7  Likewise, solid and confident generally.

Tierney 6/7 Confused defensively in.first half. Not helped much by the rest of his team. Lovely assist for Martinelli goal and much more involved in attacks in last quarter of game.

Torreira 5 Keen and energetic but Dick seems to have made him into a bit of a headless chicken

Willock 4  Felt sorry for him. Hooked again from a new position with very little support from those around him.

Smith-Rowe 4/5 Effort, but did he have a specific role that he was aware of?

Maitland-Niles 2 Nothing really worked for him. Little support for Hector on right. Flicks and ticks that irritate. Lackadaisical!

Lacazette 6 Effort throughout but nothing really fell for him.

Martinelli 8 My MOTM  Could have scored more, but energetic, determined and worthy of his place.

Subs

Ceballos 6  Usual buzzing around, without too much end product.

Ouzi 6/7 Eventually had significant influence on game with both passing and driving forward.

Pepe 7 Two wonderful strikes that obviously changed the game and will hopefully be the start of a growing confidence from the young man.

LBG


Another rollercoaster …… Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2

September 23, 2019

This was such an interesting game. The first half was really poor, we didn’t get going and we conceded (of course we conceded). The bright spark was Saka who took a couple of marvelous shots that on another day would have been great goals – he is going to be a great addition to the squad. Late in the half, Maitland-Niles, already on a yellow, got himself sent off for a second yellow and we saw out the half with Xhaka playing at right-back.

 

The second half also started slowly, Emery had (sadly) had to take off Saka to bring on Chambers at right-back. He had done well earlier in the season so that felt like a good move. Still we huffed and puffed. Guendouzi’s energy was beginning to trouble the visitors and then he was brought down while slaloming into the box. Pepe fired home the resulting penalty. Phew ………. but then we conspired to give Villa another goal.

On 71 minutes Torreira and Willock came on for Xhaka and Ceballos and then the fun started. Guendouzi has energy  to burn, I love that guy, Willock must be terrifying to play against when you’re getting tired and Torreira was snapping into tackles. Chambers showed he wouldn’t give up the chance to score by equalising to 2-2 and then Aubameyang put us ahead with a beautiful free kick.

Now I love snatching victory from the jaws of defeat and we did just that. We had played poorly for 70 minutes and conceded 2 goals, gosh we do make things difficult for ourselves.

I have to say something about Guendouzi – did I mention that I love him. His energy is amazing but what I love also is the way he engages with the crowd while the game is going ahead. I don’t think we’ve had a player that recognises the part the crowd are playing while the game is going on. Most players play with their heads down doing their job (which is fine) but this guy urges the crowd to join in. It’s fantastic. The Emirates was still nearly full at the full time whistle, supporters were staying behind to applaud Matteo as he walked around the pitch. I love him.

Player ratings from RC78

Leno – 5. Let’s in 2 goals but did well.

AMN – 3. Started the match well but squandered a glorious chance. Then gets a yellow and another one. Clearly more at ease going forward than at defending l.

Sokratis – 4. Nothing spectacular and almost gave away another PK.

Luiz – 5. Sober and had some decent passing.

Kola – 5. Struggled going forward but defended OK.

Guendouzi – 7. This guy is a pure Ray of light this season. Doesn’t hide. Wants to win. Drives the ball forward and defends with passion.

Xhaka -4. Another lacklustre performance. Not leading by example.

Ceballos – 4. Anonymous.

Pepe- 6. Chances, a goal and lots of runs at opposition. Needs to improve but at least he played well.

Aubameyang – 6. A goal and a great effort for the team. What a player we have in Auba.

Saka – 6. Great start by the youngster. Fantastic debut and unlucky to be subbed.

 

Chambers – 6. The goal and the passion he showed make up for the second goal we conceded. Pure warrior attitude. Must be a starter.

Willock and Torreira – 5. Slotted in well. Great attitude too.

 

Emery – 5. A tough win and I hope that he’ll now drop Sokratis and Xhaka and let Chambers and Torreira or Willock start.

A win is a win 🙂

peachesgooner


Does Guendouzi Do It For You?

August 27, 2019

Emery said this about Guendouzi in his pre-match conference for the Liverpool game:

Matteo is very young but he has talent, his talent is to adapt to what we need. We are working tactically and individually, a lot on videos and a lot on the pitch. It’s a big challenge for me and him to achieve a big level here. Last year his process was very good but we miss a lot with him to achieve big moments.

Really, really I am very optimistic with him because he has this talent. We can improve other things, physically – we are working in the gym – his mentality. He has potential right now to help us achieve the best performance.

After the game, Emery praised Willock but also said that Douzi had a good match.

I thought that Douzi had an “OK” game. He ran a lot, he had a lot of passes but he (and Sokratis) were beaten for the Matip goal on a corner kick and he did not have one shot on target, not one key pass. Douzi is only 20 and we shouldn’t be too harsh on him but it is clear to see that there is a lot of room for improvement. I think for him, it is about:

  1. Becoming more effective with his running and his passing
  2. Being tactially more aware on defensive, transition and offensive phases
  3. Becoming stronger physically as well

Torreira, Willock and Guendouzi have fantastic attitude and also a great desire to run and work hard for the team. They are young and full of energy but none of them is a DM as of now and they need to play with someone who is more sound defensively. If we are playing in a double pivot (DM-MC), then none of them can play together unless Torreira is confined to a DM role and none of them should play with Xhaka. So what is our best available DM-MC pair?

Now back to Douzi – I think he is a well liked players and fans – but should he command a starting spot for EPL games? Wouldn’t it be wiser to help him grow as a player by playing him in Cup Games and then giving him some game time in the EPL as a sub?

Back to you…Does Douzi do it for you? Here are somes stats for you to help you make up your mind: https://www.premierleague.com/players/50512/Matteo-Guendouzi/stats?co=1&se=274

RC78

First Home Game of the Season … Arsenal vs Burnley

August 17, 2019

Emery had some very complimentary words for Dyche and his Burnley team. He commented that they were among the best teams in the league when it came to long balls, physicality and fighting for the second balls. Emery knows their game plan and he knows their top players.

Will he adapt our team to be able to cope with their game plan or will he try to impose our pace and trickery to them especially since we re playing at home.?

I expect a bit of both so here is my expected line up with Luiz being handed his first start and us to play in a 352:

This team has pace and physicality. Only question mark would be on Guendouzi as he could well give way to LT or eventually Mkhy.

I say it will be a tough battle but we will come out victorious. 2-1 with Auba and Chambers to score while we concede a goal on a corner courtesy of Tarkowski.

Don’t forget that Burnley won 3-0 in their opening game with Barnes scoring two and their left back providing assists as well. We know the danger but let s keep our good record vs Burnley and put in a strong display. CYYG!

RC78


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


Do we need to play with a holding midfielder? If so, who?

August 13, 2019

Liam posed this question to GoonerB…

I agree that a Guendouzi/Xhaka midfield pairing isnt likely to work in big games, but what pairing would you prefer moving forward?

This is the response from GoonerB …

Liam, your question earlier about how to set up with the midfield behind our front 3 (assuming that will be Auba, Laca and Pepe as 1st choice). I am not too sure what the best answer is to the midfield 3. I feel the problem is that we haven’t been playing with what I would view as a holding midfielder.

I don’t feel any of Xhaka, Guendouzi, and arguably even Torreira, are actually specialist holding midfielders (that invisible wall) in the way that Gilberto was and say Fernandinho is.

All of them look to be more free roaming box to box or creative defensive midfielders if you like. None of them seem to be that player dedicated to tidying up and being the screen in front of the back 4. Torreira is probably the closest but even he seems to be more suited to being a free roaming defensive midfielder. Willock could also be best suited to the BTB role as well so would join Xhaka, Guondozi and Torreira on the list for that role.

I think that Ozil, Ceballos and Micki are more suited to being ACM’s, so we have a choice of 3 for that role. My feeling is that we need to have a proper holding midfielder, and I wonder if either Chambers or Luiz would make us stronger in that part of the field. Then choose 1 from Torreira, Willock, Xhaka and Douzi for the BTB CM role, and 1 from Ozil, Ceballos and Micki for the ACM position.

I would suggest that while we seem to have a clutch of ‘free roaming box to box defensive midfielders’ who also love to join in the attack there’s needs to be really good on field communication between whoever makes up the two or three in front of the defence to control a defensive screen. I would love to see a midfield that really controls the game.

On to Burnley …………. it will be interesting to see how we set up.

peachesgooner, GoonerB and Liam


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