Arsenal’s winning run ended by Atkinson – Palace ratings

October 29, 2018

If you had to run 100 metres it would take you a certain amount of time, yes? With a bit of training you might improve slightly but it wouldn’t take long before you reached maximum capability. This is what yesterday’s game felt like to me; there was no more to give, the team that Emery fielded reached the peak of their collective talent and it wasn’t enough to beat Palace.

The defence didn’t play badly but I don’t think they could have played better. Naturally, we desperately missed the attacking qualities that Monreal brings to bear down the left flank but, with him missing, it was easy for Palace to work out that all our threat would come down the right and so they simply increased the number of bodies in that part of the field, pretty much nullifying our ability to dominate the opposition within our usual game plan. When Bellerin went off we became even more pedestrian; we were forced to play solely through the middle and that made us even easier to control. This was not helped by the link-up play from Torreira and Guendouzi; again neither played badly, in fact, I would have made Torreira my man of the match but neither one of them played a single pass that put an attacker into a goal scoring opportunity. To repeat myself, they had reached the peak of their talents.

And so we get to Ozil and, of course, this is where my little theory falls flat on its face. Ozil did not have his best day at the office and certainly did not play to the peak of his ability but I thought we saw the first chink in Emery’s armour today; it was a bad decision to take him off. Ozil is the only player who is capable of pulling a rabbit out of a hat; that’s to say, no matter how ineffective he is looking, he is always the one most likely to create the little bit of magic needed to win a game like that.

This frustration is compounded in my mind by leaving Iwobi on; this is the equivalent of saying that Iwobi is likely to be more effective than Ozil in the closing stages. Wenger tried taking Ozil off early and it always went wrong, you bring Ozil off when you are three up with ten minutes to go in order for him to get a standing ovation, apart from that, you leave him damn well out there.

Do I need to cover how poor Atkinson was? I think that one has been done; do I need to say that Zaha dived? I think that one has also been done but what I would say is that I thought Zaha was the best player on the park and I wish we had him at THOF.

All in all, a frustrating day. I thought we were going to get away with it again after the team had taken Emery’s half time magic potion as we came out and dominated, scoring two quick goals in succession but alas, no. It was irritating to lose our winning run but I suppose the reason for my sombre tone is a sign of just how high Emery has lifted us in the recent past. I suppose the only way we are going to get that euphoric feeling back is to beat Liverpool next week but if we are to, we are going to need Bellerin and Monreal fighting fit and raring to go.

Quick player ratings

Leno: clean sheet from open play, top keeper. 8

Bellerin: too much asked of him today. 7

Mustafi: someone must be coaching him as he is getting better every week. 7

Holding: I am not sure we can ask any more of him. 8

Xhaka: playing out of position and unsurprisingly got suckered into giving a penalty away. Excellent goal. 6

Torreira: held the fort, if it wasn’t for him it could have been worse. 9

Guendouzi: I really want to say that from here on it was pedestrian, it is all very well looking busy but you have got to be effective as well. 7

Ozil: ineffective but should have stayed on. 6

Iwobi: is he really going to be Emery’s pet project, heaven help us if it is. Ran around a lot and very fast at that but was totally ineffective. 5

Lacazette: not his best day, poor service. 5

Aubameyang: another game another goal. Mah. 7

Subs.

Lichtsteiner: it made me laugh watching how he dealt with Zaha, the Palace forward had the run of that flank in the first half but that all stopped in the second. Lichtsteiner gave him such a hard time that he was forced onto the other flank, maybe that wasn’t such a good thing as, of course, that is where he was able to con Atkinson.

Welbeck and Ramsey: not enough time for them to influence the game.

LB

Advertisements

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


Are Arsenal handling the Ramsey situation well?

October 17, 2018

Just when we thought that the Aaron Ramsey story of ‘will he or won’t he leave the Club’ had been flogged to death, flickers of new life have appeared since he scored ‘that goal at Fulham’, leading me to believe that it needs a bit more flogging and that is exactly what I intend to do.

Ramsey’s contract ends in the summer and he will be a free agent to leave at that point but he can sign a pre-contract with another European team in January. (I think) Obviously if he leaves for free in the summer, the club will miss out on a lucrative transfer fee from any potential sale. Conversely, if he is sold in January, he may miss out on a hefty signing on fee.

There are people who have criticised both the player and the club over how things have been handled. In the player’s case the criticism has been levelled for not wanting to show more loyalty to the club that has nurtured him from a raw talent to the highly rated player that he is today and, as such, Ramsey should show more willing to sign an extension to his present contract. In the club’s case, of course, the criticism is for allowing Ramsey’s contract to have run down as far as it has.

As this has unfolded I have found myself asking what could or should the player or the club have done differently and I have struggled to find an alternative. In the case of Ramsey, I completely respect his right to stay at Arsenal for as long as his contract lasts and not a minute longer and as it draws to a close I also respect his right to seek the best offer that might be out there before committing to Arsenal, and that clearly is what he is doing right now.

In the club’s case, the criticism has been for allowing Ramsey’s contract to run down to the last year, meaning that the club should have got him to sign an extension earlier. Now for the life of me I cannot see how anyone can force a footballer to sign a contract when the person does not want to do so. By way of solution, there have been two suggestions put forward as to how the club should have acted differently. The first is that the club should have offered much more, much earlier: rumours have it that Ramsey wanted his wages to match Özil, we have no proof of that but then again if it is true why shouldn’t he, or at least, why shouldn’t he try?

The second is that the club should have threatened to leave him on the bench for six months, or some such Draconian action, unless he made a decision. This suggestion is so impractical that it borders on infantile; the negative effect it would have on the other players not to mention steering other potential signings away would be profound to say the least. Most other players at the club, certainly the young ones will (or certainly would) like to envisage themselves in the same situation as Ramsey and that is, as their contracts near an end they will be in demand – having options as to where their career may take them. If that strongarm tactic of threatening to be sent to the stands is attempted on one player, it follows that other players would believe that it would be tried with them. Who in their right mind would want to work in that environment when you have other choices and how would that endear the world’s elite footballers to the Home of Football? There would only be one loser in this scenario and that would be the club. Or perhaps two losers – you and me, also, missing out on viewing the players that the club should be attracting.

The same people who criticise the club have pointed to other clubs’ success in stopping players run down their contracts. This to me is like comparing apples with oranges. In Man City’s case when a player nears the end of his contract he knows that no-one else out there can match the wages that City can pay and therefore there is no point in shopping around for a potential higher wage because it will never happen, the player is in the situation of take it or leave it and most of them take it.

Some of the same people point to Tottenham as being more comparable and sing their praises as how they have managed to tie their talent down long before they reach the dangerous area we are in with Ramsey right now. This is true up to a point; they have managed to get Kane and Alli to sign extensions and, at first sight it does looks like Tottenham have been more savvy.

But if we drill down a bit, other things appear. Firstly, there is only Kane and Alli that any other top club would fight over, so apart from increasing their wages the enticement/caveat that must have been explained to Kane (for example), is that if you leave for City (again for example) you will be fighting for your place and that might affect the upward trajectory that you’re currently enjoying at Tottenham. The same is true if you join United and even if you wanted to go back to the club you dreamed about playing for as a child, you will still have to vie for a starting berth with Aubameyang and Lacazette, whereas if you stay at Tottenham you will remain top dog. The opposite is the case with Ramsey; he is vying with Özil for prime pitch real estate.

In the last few months pretty much everything in the Ramsey case has followed the increasingly well-trodden path taken previously by Sanchez and Özil. Both refused to sign a new contract, this generated headlines that served as advertisement to the fact that they would listen to offers from other clubs. Sanchez and Ozil were pampered by Arsenal in an attempt to get them to stay; that’s to say, both players always played whenever and wherever they wanted; the same was true of Ramsey – until something totally different happened, Arsenal withdrew the offer of a four year contract – a brilliant piece of business in my opinion. Ramsey will continue as before following the usual path but, by withdrawing the contract offer, the Club are saying to other clubs that we are prepared to let him go and thereby letting potential suitors know that there will be no resistance from Arsenal if someone wants to buy him in January.

In brief, Arsenal have removed the obstacle of the four year contract and by doing so are making it easier for other clubs to believe that they can sign Ramsey which, in turn, increases the possibility of getting something from him, by way of a transfer fee, in January.

The other advantage of withdrawing the contract offer is that it frees up Emery to pick Ramsey as and when he wants rather than having to pander to him in an attempt to entice him to stay. A big part of me wants him to re-sign but another part of me really wants to hasten the time when Emery has all the players and the team that he sees in his mind’s eye. Is Ramsey part of that? I don’t know. It should be interesting to see how this one pans out.

Please feel free to disagree with anything up there, in fact, the more the better.

LB


Poll – Mesut or Miki – You Decide

October 9, 2018

Ahead for Gunners is a very long International break, so here’s an easy conversation starter.

I’m offering one formation and one positional player option.

It’s a 4-2-3-1 and today the option is Mesut or Mkhi. Obviously you vote for one, but can then elaborate in comments i.e. Mesut only starts when the sun shines and it’s a Full Moon……………

POLL – Mesut or Mkhi – You decide?

mickydidit89


Wobbly whips Watford – Deeney dismal

September 30, 2018

Well that was a really rip-roaring christening for my first game ever in the lower tier at the Emirates. Watching the game from lower down and closer to the pitch makes the whole experience more visceral. Yes, you don’t see the patterns of play in quite the same way, but footballers don’t either. Gaps and angles, space and geometry are all in a flat plane for the boys with the boots on. I enjoyed it.

First Half

Chances at both ends, the best for Arsenal was Laca’s one on one with the keeper. Robbing the hesitant lump in the Watford defence, dinking the ball beautifully over the keeper but just failing to keep the ball between the posts. Watford also had some decent efforts but were either wide or came up against the helmet.

Anthony Taylor failed to give a clear penalty when Lacazette was fouled. No wonder players go down easily when it’s the falling over that refs give decisions for rather than the actual foul itself. Poor from Mr Shiny Head.

Second Half

End to end and excitement throughout. Again Laca with several chances but none that easy. Watford not requiring large dollops of possession to create danger on the counter. You could see why they’ve been effective. Leno came on when the helmet’s hamstring pinged taking a goal kick. He proceeded to make a fine reaction save from Deeney diverting a dead ball, blocking a one on one and catching or punching everything that was launched at him.

Iwobi coming on for the ineffectual Ramsey turned the game on its head. Suddenly there was drive, pace and power down Arsenal’s right. Alex’s cross was diverted beyond Foster by Cathcart in the 81st minute and then Welbz on for Auba won the ball in midfield, Laca and Wobbly combined beautifully to slide the ball across for a perfect pink-booted Mesut sidefoot. What a wonderful couple on minutes it was!

What a fine view I had!

Summary

A clean sheet – shared by both keepers, each contributed equally. Was it the Torreira effect?  Are we looking more like the new incarnation of an Arsenal side capable of grinding out results by going up a gear or two? Or is it still much too early to tell? Either way it’s fun at the moment.

Ratings

Cech/ Leno – good stuff again from the helmet matched by his German replacement….7/8

Bellerin – better defensively to go along with always being dangerous going forward….7

Mustafi – a little bit Keystone Coppish again….5

Holding – looked the senior partner, visibly gaining confidence with each minute on the pitch….8

Monreal – as effective as ever, such a shame he couldn’t quite reach Xhaka’s brilliant diagonal pass in the second half….7

Torreira – still settling in and becoming accustomed to the type of bruising Premiership encounters teams like Watford are capable of dishing out….7

Xhaka – Love watching his glorious left foot. As TA said, him and the Terrier are a match made in heaven in midfield….7

Ramsey – Slime has got into his head and he doesn’t seem to know what he’s meant to be doing in Emery’s new team….5

Ozil – Came to life in that last segment of the game, with Iwobi on the pitch he had someone to pass to all of a sudden, an extra mark for his perfectly executed goal….7

Aubameyang – wasted on the left again, we’re going to have to move to 3-5-2 to get him involved at the sharp end….6

Lacazette – full effort and commitment. Not sure why he couldn’t celebrate the own goal – we’d finally scored, Alexandre, be happy. Excellent contribution to superb second goal….7

Subs

Iwobi – Wobbly made all the difference – thrust, power and penetration – well played young man….8

Welbeck – a significant part to play in that clinching second goal….6

chas


Things we Learnt from the weekend

September 17, 2018

When Lucas Torreira was bought from Sampdoria, a clause was inserted in the sale agreement which would trigger large additional payments if he started a League game before Christmas.

Auba doesn’t appear to like his left wing duties and didn’t look best pleased when substituted.

No-one really knows what happened at half-time at St James’ Park. Torreira came on as sub for Guendouzi, but that still doesn’t explain how virtually every other player came out of the tunnel with a spring in their step, at least two yards quicker and with a desire to actually play some football.

The Ramsey/Ozil conundrum becomes more complex, unbalancing the side with both vying for the same free role.

Sokratis, while not quite in the Usain Bolt category, has not been taking sprinting lessons from the BFG. Catching and dispossessing  Newcastle’s speedy youngster, Murphy, was no mean feat for our Kalamata Colossus.

Sokratis gleefully runs to celebrate our second goal with the rest of the lads

Our next League opponents, Everton, were finally beaten having drawn three and won one of their opening four games. The hammers rode their luck and took chances to make West Ham Bob’s weekend. Jack is back in the sick bay with an ankle knock.

Liverpool and Citeh look strong but the chavs have somehow managed to keep pace by hook or by crook. Burnley are in an early season swamp, as are Newcastle.

The analysis around the spuds defeat centred around Pochettino having a bad game. Is he getting homesick and looking at Spanish weather forecasts with an envious eye? Let’s hope so. 🙂 (yep, I realise he’s Argentinian – his birthplace is called Murphy!)

chas


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