How important is it for Arsenal to retain experienced players?

June 15, 2019

Being worried about Arsenal’s continuity with so many players likely to be leaving is a valid concern.

On the technical playing side this does not worry me so much, and I think we need to go through a transition in that sense anyway accepting a season with the promotion of a number of academy players, in excess of what would be normal.

It is maybe not exactly ideal but the first goal is a need to get back to being one of the top 4 in the EPL again, which improves both the incoming revenue and the attractiveness of the club as a destination for top players, then we can focus on securing £60-£80m in their prime players to add to the squad again like our rivals. What I don’t want us to do is spend some of the valuable and limited current transfer funds on so-so players in positions where we have promising young players coming through.

I strongly believe that this crop of youngsters have the ability to take us forwards and, although there will be moments where the inexperience is exposed, I think they will become stronger and stronger as the season goes on if they know that the manager and fans have faith in them.

From a continuity perspective I feel what is more important is the senior leadership around these young players. More than anything they need proper mentors who can pull them up on attitude and application when needed but more often than not be that reassuring positive voice in their ear even when they make a mistake. Unfortunately GN5 in the departure of Cech, Ramsey and Wellbeck we have lost 3 players who are exactly that.

Mesut Ozil is 30 and has won the world cup and ECL so should be exactly that type of positive mentor for our young players. However, despite being a fine player technically he is more of an exasperated looking to the sky type player rather than a positive pat on the back type. I would now sacrifice his technical ability for some more positive players with greater leadership qualities, then look to the youngsters to develop and bring us that technical ability we will lose in him.

That is why I would look at players like Milner and Mata on a free and retain the likes of Kos and Monreal. They may not always be the 1st on the team sheet on may start to reduce the number of games they play but if you have Kos, Socratis, Milner, Mata in the side then you get that type of positive attitude and influence. We will still retain great technical ability in the side anyway.

I would also have a quiet word to Iwobi and Chambers and tell them that although they are young players still, they are now senior young players and need to step up and become mentors and leaders to those who are 5-6 years their junior. I still feel Chambers could become an excellent holding midfield player in the Gilberto mould, and Iwobi a great box to box CM. This is also their year to step up and prove they are top players that we don’t need to replace with external recruitment.

Personally I would be interested in Chilwell and maybe that young defender we are looking at (Andreason or something) as well as maybe Milner and Mata on a free, then look at Iwobi AMN, Chambers, Bielik, Holding, Bellerin, Willock, Smith-Rowe, Saka, Nelson, Douzi and Nketieh to all be senior squad players next year.

I would happily see Ozil, Micki, Elneny, Mustaffi, Lichtensteiner, and sadly corporal Jenks all depart to accommodate this and cleanse the squad and kick start a new and more positive dynasty.

Xhaka I am still in 2 minds about as I see some merit in him as a squad option, but don’t see him as a top class CM, so maybe it is better to let a player that could become that have his spot rather than thwart their progression.

Written by GoonerB

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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


Arsenal 5 Bournemouth 1 – Player Ratings

February 28, 2019

Contrary to the apparent opinion of many in the Arsenal blogosphere, this game  might be more important than any of the matches coming up in early March in the Premier League. In all actuality, each game has its own significance.

First Half

The game got off to a flyer, plenty of space and a goal for Mesut from Kola’s instant pass within the first 4 minutes. Perfect. Bournemouth made a tactical change and were suddenly right back in it. Their tails were up and then we scored the second to take the wind out of their sails after a sloppy pass across the back four. Micki found Mesut and his return pass was just sublime; the Armenian’s finish clinical.

Stuart MacFarlane

Surely that would kill Bournemouth’s fightback? Nope. Some more titting about playing out from the back gifted them a goal. Guendouzi caught on the ball, though he was also caught with the follow through of the challenge which I always thought was a foul. Anyway 2-1 and raised heartrates all round.

The remainder of the first half was spent searching for a working stream. Did anything happen?

Second Half

According to the commentary I had, Emery laid into the players at half time.  It showed. Ferguson hairdryer, Emery blowtorch – who cares if it produces the right reaction from the players.

Kos scored from a free-kick which looked like it was going nowhere but back to our own half. It ended up being a nicely constructed goal which created the space in the penalty area by virtue of the backwards passing.

The fourth from Auba was all down to Micki’s strength bringing the ball out from deep Who would’ve thought? Taking the ball round the keeper – how often does anyone get a chance to do that these days?

Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

Mesut hit the post before the coup de grace. Laca’s free kick really was the cherry on the cake. The ball travelled over the jumping wall and still came down six feet from the ground. Boruc got a touch but had little chance of keeping it out.

Conclusion

Excellent home win – something we’ve come to expect at THOF as out home form is that of title contenders. The first half definitely had some worrying periods, but overall it was a football match of which the manager should be proud.

Spuds losing meant that we’re only 4 points behind their title challenge. 🙂 The chavs and red mancs winning meant fourth to sixth position stay exactly as you were.

Ratings

Leno – no chance with the goal – crucial save from Fraser in the first half … 7

Jenkinson – didn’t disgrace himself without adding too much. A true Gooner  … 6

Koscielny – deserved his goal – luckily his injury at the end looked an impact job rather than one which would affect the knee joint for any length of time – the studs into his knee were unnecessary  … 8

Sokratis – implacable, indefatigable, imperturbable … 7

Monreal – La Cabra produced his usual high energy committed performance … 7

Kolasinac – an assist for Mesut’s goal – his attacking prowess is one of the team’s strengths … 7

Torreira – fought manfully with little protection from the ref – still not sure he knows his role in the team – seemed lost in the first half … 7

Guendouzi – Matteo, what were you doing for the Bournemouth goal? – his usual all action performance aside from that though … 7

Ozil – a goal, a superb assist – will always make a significant contribution to our goals tally – is it enough? … 8

Mkhitaryan – involved in most of the meaningful attacking action – his assist for Auba’s goal was brilliant … 8

Aubameyang – finally got his goal after looking disappointed in the first half … 7

Subs

Iwobi – will play against the spuds for sure … 7

Lacazette – hungry for goals and scored from a peach of a free-kick … 7

Suarez – we finally saw what he might be capable of in some impressive glimpses … 7

Managers

Emery – can rest easy before the spud game that he overcame a team which briefly threatened to come back at us – if it’s true that he went at the players at half time, then we need more of that Unai … 8

Wagner – struggling with a depleted squad … 4

Please give your own ratings/match report in the comments.

chas


Saints Alive! – Mesut starts again?

February 24, 2019

Since David Wagner took over at Southampton in December, they’ve won 4, lost 4 and drawn 3 in the league. Their victories included our dreadful performance at St Mary’s when the bounce effect of a new manager was in full force. Under Mark Hughes they were tending to draw or get battered, so it was definitely the correct thing to do to get rid of such a loathsome specimen, since it looked very likely he would have taken them down.

AFP Images

They still sit in the bottom three but are vying to escape that third relegation spot with 5 other teams only a couple of points above them. That’s assuming Fulham and Huddersfield are doomed. We must ensure they get no points from their trip to The Home of Football to help with their fight against relegation.

Team news

Kos is a doubt after his knock against Bate but as a replacement, Big Sok fills me with confidence – even when paired with Shirley. (If anyone is offended by the gentle ribbing of Shkodran’s abilities, then please don’t be as he is as important as any other member of the squad and has given us some outstanding performances already this season). There still appear to be some doubts about Mavro’s fitness but this has been difficult to confirm.

Will Mesut retain a starting place? That is the burning issue team selection-wise. Unai was quick to suggest that Mesut isn’t guaranteed a starting spot after Thursday’s win. Perhaps Ramsey will be asked to play in the free role again. It’s the sixty four thousand dollar question.

Getty Images

Up front Laca will be itching to get back into the action. I’d imagine he’ll start in the next few Prem games while Auba is wrapped in cotton wool for the Rennes tie as our only eligible senior striker. Wobbly should keep his place as he’s been one of our outstanding recent performers. Maybe Denis Suarez could get a start to replace Micki who’s been looking a little jaded? It would be great to see what he can do when he plays for longer than 15 minutes.

Team news update – according to Jeorge Bird on twitter, both Kos and A.M-N were in full training on Saturday, so both could start. Eddie Nk also trained with the first team.

Possible Team

……………………….Leno

…Licht…….Shirley……Papa……Nacho

………….Terrier ……..Granit

…………………..Ramsey

Suarez…………..Laca………..Wobbly

Our home form is good in the League, unbeaten in 12 – including six wins on the bounce in our last half a dozen.

Score predictions in the comments, please (as it drew a few on Thursday).

Another strong performance in front of the Emirates unfaithful, please lads.

COYRRG

chas


A big chunk of our season is on the line today – Bate preview

February 21, 2019

First and foremost, please remember that kick off is 17:55pm UK time today. We wouldn’t want Micky rolling up at 7.30pm wondering what the team news is. 🙂

Last week in Belarus was dire, there’s no getting around it. A shapeless, ineffective Arsenal team, admittedly hampered by an appalling pitch surface, delivered a performance of virtually zero quality.

That game has been and gone – nothing can be done about it. If we play to our strengths tonight and score enough goals to get us through to the Round of 16, it will be consigned to the past as a deep and distant memory. Simple, isn’t it?

Invoking the spirit of Big Raddy in 1970

Team News

There has been a bit of a Mugabe media lockdown at Arsenal over the last week. Probably best, since any attempt to appease supporters with ‘we’ll strive to put it right’ platitudes would only be met with abuse. The only place to make amends is on the pitch.

The team news made public so far is that Aaron is fit and in full training. Big Sok is also nearing a return – whether it’s in the Europa or for Sunday’s Prem game against Southampton, we shall see.

Maybe Unai’s press  conference will tell us more.

Press conference update – Mesut has been training well this week (?) and Ainsley M-N missed Wednesday training with sickness. 

Rambo’s return will definitely help to cover that creative shortfall we saw in the away leg. Could Mesut find favour again and both of them play? Doubtful perhaps, but could work as long as both don’t attempt to play in the same position..

One thing is for certain, Lacazette will not be featuring due to the Bate lad running into his elbow, which leaves Aubameyang  as our main threat.

Possible team

………………………………. Cech

Licht (if no A.M-N) … Shirley … Kos … Nacho

……………………..Terrier ………….Granit

………………………………..Rambo

…………….. Micki ……… Auba …….. Wobbly

As far as possible game scenarios go, the only way extra time and penalties will happen is if we are 1-0 up at 90 minutes. If Bate score first, we will have to score three times to counter their away goal.

In fact, a Bate goal at any point in the match might give cause for concern (unless we’re over the hill and faraway by that stage). Perhaps dead balls are the most likely source for the Belarusians.

Having said that, this game isn’t really about how Bate play but more about the level of performance Arsenal can produce. As LBG said, three up at half-time and we’ll be laughing.

Your score predictions in the comments, please.

chas 


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.

===================================================================

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 


Emery, the master carpenter.

February 17, 2019

Unfortunately we are getting closer to the Emery in or Emery out debate, I feel reassured that this site has risen above the playground name-calling on other sites to date from the usual suspects.

I have been trying to put into words by way of comparison how I feel about Unai Emery right now. I know in the past I was one of the most loyal of Arsene Wenger supporters, the reason for bringing that up is that I just want to make clear that I am nowhere near reaching that level of devotion; AW had a bank of great Arsenal memories to refer to and as such people like me probably carried the torch a tad longer than was good for all concerned. Unai Emery has no such bank of Arsenal memories………..yet?

The comparison I came up with to describe our Basque is that of a master carpenter having been invited to work on a prestigious London project only to find on his arrival that the project managers expect him to do his job without making available a saw, a hammer or a chisel.

Did you ever wonder what is going through his mind during a game when the camera cuts to him standing in front of the dug out with that pained expression on his face? I do, and the caption I see coming from his mouth is – What did you expect?

The recent Chelsea game seems to be frequently reappearing with both ends of the spectrum being debated: Chelsea are poor so that reduces the significance of the win or that the win shows that we really are not far off where we want to be.
The truth, as is often said, lies somewhere in the middle and that certainly seems to be the case with this game.

It is correct, of course, to say that Chelsea do not offer the same threat that they have in recent seasons but they offer more of a threat than Bate for example so why the difference, why doesn’t Emery set his team up in such a way that replicates that winning formula?

The answer in my opinion is personnel, or in this example, the lack of them because as much as he might want to play the same line up or the same system, he can’t and that is through no fault of his own.

This was the line up against Chelsea.

———————-Leno

Bellerin, Sokratis, Koscielny, Kolasinac

—–Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi

——————Ramsey

—–Aubameyang——–Lacazette

I know I have said this before but I am going to say it again, the biggest loss has been Bellerin; he gave us goal scoring options from the right; he also enabled Kolasinac to do his magic on the left, this is subtle – no Bellerin = no Kolasinac magic. It is now too easy to crowd the Bosnian out and nullify his threat.
I know that GN5 justifiably points to the earlier part of the season when Bellerin’s sorties into the opponent’s half left gaps behind, but look above and notice how Torreira is set up to cover such gaps.

I don’t really need to explain the loss of calibre to the team having Sokratis replaced by Mustafi but the loss of Ramsey is underestimated. If you look at that team above again you will notice that there is a connection with London buses, we have been crying out for a defensive midfielder and now we have three, how else would you describe Xhaka, he may not be a very effective DM but he certainly isn’t a AM.

Ramsey is the only person from that midfield who could augment the front two; he is the only one who is capable of getting a goal from midfield. Unfortunately I don’t expect to see him play at THOF again, we got a flurry of determination for what looked like a final push to secure his lucrative Juve contract but from now on his foot will be off the pedal as I suspect he worries more about injury than our success.

What of Ozil? I see no reason why Ozil simply couldn’t be swapped for Ramsey in the above set up, there certainly is enough defensive cover to give Mesut a free rein; the problem is as I see it is that is like a house of cards.

No Bellerin, no effective AMN, no effective AMN, no effective Kolasinac, No effective Kolasinac, no effective Ozil all of which equates to: Arsenal 0 Bate 1

Personally I have very little hope of coming 4th, I don’t think we have the personnel to achieve that goal, I would be happy of course but I am not holding my breath. However, I do not think the responsibility for that misfire sits squarely on Emery’s shoulders; although that said, I might not be quite so sympathetic if we are in the same position this time next season after Emery has had an opportunity to buy his own saw, hammer and chisel.

LB