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

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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.

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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 


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


More Mesut

January 27, 2019

There was a fine discussion on AA yesterday. No surprise that Mr Ozil was the centre of attention.

As I have the floor, may I take the opportunity to expand my thoughts?

It comes down tho this, do I want Arsenal to become a defensive unit in the manner of George Graham’s teams post ’89 or do I want to watch a team which can win through artistry rather than endeavour? ( hopefully we can have both).

images-4.jpeg

Once GG won the title his modus operandi was to denude the team of inspiration to the point where the midfield consisted of water carriers to supply the mercurial God8. It was successful but awful to watch. In retrospect the singing of “1-0 to The Arsenal” may have assured GG that we were happy. Like many I was relieved when he left.

Why were we so happy with Wenger? Because we shed the Boring Boring Arsenal tag. Over almost 20 years we were privileged to watch artists encouraged to be creative, in later years AW struggled but we still watched Cesc or Rosicky or RVP or Arshavin etc

Today we have PEA, Ozil and Lacazette who have the skill sets to get you out of your seat,  Especially Ozil.

Those who question his work rate do not acknowledge his non-stop movement in the quest to find space. From this space he can create opportunity for the strikers but inevitably Ozil has weaknesses, and in particular, his unwillingness to defend (though I think this is exaggerated). I don’t care but Mr. Emery clearly does.

Like all on AA, I am willing to give Unai time; this is not his squad, nor is Ozil the type of player he likes. At Seville he built a team based around a strong defence. At PSG he was sacked because he couldn’t work with Neymar, nor play the type of attacking, flowing football required by the Qatar Oilers. Let us not forget that he won the French treble before he was asked to leave so it wasn’t due to a lack of silverware.

This is purely my opinion and possibly/probably not the view of the majority but … we are not going to compete with MC/MU/ Chelsea or Liverpool  for the next few years because Mr. Kroenke will not invest. We may win a Cup. So what are we left with? If we perform exceptionally we MAY get Champions League which would be a major  achievement given the outstanding quality of the Top 6.

Anyone who believes Emery will make a root and branch clear-out of the squad is mistaken, we don’t have the money. As such, he must make the very best of the players we have and Ozil is our very best.

Summarising, the Ozil argument is about pragmatism versus artistry. Give me entertainment every time even if this results in frustration and disappointment.

To see Guendouzi/Mhiki/Iwobi/Ramsey repeatedly picked ahead of Ozil infuriates me. Give him 60 minutes and if he is lost sub the man but please don’t waste his talent.

written by BR


Arnautovic. Sell, Sell, Sell.

January 12, 2019

No West Ham Bob post today, the chap has gone underground (or to the Caribbean!).

I have never been to the London Olympic stadium, I understand it is a soulless bowl unless inhabited by the Great Gooner, Mo Farah. Our record at the ground is good, with only one loss, a draw and a few wins. WHU have only won one out of the last 21 fixtures with AFC. This may explain why they keep buying our ex-players – Little Jack, $amir Nasri, Flapianski etc

Do you recall the days when if Wrighty didn’t score we were screwed? It is much the same at WHU.  Take out that unpleasant devil, Arnautovic and they are toothless. That said, on the rare occasion Andy Carroll plays they can lump the ball into the Big Man and WHU have another attacking weapon.

I like the look of Anderson, who could do well at a better club, one which isn’t being ruined by rapacious owners. He is a more direct Iwobi.

The Hammers manager, Manuel Pellegrini, is doing a good job after the club was damaged by the tactics of Fat Sam and Moyes. He seems a likeable chap and at least is trying to get WH back to playing decent football.

Back to Arnautovic. I can never forgive the swine for his cowardly attack on Debuchy which effectively ended his Arsenal career (allowing Catwalk  to take his place). West Ham understandably are refusing to sell him. The bloke is highly likely to score this afternoon against our porous defence.

Awful Music Alert. Turn off Sound

Of which … Could Hector start this afternoon? Please, pretty please.

And Mesut. No more of this knee knack, back pain, headache, flu, dog’s eaten my homework bolleaux. Let him play, and let him dazzle.

And Catwalk. Stop him looking like a bright red blimp up int the stands and get him up that wing in order to give the team some balance.

Getting the injured back into the team will make a huge difference.

I expect this afternoon to be frustrating, we are not playing particularly well, even when winning, and the Hammers are very inconsistent. And we know Fabianski will have one his best performances.

We need 3 points.

Let it be So.

COYRRG