Waiting for My Man – CSKA Player Ratings

April 13, 2018

With the score from the first leg stood at 4-1 and having seen Roma rebuild an empire at the expense of the Catalonians, nerves were jangling slightly more than we might have expected for this particular second leg in Moscow. Could their away goal prove crucial? One way to resolve the issue – score one of our own and the tie would be effectively settled. Boy, did they make us wait.

First Half

CSKA huffed and puffed, gegenpress-style, closing down rapidly like high street businesses everywhere. Arsenal struggled to find any space, time and cohesion. On several occasions chances to break and grab that vital away goal presented themselves, but, on each, our attacking fluency deserted us with a misplaced final pass or failure to exploit having a man over.

I missed the goal as BT.com decided to freeze 30 seconds before it. It seemed as though Nacho was shoved in the back for the CSKA header, though I’m sure the studio ‘experts’ said that the Russian just wanted it more. Cech did well to get down to the header at such close range but keeping it out was all he did as he left a simple tap in. 1-0 down at half-time, just when was our moment of quality due to arrive? I was hoping it was before I ran out of beer.

Second Half

Shortly after the break, calamity struck again when a long range pot shot bounced back off the helmeted one into the path of the onrushing forward. Bang 2-0. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, surely another 3 goal comeback couldn’t be on the cards?

Watching without sound, I was celebrating when Elneny’s header went in as if it was job done, before realising the lino’s flag had been raised. Mo seemed to think bending his run slightly even though he was a yard or two behind the Russian defensive line, might somehow fool the official into thinking he was onside. Hmmmmm.

Arsenal restricted CSKA’s chances to score the vital third pretty well, keeping them to long shots, with Petr producing a good save from a free kick, but were still struggling to produce that one moment of quality to blast the comeback out of the water. When it finally came it was a thing of rare beauty.

Welbz was suddenly infused with the spirit of Thierry Henry, picking the ball up wide left and driving towards goal. Playing the ball inside to Bobby Pires, sorry Mo Elneny, he continued his run into the area. Elneny’s return pass was of such a delicious weight that it just invited the glorious finish which was duly applied by the Mancunian high into the corner of the net. Magnificent – all that time they had us worried, knowing full well that they had a goal of such exceptional quality up their sleeves.

You could visibly see how much CSKA were deflated by the goal, almost as if they knew it was 3-0 or nothing that would have got them through. Even the bare-shirted, gammon-fleshed hordes behind the goal Arsenal were attacking, perhaps realised that their game was up and it was time to go home to Olga.

Drifting towards a defeat but still in the draw for the semis, Aaron Ramsey then applied the cherry on top of the cake. His fragilty had seemed to rear its head again at the end of the first half when he seemed to overstretch, but he was still running in glorious fashion right up to the last few moments. Running on to another beautifully weighted and timed through ball from Mr Elneny, he lifted the ball gracefully over Akinfeev with his right seal flipper to send the best club in North London through with a comfortable 6-3 margin.

Player Ratings from LB

And there was I thinking that it would be a cushy victory……when will I learn?

Cech: since he has stopped the fancy footwork that was leading to a few too many embarrassing situations he has come back as strong as ever. I think the adjective of commanding is called for tonight. 8

Bellerin: Hector put his attacking desires to one side and focused on the defending side of his game — and he carried out that duty better than he has done in quite a while. 8

Mustafi: no silly errors just got on with the job at hand. Perfectly acceptable performance. 7

Koscielny: a good captain’s performance. 7

Monreal: I don’t need frills from our defence on games like this I just need them to read the tin and do what it says. 7

Elneny: Mo was the proverbial headless chicken in the first half; he certainly redeemed himself in the second half though with two assists to boot. 8

Ramsey: getting all the credit he deserves for being the great player that he has always been, another top drawer performance. 8

Wilshere: don’t get me started. 5

Ozil: King Mesut Rules OK. 7

Lacazzette: I heard that his goal scoring boots were held up in Russian customs and it showed. Interesting just how much he runs on confidence or not. 6

Welbeck: I stuck with Danny for so long regularly writing on here I expected him to become the most important CF in the EPL and then after finally and completely giving up on such an idea he starts to make some serious inroads into claiming that mantle. Really starting to enjoy his performances again. 9

Can I take my red and white tinted glasses off now?

The draw awaits at 11am, with Atletico, Salzburg (Lazio were on the receiving end of the comeback of the night) and Payet’s Marseille our potential opponents. Who do you fancy?  

chas

 

 

Advertisements

Truly, Ugly, Deeney – Watford Ratings

March 12, 2018

Troy Deeney being fit to play (when I say fit, I mean breathing and able to walk as long as it’s not uphill and too fast) was the best news this game could have had. With Watford in the relative safety of mid-table obscurity and ourselves being so far off the title pace, meant that there was little to play for except a few points and some comparisons of testes size. Deeney was the vital ingredient in the latter and he didn’t disappoint.

 First Half

Shkodran scoring a carbon copy of his goal against the spuds after 8 minutes calmed any supporter fears that Watford might spawn a couple of early goals as they did at the Emirates last season. It was a perfect delivery from Mesut with which he smashed Cantona’s first to 50 assists record. How the first half finished 1-0 is anybody’s guess. There really were some great chances. 4-2 was Ant and mine’s assessment of the possible goal score.

Amongst our better chances, Auba missed a one on one right at the start of the game, The Beast battered one across the penalty area so quickly that Auba could only get a toe on it and then Mesut got into a magnificent position with a glorious first touch only to lose his composure with the keeper floundering on the deck. Pereyra missed Watford’s best chance skying over after Petr had ended up behind his goal line blocking a free kick.

Second half

The cones did not do their job at the start of the second half. The Arsenal crowd and players all looked as though they wished they could be at home (along with the many who didn’t bother attend). Watford, on the other hand, had their best spell, pressing Arsenal back towards the Clock but without giving us too many heart flutters.

Our first attack of note in the second period resulted in the BVB connection putting us two up. Micki slipped the ball through to Auba with perfect weight, stranding the keeper in no man’s land.

Then came the moments everyone had come to see. A Watford striker went over Maitland-Niles’ knee (in live time it looked to me as if our young Tory had got himself in a position to field a cricket ball rather than make a tackle) and the ref had no option but to give a pen. The pantomime villain stepped up to take the kick, only to allow Cech to make a one handed block which went away from the goal rather than back towards fatty. Cue wild celebrations – it was just like scoring a goal. Two one and things could have gone tits up quickly, but with a two goal lead we were still cruising. Great fun.

Conceding and then saving the penalty woke up both the crowd and the team. We looked comfortable from that moment onward, even with Calum having to deputise for Shkod. The third goal came with a quarter of an hour to go when Micki and Auba reversed roles allowing the Armenian to notch another Arsenal goal so quickly after his crucial effort against Milan. The Emirates crowd even produced a little volume, asking Mr Deeney if he knew what the score was. To his credit, he did seem to be smiling, the hideous gargoyle.

Ratings

(Ratings are always subjective and always likely to be swayed by confirmation bias. Some like them, others don’t – perhaps it’s worth remembering that they’re there to give you something to bounce off.)

Cech – A save from a penalty against our Troy, no flapping and 200 clean sheets, lovely … 9

Maitland-Niles – a few sloppy passes didn’t detract from a quality performance, defended well with both interceptions and tackles, while looking smooth with the ball at his feet  … 7

Mustafi – Excellent early header, drove the defence and looked more like the leader he could be. Hope his groin isn’t too sore this morning  …7

Holding – All of our defenders struggle against the high press when the rest of the team do not give enough options for a pass, Rob was no exception. Made some fine tackles and blocks, and was even making better decisions about when to just get rid, TA6 style as the game progressed  … 7

Kolasinac – Improving as an Arsenal player, whether that’s partly down to the standard of opposition or down to eating less fish and chips, we’ll find out later  … 7

Elneny – Had a fine game in the centre. Chosen to start alongside Xhaka we might have thought that the midfield would look a bit static and lacking forward drive, but Mo provided plenty of thrust and no small measure of forward attacking passes, too … 8

Xhaka – Granit’s form is improving game by game, his defensive positioning is better and I still love his left foot  … 7

Ozil – No subjective rating is ever possible for Mesut, he oozes class and the number of goals and great chances he creates is testament to that  … 8

Mkhitaryan – Looking more like an Arsenal player with each game, should have had a penalty which Atkinson (Fifa referee, yeah right) chose to ignore to add to his goal and assist … 8

Iwobi – Watching Alex from the upper tier, you can see that he’s seeing great passes all the time, it’s just that, at the moment, his execution is lacking somewhat. It’ll come, keep working hard BIG17  – 6

Aubameyang – Settling in nicely, once he gets his razor-sharp finishing back up to scratch, his partnerships with Mesut and Micky could be most productive  – 7

Subs – Chambers slotted in well, Danny produced a rasper and Jack came on for no good reason.

chas     

 


The Skater’s Waltz in Östersund – Player ratings

February 16, 2018

First Half

Instead of coming out all reindeer blazing as many home teams do, Östersunds went immediately into contain mode. This tactic backfired as Arsenal quickly gained confidence, possession and shots on goal. The artificial pitch, so different from those monstrosities at Luton and QPR, proved to be a fine playing surface, perfectly flat but with a realistic bounce. It suited the Arsenal far more than we might have expected.

When the Spanish Messi chipped in with yet another goal, it seemed only to be expected. Well, judging by Paul Parker’s reaction on Sky Sports anyway.

A second goal soon followed – as Terry said “Poor Papagianopolous. Bullied at Greek school for having a short surname, he now scores an own goal” – though Micki’s driven cross was difficult to defend and I’m sure Welbz would have scored if the Greek backside hadn’t.

Two up and cruising, so back into Arsenal mode, complacent and dozing. Maybe that’s a little harsh and it was just that Östersunds decided they had nothing to lose, so stepped up a gear.

Terry again, “They have had their chances? Honestly, if I turned up with my old gran and the rest of the chicken admiration society, we would get beat but still create chances against this current Arsenal team”. Seems about right. 🙂

Second half

I must admit to losing a bit of interest in the second half, much like the players and spectators.

Though that is understandable as when Arctic winds, nordvästan, are blowing through your Helags, it’s difficult to concentrate on anything other than your chattering teeth.

Mesut scored a third from another Micki assist and the return leg next week was looking more of a foregone conclusion. The excitement wasn’t over, oh no; in stoppage time David Ospina rescued a clean sheet for the Gunners with our first penalty save for donkey’s.

 

Mission accomplished, a healthy lead for the home leg, no digits missing from frostbite and hopefully no injuries apart from a few minor carpet burns.

Ratings

Ospina – A Catcher in the Rye – A couple of good stops and an excellent penalty save … 7

Bellerin – Vanity Fair – made some great runs down the right needs to up his end product  … 6

Mustafi – All Quiet on the Western Front – took everything in his stride and passing was better  ….6

Chambers – Brave New World – looking more comfortable with each game, but not really tested in Sweden … 6

Monreal – The Sun Also Rises – Nacho was born in Pamplona and probably used to train running with bulls  … 7

Elneny – The Kite Runner – MOTM, “Really liked Elneny’s workrate. This is a man who understands his limitations and plays like it. Good man” … 7

Maitland-Niles (Con) – First Among Equals – competent in centre midfield, though not an immediate solution at DM as yet  … 6

Ozil – The Great Gatsby – cruised through the game in second gear in which he still looked majestic … 7

Mkhitaryan – Far From The Madding Crowd – two more assists, his quality was apparent, still settling in … 6

Iwobi – Great Expectations – seemed to like the artificial surface, fluctuates between composed excellence and hasty mediocrity  … 6

Welbeck – Wuthering Heights – lacking in confidence in his abilities, will be so much better when he can find some  … 5


Elneny. Ramsey, and the Box to Boxer.

April 4, 2016

Elneny. Mo. The Egyptian. Fabulous Pharaoh. Like the hair, like the man.

I would say we played our best football this season with Coquelin paired with Santi, and the seemingly odd choice of Aaron on the right. Sure, this was complemented with pace through the middle, but nevertheless, Aaron on the right was designed to compensate for a defensive fragility in the middle of the pitch due to the presence of Santi.

The more formidable and solid midfield pairing of Coquelin and Elneny allows us, as seen on Saturday, to free up the speedsters and magicians in front of Mesut.

Elneny certainly charges about a lot, but this does not make him a Box to Boxer. Aaron is a Box to Boxer and this does make us more vulnerable against the counter. In theory, with a B to B’er you have an additional goal threat, but we haven’t seen this. Perhaps it is because of our slow build up and by the time the end to end man gets near to goal, the wretched area is clogged solid.

Perhaps also, if by doing away with the B to B’er, you replace him with a more disciplined Egyptian with long range shooting ability, not only have you compensated for the goals that weren’t there anyway, but you have added an additional string to the bow, arrow to the quiver and worry for the opposition.

Plus, a player to whom the crowd can scream “shooooooot”, which must be a worry for Aaron


Your choice of first names on the Arsenal team sheet ….. Poll

March 18, 2016

 

We have been underperforming as a team for some time. Few if any of our players could be described as being in top form. The signs against Barcelona were encouraging and we certainly didn’t disgrace ourselves – but two of the best performers (Elneny and Iwobi) weren’t what you might consider to be first team regulars yet.

Is the problem more to do with the team than the individuals, or is it that the players aren’t taking enough individual responsibility? A player can only be his best when others around him are also on top of their game, so clearly the two are interdependent. A team that is performing well can carry a couple of players who are below par, but a single player cannot carry a whole team unless he is a truly exceptional leader – and I don’t think we have anyone of that character in the squad. The team ethic is paramount.

One mark of a good side is actually knowing what your strongest eleven is and getting the best blend of players to gel into an effective team.

So I got to wondering how many of the currently available players would be categorised as ‘first names on the team sheet’.

Not enough is my answer!

These are the outfield players I would categorise as ‘must play’ in the important game ahead against Everton – there are only 6!

Koscielny, Bellerin, Elneny, Monreal, Ozil and Welbeck

That leaves 4 positions where I can’t see a clear first choice – and apart from the one CB, they are all in midfield/attacking midfield. The emergence of Iwobi as a ‘proper Arsenal player’ is one of the highlights of the season and I’d also play him on Saturday although he features just below my ‘must play’ rating.

How many and who would be your ‘must start’ players against Everton?

You can choose up to 10 (goalkeepers are not included) in the poll below and then review the results later in the day to see whether others agree.

Rasp

 


Coquelin’s Punishment. No trip to Hull.

March 8, 2016

Let’s be honest, the home leg was dreary. How can this evening  be an improvement?

Simple. Goals. As Didit continually harps on about, goals are what we pay for. I love a crunching tackle, even better a little outrageous skill (aka Mesut), a towering defensive header or a sprint down the wings but let’s face it, a 0-0 draw rarely excites. It is goals which get us out of our seats.

Awful Music Alert. Turn off Speakers before Watching

There have been some fine 0-0, I recall at cracker at WHL a few seasons ago. Thinking of which I saw this and giggled – hopefully you will too.

Ccy5PWtW4AAKw9G.jpg

Mr Bruce, he of the badly squashed face, you know the mush, the one that looks as though he has run full-face into a wall, Come on, you know, the chap who resembles an overweight pug dog. Well, Mr Bruce has once again stated that he will rotate his squad. He did so at The Emirates and came away with an unwanted result. With the PL a priority Bruce will not want a home game against Watford on Sunday – or will he? It must be a financial boon.

The FA Cup has to be a priority for Mr Wenger. We are doomed in the CL and the PL title remains open; the chance to make FAC history must be alluring. 3 on the spin would satisfy even Herb’s Army!

So, we will play a few reserves and chaps who need games to return to form. Giroud will start alongside Walcott. Campbell too.

I expect to see Chambers at RB which forces Mr Wenger to play his first choice, fit, CB’s – BFG and Paul Easter. Gibbs to continue at LB after a fine game on Saturday.

Team:

Ospina

Chambers   BFG   Easter   Gibbs

Elneny   Flamini   Iwobi

Campbell    Giroud    Walcott

A strong bench in case of our lads being silly.

Hull played well at the Em’s and they are not going to be easy opponents tonight – they never are. Two decent CB’s backed up by a fine GK and a battling midfield, they are hard to break down. If Hull score first it could be a long night.

BTW have you ever been to Hull? If not, keep it that way. If, like me, you have visited this outpost of civilisation you will know that the game is best watched from the comfort of your own home or a pub.

And remember, the match kicks off at 19.00. Can you recall a match ever kicking off at 19.00? Anyone know why?

Another big game for Arsenal. A home tie against Watford beckons; win that and we are into the Semi’s.

Glory and Silverware awaits

COYRRG


Elneny was brought in to replace Ramsey

February 1, 2016

Iwobi and new signing Elneny both impressed against Burnley with many crediting Iwobi with the Man of the Match performance. His composure, control and understanding of the game are way beyond his years. We should be careful not to burden him with too much expectation, but we can be excited about what is undoubtedly another midfield talent Arsene has produced.

The player I want to focus on today is Elneny. There has been much discussion of his intended role in the midfield, and the role he played in Saturday’s game.

It was assumed he was back-up/competition for Coquelin, but lo and behold, Arsene played them both. Surely Arsene would never put out a team with two holding midfielders … and he didn’t.

No, Elneny didn’t play HM, he covered every blade of grass and was the epitome of a box-to-box midfielder. If you look at M.E.s performances for Basel and read what Arsene has said of the player, it is clear that he has a lot more to his game than just breaking play up and keeping it simple.

So if Elneny wasn’t brought in as another ‘Coquelin’ then where does he fit into our midfield. Sadly Cazorla’s latest injury together with his advancing years means that he may never be a first choice midfielder for Arsenal again. Who knows whether Wilshere will ever be able to remain injury free long enough to establish himself as first choice in our midfield?

This got me thinking. Every well managed team has a production line of players coming through and strives for a quality back-up for every position.

Arsene likes Ramsey – a lot! I’m pretty sure that along with Ozil, Sanchez and Koscielny, Ramsey is always one of the first names on the team sheet. The best players need to be protected and rested on occasion, and are the ones that the big spending clubs try to pluck from our midst. There are rumours that Barcelona have shown an interest in Ramsey. From what I can see, Ramsey and Elneny have a lot in common. A superb engine, a good range of passing and an eye for goal.

So there you have it – my conclusion is that Elneny was brought in to bolster our midfield options in the short term, and to offer an alternative to Ramsey in the long term. What do you think?

Rasp