Double Pants Dilemma: Newcastle v Arsenal Match Report and Player Ratings

August 11, 2019

The first game of a new season prompts a strange mix of emotions: excitement, anticipation, hope, nervousness. Perhaps fear.

I imagine it’s the way a bride must feel on the morning of her wedding when everything has been planned just the way she wants it but she has a nagging suspicion that she might be marrying the wrong man.

Well, let’s hope Arsenal’s 2019/20 season is a ‘happily ever after’ story and we don’t end up feeling betrayed, abandoned and embittered with only chocolate and cats to console us.

The auguries were not good for yesterday’s season opener against a Newcastle United team led by new coach Mrs Doubtfire.

There were two reasons for concern: firstly, our opening day form has been pants in recent years. And secondly, for the first time in years our opening match was away from home and, as we all know, our away form has also been pants.

So we had a double pants dilemma, like an anxious incontinence sufferer.

First, our opening day form: in the previous four years, starting with last year, we have managed the following: home defeat to Manchester City; scrappy and somewhat lucky home win against Leicester City; home defeat to Liverpool; home defeat to West Ham.

Next, our overall away form: last season and the one before we contrived to lose exactly half of our away games in the Premier League (19 out of 38) and managed to win only 11 out of 38 – a win rate of just 29%.

Yet, with all that in mind, it was impossible not to feel a bit chipper going into the game.

Most of us would probably agree we had a good transfer window and this has helped the mood music around the club to be more upbeat. There’s a cautious feeling that we have started to plant the seeds of recovery after some frustrating years.

There appears to be a bit more of a clear direction at the club and it’s hard not to be excited about new signings like Ceballos, Pepe and Martinelli, and the continuing progress of home-grown talents like Willock and Nelson.

Unai Emery went with a starting line-up that will probably bear little resemblance to our eventual first choice eleven this season (once the broken ones have returned and the new ones have settled). He put his faith in some of the youngsters. Willock, Nelson and Guendouzi started, as did Maitland-Niles and Chambers (does Calum Chambers still count as a youngster?).

Lacazette, rightly, was not risked due to recent injury issues, but was on the bench in case we needed to chase a goal late on. That meant the irrepressible Aubameyang would be carrying most of our attacking hopes.

The first half was a fairly even affair. The Barcodes had a 10 minute spell when they created some half chances, including a shot from noted Nosferatu impersonator Jonjo Shelvey that hit the post (although Leno may just have had it covered).

From our side, we were finding it difficult to break down a well-organised Newcastle defence and whenever it looked like we might find a way through a wayward pass or piece of control would bring an end to things.

But there were promising signs in the way we knocked the ball around at times and it was particularly pleasing to see Willock and Nelson so involved and showing a lot of confidence. Guendouzi, meanwhile, was my stand-out player of the first period. He’s strong, competitive, always makes himself available and is ever keen to get on the front foot: he may look like the dopey sidekick from a 1990s teen movie, but this kid has future leading man written all over him.

In the second half we were the superior team overall, without creating clear cut chances until the breakthrough came courtesy of two men for whom two initials are just not enough: AMN and PEA.

Maitland-Niles showed brilliant anticipation as Newcastle played the ball out from the back. He beat the Newcastle player to the ball around the half way line, took a couple of touches and looked up to see Auba moving into space in the penalty area. Maitland-Niles’s 35-yard* pass to our Gabonese gazelle was beautifully executed. Aubameyang brought it under control and coolly side-footed it past the on-rushing ‘keeper.

Mrs Doubtfire will be fuming at the space given to our striker in the box, but that should not detract from the fact that he found the space or the sublime way in which he finished.

As Auba ran to celebrate with his Number One Best Bro (Lacazette) on the touchline I liked that he turned to beckon Maitland-Niles to join the party.

After that Newcastle huffed and puffed but caused few real scares.

It’s tempting to say that Aubameyang’s quality was the difference, but in truth we displayed superiority in most areas for the majority of the game.

We also got to have a look at Ceballos, Pepe and Martinelli as they came on for Willock, Nelson and Mkhitaryan. There were a couple of nice moments from Pepe in particular, but the main thing was they got their debuts under their belts and they can feel they contributed to a win and a clean sheet.

I think a special word is also merited for our new away kit – and that word is “Yes!” Well done Adidas.

*For younger readers who don’t understand imperial measurements, 35 yards is equivalent to 28 Ells, or 70 Cubits.

Player Ratings

Leno: dealt with everything that came his way. In particular I enjoyed the moment in the second half where he came out of his area to head the ball clear and snuff out a dangerous Newcastle attack. 7.5

Maitland-Niles: excellent overall game from the young fullback and his anticipation and skill directly led to our winning goal. 8

Monreal: solid and unspectacular from Nacho, but he did little wrong. 7

Sokratis: it’s hard to get excited about our Greek colossus, but he is a very dependable defender and had a good game. 7

Chambers: a year on loan playing in midfield has been good for Chambers. I fancy he could be one of the surprise success stories of the season. Like his central defence partner he was solid. 7

Xhaka: seemed more subdued than usual but was tidy and played some very nice attacking passes at times. 6.5

Guendouzi: all energy all the time. I love the way he turns his body as he receives the ball so he is always ready to surge towards the opposition end. 8

Nelson: confident and tidy. It’s very encouraging to have players like him and Willock coming through, not least for the way it can inspire other up-and-coming talents at the club. 7

Willock: this lad’s a class act. 7.5

Mkhitaryan: I know he’s not a fan favourite but I thought he was lively in the first half and helped create some of our better chances. His final ball let him down a couple of times and he faded in the second half. 6

Aubameyang: exuberant, talented and full of energy – what a great player to have wearing the Arsenal shirt. MoTM 8.5.

Subs:

Ceballos: misplaced a few passes as he tried to find his feet, but grew into the game.

Pepe: showed one or two very nice moments of skill. Looking forward to seeing more of him.

Martinelli: a Brazilian forward at the Arsenal? What’s not to like?

RockyLives

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Happy as a Mad Brazillian?

August 9, 2019

I said before the window that our 2 main areas of concern last season were the defence and the attacking midfield areas. Fast forward a couple of months and we’ve signed 3 defenders and 3 attacking players.

Very, very happy.

I cannot wait to see Pepe and Tierney in the side and Luiz and Ceballos should get plenty of games too and improve on what we have. Martinelli has looked capable in pre season and should develop, and hopefully Saliba will be first team ready when he arrives next summer.

We’ve gotten rid of a few fringe players in Bielik, Jenkinson and Ospina, aswell as seeing Iwobi, Ramsey and Koscielny leave. However, none of those losses feel too hurtful as we’ve known about Ramsey for a while, Koscielny is no longer what he once was, and Iwobi just didn’t seem to be developing. I really like the Nketiah loan deal to Leeds too and it would be fantastic if he could fire them into the PL and earn himself another 12 months their next season to see if he’s ready for the top flight.

A net spend of around £80m and a feeling that we’ve strengthened our attack significantly whilst managing not to make an already porous defence weaker despite losing our captain. We’ve even managed to look to the future with the signings of Saliba and Martinelli, aswell as the integration into the first team of Willock, Nelson, Martinez and Saka.

A very successful summer from the Arsenal hierarchy. The addition of Edu and the work that’s been done by the transfer guru’s might have just started to repair what was a crumbling relationship between the fans and the men at the top. It looks like we will be an exciting team to watch this season and I can’t wait for the football to start.

Over to Unai to make Arsenal great again!

fatgingergooner


Perfect Pepe … Ivan was terrible … Ian is Right Right Right

August 2, 2019

First let us all rejoice in the news that the ‘big club with the smallest budget’ just signed the 4th most expensive player in Premier League history.

Welcome Nicolas Pepe. Arsenal now have a front three to match the best in Europe.

Every Arsenal supporter should be over the proverbial moon. This is more than a big signing, this is a statement by the club …. don’t write us off, we mean business and we can do business.

It also puts into perspective the performance of the previous management team who were also working under the tight fisted, disinterested American billionaire (… yes, I’m being sarcastic).

I love Ian Wright, he bleeds Arsenal. I’ve seen him have to bite his lip many times on television in recent years as he struggles to avoid saying what he really feels for fear of damaging the club.

Well now he has let rip … and I love him even more for it.

For those of us (like me) who questioned what Ivan Gazidis actually did apart from delivering slick platitudes, Ian Wright’s words resonate.

Here are just a few lines of what he had to say:

I’ve got to give credit to Raul Sanllehi, head of football and the senior leadership of our club. This is exceptionally good business. This is unbelievable. This is the kind of business Arsenal have missed for so long.

We could mention that other fool (meaning Gazidis) that was there – but I won’t because I’m in a positive vein now. This is the kind of player about whom we’d usually be saying ‘I wish we’d have got him’. Well, we’ve got him.

It’s a deal we assumed would never be done but it’s brilliant. This is the kind of player who, once he settles in, I personally think we’ve got a world-class player on our hands.

I’m not being over the top, I’m not being over-excited. I genuinely believe that from what I’ve seen of him. He ticks so many boxes in terms of goals and assists but for me it’s the directness. We miss that.

We miss a player that can take players on one-on-one and beat them. A player who can receive the ball, dribble, turn and run at players. No defenders want to face that. I’m very excited about it.

This is what Wrighty had to say about the new contract for Matteo Guendouzi:

This is what we should have been doing years ago. Now, someone upstairs has actually got their finger on the button, knowing we need to sign players. We signed Matteo last year ago for £8m. People are now in for him for £30m.

That’s the kind of business that we are starting to do. This is why the people upstairs now are starting to get it. We are getting into people before their contracts run down and that is great business. I love what they are doing.

I have renewed sympathy for Arsene Wenger after all the abuse he took in his latter years. The man who should have managed the situation, who failed to recruit a top quality management team around him, who was the one who was far too comfortable on his fat salary and who was happy to let the blame be directed at others…  was Ivan Gazidis.

So today we can celebrate two things. The signing of a world class player for a club record fee and the demonstration that the wrongs of the Gazidis era have finally been put Right Right Right.

Rasp

 


Pepe to wing it for Arsenal

July 30, 2019

We have been renowned as a predominantly attacking club ever since the start of the Wenger era, but over the last few years we have arguably seriously overlooked one area of our attacking department within the squad.

Earlier Wenger teams seemed to be bolstered by high quality, attacking, goal-scoring, pacey wide players, but for the last number of years this position has seemingly been overlooked at Arsenal to the point it almost appeared as if it was deemed non important to us in the modern era. However, a good look around at the other top sides seemed to highlight that all other clubs deemed these positions to be of high importance, and most often set up with these players in a 4-3-3 system, or a close variation on this.

Fingers are currently crossed throughout goonerdom that Pepe will be the new man to wing it for Arsenal.

The modern wide player seems to be something between a winger and a wing forward that operate either side of a lead striker most often, with the majority of the top clubs, in a rotating front 3 sharing goal-scoring responsibility. These wing forward players also give the attacking width that can stretch the opposition without relying solely on the full-backs for width, so arguably also provide extra problems for the opposition in wide areas, with the wing forward and the overlapping full-back combining during the game.

Another factor in having specialised attacking wide players is that the full-backs don’t need to be permanently camped high up the pitch, and can therefore choose the right moments to get forward and join the attack, thus ensuring they are still, for the most part, covering their defensive responsibilities as part of the back 4.

I feel we have suffered a fair bit at times in not having these players in recent years, preventing us from being able to deploy a more balanced, but still attack orientated, formation. It is why I am excited this forthcoming season by the prospect of young players like Saka and Nelson coming into the first team environment and giving us something I feel we have missed for many years. If we were also to add one more top established attacking wide player, like Zaha or Pepe, to this then my legs will start to literally quiver in anticipated excitement.

One big question though is how should these wing forward players be deployed? Which particular player should line up on which side? Here are a few comments from yours truly, Fred, and LBG to get the thought process going.

Fred says:

Yea Nelson hasn’t impressed at all with Eddie I actually think je should be playing on the left on the 433 to start the season, I know it isn’t his natural position but he is a rich vain of form

GoonerB says (in response):

Fred, I had always assumed that Nelsons natural position was on the left side of the striker. I have still to watch the last 3 games which I have got recorded. Does this mean that Nelson has been operating from the right side? I seem to recall that most of the decent footage you see of him when he has done something in games, either in our academy matches or last seasons loan, seem to show him operating from the left. Either way Fred, I would agree with you that Reiss Nelson is a left inside forward predominantly, and should be utilised this way.

LBG says (in response):

Nelson is a left sided wide attacker, but as is customary left sided players nowadays are often used on the right and cut in to hit shots with their left foot. I personally want wide players to go round the fullback and cross from the byline, like olden times.

GoonerB says:

Wilf would really take up the position of Nelson while Pepe would take up the position of Saka but as I say pepe looks like he could move in centrally behind a single number 9 as well which may give us the better balance and also squad options.

Fred says (in response):

Think u got that wrong Saka plays on left and Nelson on right

So with the inside forwards, or wide attacking players, (or whichever other description you prefer), it would seem the jury is out as how to best deploy them. Academy players that are still developing should arguably spend time playing in 2-3 positions to develop their all round understanding, but I would suggest that once a player starts to become more of a first team regular that they should have a preferred specialist position (or side) where most of their play takes place.

Both Nelson and Saka, at their still tender ages, seem to have played both sides at different times, if you watch any footage of them. Maybe to date Saka has had more time on the left and Nelson on the right, but as a left footer and right footer, respectively, I would suggest it is now time to deploy Saka from the right and Nelson from the left if they are to become top class prolific goal scoring pacey winger / wing forward type players.

Why do I say this? Well if you were to make a list of all recent (maybe last 10 years) top level attacking wide players, at the top clubs, it is nearly always right footed players on the left and left footed players on the right. However I would love to hear your thoughts on this AA’ers.

GoonerB

 


How the Nicolas Pepe deal was really done ….

July 28, 2019

Despite being bombarded with stories that Arsenal could only afford the £40m offered for Zaha, it seems clear that the club is trying to buy Nicolas Pepe for a deal thought to be in the region of £72m ….. How?

Past transfer shenanigans have shown that deals can be made on a whim and a handshake at times, with players being snatched off the treatment table when having a medical for one club to jumping straight on a plane to sign for another.

Deals are done in car parks, engineered by other players, a casual phone call … all sorts of chicanery can be involved.

Mike M came up with this possible (albeit tongue in cheek) script of how the negotiations between Lille and Arsenal were conducted ….

Imaginary conversation:

Lille 1 : So we need $80m for Pepe or we’re not selling.
Lille 2: Hey Boss, Arsenal are on the phone inquiring about Pepe.
Lille 1: Tell them to forget it. They only have $40m they can’t afford him.
Lille 2: I told them, they still want to talk to you
Lille 1: What a colossal waste of time. Ok put them on.
Lille 1: So you’re interested in Pepe huh, my assistant already told you he’s not in your price range. We want $95m.

Arsenal: What is our price range? How do you know?

Lille 1: Everyone knows. It was in the media.

Arsenal. We’ll give you $65m structured as follows … (blah blah).

Lille 1: No we want at least $90m

Arsenal : The player wants to come to us, lets figure it out.

Lille 1: Ok.

Lots of talking……..

Arsenal: so $72m it is structured in the following way …. (blah blah)

Lille 1 : Ok. You’re lucky the player wants to join you. We already have offers of $80m. Deal. Hang up phone.

Arsenal 1: So they thought we only had $40m to spend. You think if we’d announced we had $100m they would have settled for $72m?

Arsenal 2: Hard to say, but I’m glad we didn’t kill that press rumour, it certainly didn’t hurt.

Meanwhile

Lille 1: So I guess we did good. They only had $40m and we ended up getting $72 from them.
Lille 2: Good job Boss, I’d have never believed that a few hours ago.

Gooooooners!!!

NB – Hope we get him now !!!!!!

Mike M