Arsenal’s Best Strike Partnership

November 8, 2019

We’re heading into what could be a very important weekend for Arsenal’s immediate future and certain subjects have been debated half to death:

Emery in or out.

The Xhaka debacle.

The midfield dilemma.

So how about we change the script just for today by taking another look at a topic that has slipped down the priority list of late, namely: with the talent we have available, how should our attackers be set up to give us the best chance of scoring goals?

(After a performance where we managed one attempt on target it’s not an unreasonable question).

First a caveat: obviously the way we play in defence and midfield has an effect on how our strikers perform. But for the purposes of this exercise let’s just pretend we have a functioning team behind the strikers (I know, hogs might levitate etc) but bear with me.

In those circumstances, which strikers should be starting in our first team and in what configuration?

The options available to us are Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe, Saka, Nelson, Martinelli and I think we can throw in Ozil and Ceballos if either is played as a Number 10.

My preference is Lacazette central, with Aubameyang on the left and Pepe on the right.

But I know some people have doubts about Laca and would rather see Auba in a central role.

And what about Martinelli? After a blistering start to his Arsenal career, should he be in the starting equation?

Pepe has disappointed so far, but I’m sticking with him because I’m expecting him to come good, but perhaps Saka or Nelson are better options right now?

And one addendum to this discussion: is attack an area where we need to consider strengthening in January?

Over to you…

RockyLives


Unai knows

October 26, 2019

It was interesting to watch Unai Emery’s reaction to Pepe’s match winning goal on Thursday, not a fist pumping jump for joy, not a huge sigh of relief, just a half smile into the camera from a man who might be a little bit more aware of what is going on than some of us might think.

Emery is tasked with getting us into the top four this season and we are a long, long way off from failing to achieve that goal and he more than most is aware of that fact and as such rightly retains a calm outward appearance. How do I know that, look at his expression when Pepe’s goal flies in; he knows what is about to come from that player, am I sure, of course I am not, but I do believe that what I am writing is more likely to be true than not.

We have been poor recently capped off with the debacle at Bramwell lane, juries were out, juries were in, and people were ready to change Emery there and then.

My feelings were that things are taking longer to slot into place than I was expecting and by that I mean we can all remember the excitement of the signings in the close season and how high expectations were. I kept on saying to myself that he should not be judged until he has the use of his full squad and I still believe that — will our absent two full backs magically make a massive difference? Err yes they will and will do so in the not too distant future and that brings me to the point that I have been holding off for as long as I can: the attack.

We have not just been firing on two of the three cylinders, we have been firing on one. Aubamayang has been doing the best he can with no help from his other attacking team mates: expecting Saka to shoulder the responsibility of scoring match winning goals is too bigger ask at the moment but the biggest disappointment has been none other than Pepe.

Well the worm has finally turned and I for one now expect a huge improvement in our fortunes now that Pepe has officially joined Arsenal Football Club, evidenced by his two lazar guided free kicks against Vitoria. The Ivorian’s confidence should now be sky high and as such the goals should now start to flow; we could also see Lacazette replace Saka as was the case in the earlier part of the season which worked well, certainly better than in recent past and that could give us the much hoped for and eagerly anticipated three pronged clinical attack.

The addition is that I am far from writing Saka off; he is more than welcome to join the party and if it is he who retains his place in the starting trio because of performances that merit his selection then all well and good, the same goes for Martinelli who is probably the one new signing who has surpassed our expectations; the young Brazilian has far better close control than Lacazette but is obviously no where near ousting Aubamayang.

The peripheral stuff is that the club are obviously doing everything they can to get Ozil’s wages off of the books; he is not playing in the Europa Cup to avoid being cup tied which would reduce, even further, the small pool of clubs that might be interested in signing him. With a solution finally found to the issue that some at the club seem to have with him, it should increase the possibility of more signings that have been hinted at for January and I simply do not believe that Emery cannot see the issue in midfield, an area that I expect him to prioritise and if you doubt that look at how ruthlessly he has dealt with Ozil and Mustafi and as such I for one see no reason to believe he would not do the same to anyone else in the much maligned midfield if he could get the right upgrade.

All in all I think we still have a lot to look forward to; the pegs are starting to fall into their holes and hmmm, how can I finish this? I know, lets just remember Pepe’s two superb free kicks and purrrrrrrrrrrrr.

LB


The Nicolas Pepe (our Pepe) Show

October 25, 2019

As an attendee, and having agreed with Peaches that I would try to write something that makes sense regarding the game, here goes at 12.30am……..

As I walked from the pub, having picked up the team news as I left, a smug sense of contentment was the overriding feeling. 10 out of 11 of my earlier in the day suggestion for the starting eleven. Not bad for me! At last Dick was on the same page as many who have been on the blog in last few days!!

As the first half came to a close, I commented to the guy next to me. How can a manager select the right players, and then play enough of them out of position as to confuse all of them, and to leave one with the impression that they had only just met as a team before the kick off?!!

Willock and Torreira were playing holding central midfield, except Willock doesn’t play that role and Torreira kept passing then bombing forward and making himself unavailable for the next pass.

Maitland-Niles was playing right wing (poorly, in almost every touch). Tierney continually found himself with two wide players to mark and in the end was rarely able to mark either. Passes went continually astray, sometimes ridiculously. Every thing was slow, laboured, uninspiring. Have you ever trained together lads?

Despite having Tierney ready and able to attack and, as we know cross a delightful ball, we invariably turned in midfield and went down the right. There, Bellerin  (captain??), with no confidence going forward, was passing back or inside every time, has even forgotten what little he knew about defending and seems to want to rugby tackle/hug his opposition to a standstill.( I am also worried he has lost his pace with his injury!)

What of the opposition? Well they said, “this is our lucky day!” “We have no points and have scored no goals so far, make hay, lads!”So they scored two goals and made us look like a (poor) pub team.

In between their efforts Tierney made his one beautiful cross of the half and Martinelli proved he is a talented striker with his head again. Smith-Rowe had a goal bound shot deflected at the last, following a flowing move.

Willock and Maitland-Niles were substituted at half time and on came Ouzi and Ceballos. They were immediately man marked and not much improved initially, but slowly they and the team began to give the impression they at least wanted to win the game! Bellerin actually went to the byline and crossed for Martinelli to hit a perfect strike straight at the goalkeeper. Mustafi headed over, Holding headed into the goalkeeper’s arms. The chances were coming.

Then Pepe came on. He looked as though he had been on the sugary sweets and immediately made the opposition wet their pants with his skilful dribbling. And then we got a free kick on the right hand side of the box and Pepe bent the ball around the wall and passed a helpless goalkeeper for 2-2. Oh well, although we don’t really deserve it, a point is better than a loss! And then Ouzi drove for the box in the first minute of extra time and we got another free kick. Up stepped the “boy” of the moment and bent the ball even more spectacularly around another wall and into the top corner giving the goalkeeper no chance again.

Arsenal 3-2 Vitoria, three points; for me a completely unbelievable game, impossible to explain to anybody who didn’t witness it, that being clearly evident from these very late night ramblings. Apologies to any who saw different.

Player ratings

Martinez 6. A couple of close ish cross shots and no real chance with goals

Bellerin 4 Not very impressive at present following his long term injury.

Mustafi 6 Reasonable for him. No major errors as far as I can remember

Holding 6/7  Likewise, solid and confident generally.

Tierney 6/7 Confused defensively in.first half. Not helped much by the rest of his team. Lovely assist for Martinelli goal and much more involved in attacks in last quarter of game.

Torreira 5 Keen and energetic but Dick seems to have made him into a bit of a headless chicken

Willock 4  Felt sorry for him. Hooked again from a new position with very little support from those around him.

Smith-Rowe 4/5 Effort, but did he have a specific role that he was aware of?

Maitland-Niles 2 Nothing really worked for him. Little support for Hector on right. Flicks and ticks that irritate. Lackadaisical!

Lacazette 6 Effort throughout but nothing really fell for him.

Martinelli 8 My MOTM  Could have scored more, but energetic, determined and worthy of his place.

Subs

Ceballos 6  Usual buzzing around, without too much end product.

Ouzi 6/7 Eventually had significant influence on game with both passing and driving forward.

Pepe 7 Two wonderful strikes that obviously changed the game and will hopefully be the start of a growing confidence from the young man.

LBG


Another rollercoaster …… Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2

September 23, 2019

This was such an interesting game. The first half was really poor, we didn’t get going and we conceded (of course we conceded). The bright spark was Saka who took a couple of marvelous shots that on another day would have been great goals – he is going to be a great addition to the squad. Late in the half, Maitland-Niles, already on a yellow, got himself sent off for a second yellow and we saw out the half with Xhaka playing at right-back.

 

The second half also started slowly, Emery had (sadly) had to take off Saka to bring on Chambers at right-back. He had done well earlier in the season so that felt like a good move. Still we huffed and puffed. Guendouzi’s energy was beginning to trouble the visitors and then he was brought down while slaloming into the box. Pepe fired home the resulting penalty. Phew ………. but then we conspired to give Villa another goal.

On 71 minutes Torreira and Willock came on for Xhaka and Ceballos and then the fun started. Guendouzi has energy  to burn, I love that guy, Willock must be terrifying to play against when you’re getting tired and Torreira was snapping into tackles. Chambers showed he wouldn’t give up the chance to score by equalising to 2-2 and then Aubameyang put us ahead with a beautiful free kick.

Now I love snatching victory from the jaws of defeat and we did just that. We had played poorly for 70 minutes and conceded 2 goals, gosh we do make things difficult for ourselves.

I have to say something about Guendouzi – did I mention that I love him. His energy is amazing but what I love also is the way he engages with the crowd while the game is going ahead. I don’t think we’ve had a player that recognises the part the crowd are playing while the game is going on. Most players play with their heads down doing their job (which is fine) but this guy urges the crowd to join in. It’s fantastic. The Emirates was still nearly full at the full time whistle, supporters were staying behind to applaud Matteo as he walked around the pitch. I love him.

Player ratings from RC78

Leno – 5. Let’s in 2 goals but did well.

AMN – 3. Started the match well but squandered a glorious chance. Then gets a yellow and another one. Clearly more at ease going forward than at defending l.

Sokratis – 4. Nothing spectacular and almost gave away another PK.

Luiz – 5. Sober and had some decent passing.

Kola – 5. Struggled going forward but defended OK.

Guendouzi – 7. This guy is a pure Ray of light this season. Doesn’t hide. Wants to win. Drives the ball forward and defends with passion.

Xhaka -4. Another lacklustre performance. Not leading by example.

Ceballos – 4. Anonymous.

Pepe- 6. Chances, a goal and lots of runs at opposition. Needs to improve but at least he played well.

Aubameyang – 6. A goal and a great effort for the team. What a player we have in Auba.

Saka – 6. Great start by the youngster. Fantastic debut and unlucky to be subbed.

 

Chambers – 6. The goal and the passion he showed make up for the second goal we conceded. Pure warrior attitude. Must be a starter.

Willock and Torreira – 5. Slotted in well. Great attitude too.

 

Emery – 5. A tough win and I hope that he’ll now drop Sokratis and Xhaka and let Chambers and Torreira or Willock start.

A win is a win 🙂

peachesgooner


Arsenal v Aston Villa pre-match

September 22, 2019

We arrive at the sixth game of the season welcoming newly promoted Aston Villa to the Home of Football. They haven’t had a particularly good start to the season with 1 win 3 losses and 1 draw. But we also haven’t won in the League since the 17th August.

Arsenal have won six consecutive league and cup games against Aston Villa, keeping a clean sheet in each of the last five. Villa have won three Premier League away games at Arsenal, a tally exceeded only by Manchester United and Chelsea (both have four victories). That was then, this is now.

After last weeks debacle against Watford there has been lots of discussion about how we set up and how we play out from the back. Both of these need to be addressed by Head Coach, Unai Emery. He has confirmed that he won’t be instructing the team to play in the suicidal manner we saw last week every time. It’s a shame he didn’t change it during the game last week.

With Lacazette injured I expect Emery to start the same team as last

 

Leno

Maitland-Niles    Sokratis    Luis    Kolasinac

Guendouzi    Xhaka    Torreira

Pepe    Aubameyang    Ceballos

 

Ceballlos loves playing at the Emirates so I’m hoping we’re going to love him back. The atmosphere was fantastic for the game against totts and tickets have been hard to come by for this game for weeks. There will be an expectation that Pepe will get his first goal in front of the home crowd. I don’t mind which end he scores but I shall be cheering him on in the North Bank.

If we’re to suffer conceding silly goals again then lets hope we get to cheer more times than we’re grumpy.

We always concede so I’m going for 4-1.

Enjoy the game all COYG

peachesgooner

 

 


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


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