Playing the ball out from the back – Progress Report

September 6, 2018

What on earth is going on with Emery?

We are a Harry Arter miss away from being the laughing stock of the Premier League. If the Cardiff player had scored from the gift that Cech presented him early in the weekend’s game, the Arsenal Blogsphere would have gone into melt down. The number of visits to this site and every other would have gone through the roof because that is what happens when we lose – every single Arsenal moaner comes out of the woodwork. As it happens, Arter missed and we won so as very close as we came to being the laughing stock, we are not and traffic in Blogsphere is very light; that’s to say, it is just me writing this and you reading it.

So what is Emery trying to achieve giving seemingly suicidal instructions to play it out from the back in the way he is? I have ventured the idea that the purpose is to draw the opposition forward with the aim of being able to pass the ball past them in the hope of releasing our forwards with more space to work in and therefore a greater chance of scoring?

It can hardly be said that the tactic is working smoothly as it often resembles something from a Keystone Kop movie but ironically one of the by-products is that the opposition are drawn even further forward in the hope of exploiting our errors and this in turn frees up even more space for our strikers.

This understandably drew humorous comments suggesting that if things continue like this the whole of the opposition will be camped just outside our eighteen yard line and all Cech will have to do is to chip the ball over them to give one of our attackers a free run on goal.

Chas raised the more serious question of: weren’t we playing out from the back last season? The answer to which in my view is, err, yes but I would add importantly: not in the same way. Notice how extreme Unai Emery has taken it: Cech is playing the ball out to Mustafi and Sokratis who are almost standing next to their respective corner flags. They are so far back, the opposition, who are also trying to do their own version of the high press, are drawn to the ball. Both our defenders then play the ball back to Cech. This is repeated during which the opposition have moved even further down the pitch which is the cue for Cech to play the ball past the advanced opponents and start the basis of an attack. The flaw in this, as we know, is that Cech keeps on fluffing his lines and giving the ball away, creating heart stopping viewing.

Hmmmmmm

It was very different last year. If we got a goal kick, Cech would either hoof it long or if he played it short to say Bellerin, he in turn would try and move it down the field as quick as he could. By this time, and in either case, the opposition would have formed two lines of five with their goal keeper behind them otherwise known as — The Bus. We all remember what would happen then; we would pass the ball backwards and forwards across the pitch just outside the opponents eighteen yard line trying to find a way past before losing possession and then having to chase back like demons trying to stop a breakaway goal.

Anything, anything but a return to the monotony of that model has got to be the reason why Arsenal supporters are remaining so calm and tolerant of such comedic incidents. If those kinds of errors had happened last season, uh I don’t want to think about the size and scale of the melt down.

Emery has more room to manoeuvre among the Arsenal faithful than he probably realises, the divisions among the support are still fresh in the mind and the idea of returning to them is, I am sure, something that should delayed for as long as possible.

Emery does have the choice, of course, he could play Leno. Many have pointed to Guardiola’s first season and the ruthless way that he dealt with Joe Hart. It was thought that England’s ex could not play the ball with his feet the way Pep wanted and because of that he was shipped out. Guardiola then went on to sign Claudio Bravo and we all know how that worked out.

Back to Emery, yes he could have followed the Guardiola route or, as the Basque has done, give the old guard a chance to try and carry out his new way of doing things. Will Cech be able to adapt? It’s not looking good and we are going to see exactly what we have in reserve when we get to see Leno in the Caribou and the Europa. I like the choice that Emery has made of being slower in making radical change; big decisions on Ozil, Ramsey and Cech do not need to be rushed.

Guardiola took over a better squad and far greater spending power; he would have almost certainly been given the brief of your job is to the win the CL. Fanciful things like that might have swirled around the heads of our incoming Spanish contingent but there is a Gulf between the two clubs. In our case drastic change too quickly could have caused drastic problems, not something that would have been missed by the Arsenal hierarchy and as such I feel confident that an equally serious but far more down to earth message was made loud and clear to our incoming manager: no matter what you do always remember one thing – Arsenal do not do relegation.

Written by LB

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Slightly less pants than West Ham – Player Ratings

August 26, 2018

And we’re off. Arsenal’s season is up and running with a 3-1 win over West Ham. Not one for the purists, names like Bergkamp, Pires and Henry will not be needed to describe this one; live long in the memory it will not, if it makes it past Tuesday it would have done well. But a win, is a win is a win and those important three points will stay with us for the whole season.

Goodness only knows what style of play Emery is trying to create; I guess we are going to have to wait a bit longer to see how that one unfolds. As for the system; he employed a 4-2-3-1 which sort of made sense. Our Basque manager is obviously getting closer to what he wants. I was particularly impressed with his substitutions and his taking advantage of the change in the FA rules that must now say that it is permissible to make changes at half time, I am guessing that it is a new directive because I have never seen such a thing in all my time of watching Arsenal, well certainly not for the last 22 years.

Iwobi you are not cutting it – off. Guendouzi: a few too many loose passes – off and Aubameyang: feeling a bit under the weather – off. The substitutions were decisive — you under perform and you are off. I like it.

As for the game, West Ham went ahead after more Keystone defending which allowed Arnautovic to rifle a low shot past Cech’s out flung right hand.

“We’re winning away, we’re winning away how (awful) must you be, if we’re winning away.”

Monreal put them back in their place, with superbly controlled effort that fell kindly to him after some kind of shananigans, I can’t remember exactly; I was just too relieved that it went into the back of the net.

Half time arrived and on came Lacazette who gave us a lot more thrust upfront. We were always in control it’s just that until you get the second goal there is always that nagging doubt that it might not happen and I have to write something on the lines of at least we didn’t lose. But not this time, Lacazette put us ahead after he spun, fired the ball into Aubameyang’s chest and into the goal. The man obviously plays snooker as he knew exactly where PEA was and the exact angle he needed to hit him in order for the ball to go into the pocket.

On came Danny to enthusiastic singing from the crowd; do you realise that Welbeck is the only player with a song. Think about it, what a sad indictment, there is only one player in the squad who is deemed worthy to have his name sung – having his own song. And long may it continue, I have a soft spot for Welbeck, I still think there is time for him to turn into one of the absolute best strikers in the EPL. What a cool finish; gather ball, back to goal, spin and blast past keeper. 3-1, and we all sighed a huge sigh of relief, no one more than Unai Emery.

Cech: great keeping, kept us in the game again, have you noticed how immediately after the break when there is a goalkick, Cech plays the ball out at a 90 degree angle and then, out of panic, because no one is quite sure what they are supposed to do, it is passed back and we all start feeling really nervous, this must be on half time managerial instructions. My point is that I liked it when Cech clearly thought that this is nonsense and reverted to clearing the ball like normal teams. 8

Bellerin: someone suggested that he must be playing as high as he does on instructions, there can’t be any other answer because again we were getting slaughtered down the right flank when we lost possession. Still, good going forward as usual. 5

Mustafi: I don’t know what to say, is it all his fault? Does he really know what is expected of him? Who knows? 4

GB: played one superb long diagonal pass that I was impressed with – slowly finding his feet. 4

Monreal: Excellent goal, still our number one left back choice, I do like Nacho. 7

Guendouzi: probably guilty of trying a bit too hard and not keeping enough of an eye on the basics; should be interesting what UE does with him next. 5

Xhaka: a workman like performance, not a DM and not a goal scorer. Imagine Torriera as the DM and Ramsey next to him, you have a genuine DM and a genuine attacking midfielder who scores goals. 5

Ramsey: well he got to play his supposedly favourite position, mah, it was ok. Now about that leaving Ozil in his ‘sickbed’  malarkey, hmmm. 6

Mkhitaryan: he was better today, tracking back and all, his place is secure because no one else can play on the right. 7

Aubameyang: come on PEA, we need a hero, someone worthy of a new song; it’s been so long since a player had his own shiny new song. 6

Favourite comment:

Aaron says:
August 25, 2018 at 4:43 pm
Did I just see the Arsenal slow up a counter? My goodness……

Written by LB

Last Gasp Laca – Chelsea Chastened by Iwobi pen

August 2, 2018

Let’s just cut to the chase, dive straight in and talk about the best part of the ninety four minutes, no I don’t mean the last gasp goal from Lacazette that saved us from one of most horrible feelings that there can be no matter what the competition – losing to Chelsea is never a good look and never a good feeling; no, I am talking about something so much more uplifting, what is it, what is it, all this build up, is it going to be worth it? Oh yes it is – Guendouzi’s body check on Hudson-Odoi. The irritating upstart had been messing Hector around all game when suddenly bosh, have some of that you dirty chav; Guendouzi who is rapidly coming one of my favourite players showed him what is what and left the annoying blue mess writhing on the deck.

It is staggering that he is only 19 and has been playing in French lower league. There is no doubt in my mind that he has made Elneny redundant and some may say Xhaka too. Granit is a bit of a marmite player so I understand where some people are coming from but it is a bit early for that. Incredibly there is a lot of similarity in their style play but if anything the young Frenchman moves that ball around just that bit quicker, so although, I don’t expect that it will be long until Granit returns he will know he has serious competition for his place and he will not have the protection of being a shiny new Emery signing: Xhaka is a product of the old regime. Should be interesting, we shall see. Can’t stop thinking about that body check – love it.

Chelsea put out a pretty strong side and carved our defence open like a Sunday roast. You can say that with Monreal, Torreira and Xhaka in the mix things might have been a bit different – perhaps, but even with all three of them there I don’t think we would have stopped their goal and what’s more I predict we will suffer an awful lot more of that kind. Koscielny might have done something about it but that is a long way off.

The best form of defence is attack, well it is going to have to be, although, fortunately we are blessed in that department. And there is Iwobi – Barn Door meet Iwobi, Iwobi meet Barn Door, no Alex it’s over there; he should have scored and given us a slightly calmer finish.

But cometh the, (how on earth am I going to make this one work? No idea.) cometh Lacazette. We all saw it; he was more potent in 5 minutes than the rest of the attack had been for seventy minutes. The Butcher’s Dog got himself on the score sheet again and has surely earned himself a starting berth against City.

Cech was awesome. The step up for Smith-Rowe was a tad far; I bet he regrets not taking the shot on when that golden chance appeared. Kolasinac: we have done this one, he is just filling in. The central defence pairing, well if you can see some upside please let me know?

Mah, it was only a friendly and we avoided losing which no one likes. Next up, the caring sharing, kind hearted souls from Italy’s capital – Lazio. Onwards and upwards.

Written by LB


Wembley – First Half Ok – Second Woeful – Player Ratings

February 11, 2018

First Half

Arsenal defended pretty well, restricting the spuds to minor chances. Early on it didn’t seem very likely to be our day when the lino flagged Auba offside when put through brilliantly by Jack. ( I was so looking forward to him bamboozling Lloris).

Note how the linesman is meant to be on the line of the last defender but is in line with Mkhitaryan instead, which means he would see more of Auba

On the break we were poor. The team had been set up with quick, talented players at the sharp end, ideal for effective counter attacking. Misplaced passes were to prove very costly when we had clear overloads.

Second Half

We appeared to come out half asleep (as usual). A goal down in the first five minutes to a hopeful punt into the penalty area. Confidence drained, we could have been 2, 3 or 4 down in the next 25 minutes.

Tottenham sat back, alarmed they hadn’t gone further ahead, and we finally created some chances, the best falling to Lacazette almost on the bell.

LB says:

Things we learnt and thoughts on players.

Forget fourth place.

Mkhitaryan is much better playing on the right, evidence Everton.

Wilshere is not good enough when top level tested.

FGG says:

We just didn’t come out with enough intensity second half and it cost us. Then we fell apart for 20 minutes where we could’ve easily been 3 or 4 down, before finally creating something in the last 5 minutes. Not good enough.

What I learnt today is that whilst we all know we have defensive issues, these last 2 games have shown us how our attacking play is just as much to blame for those defensive frailties. I would argue that we defended much better as a team in the Spurs game (certainly first half) than we did against Everton, but our inability to keep the ball or sustain pressure meant that Spurs had loads of the ball and were able to pin us back in our half. It’s too much to expect our defence to hold out for 90 minutes against the likes of Kane if we are constantly on the back foot. The Everton game showed that when our attack clicks (it’s bound to be inconsistent given how new it is, so I’m not overly worried about the attacking performance) then it’s good enough to cover over defensive frailties.

GIE says :

 The defence did well for the majority of the game but were guilty of giving very poor ball to the midfield.

The midfield were pretty good at holding shape and not letting runners go, but were not making most of the ball when at feet.

The attack, when they did get the ball didn’t do enough with it.

Nearly all the above compound each other, and I found it pretty much the reverse of when we played them at the emirates where we were the ones picking up loose balls off their back line and putting them back under pressure, don’t think we did that enough today although they had a plan to go longer from defence to attack so bypassed those passing channels into midfield where we punished them at home.

Player Ratings 

Cech: kept us in the game but wow has his footwork become embarrassing. 6

Bellerin: tough job dealing with Son although he did it quite well, my beef is that there were too many cheap give away passes which after losing possession forced the pressure back onto Arsenal. Spuds simply didn’t do that. 5

Mustafi: probably one of his best games, very pleased with him. 8

Koscielny: jump man for goodness sake. 6

Monreal: had to stay further back than he normally likes due to out of place Mkhitaryan, did ok. 6

Elneny: used every ounce of his limited talent and was well deployed. 7

Xhaka: never going to be a constant goal threat and never going to offer enough of a defensive shield. 6

Wilshere: ran into blind alleys, made poor passing decisions added very little to the defensive cause, being so slow and short and all. Just not top level materiel. 5

Ozil: the telly Ozil that I saw looked as though he was struggling to get into the game, maybe it was different if you were there. 5

Mkhitaryan: look at the difference when played on the right as per the Everton game with his pin point accurate passing compared to his wayward display today. Easy to get this right after the event but I hope we learn from it. Offered nothing defensively and there was me fearing Iwobi on the left, goodness the left is the Nigerian’s best position and again when he came on he was sent out to the right — why? Both players. 4

Aubameyang: still in his honeymoon period, he gets a pass today, mah. 6

Ratings from LB (written just after the game had ended)


No Baked Spuds – A Point Gained or Two Lost?

November 7, 2016

15th of June – fixtures for the new season released and I scroll down the list looking for the Arsenal v Tottenham game.

6th November, yuk, 5 more months to go, but never mind, it will be worth it. Or will it?

Yep, sad old me was really looking forward to that game. Both teams were in good form, both have strong attacking abilities, mutual hatred going back 103 years and counting, it was going to be a game to remember. We were off to a good start, several chances to score, good tempo, looked promising. But……all the chances were wasted and with each ball going to row Z, I started to think that this could be costly. Fortunately, Spurs gave us an opening own goal and the team perked up a bit.

nld2

A silly mistake from Koscielny cost us a penalty, well executed by the not-exactly-Pierce-Brosnan look alike, Harry Kane. One all and I’m sitting deeper and deeper on the sofa, showing signs of resignation. The penalty was game changing, as it always is, and Spurs attacked with new belief and energy.

nld1

There were no more goals, hardly the goals galore I expected, but all in all, I think it was a good result for us. We played beautifully, technically beating Spuds hands down, but that is not a recipe for success.

I’ve said it time and time again – any team that allows us to play beautiful football will be punished. Any manager worth his salt knows by now that you can get a result against Arsenal by playing a disruptive game – don’t let the Gunners dominate the game and you can match them on their own turf. And that is exactly what Tottenham did yesterday.

The second glaring reason for yesterday’s poor result was, in my opinion, the absence of Santi. He is the player who can deal with the kind of pressure Spurs inflicted; he will cherish and distribute the ball and make sure it stays with us. He was missed, both yesterday, and in the previous 2 games. When is he back?

I am not angry, I am deflated, which is probably worse. We will not win the league, 13 years on the trot. That is really poor from a club that claims to be one of the best in the country.

Player Ratings

Everyone gets a 6 to match my feelings about an average performance.

Maybe Cech a 7, because of that save from Eriksen

nld3

Written by Eddie


Coquelin to Conquer Crystal Palace?

April 17, 2016

The season is getting exciting, which is not what I expected. I thought we were strolling to a Top 4 position, probably 2nd or 3rd but instead the Manchester clubs are finding some form, progressing to semi-finals and steadily picking up points.

Which makes this afternoon an important fixture. Under normal circumstances I would welcome Palace and wish them well, after all we usually beat them (don’t we?), instead I want them to get at least two players sent off and succumb pre-match to a series of nasty , short-term, debilitating disease.

We need a win.

One would have thought that to go to WHU  and return with a point would be heralded with joy, but instead it felt like a defeat. With hindsight, Getting out of Upton (could be a title for an album),  where WHU have been in superb form was a decent performance with many positives. Means nothing today though …

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One reason we need to beat CP is Alan Pardew. Being a hippy I don’t hate anyone (apart from the obvious) but I have an active dislike of Pardew. He is one of those blokes who hides his vicious personality behind an expensive haircut and clothes. How anyone can employ him given his CV is surprising and once again Pardew’s team is falling down the league after a decent start.

Another reason to beat CP is the return of that oddity Adebayor. Rarely has a man been blessed with so much talent and yet been hated at every club he has joined. I don’t care how many he scored for us I can never forgive him for the run towards the away fans at the Emptihad. Hope he gets Coquelinned.

An absolute must for today … Cech has to start. I like Ospina but IMO Cech would have won us another 2 points at the Boleyn. If he is fit enough for the bench then he is fit enough to play.

It will be interesting to see whether Mr Wenger picks Ramsey and if he does who gets dropped. The two possibilities are Iwobi and Elneny, who are just bedding into the team. Unfortunately for Ramsey they have been our standout players in recent weeks. Thankfully, this is not my problem.

Whomever plays, they have to give 100%. Pardew has stated that anyone who shirks will not be playing at Wembley in their upcoming FAC semi-final (It should have been Us – another song title?), we should expect the same endeavour from our chaps..

We have to win. Let it be so.

COYRRG


Szczesny to Return?

April 1, 2016

The Pole in Goal (henceforth known as TPIG) has had an excellent season in Rome. Roma have enjoyed a good season so far and TPIG has been their first choice GK, missing only one game. The fans like him, the manager likes him and it appears he has rebuilt his crumbling reputation,

But is Wojciech off the naughty step at Arsenal?

I like TPIG, he has presence, he has character, he works hard and in my opinion can become an excellent GK but does Mr Wenger agree? The signing of Cech indicates a No, though in my opinion the Cech transfer was a no brainer – the man is fantastic. However, this leaves us with 3 very good GK’s all of whom are looking for first team action, if TPIG returns what of Ospina? All  3 are under contract so it is AW’s decision.

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Rumours are that Ospina is unhappy playing second fiddle to Cech and TPIG will be even more dissatisfied returning to a club where he has been demoted from No.1 to not even a bench seat.

Should Ospina leave would TPIG settle for a few games in the Cups? It seems unlikely.

Thankfully this is a luxury problem – long gone are the days of Almunia.

Arsenal own his contract so if we want Szczesny to return then he will. Roma have said they would like him to stay. The media are reporting that Klopp wants him at Liverpool.

What do you think, should he stay or should he go?

written by Big Raddy