Internationals – when and where do Arsenal players feature?

October 10, 2018

So interlull dullness hits us like a big wet sock just as the season was beginning to look so bright after such magnificent goals at the Cottage.

I’ve learnt a few things looking into these fixtures…………..

Auba, Wobbly and Mo Elneny are involved in home and away fixtures against South Sudan, Libya and Eswatini respectively in the AFCON qualifiers. Seems sensible.

South Sudan is, well, south of the much larger Sudan.

Eswatini is the new name for Swaziland.

Stephan Lichtsteiner will not be called up by the Swiss under a pre-arranged agreement to give the old fella a breather.

Mkhitaryan has long flights to and from Armenia since we now know it’s alongside Azerbaijan.

Terrier has even longer flights buzzing around with Uruguay in the Far East. He’ll feel at home height-wise out there anyway!

Mikhi – Armenia

13th Oct Gibraltar (H) Uefa Nations League (UNL)

16th Oct FYR Macedonia (H) UNL

 

Auba – Gabon

12th Oct South Sudan (H) AFCON

16th Oct South Sudan (A) AFCON

 

Terrier – Uruguay (only five foot five)

12th Oct S. Korea (A) Friendly

16th Oct Japan (A) Friendly

 

Granit – Switzerland

12th Oct – Belgium (A) UNL

15th Oct Iceland (A) UNL

 

Wobbly – Nigeria

12th Oct Libya (A) AFCON

15th Oct Libya (H) AFCON

Sticking it to Bamidele

 

Big Sok – Greece

12th Oct – Hungary (H) UNL

15th Oct – Finaland (A) UNL

 

Rambo – Wales (impending arrivals permitting)

11 Oct – Spain (H) Friendly

16 Oct – Ireland (A) UNL

 

Welbz – England

12th Oct – Croatia (A) UNL

15th Oct – Spain (A) UNL

 

Mo Elneny

12th Oct Eswatini (H) AFCON

16th Oct Eswatini (A) AFCON

 

Hot off the press……..

Bernd Leno has been called up by Germany.

13th Oct – Holland (A) UNL

16th Oct – France (A) UNL

 

Let’s say a prayer to Dennis that all the boys come through unscathed.

chas

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Unai’s boys flatten Fulham with flawless finishing

October 8, 2018

Wow, it really is an exciting time to be an Arsenal supporter. With the toxic infighting of last season fading from memory and now, incredibly, nine wins on the bounce it rightly has to be said that the Unai Emery revolution is gathering pace. I can’t remember the last time I found myself looking forward to the next game with such eagerness: you just don’t know what you are going to get.

We continued to make mistakes at the back in the early part of yesterday’s game and I can’t be the only one who feels that a better team is going to punish us to the tune of three quick goals giving us a mountain to climb to get back on level terms; but, on the other hand, there are now elements of our play that suggest that not only could we get top four – we could win the league. More level-headed and certainly more annoying sourpusses will probably say that the truth is somewhere in between.

My take on what turned out to be the thrashing of Fulham was that it was a workman-like performance studded with five incredibly good goals. Our football in general wasn’t that convincing but our goals certainly were. I could go through all of them, describing each in turn but wouldn’t be able to do justice to the fine collection.

Probably the most important was Lacazette’s second; it came at a crucial time, shortly after the restart and dampened down the enthusiasm that Fulham had worked up having scored just before the break. Back in charge Arsenal went on to slowly strangle the life out of the home side and add another three important points to our growing tally.

Yes, we have to continue to fend off accusations that we have not played anyone of note during this run but as dull as the saying goes that you can only beat who is in front of you, we still have had to do it and I for one did not expect us to do it so well as we have and be in this excellent position – especially in the wake of the first two games. Still, I am happy and pleasantly surprised to write that things really are looking good.

Ratings

Leno: looking more confident and I have to say, commanding; I don’t think he could have done any more to stop Fulham’s goal. 7

Bellerin: excellent game, early criticism of his gallivanting down the wing, leaving us exposed at the back is now seen as unfounded as all have noticed that he was acting on instructions and he was not being covered as he is now successfully by Torriera. Hector looked the DB’s. 8

Mustafi: I think it was Fred who said that Shkod seems to be playing better with Holding rather than with Sokratis, this may be true; he did look a little more secure yesterday. 7

Holding: Well, who would have expected him at the start of the season to be in a position to stake a claim to an automatic place in the starting line-up? Not I, but he has. He really is improving his ability of playing the ball out from the back. Pretty much, always in the right place at the right time yesterday. 8

Monreal: everything was going down our left in the first half with he and Iwobi dominating proceedings, all marred by a really annoying bad pass that led to the Fulham goal. 6

Torreira: yep, the image of the Duracell Bunny works for me. Lacazette maybe most people’s man of the match for his goals but that is what I would argue he was supposed to do in the same way as a goalkeeper is supposed to save shots and just because Leno made some fine save does not make him man of the match. Now Torriera on the other hand controlled the game from start to finish and that is why he gets my man of the match. 9

Xhaka: Captain Granit, I know he is flavour of the month and he has been spraying the ball around well recently but he is still guilty of early lapses in concentration that seem to cause heart stopping nightmares early on in the game. We won 1-5 so I don’t want to get too moany. 6

Iwobi: confidence soaring, decision making improving, goal assists coming, what is not to like? Emery still took him off early and you could see the disappointment in his face, the aim was clear and it worked: don’t rest on your laurels Alex, more is still expected. The difference this season to last is that most people now expect him to successfully rise to the challenge. 8

Lacazette: two top goals, tons of hard work, swagger in his play. More excellent man management; he was left out of the team earlier in the season and has risen to the challenge of getting back into the starting eleven. 9

Welbeck: a fans’ favourite, everyone wants him to do well but he has two strikers around him who are at the top of their game and as such Danny is being shown to be the slightly inferior striker that he is. 6

Mkhitaryan: probably the thing he was guilty of was not scoring, that’s not to say that he had the chances it’s just that as those around him were scoring for fun and he was made to look human. I don’t think he had a bad game it’s just that he didn’t have a stellar game as some around him did. 7

Subs

Ramsey: well if that doesn’t win goal of the season then the one that does is going to be very, very special indeed. I have a lot more to say about Aaron but I will save it for another time. 8

Aubameyang: treat em mean to keep em keen. Raring to go as soon as he came on and gave a master class in finishing. 8

Guendouzi: superb cameo, ok the game was won but he offered so much to the midfield. 7

PS. If Ozil had played we would have won 1-8

LB


Arsenal’s Balancing Act

October 3, 2018

Many things in life are cyclical, and as Arsenal are life, I went looking for some cycles (calm down LB  🙂 )

courtesy Getty Images

Cycles are recurring patterns, and while the most important pattern is the recent winning run, there are deeper more subtle ones. Like the fact that we perform better after oranges.

I’m getting bored of repeating the same old mantra during the first half. That being, our play is lopsided. Towards the left. A couple of tweaks usually take place at the break, as we saw against Watford when Auba came out on the right, however it’s not until the substitutions that balance is fully restored.

Both goals on Saturday came from the right, and both substitutes (Danny and Alex) played parts.

Now I don’t want to labour the Ramsey imbalance thing as I’ve been doing it for years, but, whether Mesut is shunted out right, or on occasion Ramsey, the result is the same. Both drift central, pushing the one who should be central further over to the left resulting in the aforementioned left side congestion and imbalance.

The obvious question is whether this is part of some clever containment strategy, to somehow drain the opposition of the will to live before thumping them with fresh, fast feet to wallop their left flank late on.

I don’t think it is, and it is time we set off from the whistle with this issue addressed. We are winning, but it’s only just, and we need these next fixtures to settle team selection and strategy that sorts this out. The last gasp winning is fun but it will come a cropper as we’re leaving the opposition with way too much hope for way too long. 2-0 by half time is the goal, not at 80 minutes.

Inevitably this leads to questions about selection and formations.

However good Watford were, and I was impressed, we gave them far too many good chances. I know, heck we all know, the central defensive pairing still wobbles, but it will get sorted out I’m sure, and we know Unai will stick with four at the back

Ahead, I think we can now all agree Torreira starts. This now becomes an exercise in filling in the blanks. Before discussing the midfield, I will base my suggestions around my belief that Auba and Laca need to play closer together and that Mesut needs to provide the ammo from just behind. Bingo, the answer therefore has to be a midfield three (3-5-2 can achieve the same thing at the sharp end, but I feel we would have seen Unai play this card at some point by now).

Sooo, in short, with the front three, and Torreira, Unai can alter both his offensive/defensive strategy as well as addressing the right/left balance issue, through the selection of the players either side of Torreira, and he has some great options:

Stay solid: Xhaka and Guendouzi

5-0 by half time: Mhki and Iwobi

Their jobs are to connect midfield to attack, create width on occasion while assisting Lucas in his defensive duties. Both must possess speed as will have to cover back when the wingfenders make their forward surges.

Funnily enough, one of the players richest in all these attributes is Maitland-Niles.

mickydidit89


Hardly convincing but we’ll take it – Everton ratings

September 24, 2018

Injury doubt, Lucas Torreira, was declared fit to make his first Prem start replacing Matteo Guendouzi but apart from that, an unchanged Arsenal were set to face their next challenge in the rebuilding process.

First Half

Again it was a case of not much happening at all. Everton harried and chased with extreme vigour and application, though without really troubling the helmeted one, partly due to their own jitters in front of goaL At the sharp end Arsenal were blunt, with even the Terrier struggling to make much of an impact. Nacho Monreal had the only effort on target for the Gunners in the first period but could only place the ball well within Pickford’s reach.

Greek philosopher, Sokratis, left the arena after half an hour  having damaged his hip mopping up after his prone centre back partner.  Rob Holding looked reasonably assured and confident entering the fray which was a great relief.  Mustafi grabbed the senior partner role with both hands and made no further obvious blunders.

Everton produced a few worrying moments for the Arsenal defence but Petr Cech stood firm.

Second Half

The first goal when it arrived was of such quality that it shone like a sparkling, golden nugget sifted from the silty detritus of the river bed. Ramsey’s first significant contribution to the whole game was to find Laca inside the box. The Frenchman produced a curling finish of stunning execution quite unlike anything up to that point. A real beauty.

A few minutes later and we were two up as PEA finished off a 3 on 1 break. Did we care that he appeared a yard offside when Ramsey flicked the ball forward to him?….did we heck as like.

The Toffees huffed and puffed but our Czech in goal made sure his performance put him strongly in the running for MOTM.

Theo got a bang on the eye and was replaced after looking one of Everton’s least effective players. The defence held firm with Torreira marshalling the area in front of the back four in a fashion quite unlike we’ve seen for many a year. A clean sheet against all the odds. Wonders never cease.

Summary

After some nervous moments in the first half for those of us with dodgy tickers, the team consolidated in the second with two well taken goals and a clean sheet. Job done.

Ratings (LB)

Cech – Outstanding, MOTM by a country mile, and noticeably so much more commanding with his feet….10

Bellerin – so much better both attacking and defending. It was possibly the Terrier who made this all work….8

Nacho – workman like performance, no frills, no spills….7

Mustafi – bizarrely got better when Holding came on. Absolute pants before that….5

Sokratis –  I thought we were doomed when he went off. Interesting to watch him starting to tell Mustafi off, much improved….7

Terrier – hard to really believe that he is still only 22. If that is what he can do in his first start we have good things in store….7

Xhaka – nightmare start with school boy errors at every turn. But, he is a very experienced player and he started to find his range as the game went on….6

Ramsey – looked lost in the first half but after the half time magic orange juice, started to look the player we are trying to persuade to stay at the club….6

Özil – I have said so many times that there are 2 Ozils, the one you see on telly and the one you see live, I was not at the game and he looked under the weather….6

Aubameyang – always happy when he scores, he plays so much like TH14 down the left, I keep on expecting him to accelerate past the defender and am confused when he doesn’t….7

Lacazette – picked himself up from his horizontal protest in the week and found the net with a very important breakthrough goal. Crap celebration but will gladly suffer it as much as he wants to do it….7

Subs

Holding – Thursday obviously gave him some confidence and he was an able deputy….7

Iwobi – added fresh legs, he looks a big old unit these days….6

Welbeck….6


Arsenal’s new template taking shape – FC Vorskla ratings

September 21, 2018

So, exactly what did we expect from a game against Vorskla Poltava Who?

Goals? Yes, sure, but there’s a bigger picture. We will try hard to win this Trophy for obvious reasons, and this journey will include a few more Who Teams before we get stuck into the tricky fixtures later on.

Historically, the early rounds of any tournament against Minnow Opposition are opportunities for yoof players to grab experience and shine, as well as the returning-from-injury sorts.

However, while all that was true for last night’s encounter, it was still very much in the context of a new Manager establishing his own footballing template.

Most obvious to me is the hugely positive impact the Club’s transfer policy has been over the last six odd months.

Mesut and Iwobi re-signed, Mhki and Auba brought in, and most recently the importing of Sokratis, Licht, Torreira and Guendouzi.

Last night we saw them all, and I believe the latter four will massively improve both our Europa campaign as well as in the league.

From the evidence of last night, I’m still not convinced Unai has got the balance quite right, although I do understand that when there are so many player changes, finding that fluent rhythm is not going to happen instantly.

While I wouldn’t describe either Elneny or Xhaka as offensive midfielders, neither are they true defensive midfielders in the sense of the DM sort. Both Torreira and Guendouzi are, but what I liked so much last night about their play was, having won the ball back, how quickly their heads are up and immediately looking to build/pass for forwards momentum.

When I mentioned balance earlier, I was referring to two things.  We were slightly lopsided in the first half towards the left, which, if exploiting a tactical weakness of the opposition’s right flank then fair enough, but I’m not convinced. The other concern if the balance between midfield and attack. Mhki was sent out as the link man last night, and I think given more games, it could work. He is strong and aggressive in possession and can drive forwards with the ball when the opportunity presents itself. He does also possess an intelligent final ball.

Way too early to judge, but young Smith Rowe does look to be capable of playing exactly this role in due course.  Another very exciting cameo from him.

I’m waffling, and I’m also out of time, so I’ll end with a comment and a question.

Laca looked pissed off. I would be too if I were him. Why? Because Auba looked far better central than out wide.

I’m still convinced 3-5-2 is the only way to optimise those two and Mesut. Unai doesn’t agree. What do you think about Auba being shunted back out left?

Written by mickydidit89

Ratings (chas)

Leno – did everything very well, tidy on the deck, looked to be heading for a clean sheet and then, bang, beaten by two beauties….6

Lichtsteiner – oozes experience and defensive know-how, though joined in the calamitous defending at the end….6

Holding – didn’t really do a huge amount of note but looked competent without being oustanding….6

Sokratis – growing in confidence by the day. Made some great tackles, my favourite being when he thumped the floor in celebration at a job well done – exactly what we want to see….8

Monreal – Arsenal’s left flank saw a lot of action last night and most of it was offensive. Nacho played his part as usual….7

Elneny – patrols the centre of the pitch effectively but sometimes lacks forward drive….6

Torreira – outstanding to begin with but then took a bit of a battering which lessened his impact. Let’s hope he is as indestructible as our last wee fellow, Arshavin….7

Mkhitaryan – took time for the motor to start purring but grew in confidence, contributing to most everything we did well going forward. Micky’s highlight was the commentator suggesting that in the build up to the first goal, Micki had called “my ball” in Ukrainian causing the Vorskla player to leave the ball as if dummying – as Micki played over a 100 games for Donetsk in the Ukraine, this is highly likely 🙂 ….7

Iwobi – sometimes his feet can’t keep pace with his brain but when he does get things in sync, he’s outstanding and a real attacking threat….8

Welbeck – scored with his first decent chance, looked a little confused as to where he was playing in the first half. He’s such an athlete, there seems to be a great striker in there somewhere….7

Aubameyang – two classy goals and one beauty curled against the foot of the post. The smile was back which was more than you could say for Laca on the bench….9

Subs

Guendouzi – gave Torreira a rest and proceeded to create with every touch, tackling, surging forward – the whole package….7

Ozil – bizarre substitution, didn’t need the game time but seemed to enjoy being on the pitch because he loves football so much. Enjoyed his improvised finish for the goal….6

Smith Rowe – first player born in the 21st century to make a full debut (well, I think that’s what they said). Surging runs, good on the ball, could be something extra special….7


Things we Learnt from the weekend

September 17, 2018

When Lucas Torreira was bought from Sampdoria, a clause was inserted in the sale agreement which would trigger large additional payments if he started a League game before Christmas.

Auba doesn’t appear to like his left wing duties and didn’t look best pleased when substituted.

No-one really knows what happened at half-time at St James’ Park. Torreira came on as sub for Guendouzi, but that still doesn’t explain how virtually every other player came out of the tunnel with a spring in their step, at least two yards quicker and with a desire to actually play some football.

The Ramsey/Ozil conundrum becomes more complex, unbalancing the side with both vying for the same free role.

Sokratis, while not quite in the Usain Bolt category, has not been taking sprinting lessons from the BFG. Catching and dispossessing  Newcastle’s speedy youngster, Murphy, was no mean feat for our Kalamata Colossus.

Sokratis gleefully runs to celebrate our second goal with the rest of the lads

Our next League opponents, Everton, were finally beaten having drawn three and won one of their opening four games. The hammers rode their luck and took chances to make West Ham Bob’s weekend. Jack is back in the sick bay with an ankle knock.

Liverpool and Citeh look strong but the chavs have somehow managed to keep pace by hook or by crook. Burnley are in an early season swamp, as are Newcastle.

The analysis around the spuds defeat centred around Pochettino having a bad game. Is he getting homesick and looking at Spanish weather forecasts with an envious eye? Let’s hope so. 🙂 (yep, I realise he’s Argentinian – his birthplace is called Murphy!)

chas


International Rescue – who’s coming back unscathed?

September 10, 2018

Saturday

Along with Danny Welbeck’s five minute cameo for England and the surrounding controversy, some other Arsenal players were involved in action for their national sides.

Mo Elneny had a leisurely run out for Egypt in a 6-0 win against Niger in their opening African Nations Cup qualifier. He even managed to pop up with the final goal of the six, which apparently bounced off the keeper into the net. Sounds a cracker!

Difficult to find a photo of Mo playing but they might be his dreads in the background!

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang equalised against Burundi, thus salvaging a draw for Gabon in more African Cup action. Auba also captained the side.

Granit played the full ninety for Switzerland as they cruised past Iceland on Saturday. Granit was booked – Quelle Surprise!  Stephan Lichtsteiner didn’t even appear to be on the bench?????

Sokratis Papastathopoulos also played the full match in Greece’s sparkling 1-0 win over Estonia.

Lucas Torreira was substituted at half time playing for Uruguay versus Mexico and apparently had ice applied to his calf during the second half. Cosmic.

Sunday

Rambo lost with Wales to a couple of spawny efforts from Eriksen.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan also lost in Armenia’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Macedonia.

Tuesday

Granit, Stephan and Danny could feature in the tedious England Switzerland friendly at Wembley.

Sokratis will again have the chance to hone his skills against Hungary in one of the group C games of the UEFA Nations Cup.