Sticky Taffy Pudding – Cardiff ratings

September 3, 2018

Well, the world feels a whole lot better having beaten Cardiff than had we drawn. We got there in the end but not after more stressful defending nightmares. The image that came to mind was of a group of eleven men dressed in red and white Father Christmas outfits arriving in Cardiff bearing gifts (or should that be goals) for all the poor local children who had gone without for so long. The only thing missing from the cartoon was big white bushy beards.

Mustafi’s bullet header opened the scoring

I am really tempted to say that everything new that Emery has introduced is causing downright panic and everything that was already there is working really well. The attack was already there and it is getting closer to firing on all cylinders. First rate goals from Aubameyang and Lacazette back this up. Was the defence any better last season? Mah, maybe not. Was the midfield cover of the defence better last season, mah also maybe not? Perhaps, I should have said that I was tempted to say that ‘almost’ everything that Emery has introduced has caused downright panic.

The obvious example is the insistence of Emery to have Cech play the ball out to players waiting near the corner flags only to have it passed back to the keeper who continually deals with it like a hot potato and on more than one occasion passed it out badly creating a goal scoring opportunity for the opposition.

You might expect that I am going to rip into Emery at this point but you would be wrong. Let’s ask: if all this manoeuvre went well and Cech had the foot skills to carry this off what is Emery trying to achieve? I obviously can’t be certain but what I can see happening is that the opposition are being drawn forward and are staying there in the hope of exploiting an error; this in turn, creates space beyond these advanced opposition players which gives our attackers incredibly valuable and extremely important extra space to operate in up front.

Not convinced? Did West Ham and Cardiff park the bus, surely we would have expected them to do so, it certainly would have happened last season, so why didn’t it – because they were cleverly manoeuvred away from it.

If this turns out to be right then Unai Emery deserves a lot of praise but in the mean time watching Arsenal has become a viewing past time that should be avoided by the faint-hearted.

Laca celebrating Auba’s goal – Photo by Geoff CADDICK / AFP

This obviously is a work in progress but I would bet a barrel of Danish herrings that that is exactly what Leno has been brought in to do. The new keeper will be slowly introduced through the Europa and the Caribou and by the end of the season or, if not, by Christmas he will be our number one keeper. Why not start with him now? Woooo, hold your horses, too much change too quickly can be very risky. Cech is still a fine keeper and after the ten minutes at the start of the game and ten minutes after the restart he reverts back into an absolute first class keeper.

Two wins in two games and apart from some Keystone moments there are some real signs of progress being made. Perhaps I should have been tempted to have said that quite a few things that Emery is doing are working. Lol.

Do you want me to describe the game? Is there a need? Mah, we all saw it.

Mesut looks left out of the bromance

Cech: notice that after the first ten minutes of cartoon football he changed back to clearing the ball however he saw fit, this is not a player defying his manager; it is a player carrying out instructions. 8 for his keeping but for his footwork, hmmm, not so much.

Bellerin: I really wanted to say that his crosses into the box continued to improve but they didn’t. The message has finally been received that he needs to be covered when he is advanced and play breaks down; this was done by Guendouzi and then better by Torriera. 5

TAWTH: Good goal; still continues to be a headline star in Arsenal’s defensive comedy show. 6

GB: starting to get his feet under the table, maybe a bit better this week. 5

Monreal: nothing spectacular today, not sure he fully understands what the plan is. 5

Guendouzi: still a bright spot, obviously the player that is not tainted by previous seasons and also seems to be the player that Emery feels he can most easily mould to the way he wants the team to play. 5

Xhaka: someone whisper to him that the food in Italy is very good. 4

Ramsey: no lack of trying, he knows he is getting prime real estate on the pitch; the much sort after terrain where Mesut’s mansion usually sits is not often vacated. He is aware that he is being given a chance and he is doing his best to take it. A bit slow in his manoeuvrings at times which slowed our counter attacks down but on another day he will score a hat trick so all is well really. 7

Ozil: you have to bear in mind that when writing about Mesut I start from a point of thinking that the man can do no wrong. It made me laugh watching Ozil today, shunted out to the right obviously on Emery’s orders he decided that rather than spend another weekend in the sick bay he would tow the line; he stayed out there for 50 minutes and was completely ineffective. Clearly bored of such nonsense, he then reverted back to what Mesut does best – playing where ever he likes and he was magnificent; watch his involvement in the Aubameyang and the Lacazette goals and the play in general around that time. Emery had his opportunity to reassert his control by hooking him off later on. 7

Lacazette: Man of the Match; Emery has man managed him well, the Butcher’s dog was let off the lead from minute one today and he was just dying to get stuck in. 8

Aubameyang: great goal, should do his confidence the world of good. 7

Oh, I have just seen the spud result, there clearly is a god.

Written by LB

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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     

 


What is wrong with Xhaka?

November 26, 2016

Just a quickie.

My guess is that if you were to ask 100 Gooners whether Xhaka would start against PSG, well over 90 would have said “Yes”. So, why didn’t Mr Wenger agree? The simple answer is that I have no idea! However, as we need a post I will make some suggestions.

  1. Against PSG Mr. Wenger wanted to give Ramsey a role further forward, not on the left or right wings and more central. However, AW does not believe Xhaka can curb his attacking instincts and required a more disciplined DM. Coquelin is the obvious choice.
  2. Xhaka is still on the naughty step. Perhaps he is lethal on the training pitch and AW was concerned that the diving (and combative) PSG midfield would have encouraged GX’s aggressive tendencies.
  3. In training the Xhaka/Ramsey axis simply doesn’t work. It looks fine on paper and many pundits have predicted they are the future for AFC, but in a recent game Elneny was chosen ahead of GX which raises some questions. One of which is where does Elneny fit in?
  4. It seems as though Mr Wenger’s first choice midfield is Cazorla and Coquelin, when Santi returns where does Xhaka fit in? Can Xhaka and Santi combine or is this too attacking?
  5. Mr Wenger was disappointed by GX’s very quiet performance against Spurs, a game of great importance in which he was anonymous and unable to  have a real influence. With both MU and PSG he wanted more experienced players (like Iwobi!)

We have yet to see the best of our second most expensive signing. I am excited to see how good he is as the portents are very good. He can shoot which it a major positive. Like Fabregas, he can control the tempo of the Arsenal attack, picking up the ball from deep and using both short and long passes to change the focus of attack.

images-2.jpeg

Mr. Wenger when questioned about Xhaka’s absence replied that he needs time to adapt to the PL. Strange that Mustafi doesn’t need the same bedding in!

If you were to ask 100 Gooners if Xhaka will start tomorrow I guess over 90 will say “Yes”. We could be wrong.

written by Big Raddy

 


Thrashing the Thracians?

October 19, 2016

To be quite honest I had absolutely no idea which country PFC Ludogorets Razgrad came from until I started writing this. Bulgaria is the answer and I sincerely hope my appalling ignorance and downright lack of awareness is not matched by the manager and team of Arsenal Football Club.

Looking at Ludogorets’ record in the Champions League, their biggest home win was 1-0 v Basel in 2014 and their biggest away defeats were both 4-0 to Basel (again) and Real Madrid (both in 2014). At present their biggest away win is …… non-existent. A continuation of that record for another few days would be great. (n.b. they’ve only been in the group stage once before) .

ars-v-ludo3

Razgrad itself is in north-east of the country and a couple of Bulgaria’s famous landmarks have parallels with landmarks in England.

First there is the Bulgarian Icarus statue.

icarus

According to legend, the man known as the “Bulgarian Icarus” was also a builder. Apparently a Turkish Sultan survived a terrible disaster, so he decided to build a mosque in Edirne in gratitude to God. At that time, Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire. So, the Sultan summoned the most famous builder and this was Bulgarian, Manol. He worked for seven years and constructed a miraculous temple. After it was completed, the Sultan asked him: “Can you build a more beautiful mosque than this one?” and Master Manol replied: “One always has more to learn. Maybe I made some mistakes here that I will avoid in the future and I will be able to build an even more majestic temple.” Hearing this, the ruler ordered that Manol be shut in one of the mosque minarets until his last breath. The inventive craftsman, however, managed to create another miracle – he designed himself wings made of wood. And one day, the people in Edirne saw a huge flying creature soaring in the sky and heading home to Thrace. In this way, Master Manol managed to save his life and turned into a favourite hero in Bulgarian folk tales and songs.

This tale reminded me of the Angel of the North statue when some Geordies launched an enormous Alan Shearer shirt over its shoulders.

angel-of-the-north-711688609

Whilst the statues have similarities, Master Manol and Mr Shearer are almost polar opposites, one an educated and erudite craftsman builder and the other a football pundit.

The second parallel is between the beautiful Razgrad clock tower and our own clock tower at Highbury Barn.

clock-towers

Team News

It would appear Rambo and Ollie G. are continuing to train alone. I’d imagine Granit will start due to a soon-to-be enforced absence from the Prem and EFL Cup (cheers, J. Moss).

It appears we emerged unscathed from the Swansea game so perhaps the team isn’t likely to be changed to any significant degree. Perhaps Kieran Gibbs could get a game after Nacho’s run around on Saturday. Oh, and Oooooooooooo-spiiiiiiiii-naaaaa may get the goalkeeper jersey.

‘Complacency’ seems to be the watchword for everyone with regards to this game. Theo and Shkodran have both issued warnings to their teammates to be on their guard against assuming it will be an easy and straightforward 3 points. Each and every player has to be thinking the same, especially after escaping by the skin of our teeth against Swansea.

Note…. Big Raddy is currently on manoeuvres in Ireland and without pre-match writing facilities. Thankfully this hiatus from normality will only be fleeting.

P.S. we need a nickname or shortened version of Shkodran. Any suggestions?

Written by chas