Bog Snorkelling in Baku – Qarabag Ratings

October 5, 2018

Another game, another clean sheet, eight wins on the trot; ouch, it is going to hurt when we fall. Or maybe we won’t?

In trying to understand the team selection, it struck me that much of what was going on had more to do with November the 3rd than with a second tier team from Azerbaijan. As the more astute would have realised, we play Liverpool on that day and as much as we should win our two games before, we all know that will be our next real test.

And how does this all link into last night’s win? Answer – the choice of defence. Emery set the team up for the best part of the first half with five at the back:

Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Monreal, Kolasinac

Yes, Lichtsteiner and Kolasinac got forward as demonstrated by the first goal but they spent the best part of the first half in the above formation, which against a team of lowly calibre, was belt and braces and unnecessary in my opinion.

Anyway it is just a hunch but if Kolasinac and Monreal start against Liverpool, I can say I was right. Bellerin will obviously replace Lichsteiner.

Once Emery had had a chance to air this experiment, Torriera replaced Monreal at half time and everything calmed down in the way it should have been from the start. I say that as though I know how he does it, but as close as I look, I still don’t understand how the Uruguayan effortlessly seems to be able to have such a huge influence on every game he plays in.

The rest of the team selection was clear that it was designed to give more of the squad a run out. The Guendouzi/Elneny combo is obvious as is Welbeck, Smith-Rowe (Lab) and Iwobi.

courtesy David Price

So enough of that tactics drivel, let’s get onto the serious stuff: Red Shorts? What is that about? The opposition were wearing black shorts so I see no good reason why we should not have been wearing the normal time honoured white shorts. Pink sleeves? Don’t get me started.

It turned out to be a pretty comfortable win, with probably the three players on the pitch that we would most have wanted to have scored the goals, (all in the knowledge that each one of them would benefit confidence-wise from doing so), and so they did.

courtesy David Price

Leno: what a fine goal keeper we have and seamlessly slotting in? Some more great saves…. 8

Lichsteiner: an excellent stand in and proof that the powers that be in the club’s new buying system are working very well, naturally that also applies to Leno…. 7

Holding: why did we loan Chambers to Fulham? Don’t know and don’t care…. 7

Sokratis: it is going to be fascinating to see if Emery sticks with these two on Sunday — he should, they are far from perfect but it made a nice change not to have mop up Mustafi’s usual clangers…. 7

Monreal: Nacho is the most improved player of the squad; he has become authoritative, something that I would never have thought last season; he is clearly benefitting from clearer instruction, the language must help. He tucked in well last tonight as he usually does…. 8

Kolasinac: I loved the way he bulldozed down the wing early on in the game, pushing his opposing defender away like a skittle, pretty good game really…. 7

Guendouzi: getting better and better and now adding goals, it looks like he has a long future at the club…. 8

Elneny: things are moving on and Mo does not seem to be able to keep up, did ok last night but can’t see him being around for too much longer…. 6

Smith Rowe (Lab): the goal obviously did his confidence the world of good, it struck me that he is a striker rather than a midfielder, interesting to see how this one develops…. 7

Iwobi: last season Alex had plateaued; he was going nowhere fast, it is testament to Emery’s man management that he has been given new drive, direction and self belief. I am not sure where it will all end up but at least it is going somewhere…. 8

Welbeck: Danny, Danny, you know I am a fan but you have got to take those chances that come your way…. 6

LB

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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


How Did you Rate our Debutants?

August 15, 2018

How would you rate our summer signings in their first appearance?
This is meant to be a bit of fun; mainly for Eddie who loves a poll!
It’s obviously too early to make any decisions about our new signings but first impressions often linger.

 

Sokratis Papastathopolous – looked a wee bit slow in pre-season but seemed more commanding in his first competitive game – Cretan rock face.

 

Stephan Lichtsteiner – adapted well (as the seasoned pro he is) to making his debut at left back rather than in his natural position – not short of cojones.

 

Matteo Guendouzi – a little shaky to start and then he seemed to realise he could play at Prem level – “I am not calling another man Matteo. Ever.”.

 

Lucas Torreira – only had 20 minutes or so but seemed to have an immediate impact on our midfield shape – terrier or pit bull.

 

chas


Opening Day

August 12, 2018

Last season’s champions versus this season’s. The PL couldn’t have a better opening.

Man City were magnificent in winning the title, possibly the best team since the Invincibles. They showed in the thrashing of Chelsea in the Community  Shield that they remain highly impressive, BUT we will beat them.

Why? Because We Are The Arsenal.

Who will be lucky enough to pull on the red and white this afternoon? TBH I have little idea.

GK? Cech or Leno? Cech for me, but we do not know who is to be our regular gloveman, nor do we know the quality of Leno. I will go for the experience of Cech in this important game.

Bellerin/Lichsteiner?  Hector struggled against Sane last season but who didn’t? The Swiss fellow is a fine defender and will hopefully inspire Hector to achieve his undoubted ability.

CB’s? GIven the startling decision to ship Chambers, one must assume Emery has confidence in our new signings. Mustafi was a liability and made some very strange decisions which cost us points, I don’t trust hm but the management does. No point signing the Big Greek unless we play him.

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LB? Beast crocked, Nacho half-fit, Either we play a Back 3 with Holding or M-N gets the shirt. Hardly what we want in such a tough challenge. We all love M-N, he has huge potential and has played this position in the past. Let’s hope

Midfield? We cannot go gung-ho at City, we need to maintain some defensive discipline in front of what is a shaky Back 4, hence my choice of Terrier, Ramsey and Xhaka. I expect Xhaka to become the on-field leader of the team, he has the talent and appears to be maturing as a man and a player. If Ramsey is not fit then we can trust Elneny to be tidy and responsible. Torriera could be the player we have been waiting for, much rests upon his diminutive shoulders.

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Upfront? Ozil and PEA, but who else? Some fine players are going to have to ride the pine as our new manager experiments. Today I would play Mhiki, he is just too good to leave out. But this team lacks width and neither Mesut nor Mhiki have the pace to trouble City’s excellent FB’s. We will have to rely upon skill, cohesion, cute-passing and rapier like finishing and if that isn’t working, we have Iwobi, Welbeck and, above all Lacazette on the bench.

My Team:

Cech

Bellerin   Mustafi   Sokratis   M-N

Ramsey   Torreira   Xhaka

Ozil   Mhiki

PEA

And what of City? Guardiola has improved an already excellent team, another PL win is expected (even with Klopp’s spending) with the CL the club’s main priority. However, we have a new manager who is well versed in Pep’s tactics, a man who will want to show from the outset that his team have the beans to compete.

Excited? You bet, it couldn’t be a better opening game.

On an AA note, does anyone have a theme for this season’s PM’s? It makes it more fun to write when I have a non-football focus.