Watford 0 Arsenal 1 – Player Ratings – Deeney’s Misdemeaney

April 16, 2019

A very interesting team selection – a back four with Mavro partnering Kos and Shkodran and Nacho full backs. Heavy duty midfield with Xhaka fit, Torreira back from the sin bin , Rambo, Wobbly and Micki. Will Unai have got the balance right to see us do better away from home?

First Half

What a peculiar half of football! Watford set off all guns blazing, right up for it to the point where they were always going to tempt the ref into how much rough stuff he was going to allow. I suppose they thought that at home they might get away with a bit more than elsewhere.

After a fiery start full of Watford bluster, Auba was so rapid closing down Foster, the keeper was unaware of the danger of his clearance being blocked. One nil and the simplest goal you’ll ever see. A definite contender for Goal of the Month.

Mr Troy Weiner’s moment of extreme stupidity came moments later. Obviously  still smarting from going behind, he swung an elbow at a much smaller man and had to see red. ‘But ref, we’re allowed to rough up Arsenal, every other team gets away with it.’ Both the Watford crowd and their players’ attempts to then paint Arsenal and Lucas Torreira as the villains of the piece from that moment onwards were laughable in the extreme.

To give their team credit, they made light work of the man disadvantage, still pressing for all they were worth and even had a scent of goal. Arsenal should have scored a second and third but couldn’t quite make the man advantage tell.

Second Half

Ozil for Torreira as a sub made sense in two respects – don’t give the ref a chance to even up the sides and let Mesut pick apart the team with a man short. Hmmmm. That was the plan?

To begin with the second period appeared to be a showcase for Mkhitaryan to illustrate how many ways he could screw up decent chances. The one on one with Foster was the worst – just take a touch and the keeper’s out of the picture.

Other chances came and went and Arsenal failed abysmally to make having the extra man pay.  Mavro was obviously match rusty, though replacing him with Guendouzi and going three at the back without wing backs was off the wall management. It didn’t work as Watford hit the bar amonfst other chances and eventually Maitland-Niles was brought on to give us a back four – Rambo getting a breather before Thursday.

Watford looked the most likely to score in the later stages which gives them great credit playing for so long understaffed. Thankfully we hung on to majestically cruise to victory with the early Auba screamer.

Conclusion

A pretty poor performance against a team which fought for its life. Still, there isn’t a Gooner in the world who wouldn’t accept the present of the 3 points from Misters Foster and Deeney. Up to fourth, what’s not to like and hopefully the away curse is broken!

Hopefully we’re saving better form and game management for Thursday.

Ratings

Leno – a great save from a Capoue free kick – thank heaven he stopped that ‘Jens shoving the striker’ bowlocks before he was penalised by the ref – gets an extra point for a clean sheet away from home which had become as rare as rocking horse excrement  … 8

Mustafi – regardless of what any fan thinks of Shkodran, Unai kept him on the pitch in a variety of roles and he didn’t let us down in any of them … 7

Koscielny – battered once again but such class … 7

Mavropanos – a few nervy moments which was understandable – he’ll get better with game time … 6

Monreal – like Mustafi, he was asked to play a number of roles and his covering is often superb – almost like a sweeper … 7

Xhaka – it was surprising that Granit couldn’t impose himself more on that depleted Watford side, though he wasn’t the only one … 6

Torreira – made some fine challenges after the elbow from Deeney, but taking him out of the danger zone at half time was a good move … 6

Ramsey – further forward in this game, Aaron was less effective strangely – it seemed as if the whole team had one foot on the plane to Italy … 6

Iwobi – Alex is so skilful he sometimes tricks himself – shame one of his many good runs couldn’t result in that crucial second goal … 7

Mkhitaryan – anonymous in the first half and then star of a poor finishing show in the second – I’d move him on in the summer if there are any takers … 4

Aubameyang – magnificent desire to block Foster’s clearance and then he spent the other 80 minutes trying to get on the end of a second – save one for Napoli, Pierre – that’s the ticket … 7

Subs

Ozil – didn’t really do what he was sent on the pitch to do … 6

Guendouzi – where was he playing? – I’ve really no idea, one moment in front of the back four then seconds later on the right wing? … 6

Maitland-Niles – added stability to the right flank but worrying that he thought he was a wing back – was he, wasn’t he? Who knows? … 7

Managers

Unai Emery – I wish I’d known about his crushing superiority (hex) over Gracia before – 6 wins and a draw out of 7 previous match ups. Substitutions were interesting to say the least – you can’t sniff at 3 points, a clean sheet and an away win though … 8

Javi Wagner – set his team up as far too aggressive and paid for it – bet they don’t think they can clatter into City at Wembley and get away with it … 4

Ref

Pawson – removed Deeney and then spent the rest of the game trying to appease Mike Riley by giving Watford a succession of unwarranted free kicks … 6

chas

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The Siege of Troy – Watford preview

April 15, 2019

In Greek mythology, Trojan prince Paris abducted Helen of Sparta (who was already married) and it all kicked off. Ten years of war later, a trick involving a massive wooden horse full of soldiers finally ended the siege of Troy, amid scenes of ransacking, pillaging and destruction. Wouldn’t it be great if that was the match report for tonight’s game!

Monday Night Football – what joy!

After a weekend which saw …..

  • the spud reserves beat Huddersfield (who haven’t won a game on a Saturday for a whole year)
  • Man U undeservedly beat West Ham at the Old Cowshed (2 penalties, one which was completely ludicrous and a Hammers goal incorrectly ruled out for offside)
  • the chavs expectedly lost at Anfield – the Salah goal a thing of rare beauty

…..  and following our dreadful performance up in Liverpool last weekend, tonight’s game assumes even more significance in our attempts at CL qualification through League position.

Who’s available for the trip to Hertfordshire?

As far as team news goes, Papa is definitely out for tonight and also for Palace at home next weekend after picking up his 10th yellow of the season in the game at Goodison. At the opposite end of the suspension spectrum, Lucas Torreira can say hello again to his Premier League boots after finally finishing his 3 match ban for a supposedly dangerous tackle against the spuds in early March. Well, that’s if his slight niggle picked up against Napoli doesn’t mean he’s given extra recovery time before Thursday’s return leg in Italy, that is.

Xhaka is still being hampered by a troublesome groin (aren’t we all 🙂 ), but aside from that, team selection will see more juggling of squad members in an attempt to gain maximum advantage in both competitions. Our newly double-decaded Matteo Guendouzi may well start and should be raring to go.

Kos might need a rest if he’s to feature on Thursday, so Shkodran may come in as his replacement. Will Mesut and Aaron be rested also? It all depends on how Unai sees the big picture. Arsene was always slated when he fielded more squad players and results suffered but it really must be a tricky job to get the right balance. The manager will always field a team he believes is good enough to win if he can.

Mesut celebrates his goal in our 3-1 win at Vicarage Road in August 2016

As for Watford, maybe their eyes might be slightly distracted from the task in hand by the glittering prize of a Wembley appearance. No player ever wants to miss out and their mid-table League position is as secure as can be, though they are still in the hunt for 7th in the Prem and a possible Europa League spot.

The whole Deeney cojones thing is unhelpful in these circumstances because it seems to fire the opposition up in much the same way that the whole Stoke/Ramsey scenario often left us on the back foot.

Having said that, when Troy missed that penalty at the Emirates last season, it was definitely one of my mini highlights of last season. 🙂

Wagner has got the Hornets playing well, especially at Vicarage Road, so we will definitely have a game on our hands. In fact, they now seem like a side which has truly cemented its place in the Premier League. The first step towards greater achievements was the club reaching this season’s FA Cup Final. Who knows, they may well pull off a shock against the light blue Oilers – Wigan did.

Monday night football always makes it seem as though we’ve had a football-less weekend. The Newcastle home game 2 weeks ago went smoothly enough, as we might have expected with our excellent home form. But we really need to see something different in both tonight’s game and at Leicester away on Monday 29th April.

Things will seem a whole lot better if we can produce a performance worthy of the Club and banish our away day blues this season for good.

COYRRG

chas (BR is currently sipping Chianti in the cypress groves of Northern Italy)


How to Balance the Squad?

April 9, 2019

I still feel that one of our major problems is that UE has inherited an unbalanced squad that had been getting more steadily unbalanced over the latter few seasons.

In many ways it could be argued that UE is over-achieving with this current squad, but I also wonder if at times he doesn’t quite know how to set up what he has at present to give us a team where the players compliment each other and therefore give a more rounded and fluid performance.

Questions could be:

Do you feel the squad is unbalanced?
What do we need to do to improve the balance in the squad?
What are the orders of priority to be addressed?

If we are talking about ins and outs within the team in the summer TW it would be good if suggestions are quantified to fit within what is likely to be our financial constraints, rather than just a load of players that will exceed it, and therefore is not realistic

Another consideration is Ramsey. I like Ramsey, and ideally would have liked to keep him, but have always felt he was replaceable. More recently, however, he seems to have become increasingly important in our play.

Is this because he has now transcended to a different level, or is it more that he has a a style of play we are missing elsewhere in the squad, so his importance to us is overly magnified beyond what it really is, which is what I kind of felt with Sanchez in the last 2 seasons.

What he brings does seem to be needed to be replaced though, so how?

written by Gooner B


Time to Improve the Away Form

April 7, 2019

If I was unlucky enough to live in Lancashire (or is it Merseyside?), Everton would be my team though wearing blue and white would be an anathema. There is something regal about the red and white.

I mentioned in an earlier comment about Everton being a proper English club. What I meant was they have proper history; the first to play at Anfield, the first Liverpool club, decades of close run failure, and until recent times, not Oiled up. Fairplay to them. And I love their old fashioned ground, so much better than the soul-less bowls that modern stadium designers put up to maximise the brands profit (sadly a new ground is about to be built).

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It is unfortunate that Everton have run into a rich patch of form having just beaten the Chavs. This will be a tough test for our boys. But not impossible – Everton are not a Top 6 team and we have a good record at Goodison.

Their manager, Marco Wagner, has finally found a way to win after a dreadful (by their standards) start to his Everton career. A much vaunted manager, he has much to do if Everton are to break into the Top 6. I don’t see how it is possible but hope is eternal – especially in football.

As ever, control of the midfield will be vital and Everton have a fine midfield. I would have liked us to sign Sigurdsson (who is a perfect Ramsey replacement), he is a very dangerous player. Another transfer target may be Gueye, a fine defensive MF. Upfront Richarlison is quality and showing why the Toffees paid so much for him.

Expect Pickford and Keane to be on top form andf we are looking for a left back Digne would certainly fit into the AFC team, a younger Monreal.

Enough of the them,

Mr Emery has to find a way to improve our away form if we are to achieve our ambitions. I would start a similar team which thrashed Newcastle. Depending upon fitness,we should welcome back Xhaka for Douzi and Kos for Mustafi.

Arsenal have a very busy couple of weeks ahead and perhaps Mr Emery will allow Kos and Xhaka more recovery time.

You may have noticed that I have stopped putting up my anticipated starting team, there are two reasons; the first is that Me Emery is impossible to second guess and unlike Mr Wenger he tailors his team for the opposition. The second is I got bored with it 😀

Referee this afternoon is Kevin Friend who has only officiated one AFC game this season, giving out 7 yellow cards vs Burnley (we won 3-1). The dreadful performance of Taylor last week could have been costly, we must hope for better today.

Given the remarkable good fortune (read luck) enjoyed by both MU and the Chavs, we could use some of the same today.

COYRRG


Arsenal 2 Newcastle 0 – Player Ratings

April 2, 2019

No Xhaka, no Kos, Curly is last man standing with Torreira banned. Iwobi gets a run with Auba and Micki as firepower off the bench.

First Half

Consider the Benitez Bus well and truly parked – the wheels were off and it was being shoved backwards and forwards across the 18 yard box on a massive trolley jack.

Nothing to speak of in the first 30 apart from a seemingly perfect goal from Ramsey ruled out by the replusive Taylor for some ‘six of one and half a dozen of the other’ shirt tugging which had no influence on the goal.

Finally a ball broke for us in the area with a cannily crafted assist from two Magpie defenders; Rambo’s left slotting it in off the far post.

Newcastle had one token effort from Rondon which was going wide before some nice interchange created the best chance of the half when Laca swivelled but his shot miraculously cannoned off a square head to leave the score at 1-0 at the break.

Halftime foul count Arsenal 8 Newcastle 4 – yeah right.

Second Half

More of the same from Newcastle – a tedious desire to suck the life out of a game of football.

Auba for Iwobi had an immediate effect. His pace was electric down the right wing but couldn’t quite find Laca with a driven cross. The second when it came was the same combination, an Auba header and Laca slipping round the back to lob the keeper.

Stuart MacFarlane on twitter

The chances now started to flow properly and we should have had a third when Taylor decided he’d seen a handball from Laca which came off a massive goalkeeping glove! He really was terrible tonight – the comical booking of SeadK straight out of the Mike Dean book of celebrity reffing.

Conclusion

A perfect start to April with Newcastle being the only fools on Fools’ Day. Bus parking got exactly what it received – absolutely sweet FA.

Ratings

Leno – nothing to do against the shot shy Toon  ….. 7

Ainsley – recovered from his knock and played competently throughout   ….. 7

Shkod – some on social media still having a pop even when he does nothing wrong -smh ….. 7

Papa – solid, steely, indefatigable ….. 8

Nacho – another fine performance from La Cabra – ridiculous booking dished out by the man from the Manchester region   ….. 8

Wardrobe – rampaging and rollocking, just couldn’t find that crucial final ball ….. 7

Guendouzi – still caught in possession too often but with no protection from the ref – must have touched the ball most? – never hides ….. 7

Ramsey – crucial goal – not sure what his injury was as he jogged off comfortably enough ….. 7

Iwobi – tried to unpick the bus station doors to no avail  ….. 7

Ozil – all over the pitch, needs to take his class to some away grounds     ….. 8

Laca – didn’t look like he was going to have a right place, right time night until he popped up chasing Auba’s header ….. 8

Subs

Auba – made a difference – he really suits that last half hour cameo  ….. 8

Elneny – he came, he saw, he Mo’ed ….. 7

Micki – time wasting sub to allow Mesut to get an ovation

Managers

Emery – Everything right again at home against an uninspiring negative Newcastle team – Let’s come up with an away plan now, Unai ….. 8

The Spanish Wagner – Tediousness personified ….. 3

Referee – so many calls wrong it was ridiculous – no wonder we can’t provide refs for big international tournaments – he’s meant to be one of the better ones …. 0

chas


Magpies Munificence?

April 1, 2019

Firstly, thank you to all those who wrote posts during the interminable interlull, you are heroes to a man.

Tonight we get a proper game of football. None of that International nonsense – IMO the World Cup is interesting but the rest … mwaah.

Yesterday saw Spurs get Spurssy and both the Chavs and United once again bribing the officials (allegedly). The fight for the Top 4 is going to be very exciting.

Which makes tonight a must win game. You all know the runners and riders for the run-in so you are already aware that we must win our home games ahead of a tricky run of away fixtures.

Benitez brings an under-fire team to the Emirates. The fans are unhappy. The football the Barcodes are playing is uninspiring with a reliance upon defence, and we will witness this tactic tonight. Benitez has done a fine job under trying circumstances, working to reverse the decline in a huge club but narrowly escaping relegation is not enough. It wouldn’t be at Arsenal and neither is it at Newcastle.

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A blogger (can’t remember who) wrote that in the late 90’s Newcastle had the 5th biggest turnover in World football. Could they sign Shearer today? No chance.

Should we win tonight, it will be our 10th successive home victory, it would also give us more points than we won last season with 7 games to go. Mr Emery is doing well.

There is a fitness test for Xhaka but our other Internationals are fit and the remainder of the squad are rested and tanned following their trip to Dubai. Imagine how much money they must have spent in those fancy shops, it would be in the millions!

Newcastle have 9 clean sheets this season which is 4th best in the league ( I won’t tell you where we sit), so we can expect a frustrating night unless we score early. Given this, I anticipate AMN (Cons) will start ahead of Mustafi because we have no need to play a Back 4.

Is there a better creative midfield 3 than Mhki, Aaron and Mesut? Now Mr Emery has coached them to play together we look formidable. With Iwobi or Wardrobe supplying width on the left, we have balance. Terrier to replace one of the midfield should we be in front after 70 mins.

I am relatively confident, are you?

COYRRG


What does April hold in store for Emery’s Arsenal?

March 31, 2019

Three Monday night games. Two home games, four aways in the Prem and a Europa quarter final against Napoli. Pretty exciting maybe?

Of the three Monday night games only one is at home, which just so happens to be tomorrow night against Newcastle. On April Fools’ night the UK parliament is going to, yet again, attempt to extract its head from its back passage.  Don’t hold out much hope for that, but at least we have a fighting chance of turning Newcastle over!

Next Sunday, March 7th, sees us at Goodison with a 2.05pm kick off. The Toffees are on the up and we’ll need to be better than the chavs were on their recent visit to the wild wastelands of the North West if we want to come away with something.

Mesut scores in a 5-2 win at Goodison in October 2017

We’re back at the Emirates on the 11th for the home tie of the Napoli QF. It’ll be interesting to see Unai’s priorities for each game in this really busy month. At present the League appears our best route to a CL place since we sit in a top 4 place (well we did before the mancs luckily sneaked past Watford yesterday). Juggling both Prem and Europa balls is going to be tricky. One game at a time, I suppose. 🙂

The subsequent EPL game is away to Watford on Monday the 15th April, which does gives us an extra day after the Napoli game to regroup if you were trying to look for the positives of Monday night footie. Watford are a bit up and down but can be a stern proposition at Vicarage Road if it gets buzzing and Deeney puts that hideous mask on again.

Three days later we head to Naples, hopefully to finish off the job we begun in London. This is Arsenal, though, so don’t expect 3-0 at home and a clean sheet away in Italy. We don’t do easy.

The distance to the pitch in Naples will help but it’ll still be a hostile atmosphere

Yet another three day break follows and on the 21st we entertain Crystal Palace at THOF for the 4pm kick off. I’m particularly excited about this one as it’s my next trip to see the boys in the flesh.

Wolves in midweek on the 24th of April will be a tall order after such an intensive series of games, but if we can’t match them under the Molineux floodlights ….. we shall see. For some reason, this fixture seems one of the trickiest of the month, so expect us to cruise it.

April is topped off on the 29th with the third Monday Night Football we’ll have to endure over the next month. Away at Leicester is never easy but it just so happens to be the venue for my favourite away trip fixture of recent years when we beat them 5-3 and the beer was just delicious.

All in all a very busy, very exciting and potentially rewarding month is in store for Unai’s Arsenal. After the arid, uninspiring desert that was the second half of March, it’s going to be a headlong, bumpy sprint riding on the back of a camel desperate to dip its head into the oasis.

Before you go, what do you think the dippers v spuds score might be this afternoon? Take a punt

chas