How would Wenger deploy our current squad?

November 27, 2019

Here’s a little puzzle for a wet and windy morning:

If Arsene Wenger were parachuted in to run the Arsenal team right now, which players would be in his starting eleven and how would he set them up?

One of the biggest differences between the way we play under Unai Emery and the way we played under Arsene is that we are now less effective in attack. These days we typically have fewer attempts on goal than our opponents, something which never happened in any of the Arsene years.

One could argue that our defensive frailty would be just as evident if Monsieur Le Sixpack were calling the shots, but surely we’d be more potent going forward?

Emery’s philosophy, as far as it’s possible to discern one, appears to be about keeping control – of the ball and, therefore, the game. It may have worked in the first part of his tenure in N5, but for whatever reason it’s just not functioning now.

So let’s indulge this thought experiment.

Arsene arrives in time to select the team for this weekend’s game against the Norfolk tractor boys. What’s his approach?

Here’s what I think he’d do: first off, he would be thrilled with the quality of the attackers available to him, so the names “Aubameyang” and “Lacazette” would be the first ones on his team sheet, closely followed by “Ozil”.

He would consider whether he could afford to potentially weaken our defensive spine by adding an attacking wide player to the mix, but his internal debate would last only moments before he would conclude: “Merde, you only live once: let’s go for it!”

He would add Pepe to the team sheet – but only after having a word in his shell-like about how he could be the next Thierry Henry if he followed the advice which Arsene would now give him…

Next, he would need to find the right two midfielders to provide some sort of defensive solidity while also being able to play a possession based game and get the ball to Ozil in good positions. Torreira would be the first pick (the young Uruguayan would be slightly confused by his instructions to screen the back four while also bursting into the opposition box given the opportunity).

After toying with the idea of Guendouzi because of his energy and his general Frenchiness, Arsene would ultimately plump for Willock as a partner for Torreira in midfield, figuring that Willock is a better passer and a more considered player.

In defence, there would be no hesitation in picking Bellerin and Tierney as the fullbacks. For centre halves he would choose Luiz and Chambers (both have ball-playing abilities and would be encouraged to bring the ball out from the back. Luiz also brings tons of experience). Leno is in goal.

So here’s my Arsene Wenger starting line-up for this Sunday’s game:

Leno

Bellerin Chambers Luiz Tierney

Torreira Willock

Ozil

Pepe Aubameyang

Lacazette

We beat Norwich with a classic Arsenal scoreline of 5-2, with a hat trick from Pepe and goals from Laca and Auba. Five assists for Ozil.

Am I right?

RockyLives


Arsenal’s Very Public Pain

November 25, 2019

Today’s national newspapers make grim reading for Arsenal supporters:

Daily Telegraph

Arsenal players have lost faith in head coach Unai Emery and do not believe he is the man to salvage their season.

Emery is under increasing pressure following another poor performance and result against relegation-threatened Southampton, and there is a growing feeling among the squad that he should be replaced.

Arsenal players are confused by Emery’s selections, tactics and instructions, and believe the team has no identity under the Spaniard.

The Times

Arsenal would be interested in talking to Mikel Arteta and Massimiliano Allegri as potential replacements for Unai Emery, who looks increasingly likely to leave the club.

Before the abject 2-2 draw at home to Southampton on Saturday, Arsenal had been determined to stick by head coach Emery until the end of the season but their position has shifted amid mounting concern in the boardroom and anger from supporters. 

The Guardian

One of several Premier League managers whose days look numbered, Unai Emery is cutting an increasingly isolated figure at the cauldron of seething dissatisfaction that is the Emirates Stadium. Max Allegri and Mikel Arteta are both being touted as potential replacements.

Daily Mirror

Arsenal fans have issued a strongly-worded statement accusing the hierarchy of “rudderless” leadership which has left the club “floating aimlessly.”

The angry backlash comes from the same set of supporters who issued a powerful online #WeCareDoYou campaign in July against owner Stan Kroenke and the club’s board.

The fan statement does not directly call for under-pressure Emery to be sacked but, instead, takes aim at the Kroenke ownership and warns about falling attendances, a lack of direction on and off the pitch and the club losing its identity.

The Independent

The lackluster 1-1 draw against Southampton saw Arsenal’s miserable run of form stretch to six winless games across all competitions for the first time in 21 years.

During the latter stages of the match, with Raul Sanllehi and Edu watching from the directors’ box, sections of the fanbase began chanting ‘we want Emery out’. However, after the game, the Independent revealed that Emery will still be given more time to turn around his sinking ship, despite the players’ reaction to their last-gasp equaliser appearing to show their disconnect towards the manager.

The end for Emery feels inevitable, but after Jose Mourinho joined north London rivals Tottenham, who could the Spaniard on a permanent basis?

Despite the Independent’s report that Emery is to be given more time, these stories are clear evidence of a wave building that is going to break sooner or later. And when it does, Emery will be washed away.

Even if you believe he could turn round our fortunes given enough time, sometimes the external pressure is so great that it cannot be ignored. This is one of those times.

The club are never going to say “we’re looking for a new manager right now”, so when the announcement comes that the current coach is being fired it will be very sudden. Maybe even this week.

Brace for change, would be my advice.

RockyLives

 

 


Arsene Wenger Is Helping Unai Emery Keep His Job

November 5, 2019

Arsene Wenger was probably Arsenal’s greatest ever manager (and certainly the best since Herbert Chapman).

And his influence on the club persists long after the man himself exited the building stage left, fiddling with the zipper on his puffer jacket.

Indeed I have a theory that the ghost of Arsene is currently playing a significant role in keeping Unai Emery secure in his position, even though our head coach has a recent record that’s patchier than Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant.

How so?

It’s all about psychological conditioning. Cast your mind back to the time when Bruce Rioch was let go as Arsenal manager and replaced by a man of whom few if any of us had heard.

It wasn’t “Arsene Who?” for long. In quick succession he became:

“Arsene Wow” (winning the Double in his second season).

Then “Arsene Knows” (as he piled success upon success with a team that was a joy to watch).

After that it was “Trust Arsene” (when the money dried up after the stadium move but he somehow kept us competitive for years while spending net zero on transfers).

Finally it was “Arsene Why?” (as the money taps started flowing again but the long awaited success in the Premier League did not).

His time at our club was like a marriage: a long-term relationship filled with love, togetherness, shared triumphs, crushing disappointments and, finally, a cooling of ardour and a parting of ways.

But the important thing in today’s context is not the emotions, but the sheer length of time the relationship lasted. As Arsene’s tenure rolled deep into its second decade (almost unprecedented in the modern game) we fans took great pride in the stability of our club.

Not for us the casual casting off of managers as if they were fashionable training shoes: one minute a must have accessory, the next dangling by their laces over a telephone cable on the Holloway Road. We could laugh at the shenanigans at clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and the N17 miscreants, not to mention Manchester United after Fergie’s retirement.

Those other clubs displayed characteristics we were glad not to share: disloyalty, capriciousness, impatience, ungratefulness, a type of mercenary shallowness. While the likes of Ancelotti, Rogers, Di Mateo, Hughes, Pellegrini, Hodgson, Redknapp, Hiddink and Benitez came and went through the revolving doors, Arsene Wenger remained a permanent fixture. And that’s something we were proud of (rightly so).

Many younger fans grew up knowing only the Arsenal of Arsene and for us older ones, the days of George Graham (and his playing style) seemed an age ago.

In psychology there is a concept of conditioned behaviour. When things have always been a certain way, we have a tendency to believe that that is how they will (and should) always be in the future. We have conditioned ourselves to close our minds to change.

in our case, we have become so used to being a club that sticks with managers through thick and thin that even now we are more reluctant than supporters at other clubs to call time on a head coach who is just not cutting the Colmans. Loyalty to our manager has become a virtue we’ve embraced and now we feel duty bound to embrace it further.

The serious doubts about Emery should really have started during and after the capitulation at the end of last season, but for most of us the instinct was to make excuses: “He hasn’t had a proper transfer window yet… these are not really his players… it’s his first season in a new league… he’s just beginning to get to grips with the language…”

They are all legitimate points, but they were influenced by the fact that we just don’t see ourselves as a club that might sack a manager after only a season. We would rather rationalise away obvious shortcomings than see our club behave in a way we have criticised at other clubs.

If Emery’s first season at Arsenal had been replicated at, let’s say, Chelsea or Manchester United, he would likely have been out on his shell-like in the summer. Just look at what has happened at Bayern Munich this week.

But that’s not the Arsenal way, so here he still is, making the same mistakes, continuing with the same brand of joyless and shapeless football, persevering with players in roles that don’t suit them (Granit Xhaka being Exhibit A).

The tide is beginning to turn against Emery among supporters now, although it’s clear that we are doing it with a heavy heart. We don’t want to be another Chelsea but, reluctantly, many of us are coming to the conclusion that we would rather change the habits of a (recent) lifetime than see things descend into a vicious spiral where results and performances continue to deteriorate, causing us to miss out on the top four and for our world class players to up sticks and leave.

I take no pleasure in saying that it’s probably time for change and time for a new head coach.

As I said in comments the other day, if the club sticks with Emery and he proves me wrong I’ll be all over that humble pie like Phil Dowd in a doughnut factory.

There is a French saying that goes “le plus ca change le plus c’est la meme chose.” It means “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” But like many things French, it’s all cockeyed. The real problem is that “le plus c’est le meme chose, le plus c’est le meme chose,” (“the more things stay the same, the more they stay the same”).

As another Frenchman once said: “At some clubs success is accidental. At Arsenal it is compulsory.”

The speaker was Arsene Wenger of course. And If he’s right, then the time for the club to act is fast approaching.

RockyLives


Emery’s Inability To Solve Our Midfield Problem Will Be His Downfall

October 29, 2019

Emery looks to be out of his depth in the EPL. I find more fault with him than with any individual player per-se. All clubs at all points in their history have a player or two that you initially thought would be something very good, but then turns out to either not be quite good enough or not quite the right fit.

It is up to the manager to ensure that appropriate changes are made to ensure progression in a different and better direction, and also to ensure that their is no major fall-out as we see now. The players need the protection of the manager in that sense as well, to not unnecessarily expose them either firstly at a level they are not good enough for and/or secondly in a team system that doesn’t compliment them. Interestingly I generally feel that we are more guilty of the latter than the former.

I have a major disagreement with the booing fans but also I have a major disagreement with Xhaka’s reaction. Perhaps more damning is that once the immediate dust and anger had settled, that he hasn’t opted to send a message and apology to the fans. It is this rather than the spur of the moment reaction that will likely now seal Xhaka’s fate.

I do have some sympathy with him though because he was what he was before he came to us. He never was a holding midfield type player and was used to playing with a more rugged positionally disciplined player tucked in behind him in the Bundesliga. Xhaka was more a deeper defensive midfield play-maker not the invisible wall, that was someone else.

All Xhaka has done is remain what he was, so really the fault is in the managerial recruitment and assessment of what role he should play, and how to balance a midfield with him in it if he was deemed an important player in the first 11.

The problem is that, arguably Torreira aside from our listed midfielders, all the other midfielders are also players that need a more rugged positionally disciplined midfielder tucked in behind them, so when we play two of these midfielders together no-one completely accepts the responsibility for this role.

I get the argument for the pivot shift in a modern game but we just look confused as to who does what so I think it is still important to have players with certain characteristics that compliment and get the best out of each other. We don’t have that 1 midfielder (among our listed midfielders) who has that one specific characteristic or skill set, arguably Torreira aside, who inexplicably seems to have dropped down the pecking order.

You could still play Xhaka if you had that specific player just in behind him but then that would remove a place for our other midfielders like Douzi, Willock, ESR, Ceballos, Torreira and, should he still be a consideration, Ozil; that one baffles me and also makes me seriously question the managerial handling of him.

The problem is actually fairly identical to what we had under Wenger in his third trimester, that we have too many midfielders who favour similar positions in the midfield and lack balance despite looking individually strong on paper.

The EPL is a very specific league with very specific characteristics, and what I think we are finding out, not just with Emery but also with other overseas managers, that sometimes a manger with a reasonable C.V coming in from abroad just doesn’t quite get what is required in the EPL.

More than in any other league you need to at least match, but preferably better, the opposition in the physical aspect of midfield. You need power pace and dynamism to match the mid to lower table teams and then, as a top club, also have the superior technical ability to go with it.

Without matching up with those clubs in the athleticism in midfield you can lose that midfield battle and surrender dominance to a team boasting less technical players. How often have we looked good on paper but not in practice? How often do we feel we look like a collection of good individuals rather than a smoothly balanced machine that connects throughout the team.

Match them physically but in addition with the better technical players then we by and large will not slip up with these teams that don’t have our resources. We will once again look like one of the top sides to be feared. We are not doing this right now and haven’t for quite a few years.

We look lackluster in attack, despite boasting some excellent attackers that many clubs would love to have. The defence could be improved in individual quality somewhat, but for me the more worrying aspect is how exposed our defence is to wave upon wave of attack rather than the individual quality of each player in our defence.

Those teams have to come through our midfield to get to the defence in the first place. Our midfield is not dominant enough to win the battle and control the play, all of which would stop many of the frequent attacks form getting at our defence, but also would provide a better platform from which to feed our attackers.

Our central fulcrum is not solid enough so everything that surrounds it, despite its quality is compromised. For an analogy I see it as a steel devise with a central core or fulcrum (midfield) with levers springing off from there to the font back and sides. All the levers could be of the most advanced and solid mettle that NASA has available but if the fulcrum is weak and bendy it makes not a jot of difference about the strength of everything that springs off it.

We have good individual midfielders but as a combined unit we are poor. Emery hasn’t got this, or at least worked it out yet, and certainly hasn’t tried anything to change it. It is as if his experience to date just hasn’t prepared him for this league, and it doesn’t look like the penny is dropping, and I tend to feel he should only have till the new year at best to show he has the ability to make the changes that improve us.

We may still need to recruit and offload to improve the midfield balance, but even before this I don’t believe that we can’t set up stronger with what we already have. Right now I don’t see that Emery is anywhere near having his Eureka moment and suddenly get it, so it seems more than likely we will have to look elsewhere, fairly imminently, for someone with that better ability and insight of what it takes to develop a top EPL team.

I do hope that if we do have some high level departures with certain players and / or the manager that it can be done with a sense of decorum and decency from all concerned with the club, including the fans.

GoonerB


The Blind Leading The Bland? Arsenal v Palace Preview

October 27, 2019

It’s time to get some answers about this Arsenal team.

The near constant sense of frustration, argument, false dawns, rare highs and frequent lows are taking a toll on us supporters and they have to stop.

We face a real challenge from an in-form Crystal Palace, who sit just one point and one place behind us in the Premier League table.

Unai Emery’s critics say he has no idea of what his best team is or how to deploy his resources to maximum effect; that our playing style is cautious and dull with a predictable effect on our results.

In other words “the blind (Emery) leading the bland (his dour team).”

However, not all fans have given up on the head coach. See yesterday’s Post by LB and the ensuing lively discussion to get both sides of the argument.

But going back to my opening line, it’s time to start coming to some conclusions: are Emery’s limitations entrenched to the point that he will never get Arsenal properly competitive again until he’s replaced? Or are things about to start coming together?

If we’re going to get things back on track it has to start today, but it won’t be easy. Palace have beaten Manchester United away already this season and have several good results under their belt. There was an early setback against Sheffield United but since then they have lost only to Manchester City and the N17 Delinquents.

And they have weapons to hurt us with: we know how dangerous Zaha can be (in a sliding doors universe he might have been turning out in an Arsenal shirt today).  His goal touch has been missing so far this campaign – let’s hope he doesn’t find it against us.  Meanwhile Jordan Ayew also poses a threat. Roy Hodgson had his critics at Liverpool and as England manager, but he has done a good job at Palace.

I expect a typical Emery Premier League team with returning players still rested and lining up as follows:

 

If the Arsenal Board sack Emery this morning and turn up at my door begging me to step in as caretaker manager, I’ll go with this line-up:

 

When I look at our squad I keep thinking we have the talent to comfortably finish third in the Premier League this season, but when I look at our performances I find myself doubting we’ll make top four.

I am willing Emery to prove the doubters wrong and to find a way of making our team purr.

We really, really need to go on a run of good performances. We need to release Le Handbrake (or is it now El Handbrake?) and dominate the weaker teams in the league.

Confidence would have been dangerously low if we had lost or drawn on Thursday night after the dismal showing against Sheffield United on Monday, but Pepe’s late cameo saved the day and will hopefully have lifted spirits.

You know what they say about people in glass houses? Well let’s get inside a glass palace this afternoon and start throwing some stones around.

As for a prediction, well, I’m going to be glass-half-full to keep LB happy: I have a feeling that a few gears are about to click into place and we’ll win 3-1, with goals from Auba, Ceballos and Martinelli off the bench.

RockyLives


Unai knows

October 26, 2019

It was interesting to watch Unai Emery’s reaction to Pepe’s match winning goal on Thursday, not a fist pumping jump for joy, not a huge sigh of relief, just a half smile into the camera from a man who might be a little bit more aware of what is going on than some of us might think.

Emery is tasked with getting us into the top four this season and we are a long, long way off from failing to achieve that goal and he more than most is aware of that fact and as such rightly retains a calm outward appearance. How do I know that, look at his expression when Pepe’s goal flies in; he knows what is about to come from that player, am I sure, of course I am not, but I do believe that what I am writing is more likely to be true than not.

We have been poor recently capped off with the debacle at Bramwell lane, juries were out, juries were in, and people were ready to change Emery there and then.

My feelings were that things are taking longer to slot into place than I was expecting and by that I mean we can all remember the excitement of the signings in the close season and how high expectations were. I kept on saying to myself that he should not be judged until he has the use of his full squad and I still believe that — will our absent two full backs magically make a massive difference? Err yes they will and will do so in the not too distant future and that brings me to the point that I have been holding off for as long as I can: the attack.

We have not just been firing on two of the three cylinders, we have been firing on one. Aubamayang has been doing the best he can with no help from his other attacking team mates: expecting Saka to shoulder the responsibility of scoring match winning goals is too bigger ask at the moment but the biggest disappointment has been none other than Pepe.

Well the worm has finally turned and I for one now expect a huge improvement in our fortunes now that Pepe has officially joined Arsenal Football Club, evidenced by his two lazar guided free kicks against Vitoria. The Ivorian’s confidence should now be sky high and as such the goals should now start to flow; we could also see Lacazette replace Saka as was the case in the earlier part of the season which worked well, certainly better than in recent past and that could give us the much hoped for and eagerly anticipated three pronged clinical attack.

The addition is that I am far from writing Saka off; he is more than welcome to join the party and if it is he who retains his place in the starting trio because of performances that merit his selection then all well and good, the same goes for Martinelli who is probably the one new signing who has surpassed our expectations; the young Brazilian has far better close control than Lacazette but is obviously no where near ousting Aubamayang.

The peripheral stuff is that the club are obviously doing everything they can to get Ozil’s wages off of the books; he is not playing in the Europa Cup to avoid being cup tied which would reduce, even further, the small pool of clubs that might be interested in signing him. With a solution finally found to the issue that some at the club seem to have with him, it should increase the possibility of more signings that have been hinted at for January and I simply do not believe that Emery cannot see the issue in midfield, an area that I expect him to prioritise and if you doubt that look at how ruthlessly he has dealt with Ozil and Mustafi and as such I for one see no reason to believe he would not do the same to anyone else in the much maligned midfield if he could get the right upgrade.

All in all I think we still have a lot to look forward to; the pegs are starting to fall into their holes and hmmm, how can I finish this? I know, lets just remember Pepe’s two superb free kicks and purrrrrrrrrrrrr.

LB


Emery must not miss the moment!!

September 27, 2019

In football, as in many other aspects of life, there comes that moment when new possibilities present themselves and a new direction maybe needs to be seized upon. That moment is not always so patently obvious. You are potentially aware that you may have arrived at the moment, or equally maybe you are not quite there yet but are somewhere near it, so is it really the right time? Is this the actual moment or are we still approaching it? Stick or twist? If you go too soon then it could all go very wrong but dither and you miss the moment which may not present itself again for a long time.

Right then, my ears are burning. I can hear you all saying, “enough of the Machiavellian, Cantanaesque seagulls being thrown from the trawler ramblings GoonerB, what the hell are you on about?”

Well football clubs are often no different to big corporations in other industries, and also even all of us as individuals as we progress through life, in that they/we reach a crossroads at times in having to decide whether to stick on the road you are on, because its familiarity feels safer, or to take a different road that is more unknown and is full of uncertainty but that may well just have that pot of gold at the end of it.

Still too many seagulls and trawlers?……sorry, I digress.

What I am referring to is our promotion of the younger players, or the more untested ones, into the 1st team, and as importantly, into their strongest positions. Sure we have been integrating some of them recently, but is now the time to really go for broke? Is now the time to take that different road, and really push them through rather than just flirting with it?

Yesterday’s discussion threw a lot of debate up about this. Here are a few snippets:

This from JM

Chambers’s best long term position in our 1st team will be the DM/HM position, this season and the next season onwards.

He has shown to be able defend and attack competently whenever he played in our matches (EPL, EL, EFL cup).

– That all important equalising goal against Villa (collecting the cross from Guendouzi and after his intial cutback was blocked, he was first to steal ahead of the defender, calmly controlled the ball with one touch and lifted it back into the net over the GK with his next touch.
– 3 assists in the match against Forest (the first a no hesitation 1st-timed cross to pick up Gabriel from a right-side position; next a measured cut back from left-side position to Nelson; a last a nice pass to Gabriel for his 2nd goal and our 5th.)
– he has not made too many errors when he played so far in defence (CB, RB and LB in the matches against Newcastle, Villa, Frankfurt and Forest).

This season, when every 1st team player is fit, our defence and midfield could be:

Tierney, Holding, Luiz/Sokratis, Bellerin;
Chambers, Guendouzi/Torreira/Maitland-Niles, Willock/Ceballos/Ozil

Next season onwards, with Saliba coming in (excluding any newer additions),

Tierney, Holding, Saliba/Sokratis, Bellerin;
Chambers/Luiz, Torreira/Maitland-Niles, Willock/Guendouzi

 

This from FGG

Football moves so quickly these days and I think everyone gets caught up in the last 3 games and forgets everything that’s come before! I agree that there is absolutely no telling how good or bad we will be with Xhaka and Sok being replaced by Chambers and Holding, but I do think that given our current defensive frailties, it’s certainly worth finding out.

Football just seems to be so black or white these days and it becomes embarrassing at times. Saw an article the other day with Merson questioning wether Spurs should sack the manager. If they win a few games he will be calling them title challengers again! It’s utterly ridiculous.

I must say though that I do like the idea of 3 of our back 4 being British players. I think a bit of an English injection wouldn’t be a bad thing, and with Willock, AMN, Saka, ESR and Nelson in the squad we seem to be getting back to that a little bit.

 

This from LB

Some people seem to think that things can’t get worse by removing Xhaka and replacing him from within the present squad — they can, they can be an awful lot worse, same goes for Sokratis and Luiz, the idea that Holding and Chambers are some how our saviours in waiting is absolutely ridiculous.

 

This also from LB

Slim, I must say that I think I would be a liar if I didn’t admit that there is a part of me that would really like to see if Holding and Chambers could do better than Sokratis and Luiz.

Over the coarse of a long season I feel certain at some point we will find this out.

Should be interesting.

 

And finally, this from Rocky

For what it’s worth LB, I accept the caution that goes with thinking that any returning player or non-regular starter is going to be the Messiah to answer all our problems. Usually they just turn out to be a very naughty boy.

But I feel Chambo has already shown enough for us this season (on top of his ‘player of the year’ at Fulham last season) to be a serious contender for a starting place.

Context is always important. The context at Arsenal is that we are leaking goals like a sieve that’s been hit by a shotgun. We concede more attempts on goal than just about any grown-up team in Europe.

So I’d say let’s see if Holding and Chambers can do better. They don’t have to be the answer to all our problems but if they can make us 20% better defensively that will probably translate into extra points we wouldn’t otherwise get.

And I know, I know, our defensive weakness is not just about the defenders…

There were many more examples, so my apologies if I have left you out and you’d hoped to be immortalised on here. Similarly my apologies go out if I included you and you wanted to remain more incognito 🙂 I actually agree with every statement from those I put up. The general consensus is that we should try something new and exciting, but that we have no guarantee at this stage as to whether it will work out for us or improve us.

There was something else to consider from some of yesterdays comments. There was a fair bit of talk about other potential players in certain positions that we may need to bring in. How do we know we don’t already have those players in the likes of Chambers, Willock, Guendozi and ESR? If we bring in 2-3 others in the midfield department then I doubt we are asking these new players to be back up to our emerging promising youngsters. We are effectively replacing the above. How long before our own boys move on?

It is indeed far from certain whether those players mentioned, that we already have, can give us the world class we need in certain positions, but the only way to know is to find out directly. We need to play them to find out and to ensure we do not miss the moment.

What is the moment in this case? Well for me it is the next two transfer windows. We need to play these boys so that we know what we do or don’t need before we arrive at that point. Failure to do this and the uncertainties that we have currently will still be the same and we will have missed our moment. I actually felt we missed moments or opportunities in the latter Wenger years to try an alternate route, keeping on the same old comfortable pathway, but ultimately still as oblivious as ever about what we really had once transfer windows came about and decisions needed to be made.

We have literally had a failed generation of promising young players that have not been played at the right times but often, more importantly, when played were not played in their best position, the position they could potentially become world class for us in. Let’s not make the same mistakes with the class of 2019.

It is a risk assessment exercise with no guarantee. A judgement call. I personally feel the risk is at the lowest it could possibly be right now to push through the young and the untested players for a couple of reasons. As many have pointed out the experienced and the tried and tested are far from perfect anyway. Also the tried and tested will still be here, there is nowhere for them to go right now, so why not move them into becoming the back up players for the moment and try the new. The risk of it being far worse feels low to me.

As we approach the next two transfer windows we will then know far more, but with greater certainty rather than with wishful thinking. It is also the easier way of moving on certain players that may not be quite right for us. Keep playing them and they often sit tight and refuse to budge, but let them see that someone younger and better has emerged and that their time as the head honcho is over, and they make that decision to move on themselves, with less drama, and with all parties coming out of it reasonably well.

It does indeed seem that the majority of us feel that Emery and the club have arrived at their moment. We do indeed stand at the crossroads, and I for one hope that we don’t go straight on down the more comfortable, better known, but also far from perfect road. Lets take the alternative road, with all its uncertainties because it may just be the road to something far greater.

GoonerB


Attack attack attack – get used to it.

September 21, 2019

Still basking in victory. The Frankfurt match report was always going to be a tricky assignment !! Much to love as many have stated. Much to fear as many have stated. So I’ve come to a conclusion about Dick, based on the following evidence:

1) Overall inability to defend as a team.

2) None of Xhaka, Toreira or Guendouzi playing a responsible role as a defensive lynchpin.

3) Two second half goals conceded against Watford, bringing off Ceballos and leaving Ozil and Pepe on.

4) 1-0 up away in Europe against an at least decent team. Bring off Smith Rowe (who at least tracks back somewhat) and put Pepe on (who doesn’t really defend – period). Bring off Willock and put Ceballos on (possible like for like but JW gave us a ball winning presence which was important last night).

5) We won the above game 3-0.

So my conclusion is, Dick just isn’t interested in defending. He thinks we can outscore everyone. His solution to winning games we’re ahead in is to go further ahead. Conventional wisdom says keep it tight, secure the win. Not Dick. He wants more goals. His signings have been very attacking – even Luiz as a CB. He’s decided we can’t build a good enough defence to win games consistently so he’s just gonna build a better attack. Which he’s doing. He’s in his second year with an option for a third. Most people think if he gets us into the CL, he’ll get a 3rd year. But… there are lots of others who think he’s just not the man for the job. So Dick is coming out swinging. He doesn’t just want to scrape into the CL, he wants to catch City, finish 2nd, win all the Cups. Then he’ll get his extension.

I’m kinda tongue in cheek here but this is a great opportunity for Emery. We are a big club. They said he couldn’t cut it at PSG. He’s not waiting for slow and steady. He wants results now. It’s the only explanation I can come up with. Why doesn’t Xhaka sit in? Yet Emery plays him every game? Because he’s doing what the manager wants – getting forward. Screw defending – lets score goals.

And you know what, if I just accept it and go with the flow, it might be a fun ride. There will be ups and downs but it’s not going to be dull !!!

And lastly, for anyone that thinks that’s a stupid idea (on his part – mine’s just a theory !!!)? Remember a certain Mr Klopp and his two seasons at Liverpool before Van Dijk ???

Mike


Emery Bored … Already?

September 16, 2019

We were dire against Watford. No two ways about it. We made them look like the top four pretenders whereas we performed like we were in bottom of the league form.

Apart from the heroics from Leno and the pure class of Aubameyang, pretty much every other players scored less than 5 out of 10. So much so that there were too many choices for any individual to become the scapegoat. Inevitably the focus was directed at the manager – for his tactics, his team selection, and glaringly for his inability to coach the players to play out from the back after 15 months in charge.

The combined value of our players was three times that of Watford and yet, on the day, they put in a team performance that was greater than the sum of its parts – we certainly didn’t.

Here are some of the views expressed by bloggers yesterday …

From Rasp:

Emery it seems is like the later Arsene …his vision of how we should play is more important than the three points … tell that to the thousands of away fans who had the life sucked out of them when the first goal was conceded.

It was abundantly clear that our players had no faith in their ability to play out from the back .. you could feel the nerves.

Any decent, pragmatic manager would have sent out the instruction (probably at half time) that it wasn’t working therefore the keeper would kick the ball out to the flanks and our midfield should get tight on their players to gain first or second ball … but no, we gave the game away shamelessly.

GoonerB’s take:

As Rasp points out there are hallmarks of the latter AW with Emery. On top of what Rasp mentions there seems to be that trait of repeating the same things that are getting us into trouble. Bad formations with players out of position and not complimenting each other and then substitutions that dont alter the imbalance.

Arsene we can let it go with because he once was the prince amongst princes and the best of the best but simply the game moved on from him and he wasnt able to see it and react to it.

The board basically held out too long and we regressed as a club. Emery is younger and supposed to be that dynamic modern coach but I have reached the conclusion that he is not right for us.

LBG says:

Dick the insistence on ALWAYS playing out from the back does not work with these players, and even Man City dont do that. Adapt to the “quality” of your players. Stop making politician type comments and excuses. Percentage football is required at present .

Kelsey’s thoughts:

So far this season – in just five games – we’ve allowed 96 shots on goal, more than any other team in the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, the Bundesliga, or Ligue 1 (via @ollysailor). That is shockingly bad, and when you throw in the fact that since Unai Emery took over we’ve conceded 10 penalties, more than any other team, there are alarm bells going off all over the place for me.(from arseblog)

Those stats are absolutely shocking and Emery must take a proportion of the blame.This is at best mid table form despite spending a shedload of money’

RockyLives:

I’m not ready to write off UE yet, but in addition to the ‘playing out from the back’ problem, his substitutions yesterday were mystifying and only made us worse.

Willock and Nelson are not yet ready for intense first team football such as yesterday’s – they need to be eased in as late subs and in Europa League/Caribou Cup games etc.

Aaron’s hard hitting stats:

Facts:

Arsenal are on pace to concede 60.8 goals this year.

Have played 13% of their games.

Conceded more shots than any team in the top leagues of Europe.

Know this, we are playing the worst defense I have seen the Arsenal play in a very long time. Emery has been in charge for 16 months and is continuing the run of play that the Arsenal exhibited during the season’s final games.

The question has been asked to death: what is Emery’s plan with no defense?

Sue’s response:

Aaron.. I saw an article earlier, about Unai’s time at Valencia (super cup v Real Madrid 2008/9 2nd leg)
Valencia were 1-0 up, Real were then down to 10 … but levelled. They then saw red again, so down to 9 men.. yet the score went from 1-1 to 1-4!!!! They ended up losing 4-2 (& losing overall) and that was with David Silva, David Villa & Juan Mata!! You couldn’t make it up!!!!

Not a great article & it didn’t fill me with confidence!! Also, it was on about him parking the bus from the 50th minute, with a slender 1-0 lead and pretty much always surrendering leads.

A balance to the debate from Fatgingergooner:

Even though I’ve done this above in previous comments, part of me does wonder if it’s a little unfair to question what Emery’s style is when at the same time we are asking him to forget his style because the players are not good enough to implement it. If Emery is only the coach, as seems to be the case, then is it fair for us to chastise him for playing out from the back?

Should he just forget his whole ethos of possession football and control because the club haven’t given him good enough players? Im not convinced the blame lies solely at his feet. It’s not as if Pep took over City and transformed their existing CB’s into world class, ball playing defenders. He got rid of any players who couldn’t do it and bought ones who could. Surely it’s too much to ask Emery to come in and transform 30 year old defenders.

They are what they are. I think it’s up to the club to provide him with the correct tools that allow him to get the best results. I’m not convinced that’s the case at the moment, so I will still give him a bit of slack on that front.

Before the game, the jury was out on Unai for most supporters … after Sunday, many are now questioning whether he is the right man for the job.

But should we even be having this debate when negativity is the last thing we want transmitted to the players?

The atmosphere at The Emirates this season has been better than for many years – we need to get behind the team, get behind the players and leave it to those above Emery to manage him and rectify the glaring problems that Watford exposed.

What do you think?

Rasp


Arsenal Playing the Fool …. Out from the Back

September 16, 2019

Where do we go from here?

This is not so much a match report as a scream of frustration, but I’ll try to articulate something about the game.

It’s safe to say that the first half yesterday was not enjoyable to watch. We were getting outplayed all over the pitch. However we got to half time 2 nil up through two moments of classy goal scoring from Aubameyang.

One of the shocking things about the first half was Leno playing us into trouble with short passes out from the back. Since the rule change of being able to have players in the box from the restart our play out has been appalling.

Guendouzi had already been given the ball under pressure, in the box, a couple of times in the first half and we’d just managed to clear our lines. Watford were now fully aware that they could gain an advantage and were camped close to our area at each restart.

And so it came to pass …………. we conceded probably the most ridiculously easy goal that any team can score!!!!! Not through a freaky accident, not through a one in a million chance but through suicidal play that those watching could see was an accident waiting to happen.

So several people could have changed the play. Emery? Leno himself? Xhaka, our captain? If Emery isn’t going to give an instruction during play then surely, if something isn’t working, then someone on that pitch has to take on the responsibility. Personally I think Leno has to take the initiative and switch play but I don’t know if those kind of instructions have to come from Emery.

All in all the disaster was completed when with ten minutes to go we gave away a penalty. 2-2 was a lucky result for us.

We had allowed 31 shots on our goal – Watford, bottom of the league, had strolled through our midfield time and time and time again. They were unlucky not to win this game.

We are in a complete mess. Xhaka’s comments after the game that the team were ‘scared’ are shameful. Emery’s comment about taking Ceballos off because it was hot is ridiculous. Watford had 31 shots to our 7. We weren’t even playing that game, we were just making up the numbers.

Where do we go from here?

peachesgooner