Ceballos is the new Vieira

August 19, 2019

What on earth is he talking about? What is he smoking, is he mad? Shameless click bait headings, the site has gone to the dogs. But give me a second, there is a slither of method to my madness, do you remember how at the beginning of Wenger’s tenure he was able to scour the lesser-known parts of France and French speaking Africa capable of unearthing hidden gems such as Vieira? Well, and here is the connection, Emery seems to be doing a good job of doing the same in Spain.

Real or Barca will always get first dibs on the top players in Spain and Latin America, this level of player are not on our radar, not the first edition signings anyway but there are so many who it just does not work out for, whether it be for reasons that the competition for the position they play is so intense that the chances of braking into the first team is next to impossible and this, off course, is where we are with Ceballos.

It must be so hard for players like that whose dream it is to play for one of the big two in Spain and then finally get signed, have all there their family and friends tell them how pleased they are for them and then have to face the humbling reality that they are unlikely to make it into the first team.

It is here that Emery comes in; it is his reassuring hand that helps players like Ceballos cross the much-feared precipice that exists in their minds on the way out of Real Madrid.

It is difficult to imagine having a second team, almost impossible, if there is it is probably a token suburban entity but in Spain this is the norm. Ceballos, although born in Andalucía and I am assuming that as he played for Betis that that was his boyhood team there is no doubt in my mind that his second team is Real Madrid; he has nationalist tattoos and as such he will hate Barcelona and the symbol of desired independence from Spain that it represents to so many and that will most certainly include Ceballos.

Yes, we only have him on loan but I like the way we are going about these things; I thought Dennis Suarez was a smart piece of business, ok it didn’t work out and it might seem glaringly obvious now but it is easy to remember that he was and I assume still is a Barcelona player and that is not something that happens easily.

It was a clever piece of business because we got to try it before we bought it and hey, thank goodness we didn’t spend a chunk of our meagre transfer resources on him, again easy after the fact. The same is obviously true of Ceballos; he has had one start perhaps by Christmas other clubs could have worked his game out and found a way to nullify him – but right now, I will have none of that negativity, we have got ourselves a gem, if he blossoms so much that Real Madrid give him a guarantee that he will be a first team regular then he will obviously return but failing that he will be ours for so many obvious reasons.

Where will he play? There is little doubt that this is a long-term play to replace Ozil. That’s to say; it would be hugely risky to break the bank to try and buy a ready made replacement for him, the chances of failure are high just look at Ozil himself, everyone’s favourite for so long and is now viewed by so many as a huge expensive albatross, can you imagine accidently having two of those on the books? Ceballos like Suarez is a suck it and see type of thing, there are risks but they are greatly reduced.

Back to Ozil for a moment, in my opinion the club are doing everything they can to off load him in this European transfer window, I know I have said before things like: I loved you Mesut but you broke my heart and that certainly was the way I felt after his dismal display in the Europa final but like any lost love a twinkling of the minds eye returns after time and in this case I find myself sighing when images of his goal against Ludagrets flash in front of me.

My guess is that the club will fail to sell Ozil in this window and we will get to see the return of the Thin White Duke making for a pairing with Ceballos on certain occasions, all of which, force exotic images of Ozil and Cazorla back into my head.

Ooooooh to be.

LB

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Unai, Wake Up! … Xhaka + Özil + Mhki = Disastrous Defending

August 7, 2019

My take on the pre-season is now focused on what we can expect from the coming season based on what we saw, how we ended last season and what improvements, if any, we have made.

Summary of last season is that we had a very effective “new manager bump” which put us in pole position to qualify for the Champions League. However with a typically Arsenally (what we used to refer to as Spursy) finish to the season we blew it in what I think was pretty spectacularly bad fashion. There were fundamental problems:

  1. We couldn’t defend properly and conceded way too many poor goals. My humble opinion on this is that as bad as our defenders appeared to play, we just defended horribly as a team. Our pressing during the first part of the season was quite good but after March, it was amateurish. We had no one who could hold the ball and relieve pressure. We had also signed what I think is a very good keeper which made it all the more frustrating.
  2. We weren’t direct going forward and (as usual) had no plan B if teams parked the bus. Our playmakers (Ozil, Miki and Iwobi) failed fairly miserably as a group. When Ramsey finally got into the team, he offered directness and we played better. When he got hurt, we were done.
  3. We had no heart, balls whatever word you want to use. A team devoid of leadership and such a weak mentality, I thought we were Spurs during the 2000’s!!! Seriously though, both us and Manure were horribly weak mentally and the final positions reflected that.

So I was looking to Unai to change three things really. Mentality, mentality and mentality.

On to pre-season. We won our first few games, beat Bayern and went 2-0 ahead against Madrid. I wrote in my match report I wondered if we’d really turned the corner or if we’d revert to type.

We did the latter. Gave that match away, played really quite well against Lyon (apparently, I didn’t see it) and lost that one, then lost against Barca after I thought, a fairly competent first half performance and a 1-0 lead. I know it’s pre-season but what have we learned?  Apparently not a lot. Here are my concerns with the manager for the coming season.

  1. We still aren’t defending well as a team. I don’t see that has been addressed. It strikes me as strange that at 2-0 ahead against a 10 man Real, then our most experienced defender gets 2 yellows in 5 mins. We had opportunities to kill the game off. We go in 2-0 up at half time, then he brings off Willock and leaves Ozil to defend ahead of our full back. We coughed it up and if Ascencio hadn’t got hurt, would have probably lost. And we still had 2 golden chances to win the game at the end but failed to take them. We lose to Lyon after a couple of marginal decisions and AMN not having the greatest of games. Why? If he’s not motivated after pulling the shirt on, who is? (I know he’s had some problems in his personal life so I’m giving him the benefit). Where’s the manager in this? Then we lose to Barca after being ahead 1-0 at half time because again we take off our best midfielder and put Ozil to defend our right and Miki to defend the left. No wonder we aren’t happy with how they played. They can’t defend !!!!!!!!!! Does Unai know that?
  2. Granit Xhaka. I still don’t put Mustafi in this category, Granit stands alone for me. Maybe I’m mistaken but a holding midfielder needs strength, agility, speed and awareness. Xhaka has none of these. His tackling is poor, he gives away loads of free kicks and possession because he’s poorly positioned, misread the situation or just gets outmuscled, outfought or outrun. Compared him to his top 5 peers. Kante, Jorginho (who’s not great either), Fernandinho, and basically any of the Liverpool or Spuds midfield. Not only would he not get a look in at any of them, he wouldn’t even start at United. Not to mention Wolves, Everton, Leicester. What does he do well? He strikes a ball and makes the occasional sublime pass. But I see the same Xhaka as last season and for those of you that know me, what Emery does with Xhaka was going to define how I see his second season. I have been a fan and advocate of Emery since he started and firmly believed he should be given a year, which he has been. I just don’t understand his persistence with Xhaka.
  3. MENTALITY!!! We are soft. No one expects us to take the lead and hold it. Pre-season has just re-iterated that and in any sport, winning becomes a habit. So does losing and weak mental performance. I know Klopp said you can’t become a big winner without losing big first. Hope he’s right because if so, we’ll win the quadruple this year !!! But I’m not holding my breath. Liverpool, City and Spuds are miles ahead of us in this category. And it’s squarely down to their managers.

In trying to be balanced, I must say I’m completely impressed with our transfer window. Hopefully we’ll sign a central defender which will make it an 11/10 instead of the 8.5/10 it is now. I also believe the signings we have made, although not defensive, will help with our ball retention and therefore indirectly with our defending as a team.

Pepe and Ceballos look like they’ll be tremendous signings and there’s more than one way to defend. So let’s see what Unai has planned. I’m concerned we haven’t signed a CB and if Xhaka starts and Miki and Ozil are deployed in front of our full backs, I see a frustrating season ahead.

Please prove me wrong Unai and Granit !!!!!!!!!

Mike M


Did Unai Emery train the Pep out of the Arsenal players last season?

July 8, 2019

It seems like there’s still very much a verdict out on Unai Emery. Which is justifiable and understandable.

The players needed and probably got a bit of a culture shock. I don’t think he inherited a good enough squad to do it the way he would have liked.

Remember Pep’s first year at the Man City? I distinctly remember people saying he was training them too hard and he was going to burn out his poor millionaire superstars. I think he did too. They didn’t win much.

It appears we hit a wall and burned out too last season. So for me it bodes well. Ask any City fan, Raheem Stirling, David Silva, Fernandino, Kevin De Bruyne and I’m certain a few more how they feel about it now. Alternatively you could ask Joe Hart (learn to pass it Joe or you can’t play for us), Jesus Navas, Eliaquim Malanga, Samir Nasri, John Stones, Bernard Mendy etc. who may see it differently. I hope you get my point.

Obviously the big difference is what to do about it. City just bought better players for a shed load of money. We can’t. So one of our alternatives is to promote the youngsters, which is what recent posts have been about. It’s VERY important that we’re very careful here if we use this strategy. Reiss Nelson will not turn into Ryiad Mahrez in one season, nor Eddie into Sergio Aguero. As a believer in a much needed mentality shift, I can’t see a problem with bringing in a young player to replace some of our current squad who just don’t seem to have a good enough attitude and/or work ethic.

But if we do, just make sure we temper our expectations of the team and manager so we give them a chance to succeed. Because it took City 2 years and Liverpool 3 years to do it and I’m not sure we can compete with either one of them financially (certainly the City, but probably Liverpool now too).

Mike M


Unai Emery … listen to Freddie … you already have the young talent

July 4, 2019

There’s been a lot of talk about using Academy players to plump up the squad as we seem to have run out of money … thanks Stan for not putting your hand in your pocket to help your team!

I find it worrying that often when we talk about buying players we agonise over not disrupting the squad and yet there are legions of fans wanting to sell more than half of our current first team.

Back in 2008 we had a fabulous set of players in the Academy/Under 21’s and Arsene Wenger knew that he was going to need to use some of these players in the First Team. Anyone remember a stunning victory in the Carling Cup against Sheffield Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium. The game ended 6-0. A hattrick for Carlos Vela, a brace for Nicklas Bendtner and a goal for Jack Wilshere, making him the second youngest Arsenal scorer. It was a night of fabulous football, I was there as our boys tore into the Blades and I can tell you I was excited at the prospect of Bendtner and Vela playing together in the First Team.

I’m not sure they ever played together in the First Team, I remember that van Persie got injured and Bendtner became his replacement. But the special way that they had played together that night was never seen again.

Last season we witnessed another night similar to that one in 2008 when several young guns lines up against Vorskla away in the Europa league in November.

 

We won the game 3-0 with goals from Emile Smith-Rowe, Ramsey and Joe Willock. Eddie Nketiah also started the game. In the second half more youngsters were given a chance of game time with Medley, Saka and Charlie Gilmour replacing Holding, Ramsey and Guendouzi. It was a fabulous display, the young guns knew how to play together and it showed on the pitch. We saw some of them individually later on in the season but not in numbers. They’re used to playing together, they know how to read each other, I feel we need to use them as a group.

What I’m trying to say is that they have to be given a chance to play regularly if we are going to reap the rewards of the fact that they’ve been playing together since they were tiny tots.

Arsene Wenger wasn’t brave enough to do this consistently but maybe Freddie Ljungberg will be and Unai Emery will listen to him. I hope so.

peachesgooner


Emery is wrong … build the team around Özil

July 3, 2019

Confusing times …

We have a manager who I took against within about two weeks of his arrival. Because I seemed to be in such a minority, I drifted away from the two or three Arsenal supporters’ blogs that I was in the habit of reading. Everyone liked the new energy, the direction the club was taking, and certainly the results during the first half of the season justified the optimism. I didn’t like it – any of it.

When you have a set of round pegs, you can try to squeeze them into square holes, you can throw them away and buy new square pegs, or you can create round holes into which to fit them. From the outset, Emery forced his round pegs, and the rounder they were, the more he tried to crush them into his shape of choice.

When you have three of the most potent, exciting, skilful footballers in the world, you can start your system with them, and build around them – or you can mess around with them and make them what they’re not.

When you have some of the best talent coming up through the Academy, you can encourage them, fast track them, utilise them: or you can bring in other exciting young players to block their progress.

For me, Emery failed in every one of these aspects.

Many months ago, I wrote on here that I thought Mesut Ozil could not fit into the new system, and was criticised for that view. Ozil is one of my all-time favourite players, second only to Dennis in garnering my admiration. I choke at the thought of him not playing in red and white any more. I was apoplectic at the way Emery treated him (I’m convinced this was a reaction to his losing the PSG dressing room). Alongside Ozil, how were Lacazette and Aubameyang treated? Confusingly. When they were both fit, the manager took far too long to play them together.

Unequivocally, in the right system, those three together would rip defences to shreds (as they all too occasionally have), at least as potently as the Liverpool front three.

Five of our best youngsters were farmed out for experience. All well and good; probably the right thing to do. Emi Martinez has been our best goalkeeper for a while now, but has been consistently shunted back, and then loaned to Reading, where they think he’s a hero. Callum Chambers was player of the year at Fulham in a DM role. Krystian Bielik pulled up trees making a massive impression at Charlton. Reiss Nelson and ESR furthered their education in Germany, and certainly Nelson impressed, making the shortlist for Rookie of the Year.

 

The point is, what now? The latter two are attacking players, wingers or attacking midfielders. But we’re bidding for Zaha, Brahimi, etc. Chambers and especially Bielik might well be the answer to our DM shortcomings. Chambers is maybe a bit slow. Bielik isn’t, is a big unit with all the skill. He’s had a few growing pains, but he’s possibly through them at last. If he doesn’t get his chance this year, we’re going to lose him. Martinez should certainly be allowed to vie with Leno to start – I personally think he’s better.

Then there are the others, who stayed at the club. Jordi Osei-Tutu has gone, a really promising pacey right back, who might have been tried in order to free up AMN for a more suitable role, but never was. Willock was a way better player than Guendouzi and Xhaka last season, but got his chance too late. He’s fleet, skilful, proper box-to-box, good defensively, and has an eye for goal (even if he had something in it in the Europa Final!). The same things could be said of Ainsley Maitland-Niles who has endured being put at right back in order to get into the team.

The players who Emery picked: Xhaka, good when the team is dominating and not exposed to the fast break, but awful if rushed, because of his lack of pace, which forces him into rash challenges; Torreira, everyone’s favourite because of his insane commitment to the cause, but actually too lightweight, and not really quick enough; Guendouzi, a player full of promise, but whose main contribution was falling over to draw fouls.

 

What of Emery’s tactics?

We were promised measured playing out from the back to draw the opposition out of position. That was a disaster, especially when Cech was in goal, more so when Mustafi was the defender. Even Leno abandoned it late in the season. We were promised a high press to win the ball back early and near the opposition penalty area. It spluttered throughout the year, and was less used towards the end. He did have a magic touch in the first half of the season, with his substitutions and timing thereof, but even that waned. I’m not aware of any other tactics, or tactical shifts during games. He did tinker with the old back three/back four dichotomy, but the result seemed more confusing for the defenders than helpful.

And the man himself? He was much lauded for his determination to speak English from the get-go, but I found him incomprehensible, no less so after a year in the job. When I did understand him, he spoke in totally meaningless platitudes, and entirely without humour – how I missed Arsene’s wit and wisdom.

Well now he wants new toys to play with – Zaha et al. And as always at this time of year, the fans are in a frenzy to buy this star, that rock, the other tyro. This is why I thank fellow blogger Fred for pointing out the obvious, that you can’t promote youth AND buy stars. It doesn’t compute.

Me? I’d start with Ozil Lacazette and Aubameyang. I’d have AMN, Willock and Bielik as first/second choice midfielders, in any combination according to circumstances. I like several of the attacking youngsters, who should certainly be in the squad, along with Iwobi. Martinez would be my goalie. Central defence and left back might need a bit of shoring up, although there’s not much wrong with Papa, Holding, Chambers and Mavropanos. Monreal has lost too much pace. Koscielny needs a final season like Mertesacker’s. Mustafi… well, Mustafi! Let Xhaka go, let Torreira go back to Italy, sell Elneny, Jenkinson and Mhkitaryan. And Mustafi… Hopefully, Bellerin will return undiminished. So maybe Tierney to fill left back is the only player I would consider.

Sit back with a rock solid defence, fast transitions with AMN and Willock to Ozil, unlock the strike force. Easy.

Written by Maxwell


Keeping an Eye on Unai …..

June 18, 2019

It seems we Gooners have had a series of so-called ‘marmite’ figures to disagree over in recent years. There was the long standing saga of Arsène Wenger’s latter years, more recently the Mesut Özil debate, and now, after one season in charge, Unai Emery is already dividing the fan base.

Here are some views from respected bloggers in recent days…..

First Don McMahon

We’ll have a better idea at this time next season once we see what Emery does with his lineup and new players, the upcoming youth and academy talent in the coming season. I, for one, am optimistic that he’ll sort out the poor away form we displayed this season and once he’s stabilized the team, we’ll see his tactical and strategic skills as a manager.

….. and now Aaron

He develops no one, does tactics and strategy, but not a true risk taker, and if Europa is the level everyone wants here, that is what we have. Put him under the nowhere land management, dirtbag owner, and the Arsenal will be a mid-tier time until he sells, or dies. (a tad harsh …ed)

….. and this from jjgsol

I am convinced that the board took on UE because they regarded him as the cheapest option. He will need to be exceptional if he is able to improve our position. I hope that he succeeds, but feel that he won’t.

Should we at least give the man a full transfer window and another season before we judge him, or is the writing on the wall … is he condemned by his past record?


Valencia 2 Arsenal 4 – Player Ratings

May 10, 2019

A solid looking team on paper with three at the back plus wingbacks and the Xhaka-Torreira axis. The front three could get isolated if the wingbacks don’t push forward.

Ten men defence or all out attack – let’s hope Unai has got it bang on

First Half

After a slow first ten minutes we decided to spice things up a bit by losing the ball on the edge of Valencia’s penalty area and all of a sudden, 7 men were caught ahead of the ball. A simple goal on the break resulted.

Valencia had a few sniffs but nothing of any consequence and then with our first chance Laca and Auba combined, with the help of a backwards defensive header from our Gabriel, to create a beautifully executed finish from the Gabonese Gooner. Away goal cancelled and an equaliser completely out of the blue. Phew.

Our other two chances both came as we got into the game and even started to string a few passes together. First Auba drove straight at the keeper with his weaker left and then the best chance of the first half fell to Laca after Auba’s brilliant run down the right flank. Alex’s first time effort clipped the outside of the post with the keeper nowhere – oh so close to a second away goal.

Second Half

The second half began in magnificent style with a nicely worked goal finished with a great 360 from Laca and drive into the bottom corner. Two away goals and Valencia now needed 4 goals. Surely that would be enough?!!

from AFC twitter

When they got one back 8 minutes later there can’t have been many Gooners who were completely certain that the mayhem of the previous two nights might not start again in the Mestalla.

Mesut was replaced by Mkhitaryan and we started to control things once more. Ainsley’s assist for Auba’s second was just sublime. The trick to beat the full back and then the driven near post cross were just majestic. When did we last score at the near post? Auba’s finish sent the Gooners both in the stadium and around the world wild with joy. 3-2 away from home and Valencia were back needing 4.

Kolasinac replaced by Mustafi improved the defence as Nacho is so much better as a defending wing back.

Sergio Perez/REUTERS

Matteo for the Terrier was the last excellent substution. He controlled the game for the last ten against a demoralised Valencia team. The final goal was a thing of rare beauty with intricate passing, a stepover, superb return pass by Micki and blasted roof of the net finish for Auba to seal his hat trick. Just superb.

Conclusion

Where has this Arsenal side been hiding in the Premier League? Or is it just a case of English teams are that much more intense?

Unai excelled in the Europa again – it really does seem to be his speciality. The two top-class strikers again proved their worth with 4 goals of such high quality. Seven between them over the two legs – simply outstanding.

What a glorious and unexpected night after the two previous nights of despair! The team confounded most people’s expectations with a performance of real quality. Well Done!

The chavs in Baku and a one game shoot-out. Bring it on.

From AFC
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Ratings

Cech – not sure he had too many saves to make as Valencia’s shooting and crossing wasn’t much better than Napoli’s had been in the quarters … 7

Papa – loved him chest bumping with Kos right near the end – as a pair they were excellent … 8

Kos – magnificent captain’s performance putting his body on the line for the team …  8

Nacho – played his part in his usual whole-hearted way … 8

Ainsley – if he can remove the odd lapse in concentration from his game he’s going to develop into a superb Arsenal stalwart – his assist was so, so good … 8

Sead – still too happy to shovel the ball backwards and then disappear forward – we improved when he got cramp … 7

Granit – a little lumpen on occasion and his intricate short passing game needs work – he gave his all, mind you, which is all we can ask … 7

Lucas – the game seemed to be played around him a little in the first half – great assist for Laca’s goal – still not sure if he and Granit complement each other … 7

Mesut – was ok but when he went off he wasn’t really missed which is telling … 7

Pierre – a world class hat trick from a world class finisher on his day … 10

Alexandre – the second goal came at just the right time and Laca never stopped putting in 100% effort – such a good signing …. 9

Subs

Henrikh – away from the hustle and bustle of the EPL, Micki sometimes excels – his cameo was top drawer, topped off with a glorious assist for Auba’s hat trick goal – that old Dortmund combination in all its glory … 8

Shkodran – filled in nicely … 7

Matteo – looked brilliant in his ten minutes on the Mestalla pitch – instrumental in that final goal with his positive forward passing … 8

Manager

Unai Emery – everything right on the night – you cannot ask for more … 10

Baku here we come!

Ref

Danny Makkelie (NED) – wasn’t fooled by much on the night – excellent … 8

chas