Who would you pick in Arsenal’s midfield three? – Poll

February 19, 2019

Time for a poll.

This post has been prompted by various discussions on the site with bloggers stating various individual preferences for our midfield line-up – Guendouzi, Mo Elneny, Xhaka in a double pivot or even Ainsley M-N as a box-to-boxer are among the choices/favourites.

For the purposes of today’s poll let’s assume Unai is playing 4 at the back with his first choice players available. Also assume we have three up front, perhaps in a 2 wide and 1 centre forward formation or alternatively a number 10 behind a striking duo.

Here are the runners and riders for a place in that middle three listed in the order they appear on AFC.com (let’s include Alex Iwobi even though he’s down as a striker).

Mo Elneny

An excellent squad player and perhaps a touch underrated, though rarely gets picked as a first choice starter. Why?

from AFC.com

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Often used as part of the front three on the right side to provide some width. Could he be better employed just in front of two DMs?

Aaron Ramsey

Perhaps his best position (well according to his new Juve boss) is just behind a front two and it’s difficult to deny that proposition. Could he still be used in the middle three? When tried before, his natural tendency to be looking to make bursts forward into the box has sometimes left us exposed in midfield.

Mesut Özil

Another whose best position appears to be just behind the striker(s) in a front three. Then again, he often plays wherever he feels he can do the most damage which might be the cause of his contretemps with Señor Emery.

Lucas Torreira

When he first came to the Club and was being gently eased in as a sub, it seemed he was being used as the central DM sweeping across the width of the back four. Now he seems to be established on the right side. Where’s his best posititon?

Celebrating his goal against the spuds

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Mr Versatile means that we’re not sure which is his favoured spot in the team. Could he play in front of a double DM formation where his youth, energy and calmness might be perfect weapons for the position?

Denis Suarez

It’s a bit early in Denis’s Arsenal career to know where he might end up in the team. Does anyone have more of an idea they could share?

Matteo Guendouzi

Still 19, he can’t have imagined he’d play so many games for The Gunners in his first season. Not a natural DM perhaps, but another with a great engine. Maybe he’s also suffered playing in a team which is low on confidence sometimes and others look to him to provide a creative spark.

Granit Xhaka

A marmite player if ever there was one. Usually picked by whatever manager he plays for, so he must be doing something right.  Should Granit get an automatic starting berth?

Alex Iwobi

Another player maybe best suited to a front three position. Has he got the discipline to stay central? Or would he be wasted further back where his dribbling skills might be less useful?

Others

Perhaps one of the Academy lads might be given the opportunity to step up. Smith Rowe and Nelson are on loan, but Joe Willock, in addition to his 2 goals at Blackpool in the FA Cup 3rd round, has had a fine season up to now for Freddie’s u23s .  Robbie Burton and Charlie Gilmour are also getting decent reviews and are names to look out for in the future perhaps.

===================================================================

Now for the poll. Choose the three you would prefer in your midfield three.

They could be in a 1-2 formation, a 2-1 (double pivot 🙂 ) or any other variation you can think of.  Specify your preference in the comments below.

chas 

Advertisements

Unai Emery’s record as Arsenal Manager and before

February 18, 2019

Arsenal’s Premier League record after 26 games

As we can see, the stat that sticks out is that our goals against is the worst in our PL history (tied with 2011/12) and significantly higher than our average. But nothing else appears to be a big issue in comparison to previous seasons.

So we have to look elsewhere to find what it is that gives some of us concerns ……

The PL is a six horse race and we have been also-rans in the last 14 seasons, in that time Man U have won 5 titles, Chelsea 5, Man C 3 and Leicester 1. This season it will be either Man C, Liverpool, or even Spurs.

The Leicester win was a one off occurrence by an inspired team and manager – self belief was a big factor.

Man U won 5 titles in 7 seasons with Alex Ferguson as manager but has not won in the last 5.

Man C are the rich kids on the block and won their first title in 2011/12 and have since won 2 more.

Chelsea’s riches gave them their first title in 2004/05 they repeated in 2005/06 and have won 3 times since.

Liverpool and Spurs are still PL virgins and long may it last.

So all that said, what about Arsenal – if it’s not stats then what is it?

Arsene Wenger treated us to many wonderful memories, far too many to list, in his final 14 seasons he did not win the PL but did win 4 FA Cups and 4 Charity Shields.

Unai Emery took over the reins on May 23, 2018 and he has an array of achievements.

Getty Images

Sevilla

UEFA Europa League: 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16

Paris Saint-Germain

Ligue 1: 2017–18

Coupe de France: 2016–17, 2017–18

Coupe de la Ligue: 2016–17, 2017–18

Trophée des Champions: 2016, 2017

Individual

Miguel Muñoz Trophy (Segunda División): 2005–06, 2006–07

La Liga Manager of the Month: March 2014, January 2015

European Coach of the Season: 2013–14

UNFP Manager of the Year: 2017–18

 

Unai’s record as a manager

 

I would offer that Unai has inherited the same set of problems and issues that dogged Arsene in his final seasons.

Specifically,

  • Injuries to key players – in key positions
  • Lack of funding forcing creative purchases
  • Overpaid players
  • The Bosman Ruling
  • Inadequate positional balance
  • Over reactive supporters

Personally I’m not equipped with the knowledge to give definitive answers to these issues but one thing I do know and advocate is that Unai Emery has the future of our illustrious club in his capable hands.

He needs the support of both the management and supporters in order to achieve his goals and our dreams.

I wish him a successful and fulfilling career at Arsenal.

Give the man a chance.

GunnerN5


Emery, the master carpenter.

February 17, 2019

Unfortunately we are getting closer to the Emery in or Emery out debate, I feel reassured that this site has risen above the playground name-calling on other sites to date from the usual suspects.

I have been trying to put into words by way of comparison how I feel about Unai Emery right now. I know in the past I was one of the most loyal of Arsene Wenger supporters, the reason for bringing that up is that I just want to make clear that I am nowhere near reaching that level of devotion; AW had a bank of great Arsenal memories to refer to and as such people like me probably carried the torch a tad longer than was good for all concerned. Unai Emery has no such bank of Arsenal memories………..yet?

The comparison I came up with to describe our Basque is that of a master carpenter having been invited to work on a prestigious London project only to find on his arrival that the project managers expect him to do his job without making available a saw, a hammer or a chisel.

Did you ever wonder what is going through his mind during a game when the camera cuts to him standing in front of the dug out with that pained expression on his face? I do, and the caption I see coming from his mouth is – What did you expect?

The recent Chelsea game seems to be frequently reappearing with both ends of the spectrum being debated: Chelsea are poor so that reduces the significance of the win or that the win shows that we really are not far off where we want to be.
The truth, as is often said, lies somewhere in the middle and that certainly seems to be the case with this game.

It is correct, of course, to say that Chelsea do not offer the same threat that they have in recent seasons but they offer more of a threat than Bate for example so why the difference, why doesn’t Emery set his team up in such a way that replicates that winning formula?

The answer in my opinion is personnel, or in this example, the lack of them because as much as he might want to play the same line up or the same system, he can’t and that is through no fault of his own.

This was the line up against Chelsea.

———————-Leno

Bellerin, Sokratis, Koscielny, Kolasinac

—–Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi

——————Ramsey

—–Aubameyang——–Lacazette

I know I have said this before but I am going to say it again, the biggest loss has been Bellerin; he gave us goal scoring options from the right; he also enabled Kolasinac to do his magic on the left, this is subtle – no Bellerin = no Kolasinac magic. It is now too easy to crowd the Bosnian out and nullify his threat.
I know that GN5 justifiably points to the earlier part of the season when Bellerin’s sorties into the opponent’s half left gaps behind, but look above and notice how Torreira is set up to cover such gaps.

I don’t really need to explain the loss of calibre to the team having Sokratis replaced by Mustafi but the loss of Ramsey is underestimated. If you look at that team above again you will notice that there is a connection with London buses, we have been crying out for a defensive midfielder and now we have three, how else would you describe Xhaka, he may not be a very effective DM but he certainly isn’t a AM.

Ramsey is the only person from that midfield who could augment the front two; he is the only one who is capable of getting a goal from midfield. Unfortunately I don’t expect to see him play at THOF again, we got a flurry of determination for what looked like a final push to secure his lucrative Juve contract but from now on his foot will be off the pedal as I suspect he worries more about injury than our success.

What of Ozil? I see no reason why Ozil simply couldn’t be swapped for Ramsey in the above set up, there certainly is enough defensive cover to give Mesut a free rein; the problem is as I see it is that is like a house of cards.

No Bellerin, no effective AMN, no effective AMN, no effective Kolasinac, No effective Kolasinac, no effective Ozil all of which equates to: Arsenal 0 Bate 1

Personally I have very little hope of coming 4th, I don’t think we have the personnel to achieve that goal, I would be happy of course but I am not holding my breath. However, I do not think the responsibility for that misfire sits squarely on Emery’s shoulders; although that said, I might not be quite so sympathetic if we are in the same position this time next season after Emery has had an opportunity to buy his own saw, hammer and chisel.

LB


Huddersfield 1 Arsenal 2 – Player Ratings

February 10, 2019

No Auba or Mesut due to illness and no Rambo with a slight knee.

First Half

Plenty of chances against the bottom team: Laca tackled just as he was about to pull the trigger; Wobbly into the side netting when he should have got his head up.

After a quarter of an hour, a fine cross from Wardrobe allowed Wobbly to expertly cannon a volley off a Huddersfield heel to wrongfoot the keeper and put us one up.

Looking dangerous on the break, we eventually doubled the lead when a driven cross from Maitland-Niles was simply despatched by Lacazette.

Huddersfield huffed and puffed nut were kept at arm’s length. Micki was very good on his return, finding space and using the ball intelligently. Wobbly was also having one of his better games where he looked really dangerous going forward.

Second Half

It’s difficult to say that the second half was comfortable watching.

Aside from a 10 minute spell where we should have got that crucial third goal, It seemed to be a case of holding what we’d got. Huddersfield’s lack of a cutting edge was partly responsible for us looking as though we might keep a clean sheet away from home. Leno did well but bottom of the table finishing was partly responsible for us not conceding earlier in that second period.

Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP / Getty Images

Wardrobe felt sorry for the Terriers in injury time and casually passed into his own net to send the home fans into raptures – their first goal since Adam were a lad.

Conclusion

Three points against the bottom team away from home with a team hit with injuries You can’t really ask for more. Or can you? The gulf in class should have been stamped, double-stamped and triple-stamped. Curiously, the balance of the side was much better in the first half than of recent games.

I didn’t really understand Arsenal’s second half. If Huddersfield had managed to get one back early in the second half would we have just gone up a gear to score a third? I have my doubts.

Maybe the nerves kicked in after such a poor run previously? Maybe the half time team talk was to just try to shut up shop, let the opposition have as much possession as they wished and stay solid?

Either way, it was pretty unconvincing viewing.

Ratings

Leno – great save early in the second, relatively untroubled by a castrated opponent’s forward line … 7

Mustafi – a liability yet again, some of his passing and decision-making is just shocking … 4

Koscielny – Back in control, definitely one of the classiest players on the pitch – his instant forward pass to Wobbly in the build up to the second goal was excellent … 8

Monreal – struggled manfully as always, let’s hope he stays fit … 7

Maitland-Niles – another ‘chillum in the pocket’ performance, sometimes composed and graceful on the ball, others completely lacking in urgency and nous. You would have thought he would be grabbing the chance to cement a first team spot with both hands and with the utmost eagerness, instead he’s often lackadaisical which is perplexing. Extra point for an assist … 6

Kolasinac – an assist also and he played to his strengths – calves, thighs, shoulders, biceps – shame defending isn’t really his bag … 6

Torreira – Good in the first half, presumably subbed off with a knock? … 6

Guendouzi – I’m still not sure Matteo is a defensive midfielder, but he is still only 19 so maybe even he doesn’t know … 6

Iwobi – dangerous to any defence and to any supporter’s blood pressure. Can be outstanding and then infuriating in the space of ten seconds. Great first half when he looked dangerous. Kept his goal volley down which gains him an extra point … 7

Mkhitaryan – another who had a good first half – lovely to see him breaking the lines, finding space and looking so composed with the ball at his feet – a fine return from injury before understandably fading … 7

Lacazette – I’m sensing a little Wrighty-edge to Laca’s play which I really like, his goal was on a plate but taken with aplomb – love that aggression … 7

Subs

Elneny – comical moment when he climbed all over Laca who was waiting for the ball to come down on the edge of the 6 yard box – ran around a lot … 6

Suarez –  on for Micki, didn’t really have a chance to shine again … 6

Willock – time wasting sub

Managers

Emery – got the job done which is what we ask of him. I liked the team structure far more than in recent weeks – what did he say at half time though? … 7

Wagner – even he can’t keep them from the drop … 4

Referee

Moss – oozing both incompetence and lard from every pore … 2

chas


Arsenal FC – Why is our away form so poor?

February 8, 2019

GN5’s post yesterday reminded us of our dreadful away form last season, especially in the 2018 calendar year to May when it took that final day of the season victory over Huddersfield to break our duck. Anyway, this set in motion a train of thought about how long our away form has been in decline.

Away games only since 2010

As you can see from the above, our away form ranking was fairly high earlier in the decade; higher in fact than our final League position in many cases. Season 2015/16 was the odd ‘Leicester as champions’ season and our away form ranking was one position lower than our final League position (thanks to the spuds coming third in a two-horse race). 🙂

In season 2016/7 we got pipped to the 4th Champions League place by Liverpool by only one point, came 5th and our away form ranking was 6th.

Joined in August 2016

Last season the slide really began. Finishing in 6th, our away form was disastrous. We ended up 11th best in terms of away form, winning just the 4 games (including that final day win at Huddersfield).

The current season is only 66% complete and we have faced most of the top teams away from home already – so perhaps it is much too early to judge if there’s been an improvement. We currently have a ranking of 9th in terms of away form (having decent home form has kept us in the top 6).

Our points per game averages this season stand at 2.46 at home and 1.25 away, a difference of +1.21 which is the highest in the Premier League (the pesky spuds have the best away form and have actually won more points away than at home – largely thanks to dubious penalties and goals in Fergie time, it has to be said).

Our goals conceded this season stand at 36 with 25 of those coming while on the road, a percentage of 69% – again the highest proportion of away goals in the Premier League.

When Unai Emery joined the Club, he must have looked at last season’s results with dismay. Our away form needed sorting and goals conceded column reducing (though I’m sure Micky will disagree with the latter). Shoring up the defence, getting us to actually defend as a team and plugging the large gaps left for opponents to exploit on the counter (especially behind the full backs),  all must have been priorities.

Some might say that results this season are relatively unimportant as the new manager strives to get the team playing in a new style to his own liking and there is some truth in that suggestion. Unai has tried 4 at the back and a back three with wing backs with varying degrees of success.

It’s true also, that some of these changes have been prompted by our horrendous luck with injuries, Rob Holding really was looking like our number one centre back and with Nacho injured, the Wardrobe at wing back gives us far more confidence than him playing as left back in a four. The double pivot of Xhaka and Terrier appeared to be a successful pairing which was then curiously amended to push our Uruguayan further forward and wider. The need to make early subs at half time has suggested Senor Emery is still trying to find the right formula for a longer term strategy and that he will still make some errors of selection as he beds in.

Our remaining away games this season …..

Huddersfield … 9th February

Spuds …  2nd March (now confirmed as a Wembley fixture)

Wolves … 16th March

Everton …  6th April

Watford …  13th April

Leicester …  27th April

Burnley …   12th May

Perhaps we’ll see a steady improvement in the last 7 away matches and exploit our ‘relatively easy’ run-in. Then again, those West Ham and Southampton defeats are still fresh in the mind. The game at the London Stadium possibly our worst away performance of the season. Perhaps our best performance came at Fulham when a Harlem Globetrotters style exhibition produced magnificent entertainment.

Anyhow, what do you think? What has caused this apparent fragility away from the Emirates?

Will we see our defence start to gel as injured players return and partnerships have a chance to develop, promoting far greater solidity away from home?

Or do we just need to score more at the other end ?  Creating more chances against Huddersfield tomorrow might be a good place to start.

chas


The Deadwood Stage

February 6, 2019

Whip-crack-away!!  You have to be seriously old or a Doris Day fan  (in which case you are gay) to get that reference.

We are desperate for a clean out.

No CGI here …

We were under Mr Wenger and I thought we had sorted out the problems with the departure of Gibbo, Little Jack, Santi, Perez, Chuka, Ospina, Campbell and Per, plus another couple of loan. It appeared that UE’s squad was packed with pure quality. I was wrong, we still have players who are simply not good enough.

We can all write our lists and I guess many will differ but there are some names which will feature for everyone

Mustafi, Elneny, Lichtenstein, Jenkinson are the most popular candidates for the Spanish Archer.. Welbz and Ramsey are already gone as is Petr. That makes 7. I would add Mhki and Ozil (it is criminal to waste his talent). So, 9 out, a massive reduction of our squad.

Some may add Xhaka but I think he is an excellent squad player and back up to a proper midfield lynchpin.

It will not be easy to sell players with long contracts and very high wages. Why should they leave and take a pay cut? Will AFC pay a percentage of their wages to get shot?

Or should Mr. Emery  allow for natural wastage through age and contract run-downs  moulding the remaining players to his masterplan? Given our financial situation this seems the most likely route. We have some potentially excellent players coming through the ranks – Nelson, AMN (Cons), Smith Rowe (Lab), Willock m Mavropanos (Young Greek Bloke henceforth known as YGB) etc and it is important to highlight just how young some of our regular starters are – Curly is 19, Terrier 22, Hector 23, Iwobi 22, Holding 23. These are the chaps to build the squad around.

I always thought that Mr Wenger was too loyal to his players, keeping them in the squad when they were past their best. By doing so he did not bring fresh blood into the club. As with Mr Emery, “he can only pick from the players he has available – get rid of the deadwood and they cannot be picked” (Homer Simpson)

I think we need an aggressive clearance sale. Then buy a proper CB, 2 LB’s, RB an attacking MF and a winger. Is this likely? Sadly not.

Make mine a Sasparilla.

written by BR


Predictable at the Emptihad – Player Ratings

February 4, 2019

No Mesut, no Rambo – what’s the point of two top class strikers with no-one to feed them then?

First Half

Wobbly dithered and we were one down in the opening seconds of the match.

However, there followed a period of commendable effort from the whole team and the equaliser gave everyone a boost. We even looked as though we might sneak something.

The offside second put the kibosh on a positive half time talk.

Second Half

Zero efforts on goal. Hmmm.

Hand of Sergio third goal.

Arsenal flat-lined.

Conclusion

Not as bad a scoreline as it might have been and at least City cut the dippers’ lead, albeit temporarly (maybe).

Nobody’s expectations were very high for the game and at least we had over half an hour on level terms.

Ratings

Leno – good second half … 7

Lichtsteiner – just not up to it … 4

Mustafi – injured – good or bad? … 4

Koscielny – a goal stooping when Lukaku’s size 12s  must have been fresh in his mind … 6

Monreal – part of the mediocre nature of the team performance … 5

Kolasinac – not much to say … 5

Torreira – will be hoping his second season is in a better team … 6

Guendouzi – such a willing lad – shame he had little support … 7

Iwobi – such a bad start, never really recovered … 4

Lacazette – tried hard again … 6

Aubameyang – no service … 5

Subs

Suarez – a debut of microscopic proportions – best forgotten all round … 5

Ramsey – no effect on a poor second half whatsoever … 5

Mavropanos – A fit centre back – Hooray … 6

Managers

Emery – a hiding to nothing game in most senses – if we’d played a more attacking line up and got more severely thrashed, there would have been just as many complaining … 5

Pep Wagner – could he do it without the half a billion pounds budget? – not in the same way, that’s for certain … 6