How Does Unai’s 2019 Arsenal Compare to Arsene’s 2017 Arsenal?

September 12, 2019

Ahead of our 5th game of the season, where are we compared to Arsene’s last season (2017)?

I’m looking at 9 main factors in trying to decide how much of a better path we’re on compared to when Arsene left. Make no mistake, this is probably an examination of Arsenal under Unai Emery as anything else. It’s early in the season and maybe we can revisit this at the next interlull to help time move on. Sorry to RA in particular for not having this ready for this morning’s post (I had a couple too many margaritas last night !!). Sorry too if I’ve missed anyone!! Hopefully not !! So

Goalkeeper and Defence

2017 –  Cech, Ospina, Bellerin, Debuchy, Gibbs, Monreal, Mertesacker, Mustafi , Gabriel, Koscielny

Grade  – 6/10. Merts was a bit of a loss, Nacho will be too.

2019 – Leno, Martinez, Bellerin, AMN, Kolasinac, Holding, Sokratis, Luis, Chambers, Tierney

Grade 7/10. Leno is (will be) an upgrade, Holding is better than anyone else we had and we have a little better overall quality in the middle and Tierney should also be a good upgrade.

Midfield

2017 – Ozil, Elneney, Ramsey, Xhaka, Coquelin,  AMN, Wilshere

Grade – 6/10. Obviously very affected by injury (didn’t even include Santi) but overall, where can you see any ball winning coming from? However also obviously very creative.

2019 – Ozil, Xhaka, Ceballos, Willock, Torreira, Guendouzi

Grade: 7.5/10. Definitely more strength and tenacity defensively but also with plenty of creativity. Even if you’d argue there was more going forward in 2017, it’s hard to create without the ball.

Forwards

2017 – Giroud, Iwobi, Oxlade, Sanchez, Walcott, Welbeck, Lucas.

Grade:  6.5/10. Obviously Sanchez was dangerous and Giroud was a huge weapon in the air but we hardly used it !! Not enough quality wide and very one dimensional as far as goal threat.

2019 – Auba, Laca, Pepe, Nelson, Martinelli

Grade:  8.5/10. There’s a lot of firepower in this group. Probably not quite deep enough but wide players are much better in my opinion.

Management Team

2017 – Wenger, Bould, Gazidis, Law.

Grade – 4/10. This group oversaw a steady decline in player quality and mentality which I think when you compare it to this year, is very stark.

2019 – Emery, Ljungberg, Edu, Sanehlli, Vinai V

Grade: 7.5/10. Mostly based on this summer transfer window but also the team just seems a little more steely and solid. It’s early but I also think we should bear in mind the losses of Bellerin and Holding last season at a time when we were on a very good run.

Ownership

2017 – Kroenke, Usmanov, Fanshare

Grade:  4/10. Did very little to help a sinking ship. Is it the fact that now KSE knows putting its own money in will reap benefits back to them alone? (This is also a great subject for a later post that I’d like to tackle !!)

2019 – Kroenke

Grade: 7/10: Got to give credit where it’s due. At least for right now. Substantial improvement

Mental Strength

2017 – Arsene talked a lot about it but who would you say showed a good mentality from all of the 2017 lists? For me, Nacho, Ramsey, Coquelin, Wilshere and Alexis would be the only ones I would want in my squad today for their mentality.

Grade: 3/10: Stemming from the manager I believe this has been the biggest failure at Arsenal during the later Wenger years. A team crying out for leaders, there were none.

2019 – I’d pick Leno, Holding, Sokratis, Luis, Ceballos, Willock, Guendouzi, Auba, Laca, for sure as players I think have a great mental presence on the field. I’d probably take Torreira and I’d imagine Tierney too but I’m not sure.

Grade: 5.5/10: Substantial improvements here. There are 3 or 4 players that need to be moved  on before I would rate us higher and an addition or two would help.

Defensive Ability 2019

Grade: 5/10. I am starting to understand better the massive correlation between a good defence and a solid defensive midfield. Until we fix that issue, our defenders are almost over achievers.

Attacking Strength 2019

Grade: 9/10. Similarly to our defenders, attackers allowed to play freely without fear of losing possession leading to goals being conceded will be better with good midfielders.

Fear Factor 2019

I think teams facing the current Arsenal team see a different proposition to a couple of years ago. I think we’re going to win a few games through not being intimidated that we wouldn’t have before. I’m not sure we’ll intimidate too many at first but hopefully once our front 3 get firing, that’s possible too.

Summary:  I’m not saying everything is rosy in the garden, far from it. But from a more stable ownership model through better overall management to an overall more balanced and athletic squad, I think we’re on the right track. What do you think?

Mike M

 

 


Do We Just Blindly Trust Unai Emery?

September 4, 2019

The “Opinion” Connundrum

We had a fantastic discussion yesterday on the question of Unai and Granit Xhaka related to how fans feel about them. FGG and I went back and forth, many others chipped in and in the end it seems there’s a fairly broad spectrum of opinion. Obviously that’s what a blog is for and on this particular site, almost always discussion and differences of opinion are respectful. So it seems discussion wise we’re on the right track. So what about the subjects of our discussion? Some of the points raised in the discussion were along the lines of:

“Should we be criticizing our own players/manager?”

“At what point is it disloyal as fans to criticize our players/manager?”

“Do we back them through thick and thin, even if we see an issue with their performance?”

All of which are legitimate questions. It got me thinking, when was the last time I felt like being critical of our players/manager (before Sunday !!)? I came up with during the last 2 years of Arsene’s reign when I got to the point of despair with his blind belief in his players’ ethic which it seemed obvious to most everyone else, was severely lacking. Anyone who watched Adams, Bould, Vieira, Parlour, Freddie, Santi but to name a few will know what I’m talking about.

I got to the point where I just couldn’t trust AW anymore because I believed he was too close to the technicalities of his management to see the more simple picture, which was – play your best players who will do the job you tell them to, no matter what their name or “status”. Also find a Captain that will lead by example and demand those players do what they need to. I think most people would agree that this was in fact the case and the reason he had to go.

So here’s the question: Do we just blindly trust Unai and not take our players to task. I think everyone would say no to that so where is the line? At what point is it ok to question, criticize, hold accountable? Obviously I’ve reached my tipping point with Xhaka and yet, although Unai keeps picking him, I am not there yet with the manager. It will probably take a while for that but I feel it’s ok to question him at this point.

I know we’re just fans and we don’t have all the technical information, nor see the players in training every day so is there a point that allows us to voice our opinion if it’s not necessarily positive or even downright negative. I’ll not be a hypocrite here and admit I had a few choice words for people who have criticized Wenger, Fizman, the Kroenke’s over the years because I always thought there was more to the picture. So what do you all think? Are there rules for this or do we just have to agree that we all see it differently?

Mike M

 

 


Does Guendouzi Do It For You?

August 27, 2019

Emery said this about Guendouzi in his pre-match conference for the Liverpool game:

Matteo is very young but he has talent, his talent is to adapt to what we need. We are working tactically and individually, a lot on videos and a lot on the pitch. It’s a big challenge for me and him to achieve a big level here. Last year his process was very good but we miss a lot with him to achieve big moments.

Really, really I am very optimistic with him because he has this talent. We can improve other things, physically – we are working in the gym – his mentality. He has potential right now to help us achieve the best performance.

After the game, Emery praised Willock but also said that Douzi had a good match.

I thought that Douzi had an “OK” game. He ran a lot, he had a lot of passes but he (and Sokratis) were beaten for the Matip goal on a corner kick and he did not have one shot on target, not one key pass. Douzi is only 20 and we shouldn’t be too harsh on him but it is clear to see that there is a lot of room for improvement. I think for him, it is about:

  1. Becoming more effective with his running and his passing
  2. Being tactially more aware on defensive, transition and offensive phases
  3. Becoming stronger physically as well

Torreira, Willock and Guendouzi have fantastic attitude and also a great desire to run and work hard for the team. They are young and full of energy but none of them is a DM as of now and they need to play with someone who is more sound defensively. If we are playing in a double pivot (DM-MC), then none of them can play together unless Torreira is confined to a DM role and none of them should play with Xhaka. So what is our best available DM-MC pair?

Now back to Douzi – I think he is a well liked players and fans – but should he command a starting spot for EPL games? Wouldn’t it be wiser to help him grow as a player by playing him in Cup Games and then giving him some game time in the EPL as a sub?

Back to you…Does Douzi do it for you? Here are somes stats for you to help you make up your mind: https://www.premierleague.com/players/50512/Matteo-Guendouzi/stats?co=1&se=274

RC78

Enough of Your Moaning … Now For The Positivity

August 26, 2019

There were mixed reactions to Arsenal’s loss to Liverpool at the weekend, but most subscribed to the ‘work in progress’ theory and looked for the positives … here are some of the more constructive appraisals:

Kelsey:

Many are now blaming Emery for his team selection (debatable) and tactics but if he is to be a top manager for us he will hopefully have learnt something and the key areas where to strengthen. Luiz was stupid but you see that in every game. In all probability without pulling Salah’s shirt, he still would have scored

Xhaka again didn’t stamp any authority on the game and Monreal yet again got caught out of position.

Maybe Pepe should have scored but he will be awesome and no mean task to make your debut at Anfield.

We were always second best but one can’t fault our work rate.

fatgingergooner:

The first goal is always key in these games. If Pepe had scored when through then this could’ve been a different story, but to concede just before and just after half time will kill any side. It’s even worse when you gift them the goals.

I thought our shape was actually ok. We played a diamond with Ceballos at the point and Xhaka deep. Yes, we were very narrow and allowed their full backs space, but actually they didn’t test Leno really from the crosses that came in and it was other parts of our overall play that cost us.

Pepe was fantastic and if you don’t get excited watching him and Auba linking together then I don’t know what to say. I really hope we see the trio soon with Lacazette coming in to see what we can really do. His finishing needs work but his running and eye for pass were on show again.

Willock was outstanding and looks every bit a new star in our midfield and exactly what we need. What’s not to love about his energy, composure and ability. Love him.

Geundouzi’s energy was also a joy but he lacks a bit of refinement. Hopefully that will come with experience and I think his and Willock energy just takes a bit of pressure off Xhaka. Before the first goal I actually thought the midfield 3 were giving us good protection and we looked pretty good until that Pepe miss and set piece lapse in concentration.

Pat7:

Yes, we gave away the wings but did well protecting our centre and the crosses and I’d say we had the best of chances in the first half. I’m not sure if we were back to full concentration when Luiz saw Salah slip in and grabbed his shirt. I can’t blame him for that. Despite the rule change with VAR all players are still grabbing shirts and it will take time to get this habit out of their game, especially one that’s been playing the whole of his career like that!

So, 2-0 down and then 3. At this point I thought we looked doomed to another bashing with half hour to go but not sure whether Pool lost the desire a bit knowing the game was won or maybe they tired too – maybe a bit of both.

We played out the game and our heads didn’t drop, gained a bit more confidence and got a consolation, one back. I thought on the day we were just not as well oiled or confident as them. We have 3 first teamers waiting to join the crew and I look forward to a better match next time, maybe with better tactics by then if all goes well.

RockyLives:

Another thing to bear is mind is that ‘Pool had pretty much their strongest team on the pitch yesterday.

It’s quite likely that UE’s strongest team later in the season will be something like:

Leno
Bellerin-Holding-Luiz-Tierney
Torreira-Ceballos*-Guendouzi/Willock
Pepe-Lacazette-Aubameyang

GoonerB:

The positives from this game were as follows:

1. we can see that we have the depth and variety to change things from our bench, and Pepe I think will soon start to terrorise teams.

2. Willock indeed looks a great BTB player completely suited to the EPL and with quality as well. Scarily (good for us) he will also improve further.

3. We have some great players individually and I feel this will be a stronger EPL campaign for us overall. We should have enough to beat most of the teams that we should beat with less banana skins.

4. Torreira has again shown he has an eye for goal and the ability to drive forwards in addition to his tackling and defensive tenacity. He looks another great potential BTB player, but this raises the conundrum of who plays the holding midfield position to allow him to play to his peak.

So all in all, an away loss to the team that only lost one game last season and whose home ground has been the proverbial fortress is not a disaster.

We’d all have taken a loss at Anfield if we get the 3 points this weekend wouldn’t we?

Rasp


Arsenal Lose … by Trying Not To Lose

August 25, 2019

The starting lineup:

Leno, AMN,Sokratis, Luiz, Monreal, Willock, Guendouzi, Ceballos, Xhaka, Aubameyang and Pepe. This was the side that was going to keep our unbeaten strike alive hmm? I thought Lacazatte not starting a very strange one.

 

First Half

Arsenal started the game nervously making a few defensive errors while trying to pass the ball from the back. We are lined up differently with a back four and diamond in the middle with Ceballos at the tip and xhaka at the base (OH BOY). It seems Emery wanted to win the midfield battle and then release PEA and Pepe. It nearly worked when Pepe was released and Adrian trying to clear the ball gave it to PEA, but his chip went narrowly wide.

The most glaring error came when was Ceballos had dropped deep and then tried to hit a cross ball but instead passed it straight to Mane. Luckily Leno kept it out. There was some good work from Willock on the left nutmegging Arnold and giving the ball to PEA who then feds Pepe whose curling shot was narrowly wide of the post.

Arsenal allowed Liverpool’s FBs to cross the ball far too often. I was extremely nervous of this after last week against Burnley when we missed a lot of headers.

Another chance came when Pepe ran onto a though ball and beat the last defender, but he didn’t get enough power in the shot.

As often happens, we miss a chance and then the opposition scores as they did when Matips then put Liverpool one in front from a corner just before half time.

Poor defending from the corner let us down once again. Why was  Gendouzi marking Matip? The last few time we have visited Anfield the game was all but over by half time so I was pleased we were still in with a fighting chance today at this point.

 

Second Half

Not a great start.

Another lapse in defense this time from our most experienced defender who tugged on Salah’s jersey led to a penalty (what was he even thinking) and it was 2 nil to Liverpool. What was so infuriating about this goal was that it came 46th minute, Luiz shouldn’t be losing his concentration so early into the second half.

In the 51st minute Pepe slipped a ball through to PEA who was clearly offside, but the recovering tackle form Matip was amazing – why don’t we get that type of desire from our defenders. Later Luiz decided to jump out of the way Salah’s way and left the defense exposed and the Egyptian was clinical making it 3-0.

At this point, Emery decided to make a change bringing on Torreira on for Ceballos. I didn’t understand the move because at 3 nil down surely we should be attacking not trying to defend a 3 nil deficit. Liverpool just kept slicing us open and we were lucky not to concede another.

With 10 minutes to go Emery now decided to bring on Lacazette and within four minutes,Torrerira had made it 3-1. With 6 minutes to go there wasn’t enough time for a comeback. The side began to play with more confidence with Lacazette who looked lively and called for a hand ball but wasn’t given. Full Time 3-1

 

Conclusion

I’m still not sure how to feel after this defeat. If PEA or Pepe had taken their chances game might have turned out differently. Today was a real test and what I wanted from it was for us to show that we are improving. If we are going to play anti-football at least do it with some conviction. Should we be even be playing anti-football with our squad we have one of the best front 3’s in football?

Under Emery we seem to lack an identity, one minute we pressing the next we playing defensively. In the Burnley game I saw the passing out from the back worked on just one occasion – we have been practicing this for an entire year. (I watched Norwich today and they seem to be able to pass out from the back way better than we ever do).

 

Ratings

Leno – Little he could do for the goals, didn’t he have a stealer penalty record in Germany hmm … 6

AMN – should have given us some more width but seem he was instructed to defend rather than attack … 5

Sokratis – needs to stop pulling the person he is marking … 6

David Luiz – The reason I didn’t want him to be bought was shown in full effect in second half, was decent in first half … 4

Monreal – Wasn’t able to help the team today, better defending could have stopped the third goal… 5

Guendouzi – made some good dribble to bring the ball out … 6

Wiilock – another good performance … 7

Ceballos – sloppy passing almost leading to a Mane goal … 4

Xhaka – tried some long ball to find the attacker … 5

Aubameyang –  should have scored when mistake was made by Adrian … 5

Pepe – had to great chances unlucky not to covert … 5

 

Subs

Torreira – scored our consolation goal, hopefully he ready to start am sick of xhaka… 6

 

Emery – was guyilty of overthinking things I believe. He lined up today not to lose, rather than to win the game … 3

fred1266

 


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


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