February 9th – Huddersfield 1 Arsenal 2

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Sloppy Arsenal outwit witless Huddersfield. I used to think Cardiff were crap but this lot take the biscuit. Them not us.

It made for a dull game to watch. The entire game was underwhelming. But rather than find a way to throw the points away as we did at Southampton and Brighton today they were so bad they could only score once. And then we had to do it for them.

It’s hard to get too excited by games like today or performances like this. We did enough to win but it was a strange performance. In the second half we could barely string any passes together and yet we had chances to score the third.

We made strange substitutions today. We finished the game with Elneny and Mustafa on the pitch and we still won. I was particularly impressed with Elneny’s clearance for them when we used his body strength to push Cigarette off the ball to head the ball out for their goal kick. When he came on he seemed to play high up the field and not worry about defending. That made no sense as did taking off Torreira. But not much made sense today. Apart from the three points.

Our first half performance was pretty balanced and highly effective. Ob1 was able to contribute and set up the first goal. But why, after a performance like last week, he’s actually selected is beyond me. There is either no accountability or there’s a deficit of available players – or both. And then to see MIckeyTarrien is always worrying. But he also helped us in the first half. Both tended to fall over at vital times but both helped create our goals. And we should have had more in both halfs. Whereas they had no clue until they reverted to playing like Burnley.

How impressive was Mustafa today? One of his most consistent performances. Right from his first pass he was able to deliver it directly to the sidelines through a 90% success rate of finding the space just on the other side of the touchline. His distribution today was consistent and thoroughly embarrassing. He really does look clueless but safer in a back three than back four. Some of his passing was truly laughable and pathetic. We’re just fortunate that it was against a rag tag Huddersfield.

Unfortunately Maitland-Niles seems to have been studying Mustafas’ ways. A number of crucial infield passes completely exposed our defense – one in each half. As polished and calm as he looks on the ball he’s decision making is too Ob1-like for me. And the simple mistakes are a little worrying. The square pass just outside the corner of the penalty box in the second half was particularly suicidal.

Today Guendouzi and Torreira reverted back to prior games. Neither seemed that comfortable and neither was as influential as last week. Often they were overrun in midfield. Neither was able to create much – that all came from the wings via Maitland-Niles, Ob1 and Mickey.

In truth Huddersfield, if they had even one of our strikers, would have been able to score a couple of goals. But then we had numerous chances in the second half that Ob1 managed to fluff. Against a decent team we’d have paid for those mistakes.

This review is as disjointed as our game today. There was very little to admire but it never seemed like we’d lose and, once we sneaked the first goal, quite likely we’d win. But there was little to inspire us. We rarely were able to put passes together. And that was compounded by the sloppy play of Mustafi, Maitland-Niles and Kolinsac. Too often we’d give the ball away cheaply and get out muscled.

This was a blah game. But still one we had to win. Leno was pretty suspect today. That one time in the first half when he came charing out to intercept their free-kick was unnerving. His distribution was not great either – kicking out of bounds a couple of times.

Cigarette worked hard; competed well and picked up a goal. On a number of occasions good runs and positions were wasted because Ob1 was unable to make the right pass. Maitland-Niles is a mini-clone of Bellerin. Very effective when he’s attacking, with a great touch and nice footwork but careless in defense and poor with his defensive passing.

Unfortunately Mustafa is a bigger clone of a dead, one-legged elephant. Which, in many ways, is insulting to any elephant I’ve met. And I’ve meet a few in my time. They surely have a superior football IQ to Mustafi and get paid a hell of a lot less. Today was borderline funny to see to which supporter in the stand would the ball go to. Right from his first misplaced touch. Luckily there was Kosclieny alongside him, still working his way back to full fitness just before his retirement to the French Mediterranean. One perfect clearance stopped a certain goal. But overall he’s so much calmer and experience than our German retard. But then so is a dead, one-legged elephant.

Now we’re off to the NoHopaCup. A couple of games against a team no-one has ever heard of (no, not Arsenal). Maybe Ozil will get some playing time. I would hope so but doubt it will happen. I’m also hoping that Torreira was removed as a precaution. And dare I say it, we need Xhaka back so we can play three in midfield. And then we need to find Aubameyang. But as long as we don’t misplace Cigarette I’ll remain an optimist.

-LB7

February 3rd – Man City 3 Arsenal 1

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Let’s start with the good news. We don’t have to play these guys again this season. The bad news is that Ob1 is still alive.

Even by our immeasurably low standards our start was breathtaking. How is it possible for Ob1 to be such a num-nuts. How low a football IQ do you have to have in order to try dribbling out from the corner of your own penalty box? And in the first minute of the game? Stupid does not do justice to this level of incompetence. Through most of this season we’ve actually seen this muppet improve and contribute more. But today it was a throwback back to the bad old days of the last few years. Shocking and embarrassing. Thereafter Ob1 was anonymous. His confidence was shot and he contributed nothing. He was a liability on the right hand side the entire game; scared of the ball and scared of their players. Though he has some ability and skill I’m pretty sure that at this point his fundamental problem is two-fold. A lack of confidence and self-belief and absence of football IQ – though that could be three reasons. And it was that lack of awareness (is that four?) that caused him to make the wrong choice at the wrong time.  Of course the mistake was amplified by Mustafa dawdling out and keeping everyone onside. Another one with no clue how to play the game.

No sane person actually thought we could go up there and beat Man City. But we should have at least been able to give them a game and to show progress in this team. How can you then give a goal away within the first minute. That is beyond belief and reminds us of the days under Arsene.

Let’s flip to the good news – because there was some. Torreira was outstanding – resilient, hard-working and relentless. Alongside him Guendouzi had his best game possibly of the season. Combined, these two work so hard. Unfortunately their wing-backs let them down. But back to the good news – Monreal was excellent in defense as was Kosclieny who continued his resurrection. Cigarette looked dangerous and Aubameyang likewise worked hard. Unfortunately, this formation lacked any creativity (cough cough Mr. Ozil) so neither really got a sight of goal. In the second half we did not have a shot on goal.

Against a team with such quality and skill as Man City you need your full complement of players. Unfortunately any team with both Mustafa and Ob1 fails that test. Both were abysmal. Ironically, the fear had been the inclusion of Lichtenstein. He’s just a few years younger than me and slightly slower off the mark. But when you have the lack of intelligence and commitment in front of you from Ob1 you merely expose the old man to the elements (him not me). They were always going to target Lichtenstien today. All three goals came from that area of the pitch. And each time it was Ob1 who was culpable. I was surprised that OneEyeEmery did not make the change at half-time. In the big games you need to see who turns up. Not Ob1 that’s for sure. I can’t therefore blame Licthenstien for being old or at fault for todays goal. Maybe my disappointment in the abject performance of Ob1 has blinded me to the mistakes Lictehnstein made. But you can’t blame him for being old – blame God for that.

The surprise today was that we managed to equalize. And then show some fight. In a reversal of our normal behavior, after the shabby goal we gave them, we actually played well in the first half. It was the second half where we disappeared. Of course, some of that was due to the effort we had to expand in the first half chasing their shadows. They really are a good team. But, today, in the first half we went some way to matching them. So, it was not all bad news.

The shape and organization of the team was better. We were more disciplined and played more as a unit.  The defensive cover that Torreira provided was excellent. He only got beaten a couple of times when he guessed (wrongly) which way Silva was swaying. And then Guendouzi would link up their play quickly. And both dropped deep to receive the ball. Not that that stopped Mustafa smashing the ball upfield to their players. Did I mention that this guy is crap? We need one of our Greeks back ASAP. It’s remarkable that Mustafa is incapable of modifying his game to learn any lessons. In the same way I’m incapable of making new observations about his incompetence. By the start of the next season he’ll be gone or relegated to the number 4 center half.  

We had our first glimpse of Suarez today. Too soon to judge but he looks light weight. I think my arm weighs more than him. He had the Ob1 uncertainty in defending and was easily pushed off the ball. He’ll have to adjust to the physicality of the game in England. But he got off the ball quickly and meanders in field looking to be involved. I just need to figure out why he needs both his names on his jersey. Is that because he wants to make it more expensive for us? Is it because we’ve got another Suarez hidden somewhere? Either way, his bar for grabbing a place in the team is pretty low. Today was not the day to judge him.

OneEye might have learned a fair amount today about his players. He’s now got a young midfield backbone. He’s now settled on two up front. He’s just got to figure out how to link them up into the overall play. That’s where the enigma that is Ozil comes into play. Why we did not get rid of him in the latest window is puzzling. I believe he’s still one of the most creative players in the EPL. If I was manager he’d be one of my first picks. But if you don’t believe in him and won’t pick him then offload him now. OneEye should have pushed him out. Or whoever is now running our club. We should have offload him to PSG. Keeping him is a waste if you don’t believe in him. If your formation and tactics don’t allow you to select him for any games against the top 5 what’s the point? If you can only pick him when playing home games against the bottom 6, do we really need to spend that money? We should have forced him out. Again, I think he should be playing. Look at Coutinho at Liverpool. He did not defend by they found a way to make him excel. This is what worries me about OneEye. He has a world-class player but can’t seem to manage his resources to get Ozil into the team. So as well as we were organized today it was hard to see how we could recover from their second goal. He prefers to bring on a player be are not interested in retaining rather than Ozil. Here’s a player, Ramsey, who we should retain, that we won’t. A player that is destined for Italy with no future at our club. And yet, he gets more playing time than our most creative player? How does this make any sense?

At the start of the year we had low expectations for this team. And we might reach those levels. We won’t finish in the top 4 and we might or might not be successful in the NoHopaCup. But, as when Leicester won the league, I think we’ll look back on missed opportunities. It’s not often that Chelski will be this inconsistent. It’s not often that ManU will fail to play for the first half of the season. We had our chance to boost our chances of the top 4 but we’ve blown it. And we’ve done so because we’ve all been fixated on the long-term progress of this club. Looking for a verification that OneEye is the right guy and that this club is going in the right direction. But that also means our lowering of expectations has allowed us to miss an opportunity. Next year is going to be way harder than this. Which brings us back to today. After that shocking start we found a way to recover; to stabilize the team and make a competitive game of it. But you can’t carry two players and one grand-parent.

– LB7

January 19th – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0

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That’s more like it. We should only play at home. No more away games. Then we’d be champions again. Glory be ours. Home is where the points are. To be fair it helped that Chelski were shit. But we were pretty good.

Team selection was key today. No Mustafa. Maybe he’s injured. We can but hope. Back to a back four even without Monreal. And Torreira in midfield. So that’s better.  And we turned and played for both halfs. Maybe that makes up for playing neither last week. We started with a high press game and put them under pressure immediately. Before we took a well deserved lead Aubameyang missed another chance. That’s a nasty habit he’s developing. Luckily we had CIgaerette on hand to score a true strikers goal. Somewhat reminiscent of his Liverpool goal, in a tight spot he demonstrated delicate control and then a poachers awareness of the goal. Maybe Torreira distracted their super expensive goalie a little who was still counting his money as the ball went in on the near post.

The pressure was pretty relentless even though Chelski had a perfect chance for Pedro to equalize. Our setup was very different from previous weeks and it benefited us. Ramsey was pressing Jorginho and, just like Ali did, it denied Chelski any fluency. Today was about the team selection. As buggered as it was last week, today, it was better. Ramsey in midfield at least linked up the play and pushed forward. And he worked really hard the entire game.

Cheklsi really were off their game for the first half and we should most probably have taken the lead earlier and, possibly, scored more from the chances they created for us. Right from the off David Luis gave us the ball in the final third. The numerous mistakes like that peppered their first half. But our press helped amplify their lack of focus.  

I’m not entirely convinced by Guendouzi on the left. Both he and Kolinsac seemed pretty vulnerable today. Both seemed to work hard but Guendouzi did not help us too much creatively. Most of that came from the other two midfielders. Playing Torreira on the right was also unexpected leaving Xhaka in the middle. I’m not sure that brings the best out of either but today I think it was largely about nullifying and denying supplies lines to Hazard.

I’m still a little unsure as to how we managed to keep a clean sheet. I suppose it helps when Leno only had a single shot to save through the entire game aside from the header that hit the post. In fact, I wonder whether Chelski studied the wrong video from last week. Maybe they decided to mimic our play against West Ham. Chelski were lackluster and unable to close down anyone. They passed sideways and did not trouble the goalie.

The defense looked better and Kosclieny seems to be finding his way back to some form. But surely having Sokratis alongside him is more comforting than Meathead Mustafi. Today, mostly, they held their line quite well and were sensible in their distribution. With these two in the center the overall balance of the team was better and functioned more as an actual team. The contrast to last week could not be greater.

Maybe we need a home London derby each week. First Sp*rs and now Chelski. Of course, in-between we’ve been pretty crappy. It’s hard to determine whether OneEye is closer to finding out his best team and best formation. To his credit, he is not afraid to make tactical adjustments in the game – unlike AW, and, seemingly, Sari who stuck with the same approach until the wonderful Giroud appeared. It’s rare our crowd serenade another teams player, but in this instance, it’s excusable. We’ve missed his dashing good looks.

Ten minutes into the second half it was clear we should win this game as Chelski had limited invention and we’d adopted a mentality of shutting the game down. We let them have plenty of possession and then contrived to give them the ball straight back but still they could not do anything. There were periods where they reminded me of us trying to tip-toe through a packed defense with the perfected complex inter-passing that we so rarely execute successfully. We could have put the soon-to-depart Cech in goal today and still have won. So, thank you Cheklsi for playing such a limp and lifeless game. Your homage to our performance last week is much appreciated.

We needed this win. I know that seems like a pretty obvious, redundant statement. I believe that’s the general intent each week. However, given the turn in atmosphere at the club over the last week or so, I think there was a genuine need to change the sentiment for this club and team. If only for 90 minutes. Last week was truly atrocious and brought into doubt – based on the last 5 weeks worth of results – the end to the OneEye honeymoon period. So now, as we enter the first full year of our union, the first cracks have begun to show. Is OneEye the right man for the job? What the fuck is going on with our finances? And why are we in such disarray with our January signings and overall recruitment strategy? All these issues remain to be resolved but it’s more palatable armed with three points.

It feels like, over the last few weeks, we’re balancing on a knives edge. Just a few degrees away from self immolation. OneEye has not helped by dissipating all the goodwill he’d inherited both from his signing and the string of positive results. Maybe it’s natural that a new manager will modify and change his team strategy, alternate various players in order to figure out what works best for the players he’d got. Today that tinkering worked perfectly. Of course, we have had the advantage of watching this squad for too long so we already know who should be playing and who should be permanently injured. I’d just assumed that a professional manager would have figured it out sooner. And that’s not to assume that next week won’t rotate the team again. I’d expect to see Ob1 come back in. As the only player to perform last week he can consider himself unlucky to have been on the bench.

Obviously, the clear negative from today is the Bellerin injury. That had all the hallmarks of a season ending one. I fear it’s ACL or some other knee injury that will sideline him for many months. We know that Lichtenstein can’t replace him. Maitland-Niles is the best we’ve got and he’s not that great. This leads back to our transfer policy and whether we’re looking to bring in experience or youth. And begs the question of whether we have any money in the bank to pay for what we need.

At this stage it seems pretty clear we’re not going to make any earth shattering or influential January signings. We need players but we’re going to have to wait. But it now seems that OneEye has realized he needs one of Ramsey or Ozil to be the creative hub of the team. And yet we look like we could lose both – one to Italy and one to the stands. I have to assume that OneEye is not intent of treating Ozil how DarthVader treated Pogba. Not that the two players are quite comparable. But the similarities with the managers is a little disturbing.  Listening to OneEyes comments during the week it seems that he’s being a little too vocal about the Ozil situation. He’s backing both of them into a corner. It was not Ozil’s fault he signed that contract. No-one forced Arsenal – whether it be Gazidis, Sven or Raul – to offer that contract. Surely they understood the economic reality. Maybe they should realize that you can’t let players get into the last year of their contract. Ozil did – or rather his agent did. I’m sure Ozil will play in the NoHoppa this week and maybe he can resurrect his career with us. But distractions like this don’t help the club. Nor the worrying questions about the finances.

Today helps to clear some of the gloom. But, remember, this is a long, perilous journey we are embarking on.  The is no clear roadmap for us and, unfortunately, no clear leadership either. As happy as I am that silky-smooth Gazidis has departed, we need to have some management direction and control. This was always going to be a tough season. It did not start with belief that we’d end up in the top 4. But after seeing the weakness of ManU and Chelski our expectations rose.  We have to see real progress and evolution. Today we saw a few signs that’s still possible. We had a real performance today. But we also need consistency. Both from the players and the manager.

Away at Cardiff is a reality check. Are we a team that can just turn up for home London derbys or are we a team that can consistently compete away from the New Highbury. Only then can we have some faith in this team. Just keep Mustafi in the stands. Maybe the final solution will be a German-less team.

-LB7

January 12th – West Ham 1 Arsenal 0

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Don’t you just love mediocracy? Get used to it. Embrace it and wear it with honour. We have now official become an average, mid-table, mediocre team. Now rather than worry about the top 4 we can focus on our rightful place somewhere between 5th and 7th.

The prior games against Southampton and Brighton were merely a warm up for today. We had one shot that Flapianski had to save in the first half but not a single shot for him to save in the second. How is that possible? We have found a way to dissipate away all the good will we generated post the Sp*rs league victory over the last month or so. Maybe that early season run was overly deceptive and false set our expectations. If so, then I think we’ve truly found our level. It’s one thing to capitulate against Liverpool but another thing entirely to lose against WH (after the other losses). Since Sp*rs I believe we found relegation form.

How did we get here? Well it helps to have (taking a deep breath) a manager who could well turn out to be mediocre. The best teams reflect the personality of the manager. Look at ManCity and Liverpool. And for more evidence look at any team DarthVader has managed. Look at ManU with DarthVader and compare that to the personality of that team – with basically the same players – now they have the Norwegian 2 year-old managing them. As for Arsenal, we used to be managed by a literary artist but now we’re managed by a shop keeper. Our manager has the personality of a bank manager. He has all the charisma of John Terrys backside. Does this matter to how the team plays? After performances like today you have to wonder. Earlier in the season you’d see Emery running up and down the touchline. Over the last 5 or 6 matches that’s disappeared and been replaced by a dour looking little man wrapped up in his little nice suit just prior to him going out to do the shopping for his wife and two kids.

It’s more interesting for me to write this review than it was to watch the game today. We had no energy and no passion. Even when we were 1-0 we only picked up the pace (from a stroll to a jog) when he removed Xhaka and Mustafa. How did OneEye Memory no select Torreira? How does that make sense? The balance between Gendouzi and Xhaka – as we saw earlier in the season – does not work. Neither of them drop to pick up the ball from our back three so there is no momentum in our game. And it puts pressure on the back three and their distribution. The only outlet we had was down the left with Kolinsac and Ob1.

On the right hand side Maitland-Niles had a shocker. Every touch was heavy and every pass was misplaced. Fortunately, the ball never came down the right hand side. At one point in the first half Ob1 was moved over to the left and that meant there was no outlet. Ob1 was our best player yet again. How can that be? Cigarette worked very hard and was more visible on the first half but alongside him Aubamyang was crap. He was barely involved in the game. And then the one chance (though difficult) in the second half that came his way he missed. Great goal scorer that he is, he’s been shit for the last month.

With Ramsey and Torreira there was a better balance. Both dropped to pick up the ball from the back four and their first movement was forward after that. But again, we were unable to link up the play with our front-line. We were missing our number 10. Who is happens is missing full stop. He can’t be found on the bench. Nor on the team bus. He’s deemed unnecessary for this team? How can that be? Only a shop keeper would consider Ozil to be unworthy in the first 18. A world cup winner and one of the most creative players in Europe and OneEye can’t find a way to deploy him for Arsenal. Today it cried out for his presence and ingenuity. The fact that Ob1 was the only one to who could thread the needle today is testament to our problem. It caused Aubameyang to drop deep where he proceeded to give the ball away. Guendouza attempted multiple forward passes that were all overhit – to be fair against Burnley these passes worked for him (and us). We even had to witness yet more absurdly poor long field balls from Mustafa. But when no midfielder is dropping deep to initiate the play from the defenders and there’s no midfielder able to create then this is what you get. Mediocrity.

As shitty as we were though I don’t know that we deserved to lose. 0-0 would have been a fair reflection. However, we are incapable of keeping a clean sheet away from home. The defense was a little more solid today especially given that there was no Torreira in the starting eleven. Not dissimilar to us, they created few chances. Annoyingly the few they did came care of Nasri who was playing in their Ozil position. But they did not look like scoring. Until, that is, the second half commenced. When we were on our unbeaten run the team came out much improved in the second half; not today. Right from the restart there was hesitation. Prior to the corner Sokrasti and Koscielny let the ball bound, we also saw Maitland Niles fail to pass the ball to our own player. And then from the corner Aubameyang made a half-hearted attempt to block a pass, and then Xhaka decided to head the ensuing cross, on the edge of his six yard area right to the feet of Nasri. How does a professional player manage that? In prior years this would be yet another classic Xhaka defensive howler. But this season, it had seemed these mental mistakes had been eliminated. This year Xhaka has been much improved. But now we’re seeing him revert back to the player we disliked so much. Throughout this game he was surprisingly ineffective. But that’s because you took away his defensive helper. If you take Robing away from Batman how would Batman feel? If you took Watson away from Holmes how would crime solving function? And if you take Torreira away from Xhaka this is what happens. And then you compound that by also removing Ozil. A classic shopkeeper move. We’re just lucky Mickeytarrien is injured otherwise he’d be playing as well.

Across the team, aside from Ob1, no-one performed. As in our previous post-Sp*rs game there was no urgency or drive. That away performance at Fulham seems a season away now. How has this happened? This descent into medicoracy? I fear we have to look at our shop keeper and look for answers there. And that answer is we have to wait another season before we can conclude that he’s not only no AW but he’s not even as good as Pelligrino who has instilled something into WH. Maybe it’s just a mid-season slump from which we will resurect ourselves in stunning glory. Maybe we’ll find our mojo against the Fab-less Chelski. OneEye was making good personal decisions early in the season – making good selections and good substitutions. Maybe he’ll rediscover his touch. But I’m increasingly worried that he might be good enough a manager to keep us 6th in the league but no more. Sure, we should be more patient. Sure, he needs to bring players in. But he should be able to organize and motivate the players we do have. One barometer is whether he’s able to bring out the best in players – regardless of how inept (I’m looking at you Mustafa) they are. When I look at this team all I see is the progress Ob1 has made. Today he was the only creative force we had. He opened up their defense and displayed trickery on the ball. He even had shot that ended up in the same post-code as their goal. But beyond him, who else has grown and developed?

Half way into the season we’ve now reach an important checkpoint for OneEye. His first mini-crisis at the club. The first time, since he’s been here, that the momentum has shifted that the goodwill that accompanied him has begun to evaporate. The first time that he’ll now be under pressure. Not that AFC will fire him if we continue on this run. That would not happen until the end of next season; they will definitely let him see out this season. But, for the first time, the spot light will be on OneEye. Question will be asked and the focus will shift. The narrative will no longer be about how AFC have overachieved and that OneEye has caused people to forget about AW. Now the narrative will be about how does OneEye stop this team from going into free fall. The depressing news about our finances combined with the stream of losses changes that prior feel good factor. He’ll find himself working in a different environment now. Fear will creep in; fear of failure. Maybe by him but for sure with the fans. That will be tested this upcoming week. This Chelski game will be a bog test for his ability to motivate and organize the team. A Liverpool like performance could be psychologically damaging for him and the club. If we see a Sp*rs like performance will buy him some more time. But my fear is that he does not know what team he trusts. If he does not start Torreira he will loose the fans. As for Ozil, I think that’s a lost cause. Our shopkeeper does not see the value in shopping at Tiffanys (not that I ever do). In which case let’s get him out and liberate the money we so desperately need. It’s one thing to claim we’re planning and strategizing for the future and we should judge OneEye and the new management over the next few years but if you state you can only loan players and the one world class player – who could have clearly helped the team today – is in the doghouse, then give the keys to someone else so we can make changes that will help us now. Last January we brought out most expensive player – Aubameyang – and over the summer we brought in 4 more. But there’s no point in wasting the talent we have.  Both that that’s in the dog houses and that that’s on the pitch. And both are the responsibility of our shopkeeper.

All eyes now turn to next week. This game could make or break the aura OneEye has at the club. It could allow him to maintain the calm and positive aura – as it’s been since his appointment – or it could turn into a painful, negative spiral that could spin out of control. Sure, one game does not make a season but now, we’ve been on a run for the last 6 weeks that must be arrested. It must be controlled by the manager. This is where he has to show his metal and his ability to manage this team. He has to stamp his personality on this team. I’m just not sure I like to personality of a shop keeper

-LB7

December 16th – Southampton 3 Arsenal 2

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Is this the true Arsenal? The Old Arsenal? Because we threw this away like the old Arsenal. The defending was like the old Arsenal. And a typical way to start the Christmas period.

Three headed goals and three defensive mistakes. And now that’s two games where we’ve reverted to last years performances. Maybe that was to be expected. And now we’ve finally lost a game we can stop hiding behind that irrelevant statistic. Maybe now we can focus instead on the issues within the team.

First off, the goalkeeper. His distribution helps this team; his comfort in the ball provides stability to the back four. But, if I remember correctly from my extensive football coaching sessions, the primary point of a goalkeeper is to stop the other team scoring. And today, in particular with their winning goal, he failed miserably. Will Emery persist with Leno? I suspect so. But Cech must be wondering what must happen for him to get playing time in the EPL. I would not entirely blame Leno for the loss but he’s certainly culpable. On that last goal his starting position, as they broke forward, was all wrong and subsequently he never recovered.

Clearly the defense was a mess today. This was game a little too early for Koscielny. He was at fault or at least involved in all three of their goals. He lost Ings for the first two and then should have been able to track Austin for the third. I suspect with Sokratis playing they would not have scored at least one of those goals – he would have at least challenged them more aggressively. But it’s hard to be too critical on his first real game for 6 months.

It’s remarkable with some many defenders unavailable we should lose two more in the course of the game. Bellerin has been one of our bright areas this year and we missed him in the second half. And with Lichtensteiner off the pitch we were a little more exposed for their last goal.

We lost the goal through Ozil trying to dummy the ball and then Monreal was out of position. But there was limited midfield cover thereafter. But that’s because, as was the case last week, the midfield was unbalanced. With Xhaka having to play as one of the three center-halfs, we end up with no creativity in midfield. No Ozil and no Ramsey but Guendouzi and Torreira. The latter is pushed further forward and is therefore unable to protect the defense as much.

Then we have the enigma that is Ob1. He helped set up the first goal with an incisive pass to Monreal. But overall his game is reverting back to AW-like performances. How many times does he receive the ball and pass it backwards? A month ago he would have taken the ball forward. It looks like  half way into the season and he’s already run out of ideas. And as for his shooting? In the second half he should have at least hit the target when Aubameyang backheeled it too him. Today was his more ineffectual performance. He seems to have run out of ideas and confidence.

Aubameyang had a few chances to score today but was denied by some good defending. He worked hard but seems to be missing that final spark. He seemed to pick up when Cigarette came on but he’s ratio of goal to chances is not so good over the last few weeks. 

There were periods today where we dominated and seemed to be fully engaged but as the game wore on we lost our direction and rive. There was no clear driving force of urgency. A low bar I know, but we were better than we were against Huddersfield. But as the game wore on we missed that spark. It did not appear with Ozil. For someone coming back after a month off and trying to force there way back into the starting eleven I would have hoped for more intensity – not that that is an Ozil metric.

What a weird egg that Mickeytarrien is. Two goals – two vital goals but he’s still not the right guy for this team. That first goal was the epitome of team patience. I can’t imagine how many passes were involved. And it was a brilliant header. But he’s overall contribution is still not helpful to this team. On the breakaways he does not have the acceleration of the other players nor the strength. There was one clear instance in the first half where he lost momentum because we could not sustain the speed of the attack. It seems churlish today to go after him – and he certainly was not to blame for the defeat. But longer term we have to rectify this. I still don’t see how he can be in the starting elven over Cigarette. Maybe this is forced by our defensive problems.

And that’s the heart of the problem today. We concede too many goals. Pretty basic really. Not rocket science. Maybe Koscielny brought back all the old AW experiences today. But until we solve this age old problem we’ll be fucked. I’ve never thought we were a top 4 team. When you look at the results around us it’s pretty apparent. Even a shitty ManU can manage a draw at Southampton. Today we should have definitely earned a draw. It was only poor organization in midfield and weak defending that caused this defeat. The poor organization derives from the personnel issues with the back line and then destabilizes the midfield. But teams need to be able to withstand those issues through a season. In fact, since that great victory over Sp*rs we’ve basically been crap.

The next test is to see which direction Emery takes his team selection in the next EPL game. If he still insists on starting both Ob1 and Mickeytarrien then my hopes for this team will diminish. There is no prospect of these two, long-term, being part of a top 4 team. We need to start Cigarette and we need the defensive cover to be Xhaka and Torreira. It’s funny to consider the importance of Xhaka in this context. The last few years he’s been a liability. Today we saw a couple of his typical suicidal passes from the back. But alongside Torreira he’s a much improved player. And, most importantly, we need Torreira in that deepest defensive cover position. With Guendouzi alongside him he ventures further up field and that exposes an already unstable defense.

Today was the wake up call. This was the type of game I’d been assuming would be happening as soon as we changed manager. That poor, weak away defensive performances that reminded us all of typical AW team losses towards the end of his reign of glory. This is the game that begs the questions as to whether this team – this club – has truly evolved and changed. To the extent that it will help us understand whether we’ve actually made real progress this year, the reaction of both the manager, his team selection and the performance of the players will be very telling. We’ve enjoyed a far better season than anyone had a right to expect. Now we’ll all question whether it was an illusion? Clearly that’s not the case. Again, for periods today, Arsenal outplayed Southampton and wasted it’s chances. But that fundamental vulnerability in defense and that lack of organization is our Achilles heel. Which takes us back to Koscielny. Today was tough on him and us. It showed up his lack of fitness and confidence. Not entirely surprising but ever so costly. On a positive note, it was good to see Monreal survive the entire game. But we need Bellerin back and we could do with the cynicism of Lichtensteiner. But I don’t know if I can bring myself to say we missed Mustafi. But it does highlight our need to buy a central defender in theJanuary window.

Emery needs to stamp his personality on this team. And that comes by changing the squad. Today only goes to show that the cloak of the unbeaten run just hid the fault lines that we knew existed. In many ways we should be grateful that we’ve earned as many points as we have already. I know we’re not as bad as we showed today and that this team has moved forward. It’s just that the core issues in defense are the same ones we had in previous year. The mad scramble up the field, prior to their last goal, that exposed the defense was the same as previous years. One poor result does not unravel the entire team but, for a team that wants to be in the top four you can’t lose games like this.  Today we lack the passion and drive of previous games. There was not the speed of play or the urgency of previous games. So, maybe, this is the wake up call we needed. Though it had more in common with the Huddersfield game than the Sp*rs one, there are enough worrying signs that it becomes the first test of Emery. No real pressure, but that’s two games in a row where the team has struggled.

This Christmas period now becomes even more interesting. The midweek cup game – even though it’s against the homeless ones – is irrelevant. It’s the ELP that counts. We need to recover and rediscover the energy and drive we had against Sp*rs. We have one home game and then a trip to Anfield. Let’s see if we can learn our lessons. Let’s see if Emery can fix these problems. One game does not make a crisis but it does provide a window into seeing how he’ll deal with the pressure and the reality of our flaws. Let’s see him pass these next test.

– LB7

December 8th – Arsenal 1 Huddersfield 0

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It was the worst of times; it was the even worse of times. By a country mile the worst game of the season. In technical terms it was crap. And more crap. Rubbish and more rubbish. And that was just the ref. What a horrible performance. What a shitty game to watch. When, that is, the camera deemed to show the game. Not being a petty person, I’d like to see Huddersfield get relegated after a game like that. All they did was foul. From the first minute. And the referee, Tierney, let them get away with it from the start and then started to book our players.

Of course, we weren’t exactly on our game. There was no creativity and the balance was awful within the team. Sokratis can’t play on the left hand side cause he can’t run up the pitch and pass. Mustafi was reckless fouling and taking too long on the ball. But the worst was the midfield balance. For some reason Emery decided to play all three midfielders in their wrong positions. So Torreira was too far up the pitch and Guendouzi was uninvolved the entire first half.

It was so slow and painful to watch. They foul us. The camera pans to the fans or the managers meantime the awful game proceeds and we can’t see it. Then we have a few chances that Aubameyang and then Cigarette squander. In the meantime, Tierney, gives us a couple of yellow cards for simulation when one of them was no different from the penalty that Son got against us last Sunday. And then, just to turn the screw, Cigarette scores a perfect goal for the linesman to someone deem it to be off-side. How is that factually possible when their knob of a defender passed it back to the goalie? Under what rule set is this guy operating? Where’s the accountability for a bonehead decision like this?

Then when their blumbering lump of an attacker fell over in the box in the second half after Sokratis tackled him, how was that not a yellow for simulation? The entire game – though, of course, we were shit – was ruined by wankey refs and linesman. They did not stamp their authority on Huddersfield by booking them from the start. Instead Tierney would consume time by lecturing them as though somehow they would give a shit as to what he was saying.

This one is on Emery though. He got our formation and tactics wrong. This was as poor a performance over the 90 minutes that we’ve seen. The substitutions were alarming. How desperate is it when the two biggest losers come on at half-time. The only improvement was when Monreal came on because it pushed Sokratis back to the middle; with the added benefit that Mustafi left the field.

Ob1’s first touch was abysmal and his overall decision making is flustered; lacking in any composure. You’ll get the odd good ball played behind the defense. But he does not have the self confidence to go to goal when he should. Whereas Mickeytarrien under hits passes and can’t cross the ball. This was not his worst performance – a low bar indeed – but, as team, we need more quality. And the quality we did have we removed at half time. How can you takeoff Cigarette? How was he any worse than the other 9 outfielders. We missed him in the second half.

As the game progress Torreira seemed to drop further back into his natural position and then we regained more control of the game. Bellerin worked hard but had no help in front of him. Leno had nothing to do. But our playing out from the back was too slow because there was no midfield shape. No-one was dropping to receive the ball until Torreira dropped back to work alongside Xhaka. I like Guendouzi, but he was played in the wrong position all game long. And this was why we had no creativity. No Ozil, No Ramsey and Ob1 was stuck out wide though he should be stuck in the toilet somewhere.

This was so frustrating to watch; the least enjoyable of the season. In fact, the one that drew out the most frustration and anger. That had me screaming at the TV at practically everything. It was the worst combination of the wrong team formation, the meekest of referees, bad decisions and then the inability of the camera to actually show us the game. One day, in the far distant future, when we have picture-in-picture I’ll be a happy person. Until then there has to be a way to find out who makes these camera decisions so I can explain to them that they job description – their entire reason to exist – is to show us what’s happened in on the pitch. We don’t tune in to watch the crowd reaction – not the facial expressions of the managers. Nor to watch endless reruns of fouls or other none event decisions while the game is progressing. We just want to watch the entire game. We don’t need to see lingering close-ups of the last player to touch the ball. Nor to have the camera zoom in for a close-up on a player who just touched the ball, won a header or picked their fucking nose. It’s getting out of control this season. Eventually we’ll end up with a camera just showing a managers reaction for the entire game overlayed with the moronic commentary of some stupid Scottish ex-footballer from the 3rd division who never could pass the ball telling us how Arsenal had no chances on goal until Torreira scored whilst ignoring the off-side goal that was disallowed or the two chances we missed in the first half.

This was an unpleasant game to watch for all these reason.The only remarkable thing was that we somehow managed to score. We finally had a creativity spark from Guendouzi, Aubamyenang could not shot but played a nice cross back for Torreira to score our goal. I had not seen this coming. After Aubameyang missed that header from the corner and Tierney yet again gave a yellow to us when the Guendouzi was again fouled just like Son was last week I just assumed it would be one of those games. So while I’m relieved we managed to get all three points it has to go down as the least enjoyable games of the season. Until the last twenty minutes there was little energy to our game and that played right into their hands. All we can do now is wish them relegation. After seeing how teams like Wolves have come to our ground and left with a point it’s only just they got none. It’s just not clear we deserved the three.

It’s amazing that the loss of Holding can disrupt the balance of the team so much. Let’s hope Monreal can stay fit long enough. Because if we have to play three at the back we‘ll need him on the left hand side. But we can’t play those three in midfield again. I don’t think Guendouzi knows how to play out wide. He’s passing was off and his positioning was off. He was peripheral to the game until we moved Torreira back in front of the defense.

Bookings are going to start to hurt us. Torreira is one away from suspension I think. Mustafi, though injured is suspended from the next game.  Sokratis is suspended. So our backline against Southampton will be very different. They are in a state of chaos but they showed against Man U they could still fight (well, for Hughes anyway, before they fired him). Hopefully they’ll still be a mess.

We need to find our balance again. I did not like the two upfront today – one should be there while the other should play wider. And we need a creative midfield player otherwise we’ll only score on the fast break.

Now I have to go away and decompress and find my happy self buried away somewhere. And pray that Emery can do the same and find that team and performance that elevated all Arsenal fans last Sunday. Not that that sensation has ebbed away quite yet. But days like today will chip away at it for sure. But thank you Torreira for being you and gifting us three points.

-LB7

December 5th – Man United 2 Arsenal 2

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After the sublime euphoria of Sunday we could have lost 10 nil (but not 8-2), endured Darth Vader grinning on the touchline and had to put up with both Mustafi and Mickeytarrien playing and I’d still have that stupid smirk on my face that’s been there since the final whistle on Sunday. That game was my season. This game was more like a dull thumping on my head. I’d normally take an Advil to recover. This was a game of defensive blunders. Our two were gifted to us and, as such a polite team, in this season of giving we donated them right back to them. Who knew were such a polite team. Gentlemanly Arsenal. That’s why we’re The Arsenal. Manners maketh the man. Just not a football team.

We should have won today. We had the better chances and played the better football. They looked a mess. They only looked threatening when they introduced some passion into their game. Overall, they were directionless and leaderless. In another season, assuming (hopefully) they still have Darth Vader, we will beat them. Our mistakes – maybe like theirs – were so gorm-less. So brainless. I can’t think of a real save Leno needed to make. Yet they scored twice. And then we had chances to win at the end. I thought we might sneak the additional points. I’ll take a point though.

I feel I’m being repetitive. You know, repeating myself. By saying the same thing over again. Every week. Please feel free to cut this out and read after Saturdays Huddersfield game as well. What the fuck is Mickeytarrien doing coming on before Cigarette? Mickeys’ first few touches were crap. And his last ones as well. He must have some pretty explicit compromising pictures of Emery involving sheep and various kitchen utensils. Because there can be no other rationale explanation. Thankfully though Cigarette did appear and somehow claimed the second goal. And Aubamyeang should have grabbed the winner as we had our usual second half improved performance.

The balance on this team looks better with a back three. It protects Kolinsac from his inability to defend – as demonstrated on their second goal. But then Ob1 showed the same cluelessness for the first goal. Until we get Monreal and Kosclieny back we won’t know the actual formation Emery wants to play.

But even with a diminished team, further reduced by the loss of Holding, ManU did not overrun us. We also know that’s because they don’t want to be playing for DarthVader. Who would though? He has an innate ability to squander any talent a player has. Rashford steamed around the pitch the entire game but had no real support from anyone.  But when Holding went off to be followed by Ramsey our team looked more NoHopa like than ELP like. But still we should and could have won it.

A word for the referee – Wanker. Even after having to face up to Dean at the weekend, Mariner was awful today. He allowed ManU to be far too physical and handed out yellow cards on borderline fouls but yet allowed Rojos to stay on the pitch after his reckless challenged on Guendouzi. Of course, we did need him there for our second goal so maybe it evened out. Though if that had not trickled in there would have been a penalty and a second yellow card for him. Mariner missed some nasty activity by their big Belgium buffoon and seemed unaware of the hacking on Guendouzi in the second half. I had half thought Mariner would find a way to send off the sublime Torreira. But our little Uruguayan managed his game very intelligently. After ten games or so I think we can now officially anoint him as the son of Viera; the missing piece to this team. Not that that makes Xhaka Petite or Gilberto. But it does make Torreira indispensable to this team. He is the glue that binds everything together. He is our Makelele; our Kante. But he’s not our Henderson or Dembele. And thank the lord for that.

This team seems to be progressing. I can’t think about “unbeaten” runs. They are only as good as the next game and runs mean nothing. However, the cohesion of this team and calmness on playing out of the back is in stark contrast to the beginning of the season. There is momentum now on this team. I still fear the Champions League is a step too far for us this year. We are still missing some pieces to our puzzle. But today was another example of our improvement. Last season we’d have found a way to lose the game even if it seemed like we were trying to today.

There was always going to be a coming down to earth after Sunday. They had an extra day to prepare and my fear had been a reversion to last year after the high of the weekend. So, though we avoided a disaster we should have been able to find a way to win. But it’s hard to be too critical.  I just hope that the injury list is not growing too quickly. That’s Holding and Ramsey to add to Ozil, Monreal and Koscielny. Managing this list through this intense period will challenge us. It’s just a shame we could not chose which of our players to be injured. With our luck, my fear is we’ll end up of a team with just Mickeytarrien, Mustafi and Ob1.

Guendouzi put in a solid performance. You can sense that inexperience when he’s under pressure. He’s destined to make stupid mistakes. But, in a couple of years, he’ll be the axis with Torreira in midfield. Today he more than held his own and is not scared of the physical parts of the game.

Aubameyang, though the top scorer, missed a golden opportunity to grab the points. And Kolinsac, who continually ripped apart their right back, had chances to put in better crosses. But then often we did not have enough people in the box. Bellerin continues to improve. It’s good to see him (and others) shout at each other now when things don’t go right.

It’s just a shame we had to give up two schoolboy goals. The takeaway from today is that, for sure, Man U won’t, can’t and shouldn’t qualify for the Champions League by being in the top 4. It’s a race now of 5 teams for the top 4. Though we’re the underdogs, if Sp*rs can qualify for the next round of the Champions League (and not fall into the NoHopas Cup) and Chelsea wilt under the pressure of Sarri, there is a chance we could sneak in.

We’re by no means the finished product. Today we were always going to fall back down to earth after the Sunday bliss. And there are still (obvious) flaws. And we seem to have lost Ozil to the twilight zone. But, we’re moving in the right direction. Sometimes slowly but quicker of late. So let’s see how we handle the powerful Huddersfield. And let’s hope we have some of the injured wounded back to help.

-LB7

 

 

 

December 1st – Arsenal 4 Sp*rs 2

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The New Arsenal. Or the Old Arsenal. We are back. That was more fun than I’ve had in a few lifetimes. It’s right up there with my own birth. Only trumped (sorry for that reference) by other victories against that homeless team at their old home. This was entirely deserved. We were the better team with the better players. Stuff those stupid combined teams. Even with Dean on the pitch we still dominated.

That was worth the wait. Total domination. Both in terms of the football and the physical beating we game them. I loved seeing us fight them in all those scuffles. Ramsey after their goal, Bellerin with their Dutch Dick. We out played them and outmanned them. This was like 2x our home Liverpool performance. I can’t enthuse enough about todays performance. There was so much good; so much to enjoy. And to hear the crowd participation for the entire game driving the team forward! When was the last time that happened?

Emery made the right substitutions and at the right time. I don’t get why Mickeytarrien started. That’s Emery’s blind spot. But pulling him at half-time changed everything and enabled us to step it up and recover from the two minutes of madness in the first half. These were the only two chances the witless homeless team had.

A word about Sp*rs – Shit. They truly were. They bottled it and too many of their primary players were missing in action. As good as they can be; today they were toothless. There was no leadership of cohesion. At this stage of their development they should be winning these games. Because in another few years, when we are truly rebuilt and re-engineered, we will be dominating them and they will look back at this small window of opportunity to dominate us and wonder how they missed their chance.

I don’t care what happens for the rest of the season. I don’t care when we play them in the League Cup; I don’t care when we play them at their away home; they can beat us 5-0. Nothing will detract from this game; from this victory. This was way ahead of where we could expected to be. Today’s game verified the entire transition we’ve been going through. I was fearful going into this game. But right from the first second we had the passion, drive and energy to dominate the game. We should have been 3 nil up before they scored a fortunate goal. Aubameyang should have scored as should have Ob1. Kolinsac was again dominant going forward. But, today, he seemed to remember how to defend. He was not exposed as he’d previously been. And with Holding and Sokratis solidifying our defense it allowed Mustafi to make his usual reckless challenges.

In midfield Torreira was in complete control. For the entire game he provided the protection that this defense requires and yet liberates Xhaka to play his relax and controlled game.  Torreira’s tenacity, workrate and physical strength drove this team forward. He was imperious today. He played like a legend.

But back to our manager. Whereas last week I was critical of his tactics and changes today he was perfect. Mickeytarrien should be on their team he’s that shit. But Ob1 was not too bad. He just lacks confidence when he gets into their box. He should have scored. Even though we did not deserve to be behind at half-time and, for once, I was quietly confident we’d find a way back into the game, the introduction of Ramsey and Cigarette changed the game. Ramsey was more incisive, and Cigarette was just, as ever, perfect. Emery left Aubameyang up front and pushed Cigarette out wide. And that worked to perfection when Aubameyang scored from outside the box after Ramsey linked up play from Bellerin.

And then again, the third goal from Cigarette, helped by a deflection, was fully deserved. But the build up play to the last goal showed patience and controlled football before the pass from Aubameyang split their defense. And then to have the legend that is Torreira cap it all off with his goal made for a perfect finish to the perfect game.

There were so many aspects to enjoy. The primary one though was of our lack of fear. And, subsequently, my lack of fear watching. Having been conditioned to be a pessimist over the last 5 years – knowing that bad outcomes were just around the corner – today was the first time I can remember, even being 2-1 down, that we would find a way to get back into the game. Today I had that Invincibles feeling return. That sense that this team was not just good enough but focused, committed and determined enough to not get out muscled and out fought. Not to give away stupid goals and make mental mistakes. Today was not just about the fact that we won but it was about how we won. It was how we played Arsenal football. It was about the incorporation of Emery steel into the team. About how balanced we were playing out of the back. It was how the talent of Torreira, Aubameyang, Cigarette shown through. It’s been a long time coming and I don’t believe we’re anywhere close to being the finished article. How can we be when we still have Mickeytarrien in the starting lineup. I still believe that Champions League qualification is a level too high for us.  Though it’s a possibility that can’t be a realistic target in Emery’s first year. There is too much work to do. Of course, it also reminds us of the lie that 4th place is not a trophy – where as those wankers now we strive for 4th?

Anyway,  days like today reinforce that we are moving in the right direction under the right leadership. As frustrated and depressed I was after the Bournemouth game (which I know we won) today was enthralling and exciting – even when losing at half-time.

A word on our two wingbacks. Bellerin has been improving all season but today he was instrumental in so many good things. And Kolinsac, as previously mentioned, was like the tank and enforcer we know he can be.  Emery’s tactics were ideal. Going to a back three has given us a springboard to push these two further forward. And it’s made us a little less dependent on Mustafi. It’s harder for Holding and his distribution but they barely threatened us.

Today we defeated a top 6 team. We quashed them like a second-rate, homeless team that they are. This is our first one this season. It might be our last this year but somehow I doubt it. After the game I loved the fact that Emery was already talking about the game on Wednesday. Today’s performance showed the level we should be expecting to play at. We need to bottle up the experience of today and replicate it against ManU. That’s the level of consistentancy we need to aspire to.

That was just so fucking enjoyable. So refreshing. To enjoy the entire game and feel that the team were completely committed to winning. So completely committed to every tackle. To feel like destiny would not let us lose. To feel that this team was an immovable force against a tepid, spineless and toothless opposition. Of course, many years ago, in a galaxy far far away, we used to experience this every week – if not, season-long. Today was a glimpse of how our future could be. And, by jove, it looks pretty exciting. Imagine the idea that we could enjoy watching Arsenal. It feels like we might finally be going back to the future

-LB7

 

 

 

November 25th – Bournemouth 1 Arsenal 2

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I’m in desperate need of therapy. And Lots of it. I can’t enjoy watching this team. It’s so painful. The enjoyment that had started to return against Fulham has disappeared. I can’t enjoy victories like today but prefer to suffer through the mistakes of the players and manager.

I need help. Or maybe, this team needs help. And this manager needs help as well. I’m still struggling with the idea that we came away from this game with three points. We started with our NoHopa team. Minus Cigarette and Ozil and with a back three. For long periods, in the first half, it looked like we’d implode in classic Arsenal style. Too often we could not control the passing and we had no fluency. But then, care of one of the best own-goals you’ll ever see, we went 1-0 up. This was a classic. Unstoppable. Potential goal of them month. A blockbuster. You had to feel a little sorry for Lerma as this was the best thing he did all game. Aside from his shot off the post in the second half. And it was the best thing we created as well. Though Kolinsac did end up with two assists.

Overall our play in the first continued in its predictable abject manner.  The use of a back three seemed to destabilize Holding who could not pass to any of his own players. And Sokratis, while it was good to see him back, was displaying his newly learned wrestling skills. But it was in front of these three that problems were occurring. Mikeytarrien has to be one of the worst players we’ve had for a long time. I can see why Darth Vader kicked him out of ManU. What a deal that was for both sides. Neither side would do this deal again; we both obtained players who flatter to deceive. Except the one we sent up north was, originally, a great goal-scorer. Mickeytarrien can’t even begin to understand what it is to track his man back. The number of times he left Bellerin exposed was depressing. He barely breaks into a sprint when considering whether to follow his man. How bad is MT? He’s so bad that he makes Ob1 look like a super-star. Which is slightly unfair to Ob1. He was the only one who possessed any energy and drive today. He was the only one trying to move us forward. It’s just a shame that he can’t shoot on target or score any goals. But, again, he’s shooting is not as poor as MT. Truly, today he was abject shit; flat out crap.

Today was worrying on many levels – our team selection, our lack of balance in the first half and the groundhog day defending at the end of the first half. How is it that we had Torreira stuck up in their penalty area and Bellerin jogging back on their breakaway. This was Swansea away all over again. Have we learned nothing? Are we destined to repeat all our mistakes throughout the season? How is it that our manager has not instilled in these players the discipline to stay in their positions? What was Torreira thinking? This was reminiscent of the many breakaway goals ManU have scored against us at home when our players seem to be treading water while there are running right past us? And by this stage of the game – post the cracker goal – we’d been starting to assert ourselves. And yet we managed to throw it all away right before half-time.

The second half – as ever – saw an improved performance. Though not from the camera director who managed to miss the entire build up to our second goal. A moment of inspiration from Ob1 to split their defense and then a classic finished from Aubameyang. He’s deadly in the 6 yard area, but as he demonstrated a little earlier not so sharp when he’s a little further out. He missed a sitter from a first half corner and then another one in the second half. But there he now sits atop to goal-scoring leader board. He’s really not as integrated into our play as Cigarette but, to his credit, he does find himself in the right place often enough. By this stage it seemed we were in full control. But them, in order to even things up, Emery decided to remove our defensive genius and replace him with Guendouza. How does someone make that move when Miekeytarrein is still on the pitch? When you’ve seen him miss a clear breakaway care of Aubameyang? You leave him on the pitch? How is that possible? And then for the second change you take off Ob1? That seemed like a suicide move. In previous weeks I’ve marveled at the wise substitutions and timely changes. Today it seemed to revert back to the bad old days. Those changes indicated that Emery had no feel for the flow of the game. We somehow managed to survive – even to withstand the required Mustafa reckless challenge on the edge of our box. Mustafi should really consider copywriting that tackle. It identical to the one against Crystal Palace for their penalty. This time he managed to stay outside of the box. I’m beginning to think Mustafa is a German spy sent over to make sure we don’t qualify for the Champions League. Always destined to jump in wildly somewhere on the pitch. Today, previously, it had been inside their half. It was noticeable that once Torreria went off we were more exposed on their breaks; Guendoza does not have the same discipline. Xhaka, did try and provide cover, in fact, he was quite responsible during this game. And, like Ob1, he was one of our better players. But we need a viable defensive left-back. Kolinsac, despite his attacking skills, can’t defend for his life. I’m fearful of how exposed he will be next Sunday. As I am when Mustafa comes up against the Big Chin let alone Son.

I know I should have enjoyed this victory more. Three points at Bournemouth is a major improvement over previous years and performances. It’s just so hard to enjoy with the second rate players we insist on picking and with the first half performances. We need to donate Mickeytarrien to some third world country. And, now he’s back fit, we need to start with Sokratis and Holding as the central defenders. The back three worked quite well today – so the manager got that right. But I’d still like to know what happened to my Cigarette and Ozil. We need them back. And we’ll need them on Sunday. But more than that I want my enjoyment and enthusiasm back. And that will only come with progress. It could be argued that three points today speak to progress but not based on what I saw in the first half. We make too many mistakes and lack leadership on the field. Aside from the Liverpool match I can’t think of ma match where we played for the full 90 minutes. And that should be fixable. Just like making the right substitutions.

The transfer window is only 5 weeks away. We need to acquire a center-half and a right/left midfield player. And we need a back-up for Torreira. Today was one of his least dominant performances but there is no-one else who can play that position. And without him we truly would be back to last years vulnerabilities. But I suspect we’ll be lucky to find even another attacker to replace Welbeck in January. At least though they can find someone at the start of the window. That would also indicate all the management changes are bearing fruit. Dithering around till the last days of January would be a bad sign.

In the meantime, I’m going to find a way to rediscover my excitement and enthusiasm. I know I used to support this team because I enjoyed it; I looked forward to watching them play. I’m sick of having to watch through clenched teeth and riddled with frustration. We need to progress and move forward. It’s hard without reinforcements; we know the team is lacking in quality. I just don’t get why we continue to play the same wankers and expect to observe a different outcome. I have to hope their was a coherent reason for not playing my two favourites. But there can be no coherent reason for playing Mickeytarrien.

Beyond Ukraine, this week is just about next Sunday’s game. I know we won’t have Monreal back by then but we will need a team to turn up for the entire 90 minutes. Hopefully the homeless ones will invest too much effort in their CL match and we’ll send the young ones out to Great Russia. The next couple of games are vital to us retaining our sense of progress. Here’s their chance to separate themselves from last years team and last years weaknesses. One third of the way into the season it’s time for Arsenal to be tested. It’s a pass or fail. And I’m not convinced we’ll pass.

-LB7

 

November 11 – Arsenal 1 Wolves 1

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Remembrance Day. Numerologists Day. 1 – 1 on 11/11. Today was like remembering performances of years past – dour and turgid. This was game I’d been waiting for. Our homage to AW. Maybe in prior years (i.e. CP, Watford etc) we’d have lost the game. We did our best to lose today. They had their chances and we had none. I believe their GK had one save to make through the entire game whereas Leno was our best player (along with the post/bar).

This was painful. Unlike the last game we played before the international break against Fulham where we excelled, today essentially everything was wrong. There was no passion, drive or energy – and that was just Emery on the sideline. This performance was more in line with what I’d been expecting. This was Soulless Arsenal. This was Clueless Arsenal.  The only saving grace was that somehow we managed to gain a point.

Right from the start we lack ideas and pace. Our play was sideways and backwards. We had no creativity. I don’t expect us to maintain the levels we’d obtained in prior games but then I didn’t expect such a listless performance either. Some players were particularly poor but, in truth, none exactly covered themselves in glory. The best were average. And then there was Xhaka. Remembering days of years past. Just plain awful. He found a time machine and managed to generate a performance of prior years. His judgement was poor and energy levels dreadful. Kolisanc, following in the fine tradition of Santos, was awful all day. But he’s aimless infield sideways pass in the general direction of Xhaka did not help. But for Xhaka, in that position on the field to not take responsibility and then not to track back their soon to be goal scorer, was classic inept play. Both Kolinasac and Xhaka were pretty miserable all game long. Kolinsac can’t defend and is clearly thin on confidence. Hopefully we’ll get Monreal back after the break. But as good as Kolinsac can be going forward he’s clearly not a defender.

We were so poor today that Mustafa was not our worst player. He worked hard for that honour. He reverted back to his method of hoofing the ball upfield with overly optimist passes after the rest of the team has tried to retain the ball and build patiently. Holding was solid though obviously exposed by the pace of their players. Bellerin was ok but he had no support in front of him. Though Ob1 tried to generate activity in the first half his desire to drift across the pitch meant there was no presence on the right hand side. I was not surprised to see him come off nor Guendouzi come on. He injected some energy but continues to show he’s inexperience by running into dead ends and forcing the play. But today our more senior players were not involved. Ozil dropped too deep, Cigarette was not involved and Aubameyang was non existant. Except that is from a blinding miss in the second half when it was easier for him to score than it was for him to hit the post.

We were so lucky today. How we did not lose I’ll never know. Seconds before we scored I’d shouted out that we’d never score today. Then Mickytarriend swung in a cross that went directly in the back of the net. That was the only way we could score today. It was weird to see this team not apply pressure on Wolves in the first half. We retained possession but did nothing with it. The second half was barely much better. It’s hard to figure out. It was not impacted by injuries. The starting eleven was about right. Ob1 deserved to start. But there was no balance or rhythm to our team. It demonstrates how far we have yet to go and how many issues we have to solve. One game does not mean the end of the world. Whereas we had turned into a winning team we now seem to be the drawing team. There is some comfort to be had from not losing but we have much tougher games coming up that will surely expose us. Even little old Torreira had an average game – which was above standards compared to others. When Ramsey came on he added little and Mickeytarrien was his usual crap. But at least we had Leno. If I was Cech I’d be getting ready for a long time on the sidelines.

Back down to earth today with a large bump. All that optimism from the last game has now evaporated. We remembered and paid homage to awful performances of years past. It’s hard to see much positive from todays game. It was, as in previous years, very painful to watch. The lack of fluency and adventure was the most noticeable. And then the self destructive passing and ball lose from Xhaka and others were equally depressing. Today amplifies that the rebuilding process at Arsenal is a long and patient once. Today does not undo all the good work of the team so far this year. But it does level set the scope of changes that are needed in this team if we actually want to be challengers for any competitions. I know this was only one game. In most others this season we have over-performed this year so it was inevitable we’d have a game like this where we were just plain abject. We’ve seen most other teams have games like this. But what was noticeable was the lack of leadership on the field. I liked the way Ozil was removed as the second sub. That at least showed the manager would make changes and not protect anyone. But Ozil was by no means the worst today. Too many underperformed. There was no urgency in our play and that’s hard to understand.  Nor were we too smart in trying to breakdown their defensive lines. Too often we were too predictable. We take too long on the ball and then refused to make that penetrating forward pass. Cigarette barely received the ball and Aubamyeng was anonymous. But that was because there was no link up play in the final third. All our passing lack momentum and speed. It felt like we thought we could stroll through this game and we would be handed the three points. Whereas we were very lucky to even obtain one.

Now we go into yet another boring two week break for the irrelevant international football. That’s the third break so far this year. So we’re 12 games into the season and we’ve already had 6 stupid internationals matches. At some point, someone somewhere will break this monopoly of FIFA that insists on playing these irrelevant international matches. FIFA has and always will be out of control and utterly corrupt. As criminal as Blatter (and Platini) was (and is), Infantino shows that it’s inherent in the role. For the President of FIFA the main job requirement is to be corrupt. It’s not possible to forfill the requirements of the job otherwise. We do need to see the larger European teams come together to breakaway from FIFA. Short term that might be chaotic but for the longer term good that needs to happen. The money that threatens the balance of the EPL and other European Leagues – whether it be Oil money, Oligach or Chinese in origin – is still preferable to the uncontrolled corruption of FIFA. FIFA has no money of it’s own nor any assets. FIFA does not own any clubs or facilities. It just has the marketing rights to one competition every four years. It’s now trying to create other bogus competitions in order to fill up it’s coffers with more money. People believed that the departure of Blatter would solve FIFA issues. It’s made it worse because the removal of the all too incompetent, prehistoric Blatter lulled people into a false sense that FIFA might implode. Now we need to rely on the football money to have this happen. It will take a few years. We’ll still have to suffer a WC in Qatar. But this corruption in football has to be rooted out. For the good of the game. In the meantime, I think we can be thankful for a two week break that hopeful allows Emery and Arsenal to rediscover the path they had been progressing along. Here’s to hoping that today was an aberration. A day of remembering more painful days from pervious years. Our homage to AW.

-LB7