November 27th – Arsenal 2 Newcastle 0

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A little late on this one. Like Aubameyang arriving at the far post. But yesterday, aside from the match, was a Bacon Day. And, as we all know, that takes precedence over everything apart from an Arsenal game.

Did anyone notice that subtle difference in quality between Liverpool and Newcastle? It’s hard to discern at first I know. But suffice it to say, to the trained eye, there was a subtle drop in quality. Fortunately, as a student of the game, I was able to observe it and, for you, my dear reader, I will share my expertise with you. At no cost. Because that’s the kind of person I am. So, to move, because I’m sure you’re dying to hear the explanation. In laymen’s terms it basically comes down to this. Newcastle are shit. Truly shit. Not quite Sp*rs shit. I mean, that’s an entirely different species of shit. But shit nonetheless. I remember the 7-3 game at the Emirates when it thought they were crap then. But, they’ve managed to recruit even worse players and move down yet another level. Poor Howe. He will get millions to see them relegated. Maybe someone will give Bruce some credit for marshaling this crap team such that they were not relegated under his reign. So there you have it, scientifically proven. Newcastle are shit. And that’s the real difference between them and Liverpool.

But you can only beat what’s in front of you. And, unlike the past where we would find ways to foil ourselves, yesterday we earned our three points. Not that we were terrific. We did not fire on all cylinders. We were far from perfect. But that’s ok. Obviously, there will be concern over young Saka. After a miserable start to the season – by his high standards – we’ve began to see last year’s version emerge. And, in this game, we saw the full, original version. He was the difference maker. He tore Ritchie to shreds, he was our main creative influence and the scored of the first, all important goal. This came about because he was able to float around and create from anywhere on the front line. Without his energy, creativity and scoring I’m not sure we’d have won yesterday. And now we have to worry about the magnitude of his injury. I fear he won’t be in the team versus United for Thursday. But let’s hope we don’t lose him for too many games. I’m not sure I could bear seeing Pepe return to this team.

I’m not convinced that Partey has found his fitness yet either. Fortunately against a shit team he was not pushed too far but, he just seems slightly off thee pace. His distribution is uneven and his pace is reduced. Having said that, he’s one of the few players we have that will pass through the lines and play vertically. Odergaard also attempted to but he was largely ineffective. He works hard but his first touch failed him a couple of times. It made sense though that he replaced Cigarette; this was the type of game where his creativity should have helped – It just didn’t. If I was generous, which we all know I am more than generous – manganous even – then I’d note that this was his first full game for a month or two and he had to find his rhythm.

Tavares still made the team sheet. I think we all expected to see Tierney back. I suspect we’re trying to work Tesco boy back in slowly because of all his injuries and the condensed fixture period we’re about to enter. That or it was an inspired decision by Arteta to allow Tavares to find his confidence again after last weeks disaster. Tavares was dominant down the left. And, as the game wore on he learned not to shoot on site (and miss) but to lay the ball off. His hard work in the first half should have resulted in a goal but more on that later. Overall, it was great to see him run up and down the touchline. I thought he’d run out of steam at some point but, until the end he was continuing to defend as well. The way he handled Wilson’s run behind our lines from the JoJo Shelvey pass was excellent. Considering the money he cost and his youth, he will be a real threat to Tierneys place in the team. And that’s the competition we need to see. I suspect he won’t be in the team for Thursday. He deserves a rest now.

White and Gabriel were largely unthreatened. Both were solid. And white had a much easier time distributing the ball than at Anfield. And behind them we had Ramsdale who pulled off one remarkable save. Without that save the outcome could have been much more painful. I’m not sure Leno could have gotten to that. He really has been the signing of the season for us. A game changer. Even against a shit team.

And now there’s Aubameyang. He will be having nightmares over that miss. Sure, Smith Rowe could have done better with his header. But how do you miss that. Other players maybe. But this is food and drink to Aubmeyang. He’s a natural goal scorer. Luckily it was not too costly. But, as in previous games, I hope he’s saving up his scoring exploits for the next game. Because apart from this desperate miss, he rarely contributed. Part of that, I felt, was due to Odergaard not being able to release him. Odergaard tends to take a lot of touches and slow us down ever so slightly. And for a man of pace like Aubameyang, that can make all the difference.

Sambi was solid today and arguably the more creative of our two midfield players. One pass in the first half to Saka was Brady-esque. He can still get caught on the ball outside our own area and he also faded towards the end. You could see him finding it hard to track back on their breakaways. Against a less shitty team that could have been exposed. But, again, with youth on his side, he will be a mainstay of this team later on.

Tomi had a quieter and less threatening time of it today. He really has nailed down that right back position. Maybe he was the signing of the season when it’s normalized for the amount paid.

Arteta selected the right team today. And though we were slow to start, our tactics we good and the team grew into the game. We seemed to find more energy in the second half. Obviously the change of Saka was critical. We might have feared for the reappearance of Pepe but this game needed the pace and directness of Martinelli. And man was that the right decision. Within a minute or two he scored a sumptuous goal. Henry-esque if you will. Intelligently and beautifully taken. The type of finish that we’d expect to see from Aubameyang. It makes you realize the talent we have on the bench. And that put the game away and secured the three points.

My only complaint was the replacement of Partey. Why bring on Elneny and not AMN. AMN is our future and Elneny will be gone within 6 months. Why waste minutes on Elneny and not leet AMN have the experience? AMN has barely seen any time after starting against Palace. He needs to play. He deserves to play. Whereas Elneny is a known entity. You know what you get – and don’t get from him. He’s solid, predictable and safe. Borderline boring. But this was a chance to give AMN minutes and see what he could do (again). Maybe we’re saving him for Old Trafford. But this was one that Arteta got wrong. Not the end of the world mind you. A small mistakes in the bigger scheme of things. And in the bigger scheme of things he’s getting most things right.

So we’re up to 5th. Competing for the top 4. That’s surprising and not what I expected. I can’t believe we’ll hold this position. I still maintain we are not a top 4 team. Nor top 5. We finish in the top 10. Maybe 7th. At best 6th. Maybe I’m a natural pessimist with this team. But, as much as the team has evolved and developed, as much as the trajectory has improved, we’re still not there yet. We still have a few more pieces to add. We need Partey to re-discover himself. We need another midfield player. We need more creativity. More than Odergaard can provide. Unless, that is, he adapts more quickly. As good as we’ve become. And as many points as we’ve not accumulated, we’re just not quite there yet. I never thought this year would be that year. Arteta needs a little more time. But with Saka showing signs of being Artetas Sterling and White showing signs of being Arteta’s John Stone, we’re in a good place. A not so good place is Old Trafford. Let’s see if we can get there while it’s still Carrick’s team. While we never expected much from Anfield, this is a game where we should have higher expectations. Especially if we actually think we’re a top 5 team. But then you know how I feel about that.

-LB7

November 20th – Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0

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At least we only play at Anfield once a year. To get a result there we need to play at our best to stand any chance. And today there were too many mistakes. Youth has benefits. But not at Anfield.

As the game wore on their stranglehold tightened. The pressure builds and there is no margin of error. Unfortunately, we made too many. But bear in mind they originate with the pressure applied and not in a vacuum. It was a direct result of our inability to control the game Maybe it’s a by-product of playing two defensive mid-fielders. Neither of whom really inspired confidence today. Sambi was under pressure with few outlets. Tavares experienced that game of two halfs. In the first he was able to keep track of Salah – who, was again, impressive – but he must have drunk something at half-time. Because his distribution was devastating in the second half. We saw glimpses of this from Sambi as well. The temptation to always pass their way out of tight spaces. And, with experience, (and hindsight) there are times when it’s better to loft the ball upfield. Liverpool are quite adept as using that long ball. Unfortunately, with us that long ball seems to end up with their backline. So I can see why Tavares would like to retain the ball. But there needs to be some situational awareness. For a few weeks now there have been indications that he could apply pressure to Tesco Tierney. Today was a coming back down to earth.

But Tavares was not the only one. As mentioned, Sambi too often would overplay the ball outside of our area. We’ve seen in previous games him lose the ball leading to goals again (Man City I think). He’s still make the same mistake. And after their second goal Tavares still lost the ball a few times. One of his errant passes nearly lead directly to another goal. On the others side Tomi also had trouble with his passing – and marking. Again, a direct result of the constant pressure Liverpool applied. There really was no real release valve.

That first half though was not so bad. We had small periods where we had some control even if we could not create much. Saka and ESR were too isolated, and Cigarette was close marked by Thiago. So as we tried to play out from the back White was caught on the ball and forced to smack it long. Partey was pretty quiet; I do wonder whether he was fully fit. Overall, we would often lose the ball after just a few passes.

Ramsdale again had to perform heroics but eventually we caved in. Taking off Sambi was the right call but even AMN was careless with the ball. And by that I mean when you’re swarmed by 3 of their players you have to move the ball more quickly. You can’t dribble out of that situation.  

The team selection was right as we the substitutions. It’s the concentration levels that waned. And then the mistakes proliferated. Again, that was for a reason. If you give up that much possession then all that chasing will eventually wear you down.

Gabriel was again impressive. He alongside Ramsdale come out of this this thrashing with credit. But everyone else should be extracting valuable lessons. That second goal was crushing though. We had created few chances and so then sloppily hand them a gift just as we were weathering the storm took the air out of the team. We made had one clear chance with Aubameyang where Allison was able to save with his feet. Beyond that he was hardly troubled.

Saka had the beating of their left back today but you’d not know it because we was scared to take him on. When he runs directly at the full back he’s so much more threatening. Today – especially in the first half – he too frequently either cut inside or passed inside. He needed to be more aggressive in taking on the defender. And without Robinson there he should have been.

So what did we learn today? I’m not sure too much. It just re-enforced that we are a work in progress. I thought the score was unflattering we did not deserve this. But maybe this can help us realize that we’re not as good as the last 10 games indicate nor as poor as this result indicates. We have a world-class goalkeeper who is also fearless. Gabriel and White will be our backbone. We have too much youth in the team for now but it will allow them to grow. They will make the types of mistakes we saw today. Though I think Tavares did not seem to learn much after his first cataclysmic mistake.  I like that AMN was our first substitution even if his presence did not help stabilize our midfield.

Against mid-table or lower teams we have the chance to grab those points. But against the tippy-top teams, we are just not there yet. We get out-pressed and out hustled. Maybe our fitness levels are where they need to be. I think it’s more that we require too much time on the ball. That we need to move the ball quicker. And when we press it never felt the same way. They were able to play round our press much more easily – they seemed to operate in more space. It just felt that our play was much higher risk – hence the number of turnovers in our third of the pitch. I lost count of the number of chances they created from our giveaways or when we lost possession. In the first half we had a number of breakaways whereas in the second half, post those mistakes, and until we were already out of the game, we hardly had any.

A word on the Ox. He was swarming all over us today. Very physical and very committed. That’s one of the best and most consistent performances I’ve seen from him. High energy and high pressing. I’m not sure we had anyone with the same passion as him today – aside from Arteta himself facing up to Klopp. Though that encounter just seemed to fire up Liverpool at our expense.

I refuse to get too distraught over today even though it was a tough game to watch. We are still progressing even if it was not too evident today. And that progress can only be measured over a longer-time horizon. Today was always going to be tough. And early on we held firm. But at this level you can’t make the kind of sloppy passes that we did.

I do wonder whether the style of play we’re developing suits the players we have though. Today was a case in point. Passing it out the back under immense pressure when our two defensive midfielders – and Sambi in particular – are prone to give the ball away and our wing-backs are too isolated seems like a kamikaze strategy. Of course, when it worked it looks enterprising but it’s very high risk. And I don’t know if we have the right players for this. But then, if you don’t try this then you’ll never find out.

In the meantime, the manager merry-go-round continues. Next up will be Oli. And just before we play them. It looks like that change will happen today. Losing at Watford is pretty hilarious. And then Conte has now landed along with Howe. One will burn them out within 24 months and the other likely lead them into relegation. Let’s see which one is which.

And next up is COVID Eddie. Though we no longer have must-win games, this will at least be a chance to reestablish some momentum and correct the flaws from today. And don’t be surprised if you see at left-back Tesco Tierney

-LB7

Nov 7th – Arsenal 1 Watford 0

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And I’m back. A microscopic mid-season break denied the world the views on the past few games. After the Villa and Leicester performances this match was always going to look the easiest on paper. And in some ways it was. But it was just a little tense at the end there.

Now is not the time for another international break. As desperate as I was for one after the initial run of three losses and as much as I enjoyed the lack of stress during the last break, this team has begun to find itself – finally. By playing Cigarette in the false 9 and removing Pepe, there is more coherency to our play. Not that today was our finest performance. The first 20 minutes against Leicester was the gold standard. But we dominated and without Aubameyang the margin would have been more reflective of the gulf in the two teams.

So, before mauling our captain, I would note that Aubameyang’s work rate has noticeably increased in the last month. He works much harder and defends more. Having him pick up yellow cards for aggressive defending from the front is not a bad problem to have. And some of his goals this year (i.e. against Sp*rs) have been pivotal. But, oh my, today was a disaster. Everything he touched turned into pooh. Every touch he took, every move he made, I was watching him. (see the Police reference? – look that up any youngsters out there). From the first mis-control after the good work by Cigarette that caused to ball to ricochet to Saka for the first off-side goal, to the penalty miss and finally the redundant touch for what would have been our second goal from Odergaard. Today was just not his day. In a funny way, if he can get this game out of the way when we still claim the three points that’s not a bad thing. But it was just painful – and predictable to watch; a truly bad day at the office.

On the other hand, our defense, again was – minus one cock-up between White and Ramsdale – rock solid. Gabriel – as against Leicester – was immense. He does not get out muscled and the partnership with White is developing. Their understanding and position organization is improving. And, behind them today, we did not need any heroics from Ramsdale. Both full-backs provide solidity and attacking options. Tavaries was missing the final pass today but has such huge potential and the advantage of genuine pace.   

Clearly this is a game that last year – if not at the start of the season – we could easily have drawn. And if Watford had come out of the shell earlier and had been more adventurous, they could have. But the fact is, they did not. Another victory with a team that had yet more changes to the lineup. Today, for this humble observer, the man who shone like a beacon right from the first minute was Ainsley Maitland-Niles; the man with too many names. Maybe the quality of the opposition enabled him to shine because he had just a split-second more on the ball. But his defensive work, his physical presence was impressive. He seemed to win every duel. And if when he seemed beaten he would recover. Whether it was on the half-way line or when they tried to break through our lines. He was always there. And, if was his high press interception that set up that first disallowed goal. AMN provided grit and balance to the mid-field today in a way he’s not demonstrate before – well, at least not as consistently for 90 minutes. There were not causal giveaways, no over-committing to attack but sound positional awareness and a dominate performance. Again, maybe against Liverpool he could get out-played and out-powered. But today he was our best player.

Alongside him Sambi contributed to our performance. Not stellar like AMN but more than good enough. There were a few instances where he got caught on the ball on the edge of our area – as we saw against Crystal Palace – so let’s hope he can learn that lesson (finally). But, again, for a 23 year old new to this league who we thought would play as a fill-time for some games, he has more than exceeded expectations. And credit to Arteta. With Partey again being unavailable he could easily have selected Elneny. But instead he went for the untried pairing of Sambi and AMN. And boy did it work.

Saka picked apart Rose all day. And Rose, who is too fat and too languid to play at this level, was kind enough to donate us a penalty and generally too lazy to track back. But then Saka challenged and beat him all day long. This was much closer to the type of performances he made last year. Hopefully he’d finding his way back to us.

ESR is slowly turning into our little Pires. Sneaking in to claim vital goals. Though the team started brightly today ESR was quite in those early stages but then found his way into the game. Generally, when we i.e. Cigarette and others, had a chance to shoot we instead decided to make that extra pass. So, apart from the importance of the goal, it was nice to see him take a first time shot. Generally, we need to be braver. There is a tendency to pass the responsibility off to others. But here, one of our youngest players took the initiative themselves and was rewarded. And hopefully they will give him the confidence to inspire him to also be just a little bit more brave.

So in a two week period the manager-go-round has gone into overdrive. None of this makes sense. And all I can hope is that all these teams get relegated. And let’s not forget how close some people think we came to replicating this type of brain-dead, retarded and futile manager change at Arsenal. Remember how sections of our own fans reacted after our first three games – and the defeats. Not too dissimilar to the reaction last season prior to our home victory against Chelsea. People have no patience, no sense of the “long-game” and not strategy. They make snap judgments based on an emotional response without playing out the impact and consequence of any decision. These same idiots will surely raise their voices again about Arteta when we inevitably miss the top 4 again this year. And that’s because these morons move the goal-posts when it suits them. This league is more competitive than ever with more teams spending more money. But, as the last 8 games have demonstrated, we’ve found a backbone for our team and an identity. Of course, I’m sure, against Liverpool at Anfield we will get overrun and torn apart. But that’s one game. I care about our trajectory and development. And you’d have to be a blind man – or Mike Dean – not to see it.

We are a young team. We lack a vocal leader on the field. There was a time today in the last 5 minutes where we started to sit back too far; we ceded too much space to them. Someone on the field should have identified and corrected that. Against better teams, we’ll pay a price. But this is a team that’s learning. And at Anfield, given the quality of the opposition, I expect the worse. But that’s OK. As we can see, every team has shit games – just look down the road to our local idiots. We just don’t want to have too many of them.

So we beat Villa and they fire Smith after they again lost. How can you do that? He brought them up again to the EPL. He got them out of relegation the season before last and last year they nearly got into the NoHopaCup. Ok, they are having a tough spot but they are not in the relegation zone. But now they deserve to be. Who would take over that team now? How can you not have faith in a proven manager when all the prior ones were disasters. I seem to remember our friend Remi Garde having a short run out as well.

Norwich, another one we slayed recently kicked out their own Nazi. Why? They sold their best player to Brighton and barely re-invested. I had thought they had a sound business model. Get into the EPL, take the TV money, don’t spend it, get relegated with the balloon payments and then get promoted again. A few yo-yo seasons like that were providing them with deep financial pockets. How did they expect Farke to succeed? Why would they fire him. They are doomed to relegation (again). And we all knew it.

Then there’s the Saudi team up north. I feel sorry for Bruce. He managed against a back-drop of hatred and with one of the most despised owners not behind him but hiding in the shadows. There was minimal investment and they have a below average team. Maybe now they’ll bring in the nice-guy Howe. But that won’t last. Next summer they’ll be in the Championship looking for a new manager.

And then finally it’s the arrogant, conceited lot down the road. That lot who’ve not won anything in more than 10 years – and even that was a stupid cup. That think way above their station; consider themselves elite when they are bang average. Who wasted a chance to get more than 100m for their best player and then re-invest it. The team that fired Potch after getting them to the CL finals. Only to replace him with Darth Vader. And then they fire him before a cup final? And replace him – eventually – with Nuno. What’s not to like about Nuno. What did they think they were hiring? This all started when they fired Harry. The man who had got them into the CL in the first place. For the first time ever. But, oh now. They are too good for that. They need better. So they start off again the manager-go-round. Guess how many managers they’d have since Ley became chairman? Eleven! How the fuck can you run a team when you churn through that many managers? And there’s no accountability for this. Not that I’m complaining. It just exasperates me when I hear Sp*rs fans (I know, why do I even talk to such people let alone listen) pontificate about their team and their aspirations. It’s so far delivered from any sense of reality it’s stunning.

And I’ve not even touched on Watfords merry-go-round.

Which is all to say – there by the grace of God go Arsenal. There are so many warning signs as to what happens if you don’t stick with your philosophy and strategy. Of course, they are fine examples, like ditching Rioch for an unknown AW. But when you look at the fiasco at Man U and then consider West Ham with the same manager, surely a footballing person would extract the obvious lesson. Anyway, let’s hope this year they find a way to relegate all four of these teams.

So as we enter into yet another unnecessary international break, let’s prey that Partey is not released for international duty. We need him to be fit. And, ideally, we need him at Anfield. But at least we need him for the long run ahead of us.

After todays performance I wonder whether that changes Edu view of the upcoming transfer market. With Partey and Elneny at the AFC and Xhaka still knackered, can we rely on AMND and Sambi? I doubt it. But long-term, it’s not about this season. It’s about the overall team shape we’re building. We are susceptible for a few key injuries still but AMN deserves time. I just doubt he’ll be given it.

It’s good to be fifth though. It’s higher than I think we’ll eventually finish. But it’s also good to change the perception and narrative on this team. Some of our fans will of course claim this is the least we should be aiming for. But, remember, they are the brainless, petulant, childish ones, Tune them out. I clearly don’t. We continue to move in the right direct. This is part of the re-build and it’s progressing. It can’t be too rushed. And we will inevitably have set-backs. As we nearly had today. But, I for one, am a believer. I saw his (Artetas’) face, now I’m a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind. I’m in love. I’m a believer, I could not leave him if I tried (a Monkees reference for you youngsters).

Wow, this was much longer than I expected. That’s what happens when you send me away on a mini mid-season break. It’s good to be back. I feel better now.

-LB7

October 18th – Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 2

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Daylight robbery. Te He. Undeserved and much appreciated. It’s games like this that make me pine for the international break. If only the game could have been shortened to 20 minutes.

The obvious observations will all revolve around comparisons between The_Man_From_Sengal_He_Played_For_Arsenal versus Arteta. One who’s been in their role for 3 months versus 22 months. So I’m sure everyone will pile onto how Arteta is not that man. How after every bright, uplifting performance we then hit the breaks with a performance such as these. That’s a cheap, easy comparison. And this site is nothing if not cheap and easy. So here goes. Come back in a year. Then we can assess the job Arteta has done. Today he was let down by his backbone. Partey and White undid Arteta. With a little help from Tomi. Three players that are key to this team – it’s backbone – each making mistakes. But he was also let down by his selection and balance. Or lack of balance. As soon as you see Saka on the left. And also Odergaard with ESR on the right then I knew this would be an unbalanced performance.

At least it changed at half-time. But it had to. Saka is wasted on the left. And Pep is a waste. I know he set up the Aubameyang goal but aside from that he provided no protection for Tomi. He remains such a luxury. One we can’t afford to carry. Not that he was the key to the result. That was Artetas system and tactics. Another game where he would have learned what works and does not. Our_Man_From_Senegal has managed three teams (at least) over a 5 year period. He has experience in this role. Arteta does not. And again, today, it showed. Partey was too exposed. Sambi should have started. Pepe should be playing in France somewhere – anywhere. Having said that we started well. And Aubameyang’s goal was that of a quintessential striker. A natural born poacher. In fact, this was one of the most energetic performance I’ve seen from him this year. He worked hard through – it’s just a shame we lacked creativity and starved him of the ball.

And them then on it was down into the abyss. Again, this was driven by the imbalance in the team. And Palace are not too shabby. They played a decent game and worked their way back into the match. Too often we were overwhelmed in mid-field. It felt like a role reversal from the NLD when we overwhelmed that rotten lot from up the road because they only have their #5  (the ugly Danish Bacon guy)  providing defensive cover. We switched to their tactics – no wonder it did not work out.

The change at half-time was necessary but it should have been Pepe consigned to the bench though I’m sure the continuous fouling of Saka contributed. Dean was his usual inconsistent self, booking Saka after a single foul but letting McThug from Palace commit 4 foul before belatedly booking him for smashing into Saka’s leg.

It’s a shame that Sambi turned the ball over – more experience for him I suppose – to set up their goal. And White should have been tighter. And Partey paid homage to The_Man_From_Senegal by being caught on the ball – I remember that happening quite frequently in his playing days – to set up their other goal. For none of these would I blame Ramsdale. Again, his distribution and presence was re-assuring and comforting.

I am a little worried about Tierney though. He seems to have evolved into backwards and sideways Tierney. It’s as though someone has removed a few forward gears. Maybe it’s because he prefers ESR in front of him. But he’s lost his mojo. Though his cracking shot off the bar that narrowly missed Cigarette was breathtaking. Speaking of which, what a great substitution. Only with him did we become more creative. We had a focal point. Of course it helped that The_Man_From_Senegal retreated to a five man defense and ceded their pressing game. I’m convinced without that tactical blunder they would have grabbed all three points. So as people argue for a change in manager they should remember that. But again, these managers are learning on the job – some more than others.

We escaped by the skin off our teeth (not that I’m sure that’s a real saying – I don’t think teeth have any skin. But I digress). In prior seasons we’d have lost this game. Gaining a point from being 2-1 down in overtime is an achievement. But this was Palace. That tells you were we are as a team. Hopefully Villa will be a step forward after this step backwards.

We have to sort out our tactics and selection. It’s clear that the lack of Xhaka is impeding this team. Partey needs a partner. You can’t Partey by yourself. And that should be Sambi. Put Saka back on the right wing and put ESR on the left hand side. Then put some energy and urgency back into this team. We had it for ½ have in the NLD and for 20 minutes today (and maybe the last 10 as well).

We are a mid-table team with a team built at great expense. Some are young – Sambi, White – so mistakes will be made. And we will end the season as a mid-table team. Maybe 8th or 7th. It’s a long season. I can see us drawing or losing our next two games. We lack consistency. But I don’t see that changing too soon. So strap yourself in. Remember to thank the gods for the daylight robbery today. At least you can’t consider us an unlucky team.  And remember the relief you felt when Cigarette extinguished The_Man_from_Senegal.

-LB7

October 2nd – Brighton 0 Arsenal 0

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Whatever happened today I knew I would still feel the glow of last weeks outrageous performance. And I knew that we could not replicate that performance, atmosphere, or result. But then the opposition could not be that abject again (unless we had a re-match). And, I was nearly right. We certainly were not the same team as last week and nor were Brighton. We were fortunate to come away with a point. But at least we did not lose.

The team selection was about right but we just lacked the urgency and energy of last week. Too many tackles were lost, too many times we lost the second ball, too many times we had many players around the ball and they always came away with it. It was a frustrating game to watch just waiting for that moment when they nicked the points. To be fair they were pretty good and played decent football. I had always thought that if something unfortunate happened to Arteta – you know, like losing an important body part like his head – Potter would be a possible replacement. When you see what he’s done on a limited budget with some truly irritating players – i.e. Neal Maupay –  and you see their performance today, I’d still keep him in mind.

As brilliant as Odergaard was this week he was anonymous today. They gave him no room and pressed him tight. But his first touch was not there and he remained pheripirahl throughout the game. Saka seemed more like the player that turned up against Brentford. You knew it was going to be a long, tedious game after his first minute foray down their left-side which ended up with a weak shot on goal. Equally ineffectual was Aubameyang. When we ask him to play a hold up role he just can’t hold the ball up; his first touch is often too heavy. But when he is receiving through balls he’s actually dangerous. There were so few opportunities for Odergaard to thread the ball through. One ESR pass did open them up but the Aubameyang was too indecisive and the chance was lost. Of these stars from last week ESR was the more effective. He continued to work hard and his touch and skill did not desert him. At some point over the next few years he will develop into a goal scorer. That chance when he tried to put if though the goalies legs was the only real clear cut chance we had in the second half.

Tierney looked dodgy today. Too many times he lost the ball or gave it away cheaply. He seemed off the pace today barely getting forward. And his defending was uncertain and he did not look confident. On the other side Tomi had his most difficult game yet. From giving the ball away early to set up a chance to him losing headed duels and being beaten on his outside, this game was his most challenging yet. But there were a number of occasions when, even when making mistakes I just knew that if Bellerin was playing it would have been far worst. Tomi hung in there and ended up with a solid if uninspiring performance. Alongside him White also managed to give the ball away too many times. He seemed to play in a shell today. Maybe returning to his former club had him play more conservatively. Behind them Ramsdale was not as confidence inspiring as he was last week. His handling was uncertain. Dropping the ball from their cross in the first half was unlike him. But his distribution was also off. It was noticeable how often he played long today. To Ramsdales’ credit though he made a number of important saves in the second half. But our defense was anchored today by the one player who was generally excellent throughout – Gabriel. He barely put a foot wrong. His distribution was good and his positional play was excellent. He helped marshal the defense. So, as drab and workmen like as we were he managed to gain a point and keep a clean sheet. And that was due to him with a helping hand  from Ramsdale.

I have – so far – one wish for Christmas. Not that I believe in Christmas. Nor do I believe in wishing. But aside from those details. I wish someone would tell Partey not to shot. Under any circumstances. Because he is more or less incapable of hitting the target. Today was reminiscent of last season. And to cap it off, with both he and Odergaard standing over a free-kick, it’s Partey who takes the shot and manages to reach Row Z in the stands. As much as I appreciate the merits of Partey – and today, he provided the required defensive cover and aside from one wankey pass, he helped with the link up play – I worry that if and when he does eventually scores that rather than consider it as one would if you won the lottery, if will encourage him to shoot more.

Alongside him Sambi was quiet but reasonably solid. You can see what you lose by not having a left footed player like Xhaka in that position. Maybe, contrary to what our fans think, we actually missed Xhaka covering. Sambi has the potential to be superior to Xhaka but he does not read the game as well (yet). With non-functioning Tierney behind him it meant that our left hand side was less threatening than normal.

Cigarette brought better balance when he arrived. He is able to hold up play and has a deft first touch. Unfortunately we brought on Pepe and then switched Saka to the left soon after. Pepe really is a luxury player and we can’t afford to carry one. After sitting on the bench all last week and for most of this game you’d have thought he’d be energized when he came on. Rather, on defending, when the game was on the line, he was his usual lackluster self. Thankfully we had the hard working Tomi behind him not the debonair Bellerin.

We should have brought on AMN sooner to help add some steal to the team. It’s a shame we waited until Saka got hurt. AMN will get more minutes than he expected in the next 3 months. This will be his chance to establish himself. And hopefully to both push Sambi and also provider cover for him. Too many of our team are too young to allow us to compete. But all these games help them build up experience.

It’s refreshing that as dour as we could be for such long periods we came away with a point. The defense saved us today even with more than ½ of that unit being below standard. A better team – anyone in the top 4 – would have beaten us today. But fortunately they have to rely on Maupay to score their goals. Today I thought we looked like what we are – a middle table team. Which is an improvement on the start of the season when we went into the last international break dead last. Over the next few months we’ll see if we can climb up way up towards the top 8. With such a young team it will inevitably involve mishaps and awful performances brightened up when we play the lower, shittier teams – like we did last weekend.

In the meantime, it’s incremental growth and improvement. The team is still gelling. And it’s still overly dependent on Partey. When he heads off to the ANC in January we will be formally, officially and completely fucked. But until then we have another break for our better players to go off to foreign climates and see if they can acquire either COVIUD or an injury.

As we head off to fill our time with useless activities pending the resumption of play in two weeks, I would give us a C+ or B- so far this season. The last four matches gives us some hope given the introduction of our new signings and the return of Partey. There is a backbone to this team. We finally have the goalie we’ve been missing since tender, gentle Lehman. Someone has started to fill the shoes to Vieira. And we have a defensive pairing that is as close as we’ve seen to Koscielny and the BFG. In this match last year, which we lost 2-1 when we had Mustafa, Kolinsac and Guendouzi in the team. We’ve come a long way since then but unfortunately, we still have a lot further to go. So, strap yourself in and be patient. We’ve ridden out the immediate storm of trying to kick Arteta into touch. But once last weeks glow finally dissipates, the pressure will mount again.

In the meantime, I’ll be re-watching last weeks game. I can’t exactly remember who we played but I seem to remember we enjoyed a favorable outcome.

-LB7

September 26th – Arsenal 3 Sp*rs 1

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3 is the magic number.

3 – 1. 3 fucking 1. That’s it. Review done.

Who cares about anything else.

Before the game I’d have taken a point, a draw. Anything but a loss.

Brilliant. The beautiful game played by a beautiful team in a beautiful stadium with a loud, raucous and happy crowd generating a beautiful atmosphere.

Impressive. Every single one of our players delivered. The selection was perfect. Put Saka back on the right. And play ESR + Odergaard + Saka as the springboard for Aubameyang. This was our captains best game of the season – if not the past 12 months. I’ve never seen him work harder, win more headers and provide better link up play. And his goal was delicious. From the passing of Xhaka to Tierney through to the interplay with ESR. End to end in seconds. Pure Arsenal.

As good as Partey was; as important as he is to the spine of this team, today Odergaard stood out. His intelligence on the ball; his ability to maneuver out of tight spaces – for example, in the set up to the third goal – was a joy to watch. He was everywhere today. And he continued to close them done up front and put them under pressure – along with Aubameyang.

I could go on about each of our players. Garbriel was immense. Tomi at right back was dominant. Partey even managed to get a shot on target. And his pass in the first half to Aubemyang from inside his own half was breathtaking.

What I loved today was Ramsdale. The pace and energy he brings elevated the entire team. His distribution is sharp and decisive. And that transmits intent to the rest of the team. Sure, for our third goal he put Xhaka under pressure – and could have resulted in a goal at the wrong end. And let’s not forget his save in the first half from Son and then his acrobatic air dance to tip Moura’s shot onto the bar. Brilliant. Just brilliant. This guy is the real deal. We won the game because we had energy, drive and pressed continuously. We won because Odergaard bossed the game and Partey protected the defense and provided the springboard to cut through their lines

This was a perfect performance. The first half was like a dream sequence. I could not have scripted it better. But that left the fear of the second half with the knowledge that Sp*rs could not be that poor in the second half. But I loved the way we managed that second half. We played conservative, within ourselves even as we still create chances. Sp*rs were not as poor as the first half and Kane wasted a few more chances. And they grabbed a consolation goal. Any, on another day, they could have got a penalty. But we so utterly deserved this victory. We were clearly superior. Better selection. Better tactics. Better players. Don’t get much better than that.

As poor as Arteta was against Man City with his selection and tactics, today, he got everything right. Even down to his dancing on the touchline. Good on him. Hopefully that truly relieves some pressure on him. Though now he has to demonstrate each game he can get his selection and tactics right.

That’s enough for one day from me. And I’ve not even gloated on how crap Sp*rs were in that first half. How inept their manager was with his selection and inability to adjust as we run them over. By the time he made changes at half time the game was already lost. And then, after the game, he threw his own players under the bus. Never a good sign for team unity. Soon they will be wishing that had retained DarthVader as their manager. Kane is wasted on this team. He must be praying that the January window could open now. But I’m not one to gloat. I’m too classy for that.

If you can’t enjoy days like today you’re watching the wrong sport and you’re supporting the wrong team.

#ArtetaIn

Happy days are here again. All is right with the world.

-LB7

September 18th – Burnley 0 Arsenal 1

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Clean sheet and three points. And at Turf Moor. A minor miracle. Two world beating teams now that we’ve beaten. And VAR came to our rescue to overcome Anthony Taylor. All game long he was allowing them to bully us. There was one instance in the second half where Woods was shielding the ball outside the penalty area and he, Woods, basically was just gripping and pushing White. Yet no foul was given. All game long there were niggling tackles and the predictable over physical approach from Burnley and he barely called anything. Anyway, when he made his clearly worse decision, VAR was finally there to protect and serve us. I’m sure the referees union will now have to double down on ruling against us in the next game. Who’s that against. Hmm?

Ramsdale was brilliant. So clearly confident and dominant. There were a couple of corners in the second half where he out jumped and caught the ball with both hands while competing with the Burnley bullies. Leno could never have done that. In addition, aside from one mistake in the first half, his distribution was quicker and more accurate. There was one long ball – side-ways kick – to Pepe that was inch perfect. He provides confidence and certainty that is so important. Especially when you have White making simple mistakes. In the first half allowing the ball to drop to Woods after missing a header, and, in the second half, losing the ball outside of the penalty area and then, finally, setting up the penalty incident by under hitting the back pass. As good as White can be – he did dominate some of the arial duels – he is clearly prone to slips that can be costly. Fortunately, alongside him, Gabriel was excellent. With some timely interceptions and a dominating display. Though, he again, had decisions given him against him when Barnes and Woods were clearly man handling him.

On the right our new Nip was again outstanding. What a difference having a real, defensive right -back. The number of crosses from that side have been reduced. He is excellent in the air and is adjusting really quickly to this league. He made one mistake in the second half when he was caught on the ball but overall another excellent display.

Odegaard, who was playing noticeably deeper to receive the ball, was excellent. He linked up play and move us forward. And, of course, scored a gorgeous free-kick. Perfectly executed. I’d have thought Pepe would have taken that. Overall, Odergaard is showing what a perfect version of Ozil could be like.

I was pretty surprised that Sambo was on the bench and that we went with a single holding midfielder. I thought that was way to risky but it was the right decision. To be a little more aggressive and attacking. Even though it was often hard working the ball out of defense. Burnley put pressure on Gabriel and White and cut out the channels. Only as the game went on did that open up. But we controlled most of the game. While carrying a few players.

Unfortunately it was hard to know who was worse today Pepe or Saka. I fear Saka won that duel. It seem like every pass from him was under hit, misplaced and every tackle lost. This is not the Saka we saw last year. With Southgate watching he would not have been impressed. Saka needs to discover himself. Sure, he helped win the foul for the goal but too often – especially in the second half, there were opportunities to make the killer pass and he under hit it. And he gave the ball away, in defense, way to often. And positionally he was poor as well. This is not last years Saka. Something weird is going on. Maybe, he should be played on the right. Maybe he should be given a break. But we need him. And so far this season he’s not been a contributor.

And on the other side Pepe was poor again. His crosses were pathetic and his passing was often under hit as well. He had a few moments but in defense, especially towards the end, he failed to track his man back. But, he was better than Saka.

Aubemeyang was barely involved in this game – not his fault – we barely got him the ball. And, towards the end of the game when we have them on the break we did not feen him the right passes. Both Saka and Pepe blew opportunities to complete the counter-attacks.

I should be ecstatic that we went to the Burnley bruisers and came away with three points. But it was so frustrating watching Saka and Pepe today. And sitting on the edge of the seat as White looked like he would implode. Also, knowing that Partey would not last the entire game. But then AMN and Sambi did fine when they came on. Even if AMN was in danger of giving the ball away a few times.

Interestingly, I’ve not mentioned either ESR or Tierney. Our potency down our left hand side seems to have been curtailed. I also worry about Tierney cramping up. He and Partey are too critical to our chances of success. And yet they just don’t feel like they are fully fit. So, rather than relax with the three points I continue to worry. The pressure is off slightly now. But with the NLD coming up, the pressure will – and should – build again. This will be a far better test of how far we might or might not have progressed. It will also be interesting to see whether Xhaka strolls back into the team. I don’t know that we’ll be playing four at the back with one holding midfielder against that lot. Maybe we’ll play both Partey and Sambi. BTW, I wish Partey would learn to go to ground rather than signal to the bench that he wants to come off. It reminds me of Sp*rs last year when he walked to the sideline. He surely knows that if he can’t continue he should go to ground to force a substitution. Simple stuff really.

Anyway, we’ve “climbed” the table and taken some more pressure away from Arteta. But still plenty to be worked on here. We are still too vulnerable and exposed in midfield. But at least we finally have a true goalkeeper behind the defense. All hail Ramsdale. He will surely be in the England squad now. Southgate must have looked at Pope and Ramsdale and realized which one he would want in goal.  Let’s see if he can see what we can see.

-LB7

September 11th – Arsenal 1 Norwich 0

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Finally. We scored. And gained some points. Hallelujah. We are no longer bottom. And more importantly there was a change at the top. Two perfect results. Even if our performance was far from it. But I’ll take those points thank you. Enough to get us out of the relegation zone. So, thank you international break. Thank you for two weeks of relative peace and tranquility. Avoiding watching Arsenal is good for your health. Now please bring on the next international break.

Arteta survives. Just. Today was an important game. To lose at home or drop points would have incurred the wrath of the fans. And feed into the media frenzy. And into my own loss of faith. Today was still too painful. Too many weaknesses. Against more polished teams we will be picked apart. And we could have been today. But thankfully we finally took one of our chances. But if that had been against us, I would have screamed off-side.

We started the game with energy and commanded the game. For 20 minutes anyway. But even their GK had no saves to make and we barely had a shot on target. Odergaard drove us forward and was our best player on the day. He presses and demands the ball – often dropping deep. Unfortunately when he presses no-one seems to understand how to follow suit. Pepe barely presses and Aubemyang is likewise static. You would have though our manager could sort that out.

It’s hard to know whether this was a turning point; whether there were signs of green shoots sprouting. We clearly have an improvement at right back. Much more controlled and with a better touch than previous incumbents. Likewise it was good to see White in the center of defense. There are still a few physical duels he should be winning – especially at the end when he allowed Poki-man to turn him in the box just before Cedric slipped to block a shot. Next week against the Burnley bullies will be interesting to see how White handles that challenge. And Gabriel next to him is an upgrade on Mari but still does not instill me with confidence. His distribution over 20 yards is so predictably shit. But he can defend – unlike Mari. Though I also worry about his tendency to lose the ball unnecessarily.

I liked the selection this week; in particular, Ramsdale in goal. Leno must know his number is up. Or not. Arteta is turning Leno into Pep’s Joe Hart. Hart was frozen out as soon as Pep had the chance. And we’re seeing that now with Leno. I’m not too upset. But there’s no way Leno can now come back in until Ramsdale makes a colossal mistake or is injured. Maybe he can play against mighty FC Wimbledon. Ramsdale is more certain in his distribution and much quicker. None of the dithering we had with Leno. Of course, he was barely tested today. And is fortunate to start against a team as toothless as Norwich. Nice as they play they are destined to yo-yo back to the Championship. Though playing them every week would be perfect.

AMN and Sambi is not the ideal midfield partnership but, again, I liked that selection. It’s important that we give Partey time to come back to fitness. We’ve rushed him in the past. So I was happy that he only played 30 minutes today. He’s too important to us. As was demonstrated as soon as he got onto the pitch. He changed the tempo. As, to be fair, did ESR. The two of them were more dynamic, direct and provided the missing quality. I just wish I could say the same thing about Pepe. For our record signing he continues to frustrate (me, anyway). For those few moments of brilliance, we have to endure peripheral performances like today. Against such a weak team he should have shone. Instead, too often his first touch was too heavy and he could barely beat his man. We should expect so much more from him. And he so rarely delivers. I doubt he’d make the starting 11 in any team in the top ½ of the table. When everyone is fit he shouldn’t make ours. He should be on the bench. I’d prefer Saka to be on the right and let ESR and MO float.

Saka is still to find his footing. Maybe our expectations are too high. But today he lost the ball in too many important areas of the field. And our vulnerability on the left where Tierney gets outmanned seems to stem from Saka not tracking back. He just does not seem to have his rhythm yet.

I liked the fact that AMN dropped back to right back. Better to see him there than Cedric. But neither AMN or Sambi created enough or moved the ball quickly enough. Both were solid. Both are young. But against stronger teams we’ll need Partey there.

There were times today when I was sure we’d not score. Even when we did we then proceeded to waste so many chances. Between MO, ESR and Pep we have numerous chances to put more distance between us. Hopefully, as they settle down we’ll find ways to score. But 1-0 against Norwich is not confidence inspiring. Overall the performance was not inspiring. Once those first 20 minutes passed we ceded too much space and control to Norwich. We lost our energy and drive. Against Norwich.

I suppose the rebuilding has to start somewhere. And we’re out of the relegation zone – for a week anyway. But we need Aubameyang to put chances away. We need to see more of those long, cross-field passes from White. We need to see less of Gabriel on the ball. And we need Partey on the pitch. And we need Saka to rediscover his rhythm. And we need ESR fully fit. He really was impressive when he came on. More so than Saka (today).

Today helps though. Three points gives a little breathing space. A little more time for Arteta to shape this group of players into a team. One that has a backbone and balance. But with Ramsdale, White, Partey, MO and Aubameyang we’re getting there. We just need Pepe to be more consistently dominant and Saka to revive himself. We are on a very long (and painful) journey. This will take a year or more. Unfortunately. I’d thought it would be sooner but, even today, you could see how easy it is to dominate against us. Both Saka and Pepe provided too little protection to our full-backs. We can’t afford to carry players. Arteta now has time to prepare for games and he has his spine in place. So now let’s see him coach this team into the shape and style we expect. Let’s see us consistently apply a pressing game with everyone on the same page.

In the meantime, we can all ponder what has been pumped into the veins of Wenger; what are they feeding him these days. As intelligent and cerebral as he is, the idea of a WC every 2 years is insane. Wrong. And destructive to the game and the players. And the idea from FIFA that it makes it better for other countries to get to play at the WC is such an asinine reason. Basically, you get to buy two lotto tickets. But you still won’t win. Because you come from a country that does not have enough good players. That won’t change by doubling the frequency. But it will cheapen the WC. It will impact the 4 yearly Euros. Which will also move to every 2 years. And then every other competition. But FIFA is only motivated by money. They, along with the NCAA, we the two most evil organizations within sport. Neither contribute anything but drain money from the sport. FIFA are just trying to re-assert their power. Over players they do not pay for and clubs that are in fear of FIFA. Look at what they’d doing by forcing players to travel into COVID countries and then plays 3 games in a week. Insane. But they don’t care as long as they get the TV money. This idea sits up there along-side the European Super League. And, watching the financial collapse of Barcelona and loss of Messi, you understand why some clubs were so vested in making that happen. Look at Juventus as their loss of Ronaldo. It’s all about the financial impact of COVID. But Barca have no pre-ordained right be at the pinnacle of European football. They’ve only been there for 30 years or so. Every club has it’s cycle (as we know only too well). Back in the 1930’s through 1960’s they were nothing. It was Cruyff that took them there initially. Anyway, back to the corrupt FIFA.   Let’s hope that the clubs find their backbone and resist this insidious idea.  It’s painful enough that the number of countries in the final has been increased to 48. Soon, like American sports, everyone will qualify. We’ll have 195 countries at the WC. Hey, maybe that’s a better idea. Then we can scrape the stupid qualifiers where someone has to play Monaco or Lichtenstein or Gibraltar. I mean, what’s the point. Let them all join in and save us to wasted two weeks of international play. Though, of course, Arsenal, more than ever, need these breaks.   Someone needs to give Wenger something else to occupy that great mind. Because this idea is flat our awful. Maybe the one good thing would be to consolidate the international matches to a limited part of the year so we don’t have to disrupt the EPL. That would be an improvement. By the time FIFA figure that out, we’d have figured out how to get back into the top 4 and compete for the league – that’s how long it will take.

So, a week to wallow in 3 points and look ahead to the bruising encounter with the Burnley bullies. Get ready for all those long balls, corners and football in the mould of Stoke and Bolton. It won’t be a place for the faint hearted. None of those weak challenges we saw today where we continued to lose those second balls. Next week will be a test – again. But one we have time to prepare for.

So, thank you Patrick. Thank you Palace. You made my day. Top of the league. My arse.

-LB7            

August 28th – Manchester City 5 Arsenal 0

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Abysmal. Arteta. Atkinson.

It’s not like I ever thought there would ever be any other outcome. Losing is not the issue. Losing three games, in of itself, is not entirely the issue. How abject we played. How defeated the players looked. How clueless the tactics were. How meaningless our effort was. How lacking in defensive capabilities. This are just a few of the issues. This is as embarrassed as I can remember being. But before we dissect this further let’s recognize how absolutely appalling Atkinson was. Not a single meaningful decision went our way. How is it that Chambers can be punched in the face and that second goal stands? He’d previously booked Kolinsac for a flailing arm. But here, even on review, there is no free-kick. And the sending off. He initially goes with a yellow card and then upgrades to a red. Was it a stupid tackle. Yes., Was it classic Xhaka. Yes. But that was not a straight red. Sorry. And that completely trashed the game. It turned it into a rout. Not to say we would not have ended up there anyway. So now we’ve acknowledged the complete injustice and ineptness of Atkinson, let’s delve into our own ineptness. And let’s also be clear. With Xhaka on the pitch – using the formation Arteta set up with – we could easily have lost by more. City might not have taken their foot off our throat if we had a full complement of players on the pitch.

So, where to start? How about with the selection. We know about the injuries and illnesses. But how do you start with Cedric in your team. After the Chelsea game what is there to know about him? He’s a liability who will always keep the opposition on-side. What is he doing in this squad let alone in the team. I understand that Bellerin might be injured but how can you not play AMN. I really don’t care what AMN’s preference is. This is not a play-date where the little boy does not like the friends. He’s a professional footballer who the club pays. Make him play.

How poor was Cedric? He was so poor that Kolinsac was not the worst player on our team. There was too much competition for that. How does Kolinsac start against Manchester City? The league champions and one of the best teams in Europe. This guy was out on loan for the last six months of the prior season. Finally, we’d got him out of our squad. And now? He’s starting against Manchester City? How is that possible. Under any scenario. Under any circumstances. How can this be? It’s not like we don’t have other choices. We just bought one from Benfica. And he’s played pretty ok. He played in pre-season whereas Kolinsac barely did. What’s the point of pre-season. Tavares should have been starting. Instead of either Cedric or Kolinsac. That is on Arteta.

And how poor was Chambers? We have 5 minutes of possession and pressing and then in their first attack Chambers is out jumped by their 5 foot 9 midfielder? How is that possible? He was ripped apart against mighty Brentford, we drop him against Chelski and then decide, against one of the other best teams in Europe, we will bring him back to help us against City. Then for the second goal he flops after being clearly hit in the face. How this is not a foul – especially after review – is beyond me. But, last time I checked Chambers was a tough center half. How do you flop there and not man up and stick with your defender? Of course, in front of goal you have Cedric sticking out a floppy foot rather than blocking the ball. What the fuck is he doing on this team? On this squad, in this club? He was not good enough for Southampton but he can start for us? This beggars belief. This is on Arteta.

Mari, who was awful against Chelski sits on the bench. But we start with Cedric, Kolinsac and Chambers. And leave Sambi on the bench. That is on Arteta.

Then we line up with three attacking midfield players – Saka, ESR and Odergaard – with one holding mid-fielfer – Xhaka! Who thought that was going to work out well for us? Smabi sits on the bench where as Xhaka starts as our holding midfielder. We were completely overrun – even with 11 men on the pitch – as they found spaces behind these three and in front of Xhaka. At least we reverted to a back three. Unfortunately, he picked Chambers and had Kolinsac and Cedric as wing-backs.

Throughout the entire game City played crosses and chips behind our back-line where their midfielders swarmed through. There was no in-game adjustment for this. This is on Arteta.

This was a completely embarrassing performance. A shambles. A relegation like performance. Both by Arsenal, Arteta and Atkinson. Let’s not forget how much influence Atkinson had on this game. A game we were always going to lose anyway. But at least we would not have had the excuse of a referee tilting the balance of the game and giving Arteta the chance to hide behind that.

When Xhaka walks off the pitch Arteta taps him on the bum. What? He should be furious for an unnecessary foolish reckless tackle. Xhaka is experienced enough to know who the referee is. Initially Atkinson goes for a yellow then changes it to a red? Why? Did someone say something in his ear? I don’t understand why he need to send him off. Sure, he could justify it but it was not compelling; it was not an outrageous foul. Xhaka did win the ball. But then Atkinson was like this all game long. Whenever if doubt the balance of the decision went in Man City’s favour.

Xhaka, why give Atkinson the chance to send you off by jumping in, two-footed, off the ground? And who put Xhaka in the position to play like that? Who holds him accountable? Who, on seeing one of your most experienced players, one of your leaders, get sent off walks over and sympathetically taps him on the bum. Arteta. What?

They we wait till half-time to make and adjustments. Enough time for them to score yet another goal. And another time that Chambers gets beaten. Another occasion where Cedric is no-where to be found.

Games like this destroy Saka. And ESR. They are too young to process this. They were set up to fail. And, again, we see another poor Saka performance. No-one can get him the ball. He’s isolated. And split from ESR. ESR was overwhelmed. He had no support. Tierney was not involved. And whenever we had the ball they swarmed all over us. Odergaard looked reasonable. He worked and had some decent moments. Odergaard should check whether there is a return policy to Real Madrid. Maybe he can get his agent to undo this transfer. He must be thinking he’d be better off with Ancelotti rather than Arteta. Who wouldn’t?

In many ways we were so lucky. This scoreline could have been so much worse. Maybe it would have been better for us – long-term – if we had been smoked 8-0 with 11 players on the pitch. Then there would be no hiding as to how wrong – again – Arteta got it.

I don’t understand. As I’ve said before. When he first arrived he tightened up the defense. Knew how to set us up to play the top 4 teams and had a clear strategy. And played AMN. Now he looks like he’s completed lost the plot.

We do not look like a team. We have no clear style. And we have no heart. We are too weak; always being pushed off the ball and losing any 50:50 if not 60:40 challenge. This is on Arteta.

For any other club, you could be sure that Cedric and Chambers would never play in the EPL again. But Arsenal? They’ll be back against Norwich and Burnley. That is on Arteta.

This performance – by Arteta – makes me despair. After today I don’t know I can defend him any more. Too many poor selection decisions. Complete inability to change his in-game tactics. I considered taking 24 hours to write this review but then realized I needed to exercise the demons and find a way to enjoy the weekend. At least we got this fiasco out of the way quickly.

BTW, why is it that Arsenal FC seems to be the only team that has played that get infected with COVID. Last year we were the first club in England to be afflicted – starting with Arteta; there’s a signal if there ever was one – and now we have experienced more infections than any other club? How is that possible?

They won’t sack Arteta. As I’ve said many a time, the owners are tone deaf. But, for the first time, for me, I would not complain. I fear he’s lost the plot. There is no excuse for his team selection and his tactics. This is not the Arteta that we originally saw. But it’s the one we have no. And this one is not working. This team was beaten inside 20 minutes. Just like last week. So, officially, my faith has gone. Sorry Mikel. This was too painful. Too much of a shambles. Too embarrassing. I know it’s only three games in but we are a valid, legitimate, odds-on relegation candidate now. How Norwich must be looking forward to coming to the Emirates. Perfect time for them to get some points. And then we have Burnley waiting in the wings. They have to be licking their chops. They know – with Woods etc all – they can push us around and tear up this defense. Dyce is surely praying to the football thugs that we play the two Cunts – Cedric and Chambers – so that they can bully us off each and every challenge. It’s all so predictable.

How depressed am I with the situation. I’m so depressed that I’m finally embracing the two week International break. FIFA need to step up and extend this break from 2 weeks to about 6 months. Maybe COVID can infect enough players – as they are forced to journey into the swamps and wastelands in search of various infections all in the names of FIFA greed – so that the season gets cancelled.

This is so exhausting. So deflating. This is not like when we lost 8-2 at United. Then we at least had a proven manager. Ironically it was immediately after that game that we signed Arteta (and Mertasacker). It’s not clear what signings we can make to fix this. It’s not the players at this point. It’s the manager. And the misery does not stop here. Even if todays game was not dispiriting enough we’ll now have to listen to the media crushing us over the next two weeks. There is no hiding for us. But, rest assured, the owners will be hiding.

Maybe West Brom U-17s might be available for a re-match. Bring on AFC Wimbledon!

-LB7

August 22nd – Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Oh deary me. What a catastrophe. This is truly going to be a long hard season. And not just for fans. For Mr. Arteta. I fear this was a game that reenforced all the negatives that have been hurled at him. Today we were officially out thought and out tacticed – if there is such a word.

We are also the unluckiest team I know. Faced with a slim chance of getting any points we have Tierney as our referee. The fouls were all called against us and the penalty was not given. Not that we deserved much. But we have no luck. That and COVID. No Ben White. He was missed.  Who selected Cedric? Not me. He kept everyone on side for that first goal and was generally crap. Bellerin must surely be headed out (which we know he is) if Cedric is picked ahead of him (maybe Hector was injured – maybe one of his tattoos turned septic). But why not play Maitland-Niles. This is don’t get. I don’t care what AMN wants. He’s out best right back. Play him – we already pay him.

Mari was pretty shit as well. Two games and there’s no real evidence he should be starting. I know we have Gabriel to come back but Mari lacks physicality. I know Lukaku is a beast – a la Drogba – but Mari still thinks he’s playing in a European league where if you flop over the ref will award a free-kick. Mari has been around long enough to know better.

Saka looked way off today. His first touch was not there. And he did not provide Tesco Tierney with any cover. And, of course, like everyone else, this is where we are all wondering why Arteta could not see this imbalance on our left. The majority of these opportunities and both goals came from the imbalance on the left. Yes, positionally Holding and Cedric – and Mari – should have been smarter but James had the freedom of the park on their right. And nothing changed throughout the entire games. Again, this speaks to the claims that Arteta can’t make in game adjustments. It’s hard to argue against that point after todays performance.

We started pretty decently. We pressed – inconsistently – and have a higher energy level than last week. That is, we were marginally better than lifeless and dead. The crowd was behind the team. The opportunity was there. At least for 14 minutes.

It all seemed so predictable. So depressingly familiar. They just played like a coordinated team whereas we were disjointed. There were only a few passages of play where we linked up and applied any pressure. We don’t look like a team. And they did. And we did not last week. Whereas even Brentford did. This, unfortunately, is on Arteta. This is what is so worrying. It’s a long, long season. But the pressure will now mount. And unnecessarily so. It feels like the Arteta that set up the team to beat Chelsea last year and the Arteta that figured out how to win the F. A. Cup has disappeared. The cohesion that he introduced seems to have vanished. We seem to be going backwards. Albeit with better players.

Sambi was, again, excellent. He made a couple of stunning long, cross-field passes. In both cases Saka and Martinelli wasted their chances. Both times their touch let them down. Both of them seem way off their games. Prior to getting injured Martinelli was in-effective as center-forward; only when he went out to the left did he liven up.

Pepe remains an enigma. At times he will be brilliant. Today was not one of those days. He barely defended and did not aggressively close down when we were trying to press. For our most expensive signing he infuriates.

ESR was the only one who seemed focused and determined to take the games to them. His close ball control is excellent. Only when he linked up with Sambi did we generate any momentum. And that usually involved Tierney as well.

We were so exposed to their counter-attack today. Sambi played up field on the right and Xhaka on the left. There was too little cover directly in front of the defense. Maybe if we had Partey it would be different. Maybe if we have Cigarette. Maybe if we had White. But we did not need Ramsdale. Today, Leno was at his shot stopping best. It’s hard to blame him for either goal. But he made one world-class save from Lukaku – who really should have scored. And a number of other saves. Of course, his distribution remained pretty iffy. But, today, he was not our problem.

When they played it out of the back they had Jorghino dropping short and others making themselves available. When we try to play it out it would too often be up to Mari or Holding to play the ball through the lines. That is not how it should work. Also, we have a toothless attack. Martinelli and then Balogun are no Aubameyang or Cigarette. They carried no threat. Even in that first half when Tierny was crossing the ball we were too late at getting into the box.  

So, where is the identify of this team? Where were todays tactics? After a display like this – and with Man City next up – the pressure will mount on Arteta. And, to be honest, today was the first time I’ve started to worry about him. Sure, we miss some key players. But I don’t get what he was trying to do and how he could not correct what he was seeing on the pitch. Tierney was so exposed today. He had no help. Saka was not tuned in. Arteta should have made an adjustment. But here we are no points and no goals. The media momentum will just pile on the pressure. Luckily our owners are tone deaf and nothing will happen in the short-term. But once we’re into October and after the NLD, if this team does not demonstrate some identify Arteta will be on a very short leash.

We have a superior squad now. We have White, Sambi and Partey as new additions in the last 12 months. We have a brand spanking new GK. ESR and Saka have come on leaps and bounds. But yet, we seemed to be lost and aimless. You can see the pressure and strain on Arteta. I want him to succeed. He’s intelligent, articulate and passionate about Arsenal. But that’s not enough. Other managers have landed in other clubs and within less than a year have had a positive impact. Arguably that was true of Arteta. But here we are, worried and unsure as to whether we can progress. And, for once, here when I say “we” I mean me. Brentford, for me, was a freak result. The kind of results we’d seen before at Bolton. Stoke and Burnley. We also had lost Aubameyang and Cigarette to COVID. But today, minus White, we were shape-less and clue-less. Much more worrying. Not that I thought we’d beat Chelsea. But the first game at home for a new season, the first game at home with a crowd after 18 months. You’d expect more. We could not create, and we could not defend. There is no balance to this team.

Sure, Chelsea are a good team but we never really tested them. Their goalie had but one or two real saves. Too many of our players underperformed. That was one of the weakest games I’ve seen from Holding. Likewise from Tierney and Saka. And I worry that some of that is down to our shape and tactics. And our lack of ability to adjust intra-game. And that, unfortunately, comes down to Arteta.

I am a patient man. Sometimes. And I’ll remain a supporter of Arteta for a while longer. Let him get all his players back fit and healthy. Let’s see how the next 8 to 10 games play out. By then I think we’ll see whether he has managed to stabilize this team. Whether the progress and gains of last season have been built on – that the trajectory has changed. But, this is an unforgiving league. With unforgiving – and shit – referees. For a manager that has no luck with the health of his players and refs that never gives us any decisions that is a tough spot to be in. And one that, for a young, inexperienced manager, I worry about.

So I’ve not least faith yet. But it’s beginning to crack. And, for that, I’m angry. This should not be where we are. I like the developments on the transfer side. I like the new additions. I’m sure we’ll remove a few redundant players. To be clear, it’s not the lack of points. Or goals. It’s only two games. Rather it’s the aimless and unstructured football that we’re playing. It’s our lack of identity. This is something we had in the early part of Arteta’s reign. I worry that Arteta has lost his mojo. And there’s no mini-me to help him rediscover it.

-LB7