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

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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

August 13th – Brentford 2 Arsenal 0

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Ouch. That was painful. Friday 13th – unlucky for some. Certainly for me. What a way to start the season. We should expect to be bottom of the table after 3 games now. No points after three games. I just hope Arteta can survive beyond the first 10 games.

This performance was too similar to all our pre-season games. Those could be written off as pre-season but unfortunately we are seeing that the past does influence the future. The patterns established – i.e. losing against Hibernian etc – flowed through into the season. Sure we had key players missing. But this is Brentford. And the worrying part is that player for player we better. The value of the players in our team dwarfs them. So how can they beat us like that? I fear some of it comes down to coaching – and of course a few players.

Key mistakes killed us. But we’ve seen that many times before. As much as I love Chambers he was at fault three on the first goal. He was too slow in coming out when he cleared the ball from the by-lane – and he cleared it into the center of the pitch. And then he did not get close enough to their attacker to block the shot. As much as I like Chambers though I dislike Leno. He was at fault for both goals though I’m being a little harsh on the first goal. But that second goal tells you all you need to know about Leno. He is not suited to the physical English game. He allowed himself to get tied up with their player. He does not assert himself and dominate in the air. That throw-in should have been won in the air by Mari but Leno should have gotten their first and punched it away.

Last year we tried to buy their goalie and ended up with Runnerson instead. You can see why we should have bought him. If we were prepared to pay upwards of £25 for Ramsdale then we clearly made a mistake by paying up for Raya. Of the two goals one was comfortable with the ball at his feet, able to distribute to his players calmly and not put them under pressure. And that same goalie was able to dominate in the air. And that goalie was not Leno. Please oh please can we sell him now before the window shuts. He is a great shot stopped – as he showed again today – but he undermines the defense. Leno should have been born 10 years earlier. Then he’d have played in an era when goalies were not expected to play out from the back. He missed his time.

Clearly we were toothless up front. Martinelli was barely in the game and Balogun hardly touched the ball. He had one chance in the box in the first half and he overran the ball. Of course, we did not create too much for him. Having said that we put in a number of crosses – mainly from the wonderful Tierney. There was just no-one in the box. To be fair (and for the first game of the season, why not) he looks like he has a nice touch and is intelligent in his passing. But, like a number of our players, it’s too easy to ease him off the ball or out muscle him. Which for a center forward is not so great.

On the cheerful side, of wait, there are not reasons to be cheerful. Ok, on the marginally less negative side White again demonstrated why we needed him. Sure he also made a few mistakes but overall you can see why he is a natural replacement for David Luiz. Sambi had a strong game. Working hard, tracking back and also linking up well in midfield. He is a very similar player to Partey but just maybe a bit more skillful. Xhaka was solid bunt, as ever, defensively venerable because of his slowness. Pepe had the usual flashes of enterprise but just could not get pass his man. I felt a little sorry for ESR. He was full of endeavor just lack a willing runner in front of him. He had a golden chance in the second half but lacked conviction. Overall though he was one of the few players that shone.

It’s not like they ripped us apart and peppered our goal. But you can’t lose to them. Not the first game of the season. We were not aggressive enough, not pressing enough and lacking and real end product. And some of this does fall on Arteta. A lot falls on Edu. They had three months to get new signings in and move our other players. Why do we still have four right backs? Why do we not have a back up goalie or a Leno replacement in place already? This is what will frustrate the screaming masses. And it will just heap pressure on Arteta. He is safe for 10+ games. But after today it’s going to be a month of pressure because we won’t have any points until after Manchester City. It’s such a waste of the momentum we built at the end of last season.

I mean, you can’t lose to Brentford. Under any circumstances. And today it looked like we got out coached. They got more out of their players than we did out of ours. I’m still all-in with Arteta but the Arteta Out Brigade (AOB) will be in full voice now.  Come Chelski it will be interesting to see how much tolerance there is if we quickly go behind or male the usual mistakes. There seems to be a mental frailty in this team that Arteta has yet to cure.

It was good to see Saka back. You can see how the dynamic of the team changed with him on the pitch. The interplay with ESR and Tierney was much the best of the entire team. Pepe does not have that understanding with others. If we had a forward who could shot on target we might have stood a better chance. There were periods where we retained possession but lacked any threat in the box. And it’s not clear that Aubameyang, when he returns, will solve that issue. But I believe Cigarette can.

What a terrible way to start the season. And let’s not ignore how embarrassing this result is. Losing to a non-existent club from West London who’ve never been in the Premier League. This time last year we smacked a new promoted team – Fulham. This year they smacked us. How can that happen? What happened in the last year. Because we have a better squad now. This is where all eyes turn to Arteta.

We have to be patient though. It’s a long long season. And this year, without the distraction of Europe, there will be time to get this right. The season is not decided with our first game. It will take Arteta time to sort this out. And Edu has three weeks to fix this squad. He is the one that should be – literally – in the firing line; not Arteta.

What a terrible way to start the season. That was dreary and draining. It was like suffering through a repeat of playing against Stoke with all those long throws. But it’s just sucks any enthusiasm out of the start of the new season when you sit through a performance like that. There is a lot of work to be done before the end of this month. And Arteta has to pace himself. The owners will want to give him as much time as possible. But I fear that our own fans will be up in arms after the next few games. It’s the fans who forget that their role is to be supporters of the club and no FIFA managers. But as long as we make the stupid mistakes we made today that hands them a rod for his own back.  

What a terrible way to start the season. Depressing. And did I mention embarrassing. Now we have a week to regroup. We will have a find a way to take our chances next week. We have to find someone who can score for us. Maybe we can sign that ugly, big chinned England captain. I hear he wants to sign for a team that can compete at the highest level. He just needs to emulate Sol Campbell and he’ll be fine. He would win medals galore. If that is, he could wait around for another 10 years.

On the bright side. It can only get better from here.

-LB7

August 7th – Optimism for the season and pessimistic fans

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And I’m back. Welcome to a new season. Consider this article as part of this websites pre-season. This is where I’m trying out new formations, words and generally tuning up for the upcoming season. Though truth be told the content will be full of the usual drivel and crap. In the background I’ll continue to work on new signings. There are rumors of new blood being added out of Spain but, with Brexit and currency movements this one now fills like a long shot. Anyway, I think we have enough left sided contributors already (if you know what I mean, wink wink). Adding yet another prima-donnas could provide an overload of gayness for this site.

Apologizes for the lack of wrap up on last season. I’m sure that ruined many a fine summer break as people were so desperate to hear my thoughts and insights. I’ve heard rumours that Arteta was severely impacted by my lack of guidance and advice as he moved into this crucial period of his tenure. So let me help him out with a quick summary. Fuck Willian. Fuck Leno. Love Saka. Love ESR. Good-bye David Luiz. Get me a few more players and you’ll be fine. That’s it. With that feedback I think Arteta can exhale and relax now. All will be good.

It’s funny (in a not funny way) how last season is being re-cast. All the mainstream media repeat ad nauseam cliches about how the season was a failure, a tragic disappointment, a disaster. Really? A disaster? For me a disaster is having a moron in the White House. A disaster is having right wing dictators running too many major countries. A disaster is seeing society devastated by a pandemic. A disaster is Partey being injured yet again. But failing to qualify for Europe by a point (care of Leno v Everton) does not equal a disaster. Try watching Arsenal in the late 70s’ post Brady. Try watching an Arsenal team in the ‘80s with Stewart Robson. Or any Arsenal team with Cygan. Last season should be assessed pre-Chelski and post-Chelski – where we smashed them at home in December. The pre-Chelski team were dour, drab and lacking identity. Post-Chelski we discovered our rhythm and finesse. Sure, there were still some crummy results. But the trajectory for this team changed. Consider the points gained, goals scored and the solidity of the defense. We ended up as a possible top 4 team. The overall position was more or less in-line with expectations. Missing out on the EvenWorseThanNoHopaConferenceLeague is a blessing. Both Chelski and Liverpool spent seasons out of Europe. It’s not the end of the world. And it’s not a disaster.

Most importantly, last season was Artetas first full season even if that was disrupted by the cloud of COVID. When you hire a promising but young, inexperienced coach you need to give them leeway to make mistakes, evolve and develop. And for this season we need to give him time. None of this retarded Arteta out shit. Wait. Be patient. Don’t let our club mimic ManU that continued to precipitously chase out decent managers – and end up with one who is barely decent. Irrespective of where we are mid-season, or even after 10 games, we have to stick with Arteta. Maybe not having fans helped Arteta last year. But it also gave more air to the morons on twitter and Instagram. This year, with fans, will hopefully help Arteta. He is our future. And we all need to support him. I’m all-in on Arteta and won’t reconsider until this new season is done and dusted.

So far we’ve managed to tie down ESR – an under appreciated move given the obvious cash that Aston Villa knew they’d have at their disposal because of Grealish. And then our new signings also speak to the concerns about how little Kroneke invests in this team. Another bogus narrative. They have always put their hands in their pockets. How did we get Aubameyang? CIgarette, Partey, Tierney? Did we pay in luncheon vouchers or with an IOU? I think not. And now with White we’ve put down sizable money to re-enforce the style of our play. Hopefully White can become our John Stones (without the gaffs).

More fan hypocrisy was evident with Xhaka. Everyone complains that we don’t sell our players for what they are worth. So here we decided not to cave into Roma and Darth Vader because they wanted Xhaka on the cheap. How would it help us to sell him for £20m and then have to pay £40m to replace him (if we could find someone). Until we can complete 2 summer transfer windows, we can’t afford to lose Xhaka. We need depth and experience. Do I want him as my main midfielder – no, but  I’d keep him for the squad.

We need to step back and look at the squad overhaul that we’re in the midst of. And it’s not finished. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring in an Odergaard replacement and one more midfield player. And of course we’ll lose some players. Kolinsac has to go. Please leave him outside the stadium in a trash can. And Hector needs a chance elsewhere. Hopefully with Lukaku returning to Chelski – another fine financial transaction sell him for £80m and buy him back at £115m) – that money will allow Inter to make some Hector signings. Cedric is another one who should be moved on. And obviously Willian. Maybe we can send him to Inter?

My biggest worry is Leno. As good a shot-stopper that he is I fear he is not suited to our direction of travel. He is not suited to playing out from the back. There is nothing more scary than when the ball is at his feet. I know the Chelski game last weekend was just a pre-season game and his first one back but his distribution was atrocious. He can’t make decisions under pressure. He repeats the same mistakes. It was like watching him put Xhaka under pressure away at Burnley. Leno can’t help himself. The game has changed and he can’t. The decision made to shift Martinez to Aston Villa was, at the time, the right decision. Given the knowledge we had at the time keeping Leno was the right choice. And if I could go back in time I’d still make that same decision. But it was the wrong one. But we can’t get Emilo back. But we can’t stick with Leno. He can’t play out from the back and he will put our players in tight, pressurized situations. The only question I have is how can our GK staff have had Martinez at the club for 10 years and not know what a talent he was? They saw him every day in training. That is the only place I’d be looking at to better understand how we sold the wrong goalie. And then whilst we’re looking at that someone should also look into the Runnerson deal as well. And now we’ve lost Ryan we must have an adequate backup. Paying £30m for Ramsdale seems like a bad piece of business – selling Martinez for £20m and buying back Ramsdale for £30m – but Kroneke has demonstrated his willingness to support this team so hopefully we’ll get someone worthy.

Aubameyang better not score tomorrow. I’d like his drought to continue for one more game. Nothing matters tomorrow (aside from staying injury free). He is a natural goalscorer and he will find his touch. Let him find it when it matters – against Brentford. It’s a shame Eddie is injured now. He was looking better in pre-season and now we can’t sell him. And we have to decide what to do with Willock and AMN. I want to keep AMN but only if he is prepared to be a squad player. His versatility could be invaluable for us. Arguably we missed him last year when our full backs got injured. But I don’t really see the rationale for chasing various Italian forwards. I can’t think of one that has worked out in the premier league. But give me another midfield player. Preferably a defensive one to give us cover for Partey. And not just for now but also for when he goes off to the ANC in January.

For this season, I expect us to be more competitive. We won’t win the league – Man City will have that. But we should be pushing towards the top 4 but will likely end up in the top 6 with re-entry to the NoHoppaCup. We’ll benefit from Everton losing their manager. Villa will be more threatening. And Leicester will be a threat. But, as we re-build our squad, we will continue to improve. We will give away stupid points and we will have to listen to our own moronic, juvenile, ADHD supporters bleat about every little thing. Those same fans that claimed that the Great and Imperious Wenger could only get us into the top 4 and top 4 was not a trophy are the same retards that are complaining that Arteta is not good enough for our club. Whereas, it’s exactly the opposite. These fans are not good enough for our club. Arteta is not the problem – they are. They look for any opportunity to complain and moan. They are not even glass is half-empty. They can’t even see the glass.

I though remain optimistic. I see numerous positive developments. And I believe in Arteta. From the changes to the U18 and U23 coaching staff, to the signing of younger players through to Kroenke spending bundles of money we are a better club than we were in the last 5 years. No more Gazidis. No more accountant. No more Mustafa nor Ozil. In another 12 months we will have a truly competitive team and a deep squad with balance and two players in each position. In three years we’ll be competing for the title. But then I’m an optimist.

Watch out for VAR this season. It was interesting to see how it was used during the Euros. No drama. No uproars. Funny that. Seems like the technology works right? So how comes it was such an abortion in the EPL? Just listen to Mike Riley and you’ll pretty quickly know. Their latest Einsteinne idea is to no longer show the fans (in the stadium or on TV) the lines they use to decide on offside. Really? Remove any transparency to their decisions? That’s their solution? Guaranteed they will have to walk this one back before Christmas. No question. I’ve always believed it would take them time to get VAR right. But the Euros proves it’s possible. It’s the people that are the problem not the technology. It’s how you use it. And when you have Riley and PGMOL making the decisions then you know you’re fucked. Shame about England though. They were so desperate not to lose that they forgot to win. Southgate – a smart man and a definitive improvement over previous managers – forgot to use the talent on the bench. He was too conservative and wasted a chance to win a trophy for the first time in a generation or two. Let’s see whether in WC22 he plays to win. Semi finals in last WC then losing in the final of the Euros sets up expectations for WC22.

And, to wrap up, the last word goes to our North London rivals. Wankers. Complete wankers (ok, that’s two). Talking about having no strategy and vision. How can you fire Darth Vader in-season and not hire a manager for 3 months – and then after everyone has turned you down. Then when it’s clear to even a blind man that you big-nosed, big-chinned skipper wants to bail you refuse to cash in but hold out for a few extra pounds. The result is a unstable team and the likely influx of the transfer money coming in too late to sign new players. So, it will be either an unhappy skipper or an inflated bank balance. And we think we’ve got problems.

Phew, that was a lot that I needed to get off my chest. I feel suitably warmed up now. Fingers are fully flexed, righteous indignation nicely coming to the boil and looking forward to an injury free game tomorrow. And more to come from me before the Brentford game.

-LB7

May 12th – Chelsea 0 Arsenal 1

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Dreary, dogged, dour Arsenal eek out three points. That was simultaneously painful and invigorating to watch. One commentator compared us to Sheffield United. The same commentator would previously decries Arsenal as not having a backbone. We’re either boring and defensive yet gaining points. Or they complain we can’t tough it out and win games.

That’s exactly what we did. Did we have some luck. Sure. Maybe it’s payback for Everton, Wolves and countless other games when we were genuinely unlucky. Here, we defended and forced Chelski to play sideways and backwards. We made them look like us when we lost to Leicester. Except then were were savaged by the media and Leicester were acclaimed for their tactical masterpiece. How Brendan had outsmarted Arteta. That’s just the hypocrisy we have to live with. And, worst of all, it’s compounded by our own fans. We won. We got 3 points. And I bet all we’ll hear is how it’s too little too late. How our style was abject – which, of course – it was. So what. Those fans that chased out Wenger are now intent on repeating the same trick with Arteta. They have made up their little minds and just want to complain. We actually beat Chelsea twice this season. But instead we’ll hear about the Everton, Leicester etc results.

More on this later. Back to this game. We were organized and dour. But Arteta clearly had a plan. This was like the approach he adopted that won us the F. A Cup last year. Tactics tuned to the specific opposition. He re-introduced a back three. Thus we had to see both Gabriel and Mari consistently give the ball away with their wayward distribution. But they defended solidly with able assistance from Holding. They were always under pressure and weren’t helped by Leno who would often take too long to pass the ball. But that’s because he’s indecisive and was not built to play this way. He’s more old school. He blocks shots (most of the time) and stuff like that. He does not do so well with the ball at his feet.

Of course, their high press was more smothering than ours. But then we really just had one forward. But the little pressing we did resulted in our sole goal and sole shot in the first half. It was the exact outcome that we would have expected from our defense trying to play it out the back. In the second half we continued to gift them the ball outside of our penalty area. For example Elneny tee’ing up Giroud. Or Gabriel on numerous occasions giving them the ball. We were overrun for long periods but we played a deep blocked and gave them no chance to really test Leno. It as tough to watch but they lacked the creativity to unlock our defense. Again, it was a role reversal for Arsenal. And it worked. We will not play like this in every game and even when we do we’ll lose quite often. But needs must. We – like them – were knackered. Saka is done. He’s on empty at this point. Odergaard is already on his holidays. And Tierney is one step away from another injury. And now Bellerin has likely played his last game for us. It’s a shame to see him leave in these circumstances. He’s given us 10 years and deserves the opportunity to play elsewhere.

Elneny was so industrious today. He never stopped running and working hard. Partey started the game by making two errant passes but then seemed to settle down. He really is a very good defensive midfielder though. He shielded the back three and understands how to best position himself. Together they helped snuff out Chelsea. Smith-Rowe ran himself into the ground and did his best to help Tierney. On the other side Saka got so little help from Odergaard. The latter reminds me of Ozil when he defends. He never tracks his player preferring to point to the player and expect someone else to track back. A better team would have exploited that. Holding really was solid again today. He is very underrated. He’s had a remarkable season given his previous injury. There’s no way he could have expected to have played this number of games this season.  Mari made his usual one cock-up per game but somehow their most expensive of strikers managed to find the empty stand. That and when they hit the cross-bar twice towards the end of the 90 minutes indicated that today was destined to be ours.

We as fans are so myopic. We (well, not me, of course) decide on a narrative and then fit all the data to re-enforce our prior view. Whether it be that Arteta can’t take this team forward to us needing new owners to invest in the team. Yet when we’ve invested – Partey, Aubameyang contract, Odergaard – that is ignored because it does not support peoples priors. And Arerta, we’re told, has had a miserable season and needs to be replaced. And yet, those same supporters also want stability and growth. But seem unaware of the contradiction with replacing your manager in less than 18 months. Sure we should have beaten Villarreal but let’s not kid ourselves we’re a Champions League team (yet). Judge Arteta after 3+ years. Support him now. Support the team. But it seems our fans view the glass as half empty. Yes, we’re a mid-table team. What did you think would happen this year. We always knew we needed 3 or 4 transfer windows to fix this team. Look how much better Chelski were today. That’s because they spent trillions of dollars every minute on buying everyone. We should focus on building around Saka and ESR. Of course it was this reverse fixture that saw the two illuminate our team and give us hope. And maybe it was that hope that blinded us to the known reality. It caused us to raise our expectations. And now everyone is pissed off because we’re not in the top 4.

It seems this cloud of pessimism has overtaken our club. Maybe it’s because people have lost faith in Arteta. But it seems that there’s this perception that we’ve had a disastrous season. Really? We got to the semi-finals of the NoHoppaCup. We’ve had some wonderful performances. We hear people harp on about losing so many games – 13 – and saying that’s unacceptable. Really? Have you seen the other teams in this league. All season long – without fans in the stadiums – teams have lost more games at home and we’ve seen more surprising results. The media get paid to push these story lines. That Arsenal is in disarray. That Arenal have had a terrible season. Yet the season is not quite over. And I wonder if they’ve been watching what’s been going on with that other lot. Now that really is what I’d call a car wreck. And they are about to lose their once in a generation captain. Not that that’s the benchmark. But, again, for Arsenal it’s not the end of the world. Yet. And it’s the same people that chased out Wenger. They have the attention span and patience of a fly. And the selective memory of a fly. Sorry all those flies reading this blog. But then you’ll forget this in another second anyway.

After an unexpected and valuable win at Chelski rather than be uplifted and happy (well I’m a little uplifted), instead, like our manager, I’m pissed off. He’s after match interview was instructive. He was aggressive and unhappy. I feel the same way. I’m pissed off. We were never as bad as our own fans have claimed nor as good as they thought when we put together a winning streak. How can any team be effective when you have Willian, Ceballos, Eddie in your squad. We’ve finally dumped Mustafi, Kolinsac, Sokratis and Ozil. Come back in 12 months and we’d have cleaned out 5 more players. But we knew all this. So why are our fans so unhappy with Arteta now? They need to channel their frustration to Kroneke. Because that’s a match made in heaven. Our deaf owner and our loud-mouth idiot fans.

So, well done Arteta for gaining three unearned points. It’s about time we won against the balance of the play. It’s about time we had some luck. They say over the course of a season that decisions average out. This was our make up game. Enjoy it. I’m sure normal service will be resumed again Palace.

A word on one of my favorite subjects. VAR. Today it felt like they made some changes such that all VAR decisions were rapid. No long delays and no stupid decisions. Maybe that was luck as well.

-LB7

May 6th – Arsenal 0 Villarreal 0

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Gdansk is gone. Until the 75th minute I had thought we’d sneak a goal. But then I realized the gods and ourselves were against us. Who would have guessed we would keep a clean sheet. Or that we would not have scored. We had some chances and on another day – or in a few years – ESR will show more composure in front of goal.

As frustrating as it is it’s not clear that we would have benefits from going to Gdansk to lose in the final again. And we’re certainly not a Champions League team. Maybe, as painful as it is to accept, we might benefit by being out of Europe for one year. It will be the ultimate test for Arteta. There won’t be any hiding of acceptance of us being unable to win something or finish in the top 6. Anything else next year and he’ll be gone. Not that I agree. One benefit of tone deaf owners is that they won’t change the manager this summer. There will be pleas to bring in someone else. That would be a disaster. Though it’s not clear what manager would now want to come to a team that is not in Europe next year. Maybe that’s another blessing for Arteta. He needs a couple of windows to re-fit this team. Let’s not forget he did win a cup last year. And this year has been crazy.

Back to todays game. They swamped our creativity and we did take advantage of the few chances we had. We looked tired and limited.

Too many players did not step up. Saka was muted as was ESR. Odergaard was none existent. Bellerin rather than Chambers was our threat on the right. Hence most of our creativity play came from the left. Tierney was restrained and played within himself – there was no way he was fully fit. Aubameyang was clearly not there either. Put it all together – one long excuse I know – No Xhaka, Aubeyang and Odergaard and Tierney not quite fit. Saka drained after a long season. And Pepe being Pepe. We did not have enough force or stamina or luck to get that goal

Maybe we saved ourselves that trip to Gdanks to only have to loose to Man U. I feel like this team is strung out and needs a rest. Well, boy, will we get one next year. No Europe for us. Arsenal truly bought into the idea of Brex-it. Or in this case Arse-it

Loosing Xhaka clearly changed the balance of the team. Having a single holding midfielder – Partey – was limiting. Neither ESR or Odergaard could penetrate their packed midfield. We barely tested their goalkeeper. We are a feast or famine team. And today, in the most important game, we were famine. There were a few periods where we generated momentum – mainly in the second half – and each time Villarreal shut us down. Slowing the game days, faking injuries and basically showing how to manage a game out.

If you had a choice of Coquelin or Partey for your defensive midfield player who would you pick? Based on todays evidence it’s not obvious. Party was piss poor today. Too often caught on the ball. Too often slowing the game down. He rarely made a forward pass (aside from a few long balls). He seemed like a liability. He was one of our biggest disappointments today. After his contributions early in the season I think he’s lost his way with this team. And maybe that’s happened since he lost Xhaka alongside him. But today was one of his more careless and error prone performances. Not what you’d expect in such a big game.

Another questions is, based on these two games (and the balance of the season) would we have done better if Emery was our manager. No fucking way. Shoot me now. I’d be dead from boredom. Never would I want him back. Yet he’s been more successful at Villarreal in a shorter period of time than Arteta has had at Arsenal. Yet most people would argue that player for players Arsenal are superior to Villarreal. So how to make sense of this. I can’t.

I should be more upset – writing this a few hours after the game helps – but this was always going to be a long project. The last thing we can afford now is to change managers yet again. We have to stick with Arteta for at least another year. Let’s see what changes happen in the summer. It’s time for an improved midfield. Someone to compete with Partey. Someone to displace Xhaka. And someone to replace Ceballos.

But before we dissect the entire season – there will be plenty of time for that – we need to understand how we could be so tepid for such long periods of the game today. No-one seemed to want take on responsibility for trying to create. Again, I’m convinced Odergaard has not fully recovered from his injury and ESR was marginalized. And Saka looks down and out after a long season. Take those 3 out and add in a Tierney who could barely get up and down the touchline and we would have problems. And did I mention that Aubameyang and Cigarette are not fit either. Yes, more excuses.

Most fans though will go after Arteta. He’ll handle that. And so will Kroneke. My hope is the mistakes he’s made – the false 9 in the first leg – will be experiences he can learn from. Because once the fans return the pressure will mount on him. Maybe I’m being too loyal to him. Maybe he is not the right manager. But, we need more time to make that judgment. We can’t afford the revolving door that was ManU or that lot down the road. We have to stick by him and be patient. We have no other choice. Sorry.

So herein endeth our season. What a meek way to go out. No crashing everything into their goal. No breakneck finish. No do or die. Just die. Maybe that’s where we missed the fans. But finishing with Willian and Eddie on the pitch is not exactly what you’d need to snatch a goal. Such a shame. I really thought we’d get through this tie. It really is a little embarrassing for the club. Not missing out on a final but more how quietly we went out. Where were our on field leaders today? None that I could see. Maybe we should have had Martinelli on earlier. And it’s preferable for him to operate on the left. See him collide with Cigarette in their penalty area just smacked of panic. They were both player the same position at that point. And yet we’d lost Ska to left back. That’s on Arteta. Let’s hope he learns.

I need to take a break. I’m getting more negative the more I think about this. Just as I’d started to recover and convince myself we could use this experience to focus next year on building our league position. It brings us back to Arteta. So let’s leave that for another day.

-LB7

May 2nd – Newcastle 0 Arsenal 2

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Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. I’m sure I’ve said this before but I’m sure we’d win the Premier League if we could only play Newcastle each week. They really are a weak and directionless team. Thankfully. The perfect opponent for us. How bad are they I hear you ask? They are so bad that Ceballos looked like a moderately plausible excuse of a football player.

Our favorite Egyptian snatched the first one after another Aubameyang shanked shot. And then after more good work by Martinelli Aubameyang went all Karate Kid to grab the second. We kept a clean sheet but lost David Luiz, I fear, for the season and, with his contract running down, for ever. It’s a shame because as annoying as he is there is no-one who quite reads the game like him.

I’d hoped to see Cedric at left back. But it seems that Xhaka is stuck there for a while longer. I’m pretty sure neither Tierney not Cigarrette will be back for Thursday. So maybe Elneny will join Partey in midfield on Thursday. This would have been a fine time to let Xhaka return to midfield against the nonexistence threat of Newcastle. I can barely remember the steady midget that is Matt Ryan had a save to make. Ryan’s distribution is quicker and more decisive. If only he was 2 inches taller.

Bellerin finally got some minutes. He continues to play like Hector – a thinking mans Walcott. All speed with little football IQ. All speed but no control. With Gabriel making up the defense a ½ way decent team would surely scored. Thankfully Newcastle aren’t ½ decent. We torched them down the left hand side via Martinelli. Even with idiot boy Ceballos  dithering on the ball too long we still manage to create down the left. Whereas on the right the lethal combination of Bellerin and Willian was sufficient to put everyone else to sleep. Backwards and sideways. Except for Bellerin helping with the first goal. So I’m being a little unfair on him. But not on Willian. After being benched for many weeks this was time to shine. Except he’s too dull to shine. He’s too lazy to track back and too slow to attack and beat his man. Relatively speaking he came alive a little in the second half when, with a swath of substitutions, he moved move infield.

Getting minutes for Odergaard was important. With the weaker players alongside him it was harder but it was good that he got to develop his match fitness. It’s not clear whether he’ll start on Thursday. But at least it’s clear that Willian won’t. And we’ll somehow have to survive without Ceballos.

So today should have been a pleasant, relaxing experience. Cruising past a dormant Newcastle. Except we had to deal with the interruption from Old Trafford with breaking news that their fans are fucking retards operating under the banner of being against the Glaziers. How does that work? What are they complaining about? That team remain in a Champions League spot, recently won the NoHopaCup and were in the Champions League this year. They continue to invest/spend millions on Pogba, Fernandez, Maquire, Shaw, Cavani, Wan Bissaka and that Dutch player. So what are they complaining about? That they are American? He’s the reality. They are scum. They are thugs. They are idiots. They are morons. They should be banned for live. The trespassed. They should be held accountable. They are yobs just drinking bear and behaving like “lads”. I hope, but fear otherwise, that the media won’t give them the oxygen to hear their complaints. Whatever they are. Maybe it’s that they have no brains. Or dicks. BTW, did you notice the colour complexion? And gender make-up? This lot could have been part of the storming of the Capital on January 6th. Same kind of fucked up mentality. And, worse of all, this shit interrupted the Newcastle game. Unforgivable.

Like the Storming of the Capital, where the fuck were the police? How did these morons get to break into the stadium and then wander around uninterrupted for an hours. Run onto the pitch, grab TV cameras and break them? And then return an hour later? How is this possible? Surely even the police watch TV. Why didn’t someone call them in early? And then it took just 7 of them to clear the stadium? I don’t get any of this. Unless, inside United, there were conspirators – just like with the Capital Storming. Have you ever tried to gain access to a football stadium? It’s nearly impossible. And yet here, the United fans had been talking about this for weeks. So where was the surprise in what they did? Why was there no planning or preparation for this event? How did they make it so easy? And then we had to watch all the stewards stand around and watch the invasion take place? Who is running this club?

But don’t loose sight of the fact that these so-called fans are just piss-heads. No brains and no ideas. If they really hated the way United is run they have many avenues to pursue.

  • They could go and support the New Manchester FC that other fans actually created as a new club
  • They could organize a scheme to by shares in United and gain a voice
  • The could demonstrate outside the ground peacefully.

But they won’t do that because they are fucking retards, too stupid and just piss-heads who have gotten their 15 minutes of fame. They are hooligans and drunks. They were jumping on the goals and taking pictures. This had nothing to do with a demonstration and more to do with anarchy and piss-heads taking selfies while on the pitch. This was young kids having a lark. Don’t think there is anything noble going on here.

And again, what are they complaining about? If anyone should be demonstrating it should be Newcastle supporters. Now there is a club that is truly screwing their fans. Nearly all United fans are Jonny-come-latelys. They are so used to success they think it’s their inherent right. And yet, aside from suffering under Murinho, Moyes and LVG, they are still spending billions of dollars on players. What is their problem? I don’t understand. How would they have felt if the ESL had proceeded without them? Fuck them. I hate United even more now. If that’s possible. They are despicable. Bot their fans and their organization. At least with our fans demonstrate (aside from the morons at ATV) it’s more logical – we are a club in decline. But even our fans ignore the amount of money Kroneke is putting into the club. And, it was the fans who prematurely chased Wenger out of the club.

This is why you never want to listen to fans when it comes to your own club. The ESL was different because that was a common cause across all clubs – it was unifying call to action. Today we just saw a throwback to the painful thug days of the 80’s. The days prior to the success of the EPL. It can’t be condoned and can’t be accepted. This fans who stormed Old Trafford have to be held accountable. But I bet there is no appetite to do so. Because that club is losing its identify and has no backbone. They are now scared of their own fans. At least with Arsenal we know that’s not true of our owners. No, not at Arsenal. The owners are not scared. Because they don’t care. They are not listening. Welcome to Arsenal.

So, onto Thursday. This has been an interesting few weeks. First the ESL and now United thugs. The sooner this lockdown is unlocked the better. Then these idiots can just go down the pub and get hammered.

Maybe we can storm the Emirates on Thursday once Villarreal score a goal. Or sacrifice Ceballos on an alter outside the ground as an offering to the football gods. We need this one. Surely we can be as bad as we were last Thursday. And Villarreal can be as bad as Newcastle were. If only.

-LB7

April 29th – Villarreal 2 Arsenal 1

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We were better with 10 men than when we had eleven. Thankfully, the referee after denying us a penalty finally took sympathy on us. You could see him look around the pitch and realize that Arteta would not make any necessary changes. So, the ref took matters into his own hands. He felt pity for Arsenal supporters and that he, like all of us, had had enough of Ceballos and so he sent him off. Best move of the game. This monumental cunt was getting roasted by a right back that can’t even get into the Sp*rs team. He gave the ball away consistently and exposed our meager defense of all sorts of problems. For once I also attribute blame to Arteta. After that rank first half he should have brought on Cedric and pushed Xhaka into midfield.  But back to Ceballos, I struggle to remember a bigger wanker. Someone who flatters to deceive. He slows down our game and flits around as though he’s an important player. He contributes nothing. He kills our game. Please, please give him back.

Can we beat them in the second leg? Here’s why we can – Ceballos is ineligible! What a trade losing both Ceballos and Capuoe. A double win for us.

Of course this does not excuse or ignore the horrible first half performance. Dire would be an understatement. We barely put any passes together and had no shape I could discern. Even then we nearly stole a penalty. VAR really does not like us. Yes, Pepe handled the ball but I did not know VAR could go that far back. I thought it could just review the foul for the penalty. Anyway, twice now in one week we’ve lost penalties to VAR.

Once we discarded Ceballos our play improved and we looked more threatening. Tonight was not one of Artetas’ better nights. His selection was wrong as was his tactics. And he was far too slow to adapt. Glad though I was to see Eddie on the bench the false 9 think did not work. Smith-Rowe was barely involved. But once we dropped into the #10 slot he started work get involved. And Saka, while remaining our primary threat, had a quiet night. But even then he got one penalty and should have had two.

There was a general sloppiness to our play. Chambers miss-controlled the ball on a couple of occasions and Holding was a little careless. But nothing is as careless as passing to Partey when he’s near their goal. I have yet to see any shot of his be on target let along cause a goalie to make a save. And his distribution was off as well. But part of that is because he had no-one with him in midfield. And there were few options ahead of him. When there were – once Aubameyang came on – he threaded the ball through to our club captain to tie the game up and Aubameyang fluffed his lines. Just as he has done previously in the NoHopaCup. This was a costly miss. But not as costly as all the misses of Villarreal. They should have put this game away in the first half as they were so dominant then. In fact, this game reminded me of the PSG v Man City game – except we had Ceballos and not DeBruyne. PSG should have been 3-0 up at half time and eliminated Man City in one half of football. Likewise for Emery. Instead they came out in the second half and went conservative – as any good accountant would – and allowed us back into the tie.

But let’s be fair, they will score against us. So we’ll have to score at least twice at the Emirates. We will have a one man advantage because Ceballos can’t play. So we’ll have a chance. Which we did not deserve after todays performance.

Arteta now has a week to figure this out. He can’t make as many mistakes as he made today. Sure the second half was better and we had chances to tie this up. It’s good to see Willian on the bench. It’s good that Martinelli is our first sub. But we have to figure out the right balance in midfield. We need to put Xhaka back there.

By the way did I mention that Ceballos was at fault for the first goal? Did I mention he’s a complete tosser.

Since my last review we’ve seen the complete implosion of the ESL and the continued disaster of VAR steal points from us. The issue with ESL was that it was dreamt up by people who literally have more money than brains. It proves you don’t have to be smart to be rich. I’m relieved this thing has collapsed. But don’t be fooled. The issues remain. And that is that Barcelona and Real Madrid are bankrupt and they need money. And they, like the other continental teams, are in leagues with no competitive balance. And, most importantly, no TV revenues to speak of. So, I don’t understand why the English teams joined in. While it might have generated more money for them it would also help a competitor that is in greater need while also destroying our EPL – which is the cash cow. So the fans saved them from their own mistake. But the need for money does not go away. There has to be consequences for not having match-day revenues for a year. And for the English top six, this would have been a quick fix. But it would have been disastrous.

But before I subscribe to #KroenkeOut I’d first propose #CeballosOut. And I’d have more chance of success. There is no way Kroenke is leaving. Ever. He’s never left a US team. He uprooted his NFL team and did not care in the slightest at the reaction of those fans. He’s not just Silent Stan he’s also Deaf Stan. So, get used to him, because he’s not going anywhere.

And here’s the thing. I’m happy that Arsenal were part of the ESL. Be honest, if the ESL had somehow manage to give birth and Arsenal were not involved – and even worse, Sp*rs were – how would these same fans react then? We had to be part of this. You could not afford to miss out on this. Let’s be clear we are not a top 6 English team at the moment (not that that lot are either). We were “honoured” to be included. But let’s not kid ourselves, we were there to make up the numbers. We were not the driver of this initiative. Whether we were in or out did not have any impact on the success of the ESL No-one was listening to our viewpoint. We did not make or break this. But, we had to be involved just in case it somehow succeeded. It’s always better to be on the inside rather than the outside.

And as for the righteous indignation from FIFA and UEFA was something to behold. This ESL idea was so inept it could make these two organizations actually seem less corrupt and self-serving that we all know them to be.

So, lastly for tonight – VAR. I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. And I’m all in favour of it being used in football. At the moment it’s just not working. Not in the EPL anyway. The decisions I’m seeing make no sense and are not rational. And that’s because of the VAR referee. This person needs to be pitch-side and exposed to the crowd (when it returns) and accountable for their decisions. The one against Everton was fucking retarded. In reviewing the actual foul they looked back 20 plus second to find a microscopic offside that occurred in a different passage of play. Who asked them to do that? And how long did they take over that – 3+ minutes. How is that a clear and obvious error. We need to fix VAR and there are four ways to do this:

  • Junk it entirely
  • Limit the amount of time VAR has to make a decision to <20 seconds
  • Make the VAR assistant sit pitch side
  • Automate all VAR decisions right into the refs earpiece or watch (like goal-line technology).

Now we head up to play Newcastle. I’d hope we rotate a ton of players and relax. Maybe VAR will, now it’s done it’s damage, decide to give us a few decisions. It’s a shame it’s an irrelevant game. But hopefully some of the players can find their mojo again. And maybe someone can point out to Partey where the goal is.

-LB7