November 11 – Arsenal 1 Wolves 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

November 3 – Arsenal 1 Liverpool 1

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A point gained. An exam passed. This is a new Arsenal. No way would we have gained a point last year. This team is developing. And next year we’ll beat Liverpool after a few surgical additions. This team showed today is can compete. Finally we came up against a real team – a team with talent and ability – and we stood toe-to-toe with them.

Unlike previous weeks, right from the start, we competed and played our game. The intensity level and the inter-play was there from the beginning. We dominated large parts of this game. Of course they had many chances to score including one legitimate goal disallowed. We also rode our luck when Leno came out to intercept a ball and entirely missed the ball and they hit the post. And who picked up the ball from the rebound off the post? None but the best player on our team. The little man that worked like a terrier. The player who, in a sequence in the first half won two tackles back-to-back that he had not right to win. Our little Uruguayan energize bunny. Today Torriera was immense. His presence utterly changes our team. You could replace every other player in our team and though we’d be impacted (possibly) we’d survive. But there is no-one who could replace this mighty midget. He is the glue that holds this team together. One measure of a player is how they improve those around them. Torreira make Xhaka look like a composed, elegant and controlled midfield player. Carefully re-read that sentence. Unbelievable but true. That’s how good he is. And he’s enjoyable to watch – he keeps the play simple and clean. Nothing too complicated. And forward moving; no sideways passes from him. 13 years after the departure of Viera to Juventus we finally have a replacement. If we learned nothing else form today that would have been sufficient.

We also saw a masterful, controlled performance from our center half today. No not that moron Mustafa. But Holding. With each game he is maturing and growing in confidence. On many occasions he acted as the last line of defense to their dangerous attack.  His distribution was first class and he’s reading of the game excellent. Now we just have to find him a viable partner (on the pitch….).

Even if we had lost today – which is looked like for a while – there was enough on display today to raise our spirits. We are seeing the evolution of the team that we hoped for. Of course, there are still a handful of weak links that undermine the team. But over the course of the next transfer window or two we can correct for that.

Mikeytarrien, today, was hands down, the worst player on the pitch. I can’t thing of a single thing he executed properly. In the first half he either lost the ball in dangerous positions or misplaced passes. He added little to this team. He was so poor that I was crying out for the introduction of Ob1. There is no place in our future for Mikeytarrien; he’s luxury we can’t afford. We will stumble through this year with him but he must be the first player replaced. He exposed Bellerin numerous times; he can’t defend. And, on a couple of occasions he showed he can’t score either. I’m sure that in the NoHopaCup he’ll play and score but we can’t afford to have him in the starting eleven. Within a year he’ll be gone.

I felt sorry for Aubameyang today. He made good runs and worked hard. I was surprised he was taken off while we still needed a goal. But fortunately, we still had the most wonderful Cigarette to rescue a point. What a brilliant goal. He’d worked hard the entire game but seemed to be missing that final touch and never quite got into the right position. But he more than made up for it when he received a perfect pass from Ob1 and then spanked their goalie before unleashing a perfect shot without once looking up for the goal – a natural strikers instinct.

Even though Liverpool looked like they’d catch us on the break again and win by 2 goals, the equalizer was deserved. Liverpool of last year would have played their heavy metal football and possibly overrun us. But this year we have the more conservative, the more Mourinho version of Liverpool. They only had small periods of domination and could not generate that many threats through Salah. Mane exposed us a few times but they lacked that creative spark in midfield. And this was largely because of the dominating performance of Torreira.

Neither goalkeepers were that impressive today; both goals could be attributed to them. I’ve yet to figure out Alisson. Maybe following in the footsteps of Mignolet and Karius has lowered the bar so far that he seems like an upgrade. But for us, Leno is on the cusp of begging the question of whether Cech should start. The irony is that the deciding factor is not their actuall native goalkeeping ability but their link-up play with the ball at their feet. Leno is clearly more comfortable and at peace with the ball rather than poor old Cech who seems to want to pick the ball up. But today Leno gave up a goal and made a couple of poor judgment calls on when to come out for crosses. He looks a little lost and it feels like his confidence could wane.

For the first time in a number of years I felt like we were watching a genuinely competitive game in which we were able to stand up to a top 5 team. Even if we had lost I would have felt the same. Today we turned up. We executed a well orchestrated game-plan. Our tactics (though not some of the players) were good and adaptive. I like that we were brave enough to take off Kolasinac and put Ob1 back there. That move was sufficient for us to generate our goal. A word on Kolasinac – I was expecting him to be torn apart by Salah. He’s not blessed with speed but, in the first half when Salah played right wing, he managed to nullify him for the most part. Going forward he was strong and linked well with others. It was better performance than we had the right to expect. I had assumed we’d lose both full-backs to injuries. Thankfully Bellerin, though he was caught out of position on a couple of occasions, managed to stay on the pitch.

It’s a shame that there’s no role for Ramsey in this team. When he came on he barely impacted the game. He’s wasted on this team. We don’t quite need him. It’s just criminal that we can’t sell him for a hefty transfer fee. That’s inept on the part of Arsenal FC,. Thankfully Gazidis is finally gone to wallow in the filthy luca of Milan. This is definitely addition by subtraction. We would never have fired him. But to let this Ramsey situation to develop is a fireable offense.

A word or two on Ozil. While not his season best performance he still managed to help create a number of openings and chances. Our focus should be in getting the ball to his feet more often. Some of his flicks and one touch passing remain unparalleled in the EPL. Unfortunately he and Cigarette did not link up well today. We had to wait for Ob1 to find him.

So, this far into the season, I think we can finally make some observations based on enough data. The obvious conclusion is that we are moving, finally, in the right direction. There is still a long way to go. We’re not at the level of Man City (not that many are) but we’re also behind Chelksi and Liverpool. But, after at least two years of stagnation, we are evolving and improving. We still play entertaining football. We remain committed to beautiful football. But now we have some notion of organization, control and tactics. I will defend Wenger to my final breath (…aarrhhhh…..) but his time was over; he’d run out of ideas. Emery, full of energy and enthusiasm, a nice full head of blacked up greasy hair, is a younger model. An upgrade. And that is all that counts. Sure, I’d like to qualify for the Champions League. I don’t think we’re good enough for that. Unless we can bring in, during the January window, another center half and a right midfield player to replace Mustafa and Mickeytarrien. But we can be confident that we have gone through a state change. The club feels energized and the fans are behind the team and excited for the future. We know there will be some games when we just rip apart the opposition and other games when we flail miserably. But, as long as Emery improves the individual performances of the players (aka Ob1 and Xhaka) and continues to shuffle the team for each opponent then we can be confident in our club again. No more of this expecting the worse outcome. Waiting for the inevitable mistake form Mustafa (though this will continue to happen). Waiting for us to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And today was that turning point for that. Watching the team bounce back and dominate started to remind me of what it was like to watch our team when it had a backbone. Its been a long time since we had belief in our team. But, inch by inch it’s starting to return. Today was the first real test. And we passed. A point gained that in previous years we would have lost. And that is uplifting and exciting. Is that optimism I detect invading this blog?

-LB7

 

 

October 28, 2018 – Crystal Palace 2 Arsenal 2

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This is a game we will win next year. And this is also a game we would have lost last year. Maybe that is the ultimate sign of progress and evolution. As remarkable as we were against Leicester and as fluent as we were against Fulham, today we were workman like and slightly dull. But, it’s how you eke out points when you’re not on your game that shows the character of the team. The spine itself is a different issue.

Today we gave them a lead and then threw ours away. Too many players were not clicking today. Cigarette missed his chance and was generally off his game. In fact, their second goal came from his poor decision and poor passing. Ozil was very quiet. Ob1 reverted back to a performance plucked from his repertoire from the last few years. Mustafa was his normal reckless self. Ramsey, when he came on, was too slow on the ball and missed his golden opportunity for us to steal all three points.

It was important that we did not throw away all three points. While we might not have deserved to win – we lacked creativity today – we did not deserve to lose either. Both their goals came from the spot. The first one started with Lend ineffectively punching the ball away from the corner and to be followed by Bellerin being a little weak in the tackle to be followed up by the reliably reckless Mustafa jumping in to generate the penalty. Then in the second half, rather than remaining calm on the ball we lost it in their penalty area and then proceeded to let Zaha attack Xhaka in our box; only one winner there even if the contact was minimal.

There were periods today, as they piled on the pressure once we went ahead, that we started to revert to the team of last year. We were weak on the ball, lost important second balls, gave the ball back to them too quickly and started to give away too many free kicks. But there were also periods during the game when we seemed more balanced and more stable than any performance from last year. Generally speaking, we were composed at the back with the two deep lying midfields controlling the distribution. It was a shame that by the second half we’d not longer got our regular fullbacks on the pitch; that impacted our penetration. Today though, we found it hard to break them down and they goalie – like ours – had few meaningful saves to make.

Guendozi and Torreira was a brave choice. I know it was forced by our absence of a recognized left back. Throughout the game Torreira was outstanding; easily our best player. Guendouzi still remains a roar talent.  Whereas Torreira reads the game impeccably and is patient Guendouzi tends to force the play and finds himself running, with the ball, into crowded areas of the pitch. And, as the game wore on, he tends to make more mistakes with both his tackles and passing. In another year his game will blossom but for now, against the “big 5” he will be a vulnerability for us.

Whereas in prior games Emery has made the perfect substitutions today was the time when I think he got it entirely wrong. Though Ozil was not at his lofty standards of the last few games once you remove him you remove our ability to score. So when they tied the score it was always unlikely we’d get that extra goal. Instead he should have withdrawn Ob1; today was a throwback performance. He’s decisions were poor and his ball retention was even worse. But the fact that it’s taken this many game before I could return to my favourite scapegoat means I’ll be tolerant. And the choices on the bench are limited. When Ramsey came on to Augbamyang he was largely anonymous – though he went out to right side. This move by Emery was confusing given than it was Lichtenbergsteiner who was getting ripped apart from Zaha. The reason why Ob1 was in the starting 11 was that he provides better defensive cover. To replace Ob1 with Ramsey at that stage of the game just exposed LichtensteinBerger to more risk – especially with the booking. Ironically it was down the other side that we gave them their 2nd.

So, finally, 9 games into the season, I get to rag on my favourite two wankers – Mustafa and Ob1. I would go after Xhaka but he’s not exactly a trained full back and he did score a stunning first goal. At some point Kosclieny will come back into the team, or even, Sokratis. At this juncture, it should be Mustafa that makes way. Holding today was the more composed and solid center half. These games are allowing him to progress and develop. I don’t see that occurring with Mustafa.  Unfortunately, I can see why Ob1 starts before Mikytarrien because our Armenian does just does not know how to defend. He has exposed Bellerin far too often.

Today felt like we were teetering on a full reversion to the old AW years. The fact that we didn’t is something to be happy about. We started the game with a balanced team but ended it lacking composure. In the last 10 minutes we lost our defensive shape, and, as in previous years, overcommitted on attack. Given that we are not blessed with the fastest center-halfs and that Bellerin was off the pitch we were naïve in how to protect our lead. I trust though Emery learned more lessons today. He can build a team round Torreira, Cigarette and Ozil. But, in the next year he has to replace Mustafa and Ob1. Ramsey will be gone but we need better options off the bench on both wings.

To be in fourth position is ahead of expectations. There is visible progress at Arsenal. Emery can take credit for that. The fact that we’ve played the bottom half of the EPL has certainly helped. But then, in prior years, we would have found ways to lose to any number of these teams we’ve beaten. We should have won today but not having the winning streak hanging over us is a relief. That would have been a distraction. There are a number of weaknesses that remain in this team that will be tough to rectify with this personnel.

Our bright spots though are radiant. That third goal against Leicester will live on for many years to go alongside that one against Norwich. As long as the team does not head down that same path I’ll be happy. But that won’t happen with Torreira – he is the real deal. I’m just not sure about Guendouzi. But I am sure about Ob1 L. And Mustafa.

Next up is the interesting question of Cech. When does he get a chance to return to the team? Does Lend deserve to retain his place? The control and balance on playing out from defense has been far more controlled in the last few games. Is this due to him or the fact that the defense is adjusting to this new mode? Or are we required by European regulation to retain a minimum number of Nazis in our team? When Brexit comes are we required to return our Nazis? These days with no English players in our team we might be better off moving from Highbury to Hoffenheim.

At least now we get a run of games without any moronic international breaks. The return of our full backs will be welcome. We’ve missed Monreal and we do need Bellerin back. If not for the Mighty Blackpool then the Wolves game. We still have a favourable sequence of games ahead of us. This should further allow us time to adjust to the new tactics and provide Emery more time to assess how best to tinker with this team.

This far into the season we’re ahead of where I thought we’d be. There is a feel good factor that has returned to the club. There is some poetry in our play. And the position in the table, while flattering, helps provide the right momentum for the club. Though we still need more time to assess and judge Emery I think we can conclude that we have not hired David Moyes. Nor LVG. We seemed to have dodged the Man U syndrome. And that’s nothing to sneer at. That was always a real fear. It helped though that AW left behind a team that had missed out on the CL for two years; that had lowered expectations for Emery. There was clearly no quick fix. But, early into Emery’s reign, even after a somewhat dull and deflating result today, we are moving forward. We are progressing. There still remain flashbacks to our recent painful past.  Last year we would have lost this game even if though tried to today. But overall, we are pointing in the right direction for once and the football is enjoyable again (if not quite so today). Now let’s keep the games coming so we can figure out how far we can go. It won’t be to the top of the mountain, that’s for sure. But then when you start so far down there is always plenty of room left to grow into. So, strap on the oxygen mask and enjoy the journey. FInally, some optimisim on a dour day.

-LB7

 

 

 

October 7th – Fulham 1 Arsenal 5

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Now that’s a scoreline you don’t see too often. Or expect to see. This was entirely deserved. By far the best performance of the season. If not of the last couple of years.

It’s rare that I want to enthuse so much but today was genuinely enjoyable. We were finally fun to watch.  I think I might even have smiled during this game. Unheard of I know. This was one of our most comprehensive victories in years. Especially given our previous years away results. Total domination. You can only beat what’s in front of you. Fulham are No Chelski. But then nor are we.

Credit to Leno. His early save off the deflected shot after a lazy giveaway was, in hindsight, a turning point. Not only a great reaction save but all day long he was pretty clam with excellent distribution.

Today it’s going to be hard to find anything too negative about our players and our performance. So this will be an entirely uncritical lauding our the performance and result.

So, let’s lead with the best. That would be Cigarette. He was on fire the entire game. Two vital and impressively taken goals – both of which demonstrate different skills. One opportunistic within the box and then the all important second goal from distance. He’s all round game today was excellent; working hard off the ball to win the ball back and then he’s passing and flicks. Today he perfectly led the line. I love this guy. He’s getting more confident and just improving with every game. His goals this year have provided way more pivotal than last years. His opportunism is reminiscent of a certain TH14.

Torreira was excellent today; nearly as good as Cigarette. It was good to hear our fans cheer his name along to the old Viera tune. He deserves it. If anyone has changed the balance and impact on this team it’s our little Uruguayan. He is our Konte; our own version of Makelele. Finally, someone who provides a spine to our team. He was tenacious and hard working.  Our only player who can win a 50:50 challenge. Wrap him in cotton wall because, for us, he’s one of a kind.

So that’s three quarters of the backbone of our team. The last piece of the puzzle is the defense. And Holding had another impressive outing. A couple of poor passes aside he’s earning the right to retain his position alongside Mustafa. He was OK today but you know that mistake is just around the corner.

Monreal did not have his best game today. He gave the ball away for their goal. And was indecisive in defending. Funnily enough one of the other contributors today provided him with good protection. I can’t believe I’m going to praise Ob1 but today he earned it. Still some stupid passes and he still can’t win tackles. But he’s attacking play continues to improve. He made their right center half look like an idiot a number of times. He created our first goal and was a threat the entire game. So much so that I did not think he should have come off for Ramsey today. I was concerned when I saw both him and Wellbeck in the starting eleven today. But, against Fulham, I should not have worried. Welbeck was quiet but Ob1 was impressive.

Interestingly, though we had some outstanding individual performances today, the more noticeable change was the balance of the team. Without both Ozil and Ramsey and with Obameyang also on the bench, the team look more settled. Everyone was playing in their preferred position. Mikatarien was leaving Bellerin somewhat exposed but generally his creativity overcome those deficiencies. Xhaka had a ton of time on the ball and was able to pull the strings without having to worry about too much defensively.

And when Ramsey did come on he was instrumental in the buildup and execution of that classic Arsenal goal. From front to back it was silky smooth and tore Fulham apart. Aubameyang then scored a couple of Cigarette-like goals; the first one in particular. He would be more effective in that position if it weren’t for Cigarette. Going forward – again, without Ozil – we were so quick and incisive.   It was nearly like a throwback Arsenal team – to those days a decade ago where we could enjoy our skill and teamwork.

I know it’s only Fulham and we’re certainly not as good as we looked today. Against top 4 teams we’ll still come off second best. But today we showed real signs of progress. We have developed. And sure, we still have a long way to go. We can’t stand toe-to-toe with Man City, Liverpool or Chelski. But we are evolving. We still need to refine out spine. We need to offload Mustafa. We need to donate him to charity. Once Kosclieny comes back that might be our chance. But Holding is looking like a better bet than our resident German Silverstre.

Leno is also settling into the team quite nicely. He was key to our win today. That initial save gave us time to get to grips with the pace of the game. Starting from a one goal deficit would have change the entire complexion of this game.

So, credit to Emery for his selection. I was nervous when I saw that starting 11 but the balance and team work was as good as we’ve seen during his limited reign. There is still much work to be done but at least the platform is there and being improved.  The control of the ball was superior and the playing out from the back worked well today. Yes, against a better team, we’ll screw up a ton more but today was one to be enjoyed. It was as pleasurable as I can remember. And unexpected.

Now we head off into another ridiculous two week international break. How I hate this disruption to the flow of the season. It’s so unnecessary and just there to line the pockets of FIFA and the international associations. Let’s hope Torreira does not pick up any injury. Let’s prey for Cigarette. The fixture list won’t be as kind to us when they return. But it’s time we started to test ourselves against proper teams. We have the framework of a decent team and now we need to stress test it against a higher caliber team. And we can do this without the pressure of Emery needing to collect points to take off any pressure. It’s remarkable really to think how different his experience has been to say, Moyes, who was always under pressure after a crappy start. These points, against these weaker teams, helps alleviate any pressure on him and allows us to focus on building and learning. If we’d have lost that game against West Ham when they should have gone 2-0 up in the first half the pressure would have been tortuous. But thankfully we’ve dodged that bullet. It has allowed for a smoother, more peaceful transition of power. For that we should consider ourselves fortunate. I would guess that 90%+ of our fans are happy with our new manager. We are in a position now where even if we endure a poor run of results we’d still not second guess the choice of manager. And we should be grateful for the avoidance of that particular drama.

This smile should just about last me through this two week period.

-LB7

 

 

Sept 29th – Arsenal 2 Watford 0

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That was not expected. If anyone was going to win this one it was going to be them. Certainly based on the first 20 minutes. But somehow we’ve maintained our winning streak. Somehow we kept a clean sheet. And somehow we’ve stolen another three points.

I really don’t get our team. It’s weird to watch us play. We’re neither one thing or the other. We are not of the caliber of the top 3 teams. We don’t have the fluency nor the balance. Yet we’re finding ways to win. Maybe that’s all we can ask for in this year (or more) of transition. It’s hard to enjoy watching us play. We always seem on the precipice of hemorrhaging goals – yet we don’t. We’re not creating that much. We barely troubled Foster in goal and yet we scored twice (ok, technically we each scored once).

I’d like to start though on one of my all time favourite topics. How utterly frustrating it is to watch a match when the camera is running endless useless replays or showing us fat, ugly people in the stands while the game progressing. Is there not someone on the control room who understands that we’re tuning in to watch the game? There were so many instances when the game was proceeding and yet we weren’t able to see it on the TV. Then suddenly we’d see the ball up the other end of the pitch with no idea of how it got there. In this day and age how can this incompetence and randomness still be tolerated. Is Mike Dean’s brother running the camera control? Why don’t the Premier League control the product they create? Why are they allowing this abortion of a coverage? Why don’t we at least get picture in picture so we can follow the game from a wide angle view? Why aren’t there more people complaining on-line? I don’t understand why this persists in this day and age. It’s a travesty. Sure, people are starving in Africa. Yes I know we’re about to get our first Supreme Court Justice that will be drinking his favorite drink – beer – while sitting in judgement blanked out drunk for the rest of his life. But dam it. This is important. How can we watch these Arsenal games when the camera is pointed at anything but the game. I’ve searched the thing known at the Interweb for any clues as to who produces these pictures; who directs the camera but to no avail. So I sit here powerless; unable to improve the most important service that the TV delivers.

And if this is not bad enough (though it clearly is) we then have to compound this unforgivable injustice of watching ugly people in the stands with the commentary of Tony retarded Gayle. He is such a monumental penis. A true luddite. You only have to listen to this wanker to understand why England can’t win a world cup. He really did suggest today that Troy Deeney should be in the England team. Really? Galye makes anything up to fit his predetermined narrative. He does not understand Ozil because, we’ll, Ozil is skillful. He loves the blood and guts of the physical challenge. Except when an Arsenal player – in this case Torreira – is fouled by Deeney. Gayle, even as the endless useless replays show us the evidence (and are not actually showing the game) that demonstrates conclusively that Deeney fouled Torreira, Gayle is suggesting Torreria should be booked for making a meal of the challenge when he was not touched by Deeney. Anthony Taylor, who was meek the entire game – letting endless challenges go by and missing at least one penalty for us – actually booked Deeney, Gayle was flabbergasted.

So this game suffered under at least this double hex of the cameras and Gayle. Maybe it’s a miracle that we won. They certainly had their chances. They started brighter than us. The pressed us and gave us little space. In prior years they would have parked the bus, sat back and absorbed the pressure. Not today, they were more adventurous and actually played a decent game. They are really not a bad team. They are a solid mid-table team now. Not unlike Arsenal.

This match was eerily familiar. It was as though we were back playing Everton. And the observations are not that different either. We still want to play out the back when we have players that are not well suited for that. Xhaka was nearly caught once outside our own box. Mustafa is a disaster waiting to happen. His side-kick was the far better of the two center halfs. Bellerin still can’t block or intercept a cross by his winger. And Torreira is the real deal. How good is he? He’s so good he makes Xhaka look like a decent player. Torreira liberates him from the defensive duties Xhaka is so poorly suited for and allows him to stroll around playing long passes.

Balance is our problem. In the first half, as with the Everton match, Ramsey and Ozil were barely involved. How weak was Ramsey? So weak that Ob1 was a game changer when he replaced him. Ob1 was the catalyst for both goals. How depressing is that? Of course, before then Cigarette should have scored a couple of goals. Today was not one of his best performances. He should have gone down for a penalty in the first half and he should have scored with a mistimed header in the second half.

Back to Ramsey. It’s not his fault Arsenal took the contract offer off the table. It’s not his fault that Emery is playing him out of position. And it’s also not Ozil’s fault that he’s also played out of position. But between them we get the worst of both. In the second half at least Ozil came into the game (not that he was anonymous in the first). He orchestrated most of the game. But Ramsey is lost. He’s not a natural number 10. But Emery insists in playing him there. This can’t continue. There is very little fluency in our build up play. We only look threatening on the counter-attack. We need Ozil more central to help create and control. But I don’t know where Ramsey fits. He’s definitely earned the right to start. He’s one of our best players. But he has to be put in the right position. You’d not put Cech at center forward, you’d not put Xhaka in goal and you’d not put Mustafa at center half (ah…..). Anyway, it looks like we’re set up for a reprise of the Sanchez pantomime It’s a shame though because Ramsey has been one of the few constants in this squad. He deserves to play in a position that highlights his box to box skills. Unfortunately, Xhaka is occupying that position. So we’ve got square pegs in round holes. This is ok against the average teams but will be exploited relentlessly by the top teams (in the EPL and Europe). It feels like we’re on a knife edge.

Does this seem ungrateful? We’ve won again. Five league games on the trot? Why the negatives? Because this year was always about transition. We made the biggest change of the last 22 years with a new manager. So let’s embrace that change. Let’s develop a spine in our team. And that spine will never be stable if it includes Mustafa or Xhaka. And heavens above if it contains both. I’m not against losing a few games or points if it helps us evolve and develop. It enables us to find our identify and develop a core in the team that positions us to truly compete for the league. At the moment we seem like we’ll always be a solid team that will consistently fall short. Torreira remains a big positive – aside from when we gave the ball away a couple of times. He helps us move into a future state. But we need to be braver. Maybe I’m too impatient. Maybe I should be grateful we’re not as poor as last year. There are signs of improvement. But it does not take a rocket scientist to see that are fundamental issues with this team.

You have to feel sorry for Cech. He’s been our savior this season. He’s been under undue criticism because he’s so uncomfortable passing out of the back. But he saved us against Everton and has started to come to grips with our new approach. And now he’s been struck down with the Ramsey hamstring curse. This could seem him out for a while. Leno took his chance quite well today. He does not look too bad. He made one excellent save and seem unafraid to come for corners etc. But he’ll need time to get used to the physicality of the English game. In the meantime, I’ll miss Cech. This could be the end of his time as our number 1 goalie. By the time he comes back – which I figure is a couple of months – Leno should have firmly established himself.

I’ve also yet to figure out the right position for Augamayang. Today he seemed a little lost as well. Often peripheral to the game. It’s not clear where to play him. Add this to the Ramsey and Ozil positional issue and it’s not hard to see why we’re unbalanced. We haven’t maximized the best of our defense – because of Mustafa and that no-one has taught Bellerin how to defend . And we have yet to figure out how to slot together the attacking pieces we have at our disposal. Against teams like Watford and Everton we might be able to slide by. In both cases we should consider ourselves fortunate to get three points. But against the teams above us we’ll not be able to cover up these flaws. Not that I ever expected us to compete against them this year. But, again, I want to see progress. Maybe the mental side is improving. But we were never that bad at home last year. It’s away where we’ll be tested.

I was impressed with Holding again today. He managed Deeney quite well. He is more reliable than Mustafa (but then who isn’t). It would be interesting to see Sokratis play alongside Holding at some point. Could you build a team around Leno, Holding and Torreira? That’s not a bad partial spine. Ozil looks to be grinding his way back into his game. After the abuse and racism he’s had to deal with it’s good that he was able to score today. You might even have noticed how he chased back into our own penalty area to tackle and bring the ball out. Not that Gayle noticed. He thought Ozil’s only contribution was the goal. But then when you’re such a caveman (not that I have anything against cavemen) and a cunt, it’s only to be expected I suppose.

So I’ll find ways to be grateful for the three points and look for the silver linings. I must become a glass is half full supporter again. I’ll have to submit to some therapy to resolve this trauma. I used to enjoy the football but the last few years have taught me to prepare for disappointment. It’s the natural English in me. A nation of perpetual losers. A nation of Tony Gayles. But I know we can do better. Let’s see if Emery is the man that can do this. Time will tell. And I’ll try and remain patient.

-LB7

September 23rd – Arsenal 2 Everton 0

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CigaCech. Two outstanding performances gave us the points today. One was a game changer to give us the lead and the other preserved an undeserved clean sheet. If Cigarette played for Everton we’d have lost 3-0. Luckily, we sold them Walcott.

Another victory. Another 3 points. And another unsatisfying display. Long may this combination continue. We’re inching our way towards a better selection of players. Cigarette is clearly ensconced as our central striker. And now we’ve started with Torreira. That gave us more defensive balance. But in the first 20 minutes Everton still got behind our defense and should have scored. In fact it only took them 3 minutes.

It’s a shame that it was Sokratis that picked up the knock and not Mustafa. But Holding came on and held it together. There were one of two moments when he overplayed out of defense but nether were tested too much. I suppose I’d grudgingly admit this was not Mustafas worse game (the bar is very low) but in that first half he still found a way to give them ball back on the edge of our box. Soon a better team than Everton will capitalize on the gifts that our defense presents.

As poor as we were again in the first half we were fortunate to go in at half time level. The second half started out the same way with Everton dominating. Jon Moss, who, generally speaking, is a fat pig, then determined that the handball by Kenney in the box was not a penalty for us. The commentators seemed to agree with this decision. Yet, in the first half there was an identical incident when we were attacking and the ball bounced up and hit (I think) Cigarette when he was inches away from the ball and somehow Moss called that one as handball.

Ramsey and Ozil were anonymous in that first half. Just like last week. We have to figure out the balance of this team. I don’t see how it helps having Ozil wide right and Ramsey in the #10 spot. It brings out the worst in both of them. Neither are in their preferred positions. As the game progressed Ozil was able to impose himself more on the game whereas Ramsey remained pretty tepid. He works hard and can certainly change a game but not from that role. It’s not clear to me how you can fit both players into this system and retain any balance. There was little interchange and passing today. There was only one sequence in the first half. Most of our offense was coming down down Monreals’ side.  It took a moment of magic from Cigarette to wake us out of our deep slumber. Thankfully that goal seemed to drain the confidence of Everton. And a few minutes latter, care of an awful decision by the linesman, we were able to double the lead. The goal itself was symptomatic of our play. Ciagarette working hard to win the ball, lose it and then win it back to set off Ozil. Then Ramsey found a way to hash his chance on goal only for Aubameyang, in a clearly offside position, to grab the second.  Eventually the EPL was operate using VAR but today we should be grateful. That goal sealed it. It just remained to see whether we’d keep a clean sheet or give away another senseless goal.

Cech was outstanding today. Literally from the first minute he saved every opportunity they had. He dominated the box from corners, was quick when coming out to cut down their breakaways and not too nerving when on the ball. There is no evidence that he’s going to lose his starting spot anytime soon. Of course, in the next game, he’ll now make a mistake. Today he was the reason were still in the game before Cigarette scored his brilliant goal. Now if we could only get two central defenders in front of him. And we still need to work on teaching Bellerin how to defend. Too many times today he allows defenders to cross the ball without closing them down. And for a player with abundant speed is surprising how Richarlison ran him in circles. I’d take him or Gueye on our team.

So some progress. Torreira liberated Xhaka such that he was no longer our worst player. Xhaka still (like Mustafa) nearly lost the ball on the edge of our area in the first half. Aside from that Xhaka was solid if somewhat uninspiring. Torreira though, for his first full game, was very clam and stablizing. He’s got a great positional sense and also picks up the ball from our defenders constantly. We looked more solid with him providing that defensive shield. But he needs helps. Both in terms of defending (I’m talking about you Xhaka) and in terms of making themselves available to receive the ball – that’s you Ramsey and Ozil. Unfortunately, when Ramsey did receive the ball his touch and passing were off. But having Torreria in the starting eleven is progress. It provides a better balance. Now we need to figure out other parts of the team. Because in the first half we were turgid. Emery’s substitutions were again good moves. Taking off Ramsey was something AW would not have done. I suspect, by the way, that Ramsey is still not fully fit and that the international workload did not help him either. We’ll have to manage him carefully in order to prevent his usual thigh injury. Ob1 was not a bad introduction. He seems a little more lively under this manager. He’s working harder and is better defensively than Aubameyang.

Lastly, a final word on the departure of Gazidis. Bye-bye. Why is he still around? Why is he due to speak to the fans at the next (and last ever) shareholder/fan meeting? It’s like transferring a player to another team and, after completion of the transfer, they continue to play for us for a couple of games. He no longer represents Arsenal. I don’t care if he’s seeing out his garden leave he should be gone. I want to hear from the new management not the Milan management. But at least he’s finally gone. As much as I think he’s a gutless prick for leaving just after he finally had the balls to impose his will on Arsenal FC with the new management structure, I understand it’s hard to not only walk away from a doubling in salary but, more importantly, equity in the football club – especially when that’s Milan. That will be worth, in due course, a ton of money. Ironic that at the same time all Arsenal shareholders are simultaneously being liberated from their own equity ownership (though at a fine price).

So, some silly midweek competition aside (when we’ll at least get to see some of the younger players) next up it will be the surprisingly dangerous Watford. They always find a way to bully us. And there’s little in this current team to indicate we’ll be able to withstand their usual tactics. Hopefully Sokratis will have recovered by then. I’d still like to see him alongside Holding.  At least Holding won’t get as easily bullied as will Mustafa by Deeney.

-LB7

 

 

 

Sept 15th – Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2

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Another game of two halves. And fortunately for both teams. We were nowhere in the first but for the first 20 minutes of the second we dominated and sealed the victory. Newcastle pressed in the first half and disappeared in the second. And, naturally, we felt comfortable enough to gift them their token goal.

The fixture list has been kind to us. It’s giving Emery time to recover from having to play two real teams to now playing the dross at the bottom. Hopefully he’s learning some lessons. The obvious one from today is that Torreira has to start. Though I really like Guendouza, if you’re not going to replace Xhaka then he has to be the one to give way. Once Torreira was on the pitch the tempo of our game picked up. We drove forward more, passed the ball quicker and with more purpose. Sure, some of that might have come from the half-time team talk but some of it was due to this change.

We had many chances to make this 3-0 as we dominated the game. Newcastle looked lost. There was no passion in their game. Normally at St. James Park you face a team that makes up in passion what they lack in talent. Not today thankfully. In the first half they did look threatening but that was as much due to our inability to retain and pass the ball with any purpose. It was all possession with no intent. Ozil and Ramsey were barely involved. It was all rather bland and boring to watch. A team with no personality playing against a team with no talent.

What were the other lessons? Hm, I wonder? Oh yes, it turns out we have a retard at center-half. Shocking. I’m sure that has been unnoticed for a while now. In the first half retard boy falls over – reprising the great fall from the League Cup final against Man City – to give them a run on goal. Fortunately, Sokratis covered for him. In the second half he had to step up his game as we’d taken a two goal lead. So he managed to completely lose his man in our area such that when they crossed Joselu had a free header that Cech saved. Disappointed in that failed attempt he managed to completely lose his man again so that Clark could get their goal. At some point Emery has to learn the next lesson – that playing Mustafi undermines the defense. Playing a one legged, blind handicapped person with syphilis in a wheel chair would be an improvement. I fear that Emery can’t see what everyone else can. I fear Emery can’t make the important decisions we need to move us ahead. I’m not judging him quite yet. I’ve committed to waiting 10 games before the mighty pen is wielded in that regard. But the defense has to be addressed. No clean sheet and the last three games have been against the worst the Premier League can offer.  Though Cech barely had a save to make we looked vulnerable in the first half and positional suspect. We don’t’ seem to have learned any lessons from Cardiff in terms of how to defend set pieces. Why are we still putting the smallest players on their largest ones? It’s always Ramsey or Bellerin at the back post marking their target man. How has this not been addressed?

Xhaka scored. Praise the lord. And, care of Mustafi, he was not the worst player on our team. In fact he improved once Torreira showed up. It’s always good to have the younger kids running around, doing all the leg work such that the grown-ups can just stroll around at their leisure. It was a good free-kick though if Cech had let that in we’d all be calling for Leno. This free kick was the main contribution of Aubameyang. I remain unconvinced. He should have put us 3 nil up and overall his link up play was poor. This was compensated for by Cigarette who had another strong game. Chasing down lost causes, making great runs off the ball and providing intelligent link up play. A non-elephant-like Giroud if you will.

Ozil coolly slotted away the all-important second goal. This capped a much improved second half performance from him. Again, this opportunity came care of another Cigarette attempt on goal. When Ozil moves the ball quickly there is no-one quite like him. But I don’t really see how he forms a partnership with Ramsey. I see little fluency. Ramsey was poor today. Too often giving the ball away and slowing down our possession. But it’s good he can play like that and we can still win. He’s had a good start to the season and is allowed one off game. Unlike Mustafi….

As good as Cigarette and Ozil was though our best player across the 90 minutes was Sokratis. Having to play alongside our retard has got to be tough going. He covered for him on numerous occasions. His distribution was solid aside from one errant pass in the first half. But his defensive performance overall was stellar. He was aggressive, decisive and a rock at the center of our defense. His best performance for us by a long shot. Hopefully this is a sign that he’s getting to gripe with both the physicality and pace of the English game. Unlike a certain other (retard) he is not easily brushed off the ball. He uses his physical presence to impose himself on the attacker. And he’s calm. Now we just have to find him a defensive partner. We can’t wait for Kosclieny to return in November. We have to make a move before then. But I fear Emery will stick with the same team. As he did after the Cardiff match. And that’s worrying.

This week we restart the NoHopaCup which will at least give him a chance to see a different defensive pairing. And we’ll all finally get a look at our new Nazi goalkeeper. With the addition of some of the younger players that makes these games more interesting than normal. Then the week after that there’s the Brentford game in a competition that no-one knows the name of. This is Emery’s chance to experiment and challenge the players on the edges of the first team.

I’m happy that he’s using Mikeytarrian from the bench. That’s some progress. I’m relived that he’s finally understood that Cigarette deserves to start. Now he has to get on board with Torreira. If we see that move for the Everton game then the next piece of the puzzle is the replacement of our retard defender. Then we might start to have a spine in our team. It’s just not possible with Mustafi. He’s too much of a liability. We know he’ll play well for 85 minutes in every game but will make one if not two crucial mistakes in every game. And at this level that’s unacceptable.

Change needs to be a-coming. We changed our manager. We changed so much. Maybe before Christmas we can change our center half. I suspect before we do that we’ll have changed our CEO. A lot has been written about Gazidis leaving. If he’s going to go then the sooner the better. But after 10 years in the CEO role to leave now is underwhelming in that he did little except for the last year or so. He’s just made the most important change, finally has control but wants to leave now.  It will introduce some instability and unnerve the Sven and Emery and impact the management organization. If mini-Stan takes over maybe that will help but who knows as his only qualification is his DNA. I doubt whether he has any experience, talent and ability to fill this role. But I think this has been drawn out too much. If Gazidis is going we should fire him and be done with it. If he does not want to be here after 10 years then we should not want to retain him. And maybe after a year or so Mini-Stan can give way to a grown-up. In the meantime we need to get some of these players tied down to contracts and increase the commercial scope of the club.

Back to football though. Three wins on the trot. Not too bad. The performance was not convincing. We need to sort out the balance of the team. But getting the points is what really counts. The EPL games will start to get tougher now. That also means the field will open up a little more which, if we can solve our defense, could help us going forward. We can score – that we know. But can we defend? Unfortunately we know that answer as well.

-LB7

 

 

 

 

 

Sept 2nd – Cardiff 2 Arsenal 3

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Undefeated in two games. Two wins in a row. We’ll be challenging for 5th place before you know it. Thank you, Cardiff. Can we play you next week? Who knew the Welsh could be so hospitable?

It’s all about selection. While surprisingly attacking we finally got to see Cigarette and Aubamayeng start the game together. And while both scored wonderful games the overall contribution of Cigarette was outstanding. The best player on the pitch. He was alive and active the entire game. And he scored a wonderful goal that earned us the three points we tried so desperately to throw away.

What a wankey way to start the game though. Cech is being put in the position of looking like an old age pensioner in a 100 meter sprint. It’s embarrassing. And against a half way competent team we’d have been 1-0 down within the first 5 minutes. Luckily Arter is only good for thuggish tackling and has no other talent. When you’re not good enough for Bournemouth you can only end up at Cardiff.

Cardiff predictably pressured our defense when we had possession and, most of the time, we seemed to handle that except when poor old Cech was involved. He just looks so uncomfortable. It’s really a microcosm of how the game has changed. When he first started playing professionaly he was a trend-setter. A young goalie at Chelski that changed what was expected in terms of the way he imposed himself and dominated games. But that was all about shot topping and owning the penalty box. Now, care of Pep, we demand that our goalkeeper is as comfortable on the ball as the other defenders. It’s all the rage. Look at Allison at Liverpool. Cech is not the only who’s finding it nearly impossible to adapt. It will though be the end of him. It will sap his confidence and undermine the skills he so clearly still possesses. In the meantime, we’re on a knives edge playing out from the back.

We’re not helped by the continued lack on imbalance in midfield. If we’re going to play out of the back we need midfielders making themselves available to receive the ball from the defenders. It happened when Torreira came on. But, in the first half, Ozil and Ramsey rarely showed for the ball. It was though good to see both of them play together. Ramsey was more impactful in the first half but continually found space to operate on the left. Ozil started to impose himself in the second half. There were times we started to feel like a team.

However, we still conspired to give up two goals to a club that is destined to return to the Championship within one season. If you could be relegated half way through a season then Cardiff and West Ham would prime candidates. Both of their goals were essentially unforced errors. The first one was inexplicable except that it was our friend Xhaka at his best. There you are, an international, experienced player with your team 1-0 away from home within a couple of minutes of half-time and you decide to play an under hit, lazy cross-field ball that exposes the team to a counter-attack. You then dawdle back into the center of defense to offer a weak attempt to win a header. Thereafter the ball fortunately drops to their striker to score. A goal out of nothing. And the second goal? After watching a handful of free-kicks all being payed the same way – onto the head of Morrison their lumbering giant of an unskilled footballer. What does the collective brain trust of Arsenal decide to do? They have Ramsey mark him; a clearly well thought out strategy. Shocking the giant won the header over the Welshmen and they scored. Where are the brains on this team?

Thankfully, interspersed between these cock-ups, we controlled the game and dominated. The interplay was better as was our movement. We hit the post, had a number of good corners – at least Xhaka can take corners – and frequently got behind their defense.

While our defense was not too tested (unless when giving the ball away) Mustafa scored a thunderbolt header and could have had a couple more. They had no answer to him. And then our new pairing of Cigarette and Aubamyang (CigAyang) combined with Ozil to contrast a beautiful goal that got Obang off the mark. And then Cigarette grabbed the three points for us.

So, of my usual pet hates, Mustafa only made one mistake today – he’s usual one per game – in the second half when he got caught on the ball when he tried to chest it under control that lead to yet another breakaway chance for them. His play out the back is much improved – I’ll credit Emery with being a positive influence – but the mental concentration remains an issue. Sokratis was reasonably solid. I still have yet to figure him out. He seems stable if underwhelming and he needs a goalkeeper who can handle the possession game. Both full backs had plenty of opportunity to drive our attack today as Cardiff played so narrow. But neither is getting that much protection in front of them. Ramsey and Obang both left them exposed. Against better teams – which is anyone other team in this league – we won’t be able to be so attacking.

But what to do with Xhaka? Does he have pictures of Emery and a goat? Does Xhaka have Emery’s children locked up in his cellar? What does Xhaka have to do in order to get dropped? If Xhaka was dead, lying in a morgue or buried six foot underground would Emery still select him? If Xhaka lost both arms and legs in a gardening accident would Emery still have him on the bench? While Emery finally got it right today with CigAyang he now needs to solve our midfield. We need to see Guendoza and Torreira alongside each other. We know they are both inexperienced but it’s not clear that Xhaka’s experience is anything other than counter productive. TorrDoza is the future backbone of this team and they need to be given their chance. Now we have a couple of wins under our belt and we’re away from the relegation zone (for the moment) we need to have them play alongside each other. I know Guendoza is new to the game and tires later in the game. But when he’s on the pitch he’s the only one making himself available for the ball, who’s aggressive in the tackle. We need to help him with Torreira. Everytime this kid comes on the pitch we play better. He created the winning goal. He is tidy in possession. He is a fierce tackler. Basically everything that Xhaka is not.

Though we’ve only just started the season we’re already into our first irritating break for Internationals. Hopefully Xhaka can play 180 minutes for the Cheesemen; maybe he’ll pick up an injury. When they all return I fear we’ll still have to wait for Emery to figure out the right starting eleven (i.e. not picking Xhaka). It’s a long season and we’ve barely started. Today we saw a few more green shoots of what this team might evolve into. There was one sublime move in the second half on the right hand side that was all one touch passing that resulted in Bellerin crossing the ball that just eluded Ramsey in the box. At our best we still look like the AW team at it’s best and at our worst our defense still looks like the defense AW created. But it feels like we have a few players who can take us to a better level. They just have to be on the pitch to influence the game. We started with one ½ of the combination we needed – CigAyang but we also need TorrDoza.

So progress today – even if painful at times. We demonstrated that we could recover from (self-inflicted) setbacks; twice. We created chances and we somehow did all this without Ob1 on the pitch. That’s progress.

– LB7

 

 

 

 

August 25th – Arsenal 3 West Ham 1

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First off, how crappy are West Ham? And how much did we struggle? It’s a minor miracle we got all three points. Our defense tried its best to help them out. As did our defensive midfield. Or what would be in a normal team.

Given my own rules of engagement, after only three games in I must refrain from judging Emery for another 7 games. But someone needs to explain to me the logic of the selection policy. How is it even possible to Xhaka to be on the bench let alone starting? And why was Torreira not starting? And how does Ob1 start?

I don’t like to rain on our won parade. Frankly we looked a mess for most of the game. I don’t know whose team this is? It’s not Wengers’ anymore and it does not seem like Emerys. Whereas last week there were signs of progress after an unimpressive first game todays seemed like a definite backward move. It started with the perplexing team selection and then proceeded as we played the type of open, unstructured and unprotected football of the last five years. If we were like this in sexual relations we’d have about 5 children by now. How often did they catch us on the break? And how did they score their first goal when we actually 5 players back?

Against even a half way competent team we would have let in 3 goals all on counter-attacks. A combination of Arnautovic being injured and Hernandez being shit saved us. And it how unfortunately ironic was it that one of their best chances fell to Lucas Perez; you can see now why he’s on the West Ham team. But how can we be so exposed to the break from our own corner – as we were in the second half – when we already have the lead; have we learned nothing? I thought things were supposed to be different now with the new manager. It felt like deja-vu watching our game management. It was awful. And that’s besides the awful players we insist on selecting.

Still the balance of this team looks wrong. Our right hand side seems to be structured as a no-defensive zone. Going forward Bellerin got to the their byline and Mickatarien was creative; they setup our first goal. But when they lose the ball; when we were not in possession, we were incapable of protecting that side of our defense. Bellerin has yet to figure that part of the game out and he’s not helped by Mickatarien who is incapable of tracking back with their players. We will continue to be exposed down our right until either Bellerin is instructed in how to defend or Mickatarien is shifted to another position. And it’s not like the center of defense was any better. Our two center half’s have yet to figure out how to play together. Once Sokratis, inside their half, was pressing so high that he was luckily to foul their player and not expose our entire back line. And then there was that instance in the first half when he paniced and whiffed at the ball inside the 6 yard area. The occasions in the first half when they exposed us on the counter-attack were so numerous. And, of course, it did not help that Xhaka was the defensive cover. Or not.

In the second half we thankfully brought on Cigarette for Ob1; not sure if that was injury related or not but Ob1 was just like last years version – shit. Cigarette made a difference even if it meant Aubameyang had to move out to the wing. We had more energy and better hold up play. I just don’t get why he does not start. It’s a shame Aubameyang missed his one clear chance in the second half; that will damage his confidence further. But I figure this is all good because at some point he will, as a natural goal scorer, come good for us.

Then we brought on Torreira. Finally. But even he played too far up the pitch. But at least he became our defensive cover rather than the vacuum we had. And it pushed Xhaka into a less dangerous part of the pitch. It’s apparent that Torreira is, like Guendoza and Bellerin, not quite ready yet. But I don’t mind persevering with him if that helps he’s growth. It’s not like we’re going to win the league this year. But we have to develop. We have to evolve. Today we regressed. It makes no sense to persist with Xhaka and Ob1; let alone Mustafi. This is Emerys’ chance to implement real change. And I fear that he’s too conservative. I saw no change in how we played today. It was a throwback day. Any against nearly another other team in this league we’d have been beaten. We are too vulnerable in defense and we lack fluency in our passing game. I just don’t see what our game-plan is.

We are fortunate that we have a run of games against less impressive competition. Or teams only marginally worse than us. This gives us more time to find our mojo; to find our identify. Because we lost it this week. I can’t get my head around the lack of defensive discipline. If we play at Cardiff how we used to at Swansea where we’d overcommit and get caught on the break then I will start to despair of Emery. But over the next few games he has to own this team. He has to make the right selection choices. This team needs surgery and I’m not sure he’s the surgeon we need. We have some players that could help. Let’s find out. Playing the same boring and tired failures won’t demonstrate anything other than Emery is a mini-Wenger (without the prior 10 year winning record).

It was pretty depressing watching us today. I’m not at despair yet. There is plenty of time for that. Not being good enough is one thing but not progressing is unacceptable; and today there were worrying signs. The only interesting player I see is Guendoza. He made many mistakes today; he’s passing was off. But at least he played with energy. He was also played higher up the pitch as Xhaka was the defensive cover. Really? That made no sense. But we have to figure out how to have Guendoza and Torreira play alongside each other. It’s a long season though so I suppose patience is warranted.

So, I think we’ve figured out two of the teams that will be relegated – Cardiff and now West Ham. They were awful today; their defense looked about as poor as ours. And, unfortunately, you could see why Jack was on their team not ours. He’s mistake lead to our third goal but overall, aside from the nice short pass he failed to control the game and we expose he’s lack of speed.

As we watch the top 5 or 6 teams though it’s obvious that we’re way off their level. We’re barely in the same league. Today showed this is at least a two year re-build. It’s just remains to see who should be orchestrating this rebuild. Today was the first day I got a bad feeling about that. Emery has the chance to be brave and bold; he has the runway, the goodwill to institute real change and we all know it will take time. He can’t squander that. He needs to make this clearly his team with his tactics and with his personality. Today this team played with the personality of Denilson and the personality of Silverstre.

As an aside, we’ve yet to hear much on the Gazidis switch to Milan. As much as he’s the puppet of our owner Stan it will be interesting to see if he sticks around. For me, if he leaves it will say that he does not own the current structure; he did not choose this manager. That he did really want Arteta.  If he does stays then Emery was his choice. I have not facts to support this, but I think he’ll be off. And he might yet be proven to be right. But we won’t know for at least 7 more games. It’s funny how three points that were so desperately needed can feel so utterly unsatisfying.

-LB7

 

 

 

August 18th – Chelsea 3 Arsenal 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Welcome back. It’s been a while. Did you miss me while I was away? Did you hang my picture on the wall? (check out the lyrics of that song). So much has changed and yet some things remain the same.

So, is your glass half full or half empty? Is it positive that we scored two goals and recovered from our disastrous start? Is it positive that there were some signs of development in our play? Or, should the loss of another game, the shabby defending and that inability of certain players to demonstrate they deserve to play at this level point to a forthcoming disappointing season. Is this boss the same as the old boss? Are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the last five years? Will incremental change help here? Is Emery too cautious in the changes that are needed?

It’s not that hard. Two managers AW and Emery. Both world class. It’s obvious to anyone to see what’s wrong. So why can’t they? Xhaka is a cunt. Just in case there’s any ambiguity about this, let me state it more clearly – Xhaka is a useless fucking football player. He is lazy, he is incapable of being a positive influence and he’s got the football IQ of a demented midget. OK, i think you get the general idea. Also, Mustafi remains perpetually shit. And Mikatarien can’t defend for his live. So why are they playing? Especially the first two. New manager same as the old one. It’s about personnel choices. You have at least two viable options on the bench. How can we not be playing our little Uruguayan? A dead person would be an improvement on Xhaka. Even if rigor mortis had set in. He re-defines what it means to be shit. And yet we persist in selecting him. And when I say we I mean our new manager; just like the old one.

Chelski should have demolished us in the first half. 2-0 up and we should have been put to death. Mikatarien was killing us. Every-time they attacked down our right he was out of position and incapable of tracking back. But even then we found ways to miss clear cut open chances to sneak back into the game. Poor old Obameyang. Two golden chances. He’ll have nightmares about those.

AW would never have pulled Xhaka at half-time. What a difference Torreira makes to this team. We nearly become a team. Sure, we lost the three points in the second half. And sure, Torreira lost Marcos in the box for them to score. That’s why we have to play him. So, like Guendouzi, we just have to play him and let them learn from their mistakes. These two are our future – or at least the springboard for our future. So this was a positive move by Emery. As was the one where he took off Ozil. Again, there’s no way AW would have done that. Ozil was again ineffective. He’s contribution is minimal. And I don’t mean with his defensive duties – because as those watching closely against Man City would have seen – he does, in fact, track back. But in the creative final third he has been light weight. So when Ramsey came on I thought we got better again. So we see a pattern that Emery’s substitutions demonstrate no allegiance to any player, no notion of seniority or no entitlement. Another positive.

But please get rid of Xhaka. Today he was worse than light weight. Worse than ineffective. Between him and Mikatarien, they lost the ball and failed to track any players. But Xhaka is supposed to be a leader; a captain. Except that his ship is riddled with holes and it’s sinking fast (just not fast enough).

And while you’re at it Mustafa really has to go. That second goal was unforgivable. Beaten at the half way line because he was inside their half and not close enough to Morata. Then beaten in a foot race to then be out played. Dreadful. But, again, no surprises there. We know what he’s capable of.  The question is when will Emery figure this out.

When do we judge Emery? Not after two games. Consider this period our real pre-season. If I remember correctly (which is highly unlikely) Pottechino took 11 games to stamp his authority on that team. Sari only needed a pre-season but he was left with a far superior selection of players.

Maybe after 10 games we’ll have a sense of whether Emery change implement change. I believe that we have the midfield players to provide a backbone – Guendozi and Torreira. And Cech proved, yet again, why he should be starting. But no team can carry Mikatarren, Ozil, Mustafa and Xhaka. And it’s so disappointing I’ve not even been able to have a dig at Ob1. Because he was by no means the least effective player today – there’s too much competition for that title.

The issue for Emery is how to combine his philosophy with the players at his disposal. He needs to play Cigarette – even though he created the third and winning goal for them. And he has to figure out the balance of the attacking midfield. Can he play Ozil and Ramsey? How long can he afford to carry Mikatarien? And what’s to be done with Mustafi? And can he offload Xhaka now.

We were never going to win the league this year. We were unlikely to even qualify for the Champions League. This rebuild will take a few years. But we want to be able to identify green shoots. Did we today? Did we last week? Possibly. But again, we’ll have to wait 10 games to make any real assessment.

How is Emery going to handle pressure? This is a nice baptism by fire. No points after two games does start to play on the mind. Rationally we know that Cardiff will be relegated. And Fulham, Wolves, West Ham and others will compete for the remaining relegation slots. So we have no fears beyond ending up as a mid-table team competing with Everton for 6th and 7th spot. That might be the level of our aspirations for this year. But what we need to understand, and see evidence of, is the development of the character of this team. Do we develop a backbone? Do we shorn ourselves of the obvious rubbish in our current team? Again, this will take time. Emery seems like the kind of manager that will evolve to these outcomes rather than make immediate, dramatic changes. But at some point he’ll have to permanently discard Xhaka and bench Ozil. And what happens when the inevitable injury to Ramsey happens? Who’s going to be the leader on this team? Will take responsibility – on the field – for shouting at other players? It might be Guendouzi or even Torreira. But then maybe I’m projecting too much onto them

But back to Ozil. I suspect Ozil needs time out of the spot light. He does not look happy. I would not underestimate the crushing deflation of the German World Cup fiasco. And I would not underestimate the personal fallout from his picture with the dictator of Turkey. The clear racism that Ozil was subjected to – and the lack of support from both the German federation and the German players – has taken it’s toll on him. Ozil was their most gifted player. He created chances for this team. They clearly lacked someone who could score goals. And yet, somehow, he became the brunt of the criticism; the touchstone for failure. Ozil has had to shoulder this without obvious support. His resignation statement was outstanding. The Rummenigge response was stunning in its blatant racism and pettiness. And yet, no-one pushed back and stood up for Ozil. And then Kroos piles in. Ozil is well out of there. But, what does this mean for us? I think it will take him time to rediscover his love for the game. In the meantime, he should be out of the firing line.

There are many, longer-term, structural concerns with this club. We spent good money on a goalkeeper we don’t need to play and yet could not purchase the center-back we clearly need. Who is responsible for these decisions? And we seem to have moved from a fixation with French players to a German one that only allows us to acquire players from Dortmund or Borrussia. That’s a Sven issue. And we’ll also need to figure out this Gazidis issue. After pushing out his nemesis, AW, he’s now looking to move over to A. C. Milan. This is scarily similar to what happened at ManU when Fergie and their CEO, David Gill, also departed. I’ve never been a great fan of Ivan but too much change is not great And, he bears responsibility for all the changes that came on his watch. One would have imagined he’d like to stick around to see bath in the glory of success – to own these changes. But maybe this is all related Stan taking Arsenal private. Arsenal will become an opaque club. No insights into their finances and no accountability. The only remedy for this is success on the pitch. No pressure then on Emery.

Watching Arsenal has become numbing to the sense of enjoyment. That first twenty minutes was reminiscent of the lack of backbone, tactics and team work that we saw all too often last year (and the year before that….). But even then we had chances. So we know we can now score. But can we defend? And can we find an identity? Chelski have. Liverpool have. But we’re just not at that level. We are in search of our identity. And, that takes time. So hold onto the roller coaster that will tease us into believing we’re further along this “process” or “project” only to realize – come Liverpool or Sp*rs – that we’re at least one level below them.

Up next is Jack and WHU. I thought that against Man City the fans behaved like genuine supporters; loud, understanding and passionate. Hopefully after todays’ game that will stay the same; we need to remain patient and supportive. It’s way too early to judge. Even if we loose or draw to WHU you need to keep your eye on signs of evolution and progress. Assess whether Emery is making meaningful changes. That’s what should be guiding our thought process. This is not so much a call to arms as a call to the couch. Crack open a beer, light up a joint. Chill out and pace yourself for a long, tough season but one that, I hope, will change the trajectory of this team. If we end up 6th or 7th but have sold (or donated) Xhaka, placed Mikatarien on the bench and returned to Germany Mustafi then I’ll be a happier person.

Oh, it’s good to be back.

-LB7

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