Monthly Archives: October 2018

October 28, 2018 – Crystal Palace 2 Arsenal 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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