Monthly Archives: December 2018

December 16th – Southampton 3 Arsenal 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– LB7

December 8th – Arsenal 1 Huddersfield 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

December 5th – Man United 2 Arsenal 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

 

December 1st – Arsenal 4 Sp*rs 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7