Monthly Archives: February 2019

Feb 24th – Arsenal 2 Southampton 0

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond

The reverse fixture and the reverse result. In the first half we created chances and took them. In the second half we were pedestrian and somehow managed to miss our chances.

Southampton were not so bad actually; they started brightly and then faded as the game went on. Their high pressure tactics were effective to an extent but yet yielded us chances. Our left hand side was where most of the creativity originated. Did I ever mention what a wonderful player Ob1 is? He set up the first goal and the second and was the able to make defense splitting passes. His final cross is still a little misguided – indecision is one of his weaknesses – but today is not the day to criticize him (there will be plenty of those to come). He linked up well with Kolinsac and dominated that side of the field.

OneEye got the selection right today. A better balance to our midfield. He restored, finally, the Torreira and Xhaka axis. It allows Xhaka more freedom even if he’s playing deeper than our Uruguayan. Some of Xhakas’ cross field passes in the first half were fantastic. There was one played from just inside the right half way line he played right across the field behind their right back to Ob1 which was perfect. In that first half even MIckeytarrien looked like a reasonable player. He linked up well with old man Licthensteinbergstein. They moved the ball quickly and pulled Southampton all over the place.

Of course we gave them chances. Why would we not? We are the Salvation army of chances. Especially to teams who are too shit to accept them. This time Leno was up to the task. A couple of good saves even if he seems a little casual on the ball at times. Our defense is so much better with Sokratis in it even if we did still play Mustafi. He was not at his worse today and did seem to attempt to stay on his feet rather than hurl himself into tackles. But give me the Greek over the German any day.

That half-time team talk must have been a real snoozer because as we again proved ourselves as a team of two half’s. But this time we reversed the ordering. As smooth as we looked in the first half and as crisp as our passing was, in the second half we were slow and unable to retain possession. We gave it away cheaply. As energetic and involved as Ramsey was in the first half he was a quiet in the second. But you could see why he’d been picked. He worked hard his entire allotted time to close down and compete for the ball. We will miss him next year.

As much as Southampton controlled the second half they were unable to generate any real chances. In fact, amazingly, we kept a clean sheet. Unlike, in the fixture at their place where we capitulated under pressure, today they threatened but did not really test us. Partly that was through solid defending and partly through ineptitude on their part. After bringing on the ugly Austin they then proceeded to ignore him. He was able to get one header off to our goal. But they seemed to forget how to cross the ball to him. That’s one of the reasons they will sink into that relegation zone. They are not as poor as Huddersfield or Fulham but they have to have more desire.  They should have been throwing the kitchen sink at us in the second half but preferred to play the ball around without any incisiveness.

Ozil is back. Finally. A nice cameo from him for 20 minutes. As disappointed as Ramsey was to be removed it’s a pleasure to have Ozil back on the pitch. His vision is unparalleled. That one little flick on to Aubameyang by the half way line set up another chance. As smooth as Ozil is he still, after 10+ years in the professional leagues, can’t seem to challenge in a tackle or jump to head the ball. This is just one of the reasons OneEye won’t pick him. But when the ball is at his feet he opens up the entire field for us.

Realistically we should have won by 3 or 4 goals today. As reactive and opportunistic as Cigarettes’ goal was today it’s mind-blowing how he missed his other chance in the first half. After more Ob1 inspired interplay and Kolinsac driving into the box to see Cigarette blast it over from such close range seemed to drain his confidence in front of goal. He works so hard and links up the play so well. But today he missed too many chances. But maybe Aubameyang was an even worse culprit. Given the limited amount of time on the field he could and should have scored a brace. On too many occasions when he broke with the ball he dithered in front of goal and made the wrong choice. It seemed like his love affair with Cigarette clouded his judgement. I’m sure if he’d have been the lone striker he would have shot at goal. Or at least had conviction. But today he made the wrong choices and barely threatened their goalie. Hopefully he’s saving his goals for when they matter – in particular the game after next. But against a better team we’d have been punished for these misses.

Against these lower table teams – and especially at home – we have found the way to three points. In the waning Wenger years we would struggle in these games. So today, and hopefully against Bournemouth, we’ll earn those 3 points. The issue is how does this team figure out a way to compete against the better teams. And, unfortunately, Sp*rs are a better team. After 20 or 30 years of complete domination, their time has come. Not sufficiently for them to actually win any trophies. But enough for them to maul us and crush us at their rented place. Because our team is a solid 5th or 6th place team – depending on how much money Chelski want to spend, prior to being banned from any signings. We are an A- team with a, possibly, B+ manager. We’ve added a couple of talented players – Torreira and Guendouzi – but we need more. It’s unlikely we’ll make it to the Champions League this year. With the Ole resurgent Mancs looking likely to grab that spot and the quality of the teams left in the NoHopaCup, our chances are sorely limited. Though this will impact our ability to attract players so will the lack of money at our disposal. But, as others have shown, money is not everything. It is at the level of Man City but for others it’s an intelligent scouting and recruitment framework. Again, look at our recent two summer signings.

Offset that against our prior January signings. I know Aubameyang scores more goals than he misses (just) and he’s been vital for us this season. But the amount of money we splashed on him and Mickeytarrien so late in their careers was a sign of desperation not of a strategic plan to improve our team. The crux of the issue for Arsenal is that we need to be able to assess the manager. I know others want to give him a couple of years to prove himself. But live does not wait that long. If he’s the right guy with the wrong players then he warrants all the time we can give him. But if he’s not the right guy then we should bite the bullet and look to move on and progress. At this stage of the season I’m still unconvinced. And that’s not a great indication. There are so many times when he can’t seem to make the right selections and neither can he manage our more creative (and frustrating) player. Between now and the end of the season that is what I’m looking for. Some sign that this is the right guy. That this is AW mark II and not Moyes mark I. We know and understand our team. We can all identify the weaknesses and the required changes. More than half way into the season we are very unlikely to learn anything more about the players in our team. We’ve seen enough to judge and understand them. However, for our manager, the time through the rest of the season will hopefully answer that most important question of whether we have the right manager required for our future. We should not be too clouded by the three points today. It’s against the rented boys and then ManU that we’ll see the gulf in class and then judge whether OneEye is helping us or not. Not that I believe the senior management at Arsenal have the appetite for any management change. They will give OneEye at least two years if not three. Let’s just hope that does not result in mediocrity for Arsenal for the next three years.   

I’d hoped to have been a little more upbeat today. We got three points along with some creative play (minus the missed opportunities). But it’s not the short-term that worries me so much now that we’ve overcome the mighty Bate. It’s how we’re positioned for the upcoming years. So, bring on Bournemouth but keep your eye open for our longer-term future. Oh, and, come you Burnley!

– LB7

February 9th – Huddersfield 1 Arsenal 2

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Sloppy Arsenal outwit witless Huddersfield. I used to think Cardiff were crap but this lot take the biscuit. Them not us.

It made for a dull game to watch. The entire game was underwhelming. But rather than find a way to throw the points away as we did at Southampton and Brighton today they were so bad they could only score once. And then we had to do it for them.

It’s hard to get too excited by games like today or performances like this. We did enough to win but it was a strange performance. In the second half we could barely string any passes together and yet we had chances to score the third.

We made strange substitutions today. We finished the game with Elneny and Mustafa on the pitch and we still won. I was particularly impressed with Elneny’s clearance for them when we used his body strength to push Cigarette off the ball to head the ball out for their goal kick. When he came on he seemed to play high up the field and not worry about defending. That made no sense as did taking off Torreira. But not much made sense today. Apart from the three points.

Our first half performance was pretty balanced and highly effective. Ob1 was able to contribute and set up the first goal. But why, after a performance like last week, he’s actually selected is beyond me. There is either no accountability or there’s a deficit of available players – or both. And then to see MIckeyTarrien is always worrying. But he also helped us in the first half. Both tended to fall over at vital times but both helped create our goals. And we should have had more in both halfs. Whereas they had no clue until they reverted to playing like Burnley.

How impressive was Mustafa today? One of his most consistent performances. Right from his first pass he was able to deliver it directly to the sidelines through a 90% success rate of finding the space just on the other side of the touchline. His distribution today was consistent and thoroughly embarrassing. He really does look clueless but safer in a back three than back four. Some of his passing was truly laughable and pathetic. We’re just fortunate that it was against a rag tag Huddersfield.

Unfortunately Maitland-Niles seems to have been studying Mustafas’ ways. A number of crucial infield passes completely exposed our defense – one in each half. As polished and calm as he looks on the ball he’s decision making is too Ob1-like for me. And the simple mistakes are a little worrying. The square pass just outside the corner of the penalty box in the second half was particularly suicidal.

Today Guendouzi and Torreira reverted back to prior games. Neither seemed that comfortable and neither was as influential as last week. Often they were overrun in midfield. Neither was able to create much – that all came from the wings via Maitland-Niles, Ob1 and Mickey.

In truth Huddersfield, if they had even one of our strikers, would have been able to score a couple of goals. But then we had numerous chances in the second half that Ob1 managed to fluff. Against a decent team we’d have paid for those mistakes.

This review is as disjointed as our game today. There was very little to admire but it never seemed like we’d lose and, once we sneaked the first goal, quite likely we’d win. But there was little to inspire us. We rarely were able to put passes together. And that was compounded by the sloppy play of Mustafi, Maitland-Niles and Kolinsac. Too often we’d give the ball away cheaply and get out muscled.

This was a blah game. But still one we had to win. Leno was pretty suspect today. That one time in the first half when he came charing out to intercept their free-kick was unnerving. His distribution was not great either – kicking out of bounds a couple of times.

Cigarette worked hard; competed well and picked up a goal. On a number of occasions good runs and positions were wasted because Ob1 was unable to make the right pass. Maitland-Niles is a mini-clone of Bellerin. Very effective when he’s attacking, with a great touch and nice footwork but careless in defense and poor with his defensive passing.

Unfortunately Mustafa is a bigger clone of a dead, one-legged elephant. Which, in many ways, is insulting to any elephant I’ve met. And I’ve meet a few in my time. They surely have a superior football IQ to Mustafi and get paid a hell of a lot less. Today was borderline funny to see to which supporter in the stand would the ball go to. Right from his first misplaced touch. Luckily there was Kosclieny alongside him, still working his way back to full fitness just before his retirement to the French Mediterranean. One perfect clearance stopped a certain goal. But overall he’s so much calmer and experience than our German retard. But then so is a dead, one-legged elephant.

Now we’re off to the NoHopaCup. A couple of games against a team no-one has ever heard of (no, not Arsenal). Maybe Ozil will get some playing time. I would hope so but doubt it will happen. I’m also hoping that Torreira was removed as a precaution. And dare I say it, we need Xhaka back so we can play three in midfield. And then we need to find Aubameyang. But as long as we don’t misplace Cigarette I’ll remain an optimist.

-LB7

February 3rd – Man City 3 Arsenal 1

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Let’s start with the good news. We don’t have to play these guys again this season. The bad news is that Ob1 is still alive.

Even by our immeasurably low standards our start was breathtaking. How is it possible for Ob1 to be such a num-nuts. How low a football IQ do you have to have in order to try dribbling out from the corner of your own penalty box? And in the first minute of the game? Stupid does not do justice to this level of incompetence. Through most of this season we’ve actually seen this muppet improve and contribute more. But today it was a throwback back to the bad old days of the last few years. Shocking and embarrassing. Thereafter Ob1 was anonymous. His confidence was shot and he contributed nothing. He was a liability on the right hand side the entire game; scared of the ball and scared of their players. Though he has some ability and skill I’m pretty sure that at this point his fundamental problem is two-fold. A lack of confidence and self-belief and absence of football IQ – though that could be three reasons. And it was that lack of awareness (is that four?) that caused him to make the wrong choice at the wrong time.  Of course the mistake was amplified by Mustafa dawdling out and keeping everyone onside. Another one with no clue how to play the game.

No sane person actually thought we could go up there and beat Man City. But we should have at least been able to give them a game and to show progress in this team. How can you then give a goal away within the first minute. That is beyond belief and reminds us of the days under Arsene.

Let’s flip to the good news – because there was some. Torreira was outstanding – resilient, hard-working and relentless. Alongside him Guendouzi had his best game possibly of the season. Combined, these two work so hard. Unfortunately their wing-backs let them down. But back to the good news – Monreal was excellent in defense as was Kosclieny who continued his resurrection. Cigarette looked dangerous and Aubameyang likewise worked hard. Unfortunately, this formation lacked any creativity (cough cough Mr. Ozil) so neither really got a sight of goal. In the second half we did not have a shot on goal.

Against a team with such quality and skill as Man City you need your full complement of players. Unfortunately any team with both Mustafa and Ob1 fails that test. Both were abysmal. Ironically, the fear had been the inclusion of Lichtenstein. He’s just a few years younger than me and slightly slower off the mark. But when you have the lack of intelligence and commitment in front of you from Ob1 you merely expose the old man to the elements (him not me). They were always going to target Lichtenstien today. All three goals came from that area of the pitch. And each time it was Ob1 who was culpable. I was surprised that OneEyeEmery did not make the change at half-time. In the big games you need to see who turns up. Not Ob1 that’s for sure. I can’t therefore blame Licthenstien for being old or at fault for todays goal. Maybe my disappointment in the abject performance of Ob1 has blinded me to the mistakes Lictehnstein made. But you can’t blame him for being old – blame God for that.

The surprise today was that we managed to equalize. And then show some fight. In a reversal of our normal behavior, after the shabby goal we gave them, we actually played well in the first half. It was the second half where we disappeared. Of course, some of that was due to the effort we had to expand in the first half chasing their shadows. They really are a good team. But, today, in the first half we went some way to matching them. So, it was not all bad news.

The shape and organization of the team was better. We were more disciplined and played more as a unit.  The defensive cover that Torreira provided was excellent. He only got beaten a couple of times when he guessed (wrongly) which way Silva was swaying. And then Guendouzi would link up their play quickly. And both dropped deep to receive the ball. Not that that stopped Mustafa smashing the ball upfield to their players. Did I mention that this guy is crap? We need one of our Greeks back ASAP. It’s remarkable that Mustafa is incapable of modifying his game to learn any lessons. In the same way I’m incapable of making new observations about his incompetence. By the start of the next season he’ll be gone or relegated to the number 4 center half.  

We had our first glimpse of Suarez today. Too soon to judge but he looks light weight. I think my arm weighs more than him. He had the Ob1 uncertainty in defending and was easily pushed off the ball. He’ll have to adjust to the physicality of the game in England. But he got off the ball quickly and meanders in field looking to be involved. I just need to figure out why he needs both his names on his jersey. Is that because he wants to make it more expensive for us? Is it because we’ve got another Suarez hidden somewhere? Either way, his bar for grabbing a place in the team is pretty low. Today was not the day to judge him.

OneEye might have learned a fair amount today about his players. He’s now got a young midfield backbone. He’s now settled on two up front. He’s just got to figure out how to link them up into the overall play. That’s where the enigma that is Ozil comes into play. Why we did not get rid of him in the latest window is puzzling. I believe he’s still one of the most creative players in the EPL. If I was manager he’d be one of my first picks. But if you don’t believe in him and won’t pick him then offload him now. OneEye should have pushed him out. Or whoever is now running our club. We should have offload him to PSG. Keeping him is a waste if you don’t believe in him. If your formation and tactics don’t allow you to select him for any games against the top 5 what’s the point? If you can only pick him when playing home games against the bottom 6, do we really need to spend that money? We should have forced him out. Again, I think he should be playing. Look at Coutinho at Liverpool. He did not defend by they found a way to make him excel. This is what worries me about OneEye. He has a world-class player but can’t seem to manage his resources to get Ozil into the team. So as well as we were organized today it was hard to see how we could recover from their second goal. He prefers to bring on a player be are not interested in retaining rather than Ozil. Here’s a player, Ramsey, who we should retain, that we won’t. A player that is destined for Italy with no future at our club. And yet, he gets more playing time than our most creative player? How does this make any sense?

At the start of the year we had low expectations for this team. And we might reach those levels. We won’t finish in the top 4 and we might or might not be successful in the NoHopaCup. But, as when Leicester won the league, I think we’ll look back on missed opportunities. It’s not often that Chelski will be this inconsistent. It’s not often that ManU will fail to play for the first half of the season. We had our chance to boost our chances of the top 4 but we’ve blown it. And we’ve done so because we’ve all been fixated on the long-term progress of this club. Looking for a verification that OneEye is the right guy and that this club is going in the right direction. But that also means our lowering of expectations has allowed us to miss an opportunity. Next year is going to be way harder than this. Which brings us back to today. After that shocking start we found a way to recover; to stabilize the team and make a competitive game of it. But you can’t carry two players and one grand-parent.

– LB7