Monthly Archives: August 2019

August 24th – Liverpool 3 Arsenal 1

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This one is on Emery. Wrong shape. Wrong tactics.  Not the ideal way to start the first review of the season. Not wishing to jinx the 100% start by introducing a review it’s time to revert to normality. As, of course, did Arsenal.

In truth we had chances in the first half. But we set back and attempted to resolutely defend. But we ceded the momentum and pitch to them. If the tactics were to hit them on the counterattack it did not work. Every time we had the ball we spent more time meticulously picking intricate passes in our own third. I can’t think of a single time when Leno punted the ball up field. I appreciate the dedication to possession football. But you have to do something with that possession. And when it breaks down in your own 1/3rd then you’re at risk. So, we were so slow in our build up that we rarely got to use the speed we had up front. In fact, there was very little link up play. The balance of the team seemed wrong. Willock out on the left was not involved that much. And after the Burnley hype Ceballos was barely in the game. After playing against the thugs of Burnley and shining brightly as effortlessly talented, today with their extra pace, quality and speed of closing down he found it impossible to get into the game and have any influence. So, there was no possession in the middle of the pitch. Guendouzi was too far infield; their left side was completely vacant. Robertson had the freedom to roam all day long. The plan seemed to be to crowd the center of the pitch and force them wide. That’s counterintuitive given the strength of their full backs.

We held out for 40 minutes which by our Anfield standards is a record. Their goal was coming but rather than from a wingback cross it was a corner. Then comes half-time. Time for a change in tactics. But Emery decided to stick rather than twist. Then Luiz looks to emulate the great Mustafa with the stupid penalty trick. And then gets beaten by Salah overcommitting on the half way line. So why am I not in a nuclear meltdown? If it had been Mustafa I surely would be. Because it’s not Mustafa. We’ve seen Luiz for too many years. We know he has mistakes in him. But with him in our defense we are a better team. We did not lose the game because of him. Given the amount the defenses had to absorb it’s unsurprising we conceded goals. The issue is more why we were in that position in the first place.

By the time the game was already lost we finally dumped the failed diamond and reverted to a regular 4-4-2. Sure, we scored but we also had some possession; though by then Liverpool were already in training mode. But at least we had Cigarette on the pitch. And Torreira. Even when Mickeytarrien came on he played quite well. Ceballos should have been removed sooner. And pushing Willock to the #10 was not the right move either.

Interestingly without Ob1 and Mustafa there are not too many players to pick on. But at least we still have, for that purpose, Xhaka. He was his ever slow and ponderous self. As the captain he should be taking responsibility when either side of him are 20 year old. Guendouzi was clearly outmanned on the left and Willock is not left-sided. And, well, Ceballos was over matched. But, really, it’s a stretch to identify too many players who you could blame for this defeat. Pepe looks like a star in the making. Aubameyang had a few chances but was isolated for too long. Generally, I thought the back four worked hard. Sokratis was excellent (apart from the Matip header). And Leno was fine.

So that leads us back to the manager. Why did he take so long to adjust to what was clearly visible to even a blind man. You could make the argument that until the corner on the 40th minute it had been working. We’d stifled Liverpool. But as soon as they scored and after half-time we continued on the same path. Why? Was he so scared of a mauling that we played so conservatively that we got mauled? Did this feel like another Baku performance? No, not really, there were too many good things from us. Maybe I’m delusional. I never had expectations that we’d beat Liverpool at Anfield. We’re not good enough. We’re better than last year. This squad is better. We do have better players. But we’re just not good enough. Yet. We need time. Another transfer window or two. And, just maybe, another manager. It’s a harsh assessment. But todays is not the day to blame the players. That’s on the mentality and tactics. After absorbing the first 10 minutes or so, we looked like a decent team except that we were outmanned in midfield. And remained so until the 80th minute.

Patience is the watchword for this season. Last season it was development. Now we have to assess, with this improved squad, whether Emery can get the best out of them. Can he decide on the right balance and tactics. Can he learn and adapt? I hope so. He has shown some signs of learning from his mistakes. Example #1 being Mustafa. But will he learn from todays performance? When we next play away against one of our (supposed) rivals will he set us up the same way? Is our defense better? It’s possible there is an improvement. There was better coverage in front of them except we gave up the wings and put ourselves under a lot of pressure. So, I can’t tell whether that’s really on the players or the manager? I think Luiz and Sokratis were pretty effective so that leads me back to Emery.

Aside from the score line, I thought we were better today than we’ve been in previous seasons at Anfield. There is a clear change in style being imposed. I think it’s misplaced and used at the wrong time. But I’ll generously put that down to it being the early stages of the reign of Emery. When it works, as it does against weaker teams that don’t press as well, it can be wonderful to watch. But to consistently try this at Anfield is optimism gone mad. Find that balance you need to counter-attack with your available speed. It would be like having Theo on the team and asking him to play intricate, skillful one touch passing in our own half. Oh, hold on, we did use to do that.

Anyway, I never thought we come away with a point from this game. But I want to see evolution of this team. This transfer window demonstrated we’re re-building to peak in another year or two. But we’re also entitled to expect better performances given the available talent that we have.

I’m not too upset nor despondent. I see green shoots sprouting up. But next week will be entirely different. That game won’t be about the future but about the here and now. We can expect to see Cigarette back in the team.  And I’d like to see Torreira rather than Xhaka but I know that’s too much to wish for.

-LB7

August 8th – OB Gone

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Goodbye then old friend. You’ll be missed. Just not by me. We’ll always have Mustafa.

But now I can look for that day when the squad is finally cleaned out. If I could have made any wishes for this transfer window they would surely have been exceed by todays glorious activity. Nearly £40m for OB1? That’s more than England will gain for Brexit. That’s more than Boris is worth. That’s more than OB1 is worth. Money in the bank for us and a partner to play ball with Theo. We’ve finally found a bank for Arsenal.

To be fair (which I hate), OB1 improved last year. And he scored a scream in Baku; what a parting goal. He’s young; he’s talented; he’s skillful. And he’s gone! Maybe he’ll blossom at Everton. There’s a risk when selling someone so young. They have time to develop and grow. But we get the money now. And, hopefully, it paves the way for grabbing Zaha in January. Poor old Zaha must be so so upset to be stranded at Concrete Palace with old man Hodgson.

This window turned out to be so much better than expected. All that bleating by Arsenal blogs and fans that believed the limitation on our ability to spend money. They believed their own rumors and have been made to look foolish. They forgot rule #1 – don’t believe anything you read (apart, of course, from what you read here).

Would I have taken this outcome as I walked (and cried) out of that stadium in June? Hell yes. The start of a reconfiguration that can position us to reclaim our rightful place (in fourth or third). It’s as much as we could have hoped for. Rome was not built in a day. We started to trim our squad while promoting youth. We liberated the hand-tied Bould and put the engaging Freddie on the bench. That was a double-win. It also applies a smidge of pressure on OneEye. And we finally added a Director of Football – BTW, what does that mean? Someone to direct the football where to go? So Edu is back. It’s good to see Arsenal still believe in hiring people with sufficient vowels. Managers can’t apply with only two vowels and director of football must have at least 2/3rd vowels. Anyway, this was a good move – to have someone else with some sense of AFC. A little bit of continuity. And I believe Pires is still around as some sort of ambassador as well. Plus, of course, the BFG. Let’s just hope we don’t become like Sp*rs when they hired Sherringham, Ferdinand and the talented Sherwood. Old boys aren’t sufficient; talent is.

So we finally waved a sad goodbye to Carl. A little surprising given the lack of cover at right-back. But it’s better for him and a recognition that passion and hard work needs to be supplemented with a touch of ability. We will miss his heart. Momentarily he was our longest serving squad member.

It’s hard to know what to make of Kosclieny apart from the fact he’s now a resident of Bordeaux. That was a very Persie-eque departure. There’s something unhealthy about being an Arsenal captain and leaving the club. After nine-years it’s a sad way to end it all. When he arrived he was a no-name French league 2 player. For the usual Wenger haters it fit their narrative that he can’t recruit or develop defensive players. Remember, in case you’ve forgotten, we’ve been told he inherited the entire backline from George Graham. Kosclieny put the lie to that statement (aside from Campbell, Lauren, Cole, BFG etc). He developed into our best performer and most reliable defender. And last year he recovered from a debilitating injury and had to quickly return to play alongside Mustafa.

But somehow, just when we’re looking to bolster the center of our defense, Koz walks off. Why? I know it does not matter now but I would bet it’s related to prior promises made to him. He only had a year left. He’ll be 34 soon and has a history of injuries. He’s not paid a tremendous amount. But, in the prior regime of that wanker Gazidis you can be sure promises and representations were made that made Koz believe he’d be “rewarded” with an easy exit should the opportunity arise. Why else would this situation escalate out of control? And why could Gazidis not make these same representations to Mustafa. Why can’t he bring him over to Milan? What a wonderful combination they would make.

But somehow we managed to pick up a new center half and then send him straight back to St. Etienne. I’m fine with that. We need a year or two to re-build this team. Getting him, at this price, next year is fine by me. This gives us a roadmap for the future. But on this last day we finally bring in the Scottish Hernia – Tierney. Only Arsenal could wait till the last minute to sign an already injured defender. But, if and when he’s fit, he definitely addresses one of our defensive weaknesses. And it also shuts up that tosser Neil Lennon. Having to hear him bleat about the bidding process is nearly as tedious as listening to Hodgson. BTW, I hope you liked the nice way we sold Thompson to Brentford (for £1m) so Brentford could sell their left-back to Celtic. Love the symmetry. I’m sure we’ll buy Thompson back in another few years.

And then we come to David Luiz. Who knew? First it was Gallas; then Cech and how Luiz. I’d always seen him as a bit of a prima-dona; talented but prone to mistakes. That’s an upgrade on what we have though. Mustafa has no talent and is full of predictable mistakes. Luiz can also play holding midfield if needed. And all for the price of 2.5x Carl. Or, the cost of Carl + Koz. Again, not so bad. Luiz will fill the slot nicely until we get Saliba back. By which time we’ll still have Sokratis and Holding will have proven to be worthy of playing center-half or will be searching for another player.

And, we still have time, before the window closes in Europe, to sell Mustafa to some desperate, ill-informed Spanish, Italian or Turkish team. We don’t need much. A couple of sandwiches and a newspaper should about get him out of the front door. Imagine, if you will, a defense without Mustafa? Imagine the disappointment at Wolves, Concrete Palace and Brighton when they realize that Meat-head has departed. Luiz will undoubtedly make monumental mistakes. But he can’t possible be worse. We just need him for these transition years.

And then we have loaned Ceballos in order to light a fire under Ozil. And we have Pepe. That’s not a bad outcome. I don’t know too much about either. But if they can keep OB1 and Mickeytarrien out of the frame then that’s a step in the right direction. This was a good window for us. None of the last minute buying that brought in Arteta and the BFG along with other panic buys. But, even though the blogs were moaning and whining, we did leave it late and it seems like we had a strategy. And it looks like it played out pretty well. I still wanted Zaha because of his EPL experience. But there’s always January. And he’ll be sulking until then anyway.

Now all we need to do is sell Elneny and Mustafa and bring in a little more cash. That will make this a way above average window for us.

This window also makes this clearly Emery’s team now. There is very little of the AW era left. But Emery still needs another window in order to get a defensive midfield player and another center-half. Going forward we will be devastating and in defense we will remain porous and unsteady. But we will be making progress. Having Edu helps. You have to imagine he was behind the Luiz move – all that Portuguese chit-chat. It hurts Chelski and helps us. He can’t be as a big a baby as Gallas and this is a better deal than losing Cole.

Will we finish in the top 4? I doubt it. Remember we still have Xhaka as our likely captain. Enough said. To an extent it will depend on how Chelski survive without Hazard and with Lampard. And then there’s ManU. Pogba does not want to be there. And I see little leadership in that team. If Ole starts with a string of losses they will hit the panic button yet again. But we should keep our eye out for both Wolves and Everton. But hopefully OB1 and Theo can help us out. At the top I actually believe that this year it will be Liverpool you end up on top. It’s very hard to repeat and to three-peat has only been done once. And they lost Kompany who was a true leader. And Delph. Fernandinho is 35 now. Liverpool have a groove now and the desire. And Klopp is the man. So, this year, it could be Liverpool for the EPL and Man City for the Champions League – and then it’s good-bye Pepe.

So in one sense, this year is yet another chance for us to sneak into 4th place. But I still don’t think we’ve fully reconfigured our team. However, after today and after a couple of weeks of adaptation, we have a better squad than we did last year. And we only missed out by point because of the end of year spineless performances. So, we have an opportunity. Now we can just wait for someone to take Mustafa off our hands and it will have been a perfect summer. Bring on the new season

– LB7