Monthly Archives: September 2019

September 22nd – Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2

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Lucky Arsenal.  Very lucky Arsenal. We snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. And it would have been a well deserved defeat. Everything about our team today – aside form that last 10 minutes – was wrong. Our team now has the personality of our manager. The manager has no personality and nor does the team. This was a thoroughly undeserved victory that can’t paper over the clear deficiencies in our team nor, more concerning, our manager.

We started the game with the wrong selection – again. The wrong tactics – again. And, obviously, with the wrong manager. We were lackluster. Missing any drive, pace and urgency. Villa were  exposing our lack of midfield cover. In other words, it felt like every other game.

The selection was strange – again. Sakka was in which must have pissed off Nelson. He, unlike our other forwards, looked good. Aubameyang missed a chance in the first few minutes set up by Sakka. And then proceeded to misplace every pass and miss hit every shot until the last 10 minutes.

Xhaka was his dependable useless self. He continues to slow down our team with his touches and sideways passing. He makes Guendouzi play worse. But overall the balance and mix of the team was dreadful. There is no passion in the team. And it makes is so hard to watch. Against teams like Villa we seem desperate to go down their level. Except that they were playing better football. We could not string any passes together. It’s as though it’s the first time some of our players have played together. There was no understanding between Aubameyang and Pepe. None between Pepe and Maitland-Niles. Ceballos hardly received the ball. Players ran into the space occupied by others. It’s as though the team has no idea how they should be playing the game.

Villa counterattacked and exposed our predictable lack of defensive cover. It was Watford all over again. It seems like we are incapable of learning anything. We hear how studious Emery is. How it watches game film till 2 in the morning. Clearly it’s not our games he’s watching because nothing changes in his tactics. Pairing Xhaka and Guendouzi brings out the worst in Guendouzi. Any pairing would bring out the worst in Xhaka. In that respect he’s gifted.

This is such a painful game to dissect. It was so unenjoyable for such long periods. Instead of feeling relief and excitement from undeservedly getting the three points, I can’t look past the dire performance of the team and the lack of balance in this team. For the majority of the game we were passive and exposed by an average Villa team. Even when we did score we found a way to hand back the lead within 90 seconds. How is that possible? Grealish skipped past Xhaka (of course) and then Sokratis without a challenge. For their first goal no-one closed down the person putting in the cross and then the entire defense stood still, Guendouzi ball watched and ignored his man and then we’re 0-1 down. And our reaction was non existent. More of the same sideways passing without David Luiz looking to play out to the sides. We created very little though Sakka did look good.

Maitland-Niles did not exactly have his a-game today. He was caught out (as was the camera man) with a through ball when he received his first yellow card. And then a full on tackle gave Fat John Moss the chance to brandish a second yellow even though Maitland-Niles clearly won the ball. Maybe he was sent off because of the absolute hash he made inside 5 minutes when he blasted over with his left foot. Or maybe Moss deemed his reckless cross-ball pass unsuitable for the fans. Either way, this was one of Maitland-Niles’s worst performances and luckily it was limited to less than 45 minutes.

So, at half-time we saw Chambers come on for Sakka. The young kid should feel good with his contribution even if he should not have started. Chambers was more solid and dependable at right back but we’re down to 10 men. The hope was the team would come out fired-up in the second half. Unfortunately, it was more of the same dire football. No cohesion, no link-up play and no momentum. It’s difficult to watch us these days. It’s so fleeting that we actually play football.

The one change we saw though was a change in Guendouzi’s attitude. He grabbed the midfield and took charge. Unlike the elder statesman alongside him, he was energized and direct. Arguably against the run of play he won us a penalty by charging into the box. Pepe got his first goal for us. Maybe we should bring him on for only penalties. But then we wilted immediately to give up the second goal. Xhaka by then already had a yellow card otherwise he would have fouled Grealish. His earlier yellow was absolutely childish and quintessentially Xhaka. It was unnecessary and lazy. That should be his epitaph. It’s remarkable to think he’s played 80 times for his country. Pulling Grealish back by the half way line when there was nothing going on was wasteful and give you an insight into the (lack of) football brain.

Remarkably it took Emery 70 minutes to make the obvious change. The change that everyone but our blind manager could see. He finally took Xhaka off the pitch along with Ceballos. With the introduction of Torreira and Willock we finally regained our energy levels and momentum. From them on it was a case of whether we could generate enough opportunities such that we’d actually take one. It turns out we took two! The first one was (again) created by Guendouzi. A great pass to the back post that Chambers met and then swept up the rebound. Contrast that with Maitland-Niles in the first half – thank you referee Mills. By now 10-man Arsenal had pushed Villa onto the back foot. But you knew there would be chances for Villa. But then, finally, up stepped Aubameyang to grab the three points. With Pepe and David Luiz standing over the ball and given his inability to get any shot on target today Aubameyang was the last person that should have taken the free kick. But that was a great strike. So 2 of our 3 goals came from dead-ball kicks. Therein lies a story. The other shots came from Guendouzi pushing the team forward. Their goalie, Heaton, barely had any saves to make and yet we score three goals.

What did we learn today? Not much. We knew Xhaka should not be playing. We knew that Emery should not be our manager. Both were reinforced by what we saw. How does Emery make the same tactical errors and selection mistakes game after game? Why does he persist with Xhaka? Why does he not see the change in energy levels when Xhaka was removed from the game? Torreira and Willock might have changed the game but the game was saved by Guendouzi. As mediocre as he was in the first half was as dynamic as he was in the second. You could see the anger and passion on his face. This is the 20 year-old shouting at the establish, senior players to up their game. So today we learned the following – Guendouzi is the White Viera.

We also saw an angry Kolasinac demonstrate that he could defend – at times. This was one of his better defensive performances. Going forward he was more conservative than normal.

Today was the first time I started to develop real doubt about Sokratis. Maybe I’ve been ignoring the warning signs of the last month or so. First off his acting is appalling. The rolling on the ground after his entanglement with Wesley was embarrassing. As was the ease with which Grealish went past him for the second goal. I can’t wait for Holding to come back into this team.

While too many players were sub-par today – Ceballos contributed little – our main concern has to be our manager. He does not seem to have a clear vision of how this team should be playing. He then waits too long to make changes. And then does not seem to learn any lessons from those changes.

Our next EPL match – at Old Trafford – will surely result in changes in team selection. He must bring in Chambers. He must drop Xhaka. But I fear Emery will be his normal, boring, bland and predictable self. Today was a chance escape from disaster. Coming back and winning, with only 10 men for more than ½ a game – should be a time for celebration and enjoyment. It does not feel like it. It merely feels like we’re delaying the onset of disaster. It would be how the travelers on the Titanic felt when they skipped that first small iceberg. Until Emery demonstrates he can evolve and learn we are destined to monumentally fuck-up. We are teetering on the edge of a precipice. This manager has to show some personality. He can’t manage this team like a bank manager. He has to instill some passion and energy. Based on todays performance that feels like wishful thinking.

So, for now, I’ll be looking to Edu to be keeping a close eye on that manager over at Nice FC.


September 15th – Watford 2 Arsenal 2

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Unbelievable. Unforgivable. Unforgettable. Ridiculous. Last week we turned around a 2-0 deficit and this week we returned the favour. But this time against the bottom team in the league. A team that we had throughly beaten in the first half. And we were beating in the second half. But then Sokratis gifted them the easiest goal they could ask for.  From domination we went to looking like a team that was lucky to leave there with a point.

And for this in I blame Emery. Again, his tactics were wrong. The diamond does not help our defense. We gave up – as we did against Liverpool – the wide areas. We were exposed there the entire game. And we did not provide cover for our defense. Ceballos is wasted out left. And Guendouzi looked lost our right. And Xhaka is always lost. On the counter-attack we were always exposed. It helps when you play Watford not Liverpool. And it helps when you have Aubameyang. Two great goals. The first one was a pure strikers goal while the second one was a classic Arsenal goal teed up by Ozil. From them on it was plain sailing.

There were signs though of the usual Kamakazi play out from our goal kicks. Twice we were caught out. We are so predictable with this. We’re playing the ball to Guenzouzi when he has two players around him. And then he feels the need to take extra touches. And then losses it. What a joke. This is schoolboy football. But it’s coming from the manager. Sure do it when it’s there – when the space is available. But to force it like this is idiotic. It smacks of a team without common sense. A team that is told to do one thing and can’t adapt or exercise game management. Instead they had the worst team in the league a life-line. It completely changed the momentum of the game. It brought the crowd into the game. And put us under pressure.

So Emery takes off one of our best players; leaves Ozil on the pitch and brings on Willock. Then Nelson. And lastly Torreira. How does that make sense? Then Nelson proceeds to play further up the pitch than Ceballos. We now have four forwards. And so, inevitably, we get caught on the counter-attack and David Luiz gives us a penalty. I won’t blame him for this. But I will blame Emery. Why play this set up? Why don’t revert to a 4-4-2. Protect the lead man! But no, we get sucker punched. By the worst team in the league.

How is Emery managing this team? How is he adapting the tactics intra-game? Wenger got blamed for being inflexible; for not having a plan B. And what did we see today? The same shape the entire game. And that shape does not work for us. Ozil, apart from the glorious pass for the second goal, was barely in the game. Pepe was frustrating. He can’t seem to score and drifts out of the game too much. He’s touch is not quite there and there is little link up play with Maitland-Niles. And Maitland-Niles also gifted the ball away in dangerous areas. Along with Guendouzi they both played multiple cross field balls in our 1/3rd of the pitch. I think Ceballos tried this once as well. Against a real team (like Liverpool) we will get murdered.

So now I’m beginning to worry. Not about our position in the league – I never thought we’d end up in the top 4. But about our ability to progress and develop as a team. We’ve now got the majority of the players we needed and got rid of the ones we did not want. It’s hard to complain about a team with Aubameyang, Pepe, Ceballos, Torreira etc. So now it’s down to how we use them. And it’s down to our tactics. Again, today, Emery got it wrong. He should have changed the balance of the team – especially after we let in that first goal. But before that he need to provide a beter shield in front of the defense. But he’s got Torreira on the bench and Guendouzi out right. Watch the last 30 minutes of that game. Xhaka struggled to keep up and stay with any runners. We were exposed too often and yet Emery persists with him. Even when Torreira was brought on he looked like a ghost of the player from last year. In a diamond I don’t think either he or Guendouzi know where to play.

This is a game we absolutely should have won. Even for a 6th place team you have to win against a team as weak as Watford. But instead we decided to give them mouth to mouth resuscitation. Unforgivable. And I doubt Emery learned anything new from this. He’s got the players so it’s now down to him to use them. How can you waste the goals of Aubameyang like this? When is he going to install a backbone in this team? No-one can blame Wenger now. Or Bould. Emery owns this defense and midfield. It’s unbelievable that we can throw away the win at Watford.

We were so open and exposed that Watford could rightly claim they should have won the game. They are most probably in their dressing room lamenting dropping 2 points. Whereas we had them dead to rights at 0-2. How does a team like Arsenal – so early in the season – throw away these two points? Because the balance of the team is wrong, the manager has the wrong shape and the team religiously commits to passing the ball out from our goal kicks. There were times when the ball went out for a corner and I felt less worried than when the ball went out for our own goal-kick. What is the point in doing the same thing over and over again from our goal-kicks. It’s a high risk strategy for very little return. There were three times we turned it over right outside our own box (and the one they scored from). Why not at least vary your approach. We have become so predictable. It’s as though it’s a point of pride that we need to prove to other teams we’re good enough to play it out from the back. And yet we’re clearly not. Sure Liverpool or Man City have the right to do this. We don’t. And we don’t seem to have the awareness to know when something is not working and then adapt. That is the most worrying part.

Today was as frustrating and depressing as I can remember since we threw it all away in Baku. All the early season good will went out of the window today. This was a truly crap Watford team. It was a team that had no way to earn a point. We had the game under complete control. So instead we handed them every opportunity. We were casual. We weren’t professional. We are sloppy. And then we were the team that looked at risk. How can this be? Where is the leadership in this team.

Where is the progress and development? Emery seems intent on trying the same thing over an over again each time expecting a different outcome. For the one or two times it might come off there will be 10 times when it does not. We seem intent to do the wrong thing in the wrong situation. Maitland-Niles was needlessly put under pressure when he receives the ball in a tight situation. Guendouzi on multiple times ran into the same issue. Why not spray the ball out wide. Stretch the pitch rather than be so predictable.

For all the energy and belief that comes from a 2-0 comeback in the NLD today was crushing to any belief that we have a plan to progress. And this lies with Emery. First, why would you play Ozil? Play Ceballos in the floating position and put Torreria in midfield. And play a holding pair of Xhaka and Torreira. Or Guendouzi and Torreira and leave Xhaka on the bench. Start Willock and don’t bring on Nelson to play in a diamond because he’ll get caught upfield. Immediately before their second goal both him and Torreira were caught upfield. You’re 2-1 away from home with 10 minutes or so left. Why is there no game management? This was classic Wenger. But I thought this was supposed to change. That we would exercise some judgement.  What has Emery done differently to address our long-term, known by the entire world defensive deficiencies? The players have changed but everything else is unchanged. There is not a single player that’s the same in this defense from the last year of Wenger and yet the problems remain the same. Because it’s about coaching and tactics.

All I’ve asked for is progress and development. As in previous years, there are shit teams competing for the 3rd and 4th place. There is every opportunity to take one of these spots. Except that we have shown – as we did last year – that we don’t have the mental fortitude nor the appetite to grab the required points. We are unable to defend. We have defenders. But we can’t defend as a team and we show no signs of learning how to.

So, Coach Emery, what’s the plan now?


September 2nd – Nearly the Perfect Window

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He came in through the bathroom window. But he left through the back door. So goodbye then Mickeytarrien. Farewell and enjoy your time in the dumping ground for failed footballers. Please seek out Alexis and discuss how you both dragged down each team while being a burden to the salary structure. Both failed miserably. At least ours was cheaper. But what a waste.

If only he could have left before yesterdays game and Nacho could have stayed for one more day. But, rather than looking backwards, let’s us rejoice in a nearly perfect transfer window.

How did we get £40m for Ob1? How did we manage to offload Mickey? We’ve just saved £200k/week in wages. I know it’s not my money but it was still a waste. I remember when he played his first game for ManU against Hull after being signed from Borussia. He was Ozil-like – intelligent and deft in his touches. But after one injury he was done. For us he was worse than a luxury. He was too lazy to defend and too slow to attack. As we saw yesterday he was too indecisive and careless with the ball. We will be a much better team without him. There was no merit in retaining him. He was a block on others coming through. Now we can see whether Nelson and others can fill that spot. And, once Bellerin regains his spot Maitland-Niles can now look to that open position.

We cleaned out both wing-backs; gained money and reduced our salaries. And we obtained Pepe! That’s a good window. We also obtained a real-left back. That’s great. And we added Ceballos. That’s nearly perfect. If only we could have dumped Mustafa. Then it would have been truly perfect. But then, even if he stays, he’s not playing for us again. He’ll waste away his talent at Colney never to play for us again (except in the Carrabo Cup).

Now I’m excited. Now I’m convinced that there is someone, at least, at Arsenal who can see what we could all see. That this squad was deficient in serious areas – carrying some serious dead weight. With Emery playing Mickeytarrien all last year the fear was that our new manager could not see what we all knew.  This squad is much better. It needs one or two more windows to complete this transition. Whether Emery remains to over see it I don’t know. The odds are in his favour. We just have to complete the taking out of the trash.

The primary signings – Pepe, Tierney, Luiz – along with Ceballos have clearly strengthened the team. Once our new center-half turns up next year and once we replace Xhaka we will be fully on the road to recovery. This year will still be a challenge – we saw that yesterday. But we are better equipped than we’ve been in 5 years. And that because we now, finally, have some management that can clean up our squad, acquire talented players and also allow for youth to come through. Between Maitland-Niles, Holding, Willock, Nelson and Chambers we now have a new generation of English players who can shine and develop. Some will inevitably fail (as all the previous ones have – expect maybe the Ox) but this is the basis for our future (and ignores Eddie).

So farewell you useless Mickeytarrien. It’s an absolute pleasure to be shot of you. What a disaster that deal was with Alexis. He should never have left but he priced himself out of the market and, most importantly, the previous management screwed it up. By that, I don’t mean the great and imperious AW. But I do mean the flaky and media-aware Gazidis. He was the one responsible for letting Alexis enter the last year of his contract. This forced his hand that lead us to receive Mickeytarrien. He then followed that up with letting Ramsey to also enter the last year of his. But, now, it looks like the current management actually know how to run a football club. No more players entering there last year. Not like Erickson, Rose, Alderwald. Te He.

We are finally on our way. And we have people to oversee our future that can see what we can see. No more overpaid, unused talent. Ops, I forgot about Ozil. As much as I love him the new boy is a clear upgrade. Ceballos is Ozil on speed (literally). He’s Ozil with a work ethic. He’s Ozil with desire. He’s Ozil with something to prove. Long may Ceballos stay fit and healthy. We just have to make sure that in training he stays away from tackles by Mustafa and Xhaka.

So, after another great day, it’s back into hibernation for another 9 days.


September 1st – Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 2

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The glass is half full. But was very close to being empty. Thank you Cigarette and Aubameyang. Thank you Pepe and thank you Ceballos. Now fuck off Xhaka. And please remember to foul yourself on the way out.

This was better than last week. It had to be. We should have won the game but were, in some way, lucky to come away with a point. Illogical but true. As good as we started the game our balance was not right. And then we made stupid mistakes. First Sokratis and then our glorious captain. It was said in commentary that if you built a condensed highlight reel for Xhaka it could comprise that tackle on Son in the box. Reckless and unnecessary. We’ve seen this so often. Unfortunately, this confirms what we’ve always known – he’s not capable of changing. He does not learn. On so many occasions he was out of position, slow and gave away unnecessary fouls in dangerous positions. Yet, there were a number of great passes he made and link-up play. So, me thinks, the issue here is that we continue to play him in the wrong position. He’s not a defensive midfield player. I think we’ve determined that after watching him for nearly 4 years.

So, if last week was on Emery’s tactics – the infamous diamond – this week it was on his selection. His tactics were right but he chose the wrong people. He should have put Torreira at the base of the midfield rather than Xhaka. He should have started Ceballos. But none of that would have protected us from Soikratis trying to emulate Mustafa. Who knows why he felt the need to challenge for the ball on the half way line when Xhaka had already point out his need to mark his own man. That exposed our frail defense. And then the mistakes compounded themselves. Sokratis did not track back and Leno decided to bobble the ball into the path of Erickson. We’d dominated the opening period but had somehow found away to give up a goal.

Every time they broke on the counter-attack we were vulnerable. There was no midfield defensive cover. Xhaka can’t recover with his lack of speed and Torreira was too far out of the game on the right. Luckily, we have our front three who continued to threaten. Unluckily we also have Xhaka jumping into kamikaze tackles in the penalty box. This is an experienced international and captain. Does Mustafa tutor him during training sessions? It’s insane. And predictable. How many penalties has he conceded? Inbetween that, Leno made up for his amateur fumble with their first goal with a great save from Son. We have all that possession, but they had the chances.

Then finally, we started to create more chances. Guendouzi dominated the midfield and Aubameyang was dominating Sanchez. Kolinsac was not tested defensively but had so many openings on the left. He squandered most of them and failed to provide the right final ball. And often he was unwilling to take the space offered in front of him. But thankfully our front three continued to push. Pepe looks like the real deal. He’s got super quick feet and balance. He had a couple of chances, but we needed the excellence of Cigarette to receive an intelligent pass from Pepe to dance round Vertonghen and burst their net. That goal changed the game.

In the second half we finally dominated and had a better balance. Sp*rs were on the back foot. We created chances and missed most of them. The front three were linking up well and Sp*rs faded. But we could not score. Until Guendouzi played a sublimie ball behind their defense for a classic Aubameyang goal. By then we’d introduced the wonderful Ceballos. He was back to his Burnley best. Everything he touched was beautiful. He, along with Guendouzi, ran the game. Unfortunately, we had also brought on the useless Mickeytarrien. Between him and Kolinsac on the left we wasted so many chances and generally damaged any momentum we created. The two of them and Xhaka are the three clear deficiencies in this team. But how good is Ceballos? So much talent and energy. If only we could put Torreira in the base of the midfield with Guendouzi. It comes back to selection over tactics this week. When we get this right we’ll be fine.

In truth we should have won given the dominance of the second half. It was good to see the character and recovery of the team. Though if you can’t get motivated for a NLD then you really do have problems. So I’ll take a point I suppose. I just want us to learn some lessons. And it’s all about our midfield balance. We need Ceballos in the team and we have to replace both Xhaka and Kolinsac. But this will take time. We need Tierney to regain fitness. And we need Emery to trust either Torreira or Willock. Again, it’s not entirely fair to blame Xhaka when we play him out of position. But bonehead tackles are his responsibility.

Again, today just confirmed what we know. Our success is all about Emery. We have the goal scorers. We have the talent. It’s now down to him and how he chooses to harness it. I don’t expect us to challenge for the title but I do expect him to sort out the right balance of tactics and selection. We have to evolve to the point where we don’t have to bring on Mickeytarrien – he has to learn to trust Nelson or others. They will be our future. He has to solve this midfield issue. Maybe it will depend on reverting to a back three and then having two defensive players. But on the counter-attack today we could have leaked many more goals. It’s finding that balance. The balance that has eluded Arsenal for the last five years. Our attack continues to develop and improve. We now have one of the top three forward lines in the country. Pepe will surely score 10+ goals this year. Aubameyang and Cigarette continue to dominate our goal scoring. Guendouzi shines brightly – today he was the best midfield player on the pitch. It’s sorting out the final couple of selections that will dictate how far Emery can take this team. The squad (until the regular injuries start to accumulate) is now there and are now at his disposal.

A word on David Luiz. I was fine with him today. He was reasonably solid and cautious. He took no unnecessary risks. He was out of position once or twice. But generally we benefitted from his presence today. As irresponsible as he was last week, he was more dependable than Sokratis and Xhaka were today. Given time, DL will prove to be a good addition.  

We are getting closer to figuring this out but it will take a little longer yet. And it will depend on how astute Emery is. Can we find the right make-up for our midfield. Otherwise it’s going to be a case of whether our front three can score enough goals to compensate for our unstable defense.

Now we’ll have to suffer through our first boring International break. Just as the season started to develop some momentum. Every year I say the same thing. I hate FIFA and I hate the NCAA. But FIFA more. Why we have to deal with these stupid breaks is beyond me. Just wait until the Qatar WC rolls round and trashes an entire season. In the meantime I think there are a couple more annoying breaks to come along before the end of the year. So no meaningful football for 2 weeks. At least the ashes will provide some diversion. And let’s hope we don’t pick up injuries and that Holding and Tierney can regain some fitness – along with Bellerin.

A final word on Nacho. Good-bye.

He was a great addition (again, funny that. AW could not recruit defenders so they say). He came as back up for Gibbs and ending up seeing him transferred off to a Championship team. Monreal could play left-back or center half. He gave us some excellent years; was part of our F.A Cup runs and was always reliable and steady. We’ll miss him. We should have retained him for todays game. And it’s a crime that we barely got £250K for him (to be paid in installments). We could trust Nacho which is more than you can say for Kolinsac. But he deserves to be retired out to Spain. Let’s hope we don’t miss him too much.