Monthly Archives: March 2021

March 21st – West Ham 3 Arsenal 3

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Last week we beat those tossers and saw them Spexit and today, in homage to their incompetence, we decided to play like them for the first 35 minutes. We even managed to honour their 3-0 score-line. But eventually, instead of imagining we were playing in white shirts we revert to playing like we were actually wearing the red shirts of Arsenal.

But how painful was that? As has been re-iterated in numerous post, I’m fully invested in Arteta; he is our long term solution. He is a tactician and a student of the game. He manages his squad and, in most cases, makes the right selections. He is obviously learning on the job and will make mistakes. Everyone does – Look at the great AW and Cygan or even Almunia.

Today though he got it wrong from the start. Mari was the wrong choice. Gabriel has been out standout defender. Mari is too slow on the ball and does not take up good positions. He also gives the ball away. And he’ll lose challenges that Gabriel wins. Then MA put Aubameyang on the right. That then exposed the surprising addition of Chambers. Though he re-deemed himself in the second half, in the first they treated him like Doherty and beat him for pace on a number of times. But he was not helped by Aubamyang who never closed down his player and barely defended. In fact, overall, today was another poor performance from our captain. He barely touched the ball and the only surprise was that it took so long to drag him off.

Leno had a shocker today. The first goal was tough but I thought he could have done better; the shot was close to him and he could have gotten off the ground quick but, as I said, it was a good strike. Whereas the second goal was something we all would have expected him to prevent; he can’t be beaten at the near post like that. For the third goal, the entire build up was lazy Arsenal from a crappy kickout from Leno to a poor header from Tierney. And then Mari keeping their attacker onside when he touched the ball in the net.

Even in the second half Leno mishandled a few times and also failed to come out to close down their attacker (sorry, but all these “attacker” are pretty nameless to me) just before Antonio hit the post. Today was the first day when I realized we made the wrong decision in letting Martinez leave. I know there are no do-overs, and that at the time it seemed like the more secure decision – keeping an established Premier League goalie – but today if you offered me the same deal I’d ship out the last remaining Kraut on our team. It feels like Leno is making more mistakes than he did last year. Whether it’s his poor decision making on distribution or saves he should be making.

But beyond these three or four the entire team was malignant. There was zero on the field leadership. They were deer in headlights. They were the Spuds. No clue and over-run. I had half hoped Arteta would make a substitution after 30 minutes. We were overrun and had no idea how, on the field, to solve for it. Finally he switched Saka and Aubameyang and that helped  Chambers. But with Cigarette dropping so deep to get the ball and essentially occupying the same space as Odergaard, we had no control of the game.

I can’t remember seeing us so disengaged and disorganization. It was wave after wave of attack. We looked like we were facing a leading Croatian team. How can everyone switch off for their second goal? Tierney turns his back. As does Xhaka, Partey and Odergaard and David Luiz. Only the hapless Mari took note. Week after week we witness these mental mistakes. And at some point Arteta has to own this problem. From Sterling at Man City in the first few minutes to Aston Villa through to Burnley and Olympiacos – and we could not blame Ceballos today. It’s stunningly depressing.

Prior to that third goal we had started to gradually wake up but that third goal should have put the nail in the coffin. Instead, we somehow found our shape. And most of that was due to Odergaard creating and moving the ball. In combination with Saka they started to open up WHU. And then Chambers put in the type of cross that Bellerin dreams of for Cigarette to score. Don’t tell me that was an OG; he was bending the ball back in and was a terrific goal. That changed the game. Though right afterwards his through ball to Saka should have had us only one goal behind at half-time. He’s young and a super-star and in years to come he’ll slot those chances away. It would also have been an injustice to only be behind by 1 goal given how abject we had been. BTW, where was Bellerin; he did not even make the bench. Back to MO. I think we’ve seen enough now to know that we have to sign him permanently. Let’s hope he is willing to be part of such an inconsistent team. Would you want to join the enigma that is known as Arsenal?

The second half was an entirely different proposition. WHU seemed to adopt the white shirts; they withdrew and tried to play defense. Whether they ceded the space because of their defensive confidence or whether we just overwhelmed them is debatable. We moved the ball directly and quickly. We avoided letting Mari touch the ball; he makes David Luiz seem like he passes the ball quickly.   We played through their lines and allowed Cigarette to create and move.

The one player who actually contributed in both halves but who excelled in the second half was Odergaard. He was outstanding. Clearly his best game for us. He took the game by the scruff of the neck. He was inventive and dynamic. He demanded the ball and created so many openings. He opened up their backline, retain possession and orchestrated all our moves. That was as good a demonstration of someone running the game from the #10 position as anyone I’ve seen in the last 10 years. Before our second goal Cigarette was unlucky not to score when they cleared off the line. Again, where was Aubameyang? I can’t remember him doing anything today. He’ll come back to us at some point I’m sure. He’s too much of a natural goalscorer.  

Chambers, after setting up the first, continued to excel down the right delivering more crosses and causing our second goal. Yet another own-goal. With Aubameyang lurking behind him, he might have been better off leaving it so we’d miss yet another chance.

Then more aggressive changes by Arteta – with the removal of our captain – to be instantly rewarded with a Pepe cross to Cigarette to claim the equalizer.  At that point with Pepe and Martinelli and ESR on the pitch I thought we might be able to grab the winner. There were chances flying around their box but with just Partey trying to play defensive midfield it was a likely they grab one on the break. Partey was dead on his feet in the last 10 minutes. I’m sure if he was playing for Ghana in the next two weeks he would have been pulled off. Overall, his performance was pretty good but still he insists on shooting from distance. I’ve yet to even see anything close to being on target let alone requiring a save. Someone has to tell him to pass the ball to someone else at this stage.

Even with this remarkable recovery it’s hard to feel too good about the result. That first 35 minutes was so shambolic. I could never have imagined we’d leave with a point at that point. And though we should be appreciative of the resilience and belief in the team there is a mental toughness once we go behind. But there is this fragility or nonchalance at the start of the game. It is our achilleas heel. Or our Mari foot. Or our Leno pass.

As we enter this stupid, unnecessary and COVID filled international break we have a lot to be grateful for. The first 1/3rd of the season was worrying whereas the last 1/3rd has seen genuine progress. We’ve pulled away from the bottom of the table, we’ve qualified for the ¼ finals of the NoHoppa Cup and we’re edging up the table. But most importantly Arteta has started to develop and grow this team. We have identified pivotal players that will be a part of our long-term future – Saka, ESR, Partey, Gabriel, Tierney, Odergaard. Once we’re able to add a couple of players of the quality of Partey and MO we can really start to contend. We knew this was a journey but know we at least can see the direction – and it’s forward. And it’s nice to see us waving goodbye to the tossers as they continue down their inevitable path to self-destruction and all things naturally evil when you have Darth Vader in the house. Let’s hope they do just enough for them not to fire him. The longer he stays there the better and the more likely Kane moves on.

Gdansk is our only real hope this year otherwise it’s Brexit for us. But we have a few matches to win first. It’s with little confidence that anyone would predict which one of our schizophrenic teams will turn up. We are clearly in need of a therapist. Somehow, we need to develop a backbone. Some ability to focus through the 90 minutes. It’s been an illness within the club prior to Arteta. Maybe it’s a leftover disease from the sense of entitlement that crept into the AW teams at the end of that era.

Now we have two weeks to get Saka back to fitness and to teach Partey how to pass and not shoot. And maybe Aubemeyang can rediscover his scoring boots. I’m not prepared to invest in flights to Gdansk quite yet. There’s plenty of work to be done first. But if we can play like we did in the second half for the last 1/3rd of the season we’ll at least be in the frame. Whereas, if we replicate our first 35 minutes we’ll be destined to fail like a team that played in Croatia.

  • LB7

March 14th – Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 1

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Not dead yet. Neither me nor Arsenal. It’s a pleasure to be back after mauling that lot. Though we made heavy weather of that in the last 10 minutes that was an impressive performance. A fully deserved 3 points and justice was served. Both in terms of the result and in terms of injuries to Son and a red card for that irritating, sharp-elbowed, nasty little Argentinian.

As soon as he came on to replace the hamstrung Son, he started his normal spiky behavior – nibbling at Xhaka, instigating and generally acting like the penis that he is. Annoyingly he then scored a goal that the world is purring over. In addition to them scoring completely against the balance of play – well, in truth, I’m not sure you could say they played at all in the first half – we had to sit through endless replays and fawning over the brilliance of this sad little penis. I’d prefer though to focus on the replays of both his first foul on Xhaka and then the perfect picture of both his elbow into poor Tesco Tierney (TT) with little Darth Vader in the background waving one of his tentacles in the air. Someone needs to get a frame of that and sell it on Ebay (Is Ebay still a thing?). And then that pleasurable walk of shame off the pitch. Justice served. Thank you. It does not make up for David Luiz being sent off nor the endless decisions we don’t get (i.e. hand balls by Burnley last week) but it was more than well deserved. And, annoyingly, after he finally left the pitch, the rest of his team decided to start actually putting us under pressure.

We dominated the game and imposed ourselves on them from the beginning. But as soon as we took the lead and then they lost that list sad penis, we mentally imploded. That same self-destruct button we have consistently seen re-appeared. It was not enough to gift the Burnley knobs a goal nor the Greeks during the week. No, here from the minute we took the lead Gabriel – who was otherwise perfect today – passes the ball out behind TT. Then right after that TT manages to stub his toe making a pass right to their player. Partey, who was maybe tiring, starts passing to them. Mistakes start creeping into our game. The only two who didn’t were David Luiz and Xhaka. It’s obviously a team allocation thing. They had used up their weekly allocation of fucked-up passes. It was now everyone else’s turn.

Those last 10 minutes were beyond nerve racking. As content and happy as I was during the first 80 minutes (well, maybe not exactly calm) in those last 10 minutes I was utterly apoplectic with anger at our mental fragility. These constant stupid mistakes. We had the game in our finger tips and yet we seemed determined to throw it away. It’s as though this team is scared of winning. We are unable to believe we can and should win. Going behind is something we can react and recover from but taking the lead seems like a foreign concept. After the game both Cigarette and Arteta discussed their poor game management at the end of the game. It was our worst 10 minutes of the game. It was so clear though that they were able to acknowledge that right after the game. So maybe there is some hope.

This self-destruct capability is the trip wire though that will inevitably cause us to miss our targets for this year. Until we can delver into the psyche of our team and instill some backbone we won’t be able to progress in the way we anticipate. Imagine if there had been a full stadium of fans? Imagine how that angst would have transferred to the players and increases the stress on their mentality. We’re lucky to play these. Games without fans. In fact, I suspect the absence of fans allowed Arteta to retain his role through the painful losing streak in November. It gave him the time he needed to find the right formula. With fans screaming for results during that period I wonder if he would have survived to take us to the promised land.

So, back to the game itself. The lack of Aubameyang was unexpected. It tells us something about the self-confidence and belief Arteta has that he would confidently take this stand. Against our hated rivals dropping his talisman. What other manager would have done this? A loss today would have ended any slight chance to getting into Europe post Brexit. And to lose to Darth Vader would be unthinkable. Yet, he clearly believes he has the full support and backing off the entire AFC hierarchy such that he could put those pressures to one side to focus on the greater good of the team rules and togetherness. To let everyone know that all the rules apply to all the players finally puts to bed all those prior exceptions made from players like Ozil. It would be unimaginable for AW to have done this. And as for that dull accountant, he was too scared of his own shadow to contemplate such a move.

And where was Hector? That was not expected either. And what a good game our little Portuguese pigmy had today. Contrast that with their right back. Cedric was creative and dangerous. He has a solid football IQ and helped us dominate that lot. On the left Smith-Rowe was quite stunning. He ripped them apart consistently. Among all the great displays today his might be the most impressive. He darted around the filed making intelligent one touch passes. In-between he unleashed an Odergaard type shot that hits the cross bar. Along with TT they tore apart Bale and Doherty. Did they really pay £15 m to Wolves for that guy? I can’t believe they did not remove him at half-time. He was totally out of his depth. But then that’s true of most of their players. Today ESR showed us yet more improvement in his game. He contributed in more varied ways and kept the pace of our movement high. His passing under pressure is something to behold. Maybe this is was the original MO was like when he was younger.

Then there’s the new MO. After that stunning mid-week goal he snagged another one care of a nasty deflection. Maybe our luck is finally turning. That shot was never going to beat Lloris without the deflection. But rarely will you see a more deserved goal than that. We dominated them in every stage of the game. I can’t remember a single save Leno had to make – our post was more active than Leno.

Xhaka and Partey controlled the midfield. For once Xhaka was more dominant than Partey. Aside from that mental problem in the last 10 minutes he still has this unwarranted belief that he can shot a ball and hit the target. I’ve yet to see any evidence of this. Likewise there are times when – as in the second half – he tried to beat three players right by the half way line. It was not enough that he beat two of them. Rather than pas she wanted to take on the entire team. Hopefully someone is going to knock that tendency out of him soon. Meantime, Xhaka controlled the game and I can’t think of a single misplaced pass.

Cigarette was mildly effective. He provides shape and focus to our play. But I can’t understand how a striker decides to dummy the ball in the six yard areas when faced with a chance to shoot. He also missed a shot when we again penetrated down our left. He did win us a penalty after whiffing on the ball. And did pick himself up and put the ball in the net. But he was not overly committed to closing them down and chasing after the ball. Even at the end MO was still running around whereas Cigarette was hovering around the ½ way line. Maybe though this game suited him better than Aubameyang.

Saka was quiet again by his high standards. I worry that he went off at ½ time. But at least we saw Pepe and not William. Pepe was pretty good but was helped by having Cedric behind him. It’s hard to think of a player who underperformed today. We even saw Leno launch the ball up field multiple times today; it seemed like we did not force ourselves to play it out the back every time. Which is kinda ironic given that Sp*rs refused to apply any pressure when we did. Have they not seen what we’ve done lately? How could they not apply any pressure? But then I was baffled by their lack of tactics the entire game. Why play Bale and then not get him the ball? Why play so defensively? I know they are a counter-attacking team but right from the start they were completely passive. They played more like Bolton or Burnley than a time aspiring to qualify for Europe. It made no sense. It was only in the last 10 minutes – down by one goal and down by one sad penis – did they apply pressure. Imagine what they could have done if they actually played like that for the entire game. And that surely lands at the feet of Darth Vader. It feels like he remains stuck in the first decade of this century. That’s fine with me. But what a waste of money. I’m sure they will grind out a few more 1-0 victories. But without Son they will suffer. And how I’ll enjoy that. They truly got what they deserved today. At least when we lose we do it in style. We can be assured to conjure up yet more preposterous ways to give up goals and points. We lose with class; they lose through pure boredom.

So, stressful and nerve-racking as it was, this was 3 well earned points. The better team won. The better youngsters with with us. The future remains bright. Not bright enough to help us this yer but surely for the next few years. We have an upward trajectory. And we’ll be passing that lot in our ascent. We have the right manager and a core group of young players that can act as our spine. And they have the right manager. One destined to take them on a deep dark journey to hell. Where they have a special spot reserved for them.

Man, it’s good to be back

-LB7