Monthly Archives: April 2021

April 29th – Villarreal 2 Arsenal 1

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We were better with 10 men than when we had eleven. Thankfully, the referee after denying us a penalty finally took sympathy on us. You could see him look around the pitch and realize that Arteta would not make any necessary changes. So, the ref took matters into his own hands. He felt pity for Arsenal supporters and that he, like all of us, had had enough of Ceballos and so he sent him off. Best move of the game. This monumental cunt was getting roasted by a right back that can’t even get into the Sp*rs team. He gave the ball away consistently and exposed our meager defense of all sorts of problems. For once I also attribute blame to Arteta. After that rank first half he should have brought on Cedric and pushed Xhaka into midfield.  But back to Ceballos, I struggle to remember a bigger wanker. Someone who flatters to deceive. He slows down our game and flits around as though he’s an important player. He contributes nothing. He kills our game. Please, please give him back.

Can we beat them in the second leg? Here’s why we can – Ceballos is ineligible! What a trade losing both Ceballos and Capuoe. A double win for us.

Of course this does not excuse or ignore the horrible first half performance. Dire would be an understatement. We barely put any passes together and had no shape I could discern. Even then we nearly stole a penalty. VAR really does not like us. Yes, Pepe handled the ball but I did not know VAR could go that far back. I thought it could just review the foul for the penalty. Anyway, twice now in one week we’ve lost penalties to VAR.

Once we discarded Ceballos our play improved and we looked more threatening. Tonight was not one of Artetas’ better nights. His selection was wrong as was his tactics. And he was far too slow to adapt. Glad though I was to see Eddie on the bench the false 9 think did not work. Smith-Rowe was barely involved. But once we dropped into the #10 slot he started work get involved. And Saka, while remaining our primary threat, had a quiet night. But even then he got one penalty and should have had two.

There was a general sloppiness to our play. Chambers miss-controlled the ball on a couple of occasions and Holding was a little careless. But nothing is as careless as passing to Partey when he’s near their goal. I have yet to see any shot of his be on target let along cause a goalie to make a save. And his distribution was off as well. But part of that is because he had no-one with him in midfield. And there were few options ahead of him. When there were – once Aubameyang came on – he threaded the ball through to our club captain to tie the game up and Aubameyang fluffed his lines. Just as he has done previously in the NoHopaCup. This was a costly miss. But not as costly as all the misses of Villarreal. They should have put this game away in the first half as they were so dominant then. In fact, this game reminded me of the PSG v Man City game – except we had Ceballos and not DeBruyne. PSG should have been 3-0 up at half time and eliminated Man City in one half of football. Likewise for Emery. Instead they came out in the second half and went conservative – as any good accountant would – and allowed us back into the tie.

But let’s be fair, they will score against us. So we’ll have to score at least twice at the Emirates. We will have a one man advantage because Ceballos can’t play. So we’ll have a chance. Which we did not deserve after todays performance.

Arteta now has a week to figure this out. He can’t make as many mistakes as he made today. Sure the second half was better and we had chances to tie this up. It’s good to see Willian on the bench. It’s good that Martinelli is our first sub. But we have to figure out the right balance in midfield. We need to put Xhaka back there.

By the way did I mention that Ceballos was at fault for the first goal? Did I mention he’s a complete tosser.

Since my last review we’ve seen the complete implosion of the ESL and the continued disaster of VAR steal points from us. The issue with ESL was that it was dreamt up by people who literally have more money than brains. It proves you don’t have to be smart to be rich. I’m relieved this thing has collapsed. But don’t be fooled. The issues remain. And that is that Barcelona and Real Madrid are bankrupt and they need money. And they, like the other continental teams, are in leagues with no competitive balance. And, most importantly, no TV revenues to speak of. So, I don’t understand why the English teams joined in. While it might have generated more money for them it would also help a competitor that is in greater need while also destroying our EPL – which is the cash cow. So the fans saved them from their own mistake. But the need for money does not go away. There has to be consequences for not having match-day revenues for a year. And for the English top six, this would have been a quick fix. But it would have been disastrous.

But before I subscribe to #KroenkeOut I’d first propose #CeballosOut. And I’d have more chance of success. There is no way Kroenke is leaving. Ever. He’s never left a US team. He uprooted his NFL team and did not care in the slightest at the reaction of those fans. He’s not just Silent Stan he’s also Deaf Stan. So, get used to him, because he’s not going anywhere.

And here’s the thing. I’m happy that Arsenal were part of the ESL. Be honest, if the ESL had somehow manage to give birth and Arsenal were not involved – and even worse, Sp*rs were – how would these same fans react then? We had to be part of this. You could not afford to miss out on this. Let’s be clear we are not a top 6 English team at the moment (not that that lot are either). We were “honoured” to be included. But let’s not kid ourselves, we were there to make up the numbers. We were not the driver of this initiative. Whether we were in or out did not have any impact on the success of the ESL No-one was listening to our viewpoint. We did not make or break this. But, we had to be involved just in case it somehow succeeded. It’s always better to be on the inside rather than the outside.

And as for the righteous indignation from FIFA and UEFA was something to behold. This ESL idea was so inept it could make these two organizations actually seem less corrupt and self-serving that we all know them to be.

So, lastly for tonight – VAR. I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. And I’m all in favour of it being used in football. At the moment it’s just not working. Not in the EPL anyway. The decisions I’m seeing make no sense and are not rational. And that’s because of the VAR referee. This person needs to be pitch-side and exposed to the crowd (when it returns) and accountable for their decisions. The one against Everton was fucking retarded. In reviewing the actual foul they looked back 20 plus second to find a microscopic offside that occurred in a different passage of play. Who asked them to do that? And how long did they take over that – 3+ minutes. How is that a clear and obvious error. We need to fix VAR and there are four ways to do this:

  • Junk it entirely
  • Limit the amount of time VAR has to make a decision to <20 seconds
  • Make the VAR assistant sit pitch side
  • Automate all VAR decisions right into the refs earpiece or watch (like goal-line technology).

Now we head up to play Newcastle. I’d hope we rotate a ton of players and relax. Maybe VAR will, now it’s done it’s damage, decide to give us a few decisions. It’s a shame it’s an irrelevant game. But hopefully some of the players can find their mojo again. And maybe someone can point out to Partey where the goal is.

-LB7

April 18th – Arsenal 1 Fulham 1

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Disaster averted in the last second. I was convinced we’d never score today. From the first minute when Martinelli missed a chance to lob the ball in to the Pepe header – and two disallowed goals – it seemed the gods would not allow us to score.

But here’s the question, would you have taken the one point in exchange for loosing Cigarette for the rest of the season? That’s not a trade I want. I was resigned to loosing this game against VAR but not loosing Cigarette.

The first 20 minutes was reminiscent of the 7 minutes in Prague – without the goals. We were creative and exploited the ESR and Saka partnership. But over time Fulham crept back into the game. Even against a relegation team it’s hard to have both Elneny and Ceballos as your midfield. Too often these two are comfortable passing sideways and backwards. Only infrequently did they play through the lines.

It’s hard to be too critical after Thursday. The team selection was about right given the circumstances. I was happy to see Ryan in goal. And inevitable that Bellerin was due for a game. And happy Willian was bolted to the bench. And even happier when Bellerin came off. I’m sure I’ve said this before but Hector – as lovable as he is – is really a clone of Walcott. If Theo had played right-back this is how he would have played. His first touch is awful and his distribution is about the same. He does not read the game and positionally he is exposed. He disrupted our play down the right. There is not the natural fluency we have when he’s not there. We need to play him to both rest players and have him in the shop window. He’s clearly in the departure lounge given that we both need money from sales and that he’s really not developed his game over the last few years. One of our longest servants it’s time for him to explore new pastures and for ours to be able to re-invest that money. Hopefully we can get in excess of £20 for him.

Gabriel is a mystery. He’s very young and great in the air. But he has mental lapses. And today he was the culprit for the inevitable defensive mistake. I did not think this was a penalty though I could see how it was given. The attacker – some no-name tosspot – decided to fall over Gabriels boot. There was minimal contact but he initiated that contact and decided to go down like Harry Kane. But Gabriel should know better. Maybe that will come with experience.

With the introduction of Partey and Pepe – and the removal of Bellerin and Elneny – there was total domination. But by then Saka and ESR had tired and we lacked finishing. Eddie came on as a poor man replacement for Cigarette. Eddie is just not ready for Arsenal. He is great at poaching and saved our day right at the end. But he had a few changes before then – a lob on the goalie and a through ball from Saka and his first touch let him down both times.  But I was also disappointed in Martinelli. He had a couple of chances today and was not clinical enough. He is no Greenwood or Rashford. And fans clamoring for him to play are misguided in their optimism. He’s still very raw. And I’m not sure what his best position is. Left wing does not seem the best place for him. Maybe against Everton with no Cigarette or Aubamyang, then Martinelli can start as the #9. Because I don’t want to see Eddie there. Eddie will score goals but does not fit this team as grateful as I am for todays goal.  

Poor old Scotty. I have some sympathy for him. If that was up the other end I’d also be screaming for off-side. It’s hard to see how Holding – within the 6 yard area – was not effecting the peripheral vision of their goalie.  But given all the borderline VAR calls we suffered under today it was time one went our way. I was so sure we’d loose all three points. We seemed completely cursed today. It was a throw-back game for the ages where we just could not score. We’ve seen this before but not for a few season. And with Ryan in goal this would have been his second 1-0 lose. I’ve never been a fan of having the goalie come up for corners but he contributed with his little flick on and helped save our day. And then I was sure VAR would take this one away again. They really do need to speed up this VAR thing – it must be automated. Once the fans are back it will become so disruptive. Look at the way Ceballos celebrated the first non-goal. If the fans had been present their anger and frustration would have boiled over. You can’t let fans wait to celebrate a goal for 3 minutes nor let them celebrate for 3 minutes and then take away the goal.

It’s not clear we learned too much today. It was a game that should have been important for us. It should have been 3 points and a chance to get closer to automatic qualification. But, it’s not obvious we’ve ever been in a shot of that. It would have been nice to win – we had the chances early on – but it’s the 3 games in the NoHopaCup that are important. Which is why the loss of Cigarette along with Tierney is more worrying.

If we had taken our early chances we would have been out of sight today and we could have protected Cigarette. His performances in the last few weeks (aside from Liverpool) have helped glue Saka and ESR into the team. Without him I fear for our interplay as we try and create. This is why you need a deep squad. And we don’t have one.

We can be thankful that Willian did not come on and that ESR/Saka were not injured. Beyond that, it’s about Villareal now. Though Everton will be interesting. They won’t come and play defense. They need the points and have some decent players. This might suite our counterattacking game better. And it will give Martinelli a chance to get more game time and allow him to tune his scoring boots. Because we will need those. Again, I get the excitement about him and he’s certainly an upgrade of Eddie but I’m not sure how natural a goal scorer he is.

Sounds like the European Super League is back on the table. Maybe we should be fortunate to be considered part of that. It’s a terrible idea. But one that won’t go away. Of course it comes from the biggest continental teams because they play in leagues with no fans and few competitive teams in their league. The Premier League is the premier league in Europe. And this will just dilute that. It’s the connection between the fans and the team that propels the league. It’s the rivalries and history. It’s the close proximity of the teams. It’s the ease, cost and time for the fans to get to games that count. Having to play in Italy, Germany, France and Spain on a regular basis is not an affordable option for Premier League fans.

From a competitive point of few it’s basically a transfer of money to those clubs that have a ceiling on their upside. Why help your competitor out of a tough spot. If the likes of ManU/C, Liverpool (and us) held their ground and stayed in the existing structure they would have more incremental upside than a Juventus or Bayern. This new Super League helps them out because their leagues are shit and helps diminish the gap to our Premier League. It will alienate English fans and take us to the place where even when fans could return they won’t return. It’s not clear how this is stopped but this is not what is needed. The strength and appeal of English football is not what happens in Europe. Our strength is based on the bedrock of our teams and fans. And the useless FA need to manage and control this. Not by shutting it down but by providing creative solutions. In the same way FIFA/EUFA are generating variations on the same theme. The FA rather than reacting need to proactively think through how the Premier League can be improved. Maybe dropping one team and removing 2 games. Maybe redistributing revenues. But don’t sit around, doing nothing and wait for the other leagues to disrupt your league.

So now we have 5 days until Everton. Let’s hope that I’m wrong about the severity of Cigarettes injury. Let’s hope our medical team have a good week and can patch him back up. We’ll need him Spain and beyond.

-LB7

April 3rd – Arsenal 0 Liverpool 3

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Anonymous Arsenal. Barely able to make three complete passes in a row. For once I wished the International break could have lasted even long. Then we would not have to force ourselves to stay awake as Arsenal slumbered their way through this game. We can come onto individual performances (or lack of) a little later. Overall there was nothing going on with this team. It was like that first half against West Ham but worse. There was not second half rebound here.

Sure Liverpool aren’t a shabby team and they have some good players. But how is it they won every single 50:50 ball? How is it that we could never hold onto the ball. We were unable to link up and create anything. We were so passive. We were, as last week, more like Spu*s than Arsenal.

All team have shitty matches. We seem to have more than our fair share. And, as ever, we can’t overreact. But, on the other hand. What the fuck. This was dreary and pointless. There was no believe. Which team turns up is so random. We’re like Jekyll and Hyde. We’re like Henry and Jeffers. Or Lehman and Alumina.

What did we learn today (aside from not watching such dross)? Not that much. Everything we’ve seen in the past we saw today. Though it’s rare to see it all unravel so quickly. It reminded me of the NoHopaCup v Chelski. We hung in there, defended stoutly and then made too many mistakes.

I like Gabriel as a defender; he’s young, physically strong and good in the air. But today two mistakes cost us two important goals. For the Salah goal I thought Leno could have done better – as he could with the first. It has me still wondering whether there is a buy-back clause on Martinez.

I understand that Chambers provides ariel strength against a team that cross the ball but his passing today was sideways and backwards. And he and Holding left their men free. And for that all important first goal – as he did with Sterling against Manchester City – he lost his man and got beaten in the air by someone ½ his size. After all the hard work defending that had proceeded, it was such a lame way to concede.

But the writing was on the wall. We ceded so much space and territory to them. We were playing like Bolton or Burnley. Except that both these teams would have had more fight, grit and determination.

Ironically when Ceballos finally got replaced it was still 0-0. He was by far our worst player today but it’s only when he left the field that we lost the game. Ceballos has no future with Arsenal. He takes so many touches when he could just lay the ball off. He losses the ball in dangerous positions on the pitch and he can’t defend. I am so desperate to see him join Mustafi, Kolinsac and the others. We’ve had him now for nearly two years and, with time, just like a wine that is not fine, he has not aged and improved. He’s going backwards. Hopefully all the way to Madrid.

So how do all those fans who’ve tried to chase Xhaka out of this club feel now? He was so clearly missing today. His ability to pick the ball off the backline and create was what we so desperately missed. And his ability to fill in behind Tierney was also missing. This is why Gabriel got into so much trouble today. There was no-one near him to receive the ball.

Partey looked dead on his feet today. When is he ever going to be ready to play a full 90 minutes? Once we’d lost this game (at 2-0) he should have been protected and removed. I’m convinced he is still not fully fit. Our season is all about the NoHopaCup. Protect him for that please.

Pepe was ineffectual and lost the ball at key times. He is so lacking in physical strength. You could blow and he’d fall over. He is too easy to push off the ball and is a risk we can’t carry. Here was another chance for him to excel but he failed. He offered no outlet today. It’s inconceivable we paid so much money for him. At some point, even though he’s young, we have to off-load him. I don’t believe he’s ever going to work out for us.

Losing three points is frustrating but not surprising. But losing Tierney is far more worrying. We can’t progress without him. Sure Cedric was reasonable but it’s not the same. We need Tesco-boy. And losing him today would be way more impactful than losing three points. We’ve seen every team have bad games and lose games they should not (cough cough Chelski) but it was the timid way in which we played today that is so worrying. Aubameyang was not involved at all. Cigarette could not hold onto the ball or pass to our players. And poor old (or young) Odergaard must have wondered why he’d want to be part of this team. We could not get him the ball. And when we did all he could do was pass sideways or backwards. There was no-one making any good runs. It was all so static.

As good as Partey can be though it demonstrates the value of Xhaka. Not only is the replacement (Ceballos or Elneny) too below the required level. But, just as Partey makes other better players so does Xhaka. He’s not perfect by any stretch – he’s too slow and too one footed. But he’s the 2nd best midfield player. And we clearly need a couple more.

Hector must be wondering why he’s in the dog house. He’s behind Chambers now and possibly Cedric. It’s not clear why. I’m not entirely happy with Hector but he offers us something we otherwise don’t have.

It also shows us what happens when you remove both Saka and Smith-Rowe from the team. These were the two catalysts for all the good things that happened from the Chelksi game onwards. And today you could see we missed their energy, drive and aggressive. Their willingness to take the game to the opposition. Their quick interplay and one touch passing is in stark contrast to the belabored rubbish we saw today. Again, with them Odergaard is wasted and unnecessary.

Games like this do make you wonder about Arteta. He was not responsible for any of the goals. But he was slow to change up our shape. I suppose we have to remember he is learning on the job and he’ll make mistakes. At least he pulled Ceballos quickly. But the shape and tactics – as excellent as they were last year against Liverpool – were absent today.

So it’s onto Thursday. We need Tierney back along with Saka and Smith Rowe. And, even, the much criticized David Luiz. This team is three players away from being competitive on a regular basis. It’s can’t happen when we so vulnerable to particular players being unavailable. We have wasted too much money over the last few years on Pepe and others to be able to recover in a year. It’s a long shot that we’ll find any way into Europe next year. Like other clubs we could use the absence to complete the rebuild. Or it could be an other step towards oblivion. Days like this one give me pause but I’m still optimistic as long as we can remain patient.

– LB7

April 1st – Thoughts on FIFA

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While we potter about during the enforced useless international break and just before players are sent back with multi-variants of the COVID virus to infect their teammates, I thought now might be a good time to review some proposals emanating from FIFA.

Regular readers – or irregular readers – or readers who are irregular – and anyone who can read, will know the high esteem in which I hold FIFA. It’s up there with the United Nations, UNICEF as a force for good in this world.

From what I’ve been able to assess there are some of the more interesting ideas being generated. And, this time, we have our ex glorious leader – The Right Honourable, Sir AW – for helping along this process. He was always quite the Renaissance man; intellectual, cerebral, multi-lingual and philosophical. The Harry Redknapp anthesis.

So let’s review, in no particular order, some of the best ideas coming out of FIFA:

  • Introduction of a square ball. With the increase in skills of all players of all age groups, this proposal would challenge players and force adaption.
  • Give points for away goals scored. To encourage more attacking play a team could lose, away from home 4-3 and still gain three points.
  • League table tie-breaks to be resolved by alphabetical ordering of the team rather than goal difference.
  • In order to create equal opportunities for left-footed players, require each team to have an equal balance of right footed players and left footed ones with the 11th played being ambidextrous.
  • Increase the goal size. This would enable certain teams – Sheffield United, Sp*rs to improve their fans experience
  • Increase the length of games to 120 minutes and increase the number of substitutes. This would allow teams/clubs to add more players to their roster and the players union also would like this idea
  • Split the game into quarters not halfs. This would allow for more advertising revenue and therefore reflate the economics of the game
  • Allow VAR to be reviewed next day so that referee mistakes can be adjusted 24 hours after the game. This would allow for goals to be nullified and scores to changes after the completion of the game (with adjustments for day light savings time)

These ideas would certainly impact the existing establishment and challenge the staid, conservative football authorities. Let’s see how they digest these. And remember also to enjoy the beginning of a new month. If memory serves me correctly it should be April 1st today.

-LB7