Monthly Archives: September 2021

September 26th – Arsenal 3 Sp*rs 1

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3 is the magic number.

3 – 1. 3 fucking 1. That’s it. Review done.

Who cares about anything else.

Before the game I’d have taken a point, a draw. Anything but a loss.

Brilliant. The beautiful game played by a beautiful team in a beautiful stadium with a loud, raucous and happy crowd generating a beautiful atmosphere.

Impressive. Every single one of our players delivered. The selection was perfect. Put Saka back on the right. And play ESR + Odergaard + Saka as the springboard for Aubameyang. This was our captains best game of the season – if not the past 12 months. I’ve never seen him work harder, win more headers and provide better link up play. And his goal was delicious. From the passing of Xhaka to Tierney through to the interplay with ESR. End to end in seconds. Pure Arsenal.

As good as Partey was; as important as he is to the spine of this team, today Odergaard stood out. His intelligence on the ball; his ability to maneuver out of tight spaces – for example, in the set up to the third goal – was a joy to watch. He was everywhere today. And he continued to close them done up front and put them under pressure – along with Aubameyang.

I could go on about each of our players. Garbriel was immense. Tomi at right back was dominant. Partey even managed to get a shot on target. And his pass in the first half to Aubemyang from inside his own half was breathtaking.

What I loved today was Ramsdale. The pace and energy he brings elevated the entire team. His distribution is sharp and decisive. And that transmits intent to the rest of the team. Sure, for our third goal he put Xhaka under pressure – and could have resulted in a goal at the wrong end. And let’s not forget his save in the first half from Son and then his acrobatic air dance to tip Moura’s shot onto the bar. Brilliant. Just brilliant. This guy is the real deal. We won the game because we had energy, drive and pressed continuously. We won because Odergaard bossed the game and Partey protected the defense and provided the springboard to cut through their lines

This was a perfect performance. The first half was like a dream sequence. I could not have scripted it better. But that left the fear of the second half with the knowledge that Sp*rs could not be that poor in the second half. But I loved the way we managed that second half. We played conservative, within ourselves even as we still create chances. Sp*rs were not as poor as the first half and Kane wasted a few more chances. And they grabbed a consolation goal. Any, on another day, they could have got a penalty. But we so utterly deserved this victory. We were clearly superior. Better selection. Better tactics. Better players. Don’t get much better than that.

As poor as Arteta was against Man City with his selection and tactics, today, he got everything right. Even down to his dancing on the touchline. Good on him. Hopefully that truly relieves some pressure on him. Though now he has to demonstrate each game he can get his selection and tactics right.

That’s enough for one day from me. And I’ve not even gloated on how crap Sp*rs were in that first half. How inept their manager was with his selection and inability to adjust as we run them over. By the time he made changes at half time the game was already lost. And then, after the game, he threw his own players under the bus. Never a good sign for team unity. Soon they will be wishing that had retained DarthVader as their manager. Kane is wasted on this team. He must be praying that the January window could open now. But I’m not one to gloat. I’m too classy for that.

If you can’t enjoy days like today you’re watching the wrong sport and you’re supporting the wrong team.

#ArtetaIn

Happy days are here again. All is right with the world.

-LB7

September 18th – Burnley 0 Arsenal 1

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Clean sheet and three points. And at Turf Moor. A minor miracle. Two world beating teams now that we’ve beaten. And VAR came to our rescue to overcome Anthony Taylor. All game long he was allowing them to bully us. There was one instance in the second half where Woods was shielding the ball outside the penalty area and he, Woods, basically was just gripping and pushing White. Yet no foul was given. All game long there were niggling tackles and the predictable over physical approach from Burnley and he barely called anything. Anyway, when he made his clearly worse decision, VAR was finally there to protect and serve us. I’m sure the referees union will now have to double down on ruling against us in the next game. Who’s that against. Hmm?

Ramsdale was brilliant. So clearly confident and dominant. There were a couple of corners in the second half where he out jumped and caught the ball with both hands while competing with the Burnley bullies. Leno could never have done that. In addition, aside from one mistake in the first half, his distribution was quicker and more accurate. There was one long ball – side-ways kick – to Pepe that was inch perfect. He provides confidence and certainty that is so important. Especially when you have White making simple mistakes. In the first half allowing the ball to drop to Woods after missing a header, and, in the second half, losing the ball outside of the penalty area and then, finally, setting up the penalty incident by under hitting the back pass. As good as White can be – he did dominate some of the arial duels – he is clearly prone to slips that can be costly. Fortunately, alongside him, Gabriel was excellent. With some timely interceptions and a dominating display. Though, he again, had decisions given him against him when Barnes and Woods were clearly man handling him.

On the right our new Nip was again outstanding. What a difference having a real, defensive right -back. The number of crosses from that side have been reduced. He is excellent in the air and is adjusting really quickly to this league. He made one mistake in the second half when he was caught on the ball but overall another excellent display.

Odegaard, who was playing noticeably deeper to receive the ball, was excellent. He linked up play and move us forward. And, of course, scored a gorgeous free-kick. Perfectly executed. I’d have thought Pepe would have taken that. Overall, Odergaard is showing what a perfect version of Ozil could be like.

I was pretty surprised that Sambo was on the bench and that we went with a single holding midfielder. I thought that was way to risky but it was the right decision. To be a little more aggressive and attacking. Even though it was often hard working the ball out of defense. Burnley put pressure on Gabriel and White and cut out the channels. Only as the game went on did that open up. But we controlled most of the game. While carrying a few players.

Unfortunately it was hard to know who was worse today Pepe or Saka. I fear Saka won that duel. It seem like every pass from him was under hit, misplaced and every tackle lost. This is not the Saka we saw last year. With Southgate watching he would not have been impressed. Saka needs to discover himself. Sure, he helped win the foul for the goal but too often – especially in the second half, there were opportunities to make the killer pass and he under hit it. And he gave the ball away, in defense, way to often. And positionally he was poor as well. This is not last years Saka. Something weird is going on. Maybe, he should be played on the right. Maybe he should be given a break. But we need him. And so far this season he’s not been a contributor.

And on the other side Pepe was poor again. His crosses were pathetic and his passing was often under hit as well. He had a few moments but in defense, especially towards the end, he failed to track his man back. But, he was better than Saka.

Aubemeyang was barely involved in this game – not his fault – we barely got him the ball. And, towards the end of the game when we have them on the break we did not feen him the right passes. Both Saka and Pepe blew opportunities to complete the counter-attacks.

I should be ecstatic that we went to the Burnley bruisers and came away with three points. But it was so frustrating watching Saka and Pepe today. And sitting on the edge of the seat as White looked like he would implode. Also, knowing that Partey would not last the entire game. But then AMN and Sambi did fine when they came on. Even if AMN was in danger of giving the ball away a few times.

Interestingly, I’ve not mentioned either ESR or Tierney. Our potency down our left hand side seems to have been curtailed. I also worry about Tierney cramping up. He and Partey are too critical to our chances of success. And yet they just don’t feel like they are fully fit. So, rather than relax with the three points I continue to worry. The pressure is off slightly now. But with the NLD coming up, the pressure will – and should – build again. This will be a far better test of how far we might or might not have progressed. It will also be interesting to see whether Xhaka strolls back into the team. I don’t know that we’ll be playing four at the back with one holding midfielder against that lot. Maybe we’ll play both Partey and Sambi. BTW, I wish Partey would learn to go to ground rather than signal to the bench that he wants to come off. It reminds me of Sp*rs last year when he walked to the sideline. He surely knows that if he can’t continue he should go to ground to force a substitution. Simple stuff really.

Anyway, we’ve “climbed” the table and taken some more pressure away from Arteta. But still plenty to be worked on here. We are still too vulnerable and exposed in midfield. But at least we finally have a true goalkeeper behind the defense. All hail Ramsdale. He will surely be in the England squad now. Southgate must have looked at Pope and Ramsdale and realized which one he would want in goal.  Let’s see if he can see what we can see.

-LB7

September 11th – Arsenal 1 Norwich 0

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Finally. We scored. And gained some points. Hallelujah. We are no longer bottom. And more importantly there was a change at the top. Two perfect results. Even if our performance was far from it. But I’ll take those points thank you. Enough to get us out of the relegation zone. So, thank you international break. Thank you for two weeks of relative peace and tranquility. Avoiding watching Arsenal is good for your health. Now please bring on the next international break.

Arteta survives. Just. Today was an important game. To lose at home or drop points would have incurred the wrath of the fans. And feed into the media frenzy. And into my own loss of faith. Today was still too painful. Too many weaknesses. Against more polished teams we will be picked apart. And we could have been today. But thankfully we finally took one of our chances. But if that had been against us, I would have screamed off-side.

We started the game with energy and commanded the game. For 20 minutes anyway. But even their GK had no saves to make and we barely had a shot on target. Odergaard drove us forward and was our best player on the day. He presses and demands the ball – often dropping deep. Unfortunately when he presses no-one seems to understand how to follow suit. Pepe barely presses and Aubemyang is likewise static. You would have though our manager could sort that out.

It’s hard to know whether this was a turning point; whether there were signs of green shoots sprouting. We clearly have an improvement at right back. Much more controlled and with a better touch than previous incumbents. Likewise it was good to see White in the center of defense. There are still a few physical duels he should be winning – especially at the end when he allowed Poki-man to turn him in the box just before Cedric slipped to block a shot. Next week against the Burnley bullies will be interesting to see how White handles that challenge. And Gabriel next to him is an upgrade on Mari but still does not instill me with confidence. His distribution over 20 yards is so predictably shit. But he can defend – unlike Mari. Though I also worry about his tendency to lose the ball unnecessarily.

I liked the selection this week; in particular, Ramsdale in goal. Leno must know his number is up. Or not. Arteta is turning Leno into Pep’s Joe Hart. Hart was frozen out as soon as Pep had the chance. And we’re seeing that now with Leno. I’m not too upset. But there’s no way Leno can now come back in until Ramsdale makes a colossal mistake or is injured. Maybe he can play against mighty FC Wimbledon. Ramsdale is more certain in his distribution and much quicker. None of the dithering we had with Leno. Of course, he was barely tested today. And is fortunate to start against a team as toothless as Norwich. Nice as they play they are destined to yo-yo back to the Championship. Though playing them every week would be perfect.

AMN and Sambi is not the ideal midfield partnership but, again, I liked that selection. It’s important that we give Partey time to come back to fitness. We’ve rushed him in the past. So I was happy that he only played 30 minutes today. He’s too important to us. As was demonstrated as soon as he got onto the pitch. He changed the tempo. As, to be fair, did ESR. The two of them were more dynamic, direct and provided the missing quality. I just wish I could say the same thing about Pepe. For our record signing he continues to frustrate (me, anyway). For those few moments of brilliance, we have to endure peripheral performances like today. Against such a weak team he should have shone. Instead, too often his first touch was too heavy and he could barely beat his man. We should expect so much more from him. And he so rarely delivers. I doubt he’d make the starting 11 in any team in the top ½ of the table. When everyone is fit he shouldn’t make ours. He should be on the bench. I’d prefer Saka to be on the right and let ESR and MO float.

Saka is still to find his footing. Maybe our expectations are too high. But today he lost the ball in too many important areas of the field. And our vulnerability on the left where Tierney gets outmanned seems to stem from Saka not tracking back. He just does not seem to have his rhythm yet.

I liked the fact that AMN dropped back to right back. Better to see him there than Cedric. But neither AMN or Sambi created enough or moved the ball quickly enough. Both were solid. Both are young. But against stronger teams we’ll need Partey there.

There were times today when I was sure we’d not score. Even when we did we then proceeded to waste so many chances. Between MO, ESR and Pep we have numerous chances to put more distance between us. Hopefully, as they settle down we’ll find ways to score. But 1-0 against Norwich is not confidence inspiring. Overall the performance was not inspiring. Once those first 20 minutes passed we ceded too much space and control to Norwich. We lost our energy and drive. Against Norwich.

I suppose the rebuilding has to start somewhere. And we’re out of the relegation zone – for a week anyway. But we need Aubameyang to put chances away. We need to see more of those long, cross-field passes from White. We need to see less of Gabriel on the ball. And we need Partey on the pitch. And we need Saka to rediscover his rhythm. And we need ESR fully fit. He really was impressive when he came on. More so than Saka (today).

Today helps though. Three points gives a little breathing space. A little more time for Arteta to shape this group of players into a team. One that has a backbone and balance. But with Ramsdale, White, Partey, MO and Aubameyang we’re getting there. We just need Pepe to be more consistently dominant and Saka to revive himself. We are on a very long (and painful) journey. This will take a year or more. Unfortunately. I’d thought it would be sooner but, even today, you could see how easy it is to dominate against us. Both Saka and Pepe provided too little protection to our full-backs. We can’t afford to carry players. Arteta now has time to prepare for games and he has his spine in place. So now let’s see him coach this team into the shape and style we expect. Let’s see us consistently apply a pressing game with everyone on the same page.

In the meantime, we can all ponder what has been pumped into the veins of Wenger; what are they feeding him these days. As intelligent and cerebral as he is, the idea of a WC every 2 years is insane. Wrong. And destructive to the game and the players. And the idea from FIFA that it makes it better for other countries to get to play at the WC is such an asinine reason. Basically, you get to buy two lotto tickets. But you still won’t win. Because you come from a country that does not have enough good players. That won’t change by doubling the frequency. But it will cheapen the WC. It will impact the 4 yearly Euros. Which will also move to every 2 years. And then every other competition. But FIFA is only motivated by money. They, along with the NCAA, we the two most evil organizations within sport. Neither contribute anything but drain money from the sport. FIFA are just trying to re-assert their power. Over players they do not pay for and clubs that are in fear of FIFA. Look at what they’d doing by forcing players to travel into COVID countries and then plays 3 games in a week. Insane. But they don’t care as long as they get the TV money. This idea sits up there along-side the European Super League. And, watching the financial collapse of Barcelona and loss of Messi, you understand why some clubs were so vested in making that happen. Look at Juventus as their loss of Ronaldo. It’s all about the financial impact of COVID. But Barca have no pre-ordained right be at the pinnacle of European football. They’ve only been there for 30 years or so. Every club has it’s cycle (as we know only too well). Back in the 1930’s through 1960’s they were nothing. It was Cruyff that took them there initially. Anyway, back to the corrupt FIFA.   Let’s hope that the clubs find their backbone and resist this insidious idea.  It’s painful enough that the number of countries in the final has been increased to 48. Soon, like American sports, everyone will qualify. We’ll have 195 countries at the WC. Hey, maybe that’s a better idea. Then we can scrape the stupid qualifiers where someone has to play Monaco or Lichtenstein or Gibraltar. I mean, what’s the point. Let them all join in and save us to wasted two weeks of international play. Though, of course, Arsenal, more than ever, need these breaks.   Someone needs to give Wenger something else to occupy that great mind. Because this idea is flat our awful. Maybe the one good thing would be to consolidate the international matches to a limited part of the year so we don’t have to disrupt the EPL. That would be an improvement. By the time FIFA figure that out, we’d have figured out how to get back into the top 4 and compete for the league – that’s how long it will take.

So, a week to wallow in 3 points and look ahead to the bruising encounter with the Burnley bullies. Get ready for all those long balls, corners and football in the mould of Stoke and Bolton. It won’t be a place for the faint hearted. None of those weak challenges we saw today where we continued to lose those second balls. Next week will be a test – again. But one we have time to prepare for.

So, thank you Patrick. Thank you Palace. You made my day. Top of the league. My arse.

-LB7