Monthly Archives: January 2022

January 23rd – Arsenal 0 Burnley 0

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Wake me up someone. Please. That cured any insomnia I might have. No need for medication. Just put that game on a loop.

From minute one the outcome was predictable. Burnley doing their perfect impersonation of Bolton. And us doing an impersonation of a team that used to be called Arsenal. If you think about our performance against Liverpool in the first half and then for the entirety of the game against Man City. Got it? Great, discard that. Pretend it did not happen. Because that’s what we did today. We were as limp and boring as we were under Emery. Sideways and tedious. No pace. No energy and no urgency. OK, I exaggerate a little. It was inevitable that, yet again, out best chance would fall to Cigarette. And the outcome was as predictable as it was during the week. He brought together his vast experience and found a way to entirely miss the target.

Of course, we did not exactly test their goalie. It’s not like we peppered their goal. There was one ESR move from our corner when Pope made a great save. But not much else stands out.

It’s depressing to watch us to descend to the level of the opposition especially when we needed the 3 points. It’s games like this that in the past that always cost us come the end of the season. Last year it was Palace, Watford and Brighton.

Arteta today, as the game progressed, needed to mix things up and change the tactics. I know the bench is not exactly littered with Kante’s or Salahs but we seemed devoid of ideas. This was definitely a step backwards. The next match is away to Wolves – who are climbing the league now – and that is a game we can’t lose. We should have Xhaka and Partey back by then. They were missed today. That lack of experience and guidance in midfield was noticeable. And most of our players seemed a little raged.

We missed Tommy today though after Thursday it was not surprising. We still kept a clean sheet. But we lose something when White is out on the right. Holding’s distribution is just not the same quality. Compare the cross-diagonal balls from White to what we saw of Holdings long balls. (I say!).

And what’s up with Tierney? He has turned into sideways and backwards Tierney. When he first arrived he would tear up the left hand side. Now his first pass is as described. It sucks any momentum out of the game. There were two instances in the second half when he either passed inside or turned up field. And both times attacks were started. Something has changed with him. And not for the better.

Odegaard worked hard – and defended – but there was little happening ahead of him. Martinello again ran like a maniac and worked his socks off. But Saka was again quiet against a full back he could take to the cleaners. He needed to be more aggressive and more direct. On those instances that he was, we created opportunities.

Not that it explains the result or the performance but what was up with this referee.  I can’t believe Westwood was not sent off for that second foul in the first half on Gabriel. If that had been Xhaka or Partey they would have taken an early bath. Do people even know what that is? Do people take baths anymore. I don’t. But trust me I am held to the highest hygiene standards. I clean behind my ears and adhere to regular shows. But I digress. Do players take baths? I don’t think so. So maybe it should be an early shower. Or, an early Tik-Tok or early podcast. Anyway, as we saw with Partey on that first tackle on Thursday that he somehow managed to receive a yellow card for something that was only just a foul. But yet, here we have Westwood cracking into our player and nothing. And you wonder why Arsenal fans are paranoid. Though I’m not convinced we’d have scored even against 10 men.

But basically today was boring and joyless. A backward step. But just tedious. It sucked away any enjoyment for the game. It reminded us that this is truly a young lead lacking some experience and leadership. And unfortunately, our most experienced player is not part of the team anymore and the next most experienced can shoot straight.

So now we turn to the transfer to see if we can help supplement this team. To see if we can find a way to get into Europe next year. Fourth is going to be a level too far. We will benefit from no more cup competitions for sure. But I fear that will not be enough. A little help up front and in midfield is required. We know that the referees association will be planning out how to hand a few more random red cards leaving us short in midfield again.

It’s good to see the back of Kolasinac. That’s progress. But we also need to add. Even if that’s tough to do in the winter window.  At least by our next game – which is more than two weeks away – we’ll have a full and fit squad. Maybe that will allow us to re-discover our energy and urgency. This two steps forward and one step back is difficult to absorb. We’re just lucky that the teams around us are also wildly inconsistent. But at some point we need to put a run together. Otherwise 8th place will beckon for us. I wish I could be more upbeat. Today was one the hardest reviews write just because of the tedium of it all. The drabness we witness seeps into everything after  a lackluster performance like that. So maybe the next few weeks will give me sufficient time to recuperate. Lets see.

-LB7

January 20th – Arsenal 0 Liverpool 2

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Boom. Back down to earth with a mighty thud. What did we learn today? That Partey is Xhaka’s natural understudy. And that Jota should play for us.

Atkinson is a twat is another truism. We did not learn that today. How Partey picked up his first yellow is beyond me. Not that this explains the stupidity of the second tackle. That was a yellow all day long. So now he can go back to Ghana for a week. Not his most successful two weeks of football.

I love a Cigarette as much as the next man. But, really, as good as Liverpool are, if we swapped Jota and Cigarette we could also (possibly) have swapped the scores. Imagine if Jota had that chance in the second half? Do you think it would have ended up in the stands missing the target entirely? Me thinks not.

We start full of vim and vigor and had them on the back foot initially. But after 20 minutes we lost our way a little and then they started to come back into the game. But by half-time we’d had the better of the first half. Unfortunately, the 2nd half was the reverse.

Overall, the better team won. Of course. But we knew they were the better team beforehand. Because they are. It was noticeable though that some of our players were off the pace. Tommy kept slipping over and making little mistakes. And he faded as the game went on. He was clearly not match fit. The same was true of Odergaard. He started by actually making tackles but then also faded as the game went on. And Saka was marginalized on the right. I figure he was also impacted by the less than energetic Tommy.

The only one who ran like an Energizer battery was Martinelli. He also had a few chances. But unlike Cigarette, he’s a baby with many years ahead of him. But he ran AA raged for that first ½ hour.

Their first goal game against the run of play and was a little fortunate as that mis-hit shot wrong-footed everyone. And once we went 1-0 down you knew that was it as we barely could create chances.

This could have been our easiest route into Europe next year. Of course, it could also have just set us up for yet another League Cup final disappointment. So now our Arse-it continues. So I remain disappointed but optimistic.  Directionally we’re still pointed upwards. This team is improving. If anything it amplifies Artetas’ achievement of winning the F A Cup in his first year with a much inferior team.  

Now onto the blockheads from Burnley. And without Partey. Hopefully we won’t need that defensive cover. Today Sambi was pretty solid and dependable. And we’ll need the creative juices of Odergaard and ESR to unlock the Burnley brick wall. And we’ll need Cigarette to take his chances. You can see why we’re in the market for a striker. My preference has always been for additional midfield over – especially as we sent AMN into the jaws of Darth Vader. But, maybe, I was wrong (I know, I can’t believe I wrote that; I’m obviously emotionally distressed). Maybe if we had a Jota type figure we could win marginal games like these. The fact that ESR is our highest goal-scorer across all competitions is pretty telling.

So as I wipe away my tears I console myself that I won’t have to suffer through losing in another final and that the team will now channel their own disappointment into focusing on the League. I mean, there’s nothing else now. No more cups to distract us and wear down our squad. If we could just find a way to keep 11 players on the pitch for the entire game that would help. Though not having Atkinson ref our games would also help. I mean, really. What a wanker. In both games we had a player sent off? How is that possible? Neither game was dirty? So what are the odds of this happening? And people wonder why AFC fans are a little paranoid. We’re paranoid for a reason. I know I am. Actually, for many reasons. But that’s another story.

-LB7

January 15 – Arsenal win Sp*rs lose

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Maybe I’m childish. Maybe I’m mentally challenged. Maybe I’m immature. But this one felt like a victory. Fuck the moral victory in losing 2-1 to Man City. Ignore the fiasco against Forest. And even the Battle of Anfield resistance. This is up there with 3 points at WHL. No game tomorrow. Outstanding. Better than a draw. Better than 3 points.

Just think of all the gnashing of teeth and angst amongst their fans. They loose match day revenue (for now). They lose the chance to play against our depleted team. Their chance to crush us in retaliation to our demolition of them at our place. Oh, how pissed off they must be. Tee fucking hee. Best possible outcome this. And we don’t even have to lift a finger. We don’t have to sit on the edge of our seats and bite our nails. I can relax and enjoy my Sunday. Nope, care of the FA we’ve ruined their day. We’ve ruined their weekend. It does not get much better than that.

I have not checked – and I will – but I can only hope they are all complaining about the unfairness of it all. The injustice. And I’m sure the pundits will have a field day. Well, fuck them. Where were they when we were robbed against City? Exactly. Please let them all suffer. Please let them all wind themselves up into a hysterical state that leads to their heads exploding.

To watch them all degenerate into a mass of catatonic anger is priceless. To see them fume and decry their inability to play us when the odds were clearly in their favor. How sweet is that? There is nothing like watching other people suffer. And when it’s that lot down the road it’s even better. It’s better than better. It’s fucking brilliant. I’ve always said watching them suffer is more enjoyable than watching us soar. But that’s just because I’m a petty, bitter man (child). I can’t help myself. It’s just way too much fun.

I didn’t expect this outcome. I assumed the FA – as they usually do – would deny our request. So, finally we get one form the FA and we put one over on them. Sweet. And, if I was to try and be objective – and there’s not possible reason for that – I would also argue it was borderline stupid. For the good of the game the match should have been played. But then for the good of the game the Saudi’s should not have been allowed to buy Newcastle, Man City should have been deducted 21 points for financial dropping and the WC should have been awarded to any other country than Qatar. So, again, fuck the good of the game.

Our squad is depleted. But, we knew this would happen. The ACN was not news to us. Those 4 players were destined to not be with us. We should have been prepared. And then we lose a few players to injury. That’s the nature of the game and no-one else’s fault. It’s just the nature of the beast. And then we have a few cases of COVID. Not rampant. Not like how it was against Brentford at the start of the season which should have been postponed. And then there is the red card. That red card – given the impact in the game – turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Without the red card we might not have seen this game postponed. So thank you Xhaka. You are a star.

How the FA could agree to postpone though is baffling. Prior to the pandemic, this would never have happened. But here we are with only a few COVID infections and we get the game postponed. Perfect. Not only is it exactly what we needed but it’s exactly the wrong decision for the wrong reasons. The FA have been true to themselves. Incompetent and inconsistent. And for once it’s worked in our favor.

Tomorrow would have been a fiasco. Without a midfield we would have been battered. Without ESR and, possibly, Saka, we would have not outlet. And without Pepe we’d have had no….oh, right forget that. Sure, when the match is rescheduled Son will surely be available and he’ll likely score the winning goal in retribution. But we’ll have Partey back. We’ll have Xhaka back. And we’ll have a fit ESR and Saka. And, maybe, just maybe, we’ll have another midfield player and another striker.

And now we have a clear week until Liverpool return for the second leg. Time for us to recharge after that defensive master-class. And they will still be without Mane and Salah. Could not have planned it any better. And, after that, we have Burnley minus the monstrously ugly Wood in their line-up. And no Xhaka to concede a penalty.

That all folks. Just a short one today; that’s what she said (see earlier reference to being childish please). What a great day.

-LB7

January 13th – Liverpool 0 Arsenal 0

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A bonus review today. Once Xhaka was sent off I assumed the worst and decided I could not face having to write a review of this game. Yet here I am. Struggling to not laugh out loud at Liverpool. One would have to conclude that our African players were less missed than theirs. I’m sure if either Salah or Mane was there we’d have seen a different outcome. Never did I think I’d be grateful for the ACN.

You can set you clock by Xhaka being sent off. I have not checked but I’m sure Viera never received this many red cards. I remember in Vieras’ first season he picked up a bunch and refs targeted him. But Viera learned and changed his game. Poor Xhaka has yet to figure this out. Look, I don’t think that was a red card. He was not looking at Jota. There was no intent there. Sure, he was the last man but I just don’t see how Oliver – a decent ref in a cesspool of awful refs – can give a straight red for this. However, it’s fair to say that red cards are attracted to Xhaka like pooh is attracted to Sp*rs. This man is fated. When we drew up his contract we should have agreed to pay him by minutes played. I’d guess he looses 10% of his playing time each year. And, of course, his timing is a disaster given that the NLD is on Sunday. Just when we were short of a viable midfield we now lose him for three games.  

Yet somehow we managed to keep a clean sheet. With 10 men at Anfield for 70 minutes we managed to keep them at bay. Remarkable. It’s a miracle. And bodes well for the long-term viability of this team. Missing Tommy, ESR and Odegaard we started with a weak team. Not that I’m complaining that we lost Cedric. That was a blessing in disguise. And surely a record for a player picking up an injury. That first goal-kick within 30 seconds gave rise to his injury. Chambers – though slow as a three-legged horse (see how he got outrun by their useless Mane fill-in) – was an upgrade. And fortunately, on Sunday Son won’t be there to run past him.

Arteta should also take credit for his change in tactics. Moving to a back 3 certainly protected us. I actually can’t remember Ramsdale having a save to make until 80 minutes. They barely managed a shot on target. We were organized, structure and coordinated. It belies the fears of our own fans that this man does not know how to change strategy intra-game.

Rightly, the real credit must go to the players. I worry that they ran themselves into the ground and that they’ll pay the price on Sunday. White was phenomenal. He organized the backline. Gabriel – aside from his mimicking of a Tavares backpass – was solid. And Tierney helped stabilize the left side. In front of them everyone worked their socks off. On another day – and in a few more years – Saka would have put that one chance away. Martinelli was relentless in his running, Cigarette tracked back continuously and Sambi was much improved from Sunday. Though he still dwells on the ball too long and plays it too tight in the wrong areas. But, he will learn. He just needs time. As do most of this team. Which is why todays performance will be so valuable. For them to believe that they can withstand this type of onslaught.  This was a performance for the future. I still expect us to lose next Thursday. But after the disappointment of Sunday and the daylight robbery against Man City and then having yet another player sent off, I thought we were destined for more misery. Instead, our attitude and application were perfect. Sure, Liverpool were pretty dire but the spirit and determination were both surprising and refreshing. Now let’s see if we can take it into the NLD.

I’ve condition myself to expect the worse; know that the refs will penalize us in ways other teams aren’t. That all the important decisions will go against us. And I’ve also prepared for our inevitable implosion by focusing on the long-term; the evolution and development of this team. And it’s there to be seen. This team has been re-created now. But it’s still not quite there. We need a deeper squad. And therefore it’s highly unlikely that this will be our year. This is the year for us to suffer and then channel that experience into next year. For this year I don’t see how we manage with such a slim squad. I fear for this Sunday. And don’t see how we grab 4th place. While we’ve made progress we’re just not there yet. I’m not even sure we’ll qualify for the NoHoppaCup next year. I know it’s strange to be so negative after todays performance. But it’s just the reality that we’re on such thin ice. And I’m also hesitant to let my emotions believe that we could get to the final and win another cup. This cup is special. I still bear the scars from our last disastrous appearance in the final against Birmingham. I still have nightmares about how Kosclieny and Szczeny conspired to self-destruct. And I also remember losing to Chelski in Wales. Another painful experience. If we do somehow get to the final maybe I should consider sitting this out as, just maybe, I’m the jinx on this competition. Though I do think I went to the final when we beat Sheffield Wednesday.

So bonus reading is over. It’s onto the main event on Sunday. It will be interesting to see what type of team we can field. And without Xhaka, I wonder who the ref can send off? Or give a last minute penalty against us. I just hope Saka is fit. He was immense today. A one man wrecking crew. I like to think that we’ll be able to at least replicate our dogged spirit from today. And, just maybe a goal or two. I do wonder who has been planning out our squad utilization. I just don’t get how we could not forsee both the pending ACN and a Xhaka red-card. Come on, how can you not a least have prepared for one of these events? It feels like this one is on Edu. Sorry mate.

In the meantime, relax and enjoy the next couple of days because Sunday is going to be a tough ride. With a full squad I would be quietly confident. But with a depleted squad against a team that has no players at the ACN it feels like we’re heading into the abyss. Let’s just hope they are even more devoid of creativity than Liverpool. Of course, we’ll have to contend with Kane flailing around looking for cheap penalties – maybe not having Xhaka could be a blessing in that respect. But watch out for his dirty tricks. England captain my arse.

-LB7

January 9th – Nottingham Forest 1 Arsenal 0

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That was shit. Eddie was shit. And this performance was shit. 2022 has given us two games. Completely different games. But we’ve lost both. Not a great start to the year. And Liverpool up next. Then the NLD. I already hear next season calling.

It’s a shame I was unavailable to review the run of matches where we finally looked like a viable, competitive, exciting team. I had other commitments. Unfortunately I was not able to solve world peace, Ukraine nor the global warming but I gave it my best shot (unlike Eddie). And, as my timing sucks, I was unfortunate enough to have time to sit through todays debacle.

All the good work demonstrated against Man City evaporated today. This was a throwback performance. A throwback to when we were insipid, lacking identify and purpose. I don’t think their goalie had a single save to make (care of Eddie). Today we carried too many players with a non-existent midfield. The fact that Holding was controlling our distribution says it all.  

Both Sambi and Tavires were disappointing. Tavires seems to be completely different from the player we saw a couple of months ago. Now he’s lost any positional sense, lost his first touch and looks lost. Did I mentioned he was lost? It was good to replace him as he was exposing our left side of defense even it was a little drastic. But when you have 5 subs it makes sense to use them.

It’s just a shame we did not replace Eddie. I don’t see how anyone can make the case that we should retain him. He will score goals in the future – just not for us. He cost us a point at Everton and today, in a similar situation, he failed to convert on the one – simple – chance he had today. It was an open header that he could not even get on target. He could not even head it. He shouldered it. How is that the quality of a premier league striker? It’s not. This is why he did not play for Leeds and why he barely plays for us. And before that he had a one on one with their defender. A Championship defender. And he could not beat him either. Eddie is a fox in the box for sure. But he is not our fox in the box. If he would have placed that header into the net the game would have completely changed. One chance and one miss. That’s what he’s there for.

Beyond the groaning disappointment with Eddie you could see the cavernous void in midfield. Without both Partey and Xhaka we had no control of the game. Patino is clearly one for the future. Just not the present. Sambi, who was at fault for their goal, was largely anonymous. He seemed to be unprepared to assert himself on the game. Maybe it’s a result of not having played for 2+ months. But he was not available to receive the ball and could not progress the ball. Hence Holding was left carrying the ball too often.

Martinelli was his usual energetic self but there was no-one for him to link up with. Eddie was isolated (by choice) and Saka was pretty quiet. Odergaard was the one we needed to see more on the ball but there was little creativity and movement around him.

I’ve always been a fan of Maitland-Niles and I understand why he wanted to leave. But how could we let him leave before this game. Ok, maybe we could not know that Xhaka would test positive. But we have always known that in January we would be short in midfield. So, why not keep him for at least another day or so? How do we think we’ll fare in our next 3 games with a midfield of Sambi and Patino? How did we not plan and anticipate this?

All the good work of the last month is about to dissipate. Let’s hope Arsenal fans have good, long memories. I’m kidding. We know the answer. They’ll be bleating and screaming to burn the entire house down. Why? because that’s what our supporters (not sure that’s the accurate description of them) will do. Please put on your big-boy pants because the next few weeks are going to be painful. We are in the early phases of transforming this club. I do not doubt that Arteta is the right manager. But this squad is too thin. When all available, our first 11, as was demonstrated against Man City, is close to where we need to be. But, once you take out a few keys players then it exposes the weakness in our squad. Today Cedric was not our worst player. That says it all. Arteta needs a few more transfer windows to fill out his squad. We should have four world-class midfield players not two. We should have 3 world-class center forwards and we have just one. We are short at right back as well. And I also worry about our left-back position. Today Tavires was awful. Ever since that Liverpool game when he undermined all the good work of the team, he’s gone backwards – and quickly. It will be interesting to see what Arteta says about that substitution.

Today we were sloppy and careless with the ball. We also lack on-field leadership. How is this possible? We looked like the rudderless team of the recent past. All our recent positive progress evaporated. I don’t really get how that happens. But what I could see what lack of ownership on the pitch. No-one shouting and cajoling. No passion. The number of times Holding sat on the ball and he had no-one ahead of him demanding the ball or making runs.

In some ways this loss could help our fixture backlog and reduce further injuries. It’s embarrassing though. Forest weren’t bad but we were spineless and devoid of any really quality. Of course, Eddie should have given us the lead (at least once). But you make your own luck and today we made none. We seemed to lack any belief. And this was a team that put in it’s best appearance only a week ago. Maybe this is what we should expect from a young, inexperienced team. And maybe we have to be thinking about next year. Except that there is a window of opportunity for us in the League and the League Cup. With Man United as truly shit as we were today there is an open window for that 4th place. But we can’t get anywhere close to that without Partey and Xhaka. And we knew we’d be without Partey. What is our plan then? What should be our expectations? I certainly did not consider 4th place viable at the start of the season and it was not a realistic target. But now we have the opportunity should we look to take it or should we stick to the add a few young, talented but inexperienced players to the team each transfer window. We need a Aubameyang replacement now. Sure, we knew he’d be gone for the CAN but not for the balance of the season. Take any Newcastle money and then re-invest it. I just don’t know whether Edu/Arteta is thinking that short-term. This is their project and I don’t think they will rush it just because there’s an opening for 4th place.

So strap yourself in for more disappointment. Hopefully not as lifeless and careless as today but nonetheless performances where we are exposed because of the lack of depth in our squad. Patino was clearly physically overwhelmed today. But he was not helped by those players around him. The lack of movement hampered him. He would have benefited from Cigarette playing but I understand why we have to protect him from playing in all these games.

I shudder to think what type of team we’ll have for the NLD. In that tense atmosphere with no viable midfield we will just have to suck up the pain and embarrassment of losing to those lucky basterds. After the excellent end of December period this is our coming down to earth. We are mean reverting. It’s just a shame it happens as we have a NLD. And we knew this would happen with Partey. I don’t know why we would not have wrapped Xhaka in a bubble this week.

So, in the short-term, we are well and truly fucked. We will have to hold on to the good memories and remember we are a young team in the early stages of rebuilding. That this is what you get – inconsistency. However, even as I try to rationalize this and (maybe) understand the context that did not stop me screaming and shouting during this game. Oh so often we gave the ball away needlessly, we lost every second tackle and had no idea what we were trying to do.

Leno was not at fault for anything today. He has to be pissed. His chances to get any playing time just disappeared. Even Cedric was not the worst one on the pitch. Even if we get Xhaka back I don’t have much confidence in Sambi. Maybe I’m being too harsh. But he seemed to hide today. And maybe he just needs more minutes to adapt. But this was Forest not Liverpool. So we’ll find out pretty soon. And I fear that outcome.

So, first review of the year is not what I’d hoped for.  After Norwich, Southampton. West Ham and Sunderland, I had expected more. We have to remember we aren’t as bad as we were today nor as good as we were against Man City. But I worry about the depth of the squad. That is what has the potential to derail this season now. And I don’t know how quickly, even with the window now open, we can address it. For sure though Eddie is not part of the solution. I’m now going to go off and search again for all that optimism I had over Christmas. It has to be here somewhere.

-LB7