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November 3 – Arsenal 1 Liverpool 1

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A point gained. An exam passed. This is a new Arsenal. No way would we have gained a point last year. This team is developing. And next year we’ll beat Liverpool after a few surgical additions. This team showed today is can compete. Finally we came up against a real team – a team with talent and ability – and we stood toe-to-toe with them.

Unlike previous weeks, right from the start, we competed and played our game. The intensity level and the inter-play was there from the beginning. We dominated large parts of this game. Of course they had many chances to score including one legitimate goal disallowed. We also rode our luck when Leno came out to intercept a ball and entirely missed the ball and they hit the post. And who picked up the ball from the rebound off the post? None but the best player on our team. The little man that worked like a terrier. The player who, in a sequence in the first half won two tackles back-to-back that he had not right to win. Our little Uruguayan energize bunny. Today Torriera was immense. His presence utterly changes our team. You could replace every other player in our team and though we’d be impacted (possibly) we’d survive. But there is no-one who could replace this mighty midget. He is the glue that holds this team together. One measure of a player is how they improve those around them. Torreira make Xhaka look like a composed, elegant and controlled midfield player. Carefully re-read that sentence. Unbelievable but true. That’s how good he is. And he’s enjoyable to watch – he keeps the play simple and clean. Nothing too complicated. And forward moving; no sideways passes from him. 13 years after the departure of Viera to Juventus we finally have a replacement. If we learned nothing else form today that would have been sufficient.

We also saw a masterful, controlled performance from our center half today. No not that moron Mustafa. But Holding. With each game he is maturing and growing in confidence. On many occasions he acted as the last line of defense to their dangerous attack.  His distribution was first class and he’s reading of the game excellent. Now we just have to find him a viable partner (on the pitch….).

Even if we had lost today – which is looked like for a while – there was enough on display today to raise our spirits. We are seeing the evolution of the team that we hoped for. Of course, there are still a handful of weak links that undermine the team. But over the course of the next transfer window or two we can correct for that.

Mikeytarrien, today, was hands down, the worst player on the pitch. I can’t thing of a single thing he executed properly. In the first half he either lost the ball in dangerous positions or misplaced passes. He added little to this team. He was so poor that I was crying out for the introduction of Ob1. There is no place in our future for Mikeytarrien; he’s luxury we can’t afford. We will stumble through this year with him but he must be the first player replaced. He exposed Bellerin numerous times; he can’t defend. And, on a couple of occasions he showed he can’t score either. I’m sure that in the NoHopaCup he’ll play and score but we can’t afford to have him in the starting eleven. Within a year he’ll be gone.

I felt sorry for Aubameyang today. He made good runs and worked hard. I was surprised he was taken off while we still needed a goal. But fortunately, we still had the most wonderful Cigarette to rescue a point. What a brilliant goal. He’d worked hard the entire game but seemed to be missing that final touch and never quite got into the right position. But he more than made up for it when he received a perfect pass from Ob1 and then spanked their goalie before unleashing a perfect shot without once looking up for the goal – a natural strikers instinct.

Even though Liverpool looked like they’d catch us on the break again and win by 2 goals, the equalizer was deserved. Liverpool of last year would have played their heavy metal football and possibly overrun us. But this year we have the more conservative, the more Mourinho version of Liverpool. They only had small periods of domination and could not generate that many threats through Salah. Mane exposed us a few times but they lacked that creative spark in midfield. And this was largely because of the dominating performance of Torreira.

Neither goalkeepers were that impressive today; both goals could be attributed to them. I’ve yet to figure out Alisson. Maybe following in the footsteps of Mignolet and Karius has lowered the bar so far that he seems like an upgrade. But for us, Leno is on the cusp of begging the question of whether Cech should start. The irony is that the deciding factor is not their actuall native goalkeeping ability but their link-up play with the ball at their feet. Leno is clearly more comfortable and at peace with the ball rather than poor old Cech who seems to want to pick the ball up. But today Leno gave up a goal and made a couple of poor judgment calls on when to come out for crosses. He looks a little lost and it feels like his confidence could wane.

For the first time in a number of years I felt like we were watching a genuinely competitive game in which we were able to stand up to a top 5 team. Even if we had lost I would have felt the same. Today we turned up. We executed a well orchestrated game-plan. Our tactics (though not some of the players) were good and adaptive. I like that we were brave enough to take off Kolasinac and put Ob1 back there. That move was sufficient for us to generate our goal. A word on Kolasinac – I was expecting him to be torn apart by Salah. He’s not blessed with speed but, in the first half when Salah played right wing, he managed to nullify him for the most part. Going forward he was strong and linked well with others. It was better performance than we had the right to expect. I had assumed we’d lose both full-backs to injuries. Thankfully Bellerin, though he was caught out of position on a couple of occasions, managed to stay on the pitch.

It’s a shame that there’s no role for Ramsey in this team. When he came on he barely impacted the game. He’s wasted on this team. We don’t quite need him. It’s just criminal that we can’t sell him for a hefty transfer fee. That’s inept on the part of Arsenal FC,. Thankfully Gazidis is finally gone to wallow in the filthy luca of Milan. This is definitely addition by subtraction. We would never have fired him. But to let this Ramsey situation to develop is a fireable offense.

A word or two on Ozil. While not his season best performance he still managed to help create a number of openings and chances. Our focus should be in getting the ball to his feet more often. Some of his flicks and one touch passing remain unparalleled in the EPL. Unfortunately he and Cigarette did not link up well today. We had to wait for Ob1 to find him.

So, this far into the season, I think we can finally make some observations based on enough data. The obvious conclusion is that we are moving, finally, in the right direction. There is still a long way to go. We’re not at the level of Man City (not that many are) but we’re also behind Chelksi and Liverpool. But, after at least two years of stagnation, we are evolving and improving. We still play entertaining football. We remain committed to beautiful football. But now we have some notion of organization, control and tactics. I will defend Wenger to my final breath (…aarrhhhh…..) but his time was over; he’d run out of ideas. Emery, full of energy and enthusiasm, a nice full head of blacked up greasy hair, is a younger model. An upgrade. And that is all that counts. Sure, I’d like to qualify for the Champions League. I don’t think we’re good enough for that. Unless we can bring in, during the January window, another center half and a right midfield player to replace Mustafa and Mickeytarrien. But we can be confident that we have gone through a state change. The club feels energized and the fans are behind the team and excited for the future. We know there will be some games when we just rip apart the opposition and other games when we flail miserably. But, as long as Emery improves the individual performances of the players (aka Ob1 and Xhaka) and continues to shuffle the team for each opponent then we can be confident in our club again. No more of this expecting the worse outcome. Waiting for the inevitable mistake form Mustafa (though this will continue to happen). Waiting for us to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And today was that turning point for that. Watching the team bounce back and dominate started to remind me of what it was like to watch our team when it had a backbone. Its been a long time since we had belief in our team. But, inch by inch it’s starting to return. Today was the first real test. And we passed. A point gained that in previous years we would have lost. And that is uplifting and exciting. Is that optimism I detect invading this blog?

-LB7

 

 

October 28, 2018 – Crystal Palace 2 Arsenal 2

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This is a game we will win next year. And this is also a game we would have lost last year. Maybe that is the ultimate sign of progress and evolution. As remarkable as we were against Leicester and as fluent as we were against Fulham, today we were workman like and slightly dull. But, it’s how you eke out points when you’re not on your game that shows the character of the team. The spine itself is a different issue.

Today we gave them a lead and then threw ours away. Too many players were not clicking today. Cigarette missed his chance and was generally off his game. In fact, their second goal came from his poor decision and poor passing. Ozil was very quiet. Ob1 reverted back to a performance plucked from his repertoire from the last few years. Mustafa was his normal reckless self. Ramsey, when he came on, was too slow on the ball and missed his golden opportunity for us to steal all three points.

It was important that we did not throw away all three points. While we might not have deserved to win – we lacked creativity today – we did not deserve to lose either. Both their goals came from the spot. The first one started with Lend ineffectively punching the ball away from the corner and to be followed by Bellerin being a little weak in the tackle to be followed up by the reliably reckless Mustafa jumping in to generate the penalty. Then in the second half, rather than remaining calm on the ball we lost it in their penalty area and then proceeded to let Zaha attack Xhaka in our box; only one winner there even if the contact was minimal.

There were periods today, as they piled on the pressure once we went ahead, that we started to revert to the team of last year. We were weak on the ball, lost important second balls, gave the ball back to them too quickly and started to give away too many free kicks. But there were also periods during the game when we seemed more balanced and more stable than any performance from last year. Generally speaking, we were composed at the back with the two deep lying midfields controlling the distribution. It was a shame that by the second half we’d not longer got our regular fullbacks on the pitch; that impacted our penetration. Today though, we found it hard to break them down and they goalie – like ours – had few meaningful saves to make.

Guendozi and Torreira was a brave choice. I know it was forced by our absence of a recognized left back. Throughout the game Torreira was outstanding; easily our best player. Guendouzi still remains a roar talent.  Whereas Torreira reads the game impeccably and is patient Guendouzi tends to force the play and finds himself running, with the ball, into crowded areas of the pitch. And, as the game wore on, he tends to make more mistakes with both his tackles and passing. In another year his game will blossom but for now, against the “big 5” he will be a vulnerability for us.

Whereas in prior games Emery has made the perfect substitutions today was the time when I think he got it entirely wrong. Though Ozil was not at his lofty standards of the last few games once you remove him you remove our ability to score. So when they tied the score it was always unlikely we’d get that extra goal. Instead he should have withdrawn Ob1; today was a throwback performance. He’s decisions were poor and his ball retention was even worse. But the fact that it’s taken this many game before I could return to my favourite scapegoat means I’ll be tolerant. And the choices on the bench are limited. When Ramsey came on to Augbamyang he was largely anonymous – though he went out to right side. This move by Emery was confusing given than it was Lichtenbergsteiner who was getting ripped apart from Zaha. The reason why Ob1 was in the starting 11 was that he provides better defensive cover. To replace Ob1 with Ramsey at that stage of the game just exposed LichtensteinBerger to more risk – especially with the booking. Ironically it was down the other side that we gave them their 2nd.

So, finally, 9 games into the season, I get to rag on my favourite two wankers – Mustafa and Ob1. I would go after Xhaka but he’s not exactly a trained full back and he did score a stunning first goal. At some point Kosclieny will come back into the team, or even, Sokratis. At this juncture, it should be Mustafa that makes way. Holding today was the more composed and solid center half. These games are allowing him to progress and develop. I don’t see that occurring with Mustafa.  Unfortunately, I can see why Ob1 starts before Mikytarrien because our Armenian does just does not know how to defend. He has exposed Bellerin far too often.

Today felt like we were teetering on a full reversion to the old AW years. The fact that we didn’t is something to be happy about. We started the game with a balanced team but ended it lacking composure. In the last 10 minutes we lost our defensive shape, and, as in previous years, overcommitted on attack. Given that we are not blessed with the fastest center-halfs and that Bellerin was off the pitch we were naïve in how to protect our lead. I trust though Emery learned more lessons today. He can build a team round Torreira, Cigarette and Ozil. But, in the next year he has to replace Mustafa and Ob1. Ramsey will be gone but we need better options off the bench on both wings.

To be in fourth position is ahead of expectations. There is visible progress at Arsenal. Emery can take credit for that. The fact that we’ve played the bottom half of the EPL has certainly helped. But then, in prior years, we would have found ways to lose to any number of these teams we’ve beaten. We should have won today but not having the winning streak hanging over us is a relief. That would have been a distraction. There are a number of weaknesses that remain in this team that will be tough to rectify with this personnel.

Our bright spots though are radiant. That third goal against Leicester will live on for many years to go alongside that one against Norwich. As long as the team does not head down that same path I’ll be happy. But that won’t happen with Torreira – he is the real deal. I’m just not sure about Guendouzi. But I am sure about Ob1 L. And Mustafa.

Next up is the interesting question of Cech. When does he get a chance to return to the team? Does Lend deserve to retain his place? The control and balance on playing out from defense has been far more controlled in the last few games. Is this due to him or the fact that the defense is adjusting to this new mode? Or are we required by European regulation to retain a minimum number of Nazis in our team? When Brexit comes are we required to return our Nazis? These days with no English players in our team we might be better off moving from Highbury to Hoffenheim.

At least now we get a run of games without any moronic international breaks. The return of our full backs will be welcome. We’ve missed Monreal and we do need Bellerin back. If not for the Mighty Blackpool then the Wolves game. We still have a favourable sequence of games ahead of us. This should further allow us time to adjust to the new tactics and provide Emery more time to assess how best to tinker with this team.

This far into the season we’re ahead of where I thought we’d be. There is a feel good factor that has returned to the club. There is some poetry in our play. And the position in the table, while flattering, helps provide the right momentum for the club. Though we still need more time to assess and judge Emery I think we can conclude that we have not hired David Moyes. Nor LVG. We seemed to have dodged the Man U syndrome. And that’s nothing to sneer at. That was always a real fear. It helped though that AW left behind a team that had missed out on the CL for two years; that had lowered expectations for Emery. There was clearly no quick fix. But, early into Emery’s reign, even after a somewhat dull and deflating result today, we are moving forward. We are progressing. There still remain flashbacks to our recent painful past.  Last year we would have lost this game even if though tried to today. But overall, we are pointing in the right direction for once and the football is enjoyable again (if not quite so today). Now let’s keep the games coming so we can figure out how far we can go. It won’t be to the top of the mountain, that’s for sure. But then when you start so far down there is always plenty of room left to grow into. So, strap on the oxygen mask and enjoy the journey. FInally, some optimisim on a dour day.

-LB7

 

 

 

October 7th – Fulham 1 Arsenal 5

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Now that’s a scoreline you don’t see too often. Or expect to see. This was entirely deserved. By far the best performance of the season. If not of the last couple of years.

It’s rare that I want to enthuse so much but today was genuinely enjoyable. We were finally fun to watch.  I think I might even have smiled during this game. Unheard of I know. This was one of our most comprehensive victories in years. Especially given our previous years away results. Total domination. You can only beat what’s in front of you. Fulham are No Chelski. But then nor are we.

Credit to Leno. His early save off the deflected shot after a lazy giveaway was, in hindsight, a turning point. Not only a great reaction save but all day long he was pretty clam with excellent distribution.

Today it’s going to be hard to find anything too negative about our players and our performance. So this will be an entirely uncritical lauding our the performance and result.

So, let’s lead with the best. That would be Cigarette. He was on fire the entire game. Two vital and impressively taken goals – both of which demonstrate different skills. One opportunistic within the box and then the all important second goal from distance. He’s all round game today was excellent; working hard off the ball to win the ball back and then he’s passing and flicks. Today he perfectly led the line. I love this guy. He’s getting more confident and just improving with every game. His goals this year have provided way more pivotal than last years. His opportunism is reminiscent of a certain TH14.

Torreira was excellent today; nearly as good as Cigarette. It was good to hear our fans cheer his name along to the old Viera tune. He deserves it. If anyone has changed the balance and impact on this team it’s our little Uruguayan. He is our Konte; our own version of Makelele. Finally, someone who provides a spine to our team. He was tenacious and hard working.  Our only player who can win a 50:50 challenge. Wrap him in cotton wall because, for us, he’s one of a kind.

So that’s three quarters of the backbone of our team. The last piece of the puzzle is the defense. And Holding had another impressive outing. A couple of poor passes aside he’s earning the right to retain his position alongside Mustafa. He was OK today but you know that mistake is just around the corner.

Monreal did not have his best game today. He gave the ball away for their goal. And was indecisive in defending. Funnily enough one of the other contributors today provided him with good protection. I can’t believe I’m going to praise Ob1 but today he earned it. Still some stupid passes and he still can’t win tackles. But he’s attacking play continues to improve. He made their right center half look like an idiot a number of times. He created our first goal and was a threat the entire game. So much so that I did not think he should have come off for Ramsey today. I was concerned when I saw both him and Wellbeck in the starting eleven today. But, against Fulham, I should not have worried. Welbeck was quiet but Ob1 was impressive.

Interestingly, though we had some outstanding individual performances today, the more noticeable change was the balance of the team. Without both Ozil and Ramsey and with Obameyang also on the bench, the team look more settled. Everyone was playing in their preferred position. Mikatarien was leaving Bellerin somewhat exposed but generally his creativity overcome those deficiencies. Xhaka had a ton of time on the ball and was able to pull the strings without having to worry about too much defensively.

And when Ramsey did come on he was instrumental in the buildup and execution of that classic Arsenal goal. From front to back it was silky smooth and tore Fulham apart. Aubameyang then scored a couple of Cigarette-like goals; the first one in particular. He would be more effective in that position if it weren’t for Cigarette. Going forward – again, without Ozil – we were so quick and incisive.   It was nearly like a throwback Arsenal team – to those days a decade ago where we could enjoy our skill and teamwork.

I know it’s only Fulham and we’re certainly not as good as we looked today. Against top 4 teams we’ll still come off second best. But today we showed real signs of progress. We have developed. And sure, we still have a long way to go. We can’t stand toe-to-toe with Man City, Liverpool or Chelski. But we are evolving. We still need to refine out spine. We need to offload Mustafa. We need to donate him to charity. Once Kosclieny comes back that might be our chance. But Holding is looking like a better bet than our resident German Silverstre.

Leno is also settling into the team quite nicely. He was key to our win today. That initial save gave us time to get to grips with the pace of the game. Starting from a one goal deficit would have change the entire complexion of this game.

So, credit to Emery for his selection. I was nervous when I saw that starting 11 but the balance and team work was as good as we’ve seen during his limited reign. There is still much work to be done but at least the platform is there and being improved.  The control of the ball was superior and the playing out from the back worked well today. Yes, against a better team, we’ll screw up a ton more but today was one to be enjoyed. It was as pleasurable as I can remember. And unexpected.

Now we head off into another ridiculous two week international break. How I hate this disruption to the flow of the season. It’s so unnecessary and just there to line the pockets of FIFA and the international associations. Let’s hope Torreira does not pick up any injury. Let’s prey for Cigarette. The fixture list won’t be as kind to us when they return. But it’s time we started to test ourselves against proper teams. We have the framework of a decent team and now we need to stress test it against a higher caliber team. And we can do this without the pressure of Emery needing to collect points to take off any pressure. It’s remarkable really to think how different his experience has been to say, Moyes, who was always under pressure after a crappy start. These points, against these weaker teams, helps alleviate any pressure on him and allows us to focus on building and learning. If we’d have lost that game against West Ham when they should have gone 2-0 up in the first half the pressure would have been tortuous. But thankfully we’ve dodged that bullet. It has allowed for a smoother, more peaceful transition of power. For that we should consider ourselves fortunate. I would guess that 90%+ of our fans are happy with our new manager. We are in a position now where even if we endure a poor run of results we’d still not second guess the choice of manager. And we should be grateful for the avoidance of that particular drama.

This smile should just about last me through this two week period.

-LB7

 

 

Sept 15th – Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2

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Another game of two halves. And fortunately for both teams. We were nowhere in the first but for the first 20 minutes of the second we dominated and sealed the victory. Newcastle pressed in the first half and disappeared in the second. And, naturally, we felt comfortable enough to gift them their token goal.

The fixture list has been kind to us. It’s giving Emery time to recover from having to play two real teams to now playing the dross at the bottom. Hopefully he’s learning some lessons. The obvious one from today is that Torreira has to start. Though I really like Guendouza, if you’re not going to replace Xhaka then he has to be the one to give way. Once Torreira was on the pitch the tempo of our game picked up. We drove forward more, passed the ball quicker and with more purpose. Sure, some of that might have come from the half-time team talk but some of it was due to this change.

We had many chances to make this 3-0 as we dominated the game. Newcastle looked lost. There was no passion in their game. Normally at St. James Park you face a team that makes up in passion what they lack in talent. Not today thankfully. In the first half they did look threatening but that was as much due to our inability to retain and pass the ball with any purpose. It was all possession with no intent. Ozil and Ramsey were barely involved. It was all rather bland and boring to watch. A team with no personality playing against a team with no talent.

What were the other lessons? Hm, I wonder? Oh yes, it turns out we have a retard at center-half. Shocking. I’m sure that has been unnoticed for a while now. In the first half retard boy falls over – reprising the great fall from the League Cup final against Man City – to give them a run on goal. Fortunately, Sokratis covered for him. In the second half he had to step up his game as we’d taken a two goal lead. So he managed to completely lose his man in our area such that when they crossed Joselu had a free header that Cech saved. Disappointed in that failed attempt he managed to completely lose his man again so that Clark could get their goal. At some point Emery has to learn the next lesson – that playing Mustafi undermines the defense. Playing a one legged, blind handicapped person with syphilis in a wheel chair would be an improvement. I fear that Emery can’t see what everyone else can. I fear Emery can’t make the important decisions we need to move us ahead. I’m not judging him quite yet. I’ve committed to waiting 10 games before the mighty pen is wielded in that regard. But the defense has to be addressed. No clean sheet and the last three games have been against the worst the Premier League can offer.  Though Cech barely had a save to make we looked vulnerable in the first half and positional suspect. We don’t’ seem to have learned any lessons from Cardiff in terms of how to defend set pieces. Why are we still putting the smallest players on their largest ones? It’s always Ramsey or Bellerin at the back post marking their target man. How has this not been addressed?

Xhaka scored. Praise the lord. And, care of Mustafi, he was not the worst player on our team. In fact he improved once Torreira showed up. It’s always good to have the younger kids running around, doing all the leg work such that the grown-ups can just stroll around at their leisure. It was a good free-kick though if Cech had let that in we’d all be calling for Leno. This free kick was the main contribution of Aubameyang. I remain unconvinced. He should have put us 3 nil up and overall his link up play was poor. This was compensated for by Cigarette who had another strong game. Chasing down lost causes, making great runs off the ball and providing intelligent link up play. A non-elephant-like Giroud if you will.

Ozil coolly slotted away the all-important second goal. This capped a much improved second half performance from him. Again, this opportunity came care of another Cigarette attempt on goal. When Ozil moves the ball quickly there is no-one quite like him. But I don’t really see how he forms a partnership with Ramsey. I see little fluency. Ramsey was poor today. Too often giving the ball away and slowing down our possession. But it’s good he can play like that and we can still win. He’s had a good start to the season and is allowed one off game. Unlike Mustafi….

As good as Cigarette and Ozil was though our best player across the 90 minutes was Sokratis. Having to play alongside our retard has got to be tough going. He covered for him on numerous occasions. His distribution was solid aside from one errant pass in the first half. But his defensive performance overall was stellar. He was aggressive, decisive and a rock at the center of our defense. His best performance for us by a long shot. Hopefully this is a sign that he’s getting to gripe with both the physicality and pace of the English game. Unlike a certain other (retard) he is not easily brushed off the ball. He uses his physical presence to impose himself on the attacker. And he’s calm. Now we just have to find him a defensive partner. We can’t wait for Kosclieny to return in November. We have to make a move before then. But I fear Emery will stick with the same team. As he did after the Cardiff match. And that’s worrying.

This week we restart the NoHopaCup which will at least give him a chance to see a different defensive pairing. And we’ll all finally get a look at our new Nazi goalkeeper. With the addition of some of the younger players that makes these games more interesting than normal. Then the week after that there’s the Brentford game in a competition that no-one knows the name of. This is Emery’s chance to experiment and challenge the players on the edges of the first team.

I’m happy that he’s using Mikeytarrian from the bench. That’s some progress. I’m relived that he’s finally understood that Cigarette deserves to start. Now he has to get on board with Torreira. If we see that move for the Everton game then the next piece of the puzzle is the replacement of our retard defender. Then we might start to have a spine in our team. It’s just not possible with Mustafi. He’s too much of a liability. We know he’ll play well for 85 minutes in every game but will make one if not two crucial mistakes in every game. And at this level that’s unacceptable.

Change needs to be a-coming. We changed our manager. We changed so much. Maybe before Christmas we can change our center half. I suspect before we do that we’ll have changed our CEO. A lot has been written about Gazidis leaving. If he’s going to go then the sooner the better. But after 10 years in the CEO role to leave now is underwhelming in that he did little except for the last year or so. He’s just made the most important change, finally has control but wants to leave now.  It will introduce some instability and unnerve the Sven and Emery and impact the management organization. If mini-Stan takes over maybe that will help but who knows as his only qualification is his DNA. I doubt whether he has any experience, talent and ability to fill this role. But I think this has been drawn out too much. If Gazidis is going we should fire him and be done with it. If he does not want to be here after 10 years then we should not want to retain him. And maybe after a year or so Mini-Stan can give way to a grown-up. In the meantime we need to get some of these players tied down to contracts and increase the commercial scope of the club.

Back to football though. Three wins on the trot. Not too bad. The performance was not convincing. We need to sort out the balance of the team. But getting the points is what really counts. The EPL games will start to get tougher now. That also means the field will open up a little more which, if we can solve our defense, could help us going forward. We can score – that we know. But can we defend? Unfortunately we know that answer as well.

-LB7

 

 

 

 

 

August 18th – Chelsea 3 Arsenal 2

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Welcome back. It’s been a while. Did you miss me while I was away? Did you hang my picture on the wall? (check out the lyrics of that song). So much has changed and yet some things remain the same.

So, is your glass half full or half empty? Is it positive that we scored two goals and recovered from our disastrous start? Is it positive that there were some signs of development in our play? Or, should the loss of another game, the shabby defending and that inability of certain players to demonstrate they deserve to play at this level point to a forthcoming disappointing season. Is this boss the same as the old boss? Are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the last five years? Will incremental change help here? Is Emery too cautious in the changes that are needed?

It’s not that hard. Two managers AW and Emery. Both world class. It’s obvious to anyone to see what’s wrong. So why can’t they? Xhaka is a cunt. Just in case there’s any ambiguity about this, let me state it more clearly – Xhaka is a useless fucking football player. He is lazy, he is incapable of being a positive influence and he’s got the football IQ of a demented midget. OK, i think you get the general idea. Also, Mustafi remains perpetually shit. And Mikatarien can’t defend for his live. So why are they playing? Especially the first two. New manager same as the old one. It’s about personnel choices. You have at least two viable options on the bench. How can we not be playing our little Uruguayan? A dead person would be an improvement on Xhaka. Even if rigor mortis had set in. He re-defines what it means to be shit. And yet we persist in selecting him. And when I say we I mean our new manager; just like the old one.

Chelski should have demolished us in the first half. 2-0 up and we should have been put to death. Mikatarien was killing us. Every-time they attacked down our right he was out of position and incapable of tracking back. But even then we found ways to miss clear cut open chances to sneak back into the game. Poor old Obameyang. Two golden chances. He’ll have nightmares about those.

AW would never have pulled Xhaka at half-time. What a difference Torreira makes to this team. We nearly become a team. Sure, we lost the three points in the second half. And sure, Torreira lost Marcos in the box for them to score. That’s why we have to play him. So, like Guendouzi, we just have to play him and let them learn from their mistakes. These two are our future – or at least the springboard for our future. So this was a positive move by Emery. As was the one where he took off Ozil. Again, there’s no way AW would have done that. Ozil was again ineffective. He’s contribution is minimal. And I don’t mean with his defensive duties – because as those watching closely against Man City would have seen – he does, in fact, track back. But in the creative final third he has been light weight. So when Ramsey came on I thought we got better again. So we see a pattern that Emery’s substitutions demonstrate no allegiance to any player, no notion of seniority or no entitlement. Another positive.

But please get rid of Xhaka. Today he was worse than light weight. Worse than ineffective. Between him and Mikatarien, they lost the ball and failed to track any players. But Xhaka is supposed to be a leader; a captain. Except that his ship is riddled with holes and it’s sinking fast (just not fast enough).

And while you’re at it Mustafa really has to go. That second goal was unforgivable. Beaten at the half way line because he was inside their half and not close enough to Morata. Then beaten in a foot race to then be out played. Dreadful. But, again, no surprises there. We know what he’s capable of.  The question is when will Emery figure this out.

When do we judge Emery? Not after two games. Consider this period our real pre-season. If I remember correctly (which is highly unlikely) Pottechino took 11 games to stamp his authority on that team. Sari only needed a pre-season but he was left with a far superior selection of players.

Maybe after 10 games we’ll have a sense of whether Emery change implement change. I believe that we have the midfield players to provide a backbone – Guendozi and Torreira. And Cech proved, yet again, why he should be starting. But no team can carry Mikatarren, Ozil, Mustafa and Xhaka. And it’s so disappointing I’ve not even been able to have a dig at Ob1. Because he was by no means the least effective player today – there’s too much competition for that title.

The issue for Emery is how to combine his philosophy with the players at his disposal. He needs to play Cigarette – even though he created the third and winning goal for them. And he has to figure out the balance of the attacking midfield. Can he play Ozil and Ramsey? How long can he afford to carry Mikatarien? And what’s to be done with Mustafi? And can he offload Xhaka now.

We were never going to win the league this year. We were unlikely to even qualify for the Champions League. This rebuild will take a few years. But we want to be able to identify green shoots. Did we today? Did we last week? Possibly. But again, we’ll have to wait 10 games to make any real assessment.

How is Emery going to handle pressure? This is a nice baptism by fire. No points after two games does start to play on the mind. Rationally we know that Cardiff will be relegated. And Fulham, Wolves, West Ham and others will compete for the remaining relegation slots. So we have no fears beyond ending up as a mid-table team competing with Everton for 6th and 7th spot. That might be the level of our aspirations for this year. But what we need to understand, and see evidence of, is the development of the character of this team. Do we develop a backbone? Do we shorn ourselves of the obvious rubbish in our current team? Again, this will take time. Emery seems like the kind of manager that will evolve to these outcomes rather than make immediate, dramatic changes. But at some point he’ll have to permanently discard Xhaka and bench Ozil. And what happens when the inevitable injury to Ramsey happens? Who’s going to be the leader on this team? Will take responsibility – on the field – for shouting at other players? It might be Guendouzi or even Torreira. But then maybe I’m projecting too much onto them

But back to Ozil. I suspect Ozil needs time out of the spot light. He does not look happy. I would not underestimate the crushing deflation of the German World Cup fiasco. And I would not underestimate the personal fallout from his picture with the dictator of Turkey. The clear racism that Ozil was subjected to – and the lack of support from both the German federation and the German players – has taken it’s toll on him. Ozil was their most gifted player. He created chances for this team. They clearly lacked someone who could score goals. And yet, somehow, he became the brunt of the criticism; the touchstone for failure. Ozil has had to shoulder this without obvious support. His resignation statement was outstanding. The Rummenigge response was stunning in its blatant racism and pettiness. And yet, no-one pushed back and stood up for Ozil. And then Kroos piles in. Ozil is well out of there. But, what does this mean for us? I think it will take him time to rediscover his love for the game. In the meantime, he should be out of the firing line.

There are many, longer-term, structural concerns with this club. We spent good money on a goalkeeper we don’t need to play and yet could not purchase the center-back we clearly need. Who is responsible for these decisions? And we seem to have moved from a fixation with French players to a German one that only allows us to acquire players from Dortmund or Borrussia. That’s a Sven issue. And we’ll also need to figure out this Gazidis issue. After pushing out his nemesis, AW, he’s now looking to move over to A. C. Milan. This is scarily similar to what happened at ManU when Fergie and their CEO, David Gill, also departed. I’ve never been a great fan of Ivan but too much change is not great And, he bears responsibility for all the changes that came on his watch. One would have imagined he’d like to stick around to see bath in the glory of success – to own these changes. But maybe this is all related Stan taking Arsenal private. Arsenal will become an opaque club. No insights into their finances and no accountability. The only remedy for this is success on the pitch. No pressure then on Emery.

Watching Arsenal has become numbing to the sense of enjoyment. That first twenty minutes was reminiscent of the lack of backbone, tactics and team work that we saw all too often last year (and the year before that….). But even then we had chances. So we know we can now score. But can we defend? And can we find an identity? Chelski have. Liverpool have. But we’re just not at that level. We are in search of our identity. And, that takes time. So hold onto the roller coaster that will tease us into believing we’re further along this “process” or “project” only to realize – come Liverpool or Sp*rs – that we’re at least one level below them.

Up next is Jack and WHU. I thought that against Man City the fans behaved like genuine supporters; loud, understanding and passionate. Hopefully after todays’ game that will stay the same; we need to remain patient and supportive. It’s way too early to judge. Even if we loose or draw to WHU you need to keep your eye on signs of evolution and progress. Assess whether Emery is making meaningful changes. That’s what should be guiding our thought process. This is not so much a call to arms as a call to the couch. Crack open a beer, light up a joint. Chill out and pace yourself for a long, tough season but one that, I hope, will change the trajectory of this team. If we end up 6th or 7th but have sold (or donated) Xhaka, placed Mikatarien on the bench and returned to Germany Mustafi then I’ll be a happier person.

Oh, it’s good to be back.

-LB7

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May 13th – Huddersfield 0  Arsenal 1

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The long goodbye is finally over. Now the real worrying can begin.

I’m grateful we picked up the three points and ended the tedious narrative of having no away points this calendar year. Just like many other irrelevant ones we’ve had to listen to from the media about Arsenal over the last 10 years (you remember, no trophy in 9 years; treating the top four like a trophy etc).

As I watched today’s game the only emotions I felt were sadness and anger. Sadness at the thought that this was the last time we’d be able to listen to such an intelligent and articulate manager of Arsenal Football club. Someone, who over two decades has shaped the way we are seen by the world. Saddened that it came to this – an way game at Huddersfield rather than a final of the NoHopa Cup in Lyon. Saddened that AW has not been able to correct the lack of direction in the club for the last few years. We will never, in anyone’s lifetime, experience the pride and admiration for any other club manager at Arsenal. But, nonetheless, this change needed to happen.

Anger because it was such a frustrating way to have to watch his last game. I swear the camera choices this season have gotten ever worse – if that’s possible. The instance on replaying minor incidents multiple time while the game is going on means that, so often, the action cuts back and we’ve completely lost the flow of the game. I can just about handle the morons commentating on the game because I can follow the game in my own eyes. But not today – between the cut-away to various shots of managers and fans along with relentless replays ruins the continuity of the game. There were so many cameras at these games it’s not the case that they are missing the angles or pictures. Nope, it’s the dork up in the studio who’s directing (or mis-directing) which camera shots to be part of the live feed. It’s been deteriorating for many years. In the last few months this love of showing off how many different ways the same action can be replayed from an array of different camera angles is disrupting the viewing of games. I despair of where this might lead. But today there were at least five occasions that when they reverted to the action the ball had somehow progressed to the other end of the pitch.

I would pay a fine sum indeed to find out the title/role of the person that makes these decisions. Then I could start my campaign to reclaim the game from these morons. For all other programs on TV there are a list of credits at the end of the game but not for the EPL. Obviously, NBC takes a direct feed from the UK along with the commentaries. But I can’t believe there is no broad uproar about the poor quality of the directing of these cameras.

Anyway, back to the game. My sadness of seeing AW as manager for the last time for us is ever so minutely offset by the thought that this is the last time I’ll have to withstand the sight of Iwobi in an Arsenal jersey. It’s inconceivable that any other manager would pick him. Please, sign him to an extended contract and then sell him for a fine penny. And, at the same time, please divest us of Mustafi. Neither will offset the loss of AW but, in truth, time is up for all three.

Unfortunately, today MickeyTarrian decide to emulate Ob1 rather than Ozil. Every pass from him was short of his man. And he barely tracked back to protect our defense. It’s a miracle they did not score on us. It’s kind of ironic that in AW’s last game we kept a clean sheet. Not that we deserved it. We should have won 3-1 if Welbeck and Cigarette had taken their chances.

I don’t get why Wilshire and Cech weren’t playing. I fear for Jack and the world cup. If he can’t play in this game I doubt he’ll be selected. And missing Cech was worrying for this game. Ospina is not at the same level and his distribution is way too slow – you could see his players calling for him to release the ball much quicker – and his directional kicking is poor.

I also don’t get why we did not play Maitland-Niles from the start. And, why, when we made changes would you bring on Welbeck and Monreal? It’s the last game of the season. Bring on the youngsters. I wanted to see Neilson and Eddie. Was AW really trying to ensure he got three points and controlled the narrative? Either way, that was a wasted opportunity. Depending on which way the club goes these kids might never get any playing time.

Contrary to what our nearly-departed manager believes, I fear this team needs some significant surgery. Compared to the top four teams, we are a fair distance away form competing with these teams. The center of our defense is a mess, we need a goalkeeper and a defensive midfielder or two. Our attack looks reasonable. But it’s not a case of just adding one or two players.

Let’s monitor the timing for the new appointment as well. My fear has always been about the lack of football intelligence within the management of AFC. They’ve known for a nice long time that AW was going to leave. They have had ample time for succession planning. They can no longer hide behind AW. So, let’s see how long it takes them to hire the replacement. If they had done their jobs they’d be able to make that announcement on Monday – obviously that won’t be happening. But even waiting until before the world cup is far too much time. They should know what they want. And they should make the announcement asap. We can’t afford delays.

As I said when AW’s departure was announced, the benefit was that to timing. All the players could watch and see who we appointed before they signed for other teams. If we take too long then we’ll miss that opportunity. Players won’t sign the day before the world cup starts. We need the manager in now in order to plan our future signings. But, I’m not feeling all warm and fuzzy over this.

I hear Allergi name among other boring names. I don’t want to support an Italian team. I don’t want a version of Chelski. I want a version of Arsenal. As much as I love Viera and Arteta, appointing either of them would make us more Sp*rs like than Sp*rs. We can’t afford to take that chance. Rather I’d like us to grab the Monaco manager or Nagelsmann from Hoffenheim. In fact, I can see this team going German. A slight move really given that AW came from the Alsace region which has switched from France to Germany and back a few times. We have the BFG as the Academy director, Ozil on the pitch, Mustafi being traded away (wishful thinking) and Sven pulling the strings, that might not be a bad thing. Maybe we should consider Wagner from Huddersfield – that team certainly has a defense.

Funny how the two “young” coaches are both tied up at Manchester City? Why is that? Why do we not have anyone in training at AFC? Why do we have to take a chance on someone who happened to play for us but has no coaching experience within our club? To ManCitys credit they have been building for a future whereas we’ve been coasting on the coattails of AW. With the addition of Sven and the Spanish-bloke my guess is that we won’t bring in a big name manager. Those types – like AW – like to run the whole show. That is not how Arsenal are now set up. Rather they are looking, I think, for a coach. Someone else will do the recruiting. Someone else will do the contract negotiations. The coach will be left to coach the players he’s given (or have taken away – Ob1 I’m thinking of you here). Whether this will work is the question of the day. In all probability we are likely to go through a tough time. Imagine, whoever the manager is, but especially if it’s a Arteta/Viera or Nagelsmann, the pressure that will develop if we lose our first few games. The media focus and drama will be immense. Whoever the manager will be they have to be brought in now. Given them time to settle in before the pressure builds.

My money is on Nagelsmann. But I’ve been wring many times on this front.

Anyway, clearly, no real comments on todays game. As correct as it is that Wenger has had to leave it’s still a sad day when you see it happen. I love this man. He’s is a total class act. We will never see his like again. This man is an intellectual, an academic and also, a world class football coach who truly loves the game an, in particular, Arsenal Football Club. Whether he’s leaving it in safe hands remains to be seen. Lets hope those running the club are sensible enough to at least erect the statue AW deserves and then to rename one of the stands in his honour. My preference though would be to just name the entire stadium after him. The Wenger Stadium at Ashburton Grove. That has the right ring to it.

– LB7

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 20th – I love Arsene Wenger

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What a great day. A momentous day. What a great victory for everyone today. For Arsene Wenger, for Arsenal Football Club, for the fans and for our future.

This had to happen. Maybe not today but it was coming. It could have been next year. But the longer it went on the worse this was going to get. It was clear it was ending but the fear was about how it would end. Change was a coming. And this was the perfect way to instigate it.

Given the ineptitude the club has shown in the last 5 years it’s a miracle that they pulled this off.

I am so relieved. So excited. And, of course, fearful for what the future holds. But that last part was always going to be the case. Whatever happens after such a profound period of leadership was always going to be fraught with dangers. But, for the moment, today was not about the future. Oh, OK, of course it is – it’s how about to navigate towards it.

So today, I’m happy. I’m relieved. I’m proud and I still and always will love Arsene Wenger. Long live Arsene Wenger. No-one can possible emulate what he’s achieved nor the style, intellect and honesty with which he’s conducted himself.

So today was perfect. Perfect for everyone concerned.

Perfect for Arsene Wenger. He gets to leave with his head held high. He got to announce his own departure. No firing. No embarrassment. He controlled his own destiny. No mess. And a complete surprise. The club allowed AW the grace of an exit that will just heap more praise on this great man. Well done AFC. And well done Arsene.

What perfect timing. He now has two home game in the EPL to receive the praise and love that he deserves. He’ll gets his laps of honour. He will surely he serenaded throughout the next two home games by the emotion and love from our fans.

The stands will be full again. These games will now be events. It will be all about AW. As it should be. Gone (for the moment) will the critics and doomsayers. Gone will be those petulant, temperamental, self-indulgent so-called fans that tried to diminish AW. We can enjoy the end to the season and focus on King Arsene. We can celebrate the end of a wonderful reign.

And then there’s the small matter of the NoHopa Cup. If this does not motivate and focus the players nothing will. Not that I believe in this team. But just maybe they will find a way past Atletico. Now they surely know they are playing for their futures. Here is their chance to allow AW to leave with a European trophy. It’s in their hands now.

What perfect timing. Now all the best managers in Europe who were thinking of moving on now know that the perfect job is out there. To manage Arsenal. This will stop the best candidates in their tracks. No-one will now sign for PSG or anyone else before knowing whether they might be offered this throne. Sure, it’s too late for Kovac as he’s off to BM. But all the others will now want to wait and see.

Perfect for all those players off to the corrupt WC in corrupt Russia. Players who might have thought twice about coming to a club who’s manager was operating under a cloud will now bide their time, not sign for other teams and wait to see who’s going to be the manager. Whoever our manager is they will be given a budget. We have a Director of Recruiting ready and waiting. And now the best players will now know they also might get the call.

And perfect for our players. They now know they have to play for their careers at Arsenal. Aside from Ozil and Aubameyang no-one is really safe. This is a wake-up call for them all. And after the last 3 months, a welcome wake up call.

And the timing is perfect for us, the fans. We get to emote all about AW for weeks with certainty while knowing what the outcome is. We can relieve the (many) great moments and share our love and appreciation for the best manager in our history. Rather than have him sulk off in the close season just before or after the corrupt WC in corrupt Russia, we can instead focus on the praising and thanking AW.

The future was always going to be uncertain. Just look at what happened at Man United. In fact, 5 years on, look at what’s still happening.

Except, just maybe, this perfectly timed move also demonstrates that just maybe there is a viable, sustainable strategy at Arsenal FC. This move today was clearly orchestrated by the club. Have no doubt. They forced Wenger out. But they did it with style, class and dignity. They upheld the fine traditions of Arsenal FC.  Unlike the trash in West London, we are not a human garbage disposing club. Nor, like that lot up the road, a revolving door of no-body managers. Here the club teed up the background support players for the last year and then ever so gently shepherded the best manager this club has ever seen, to the exit doors, opened the door and then allowed him to leave of his own volition. Perfectly done Arsenal FC. That’s the best I could have hoped for. I bet they will unveil his statue before the new season starts.

I love this timing. It could not have happened a week or so because we had to get past CSKA first. And it had to be announced before a home game and then leave enough home games to celebrate Wengers’ reign. He was never going to resign. He was way too vested in AFC. And, I’m sure, he still believes he can manage.

And so, for AW, it’s perfect timing. It gives other clubs plenty of time to consider him as a manger. Good for AW he deserves that. Football is his life. And perfect timing if he wants the French job after the corrupt WC is over. I believe the PSG job has gone already but there will be plenty of clubs who’d want him for a few years. And why not? A change in venue might do him good. Maybe he could take from us Mustafi?

But today is not a day for negative thoughts. Today we handled a difficult situation perfectly. We have removed the vitriol surrounding the club. We have finally embraced out future. Sure, it’s filled with uncertainty. That’s because we’ve taken for granted what we’ve had for the last 22 years. So, welcome to the real world. The one where every other team operates. But what we have though is the platform that our King has bequeathed to us. We have the reputation and style of play that now defines our expectations.

Of course, we will desperately miss him. But, again, this was inevitable. The beginning of the end started a few years back. This was on the cards. But I’d always feared a monstrous melt-down with those moronic co-called fans being disruptive and our board being indecisive.

Instead we have our club actually getting out in front and managing change. They are controlling the change rather than have the change manage them. And, that, quite frankly, is a surprise. Though this had to happen I did not see this coming today or any time soon. But it’s perfect.

I know, for example, my idiot children, if they are still reading this (not that I’m sure they can all actually read) will be in tears. This is the only Arsenal manager they have ever known. Their security blanket has been removed. It’s emotionally scary. This has been their one invariant. The one thing that never changed. The one certainty. The one consistent in a mad, ever changing world.

But, as a supporter for more than 50 years. As someone who had to watch Terry Neil as manager, let me tell you, there will be many amazing stories and experiences ahead for Arsenal. They will just be different without Wenger. But the club will persist and, hopefully, step up to the level this club should be at. But whatever happens this will always remain our team.

I’m also aware and surprised at my own reaction. I would have expected to have been more emotional. More depressed. More sad. Maybe I’m in denial. I do denial better than anyone I know. Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up and realize I’m despondent and gutted. Maybe I’ll realize this is one the saddest day of my life. Maybe I’ll realize this is an end of an era that marked a period in my life that spanned the birth of the majority of my children and spanned most of the important events in my life. Maybe introspection will kick in.

But for the moment, I’m just relived that I can see a path forward that is positive for all concerned parties. There is something today for all of us. The manager, the club, the players (both present and future) and, us the fans. It’s a perfect day.

Now let’s get to both venerate Arsene and start the process of embracing our future.

Did I mention that I love Arsene Wenger?

-LB7

April 14th – Newcastle 2 Arsenal 1

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Luckily this was a meaningless game. It meant nothing really. So it’s hard to get upset about the result. But, boy, am I going to try my best. Unlike Arsenal.

What a joke. Honestly, I think I care more than most of these players. I’ll give a pass on this one to Willock. It must be tough to start your first Premier League game surrounded by such an abundance of averageness. He was not involved enough, required too much time on the ball but had so few options available when he did have the ball. There was so little movement of players in good positions it would have been difficult for anyone let alone an 18 year old.

It also would have been good to see Maitland-Niles start. When he came on he was both fast and technical. There was one race back towards his own goal that if the prior right back and still been on the pitch would have had a different outcome. Slimani was both physical and fast yet MN held him off, won the ball and passed it off. This kid is good. He just needs more time. Playing time that is.

The other youngsters are not so young anymore. I look at Chambers and can often see hope. Likewise with Holding. But they are so English. Both lacking pace and destined to make costly mistakes. Not that they were at fault for either goals. No, for that we have the pleasure of our more experienced players. It’s hard to see how these two Englishmen will ever improve when the first team players can be so abject.

Their first goal was well taken but there were so many gaps in our midfield and defense – and in goal. Neither defensive midfield player tracked back – Elneny let Perez slide by and Mustafi was too slow to the ball whereas Cech should have done better. But, as ever, we’d already defused their attack with Holding see the ball out to our left. The danger had been minimized but we failed to close them down.

That though looks like world class defending compare to that second goal. All day long this defense looked suspect. It lacked organization and discipline. And that is the responsibility of Mustafi and Monreal. And both were 100% at fault for that second goal. Newcastle had not had any real shots on goal. This was a throw-in and yet no-one picked up their man. Monreal drifted infield. Mustafi was essentially unchallenged on his header but, because he’s a brainless buffoon, rather than head the ball upfield or out to the sidelines instead headed it infield. But then Monreal, out of position, doubled down on that mistake by heading it off to their players. Again, two ever so simple mistakes that make Newcastle look like world-beaters. By this point the entire defense was out of position. Our two senior defenders judgement had just thrown away 1 if not three points. We’ve seen this happen so often this season that it can’t be considered an accident or random. This defense is inept. And, hm, let me think, where does the blame lie? Oh, I have a novel idea. It’s Mustafi. That constant disaster that is always just one pass away from exposing our defense. Today, aside from these two mistakes, he could be seen charging upfield – inside their half – for challenges that left the entire defense exposed as he was invariably late to the ball. A better team than Newcastle would have crucified us. Mustafi’s general leadership though is what sinks everyone around him. And it’s not like that takes too much. This season is a joke – a complete right-off – but over the summer we have to bring in two center-halfs. Mustafi is toast – he’s done. But I fear Chambers and Holding won’t make the cut either. They can operate as back-ups – our Smalling and Jones if you like – but they can’t be the starting center-halfs.

Ok, standard rant now out of the way, lets go further on this team. There was no creativity. The one goal we did get came from a lottery ticket of a pass to BigA who’s brilliant first touch and pass allowed Cigarette the opportunity to demonstrate what a great finisher he is. But, aside from that move, there was very little creativity in this team today. Elneny was not even half the player he was in Moscow. Xhaka was quiet today. It’s not clear that either bring out the best in each other. In the past month both have improved their performances but today they seemed to cover the same ground and duplicate each other. Our build up play was too slow and too predictable. With the £100m+ talent ahead of them they needed to move the ball quicker.

And then of course there’s that waster of space Ob1. It was inevitable that he had to start today because in meaningless games like this we don’t mind carrying a player. He’s basically cannon fodder to protect better players from having to play. And, as ever, he will have some good moments and show ball skills. But he’s basically useless as a contributor to our team. He’s pass selection is awful and he takes too many touches. The good news is that once AW leaves so will he – no other manager would keep him on this squad.

I don’t care where we finish in the league. Pride will be dented if Burnley finish above us sure. But in previous years we’ve seen Chelsea finish even lower. Our focus has to be the NoHopa Cup. What’s more amazing than that is that it’s even possible that we could be finishing this low in the table. But then that’s what happens when you lose your last 5 away games in a row. I don’t care if and when AW says it’s a confidence issue. We lost to shit teams like Newcastle, Brighton, Stoke etc. And we’d often score first and then still lose. And I don’t care that we were missing half our team today. No team we put out should be losing todays’ game. And not the way we did. How many chances did we create today? How many saves did their goalie make? Even when we’d gone behind, and with 4 forwards on the pitch, how often did we create any chances? Exactly. We are entirely dependent on Ozil. And Ramsey (I can’t believe I just said that part). On Thursday Elneny helped but today Xhaka nullified him. So we were just so boring and average today.

What is up with Kolinsac? Why was he on the bench today? What has happened to this guy? Why won’t they play him. Today was a day to rest Monreal. And boy did he show why. He’d been injured and missed a bunch of games. This was one he should have been rested for. If Kolinsac is not good enough today would have been a day to find out.

Even when Man U prioritized the NoHopa Cup last year they did not choke in games like this. It’s just poor organization from a poor organization. Sure, no-one really cares about this game. But it’s endemic of the problems at this club. Look how Liverpool reacted after their ManC victory. They played the same players and demolished Bournemouth. What do we do? We regress. That is the story of this season. We are regressing. The NoHopa Cup – even if we, by some miracle, win that does not explain the directionless of this team. It requires an entire defensive reconfiguration. This defense is in intensive care and requires major live saving surgery. And, we know where this will start. Mr. AW holds the key to our future even though it should really be the Board of the club. But no other club would accept todays display along with the prior away losses. It used to be that we moaned about how many point we were away from the league leaders. No the bar has been lowered so much that we are now looking at the same points difference between us and 4th place. That is pathetic. And it’s so boring. The club is in danger of anesthetizing it’s fan base. It’s sucking all hope from it’s fans with it’s predictable demise. There is so little fun to be had by watching this team. How can you possibly go up to St. James Park, go 1-0 up and still lose? But then, as previously noted, we’ve managed to do that as so many other grounds.

Today is not about the fact that our defenders can’t defend. Nor that Ob1 is utterly useless and contributes nothing. It’s about, as it always is, the future of this club. We do have some world class players. And I know most were not playing today. But you can’t compete in the PL if you have at least ½ the team populated by Championship League type players. Apart from our two big singings, who might get into the team of any of the top 5 teams? Exactly.

I don’t know when our next game is. And I think that’s healthy for my sanity.

-LB7

April 8th – Arsenal 3 Southampton 2

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It’s been a while. I’ve been in a month long recovery program. I needed to cure my addition to supporting a previously exciting, entertaining and competitive football team. Thankfully the stupid international break intervened to help me ween myself off the perpetual disappointment and frustration of watching Arsenal. I can’t remember when I last could be arsed to write a review given that the observations were entirely predictable from game to game and nothing is really changing. Or is it?

So why now? Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope. Maybe the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming express train. Sure we won. As we did against Stoke and CSKA. But I think there are some themes that continue to shine through the dark clouds of Arsenal.

Mark me down as a skeptic for Aubameyang. I’ve not really gotten my head round this signing. All he’s DM goals were poachers goal. And we know how unsuccessful fox-in-the-boxes has been at Arsenal – just google Francis Jeffers. But, even with the moronic haircut, he does score goals.  And though our dearly missed French hulk could have started that first goal scoring move, Giroud would still be rotating to run into the box by the time the ball had already hit the back of the net. So, maybe, just maybe I’ll be convinced that the BigA can help us.

Did I mention that I love MickeyTarren? I liked him before he signed for DarthVader. And I love him now. Though I’m worried that this knee injury could wipe out his season. But, combined with BigA we are far better moving forward. And I’ve always appreciated a good Cigarette. Especially ones that scores. And as Bould noted, he is a surprisingly good football player. One that can now score goals – even if he did not today.

I don’t really know what to do with Welbeck. From week to week he is more BadBeck that GoodBeck. Today we saw the two extremes. He’s first goal was a classic deflection and he’s last was an opportunistic, aggressive game winning goal. But just before that we saw that most classic of Badbeck misses from inches out. Only Danny could miss that. But, he worked hard the entire game and provided cover for our fullbacks. And boy, did we need that help.

This defense is beyond porous. We should set up a tax deductible charity for the amount we give away. If there is one (and trust there is more than one) clear end of season action it’s to get as much money as we can for Mustafi. He’s beyond unreliable. He is a contagious disaster waiting to happen. Sure, he’ll score the odd vital goal. He can be aggressive and determine in challenging for the ball. But he’s a liability. Too many times this year we’ve seen him make just bone-head decisions. Today was truly pathetic. No other premier league center-half would even dream of not taking responsibility for clearing that ball. It’s your job. And nearly every time he would do that. He put himself in the right position and he would normally do the right thing. But that’s the problem with him. He has brain-farts. Consider the Man City game. Consider some of his distribution. And, I fear, his unpredictability is spreading like a virus through the team. Consider the goal against CSKA when he panic hoofed the ball across the penalty box. I don’t understand how a German International can make these bone-head decisions. But nor should we expect him to change. He might be quite young, at 25, but I fear for Arsenal (even more than I already do) if we preserve with him beyond this season. He is contaminating Kosclieny who’s form has noticeably deteriorated. It could be the accumulation of injuries or it could be the disease that is he’s partner. But rather than thinking we need another center half it’s now looking like we might need two.

Also, it’s getting harder to distinguish between Mustafi and Chambers. Except, just maybe, Chambers might be better. His problem, aside from looking like Mustafi, is that he’s too slow. And he’s distribution is dodgy as well. It says something when the best defender is Bellerin – except today he wasn’t. We did not have one. However, mid-week he was.

The team selection made sense today. I was excited to see Nelson in the team but, of course, that was offset by the presence of Ob1. He’s even worse than Mustafi except that he plays less frequently now we have MickeyTarren. And thank god for that. Today was classic Ob1. Basically useless interspersed with the odd moment of football skill that makes one think that maybe, just maybe there is potential in this boy and that we should persist. But, I remember that we’ve been saying the same thing now for two years since he scored on his debut against Everton. He’s stood still – literally. He should not be on this squad let alone on the team. He is the poster boy for why this team is unbalanced and broken. On no other top 6 premier league team would he be in the starting eleven. I don’t even think Burnley would take him. He runs around with those flailing arms making poor decisions and incapable of scoring. For example, he’s “attempt” against CSKA mid-week. He is just not good enough. And never will be. It makes me angry that he gets playing time. At least Welbeck works hard and chases back. Ob1, in the Ozil position today, showed the odd moment – he’s through ball to Welbeck for that second goal. At this level though that’s not sufficient. We can’t wait on these one-off moments and then carry him for the rest of the game. It’s mind blowing to think of the grief that Ozil used to attract for he’s perceived lack of effort and contribution. From the beginning he showed he’s world class talent. It’s inconceivable that Ob1 could be in the same team as Ozil. The gulf in ability is far too wide to be explainable by age alone.

So, onto our last enigma. As skeptical as I’ve been on BigA I’ve been a believer in Jack. Something is going on though with Jack. And it’s not good. Today he was outright awful. He was off the pace from the first moment. Not a single pass worked for him. He lost possession. He walked around the pitch. He gave the ball away. We were noticeably weakened when he came on. That’s when we started to backtrack and give into the pressure from Southampton. What has happened to Jack? It can’t be related to his contract situation because once he’s on the pitch that is surely forgotten. And it’s not just today. He was clearly our weakest link midweek. It was only the utter brilliance of Ozil and Ramsey – with help from MickeyTarren and Cigarette – that enabled us to function. Jack was slow, passive and predictable. He was never the quickest player on our team but now he seems to run backwards. In a foot race between him and Giroud I think both of them might lose. My suspicion is that he’s not entirely fit but is fighting through is. He had additional rest over the international break because of his knee injury but he’s come back even worse. But, currently, he’s a massive risk for us. And destined to leave for another team. It would be such a shame after all these years but it’s not looking like he can find his game. He was lucky not to get a red card along with Stephens. He lost the ball on the edge of their penalty area with another pass that was mistimed – he was just off the pace of the game from his first touch. Then as he backtracked he fouled Stephens multiple times and ripping his shirt. All he had to do was push him over if he was being out-paced by a six foot center half. Instead he basically got Elneny sent off as Mariner decided he needed to even up the red card count. Elneny barely touch the Southampton player. And know we’ll miss him for three irrelevant league games. But that also means that the chances of Jack and Ob1 both playing have increased. That kills me. Now I have two players (at least) that I pray are not on our starting team sheet. Which is also why we need MickyTarrien. Here’s a player who Bellerin can actually link up with. Obviously, he could never do that with Walcott nor Ob1. Bellerin’s improvement has correlated directly with the existence of the Armenian.

We got three useless points today. We saw a goal scorer ply his trade and another hard-working Englishman scrap two goals. It’s lucky we had Stoke and Southampton though. Because our defense is shameful. Even against CSKA. If they had someone other than a failed Leicester center-forward, we could have been sunk. And I for one do not believe this game is over. We saw against Osterland from Norway how porous we can be. After the travel out there and with Koz and Mustafi in defense I could still see us throwing this one away. Beyond that it’s hard to see how we could win this. Any half decent team (Athletico, Lazio etc.) will cut us apart.

It’s lucky we can score goals. It’s lucky that we have the best creative midfield player in England. And we lucky that Ramsey is not (yet) injured. We can score goals. And very pretty ones. Borderline poetry. This should be sufficient enjoyment to make watching Arsenal a pleasure. But as a long-term addict, being consistently disappointed drains the fervor and passion. The expectation of unnecessary, careless failure is too painful to experience week after week. Sure we’re now in a winning streak but all the themes are still there. We need to real defensive mid-field player. Xhaka has improved but that is not his natural position.

We are now an amplified version of Arsene’s teams – sublime in attack and suicidal in defense. We were unnecessarily close to throwing away the points today. We have been the beneficiaries of penalties in recent weeks. Like London busses, you wait for ever and then two come along at the same time. But Stoke were much poorer than Southampton. They had chances today to win. Austin should have scored at the end. But by then we’d fallen back in the tepid, tame Arsenal that we were in the first half against Stoke. It’s a form of schizophrenia. We had this all season. In the league, I can’t remember when we performed for both half’s of a game.

The enjoyment in supporting this team has been on the wane for a few years now. The continual disappointment combined with the clearly sub-par player selection. This addiction has provided so much happiness that maybe it’s payback time. This is what it could be like supporting Everton, West Ham or Sp*rs. We deserve better than that. And we have some genuine world-class players who also deserve better. Come the end of this painful season the Club will have to finally make the move to protect our future. Ultimately this lands at the feet of AW. He is the one supporting Ob1, Mustafi and Jack. Its’ by no means certain that another manager will improve our cub – look at the disaster than is Man United. But it’s no longer acceptable to ignore the future. We have to finally step into it. But before then we have a journey backward in time – back into the time of the Czar and peasants. Let’s hope the don’t decide to deploy the nerve gas. It’s entirely possible our season could end in Russia just as quickly as England’s surely will.

-LB7

 

 

 

March 11th – Arsenal 3 Watford 0

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Clean sheet and Cech saves a penalty. I must buy a lotto ticket today. This is he’s third season with us. 98 games and he finally saves a penalty. And at a crucial time in the game. And he finally gets he’s 200th clean sheet. Pretty impressive. And a number of key saves in the first half. Sure he’s had dodgy games – who hasn’t in this fucked-up team – but he’s still the best GK we have. And I think he’ll remain our for a couple more years yet.

So we finally put a run together. Two wins in a row. Wow. Hard to remember when we last managed that. So let’s enjoy it while not forgetting the underlying issues still to be addressed. Today was a day to enjoy and appreciate some of the smooth, elegant play of Arsenal FC.

Ozil purred, MikeyTarrian was dangerous, MaintlandNiles was dynamic at right back and Elneny moved the ball quickly. I liked Holding today – he plays well against classic English center forwards. When it gets physical and tough he’s always up for a good fight. And today he out fought their Division 2 center forward. Playing two defensive midfield players liberated Ozil and our full backs which meant we caught them on the counter attack. The first one from which OBangThemIn missed a golden chance. It’s taking him time to adjust. I remain unconvinced by this guy but I’ll give him till the end of the season. There is an adjustment period but I do worry about the chances he misses and the lack of link up play he contributes – though he was better today again. He did take his goal well even if that utter wanker Ob1 tried to get in his way. Let’s leave that tit until later on.

Mustafi, just as he did against Sp*rs, gave us the lead care of another Ozil assist. Dreadful, Arsenal-like defending by Watford. But we dominated the first half. When I’d seen the team sheet with Ob1 and Elneny, no Wilshire, Ramsey, Kosclieny or Bellerin I was worried. However, MN linked up well with MickeyT and our interchanges had speed and simplicity such that we moved the ball around quickly and played balls in behind for OBangThemIn. Defensively Holding was tough and the midfield defensive cover worked well. I could have sworn I’d seen Xhaka running back with pace to try and help out the defense.

We were careless with the ball sometimes. MN is a little lax at times. As was MikeyT. But in the first half we looked like a team that we used to support. The second half was a different story. It felt like we handed the initiative to them. They were more aggresive and we had long periods of defending even if they had few chances. There were those annoying spells where we could not keep hold of the ball – giving it away too cheaply. If they were a better team we would have likely conceded but instead Mikey set up OBangThemIn for a neat goal. And, in classic Arsenal style within a minute or two we concede a penalty. Remarkably Cech saved that and changed the course of the game.

We also had a penalty claim waived away – in fact, Atkinson and the linesman were so far behind play they were in no position to see MikeyT hacked down in the box. But as soon as we got that third it was game over. Time to relax and save a few players for Thursdays game.

As enjoyable as today was though I remain utterly baffled and confused by Ob1. He is a walking fucking disaster. I pray for the day when he’s sold or has he’s legs removed. Or even his arms. There are random moments where he can make a great pass but for 99% of his time on the field he’s a liability. He must have the lowest football IQ I’ve seen in a long time. Sure he’s young but he’s been in this team for nearly two years and has yet to demonstrate he’s capable of developing and evolving. Today he was so infuriating. He’s final pass is awful and he’s shooting is pathetic. He looks like he just does not know what to do with the ball once he’s near goal. He is so bad than I was relieved to see him replaced by Badbeck. And as soon as he came on he contributed one touch passes – something Ob1 can’t conceive of – and improved the speed of our play. It should be noted that when we dominated in the first half it was primarily from the right side – away from Ob1. And the degree to which good things happened on the left it was because of Ozil and Kolasinac.

Consider the progress of MN and Ob1. One can play in three different positions. Once can’t play in even one. One is technical and composed on the ball. One isn’t. One has progressed in every game he’s played in while one regresses. I’m racking my brain to think of a player that upsets me as much as Ob1. I despair when I see him in the starting 11. Vermalen, at the end of his time with us, Cygan most of the time, Gervinho, Silverstre and even Santos from the last 5+ years frustrated me but none like this boy. I hate his “game”. He destroys our rhythm; he can’t score and he’s clearly not of the quality required to work alongside Ozil. I’m desperately hoping that because he started this game he won’t be playing against Milan. Hopefully Jack and/or Ramsey will be back for that one. Mind you, Jack looked shit today. He was slow in possession and got caught a few times. Hopefully it was an aberration. On Thursday in the San Siro, he looked active and helped the team move through the gears quickly.

We now have to dispense with Milan. Given our overall lack of self-belief it will only take one goal from the them to shake us into a bag of nerves. We saw what the mighty Swedes did to us in the last round. So this tie is not even close to being over. The only good news is that we are clearly (a la Man U from last year) prioritizing this competition. Resting important players for this upcoming game was sensible. Playing against the Mighty Milan means we won’t have the same sense that it’s a dead rubber. Hopefully all this will help us. But these sneaky Italians know how to play these European away fixtures.

I’m convinced (or I’ve convinced myself anyway) that AW will leave at the end of season. It would be fitting for him to depart on the high of finally lifting a European trophy. But there are many (better) teams to face – if we’re able to get past Milan. But he has more than earned the right to leave with his head held high with our undying appreciation of the way he’s molded and shaped some of (of not the) best football we’ve ever witnessed. So these remaining 8 EPL games and the NoHopaCup should be his swansong. Let’s hope he gets that. After Thursday, our remaining run of games is manageable with Stoke up after the stupid international break.

Pretty soon we’ll have to turn our attention to the identify of our next manager. My money is on either Jardim from Monaco or Low from Germany. The issue with the latter is that he won’t be available until after the Corrupt Cup in Russia. By the time he escapes Putins slimey grip it will be only weeks before the start of our season. Whereas at least with Jardim he can come on board the day to season completes. And that would leave AW to either slide over to the money pit in Paris – PSG or, less likely, take over Real Madrid. Given Wengers close ties to BeIn Sports (owned by the Qatars’) I’d expect him to return to his homeland and earn even more money. And after a few years of that to finally take over the French national team. That would be an excellent way for us all to move forward

-LB7