Author Archives: BBandbeyond BBandbeyond

January 18th – Arsenal 1 Sheffield United 1

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Welcome back my friend(s). I’ve been solving the worlds other problems since the last decade. With limited success. But we’ve finally procured an actual manager. And one that can express an intelligent thought. So, I say “let the rebuild begin”. None of this rubbish that Emery heaped on us. None of this shifting tactics (if there were any) or playing players in the wrong position.

For this new decade we finally have our Torreira back. And we’ve found the real David Luiz. Unfortunately, we still have the real Mustafa. Somethings can’t be changed.

We had the benefit of Exit (Emery Exit) and now we pray for the real Mexit. None of this royal crap here just a plan to remove Mustafa from our squad. He tried so hard today to give the ball to the opposition.  Maybe it was because they were playing in yellow that confused him. But let’s hope Sokratis recovers for Tuesday. You know this manager is intelligent enough to see what everyone sees, namely, that we need another center half as backup.

Today was another brick in the wall. Another step in the one direction. Yet more progress down Abbey Road. Having to recover from the regression of the last 18 months will take some time. But we finally have a group of players that look like they are functioning within a team.

In the previous decade I might have offered a view that favoured Ancelotti and that Arteta was too big a risk. While, of course, I was right I did neglect the importance of alliteration in the decision making process. Following on from AW we meandered off to UE; preferring to go with a manager that fit our stadium sponsor. Not bad in terms of vowels and the start of the alphabet. But how can you go wrong with MA? It’s even the upside down mirror of our greatest ever manager (sorry HC, you are excluded as you had no vowels).

Back to today. I had low expectations. SU are a very fine team; remarkable in fact. Disciplined but attacking. I challenge you to name a single player in that team. They comprise no-name, run of the mill, unexceptional players. Yet, as they have demonstrated, they are a better team than us (and most of the league). And then to see both Mustafa in the line-up and Dean as the referee combined with Tony Gayle as one of the commentators seemed like fate was telling us how this would end.

So though we threw away the 2 points there were periods in the second half where we looked quite threatening. We were fortunate to go in at half-time with the lead, but we did have chances to go further ahead. By the time they scored we seemed more comfortable than we had the entire game. In fact, a la Chelsea, we nearly handed them the three points. Whereas with Emery we had to always come from behind with MA it seems like we have to struggle to hold onto leads. In due course, and with a better center-half, we will fix this.

Leno is beginning to worry me. Under the Emery regime, he often was our best player. But, starting with Chelsea, he’s starting to make mistakes in judgement. And his distribution from the back, while far superior to Cech, is too risky. And, too often, he’s too slow to make decisions. And that lack of pace in distribution permeates to the defense which all too often is trapped in by their forwards.

Maitland-Niles has improved dramatically. His distribution is not perfect but his defending has improved. For example, against Palace he tied up Zaha completely. He and Pepe still have to work on their combinational play. But, in the absence of Hector he’s performed admirably.

Saka is a revelation. He evolves from game to game. Obviously the boy can’t defend but then nor can Kolinsac. And he’s sure to get ripped apart by any decent winger but his forward play is intelligent an, unlike AMN, he can cross a ball.

How good is Arteta? His so good he’s made Xhaka look good. Having him rotate in the left center-half/left back position to receive the ball when we’re in possession has allowed Xhaka to get on the ball and influence the tempo of our game. He looks more stable and creative. Of course, he’s still slower than a dead horse and can’t tackle any better than legless, armless paraplegic. But he combines well with the most wonderful Torreira. This boy is dynamite. He is the white Kante. He is the Uruguayan Parlour. He is the only defensive midfield player this club has. And now it looks like we have some level of protection for our defense.

MA has even brought some life back into our expensive version of Erickson. Ozil was prescient in deciding to wait out Emery, rightly figuring the manager would depart before he would. Today was not a great day for him. There was little room for him to work in. But he’s better than injured Dani and the best we currently have. And thankfully we’ve off-loaded baby-faced Smith-Rowe; let him grow some facial hair before we bring him back. His the current version of Henri Lansbury. He’ll find a nice career in the Championship.

Pepe is getting there. I remember when we brought in the nimble-footed Pires. It took him six months to adjust to the English game. It’s going to take Pepe longer. His still too easily eased off the ball; he must be stronger. But Pepe is inventive and creative. And he clearly scares the other team (witness the thug Chilwell – have you ever come across such a misnamed player? – against West Ham). His young and, under the guidance of MA, will continue to improve.

Lost in the transition from the gormless, wanker Emery to the boy-genius Arteta has been the kidnapping of our Cigarette. He no longer can score goals. Though he works hard and the linkup play has improved someone has stolen his scoring shoes (or other body-parts). Without Aubameyang, that’s not a great place to be. Today Aub would have had two goals before Martinelli scored.  This kid is a phenom. As poorly as he played today – by his own high standards – he still scored our all important goal. His scoring record is remarkable. In ten years time he’ll still be younger than Aub is now. He will either become our highest scoring player of all time or our highest priced player to leave Arsenal for RM or Barca.

It’s good to see that MA trusts Nelson; this kid also has potential. And it’s also good to see that MA recognizes that we need to polish Guendouzi before we give him more playing time. Hopefully, under his tutelage, he’ll be able to harness that potential and, eventually replace Xhaka – but in time. Not now. And I much prefer seeing Willock on the bench.

I still remain more concerned about the relegation zone than Europe. There are too many teams in the middle of the table but within range of the bottom three. We are a losing streak away from that pressure – which MA does not need. But Europe is out of reach. Our own BrExit. But we’ve seen, over the years, Liverpool, Chelski and Manure miss out on Europe for one year. It won’t be the worse thing in the world if we use that time (and lack of money) wisely. In another year we’ll have gotten the high wage bill players off-loaded and our youth players will be that much better. Of course, we could get lucky with the FA Cup or the NoHoppa Cup but I doubt it. This squad is not as poor as Emery made them but it still needs time and grooming.

For Christmas I asked Santa for a new manager. Thank you Santa. We now have our team back. As they say, the future lies ahead of us. And, I believe, the history is in the past. For the first time in 18 months I’m finally excited to watch this team. I know they are not good enough. But once we can get rid of Mustafa, then I can at least know that this team has the ability to entertain and has a personality. They work much harder and play a style of football that we have enjoyed for the last 20 years (or a large part of).

But clearly with Chambers injured, Tierney always injured and Holding and Bellerin very slowly recovering we are in desperate need of some additional defenders. The existence of Mustafa is the clearest evidence of that. But I trust that MA can see this.

I don’t expect miracles from this team. But I have seen enough of MA to know we are finally progressing. I trust this won’t be an Emery false-dawn. We will have many blips on this new road. Possibly starting at Chelski on Tuesday. And we should regret throwing away the two points today. We had weathered their storm. But we have yet to learn how to see out games. I’m sure MA will put it down to mental and physical tiredness. That’s part of the limited squad and multiple injuries.

And even if the unlikely happens and MA fails we can at least sleep at night knowing we don’t have DarthVader managing our team. Since the bleak one has turned up with that other lot, they have ever so slowly started to resemble his dire, defensive teams of the past. That lot are clearly in danger of missing out on the Champions League. And that can only lift our spirits and brighten our day. The financial pressure will be immense. And the pressure on DarthVader will increase. And then so will his destructive, manic outbursts. I am so looking forward to this. We could only hope it all ends in tears and financial ruin for them.

In the meantime, I will focus on us getting another 11 points so we can finally be a snug, safe mid-table team. Emery has knocked out any ambition I might have once harboured. Maybe it’s too soon to equate MA to Klopp. But Klopp took 4 years to get to this remarkable season. That Kraut is one of a kind. But MA has the opportunity to redefine this team and this club. He needs time. And, as long as we incrementally progress and as long as we can get rid of Mustafa, he’ll get it.

It’s good to be back. We have plenty of suffering ahead but at least we can now dream again. Today was by no means painless. Too many mistakes and too little creativity. But we can at least regain some optimism. Baby-steps for our babies in red.

– LB7

December 15th – Arsenal 0 Manchester City 3

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Dear Father Christmas, I’ve been such a good boy this year. I stopped picking my nose. I have stopped farting in public. And next year I promise to stop peeing in the street. I’ve been so good. So, pretty please, can I have a special Christmas present. Please Santa? Can I please have a proper manager? Can you get me Carlo? Even a temporary Carlo? Otherwise I’ll be crying into the next year.

Imagine, Arsenal managed to beat the rest of the country to Brexit. We didn’t need any votes; we just needed Emery and others to lead us into the desert.

Poor Freddie. What was he thinking? We are sinking quicker than the Labour party in England. We are like the titanic after we’ve hit the iceberg and have sunk. We are those remaining passengers in the life raft. And Freddie is the captain but with no oar.  All he can do is seemingly find the youngest players and put them into the team. If you’ve over 22 years of age then you’ll be consigned to the bench. Or worse. Freddies’ solution is to go young. Soon he’ll be playing embryo’s at left back.

Thank god for three points at West Ham. Today was always going to be a game too far. But with De Bruyne it was game over. That was about a complete a performance by an opposition player as I’ve ever seen at Arsenal (Highbury or otherwise). Both goals were brilliant. And if it were not for our spring-laden German goalie it would been a perfect hattrick.

It seems futile to go through the vacuous performances of each of the plyers. Aside from Leno and Martinelli there is nothing worthy of comment. Mistakes were all too evident. The midfield was a shambles and we barely wanted to move the ball forward.

Pep obviously decided to take his foot off the gas so as to not increase the pressure on Arsenal and thus hastened the departure of Arteta. But surely, after watching that performance Mikael, if he was sane and sensible, would want nothing to do with this club.  

You can’t blame the fans today. Even at the end, those remaining, were cheering for their club. This is what it must have looked like at Leeds or at Nottingham Forest or Aston Villa before they sank into oblivion. There is nothing but an empty shell left of this team. Freddie can’t fix it. Bring in Carlo and give him a chance. We need a proven manager with Premier League experience. We are in a relegation fight now. Forget Europe. Welcome Brexit. And now is not the time for the club to throw an inexperienced manager into the fray. I even catch myself wondering whether we should have, in fact, taken on Darth Vader. I feel like I’m losing my soul and my faith. To even consider that blasphemous idea speaks to the desperation of our plight.  

This is a club that is fucked. Up the Royal Arse. Now is not the time to go through a long and onerous interview process stretching out over many weeks. Now is the time when management should be implement a well thought out plan that they had in place before they fired Emery. Not, two or three weeks later, trying to figure out what to do next.

There are some players that should remain in our team. Most of the younger ones. But they need tactics and a sense of positioning. Guendouzi looks completely lost; he can’t be a defensive midfield player. Torreira was overrun as the one man defense. Maitland-Niles is not a full back. But then nor is Kolinsac. How sad was it to see poor Saka playing at left back. Our team was more reminiscent of one of our League Cup teams than a team to play last years Champions.

Not that there were any illusions that we might get anything from this game. But to not have learned anything yet, to have given away chances to them so easily. It’s a groundhog day nightmare. Even without the shinning brilliance of DeBruye, we weren’t even second best.  This team is broken and dysfunctional. No-one on the bench can resolve this. We need new management and we need it now. Not in another 3 weeks. Not after losing to Everton, Chelsea and Man United. That manager needs to come in now so they have a much time as possible. Let them observe the team during these critical games and start to figure out what needs to be done.

Would any intelligent, experienced manage want this job? Would you want to catch a falling knife?  The longer AFC fail to make a decision the harder it will be to bring in what we need. And we need Carlo. And we need him now. Before Chunukah and before Christmas. Before Everton. But, I can nearly promise, that AFC won’t pull the trigger. Instead they will spout the usual bullshit that they have an (imaginary) plan in place. Assuming that is that anyone from AFC makes themselves available to talk to the media. Rather they’ll leave Freddie to be the focus of all the questions. At some point the management of this club have to stand up and take responsibility – and he held accountable. They have to speak to the fans and provide some answers.

There is no backbone in this team. Next week, against Everton, it will be a six pointer. Two fallen teams searching for points and a manager. The only two teams never to have been relegated from the top division, both playing for their lives. And you can be sure – with madman Ferguson in charge – they will be up for it. Will Arsenal? Not if Ozil is playing. He’s talented and all that but not someone you want in this situation. It would be like bringing a Picasso along to a gunfight. Freddie can talk about confidence (or the lack thereof) but now is the time for backbone and fight. We need to eek our points. I doubt Freddie has ever been in this situation. Neither has this club. But now it’s time to accept Brexit and focus on survival. Maybe we need Allardyce or Pullis as a manager. That’s what a shambles we now have. We need someone to just stop the bleeding. I hope we don’t live to regret passing on Darth Vader.

Expect radio silence from the club and more desperation from the fans. I don’t understand what I witnessed today. When they had the ball all they had was empty spaces in front of them but when we had the ball there was a log jam of their players. We had minimal urgency and an interest in passing backwards only. I fear those 9 minutes at West Ham might have been the last burst of creativity for a long time. For sure Everton will work us off the park next week. This team has lost its heart. It’s lost it’s manager and now it’s in danger of losing it’s Permier League status.

So pretty please, kind, nice Father Christmas, please give me a manager – preferably Carlo – for my birthday, for my Christmas and for my sanity.

-LB7

December 1st – Norwich 2 Arsenal 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Lucky Arsenal. Jammy Arsenal. Another come from behind draw. Another 2 goals let in. Another 2 points dropped against the worst teams in the Premier league.

Freddie what are you doing? I thought we were done with Mustafi and Xhaka. It’s back to our failed past. No Torreira. No Holding. No Bellerin. And, of course, no defense. We are incapable of defending. We can’t put in tackles and can’t close players down.

It’s only one game but based on 90 minutes it cries out for a real manager with real organizational skills to come in. Go and kidnap Ancelotti now. Because if Freddie starts with this line-up and then brings on Saka and Martinelli before Pepe we’re in deeper shit than I realized. We’ve made progress with the removal of Emery. We had more energy today. If we had the Cigarette that played last week we’d have won this game. As brilliant as he was this week he was awful today. He passed when he should have shot. In fact, I don’t think he had a shot today. I’d have moved Aubameyang into the central position and pushed Cigarette our wide. Ozil was very quiet; Wilock was marginal. The movement of the ball was a little quicker but Cigarette missed our chances and both goals came from dead ball situations. Our creativity is still lacking but our defense is beyond woeful. Of course Mustafi was a disaster but so was everyone around him. David Luis backs off players and does not play offside. And neither will close down the player on the ball.

Leno was our best players today. Him and VAR. I’d be aggrieved if that penalty was against my team and then retaken. And beyond looking dangerous at corners we barely threatened their keeper. We dominated the first half but as soon as we scored our second equalizer we handed control of the game back to them. We gave the ball away and could not win any challenges. Guendouzi was weak today. He lost the ball and lost challenges. Xhaka, aside from the fact he can’t defend, was reasonable. But all too often both of these two are chasing back with the play ahead of them. This exposes our defenders and we know what that means.

We need organization. Freddie only had 48 hours. But we have to judge him on the team selection. And it was abysmal. Has he not been watching this year? Why would you select Mustafi? Even at the end of the game he slipped over to enable them to create one more chance that Torreira managed to block. It felt just like playing Southampton. On the break we looked as disorganized and vulnerable as ever. Someone, somewhere is surely capable of shaping this group of players into a team. It can’t be that hard. Surely.

For the first time in 9 months I’d been excited about an Arsenal game. Nervous and expectant. Until I saw the team selection. This should have been a relaunch. Instead it reaffirmed that the club need to look outside for a proven manager. It demonstrated that we need a fresh pair of eyes. Real change. Today made me less inclined to Arteta and more disposed to the Italian A’s.

There is talent in this squad but no organization. No notion of how to defend. We are fooling ourselves if we are thinking about Europe next year. We can’t even beat the worst three teams in our league. In each instance we’ve drawn them. Our point accumulation is at the rate of a relegation team. Once we start losing games to real teams then we’ll realize that we are delusional. Today we gave the ball away in our back 1/3rd of the field too much. As the game wore on we lost the ability to retain the ball. We let Norwich dominate us. That’s right. Fucking Norwich.  All season it’s been the same thing – no balance and no defense. And Freddie had a chance today to correct that. We had Brighton up next. Will his selection change? I fear it won’t. I was so optimistic today but feel now that we’re still continuing our journey in a dark tunnel and that light at the end has turned out to be an oncoming train.

Before we know it we will have to play ManCIty, Chelski and ManU. With the display like today, we are fucked. Sure there was more energy. But that was it. We need senior management to bring in a real manager. Make real change. If they have a plan that would be reassuring. But my money is on us stumbling along for a few more weeks. If Freddie continues to structure the team as he did today the results will remain the same and the pressure will build. If he, by some miracle, concludes that no Arsenal team should contain Mustafi and we put Torreira at the base of the midfield, we’ll gain some points but only paper over the lack to organization.

So, for Christmas, please give me a real manager. A grown up who’s done this job before. Someone who knows this league and has a track record of success. There are a few but we can’t wait until the end of the season. Because by then the fans would have turned on Freddie and we’ll be flirting with relegation. I know this sounds melodramatic. But this team is now officially dysfunctional. You can’t draw against a team like Norwich and conclude anything other than that. Sure we moved the ball a little quicker. We were a little more incisive. But until we understand how to defend, how not to be continuously exposed on the break. Until we understand how teams counter-attack, we will never score enough goals to overcome our porous defense. And that’s even with Leno in goal. The fact that he was our best player today speaks volumes.

The only good news is that we don’t have listen to Unai destroy the English language. But if this is the first day of the rest of our lives, I’d still like another life. We were lucky to come away with a point today. A penalty and a corner compared to numerous Norwich chances where everyone of our players backed-off. No-one can close down the player on the ball. And then, even when we got the ball back, we did not know how to control the game. Yes, it was marginally better than the performance against Southampton and Eintracht. But that’s no measure of where this club should be. All these teams are shit. But, unfortunately, I think we’ve demonstrated over the last couple of months that we are officially shit.

-LB7

Nov 30th – Emery’s Emirates Exit

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

And about time too. Now we can move forward. Though it might be two steps back before 3 steps forward. But finally some movement. After watching the Eintracht game it was inevitable. If there was not sufficient evidence during the Southampton game – let along the last 6 months – this game just about took the biscuit. That second half performance was as insipid and lethargic as anything I’ve ever seen from Arsenal. And that covers the gloomy days of Terry Neil and the tedious game of the mid-80s. In the decades I’ve had the pleasure of suffering through Arsenal this was as dreary and diabolical as I could have imagined. Why we need to wait post Leicester is beyond me. We’ve wasted yet more time with Mr. Bean managing our club. But at least we know what it’s like to have a zombie as coach; someone devoid of personality, someone devoid of decisiveness.

Finally someone in Arsenal put Emery out of his misery. I’m sure he’ll go back to some league 2 team in Spain and build a nice team. Managing in the EPL is just different. For talented managers – of which there are only a few – it’s a great platform but for most others it will break them. We unfortunately picked from the latter group. I was OK with the original decision but it became apparent earlier this calendar year that all was not well. He should have been shown the door at least a month ago. However, if the rumours are true we should be grateful he wasn’t otherwise we’d have ended up with Darth Vader. I’m more than happy for him to reside at the other side of North London. They will enjoy some short term improvement – maybe it will get them into the Champions League next year (though we have to pray for Lampard to fix his team and for Brendon to stay). But we all know how it will go up in smoke in 18 months to 24 months. And even if turns out that he has finally changed his pathologically, narcissistic behavior, there are no circumstances under which he could be allowed to manage our club.

Which leaves us with Freddie. As a legend he’ll start with tremendous goodwill. But do we want him turning into our OSG?  If we goes on a good run – which we can only dream for – others will clamor for him to get a permanent appointment. Yet, the probability is he’ll suffer because this teams issues can’t be solved just by a change in manager. It needs a rebuild – that’s what Emery was supposed to oversee. And Freddie can’t do that in 48 hours.

So why are we in this situation and why was there not a plan in place? If you look across the road they announced their replacement in 12 hours. That’s how you should do it. Albeit not with that appointee. Why did they not have someone lined up? Is the person unavailable? Do we need Freddie for the rest of the year? It would seem as though our management was caught off guard. If they were talking to Darth Vader then surely they were talking to others as well. They had a week since he landed somewhere else? Allegri is available now. Would he help us? I’m not sure that style will work. Ancelotti is familiar with the EPL and could soon be free. Then there’s’ Brendon, Nuno, Arteta and Viera. All these are interesting alternatives. But we, as a club, should already know what we want. And we should move.

The timing is not important because it could help us qualify for the Champions League – that ship has sailed. It’s to make sure our players know that we are committed to being successful. We can’t really blame Silent Stan and his little DNA. They put football people in charge. It’s their decision and their responsibility. They should have a plan in place to get us the best available manager. For me that’s Nuno. Wolves is a club steeped in history form the 1950’s but is no place for a real manager. Likewise Leicester. Both of these clubs reside in the region known as the black country; and no-one really wants to be there. I’m nervous of the ego associated with Brendon but he did a great job at Swansea and, aside from his Hollywood turn at Liverpool, did another great join in the wastelands of Scotland. I’m not sure he’d want to leave a team destined for the Champions League next year for a re-build with us.

An alternative view would be to put us in the safe hands of Ancelotti to stabilize us for the next 18 months and then hand it over to Arteta or, on the off chance Nice takes-off – Viera. But whichever way we move I can’t see how it can or should be Freddie. It’s a path ManU have got stuck going down and one we don’t need.

For the first time this season I will be nervous for the match. I will watch with expectations. I will expect a real energy level and commitment. I’ll also hope we have a defensive midfield of Torreira and Guendouzi. And I hope Sokratis is on the bench. But I won’t expect miracles. But I will care. Now that we will have some leadership we should see some improvement. But until we get a real manager we should not expect too much from Freddie. Even for tomorrow we should accept that even when we drop more points, we’re finally restarting our season. We’ve wasted 18 months on the wrong manager but the squad is still better than it’s been. Let’s just hope that the football brain trust at Arsenal is now doing the work they should have done in the last 3 months to identify and bring in the manager we need.

Strap on we’re on for a bumpy ride.

– LB7

November 23rd – Arsenal 2 Southampton 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Abject Arsenal can’t even beat a shit Southampton. And Southampton should have won. They had more clear chances and should have been 3 or 4 up before Cigarette equalized.

Where to start with such a shit game. It’s barely worth watching these days. The inability to gel as a team is so clear. You’d have to be a blind man or Unai Emery not to see it. There is so much wrong with this team – not the group of players – it’s hard to know where to start.

As ever the formation – starting at home against the worst team in the league with a back three. How ambitious is that? From the start Southampton closed us down with more energy and desire. We barely built from the back and then at snails pace. By the time the ball got the half way line everyone was asleep. This team mirrors the energy and outlook of our manager – devoid of ideas and fast asleep.

It’s been evident for months now. We had the chance post Leicester to take the initiative and dump this failed manager. Instead we let the other north London team show how to move forward. They actually had a great manager but still fired him. We have a shit one but decide to retain him. They got to the Champions League final and lost because of a tough penalty call. They fired their manager. We struggled into the Europa League final and were catatonic . Yet we the club that retains our manager.

Today demonstrated again that this team does not respond to him. We struggled the entire game. If we wanted culprits we had Sokratis and Atwell. This was, by far, the most indecisive performance by Sokratis today. Will he be held accountable? Will Holding start the next game. Of course not. He tried to hand them multiple goals. His distribution was awful and he lingered on the ball in all the wrong areas.

I felt sorry for Tierney today. In the first half all the attacking creativity came down his side. Contrast that with the other side – Bellerin was awful today. His touch was crap and his contributions were non-existent. Our right hand side was unused for the first half and most of the second. Yet Tierney gave up a penalty. Even with VAR focusing on the potential offside that was as slight a penalty as you could hope for. Not enough to overturn on VAR. But Atwell was a cunt the entire game. He allowed Southampton to waste time as soon as they scored. He then awarded free-kicks for the slighted infractions. I still have the sound of his whistle rattling in my head. It was non-stop. And the spate of yellow cards – most of which were trivial – were inconsistent. But this all helped to disrupt the flow of the game. Yes we are shit but there’s not reason for him to impact the flow of the game so much nor to so randomly give or not give free kicks.

It’s hard to get to upset because this is all so predictable. It inevitably ends up with Emery gone. It’s so obvious. A blind man can see this. There are complicated things in this world. What is dark matter? How do you control climate change? Why is nationalism on the rise? But, as for who should manage Arsenal I think we all know it should not be Emery. So we have to consign this season to the dustbin? We have to wade through the another 60% of the season watching this? Why waste time? I know the club don’t want to be seen as a hire and fire club. But when it’s so clearly wrong why waste time? Show leadership and admit it did not work out. We are now a middle table team. An average team. I can remember when this team was mid-table. Go back to the ‘70s and ‘80s if you want to see average. But that was not on the manager. That was the team – the lack of ability and class. That’s not the case here. This group of players is better than last year. Emery has found a way to get less out of more. Just the opposite of what we were looking for.

I bet some fans are wondering whether it would have been better to not have scored the equalizer. Would we have been better off if we’d have lost. Would this have placed more pressure on Emery and Arsenal and hastened his departure. That is not, unfortunately, an irrational idea. As a life long fan I wonder whether – for our long-term good – we’d be better off losing our forthcoming games in order to assure ourselves of the departure of this goat. If the club thought that Wenger had lost the supporters and the players how can they not conclude the same with Emery?

On balance though I still want us to win. I don’t want a string of losses to drive out Emery. I want the club to see what’s happening (or not happening) on the pitch and that they step forward, take responsibility and fire him before we lose more games and drop more points. How bad do our performances have to be? How many points do we have to drop before they realize what we already know. That Emery must go.

What does Emery have to do to get fired? If not draw at home to Southampton and Crystal Palace, lose at Leicester. When did we last win a game? And what signs of progress and development is there? None. Is Emery our Trump? Neither can get pinned down for any responsibility while chaos surrounds them. In the latter case we’ll have to wait till next November. But for the former, this November should be sufficient. Emery will take more games to waste the talent in front of him.

Cigarette scored two crucial goals today. He saved Emery. And, aside from the ridiculous yellow card he was given, was excellent today. He was our best player. It’s so good to finally see him back in form rid of his prior injuries. He worked so hard the entire game and literally saved Emery today.

Torreira, though he gave the ball away, was improved today. But there is not clear relationship with Guendouzi. Often they got in each others way or Guendouzi was too far away from Torreira. And neither came to pick up the ball from our back three.

Pepe did make a difference when we came on. He blew one clear opportunity when he should have taken the responsibility rather than tried to pass to Ozil. That’s what happens when your confidence is low. And then he hit the bar later on.

Wilcock saved this game for us with his goal line clearance. And saved Emery. How Southampton did not score before we equalized shows that there is someone up there that does not like Arsenal. Those misses saved Emery.

How bad are we. With 5 minutes left in added time, we can’t even play the ball out of defense. Sokratis is passing the ball backwards and sideways. No-one is demanding the ball or driving forward. Everyone’s head is down. It’s only by good fortunate the ball ends up headed out to Martinelli before Cigarette controls with one foot and scores with the other.

No-one celebrates. Not the players. Not the fans. Because we all know we’re shit. And Emery is lucky. So now we have to sit around and suffer through more meanderings from our incoherent manager. Watch more games where our defense will get torn apart. Drop more points and wait for the hammer to drop on Emery. It’s so inevitable it’s boring. It’s even hard to get too upset – though I seem to be doing a good job.

This is the most obvious case of an underperforming team with an unsuitable manager I’ve seen since Sherwood was at Aston Villa and Sp*rs. Maybe I can find a tranquilizer to put me out for the next 4 or 5 games. It’s too tedious to watch this team.  To watch the abject waste of talent. And to watch our manager prowl the touchline with no clue of how to solve the problems he can created. Maybe he can bring back Xhaka. Maybe we need Mustafi. Can we buy back Iwobi? Because that limited progress is being wasted. The Green Party should be up in arms at the waste of resources at Arsenal.  Even at its worst under Wenger – even at the end – we were never this poor. Never this lost. Never this directionless. So again, I ask, what will it take for the club to rescue this team. You can’t ask Emery to fire himself – he would miss anyway. It was a good idea that just has not worked out. What’s their plan B (or C)? Do they have one. They invested a lot of money (though not on a net basis) this summer. How can they accept such a witless, idealess, ponderous, turgid, inept performance such as this – at home – against one of the worst teams in the league. A team to whom, in all honesty, we deserved to lose to? If not now when?  

-LB7

January 19th – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

That’s more like it. We should only play at home. No more away games. Then we’d be champions again. Glory be ours. Home is where the points are. To be fair it helped that Chelski were shit. But we were pretty good.

Team selection was key today. No Mustafa. Maybe he’s injured. We can but hope. Back to a back four even without Monreal. And Torreira in midfield. So that’s better.  And we turned and played for both halfs. Maybe that makes up for playing neither last week. We started with a high press game and put them under pressure immediately. Before we took a well deserved lead Aubameyang missed another chance. That’s a nasty habit he’s developing. Luckily we had CIgaerette on hand to score a true strikers goal. Somewhat reminiscent of his Liverpool goal, in a tight spot he demonstrated delicate control and then a poachers awareness of the goal. Maybe Torreira distracted their super expensive goalie a little who was still counting his money as the ball went in on the near post.

The pressure was pretty relentless even though Chelski had a perfect chance for Pedro to equalize. Our setup was very different from previous weeks and it benefited us. Ramsey was pressing Jorginho and, just like Ali did, it denied Chelski any fluency. Today was about the team selection. As buggered as it was last week, today, it was better. Ramsey in midfield at least linked up the play and pushed forward. And he worked really hard the entire game.

Cheklsi really were off their game for the first half and we should most probably have taken the lead earlier and, possibly, scored more from the chances they created for us. Right from the off David Luis gave us the ball in the final third. The numerous mistakes like that peppered their first half. But our press helped amplify their lack of focus.  

I’m not entirely convinced by Guendouzi on the left. Both he and Kolinsac seemed pretty vulnerable today. Both seemed to work hard but Guendouzi did not help us too much creatively. Most of that came from the other two midfielders. Playing Torreira on the right was also unexpected leaving Xhaka in the middle. I’m not sure that brings the best out of either but today I think it was largely about nullifying and denying supplies lines to Hazard.

I’m still a little unsure as to how we managed to keep a clean sheet. I suppose it helps when Leno only had a single shot to save through the entire game aside from the header that hit the post. In fact, I wonder whether Chelski studied the wrong video from last week. Maybe they decided to mimic our play against West Ham. Chelski were lackluster and unable to close down anyone. They passed sideways and did not trouble the goalie.

The defense looked better and Kosclieny seems to be finding his way back to some form. But surely having Sokratis alongside him is more comforting than Meathead Mustafi. Today, mostly, they held their line quite well and were sensible in their distribution. With these two in the center the overall balance of the team was better and functioned more as an actual team. The contrast to last week could not be greater.

Maybe we need a home London derby each week. First Sp*rs and now Chelski. Of course, in-between we’ve been pretty crappy. It’s hard to determine whether OneEye is closer to finding out his best team and best formation. To his credit, he is not afraid to make tactical adjustments in the game – unlike AW, and, seemingly, Sari who stuck with the same approach until the wonderful Giroud appeared. It’s rare our crowd serenade another teams player, but in this instance, it’s excusable. We’ve missed his dashing good looks.

Ten minutes into the second half it was clear we should win this game as Chelski had limited invention and we’d adopted a mentality of shutting the game down. We let them have plenty of possession and then contrived to give them the ball straight back but still they could not do anything. There were periods where they reminded me of us trying to tip-toe through a packed defense with the perfected complex inter-passing that we so rarely execute successfully. We could have put the soon-to-depart Cech in goal today and still have won. So, thank you Cheklsi for playing such a limp and lifeless game. Your homage to our performance last week is much appreciated.

We needed this win. I know that seems like a pretty obvious, redundant statement. I believe that’s the general intent each week. However, given the turn in atmosphere at the club over the last week or so, I think there was a genuine need to change the sentiment for this club and team. If only for 90 minutes. Last week was truly atrocious and brought into doubt – based on the last 5 weeks worth of results – the end to the OneEye honeymoon period. So now, as we enter the first full year of our union, the first cracks have begun to show. Is OneEye the right man for the job? What the fuck is going on with our finances? And why are we in such disarray with our January signings and overall recruitment strategy? All these issues remain to be resolved but it’s more palatable armed with three points.

It feels like, over the last few weeks, we’re balancing on a knives edge. Just a few degrees away from self immolation. OneEye has not helped by dissipating all the goodwill he’d inherited both from his signing and the string of positive results. Maybe it’s natural that a new manager will modify and change his team strategy, alternate various players in order to figure out what works best for the players he’d got. Today that tinkering worked perfectly. Of course, we have had the advantage of watching this squad for too long so we already know who should be playing and who should be permanently injured. I’d just assumed that a professional manager would have figured it out sooner. And that’s not to assume that next week won’t rotate the team again. I’d expect to see Ob1 come back in. As the only player to perform last week he can consider himself unlucky to have been on the bench.

Obviously, the clear negative from today is the Bellerin injury. That had all the hallmarks of a season ending one. I fear it’s ACL or some other knee injury that will sideline him for many months. We know that Lichtenstein can’t replace him. Maitland-Niles is the best we’ve got and he’s not that great. This leads back to our transfer policy and whether we’re looking to bring in experience or youth. And begs the question of whether we have any money in the bank to pay for what we need.

At this stage it seems pretty clear we’re not going to make any earth shattering or influential January signings. We need players but we’re going to have to wait. But it now seems that OneEye has realized he needs one of Ramsey or Ozil to be the creative hub of the team. And yet we look like we could lose both – one to Italy and one to the stands. I have to assume that OneEye is not intent of treating Ozil how DarthVader treated Pogba. Not that the two players are quite comparable. But the similarities with the managers is a little disturbing.  Listening to OneEyes comments during the week it seems that he’s being a little too vocal about the Ozil situation. He’s backing both of them into a corner. It was not Ozil’s fault he signed that contract. No-one forced Arsenal – whether it be Gazidis, Sven or Raul – to offer that contract. Surely they understood the economic reality. Maybe they should realize that you can’t let players get into the last year of their contract. Ozil did – or rather his agent did. I’m sure Ozil will play in the NoHoppa this week and maybe he can resurrect his career with us. But distractions like this don’t help the club. Nor the worrying questions about the finances.

Today helps to clear some of the gloom. But, remember, this is a long, perilous journey we are embarking on.  The is no clear roadmap for us and, unfortunately, no clear leadership either. As happy as I am that silky-smooth Gazidis has departed, we need to have some management direction and control. This was always going to be a tough season. It did not start with belief that we’d end up in the top 4. But after seeing the weakness of ManU and Chelski our expectations rose.  We have to see real progress and evolution. Today we saw a few signs that’s still possible. We had a real performance today. But we also need consistency. Both from the players and the manager.

Away at Cardiff is a reality check. Are we a team that can just turn up for home London derbys or are we a team that can consistently compete away from the New Highbury. Only then can we have some faith in this team. Just keep Mustafi in the stands. Maybe the final solution will be a German-less team.

-LB7

January 12th – West Ham 1 Arsenal 0

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Don’t you just love mediocracy? Get used to it. Embrace it and wear it with honour. We have now official become an average, mid-table, mediocre team. Now rather than worry about the top 4 we can focus on our rightful place somewhere between 5th and 7th.

The prior games against Southampton and Brighton were merely a warm up for today. We had one shot that Flapianski had to save in the first half but not a single shot for him to save in the second. How is that possible? We have found a way to dissipate away all the good will we generated post the Sp*rs league victory over the last month or so. Maybe that early season run was overly deceptive and false set our expectations. If so, then I think we’ve truly found our level. It’s one thing to capitulate against Liverpool but another thing entirely to lose against WH (after the other losses). Since Sp*rs I believe we found relegation form.

How did we get here? Well it helps to have (taking a deep breath) a manager who could well turn out to be mediocre. The best teams reflect the personality of the manager. Look at ManCity and Liverpool. And for more evidence look at any team DarthVader has managed. Look at ManU with DarthVader and compare that to the personality of that team – with basically the same players – now they have the Norwegian 2 year-old managing them. As for Arsenal, we used to be managed by a literary artist but now we’re managed by a shop keeper. Our manager has the personality of a bank manager. He has all the charisma of John Terrys backside. Does this matter to how the team plays? After performances like today you have to wonder. Earlier in the season you’d see Emery running up and down the touchline. Over the last 5 or 6 matches that’s disappeared and been replaced by a dour looking little man wrapped up in his little nice suit just prior to him going out to do the shopping for his wife and two kids.

It’s more interesting for me to write this review than it was to watch the game today. We had no energy and no passion. Even when we were 1-0 we only picked up the pace (from a stroll to a jog) when he removed Xhaka and Mustafa. How did OneEye Memory no select Torreira? How does that make sense? The balance between Gendouzi and Xhaka – as we saw earlier in the season – does not work. Neither of them drop to pick up the ball from our back three so there is no momentum in our game. And it puts pressure on the back three and their distribution. The only outlet we had was down the left with Kolinsac and Ob1.

On the right hand side Maitland-Niles had a shocker. Every touch was heavy and every pass was misplaced. Fortunately, the ball never came down the right hand side. At one point in the first half Ob1 was moved over to the left and that meant there was no outlet. Ob1 was our best player yet again. How can that be? Cigarette worked very hard and was more visible on the first half but alongside him Aubamyang was crap. He was barely involved in the game. And then the one chance (though difficult) in the second half that came his way he missed. Great goal scorer that he is, he’s been shit for the last month.

With Ramsey and Torreira there was a better balance. Both dropped to pick up the ball from the back four and their first movement was forward after that. But again, we were unable to link up the play with our front-line. We were missing our number 10. Who is happens is missing full stop. He can’t be found on the bench. Nor on the team bus. He’s deemed unnecessary for this team? How can that be? Only a shop keeper would consider Ozil to be unworthy in the first 18. A world cup winner and one of the most creative players in Europe and OneEye can’t find a way to deploy him for Arsenal. Today it cried out for his presence and ingenuity. The fact that Ob1 was the only one to who could thread the needle today is testament to our problem. It caused Aubameyang to drop deep where he proceeded to give the ball away. Guendouza attempted multiple forward passes that were all overhit – to be fair against Burnley these passes worked for him (and us). We even had to witness yet more absurdly poor long field balls from Mustafa. But when no midfielder is dropping deep to initiate the play from the defenders and there’s no midfielder able to create then this is what you get. Mediocrity.

As shitty as we were though I don’t know that we deserved to lose. 0-0 would have been a fair reflection. However, we are incapable of keeping a clean sheet away from home. The defense was a little more solid today especially given that there was no Torreira in the starting eleven. Not dissimilar to us, they created few chances. Annoyingly the few they did came care of Nasri who was playing in their Ozil position. But they did not look like scoring. Until, that is, the second half commenced. When we were on our unbeaten run the team came out much improved in the second half; not today. Right from the restart there was hesitation. Prior to the corner Sokrasti and Koscielny let the ball bound, we also saw Maitland Niles fail to pass the ball to our own player. And then from the corner Aubameyang made a half-hearted attempt to block a pass, and then Xhaka decided to head the ensuing cross, on the edge of his six yard area right to the feet of Nasri. How does a professional player manage that? In prior years this would be yet another classic Xhaka defensive howler. But this season, it had seemed these mental mistakes had been eliminated. This year Xhaka has been much improved. But now we’re seeing him revert back to the player we disliked so much. Throughout this game he was surprisingly ineffective. But that’s because you took away his defensive helper. If you take Robing away from Batman how would Batman feel? If you took Watson away from Holmes how would crime solving function? And if you take Torreira away from Xhaka this is what happens. And then you compound that by also removing Ozil. A classic shopkeeper move. We’re just lucky Mickeytarrien is injured otherwise he’d be playing as well.

Across the team, aside from Ob1, no-one performed. As in our previous post-Sp*rs game there was no urgency or drive. That away performance at Fulham seems a season away now. How has this happened? This descent into medicoracy? I fear we have to look at our shop keeper and look for answers there. And that answer is we have to wait another season before we can conclude that he’s not only no AW but he’s not even as good as Pelligrino who has instilled something into WH. Maybe it’s just a mid-season slump from which we will resurect ourselves in stunning glory. Maybe we’ll find our mojo against the Fab-less Chelski. OneEye was making good personal decisions early in the season – making good selections and good substitutions. Maybe he’ll rediscover his touch. But I’m increasingly worried that he might be good enough a manager to keep us 6th in the league but no more. Sure, we should be more patient. Sure, he needs to bring players in. But he should be able to organize and motivate the players we do have. One barometer is whether he’s able to bring out the best in players – regardless of how inept (I’m looking at you Mustafa) they are. When I look at this team all I see is the progress Ob1 has made. Today he was the only creative force we had. He opened up their defense and displayed trickery on the ball. He even had shot that ended up in the same post-code as their goal. But beyond him, who else has grown and developed?

Half way into the season we’ve now reach an important checkpoint for OneEye. His first mini-crisis at the club. The first time, since he’s been here, that the momentum has shifted that the goodwill that accompanied him has begun to evaporate. The first time that he’ll now be under pressure. Not that AFC will fire him if we continue on this run. That would not happen until the end of next season; they will definitely let him see out this season. But, for the first time, the spot light will be on OneEye. Question will be asked and the focus will shift. The narrative will no longer be about how AFC have overachieved and that OneEye has caused people to forget about AW. Now the narrative will be about how does OneEye stop this team from going into free fall. The depressing news about our finances combined with the stream of losses changes that prior feel good factor. He’ll find himself working in a different environment now. Fear will creep in; fear of failure. Maybe by him but for sure with the fans. That will be tested this upcoming week. This Chelski game will be a bog test for his ability to motivate and organize the team. A Liverpool like performance could be psychologically damaging for him and the club. If we see a Sp*rs like performance will buy him some more time. But my fear is that he does not know what team he trusts. If he does not start Torreira he will loose the fans. As for Ozil, I think that’s a lost cause. Our shopkeeper does not see the value in shopping at Tiffanys (not that I ever do). In which case let’s get him out and liberate the money we so desperately need. It’s one thing to claim we’re planning and strategizing for the future and we should judge OneEye and the new management over the next few years but if you state you can only loan players and the one world class player – who could have clearly helped the team today – is in the doghouse, then give the keys to someone else so we can make changes that will help us now. Last January we brought out most expensive player – Aubameyang – and over the summer we brought in 4 more. But there’s no point in wasting the talent we have.  Both that that’s in the dog houses and that that’s on the pitch. And both are the responsibility of our shopkeeper.

All eyes now turn to next week. This game could make or break the aura OneEye has at the club. It could allow him to maintain the calm and positive aura – as it’s been since his appointment – or it could turn into a painful, negative spiral that could spin out of control. Sure, one game does not make a season but now, we’ve been on a run for the last 6 weeks that must be arrested. It must be controlled by the manager. This is where he has to show his metal and his ability to manage this team. He has to stamp his personality on this team. I’m just not sure I like to personality of a shop keeper

-LB7

November 3 – Arsenal 1 Liverpool 1

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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