Author Archives: bradybergkampandbeyond

September 22nd – Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 2

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Lucky Arsenal.  Very lucky Arsenal. We snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. And it would have been a well deserved defeat. Everything about our team today – aside form that last 10 minutes – was wrong. Our team now has the personality of our manager. The manager has no personality and nor does the team. This was a thoroughly undeserved victory that can’t paper over the clear deficiencies in our team nor, more concerning, our manager.

We started the game with the wrong selection – again. The wrong tactics – again. And, obviously, with the wrong manager. We were lackluster. Missing any drive, pace and urgency. Villa were  exposing our lack of midfield cover. In other words, it felt like every other game.

The selection was strange – again. Sakka was in which must have pissed off Nelson. He, unlike our other forwards, looked good. Aubameyang missed a chance in the first few minutes set up by Sakka. And then proceeded to misplace every pass and miss hit every shot until the last 10 minutes.

Xhaka was his dependable useless self. He continues to slow down our team with his touches and sideways passing. He makes Guendouzi play worse. But overall the balance and mix of the team was dreadful. There is no passion in the team. And it makes is so hard to watch. Against teams like Villa we seem desperate to go down their level. Except that they were playing better football. We could not string any passes together. It’s as though it’s the first time some of our players have played together. There was no understanding between Aubameyang and Pepe. None between Pepe and Maitland-Niles. Ceballos hardly received the ball. Players ran into the space occupied by others. It’s as though the team has no idea how they should be playing the game.

Villa counterattacked and exposed our predictable lack of defensive cover. It was Watford all over again. It seems like we are incapable of learning anything. We hear how studious Emery is. How it watches game film till 2 in the morning. Clearly it’s not our games he’s watching because nothing changes in his tactics. Pairing Xhaka and Guendouzi brings out the worst in Guendouzi. Any pairing would bring out the worst in Xhaka. In that respect he’s gifted.

This is such a painful game to dissect. It was so unenjoyable for such long periods. Instead of feeling relief and excitement from undeservedly getting the three points, I can’t look past the dire performance of the team and the lack of balance in this team. For the majority of the game we were passive and exposed by an average Villa team. Even when we did score we found a way to hand back the lead within 90 seconds. How is that possible? Grealish skipped past Xhaka (of course) and then Sokratis without a challenge. For their first goal no-one closed down the person putting in the cross and then the entire defense stood still, Guendouzi ball watched and ignored his man and then we’re 0-1 down. And our reaction was non existent. More of the same sideways passing without David Luiz looking to play out to the sides. We created very little though Sakka did look good.

Maitland-Niles did not exactly have his a-game today. He was caught out (as was the camera man) with a through ball when he received his first yellow card. And then a full on tackle gave Fat John Moss the chance to brandish a second yellow even though Maitland-Niles clearly won the ball. Maybe he was sent off because of the absolute hash he made inside 5 minutes when he blasted over with his left foot. Or maybe Moss deemed his reckless cross-ball pass unsuitable for the fans. Either way, this was one of Maitland-Niles’s worst performances and luckily it was limited to less than 45 minutes.

So, at half-time we saw Chambers come on for Sakka. The young kid should feel good with his contribution even if he should not have started. Chambers was more solid and dependable at right back but we’re down to 10 men. The hope was the team would come out fired-up in the second half. Unfortunately, it was more of the same dire football. No cohesion, no link-up play and no momentum. It’s difficult to watch us these days. It’s so fleeting that we actually play football.

The one change we saw though was a change in Guendouzi’s attitude. He grabbed the midfield and took charge. Unlike the elder statesman alongside him, he was energized and direct. Arguably against the run of play he won us a penalty by charging into the box. Pepe got his first goal for us. Maybe we should bring him on for only penalties. But then we wilted immediately to give up the second goal. Xhaka by then already had a yellow card otherwise he would have fouled Grealish. His earlier yellow was absolutely childish and quintessentially Xhaka. It was unnecessary and lazy. That should be his epitaph. It’s remarkable to think he’s played 80 times for his country. Pulling Grealish back by the half way line when there was nothing going on was wasteful and give you an insight into the (lack of) football brain.

Remarkably it took Emery 70 minutes to make the obvious change. The change that everyone but our blind manager could see. He finally took Xhaka off the pitch along with Ceballos. With the introduction of Torreira and Willock we finally regained our energy levels and momentum. From them on it was a case of whether we could generate enough opportunities such that we’d actually take one. It turns out we took two! The first one was (again) created by Guendouzi. A great pass to the back post that Chambers met and then swept up the rebound. Contrast that with Maitland-Niles in the first half – thank you referee Mills. By now 10-man Arsenal had pushed Villa onto the back foot. But you knew there would be chances for Villa. But then, finally, up stepped Aubameyang to grab the three points. With Pepe and David Luiz standing over the ball and given his inability to get any shot on target today Aubameyang was the last person that should have taken the free kick. But that was a great strike. So 2 of our 3 goals came from dead-ball kicks. Therein lies a story. The other shots came from Guendouzi pushing the team forward. Their goalie, Heaton, barely had any saves to make and yet we score three goals.

What did we learn today? Not much. We knew Xhaka should not be playing. We knew that Emery should not be our manager. Both were reinforced by what we saw. How does Emery make the same tactical errors and selection mistakes game after game? Why does he persist with Xhaka? Why does he not see the change in energy levels when Xhaka was removed from the game? Torreira and Willock might have changed the game but the game was saved by Guendouzi. As mediocre as he was in the first half was as dynamic as he was in the second. You could see the anger and passion on his face. This is the 20 year-old shouting at the establish, senior players to up their game. So today we learned the following – Guendouzi is the White Viera.

We also saw an angry Kolasinac demonstrate that he could defend – at times. This was one of his better defensive performances. Going forward he was more conservative than normal.

Today was the first time I started to develop real doubt about Sokratis. Maybe I’ve been ignoring the warning signs of the last month or so. First off his acting is appalling. The rolling on the ground after his entanglement with Wesley was embarrassing. As was the ease with which Grealish went past him for the second goal. I can’t wait for Holding to come back into this team.

While too many players were sub-par today – Ceballos contributed little – our main concern has to be our manager. He does not seem to have a clear vision of how this team should be playing. He then waits too long to make changes. And then does not seem to learn any lessons from those changes.

Our next EPL match – at Old Trafford – will surely result in changes in team selection. He must bring in Chambers. He must drop Xhaka. But I fear Emery will be his normal, boring, bland and predictable self. Today was a chance escape from disaster. Coming back and winning, with only 10 men for more than ½ a game – should be a time for celebration and enjoyment. It does not feel like it. It merely feels like we’re delaying the onset of disaster. It would be how the travelers on the Titanic felt when they skipped that first small iceberg. Until Emery demonstrates he can evolve and learn we are destined to monumentally fuck-up. We are teetering on the edge of a precipice. This manager has to show some personality. He can’t manage this team like a bank manager. He has to instill some passion and energy. Based on todays performance that feels like wishful thinking.

So, for now, I’ll be looking to Edu to be keeping a close eye on that manager over at Nice FC.

-LB7

September 15th – Watford 2 Arsenal 2

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Unbelievable. Unforgivable. Unforgettable. Ridiculous. Last week we turned around a 2-0 deficit and this week we returned the favour. But this time against the bottom team in the league. A team that we had throughly beaten in the first half. And we were beating in the second half. But then Sokratis gifted them the easiest goal they could ask for.  From domination we went to looking like a team that was lucky to leave there with a point.

And for this in I blame Emery. Again, his tactics were wrong. The diamond does not help our defense. We gave up – as we did against Liverpool – the wide areas. We were exposed there the entire game. And we did not provide cover for our defense. Ceballos is wasted out left. And Guendouzi looked lost our right. And Xhaka is always lost. On the counter-attack we were always exposed. It helps when you play Watford not Liverpool. And it helps when you have Aubameyang. Two great goals. The first one was a pure strikers goal while the second one was a classic Arsenal goal teed up by Ozil. From them on it was plain sailing.

There were signs though of the usual Kamakazi play out from our goal kicks. Twice we were caught out. We are so predictable with this. We’re playing the ball to Guenzouzi when he has two players around him. And then he feels the need to take extra touches. And then losses it. What a joke. This is schoolboy football. But it’s coming from the manager. Sure do it when it’s there – when the space is available. But to force it like this is idiotic. It smacks of a team without common sense. A team that is told to do one thing and can’t adapt or exercise game management. Instead they had the worst team in the league a life-line. It completely changed the momentum of the game. It brought the crowd into the game. And put us under pressure.

So Emery takes off one of our best players; leaves Ozil on the pitch and brings on Willock. Then Nelson. And lastly Torreira. How does that make sense? Then Nelson proceeds to play further up the pitch than Ceballos. We now have four forwards. And so, inevitably, we get caught on the counter-attack and David Luiz gives us a penalty. I won’t blame him for this. But I will blame Emery. Why play this set up? Why don’t revert to a 4-4-2. Protect the lead man! But no, we get sucker punched. By the worst team in the league.

How is Emery managing this team? How is he adapting the tactics intra-game? Wenger got blamed for being inflexible; for not having a plan B. And what did we see today? The same shape the entire game. And that shape does not work for us. Ozil, apart from the glorious pass for the second goal, was barely in the game. Pepe was frustrating. He can’t seem to score and drifts out of the game too much. He’s touch is not quite there and there is little link up play with Maitland-Niles. And Maitland-Niles also gifted the ball away in dangerous areas. Along with Guendouzi they both played multiple cross field balls in our 1/3rd of the pitch. I think Ceballos tried this once as well. Against a real team (like Liverpool) we will get murdered.

So now I’m beginning to worry. Not about our position in the league – I never thought we’d end up in the top 4. But about our ability to progress and develop as a team. We’ve now got the majority of the players we needed and got rid of the ones we did not want. It’s hard to complain about a team with Aubameyang, Pepe, Ceballos, Torreira etc. So now it’s down to how we use them. And it’s down to our tactics. Again, today, Emery got it wrong. He should have changed the balance of the team – especially after we let in that first goal. But before that he need to provide a beter shield in front of the defense. But he’s got Torreira on the bench and Guendouzi out right. Watch the last 30 minutes of that game. Xhaka struggled to keep up and stay with any runners. We were exposed too often and yet Emery persists with him. Even when Torreira was brought on he looked like a ghost of the player from last year. In a diamond I don’t think either he or Guendouzi know where to play.

This is a game we absolutely should have won. Even for a 6th place team you have to win against a team as weak as Watford. But instead we decided to give them mouth to mouth resuscitation. Unforgivable. And I doubt Emery learned anything new from this. He’s got the players so it’s now down to him to use them. How can you waste the goals of Aubameyang like this? When is he going to install a backbone in this team? No-one can blame Wenger now. Or Bould. Emery owns this defense and midfield. It’s unbelievable that we can throw away the win at Watford.

We were so open and exposed that Watford could rightly claim they should have won the game. They are most probably in their dressing room lamenting dropping 2 points. Whereas we had them dead to rights at 0-2. How does a team like Arsenal – so early in the season – throw away these two points? Because the balance of the team is wrong, the manager has the wrong shape and the team religiously commits to passing the ball out from our goal kicks. There were times when the ball went out for a corner and I felt less worried than when the ball went out for our own goal-kick. What is the point in doing the same thing over and over again from our goal-kicks. It’s a high risk strategy for very little return. There were three times we turned it over right outside our own box (and the one they scored from). Why not at least vary your approach. We have become so predictable. It’s as though it’s a point of pride that we need to prove to other teams we’re good enough to play it out from the back. And yet we’re clearly not. Sure Liverpool or Man City have the right to do this. We don’t. And we don’t seem to have the awareness to know when something is not working and then adapt. That is the most worrying part.

Today was as frustrating and depressing as I can remember since we threw it all away in Baku. All the early season good will went out of the window today. This was a truly crap Watford team. It was a team that had no way to earn a point. We had the game under complete control. So instead we handed them every opportunity. We were casual. We weren’t professional. We are sloppy. And then we were the team that looked at risk. How can this be? Where is the leadership in this team.

Where is the progress and development? Emery seems intent on trying the same thing over an over again each time expecting a different outcome. For the one or two times it might come off there will be 10 times when it does not. We seem intent to do the wrong thing in the wrong situation. Maitland-Niles was needlessly put under pressure when he receives the ball in a tight situation. Guendouzi on multiple times ran into the same issue. Why not spray the ball out wide. Stretch the pitch rather than be so predictable.

For all the energy and belief that comes from a 2-0 comeback in the NLD today was crushing to any belief that we have a plan to progress. And this lies with Emery. First, why would you play Ozil? Play Ceballos in the floating position and put Torreria in midfield. And play a holding pair of Xhaka and Torreira. Or Guendouzi and Torreira and leave Xhaka on the bench. Start Willock and don’t bring on Nelson to play in a diamond because he’ll get caught upfield. Immediately before their second goal both him and Torreira were caught upfield. You’re 2-1 away from home with 10 minutes or so left. Why is there no game management? This was classic Wenger. But I thought this was supposed to change. That we would exercise some judgement.  What has Emery done differently to address our long-term, known by the entire world defensive deficiencies? The players have changed but everything else is unchanged. There is not a single player that’s the same in this defense from the last year of Wenger and yet the problems remain the same. Because it’s about coaching and tactics.

All I’ve asked for is progress and development. As in previous years, there are shit teams competing for the 3rd and 4th place. There is every opportunity to take one of these spots. Except that we have shown – as we did last year – that we don’t have the mental fortitude nor the appetite to grab the required points. We are unable to defend. We have defenders. But we can’t defend as a team and we show no signs of learning how to.

So, Coach Emery, what’s the plan now?

-LB7

September 2nd – Nearly the Perfect Window

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He came in through the bathroom window. But he left through the back door. So goodbye then Mickeytarrien. Farewell and enjoy your time in the dumping ground for failed footballers. Please seek out Alexis and discuss how you both dragged down each team while being a burden to the salary structure. Both failed miserably. At least ours was cheaper. But what a waste.

If only he could have left before yesterdays game and Nacho could have stayed for one more day. But, rather than looking backwards, let’s us rejoice in a nearly perfect transfer window.

How did we get £40m for Ob1? How did we manage to offload Mickey? We’ve just saved £200k/week in wages. I know it’s not my money but it was still a waste. I remember when he played his first game for ManU against Hull after being signed from Borussia. He was Ozil-like – intelligent and deft in his touches. But after one injury he was done. For us he was worse than a luxury. He was too lazy to defend and too slow to attack. As we saw yesterday he was too indecisive and careless with the ball. We will be a much better team without him. There was no merit in retaining him. He was a block on others coming through. Now we can see whether Nelson and others can fill that spot. And, once Bellerin regains his spot Maitland-Niles can now look to that open position.

We cleaned out both wing-backs; gained money and reduced our salaries. And we obtained Pepe! That’s a good window. We also obtained a real-left back. That’s great. And we added Ceballos. That’s nearly perfect. If only we could have dumped Mustafa. Then it would have been truly perfect. But then, even if he stays, he’s not playing for us again. He’ll waste away his talent at Colney never to play for us again (except in the Carrabo Cup).

Now I’m excited. Now I’m convinced that there is someone, at least, at Arsenal who can see what we could all see. That this squad was deficient in serious areas – carrying some serious dead weight. With Emery playing Mickeytarrien all last year the fear was that our new manager could not see what we all knew.  This squad is much better. It needs one or two more windows to complete this transition. Whether Emery remains to over see it I don’t know. The odds are in his favour. We just have to complete the taking out of the trash.

The primary signings – Pepe, Tierney, Luiz – along with Ceballos have clearly strengthened the team. Once our new center-half turns up next year and once we replace Xhaka we will be fully on the road to recovery. This year will still be a challenge – we saw that yesterday. But we are better equipped than we’ve been in 5 years. And that because we now, finally, have some management that can clean up our squad, acquire talented players and also allow for youth to come through. Between Maitland-Niles, Holding, Willock, Nelson and Chambers we now have a new generation of English players who can shine and develop. Some will inevitably fail (as all the previous ones have – expect maybe the Ox) but this is the basis for our future (and ignores Eddie).

So farewell you useless Mickeytarrien. It’s an absolute pleasure to be shot of you. What a disaster that deal was with Alexis. He should never have left but he priced himself out of the market and, most importantly, the previous management screwed it up. By that, I don’t mean the great and imperious AW. But I do mean the flaky and media-aware Gazidis. He was the one responsible for letting Alexis enter the last year of his contract. This forced his hand that lead us to receive Mickeytarrien. He then followed that up with letting Ramsey to also enter the last year of his. But, now, it looks like the current management actually know how to run a football club. No more players entering there last year. Not like Erickson, Rose, Alderwald. Te He.

We are finally on our way. And we have people to oversee our future that can see what we can see. No more overpaid, unused talent. Ops, I forgot about Ozil. As much as I love him the new boy is a clear upgrade. Ceballos is Ozil on speed (literally). He’s Ozil with a work ethic. He’s Ozil with desire. He’s Ozil with something to prove. Long may Ceballos stay fit and healthy. We just have to make sure that in training he stays away from tackles by Mustafa and Xhaka.

So, after another great day, it’s back into hibernation for another 9 days.

-LB7

September 1st – Arsenal 2 Sp*rs 2

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The glass is half full. But was very close to being empty. Thank you Cigarette and Aubameyang. Thank you Pepe and thank you Ceballos. Now fuck off Xhaka. And please remember to foul yourself on the way out.

This was better than last week. It had to be. We should have won the game but were, in some way, lucky to come away with a point. Illogical but true. As good as we started the game our balance was not right. And then we made stupid mistakes. First Sokratis and then our glorious captain. It was said in commentary that if you built a condensed highlight reel for Xhaka it could comprise that tackle on Son in the box. Reckless and unnecessary. We’ve seen this so often. Unfortunately, this confirms what we’ve always known – he’s not capable of changing. He does not learn. On so many occasions he was out of position, slow and gave away unnecessary fouls in dangerous positions. Yet, there were a number of great passes he made and link-up play. So, me thinks, the issue here is that we continue to play him in the wrong position. He’s not a defensive midfield player. I think we’ve determined that after watching him for nearly 4 years.

So, if last week was on Emery’s tactics – the infamous diamond – this week it was on his selection. His tactics were right but he chose the wrong people. He should have put Torreira at the base of the midfield rather than Xhaka. He should have started Ceballos. But none of that would have protected us from Soikratis trying to emulate Mustafa. Who knows why he felt the need to challenge for the ball on the half way line when Xhaka had already point out his need to mark his own man. That exposed our frail defense. And then the mistakes compounded themselves. Sokratis did not track back and Leno decided to bobble the ball into the path of Erickson. We’d dominated the opening period but had somehow found away to give up a goal.

Every time they broke on the counter-attack we were vulnerable. There was no midfield defensive cover. Xhaka can’t recover with his lack of speed and Torreira was too far out of the game on the right. Luckily, we have our front three who continued to threaten. Unluckily we also have Xhaka jumping into kamikaze tackles in the penalty box. This is an experienced international and captain. Does Mustafa tutor him during training sessions? It’s insane. And predictable. How many penalties has he conceded? Inbetween that, Leno made up for his amateur fumble with their first goal with a great save from Son. We have all that possession, but they had the chances.

Then finally, we started to create more chances. Guendouzi dominated the midfield and Aubameyang was dominating Sanchez. Kolinsac was not tested defensively but had so many openings on the left. He squandered most of them and failed to provide the right final ball. And often he was unwilling to take the space offered in front of him. But thankfully our front three continued to push. Pepe looks like the real deal. He’s got super quick feet and balance. He had a couple of chances, but we needed the excellence of Cigarette to receive an intelligent pass from Pepe to dance round Vertonghen and burst their net. That goal changed the game.

In the second half we finally dominated and had a better balance. Sp*rs were on the back foot. We created chances and missed most of them. The front three were linking up well and Sp*rs faded. But we could not score. Until Guendouzi played a sublimie ball behind their defense for a classic Aubameyang goal. By then we’d introduced the wonderful Ceballos. He was back to his Burnley best. Everything he touched was beautiful. He, along with Guendouzi, ran the game. Unfortunately, we had also brought on the useless Mickeytarrien. Between him and Kolinsac on the left we wasted so many chances and generally damaged any momentum we created. The two of them and Xhaka are the three clear deficiencies in this team. But how good is Ceballos? So much talent and energy. If only we could put Torreira in the base of the midfield with Guendouzi. It comes back to selection over tactics this week. When we get this right we’ll be fine.

In truth we should have won given the dominance of the second half. It was good to see the character and recovery of the team. Though if you can’t get motivated for a NLD then you really do have problems. So I’ll take a point I suppose. I just want us to learn some lessons. And it’s all about our midfield balance. We need Ceballos in the team and we have to replace both Xhaka and Kolinsac. But this will take time. We need Tierney to regain fitness. And we need Emery to trust either Torreira or Willock. Again, it’s not entirely fair to blame Xhaka when we play him out of position. But bonehead tackles are his responsibility.

Again, today just confirmed what we know. Our success is all about Emery. We have the goal scorers. We have the talent. It’s now down to him and how he chooses to harness it. I don’t expect us to challenge for the title but I do expect him to sort out the right balance of tactics and selection. We have to evolve to the point where we don’t have to bring on Mickeytarrien – he has to learn to trust Nelson or others. They will be our future. He has to solve this midfield issue. Maybe it will depend on reverting to a back three and then having two defensive players. But on the counter-attack today we could have leaked many more goals. It’s finding that balance. The balance that has eluded Arsenal for the last five years. Our attack continues to develop and improve. We now have one of the top three forward lines in the country. Pepe will surely score 10+ goals this year. Aubameyang and Cigarette continue to dominate our goal scoring. Guendouzi shines brightly – today he was the best midfield player on the pitch. It’s sorting out the final couple of selections that will dictate how far Emery can take this team. The squad (until the regular injuries start to accumulate) is now there and are now at his disposal.

A word on David Luiz. I was fine with him today. He was reasonably solid and cautious. He took no unnecessary risks. He was out of position once or twice. But generally we benefitted from his presence today. As irresponsible as he was last week, he was more dependable than Sokratis and Xhaka were today. Given time, DL will prove to be a good addition.  

We are getting closer to figuring this out but it will take a little longer yet. And it will depend on how astute Emery is. Can we find the right make-up for our midfield. Otherwise it’s going to be a case of whether our front three can score enough goals to compensate for our unstable defense.

Now we’ll have to suffer through our first boring International break. Just as the season started to develop some momentum. Every year I say the same thing. I hate FIFA and I hate the NCAA. But FIFA more. Why we have to deal with these stupid breaks is beyond me. Just wait until the Qatar WC rolls round and trashes an entire season. In the meantime I think there are a couple more annoying breaks to come along before the end of the year. So no meaningful football for 2 weeks. At least the ashes will provide some diversion. And let’s hope we don’t pick up injuries and that Holding and Tierney can regain some fitness – along with Bellerin.

A final word on Nacho. Good-bye.

He was a great addition (again, funny that. AW could not recruit defenders so they say). He came as back up for Gibbs and ending up seeing him transferred off to a Championship team. Monreal could play left-back or center half. He gave us some excellent years; was part of our F.A Cup runs and was always reliable and steady. We’ll miss him. We should have retained him for todays game. And it’s a crime that we barely got £250K for him (to be paid in installments). We could trust Nacho which is more than you can say for Kolinsac. But he deserves to be retired out to Spain. Let’s hope we don’t miss him too much.

-LB7

August 24th – Liverpool 3 Arsenal 1

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This one is on Emery. Wrong shape. Wrong tactics.  Not the ideal way to start the first review of the season. Not wishing to jinx the 100% start by introducing a review it’s time to revert to normality. As, of course, did Arsenal.

In truth we had chances in the first half. But we set back and attempted to resolutely defend. But we ceded the momentum and pitch to them. If the tactics were to hit them on the counterattack it did not work. Every time we had the ball we spent more time meticulously picking intricate passes in our own third. I can’t think of a single time when Leno punted the ball up field. I appreciate the dedication to possession football. But you have to do something with that possession. And when it breaks down in your own 1/3rd then you’re at risk. So, we were so slow in our build up that we rarely got to use the speed we had up front. In fact, there was very little link up play. The balance of the team seemed wrong. Willock out on the left was not involved that much. And after the Burnley hype Ceballos was barely in the game. After playing against the thugs of Burnley and shining brightly as effortlessly talented, today with their extra pace, quality and speed of closing down he found it impossible to get into the game and have any influence. So, there was no possession in the middle of the pitch. Guendouzi was too far infield; their left side was completely vacant. Robertson had the freedom to roam all day long. The plan seemed to be to crowd the center of the pitch and force them wide. That’s counterintuitive given the strength of their full backs.

We held out for 40 minutes which by our Anfield standards is a record. Their goal was coming but rather than from a wingback cross it was a corner. Then comes half-time. Time for a change in tactics. But Emery decided to stick rather than twist. Then Luiz looks to emulate the great Mustafa with the stupid penalty trick. And then gets beaten by Salah overcommitting on the half way line. So why am I not in a nuclear meltdown? If it had been Mustafa I surely would be. Because it’s not Mustafa. We’ve seen Luiz for too many years. We know he has mistakes in him. But with him in our defense we are a better team. We did not lose the game because of him. Given the amount the defenses had to absorb it’s unsurprising we conceded goals. The issue is more why we were in that position in the first place.

By the time the game was already lost we finally dumped the failed diamond and reverted to a regular 4-4-2. Sure, we scored but we also had some possession; though by then Liverpool were already in training mode. But at least we had Cigarette on the pitch. And Torreira. Even when Mickeytarrien came on he played quite well. Ceballos should have been removed sooner. And pushing Willock to the #10 was not the right move either.

Interestingly without Ob1 and Mustafa there are not too many players to pick on. But at least we still have, for that purpose, Xhaka. He was his ever slow and ponderous self. As the captain he should be taking responsibility when either side of him are 20 year old. Guendouzi was clearly outmanned on the left and Willock is not left-sided. And, well, Ceballos was over matched. But, really, it’s a stretch to identify too many players who you could blame for this defeat. Pepe looks like a star in the making. Aubameyang had a few chances but was isolated for too long. Generally, I thought the back four worked hard. Sokratis was excellent (apart from the Matip header). And Leno was fine.

So that leads us back to the manager. Why did he take so long to adjust to what was clearly visible to even a blind man. You could make the argument that until the corner on the 40th minute it had been working. We’d stifled Liverpool. But as soon as they scored and after half-time we continued on the same path. Why? Was he so scared of a mauling that we played so conservatively that we got mauled? Did this feel like another Baku performance? No, not really, there were too many good things from us. Maybe I’m delusional. I never had expectations that we’d beat Liverpool at Anfield. We’re not good enough. We’re better than last year. This squad is better. We do have better players. But we’re just not good enough. Yet. We need time. Another transfer window or two. And, just maybe, another manager. It’s a harsh assessment. But todays is not the day to blame the players. That’s on the mentality and tactics. After absorbing the first 10 minutes or so, we looked like a decent team except that we were outmanned in midfield. And remained so until the 80th minute.

Patience is the watchword for this season. Last season it was development. Now we have to assess, with this improved squad, whether Emery can get the best out of them. Can he decide on the right balance and tactics. Can he learn and adapt? I hope so. He has shown some signs of learning from his mistakes. Example #1 being Mustafa. But will he learn from todays performance? When we next play away against one of our (supposed) rivals will he set us up the same way? Is our defense better? It’s possible there is an improvement. There was better coverage in front of them except we gave up the wings and put ourselves under a lot of pressure. So, I can’t tell whether that’s really on the players or the manager? I think Luiz and Sokratis were pretty effective so that leads me back to Emery.

Aside from the score line, I thought we were better today than we’ve been in previous seasons at Anfield. There is a clear change in style being imposed. I think it’s misplaced and used at the wrong time. But I’ll generously put that down to it being the early stages of the reign of Emery. When it works, as it does against weaker teams that don’t press as well, it can be wonderful to watch. But to consistently try this at Anfield is optimism gone mad. Find that balance you need to counter-attack with your available speed. It would be like having Theo on the team and asking him to play intricate, skillful one touch passing in our own half. Oh, hold on, we did use to do that.

Anyway, I never thought we come away with a point from this game. But I want to see evolution of this team. This transfer window demonstrated we’re re-building to peak in another year or two. But we’re also entitled to expect better performances given the available talent that we have.

I’m not too upset nor despondent. I see green shoots sprouting up. But next week will be entirely different. That game won’t be about the future but about the here and now. We can expect to see Cigarette back in the team.  And I’d like to see Torreira rather than Xhaka but I know that’s too much to wish for.

-LB7

August 8th – OB Gone

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Goodbye then old friend. You’ll be missed. Just not by me. We’ll always have Mustafa.

But now I can look for that day when the squad is finally cleaned out. If I could have made any wishes for this transfer window they would surely have been exceed by todays glorious activity. Nearly £40m for OB1? That’s more than England will gain for Brexit. That’s more than Boris is worth. That’s more than OB1 is worth. Money in the bank for us and a partner to play ball with Theo. We’ve finally found a bank for Arsenal.

To be fair (which I hate), OB1 improved last year. And he scored a scream in Baku; what a parting goal. He’s young; he’s talented; he’s skillful. And he’s gone! Maybe he’ll blossom at Everton. There’s a risk when selling someone so young. They have time to develop and grow. But we get the money now. And, hopefully, it paves the way for grabbing Zaha in January. Poor old Zaha must be so so upset to be stranded at Concrete Palace with old man Hodgson.

This window turned out to be so much better than expected. All that bleating by Arsenal blogs and fans that believed the limitation on our ability to spend money. They believed their own rumors and have been made to look foolish. They forgot rule #1 – don’t believe anything you read (apart, of course, from what you read here).

Would I have taken this outcome as I walked (and cried) out of that stadium in June? Hell yes. The start of a reconfiguration that can position us to reclaim our rightful place (in fourth or third). It’s as much as we could have hoped for. Rome was not built in a day. We started to trim our squad while promoting youth. We liberated the hand-tied Bould and put the engaging Freddie on the bench. That was a double-win. It also applies a smidge of pressure on OneEye. And we finally added a Director of Football – BTW, what does that mean? Someone to direct the football where to go? So Edu is back. It’s good to see Arsenal still believe in hiring people with sufficient vowels. Managers can’t apply with only two vowels and director of football must have at least 2/3rd vowels. Anyway, this was a good move – to have someone else with some sense of AFC. A little bit of continuity. And I believe Pires is still around as some sort of ambassador as well. Plus, of course, the BFG. Let’s just hope we don’t become like Sp*rs when they hired Sherringham, Ferdinand and the talented Sherwood. Old boys aren’t sufficient; talent is.

So we finally waved a sad goodbye to Carl. A little surprising given the lack of cover at right-back. But it’s better for him and a recognition that passion and hard work needs to be supplemented with a touch of ability. We will miss his heart. Momentarily he was our longest serving squad member.

It’s hard to know what to make of Kosclieny apart from the fact he’s now a resident of Bordeaux. That was a very Persie-eque departure. There’s something unhealthy about being an Arsenal captain and leaving the club. After nine-years it’s a sad way to end it all. When he arrived he was a no-name French league 2 player. For the usual Wenger haters it fit their narrative that he can’t recruit or develop defensive players. Remember, in case you’ve forgotten, we’ve been told he inherited the entire backline from George Graham. Kosclieny put the lie to that statement (aside from Campbell, Lauren, Cole, BFG etc). He developed into our best performer and most reliable defender. And last year he recovered from a debilitating injury and had to quickly return to play alongside Mustafa.

But somehow, just when we’re looking to bolster the center of our defense, Koz walks off. Why? I know it does not matter now but I would bet it’s related to prior promises made to him. He only had a year left. He’ll be 34 soon and has a history of injuries. He’s not paid a tremendous amount. But, in the prior regime of that wanker Gazidis you can be sure promises and representations were made that made Koz believe he’d be “rewarded” with an easy exit should the opportunity arise. Why else would this situation escalate out of control? And why could Gazidis not make these same representations to Mustafa. Why can’t he bring him over to Milan? What a wonderful combination they would make.

But somehow we managed to pick up a new center half and then send him straight back to St. Etienne. I’m fine with that. We need a year or two to re-build this team. Getting him, at this price, next year is fine by me. This gives us a roadmap for the future. But on this last day we finally bring in the Scottish Hernia – Tierney. Only Arsenal could wait till the last minute to sign an already injured defender. But, if and when he’s fit, he definitely addresses one of our defensive weaknesses. And it also shuts up that tosser Neil Lennon. Having to hear him bleat about the bidding process is nearly as tedious as listening to Hodgson. BTW, I hope you liked the nice way we sold Thompson to Brentford (for £1m) so Brentford could sell their left-back to Celtic. Love the symmetry. I’m sure we’ll buy Thompson back in another few years.

And then we come to David Luiz. Who knew? First it was Gallas; then Cech and how Luiz. I’d always seen him as a bit of a prima-dona; talented but prone to mistakes. That’s an upgrade on what we have though. Mustafa has no talent and is full of predictable mistakes. Luiz can also play holding midfield if needed. And all for the price of 2.5x Carl. Or, the cost of Carl + Koz. Again, not so bad. Luiz will fill the slot nicely until we get Saliba back. By which time we’ll still have Sokratis and Holding will have proven to be worthy of playing center-half or will be searching for another player.

And, we still have time, before the window closes in Europe, to sell Mustafa to some desperate, ill-informed Spanish, Italian or Turkish team. We don’t need much. A couple of sandwiches and a newspaper should about get him out of the front door. Imagine, if you will, a defense without Mustafa? Imagine the disappointment at Wolves, Concrete Palace and Brighton when they realize that Meat-head has departed. Luiz will undoubtedly make monumental mistakes. But he can’t possible be worse. We just need him for these transition years.

And then we have loaned Ceballos in order to light a fire under Ozil. And we have Pepe. That’s not a bad outcome. I don’t know too much about either. But if they can keep OB1 and Mickeytarrien out of the frame then that’s a step in the right direction. This was a good window for us. None of the last minute buying that brought in Arteta and the BFG along with other panic buys. But, even though the blogs were moaning and whining, we did leave it late and it seems like we had a strategy. And it looks like it played out pretty well. I still wanted Zaha because of his EPL experience. But there’s always January. And he’ll be sulking until then anyway.

Now all we need to do is sell Elneny and Mustafa and bring in a little more cash. That will make this a way above average window for us.

This window also makes this clearly Emery’s team now. There is very little of the AW era left. But Emery still needs another window in order to get a defensive midfield player and another center-half. Going forward we will be devastating and in defense we will remain porous and unsteady. But we will be making progress. Having Edu helps. You have to imagine he was behind the Luiz move – all that Portuguese chit-chat. It hurts Chelski and helps us. He can’t be as a big a baby as Gallas and this is a better deal than losing Cole.

Will we finish in the top 4? I doubt it. Remember we still have Xhaka as our likely captain. Enough said. To an extent it will depend on how Chelski survive without Hazard and with Lampard. And then there’s ManU. Pogba does not want to be there. And I see little leadership in that team. If Ole starts with a string of losses they will hit the panic button yet again. But we should keep our eye out for both Wolves and Everton. But hopefully OB1 and Theo can help us out. At the top I actually believe that this year it will be Liverpool you end up on top. It’s very hard to repeat and to three-peat has only been done once. And they lost Kompany who was a true leader. And Delph. Fernandinho is 35 now. Liverpool have a groove now and the desire. And Klopp is the man. So, this year, it could be Liverpool for the EPL and Man City for the Champions League – and then it’s good-bye Pepe.

So in one sense, this year is yet another chance for us to sneak into 4th place. But I still don’t think we’ve fully reconfigured our team. However, after today and after a couple of weeks of adaptation, we have a better squad than we did last year. And we only missed out by point because of the end of year spineless performances. So, we have an opportunity. Now we can just wait for someone to take Mustafa off our hands and it will have been a perfect summer. Bring on the new season

– LB7

June 2nd – Back from Baku

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Baku is to be highly recommended. Just not to watch Arsenal. As surprisingly impressive as Azerbaijan was Arsenal managed to surpass our worst case performance. On the positive side, Baku has both electricity and edible food. Their downtown is a cross between Dubai glass buildings and Madrid-like boulevards. Just goes to show what a copious supply of oil and gas can fund. On the negative side you had a stadium 65% full stuffed with locals that had no allegiance, a pitch separated by an Olympic track, security guards both ringing the pitch (to stop any porn stars intervening) along with security guards standing between each block of fans blocking the view of anyone near them. Then we had the moronic UEFA entertainment by some random clique 1990’s DJ. And those were the highlights. This set the tone for a very subdued atmosphere. There were, maybe, 5,000 fans in the stadium that actually cared about the outcome. As others have noted, from the get-go it seemed more like a pre-season friendly. There’s more passion and chanting in a Community Shield August match than for this one.  

Our team selection was as expected. As unhappy as I was to not see Leno play this loss can’t be pinned on Cech. Without him it could have been a lot worse. And, worse than that, I can’t even pin this one on Mustafa.

The first half threw up a few chances for us. Aubameyang had an important chance early on but shanked it wide. Cigarette might have been awarded a penalty. Overall, we were ok but there was no smoothness to our play; they was no link up play. It was clear though that whenever Hazard received the ball our midfield and defense went into an apoplectic fit. Somehow, we’d forgotten how to play against him. Torreira tried to pick him up and Ozil was clearly tried to shadow him. How we missed Ramsey. He would have been able to maintain the required work-rate and strength. To be fair Hazard was the one world-class player on the field and he played like it.

At half-time, the discussion was that this might be a 1-0 game and that it was reasonably well balanced. No-one could have seen that second half coming. But right from the second half whistle Chelski were more aggressive and we decided to be anonymous.  In fact, we defined anonymous. We’ve seen this through out the season but usually it’s the first half where we did not turn up. This time we decided to end our season with this most limp, passion-less performance. Their first goal was Classic Giroud. A perfect header. I remember in the first half thinking that we were lucky he was not playing for us because he’s too slow for our style of play. While that remains true he also showed why he’s still picked for France and for that style of play. It makes you wonder what might have been if, when we signed Cigarette and had the two of them play alongside each other. Whilst we at it, if we had taken back Fabregas as opposed to Ozil. Anyway, there’s time for revisionism later.

It’s hard to describe the way we disintegrated after their first goal. It was a stunning as it was all too familiar. We are truly schizophrenic. We are simultaneously a team of two half’s. Pun intended.  And this second half was one in which we utterly disappeared. The defensive cover disappeared along with our defense. And we continued to struggle to link up any creative movement. And the few opportunities we had both Aubameyang and Cigarette chose this game to completely shank everything. This, as noted in the prior post, was about big game players. And both our premier goal scorers truly sucked. As dominant as they both were against Valencia, they were appalling in the final. If they had played like this in Spain, there’s no way I would have been walking the streets of some wealthy, modern pseudo Middle-Eastern come Western city at 2am in the morning looking for yet more lamb and chicken saj to eat.

If someone had said before the game that these two forwards would have a hard time tie-ing their own shoe-laces then no-one would have expected that we would win the game. Without either of these two we are a very average team and we proved it again. Sure, Ozil was pretty irrelevant but he’s no longer a match winner for us; he’s just a lightening road because of his wages.

I need to re-watch the second half to understand what happened. I remember that they scored more than us. And I also remember that they grew into that second half and found their game as we continued to wilt. But tactically it was not clear how this happened – aside from Hazard terrorizing us.

To watch this game live was as deflating as any match I’ve seen. Except that is for the memorable loss to Birmingham in the League Cup Final. That is still the low bar for me. Even against Barcelona we could feel cheated by the Lehman sending off and the fact the team actually played – and if it were not for Henry we would have won that. But this performance was dire. It was listless and lacking in any imagination. The only interesting move was the outstanding goal from Ob1 (another classic substitute performance from him btw) and then the chances that Willock created in his little cameo. What a statement though by Emery. A big a fuck-you to Ozil that you could hope for. He could have brought on Badbeck to grab another goal but chose instead to start planning for next year by benching Ozil. I remain an admirer of Ozil but I now concede that he has to go. The manager, who was ambivalent towards him most of the season, has clearly decided that enough is enough. Fine, then let’s move on. Because this was a game when Ozil should have stepped forward (as opposed to backwards).

It’s hard to describe the utter deflation of both seeing those goals go in and also watching the lack of response from the team. Realizing that you’ve come all that way to watch a team disintegrate. Having believed – foolishly – that the last 5 games of the regular season were not the reality of this team and that Valencia was the false dawn. Standing there, in this modern but soul-less stadium surrounded by stunned Arsenal fans all asking the same thing. What the fuck has happened to this team – to this club. Around us the Arsenal fans that made the expensive and arduous trip from London did not even wait until the 80th minute to start leaving. Imagine coming all that way and leaving early! There was utter frustration and despair. It’s not like Chelski were so dominant. It was more that we just had no game. Only when we brought on Ob1 and Willock did we inject some pace into our attack. And even then we, of course, handed them back a goal as soon as we scored one. How ridiculous is our defensive play? How is this aspect of our game any better than in previous years. Where’s the progress and development?

So it turns our Azerbajian really is better than Arsenal. The people were very laid back and friendly. Aside from the distance, it really could be a European city. It stays open late; there are a ton of clubs, the food is excellent and it’s completely safe. It’s patrolled by a vast number of look-alike young policemen who all look like they originated in the same petri-dish.

After the debacle of Wednesday night we took a couple of days to travel round the country before returning to Baku; we needed to get away from anything to do with football and it’s coverage. Outside of Baku, the country really is amazing. It’s a cross between the Scottish Highlands, Chile, Norway and the Caspian Sea. The food is even better and the people completely relaxed. These people have it figured out. In remote villages high up in the mountains, supported by the largesse of the government coffers they don’t have to worry about preening football players. Rather they eat their sheep and marry their neighbours (or maybe it’s the other way round) ; even if they are family. Two days of that and DB10 and myself found our way back to the reality that the weekend CL game could utterly destroy our belief in the football. As depressed as we were, the possibility that North London might have a winner was too much to contemplate.

So, thank you Salah and Origi. Thank you random referee from Holland. Thank you VAR. As pissed and angry as I was given our pathetic second half performance if someone had offered me the choice of us winning the NoHopaCup and that lot winning the CL versus both of us losing, without hesitation I would have chosen the option we landed on. How abject and sad is that? We needed this game more than anyone else in order to qualify for next years CL. But, no, I’d prefer to suffer the ignominy of a loss to Chelski and lack of qualification (with all the economic impacts) just to deny that lot their cup. Now that’s what I call a real fan. None of this plastic rubbish. But someone willing to absorb substantial pain in order to inflict more pain on them. Ah, I’m even smiling as I write this. It’s so true. If you offered me relegation from the EPL as long as that lot finishing one place below us I would have to seriously consider it.

One other observation. It’s funny how all four English teams actually played like shit in the two finals. And quite amusing that, North London in particular put on a dismal show. Maybe it’s something in the water. Also, for further symmetry, we should compare 2006 and yesterday. A referee decision altered both games. We of course, managed to score, through one of their (prior) own. We thought we’d find our way back to the final as they now do. We were focused on a new stadium and the related economic crunch as they now are. We sold Henry. Who will they sell?

So that’s it.  Happy to be back but I’m still amazed that I miss little old Azerbajain. A nice little old country surrounded by others that don’t quite meet that description. It still does not forgive EUFA for organizing such a shitty show (playing stupid music for team introductions, have stupid on field pre-match interviews etc) and having an insane ticket allocation.  

I’ll now let the dust settle before crafting a full end of season review and set up for next season. I need time to reacquaint myself with some natural happyness before getting all upset again.

-LB7

May 27th – Baku and Back

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This could well be my last post as I head off to Baku. Alongside DB10, we venture off into Asia for the NoHopaCup in the forlon hope that Mustafa will be nabbed by the Armenians. Why, oh why, could they not have swapped MickeyTarrien and Mustafa’s nationality.

There remains a small chance I’ll have returned prior to the CL final (assuming that is i ever return). Let us acknowledge that for any true Arsenal fan all we wish is that Liverpool win the CL final under any possible scenarios. There is no possibility of any other outcome that can be considered. If the choice is to sacrifice the NoHopCup on the alta of the CL gods then so be it. Losing to Chelski to ensure that Liverpool win is more than rationale. And if Liverpool do find a way to lose the CL final then us winning the NoHopaCup is no consolation whatsoever.

So I head off to the great NoHopaCup I do so in the knowledge that I’ve already traded our victory for that of Liverpools. If only now we could trade Mustafa. Maybe we can leave him behind. Maybe we can get the UK – as part of an early Brexit vote – to refuse to re-admit Mustafa back into the country. If that fails maybe we can have Mustafa stand for leadership of the Conservative Party. That would surely have him hung, drawn and quartered as they continue to eviscerate everything that is English in England.

If we do want to win this competition though it would seem we have to retire the old Wenger routine of pretending that football is a sentimental game. The approach that leads to us playing the second best goalkeeper because that keeper is leaving. Of course, the reason they are leaving is because they are not good enough to play in the EPL games. Consequently the #2 goalie plays in the cup games. So this year we have the wonderful Cech leaving. And somehow, in the most important game of the season (now) we are not going to play Leno. This is insane. Cech is about to join Chelski once he retires. We need to win this match. Of course, if we had not have bottled it against (you name the list) Crystal Palace or Brighton (to name a few) this would be a mute point. But here we are. Why are we going to play our second best goalkeeper? Hey, i know, why not play Jenkinson at right back because he’s likely to leave as well. In fact, using the same logic, we should play Mustafa as well in the hope that this ensures he finally leaves.

If we want to truly qualify for the CL then we have to play Leno. Anything else defies the nature of this game. It’s win at all costs so lets select our best team (minus MickeyTarrien of course).

Naturally I fear we’ll find a way to lose this game. Traveling all this way is nerve wracking for all to obvious reasons. But to then sit through such a tortuous game against Chelski – for whom this is essentially a home fixture – will be painful. This is no different I suppose from how Aston Villa and Derby supporters feel. Both sets are looking at the opportunity to get “promoted” to a higher league and it all rests on a single game. The outcome of which will generate tens of millions in additional revenue. All we can hope is that Kante is not fit and/or can’t play. Or that maybe real Madrid will swoop in with an early announcement of their signing of Hazard.

Like us they are a one-man team. One man on their team will determine the outcome for them and that man is Hazard. He is pivotal to everything they do and the one player capable of turning a game on it’s head with moments of inspiration and creativity. Likewise, we have one man who can turn a game on it’s head. As he most recently demonstrated against Crystal Palace.

So let’s pray that Mustafa remains on the bench (if not the airplane). And let’s pray for a glorious victory on Wednesday care of Cigarette and Aubameyang. And, most importantly, come Saturday, regardless of the outcome of our game, we will all be Liverpool supporters for a day.

-LB7

May 12th – Burnley 1 Arsenal 3

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Deserved win against the brutes of Burnley. I confess I was not always convinced by Aubameyang. In the last month he has been as Henry-esque as you could ask. He, along with Cigarette, has carried us to the NoHopeCup Final. Sure, he fluffs a few chances but he’s always been in the right spot and has amassed sufficient goals to share the Golden Boot. I’d guess the last time we had a player that did this was Henry.

It’s a pleasure to finally win a league game – and away as well. Of course, it just goes to highlight the waste that this season has been. One win from that dreadful string of performances against Everton, Palace, Wolves and Brighton would easily have seen us automatically qualify. What a wasted opportunity.

Our first half performance was pretty dull. The only excitement was Aubameyang hitting the post and generally terrorizing their defense. Meantime, as ever, we looked the usual shambles at the back. Monreal still looks off his game. The other Greek looks a little unsteady and Mustafa is reliably and consistently a liability. Nothing new here. Insert here the usual comments on Ob1 and Mickeytarrien. There were no lessons that we’d learn today about our weak links.

It might seem the game turns on a Burnley mistake in the second half. It would be more accurate to say it turned on the introduction of Koscielny. He stabilized the team. Though at the time I was screaming at Emery. Why is he risking our premier center half in a no-name game in the cold north-west against a bunch of Burnely brutes?

The entire game Burnley were bullies. Over physical and nasty. They accumulated bookings like we accumulate away defeats. And yet, whenever one of their players is touched they complained and moaned endless. They seem quite capable of handing it out but, as evidenced by their no-talented forward Barnes, once they are touched, they all scream and argue. It started when Barnes tried to block Leno from running out with the ball post corner. Barnes was rightly booked. Though listening to the two retarded commentators, you would not think so. In fact, the entire game they seemed to worship at the feet of the down-trodden, hard-working Burnely. Almost willing them to beat Arsenal. Going to so far as to claim there was no Arsenal structure and that Burnely – at 0-0 – were overachieving. They ignored our chances and seemed to revel in the physicality and “Englishness” of the Burnley approach. This is classic of old-school commentators and ex-average pundit commentary. They seem to wallow in the football from 20 years ago – the route one football of hard knocks. Somehow, they don’t seem to grasp what era football is now operating in. It’s as though they actually believe football was better 20 years ago when players were getting kicked-off the park by thugs and other players like Barnes. Not once did they comment on the string of unnecessary and late tackles put in by Cork, Lawton, Barnes etc. Instead they lauded the efforts of their great manager Sam Dyke – surely the ugliest manager in the league.

Thankfully we were able to glow in the excellence of Guendouzi today. He was head and shoulders (appropriate for his hair) our best player. He was the one who drove the midfield forward. He was supported quite well by Elneny who played more like another center half. But Guendouzi was always available to receive the ball. His first instinct was to turn up field and build constructively. He surely benefitted from the absence of Xhaka – as did the entire team. Willock was not so great today. One or two flashes but not involved enough. And in the first half Ob1 – who the commentator kept referring to as e-Wobi – maybe he is something out of Star Wars. Or maybe he is the internet version of a wingback. Either way he was awful in the first half. Incapable of beating his man or making the right pass. As much as I’d like us to ditch him (or at least have him as one of our 3 usable substitutes) he was not as poor as MickeyTarrien. And, unlike the Armenian, Ob1 actually woke up in the second half. With Ob1 I think the solution is a first rate therapist. Someone who can instill some self-belief and confidence in him. He’s now, at the age of 23, notched up 100 games for Arsenal. Yet, he suffers from a lack of confidence and lack of willingness to take responsibility. Once or twice a season we’ll see him fire on all cylinders. When he actively runs at the defenders. But most of the time – like in the first half – he’ll opt to pass backwards, sideways or underhit his passes. However, he at least has age on his side. Whereas Mickeytarrien is being paid to close to £200k/week to be utterly peripheral. Today he was too slow to even track back and help old man Lichtenstienbergstein. Let’s hope we can take and leave him in Baku.

I was disappointed not to see Eddie start today. When he swapped with Willock the pace of our team picked up. It was great to see him get his first goal. He needs more game time. With InjuredBeck now leaving let’s hope Eddie gets his chance. He waited all year for his 30 minutes. He looked good when he came on. I doubt he can be our Rashford but he could certainly improve on what we have.  

I was also surprised that Emery started Aubameyang. I assume it was to allow him a chance of the golden boot. But how made would we be if he was injured? Luckily we had the pleasure of seeing him smile his way through the entire game. In that second half he received a supply line from Guendouzi, Ob1 and half the Burnley team. He’s not as accomplished as Cigarette with build up play. But, I’ve rarely seen someone hover on the last line of defense and time his runs so well. He is such a natural goalscorer. The first goal was calmness personified whereas the second one was stunning. This team is where it is because of our two forwards. Without them we’d be an average mid table team. Now we need to build around them.

OK, well that’s it for this season. Time to start thinking about next year. Oh, hold on. It turns out we have one more game. Next year will be dictated by whether we can beat Chelski in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere in the middle kingdom in the depths of the middle ages. Kudos to anyone who can (1) spell the name of the country of the final and (2) place the country on a map of the world. It’s beyond absurd that we have to travel there for this final. It’s insane that there are so few allocated tickets. But then corruption and football go hand in hand. It starts with FIFA and runs right though UEFA. Just listen to their self-serving plans to change the UCL format. It’s such an overreach that I hope there can be some grass roots reaction from fans. It’s out of the question to have UCL games at the weekends. The Premier League is paramount and must remain so. It’s the bedrock of the success of the EPL. The supporters of this plan are just those fucked up leagues that have no fans and just two teams. That’s you Spain, Italy, Germany and France. They need a European League because they don’t have the depth of competition locally to generate the attendance and revenues that the EPL yields.

And, this week, we have to listen to that most corrupt of people, Sept Blatter, complain that footballs is being corrupted by money. That’s like listening to Hitler talking about the evils of anti-Semitism. Surely, it’s senility on his part. As he sits there in his (still) FIFA paid accommodation looking for his £400K worth of watches that he left in his FIFA office when he was run out of town.

As we continue to watch the beautiful game and marvel at the chase for the title, admire the quality of football, and, even, gasp at the European mid-week score lines, we need to be aware that there are dark clouds on the horizon. Just as the USA is now run by a nihilistic, egomaniacal, buffoon who is intent on being the ultimate disruptor – at all costs to everyone else – without any guidance based on morals or ethics, so it proceeds with European football.

Three point gained today. A good result and one or two great individual performances. But, it just reinforces what an opportunity we blew last week again Brighton. It’s hard to get past that given the results of both Chelski and Sp*rs today. Sure, they might have played differently if we’d have won last week. But it can’t change the sense that we just capitulated just when he needed to demonstrate a backbone. Valencia was better than I feared. It’s an improvement over Marseille. And maybe we’ll find a backdoor way into the UCL.

So all eyes now turn to Baku. Fucked up Baku. Fucked up EUFA. And fucked up ticket allocation. EUFA have intentionally selected a venue where they actively acknowledge that the only airport in town can’t service more than 15,000 fans per day.  And that’s their official justification for the lack of tickets for both teams. If it were not the case that both our teams are run by remote, uberwealthy, corrupt owners, the two teams should have joined together to refuse to play in such a remote venue. It is a complete disgrace to the fans of both teams.

-LB7

May 5th – Arsenal 1 Brighton 1

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

This used to be a labour of love. Now it’s just a labour. What a waste today. In fact, the last month in the league has been such a waste. We’ve had so many chances to wrap up a place in the top 4 but have chosen to waste every opportunity. Of course, we know this team is not good enough. But when the chance is there you have to take it. In the exact same way Liverpool found a way to win against Newcastle by getting goals from someone we found the way to do the exact opposite. We managed not to score when we should and then gift them a goal when we shouldn’t. That’s gulf in class we have to bridge. We don’t have a winning mentality. It’s not clear we even have a mentality.

How else can you explain losing to Crystal Palace, Everton, Wolves and Leicester? Yet we can win away at Naples? We’ll surely look back on this period, as we did after Leicester won the EPL, and wonder how did we not managed to automatically qualify when the teams around us were so weak? This was our chance to really damage Sp*rs; to deny them CL qualification and cause them financial trauma. Chelski are different, because they’ll always have a bankrolled team. They will come back stronger. As will Manure. They can’t be this poor next year.

How do you give up a goal to BHA like that? First off you need to have Xhaka be as moronic as Mustafa usually is. Classic Arsenal. Get beaten on the counter-attack. Just like the days of AW. Shows how little we’ve learned over the years. Today we can’t blame Mustafa. He was not so bad today. But others were. Monreal has lost the plot. Ozil was unnervingly quiet. Mikeytarrien remains a light weight player. Even Cigarette, as impressive as he was today, made too many mistakes. Our best palyer across the 90 minutes was Aubameyang. Yet he wasted too many clear cut chances. As we will in for the rest of our lives, we missed Ramsey today. He might have found a way to score. Once they equalized we stepped up the pressure. But then, with the 3 substitutions, we lost our impetus. Just as we were creating chances we reorganized and starting playing through Ob1. It took another 10 minutes before we mustered a clear chance. In this entire time there was so much languid passing and lack of responsibility. It was not clear who was responsible for driving the team forward.  But let’s circle back to Xhaka. His first pass today went to BHA and his second went right out of play. He’s too casual and too slow. Today just proved again that he’s a liability. Not at the level of Mustafa but pretty close. And you can be sure he’ll be in the team next year.

As they say, the position in the league does not lie. We are just not good enough. We’ve seen that too often this year. Aside from Cigarette and Aubameyang we are bereft of world class players. I’ve finally excluded Ozil from this list because his contributions can be world class but the frequency of them is too inconsistent. Today was another chance for him to stamp his authority on the game.

Our defense has been crap nearly the entire year. There were periods today in the second half when it was shambles. From Monreal panicing in the box to Leno passing to their players. BHA could have easily scored a second. We were a shambles. One commentator observed that the starting 3 today would not be part of our future. It goes beyond that though. As Xhaka demonstrated, he’s too slow to defend and too casual. That penalty was just careless. The odds were that BHA would have missed any shot anyway. Immediately after conceding their penalty, BHA could have grabbed a second. The entire defense was in disarray. It was both scary, embarrassing and yet wonderfully symptomatic of our entire year. We have this innate ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This is not a team ready to be in the CL.

It’s been unappealing to review the previous Arsenal games. Not that the reviews could be any more painful than suffering through watching those games. The last run of games have been such a groundhog day experience.

The irony is that in previous years we would not even be involved at this stage in the season. By now we should be far off the pace. Unfortunately, though we have replaced Wenger with a manager who is destined to tease us with the promise of a better future. We should have read the footnotes. Better yes, but just by an inch or two. Not sufficient to actually make a fundamental shift in the club. We also have to recognize that one manager can’t change the club for the better. For the worse, for sure. We also need a management team that finds a Technical Director in a timely manner so that we can set up our summer targets. And yet, many months after our shaggy haired German has departed we’re still no further along in replacing him.

Before the season started it was clear we were not ready to compete for the league nor the top 4. As the season developed and we recovered form the first two losses, this team showed signs of development and accumulated points. But for the most part we languished in 5th or 6th. But then at the start of the year the teams around us decided to emulate Arsenal and throw away managers and or points. Now are expectations were raised. We even managed to beat a few of these teams and touch 3rd place. Now we started to expect. Now we believed we were worthy of Champions League football. And this from a team that regularly included Mustafa, Mickeytarrien, Ob1 and, latterly, Elneny. By the time Emery figured out his preferred eleven we’d started to pick up the predictable injuries. The loss of Ramsey for even a few games – let alone the rest of his career, destabilized our delicate midfield balance. So after touching the un lofty heights of 3rd place and after the dusting off from the storage area conversations regarding St. Totteringham day, this team completely reverted to type. It managed to rediscover it’s complete lack of belief and backbone. Along with Chelski and ManManure. Even Sp*rs are jealous of our ineptness. The top two can’t stop winning and the rest of us are playing like we are all teams destined for relegation – though they might be better than any of us.

How does this happen? How do Manure implode like this? How do we perform so ably against Napoli and implode against Crystal Palace? Some part of our troubles do lay at the feet of Emery. He selected Mustafa. And also Elneny. But the club bought these players. You can be sure none of these would have gotten into the teams of the top 6. Look at Theo. He barely plays for Everton. Every team has their weaknesses but ours just seem more egregious. But it’s not just these two or three players. It does not explain our last 4 league performances. That lies at the feet of the players. We fielded strong teams. But decided to put up a weak performance. Minus Ramsey there is little driving force in this team. There is no leadership. We’ve seen this for many years now. Some (cough cough) will go back 15 years to Viera. Or even to Gilberto. Torreira might grow into that. But Xhaka never will. And Kosclieny is not like that. But we need someone to take charge on the pitch and wake up players. All season long we’ve seen change at half-time that have lived up our performance. How can that be? When and why can’t we play the full 90 minutes? This all leads back to mentality. And that lay at the footsteps of all the players. It’s a cultural issue. These players require on-field leadership.. And until then we’re like some emotionally delicate species that, depending on the perfect alignment of the sun, temperature and wind conditions might deem to apply themselves. At this level of the game nearly all the players have the talent required but it’s those that apply themselves and use that talent that succeed. Likewise, the margins between teams are so fine that the collective will of a team; the mentality of the team can be that 0.05% that makes all the difference. And the lack of it will consign us to being the bridesmaid not the bride.

Today was the culmination of the entire season. Wasted chances, poor application and desperately weak defending. Maybe we should take comfort from watching Liverpool. They acquired one defender, Van Dyke, and their entire team solidified. I fear though that there is not the management acumen at Arsenal to be smart enough to go out and identify and acquire that person. Instead we’ll have many B+ players (Xhaka, Mkeytarrien, Ob1) that will never elevate the team but will always have us close by.

Of course we still have Valencia to by-pass and then, hopefully the final in some country none of us could find on a map. Maybe we’ll get lucky but I would not hold your breath. We have three remaining away games and we must won the right two. Beyond that though, we can take comfort from not being as fucked up as Manure but also be aware that we don’t have the money available to compete with them. They surely can’t be as bad next year. And Wolves and Everton will improve. And we will have an unproven manager, a weak squad and a lack of a winning mentality. Not exactly how you’d like to start off a new campaign.

I remain depressed and lacking in optimism for our future. Make some radical changes – dump Mustafa by the side of the road. Sell Mickeytarrien. Buy a world class center half and a holding mid-field player and grab Zaha from Crystal Palace. Then, maybe, would I start to believe. In the meantime, we’ll have to pray that we the restoration and rebuilt Koscielny available for Thursdays game. In the meantime, I’m left to brood over the wasted season we’ve just gone through. It’s just like that Leicester season, we’ll look back and wonder how we were incapable of directly qualifying for the CL with all the other teams fucking up.

– LB7