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October 7th – Fulham 1 Arsenal 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

Sept 29th – Arsenal 2 Watford 0

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That was not expected. If anyone was going to win this one it was going to be them. Certainly based on the first 20 minutes. But somehow we’ve maintained our winning streak. Somehow we kept a clean sheet. And somehow we’ve stolen another three points.

I really don’t get our team. It’s weird to watch us play. We’re neither one thing or the other. We are not of the caliber of the top 3 teams. We don’t have the fluency nor the balance. Yet we’re finding ways to win. Maybe that’s all we can ask for in this year (or more) of transition. It’s hard to enjoy watching us play. We always seem on the precipice of hemorrhaging goals – yet we don’t. We’re not creating that much. We barely troubled Foster in goal and yet we scored twice (ok, technically we each scored once).

I’d like to start though on one of my all time favourite topics. How utterly frustrating it is to watch a match when the camera is running endless useless replays or showing us fat, ugly people in the stands while the game progressing. Is there not someone on the control room who understands that we’re tuning in to watch the game? There were so many instances when the game was proceeding and yet we weren’t able to see it on the TV. Then suddenly we’d see the ball up the other end of the pitch with no idea of how it got there. In this day and age how can this incompetence and randomness still be tolerated. Is Mike Dean’s brother running the camera control? Why don’t the Premier League control the product they create? Why are they allowing this abortion of a coverage? Why don’t we at least get picture in picture so we can follow the game from a wide angle view? Why aren’t there more people complaining on-line? I don’t understand why this persists in this day and age. It’s a travesty. Sure, people are starving in Africa. Yes I know we’re about to get our first Supreme Court Justice that will be drinking his favorite drink – beer – while sitting in judgement blanked out drunk for the rest of his life. But dam it. This is important. How can we watch these Arsenal games when the camera is pointed at anything but the game. I’ve searched the thing known at the Interweb for any clues as to who produces these pictures; who directs the camera but to no avail. So I sit here powerless; unable to improve the most important service that the TV delivers.

And if this is not bad enough (though it clearly is) we then have to compound this unforgivable injustice of watching ugly people in the stands with the commentary of Tony retarded Gayle. He is such a monumental penis. A true luddite. You only have to listen to this wanker to understand why England can’t win a world cup. He really did suggest today that Troy Deeney should be in the England team. Really? Galye makes anything up to fit his predetermined narrative. He does not understand Ozil because, we’ll, Ozil is skillful. He loves the blood and guts of the physical challenge. Except when an Arsenal player – in this case Torreira – is fouled by Deeney. Gayle, even as the endless useless replays show us the evidence (and are not actually showing the game) that demonstrates conclusively that Deeney fouled Torreira, Gayle is suggesting Torreria should be booked for making a meal of the challenge when he was not touched by Deeney. Anthony Taylor, who was meek the entire game – letting endless challenges go by and missing at least one penalty for us – actually booked Deeney, Gayle was flabbergasted.

So this game suffered under at least this double hex of the cameras and Gayle. Maybe it’s a miracle that we won. They certainly had their chances. They started brighter than us. The pressed us and gave us little space. In prior years they would have parked the bus, sat back and absorbed the pressure. Not today, they were more adventurous and actually played a decent game. They are really not a bad team. They are a solid mid-table team now. Not unlike Arsenal.

This match was eerily familiar. It was as though we were back playing Everton. And the observations are not that different either. We still want to play out the back when we have players that are not well suited for that. Xhaka was nearly caught once outside our own box. Mustafa is a disaster waiting to happen. His side-kick was the far better of the two center halfs. Bellerin still can’t block or intercept a cross by his winger. And Torreira is the real deal. How good is he? He’s so good he makes Xhaka look like a decent player. Torreira liberates him from the defensive duties Xhaka is so poorly suited for and allows him to stroll around playing long passes.

Balance is our problem. In the first half, as with the Everton match, Ramsey and Ozil were barely involved. How weak was Ramsey? So weak that Ob1 was a game changer when he replaced him. Ob1 was the catalyst for both goals. How depressing is that? Of course, before then Cigarette should have scored a couple of goals. Today was not one of his best performances. He should have gone down for a penalty in the first half and he should have scored with a mistimed header in the second half.

Back to Ramsey. It’s not his fault Arsenal took the contract offer off the table. It’s not his fault that Emery is playing him out of position. And it’s also not Ozil’s fault that he’s also played out of position. But between them we get the worst of both. In the second half at least Ozil came into the game (not that he was anonymous in the first). He orchestrated most of the game. But Ramsey is lost. He’s not a natural number 10. But Emery insists in playing him there. This can’t continue. There is very little fluency in our build up play. We only look threatening on the counter-attack. We need Ozil more central to help create and control. But I don’t know where Ramsey fits. He’s definitely earned the right to start. He’s one of our best players. But he has to be put in the right position. You’d not put Cech at center forward, you’d not put Xhaka in goal and you’d not put Mustafa at center half (ah…..). Anyway, it looks like we’re set up for a reprise of the Sanchez pantomime It’s a shame though because Ramsey has been one of the few constants in this squad. He deserves to play in a position that highlights his box to box skills. Unfortunately, Xhaka is occupying that position. So we’ve got square pegs in round holes. This is ok against the average teams but will be exploited relentlessly by the top teams (in the EPL and Europe). It feels like we’re on a knife edge.

Does this seem ungrateful? We’ve won again. Five league games on the trot? Why the negatives? Because this year was always about transition. We made the biggest change of the last 22 years with a new manager. So let’s embrace that change. Let’s develop a spine in our team. And that spine will never be stable if it includes Mustafa or Xhaka. And heavens above if it contains both. I’m not against losing a few games or points if it helps us evolve and develop. It enables us to find our identify and develop a core in the team that positions us to truly compete for the league. At the moment we seem like we’ll always be a solid team that will consistently fall short. Torreira remains a big positive – aside from when we gave the ball away a couple of times. He helps us move into a future state. But we need to be braver. Maybe I’m too impatient. Maybe I should be grateful we’re not as poor as last year. There are signs of improvement. But it does not take a rocket scientist to see that are fundamental issues with this team.

You have to feel sorry for Cech. He’s been our savior this season. He’s been under undue criticism because he’s so uncomfortable passing out of the back. But he saved us against Everton and has started to come to grips with our new approach. And now he’s been struck down with the Ramsey hamstring curse. This could seem him out for a while. Leno took his chance quite well today. He does not look too bad. He made one excellent save and seem unafraid to come for corners etc. But he’ll need time to get used to the physicality of the English game. In the meantime, I’ll miss Cech. This could be the end of his time as our number 1 goalie. By the time he comes back – which I figure is a couple of months – Leno should have firmly established himself.

I’ve also yet to figure out the right position for Augamayang. Today he seemed a little lost as well. Often peripheral to the game. It’s not clear where to play him. Add this to the Ramsey and Ozil positional issue and it’s not hard to see why we’re unbalanced. We haven’t maximized the best of our defense – because of Mustafa and that no-one has taught Bellerin how to defend . And we have yet to figure out how to slot together the attacking pieces we have at our disposal. Against teams like Watford and Everton we might be able to slide by. In both cases we should consider ourselves fortunate to get three points. But against the teams above us we’ll not be able to cover up these flaws. Not that I ever expected us to compete against them this year. But, again, I want to see progress. Maybe the mental side is improving. But we were never that bad at home last year. It’s away where we’ll be tested.

I was impressed with Holding again today. He managed Deeney quite well. He is more reliable than Mustafa (but then who isn’t). It would be interesting to see Sokratis play alongside Holding at some point. Could you build a team around Leno, Holding and Torreira? That’s not a bad partial spine. Ozil looks to be grinding his way back into his game. After the abuse and racism he’s had to deal with it’s good that he was able to score today. You might even have noticed how he chased back into our own penalty area to tackle and bring the ball out. Not that Gayle noticed. He thought Ozil’s only contribution was the goal. But then when you’re such a caveman (not that I have anything against cavemen) and a cunt, it’s only to be expected I suppose.

So I’ll find ways to be grateful for the three points and look for the silver linings. I must become a glass is half full supporter again. I’ll have to submit to some therapy to resolve this trauma. I used to enjoy the football but the last few years have taught me to prepare for disappointment. It’s the natural English in me. A nation of perpetual losers. A nation of Tony Gayles. But I know we can do better. Let’s see if Emery is the man that can do this. Time will tell. And I’ll try and remain patient.

-LB7

September 23rd – Arsenal 2 Everton 0

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CigaCech. Two outstanding performances gave us the points today. One was a game changer to give us the lead and the other preserved an undeserved clean sheet. If Cigarette played for Everton we’d have lost 3-0. Luckily, we sold them Walcott.

Another victory. Another 3 points. And another unsatisfying display. Long may this combination continue. We’re inching our way towards a better selection of players. Cigarette is clearly ensconced as our central striker. And now we’ve started with Torreira. That gave us more defensive balance. But in the first 20 minutes Everton still got behind our defense and should have scored. In fact it only took them 3 minutes.

It’s a shame that it was Sokratis that picked up the knock and not Mustafa. But Holding came on and held it together. There were one of two moments when he overplayed out of defense but nether were tested too much. I suppose I’d grudgingly admit this was not Mustafas worse game (the bar is very low) but in that first half he still found a way to give them ball back on the edge of our box. Soon a better team than Everton will capitalize on the gifts that our defense presents.

As poor as we were again in the first half we were fortunate to go in at half time level. The second half started out the same way with Everton dominating. Jon Moss, who, generally speaking, is a fat pig, then determined that the handball by Kenney in the box was not a penalty for us. The commentators seemed to agree with this decision. Yet, in the first half there was an identical incident when we were attacking and the ball bounced up and hit (I think) Cigarette when he was inches away from the ball and somehow Moss called that one as handball.

Ramsey and Ozil were anonymous in that first half. Just like last week. We have to figure out the balance of this team. I don’t see how it helps having Ozil wide right and Ramsey in the #10 spot. It brings out the worst in both of them. Neither are in their preferred positions. As the game progressed Ozil was able to impose himself more on the game whereas Ramsey remained pretty tepid. He works hard and can certainly change a game but not from that role. It’s not clear to me how you can fit both players into this system and retain any balance. There was little interchange and passing today. There was only one sequence in the first half. Most of our offense was coming down down Monreals’ side.  It took a moment of magic from Cigarette to wake us out of our deep slumber. Thankfully that goal seemed to drain the confidence of Everton. And a few minutes latter, care of an awful decision by the linesman, we were able to double the lead. The goal itself was symptomatic of our play. Ciagarette working hard to win the ball, lose it and then win it back to set off Ozil. Then Ramsey found a way to hash his chance on goal only for Aubameyang, in a clearly offside position, to grab the second.  Eventually the EPL was operate using VAR but today we should be grateful. That goal sealed it. It just remained to see whether we’d keep a clean sheet or give away another senseless goal.

Cech was outstanding today. Literally from the first minute he saved every opportunity they had. He dominated the box from corners, was quick when coming out to cut down their breakaways and not too nerving when on the ball. There is no evidence that he’s going to lose his starting spot anytime soon. Of course, in the next game, he’ll now make a mistake. Today he was the reason were still in the game before Cigarette scored his brilliant goal. Now if we could only get two central defenders in front of him. And we still need to work on teaching Bellerin how to defend. Too many times today he allows defenders to cross the ball without closing them down. And for a player with abundant speed is surprising how Richarlison ran him in circles. I’d take him or Gueye on our team.

So some progress. Torreira liberated Xhaka such that he was no longer our worst player. Xhaka still (like Mustafa) nearly lost the ball on the edge of our area in the first half. Aside from that Xhaka was solid if somewhat uninspiring. Torreira though, for his first full game, was very clam and stablizing. He’s got a great positional sense and also picks up the ball from our defenders constantly. We looked more solid with him providing that defensive shield. But he needs helps. Both in terms of defending (I’m talking about you Xhaka) and in terms of making themselves available to receive the ball – that’s you Ramsey and Ozil. Unfortunately, when Ramsey did receive the ball his touch and passing were off. But having Torreria in the starting eleven is progress. It provides a better balance. Now we need to figure out other parts of the team. Because in the first half we were turgid. Emery’s substitutions were again good moves. Taking off Ramsey was something AW would not have done. I suspect, by the way, that Ramsey is still not fully fit and that the international workload did not help him either. We’ll have to manage him carefully in order to prevent his usual thigh injury. Ob1 was not a bad introduction. He seems a little more lively under this manager. He’s working harder and is better defensively than Aubameyang.

Lastly, a final word on the departure of Gazidis. Bye-bye. Why is he still around? Why is he due to speak to the fans at the next (and last ever) shareholder/fan meeting? It’s like transferring a player to another team and, after completion of the transfer, they continue to play for us for a couple of games. He no longer represents Arsenal. I don’t care if he’s seeing out his garden leave he should be gone. I want to hear from the new management not the Milan management. But at least he’s finally gone. As much as I think he’s a gutless prick for leaving just after he finally had the balls to impose his will on Arsenal FC with the new management structure, I understand it’s hard to not only walk away from a doubling in salary but, more importantly, equity in the football club – especially when that’s Milan. That will be worth, in due course, a ton of money. Ironic that at the same time all Arsenal shareholders are simultaneously being liberated from their own equity ownership (though at a fine price).

So, some silly midweek competition aside (when we’ll at least get to see some of the younger players) next up it will be the surprisingly dangerous Watford. They always find a way to bully us. And there’s little in this current team to indicate we’ll be able to withstand their usual tactics. Hopefully Sokratis will have recovered by then. I’d still like to see him alongside Holding.  At least Holding won’t get as easily bullied as will Mustafa by Deeney.

-LB7

 

 

 

Sept 15th – Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

 

 

 

Sept 2nd – Cardiff 2 Arsenal 3

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Undefeated in two games. Two wins in a row. We’ll be challenging for 5th place before you know it. Thank you, Cardiff. Can we play you next week? Who knew the Welsh could be so hospitable?

It’s all about selection. While surprisingly attacking we finally got to see Cigarette and Aubamayeng start the game together. And while both scored wonderful games the overall contribution of Cigarette was outstanding. The best player on the pitch. He was alive and active the entire game. And he scored a wonderful goal that earned us the three points we tried so desperately to throw away.

What a wankey way to start the game though. Cech is being put in the position of looking like an old age pensioner in a 100 meter sprint. It’s embarrassing. And against a half way competent team we’d have been 1-0 down within the first 5 minutes. Luckily Arter is only good for thuggish tackling and has no other talent. When you’re not good enough for Bournemouth you can only end up at Cardiff.

Cardiff predictably pressured our defense when we had possession and, most of the time, we seemed to handle that except when poor old Cech was involved. He just looks so uncomfortable. It’s really a microcosm of how the game has changed. When he first started playing professionaly he was a trend-setter. A young goalie at Chelski that changed what was expected in terms of the way he imposed himself and dominated games. But that was all about shot topping and owning the penalty box. Now, care of Pep, we demand that our goalkeeper is as comfortable on the ball as the other defenders. It’s all the rage. Look at Allison at Liverpool. Cech is not the only who’s finding it nearly impossible to adapt. It will though be the end of him. It will sap his confidence and undermine the skills he so clearly still possesses. In the meantime, we’re on a knives edge playing out from the back.

We’re not helped by the continued lack on imbalance in midfield. If we’re going to play out of the back we need midfielders making themselves available to receive the ball from the defenders. It happened when Torreira came on. But, in the first half, Ozil and Ramsey rarely showed for the ball. It was though good to see both of them play together. Ramsey was more impactful in the first half but continually found space to operate on the left. Ozil started to impose himself in the second half. There were times we started to feel like a team.

However, we still conspired to give up two goals to a club that is destined to return to the Championship within one season. If you could be relegated half way through a season then Cardiff and West Ham would prime candidates. Both of their goals were essentially unforced errors. The first one was inexplicable except that it was our friend Xhaka at his best. There you are, an international, experienced player with your team 1-0 away from home within a couple of minutes of half-time and you decide to play an under hit, lazy cross-field ball that exposes the team to a counter-attack. You then dawdle back into the center of defense to offer a weak attempt to win a header. Thereafter the ball fortunately drops to their striker to score. A goal out of nothing. And the second goal? After watching a handful of free-kicks all being payed the same way – onto the head of Morrison their lumbering giant of an unskilled footballer. What does the collective brain trust of Arsenal decide to do? They have Ramsey mark him; a clearly well thought out strategy. Shocking the giant won the header over the Welshmen and they scored. Where are the brains on this team?

Thankfully, interspersed between these cock-ups, we controlled the game and dominated. The interplay was better as was our movement. We hit the post, had a number of good corners – at least Xhaka can take corners – and frequently got behind their defense.

While our defense was not too tested (unless when giving the ball away) Mustafa scored a thunderbolt header and could have had a couple more. They had no answer to him. And then our new pairing of Cigarette and Aubamyang (CigAyang) combined with Ozil to contrast a beautiful goal that got Obang off the mark. And then Cigarette grabbed the three points for us.

So, of my usual pet hates, Mustafa only made one mistake today – he’s usual one per game – in the second half when he got caught on the ball when he tried to chest it under control that lead to yet another breakaway chance for them. His play out the back is much improved – I’ll credit Emery with being a positive influence – but the mental concentration remains an issue. Sokratis was reasonably solid. I still have yet to figure him out. He seems stable if underwhelming and he needs a goalkeeper who can handle the possession game. Both full backs had plenty of opportunity to drive our attack today as Cardiff played so narrow. But neither is getting that much protection in front of them. Ramsey and Obang both left them exposed. Against better teams – which is anyone other team in this league – we won’t be able to be so attacking.

But what to do with Xhaka? Does he have pictures of Emery and a goat? Does Xhaka have Emery’s children locked up in his cellar? What does Xhaka have to do in order to get dropped? If Xhaka was dead, lying in a morgue or buried six foot underground would Emery still select him? If Xhaka lost both arms and legs in a gardening accident would Emery still have him on the bench? While Emery finally got it right today with CigAyang he now needs to solve our midfield. We need to see Guendoza and Torreira alongside each other. We know they are both inexperienced but it’s not clear that Xhaka’s experience is anything other than counter productive. TorrDoza is the future backbone of this team and they need to be given their chance. Now we have a couple of wins under our belt and we’re away from the relegation zone (for the moment) we need to have them play alongside each other. I know Guendoza is new to the game and tires later in the game. But when he’s on the pitch he’s the only one making himself available for the ball, who’s aggressive in the tackle. We need to help him with Torreira. Everytime this kid comes on the pitch we play better. He created the winning goal. He is tidy in possession. He is a fierce tackler. Basically everything that Xhaka is not.

Though we’ve only just started the season we’re already into our first irritating break for Internationals. Hopefully Xhaka can play 180 minutes for the Cheesemen; maybe he’ll pick up an injury. When they all return I fear we’ll still have to wait for Emery to figure out the right starting eleven (i.e. not picking Xhaka). It’s a long season and we’ve barely started. Today we saw a few more green shoots of what this team might evolve into. There was one sublime move in the second half on the right hand side that was all one touch passing that resulted in Bellerin crossing the ball that just eluded Ramsey in the box. At our best we still look like the AW team at it’s best and at our worst our defense still looks like the defense AW created. But it feels like we have a few players who can take us to a better level. They just have to be on the pitch to influence the game. We started with one ½ of the combination we needed – CigAyang but we also need TorrDoza.

So progress today – even if painful at times. We demonstrated that we could recover from (self-inflicted) setbacks; twice. We created chances and we somehow did all this without Ob1 on the pitch. That’s progress.

– LB7

 

 

 

 

August 25th – Arsenal 3 West Ham 1

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First off, how crappy are West Ham? And how much did we struggle? It’s a minor miracle we got all three points. Our defense tried its best to help them out. As did our defensive midfield. Or what would be in a normal team.

Given my own rules of engagement, after only three games in I must refrain from judging Emery for another 7 games. But someone needs to explain to me the logic of the selection policy. How is it even possible to Xhaka to be on the bench let alone starting? And why was Torreira not starting? And how does Ob1 start?

I don’t like to rain on our won parade. Frankly we looked a mess for most of the game. I don’t know whose team this is? It’s not Wengers’ anymore and it does not seem like Emerys. Whereas last week there were signs of progress after an unimpressive first game todays seemed like a definite backward move. It started with the perplexing team selection and then proceeded as we played the type of open, unstructured and unprotected football of the last five years. If we were like this in sexual relations we’d have about 5 children by now. How often did they catch us on the break? And how did they score their first goal when we actually 5 players back?

Against even a half way competent team we would have let in 3 goals all on counter-attacks. A combination of Arnautovic being injured and Hernandez being shit saved us. And it how unfortunately ironic was it that one of their best chances fell to Lucas Perez; you can see now why he’s on the West Ham team. But how can we be so exposed to the break from our own corner – as we were in the second half – when we already have the lead; have we learned nothing? I thought things were supposed to be different now with the new manager. It felt like deja-vu watching our game management. It was awful. And that’s besides the awful players we insist on selecting.

Still the balance of this team looks wrong. Our right hand side seems to be structured as a no-defensive zone. Going forward Bellerin got to the their byline and Mickatarien was creative; they setup our first goal. But when they lose the ball; when we were not in possession, we were incapable of protecting that side of our defense. Bellerin has yet to figure that part of the game out and he’s not helped by Mickatarien who is incapable of tracking back with their players. We will continue to be exposed down our right until either Bellerin is instructed in how to defend or Mickatarien is shifted to another position. And it’s not like the center of defense was any better. Our two center half’s have yet to figure out how to play together. Once Sokratis, inside their half, was pressing so high that he was luckily to foul their player and not expose our entire back line. And then there was that instance in the first half when he paniced and whiffed at the ball inside the 6 yard area. The occasions in the first half when they exposed us on the counter-attack were so numerous. And, of course, it did not help that Xhaka was the defensive cover. Or not.

In the second half we thankfully brought on Cigarette for Ob1; not sure if that was injury related or not but Ob1 was just like last years version – shit. Cigarette made a difference even if it meant Aubameyang had to move out to the wing. We had more energy and better hold up play. I just don’t get why he does not start. It’s a shame Aubameyang missed his one clear chance in the second half; that will damage his confidence further. But I figure this is all good because at some point he will, as a natural goal scorer, come good for us.

Then we brought on Torreira. Finally. But even he played too far up the pitch. But at least he became our defensive cover rather than the vacuum we had. And it pushed Xhaka into a less dangerous part of the pitch. It’s apparent that Torreira is, like Guendoza and Bellerin, not quite ready yet. But I don’t mind persevering with him if that helps he’s growth. It’s not like we’re going to win the league this year. But we have to develop. We have to evolve. Today we regressed. It makes no sense to persist with Xhaka and Ob1; let alone Mustafi. This is Emerys’ chance to implement real change. And I fear that he’s too conservative. I saw no change in how we played today. It was a throwback day. Any against nearly another other team in this league we’d have been beaten. We are too vulnerable in defense and we lack fluency in our passing game. I just don’t see what our game-plan is.

We are fortunate that we have a run of games against less impressive competition. Or teams only marginally worse than us. This gives us more time to find our mojo; to find our identify. Because we lost it this week. I can’t get my head around the lack of defensive discipline. If we play at Cardiff how we used to at Swansea where we’d overcommit and get caught on the break then I will start to despair of Emery. But over the next few games he has to own this team. He has to make the right selection choices. This team needs surgery and I’m not sure he’s the surgeon we need. We have some players that could help. Let’s find out. Playing the same boring and tired failures won’t demonstrate anything other than Emery is a mini-Wenger (without the prior 10 year winning record).

It was pretty depressing watching us today. I’m not at despair yet. There is plenty of time for that. Not being good enough is one thing but not progressing is unacceptable; and today there were worrying signs. The only interesting player I see is Guendoza. He made many mistakes today; he’s passing was off. But at least he played with energy. He was also played higher up the pitch as Xhaka was the defensive cover. Really? That made no sense. But we have to figure out how to have Guendoza and Torreira play alongside each other. It’s a long season though so I suppose patience is warranted.

So, I think we’ve figured out two of the teams that will be relegated – Cardiff and now West Ham. They were awful today; their defense looked about as poor as ours. And, unfortunately, you could see why Jack was on their team not ours. He’s mistake lead to our third goal but overall, aside from the nice short pass he failed to control the game and we expose he’s lack of speed.

As we watch the top 5 or 6 teams though it’s obvious that we’re way off their level. We’re barely in the same league. Today showed this is at least a two year re-build. It’s just remains to see who should be orchestrating this rebuild. Today was the first day I got a bad feeling about that. Emery has the chance to be brave and bold; he has the runway, the goodwill to institute real change and we all know it will take time. He can’t squander that. He needs to make this clearly his team with his tactics and with his personality. Today this team played with the personality of Denilson and the personality of Silverstre.

As an aside, we’ve yet to hear much on the Gazidis switch to Milan. As much as he’s the puppet of our owner Stan it will be interesting to see if he sticks around. For me, if he leaves it will say that he does not own the current structure; he did not choose this manager. That he did really want Arteta.  If he does stays then Emery was his choice. I have not facts to support this, but I think he’ll be off. And he might yet be proven to be right. But we won’t know for at least 7 more games. It’s funny how three points that were so desperately needed can feel so utterly unsatisfying.

-LB7

 

 

 

August 18th – Chelsea 3 Arsenal 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, it’s good to be back.

-LB7

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May 21st – Arsenal Alliteration

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It’s been a week without Arsene. And the passing of time will only make it harder. In the interim it is full on speculation as to who’s the next manager. What criteria should be applied?

It would seem it’s an alphabetic search. Arteta or Allegri. Not very imaginative. No wonder Viera feels like his conversation was perfunctory. He should have changed his name to Aviera. Then he’d be a shoe-in.

After all these months (if not years) of planning, the great and powerful at AFC management have come to the conclusion that Arteta is the best available manager on the planet earth. Aside, that is, from the fact he’s not actually a manager (or coach).

I don’t want Allegri or Enrique. I’d like Nagelsmann or Jardim. But both seem to suffer from having real managerial experience and having names too far down the alphabet.

Not that Arteta can’t be successful. But it’s a very high risk strategy. I hope Arsene is staying close by. I just don’t understand AFCs thinking. They are placing an untried and untested assistant coach in one of the prime seats in Europe. There will be tremendous pressure from the first pre-season game. Arteta could exceed all expectations but is this the right risk to take?

There is no comparable I can think of. Zidane (not to compare us to RM) ran their B- Team (in league 2) for a year. Guardiola ran the Barca B team for a year. Pochatinho ran Espanyol and Southampton. Wenger had 12 years in management from AFC. If you’re going to select Arteta why not start with Ancelotti? He has right at the start of the alphabet and has the experience of the premier league. Have Arteta take a year to get acclimatized – have him run the U23 team. Have him prepare to be a coach.

I fear some of these moves are about the new structure at AFC wanting to control the management of the team. They don’t want to appointment a strong established manager. They don’t want someone who will expect to have control over transfers and player identification. They – Gazidis, Sven and the other one – want to be able to control the coach. Have the coach report in to them. Gazidis has had 10 years of being the puppy dog to Wenger. Now he wants to be the CEO – finally. He looks up the road at Daniel Levy and wants that type of power. He forgets though that until they found Pochettino they had been through 9 managers this century.

It’s not clear this pending appointment is in the best interests of Arsenal. It’s going to be in the best interests of Gazidis. And maybe Sven. And maybe it could work out. But if and when it does not we are fucked. We could become a cross between ManU post Fergie and Sp*rs pre Pochettino.

This decision is obviously critical. We have the basis of a competitive team. But we can’t afford to roll the dice with a new manager who’s completely untested. There has to be a more risk-averse choice out there.

Another thing about poor Arteta. If you appoint him you basically formally by-pass the entire Invincible generation. Why would Bould stay to report to someone ½ he’s age and 1/10th of his experience. What happens to Overmars, Bergkamp, Viera, Bould, Dixon and Henry? They never get a look in. Because if and when Arteta fails then the club will go full on Simeone. That is just ½ a step short of being Darth Vader. We would swing from one extreme of the beautiful game to the other end of the functionary, dull but point accumulating approach of these dreary masters of the game.

The legacy AW left us was one to be cherished and improved upon. It was not to be frittered away on the off chance that a young, intelligent but unproven tactician could take the club to the next level. We needed a considered, incremental, experienced manager who could add that missing piece of steel – or, rather, return the steel that the early Wenger years possessed.

Again, it all makes we worry about the brain-trust at Arsenal. They have surely been planning their moves for the longest time. But here we are two weeks in and we still have no manager. The World Cup starts in 3 weeks – no signings will be made then – and not many even before then. This is valuable time that is being wasted. They should have already made the appointment by now so that the new manager has the maximum time to acclimatize. Unless, of course, that appointment is Arteta.

-LB7

 

 

May 13th – Huddersfield 0  Arsenal 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– LB7

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 22nd – Arsenal 4 West Ham 1

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Hard to follow on from Friday for many reasons. Not the least is that the emotion of that announcement can’t actually change the ability – or lack of – on this team. The tributes have started – as they should. This is a momentous time in the history of Arsenal. And it helps amplify how influential AW has been. It’s easy to forget that given the onslaught he’s had to withstand lately. This game was a window in the dilemma that AFC have been facing for the past few years. The inconsistency that was shown in the first half versus the domination in the second. The ineptitude of Ob1 versus the ability of Cigarette.

As the era ends for AW so will the time we have to endure Ob1. He will be gone quicker than one of his many misplaced passes. Once he left the field today, to be replaced by Aubameyang the tempo and cohesion of the team picked up. I can’t honestly think of a more frustrating player that I’ve had to watch over the last ten years. Not that I would trade the loss of AW for Ob1 but it does highlight the weaknesses of AW. No other manager would play this guy. No other manager would persevere. And it’s that faith and inflexibility that AW invested in sub-standard players that has ultimately been his downfall.

We have seen this so often this season – that we, in each half, as two different teams. I can’t think of a game this season where we’ve played at our best for the entire game. Though I can think of ones where we’ve been awful through the entire game. Ramsey was strong today – it’s good to have him back. But I worry that when he walks round the pitch after the game it looks like he’s waving goodbye. They need to tie him down to a contract quickly.

In that first half Cigarette hardly touched the ball. It was all too sideways and aimless. But then we increased the tempo in the second half, we looked like a real time and destroyed a weak West Ham team. But come Thursday we’ll have to play a consistently good game. And, most importantly, we’ll have to have a defense and protection for the defense that can insulate us from our vulnerabilities at the back. Regardless of what AW has said, it’s hard to imagine that Mustafi is with us next year. Today we saw his split personality – some timely interceptions, his aggression in winning the talks and then those mistimed passes, the over-commitment that exposes the belly of our defense.

And we saw a classic Wellbeck performance. He works hard and gets into good positions and then will shank the ball or mis headers that should be on target. While he’s clearly superior to OB1 (though I think I am as well) he’s not quite at the level we require – but a reasonable squad player. He had a couple of good attempts on goal from outside the box but he has to take his chances – but, at this stage of his career, I don’t expect any further development in his game.

Bellerin seems to be developing though. Of course, he’s had to suffer Ob1 in front of him. And Xhaka was reasonably solid – as was Elneny. It’s a shame we’ll loose him for a couple of games. He was more creative than Xhaka. But it was clear how much we missed Ozil and MikeyTarrian today. Let’s hope at least one is back for Thursday.

While the second half was enjoyable, and the crowd were very supportive, all the focus was on AW. I really can’t stomach the media focus on what caused him to step down. You have to be retarded to not have figured it out. I suppose that’s the soulless job of the media though to ask painful questions to a man who’s been stripped of his life love as to why he’s resigned when anyone with half a brain cell would know he was pushed. As he should have been. But leave the guy alone. And the pundits seem to feel they have a right to know what happened? No, they don’t and nor do we (well, not yet anyway). But what’s to know? He was pushed out. Can we move beyond that into the celebration of his tenure and the growing focus on who should replace him? It feels like a Parliamentary investigation is going to transpire into who knew what when and who said what when. I suppose they feel the need to fill the airtime with something. But the journalists are also trying to develop some expose on what really happened. Spoiler alert – the man has just been essentially fired from a job he held for 22 years. You can see it on his face, in his body language and in his responses. And it’s also the right thing to have happened.

It’s been a perfect few days and thankfully the team did not ruin it today. Now we have to prepare for both Atlético and also figure out how we can complete the appropriate send off for the best Arsenal manager of all time. And one of the most honest, genuine, intelligent people to have ever held such a high stress, high profile role in any walk of life. He has always been a beacon of intelligence and vision for Arsenal Football Club. Once that statue is unveiled they should also consider naming one of the stands in his honour. And then once he’s had a few years at PSG or Madrid, they should bring him back in some advisory or ambassadorial role. His place is at Arsenal. And Arsenal owe it to him as well.

So, onto Thursday where the conversation will remain dominated by AW. It’s unrealistic to think anything else can occur. But at least today we saw some cohesion in the second half and some hope that we won’t be embarrassed on Thursday. I suspect that might happen when we play the reserve team up at Old Trafford on Sunday. But before then let’s hope Elneny recovers along with Ozil. And that Ob1 does not make the bench.

-LB7