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December 8th – Arsenal 1 Huddersfield 0

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It was the worst of times; it was the even worse of times. By a country mile the worst game of the season. In technical terms it was crap. And more crap. Rubbish and more rubbish. And that was just the ref. What a horrible performance. What a shitty game to watch. When, that is, the camera deemed to show the game. Not being a petty person, I’d like to see Huddersfield get relegated after a game like that. All they did was foul. From the first minute. And the referee, Tierney, let them get away with it from the start and then started to book our players.

Of course, we weren’t exactly on our game. There was no creativity and the balance was awful within the team. Sokratis can’t play on the left hand side cause he can’t run up the pitch and pass. Mustafi was reckless fouling and taking too long on the ball. But the worst was the midfield balance. For some reason Emery decided to play all three midfielders in their wrong positions. So Torreira was too far up the pitch and Guendouzi was uninvolved the entire first half.

It was so slow and painful to watch. They foul us. The camera pans to the fans or the managers meantime the awful game proceeds and we can’t see it. Then we have a few chances that Aubameyang and then Cigarette squander. In the meantime, Tierney, gives us a couple of yellow cards for simulation when one of them was no different from the penalty that Son got against us last Sunday. And then, just to turn the screw, Cigarette scores a perfect goal for the linesman to someone deem it to be off-side. How is that factually possible when their knob of a defender passed it back to the goalie? Under what rule set is this guy operating? Where’s the accountability for a bonehead decision like this?

Then when their blumbering lump of an attacker fell over in the box in the second half after Sokratis tackled him, how was that not a yellow for simulation? The entire game – though, of course, we were shit – was ruined by wankey refs and linesman. They did not stamp their authority on Huddersfield by booking them from the start. Instead Tierney would consume time by lecturing them as though somehow they would give a shit as to what he was saying.

This one is on Emery though. He got our formation and tactics wrong. This was as poor a performance over the 90 minutes that we’ve seen. The substitutions were alarming. How desperate is it when the two biggest losers come on at half-time. The only improvement was when Monreal came on because it pushed Sokratis back to the middle; with the added benefit that Mustafi left the field.

Ob1’s first touch was abysmal and his overall decision making is flustered; lacking in any composure. You’ll get the odd good ball played behind the defense. But he does not have the self confidence to go to goal when he should. Whereas Mickeytarrien under hits passes and can’t cross the ball. This was not his worst performance – a low bar indeed – but, as team, we need more quality. And the quality we did have we removed at half time. How can you takeoff Cigarette? How was he any worse than the other 9 outfielders. We missed him in the second half.

As the game progress Torreira seemed to drop further back into his natural position and then we regained more control of the game. Bellerin worked hard but had no help in front of him. Leno had nothing to do. But our playing out from the back was too slow because there was no midfield shape. No-one was dropping to receive the ball until Torreira dropped back to work alongside Xhaka. I like Guendouzi, but he was played in the wrong position all game long. And this was why we had no creativity. No Ozil, No Ramsey and Ob1 was stuck out wide though he should be stuck in the toilet somewhere.

This was so frustrating to watch; the least enjoyable of the season. In fact, the one that drew out the most frustration and anger. That had me screaming at the TV at practically everything. It was the worst combination of the wrong team formation, the meekest of referees, bad decisions and then the inability of the camera to actually show us the game. One day, in the far distant future, when we have picture-in-picture I’ll be a happy person. Until then there has to be a way to find out who makes these camera decisions so I can explain to them that they job description – their entire reason to exist – is to show us what’s happened in on the pitch. We don’t tune in to watch the crowd reaction – not the facial expressions of the managers. Nor to watch endless reruns of fouls or other none event decisions while the game is progressing. We just want to watch the entire game. We don’t need to see lingering close-ups of the last player to touch the ball. Nor to have the camera zoom in for a close-up on a player who just touched the ball, won a header or picked their fucking nose. It’s getting out of control this season. Eventually we’ll end up with a camera just showing a managers reaction for the entire game overlayed with the moronic commentary of some stupid Scottish ex-footballer from the 3rd division who never could pass the ball telling us how Arsenal had no chances on goal until Torreira scored whilst ignoring the off-side goal that was disallowed or the two chances we missed in the first half.

This was an unpleasant game to watch for all these reason.The only remarkable thing was that we somehow managed to score. We finally had a creativity spark from Guendouzi, Aubamyenang could not shot but played a nice cross back for Torreira to score our goal. I had not seen this coming. After Aubameyang missed that header from the corner and Tierney yet again gave a yellow to us when the Guendouzi was again fouled just like Son was last week I just assumed it would be one of those games. So while I’m relieved we managed to get all three points it has to go down as the least enjoyable games of the season. Until the last twenty minutes there was little energy to our game and that played right into their hands. All we can do now is wish them relegation. After seeing how teams like Wolves have come to our ground and left with a point it’s only just they got none. It’s just not clear we deserved the three.

It’s amazing that the loss of Holding can disrupt the balance of the team so much. Let’s hope Monreal can stay fit long enough. Because if we have to play three at the back we‘ll need him on the left hand side. But we can’t play those three in midfield again. I don’t think Guendouzi knows how to play out wide. He’s passing was off and his positioning was off. He was peripheral to the game until we moved Torreira back in front of the defense.

Bookings are going to start to hurt us. Torreira is one away from suspension I think. Mustafi, though injured is suspended from the next game.  Sokratis is suspended. So our backline against Southampton will be very different. They are in a state of chaos but they showed against Man U they could still fight (well, for Hughes anyway, before they fired him). Hopefully they’ll still be a mess.

We need to find our balance again. I did not like the two upfront today – one should be there while the other should play wider. And we need a creative midfield player otherwise we’ll only score on the fast break.

Now I have to go away and decompress and find my happy self buried away somewhere. And pray that Emery can do the same and find that team and performance that elevated all Arsenal fans last Sunday. Not that that sensation has ebbed away quite yet. But days like today will chip away at it for sure. But thank you Torreira for being you and gifting us three points.

-LB7

December 5th – Man United 2 Arsenal 2

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After the sublime euphoria of Sunday we could have lost 10 nil (but not 8-2), endured Darth Vader grinning on the touchline and had to put up with both Mustafi and Mickeytarrien playing and I’d still have that stupid smirk on my face that’s been there since the final whistle on Sunday. That game was my season. This game was more like a dull thumping on my head. I’d normally take an Advil to recover. This was a game of defensive blunders. Our two were gifted to us and, as such a polite team, in this season of giving we donated them right back to them. Who knew were such a polite team. Gentlemanly Arsenal. That’s why we’re The Arsenal. Manners maketh the man. Just not a football team.

We should have won today. We had the better chances and played the better football. They looked a mess. They only looked threatening when they introduced some passion into their game. Overall, they were directionless and leaderless. In another season, assuming (hopefully) they still have Darth Vader, we will beat them. Our mistakes – maybe like theirs – were so gorm-less. So brainless. I can’t think of a real save Leno needed to make. Yet they scored twice. And then we had chances to win at the end. I thought we might sneak the additional points. I’ll take a point though.

I feel I’m being repetitive. You know, repeating myself. By saying the same thing over again. Every week. Please feel free to cut this out and read after Saturdays Huddersfield game as well. What the fuck is Mickeytarrien doing coming on before Cigarette? Mickeys’ first few touches were crap. And his last ones as well. He must have some pretty explicit compromising pictures of Emery involving sheep and various kitchen utensils. Because there can be no other rationale explanation. Thankfully though Cigarette did appear and somehow claimed the second goal. And Aubamyeang should have grabbed the winner as we had our usual second half improved performance.

The balance on this team looks better with a back three. It protects Kolinsac from his inability to defend – as demonstrated on their second goal. But then Ob1 showed the same cluelessness for the first goal. Until we get Monreal and Kosclieny back we won’t know the actual formation Emery wants to play.

But even with a diminished team, further reduced by the loss of Holding, ManU did not overrun us. We also know that’s because they don’t want to be playing for DarthVader. Who would though? He has an innate ability to squander any talent a player has. Rashford steamed around the pitch the entire game but had no real support from anyone.  But when Holding went off to be followed by Ramsey our team looked more NoHopa like than ELP like. But still we should and could have won it.

A word for the referee – Wanker. Even after having to face up to Dean at the weekend, Mariner was awful today. He allowed ManU to be far too physical and handed out yellow cards on borderline fouls but yet allowed Rojos to stay on the pitch after his reckless challenged on Guendouzi. Of course, we did need him there for our second goal so maybe it evened out. Though if that had not trickled in there would have been a penalty and a second yellow card for him. Mariner missed some nasty activity by their big Belgium buffoon and seemed unaware of the hacking on Guendouzi in the second half. I had half thought Mariner would find a way to send off the sublime Torreira. But our little Uruguayan managed his game very intelligently. After ten games or so I think we can now officially anoint him as the son of Viera; the missing piece to this team. Not that that makes Xhaka Petite or Gilberto. But it does make Torreira indispensable to this team. He is the glue that binds everything together. He is our Makelele; our Kante. But he’s not our Henderson or Dembele. And thank the lord for that.

This team seems to be progressing. I can’t think about “unbeaten” runs. They are only as good as the next game and runs mean nothing. However, the cohesion of this team and calmness on playing out of the back is in stark contrast to the beginning of the season. There is momentum now on this team. I still fear the Champions League is a step too far for us this year. We are still missing some pieces to our puzzle. But today was another example of our improvement. Last season we’d have found a way to lose the game even if it seemed like we were trying to today.

There was always going to be a coming down to earth after Sunday. They had an extra day to prepare and my fear had been a reversion to last year after the high of the weekend. So, though we avoided a disaster we should have been able to find a way to win. But it’s hard to be too critical.  I just hope that the injury list is not growing too quickly. That’s Holding and Ramsey to add to Ozil, Monreal and Koscielny. Managing this list through this intense period will challenge us. It’s just a shame we could not chose which of our players to be injured. With our luck, my fear is we’ll end up of a team with just Mickeytarrien, Mustafi and Ob1.

Guendouzi put in a solid performance. You can sense that inexperience when he’s under pressure. He’s destined to make stupid mistakes. But, in a couple of years, he’ll be the axis with Torreira in midfield. Today he more than held his own and is not scared of the physical parts of the game.

Aubameyang, though the top scorer, missed a golden opportunity to grab the points. And Kolinsac, who continually ripped apart their right back, had chances to put in better crosses. But then often we did not have enough people in the box. Bellerin continues to improve. It’s good to see him (and others) shout at each other now when things don’t go right.

It’s just a shame we had to give up two schoolboy goals. The takeaway from today is that, for sure, Man U won’t, can’t and shouldn’t qualify for the Champions League by being in the top 4. It’s a race now of 5 teams for the top 4. Though we’re the underdogs, if Sp*rs can qualify for the next round of the Champions League (and not fall into the NoHopas Cup) and Chelsea wilt under the pressure of Sarri, there is a chance we could sneak in.

We’re by no means the finished product. Today we were always going to fall back down to earth after the Sunday bliss. And there are still (obvious) flaws. And we seem to have lost Ozil to the twilight zone. But, we’re moving in the right direction. Sometimes slowly but quicker of late. So let’s see how we handle the powerful Huddersfield. And let’s hope we have some of the injured wounded back to help.

-LB7

 

 

 

December 1st – Arsenal 4 Sp*rs 2

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The New Arsenal. Or the Old Arsenal. We are back. That was more fun than I’ve had in a few lifetimes. It’s right up there with my own birth. Only trumped (sorry for that reference) by other victories against that homeless team at their old home. This was entirely deserved. We were the better team with the better players. Stuff those stupid combined teams. Even with Dean on the pitch we still dominated.

That was worth the wait. Total domination. Both in terms of the football and the physical beating we game them. I loved seeing us fight them in all those scuffles. Ramsey after their goal, Bellerin with their Dutch Dick. We out played them and outmanned them. This was like 2x our home Liverpool performance. I can’t enthuse enough about todays performance. There was so much good; so much to enjoy. And to hear the crowd participation for the entire game driving the team forward! When was the last time that happened?

Emery made the right substitutions and at the right time. I don’t get why Mickeytarrien started. That’s Emery’s blind spot. But pulling him at half-time changed everything and enabled us to step it up and recover from the two minutes of madness in the first half. These were the only two chances the witless homeless team had.

A word about Sp*rs – Shit. They truly were. They bottled it and too many of their primary players were missing in action. As good as they can be; today they were toothless. There was no leadership of cohesion. At this stage of their development they should be winning these games. Because in another few years, when we are truly rebuilt and re-engineered, we will be dominating them and they will look back at this small window of opportunity to dominate us and wonder how they missed their chance.

I don’t care what happens for the rest of the season. I don’t care when we play them in the League Cup; I don’t care when we play them at their away home; they can beat us 5-0. Nothing will detract from this game; from this victory. This was way ahead of where we could expected to be. Today’s game verified the entire transition we’ve been going through. I was fearful going into this game. But right from the first second we had the passion, drive and energy to dominate the game. We should have been 3 nil up before they scored a fortunate goal. Aubameyang should have scored as should have Ob1. Kolinsac was again dominant going forward. But, today, he seemed to remember how to defend. He was not exposed as he’d previously been. And with Holding and Sokratis solidifying our defense it allowed Mustafi to make his usual reckless challenges.

In midfield Torreira was in complete control. For the entire game he provided the protection that this defense requires and yet liberates Xhaka to play his relax and controlled game.  Torreira’s tenacity, workrate and physical strength drove this team forward. He was imperious today. He played like a legend.

But back to our manager. Whereas last week I was critical of his tactics and changes today he was perfect. Mickeytarrien should be on their team he’s that shit. But Ob1 was not too bad. He just lacks confidence when he gets into their box. He should have scored. Even though we did not deserve to be behind at half-time and, for once, I was quietly confident we’d find a way back into the game, the introduction of Ramsey and Cigarette changed the game. Ramsey was more incisive, and Cigarette was just, as ever, perfect. Emery left Aubameyang up front and pushed Cigarette out wide. And that worked to perfection when Aubameyang scored from outside the box after Ramsey linked up play from Bellerin.

And then again, the third goal from Cigarette, helped by a deflection, was fully deserved. But the build up play to the last goal showed patience and controlled football before the pass from Aubameyang split their defense. And then to have the legend that is Torreira cap it all off with his goal made for a perfect finish to the perfect game.

There were so many aspects to enjoy. The primary one though was of our lack of fear. And, subsequently, my lack of fear watching. Having been conditioned to be a pessimist over the last 5 years – knowing that bad outcomes were just around the corner – today was the first time I can remember, even being 2-1 down, that we would find a way to get back into the game. Today I had that Invincibles feeling return. That sense that this team was not just good enough but focused, committed and determined enough to not get out muscled and out fought. Not to give away stupid goals and make mental mistakes. Today was not just about the fact that we won but it was about how we won. It was how we played Arsenal football. It was about the incorporation of Emery steel into the team. About how balanced we were playing out of the back. It was how the talent of Torreira, Aubameyang, Cigarette shown through. It’s been a long time coming and I don’t believe we’re anywhere close to being the finished article. How can we be when we still have Mickeytarrien in the starting lineup. I still believe that Champions League qualification is a level too high for us.  Though it’s a possibility that can’t be a realistic target in Emery’s first year. There is too much work to do. Of course, it also reminds us of the lie that 4th place is not a trophy – where as those wankers now we strive for 4th?

Anyway,  days like today reinforce that we are moving in the right direction under the right leadership. As frustrated and depressed I was after the Bournemouth game (which I know we won) today was enthralling and exciting – even when losing at half-time.

A word on our two wingbacks. Bellerin has been improving all season but today he was instrumental in so many good things. And Kolinsac, as previously mentioned, was like the tank and enforcer we know he can be.  Emery’s tactics were ideal. Going to a back three has given us a springboard to push these two further forward. And it’s made us a little less dependent on Mustafi. It’s harder for Holding and his distribution but they barely threatened us.

Today we defeated a top 6 team. We quashed them like a second-rate, homeless team that they are. This is our first one this season. It might be our last this year but somehow I doubt it. After the game I loved the fact that Emery was already talking about the game on Wednesday. Today’s performance showed the level we should be expecting to play at. We need to bottle up the experience of today and replicate it against ManU. That’s the level of consistentancy we need to aspire to.

That was just so fucking enjoyable. So refreshing. To enjoy the entire game and feel that the team were completely committed to winning. So completely committed to every tackle. To feel like destiny would not let us lose. To feel that this team was an immovable force against a tepid, spineless and toothless opposition. Of course, many years ago, in a galaxy far far away, we used to experience this every week – if not, season-long. Today was a glimpse of how our future could be. And, by jove, it looks pretty exciting. Imagine the idea that we could enjoy watching Arsenal. It feels like we might finally be going back to the future

-LB7

 

 

 

November 25th – Bournemouth 1 Arsenal 2

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I’m in desperate need of therapy. And Lots of it. I can’t enjoy watching this team. It’s so painful. The enjoyment that had started to return against Fulham has disappeared. I can’t enjoy victories like today but prefer to suffer through the mistakes of the players and manager.

I need help. Or maybe, this team needs help. And this manager needs help as well. I’m still struggling with the idea that we came away from this game with three points. We started with our NoHopa team. Minus Cigarette and Ozil and with a back three. For long periods, in the first half, it looked like we’d implode in classic Arsenal style. Too often we could not control the passing and we had no fluency. But then, care of one of the best own-goals you’ll ever see, we went 1-0 up. This was a classic. Unstoppable. Potential goal of them month. A blockbuster. You had to feel a little sorry for Lerma as this was the best thing he did all game. Aside from his shot off the post in the second half. And it was the best thing we created as well. Though Kolinsac did end up with two assists.

Overall our play in the first continued in its predictable abject manner.  The use of a back three seemed to destabilize Holding who could not pass to any of his own players. And Sokratis, while it was good to see him back, was displaying his newly learned wrestling skills. But it was in front of these three that problems were occurring. Mikeytarrien has to be one of the worst players we’ve had for a long time. I can see why Darth Vader kicked him out of ManU. What a deal that was for both sides. Neither side would do this deal again; we both obtained players who flatter to deceive. Except the one we sent up north was, originally, a great goal-scorer. Mickeytarrien can’t even begin to understand what it is to track his man back. The number of times he left Bellerin exposed was depressing. He barely breaks into a sprint when considering whether to follow his man. How bad is MT? He’s so bad that he makes Ob1 look like a super-star. Which is slightly unfair to Ob1. He was the only one who possessed any energy and drive today. He was the only one trying to move us forward. It’s just a shame that he can’t shoot on target or score any goals. But, again, he’s shooting is not as poor as MT. Truly, today he was abject shit; flat out crap.

Today was worrying on many levels – our team selection, our lack of balance in the first half and the groundhog day defending at the end of the first half. How is it that we had Torreira stuck up in their penalty area and Bellerin jogging back on their breakaway. This was Swansea away all over again. Have we learned nothing? Are we destined to repeat all our mistakes throughout the season? How is it that our manager has not instilled in these players the discipline to stay in their positions? What was Torreira thinking? This was reminiscent of the many breakaway goals ManU have scored against us at home when our players seem to be treading water while there are running right past us? And by this stage of the game – post the cracker goal – we’d been starting to assert ourselves. And yet we managed to throw it all away right before half-time.

The second half – as ever – saw an improved performance. Though not from the camera director who managed to miss the entire build up to our second goal. A moment of inspiration from Ob1 to split their defense and then a classic finished from Aubameyang. He’s deadly in the 6 yard area, but as he demonstrated a little earlier not so sharp when he’s a little further out. He missed a sitter from a first half corner and then another one in the second half. But there he now sits atop to goal-scoring leader board. He’s really not as integrated into our play as Cigarette but, to his credit, he does find himself in the right place often enough. By this stage it seemed we were in full control. But them, in order to even things up, Emery decided to remove our defensive genius and replace him with Guendouza. How does someone make that move when Miekeytarrein is still on the pitch? When you’ve seen him miss a clear breakaway care of Aubameyang? You leave him on the pitch? How is that possible? And then for the second change you take off Ob1? That seemed like a suicide move. In previous weeks I’ve marveled at the wise substitutions and timely changes. Today it seemed to revert back to the bad old days. Those changes indicated that Emery had no feel for the flow of the game. We somehow managed to survive – even to withstand the required Mustafa reckless challenge on the edge of our box. Mustafi should really consider copywriting that tackle. It identical to the one against Crystal Palace for their penalty. This time he managed to stay outside of the box. I’m beginning to think Mustafa is a German spy sent over to make sure we don’t qualify for the Champions League. Always destined to jump in wildly somewhere on the pitch. Today, previously, it had been inside their half. It was noticeable that once Torreria went off we were more exposed on their breaks; Guendoza does not have the same discipline. Xhaka, did try and provide cover, in fact, he was quite responsible during this game. And, like Ob1, he was one of our better players. But we need a viable defensive left-back. Kolinsac, despite his attacking skills, can’t defend for his life. I’m fearful of how exposed he will be next Sunday. As I am when Mustafa comes up against the Big Chin let alone Son.

I know I should have enjoyed this victory more. Three points at Bournemouth is a major improvement over previous years and performances. It’s just so hard to enjoy with the second rate players we insist on picking and with the first half performances. We need to donate Mickeytarrien to some third world country. And, now he’s back fit, we need to start with Sokratis and Holding as the central defenders. The back three worked quite well today – so the manager got that right. But I’d still like to know what happened to my Cigarette and Ozil. We need them back. And we’ll need them on Sunday. But more than that I want my enjoyment and enthusiasm back. And that will only come with progress. It could be argued that three points today speak to progress but not based on what I saw in the first half. We make too many mistakes and lack leadership on the field. Aside from the Liverpool match I can’t think of ma match where we played for the full 90 minutes. And that should be fixable. Just like making the right substitutions.

The transfer window is only 5 weeks away. We need to acquire a center-half and a right/left midfield player. And we need a back-up for Torreira. Today was one of his least dominant performances but there is no-one else who can play that position. And without him we truly would be back to last years vulnerabilities. But I suspect we’ll be lucky to find even another attacker to replace Welbeck in January. At least though they can find someone at the start of the window. That would also indicate all the management changes are bearing fruit. Dithering around till the last days of January would be a bad sign.

In the meantime, I’m going to find a way to rediscover my excitement and enthusiasm. I know I used to support this team because I enjoyed it; I looked forward to watching them play. I’m sick of having to watch through clenched teeth and riddled with frustration. We need to progress and move forward. It’s hard without reinforcements; we know the team is lacking in quality. I just don’t get why we continue to play the same wankers and expect to observe a different outcome. I have to hope their was a coherent reason for not playing my two favourites. But there can be no coherent reason for playing Mickeytarrien.

Beyond Ukraine, this week is just about next Sunday’s game. I know we won’t have Monreal back by then but we will need a team to turn up for the entire 90 minutes. Hopefully the homeless ones will invest too much effort in their CL match and we’ll send the young ones out to Great Russia. The next couple of games are vital to us retaining our sense of progress. Here’s their chance to separate themselves from last years team and last years weaknesses. One third of the way into the season it’s time for Arsenal to be tested. It’s a pass or fail. And I’m not convinced we’ll pass.

-LB7

 

November 11 – Arsenal 1 Wolves 1

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Remembrance Day. Numerologists Day. 1 – 1 on 11/11. Today was like remembering performances of years past – dour and turgid. This was game I’d been waiting for. Our homage to AW. Maybe in prior years (i.e. CP, Watford etc) we’d have lost the game. We did our best to lose today. They had their chances and we had none. I believe their GK had one save to make through the entire game whereas Leno was our best player (along with the post/bar).

This was painful. Unlike the last game we played before the international break against Fulham where we excelled, today essentially everything was wrong. There was no passion, drive or energy – and that was just Emery on the sideline. This performance was more in line with what I’d been expecting. This was Soulless Arsenal. This was Clueless Arsenal.  The only saving grace was that somehow we managed to gain a point.

Right from the start we lack ideas and pace. Our play was sideways and backwards. We had no creativity. I don’t expect us to maintain the levels we’d obtained in prior games but then I didn’t expect such a listless performance either. Some players were particularly poor but, in truth, none exactly covered themselves in glory. The best were average. And then there was Xhaka. Remembering days of years past. Just plain awful. He found a time machine and managed to generate a performance of prior years. His judgement was poor and energy levels dreadful. Kolisanc, following in the fine tradition of Santos, was awful all day. But he’s aimless infield sideways pass in the general direction of Xhaka did not help. But for Xhaka, in that position on the field to not take responsibility and then not to track back their soon to be goal scorer, was classic inept play. Both Kolinasac and Xhaka were pretty miserable all game long. Kolinsac can’t defend and is clearly thin on confidence. Hopefully we’ll get Monreal back after the break. But as good as Kolinsac can be going forward he’s clearly not a defender.

We were so poor today that Mustafa was not our worst player. He worked hard for that honour. He reverted back to his method of hoofing the ball upfield with overly optimist passes after the rest of the team has tried to retain the ball and build patiently. Holding was solid though obviously exposed by the pace of their players. Bellerin was ok but he had no support in front of him. Though Ob1 tried to generate activity in the first half his desire to drift across the pitch meant there was no presence on the right hand side. I was not surprised to see him come off nor Guendouzi come on. He injected some energy but continues to show he’s inexperience by running into dead ends and forcing the play. But today our more senior players were not involved. Ozil dropped too deep, Cigarette was not involved and Aubameyang was non existant. Except that is from a blinding miss in the second half when it was easier for him to score than it was for him to hit the post.

We were so lucky today. How we did not lose I’ll never know. Seconds before we scored I’d shouted out that we’d never score today. Then Mickytarriend swung in a cross that went directly in the back of the net. That was the only way we could score today. It was weird to see this team not apply pressure on Wolves in the first half. We retained possession but did nothing with it. The second half was barely much better. It’s hard to figure out. It was not impacted by injuries. The starting eleven was about right. Ob1 deserved to start. But there was no balance or rhythm to our team. It demonstrates how far we have yet to go and how many issues we have to solve. One game does not mean the end of the world. Whereas we had turned into a winning team we now seem to be the drawing team. There is some comfort to be had from not losing but we have much tougher games coming up that will surely expose us. Even little old Torreira had an average game – which was above standards compared to others. When Ramsey came on he added little and Mickeytarrien was his usual crap. But at least we had Leno. If I was Cech I’d be getting ready for a long time on the sidelines.

Back down to earth today with a large bump. All that optimism from the last game has now evaporated. We remembered and paid homage to awful performances of years past. It’s hard to see much positive from todays game. It was, as in previous years, very painful to watch. The lack of fluency and adventure was the most noticeable. And then the self destructive passing and ball lose from Xhaka and others were equally depressing. Today amplifies that the rebuilding process at Arsenal is a long and patient once. Today does not undo all the good work of the team so far this year. But it does level set the scope of changes that are needed in this team if we actually want to be challengers for any competitions. I know this was only one game. In most others this season we have over-performed this year so it was inevitable we’d have a game like this where we were just plain abject. We’ve seen most other teams have games like this. But what was noticeable was the lack of leadership on the field. I liked the way Ozil was removed as the second sub. That at least showed the manager would make changes and not protect anyone. But Ozil was by no means the worst today. Too many underperformed. There was no urgency in our play and that’s hard to understand.  Nor were we too smart in trying to breakdown their defensive lines. Too often we were too predictable. We take too long on the ball and then refused to make that penetrating forward pass. Cigarette barely received the ball and Aubamyeng was anonymous. But that was because there was no link up play in the final third. All our passing lack momentum and speed. It felt like we thought we could stroll through this game and we would be handed the three points. Whereas we were very lucky to even obtain one.

Now we go into yet another boring two week break for the irrelevant international football. That’s the third break so far this year. So we’re 12 games into the season and we’ve already had 6 stupid internationals matches. At some point, someone somewhere will break this monopoly of FIFA that insists on playing these irrelevant international matches. FIFA has and always will be out of control and utterly corrupt. As criminal as Blatter (and Platini) was (and is), Infantino shows that it’s inherent in the role. For the President of FIFA the main job requirement is to be corrupt. It’s not possible to forfill the requirements of the job otherwise. We do need to see the larger European teams come together to breakaway from FIFA. Short term that might be chaotic but for the longer term good that needs to happen. The money that threatens the balance of the EPL and other European Leagues – whether it be Oil money, Oligach or Chinese in origin – is still preferable to the uncontrolled corruption of FIFA. FIFA has no money of it’s own nor any assets. FIFA does not own any clubs or facilities. It just has the marketing rights to one competition every four years. It’s now trying to create other bogus competitions in order to fill up it’s coffers with more money. People believed that the departure of Blatter would solve FIFA issues. It’s made it worse because the removal of the all too incompetent, prehistoric Blatter lulled people into a false sense that FIFA might implode. Now we need to rely on the football money to have this happen. It will take a few years. We’ll still have to suffer a WC in Qatar. But this corruption in football has to be rooted out. For the good of the game. In the meantime, I think we can be thankful for a two week break that hopeful allows Emery and Arsenal to rediscover the path they had been progressing along. Here’s to hoping that today was an aberration. A day of remembering more painful days from pervious years. Our homage to AW.

-LB7

November 3 – Arsenal 1 Liverpool 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

October 28, 2018 – Crystal Palace 2 Arsenal 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

 

October 7th – Fulham 1 Arsenal 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

Sept 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

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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