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April 7th – Everton 1 Arsenal 0

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We just had to play an away game. Arsenal are persecuted. It’s not just Kevin Friend or Mike Dean. But somehow the EPL forces us to play away. And then, to boot, to go up north where it can be slightly chilly with the home teams fans boo-ing us. It’s just not fair. It has to stop. Where is the UN Human Rights Council. How can this injustice persist?

Crap. And Boring. And poor team selection. Some was injury induced of course. No Kosclieny, Xhaka or Ramsey. But it’s hard to watch a team with Mustafa, Mickeytarrien and Elneny. We lost the game in the first half. And then lost it again in the second half. In many ways we were fortunate to only lose by one goal.

We had a few chances. Unfortunately, Cigarette was extinguished in front of goal today. The rest of his link-up and defensive play was excellent. But that breakaway in the first 10 minutes when he was unable to get a shot on target was the game-turning miss. But I also don’t understand how that was not a penalty by Zouma who came in like a freight-train on him. But given the multiple decisions we saw thereafter by Friend thereafter it was not too surprising.

There was no luck today. Of course, that was an illegal foul throw – but you can’t blame the ref for that – that’s the linesman job. However, you never see that called. Then they had the rub of the green as, after Jagielka won the header, it ricocheted back off Kolinsac to easily score.

We then had to put up with Friend awarding every free-kick to them and every yellow card to us. The one to Sokratis, who was excellent all day, was particularly painful as we won’t have him for our next two games. Having him in the center is key to our defense. He reads the game so well and is generally calm. Unlike the idiot to his right you could have been sent off in the second half when he clattered Clavert-Lewin into the boards. I don’t mind the foul itself. Anyone playing for Everton with a double-barrel name is deserving of that treatment. But he’d had ample time to just put the ball into touch. I don’t fancy Troy Deeney without Sokratis. It was a borderline foul for Sokratis but somehow warranted a yellow from Friend. And to think Dean was on the side-line as the fourth referee does not bare thinking about.

Elneny was way out of his depth today. As he normally is. Playing him was a mistake – recognized by our half-time changes. In fact, today Emery lost us the first half by his starting selection. Throughout the game Mickeytarrien was dire. He lost the ball too often and was too slow with his release. Combine that with the ineffectiveness of Maitlaind-Niles on the right and the languid Ozil meant that there was no movement or creativity in the first half. We made this too easy for Everton. But, before all this transpired Cigarette should have scored and/or had a penalty.

Th second half was better care of Ramsey but we could not take the few chances we had; at least we had more urgency. We could have played for another hour and I don’t think we’d have scored. When you see Cigarette slip in the box after a slick pass from the surprisingly effective Ob1 you know it’s not your day. And when Ramsey puts one off-target from just around the penalty spot you know you’re fucked.  There were very few bright spots today. Guendouzi was industrious but picked up a dubious Friend yellow card which restricted his aggression. But he worked hard and tries to move forward. Paired alongside Elneny is tough on him though. Neither made themselves available for the outlet balls. And our wing-backs were both poor. It’s not often Kolinsac gets subbed at half time. But today he was shit.

But by that standard most of the team could have been replaced. They all seemed to be too weak in possession. Monreal had one of his worst games. He lost most of his duels and was always complaining and moaning but continued to allow himself to be out muscled. Of course, the few times he was strong Friend awarded fouls against him. He was beaten too many times today and added nothing going forward.

It’s just not reasonable for the Premier League to expect us to play so many away games. Maybe next year we can have two leagues. The Home BPL and the Away BPL. We would finally be champions. Then we could play in the Home Champions league. Though finding opponents to come and play us might be challenging.

Emery does not have the players or squad he needs. Elneny and Mickeytarrien and our retard German defender are not of the quality we need. Everyone knows this. Maitland-Niles is still unproven. A defense that had Kosclieny, Holding and Bellerin would have changed this game. But all teams have to withstand injuries. And that’s where our depth fails us.

But these wankey players does not quite speak to why we drop some many away points.  It’s been pleasing to have been in 4th place (and we still are) and even 3rd place. But there is no doubt we are not a Champions League team. It’s great to beat Man United and draw against Sp*rs but you can’t lose these games. Not when you still have to go to Watford, Wolves Leicester and Burnley. Given we have not won one of our last nine away games the probability of us winning all these games is pretty much zero. Winning one would be a starting point. But beyond that it would be a miracle.

To win one away requires a different mental attitude. Not the one that was on display today. There has to be on-field leadership and physical strength. How different are these issues from AW days? Though it’s improved it’s still, at core, the same issue. That’s where a change in personnel comes in. And that’s where transfer money becomes a big factor.

I felt resigned as soon as that goal went in; resigned to another underperforming Arsenal away performance. The game was so predictable and dreary. We even managed to make them look like a good team. All the other teams around us have gone out of their way to drop important points. They have tried to wave us through into the Champions League. But it will still require us to win these remaining games. So, start planning for the HoHopeCup for next year.

Which leads us to Thursday. Which is at least at home. But we need Kosclieny back. And Torreira. And the atmosphere will help. We will surely get a reaction. But the pathway is difficult. Arguably tougher than Liverpools. Would you prefer Porto to Napoli? But there will be motivation and focus unlike what we saw today. This week could be the making or breaking of our season. It’s the pressure end of the season; it’s time for Emery to pull this team out of the shadow of AW and those most recent failures.

  • LB7

March 10th – Arsenal 2 Manchester United 0

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…And we’re back. Back in the top four. Back to winning big games. Back to keeping clean sheets. And back to being given penalties and back to scoring them.

Where to start? OMG, that was so enjoyable. It felt a little like last week. We came out and dominated, we were aggressive and created a number of chances that we managed to spurn. But then they also repaid the compliment. Lukaku hit the bar when it was easier to score and, Fred hit the post and in-between Shaw created multiple chances for them.

Again, Leno was outstanding today. Two weeks running now he’s literally saved us. Today was even more impressive. His positioning and reading of the game helped nullify one Lukaku breakaway in the second half. He movement off his line in the first half block Lukaku. His distribution was better. And overall, his calmness stabilized our defense.

Sokratis was brilliant again. He and Kosclieny form a solid partnership. Kosclieny always looking one tackle away from another injury. But between them they nullified ManU. But Sokratis demonstrated controlled aggression throughout the game, read the game perfectly and imposed his character on the game.

The team selection, again, surprised me – like last week. But, again, OneEye got it spot on. I could not believe he played both Ozil and Ramsey. And he dropped Ob1. And Mickeytarrien (though he could be injured). And Guendouzi. And he played Maitland-Niles and Kolinsac. And he played both Cigarette and Aubameyang. And he reverted the shape of the team to a back three. But it worked perfectly. In the first 20 minutes ManU had no response to our onslaught.

Cigarette should have at least gotten onto one of Kolinsac’s crosses. We should have troubled De Gea more than we did. It took a spectacular and speculative shot from Xhaka to beat him. But we deserved it. With Ramsey playing deeper alongside Xhaka we restricted their ability to play through the middle. And our wingbacks provided cover for the back three. Down both flanks we out played them. We dominated possession and controlled the game in the first half. Ozil was involved and Ramsey worked so hard to track Pogba that Pogba was barely in the game.

The second half was a little bit more subdued than the frenetic pace of the first half. Man U had more possession but they created few outright chances because of the organization and physicality of our defense. Whether it was Xhaka diving into tackles in our box or Kosclieny throwing himself into block shots, they are put their bodies on the line – including Leno.

Maitland-Niles was a brave choice. He started the game with inconsistent distribution and took time to find the pace of the game. But as the game wore on, while still giving the ball away or losing the ball too much, he grew in his defensive duties. He had a testing time with Shaw, Rashford and Martial. But his recovery pace and concentration saw him, especially in the second half, win all the important tackles. By the end of the game he was completely wiped-out and desperate for the final whistle. He is a strange bird this one. He simultaneously shows calmness and maturity and yet makes some shit passes and gives away possession too easily. But he was a much better choice than our German Kamikaze meathead who, thankfully, stayed on the bench the entire game – his perfect position.

Both forwards squandered too many chances today. Cigarette though adds so much more to our overall game though. He works much harder and links up play much better. But each of them is going through a dry patch. It’s amazing we keep winning without any real goal contributions from them. Cigarette had another gilt-edge chance right after our second goal after the ball bounced over Lindelof but he somehow managed to miss the target. Too often the two of them would pass up the chance to shot in order to pass to the other. They have to be more selfish; they have to stop trying to be so intricate inside the box and just shoot.

Kolinsac is such an effective wing-back and yet a crummy full-back. With Monreal behind him, Kolinsac can dominate and create down the left. Throughout the game he bullied Young and set up numerous chances. Xhaka was able to continuously feed him the ball. Ramsey and Ozil linked up well with him. Most of our breakout came down that side. He even defended every now and then.

Of course, Man U are hobbled by injuries. But for a club and team who’ve spent, literally, billions of dollars on their players, they deserve no sympathy. They certainly had enough quality players on the pitch to mount a serious challenge and they had enough chances. Thankfully though they fell to Lukaku. But we outplayed them for too long. And they were too slow to react to our tactics. Thank you Ole!.

And thank you Lee Mason for the penalty. That’s some kind of Arsenal record – two penalties in two premier league games. Both in the same area of the box and neither of them seemed like penalties. We’ve, of course, seen them given against us way to often so it’s nice to see them go our way. And this time Aubameyang managed to actually score. From that point on I was way more relaxed. I thought Man U had one goal in them but not two. We continued to create chances and failed to convert them.

Ignoring the NoHopaCup, that’s 4 points from two top 6 games. We deserved six and should have had six but I’ll take 4 and would have taken that gratefully before these two games. In both games we played with energy and drive. And each was based on a different tactical set up. One was a defensive masterclass whereas today we were more expansive and attacking. And that is a credit to OneEye. I’ve been quite critical of him in the past few months and have doubted his suitability. I still remain skeptical but I’ve certainly been more impressed over the last month or so. His selections have been braver and his tactics more varied. I have little doubt that with the wonderful AW we would not have gained these results.

Here we sit in the top four with just 8 games left. Of course, we have ample experience to find a variety of ways to through away this advantage. I’m just grateful that we’re even in this position. Through the ebb and flow of the season I would not have predicted we’d be in this position. I believe we have fewer challenging games required to secure Champions League football via the premier league than through the NoHopaCup. I did not see the Rennes game but did see all the usual dramatic, bleating from Arsenal fans after a loss. We were one nil up and had a man sent off. We then lost. Go figure! Sure, we could have managed the game better and only lost by one goal but shit happens. Our fans are like petulant children (I think I have a few of those) who go into meltdown with one poor game. We just have to win by two goals and keep a clean sheet. It’s not like we’re playing Barcelona (shame it’s not PSG or Real Madrid). You need to be able to come back and win these games if you want to progress. So, let’s see if we can win with eleven men. We had a great reaction to Thursdays game. But that game was a shit reaction to the Sunday game. Let’s hope we don’t have the same reaction to this result.  

We know that European referees just love to give out yellow and red cards. The very best European refs are better than ours in England but the average European ref is even worse than ours (except for Mike Dean). Let’s hope we get home field advantage this Thursday. And then we’re onto another (and final) stupid fucking international break.

Did I ever mention how I hate FIFA? This is the worst time of the year to introduce these breaks just as the season is coming to a climax. After 30 games (with other breaks) it’s just starting to get exciting and yet we have to hit pause. Pretty soon FIFA would have expanded the World Cup to +150 teams so all these qualification and friendly games will be completely irrelevant. But they still schedule them in order to fill their coffers with yet more money. It’s all about their money.

With eight games left the top four has some interesting permutations. Chelsea are inconsistent and it’s not clear they have the mental fortitude to get into the top 4. Manchester United, even after todays’ loss, have clearly regained their mojo and will surely find their way into the top 4. If only they could have retained Mourinho for longer.

But in terms of pressure, you have to imagine that the Rental Boys are starting to sweat. As they get ready to move into their redecorated home they have to be considering the nightmare situation unfolding. As they lose to Burnley and now Southampton, with upcoming games against Liverpool and then Man City, they are in danger of not making the top 4. If we can hold steady for eight more games we just might be able to send Sp*rs into a financial meltdown situation. It’s too early to get too optimistic. But if they can lose a few more games and fail to qualify the financial impact ($70mm+) combined with the debt burden of their redecoration could impair their ability to both retain Erickson and Ali while also failing to attract any new players. If the gods are kind to us we could see everything implode under the financial weight of their debt and then see Pottechino leave under too much pressure. Oh what a wonderful dream this would be. I would even sacrifice our position in the top 4 to Chelski if that assured us that Sp*rs were locked out of the top 4. Happy days indeed.

A great day today and a wonderful weekend of results. Once we get past Thursday (one way or the other) we’ll enter suspended animation for a couple of weeks but we can sustain ourselves with the awareness of the pure panic that must now be running through the management and ownership at Sp*rs. We managed to navigate our way through our new stadium. Let’s hope they fail epically.

  • LB7

March 2nd – Sp*rs 1 Arsenal 1

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Football is a team game. And when you have Mustafa on your team you’re generally fucked. We should have taken all three points today. We were the better team. But we also had Mustafa who just had to have one of his panic, bonehead moments. Of course, Aubameyang did not help either.

The team selection was surprising but it worked. We played a controlled, counter-attack game. They rarely dominated or threatened our goal. In the second half it was just the one shot from the penalty. We shut them down and should have taken all three points. Before the game I was fearful of how we might be pulled apart and how unlikely it would be for the rental boys to lose three straight games. I would have accepted gleefully a point before the game. But now it feels much more like 2 points dropped. In watching the game I could see us grow in confidence and composure. There were too many of our players were playing too well. Too many of them actually turned up for a big game. How very un-Arsenal of them.

Leno made a brilliant double save in the first half and even if his distribution was somewhat wayward. Sokratis and Kosclieny were impervious today but my favorite player was Monreal. He was physical, defensively aggressive, creative going forward and generally impenetrable. What a pleasure it. Is to see him play as a regular left-back and how we’ve missed him this season.

Someone somewhere has made disparaging comments about both Ob1 and Mickeytarrien. Obviously that retard knows nothing about football. Today Ob1, as well as he played, was surpassed by Mickeytarrien. Both were more dominant in the first half. Ob1 in particular started strong. He took Trippier to the cleaners on a number of occasions. I’m sure having Monreal behind him helped. Nonetheless this was a more assured performance, in a big game, than we’ve seen in a while. And MickeyTarrien was excellent. He seemed to cover the entire pitch. And his distribution was excellent. Today he looked as good as he did when he first played for ManU. On todays performance (and mid-week) we can now claim that we got the better of that Sanchez trade. In the last few weeks, on his return from injury, we’re finally getting to see that creative player who can also work back and defend. These two were brilliant today.

Unfortunately, the chances to win the game fell to Cigarette and Aubameyang. Also season they’ve been so effective. But today, on the big stage in the big game they both let us down. Cigarette should have had two goals today. In the first two minutes and then later on when he shinned the ball wide. When he left the pitch you could see how self-aware he was at being taken off. Not upset with OneEye but disappointed with himself. And he should be. But at least he set up the Ramsey goal. We’ve seen this from him in the last few games – those missed chances have been hidden but the overall number of opportunities we’ve had to score in those games. But in these big games there are fewer chances. And as for Aubameyang. What a sit penalty. Even after our mental German that was the game for us right there. A shit penalty followed by a wasted chance when Ob1 cut the ball back. And, in a prior play, down the right hand side he managed to cross the ball behind the rejuvenated Ozil as he’d run into the box. Our two ace strikers letting us down; what a re the odds on that. Sp*rs have to consider themselves very lucky. From what we saw today they will have to rediscover themselves to stay in the top 4. We though are outside it now care of our gormless German.  We need to beat ManU without Torreira. It’s hard to see how our two aces can play this badly again.

How good was Ramsey’s goal? And how important was he with his work rate? We will miss him once he jumps to Juventus. Talking about box-to-box. He defined it today. As much as I love Ozil he just does not and cannot work that hard. The composure with which he sat Lorris on his arse was awesome. His link up play with both wing-backs was excellent and his ability to shut down their distribution was so important.

Guendouzi was interesting today. Funny how he only played 45 minutes. He’ll be playing more now with Torreira’s 3 match ban. He made some great tackles and with Xhaka provided the necessary defensive cover; they stopped Erickson and Son. But sometimes Guendouzi would be careless with his passing out of the back and exposure us to the counter-attack. He’s so young though that he’ll surely learn from these mistakes. But no-one would have guessed over the summer that he’d be starting in games such as these.

The referring was different today; in general, he allowed for a more physical game. Talyor gave two penalties that were not penalties. The linesman did not flag for the offside immediately before the penalty. But actually, Taylor allowed for a quite physical game in the first 80 minutes. That benefitted Sp*rs who were more physical in the challenges. Then, at the end we saw the normal Christmas handouts of yellow cards culminating in the red for Torreira. This will prove costly for us as we now lose him for the visit of ManU and two other games. Given all the other challenges in the game – the Rose one on Leno, Sissoko challenges and other Rose ones this one did not standout as any more reckless.

Today was two points dropped. But don’t tell me, any longer, that Sp*rs are a better team than us. Sure, they might be in the (non)Champions League and ahead of us in the table. But this season (in the PL only) we got the better of them. And today they had no game whereas we did. We were superior on the day and deserved to win. Replace Mustafa with any one of their defenders and we would have had all three points. So hopefully our short-term inferiority complex has been addressed.

The last five games have seen us revert to our improved early season performances. Today was a performance we would surely not have gotten under the great AW. We would not have been as tactically astute and as defensively solid (minus one dimwit German). That bodes well for OneEye. As critical as I’ve rightly been of him today we looked the better of the two managers. He got more out of his, arguably, less talented players that Pocahontas.  The substitutions were effective and we played the better football. Now we just need to buy ourselves another center-half and/or get Holding back into the team. And if we can drop our brainless German somewhere into the deep sea in the transfer window we’ll all be happier. Don’t ask for any money in return. Include a few burgers and beer. Just see if some poor soul will take him off our hands. Maybe if we leave him outside our Stadium early on a Thursday morning the dustbin men will pick him up from us and dispose of him. Of course our two great strikers were also responsible for the lack of three points but they have earned the right to have poor games. NotMusafa makes bonehead plays every single game. When insurance companies right up policies and try and define the word liability they specifically reference NotMustHave.

  • LB7

Feb 24th – Arsenal 2 Southampton 0

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond

The reverse fixture and the reverse result. In the first half we created chances and took them. In the second half we were pedestrian and somehow managed to miss our chances.

Southampton were not so bad actually; they started brightly and then faded as the game went on. Their high pressure tactics were effective to an extent but yet yielded us chances. Our left hand side was where most of the creativity originated. Did I ever mention what a wonderful player Ob1 is? He set up the first goal and the second and was the able to make defense splitting passes. His final cross is still a little misguided – indecision is one of his weaknesses – but today is not the day to criticize him (there will be plenty of those to come). He linked up well with Kolinsac and dominated that side of the field.

OneEye got the selection right today. A better balance to our midfield. He restored, finally, the Torreira and Xhaka axis. It allows Xhaka more freedom even if he’s playing deeper than our Uruguayan. Some of Xhakas’ cross field passes in the first half were fantastic. There was one played from just inside the right half way line he played right across the field behind their right back to Ob1 which was perfect. In that first half even MIckeytarrien looked like a reasonable player. He linked up well with old man Licthensteinbergstein. They moved the ball quickly and pulled Southampton all over the place.

Of course we gave them chances. Why would we not? We are the Salvation army of chances. Especially to teams who are too shit to accept them. This time Leno was up to the task. A couple of good saves even if he seems a little casual on the ball at times. Our defense is so much better with Sokratis in it even if we did still play Mustafi. He was not at his worse today and did seem to attempt to stay on his feet rather than hurl himself into tackles. But give me the Greek over the German any day.

That half-time team talk must have been a real snoozer because as we again proved ourselves as a team of two half’s. But this time we reversed the ordering. As smooth as we looked in the first half and as crisp as our passing was, in the second half we were slow and unable to retain possession. We gave it away cheaply. As energetic and involved as Ramsey was in the first half he was a quiet in the second. But you could see why he’d been picked. He worked hard his entire allotted time to close down and compete for the ball. We will miss him next year.

As much as Southampton controlled the second half they were unable to generate any real chances. In fact, amazingly, we kept a clean sheet. Unlike, in the fixture at their place where we capitulated under pressure, today they threatened but did not really test us. Partly that was through solid defending and partly through ineptitude on their part. After bringing on the ugly Austin they then proceeded to ignore him. He was able to get one header off to our goal. But they seemed to forget how to cross the ball to him. That’s one of the reasons they will sink into that relegation zone. They are not as poor as Huddersfield or Fulham but they have to have more desire.  They should have been throwing the kitchen sink at us in the second half but preferred to play the ball around without any incisiveness.

Ozil is back. Finally. A nice cameo from him for 20 minutes. As disappointed as Ramsey was to be removed it’s a pleasure to have Ozil back on the pitch. His vision is unparalleled. That one little flick on to Aubameyang by the half way line set up another chance. As smooth as Ozil is he still, after 10+ years in the professional leagues, can’t seem to challenge in a tackle or jump to head the ball. This is just one of the reasons OneEye won’t pick him. But when the ball is at his feet he opens up the entire field for us.

Realistically we should have won by 3 or 4 goals today. As reactive and opportunistic as Cigarettes’ goal was today it’s mind-blowing how he missed his other chance in the first half. After more Ob1 inspired interplay and Kolinsac driving into the box to see Cigarette blast it over from such close range seemed to drain his confidence in front of goal. He works so hard and links up the play so well. But today he missed too many chances. But maybe Aubameyang was an even worse culprit. Given the limited amount of time on the field he could and should have scored a brace. On too many occasions when he broke with the ball he dithered in front of goal and made the wrong choice. It seemed like his love affair with Cigarette clouded his judgement. I’m sure if he’d have been the lone striker he would have shot at goal. Or at least had conviction. But today he made the wrong choices and barely threatened their goalie. Hopefully he’s saving his goals for when they matter – in particular the game after next. But against a better team we’d have been punished for these misses.

Against these lower table teams – and especially at home – we have found the way to three points. In the waning Wenger years we would struggle in these games. So today, and hopefully against Bournemouth, we’ll earn those 3 points. The issue is how does this team figure out a way to compete against the better teams. And, unfortunately, Sp*rs are a better team. After 20 or 30 years of complete domination, their time has come. Not sufficiently for them to actually win any trophies. But enough for them to maul us and crush us at their rented place. Because our team is a solid 5th or 6th place team – depending on how much money Chelski want to spend, prior to being banned from any signings. We are an A- team with a, possibly, B+ manager. We’ve added a couple of talented players – Torreira and Guendouzi – but we need more. It’s unlikely we’ll make it to the Champions League this year. With the Ole resurgent Mancs looking likely to grab that spot and the quality of the teams left in the NoHopaCup, our chances are sorely limited. Though this will impact our ability to attract players so will the lack of money at our disposal. But, as others have shown, money is not everything. It is at the level of Man City but for others it’s an intelligent scouting and recruitment framework. Again, look at our recent two summer signings.

Offset that against our prior January signings. I know Aubameyang scores more goals than he misses (just) and he’s been vital for us this season. But the amount of money we splashed on him and Mickeytarrien so late in their careers was a sign of desperation not of a strategic plan to improve our team. The crux of the issue for Arsenal is that we need to be able to assess the manager. I know others want to give him a couple of years to prove himself. But live does not wait that long. If he’s the right guy with the wrong players then he warrants all the time we can give him. But if he’s not the right guy then we should bite the bullet and look to move on and progress. At this stage of the season I’m still unconvinced. And that’s not a great indication. There are so many times when he can’t seem to make the right selections and neither can he manage our more creative (and frustrating) player. Between now and the end of the season that is what I’m looking for. Some sign that this is the right guy. That this is AW mark II and not Moyes mark I. We know and understand our team. We can all identify the weaknesses and the required changes. More than half way into the season we are very unlikely to learn anything more about the players in our team. We’ve seen enough to judge and understand them. However, for our manager, the time through the rest of the season will hopefully answer that most important question of whether we have the right manager required for our future. We should not be too clouded by the three points today. It’s against the rented boys and then ManU that we’ll see the gulf in class and then judge whether OneEye is helping us or not. Not that I believe the senior management at Arsenal have the appetite for any management change. They will give OneEye at least two years if not three. Let’s just hope that does not result in mediocrity for Arsenal for the next three years.   

I’d hoped to have been a little more upbeat today. We got three points along with some creative play (minus the missed opportunities). But it’s not the short-term that worries me so much now that we’ve overcome the mighty Bate. It’s how we’re positioned for the upcoming years. So, bring on Bournemouth but keep your eye open for our longer-term future. Oh, and, come you Burnley!

– LB7

February 9th – Huddersfield 1 Arsenal 2

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Sloppy Arsenal outwit witless Huddersfield. I used to think Cardiff were crap but this lot take the biscuit. Them not us.

It made for a dull game to watch. The entire game was underwhelming. But rather than find a way to throw the points away as we did at Southampton and Brighton today they were so bad they could only score once. And then we had to do it for them.

It’s hard to get too excited by games like today or performances like this. We did enough to win but it was a strange performance. In the second half we could barely string any passes together and yet we had chances to score the third.

We made strange substitutions today. We finished the game with Elneny and Mustafa on the pitch and we still won. I was particularly impressed with Elneny’s clearance for them when we used his body strength to push Cigarette off the ball to head the ball out for their goal kick. When he came on he seemed to play high up the field and not worry about defending. That made no sense as did taking off Torreira. But not much made sense today. Apart from the three points.

Our first half performance was pretty balanced and highly effective. Ob1 was able to contribute and set up the first goal. But why, after a performance like last week, he’s actually selected is beyond me. There is either no accountability or there’s a deficit of available players – or both. And then to see MIckeyTarrien is always worrying. But he also helped us in the first half. Both tended to fall over at vital times but both helped create our goals. And we should have had more in both halfs. Whereas they had no clue until they reverted to playing like Burnley.

How impressive was Mustafa today? One of his most consistent performances. Right from his first pass he was able to deliver it directly to the sidelines through a 90% success rate of finding the space just on the other side of the touchline. His distribution today was consistent and thoroughly embarrassing. He really does look clueless but safer in a back three than back four. Some of his passing was truly laughable and pathetic. We’re just fortunate that it was against a rag tag Huddersfield.

Unfortunately Maitland-Niles seems to have been studying Mustafas’ ways. A number of crucial infield passes completely exposed our defense – one in each half. As polished and calm as he looks on the ball he’s decision making is too Ob1-like for me. And the simple mistakes are a little worrying. The square pass just outside the corner of the penalty box in the second half was particularly suicidal.

Today Guendouzi and Torreira reverted back to prior games. Neither seemed that comfortable and neither was as influential as last week. Often they were overrun in midfield. Neither was able to create much – that all came from the wings via Maitland-Niles, Ob1 and Mickey.

In truth Huddersfield, if they had even one of our strikers, would have been able to score a couple of goals. But then we had numerous chances in the second half that Ob1 managed to fluff. Against a decent team we’d have paid for those mistakes.

This review is as disjointed as our game today. There was very little to admire but it never seemed like we’d lose and, once we sneaked the first goal, quite likely we’d win. But there was little to inspire us. We rarely were able to put passes together. And that was compounded by the sloppy play of Mustafi, Maitland-Niles and Kolinsac. Too often we’d give the ball away cheaply and get out muscled.

This was a blah game. But still one we had to win. Leno was pretty suspect today. That one time in the first half when he came charing out to intercept their free-kick was unnerving. His distribution was not great either – kicking out of bounds a couple of times.

Cigarette worked hard; competed well and picked up a goal. On a number of occasions good runs and positions were wasted because Ob1 was unable to make the right pass. Maitland-Niles is a mini-clone of Bellerin. Very effective when he’s attacking, with a great touch and nice footwork but careless in defense and poor with his defensive passing.

Unfortunately Mustafa is a bigger clone of a dead, one-legged elephant. Which, in many ways, is insulting to any elephant I’ve met. And I’ve meet a few in my time. They surely have a superior football IQ to Mustafi and get paid a hell of a lot less. Today was borderline funny to see to which supporter in the stand would the ball go to. Right from his first misplaced touch. Luckily there was Kosclieny alongside him, still working his way back to full fitness just before his retirement to the French Mediterranean. One perfect clearance stopped a certain goal. But overall he’s so much calmer and experience than our German retard. But then so is a dead, one-legged elephant.

Now we’re off to the NoHopaCup. A couple of games against a team no-one has ever heard of (no, not Arsenal). Maybe Ozil will get some playing time. I would hope so but doubt it will happen. I’m also hoping that Torreira was removed as a precaution. And dare I say it, we need Xhaka back so we can play three in midfield. And then we need to find Aubameyang. But as long as we don’t misplace Cigarette I’ll remain an optimist.

-LB7

February 3rd – Man City 3 Arsenal 1

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Let’s start with the good news. We don’t have to play these guys again this season. The bad news is that Ob1 is still alive.

Even by our immeasurably low standards our start was breathtaking. How is it possible for Ob1 to be such a num-nuts. How low a football IQ do you have to have in order to try dribbling out from the corner of your own penalty box? And in the first minute of the game? Stupid does not do justice to this level of incompetence. Through most of this season we’ve actually seen this muppet improve and contribute more. But today it was a throwback back to the bad old days of the last few years. Shocking and embarrassing. Thereafter Ob1 was anonymous. His confidence was shot and he contributed nothing. He was a liability on the right hand side the entire game; scared of the ball and scared of their players. Though he has some ability and skill I’m pretty sure that at this point his fundamental problem is two-fold. A lack of confidence and self-belief and absence of football IQ – though that could be three reasons. And it was that lack of awareness (is that four?) that caused him to make the wrong choice at the wrong time.  Of course the mistake was amplified by Mustafa dawdling out and keeping everyone onside. Another one with no clue how to play the game.

No sane person actually thought we could go up there and beat Man City. But we should have at least been able to give them a game and to show progress in this team. How can you then give a goal away within the first minute. That is beyond belief and reminds us of the days under Arsene.

Let’s flip to the good news – because there was some. Torreira was outstanding – resilient, hard-working and relentless. Alongside him Guendouzi had his best game possibly of the season. Combined, these two work so hard. Unfortunately their wing-backs let them down. But back to the good news – Monreal was excellent in defense as was Kosclieny who continued his resurrection. Cigarette looked dangerous and Aubameyang likewise worked hard. Unfortunately, this formation lacked any creativity (cough cough Mr. Ozil) so neither really got a sight of goal. In the second half we did not have a shot on goal.

Against a team with such quality and skill as Man City you need your full complement of players. Unfortunately any team with both Mustafa and Ob1 fails that test. Both were abysmal. Ironically, the fear had been the inclusion of Lichtenstein. He’s just a few years younger than me and slightly slower off the mark. But when you have the lack of intelligence and commitment in front of you from Ob1 you merely expose the old man to the elements (him not me). They were always going to target Lichtenstien today. All three goals came from that area of the pitch. And each time it was Ob1 who was culpable. I was surprised that OneEyeEmery did not make the change at half-time. In the big games you need to see who turns up. Not Ob1 that’s for sure. I can’t therefore blame Licthenstien for being old or at fault for todays goal. Maybe my disappointment in the abject performance of Ob1 has blinded me to the mistakes Lictehnstein made. But you can’t blame him for being old – blame God for that.

The surprise today was that we managed to equalize. And then show some fight. In a reversal of our normal behavior, after the shabby goal we gave them, we actually played well in the first half. It was the second half where we disappeared. Of course, some of that was due to the effort we had to expand in the first half chasing their shadows. They really are a good team. But, today, in the first half we went some way to matching them. So, it was not all bad news.

The shape and organization of the team was better. We were more disciplined and played more as a unit.  The defensive cover that Torreira provided was excellent. He only got beaten a couple of times when he guessed (wrongly) which way Silva was swaying. And then Guendouzi would link up their play quickly. And both dropped deep to receive the ball. Not that that stopped Mustafa smashing the ball upfield to their players. Did I mention that this guy is crap? We need one of our Greeks back ASAP. It’s remarkable that Mustafa is incapable of modifying his game to learn any lessons. In the same way I’m incapable of making new observations about his incompetence. By the start of the next season he’ll be gone or relegated to the number 4 center half.  

We had our first glimpse of Suarez today. Too soon to judge but he looks light weight. I think my arm weighs more than him. He had the Ob1 uncertainty in defending and was easily pushed off the ball. He’ll have to adjust to the physicality of the game in England. But he got off the ball quickly and meanders in field looking to be involved. I just need to figure out why he needs both his names on his jersey. Is that because he wants to make it more expensive for us? Is it because we’ve got another Suarez hidden somewhere? Either way, his bar for grabbing a place in the team is pretty low. Today was not the day to judge him.

OneEye might have learned a fair amount today about his players. He’s now got a young midfield backbone. He’s now settled on two up front. He’s just got to figure out how to link them up into the overall play. That’s where the enigma that is Ozil comes into play. Why we did not get rid of him in the latest window is puzzling. I believe he’s still one of the most creative players in the EPL. If I was manager he’d be one of my first picks. But if you don’t believe in him and won’t pick him then offload him now. OneEye should have pushed him out. Or whoever is now running our club. We should have offload him to PSG. Keeping him is a waste if you don’t believe in him. If your formation and tactics don’t allow you to select him for any games against the top 5 what’s the point? If you can only pick him when playing home games against the bottom 6, do we really need to spend that money? We should have forced him out. Again, I think he should be playing. Look at Coutinho at Liverpool. He did not defend by they found a way to make him excel. This is what worries me about OneEye. He has a world-class player but can’t seem to manage his resources to get Ozil into the team. So as well as we were organized today it was hard to see how we could recover from their second goal. He prefers to bring on a player be are not interested in retaining rather than Ozil. Here’s a player, Ramsey, who we should retain, that we won’t. A player that is destined for Italy with no future at our club. And yet, he gets more playing time than our most creative player? How does this make any sense?

At the start of the year we had low expectations for this team. And we might reach those levels. We won’t finish in the top 4 and we might or might not be successful in the NoHopaCup. But, as when Leicester won the league, I think we’ll look back on missed opportunities. It’s not often that Chelski will be this inconsistent. It’s not often that ManU will fail to play for the first half of the season. We had our chance to boost our chances of the top 4 but we’ve blown it. And we’ve done so because we’ve all been fixated on the long-term progress of this club. Looking for a verification that OneEye is the right guy and that this club is going in the right direction. But that also means our lowering of expectations has allowed us to miss an opportunity. Next year is going to be way harder than this. Which brings us back to today. After that shocking start we found a way to recover; to stabilize the team and make a competitive game of it. But you can’t carry two players and one grand-parent.

– LB7

January 19th – Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

January 12th – West Ham 1 Arsenal 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

December 16th – Southampton 3 Arsenal 2

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Is this the true Arsenal? The Old Arsenal? Because we threw this away like the old Arsenal. The defending was like the old Arsenal. And a typical way to start the Christmas period.

Three headed goals and three defensive mistakes. And now that’s two games where we’ve reverted to last years performances. Maybe that was to be expected. And now we’ve finally lost a game we can stop hiding behind that irrelevant statistic. Maybe now we can focus instead on the issues within the team.

First off, the goalkeeper. His distribution helps this team; his comfort in the ball provides stability to the back four. But, if I remember correctly from my extensive football coaching sessions, the primary point of a goalkeeper is to stop the other team scoring. And today, in particular with their winning goal, he failed miserably. Will Emery persist with Leno? I suspect so. But Cech must be wondering what must happen for him to get playing time in the EPL. I would not entirely blame Leno for the loss but he’s certainly culpable. On that last goal his starting position, as they broke forward, was all wrong and subsequently he never recovered.

Clearly the defense was a mess today. This was game a little too early for Koscielny. He was at fault or at least involved in all three of their goals. He lost Ings for the first two and then should have been able to track Austin for the third. I suspect with Sokratis playing they would not have scored at least one of those goals – he would have at least challenged them more aggressively. But it’s hard to be too critical on his first real game for 6 months.

It’s remarkable with some many defenders unavailable we should lose two more in the course of the game. Bellerin has been one of our bright areas this year and we missed him in the second half. And with Lichtensteiner off the pitch we were a little more exposed for their last goal.

We lost the goal through Ozil trying to dummy the ball and then Monreal was out of position. But there was limited midfield cover thereafter. But that’s because, as was the case last week, the midfield was unbalanced. With Xhaka having to play as one of the three center-halfs, we end up with no creativity in midfield. No Ozil and no Ramsey but Guendouzi and Torreira. The latter is pushed further forward and is therefore unable to protect the defense as much.

Then we have the enigma that is Ob1. He helped set up the first goal with an incisive pass to Monreal. But overall his game is reverting back to AW-like performances. How many times does he receive the ball and pass it backwards? A month ago he would have taken the ball forward. It looks like  half way into the season and he’s already run out of ideas. And as for his shooting? In the second half he should have at least hit the target when Aubameyang backheeled it too him. Today was his more ineffectual performance. He seems to have run out of ideas and confidence.

Aubameyang had a few chances to score today but was denied by some good defending. He worked hard but seems to be missing that final spark. He seemed to pick up when Cigarette came on but he’s ratio of goal to chances is not so good over the last few weeks. 

There were periods today where we dominated and seemed to be fully engaged but as the game wore on we lost our direction and rive. There was no clear driving force of urgency. A low bar I know, but we were better than we were against Huddersfield. But as the game wore on we missed that spark. It did not appear with Ozil. For someone coming back after a month off and trying to force there way back into the starting eleven I would have hoped for more intensity – not that that is an Ozil metric.

What a weird egg that Mickeytarrien is. Two goals – two vital goals but he’s still not the right guy for this team. That first goal was the epitome of team patience. I can’t imagine how many passes were involved. And it was a brilliant header. But he’s overall contribution is still not helpful to this team. On the breakaways he does not have the acceleration of the other players nor the strength. There was one clear instance in the first half where he lost momentum because we could not sustain the speed of the attack. It seems churlish today to go after him – and he certainly was not to blame for the defeat. But longer term we have to rectify this. I still don’t see how he can be in the starting elven over Cigarette. Maybe this is forced by our defensive problems.

And that’s the heart of the problem today. We concede too many goals. Pretty basic really. Not rocket science. Maybe Koscielny brought back all the old AW experiences today. But until we solve this age old problem we’ll be fucked. I’ve never thought we were a top 4 team. When you look at the results around us it’s pretty apparent. Even a shitty ManU can manage a draw at Southampton. Today we should have definitely earned a draw. It was only poor organization in midfield and weak defending that caused this defeat. The poor organization derives from the personnel issues with the back line and then destabilizes the midfield. But teams need to be able to withstand those issues through a season. In fact, since that great victory over Sp*rs we’ve basically been crap.

The next test is to see which direction Emery takes his team selection in the next EPL game. If he still insists on starting both Ob1 and Mickeytarrien then my hopes for this team will diminish. There is no prospect of these two, long-term, being part of a top 4 team. We need to start Cigarette and we need the defensive cover to be Xhaka and Torreira. It’s funny to consider the importance of Xhaka in this context. The last few years he’s been a liability. Today we saw a couple of his typical suicidal passes from the back. But alongside Torreira he’s a much improved player. And, most importantly, we need Torreira in that deepest defensive cover position. With Guendouzi alongside him he ventures further up field and that exposes an already unstable defense.

Today was the wake up call. This was the type of game I’d been assuming would be happening as soon as we changed manager. That poor, weak away defensive performances that reminded us all of typical AW team losses towards the end of his reign of glory. This is the game that begs the questions as to whether this team – this club – has truly evolved and changed. To the extent that it will help us understand whether we’ve actually made real progress this year, the reaction of both the manager, his team selection and the performance of the players will be very telling. We’ve enjoyed a far better season than anyone had a right to expect. Now we’ll all question whether it was an illusion? Clearly that’s not the case. Again, for periods today, Arsenal outplayed Southampton and wasted it’s chances. But that fundamental vulnerability in defense and that lack of organization is our Achilles heel. Which takes us back to Koscielny. Today was tough on him and us. It showed up his lack of fitness and confidence. Not entirely surprising but ever so costly. On a positive note, it was good to see Monreal survive the entire game. But we need Bellerin back and we could do with the cynicism of Lichtensteiner. But I don’t know if I can bring myself to say we missed Mustafi. But it does highlight our need to buy a central defender in theJanuary window.

Emery needs to stamp his personality on this team. And that comes by changing the squad. Today only goes to show that the cloak of the unbeaten run just hid the fault lines that we knew existed. In many ways we should be grateful that we’ve earned as many points as we have already. I know we’re not as bad as we showed today and that this team has moved forward. It’s just that the core issues in defense are the same ones we had in previous year. The mad scramble up the field, prior to their last goal, that exposed the defense was the same as previous years. One poor result does not unravel the entire team but, for a team that wants to be in the top four you can’t lose games like this.  Today we lack the passion and drive of previous games. There was not the speed of play or the urgency of previous games. So, maybe, this is the wake up call we needed. Though it had more in common with the Huddersfield game than the Sp*rs one, there are enough worrying signs that it becomes the first test of Emery. No real pressure, but that’s two games in a row where the team has struggled.

This Christmas period now becomes even more interesting. The midweek cup game – even though it’s against the homeless ones – is irrelevant. It’s the ELP that counts. We need to recover and rediscover the energy and drive we had against Sp*rs. We have one home game and then a trip to Anfield. Let’s see if we can learn our lessons. Let’s see if Emery can fix these problems. One game does not make a crisis but it does provide a window into seeing how he’ll deal with the pressure and the reality of our flaws. Let’s see him pass these next test.

– LB7

December 8th – Arsenal 1 Huddersfield 0

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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