Category Archives: Uncategorized

July 12th – Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Three wasted points. Three abysmal defenders. Three players to replace. From the first minute when David Luiz lost the ball by being too slow in his decisions through the last minute of Mustafi going to ground with Kane, we only saw what we’ve all known all year long. Our defense is as supportable as fat man Trump; it’s as reliable as the White House protecting people from Covid19. How bad is our defense? It’s so bad that Mustafi was the best defender today.

Though we did not exactly learn anything new, it’s still shocking to see the mental weakness and flat out stupidity of Kolinsac. To be fair to him he has been a walking disaster all season. Yet he finds way to plumb new depths. His distribution against Leicester was crap but today it was beyond intolerable. Two minutes after a glorious Cigarette strike gives us the (deserved) lead, to make a weak, aimless pass that wrong foots David Luiz is beyond professional incompetence.

Since the restart I have finally become convinced that this team is moving in the right direction. We have seen significant improvements. We have seen confirmation that we unquestionably have the right manager. Finally, after the idiot Emery, we have someone who can build this team and resurrect this club. The performances has demonstrated progress and identity. We’ve been fortunate to reduce the leakage in goals and Martinez has been a revelation. But, we have consistently seen a sloppiness and lack of focus from all three defenders. And today it cost us a game we deserved to win.

We played better than them and had enough chances to take the lead. Today we paid the price for Aubamyeng missing too many chances he would normally score from. In truth, when we needed our captain the most, this was his weakest performance. Too often he would refuse to make forward wide runs to stretch their defense – which had both full backs on yellow cards. Conversely, Cigarette had one of his best games for many months. Even beyond his wonder strike, his link-up play and positioning were excellent. He set up Aubaeyang who failed to convert his chances. Amusingly, their captain today was also shit. Their main man looked off the pace and had a handful of chances – care of our inept defense – to score and fluffed his lines.  We also suffered today because Pepe was back to his old form. There are moments of brilliance but it still looks like the pace of the EPL and the physicality is too much for him. I wish we had brought on Saka earlier. The change in the speed of thought and passing was immediate. Both Aubameyang and Pepe refused to turn up field and take on their men today.

Overall though this team looks much improved. There was a real balance in midfield. Not perfect but Ceballos and Xhaka dominated this game. This was another improved performance from Ceballos. At this rate we need to retain him. He created more chances, worked harder, won tackles and kept the ball moving so much quicker than in the past. Xhaka has proven to be the backbone of this team. Since his return to the starting eleven we have looked like a real team. There is no way we win at Wolves without Xhaka. Today they dominated Sp*rs. They were helped by the wing-backs. Tierney is a star in the making and is a sharp contrast to Pepe. Half the price and twice as good. And on the other side Bellerin continues to show improvement. His distribution – unlike a certain other player – was much improved. I have been very critical of Hector latterly but he has built on the improvement from Leicester and was much more creative today.

We had our chances today but failed to convert. Fine. But how can you speak to the defense? Sp*rs we’ve given all their chances. Whilst watching I had said, with about 15 minutes left, how Mustafi had been the only defender to not make stupid mistakes but that you knew he would eventually. Then in the space of 10 minutes he impersonates Kolinsac, diving in unnecessarily, losing possession and over committing on Kane. We have come to expect this though. It’s a shame, because for the first 80 minutes, he was solid (aside from his long-ball passes with are like a random spray-gun). More often than not, Ceballos or Xhaka would pick the ball up from the defense and then build play up from there. These two were passing the ball quicker and playing through the lines. On the other hand when David Luiz has the ball at his feet he was sluggish and too slow in his distribution. Whereas Kolinsac can only pass sideways and backwards – and to the other team.

Another moment on Martinez though. What a great performance. Beyond the wonder save from Davies, he denied Sp*rs on multiple occasions. In the first minutes when we gave the ball away and then Kane tried to lob him to multiple saves from Kane and Son. I really doubt that Leno would have done better.

Where does this leave us? Mightily pissed that we lost to a team that is just not as good as us. But if I had to choose, irrespective of our current league position, which team looked like it had the bright future I would pick AFC. Sure, I thought his substitutions today were too late and not effective – Saka should have come on earlier for Pepe. But the style of play, the width of the wing-backs, the arrival of Tierney and Saka and the emergence of Ceballos is refreshing. For the first time in 18 months since Wenger retired (or was pushed out) I feel like we’re finally functioning as a team. We have an identity. And we know our problems. We have know this for too long. But Arteta can’t fix that – yet. He needs a transfer window. He needs some time. He has made, as much as I hate to acknowledge it, Mustafi better. No-one though can make Kolinsac better.

Today was a wasted opportunity. The three points were there for us. But, like the Brighton game, we found a way to give it to them. It’s not like, in either game, the other team earned it. We gave it to them.  This game is not too complicated, Attackers should score – we did that today. Midfields should both create and protect – we did that today. And defenders should defend. Think about how often Sp*rs actually created chances by themselves? Most of their chances came from us giving the ball away cheaply. No team can survive like that.

The last few games raised the European hopes again and today crushed them. But not because we were outplayed by a better team. But because we are mentally frail and have inadequate defenders. The question becomes, in the midst of a financial meltdown – minus match day revenues and European football – whether we will have sufficient money to buy the replacements we need. For sure, we will dump Kolinsac. As a left-footed player, I swear I would be an improvement over him – and a lot cheaper.

Even in defeat though I come away optimistic about so many parts of this team. We need another year to complete the re-build. But, finally, I believe we have the right manager in place. If you had to choose between the two managers on display today it’s pretty clear we’ve got the better one. If you created a joint team from today most of their players would get into that team but yet we should have won todays’ game. It was a painful and excruciating to watch the headless, dumb way we threw away these points. But I’m convinced these are just bumps in our upward trajectory. Not this season. But for next. We should have locked up our NoHoppa Cup position. But Brighton and today have ruined that. There is still the F. A. Cup. But I think you have to win it to qualify. It’s not enough to lose in the final anymore. But that’s beyond us at the moment.

This is not to say we won’t get murdered by Liverpool. But there is enough progress here for us to believe we have turned the corner. Today we out played Sp*rs, we controlled the game and played better football. But until we remove our back three they will continue to be like a dead weight around our necks. There is something holding Holding back. Because I would play him over either Kolinsac or myself. I would love to see that change for Wednesday. Because, after today, Kolinsac, can’t play for Arsenal again.

– LB7

June 25th– Southampton 0 Arsenal 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Phew. Three whole points. It’s a miracle. And a clean sheet. Happiness. Finally. Or, at least, not depression and despair.

For the first 10 or 15 minutes it seemed that we could not establish our games. We were out pressed and harried. They clearly seemed intent on overwhelming our confidence; they knew we were fragile. But we survived. They had barely any attempts. And then we started to control and manage the game. Even though we should have won against Brighton, this performance was improved and coherent.

The improvement started with Xhaka. Having him calmly (if not slowly) function at the base of the midfield gave the defense some protection and was also the springboard for our creativity. Whether it was sliding the pass through for Ska to cross for our first off-side goal or spraying the ball around the park. His presence elevated the team.

While our goal was jammy we deserved it for the continued bad luck we’ve had with the woodwork. Though Aubameyang did not score, today he both lead the line and the team. He deserved to score and worked his socks off. Though I fear we will have to sell him, I facilitate between taking the money to invest long-term in this team and then wishing to retain him after these types of performances.

Because we need the money. Because today we saw the quite clearly a couple of players that are struggling. I’m referring to our two Spanish double-double “LL”s. Bellerin and Ceballos. Literally every pass (by foot or by head) was misplaced today. I’ve rarely seen him so disconnected from the game. Though he could tackle and track back his technical limitations were all too obvious. But he was still better than Ceballos who was, utterly ineffectual. He was barely present. He’s too slow on the ball and too predictable. It’s a damming indictment on Artetas’ opinion of Ozil that he picks a clearly useless player that could soon leave the club instead of his highest paid player-maker. And even when Ceballos is completely shit, he still perseveres with him. These two are our version of the Spanish flu.

The second half was worrying. It seemed like, once Southampton changed their strategy, we could not adapt. But thankfully we held out and capitalized on their GKS two mistakes. I seem to remember a game at the Emirates a number of years back where their GK also gifted us a goal. Today though Eddie worked hard, helped lead the line and hopefully built his confidence. He is no Rashford but he has potential.

I still worry about Arteta’s game management. He should have made his substitutions earlier. Ceballos should have been pulled after 60 minutes. Wilock, in addition to scoring the goal, just works harder. He should also have pulled Pepe today. When Bellerin can’t pass a ball to his own player Pepe won’t be involved in the game – as was the case today. Once we reverted to a 4-4-2 we looked more solid and Arteta was too slow with the change.

Another game and still we’ve yet to see Mustafa give away a goal or get a red card. You know it’s coming. Today he was solid with only a few crazy tackles and wild passes. He benefits from being alongside Holding who was clearly our best defender. He is stable, calm and controlled. Not blessed with great speed he shackled Ings and others today. He is towering in the air and dependable. Let’s hope he can stay healthy and get his match fitness back.

Martinez was not too shabby either. His distribution is shit but he made important saves and was quietly reliable 0 unlike their goalie.

There is so much work to be done with this team. So many players to be replaced. But it’s important for Arteta to be able to get a response and then build on it. I was happy to not see Guendouzi either. He needs to settle down a little. We need calmness out there. And today that’s what Xhaka provided. Now we just need a creative player in that Ozil/Ceballos position because neither seems to be up to the job.

And then there is Saka. Another impressive performance. The injury he picked up clearly impacted his contributions but still showed more creativity and skill than anyone else. An 18 year-old in his first year with the first team is remarkable as to how important he has become. Now we have to make sure, after signing the players most would have liked to have seen leave, we tie down our future. If we’re paying Luiz £115,000 a week, how much would you pay Saka?

Now off to Bramall Lane for the one realistic chance we have to get back into the NoHopa cup

-LB7

June 20th – Brighton 2 Arsenal 1

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Fuck that. What a joke of a game. And what a wanker Maupay is. Someone needed to thump him. Or at least break his leg during that game. And how Atkinson did not give a yellow is stupid.

So, there goes Leno for this year and longer. What a joke. BTW, how did Bissouma avoid a yellow card. He was fouling the entire game.

An hour later I’m still in shock. How could we loose that game? That has to be one of the unjust 3 points we’ve lost. Brighton had nothing the entire game, We had this one locked up. A brilliant Pepe goal. A number of changes for Cigarette and Aubamyang. Saka hitting the bar. I did not see that coming. It’s a killer though. Two losses in a row now. Against one of the best teams and one of the worst.

What did we learn? There is no justice in football. And Brighton are cunts. But we also saw that Saka was out best player and that Ceballos was our worst. All things came down our left because of him. Nothing came through the lines because Ceballos was not involved. But generally, our midfield was vacuous. Limit creativity and sideways possession. Pepe on the wing also helped. But generally while we were better than Brighton that’s only because they are shit.

Today was the first time I doubted Arteta. Why leave Ceballos on for the entire game? Where is Ozil. He would have benefited from the space today. At least give him 20 minutes.

Where is this team headed? Once we went one-nil up where was the leadership on the field? Both their goals were weak. Not sending out two men for the short-corner and then, in the lead up, Guendouzi – as he did all game – standing off. Our inability to close people down and reduce their space was so evident today. All that hard worked just thrown away. And one more long-term injury.

Sure we were so much better than Wednesday but you can’t lose games like this. Yet now we have developed a habit. There is a structural weakness in the team; in this club. We are solidly a mid-table team now but with some top 6 players. I have no idea how to arrest this fall but it feels like we have a long way before we hit the ground. Today was as deflating and sad as anything I can remember in a long time. There was no way we deserved to lose. Maybe, because we were sloppy, we did not deserve the three points. But to come away with nothing is stunning.  

Beyond Saka, there was a strong return for Holding. It’s good to see him back. Let’s hope he can avoid an injury for the balance of this sad, sad season.

I have nothing to say for once. I’m drained, disillusioned and depressed. But not dead yet. Watching this team is too stressful and destined to disappoint. I was happier in the proceeding 100+ days than I have been since Wednesday. The club is a mess and I don’t know where it’s headed. Arteta is now going to be under even more pressure. This squad only has a handful of players you’d want to keep. So how does this improve? I don’t think it does. Even average teams like Wolves and Leicester look far superior than us. With all our history, money and prestige we are well on our way to becoming Nottingham Forest (without the European trophies) or Aston Villa (with out the European trophy).  Maybe we can re-locate to the Midlands.

So, good-bye Europe. And good bye most of this squad. It makes no sense to pay the salaries without European football. We should sell Aubameyang and invest that money in the future. We should return Ceballos, sell Luiz, sell Mustafa, loan out Ozil. And then, I would inject the coronavirus into all the other teams.

We need to campaign to close the season down. It’s too distressing for us. It’s bad for our mental health. We need protection. How I dream of those blissful days in April and May where we could live in our dreams and projections. Reality sucks. Give me back my dreams and hope. Give me back my re-runs when Arsenal had a team.

This is like a more painful, cheaper version of Man United and their downfall. Others, Liverpool being a prime example, missed out on Europe for a year or two. Man United did one season as well. It’s not necessarily the end of the world. But for our club, with our organization, with our ownership I’m not sure. It’s going to be a long time before we hit the floor.

-LB7

June 17th – Manchester City 3 Arsenal 0

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Where’s the virus when you need it. It saved us for 100 days from a game like this. Yet without a vaccine we ventured North. Without an antidote to our defense we decided to re-start our season. Why or why should we have had to put with this after 3 months of boredom, fear and abysmal racism. And after suffering all that we had to witness this? This is our reward for still being alive? 3 months of watching highlights of prior season (all pre-Emery of course) and realizing that the current set of players would not get into any prior team from 2000 to 2017.

We should have gone the smart way and, like WHU and others, argued for the end of the season and then picked up points by prior games played. As it its, while we’re still at risk to death from the virus we’re also at risk of death by Arsenal. Or, maybe more accurately, Death by Center Half’s.

A strange team selection for sure. But for barely 10 minutes we looked ok, reasonable a blah team. I find it hard to get excited by Willock but it was good to see Saka on the wing and Tierney at full-back. It was, of course, scary to see Mustafa starting. And a spine built around Mustafa, Guendouzi and Eddie does not inspire confidence. But Mari looked competent for a full 10 minutes. And then all that training started to pay off. First with Xhaka being injured by our own player and then Mari pulling up lame. And just as you thought how lucky we are that there are 5 substitutes, we failed to notice that one of them was David Luiz.

Luiz will be pillared for this. Though on the bright side he’s suspended for 3 games so we have a chance to pick up some points. We defended resolutely for the entirety of that first half. We were on the verge of going in nill nill after multiple Leno heroics. And then, out of nothing Luiz makes (another) school boy error and we’re one nill down. All that effort and preparation wasted. You could see why Arteta started Mari. This was strictly amateur hour. Once you let in one away to this lot you’re royally fucked – a Prince Andrew cluster-fuck.

But we had half-time to regroup and see how we could muster a shot on target. We had 20 minutes to figure out a new game-plan. Could we find a way to get the ball to Wilock. Would Aubameyang touch the ball? Instead we had Anthony Taylor award a penalty and send off our best player. Throughout, the game I thought Taylor was shit. Missing fouls on Eddie and the use of high boots. But you can never convince me this was a red card sending off offense. If this had happened anywhere else on the field it would have barely been a yellow card. Was he denying a goal scoring opportunity; barely. And they had a penalty. It seems absurd to send the player off as well. Mind you, when it’s Luiz, maybe that’s no bad thing.

So a game that was ruined in the 44th minutes become a joke once they went 2-0. It was just a case of getting through the game without have an embarrassing scoreline. Interesting, once we made the final set of substitutes we started passing the ball a little faster. But once they went down to 10 men with 10 minutes left, rather than step up and put pressure on them we then allowed them to score – care of our other center half. Mustafa find away to fall over before they hit the post and scored on the rebound.

What did we learn from this? That we have no viable center-halfs? I’m not sure that’s news. But I think we also saw that Wilock, while very young, would not get into another EPL team. That Aubameyang was totally wasted. And that this team is beyond fragile. I can’t point the finger at Arteta. This was down to simple, school boy mistakes by our most experienced players. Both center halfs have played in the latter stages of World Cups and now they should be in our U-18 teams. I don’t believe we cause their GK to make a single save. We created absolutely nothing. With 10 men that’s somewhat understandable but for the entire first half that’s not reasonable. And then when they had 10 men we let another goal in – ok, we might have been more tired but overall we were non existent today.

It’s hard to think of any rays of sunlight. Leno was excellent. Tierney did not get injured. Saka looked threatening. Bellerin looked OK. But overall, our entire possession was too slow. We rarely played through their lines. And too often our players did not make angels to receive the ball from Mari and the other morons in the middle of our defense.

Where do we go from here? Fuck knows. Arteta has so much work to do with a set of players that have no clear identity. I know, this was only one game and no-one would have expected us to get points against Man City. But it’s the way we did not turn up. The way we capitulated. The way, after 100 days, it felt like we’d lost all the positive momentum we gained from the last game against WHU. And why? Because Luiz was on the pitch and was his careless self. Chelski fans must have been laughing out loud. As good as he has been for us most of the season this was quintessential Luiz. Unreliable and careless. And that’s not what you expect from your most experienced defender. It reminded be of his colleague and prior inhabitants like Silverstri, Squiglai and Cygan.

Wave goodbye to the Champions League and wave goodbye to NoHopa League. We’ll need to sell Aubameyang and re0invest that money. This is a total rebuild job. I still believe Arteta is the right man for the job. He set the team out right today. The curse of injuries ruined that game plan. AFC will be distraught after waiting 100 days for that. Knives will be out for Luiz. But that should not obscure the amount of issues this team faces. Losing Xhaka and Mari will prove way most costly than losing 3 points today. We don’t have the personel. We miss Torreira and we now face having to recover before Saturday. There will be pressure on Arteta now. And there should be on the players. They have to demonstrate they were listening to him and learned something over the last 100 days. Losing to ManCity is one thing but playing as weakly and spinelessly against Brighton is another thing entirely. But hopefully we can mark this one down as the Brazilian Wax job care of Luiz.

-LB7

March 29th – Random Thoughts

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

I’m so bored. Where is my football? We might as well be dead. This is like one of those infuriating international breaks except this one is not ending. Listen, I get this virus is deadly and all that. But, really, no football? Come on. Let them play. And then let us watch. I heard somewhere when it does come back they’ll have a game on every night in a scramble to get the games played. Why not do that now? All those hooligans are now at home darning their socks without even being able to go down to the pub to beat up some other half-wit. Let them attend the games as well. Then these nutters can infect each other – let Darwinism sort them out.

Anyway, talking about the cure being worse than the illness; throwing the baby (ouch) out with the bathwater. I’ve never really considered that phrase before. Why would someone do that? It must be pretty obvious there’s a baby in the bath water in the first place.

Anyway, I want my weekends back. Back to watch endless games of football. Instead I have to be socially distant. Though that is fine with me. I’ve spent my entire life practicing social distancing. Staying away from other people. That is one of the benefits of the virus. If only I could apply it to my family (but not Dennis) then I would have found happiness.

I want my football back. Every weekend now I’m under pressure to talk to other people. Whether it be zoom or some other torturing technology. Or even six foot away real-life people.

I miss screaming at a TV. I miss throwing objects at the TV. I don’t miss Tony Gayle commentating. I don’t miss random pictures of the crowd nor the managers. I miss suffering as Mustafa concedes yet another goal. I miss waiting for 5 minutes while VAR sends everyone to sleep. I miss waiting to hear how Sp*rs have dropped yet more points. I miss watching DarthVader rip apart that club. I miss not hearing our intelligent, informed manager provide real leadership.

Our manager was even astute enough to contract the virus while there were plenty of available hospital beds. Our manager was wise enough to get the virus ahead of playing Man City thus preventing that mauling.

They have to keep this season going. I don’t care about who wins the league. It’s obvious who should and will. But I want to see my team play. I want to see everyone healed from their injuries. By the time they finally come back – in June, I’d guess – we might even have Torreira fit again. For sure we’ll have Tierney back.

It’s quite ironic that this was the first year where England had a winter break. And then we have the Corona break. Everyone just needs to think of this as an early summer break. Let everyone come back well rested and then finish the season. Maybe 8 to 12 games. Take off another 3 weeks and then go again. The players won’t be able to complain that they are tired. Given the financial fallout of everyone else not working, they should be grateful to be earning an income. Then we can have 12 months of continuous football.

Maybe this will cause an alignment of the football calendar by dumping the international games – like the Euro 2020. They can keep the brand and play the thing in 2022. Then we can finally be shot with the Qatar WC. Anyway, with the Euro’s delayed, the season being jammed in and then having a delayed start to the next season, how will they get the WC qualifiers played anyway? Let’s just automatically give qualification to all the obvious teams and roll the dice (literally) for everyone else.

For Arteta, this is an opportunity to reset and evaluate before the season has actually ended. He had been on a roller-coaster since he was appointed. Now he gets a chance to reset and regroup. He gets a chance to work, albeit remotely, with everyone. He gets to instruct and guide his players. For Arteta this is a win. For Sp*rs, those poor players have to spend even more time with DarthVader.

When football returns they should be cramming as many games in as soon as possible. Initially, it will be without fans. Of course, there won’t be tickets, train schedules, or known times for the fans anyway. But at least we can get our weekends (and weekdays) back.

When football returns it will be different though. The economics will have changed. The money lost will not be replaced. Wages will sink; transfer fees will be less. At least for a year or so. The awareness of risk and the vulnerability to a situation like this will cause a collective reset in football. It will last just long enough until the billionaires and megalomaniacs see the markets recover along with their net worth. And then the usual madness will return.

Cesc spoke the truth. He reminded us how unique his talent was. It was inevitable that he had to return to Chelski – a la Petite – but his reason for leaving were both honest and understandable. We all sensed this. But who would want to be in a team with Bendtner? It also speak to why moneybags Robin left as well. It reminds us how Important it is to cease the moment and build a team. It also reminds us of unintended consequences. Cesc’s departure, followed by the decimation at Old Trafford, forced us to go on a signing spree. And know we’ve ended up with both the Head of the Academy and the manger coming from that batch of panic buys. Without Cesc leaving we would not have Arteta as manager.

Where is the cure for this damm thing anyway? China overpaid for all our least valuable, least talented players and gave this virus in return. The least they could do is hire DarthVader to manage a team in Wuhan.

I don’t know how I’ll be able to get through the next few months. I even started watching old games. That depressed me though as it only reinforced how blissful were our teams of the prior 2 decades and how miserable we’ve become over the last few years. I want Santi back. I want Pires, I want Thierry. I want Dennis (the original not my dog). Instead we had Denilson, Santos, Bendtner, Squillaci and Silvestri.

So give me back my football. Give me back my life. Before Corona takes away my reason for living. Give me back my Arsenal. Allow me to suffer again every Saturday or Sunday. Before I die of boredom. If this is real life I want none of it.

-LB7

Match 7th – Arsenal 1 West Ham 0

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Lucky Arsenal. That’s all you need to know. That and three points. Move along please. You don’t want the details. It’s too dreary.

Another selection surprise. How could any Arenal team survive without the majestic Mustafa. That rock on which our defense is built. Instead we have the newly acquired Pablo Mari. He looks like the child born of Ceballos and Giroud. Nice looking player. Technical and a passer of the ball. But he was out muscled frequently. With him and David Luiz in the center of defense we have two players that read the game well but who lack the physical presence required.

This was Xhakas’ weakest game since MA took over. He gave the ball away too frequently. Literally from our first possession he managed to pass, while just off to the side of our box, to some nameless west ham player. Throughout the game they have numerous opportunities. From corners we looked particularly susceptible. It’s minor miracle that they could not score. Some of that is down to Leno. How Antonio missed so many chances will surely give Moyes nightmares.

Sokratis at right back does not work. All our creativity comes down the left-hand side. The right-side can neither create nor defend. As unlike a left full back as Saka is, West Ham still chose to probe down our right all game long. We could neither stop their crosses nor outrun them. Sokratis could barely win headers. So what’s up with Bellerin? We found out when he did finally come on. Showing the pace that Sokratis lacked he defended one attack and then proceeded, after a corner from them, (along with Nelson) to fail to get rid of the ball only to help set up another chance for them.

Eddie was poor today. His hold up play is not at the level of Cigarette. Combined with our lack of creativity meant he had few chances. And the one he did have Flappyanski saved. As soon as Cigarette came on we seemed to pick it up a notch or two. Of course it all started with Saka and then was finished off by VAR. Ah, how we love VAR. The linesman (ok, lineswomen – oh, ok, the assistant referee) flagged for off-side. I had thought it was for Nelson. Very quickly it was obvious that Ozil finally had an assist and that he was on-side. Five hours later and multiple re-runs we were woken out of our slumber to find out it was a legit goal. To say VAR has some kinks is like saying Elton John is a little gay. But, for once, it worked in our favour.

Of course we did not deserve to win. But not only did we get three points but another clean sheet. So something is working. OK, I know it’s only Newcastle, Everton and West Ham but three wins is more important than anything else at this stage. It won’t continue as the opposition becomes more than mid-table fodder. This Wednesday will remind us how far we have to go. Not that MA will need reminding.

This team has both vital building blocks and fatal flaws. Imagine this team in another 18 months. Who will still be part of the team? Saka for sure. Hopefully Ceballos. Leno likely. Ozil won’t be. Nor will David Luiz or Sokratis nor Mustafa. It’s hard to imagine both Cigarette and Aubameyang staying. Nor Xhaka. Half this team will be gone. We are in for continuous turnover. And watching the game today you could see why. It’s improved, better than the Emery team but still too disjointed. I don’t think Eddie will make the final team. But hopefully Martinelli will.

The only real live wire today was Ceballos. His playing for his place in the Real Madrid team. And today he was the only one driving us forward. Xhaka, as mentioned, was asleep for most of the game. Let’s hope that Dani can stay fit. It’s clear MA does not trust Guendouzi. And Wilock is no Ozil. So, Artetas’ options are limited.

Arteta needs time. And he needs players. Without the attraction of Europe that will prove difficult. He won’t be able to use the Pepe approach. Not that we have the money. But, if you make a number of favourable assumptions, we might still qualify. So if ManCity fail in their appeal and get kicked out of Europe and if either they, Leicester or Chelsea win the F.A. Cup there would be an extra two places available for qualification. Which means we could finished 8th (one place above our current position) and still make the NoHopa Cup. At least something to play for. Winning the F. A. Cup would also help but that’s three games against decent opposition. For instance, I don’t fancy away at Sheffield United.

We saw today and in the previous two games (and in the NoHopa Cup) that there are some exciting elements in our team but the fault lines remain. More reasonable teams will exploit those opportunities. Until we solve our defensive issues and find a true defensive midfield player or resurrect Torreira, the problems will persist. At City they had Fernandinho but now use Rodri. Could we deploy an equivalent plater to Rodri in our team? Not when Ozil is not comparable to Silva or DeBruyne. Until then we need more steel. And a right back who can defend.

Wednesday will be very painful. The last time I enjoyed a trip to Maine Road (ok, I know the name has changed as has the stadium) was when Carzola stole the show by being his exquisite self. How we miss him. Our remaining fixtures have us away at City, Wolves and Sp*rs at home to Liverpool. That’s not a nice run in. And I’m not convinced this team is up for the challenge. The only one I trust now is Arteta. He is the right guy. But as for the rest…..

A final word on Cigarette. That was a fine finish today. I still rate him. Once he comes out of his funk – and he’s starting to – he could be a game changer. He can link up with both Ozil and Aubameyang. And, just maybe, bring Pepe into the game. That would help rejuvenate us.

Strap yourself on now for a rocky ride through the end of the season. Beating average teams that outplay you is an entirely different proposition than playing Wolves and Man City. Get ready for some pain. But have faith in Arteta. We move in the right direction even if it looks like we’re lost in a fog. Be patient and come back in 18 months if you have a weak constitution.

And remember. Today, we won!

-LB7

February 23rd – Arsenal 3 Everton 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Goodbye relegation and hello optimism. Three points from a game we were destined to draw. Thank the best English striker, Calvert Lewin, for missing numerous chances. And our German goalkeeper. And, dare I say it, the best center-half at Arsenal – Mustafi. I always said this guy, with his poise, talent and reliability – if just given the chance – would be a superstar defender.

OK, maybe not. But at least his re-sale value went up.

After the last two games, this was a match I was looking forward to. That’s not an outlook I’ve had in the last two years. Finally, a team worth investing in. A team worthy of caring about. And a team that aren’t assured of disappointing you. However, this team selection continues to baffle me.

For the second week in a row the team selection was unexpected. Where was Torreira? Where was Cigarette? And Saka? On the bench! And Mustafi is still there with DL. And Eddie up top. Yikes. Another team I would not have thought of. Danni in midfield with Xhaka. Where will that defensive cover come from? This felt like last week. Against a much better team though. It must be MA sending messages to particular players. But I don’t think many saw this coming. MA is not afraid of taking risks and making changes.

This is why I would never be a successful manager.

All the action seemed condensed into the start and end of each half. How we could give up that first goal so easily would be inexplicable to anyone not watching this team all season. It seemed, at times, as if all the defensive improvement had been jettisoned today. It starts with Kolinsac entering into a wresting match for their free-kick and forgetting that he was keeping everyone one-side. Normally you’d back Kolinsac to win any tussle. But today he lost that – helped along by David Luiz – to give up a goal and then got the worse of another tussle and left to be replaced by Saka.

It seems that nearly any Arsenal formal left-back is destined to pick up a shoulder or thigh injury. Between Kolinsac and Tierney we could keep one doctor occupied all season. But thankfully we have a non-full back in Saka who is just masterful in creating goals. He has more assists than Ozil. Aside from his stray passing and loss of concentration in the second half, from the moment he came on the pitch we were an improved team.

I still can’t believe how many chances Everton missed. Of course it helped that they started with our £40mm man Ob1. And it’s good to see he still can’t figure out how to get a ball on target. That was money well received by us. Unfortunately, they had Richarlison who ripped apart Bellerin the entire game. Hector was well off the pace today and it feels like he’s regressed in how to actually defend – which, given how feeble he was, is hard to do. But he was lucky to have the Magnificent Mustafi behind him. Mustafi – making Arsenal great again.

David Luiz, who also managed to contribute defensively had a pretty wild game. From the first minute miss-header to – along with Hector – keeping everyone onside for their second goal to creating our second goal with a perfect Ozil-like pass for Aubameyang. He gave up two goals and created one.

Dani and Xhaka worked well in midfield. Dani was both the creator and the enforcer today, while Xhaka managed to avoid his default yellow-card. Some of his cross-field passes were perfect today. Overall, they somehow managed to protect the defense and control large parts of the game.

I was convinced that Everton would pull one back at the end. Once the thug Schneiderlin was pulled off Gomez and Bernbardo tested and prodded. It took some serious game management and an awful lot of luck to protect our lead. Kudos to Arteta and the Lord Almighty for this result.

Our first goal though was generated by players with a combined age less than Phil Jagielka. A delicate finish by Eddie – I fear Cigarette would have found a way to hit Pickford or the post. Overall Eddie worked hard, hit the cross-bar and scored his first EPL game.

Aubameyang is such a natural poacher. That first goal – care of David Luiz – was Henry-esque in it’s finish. I was worried he’d try and square it to Eddie but instead he perfectly placed it into the corner. Thierry would have been proud of him. And the second goal was another intelligent header – arguably even better than the one last week. This boy knows how to score. Again, I wondered whether we really need him on his original signing. Another reason why I’d be a poor manager.

Pepe was relatively quiet today but still set up that important winning goal. He’s working much harder defensively – which we need given the vulnerability of Hector. Pepe is established now in this team.

In the last 15 minutes we had both Torreira and Guendouzi on the pitch. Surprisingly it was Guendouzi that added more grit. Torreira while adding bite to our midfield suffered in his distribution. And with Saka being careless on the left and Bellerin being beaten all ends up on the right it felt like they were sure to score. Leno made a number of crucial saves. There was one from Calvert-Lewin that seemed to off-side – and, I suspect, caused him to hesitate – though Xhaka was keeping him on-side.

The team needed the three points even if they were somewhat fortunate. There are good things happening with this team. Signs of progress. I no longer worry about the threat of being pulled into the relegation zone. If the corrupt forces of EUFA can enforce financial fair play rules against the corrupt forces on ManCity then maybe we have a shot at Europe. But not if it frees up a spot for DarthVader. I’d prefer both of us to miss out on Europe rather than both is us get into Europe. Their need is more desperate than ours. They have the financial cloud of the onerous payments on their new white elephant of a stadium. If they miss out then the revenue dries up and that will accelerate their downward spiral. Best of all, with the injuries to both Kane and Son, DarthVader won’t even take the blame for failure and therefore he’ll be there one more year to inflict pain and depression on all those around him.

In the meantime, even without European football, with MA in place, we are destined now for better things. MA will make Arsenal Great again. He’s proven he can get more out of a collection of players than the accountant Emery ever could. This team is starting to show some backbone. It definitely has a better grasp of tactics and shape. Just look at how instrumental Xhaka is now. He is able to create and link up so much better. He looks like a different player. And, my favorite, Mustafi – though he will inevitably make bone head moves every game – has added physical strength to our defense. None of the rolling on the floor that we get from Sokratis. This is all the work of MA. Clearly AKB – Arteta knows best.

So, even with the surprise (again) of the team selection, Arteta has (again) proven he’s a better manager than I am. Who knew? The optimism I had going into this game was warranted – even if the last 15 minutes were too stressful. It feels like I’ve finally left an abusive relationship where I was destined to be beaten, disappointed and fearful of having hoping. Even though I know we’ll be dropping stupid points and making defensive howlers, for the first time in a couple of years, it feels that I should – at last – be optimistic and expect good things from this team. Sure I’ll be disappointed some times but it’s so much healthier to look forward to games expecting positive outcomes than inevitably knowing we were going to be a shambles without any identify and then find ways to lose. It was so tough for that Emery-lead period to be excited. But finally we have our Arsenal back. Not all the way back but at least pointed in the right direction. We know we are on the right path and, with time, we will be genuinely competitive. We don’t need European football for longer-term future and viability; that lot do.

So a good day today. Three points care of our German storm-troopers in defense. This is fun again.

-LB7

February 16th – Arsenal 4 Newcastle 0

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Now that’s a scoreline we’ve not seen in a while. Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang on the score line. But best of all Cigarette finally stumbled over and scored a goal. Not entirely deserved but what we needed. Who knew this team could gain 3 points in one match.

What a team selection. Two weeks in the sand and somehow we lost both Cigarette and Torreira. I could, unfortunately understand the former but not the latter. You’d have got long odds on this selection along with that of Dani. It’s so radical that you don’t even notice that Mustafa is now deemed the regular center-half. I’m sure this related to how MA believed NU would set up but this was a calculated risk; it was based on the expectation that they would not bother attacking.  Nonetheless, it’s a selection that not many managers would have taken.

I’ve never thought of playing both Dani and Ozil in the same team. And then to add in Pepe along with Eddie? No-way. Where is the balance? Because there is no defensive cover here. MA hoped NU would park the bus and then hope they can’t counter-attack. This was brave by MA. Someone who wants to win. Someone who needs three points. This is unquestionably more Pep than Unai.

But that first half was pretty turgid. In Dubai they obviously trained on sand because for the first 45 minutes it looked like we were in quicksand. Our play was slow and sideways. We were disjointed and hesitant. There was no direction and our best players weren’t involved enough. Pepe passed backwards, Ozil was barely on the ball and Aubameyang was lost on the left wing.

Fortunately, NU were dire. Aside from defending they offered nothing. They had a few chances in the first half down Hector’s side. The poor boy really has lost his mo-jo; with his hair goen so is his speed. On a number of occasions he was beaten for speed – which is worrying for a play who’s game is based on speed. His judgement is hesitant, he lets the ball bounce in front of him too often. He’s been out for a long time and it still shows. He needs another couple of months to regain his form. Today he looked like the weakest link.

In that first half Dani and Xhaka were passing the ball sideweays and backwards without purpose. Eddie was barely able to make runs. Overall, it looked like the gamble MA took with his selection was going to backfire. But, fortunately, the opposition – if that’s the right word – was Newcastle.

Then came the second half. Finally we found some pace and movement. Dani got on the ball and dominated; Pepe was more involved and Saka was a star. This boy is fearless. In the first half he was our best player. In the second, he demonstrated leadership. The youngest player on the team had the biggest impact. He drifted infield and then made his runs down the left. And before that Pepe set up a classic center-forward header from Aubameyang. That changed the game entirely. NU were incapable of adjusting to being behind. Sure, as in the first half, they had a chance or two – always by getting the better of Bellerin – but they deserved nothing. On the other hand, we had Saka nutmegging their defender and then picking out Pepe. Then we replaced the underwhelming Eddie with our real center-forward. It was brave to select Eddie today but it did not work. He was just a few steps off the entire game. Not quite able to retain possession when needed, taking too many touches when he should have shot, hitting the bar for an open goal and generally just not making the impact required. He’ll learn a lot form this first game. It should give him confidence that he started. There will be more opportunities for him. And he will improve. He will help us this season.

But seeing Cigarette on the field setting up Ozil and then scoring a jammy goal will have lifted everyones spirits. He needs something because we need him. He will feel a lot better after that. He just needs to score in away games now.

Arteta must have lite a fire in the dressing room because that second half performance was so much better. Ozil was more involved and Dani move the ball quicker. Xhaka took a back seat for Dani to dominate and string the passes together. But, in a non physical and yet meaningful way, I realized that I love Saka. He was so entertaining, so lacking in fear. It was a joy to watch. On the right Hector was passing backwards and sideways whereas Saka was creating and challenging NU. It’s amazing that at this age he’s able to handle the pressure and the opportunity. It’s not like he’s been introduced into a successful team that has a defined identify with experienced players at the top of their game. He’s had to handle a new position, new manager and an unstable team.

I was surprised at how inept NU were. How little fightback there was once they went down. How slow they were to change their tactics. Sure they had a chance when they hit the post – after Hector got beaten again. But we were never threatened. It was just a case of being able to crack their wall of 9 players. And then once we grab a 2 nill lead MA made the right changes. Bringing back on Torreira to harden our defense and protect the win.

How bad were Newcastle? So bad they made Mustafa look good. David Luiz barely broke into a sweat. Our two center-halfs just passed the ball sideways under little pressure. In that first half these two played too many speculative long diagonal balls but that was the fault of Dani and Xhaka who should have been dropping to receive the ball. That changed in the second half and thankfully NU were nice enough to give us time to figure this out.

So three very important points. Clearly this is a long journey that we’re on. But today felt like a start. You can only beat the team you’re facing. Clearly there will be tougher opponents. Both Everton and West Ham will be tougher challenges. But with Cigarette scoring, Martinelli to come back in, Torreira on the bench and Tierney getting fitter we’re going to have interesting selection decisions soon. We won’t be able to get away with both Dani and Ozil against Everton. But it’s not clear who make way after todays game. These are good problems though. And MA showed he was willing to take risks with his selection. And he was right.

With UEFA fining ManC it will be interesting to see what the EPL does in terms of taking away points. I don’t want Sp*rs to benefit by gaining a CL place. It’s imperative they suffer as much as possible. Having them fail to get into the CL would be a winning season for us and crushing financially for them. It’s what I pray for. Their imminent demise with maximum pain. So we need SU and Wolves to step up. We’re too far away. But Chelski have to nail down a spot and we have to hope one of these others come through. After today, we can begin to dream of capturing another tedious season in the NoHoppa cup. As good as the second half was there was also evidence of how far this team has to work. I can remember the Liverpool team in Klopps first season. This does not feel that different. And he needed 5 years. So we’re on a long journey. But that’s OK because at least it feels like we’re headed in the right direction with the right manager.

After two weeks in the desert (both the team and the fans), it’s a pleasure to enjoy this team again. We are seeing progress and development. We finally have an intelligent manager. Though we still have to hear from that last loser who can’t seem to get over his failures. At least when Bruce Rioch departed he had the decency to keep his mouth shut. Each time Emery opens his mouth he just reaffirms why it was right to let him go. He was not good enough for PSG or us.

So now back to the NoHoppaCup and then it’s Everton. Maybe this season is going to more interesting than we’d thought. We have plenty to play for; two cups, a league position, the hope that Liverpool can lose a game in the next five matches and the belief that Sp*rs will implode and finish no higher than 6th.

-LB7

February 1st – Burnley 0 Arsenal 0

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

I need a new Cigarette; someone extinguished the one we had. I love the man but today, in that first attack, he found a way to entirely miss the target. Someone has stolen his scoring boots and without them it’s painful to watch him suffer.

That first 25 minutes should have enabled us to put the game well out of reach. We started with possession, movement and chances to score. Burnley were nowhere. In fact, there are nowhere. Anyone know where this place is? I bet no-one could find it on a map.  They are the latter-day Bolton and Stoke City. Physical and bullying. With a crowd that wines whenever any of our players go down and with a manager who is a moaning old tosser. They are the anti-football of the EPL. And for the first half of the first half we run them in circles. We had our chances to grab the lead. Between Cigarette and Aubameyang, we could have been three nill up.

And then Burnley, with their free-kicks and corners, put of defense under strain. We looked like we’d concede as we got out muscled. As the second half of the first half developed we started to lose our way. All the movement and possession gave way to pressure from them. This was more like a game of one quarter for Arsenal. Thereafter it was a grind it out game. And the turning point was losing Saka. Our 18 year-old maestro; our new talisman. The majority of our attacks came down that left hand side. But once he went off and we also then lost the balance of Xhaka from midfield we lost our ability to control and create.

We also lost Martinelli to the right hand side. There he was unable to combine with Bellerin. And Aubameyang was not able as effectively with Saka. We saw today that the selection cried out for Aubameyang through the middle with Martinelli on the left and Pepe on the right. And Cigarette in the stands.

Amazingly we kept a clean sheet. Amazingly Mustafi did not give us his per game bonehead mistake. Playing against a physical team suits him. Especially when they lack subtlety and quick thinking. That’s not to say that McNeil does not look like a decent player.  From the second half onwards it looked like only Burnley would win this game. They controlled more of the game and the introduction of Torreira did not help our overall balance. We were incapable of linking up our players and pushing forward. Only when Ozil was replaced by Willock were we able to pick up the tempo of the game. From that point it seemed like we were more comfortable even if Willock was pretty anonymous. This was one of those games where once we got past that dominant 25 minutes Ozil disappeared.

I love goal line technology. How did Rodriguez manage to hit the bar and not score? I saw my life flash in front of me. Another away day lose against the over balance of play. Three more points lost. Yet someone the ball did not go it. Luck finally looked on us fondly. Given the chances we had it seemed only fair for the Burnley Bullies to miss their chances.

In truth Leno only had a couple of saves to make. Their biggest threat remain dead-ball plays. However, this is Burnley away. In the past we’ve collected 3 points. However, I’d still consider this a point gained rather than 2 lost. Again we showed some defensive backbone. Some defensive organization. This Arteta team is so much more fun to watch. And, for the first time since we lost the great AW, I feel optimistic. Not based on today. But based on the fact that we actually have the potential of a real manager. The tactics are superior and the balance of the team is better. We have a manager that demands more from the players. Of course, we don’t have all the players we need. But, finally, we’re pointed in the right direction.

We still though remain closer to the relegation zone than Europe. Soon we’ll need to start collecting 3 points. Today was not going to be one of those days. And certainly not after the first 25 minutes. We were fortunate to get two solid performances out of Mustafi and the child born of David Luiz and Mustafi. Though Guendouzi’s distribution was erratic, he did not jeopardize the team today. And he did not commit any needless fouls. But I don’t see any chemistry between him and Torreira. That’s why we need Xhaka there instead.

I know Bellerin needs more games to shake off the rust. But at some point we also need to be able to create down the right hand side of the pitch. I’m sure Arteta was nervous of playing Pepe against the bully-boys but we missed his creativity today.

We ground out a point. And I’m sure Arteta learned a little more about his players. This is a marathon not a sprint. My aspirations still only go as far as avoiding relegation. We’re not as good as the top 6 teams. So we need time to get there. This six months will help. Along with a proper transfer window and pre-season. Arteta needs 18 months to fix the Emery world he inherited. In that 18 months we’ll see Ozil move on and a completely new center-back pairing. And most likely the departure of our of our forwards. He needs time. And this club will give it to him because the fans can see something developing here.

Unquestionably we’re going to hit some tough patches. When we play against each of the top two teams we will be exposed. And we have to play the wankers at their revamped shithole. There will be tough games. But, I believe that Arteta has the intellect and understanding to see and start to resolve our issues. It’s not quite a rebuild that’s required as much as a jolt back to the level that’s required.

Thankfully today we did not suffer a VAR intervention. Unlike the wankers v Man City. How City did not win that game is beyond me. They were so superior as to be a joke. Yet they found more ways to not score and then suffered the consequences. It felt like we were Mini City today and that’s way I’m grateful for that point.

Now that England is finally out of Europe people will now start to realize the consequences for the EPL. The premier league is unquestionably the best league in the world – dare one say, the premier league in the world. And there’s a reason for that. All the best players in the world want to play here. And the best managers want to manage here. It’s no coincidence that the TV stations want to pay the largest sums of money exactly because of this.

Yet, for some archaic reason, the game in England us run by retards. In pretty much the way the world game is run by the corrupt retards at FIFA and EUFA. In England we have the FA. And these morons, because of Brexit, want to now limit the number of overseas players on a club. Why? Who asked them? Leave our game along and let the EPL dominate. Take your money and go and sit in your prehistoric gentlemen’s clubs.  Please leave our game alone. It’s bad enough that Brexit will restrict us from signing a Fabregas or Bellerin because we now have to wait until they hit 18 years of age. But to further compound the problem by forcing us to have mediocrity win out based on a passport is beyond stupid. We are seeing the first generation of England players that have grown up in this multi-language, multicultural league. And this England squad – not that I give two shits – looks better than any team in the last 20 years. So where is the argument that all these younger foreign players inhibits the growth of young English players and the development of the English national team. It’s yet just more nationalism. Just more racism. And just more Xenophobia. And worse than that, it’s just plain wrong. Yet, these retards are going to try and force this through. Hopefully the self-interests of the EPL clubs will have them resist if not decide they don’t need the FA to dictate the rules of the game.  It’s as simple as, if you’re good enough to play in the EPL you’re passport is irrelevant. This league has grown exactly because the retards at the FA have not been involved. Let’s give them some sherry and whiskey and return them to some dark room somewhere and throw away the keys. The quality of football in the EPL has dramatically increased in the last 5 years. We have less Stokes, Boltons, and (hopefully) Burnleys and more Wolves and Sheffield United’s. The EPL is more of a meritocracy than it’s ever been. It’s more entertaining and more unpredictable. When AW ruled the world he only need worry about 1 or 2 other teams. Now there are 6+ teams who are capable of getting into the Champions League.

When I watch a movie I don’t first require that there be a minimum number of English actors. Nor, when I got the theater do I demand to see the passports of the actors (not that I go to the theater). I don’t understand what dick comes up with these specious ideas. They should be fired for even proposing this.

In the meantime, we have two weeks in which Arteta can now further indoctrinate his squad. Finally, he’ll be able to spend time of the training ground getting his ideas across. It will be fascinating to see how this team comes back. Of course, this is true of all other teams. Except, aside from the wankers, most managers had a pre-season (and prior) to get their message across. I don’t expect miracles I just expect progress. Something we did not see under Emery. But, under Arteta, I am a believer. Finally, we can roll out again AKB; Arteta knows best. Well, at least better than Emery; who’s now telling the media that it was the players and the fans that derailed his program – not his inconsistent tactics, strategy and lack of personality and leadership. So, Mikeal, please enjoy your two weeks with the team and come back ready to entertain us again. And know that we won’t have to wander off to the unknown outpost of the Burnley bullies for another year.

  • LB7

January 18th – Arsenal 1 Sheffield United 1

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– LB7