Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sept 15th – Newcastle 1 Arsenal 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

 

 

 

Sept 2nd – Cardiff 2 Arsenal 3

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– LB7

 

 

 

 

August 25th – Arsenal 3 West Ham 1

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

 

August 18th – Chelsea 3 Arsenal 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, it’s good to be back.

-LB7

.

 

May 21st – Arsenal Alliteration

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

May 13th – Huddersfield 0  Arsenal 1

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– LB7

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 22nd – Arsenal 4 West Ham 1

Published / by bradybergkampandbeyond / Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-LB7

 

 

April 20th – I love Arsene Wenger

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

What a great day. A momentous day. What a great victory for everyone today. For Arsene Wenger, for Arsenal Football Club, for the fans and for our future.

This had to happen. Maybe not today but it was coming. It could have been next year. But the longer it went on the worse this was going to get. It was clear it was ending but the fear was about how it would end. Change was a coming. And this was the perfect way to instigate it.

Given the ineptitude the club has shown in the last 5 years it’s a miracle that they pulled this off.

I am so relieved. So excited. And, of course, fearful for what the future holds. But that last part was always going to be the case. Whatever happens after such a profound period of leadership was always going to be fraught with dangers. But, for the moment, today was not about the future. Oh, OK, of course it is – it’s how about to navigate towards it.

So today, I’m happy. I’m relieved. I’m proud and I still and always will love Arsene Wenger. Long live Arsene Wenger. No-one can possible emulate what he’s achieved nor the style, intellect and honesty with which he’s conducted himself.

So today was perfect. Perfect for everyone concerned.

Perfect for Arsene Wenger. He gets to leave with his head held high. He got to announce his own departure. No firing. No embarrassment. He controlled his own destiny. No mess. And a complete surprise. The club allowed AW the grace of an exit that will just heap more praise on this great man. Well done AFC. And well done Arsene.

What perfect timing. He now has two home game in the EPL to receive the praise and love that he deserves. He’ll gets his laps of honour. He will surely he serenaded throughout the next two home games by the emotion and love from our fans.

The stands will be full again. These games will now be events. It will be all about AW. As it should be. Gone (for the moment) will the critics and doomsayers. Gone will be those petulant, temperamental, self-indulgent so-called fans that tried to diminish AW. We can enjoy the end to the season and focus on King Arsene. We can celebrate the end of a wonderful reign.

And then there’s the small matter of the NoHopa Cup. If this does not motivate and focus the players nothing will. Not that I believe in this team. But just maybe they will find a way past Atletico. Now they surely know they are playing for their futures. Here is their chance to allow AW to leave with a European trophy. It’s in their hands now.

What perfect timing. Now all the best managers in Europe who were thinking of moving on now know that the perfect job is out there. To manage Arsenal. This will stop the best candidates in their tracks. No-one will now sign for PSG or anyone else before knowing whether they might be offered this throne. Sure, it’s too late for Kovac as he’s off to BM. But all the others will now want to wait and see.

Perfect for all those players off to the corrupt WC in corrupt Russia. Players who might have thought twice about coming to a club who’s manager was operating under a cloud will now bide their time, not sign for other teams and wait to see who’s going to be the manager. Whoever our manager is they will be given a budget. We have a Director of Recruiting ready and waiting. And now the best players will now know they also might get the call.

And perfect for our players. They now know they have to play for their careers at Arsenal. Aside from Ozil and Aubameyang no-one is really safe. This is a wake-up call for them all. And after the last 3 months, a welcome wake up call.

And the timing is perfect for us, the fans. We get to emote all about AW for weeks with certainty while knowing what the outcome is. We can relieve the (many) great moments and share our love and appreciation for the best manager in our history. Rather than have him sulk off in the close season just before or after the corrupt WC in corrupt Russia, we can instead focus on the praising and thanking AW.

The future was always going to be uncertain. Just look at what happened at Man United. In fact, 5 years on, look at what’s still happening.

Except, just maybe, this perfectly timed move also demonstrates that just maybe there is a viable, sustainable strategy at Arsenal FC. This move today was clearly orchestrated by the club. Have no doubt. They forced Wenger out. But they did it with style, class and dignity. They upheld the fine traditions of Arsenal FC.  Unlike the trash in West London, we are not a human garbage disposing club. Nor, like that lot up the road, a revolving door of no-body managers. Here the club teed up the background support players for the last year and then ever so gently shepherded the best manager this club has ever seen, to the exit doors, opened the door and then allowed him to leave of his own volition. Perfectly done Arsenal FC. That’s the best I could have hoped for. I bet they will unveil his statue before the new season starts.

I love this timing. It could not have happened a week or so because we had to get past CSKA first. And it had to be announced before a home game and then leave enough home games to celebrate Wengers’ reign. He was never going to resign. He was way too vested in AFC. And, I’m sure, he still believes he can manage.

And so, for AW, it’s perfect timing. It gives other clubs plenty of time to consider him as a manger. Good for AW he deserves that. Football is his life. And perfect timing if he wants the French job after the corrupt WC is over. I believe the PSG job has gone already but there will be plenty of clubs who’d want him for a few years. And why not? A change in venue might do him good. Maybe he could take from us Mustafi?

But today is not a day for negative thoughts. Today we handled a difficult situation perfectly. We have removed the vitriol surrounding the club. We have finally embraced out future. Sure, it’s filled with uncertainty. That’s because we’ve taken for granted what we’ve had for the last 22 years. So, welcome to the real world. The one where every other team operates. But what we have though is the platform that our King has bequeathed to us. We have the reputation and style of play that now defines our expectations.

Of course, we will desperately miss him. But, again, this was inevitable. The beginning of the end started a few years back. This was on the cards. But I’d always feared a monstrous melt-down with those moronic co-called fans being disruptive and our board being indecisive.

Instead we have our club actually getting out in front and managing change. They are controlling the change rather than have the change manage them. And, that, quite frankly, is a surprise. Though this had to happen I did not see this coming today or any time soon. But it’s perfect.

I know, for example, my idiot children, if they are still reading this (not that I’m sure they can all actually read) will be in tears. This is the only Arsenal manager they have ever known. Their security blanket has been removed. It’s emotionally scary. This has been their one invariant. The one thing that never changed. The one certainty. The one consistent in a mad, ever changing world.

But, as a supporter for more than 50 years. As someone who had to watch Terry Neil as manager, let me tell you, there will be many amazing stories and experiences ahead for Arsenal. They will just be different without Wenger. But the club will persist and, hopefully, step up to the level this club should be at. But whatever happens this will always remain our team.

I’m also aware and surprised at my own reaction. I would have expected to have been more emotional. More depressed. More sad. Maybe I’m in denial. I do denial better than anyone I know. Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up and realize I’m despondent and gutted. Maybe I’ll realize this is one the saddest day of my life. Maybe I’ll realize this is an end of an era that marked a period in my life that spanned the birth of the majority of my children and spanned most of the important events in my life. Maybe introspection will kick in.

But for the moment, I’m just relived that I can see a path forward that is positive for all concerned parties. There is something today for all of us. The manager, the club, the players (both present and future) and, us the fans. It’s a perfect day.

Now let’s get to both venerate Arsene and start the process of embracing our future.

Did I mention that I love Arsene Wenger?

-LB7

April 14th – Newcastle 2 Arsenal 1

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

Luckily this was a meaningless game. It meant nothing really. So it’s hard to get upset about the result. But, boy, am I going to try my best. Unlike Arsenal.

What a joke. Honestly, I think I care more than most of these players. I’ll give a pass on this one to Willock. It must be tough to start your first Premier League game surrounded by such an abundance of averageness. He was not involved enough, required too much time on the ball but had so few options available when he did have the ball. There was so little movement of players in good positions it would have been difficult for anyone let alone an 18 year old.

It also would have been good to see Maitland-Niles start. When he came on he was both fast and technical. There was one race back towards his own goal that if the prior right back and still been on the pitch would have had a different outcome. Slimani was both physical and fast yet MN held him off, won the ball and passed it off. This kid is good. He just needs more time. Playing time that is.

The other youngsters are not so young anymore. I look at Chambers and can often see hope. Likewise with Holding. But they are so English. Both lacking pace and destined to make costly mistakes. Not that they were at fault for either goals. No, for that we have the pleasure of our more experienced players. It’s hard to see how these two Englishmen will ever improve when the first team players can be so abject.

Their first goal was well taken but there were so many gaps in our midfield and defense – and in goal. Neither defensive midfield player tracked back – Elneny let Perez slide by and Mustafi was too slow to the ball whereas Cech should have done better. But, as ever, we’d already defused their attack with Holding see the ball out to our left. The danger had been minimized but we failed to close them down.

That though looks like world class defending compare to that second goal. All day long this defense looked suspect. It lacked organization and discipline. And that is the responsibility of Mustafi and Monreal. And both were 100% at fault for that second goal. Newcastle had not had any real shots on goal. This was a throw-in and yet no-one picked up their man. Monreal drifted infield. Mustafi was essentially unchallenged on his header but, because he’s a brainless buffoon, rather than head the ball upfield or out to the sidelines instead headed it infield. But then Monreal, out of position, doubled down on that mistake by heading it off to their players. Again, two ever so simple mistakes that make Newcastle look like world-beaters. By this point the entire defense was out of position. Our two senior defenders judgement had just thrown away 1 if not three points. We’ve seen this happen so often this season that it can’t be considered an accident or random. This defense is inept. And, hm, let me think, where does the blame lie? Oh, I have a novel idea. It’s Mustafi. That constant disaster that is always just one pass away from exposing our defense. Today, aside from these two mistakes, he could be seen charging upfield – inside their half – for challenges that left the entire defense exposed as he was invariably late to the ball. A better team than Newcastle would have crucified us. Mustafi’s general leadership though is what sinks everyone around him. And it’s not like that takes too much. This season is a joke – a complete right-off – but over the summer we have to bring in two center-halfs. Mustafi is toast – he’s done. But I fear Chambers and Holding won’t make the cut either. They can operate as back-ups – our Smalling and Jones if you like – but they can’t be the starting center-halfs.

Ok, standard rant now out of the way, lets go further on this team. There was no creativity. The one goal we did get came from a lottery ticket of a pass to BigA who’s brilliant first touch and pass allowed Cigarette the opportunity to demonstrate what a great finisher he is. But, aside from that move, there was very little creativity in this team today. Elneny was not even half the player he was in Moscow. Xhaka was quiet today. It’s not clear that either bring out the best in each other. In the past month both have improved their performances but today they seemed to cover the same ground and duplicate each other. Our build up play was too slow and too predictable. With the £100m+ talent ahead of them they needed to move the ball quicker.

And then of course there’s that waster of space Ob1. It was inevitable that he had to start today because in meaningless games like this we don’t mind carrying a player. He’s basically cannon fodder to protect better players from having to play. And, as ever, he will have some good moments and show ball skills. But he’s basically useless as a contributor to our team. He’s pass selection is awful and he takes too many touches. The good news is that once AW leaves so will he – no other manager would keep him on this squad.

I don’t care where we finish in the league. Pride will be dented if Burnley finish above us sure. But in previous years we’ve seen Chelsea finish even lower. Our focus has to be the NoHopa Cup. What’s more amazing than that is that it’s even possible that we could be finishing this low in the table. But then that’s what happens when you lose your last 5 away games in a row. I don’t care if and when AW says it’s a confidence issue. We lost to shit teams like Newcastle, Brighton, Stoke etc. And we’d often score first and then still lose. And I don’t care that we were missing half our team today. No team we put out should be losing todays’ game. And not the way we did. How many chances did we create today? How many saves did their goalie make? Even when we’d gone behind, and with 4 forwards on the pitch, how often did we create any chances? Exactly. We are entirely dependent on Ozil. And Ramsey (I can’t believe I just said that part). On Thursday Elneny helped but today Xhaka nullified him. So we were just so boring and average today.

What is up with Kolinsac? Why was he on the bench today? What has happened to this guy? Why won’t they play him. Today was a day to rest Monreal. And boy did he show why. He’d been injured and missed a bunch of games. This was one he should have been rested for. If Kolinsac is not good enough today would have been a day to find out.

Even when Man U prioritized the NoHopa Cup last year they did not choke in games like this. It’s just poor organization from a poor organization. Sure, no-one really cares about this game. But it’s endemic of the problems at this club. Look how Liverpool reacted after their ManC victory. They played the same players and demolished Bournemouth. What do we do? We regress. That is the story of this season. We are regressing. The NoHopa Cup – even if we, by some miracle, win that does not explain the directionless of this team. It requires an entire defensive reconfiguration. This defense is in intensive care and requires major live saving surgery. And, we know where this will start. Mr. AW holds the key to our future even though it should really be the Board of the club. But no other club would accept todays display along with the prior away losses. It used to be that we moaned about how many point we were away from the league leaders. No the bar has been lowered so much that we are now looking at the same points difference between us and 4th place. That is pathetic. And it’s so boring. The club is in danger of anesthetizing it’s fan base. It’s sucking all hope from it’s fans with it’s predictable demise. There is so little fun to be had by watching this team. How can you possibly go up to St. James Park, go 1-0 up and still lose? But then, as previously noted, we’ve managed to do that as so many other grounds.

Today is not about the fact that our defenders can’t defend. Nor that Ob1 is utterly useless and contributes nothing. It’s about, as it always is, the future of this club. We do have some world class players. And I know most were not playing today. But you can’t compete in the PL if you have at least ½ the team populated by Championship League type players. Apart from our two big singings, who might get into the team of any of the top 5 teams? Exactly.

I don’t know when our next game is. And I think that’s healthy for my sanity.

-LB7

April 8th – Arsenal 3 Southampton 2

Published / by BBandbeyond BBandbeyond / Leave a Comment

It’s been a while. I’ve been in a month long recovery program. I needed to cure my addition to supporting a previously exciting, entertaining and competitive football team. Thankfully the stupid international break intervened to help me ween myself off the perpetual disappointment and frustration of watching Arsenal. I can’t remember when I last could be arsed to write a review given that the observations were entirely predictable from game to game and nothing is really changing. Or is it?

So why now? Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope. Maybe the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming express train. Sure we won. As we did against Stoke and CSKA. But I think there are some themes that continue to shine through the dark clouds of Arsenal.

Mark me down as a skeptic for Aubameyang. I’ve not really gotten my head round this signing. All he’s DM goals were poachers goal. And we know how unsuccessful fox-in-the-boxes has been at Arsenal – just google Francis Jeffers. But, even with the moronic haircut, he does score goals.  And though our dearly missed French hulk could have started that first goal scoring move, Giroud would still be rotating to run into the box by the time the ball had already hit the back of the net. So, maybe, just maybe I’ll be convinced that the BigA can help us.

Did I mention that I love MickeyTarren? I liked him before he signed for DarthVader. And I love him now. Though I’m worried that this knee injury could wipe out his season. But, combined with BigA we are far better moving forward. And I’ve always appreciated a good Cigarette. Especially ones that scores. And as Bould noted, he is a surprisingly good football player. One that can now score goals – even if he did not today.

I don’t really know what to do with Welbeck. From week to week he is more BadBeck that GoodBeck. Today we saw the two extremes. He’s first goal was a classic deflection and he’s last was an opportunistic, aggressive game winning goal. But just before that we saw that most classic of Badbeck misses from inches out. Only Danny could miss that. But, he worked hard the entire game and provided cover for our fullbacks. And boy, did we need that help.

This defense is beyond porous. We should set up a tax deductible charity for the amount we give away. If there is one (and trust there is more than one) clear end of season action it’s to get as much money as we can for Mustafi. He’s beyond unreliable. He is a contagious disaster waiting to happen. Sure, he’ll score the odd vital goal. He can be aggressive and determine in challenging for the ball. But he’s a liability. Too many times this year we’ve seen him make just bone-head decisions. Today was truly pathetic. No other premier league center-half would even dream of not taking responsibility for clearing that ball. It’s your job. And nearly every time he would do that. He put himself in the right position and he would normally do the right thing. But that’s the problem with him. He has brain-farts. Consider the Man City game. Consider some of his distribution. And, I fear, his unpredictability is spreading like a virus through the team. Consider the goal against CSKA when he panic hoofed the ball across the penalty box. I don’t understand how a German International can make these bone-head decisions. But nor should we expect him to change. He might be quite young, at 25, but I fear for Arsenal (even more than I already do) if we preserve with him beyond this season. He is contaminating Kosclieny who’s form has noticeably deteriorated. It could be the accumulation of injuries or it could be the disease that is he’s partner. But rather than thinking we need another center half it’s now looking like we might need two.

Also, it’s getting harder to distinguish between Mustafi and Chambers. Except, just maybe, Chambers might be better. His problem, aside from looking like Mustafi, is that he’s too slow. And he’s distribution is dodgy as well. It says something when the best defender is Bellerin – except today he wasn’t. We did not have one. However, mid-week he was.

The team selection made sense today. I was excited to see Nelson in the team but, of course, that was offset by the presence of Ob1. He’s even worse than Mustafi except that he plays less frequently now we have MickeyTarren. And thank god for that. Today was classic Ob1. Basically useless interspersed with the odd moment of football skill that makes one think that maybe, just maybe there is potential in this boy and that we should persist. But, I remember that we’ve been saying the same thing now for two years since he scored on his debut against Everton. He’s stood still – literally. He should not be on this squad let alone on the team. He is the poster boy for why this team is unbalanced and broken. On no other top 6 premier league team would he be in the starting eleven. I don’t even think Burnley would take him. He runs around with those flailing arms making poor decisions and incapable of scoring. For example, he’s “attempt” against CSKA mid-week. He is just not good enough. And never will be. It makes me angry that he gets playing time. At least Welbeck works hard and chases back. Ob1, in the Ozil position today, showed the odd moment – he’s through ball to Welbeck for that second goal. At this level though that’s not sufficient. We can’t wait on these one-off moments and then carry him for the rest of the game. It’s mind blowing to think of the grief that Ozil used to attract for he’s perceived lack of effort and contribution. From the beginning he showed he’s world class talent. It’s inconceivable that Ob1 could be in the same team as Ozil. The gulf in ability is far too wide to be explainable by age alone.

So, onto our last enigma. As skeptical as I’ve been on BigA I’ve been a believer in Jack. Something is going on though with Jack. And it’s not good. Today he was outright awful. He was off the pace from the first moment. Not a single pass worked for him. He lost possession. He walked around the pitch. He gave the ball away. We were noticeably weakened when he came on. That’s when we started to backtrack and give into the pressure from Southampton. What has happened to Jack? It can’t be related to his contract situation because once he’s on the pitch that is surely forgotten. And it’s not just today. He was clearly our weakest link midweek. It was only the utter brilliance of Ozil and Ramsey – with help from MickeyTarren and Cigarette – that enabled us to function. Jack was slow, passive and predictable. He was never the quickest player on our team but now he seems to run backwards. In a foot race between him and Giroud I think both of them might lose. My suspicion is that he’s not entirely fit but is fighting through is. He had additional rest over the international break because of his knee injury but he’s come back even worse. But, currently, he’s a massive risk for us. And destined to leave for another team. It would be such a shame after all these years but it’s not looking like he can find his game. He was lucky not to get a red card along with Stephens. He lost the ball on the edge of their penalty area with another pass that was mistimed – he was just off the pace of the game from his first touch. Then as he backtracked he fouled Stephens multiple times and ripping his shirt. All he had to do was push him over if he was being out-paced by a six foot center half. Instead he basically got Elneny sent off as Mariner decided he needed to even up the red card count. Elneny barely touch the Southampton player. And know we’ll miss him for three irrelevant league games. But that also means that the chances of Jack and Ob1 both playing have increased. That kills me. Now I have two players (at least) that I pray are not on our starting team sheet. Which is also why we need MickyTarrien. Here’s a player who Bellerin can actually link up with. Obviously, he could never do that with Walcott nor Ob1. Bellerin’s improvement has correlated directly with the existence of the Armenian.

We got three useless points today. We saw a goal scorer ply his trade and another hard-working Englishman scrap two goals. It’s lucky we had Stoke and Southampton though. Because our defense is shameful. Even against CSKA. If they had someone other than a failed Leicester center-forward, we could have been sunk. And I for one do not believe this game is over. We saw against Osterland from Norway how porous we can be. After the travel out there and with Koz and Mustafi in defense I could still see us throwing this one away. Beyond that it’s hard to see how we could win this. Any half decent team (Athletico, Lazio etc.) will cut us apart.

It’s lucky we can score goals. It’s lucky that we have the best creative midfield player in England. And we lucky that Ramsey is not (yet) injured. We can score goals. And very pretty ones. Borderline poetry. This should be sufficient enjoyment to make watching Arsenal a pleasure. But as a long-term addict, being consistently disappointed drains the fervor and passion. The expectation of unnecessary, careless failure is too painful to experience week after week. Sure we’re now in a winning streak but all the themes are still there. We need to real defensive mid-field player. Xhaka has improved but that is not his natural position.

We are now an amplified version of Arsene’s teams – sublime in attack and suicidal in defense. We were unnecessarily close to throwing away the points today. We have been the beneficiaries of penalties in recent weeks. Like London busses, you wait for ever and then two come along at the same time. But Stoke were much poorer than Southampton. They had chances today to win. Austin should have scored at the end. But by then we’d fallen back in the tepid, tame Arsenal that we were in the first half against Stoke. It’s a form of schizophrenia. We had this all season. In the league, I can’t remember when we performed for both half’s of a game.

The enjoyment in supporting this team has been on the wane for a few years now. The continual disappointment combined with the clearly sub-par player selection. This addiction has provided so much happiness that maybe it’s payback time. This is what it could be like supporting Everton, West Ham or Sp*rs. We deserve better than that. And we have some genuine world-class players who also deserve better. Come the end of this painful season the Club will have to finally make the move to protect our future. Ultimately this lands at the feet of AW. He is the one supporting Ob1, Mustafi and Jack. Its’ by no means certain that another manager will improve our cub – look at the disaster than is Man United. But it’s no longer acceptable to ignore the future. We have to finally step into it. But before then we have a journey backward in time – back into the time of the Czar and peasants. Let’s hope the don’t decide to deploy the nerve gas. It’s entirely possible our season could end in Russia just as quickly as England’s surely will.

-LB7