Arsenal Player Reviews: Two Almost MotMs but Mr Motivator Deserves it Most

Arsenal 3 – 1 Aston Villa

Player Reviews:

  1. Ramsdale: superb game with both passion and confidence. Made a superb one handed safe at vital moment and his distribution was awesome. Loved the way he moved play on urgently in the 47th minute after a Villa freekick, which ultimately led to the penalty call four seconds before the end of extra time.
  2. Tavares: a very driven performance with real presence on the pitch and great wing penetration. Final ball needs finessing but what an understudy for the tiger of Wishaw!
  3. Big Gab: great presence in and outside the box and a few fine passes through the Villa press. Played with real focus, intelligence and commitment.
  4. Big Ben: unbelievable performance with Beckenbauer runs, committed blocks and great passing. What a CB!
  5. Takehiro: awesome forward drive with a rolls Royce engine and fearless hardness. Good positioning defensively and constant support to our attackers.
  6. Partey: left it all out on the pitch and bossed the midfield with Sambi. Great threat during set pieces. Covered so much ground and one or two mistakes are then inevitable, but his performance and role were pivotal to the team. Very close to MotM.
  7. Sambi: I am so happy with Lokonga’s performance and partnership with Thomas. His positioning was excellent and his physicality was just what we needed. Such presence and fearlessness and forward drive. Will score soon.
  8. Emile: was all over the pitch and conducted our play with joy and excellent forward drive. He oozed quality and was rewarded with a goal albeit with a lucky deflection. Emile made the stadium purr. Close to MotM.
  9. Auba: did a lot of the dirty work with real determination and always provided a threat in front of goal. Took his penalty with a bit of fortune (Martinez did look immense in goal). This was one of my favourite Auba performances. Welcome back, Captain!
  10. Saka: such drive and fearlessness to get stuck in against Mings and Co. Always a threat and secure passing option and good support for Takehiro. Should have scored from a great Tavares pass.
  11. Laca: my MOTM as he took the game to the Villa defence from the first whistle and was infectious with his drive and enthusiasm for the whole team. Mr Motivator put his body on the line and won us the vital penalty. Alex embodied the collective soul of the supporters onto the pitch. Flipping loved him.

By TotalArsenal

Arsenal v Villa Lineup: Four key selection choices for Mikel

Arsenal v Aston Villa

These days every PL game is a big test such is the standard of the PL. Villa under Dean are re-establishing themselves gradually in the PL and are a team that can surprise a top team any day. We know that Arsenal are a work in progress and that tonight’s game is a must win, ‘cup game’.

After Monday’s dropping of two valuable points v Palace, there is even more pressure on the team to win tonight.

Who is going to do this? Everyone is fit except GX and there are a few selection challenges for Mikel:

  1. Who to play in midfield, and one or two midfielders in the pivot?
  2. Auba alone or with Laca?
  3. ESR and Ode or just one of them?
  4. Pepe another start or not?

My preferred lineup looks like this:

Time for Elneny?
We need balance in midfield and Mo offers Partey to play in the Xhaka/Conductor role

The hard choices here are whether to leave out one of ESR and Ode, and then who it should be. I feel we need the added energy and goal threat of Laca, and by playing Elneny we will see more creative impact by Partey.

Arteta is unlikely to go with my preferred lineup but let’s she who he’ll pick and how it goes.

CoyrrGs 🌋 🌋 🌋 🌋

By TotalArsenal

Dreaming of Ajax and why Arsenal need to Stick with Arteta

On Tuesday night I watched a veritable feast of football. I have always had a soft spot for Ajax because of their footballing philosophy and youth academy that’s second to none.

Borussia Dortmund were pulverised in a game that could have gone on all night if you were not a Dortmund supporter. It was fast and furious but with the ball on the ground and movement all over the pitch. I have seldom seen such organised frenzy leading to such devastating football. It was like an alien team from a superior civilisation had come to play a game on our earth.

To play such football it needs to be in your DNA. It needs to be trained at youth level and it is about understanding roles and positions, about sensing the bigger picture and playing machine like football based around individual expression. This may sound like an oxymoron and for most managers it will always be an incompatible combination, but some managers get it right. And when they get it right they reach the Apex of football. Cruijff, Van Gaal, Klopp and Guardiola are blessed with it, and Ten Hag is showing very promising signs to be another master of total football

The absolute basic is that all players on the pitch are comfortable with the ball in tight spaces, are great passers and have a superb first touch. These are the sort of players Arteta is buying and growing, and we are not there yet.

Wenger transformed our club and how we have celebrated his football. The game moved on and under Arsene in the last decade there was too much individual expression and too little system based football. Klopp and Guardiola out-systemed him.

We now have Mikel Arteta: our hope is invested in him. He is transforming our entire approach to football – it’s a difficult and almost impossible task as the PL standards are so high now with all the best managers in the world and such a spoiled and impatient supporter base.

Mikel is getting there but it will take a lot of time and he may not be able to get us there all the way. But he will give his all for this grand project and he will need our support.

The job is hard as Arsenal got so far behind, but what a great journey we are experiencing. One day we will play Ajax-like football and it will all have been worth it. Arteta is getting us on the way and he may take us all the way. Key is to see the bigger picture and support the cause. We have some way to go.

By TotalArsenal

Eight Arsenal Observations: Time for Elneny, Disgraceful Dean, Need more from OES

Arsenal 2 – 2 Crystal Patrick

Eight oobservations from an intriguing game:

  1. Our formation and lineup were very attack minded but we did not dare to push up much after the first goal and Arteta’s plan to dominate CP in their own half therefore failed and we paid the price for it.
  2. Partey as the sole DM remains clearly a work in progress. We need our young advanced midfielders to be much more dynamic and ball tight for this. Ode, ESR and Saka as a trio were disappointing on the night as they were roughed out of the game, and we need more from OES.
  3. Arteta did the right thing to bring on Sambi as we needed to reestablish dominance in midfield but he had a poor showing IMHO with limited positional awareness and movement into the key spaces to make things happen. This were Granit excells. I would not play him on the left for a while. In fact, more assimilation needs to be done and Elneny next to Partey seems required now. The midfield balance is the big issue and needs resolving quickly.
  4. Auba was inspirational and he was rewarded with a goal for his focus and determination. And Laca’s entrance to the arena was well needed and saved us from a loss. Arteta will need to incorporate both more regularly, especially against deep sitting teams.
  5. Tomiyasu was awesome and so was Tierney. They had to defend a lot of space around them due to the lineup but they did it very well. Our central defenders were left far too exposed and I don’t blame them for the goals. Both central midfielders made mistakes that cost us but the whole team will learn from this.
  6. It was great to see Vieira at the home of football and his team set up and tactics did impress me. He knew where to hurt us and would have deserved to beat us, and many a team will struggle against them.
  7. The kick against Saka and Dean’s and VAR’s responses were a disgrace to the game. Honestly, what is going on?! Dean’s leniency towards our opposition roughing us up and kicking our players left, right and centre was of course no surprise, but it remains disgraceful that such an incompetent referee is allowed to officiate PL games. He would have no chance in any other key European competition.
  8. I will finish with the obvious big positive: Arsenal’s fighting spirit and never say die attitude were a joy to watch. Get the midfield balance back and Arsenal will go places. It’s time for Elneny.

By TotalArsenal

Adventures from a Gooner Abroad

An Arsenal fans adventures in Northern Ontario.

Here are some key facts about Ontario:  In summer, temperatures can soar above 30°C (86°F), while in winter they can
drop below -40°C (-40°F)  Ontario is Canada’s second largest province, covering more than 1 million square
kilometres (415,000 square miles) – an area larger than France and Spain
combined. Ontario is bounded by Quebec to the east, Manitoba to the west,
Hudson Bay and James Bay to the north, and the St. Lawrence River and the
Great Lakes to the south.  Ontario is home to 2 time zones: the boundary line between the Central Time
Zone and Eastern Time Zone is just west of Thunder Bay, running north from the
United States border to Hudson Bay.  Ontario’s more than 250,000 lakes contain about one-fifth of the world’s fresh
water. The Great Lakes include Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake
Erie and Lake Ontario.  The combined shoreline of the Great Lakes is equal to about 45% of the earth’s
circumference.  The 5 Great Lakes are the world’s biggest continuous body of fresh water.  The Great Lakes Basin covers an area of 750,000 square kilometres – this basin
includes 8 US states, most of southern Ontario and extends into northern Ontario.  Ontario’s varied climate and geography support habitat for more than 3,600
species of plants, 154 species of fish, 50 species of amphibians and reptiles, 483
species of birds, and more than 81 species of mammals. In Ontario’s southernmost
regions, you will find prickly pear cactus and sassafras trees, while polar bears
roam our northern tundra.  Common fish in Ontario include yellow perch, bluegill, northern pike, salmon,
walleye, brook trout, brown trout, speckled trout, lake trout and rainbow trout.
The mammals that call Ontario home include beavers, black bears, muskrats, gray
wolves, white-tailed deer and walrus. Familiar birds include blue jays, northern
cardinals, great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls and pileated
woodpeckers. Look carefully and you might see some reptiles and amphibians,
including eastern garter snakes, northern leopard frogs, eastern massasauga
rattlesnakes, midland painted turtles or one of 11 types of salamanders and newts.
Leaving England behind to move to Canada was not an easy choice but leaving
my beloved Arsenal was far worse; but that’s another story. My wife and I docked in
Quebec City on the first day of June after 8 glorious and somewhat riotous days abroad
the Empress of Canada (yet another story). We had arranged to temporarily stay in
Toronto with my sister Gloria and her husband Barry. Ontario’s 250,000 lakes and
100,000 miles of rivers created endless opportunities for Barry who was an avid
outdoorsman and he was passionate about fresh water fishing while I’d never cast a line
in my life – after all there weren’t too many fishing spots to find in Highbury.

A few weeks after our arrival Barry mentioned that he had saved up some vacation time
and wanted to go on a canoe trip in Northern Ontario, he asked if I would like to
accompany him on the trip and assured me that he was an experienced canoeist. I was
somewhat worried as I was a poor swimmer but he showed me the maps of the planned
route and assured me that he had selected calm rivers that had no rapids or stretches of
white water – so I reluctantly agreed to go. Over the next few weeks we put together the
equipment and supplies that we would need for my first outdoors adventure.
Our only means of transport was Barry’s MG Coupe, the canoe was strapped onto the
roof and our backpacks and minimal supplies were stuffed into the rear of the car which
completely blocked the view out of the rear window. On our 1,000 kilometre journey up
Route 101 to Groundhog River we got many strange sideways glances from other drivers.
Arriving at our destination we simply drove the MG into the bushes and covered it with
foliage – we were out in the middle of nowhere so it did not seem that illogical to Barry.
We had to make several reconnoitring trips back and forth to find the best route down to
the river and spot to launch from but finally we made our decision got all of our gear
down to the river; once the canoe was loaded we set off on our journey into parts
It was now late afternoon and even though we were tired from the last part of our road
journey we had made up our minds to camp on a certain loop in the river. An hour or so
later we were approaching the spot where we had planned on camping when the sound of
rushing water caught our attention, as we turned the next bend we were confronted by a
very long stretch of fast moving white water. We made a valiant attempt to negotiate our
way around the rocks but to our dismay the canoe tipped; we were in the water and our
supplies were bobbing off down the river. Not being a strong swimmer I feared the worst
but you can imagine my relief when I discovered that the water was only thigh deep.
Even though Barry had misjudged the “calmness” of the river he had been smart enough
to insist on packing all of our supplies and provisions in air tight plastic bags – so we
hoped that we would be able to recover them once we got ourselves together, however
our birch-bark canoe was wedged between two very large rocks and it had a sizeable hole
in the side. Barry’s outdoors knowledge now came in very handy, he cut a strip of bark
from a Balsam fir tree which he whittled into shape then used that plus the tree’s natural
sap to patch up the hole; we then propped the canoe up get a good air flow and simply
waited for the sap to harden and seal the hole.
I stayed with the canoe and lit a fire for our overnight camp while Barry who was big,
strong and swam like a fish, set off down the river looking for our missing gear. He
returned about an hour later with the oar we were missing and one bag of supplies which
he found snagged up at the side of the river. Fortunately the bag contained our fishing
gear so we were able to catch some Pickerel (Walleye) which we cleaned and then
cooked by skewering them on sticks and grilling them over our camp fire – they tasted
absolutely delicious! The night was uneventful, other than the sound of wolves howlingno supplies we ate more fish for breakfast, it was to become our
in the distance. Having no supplies we ate more fish for breakfast, it was to become our main food source.

The “Barry” patch had completely dried, no water was leaking into the canoe and it lasted
for the entire trip. We didn’t want to risk the rapids again so we portaged around them
and set off again once the river calmed down; it was to turn out to be a beautiful early
morning row along a very calm river – we had no idea of the time as we had neglected to
bring along a watch. Later in the day we found our other two bags of gear, snagged up at
the riverside, so all was going well – until we saw moose grazing in the shallows just
down the river, they are huge animals and a bull moose can stand 7 feet tall and weigh
900 lbs, so we made the only sensible choice we could and stopped right where we were
until they had eaten their fill. We found a clearing and set up camp for the night, our
“tent” was simply our canoe turned upside down and propped up with some sticks, Barry
slept with his head at one end and GN5 at the other end, we had each purchased a US
army surplus mummy type sleeping bag, which proved to be a very wise buy.
With our recovered bags we now had some provisions for a “slap up” meal – fresh
walleye and dried veggies; we had taken along two small tin saucepans, one frying pan,
and two knives and forks. Having no oil or grease we filled the frying pan with river
water and poached the fish, we boiled the dried vegetables in a saucepan and in the
second one we boiled water for our coffee. This was our diet until we ran out of
vegetables and from then on we just ate whatever species of fish we caught – so we had
to catch fish or go hungry!
Day 3 started off wet and windy which made for some very difficult canoeing; we passed
under a railway bridge; the only means of transportation for hundreds of square miles was
by rail, river or lake, there were no roads, we had noted on our maps that there was an
abandoned gold mine near the bridge – so we decided to see if we could locate the mine.
We could not get up to ground level on the mine side of the river as it was a sheer rock
face while the other side was an earth embankment. As we had canoed up we had heard a
train so we felt safe in walking across the trestle bridge but to our horror when we were
on the bridge we heard another train in the distance and had to get over to the other side
in a real hurry, we stood at the side as the train passed and incredibly it slowed down and
stopped. Shortly afterwards the engineer walked back, he had seen us and thought we
were waiting for a ride, he explained that it was normal for them to pick up random
people along the route. He inquired about our well being (most likely worried about our
sanity); this was to be typical of the friendly, concerned manner of the Northern Ontario
people that we met on the trip.
The train went on its way, we took a compass setting and trekked off in the direction of
the Joburg mine, we found an old overgrown trail which could only have been created by
the constant flow of people between the railway line and the mine so off we went down
the trail. Reality and fear crept in when we saw bear paw prints in the muddy trail and
then moose prints so we quickly turned tail and headed back to the bridge as our Bowie
knives would have been no defence at all. Our choices left us in a real quandary – bears
and moose behind or the bridge ahead, obviously we choose the bridge and lived to tell that take dozens, maybe hundreds, of times.

This is only up to day 3 of a 30 plus day trip – but for now I’ll stop right there and test
your interest for more tales.
Barry Stuart Harvey passed away December17th 2014 but his stories will live on……


By GunnerNr5

Arteta’s Biggest Challenge

It is a very long wait till our boys glide on the green carpet again, and although the international football is not without entertainment, the interlul period is one to be endured by us club football fans.

The good thing about the interlul interruptions is that it gives Arteta time to tweak and improve the tactical side of things. With this young team this is of course very important.

Taking 10/12 points from our last betwixt interluls run of games and beating the Spuds convincingly, is a great turnaround for Arteta.

Arteta won two of his games without Xhaka, but he will now have to do much longer without his conductor. This will be his biggest challenge during this interlul: how to get the balance right in midfield. We have discussed this during a previous post, so not much point to discuss it again.

The big question for this post is: how can we get more goals? We are not scoring enough goals as yet and I don’t have to tell you the stats.

Auba is improving but remains wasteful.

Laca and Pepe are underused and I feel Arteta cannot afford to bench them so much going forward.

Balogun and Nketiah may offer the spark in attack we desperately need. Or is Martinelli the answer?

The extra goals could also come from our young dogs Emile, Bukayo and Martin. I reckon this is Arteta’s biggest wish, but it may need more time. The Spuds goals showed us what they are capable of, but the Seagulls game showed us they remain a work in progress.

So I don’t really know the answer and would love to hear your preferred solutions in getting the ball more often in the net…

By TotalArsenal

Arsenal v BHA 8 Observations

BHA 0-0 Arsenal

Not a game for many words, but here are my eight observations:

  1. BHA had the better chances but we only gave away half chances. The defence stood strong on the ground and, most pleasingly, in the air too. Another clean sheet after conceding nine in the first three games, now that is a great turnaround (one goal conceded in the last four);
  2. We missed Granit. Lokonga looks like a Partey type of player, not the conductor type that Xhaka is for us. It’s early days of course but we did not own the midfield last night and it made us second best;
  3. The Ode was not found quickly enough and he was well marshalled by the Seagulls. As a result attack was disconnected from the rest of the team.
  4. Auba’s linkup play was below par. The conditions did not help but he needs to be more ball tight. I was glad to see Laca come on and I hope Mikel will play him more going forward as he is good at keeping the ball and bringing into play others.
  5. Tomiyasu had a tough first half against the best player on the pitch, but he recovered well in the second half. A big test for him and he came through it.
  6. Bukayo and Emile did their best to sow a purse from a pig’s ear and they were a joy to watch at times, but the pirates just could not steel it for us, unfortunately.
  7. Arteta made some important substitutions at the right time and with a bit more focus and luck we could even have won it at the end. That would not have been deserved of course, but Arteta almost achieved it.
  8. But the big plus is that despite the horrible weather and the considerable pressure the team did not lose the game. If you cannot win make sure you do not lose either, and in the past we failed doing that so often. There is resilience in this team. Something to build on.

By TotalArsenal

Arsenal v BHA Lineup and Preview: The Rocks, The Pirates and The Sambi Partey

How many times have you watched those first 35 minutes v Spuddies again? I am currently at four and what a joy they bring. All goals sprang from deep, where we won the ball and then weaved and meandered our way to the Spuds’ goal. It was easy on the eye and at the same time devastating to our much loathed NLD opponents.

The question is can Arsenal do the same against Potter’s high flying Brighton, especially now that our conductor Granit is unavailable?

From our last post it became clear that most of us believe that Arteta’s best options are to either play Partey as a lone DM or to stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation and play Lokonga next to Big Tom.

Brighton are a well drilled and settled team and will come with their own plan, no doubt. They pass the ball round well and are strong at set pieces, and they have a couple of players who can add that little bit extra up front.

I think it would be good to let them come to us as we did with the Spuds and then take them on the break. Therefore, I prefer to play the Sambi-Partey combo in midfield today.

The defence (the Rocks) and attack (the Pirates) pick themselves, but I do hope to see half an hour of Pepe and Laca as well.

Ooh to, Ooh to be….

So my predicted and preferred lineup is:

The Rocks, The Pirates and The Sambi Partey

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!!!

By TotalArsenal 🚀 ⚽ ⚽

Saka for Xhaka. How to Replace the Left Footed Conductor?

Anybody who regularly visits the blog will know how big a fan I am of Granit Xhaka. So I am not going to sum up what we will be missing once more, other than stating the obvious that we will be missing his left foot and his ‘keeping the structure’ skills. He is the embodiment of Arteta on the pitch and this is hard to replace.

The Joy

Who should replace him or could we even not do so at all?

The options:

  1. Play 4-1-2-3 with Partey as lone deep midfielder as much as possible;
  2. Replace Xhaka with Ainsley – straight swap;
  3. Replace Xhaka with Lokonga – straight swap;
  4. Replace Xhaka with Partey and play either Lokonga or Ainsley on the mid-right;
  5. Move Ben White next to Partey;
  6. Move Chambers next to Partey;
  7. Move left footer Tierney next to Partey;
  8. Play ESR next to Partey;
  9. Play left footer Saka next to Partey;
  10. Play AMN, Lokonga and Partey in midfield.

There plenty of options and it will be interesting to see what Arteta will do. But what option would you go for?

By TotalArsenal

Arteta may Finally Have His Perfect Trio in Defence

Our central defence is starting to take shape and early signs are very promising. With Tierney and Tomiyasu we have two tenacious full/wing backs who can both defend well and be a great support to our CBs and GK.

But this short post is about the all important triangle of GK-2CBs.

Ramsdale: a very dynamic, extrovert goalkeeper with great leadership skills. I called him ‘obsessed with excellence’ in the previous post and he loves nothing more than a house full of clean sheets. His aerial control is an improvement on Bernd and his shot stopping is looking promising too. But his biggest attribute is his quick and accurate passing game. Passing out from the back successfully is about accuracy and speed of thinking and acting, and we have been far too slow in that department in recent seasons. Aaron gives us that all important extra second of speed.

Ben White: after a bit of a rough start, Ben is settling in well. It’s early days but he seems to offer calm and organisational skills to the defence. Much more of an introvert than Aaron, White has a calming, very focused impact on the team, it seems. Aaron brings energy and action-focus and Ben brings calm and organisational-focus. This is a great combination! Did you see White asking Ramsdale to not be too hard on the central midfielders at some point in the second half v Spuds? It was a great and promising moment of getting the balance right in defence. White is also vital in moving from defence to midfield/attack in a jiffy. Like Ramsdale, Ben gives us an extra second with his quick thinking and accurate passing. There is clearly so much more to come from him, but I am a fan already.

Gabriel dos Santos Magalhães, or simply Big Gab, has been with us longer and is having a great start to the season. He is the rock in our defence, the first soldier. He is our Obelix and just loves clearing the ball and taking on big CFs. Gabriel also acts quickly and has a decent forward pass in him, but his biggest and most needed quality is being the aerial King in the box. In terms of character, Big Gab, who is still only 23(!), is, a mixture between Aaron and Ben; and this suits our central defence triangle perfectly. Gabriel has fine organisational skills too, but with White and Ramsdale doing the leadership/organisational stuff he can fully focus on bossing the aerial zone in our defence.

Together they form a promising central defensive trio, one around which Arsenal can build a solid future.

Currently, Leno, Holding, Chambers and Mari are in the back-up positions and it is hard to see how they could dislodge the current trio. But a season is long and success can only be achieved by having a strong wider squad and healthy competition. Especially Holding will play a key role in adding something different to the team when required.

Our almost totally new central defence is one to build the team on. No doubt there will be setbacks on the way, but there is every reason to be excited about Arteta’s transformation of the defence.

By TotalArsenal