Emery’s Had Over a Year and Spend Handsomely, but Who Are We and Where Are We Going?

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Before the Watford game Quique Sanchez Flores warned that he was going to surprise Emery. That turned out to be an understatement. Emery must have been stunned. Watford made 31 attempts on our goal, 23 of them in the 2nd half alone. That 2nd half onslaught is possibly a Premier League record and a shame. Watford is the bottom team on the table.

What makes it so ridiculous is that Emery, going by his reputation, must have spent all of the interlull’s two weeks digging out videos of Watford and Sanchez Florez and analysing them to the minutest detail and getting his players to do the same. They go through this routine for every damn team.  I suspect our players are all able to tell the colour of boots every premier league player wears, confusing themselves with too many details.

These analyses, it’s easy to imagine, end with Emery believing the clear picture he has of the team he will face. It has to be so otherwise he won’t be burning all those midnight candles for nothing. Eventually when the Watford game started, Sanchez Flores pulled the rug completely from under his feet. Instead of sitting deep and waiting for counters as Emery must have gleamed from all his work, Flores swarmed all over his team and dominated him on all departments of the game: possession, territory, aerial contests, dribbles, attempt on goals, attempts on targets, corner kicks etc.


In setting up his team to react to the opposing team’s identified playing style, it becomes easy for opposing managers to second guess his game plan. Not only does he by this inadvertently expose his plan but it also deprives his team of playing the game the way they know best. It inhibits their ability to express themselves. That is what technical players thrive on.

Meanwhile the poor chaps might even be dominated by the sheer intricacies and volume of the theory and the sweat Emery pours on them thereby believing that it is their failure. I doubt, though, that someone as perceptive as Ozil would be impressed.

Every week the players are investing their sweat on some new reactive exercise, the very opposite of Wenger’s philosophy. In hindsight most of us would have started realizing that we were unnecessarily critical of Wenger’s method that was rightly focused on dominating the opposition given our size. Emery wants to be a protagonist and at the same time he is so reactive to teams however big or small. That’s a contradiction.

Can Emery modify his philosophy? Or is he too addicted to his pet game of video analysis and a thousand and one instructions? Over coaching is never good. Players stop hearing, get bored and run out of popcorns. A good coach must meet his players half way by understanding them and creating a system that would bring the best out of them.

We cannot seek alibi in the fact that it is still early days (5 games). What is happening is a continuation of our poor form at the end of last season. Over our last 15 PL games (10 from last season) we have only amassed 22 pts. That’s mid table. Emery must take stock and find a way to reinvent himself.

We have great talents in the squad. They’d be formidable enough if they can be made to work hard on the simpler things like winning the second balls, passing more quickly, putting more energy into the game, not losing concentration etc and thereafter be given a framework with spaces for self expression.

I think the clock has stated ticking for Emery. I hope to be proved wrong.

Please give your comments. BK expects opinions to be constructive and in temperate language.

By PE.

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Player Ratings: Auba Carries Team, CBs Hung Out to Dry … Freddie before/in the Fall?

Watford 2 – 2 Arsenal

We will do some deep analysis tomorrow or so, when we are less emotional and have perhaps a bit more perspective. Let’s first do some player ratings, so we can continue our discussions tonight.

If you go two up quite easily in the first half then a team like Arsenal should of course not give two points away anymore. Away games after international breaks are never easy, but I was shocked by how chaotic we looked and played from the off. This was another game in which we allowed dozens of shots of which nine were on target… We are all over the place and seem to play like we only just met up for the first time.

Arsenal verandert in schietschijf bij Watford: 'We waren bang'

Player Ratings:

Leno: 7 – dealt well enough with the many crosses and corners into our box. His distribution is good but as a team we really don’t make it easy for him, as we are too static and too ucomfortable on the ball when surrounded by opponents.

Kola: 6 – an extra point for the assist and for the shift he put in. On the wing he is limited as he is neither a quality defender nor comfortable with the ball for long; as a result, too many times he plays the ball back and stops our attacking momentum. But, as Goonereris noticed during the game, he was also left isolated a lot.

Luiz: 5 – there is so much to like about David during a game, but he made a schoolboy error that cost us. I thought it was a harsh penalty but when you play away you have to be extra careful and not make any contact if you can help it.

Big Sok: 5 – same as Luiz. Made a mistake that cost us and allowed the Hornets back into the game. Furthermore, he and AMN did not defend our right side very well with many Watford attempts and crosses coming from that area. However, they also did not get quality defensive support from midfield and it took Emery far too long to realise this and sort it out.

AMN: 5 – an extra point for a quality assist (avoided being offsite and a calm ball into the free Auba). But he made too many mistakes throughout the game and was just too slow to deal with Watford’s wing-play.

Xhaka: 5  – decent first half and tired a lot towards the second half. Was he fully fit? Many of us have said it but the combo of Xhaka and Guendouzi does not work, as they do not compliment each other whatsoever: they both need a defensive midfielder next to them and to play in tandem with them. Emery seems to disagree.

Guendouzi: 5 – tried hard to make up for his lack of defensive ability and appeared lost in Emery’s midfield set-up. Failed to support defence and link up with attack. See also Xhaka’s text.

Ceballos: 6 – finding his (rather hockey sticky) feet in the team but had some good moments both in defence and attack. Not sure why he was taking off but there you go.

Auba: 8 – Lethal. MOTM and single-handedly carrying the team.

Pepe: 6 – a few moment of quality but he looked rusty and often lost within the team set-up.

Ozil: 6 – great pre-assist for the (normally all important) second goal and he was very lively in the first half with more quality passes. Faded away a bit in the second half.


Nelson: 5 – really struggled to get into the game and with the Hornets’ physicality. Seemed a bit low on confidence.

Willock: 6 – really wanted to make a difference but was also lost in Emery’s tactics.

Torreira: 6 – put on far too late and should have started the game next to Xhaka (or Guendouzi for those who somehow believe he is better than the Swiss). Did his very best to stop the mess that was happening in midfield and got close to scoring. I would always play the Uruguayan Terrier, but Emery really cannot afford to start him on the bench in away games.

Emery: 4. Some will say that the defenders let him down, and they did, but there is so much more wrong with the way he sets up the team and instructs and motivates the players. Freddie before/in the Fall?!

By TotalArsenal.


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Bergkampesque Live Blog! Back to Action and Emery Opts for TWO #10s!!! Join Us

To Help Me Describe the Action.

Here are your teams:

Arsenal (4-2-3-1) Leno; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, David Luiz, Kolasinac; Xhaka Guendouzi; Pepe, Ozil, Ceballos; Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Martinez, Chambers, Saka, Torreira, Willock, Martinelli, Nelson.

Watford (4-2-3-1) Foster; Kiko Femenia, Dawson, Kabasele, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Hughes, Cleverley, Deulofeu; Gray.
Substitutes: Gomes, Foulquier, Janmaat Mariappa, Chalobah, Sarr, Pereyra.

Referee Anthony Taylor.

Watford, despite being bottom of the table on just a single point, could be a tough opponent today.  Quique Sanchez Flores is back for another stint as manager and surely his players will be giving full effort fighting for his attention.  The home crowd will want a new start and any player getting the support behind him will capture that much more of the new manager’s eye.   Already, the new manager (with one of the finest beards in all of sports) is back to his stalwart keeper, Ben Foster, and a back four.  Interesting…

Arsenal make two changes from the North London Derby of two weeks ago.  Mesut Ozil not only dresses but actually starts, while Dani Ceballos also comes in.  Alexandre Lacazette is being given time to heal from an ongoing ankle problem while Lucas Torreira will offer his services from the bench.  It’s a strong, attacking line-up, especially for an away game, but, with Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United all winning full points this weekend, manager Unai Emery, must feel that his Arsenal team need to do likewise.

So, what do you think of the line-up?   How will the match unfold?  Is Emery really going to allow his team to press forward, looking for an early goal, or will it all be more cagey than that?

I’m headed back to the espresso machine for a booster shot (or two) but I could use as many pairs of eyes as I can get as I try and describe the action.  Please join me in the comments.  Or at least (put down that glass of wine) and leave a half-time comment or two.  In other words, don’t be shy, your take is a good as mine…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

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Arsenal v Watford Don’t Do Draws!! Historic Preview and Predicted First 11

Arsenal v Watford September 15, 2019

The beginnings of the club can be traced back to 1881, when Watford Rovers was formed by Henry Grover and a group of fellow teenagers who had been given permission by the Earl of Essex to kick a football around in Cassiobury Park. Friendly matches began in 1882, with various sites in the town being used for matches. The first competitive game was an FA Cup tie against Swindon Town in 1886. In 1890 West Herts Club and Ground was set up in Cassio Road (where it remains to this day) and Watford Rovers moved in as the football section, changing name to West Herts in 1893.

Watford joined the Football League in 1920. The club played at several grounds in its early history, before moving to a permanent location at Vicarage Road in 1922, where it remains.

One of the most successful periods for the club was when they were managed by ex England manager Graham Taylor who took charge of Watford in 1977. He led the club to promotion to the Third Division in 1978, the Second Division in 1979, and the First Division for the first time in Watford’s history in 1982. After a second-placed finish in the First Division in 1983, Watford competed in European competition for the first time in 1983–84, as well as reaching the 1984 FA Cup final.

Taylor left the club at the end of 1986–87. Under the six subsequent permanent managers Watford slid from 9th in the top tier in 1987, to 13th in the third tier in 1997. Taylor returned as manager for the start of the 1997–98 season. He led the club to consecutive promotions, but could not prevent relegation from the Premier League in 1999–2000. Since Taylor’s retirement in 2001, Watford has had sixteen different managers.

Watford is owned by the Pozzo family, which also owns Udinese Calcio in Italy and previously Granada CF in Spain. Sir Elton John, who owned Watford during both of Graham Taylor’s successful periods as manager, served alongside Taylor as the club’s joint Honorary Life President until 2008, only to later resume the role he shared alongside Graham Taylor until Taylor’s death. Sir Elton John’s seven year old son Zachary signed up for the academy team at Watford Football Club in 2018.

On 21 January 2018, Javi Gracia was appointed as Head Coach following Marco Silva’s departure. Gracia has been met with widespread praise after a successful 2018–19 Premier League campaign which saw Watford finish with their highest points tally ever in English Premier League football. However after a disappointing start to the 2019–20 season, Javi Gracia was sacked and replaced by previous manager Quique Sánchez Flores.

During the Division 1 era Watford had our number and dominated us:-

Arsenal v Watford – Div 1 Away Games
30-Apr-83     1 1 2
12-May-84     1 1 2
01-Sep-84 1     4 3
01-Apr-86     1 0 3
21-Mar-87     1 0 2
28-Nov-87     1 0 2
Total: 1 0 5 6 14

But the Premier League era has seen a 100% reversal of our fortunes:-

Arsenal v Watford – EPL Away Games
23-Apr-00 1     4 2
26-Dec-06 1     2 1
17-Oct-15 1     3 0
27-Aug-16 1     4 1
14-Oct-17     1 1 2
15-Apr-19 1     1 0
Total: 5 0 1 15 6

Strangely there has not been a drawn league game between the two clubs and Sunday may become the day for one team to take the lead in games between each other – which club will it be? My choice is for Arsenal to continue their Premier League dominance over Watford.

The 2019/20 version of Arsenal is still in the development stages but after four games we find ourselves tied for 4th (we are 5th on goal difference) and only one game out of 2nd place.

My team selection would look like this:-

Subs – Martinez, Chambers, Mustafi, Willock, Nelson, Guendouzi, Lacazette.


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My Favourite All-Time Arsenal-11: Vieira Behind Cesc and Dennis, Two Frenchmen Up-Top

The interlull is almost over so let’s have a bit of fun till it’s Sunday and the Gunners will play at Vicarage Road.

We all have our favourite players both in the here and now and for all the time we’ve supported the mighty red and white boys. Just imagine if we could just play our favourite players this weekend, and that time and age have no meaning whatsoever.

Soccer - FA Cup - Arsenal Winners Parade

Ooh to Be!

It’s been a while since we did a post about our favourite all time Arsenal players, and today I gave it some thought once again. I came to these 11 super heroes:

Best Arsenal team

Bench: Lehman, Pires, Keown, Ljunberg, Gilberto, Auba, Kanu.

Do I need to explain my choices? I think they speak for themselves.

What is your all-time favourite Arsenal-11?

By TotalArsenal.

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Arsenal Need a Firmino for Better Balance: Three In-House Options


Klopp’s Liverpool is admired by all. It has become a benchmark for ambitious football technocrats. Coaches dream of mirroring Klopp’s Liverpool. But the dream begins in earnest only when equivalent playing personnel are believed to have been acquired.

Opinions sampling through some sites show that about 90% of Arsenal fans want Emery to play the PALs together regularly. Many reason that it’s best for a team to play its best players though there is always the strong argument that the best individual players don’t necessarily make the best team. Others who favour the PALs playing together draw their inspiration from the Liverpool’s so called Fab-3. They feel that our PALs are as good if not better than the devastating Liverpool trio.

We have witnessed the PALs start together only once and that was in our last match against the Spuds. There was no doubting their amazing offensive threat, recognized clearly by the Spuds themselves. In response and contrary to their playing style, the Spuds sought safety in sitting deep. Frankly, I don’t see many who wouldn’t. That, however, is only half of the story of that encounter.

Whenever the Spuds had the ball, they cut through our midfield like knife through butter. Our midfield-3 simply couldn’t deny the Spuds space. How then is Liverpool’s famed midfield-3 able to cope with those same wide spaces? Is it simply because their midfield-3 are more physical and athletic than ours. It is much more than that. The major reason is hidden in the fact that Liverpool has a midfield-4 camouflaged as a midfield-3.

Enter Roberto Firmino. Only recently have the experts begun to recognize Firmino as the heart of this marvellous Liverpool team of hearts. Before he came to Liverpool, Firmino was a #10 who scored a lot of goals. Klopp’s simply tore off the old name tag of a #10, gave a him a new name tag of a striker but left Firmino still a 10 who scores a lot of goals. Change of bottle, the liquor remaining the same.

Or is it Firmino who pulled the wool over the eyes of the world? He is such an unobtrusive player, visible only to the educated eye. A facilitator, he loves nothing other than to share in the glory of the team that his quiet sweat helped so much to shine.

The PALs are all great players on their own right, but non of the three has that facilitator #10 role of Firmino. 7amkickoff did an interesting article showing Firmino and Lacazette nearly identical but for the great disparity in their passing stats:


While Firmino has the passing generosity of a midfielder, Lacazette has the “good selfishness” of a striker. They have distinct footballing personalities. If we have to mirror the way Liverpool plays, we have to look for a Firmino and the good news is that we already have a couple of his like with us: in the genius of Ozil as a facilitator as well as in Dani Ceballos and the up and coming ESR.

See the source image

In summary, in order to balance the terrific offensive firepower at his disposal that stands on a porous midfield, Emery should lean more on using only 2 of the PALs at a time and in place of the third of the trio use a facilitator like Ozil or Ceballos to help strengthen the midfield. That also gives us the luxury of a super sub on the bench. Of course nothing stops Emery showing up in certain encounters triple barrelled.

How many Gooners are with me on this?  Sooner than later we would learn on what side Emery is.


By PE.

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How the Queen of Disco Could Inspire Arsenal to Play Sexy Attacking Football Again

How would you like our team to play? What sort of football is needed to be able to say ‘we’ve got our Arsenal back’? I am intrigued to hear your views. 

Emery promised us ‘5-4’ winning performances: strong focus on attacking and sexy football. We are still not playing that sort of  hot stuff, at least not on a regular basis. In fact, it is hard to determine what our style of football is and how Emery will make us score multiple goals per game any time soon.

Against Pool we sat back and invited pressure during the first half; whilst against Spuds we opted to attack from the start. The outcomes were the same: we were behind at half time. We never had a chance at Anfield but at least we turned the game v Spuds round at home and we could have won in the end. We played a careful season-opening game v the Barcodes and approached the Burnley game in a similar way as we did with our odious North-London rivals.  We won our games with the smallest of margins and, as per a previous post, we are not scoring five goals per game but a mere 1.5 at the moment.

As I said, I like to hear your views. Whilst watching some YouTube videos recently, it was Donna Summer, the undisputed Queen of Disco, who inspired a vision of how we should play. You have to watch this video to get an idea of what I am on about.

Donna does not have to move frantically all over the dancefloor. She has got a strong, confident core which allows the top to do all the sexiness. The arms and shoulders are what fascinates and she is in total control of the performance. Arsenal also have a fabulous and sexy pair of shoulders and arms at the top: can it get any sexier with Ozil, Pepe, Auba and Laca – OPAL – all wearing the mighty red and white?

Now for a strong core, that is a bit harder. Arsenal have the option to play Chambers or Luiz in the centre of midfield and that would add defensive steel. Many BKers have suggested this recently, and I could live with it. However, if Emery instructed Xhaka and Torreira (Willock and Guendouzi) to sit deeper and focus on protecting the defence most of all, we will have that much needed strong core.

Key is then to work out who other than Ozil will support those midfielders with connecting midfield with attack. We need those shoulders and arms to move freely and with suppleness after all! I reckon Pepe or Nelson have a big role to play in this; and in some games I could also see Guendouzi or Smith-Rowe play on one of the wings, interchanging frequently with Mesut, to add extra creativity. However, Emery’s current approach of combining Xhaka or Guendouzi in midfield is not working imo, as explained in previous posts. It weakens the core and does not sufficiently support the top of the team.

My team to play Donna Summer-esque footie would look like this, based on 4-2-3-1 (first choices on left):

I believe this would give us the best balance and both a better core and better use of our fabulous attackers. It would make us play football the Arsenal way again.

But how would you like our team to play? And what sort of football is needed to be able to say ‘we’ve got our Arsenal back’?

By TotalArsenal.

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