Look Who’s Back! Arsenal v Huddersfield Line-Up and Preview

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Three matches every week with Christmas approaching. That must be a bit of a new area for Emery. Once again it’s welcome to the Premier league as we thank our stars that Emery is a quick learner. Moaningho had one day extra rest for his team more than ours but still made seven changes against us. He gambled on fresh legs and that assured he survived us. Or was it our hard luck with injuries that sprang him from jail? Against Huddersfield I expect Emery to send out a team with fresher legs. I’d be surprised to see the likes of Bellerin, Kolasinac, Aubamayang start. They have played every minute of our last two premier league games only 3 days apart and they can do with a role from the bench for this 3rd game in 6 days!

Mustafi, Sokratis and Torreira are the only other outfield players to have done the same but injuries/fitness issues in our central defense would likely compel Emery to start the former two in a 4-man back line. I tip Lucas Torreira, who has proved crucial to the balance of the team, to start too but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets substituted in the match.

Studies have shown that a rest of less than 4 days does have, more often than not, a negative effect on the stamina of a team and s-t-a-m-i-n-a has been our ace this term. Huddersfield have enjoyed a 4 day rest, one critical day more rest than us. It is a disadvantage we have to offset with fresher legs not to talk about the fact that insufficient rest between matches predisposes players the more to injuries.

Will Ozil be back? Is Ramsey fit? Kozzer on the bench? Many things in doubt, but not in doubt is our collective desire to finish in the top four. Who dare lose points in this race of champions more so lose them unexpectedly. We dare not lose points to Huddersfield at the Emirates. Such would be a stumble of regrettable proportions.

No need talking about our injury woes. By the end of the day it about evens out for everybody. But, but …. the team is going to miss the fast improving Rob Holding, easily our best ball playing defender. I wish him a quick and complete recovery.

Has anybody found a route to Emery’s mind? Definitely not me. Well here’s another long shot:-

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Bench:- Cech, Bellerin, Kozzer, Monreal, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Aubamayang.

19th on the 1st half table and 2nd on the 2nd half table after 15 games is a statistical quirk. Correction is bound to begin and everything is pointing to Arsenal taking a 1st half lead for the first time this season.

Prediction:- 3-0 to the good guys.

COYRG!!!

By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 48 Comments

Arsenal Unaited power on for a settled Top-4 spot after Christmas

It was a tough run of matches post the latest interlul: Bournemouth and MU away, and Spuddies and Huddersfield at home. If Arsenal can turn this Saturday’s game v the Terriers into a win then we will have taken a whopping ten points from those encounters. Now that would be something to be pleased about.

Henry dog 008

It was a hard-fought battle against the Spuds with a second half that we will all remember for a long time. Three-nil we won in the second half but it came with a price: knackered legs for our trip to, and game in, Manchester yesterday. Yet we controlled most of the game and made a big push towards the end to score a third goal, as the players wanted more than a draw against our once archenemy. And that is all you can hope for. Key is that we did not lose to them and kept the gap at eight points, and I am proud of the boys for achieving this in Emery’s first game at Old Trafford.

Unai has his players united whereas Mourinho’s eleven are a confused bunch of sulkers, and long may it continue.

I guess the only downer on our team is how soon we gave away our advantages when we got in front, twice. Pretty unforgiveable from a defensive point of view and caused by a lack of organisation and concentration. IMO having had to break up the Xhaka-Torreira partnership cost us. A defensively minded midfielder like Torreira sniffs out danger and goes instinctively with midfield runners to avoid them getting easily on the end of a ball into the box, but when you play at OT it is simply not enough. Guendouzi was ball watching for both goals and left far too much to do for his fellow central midfielder.

I like the young Frenchman going forward and picking passes and that’s why he should be playing higher up the pitch. Elneny would have been a better option to partner our very own terrier, but it looks like the Egyptian is sadly not in Emery’s plans.

Luckily, Xhaka will be back again v Huddersfield and the partnership-made-in-football-heaven will be reunited on the pitch. It will not be easy to get all three points as legs will be very tired come Saturday, but if we do, we will really be in a fantastic position to proper nestle ourselves in the top four come January.

Arsenal Unaited have everything going for it but we need to focus on OGAAT. Bring on the Terriers!

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Rambo to Feed LacaMeyang but Who Partners the Ninja Warrior in Midfield? Preview/Line-up

MAN U AIN’T GONNA STOP US. (PREVIEW).

The Top-4 trophy was derided by many of us but loved by the man who caressed it for 20 good years without fail. It is in the nature of man not to value that which comes cheap. After only 2 years without it we would give all the sweat in this world for 3 pts at Old Trafford as that would aid our hunt of that Top-4 trophy. Wenger is a very insightful man but maybe he is a little less smart than Sir Alex Ferguson who timed his exit to perfection …. well to perfection in terms of himself but in terms of the fortunes of the club, his timing was utterly miserable.

While Emery has opened the windows of the room vacated by Wenger, Joseph Mourinho seems to have taken over the role of presiding over the demise of Man U’s campaign of this season. As we head to Old Trafford, we smell blood.

Still we have to be wary. All said and done Mourinho is an old fox and Man United have a way of busting back into life when we come calling. They love to halt us on our tracks just as they did to the Invincibles 49 game unbeaten premier league run. If am to guess, Mourinho who hates having buses parked against him, would park a fleet against us, and hope to catch us on the break with his powerful, fleet footed forward men of Lukaku, Rashford and Martial. But never bet on what an old fox can come up with. Maybe it’s better we spend this little precious time talking about ourselves.

Against the Spuds Emery started with a 3:4:2:1 formation. We were on top of the Spuds but found ourselves trailing I-2 at half time after their questionable goals. On resumption, Emery changed to 3:4:1:2 (replacing Mkhi and Iwobi with Laca and Ramsey). This was his first time of playing Auba and Laca together up front. Ramsey at #10 with his Rolls Royce engine was continuously motoring up field between the front duo. The Spuds couldn’t live with it and we equalized. Mustafi  got hurt (replaced by Guendouzi) and Emery changed again to 4:3:1:2. In that midfield three, Torreira became freer to roam providing the team with a more dynamic balance up field as the wing backs reverted to full backs. Again the Spuds couldn’t live with it and we were able to score 2 more goals.

So what should we expect from Emery at Old Trafford? Xhaka is suspended. I expect Goundouzi to take his place and Torreira to play a conservative role shielding the back line. Kolasinac at the moment is un-droppable. He gives so much to our offensive play on the left which is our main attack route. That should mean a three man back line. With the wing backs stretching the field, the Ramsey-in-the-hole behind the Laca-Auba-up-front combo, Torreira and partner marshalling the central midfield, the team Emery has been searching for might just have emerged. Ozil with his back spasm remains a doubt but if he is available its him or Ramsey in the hole.

Expected line up:-

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Leno~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~Mustafi~~~~Sokratis~~~~Holding~~~~

Bellerin~~Torreira~~~~Guendouzi~~Kolasinac

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Ramsey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~Aubamayang~~~~~~Lacazette~~~~~~

Bench: Cech, Lichstener, M-Niles, Elneny, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan.

The beauty of this line up and formation is that our midfield is not weakened because Laca loves playing from deep while at the same time all three of them up front carry goal threats. I can’t see Mo keeping them away from the net all of 90 minutes. Would he dare open up? Kindly bear with me, am feeling a bit like a conqueror.

COYRG!!!

By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 63 Comments

Emery’s First NLD: Let’s Mash the Spuddies! Line-up/Preview

For us, defeat has become a distant memory. 18 games unbeaten, there is no way we’d allow the Spuds to be the spoilers. Instead we are going to put them where they belong which is below us and get ourselves back into the top-4. Our man at the helm of affairs has become infected with the premier league bug and he has shifted into overdrive.

How is Emery going to set up his NLD team? It’s no easy guess for anybody not even for him. Like Bournemouth, the Spuds are a high intensity team. Would it then be the same formation, the same team? Can Ozil be benched again? And what about Lacazette who is expected back?

Kolasinac? What is he? So many questions swirling through the head of poor Emery. At least he knows Kolasinac is not a full back. Even as a wingback, Kola is a bit too one directional as he doesn’t seem to recognize the critical need for tracking back. Yet who, including Emery, isn’t excited about his wing play. He has all the energy in the world driving forward and his ball deliveries into the penalty areas are our best. What’s more, his combination with Iwobi is very exciting and Emery took good notice. He said so.

If Kola plays, Emery is likely to employ a 3-man central defense. If Kola and Iwobi are picked to start, something big somewhere must give way. Or does Emery play Kola as a winger and play a full back behind him? There are questions galore. The only thing am certain about is that Emery would submit his team sheet in time.

With Kola and/or Iwobi dominating all talk on the left side of the field, and with Laca expected back, what to do with Auba becomes an issue. And what again does Emery do about the Spuds’ dynamic midfield or is this a game he has to go Wenger-like and focus on his strength? After all we would he playing with 12 men.

They say Billy the Kid was the best gunslinger of the Wild West era. They say he was the only one, amongst the lot who wore their guns low, that made peace with the fact that his next gun duel could be his last. The result was that he was able to look death straight in the eyes without flinching leaving him at his efficient best each time. I see a lot of him in Emery. Look at how Emery has stood up to the interviews in Englidh without ever batting an eye. Against the Spuds, he has gritted his teeth, steeled his eyes and rolled the dice of winner take all. Emery wants the three points and nothing else is in his books. He is one hell of a tough hombre.

I listened to Alan Shearer after the Bounemouth’s last weekend’s match. He was full of praise for Auba’s center forward positioning. It leaves the defenders in a quandary more so as they know what he can do. His presence alone, without any “activity” is already a lot of activity. Anybody who says he doesn’t do enough is unable to see the subtler aspects of football and wouldn’t recognize a beast of prey crouched, waiting to spring. Meanwhile he has set a new Arsenal record of 20 goals in the 1st 30 games. This man, Auba, should never be faraway from the goalmouth.

But there is Laca to contend with whose style incidentally compliments Auba’s. As strikers, one likes dropping deep, playing with his back to the goal, the other likes playing off the shoulders of defenders.  One pulls back and doesn’t attack the 6yd box, the other is a master of the final touch.

Emery has a thousand and one things to resolve. I dare to predict that against the Spuds, we might see something like this:-

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Leno~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~Mustafi~~~Sokratis~~Holding~~~

Bellerin~~ Torreira~~Xhaka~~Kolasinac

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Ozil~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~Auba~~~~~~~~Laca~~~~~~~

Bench:- Cech, Koscielny, Lichsteiner, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi.

This is the North London Derby and I predict the MOTM would go to the 12th man!

COYRG

By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 98 Comments

Kola/Bells Stretch, Iwobi finds the Holes, and Auba does the Rest: 8 Observations

Busy, busy, but still wanted to write something about our narrow win against the Cherries.

Eight observations from an ugly but vital win:

  1. How ordinary did we look at times? It was a game of grinding and sweating: substance over style. The 3-4-3 formation worked well, though. Kola and Bells stretched the game and this created space for Iwobi and Mkhi to strut their stuff in between the lines. Auba had to run a lot as there was space for him too, and in the end he found the opening that won us the game.
  2. Mkhi and Auba had a lot of decent to good chances but both lacked composure when it mattered. It is weird to see Mkhi waste so many opportunities as he is one of the technically more capable midfielders in the PL. But this season he really is struggling taking his chances and surely this cannot go on? Let’s hope he will be able to add deadliness up-front to his work rate and enthusiasm.
  3. Iwobi is a slow starter but once he gets going – usually in the second half – he really can make the difference. Iwobi’s throughballs have really improved and he found Kola regularly in space. Question is: why does it take so long for Alex to warm up and strut his stuff?
  4. It was good to see Kola enjoy himself with strong penetration on the left side. His reward were two assists and being a constant threat and outlet for the ball throughout the game. Unfortunately, we also conceded a goal at a crucial time from the left back area, where King could shoot at goal with all the space and time in the world.
  5. Xhaka-Torreira looked a bit tired but still dominated proceedings for us. Let’s hope they both get a break now and do not travel East this week. Unai took a risk by subbing the Uruguayan for Guendouzi with still ten minutes to go, but he got away with it. It was good to see Torreira penetrate the space in front of midfield time and again, and he got really close to his first goal for the club. What a player!
  6. Leaving Ozil out made us look ordinary. How he would have loved the space and width that were available yesterday. I sincerely hope that Ozil and Unai will work well together going forward, as we need our German maestro to be the centre of this team. I feel that not all is well, though. 😦 TBC.
  7. Kamikaze Mustafi had one of those dramatic, give-it-my-all-and-chance-it-a-bit games we have become used to. We gave away too many chances, and on another day we would have conceded more and not got away with all three points. Is he the only one to blame….? Not sure but I wonder whether he will still be a regular starter after the January transfer window.
  8. This win sets us up very nicely for the Spuds game. A win would really get us close to both the Chavs and Spuds in the top four and let’s hope Unai will get us in the right frame of mind to make it happen. Ugly does it for now.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 45 Comments

Bournemouth v Arsenal Preview: Predicted Starts for Auba, Laca, M-Niles and Nigeria’s Finest

VERSATILE M-NILES FOR NACHO AS EMERY GOES FOR EARLY GOALS WITH AUBA AND LACA.

All of a sudden there is a top-4 finish talk all over the place. A few days ago, for the first time ever, Emery felt confident enough to talk about his ambition to finish top-4 in the league this season. That is a big statement. It indicates that, with basic ideas haven been put in motion, he is now better placed to focus a little less on team building and a little more on results. Expectation have consequently ramped-up but still we know that it won’t be easy. Top-4 is a tough field that harbours little space for lost points.

Our very next match is against Eddie Howe’s well organized Bournemouth FC at the Vitality Stadium. They sit 6th on the table, one position below us. Last season they were the hardest working team in the league. So far this season we are topping the table on distance covered while they are not far behind at 4th. When it comes to the number of sprints made, they are 3rd behind Liverpool and City, one position ahead of us. One thing is clear, that we are not going to swamp them in the 2nd half.

They are a dreaded counter attacking team and that might inform Emery to pick Sokratis ahead of Holding who is our best ball playing central defender. However Emery’s biggest headache in the back 7 is the left back position. Monreal had a relapse of his injury and so is not available. His cover in Kolasinac is not well suited to playing out from the back and his defensive alertness is questionable. Against Wolves he was particularly poor. I’d prefer Lichsteiner, who has resumed training but remains a doubt or versatile Maitland-Niles, to fill in at that position.

See the source image

Iwobi’s ability to carry the ball across lines pulling the opposition shapes apart might be crucial in this match. He is at his best in the attacking left position. I expect Emery to pick him ahead of Aubamayang for that role. Auba isn’t so good at build up play and incidentally 42% of our attack comes from the left side as opposed to 34% from the right (WhoScored).

Emery demands a lot of energy from his axial players so I expect him to continue with Lacazette as the striker. For the first time he might start Aubamayang in the wide right position. Auba was very effective there (inclusive of goals) at the early part of his career at Dortmund when Lewandowski was their striker. Against Bournemouth Emery would be thinking of early goals.

Expected line up:-

~~~~~~~~~~~Leno~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bel ~~~ Musti ~~~ Sokratis ~~~ M-Niles

~~~~~Torreira~~~~~ Xhaka ~~~~~~~

~~~Auba ~~~~ Ozil ~~~~~ Iwobi~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~Laca ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bench:- Cech, Holding, Kola, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Mkhiaryan, Nketiah.

It’s time to get back to winning ways. Those 1st half hand brakes need to be yanked off.

COYRG!!!

By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 51 Comments

What’s Unai’s plan for AMN and Who is Going to Lose Out up-front?

READY—STEADY— IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TOP-4 DASH AND THE FRONT-4 CONUNDRUM.

Arsenal are looking up to Klopp’s Liverpool as a model to follow. It took Klopp three years to get Liverpool challenging (or so many think) for the league title. However the Arsenal world seem not fully cognizant of the fact that qualifying for the Champions League this season is a crucial step towards that objective. Arsenal have been out of the competition for two seasons running. Another season out would put them in a difficult place.

Last season Liverpool reached the Champions league final and netted about £72m. It is nearly equivalent to UEFA handing Virgil Van Dijk (who cost £75m) to Liverpool for free. For each year Arsenal find themselves out of the Champions league, the top-4 rivals are each getting a world class player “free of charge”. That’s a seasonal start on Arsenal which if allowed to build up any further would push them too far down the ladder to compete favourably. By the way, the true story of Liverpool in the championship is that they’ve been in the wilderness for 28 years under countless coaches.

Many see the Europa league as the best route to the Champions league but the hard facts are that cup games are always dicey and should be recognized as such. By the start of this winter transfer window, Emery would have been with the team for six months. He would have known the team well enough to know exactly what is needed to take the team one notch up. That could be crucial for Arsenal’s top-4 aspirations if the club is able, for example, to sign one or two quality players that would help fit the team better to the Emery ideas.

Meanwhile, before the January window arrives there must be things to do to get more from the talented squad they have. With nearly one third of the season gone there is this feeling that the team is yet to find its range. The results of matches so far have largely flattered their performances. Lady Luck has played a huge part in offsetting the teething problems of a team under a new coach. This international break possibly defines the end of this period of the gods smiling on them. Hope it also defines the beginning of the team snarling and baring its teeth.

With nearly five months of work, Emery’s ideas must be taking roots in the players’ muscle reflexes, the same way fingers with time begin to go smartly over the key board without the hindering conscious thought. I sense such a breakthrough for the team must be pretty close. It was seen against Liverpool and in some of their 2nd half performances. But theirs is just one half of the story. On Emery’s side, after these months of working with the team, his knowledge of the players would have moved away from the theoretical. It is reasonable to believe that by now he has a good knowledge of the players and their best positions and best combinations. He would also have learnt a lot about the premiership. On all sides therefore the soil has been ploughed, the seeds planted and germinating. Better first half performances would be good signals that the new growth is taking roots.

The club cannot afford to miss out on the Champions league for the third year running. Emery’s 1st phase of learning by trial and error must be nearly over. The next phase should be about getting the best out of what he has. The top-4 race holds little or no space for a late charge.

Close to five active months into his tenure, Emery surely must have decided on his 1st choice keeper. He knows his full backs. Decision on his central defenders isn’t much of a headache to him. At the moment it’s simply any two of a three. He knows his central midfield pairing, definitely.

The front four is the problem area because it has an unbalanced personnel. It is full of talents who unfortunately are jostling for essentially two positions only. Aubameyang, Lacazette, Welbeck (injured) as strikers, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Ramsey as #10s. Only Iwobi stands apart, his best position being the attacking wide left. Even at that, in order to accommodate Aubameyang, he is often displaced to the bench or played on the right where he is like a shadow of what he is on the left.

This international break is a good pause for Emery to re-strategize and that’s hardly anything beyond seeing to it that the players are used in there best positions.

If Lacazette plays, he plays as a striker with Aubameyang on the bench and vice versa. If they are played together then a 2-striker formation of sorts should be employed. If Iwobi plays it should be in the wide left position and Ozil or Mkhitaryan at #10. Ramsey’s case is slightly different. He is less of a creator and more of a deeper lying finisher. A role as the most attacking member of a 3-man midfield, in a formation with one striker, is tailor made for him: a deep lying 2nd striker kind of.

There is a vacancy in the wide right forward position. That place cries out for reinforcement. Are we going to see one in the winter transfer window? Meanwhile Emery seems to be working on Maitland-Niles for that role. I believe he’d prove a big success there with his pace and ball playing ability but if the need persists, Mkhitaryan becomes the only one playing not in his best position. That alone wont be much of an issue.

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As the season enters its 2nd trimester, Emery’s game plan should be to maximize the yield from the platform he has created by getting the best from the players available. It should be all about the top-4 dash. Any 3-year plan belongs to the cabinet, at the moment. OGAAT in its numerous forms rules the waves.

By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments