Arsenal Are on a Decline: Why We Need a Willian or Coutinho

The catastrophic decline of chances created

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Arsenal v Man city

Before starting to analyze the PL games under Emery, Ljungberg and Arteta, let me share a few claims and disclaimers:

Claim 1: Arsenal is topping the chart of dropping points after leading. The common consensus is that this is a mentality problem – leading to many pundits proposed replacing most of the team. I strongly oppose this narrative. I think it happened, because by shifting the focus of the defence, we gave up on the ball-possession and chance-creation play signature to Wengerball, and when playing for a 1:0 victory (successful against Newcastle, Bournemouth, Leeds, Olymoiakos and West Ham this season), this is a risk impossible to eliminate.

Claim 2: Playing for 1:0 is unattractive, and is a mid-table strategy. I know – zero irony used – that nobody is playing literally for 1:0 at Arsenal. Yet, when prioritizing the defensive midfield at the expense of pressing, and shifting to counter-attacks instead of the trademark possession game, that might still not be playing for the 1:0, but ’not minding’ if the score remains unchanged.

Disclaimer 1: While the number of goals or assists could be intuitively a fine indicator of „attacking intent”, I discarded it along with the ball possession percentage. The one and only KPI used in the analysis below will be the number of key passes. This is good for individual statistics (shows who is capable of consistently providing them), disregards unproductive ball possession like back passes and side balls, and doesn’t care about excellent goalkeeping or poor finishing. For the sake of this post let’s consider the number of key passes as the equivalent of (half) chances created.

Disclaimer 2: This is not an anti-Arteta post. I love the guy. I admire what he did with many of the players. I have no difficulties in sharing his vision or values. Yet I might be challenging whether we are going in the right direction. While the goals conceded did improve (and there is a lot of space for further development) we paid the price of scoring less goals – especially against mid-table opponents.

Sorry for the long introduction, so let’s get started.

In the paragraphs below I will show 6-6 games (5 PL + 1 other) from Emery, Ljungberg and Arteta, the scoreline, the key passes of the opposition and us, distinguishing from the chances created by the starting line-up (unless there had been a substitution in the first half). There is no intentional pattern which games I chose. All data are from WhoScored. And – spoiler alert – I will show how many key passes were performed by Mesut Özil. (If TA could make a table out of it, that would be perfect.)

Unai Emery

Arsenal 2:1 Burnley

KP: 15 + 0 (-) vs. 12

(Legend: 15 key passes from starting players [including substitutes before 46’], 0 KP from other subs, Mesut didn’t play so no KP provided, 12 key passes by the opposition.)

Arsenal 2:2 Tottenham

KP: 15 + 3 (-) vs. 9

Arsenal 2:2 Southampton

KP: 8 + 1 (4) vs. 15

Leicester 2:0 Arsenal

KP: 15 vs. 6 + 0 (1)

Arsenal 1:1 Wolves

KP: 7 + 0 (3) vs. 16

Arsenal 3:2 Vitoria de Guimaraes

KP: 11 + 2 vs. 11

Fredrik Ljungberg

Norwich 2:2 Arsenal

KP: 11 vs. 8 + 0 (4)

Arsenal 1:2 Brighton

KP: 8 + 1 (2) vs. 16

West Ham 1:3 Arsenal

KP: 6 vs. 7 + 1 (2)

Arsenal 0:3 Manchester City

KP: 3 + 0 (1) vs. 11

Everton 0:0 Arsenal

KP: 5 vs. 5 + 1 (-)

Standard Liege 2:2 Arsenal

KP: 7 vs. 10 + 1 (-)

 

Mikel Arteta

Bournemouth 1:1 Arsenal

KP: 8 vs. 12 + 0 (4)

Arsenal 1:1 Sheffield United

KP: 7 + 1 (4) vs. 6

Arsenal 4:0 Newcastle

KP: 12 + 1 (4) vs. 8

Arsenal 1:2 Olympiakos (120’)

KP: 9 + 2 (2) vs. 11

Arsenal 2:1 Liverpool

KP: 1 + 1 (-) vs. 19

Aston Villa 1:0 Arsenal

KP: 7 vs. 3 + 2 (-)

Key findings:

  • Arsenal created more chances under Emery (possible legacy from Wenger).
  • After Özil missed the first 3 months of the campaign he became an integral part of all 3 managers’ first team and was the main source of key passes.
  • The best games we played under Arteta he was the orchestrator of the attacks: 2:0 against MU (H), 2:2 against Chelsea (A) with 10 men, 4:0 vs. Newcastle (H), 3:2 vs Everton (H), 1:0 vs West Ham (H) – his last game.
  • Even when the attackers don’t shine, Özil delivers.
  • The other notable victories happened without him and without convincing attacking play:
    • In the 2:0 win vs Southampton Nketiah was gifted a goal, and we scored the 2nd against a 10-men team
    • We managed to deliver our 2nd 4:0 victory in the PL against Norwich, with 2 gifted goals by Auba, irregular (but fine) goals from Xhaka and Cedric with only 6 key passes in the whole game
    • In our surprising away win against Wolves they had 10 key passes, we had only 4. Our first ’assist’ was a lucky deflection, and 3 of our 4 key passes came in the dying minutes
    • We won against Liverpool by playing Russian roulette for gifted goals – a feat that will be impossible to replicate
    • We beat Man City fair and square in Wembley – the only game on this list which was a real joy to watch – yet we had 4 key passes compared to City’s 15 (KdB provided 9 himself)
  • According to Premier League history Arsenal created 88 (first place) „big chances” in 2015/16, 81 (2nd place behind Man City) in 2017/18, 72 (5th place behind City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Bournemouth), and 48 this season tying 12-14 places, behind clubs like Burnley and Southampton.
  • Arsenal’s main chance creators in the PL this year: Mesut Özil (2.1 KP/game) 6th best in the Premier League behind KdB, Maddison, Grealish, Buendia and TAA (defender), while on level with Willian and Fernandes – others are Nicholas Pepe (1.3) and Dani Ceballos (1.2). Saka provides 0.8 KPs (+ 2.3/game in the EL), plus Nelson, Xhaka and Tierney have high EL key pass statistics. Ceballos is not (yet) our player, Ozil’s days are counted, and many pundits consider Pepe a flop, wishing we signed Zaha instead (0,9 KP/game) with 9 goal contribution in 3300 minutes compared to Pepe’s 17 in 2627.

My conclusions:

  • While most reviews, analyses and press conferences conclude that we have to be more ruthless in front of goal, the statistics show that we score quite many from our key passes while we concede far less from the lot of key passes by the opponent. The lack of ruthlessness is a problem only because we create so few chances.
  • In fact we deliver a distressingly low number of key passes. And not only against the strongest opponents, but against peer mid-table teams and relegation fugitives. This often leads to boring, unentertaining games, even if we take all 3 points at the end of the day.
  • I’m not reasoning here for Mesut Özil! I like the guy, admire his technique and charity work alike, but more is required of him. I’m arguing here to have a midfielder in the team who is capable of providing quality key passes on a consistent level.
  • We have to take care of the chance creation challenge really soon, preferably in this transfer window! Especially if Özil leaves and Emile Smith-Rowe is not yet at the level of dealing with this responsibility alone.
  • While we have to strengthen the midfield I wouldn’t recommend going for Thomas Partey. He is expensive, and he is a DM with a single assist in 3600 minutes.
  • It’s never about splashing the cash. Arsenal is famous for making good signings: Martinelli, Auba, Holding, Leno, Cazorla, Tierney, hey even Luiz and Sanchez were great purchases. I don’t envy Barcelona’s investments in Dembele or Malcolm, or United paying top dollars for Maguire, Lukaku or Fred, not to mention Chelsea’s crazy spending spree for Kepa, Torres, Kovacic, Bakayoko, Batshuayi or Drinkwater. But paying reasonable money for a niche position shouldn’t be out of question.
  • Let’s face it, we missed most of the assist-kings already. Fernandes went to MU (I demanded well ahead to sign him in this very blog), Nkunku joined Leipzig (where he assisted 15 time in the Bundesliga), Havertz seems to go to Chelsea, Szoboszlai agreed with Napoli, Jonathon David is heading to Leeds. Not too many of them remained: Donny van de Beek from Ajax, Rodrigo Bentacour from Juventus, Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, and Isco from Real Madrid are the big money players (MV around 40M), while Jesus Corona (FC Porto), James Forrest (Celtic) and Evander (FC Midtjylland) could be signed for about 10-12M.
  • Still, if we believe the gossip, Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona/Bayern could be our savior (a swap deal for Guendouzi and some pocket money is rumoured); the Brazilian attacking midfielder made 17 goal contributions this season (scored 9 and assisted 8) in merely 2000 minutes. He knows the Premier League inside out, he has just turned 28 in the summer, so seems like a surprisingly good deal to me. His salary is a big issue, but hopefully could be resolved among the parties involved.
  • I really like our wingers. All of them, even Mkhi. But we cannot rely on them providing enough dangerous crosses to compete for CL places without a huge striker like Giroud (or Crouch). We need players who have the vision and passing skills to assist our attackers even in central midfield. Keeping Ceballos might be a step towards the right direction, clearly not enough. Anyway, while crossing and heading is the epitome of British football (at least it used to be), it is clearly not the Arsenal way.

And let’s not forget that our key passes and big chances statistics are mediocre only because they include the last wave of Emeryball and the performance of Mesut Özil. Without him – or a proper replacement – we might be re-living the late games against Leicester, Tottenham and Aston Villa. And don’t kid yourselves, no matter how much do you appreciate youth development, you will find the Arteta-OUT train more and more appealing.

I’m not saying we cannot go down at Villa Park. But before getting used to that we should start scoring 4-5 goals against Watford, Brighton and Sheffield like Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea did, even in away games. Let’s aim for a 4:0 win every match, and worst case scenario we still end up winning 3:2 on unlucky days.

By PBarany.

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Auba-BangBang-Meyang Does it Again: Ars v Chelsea Player Ratings and Review

Arsenal 2 – 1 Chelsea. The Gunners win the FA Cup for the 14th time!!

Briljante Aubameyang helpt Arsenal aan FA Cup na superstart Chelsea

Who would have thought that Arsenal would beat in succession Sheffield United away, Man City at Wembley and then Chelsea in the FA Cup final? Arteta guided his much criticised squad to victory and has now already a major trophy to his name.

Before the game I stressed the importance for Arsenal to score first, to keep the midfield tight with an extra midfielder and to not allow the Chavs to penetrate us from the wings. Unfortunately, we allowed the Chavs to run straight through our midfield early on and for Giroud to flick the ball in our box to Pulisic. the talented American still had enough to do but he produced a fine finish and we were behind after just five minutes into the game. 0 – 1 to the bad guys.

So we let them score the first goal which is seldom good. However, sometimes scoring a goal that early in the game – especially in a final – can lead to losing focus and  allow the opponent to retake the initiative; and that is exactly what happened.  We started to win the battles in midfield and exploit the weakness on Chelsea’s right flank through balls over the top and good link-up play between Tierney, AMN and Auba. And soon we were rewarded for our concerted efforts: Auba was fouled in the pen box and he took the penalty with great, great calm. 1-1.

The second half was evenly balanced without Arsenal being threatened much by the West-Londoners. Giroud was wallowing round in Luiz’s pockets and after the young American PulledaSicky and went off with a bad hamstring injury early on in the second half, it felt that we would come out gloriously victoriously eventually.

It was clear from the first half that we needed one or two moments of quality to win the final, and who else than Auba delivered with a Henryesque move involving both his feet and the daftest of finishes. AubaBangBangMeyang does it again!

1 – 2 to the good guys and FA Cup nr14 will be nicely placed at the Home of Football. 

Player Ratings:

Martinez – Tears of Joy after the game. So committed and eager to keep the Chavs out: 8.

Tierney – Incredible focus and timing in everything that he does, and what a ball for Auba that led to the pen: 9.

Luiz – Majestic leadership and dominance of our defence: 9.

Holding – Super eager to win every ball. Once or twice out of position or slow to react but full of commitment: 8

AMN – Superb first half and more quiet in second half, but nothing happened on the Chavs right wing from an attacking point of view because of The Tank: 8.

Xhaka – Very busy game and after a sluggish start he commanded the midfield and gave great protection to our defence. Excellent positioning and reading of the game: 9

Ceballos – Great partnership with Granit and he added the creative spark to our midfield: 9

Bellerin – Inspired run that led to our second goal and a very committed performance from Hector despite some defensive lapses at times: 8

Pepe – Inspired performance and is much improving under Arteta in terms of involvement in all areas and aspects of the game. Unlucky to see his superb goal ruled out (Auba offsite) but good, unselfish assist for Auba’s winner: 8

Laca: Worked his socks off to keep defenders on their toes and create space for others – the paddling legs under water of the graciously attacking Arsenal swan: 8

Auba – MOTM Masterclass in attacking football. Beyond Perfect. Two superb goals: 11

By TotalArsenal.

 

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Arsenal v Chelsea Preview: The King of the FA Cup is Once Again in the Final at Wembley

Here we go – the FA Cup final, we hold the record in both appearances (21) and  victories (13) – Arsene Wenger holds the record of most victories by a manager (7).

adams and vieira lift the Fa cup

Throughout my life I’ve listened to the finals on the radio (2) live at Wembley (6) and on TV (8) the other 4 were before my time. My personal excitement in the FA Cup has never waned and I used to travel as much as I could to see us play in the early rounds of the competition and it always amazed me at how much local excitement there was when we played in lower league cities. It is football at its best with top clubs always at the risk of being ousted by “Giant Killers”.

Soccer - FA Cup - Arsenal Winners Parade

But here we are a third Arsenal v Chelsea FA Cup Final our first was in 2002 – who can possibly forget the goals from Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg and a few days later we beat Manchester United to gain our second League and Cup double under Arsene Wenger. 

Arsenal entered the competition in the third round and was drawn to play Watford of the First Division. They took the lead in the eighth minute, where good play by Nwankwo Kanu allowed Thierry Henry to round goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain and tap the ball into the empty goal. The lead was doubled two minutes later: Kanu again found Henry, who “unselfishly squared the ball to midfielder Freddie Ljungberg for another tap-in.” Gifton Noel-Williams moments later halved the scoreline, heading the ball in from a Gary Fisken cross. After squandering numerous chances to increase their lead, Arsenal added a late third and fourth goal from Kanu and Dennis Bergkamp, before Marcus Gayle scored what was a mere consolation for Watford in stoppage time.

Arsenal faced cup holders Liverpool at home in the following round. A solitary goal scored by Bergkamp in the 27th minute saw the home side progress in a match layered with controversy: Martin Keown, Bergkamp and Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher were all sent off in the space of ten minutes, the latter for hurling back a coin at the crowd. Against Gillingham in the fifth round, Arsenal twice had their lead cancelled out, before Tony Adams scored the winning goal of the match.

Arsenal played Newcastle United in the sixth round on 9 March 2002. It was the second meeting between both teams in a week, and in spite of Arsenal winning the first fixture and scoring the opener in the cup tie, Newcastle held them to a 1–1 draw. A replay was scheduled two weeks later at noon. Arsenal won by three goals to nil, but during the match lost Robert Pires to injury; he was ruled out for the remainder of the season with medial knee ligament damage. An own goal by Middlesbrough’s Gianluca Festa, from an Henry free-kick, was enough for Arsenal to win the semi-final.

The final was deadlocked and in the 67th minute Chelsea brought on Zola replacing Hasselbaink but the substitution did not have the desired effect as Arsenal went a goal ahead. Adams cleared the Chelsea danger and Wiltord’s reverse pass found Parlour with acres of space to manoeuvre. The midfielder advanced as the Chelsea defence backed off and looked up before curling the ball from 25 yards. His effort went over a diving Cudicini, into the top right-hand corner of the Chelsea goal.

Wenger made a defensive-minded change almost immediately, taking Bergkamp off for Edu. A clash between Henry and Terry in the 75th minute resulted in both players receiving a yellow card for unsporting behaviour. Winger Boudewijn Zenden replaced Melchiot a minute later; the attacking change altered Chelsea’s positioning. With 10 minutes of normal time remaining Arsenal extended their lead, when Ljungberg scored. A similarly executed goal to Parlour’s, the Swede ran forward, evaded the challenge of Terry before curling the ball past Cudicini from the edge of the penalty area. Ljungberg was serenaded by the Arsenal crowd, who chanted “We love you Freddie, ‘cos you’ve got red hair.” Chelsea struggled to find a response; Guðjohnsen’s foul on Parlour late on highlighted the team’s frustrations. Riley blew for full-time after normal and stoppage time. Once Arsenal received their medals, Adams was given the cup and he shared the honour of lifting it with Vieira, his stand-in captain.

Here is a look back:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ks4swBIWinY

Next up we met in 2017 – the “Mertesacker Final”

Arsenal, as a Premier League team, started their campaign in the third round. In it, they were drawn away at Football League Championship Preston North End. At Deepdale, Arsenal won 2–1 with goals from Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud. In the Fourth Round, Arsenal drew fellow Premier League Southampton. At St Mary’s Stadium, Arsenal won 5–0 with two goals from Danny Welbeck and a hat-trick from Theo Walcott. In the Fifth Round, Arsenal were drawn against non-league National League Sutton United away. At Gander Green Lane, Arsenal won 2–0 with goals from Lucas Pérez and Walcott. The match was also noted for Sutton United’s reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw being investigated by The FA and Gambling Commission for eating a pie pitchside despite there being betting odds on him doing so. In the quarter-finals, Arsenal were drawn at home against National League Lincoln City. At the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal won 5–0 with goals from Walcott, Giroud, an own goal by Luke Waterfall, Alexis Sánchez and Ramsey. In the semi-final at neutral Wembley Stadium, Arsenal played against Premier League Manchester City and reached the final after a 2–1 win with goals from Nacho Monreal and Sánchez.

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Despite what was expected to be a tight affair in the Final, Arsenal dominated the early proceedings and opened the scoring with a goal from Alexis Sánchez in the 4th minute, shooting past the advancing goalkeeper from six yards out with his right foot. The goal was initially flagged as offside due to Aaron Ramsey being in an offside position. After discussing with his linesman, referee Anthony Taylor overrode the decision and awarded Arsenal the goal due to Ramsey not attempting to play the ball. Sánchez also handled the ball in the lead up to the goal but this was not seen by the referee. Arsenal then hit the post twice from close range in the first half through Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck.

In the second half, Victor Moses received a second yellow card for diving in the penalty box in the 68th minute, leaving Chelsea with ten men. Chelsea equalised through Diego Costa in the 76th minute when he controlled the ball on his chest in the penalty area before shooting low to the left with his right foot. Three minutes later Aaron Ramsey scored for Arsenal by heading in an Olivier Giroud cross from the left from six yards out.

After producing an extraordinary man-of-the-match performance in the FA Cup final triumph for Arsenal, Per Mertesacker admitted that “everyone had written me off” after spending more than a year without making a start for his club.

<> at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England.

<> at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England.

The 32-year-old German has suffered a serious knee injury and has also been overlooked by manager Arsene Wenger but was called upon following a defensive crisis which ruled out Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi for the final against Chelsea.

“Two weeks ago I was on holiday – I didn’t expect to play,” Mertesacker said. “Everyone trusted me and supported me throughout the season and the manager gave me the opportunity. Arguably he played the best game of his Arsenal career.

 

Now we have our third Final against Chelsea and my My wishes and Hopes are that we carry the Cup home and plat in Europe in 2020/21.

Arsenal FA Cup Final Appearances
# GF GA Year Venue
1 Cardiff C 0 1 Arsenal 1927 Wembley Stadium
2 Arsenal 2 0 Huddersfield 1930 Wembley Stadium
3 Newcastle 1 2 Arsenal 1932 Wembley Stadium
4 Arsenal 1 0 Sheffield U 1936 Wembley Stadium
5 Arsenal 2 0 Liverpool 1950 Wembley Stadium
6 Newcastle 0 1 Arsenal 1952 Wembley Stadium
7 Arsenal 2 1 Liverpool 1971 Wembley Stadium
8 Leeds 1 0 Arsenal 1972 Wembley Stadium
9 Ipswich 1 0 Arsenal 1978 Wembley Stadium
10 Arsenal 3 2 Man. United 1979 Wembley Stadium
11 West H 1 0 Arsenal 1980 Wembley Stadium
12 Arsenal 2 1 Sheffield W 1993 Wembley Stadium
13 Arsenal 2 0 Newcastle 1998 Wembley Stadium
14 Liverpool 2 1 Arsenal 2001 Wembley Stadium
15 Arsenal 2 0 Chelsea 2002 Millennium Stadium
16 Arsenal 2 0 Southampton 2003 Millennium Stadium
17 Arsenal* 0 0 Man. United 2005 Millennium Stadium
18 Arsenal 3 2 Hull City 2014 New Wembley Stadium
19 Arsenal 4 0 Aston Villa 2015 New Wembley Stadium
20 Arsenal 2 1 Chelsea 2017 New Wembley Stadium
21 Arsenal Chelsea 2020 New Wembley Stadium

GunnerN5

Message from TotalArsenal:

Today’s post is in honour of GN5’s sister, Gloria, who very sadly passed away last week at the age of 80. GN5 and his sister are  originally from Highbury but both emigrated to Northern America and were very close till the end. The funeral will take place on the day of the FA Cup Final and let’s hope the boys will do both Gloria and GN5 proud. Gloria Concordia Crescit! R.I.P.

See the source image

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How to Beat Chelsea? Arteta’s Tactical and Player Choices Will Be Key

The FA Cup final is in just two days time and Arsenal are once again in it. Under difficult circumstances, the great GN5 is working on the sort of high quality preview as only he can produce them. In the meantime, let’s look at the tactical side of things. 

What can we expect of Chelsea and how will Arteta combat with Lampard from a tactical perspective?

From the start of the season I have been impressed with the way Fat Frank has set up Chelsea to play football. They play high tempo, attacking football with crisp passing and gave Liverpool a good run for their money early on in the season (which now feels years away). There was not much space for Giroud before the lockdown but Lampard has had him fully incorporated in his plans since the end of it. The inclusion of the ‘slower’ but steady Giroud has given Chelsea’s attacking a bit more calm and structure, and Ollie has taken his chance to shine again with both feet and his head. He should still be a Gunner but you all know how that one went.

The big question is whether Arteta will leave the attacking initiative to Chelsea or whether he will aim to push the Chavs right back into their own half and surprise them. The risk of the latter is of course getting beaten on counter-attacks and rebounds, and we have been vulnerable to this for a long time. So I expect us to sit deep, like a letter U shape with extra padding for the bottom end through the disciplined duo of Xhaka and Ceballos. 

If so, the Chavs will nestle Giroud in and around our ‘D’ and try and get between our midfield and defence; he will play with his back towards goal as only he can and get the attacking midfielders and fellow attackers into dangerous positions with his lay-offs and link-up play. Holding and Luiz, luckily, know him very well so should be able to eliminate his threat to a large extent. The Chavs strengths is in their midfield and in their efficient use of the wings, and we need to halt and overpower them in both areas.

We may need to play 3-5-2 to win the battle in midfield and spring our own counter-attacks, and our strength is also in our wings/wing-play and our red and white hot striker Aubabangbang-meyang. 

It has been said already on this blog that we will miss Mustafi’s incredible energy and responsiveness on Saturday. Holding is a bit calmer and as strong in the air, but he lacks the dynamism that Mustafi brings to the game. Sometimes this works against the German but Arteta (and Luiz) have turned him into an important player in our defensive set-up.

I think regarding the team Arteta will have a number of choices to make: who to play as right wing-back; where and whether to play Saka; Tierney as wing-back or third CB/ inclusion of Kola; Eddie or Laca; inclusion of Pepe or maybe even Nelson as surprise choice; inclusion of Torreira or maybe even Joe Willock, etc. Mikel may even look at a different system such as 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 to crack the Chavs. It is all very exciting!

My preferred line-up would be:

I would prefer to start with Ainsley for defence-security reasons but Pepe will scare the Chavs more and he is getting in some sort of form now. Pepe will have to work hard, though, as we cannot afford for Holding to be over-exposed on our right wing. In midfield I would like a bit of extra steel and Torreira should offer this. We do miss a creator in midfield so I would want Saka to have a free role and Tierney or Torreira to back fill the left wing as much as possible if and when Bukayo goes wandering to the centre/hole-area.

But what is yours fine fellow BKers and what are your tactical thoughts re the FA cup final?

By TotalArsenal.

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What to do with Mesut Ozil?

This is a question we have all been asking ourselves: what to do with MO11? Our most expensive player ever is less than a bench-warmer these days and seemingly lacks the desire and or flexibility to adjust to Mikel’s style of play and help him bring Arsenal back to where it belongs. Where do you stand on this?

Regular BKer Allezkev had this to say:

I see that Dr Sogut has reiterated his overused tweet regarding Mesut Ozil seeing out his contract at Arsenal and tbh that’s fine by me, although I did read that Ozil’s wife wasn’t very happy about her husband turning down a move to Fenerbahce.

I don’t know about anyone else but I suspect that Dr Sogut would love to see Arsenal come up with a financial package that would pretty much pay off Mesut’s contract and of course pay the good Doctor a nice bit of commission to help the deal through.

That would free up Ozil to join a Turkish club of his choice and allow his profile to rise so that he could make a lot more dough through sponsorships.

Financially Arsenal would not benefit at all in fact it could cost them even more with the only positive being that Ozil would be out of the club.

Of course, the alternative could be that Arsenal play hard ball as the club did over Mkhitaryan when the Armenians Agent was angling for a bit of commission and a pay off for his player.

Therefore, if Ozil says he doesn’t want to leave we should simply hold him to that, it’s still gonna cost Arsenal and of course it’s going to encourage unimaginative journalists to ask the same unimaginative questions about him, but Arteta can deal with that whilst the profile of the player falls away affecting his earning capacity whilst he doesn’t play and with the added bonus that his agent gets no more dough from the club. It’ll be barely 11 months, it’ll soon go by and Arteta could actually play him in the League Cup.

Some folks might find that pedantic and it is to a degree but it would also show that Arsenal aren’t going to be a doormat anymore…

Auba and Mesut

I fully agree with Kev on this one as a matter of principle. However, Ozil will become 32 in October and surely another year away from the pitch will do the final part of his career much harm; and unless he really makes an enormous U-turn, we really don’t want him anywhere near the squad. So selling him or indeed loaning him out would be best for all parties imo.

It is of course banal that we lack a top quality creative midfielder and Mesut is just that…

By Allezkev and TotalArsenal.

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Arsenal-Watford. Match Preview, End of Season Summary. The Long Nightmare Finally Closes. Can Arteta Create

A Sense of Hope–For the FA Cup Final and Next Season?

It’s a lot to ask of one man, but I like the new manager, and, for me, he’s saying (and doing) pretty much all the right things.  Other Gooners will point out that results have been mixed and that we’re really not going to finish a whole lot higher than we might have if Unai Emery had been able to see out the season.

In fact, 8th is our limit–and we need to win our match AND have Burnley (hosting Brighton) and Sheffield United (at Southampton) drop points–so, 10th is our more likely finishing place.

Tenth place.  Wow.  How did it come to this?

Can we say that we’ve hit rock-bottom and have no where to go but up?  Or, maybe we can blame everything on the global pandemic and put an asterisk next to this season.  (And, as such, *Liverpool* are only *PL Champions* and sure to finish at least 40* points ahead of us*; and, tomorrow, *Chelsea,* *Manchester United,* and *Leicester City* will be competing for those final two *Champions League* positions…)

I don’t believe that such qualifications can be made and I’d argue that it’s about a systemic rot at our club that begins at the top.  This post, I think, sums it up nicely.  We have owners, I believe, who value the bottom line more than anything and they’ve hired “football” men who are equally focused on such things.  Of course, their pounds and pence (we say dollars and cents over here…) calculations would surely be enhanced if we could get our brand back near the top of English (and European) football, but there seems no willingness to “speculate in order to accumulate” at least in a comprehensive manner akin to other owners, notably, gas and oil magnates at Chelsea and Manchester City and even more speculative American ownership groups at Manchester United and Liverpool.  Arsenal used to be part of a “Big Four” group of clubs at the top of English Football.  No longer, I fear.  And now, with ManCity only getting a wrist slap for their Financial Fair Play violations/cover-up, Arsenal appear that much more on the outside looking in.

At least we now have a manager who seems willing to take responsibility for what we produce on the pitch.  Mikel Arteta has stated that our Premier League finishing position is simply not good enough.  We still have a route into European Football–and a chance to lift a trophy at next Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley–but first we must see out the PL season in our own (empty) stadium vs relegation threatened Watford.

In midweek we faced a similarly desperate Aston Villa team and were beaten 1-nil.  Many are blaming a let down after two nice wins vs the best teams in English football, ‘Pool and ManCity.  Still, the lack of creativity and inability to make chances after going down a goal does not bode well for being able to dominate the “lesser” clubs.  It’s one thing to be able to play committed defensive football–and nick a goal or two at the other end on the break or by forcing mistakes with a forward press–and another thing entirely to be able to break down parked buses and get full points against the clubs Arsenal have traditionally expected to beat.

Watford are one of those clubs, though we have struggled against them in recent seasons, i.e., since they last achieved promotion to the Premiership.

We should have plenty of motivation to beat the bees (or hornets or whatever sort of insect Watford’s kit resembles) and do what we can to send them back down to the Championship.  In the reverse fixture, back on 15 September of last year, then-captain Granit Xhaka admitted to Arsenal being “scared” of Watford as they erased a 2 goal lead and looked the only team able to win the match.  We did manage to draw the game and take a point, but it was an admission that our football had turned fearful under (then) manager Unai Emery.  Things would go lower (MUCH lower) and Xhaka would lose the captaincy (with Emery soon to also lose his managerial post) but it was another example of Watford captain Troy Deeney’s earlier and (in)famous comment about “Arsenal lacking cajones” after an even worse result (a 2-1 loss at Vicarage Road) back in 2017.

So, tomorrow’s match is an opportunity to put Deeney and the rest of his team in their place and do our part in sending Watford down.  It’s also an(other) opportunity to prepare for the cup final against a motivated squad.  There are two ways Arteta might use this chance: 1) play his best first 11 and use the game (or maybe the first hour or so) as a dress rehearsal for the final, or, 2) rotate the team and protect his stars for the (far) more important match next weekend.  I believe he’ll go with the former idea and put out an 11 that could be repeated at Wembley, something like this:

Martinez

Holding–Luiz–Tierney

Bellerin–Ceballos–Xhaka–Maitland-Niles

Pepe–Lacazette–Aubemeyang

Of course, I could be way off base, and, as always, your guess is as good as mine.  There could also be some injury niggles or other fine tuning which might suggest a bit more rest for some and a bit more playing time for others.  With the squad likely rounded out by guys like Macey, Cedric, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Willock, Nelson, Saka, and Nketiah, Arteta could certainly choose a more mix and match approach.

How do you think the manager should approach this game?  Who do you think should start (and/or who should be rested and saved for the cup final)?

More generally, what do you think about the (PL) season we’re finishing up?  Is it a blip, a rock-bottom off of which we’ll bounce and head back upwards (and maybe a function of Arteta correctly putting the FA cup at the top of our priorities), or are the problems at our club more profound?

In other words, have at it in the comments below.  I’ll be back tomorrow with the (actual) line-ups and an attempt at a live-blog.  Let’s try and finish out the PL season, grateful that we’ve got a little something (a cup final, in fact) ahead.  A solid result (a win and some goals) would be nice, but (perhaps?…) the need for a performance that also bodes well for the future, both next weekend and next season, also seems critical.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 148 Comments

Aston Villa-Arsenal. Preview, Line-ups, Live-blog, etc. Gunners Get Ready at (Almost) Relegated Villa.

A meaningless match?  Not quite…

But not much of a match preview, I’m sorry to say.  Our stalwart from London (Ontario, Canada–GunnerN5) is not available to do his usual historical analysis of the rivalry.  Even TotalArsenal, our fearless leader here at Bergkampesque, is away on family duties (so he cannot contribute with his preffered starting line-up.  So, we scrape the bottom of the barrel and find (always cynical, always downbeat) me, 17HT, trying to bring something to the table.

Ah the table…

Look away, look away–I advise BOTH Gooners and Villa supporters.

The latter will have their eyes focused on the match between Watford and Manchester City, one being played not so far from where City were humbled by Arsenal on Saturday Night, ending their attempt at a 2nd (consecutive) sweep of the English Cups.  I tried to write a post about that match (and the Mikel Arteta-led resurgence of our club).  Many thanks to those (the few and the brave if not the proud…) who read it and left comments.  Hopefully you’ll be back and joining me in the comments today.  Anybody else?  Fresh blood (and/or ideas) is always appreciated.

Villains NEED City to win the match at Vicarage Road.  If they don’t, Watford will be safe and Villa will join Bournemouth and Norwich City as the clubs relegated from this season’s Premier League.  IF ManCity win today Watford would still be favored to stay up.  They play us (Arsenal) next weekend but Arteta might field a rotated side ahead of the FA cup final–or at least instruct his men not to play too hard, risking injury and red cards ahead of the the return to Wempty, er, Wembley for the FA Cup final.  Villa would have to beat us today AND better Watford’s result on that final match-day (when we play them).

So, let’s root for Watford.  Playing a freshly relegated team seems better than one fighting for their lives…

But, maybe we would prefer playing a motivated club.  Surely, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea will be eager to build upon their Europa League Final win in Baku, Azerbaijan last year, where they crushed Arsenal 4-1, when they get another chance in a cup final.  They are already in for next years Champions League but will still fancy their return to Wembley and, for a least a couple of guys, a chance to avenge the 2017 final where Arsenal upset them, 2-nil.  Additionally, it would be Lampard’s first trophy.  (Chelsea, a very different club than Arsenal, got a new manager after winning in Baku; we stuck with Unai Emery despite all signs of our decline being on more than full display.)

And, at half-time of the Watford-City match, the light blues leading by a pair of goals, so, relegation looks like it won’t be settled until our match…

Or next weekend if Arsenal fail to show up today.  (Update…it’s now Watford nil- City 4.  Villa have it all to play for…)

I believe motivation is a HUGE factor in these end of season matches.  Some teams have “nothing” to play for and others are looking ahead to tournament matches and keen to work (only?) on the technical aspects of their games and avoid injury.  As fans, we like to believe our guys care as much about each result as we do, but that is simply NOT true.  We live in a world of make-believe (if not actual fakery–witness the tolerance of piped in crowd sounds on the screens upon which we watch these closed-door matches).

Even if motivation is harder to come by (especially behind closed doors) we (the fans, at least) also believe in things like pride.  So, back to the table…where we sit 10th.

Arteta’s Arsenal are not the same Arsenal that lost that cup final in Baku.  A win today and we leap-frog Sheffield United and Burnley into 8th.  We’ll need some help on the final day, but it’s still (mathematically) possible to finish ahead of both Spurs and Wolves (though we need quite a tally over these next two games AND Wolves and Spurs losing a pair of South London matches).  As it is, we probably need to lick our (league) wounds and accept that the cup final is our only route into the Europa League (and that our Emery-experiment made us into a firmly-mid-table team–or worse).

So, how will Arteta set up his team against a Villa group that should be ready to go to the wall to extend their fight?  I’m thinking this line-up (eight changes from the group that beat City!):

Martinez

Cedric-Holding-Kolasinac

Bellerin–Torriera–Willock–Saka

Nelson–Nketiah(back from suspension?)–Pepe

I’ll put up the actual line-ups (in the comments) when they’re available (soon)… Please join me for a little live-blogging, or in match commentary (first takes are often the most lucid, I think).  Or just ignore me completely.  As time goes by I get more and more inured to the experience–and it sort of feels about right, in fact…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 84 Comments

“You Can Only Beat What’s in Front of You.”

And Arsenal Have Done Just That This Past Week. First it was Liverpool.  That was Wednesday, when THE dominant club in world football got their hono(u)r guard as they entered the (empty) Emirates stadium for having won–in completely dominant fashion–the … Continue reading

Gallery | 15 Comments

Arsenal V Manchester City Preview and Line-up | Let the Spirit of the Invincibles guide us to Victory

Arsenal v Manchester City – FA Cup Semi Final – July 18th, 2020 

There are so many stories to tell about our FA Cup semi finals.

Here’s one that sticks in my mind.

Stoke City’s old style of play upset many opponents, none more so than Arsenal, the Premier League’s aesthetes, who visit on Sunday.

In recent times, this fixture has become defined by leg-breaks, headlocks and a keen mutual dislike. It is not a new rivalry, however, but an old one resurrected.

“The bad blood goes a long way back,” explains long-time Stoke supporter Ian Webb – to the 1971 FA Cup semi-final, to be precise, when a controversial late penalty earned eventual Cup-winners Arsenal a replay. A year later, history repeated itself at the same stage of the competition, in more preposterous circumstances.

“We were both playing in away strips, Arsenal in yellow and blue, Stoke in an all-white kit. The score was level when late on our defence was opened up and one of their players – it might even have been Charlie George – was yards offside as the ball was knocked through.”

Linesman Bob Matthewson kept his flag down, however, and allowed a cross from the byline to find striker John Radford, who lunged to score past a stranded Gordon Banks. The goal stood. Stoke’s players and support were incensed.

According to Banks’s autobiography, team-mate Jackie Marsh shot a tirade at the official that “would have made a navvy blush”. Arsenal’s physio Fred Street, who had joined the club from Stoke, was discouraged from consoling his former colleagues after the game because they were “a bit violent at the moment”.

Matthewson’s decision seemed indefensible until, as Webb recalls, an explanation emerged. “He had mistaken an ice-cream seller in white overalls for our last defender.”

Actually, according to most accounts it was a programme seller; others suggest he was peddling nuts. The minor details were forgotten but the ill feeling remained.

Another is described is an article from the Liverpool Echo.

To paraphrase Monty Python’s famous Yorkshire men sketch ever so slightly . . . “Three games against the Arsenal in six days? That were nothing! We played them five times in 19 days, with the same team. And there were only one goal between us at the end.”

Except it’s not a parody.

Liverpool and Arsenal really did meet five times in less than three weeks.

And after an intense marathon of matches between April 12 and May 1 1980, just a solitary goal separated the Gunners from Bob Paisley’s all conquering side.

12.04.1980: 0 – 0 Arsenal (Hillsborough) FA Cup semi-final

16.04.1980: 1 – 1 Arsenal (Villa Park) FA Cup semi-final replay

19.04.1980: 1 – 1 Arsenal (Anfield) 1st Division

28.04.1980: 1 – 1 Arsenal (Villa Park) FA Cup semi-final 2nd replay

01.05.1980: 0 – 1 Arsenal (Highfield Road) FA Cup semi-final 3rd replay

………………………………………………………………………………………..

After our victory against Liverpool our team should have its tail between its legs and realize that no team is unbeatable. We went into the Liverpool game as seeming no hopes – they were by far the better team and were 43 points ahead of us in the league, yet we squeaked out a 2-1 victory after being 1-0 down.

Now we head into another game where we are the undisputable underdogs – but this is the FA Cup and you can never count out the underdog.

This is our record against City in the last 12 games we’ve played.

21-Dec-15 W Premier
08-May-16 D Premier
18-Dec-16 L Premier
02-Apr-17 D Premier
23-Apr-17 W FA Cup
05-Nov-17 L Premier
25-Feb-18 L League Cup
01-Mar-18 L Premier
12-Aug-18 L Premier
03-Feb-19 L Premier
15-Dec-19 L Premier
17-Jun-20 L Premier

Here is a look at our illustrious history in FA Cup Semi Finals.

P Arsenal FA Cup Semi Finals F A W L
1 1906 W. Arsenal Newcastle United 0 2   1
2 1907 W. Arsenal The Wednesday 1 3   1
3 1927 Arsenal Southampton 2 1 1  
4 1928 Arsenal Blackburn Rovers 0 1   1
5 1930 Arsenal Hull City 2 2    
    Arsenal Hull City 1 0 1  
6 1932 Arsenal Manchester City 1 0 1  
7 1936 Arsenal Grimsby Town 1 0 1  
8 1950 Arsenal Chelsea 2 2    
    Arsenal Chelsea 1 0 1  
9 1952 Arsenal Chelsea 1 1    
    Arsenal Chelsea 3 0 1  
10 1971 Arsenal Stoke City 2 2    
    Arsenal Stoke City 2 0 1  
11 1972 Arsenal Stoke City 1 1    
    Arsenal Stoke City 2 1 1  
12 1973 Arsenal Sunderland 1 2   1
13 1978 Arsenal Leyton Orient 3 0 1  
14 1979 Arsenal Wolves 2 0 1  
15 1980 Arsenal Liverpool 0 0    
    Arsenal Liverpool 1 1    
    Arsenal Liverpool 1 1    
    Arsenal Liverpool 1 0 1  
16 1983 Arsenal Manchester United 1 2   1
17 1991 Arsenal Tottenham 1 2   1
18 1993 Arsenal Tottenham 1 0 1  
19 1998 Arsenal Wolves 1 0 1  
20 1999 Arsenal Manchester United 0 0    
    Arsenal Manchester United 1 2   1
21 2001 Arsenal Tottenham 2 1 1  
22 2002 Arsenal Middlesbrough 1 0 1  
23 2003 Arsenal Sheffield United 1 0 1  
24 2004 Arsenal Manchester United 0 1   1
25 2005 Arsenal Blackburn Rovers 3 0 1  
26 2009 Arsenal Chelsea 1 2   1
27 2014 Arsenal Wigan Town 1 1 1  
28 2015 Arsenal Reading 2 1 1  
29 2017 Arsenal Manchester City 2 1 1  
30 2020 Arsenal Manchester City        
      Totals: 49 33 20 9

Arsenal v Man City 2

We have met Manchester City twice in FA Cup semi finals and we have been victorious on both occasions, we won 1-0 in 1932 and 2-1 in 2017. We always seem to summon up something special having won 20 out of our 29 semi finals.

 Here is a reminder of our victory against them in 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS_UXYhnX1Y

arteta

Enjoy the game – and may the gods of the FA Cup look down favourably upon us.

GunnerN5

TA’s team to beat the Blue Mancs

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 88 Comments

Where Should Arteta Spend his Money? A Proper CM: Cristante, Douglas Luiz, Aleñá or Koopmeiners

Arsenal’s new differentiator to take on all competition…

trumpets

Please be warned: this post might rather be an interesting piece than a wise or deep one.

20 years ago, Wenger and Arsenal were the innovators of British football. Smart investments in young and misused players.

15 years ago, Arsenal was equivalent to the best team in the UK. The biggest clubs in Europe signed our established players.

10 years ago, we were all about consistent quality, challenging for silverware, always qualifying to and from CL group stage.

5 years ago, we probably still played the most attractive football in the league, but not nearly as effective.

But what distinguishes Arsenal now from the other clubs?

My answer is as follows: we are the Premier League club with the smallest distance between the (quality of) the first-choice players and their back-up.

I wish I could say something more cheering, but I’m afraid that this is the harsh reality. So, let’s embrace the positive side of it. In the next few paragraphs I will try to provide arguments for the claim above, and in some extent touch the topic of who could/will be sold, and where the squad needs reinforcement(s).

Disclaimers: I will assume that Auba and Lacazette will sign new deals – otherwise we need replacements – and will use Arteta’s recently favoured 3-4-3 line-up as default. When evaluating who is the first choice for a certain position I will try to apply/guess Arteta’s preference, otherwise would put the younger player as the second choice.

Goalkeepers:

We have been talking about it in the last few weeks, we have 2 highly competent keepers at the club. They are about the same age and same size, and apparently enjoy the competition. Leno is a bit more experienced, but Martinez is the most senior member of the squad (Arsenal career). Long story short: even when our first-choice keeper is injured or suspended we don’t suffer. No reinforcements needed.

Central defenders:

It might be controversial, but with the back three option the obvious middle defender is David Luiz. He needs a left footed partner on his left, and a right footed partner on his right. When everybody is available, they are Pablo Mari and Shkodran Mustafi. Yes, we have a first-choice trio where 2 of them didn’t play for Arsenal a year ago, and the third was the object of many fans’ prayers never to play for Arsenal again a year ago. 😊

I didn’t include Holding in the first 3 as he is the obvious choice for the middle defender in the backup trio – as well as Luiz’s probable successor as he retires. I would put Calum Chambers to his right, that’s a no-brainer. But to his left we have limited options. Kolasinac and Tierney are left footed defenders, but both are too valuable in supporting attacks and providing crosses than to leave them behind (literally). I have to go with Kolasinac here, mostly because the Scotsman will by my first choice LWB/LM, and also as Arteta used the Bosnian Hulk in the LCB position for 3 games in a row – but I think it was mistake and he probably knows it.

That means we have the reliable but ’unfancy’ Sokratis as surplus to requirement. And if the club manages to sign the free transfer Malanga Sarr (21y, left footed French U21 international CB/LB) then Kolasinac could face difficulties finding playing time too. And I didn’t even place Saliba, as I haven’t seen him playing, hence I don’t know where he is best suited to play. Mavropanos will likely go on loan to the Bundesliga (he is a fine player, I really hope he will not be sold), and probably the same fate awaits Ballard and Medley. One of them could be sold as we don’t need that many young prospects, but they both are quality material. Anyway – Sarr aside – we don’t need reinforcements here either. I know it is really hard to digest, but paying 70M for Koulibaly (29) is just crazy.

Wingback and wide midfielders:

This is again an easy subject. We have Tierney and Bellerin here who are expected to become the best wingbacks in the league in the next couple of seasons. And with Saka (LM) and Soares (RM) backing them up, we are not in a bad position at all. (Sorry, young Bukayo is not a first-choice player; and probably LM would be his best position as he can both defend and attack.)

It means that we likely have to say goodbye to the loyal Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who was tenacious and always ready to go, didn’t complain to be a guinea-pig in position experiments, but he couldn’t deliver consistently convincing performances. The silver lining here that he would very much like a transfer to blossom, and be the next Oxlade-Chamberlain, becoming the next big thing when given the chance.) Obviously: no reinforcements needed here.

Central midfielders:

Let’s go with the Xhaka-Ceballos tandem as first-choice midfield duo for now, as we have seen a sparkle of creativity there (for the first time since the restart). I really hope that we can sign the Spaniard for a reasonable price. That makes Torreira and Guendouzi our back-up engines. Which makes sense, as Guendouzi does the same job as Xhaka – but less efficiently – and in cup games he wouldn’t seem out of his depth. Torreira can make up for Guendouzi’s less defensive contribution and can support the attacks, but with less passing range and precision as Xhaka or Ceballos.

Since I focus here on the preferred positions, I wouldn’t consider Luiz or Chambers as makeshift DMs, even though that could boost Arteta’s tactical options. And don’t even bother with AMN, only Wenger would jeopardize valuable points for this sort of loyalty.

So, I would focus all the available transfer budget here. Not for a new DM, as Torreira is not a bit inferior to Zakaria, Ndidi or Neves, but we need a proper CM to serve the attackers. That could be Thomas Partey, who is an expensive but hard working and dependable midfielder (with only a single assist this year in 3500 minutes), or cheaper alternatives like Cristante .(maybe we can swap him for Mkhitryan), Douglas Luiz, Carles Aleñá or Teun Koopmeiners If we must splash the cash, I would rather go for Houssem Aouar (possible swap with Guendouzi?). We have the talented Matt Smith (19) and Miguel Azeez (17) in our ranks, but such a step could be too deep water for them next season.

You haven’t seen me writing on Willock. That is because he has no place in Arteta’s 3-4-3 system; and the same applies to Ozil and Smith-Rowe. But that doesn’t mean they have to go, as there are several formations (4-3-3, 4-5-1, 4-1-2-3) where their skill can be utilized. But a Xhaka-Willock or a Guendouzi-Willock midfield duo would lead to a disaster at this point.

happy arsenal v bournemouth

Attackers:

That is – again – a no-brainer, as all our coaches first trident consisted of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe; while we have the young and extremely talented Martinelli-Nketiah-Nelson trio waiting for their chances. And they are all very flexible as Auba, Martinelli and Pepe are capable of playing SC, Saka can (and would) play on the left wing, while Ozil, Willock or John-Jules can operate as RW. And we have some great talents in the academy too: besides the above-mentioned John-Jules, we (still) have the extremely prolific Folarin Balogun (19) and the universal Sam Greenwood (18). So as long as we can keep our senior stars, we are good in this department; and the fact that Auba is 31 and Laca is 29 could give hope to the youngsters that they shouldn’t request transfer as there will be vacancies here in a few years’ time. No reinforcements are needed here, either.

So, coming back to my main point: while you may argue that our first-choice XI I not necessary Champion’s League material, our second best lineup:

———————Martinez———————

——Chambers—Holding—Kolasinac——

Soares—Guendouzi——Torreira—Saka

——Nelson——Nketiah——Martinelli——

is not significantly weaker than the primary XI:

————————Leno———————

———Mustafi——Luiz——Mari———

Bellerin—Ceballos——Xhaka—Tierney

—Pepe——Lacazette—Aubameyang—

You may think this is not a big deal. But a Tierney-Saka, Luiz-Holding or even the Lacazette-Nketiah gaps is not even close of a Cazorla-Coquelin, Giroud-Welbeck, Lehman-Mannone or a Campbell-Cygan ‘discrepancy’.

The only big gaps are – in my opinion – between Xhaka and Guendouzi, and between Ceballos and Torreira. But the latter is not a quality issue, but a generally unfair (yet necessary) comparison of fine players of different profile. That’s why I recommend to focus our reinforcement to the midfield, using the available cash, the future transfer fees from Sokratis, AMN, Mikhitaryan and Elneny (and maybe Kolasinac, if we manage to sign Sarr) to buy a decent first-choice CM and maybe a young DM/CM prospect, especially if we lose Guendouzi or Ceballos.

sakakakaka

My last point: why is it good to have such a small gap between the first-choice and the backup players?

Because we go far in cup competitions, where traditionally the young and/or backup players tend to feature. That was clearly the reason behind our recent FA Cup titles as well as our presence in this year’s semi-final, even though many clubs sitting above us on the table have dropped out.

Anyway, looking at the backup players of the top 6 teams:

  • Liverpool would have a defence of Matip, Lovern and Williams (in front of Adrian or Karius), while attacking with Minamino, Shaquiri and Origi,
  • Manchester City would probably still kick our asses in all departments,
  • Leicester would defend with Fuchs-Bennett-Morgan-Justin, and attack with Perez, Slimani and Diabaté,
  • Chelsea would have a tame midfield of Loftus-Cheek, Barkley and Drinkwater
  • Manchester United would be attacking with Mata, James, Lingard and Ighalo
  • and the Tottenham hitmen of Lamela and Bergwijn don’t look that terrifying either

What do you think? Where do you see the big gaps between the second and the first-choice player? And where do you see the most painful gap between our finest and the world-class level?

By PBarany

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments