Arsenal-Leicester City–Where Does Arsenal Stand?  Winning Means That Waiting is the Hardest Part.

Unai Emery isn’t looking back.  The coach says we must improve. I’d agree.  While the results (since those pesky early losses) have been impeccable, they only look easy in retrospect.  And, easy is just how it is when it comes to taking those points for granted.

Leicester City?  Are they the formidable champions from just a couple of seasons ago or are they the club that has found themselves fighting against relegation in the seasons since?  

We shall see.  In the meantime, while we wait for our match, what might be gleaned from thinking about and maybe watching some of the other football?  

Moo-United travel back to the club he haunted (perhaps) more happily.  By dint of winning the early–and extremely up and down–match against Arsenal, Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea team sit tied atop the Premier League and can heap more misery on Mourinho. From an Arsenal perspective, we probably want United to take at least a point at Stamford Bridge; Joe-Say might want the quick exit, but the longer things fester on the red side of Manchester, most likely, the better.

In the 3 o’clock matches are a few derbies.  Bournemouth currently sit sixth in the table and host their South Coast rivals Southampton.  Meanwhile, Spurs play West Ham at the Olympic Stadium, while Burnley must travel to town to play at Manchester City.  The game I’m interested in, however, is Watford venturing to the Black Country to play at Wolverhampton. Both teams are solidly in the middle of the table and feature as much in the way of continental (mostly Spanish and Portuguese) talent as perhaps we’ve got in any of the weekend’s matches.  

Huddersfield Town host Liverpool in the late game.  You could call that one a Greater Manchester derby too, and, while no game is easy, we’re talking about a club that clawed its way into the Premiership through the playoffs and somehow stayed up against one of England’s biggest and most in-form clubs.  

(Sunday, supposedly, we’re supposed to suffice with Everton-Crystal Palace.  Seriously? Everton are in the mid-table morass while CP are only in the single-digits-won grouping below.  There could be some strategic/tactical interest in how their managers approach the match, I guess…)

Fulham came up by way of the same route as Huddersfield yet Gooners have seized upon our most recent match, a 5-1 victory in their home stadium, as something of a stylistic turning point.  Finally Arsenal looked good–at times REALLY good–in beating the cottagers. Can we continue? Not just with the winning, but with a brand of football fans might really get behind? It’s getting deep into the autumn but we’d still like to keep on (or start truly) enjoying the fruits of Emery’s football.  Results first, of course, but some swashbuckling “getting our Arsenal back” football would also be lovely, no?  I’m feeling less greedy; really I’d just like to ground myself a bit further in what the new manager is after. 

As such, if I can rouse myself–and the espresso is working for me–I hope to watch the neutral football with an eye to how these teams are setting up and playing the game. Which teams are attacking? Who’s playing on the counter? Do ANY of these teams actually want the ball.  Are any trying to play the attacking football former manager Arsene Wenger espoused?  Is Emery’s approach different or is he (only) the latest in the growing(?) cohort of coaches who seek to strike before teams can set their defensive lines, often in the split seconds of transition when control of the ball switches from one team to the other? 

If Arsenal are part of a larger trend, is it one that favors park-the-bus teams?  (Certainly we’re not one of THOSE quite yet?…)  Maybe it was Leicester City defying the odds to win a PL title that really solidified this approach. Or was it Mourinho’s dour style in his Chelsea (Internazionale and Real Madrid) stints that set the groundwork?  Guardiola and Klopp, with their pressing from the front, are the new wave and those moments when they can force turnovers and recover the ball in their opponents’ half come regularly and with plenty of excitement.  Call it (Pep’s) Ronda-style or (Jurgen’s) Gengenpress or even (Emery’s) Protagonismo, but it all sounds about the same to me.  Unfortunately, I feel I must use the term “sounds” (instead of “looks”) because we haven’t really seen much of an Arsenal press-from-the-front as of yet.

But, what am I missing?  You tell me. I feel, after all the seasons of watching Wenger’s teams and knowing what he was after, that I’m almost emerging from a cocoon.  Certainly it was easy enough–in years past at least here in the Goonersphere–to dismiss folks with novel formation and tactical suggestions.  Not so now, but I’m just learning.  Are there (other) English teams you like to watch? What about on the continent? How has the game changed? Is anybody playing attacking, possession-based football (Wenger-ball?), and should they? Frankly, I miss it, but, on the other hand, I don’t mind the winning we’ve had (lately) at Arsenal.

Don’t be shy, tell me what I’m missing (and where to find it)…

Go on then…

(In the meantime, picture me–waiting for Monday night–like these old dudes…)

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Fantasies of Free Flowin Footy in a Four Four Two

The match at Fulham was, if nothing else, encouraging.

It’s hard not to feel like this was the type of occasion Arsenal might squander. After a good period of momentum heading into the international break it almost seemed inevitable. This is less a dig at Wenger and more the mentality on display in the past few seasons. Whether this string of results is due to Emery’s efforts in addressing this mentality or if we’re just enjoying a period of good fortune remains unclear. My guess is that it’s probably a bit of both.

Instead, our club extended its run to nine consecutive wins across three competitions, not only a testament to form but the manager’s ability to effectively balance results, morale, and injury. Alexandre Lacazette put in another man-of-the-match performance. Alex Iwobi came of age. Aaron Ramsey finished a sweeping move that will surely compete for goal of the season. And Torreira… f*cking Torreira. The team responded positively to conceding before the break. The football was tidy and purposeful; at times, nostalgic. For the first time this season, it felt like we were watching Unai Emery’s Arsenal.

This is not to say that fundamental issues don’t remain. There are serious questions about the club’s ability to build a title contending team with the error-prone Mustafi leading our back line. The increasingly familiar butt-clench that follows a Xhaka turnover somehow managed to escape us these past few outings, but I suspect they too will return. Coupled with a broken wage bill and a few uncertain futures, it will be interesting to see how Emery’s time at Arsenal plays out.

Still, there is no denying the attacking football that was on display last Sunday. In addition to feeling like the first glimpse of the new Arsenal, it was also the first time I (and likely thousands of other supporters) felt like we’d made tangible progress on our performance the week before. Perhaps most encouraging—and the initial inspiration for this piece—was how we set up on Sunday. I must admit that I was completely oblivious to this change in formation during the match and it wasn’t until my second viewing that I started to form an idea of why everything seemed to be going so smoothly.

The debate over the importance of formation at the highest level is valid. Thanks to the fluid nature of football, at any given moment it is not unusual to find a center back occupying the space of a forward or a midfielder dropping deep to cover for their outside back. The debate over the importance of tactics is not. As I touched on earlier, it is still too early to draw any real conclusions about Emery’s managerial prowess and it will likely be an entire season or two until we can. But, if we can take anything from these first few months of life under Emery, it is that he approaches the game in a fundamentally different manner than his predecessor. It would not surprise me in the slightest if we’ve already produced more goal-line cut-backs in the last three months than in the entirety of the 2017/18 campaign. Hyperbole aside, Emery clearly has an idea of how he wants this team to play and continuing in a 4-4-2 is the right step in getting the most out of both the system and the players.

Well, sort of. I don’t actually believe that we set up in a 4-4-2. I think that a 4-2-2-2 variant might be a more appropriate assessment. We don’t possess the natural wingers. We do, however, have an abundance of wide attacking midfielders and a couple of fullbacks that love to eat up space. Iwobi and Mkhitaryan were brilliant on the day, the latter quietly so. As we built from the back, our “mid-wingers” often tucked in to create space for the fullbacks which created multiple chances and eventually our first goal. These narrow positions also served to tighten things up defensively and relieve pressure on our back-six.  On a side note— how good is Seri? He had a relatively quiet game by his standards, but I certainly wouldn’t mind some of his technique and calmness on the ball in our midfield.

If you revisit the first half at Craven Cottage you will find some beautiful partnerships forming. The pairing of Torreira and Xhaka at the base of midfield allowed our attacking unit the confidence to get numbers forward with great effect. The understanding shared by two incredibly intelligent footballers in Mkhitaryan and Lacazette is a real treat. I wouldn’t say these partnerships or understandings can necessarily be attributed to the formation, but it’s hard to argue against the idea that every single player in that starting eleven lined up in their preferred position. What’s more, the game was effectively won before we even had a chance to observe the 4-4-2’s greatest offering— surely the biggest advantage to this formation is that it allows for the duo of our combined £100m men. Pushing Aubameyang wide hasn’t been entirely ineffective but it simply wasn’t the role he was brought in to play. Pair him with his pal Lacazette, let the bromance blossom, and allow our new strike-force a chance at greatness.

Again, this is all very encouraging. In my opinion? We aint seen nothin’ yet.

A few questions to consider during the lull…

  1. Is the 4-4-2 (or 4-2-2-2) here to stay? Or will Emery’s tactical flexibility keep us wanting?
  2. Where do we start reintegrating Ainsley Maintland-Niles?
  3. How does 350,000-pound-per-week man Mesut Ozil fit in to all of this?

by Frozen

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

What’s Emery’s Secret? Who has Improved Most this Season? Which Partnership Makes All the Difference?

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WWWWWWWWW: Fulham v Arsenal 1-5 – our ninth win in a row.

Well that was some second half of football at Craven Cottage. Our boys worked their socks off and then in the end they got very generously rewarded: five top-draw goals to the good guys.

Eight observations from an uplifting – We Have Our Arsenal Back! – game:

  1. Nine wins in a row is a surprise to me. We rode our luck at times but every team needs a dollop of luck in almost every game to win it. I don’t think we are there yet and are very likely to have some bad results coming up sooner or later, but there are some structural elements to give us hope for a more sustained run of victories. Some of these will be discussed below. What I really like is how Emery seems to focus on the latter part of the game; if you think about it makes sense. Every game takes 90 minutes at least, and if you’d involve your strongest weapons in the last thirty minutes or so, you are more likely to get the goals to win the match. Why start with the strongest team if you can finish with your strongest team when the opponent’s defensive legs are heavy and holes appear everywhere?
  2. Yes why not start with your hardest workers and  runners to weaken the walls of the castle and knacker your opponents out, for then to bring on the heavy weapons – the Aubas, Ozils, Rambos, Mkhis – to benefit from all that hard work done by the likes of Welbeck, Iwobi, Laca, Bellerin and Nachos? It is too early to call this a trend but I reckon Emery could well be doing this on purpose and a vast majority of our goals have been scored in the second half this season… at the business end. Soon it will be seen as an honour to start on the bench and come on in the second half to finish opponents off.
  3. The other thing that Emery is doing definitely on purpose is to open us up and make us seemingly vulnerable. He is saying to the opponent: look we are playing it out from the back, don’t you want come and get the ball of us? The start of Arsenal games are not for the blood-pressure sufferers, that’s for sure. We play the sort of football Manure used to play under RedNose: absorb pressure and pounce on the counter or rebound. Rather than controlling the game in the opponents’ half, suffocating them by passing the ball round seemingly forever and until a crack is found in the wall, we invite pressure in our own half and with that create space in the opponents’ half. Every opponent until now has fallen for it, and although we still need to play the ball out of the back with more conviction – Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding and Nacho all had some Halloween passes on Sunday – it is working a treat for us. Every game we are doing the rebounds and counterattacks better and better and Fulham will not be the last team to get five past them this season, I reckon.
  4. Absolutely key is the magic partnership between Torreira and Xhaka. They formed a wall in front of the defence and hardly anything got through them. And for the last few season we haven’t had such protection for our CBs. But these guys also can turn defence into attack in no time: Xhaka with his crisp passing and Torreira with his bursts forward and he is a good passer of the ball too. What they both have in common is tidiness and organisational skills. They anticipate danger and deal with it. They also like defending and yet they love to be starters of attacks too. Xhaka had to work hard against Fulham and his attacking contributions were relatively limited, but Torreira was everywhere and truly knackered at the end. We need a like for like replacement on the bench and hopefully Maitland-Niles will be back soon.
  5. Lacazette, what can I say? Love that guy. How many times did he break up an attack of the opponent in our own half? Yes the goals had venom and precision but even more to like were his work rate, all over the pitch involvement and passing ability. Credit should also go to hard runner, Welbeck. He had the assist for Laca’s second and never stopped giving the Cottagers’ defenders something to worry about and act on. He is nowhere near as clinical as Laca and Auba but still an important squad player, and he is staying fit at the moment which is a real bonus for him and us.
  6. Holding and Mustafi, with Sokratis eagerly waiting on the bench, fought for their starting places on Sunday. Mustafi was calmer, less of a chancer, and as a result made less mistakes. Holding is by nature calm and more composed and together they were well matched v Fulham. I worried about this combination at the back but they did very well in the end. The full backs were also effective on Sunday: Bells and Nacho both had an assist and these were mirror-images of each other. They played the ball into the available attacker with speed, Auba and Laca, then they controlled the ball, turned around their axis and banged it in the right-bottom corner of the keeper. Is this straight from the training ground? Four goals were scored in that corner which makes me also wonder whether Emery and his team of coaches had identified that area as a weakness of the Fulham goalie…
  7. How important is Iwobi at the moment? He had a rusty first ten minutes but after that he did not stop with his penetrating runs and crisp forward passing. He is so effective now: the most improved player under Emery?!
  8. The final observation goes to THAT team goal, wonderfully finished off with a Bergkampesque heel-pullback by Aaron. Seventeenho was right when he said the best moment of quality was Mkhi’s razor-sharp pre-assist pass to Auba. But Rambo’s drive to connect with defence and then be the link in that attack all over the pitch deserves the highest praise: he started it, continued it and finished it off in style.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 42 Comments

Fulham-Arsenal Live-blog. Ozil Out and Emery drops Aubameyang and Ramsey to the Bench. Mkhitaryan and Iwobi to Feed Lacazette and Welbeck. Where’s Our

Midfield?

Earth to Emery?  What (exactly) are you thinking here?

 

Here are the line-ups:

 

I don’t mean to doubt the methods of the manager who keeps Arsenal winning matches.  It’s eight in a row in all competitions, with our most recent three coming with clean sheets to boot.  Still, most Gooners have been able to bask in the glow of the results and have lamented the scary manner in which they’ve been achieved.  Doubts exist over some individual players, notably a pair who were rested for the midweek trip to Azerbaijan (Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka) AND whether it’s wise to combine attacking midfielders Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey.  With the former (supposedly) out with a back problem, it would seem a natural start for the latter.  If contract issues and working towards “life without Ramsey” is the goal why not give his bench seat to Emile Smith Rowe?  Ramsey’s wife is expecting twins.  Could AR get up from his bench seat to help, if matters progress?  The other combo that isn’t quite firing is Aubameyang and Lacazette.  PEA from a wide position seems a sacrifice.  Is he (or Emery) sick of seeing him play there or is Aubameyang (as rumored) just plain ill?

Ah well, it’s a great opportunity to see what we’ve got with the 11 who get to go.  Please join me in the comments as I try to describe the action.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 147 Comments

Fresh Legs of Mkhi-Ram-Auba to Feed Lacerating Laca: Preview – Line-Up

FULHAM V ARSENAL:- EMERY PLOTS FOR THE NINTH STRAIGHT WIN.

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It is now eight wins on the spin all competitions. It’s beginning to look like there is a method to the ugliness. Substance over form. That would be a sea change from the Arsenal we’ve known. I still very much doubt that’s Emery. He looks a man of grit alright but also a man of style.

Fulham is a team of style, full of beautiful triangles but they have shipped in 16 goals in the league, joint last with Huddersfield and Cardiff. We know that Emery already knows everything about them and his head would be buzzing with a very offensive plan.

Thursday/Sunday matches are a strain but Emery is showing a lot of experience in getting the squad round it. Amongst those who completed 90 minutes of action on Thursday only one of the two of Sokratis and Holding is likely to start. That means we would have a fresh enough team to face Fulham, hoping though the 6 hours flight back from Azerbaijan on Thursday night did not take a toll on the players.

Mkhi should he expected to start otherwise it would be the third straight match without action for him. Am also expecting Emery to start Ramsey and Auba who where left at home for the Azerbaijan trip. That would leave only one more player to select for the front four from amongst those who saw some action on Thursday. There would be some big ones on the bench. That shouldn’t be much of a headache to Emery who obviously believes in the use of super subs as an important part of his game plan. My guess is that Ozil and Iwobi would be amongst those on the bench.

Expected line up:-

submit football lineup

Bench:- Martinez, Lichsteiner, Holding, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Ozil, Iwobi.

The Arsenaldom would always ask for some more: a ninth straight win and another clean sheet. That would make the inter-lull – 15 days!! – that follows a lot more bearable.

COYRG!!!

By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments

Smith Rowe and Our Nigerian Cockney Impress Again, Holding/Sokrates/Leno Solid: Qarabag 0 – 3 Arsenal.

Qarabag 0 – 3 The Mighty Arsenal – 8th win in a row!

Difficult for me to give a balanced view of the game as my granddaughter was demanding my constant attention, but from the bits that I saw, I thought that we defended quite well, getting in some crucial challenges at dangerous moments.
Quarabag were a tricky side, who loved a shirt tug and a bit of simulation but they aren’t totally without some skill and will give Sporting a tough time when the Portuguese visit Azerbaijan.

Holding made some impressive interceptions, his understanding with Sokratis is developing nicely. I like Lichtsteiner, he’s a bit of a bastard and that’s good, but he needs to play more at his age to improve his level and as that’s unlikely he’s always going to look laboured at times.

You can see how regular football has benefitted Holding. Kolasinac is a bit of a worry to me, he’s great going forward but as a defender I’m just not sure, but we need him so it is what it is.

Leno was great for me, if he made any mistakes, I must have missed them as I was having a wrestling match with my granddaughter, what I saw of him was encouraging, not least his competence with the ball at his feet and how relaxed our defenders were in those situations with him starting things off.

Great to see Emery experiment with a back three, I’m not sure it worked but credit to him for being flexible. Monreal did ok, but I prefer him at left back now, I hope he’ll be ok for Fulham this weekend?

Elneny and Guendouzi had a mixed bag of an evening, both doing some great things and not so great things; delighted to see Guendouzi score and didn’t he tuck it away with panache, right in the corner of the net, very impressive finishing.

Alex Iwobi is in danger of developing into a player who Emery cannot omit from the side, another swashbuckling performance from our Nigerian Cockney, all he needs is a few goals to ice the cake.

Emile S Rowe impressed again, becoming our 2nd youngest ever goalscorer in european competition and didn’t he finish it well after good work by that proper geezer Iwobi.

Oh Danny boy, why oh why couldn’t you just stroke home that late chance, after a grafting 90 minutes it would have been what you deserved, but you had your rugby boots on tonight – shame.

Nice cameo from Lacazette, setting up Guendouzi and using his expertise in taking the sting out of the game late on. Torrieira was steady and brought a modicum of security to a midfield that was a bit too open for me at times, but this is the Arsenal of today, never a dull moment.

By Allezkev

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Xhaka/Elneny, OWI behind Laca, Another MustHold in front of Leno? Qarabag v Arsenal Line-UP

Qarabag v Arsenal

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No Ramsey, no Mkhi, no Auba – they were all left in London. But we know by now that Emery takes the UEFA League v serious so expect a strong team to play.

Here is my predicted starting 11:

submit football lineup

Remember it is an early kick-off (17.55), so get home soon or throw a sickie.

COYRRGs!

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 58 Comments