The origins of the city of Liverpool date back to 1207, when King John issued letters patent advertising the establishment of a new borough – ‘Livpul’. Soon after, in 1235, the building of Liverpool Castle was completed. This stood on the spot where the Victoria monument now is (on the aptly named Castle Street) and was removed in 1726.
In its early days, Liverpool comprised of just seven streets, which are all still there today – Bank Street (now Water Street), Castle Street, Chapel Street, Dale Street, Juggler Street (now High Street), Moor Street (now Tithebarn Street) and Whiteacre Street (now Old Hall Street). It would remain a relatively small and unimportant city until its rise to prominence in the 18th century as part of the booming transatlantic trade.
In 1715 the first ever commercial wet dock was completed in Liverpool on the River Mersey, originally known as Thomas Steer’s Dock. The dock accommodated up to 100 ships and was originally a tidal basin accessed directly from the river, and by 1737 via Canning Dock.
In July 2004 Liverpool received the UNESCO World Heritage accolade after a bid centred on Liverpool as a Maritime Mercantile city, reflecting the significance of the city as a commercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest global influence.
The World Heritage Site stretches along the waterfront from Albert Dock, through the Pier Head, up to Stanley Dock and through the commercial districts, such as the Ropewalks area, to St George’s Hall.
Liverpool FC’s origins lie with their neighbours Everton. Founded in 1878, Everton moved to Anfield in 1884, a facility owned by the club’s president, John Houlding, a former Lord Mayor of Liverpool. In 1892 a dispute arose between Houlding and the Everton board of directors, over the club’s tenancy of the ground. The annual rent had risen from £100 in 1884 to £250 in 1892; Houlding wanted to sell the ground to the club, which in turn wished to agree a long-term rental. Houlding would only agree to this on the basis of a rent at a level unacceptable to the club. Negotiations having failed, the directors decided to leave Anfield and find another ground, leaving Houlding with an empty stadium. His response was to form a new football club to occupy the stadium. He attempted to retain the team name “Everton” by registering the name “Everton Football Club and Athletic Grounds Company, Limited” with Companies House, but the Football League decided that the name belonged to the departed Everton club, which acquired new premises at Goodison Park. Houlding therefore adopted the name “Liverpool Football Club” for his new venture.
Our away record against Liverpool is less than stellar. Our last win was on September 2nd 2012. In the EPL era we have only won 6 league games in 28 attempts, and our overall league record including stands at 24 wins in 96 games.
Our last game was a 3-1 thrashing, am I confident? – not in the least. But with the new spirit at Arsenal it would not surprise me to come away with a draw.
Arsenal v Liverpool EPL – Away Games
Arsenal v Liverpool All – Away Games
TA’s Expected Starting-11 for Arsenal:
There are four questions regarding the line-up: Is Tierney fit enough to play, Elneny or Ceballos next to Xhaka, Bellerin or Saka on the right wing, and Willy or Pepster on the right wing. Perhaps there is a fifth question: Laca or Eddie up-front, but I reckon that Laca’s current form and experience will lead to direct selection.
Tierney is doubtful, but I would imagine the wee beastie from Wishaw will somehow be fit for this one. If not, AMN will do his deadly marking job on Salah again and again.
Arteta’s biggest challenge is to keep it tight in midfield AND make the right wing work much better. These two challenges are related. Willian is better at passing the ball in tight spaces but Pepe has that ability to burst the high Pool line and that will worry them. Not an easy one for Arteta, but I reckon Willian will be picked initially.
Saka was fabulous v Pool at Wembley and I reckon he offers that extra dimension that we need when it comes to picking the right pass at the right time. So I could see him start instead of the more steady Bellerin, in terms of defensive capability. Yet I guess Arteta will start with Hector.
The biggest question is whether Arteta will start with Elneny or Ceballos. You know my thoughts on this by now, and I wonder what Xhaka would say if he was asked by Mikel. Getting this selection and their game instructions right will be pivotal. Ceballos has that ability to escape a press situation but is also prone to give the ball away dangerously. Elneny is a much quicker passer (needs less touches), keeps his position really well (aligned with Granit) and offers more physicality but is less good at escaping tight situations. I would go with a right wing of Saka, Elneny and Willian on Monday.
This is going to be a long, but not particularly serious post. Besides thought-provoking on the title topic, the aim is to invoke some nice nostalgic feelings.
Be warned: serious lineup-p*rn ahead!
I probably have already spoiled the fun with the title, but what would you think of a possible line-up from 1996 like below?
OK, probably this XI never existed, but I couldn’t find a proper pair to Wrighty, so I had to go with 5-4-1 with 5 defenders and a midfield diamond.
Anyway, the obvious correct answer to the question above is that they are all English/British – in fact they all have played in the national team (although Hughes only at U21 level).
Pretty neat XI, isn’t it? They could kick some serious butt back in the days.
Let’s fast forward to 2002 or 2003. Arsene Wenger educated the world on eye-catching and efficient football, with a likely lineup:
As you can see, there is indeed not a single player of British origin there. I don’t live in the UK and I am not British myself either, but it could have felt like a kick in the teeth seeing those invincibles on the top.
The message shattered the superiority of British football. Thus became the reason for the anti-Arsenal bias commonly shared among pundits, journalists and even referees. But that is speculation, and would need a separate post on its own.
And what’s worse: it was not a one-time gig, rather a pattern. Let’s go ahead 4-5 more years. How about this peach of a 4-4-2 squad? The defense might not be that convincing, but look at that front 5.
I tried to avoid duplications, but we indeed have loyal players that could have appeared in multiple line-ups. However that was not the point, in fact counter-intuitive here.
Still I enjoyed watching these guys playing in 2011, even without a single British player in the starting XI.
There was a slight decrease in quality, but after the footsteps of Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, Fabregas and van Persie it was inevitable.
I will not waste your time (too much), as the message is the same. Great foreing players capable of fighting for silverware.
Let’s see a potential line-up from Wenger’s penultimate campaign. Isn’t that a composed defense and a lethal attack?
Yes, we were way too light on the wings (Iwobi and Campbell were sitting on the bench), but what a trio of creative talent like Cazorla, Ozil and Alexis in the same team!
Sorry, I got carried away. I wasn’t trying to force comparison on Arsenal line-ups or invoke bitter-sweet feelings on the good ol’ days.
I merely wanted to introduce the trend of the British contingent in the Arsenal squad.
I did cheat a little as I left out some English players who could have made the cut (primarily Campbell and Cole, less notably Taylor, Upson, Pennant, Lansbury, Bentley or Jeffers), but not much.
And we arrived in 2012. Then Arsenal had a competent quintet of young, success hungry British lads, richly decorated with junior caps. It was the first time since Wenger’s early years where quantity met quality.
Gibbs and Wilshere progressed through our academy, while Jenkinson (1M), Ramsey (6M) and Walcott (9,5M) were purchased. Arsene was often told by pundits (of which profession I am still struggling to acknowledge) to build the team around them, hence the expression of the British core. We know he didn’t comply, and the rest is history – even in spite of 2 years later Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxelade-Chamberlain had joined the club making a septet out of the core 5. Nevertheless this did not become a success story. Obviously it had nothing to do with them being British.
None of them are with Arsenal, but with different trajectories.
– Walcott showed glimpses of immense talent, but he struggled with consistency. He couldn’t score the same goals at 26 that he scored easily at 21. After long years of experimenting and multiple chances, he was sold by the club for a reasonable 20M. Him becoming a fringe player at Everton showed that it was the right decision.
– Wilshere had technical abilities beyond Cazorla’s, and a lovable, dedicated, Arsenal-centric personality. His curse was the endless string of injuries hindering his development and motivation. He was let go on a free transfer despite having a valid contract (and a 20M value) – a signature Wenger gesture – but his luck hasn’t turned at West Ham either. I would really like to see him coming back to coach in the academy…
– Gibbs and Jenkinson had similar fates. They couldn’t continue their promising development in their early 20s and despite a few senior caps they kind of stuck at a low-tier PL level of a full-back. Eventually they were both sold below their values in order to find a proper club for them (West Brom and Nottingham Forest respectively) where they can – and still – play on a regular basis; acknowledging their loyal and committed services to our club, but there’s a common understanding that they weren’t Arsenal quality.
– Ramsey’s challenges were consistency and ambition. He had a few excellent spells with the club, but among CMs like Arteta, Wilshere, Ox or Diaby and AMs like Rosicky, Özil and Sanchez he couldn’t establish himself as an obvious starter. For his defense, there wasn’t really a box-to-box midfielder role in Wenger’s team. He was a clear star of the Welsh team (often on par with Garreth Bale), and he expected to play the same role at Arsenal. But (or rather: thus) the greed had the better of him, and left Arsenal on a Bosman, making more money at Juventus than Ozil. He was the only player from the core causing loss to Arsenal on purpose, therefore he is the only player whom I gloat upon seeing disappointed, as he ended up a mere squad player at the Italian champion, showing either he was not too good for Arsenal, or that astronomical wages often debase performance and/or motivation.
– The Ox is the dark horse here. The jury is still out, but my guess is that we made a good sale: at a right time for a decent price. Wenger was kind to Alex beyond his valor, giving him more minutes than he deserved for his performance, but he moved away to play for silverware. He indeed managed to have a CL-winner icon on his profile page (he didn’t play a single minute, and was on the bench for 1 game) and was a part of Liverpool’s PL-winning squad with 5 goal contribution last season, but he plays second/third fiddle behind Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita, Henderson, Milner – and now Thiago. He is a B-list player at Liverpool, and hasn’t played in the national team since 2018. So let’s say his departure was a win-win resolution.
– Welbeck’s leaving on a Bosman was much quieter than Ramsey’s. Mostly, as he was not a first team player. His signing back in 2014 was less of a necessity, but rather a botched message that transfers between Arsenal and Manchester United are not only a one-way street. It wasn’t a proper retaliation for the treason of van Persie, though. (Well, it’s a bit off-topic, but as we know how the signings of Silvestre, Danny or Mikhi turned out, let’s give up on mixing pride with transfers.) Welback was the poor man’s Aubameyang: as he wasn’t the best suited to play up front (due to the skills and lack of versatility of Giroud and Lacazette), he was sent to the wing, which was not his preferred position. He was doing alright, but not at a PEA level – who is 3 years older than Danny by the way.
In summary, we got a 54,5M for the 2 ex-Southampton boys (44% more than their combined worth), while we received 8,7M for the other 5 (12% of their combined worth at the time). Their market values dropped to their halves (Ramsey, Welbeck, Jenkinson, Walcott) or less (Gibbs, Wilshere), and while the coronavirus pandemic explained some of the devaluation, they are still playing in their prime (all are between 27 and 29 now). Anyway, the trend proves that they wouldn’t have become the future of Arsenal.
Don’t worry, I will not leave with the sour message that if the British core didn’t work out back then, we should forget it entirely and go back to cheap (?) League 1 signings.
Arsenal improved big time with regards to domestic players. We are clearly better at signing. You might not agree with me, but I am a fan of both Holding and Chambers. They are composed, intelligent players, and genuinely nice funny guys. Unfortunately they were both affected by season-long injuries possibly limiting them of what they could have become, but let’s hope for the best.
However what is even more important, our Academy is under professional management and providing major talents on a continuous basis.
Clearly, not all Hale End graduates will become first team players, but most of them having junior caps on multiple age levels show the quality work Mertesacker and his team are putting into the academy.
We had some hit and misses I have to admit;
– some players didn’t live up to the expectations and were sold or released (Miyaichi, Akpom, Mavididi, Hayden, Kamara, Hinds, Bramall, Toral, Pleguezuelo)
– we couldn’t keep some of our most promising talents and they left us young (Virginia, Malen, Musah, DaSilva, Greenwood, Balogun?)
– we didn’t give enough chance to a few who – in hindsight – could have deserved it (Gnabry, Jeff, Bennacer, Bielik)
– some were kept at the club for too long, joined the first team but couldn’t make the difference (Miquel, Silva, Campbell, Iwobi)
– and for some we couldn’t bypass the stupid laws (Nwakali, Asano)
Many of them felt, they need first team football sooner than our internal processes allow, and didn’t want to play for the U23 and go on loan for a couple of seasons. Most of them didn’t reach stardom though, so they don’t really qualify for hit-and-miss (McGuane, Dragomir, Amaechi, Gilmore, Burton), but they can still turn the tides in the future.
But let’s focus on the positives: we have some great players coming from the academy and sticking to the first team. Loyal to the club, eager to learn, hungry for success and fun to work with.
I’m not saying they are equally gifted, but they are committed, they are industrious, they are all working hard in training and whenever they get the chance on the pitch.
And the best part: I am not talking about a trio of players, but a lot. Combining them with our few external British purchases they make a whole team – a quite strong one in my humble opinion – so we are talking about a balanced group of 11 talented, young players.
I want to conclude the post with their line-up, so before that I want to show you a really strong XI in Arteta’s favorite formation. I think for 8-9 positions they are the best players we have at our disposal:
As you can see I replaced Saliba and Gabriel with Mustafi and Sokratis (we can swap the latter with Mari without changing the conclusion), but the moral of this – pretty strong – all-foreign line-up, that there is an immense level of experience there. The youngest players in the XI are Xhaka and Kola, both being 27. To be honest, I don’t think this XI is any weaker than the squad with Szczesny, Arshavin and Bendtner, so last year’s 8th position (the lowest in 30 years) is probably the result of other clubs injected with cash, inaccurate coaching, and mostly bad luck. This is an inspired team that will get to the TOP 4 places this season.
But I don’t want to talk about the ‘senior’ team too much. Because we have another line-up here: the defenders were purchased (for reasonable not astronomical price), but all other players came through Arsenal’s academy:
OK; it is an unconventional 3-3-4, and I was cheating as John-Jules is on loan at the moment (and while he was sitting on the bench in PL, EL and many cup games, he hasn’t yet introduced himself in the first team’s line-up in a competitive match), but we need 11 players for a team. We could substitute him with Ballard – to have a player from Northern Ireland to add diversity to English lads and Tierney – but he hasn’t even sat on the first team’s bench yet, and would change the formation to 4-3-3.Nevertheless the line-up above is not only British, but young (the oldest player is 25, half of them are U21), and a really strong one.
I don’t think many PL clubs from the top half of the table could field an all-British XI, and our youngsters would probably beat the XI of West Brom, Leeds, Sheffield Burnley or Fulham with ease. This team worth 134M according to Transfermarkt, with John-Jules not even registered and ESR assigned a symbolic value. At the end of the season, this will be 200M.
So to sign off on a positive message: we have a strong British core now, that could play for Arsenal for 8+ years. Tierney has already established himself as an undisputed first team player, Holding can inherit Luiz’s role as the defense orchestrator in a couple of years, and while I see AMN and Willock mostly as utility supersubs, Smith-Rowe, Nelson, Saka and Nketiah could become our first choice players when are seniors retire, saving the club 250M+ in the process. And there are always promising wonderkids in the Academy, some British (Ballard, Cottrell, Azeez, Balogun?), some are not (Lopez, Hein, Cirjan)…
We have managed to get another victory – two funny goals of Arsenal B against Leicester B. It wasn’t an easy game but we have prolonged our winning streak for a while.
Now, I may sound a bit picky in the next few paragraphs so inject yourself with patience before reading.
Leno – he did great job again at preventing opponents to score an early opener. He made himself big and blocked Iheanacho. He looked a bit more assured at set-pieces than he was v West Ham. Still, there is an issue Martinez has mentioned once. Apparently, Arteta wants his goalkeepers to use either foot in order to make passing game quicker. Martinez was already into that game but Leno seems to be a bit slower than Emi. We are talking about incredibly small fractions of time but it might make a difference between a successful build-up play and a wasted attack.
Maitland-Niles – he did his job as a real utility man. However, Pepe was not effective enough while AMN was his wing-man. Bellerin is a natural WB with attacking instinct and that helps Pepe to find space for his magic.
Kolašinac – he wasn’t that bad but Tierney has set standards that are too high for my compatriot. Kolašinac would be better off Arsenal and his return to Germany with a possible decent fee on our account would be perfect for all sides involved. His technical and tactical limits make him inadequate for Arteta’s system and endanger the balance of the whole team.
Holding – much as I like the idea of RH16 succeeding at Arsenal, it will depend on Saliba’s adaptation more than anything else. If Saliba hits the ground running, RH16 won’t stay at Arsenal for too long. He has issues when dealing with rather poor opponents and he is supposed to take on arguably one of the best players in the world (Mane) in the last two years. Yes, we have conceded just once in the opening three games.
David Luiz – he was imperious last night. He has grown into a leader of the team. I’m not his biggest fan but he fits into Arteta’s system and right now that’s the most important thing!!! I can’t stress enough how it’s important to have players who fit Arteta’s system rather than high-quality individuals who would disrupt it.
Saka – wow. I can’t believe we have such a mature and talented player. He has every ingredient to become a world-class player. His decisions on the pitch are unreal given his age and there is a technical quality in his game to execute those decisions. He should have been given a penalty in the first half when he was brought down in front of the goal.
Elneny – he has quietly become an important player in the Arteta system. He moves the ball and never stops working. He is a perfect example of an Arteta system player (I’ll call it ASP from now on) – there are players that have more individual quality than him (starting with Ceballos) but are not ASP.
Willock – he had a great pass with a cut through the defensive line so visible you could hurt your finger by simply touching the screen. In general, however, I don’t know what is there that Willock offers rather than being 13th or 14th man in the squad.
Pepe – oh boy. He is really an enigma. He is there yet he is not fully there. There is something about him so exciting yet frustrating that you don’t know if he is some creature built out of strengths and flaws of all Hleb, Rosicky, Fabregas and Nasri. He is one-footed yet his foot is worth of gold. When it works, that is. And that is an issue – Arteta wants this team to have every day as a good day and not just sporadically. How Pepe fits there? I reckon AMN on his side didn’t help him – if Cedric hadn’t been injured, Pepe would have had a more natural wing-man to help him. His corners weren’t as good as they were last season.
Nketiah – he got a goal and was unlucky not to score earlier in the game. I wouldn’t reduce him to a poacher as he presses the back-line and doesn’t stop running until the game is over. Hence his ability to score late goals when we are usually on the receiving end of scoring.
Nelson – he started with a flyer but was unlucky to see his shot parried by Ward. Later on, he had two horrible misses for a player with his shooting technique. He has to take opportunities like the one from the last night with both hands or he’ll get loaned out ad infinitum before he eventually gets sold.
Bellerin – an effective cameo from Hector with a great run through the Leicester defence that put the game in bed.
Ceballos – I like him a lot but I still have a feeling he hasn’t become ASP yet. There is a natural desire in him to play with the ball, do nutmegs, back-heel passes and stuff like that while putting a shift. In theory, that’s perfect. In practice, his dwelling on the ball gives extra-time to the opponents to structure themselves during our attacks.
Willian – he is an experienced winner and his set-piece delivery should be an improvement. We have had a lot of left-footed corner and indirect free-kick takers (Mesut, Xhaka, Pepe) but since Cazorla nobody has done a proper delivery with the right foot.
We are playing the Foxes ‘away’ tonight and your guess is as good as mine regarding the starting-11. It all depends on how Arteta will approach the game:
A good test for the wider squad
A great opportunity to prepare for our epic battle v Pool on Monday
A showcase for a few players we want to sell this month
An opportunity to try out a different formation/style of footie
A combo of two or more of the above.
I have a feeling Mikel will want to play with at least Luiz and Gabriel in the three at the back; the question is whether he wants to try out Saliba too or stick with Holdingho tonight. Having looked at the training footage on Arsenal.com, I reckon Saliba is ready for a start. So I am going for GLS at the back.
The midfield is the conundrum. Xhaka could do with a rest and we need to find out who can replace him if and when the Swiss maestro is absent. My view is that Elneny will be picked but I would also welcome a start for our Uruguayan bull. He looked very keen in training and I hope he will get a chance at some point in this match. I also saw a lot of Guendouzi, and Mikel may just want to give him a chance and show the rest of the world that Guendo is still alive and kicking. Saka could do with another game to shed the rust and we need his silky passing and intelligence. AMN could do with one as well and with Soares still out, I could see him start at right wingback.
Up-front Eddie needs a start, Pepe needs a start, but what to do with the left wing position? I would like to see a start for Nelson, but for the balance of the team and to show everyone we mean business, I could imagine Mikel starting with Auba. I am going for Nelson.
We have had Alezkev’s precise player ratings already, now let’s focus on a bit of post-game analysis.
Eight observations from a game that brought us down to earth – just what we needed:
I am loving the CF ’60/30 swap deal’ we have at the moment. There is Laca who always prepares for a ‘bruises and scratches’ battle with the opposition’s defenders; and there is Eddie who uses his energy so efficiently and effectively and always looks so robotically in control, without him lacking passion though. I know there is still doubt amongst some Gunners but just look at Nketiah’s movement and positioning and then his composed finishing. This guy will become better and better and he is keeping Laca on his toes, even though I don’t think he needs that. I hope we see a lot of 60/30 minutes per game between them, and either of them can start the game if you ask me.
As Kev pointed out in the previous post, we have scored five goals and our captain only scored one of them. Are we starting to spread the goals out or is Pierre just waiting for the Pool game?! 🙂 It is early days of course, but it would be great if we can keep sharing the responsibility for making the opponents’ nets buckle between a number of attackers and other players. That would be real progress.
Leno has to fill a big hole. We all fell in love with Martinez Happinez over the last few months, and we are missing our big teddy bear in goal. But Leno is also a great keeper and I still think the better one and we have to stay behind him, as confidence and support means everything to any player, especially a goal keeper. Martinez had the benefit of a settled ‘three at the back’ in front of him, yet Leno had to work with brand new organiser-CB Gabriel and without Luiz until now. And Kolasinac simply is not at the same level as Tierney. Still, Leno only conceded one goal and he had no guilt in that one. So let’s all get behind Bernd the beast in goal.
We lost our shape and composure v the Hammers and, to me, it felt like a step backwards. Emery struggled to get the midfield balance right (and so did Arsene in his last years) and this will remain Areta’s biggest challenge. We allowed 14 Hammers’ shots of which three were on target; these are the sort of stats we used to see under Unai. Although we had 63% of possession we only managed half of Hammers’ shots. At Fulham we allowed just 5 shots all game, yet we had 13 shots ourselves at the Fulham goal. That is quite a swing. The late loss of Tierney made a difference but, as you will expect of me by now, I believe swapping Ceballos for Elneny as Xhaka’s partner was the biggest cause of our regression. This does not mean that Ceballos had a bad game necessarily. He did some good attacking and defensive moves, but positionally and physically he does not offer what is required in our team as yet. Elneny does. We need two hairy-arsed yet technically good carpenters in deep-midfield and leave the creative woodwork to our attackers. 3-4-3 demands it, our defence needs it, and our attack will NOT suffer from it. The Xhaka-Elneny combo will push up better and keep it tight and THEN the likes of Willian, Saka but also Xhaka and Elneny, or Ceballos in a more advanced position, will pick the creative passes much easier.
Willian had a decent game but as per observation four I think he performs much better with a more solid, regularly high pressing midfield, so he does not have to track back too much and has players to combine with in attack AND midfield. He still delivered a fine ball for Saka and the young Englishman should have done better with his chance, but Arteta will need to get the balance in midfield right to get the best out of our fine Brazilian.
Talking about Saka, it is so good to have him back in the team. I love AMN’s solidness in defence/midfield, especially when we need this, but when Bukayo has the ball you know things could happen. I think he was quite keen to do well and perhaps a bit nervous and/or rusty, but boy he delivered some finely-weighed, Ozilesque, key passes which led to our goals. Bukayo is a super talent, perhaps the best we have had since Cesc. He needs a run of games now and I hope we see him again on Wednesday and Monday.
Gabriel is quality. You can tell he is finding his way in our team and sometimes he is struggling to hide his bewilderment at the way we can defend as a team, yet he keeps a cool head and is so effective when it matters. Big Gab will raise the standards in defence in no time. I cannot wait to see the Holding(Saliba)-Luiz-Gabriel partnership to get some games under their belt.
West Ham deserved a point from that game, maybe even more. We got away with it to some extent. But our sheer hunger to get all three points got us there in the end and that was great to see. JW1 put it very well in the previous post: “The old-school term (over here for what Arsenal accomplished is ‘winning ugly’. I was a big fan of that in my day when required. Perseverance tempered by experience. That once you’ve done it frequently enough– it becomes second nature when called-for.” How often did we see Ferguson’s MU win games in which they were below par? Far too many, but successful teams need to be dogged… a resolve to fight till the end and not just rely on technical quality alone… and we have been without it for far too long. Hopefully, under Arteta we will get the perfect mix of quality and winners-mentality. We have come down to earth again and that is just what we needed after all the good post lock-down games and our FA cup win. We have a battle to fight in each and every game… and thank you Hammers for reminding us of this for free!
This was a very difficult game for Arsenal who seemed a bit off beam with their passing, we missed Tierney big time and despite Saka playing well I think we missed Maitland Niles as well. Not a great performance but we won and if we can play average and still win then that’s a great habit to have.
Leno: Overall he had a competent match and made the saves we needed him to make, but I have to admit that he doesn’t dominate his box as Martinez did and that was very apparent as the high balls came into the box and he stayed on his line, I did miss seeing big Emi coming off of his line to pluck the ball out of the sky. 6.5
Bellerin: Worked hard but not one of his most effective games even so he gave Willian support and was always available but was no where to be seen when West Ham equalised. 6.5
Saka: Slow start and caught the careless disease that was Arsenal’s opening 15 minutes but improved as the game progressed, he was responsible for our two pre-assists and despite being AWOL when West Ham equalised he was one of our best performers on the day. Probably should have scored. 7.5
Gabriel: Another solid performance under difficult circumstances and stood up well to West Ham’s industrial approach. Today will be an education for him as the high balls fizzed into our box but he’s quality, of that I have no doubt, lucky with a possible handball. 7
Holding: A tough afternoon trying to subdue Antonio but he stuck to his task, Little he could do to stop the goal, maybe he could have got tighter but then that introduces the prospect of a tumble and a penalty in these VAR times. 6.5
Kolasinac: My heart sank when I heard that Tierney was out and we certainly missed our Jocko both in attack and defence, I don’t rate Kolasinac and although he didn’t drop a clanger as he did vs Tottenham I still thought that some of his defending wasn’t all that convincing. 5.5
Xhaka: A tough tough afternoon for Granit, not one of his best but he never hides and never stops working for the cause. West Ham have some big big units in their team and we struggled at times to keep them under control. 6.5 Ceballos: Very ring rusty in the 1st half, he lacked that zip from last season and some of his passing was bang average, but just like Xhaka he didn’t hide and improved a lot in the 2nd 45 finishing with a lovely lay off for the winner. 6.5
Willian: Some of his passing was well off but he is the man who is always looking for the killer ball and West Ham crowded him out every time he got the ball. He’ll have better days but I like a lot of what he brings to our team. 6.5
Lacazette: Was given a real going over by the giants in the West Ham defence, but he kept battling and fighting and is a real tough hombre. Scored a classic header for our lead and was a constant threat, our major threat until he was subbed off. 7.5
Aubameyang: Showed his captains qualities by doing the unfashionable work to support his mate and created the opening goal. Worked tirelessly down the flank but was crowded out whenever he tried to come inside, still did some valuable team work for the lads. 7
Pepe: Came on for Willian but didn’t make a huge impression. 5
Nketiah: Came on for Lacazette and did his job. 6.5
Luiz: Last minute sub for Saka to close out the game, good to see him back. 5
Saturday night prime time, Arsenal v West Ham for the world to watch. My partner is not keen on that at all but it is the new way, and I may just about get away with it. The Hammers are coming to THOF and we should be wary of the wily Moyes who has been regularly able to profit from being the underdog against the ‘bigger’ teams. We will be favourite for this one but Arteta has stated clearly, and logically, that he is expecting a very hard match.
Having watched the game v Fulham again yesterday, what impressed me the most was the control, systemic approach and calm we had. The Cottagers had set out to press us deep and used two rows of three players in OUR half to do this. The plan was to give little space to both Xhaka and Elneny and to force us into mistakes. But we stayed calm and Xhaka orchestrated us out of the trap time and again, and Elneny proofed once more to be a very tidy safe pair of hands. Our third goal came from such a Fulham high press – a carbon copy from the one v Pool – and teams will become weary to commit so many players forward against us. It’s this systemic approach and the way we took our chances that is giving us real hope for this season.
The Hammers had a bad start losing ‘at home’ to the Barcodes, but they did manage to beat lower league Charlton in the League Cup this week so may have a bit more confidence in the team. I have a feeling that Moyes will go the opposite way of Fulham and invite us into their own half, with the hope to spring a counter on us, although I am not sure who their ‘fast men’ would be. The likes of Noble, Fabianski and Rice will be well up for this of course, it being a London derby, and I hope we treat it as a cup game – one that we must one – from the start.
The line-up is exciting as Luiz is in full training and may be fit to play today. Many key players are fit and there is competition for places. Just don’t go and injure each other during the warm-up, boys! It would be nice to see a couple of eager youngsters getting a chance at some point in this one. The likes of Saka, Nketiah and Nelson need to feel they are part of the ‘core 18’.
The biggest question is whether to stick with the wall of Xhakelneny or go with the potentially more adventurous Xhakeballos. I would start with the former to keep it tight and solid in midfield, but I know many fellow Gooners would prefer to inject the added invention and forward runs by the loanee from the Los Blancos. That would work for me too, but for now I prefer to keep it solid and count on one of our attackers to make the difference whilst earning a blank sheet: let their net ripple and ours stay tight!
Imagine young Emiliano, after a day at the beach of his home town Mar del Plata in North-East Argentinia, encountering a divine visit at the darkest hour of the night. Emi hears the sweetest voice telling him “to work hard at his local football club and good things will come to him”. “What do you mean with good things”, he mumbles still half asleep. “Well you will, one day, become the goalkeeper at the home of football, situated in North London”. “Ah” says Emi, much more awake now, “so I will become a hero for many years and the fans will sing my name again and again. We love you Emi we do, we love you Emi we do?” “Well I did not say that but you will one day make the fans very proud and happy. Sleep deep and well, Emi, adios.”
Imagine then becoming the second choice, ‘cup’ goalkeeper at any club, and especially at Arsenal. You get so close to playing for a great team and first team action week in week out – who hasn’t dreamed of this? – but you just have to wait and wait. Is there a more difficult position in football than being the nr.2 goalkeeper? Sooo close yet so far? With just 70 career league performances it has been a long nine years in the UK (and one season in Getafe, Spain) for Martinez.
Then, finally, came his moment. A bad injury to Leno meant that Emi’s unchallenged German competitor for the nr1 spot had to miss the rest of the season. “This is your moment” he told himself, and boy how he took it! I don’t think I have ever seen a more dominant, spirited and highly effectively nr2 goalkeeper stint ever. Martinez made a huge difference and was as important to our great run in the FA cup as Auba was on the other end. He gave us so much joy with fab stop after fab stop, his courageous striker-confrontations and sheer aerial dominance in the box. I have seldom seen a big, tall man get down so quickly to the ground as Emi did.
As a result, we will always remember Emi fondly and there are no hard feelings at all regarding his departure.
Every nr2 goalkeeper with a bit of pride about them will want to play first team football. Villa are giving him this chance and he just had to grab it. And even if it all goes up the proverbial he will always have these past summer months with us to look back to.
Live that dream Emiliano even if it is no longer at THOF. All the best at Villa and thanks for the great 2020 footie summer.
Well it has finally been confirmed: Auba has signed and will be donning the red and white shirt for at least three more years. If you have not watched it yet, go to Arsenal.com and click on the Ian Wright and Auba video. It will cheer up even the most miserable git. Great guy, great captain, great striker, great Gunner! Thank you, Auba.
It feels like another pivotal moment in the development of Arsenal football club, just as it did when the club successfully negotiated new contracts for Theo Walcott and, after that, Mesut Ozil. We all know how that worked out in terms of the performances of these players, but yet these were important signings for the stature of the club and its attractiveness to new stars. Auba signing will be a big sign to other top players about what Arsenal stands for, but I am also confident that Auba will make a much bigger impact on the pitch after committing the best years of his career to the mighty Gunners. Let’s hope it is third-time-lucky!
Auba offers an intrinsic and passionate commitment to do well for and with the club, and he is excited to work with our young talents and established stars to get Arsenal back to the top again. There is no doubt that Arteta played a big role in convincing PEA to sign a new contract, and had he not done so it would have been a big setback despite all the progress the Spaniard has made since his arrival. SO well done Mikel and the club for making this happen.
I don’t know about you but I couldn’t sleep last night from the excitement of the Auba signing. But that was not the only reason… I also started thinking about our line-up v the Foxes in the League Cup on Tuesday. I know we have a very important PL game to play before then and I am all for OGAAT – one game at a time – but that is a different competition in the end – and I don’t expect many changes to the line-up.
We will do a preview for our Saturday night encounter v the Hammers in a day or two, but I would like to talk about our squad depth by focusing on the team that could play on the league cup at the home of the 2015-16 champions. This could be the line-up:
As you can see above, there are no ‘new’ youngsters in the line-up. The Foxes away is not an easy game, even though they are also likely to rest a few first team players if not the entire first team. But it is also clear that all the above mentioned players, bar Elneny, need to play a meaningful game. I don’t expect Xhaka to play and see Elneny as his most likely and fitting replacement, so my guess is that the Egyptian water-carrier will be rested v the Hammers and Ceballos will get a start then. I also expect AMN to play Saturday night but if not then he will play on Tuesday in one of three positions, and seeing him play in the ‘Xhaka-role’ (unlikely) would be very interesting.
Macey needs to be tested, Kola and Big Sok need to be in the shopping window and our first team CBs need to be rested, Saliba needs another game, ESR and Nelson will be dying for an opportunity to show their progress, and Saka, Eddie, Pepe and Soares are basically first team players or very close to it, so they need to play to gain match fitness. It would be good to see a few youngsters strut their stuff in the second half but only if needed. We may still even see Ozil or Guendo on the pitch..who know?!
This is a great opportunity for all the above players to do the shirt proud. Unfortunately, it will not be televised but no doubt Arsenal.com will do live radio commentary. I cannot wait!
Water, is taught by thirst. Land—by the Oceans passed. Transport—by throe— Peace—by its battles told— Love, by Memorial Mold— Birds, by the Snow.
By Emily Dickenson
Carrying water and not spilling it is a skill. Quite a few fans have been calling our Egyptian midfield dynamo ‘just a water-carrier’, as if being a water-carrier is somehow something to be ashamed of. Elneny, as an Egyptian, will fully know about the importance of water. Without the wonderful river Nile and its habit to overflow and thus irrigate the land on its banks seasonally, there would never have been an Egyptian dynasty which lasted for millennia and gave us the most exquisite art-works and artifacts. No water no life and no civilisation.
If the supply and distribution of water were managed well by the Egyptians then life would be good and there would be spare time for great things to happen. Those water-managers and carriers were vital; and our water-carriers and water-managers, Elneny and Xhaka, are just as vital to Arsenal.
There is an obsession with having at least one deeper-laying midfielder to be a ball-carrier: a foxie-foxie boxie-boxie who just runs with the ball and hands it over to the attackers or, ideally, delivers that beautiful through-ball time and again. The fact that such a player leaves huge space behind them and with that leaves our midfield and defence vulnerable, seems not to matter. Yet this is exactly why Arsenal have not been able to move on in recent years. We were leaky at the back and gave away far too many chances – and Arteta’s first priority is to stop the rot.
Just get a ‘proper DM’, they say, and get rid of that donkey, Xhaka! Get that Partey guy and all will be swell. Ah well, Arteta seems to see things differently, and being a former midfielder and having played under Arsene and co-managed with the Pepster, I think he knows what is needed more than you and me, don’t you think?
The combo of Xhaka and Elneny may not be sexy for some, but to me – and yes I am the kind of guy who can look at a man-made wall and say ‘now that is a fine wall’ – it is a joy to watch. Tidy, eager, calm and organised, the Swiss and Egyptian water-carriers make us tick and purr. Arteta tried to tame Guendouzi and Ceballos but Elneny is a natural in this role, and it shows.
I wrote previously about the importance of Willian, who both works hard and will make regular connections with our deeper-laying midfield to carry the ball forward if required. This will make a huge difference in terms of chance-creation this season. But if you watch carefully, you will also see that Xhaka and Elneny are actually supporting our attack more, but rather than run forward with the ball – so often a time-consuming and wasteful activity giving defences an opportunity to organise themselves – they prefer to pass their way through whilst keeping it tidy between them and behind them.
And there is one more point. If a team plays 3-4-3 with two marauding wing-backs then that much-desired forward thrust from midfield will be coming from them, in the first instance. They need to be launched with good passes and combination football, and they will also need to be covered for, as huge gaps are left behind every time they join the attack. Hence we need two disciplined water-managers and carriers to keep the balance right.
This does not mean that Arteta will not be looking at some added thrust from the centre of midfield, or that Elneny cannot be improved on. There is hope that Ceballos will develop further and Partey may still join the very Arsenal-party that Mikel is organising, but let there be no doubt that Elneny is an important player for us and Arteta is counting on him.