Maitland-Niles Shines, Elneny the Dynamo, Alexis is Back, Kola & Bellerin Beasts of the Wing: Match Review

What is not to like about Spursday Nights?!!

Now that was a proper night of football. Clearly, the crowd control was poor and lessons will have to be learned, but it is hard to deny that the home of football was very atmospheric last night. A few years ago, I experienced something similar when Dortmund played Arsenal at home, even though they did seem to have a lot more tickets allocated to them and were mostly all in designated areas. The thing is, the Germans know how to sing and be collectively loud; you just have to give them that.

The line-up did not hold too many surprises, except maybe the inclusion of both Bellerin and the Nacho man. The former really needs to get in to a ‘game rhythm’ this season, and the latter should have been spared in my opinion. It does look like we have limited options in the full back positions if Wenger feels he needs to play the likes of Hector, Nacho, and eventually Kola too in a UEFA cup group game at home. And if Debuchy is not even used in a game like this, only God knows what he did to Wenger to get in such bad books.

Our boys looked a bit disorientated in the first half and clearly struggled to find a collective rhythm, or a if you want, a sense of togetherness. These players were not working as a well-oiled unit and many passes went astray. On top of that, Koln had one of those moment a manager always hopes for when playing away against very strong opposition: a wonder goal out of the blue by Cordoba. The lively Ospina ran out of his box to clear a ball but it fell to a Koln player and then it ended up with Cordoba, who did not think twice and produced a fabulous long-range shot over the helpless looking keeper and high into the net. Unfortunately for the red-shoed manager, it fell only in the ninth minutes, leaving Arsenal plenty of time to make amends.

We were not clicking in the middle of the field and our wing-backs were struggling to provide the much needed width to crack the German walls of four and five in front of them. Alexis was shaking off some rust and Maitland-Niles and the Chilean were not clicking. Hector struggled to stretch the defence by coming inside time and again and thus slowing our attacks down. Elneny worked his socks off to push the team forward and make things happen in midfield, but Iwobi struggled to get into the game and make the required difference around the box.

At the back, the BFG was imperious with great interceptions and clearances and providing structure to the defence. Unfortunately, Holding had another jittery game and lacked intensity when making interceptions, regularly leading to half clearances and dangerous loose balls in the box.

The second half saw us play much, much better. Maybe it was due to a change in formation, with now four at the back, or maybe it was the team-talk at half time that did it. We played with lots more intensity, harmony and purpose and managed to get pressure on the Koln defence in and around the box. It was only a matter of time before we would hit the net, and it came within four minutes. Kola put his laces through a deflected ball that was forever dropping down from the sky and his howitzer was sooo ferocious that it would have killed anything in its path. 1-1 and game on.

And then Alexis re-announced himself. A typical run from the flank towards the middle of the box followed by a bended shot that the keeper saw far too late to respond too; and if he had seen it earlier, he would not have got close to it anyway, so hard and precise was the Chilean’s far-post-bender. It was a goal the game and the player needed and we were now leading: 2-1.

The third and last Arsenal goal was also a beauty, even though, just like the first one, it had an imperfect Theo moment in it. Our English winger struggled throughout the game to hold on to the ball and make a difference, but his runs in and around the box became better the longer the game went on (and he got spotted and served better in the second half). The team worked cleverly together to get the ball to him in the box but his effort on goal was too hasty – so typical of Theo who often scores like that but also regularly wastes really good opportunities through this lack of ‘taking a moment’. Luckily, Hector was there to pounce on the rebound and I loved the conviction he put into his attempt. He really needed this game and I expect him to play really well on Sunday against the Chavs. 3-1 to the good guys and game over.

After that we strutted our stuff with back-heels and flicks and dummies and dinks, but no more goals were added. Maitland-Niles grew and grew and showed what a box-box potential he has. Koln had a couple of half-chances but Ospina was sharp and keen and a good game of football came to an end.

A few first teamers shook off some summer-rust, a few youngsters experienced a proper European cup-tie, a few oldies smelled football again and gained a lot of fitness, and Maitland-Niles showed us all what a prospect he is: what is not to like about Spursday football?

By TotalArsenal

15 thoughts on “Maitland-Niles Shines, Elneny the Dynamo, Alexis is Back, Kola & Bellerin Beasts of the Wing: Match Review

  • TA …. you beat me to it. Yours is juicy. My was just as a stop gap to Sunday. We’d soon be talking about Sunday so better to skip it, me thinks.

    Wenger ever so quickly reverts to 4 at the back. He seems to have greater faith in it. Or is it a conflict of merely a plan B?

    4 at the back require more consevative full backs but Bel and Kola are made for the wing back roles. Also 4 at the back requires a top DM which we don’t have. So our personnel demands a 3 man CD. I expect Wenger to persist with the 3 man CD and use the 4 man CD as a riskier option for chasing games.

    The right way to see Koln is as a team that finished 5th in the Bundesliga and not as a team bottom of their league. Seen that way our “rotated” side did well to earn a victory and we should feel confident marching on at this stage of the EL with them. They are just getting oiled as TA said and they can only get better with more games and a few tweaks here and there.

  • Good post TA. Lots of great insights and views to the match delayed by crowd trouble.

    I will not write so much here, or repeat my thoughts on the game in the previous post. One thing to note that the whole team was jittery in the first half, as mentioned by you. Holding needs to feel secure around him, but if he stays on in the second half and swaps both Iwobi and AMN for Jack and Kola i think we will see the same end result.

  • Well written T A a pretty good summary of what i saw. really pleased to see jack back in red and white. he had a couple of nice touches as well

  • PE, I had exchanges with some rival fans and it is only for the banter that anyone will see Koln as nothing other than the 5th placed team in the Bundesliga last season. I credit the lads for getting that win last night as it could have been worse; no one will see it as anything other than losing to the Bundesliga team bottom placed team. All that while Chelsea played against a club many never even heard about.

    Jack was in fine form yesterday, needing only a few more games to start his driving runs bursts through opposing tackles and threading passes into dangerous areas. I thought Elneny did really well too, kept things ticking over and played with aggression where necessary. The fans have voted Kolasinac as man of the match on the club website (at least, he was leading when I checked) but I will say it was between Elneny, Alexis and Kolasinac.

    What does Wenger do about Holding’s confidence (or is it lack of technical quality?) now we see his much vaunted composure is lacking? Boy needs a loan move or throwing him in at the deep end and persisting until he realizes we rely on him.

  • Hmmmm. That last post did look like what it was: done while distracted. 😆

    I was at the same time trying to appear interested in some Church stuff the wife was regaling me with. Lol.

  • Nice one, TA, and your impressions pretty much match my own. Your final takeaway–that it was a match that many of the players needed–is spot on, I think.

    The juxtaposition between the two halves can’t be understated. The positioning (esp. Alexis, AMN and Iwobi) and much of the decision making (Holding, mostly) in the first half was about as bad as I’ve seen. We seemed completely static on the left and just about suicidal trying to get forward quickly down the right, I thought. Going to the 442 and bringing in the Beast was like a breath of fresh air. Koln were never going to be able to play with the intensity their support gave them for the full 90, I figured, though they stayed at it and kept trying to come forward more than I expected.

    I agree that the whole thing–the atmosphere and the game itself–was a lot of fun. (I had a good time “live-blogging” it as well…) The quality of our goals were excellent, I thought, as they’ve been in all the early season matches–save a couple that have been bundled in by Welbeck. With the transfer idiocy in the rear-view mirror, I’m warming to the idea that the team–using its full depth–can slowly get something going, though a result (a draw would be fine by me…) at Stamford Bridge seems important.

    I’ll be trying to live-blog that one but it’ll be tougher given the early start time (5:30 am out here). Just gotta try and get into that Thursday/Sunday rhythm, I guess… Thanks again for the excellent match review…

  • Eris I have a huge problem with the way that Holding has played in at least a couple games this year, Leicester, I think,, and yesterday. Not so much a lack of composure or quality, just trying to do far too much. I mentioned at the half vs Koln, he was driving into the Koln box dribbling into 2 defenders, losing the ball, and his momentum carried him farther out of the play so he couldnt even get close to getting back in time to defend.
    We’re supposed to be able to depend on our 4 or 3 defenders.. for me, in a defender, reliability, consistency are the first order.
    Both matches i mentioned, Wenger made an uncharacteristic early switch, which most saw as a change in formation. For me, it was benching Holding, for poor decision making. Wenger protects his players, so he wont say that was the reason. He keeps playing him, because he doesnt want to lose the kid completely, especially having sold Gabriel. In the first half yesterday, i was wishing we had the Brazilian still.

    Second season, overconfidence, i liked the way he played last season, maybe he needs to simplify his game. He was doing overlapping runs into the right corner Thursday, i couldnt believe what i was seeing. I’m not giving up on him, but can someone at the club just please have a word with the boy?

  • Holding should be sent on loan to a lower lesgue to grow. Further exposure on this level might harm his development. What it means is that we are short in central defenders. Chambers is a lot more expoused and should be used ahead of him.

  • Cheers guys, am in Ardnamurchan on a weekend break to celebrate a number of ‘ big birthdays and anniversaries’ with family. No wifi in rental house so not much from me till Monday.

    Thanks for comments and insights ⚽️😀🎯

  • Have a good one, TA. To think you won’t be involved as we go into the big one on Sunday…..

  • Holding does have potential and did well last season, being the starry eyed kid, bought from a lower division side into the big league and living a dream playing with players he used to admire from a distance. Guess reality set in this season and with innocence gone, he may be feeling the pressure.

    Agree, maybe a loan move to the championship will do him good, even if it may leave us short with CBS. Chambers has recovered from his injury and played 73 minutes with the U-23s yesterday. He will be a far more accomplished inclusion in the side. Let’s hope we don’t suffer the spate of injuries we are usually reputed for, this time out.

  • TA, enjoy your weekend (I had to look up Ardnamurchan but it seems just like your kind of place)…

    In truth, I’m not very optimistic about tomorrow’s match (i.e., I’m praying we can somehow manage to take a point)… I think Wenger is bringing the group around towards something pretty good, but this one just comes a little bit too early. Ideally, Gooners would see these tougher away matches as “nothing to lose” scenarios, but, I fear, no such mind-state exists, so–with everything to lose–I’m hopeful we can find a way to not do so (i.e., somehow pick up a point)…

    Despite AW being stuck between a rock and a hard place re: his formations, I think a back 3 will be the starting formation. Kolasinac, Monreal, Mustafi, Koscielny and Bellerin are a pretty accomplished group and leaving any of them out would (IMO) weaken the team. Add in Xhaka–as long as he’s not chasing back, he’s good at finding a position to fill–and, IMO, we shouldn’t look too porous. Of course, if we’re suicidal going forward–see Holding’s performance from Thurs–it’s a different ball-game.

    Kos has a LOT he can teach his back-up (Holding) so I think it’s premature–and also too late, being that it’s past TW time–to say he should go out on loan. Indeed, he’s struggled badly, but that’s called a “steep learning curve” and can be made into a positive when results, like on Thursday, can still be rescued. (It was less fun up at Anfield, for example…) For now, fingers crossed that Kos can stay fit… Very few mentioned how interesting it was that Mustafi was played as the center of the 3 vs Bournemouth but I liked it a lot. He’s very strong at initiating offense out of the back and being the “recovery defender” if people or balls get past Kos and Nacho (and the wingbacks or Xhaka). Defending first in this one, esp., if, as I suspect, Alexis is kept on the bench in favor of Welbeck for the first hour…

    My goal is to live-blog the match but, given the early start time I think I’ll have to put up a preview beforehand… Probably with a bit of cut and paste from the above…

  • Eris, I saw that one and it goes a long way towards explaining just how entitled we, as Gooners, have become–even to the point that the administrators at the club wouldn’t have figured out a solution to the ticket issue. Expanding the away seating seems obvious (as does contracting it, for other matches, if nobody is coming and selling some cheap, day-of-the-match tix)… Figuring out a way to get un-used home tickets sold to the travelers is an(other) obvious step. We have computers now and it just can’t be that complicated to move people into some different seats on the night… Incentives for re-sale (and potential movement) for at least some ticket-holders could be a god-send for those who are feeling like they’re being “priced-out” of the stadium. Weeknight matches are tough on those who have to be at work early the next morning and the stadium will have a hard enough time looking filled as the group stage marches on …

    In the end, we should probably count our stars that the game was allowed to be played… Rescheduling would have been a nightmare and such a decision would have probably led to much more violence/property damage, etc., etc. Overall, it seems hard to lay all the blame with the travelers…

  • I don’t mean to squelch the discussion–nor take the last word–but there’s a….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s