Torreira better watch-out, Don’t blame Mustafi, Saka and Martinelli Impress, Aubang-bang! 8 Observations

Barcelona 2 – 1 Arsenal: Eight Observations.

Arsenal’s final pre-season game was at the packed Nou Camp and the boys did us proud. In these sorts of games we should only really look at one half – the one with the strongest team put out by Emery – and at a few individual performances during the other one. Players will be careful not to get injured as the season’s start is only a week away and there really is no point in going all out in a friendly against a team that is just starting their pre-season campaign. What matters most is team structure, positional play, tidiness and ability to create chances. And what I saw was once again promising.


  1. Emery started with Xhaka as the captain (a logical choice if there ever was one) and combined him with Willock. Now this is promising in terms of getting the balance right in midfield. Willock is wonderfully all-round in his midfield play: he can stay deep with Xhaka to give him the needed extra protection, can make the B2B runs AND offers an attacking threat too. I love this guy and what he does to free up Xhaka to run/give structure to our game. Torreira has a bit of a fight on his hand to force himself back into the team.
  2. Ainsley Maitland Niles has made progress. Yes he scored a howler of an own-goal, but these things have happened to the very best players. Forget about it and let it not cloud your judgement of what this man has to offer to us. His natural calm, upper-body strength, and effective wing-play where at times a joy to watch (if only Auba was stronger in the air…). Defensively there is room for improvement of course, but at times he looked majestic and much older than he is. I have no doubt that AMN will become a top player, but we need to remain a bit patient with him, and not judge his natural calm nature as him being lackadaisical.
  3. Chambers and Big Sok looked strong and organised. It suited them of course that we had to play very deep and so they had much more protection from midfield than usually – a luxury that will not be available a lot this season – but I liked the chemistry and relative calm of both of them. Many will blame Mustafi for the late Barca winner – confirmation bias is sooo appealing – but it was of course a mistake by the whole ‘defence’. Nobody picked up the shoulder muncher from midfield and both CBs left far too much space between them. Not good but quite understandable given there just had been a CB substitution.
  4. Leno had a good game. We know that he is technically a gifted GK but he also had personality in the box and put attackers off. We have a quality nr1 goalie this season.
  5. Pierre is Auba-bang-bang in form at the moment. What a fine Henry-esque goal he scored last night. Xhaka-Ozil-Auba combined to surprise the Barca defence with quick, high quality passes and a thumping finish. Many will not have noticed Xhaka’s contribution but that is exactly what he does so well: quickly moving on the ball, finding the best man and play the ball into their feet. Mesut’s disguised pass to Auba was perfectly weighted, giving Auba the time to free himself into a shooting position and then the best part of 100k spectators where reminded where to put their postage stamps: an all-round fab goal.
  6. Saka deserved an assist and Martinelli got very, very close to winning the game for us late on. Nelson also had a decent game. All impressed me with their energy and fearlessness. There is a lovely calm in Saka’s play and I love Martinelli’s Reyes-esque drive and thrust in his attacking play. We need a bit more bite where and when it matters from Nelson. Early days of course but there seems a lot of potential in all three of them.
  7. Emery’s decision to sit deep and play compact against Barca made of course sense, but we could have done with a bit more bravura in the second half. We were pushed deeper and deeper and became totally reliant on our counter-attacks. Not having Laca and Pepe available was of course a big miss as our midfielders lacked options to play themselves out of the Barca-press, but this is an area for improvement for the team. Of course it also does not help that in friendly games too many changes are made, totally disturbing the flow and intensity of formation/tactical approach.
  8. But the boys did us proud and with Holding getting closer to first team football, Torreira and Ceballos to strengthen the midfield further and Laca and Pepe to be added to our attacking line, we are looking pretty good in almost all departments..

By TotalArsenal.

17 thoughts on “Torreira better watch-out, Don’t blame Mustafi, Saka and Martinelli Impress, Aubang-bang! 8 Observations

  • Chambers obviously has his weaknesses, but I was so much more impressed with our structure and organisation with him in the team over Mustafi. Chambers very much sticks to his task and goes gung-ho a lot less, which enables us to have a defensive plan and stick to it. It’s very hard to have said plan when you have Mustafi who at any moment will charge out needlessly disruption our entire shape, something which didn’t happen a whole lot yesterday despite a lot of Barcelona possession.

    For the second goal, yes the whole defence let us down, but it was a great goal (hardly a give away) against a top team, so I wouldn’t be too harsh. As bad as the first goal was, it’s being blown way out of proportion in a ‘that’s why AMN can’t play RB’ way, when in reality it was a freak accident born out of fatigue from having to work so hard in what still was a pre-season game…

  • Thanks for the review TA!
    This was the first Arsenal match in some time– I’ve not been able to find live on this side-of-the-pond. Your descriptive style painted a vivid account for me– and I’m thinking I really do want to locate a replay somehow.

    I am interested in seeing if the CB pairing yesterday is to be the one a week from now.
    Papa can be a great influence on Chambers– as he was with Holding until the injury last December.

    So thanks. And I may have more to add after I’ve seen it!


  • I missed the game but frankly the only reason I ever watch them is to get a glimpse of our future potential, which looks particularity encouraging this season.

    Total, could you send me an email as I would like to discuss how I can contribute to your blog.

  • “we are looking pretty good in almost all departments..”……………….glad you put the word “almost”, Totes………………….now let me have an educated guess to which department we are lacking ! hahaha
    As for Mustafi, I blame him for everything from Brexit to Armergeddon…………sorry I have trouble spelling Armergeddon, but who cares it`s not the end of the world is it !

    Lots of attacking options from the experienced to the talented youngsters and if “Dicks” philosophy is……….the best form of defence is attack………… then we are nailed on Champs!………………..obviously Dick will have to play attackers in every position except goal keeper, but hang on a sec` !…………………..with three at the back, we are virtually playing with seven offensively minded players anyway as the full backs are wing backs !……… just put Pepe le Pew , Eddie and John Joules as CB`s and Leno will be redundant !

  • I think you called it re the centre back pairing, looked good in parts but I fear for them in a high line across the season and I don’t think Sok is as natural with his positioning as LCB.

    I think with slower defenders we may need a more mobile midfield pairing who are dynamic in closing down to mitigate being slow in recovery pace over the top.

    2 slower CBs with Xhaka in front could be exploited unless we play deeper.

  • Fair and spot-on observations, TA. What a difference one day (along with a review of the game) makes. With benefit of hindsight and having had another look at the proceedings, the boys were a bit unlucky to be on the losing side and it was nice to see the kids have a run-out against a great Barcelona side and coming away with credit.

    I wasn’t surprised that most columns managed to pin the blame for the 2nd goal on Mustafi but I am sure the manager will know better. Defending is a collective effort and if the midfield did its job, maybe that over the ball pass doesn’t happen and Chambers and Mustafi won’t have to question one another. When defending centrally, it is the instruction for the full backs to tuck in to give the CBs impetus to concentrate on runners. Alas! AM-N wasn’t exactly tucked in giving Chambers a problem and Suarez time to run in to meet Sergi Roberto’s lofted pass. Harsh, but it happens and Barca have done the same thing to a good many great sides. Everyone loves to have their villain but it wasn’t Mustafi this time.

    With the form Willock showed, Xhaka will have to rise up to the occasion and earn that arm band if he has any designs on it. Also, I think we can forgive AM-N for that own goal. He, otherwise, had a brilliant game and his lackadaisical approach may be a style he learnt to help him hold his own. Looks like the emotional type.
    Bring on the bar codes!!

  • Waz, you make a fantastic point, regarding balance between holding midfield and the back line. I guess it is up to Emery to make that connection, barring injuries to preferred players, in order to pair complementary players in midfield and defence, or ensure a bit more pace in the midfield pairing. Xhaka does have a measured gait but he is no slouch when he has to chase down attackers. He has surprised me a a few times when he chased down some quick players.

  • Phil, all agreed with your last paragraph. AMN was under constant pressure and I thought he handled it well. He really hated scoring that OG and it really happens to the best of them.

  • JW, yes the Chambers/Koz combo has potential, at least until Holdini is back. Mustafi as RB would provide extra defensive strength.

  • Good comment, Waz. What about playing Torreira and Willock in the games in which we push up high, and Xhaka, Torreira/Willock in games in which we sit much deeper? Over time I can see Xhaka playing between Holding and Sok/Chambers in back-three too…

  • Cheers Erismus, I reckon as long as we want an organiser in midfield, Xhaka is on the teamsheet. But Torreira and Willock are similar players, so I would expect them to compete with each other for one position this season. It will be really interesting to see who will be Xhaka’s competition (for an organiser/conductor): AMN maybe or Ceballos….

  • Jenks will be a good backup to the right back if we kept him, but if we sell him to Notts Forest it will be good for him too.

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