Pepe Finally On Fire, Two MOTM, ESR Almost There: 8 Observations Arsenal v Guimaraes

Specialist staat op: peperdure Pépé toont eindelijk zijn klasse bij Arsenal

Arsenal 3-2 Guimaraes. We are saved once again by our superior strike force after 80 minutes of a very strong Guimaraes performance.

Eight Observations:

  1. This was a good lesson for our youngsters and more experienced players. Portuguese teams like to sit back and play on the counter, and they know how to defend. To effectively deal with such teams, we need to play a high tempo and pass well. We also need to be able to win the ball back quickly if and when we lose it, as that is exactly what they will be looking for. We struggled almost all game long in these areas and did not deserve to win, but as so often, our world-class attackers saved us.
  2. This time it was Pepe’s turn to do ‘an Auba’. Two superb free-kicks got us all three points and well done that man. As others (Erik, etc) have pointed out, Pepe had an improved performance against the Blades but was unlucky with his finishing. This time his shooting boots were on fire and boy did he and we need that! He is one of my MOTM.
  3. The other MOTM is Martinelli who was fabulous throughout this game. Such great movement and positioning and what an engine! Only 18 years old but he was one of the few who could deal with Guimaraes’ physicality, and how cool did he take his goal once more. Top class and a joy to watch.
  4. I thought it was wrong to take off both AMN and Willock at half time. Yes they were not in the game but surely this can happen and it is the manager’s responsibility to talk to the players and give new instructions at the break. This is one thing Wenger always excelled in and it avoids leaving two players in the dressing room with big dents to their confidence. Emery brought on Ceballos and Guendouzi and for the first half hour it made very little difference tactically. In the end, the opponents’ valiant defenders and midfielders tired a little bit and started to leave holes and make unnecessary fouls, and that cost them in the end (something similar happened yesterday in the Ajax- Spuds game, such is the intensity of the PL).
  5. Guendouzi’s spirit and fight was important and he made a difference in the last fifteen minutes with his determined runs and attempts at through balls. Ceballos’ performance was once again a bit hit and miss. He has drive but needs to be kept out of our own half as much as possible. Drive is good but good football also needs calm and composure, and this is still missing with Ceballos.
  6. Laca, Tierney, Bellerin and Holding were struggling with the intensity of this game but at the end they will feel good to have played in such a strong contest. It was the sort of test they needed and I can only congratulate Guimaraes for giving them such a great game. Holding looks uncomfortable on the LCB position, but with Mustafi also at CB it made sense to play him there. Laca really wanted to play better but it just did not come off:  too many off-sites and he lacked composure. Bells and Tierney got better towards the end, and both look pretty close to starting a PL game soon. Especially the Scotsman is a real force already and what a player we have signed from Celtic!
  7. I have often said that Xhaka needs Torreira in order to shine but tonight also made it clear once again how much the reverse is the case. He struggled in the deeper role and both AMN and Willock did not support him enough to feed the attack with good passes, crosses and through-balls. But his second half performance was better as he was pushed higher up the pitch, where he seemed more comfortable than deep in midfield (without his buddy Xhaka).
  8. Finally, a word on ESR. He worked hard and you we could see once again what a great footballer there is in him. But we need him to push through a bit now and he should have been on the scoresheet tonight. Still plenty of games left to do this and today’s improved performance should give him the confidence to get there. I loved his drive and fearless attacking a lot.

By TotalArsenal.

48 thoughts on “Pepe Finally On Fire, Two MOTM, ESR Almost There: 8 Observations Arsenal v Guimaraes

  • More static footy from tactical-deprived Emery.
    How many more games will we lose or win by the odd goal before this stops?

  • Total, you have a wonderful ability to summarize and remain in control of your thought processes. It enables us readers to view what occurred through a calm lens.

    In retrospect there were a lot of highlights that would have been obscured if we had not won the game – you had the ability to see through the fog of the first 70 plus minutes and allow us to enjoy the memorable moments and individual performances.

    Thank you – it has allowed me to keep my negative thoughts on the back burner (for now).

  • Appreciate the review TA– as I’d just finished watching the match online.

    Your #6 in reference to the once-injured group of Laca, Bellerin, Holding and Tierney seeing a rugged match in each of their full returns to play– applies across the team IMO.

    Credit to VSC! They worked very hard and closed out, chasing quickly in packs when the ball was on either sideline. This starting XI– and subsequently after the subs came on– hadn’t been prepped to be hounded all over the pitch. Still, once the youngsters got initiated to the idea that Vitoria was serious about taking 3pts– the effort came. It was very physical.

    Actually fairly proud of the response– though we didn’t get anything tangible from our reciprocity– till very late. The Kidz never hung their heads being outplayed by a gritty, if lesser club.

    Don’t know if it was stated on other broadcasts– but Vitoria had been ousted from the Taça de Portugala (their FA Cup-type tourney) last Sunday 1-1 on PENS– by Sintra– a semi-professional club. So I can see why VSC were sparked to beat a bigger team themselves.

    And Martinelli! Quite the assassin– and a bit of a mean streak usually found in defenders. Once he harnesses his energies a bit more– he’ll be deadly. 5 goals in 6 apps– 3 as a sub.

    Here’s difference for me– in watching these matches on Thursday, versus those on Sun/Mon. Tonight? I’d not been too upset with just 1pt– or had VSC held on and won. Physical effort was given in return– once we’d been slapped with the gauntlet. Whereas on the weekend? Watching is an agonizing masochistic exercise. Begging ‘Lord please just give us a result’.

    So– a not-so-meaningful Group contest, on a weeknight, in a second-tier competition– is where I am sating my footie requisites for the time being.

    As, my first thoughts about Sunday– are sensing dread.


  • Loved this shot of Martinelli’s header-for-goal–
    from Tierney’s lobbed-into-a-second-story-window cross for the assist:


  • always amazed by your on-the-final-whistle thorough analysis, ta
    (#6) as i watched them struggle, i wondered whether laca/hec/kieran/rob had not been given a full pre-season physical prep lately, only reason i can figure out why the four of them looked like their legs weighed tons yesterday. if this is actually the case, i’m not criticizing it actually – it could make sense in the weeks to come, especially around christmas
    (#4) totally agree with you, he did the same thing to joe monday, and to reiss against burnley (right after the lad had scored a goal (disallowed of course, but anyone having played football knows such strike on traget was exactly what he needed to boost his confidence at the time).
    the man seems dead set on the destruction of the lads arsène – not him – promoted to the first team; an allout war against The Greta Man seems to be his only agenda: treatment of hale end products of arsène era, treatment of mesut, antics about competitiveness (more competitive than arsène!!!!!!; there’s a saying in french, which i’ll let you all translate: “les cons, ça ose tout, c’est même à ça qu’on les reconnait”)
    i recognize you, unai

  • Thanks GN5 🙂

    I think we were all caught out by how strong Guimaraes were tactically, physically and technically. I was very impressed with their team positioning and ability to bring the ball forward from a turnover/counter. Were they Spuds in disguise? 😀

    But they did tire out and that made the difference in the end/ plus super Pepe!

  • JW1, love that comment and all agreed. You should do more of those calm, reflective comments after you have watched the game as you have a great ability to see the bigger picture whilst adding relevant detail… and all this with brevity. Well done, Sir!

  • TA, this morning after watching the highlights and reading your wonderful summary i realised the following points:

    1. We were still inviting opponent attackers to come forward so that we can catch them on the break. Mid table teams are perfectly primed for this and we are in a lose-lose situation. Hence the large gap between attack and defence.

    2. Emery had decided that by playing out from the back we will have a strong counter attacking force.

    3. And by playing on the wings we can whip in crosses that the opponents will find it difficult to defend.

    Number 2 and 3 will only work when we are playing teams that do not park the bus; have a weak core and have defenders with legs like Jello.

    4. Plan B is to pressure them on the counter by moving the ball faster in short periods, somewhere like 5 to 10 mins.

    5. Plan C is to pray that our strikers have a good day on the field.

    Seriously, with that plan i can also be the manager.

  • I think you will have to help us with one, LeG…. sayings are hard to translate… Does it mean something like: We recognise the fools by those who try everything?

  • In google translate, it meant
    “the idiots, it dares everything, it’s even that we recognize them”

    So in English, yes, it will mean that We recognise, the fools, by those who dares to try everything.

    In this case, Emery does not try everything. He is using his single tactic to hope to win against all sorts of opponents. He does not even try to tweak his tactic, but he tweaks his players to employ the same tactic and pray that the players make the difference.

  • Morning all,

    In spite of the three points I remain an Emery doubter, two swing of Pepe’s left foot does not disguise an otherwise pathetic performance. It was only by pure luck that we were not behind 1 – 4 after 27 minutes. Vitoria, I repeat Vitoria (a minor team) showed us how to play attacking football and we had no answer until we were forced to attack. When our team play offensive football they are superb, but it only happens when games are all but lost – which is after Emery’s system has failed!

    It’s as plain as the nose on our face that this team are an attacking machine but Emery has them playing slow, boring, plodding football from the back and then back again – then sideways – then back………………………………………………..then we lose the ball.

    Take their reins off and let them play football.

    I fear that Crystal Palace through Roy Hodgson – their wise and astute manager will teach Emery a lesson.

  • LE GALL, spot on ! I OFTEN think of this concerning UE. lol Guys, this movie this bit comes from is very very popular in France: oldie but goldie.

  • GN5, Admir, Pb, Erik and JW1 have already done their predictions, but I am repeating the games here for others who still may want to join in (everybody welcome/ don’t be shy 🙂 ).

    BK Prediction League (everyone can join/take part):
    Watford v Bournemouth
    Burnley v Chavs
    Newcastle v Wolves
    Pool v Spuds
    Ajax v Feyenoord
    Bayern Munich v 1. FC Union Berlin

  • For the international break predictions we had five winners: JW1, Erik, 17HT, Pb and TA. A total of 20 points could be won for that one, so each will get four points.

  • Watford v Bournemouth: Home
    Burnley v Chavs: Draw
    Newcastle v Wolves: Draw
    Pool v Spuds: Draw
    Ajax v Feyenoord: Home
    Bayern Munich v 1. FC Union Berlin: Home

  • !!WARNING(S):
    1 i don’t like calling people names, particularly not from behind the shield of my computer screen.
    2 the quote is taken from a very famous french film of the 1960’s “les tontons flingueurs”, a hilarious parody of 1950’s american “films noirs”.
    3 i think the arsène to unai shift is a terrible downgrade, but i can laugh off my own feelings about that, which is precisely what this quote is all about
    4 i couldn’t help reminding the quote – i am about to translate – after reading unai’s “i have made arsenal more competitive” remark
    my own translation of the quote:
    “idiots will dare do or say anything; that’s actually the surest way to spot/recognize them”

  • Watford v Bournemouth = H
    Burnley v Chavs = H
    Newcastle v Wolves = H
    Pool v Spuds = D
    Ajax v Feyenoord = H
    Bayern Munich v 1. FC Union Berlin = H

  • With a few hours reflection and hindsight. I see the game somewhat differently.

    It was what I love about sport and football in particular. I had the opportunity to vent my frustrations at the television thanks to a terrible first half performance.

    But in this I could fantasise about the potential of Martinelli, Hector and Tierney. At the same time questioning my admiration for young Willock and AMN, who were not just passengers but actually seriously detrimental to the task of beating an inspired Portuguese team.

    Come the second half, I questioned the timing of the substitutions for the same reason as TA explained so well in the post. But we got better.

    Loved seeing Ceballos have the cojones to dance around attackers in his own penalty box.

    I also saw the man who must be our next captain – Guendouzi who is so mature for a young boy. His drive, determination and skill are an example to his team-mates. To see him tell Pepe where to place his free kicks was evidence of his growing influence.

    I loved the ending of the game and the excellence of Pepe. Vindication for both him and AFC’s decision to splash the cash. Who, of you was still in your seat over the last 5 minutes and who didn’t thrill to the brilliance of his second goal?

    Overall, it was superb entertainment.

    Yes, we saw some very poor football and evidence that Emery has yet to find his mojo – if he has one – but we won, scored 3 goals, witnessed further evidence that we have some of the best youth players for a decade and the further rehabilitation of long-term injured.

    How’s that for positivity!

  • I wasn’t able to watch the game live yesterday but I recorded it and just finished watching it. I also didn’t want to know the final score beforehand. My honest assessment is that we were very poor and very timid. It was very painful to watch us trying to get the ball out of the back time and time again. We just couldn’t execute and we nothing going for us up top when we do finally cross the halfway line. Vitoria was way more pleasing and more fun to watch. They were disciplined, they played with guts, they attacked wonderfully, and to my horror, there were times when I found myself half-wanting them to score on some of their beautiful moves because they were fully deserving of goals. I was glad that I snapped out of it and went back to hoping Arsenal would play well and score. In the end, we did score more than Vitória, but alas, we didn’t play well. We were boring and pathetic as a whole throughout most of the game. Another labored, uninspiring display, rescued only by the brilliance of the much-maligned Pepe. Shoutout to Martinelli as well. He was lively and full of energy.

    If we keep playing this ugly, boring football, I’m afraid we won’t make the Top 4. If we play timidly like this on Sunday against Crystal Palace, we will lose. Unless of course, we get saved by another individual brilliance from any of our amazing players. I cannot say this enough, we DO have a strong squad full of very talented players, but at the moment they are playing like freaking ROBOTS, unwilling to try different things on the pitch and seeming to only be following “detailed commands”. The players should be unshackled, unleashed, and be given the freedom to express themselves on the pitch. They need to play to their maximum capacity (and right now they aren’t).
    Sadly, I know the “clueless clown” will never allow it and this is really breaking my heart.

    I just want my real Arsenal back. Is that too much to ask for…???


  • Erik,
    That’s a fine reflection on the game and i fully agree with your assessment of the players. We really do have some fine youth who will hold us in good stead for many years to come.

    Pepe is coming out of his shell and having both of our fullbacks ready fit and able is another positive.

    Arsenal has made some superb choices in the new players and if Emery was involved in the decisions then kud;s to him. My personal view of Emery will not change as long as he persists with the type of anti-football we played against Sheffield U and Vitoria. Two swings of Pepe’s left foot most likely took Unai off of the chopping for the time being.

  • Thanks for explaining, LeG! 🙂

    Also good to read Erik and Gino’s views. I appreciate and respect both views – it is all about perspective and expectations and of course glass half full/emptiness. 🙂

  • One thing that became clear to me, and I know this is a controversial one in blogland, is that we are very dependent on Xhaka to make our midfield tick. Is he the best midfielder I have ever seen? No of course not, and I am currently very, very happy that Frenkie de Jong is a Dutchman, who really is somebody I would have loved to have at Arsenal… but he chose the Cruijff path instead (and understandable so). De Jong is definitely better than Granit, however, Xhaka has the same ability to conduct the game. manage the tempo and organise things. Nobody at Arsenal comes near and I say fingers crossed he will stay fit all season.

  • TA. Not many would agree, however, in the main, I do. There is no-one at the club who has the skillset of Xhaka BUT it is how he combines with the midfield players around him which is the concern. Perhaps it takes time for the combinations to develop and it must be remembered that Xhaka is playing alongside players with very little experience.

    I like Xhaka and wish him well.

  • Here is a tricky thing:

    I know where much-maligned Xhaka may fit in the ideal world – next to Torreira in 4-2-3-1 as DLP, with LT11 being our Kante/Makelele type. Pepe is RW, Auba LW and Lacazette CF, with Mesut doing his thing as No.10. Make Xhaka responsible for passing the ball to Mesut or either full-back when the switch is needed and that’s it. Don’t expect him to screen the back four or to run just for sake of running.

    But, I don’t see how Guendouzi fits in our starting line-up. His defensive positioning is still very raw and his passing is hardly a tiki-taka level. His game relies a lot on chaotic state of affairs on the pitch – I see him as the adrenaline midfielder who injects raw energy, aggression and drive to our team. That’s why he won us a penalty against Villa out of nowhere – he took on the opponents’ team, one by one, until he was brought down in the box – and that’s how he won us a free-kick from which Pepe acored a winner. He enjoys this chaotical Arsenal but I’m not sure he fits into any system we would get under a decent manager.

    (Speaking of, 0-9 at St Mary’s! What the…?!)

  • 9-0 is a freak scoreline, albeit after a man down.
    Soton is never a club of that level, but yesterday they had a bad off day.

    We need a better game tomorrow evening against CryPal, as they are a good team, even better than Vitoria Guimares.

  • Great comments, Admir and Erik. I am working on a post that includes a response to your comments. Not sure when it will go out, but let’s pick it up again then. 🙂

  • I fully agree with TA’s perception on Xhaka.
    It’s hard to compare players of different position, so it’s not only difficult to compare Lacazette with Tierney, or Pepe with Leno, but since in central midfield we have different positions I wouldn’t compare Torreira with Xhaka. So it wouldn’t make sense to say that Xhaka is our best midfielder, but he has a rare skill-set, and if a ream needs someone in this role then he is one of the TOP 6 players to do that.

    A side opinion: Guendouzi’s role and competency-portfolio are indeed very similar to Granit’s, so in this case we can make the comparison: and contrary to popular misbeliefs, Xhaka is way better than Matteo. However the Swiss was not even close to be as good at the age of 19-20, so there is a good chance that the young Frenchman will at some day surpass him.

    That leads us to the conclusion Admir already touched. If we play 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 there is no spot for Guendouzi as long as Xhaka is playing! Since Matteo cannot take on neither Torreria’s role nor Ozil’s/Ceballos’ he shouldn’t be on the same pitch with Granit. In fact, the only approach making sense is Xhaka being the sole conductor in PL games, and Guendouzi providing the same service in every other game: cups, EL, and substitute Xhaka when he is injured or suspended – which is another 3-4 games a season.

    To sum up: we need a conductor on the pitch (managing the tempo, transitioning from defense to offense, driving counterattacks with sharp key passes), but only one. We should have a ‘PL-midfield’ of Torreira, Xhaka and Ceballos/Ozil, and another (a.k.a. back-up or cup-)midfield with Guendouzi, Maitland-Niles and Willock, with the possibility of using ESR when we rather have a more attacking approach or Chambers as DM if we would prefer a more defensive one.

    And this is the sad conclusion: while Guendouzi is one of the best young players in the world (with an exemplary work rate and wonderful personality), if he plays, he holds back the team from the best possible performance. And since the PL is such a competitive league, that could make a huge difference.

  • Guendouzi is actually causing us problems as Emery just wants to incorporate him. You can tell that the other players feel exactly the same. Guendouzi is a bit of a loner on the pitch. If Emery were to just use him for the cup games and to rest Xhaka now and again everything would improve.

  • TA–
    Please disperse the four points I ‘tallied’ for the Interlull predictions– to the other 4 winners.
    My formula wasn’t strictly fair. Mostly it turned out funny– but only to me, likely.


  • Funniest comment I’d read elsewhere by an Arsenal fan:

    Immediate post-match conversation–
    “Daddy, Arsenal won. Why do you look so mad?”
    “‘Cause it took 90 bloody minutes just to get the lead–
    against a squad that lost to a pack of postmen on holiday last Sunday!”


  • TA–
    For a laugh? I took 5 of HT’s picks and 5 of pb’s picks at random– just to play
    (Didn’t have the time or insight to do so.)

    As luck would have it? I picked the 5 of HT’s that matched pb’s– the result of which was basically copying pb’s picks. So– I can’t take the points to keep.

    But we could– at the contest’s end award them in a tie-breaker– if necessary. 👌🏻


  • Actually quite nice TA! Clear, sunny 60ºF.
    Unfortunately I am at my desk today, chaperoning.
    We’ve a crew working on a portion of the redesign of one of our levels– so I volunteered.

  • The firm have all of one floor in the tower we’re in and a most of a second. We’ve expanded there recently. As ‘IT guy’– also handle logistics wrt construction, vendors, movers. Assuring disruption to our users is minimal.


  • Given the weekends results we have to win today as a gap is starting to open on the Top 4.

    We know Leicester have the ability to continue their winning run, L’pool and MC are assured of their place and Chelsea are surprisingly good.

    Should L’pool beat Spurs today, the Miscreants will be below Sheffield Utd, Palace and Bournemouth 🙂

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