Emery-ish team selection, Emery-ish game management, Emery-ish result

Let’s not jump on the LJUNGBERGOUT train yet, but Sunday’s performance was largely unimpressive.

Player Ratings

Bernd Leno – 8,5 (MotM)

We clearly wouldn’t have taken a point without him. While I think he could have secured a better spot before the second Norwich goal, he made a string of fine saves, including – but not limited to – his masterful iron finger poke denying MacLean in the 59th minute. As long as we allow the opposition this many shots, it’s vital to have someone like Bernd between the posts.

Calum Chambers – 6,5

The Englishman didn’t have a great afternoon, but was far better than many retarded supporters insinuated on Twitter. He had an excellent header on goal (drawing a fine fingertip save from Krul), led the team in dribbles (!) with 3, and contributed the defence with 2-2 tackles and clearances. Made some mistakes, but no major errors. He will be the next scapegoat (when Mustafi doesn’t play), independent from his performance.

Shkodran Mustafi – 5,5

Statistic-wise he is our best defender by a fine margin. He was the clearance-king on Sunday (as expected). Contrary to popular misbeliefs he is unfavoured not because he cannot defend, but because he always has a lapse of concentration and/or a lack of focus up his sleeves. He did not make them against Norwich, but he wasn’t particularly impressive either. While he was not at fault in Pukki’s deflected goal, he couldn’t send the message to Freddie and the fans, that the most experience defensive pairing (him and Luiz) is in fact the most capable.

David Luiz – 5,5

The good: he was a calming presence all over the pitch; he behaved like a mature player, almost like a captain. The bad: he couldn’t organize the defence particularly efficiently. Let’s not jump to premature conclusion, as David is playing for Arsenal only for 4 months, and he was paired with Mustafi for the first time, but the amount of shots conceded cannot make him proud. He led the team with blocks, but the second goal – albeit nobody’s direct fault – was the consequence of the lack of defensive organization during a counterattack.

Sead Kolasinac – 6,0

Bask into Arsenal’s starting line-up the Bosnian tried hard to make for the lost time. Sead looked to provide further offensive ammunition and get crosses into the box for Aubameyang and Lacazette. He bonded well with Ozil. He showed a lot of energy and a big heart when he got insulted for the handball claim. His defensive contribution could certainly improve, but it was a steady performance by the Hulk.

Matteo Guendouzi – 5,0

Struggled to impose himself in the Arsenal midfield. He showed glimpses of promise on the ball, but was painfully ineffective without it. He has an unfortunate tendency to keep the ball under pressure and invite a fault instead of passing it further, but Santi Cazorla did just the same. He almost provided MacLean an assist, but Leno bailed him out.

I don’t think Guendouzi played any worse than last year, however, as time goes by his limited value added gets more and more transparent. In a high performing team he could shine, and for many months he got away when the team played poor, as he was always defended on account of his age; but it was high time him being substituted.

Granit Xhaka – 6,0

The Swiss played with confidence, but unfortunately couldn’t crown his brilliant offensive interception with a decent pass or shot. His passing was spot on (91% and mostly forward), and made several defensive contributions including a team high 3 tackles. His mind and calming presence are undisputed, but the execution lacks precision more often than under Wenger.

Joe Willock – 4,0

Disappointing display from the youngster after earning a start under Freddie, too. Gave the ball away far too many times and made almost no effort to track back. He is one of Ljungberg’s favourites destined to many minutes this campaign, but he needs way more confidence to deliver the performance to justify that. I would rather see him in cup ties, because Joe is indeed a hard-working athletic box-to-box midfielder, but not yet on PL level.

Mesut Ozil – 7,0

Mesut had a two-faced game. He was quiet as usual, yet managed to create 4 chances (50% of team total) including 2 pre-assists; and made 2 tackles as well, falsifying those who systematically claim that Ozil cannot defend. His set pieces were constant dangers, taking the corners far better than Xhaka. On the other hand, he didn’t seem like a world cup winner midfield artist, but a regular #10 (having a good day) that almost every PL team possesses. He missed a promising chance, when he should have passed the ball instead of shooting. Due to the team’s mediocre performance that was still enough to win the bronze.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 7,5

Both awarding and retaking the penalty were somewhat lucky (albeit correct). Failing to score for the first was a disappointment, but the retake was largely convincing both mentally and execution-wise. Same applies to his second goal. He is a true poacher, currently wasted in a winger position. I don’t remember Auba doing anything else. But that’s OK, as long he scores doubles on a regular basis. Still, not captain material.

Alexandre Lacazette – 5,0

A classic Welbeck performance. Lacazette worked hard, bullied the defenders, missed a great chance and was overall uninvolved therefore anonymous. I’m not sure that this was the best tactic Arsenal could have selected, but that is hardly the Frenchman’s fault. He was dispossessed even though hi missed the EL-clash against Frankfurt – unlike his striking partner Aubameyang.


Lucas Torreira – 6,5  

In his 20 minutes he made 2 important tackles and 2 vital interceptions, largely contributing Norwich not keeping all 3 points. He was full of energy, even managed to see his goal bound shot blocked in the last minute. He should definitely start the next games as he seems an upgrade to Guendouzi both defensively and – surprisingly – offensively.

Bukayo Saka – 5,0

I must give it to Ljungberg that he had the balls to make a formation changing substitution. However that’s the end of the positives. Young Saka is technically gifted and mentally strong to make the right decisions, hence rightfully stood out in his age group, but he doesn’t have the athletic stature to shine in the much more physical PL. It’s hard to extrapolate from 12+3 minutes but he was usually overpowered, and when he could shake down his marker, his final ball let him down. Pepe or Nelson would have stood more chance against the physical Norwich defenders, in my opinion.

Gabriel Martinelli – N/A

He had too little time on the pitch to record a proper rating. But it is probably more of a message than a tactical move, as I would be willing to bet good money on that young Gabriel will not make it to the bench, and even he does so he will never be called to action in Freddie’s first game. Or maybe I just don’t understand football that much – but still better than Keown, Savage and Nicholas. 😊

Freddie Ljungberg – 5,5

It was a strange line-up with unusual defensive pairing, a regular but obviously ineffective midfield trio, and an incoherent attacking trident where 2 non-winger players started on the wings, and 3 “professional” wingers started on the bench. But the game was nevertheless enjoyable and could have gone both ways. He gets the credit for substituting the ineffective Willock and Guendouzi, but he could have done it sooner, and only bringing Torreira proved to be a success story.

Nobody could have reasonably expected that Ljungberg solve our problems in a few days, so re-stating them is not (yet) a critique against Freddie. But we desperately need a top defensive coach, as our players defend properly in training ground situations, but make wrong decisions when it comes to improvisation – which means at every other counterattack. The other problem we have is we are again celebrating coming back twice from behind, while a top 4 aspiring team should beat the proverbial out of a freshly promoted team, even in away games.

Let’s hope that we take 6 points from the games against Brighton and West Ham. COYG!

By PBarany.

14 thoughts on “Emery-ish team selection, Emery-ish game management, Emery-ish result

  • Thanks PB for very detailed player ratings. I don’t agree with all of them but we all see different things and you are a harder task master than me. 🙂

    I think Joe W plays a lot better with Torreira and Xhaka behind him keeping a tidy ship and I hope Freddie will stick with him in the forthcoming games. Agreed re Leno of course. The man was phenomenal.

  • “Or simply use the NewsNow box at the top of this page…. Bergkampesque has been available on NewsNow for seven years! 😉”

    Yes TA, it is. And I still haven’t ‘hidden’ your site there. 😂
    So I get it in my inbox. On my cell. At NewsNow.
    And keep it on an ever-open browser tab.
    (I gotta’ be tallying about 50% of your hits! 🤑💰🤑)

    Which makes me wonder:
    How is it we don’t have more drive-by posters than it seems? 😆


  • TA, am glad with your choice of Tor and Xhaka with Willock in front of him.

    We need better positioning of the players without the ball in midfield and Tor had been great in the cameo. My last comment had chosen this as one of the possible lineup and it is easy to see why that will be the prefered lineup with the players we have now.

  • To your point on defence why can’t Freddie ask help of Keown to sort the defence out. After Keown fixed our defence containing Cygan during 05-06 champions league run

  • Pb …. I agree with most of your assessments but I think Chambers was poor particularly with the ball. I can’t recollect one line breaking pass from him. I also feel that Musti blundered for the Pukki goal by running past him instead of at him seeing that Luiz was there already shielding the goal. He looks totally lacking in confidence and that his blunder was simply shying away from engaging an opponent in a dangerous place. Despitee his tough looks he seems to have a very fragile personality. Not so Xhaka who played his game inspite of what he has just gone through. Bellerin is my first right back choice but when he is not there it’s Musti for me, further away from goal. He is quite keen on breaking the line with his passing.

    Willock had a game to forget, more like a bad day in the office. Maybe he is not one for 2 matches in 4 days.

    I agree completely with you that the talented Saka is not quite ready for the PL. He needs another year or two to grow more muscles.

    It’s a big pity that Auba and Laca thrive in the same space. Ideally they should be used one at a time. It’s so clear that Auba struggles to help in build up play. However not playing them together has its problems. One is that we don’t have goal scoring midfielders and there is the possibility that one or the two of them would get disaffected with not enough game time.

  • Pb, love the detailed reviews about every player!

    I’m super excited about young Saka. Yes, he isn’t PL ready yet as you have mentioned, but he has everything necessary to be one. His positioning, either starting very wide or collecting balls between the lines like Mesut often does, is better than any other winger we have currently. He’s also quite effective in 1v1 situations. He really seems like a Pep Guardiola winger tbh. Our next permanent manager will have a rough diamond to work with.

    Regarding Laca & Auba, your words are harsh but true. Laca looks isolated while Auba is a bit too wide when attacking the box (I dont mind him wide during the buildup). They should rewatch their own performance vs Valencia last season. That was their partnership at their peak.

  • Thank you PB. Like others I think you are generous to Chambers and harsh on Willock.

    I like Chambers and think he is a fine squad player but much prefer to see a real FB. Same with Kola who is a converted MF. IMO we play better with a back 4 and a proper DM. Sadly, we do not have a very unbalanced squad (which is surely a subject for a few posts!).

    Can we continue to play Auba/Laca and Xhaka/Ozil? I think not.

  • Lucas, agreed. Saka is already one of our best players in terms of attacking effectiveness and calm on the pitch. In every game he produces a few excellent opportunities by balancing thrust, technical control and a cool head. He still needs to learn a lot, of course, but this boy is awesome.

  • Thanks for all the feedback and the responses, guys.
    To be honest, I didn’t intend to be harsh at all (OK, maybe on Willock), but after re-reading the ratings they could indeed easily go down as being overly critical. In my defense: I was expecting an away win – with the possibility of a clean sheet. But generally in my rating standards the default score is 5,5; so getting a rating around there is no roasting, but an average, or ‘slightly below expectation’ rating.

    I don’t base my opinion entirely, but consider the WhoScored evaluation & statistics, which you can find on the Norwich game below:
    The spread of the ratings there is limited (every starting player received a score between 6.41 and 7.83) If you check the ratings (under Match Centre / Player Statistics) you’ll see that performance-wise the highest scorers are Auba, Leno, Ozil and Chambers, while Guendouzi, Luiz, Willock and Laca received the 4 lowest ratings.

    Anyway, I stand with my view on Calum, but I admit that maybe I was taking out my frustration on the over-accelerated youth-inclusion on poor Willock.
    Because even though I’m a great fan of involving Academy players, but I would prefer if they get the experience of playing first team football in mainly cup-ties (there are 1000+ minutes to play in a season in the League Cup, the FA Cup and the Europa League). So I find it odd, that while Martinelli (in my opinion correctly) played 510 minutes in cups and (only) 83 in the PL, and in the case of Holding it is 450 vs 77 (and 243 minutes in the U23 PL2 league to get back to full fitness) Saka played 356 in PL, 245 in EL and 135 in EFL Cup, and for Willock it is 440/359/180.
    I think we are rushing them (I’m not saying AMN has already burnt out, but he definitely bit more than he could chew and now he is sidelined without injury), while there are more senior players waiting for minutes – in case of Saka and Martinelli they are Pepe and Nelson, in case of Willock they are Torreira and Ceballos.

  • Good stuff on the ratings, PB…not to mention the rationale (directly above)…and the capacity to have your views changed by those of others…Excellent… And it makes me want to try harder to get in front of a screen for the upcoming matches…As it is, I can only read the ratings…and dennis knows how I prefer to “comment.”

    I’m now all caught up (with the posts/comments here…not the rest of the stuff I need to do…) after a whirlwind overnight in more populated areas and getting some folks onto an airplane… Not good for the climate, but…who can care if I’m still gonna support a club that’s sponsored by an airline which is run by an oil kingdom?… Right?…

    Maybe that was the problem… I read that last time Norwich was up (in the PL), the team flew (a 14 minute flight) for the away fixture… This time we took the bus…(but, to borrow an popular allusion, we were never able to park it…maybe?…) As I said beforehand, I’d’ve taken a nil-nil, but an end to end 2-2 is probably more entertaining (for the neutral)…but also suggests that maybe we need more BFG than (de)FL8(ed) (but still in the job…but for how long?…) in the managerial stew…or kitchen or something…

    Cheers to you,TA ,for the 8 obs… If y’all keep going with these sorts of (carefully measured and well observed, post) match reports, I think traffic to the site will grow… Although, of course, if you really want it to increase, reactionary (and divisive/hyper-blameful), of course, is the way to go… Title this one (something like…) MUST (be) AF (off with your head, Skrot)-I or MUST-AF been out of his mind, Freddie)-I with appropriate (slasher…) photo (shopped?) or video (gif-fed? meme-ed, or whatever the kids do these days…) and (I bet we could) watch the hit-count soar… 😀 😦

    That’s not BKesque (thank dennis) though we can still enjoy watching PE swing (whip-saw?…) from extremes of (pre-match) enthusiasm and belief to (post-match) reality check (with heartaches and a bit of lashing out)… I’m just joshing ya’ Pony (and given that I’m putting in about as much time/energy–and money–towards our troubles as a Kroenke…who am I to criticize?…) but I do find it intriguing how two bloggers can have such different tolerances for high expectations… Anyways, if it’s the three of y’all (plus a cheeky copied and pasted comment) from some of the longer (but more timid?…) comment folks, I think the blog is in fine hands and passers by will catch the vibe if they actually read the comments as they ought to… (This ain’t Bergkamp-Tweeter-Esque, after all)…

    Which all goes to say, again…Cheers!!

    But…Where (TF) is the prediction game? (Not to mention the current standings in the season long contest…) Don’t we have a new round of PL games kicking off in like a minute or two?…


  • Ah 17 good to hear from you. The prediction game is a bit too much with the other blog admin at the moment… maybe for the weekend again. 🙂

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