Aston Villa-Arsenal. Preview, Line-ups, Live-blog, etc. Gunners Get Ready at (Almost) Relegated Villa.

A meaningless match?  Not quite…

But not much of a match preview, I’m sorry to say.  Our stalwart from London (Ontario, Canada–GunnerN5) is not available to do his usual historical analysis of the rivalry.  Even TotalArsenal, our fearless leader here at Bergkampesque, is away on family duties (so he cannot contribute with his preffered starting line-up.  So, we scrape the bottom of the barrel and find (always cynical, always downbeat) me, 17HT, trying to bring something to the table.

Ah the table…

Look away, look away–I advise BOTH Gooners and Villa supporters.

The latter will have their eyes focused on the match between Watford and Manchester City, one being played not so far from where City were humbled by Arsenal on Saturday Night, ending their attempt at a 2nd (consecutive) sweep of the English Cups.  I tried to write a post about that match (and the Mikel Arteta-led resurgence of our club).  Many thanks to those (the few and the brave if not the proud…) who read it and left comments.  Hopefully you’ll be back and joining me in the comments today.  Anybody else?  Fresh blood (and/or ideas) is always appreciated.

Villains NEED City to win the match at Vicarage Road.  If they don’t, Watford will be safe and Villa will join Bournemouth and Norwich City as the clubs relegated from this season’s Premier League.  IF ManCity win today Watford would still be favored to stay up.  They play us (Arsenal) next weekend but Arteta might field a rotated side ahead of the FA cup final–or at least instruct his men not to play too hard, risking injury and red cards ahead of the the return to Wempty, er, Wembley for the FA Cup final.  Villa would have to beat us today AND better Watford’s result on that final match-day (when we play them).

So, let’s root for Watford.  Playing a freshly relegated team seems better than one fighting for their lives…

But, maybe we would prefer playing a motivated club.  Surely, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea will be eager to build upon their Europa League Final win in Baku, Azerbaijan last year, where they crushed Arsenal 4-1, when they get another chance in a cup final.  They are already in for next years Champions League but will still fancy their return to Wembley and, for a least a couple of guys, a chance to avenge the 2017 final where Arsenal upset them, 2-nil.  Additionally, it would be Lampard’s first trophy.  (Chelsea, a very different club than Arsenal, got a new manager after winning in Baku; we stuck with Unai Emery despite all signs of our decline being on more than full display.)

And, at half-time of the Watford-City match, the light blues leading by a pair of goals, so, relegation looks like it won’t be settled until our match…

Or next weekend if Arsenal fail to show up today.  (Update…it’s now Watford nil- City 4.  Villa have it all to play for…)

I believe motivation is a HUGE factor in these end of season matches.  Some teams have “nothing” to play for and others are looking ahead to tournament matches and keen to work (only?) on the technical aspects of their games and avoid injury.  As fans, we like to believe our guys care as much about each result as we do, but that is simply NOT true.  We live in a world of make-believe (if not actual fakery–witness the tolerance of piped in crowd sounds on the screens upon which we watch these closed-door matches).

Even if motivation is harder to come by (especially behind closed doors) we (the fans, at least) also believe in things like pride.  So, back to the table…where we sit 10th.

Arteta’s Arsenal are not the same Arsenal that lost that cup final in Baku.  A win today and we leap-frog Sheffield United and Burnley into 8th.  We’ll need some help on the final day, but it’s still (mathematically) possible to finish ahead of both Spurs and Wolves (though we need quite a tally over these next two games AND Wolves and Spurs losing a pair of South London matches).  As it is, we probably need to lick our (league) wounds and accept that the cup final is our only route into the Europa League (and that our Emery-experiment made us into a firmly-mid-table team–or worse).

So, how will Arteta set up his team against a Villa group that should be ready to go to the wall to extend their fight?  I’m thinking this line-up (eight changes from the group that beat City!):




Nelson–Nketiah(back from suspension?)–Pepe

I’ll put up the actual line-ups (in the comments) when they’re available (soon)… Please join me for a little live-blogging, or in match commentary (first takes are often the most lucid, I think).  Or just ignore me completely.  As time goes by I get more and more inured to the experience–and it sort of feels about right, in fact…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

84 thoughts on “Aston Villa-Arsenal. Preview, Line-ups, Live-blog, etc. Gunners Get Ready at (Almost) Relegated Villa.

  • 19.25
    something must be wrong with reiss …
    strong side, very happy to see lucas/eddie again; would have gone full hale end myself (ainsley/joe/reiss if fit …) but MIKEL KNOWS!!

  • Hey LeGall…

    Me too, but I think this will end the season (for Villa) and also be (most of) the back-line for the cup final. At this point I think our MF needs at least one of Xhaka or the Onion-Horse guy (Ceballos, onion = cebolla, horse = caballo en espan(y)ol…) Personally, I’d pay money to watch Saka go and I’m glad he’s got the experienced guys (plus Eddy) to put them in.

    I think we might run a tally IF we can get the first goal (and then another before too long)…

  • In other words, I think Arteta is a better manager than I (or at least than I predicted above)…

    Only 7 of 11 correctly picked…

  • Do you have this on the telly tonight Le Gall… Also, please tell me (again, maybe…) your location. I have a degree in geography (and I take it seriously…)

    Looking forward to your in-match comments…and cheers for trying to keep up the tradition…

  • Watford game ends nil-4…

    I guess, technically, Villa are still in even if they lose tonight. Goal difference is working against them…and they would also be behind Bournemouth (who finish at Everton)…

  • This might be the first start together for the Torriera-Ceballos pairing in MF.
    Interesting to have some quickness aside Ceballos.

    Shoot HT– I’d much rather see Watford cast out than Villa.
    Deeney can go admire his cojones in the Championship, never to be heard from again.

    Win or lose– I’d prefer the team play competitive games leading to the FA Cup final.
    If Villa manage to win today? Next match vs Watford will be a good tuneup.


  • Reiss Nelson out with a slight groin strain, I hope we do well enough to be comfortable and be able to give Matt Smith his debut….

    Enjoy the game, Forward Arsenal

  • Villa ain’t gonna win tonight… A scenario that would be far worse (IMO) for us heading into the Cup Final… We need to play our game and score goals… After all, mathematically, we’re still in for EL football on the final day of PL play…

    I don’t think of Ceballos as quick… Actually I see him a not too dissimilar to Xhaka. Like many others I’m put off by Xhaka’s crab-like movements…and I see Dani’s as not all that different but (like you say, JW) a bit quicker (in both mind and action). And, of course, both can hit a good long ball once they get it onto their better foot… In my mind we could use some real athleticism in (deep) MF…(which is perhaps where Joe Willock comes in–longer term, at least)…

  • That would be nice A-Kev…

    Is it gonna happen?… Not in a Brazilian years (Martinelli in goal, as people like to write it seems just as likely)….

  • And thanks for the last two posts 17tino, my time has been pretty much taken up by decorating the kitchen, painting yesterday, today and tomorrow. Not even started on the cupboards yet, that’ll be fun…

  • Ceballos may not be a sprinter– but he’s not slow HT. His footwork is better than anyone else’s on the team. Who I’d really like to see in our MF next season? Jack Grealish. On a better club– he could be dynamic.


  • I’m only around for the first half (and maybe a couple of minutes of the 2nd)…so, let’s put this one away early…

    For me. this is a chance to play a bit more aggressively while still making the clean sheet the main priority. It’s all about winning those 50[-50s (and pressing very quickly and with conviction if we lose them). With the forwards we’ve got, I think we should be a threat any time Villa think they can come forward on us…

    One knee down (one hand up) and we’re off…

  • Gotta disagree, J-dub…Saka’s gets the footwork prize (IMO)…just not the size and experience (how to work the ref, mostly) to play in that part of the park…

  • Are you at work this afternoon, J-dub?

    Arsenal look up to speed after 5 minutes played…

  • Saka puts hands on Elmohamady (whose had quite a career albeit almost always with Championship/relegation fighting clubs) and the foul is given… Uh oh, mention the guy and he gets booty-lock….

    Corner Arsenal…

  • Yes. At work, at home. We’ve been in self-quarantine since March 19.
    Our staff has to get permission to be in our offices presently.


  • I look at it this way… If Dani was 18 he’d be Cesc… If Saka was lighter skinned folks would know that he was WAY better than Cesc (and, actually homegrown and not likely to feck off back to

    We’re checking our inherent biases these days, right?… 😮

  • Gotcha (re: the work set-up)… It sounds alright to me… Where are you talking politics these days?…and are you hopeful? Exec order on Citizenship question… How much red meat can ya’ eat? Sad state of affairs…

    Some injury slow-downs for Villa with the Elmo sub… Personally, I think we (or this game) need(s) a goal….

  • Saka gets the final ball wrong after some nice playing it out from the team… Next one in from Cedric is airborne but easily cleared… Grealish able to fall down to stop our pressure…

  • Oops… had to take a call…

    Set piece badly managed… Kola put off by the run at the near post and nobody out on Trezeguet…

    Now, we’ve got an issue…

  • So, can Arsenal score against the parked bus…

    So many stop-starts in this match. Eddie and LT11 working together to let Villa take another minute plus off the clock…

  • Kola wins a ball (after a bunch of poor play earlier) but PEA’s ball in to Laca is too hard to control. It’s a foul elsewhere on the pitch but Laca didn’t complain enough for VAR to worry about it…

  • Back to Grealish… I think he’ll definitely be in the PL next season (different club, I’m guessing) but I don’t see him at Arsenal…unless the fans need that color of meat…

    Sorry, but I see it (racism) everywhere…and I always have… Maybe Burnley is a good fit….

    LT’s gonna get a yellow. Too pumped up after his good throughball to PEA is one-touched into a turnover…

  • Where (exactly) is Eddy playing?…

    PEA wins a corner, taken short…And Saka does good things but only for some throws…

    We’re not really having ANY sustained possession since the Villa goal…

  • Ceballos delivery is good but only a Villa player is there… PEA tries another but a one-two between LT and Laca is easily snuffed… On the break, Villa try to bend one but it’s a yard off the top far corner…

  • 3 mins of ET…

    Laca’s hold up is good but the pass to Eddy is woeful…we build again…

    But this one ends with Laca not hitting a static Saka…

  • Dani works hard to win one on the right and switches it left but Villa clear for a throw…

    Next build up (with Villa set) ends in an easily cleared Cedric cross…

    Next one–and the half–ends with Eddy too long for Laca…

    No shots on goal for Arsenal… and maybe lacking size and experience we give up a goal from a corner… Arteta–who probably actually uses a hair-dryer, probably needs to pull it (and a couple of players…) out at half-time…

  • It’s almost a certainty that we can’t win a game without XhakA. Focusing on athleticism or speed is really missing the value of Granit. But I have said it before only mainland Europeans and Allezkev get it!! 😁

    Thanks for the post, 17HT.

  • Tired legs and minds, not sure that Nketiah on the right works?

    Villa putting in a lot of crosses, good practice for Chelsea.

  • Hiya TA, yeah we definitely miss Xhaka, Ceballos has been working his arse off but Torrieira seems so lightweight, I don’t mean to be unfair but he is.

  • No, I get it… TA or M8 or MA08…who was not himself all that dissimilar a player from Xhaka… but I don’t want to get into a critique of LT-11 who seems like a favorite (favourite?…) on the BK…

    I just don’t see him able to make it and think he’d be A LOT happier in a continental league…

    Xhaka coming on, in fact…for the little fella…

    I gotta run. But I’ll watch the tape and chime in later…

  • Well that was what I expected but hoped would not happen. Ah well after beating Pool and Citeh I guess we can’t complain. MA🎱

  • We really didnt deserve anything from this one, atrocious performance. Eddie header was as close as we got but the biggest opportunity that might be forgotten is the one where Auba failed to pick out Eddie with a simple pass a meter away in the box and somehow powered a cross to nobody. Other than that I am wondering why Reiss did not get his chance on the wing to start the game after his goal and assist 2 games ago. Mikel did a similar thing right after Pepe had a m.o.m. performance and he got dropped kinda head scratching not allowing a player to build on his momentum but maybe that’s just me.

  • Pop– goes the bubble.
    Noticed that Villa played Sweet Caroline post-match too.


  • couldn’t watch; brother-in-law turned up right before kickoff, and stayed for dinner
    won’t watch the replay, ‘ll take a look at the live blog tomorrow (thanks a lot, 17), after sleeping off the disappointment

  • I think after two mammoth efforts in beating Liverpool and Man City at Wembley and so many games our legs just went, Aubameyang was invisible and when he went on a run he looked as if he was running in treacle, I’m not knocking him but not have Nelson or Martinelli tonight caught up with us. Maybe a bit more rotation of the forwards but I guess Arteta was short on options.
    That us out of europe it seems unless we can beat Chelski…

    Night all.

  • Just looked it up I now see Reiss was injured and not available so I guess Pepe might have come in earlier on the wing or started but just frustrated lol.

    I too was expecting some sought of letdown after the exhausting City game and victory over Pool not to mention the quick succession of games and lets not forget we also had tough games before that in Leicester, Wolves and Spurs so it was a tough run in.

    To add to that our midfield options are limited with Guendo and Ozil exiled from the squad.

  • Just had a notion before the game Villa was going to be hungrier.
    Thirty-three fouls both teams. Lotta’ stoppage.
    6 shots, none on target. Yikes.

    Finish on a high-note Sunday. Relegate Watford.
    Maybe a look at Abdoulaye Doucouré in midfield at £22M?


  • Hi fellas. Just finished watching the replay and the 2nd period even with the Xavior in (for LT11) wasn’t very pretty. Somehow, Arteta has to find a way to break down parked buses. These days, the advantage is with the team out of possession…at least if you look at our most recent 3 matches…

    It’s also with the team that has something to play for…Our chances for getting into Europe via the league is (or was) one for the mathematicians, so now (at least…) it’s all crystal clear. Villa’s chances for staying up are similarly difficult but the PL is a good deal more prestigious than the EL…and really, it’ll be about lifting the cup (and not where we’re playing next year) when we return to Wemptley… (Will anybody from the Royal family be on hand, I wonder…and, if not, is a sad–and fat-Frank enough?…)

    Tonight’s match *should* suggest that “wanting it” will be something important in the final (and maybe even vs Watford…)

    So, maybe (like in a marriage or something…) losing (tonight) IS winning… 😉 Though Mikel may have to work on our love-style (i.e., possession-based, attacking football) in whatever (teeny-tiny) off-season we’ve got…

    Or maybe I was right (read the post…) and Mikel should’ve just rotated more… 😀

    Time to disappear (again)… However, TA, you should let me know your schedule (and what’s up with GN5) if we need something put up for the final match-day…or maybe PB wants to do some sort of player ratings (seems kinda pointless, but what TF do I know?…)

  • 17ht, please come more often. Miss you and your comments here.

    Anyway, it is sad to see the team lose against well drilled defensive teams. It meant one thing, and it is sad to say: We are a mid-table team.
    Unless we have more creative players (and less players and back pass), we can at least be good against high-pressure and park the bus teams.

    After a disappointing end to the season, it seems the FA cup is the thing that we need to look forward to.

  • from the look of your post, 17, looks like we were given a taste of our own medicine, the one which knocked down ‘pool and citeh – easy to say, now, but that might have been expected
    you and kev seem to have been wondering about eddie’s positioning, i have to say i’m not a big fan of piling up goalscorers upfront either, at least not without a proper playmaker behind them (will the mesut debate be reignited?)
    there was another game i missed earlier this season, the return game against olympiakos – another one we were supposed to amble out of – and, if my memory serves me well, your comments, lads, were about the same then – might the mental preparation of such games be a flaw in our new headcoach’s shining armour?
    anyway, i won’t be able to watch watford either; tomorrow i’ll be on my way to brittany, to spend a week at my cousin’s in roscoff, a britton village some of you having used the plymouth-roscoff brittany ferries line (the company my cousin – as well as his elder son, my godson, works for, actually) may know.
    i’ll be back the day before the final; something tells me it’ll be a tense game, because lampard is a shrewd beast, and he’ll have noticed how hard “breaking down parked buses” seems to be for us.
    geography, 17?? rouen stands a 100 miles northwest of paris, spreading over either sides of the Seine; i live on the north (“right”) bank, which is but a (very) steep hill overlooking the town center, my “commune” (small town) is mont-saint-aignan, on the western side of that “hill”.
    when i became an arsenal fan in ’69, my parents and i lived in a small council housing estate, by the square where rouen’s busiest open-air market is set.
    the name of the square? st mark’s square, of course. how’s that for being vain??
    have a nice week, BKers; this season has been a hell of a bumping ride; yesterday morning, i would have bet anyhting on a grand finale in wembley, but right now …

  • I guess if there’s anything positive that can come out of a defeat it’s that Arteta can judge the temperament, attitude and application of the squad players who come in and that can make up his mind and help him plan better where he needs to improve things.

    It’s so annoying that we lost Nelson because I think that he would have started on the right with Nketiah through the middle and Lacazette getting a rest. Aubameyang probably wanted to play because of the golden boot otherwise I would have had Saka on the left.

  • I like and have always liked Lucas Torrieira, he was the little big man during the first half of Emery’s first season, the unbeaten run, then he ran out of gas. There will always be his finest moment in that 4-2 win over the old enemy, but as much as I like him and he seems a lovely guy as well, in the super duper Premier League i’m afraid that size does matter and if you can’t get the better of a relegation threatened midfield like Villa then what chance do you have?

    Arteta has made it abundantly clear that he wants to keep Ainsley Maitland Niles but he’s never said anything about Lucas, I wonder why?

  • It’s common knowledge that most players perform through niggling injuries, they take an injection or just grin and bear it, or bare it, so we never really know if an injury is affecting someone’s form. Therefore I’m not gonna slag off Soares, well not too much, because since his goalscoring debut I’ve gotta admit that I’ve been a bit underwhelmed. Is he still suffering from his original injury, the one that kept him out since January and he only recently recovered from, because he looks very sluggish to me and unfit at worst? I can’t believe that Arteta would have sanctioned a 4 year deal for him if he was performing as average in training as he was yesterday evening.

  • Morning guys,

    It’s been a rough few days in the GN5 family, my 80 year old sister is in Boston General in critical condition she had a procedure yesterday and it is sounding more promising this morning – and at the same I had facial surgery- that included skin grafts – I look and feel like a wounded soldier, I’d publish pictures but they look gross, bandages,sutures, blood and bruises. Hence no post or participation for a few days.

    I’m feeling pretty sad for myself right now so I’m not at all sure that I will be up to writing a post for the Watford game – but if I can I will. I will most certainly send in a post for the FA Cup Final..

  • Sorry to hear about your sister GN5, I hope that she makes a full recovery.

    As for you it sounds like your walking around like a contender from a Rocky film, don’t forget to duck and weave and take care of course.

    I gotta say it’s getting to be a bit like an episode of Dr Kildare around here….

  • Kev,
    I look like I’ve been been in a brawl and lost the fight.

    Yes both TA and I are deep into family medical issues, unfortunately due to Covid-19 restrictions I can’t travel to the US, but with my surgery it would have been difficult.

  • Rotating is important, but you cannot rotate everyone, unless you develop a Team A vs. Team B dichotomy.
    This game it would have been proper to rest Lacazette, Tierney, Bellerin, Xhaka and Luiz. (And in the next game Aubameyang, Pepe, Willock and Ceballos).

    Of course it is easy to be wise from the hindsight, but playing with 7 defensive players and 3 central strikers was never a good idea. It could have worked against a team that no longer gives a shit about the last few games, but a team escaping delegation always have the chance to score, and we severely lacked creativity (as we always do). Maybe the 2 previous – and unlikely – victories got into Arteta’s head, or he felt necessary to keep the 5-2-3 (counterattacking) formation against bottom teams too to prepare for the FA Cup final, but the system used was almost as wrong as the starting line-up.

    Anyway, my hindsight line-up for Tuesday would have been:

    And in the last PL game:

    Not to mention Ozil, who would have been a tremendous asset in generating key passes and goal-scoring opportunities against weaker opponents. And Villa was clearly such – who happened to organize their defense very maturely and effectively.

    So while I’m a great admirer and supporter of Arteta, this game was clearly mismanaged by his side. While Wenger and Emery clearly had their own shortcomings, neither of them would have started all our 3 strikers in a game, especially without a creative/visionary midfielder who could provide them through balls.

    We were lucky as hell to win against Liverpool. But we were not unlucky against Villa; we were piss-poor. I know WhoScored ratings are far from undisputed, but according to them Villa had no players (excluding substitutes) with ratings below 6.5, and we had only a single scoring above 6.5. And that is something you don’t want to see against a side escaping relegation.

  • Cheers PB, you have a point. I think the tank was empty after three heroic battles and the big win v Citeh to get to FA final. Yes Arteta could have rotated more but to beat Villa away we needed a strong team with the right mentality. The latter we lacked and maybe our squad differences are bigger than you assumed recently.

    For me it is about the lack of options in central midfield, and especially Torreira is struggling to reestablish himself.

  • Shkodran Mustafi looks set to suffer FA Cup heartache, with the defender expected to miss the Wembley showpiece with Chelsea through injury.

    Mustafi, who was firmly out of favour with former boss Unai Emery, has become an integral part of Mikel Arteta’s side and had started nine of Arsenal’s 10 games prior to the FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City.

    But after suffering a hamstring injury in the closing stages of the 2-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s side, Mustafi was forced to miss Tuesday night’s 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa.

    The Germany international has undergone a scan on the problem and head coach Mikel Arteta has now revealed he fears the centre-back will not be available to face Chelsea at Wembley.

    “I doubt it,” said Arteta, when asked if Mustafi would be fit for the final.

    “We have to see how he evolves in the next few days, but at the moment I doubt it.”


  • A quick one here (lol…) because I (again) want to ask TA (MA08) about the “blog needs” for the (final PL) weekend AND because I did want to respond to PB–about his “hindsight” comment above…and the big post he wrote before these last three, er, interesting, matches…(and their unexpected results).

    So, TA, let me know if you would like a preview and/or live-blog for the game vs Watford…i.e., more of my over-wrought writings…

    And, PB, I basically agreed with your squad assessment (in your comprehensive post from earlier) and I’ve been wanting to mention that I think Arteta-senal’s re-emergence as a top 4 contender could really be aided if English football stays with the 5 (total) sub rules. In other words, I agree that we have a good depth of talent in the current team, and that competition for places could be a really good thing. I’m not sure about (all) your names (1st team, 2nd team) but the overall point is strong. Of course, it’s a tough situation–and the other traditional “big teams” will strengthen (or maybe “deepen” if there’s a change in the sub rules) because they’re not afraid to spend as our owning family appears to be–and, their football men (Raul Sanllehi has been ours, at least in recent previous windows…) are looking to fill holes in their squad (rather than holes in their pockets…) and spending (or splashing…) on players whose agents are their buddies/business-partners. Still, our current situation–of a whole class of Academy kids coming through at the same time, strengthens our (or Our-teta’s) hand…

    But, not (of course) if you’re (already) in the Arteta-out camp, which, PB, you seem to slide towards with every disappointing result…(or at least most of them–as best as I can recall from my reading of the posts/comments here).

    I guess that’s the purview of fans/supporters…but, to me (and maybe JUST to me) it seems as absurd as saying “Now let’s win the PL with this exact squad” after a nice (underdog) victory… (Apologies to JK 😉 …)

    A lot of the “I can manage just as well as Arteta” (or any other manager) mentality, I fear, comes from the video games (and/or the fantasy/transfer market games) which suggest that you can just plug in players based on their “positions,” or attributes or other elements. (Don’t players play lots of different positions–with lots of different coaches as they learn the game?…) This is what (IMO…) makes it all too simple to say things like three central attackers (and no #10s) is a bad line-up. Clearly (to me, at least…) Arteta wants to see if guys like Eddy (at Villa) can be effective from a wider starting position (much as PEA has been–whenever he plays with Lacazette or other #9–or false #9). That said, I agree that it didn’t look good, but, (again, clearly to me) Arsenal are done with Ozil (or maybe he’s actually injured) and Guendouzi (so, who exactly are the creative/visionary mids? Both Saka and Onion-Horse started the match, who are maybe our players with the “best footwork” in the current squad…see in match discussion by a couple of foolish US based bloggers above…)

    Additionally, Arteta (like Pep, Klopp and most of the other current managers) seems quite happy with one-touch forward play and letting attackers try and run those (chancy) balls down (on the break, in transition, whatever you want to call it)–even when playing a “lesser” club like Villa. Also, 3 CBs is clearly (IMO) the formation the manager is planning to use to take us out this season (and what will be played vs Chelsea in the FA Cup final) and thus, for his current squad, the two PL games are most important as preparation for that one. I agree that possession is the best form of defense, but switching to that mode (esp. after the draining efforts against those better teams we recently played) is more than his (current) squad can handle (at this point–maybe after a season or three, and with HIS own players). Of course, we went to a more traditional 2 CB set-up (4 at the back) late on, but would we have done the same if Eddy’s header had been a millimeter more on the inside of the post (and thus the score would’ve been level) late on?

    In the end, my views are just my views, but I’d argue that Arteta (like Emery before him…) is modernizing (or maybe Mourinho-nizing…) a very limited (and very unbalanced) team (our MFs in particular are NOT world-beaters) and that it’s important to recognize what that means (A LOT less playing through the middle of the pitch–the area where a turnover can send the other team streaming back towards our goal on the break). We hunger for the dominance of the early aughts where teams would back off and allow us plenty of possession but now (not just for us, but even teams as strong as Pool and City as we saw last week…) possession (esp. centrally) can be a double edged sword. In my opinion, the pundits and the media (including bloggers–not to mention the video and fantasy/management games…) need to get with the times and see the games differently.

    And, of course, find ways to keep supporting our team/players/coaches…disappointing (and often very fluky or luck-based) results notwithstanding…

  • Thanks, 17HT for the detailed response.

    I try to avoid the black-and-white binary approach to managers. I’m definitely not sitting on the Arteta-out train, but you are right, that I’m not a 100% follower either. In fact, I even challenge that we are progressing for the right direction, but I appreciate his improvements in a lot of areas. My biggest concern (most aching pain point) is the catastrophic decline in key passes, but without further spoilers I plan to analyze the last 8-10 games and post is between the Watford-match and the FA Cup final.
    I’m also debating Arteta’s view on the squad size, but I don’t even play video games, manager simulators or fantasy football, so that’s just a single opinion. Nevertheless I might write a post about that as well – consider yourselves warned. 🙂

  • With exceptions in Pool and City– with the amount of money doled out to the rest of the PL– there’s quite a bit of parity in the level of athlete any team can pursue. Gone are the days there was a predictable top-6. Even a top-10 now seems hard to pick. In that, teams like Wolves and Sheffield can climb the ladder in year-one and take a seat at the table. It’s unsurprising when a ‘big club’ (suppose that’s the parlance) has an off-season whether injury or underachieving as the cause– can be pushed down the pecking order.

    Arsenal led in 22 matches, tying 6, losing 3.
    Few of those nine letdowns involved being outplayed skillfully. Mostly it was breakdowns.
    Not only in Emery’s half of the season either. Arteta was on the touchline for December’s match vs Chelsea losing late. Drawn by Sheffield in January (and beaten in EL by Olympiacos in February). Lately, lost late to Brighton and Spurs, drawing late to Leicester. Beaten unexpectedly by Villa.

    Mikel sees the flaws in the makeup of the team. ‘Rehabilitated players’ or no? In its current form– Arsenal do not have the quality required to push past the clubs (United, Chelsea and Leicester) still straining for the #3 and #4 spots for CL qualification.

    ‘There is no magic.’ Said the man asked to pull rabbits from hats.
    Like everyone else–I’ve no idea what amount will be handed to MA8 to overhaul the defense. CBs. We need 2-3 CBs. Saliba included. We need another creative type in MF. We have Granit who keeps things ticking. Dani who can carry and connect. Need one clever and deft to create. Who also presses. Is it Bukayo? Is there a #10 in there? Or is he a left-sided hybrid wingerfullwingback?

    If there isn’t a pot of cash for Mikel to go buy those needed players– is there any real harm in offloading a number of the squad? Torriera. Guendouzi. Kolasinac. Sokratis. There is some value there (£40-45M). Do we move one of our attackers? Does Auba leave? If not– do we cash in on Laca (in December he was valued at £77M. Today £52M)?

    Recruit well and Arteta could revamp this team with £140-£150M.
    That amount could be raised with a reasonable amount from the club. The rest from player sales. EL qualifying would be a help.


  • Well, PB, I’m not much of a stat guy so I don’t even know what a key pass is (though I’m guessing it has something to do with creating a “chance.” Personally, I think asSOCiation football (i.e., soccer) is such a team game it is (or maybe remains…) highly resistant to finding truth through statistical analysis. In other words, my (damned) lie (by eye) is a good as the one the stats people will try and cook up. (And don’t get me started on stats that require a judgement call…) The quality of the team AND the playing style (what the coach asks his players to do for him) is a(n h)UGE thing…

    For example, A LOT of Gooners want to suggest Lacazette is a big disappointment, but, oh my, the hold-up that he does (IMO) is pretty incredible and I’m very impressed (esp. in relation to his “sick” vids from his days at Lyon where he used all sorts of tricks running at defenders; Pepe, Eddy or anyone else who wants to play at the modern #9 position which is really a rather thankless “false 9,” should take note…) Balls get pinged into him and he has to use his body, including exposing his feet and ankles to all sorts of stomping. Those same Gooners also lament that the (no doubt…) better finisher, Aubameyang has to start out on the wing but (I’d argue) that that guy is all about one touch (and go…) football which is BY FAR the easiest way to avoid injury and that being uninjured and available for selection is BY FAR the easiest way to up your goal/assist totals (not to mention your transfer value), which, in the end, for forwards at least are the stats that count…

    This leads to my 2nd point, which I should probably save for a match preview (if I need to write one for Sunday…TA, give me a nod, eh)… People who have played sports KNOW that athletes play in a COMPLETELY different manner when they are prioritizing staying fit (for something like a cup final) and avoiding injury–esp. against reckless galoots who are giving it their “all” to avoid relegation (i.e. Villa and Watford players). Non-athletes may not even consider this (or be able to tell the difference). It’s a very subtle thing, but (very) real. Admittedly the quality in the PL has improved and there are far fewer players getting by solely on the dark arts (and, truth be told, our average level of player is not all that much higher than the average guy on a 2nd division or/relegation threatened team–a big reason we’re firmly a mid-table club at the moment). So, in fact, we should probably consider it “job-done” to get through these final two league matches without losing any other bodies for the cup final. (So, at Villa, if I’m not mistaken, we succeeded; i.e., job half-done…) I know, I know… these guys are “highly paid professionals,” (blah, blah, blah…) but BY FAR the easiest way to stop being a highly paid professional is to get yourself injured. Gooners, IMO, need to put themselves into their shoes (or cleats–rather than letting the media bend their minds thinking about all the pound sterling that goes into the players’ pockets)…

    Luckily, I believe Arteta has this sort of understanding. I also think his footballing ideas (though rather conservative–or at least along the lines of the stronger new coaches, notably Señor Guardiola…) make good sense AND he’s making real progress with a bunch of guys who were nothing AT ALL resembling a team. Right now we’re built to defend and play on the break (or, painfully at times, out from the back…) and not so strong at breaking down parked buses (any team with a lead–or those playing for a draw…) Does that mean that we are light years away from playing like the earlier Wenger teams, notably those from the early aughts?… Indeed it does… Ah well… To (reverse) paraphrase (other) French royalty: first (we probably need to eat) bread, the cake comes later…

  • 17, I would be delighted if you could do a preview of the Sunday game. I got back from the Netherlands last night but my laptop is playing up and tomorrow we are off to the Highlands, Ardnamurchan to be more precise. So not much blogging from me for a week or so.

  • Sorry J-Dub, to post without checking for anything new… We actually make similar points (about the strength of the players in the PL) though our focus is different. (You’re onto the close season, I’m still watching how Arteta plays out these final matches…) As somebody who played sports, I’m sure you understand the difference when a game has “no” meaning for you…and when it has extra meaning (though I doubt Europa League qualification trumps lifting a trophy, even if it’s “just” at Wemptly…)

    I agree about the opportunities Arteta has created solely through the force of his personality (taking responsibility rather than suggesting it lies somewhere else on the horizon, like a beautiful ebening sunset…) AND his playing ideas, which, I think, make a lot of sense. I really hope we can keep both forwards (PEA and Lacazette) but I agree with your thoughts about those other fellas who might be worth a few quid… And, I wish I could be as completely positive about Dani, like you are, or Xhaka–and maybe even LT–as TA seems to be. At least I’m not as completely happy that a certain CB won’t be available for the cup final… (Winky face, eh…) Nor convinced that a Brazilian Blowout (with revenge on his mind?)–plus the “Angry He’s Losing his Blonde Locks” (so give me a Mané if not a Diego Costa to smack) –will be enough to beat this version of Chelsea in the final.

    All that said (and I do want to remain hopeful for the cup final), when I read between the lines, I actually think our ideas about what’s needed over the “Summer” are pretty similar. (Sort of like our political thoughts, I bet, though I’m–still–less hopeful…about elections and peaceful transitions/violence and that our country is actually worth residing in…)

    OK, happy Thursday (almost Friday in other parts)…

  • The plan is to go the little island of Iona which has great views of the island of Mull and played a big role in the spread of Christianity across GB. Its where St Columba settled after arriving from Ireland.

    We will also take the ‘Harry Potter train’ from Fort William to Mallaig.

    Ardnamurchan offers fine walks and some ancient wooded areas.

    Weather supposed to be rubbish but I refuse to believe the forecast. 😏

  • Great to see that you are taking a holiday TA. Good news for your Pops i reckon. Hope your family is getting better too, GN5.

    17ht, unless we can have a winning streak against both top and mid table teams we are now still a mid table team. We are evolving, but we need brains and brawn on the pitch. It seemed now that we are brains on the touchline (Mikel) and brawns on the pitch (the lads).

    That might be true to some, but the most creative spark is missing and we needed the team to fight together and have some creativity on the pitch.

  • That’s true, Kev, although I once celebrated a birthday in May at Skye when it was 25 degrees Celsius… The whole island felt other worldly 🤩🌎

  • I have to stop checking the places you visit, TA, they are so attractive (Iona, Skye, Mallaig). I hope we can make the trip next spring, with the HP-train, though.
    I hope all is fine with you and your family.

  • 17HT, I like numbers per se, but I don’t trust all statistics.
    E.g. the number of shots saved is not too reliable, because it doesn’t take into consideration the difficulty. Of course it is supposed to even out on the really long run, but people tend to jump to conclusions by a few occasions as well. So Martinez was praised for his save against Villa, albeit any of us would have saved the shot from McGinn. While he was criticized conceding 3 goals in our restart friendly against Brentford, however those shots were practically impossible to save.

    The same applied to assists. Many criticize Ozil for the lack of assists, but he had a lot of pre-assists (his trough ball cut the defense open, but was received by the provider, not the eventual goalscorer), and many of the chances he created were simply not converted – some due to exceptional goalkeeping, most due to poor finishing. So from that perspective the number of key passes happen to be a fine statistical variable, as it doesn’t mind how the attack concludes, nor how it was created (set piece, 20-pass attempt, quick counter-attack).

  • I know that Liverpool stuck 5 goals past them recently but I thought that Chelsea looked a very big, physical and powerful team, especially in attack where Giroud and/or Abraham’s look a right handful and are going to cause us all sorts of problems on August 1st.

    Hopefully Wolves will give them a real test this Sunday, Chelsea need to win to guarantee top four and Wolves need to win to guarantee 6th and avoid the lottery of finishing 7th, so it should be a no holds barred tear up at the Bridge, in fact I hope that Wolves really get stuck in….

    Arteta has hinted that he’ll play a full strength team vs Watford in order to respect the other teams fighting relegation and I guess that that’s the right thing morally to do, but if we’re winning pull off Xhaka and Luiz and Tierney on the hour please boss…

  • It was good to see Arteta publicly praising Emile Smith Rowe and saying the kind of things that’ll make a young player feel 10 feet tall or 3 metres tall. Young players can make such giants strides in short periods, think of where Bukayo Saka was 12 months ago when he was just a promising teenager and now he is definitely one of our most important signings of the summer and a huge prospect! So let’s see if Arteta can work his magic with ESR and save the club £50 odd million?

  • It’s so interesting to compare how the media report youngsters coming through at Man Utd or Liverpool or Chelsea or even West Ham and how little credit Arsenal have gotten during this period.

    I mean look at the fuss that’s made about Phil Foden at Man City, that’s just one single player in how long? But the media get an enormous hard on every time he plays for Pep, oh dear Pep is developing an English player I need to sit down and when he scores, well, you need a box of tissues…

    Yet Arsenal routinely use Nelson, Saka, Nketiah, Maitland Niles, Willock and we have young Matt Smith on the bench but there’s hardly a mention is there?

    Am I surprised, nah, not really….

  • Great comments, Kev. You always offer nice new angles to our team.

    Agreed on the subs, but let’s also include Auba after he scored his hattrick. 🌋🌋🌋

  • Hi Kev… Keep the comments ^^^ coming… even if it takes the “fake news” to get you going… 😉 😀

    I’m going to try and put up an end-of-season/match-preview sort of post this morning (and then do my live-blog spitting-into-the-wind thing tomorrow for the match itself) but I could use some help. I think there’s NO QUESTION that our young (and English) players are a key to whatever feelings of hope we can muster (both short term and long…) but my Arsenal reading is very limited these days and I’m definitely not swayed (or incensed…) by any big headlines that I see on the back pages about other clubs. What papers are you reading and are they actually made of paper?… Back in 2006, I would get off at the tube stations (near the stadium) and get handed copies of the free papers (if I hadn’t picked one up on the train itself–or maybe even a broadsheet that someone had actually paid for) and the whole thing was pretty interesting to me. Tabloid culture (the need/desire for sensational and serialized stories, what some call the “news cycle,” maybe, is now on television and the internet (or “cable news”) but, it seems to me, began in London a long time ago. If only we had Charles Dickens doing the reporting on Arsenal…

    In the end, who am I, writing from a sofa in (the mountains of) California, to comment upon it?…

  • TA, I’m glad to see you’ve got your blue box back… 😉 Are you on the road? I’m hopeful that you can add your end-of (PL)-season thoughts…

  • We arrived yesterday in Ardnamurchan, 17HT. Grey and green making it all look very Japanese/Chinese. Typing on phone is crap and WiFi in cottage is v limited, but I will do my best to comment.

    Cheers again for doing the blogs.. 👍

  • Enjoy your break TA,

    I’m still not feeling that great after my surgery and my sisters condition continues to play on my mind, so I will commenting infrequently – but I will be writing a post for the FA Cup Final

  • Hey, this is 17HT…but I’m gonna borrow the blue box… 😉

    We have a… NEW POST…

    Enjoy your travels, TA, and good luck (plus thanks in advance for next week’s cup preview) to you GN5… I hope you can feel better…

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