It is Going to be AS Roma

And then there were eight left.

The final 8 of the UEFA Europa League:
Ajax (NED)
Arsenal (ENG)
Granada (ESP)
Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)
Manchester United (ENG)
Roma (ITA)
Slavia Praha (CZE)
Villarreal (ESP)

Two Spanish clubs, no Spuds, one additional PL team, Brits’ slayers Zagreb, beautiful Ajax, Emery’s boys, Prague in Spring, another visit to the eternal city? Who are we going to meet?

My money is on AS Roma. Don’t ask me why, but I believe in patterns. We went to Greece to play Benfica and then we had to play a Greek team. We went to Rome to play Benfica…. and next we have to play AS Roma. 🙂

Yesterday’s game was nothing to write home about. We were urine-poor, especially in attack. Auba frustrated me no end with his limited in-field football qualities and poor, appetite-less finishing. Pepe is so off balance all the time; it is like he is suffering from motion sickness. As a result, he is pushed off the ball a lot and his final ball is often rushed. Ceballos did not get anywhere near the required level and his substitution was a rare Arteta moment of applying instant punishment after the young Spaniard’s mistake that led to the goal. Elneny was not much better on the night, and Arteta had to bring on Partey and Odegaard earlier than he wanted I would imagine.

But we are on a good run of games and if there is to be a bad one it may as well be when we can afford it. And afford it we could. Time to move on and let’s see who will come out of the hat for us. We can beat all these teams but they can also beat us, especially if we play again like we did last night. But that will not happen(!)(?).

Who do you want in the next round and why?

Keep truckin’


52 thoughts on “It is Going to be AS Roma

  • TA exactly my sentiments. If we had a take a defeat and a bad performance at soem stage this is probably the best game. I do agree with you on Auba as well, he could have a hat-trick. How can he still remain a captian when he looks disinterested, adds nothing to overall game and doesn’t finish his chances. I thought he should have been motivated for this game after what happened during teh weekend. Bizarre world of these fancy car superstars, can never understand them. Very poor game and soon is becoming a liability. I would rather have a Martnelli given chances who is keen to get some games.

  • From the BBC website:

    Speaking after his side’s qualification, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said: “Really happy to be through. Sometimes we have to be fair with ourselves – we were nowhere near the levels we could be.

    “We were unstable with the ball and we gave it away. It’s impossible when you give the ball away to have any structure. We created enough chances to win but were nowhere near the levels in which we can perform.

    “We can’t use any excuses. We had fresh players in the side. We started the game really well but then we had a lack of stability. We need to keep the ball and play some passes together and not just keep giving the ball away in transitions.

    “We’ll get better. When it comes to decision-making and execution, it’s a little bit more difficult.

    “We need another win in the Premier League and it’s a big chance after the international break to get a run together.”

  • Hey Madhu,

    Auba cannot help his introvert style of play but yes he was poor on the night.

    Martinelli was keen and should have had more time, yet he produced a peach of a pass that should have been an assist.

  • Thanks for the post Total and yeah, Arteta kinda summed it up for us…

    It still seems more a mental issue than a technical one despite any post NLD fatigue, our players do seem to knock off in games where we should win, just a few degrees under and those passes go astray and those finishes go high or wide as seemed the case yesterday and in other games where Arsenal were superior, on paper. How else can we explain our record against the top six teams this season other than our players being properly self focused in the big games and self motivated…

    Yes it was great to see Martinelli back and looking fresh, eager and hungry and at a stage of the season where his energy could give the squad a boost.

    It’s almost as if Arteta was holding him back on purpose?

  • “How else can we explain our record against the top six teams this season other than our players being properly self focused in the big games and self motivated…”

    Spot on, Kev. Great observation!

  • I feel a little sorry for Ceballos because I think he gives his all when he plays but recently for him every mistake he makes looks so bad, his passing is off and his attempts to beat the press have resulted in some right cock ups in his last few appearances and goals against. Last night he looked to me as if he was trying too hard and the harder he tried the worse it got. His chances of making the Spanish national team must be disappearing fast not least any chance of a permanent move to Arsenal?

    The arrival of Partey and Odegaard has, even if Thomas was below par yesterday, put into focus the level you need to play in the Arsenal midfield now, our standard is rising and for Ceballos maybe he’s having a job raising his own bar to keep up. Maybe he’s playing at his limit in order to maintain the level we have and the stress of playing at the edge is exposing his limitations? Elneny also in certain games looks well below what we expect now, not that he was bad yesterday but for Ceballos and Elneny I see two players who you bring on from the bench to see games out against tiring opponents or you use against weak opposition, weaker than Olympiarkos.

  • Xhaka must have been knackered yesterday, I mean when did he last have a game off, but despite the fatigue he put in a great shift? Yeah, a couple of times when he pushed forward and we got caught in a turnover he looked a bit sluggish, but then I’m not surprised.

    Even if Partey isn’t at his best he has a presence and when he is in our midfield his intelligence and physicality clearly overcomes any dip in form he might be suffering, I’d always have him in my team, even if he’s a bit off.

  • I had a strong feeling that in the next round we would get Tottenham, well before they did what they always seem to do, and how we all laughed…

    Now when I look at who is left I have to say, and with the notable exception of Man United, that we should be very optimistic about being in Danzig next May.

  • Kev,

    I do like Ceballos as a person. He works hard, is enthusiastic and can offer something special. He was very exposed in all that space he had around him and yes he was trying too hard. Elneny had a lot of good games this season, so I seem him differently from Ceballos. The Spaniard lacks pace and seems to run quite awkwardly if you ask me. He will have a future but yes maybe in a lower team. Odegaard is at a different level indeed.

  • Yes Xhaka looked knackered but Arteta always needs him it seems. We need to get back up next season and I don’t think it is Guendo.

    Partey is great. Hopefully he is fit enough for the Hammers game.

  • Two of the darlings of UEFA, Bayern and Real, are perfectly positioned to meet each other in the final:

    Manchester City have been drawn against Borussia Dortmund, while Chelsea play Porto and defending champions Bayern Munich take on Paris St-Germain, the team they beat in last year’s final.

    In the semi-finals, the winner of the Real Madrid v Liverpool tie will face Porto or Chelsea and Manchester City or Dortmund will take on Bayern or PSG.

    The two-legged quarter-finals will take place on 6-7 and 13-14 April.

  • Kev, TA, its amazing how we view things similarly, things that are rarely noticed by commentators and pundits. During the game I said here that Ceballos looked frenetic which is exactly how you guys saw him.

    Kevs reasoning as to why he’s been playing that way is brilliant and makes perfect sense. I think the price quoted for him was cheap, but his recent errors have probably killed his chances of staying.

    I had also mentioned during the game how exhausted Xhaka and Tierney looked. They both need a break occasionally.

    One last thing,,, I’m always saying not to worry about Auba … his talent, his skills, his scoring, his team play, all when people worry about his age or big salary harming him. But since the incident on derby day, I haven’t seen him smile one time. That is unusual for him. I hope there is not a new rift between him and Arteta. The manager is saying all the right things publicly, so I hope its just my imagination.

  • J. yes you made some good observations yesterday. Auba will come good but the reality is that he is a limited footballer and an excellent chance finisher. If he does not do the latter he looks pretty average overall.

  • I don’t know anything about the access to the stadiums in the Czech Republiuc, but is anybody theoretically interested in seeing the away gave live in Prague?

  • Thanks J and yes mate fatigue played its part yesterday, I mean look at Tottenham because whatever we might think about Mourinho they should have never gone out, Zagreb rode their luck and that guy got three fabulous goals, Tottenham looked mentally jaded as did we…

    Slavia are a really good team, they have a young guy up front who is talked of as next big thing in Czech football and we underestimate them at our peril, all the same we should progress to the semis.

  • As you say Total, Ajax and Roma are probably the next two best teams after us and the Mancs so I’m glad to see them in the other half of the draw…

    Although I put Leicester down to beat the Mancs this weekend I now hope they win, more games…

  • Yes, it makes perfect sense…

    I value Ceballos, and honestly would like him to stay. However there is some chance to misuse him – as Emery did with Torreira and Arteta did with Willock.

    In our current – usually working – system of 4-2-3-1 formation there is no place for a box-to-box midfielder. And the truth is Dani is not as good as ESR or Odegaard in attacking midfield, and not as efficient at screening opponents’ counter as Partey or Elneny. So currently he must play regular CM, but he his much more – and much less. He is good ad passing and dribbling – which gets underutilized playing at DM – but he also has a good sense for tackles and interceptions – which gets thrown out when Dani plays in a more advanced role.

    According to WhoScored Dani has the most interceptions (per minute) among the 4 DM/CMs and the 2nd most tackles behind Partey. That might not have been really shocking. But when it comes to chance creation (key passes) in the PL and EL combined Dani is only behind Odegaard around the same level as ESR, Saka, Tierney and Willian, ahead of Pepe, with double the return Xhaka and Partey and 4 times of Elneny.

    All in all I think Ceballos is a great talent, a young lad working hard and developing. His frequent blunders are not generally promising signs, but might keep his price down, and who would be a better coach than Mikel to remove them from Dan’s play. And without those liabilities Ceballos could become one of the most balanced and all-around midfielder of his generation. I’m quite sure we will see him in the jersey of the Spanish team. If not this year then a few years in the future.

  • It is just a shame there is no stat for reading of the game and positioning, keeping the shape. Don’t forget to look at the tennis player when fixating on the score board is all I am saying.

  • I don’t want to underestimate Slavia Prague, but based on their TransferMarkt evaluation they worth around 11% of Arsenal, around the same level as Reading and Cardiff City in the Championship (those teams that get close to the play-offs but eventually don’t make the top 6 places). Even though they beat both Leicester and Rangers in the UK this is not a final, but a must win. The same would apply to the semi final against Dinamo Zagreb (who stitched Robbie Burton from Arsenal U23), but less so against Villareal who still worth 42% of Arsenal, but might be capable to field a strong XI on par with our team – especially if Pau Torres will be back from his muscular injury.
    But that is a game I am really looking forward to, even though Emery is the ultimate grand-master when it comes to Europa League…

  • You are right, TA. Stats and evaluation are indeed not everything.
    However they are something – making at least some kind of comparison possible.
    Yes, it is also true that these comparisons are showing only one side of the picture (thus shouldn’t be over-emohasized), but being a glass-half-full type of guy, shouldn’t you be happy that at least you can see one of the side(s)? 😛

  • Hah PB, I believe that stats can add value but if used wrongly can be detrimental. Just imagine buying Ceballos for £30m based on those stats…

    PB, as you live relatively near Prague and may know the club and country best of us all, would you be interested in writing a post about our next opponent in the Europa League? Just like an analysis of their strength, performances in their league and in Europe, style of play, key players, a few stats thrown in…. 🙂 Just a thought.

  • Don’t get me wrong. This is by no means underestimating them individually or collectively. Nor it is a victory in the bank.
    I’m just saying that Leicester was the favorite to go through, so losing at home was an unexpected, poor performance. The same applies to Arsenal: there are no guarantees to win, but if the lads play around the average of their capabilities and so does Slavia Prague then we would reach the semi. If they play beyond their standard they would still be on par with an average Arsenal side, but could easily defeat an under-performing gunner XI. However if we play well above our usual (like we did against Chelsea, Southampton, Tottenham) then there are no way to lose here. If Arsenal doesn’t go through many fans will be sad. But more of them would get disappointed or even furious when the Czechs prevail then if we lose against Rome, Manchester or Ajax.
    However that should only happen in the final…

  • I would gladly write a post about them, but don’t hold me to the high standard as GN5’s previews. 🙂

  • Mourinho called Wenger a specialist in failure and then became a specialist in failure himself.

    Arsene Wenger retired 3 years ago and he has still won a trophy more recently than Mourinho.

    From Twitter 😁

  • I lived in the Czech Republic between 1993 and 1997 and, when I wasn’t playing watched Slavia Prague a few times. They had Karel Poborsky playing left wing before he lit up Euro ’96 and earned a move to Manure. They are a club with a huge tradition. I look forward to PB’s write up. Slavia boasted one of histories best (and least known) strikers in Josef Bican, regarded as the greatest goal scorer of the 20th Century. Their present team is young and hungry and will represent a real challenge. But, the draw has been good to us. We do well against Villarreal in Semi’s and I’d love to see us against Ajax again. Love those red and white shirts.

  • I enjoyed watching Totteringham’s abject extra time performance much more than our own performance against Olympiacos. Martinelli should have been brought on much earlier.

    Today’s ‘Fiver’ (“Throwing everyone under the wheels of Funtime José’s party bus”) in the Guardian is worth a read if you like a laugh at the expense of Moaning Maureen and the Spuds.

  • There have been times in the past that I have felt sorry for the Spuds but, I can never feel sorry for a team managed by Maureen. I am not even prepared to utter his name!

  • West Ham have won their last three home games so it’s gonna be a tough and quite equal game because there isn’t that much between both squads this season, up till now.

    Obviously West Ham have benefitted from less games and only have EPL fixtures to deal with so they’ll be well rested, but as we’ve seen, having a week to prepare for a game doesn’t always mean that you’re going to perform to your best…

    Jon Moss is the referee and we’ve had him once this season and we lost, but as I’m drinking today from Total’s half full glass, it’s therefore our turn to win…

  • Arsenal beat Blackburn 4-1 in the FAYouth Cup, it’ll try and find some of the goals…

  • Yeah fatigue can catch up with us if we’re chasing a result Total, not a lot of recovery time for our boys so some smart team selecting and substitutions and get an early lead, sounds easy, but….

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