A(nother) Howler and (Threat of More) Injuries Cost Arsenal Dearly

Let’s face this head on: Arsenal were poor and served up an awful performance. Everton were also poor but they played it well tactically and counted on somebody shooting themselves in the foot…

Statistieken tonen onmacht Arsenal aan: slechtste resultaat sinds 91 jaar

… This time it was an incredible howler by Leno that allowed the unbelieving Toffees to take home all three points for the first time in forever. And the Farce of VARce did the rest of the damage. Of course it was not all Bernd’s or even VAR’s fault. As a team we were losing most second balls and individual battles and our heads were somewhere else; and maybe understandably so given the monstrous developments in the cause of the last six days. The manager, players and the fans have had to deal with an emotional hurricane and it showed on the pitch. The BoD had made a terrible misjudgment and has now created a traumatic environment for those who both enjoy and play the beautiful game week in week out. We may want our Gunners to be mean, lean football machines but they are in the end just as human as you and me. And the same goes of course for the manager.

In a nutshell, Arsenal played at too low a tempo to surprise the Toffees’ defence either on the well-defended flanks or through the middle. Partey was doing well in midfield but looked isolated a lot. Saka and ESR played with the handbrake on and the through-treacle-running Ceballos was not made to be present everywhere in oceans of space (this role, incidentally, would suit Willock to a T). Dani is a hard worker but not an athlete and it showed painfully last night when the whole team did not press up but sat back. Eddie tried hard to play the Laca-role, but with limited movement and engagement by ESR and Saka, and the limitations of Ceballos and also Pepe, it really made for a poor showing by the entire team.

Now there is always a tendency to blame somebody when Arsenal lose a game, and indeed I have done so above. But others have started to call for the head of Mikel Arteta, even saying that he has no clue tactically. Even though we can ask critical questions of his tactical decisions yesterday, including the timing and manner of his substitutions, Arteta’s tactical ability is one of his big strengths, as he has proven many times in the past.

But let’s try and put ourselves in the very shoes that Mikel wears. That is what I did again this morning. It is all good and well to let off steam and put our keyboard-knives into some human flesh, but if you were to be Arteta how would you have managed this situation? The BoD have put a bomb under the already fragile club-supporters relationships: they gambled badly and are now licking their self-inflicted wounds from an ocean’s distance. Supporters gathered outside Ashburton Grove not to cheer on the team but to protest against the ownership right before kick-off – anything but ideal. Furthermore, Arteta knows that what this club needs more than ever is CL football; his very future will likely depend on it. European football is nice but, very sadly, the beautiful game for a club like Arsenal fully depends on the elites’ cash-cow that is the Champions League. Covid-19 has made this an even harsher reality. He clearly has prioritised winning the UEFA League over the Premier League and it showed last night.

Can I blame him for this? Of course I can because also I have a keyboard. But I am not going to. If I was Mikel I would have done exactly the same. Arsenal are missing key players and we cannot afford anymore injuries.

We are three games away from winning a big trophy (which matters more to me personally than playing in the boring Champions League next season, but now I am once again not standing in Arteta’s shoes) but with Laca and Tierney out, and Auba and Ode being fitness doubts, Arteta just cannot afford anymore injuries. Yet, for various reasons, he could also not afford to stage a second-tier team last night. So he sent out a strong team on paper with the nr.1 instruction to avoid getting injured at all costs. To me it showed as the likes of ESR, Saka, Xhaka and Partey normally always put in a full performance, but not so last night. If you think about it, it all makes tactical sense. Arteta has one golden nest for the club left and all its and his eggs are in it.

Stand behind our manager and players, put on your favourite Arsenal shirt on Thursday and sing our famous songs with existential gusto; the boys need us now more than ever.

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v Everton Preview/Lineup: Eddie or Balogun, Ode or Ceballos, Strongest Defence?

Arsenal v Everton – April 22nd, 2021

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 23: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal scores his team’s second goal past Jordan Pickford of Everton during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Everton FC at Emirates Stadium on February 23, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

It’s rivalries like these that make football a very special sport and to see the ESL reduced to ashes in just a few short day’s shows just how much our beloved sport means to so many of us. What we need now are some rules put in place to avoid further money hungry opportunists taking over our clubs and regulations to tighten and protect both the past and the future of football.

Arsenal and Everton are the two clubs that have spent the most time in the upper echelon’s of football.

Famous Old Foes and Modern Day Nemesis: Everton v Arsenal

The Evertonia gave a brief resume of Arsenals early history in September 1961 the article stated:

Arsenal were founded in 1886 by a group of workmen in Dial Square, section of the Royal Arsenal, at Woolwich and were nicknamed Dial Square, then Royal Arsenal. It was under this latter name that the club turned professional in 1891 and were elected to the Football League, Division II in 1893. In 1896, they changed their name to Woolwich Arsenal, but shortened it to its present form in 1913 after moving from Plumstead to Highbury. In view of their early association with the Royal Arsenal, the Club is affectionately known by their supporters as the Gunners.

Arsenal did not gain election to the First Division until 1904, but were relegated to the Second Division in 1913, and after one season in the lower circles, the outbreak of World War One suspended all serious football. When peace was restored, the Londoners were elected to a place in the First Division to fill one of the vacancies created by the extension of the League.

Everton first took on Arsenal at Goodison Park on April 5 1905 when a goal from Alex Sandy Young was enough to earn Everton both points.

The most famous encounter at Goodison Park between Everton and Arsenal is undoubtedly the final game of the 1927/28 season, the match which saw the legendary William Ralph Dean set the record for the number of league goals scored by an individual player in the top flight a record that is unlikely to be broken.

Everton Football Club captain Dixie Dean (1907 – 1980) leads his team out for a match against Arsenal FC at Highbury in London. (Photo by Barker/Getty Images)

It was May 5th 1928 and it was described as a great day at Goodison Park, It was the last day of the Everton Golden Jubilee season and the club had already made sure of the League Championship. Arsenal had beaten Everton twice during that campaign  firstly at Highbury on Christmas Eve, 1927 when they had overcome Everton (3-2) and then again by the odd goal in seven in January 1928 when they had eliminated Everton (4-3) in an FA Cup Third round tie.

Arsenal as well as wanting to beat Everton for a rare treble over the Toffees would also have hoped to do well for Charles Buchan as this would be the Arsenal players final appearance as a footballer for the club

Dixie Dean entered the fray requiring three goals to beat George Camsells record. Camsell had set the record during the 1926-27 season whilst playing for Middlesbrough in the Second Division when he scored 59 League goals. Incidentally George Camsell got off to a flying start and overshadowed Dixie when he had hit all four goals against Everton in the Toffees first away game of 1927/28 campaign at Ayresome Park in Boros four-two win. Dixie had endured a hamstring injury in his previous outing against Burnley (3-5) at Turf Moor where he had scored four of Evertons  five goals in an important victory George Martin had scored the fifth goal of the game for the Toffees.

Everton trainer Billy Cook stayed at Dixie’s home for the week leading up to the final game at Goodison giving Deans injured leg as much attention as possible. When the morning of the match dawned the 21-year old-goalscoring machine pronounced himself fit and hungry for the record! Dixie later recalled that It was just a normal day for me, I just got the tram number 44 from Water Street to Goodison in the normal way.

Deans first goal of the game was also Evertons 100th League goal of the campaign and it was also the first time that the club had registered a century of goals in a single season. The goal came as Dixie hit a powerful shot that beat the Arsenal goalkeeper after just three minutes of the match to equalise for the Toffees after Shaw had netted for the visitors. The second goal came from the penalty spot after Dixie himself had been fouled, nobody else would have dared to have taken the kick and up stepped Dixie to attempt to put the Toffees in front.

Dixie said I aimed to place it but it wasn’t one of my best efforts. It went through the keepers legs but they all count. Arsenal had equalised when the unfortunate John O’Donnell had put through his own goal just after the half-hour mark to level the score at two-two. John O’Donnell had been only one of two players who had been an ever-present in the league campaign the other being Alec Troup. A description of Deans third and record breaking goal as reported in the Liverpool Echo by Bee states:-

With nine minutes to go, the crowd yearned for a goal to Dean or anyone, and nearly got their voices working when Martin shot and Paterson punched away over the bar for a corner kick. This was the beginning of Deans historic record goal in English football. Troup took the corner-kick and out of a ruck of probably fourteen players, Dean with unerring accuracy, nodded the ball to the extreme right hand side of the goal. There has never been such a joyful shout at Everton. It was prolonged for minutes and went on to the end of the game. The crowd never stopped cheering for eight solid minutes, and Dean was hugged by all his comrades.

Everton goalkeeper Gordon West punches the ball away under pressure from Ray Kennedy of Arsenal as Roger Kenyon runs in to cover during their Division One match held at Goodison Park, Everton on 21st April 1973. (Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images.)

Although Arsenal had also scored three goals that afternoon as Shaw grabbed his second goal of the game in the eighty-sixth minute the Evertonians in the ground didn’t really care about the final score as they had come to see the Champions and to witness Dixie Dean achieve the record and at the final whistle the crowd invaded the pitch which was a very unusual occurrence in those days

Dixie said that he was surrounded by faces on the park, rubbing their whiskers and chins and cheering and back-slapping. They came on that time because they’d seen it and that was that. I slipped off a couple of minutes later and didn’t come back on again till the following season  except to collect the championship trophy. And the Arsenal players were among the first to congratulate me the goalkeeper first of all. Everyone except Charlie Buchan who seemed to feel I’d stolen his thunder in his last match. He was a very proud man was Charlie.

Arsenal played a prominent role in Dixies career, he made his Everton debut against the Gunners at Highbury in a defeat for Everton (2-1) in March 1925 and he scored his final Everton goal against them at Goodison Park on the opening day of the 1937/38 campaign, but his goal was a mere consolation as Everton (1-4) succumbed to the visitors to the annoyance of the Evertonians in the 53,586 crowd. Dixie made 21 appearances against the Gunners scoring thirteen times and his only hat-trick against them was perhaps the most famous hat-trick of his or any other Everton players career.

Dixie Dean – Scoring Record at Everton
 LeagueFA CupClub Total
SeasonAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsGPG
193719385100510.20
1936193736244340270.68
1935193629170029170.59
1934193538265143270.63
19331934129001290.75
1932193339246545290.64
1931193238451139461.18
1930193137395942481.14
1929193025232227250.93
1928192929261030260.87
1927192839602341631.54
1926192727214331240.77
1925192638322140330.83
192419257200720.29
Total39934932284313770.87
Arsenal v Everton – EPL Home Results
#DateWDLGFGA
124-Oct-921  20
228-Aug-931  20
314-Jan-95 1 11
420-Jan-96  112
519-Jan-971  31
603-May-981  40
708-Nov-981  10
816-Oct-991  41
921-Apr-011  41
1011-May-021  43
1123-Mar-031  21
1216-Aug-031  21
1311-May-051  70
1419-Sep-051  20
1528-Oct-06 1 11
1604-May-081  10
1718-Oct-081  31
1809-Jan-10 1 22
1901-Feb-111  21
2010-Dec-111  10
2116-Apr-13 1 00
2208-Dec-13 1 11
2301-Mar-151  20
2424-Oct-151  21
2521-May-171  31
2603-Feb-181  51
2723-Sep-181  20
2823-Feb-201  32
Totals:22516722
Arsenal v Everton – All Home Results
 WDLGFGA
Division 144111513277
Premier22516722
Total66161619999

As you can see Arsenal have only lost one home game against Everton in the EPL but with Ancelotti as their manager they are a very improved team so I expect this to be a tight game with Arsenal ending up victorious.

GunnerN5

Predicted team by TA:

With Laca and Auba still out, this is a great opportunity for Eddie to (re)make his mark, or is it Balogun who will get to start? I reckon Arteta will play the team that will also play on Thursday, with maybe one or two changes depending on fitness. So I expect our best defence in terms of strength and height right now: Xhaka-Mari-Holding-Chambers; maybe Soares or Hector will start instead of the full backs but I doubt it. In front of Partey, it should be ESR and one of Ceballos or Ode – the latter is a fitness doubt. Up-front it should be Saka and Pepe again to support Eddie.

With six days left till the first leg of the UEFA League, Arteta has a good opportunity to play his strongest team and try out a few tactical moves. We need a win of course and I hope the boys will be fully up for it. COYGs!

Message to Bergkampesque Bloggers

Dear Bergkampesque bloggers,

See the source image

I am saddened and ashamed that our mighty club has joined the exclusive club of 12 self-chosen teams aiming to start a new competition between themselves, the so called European Super League. Apparently eight more clubs will join – three permanent ones and five hand-picked ones on a seasonal basis (the cannon fodder).

This goes totally against my deep belief in general fairness and competition open-to-all. I don’t want to be part of a club that goes against my values. The CL was already set up in such a way that the top European teams would be almost guaranteed top European football every season, and the romance of a ‘small team’ ever winning the competition again was nearly dead. In my view, football is based on that romantic principle of fairness and open-to-all competition. Rather than making it fairer, something that almost all football supporters want, they made it almost totally exclusive with the introduction of the ESL.

Bergkampesque.com is suspended until further notice, with no more match previews, reviews, etc, as all the remaining games this season have become superfluous to me. Please feel free to continue commenting below or email me as per usual.

If GN5 wants to continue with our weekly competition than this will be accommodated of course.

I would like to thank all regular bloggers and post-writers for their contributions over the years, with a special thank you to GN5 for all his posts etc.

Many thanks and best wishes,

Frank aka TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v Fulham: Preview and Lineup: Same 11?

Arsenal v Fulham – April  18, 2021

Craven Cottage has a history that dates back to 1780 when a cottage was built in the woods and the surrounding fields were used for various sports. The site, however, later fell into disuse and the original cottage burned down in 1888.

Fulham had already played at various grounds when their eye fell on the site close to the river Thames. After cleaning up the overgrown field, they played their first match at the ground in 1896. Craven Cottage at that time consisted of nothing more than a basic wooden stand.

This changed in 1906 when a first proper stand was built. The stand, currently called Johnny Haynes Stand, was designed by Archibald Leitch and had a characteristic red-brick facade. The stand was accompanied by a pavilion, which is the present-day Cottage.

Craven Cottage was further expanded with terraces in the next decades and reached its record attendance in 1938 when a total of 49,335 spectators attended a game against Millwall. One decade later, Craven Cottage hosted a few games during the 1948 Olympic Games.

Fulham were formed in 1879 as Fulham St Andrew’s Church Sunday School F.C., founded by worshipers (mostly adept at cricket) at the Church of England on Star Road, West Kensington (St Andrew’s, Fulham Fields). They won the West London Amateur Cup in 1887 and, having shortened the name from Fulham Excelsior to its present form in 1888, they then won the West London League in 1893 at the first attempt.

The club gained professional status on 12 December 1898, the same year that they were admitted into the Southern League’s Second Division. They were the second club from London to turn professional, following Arsenal then named Royal Arsenal 1891.

Famous names like Johnny Haynes, Bobby Moore, Rodney Marsh and George Best have been part of the team through the years.

Our first league meeting against Fulham was in Division 2 on March 14th 1914 and it ended in a 2-0 victory for Arsenal. Overall we have played them 28 times at home and Fulham have never won a single game; they have managed just 5 draws and have been outscored 71 to 24.

Arsenal v Fulham EPL Home Games
  WDLGFGA
123-Feb-021  41
201-Feb-031  21
330-Nov-03 1 00
426-Dec-041  20
524-Aug-051  41
629-Apr-071  31
712-Aug-071  21
828-Feb-09 1 00
909-May-101  40
1004-Dec-101  21
1126-Nov-11 1 11
1210-Nov-12 1 33
1318-Jan-141  20
1401-Jan-191  41
1518-Apr-21     
 Total10403311
Arsenal v Fulham – All Home Results
 LeagueWDLGFGA
2Total Div 220050
12Total Div 111103313
14Total EPL10403311
28All Results23507124

At the time of writing Fulham’s 2020-21 record is W5, D11, L16, GF24, GA42, Pts 26. – they are in 18th place and have played two games more then any of the bottom seven teams.

I cannot envisage anything other than a victory for Arsenal.

GunnerN5

Predicted Lineup by TotalArsenal:

With the sort of injuries we have – Auba, Ode, Tierney, Luiz all out – I cannot see too many changes to the lineup from Thursday. This is an important game for us as a win will get us much closer to the European places. Willock did us a huge favour by helping NU to beat the Hammers and a win will bring us much closer to them. But fatigue may play a role and maybe Arteta has to rotate a bit with the likes of Big Gab, Elneny, Soares, Bels, Eddie and Nelson. Still, I believe that we first should get the job done and I don’t expect it to be easy, as Fulham are not playing bad currently and will punish us if the tempo/intensity is too low. So I prefer us to start with the same 11.

The New Overmars, Arteta’s Masterstroke, King Thomas, Only one MOTM: 8 Arsenal Observations.

Slavia Prague 0 – 4 Arsenal.

It was a great win last night and we should be really pleased with the way the team played for 90 minutes. It is fantastic how Arteta has changed to shape and tactics of the team and, although we haven’t faced really strong teams with Sheffield United and Slavia Prague, there is real hope that these changes will give us a good return in the remaining matches.

8 Observations:

  1. Xhaka to the left in defence/midfield is a masterstroke. Was he a left back or left DM in the last two games? I think we got a bit of both and it worked a treat. Partey was clearly the MD king in midfield and Ceballos was given a role with much more freedom – more about him later. If need be either Xhaka or sometimes Chambers would move up in midfield and help out defensively. Both can play in midfield and are confident passers, and so there was a real balance both in defence and midfield. Xhaka is not very fast for a left back but it never showed. He clearly does not bomb forward like Tierney does, but with Pepe/Saka, ESR and Ceballos in the team there is no real need for this. Our defence and midfield looked solid, and despite Slavia having more possession of the ball they seldom or never got anywhere close to where they could hurt us. It was very impressive how Arteta had set up the team and how much space we had when we attacked.
  2. Ceballos might finally have found his best position in the team. I think he is an okay footballer but always appreciate his workrate. In front of our defence he can be a bit of a liability but running between the lines and collecting and redistributing the ball really suits him. It is like having an extra man in the team to go and help others wherever he is needed. A very handy handyman who helps gluing the team together. There are more players in the team who can do this but it is really nice that Mikel is giving Ceballos a continued chance to proof himself.
  3. Calum had another fine game: very disciplined and keen to move forward where and when he could. He played in Saka well for his superb goal and helped out in defence very well too. During set-pieces or when we were hemmed back, the back-line of Chambers-Holding-Mari-Xhaka with Partey and the more attacking midfielders in front of them was very solid, resulting in two clean sheets. Okay it is early days but I am sure you will agree it was fun to watch us during those games. There is something about Calum that makes me, hmmmm cal(u)m.
  4. Being the main man in deep midfield really seems to suit Thomas Partey. He offers a lot of everything you would hope to see in a midfielder and we may well see the end of us playing two DMs from now on. Partey has real presence and a fine eye for where the action will be next. He controls proceedings with his good ability to hold on to the ball and excellent passing skills (and he is not yet 100% as far as I can tell). His interceptions and blocks are so effective and he really likes to drive forward too, without holding on to the ball anymore time than necessary. A joy to watch. But then there is Xhaka who with a fine left foot can help out with the distribution of the ball, both from out of the back and the middle of the pitch. This really has looked good over the last few games.
  5. Saka is just awesome. 19 years old and he has such a cool head. He always works hard but he does not overdo it. Bukayo is efficient with his energy and is making sure he does not get unnecessary injured. But when he senses an opportunity Saka is focussed 200% and what he does next is almost always so effective. He reminds me a bit of Marc Overmars who also had such a great efficiency/effectiveness balance in his game. His goal was just so clever and well taken and he almost scored a peach of a goal earlier but for the woodwork (and then ESR’s harshly given offsite).
  6. In general, it was that combo of a very solid defence and midfield and the fluidity of our attack that made us play such great football at times. The movement up-front was fabulous and it made us utterly unpredictable. Pepe, who scored a very good goal early on, ESR, Saka and Ceballos combined so well and used the available space on the pitch to perfection. ESR had a great game with his effective work between the line and fine passing and what a ball for Pepe’s goal. It simply was far too much for Slavia.
  7. The MOTM has to go to Laca. Alex took the penalty that put the game to bed (that goal was effectively worth two) and then he scored a masterfully controlled second late on. But it was his pivotal attacking play that was so good. Laca occupies defenders AND can then pass the ball into the space he has freed up so well. The other attackers love working with him and he loves working with them. Long may it continue.
  8. It is in the nature of some people to find something to pick on, as if all that sweetness is just too much for them (let’s be wary of them). Some, not on this site, have been picking on Leno for some reason. Bernd is a human being who, like all of us, will have many good periods and also the occasional bad one. We as fans should not want to make this worse by picking on him, even if there really is nothing to pick on. Leno may well not become Arteta’s long term choice – who knows? – but he is our nr1 goalkeeper this season and always wears the shirt with pride. Let’s stand right behind him.

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal Preview/ Lineup: Solid Defence, Mouthwatering Midfield, Deadly Forwards

The biggest game of the season for Arsenal so far will be tonight’s at the Sinobo stadium. Winning a European cup would be great and we are now just three games away from the final.

I know that winning this cup would also automatically qualify us for the money-ball that is the Champions League, but for me this is much less important. In fact, I dislike this ‘additional benefit’ that simply undermines the importance of winning the UEFA League Cup as a major prize on its own. There used to be three European Cups to be won every season but now it all seems to be about the elitist and utterly predictable Champions League, with just the odd season throwing in a surprise.

See the source image

Anyway, let’s enjoy the moment and that Arsenal are playing European football at a level that we can deal with right now. Tonight we will play in beautiful Prague and we have a big job to do. We will have to score at least once and therefore need to attack, but we don’t have to go overboard. We know that every away goal will count double in case we end up in a draw so, 2-2, 3-3 etc will all be in our favour. Last week we played too tentatively and it cost us in the end; today we need to play with real purpose and confidence… and with all guns blazing of course. We need goals and to mean business, and I am confident the boys will be well up for this.

Who will start? Hard to predict but I reckon our starting-11 will/could look something like this:

It could be Mari or Big Gab partnering Holdingho, but with Xhaka as left-footed left back likely to continue in the same position, the passing out from the left should be much better and Gabriel’s dynamism will be needed. Soares is our best right back and I would play him there ahead of Bels or Calum.

If ESR or Odegaard are not fully fit, expect Ceballos, who had a good game on Sunday, to start instead. The attacking midfield of a deeper Partey with the young, mobile wolves of Emile and Martin in front of him is mouthwatering. In attack it should be Saka and Laca and then there is a choice between Auba and Martinelli (Willian or Pepe). You can pick your favourite but I would go for Auba’s experience to take chances when they come his way. If after 60 minutes or so Auba has not done so then bring on Martinelli or Pepe. The good news is that we have options in most positions and all are very keen to play tonight. They’ll need to be.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal Finally Have Their Monster of a CF

With five PL goals in his last six games and 13 in total now, Alexander Lacazette is on fire! Laca is at the moment third best in terms of minutes between goals in the league (just behind Kane and Salah), and if he continues like this he may well be the most productive finisher at the end of the season. What is obvious is that Laca likes to both battle physically with his opponents and tire them out with his runs and movement. He is much more the wolf type than Auba who is more of a pouncing puma type (and there is nothing wrong with that either). Alex loves playing with his young fellow wolves, Saka, ESR, Ode, Martinelli, etc, and scare the living daylights out of their opponents. Laca, the steppenwolf, is reborn!

He must be a menace to play against and of all our attackers it is Laca who seems to have the best papers to still be in the team next season. Laca gets fouled only less than Saka of all Arsenal players and he is also very efficient with just 1.6 shots per game on average, which makes him joined third with Pepe (Auba has 2.0 and Saka has 2.2). Alex picks his moments more carefully, it seems, but when he is ready to pull the trigger there is a good chance he will score. This is the most remarkable thing of all, as Laca works his socks off constantly and should often be too tired to pull the trigger properly; yet when he does he is incredibly successful, especially in recent weeks.

Of course scoring goals is not the only thing to look at, even though we are desperate for them at the moment. Laca’s assist count is surprisingly low with just two in the PL, but this goes for all our attackers. The only exception is the much maligned Willian who has produced five assists (Auba and Pepe have one each, Ceballos has three and ESR has four). It remains a mystery why there has been so little cohesion between our main attackers, with no clear, outstanding assist-maker in the whole team.

Our attack has been weak with just 43 PL goals in 31 games (1.4 goals per game): eight teams have scored more than us and seven teams have already scored 50 or more goals. However, from Christmas till now Arsenal have scored 31 goals in 17 games which is a much more palatable average of 1.8 PL goals per game (multiply that by 31 and we would also be well above 50 PL goals now: 55 – the very poor start of the season is still costing us now).

So there is real progress and that is just what we should be focusing on: Arteta’s revolution is taking shape right under our eyes. There is so much more potential in our attack, though. It is just inconceivable that we had so few goals from the likes of Auba (9), Willian(0) and Pepe(5) this season; surely at some point they too will start adding goals left, right and centre?! If they do so we really will end very strongly this season and I have a feeling this is about to happen.

Arsenal’s attack is a monster that is desperately struggling to find it’s perfect shape and modus operandi. It looks like Laca has decided to force himself to the fore of this team and as such has become the monster-attacker we all knew he had in him (and sorry for ever doubting you Master Alex)!

By TotalArsenal.

Arteta’s Surprise, a four-legged Mobile Monster, Laca Makes it 50: Arsenal Afterthoughts

Sheffield United 0 – 3 Arsenal

Well that was a lot more fun to watch and the boys did us proud.

Eight initial observations from a much needed win:

Lacazette laat specialiteit op het juiste moment zien
  1. Arteta surprised us all by leaving both fit full backs on the bench and playing Chambers and Xhaka instead. Both did very well and added a lot of physicality to our defence. With Partey in front of them our defence looked solid all game long. Xhaka had quite a fluid role and as always gave structure to our play with some fine passes and good positioning, even when played in an unfamiliar position.
  2. Ceballos played in a sort of ‘ESR role’ and this suits him much better. Whilst a liability on the ball in front of our defence, played behind and around our attackers the Spaniard is much more effective. His assist for Laca’s opener was perfect and he played well between the lines all game long.
  3. Saka, Laca, Pepe and Martinelli were a four-legged mobile monster that made life impossible for the blades: so much movement and clever passing from all of them. All wanted to play football tonight and once the selfishness of a few had been shaken off the team started to purr, resulting in that fabulous first team goal, finished by Laca. It was obvious that Partey loved playing in this formation and with these sort of players: movement, movement, movement is everything.
  4. Martinelli had a great first game which he crowned with a well deserved goal. It was good to see him back and enjoy himself on the pitch with the other lads. Saka clearly loves to play with him and the young Brazilian is actually a similar type to Laca in terms of attacking style. Pepe is the least comfortable with the ball in tight spaces of all our attackers but he made the all important second goal. He often frustrates me but the longer Pepe is on the pitch the better he gets, as long as there are plenty of good passers and movers around him.
  5. There were some top highlights in this game. I already mentioned the quality first goal involving a number of Arsenal players, and then there was Partey’s slick move in midfield in which in a fraction of a second he switched himself from facing our goal to facing the Blades’ one and then picking the pass of the night for Laca. The ball was so good that Laca could just pick his corner and whip it in brilliantly for our third goal. What a goal!
  6. Mari and Holding had not much to do in defence but what they had to do they did with coolness. Mari especially put some nice balls over the top, and both tried to join the attack whenever they could. Chambers managed to get to the byline a few times and whipped a couple of fine crosses into the box, and we could all see he was enjoying himself.
  7. Laca was of course the MOTM with his two fine goals and general attacking play – that is 50 PL goals for him now! But Saka, The Silk, also played very well in his free role behind the attackers. They both added an extra quality and dimension to our football tonight, and we have to hope that Bukayo is available again on Thursday.
  8. I know that SU are not a good team and that we should have won this game possibly with even more goals, but let’s be honest: how many of us had expected such a strong, confident and fun performance tonight? Arteta mixed it up a bit whilst resting the likes of Bellerin, Soares, Big Gab, Ode, ESR and Auba. With the good, confident performances tonight, Arteta will feel he has a wider squad to pick his first eleven from for the Slavia Prague game on Thursday. So a very successful evening all round.

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v SU: Time to Freshen Things Up With Two Hungry Young Gunners

Our game v Sheffield United falls in the middle of the two Europa League legs and I have not got much of a clue what team Arteta will select and how much priority he will give to it. We need a win of course as we can still finish strongly in the league with a good run from today till the last game of the season, but with a number of key injuries and injury-doubts it may be hard to achieve it, even against the lowly Blades. However, as Eris said yesterday, psychology is important too and we need to get back to winning ways.

The big challenge for Arteta is to put up a team today that is not just good on paper but actually gels well and gets the job done. We need intensity, high tempo and yet calm at the back. Easier said than done. Our biggest problem is getting the attack to work as a unit, as is reflected in the poor tally of goals Arsenal have scored in the league (although improving recently). The chemistry between the very talented bunch of Auba, Laca, Pepe and Willian is very poor; for some reason they just do not work together. With Martin and Emile being injury doubts, I would imagine that at least three of these experienced players will start today. We will need a bit of youthful zest and hunger, and hopefully Saka can bring this. But maybe we need more and is this the time for Arteta to start Martinelli… or even Azeez. Freshen things up a bit with the aim to keep a number of players fresh and on their toes for Thursday’s return game against Slavia Prague.

Anyway, I don’t think there is much more to say about our game tonight, so here is the preferred lineup:

I think we need to spare one of our full backs, so Chambers should start. Partey needs a break and we need him to be fresh and focussed on Thursday, so a start for Elneny (who is much better when started in a game rather than being thrown in at the end) would seem right. Martinelli has been chomping at the bit for a while so should start and yes I would play Azeez in the hole today. Laca loves working with these sort of players but I am happy for Auba to be started as CF instead: either will do. After sixty minutes the likes of Auba and Pepe can come on to finish the game off for us. All to play for – COYRRGs!

TotalArsenal.

Arsenal Leave it Late to Ruin Themselves… Or did They?!

Ooh that late goal against us was a kick in the proverbial, and it is once again all doom and gloom in Arsenaldom. The fact that this is a game of two legs does not seem to count any more. We are obviously doomed and should not even turn up for the away leg. All home teams in the Europa League failed to win last night. In fact, the other three lost their matches, so maybe a draw ain’t too bad after all?!

We were tentative but well organised in this game and were able to create a number of half-decent and good chances. The boys hit the woodwork a few times and on another night would have scored a few in the first half and it would all have been a different experience. The beating by Pool was still in the minds and legs of the Gunners and it showed. The boys were weary of the way Slavia Prague had somehow managed to dispose of Leicester and Glasgow Rangers and therefore showed the opposition a bit too much respect.

Yet I liked the way we created opportunities and put pressure on them when they played the ball out from the back. I also liked how Holding and Gabriel tried to put some balls over the top. It was poor initially but they got better as the game went on. It was great the way Auba connected with Pepe for the goal and I also liked the way ESR disposed of his rust as the game went on to finish really strongly. Then there was Saka who was so influential and competitive but just missed a bit of composure with his final ball; something to be expected from a 19 year old who has been out of it for a while.

I saw a focussed and keen Arsenal team throughout most of the game. The final ten minutes were a disappointment and we paid for the lack of professionalism at the entire back. It would be easy to hang one or two players out to dry, but for me it was every player at the back and midfield that should get the blame. I think they can do much better as indeed they have done during the season at times, but right now confidence and automatism between the players are not high/great. I can think of a number of causes but the only way to deal with this is through practice and getting it right again during matches. We are now at the business end of the season so we have to hope that Arteta and the boys will get it right asap.

I would have really liked it if Arsenal had kept a clean sheet but all is not lost. In fact, it may turn out to be the best thing that happened to us. Think back about the last round. The Spuds took a 2-0 home game to Zagreb but then managed to still get eliminated. The psychology of having to defend a cushy lead is not easy to grasp or indeed to prepare for. I could see Arsenal struggling with this too: do we attack or do we sit back, and if we do the former how committed will we be?! A team can struggle with such a proposition and I reckon we don’t have the leadership in the team right now to maturely see out a second leg on that premise.

The 1-1 means that we have to score at least once; that we need to win or draw 2-2 or higher. The mission is clear: play football and play to win. We have a better team than them, so much is clear from the first leg. This is no time for throwing in the towel but for standing up and getting behind the team. In six days time we will see a much better and determined Arsenal, that I will promise you. All to play for. COYGs!

By TotalArsenal.