Arsenal v WH 8 Observations: Three MOTM, THE Surprise, New Bergkamp, Laca Finally at Home?

Well beforehand I was afraid of the last twenty minutes of the game but all the damage was done in the first twenty instead. That is the unpredictability of football for you!

But the boys did us proud with a stunning turnaround and in the end they will feel sorry for not getting all three points.

Alexandre Lacazette
Football at its best: conductor Ode finds Pepe, who then delivers the ‘wrong-foot’ pass of the season, which finds Laca who rises between the West Ham’s giants to complete a fighting comeback.

Eight Observations

  1. It was both bizarre and painful to see us concede two goals early on, followed by a third one after just 32 minutes, and we were all fearing the worst. Was it going to be one of those nightmare days? The first one, although not without mistakes by the team, was one to accept and value. Lingard’s strike was sweet and deceptive and Leno, who excels at shot-stopping normally, could just not get his hand to it. The second goal should not have stood as the referee let the free-kick be taken from a different spot from where the foul had been committed, but we were also badly positioned and dealt with Lingaard’s cheeky move poorly. The third goal saw some bad positioning from us and then we were beaten by a quality, old-fashioned downward header. 3-0 down and what is going to happen next?!
  2. There were three players who stood out during this game and they are all my MenOTM. One directed the game like Beethoven’s ninth symphony, the other one totally surprised us with his fast-as-a-shark attacking contributions and the last one because of his ferocious, Centurion energy and attacking spirit. I will cover these three in the next few observations. What matters in football more than anything else is fighting spirit: a burning desire to defend the shirt. I am annoyed about the way we gave away three goals but these things sometimes simply happen, especially to teams that play Thursday UEFA League football. We missed the mobile bull-with-brains, Big Gab, hugely yesterday. Mari was left unprotected by Tierney, Xhaka and the rest, possibly because they got so used to Gabriel bossing the whole area. Mari just does not have the same mobility and of course had not been playing for a while… Before we knew it we were three down, two of which came from Mari’s/Tierney’s/Xhaka’s area. We were still cold and the Hammers were super focussed and we paid for it. YET Arsenal’s heads did not drop and the fight was taken to the opponent with real intensity. They made me proud to be a Gooner.
  3. The chief creator was a our loan player from Madrid: MO11. Odegaard had a superb game and totally took the game to the Hammers from midfield; it was a Bergkampesque performance by young Martin. I was so impressed with the team keeping the ball so well whilst West Ham pressed us from deep so aggressively when we were attacking, and Ode just kept finding space and players. He was comfortable with the ball and his passing was sharp and decisive. He was our chief creator, the master of attack, and the team were buzzing around him.
  4. Pushing up the full backs may have cost us a couple of goals – Moyes had done his homework well – but it also made a couple. Tierney put in some fine crosses and provided a constant threat from the left, and Chambers was brilliant in attack and my surprise of the day. He should have had two assists but for the OG has no assist maker rule. Calum produced fine cross after fine cross all game long and had a decent display in defence too (after initial rustiness). I love a player who takes an opportunity when it is there for the taking: Chambers did that.
  5. In attack, Laca was really impressive. He worked so hard and got in promising positions. Okay he was a bit lucky with the slight but vital deflection for his first goal but his second goal was pure determination and good timing. Laca, maybe for the first time since joining the Gunners, seems to have found his place and role within the team. He hustles and bustles, he is a thorn in the side of any defender, he links up well with his fellow dynamic team mates and he has the bite of a puma.
  6. In stark contrast, Auba is struggling currently. He is limited with the ball as a passer and is best suited to be launched into space, when he is simply world class. Football is changing rapidly and relying on a (world class) specialism may no longer suffice, as Mesut and maybe now Auba have come to realise. I remain a big fan of Pierre and am glad he signed for us last summer, especially for the psychological effect this had on the team and the club’s image. But it looks like combining him with Laca is not a good idea. It is a work in progress but it is important that we as fans stay behind him. You cannot turn a tiger into a wolf, but if there is one player who can score the all important goal in a top match it is Auba, so let’s cherish and (of course) support him. Mikel will find a way to keep getting the best out of him.
  7. There were plenty of moments of beauty in the game. Some of Laca’s balls to Saka were exquisite, and the latter got very close to scoring our second goal before the break which would have made it 3-2 at a vital moment. Tierney’s runs to the byline and well timed passes into the box are a joy to watch, and I already mentioned Chambers’ marvels into the box. But the absolute moment of heavenly football was certainly the moves for our third goal: once again Odegaard started it off with a well measured pass to Pepe into the box; the ball was so perfect that Pepe dared to cross it in one go with his weaker(!) right foot; what followed was an exquisite cross toward the far post past goal keeper and defenders that is a striker’s dream (and a defender’s nightmare); and there was the by now surely tired Laca who timed his run and jump to perfection to head-thump the ball in. What a joy of a goal. Forget results etc for a moment; this is what football adds to humanity’s art scene.
  8. Mikel has to ask questions to his team why we were so open on our left side throughout the game – from where we even almost conceded a fourth goal late on but for the post coming to the rescue – and why we started so disorganised. This remains a work in progress and everybody knows that it cannot continue. Our over-reliance on Xhaka as left-footed, deep midfielder, for whom we just do not have a like for like replacement, is a concern. Granit cannot be blamed for any of the goals – some have done so but for them he simply is the cause of all troubles in the world. It is impossible to expect him to play so many games per season and not have a game now and again in which he is less dominant (but still okay). I saw a fatigued Granit yesterday as he would not have allowed any of the space we gave away on the left normally. Furthermore, Thomas remains a work in progress for us: the talent and strengths are there at times but fully fit he is not, and it hurts us at times. With two games every week, three in effect from weekend to weekend, we cannot expect the Granit-Thomas partnership to keep us motoring on all season. Still I am proud of both of them for their workrate and passion for the shirt, and hopefully Mikel will get one or two extra midfielders this summer.

By TotalArsenal.

Three Young Midfield Gunners to Support our Most Mobile CF: Match Preview/ Lineup

Next up are the high flying Hammers. They had a week to think about their narrow loss at Old Toilet and will be keen to bounce back. A win will take West Ham back into the top four on points and there is no doubt in my mind that they will give us a hell of a game – a sort of FA Cup final can be expected. Arsenal need to be fully up for this and fatigue may play a role; especially the last fifteen minutes may see us struggle again.

So the team selection has to be done well and with the last fifteen minutes in mind. Arteta needs to be able to put three players on who can carry the rest through.

This is a big game for Arsenal. A win would take us to 44 points and just seven points off the top-four. With nine games after that, many of them winnable with the right attitude and intensity, the boys can close the gap, especially as we are still playing the Chavs before the season’s end. It will not be easy but it can be done.

I see this season as a transitional one and next season is the one that really matters. Arteta is building something special and this takes time, yet we may get to see the best of the current team in these last two months. Things are looking up for us: we are likely to concede about ten goals less this season, but the boys up-front have to step it up again as all nine teams ahead of us in the table have scored more goals.

So who is going to start tomorrow? It all depends on freshness and Arteta’s need for cohesion in the team, as to avoid unnecessary mistakes through miscommunication and misplaced passes etc.

My preferred lineup:

Can Luiz do another game or is it time for the reemergence of Holding? I guess the manager will go for David’s leadership skills but the extra height of Robbo would also be very welcome (Hammers are strong in the air). I am hoping for Soares and Tierney as the full backs and Xhaka and Partey in deep midfield. Up-front is a bit of a guess but I reckon the Hammers will struggle to deal with the youthful, unpredictable movement of Emile, Ode and Bukayo so I prefer them all to play. Laca as the mobile thorn in the Hammers’ defence would be the icing on the cake. Auba can come on as a supersub if we need this.

Now this team will not make the full ninety minutes and come home will all three points. Mikel will need to bring on three players who can hit the ground running and make a difference late on. Elneny for Partey is most likely to happen; Tierney may need to be subbed too – Hector can do that (Soares moving to the LB position); and then the big question is can super Xhaka play another full ninety minutes or does he need to be subbed after seventy minutes or so? I reckon he will be okay but Mikel may have to add another midfielder to the mix in the final stages. This will probably be Ceballos, or maybe Chambers will get the nod.

Looking forward to this one.


By TotalArsenal.

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’


Arsenal v Olympiacos Preview/Line-up: Time for POEM in Attack

“We went without spoken goal, united by a yearning for elevation.” Andrew Greig (Fair Helen)

Two more games before another interlull will deprive us from club football for a fortnight, so let’s enjoy them. A 1-3 win with three precious away goals should be enough but in me saying this, and the team possibly thinking it, lays the only real risk. I don’t think the manager or the players will be complacent but a subconscious lack of application and urgency could still harm us. Olympiacos have to score at least three goals to go through, so they should come out and attack us. We need to score at least two goals to meaningfully add to the aggregate score over the two legs, so we should really go out and attack too. No point in sitting back and inviting pressure without a real desire to turn turnovers and counter-attacks into goals. If I was Mikel I would task the team to take the game to Olympiacos from the start with a deep yearning for elevation: high tempo, intensity, creativity and sharpness up-front for at least 70, when hopefully the job is done.

The problem is that we cannot afford to make too many changes to our midfield, both the deeper laying one and the three players in front of them. At least one of Granit and Thomas needs to play and the same goes for ESR and Odegaard. The latter are fit and young so there should be no problem, but Granit and especially Thomas looked knackered during the last 15 minutes v Spuds and Arteta may have to rest them to avoid fatigue/injury. Partey had been brilliant for 75 minutes but after that he simply imploded with a number of poor passes and tired fouls that almost cost us. I reckon he will be rested/ on the bench tonight. My only worry is Mikel playing both Elneny and Ceballos in deep midfield: a total recipe for disaster.

Saka is the only injury worry but he may still be fit to play. I would rest him or let him play the last twenty minutes or so. Leno had a poor game v Spuds but we got away with it, and I wonder whether Mikel will be tempted to start Ryan instead. I would be. We have the luxury to give our CBs a rest and I would also be tempted to rest Tierney. The match v West Ham is a big one and they have no European involvement and will be rearing to go, so we do need at least five first team players to be equally as fit, I reckon.

This game is crying out for the reemergence of heartbeat in attack, Martinelli. Will we see Pepe-Ode-Emile-Marti – POEM – up-front?!

Anyway, enough of the talking, here is my preferred line-up (the predicted one is beyond me today):

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is arsenal-v-olympiacos-home.jpg

By TotalArsenal.

The Beast Arsenal is Missing

See the source image

Having looked again at our victory against the Spudsskins, one of the questions that popped up was: Do Arsenal have a Beast of a CF?

Our wing-play was so good, both from the left and the right. ESR, Tierney and Xhaka controlled the left wing throughout the game and many fine crosses and passes were produced from there. On the right, Saka/Pepe, Soares and Partey played well and a few fine chances were created from there too. Both sets of ‘wing-players’ were aided by the very mobile, energetic and intelligent Odegaard. It really was very good the way we got through the Spuddies’ defence at will several times during the match. There was real sting from our butterflies.

Some have pointed out that our high crosses were a waste of time.

I agree with this to some extent. I thought the boys mixed it up well, and a high cross that is not met by a Gunner’s head is still harder to defend than a low cross that can be kicked much easier out of danger. High crosses can lead to misplaced headers and thus follow up chances for us – and we had always enough players in and around the box to make the Spuds restless. I thought we never allowed them to take control of their defending, and that was some achievement.

But we are currently weak in the air when it comes to non set-pieces. I have written on here before that letting Giroud go was a big mistake by Arsene. Not that I would still see him as a regular starter, but his aerial presence is missed and we have not replaced him. Auba cannot head the ball well and Laca misses height to be as effective as he would need to be. Just imagine that half -moon face Kane would have been in attack for us rather than for them on Sunday, and how much more threat, and probably goals, we would have had in the box.

I love both Auba and Laca and they are very valuable members of the team. They do not need to be in the CF position necessarily to play in our team. Either of them can play somewhere else alongside a ‘proper’ CF and they would still add value to the team. But with such good wing-play now, are we not desperate for a beast of a CF?

What do you think?

By TotalArsenal

Extend his Contract, Sign him Up, A Duo for MOTM, the New Sol: Eight Observations

Ooh to, Ooh to Be, Ooh to BEE eh Gooner! Arsenal 2 – 1 Spuds.

Ooh To Be A Gooner Song – YouTube

I don’t think many of us were expecting an Arsenal win, but we got it. If anybody still has any doubt about Arteta and his mission to ‘Bang’ football, I guess you are not going to be cured from your antipathy of the man. This was only the third game Mourinho – the chief-looking-up-at-the-table-rat – lost to an Arsenal team, and Mikel achieved it in only his second year as a manager. Extend his contract, Arsenal!

See the source image

Eight observations:

  1. Tactically this was so much better than the last time we played the Spuddies. We were invited to attack as the crumb-collectors sat back to play us on the break, with half-moon face Kane and Son eagerly awaiting the ball over the top and into space. Mikel did attack but he did not allow his team to over-commit and he kept it tidy around those two top-rats. They were starved for almost the entire game, and Son did his hammy early on so that was a welcome Aufwiedersehn. Our full backs pushed up and kept the Spuds well into their own half and we managed to get behind the Spuddies’ defence with some fine combination football from the flanks. And this made all the difference on the day.
  2. Arsenal also once again made good use of the space that was left behind in the middle of the pitch by the Spuds because of our almost continuous focus on the wings. Partey still has not find his shooting boots but sooner or later he will get one in the net, but it was Emile with a beauty of an effort through the middle that almost crept below the bar for his first PL goal. Our boys were able to open that JM defence and midfield up so much more than in previous games, it really was fantastic to watch.
  3. Key to it all were three things: a rock hard, no nonsense central midfield duo; extremely mobile attackers and full backs with good passing ability and no fear to keep hold of the ball, and; a solid defence. Our midfielders Partey and Xhaka made sure that the Spuds could not break out and collect the ball in midfield which is so pivotal to their game. These boys were immense which was epitomised by that crunching but fair tackle by Xhaka late on. Together they are my MOTM. The Swiss’ positioning was fabulous and he made many interceptions at the right moment, and so was his ability to be at the right place at the right time. At times it looked like the ball was seeking him out rather than the other way around… This is the bit that not everybody notices about him and it is absolutely key for the success of a midfielder. But Granit needs support and he got that from the equally impressive and towering Thomas the Tank Engine. Partey has that athletic, physical presence which he combines with great on-field intelligence. He knows where he needs to be, where the action will be next and how he should destroy any opportunity to advance by the opponent. He also is great at pushing up at the right time and thus creating momentum in our attacking efforts. Thomas is still not 100% and this almost cost us the game late on, but Arteta knew that he just could not take him off; it would have hurt us both tactically and psychologically.
  4. The mobility within the team was just great. With allowing three to four players to attack a flank at any time we had the numbers and inventiveness to get through the Spuds. We mashed them, we chewed them, we forked them, we swallowed them whole: what a feast we had below the table. Arteta’s inclusion of both Odegaard and ESR is a masterstroke: the combination of these two super talents adds a whole extra dimension to our football. One is not enough as the Spuds would have had a man on them, but two did the trick. On top of this we had Saka who was clearly targeted to get some rough treatment. Yet Bukayo was not intimidated and helped a lot with keeping the ball moving and being an attacking threat.
  5. Our new MO11 had a very good game. I was not sure whether including him was the right idea, given the much needed individual intensity for these sorts of Derby encounters. But Martin was a like a fox among the rats and reveled in his role all game long. He really helped Granit and Thomas to keep it tight in midfield and made himself available constantly. Of course he also scored the all important equaliser and for this alone he should be offered a long term contract!
  6. And then there was Laca who was like a cat among the rats below the table. Alex never gave the defence and midfield any peace and this added to our mobility and unpredictability. It paid off big time when Laca was found with a super sharp pass by Pepe in the box which led to the penalty. The Spuds were Lacaed.
  7. The defence was strong and especially Big Gab and Luiz deserve praise for their concentration, positioning, clearances and interceptions. Gabriel offers us that same combination of presence, intelligence and athleticism that Sol used to have. What an extrovert and force on the pitch, which was highlighted by that fine goalmouth safe with his head at the most crucial defensive moment of the game.
  8. After Lamela, the vilest of Spuds-rats, was sent off, Arsenal were given an ideal gift to see out the game with ease. Yet we were not able to make the difference count; in fact we imploded and allowed the Spuds to attack us far too much. And it almost cost us. For me this was mainly due to fatigue in midfield and especially Partey suffered from this. Arteta should have brought on Elneny sooner imo, but he will have had his reasons not to do so. Laca mentioned after the game that the ability to see out a game is still a work in progress. Yet in the end it was a Derby and this was bound to happen: our legs were tired and the Spuddies’ legs were fueled by that desire of just not wanting to lose. But lose they did.

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v Spurs Historic Preview and Ideal Lineup

Arsenal v Tottenham –   March 14, 2021

The two teams met for the first time in the United League November 9th 1896. The match took place at Woolwich Arsenal’s Manor Ground in Plumstead and Arsenal won, 2.1.

The United League was founded in 1896 to provide additional mid-week fixtures for teams drawn from a number of leagues including founder members, Woolwich Arsenal from the Football League, and Tottenham Hotspur from the Southern League.

The teams first met in a Division 1 Football League match on December 4th 1909 it was watched by a crowd of 18,000. Woolwich Arsenal won 1- 0 with Walter Henry Lawrence scoring their first league goal against Spurs.

As of 6 December 2020, there have been 188 competitive first-class meetings between the two teams since the first league meeting in 1909, of which Arsenal have won 77 and Tottenham 60. The most goals in one game were scored in the closely contested 5–4 Arsenal Premiership victory at White Hart Lane on 13 November 2004. The biggest winning margin was a 6–0 away win by Arsenal on 6 March 1935. Tottenham have twice won 5–0 (25 December 1911 and 4 April 1983) and Arsenal once (23 December 1978), with all three fixtures taking place at White Hart Lane. Arsenal also won by 5–2 margins both in February and November 2012 home at the Emirates.

Tottenham’s record for goals scored against Arsenal is 11 goals by Harry Kane and 10 by Bobby Smith, followed by Billy Minter with nine goals. Arsenal’s record is held jointly by Emmanuel Adebayor, Alan Sunderland and Robert Pires, with eight goals each. Adebayor also formerly held the record for most goals by a player in the North London derby with ten: eight scored for Arsenal and two for Tottenham. Arsenal’s long-time defender David O’Leary holds the record for most North London derbies played with 35, while Gary Mabbutt and Steve Perryman shared the corresponding record for Spurs, with 31.

Terry Dyson is the only Spurs player to score a hat-trick in a first-class derby game, having done so on 26 August 1961 in a 4–3 win for Spurs. The Arsenal players to have done so are Ted Drake (20 October 1934) and Alan Sunderland (23 December 1978).

Some key games between the clubs.

Tottenham 0–1 Arsenal (3 May 1971) The final match of the 1970–71 league campaign, with Arsenal needing a win or a goalless draw to take the First Division title (a score draw would have meant Leeds United won on goal average). The game was tight with few real chances on goal, until the very end. With three minutes to go, John Radford’s shot forced Pat Jennings into a good save; George Armstrong got to the rebound and chipped the ball across goal and Ray Kennedy headed home the winner. Spurs desperately tried to get a goal back but to no avail; Arsenal held on to win the title (the first half of the Double that season).

“I tried, in vain, to get into White Hart Lane for many of our away games and I was desperate to get in to watch our title winning game on May 3rd 1971 but I was among the thousands left outside the ground.

Tottenham 1–2 Arsenal (4 March 1987) Arsenal and Spurs had drawn 2–2 on aggregate in the League Cup semi-finals; with no away goals rule in force, the match was replayed at Spurs’ home ground of White Hart Lane. Spurs went 1–0 up through Clive Allen but Arsenal substitute Ian Allinson equalised and David Rocastle scrambled home the winner to send Arsenal through to the Final, where they won their first trophy since 1979.

Arsenal 1–0 Tottenham (4 April 1993 at Wembley) The second FA Cup semi-final between the two, in which Arsenal sought revenge over their North London rivals for the 3–1 semi-final defeat two years earlier. Tony Adams scored with a header from a Paul Merson free kick for the Gunners in the 79th minute; Arsenal prevailed despite Lee Dixon’s sending-off, and went on to win the FA Cup in May and complete the first ever domestic cup double.

Arsenal 2–1 Tottenham (8 April 2001 at Old Trafford) – the third FA Cup semi-final between the two. Gary Doherty gave Spurs the lead, before Patrick Vieira equalised for Arsenal. Robert Pires scored a second half winner to send Arsenal through to the first FA Cup final to be played outside England, where they lost 2–1 to Liverpool in Cardiff.

Tottenham 2–2 Arsenal (25 April 2004) Arsenal were unbeaten in the Premier League and only needed a point to secure the title. The Gunners were 2–0 up after 35 minutes thanks to Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires’ goals. A famous win looked to be on the cards, but Spurs restored some pride by denying Arsenal victory; in the second half Jamie Redknapp scored from long-range, then Robbie Keane converted a 90th-minute penalty to give Arsenal their second and, as of 2021, last league championship won at their rivals’ home ground.

Arsenal 3–1 Tottenham a.e.t (31 January 2007) Arsenal booked their place in the 2007 League Cup Final, for the first time since winning the competition in 1993, after this extra-time victory. The teams drew the first leg 2–2 at White Hart Lane where Tottenham threw away a 2–0 first half lead, eventually drawing the game. The return leg game was goalless until the 77th minute when Emmanuel Adebayor gave Arsenal the lead, before Mido equalised for Tottenham five minutes from time. Jérémie Aliadière restored Arsenal’s lead in the 105th minute and the game was eventually won by Arsenal after a 113th minute own goal by Tottenham’s Pascal Chimbonda, sending Arsenal through to the final, 5–3 on aggregate. Arsenal, however, would eventually lose the final to Chelsea.

Spurs have only beaten us at home in the Premier League on two occasions namely April 15, 1996 and the last time on November 20th 2010..

Arsenal all time EPL record against Tottenham.

Arsenal V Tottenham EPL Home Games
11-May-93 1 11
06-Dec-93 1 11
29-Apr-95 1 00
15-Apr-96  113
24-Nov-961  31
30-Aug-97 1 00
14-Nov-98 1 00
19-Mar-001  21
31-Mar-011  20
06-Apr-021  21
16-Nov-021  30
08-Nov-031  21
25-Apr-051  10
22-Apr-06 1 11
02-Dec-061  30
22-Dec-071  21
29-Oct-08 1 44
31-Oct-091  30
20-Nov-10  123
26-Feb-121  52
17-Nov-121  52
01-Sep-131  10
27-Sep-14 1 11
08-Nov-15 1 11
06-Nov-16 1 11
18-Nov-171  20
02-Dec-181  42
01-Sep-19 1 22

I was at Highbury for dozens of games between the two clubs and perhaps surprisingly (for the younger supporters) I don’t recollect a lot of hostility between the two sets of supporters in the 40’and 50’s but that definitely changed in the 60’s when it started to get ugly.

Frankly I’m nervous about our chances on Sunday but I will go with my heart (which pumps red and white) and predict an Arsenal win.


Predicted Lineup v Spuddies by TotalArsenal:

Mourinho said he only looks up the table.. as all rats do. Us Gunners love to look at the football in front of us and our bulging trophy cabinet.

The good news is Arsenal are playing at the home of football and the entire squad is fit and available. In a NLD we need characters with both passion and professionalism, and as many fit legs as possible. No doubt, Goseeh will let us make the play and try and defeat us on the counter. And he will also be scheming to force us into mistakes when we are playing out from the back. Luckily, we have just made a few of those so we should be extra prepared tomorrow.

This is a typical game for Laca, who will get among the Spuddies and make them sweat. Auba has a good scoring record against them so I would play both Laca and Auba – or, if he is fully fit and in good form, Martinelli instead of one of them. I don’t expect the latter to be the case, so Laca and Auba are starts for me. In the hole, I hope to see ESR start this game, but only if he is fully fit of course.

We need Emile to run between the lines and glue them together, and nobody in the team is currently better at it. ESR will also be a positive cultural influence, as he will know what this game means to the club and the fans. Midfield is very likely to be Granit-Thomas, with Elneny coming on for one of them after 70 minutes. The CBs are a bit of a guess, but Big Gab and Raw Rob are my preferred duo. Tierney and Soares as full backs would make sense to me.





Magic Martin does a Messi; One Mountain of the Match; Super Mo: 8 Observations

Olympiacos Piraeus 1 – 3 Arsenal

A commanding win at the end of a roller-coaster game. This is a season full of challenge for us supporters: do we want to focus on the weaknesses or on the strength; is the glass half empty or half full? We clearly are a work in progress as yesterday’s game of creation of great chances AND bad mistakes made clear once again.

Eight Observations:

  1. First of all the most obvious observation: Arsenal were much better than Olympiacos, created a large number of good chances AND took three of them. The boys are flying back home with three away goals in the bag and the Greeks will have to score at least three at the home of football to go through, next week. Last season, we managed just the one goal and it cost us in the end, so this is progress and reason for optimism.
  2. Arsenal used the wings really well, mainly through their wing-backs, Hector and Kieran. Willian, Auba, Odegaard and Partey played some good triangles on the wings and as a result we got the ball into the box a good number of times. By playing so much on the wings and tiring out our opponents in the process, gradually, space opened up through the centre; and with two goals from the middle and outside the opponent’s box, the boys made great use of this. The first 30 minutes or so, Arsenal played some great attacking football, possibly the best football of all season.
  3. But there is a but, and that is of course the lack of goal-return by those whose job descriptions start and finish with getting the ball over the line. Auba, Saka, Willian all left their shooting boots at Ashburton Grove, it seemed. They did work hard though, and created space for others by occupying the Greek defenders – and it was nice to see Big Sok giving his all once again – but with such good balls into the box I expected more, especially from Auba. Luckily, Magic Martin – possibly inspired the night before by Messi’s wonder strike v PSG – wore the right shoes and saved our blushes with an unstoppable howitzer of a goal at just the right time. We needed that goal so badly then.
  4. A winning team cannot rely too much on its main attackers, so it was good to see that Big Gab and Tidy Mo came to the fore and made all the difference. It looked like Gabriel shouted at Auba “leave that one to me and I show you how it is done, my fine yet delicate friend”. What a powerful, slam dunk sort of header! And then there was Mo’s shot, greatly captured by the cameras. It was the sort of goal that should win a final in a major tournament. it was beautifully struck by Elneny as during its flight the ball started seeking out the right corner of the goal and the keeper got more and more into trouble and could do nothing about it. It reminded me of Arie Haan’s long distance goals against Italy and Germany in the 1978 World Cup (for those who are young enough to remember!). Many of us have been saying that we need to shoot more from distance….
  5. Now what is going on with our free-kicks from dangerous positions? Every time a number of players compete with each other to take them and then the taker messes it up big style. In my view, for free-kicks that are not suitable to be crosses there should just be two regular takers: a right footed player for left-sided ones and a left footed player for right sided ones. This would provide clarity and a missed opportunity will serve as practice for an improved second or third attempt by the same player. Luiz your time of great free-kicks is well behind you… Leave it to others!!
  6. We have to talk about the dirty elephant on the pitch: our ability to give the opposition a chance/chances(!) purely through our own making. Arteta wants to play the ball out from the back, which I understand. Opponents study us before they play us and are forcing mistakes when we play out from the defence. The players, including goal keeper, are getting nervous and mistakes are becoming more common…. Next up are the Spuds under management by the toxic, Machiavellian narcissist. Please let’s avoid giving him any opportunity to publicly celebrate himself at the expense of our beloved team! Looking at Arteta’s post-game press conference, I reckon he is on the case…
  7. We had some mixed performances on the night but it was a joy to watch Gabriel being so commanding and strong in our box and beyond. Last year in the same fixture we had the likes of Mustafi and Big Sok defending our box and they did okay enough, but with Big Gab we have a mountain (with fast running streams) in our defence all-right. With a goal and an assist (for Elneny’s screamer) he was by far the Man (or should that be Mountain?!) of the Match.
  8. My final shout goes to Granit who had a very tidy and organised game and made no mistakes. His partnership with Partey has a lot of potential but the latter is still finding his form and fitness. Still, Thomas made a difference and can claim an assist for Ode’s opener. When Arteta subbed him for Ceballos (it really should have been Mo instead) you could really sense that we lost one of our main warriors and were weakened. Luckily, Arteta brought on Mo soon after and our dominance was reestablished. Just as well.

By TotalArsenal.

Sakazette to Do it Again, Xhaka First on Team Sheet, ESR Start? Arsenal Preview/ Lineup

Tonight we play an important football game at the cradle of Western civilisation: Greece.

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Many know about the most famous Greek person ever, Socrates. No I am not talking about ‘our’ Big Sok who now struts his stuff for tonight’s opponent, Olympiacos; I am talking of course about the man who stated about 2500 years ago that the ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’, the former soldier and developer of the Socratic Method – making people come to conclusions through consistent questioning: The Socrates.

Socrates is an inspiration to many and certainly to me. He was a successful hoplite for the Athenians but came to realise that fame and wealth were unimportant, despite coming from a well-to-do family and having had a ‘classical’/privileged upbringing. Socrates realised quite soon that natural ‘philosophy’ (science) was not for him but that examining life, truth and love (he said he was never not in love) were much more important. He did not want to be involved in politics and that may have cost him his life eventually, but he died true to himself and his beliefs, and he stood above and against the stupidity of his fellow men. In the end he died for truth: for his deep-rooted belief that if he cannot examine life and ask pertinent questions about it to his fellow human beings, he may as well be dead. Luckily, he was well loved by his friends, and Plato did us the huge favour of documenting Wise Soc’s thoughts and dialogues – including the last hours of his life when he willingly swallowed the poisonous hemlock – the most famous mini episode of Socrates’ entire life.

I can see a bit of Socrates in Arteta. There is a certain stubbornness in Mikel, a desire to analyse things and stick to his mission and (football) truths. I don’t get the feeling that he is in football management for fame and wealth (unlike Wenger, Ferguson and Mourinho for example) but for the love of the game itself. There is a lovely mix of humility, knowledge, determination and enthusiasm that totally suits our club.

Mikel is gradually but surely bringing us back to the essence of good, winning football and is asking his players hard and difficult questions, probably using some form of the Socratic Method. They are becoming followers and those who do not want to go with his vision have found the determined, over-my-dead-body, hoplite side of Arteta: you are either with me or out; and many went out already. He will spend time with those who are with him but need to improve, though. I am hoping that the fans will see what Arteta has set out to do and stay behind him, but I fear that in these days of keyboard heroes and utter impatience the cup with hemlock is not far away. I know that Arteta will drink it if he is pushed; like Socrates he is a man of principles.

Olympiacos are probably not too dissimilar from our previous European opponents, Benfica. I expect them to let us make the play and try and beat us on the counter and via set pieces. I have tried hard to forget about our games against them last season, but I remember us being suckered in by them with of course a devastating outcome. Let’s hope we have learned from it. They once again beat PSV late on in the second leg of the last round, so we are doubly warned!!

Here are the highlights from the game in Piraeus last year. Warning!! Fans in the stadium may lead to C19-hyperventilation!!

Olympiakos v Arsenal (0-1) | UEFA Europa League Highlights – YouTube

I love that Sakazette goal! Laca and Big Sok came close to scoring a second goal and how different it all could have been.

Our team then.

Of course Xhaka will be back. He will be first on Mikel’s team sheet. Arteta knows that now and again a mistake will be made from defending out from the back and he will not blame Granit for it one iota. The Swiss giant had played so many games in a row and was put in a difficult position as he so often is; Granit misjudged the situation this time and played a poor ball with his weaker foot. The modern manager knows that things can go wrong when playing out from the back but they will work even harder with the team to improve further. Klopp and Guardiola have done exactly the same. Now if you are the kind of person who likes to think that Xhaka cost us the game because of this one mistake at the end of the first half, then you would probably also have voted in favour of Socrates’ drinking the hemlock all those decades ago. It never stops amazing me how little progress has been made in this respect in 2500 years of ‘civilisation’. Stop the hatred and keep your prejudices in check: Xhaka is one of us and Arteta has big plans with him. Love and support Granit if you like to call yourself a supporter (rather than a consumer of entertainment).

ESR seems available again and Partey is hopefully fully fit to give his all for us. The CB duo is a guess to me…. who will Mikel go with? Auba, Saka and Laca had a good game there last year so I expect them all to start. I am hoping for another start for Soares but if Hector gets the nod it is also fine with me.

Predicted Team:





By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal’s Season Starts Now: 10 Winnable Games For a Top-Four Finish

Our worst enemy is our own feckless capitulation.

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In any other season taking four points from away games to Leicester and Burnley would have been regarded as a good return. But as we are chasing the pack for European tickets for next season, those two points dropped unnecessarily at Turf Moor have deflated us more than it should have done. We need to get on top of our emotions again and believe in the team and our cause.

The European games are a good chance for silverware, but as Arteta is mainly building a team for next season I reckon we will fall short of making it to the final, unless the boys play at their very best and Lady Luck is on our side. It is great that we are still in this competition and I am looking forward to Thursday’s encounter against Olympiacos in Greece. What I am not prepared to do is give up on the League just yet.

I said at the start of the season that the first third would be the hardest one and the last third would be relatively easier for us. We have now gone into that final third with just eleven games to go. Next up are the horrible Spuds and, for various reasons, it will be hard to get all three points from this one. Look at it as a bonus game. After that we will have ten games from which we can get a lot of points based on a good run. I am always a guy who believes in OGAAT – one game at a time – but it is now also important to provide us with perspective: a good run of results is definitely possible and this could mean a decent finish in the league given the circumstances.

After the Spuddies, who luckily also face European opposition this Thursday, we will play: West Ham, Liverpool, Sheffield United, Fulham, Everton, Newcastle, West Brom, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Brighton.

I believe that all of these teams could take points from us but also that we can take points of all these teams. Furthermore, a victory over Pool (will be hard), West Ham, Everton and Chelsea will in effect be a six-pointer and pull us up with three points against that particular team. There are a lot of teams in those last ten games that are fighting against relegation and they will not make it easy for us, but they can be overcome. Arsenal have the quality and just need to add the discipline and killer-instinct. Unlike the Spuds, who like mushrooms need wet, dank darkness to thrive, Arsenal get usually better when the sun comes out and nature offers us hope again.

The Chavs are currently in fourth position (50 points) and above them are the struggling Foxes (53). They have played a game more than us and we are 12 and 15 points behind them respectively. This is of course a big gap but with the game in hand and still playing the Chavs, Arsenal could halve the deficit in just two games. The Foxes are further away but they could continue to have a bad run, so we must not give up. Of course there are other teams above us with whom we would have to compete for a top four/top six finish but there are still 33 points to be won or lost by us, and who knows where it all may end?

We have an almost fit squad and if both Partey and ESR, or at least one of them, can get back to full fitness levels we really have a good chance to go on that winning run and maybe make it into the Top-Four. Our worst enemy is our own feckless capitulation.



By TotalArsenal.