Holdingho, Two Superb Debuts and a Player Reborn: Arsenal Player Ratings.

Carnage at Craven Cottage!

Fulham 0 – 3 Arsenal: a dream-start for the hungry Gunners!

Arteta stelt Arsenal-fans gerust en verwacht snel volgende opsteker

What a fabulous start by Arsenal: three goals – one by a newcomer, one for Auba and one for our centre forward – a clean sheet and a controlled performance all over the pitch. We will analyse the game over the next few days, but for now here are the BK players ratings:

Leno: 7 – clearly happy to be back and made no mistakes. One word: back.

Tierney: 7 – fine all-round performance and great energy. One word: commitment.

Gabriel: 8 – half a point extra for it being his first game in the PL and half a point extra for his well taken goal. Was well shielded by the midfielders and supporters by his fellow CBs, but composed on the ball and great at winning balls back. What a debut! One word: imposing.

Holdingho: 7.5 – extra half point for that keepie-uppie and general willingness to bring the ball forward and make things happen. Worked hard and was strong in the air. One word: energetic.

AMN: 7 – fine all-round performance and great calm and energy. He also produced a peach of a pass with his weaker left foot that deserved to be an assist for him. One word: task-master.

Xhaka: 7 – kept it tidy and worked hard without too much glamour in his football (legs looked a bit weary from his international games). Was isolated a lot in the first half as Fulham pressed us high and left little space for him to receive the ball in. Was able to get more involved in second half. One word: professional.

Elneny: 7.5 – Reborn it seems. Also kept it tidy and organised in midfield and never stopped running and passing. Together with Xhaka he made sure that Fulham just could not get close to our box and therefore were impotent in attack for almost the entire game. One word: tidy.

Bellerin: 7 – If only his final ball into the box was better what a player Hector would be! Still, he worked hard and supported Holding much better this time round. One word: gutsy.

Auba: 7.5 – Half a point extra for THAT goal – his trademark goal – but a bit sloppy in his passing at times; his final balls to his fellow attackers were below par. One word: pouncer.

Laca: 7.5 – Half a point extra for that poacher’s goal. Alex worked hard in that typical Laca – flee in the fur – sort of way. Good to have him in the team. One word: nuisance.

Willian: 8.5 – MOTM – two assists and also heavily involved in our first goal, and that wins him an extra full point, but it was his overall work rate and calm on the ball that was so impressive. He was also unlucky not to score from his freekick that beat the keeper but landed on the post. One word: efficient.

Subs:

Ceballos: 7 – some lovely moves and passes.

Pepe: 7 – brought some new energy and focus to our attack.

Eddie: – too little time on the pitch to judge.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 42 Comments

Arsenal v Fulham Historical Preview and Line-Up: ME in the Middle and PALs up-front

Arsenal v Fulham – September 12th, 2020

Fulham have played at their current home, Craven Cottage since 1896, here is a little of the grounds history.

The original ‘Cottage’ was built in 1780, by William Craven, the sixth Baron Craven and was located close to where the Johnny Haynes Stand is now. At the time, the surrounding areas were woods which made up part of Anne Boleyn’s hunting grounds.

The Cottage was lived in by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (who wrote The Last Days of Pompeii and other somewhat notable (and moneyed) persons until it was destroyed by fire in May 1888.Many rumours persist among Fulham fans of past tenants of Craven Cottage. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jeremy Bentham, Florence Nightingale and even Queen Victoria are reputed to have stayed there, although there is no real evidence for this. Following the fire, the site was abandoned. Fulham had 8 previous grounds before settling in at Craven Cottage for good. Therefore, The Cottagers have had 12 grounds overall (including a temporary stay at Loftus Road, meaning that only their former ‘landlords’ and rivals QPR have had more home grounds in British football. Of particular note, was Ranelagh House, Fulham’s palatial home from 1886–1888.

When representatives of Fulham first came across the land, in 1894, it was so overgrown that it took two years to be made suitable for football to be played on it. A deal was struck for the owners of the ground to carry out the work, in return for which they would receive a proportion of the gate receipts.

The first football match where there were gate receipts was when Fulham played against Minerva in the Middlesex Senior Cup, on 10 October 1896.The ground’s first stand was built shortly after. Described as looking like an “orange box”, it consisted of four wooden structures each holding some 250 seats, and later was affectionately nicknamed the “rabbit hutch”.

In 1904 London County Council became concerned with the level of safety at the ground, and tried to get it closed. A court case followed in January 1905, as a result of which Archibald Leitch, a Scottish architect who had risen to prominence after his building of the Ibrox Stadium, a few years earlier, was hired to work on the stadium. In a scheme costing £15,000 (a record for the time), he built a pavilion, the present-day ‘Cottage’ itself and the Stevenage Road Stand, in his characteristic red brick style.

The stand on Stevenage Road celebrated its centenary in the 2005–2006 season and, following the death of Fulham FC’s favourite son, former England captain Johnny Haynes, in a car accident in October 2005 the Stevenage Road Stand was renamed the Johnny Haynes Stand after the club sought the opinions of Fulham supporters.

Both the Johnny Haynes Stand and Cottage remain among the finest examples of Archibald Leitch football architecture to remain in existence and both have been designated as Grade II listed buildings.

An England v Wales match was played at the ground in 1907, followed by a rugby league international between England and Australia in 1911.

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

We have an extremely strong away record against Fulham in the EPL wining ten out of the fourteen games played and gaining 73.8% of the points. We should go into this game with a high degree of confidence to kick off the 2020/21 campaign on a winning note.

Arsenal v Fulham EPL Away Games
  WDLGFGA
115-Sep-011  31
203-Nov-021  41
309-May-041  10
411-Sep-041  30
504-Mar-061  40
629-Nov-06  112
719-Jan-081  30
823-Aug-08  101
926-Sep-091  10
1022-May-11 1 22
1102-Jan-12  112
1220-Apr-131  10
1324-Aug-131  31
1407-Oct-181  51
1512-Sep-20     
 Total10133211
Arsenal v Fulham – ALL Away Results
PLeagueWDLGFGA
2Total Div 210126
12Total Div 14442222
14Total EPL10133211
28All Results15585639

GunnerN5

Le Gall’s predicted Line-Up

had everyone been available, my guess would have been:


emi
rob-david-kieran
hector-dani-granit-ainsley
pépé-laca-auba

luiz being sidelined, what are the options now?
The most obvious to me would be Big Sok, so David’s defending job might be covered; but I think mikel might rue the loss of David’s first touch, first pass, more – the way they ignite the whole team – and the only player in the squad who, imo, could play that very specific part, is … Mo Elneny, which is why, in the end, I’d bet a few bucks on:


emi
rob-mo-kieran
hector-dani-granit-ainsley
pépé-laca-auba

Posted in Uncategorized | 64 Comments

Luiz Out: What are Arteta’s Options? Arsenal Line-up v Fulham

See the source image

With just 48 hours to go till season kick-off against the Cottages, Arsenal have been dealt a mini-blow: apparently Luiz is injured and could be out for weeks. If this is true, it will provide Mikel with a challenge regarding both how to replace the Brazilian mastermind and how to set up the team. GN5 has produced a fine match preview which we will post tomorrow, but for now let’s have a quick look at Arteta’s options for replacing the curly-haired giant.

I cannot imagine Arteta starting with a backline of four against Fulham. I reckon the manager will stick to our tried and tested 3-4-3 formation and will use his fit and available second option for the central centre-back position, Holding, instead. When fully fit, Mari, could play there too, but for now Holding is the main man. This could mean a start for Big Sok – who apparently is on his way out so maybe not a good idea in case he gets injured – or the young and eager to start Saliba. Or is Chambers fit enough to start a game at a ground he knows very well?

Furthermore, Arteta needs to decide who to play on Holding’s left side and behind him. For continuity more than anything else Martinez is most likely to get the Spaniard’s nod. His LCB options are Tierney, Kola or new signing Gabriel. If Tierney starts as LCB then who will play as left wing back? Kola or Saka would be the obvious choice to make, but we also have AMN available to boss that wing. Holding will need a safe pair of hands and it does look that Tierney would be the strongest option. On the other hand, Gabriel may have played there anyway in Mikel’s plans, and why change it then?

With Luiz out, Xhaka really will have to play despite him having played two tough international games in the last nine days or so. The team – the spine – would lose too much structure without him in the side too. The final big question is who to play next to the Swiss maestro? Ceballos for thrust or Elneny for defensive strength? Or should AMN make what would be a surprise start there? I reckon it will be the young Spaniard to link up with Granit.

There is actually one more big question: will Willian start and who will ‘lose out’, Pepe or Laca? I have got a feeling it will be the latter, but then he can come on as a super-sub when we may need him most. Willian as a ‘false-9’ is my most daring guess, with him playing closer to the midfielders than the other two attackers for most of the game.

Taking it all into account, we may see Arteta start with the following 11 (if two options left sided player is my preference):

But what do you think will be Arteta’s starting 11 alongside the Thames on Saturday morning?

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments

An Open Letter to a Near-Immortal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Dear Pierre-Emerick,

See the source image

What a decision you have to make. You just turned 31 and are in the form of your life. You are Adored at Arsenal, a club with the potential to grow into a European Powerhouse. But the clock is ticking and for such a talented player you didn’t win too much silverware until now. A few national cups in France, Germany and England, but no league titles or European titles. So doing a ‘Thierry’ and leave us for an established Powerhouse-club, and thus with a much better chance to win the heaviest silverware, must be very enticing.

I hope I am wrong, but it feels like we are your second option currently, and you are waiting for one of the current big four – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus or Bayern – to knock on the door for you. They should do so, because you would strengthen the attack in all of these teams. But Barcelona are in a mess and they have to rebuild; Juventus just keep buying to finally win that dammed CL-cup again and are getting bored from winning the league year after year; and Bayern, the archrival of your former club who have tried to eliminate them by constantly buying their best players away, is surely not an ideal option either. I could see you in the Los Merengues shirt to be honest. So I guess if they come knocking seriously we will be in trouble.

I do hope, though, you are not waiting for an English team to come and get you, but I trust you would not want to hurt the fans like a certain Dutchman once did. This particular Dutchman was also keen to leave us and win the league with another team, and he subsequently did. It is his proudest medal on the wall no doubt, but now that his career is over he has no club-legacy to speak of. And this, dear PEA – staying at Arsenal and finishing your career at the Home of Football and leaving a legacy – is what’s really at stake here.

Sign with us, and you will carry the standard in Arteta’s revolution. Stay with us and you will have an excellent chance to become a club immortal – one of the Greatest Gunners. You will be the master, the main man, and loved by hundreds of thousands Gooners across the globe. You will be able to guide the super talents of Saka, Eddie, ESR, AMN, Nelson and Martinelli, and who knows who else, to the summit. This season, you will get much better service from our new signing Willian; Luiz, Xhaka and Tierney will love it to feed you with long balls you so like to run on to; Pepe will have trained his left howitzer into an even more lethal weapon and he wants to find you in the box with it. And Laca… what’s he going to do without his buddy?

Arteta is on to something but I fully get it is a big decision for you. Titles and European Cups for Arsenal are likely to take a few years at least; and if that is your main focus then I hope one of those big four will come for you. I really do: you have given everything for us in the last three years and I will always have great memories of you.

But if you decide to stay with us and help Arteta to build something spectacular, you will have a football home for life, and maybe, just maybe end up with a well-earned league or European medal before you hang up your boots for good. It would be the sweetest reward for you.

You know what we want, Captain Auba. Please don’t let us wait much longer.

See the source image

by TotalArsenal.

Final Note: there is still time to join the Bergkampesque weekly prediction competition:

https://bergkampesque.com/2020/09/07/bergkampesque-trophy-how-good-is-your-football-knowledge-week-one/

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Bergkampesque Trophy: How good is your Football knowledge? – Week one!

This weekend we are starting a season long competition to see who can get the highest number of game results correct. Regular Bergkampesque blogger but also new bloggers are invited to join. The more the merrier.

We will be listing five EPL games and one European game each week and you will get one point for each correct prediction. There will be four extra points for the blogger with the highest weekly score, and if there are more than one winners then those points will be divided between the weekly winners (with a minimum of one extra point in case there are more than four weekly winners).

We will keep a record of all of the results and will post both the weekly and season to date scores every week.

The eventual winner will receive this season’s Arsenal shirt (home or away) and a trophy which is TotalArsenal’s very own Bergkamp drinking cup. 😊

It is just a bit of fun but I promise you it will get quite competitive during the season.

All you have to do on a weekly basis is indicate whether the result for each game listed will be:

H = Home win

A = Away win, or

D = Draw.

Here are this week’s games.

Fulham v Arsenal

Burnley v Manchester United

West Ham v Newcastle

Crystal Palace v Southampton

Manchester City v Aston Villa

Bordeaux v Lyon

Good luck,

GunnerN5

Posted in Uncategorized | 34 Comments

The One Move Arteta Could Make to Beat the Villas and Brightons of the PL

Arsenal have been awesome against the top teams under Arteta with wins against MU, the Chavs, Pool and Citeh in various competitions, but there is a feeling amongst some supporters that we have struggled against the ‘lesser’ teams (and absolutely no disrespect to them!). Recent lost games v Aston Villa, Spuds and Brighton are often mentioned by supporters, and they may – or may not – have a point.

I thought we were quite unlucky against Brighton and the injury to Leno unsettled us as a team. Furthermore, Guendouzi lost his focus and so did we as a team, and we lost the game very late on when the thorn in our side – who was the main reason for Guendouzi’s ‘losing it’ – scored the undeserved winner.

We were poor against Villa, probably our worst game of the Arteta-era, but the boys were knackered after a heroic FA cup win against Citeh and these things just happen now and again.

But there is a bigger question regarding our 3-4-3 formation and potential lack of creativity in midfield. Unless we push up high and hem the opponent into their own half, which let’s be honest is not our natural game right now, we leave a lot of space between the midfield and the attackers in the central part of the pitch. Under Arteta, we have developed very strong wings, especially on our left, but through the middle we lack that bit of bite and invention.

And when we play the ‘lesser’ teams i.e. those that prefer to sit deep and let’s us come on to them, we can look a bit one-dimensional. So you would say, those are ideal games for Mesut’s magic, but that boat seems to have sailed – and probably with good reason.

I feel strongly that when Arsenal play 3-4-3 with adventurous, attacking wing-backs, Arsenal need to keep it tight in the middle. I think Arteta recognises this too (and much better than he predecessor). This means a disciplined midfielder next to Xhaka is required – the pivot in the team; one who can either defend very well (Elneny, AMN?) or defend reasonably well but can also move the ball forward well through passes, runs with the ball or dribbles (Ceballos, Willian, AMN, Partey?). I think Arteta is almost there; and surely, if we were to sign Partey and keep Auba we are in super fine shape next season – I would even argue that the Partey signing is not really essential and may hold back playing time of other good alternatives, but there you go. Happy if we get him/ okay if we don’t.

The one thing that could make us more balanced and more creative is to make a change to the three attacking positions. Do we really need three attackers without a ‘traditional’ nr.10 to feed them? Do we need wingers – Auba and Pepe – without a typical strong-in-the-air CF in the middle whilst we have fabulous wingbacks to feed the central attackers with quality crosses and passes?! I don’t think so.

Laca often moves into the ‘hole area’ and is effective in disturbing opponents’ midfield play and winning the ball back, but he is a CF and not an advanced attacking midfielder and we suffer from this. Now I would imagine that if Ozil were to put in the sort of shift that Laca does, he would have featered in many a game since the lockdown, but love him or loach him, Mesut is just not that sort of player. And that is why the Spaniard was keen on getting Willian from Chelsea on a free.

So to cut a long story short, if we play Willian in the hole/as a false nr9 and play with two attackers with loads of freedom to play on the wing or centrally, we should become much more effective in attack yet lose nothing in terms of denseness of our midfield and protection of our defence.

This would be the team I would LOVE to see getting starts against teams who will sit back and play us on the counter:

A relatively simple adjustment if you ask me, but what are your thoughts?

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 50 Comments

Mikel Arteta: A Wenger, a Klopp or a Guardiola? Or?

Ooh to, Ooh to Be…

Yes fine fellow Bergkampesquerers, it is great to be a Gooner again. Imagine being a Spud and having to contemplate travelling to Bulgaria for an EL pre-qualifier after another trophy-less season: BBC a few days ago: “Tottenham will play Romania’s Botosani or Macedonian club Shkendija in the third round of Europa League qualifying if they defeat Lokomotiv Plovdiv.” How sexy does that sound, hey?!

Or put yourself in the shoes of the red Mancs who have won nothing and limped out of the EL competition only a few weeks ago. The Chavs also won nothing and were easily brushed aside by the Southern Germans in the CL and then by us in the FA Cup final. The Blue side of Manchester did win a mini-trophy back in the olden days prior to C19, but have also imploded post the lockdown. Even Pool supporters had little to enjoy since the return of the beautiful game. They already knew they would win the league but their team’s recent performances have hardly set the world on fire. But yes I would swap trophies with them to be fair.

But, since the lockdown, we Gooners have had the tremendous pleasure of beating Pool twice, Citeh and Chelsea in the FA Cup (and fair and square) and picking up a big and small trophy in the process. What looked like our worse season in decades turned into a feast of football in the final stages, which has given us real hope for better times ahead. Nobody had predicted this quick and joyous turnaround during those dark lockdown months.

There is no doubt that beside a few dollops of luck (we always need those in life), we should fully contribute this change of direction to our new manager, Mikel Arteta. We have seen him in action as a manager for about five months now, and I have been wondering who he most resembles: Guardiola, Arsene or Klopp

Pep Guardiola

Mikel has the same sort of attention to detail, tactical nous, ability to motivate his players and at least as good as communication skills with the press. But I have been really impressed with his ability to give individual players confidence and improve their performances, especially with the likes of Luiz, Xhaka, Mustafi, Elneny etc. Pep never had to work much with good players who need to be coached into excellent players; his cheque book offered a much quicker solution. And then Mikel has this ability to play a much more defence-minded kind of football and out-think fellow top managers, whereas Guardiola struggles at times to adjust his default style of high press and quick passing football. I have no doubt that Arteta also wants to play that sort of football with Arsenal eventually, but for now other tactical approaches are required. And he gets a 10 out of 10 for tactical adjustments.

Arsene Wenger

Arsene achieved so much with Arsenal and not just in terms of silverware won; he also changed the culture and turned the club in one of the most loved clubs in the world with a style of football that was both easy on the eye and, especially initially, very successful. Despite his young age, Mikel is equally confident and ‘in control’ when speaking to the press as Arsene was, which is really impressive. Arsene liked to give his players freedom of expression on the pitch as to sort out between them how they were going to get the best out of themselves and beat the opponents. He made the broad tactical strokes and allowed the players to do the colouring in.

It was highly successful in his first 10 years in charge but less so when the competition became much stronger and the money ran out. Wenger used to focus hard on the whole culture of the club with a strong focus on values for every employee. It looks like Arteta has a similar total-culture approach, which is great. But where Mikel is fundamentally different to Arsene is in his strong focus on tactical discipline and individual roles in the team. Mikel runs his team and performances more machine-like with less individual freedom and strong focus on a set of tasks and responsibilities. In the process, Mikel can turn players into confident high performing individuals, and that is a quality I associate mostly with two other managers than Pep and Arsene… 

Jurgen Klopp

Yes I reckon Arteta is more like Klopp than his former boss/mentor and manager. They both have that ability to get the best out of players they have and turn them into a very well-oiled machine-players. What Klopp has done with the likes of Henderson, Wijnaldum and Milner is very, very impressive. Yes he also was able to spend big on a top defender and goalkeeper but the majority of his players were good players that were turned into excellent team players by the German. It is early days but I reckon Arteta is just as good in doing this.

They also have in common this ability to focus hard on individual roles and responsibilities within a certain style of football and based around tactical instructions before and during the game.

Klopp is the more extravagant of the two but I like Arteta’s zen-like/Arsene-like calm even more. Klopp like Guardiola, as far as I can tell, can play only one kind of football: total domination, ‘strangling’ of the opponent in their own half, passing them to bits and dealing with any escapees through (small) fouls and fast, big, scary defenders. Arsenal were lucky to win the first game against Pool post the C19 lockdown but in last Saturday’s game Mikel showed us he had found a tactical way in dealing with Klopp: we allowed just four shots on goal, one every 22.5 minutes, and created the better chances ourselves overall.

Louis van Gaal

This sort of tactical adjustment reminds me actually a lot of, in my opinion, one of the best managers ever, Louis van Gaal. The fellow Dutchman was awkward with the press and struggled with some of the top quality players, but his ability to build teams around a style of play with specific roles and responsibilities for each position on the field was amazing. I never liked the guy and he should never have gone for the nr1 teams in the various counties where he managed at the time, but what he did with Ajax in the mid-nineties with a bunch of average, young-talented and good but not great players, was unbelievable. And what he did with an average Dutch national team in 2014 was equally impressive. Mikel is showing a similar ability in building a team from a mixture of good, young and a few great players, which is very promising.

His Own Man

Mikel is made for Arsenal in the 2020ies. He has the ability to get the best out of individual players, is tactically astute, great motivator for the players on a fair but firm basis and represents the club very well in front of the media. So I guess he has something of all these great managers, but most of all he is his own man. Glad to have him… Ooh to Be.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 55 Comments

Beast of a Defender: Gabriel Offers Arteta Mouth-Watering 3-4-3 Formation Options

Arteta July

Arteta got his Beast of a Defender!

Gabriel Magalhaes has finally signed for the Arsenal and according to Arsenal.com he is all that we want in a left-sided and left-footed defender:

Gabriel is a tactically-flexible defender. He can perform as the proactive or reactive centre back, performing in any system that he is instructed to a high level.

He has a real knack for out-muscling opposition forwards off the ball, using his 190cm frame to shrug off physical strikers with ease. He is also blessed with natural speed, making him a tricky opponent for any striker.

The 22-year-old won more than 67 per cent of his ground duels last season and 70 per cent of his aerial duels, illustrating just how impressive his defensive skills are.

His intelligence cannot be underestimated either. His reading of the game is an undeniable strength, consistently positioning himself to block cutbacks or crosses, something Arsenal’s defence is crying out for. He is no stranger to putting his body on the line either, blocking 18 shots in Ligue 1 last season, a stat bettered by just five players.

And that is just about his defending. For more on him click on the link:

https://www.arsenal.com/news/analysis-gabriels-key-attributes

Gabriel

A strong left-sided centre back was a big priority for us. Of course we have Luiz but the former Chav just seems to be at his best when he is played centrally in a three at the back. We also have TIerney but again he is of course best suited to be the left back, or even better, the left wing back. We also have Mari but he is still injured, and if we are going to play with three at the back as our main formation this season, which I expect, then we need at least two players who can play there. And a bit of competition is not a bad thing either.

From the little I have seen of Mari, he may well be suited to be cover for both Gabriel and Luiz, and that is exactly what Arteta needs with another grueling season about to kick-off. The biggest gap we had is now covered and anything on top of this- other than Auba committing to the club – is simply a bonus for me.

Gabriel’s inclusion could even allow Arteta to rest Xhaka regularly and move Luiz into his position in midfield. Options, options, options!! 

I guess we will see something like this at the start of the season (I am making the assumption that Bellerin will leave now and either Soares, AMN or Willian will play as wing back):

Arsenal Luiz central

Or something more radical, when Xhaka needs a break:

Luiz in midfleld

Time will tell but for our game v Liverpool in exactly four weeks time, I would like to see us line-up as follows..:

Pepe or Laca CF

This would give us solid AND adventurous left and right wings, with a no-nonsense midfield to protect the back four and feed the wings. Saka and Willian can provide the creativity, whilst Auba and Pepe can scare the living daylight out of Pool’s defence!

But those are just my musings… What do you think?

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 40 Comments

Mikel Arteta’s Biggest Dilemma

The dilemma of squad size: rich tactical and rotation options vs. access to playing minutes.

This post is not about statistics, but will involve some – very basic – calculation.

Don’t worry if you don’t like playing with numbers, that will not be the heart of it.

In this article I would like to discuss how the minutes on the pitch could contribute to the development of the players, and analyse the actual figures from last season.

For this purpose I will consider competitive games only, so club friendlies and fitness checking PL2 games will be excluded.

How many – competitive – games are there in an average Arsenal season?

As a rule of thumb, I will calculate with 50, but every year we manage to compete in Europe the figures are 48-56.

In fact it was 54 last season, but we had an exceptional run-in the FA Cup.

So what is granted?

38 EPL games

6+ UCL/UEL games (we had 8 last season as after the 6 group stage games we lost against Olympiakos in the first round of the knockout phase)

1+ League Cup games (we had 2 last season)

1+ FA Cup games (we had 6 last season as we won the tournament)

Charity Shield (we had zero last, but had 1 this season, and while it is friendly, I consider it competitive because of the trophy and the prestige)

So, with the guaranteed 38 Premier League games and 6 group matches in Europe, the 50 games is a safe bet.

In every game there are 11 players on a side. A single footballer plays 90 minutes, thus the whole team plays 990 (11*90).

In the season there are 50*990=49500 minutes. Let’s round it up to 50k taking extra time and stoppage time into account as well.

With the tools of rotation and substitution the manager divides this amount among the players. With a squad size of 25 this equals 2000 minutes of playing time on average.

Why do players need playing minutes?

Mostly to gain experience and for their skill and tactical development, as well as morale (mental hygiene), as the lads obviously like to play football and give their best.

They obviously want to increase their market value as well as negotiation power in a future contract extension; they can also achieve it only by playing many – excellent – games.

Furthermore, they want to call the attention of the public and the national team’s manager to their abilities.

When they play a lot on a consistently high level, they also get access to lucrative sponsorship deals, advertisements, etc.

If it was up to them, they would play as much as possible, but for fitness, tactical, rotational, stamina and other reasons they cannot always start and cannot always remain on the pitch until the final whistle.

We have to also take into consideration that most of these guys are close friends to each other. If more of them are dissatisfied due to his lack of playing time it not only decreases the individual’s morale, but in some extent reduces the team mood as well.

How to read the actual playing minutes?

Well, I have never played football on the highest level, so the explanations above are the mix of my amateur experience, opinions of sporting and medical experts and some common sense. But don’t hesitate to challenge them if you disagree. However for simplification purposes I will not differentiate according to age, assuming that the bodies of 19, 25 and 32 year-old players are equally capable of dealing with the workload.

But I by no means recommend any athlete to play 4500 minutes (50 games) a season; in fact my recommendation is in the 2000-3000 range. That should be handled easily in all relevant ages.

0-1000 minutes: Unless there is a proper justification of long or recurring injuries this is a major management failure. The development of the player is seriously hindered, and reduces the morale big time. Should be avoided.

1000-1500 minutes: Not desirable. Not much improvement there, probably no deterioration either, still a missed opportunity for both the player and the club. This could be alright in the first season of a youngster with the first team as well as last season of a senior player before retirement.

1500-2000 minutes: This is the reality of a squad player. 18-20 full games of the 50+ or around 8-10 starts and 15-20 substitute appearances. The player would surely demand more, but his excess motivation could provide healthy competition to the position, so this is not a manager’s failure by any means.

2000-2500 minutes: Needs no justification, as the athlete played about 50% of the available minutes. This provides proper development, yet still not poses a fitness threat. In this rage a player is respected, but not indispensable. If the majority of the players of the team falls to this range then you have a beautifully balanced squad and a talented professional coach on top of that as well.

2500-3000 minutes: That would be my preferred range. Albeit these extra minutes don’t contribute to the individual development any further, but the enjoyment of playing a lot of games and the increase of jersey sales and interviews make this interval slightly better than the previous.

3000-3500: Sign of a slight overuse of the player. Could be due to the lack of proper alternatives, or the player might be competing for a record. Maybe from leadership purposes must the player be on the pitch so often. I would try to avoid it, but if a couple of players fall into this range that is not a catastrophe either.

3500-4000: This is unhealthy. A significant injury risk for outfield players, that could also lead to mental overload or even burnout. Could also happen because of a long qualification season, but otherwise there should be no excuses. Or maybe the squad is too thin and all alternatives are injured.

4000-4500 minutes: Since the league games amount to 3420 minutes only, this range often shows a megalomaniac attitude, where the player wants to play every minute in every competition (Pickford, McGregor, ter Stegen, Moutinho.

4500+ minutes: Hell no! (Coady, Maguire, Patricio)

Let’s see, how are players “performed” in this department in the 2019/2020 season!

Yes, it was a crazy year, but the coronavirus only impacted the crowd and the schedule, but not the minutes (except for the last stages of the UCL/UEL).

Goalkeepers

martinez

This is a big kudos to Arteta (but maybe Leno’s injury played some part here). Leno competed 2860 minutes, while Martinez also had the opportunity to shine for 2030. They both improved, and had nice runs. Well done. (The only exception to the above rules is the #3 goalkeeper, as he should be somebody who is patient, not ambitious, yet reliable, because basically he is the contingency to the back-up plan. Macey played 720 minutes – of limited competitiveness – and sat on the bench 13 times. Furthermore he made valuable contributions to our trainings.) We are very well equipped and perfectly managed in the goalkeeper department.

Central defenders

Mustafi

Well, Luiz played 3640 minutes which is more than my liking – and has nothing to do with his personality, defensive or leadership skills. Sokratis played 2320 minutes, majority of it in the first half of the season (where he was overused), but the handful of minutes since mid-March understandably made him disappointed. Mustafi had a similar 2250 minutes, but more evenly distributed throughout the season. That’s a perfect run considering his late injury, and he needs the minutes more for consistency than for skill development anyway. Chambers’ 1380 minutes looks too few, but he had a good start to the season followed by a serious and long injury. This has nothing to do with the manager. That excuse doesn’t apply to Rob Holding, as his 1280 competitive minutes cannot be explained by injuries. He was available in the majority of the season. I am disappointed on his behalf (mostly in Emery and Ljungberg). Finally, Mari played only 200 minutes, but he joined in January and suffered a long injury too. If 500-800 minutes from David would have ended up in Rob, then the overall picture would have looked better, but it is not too bad at all, and Luiz is the leader of our defense anyway.

Full and wingbacks

sakakakaka

Tierney played 1710 minutes, but came injured and suffered another long injury. He progressed alright, and if he manages to get 2800 minutes under his belt this year that would be a major improvement to him and the club as well. To my surprise Kolasinac played 2040 minutes this season, so there is no need to complain. Bellerin played 1800 minutes only, but whenever he was fit, he started, so I don’t see any flaw here either. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was the other senior of the group with his 2030 minutes. He was always fit and played in many positions, but couldn’t apply much competitive pressure on those who were ahead of him in the pecking order. (That can change in the next season in both directions.) Cedric Soares played 250 minutes in his half season with us, but he (similarly to Kieran) had a couple of nasty injuries, so his minutes are justified, especially as he played additional 1510 minutes for Southampton earlier this season.

Midfielders

Arsenal Training Session

Lucas Torreira played 2040 minutes. And apart from his injury he was properly rotated in the squad. His disappointment has probably little to do with his time on the pitch and more of the roles and the quality of his play. I hope he stays though. Xhaka was the other player to get above 3k (in fact 3430), but he provided stability to our engine. The coaches made experiments, but at the end of the day without Granit we simply suffered. Guendouzi played a healthy 2380 minutes throughout the season, but not equally distributed. According to Transfermarket he suffered an Achilles tendon injury after the Brighton, which sounds bullshit to me, but who am I to challenge the portal? Anyway, Matteo is an undoubtedly talented young player, but he is not yet the saviour of Arsenal’s midfield. Him grabbing Maupay by the throat is a big whoGives’aSh*t, but his attitude and discipline could be a liability. Ceballos had 2340 minutes under his belt, which is a good figure considering he was out for 2 months with a torn muscle. He became an important part of Arsenal, I hope he returns. Joe Willock played 1860 minutes, but was more effective as a super-sub than as a starter. That’s not bad for a 20 years old, however he couldn’t convince Aidy Boothroyd to select him for England U21. Finally Ozil. He played 1810 minutes which is more than I remember, still about half of how much someone is supposed to play of his calibre. But that is a different story, we debated about it in this blog a few times already.

Wingers

arsenal nelson

With 2700 minutes young Bukayo Saka is one of the winners of this season. He often played at left (wing)back, but managed to grab the opportunity with both hands there as well. He was talented in the first place, but he progressed the most in a year among our players. A similar trajectory was expected from Martinelli, but he suffered an unfortunate injury limiting his playing minutes to 1460. This is still not bad for a 18-year old in his debut year in the first team, but with some luck it could have been a lot more. And to make it worse he loses a few months in this season as well… Nicolas Pepe didn’t take the Premier League by storm, but his 2720 minutes and 18 goal contributions are not bad for a debut season even for a record signing. Similarly to Tierney, I expect more of him this season, hoping that he will prove that he has a seat among the very best. The other victim of the pecking order as well as head coaching mismanagement (besides Holding) is Nelson with his 1040 competitive minutes. The arrival of Willian and the prospect of Coutinho don’t look promising for him either. And unlike the 2.5 years older AMN, Reiss has (had?) a real chance to become one of the finest players in his position.

Strikers

Arsenal v Man City 2

While Aubameyang mostly played on the left wing I list him here. Our captain racked the most minutes under his belt (3725), I assume partly due to his leadership qualities and partly because he wanted to retain the Golden Boot – as well as our most clinical striker. His 36 PL games (was suspended for the other 2) and his FA Cup appearances are perfectly justified, but his involvement in 6 EL games was a bit too much to my liking. Lacazette’s 2580 minutes fall into the perfect interval, and albeit his 12 goals seem a largely inferior return to Auba’s 29, if we take the net goal contributions into account (goals + assists – penalties) then his record of a net goal contribution every 136 minutes is quite close to PEA’s 128 minute figure. Eddie’s 1510 minutes are acceptable for a youngster playing his first (half) season with the senior team, but could have been a lot more if his loan spell in Leeds would have been more efficient. He managed to play more in the PL and the FA Cup than in the Championship and the Carabao, which is quite a performance from a 20-year-old. His development is fortunately still fast.

Coming back to the title dilemma

Shall we have a large squad with rich tactical and rotation options, or a skeleton crew to maximize individual development through a high volume of playing minutes?

There is no correct answer; this is not science, rather a matter of values and philosophy. But let’s not forget that when we divided the 50.000 minutes by a hypothetical squad size of 25, the 2000 minutes result was the average value; and remember that according to yours truly the ideal threshold of playing minutes to maximize experience and skill development is between 2000 and 3000. As you could guess from my past comments as well as the paragraphs above I am an advocate of youth development, thus in favour of a smaller squad – aiming for 58 games to increase the average playing minutes of 24 footballers (3 GK + 5 CB + 4 FB/WB + 6 DM/CM + 4 W + 2 ST) to 2400. Because currently Arsenal has 30 players, which reduces the fraction (the expected average) to less than 1700 minutes. And while the club is trying to offload a few players, simultaneously working hard on signing new guys, so this 30-figure is a realistic squad size after the transfer window closes. Which is 20% more than my preference, but don’t hesitate to challenge or criticize my stance.

As long as we don’t have the funds like Chelsea to spend 150M on new players every transfer window, I would go for maximizing individual development – the best XI and the secondary team players equally. How about you?

By PBarany

Posted in Uncategorized | 39 Comments

Arsenal Player Reviews: Duo MOTM, A New Ozil, A Moving Wall and a Black Panther

Arsenal 1 – 1 Liverpool: Arsenal win 5-4 in Penalty Shootout.

After having had some great momentum towards the end of last season, it was important to not get embarrassed by Pool in this game for which they were the obvious favourites. In contrast, the Champions really needed a pick-us-up game as to get back in that winning mood and regain some energy.

Klopp’s Liverpool is all about suffocating the opponents in their own half, pass them dizzy and then dance the ball into the net. They bully opponents and are fully focused on not letting you out of their iron grip. But Arteta has found the antidote to these tactics and had his team fully prepared and instructed to get through Klopp’s Berlin wall, and then do some damage to them. In the first half we played almost faultless, our only weakness being our right flank where we gave away too much space for which we could/should have been punished: Robertson produced from there a number of peaches of crosses but with good defending, wasteful attackers and a bit of luck no goals came from them.

Funnily enough, our best attacking moves also came from our right flank, and so we should say that getting the balance right there remains a work in progress. Our first goal was a beautiful, well-rehearsed team effort: it started with Martinez playing it out to our right flank: Bellerin played in Saka and then Bukayo switched it with his left foot sumptuously to the left where Auba was waiting… Tierney and AMN made runs into the box, thus distracting the Pool defenders and allowing PEA to free up his right foot and then to place-shoot the ball from outside the box high into the right corner.

1-0 to the Arsenal.

Hoe Arteta Aubameyang nog gevaarlijker maakt dan hij al was

Pool tried to increase the tempo and hem us into our own half even more, but we kept controlling the ball well and finding a way out of the red maze regularly. Bukayo played at times Ozil-esque football: he has that ability to create a bit of time and space for himself and then he makes such mature decisions. There is so much feeling in his foot as well and he just found fellow players in tight space with relative ease. The hard working Eddie probably should have scored from one of those passes, but we forgive him.

In the second part of the second half we started to sit back too much, no longer able to release pressure by playing out the ball from the back. Legs and heads were tired and Arteta did not have much experience on the bench (Laca, Willian, Torreira, Pepe etc were all left at home for various reasons). They deservedly equalised but we were the stronger team again during the last ten minutes and Joe had a good chance to get us back in the lead again. Alas, it was not to be but then we scored all our five pens and earned the right to kiss and then lift the Community Shield for the 16th time in our history.

Player Ratings:

Martinez – Happinez: 9 – assured, large as a brown bear with eight legs and arms, some vital stops.

Tierney – Mini-Tornado: 9 – so at home at Arsenal. Such focus and presence and some peaches of crosses too.

Luiz – Leader of the Pack: 9 – Imagine being a Chav and watching their former CB play like that twice this month? Hahahaha

Holding – Man(e)ater: 8.5 – All pressure came from Pool’s left side but he handled it well time and again. Had Mane in his pockets for most of the game.

Bellerin – Nutmegger: 8 – Some great attacking contributions and defensive interventions but allowed too much space in front and next to Holding in the first half, which could have cost us (see also Saka).

AMN – Mobile WALL: 8 – Together with Tierney and Auba he bossed our left wing. Apparently some very good Egyptian attacker played there for the opponent, but he must have been in AMN’s and Tierney’s constant shadow, because I did not see him! Final attacking ball is still in need for improvement but that will come. Please keep him, Mikel.

Xhaka-Elneny: 9.5 – Men of the Match – the Alcatraz in midfield: The least sexy players on the pitch (together with Holding) but they denied the Pool midfield to ever get into their game, which is key in winning a game against them. Kept it simple but their positioning when defending and their passing out from the back was simply awesome. Just watching them play such disciplined football was a joy for me.

Auba: 9 – Black Panther – So efficient, just strikes when the iron is hot. Class Act.

Nketiah: 8 – the (almost) golden nuisance – Excellent in the ‘Laca-role’: never gave Van Dijk any time to control the game from the back and was always a danger when  we were attacking. Probably should have scored but Allison denied him with a first class stop low to the ground.

Saka: 8.5 – our ‘new’ Ozil – half a point deduction for leaving too much space in front of and next to Holding in the first half, which could have cost us (see also Bellerin), but he produced some first class key passes and crosses and was vital in us releasing the presure Pool liked to put us under.

Subs:

Cedric: 7 – struggled to get into the game and looked lost at times, but good effort and peach of a cross for Willock to make it 2-1 to the good guys, but it was not to be.

Other subs: Joe, Kola and Reiss. No scores as not long enough on the pitch.

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 42 Comments