Arsenal Player Ratings: Mari Impresses, Deadly Eddie, Super Sok, No Surprise MOTM

Portsmouth 0 – 2 Arsenal.

A poor first half was followed by a controlled second one and in the end Arsenal strolled into the quarter finals of the FA Cup. We don’t know what Arteta said at half time but in the second half the defence pushed up when we were attacking, and when we played out from the back/had the ball in our own half we used the space of the pitch very well and the opponents just could not get near us. Hence we were able to play out the game with ease and composure and could have won with a larger margin.

Player Ratings:

Martinez: 7 – Not much to do but had presence in the box and distributed the ball quite well. Just one or two iffy moments.

Saka: 7.5 – another class act against very physical opponents. Nothing seems to face him and he was solid both in defence and attack.

Luiz: 7.5 – showed his experience tonight and seemed very comfortable with Mari next to him.

Mari: 7.5 – solid, no nonsense defender. Strong in the air and comfortable passer of the ball.

Big Sok: 8 – we missed him last Thursday against the Greeks and I reckon that was a mistake by Arteta. Started off a bit rusty at the RB position but he fought like a lion and helped us to have the right balance in midfield. An extra point for that fabulously taken goal.

Ceballos: 7.5 – lively and got stuck in. Solid second half and seems to listen well to Arteta’s instructions.

Guendouzi: 7.5 – too many touches at times but he played a very mature second half in which he was constantly available and passed the ball round efficiently. Arteta is improving young Guendo.

Martinelli: 7 – worked his socks off and was not to be intimidated by the opponents’ physical challenges. Always keen to make things happen and his movement and runs are just fab to watch. Final balls need improving but I was really pleased by Marti’s performance today.

Willock: 6 – no lack of trying by Joe but his inexperience showed today. Still re-finding his groove under Mikel but the ‘nr10’ role is the hardest on the pitch and we need to remain patient.

Eddie: 7.5 – showed a lot of maturity and was not to be bullied by the Portsmouth defenders. Took his goal very, very well but it was his run and anticipation of Reiss’ cross that really impressed me. Eddie has that nose for goal that is so hard to find in an attacker.

Nelson: 8.5 and MOTM – a very mature performance by Reiss. Really took the game to the opponents and produced two fine assists… and could have had more tonight. I like his decision making and use of energy; he paces himself. But what is really impressive is his close control of the ball, speed and delivery. A joy to watch.

By TotalArsenal.



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Arsenal v Portsmouth Line-up / Preview: Young/Hungry Attack and All Change at the Back?

A while ago, I heard this story of a Manc and a Pool supporter having a go at each other at a post office. The former claiming they are the champions of England with a record of top-flight wins hehehe; and the latter then stating they are the British champions in Europe with more EC1/CL cups than them: have that! Well you self-celebrating Mancs and Scousers, Arsenal have the Invincibles and are the Kings of the FA Cup. Final.

See the source image

After the painful exit v Olympiacos in the Europa League last Thursday we need to bounce back. A Monday night game v (nothing to lose) Portsmouth at a (probably) wet and windy Fratton Park may not be an ideal ‘bounce-back’ occasion, but Arteta and the boys will be ready for it. Over the weekend, our rivals for PL top four/five places have dropped points, except for Nuno’s Wolves. This offers hope for the rest of the season in the PL, but tonight it is all about the magical FA Cup.

So who is Arteta picking for this big game for us? I reckon he will rest a few regular players simply because he needs to and he has alternatives who are ready to step up. From Arteta’s news conference it looks like Mari, Holding, Nelson and AMN will get a chance to play.

I expect a much changed team with a few big players on the bench to come on if needed. However, in central midfield we need stability so I expect Xhaka to start, possibly supported by Guendouzi or, my preference, El Torro.

Here is my predicted line-up:

Looking forward to this one. COYRRGs!!

By TotalArsenal.

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Time for 3-4-3 Mikel?


The last 4 goals conceded by us were all from set pieces which are defended by the whole team. Apart from our 2 central defenders in Luis and Mustafi, the rest of our outfield players, including our full backs (Saka and Bellerin) are all not good at defending balls in the air. A third central defender (Sokratis, Pablo or Holding) would instantly improve our aerial defending and as well make us more dangerous attacking set-pieces in the opposition box.
Currently Arteta uses the 4:2:3:1 but at the same time uses Saka as a wingback. It has a down side in that it hinders the forward movement of our double pivot as Xhaka is forced to cover Saka’s rear leaving his pivot partner with greater grounds to hold defensively. In a 3:4:3, wingbacks (Saka and Bellerin) have more leeway participating in attacking opponent’s territory without the coach having to be forced to inhibit the vertical roles of his central midfieders.
A back-3 with wingbacks providing width would also free Aubamayant from his wing role (where he is absolutely average if his goals are discounted) to concentrate more on what he does best, score goals.
A 3:4:3 therefore is a formation that is better suited to the skillsets of Bellerin, Saka (attacking) and Aubamayang (scoring goals). Also a change to a back-3 would give more allowance for the forward movement of our central midfielders as opposed to the modified 4:2:3:1 that has been in use. Finally it would improve our set-piece plays, defending and attacking.
There are 11matches to go in the PL, ie 33 pts to play for. We can dare to keep dreaming of a CL spot because many of the teams above us are haemorrhaging points profously but first we have to discover and be at our ruthless best.
Obviously our current modified 4:2:3:1 has not seen us anywhere close to our best. It has particularly failed in producing enough chances for the team. Arteta’s PL average of 9.4 shots per game would have sat us BOTTOM of the table. City at 19.8 shots per game (2.1 times ours) leads the Premiership. No wonder they’ve scored 1.7 times more goals than us (68 to our 39 goals).
It is said that nothing ventured is nothing gained. We desperately need to gain.The good news is that Arteta changed to a 3:4:3 late against Olympiacos. He probably has concluded that the time to venture is come.
By PE.
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Willock or Ozil, Guendo or Torro, Marti or Laca? Arsenal Preview and Line-up

Arsenal v Olympiacos – 8PM – 27 Feb 2020

Not much time for a full on preview but we know the opponent from last week’s post and game, and we also know we need to put up a strong team to make it through to the next round.

Who will Mikel pick to start? Well that depends on how his squad performed during training, as it should be. The manager will want to give a few ‘fringe’ players a chance to gain some proper match practice but they will have to convince him to be ready. It is a must-win game after all so there is no place for false sentiments. Only the best will be selected.

Furthermore, we are on full view tonight and the EL is a big cup to win, so Mikel will not give players a chance to impress him if he is not sure they are ready to deliver.

So who could start tonight? Hard to guess given the above and that we will be playing (lowely) Portsmouth on Monday, but I will have a try anyway.

Predicted (and desired) Line-Up

Key questions are:

  1. Is Saka fit enough to play? With Kola out and Tierney not ready yet, we may struggle to fill this position. Maybe Bellerin can play LFB tonight?
  2. Will Arteta break up the flowering Luiz-Mus partnership? Don’t think so.
  3. On the right we could see Big Sok starting again. We need him to whisper Greek obsenities into our opponents ears…
  4. Does Arteta select Xhaka again? I think so.
  5. Who will he play next to Xhaka? Probably Curly Guendo, but maybe he feels he needs to give Torro a start again. I hope the latter is the case.
  6. Willock or Ozil in the hole? Gut feeling is it will be Joe. Big game for him if he gets selected.
  7. Is Nelson ready to shine? I feel he is but Pepe is starting to break through and Arteta will want to continue his progress…
  8. Auba is a likely starter, given his form and captaincy.
  9. Up-top it could be either Eddie, Laca or Marti. I feel Laca will get the nod, given that he was also part of the press conference, but Marti is keen is to shine again too. Must be Laca.

By TotalArsenal

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On The Move: Six Differences Arteta has Brought to the Home of Football

Arteta’s early impact is starting to make a difference and what fun it is to take part in this journey. Where will it lead this season, and then beyond August? Nobody knows but we are on the move, and there is a lot of earthly happiness in the sensation of moving forward again.

See the source image

Here are my six early Arteta-reign observations:

  1. There is balance in our game again: no longer a shooting range for opposition but we are mostly in control now. Cleans sheets. Like in those eighties washing powder adverts in which a massive white sheet was lifted in the air by a helicopter, we now know what they look like again. Our game v Everton saw us slip back a bit but this is probably due to fatigue and having to overcome the setback of that first minute, freakish Toffees’ opener that should have been ruled out for dangerous play. We are no longer sitting back and absorb pressure (badly) to then pounce on the break… we want to make play in the opposition’s half… hallelujah!
  2. Playing the ball out from the back is so much better now. We are calm, have players using the available space very effectively and pass much better to each other. This can be further improved, and when facing a strong midfield, as we did v Everton, we still can be a bit wobbly, but it is so much better than during the Emery mini-era. We do miss a target in attack for Leno and the CBs to aim their long balls at. I liked the way Arteta used Big Sok in Athens last week, but we need more from our attackers of whom none have the Giroudesque qualities of owning the air and laying off the ball so well once it has been won.
  3. Players who were low on confidence are now much more calm, focussed and confident. Mustafi, Luiz, Xhaka and Ozil have become major players again, and that is soooo important a ‘quality’ to have as a manager. Gone are the days when players are being substituted at half time or in front of the vying-for-blood home fans. This led to low confidence and decreasing form of those players. Luckily, Arteta has the modern man-management skills suitable for the Millennials: listen, encourage, set targets and boundaries and offer help to deal with technical and emotional issues. Be there for them and they will be there for you, is the simple but veracious mantra.
  4. Arteta manages expectations and does not put too much weight on (young) players’ shoulders. For example, Martinelli had a very good spell but Arteta did not exploit him and pile further on the very high expectations of him. He sees Marti as a work in progress and wants to gradually get him ready for first team football and that is very mature. Another example is Guendouzi… Overused by Emery, he is now being people-managed into a quality player over time.
  5. There is once again camaraderie and togetherness and there is fight in this team. The team have purpose and belief again and want to do well for each other: that is at least 50% of the job. Arteta is recreating the Wenger era atmosphere amongst the group of players and it is great to witness. Who did not love captain Auba’s, lively Leno’s and monster Mustafi’s never say die attitude for the entire game yesterday? Arteta connects with the fans and has made it a priority for the team to connect with the fans, and the starting point is that our players work for each other and the shirt…. yes victory through harmony.
  6. He brought in a few loan players rather than demanding loads of change/money: work with what you have got and see where it will get you. The squad is a good one, and I reckon that Arteta will only let a couple of the main players go, if any, and will only buy a couple this summer. A confident manager is capable of this and does not need the waving of check books to establish themselves. We have a fab squad with great talent coming through and Arteta knows he is lucky with this (and he will ignore those fans that want a clear out this summer). A lot of money was spent on this squad and we finally have a manager who will get the best out of it.

Arsenal together

By TotalArsenal.

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Arsenal Player Ratings: Not 1 nor 2 but 3 MOTM, Right Wing Weakest

Arteta’s Arsenal 3 – 2 Ancelotti’s Everton

A very hard fought for win and three very precious points at the end of a week of three games in which we were victorious – two at the home of football and one at the home of ancient sports – is leaving us feeling upbeat and proud to be a Gooner. This was anything but straightforward, and we rode our luck at times, but a combination of excellent finishing, stout defending and team spirit got us to the end.

More game-analyses will follow but here are my player ratings:

Leno: 8.5 MOTM  – At fault for the second goal but a very powerful performance in the second half with top-notch saves. Mistakes are human and the best make them, but to get over it so quicky and then put in that performance show us all what a great goalie we have.

Kola/Saka: 6/6 – Kola did not have a great start of the game and then he got injured. Saka needed a rest, so much was clear when he had to come on for the injured Kola, but he put in a shift. Defensively the 18 year old made a few poor decisions, but he was very important once again by producing an absolute peach of a cross for his mate Eddie.

Luiz: 7 – at fault for the first Toffees’ goal but recovered well after that. The whole defence struggled with having a grip on the game and both in the air and on the groud we were vulnerable. Luiz did not get the best full back support today and the midfield was less solid as well, but he did well to guide us to victory.

Mustafi: 8.5 MOTM – massive presence in defence with a large number of clearances and interceptions, also good involvement in our forward passing, out from defence. Not sure about the hair, though. 🙂

Bellerin: 5 – Hector is still finding his feet and offered little in attack today. I also found him wanting in defence. Big fan but he needs to up his game, especially after being rested on Thursday.

Xhaka: 8 – How many passes did he make today? It makes you wonder why some still doubt him – three games in a row; the first on the team sheet for every manager. He did not get the much needed support in midfield today, but he compensated for this all by himself. Always tried to aid the attack from deep, and support the defence as much as possible.

Ceballos: 5.5 – Like his fellow Emery-chosen-one Guendouzi, Ceballos likes to aid the attack and offer tonnes of positive energy, but positionally he is limited and he does not form a shield enough with his fellow deeper midfielder (Xhaka). As a result, our defence was exposed, especially on our right side and it could have cost us dearly.

Ozil: 6.5 – quite isolated in a strong Everton midfield, but came for the ball a lot and moved our game forward whenever he could do so.

Pepe: 6 – good assist for the goal but often isolated in attack and not did not offer enough support in defence, hence leaving Bellerin exposed. We need to see more ‘presence’ from him on the pitch: more physicality, more energy, more thrust, more balls.

Eddie: 6.5 – took his goal well: made the right run and did not fluff his opportunity. His back-to-the-goal footie remains a work in progress, and his involvement in the game was often inconsequential. But he scored and that goes a long way for a young CF.

Auba: 8.5 MOTM – a powerful and passionate performance. Scored two fine goals and worked his socks off to support the below-par Saka right till the end. Pepe needs to learn from Auba.. and fast. PEA is not just a cheque collector: he has intrinsic motivation to do well for the fans, the manager and his team mates and I love him.

By TotalArsenal


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Arsenal v Everton Preview/ Line-up: Young Dog Arteta Faces Up to Wiley Fox Ancelotti

Arsenal v Everton – February 23, 2020

This is part of an article by David Hughes published by the Liverpool Echo.

There’s been a lot to like about Everton since the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti in late December. Since the Italian joined the club, the Blues have picked up the second-highest number of Premier League points and have closed the gap on the top five to just four points. This is significant given Manchester City’s two-year ban from all UEFA competitions for breaching FFP regulations, as this season’s fifth-placed team will likely secure a spot in next season’s Champions League.

Whilst there have been only slight adjustments at this stage by Ancelotti, they have still had a significant impact on various areas of Everton’s game – most notably perhaps their improvement in attack. There has been a stark increase in attacking threat in the seven weeks since Ancelotti’s arrival when compared to the same period before he joined the club. Under the Italian, the Toffees are scoring notably more goals on average per game. They are also attempting a higher number of shots per match too. These attempts are clearly of a much higher quality than before, which is highlighted by the boost in both.

These things are not always easy to quantify in numbers and can quite often be down to a multitude of factors such as tactical changes, improving confidence and form of players.

However, one facet does stand out when considering comments made by Ancelotti early on into his tenure as the Everton boss.

“At this moment we are not playing vertical, we are playing a lot of balls back, instead of playing forward – that is how we can improve. We can play more vertically” said the Italian after Everton’s 1-1 draw with West Ham in early January.

“We want to build up but when you have the possibility to play forward you must play forward quickly. If you are slow at the back you have less possibility to find space in the opponent’s half and that is something we have to improve.”

In light of the above, it’s worth noting Everton have increased their vertical passing from an average of 88.11 passes per game to a much higher 144.13 passes per game. This indicates we are seeing Everton move the ball from back to front much quicker, therein exploiting more spaces in the opposition set up and creating more high-quality goal-scoring chances. The beneficiaries of this improvement have been Everton’s two key forwards, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin who have scored nine goals between them across Ancelotti’s eight league games in charge.

Now, thanks to these subtle adjustments made by Ancelotti, Everton look to be firing on all cylinders and are lining up a grandstand finish in the race for Champions League football next season.

Frankly that sounds just like the problem Arsenal had under Unai Emery.

Emery Rain

Arsenal has owned Everton in our Premier League home games, they have only beaten us once in twenty-seven games and that was back on January 20th, 1996. We have won the last five consecutive games and have outscored them fourteen to three.

This will be an interesting game from the managers point of view as both were hired just prior to the way game against Everton on December 19th, 2019 which ended in a 0-0 stalemate. Ancelotti has a record of W5, D3, L2, and Arteta’s record is W4, D6, L1 – so both managers appear to have stabilized their respective ships.

Arsenal v Everton – EPL Home Results
# Date W D L GF GA GD
1 24-Oct-92 1     2 0 2
2 28-Aug-93 1     2 0 2
3 14-Jan-95   1   1 1 0
4 20-Jan-96     1 1 2 -1
5 19-Jan-97 1     3 1 2
6 03-May-98 1     4 0 4
7 08-Nov-98 1     1 0 1
8 16-Oct-99 1     4 1 3
9 21-Apr-01 1     4 1 3
10 11-May-02 1     4 3 1
11 23-Mar-03 1     2 1 1
12 16-Aug-03 1     2 1 1
13 11-May-05 1     7 0 7
14 19-Sep-05 1     2 0 2
15 28-Oct-06   1   1 1 0
16 04-May-08 1     1 0 1
17 18-Oct-08 1     3 1 2
18 09-Jan-10   1   2 2 0
19 01-Feb-11 1     2 1 1
20 10-Dec-11 1     1 0 1
21 16-Apr-13   1   0 0 0
22 08-Dec-13   1   1 1 0
23 01-Mar-15 1     2 0 2
24 24-Oct-15 1     2 1 1
25 21-May-17 1     3 1 2
26 03-Feb-18 1     5 1 4
27 23-Sep-18 1     2 0 2
28 23-Feb-20            
Totals: 21 5 1 64 20 44


Arsenal v Everton – All Home Results
Division 1 44 11 15 132 77 55
Premier 21 5 1 64 20 44
Total 65 16 16 196 97 99

Overall we have dominated Everton in our home games and have outscored them by almost one hundred goals.


TA’s Predicted Line-Up:


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