Arteta’s Two Big Challenges: the OPAL Boys and Finding the New Arteta. John Stones Would Help.

We are far from sexy, winning football but Arteta’s red light is starting to lure me in and get me excited alright. Our game v Palace was hard on the eye for most of the time but still there were clear signs of good things to come. 

Aubameyang finished off a beautiful ‘Wilsheresque’ team goal and for a moment we thought we had ‘Our Arsenal’ back, all sexy and decisive. But then we sat back on that slender lead too much, whereas the Arsenal of old would have pushed hard to get the next goal, and the next goal. This will come. Seasonal fatigue and a lack of strong midfield options played a big part. Arteta will sort it but Birmingham and London were not build on the same day so to say.

It is clear that the team’s driving force needs to come from midfield, and I am relieved that Arteta has been reenergising this area by believing in the Xhaka-Torreira partnership and allowing Mesut to be our free and creative soul once more.

So simple, but Emery did never buy into this duo/trio and it cost him his job imo. The problem is that we have no decent back-up for any of these three as yet, and as soon as one or two of them are not able to play (anymore) we lose our shape and intensity significantly. Torreira’s injury was felt instantly, and it probably cost us two juicy points in the end.

Yet it could have been worse when Auba was sent off for an uncharacteristic bad foul and the team had to see the game out with ten men. The ten stood strong and at least a point was taken north of the mighty Thames. This is also something Arteta is establishing in the team: resilience and team work.

Mikel will have to work on our depth in midfield and this will take time. Ceballos, ESR, Guendouzi, AMN and Willock all have potential and who knows how quickly our manager can get them to become proper alternatives to the TXO midfield trio?! I am still hoping for the one buy this January we need to make: a midfielder who can play in either Torreira or Xhaka’s positions without needing to play each and every game.

Arteta needs to find…. an Arteta, just the way Arsene found him nine years ago. A 29-30 year old PL player who would love to come to Arsenal and give their all, yet does not expect to play in each and every game. For me that would be Francis Coquelin but there are alternatives I would be happy with too (see also previous post re this).

The midfield is Arteta’s main area of concern, but he also needs to fix our effectiveness in attack. I am not too worried about our defence: the way we kept the Red Mancs away from our goal told me that we are defending much better as a team now, and then all of a sudden our defenders look like quality players.

The arrival of John Stones would of course be helpful, especially now that Mustafi really seems out of favour, even with Arteta. Stones’ inclusion could free-up Luiz to come and play in midfield and that would add depth to that key area instantly. Luiz could stand in for either Torreira or Xhaka and not weaken the team doing so. Stones is a good passer of the ball and would fit well into Arteta’s philosophy of playing out from the back, so I can see some value in getting him on loan till the end of the season (and maybe longer).

But it is Arsenal’s approach to our attacking game that needs working on: our OPAL lacks shimmer.

OPAL – a gemstone consisting of a form of hydrated silica, typically semi-transparent and showing many small points of shifting colour against a pale or dark ground – is not clicking as yet. Ozil, Pepe, Auba and Laca are working hard on and off the pitch to become the Gem they hold between them but they seldom sparkle and shimmer to their combined potential.  This African-European foursome should be awesome but somehow it is not clicking as yet and this is THE big, big challenge for the management team.

We can tell Arteta likes the young, versatile gems of Nelson, Saka and Martinelli and their future is certainly bright at Arsenal, but getting much more out of the experienced (and expensive) OPAL chaps will be his highest priority for the remainder of the season. 29 goals as a team total in 22 PL games is well below what we need, so lots of training is required to get the OPALs to start beating up the net properly. If he gets this right, boy will be become a team to reckon with!

A work in progress no doubt but there is every reason to remain positive: the future is red and white!

See the source image

By TotalArsenal

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Crystal Palace-Arsenal. I’m In the Dark, (Part II). Show Me the Way… PALS

Up Front, Xhaka, LT behind Ozil in Midfield and the rest pretty much pick themselves.  Is Arteta putting out his best 11 to do the job at Palace?

What do you think?

Here are the line-ups…

Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Papastathopoulos, Luiz, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Subs: Holding, Nelson, Martinez, Willock, Guendouzi, Martinelli, Saka.

Crystal Palace: Guaita, Kelly, Tomkins, Cahill, Riedewald, Meyer, McCarthy, Kouyate, McArthur, Zaha, Ayew.
Subs: Dann, Hennessey, Tosun, Wickham, Woods, Kirby, Pierrick.

We’re a point behind Palace, so this is a real opportunity… COYGs and all that…

As I wrote in the previous thread, I’ve got no coverage for this match so I’ll be counting on my colleagues to describe the action for me.  Help a fellow out, eh…

Go on then…

by17highburyterrace

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In The Dark (Ages–Under Emery). Is Arteta Leading Arsenal Back Into the Light?

It Sure Seems That Way…

…But, in fact, I’m a bit in the dark myself, having yet to actually watch a match with Arteta as our coach…

(Obviously…) This is 17highburyterrace writing today (this morning actually, before sunrise, from Mexico, so, literally, I AM in the dark)…

Can anybody help me out?  I know we have our next match tomorrow and I’m going to try and get myself in front of a screen but it may (or may not) work out and I may have to just “follow” the match via narrative reports–ideally from some comment writers here (for sure, I’ll put up a new live-blog post) and probably with the Arseblog Live-Blog notifying me about each move up and down the pitch and all the match “events” in its pithy way.  I also usually put up the Guardian and their more neutral (and wordy) live-blog commentary which is a bit more for people also in front of a screen.

Anyhow, that’s the next post… And, in the last one, Total Arsenal (now on the road, so I’m trying to fill his big shoes…) put up some injury news (suggesting that Crystal Palace might be a bit of a soft target) along with a suggested starting 11 for the Ar-teta-senal.  That post got a few comments and there seems quite a bit of agreement that Mikel has found, if not his best 11, at least a solid group who might participate over the whole match, i.e., his best 14.  Competition for places is a good thing, but also having roles for (all, or at least almost all) the players means they know their responsibilities and that, in the end, it’s their contribution to the TEAM that really counts.

Maybe that’s the real change the new coach has brought.  It’s no longer individuals trying to impress the coach (Emery) by fulfilling the role of a particular chess piece in a new (and frankly, from my point of view, awful and anti-football, as they say) system, but players working together, even covering for each other, as part of a team dynamic, designed to bring in all the constituents, even us (lowly?…) fans, who live for results (of course) but also want a bit of entertainment.

Maybe?…

From my position (in the dark, only reading other folks comments and blogs and other assessments), I’m getting some good (no, VERY good) vibes about the way the new manager is handling things–and the way the players (and, of course, the fans) are responding.  Already, we’re getting used to winning (what a lovely thing that is, right?…) but there’s still an acknowledgement that it’s a work in progress and that we need to focus on the next step.  Poco a poco as they say in here in Mexico, especially when the better tools aren’t at hand and we’re mixing concrete with a shovel–or breaking it up with a sledge hammer.

If you’re still reading, I now have questions…

What do you think?  Are we coming out of the dark?  Is the Arteta effect real?  Are there actual (observable…) changes regarding the style of our football, or is it just better focus and application (or maybe even luck)?  What else, ideally tangible things you’ve seen, not just feelings or sensations, can you tell me about the new Arsenal?

That’s maybe the “mixing it with a shovel” question… Feel free to also take a sledge hammer to things you have seen that you don’t like…

The last match I saw was on 21 December at Everton, an extremely dour nil-nil draw that probably served all four coaches (interim guys, Freddie Ljundberg and that son of a Fergie fellow, plus new appointees, Arteta and Ancelotti, in the stands watching).  That was–literally–the darkest day of the year, but each day since brings a bit more daylight.  It’s pretty subtle down here in the tropics, but maybe way up in North London (latitude 52 degrees) it’s more obvious.  So, whaddayasay?  What are the biggest differences under Arteta (vs Emery or even Freddie)?  C’mon, don’t be shy… Help me out with your observations…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Crystal Palace v Arsenal Preview/ Strongest Line-up | Nelson or Pepe, Auba or Saka?

Crystal Palace v Arsenal – January 11, 2020

See the source image 

At the time of writing it appears that Crystal Palace is in the midst of a terrible injury crisis. Here is an article outlining the issues they are confronted with.

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Christian Benteke is in a race to be fit for Crystal Palace’s Premier League clash with Arsenal at Selhurst Park this weekend, having missed several weeks through injury

The Belgian striker has not featured for the Eagles since Christmas, with his last appearance for Roy Hodgson’s men coming in a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United on Saturday, December 21. The 29-year-old has played 16 times for the Eagles this season, with most of his appearances coming from the bench.

He is yet to score a goal for the Eagles in the 2019/20 campaign though, with Benteke’s last goal for Palace coming against Arsenal last April in a 3-2 win for Hodgson’s side at the Emirates Stadium.

But his return would be a boost for Hodgson to strengthen his forward options for the game, with Andros Townsend, Max Meyer and Jeffrey Schlupp among the current list of absentees for Palace.

Wilfried Zaha also missed the 1-0 defeat against Derby County in the FA Cup on Sunday, but he could return to face Arsenal, while Victor Camarasa is a doubt for the game against Arsenal, with Premier Injuries reporting that he has a calf strain.

The Eagles are also currently without Mamadou Sakho, Scott Dann, Patrick van Aanholt, Joel Ward and Jairo Riedewald, who are all sidelined through injury, while Luka Milivojevic is set to miss the game against the Gunners through suspension, after being sent off against Derby.

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Historically Arsenal has dominated Crystal Palace away from home.

Arsenal v Crystal Palace – Div 1 Away Games
W D L GF GA GD
1 01-Nov-69 1 5 1 4
2 13-Mar-71 1 2 0 2
3 11-Apr-72 1 2 2 0
4 21-Oct-72 1 3 2 1
5 10-Nov-79 1 0 1 -1
6 26-Dec-80 1 2 2 0
7 14-Apr-90 1 1 1 0
8 10-Nov-90 1 0 0 0
9 14-Sep-91 1 4 1 3
Total : 4 4 1 19 10 9

Overall we have only lost two games at Selhurst Park and with their list of injuries Arsenal are in a prime position to maintain that record. 

Arsenal v Crystal Palace – EPL Away Games
W D L GF GA GD
1 02-Nov-92 1 2 1 1
2 25-Feb-95 1 3 0 3
3 18-Oct-97 1 0 0 0
4 06-Nov-04 1 1 1 0
5 26-Oct-13 1 2 0 2
6 21-Feb-15 1 2 1 1
7 16-Aug-15 1 2 1 1
8 10-Apr-17 1 0 3 -3
9 28-Dec-17 1 3 2 1
10 28-Oct-18 1 2 2 0
11 11-Jan-20
Total : 6 3 1 17 11 6

  

Arsenal v Crystal Palace – ALL Away Games
W D L GF GA GD
Division 1 4 4 1 19 10 9
Premier 6 3 1 17 11 6
Total : 10 7 2 36 21 15

By GunnerN5

Predicted Line-up by TotalArsenal (players on the left likely to start; players on the right second option, depending on fitness of players on the left): 

This is probably the strongest line-up for Arsenal given the fitness issues of our full backs, and I reckon this is close to Arteta’s blueprint for Arsenal. Nelson will keep putting pressure on Pepe (I prefer Reiss actually) and Saka really is close to first team start in either the LB or LF positions. 

C  O  Y  R  R  G

 

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Arsenal v Leeds Player Ratings: A Sub is MOTM!

Arsenal 1 – 0 Leeds United: We got away with this one, but the second half was full of promise of Arteta’s management style, and that alone is reason to celebrate.

Leeds started very well and we were just not able to deal with their energy and determination to win every ball. The combination of high confidence, a big away crowd behind them and nothing to lose attitude, really made Leeds play and we struggled during the first half. Arsenal were rusty and unorganised, did not play compact and with high intensity; it was as if Emery had instructed the team rather than Arteta.

Leeds created good opportunities in the first half but Martinez and Super Sok were not budging and we somehow kept a clean sheet during that very one-sided first half.

Arteta was not happy and apparently had a good shout at the players at half time. I reckon he also gave them a Paddington Stare in the process…

See the source image

During the second half Arteta turned the game round by ‘simply’ instructing the players to push up higher, play with more compactness and intensity and not allow Leeds to breath and pass the ball round with ease. And this time the players obliged!

We were still making mistakes – especially Holding was rusty and Xhaka and Guendouzi were also less clinical in their passing – but we corrected those mistakes as a team in an instant and Leeds seldom came anywhere near our box.

In the end we needed just one goal to win it and it was an ugly and lucky one to boot, but Nelson will not care about this one iota! 

Player Ratings:

Martinez: 7 – was calm and collected, made all saves expected of him.

Kolasinac: 6.5 – struggled in the first half and better in second half. If we don’t play compact, Kola’s defending is below par. But tried hard to support attack.

Luiz: 6.5 – tried hard to get his team going in the first half but, as per Kola, struggled with all that space in front and around him.

Super Sok: 7.5 – took the fight to Leeds and bullied back. Some vital interceptions as well – not a pure RB but did well relatively.

Holding: 5 – rusty when linking up with fellow players and poor passing out of the ball but decent in the air. Really important for him to play a whole game again.

Xhaka and Guendouzi: 6 – this pairing does not work, but it got better when we pushed up in the second half. Torreira was badly missed, though…. obviously. Passing was below par and so was protection of the back four.

Ozil: 6.5 – not his best game but was also much better in second half when the team was set up to his strengths, with quicker football and more close passing options for him.

Nelson: 7 – not as effective on the left flank and struggled with the physicality of the Leeds defenders, but helped out in defence well and got the all important goal (extra point for that).

Pepe: 6.5 – lacked energy and confidence and was a bad outlet for the defenders, especially in the first half. But he made a good move in the second half that led to the goal (extra half point for that).

Lacazette: 7 – worked hard and took the fight to the Leeds defenders all game long. Extra half point for his involvement in the goal. Would like to see more moments of calm in the storm of his play – needs to pace himself as a CF, but he is getting better and the goals soon will come again.

Subs worth mentioning:

Martinelli: 7.5 – MOTM – did not do a thing wrong but really took the fight to Leeds from the moment he was on the pitch and relieved the pressure on the team. He is young and talented and his composure in the middle of the fight is so impressive. Played vital part in seeing the game out.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Arteta to Opt for Strongest Line-Up: Arsenal v Leeds United

Having done a predicted line-up for today’s game in the last post, I now believe Arteta will do it differently, based on discussion on the blog.

Arsenal together

The team had five days rest and will have five days of rest after this game (as AB pointed out in the last post); Arteta will love to build on the performance against OGS’ finest and tweak a few things in the process; momentum is key and a win, or indeed a loss, will have a big impact; and finally, he does not know his ‘second team players’ well enough to  take big risks. In the end, we are the Kings of the FA Cup and would love to win it once more.

So I predict, Arteta will put up a very strong team for the entire football nation to watch (it’s live on BBC):

Big Sok only played once since Christmas, so surely he will be used for his experience and to build further on his fine performance against the odious Mancs (tautology intended). I just think Luiz needs to play again but maybe Holding gets a chance to shake off 2019’s rust and frustration. Saka… who else? A start for Bellerin next to solid Sok seems a possibility, but maybe Mikel prefers in-from AMN to boss the area?!

Midfield.. Xhaka a must and also he only played once since Christmas, so no brainer to me. Who next to him? Ideally, Torreira, but he needs a break, surely? It would be good to give AMN the position, and I feel this may well happen.

Up-front anything is possible but I reckon Arteta will want his experienced players to find their deadly shooting boots again. If Marti is fit we will see him start.

So that is my predicted-11, but is it yours too?

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 54 Comments

Arsenal v Leeds Preview and Line-up: Xhaka/Willock DM-pivot, Pepe CF, 3 Youths Behind Him

Arsenal v Leeds United – January 06, 2020

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Leeds United’s predecessor team, Leeds City, was formed in 1904 and elected to League membership in 1905. At first they found it hard to draw big crowds to Elland Road but their fortunes improved following Herbert Chapman’s arrival. In 1914 Chapman declared; “This city is built to support top-flight football”, but Leeds City were forcibly disbanded and forced to sell off all their players by The Football League in 1919 in response to allegations of illegal payments to players during the First World War.

In 1919, Leeds United was formed and they received an invitation to enter the Midland League, being voted into it on 31 October, taking the place vacated by Leeds City Reserves. Following Leeds City’s disbanding, Yorkshire Amateurs bought their stadium Elland Road. Yorkshire Amateurs offered to make way for the new team under the management of former player Dick Ray. The chairman of Huddersfield Town, Hilton Crowther loaned Leeds United £35,000, to be repaid when Leeds United won promotion to Division One.

Let’s take a look back at our FA Cup history against Leeds United. 

March 04, 1950

As a reward for their Fifth Round triumph, Leeds United drew the plum sixth-round tie at Highbury against the mighty Arsenal. The clamour for tickets was unprecedented and an estimated 150 coaches made the trip from West Yorkshire to roar on their heroes.

Leeds, who had one of the worst FA Cup records of any club in the Football League, were up against Arsenal with a fine FA Cup record who sat in fourth position in the First Division compared to Leeds Second Division status. Underdogs Leeds took the Highbury stage by storm, showing no nerves and matching Arsenal stride for stride in a pulsating tie. There was a nasty clash of heads early in the game as Len Browning and Leslie Compton vied for a high ball. It resulted in Compton having to leave the field for ten minutes and have two stitches inserted into his head wound and he bravely played the rest of the game with a blood soaked sponge in his hand. Leeds was unable to take advantage of their temporary numerical superiority as the aging Joe Mercer marshalled his international defence to perfection.

As the fascinating match reached half-time there was a high expectancy of at least a replay at Elland Road. However those hopes were sent crashing in the fifty-second minute as, when the decisive goal came, however, it was scored by Arsenal when Reg Lewis toe-poked in a cross after a brilliant run down the left-wing by Alex Forbes.

Arsenal held out and went on to win the Cup, going on to beat Chelsea in the Semi-Final 2-0 before defeating Liverpool by the same score at Wembley, leaving Leeds to reflect on what might have been. 

May 06, 1972 

FA Cup Final at Wembley 

The 1972 FA Cup Final took place on 6 May 1972 at Wembley Stadium. It was the centenary final (although only the 91st final due to world wars) and the 44th to be played at Wembley.

It was contested between cup holders Arsenal, who had won the Football League and the FA Cup the previous season, and Leeds United, who had won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and finished 2nd in the league the previous season. They had never won the trophy before.

Arsenal planned to make it the third decade for a club to return as Cup-holders and win again for the second successive year, as Newcastle United had done in 1952 and Tottenham Hotspur in 1962. 

The Leeds duo Mick Jones and Allan ‘Sniffer’ Clarke combined to produce a goal in the fifty-third minute. Jones sent across a hard, shoulder-high centre and Clarke headed powerfully past Arsenal keeper Geoff Barnett’s left hand from fifteen yards.

A match that often fell below the highest level began badly with a foul by Clarke on Alan Ball in the first five seconds and the first of four bookings — Bob McNab bringing down Peter Lorimer as early as the second minute. Neither side played consistently up to their capabilities, yet both had their moments. Charlie George’s fierce volley cannoned back off the bar for Arsenal, and both Clarke and Lorimer struck the woodwork for Leeds.

Leeds’ jubilation at the end was tempered by a last-minute injury to Mick Jones, who dislocated his elbow and had to be helped up the steps by Norman Hunter to receive his winners’ medal.

February 02, 1983 

After a 1-1 draw at Highbury followed by another 1-1 draw at Elland Road the teams returned to Highbury where goals from Woodcock and Rix gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory. 

February 16, 1991 

Following three draws, two 0-0 games at Highbury and 1-1 at Elland Road, Arsenal finally won this round at the fourth attempt with a 2-1 victory at Elland Road on goals by Dixon and Merson.

February 03, 1993 

The Arsenal/ Leeds fascination with FA Cup draws continued in 1993 when they drew 2-2 at Highbury on January 25, 1993. Arsenal prevailed with a 3-2 win at Elland Road with goals from Wright (2) and Smith.

February 04, 1997 

Arsenal lost 0-1 at Highbury.

January 04, 2004

This proved to be Arsenal’s biggest FA Cup victory against Leeds when goals from Henry, Edu, Toure and Pires gave us a 4-1 win. (Just writing those names stirs up some great memories) 

January 19, 2011

After yet another draw at Highbury Arsenal scored a 3-1 victory at Elland Road with goals from Sagna, Nasri and van Persie (Those names also create a stir – but of a different kind) 

January 09. 2012 

I don’t think that there could be an Arsenal fan anywhere in the whole wide world that will not be stirred by reliving memories of this game.

Arsene Wenger says Thierry Henry has added to his legendary status at Arsenal with his late winner in the FA Cup tie against Leeds United.

The 34-year-old – back on a two-month loan deal from New York Red Bulls after leaving Arsenal for Barcelona in 2007 – scored 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute to give Arsenal a 1-0 victory and a place in the fourth round against Aston Villa.

Commentary – Thierry Henry scores on Arsenal return

Henry showed his class with a composed 78th-minute strike and the Gunners manager said: “He was already a legend here but he added just a little bit more to the whole story with that goal.

“It was a little bit like a dream. It was a story you would tell young kids if you want to tell them a story about football.

“Unfortunately it doesn’t often happen like that in our game, but it did tonight.”

Henry, who scored his 227th goal for Arsenal, has signed for an initial six-and-a-half-week period which can be extended to eight weeks – but Wenger said no plans had yet been made to extend the stay.

Phil McNulty’s verdict

Here Henry was, 12 minutes from the end of a dour, attritional FA Cup third-round tie with Leeds, ruler of all he surveyed once more with a glorious reminder of what made him arguably the Premier League’s finest player.

“Thierry has seen it all and done it all,” said Wenger. “You could see straight away when he came on he was a presence and that if we could find him he would be dangerous. He is sharp physically.

“In training I have seen that he was sharp and ready to play. With what he has done here, I wouldn’t have put him on the pitch if was not ready.

“That would not have been fair but he is a special player and what is good for the club and the young players is that he is a guy who has done it all but still prepares 100%, is motivated and comes with an immense desire to do well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bNBN9XlTK0

 

Arsenal V Leeds All Time FA Cup Results
    W D L GF GA Goal Scorers
04-Mar-50 H 1     1 0 Lewis
06-May-72 H     1 0 1 FA Cup Final
29-Jan-83 H   1   1 1 Sunderland
02-Feb-83 A   1   1 1 Rix
09-Feb-83 H 1     2 1 Woodcock, Rix
27-Jan-91 H   1   0 0  
30-Jan-91 A   1   1 1 Limper
13-Feb-91 H   1   0 0  
16-Feb-91 A 1     2 1 Dixon, Merson
25-Jan-93 H   1   2 2 Merson, Parlour
03-Feb-93 A 1     3 2 Wright 2, Smith
04-Feb-97 H     1 0 1  
04-Jan-04 A 1     4 1 Henry, Edu, Toure, Pires
08-Jan-11 H   1   1 1 Fabregas
19-Jan-11 A 1     3 1 Sagna, Nasri, van Persie
09-Jan-12 H 1     1 0 Henry
Total: 7 7 2 22 14  

 

GunnerN5

Possible Line-Up (by TotalArsenal):

We may see Guendouzi start instead of Xhaka but that would leave the midfield quite vulnerable, as experience in every department will still be required against high-flying Leeds. Are Holding and Bellerin fit to play? I feel they will be. Up-front, it would be good to see Pepe start in the middle and Nelson, ESR and Martinelli, the latter subject to fitness, start behind him.

 

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