Arsenal v Napoli Preview

Arsenal Fighting…

On Two Fronts?  Does Emery have the squad?  Napoli Preview.

Let me cut to the chase.  I don’t think he has the squad to do so, EVEN though ALL we are fighting for is a return (promotion?) back to Champions League Football.  Under Arsene Wenger, such “ambitions” were ridiculed, but as a good Buddhist (like Wenger, maybe?…) might say, “Be Here, Now.”  Unfortunately, according to a recent interview given by the former manager, our new guy, Unai Emery hasn’t even called him.  To me, that’s a shame. Wenger, after all, signed a two year contract in 2017, his viewpoints might help inform the new guy or at least help the club through this big season of transition.

Arsene and Emery

But, maybe just as we have to take the games one at a time, Arsenal can only have one manager at a time and Emery has his own ideas–not to mention his own contract!  And, he HAS given us not one but TWO shots at promotion back to the top tier of European competition. 

Still, I wonder: Could the best outcome (for the new regime, or at least Emery on his own two year contract) be competing deep into the Spring (just as we are…) but just missing out?

A corollary set of questions might be: Are Arsenal ready for Champions League Football?  Are we actually a “top” team, able to legitimately compete for the “top” trophies?  Or are we (merely) a top half (of the Premier League Table) club, currently only able to compete for the “not a trophy” (qualification for CL football) that somehow lies between the two “league” titles (PL and CL) and the lesser (domestic) cups?  Sure, you can name the cups “leagues” but Europa was just a gal who slept with Zeus, and/or the smallest of the moons orbiting Jupiter.  (By the same logic, why don’t we call them the Football Association League or the Filipino Energy Drink League?…) 

Luckily, football fans live in the moment, meaning that those neat exits (at home vs. two of our traditional rivals) in those (pesky) domestic cups happened way back in the haze of the English winter.   Frankly, I think we were fortunate to falter in those matches and Emery did good work rotating his squad enough so that we could have an excuse (or three) as we took the off-ramp out of those competitions.  Wise work.  Better yet, we avenged those defeats with a win vs. Manchester United and a draw (that maybe felt almost like a win) in the National Stadium vs Totts.  And, that was in actual league play, so, it’s reasonable to feel that we’re in the mix with those (other top?) teams in (at least one of) the race(s) for CL positions…

Or are we?  

Losing to a scrambled goal from a Delap (Pulis)-esque throw at Everton rather derailed our momentum and maybe better shows where we really stand.

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Like the early season games, I found this most recent one just about unwatchable. Needing a goal, I have to ask, does this Arsenal team have a plan for getting them?  In my view, we simply are no longer an attacking team.  If we cannot lure opponents forward and play on the break I don’t see a plan B.  Where is the build-up work?  (At best, it’s passing it back to Bernd Leno, who frankly, kept the game tight when Everton should have put us away) and then maybe between the CBs and DMs for a bit before somebody tries a punt forward.  At least, compared to games in the early part of the season, there’s a bit more urgency, so a bit less of this meaningless possession. 

Call me an Arsen-achronist (if you must..) but I miss trying to push the possession forward (and the opponent back) combined with a bit of movement and creativity.  I know (I know…), a misplaced touch while executing such a plan is what leads to trouble the other way.  As such,  I’ve almost learned to feel excitement when we give the ball back to the opponent, hoping that they will show some of that “good football” but then maybe lose discipline as they stretch themselves into an attacking shape.  Then, if they make a mistake (maybe) we can capitalize.  A fast counter-attack, after all, if it’s your team doing it, (i.e., not chasing back) is about as good as it gets.

That’s about as positive as I can spin it.  More negatively, this Emery-ball feels all too close to what the Moo-dern game has become.  If Emery can’t get the job done (and we don’t give Arsene an extension…) maybe the next step is Jose and his special self.  The headline jumpers had Mourinho inked in for a 2nd stint at Real Madrid, so why not at our club?  (Zidane beat him to it, however, having left on MUCH better terms.)  What I think I might really enjoy is having Jose Mooing alongside AW in the commentary booth.  If football is ready for video replay, why not?   Instead (I’m Sarri to say…), we’re most likely to see him back at Chelsea.  (Personally, I’d take twenty Artetas and ten Henrys and even a pair of Ole Gunners at my club before any sort of special one…)  Let’s hope not and let’s hope that Arsenal have the “values” that Wenger always talked about.  Money-wise, he’s probably too special, anyway.  Kinda like Ramsey…or Ozil or Mkhi or some of the younger Gunners (Iwobi, Bellerin) who might seek greener pastures, you know where the teams win and where the creative, attacking football is still prized.  CL football is one thing, but so too is the way you play once you’re there, right?

Or maybe that’s for the neutrals (which perhaps I have become).  Maybe at this level it’s a results game, so, let’s get one vs Napoli.  And let’s have a bit of a preview.

Sorry, I got nothing.  I can predict an 11 (Cech, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Monreal, AMN, Torriera, Ramsey, Kolasinac, Ozil, Iwobi, Aubameyang) and suggest that we need to play hard (to keep that clean sheet) and worry about certain players and the opposing manager (little Insigne, big Carlo…), but, overall, we know that we don’t have too much in the way of flexibility as we try to compete (with a tiny bit of rotation) on the two fronts.  Personnel is limited, and, I fear, so too are our ideas.

The only thing that remains flexible is MY attitude.  Back to the CL could be fun but we are in no position, IN MY OPINION, to truly compete for that trophy, nor against the (two) top teams in our league.  IF I were a dreamer I’d say, hey, let’s win out and finish third in the PL AND hoist that Europa League trophy…and then let’s replace Ramsey with a former Spur or three (Modric, Bale, Eriksen, Dele… Hell, I’d even take Dier or Dembele or Son, etc., etc…) this summer.  Now THAT would be inspiring…

Back here in the real world, however, I guess we should keep trying in both comps until one or the other is gone and then try and ride the same 11 (or maybe 14 or 15) all the way to the barn.

That’s just one Glummer’s, er, Gunner’s, er, fella’s, opinion.  What say you, my (more positive) people?  Tell me about this match and/or about the bigger picture at our football club.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 51 Comments

Ramsey to Connect with OLA and Munch The Toffees: Preview | Line-Up

WHICH TURN WILL WE MAKE? THE CROSSROAD OF OUR SEASON/ EVERTON AWAY

It could be the most important game of our season, this away match against Everton. The form table says that in the last 6 premiership matches only City have collected more points than us (18 pts to our 16 pts) and only City have conceded fewer goals than us (1 goal to our 3). We are very much an in-form team but I must hasten to add that 4 of those 6 matches were home games in which we collected maximum points. We won one and drew the other (against the Spuds) in the two away matches. It could be argued that our present form has been unduly coloured by the home form which has been excellent all season. Or is there something else to suggest that we might have turned the corner as far as our away form is concerned?

The answer will be provided in the coming match against Everton. If we win it, it will be a big announcement that our form has become more than just home based and we might as well begin to celebrate our return to Champions League football. And me thinks we will win it.

In the 1st 10 games of the season we collected 22 pts. Not bad at all particularly for a team trying to come to grips with the philosophy and methods of a new coach. If truth be told, however, we had the rub of the green very much in many of those matches. Not that we cared.

In the 2nd 10 games of the season, with mother luck quite indifferent to proceedings, we gathered only mid-tablesque 16 pts.

In the 3rd 10 games, with our squad getting more and more at home with Emery’s tactics we again made 22 pts, and this time they were well earned.

We are now in the home stretch. Three points already in the bag, 7 games to go and, more than ever, Emery and his team seem to be on the same page. That is why I believe our current form is for real and why I think we will leavc Goodison Park with the 3 pts. But this is the premier league where you never count your chickens before they’re hatched.

Everton like to stretch the field. That suits Emery to fit in his best available players; Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles and Aubamayang our pace merchants, Lacazette and Ramsey sweat merchants, Ozil the creative genius and young Douzi full of precocious forward passes in place of doubtful Xhaka.

This front sextet have goals in them more so when they know that behind them is a defence, believe this, that has suddenly gone very mean. Our current player of the month, keeper Leno, was called to duty only once against the Benitez boys. Koscielny remains a doubt so expect the same back three that played against Newcastle to start.

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Everton have arguably the premier league’s best left back in Digne. They have the outstanding holding midfielder Gueye, the immaculate Sigurdsson and the prolific Richarlison – the latter two with 12 goals each. Thanks to Everton’s big club mentality as well as the expansive football philosophy of coach Marco Silva, this is a match the neutrals are going to enjoy. As for the non-neutrals, we should get ready for a nail biting encounter as play swings from end to end.

You already can guess my prediction of the starting eleven:-

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Leno~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~Mustafi~~~Sokratis~~Monreal~~~~

M-Miles~~Ramsey~~Douzi~~Kolasinac

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Ozil~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~Lacazette!!~Aubamayang!!~~~~

Bench: Cech, Lichsteiner, Elneny, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Suarez, Nketiah.

Currently we are 4th on the table with a game in hand. Finishing 3rd this season is still in our hands. We can’t let it go.

COYRRG!!!

By PE

Posted in Uncategorized | 37 Comments

Three Players MOTM: Arsenal v Barcodes Player Ratings

The so called easy games, the home ones against the ‘non-top-six’ teams, we are supposed to win; and this we did. Even though Arsenal were expected to win, this was never going to be an easy game. The Barcodes sat back and wanted to beat us on the counter or via set-pieces, but we never let them in due to us playing at a high tempo and with constant pressure on the ‘back nine’ of the opponent. It was a great strategy by Emery to keep the Magpies in their own half almost constantly, never give them time to settle and keep cracking the parked busses open with quick and incisive passing. Master Mesut and work horses Ramsey and Lacazette were all immense in setting the tempo and drive the magpies  crazy, and all deserve the MOTM reward.

Player Ratings:

  1. Leno: not much to do but focussed and dynamic with his ball distribution and he read the game well – 7;
  2. Monreal: wonderfully aggressive and solid with his passing and positioning – 7.5;
  3. Big Sok: calm leader with good aggression and positioning when required – 7.5;
  4. Mustafi: a bit frantic and slightly careless at times with a couple of poor passes, but he also had good levels of energy and aggression and this was vital for the system Emery wanted to play versus the Barcodes – 7 All three CBs put in a great shift.
  5. Kola: great aggression and forward runs. Some fine passes and crosses and decent defensive contributions. A bit more composure for the final ball and Kola will become a major force for us – 7.5
  6. Ainsley M-N: same as Kola –7.5. This boy is going to be great. Such composure and athleticism.
  7. Guendouzi: another boy with potential. He showed good aggression and energy and drove the ball forwards well, but his defensive positioning and protecting of the back three remains below par. A few good interceptions and quality passes though – 7
  8. Ramsey: big motor and good passing and good defensive work too. Fine goal – 8.5
  9. Ozil: strong focus on adding value to our attacking play (as always) and chief whip for the team. Some exquisite passes and a key outlet for our defenders and midfielders – 8.5
  10. Iwobi: took a while to get into the game but also showed great energy and desire to penetrate the parked busses. A bit unfortunate with his final balls and lacked composure at times: 6.5
  11. Laca: class act. Great goal which was a direct reward for his hard work. Should have had a second but the ref was determined to spare the Barcodes a spanking. Great work rate and constant bee in the defenders’ bonnet, but also has that bit of class and quality that makes the difference. I want to buy his shirt – 8.5

The Spuds are looking up and can see the red and white arses for the first time this season; long may it continue. Next up are the sweet Toffees. COYGs!

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Rambo, Xhaka and Mesut to Zip the Barcodes: Arsenal v Newcastle Preview

HAS IT ALL CRYSTALIZED FOR EMERY? TOP-4 BATTLE INTENSIFIES.
(PREVIEW ARS V NEWCASTLE).

Our last competitive match of a hectic schedule was on Thursday March 14th against Rennes. The inter-lull that followed afforded every member of our 1st team squad a change of environment excellent for refreshing the psyche. After such breaks, appetite for the “chores” won’t to be renewed, though invariably some cobwebs appear needing some dusting.

We were in a commanding form before the inter-lull. On their return to base, Emery’s immediate task would have been to get the boys quickly back to speed so as to keep riding the wave of the momentum as if there was never a break. I guess that wouldn’t require much from him beyond urging the boys in training to pass the ball quicker, to run faster and to jump higher. The goal: to reconnect them to their motor reflex memory.

Will he succeed? These boys are hungry. They know that every match from now on is a cup final and that there is no margin for error. Newcastle is an in-form team, managed by the experienced Rafa Benitez. Take them for granted and live to regret it.

Emery has done a lot of tinkering over the season and rightly so seeing that for him it is a new team and a new league. It now looks like it’s all crystallized for him. The team that waltzed through Rennes was the same team (cup keeper and Mustafi for suspended Sokratis apart) that spanked the top-form team, Man United. Is there any need changing a winning team? I don’t think so unless the changes are forced. But that is me. Emery likes responding to his analysis of opposing teams and what he comes up with might depend on what he thinks Benitez will do.

Benitez has been very pragmatic with his approach to games. He will come to the Emirate determined to deny Arsenal a goal. Expect the same 5:4:1 formation he has used against the bigger teams. With a draw, he has inched further away from relegation but Emery wouldn’t be in any mood to oblige him. Unai would respond by wanting to control the game and be patient with chances. That could make him revert to the 4:2:3:1 formation. If we score early the game would open up and that should add to our advantage. The Emirate finds its best voice when it is an open game.

Monreal and Ramsey, who were slight doubts, are back to full training. Though Xhaka was not in the injured list mentioned by our medical staff, he remains a doubt particularly as the recent team pictures did not capture him in training. My gut feeling is that he will be starting.

Predicted line up:-

~~~~~~~~~~~Leno~~~~~~~~~~~~

Niles–Sokratis~~Koscielny–Monreal.

~~~~Ramsey~~~~~Xhaka~~~~~

~~~Mk’ryan~~Ozil~~~Iwobi~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~Lacazette~~~~~~~~

Bench:- Cech, Mustafi, Lichsteiner, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Suarez, Aubamayang

With the Spurs losing, Man U and Chelsea sneaking their wins this weekend only 1pt now separates the four teams jostling for the remaining two Champions League spot, though Arsenal have this Newcastle match in hand. Nothing could be tighter. We dare not lose this one, not when it is at home. Let us suck to death the morale of the visitors with 90 minutes of full support for our team.

COYRRG!!!

By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Bad News for Arsenal

Top Four is going to be an uphill struggle..

Arsenal have three remaining home matches against Newcastle, Palace and Brighton. With the 3rd best home form in the league behind City and Liverpool, these are winnable games. However, Arsenal’s away form has been poor, and of the eight remaining matches five are away from home, against a strong field of Everton, Watford, Wolves, Leicester and Burnley.

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Arsenal’s average pts per game at home (pts/g@H) reduced to one decimal point is 2.6 pts and the average pts per game away (pts/g@A) is a lowly 1.4 pts.

Comparing Arsenal’s pts/g@H of 2.6 pts with the average pts/g@A of the away teams that they have to face gives:-
Arse v N’Castle — @ 2.6 > 0.9 statistically an Arsenal win 3 pts.
Arse v Palace —- @ 2.6 > 1.3 …………….. ditto ……………. 3 pts.
Arse v Brighton — @ 2.6 > 0.7 …………….. ditto ……………. 3 pts.

Similarly Arsenal’s away matches gives:-
Everton v Arse — @ 1.6 > 1.4 statistically an Arsenal loss 0 pts.
Watford v Arse — @ 1.6 > 1.4 …………….. ditto …………….. 0 pts.
Wolves v Arse — @ 1.6 > 1.4 ……………… ditto …………….. 0 pts.
L’cester v Arse — @ 1.3 < 1.4 statistically an Arsenal win  3 pts.
Burnley v Arse — @ 1.3 < 1.4 ……………… ditto ……………. 3 pts.

Therefore, for the remaining eight games Arsenal is statistically expected to add another nine pts from the home games and six pts from their away games. Add these to their current standing at 60 pts and they finish the season at 75 pts.

Applying exactly the same model with their top four competitors, their final season placing jumps out as:-
3rd —– Man United — 80 pts …… (5 home, 3 away games left).
4th —– Tottenham —– 79 pts …… (5 home, 3 away games left).
5/6th — Arsenal ——– 75 pts …… (3 home, 5 away games left).
5/6th — Chelsea ——- 75 pts …… (4 home, 4 away games left).

This, let’s not forget, is merely a statistical picture which says that Arsenal have an up hill task making it into the top four because of their poor away form. Their form away from home must improve. The huge disparity between the teams’ home and away forms last season continuing somewhat into this season defies simple analysis. Is it about tactics? Is it about cojones?

It’s been proven that it is a myth that red colour excites bulls as bulls don’t see colour. They would just as equally charge at a white cloth or any with those dull Arsenal away colours. I am not sure I can say the same of the Arsenal players. Red and it seems red only makes them bullish. If you ask me, whenever it’s possible in our away matches the team should don our red home jersey. No superstition here just plain psychology. I am that desperate. Aren’t you?

Tactics wise I feel Emery might have hit the right chord just in time. I like the 3-man central defence of Sokratis, Koscielny and Monreal with Leno behind. I like the industry of Ramsey from the double pivot role. Mainland-Niles has suddenly turned a matador and he is obviously enjoying it. Kola has been fully licensed for feeding the box with telling crosses and no one in the premier league does it better. Count on Lacazette’s positive energy home and away. This team has got stuff all over and they have readied themselves for a fight to the finish. They can be heard over and over again saying that champions league qualification is non negotiable in their thinking. Something tells me they’ll defy the stats and make it to the summit of this hill.

COYRG!!!

By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Emery Schemes: Two Outfield Changes to Run Riot on Rennes | Preview/Line-Up

Laca xhaka
One would expect the Rennes coach to set up his team to defend their 3-1 first leg lead. But their strength is in their attack: pacey wingers plus the mercurial Ben Arter whose play demands so much attention. Their coach might weight it all up and decide that the best way to defend their lead is by attacking. What he does however would be non of his counterpart’s business. Emery has only one option. To go out and fetch goals..

Emery would be thinking of at least 3 goals. Yes 2 goals would do it if we don’t concede but that would be heart in the mouth. In spite of his clear mission Emery has to get his balance right, a balance that must be tilted offensively. Easier said than done as he still has to balance between goal scorers and goal creators. They need each other. Ramsey and Mkhitaryan look as likely starters. They are creators that carry some goal threat and at the same time able to work a shift defensively.

Emery would like to use the speed of Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac to pose a challenge to the speed Rennes have on the flanks and this might necessitate a back three of Mustafi, Koscielny and Monreal (Sokratis suspended).

The Arsenal man would be very tempted to play Leno. But would he? Lacazette whose ban was reduced to two matches is available for today’s game. Is it him or Auba or both of them? And what about Ozil with Emery so much keen on lots of chances being created? Balance, balance, balance …… damn it. Emery has only 11 places to fit in players.

Predicted line up:

———————–Cech——————

—–Mustafi. Koscielny. Monreal—-

M-Niles. Ramsey. Xhaka. Kolasinac.

———Mkhitaryan    Ozil—————

—————–Aubamayang————

Bench: Leno, Lichsteiner, Torreira, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Suarez, Lacazette.

Emery knows the worth of smuggling the 12th man into the team. Let’s do it for him.

COYRG!!!

By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 111 Comments

How Emery will Outwit Solskjaer: Ramsey Crucial. Line-Up|Preview

mesut-ozil-unai-emery-aaron-ramsey-arsenal-gfx_1fe7nqjsqqaay1087jnx10o5im
This week could define our season with regards to Champions League football. It starts today with the match at home against the in-form Manchester United. We were unlucky to have been pegged back to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture but at the Emirate in the FA cup tie, despite dominating them in possession and territory, they beat us by 3-1. I expect that they would be trusting on the same tactics of sitting deep and countering to do the job for them again. They have devastating pace in the persons of Lukaku, Rashford and Martial, their front three. A high line by our defence would be us inviting trouble. For that reason Emery might choose not to press too high in order not to oblige their attack with so much space to run into as high press goes with high defensive line.  Such a tweak from Emery would set the stage for the battle to be won and lost on the flanks. Still, don’t rule out somebody pulling a rabbit out of the hat.

We haven’t been able to find the effective replacement for injured Bellerin in our right flank. Not Lichsteiner. Mustafi is a good winner of the ball but a poor quick-passer whose overlapping runs and crosses as a wingback aren’t of the finest quality. If only Maitland-Niles can resolve to employ fully and proactively his great athleticism, Bellerin wouldn’t be missed all that much. I expect his great promises to get him a start today. I also expect rested Kolasinac (our flanking tank) to also start which would suggest that Emery is likely to opt for a back-3.

When would Man United’s run of six EPL consecutive away wins (10 in all competitions) come to an end? No better day than today in a loss at the home of football. We have been neck to neck with them and Chelsea for the last Champions League spot. It is a fierce race that has already sucked in the Spuds who bottled it against Southampton yesterday. It is now four teams for two CL spots and there is no gainsaying it, the more the merrier. Lacazette is rested and roaring to go. Ramsey is crucial as a midfielder who offers a late body in the opponent’s box. The Greek god Sokratis would be available. Torreira is starting a three-match suspension. Mkhi could do with a little rest by joining the fray from a strong bench.

Predicted line up with 6 changes made:-

~~~~~~~~~~~Leno~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~Sokratis. Koscielny. Monreal.~~

M-Niles. Xhaka.  Guendouzi. Kolasinac.

~~~Ramsey.  Lacazette.  Iwobi.~~~

Bench:  Cech, Mustafi, Elneny, Suarez, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubamayang.

From now to the end of the season every of our match is a cup final. How much our team can cope with that pressure would prove critical to our fortune which surely would have a bearing on how much voice our fans are able to give to the team particularly when at home …..

COYRRG!!!

By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 52 Comments