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Arsenal Face Future Of Mid-Table Mediocrity

After falling to defeat in the North London derby and news that Manchester City escaped serious punishment for violations of UEFA’s fair play rules, the Arseblagger is depressed about the future of Arsenal and the Premier League. He is convinced the Gunners will descend to mid-table mediocrity. Tune-in to this podcast.

We welcome your feedback and comments to this critical issue.

98 Comments

A Trip To The Chicken Farm.

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It’s North London derby day with Arsenal making the short trip up Seven Sisters to play Tottenham Hotspur; both sides will hope to boost their chances of a top-six finish in the Premier League standings.
When these teams met in the reverse fixture back in September, the Gunners came from two goals down to draw 2-2. Then Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino were in opposing dugouts, now both clubs are in a transition period under Mikel Arteta and José Mourinho respectively.
Good day one and all.
For all intents and purpose, the midweek result against Leicester City took us out of the running for Champions League football. But also, to be fair to Mikel it wasn’t really that result, nor the one at Brighton, our problems go a lot further back than that. He came in mid-season, with the team directionless, to do a repair job and emboss a playing style ahead of the new season.
From the table  below (updated to just before this game week) it can be seen that under Mikel we are doing as well as expected and disappointment at our current league position shouldn’t pause the feel-good factor that has returned to the Emirates Stadium.
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Be that as it may, the season is not lost yet. We can still salvage it by qualifying for next season’s Europa League.
After losing the initial two games following the restart, the Gunners show signs that they have found their rhythm since, winning three league games on the bounce without conceding, before the 1-1 draw against the Foxes having played with 10 men. Across all competitions we are currently on an unbeaten run of 5 games and will be keen to extend the current upturn in form.
Conversely, Spurs come into this game on the back of a 0-0 draw at relegation-threatened Bournemouth, without registering a single a shot on target.
They do have recent home wins against West Ham United and Everton, but also those are their only two victories in 11 matches stretching back to mid-February. It is this that has led to José Mourinho facing criticism for his approach to games.
That said, Mikel wouldn’t make the mistake to underestimate our bitter rivals. They got three clean sheets in their last four games, and if Mourinho can just find a way to get the most out of his attacking talent they can still recover their season.
Team news
Notable absentees for Spurs will be Eric Dier, who has been hit with a four-match ban for confronting a spectator. Also Dele Alli is reported to be ruled-out, having already missed the last two games.
For Arsenal there’s no new injuries from our last game, however, Eddie Nkeitah is suspended for three matches following a red card midweek.
Otherwise, Mikel is likely to go with a very similar starting XI from our previous game, with Nicolas Pépé having to wait a bit longer as Bukayo Saka impressed once again.
Prediction
Look, these two teams may have revised their aims regarding their expectations for this season but this is still the North London derby, so the usual flames that come with such a storied-rivalry shouldn’t be dampened.
Given the comments by the Gunners’ social media team following Spurs’ defeat at Sheffield United, this has the makings of being an intense, entertaining and very combative affair.
— @LaboGoon
51 Comments

Same Old Arsenal, Always Cheated?

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Good afternoon positive people.

Well that game left me with mixed emotions. I was happy that after 15 minutes we wrestled control of the game and dominated them for the remainder of the half. We seemed to attack at will and created many good chances. We could, and perhaps should, have been 2, 3 or even 4 up, come half time. They simply couldn’t live with Xhaka and Ceballos running the midfield, and Lacazette, Saka, Aubameyang terrorised them for a good spell.

However, that happiness is tempered with how we totally lost control in the second half, were dominated by possession, had Eddie sent off and ultimately were hanging on for a point.

We had the best half of football for ages, followed by one of the worst. And yes, the referee didn’t help, but we didn’t help ourselves either.

On balance I feel a point was fair, although disappointing too.

Top four has been a pipe dream all season, so perhaps now we can stop with the wishful thinking and enjoy the fight for a Europa place.

Pedantic George.

55 Comments

Arsenal vs Leicester City

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The football are coming thick and fast with Arsenal going again, this time hosting Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium in a Premier League clash.

The Gunners come into this match on the back of an impressive 2-0 victory at Wolves to continue their recent good run, whereas the Foxes made light work of Crystal Palace to finally get their first win in five games since the restart.

Good day one and all.

With the season now in the home stretch Arsenal have had a timely upturn in form, winning three straight league games without conceding a goal. Mikel Arteta is clearly happy with the defensive improvement, yet cautious:

“The more we improve here, the more solid we are, the more chances we are going to have to win football games.”

Also at the Emirates our form have always been exemplary. In our last six outings at home we kept four clean sheets to go with our still unbeaten league run since the turn of the year – taking 16 points from a possible 18.

Conversely, Leicester are without a win on their travels since New Year’s Day. It’s been a five-match winless run which saw them taking only two points from a possible 15.

The 3-0 win over the Eagles was a vital one for the Foxes as it gives them bit of a bounce as they now start a very tricky run-in; following tonight their final four league fixtures are against Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Spurs and Manutd. Brendan Rogers will be well aware that there is little room for error if they are to maintain their current top-four standing.

The Gunners also have a sticky run-in… but if they are able to extend their winning run here tonight it can only boost their own continental cause even further.

Team News

Mikel Arteta could make very few changes from the team that took the field at Wolves, as he would like to build on that performance.

Two players that could come in are Alexandre Lacazette, he will be hopeful of handed a start after he came off the bench to score, having again missed out to Eddie Nketiah. Nicolas Pépé will be another, who missed out last time due to his wife giving birth, but whether that comes at the expense of Bukayo Saka is a decision the coach has to make.

Mesut Özil could make the matchday squad, subject to a late fitness test due to recurring back problems.

Prediction

Both teams are looking to finish the season strong because they still have much to play for. But also the Gunners are good at home, whilst the Foxes have been out of sorts on the road.

Meaning Arsenal should go into this encounter in good shape to give Leicester’s top-four hopes a mighty dent. COYG!

— LaboGoon

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10 Comments

Optimism for Arsenal, Pessimism for Guendouzi

In this podcast George is more optimistic about Arsenal’s immediate future after the latest win vs Wolves but quite pessimistic for Guendouzi as a Gunner. Can we change his name to Nostradamus George?

Tune in for more.

 

20 Comments

Wolves Tamed.

Well that was a pleasant surprise. A really hard working win, away against a team that is lauded for their organisation and solidity. It was a victory based more on endeavour than skill, but as Mikel says, that type of endeavour is non-negotiable if we are to get consistent results. He is clearly starting with the base before he starts putting on any icing. His philosophy is possession-based free-flowing attacking football, so I am happy to wait for it to emerge.

We scored two good goals and restricted them to one shot on target. No one can legitimately suggest that we didn’t both earn and deserve the victory.

Luiz, Mustafi and especially Xhaka, were magnificent. This isn’t an exaggeration, much as it must infuriate the hissy fit brigade.

No point me going over events you will all have seen, so I’ll just point out a few things that I think went slightly under the radar.

Tierney struggled. Now a I know he’s flavour of the month, but he really does struggle with his positioning when trying to stop his winger. He looks much better going forward than defending, something I’m sure he and Mikel will get right. His attitude seems exemplary.

AMN made a huge difference when he came on, at left back. Yes, left back! He is way more talented than he gets credit for. We rightly wax lyrical about Saka’s versatility, but Ainsley’s seem to go unheralded.

Aubameyang puts in an unbelievable shift, but his hold-up play and passing leaves much to be desired, that won’t change at his age, and maybe explains why Arteta is reluctant to play him as CF? Let‘s not forget though how brilliant he is on the left. It’s not like we lose his goals.

Saka, despite his fantastic goal, struggled on the right. He got better but it was still a struggle. It seems he was shoehorned into the eleven but even if he was, it can only help with his development. He is a mouthwatering prospect.

Sead is terrible at passing the football.  I know Mikel is desperate to have a left-footed CB, but he can’t be other than a very short term solution.

Ok, that will do from me, have a lovely Sunday and be careful out there.

Pedantic George.

73 Comments

Into The Wolves Den.

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Arsenal continue their endeavour for a top-six finish with a trip to the Molineux Stadium this afternoon, to face fellow European hopefuls Wolverhampton Wanderers in a Premier League clash.
These two teams come into this match on the back of three-straight victories; though it should be noted, in somewhat friendly fixtures for both sides.
Good day one and all.
Following a pair of disappointing results that have left Arsenal a bit sombre, they have bounced back and are on a decent run that have put them firmly in the dogfight for European spots as the season enters it’s closing stages.
However, Mikel Arteta will be aware that our upcoming four fixtures against Wolves, Leicester City, Spurs and Liverpool will not only be more challenging, but also that we cannot afford to drop too many points if we are to break into the top-six.
Meanwhile, Wolves have kept a clean sheet in each of their three games post-lockdown, and have shown no signs of complacency in pursuit of Champions League football. They’re currently just two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the league table.
No doubt this will be the more trickier game for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side since the restart, be that as it may, they are yet to lose to the Gunners in three meetings following their return to the top-flight (W1, D2). When we made the trip to the Molineux last season they beat us 3-1, which they will remember fondly.
Team news
With Arsenal playing their third game in seven days and the fixture schedule not slowing down soon… Mikel could change few things up.
Maybe not in the middle of the park though as Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos, who have formed a laudable partnership, look nailed on with Matteo Guendouzi’s ongoing absence due to disciplinary concerns. That said, should the coach need to freshen things up Ainsley Maitland-Niles is an option with Lucas Torreira, who is back fit, likely to make the bench.
Cédric Soares scored within minutes after being brought on for his debut against Norwich and, with Hector Bellerín due a rest sooner or later, could be in line for his first start.
Prediction
This promises to be a fascinating tie with both sides on a good run as well as competing for a spot in Europe next season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is leading the race for the PL’s golden boot with 19 goals, but also no PL player has scored more goals across all competitions than Raul Jimenez’s 24. Therefore, this could be a game to be won by the defence of either side.
Difficult to call, but one thing we can expect is that both teams will leave their hearts out on the pitch. COYG!
— Labo
27 Comments

Xhaka’s Arsenal Show Improvement

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That was a very pleasing win against a very generous Norwich team.

Both of Abameyang’s goals were gifts from the visitors. The first when he closed down Krul and pinched the ball from his toes. He took the ball by accident with his trailing leg, but hey, you have to buy a ticket if you want to win a raffle. His second came courtesy of a fine cross field pass into  him in the box, by the Norwich centre forward, but he dispatched it ruthlessly, nice finish. In between times he provided an assist from which Xhaka(more on him later)lashed the ball in under Krul.

Cedric rounded the evening off with left foot screamer, and a very satisfactory evening it was, following on from the satisfaction of Saka signing a new long term deal in the afternoon. A great day all around.

The game itself showed us to be improved on what we’ve see since the restart, but, and I hate to use this cliche, it was only Norwich, They can’t buy a win and are comfortably the easiest team in the league to beat.

That said, Mustafi, Luiz, Sead, all had good games. Tierney and Hector look good at wingback/wide midfield and Ceballos had a decent game as well. And so to Xhaka.

Here is what Arteta had to say about our former, and real, captain after the game.

On whether Granit Xhaka has come full circle from his difficulties…
“Absolutely. He’s a player whose commitment goes beyond anything normal. He leaves every drop of blood on that football pitch every day and he does the same in training. For me, he’s a great example to any other team-mate, the way he looks after himself and lives his profession. I’m really happy that we could convince him to stay, give him another opportunity, learn from the mistake that he made and as well appreciate the player and the person that we have at the club, and support them. When someone has a difficult moment, we are right behind them. We can give them another chance.”

“happy that we could convince him to stay” 

That was following the disgusting treatment from a large section of the fans, both in the stadium and on-line, when he quite rightly told them to F*CK OFF*, several times.

The current explanation from the idiots that couldn’t see what a great player he is, for him being very good and our most important player, is that he’s improved under Arteta. Frankly that is bollocks. He has always been very good, in fact statistically this is his worse season at the club.

I also saw this on twitter from our friend Ehab

Xhaka isn’t that flawed He lead the league in passing, passing accuracy, touches 3 out of 4 years, never lower than 3rd He made 6 errors leading to goals in 5 years, 4 of which he lost the ball after the final 3rd. He gave away 5 pens He is 3rd amongst CMs in tackles/blocks

Despite the evidence, and him being first choice in MF by 4 Arsenal managers, there are those still clinging to the wreckage of their sunken arguments. It seems these people would rather continue to look stupid, than admit that they were previously stupid.

So a reminder of some things I’ve said previously, I love a bit of “I told you so”

37 Comments

Home Alone.

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Arsenal is back at the Emirates Stadium for the first time in nearly four months when they host relegation-threatened Norwich City in a Premier League clash this evening. Just before the lockdown they were on a run of three-straight league wins at home and will be eager to make it four.
Good day one all.
After an initial hiccup following the restart the Gunners bounced back with victories at Southampton and Sheffield United, the latter in the FA Cup, to give them a boost heading into this fixture.
Although we got the two wins, our general play lacked consistency and structure over the four matches. That said, our form on the road in recent seasons have always been cause for concern and Mikel Arteta will be the first to admit that there is still plenty of work to be done if we are to turn this around.
For now, it’s just a relief to be back at the Emirates where we are unbeaten in the league since the turn of the year. So if we can sustain that form and hopefully build on it for our travels, then we can still do enough to qualify for Europa through the league. Therefore, nothing short of a win will do today.
Norwich are also in must-win territory and if they don’t see an immediate change in fortunes they will be unable to avoid relegation.
Daniel Farke’s side have shown little signs of life. They come into this game on the back of three defeats since the restart; in those they’ve managed only three shots on target while taking 22 on their own goal. This may mean very little as we know teams on a poor run do tend to crank it up when playing against the Arsenal.
Be that as it may, the Canaries’ away form this season is just utter dire. In their 15 league games on the road they only got one win and three draws. At this point it look like all they got left to play for in the run-in is nothing but pride as they appear destined for a return to the Championship.
Team News
The home side have been hit hard with injuries in recent weeks, with David Luiz and Mesut Özil’s availability subject to late fitness tests.
In a bit more positive news, Cédric Soares have recovered from a broken nose and could finally make his long-awaited debut.
Prediction
The Canaries could come out fighting but this looks like an ideal fixture for the Gunners to chalk up another win. COYG!
— Labo
31 Comments

We Have A Semi Coming – Oh Ah Mrs.

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Good morning you happy lot.

Arsenal progressed to the semi final of the FA Cup via Sheffield, where we have the dubious pleasure of being passed to death by Pep’s City. More on that nearer the time, let’s enjoy getting there first.

A late late winner is always a thing of joy, somehow it just lifts the spirits more. It also makes you forget the game, which quality wise, is a good thing. It wasn’t that we played badly, it was just a poor game , neither side providing much in terms of fluency or skill, but the effort was there from both teams. It’s changed days I suppose, where we now celebrate effort and endeavour because there is little else on show. But at least it is now on show.

So lets, in he spirit of the blog, look at the positives.

We won.

Only one minor injury to Luiz.

Xhaka yet again demonstrated that he is, by a distance, our most important player, goodness knows what we would look like without him, although when he doesn’t play trough injury, we do know. We can’t buy a result without him.

Tierney demonstrated how well he plays when fit, some people had him as MOTM, he was good, but I can’t remember one of his crosses finding an Arsenal player, so MOTM might be a stretch.

Young Saka again showed his class and versatility, what a player he wil be, let’s just hope it’s for us?

Pepe also did well, he took a fine penalty and was heavily involved in the winning goal having the good sense to leave the ball for Ceballos to take it off his toe and score. That was a nice finish too. In my opinion having the composure to take good penalties gives an indication of how composed a player is likely to be given a decent chance, and I think Pepe will have no problem turning chances into goals.

I was also impressed by AMN, I hope he sees sense and declares a willingness to play as wing back, if he gets more game time it might see him given a shot in his favoured CM position, you never know.

There was another good performance for Mustafi, another player that has turned his fortunes around under Mikel. On that, there is a decision to be made about Shkodran, it’s reached the point on his contract, where we either stick or twist. We have to really sell him or extend him (if he is willing to stay), his performances deserve a new deal, but the memory  of his horrible gaffs in the past, loom large in the fanbase. That’s a tricky one, but given his resale value will be modest, I’d tend to favour an extension, it’s unlikely he will be  first choice, but with no fee involved, he could be useful going forward.

Finally, I though Martinez was excellent, he has waited a long time for this chance and he appears to be making the most of it. I just hope that if he proves to be as good as he has looked, we might struggle to keep him as a 2nd choice. If Bayern want Leno then perhaps…………………………………..no lets not go there today.

So there we are, quite a few positives today. However, I have to say that we were outplayed in the entirety of the second half by a very average team. In the dying minutes Billy Sharp could well have scored and we would likely have been dumped out, but we would have played exactly the same game, we would then have been really unhappy with the performance we are today, happy with. Many fans are fooled by a result, but then again, many fans are just fools.

Thanks for coming and reading, see you soon

Pedantic George.