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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‘a 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
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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”

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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.

55 Comments

Arsenal Need Steel In Sheffield.

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Arsenal’s fourth game on the road in as many matches post-lockdown and after bit of a hiccup, they will hope to make it two straight wins when they take on Sheffield United at Bramall Lane this afternoon in a FA Cup last-eight tie.
Good day one and all.
Following back-to-back defeats at Man City and Brighton since the restart, Mikel Arteta was a relieved man as his side record victory at Southampton midweek. However, this season is still far from salvaged as attention now turns to the FA Cup which could potentially represents our best route into 2020/21’s European club competition.
The Gunners reached the quarter-finals with victories over Leeds United, Bournemouth and Portsmouth. And for all our defensive issues have conceded just one goal, away at the Cherries.
Sheffield United were hardly a side we got excited about when drawn against for this cup clash. We faced them twice already in the Premier League this season; first they beat us 1-0 win at Bramall Lane before a 1-1 draw at the Emirates. So if anything… this is a chance to start righting some wrongs.
The Blades haven’t exactly resumed their campaign in better fashion compared to ours. For all their promise before the covid-19 induced hiatus, Chris Wilder’s side are still goalless and winless since in their three games since the restart (D1, L2); shipping six goals in their last two outings.
Their lack of recent goal scoring ability is certainly something that Mikel will hope to take advantage of.
Team news
With a hectic fixture schedule to contend with in the coming weeks the Gunners  is expected to rotate. But we are still without several players as David Luiz is the only one coming back the side after his suspension.
Prediction
With both sides eyeing a top-six league finish, it could likely play a significant part when in terms of team selection. However, the Gunners are still working to overturn recent poor performances and will be eager to build on their win at St Mary’s and reach the semi-finals in a competition that has always been close to their heart. COYG!
— Labo
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A Much Needed Win

Eddie Nketiah takes advantage of a Southampton bogey to score.

Arsenal faced Southampton under a blazing hot sun but started the match cold. They were initially nervous on the ball and unable to maintain possession. Fortunately, this lasted only about 5 minutes. For virtually the entire match after, the players were comfortable passing the ball out even under pressure.

A returning Xhaka showed us some of what we’d been missing with a super through-ball that found Saka’s run from deep. Eddie finished the move by putting the ball in the net but it was chalked off for offside. A long ball from Tierney also sent Auba through on goal, only for him to strike the bar via McCarthy’s thumb. Unlucky or a great save. But a few minutes later the goalkeeper committed a grave error. Under very little pressure, he casually played a pass straight to Nketiah who ran through to score in the open goal. 1-0 to the Arsenal.

Southampton troubled us with a dangerous cross, and one through ball that was cut out by Mustafi. But apart from that, they weren’t creating much. Arsenal were in control without being spectacular. A couple of promising counter attacks came to nothing, and the referee brought the first half to a close.

Second–half battle

The Saints came out in the second half more determined to make a game of it, and they put together a great move. We were fortunate that Bertrand’s cross didn’t find its intended target, and a long range shot is all that came from it. Arsenal responded with a fantastic long kick from Emi to pick out Auba, whose square pass would’ve led to an easy tap in if it wasn’t cut out by the defender.

All the same, Southampton were posing an increasing threat and Arsenal kept dropping deeper. A period of poor concentration and an injury had us under pressure, and Arteta decided to make a change. Willock came on for Pepe, while Kola for the melting Scotsman was a straight switch. Southampton kept coming at Arsenal though. A cross found Redmond in a dangerous position, but he shot into the side netting. Shane Long had a shot on goal from a ball over the top. Martinez made the save, and managed to gather the ball before an onrushing Ings could get a foot in.

Arsenal made their final batch of substitutions to bring on Lacazette and AMN in place of Nketiah and Ceballos. Soon after, Auba ran through on goal from a careless Southampton backpass and was brought down just outside the box. A red card to Stephens for denying a goalscoring chance, and Lacazette stepped up to take the free kick. He hit it against the wall, but followed it up with a powerful snapshot on the rebound. The GK managed to block the shot with his body, but could do nothing when Willock followed up and scored from the loose ball. Arsenal managed to play out the remaining few minutes easily enough. 2-0 and job done.

The Shape(s):

Our burned bananas came in all shapes and sizes today (Macey is a GIANT) It was fascinating to see all the formations we used in this game. The idea seems to have been to overload on our left flank, which we did.

At various points we were playing a 523, 424, 541, or some strange 432 +1 where Saka was a roaming left flank presence with no fixed position. With so many changes in different phases of the game, and substitutions, we could easily have become disjointed, but the transitions were seamless and the gameplan effective.

We were defensively sound and never caught short of numbers at the back. We were always dangerous on the counter. And the overload caused Southampton problems, especially in the first half.

It wasn’t the most spectacular performance. After all, we got somewhat lucky with both goals. There will be tougher opponents and matches played at a quicker tempo, which might present a sterner test. But I am hugely encouraged by what I saw from Arsenal today. A gameplan for the future.

Miscellaneous bullet points:

  • Speaking of the future, how great is it that both goals were scored by our academy graduates. Nearly half of our 20 man squad came from the youth system.
  • Martinez was really good today. Not the busiest day for him but some of his passes were brilliant. Made the saves that he needed to, and was generally very assured. Long may that continue, and I am very happy for him.
  • Arsenal were much more robust in the tackle. Great controlled aggression with the possible exception of Saka, who was almost reckless. A different referee might even have sent him off.
  • Rob Holding’s performance and hairline both say he’s the next Steve Bould.
  • Tierney’s formal stand-at-ease in the tunnel before the second half is funny but endearing.
  • Hassenhutl suddenly aged 10 years at the final whistle. Weird.
  • Not as weird as the fact that Liverpool have won the Premier League. Congratulations to them.

 Written by: Shard. Find him on twitter @shardgooner

34 Comments

Arsenal Must Stand Up And Be Counted Tonight

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Following back-to-back defeats Arsenal will be anxious to get on the board when they visit St Mary’s Stadium for a Premier League clash against Southampton. Whereas the hosts come into this match on the back of a morale-boosting 3-0 win away at Norwich.
Good day one and all
Mikel Arteta had a relatively good start to his tenure as Gunners boss and then came the lockdown. Since the restart we went from a team on an unbeaten league run in 2020 and without defeat on our travels since the 9th November to one that has gone astray. To compound matters even further we also lost a few key players to injury.
Needless to say, criticism has been swift with the same old questions being asked about our “mental strength”, sloppiness in defence and whatnot. So if Mikel wants to salvage this season, well, a serious rethink is required.
In our 180 minutes of football  post-lockdown we scored just one goal, but it’s not as if we didn’t had chances. However, in both games we lost our way after half time as those chances were in short supply with us forced on the backfoot. Ergo we need the guile and creativity that both Granit Xhaka and one Mesut Özil brings to our midfield.
In our last game we also lost our heads a bit. We can’t be heading into the final stretch of this campaign getting distracted so easily, because we simply cannot afford anymore slip-ups.
Wouldn’t Southampton just love to pile on the misery.
When we played the Saints back in November they were bottom of the table and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s job as head-coach appeared to be on line, but his bosses stuck by him and they have seen a turnaround since. To put this in perspective, a win for them tonight will move them level on points with the Gunners. And they certainly will go for it, especially after the rampant mood they were in last Friday at Norwich.
The hosts tend to do well in this fixture at St Mary’s, losing just once when we travelled their the last five times. This is something that Mikel would want to change and tonight will be a good start.
Team News
Bernd Leno’s injury is not as severe as initially feared but he will miss the rest of the season. Also Gabriel Martinelli who suffered a knee injury in training.
Granit Xhaka and Sokratis are back in full training but their availability would be determined by late fitness tests.
With David Luiz suspended and others still in the treatment room, Mikel has little room to manoeuvre in terms of selection, however, Özil should come back into the side.
Prediction
This game could be lot closer than one would like with Mikel expecting a very physical encounter. That said, I wouldn’t bet against the Gunners’ determination to pull this one over the line. COYG!
— Labo
39 Comments

Arteta And The Arsenal Are In Big Trouble

After post Covid-19 defeats to Manchester City and Brighton, Arteta and the Arsenal team are in big trouble and face a gloomy future. Tune-in to the latest podcast by Shotta and Backburn George aka the Arseblagger.

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Seagulls At The Seaside.

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Arsenal will hope to put the defeat up north at Manchester City behind them with a trip down south to the Amex Stadium for a Premier League clash against Brighton & Hove Albion; a side still without a win this calendar year.
Good day one an all.
Mikel Arteta’s return to the familiar surroundings of the Etihad did not go t all well, with the crushing 3-0 loss also putting an end to our unbeaten 2020 league run.
We always knew facing the reigning champions in our first game post-lockdown was going to be bit of a challenge… but to then lose Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari to injuries early on and having an error-strewn David Luiz sent off just made an already bad evening even worse. But you know, we just have to pick ourselves up.
The Gunners go into this match 9th-placed in the league table, eight points off the top-four. If we want to keep hope alive of a European spot, we simply cannot afford any more of those faux pas like at the Etihad. Our failure to stay switched-on has always been more of a problem than anything else.
Brighton have become sort of a bogey team to Arsenal since their return to the top-flight in 2017/18. They lost the initial encounter 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium and went unbeaten in the next four. Two of those games ended in wins, the last by 2-1 in the reverse fixture back in December.
However, their travails since may give us a chance to exact revenge. Being the only PL club yet to win a game in 2020, has left them embroiled in a fight for survival. And with games to follow against Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd. and Leicester in their run-in, the future looks pretty gloomy for Graham Potter’s side.
It wasn’t always this grim for the Seagulls. They got home wins against Totnum and Everton, and on New Years Day held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw in front of a packed Amex. But with games being played in empty stadiums for the foreseeable future, it could be a struggle to rise to the occasion once more to maintain their good run against the Gunners.
Team news
With centerback Mari ruled out for the rest of the season, Sokratis still short of fitness and David Luiz suspended for our next two games, Rob Holding is expected to come into the fold to provide defensive cover.
Xhaka’s injury and Lucas Torreira only just returning to training after a fractured ankle, will cause Mikel a selection dilemma. But it also provides an opening for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to play in his preferred central midfield position.
That said; with the relentless nature of the revised schedule and five-sub rule, we are likely to see more rotation than usual. So the young’uns that started against City could all make way for their more seasoned counterparts.
Prediction
The league resumption may have gotten off to a foul start for Arsenal but Brighton certainly got their share of bother. So while both sides are desperate to get back to winning ways… the Gunners may just edge this to help nudge the Seagulls back to the Championship. COYG!
— Labo