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A Trip To The Park

Roy-Hodgson

 

 

 

Arsenal make the short trip across the capital to play Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, hoping to move ahead of our hosts on the Premier League table. Conversely, the Eagles aim to move four points clear of us in this London derby.

Good day all. Since the turn of the year the Gunners got back-to-back clean-sheet wins, in two competitions, to give Mikel Arteta a much-needed boost at the start of his reign. That he so quickly brought some coherence to our style of play have helped lift some of the gloom that preceded his arrival.

This is something the Spaniard can be very proud of to have achieved in his short time, but he will also be cognisant that there are still plenty of work to be done  with the Gunners sitting 10th on the league table.

The upcoming league fixtures this month will be of particular importance, with the Eagles, Sheffield United and Chelsea already taken seven of nine points off us. Ergo Mikel and the players will be mindful not to get carried away by the recent upturn in performances and will do well to continue keeping their heads down, with each player knowing what is expected of him.

If we kick on in the coming weeks we could put a bit of pressure on teams ahead of us on the league table. Who knows, comes end of January and the current nine point gap between ourselves and 4th-placed Chelsea look more within reach, it may give the boys a real shot in the arm to go on a good run knowing all is not lost yet. However, we will have to take it one game at a time.

After a promising start to their campaign Roy Hodgson’s side hit a rough patch, winning just one of their last six league games (D4, L1). Still, two games into the second half of the season they are in the top-half of the league table, one point above the Gunners. Had that been offered to Roy back in August, he would’ve accepted it with alacrity.

Last weekend they had a disappointing FA Cup defeat at home to second-tier Derby County, though it’s unlikely Roy will be cut up about it as it now gives him the chance to prioritise the league and try finish as high as possible.

They have a good record against Arsenal in recent times; unbeaten in the last three encounters (W1, D2). In the reverse fixture back in October, they came from two goals down to rescue a point at the Emirates. The last five meetings produced 23 goals, with no clean sheets either side. All that means is that we could be set for a very cagey game at Selhurst Park,

Team news

Hector Bellerìn have returned to training, however, Arteta said it’s unlikely he’ll feature. Otherwise, he is expected to go with the same matchday XI that started on new years game against Manutd.

Prediction

Few weeks ago there would have been apprehension going into this game for the Gunners, however, the improvement since Arteta’s arrival is palpable. It’s just our finishing touch in the final third that let us down at times but if we got that sorted… should be favourites to go home with all three points. COYG!

 

Labo.

70 Comments

The Revival Continues.

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Now then, we won, we definitely won the second half, but the first half had me worrying.

In that first half Leeds were all over us, they were creating chances for fun, had way more possession and frankly looked much the better team. Our midfield looked like it did when Emery had the keys , Ozil saw nothing of the ball Guendouzi was all over the place. Worst of all the passing was poor, Holding in particular, with him Guendouzi and Luiz all playing straight balls which were easily cut out by Leeds players. We were lucky , very lucky, to get to half time without being at least a goal or two behind.

Then came the second half and it was a complete roll reversal. We pushed much higher up the pitch, pressed with more intensity and it was us that were dominant. Now Guendouzi seemed to be doing everything right, He pressed, won balls, drove forward and had a big positive effect on the game. Ozil was given more of the ball and started to open Leeds up with his passing and composure. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t vintage stuff, but they had clearly been given instructions from Arteta and were able to action them.

The goal was a bit of a scruffy affair in the end, but Nelson wont care, it was enough to win the game, as it happens.

Lacazette was given man of the match, and deservedly so, he work tirelessly and held the ball well, bringing others in ,doing everything bar scoring.

I have to say that when Martinelli came on for Nelson, he immediately looked the real deal. What a prospect that boy is.

So we now face Bournemouth in round 4, I think we will win that.

COYG

48 Comments

Arsenal v Leeds United – FA Cup

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In action on Monday night under the lights  Arsenal host Championship high-flyers Leeds United at the Emirates Stadium for their third-round FA Cup clash, looking to build on an impressive start to the new year.
Good day all. With Mikel Arteta at the helm the Gunners already look a completely different side to anything we’ve endured the past 18 months. With a clear philosophy and understanding of our players he’s just a breath of fresh air to all involved, having lifted so much of the gloom surrounding our great club.
With the Spaniards first victory under the belt the aim now would be to build some momentum off that. What better way than to win here with him well aware that the FA Cup offers us a genuine shot at silverware, and given the history he made clear he will target it:
“We have to be challenging for the cups and we’ll try to that again this season. Obviously it’s a competition very attached to this football club in recent years and we have to take it very seriously.”
However, Marcelo Bielsa’s side will give us a stern test. Leeds are top of the Championship and there’s no question that promotion to the top-flight is their priority, but the Whites will not be getting ahead of themselves after what happened last season, ergo they view one game as important as the next to not let slip the standards they set for themselves.
They’re more driven, more focused and the chance to progress through to the fourth-round at our expense will certainly give them lots of motivation. With quite a few days util their next league match, Bielsa could be tempted to go with a strong lineup.
Be that as it may, with Leeds’ struggles to gain promotion over the years we don’t play them very much. The last encounter was January 2012, also in a FA Cup tie. A close game as Thierry Henry, on his return for a short loan spell, came off the bench to score the only goal of that match 12 minutes from time.
Team news
After a gruelling festive schedule Arteta is likely to use this game as an opportunity to give some of the fringe players a chance, to get a better idea of where they are in terms of work rate and adhering to his system, so he will ring in the changes.
Emiliano Martinez, Bukayo Saka, Matteo Guendouzi and Reiss Nelson are all expected to be involved, with fit-again Gabriel Martinelli, Dani Ceballos and Rob Holding also likely to come back into the side.
Calum Chambers and Kieran Tierney, of course, are injured and Hector Bellerìn will be assessed ahead of the game.
Prediction
We can expect the Whites to make this as difficult as possible for the Gunners, considering we are not expected to be at full-strength. However, with Arteta having made a big impression in his short time, whomever gets picked are likely to put their best foot forward and provide the grit needed to get us a positive result. COYG.
 @LaboGoon
22 Comments

Granit Xhaka – De Facto Captain

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Good day one and all.

I was talking to my old ally @shotta_gooner and he asked me “Why were you so vocal in your support of Xhaka, when almost everyone else had set against him?”  . That got me thinking and as you can see, writing.

First thing is to try to understand why “almost everyone else had set against him”. It’s not good enough for me to say that I understand football and the majority of fans, pundits and bloggers are eejits, that would just be inflammatory, and you know me, I wouldn’t want to be doing that.

I believe that Xhaka became the lightening rod for the bilge that Emery was serving up week in and week out. Mesut and Torreira were  hardly playing, so they were not blamed, Xhaka was the only established midfielder that always played in a midfield that was totally dysfunctional, it couldn’t keep the ball, support the forwards or protect the defence, and so the easy answer was to blame Xhaka. As we know, simpletons love a simple answer to complicated questions. What confused me the most at this time , was how Guendouzi was being lauded. On twitter I had a discussion with @GeoffArsenal, he ran a poll :-

So there you go, while Guendouzi was scurrying around the pitch, contributing one assist and no goal  in a season and a half, Xhaka was blamed. To me it madness that anyone should think Guendouzi should start before Xhaka, in any system or set up, functional or dysfunctional, but for 92% of fans to think it? Dear oh dear oh dear.

Yesterday someone asked a question about Xhaka on twitter and this reply caught my eye

There are loads of stats available if you want to check the worth of this tweet.

For years we were told that we needed a bit of steel in midfield, well since the day Granit arrived no player or team has bullied him. When thousands of fans tried to bully him recently, he told them to “F*ck off”, and when the club tried to bully him into making a groveling apology, he refused and chose instead to leave (something that hopefully he now won’t do). The man will not be bullied by  anyone, what more steel do we want?

Whether we think Emery was right to ask the players to elect the captain is irrelevant, he did, and they elected Xhaka. That would mean that they view him as the best leader, trust and respect him. That’s the players, you know, the ones that actually play and matter?

We know for a fact that Bayern Munich were keen to have him as a replacement for Xabi Alonso and Mikel has said that City were also very interested, so “bang average” he is not.

When asked about Xhaka , Pep said he was a great player, Arsene said that he was an intelligent player and Arteta said this:-

“I had a conversation with him and I wanted to understand his feelings,That’s first, and his reasoning why he was thinking it probably wasn’t the right place for him to continue his career.
 
“I gave him my opinion, my perspective, and I told him that I was ready to support him from the club perspective, and I wanted his team-mates to have his back to help him to change his mind. We need him.
 
“I believe that if we’re able to do that, the fans will respond in a positive way. I’ve seen him act every day, how he trains and how he lives his profession, as well as the quality of the player. I think he could be a really important player for the club. From my perspective, I don’t want him to leave. I said no to the club and I said no to him! After, in life, I cannot control what happens.”

That sounds like a nonnegotiable opinion to me, as Mikel might call it.

I have always said that Xhaka is the most important player we have, not the best, that would be Ozil, but like Arteta was himself, the key to how we play when we are playing well. He makes us tick and Ozil can then make us purr. Does he have weaknesses? Yes, he does, every player does, but his strengths massively outweigh his flaws. Just look how well the Swiss team has done with him having the keys, a tiny international team plays good football and punches well above their weight.

Of course you are free to disregard my opinion, and that of Pep, Arsene and Arteta, and choose instead to align with such mega brains as Paul Merson, I understand that, but that would make you……. well…. how to put it? An eejit?

O Captain! My Captain!

 

58 Comments

Arsenal Being Arsenal – At Last.

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Well that was rather good. Beautiful ,fast ,aggressive , organised football in the first half to open up a 2 goal lead, then controlled shape in the 2nd half to maintain the advantage. What a wonderful refreshing change to the way we have laboured for the bulk of the past 18 months.

The result was needed, but not half as much as the performance. That should give the players belief in Arteta and in turn give him the belief in the playes. Players that had been written off in the media and by many of our own fans, specifically Ozil, Xhaka, Torreira and Luiz, were absolutely brilliant.

I said that Mikel would struggle to find a balanced midfield, how wrong could I have been?

Lacazette, much maligned in recent week, although not at his best in front of goal, put in a shift and a half.

Ozil purred like the beautiful player he is, he was back to his best, again,

Torreira was everything we hoped he would be when we signed him and Xhaka will have upset a lot of people because he ran the midfield.

This my positive friends, was a great start to the new decade, the time of Arteta dawns.

62 Comments

We Must Unite To Beat United.

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Hoping for a new lease on life with our new head-coach, Arsenal gets 2020 rolling with a Premier League clash against Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.
With both clubs under the guidance of former players, Mikel Arteta and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows all about the hostilities and the grit that goes with one of the league’s long standing rivalries.
Happy New Years all! For Arteta, who is just starting his managerial journey, there would be fewer memories as sweet as getting your maiden victory against an old enemy, however, he would prefer it not to have come to this.
Picking up just one point from his opening two games hasn’t been the ideal start for the Spaniard, but with the players looking like they’re buying into his ideas, as well as his demand for increased work-ethic, there certainly are much to be encouraged about. His primary expectancies now are better awareness and pacing of our intensity throughout the 90, so we can get our season going.
For a club of Arsenal’s standing to end 2019 on a run of just one win in 15 games (all competitions) is concerning, but we are by no means a sinking ship. It will just take the efforts of all involved pulling in the same direction; ie the players continue doing what is expected of them and the clubs chiefs giving Arteta their full backing.
Look, the general view is that there are no quick fixes, with that fans also need to slow down with the fear-mongering and exercise a bit more patience, because that is what Arteta is going to need to rebuild this team back into a functioning unit. The buzzword going forward has to be synergy.
It’s almost unbelievable, just thinking about it, that less than a month ago Arsenal was above Manutd on the log, but thanks to a strong run in December they enter the new year more promising; 7 pts clear of us and 4 pts off top-four. In their last nine league games they were on the losing side just once (W5, D3) and scored a whopping 19 goals.
They certainly got a good run against the top teams this season, beating Chelsea, Leicester, Man City and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as being the only side to take points off Liverpool. So one can almost forgive pundits for predicting the Red Devils to inflict misery on the Gunners, however, Ole will be the first to tell you that form means little against this old foe. Last season when he took over they went on a three-month, 12-match unbeaten run that came to an end with their last trip to the Emirates. Which make looking forward to this match just that more appetizing.
Team news
Arsenal face a defensive crisis with Calum Chambers now joining Sead Kolasinac, Hector Bellerìn, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding on the sidelines. Additionally Sokratis is out with concussion.
Gabriel Martinelli and Dani Ceballos could make the matchday squad and Granit Xhaka, whom Arteta said missed the last game with illness amidst ongoing transfer speculation, could return to the starting lineup.
Prediction
On current form, league position and confidence the Red Devils are sure favourites, but the Gunners certainly played much better than our last two results. What let us down most has been our finishing because we created more than enough chances. So once that’s sorted everything else will be minor irritations.
Manutd kept only one clean sheet in their last nine league games and conceded 12 goals. So if we continue creating those chances but also have our scoring boots on…. Mikel could pop his cherry with a memorable win.
— @LaboGoon
53 Comments

Goodbye 2019, You Will Not Be Remembered Fondly

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A desperately disappointing result, especially given how well we played in the first half. In that half we were very compact , energetic and aggressive in the tackle and pressing. The goal though came from a set piece rather than any good bit of creative play. However, we were value for the first half lead.

Ozil and Torreira had done very well and Aubameyang had put in a real shift. But the warning signs were there to be seen in the last 15 minutes when Chelea grew into the game.

The second half was a totally different kettle of fish. Chelsea were totally dominant although we seemed to be containing them. Then Leno decided to give them a helping hand by completely missing a ball in from a free kick. A free kick needlessly given away by Lacazette, who all in all had another disappointing game. If Lacazette is not careful he will be scapegoat in chief as soon as Xhaka sprints out the door, How we missed Xhaka today, I might add, his understudy, Guendouzi, had a poor game as he seemed the only player not to understand the team shape.

Talking about Matteo, the winning goal came when he did his normal poor attempt to win an aerial ball, and nodded it to a Chelsea player , setting them off on a breakaway.

So as disappointing as it was, we have to accept that we were not good enough in the second half. I think a draw would have been a fair result, but who said football was fair?

If Xhaka has indeed decided he has had enough of us, we desperately need a CM to fill the gap, as there is no one near his level on the roster capable of stepping up.

Have a nice new year and don’t fret too much, Mikel has this, it will come, sooner or later