Burnley v Arsenal, Will Arteta Stick Or Twist?

So next up for the Gunners is what can be deemed a difficult trip to Burnley. A team that fits the template perfectly for Arsenal kryptonite over the years. A big strong physical side with the potential to disrupt and spoil any attempts at any fancy football whilst giving the opposition defence no easy ride.

 After looking on jealously this past week as many teams got stuck into European football (Europa league and above) it really did hit home how important it is that Arsenal get back into the European competition as soon as possible. It almost had the air of an international football break as the midweek had an empty feel to it with no interest for Arsenal.

Time will tell if the extra day’s recovery has any kind of advantage over the teams that are currently competing in Europe. A Saturday kick off at 3pm was such a rarity over the last few years due to the Thursday/Sunday Europa schedules that it felt nice last week against Norwich and again we get to experience it today. It’s something we could witness again as the norm if Champions league football was secured come the end of the season, wishful thinking maybe but not impossible. Admittedly being more involved in Champions league usually equates to more TV schedule kick off time and date changes but it’s a nicer problem to have than no Europe at all.

Knowing the physical and aerial dangers posed by the likes of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes one of the big questions posed to Mikel Arteta will be how to set up the defensive back line and with which personnel?  Last week, we witnessed a great first partnership between Ben White and Gabriel who snuffed out pretty much any dangers posed by Norwich. Will Mikel pursue some continuity to allow that partnership to grow by sticking with that pairing? He could alternatively add a third centre back into the mix by drafting in one of the more physically imposing defenders such as Pablo Mari, Callum Chambers or Rob Holding? Holding unfortunately has been ruled out so that leaves the option of Chambers, Mari or pushing Tomiyasu inside and playing someone else in the right back role.

It seems a bit unfair on Ben White that the memories of a tough baptism of fire against Brentford’s physical, long ball approach has virtually written off his abilities to handle any attack that sets up that way. He had a bad day at the office that day as did pretty much the whole starting eleven and despite his transfer fee he is still young and learning his craft. He needs a game for redemption to show the fans and pundits alike, “See, I’m not a weak link to this method”. Until he does come out unscathed from taking on such an attack that cloud of doubt will no doubt remain and hover like a bad smell.

An off day not an every day…

The addition of Tomiyasu has added much needed height from a defensive aspect and it was refreshing to see him winning pretty much every high ball flown his direction last week. It could be an effective enough foil to complement White who could drop and sweep for long balls played to his side as the Japanese defender challenges.

The important thing is we have a capable squad with a number of strengths that could be utilised depending on the opposition we play. Mari hasn’t come off well from the Brentford game either and has been written off by many but many times last season he was a very capable defender. One game should never be used to draw all conclusions on a player. This is why they train all week, why they review their performances as a team. They can work on where they went wrong and make sure those same faults are not a regular occurrence.

Midfield will be an interesting choice. Last week Ainsley Maitland Niles took advantage of a suspended Xhaka and an un-risked Thomas Partey to line up in his preferred position alongside Sambi Lokonga. He did alright there whilst not showing anything to prove he would be starting if all available players were fit. The question is whether Mikel Arteta will partner AMN or Lokonga with Partey. It’s pretty nailed on that a fit Xhaka would be favoured over both by Arteta but with him not available it’s hard to call. Sambi Lokonga would get my vote as he hasn’t put a foot wrong since coming in and just oozes a silky calmness you don’t teach but comes naturally.

In the no.10 role Emile Smith-Rowe started the game on the bench whilst Martin Odegaard took up the responsibility. The selection last week may have been forced by Smith-Rowe’s illness that caused him to pull out of the England u-21 squad left him short of full fitness. Whilst on paper it seems a straight battle between the two playmakers to start in the no.10 role it wouldn’t be a shock to see Smith-Rowe deployed in one of the wide roles. In his youth he played across the three front positions often and he did make one or two starts in that position last season. Smith-Rowe playing wide right or left could come at the expense of Pepe or Saka for example.

where does he play?

One thing Mikel Arteta has this season is options and he has at his exposal the option to bring in Martinelli and Smith-Rowe. Either way they are all players that would be good choices from bench if game isn’t going our way.

Aubamyang as captain would give the impression he would be a starter but Lacazette could easily be chosen to add more of a physical presence and hold up play up front. Aubamyang could be deployed on the left side of attack as another wide option.

It does seem a lot of changes suggested whilst Mikel has been more of an advocate for sticking with winning line ups over making drastic changes. We will see come 2pm when line-ups are released.

What is important is we build on the 3 points gained last week. Burnley currently occupies one of the bottom three places but a win for them would allow them to leapfrog Arsenal. They are yet to win a home game in the Premier league after a draw with Leeds and losing to Brighton. It might be a bit more motivation for them to register points for their fans especially to make up for their 2nd half collapse against Everton on Monday gone.

What Arsenal need to do is take full advantage of Burnley’s fragile confidence and not provide a booster like they did in the same fixture last season where a mix up playing out from the back gifted them an easy equalising goal.

There is a great opportunity to take the three points today, come on boys, let’s do this.

Enjoy your day people

P.S I decided to put myself forward as a fans forum representative for season ticket holders this season. Fans get to vote for their representative. Please help me out by casting a vote for me Dwayne Bingham.

Cast your vote here

Thanks guys

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I write for.

It Isn’t All Bad At Arsenal (Rose Tinted Glasses View).

We are currently in the midst of the eye of storm in which the results have not been great in the Premier League. Of course as you’d expect the response hasn’t been favourable towards Mikel Arteta and his team. In hindsight there is no such thing as an acceptable defeat and therefore things will always be dissected. The team selection, the formation, the game plan, the execution by the players and any individual mistakes endured. If we were to evaluate fans feeling judging by social media response immediately after the game against Wolves then yes the world is about to end. However it’s time to put some things into perspective and not shift into defcon 1 just yet.

Yes, the result against Wolves wasn’t favourable but as it stands the club isn’t adrift from the majority of the teams above them, a win against Wolves would have had the team merely three points behind Chelsea, a team in 3rd place who aren’t a team deemed to be in crisis. It’s a bit busy in the middle of the table and a couple of wins strung together would have us right in the mix. You just need to look how in the doldrums Manchester United looked after we beat them only a few weeks ago and how they are headed up the table now after a little run of results.

Things can change after a few wins are strung together

We must not forget our squad has been affected by a combination of Covid-19 infections, suspensions and injuries. Kolasinac may not be the first name fans want on the team sheet but he’s an option all the same. A manager with options is a manager with wealth. Pepe’s Europa League form gives us an indication of what he can bring to the team once he overcomes the many factors holding him back. I don’t really need to elaborate more on Thomas Partey, he is the quality we need and miss in the middle of the park. He was a big loss against Wolves; Hopefully the rumours of a longer term injury are not true.

We must take into account this is Mikel Arteta’s first season in charge, this is a gradual rebuild job and not an overnight fix. Okay, so the football hasn’t looked great in every game but the Spaniard has a vision and not every player at his disposal may fit into the mould to get the best out of his system. Arteta came from Manchester City with an embarrassing amount of riches; we don’t have that at Arsenal. We cannot replace a whole team in one window and so therefore the wish lists of ditching half the squad by many fans in one go just isn’t feasible. Piece by piece, window after window is the way it will be done until Mikel can get his team under his vision in place. We really need to apply some patience with regards to this. Arsenal not having an unlimited amount of funds is not a secret but a fact we have known for years. Gate receipts and the impact of Covid-19 has complicated things a bit more. Players will come in but as I alluded to it’s a gradual build of the squad in Mikel’s vision.

This isn’t an overnight fix

Let’s not forget for most fans when Mikel was appointed we all agreed to give the manager time, we all agreed it’s not a quick fix and that it will be a bumpy ride for the next few years. Cue 10 games into the season and fans want to riot because we aren’t pushing for the title this season at this stage already. We have to have some patience and calling for the manager’s head at this stage is not the way forward.

I understand the situation Arsenal is in is not helped by the fact Spurs are sitting pretty at the top of the table. If anything it is merely the fuel feeding a greater sense of rage amongst fans. We have to look at the bigger picture, we may not be at the top of the table as we are at the start of a journey. Spurs have a team that have been improving over the years, they are doing better in the league than us but we all know how the story ends with them…Spursy.

One thing we should put into perspective is this season or should I say 2020 as a whole has upset the balance when it comes to football logic. Teams are suffering freak results left right and centre; you could honestly pinpoint a thrashing experienced by every team that makes the premier league in 2020. Until this pandemic is well and truly on the backburner should we really be judging how the football is going? Leicester just lost to Fulham at home, a team that have been the guaranteed three points secured go to team in the league. Away wins (I think currently at 44%) are more prevalent than home wins in the Premier League this season. The lack of fans have stripped a lot of the advantage that comes with being a home team and psychologically the players are not intimidated or affected by playing on another teams patch. The home defeats haven’t been great but you’d find Arsenal isn’t alone in experiencing such a record.

2020: A year of unpredictable results

Time is a healer; things will change for the better for Arsenal Football Club. Many fans are not in the most optimistic of mental states in preparation for the North London Derby. Why can’t we go to White Hart Lane and get a result? Yes fans may return for the game but the hostile atmosphere might be the very thing to spur on (excuse the pun) and inspire the Arsenal players to turn up. Arsenal always masters the art of pulling out a win against all odds.  On paper many won’t see past a Spurs win, well paper doesn’t win matches the players on the pitch do. Watch this space. Keep the faith.

Enjoy you day people.

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I also write for.

How Do The Gunners Move Forward? Formation Or Personnel?

We’ve had at least 24-48hrs to calm down from the match against Leicester. An amount of time to dissipate the red mist  and see things a little bit more clearly (or at very least not want to smash your tv).

I’m no angel; I wasn’t best pleased with the result and was left asking so many questions and not finding many solutions to what I had raised.

Understandably no defeat is taken nicely, even if you’ve won a group in qualifying and throw the kids in for the dead rubber last game you still want a win at the very least avoid defeat.

Its human nature really, at the start of Mikel Arteta’s tenure with the club many made the statement that this is a long term project and Mikel will needs time. We can’t expect to be challenging for the title within 6 months. There will be plenty bumps along the way, lots of ups and downs, mistakes will be made especially from a young inexperienced manager but the key thing is to give him time and our full backing.

When Arsene left we entered unfamiliar territory for many Arsenal fans that knew nothing but Arsene. There was evidence over at Manchester United that to replace someone after such a prolonged amount of time would not be a smooth transition. Unai Emery was just the wrong choice for manager and despite some early warning signs things were not going well he cannot turn around and say he wasn’t given a chance to get things right.

Anyway no point me bleating on about the recent managerial history of the club, we are all well aware. I suppose the point of me bringing it up was to highlight it’s far too early to sound the alarm bells.

To take some positives from the football this weekend is not many teams made much advancement at the top, plenty of dropped points by our rivals and therefore Arteta has some food for thought moving forward. Arsenal are still there or thereabouts and the team has plenty scope for improvement.

The manager will have learned a lot from Sunday’s game. Yes we can rue the injustices of the ruled out goal from Lacazette but we must not also dismiss the blatant 2nd yellow card Hector Bellerin should have received. One incorrectly ruled moment turned out key but a game in which we were in control we should have done a lot more when we were on top.

No point singling out one striker’s performance but ask questions of why when on top are we as a team are not putting teams to the sword?

The key factor that comes to mind is the lack of a creative fulcrum to dovetail the newly instilled tenacity and focus. The big question to ask yourself is does that lay with the tactics or lack of personnel. You could argue both really, let’s have a looks at both sides:

The Formation

The team set up with a 433 formation however maybe due to the easing in of four at the back over utilising three centre backs there is more emphasis on the midfield 3 acting as a shield than supporting attacks. I would certainly bracket Partey and Xhaka as more defensive minded whilst Ceballos is great at dictating play advancing from deep and is equally comfortable mucking it in the middle of the park putting his foot in.

It would be interesting to see Ceballos advancing further forward to see if he could make things happen in a freer role. Sunday’s tactics seemed to focus more on utilising the timed runs of the fullbacks. A tactic that seemed to work in the sense that the ball was finding those players in advanced positions Bellerin especially however the most was not made of those situations.

With the spaces vacated by the full backs the midfield three were as it seems instructed to fill the gaps left by them. Again it added to the stability and you could argue from a defensive sense the team is looking more solid for setting up that way. It’s the attack which seems to be suffering and you have to wonder if by having a more disciplined set up, the attack being left to make the magic happen by themselves was always bound to eventually struggle when teams wised up to that being go to tactic.

This is where you have to look at the other question regarding:

The Personnel

The game vs. Leicester was the perfect example of a team set out to nullify the opposition. Especially with Vardy on the bench the team came with a game plan to soak up and nullify Arsenal and then hopefully nick something with the introduction of Vardy later in the game. Leicester aren’t the first and won’t be the last to play with the majority of their men behind the ball and soak up the pressure. When you take into account how much Arsenal rely on counter attack and pace we were left in a catch 22 situation where other than individual moments of brilliance we would struggle getting in behind a deep defensive line.

It’s situations like that where you are left screaming out for a creative player that can thread a pass through the eye of a needle and get the attackers in on goal. You could argue we have a player that fits that description on our paid staff but let’s not go there with the Ö word. In terms of whom we have available who can play, who could maybe play in the midfield three at the tip as a creative outlet?

Of course Arteta may not have plans to use his midfield three in such a way but let’s just hypothesize that he may. Do we have the creative player that could make that mark from the personnel we have? Well the short answer is yes but the longer deeper answer is which player exactly?

Well I would say take your pick from the Following: Saka, Ceballos, Willian and Emile Smith Rowe.

Four players I feel have the adaptability, agilty and potential for a pass in their locker.

Saka we’ve seen play in a number of positions for the club now but I do recall him playing in a midfield three as the advanced creative hub, It may have been against Sheffield United last season (don’t quote me on that) but at the time it gave us the fans an insight into his versatility and proved he could play there.

Willian is a bit of an unknown but it is clear he has the technical ability and strength to play further forward in a midfield three. I avoid watching Chelsea as much as I can so I can’t recall times he played there for the club that I would have noticed. Nevertheless he can be an option in the middle, his versatility will be key for us this season.

Ceballos as I mentioned earlier is definitely a creative player with a bit of bite, it’s that extra tenacity that probably works against him as he is more trusted to protect as well as provide ball retention. He has always looked impressive coming from deep and always demands the ball, it’s worth a shot trying him further advanced, there’s nothing to lose.

Emile Smith Rowe would seem like the perfect player to be given a shot in that role however his injury problems are becoming a concern. There’s nothing the Arsenal fans would like more than to see this kid fulfil his potential but the persistent little injuries tend to hinder his progress. I’d like to think the longer delay to his return is a planned schedule to ensure his return won’t result in breaking down two to three games in.

I may have missed off other potential options, feel free to let me know in the comments. I’ve deliberately left out the quality starlets in our youth set up, players such as Charlie Patino, Omari Hutchinson et al, as their time will come but in the current team I can’t see Arteta making such a leap of faith for now.

There’s a chance to give Arteta something to think about before January transfer window otherwise there may be a renewed more aggressive move for Houssem Aouar. Time will tell, let see how this plays out.

Enjoy you day people.

This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I also write for.

Please Don’t burst Any Bubbles On Day One Arsenal

And so we have arrived at the dawn of a new season. The optimism has returned, the belief, the hope, the expectation; it’s all there in abundance. With a new season comes a reset of sorts, many fans instantly dismiss the roller coaster ride of the previous season and address the new one with a clean slate. The title is on despite finishing the last season 20/30…40 points behind the champions. A cup is obtainable this time, top four? Top 6? Upper half of table finish? Avoid relegation.

Ready for new season

We as football fans start the season with many bubbles which inevitably burst as the season progresses but it’s nice to be at that point until that reality kicks in. My club has every chance as much as the next team to win everything on offer until the first ball is kicked and the first round of games complete to calibrate some home truths.

You can’t blame Arsenal fans for feeling optimistic leading into this new season. Of course the league title is very far fetched but… but there’s a feel good factor that has returned to the fan base. A feel good factor helped in part by the rewarding end of season silverware earned and a promising charity shield victory over the reigning champions.

There’s been some shrewd transfer dealings too but with the window still open for a few more weeks yet there’s plenty that could change on the incomings and outgoings of the playing staff.

Our new Head Coach has won over many of the doubters that questioned his initial appointment. The new respect has been well earned and I’m sure that the same way the players are clearly buying in to his idea and philosophy the fans are mirroring that.

As Arsenal fans although many of us may seem demanding but in reality we just want the good football back. With the good football the rewards will follow, the DNA of the club had been siphoned out over the past few years and it’s about time we instilled some discipline and quality that many fans were raised on and always associated with Wenger Arsenal teams.   

The club I feel is on an upward trajectory however it will be a bumpy ride, plenty highs and lows but the important thing is to acknowledge we have the right man in the job and we stand by him through the good and the bad until we get back to where we belong.

So first up is an away trip to newly promoted Fulham, no offence Fulham fans but I really wanted Brentford to win that playoff final. Nothing personal but we’ve been there done that with Fulham, would have been nice to get a new entity in the mix. From what I recall there haven’t been a massive influx of major signings pouring in to Craven Cottage so it seems much reliance is on the team that won promotion (many who saw through relegation too). The keeper coming in Areola is a good acquisition but it seems a lot of hopes fall on Mitrovic and how impactful his anger management sessions over the season break have been.

On paper you wouldn’t be laughed at for expecting an Arsenal win however its opening day of the season, a promoted team with the motivation to prove they aren’t dropping straight back into the Championship and with no fans it’s still unclear who the advantage lies with anymore. 

With the news of the David Luiz injury it’s highly likely we will see one if not both of William Saliba and Gabriel in the starting line-up. I’d expect Arteta not to radicalise the back line instantly and sway to more familiarity at the back meaning Holding and possibly Tierney occupying centre back positions if we go with a back three leading to either Gabriel or Saliba joining them.

Will Saliba start today?

We may see Willian for the first time, it will be interesting to see some competition in those wide areas between Willian, Pepe, Saka and Aubamyang.  It’s actually quite difficult to predict what the line-up will be today but most importantly it’s exciting to get some football back again. We might not be able to go to games and a lot of opening day traditions will have to be put on pause but my God it’s great to have it back. A lot of questions may be answered such as will Ozil and  Guendouzi ever appear in a squad again, will Nketiah start up front ahead of Lacazette, will Ceballos slot straight back into starting eleven, will Arteta wear a tracksuit or slim fit designer clobber?

One thing I do hope is that many of those bubbles I alluded to earlier stay intact after this first game. Let’s start this season well and see where Arteta can take us.  Come on Arsenal!

P.S. As it’s a new season I’m sure many of you have been tearing your hair out deciding your final FPL squads,  hopefully you are now is a settled place and are ready to take on your respective leagues. Well, why not add another league to your bow and join mine. I’m looking to reward the winner with a prize. Come join up, take me on, it’ll be fun. Sign up with the link below or use the following code:

Good luck.

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Will lack of signings dent performance against Villa?

The football season is back at last, Aston Villa are the first opponents of the season at the Emirates as there is finally real football back to take our minds of other distractions. The frustration at the lack of transfer activity has reached boiling point as Arsenal kick off their campaign with only young French hopeful Yaya Sanogo the only acquisition. Such is the irony of his signing the youngster with a well known injury record is injured and cannot play a part in today’s game.

The injuries are racking up as Mikel Arteta has joined the crocked list with Thomas Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal and possibly Carzorla could join them also. Moral is low amongst the fans and the injuries merely add to the bad vibes. It shouldnt be like that on the first day of the season, it should be one of great optimism, looking ahead to possible silverware and excitement of what new signings can add to the team.

Arsene Wenger is a manager who has pioneered the importance of the psychological aspects of the game, whether it’s from the players on the pitch or the fans in the stands and confidence adds that extra percentage that can be the difference between a win a draw and a defeat.

By delaying the signing of players to strengthen the team especially when quality players have become available at reasonable prices only to sign on elsewhere it has added to the pressure the Arsenal players will face in the game today. A stray pass and the groans start, a missed chance and the groans get louder. These things can get worse over time and is certainly not ideal to start the season.

giroud2i

Think back to last seasons opener when Olivier Giroud missed that golden chance against Sunderland to possibly win the game, he didn’t score, the fans gasped but cheered him on, they got behind him and willed him on. Imagine a similar scenario tomorrow with the  game poised at 0-0. If Giroud misses a similar chance you will see a completely different reaction, the personal built up frustration will be directed at the player and he will notice it. He’s a big strong lad and should be able to deal with any abuse but deep down abuse and criticism can affect the best of players.

When you try to look at Arsene’s reasons for not signing players so far I suppose apart from the obvious of poor negotiation skills and scouting there could also be some truth behind the theory that he could be putting a lot of faith in the youth.

Of course Arsenal and blooding youth is nothing new but in the past few years the focus on youth has reduced heavily as the need for experience to coincide with younger players has been recognized. we have been less dependable on youth than in the past as past projects have proved less fruitful, has there been an about turn? Gedion Zelalem will certainly play some part this coming season, Serge Gnabry and Chuba Akpoom have been talked up by the manager not to mention the possible opportunity for Ryo Miayachi to finally prove his apprenticeship is over.

These young players do excite me don’t get me wrong but i think their time should come in the Capital One Cup and possibly some FA Cup action. The premier league and champions league assault will require more experienced personnel to make the difference when it matters.

This is just me speculating and you never know what could happen between now and the closing of the transfer window, I am sure we are all in agreement that the last minute buying is not healthy going into the season. whether players are 99% signed on the condition that we confirm qualification into the Champions League proper I don’t know but i am a little bit hoping this is the case and a glut of surprise marquee signings will storm through the Emirates doors once Fernebache are beaten.

For now its time to focus on Aston Villa and the threat of Benteke, it wont be as easy as we think. the boys (who are fit) will need to be on it from the start and win convincingly to bring back some good feeling. I’m looking forward to going to the Emirates today and will get 100% behind the boys.

per skipper

Congrats to Per Mertesacker who has been nominated as Arsenal Captain in the absence of Arteta and Vermaelen. A role that shouldn’t phase the experienced BFG. Clean sheet today please.

Come on Arsenal!

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