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.

Victory From The Jaws Of Failure: The Arsenal Way

If Carlsberg did endings to matches… they probably wouldn’t do it like that but hey, what an adrenaline rush. The roller coaster of emotion that Arsenal fans experienced yesterday was enough to hospitalise the strongest of hearts.

After a weekend of favourable results from those clubs around the Arsenal it was important to maximise the advantage and obtain all three points from the game. I’m sure the players would have been aware of the Liverpool Swansea result and been reminded of the potential banana skin a fixture against one of the lower opponents in the league could pose.

In fairness the performance was positive despite some questionable wastefulness in front of goal. The chances were coming but the ball wouldn’t hit the back of the net, always a dangerous situation the longer the game goes on. However you felt it was only a matter of time before the Gunners would break the deadlock. When Shkodran Mustafi rose to head home Ozil’s corner in the second half a huge sigh of relief was expelled and then it was a case of when the second goal would come so we could relax and enjoy the rest of our Sunday. More fool anyone who thought the match would play out to script, that script was ripped to shreds for good measure. From a state of total comfort our very own Granit Xhaka had other ideas with a red card challenge, I know fans have been divided in opinion of whether he deserved to go or not.


I usually sit on the fence but if I’m being honest it was a red and he has only himself to blame. If this was a one off out of character error of judgement the benefit of the doubt could be given but sadly the young Swiss is beginning to get a reputation for such moments in games. I believe in the player strongly and do feel he offers a lot to the team but the disciplinary side to his game needs to be curbed because once painted with such a brush the referee is more likely to rule he is in the wrong for any contentious 50/50 split decisions. Arsenal can’t afford to have referees making their mind up on our players before a ball is kicked because you end up in situations like yesterday fighting an uphill battle with 10 men on the field. It’s not his first bit of controversy this season and there can be a thin line between reliable and liability.

Xhaka now faces a four match ban at a time when player numbers are stretched enough as it is. You would argue that Coquelin returning is perfect timing to soften the blow until you see the challenge he put in to concede the penalty against Burnley. Ok, that’s a bit harsh I am glad to have the Frenchman back but now he needs to be wrapped in cotton wool for the next four games at least as their aren’t too many options after Coquelin and Ramsey to fill that central role right now.

So as I have alluded to the red card switched the dynamics of the game from one of comfort to one of unease and tension.  Burnley gained a spring in their step and despite a spirited effort to keep the team with the player advantage at bay the inevitable happened in injury time. A penalty won after a trip by Coquelin put the club and the fans in the horrible position of witnessing us throwing away maximum points when seconds away from victory.

When Andre Gray blasted in that penalty the heart sank, all the negative feelings came flooding in; you could almost hear the collective beeps of mobile phones nationwide in synchronisation of whatsapps, tweets and texts flooding Arsenal fans’ phones from their Spurs, United, Liverpool and Chelsea supporting friends mocking the predicament the club had just witnessed. It started to kick off on the side-lines too; Arsene was apparently sent off by the ref and had some afters with the fourth official that is likely to put him in some very deep water.

The script that was rewriting itself had not finished though, there was one final twist to this story and thank goodness that worked out as a happier ending for the Gunners. With even fewer seconds on the clock a free kick into the box resulted in a kick to the face on Koscielny and the ref awarded another penalty. There were claims that Koscielny was offside but a kick to the face is a kick to the face. It was an unbelievable turn of events as the emotion had now switched from utter dejection to hope once again. An awarded penalty is great but you still have to score it, a moment like that required nerves of steel and there was no other player on the field you would entrust with the honour than Alexis Sanchez. With a touch of nonchalance the penalty was dinked down the centre of the field and the Gunners were now 2-1 up.


How as a fan could you not explode with excitement and joy at such a finish to the game? Many rival fans have mocked our celebrations but for reference think back to Man united scoring in the last minute at Hull or Tottenham scoring the last minute at West Ham to name a few. We didn’t celebrate like we had won the league but we did celebrate like a team that regained a victory in the dying seconds of the game when everything seemed to have gone against us; call it what you want whilst sucking on those bitter lemons.

As it stands we just need to take each day as it comes, the fallout from this game will become clearer as the week goes on. 2nd in the league now and a game against Chelsea not too far off in the future, dropped points yesterday would have been the worst possible outcome. Now we roll on, yesterday was far from enjoyable but the final result was the most important factor. Hopefully the players will learn from all the negatives but also take encouragement from the positives. Enjoy your day people!

 

 

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Monday Reflections On The Gunners

A good weekend for the Arsenal, after the dispatching of Burnley… Eventually the Gunners found their selves sitting in the top four after all games played. All be it quite a few teams seem to be sticking in a quicksand like position where dropped points can lead to a substantial drop in the table. Apart from the cushy placing held by the likes of Chelski and Southampton the rest are cobbled together and share in being consistently inconsistent.

The events of Saturday have most likely been reviewed to death and so I will alternatively take this chance to reflect on some of key points noted from the game.

sanchez

Alexis is a gift from the Gods.
It would be hard to find anyone out there Arsenal fan or not that would not applaud the performances of Alexis Sanchez right now. The Chilean is literally carrying the Arsenal team at present and drawing comparisons with the impact provided by Luis Suarez to the Liverpool team last season. He has very much been a topic of discussion the past weekend given Arsene’s kind words in his pre-match press conference. You do have to wonder what kind of predicament the Gunners would be in considering the current underwhelming start to the season if Alexis had not been acquired in the summer. If the fighting spirit exhibited by Sanchez could be mirrored by just one or two more of the current squad then the team would benefit and provide more of a challenge to Chelsea.

 

santi jinx

Santi is Jinxed.
Anyone who has watched the last few Gunner’s games will have noticed how unlucky Carzola has been. The Spaniard has struggled to finish off a number of chances in the past few games and that continued into Saturday’s match. These are not difficult chances I am talking about here but straight forward chances that players of the quality of Santi could score with their eyes closed. It’s just not happening for him right now and I hope Carzorla takes out the time this week to say a few Hail Marys and checks his boots for signs of chicken dust to break whatever hex is over him. With Aaron Ramsey getting closer and closer to full fitness the Spaniard’s place could be under threat if the misfortune continues.

Walcott returns.
It was great to see Theo Walcott return to Premiership action. The Gunners did miss the pace he provided last season. That problem was addressed this season with the acquisition of some pacy players to the squad but Walcott still provides a unique set of skills that can be utilised once he gets into full swing. If anything patience is required as Theo eases back into the first team picture. He won’t be the answer to all our problems but if managed right he will play a significant part in any success this season.

Welcome clean sheet.

It’s always nice to get a clean sheet especially considering the makeshift back four the Gunners are forced to field at present. Yes, I know it’s only Burnley but 100% concentration is required at all times no matter who you play. A consolation conceded can lead in a slippery slope of cheap goals creeping in on a regular basis. It is important that the players who occupied the back four get into the habit of shutting teams out whilst building on their understanding week by week. Bigger tests are due in the next seven days against Anderlecht and away to Swansea so the clean sheet on Saturday was vitally important.

That’s all from me, enjoy your day people
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