[Report/Ratings] Arsenal 2-0 Spurs ; One of those derbies..

Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 6.28.07 PM

This was indeed Arsenal’s best starting line up as the game kicked off today. This time Wenger opting to spearhead the attack with Aleksandr Lacazette – a player who I highly rate.

Arsenal started on a positive note with the midfield energetic and the defence playing a high line. Both Kolasinac and Bellerin played wide and the duo of Sanchez and Ozil took narrower positions. This allowed a more balanced side that could press from the front while defending and forming a solid defence at the back (when the wing backs fell in, it became a 5 man defence).

ArsSpurs

The first chance came in the 5th minute when some superb pressing by Lacazette forced a weak clearance from Dier, but the French man’s shot from the successful ‘nick’ found the sky as an unmarked Ramsey raised his hands in frustration. On analysing the replay, it is true that Lacazette could have found the Welshman and IF that happened we may have led. Yet, its hard to blame the striker for not trying and in split-second decision making moments like that, I felt it was fair.

The second real chance came when Ramsey’s ball from the middle found Bellerin’s run behind the Spurs defence but no sooner had the Spaniard shuffled in a low cross than David Sanchez struggle off Lacazette to make a last-second clearance for a corner.

In the 36th minute, we led.

Shkodran Mustafi found the back of the net in his first game since October from a cross from Ozil. It was one of those headers in which you follow the trail of the ball after its been head, right into the net – an exquisite finish as the German jumped and made a quick adjustment seconds before the ball landed on his head.

Coming to the off-side perspective of this goal – if you go by the rulebook, Mustafi is offside but from a footballing perspective if plays like this are given offside (5% of his body was off), it would really hamper fluidity in the game – This would be my opinion even if we had conceded in the same manner.

5 mins later, it was 2. Bellerin’s sneaky pass found Lacazette’s perfectly timed run (against a 5 man Spurs defence playing a moderately high line) and the Frenchman fed a delicious ball into the 6-yard box to Sanchez. The Chilean making no mistake as his 2 touches (one to set it up and another to fire it) found Lloris’ net.

As the first half ended, one could feel proud of the way Arsenal played. They did not give away silly balls and were professional at the back. They had this sense of hunger and urge to score – something this Arsenal team has been missing for a while. It was indeed great to see them play like this.

The second half, as expected started with some immediate Spurs pressure, but Arsenal just about managed to hold them off. It seemed like the Wenger had told his players to step down a gear while Pochettino said the opposite. Arsenal was content with their 2 goal lead and wanted to hit Spurs on the counter-attack. (A tactic I could absolutely see work if the defence held up good)

In fact, the majority of the second half was based on this approach. Arsenal waiting, soaking in pressure from Spurs until they could counter-attack when they had the ball. This almost came to fruit too as in the 78th minute, Sanchez had a superb chance from close range, but Lloris did well to block out the Chilean for number 3.

It’s not that Spurs did not try. Rather it was just some good organisation (sometimes not so good) and shabby Spurs football that rendered the away side useless – Dier came close in the 80th minute but his header was saved by Cech and Son squandered away a good chance moments later firing his shot wide as the Arsenal defence was asleep.

The only 2 real chances for them in this game.  

When Ozil left the field, the man was given a standing ovation – and it was well deserved given the way he handled himself today. He ensured that no one was left wanting for the ball, found every man (including Mustafi for the 1st goal) and he worked when he did not have the ball. One of the best performances of Mesut Ozil against a top side for a long time.

As we hit 90, Sanchez almost got another. From a long ball the Chilean powered off David Sanchez to make it 1 v 1 against Lloris, but again the French GK prevailed – denying Sanchez and saving Spurs from a red face – it could have been 4!

FT: Arsenal 2-0 Spurs

MATCH RATINGS:

Cech – Maybe 3, or 4 saves to make this game. Nothing to bother him…. 7

Koscielny – He made sure the defence was intact and had a decent performance… 6.5

Monreal – Same as Koscielny. I liked the way he supported and covered Kolasinac when the latter attacked…. 7.5

Mustafi – His goal was outstanding and he put in a solid performance at the back. I like this combination with Koscielny, maybe some more game time with both will nurture their partnership and understanding of each other….

Kolasinac – Made some good runs from the back to support Sanchez and he helped out at the back too. His physicality is a huge bonus and he did a good job today… 7.5

Xhaka – Supported the defence and played some good long balls. Decent overall… 6

Ramsey – Made some good runs into the box and protected the defence. One of the most versatile positions in the team, I liked the way he balanced going up and defending today. He needs some more consistent performances like this…..7.5

Bellerin – His runs from the wing are getting better and better. He helped out the back, but less compared to the others. I like the way he found Lacazette for the second goal – the pass was good and this is a side of Bellerin which can be nurtured. He needs to be a little better defensively but that is the pay-off if you are a wing back playing the 3-4-2-1.. 8.5

Alexis – Alexis doesn’t need to be rated. He gets a default 9 for his performance. If I am going to be critical he stole the chance to get a hattrick for himself (although he made those chances) and give millions of Gooners around the world eternal bliss…9.5

Lacazette – As I said, I rate this man highly. He makes good runs (as he did for the second goal), his understanding of the game becomes better and better with each game and he’s fast. The usual Lacazette score-card … 8.5

Ozil – MOTM – The standing ovation from the Emirates says enough for Ozil. Today he showed his true German self and exactly why he is worth the 42 million we paid for him. His runs, work-rate off the ball and of course his passing – made the afternoon …10

City 3-1 Arsenal : If you want to be optimistic, we were not that bad

MCISARSStarting with five at the back when I switched on the game on Sunday, the first thing I thought to myself was “Is he going to park the bus?”

To be honest, I would not be surprised if Wenger did choose to do go down that route with a team like City.  Three at the back would be suicidal against pacy wingers like Sane and Sterling.

90 seconds later, the hosts could have led as Aguero bumbled a chance you could have bet he would score. It started with some shabby Arsenal defending against a swift City counterattack after an overplayed pass by Sanchez on the other side of the pitch.

Arsenal responded within minutes as Sanchez’s cross towards goal was headed away, however, as the ball fell to Iwobi outside the D-box – the resultant shot is not worth blogging about.

As the game settled down after that, the first (second if you consider Aguero’s miss) real chance came in the 10th minute as Sane’s rolling ball across Cech’s goal almost found Sterling.

In the 18th minute though, it was 1-0 – a brilliant goal from Kevin DeBruyne, the master orchestrator and Silva’s prodigy for Manchester City as he slotted a left-footed drive under Cech, who to be honest, should have done better. Arsenal was not playing bad till then and it wasn’t a one-sided game, it was a textbook case of executing and taking your chances as even prior to that we could have led, despite the ‘real chances’ count being 2 for City.

6 minutes later, Ozil could have found himself in a 1 v 1 situation but Sanchez’ pass was fractionally over-hit. One of few chances wasted, the Chilean was having a sub-standard game till now.

By the half an hour mark, Silva mimicked a Sane type ball as he was fed a slick ball by DeBruyne and slashed it across Cech. Fortunately for Arsenal, nobody was in the box.

When Arsenal attacked the back four narrowed itself in a three-man defence and when they defended, the wing backs sat back as the three-man defence changed to 5 at the back. The issue was however lost possession while attacking. In the 32nd min, the away side lost possession while attacking leaving a 2 vs 1 situation between Sterling-Sane and Koscielny. Sterling, however, majorly fucked up as he botched a simple ball to Sane for the latter to tap in.

Arsenal, on the other hand, seemed to lose the plot. The “right formation” was ditched for the suicidal one as Wenger resorted to a 3 man defence in a hope to get more players onto midfield and control of the ball.

48th min, City were awarded a penalty as Monreal forced his weight on to Sterling after the latter shrewdly timed his run past Kolasinac and found himself 1 vs 1 against Cech. It was a case of shoulder to shoulder between Monreal and Sterling, but the benefit of the doubt was given to City as the Spaniard was not near the ball. Aguero stepped up and slotted the ball for 2-0.

Alexandre Lacazette came on in the 56th min for Coquelin as Wenger made a bold change – 10 minutes later, it paid off as the Frenchman slotted a right-footed drive between Ederson’s legs. 2-1

City did not take kindly to Arsenal’s goal as they immediately retaliated. The Arsenal defence was of no help to him as the “Lord Almighty” Jesus found the ball at the end of a shabby cross from De Bruyne. His shot, however, was miraculously saved by Petr Cech as the latter showed the world why he is considered world class. (He may have a few poor games, but if you think he sucks, sincerely, have yourself tested)

On 74, it was 3-1 as Silva slotted the ball to Jesus who had a simple tap-in. This goal was dubious as the linesman should have flagged Silva off-side. Arsenal was hard done by as the game that was well poised before this goal finally shifted to the hosts. People can criticise the Arsenal defence for overlying on the linesman’s honesty, but this was a harsh goal for us – even for me.

Arsenal purposely stretched themselves after this goal as this was the only realistic way to have numbers in the midfield and attack. This did lead to a few chances for the home side but none of them were tucked away.

Arsenal did not play poorly. It was better than the debacle against Liverpool, but City was overall – a more composed and clinical side as they took the chances that fell for them. Yes, we did give them a good fight and the offside did swing things their way, but credit must be given where its due. We were NOT the usual mediocre Arsenal against top 6 opposition. City, all be it a little fortunate were just better.

Final score : Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal FC

November blues exist.

 

Arsenal FC v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League

If you personify the month November and compare him to a kid in the playground, he is the bully which makes Arsenal’s life hell.

November is that month of the season in which you get some direction to where a team is headed and if they are likely to do anything in the season. It is not conclusive, but it gives you a good idea.

For Arsenal, however, November sucks.

I did some digging in to drill in my point. I made a list of all the games we have had since the 2012 season, specifically for the month of November. Disclaimer to Arsenal fans, go watch “IT”, it is less horrifying than the stats you are going to witness…

2012-13

Played 5 – Points picked up out of a possible 15?

6.

Games thrown away, look at 2,4 and 5.

2013-14

Played 5 – Points picked up out of a possible 15?

12.

Games thrown away, look at 2. Believe you me, this was the outlier November.

2014-15

Played 3 – Points picked up out of a possible 9?

3.

Games thrown away? Both, since this was the season in which even Manchester United was shit.

2015-16

Played 3 – Points picked up out of a possible 9?

2.

We drew to Norwich and lost to Albion – both away and we drew to Tottenham at home. Seeing a trend already?

2016-17

Played 3 – Points picked up out of a possible 9?

5.

To be fair, these games were not easy. Although Giroud saved us with his 90th min header and we scored 0 goals in the derby, this too was one of the better Novembers.

Our total games played over these 5 years are 19, which means a total of 57 points. Of this, we have picked up – 28.

In short, we have a 49% chance of picking up points in each game this November.

Just think about that for a moment – if I told you that there is 50:50 chance that a team will pick up (may win or draw) points against the teams it faces this month, would you categorise that team as a “title challenging team”

Over a season, if we consider that out of 38 games, a team will pick up points only in 19 games that give us maximum points of 57 (assuming they won 19 out of 19) – the end league position over one year would be about 7th to 9th.

This is our fixture list below :

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 10.09.45 AM

If you do not consider Cologne (which you should not since we are talking about the premier league specifically), what are the odds that we will get points vs Burnley and Huddersfield and drop points against City and Spurs?

I’ll leave that for you to ponder over.

..I hope I am wrong.

Cruel Expectations..

They said they would start at 3:00 pm !You see this guy on the right?

I was like him on sunday. The only addition was that I had a peg of Jack Daniels beside me…

Every Arsenal fan has an expectation bar related to the club. If you consider the last few years, the season’s have been quite heart-wrenching. I personally know 2 of my friends who are fellow Gooners who take annual pledges (may start from October or even December) not to watch Arsenal games for a given time period, and post that “having the option” to watch them based on how the team is performing. They don’t do this because they are plastic fans. These guys have been supporting Arsenal for well over a decade, but sometimes it’s more important to look out for yourself over giving a shit about what the world thinks…

In the financial world, we use a term called “hedging” (it’s basically protecting your money from any financial harm) – well, in football and especially relevant to this context that is what Arsenal fans do. They hedge, by staying clear – against the heartbreak, the frustration, the repetitiveness, by moving themselves out of the equation.

A perfectly acceptable coping mechanism.

You will notice that I have not used the words “disappointment” while describing the typical Gooners sentiment to Arsenal. That is because it’s absolutely fine to be disappointed or embarrassed by a performance. This is football and its quite probable that if you face a world-class team, you can get thrashed OR you could be tactically outclassed or even wrongfully set up to ship in goals.

But there is a fine difference between getting disappointed and getting frustrated. The latter is toxic because it implies that the reason to get frustrated has occurred more than once over a given period of time.

Most Arsenal fans are frustrated since we have expectations at the club. For eg. 2 years ago when Leicester won the league, we expected Arsenal to challenge and win the league.

Did we come close to having our expectation fulfilled?

No. We finished 10 points of Leicester at 71 and 1 point ahead of Spurs.

Is it wrong to expect from your team ? Especially when you have a team that is worth in terms of transfer fees 335 million pounds (approximately) – I don’t think so.

As this season progresses, I cannot help but get a feeling that we have a long way to go ahead. We are in 4 competitions this year. But we are actually challenging for 2 and hoping for a top 4 finish. Thus, I have set up my expectations for Arsenal from the 2017-18 season.

The old me would say :

Win the premier league | Win the Europa League | Win the FA Cup.

But now, it’s slightly different. For starters, I am not drunk. Hence, my revised expectations are:

Top 4 finish | Europa League – semi-final | Win the FA Cup

We have the Europa League, we have the premier league and we have the FA Cup. 3 competitions we are focusing and fighting for – The premier league has 38 games, add to that 14 in the Europa League (if we reach the final) and another 6 games or so in the FA Cup. That’s about 58 games. I have not included the Carabao Cup because I don’t even consider it as a cup, but if you do, it’s safe to add another 5 games.

We are not secure defensively and we have not found our goal scoring form yet. Our last game vs Watford was a superb spectacle of my point above. Tak about holding it together for a bit and free-falling like a pack of cards. After Deeney put his spot-kick away one couldn’t help but feel Tom Petty’s free-falling playing in the background as this pathetic team sang to its tune. There are the 2 Manchester clubs which are looking better and better as each game progresses and the more time we lose in finding our rhythm the more likely we are to fall behind.

There are the 2 Manchester clubs which are looking better and better as each game progresses and the more time we lose in finding our rhythm the more likely we are to fall behind. United have conceded 2 goals in their first 8 games and City just shipped 7 past Stoke. Arsenal, on the other hand, can’t seem to get a grip on things.

A few weeks back we came off a world-class performance at Stamford Bridge and then Doncaster did an “Arsenal” on us as we struggled to ship in goals in a match where your first scoreline to bet would be 3-0 to the home side. Then we win a few games against sides which are playing shit themselves (no offence, we still needed to get the job done) – but these teams did not challenge Arsenal at all – West Brom, BATE and Brighton. 2 weeks later, we lose again.

It really is difficult for someone to assess how Arsenal is going to fare this season. But certain things are very clear – players are on the edge. There is no leader on the field that can communicate to these players to close the game, the manager is what he is and when shit hits the fan the players play like headless chickens i.e we have no clue how to react to adversity.

A true mark of champions. 

Before I finish this post, I just want to add what Wenger said after the Watford game :

‘Everybody’s shocked in the dressing room,’

no Shit Sherlock…

Add the word “world” instead of “dressing room” to that sentence and you would still be right…

Doncaster need this more than us…

Carabao Arsenal Team

A little history about our opponents before you read on, okay ?

They play in League 1, having been promoted last season from League 2. They lost their last home game on Sunday vs Scunthorpe 0-1 and over the last 3 seasons they have finished 3rd, 21st and 13th.

This game is not even a formality. It’s the Carabao Cup and this tournament will just add to the fixture list this year.

In terms of a hierarchy of competitions in order of importance and priority, I feel the order below is correct :

  1. The English premier league (or a top 4 finish)
  2. The Europa League
  3. FA Cup
  4. Not the Carabao Cup

It just doesn’t do it for me, number 4. It’s as good as saying that the community shield is a trophy like the Emirates Cup is a piece of silverware that every professional football team wants.

There are no stakes here. I hope to see Arsenal win convincingly and if they lose, our confidence in this Arsenal team will sink to a new low. I mean, if we cannot beat Doncaster(with no disrespect) at home, we should just forfeit the tournament.

In the event of us losing however, there definitely will be a bright side (apart from hell we will feel inside) since to be frank this competition is a burden on us.

The team should consist of the raw and unseen talent from the reserves and fringe first team players coming back from injury or hoping to get their season in motion – players like Jack Wilshere, Debuchy, Giroud and that idiot Walcott should start to give us some level of experience.

lineup (3).png

In reality this game is a confidence booster game and I expect Arsenal to perform well against Doncaster especially after the fundamentally strong defensive performance vs Chelsea last game. Keeping those same principles in mind we should approach this game in that manner.

Tickets are being sold as low as 10 pounds and still apparently nobody gives a shit – so it does give you some perspective regarding the expectations fans have at Arsenal. Sure, if we win the cup it’s going to be included as a “trophy” won however speaking strictly from a long term fundamental point of view this trophy won’t be significant.

Let’s just hope we get to see the Niles and the Nelson’s of tomorrow and have a good enjoyable game.

Predicted Score :

Arsenal 1-0 Doncaster. I don’t expect much, that way if we win 2-0 or even 3-0 I will feel happier.

 

Europa 101…

Europa .jpg

Arsenal welcomes FC Koln. today at the Emirates and let’s face facts over window dressing this – it’s not the ideal state to be in and contrary to popular belief – this club competition is not your Carabao Cup or another decorative trophy. We do not want to be in the Europa League, but we were more mediocre than the top 4 teams in England last season, so we deserve to be.

Games will be played on Thursday and most of the subsequent premier league games will be scheduled for Sunday. This schedule gets even more packed at the latter half of the season or “the business end” since we have other competitions like the FA Cup and the crucial Carabao Cup

The money aspect is minuscule as compared to the champions league. But winning the Europa League will give the winner direct entry into the champions league even if they do not qualify from their domestic league. Manchester United was smart to focus on this aspect and now they find themselves in the UCL despite finishing below us.

The bottom line that an Arsenal fan should not ignore is this – despite us not ideally wanting to be in this league, its gives a very good opportunity to do well and progress in it. It would help nurture younger talent and also allow Wenger to try some new styles with the team. Youth teams players can be given an opportunity to express themselves and build themselves up towards the first team. I am looking forward to seeing Jack Wilshere and Reiss Nelson start today’s game and it’s going to be interesting to see if Wenger tries to do something different – it is his first time too here.

Progressing throughout the tournament won’t be easy since we have a very long way to go before even reaching the finals. To put things into perspective, from September to December the champions league eliminates 16 teams and keeps the best 16 in Europe – these teams enter the knock out in February. It’s brief, short and sweet. You have the best teams in Europe playing here and Manchester United.

In the same time, the Europa League (Sept-Dec) eliminates 24 of 48 teams (4 teams 12 groups, with top 2 qualifying) with 24 teams progressing to the next round – the third place teams from the champions league group stage (8) join these 24 and collectively 32 teams play it out in February. From 32 teams, you have the knockout phase to eliminate 16 teams and the rounds continue until you reach 8 teams and 4 teams for the quarters and the semis.

It is a long tournament in that sense and it does become grueling for any team who is thinking of competing seriously about it.

Am I excited about the Europa League?

Honestly, I see it more as a platform to show and understand teams skill-set over an actual competition. Make no mistake about the fact that it is not easy to win. But yes, it doesn’t get my excitement to the level the champions league does (that being said, if we win I will be elated). This is of course, independent of the fact that we have a BETTER chance to win the Europa League than we have a chance to win the champions league – but I do feel the way I feel because I have this thing bad habit called “expectations” from Arsenal.

It is a hard pill to swallow, us here, and the likes of Liverpool and Spurs in the champions league. More so for Arsenal fans since this is our first (hopefully last) season in the Europa League and as once, long ago in the dark ages, our great manager did say

“if you eat caviar everyday, its difficult to return to sausages”

We are definitely not used to sausages, but a man’s got to eat what a man’s got to eat…

If you want to beat Chelsea, don’t be so predictable…

Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal and Oscar of Chelsea

The first real test for this Arsenal side is going to come this Sunday against a team which has revolutionalized the art of the 3 man defense and a competent and fully functional midfield.

When Conte got thrashed 3-0 at the Emirates last season, it might have seemed that he would not have an instantaneous answer to what the premier league had thrown at him. A three man defense may have worked for Juventus in Seria, but getting it right and effective in the premier league given the league’s pace and quality of football seemed out of reach.

But what he did in response to that Arsenal defeat was astounding and he deserves all the credit because his tweak from the 3-5-2 to a 3-4-3 formation made Chelsea win the premier league.

The man understood that attacking and defending are two sides of the same coin and one without the other is a dangerously short-lived team (one perfect example is Barcelona under Vilanova)

With new signings such as Morata and Bakayoko, Antonio Conte seems to be very serious in continuing his formation style of 3-4-3.

Make no mistake, this formation will stay and what makes the formation even more full-proof is the presence of players like Kante – something the world of football was missing since Makalele.

Arsenal line up for Chelsea game and the tactics to be adopted.

lineup (2)

The golden rule against teams like Chelsea, Manchester United or any other counter-attacking side is this :

DO NOT LOSE THE BALL. IF YOU DO, EVERYBODY GET BACK & GET THE BALL BACK!

Sir Alex Ferguson made a very astute observation regarding Wenger. I am going to paraphrase a bit from his book in which he spoke about the tactics he used against Wenger.

He said the best way to play against Arsenal is through patience and awareness. Patience is for waiting and not getting frustrated because if you are facing a team like Arsenal, it’s less likely that you will have more possession of the ball. Awareness is to make sure you “intercept” the ball and quickly break for the counter – the key to beating Arsenal is counter-attacking football. This is true. 100%.

Arsenal without the ball against a good counter-attacking side is as good as a group of headless chickens because when it comes to defending we may still be average (I am being biased since we are below average). But when it comes to “defending against counter-attacks” we don’t have any answer. It’s the only tangible weakness of this Arsenal side.

My guess is Conte will be ready for this. Not only will he tell his team to take the game to us (being a home game) but as a PLAN B, he will make sure his team is setup to counter – effectively.

The thing with games like these is that they have to be contested as a team and your marquee players performance will only help your team. Arsenal has to perform as one unit and if Ozil or Sanchez or Lacazette step up that’s a re-enforcement. The game vs Bournemouth was a feel good factor for Arsenal fans. It was like getting prize money at the casino worth 100$ after losing 500$ till then – the 100$ makes you feel good, but don’t get your hopes up, yet.

Tactically, I believe that Arsenal needs to keep possession (and will be allowed to some extent) and attack with 2-3 game plans. This includes crossing to Lacazette and others if needed, playing quick passes – long and short in order to get balls into the box and thus attempting to break down a resilient Chelsea defense. Simultaneously, however, Cech must be protected.

The key, however, will be to defend strongly when Chelsea attack – be it counter-attack or normally. Kante will be hungry to nick the ball of any of our midfielders to start countering so nullifying him will help us immensely. Ozil needs to step up and maybe draw Kante out of his natural position in order to allow Ramsey & co better passage. Xhaka needs to be more aware and another lack luster performance by him can actually see him benched in the future. Players need to maintain their shape, even if they lose the ball. The Barcelona pressing system is something which won’t work very well against Chelsea becuase they prefer to distribute the ball and attack in numbers, so it’s better if we preserve our energy till it’s needed and not run the risk of losing our basic formational structure. We should play a 4-3-3 and this shape should not be compromised under any conditions. This is my opinion, but Wenger may opt for the “defensive suicidal formation” 3-4-3.

I have my doubts about this structure and the only reason I do so is that it takes more than 2-3 months for a team to get used to this formation completely. We have had pre-season and 4 games to do the same. I am going to do some research on this and publish another article regarding the loop-holes in the 3-4-3 or the 3-5-2 and why some teams are better off without it, so I shall come back to this later.

Overall, this is going to be one tough game for Arsenal. If they win, their confidence will sky-rocket because beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is nothing close to easy.

Get the tactics right, get the mentality of the players set and keep the shape and discipline (even if you want to play the 3-4-3) – we can do this if these 3 things are addressed and win.

If not, expect another cricket scoreline this week