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

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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).

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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

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 :

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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.

Europa 101…

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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.

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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

Liverpool 4 – 0 Spineless FC

Alexis

Let’s just try and be objective about what happened at Anfield on sunday.

Arsenal’s lack of organization is something I will talk about in detail in my next post. This is something that  I have called and foreseen a long time ago. It really does appear to be coming true (how I wish I was wrong).

What we witnessed on sunday should be made into a DVD and shown to children in football academies of what you should never strive to do. It was pathetic and Wenger as usual in his post match conference, when asked about the reason, conjures this :

That question is very difficult to answer straight after the game. There are some reasons but I don’t think I have too much to come out on that at the moment.

Really ?

Can you not call it like it is. That the defense lacked organization. That we needed to adapt quickly to the first goal and we didn’t. That the players seemed off and that we needed to have a better game plan.

No. Instead cite the “good” performances vs Stoke (we lost) and Leicester (we just won)

Last season I said that after 30 games. We’ve played three games, one at home and two away. In our two first games we were quite good and performances good. Today was not acceptable. Today was not acceptable at that level.

Good ? or Lucky ??

To those people who saw the game on sunday, my heart goes out to you. We played so badly that it’s hard to digest a performance like within the first 3 matches of the season.

This is the Arsenal, or what’s left of it. So bloody disgraceful.

ANALYSIS :

For today’s post, I have decided to do a quick summary analysis of the way these spineless turds played on sunday. To compare, I have listed out what Liverpool did in each situation also.

Please be warned if the photos are not very clear, this was my first time with a camera.

The below figure shows a Liverpool side where each player has a rough idea of where his position should be.

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It is important to note here that Liverpool does not have possession of the ball and thus this is the default (without the ball) set structure of the team i.e a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 depending on the situation.

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The above figure is when we were trailing 1-0. Liverpool now has possession of the ball. Look at the formation. What exactly is this?

Seriously, what exactly is this?

5-4-1 or a 4-4-2 ??

Who knows where Alex Chamberlain is?

Not his fault though, he has not been instructed properly. Just told to ‘do your best’

5 mins later, we have this…

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Just look at the clueless Bellerin ball-watching, not even aware of the full-back calling out for a through ball. Just look at the space!

Now, it should be noted that Arsenal has shifted to a 5-4-1 and they were trailing at this point with no threats to the Liverpool goal (excluding Welbeck’s sitter) Liverpool, on the other hand, has still kept their structure(a little stretched), despite being the ones in the lead.

Liverpool, on the other hand, has still kept their structure(a little stretched), despite being the ones in the lead.

Yes, Mr. Wenger. A 5-4-1 when we trail 1-0…did you ever think about switching from a 3 man defense to maybe a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-1-1?

2 mins later…Arsenal tries to attack.

Liverpool does not have the ball, just look at how they setup/re-shuffle accordingly. All Arsenal players are marked via zones. For 6 Arsenal players there are 6 Liverpool players on screen (barring Mane who is still tracking back)

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Sanchez has the ball, but there is nobody fucking available. Why ? Because Bellerin is strolling around near him and if I am not wrong, Xhaka is chatting up with the Spaniard. The only 2 people trying to do something is Ozil and Welbeck, but given the brilliance in their positioning Sanchez can’t seem to find anyone free.

1 min later after Arsenal loses the ball and Liverpool attack…

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Mane is free. The defense for some reason has become narrow. It looks like the formation and changed to a 5-2 something. Chamberlain has no clue who is at the back of him. Bellerin is again ball-watching. This was a similar position where he was caught out and could not deal with an incoming tap in (missed) by Salah (thank you, Petr Cech).

When you lack organization and instructions the above pictures are what you get. School boy defending and a shambolic shameless performance. There is no leader at the club and there is no will.

Arsenal’s will probably finish 8th or 9th this season given the way they are playing and while this is pretty disgusting it is the most realistic thing which fans should get tuned with. This is not going to be our season, in fact, I do not know what will be our season. Don’t put your hopes up and think a comeback is on…the problems lie at the heart of the team and in its structure and formation. If you send a navy seal unarmed vs someone who has a gun, no matter what seal training teaches you, the latter has leverage.

Arsenal right now is the navy seal (actually even worse, they probably have no training) and the season is the armed man.

In the words of Tyrion Lannister, yes, sir, we are truly

“fucked”

Arsenal’s consistency is appalling…..

Bale

Did you catch the North London Derby ? I did. And I must say that it was exceptionally shitty. Blank for a second, ok, let me explain. I don’t find Spurs a very good club, and given the fact that they beat Arsenal with a 2-1 scoreline just goes on to prove my point even further. These says beating Arsenal is no big deal, and it will continue to be so until something changes in the club. FACT. Period

Apart from the routine shambolic defending which the club consistently display week-in and week out, this time it was the irrelevant contribution of the attack which made this derby even more atrocious. Arsenal had 2 shots on target  of 11 shots taken, one of which was a deflected goal by Mertersacker…. **clapping**

As a supporter of Arsenal I now view matches in a different perspective. I don’t look towards the weekends, have stopped tracking the Arsenal news and lately I choose to ignore the ‘stinging comments’ from people in my social life.

Its not that I don’t support Arsenal anymore, its just that I have lost faith in my team due to its consistent mediocrity shown throughout the years. Arsenal believe it or not are a mediocre team and have been a mediocre team for the last 3 years. People will question my premise by saying Arsenal have consistently finished in the top 4 for more than a decade or so and that the top 4 teams of any league cannot be mediocre because they play in the highest level of club competition in Europe. Yet, do riddle me this :

In 2009-10 Arsenal finished 3rd(75) 11 points behind champions Chelsea(86). 11 points adrift of 2nd place (85)

In 2010-11 Arsenal finished 4th(68) 12 points behind champions Manchester United(80). 3 points adrift from the top 2(71)

In 2011-12 Arsenal finished 3rd (70) 19 points behind champions Manchester City/ United(89).

Please tell me you are seeing a trend here.

Right now Arsenal are 24 points behind United with 10 matches to play. Forget the rest.

I know I crib. I know I get pissed off, but is it wrong for me to get pissed off at Arsenal for not even TRYING to compete. Some idiots will consistently say, “Get behind your team, now is the time they need it the most.”

Well, have I not been behind them all these years. I don’t ask much from Arsenal. I literally don’t. All I ask is for the club to remain competitive. Is that also too much ?

I don’t live in London, so I will never have an option to go and see games. Honestly, I’m glad because I rather spends 75 pounds on something worthwhile.

Today morning, I happen to glance over news reports(BBC) that Wenger stopped Bould from holding his training sessions after the first few games of the season, opting to go back to his traditional ‘mute’ defending methods.

*Salut*

This has helped us in leaps and bounds. Conceding 2 in the first 5 which included City and Liverpool, now we’ve bagged 30 more.

PS : And for those who say its one more than United. lets be honest, its not that United have a fantastic defense, they just compensate the goals conceded via their attack.