Category Archives: Premier League

That Was an Amazing Comeback, but it Makes You Wonder…

For some reason I failed to rant like crazy following the capitulation at Brighton and thankfully, I’m happy I didn’t because it would probably had been a venomous affair, but with Arsenal frustrating me and other supporters out there, we turned into neutrals to watch the semifinal match between Liverpool and Barcelona. It was certainly an insurmountable task coming back from three goals down, and the fact that they were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino made things more difficult.

I’m certainly not going to give the commentary about the game here but after 90 minutes, they achieved the impossible, winning with four unreplied goals, which made me think – would my beloved Arsenal win Barcelona after conceding three goals away?

Sometimes, you gotta tell yourself the truth – Arsenal has devolved to a Europa League outfit at best. I remember when we were so spoiled into believing that finishing in the top four was our birthright but in the past two seasons, things have gotten really bad to the stage where it looked like Thanos snapped his fingers and our top four ambitions faded into space. It’s not like we are asking for too much as fans – just play well enough, as it should give you that edge when playing against perceived weaker opposition. But with Arsenal, it’s the opposite – if we are not wasting chances, we are gifting the opposition the ball to hurt us, or conceding needless penalties or just playing so badly.

Even with the likes of lethal forwards like Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in our ranks, the Gunners continue to struggle to kill off games, or convert clear cut chances. I don’t wanna talk about what’s going on that the back – yes, Brend Leno has been an inspiration since he took over from Petr Cech but he has had his shaky moments which can only help him to improve in the future, but when you have a certain Skhodran Mustafi making calamitous errors with such consistency at the back, it makes you wonder whether Unai Emery doesn’t see these things as well.

I remember when Jurgen Klopp went to the final last season and his goalie from former club, Mainz, had such a shocker, allowing Real Madrid to waltz into their three Champions League in a row, he wasted no time in signing Alisson Becker from Roma, and he, alongside the imperial Virgil van Dijk of course, have contributed massively to Liverpool’s defense. Meanwhile, we continue to struggle with whoever Emery decides to field in his back line. Imagine a player as important as Laurent Koscielny watching as Kasper Schmeichel lofts a punted effort from his box straight to Jamie Vardy, or Stephan Lichtsteiner heading the ball to Jurgen Locadia when a throw in would have been a better option.

The season is over but the Europa League still offers a silver lining ending so we can only wait and hope that the lads don’t mess things up at Mestalla tomorrow.

Sayonara

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Thoughts on Hector Bellerin’s Injury and Reviewing Arsenal’s Options at RB

Image result for hector bellerin injury

*removes cobwebs*

*evicts Spiderman – his rent was overdue anyways*

So I haven’t published a post on this blog in four months…

For a guy that has written over 1,500 posts in nine years, it’s simply not good enough, and for that I apologize. I’ve always longed for someone to hold the fort while I am away but that didn’t happen, but it’s not enough not to write in four months. But it’s cool – I’m back like Hector Bellerin would be after six to nine months.

It’s really sad to see our best right back suffer such an injury that could be career threatening, but I take some solace in the fact that he would be given the best medical assistance required for a speedy recovery. His surgery is scheduled to take place in Spain while he would return to London to start the grueling rehabilitation process.

Hector Bellerin had regressed as a footballer in recent seasons but he picked up some form under the tutelage of Unai Emery. With five assists to his name, he beefed up his creative numbers and you can’t underestimate his importance to the way we play our football under the new gaffer. After hitting a good streak of form, he suffered a setback with a calf injury that sidelined him for a while and he was eased into action by the manager, only to sustain this latest injury that would rule him out for the rest of the season, as well as some chunk of the 2019/20 campaign.

So where do we go from here? With Bellerin no longer available for selection, Emery has only two options – work with the other lads at his disposal or delve into the transfer market to probably get a short term mitigation. A loan deal for Nathaniel Clyne some right back.

Let’s explore Option 1 – using the lads at our disposal. In the hierarchy of right backs in the club, Emery has Stephan Lichtsteiner, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Carl Jenkinson as able deputies for Hector Bellerin.

Lichtsteiner, that just turned 35 recently by the way, has seen that life in the Premier League can be a struggle, even if you’re Methusalah’s age mate and have won a truckload of titles in the Serie A. I was one of those fans that had a poker face when he was the first signing in the Emery era and to be honest, I didn’t expect him to light any fireworks, but from what I knew about him, I expected him to put a shift in the games he gets selected. Early on in his Arsenal career, he had it all peachy and creamy, scoring against some farmers in the Europa League and having fun with some lower league folks in the Carabao Cup but Bellerin got injured and he was selected to play with the big boys in the EPL. We all know how that panned out – there were the shite fests away to Liverpool and Manchester United then that header to Brighton’s Jurgen Locadia that cost us three points. As an elder statesman, I didn’t expect him to get that much minutes at the Premier League and with Bellerin injured, he could become a liability in an already shaking backline.

Verdict – I hope he features in only FA Cup and Europa League games.

Then there’s Carl Jenkinson, the forgotten true and true Gooner that has plied his trade in several clubs but still finds himself with us. He’s certainly not a world beater by his fair standards but Jenks gives you 100% commitment and heart, which compensates for his lack of ability. He possesses a nice cross on him though, with his assist in the Blackpool game a reminder of what he can do when selected. What I do love about him is the fact that he doesn’t whine about not playing consistently, and will do his bit when selected, but there’s a reason he’s our fourth choice right back. With his contract expiring this summer, Jenks will certainly try pastures anew but he still has a role to play for us between now and the end of the campaign.

Verdict – He will only remain a last gasp option when the injury crisis deepens

AMN – one of the nicest acronyms you’d ever see till you find out what it means and then you’d wish you didn’t like the acronym initially, as you expected a bit more. That’s how I can relate to his footballing ability as well. With Maitland-Niles, you have to first of all commend him for playing out of his comfort zone to help his team – he’s not a full back by trade (had a strong midfield showing for England in the triumphant U20 World Cup campaign) but he has been deployed as a left back, right back and even right winger, like your modern day John O’Shea. However, the only challenge of being a jack-of-all-trades has the potential to make you a master of none. AMN has the physical qualities that can make him a decent full back, but he still needs to do some work on his defensive side, as there’s room for improvement.

Verdict – Deploy as Arsenal’s make-shift right back and hope he builds some consistency

Now we are at Option 2 – signing a player, or maybe securing a loan deal, from the transfer market. Well, this is not Football Manager 2019, where you have the luxury of clicking on a tab and all the right back options appear for you. In real life, it’s a lot complex. For starters, the manager has already mentioned that there are no funds to sign players in this transfer window, so this already limits our options to loan deals, which it’s not as easy as going over the counter to get an item. In the Premier League, I can think about maybe Matteo Darmian, Victor Moses and Nathaniel Clyne that would be the noteworthy options, but everyone isn’t like Arsenal that enjoys strengthening their rivals.

In conclusion, the onus is on Unai Emery to make the best decision for his team and as an Arsenal supporter, I’d give my err, support, to the option he decides to take.

Sayonara.

Bonus Reading: https://arseblog.com/2019/01/bellerins-injury-could-be-an-opportunity-for-maitland-niles/

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Arsenal Finally have a Balance between Youth and Experience

Image result for guendouzi man city

For many years in the latter part of Arsene Wenger’s reign as manager of Arsenal, there was a mismatch of players at the club. It was either there too many average players or too many young players. This trend ensured that the North London outfit struggled to compete for the title, as the players available didn’t have the talent, quality and winning mentality on a large scale to see the team over the line.

After Arsenal lost the Champions League Final in 2006, which represented the end of that glorious team of the Invincibles, Arsene Wenger changed the playing philosophy and personnel. He turned to playing young players, but at that time those players matured enough to lead the team to titles, they were sold for a profit. It is not surprising and coincidental that when Arsenal started spending money to buy top quality players, and it ended in ending their trophy drought in 2014 with FA Cup triumph. The building of the Emirates Stadium meant that Wenger didn’t have the funds available to compete with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and latterly, Manchester City.

It’s been 15 years now since Arsenal last won the title, a damning verdict for a team of its stature. Unai Emery has identified major problems and has addressed the issue in the transfer window. He has signed players that will improve the first team, add quality, infuse leadership and most importantly trophy-winning experience. His acquisitions have added balance to the team that needed these personalities after a few years of obscurity.

In the latter stages of the Wenger era, the players just drifted through matches; they were not held accountable for bad results, didn’t have the mental strength needed to win the major trophies and didn’t have a manager that could push them to new levels of play they never thought possible. There are so many young players that need experienced players to guide them. The likes of Cech, Lichtsteiner, Koscielny, Papastathopoulos and Monreal are players that have seen it and done that.

A team needs these blend of old and young players to lead the team to new heights: these old players have one final swansong in their careers while the young ones have the needed experience to become established players. It establishes a cycle of winning at the club. It is what the big teams do to continue winning and challenging for trophies.

The start of the new campaign saw the Gunners take on Manchester City and even though the result was hard to take, the like of Matteo Guendouzi impressed, as we also saw debuts for Sokratis Papathathopoulos, Stephan Lichtsteiner and maverick, Lucas Torreira. A perfect blend of youth and experience to add to a vastly talented squad.

Guest post by Live Arsenal, an Arsenal dedicated website that gives you update about latest news coming from The Emirates Stadium.