There’s still a lot to fight for this season with a top four place and the Europa League still in the mix, but the 3-1 first leg loss to Rennes last week Thursday was a bitter pill to swallow to say the least. It was expected that the Gunners would use their home advantage to good effect, but anything less than a 2-0 win for the home side would have been a disaster.
In a classic case of ‘If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’, Unai Emery stuck to the same formation that was so successful against the high-flying Manchester United, but Bernd Leno had to make do with a place on the bench as the Europa League is Petr Cech’s tournament. Shkodran Mustafi filled in for the suspended Sokratis Papathathopoulos, alongside captain Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal.
Arsenal came off the blocks really fast with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showing his predatory skills in the box to nick home Aaron Ramsey’s hopeful punt into the danger area. The forward turned from scorer to provider when he lofted a ball into the six yard box that was headed aplomb by Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Auba was clearly offside but I’d let you know when I care. It feels kinda sinister when these decisions go for you, but hey, that’s football.
It’s not like it was all Arsenal all the way, the away side had their moments and almost earned themselves an away goal when a snap shot from some bloke clipped Cech’s post and returned to the fray. Mustafi was in his usual careless self and one wonders what can be done to take away this erratic behavior from him.
The Gunners sealed the game when substitute Henrikh Mkhitaryan teed up Sead Kolasinac on the byline that drilled the ball for Aubameyang to poke it home. Instead of the usual somersaults, Auba revealed and donned a Black Panther mask much to the delight of his fans. I clearly remember crossing my arms on my chest in response to his Wakanda Forever expression. He earned a yellow card for his troubles but that didn’t matter – Arsenal are in the last eight of the Europa League and are set for a double date with Italian side, Napoli.
When that bridge comes, we would cross it but its nice going into the international break with such a great result and feeling to match, all thanks to our Gabonese Black Panther that came through for Arsenakanda.
So after two long months, I’m back to writing about the club I love so much. As you’d expect from the international break, nothing much has been happening, except Germany and their continues woes post- Ozil. The Netherlands has been a nation on the decline, since they reached the World Cup final in 2010, but Ronald Koeman’s side put the Germans to the sword with three unreplied goals. Even that former Manchester United wasteman, Memphis Depay, was on peek Cristiano Ronaldo mode or something.
The biggest news from an Arsenal perspective is the retirement of club captain, Laurent Koscielny, from international football. Koscielny served his country 51 times, featuring in two European Championships (2012 & 2016) and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. A nasty injury suffered in May cost Koscielny his place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and it must have hurt a lot, watching his countrymen lift the trophy.
He even admitted that it hurt him a lot missing on the mundial, and while a part of him was happy to see them win football’s biggest prize, his more evil side hoped they were eliminated. Typically, you would expect that retiring from his country clearly means that he wants to concentrate on playing regular club football, but it’s not so surprising to know that our captain is itching for a move back to Ligue 1 to as his career reaches its twilight. With the likes of Mustafi, Holding, Chambers, Mavropanos and this season’s new addition, Sokratis, in our ranks, we are quite stacked up with our fair share of centerbacks, but none can make up Koscielny’s experience and leadership.
He is expected to resume action some time in late November / early December and I’m pretty sure that Unai Emery has major plans for his captain this season. In recent seasons, Arsenal captains turned out to be bench warmers as they reached the ends of their careers with the club but I’m certain that such a fate will not befall Koscielny.
I wish him the best as he continues with his long recovery from injury.
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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.