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Arsenal 2 Watford 0: The giddiness of the unknown

Arsenal 2 Watford 0
From Goodplaya at the Emirates

PERHAPS it was all in my imagination. But on my first visit to the Arsenal since May, I was struck by the crowd reaction when Mesut Ozil scored our second. I’m not saying it was hug thy neighbour and fall into the row in front time. But there was a brief giddiness that I can’t really remember sensing for a long time. Suddenly, we’ve won five on the spin and for now at least we can dream a little.

For sure, the squad doesn’t look comparable to that of others. But we can dream just a bit because gone is the sense that whatever positive we do, we’ll soon come a cropper in exactly the same way we did the season before and the season before that and the season before that.

I absolutely love it when a game is hard to call and I love it even more when a game is still hard to call after 70 minutes. Watford today were bloody good. But after a draw and loss in their last two games, they reminded me of what we were like in the final games of 2007-08 post that draw at Birmingham. Essentially, you can be doing everything right and exactly as you did when you were all conquering but the ball no longer runs for you.

Unai Emery’s substitutions were fascinating to observe: Iwobi for Ramsey and then Welbeck for Aubameyang. A world away from what Wenger would have done. Torreira and Xhaka would probably have made way for Welbeck and Mkhitaryan. It turned out Iwobi and Welbeck would make decisive contributions to both goals but it would be absurd to pretend that Watford weren’t the most likely winners until our opener.

But in a way that is what made it all the sweeter. This wasn’t so much a lucky win as one that was eked out thanks to some sharp play when it mattered.

Anyway, it was good to be back and it’s nice not knowing quite what to expect.

97 Responses to “Arsenal 2 Watford 0: The giddiness of the unknown”

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  2. slc gunners says:

    Who is this Arsenal team? What is the identity? I have no idea. I am tired of watching us play our from the back and getting bogged down by teams who know exactly what we’re going to do. It’s terrible to watch and has not helped one iota. We would be better off going long and competing for the ball higher up the pitch and building from there.
    Apparently, we’re going to stick with a 4-3-3 that is not doing a whole lot for us. I know that’s what City and Liverpool play, but they are much much better teams. I am tired of Emery saying that “we are in the process” as if we were building and improving from game to game. We’re not. I am not seeing progress.
    What happened to the Arsenal that controlled games and created chances? 68% possession and only 9 shots – that tells its own story Sheffield Utd had almost the same number of shots with 32% possession.

  3. MDP says:

    Yes, the modern game of football – playing out from the back, pressing high up the pitch… Looks great when Man City and Liverpool do it! I even remember a transition period for both of those teams when it looked shaky. But, none of it was as bad as when Arsenal do it. We just seem to get stuck playing square balls or backwards in our half, inviting the opposition on to us and then get the major jitters before conceding another sloppy goal. It’s just not working. Pepe had the only moment in the game where it actually worked playing from deep. I’m very concerned with Emery right now and remain sceptical but in hope he has the technical know-how to get us out of this in-effective style of football…

    I believe in the players we have and although it won’t solve everything I can’t wait to see Tierney overlapping on the left either with Saka or Auba and Bellerin on the right with Pepe. Laca fitness boost is all part of this and can only improve things at the very least. Maybe these players returning can be the catalyst for an up turn in form but Emery has big problems to solve in the way we set up and play tactically.

    I feel bad picking out Chambers when he has been one of the highlights of the last few weeks. He just shows his limitations as a right back when overlapping with Pepe despite tons of endeavour. But, we’ve got too many players who have been moved around and don’t really know their position from Willock, to AMN to Saka to Ceballos. Is it not time to settle on positions. I just hope the returning players give us a bit more balance and shape and then Chambers can push on along with Holding and give serious competition to Luis and Sokratis as I see no reason why those two can’t be contenders to start in defence. Chambers has shown us a new level to his game but maybe time to settle on one position.

    As I say above, I have no problem with personnel, I genuinely think we have the players to compete for top 4 if played in the right system. I’d prefer to see Torreira over Xhaka in there for his ball winning qualities but I wonder if Emery prefers a more physical, taller type of player. With Saliba joining next summer I can only see that infamous defensive midfield position as the area to solve in the transfer market if Torreira isn’t deemed the right fit although I’d be playing him now given the options. Over to you Emery, time to take of the shackles and get this talent clicking like they seem to be in the Europa League…

  4. Slc gunner says:

    You’re right MDP – this is more about Emery and style of play than the players. While our players are not at the City/Liverpool level in terms of individual quality, that is not the main issue at the moment.

  5. MDP says:

    It’s all gone a bit crap lately, let’s be honest. It’s hard at this moment to see a future at the club for Emery, he seems to have lost his way after a promising start. I wanted Arsene gone for a long time before he went but what one of the things I found horrible about his last few years was the fact that instead of sticking to the real reasons he should leave (& there were plenty) people insisted on jumping up & down/shouting about EVERY SINGLE THING HE SAID & DID. Sadly, we have now reached that point with Emery too. He says some daft things undoubtedly, but even sensible, completely uncontroversial comments are now twisted as an excuse to put the knife in. Similarly for his selections etc : the grief he is getting from some for not playing Bellerin as an example. He has played two 90 minute games & looked well off the pace in both…… (not a dig at him, just a fact – after that long out how would it be any different ??)….and yet people are absolutely slaughtering Emery for not playing him in the league. It’s madness, have these people no intelligence whatsoever ??

    Anyway, we will see where the next few weeks go….but the pressure is building on him…and his (lack of) celebration after the late winner last night was telling. He doesn’t look a happy man. It’s a shame but he might not get to see out this season

  6. MDP says:

    Not sure who wrote the above post? It’s not me… Do we have another MDP in the group?

  7. PD says:

    Sorry, that was me ! I think tiredness from a tough work week has got the better of me, I was clearly looking at your post when I was typing in my mail….well, either tiredness or old age, one or the other!
    Sorry again

  8. MDP says:

    Haha! No probs at all…I thought I’d lost my identity for a moment there!!!

    Agree with a lot of your points though PD, hard to see Emery turning this around now as his decisions have been so bizarre and I think he’s set out his stall. He’s certainly giving that impression anyway. They were all over the place last night, looking clueless with absolutely no shape or purpose to their play. Too many free spirits and no discipline what so ever. It’s alright giving a player of Guendouzi’s quality a bit of licence to roam but when the rest of your midfield are doing the same thing. …And there lies the problem with Xhaka…It’s one or the other and I’d take Guendouzi all day long. This teams crying out for a disciplined defensive midfielder and a bit of on field leadership. I still struggle to see where that leadership is going to come from but Torreira still seems the man to sit alongside either Guendouzi or Xhaka as the deep lying midfielder. Although, he was popping up all over the place last night so would take some coaching… hmmm?

    Looking on the bright side – 2 stunning goals from Pepe… We certainly have the quality of players… they’ll maybe get Emery off the hook if they find any kind of confidence or groove.

  9. N7 says:

    How giddy are people feeling now? :-(

  10. Slc gunner says:

    Not very N7. 12 games in and champions league looks to be out of sight – at least not via the league route. I don’t want Arsenal to become part of the managerial merrygoround but what do you do. If nobody is available, then maybe stick with Emery until the end of the season and see how the youngsters do with a little bit of experience? But if there is an Allegri-type willing and available now, then I think we have to move decisively. Either way, Emery’s time is up (now or in 6 months at the latest).

  11. Slc gunner says:

    Is it sacrilege to state that Pochettino would be a good candidate for Arsenal? I like him. I don’t want Mourinho at Arsenal – that would be sacrilege given all the history. Emery is still in charge so all of this is moot until such time as he is fired.

  12. MDP says:

    I thought we’d hit critical point before the International break. Emery is at a dire place of no return from what I can see. If ever a club has needed to take decisive action, it’s now. And, it’s not just about turning the tide and CL football… It’s about convincing players like Auba and Laca not to jump ship at the end of the season and making a bad situation even worse. And, even if the right long term manager isn’t available right this minute… we’ve sunk to such a point that a temporary appointment has to be considered. Standing still would just be giving up in my book. I can’t quite believe how bad it’s got in such a short space of time.

  13. Slc gunner says:

    Oh please let it end now. So hard to watch this footballing non-entity.

  14. Slc gunner says:

    What a complete shambles. Emery is gone, but not much has changed with Freddie. We need t start winning or we’ll be in a relegation fight – that’s how bad it is. I keep hearing pundits talking about Arsenal being a big club and having all this attacking talent. Well I’m not seeing the latter and with the defence that we have, we need 3 goals a game to win. Our current average is 1.5. Why not give Chambers/Holding a chance as a pair. We’ve seen what the others can do and it’s not up to much. Maybe an old-fashioned 4-4-2 with wingers that actually defend and attack. Maybe two of Saka/Nelson/Martinelli who are young and have something to prove. We need graft and work ethic – I don’t see that from the Ozils of the world.

  15. MDP says:

    It’s just mental how bad things have got. I’m watching a lot of it unfold but it’s so bad and almost inevitable that I’ve almost detached myself emotionally to a point of numbness.

    When I think how rose tinted I saw things in the summer. I genuinely thought we had a decent squad worthy of top 4 – with a classy forward line, flair in midfield, knew wingers, talented youth stepping up, an expectation that Torreira and Guendouzi would go up a level after an exciting first season. I did have major doubts about defence but I thought we’d manage with the arrival of Tierney, return of Bellerin and Holding plus the experience of Luis (I never rated before joining Arsenal but had managed silverware at Chelsea – he couldn’t be worse than Mustafi could he?).

    The bear facts are we lost two top quality defenders in Kos and Monreal in the summer and then Bellerin, Holding and Tierney have all struggled to regain form and fitness. Leaving us with Luis who’s a shit defender and can’t defend, Sokratis who’s (this season) a shit defender and can’t defend, Mustafi who’s a shit defender and can’t defend and Chambers who works hard and has had moments but has his flaws. In front of them we have Xhaka who lost the plot, Torreira who’s either been dropped or played out of position and Guendouzi who’s a star in the making but too much on his shoulders and far from the discipline we need. The midfield still looks unbalanced and disconnected as does the front line. Emery’s tactics were too negative and incoherent and confidence broken.
    It will take at least 3 wins to start to heal confidence and they don’t appear to be coming anytime soon. Truly worried.

    The bottom line is…as long as we have a midfield you can run straight through and a defence that simply can’t defend and keeps retreating back towards the goal giving the opposition all the space in the world …we’re fucked.

    The rebuild under the new manager has to be from the back forwards. We already appear to have a world class goal keeper on current form (big shout out for Leno, truly class amongst all this shite). We need to lose Mustafi, Luis and Sokratis as soon as possible for whatever we can get. We need to find proper defenders who can defend whether it’s a Johnny Evans or a Cahill or a centre back I’ve never heard of, I don’t care as long as they can plain and simple defend. We need leaders who will stand up, take responsibility and lead on the field. Currently we have none. Xhaka will be off I expect and possibly Torreira. We have to find someone with discipline to play that position. Can this be done in January? If it isn’t, I hate to think where we’ll be. I like the idea of giving a back four of Tierney, Holding, Chambers and Bellerin a chance but I presume fitness is working against us. In principal though I think that’s our best option as things stand, they certainly can’t do any worse.

    Over to the new management team… Raul, Edu etc… it’s not about great deals it’s about getting the right players and stopping this rot that has been eating away at the defence and midfield for years. Stop the flow of shit school boy goals and we can begin to rebuild. Have absolute zero faith it will happen under the Stan regime… please prove me wrong. We need an inspired George Graham/Wenger (the early years moment). Eek.

  16. MDP says:

    I know it’s easy to speak too soon, I learnt that lesson with Emery… but I’m gobsmacked by the response Arteta has got from this squad. I never ever thought I’d see the day that Ozil could have such an all round performance. All the players put in a shift last night. I often heard people talking about shorter distances or being more compact but never has it been more clear to me than last night. Wow!

    I haven’t seen players respond to a manager like this since the George Graham days. I appreciate two completely different managers, style and philosophy but the response in the last two games have been remarkable. As I say, early days… but I’d love to know what Arteta is doing behind the scenes to spark such a change. Long may it continue!

  17. Slc gunner says:

    Finally something to feel good about. I had gotten to the stage where I wasn’t getting angry at draws, losses and bad performances. That changed with the Chelsea game. I was finally angry again because we had played a decent game. The Utd game continued the progress. A long way to go as Arteta himself has said.
    Agree MDP that things are looking up, even if we need to hesitate about being overly optimistic at this stage. As you noted in your previous post, we have some very bad defenders on the books. Mustafi should never see another match day squad for Arsenal. Luiz is not a great defender but a good footballer. Sokratis has his moments, but I would still rate him well ahead of Mustafi. A little bit of structure and organisation have made the pair look better. It’s as simple as that. The double pivot of Torreira and Xhaka has also made us look more sound. We can still improve more and it’s telling that Arteta has made multiple reference to fitness levels. It’s shocking to me that this is an issue, but clearly Arteta can compare what he has seen at the City training ground to what he is now facing.
    PD: are you out there. Thoughts on your favourite DM of all time now being the manager?!

  18. MDP says:

    Its been such a weird couple of weeks. It’s way too early to judge Arteta (or any of the players) but since he’s come in, it’s turned everything I ever thought on its head. I’m even thinking Xhaka staying beyond January is a good idea and Luiz could actually be able to defend with the right manager behind him (I mean look at all the things he’s won – you don’t do that without some kind of pedigree). Has Ozil been re-born? Is Maitland Niles going to go the distance as a right back? Is Arteta the Messiah? This whole thing is bizarre and I wonder if I’m going to wake up from this dream soon? Whatever way you look at it, this has been fun so far and anything seems possible. Even after the Chelsea game I refused to be miserable after the dust had settled.

    I have to say, I wasn’t Arteta’s number one fan as a player. I just missed a big physical presence in midfield and still felt we got opened up way too easily. I liked the person but the footballer that a huge number of people waxed lyrical about went way over my head, I just didn’t see it at the time. As a coach however, I always thought he looked like a man that meant business from the moment I saw him on the City bench. I didn’t see him as Arsenal manager the first time round, it was just too soon. But, after Emery I began to believe the hype.

    Regardless of how things pan out, this has been mad. Can’t wait to see what happens next. Please don’t burst, bubble…

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  21. PD says:

    Can someone please just cancel football again. At least there was some sense of hope then.

  22. MDP says:


    Just a mid table team.
    Time to rip it up and re-build?

  23. MDP says:

    Okay, so that last comment was a bit rash maybe.
    So impressed with the result today and last four games have been enjoyable. Some great stuff to build on. On to the next test.

  24. Slc gunner says:

    Good to see PD and MDP back online. It’s been a while. I’m afraid to say that the table doesn’t lie. We are now a mid-table team sadly. Good results here and there – but we then go and lose to Villa and look awful in the process. We can still win the FA Cup as Chelsea are definitely beatable. I’m not sure if the Europa League would be a good thing or a bad thing next season. It will provide some extra cash but not a lot in the scheme of things. But winning the cup would be a big deal after the season we’ve had. So I think we should just go out there and go for it – and forget about Europa League permutations. 40 points behind Liverpool – it’s a long way back from here and we’ll need changes. The current squad might improve by 10 or so points, but the quality is not there to go further than that from what I’ve seen.

  25. MDP says:

    Good to see you back SLC…

    What a roller coaster this season has been… hard to believe it started with Emery, followed by Freddie, then Arteta and then the COVID madness. Mid-table isn’t acceptable for a club of this stature, although it does represent a fair amount of truth and reality which we can’t hide from but maybe table position doesn’t tell the whole story when you take 3 different managers into account.

    The major positive for me is Arteta’s apointment. I’ve been surprised how impressive he appears to be. I love his whole demeanour, his confidence, a man with a very clear plan, building a much stronger culture, totally focused, coaching and giving instruction at every step in 3 different languages, nurturing yet ruthless. He seems to have the tools to improve and get the best out of players even if they’re not here for the long term. I do think we’ve ended up with the best man for the job at this point in time and I’ve found myself really buying into him. Maybe it’s also because he’s starting to find systems that are making this group of players tick better than I’ve seen in a long while. All of this taking in to consideration that the Ozil’s, Mustafi’s and Luiz’s of this squad (to name but a few) will be moved on in the next 12 or so months. To be replaced by models that best fit the plan. Ever the optimist eh?

    Other high points of the season include Tierney, a breath of fresh air by the sound of how he conducts himself around the place. Already showing a bit of steel at the back and some exceptional final balls into the box. Saka looks like the real deal and we’ve only seen the start considering how young he is. Martinez was a massive shock coming in to replace player of the season Leno and it’s been seamless up until now. The Cup Final is also an unexpected highlight as long as we can raise our game once more. Oh, and I don’t want to forget Martinelli either who’s been a revelation.

    But… its obviously not all sweetness and light. Some truly dire and awful results see us sit in mid-table. Another season outside the Champions League and potentially Europe full stop. All the financial constraints that brings. Owners that still seem somewhat detached and execs that have a lot still to prove. We also have quite a number of players to move on. A delicate situation but one that has me on the edge of my seat. So many of those players we frequently talk about kicking out are down to 12 months so things are going to change in the not too distant future…

    …and I won’t mention the Auba contract…

    Enjoy the Cup Final everyone. Stay safe, healthy and enjoy the re-build!!!

  26. Slc gunner says:

    Happy Days. Great to get another FA Cup win. I agree with you MDP that Arteta has made a difference and he’s brought a new energy to the club, in addition to the tactical awareness that comes from his experience working with Pep. We still need players to compete in the league, but a cup win always feels great. Plus there’s the added bonus of making Spurs play through the qualifying rounds of the Europa League!

  27. MDP says:

    Yep, a huge win in the final that can’t be underestimated. It really put a shine on a season which was slipping away to new depths and at the very least puts us back in a stronger position than our league position suggests, with European football. What’s more we have a manager that won’t let this cup run cloud what is required in terms of building for next season. He doesn’t strike me as a manager that will make excuses or forget how bad some of those Premier League performances/defeats were.

    So, it’s now whether Auba stays and we can build a team around him that I think can quickly challenge for Champions League with a few astute purchases… or, if Auba goes then the re-build may take a bit more time and patience.

    One things for sure, a bit of silverware only seems to have pulled this squad closer together, added a bit of confidence and know-how as well as giving our young manager his first taste of managerial success. It certainly felt good and 14 FA Cups (10% of all FA Cups won so I’m told) sounds pretty good eh…

  28. Slc gunner says:

    Because I have time and renewed enthusiasm…here’s the first of my position-by-positions posts for the new season.
    GK: I’m happy with Leno and Martinez as #1 and #2. The question is whether or not we can keep both happy. The #2 will have to play in all cup competitions. According to this site, Martinez has 2 years to run on his contract and Leno is on a longer-term contract.
    I would extend Martinez now rather than letting him run down to 1 year where he could easily decide to see it out and ultimately leave on a free.
    AS for 3rd choice, that option is very rarely used. Macey has a year to go on his contract. I would let him run that down when he can be let go on a free. There are other younger more talented keepers at the club that could also fill the #3 keeper role.
    As for #1, Leno still has the jersey for me, but Martinez is mow pushing him and ready to step in if Leno’s form suffers or if he has an injury.

  29. slc gunner says:

    Right back/Right wing back: Looks like our options are Hector, Cedric, Maitland-Niles and possibly Chambers. I’m a little concerned here because Hector has not been great and Cedric didn’t look in the one or two games that he played – you can excuse the latter for lack of match sharpness. Given that Cedric has signed, he’s staying put. I doubt we’ll make any changes in this area. I would keep Maitland-Niles even if the rumours are that he is up for sale. I think he’s looked good recently and I would keep him as backup for both left and right back. I would sell Kolasinac. I actually think that Maitland-Niles’ form has been better than Hector’s and Cedric’s and could be a viable starter. I’ll discuss Chambers under centre halves. Overall verdict: I think this position is a possible weakness, but given other priorities, we’re unlikely to spend or improve. Hopefully Hector will prove me wrong.

  30. MDP says:

    The goalkeeper situation is a great one but really strange. When you consider how long we’ve struggled in that position and now we appear to have two top class keepers here at once… and I didn’t see it coming from Martinez. Leno is still number one in terms of experience and he hasn’t put a foot wrong barring the Chelsea error (the odd mistake can happen to any keeper). But, Martinez has been at Arsenal 10 years and really seems part of the fabric of the club which can only be an asset.

    I heard someone (on a podcast) say that Arsenal can’t afford to have two such high quality keepers at the club… meaning we need to cash in on one to help raise much needed funds for other positions on the pitch… it’s hard to argue with that. However, I think whilst Leno is only just coming back from injury, they won’t sell in a hurry and I suspect both will hang around for the coming season but maybe we’ll see a bit more of Martinez and see if he can keep up the levels he’s set. I’d also be mindful of losing Martinez only for Leno to get head hunted in the next season or two. Tricky, tough calls for the manager and management team – I couldn’t call it…

    As for right back… I think Bellerin has struggled like most do on returning from the notorious cruciate injuries. It often takes much longer to really get back to fitness and form. There were hints of his old self in the last few games but questions over him losing a yard of pace remain. Cedric didn’t seem overly impressive but the competition will do well to push Bellerin. I feel a bit gutted at the thought of AMN going, I like him a lot at times and like this idea of a versatile player adapting to different situations on the pitch. I also want the management to be ruthless however in getting what they need for this team to move forward so if selling him amongst others gets us a balanced midfield or tighter defence then I don’t think we’ll complain. But, loved seeing a home grown lad proving people wrong after a bumpy spell. Mixed feelings but would love to see him stay…

  31. Slc gunner says:

    Hope you’re right re Bellerin MDP – and that he’ll get back to form this season. Agreed re AMN.
    Left Back/left wing back: we have Tierney, AMN, Kolasinac and Saka. Tierney has done well since the break. he had struggled earlier. He’s been receiving rave reviews, but I’m a little skeptical about over-hyping him too soon. We all want him to be our Andy Robertson, but there are no guarantees. Played well on the left of a back 3, and seems to have good defensive instincts. May be a little bit of a one trick pony in the final third (drop of the shoulder and beat the man on the outside), but if it’s effective, then we can live with that. His final ball is much better than Kolasinac’s.
    For me, either Kolasinac or AMN has to be sold to bring in some cash. As stated under the right back discussion, I would prefer to keep AMN. Kolasinac is at the age where we might get a decent sum for him (somewhere in the 10-20m range).
    Saka has done well, even if he faded a bit towards the end. Tends to try to dribble out of trouble a bit and that will need to be coached out of him. His future is further forward, but he’s definitely been a good option in this position as well, especially as a wing back. I would keep him in the squad rather than sending him on loan.

  32. MDP says:

    Tierney and Saka will be top top players for Arsenal! So impressed with them both this season and the best is yet to come.

  33. slc gunner says:

    Centre Half: probably our main area of concern in the past few years, whether we play 2 or 3 central defenders. We’ve been all over the place. It’s really hard to know what our best formation is and who are our best defenders. My brief summary on the options:
    Sokratis: Clearly out of favour with Arteta. I was surprised initially, as I thought he was at least playing better than Mustafi, if not great. He’s 32 with a year to go on his contract. Let him go for a few quid if possible, or even on a free. Otherwise, he’ll be on our wage bill for a year and won’t play.
    Mustafi: He certainly improved under Arteta, but I wouldn’t say he was that great. Still made some bad errors against Kane and in the semi-final against City. His injury is a problem. I would sell him if there was a taker, but unlikely to be moved until January window, if at all. Another with a year to go. We may end up having to pay him – I doubt he will play a lot if others are fit.
    Luiz: Well, we gave him the extra year, so we won’t be selling him. Has his good days and bad days. Best as more of a sweeper in a back 3 – I wouldn’t start him in a back 4 if everyone is fit. Seems like a good guy to have around the dressing room though.
    Mavrapanos: Gone on loan to Stuttgart. Hope he does well.
    Saliba: Here’s hoping we have a star on our hands. A regular in Ligue 1 at a young age is a good sign. Likely to be one our more pacy defenders, which is something we lack.
    Mari: Should be back in September/October. They seem to like him, but we haven’t seen enough. A brief cameo before the shutdown revealed that he’s as quick as BFG. Hopefully he has BFG’s intelligence to make up for it.
    Chambers: Hmmm. his versatility means he may be useful to keep. Not very quick, not a great defender, but a decent footballer. His injury makes it difficult to sell him, like Mustafi. Only 2 years to run on his contract – if an offer did come in, I might take it. Can’t see him being a starter.
    Holding: I want to like him, but he scares me when he’s on the ball. He takes risks that he shouldn’t and gets us into trouble more than he should. Not the quickest either. I’m not 100% convinced by his defending either. I would like to see him go on loan – he’s got 3 or more years to go on his contract.
    Overall: there are 7 players above still at the club, and we might be adding Gabriel from Lille. 7 or 8 is too many. I would think that 5 is enough, especially when you have Tierney and Kolasinac who can do a job in a back 3 as well. 3 players are in their final year: Luiz, Sokratis and Mustafi. It would be good to shift the latter 2 but I don’t see us getting any significant cash for either.

  34. MDP says:

    It sure is messy in central defence when you look at all the centre halves on the books. But that’s what Arteta and Edu appear to be looking to sort out and quickly I suspect. As I’ve said previously there seems to be a real purpose at the moment. They know what’s needed and are working hard to do it. Just hope it plays out like that.

    I think its a case of whether they can bring in another CB like Gabriel. All the signs are looking good but I won’t get excited until it’s confirmed. I then think, other than Luis and Mari, its who we can sell and how much we can get. Arteta favoured Mustafi at the end of last season. He’s pretty comfortable on the ball out of defence and can play a pass. We all know his flaws but Arteta got the best out of him. It wouldn’t surprise me if we start with Luis and Mustafi and then filter in Saliba and hopefully Gabriel as quickly as possible. As well as seeing more of Mari when he returns. They are the future. If there was a good offer for Mustafi I think they’d take it but I reckon Holdings the most likely to go. I had quite a soft spot for Holding probably because of the cup final performance in 2017 and he looked decent before the injury but I think our sights are set higher. Chambers will probably follow in January. Oh… and Sokratis is a definite exit for me. Doesn’t fit in to Arteta’s plans at all and sure there will be a few takers for a couple of mill and get him off the wage bill with our best wishes. His no nonsense approach was quite fun in chap times.

    So there you go, I expect Luis and Mustafi to bid us farewell at the end of the coming season whatever happens with Saliba and hopefully Gabriel firmly installed, fingers crossed and all that… We”ll also see more of what Mari can do. We might still need a fourth choice by then that could come from youth, a young acquisition, Medley or Mavrapanos, but who knows?

  35. slc gunner says:

    Definitely the biggest challenge MDP. It might take a year for us to get back to a stable combination at the back. Hopefully sooner.
    On a separate note, it was sad to see Gnabry and Reine-Adelaide chatting after the semi-final yesterday. We screwed up royally on those two, especially Gnabry. Even if he wanted to leave, we should have seen a much bigger transfer fee. I partially blame Tony Pulis for being the idiot that he is and leaving Gnabry on the bench for an entire season. It’s hard to judge with Reine-Adelaide – he may or may not go onto bigger and better things. I can imagine their conversation being along the lines of: “glad we got out of there before the s*&t hit the fan”.

  36. PD says:

    It’s not easy being an Arsenal fan is it ? So many positives – Arteta’s very impressive start, Saka, Auba looking like staying, Tierney (amazed you have doubts slc – the only doubt is injuries; as a player, he is simply superb across multiple positions), the Cup Final as a real shot in the arm for the club, Martinelli (though his injury is a blow), 2 quality goalkeepers for what seems the first time in an age…..but….

    ….so many negatives…….so much deadwood still in the squad weighing down the wage bill (Ozil, Miki, Elneny, Mustafi etc), so many centre halves but so little quality, still weaknesses & so much uncertainty in the centre of midfield, concerns over the power of one agent, worries about the Kroenkes willingness to spend money…..and the laying off of 55 workers – a shameful day – well done Ian Wright for calling it out.
    (although the ruthlessness of the Raul decision & the – what looks like – increased power of Arteta has allayed some of those fears a little)

    What happens next & how will we do next season ? Not an idea if I’m honest. Fingers crossed anyway.

  37. slc gunner says:

    I’ve just been guilty of over-hyping some players in the past – and then they let me down. If Torreira stays, I hope he can get back to a good level, but he’s an example of a player that I spoke a little too highly of. Speaking of which…
    Central Midfielders – not included here are those play in more of a 10 role, i.e. Ozil. This is more the traditional 4 and 8 roles in Arsenal numbers. Arteta seems to be playing two players in deeper holding roles with 3 behind. Ceballos and Xhaka do occasionally get into the box, but that’s fairly rare. Anyway the players:
    Xhaka: Recovered from the early season tantrum and played reasonably well. I think he was a victim of the general unrest at the time, and the fans took it out on him on the day. He’s a good player, probably gets more touches on the ball than anyone else. His pass completion % is very high – the problem is that he receives the ball in deep areas a lot and is prone to an occasional bad pass that gets punished. He just needs to clean that up. He’s not a top 4 midfielder in my mind, but he is good. Limitations are obvious – lack of pace and mobility, and not a great defender. Seems to be a favourite in the dressing room though.
    Ceballos: Played well since Arteta took over. Given lack of numbers, I would like to keep him if possible. Like Xhaka, a few more goals or assists would help, but he does have some invention and work rate about him.
    Guendouzi: Get rid of him – we did fine without him. He’s not the finished article, runs around too much and takes way too many risks in deep areas. Has a lot to learn.
    Torreira: Played out of position by Emery and then injured. I would like to keep him despite rumours that he might leave. His form has certainly dipped and I might have over-rated him. But he’s young and can still improve.
    Willock: A tough one. Does some good stuff, has scored a couple of goals, but can go missing. Tends to play a little further forward, but I don’t really see him as a 10. Not sure what his best position is really. I think a loan where he plays more regularly would help.
    Overall, we’re short on numbers and probably a little bit of quality in the middle of the park. If Guendouzi leaves and you don’t count Willock (maybe that’s unfair), we’re down to 3. Really need a good signing here.

  38. slc gunner says:

    As for the Raul decision PD, it’s interesting. He won’t be replaced it seems, and his salary was probably more than that of the 55 staff combined. It’s hard to know on that without having more specifics. Was our non-playing staff bloated even before Covid? Were some people not pulling their weight. Again, no idea. I do agree that removing Raul does make up for the 55 to some extent. But I won’t be making that argument to any of the 55 in person.

  39. PD says:

    On Tierney…my ’2nd team’ is Celtic so I have been watching him since he was 17. Trust me, he is ‘top, top quality’ as Arsene would say.

    On the Raul sacking, I meant that getting rid of him allayed some fears about our reliance on one agent & removing a number of scouts. It was all getting a bit too cosy for my liking between Kia & Raul. I’ve heard 2 versions of why he left from people with club connections – both stated the main reason was we overpaid horribly on Pepe, tens of millions more than we needed to….the only thing up for debate is whether that was due to incompetence or corruption.

  40. MDP says:

    Yeah, in terms of Raul, football’s such a mucky business behind the scenes. Hardly a surprise with so much money sloshing around. I think we felt we held the moral high ground at one time and maybe spending what we have over owners injecting cash is more credible but it’s still all so murky these days. Especially with these agents that you have no choice but to deal with. Arsenal are so complex behind the scenes but it seems to be changing for the better. Arteta and Edu as ex pros are at least Arsenal people with football at heart as well as Vinai who seems to be portrayed as a good guy – at least some positives. The Kronkes are a different story but they’re not going anywhere fast and the modern football club owner is never likely to be morally pure whoever we have. It would be easy to walk away from all the crap at times but the good bits still outweigh for me and Arsenal runs through my family and my life which kind of transcends all the corruption.

    On to midfield… In some ways this is a trickier and more complex area than defence. The midfield seems to be where all the imbalance stems from since the Wenger days. I thought Ceballos looked terrific in the last few games so would love to see him stay somehow. Xhaka is an interesting one – we simply look worse and don’t tend to win when he’s off the pitch. He seems disciplined positionally and as I say gives us the best balance to play when he around. Despite his misgivings earlier in the season I think his hearts in the right place and he’s prepared to work hard and do the dirty work for Arsenal and even provide a bit of leadership. Is he good enough? I think the pursuit of Thomas Partey answers that one, we definitely need an upgrade but I’d keep him around. Torreira is a great little player on his day but I don’t think any of the 3 managers found a place for him last season so I’m inclined to cash in on a saleable asset. Willock has a long way to go but I like seeing these young Arsenal lads coming on and not looking out of place. I’m a little gutted about AMN heading for the exit but I guess if he helps pay for a Thomas Partey and this midfield is elevated and balanced further then no complaints here. I put my trust in Arteta at this point as my understanding of the modern midfield is somewhat short.

    As for the dead wood PD. There is light at the end of the tunnel I feel. Most are out of contract at the end of next season. One way or another it’s all coming to a head so fingers crossed. Won’t be hard to improve on last season Premier League wise, I’m hoping things will look much more balanced and simplified by this time next year. I’m always glass half full at this time of year!!!!

  41. MDP says:

    Rumour of the day has to be Dennis Bergkamp returning to Arsenal in a coaching capacity. Would love it if that’s true.

  42. slc gunner says:

    Bergkamp: I like it, even if I don’t know very much about his coaching record – at Ajax I think. OK, my last post on players in/outs – thanks for indulging me. This one covers forwards/wingers/attacking midfielders. The front 3 in a 3-4-3, a 4-3-3 and the front 4 in a 4-2-3-1. It’s really only the latter where we play a traditional 10, although you could turn the 3-4-3 into a 3-4-1-2 as well.
    Ozil: I mention the #10 in the intro because that’s really his only position and we rarely play with an okd-fashioned #10 anymore. So where does he fit? He’s not a winger – he won’t track back and defend. Forgetting the refusal to take a pay cut and his already humongous salary, he just can’t get into the starting 11 anymore. I think we’re stuck with him for this final year. The only hope is a loan deal where maybe we get a club to pay 100,000 of the 350,000 weekly wage that he’s on. But it’s unlikely.
    Saka: Mentioned already in the left back discussion – great that we’ve signed him up for the long term and look forward to seeing him more this season. I don’t think we need to loan him out.
    Martinelli: See Saka. Shame about the injury, but really looking forward to seeing him in the new year. I’m not quite sure if he can be a #9,where he played a couple of times in the cups, but definitely a strong option on the wing.
    Nelson: I like him, but I don’t think we’ve seen the bets of him yet. Seems to be playing a little safe. He was the standout academy player in his age group, ahead of Nketiah and Willock. I hope we keep him and he shows his true potential.
    Pepe: I can understand why there is an investigation into his transfer fee. I had never heard of him (Ok – I’m not an expert of players in other leagues, but still) so 72m seemed a lot at the time. But the price tag meant that I was hopeful that we had a new great player on the books. While he did improve as the year progressed and is still relatively young, he can be very frustrating. His goals/assists stats were ok, but his tendency to try to dribble through the entire defence was infuriating at times. I think his workrate has improved under Arteta and let’s hope he has a great 2nd season and can live up to the price tag. We have to keep him.
    Willian: I really like him as a player, but a 3 year contract for a 32-year old is a bit risky to say the least. We got him for free, so there’s that – I think he’s on 100k a week. If he stays fit, I think he’ll be a good addition.
    Smith Rowe: I haven’t seen a lot of him, but I might send him on loan again. There are too many players for him to get regular playing time. I wouldn’t sell him – if he’s not up to the standard, we can sell him in a year from now, but if he’s good enough, he’ll have some more experience under his belt.
    Auba: I think it comes down to a choice between keeping Auba and Laca. Given our need to invest in other areas of the squad, I doubt the Kroenkes will allow both players to be retained. I would kepp Auba, even if he is 2 years older than Laca. He retains his speed and scores more goals. But if is not willing to sign a new deal, we have to sell.
    Laca: I like him, but I think he has to go if Auba stays, purely for financial reasons. He’s 29 and you can probably get 50m+ for him. If Auba leaves, he has to stay and we should extend him a year or two in that scenario to protect his transfer value.
    Nketiah: I think he can be a decent backup to either Auba or Laca in the #9 position. Arteta seems to like him and he often started ahead of Laca. Maybe that was preparation for Laca leaving?
    Miki: I haven’t seen a confirmation, but hoping that Roma will keep him for the final year of his contract. I’m not expecting a transfer fee, but at least we wouldn’t have to pay his wages.
    Overall, I think we’ll lose either Auba or Laca, but I’m excited by all the young talent that is coming through.

  43. MDP says:

    Good work and interesting read SLC. Feels good at Arsenal right now… amazing what silverware can do, a good crop of youngsters (please stay AMN!!!), a class manager (it’s taken me by surprise quite how good he seems to be) and the sense we’re doing everything we can to get back on track, relatively speaking. My thoughts on the attacking options below:

    Auba – world class natural goal scorer and incredible athlete. My favourite player of the last 10 years (and maybe slightly more). This team is half as good without him. A number of contracts have backfired recently so understand fears on giving a 31 year old a 3 year big money contract but everything we’ve seen so far suggests this would be great business. Would be a massive, huge, gigantic task if he didn’t stay.

    Pepe – quality player who showed his talent on numerous occasions. When we clicked in the cup final he looked top class and could of had a worldy goal were it not for a marginal offside. It can take a season to get used to the Premier League so better things to come. His price tag was odd mostly for the fact we still needed spine players and still do and we’re still paying for it. In my mind you sort the spine first and build from there. Glad to have him mind you. When we really click I think he’ll be part of it.

    Laca – a really top player on his day and like what he can bring. Not enough goal return last season and really struggled away from home. I think he started the season injured if I remember correctly so didn’t really get going. I think Arteta could get more from him with a good run in the side but we could easily cash in and get 40 mil for a 29 year old in their prime. He’s our most dispensable, saleable asset in my opinion. A perfect transfer window for me would be Gabriel (fingers crossed) and a central midfielder like Partey. Torreira might fetch a few quid and Bellerin has been named in the press to PSG. All interesting ways of raising funds. Bellerin is a tough one as he feels like an Arsenal boy but I think I’d do this one if we can convince AMN to stay. AMN was sensational in the Charity Shield yesterday and I think we need to do all we can to keep him… Anyway, gone slightly off track but Laca, Bellerin and Torreira could be key to this window.

    Nketiah – still quite raw and as things stand a squad player. If we lose Laca and Auba was out for anytime it will be a tall order for him to lead the line but sure one he’d relish. It’s a gamble I think we could take to build elsewhere for this season and we suddenly have goal possibilities from all over the pitch to back him up. Can’t say I’m convinced but I like his attitude and intrigued how good he can be if he gets on a run of goals.

    Saka – pure class. Charity Shield performance showed what he can bring and this is just the start.

    Martinelli – incredible first season. Amazing goal stats. Massive hopes for him.

    Nelson – I hear Arteta knows him well from his time hear as a player. One of the brightest prospects at one time. His finish against Liverpool (PL 2-1) was cool and sensational. Can go quiet at times but just needs more playing time to show what he can do.

    Smith Rowe – another big prospect. Heard so many great things and whenever I’ve seen him he looks quality and knows how to find the back of the net. Just a hunch but I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re talking about him in a similar way to Saka in the not too distant future.

    Willian – clearly top quality and excellent at Chelsea last season. Don’t doubt he’ll bring experience to the squad and improve us this coming season. A huge huge gamble considering his age. If we get two good seasons we’ll have done well but might be an expense we don’t need come season 3. Maybe we can offset that against all the youngsters coming through on a shoestring and the role model he can be. Maybe he also adds to the feel good Samba mood at the club…

    Miki – gone to Roma on loan as I understand it.

    Ozil – what a sorry state this has got to. I know he split the fanbase at times. I don’t think anyone questioned his ability which was sublime at times. Effectiveness is another story and its a poor end to such a talent. He gave me plenty of hope but never been a favourite of mine. He must have the cash stacking up by now, can’t understand why someone with football in their veins isn’t looking elsewhere to play whilst still in their prime. He showed flashes at the beginning of the Arteta reign but he’s just not the right fit at all for the new regime. One year and this saga will be over.

  44. Slc gunner says:

    Things are looking up. Gabriel confirmed. Here’s hoping he’s better than the last Gabriel! Now we have 8 central defenders – will need to release/loan/sell at least 3.
    Mkhitaryan confirmed gone – he came with such a big reputation from Germany and really was a bit of a flop for both Utd and Arsenal. He was just so lightweight. He scored a few, had a few assists, but not nearly impactful enough.

  45. Slc gunner says:

    Things looking up. Auba signs. Gabriel looked good against Fulham, even if it’s just one game. Team played well and with a purpose and confidence, albeit against weak opposition. I like that Arteta’s team seems to have a clear plan. With Emery, I could never discern any pattern.

    Maybe one more addition in midfield to come, but I can’t see more than that. What will be interesting from here will be the departures. Still 3 weeks to go and I think many clubs will play chicken until close to the last minute with transfer fees, loan fees, etc..

  46. MDP says:

    Agreed, loving what Arteta has done to this club (along with Edu and Vinai). He’s brought everyone together, built a hard working ethic, healthy competition and a strong sense of a plan, purpose, identity and visible results on the pitch. The FA Cup run and Charity Shield wins have added to the whole winning mentality along with the good vibes that come from great signings. Aside from Willian the arrival of Gabriel and the return of Saliba from loan gives us fans a strong sense we’re identifying areas that need addressing and actually fixing them. They’re making something that’s long been a bug bear look easy. I thought Gabriel’s debut was sensational and finding it hard not to get carried away at the potential of our defence including our two in form wing backs.

    Might be slightly early to tell but Bellerin especially and also Lacazette could be players rejuvenated under this new regime. I was thinking they’d be long gone a few weeks ago and both could now be important cogs in this Arsenal side based on recent performances. Added to the feel good factor is Auba’s new deal today and still the sense that we might yet raise enough funds from the sale of Martinez (sadly), Torreira and maybe one other to fund a move for Partey or another midfielder.

    Back to reality, and we still need to ready ourselves for the inevitable days when things don’t go to plan, we’re still a distance from Liverpool. However, I still feel like this club is almost unrecognisable since this time last year and a push for top 4 doesn’t sound so unrealistic as it might have done only a couple of months ago…

  47. MDP says:

    *Correction (final para) should say Liverpool and Man City.

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