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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.

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

  1. Elvis says:

    It’s so good to have decisive substitutions after 60 minutes as well, rather than having to wait for the obligatory 70 before anything can change.

    Arsenal fans have become so unaccustomed to innovation and novelty that the slightest things can feel like gettin a new car.

  2. slc gunner says:

    On the positive side, we keep on winning despite some very mediocre performances. But a win is a win and 5 out of 7 in the league puts us only 4 behind. Change was needed and we have certainly seen that in many aspects of our play and the club’s operations. There is plenty of room for further improvement.

    On the negative side, several players have not played well: Aubameyang, Ozil, Ramsey in particular. Defensively, we’re giving up too many chances. Mustafi still doesn’t convince. Sokratis has been decent if not majorly tested – jury is still out. Right now, I would pick Holding and Sokratis until such time as Koscielny returns.

  3. PD says:

    Still a long way to go but I’m happy with Emery’s work so far. We’re still far too open defensively & we’re not that fluent going forward yet but there are definite positives.

    Biggest one (by far) is the mental side. Arsene’s sides the last few seasons you just knew would fall away when things got tough. We’ve eked out wins the last while without playing great….and even the losses against City/Chelsea….2-0 down relatively early in both – you know that could easily have ended up 5-0 or 6-0 in seasons past….

    As Elvis said making changes based on what’s actually happening in the game as opposed to making pre-planned changes at 70 minutes feels fantastic when it should really have been the norm.

    I think we could sneak the top 4. If Arsene had stayed the chances of that were zero. Onwards & upwards hopefully !

  4. Elvis says:

    At times the football under Arsene was sublime but even in the glory years of 2002-04 he was limited tactically and very rarely turned a game with substitutions or formation changes. That is something I am looking forward to with Emery, even if we have to become accustomed to winning ugly a bit more. Introducing Iwobi early was just the job on Saturday. He has improved as a player under Emery already.

  5. slc gunner says:

    Best performance yet. And without Ozil…interesting. The Ramsey goal was outstanding, and I’m not just talking about the finish. Fulham aren’t great – nonetheless I thought we were more solid all round. Still a few dodgy moments playing the ball out from the back, but otherwise really good. And you have to love Torreira.

  6. MDP says:

    So much to love about how this team are developing. Emery is rotating this group of players with mastery in a way that is so refreshing to see with Welbeck, Holding and Iwobi now looking like fully fledged, important members of this squad. A 4-4-2 formation was it yesterday? Tantalising with the strikers we have at our disposal. We’re starting to see what a different style, ethos and approach can do at the club.

    I keep thinking the bubble will burst and it may well do with the defence still far from perfect but things are looking so much better and progressive. 12 months ago we were still persevering with the likes of Theo, Coquelin and Giroud but we now simply have players better suited. Still a lot to do but a chance for top 4 and a cup seems realistic. I think Emery quite fancies the Europa League but it could mean facing one of Chelsea or Spurs (sitting 3rd in their CL group) if we do need to progress. Anyway great optimism as we head into the International break…

  7. MDP says:

    What a game to watch last night. It said so much about the progress of this team and the development of the players under Emery. The slow start to games is a bit of a mystery but enjoying watching this Arsenal more than I can remember for about 10 years.

  8. PD says:

    It is very exciting. First half was terrifying defensively but I’m consoling myself with the fact that (if Kos gets back) only 1 of our first choice back 4 were playing….but so many of the things we wanted addressed appear to have been done : being a big name no longer guarantees you a start – you need to earn it; subs are being made based on what is happening rather than being pre-planned; formations & tactics are being changed mid game; there seems to be no panic when things aren’t going our away (actual mental strength)……and after every game Emery is demanding more & more.
    Keep it up sir – we love what you are doing !!

  9. Elvis says:

    Enjoying the comedy gold from Tottenham on their embarrassing stadium delays. “The only place in London to watch the Champions League!” Ha ha ha…

  10. MDP says:

    Bugger! Fair play to Palace, they deserved the point. Arsenal just didn’t look clinical enough today. Too many stray balls and a lack of composure and decisiveness. Mustafi deserves a bollockin yet again for going to ground when he didn’t need to. An uncomfortable watch throughout and I guess dropped points were always going to come at some point the way we play sometimes. The returns of Monreal, Kos and Sokratis can’t come soon enough. That said, Rob Holding looked decent enough. Shame, we could have sneaked it today with a bit more composure.

  11. Elvis says:

    To be honest that has been coming. Arsenal have ridden their luck a bit on this run of victories; clear penalties not given against us, red cards avoided, wasteful opponents etc. If Arsenal can learn to start games with greater intensity and pace, 4th may be possible.

    Eleven straight wins after the tough start is good. We would all have bitten someone’s hand off if they had offered us 11 straight wins and a draw after Stamford Bridge. Let’s see if we can compete with Liverpool in a week’s time. The acid test.

  12. slc gunner says:

    Lucas Torreira is fast becoming my favourite player. I saw him play quite a bit at the world cup and he did well, mostly on the defensive side of the game. In recent weeks, I’ve noticed how good a player he is going forward as well. His passing, short and long, is very accurate. He holds off players and has that feint that sucks players in, allowing him to dart quickly in the opposite direction. He’s not as good as Santi Cazorla maybe, but not too far off – but that isn’t the player we were looking for anyway. Way better than Coquelin when on the ball, and also better defensively. Torreira is no more than 5’5, but adds immense calm and presence. The defensive midfielder that we have been wanting for years – and I think it will also allow Xhaka to improve as well.
    That said, our defensive record still needs to improve. Mustafi is still my biggest concern. Kos is not far away and I’m interested to see how a Kos/Socratis combination might fare. Right now, I would also pick Holding ahead of Mustafi.
    The 3rd goal against Leicester was out of this world. Ozil at his best. But great to see that Emery manages from game to game and wasn’t afraid to remove Ozil in today’s game.
    Agree with Elvis…I think we would all have bitten someone’s hand off for the record since the Chelsea game. Liverpool is the first major test since then.

  13. slc gunner says:

    I watched quite a bit of the Hoffenheim game yesterday. Really excited by what Nelson is doing. Hopefully he can keep it up and return to Arsenal as a bona fide 1st team player next season.

  14. MDP says:

    Yeah, I agree with Elvis too. In the cold light of day it’s good to remember that we would never have even got a point from that game 12 months ago. The heartening thing for me is that I have every faith in the back room staff to identify and recruit the players we need to be more solid. I also have the faith in the manager to mould those new players on current evidence. I keep having to remind myself of patience but am more optimistic than I thought I’d be.

    Interesting point on Nelson SLC. Palace showed what good wingers can do to the opposition defence. I wouldn’t mind seeing Zaha in an Arsenal shirt but maybe Nelson can be our version. I thought Welbeck looked lively when he cane on. A very useful player to have around the first team but suspect he’s on his way come the end of the season but would love him to stay as back
    Up.

  15. PD says:

    I’d agree for centre half. Enough is enough for Mustafi. (35m – what was Arsene thinking ??) I’d play Sokratis & Holding v Liverpool. (and pray Bellerin & Monreal are fit in time)
    Hopefully we will see Kos tomorrow too v Blackpool & he may be ready for more serious action in a couple of weeks.
    Yeah, winning run was always likely to end soon. We were so far off the other 5 big teams last season that starting out, I thought we needed a miracle to finish in top 4 this season…but I think now we have a decent shout.
    Totally agree on Torreira – super player.

  16. Elvis says:

    Yes, agree about Torreira; our most important signing in years. We have been missing a player of his position and quality since Gilberto Silva left.

    Had we signed someone like Torreira when we moved into the new stadium, I think we would have won a couple of league titles (2008 and 2016) and possibly more. Imagine the defensive and positional nous of Torreira with the creativity and dynamism of Fabregas 2006-2012.

  17. MDP says:

    I thought that was a terrific result on Saturday. So used to seeing us get thumped by Liverpool of late, I feared our defence would be perfect fodder for them again but we certainly stood up to the challenge. Torreira and Xhaka look fantastic as our midfield duo and certainly took control in the middle and took some of the pressure off at the back. In defence, Rob Holding just gets on with the job without fuss and appears to have a cool head. He’s fast becoming my favoured centred half at Arsenal. Mustafi can look quite solid in between the terrible mistakes and had one of his better days. Emery, is certainly getting the best out of what he’s got.

    I still question how we utilise a striker like Abamayang. He seems wasted out on the wing and when Emery took him off, I was convinced he was making an error. Yet, Lacazette went on to get the equaliser from an Iwobi pass. I don’t know how we solve this one but I would like to see a bit more game time for Abamayang in the middle to see what he can do. He is after all one of Europe’s most prolific strikers. Maybe Emery feels he can do more with Lacazzette at 27 now and in the future than Abamayang at 29 years of age. It remains an interesting and good problem. Perhaps at the business end of the season we will see the benefit of two top quality forwards.

    If the Liverpool game set down a marker of how good we are then the two games against Spurs and Utd on the horizon will perhaps tell us if can beat our two nearest rivals for a top 4 finish.

  18. Elvis says:

    I think Emery has not put Aubameyang down the middle because he can see he lacks the physical strength needed to hold the ball up against two central defenders snapping around him. That is not his game. He is a van Nistelrooy type striker who has an instinct for where the ball is going to go in the box and is a similarly clinical finisher. When he comes on as a sub, he has a fantastic davantage as an impact attacker against a tiring defence. Iwobi does that well too.

  19. PD says:

    Yeah, I think Auba is the most natural finisher we have for quite a while but Laca is a better all round player. (I’d say he is a nightmare to play against for a centre half)
    I know I’ve said this before but would love to see us play a game in a 4-4-2 with both of them & see how it goes. With hard working guys like AMN/Welbeck/Iwobi in the wide positions I think it could work…..but then you have the ‘where do you put the 350k a week man’ problem again.

    Anyway, loved the Liverpool performance. Have to build on it now with a win on Sunday to get back in the winning habit.

    Agree on Rob Holding, MDP. Really looking the part at the minute. Great to see.

  20. PD says:

    What a game !! We have ourselves a serious manager gents, no mistake about it. North London is Red !!

  21. MDP says:

    Agreed, I’m still buzzing!

  22. slc gunner says:

    What a match! Loving it right now. Emery has done very well, from playing with tactics and formations to dropping Ozil and others as needed. Not something Arsene would have done.
    I am concerned about the Ramsey situation. Is it just a case of bargaining or is he really leaving? I think we should keep him personally – he offers something that you don’t see in the rest of the midfield options: a willingness to make runs into the box that often have end product.
    Did I say how much I love Torreira?! Possibly our best signing since Vieira? Probably better to dampen expectations a little but he has been immense in recent games.

  23. N7 says:

    SLC Gunner I agree – Rambo gives us a heap of energy and drive and I can’t see why we’d let him go.

  24. slc gunner says:

    Thoughts on Ozil situation? If we are to sell him, now is the time. Not sure we’ll get a lot for a 30-yr old, but if he’s not going to play regularly, why keep him and his 300,000+ per week wage on the books? I do think we should keep Ramsey as I state above.

  25. MDP says:

    Don’t think any Arsenal fan could argue a case for keeping Ozil right now. He’s super talented but rarely produces his best form and isn’t a great fit into Emery’s style and work ethic. A new contract agreed out of desperation in desperate times. Will anyone take on those wages or will he take a pay drop? I’ll be surprised if we can offload him easily.

    As for Ramsey… on the face of it, who would you rather have in the squad out of Ramsey, Ozil and Mkhitaryan? Ramsey is far and away the most consistent and effective of those three. He still has a sharp eye for goal and is a proven match winner. I think that’s the reason for this discussion as well as people scratching their heads as to why it’s come to player of his quality leaving on a free. I’ve always had a real soft spot for Ramsey and many of us will see him go with a heavy heart but quietly I’m pleased to see a bit of ruthlessness that wasn’t there under Wenger. Emery, Sven and Raul are most likely hatching a plan to bring in some wide attacking players that fit the system and style of play a bit more. Emery seems to have his favourites through the centre and Ozil and Ramsey are surplus to requirements. We’ve long talked of the lack of balance to this side and maybe steps are being taken to sort it out.

    It’s been a bumpy couple of weeks. The Holding injury has been a huge blow. I’ve heard some people play down his talent trying not to get too carried away but I’m a fan and the stability and consistency he brought to the back four was clear to see. Quietly getting on with the job and doing everything asked of him. I wish him a speedy recovery and I’m sure he’ll play his part again next season. Hopefully Kos can come in now and find some sharpness to help us through the Christmas schedule. Maybe we can also hope for a bit of transfer action in this area as well. It would be a shame to see such a great start to the season undone by our problems at the back. On the plus side… Monreal is back and I hear Bellerin is ahead of schedule. I’m even excited to hear that Mustafi has returned to training just to get Xhaka back into the middle. I’m sure between Emery and the management/scouting/acquisition team, everything possible is being done. How refreshing to say that.

    Merry Christmas one and all. Here’s hoping for a return to 3pts against Burnley!

  26. MDP says:

    How’s everyone feeling after the recent dip? Whilst we enjoyed the good run it was kind of inevitable that our defence would crumble at some point.

    I’m still upbeat that we’ve unearthed two amazing talents in defensive midfield with Torreira and Guendouzi. A problem position and huge aggravation for so long. We have such a potent strike pairing with Auba and Laca. We also have a really decent manager who needs time to make his mark and work with Sven and Raul to mould a new look Arsenal. I just hope we can act quickly in defence in Jan and the summer windows so we don’t waste the talent we already have. Especially Auba who’s now pushing towards the end of his career.

    I’m not surprised things faltered when Holding got a long term injury and then Bellerin was ruled out for the festive period. Those two were real highlights of the unbeaten run. Holding isn’t a classic centre half and maybe too young to properly judge but he brought consistency, intelligence and calm. The opposite to his counterparts of Mustafi and Sokratis. I could see Sokratis bringing something to a stable defence but he seems too maverick when the chips are down. Time will tell if we can still rely on Monreal and Kos.

    Aside from defence the biggest challenge will be dealing with the Ozil and Ramsey situations. The former seems the most unlikely to be sorted quickly and I suspect will drag for sometime yet.

    So, it feels familiar on the pitch but I’m more optimistic we can bring about change then before, I just hope it comes quickly in the notoriously difficult January transfer window.

    Happy New Year to you all!

  27. Slc gunner says:

    The last few games have been a reality check. I’m willing to give Emery time, but he has inherited a flawed squad in serious need of investment. Defensively we have been a shambles all season. 30 goals conceded already. Mustafi has to be one of the worst buys of the Wenger reign. He has had far too many chances. He’s slow, rash and error-prone. Sokratis was poor against Liverpool, but overall I think he’s been decent, definitely better than Mustafi. The idiots have been out for Lichsteiner. He hasn’t been great, but he was a freebie, and been ok prior to this. I would like to think that a Van Dijk type signing would solve all our problems, but I’m not sure we’re in the same state as Liverpool at this time last year – but it would certainly go a long way. The problem is: that player does not appear to be on the market and we don’t have 100m.
    As for Ozil and Ramsey: hopefully our contract management will improve and we don’t continue to end up in these situations. Did the board not know at the time of the Ozil re-signing that Wenger was on his way out? He’s unlikely to command the 40m in transfer fee that we paid for him – or more importantly the same wages. We’re stuck with him – and not getting anything out of him.
    Right now, I’m not optimistic about finishing Top 4, but we are still in the hunt. We are a long way from contending for a title. Here’s hoping Emery and the management team can work some magic in 2019.
    Happy New Year!

  28. MDP says:

    A Van Dijk type signing would be amazing but a 25mil centre half signing seems more realistic. In a similar vein to Torreira – early 20’s talented and with a bit of experience already under their belt. We’ve also got the talented, highly rated but still raw Mavropanos returning to training so may see him get a few games as well.

    It’ll be interesting to see how they handle Ozil. His contract was done out of panic and the fear of losing two big name players. I wonder if we may have to lose money and pay off some of his contract if he really isn’t part of any plan. He seems like the last player Emery wants to build the team around and we won’t get much from him in a bit part role as the last few months have proved.

    Whatever happens, the next transfer moves have to be about the next couple of seasons and not a short term fix. However hard it is watching the clumsiness in our defence, I’d rather wait and get the right players. That said, another season outside the Champions League could be extremely damaging so I hope we pull out all the stops to start getting things sorted now. Top 4 seems a bit out of reach as things stand but maybe a good run in the Europa isn’t out if the question with a few adjustments?

  29. PD says:

    Happy New Year all.
    Well, it’s been a humbling few weeks. I think some of us (me for one !) got a bit carried away with Emery’s start. I think the pong unbeaten run hid the lack of both quality & depth in the squad he inherited from Arsene. With a few injuries & tiredness kicking in, it has become a struggle…..but we need to focus on the positives & hope the board support him : the team are definitely working harder, there seems to be a real mental strength for a change (& a touch of badness in the squad now which is a great thing – like slc I don’t get the abuse for Lichsteiner & I have no doubt he has been key in the ‘toughening up’ process in the squad) & places in the team have to be earned. I think he’s also reconnected the side with the fans a bit & the atmosphere seems to be better. (I haven’t been in person yet but have a couple of trips over lined up shortly – I hope I’m right about the atmosphere)
    And I think the first transfer window post-Arsene has definitely been a success. Still have a few doubts about Leno but hopefully he will get there – definitely an upgrade on Ospina for me at least.

    So fingers crossed. We wait to see what will happen this month.

  30. Timothy Edwards says:

    ‘Playa! You ok sir? Hoping you haven’t gone the way of arseweb!

  31. Elvis says:

    Yes, the performances and results against Southampton, Spurs (cup) and Liverpool brought us back down with a bump.

    To be honest, we rode our luck on the unbeaten run, profiting from some lucky refereeing decisions, inexplicable let-offs by opposing strikers and very weak opponents in the cups. But it wasn’t all luck either. The real highlight was Spurs (league). If that is a sign of what is to come, even if it takes a year or two to get there, I’ll be very, very happy.

    Players: On the injury front, it’s a real pity about Holding and, to a lesser extent, Welbeck. I rate Monreal and he has been missed.
    Leno looks OK, not outstanding, but better than the likes of Ospina and Almunia.
    I hope Mavropanos gets a chance to show us what he’s got. Sokratis is OK. I like his attitude even though he’s got an error in him. Mustafi is the new Sylvestre. Taxi please. Lichtsteiner is a one-year sticking plaster for a club with limited funds largely due to industrial-scale contract mismanagement.
    Torreira and Guendouzi are very good buys.
    Ozil is, as usual, an enigma; certainly not worth his huge salary, but our best player on his day. It’s just that his day is quite a rare thing.
    Aubameyang is excellent up front and I’m satisfied with Lacazette.
    Youngsters Willock and Smith Rowe look ready for the first team squad. None of the other academy players have shown enough yet to convince me they have a future at Arsenal. I’m old enough to remember Tony Adams, David Rocastle, Michael Thomas, Paul Davis and Paul Merson (and to a lesser extent Kevin Campbell and David Hillier) coming out of the academy together and winning trophies in the late 80s and early 90s. It would be great to see another generation like that.

  32. MDP says:

    Well… shit loads has happened since we last posted…

    I don’t feel too down beat about the transfer window. A centre half would have been top of the list by a long way but with 5 centre halves already on the books two of which are 33 and 30. One which is simply not good enough and needs to be shipped out and the other two are young excellent prospects. With that in mind the next acquisition has to be spot on, one of experience and pedigree to slot in as a first choice, not a stop gap. Very unlikely in January and I’d rather get it right in the summer than end up with another player that isn’t the right quality on a long term contract with the above in mind. A short term loan option was always going to be a long shot with Gary Cahill seemingly the only possibility that I heard of and not a popular option.

    It’s still hard to work out the ‘loans only’ stance by the club in this window. One of the richest clubs in Europe saying no funds available is very strange. I’ve heard many theories but I hope it’s a case of money will be better spent in the summer when we know where we stand in the champions league or not, with sponsorship money etc and who we’ve offloaded known as well (there seems to be a pretty strong effort to drive Özil and his huge wages out of the club right now).

    Denis Suárez seems like a interesting loan move. Not the out and out classic winger I think I’d prefer but sounds decent and his history with Emery will hopefully mean he settles quick. Whether he offers anything more than Ramsey or Iwobi remains to be seen but he gives us another option when the attack is stuttering and struggling to link between midfield and up top.

    I was sad to hear Sven Mislintat is going. I’d bought into him being one of the sharpest eyes in football scouting from what I’ve read. Shame, but suspect there were too many big personalities at the top for things to work out. I still think we have a very decent manager and some well connected people still remaining so hope that sorts itself out.

    The ultimate goal now is Champions League football with the rewards obvious when it comes to doing the summer business. We’ve just got to give it everything we’ve got with two routes very much alive. If I was a betting man I’d struggle to put my money behind us but with Chelsea imploding and United maybe having enjoyed an easier run of games it’s still all to play for. Limp through this month and hopefully we can rekindle the Kos and Sokratis partnership (in time for Europa) that was starting to show real promise. Our two strikers are as good as anything out there pretty much, we just need to get that midfield functioning better with the two strikers and who knows.

    City next, away. If there’s one fixture you would mark off as a loss it’s that. Avoid humiliation and try and get something. City will be fired up after the last result and see our defence as easy fodder. I expect a 5 man defence with Kos, Mustafi and Monreal as the 3. Let’s hope we can at least, play to our best and give them a good go.

  33. MDP says:

    What a performance and what a result! No games left against the top 6 now (I know, I know that we tend to throw it away on our travels at the most unexpected/expected places in the lower half of the table and against Bate or Rennes but great not to be playing the top teams). Sure all the challengers for top 4 will drop points but we’re in a tantalising position looking at the remaining fixtures. This certainly feels better and all set up for a competitive finish. Probably reliant on keeping Kos and Sokratis running at centre back. Leno excellent today and Maitland-Niles exceptional for a youngster. Keep it up Arsenal!

  34. PD says:

    Great week before the break. Chance to rest a few weary bodies for what is (hopefully) an exciting end to the season. Napoli the toughest draw in Europa but no reason we can’t beat them. A top 4 finish & a trophy would be a superb first season for Emery all things considered. It’s all set up nicely now, have to follow it through. Come on Arsenal !

  35. Slc gunner says:

    After a period of indifferent results, we have definitely turned it around recently. Great results against Utd, Spurs and Rennes in particular. While our run-in does look ok on paper having played all our big 6 matches, I would be cautious. You can divide the league into 4 segments: top 6 (or top 2 + next 4), the middle 6 (7-12), the relegation zone (13-18) and the bottom 2 (already relegated. We have 4 away games against the middle 6. Watford and Wolves have been particularly strong this season, and Everton beat Chelsea at Goodison. My point being: there are no easy games. Even games against teams in the relegation zone are not easy: they are all fighting for their lives. We have 4 games against teams in that group (3 at home). So overall, no easy pickings. I hope the team and management has enough experience to realise this and to make sure there is no complacency. We are in a great position.
    It’s been an interesting season. It is really hard to predcit Emery’s lineups from week to week. Just when I think I have him figured out, he changes system again. I think he has tried all permutations that you could think of. It makes me wonder if he will persist with this approach next season. Is this the year of experimentation with next year being one of greater consistency in system and starting 11. There are arguments for and against either approach: players certainly feel more comfortable if they are not chopping and changing that much. The counter-argument is that by keeping things fluid, you are adapting to the opposition and keeping them guessing at the same time. In the long run, I think I would prefer the former approach (greater consistency), but I am happy as long as we are successful.

  36. Slc gunner says:

    Hopefully the kick in the arse that was needed today. We were brutal. Players really need to dig in for the remaining away games. They are all going to be battles.

  37. MDP says:

    It just showed the task in hand. We’re a different team away from home where all our flaws seem to get exposed. It makes me even more nervous with Sokratis banned for the next two games. I hope it does serve as a kick up the arse as I’m sure Watford and Wolves will fight just as hard and provide a similar test to that of Everton.

    A hard game to watch yesterday but still fun to be in the fight, just need to give the same level away from home that we showed against Spurs at Wembley and get ourselves over the line…

  38. Slc gunner says:

    My conclusion from recent games is that the Bundesliga is crap. Top Bundesliga players that are at Arsenal:
    Miki (via Utd): he’s simply awful for us, yet had a ton of goals and assists in Germany and may even have been player of the year
    Kolasinac: Was voted in the league’s team of the year prior to arrival at Arsenal. Woeful recently for Arsenal. Bull in a china shop comes to mind.
    Xhaka: Was highly rated in Germany. has not been great for us.
    Sokratis: Was a regular at Dortmund. Not the worst of the Bundesliga imports. He’s better than Mustafi but that’s not saying a lot.
    Auba: well he scores goals and for that alone, he cam be considered the most successful of the imports. His general play could improve though.

  39. MDP says:

    I think Leno, Auba and Sokratis have been relatively successful signings so far. Leno’s made some outstanding match winning saves and looked generally solid this season. Auba would have broken 25-30+ were there more balance and supply in the team. And Sokratis has given us pretty much what we expected – experience with a bit of dogged physicality and aggression. You can point to the odd performance but on the whole they’ve been a big part of why we’ve been knocking on the Champions League door. So not all bad from the German League SLC.

    Mustafi, Myki, Özil on the other hand, I’m lost for words at times. Some would add Xhaka to that list but despite not really being good enough for Arsenal, he seems integral to the way we play at times and has contributed reasonably to the good stuff this season. Kolasinac adds something going forward but simply not good enough at the back. Miss seeing him get stuck in with his bulk which looked promising at the start. I wouldn’t be the slightest bit sad to see any of these go (in fact I might jump for joy) and I guess they add weight to your argument SLC.

    However, I think the influx from the German League was magnified by Sven Mislintat joining the club and recruiting from that area. I’d point the blame more at the owners for the quality of players we’re in the market for. How the club is being run has more to do with the purchases we are making. No budget for the January transfer window, 40mil being touted around for the summer and Sven Mislintat yet to be replaced. That’s why Champions League qualification seems so vital and will be celebrated wildly if we somehow get there. Anything to give us the edge in what could be the busiest summer in terms of exits that I can remember. I don’t give a shit about playing in the CL right now (we’re not good enough to make a dent in it) it’s just the draw of players and the money I’m after for this summer.

    We seem sat teetering on the edge right now. One way just looks bleak if we miss out on CL when we had it in our hands a blink of an eye ago. The other should we finish in the top four (by some miracle) or lift the Europa League and it’s a job well done.

    I think we’ve all agreed on here at different times that you shouldn’t/can’t blame injuries but this season does seem particularly frustrating. Ramsey is a real blow at a time when I think he would have helped us across the line. Holding, Bellerin and Welbeck along with Ramsey would surely have made the difference in the last run of games. This is very self indulgent rueing the loss of these players but maybe it’s more telling about elsewhere in the squad not being up to it at all.

    I’m just about holding onto the fact we’ve been fractionally better then last season. Next stop Thursday, we’ve really got to find a performance or it really is doom and gloom.

  40. Slc gunner says:

    Thoughts on the season going out into the universe: maybe PD, MDP, Elvis and others are out there and want to chime in. I had thought about posting this on the final day of the league’s season, but decided to hold off and see how we did in Baku.
    It’s clear that all is not well. Total capitulation in the final weeks of the season and in Baku. We are not better than 5th, although we had a good chance to finish 3rd or 4th. We are simply not good enough to compete in the Champions League (ok, we might get a good draw and make the last 16 as did for years, but that’s not really competing). The major drawback oof not qualifying is the additional money that we are now missing out on (probably 50m – enough for 1 good player at least) – it also limits our ability to attract new players regardless of finances. It’s unlikely that we’re going to be able the big changes that many of us think are needed. I’m concerned that we could slip further next season: the like of Wolves, Leicester, Watford have nothing to fear from us – as they showed late in the season.
    Here’s my summary of the manager and players:
    Manager: He should get another season to make his mark. There was a slight improvement on the previous year, but not much. I would like to see a more settled formation. I don’t think it helps the players to be constantly changing. They need to get used to a specific way of playing.
    GK: I was happy to see Cech get the start in Baku – no issue there. Happy retirement Pete. I’m happy enough with Leno as #1 and Martinez as #2 for next season. We have limited resources and this is not the area where I would spend. By all accounts, Martinez did well at Reading.
    RB: Hector should be back by Sept/Oct. I’m happy enough with Hector and Maitland-Niles. Not an area where I would spend. Lichsteiner and Jenkinson will leave (good luck Carl and thanks for always giving it your all).
    Centre Halves: I would love 2 new players, but that’s not realistic. But I think this is the highest priority area for a signing. Mustafi – please leave. It’s not that you didn’t try, but you’re just not good enough. Mavrapanos should go on loan. That leaves Koscielny, who I believe is still the best of the rest, Sokratis, Holding (and Monreal in a back 3). It’s going to be very hard to find the player we need, but this is critical. Also, we should sell Chambers imo, I don’t think he has what it takes as a right back, centre half or DM. Good, but not good enough.
    Left Back: Another priority area for a signing. We should only keep Kolasinac as a backup. He was terrible in Baku and it showed his limitations again in forward positions. I would be happy for him to leave, but then you would need 2 new left backs as Nacho has only a year left and is now looking past it. I would be willing to let Nacho go – he has been a great servant though.
    Midfield: I would let Elneny go, and keep Xhaka, Guendouzi and Torreira. However, I would like to see a new player come in that moves Xhaka to the bench. Someone with more mobility and defensive strength. I don’t think Guendouzi is ready yet for a more full-time role. I would like to see Torreira partnered with a new player of better quality than Xhaka.
    Attacking Mid/Wingers: Please go Ozil! I was one of those that championed your arrival 6 years ago, but you’ve disappointed way too often and you were probably overrated to begin with. Getting rid of him will be a colossal task though. He would have to be let go on a free transfer, and then a club will have to pay him enough in wages. A tall order – hopefully not impossible. Mikitharyan also needs to go, but another on crazy wages that makes it more difficult to get rid of him. He’s awful, way too lightweight for the PL. That doesn’t leave many options, especially with Ramsey and Welbeck also leaving. I would keep Iwobi – he still frustrates, but is improving albeit slowly. I think we need a new player in this area that’s of top quality. I would also like to see Reiss Nelson given his chance next season. Much as Willock impressed in the 13 minute cameo in Baku, I think he, Eddie and Smith Rowe should go out on lan (the latter was injured most of his time in Germany).
    Forwards: Although they didn’t deliver in Baku, they have kept us in it all season. I hope we can keep both players. I think Eddie needs to go on loan. Not an area where I would prioritise a signing.
    Overall: I think we need a centre half, left back, midfielder and attacking midfielder/winger. 4 new signings of high quality – that’s all! Hopefully Mustafi, Ozil, Elneny, Miki, Chambers, Monreal and Ospina can be sold or let go for free. I can only dream!

  41. MDP says:

    Well done for posting SLC. I was struggling to summon the energy to share my thoughts but it has been playing on my mind a lot so good to share.

    The way the season ended was just gutting. You look back and would expect to win either of those home games. But Chelsea proved the most decisive when it mattered on both counts and we can’t argue with how it finished. Had we got Champions League it would have been over achievement and thanks to others but boy did we need the transfer cash. I also fear what such a high profile collapse at the end will do for us in luring players to the club. I guess it hasn’t stopped the likes of Auba or Laca joining us in the past.

    I can think of many times when football has badly effected my mood from The Littlewood’s Cup final defeat in 1988 to the 2001 FA Cup final defeat to Liverpool when I was convinced Vieira might be lured away. But, this sadly feels much much worse. Sorry to be so negative but I don’t see where we’re going with this ownership. From what I could see and have heard (but happy to be told otherwise), there was a no show from the Kroenke’s at the final. Says it all really… A long trek I know from the US but if you are serious about your club then you should be there. Look around at all the other clubs at the top of the Premier League and their owners appear much more hands on and I’m pretty sure they’d be present at a major final. This underlies everything and is the main point I always end up returning to above all else but I’ll try to be more positive below…

    On the pitch… there have been positives this season. Emery has received a bit of stick from some quarters and his team selection vs Crystal P (h) stands out as a major mistake for me but on the whole I think he’s inherited this squad and managed it to his best. He deserves another crack next season at the very least. I’d like to see what he can do as we try and balance the squad more. I like him as things stand and think he’s capable of more.

    Stand out players were: The two strikers Laca and Auba are the best things at the club full stop. We just need to get them better service. Leno showed real consistency and pulled off a lot of match winning saves whilst looking solid. He’s up there as one of the players of the season. Maitland Niles did an incredible job playing out of position at such a young age. I always liked Ramsey and he showed exactly what we will miss. He might have made the difference had he stayed fit. Rob Holding showed real consistency, reliability and intelligence before he got it injured, a huge shame but hopefully will return with the same form. Bellerin was also looking good before a long lay off. I was going to leave it there but Torreira and Guendouzi certainly had big standout moments and I’ll watch with interest to see how they develop especially the latter. Finally, a big shout out for Koscielny. A club legend in my book. Not the most decorated legend but at his best he kept us in the Champions League for all those years. He came back in top form and looked the part but maybe age caught up with him by the end.

    The negatives on the pitch have to be represented by Ozil/Myki and Mustafi. Offloading these 3 and the huge salaries has to be a priority. There’s other problems but these would be my focus. We’ll make a huge loss I suspect but they need to go if we’re to move on.

    I’m then looking to see at least one new centre half as a priority. The next priority is wing/midfield to replace Ramsey and also find a winger. Maybe two players, one central and one out wide. It all depends on shipping those three above though and making any additional funds. A key thing going forward is linking up midfield with attack and I’d love to see a player join who gels with Laca and Auba to bond and make that strong duet a harmonious trio. Wishful thinking maybe as we also need a left back. Eeek! The mind boggles as to how this will all pan out.

    Youth and loanees will have to play a part. Nelson could be a good return. Bielik was an interesting watch for Charlton in the play offs with a few man of the match performances. I’m not totally against seeing Chambers back us up and fight for a place after a good spell at Fulham although I only see him as a fringe with long shot potential. Willock, Smith Rowe etc again look interesting but whether they’re ready to step up remains to be seen.

    Desperate stuff people. I can’t recall a squad needing so much work…. I’m tying myself up in knots just thinking about it. The only thing I’m certain of is… times up for Ozil, Mustafi and Myki.

    FFS… Come on Liverpool!

  42. PD says:

    Too soon gents. Too soon.

  43. slc gunner says:

    At least Spurs lost.

  44. MDP says:

    Fair point PD. I guess coming within a whisker of CL and the money it brings to the transfer kitty has been a tough pill to swallow. It would have made the re-build this summer so much easier to undertake.

    However, I get your point and in the cold light of day we were at least knocking on the door for top 4 and got a step further in Europa to reach the final so you could argue a step forward. You could also argue qualifying for CL would have papered over some of the many cracks. I think Arsenal are stripped bare right now and how they undertake such a big task this summer on a shoe string will be fascinating.

  45. PD says:

    Where to start ? The Totts obviously. Thank God for that. Simply put, I would have found football a real slog going forward if that lot had won the CL.

    For us…..bitterly disappointing end to the season. Threw away top 4 & the final appearance was shameful……though obviously nowhere near as shameful as UEFA giving the game to Azerbijan in the first place & leaving Mkhitaryan in the horrible position he was put in. They should be ashamed of themselves….

    There has to be questions over Emery over what happened over the last month. Just seriously wasn’t good enough…….but……some of the stuff online about him has been pathetic. If I see one more person talking about how we no longer play beautiful football or we shouldn’t have got rid of Arsene, I will lose it. a) we hadn’t played beautiful for quite a while before Arsene left & b) the problem is not that we moved Arsene on, it’s that we took so long to do it. We all love the guy but he left a shambles behind him.
    Emery might have messed up the last month of the season but I don’t think getting us to that situation with a month to go should be written off lightly, quite an achievement for me given the unbalanced, weak squad he inherited, the lack of leadership he inherited & the serious injuries to Bellerin, Holding & Welbeck.

    As for ins & outs….in line with previous posts we have soooooooooo much to do. Between the ‘clearly not good enough’ (Ospina, Jenks, Mustafi, Elneny) & the ‘totally overpaid’ (Ozil, Mkhi) we have a lot of movement out to do. You could also make a case for adding Kolasinac in there for me …..and possibly Xhaka & Chambers too. Is Monreal past it now too ? Quite possibly.

    As for movement in………it’s a long, long list…..and we will have to prioritise. As slc sad, Martinez as no.2 is a given for me…..there are just far more pressing situations to resolve. If you were being pessimistic & had an unlimited chequebook, you could say we need a new GK, a RB, two LBs, two centre halves, 2 CMs & 2 wingers. Possibly even another striker. It’s terrifying truth be told. We just have to hope we can unearth some bargains in the market (& being optimistic I think last summer was our best window for a while so fingers crossed) & hope some of the young players push on & make themselves good squad options. (though again probably hoping for too much to ask all of them to push on enough, some will surely go out on loan)

    And some of the players in need to be leaders too. I think Emery has toughened us up a bit but we need more.

  46. slc gunners says:

    Thoughts on transfer window (knowing that players could still leave to Europe):
    GK: As expected. Opsina was sold and I think we got a little for him. Happy enough there.
    RB: Hector and ANM as backup. OK there.
    LB: Hopefully Tierney is our Andrew Robertson. Monreal or Kolasinac will likely leave. If Emery prefers a back 4, then I would keep Monreal. Otherwise, Kolasinac is likely to stay if we plan a back 3 with wing backs. Kolasinac will pull in more money, being younger.
    CB: Koscielny leaving was not part of the plan. Our best centre half is gone. The good thing is that Mustafi has been left out quite a blot in pre-season and that Chambers/Sokratis seems to be the preferred partnership. I’m not convinced about Chambers, but Holding (soon) and Luiz are now there as well. Hopefully we sell Mustafi and maybe send Mavrapanos on loan. Saliba is a good long-term buy. As for Luiz, he’s the best footballer of the lot, but not really a great defender. Maybe and hopefully, the defensive side of his game will improve with age. We didn’t have a whole lot of options to be fair.
    MF: Added Ceballos. I hope he’s good, decent pedigree. I think we should sell Elneny now, given that we have Willock, Ceballos and even Luiz. Willock is the standout player in pre-season. Hopefully, that continues.
    Wing/Attacking Mid: Ceballos could technically be included in this bracket as well. Not surprising that Ozil and Miki are still around. Ozil looked positive in pre-season, but we’ve seen that before. I don’t know anything about Pepe, never seen him play. Reading a lot of positives though, so hopefully he will be a difference-maker. If you add in Martinelli and Nelson, we have a lot of options – Aubameyang has been playing wide in pre-season as well. While I was hoping Iwobi would stay and continue to improve, I see the logic in selling him now. Good luck to him.
    Striker: Aubameyang and Lacazette is a good pairing. I’m ok with Eddie being on loan – he needs to play. Hopefully both stay fit!
    Overall, I’m happy enough with the business done. I think we have improved, at least on paper. Nowhere near Top 2, but better placed for Top 4 I think.

  47. MDP says:

    It’s hard to put this transfer window into words. It’s felt exhilarating and mind blowing at times with a fair measure of caution in places and a certain amount of hard reality that there’s still a job to be done and this is by no means finished. But, if you’d told me after the final whistle against Chelsea in May that we’d have a summer like this, I would have bitten off arms to be where we are now. A new management team that initially looked dormant have come alive and look like they know what they are doing or at least have a real plan and have done everything they can to put it into action. Arsenal all of a sudden seems like a destination that is going places. Where our best players Auba and Laca want to stay (I thought we might struggle to keep that pair at the club at the end of May) and that foundation is being built on and grown. Youth is flourishing with some really promising stuff from the likes of Joe Willock and co plus real intelligent signings (it appears) with Saliba a golden nugget of hope just around the corner and Tierney a potential breath of fresh air. The Pepe signing is the muscle flexing, kick start this club needs even if it can be deemed slightly reckless with deeper analysis on the defensive frailties and payments yet to be made. I’m just buzzing though and can’t wait to see how this pans out. Something different feels good.

    The harsh reality is our defence is still as frightening as ever. The Achilles heel is still alive and kicking. David Luis has the potential to be the next Silvestre with a track record of recklessness to match any Arsenal defender of the last 10years. He does however fit the Emery mould, can play it out from the back, has bags of experience and if nothing else is an upgrade on Mustafi. Add to that the return of Bellerin, Holding and the addition of Tierney maybe we can find some kind of new direction to get us through the season and support what looks like a mouth watering attack.

    Central midfield seems awash with talent. Ramsey seemed like a scary departure in May but now a distant memory with the astute loan of Caballos, the extreme potential of Guendouzi and the youthful rise of Joe Willock. Maybe Xhaka has his work cut out to be a certain starter come this time next year. The only fear is whether we’ve truly got that defensive midfielder to protect our defensive frailties in Torreira. I have my doubts but still a midfield with stacks of promise.

    If we weren’t to solve our biggest problem in defence, next on the list was linking up attack and getting some players to drive us forward and Pepe certainly ticks that box. It feels like more than a signing, a message to the footballing world that Arsenal haven’t thrown in the towel yet. I said at the end of last season that I’d love to see another attacking player that could become part of that feel good double act of Auba and Laca. Maybe we will see a trio form over the coming months. I bloody hope so!

    I don’t really think we could have expected more than this. With Man U paying a ridiculous sum of money for Maguire it’s shows how difficult top top centre halves are to come by. So, maybe a centre half in Saliba was a clever approach. He looks decent from the videos I’ve seen and was schooled and grew up alongside Mbappe and has the same kind of flair and ethos.

    Every signing is a gamble whoever it might be and we had to roll the dice. Champions League qualification is far from nailed on but I don’t think United, Chelsea or Spurs have done enough to open up the gap. Game on!

  48. PD says:

    Yeah, it’s been an exhilarating window….mainly because we all expected so little !!
    Outgoings first : we’ve got rid of some deadwood in Ospina, Jenks, Osana (who I had even forgotten was still an Arsenal player!) & done some good business on young players – 10m for Bielik & 3m for Thompson. (a 19 year old who has never played a 1st team game being bought for 3m – football has gone truly mad) Ideally, I would have kept Iwobi to give us cover out wide but realistically he’s not worth what Everton paid for him so not sure we could have turned it down. Good luck to him anyway, great lad. Hopefully the new Brazilian kid & Nelson can take up the slack out wide.
    There’s still time to offload more too abroad too – hopefully Elneny, Mustafi & Mkhi… …….one would be good, two brilliant & all three amazing. (maybe even add Kolasinac to that list ?)
    At the back…..I share the concerns……but….. I get the feeling that with a big outlay on Saliba for next year, the plan was to hope Chambers & Tierney (as someone who has Celtic as my ‘other’ team I have seen a lot of this kid & he is the real deal, really excited we got him) would step in & that Holding/Bellerin would come back and that we wouldn’t actually buy another centre half. Having Willock (has looked excellent in pre season) & Ceballos in midfield would give us better ball retention & having Pepe as that quality outlet wide that we have missed for a while would also take the pressure off defensively. Obviously the Kos situation (desperately disappointed in him) changed that. In the circumstances, getting Luiz was a really good deal to do. 18 months younger than Kos & with far less injury problems costing only a few million more than we got for Kos. I can’t argue with that to be honest. I know he has his flaws but he can do some great things too & think he will have a point to prove to Chelsea. (the fact that he wanted to leave cos he can’t stand Lampard has got to be a plus surely – I’m in total agreement with him on that one on that clown !!)
    But yeah Pepe is the standout. I think he will terrify teams & take pressure off the two lads up front.
    The fact that the Totts were allegedly in for both Ceballos & Saliba at the last minute and both of them still came up to us helps morale too. Power shift in North London ? Not quite yet !

    Hats off to the new regime. I was very sceptical but given the circumstances, they have done simply brilliantly. Bravo chaps !
    Really looking forward to the season now, whereas a month ago I was dreading it. Come on you Reds !

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