Author Archives: keenosafc

Arteta has Mustafi headache

3 weeks ago it was all clear.

Pablo Mari had joined the club on loan, a deal which Arsenal would likely make permanent in the summer.

He would become Arsenal’s 6th central defender in the squad that already contained David Luiz, Sokratis, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi. With William Saliba set to arrive in the summer.

That would make it 7 central defenders at the club, with Arsenal heavily linked with an 8th in Dayot Upamecano.

Chambers has a long term injury, with is being unclear when exactly next season he would be back. Mustafi would surely leave – with a year left on his contract and clearly out of favour. That would leave Arsenal needing to shift one more defender – either Luiz or Sokratis – to bring the number down to 5 (excluding Calum Chambers).

2020/21

New signing
Pablo Mari
David Luiz or Sokratis
Rob Holding
William Saliba

2021/22

New signing
Pablo Mari
Rob Holding
William Saliba
Calum Chambers

But then the recent form of Mustafi has thrown a spanner in the works.

Mustafi has started 8 of Mikel Arteta’s first 11 games – the 3 he missed due to injury. He is clearly in favour for the new manager.

Not only is Mustafi back in favour but he is also playing well. Well enough to give Arteta and the team a bit of a headache for next season.

A decision needs to now be made on Mustafi’s future. Does his recent good form and Arteta liking him result in him remaining beyond this season?

If Arteta does want to keep him, a new contract would have to be offered as his current one runs out in 2021.

Arsenal then need to decide what they do…

Would Mustafi staying meaning no new first choice central defender?
Or would it Mari no longer join us on a free?
And what for Sokratis who has now fallen behind Mustafi?
Then you have Rob Holding who has struggled to return following his injury…

Plenty to think about as the season comes to a close.

Keenos

Aubameyang & Martinelli wasted whilst Saka shows the way

Aubameyang wasted out wide

The only thing Mikel Arteta has done poorly as Arsenal manager is playing Pierre Emerick Aubameyang out wide.

Aubameyang biggest weakness is his passing. Only Bernd Leno, Eddie Nketiah and Gabrial Martinelli have a worse pass competition rate in the Premier League.

The ball often breaks down when it reaches Aubameyang, highlighted by him having just a 75.9% pass completion rate (compared to Nicolas Pepe who completed 88.9% of his passes).

Aubameyang is also fairly poor taking on players from a standing start.

He relies on getting ahead of his opponent and his pace taking him away. But once a defender stands him up, or takes away the space for him to get behind, he is neutralised.

His game is not suited to playing out wide and that was shown again against Olympiakos as he struggled to create anything.

The goal did come from good work by him down the left hand side. But Aubameyang needs to be played down the middle. He is a goal scorer. Not a goal creator.

As is Gabriel Martinelli

With just 16 touches of the ball, Martinelli was dragged off after 57 minutes. Only Nicolas Pepe and Ainsley Maitland-Niles had less; and they came on during the 74th minute & 91st minute respectively.

Like Aubameyang, Martinelli is wasted out wide.

Martinelli is the only player in the squad with worse pass completion stats in the Premier League than Aubameyang – just 69.8% of his passes are completed.

With Martinelli and Aubameyang out wide, we massively restrict out creativity. This then forces our play down the middle.

Creativity in the middle

Against Newcastle, we saw improvements with Dani Ceballos playing alongside Granit Xhaka in the middle. Arsenal played more progressive, and it resulted in our biggest win of he season.

Against Olympiakos, Arteta rightly went for a more defensive midfield set up in Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi. The result was less creativity in the middle of the park.

With Arsenal also not creating much from out-wide, and Mesut Ozil not in the squad due to the impending birth of his child, Arsenal struggled to smoothly move the ball from defence to attack.

Arsenal need to focus on creators in the transfer market.

Bukayo Saka is a star

Another game, another assist for Saka.

His cut back for Alexandre Lacazette’s goal was his 9th assist of the season. He is becoming our main creative threat, despite playing out of position at left back.

With Aubameyang and Martinelli offering very little from a creative point of view, Arteta needs to push Saka further forward.

Arteta needs to start playing Saka on the left wing with Saed Kolasinac (or Kieran Tierney when fit) behind him.

Saka could save Arsenal millions and make the left wing his own between now and the end of the season.

Mustafi the Masterful

Shkodran Mustafi has started 8 of Mikel Arteta’s first 11 games, and has been the most improved player under the new manager.

8 weeks ago Arsenal were offering him to clubs around Europe. He is now making a case for a new contract.

Arteta clearly likes him.

Keenos

Match Report: Olympiakos 0 – 1 Arsenal

Olympiakos FC (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 1
UEFA Europa League, Round of 32, First Leg
Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus 185 47, Greece
Thursday, 20th February 2020. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Bukayo Saka; Mattéo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka; Gabriel Martinelli, Joe Willock, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Dani Ceballos, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding, Nicolas Pépé, Emiliano Martínez, Eddie Nketiah, Sead Kolašinac.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (81mins)
Yellow Cards: Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 49%
Referee: Felix Zwayer (Germany)
Attendance: 32,115

And so, back to The Europa League for the first time in this calendar year, which has now become a crucial fixture in a soon-to-be-important competition for us. Mesut Özil has not travelled with the players for the match, due to personal reasons; however, we welcome the return of Mattéo Guendouzi to the team tonight, after having being dropped for the 4-0 drubbing of Newcastle United at The Emirates last Sunday afternoon.

Right from the get-go, we absolutely dominated the match with superb on and off the ball play, and for the first twenty minutes, our chances were many and the accuracy of the shots were few; however, having said that, both Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli were desperately unlucky not to open the scoring with golden chances, which looking at them from afar, should have had Malheiro de Sá, the Olympiakos goalie picking the balls out from the back of the net. The criminal thing was not only did we not score, but we also started to lose our grip on the match, thus allowing the home side through with several chances, in which Bernd Leno worked extremely hard in order to keep a clean sheet; the best save he made in the first period came when Youssef El-Arabi’s shot was parried at close range just after the half-hour mark. The game now became pedestrian and slow, and the half-time whistle came as a relief for everyone in the stadium.

Bearing in mind that the second half of our matches this season regularly shows a resurgence, the team did not disappoint anyone here tonight. When the tiring Gabriel Martinelli was replaced by Dani Ceballos after the hour mark, we sensed things would change for the better, starting with a David Luiz free kick, in which he was unlucky not to open the scoring. The match started to show some spark now, with both sides showing a desire to score, and in doing so, quite a few hefty tackles started to fly in here and there, so much so, that five bookings were taken by Felix Zwayer, two of them being Arsenal players, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi, both of which seemed minor and pointless in the greater scheme of things. Mikel Arteta must have felt that enough was enough when Mathieu Valbuena’s shot went narrowly past Bernd Leno’s post, that he made his second substitution of the night, and this one turned the fortune of the game in our favour. When Nicolas Pépé replaced the ineffective Joe Willock with a quarter of an hour left on the clock, his mere presence lifted the by-now fatigued and frustrated Arsenal team. Suddenly we played faster, speeding up through the gears, and on the eighty-first minute, the trap was sprung. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang received the ball and quickly flicked it into the channel for Bukayo Saka to run onto; slipping away from his man, he passed the ball into the six-yard box for the predatory Alexandre Lacazette to score easily from close range. In the remaining minutes, Sokratis Papastathopoulos hit the bar and Alexandre Lacazette was desperately unlucky not to score again, but it was not to be, and we return to North London satisfied with a job well done, even though it looked a different proposition in the latter stages of the first half.

Yes, it was a dull match at times, and yes, we were lucky not to concede a goal early on the match, but the ends justify the means, and we go into next week’s return leg in the ascendancy, which is always a very good and warm feeling. Bukayo Saka was again the star of the night with his intelligent play and his pinpoint passing into our opponents’ box in order for the strikers to run onto, and Bernd Leno played superbly in preventing Olympiakos from scoring. Okay, it wasn’t pretty, but we won, and let’s enjoy this moment. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Everton at The Emirates on Sunday, 23rd February at 4.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.