Author Archives: keenosafc

Leicester will test how far Arsenal have come under Mikel Arteta

733 days ago, it felt like the dawn of a new era at Emirates Stadium. Just over two years ago, the Gunners put on a scintillating display to brush Leicester aside and climb into the top four. It was without doubt one of the most memorable matches in Unai Emery’s ill-fated time in charge. Sunday’s repeat of the fixture, two seasons on, could be the catalyst that kickstarts the Mikel Arteta era at Arsenal.

In their first European game of the season, Arsenal made hard work of beating Rapid Vienna. It was a laboured and lethargic victory, the kind which have become common under Arteta, as he seeks to toughen the core of a previously brittle squad. 

The debut of £45 million summer signing Thomas Partey was symbolic of the strength his manager is attempting to instil across the whole team. The Ghanaian won 10 of 13 duels he contested, also completing five tackles. On the ball, he had 102 touches and finished with a passing accuracy of 83%. Partey was purposeful, whilst his team-mates often lacked intent and incisiveness.

Despite an accomplished debut from their new recruit and a win in Vienna, Arsenal still have several issues to fix. Most importantly, they must become more unpredictable and dynamic when in possession. On too many occasions since the start of the season, they have looked passive and pedestrian, struggling to make killer passes into the final third. 

This has led to an over-reliance on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to bail them out of trouble, which he did once again on Thursday. Although the Gabon international is a serial goalscoring threat, he needs help up front. The lack of support he often receives is one of the downfalls of Arteta’s favoured 3-4-3 formation. 

This shape makes Arsenal more difficult to beat defensively(they have conceded the second-fewest goals in the Premier League so far this season) but nullifies aspects of their attacking threat as a consequence. In his first 10 months at the helm, the Spaniard has preferred a more cautious approach, attempting to keep his team in games from first whistle to last. 

This sound and pragmatic philosophy has so far payed off. But, for Arsenal to avoid a repeat of the manner in which they stagnated under Emery, his successor must allow his players to be more adventurous in attack. Arteta did this to great effect in the second half against Rapid Vienna, when he introduced Hector Bellerin. The full-back’s runs down the right flank afforded Nicolas Pepe time and space to take up dangerous attacking positions. When Pepe cut inside, this allowed Bellerin the time to deliver dangerous balls into the penalty area, which resulted in Arsenal’s winner. 

That winner serves as a sign that Arteta is intent on creating a side that will evolve into an attacking machine, if all goes to plan. The first phase of making his Arsenal team tougherlooks to have been completed. Now comes the next phase of crafting a squad that attacks with ruthlessness and scores for fun. 

For that, there is no better place to start than going toe to toe with a high-flying Leicester, who sit above the Gunners on goal difference. In a clash of great importance for both sides, a convincing win could be one that signals the arrival of Arteta’s Arsenal.

Zac Campbell

Match Report: Rapid Wien 1 – 2 Arsenal

Rapid Wien (0) 1 Arsenal (0) 2

UEFA Europa League, Group B, Matchday 1 of 6

Allianz Stadion, Gerhard-Hanappi-Platz 1, 1140 Wien, Austria

Thursday, 22nd October 2020. Kick-off time: 5.55pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Cédric Soares, David Luiz, Gabriel Magalhães; Sead Kolašinac, Nicolas Pépé; Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Bukayo Saka; Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah.

Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney, Alex Rúnarsson, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Shkodran Mustafi, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Matt Macey, Granit Xhaka.

Scorers: David Luiz (70 mins), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (74 mins)

Yellow Cards: Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Partey, Eddie Nketiah, Bernd Leno

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 67%

Referee: Pavel Královec (Czech Republic)

Assistant Referees: Ivo Navordnik (Czech Republic), Tomas Mokrusch (Czech Republic)

Fourth Official: Karel Hrubes (Czech Republic)

Referee Observer: Volodymyr Petrov (Ukraine)

A minimal amount of attendees (circa 3,000) due to coronavirus restructions

If it’s the third Thursday in October, then it must be the start of our Europa League campaign for this season. Actually, this is our fourth consecutive season in this competition; if you recall, we reached the semi-final in 2017-18, the final in 2018-19 and the last 32 in 2019-20. Obviously, we are hoping for a good run in the Europa League, and if we can go on to win the competition, then that will give everyone at the club a huge lift. Tonight we are without the services of Rob Holding, Dani Ceballos and Willian due to injury, but nevertheless we have the personnel available to ensure victory in Vienna this evening. Let’s go!

Within minutes, we started to assume control of the match, and although the usual sparring was taking place between the two teams, we looked fairly comfortable both on and off the ball. After eighteen minutes, David Luiz had our first serious chance of the game, when his header was parried by the Vienna goalkeeper, Richard Strebinger, who was left grasping for fresh air, following a well-taken free-kick by Nicolas Pépé. Bernd Leno was called into action shortly afterwards, when a deflected shot nearly caught him off-guard, but in the end he saved quite comfortably from Marcel Ritzmaier, who worryingly found space inside our penalty area. Alexandre Lacazette was booked for bringing down Ercan Kara, and similarly our new boy Thomas Partey also got a yellow card for catching Taxiarchis Fountas unintentionally in the face with his arm. Despite a lot of possession, we didn’t have anything to show for it, and seven minutes from half-time, Eddie Nketiah became our third booking of the night, when he kicked the ball away petulantly after a poor referreeing decision. Just before the break, the home side had two corners consecutively, which came to nothing, and a couple of minutes later, a pedestrian first half thankfully came to an end.

For the first few minutes of the second half, the home side took the game to us; a terrible mix-up between Bernd Leno and David Luiz saw the ball being lost when being pressed by Ercan Kara, who passed the ball to Taxiarchis Fountas, standing unmarked in the penalty area. He merely kept his head and slotted it into the Arsenal net for the first goal of the match just six minutes after the restart. Not a great start to the second half here in Vienna. A few minutes later, the goalscorer almost scored again, when Bernd Leno passed the ball out of his area; thankfully our goalie easily saved his shot.

Just before the hour, Eddie Nketiah was substituted for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and a couple of minutes later, the ineffective Cédric Soares was replaced by Hector Bellerin. To be fair, the double substitution appeared to rejuvenate the team, and suddenly our passing became crisper and the strikers more alert. We started to create more chances, and thankfully we scored the equaliser on the seventieth minute, when a Nicolas Pépé ball from a free-kick sailed into the Rapid Vienna penalty area for David Luiz to jump above the defenders to head the ball into the net. Our second came four minutes later, when Hector Bellerin collected a pass from Mohamed Elneny in the Rapid Vienna penalty area, and slotted it across the six-yard box for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score with a simple tap-in. With our tails up, we started to wake up to the idea that we could actually win this match at last. Joe Willock aand Kieran Tierney replaced Alexandre Lacazette and Granit Xhaka with six minutes of the match remaining, with an idea to shore things up and not do anything too rash at this late stage of the game. Nicolas Pépé was substituted for Reiss Nelson deep into injury time (just after Bernd Leno receiving a yellow card for time wasting); however, game management was the name of the game now, and we practised that, kept our heads, and left the field as winners tonight.

As a match, it was fairly forgettable, except for the debut of Thomas Partey. He is truly a different class, a modern type of player that we have been lacking for a while. He was constantly firefighting in midfield, always first to the tackle, distriburing the ball intelligently. From tonight’s performance alone, Thomas Partey will undoubtedly be the difference between success and failure at Arsenal. He is certainly going to be one to watch this season, without a shadow of a doubt.

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: Leicester City at the Emirates on Sunday, 19th October at 7.15pm (Premier League). 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.

Like Project Big Picture, a European Premier League will be a non-starter; but could the 2nd half of the season be played abroad?

European football starts for The Arsenal today as we face Rapid Wien away this evening – a 17:55 kick off.

Earlier this week we had the leak that Manchester United and Liverpool, amongst others, were in talks with financers to discuss the possibility of a “European Premier League”.

According to Sky Sports, the key details are:

A European Super League has been mooted for decades.

Talk often increases when domestic clubs want a bigger slice of the pie, and use it as a threat to national federations.

It is no surprise that this has been leaked shortly after the Premier League rejected Liverpool and Man U’s “Project Big Picture” .

This is the two northern clubs way of saying “if we do not get our way, we will go it alone”.

The problem is, a European Super League with no relegation will never work. It is why it has not happened yet.

Promotion and relegation is the key sticking point.

Winning the league, qualifying for Europe, the Play offs and relegation keeps teams interested for the majority of the season. It is what keeps fans watching, keeps fans entering the ground.

You remove promotion / relegation and within 5 or 6 games many of the matches become pointless.

Say Arsenal lose their first 5 games. Already 15 points off the top. Not going to win the league. Unlikely to make top 4 for the end of season play-offs. Why would Arsenal bother to put out a strong XI for the remaining 29 games?

With proposals that a super league would take the place of the Champions League and run alongside the Premier League, Arsenal would be best off putting out their youth team and leaving the strongest XI for the domestic games.

And then all of a sudden you have Bayern Munich facing Arsenal B. The integrity of the competition will be bought into question.

Whilst the theory is “everyone will want to tune in to watch Barcelona v Manchester United”, would then many be bothered about watching 17th place Porto face 18th place Marseille, both of whom are putting out 2nd string sides as they know they do not have a chance of winning it?

The odds of a Porto winning the league are dramatically reduced when you have to play every side twice. A lucky penalty, a strong rear-guard action, a favourable draw no longer work in your favour ala knock-out football.

So we will end up in a situation where by Christmas, half the sides in the European Premier League are putting out B teams, and fans have lost interest.

So we have had Project Big Picture rejected, and I am sure the European Premier League will go the same way. What this leaves is “competitive games abroad”.

Competitive games abroad has been mooted a few times over the years. Most recently Game 39 in the late 00s, that was finally put to bed in 2014.

With COVID19 restrictions in England, games abroad could rear its ugly head again.

In the second half of the season, if games are still not being played in England, it could be proposed that fixtures be taken to “COVID19 safe countries” where crowds are admitted.

Whether this be across Asia, Russia, America or Australia.

It would be proposed that these are games that would currently be held behind closed doors, so domestic fans would not be missing out. Clubs would be taking advantage of the opportunity to take the Premier League around the globe. Playing in front of packed houses in countries that allow capacity crowds.

The issue is this would not be a one off. It would open it up to happen the year after. And so on.

Project Big Picture and a European Premier League are non-starters. The real fear is the second half of the season is played abroad. It would be a pandora’s box that could never be closed.

Keenos