Author Archives: keenosafc

Emery revolution picks up steam

After 2 defeats in the opening two games of the Unai Emery era, the agenda driven and attention seekers were getting on the Spanish managers back.

The majority of us, however, realised the fixture list computer had given us a nightmare start to the season – a home game against Manchester City and a visit to Stamford Bridge – and vocally backer the new man.

After those two defeats, it was only those attention seekers and a few in the media attempting to create a story who tried to show Emery as a man under pressure.

One leading journalist even went as far as saying Emery was “his favourite to be first manager sacked”.

Three games on, and 5 games into the new season, we now sit level with Tottenham on 9 points.

The 2-1 victory over Newcastle made it 2 away victories on the trot – the first time since May 2017 we had won 2 away games in a row.

An average first half was changed at half-time when Emery pulled off Matteo Guendouzi, replacing him with Lucas Torreira.

Every time the Uruguayan has pulled in an Arsenal shirt, the team have looked better. He now needs to start.

The game was not without its heart in mouth moments as Arsenal continued to try and play out from the back.

Whilst Petr Cech and the defence get a lot of the criticism, the problem is in the midfield.

When the ball is with the defence, there is a lack of midfield options, resulting in the defenders having to go backwards to Cech and sit deeper.

Granit Xhaka and Guendouzi rarely made themselves available in the first half to their defenders.

Often finding themselves marked, they were not giving their defenders that forward option.

This left the only option to go backwards towards Cech.

Man City always have 2 or 3 options, and have the get out ball of playing back.

When the ball goes forward into the midfield, everyone pushes up a few yards. Then when it comes back into defence everyone is further up the pitch creating more space.

When those midfield options are not there, the ball goes back to Cech and suddenly you are in your own 6-yard box with opponent attackers pressing.

It changed when Torreira came on

Suddenly both Torreira and Xhaka were available to take the ball off the defence with a forward pass.

The player on the ball had options.

Torreira is sharp in his passing. Rarely taking two touches to release the ball. He just quickens is up – speed is important when we are playing out of the back.

Guendouzi has had a decent start, but he is currently a little too slow on the ball in the Premier League.

Another new signing who had a fantastic game was Sokratis.

The Greek centre back was a beast on Saturday.

He won everything, put in some key tackles and showed he was not as slow as some have made out. Brilliant signing.

We now have a run of 4 home games in a row – 2 in the Premier League and 2 cup games. 4 wins from he 4 games has to be the minimum target.

Victories over Watford and Everton in the league would leave us with 15 points from the first 7 games.

That sort of form might not be enough to make you title contenders, but would keep us on course for top 4. It is early doors but you extend that form to 38 games and it would give us 81 points – which was Manchester United’s total when they finished 2nd last season.

Onwards and upwards with Unai Emery’s red and white army.

Keenos

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Match report: Newcastle United 1 – 2 Arsenal

Newcastle United (0) 1 Arsenal (0) 2

Premier League

St. James’ Park, Newcastle

Saturday, 15th September 2018. Kick-off time: 3.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Guendouzi, Xhaka; Ramsey, Özil; Aubemeyang, Lacazette.

Substitutes: Elneny, Mkhitaryan, Torreira, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Welbeck, Leno.

Scorers: Xhaka, Özil.

Referee: Lee Probert

Attendance: 52,165

After a brief hiatus due to international commitments, it’s good to be back at the day job again; this week, the lads find themselves up the road and near the Tyne at a true cathedral of English football, St. James’ Park, the home of our old adversaries Newcastle United.

There surely cannot be another club in English football that define themselves completely by he who wears the coveted number nine shirt, and to be fair, one can see why; Hughie Gallacher, Jackie Milburn, Wyn Davies, Malcolm MacDonald and Alan Shearer, all players that would comfortably fit into any side, in any era. In fact, Malcolm MacDonald did; he played for us for nigh on three years in the late seventies, scoring 42 goals in 84 appearances, an enviable record for any Arsenal footballer.

The cacphonous atmosphere that greeted the combatants today made the arena seem almost gladatorial in its very construction; and indeed it became so as the sound of Blaydon Races resonated around the stadium creating an atmosphere of both tension and intimidation. As the match got underway with the Barcodes wasting no effort in pressurising the Arsenal defence, it was looking as if it would be surely a matter of time before their work would bring an early reward for them. For one reason or another we got out of jail constantly early on.

Time after time we were found wanting, and it seemed at times that our team collectively had two left feet, with the inability to string a series of passes together becoming evident. In fact, the only thing worth talking about from out point of view in the first half was the wasted chance that Aaron Ramsey criminally squandered; if he had played the ball across the six-yard box instead of missing the target completely, then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would surely have scored. Ho hum.

Anyway, come the break, cometh the man. Mr. Emery must surely have had a word in one or two players’ ears (and a flea in others) because the change in the chaps became obvious. Just four minutes after the break, Granit Xhaka’s perfectly struck free-kick found the back of the Magpies’ net, and that moment onwards, it was Arsenal’s match to win. The dynamic changed when Lucas Torreira replaced Mattéo Guendouzi in midfield, and our confidence just grew. Little more than ten minutes later, a shot from Alexandre Lacazette rebounded off a defender thus finding the feet of Mesut Özil, and the gimlet-eyed little midfielder wasted no time in scoring a goal, which turned out to be the defining moment of the match. As the back of the net rippled when the ball found its one and only true home, the cheers and applause from our supporters became apparent, and at the same time, fifty thousand Novocastrian hearts fluttered, knowing that for them, today’s game was lost. Despite a late raid by the Magpies which saw them score a goal in injury time, the match (and more importantly) three points went back to Islington, for us, a job well done.

Despite a victory, (the third in a row, it should be said) there are points to ponder. The good thing was that we didn’t pick up any unecessary yellow cards; but on the other hand the defence is still rocky. The full-backs charge up the pitch (a la George Male and Eddie Hapgood, or in recent memory Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn) but in doing so leave the centre-backs exposed. It was heartening to see that when in the second half Shkrodan Mustafi slipped, stumbled and fell leaving a Barcode forward to charge in on our goal, Sokratis came across and neutralised the threat, which shows that an understanding is being cultivated between the two men, which is a very good thing. It’s going to be hard to see how Laurent Koscielny is going to get back into this team if this CB pairing gets stronger, which it should. In midfield, it’s interesting to note that Granit Xhaka plays with more freedom when Lucas Torreira is alongside him; it could be that young Mattéo Guendouzi is not ready yet, and this is the line-iup that works. We’ll see. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners.

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.

0 games in 2 weeks…7 games in 23 days

And we are back.

It has been a long old two weeks as domestic football stepped aside for UEFA new pointless nations league.

After the euphoria of the World Cup, England returned back to its normal status in friendly’s. Boring, disinteresting games that send you to sleep.

It did not take me too long during both games to switch across to watch the cricket highlights followed by the Vuelta Espana. The cricket and cycling have certainly been more exciting then the football.

So we are back today with the near 300 mile and 140 step trip to the Newcastle away end. I once read that the furthest seat from the centre circle in St James Park was a quarter of a mile away. You are certainly up with the gods in the away end.

After two weeks with no football, Newcastle begins a run of 7 games in 23 days.

After using a core group of players in the opening 4 games – just 13 have started a game – Unai Emery is going to have to begin shuffling his pack.

This starts this weekend as it is about time Lucas Torreira started.

Uruguay played just once during the international break, with Torriera playing just 45 minutes of football. He should be fit and raring to go.

I would bring him straight in for Matteo Guendouzi.

The teenage Frenchman has quickly become a fans favourite but football has no place for favourites. We need to play our best midfield and at the moment that is:

Ramsey Torreira Xhaka

Start all 3 and it gives us the solid bank in front of the defence, also covering the full backs when they bomb forward.

With Arsenal set to play every mid-week up until the next international break – and potentially every mid week after until the middle of November, Guendouzi will still get plenty of game time to continue his development.

Other than Torreira the starting XI will come from that core group of 13 (minus Ainsley maitland-Niles) who have started a game this season.

The only real decision will be over which 2 starts between Henrikh Mkhitaryn, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette,

I expect Petr Cech to continue in goal. Whilst I do not agree with this, he is Emery’s umber one and I back the Spaniard.

Bernd Leno will surely start every mid week game, and it is only then we will be able to fully judge if Emery has made the right decision. Some good performances in the mid week games over the next 23 days could see him pushing Cech when players return after the October international break.

The mid week team (injury permitting) will look something like:

Leno

Lichtsteiner Mavropanos Holding Kolasinac

Guendouzi Maitland-Niles Elneny

Iwobi Smith-Rowe

Welbeck

The likes of Eddie Nketiah, Joe Wilock, Xavier Amaechi & Tyreece John-Jules will also all see some game time, although it will probably be from the bench.

Whilst it is important for teenagers to get some senior game time; it is also key to keep senior players like Elneny, Iwobi and Welbeck match sharp.

They are superior players to the youngsters, and will be the ones stepping up if someone from the weekend side picks up an injury.

Now I am off for a long old train journey to the North-East.

Up The Arsenal

Keenos