Category Archives: Arsenal

Arsenal new boys “best signings in years”

Over the summer criticism of Edu creeped in as the transfer window rolled on.

The criticism was not unfounded, as Arsenal publicly struggled in their pursuit of Houssem Aouar and only completed the signing of Thomas Partey on the last day of the season.

But praise actually needs to be given for the transfer business we did over the summer. Especially with the recruitment of Thomas Partey and Gabriel.

Arsenal signed Brazilian centre back Gabriel on September 1st for a fee in the region of £24million.

He came with a good reputation in France, having impressed for Lille last season.

But there were questions marks.

Prior to 2019/20, he had a couple of uninspiring loan deals at Troyes before joining Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb, where he made just one league appearance for each club’s senior team.

His statistics, however, held up well.

Whether it was aerial duels, ground duels or passing, he was producing better statistics than anyone at Arsenal. Although this came with the caveat that he was playing in France.

He has taken to English football like a duck to water and should already be considered one of the best central defenders in the league.

When you consider Manchester City and Manchester United have spent so much on central defenders in recent years, and Chelsea had to settle on vetran Thiago Silva, Gabriel feels like a real coup.

Virgil van Dijk aside, it is a struggle to name a better central defender in the league than Gabriel. And at 22 (and with van Dijk out for a year), Gabriel will quickly establish himself as the best in the league.

Thomas Partey was signed on the last day of the transfer window.

We have only seen him for 90 minutes in the Europa League, but he confirmed what we already know about him – that he is a beat of a central midfielder.

A few people expected Partey to replace Granit Xhaka as the midfield anchor. But this would result in Partey losing 50% of his influence.

Just because you are a defensive midfielder, does not mean that your job is to sit in front of the defence.

Take Patrick Vieira for example.

One of the greatest midfielders to have ever played the game, he always played with someone behind him – Emmanuel Petit or Gilberto for Arsenal and Didier Deschamps for France.

That allowed Vieira to press forward, to bully players across the park. If he was the anchor, he would have to be more statics. Cleaning up rather than dominating.

Partey is in a similar mould.

You want the Ghanaian to have the freedom to press opponents regardless of where they are on the pitch.

Against Rapid Wein we saw this.

He would push forward, bullying players, with Mo Elneny playing behind him providing that cover.

Partey’s game is ready made for the Premier League.

In Partey and Gabriel Arsenal have made two big signings. Two players that we have missed for a decade.

A dominant central defender and an equally dominant central midfielder.

They are the men Edu now needs to build the team around for the next 5 years.

We might have finished the transfer window not adding the creativity we craved, but through Edu’s recruitment and Mikel Arteta’s coaching, we now look more defensively solid.

Once a manager has built that solid foundation, he will transition into a more attacking style of play.

Partey and Gabriel are Arsenal’s best signings in years.

We are looking good.

Keenos

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.