Match Report: BATE Borisov 1 – Arsenal

FC BATE Borisov (1) 1 Arsenal (0) 0
UEFA Europa League, Round of 32, First Leg
Borisov Arena, Ulitsa Gagarina 119, Barysaŭ 222520, Belarus
Thursday, 14th February 2019. Kick-off time: 5.55pm

(4-2-3-1) Čech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles; Guendouzi, Xhaka; Kolašinac, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette; Iwobi.
Substitutes: Elneny, Torreira, Lichtsteiner, Aubameyang, Leno, Suárez, Nketiah
Red Cards: Lacazette
Yellow Cards: Xhaka,

Referee: Srdjan Jovanovic (Serbia)
Attendance: 13,126

Our next opponents in the UEFA Europa League tonight, are FC BATE Borisov, who hail from the city of Barysaw in Belorus. Their name is an acronym of Borisov Automobile and Tractor Electronics and they are by far the most successful Belorussian team with 15 league titles, three Belarussian Cups and four Belarussian Super Cups; in fact they are in yet another final of the latter, against Dinamo Brest on 2nd March. Of course, we played them last season in the same competition, beating them 10-2 on aggregate; let’s hope that we can emulate this score again this year.

Some chance of that. The way in which Stanislav Dragun’s headed goal for FC BATE Borisov at the end of the first half, after a pin-point cross from a free-kick by Igor Stasevich rather summed up Arsenal’s game management here in Belarus tonight. Despite a bobbly pitch, cold weather, and our domination of the first fifteen minutes of the match, we simply allowed the home side to define their personalities in front of their own crowd, and at times it was hard to work out just who was the away side here. Arsenal did have chances, with Henrik Mkhitaryan and Alexandre Lacazette’s efforts being amongst the best we could muster, but with the midfield unable to impose their will on the game, along with a bizarre back three defensive formation, it seemed as if the Londoners found it impossible to take their game up that extra notch when required. Every time we lost the ball, the players of FC BATE Borisov capitalised on our errors, and above all this, managed to keep their heads whilst it looked at times during the first half, as if we may be losing ours.

New half, same problems. But having said that, we did get the ball into the net after fifty-six minutes, but unfortunately it was cancelled out, as Alexandre Lacazette was offside when he put Sead Kolašinac’s cross away with a sweet side-footed volley. Back to the drawing board. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Lucas Torreira replaced Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Granit Xhaka after 68 minutes; just five minutes later, our final substitution happened, with the appearance of Denis Suárez for Sead Kolašinac, who to be fair, did try to supply our strikers with goalscoring chances throughout the match. If this wasn’t bad enough, Alexandre Lacazette was given a red card for violent conduct five minutes before the end of the match when he caught Aleksandar Filipovic with an elbow in retaliation which in hindsight was a very stupid thing to do; heat of the moment it may be, but in the long run it has cost both him and the club dear.

What has happened to us? Talk about a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Belarus! The last occasion that we played FC BATE Borisov in their ground, we ran out 4-2 victors, but tonight we looked anything but winners. We looked like an above average middle of the table side who was totally out of their depth in this competition. Mr. Emery needs to find out exactly who wants to play for both himself and Arsenal Football Club and get rid of those who don’t. The problem is that many of them are still Mr. Wenger’s men and Mr. Emery needs to impose his ways and methods on this club very quickly indeed otherwise these players will drag Arsenal down into the middle of the table within a short space of time. Over the next few weeks we are playing some very important Premiership matches, and to be honest, this squad doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence at this present time. God forbid it should happen, but if Mr. Emery simply decides that he can’t change things and walks away in the summer, we will be in big, big trouble, as I don’t believe that we can attract any other top class European coaches (or players, for that matter) of this calibre unless we are Champions League participants. Part two of this tragic tale unfolds at The Emirates next Thursday; we should win, but then again we should be doing a lot of things, shouldn’t we? 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.


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.


Arsenal set to play “Strongest XI” against BATE Borisov

The usual “getting on a plane”  pictures have been released by the club; indicating who is an who is not in the squad for the trip to Belarus to face BATE Borisov.

It is clear with the players already confirmed as making the trip that Arsenal are set to play a very strong XI.

Last season, the squad that went travelled for the Europa League group stage game was described by many as “youthful”.

The likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson all started. Whilst on the bench was Chuba Akpom, Josh Dasilva, Vlad Dragomir, Charlie Gilmour,  Matt Macey, Marcus Mcguane and Eddie Nketiah.

Alexandre Lacazette, Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech, Granit Xhaka and Laurent Koscileny were amongst the senior first team professionals left at home.

Whilst the strength of the squad going out to Belarus might surprise some, their is clarity in Unai emery’s thinking.

The Europa League is a genuine winnable competition, and a path into the Champions League. Emery is taking the last realistic chance to win a trophy in his first season with Arsenal seriously.

Arsenal also do not play a game this weekend. It is FA Cup 5th round day and Arsenal are not in the competition.

So the logic is simple.

Play  a strong XI tomorrow, win 6-0 and rotate the youth in next Thursday – resting players prior to a Sunday lunch time kick off at home to Southampton.


Arsenal launch dual attack on Champions League

Arsenal are in the running for to finish Top 4.

A week ago Gary Linekar said that Arsenal “do not have the squad to compete for the top 4” ignoring the fact that we were certainly in a 3 horse race to finish in a Champions League spot. As it stands we are 5th, 1 point behind Manchester United in 4th.

The Premier League has 6 competitive teams fighting for 4 places. 6 in to 4 does not go. In the 9 seasons since the turn of the decade, none of the so-called “big 6” have finished top 4 in every season:

The Premier League is the hardest league in the world to finish top 4. No team, not even big spending Manchester City, are guaranteed it – where as in Spain, Italy and Germany you can pretty much guarantee that Barcelona, Juventus, Real Madrid & Bayern Munich will always make it.

This makes it a little bit harder to budget as a Premier League team.

Where as those sides in Spain, Italy and Germany know they will make the Champions League, so can offer 5-year deals knowing that they will have the income to cover it; Premier League sides have to be a bit more careful.

Not being in the Champions League cost Arsenal around £40million in 2017/18. With it not being an easy path to get back in, Arsenal need to ensure that they are budgeting not to qualify for the Champions League.

Any side that runs their budget and wage bill to qualify for the Champions League would be in financial danger if they failed to qualify. The £40million loss would force them to sell players to balance the books.

Alternatively, like Arsenal, you could keep a good cash balance so that you can supplement income from your savings if you do fail to qualify for a couple of years. In real life terms it is like keeping 6 months worth of mortgage payments in a savings account so that you do not risk losing your home if you lose your job.

Despite when Linekar said, Arsenal are competing for the top 4, but finishing there is not a guarantee.

It is this competition for top 4 that led me to blog about Points v Places.

Perhaps an easier route into the Champions League is winning the Europa League.

Tonight Arsenal play BATE Borisov – the Belorussian champions.

The two sides faced each other in the group stages of the Europa League last season. Arsenal scored 10 goals across both games. BATE finishing bottom of the group with just 1 win.

BATE have performed better in this years Europa League with 3 wins from 6 games – and losing just 3-1 and 1-0 against Chelsea.

Arsenal should comfortably get through to the Round of 16; and further progression should not be a problem.

The big names in the Europa League are; Napoli (2nd in Seria A), Inter Milan (3rd) and Lazio (7th). Sevilla (4th in La Liga), Real Betis (7th), Valencia (8th) and Villarrea (19th). You also have Bayern Leverkuson and Chelsea who are both 6th in their respective leagues.

The only sides that would really concern me are Napoli, Chelsea and Sevilla.

Winning the Europa League is a realistic target.

With Arsenal being out of both domestic competitions, we easily have the resources to rotate and keep players fresh for both competitions.

Despite what some have said, Arsenal have two good routes into the Champions League.