Tag Archives: Granit Xhaka

How will Unai Emery solve Arsenal defensive puzzle?

Unai Emery is facing a defensive puzzle.

With Rob Holding out for the season, yellow cards to both Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi against Huddersfield means both are suspended for the game at Southampton on Sunday.

Not only does this give the Spaniard a headache for the Premier League match, but also disrupts his planning for the visit of Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday.

Thursday’s game would have been used to give Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal a run out. Get 90 minutes of senior football under their belts after long lay offs.

Koscielny would have most certainly started at centre back, with Monreal at left back. The problem now for Arsenal is that with Sokratis and Mustafi now out, the pair are now likely to be our central defensive partnership against Southampton.

So what does this mean for Thursday?

Does Emery continue with the rehabilitation of Monreal and Koscielny by giving them 90 minutes against Qarabagm hope they both get through and hope recover quickly enough for Southampton at Sunday lunch time?

Or does he play Sokratis and Mustafi (injury permitting) against Qarabag, keeping Koscielny and Monreal out of danger for Sunday.

The fear will be against Qarabag, the one of either Koscielny or Monreal picks up a little niggle ruling them out of Sunday. This is highly likely. Small injuries often occur after a long lay off. And even if they do both get through unscathed, are either yet fully fit enough to play 90 minutes twice in less than 3 days?

Arsenal were already without first choice U23 pairing Daniel Ballard and Julio Pleguezuelo, as well as Kostadinos Mavropanos. This would mean that if either Koscielny or Monreal were to not fit for Sunday, either 18-year-old Zech Medly would start, or Arsenal would have to move either Stephan Lichtsteiner or Granit Xhaka into the back four.

Logic dictates that you do not involved Koscielny or Monreal against Qarabag. It would also make sense to not play Sokratis if Mustafi’s hamstring injury is to rule him out of further games.

So Medley and Big Carl Jenkinson it is then/



Arsenal punished due to refereeing inconsistency

Referee Paul Tierney was completely correct in booking Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Matteo Guendouzi for diving.

We have to remember that a dive is not just feigning contact. FA rules state:

Diving is defined as an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by falling to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to give the impression that a foul has been committed.

Just because their has been contact, it does not mean that a foul has been committed. All too often, a player go’s to ground with minimal contact, rolls about feigning injury, exaggerating the contact, in the hope of gaining an advantage.

FIFA call this “simulation”. Just because you might have been touched, it does not give you a right to go down. If the contact was not enough to impede you, then it is not a foul. If, at the slightest brush, you then decide to go down instead of remain on your feet, you should be booked for diving.

Unfortunately, when it comes to diving, referee’s in England tend to be very inconsistent.

Against Huddersfield on Saturday, Tierney followed the rules of the game, booking Xhaka, Mustafi and Guendouzi. The problem is all too often referees wave play on.

We often see Dele Alli, Jamie Vardy, and others go down with little to no contact. The referee waves play on a we get on with the game. Against Leicester on Saturday Dele Alli feigned injury to give an impression that a foul had been committed. The referee in that game waved play on.

So Arsenal (rightly) got 3 players booked – one of which will lead to a suspension – whilst other players never get punished as referee’s wave play on.

Against Tottenham, Son Heung-min went down to win a penalty. Rob Holding lunged into a challenge, and made zero contact with the South Korean.

The media response was that due to Holding sliding in, Son had a right to go down. He did not. He cheated. He went down with no contact (or at most minimal) and rolled about feigning injury. He should have been booked. Instead the referee gave a penalty.

Mistakes happen, but what has happened since just highlights the inconsistency of the FA.

November last year, Everton’s Oumar Niasse was banned for 2 games having been deemed to have deliberately attempted to con referee Anthony Taylor to give a penalty.

The FA charged Niasse with “successful deception of a match official” and an Independent Regulatory Commission was unanimous in its decision to ban the Senegalese.

After the game, Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann (who made the challenge) said the referee had been “conned”.

 “I don’t like to see people getting punished but also I don’t like people diving to win penalties. [Niasse] probably knows he has conned them.

“If there was [contact] it was minimal. I haven’t tried to tackle him; he has gone past me and you can see on the replays he has dived. At half-time, [Taylor] probably knew he made the wrong decision.”

Replays showed that there was contact between Dann and Niasse, but it was extremely minimal. The Holding incident with Son was similar. If there was contact it was minimal.

Yet a week on from that game, Son has not been charged by the FA – let alone given a 2-game ban like Niasse. Meanwhile Arsenal have 3 players booked for similar incidents. Mustafi now suspended after reaching 5 yellow cards.

The incidents involving Xhaka and Mustafi had a similar level of “contact” as Son against us last weekend.

If the FA believe Xhaka and Mustafi were dives why have they not charged and suspended Son?

Too often they hide behind what the referee has “seen” and “not seen”. Were Xhaka and Mustafi incorreclty booked? Probably not. Should Son have been suspended for 2 games? Well the precedent is there with Niasse.

Further inconsistency was shown on Wednesday.

Marouane Fellaini pulled Guendouzi back by his hair. A similar incident happened back in 2016 when Robert Huth pulled back Fellaini by his hair. Huth was banned for 3 games.

In the incident with Guendouzi, Fellaini has escaped any retrospective action.

Now some will say you are only moaning because it is Arsenal and you are right, I am moaning because it was Arsenal. But up and down the country every weekend fans of clubs are complaining about referee decisions. We are all affected by it. The quicker VAR comes in the better.

All fans want is consistency.


Positive, positive Arsenal

As I sit here on Sunday afternoon writing this I am in a relaxed and reflective mood.

A weekend of seeing family, a BBQ in the sun and then a pub lunch in Epping Forest on Sunday in the rain, I have had a cracking weekend even if it meant I missed going to The Arsenal.

And The Arsenal result has certainly helped with my mood.

After a tough two opening games for Unai Emery, we face West Ham on Saturday, winning 3-1 in what was a fairly rusty display.

Some tried to paint Emery as a man under pressure. I saw one journalist say he was “favourite for the sack race”, and that he was under tremendous pressure from the Arsenal fans.

It was certainly a case of the journalist trying to create a story rather than report the news.

The only people I have seen being super-negative about the start of the Emery-era are attention seeking wankers in social media.

Regardless of whether they were previously Wenger-In or Wenger-Out, there is an equal number abusing Emery for RTs and recognition. On both sides, thy have shown themselves as not true Arsenal fans and are best off ignored.

As for the game, I was not at it as have only seen brief highlights on Match if the Day.

From the 8 minutes of football I saw, the following observations were made:

  • Sokratis is the proper defender we have missed for a decade
  • There is a player in Granit Xhaka; he just needs to be used correctly
  • We need to play Lucas Torreira behind Xhaka
  • Mkhitaryan is a different player when Ozil isn’t playing

There are clearly some huge positives to be taken from the beginning of the Emery-era; even if it has taken 3 games to get the first positive result.

The difference between the Liverpool / Arsenal punditry made interesting listening too.

They heavily criticised Arsenal for sending both full backs forward, but then praised Liverpool for employing the same tactics and saying “thats the modern game”.

It highlights that the “expert” pundits will change their mind on tactics depending on what agenda they want to pursue.

In this case it was criticise Arsenal & praise Liverpool.

What would have been good is for someone to take the time comparing the way both sides set up.

The issue is not that Arsenal’s full backs bomb forward, but the lack of cover they get from their midfielders.

Liverpool played with Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner sitting.

Both men would cover outwide when their full backs bomb forward.

Manchester City use a different tactic, with Fernandinho sitting between the centre backs creating a back 3 when Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy bomb on.

Arsenal’s problem is, and has been probably since Gilberto Silva left the club, that no one in the middle of the park covers the full backs when the go forward.

It just further supports playing Torreira and Xhaka together.

A two man shield will mean that we can have a solid 4 men covering the full backs when the are in the opposition box.

It is all about balance.

Whilst I have mentioned Liverpool. They are top. 9 points from 9; and are being talked up as potential champions. The crown already on their head.

But they have played West Ham (h), Crystal Palace (a) & Brighton (h).

Some perspective is needed.

Last season, Arsenal were awful in finishing 6th. Yet they beat West Ham (h), Crystal Palace (a) & Brighton (h).

So had we had Liverpool’s opening 3 games this season in 2017/18, we would have been top of the league, 9 points out of 9.

This season I would expect Arsenal to win all 3 of the games Liverpool have – we have already won 1 of the 3.

We are 3 games into the season. Just like Arsenal were not a bad team after losing to Manchester City and Chelsea, beating West Ham, Crystal Palace and Brighton does not make Liverpool a great team.

Have a good bank holiday Monday and it is back to football on Sunday with a visit to Cardiff.

Let’s be positive and ignore those negative attention seekers.