Tag Archives: Konstantinos Mavropanos

Arsenal’s New Signings: Hit, miss or Jury’s Out?

Sead Kolasinac

Named in the Bundesliga Team of the Season last season, the left back looked at bargain when he arrived on a free transfer, Kolasinac scored on his debut against Chelsea in the 2017 FA Community Shield. He made his Premier League debut on the opening day, providing an assist in a 4–3 win over Leicester City.

With Arsenal playing 3 at the back, he made the left wing back position his own, with Nacho Monreal flourishing on the left hand side of back 3. In the early months, he gave the team the aggression it had missed for some time, living up to his “tank” nickname.

He was named Arsenal Player of the Month in both August and October, with Nacho Monreal winning the prize in September.

Towards the end of 2017, both a formation change and injury saw him fall out of the side, firstly with Aisnley-Maitland Niles playing on the left, then Nacho Monreal returning to left back when we returned to a back 4.

Questions were raised over his defensive awareness as the reasoning behind him finding himself on the bench, but it was as much to do with Nacho Monreal’s great form – the 32 year old Spaniard showing that there is life in the old dog yet.

Kolasinac returned to the first team in the later part of the season, as Wenger begun to rest players in the league for the Europa League.

Going forward he has shown his class with 5 goals and 4 assists. To bring this into perspective, this is as many goals as Alex Oxlade Chamberlain has scored for Liverpool.

Just 24, he has shown enough this season to be Monreal’s long term replacement at left back. He is certainly not as bad defensively as some critics perhaps say.

Alexandre Lacazette

Scoring after 94 seconds on his debut against Leicester City, the Frenchman’s season certainly began with a bang. He went on to score in both Arsenal’s next two home games, becoming the first Arsenal player to score in his first three home league appearances for the club since Brian Marwood in September 1988.

By the time December hit, it was 8 goals from his first 16 games. A fabulous start. And then it went down hill.

1 goal in his next 13 games had fans starting to question the record signing. What followed was 8 weeks on the sidelines following Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat to Tottenham.

He returned in April against Stoke City, scoring the third goal of the game following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s decision to allow his fellow striker to take a penalty.

With that his confidence returned and he scored 8 goals in 9 games.

The clubs top scorer this season, it does feel one of 3 thirds. Brilliant in the first 3rd. Poor in the second 3rd. Brilliant in the final third. But if 17 goals is considered a poor return in his first season, it only bodes well for the future.

Konstantinos Mavropanos

The 20 year old Greek defender was signed in January with a view to spend the second half of the season on loan in Germany. A decision to put him on the bench in the League Cup game against Chelsea meant this was not longer possible.

This left Mavropanos playing in the U23s for the majority of the season.

He made his Premier League debut in a 2–1 defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Despite the defeat, his performance was praised by fans and pundits.

Mavropanos made his home debut in the club’s next home match – the 5-0 victory over Burnley.

His red card against Leicester City shows how quickly football can change.

It is important not to go OTT with Mavropanos; and we must remember that he has only played a handful of senior games in England, but physically, he looks brilliant.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Part of the deal that took Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United, he made his first start for Arsenal in a 5–1 home win over Everton, claiming three assists. That match was probably the highlight of his Arsenal career thus far.

A knee injury in April caused him to miss almost the entire month. That break seemed to have broken his rhythm and affected him settling at the club, leaving him with just 7 Premier League starts.

3 goals and 5 assists in his first 14 games is a decent return, but Jose Mourinho’s question marks over his fragility hang over his head.

If he stays fit, he will be a good foil for Mesut Ozil.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Whilst Mkhitaryan was the man who replaced Sanchez on the pitch, Aubameyang has replaced the Chilean as the figure head of the team.

He has continued his performances that he put in for Borussia Dortmund, scoring on his debut against Everton.

Aubameyang’s appearances were restricted due to be cup tied in the Europa League. You do have to wonder if he was not cup tied – due to UEFA’s odd rules – we probably would have gone on to beat Atletico Madrid in the semi-final. Him and Lacazette would have been too much to handle for 10 man Madrid.

It is not just the 8 goals in 12 games that has been impressive, but the way he lifted the entire club.

Alexis Sanchez was moody and selfish. Aubameyang plays with a smile on his face, and reminds me of Thierry Henry in that he is as delighted to see a team mate score as scoring himself.

Giving the ball to Lacazette against Stoke City showed he was a team player. Understanding a fellow striker struggling, his act led to Lacazette re-finding his form. You can not imagine Sanchez doing similar.

With new World Cup Aubameyang (and Mkhitaryan) will get a proper rest and full pre-season. He could be devastating next year.

Keenos

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Can Arsenal keep 3 young centre backs?

Calum Chambers. Rob Holding. Konstantinos Mavropanos.

It is hard enough to give one young player enough game time to develop. But 3 young players, in the same position, it is near enough impossible.

I asked a simple question on the She Wore a Yellow Ribbon Facebook page. It was based on Snog, Marry, Avoid but with a football twist. Like basketball or basketbull.

Keep, loan, sell?

The theory being that moving into the new season, we should keep one, loan one, sell one. But the discussion is perhaps bigger than one word answer.

Calum Chambers is 23 years old. It is incredible to think that he has been at the club for 4 seasons already, having signed for Arsenal in 2014 for £16 million as a 19-year-old.

“His mature performance defied his youthful years” was how he was described after an early game. Following a strong start to the season, Chambers was nominated for the Golden Boy Award 2014, alongside international teammates Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw and John Stones. It also saw him win 3 England caps (starting twice) at the back end of 2014.

Players returning to the club saw him push out to right back to cover Hector Bellerin. And this is where his Arsenal career stuttered.

Exposed for a lack of pace, I remember one game he was absolutely destroyed by Jefferson Montero against Swansea. It also destroyed his confidence to such an extent that come the 2015 FA Cup Final he was not even in the match day squad.

The next season, he struggled to make an impact before being loaned out for the 2016/17 season to Middlesbrough, where he performed well at centre back in a fruitless relegation battle.

Despite good performances, Arsenal were willing to listen to offers last summer and rumoured to have accepted a bid from Crystal Palace.

This season has been a mixed bag for the Englishman with just 3 Premier League starts before the New Year. The second half of the year has seen him come back into favour with 9 Premier League appearances.

In recent weeks, he has forced his way into the side ahead of Rob Holding, and performed well. He has also covered Hector Bellerin at right back a couple of times.

Having signed a new contract this season – more to protect his sell on value than anything else – his career this summer is in the balance.

He is still young, but can no longer really be talked about as a youngster. Having already done the loan thing in 2016, Arsenal have a simple choice. Keep or sell.

If Arsenal keep him, I imagine it will be more as cover for Bellerin at right back than high up on the list of centre backs.

Like Calum Chambers, Rob Holding’s Arsenal career got off to a solid start, to the point where last summer, everyone was happy to keep Holding and sell Chambers. This year he has not kicked on.

Mainly due to a lack of game time, Holding has stagnated this season. He probably could have done with spending it on loan. Instead, he turns 23 in September and is in desperate need of minutes. The question arises as to whether he will get those minutes in 2018/19?

Just yesterday (after I wrote this blog) Holding signed a new long term deal with Arsenal, so he is clearly in the plans for the future.

He is currently competing with Calum Chambers as 3rd choice defender in the squad (RIP Mertescaker). If, as expected, Arsenal sign a new senior defender, that pushes the pair to compete for 4th choice defender.

Would being 4th choice really give him the game time to develop? I really do not know.

Maybe we have to accept that Rob Holding is never going to be better than Canavarro. That he is an inexpensive, home-grown 4th choice centre back providing adequate cover for the 3 ahead. A similar role to that which Wes Brown / Johnny Evans played for Manchester United?

We are never going to be a Manchester City, having a £40m centre back as first choice (and another on loan). We need to be more sensible than that. Holding is an adequate 4th choice player. With Chambers covering right back, there is space for both Englishmen as reserve team players.

The only question around Holding is the new boy, Konstantinos Mavropanos.

After the drop in form of Chambers and Holding after impressive debuts, you thin kwe as a fan base would have learnt.

Do not hype up a player after a single game.

But that is what is borderline happening with Mavropanos after his impressive debut against Manchester United.

The Greek lad (as he will herewith be known) is just 20 years old, a similar age to the others when they started their Arsenal careers. He put in a strong and competent performance  against Man U. But we need to let him develop in his own time.

At 6ft 4in he certainly has the size to be a Premier League defender, but Arsenal need to learn their mistakes from Chambers and Holding and ensure he gets the game time to continue his development.

Originally the plan was to loan him out to Germany for the second half of this season. That plan was dropped when he was named on the bench for the League Cup semi-final fixture against Chelsea.

Instead of 6 months on loan, he has spent his time in the Premier League 2, developing along nicely. The concern is what happens next year.

If next season, he sits as 4th or 5th choice centre back, playing in the League Cup and the odd Premier League game, he will be no better a player than he is now. His most important years of development and learning would have been wasted, like it has been with Holding and Chambers.

There is only so much you can learn on the training pitch. You truly develop as a player by playing games. No matter what level those games are at, just play 90 minutes every weekend. Therefore it is important that Mavropanos is playing somewhere next season.

Give him a good pre-season at Arsenal. Let him get some game time against Atletico Madrid in Singapore, PSG or Chelsea, then when he comes back, send him on loan to a team where he will play most of the season.

Whether that be abroad in Germany, in the Premier League, or even in the Championship. He just needs to be playing.

Arsenal should follow the blue print that Chelsea wrote for Andreas Christensen, who went on loan to Borussia Monchengladbach for 2 seasons, playing nearly every game. He went as a teenage prodigy, returned ready for first team action.

Preferably I would like Mavropanos to go to Germany. A year out of the limelight of obsessive fans. Perform their for 32 league games and then return.

If we get it right, come the season after, when Laurent Koscielny is put down, he could be in a position to fight for a first team place.

And there I go, after 1 game, already claiming he could be a first team player in 12 months.

The key is to let him develop, let him get game time.

My thoughts on this blog began with me thinking “we can not keep hold of Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Konstantinos Mavropanos next season, one has to be sold” but in writing this, I seem to have come up with a solution.

We buy a new first choice centre back. He is partnered by Laurent Koscielny or Shkodran Mustafi. The other of which is then back up (rotating in depending on opponents / injuries). Rob Holding then becomes decent, home grown cover for the 3 of them as 4th choice centre back.

Calum Chambers then backs them up as 5th choice centre back, and covers Hector Bellerin at right back. Mavropanos is then sent on loan for a year.

Role forward a year, summer of 2019, Koscielny will be nearing his 34th birthday. He will be pout down. Mustafi would have either made it or not made it. If it is the former, then we have our new centre back partnering  Mustafi, with Holding and Mavropanos backing them up.

If Mustafi has not made it, another new centre back is bought in, with Holding and Mavropanos still backing them up.

We just need to get the development and expected squad roles right.

Keenos