Tag Archives: Manchester United

Arsene Wenger vindicated with team selection – despite defeat

I am writing the first half of this blog before a ball has been kicked. Despite what the result might be, Arsene Wenger is right in his team selection today.

The Premier League is pointless. We are unlikely to finish higher than 6th and need just 3 points from 4 games to ensure we finish no lower than that position.

With a key Europa League game ahead on Thursday, I would actually argue that playing the likes of Granit Xhaka and Hector Bellerin is a mistake, not failing to play other top players.

I’ve seen countless people “defend” George Graham finishing 10th in 1993 because we “rested people for the cups”. Now those same people are complaining that Arsene Wenger is resting players for league games so that they are ready for Cup.

It is a good example of people changing their narrative to suit the agenda. Which is odd as the only agenda we as fan and a club should have is ensuring that we have the bear chance of beating Atlético Madrid in Thursday.

I’d rather Arsenal play the entire U23 team (plus Aubameyang) for the last 4 games of the season. A group of players who are top of the Premier League 2 (U23 league). Stick some of our FA Youth Cup finalists on the bench.

Let’s give Holding, Chambers, Movraponas, AMN, Nelson, Willock and Nketiah some PL starts. See if any are going to be good enough.

I would pretty much play this for the rest of the season:

Chambers Movraponas Holding Kolasinac
AMN Willock
Nelson Iwobi Mkhi/Welbeck

We have all moaned that Wenger has never really given young English kids a chance. Now we moan that he is playing them in a “meaningless” match.

I saw one say “I’m all for giving youth a chance I’m not sure united away is the best fixture for it”. The same bloke would probably complain if we played our strongest XI today and Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil or Alexandre Lacazette went off injured.

We might lose 4-0, but the team selection is right.

The game certainly felt like a pre-season friendly rather than a match between two rivals at the business end of the season.

If it was a pre-season game, you would be delighted by the performance of some of the Arsenal players, despite the result.

Man of the match for me was Ainsley Maitland-Niles. At just 20 years old, he showed class and ability. Of all the youngsters in the field, he shone the most. You could see that he has played more than any of the others last season.

When we sold Francis Coquelin in January, some questioned the decision. But in Maitland-Niles we have a defensive midfielder who is better technically and can also replicate the Frenchman covering full back.

The conversation he had with Paul Pogba at the final whistle was interesting. They were chatting for some time, and Pogba clearly had gained some respect for the Arsenal youngster.

I expect him to play every Premier League game before the end of the season, and be pushing for the first team next season.

Konstantinos Mavropanos looked solid at the back and will cause the new manager a selection headache next season.

You can not give all of Mavroponas, Chambers and Holding the game time to develop. Next season we will have to pick one. The Greek lad did his chances no harm.

It is easy, however to go OTT with the performance of Mavroponas. We saw similar with Holding and Chambers. Maybe a loan deal to another Premier League club would be ideal?

Let Mavroponas play 38 games elsewhere, have Rob holding as 4th choice centre back, and Chambers as back up for Hector Bellerin.

Reiss Nelson looked a little lightweight, but it is important to remember that he only turned 18 in January. He is already staring for the club at U23 level. The fact he has already outgrown the U18s – who are in the FA Youth Cup final highlights his talent.

Another who could do with playing the last 3 Premier League games of the season.

It was a frustratingly predictable result. Manchester United getting a late winner despite Arsenal playing very well.

Thierry Henry called it right, Arsenal are brilliant between the boxes, but not good enough in both boxes.

What is for sure is that there is some talent at the club, and we need to keep giving some of this talent a run out between now and the end of the season.

In the new season, let’s change our default setting of moaning about everything to being a little bit more positive and backing the lads.



Why are Arsenal targeting Jonny Evans?

Jonny Evans had been a supposed Arsenal target for 18 months. When you say his name, a lot of Arsenal fans laugh. Why would we want a Manchester United reject who currently plays for WBA?

But then Manchester City, until recently, were also heavily linked with them. So clearly he is a player that, even if some fans do not rate, the likes of Pep Guardiola does.

So why are Arsenal targeting the Northern Irishman?

Arsenal need a centre back: with Per Mertesacker set to leave on a free transfer, Laurent Koscielny having ongoing injury issues, and Holding, Chambers and Mavropanos all still young and inexperienced, Arsenal need an experienced centre back to partner Shkodran Mustafi.

Evans is Premier League proven: Manchester City are about to spend £57m on Aymeric Laporte. As they have shown over the years, it is very easy to spend a lot of money on a centre back and get it wrong (John Stones – £47.5m, Nicolas Otamendi – £32m, Eliaquim Mangala – £40m, Matija Nastasic – £12m , Stefan Savic – £6m). Buying foreign, buying potential, is a big risk. Arguably their two best centre backs in recent years were their cheapest – Vincent Kompany (£6.7m) and Martín Demichelis (£3.5m).

With Jonny Evans, Arsenal are signing a player with over 250 Premier League appearances, 130 of which have been for Manchester United, the rest for WBA – so he has the right mix of being involved in successful teams and being a battle hardened centre back.

Age: John Stones was a big risk for Manchester City due to his lack of experience. Arsenal have the likes of Calum chambers, Rob Holding and the new Greek lad Mavropanos. They have youthful talent covered, but with Per going, the experience is dramatically reduced.

I was surprised that Evans was just 30 years old. I thought he was a lot older than that. He is a player who has looked after himself and does not have a poor injury record. He could have another 5 / 6 years at the top level.

Leadership: We have lacked a good leader for a decade. Jonny Evans is captain  of WBA and Northern Ireland.

Not only is he a captain, he is also an organiser. Often when Koscielny and Mustafi play together, the centre of the defence looks lost, disorganised. Evans is a director, someone who his centre back partner and the full backs can take their lead from.

Style of play: It perhaps go’s against Jonny Evans that he is very much a British centre back. He is no nonsense. But is that not what we have missed recently? Someone who can put their head in, who knows when to clear their lines, a simplistic player who sees defending as his main job.

But Evans can also play. Occasionally at Manchester United he moved into central midfield. He is not just a thug like Ryan Shawcross, he can actually play a bit as well.

Winner: Johnny Evans has 3 Premier League winners medals. In the 2012/13 season, with Nemanja Vidic injured, Evans was Rio Ferdinand’s partner at the back, as Manchester United won the league comfortably.

Home grown: It might not seem like much, but Premier League rules dictate you can only have 17 foreign players in your squad. Evans, having been at Manchester United since he 9, is home grown. This then frees up a foreign based squad position for players in alternative positions.

Price:  Finally, his price. This is where you all moan.

The fact is, Arsenal do not have a bottomless pit of money like Manchester City. We can not afford to spend £300m just on centre backs in the hope 2 of them make it. Evans is just £10m. If WBA get relegated, he reportedly has a £3m release clause.

So you are getting a Premier League proven centre back, a leader, a winner, for £10m. When yo use Virgil van Dijk going for £75m, Arsenal would be getting a steal for Evans. And at £3m, it would be a no brainer in the summer.

If you want a no nonsense, Premier League experienced defender, who would fit in straight away, you could do a lot worse than Evans for £10m.

Yes, Arsenal could target a Raphael Varane or Samuel Umtiti, or whichever centre back everyone that plays FIFA is currently using, but spending big does not guarantee you are getting what you pay for – as seen by Manchester City’s exploits in the central defence market.

Evans would be a reliable, experienced centre back to put alongside Mustafi.



Arsenal target Manchester United star that outperforms Sanchez & Ozil

Rumours doing the round that Arsenal want to take Manchester United’s Anthony Martial as part of the deal that will see Alexis Sanchez go to the red side of Manchester.

As the below stats shows, Arsenal would be getting a player who is much more efficient than both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

I was surprised when I pumped the names into the SQUAWKA COMPARISON MATRIX. Whilst I expected Martial to not be too far in terms of minutes per goal and assist last season, I did not expect to see him ahead of both.

“Minutes per” statistics will often favour the player who plays less minutes, but it is undeniable that Martial is an impressive player.

He currently averages a goal every 3.4 games in the Premier League. A decent figure when you consider 15% of his appearances have come from the bench.

He has also only just turned 22. He is young, hungry and quality.

A surprisingly competitive replacement for Alexis Sanchez.