Tag Archives: She Wore A Yellow Ribbon

Match Report: Arsenal 1 – 1 Slavia Prague

Arsenal (0) 1 Slavia Prague (0) 1

UEFA Europa League, Quarter Final, First Leg

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Thursday, 8th April 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Cédric Soares; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Willian Borges da Silva, Emile Smith-Rowe; Alexandre Lacazette.

Substitutes: Dani Ceballos, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pépé, Pablo Marí, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Mat Ryan, Gabriel Martinelli, Karl Hein, Joel López Salguero, Miguel Azeez.

Scorers: Nicolas Pépé (86 mins)

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 55%

Referee: Andreas Ekberg (Sweden) 

Assistant Referees: Mehmet Culum (Sweden), Stefan Hallberg (Sweden)

Fourth Official: Mattias Gestranius (Finland)

Referee Observer: Hugh Dallas (Scotland)

VAR Team (UEFA): VAR Juan Martinez Munuera (ESP); AVAR Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez (ESP)

Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions

Sadly, it is looking like Kieran Tierney will be out of action for a while, possibly for the rest of the season, and Martin Odegaard is a doubt for tonight’s game with an ankle issue, whilst David Luiz is also unavailable with his knee problem; but Bukayo Saka’s hamstring injury is better, and Emile Smith Rowe’s thigh injury has now got the green light, so they will both be returning to the first-team squad, whilst Granit Xhaka is also available after illness. Let’s go!

It became evident from the start of the match, that we were up against a disciplined and strong outfit, certainly a team to be taken seriously, especially at this stage of the Europa League, where there are certainly no easy teams (apparently). Both sides spent the opening stages looking for perforations in each others’ defences, with probing balls flying hither and thither with no discernible outcome. The first real chance of the match fell to the visitors after fifteen minutes, when Alexander Bah ran down the right flank, and put a good ball into our penalty area, only for Hector Bellerin to nod it away, but the ball fell for Lukas Provod on the edge of our penalty area, who hit a firm, left-footed shot that went just inches over Bernd Leno’s crossbar. A few minutes later, Bukayo Saka found some space down the right, and put a good cross into the visitors’ six yard box for Alexandre Lacazette, but unfortunately the ball was cleared by Alexander Bah. At this stage of the game, we certainly showed good intent, with Rob Holding firing balls into the Slavia Prague penalty area, with Bukayo Saka ably assisting him in the process. Just before the half hour mark, Thomas Partey advanced deep into the visitors’ half, passed the ball right to Alexandre Lacazette who blasted it over the bar; a minute or so later, Rob Holding placed a super ball through to Bukayo Saka, who placed the ball just wide of the post with only the goalkeeper to beat. Although Slavia Prague had their first shot on target after thirty-five minutes, weak as it was, we were the most impressive team of the two by far out there on the pitch tonight. Bukayo Saka won a free-kick on the edge of the visitors’ box, after which Alexandre Lacazette stepped up to do the honours; it bounced off a defender in the wall, and eventually the ball flew back into the penalty area, only for Rob Holding to head it just inches over the bar. And still we applied pressure, but to no avail, with the first half finishing as a no-score draw, sadly.

We started the second half with no changes, and within a couple of minutes, Bukayo Saka was brought down on the edge of the visitors’ penalty area, and the subsequent free-kick saw Willian hit the outside of the post after curling it around the Slavia Prague wall, which was a superb effort. We were having the better of the second half, with both Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe pushing balls around, looking for openings, and a few minutes’ later, we got caught in a classic smash’n’grab raid, and if it was not for the quick feet of Bernd Leno, we would have been a goal down to a Jan Boril shot. Then, incredibily, Alexandre Lacazette nicked the ball off the last defender near the halfway line, ran all the way through the middle on a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper, opened his body up and sliced the ball off the top of the right-hand post! How can that be? Unbelievable miss, that could come back to haunt us if we are not careful. Gabriel Martinelli replaced Willian with eighteen minutes left of the match to liven things up a bit (as things were getting a bit stagnant out there), and a couple of minutes later, Thomas Partey went a yard wide of the right hand post with a shot from just outside the visitors’ penalty area. With thirteen minutes’ left on the clock, Bukayo Saka, Thomas Partey and Alexandre Lacazette were replaced by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pépé and Mohamed Elneny; almost immediately this multi-substitution invigorated the team, with some close misses by Emile Smith-Rowe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang happening after some good build-up play. Gabriel Martinelli’s left-footed shot went inches over the bar, helped by the goalkeeper, and after the resulting corner, our good build-up play just petered out. With four minutes’ of the match remaining, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took advantage of some Slavia Prague sloppiness at the back and fed it through to Nicolas Pépé, who used his considerable pace to shrug off the defender, run into the box and chip it over the goalkeeper to score the opening goal of the match, finally. Dani Ceballos replaced Emile Smith-Rowe with a couple of minutes’ left on the clock, and in injury time, the nightmare scenario happened. Lukas Provod took a corner and the ball was headed on into the middle of our six-yard box; somehow it arrived to Tomas Holes at the back post, who dived to get his head on it from point-blank range, and all Bernd Leno could do, was push the ball up into the roof of the net, to make the final score one apiece.

So disappointing. We now have it all to do in Prague next Thursday, when by rights we should have been home and dry tonight. With eleven chances on goal, something surely should have happened out there? We had the chances, after all, and in many ways, we just threw it away, with half-hearted chances, and lacklustre play. The substitutions did revitalise us, and we did score a goal within minutes of fresh legs being introduced, but as usual, game management was non-existent out there, and we all just have to pray that something, somewhere happens between now and next week that inspires this group of players to grasp the match by the scruff of the neck and get into the semi-finals of this much-maligned competition. We’ll see.

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: Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Sunday, 11th April at 7.00pm (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.

Arteta and Arsenal at a crossroads

Well that was an absolute shit show on Saturday. But also so predictable.

A mixture of Mikel Arteta getting it wrong and having too many players who are just not good enough led to our downfall.

There is a deep issue at Arsenal at the moment that is three fold.

1. The players at the club do not suit how Arteta wants to play

2. Arteta hasn’t been in the game long enough to adapt how he wants to play to suit the players

3. The players are not good enough to adapt their game to how the manager wants to play

A lot of discussion has been had about whether it is Arteta’s fault or the players fault that we are in the current predicament. It is probably both.

Arteta has a clear vision of how he wants his teams to play in games.

Possession football, play out from the back, and it the opportunity is there to hit on the break go long over the top.

The issue he he just does not have the players to play like that.

Against Liverpool, he started Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe together for the first time in the Premier League this season. Our 3 most expensive players. And you could see why they have not started together.

None of the 3 are particularly great at ball retention. At short sharp passes. They are runners. Finishers.

And so play broke down.

We got the ball on edge of our area, passed it outwide to Auba or Pepe and they drove towards the halfway line. Faced with a full back, they turned back on themselves, miss-placed an easy pass and Liverpool had possession in our half.

It was the right tactic to play, but the wrong personnel.

There is a huge drop off in quality of ball retention from Auba and Pepe to Emile Smith Row, Bukayo Saka and even Willian.

So the tactics were right but the players being asked to carry out the instructions were not.

And the problem Arsenal and Arteta face is we have a very average set of players who have been unable to adapt and change their games to Arteta’s demands.

The old saying is you can not teach an old dog new tricks. And this is certainly what is happening at Arsenal.

Take Auba.

He turns 32-years-old in June. He has always been a player that plays on the fringes. Someone who does not get involved much in the build up play. He plays on the shoulder of the last man and is devastating.

To expect him to change the way he plays so late in his career is unreasonable.

And we are littered with similar players who are being asked to play differently to the way they have throughout their career.

And this leads us to the unbalanced way we are currently playing.

Arteta wants us to play one way, the players are unable to play that way.

A more experienced manager would have recognised this and changed his game plan. But Arteta is not experienced.

The likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho have both managed 1000+ games.

Now I am not saying I want either of them as manager, and the later I would want no where near the club. But when you have managed the amount of games they have you develop multiple different game plans.

Both men have been there and done it, and been successful across Europe for a couple of decades.

In comparison Arteta has not even managed 75 games yet. He has not had the time in the game to develop further ways of playing. So ends up stuck focused on his one or two ways of playing. And that is detrimental when we have a squad of players that are unable to play to his instructions.

So what do we do moving forward?

Invest in players Arteta wants

Or issues over the last 6+ years has been recruitment – going all the way back to that year we only bought Petr Cech.

To play the way Arteta wants, we need to invest in the players that will play to the beat of his tune.

But how much money do we need to invest? Can we sell the players to make the space in the squad? And will we get the signings right?

Assist Arteta in developing his way of playing

If we think Arteta is the right man, but is just playing the wrong system, let’s get someone in alongside him who can work with him.

Someone who over the summer can work with Arteta to develop him as a manager. Improve him as a manager. And come up with a plan that suits the current crop of players whilst recruitment continues.

Sack Arteta

If Arteta is unable to develop his game plan to suit the players, those players are unable to develop their game to suit his game plan, and we are unable to recruit the players who fit his system; the only option will be to sack Arteta.

The man coming in would have to be someone who suits the current crop of players at Arsenal. So not a manager who plays possession football. Someone who is used to dealing with older stubborn players. Someone who could get the best out of the players we have using a system that suits them.

Who that is I do not know.

As it stands, Arsenal are at a cross roads under Arteta.

Either the manager develops his thinking and comes up with a system that suits the players, or investment comes in allowing him to buy the players that suits how he wants to play. If neither of this happens Arteta could be out of his job by Christmas and we move on.

Keenos

Match Report: Arsenal 0 – 3 Liverpool

Arsenal (0) 0 Liverpool (0) 3

Premier League

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Saturday, 3rd April 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Dani Ceballos; Nicolas Pépé, Martin Ødegaard, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Alexandre Lacazette.

Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Willian Borges da Silva, Cédric Soares, Pablo Marí, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Mat Ryan, Gabriel Martinelli.

Yellow Cards: Gabriel

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 36%

Referee: Stuart Attwell

Assistant Referees: Constantine Hatzidakis, Sian Massey-Ellis

Fourth Official: Andre Marriner

VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Jonathan Moss; AVAR Andy Halliday

Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions

Going into tonight’s crucial match against the Premiership champions, it is to be noted that we have lost just one of our past eight home Premier League games, of which we have won four matches and drawn three, and Alexandre Lacazette has scored in each of his last three Premier League starts against Liverpool. However, at the time of writing, the coaching team will assess Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, who are nursing respective hamstring and hip injuries, whilst Willian is available after overcoming a calf problem, but Granit Xhaka is doubtful through illness and David Luiz is sidelined by a knee problem. A win is a must, as they all are at this stage of the season, of course. Let’s go!

As most Arsenal v Liverpool matches start with purpose, this one is no different with both sides showing their intent straight from the get-go, without any hard and fast goalscoring chances for either team in the opening ten minutes or so. There also appears to be a fair amount of jittery nerves out there tonight, with everybody conscious of serious goalscoring errors and mis-timed tackles. The visitors are having the lion’s share of possession so far, which inevitably leads to concentrated pressure on our goal; it has to be said that Rob Holding was holding the defence together extremely well, neutralising any effort on Bernd Leno’s goal. Alexandre Lacazette went off the pitch briefly to get medical attention to a cut eye orbit after a tussle with Nathaniel Phillips, and at the half hour mark in the match, it has to be said that Liverpool are the team that look more likely to score. Roberto Firmino’s twenty-yard shot went flying past the outstretched arm of Bernd Leno, narrowly missing his left-hand post by half a yard. Nicolas Pépé had a weak header on target (our first of the match), that Alisson easily plucked out of the air, and minutes later, James Milner’s shot missed the target from just inside our penalty area, which was a real let-off for us. Kieran Tierney took a bad knock, and went off for treatment, to be replaced by Cédric Soares in injury time, which finished a minute or so later with honours even.

With no substitutions for either side at half time, the second half started with us showing more urgency in taking the game to the visitors, which was good to see at last! The match started to get more competitive at a higher level, and as a result, Liverpool started to push us back into own half again, as they did so successfully in the first half. Because of the ever-worsening situation, Mohamed Elneny replaced Dani Ceballos in order to tighten things up just before the hour, and a few minutes later, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slotted a perfect ball into the path of Cédric Soares, who hit a superb right-footed shot on the Liverpool goal, which Alisson was extremely fortunate to pick up. Sadly, Diego Jota opened the scoring for Liverpool on the sixty-fourth minute with an header, in which Bernd Leno was unlucky not to push away, delivered from the right by Trent Alexander-Arnold. Four minutes later, we were two goals down, when Fabinho played a first-time ball through for Mohamed Salah to run onto; Gabriel slid in, missed the tackle completely, only for Mo Salah to race into the box and slot it cheekily through Bernd Leno’s legs. A few minutes later, Bernd Leno made a point-blank range save from Mo Salah, and since the visitors scored their second goal, it rather looked like we were being pulled and pushed all over the pitch by the visitors. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was replaced by Gabriel Martinelli with fourteen minutes left on the clock, and Liverpool by now, were comfortable. So comfortable in fact, that with eight minutes left of the match, Diego Jota scored his second goal of the evening from point-blank range, which finished the contest completely. Even with four minutes injury time, we still didn’t look like scoring, and in many ways, the scoreline reflected our performance of the evening, unfortunately.

To say this was a disturbing performance is an understatement. Yes, there were important players absent for one reason or another, but this was a bit more than a bad day at the office, so to speak. We were completely outclassed in most areas of the pitch, and Liverpool made us look second-class, and for a club like Arsenal, that is totally unacceptable. With just two shots on goal, and thirty-five per cent possession, this shows that we are a long way from challenging for honours, and if the Slavia Prague match goes the wrong way, then European football next season will be merely a pipedream; that will then make the close season more important than ever for Mikel Arteta to strengthen this squad of players. The alternative is mid-table obscurity, hoping for a decent cup run somewhere. And that is just not the foundations that our club was built on.

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: Slavia Prague at the Emirates on Thursday, 8th April at 8.00pm(Europa 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.