Tag Archives: She Wore

Arteta has Mustafi headache

3 weeks ago it was all clear.

Pablo Mari had joined the club on loan, a deal which Arsenal would likely make permanent in the summer.

He would become Arsenal’s 6th central defender in the squad that already contained David Luiz, Sokratis, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi. With William Saliba set to arrive in the summer.

That would make it 7 central defenders at the club, with Arsenal heavily linked with an 8th in Dayot Upamecano.

Chambers has a long term injury, with is being unclear when exactly next season he would be back. Mustafi would surely leave – with a year left on his contract and clearly out of favour. That would leave Arsenal needing to shift one more defender – either Luiz or Sokratis – to bring the number down to 5 (excluding Calum Chambers).


New signing
Pablo Mari
David Luiz or Sokratis
Rob Holding
William Saliba


New signing
Pablo Mari
Rob Holding
William Saliba
Calum Chambers

But then the recent form of Mustafi has thrown a spanner in the works.

Mustafi has started 8 of Mikel Arteta’s first 11 games – the 3 he missed due to injury. He is clearly in favour for the new manager.

Not only is Mustafi back in favour but he is also playing well. Well enough to give Arteta and the team a bit of a headache for next season.

A decision needs to now be made on Mustafi’s future. Does his recent good form and Arteta liking him result in him remaining beyond this season?

If Arteta does want to keep him, a new contract would have to be offered as his current one runs out in 2021.

Arsenal then need to decide what they do…

Would Mustafi staying meaning no new first choice central defender?
Or would it Mari no longer join us on a free?
And what for Sokratis who has now fallen behind Mustafi?
Then you have Rob Holding who has struggled to return following his injury…

Plenty to think about as the season comes to a close.


Match Report: Olympiakos 0 – 1 Arsenal

Olympiakos FC (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 1
UEFA Europa League, Round of 32, First Leg
Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus 185 47, Greece
Thursday, 20th February 2020. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Bukayo Saka; Mattéo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka; Gabriel Martinelli, Joe Willock, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Dani Ceballos, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding, Nicolas Pépé, Emiliano Martínez, Eddie Nketiah, Sead Kolašinac.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (81mins)
Yellow Cards: Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 49%
Referee: Felix Zwayer (Germany)
Attendance: 32,115

And so, back to The Europa League for the first time in this calendar year, which has now become a crucial fixture in a soon-to-be-important competition for us. Mesut Özil has not travelled with the players for the match, due to personal reasons; however, we welcome the return of Mattéo Guendouzi to the team tonight, after having being dropped for the 4-0 drubbing of Newcastle United at The Emirates last Sunday afternoon.

Right from the get-go, we absolutely dominated the match with superb on and off the ball play, and for the first twenty minutes, our chances were many and the accuracy of the shots were few; however, having said that, both Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli were desperately unlucky not to open the scoring with golden chances, which looking at them from afar, should have had Malheiro de Sá, the Olympiakos goalie picking the balls out from the back of the net. The criminal thing was not only did we not score, but we also started to lose our grip on the match, thus allowing the home side through with several chances, in which Bernd Leno worked extremely hard in order to keep a clean sheet; the best save he made in the first period came when Youssef El-Arabi’s shot was parried at close range just after the half-hour mark. The game now became pedestrian and slow, and the half-time whistle came as a relief for everyone in the stadium.

Bearing in mind that the second half of our matches this season regularly shows a resurgence, the team did not disappoint anyone here tonight. When the tiring Gabriel Martinelli was replaced by Dani Ceballos after the hour mark, we sensed things would change for the better, starting with a David Luiz free kick, in which he was unlucky not to open the scoring. The match started to show some spark now, with both sides showing a desire to score, and in doing so, quite a few hefty tackles started to fly in here and there, so much so, that five bookings were taken by Felix Zwayer, two of them being Arsenal players, Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi, both of which seemed minor and pointless in the greater scheme of things. Mikel Arteta must have felt that enough was enough when Mathieu Valbuena’s shot went narrowly past Bernd Leno’s post, that he made his second substitution of the night, and this one turned the fortune of the game in our favour. When Nicolas Pépé replaced the ineffective Joe Willock with a quarter of an hour left on the clock, his mere presence lifted the by-now fatigued and frustrated Arsenal team. Suddenly we played faster, speeding up through the gears, and on the eighty-first minute, the trap was sprung. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang received the ball and quickly flicked it into the channel for Bukayo Saka to run onto; slipping away from his man, he passed the ball into the six-yard box for the predatory Alexandre Lacazette to score easily from close range. In the remaining minutes, Sokratis Papastathopoulos hit the bar and Alexandre Lacazette was desperately unlucky not to score again, but it was not to be, and we return to North London satisfied with a job well done, even though it looked a different proposition in the latter stages of the first half.

Yes, it was a dull match at times, and yes, we were lucky not to concede a goal early on the match, but the ends justify the means, and we go into next week’s return leg in the ascendancy, which is always a very good and warm feeling. Bukayo Saka was again the star of the night with his intelligent play and his pinpoint passing into our opponents’ box in order for the strikers to run onto, and Bernd Leno played superbly in preventing Olympiakos from scoring. Okay, it wasn’t pretty, but we won, and let’s enjoy this moment. 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: Everton at The Emirates on Sunday, 23rd February at 4.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. 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.

The man who could save Arsenal millions

In recent weeks Bukayo Saka has put in some superb performances at left back that has left some calling for him to get an England call up.

The 18-year-old is exciting. And it will be even more exciting when he is played further forward on the left wing.

Saka is a winger. He is an attacker. A goal scorer. A creator. He is not a left back.

Whilst he can be commended for his performances at full back – and his time there will make him a  much more rounded players, anyone that thinks he will do an “Ashley Cole” and move from winger needs to remove those thoughts from their mind.

Arsenal lack wingers – the only senior natural winger in the squad is Nicolas Pepe. Saka and Reiss Nelson are both huge talents.

This lack of wide man has led Mikel Arteta to play Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out wide.

Whilst Aubameyang is a goal threat, he does not really create much. Playing on the left wing he is currently averaging less than 1 chance created per 90 minutes (0.7). That is not good enough.

Gabriel Martinelli has also played a little bit on the left wing. But like Aubameyang he does not really crate much – 0.3 chances created per 90 minutes.

Meanwhile Saka has 8 assists this season, which is more than Martinelli and Aubameyang combined.

Some have made the point that Arteta could keep Saka at left back and play either Martinelli or Aubameyang ahead of him, in an ultra attacking left hand side. But Saka at left back is not as effective going forward as Saka on the wing.

At left back, Saka creates 0.8 chances per 90 minutes. That nearly trebles to 2.3 chances created when he is played in a more forward position on the left hand side.

The statistics show that he is easily our most creative player on the left wing.

You then have Kieran Tierney.

Tierney is the best crosser of the ball at the club. He has shown in his few games this season that he is a threat going forward similar to that of Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool.

Tierney averages 1.1 chances created per 90minutes.

So in Tierney, we have a left back that creates more chances than Saka. And in Saka we have a winger who creates more chances than Aubameyang and Martinelli.

It is a simple equation. The more chances you create the more chances you have to score.

Saka and Tierney on the left will create 3+ chances a game between them. Any other combination does not even create 2 chances a game.

By pushing Saka forward on the wing, it also forces Aubamayang back into the middle. He is out best striker. He should play down the middle.

With Hector Bellerin and Nicolas Pepe beginning to build a relationship on the right hand side, it would make a lot of sense for Arteta to play Tierney / Saka on the left until the end of the season. Saka could save us millions!

It is clear that Saka and Tierney are our most creative duo. It will be exciting when they are together.