Jonathan Blaustein’s Season Preview: Arsenal to finish top four

By Jonathan Blaustein

Well hello there, fellas? How has your summer been?

(Yes, I’m making the assumption that most/all of you are men. Is that so wrong?)

I’m sitting here at my white kitchen table, wondering how the months passed by so quickly. I guess with all the pre-season friendlies, and constant news coverage, it’s like Arsenal never really left. But the Community Shield is behind us, (job well done,) and Leicester City awaits today, so I figured it was time to get my ass in gear and start cranking out some juicy content for the 7amkickoff audience.

Though it would have been easy for me to lead with Trump today, as he’s on everyone’s mind, I did that in my regular-gig column last Friday, so if you want to read my thoughts on the subject, click here.

Rather, I’m going to keep it to AFC, and try to give some predictions about where I think this season is headed.

First off, I’m pretty confident that Arsenal will not win the Premier League this season. Not a shocking statement, but there it is.

But, as I said at the end of last season, I don’t think we’ll drop out of the Top 4 again either.

Unfortunately, I’m predicting a typical Arsene season, in that the Gunners will look like world-beaters for much of the season, and fat-out- of-shape- Sunday-footballers for at least a month.

Obviously, that will be the month that they drop off the title-winning pace.

As far as transfer activity goes, I think Arsene did a pretty good job this summer, not including the bungling that led to all these guys being in the last year of their contracts at the same time.

Count me a believer on both Lacazette and the Bosnian Tank. I think the former has the quickness, speed, and clinicality to score a lot of goals the next few years. And the latter is exactly the type of Ivanovic-in- his-prime defender that this team has lacked for a while now.

Early last season, I wrote about Wenger’s burgeoning collection of tough guys, and I think there are now a proper number in the team. (The Tank, Xhaka, Koscielny, Holding, Giroud, Gabriel.)

I like the way he’s added some size and muscle, but where I think he’s lacking is in athleticism. Arsene seems perfectly content to bring in speedsters for his offensive positions, but doesn’t give the same consideration to those qualities in mid-field and defense.

And that is why I don’t think Top 2 or Top 3 is a possibility this year.

As we’re all multi-sport fans these days, I think a comparison to the NBA or NFL is apt. In those sports, it’s a given that the best athletes become the best players.

Sure, there are always a few exceptions, but if a prospect is not described as a “freak athlete,” then his upside is always considered limited. No one questions this.

And in the EPL, Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester United have all gotten the memo.

In the aforementioned sports, people always talk about matchups. But that conversation is more muted in football, I find. You can hear people discussing it, but only if you have ears like Horton the Elephant. (Seriously, re-read that book if you don’t have kids. It’s a literary masterpiece.) Chelsea won the league last year b/c of Kante’s speed/quickness/ball-winning skills. And now they added the dude from Monaco with the weird dye-job to complement him. Serious athleticism.

Mourinho has Paul Pogba, and Spurs have Wanyama, Dembele, and Dele Alli. Those dudes are always going to be a tough cover for players who are smaller, slower, and less quick.

Meanwhile, Arsene’s gone big on Xhaka, who is neither fast nor quick, but at least he’s large, and very talented. Some teams can prosper with a player like that, but he needs to be partnered with another midfielder who has the physical attributes to complement, and we don’t have that at all. Unless Arsene puts Oxlade-Chamberlain there, which he’s loathe to do, or Coquelin becomes a much better offensive player, and stays healthy. (What are the odds of that?)

In the back line, it’s a bit better, as Koscielny still has his speed and quickness, but for how much longer? The Tank looks like he might have it all, (at least from his performance on Sunday,) and Hector Bellerin may be quick and fast, but he’s very small. As for Mustafi, the jury is still out, but we all know that Tim, for one, is no believer.

So why do I think Top 4?

Liverpool has made a habit of finishing lower than everyone thinks they should, and though Klopp is a great manager, he did preside over an awful season at Dortmund, before he left.

And Spurs have not added talent, are playing in a much bigger stadium, and now face the pressure of big expectations. (Remember how well they do under pressure? Newcastle 5, Tottenham 1). I haven’t mentioned City yet, but they have more than enough fire-power, and a genius manager, to compete for the title. It’s hard to believe that both Guardiola and Mourinho might fail to win the league again this year, but it’s certainly possible. (I wouldn’t bet on it though.)

I’m not worried about Everton, myself, nor am I concerned that Arsenal will free-fall this year. I’m confident, (given that this is all conjecture,) that it will be a run-of- the-mill season, compared to the last few.

Another FA Cup victory? Possible.

Winning the Europa League? Also possible.

But unless Arsene signs the type of mid-fielder who can keep up with the badasses playing for the competition, I don’t see how we can get by all those stacked teams. Not that you’d recall, but at the end of the season, I reminded you that Mourinho and Guardiola normally don’t stick around very long, Liverpool and Chelsea have run through coaches lately, and Pochettino is likely to get a bigger job, unless Spurs shit the bed.

So I think Arsene will give us a typical Arsene season, and in the very best case scenario, will build his team another 2–3 years so that he can try to win it all by the time those guys have passed on. Of course, it’s more likely that Arsene won’t make it that long, but no one ever got rich betting on the stubborn Alsatian’s retirement, have they?

73 comments

  1. I think top 3. Chelsea will implode after winning again, not enough quality players and Costa gone, and United just can’t get enough goals. They were short about 30 last year and lost another 20 with Rooney and Ibrahimovich.

    So the head says City – Arsenal – Liverpool – Spurs.

    The heart says Arsenal – City – Liverpool – United

  2. Excellent point on physicality vs athleticism — although in Ramsey, Walcott, Welbeck, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Bellerin, there’s a fair bit of that. Where we are REALLY lacking is in players who combine the two, and yes, I’m going to invoke the name of Patrick Vieira. A guy like that you stick next Xhaka, and suddenly, we’re a match for anyone in the league. Looking at the neighbours for just a mo, I think that Chelsea bought well (for the second straight summer) in Bakayoko. He can play box to box with Cesc spraying it around, or distributor with Kante locking up the shop. Our man who combines the two is Kolasinac, who will be an absolute star. Heck, I’ve half a mind to play him next to Xhaka in the engine room, but (a) that’s two left-footers, and (b) his game is suited to the flanks and having lots of space to run into.

    I’m predicting a Top 4 finish for us and Manchester United, with Spurs and Liverpool dropping out. We have teh capacity to win the Europa, I feel, but we’re clearly going to play the likes of Nelson, Wilshere and Ospina there. The focus, as Arsene said, will be in the league.

    I expect the top two to both come from Manchester
    City
    United
    Us
    Chelsea

  3. Just a couple of hours before the 1st game of the season and while I think Lacazette and Kolasinac are solid credible additions to the team it still feels as if not enough has changed.

    I think we’ll go on a tear, win a bunch of games and then inevitably, watch the wheels fall off.

    We’ll all say “this could be our year” until…

    The perennial frustration is that though we’be looked like we’re mikes off the pace I’be always felt that an incremental change – in improvement, injuries and luck – have been the difference makers. I’ve never felt the gulf to be huge.

    1. Mortimer, I hear you. But, that perennial frustration has happened only because we draw Bayern or Barca in the CL, lose to them in February, get kicked out of (or lose the final of the) EFL cup, then it all comes apart as disappointment creeps in.
      That won’t be happening this year so I feel this is the season it all changes. We won’t feel pained at losing out in the Europa, if we don’t play to win it, so focus will be keenly on the EPL. We wait and see.

  4. Giroud? Amongst the tough guys? Nah! For his size, easily downed and complains like a sissy. Of course, I agree that because he is a tall and burly specimen, there’s an extra source of concern for opposing defenders.

    As for placements, my head says City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea. Of course, the heart is thinking Arsenal wins it; just wish we can get in that skillful, mobile, hard/clean tackling midfielder…..

  5. I am not super confident about a top 4 finish but I think we can if other things go our way.

    Without an upgrade in central MF: 4th to 6th depending on injuries (for both us and others) and how we rotate for Europa league

    With an upgrade in central MF: 3nd to 5th depending on those same factors

    United may have lost Ibra but they got Lukaku who seems primed to take the league by storm this season. Rooney was mostly a non-factor last season and his exit will give Rashford a chance to play more. Mkhitaryan and Pogba should also be better this season. They have added to their defense as well with Matic and Lindelof. This should suit Moureen’s management style and given his history, I would say United are favorites to win the title.

    I think City will push them all the way but their defense is still questionable and I think they will ultimately fall short because of this.

    I am pretty sure the two Manchester teams will split the top two. Beyond that, it’s a toss-up.

  6. I’m OK with a top four spot as long as we win one of the cups (not the League Cup) and at least make a spirited challenge for the PL. We do have a number of tough guy players, but I don’t really see Giroud among them TBH. He spends far too much time on his ass for someone of his muscular size.

  7. What WILL be different though, Mortimer, is Friday Night Football. Wondering how that is going affect this team.

    “Clear eyes, full hearts can’t lose” as the coach of the Dylan Panthers would say.

  8. Leicester in a couple of hours. Predictions? think we have a couple of goals in us…and I think our defense does too! I’m going with a nice, solid 2-2.

    1. We win 3 -1, with goals from Lacazette, the red-hot Iwobi (super form and sharpness), and one of Theo or Giroud.

  9. I see some people don’t agree Giroud is a tough guy and to some extent that’s true as he is a bit of a drama queen but I think Jonathan meant that he is a physical player rather than an outright ‘tough guy’. Giroud physically engages the defender in the box all the time and does tire them out so in that sense, I agree with Jonathan.

    1. Few players on the Arsenal team are going to bully Robert Huth in the 88th minute on set piece. Giroud is one (Koscielny is another). Some days, when he’s leading the line on his own and taking a battering, he is absolutely magnificent. On other days he’s a serial moaner — all arm-waving and Gallic shrugs. But no one should doubt his toughness. He’s the best offensive header of the ball in the league after Andy Carroll.

    2. Yeah, like I stated, he gives the defenders some cause for concern with his height. So, if that’s Jonathan’s point, we agree.

  10. Players to have breakout seasons…

    Jesus (why go for Alexis when you have Jesus?)
    Kolasinac and Xhaka
    Marcus Rashford (who I predict will upstage big-money Lukaku)

  11. Goalimpact has us finishing 2nd, with Chelsea shading us to the title. Their model only looks at players though, so it is a bit limited. Nonetheless, what it says is that we have a strong squad at our disposal. If we can avoid injury and huge dips in form (HA!), then we could push for the title. Maybe.

    That being said, I see the top 4 as follows:
    1. Man City
    2. Chelsea
    3. Man Utd
    4. Arsenal

    Pool pipped us to it by a solitary point last year, a point we stupidly gave up on the opening day of the season. I don’t think Chelsea will have the firepower or the motivation from one or two key men to win it, but I’m less certain. Man Utd will do better, but not enough to win it. City seem to lack a midfield, but I’m not sure they even need one.

  12. It’s actually pretty ridiculous to be making predictions three weeks before the transfer window is in. If Liverpoo lose Coutinho and with Champions League exertions exhausting a relatively small squad, they could finish below a team like Everton. Or they could re-invest the Coutinho money and nab Naby Keity (a player that could put us in serious title contention–sigh) and actually improve. Still, avoiding foolish predictions has never been a strong point of mine.

    ManShitty first. They’ve actually strengthened their area of biggest weakness, fullback. They added another talented young attacker in Bernardo Silva to a stable of talented young attackers including DeBuyne, Sane, Jesus, and heck even Sterling. Aguero, Silva, and Yaya appear to have another season of top level football if their minutes can be managed. Their underlying metrics from last season indicate they were a bit unlucky both in terms of goals scored and defending. And their underlying metrics also indicate that Pep is still a pretty damn good coach.

    ManUre second. I’ve always rated Lukaku and I guess this season will see whether he’s as good as I think he is or just a big lump as others believe. Regardless, Rashford gives them an excellent one two scoring punch. Matic is an underrated player who reminds me a little of Gilberto, you only notice him when he’s not in the side. If Pogba adds the stardust which his talent suggests, they’ll have a formidable midfield. And it’s Mourinho so they defended well last season and there is no expectation that will go away. In fact, given that DeGea actually was well below average in his big chance save rate, I would expect their defending to get better.

    After that, it’s four teams in a close battle for the final two Champions League. Chel$ki have treaded water surprisingly, basically exchanging an unproven but talented Morata for the third best center forward in the Prem and a more athletic Bakayoko for Matic. Tots have the best center forward in the Prem in Kane, one of the most dynamic young midfielders in the world in Dele Alli and arguably the second or third best first eleven in the league. Neither of them have added the depth necessary to maintain anything resembling a title challenge when Champions League exertions are added into the mix. Even with Coutinho, Liverpool are in the same boat. As for us, we’ve added a few goals with Lacazette but we’ve done nothing to address our worst of the “Big 6” defending. So unless we get an ultra athletic, skilled, defensively aware box to box midfielder a la Naby Keita or Wenger addresses the issue tactically, neither of which are going to happen, we’re in a dogfight for fourth, out at the second knockout stage of the Europa League, and hoping for a deep FA Cup run as our only real chance of silverware.

  13. 1 – United. I will stick with my theory that Mourinho’s second season at any club is usually his best. He’s done enough in the transfer market to make up the ground. They will be disgusting to watch though. Lots of draws but very few losses.
    2 – City. They will regularly have 75-80% possession; it will be their version of defending… you can’t score on us if you don’t have the ball. I don’t expect the offensive powerhouse everyone thinks though because what insane team will play openly against them (…Arsenal)
    3 – Chelsea. Still a great team with a great manager. No depth though, especially with CL on the schedule now. Hazard is hurt and it may take some time for Morata to find his feet. The team that will be most prone to an injury crises. Can’t believe how closed the path to the first team is for their youth players otherwise depth wouldn’t even be a talking point.
    4 – Spurs. Walker and Rose weren’t even their first choice fullbacks at the end of last year. I work with a diehard Spurs guy, so I know more about their roster than I should. They will be fine even if they don’t make any major purchases.
    5 – Liverpool. Klopp is a builder and they aren’t losing any foundational pieces like he lost over time at Dortmund. You give him more time, another season to work with his players and his academy and the results will still come.
    6 – Arsenal.

    Still, I think it may be very tight, no more than 10 points between 1st and 4th, Arsenal may only be 2-3 pts outside of the top 4. But in a season of fine margins, that has never favoured Wenger’s teams.

    1. We need 2 more CBs, Holding is too young to start big games. I wouldnt mind free agent Caceres (cb,lb,rb). A CM is necessary as Elneny is a league cup player at best for us.

      Attack is well stocked imo.

  14. As I write this Giroud just put us ahead. Bellerin at left back, Ox at right back. What a mess. Again, why were so many people thinking that last year was some kind of tipping point to the ship getting turned around in the right direction? Same old, same old.

  15. Who was saying yesterday that Giroud wasn’t strong? He totally muscled off BOTH Wes Morgan AND a shirt-pulling Maguire to power in that header. Unreal.

    But we look so porous. Sloppy, sloppy midfield possession, and Ox…what’s the point?

    1. @Bunburyist

      Ox was played lwb as a right footer so some of his problems eminated from that. I felt he did ok.

      Xhaka gave the ball away to Albrighton who crossed for Vardy. Got out jumped by a shorter Okazaki, let Vardy get a free header as well. He was the cause of most of our problems.

      Like you said Giroud was immense. Him and Kola are our most powerful players

    2. Listen to the wise Claudeivan (the first and last time I’ll do 3rd person), who had this to say about Giroud:

      “Few players on the Arsenal team are going to bully Robert Huth in the 88th minute on a set piece. Giroud is one (Koscielny is another)….. no one should doubt his toughness. He’s the best offensive headers of the ball in the league after Andy Carroll.”

      Ok, enough backslapping. Glad we won. We were unlucky with the scale of our centre back depletion, and I’m not going to be too hard on the manager there. But I never want to see Nacho, a player I like, in central defence again.

      The two leading forwards were terrific, Vardy outstanding. Comical defence on his headed goal. Elneny just stood there, neither jumping not challenging, while Vardy got the jump on him. Yes, he got an assist, but if Arsene thinks the Egyptian is an emergency centre back (or even a defensive midfielder), he’s smoking something. Elneny is vanilla, and a bit too soft for my liking.

      Three points, and top of the league. Can we just call off the whole thing now? 🙂

  16. That was more exciting than it needed to be thanks to giveaways from Holding, Özil, and Xhaka.
    Everybody we needed to score (Ramsey, Lacazette, Giroud and Welbeck) did score except for Walcott.
    I loved the way Arsenal played up tempo with the ball just zipping around to Arsenal (and Leicester) players.
    We are going to be okay this season when we get our defensive core back IMO.
    Can we please, please, please stop the zonal marking on corners. Can we put men on the posts on corners for crying out loud.
    That Marseille turn from Kolasinac under pressure in his own half in the closing stages of the match was a thing of pure beauty. Wow.
    We break our 3 match opening game losing streak with a bang.

  17. giroud is a tough guy! how many people do you know could have scored that goal? let alone, how many sissys do you know could have scored that game-winning goal?

    albrighton’s cross for vardy’s first goal was a peach of a ball in. as soon as it left his foot, i knew that was going to finish.

    didn’t like the way monreal and holding dealt with the vardy counter. he always wants to break on the left. it was 2v1 and he always posed a threat. put one player tight with the other covering. i’ll chalk it up to monreal not really being a central defender and holding being so young.

    lacazette looked good but not high at center forward. he had to come deep. i love the kid being at the club but i think he should play behind giroud. he’ll still be brilliant. if psg’s £80 million bid is legit, take the money and slot lacazette in that slot. he may not be as talented as alexis but, as wenger has stated, he’s very efficient. we’ll see if wenger shifts his focus at all or not.

          1. Although truth be told, it was slack stuff by him & Xhaka that led to the second Leicester goal.

        1. he was kinetic, used the ball very well, pressured in transition, and set traps to help arsenal win the ball back when they lost possession. he was subbed for a greater goal threat, not because he was average.

  18. It’s truly amazing that every season (for the past four at least) we start with key defenders missing. If this is the side that faces Stoke we’re in for another torrid time. Kudos for the way they stuck in & got a decent deserved result, and contrary to my opinion of Giroud he stayed on his feet for his short time on the pitch. Great game to watch, and a couple of possible controversial moments. Was that an offside at the first Leicester goal? And later a handball in their box?

    1. Okazaki didnt make a play for the ball so was not affecting. Legit goal imo.

      We should have got a pen because the leicester player was making himself big by spreading his arms. Ozil handled the ball to bring it under control so I guess things evened out

  19. Hello from London.

    What a defensive shambles! And yet an opening day victory. Some very good offensive play from us and we really should have been well ahead but we kept gifting goals.

    Maybe it’ll get better once we can play per, mustafi and kos there and xhaka and ozil stop giving the ball away. More work required on defending set pieces too.

    I thought elneny was good again though Ramsey came on and did what he was supposed to do. Lacazette scoring on his debut is a good thing, and welbeck scoring is needed. I was hoping Iwobi woukd come on instead of walcott, but i get the need for finishers. All’s well that ends well with an awesome Giroud header.

    Ps. Wtf was Cech doing today? Running around on the first goal. That he got to Vardy on the breakway was down to luck in that he didn’t look up and played the ball well ahead of himself. We’ll put it down to early season rust.

    1. cool to check the opener out live, brother; assuming you were at the emirates.

      i agree with your thoughts on cech. i just believe in letting the field players in defense do their job but some keeper are eager to help out. if he keeps that up, attackers will set him up. luckily, we only lost one goal to his over-agressive approach.

  20. arsenal are in trouble with chamberlain. entering the season with him yet to sign an extension is a huge mistake. wenger is hoping the kid stays out of loyalty or if the club finds success but that’s naive. if ox begins negotiations with other teams, arsenal won’t be able to compete to keep him. we’ve seen this happen with flamini. chelsea have chamberlain rated at £35 million. if they can just wait until january and match arsenal’s best wage offer while include 20% of the current transfer rating over four years as a bonus, he’s gone.

    20% of £35 million is £7 million. that £7 million divided by four years is almost £2 million a year. divide that by 52 weeks and chelsea can offer chamberlain somewhere between £30-35k a week more than arsenal without disrupting their wage structure. if arsenal offer £100k a week and chelsea can offer £135k (35% more), which would you take? not only have chelsea strengthened their squad, they’ve weakened a rival, paid a small portion of the actual value of the player, and not paid a single red cent to arsenal.

    arsenal did this when they signed sol campbell from spurs. arsenal’s top earners, back then, earned £80k a week. campbell singed on for the same plus an additional £40k a week for four years from a percentage of the proposed market value for the player paid directly to him in wages. arsenal not only have this issue with chamberlain but on a grander scale with ozil and alexis. someone mentioned the other day how it seems wenger is doing things with a very short-term approach. well, if those players leave next summer on a free, that is very impractical and myopic of arsenal to lose that much money all at once. wenger had better be at his charismatic best.

    1. Are you really concerned if Ox leaves? Honestly, and I’m aware this is a minority opinion, I think end product is rare with that guy. Sure, I like his swashbuckling runs down the flanks, that kind of thing excites fans, but those runs invariably end with a loss of possession. He’s just not effective enough for me to worry about where he plays his football this season or next. Could be wrong.

      1. the first problem with chamberlain is he’s been unlucky with niggling injuries. second, he’s been poorly managed with the way he’s been moved around. the kid doesn’t even have a position but he’s still managed to be an england international; big credit to his talent. back to the point, what would you say is his best position? would have said that 6 months ago? 1 year ago? 2 years ago? wenger’s still moving him around like he’s a 17 year old who’s just breaking into the team. i think he’s like 24, now. truthfully, i think this is the main reason he’s contemplating his future.

        how many 24 year old wing back pose a greater attacking threat than chamberlain? he’s still learning the position and he’s constantly improving.

        regardless of whether you fancy him or not, he shouldn’t be allowed to run down his contract and leave on a free. can arsenal really throw £35 million? truth be told, he’s really worth closer to £50 but being in the last year of his contract…

    2. @joshuad

      The problem with the “why do Arsenal let contracts get to one year” is that players have a right to refuse contract extensions just like clubs can withold contract extension offers. Like you said we got Sol on a free (Kola as well just this summer) so its part of the game unfortunately.

      I dont get this complaining about what players chose to do with their career paths.

      1. i believe chamberlain has had his development stunted by gross mismanagement. however, i’m not complaining about player career paths. my gripe is if arsenal allow talented players near their prime to leave on free transfers, that’s a problem. chamberlain is just one of 3 players primed to leave, not to mention szczesny who arsenal sold for a bottle of water and a pack of chewing gum. how much in transfer money would you say that alexis, mesut, chamberlain, and wojciech are worth collectively? how much is arsenal losing out on? that’s the complaint. while it’s not my money, certain behaviors are not sustainable.

        it’s a new problem that appears to be occurring at arsenal. what’s the way forward? it’s tough to say. i don’t really know what the root of the problem is. what i know is that i don’t want to see chamberlain go on a free and then enter his prime. a blind man can see how good he’s going to be with consistency and direction from the management team.

        1. You are right. The issue is not Chamberlain specific, but rather how we are in this position with so many contracts expiring at the same time. Is is a new problem? I think it mostly stems from Wenger’s own contract situation last year when he delayed his own signing. This had a knock-on effect on the players’ contracts with nothing being done about them until the manager’s contract was sorted. I would say it was very short sighted of the manager if he didn’t see this coming.

          As for Ox himself, while I hate to see him go to a rival for free, he is not irreplaceable and certainly nowhere near the kind of leader that Sol was on the pitch. His career and contract has not been managed properly by Arsenal and that to me is the real frustrating part but he at the end of the day he is a squad player with limited ability.

  21. We should all be grateful that we got out of jail to bag the first 3 points in the first game of the season – something we’ve all been waiting for.

    Lots to complain about but not a little to cheer about as well.
    Forwards had not enough service, tons of wayward passing and Cech and Ozil were all over the place, equal parts good and bad.
    But the new Frenchman and the old Frenchman scoring was wonderful with both opening their accounts for the season in the very 1st match. Ramsey looked sharp.

    I just hope the fight back brings some confidence to the boys that they carry to Stoke. Next game we may have Alexis back and that will be huge.

      1. Why worry Bunburyist? We can’t defend. We proved it again today. Let it go and enjoy the madness (at the other of the pitch)!

        1. Fair enough! Also, I guess it’s worth keeping in mind that we were missing every one of our experienced center-backs today…

          1. I hear you Bunburyist. But what I fear is that even if we had a full complement of healthy starters in D including all our centre backs, we are just as prone to defend as horribly as we did today.

            Without some semblance of competency back there a top 4 finish will be as ever, a monumental struggle. Sigh!

  22. Crazy game. Our issues with defending reared it’s head yet again. Looking at the raw stats giving up six shots is pretty damn good. But the quality of the shots we gave up, holy f***! Sloppy, technically poor possession play led directly to a goal and a big chance as well as the corners from which they scored. And the set piece defending was atrocious. All Leicester had to do to make a game of it was wait for our inevitable mistakes and/or concentration lapses. In less than a minute of actual playing time we practically gave up the advantage that 89 minutes of dominating play gave us. Four bad possessions led to three goals and almost a fourth. And yet, some of our attacking play was scintillating. Buckle up. Wenger has clearly made the decision that we’re not defending our way to wins but simply going to outscore teams.

    As for the season, it’s actually pretty ridiculous to be making predictions three weeks before the transfer window is closed. If Liverpoo lose Coutinho and with Champions League exertions exhausting a relatively small squad, they could finish below a team like Everton. Or they could re-invest the Coutinho money and nab Naby Keity (a player that could put us in serious title contention–sigh) and actually improve. Still, avoiding foolish predictions has never been a strong point of mine.

    Man City first. They’ve actually strengthened their area of biggest weakness, fullback. They added another talented young attacker in Bernardo Silva to a stable of talented young attackers including DeBuyne, Sane, Jesus, and heck even Sterling. Aguero, Silva, and Yaya appear to have another season of top level football if their minutes can be managed. Their underlying metrics from last season indicate they were a bit unlucky both in terms of goals scored and defending. And their underlying metrics also indicate that Pep is still a pretty damn good coach.

    Man United second. I’ve always rated Lukaku and I guess this season will see whether he’s as good as I think he is or just a big lump as others believe. Regardless, Rashford gives them an excellent one two scoring punch. Matic is an underrated player who reminds me a little of Gilberto, you only notice him when he’s not in the side. If Pogba adds the stardust which his talent suggests, they’ll have a formidable midfield. And it’s Mourinho so they defended well last season and there is no expectation that will go away. In fact, given that DeGea actually was well below average in his big chance save rate, I would expect their defending to get better.

    After that, it’s four teams in a close battle for the final two Champions League. Chel$ki have treaded water surprisingly, basically exchanging an unproven but talented Morata for the third best center forward in the Prem and a more athletic Bakayoko for Matic. Tots have the best center forward in the Prem in Kane, one of the most dynamic young midfielders in the world in Dele Alli and arguably the second or third best first eleven in the league. Neither of them have added the depth necessary to maintain anything resembling a title challenge when Champions League exertions are added into the mix. Even with Coutinho, Liverpool are in the same boat. As for us, we’ve added a few goals with Lacazette but we’ve done nothing to address our worst of the “Big 6” defending. So unless we get an ultra athletic, skilled, defensively aware box to box midfielder a la Naby Keita or Wenger addresses the issue tactically, neither of which are going to happen, we’re in a dogfight for fourth, out at the second knockout stage of the Europa League, and hoping for a deep FA Cup run as our only real chance of silverware.

  23. a few posts back, i wrote the reason i believed arsenal were such a shambles and gave up so many prime area chances last season was the lack of organization in the back due to the simultaneous absences of cazorla and mertesacker. monreal is a good defender and a senior guy but not an experienced central defender. he struggled with the very different look of vardy. likewise, holding is young and would likely do better with an experienced head to provide him with direction. kolasinac is new. while xhaka is young and assisted all 7 goals today, he’s getting better too. however, he’s still not cazorla.

    on set plays, namely corners, leicester city put okazaki in front of cech. while this approach is unpopular, it’s one that i personally employ with my own team. the intent is not to stop the keeper getting to the ball but to be an obstacle that the keeper has to negotiate if he wants to get to the ball. if cech goes around the okazaki, that player simply resets in the center of the goal mouth and anticipates knockdowns or shots slightly off target. this is how okazaki got the goal. cech was nowhere near that cross. to combat this strategy, arsenal’s defense put a player on okazaki. the problem with that approach is while okazaki is not allowed to initiate contact or obstruct the movements of the goal keeper, he’s allowed to shove and push all he wants with the field player. if he’s smart, he makes the obstacle that the keeper has to negotiate bigger with two players. this is why cech was nowhere near vardy’s header; okazaki and elneny were in his way.

    the open play leicester city goal was a peach of a ball delivered to the back post. the approach that leicester city had to the game was play balls to the back post in open play and post a striker on the goal keeper on set plays. this approach is rudimentary and unsophisticated but still led to three away goal against arsenal. however, we should hold our heads high. arsenal were way too much for leicester city today and able to come away with the win.

    1. i forgot to mention that cech wasn’t set when the vardy header came in. if his feet were set, that’s an easy save for him to make. setting his feet before the shot is what makes buffon the best keeper in the world; he tends to make nearly all of the saves he’s supposed to make. contrarily, habitually not setting his feet is the one flaw to manuel neuer’s game.

  24. I wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep if we sold Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, which we should do if he chooses not to extend his contract. Oft forgotten in his strong finish to the season was that he was dire in the first part of it. He got better, and was actually playing rather well by the end. There are a plethora of young players who are more technically adept than Ox. Ox’s blessing is his directness, which we don’t have a lot of in the team. But I see him as eminently replaceable. And by the way, he can forget about playing central midfield at Arsenal. He’s got some of the skillset, but lacks the tactical and defensive nous.

    Tell him that he gets sold if he doesn’t sign. Arsene can dress it up how he likes, but having 3 first XI players running down their contracts is bad business and bad contract management. It should not be allowed to happen. Pick your expendable. It’s too late for Ozil, because there doesn’t appear to be a market for him. There is, apparently, for Ox. We should cash in.

    1. that’s my point. is arsenal going to sell him? i don’t think so.

      on the flip side, i think he’s better than you give him credit for being. more importantly, if he gets a normal run of games, he’s got huge potential to become a top player. he’s not as good as he could be but i put that down to injuries and wenger not allowing the kid to settle in a position. for crying out loud, he played 2 positions in yesterday’s game alone.

      the ability to go by players is a skill set that very few have on the team; an asset he uses that collapse defenses. like giroud, he gives arsenal a different option. his link up play is far from bad. we’ll see what wenger does.

  25. I woke up at 2:30am to watch the game even though I was starting work from 8am onwards. I had a feeling that this game would be crazy and I was too excited to be missing it. I was expecting it to be a game like the 5-2 win over the foxes two years ago and I was not disappointed. Wonderful goals, crazy defending, character, spirit, mental strength. Basically all the buzzwords of Wenger. So typically Arsenal.

    The big difference for me this year is that I have zero expections of any kind of title challenge from the team. I am just going to enjoy all the wins, get totally excited about the wonderful goals our guys score, curse and swear at the TV when they do shambolic defending like yesterday and generally have a good time. There is no point fretting over the schizophrenic personality this team has. Basically I have switched my mindset to that of a mid table team and I will be hoping that somehow we get lucky at the end of the season with some Honours. Interestingly, I was watching BBC and they were showing the TOP 5 goals from premier league’s 25 years. 3 of them were from Arsenal players. There you go. That’s one big reason we follow these guys. Yes, we might not win any thing but if they play attacking Football and score a hatful of goals, I will still enjoy this season. Just not the drudgery from last year with all the angst and the plane banners.

  26. Watford score an early goal against Pool’s zonal marking.
    Zonal marking may work a treat but not as demonstrated by Arsenal’s defenders yesterday.
    The key to our win yesterday was that we could bring Giroud, Ramsey, and Walcott off the bench while Leicester could only bring in a Gray, Amartey and Iheanacho. That turn out to be game, set and match to us.

    1. The Watford Liverpool game is turning out to be almost as entertaining as yesterday. Watford 2-1 up after only 32 minutes. At least we had a the most makeshift of all makeshift defenses yesterday so have some excuse. Pool has all of their first choice defenders on I think. If I am Klopp, I might be seriously thinking about selling Coutinho and taking the money straight to Southampton for Van Dijk.

  27. As frustrated as I was with our defense yesterday, it is worth remembering we had 2 RBs and an inexperienced player playing CB. The goals we conceded were not systematic but rather down to individual errors. For the first goal, Cech completely misjudged the flight of the ball and landed himself in no-man’s land. Why an inexperienced player like him would follow the ball to the far post leaving the rest of the goal post wide open is beyond me. He also got lucky to have intercepted Vardy’s touch after a lofted ball from Mahrez. I think the make-shift defense had an effect on him and he was trying to do too much instead of trusting the players in front of him. The second goal came after a poor give away by Xhaka not too far in front of our penalty box. For the third goal, I understand some of the complaints against zonal defending but you still need to be defend your zone. Xhaka was completely static when Vardy made the run and got in front of him. He had time to react and engage the player but he didn’t. People have issues with zonal marking but when an opposition player makes a run into your “zone” and you do nothing about it, that’s not a systematic issue, that’s down to the player.

    Ozil is clearly not fully fit yet. Some of his passing in the first half was extremely sloppy and I think it was him who gave away the corner for one of the goals by unnecessarily trying to play a back heel near our own penalty area. He was better as the game wore on but I think it will take him a couple more games to get back to his best.

    Bellerin’s positioning was poor throughout the game. I understand he needs to provide an outlet on the right but he has got to be more aware of his defensive positions first. We struggled all game defensively with Holding and Bellerin on the right side showing very little understanding between them. He commented a few weeks ago that the wingback role in a back 3 doesn’t suit his style and I couldn’t understand why. That position seems to be tailor made for his skill set. Now I think it’s because he hasn’t really been instructed properly. Lots of work needs needs to done there. It’s not just about bombing up and down the channels.

    Theo is not an effective player to bring off the bench when you need goals. I thought Iwobi might have been more effective as Leicester was sitting deep and Iwobi is good with the ball at his feet in tight spaces. I would like to see more of Iwobi and less of Theo in these situations.

    Newcomers Sead and Laca were two of our best players yesterday along with Ramsey and Giroud. I know Ramsey got the goal but the encouraging moment for me yesterday was when Ox found himself surrounded by 3 Leicester players near our penalty area as we were trying to build an attack. Ramsey who had already begun to move forward, dashed back to offer an outlet. What a start to the season.

    1. How lame is Mignolet to pick up a yellow for time wasting with 3″ to go against Watford for Pete sake.

  28. Great start to the EPL season so far as we out score our defensive frailties to get a come from behind win. Pool drop points when their first team offense can’t out score their first team defense.
    Chelsea down 3 and have Cahill out for 3 game after a straight RC and new boys Hudderfield are thumping Crystal Palace.
    Ben Mee welcomes Morata to the EPL with a big money type tackle.

  29. Why oh why did I pick an Arsenal defender for my Dream Team. What was I thinking 🙁

    Still, happy with the win.

Comments are closed.

Related articles