World Cup: Germany reach peak Arsenal and Xhaka peak Xhaka

I have to admit that I have watched some World Cup games. And they have been pretty good.

Politically, I don’t want to watch the games: the tournament was awarded to Russia after one of the most openly corrupt processes ever, Russia are still not compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s findings after their entire Olympics team was banned for state sponsored doping, and the state is run by a brutal dictator who murders his opponents and just recently invaded Ukraine*. That’s not even close to a list of reasons why you shouldn’t support this World Cup.

FIFA itself is a corrupt organization, which acts as an extra-state entity during these tournaments, which demands that the host country spend billions in infrastructure and then takes all of the TV profits for itself (host is the right word here because FIFA is a parasite), and which pays out a meagre percentage of those profits to the various federations in the organization – which is ostensibly supporting “grass roots” football but which actually doesn’t do much for football and instead acts as a way to keep all of the federations in line and supporting the hierarchy. Without us watching the games, FIFA doesn’t exist.

And yet, the reason we can’t stop watching is because football is so wonderful. Even bad football is good football! And honestly, this World Cup has thrown up some pretty good football.

But since this is an Arsenal blog, I’ll focus just on the Arsenal-relevant football.

In the Uruguay win over Egypt, Lucas Torreira had a 5-touch sub appearance. Nothing to talk about there.

Croatia beat Nigeria 2-0 and Alex Iwobi continued his poor form from this Arsenal season, getting just 32 touches in 62 minutes playing on the right. Of note, he had 2 dribbles (of 4), 1 key pass (just a dump off in midfield), and took three shots (all from set plays). I watched the match and actually didn’t notice him except on the three shots. It was not a performance to write home about unless the letter was “dear mom and dad, I really need to improve my overall play”. Emery has a lot of work to do with this player.

For Germany, Özil was peak Arsenal-Özil as Germany played peak Arsenal-Germany.

Remember how Arsenal played for the last few seasons? How they had this tendency to play all the fullbacks way up the pitch, while also sending the center mids bombing forward and leaving the center backs and the wide channels exposed to counter attacks? And remember how Arsenal did this because they didn’t really have a dominant center forward/striker and relied on shifting movement, overlapping, and late runs from midfield to create loads of chances and eventually score? And remember how teams would just sit deep and Arsenal would play sideways passes around the 18 yard box and not create many good chances? And remember how the pundits reveled in our defeats? And finally, remember how the opponent would score and we would be able to pin it on an Arsenal midfielder dropping his defensive duties?

That was Germany 0-1 Mexico. Kimmich, Germany’s right back, led the team in key passes (5), attempted 9 crosses, and even tried a bicycle kick shot in the box! Meanwhile, Ozil dropped deep on one possession to collect the ball (while Kimmich bombed forward and Khedira and Kroos made attacking moves) passed a line ball to Khedira who then turned the ball over (I think he and Kroos – the DMs in this match – were the two who turned the ball over but I can’t be sure) and then Ozil got beat by the forward for the goal. In Ozil’s credit, he did truck back to cover, and he’s never going to be a great defender, but he was the last guy and was beaten with a simple change of direction, and his tackle to win the ball back was weak. But let’s be honest: the defender should have been there, the defensive midfielders (who were dribbled 5 and 4 times respectively) shouldn’t have been the ones way up the pitch, combining to turn the ball over, and Ozil shouldn’t have been exposed like that.

Still, it wasn’t a good performance and after the match the English public (voting on BBC) gave Ozil the lowest rating on his team. This is a major problem for Unai Emery. How does he get the best out of Ozil, who is going to have a target on his back because he’s Arsenal’s most expensive player.

And finally, Switzerland – the neutral’s favorite, and the team whose flag is a big plus – played a great defensive game against Brazil to hold them to a 1-1 draw.

This match was interesting for two reasons: Brazil attacked Lichtsteiner down the left (because that is where they like to play with Marcelo, Neymar, and Coutinho) and because Granit Xhaka was forced to play in a more defensive set-up than he’s used to.

Lichtsteiner was both a surprise and also not. He wasn’t very good going forward, completing just 74% of his passes (26/35 which is awful), going 0/2 dribbles, losing possession twice, and not creating a single chance for his teammates despite 22 of his 50 passes in the final third. But he was sort of solid at the back leading the team in interceptions with 3, making 1/2 tackles. Though, it’s also notable that Neymar had five successful dribbles on the left (Lichtsteiner’s side) and that Marcelo had three key passes on that side. In fact, it was defensive midfielder Valon Behrami who was protecting the Lich and not the other way around. As it should be. And hopefully as it will be when he plays for Arsenal. Lich also went off with some kind of injury. He did run his old legs off and let’s hope it was precautionary.

Lich was surprisingly ok. I really thought he was going to be destroyed (though subbing off your RB is suboptimal) but he wasn’t. He did allow a lot of crosses to get in and Switzerland were lucky not to concede off more than one but he does show some leadership qualities and with another defender in front of him might be able to put in a full 90 minutes against a top opponent. HA! I keed. He was ok.

Xhaka was not ok. If you were thinking that the problem with Xhaka’s defending is the Arsenal set up (“which exposes players”) you were wrong. The problem with Xhaka’s defending is Xhaka. Switzerland set up very compact, leaving Xhaka to cover minimal space but even then he was often diving into tackles late, kicking his opponent, or left tugging shirts to stop his opponent.

It’s like watching a player who has never been coached on how to play defense. He rushes in, gets beat easily and then is left scrambling to recover and he does it over and over again. This was in a compact side and playing next to Behrami who led all players with 5 tackles and 2 interceptions.

If this was the first time we saw this from Xhaka, it would be easy to pass off as a poor game but this is the hundredth time we’ve seen this from him. Before he even came to Arsenal I was excited about him as a player based off his passing stats but Naveen wrote a counter-piece which showed that he was not only guilty of diving in, kicking, and shirt pulling, but also the thing he does where he fails to track players on counter attacks and then fixes his shin pads while they celebrate their goal.

I have been saying this for a year now: Xhaka’s problems in defense are fundamental. By which I mean he lacks fundamentals.

Unai Emery has his work cut out for him. That the club just handed Xhaka a bumper new deal must mean that the Brain Trust has utmost faith that Emery can get him up to snuff. Otherwise, we may be talking about “Deadwood” again this season.


*I should mention that the next two World Cups will be hosted by Qatar and the United States. The United States is worse than Russia in many ways: we invaded Iraq under false pretenses and then we committed atrocities like Abu Ghraib, we are still waging war against Afghanistan, we are flying drones around the world and killing civilians, we are at war in various places in Africa (which many Americans don’t know), and we are currently taking babies away from their asylum-seeking mothers’ hands at the US-Mexico border and incarcerating these children in order to try to “send a message” to refugees that the USA is not the place for you.

P.S. No blogs here this week after today, I’m on vacation. I also will not be responding to comments, so you might as well not even direct them at me. You should, however, feel free to write up a well-researched and reasoned piece as a counter argument to anything you disagree with here and email it to me at 7amkickoff at gmail. See you all next Monday.


  1. Spot on about Xhaka. He did ok-ish, I thought, but that tug on Neymar was a yellow every day.

    There’s a much else disagree with here, unfortunately.

    The first thing is that boneheaded Brits on the BBC giving Ozil the lowest score for German players (what match did they watch?) representing a problem for Emery. I don’t see any correlation there at all. Heaven knows that I criticise Mesut plenty, but man, the Ozil pile-on by football fans is unfair.

    He wasn’t even in the worst 7 in that German team. Kimmich, Khedira, Werner, Draxler, Kroos, Boateng (save for a fabulous 3rd minute block) and Hummels all easily, comfortably played worse than their No. 10. England fans are why, despite living for more than 20 years in their country, I hope that they get embarrassed today.

    Fair comments on Lich overall, but Im not sure what was the basis for your thinking that he was going to get destroyed, apart from the fact that you’d argued vehemently against his signing because of his age. Brazil’s three best offensive players operated left or leftish, although Neymar was off-colour, keeping the world’s best full-back quiet was a good day’s job by Switzerland’s left midfield and left back.

    And I could be wrong, but I thought that Nigeria played Iwobi wide left, not wide right. He stank against Croatia, but he’s been terrific for them in qualifying. The whole team is lacking in quality. The guy who gave away the OG plays for Stoke.

    1. “England fans are why, despite living for more than 20 years in their country, I hope that they get embarrassed today.”

      Replace “20” with “7” and that describes me perfectly.

      1. Replace 20 with 4 and that describes me perfectly as well (and it was a very pleasant 4).

        The thing is, though, I kind of hope they have a nice, long, but ultimately disappointing tournament, in which all the Spurs players on the team come back tired and broken.

        England are always good for a QF exit. I’m sort of hoping for a SF exit this time around, just so that the expectations are raised to a level so high that the eventual loss is felt ever more soul-crushingly.

        1. Haha. It’s so weird but cool that so many Anglophiles, me included, can be so openly anti England. And all because of their fans/media.

        2. VAR took a holiday in the England/Tunisia match with two obvious penalties against Tunisia not given (for pulling Kane down).
          England made hard work of it (usual problem of missed chances) against a team that I was surprised to learn (during the commentary) were the top African nation, but should have no problem qualifying for the last sixteen with a win over the really poor Panama who were well beaten by a very good Belgium

        3. Yes SF exit! in which case, they will be forced to play a pointless 3rd place match.

    2. agree just about 100%, claudeivan. the only deviation is i don’t think werner was worse than ozil; they were about equal. particularly, late in the game, ozil was the one german player on the pitch the entire game that didn’t look tired. his defending on the goal was kindergarten, despite the fact that he’s not a defender.

      the person most at fault in the germany/mexico game was joachim low. around the 57th minute, i remember thinking to myself “too bad germany didn’t include mario gomez to their roster”. little did i know that he was on the roster. strategically, for him to not enter that game on the hour mark is a gross mis-management. a high school coach could have recognized that advantage. also, kimmich didn’t defend at all. that’s on the manager.

  2. As I have said before, I think Xhaka is a bit of a duffer so seeing him pull Neymar’s shirt in the center circle 7 minutes after KO with no subtlety whatsoever was not surprising to me at all. The stupid is strong with this one. Good luck to Emery and the rest of the fanbase who still harbor hopes for him.

    Iwobi was a disappointment but it feels unfair to pin a lot of blame on him. He is playing for a very young Nigerian side that obviously hasn’t found their identity yet. If he can improve his finishing and final decision making by 25%, he will be twice the player he is. Time is on his side but we shouldn’t do what we did with Theo and keep him on the books till he is 29. I think we should give him two more seasons and then reassess his development.

    I was happy with what I saw from Lich. I think he will be a good mentor to Bellerin and I feel that’s where his value really is.

    I didn’t think Ozil was any worse than the rest of the German team but it doesn’t surprise me that he got the lowest points from British fans. He always gets the most criticism when Arsenal/ Germany play badly and a lot of it comes down to how the media covers him. It’s easy to pick on him because of his languid style and lazy journalists don’t look beyond that. How about the composure of Lozano for the goal though? I was sure he was gonna miss it but the bullet of a shot to beat Nauer at his near post deserved to be the match winner. He scored 19 goals for PSV in his first season. Not a bad shout for a winger if we are in the market eh?

    Hope you have fun on your vacation Tim – wherever you are.

  3. On twitter, Cesc responded to an Ozil-defending Arsenal fan who claimed Ozil was underrated by saying (paraphrasing) “why do you think he’s underrated? I like Ozil a lot.”

    This, Cesc, is why Ozil is “underrated” (“unfairly maligned” and “scapegoated” might be more accurate descriptions):

    “Still, it wasn’t a good performance and after the match the English public (voting on BBC) gave Ozil the lowest rating on his team. This is a major problem for Unai Emery.”

    No one watching that match for 90 minutes with a shred of football knowledge could honestly judge Ozil was the worst German player on the pitch. He wasn’t great, but there were certainly worse (and equally bad) performances out there, and Low got the balance of his side badly wrong. Kroos and especially Khedira are a disaster of a midfield two, because Khedira’s legs have gone but he still plays as if he can be a box-to-box player rather than holding his position, and Kroos is obviously not a DM with the athleticism to cover either.

    Some folks on twitter suggesting this sort of match shows that the 4-2-3-1, with it’s dedicated number 10, is obsolete–with an implication being that, even if it’s not really Ozil’s fault, he’s a significant part of the problem–but that’s only half true. Certainly 4-2-3-1 is becoming harder to play than it was 10 years ago. But first off, if you put Ozil in a front 3 in a 4-3-3 he can do just fine and not unbalance the team defensively. And secondly, if you have a powerful, mobile, balanced duo in deep midfield–within a structure in which both fullbacks don’t play as full time wingers–then 4-2-3-1 can still work perfectly well. (I’m hopeing Emery proves this in the upcoming season.) If you don’t have those midfielders, then 4-3-3 makes total sense, and if I were Low I would probably play that way, with Ozil cutting in as an outside attacker just like in 2014. At Arsenal the 4-3-3 is also the safe bet provided Ramsey stays, but I think Torreira could give us the platform (partnered with, e.g., Xhaka or AMN) to play the 4-2-3-1.

    Also hugely relevant was that in picking Muller and Draxler as “wide” attackers, Low gave his side little to no natural width, which puts all the onus on the fullbacks to bomb forward. Again, we’ve seen this script at Arsenal repeatedly. I’d start Reus and instruct him to hold his position out wide at least to a degree.

    A final point–to which Tim alludes–is that all that cutting in from the likes of Muller and Draxler, along with Khedira making Ramsey-style runs into the box, is motivated by the fact that Werner isn’t really a strong attacking focal point in games in which the opponent defends deep and doesn’t leave space in behind to exploit, so Germany needed to rely on attacking overloads, quick passing, and interchanging of positions. Nothing wrong with that; that’s their patient possession style and it still can work. But in games against deep opponents, Germany arguably will have greater flexibility in their attack with Gomez (i.e. the less handsome Giroud) as a target man up top. Once their opponents have to come out and attack, then you put on Werner.

    The point is, there were deep problems with the balance and structure of the German side, and none of them depended directly on having Ozil in the lineup.

    1. “No one watching that match for 90 minutes with a shred of football knowledge could honestly judge Ozil was the worst German player on the pitch. He wasn’t great, but there were certainly worse (and equally bad) performances out there, and Low got the balance of his side badly wrong. Kroos and especially Khedira are a disaster of a midfield two, because Khedira’s legs have gone but he still plays as if he can be a box-to-box player rather than holding his position, and Kroos is obviously not a DM with the athleticism to cover either.”

      Frame that 👆🏽

  4. The British hate Ozil because he’s fancy rather than tenacious (being German and Muslim doesn’t help either). In other words, it’s almost entirely for cultural reasons.

    1. It’s the playing style, not the demographics. I really think the English just love the blood and thunder from their footballers, the thumping goals, the chest thumping, the shouting, the handbags; Ozil does none of that.

  5. And enjoy your holiday break, Tim. Hope you, and all the dads here, had a good day yesterday.

  6. Iwobi has some great skill, but needs to use it better. He was also carrying an injury in this game. The real annoying one was Moses. Crossing out of play or to the keeper when he wasn’t falling over.

    I thought Licht had a good game and the Swiss had a good second half. Xhaka’s long passes to the flanks added some threat to the Swiss counter attack but he remains a defensive liability. Was lucky not to get booked early.

    Ozil was fine. Germany were not. I wonder if all’s well in their camp. Remember they now lack the leaders like Lahm and Schweinsteiger. Do they have the same hunger, and are they letting irrelevant stuff like the Erdogan photo affect their camp? They should still get out of the group but this was a poor performance.

    Politics alert…..
    Crimea’s history and situation is a bit more complicated than a simple invasion (though Russia was never going to give up at least its Naval base) Russia’s ‘invasion’ followed a referendum which was held under the same legal provision as used to separate Kosovo from Serbia. The initial Ukrainian complaint to the icj did not call it an invasion.

    The situation in Ukraine is also a result of a US led coup against Yanukovich. Imagine if California joins Mexico and then later you find that Russia installed a new govt who cancel a trade deal with you, ban English in education and tv, and militia roam about enforcing this dictat. And Mexico was receiving ‘aid’ and weapons from Russia. Would the US public accept this on their borders in an erstwhile US territory with largely ‘American’ population?

    The reason I bring it up again and again is because unless the Western public understand that Russia (and China and Iran and NK and Syria) have their own compulsions, rights, and red lines, it becomes a more dangerous world. Russia isn’t evil incarnate. Neither is the US. But the emergence of a multi polar world means a decline of the American empire. This transition has the potential to become deadly unless public opinion is strongly against war.That’s why hating Russia is a bad idea. (And why I think it’s good that the World Cup leads to people to people interaction between Russians and the World)

    1. Shard–
      For a short piece, that is a fine synopsis. The lack of impassioned pleading carries it’s own weight. As a US citizen and one who had, until recently, been quite active in the political opinion biz domestically? Whatever your leanings– I can agree with what you say.

      What just kills my appetite for debate here at home is the mean political vapidity (duplicity intended) of the average American. An entire generation waved away the protests of one-party propaganda. It’s now too late for an entire country to be dragged from the tar pit. The sh^t? Is how many think we’re A-OK. I have nothing but contempt for those who want to argue left-right positions here at home. The country is past the point of rescue.

      Institutional decay was stanched by the last administration. But there’s no band-aid for the gaping wound this mafioso enfant will leave. Not a tourniquet, nor amputation, nor excision of the tumor– would serve as anything but a cosmetic effort.


      Oh, And yeah, I’m enjoying the WC footie.


      1. I understand your frustration. Really, I do. I don’t blame the American population though. Not too much anyway. They’ve always been told they live in the greatest nation on Earth, with the most freedom, and they stand as a force of good in the world. For many years, much of that was true. So they didn’t pay attention and don’t believe it when it isn’t. (Caveat: This is only an outsider’s perspective.)

        What is happening is that the empire is slowly disintegrating (or at least facing a strong challenge), and all the contradictions and problems are now coming home and becoming more visible. If it weren’t Trump now, it would’ve been someone else a few years later. Not sure if that would act as any consolation.

        They already have to protect it through destabilising democracies, carrying out coups, or outright wars, to prevent nations moving in an independent direction. If the Chinese petro yuan takes off, and both they and Russia launch gold backed currencies, the dollar as America’s upholder of hegemony is done. In that case, either the US can accept its empire is over and go back to its own borders – or maybe confined to N and S America, if the Colombian invitation to Nato is an indication. Or more likely, they’ll try to fight a war, because that’s what they know and do. The key will be Europe. If they decide Eurasian integration is better than war, we might get lucky. If they think ‘solidarity’ is better because the other side is evil, beneath them, or doesn’t share ‘our values’ etc, then there will be war. And that is truly terrifying.

        1. I have to disagree with the idea ‘if it weren’t Trump, it would be someone else’. Had the last election not been influenced covertly (the depth of that influence yet to be discovered IMO)– the country would have likely veered toward several domestic social policy ‘victories’. Policies that have been strived for– for several decades. Toward a liberal Supreme Court. Toward universal healthcare. Toward policies to protect minority and LGBT rights. Toward a more equal justice system. Toward sane environmental standards.

          Toward sanity. Alas…

          That jumping-off point won’t occur for another political generation here. If at all, ever again. There have been a pair of bloodless coups in this country– in the form of presidential elections– in 2000 and 2016.

          With the results of our last election? Fools cheering a demented egomaniac? It’s not a financial-slide-into-ruin of a nation like the US– that should concern all of the smaller, less-powerful ones in our orbit. But the terrifying disregard for human rights– by the powers that will fill the vacuum.

          I understand how the rest of the world might wish the ‘demise of this empire’. And I’m clear on past US policies and actions– of why that is the case. The 20th-century-style hegemonies the US are guilty of? Even into this millenium? Are of an old-school variety compared to what is now speeding into view. For all the sins committed? The keystone still holding the archway to sanity in place?

          ‘Was’ — the US.

          My frustration isn’t with those whose political goals here differ with mine. It’s with those who are younger– who so very nearly agree with me– but had been fooled into the idea there ‘was no difference’ between Trump and Clinton. It might piss ME off? But in reality? They’ve screwed themselves and their kids/grandkids lifetimes.

          I had worked for decades at politics and social causes– that are now lost.
          My wonderful better-half and I have no children. In essence, we are mere observers to the drama now.

          Got popcorn. Cold beer. And the remote.


          1. I will defer to your superior knowledge on domestic matters in the US. I would even like to know more detail on that because I know very little about it, and because we can always learn even from failure. Universal health coverage, for example, doesn’t seem achievable in the US. Was it close?

            ‘But the terrifying disregard for human rights– by the powers that will fill the vacuum.’

            Here I will have to disagree with you. One, in terms of presentation. The US violates human rights too. Even in its own borders. The most incarcerated people, police led executions of minorities, children being slaughtered in schools. This is just not presented as such. (When my parents were in the US with me as a kid, they were shocked to see children with ‘leashes’ on their wrists. Would be considered child abuse here. By society if not the state. Sleeping in the same room/bed would not) Only other cultures, systems and governments have to defend themselves against these allegations. Well, until Trump’s child separation policy.

            Two, the rest of the world is not a ‘victim’ to its governments that needs the US (away from the UN) to guide it or stand holding the archway to sanity. No thanks. The governments would be easier for people to control if the US wouldn’t meddle. And the purely repressive regimes will have less reason/excuse to exist without the threat of American bombs falling on them and the people, or American money funding them.

            Human rights, child labour, environment. All worthy causes. All hugely important. All (ab)used to keep the have-nots down and the US and her allies on top. egs.Summer job ok, acting ok. But kids dying of hunger and poverty cannot work. (The traditional carpet industry of Kashmir was destroyed in order to raise prices, and left people with no vocation and no money.)
            And NGOs are means of funding insurrection/lobbying as well – which is not to deny that many genuine NGOs do good work around the world.

            ‘The 20th-century-style hegemonies the US are guilty of? Even into this millenium? Are of an old-school variety compared to what is now speeding into view.’

            What is that?

            Because I see a genuine multipolar world. Not like the Cold War scenario of two superpowers fighting over the world. Not like one sole superpower drunk and fighting all around the world. But a world where there are a few balancing powers. Regional and global.

            But before that, I see war, because the US is not going to give up its empire without a fight. Unless… The people can stop it. I am not too hopeful they can, nor that they even want to. And the liberals in their righteous indignation are as guilty of beating the war drum as anyone else.

  7. International football generates extreme apathy in me, so I agreed with Tim’s decision to give this tournament a miss.

    Like Tim, I relented after missing the first few games and consider myself lucky to have caught Mexico’s ‘counter-attack and defend for your life’ masterclass against Germany. Juan Carlos Osorio, take a bow. Outstanding management from the Colombian coach of El Tri.

    Watching Xhaka against Brazil, his major flaw stood out with so many athletes on the field – he cannot carry the ball (not even dribbling, just carrying) forward when faced with pressing opponents. It massively restricts what you can do as a team. Put it this way – Xhaka couldn’t have played in the Mexico team that beat Germany. Mexico unnerved Germany being being relentlessly direct and VERTICAL. Too often Xhaka plays it safe, back or wide.

    Some people think his athleticism in defensive situations is the greater problem. But for me it’s his approach and what he’s able to execute offensively. We need to become a lean mean pressing machine to overcome opponents with more individual talent than us. The Mexico way with the ball, the Atletico way without it. I can live with Xhaka as an important squad player. As part of our best possible line-up? I sincerely hope we do enough good business this summer so that will no longer be the case.

    With all this budget-busting business Arsenal are doing, I’m looking forward to a couple of shocking departures as well. That “wow” signing isn’t gonna pay for itself.

    1. I respect people’s principles, but I don’t get the point of a self-imposed boycott of the world cup by football fans. Especially if it doesn’t last a week.

      FIFA is corrupt; twas ever thus, and twill ever be thus. The next one is in Qatar, that bastion of democratic accountability. And the one after that in a country that detains the babies of asylum seekers. Not equating America to Putinite Russia by any means, but someone who tries to be Simon Pure will never watch a world cup match ever.

      If you really wanted to be principled about this, tune out till 2030. And that depends on who gets it. Or just tell yourself, like the rest of us, that ultimately, it’s a rare feast of football games, and a Roger Milla or James Rodriguez might just light it up. A world cup is every 4 years of our allotted three score and 10. I know myself. I couldn’t not watch. You can’t escape it anyway, not if you have TV, radio, internet, social media, an electronic device, or friends and family. Including old Aunty Shirley, who says she tuning in simply to watch all those muscled legs.

      Imagine hearing everyone talk about how Mexico counter-attacked Germany to death. You’re pretty lucky you ended your exile early. All that said, to each his own.

      1. Funny, I only watch it for the same reason your Aunty Shirley does.
        Oops, just gave away one of those fetishes Shard was asking about.
        Ding it!

        1. You must really miss Alexis and his hitched up shorts 🙂

          Haha. In Soviet Russia, priest confide in you?

  8. Multiple choice, for Tunisia defenders.

    Q: The ball breaks to you, in space, to the left of your own box, with England attacking your goal. Do you:

    (1) boot it upfield to safety?
    (2) faff about near your corner flag and risk losing it?

    Two corners, two goals. You know, I don’t think the Tunisians watch the premier league

    1. seriously, the one at the end was absolutely criminal. I’m all for confidence to play out of the back, but he had the ball and time to play it yet clearly nowhere to go, and it was like the 88th freakin minute! pretty much any option short of just giving the ball directly to the English attackers and falling over was better than giving up a corner there.


      1. Im puzzled about what he was thinking, taking it near HIS OWN CORNER FLAG. Not the opposition’s, to eat clock, as is normal. The Tunisia corner flag. With two England players crowding him. And suddenly finding all outlets shut off.

        In truth, Tunisia played like that all game. And kept giving up possession all game. All intricate little triangles playing out the back, that had no chance against the England press.

        Really naive play from them.

        Props to Harry Kane though. That’s top class striker play.

  9. Re Trump’s policy of separating kids from their parents who illegally cross the US border, what else would you expect from someone as morally bankrupt as he is and his minions.

    Melania put out a wishy-washy statement through her p r person, which is just about what one can expect from someone lacking any substance.
    Can you imagine Nancy Reagan or Laura Bush not walk into the Oval Office and tell her husband in no uncertain terms to end it immediately or else?

    Interestingly, the majority of republicans support Trump on this.

    1. Perhaps a better solution would be to build a huge ass wall.

      That way nobody will bother to try and cross so kids can stay with their parents.

      I am looking at the downfall of democracy, from the outside. Left and Right are becoming increasingly tone deaf towards the problems both are facing.

      Why not everybody just agree that immigration is an issue so that the country can work towards a humane solution. That would mean giving up being outraged. I think the people of United States will never give up the right to be outraged on a fly.

      And by solution, it probably does not mean “legalizing” illegals so that the issue can no longer be called “problem”. Alex Song as DM an apt Arsenal analogy?

      Or kidnapping kids from parents who try to sneak in. Which is like signing Chris Samba because we need a “beast” of a defender.

      1. Not sure about the analogy, but the American issue of immigration and the outrage against people who stay illegally being deported always puzzled me. I get that those who have stayed for so many years that they have a family and contribute to the economy should stay. But surely borders exist so you can control who gets in. I mean I’m all for a world where people can cross borders as easily as money does but then it must be done properly.

        But what they’re doing now to the children. Like one child or two, you can expect that the people in the bureaucracy will treat them as children. But when it gets to such numbers then that’s all they are. Numbers. I also wonder if their services are efficient enough to feed and take care of the kids and ultimately reunite them with their families. I’m scared that they aren’t. Even the ones that care.

        1. I knew it! The Great Wall of Trump is the way to go. No child gets hurt and no one gets across.

          If you can’t beat the Chinese, copy them. 20ft tall and 20ft below ground.

          The solution to Arsenal’s defensive woes; 5-5-0 formation and Jose Mourinho on a life time contract.

  10. Their GK’s injured shoulder led to the first goal, and the stupidity of giving away the corner, which I just sensed would be punished, led to the second. Self inflicted defeat by the Tunisians, who though naive, had some good technical skill. I mean they’re basically French so not surprising. I was sad the ref blew handball for a great bit of juggling to break free of the English press.

    England should have had 2 pens, and Tunisia were wrongly called for offside when Pickford ran out of goal. (What was he doing?) I think it was the first poorly reffed game at the WC, though I didn’t see Serbia play and apparently there were some incidents there.

  11. Probably the best performance of all the Arsenal players who got game time, came from Mohammed Elneny. It seems that both for the host as well as for the readers/commentators, Elneny doesn’t count. Shame on you all. He is a hard fighting Arsenal player. He never hides and he never stops putting all his passion in his game. It looks like you all value shiny names nowadays and Elneny is not one!
    PS: I consider this as one of the top 5 Arsenal blogs and I never miss a new article. That is an additional reason for my rage.

    1. elneny is not missed on me. i think he’s fantastic and i second your comment that he always works hard and he never hides. also, he’s smarter than he gets credit for being and he links play well. he’s very kinetic. i also believe he’s very popular in the dressing room.

      is he the best option in the #6 role? i think he will be, eventually. right now, he’s a better #8 and that role is taken by aaron ramsey. he won’t score ramsey’s goals but he provides better balance in midfield and is a better passer. personally, i don’t think arsenal needs ramsey’s goals as they have plenty going forward. however, i’m not opposed to them.

      what arsenal needs is a true #6 who can control the flow of the game by being the base of the attack and screening the defense. is that elneny? he’s certainly the best option rostered but he’s so kinetic, it would be a waste of his youthful energy. he’s certainly better, tactically, than xhaka but many will focus on xhaka’s excellent passing and say he’s the better player. sucks, but elneny, like coquelin, does so much off the ball that he doesn’t get credit for that it’s almost criminal. the problem is finding his best position. i’m sure emery will include him in the squad.

    2. Right about overlooking Elneny. Not the first time he’s slipped under the radar. He was beaten on the header for the winning goal. I like Mohamed. He’s busy, defensively and tactically disciplined, and a team player. He also improved significantly in the second half of the season. But he’s bit…. soft. He’ll struggle for playing time next season if our midfielders stay relatively injury free.

    3. Arsene recently said if any team had 20 players like Elneny they wouldn’t even need a coach. Wishes he had 20 players like him! High praise.
      And he turned down a £10m move to Leicester last summer to fight for his place. Now imagine our piss poor midfield without his work rate this past season…

  12. the cristiano hate on the previous thread was sickening. the comparison with isco is laughable. it address my biggest talking point about players with experience in tough games. on friday, isco showcased his technical brilliance but has anyone forgotten that ronaldo is also technically brilliant? he’s got a few more ballon d’or awards than isco that confirm his brilliance.

    what ronaldo did that isco didn’t was impact the game. what ronaldo showed was efficiency but brilliance when it was required. more importantly, what ronaldo showed was effectiveness. his effectiveness meant that portugal drew a game that they were supposed to lose. it wasn’t because portugal held on but because ronaldo scored three goals in a single world cup game against one of the best teams in the world.

    five years ago, ronaldo would have showcased his technical brilliance and might have been effective. against spain, ronaldo shelved his technical brilliance in favor of overall efficiency and was effective. this is why i value experience. it recognizes when to sacrifice brilliance for effectiveness; how to win games your supposed to win but also how to get a result in games you’re not supposed to and it not just be down to dumb luck. anyone with a pair of eyes recognized the brilliance of ronaldo that day.

    1. cruyff said “football is simple but nothing is more difficult than playing simple football”. ronaldo played simple football and was brilliant when he needed to be; a very dennis bergkamp-esque performance.

    2. 1 goal was a well (but hardly brilliantly) won but soft pen.
      1 goal was a mediocre shot straight at the keeper that said keeper inexplicably fumbled into his own net.
      1 goal was an absolutely brilliant free kick in the dying minutes of the game. fair play.

      other than that, he didn’t do much. I despise the man, but I didn’t say he didn’t have a good game. he obviously did. and I never remotely suggested he’s not technically brilliant. I said the hype was overblown. I said Isco’s skill on the ball in that particular game was more impressive than Ronaldo’s (because, brilliant free kick aside, it obviously was), and only said that in response to someone else waxing lyrical about Ronaldo on the ball.

      Your contrast between the way Isco and Ronaldo used the ball is a ridiculous false dichotomy: as if Isco was just fannying inefficiently about doing stepovers whereas Ronaldo “affected the game”. First, you can affect the game while still “showcasing your brilliance” in the supposedly “inefficient” way that Isco did. Contrary to what English football culture seems to believe, there is not a strict inverse relationship between efficiency and showcasing brilliance, such that you must always decrease the latter to increase the former. Second, you can affect the game even if you don’t score/assist, and Isco did that. This is the small-minded simplicity that drives me crazy: often a bit of intelligence/skill that, e.g., breaks the opponent’s press and gets your team up field is as important within the flow of a game as a key pass or shot for a goal. If the first doesn’t happen, the second doesn’t happen (indeed, not only does the good thing not happen near your opponent’s goal, but a bad thing might happen near your goal instead–just ask Tunisia!).

      I’m not knocking Ronaldo the player (other than for going down too easily, but hey, every smart attacker does that). I’m sickened by the media’s nauseating fawning over the man, because I genuinely think it distorts reality: it’s not that he’s not great, it’s that he’s not as great as everyone acts like he is (while Messi is, imo), particularly relative to the contributions of other footballers. And his performance against Spain was impressive–especially the free kick–but we’re not talking Maradona 86 here, people. Also, I hate the hype even more because everything we know about him suggests he’s a sickeningly immature, narcissistic human being, and all the praise only feeds that.

      Lastly, ballon d’or’s don’t “confirm” anything. They’ve increasingly become a symbol of everything that’s wrong with modern professional football. They’re about 10% based purely on reality and 90% based on media hype and “narrative” (this is not to say they don’t sometimes get it right, of course, just that to the degree they do, it’s not because their method of being awarded is a reliable indicator of who the best player in the world actually is).

      1. ahhh, pfo. i truly didn’t remember who said that about ronaldo.

        it’s clear that you have bias against him. i’m not bashing isco. he had a good game and i think he’s a lovely player. however, we’ve seen games where cristiano had an equally brilliant technical performance, doing all of his tricks, flicks, stepovers, etc. and lost. as he’s gotten older, he’s become more mature and seems to endeavor to get the most out of himself as well as facilitate his team mates play. he just seems to be more focused on winning than showcasing his skill, which wasn’t always the case. i was giving him credit for being a great player who’s evolved as a leader, not just a supremely talented individual. i’m no cristiano lover but what we saw that day was greatness, love it or hate it.

        if you score a hat trick against this spanish side in the world cup, you can’t overhype that. it was a great result in a great performance. ronaldo’s performance shouldn’t be marginalized because of a penalty or a bad save from a decent shot. the world cup, just like any other cup competition is all about winning.

  13. Senegal are impressive. Poland is a polished, experienced side but Senegal are beating them not only with athleticism, which you would expect, but also a fantastic tactical game which has taken Lewandowski away and left the Poles looking short of ideas in possession while taking advantage of their strengths with passes into the channels on transitions. Excellent stuff from them.

  14. Poland- cumbersome, slow, short on ideas and poor execution.
    Senegal- young and inexperienced but much more athletic and dangerous.

    Speed and quickness is the name of the modern game and Poland has very little of it these days.
    Grosicki is the only one presenting any danger on the left wing.
    The former BDortmund trio of Lewa, Piszczek and Kuba ( Blaszczykowski) aren’t what they used to be and two of them are on the wrong side of 30

    Take Lewandowski out the Bayern squad and he’s just above average.
    Tottenham’s Kane is a far superior player in my opinion.

    I had Senegal wining this one and nothing I’ve seen so far makes me wanna change my mind.

    1. Lewandowski is getting on in years and so no longer at his best, maybe, but no way is that guy just above average.

      1. You ever see that 15 minute spell where he scored five goals in a row????? Those weren’t down to him just being lucky enough to play for Bayern. The dude is a killer.

      2. Let’s say you’re picking a team for a game you have a lot riding on against another top eleven picked by someone else.
        All world players are available and fit.
        Which pick in your line up is Lewandowski then, if at all?

        1. huh, so if he’s not one of the best 1 or 2 CF’s in the game today (I think he was, but probably isn’t now), that makes him “just above average”? that doesn’t follow. (this is me assuming that in assembling my 1-11 I’m not picking more than 1 or 2 CF’s…)

          1. Who says you have to pick an old fashioned type no 9 ?

            Any style , any line up and he still doesn’t make my top 22 let alone top 11.

            He’s a model professional, always says the right thing and a great teammate.
            I’m not hating on him at all, I just don’t rate him as high as you do, that’s all.

  15. That second Senegal goal had me chuckling. Szczesny’s timing and challenge were poor, but quite what Krychowiak was thinking with that ‘pass’ is beyond me!

      1. I missed the first one, but I’ll take your word for it!

        I had predicted Poland to finish first in Group H, so this result was surprising for me.

        On the keeper issue (and whatever you thought of the performance today), does anybody know if Szczesny will in fact take over the no. 1 jersey at Juventus? I heard a rumor that they were in the market for a new (starting) goalkeeper, and that Szczesny would remain a back-up. I’m curious because many Arsenal fans consider the sale of Szczesny to be one of late-Wenger’s worst mistakes. I’m not sure about that.

        1. The knock on the Arsenal new transfer rumor, Bernd Leno , is that he has lapses of concentration during games, which is exactly what Szczesny’s problem was too.
          For all the things I blamed Wenger for , and there were a lot :), letting Szczesny go wasn’t one of them.
          I wish him well in the Juve shirt whether starting or on the bench.

        2. They’ve already signed a goalkeeper, Mattia Perin, from Genoa. No guarantees that Szcz is ahead of him in the pecking order, though he’ll probably start the season as No.1

  16. szczesny was unlucky on the first goal and had showcased what i believe is his biggest flaw on the second, which is he didn’t seem to talk. a keeper has to communicate with his players on the field and if he’s coming out, he’s got to be certain he’ll win that ball. if he has a player in position to make a play, which he did, he’s got to stay on his line and let his defender play defense and he stick to being a goal keeper. instead, he pulled out of a challenge for fear of getting sent off as well as blocked off his own defender. bad play but all keepers have those. he’s still quality. he’ll be juventus’ #1 this season.

    1. Talk? Seriously? With an attacker bearing down on goal at 100 mph after loose back pass? An attacker, btw, who’s clear of the last defender. It’s pure instinct at that point. Stay and face a one-on-one, or try to beat him to the ball. He got there late, but his midfielder takes all the blame for selling him short. He does not have as much time to decide as you suggest.

      1. yes, talk. it’s not that difficult and szczesny had plenty of time to say “away” or “keeper”. to say those things is as intuitive as saying excuse me when you inadvertently bump into someone; it doesn’t take a lot of time and it’s only two syllables that your team should be used to hearing from their keeper clearly communicating his intent. it’s not like he’s giving a speech. however, i’m not just talking about today’s game. this happened plenty of times with szczesny.

        example, i plainly recall a game against man united where a simple ball was played in and szczesny came for the ball but didn’t make a keeper call. as a result, he collides with gibbs, knocks gibbs down, and fumbles the ball. the stupid thing about that was while gibbs was lying on the ground, valencia strikes the ball off target but it hit gibbs and deflects into the goal. it could have been avoided if szczesny made a keeper call.

        i’ve never been a goal keeper but i remember doing an exercise with kids as young as u14. i called it a ball-drop exercise. it replicates an attacker getting behind the defense, like in today’s game. when a defense lets an attacker receive a ball behind the defense, they’re no longer in control and the keeper calls the shots. in this exercise, the keeper assesses and yells “ball” if he wants the defender to chase the ball or yells “drop” if he’s coming out and wants the defender to drop in behind him and goal side. this communication prevents collisions or blocking off of players. would that senegalese kid still have scored? probably, but you still play good soccer. the polish kid was only half a yard behind the striker when he received the ball. i would have let my defender play as a defender and fight while i stayed on the line.

    2. Perin’s younger and has some history of knee injuries which might limit his time. but his shot stopping is very good. Quick reflexes. Not too sure about his distribution. Yeah Szcz will start as No 1, but I think Perin will be pushing him all the way. If Perin works out for Juve, Szcz might even be sold in a year or two. Maybe back to Arsenal? Where he can challenge our new signing, Bernd Leno.

  17. Watching Elneny closely. Off the ball, does a lot of closing down without ever attempting anything as impolite as a tackle. Runs a lot. Closes down a fair bit. Tackles? As if.

    On the ball, he’d tidy and purposeful.

    He’s just too… nice. And agreeable, on the football field. And off it too, by all accounts. But I cant see him as anything more than a gap-fill squad player. We want a few players who bring the nasty. Not Xhaka’s niggly, tuggy, give-me-a-yellow-card nasty. Someone you wouldn’t want to f*** with. Who, when he tackles you, you stay tackled.

    32nd minute. Elneny has plenty of time to make me eat my words.

  18. Elneny is a decent squad player who won’t make waves riding pine on a team like Arsenal.
    Every club needs these players unless you are City and can afford to have a £35m option coming off the bench.
    For my taste he’s too lightweight in the challenge and too easily dispossessed when on the ball to be a regular starter.

    1. Actually I think his ball retention and security is good, but it’s his ball winning that’s almost non-existent. Plus, he’s tactically and positionally disciplined, and seems to be one of those ego-free players who puts the team first.

  19. Well, Arsenal have just announced the Leno signing. Hope it works out. I feel good about it, but I know others have reservations. New GK coach as well in the shape of Javi Garcia, who worked with Emery at PSG, and who previously coached Fabianski at Swansea. Hey, if he could iron out Flappyhandski, maybe he can fix some of the errors I hear Leno is prone to!

    Anyway, I’m happy the club have addressed this glaring need.

        1. Got any links to Gigi Buffon’s blooper reel? Or Courtois? Ter Stegen at Barca? De Gea’s blooper against Portugal will no doubt be the beginning of the end of his Premier League career too.

          Leno’s kept the second most clean sheets in the Bundesliga in the last 2-3 seasons (behind Neuer), is decent at stopping penalties and is a good distributor but he miskicked the ball once so his Premier League future which hasn’t started yet is already hanging by a thread.

          1. I have to admit to not seeing any of his games in the Bundesliga but from his highlight reel ( not the one linked by NYCGUNNER, haha),
            he has something DeGea- ish, style -wise about him, I think.
            He looks a good signing.

        2. I’m with Kaius on this one. Every goalkeeper makes mistakes. Just a few days ago the best keeper in the entire universe including God’s heaven made a terrible mistake to let in a Portugal goal (lack of focus?). Fans are screaming for his head. It’s bizarre.

          The problem I have with this label of Leno being an unusually error-prone keeper is that it reflects only one perspective (I’ve read others who watch the Bundesliga who say we’ve just gotten an incredible keeper and don’t listen to the people going on about his errors), and, worse, it sets him up to fail at Arsenal before a ball is kicked. His first error in an Arsenal shirt (again, inevitable, because all keepers, regardless of stature, make costly errors) will find some fans going on about how they knew all along he was useless.

          Hey, I don’t know how it will all work out, but I’m refusing to get drawn into negative thinking until I see how this all goes down. At this point, you can choose to watch him mis-kick a ball and ignore all the other distribution work he does (which is, by all accounts, exemplary), or you can choose to watch his highlight reels. If you can make a judgment based on the former, then you can make a judgment based on the latter.

          I’m going to choose to do neither, and for the moment trust that the management did their homework, and now I’ll watch him over 38 games and see how he does. What I will say is that he ticks a lot of boxes, based on what I’ve read.

          1. Tell you what…

            He’s got crazy fast reflexes and is very athletic. He’s a good signing, and is going to save us a bunch of goals. He’s very much in the modern sweeper/keeper mould, and will fit in with our technical style of play, to the extent that Emery maintains it

            I’m with you and Kaius. Show me a goalkeeper who hasn’t made an error, DeGea most recently, as you pointed.

            I see a pattern so far with the signings (and the potential signing of Soyuncu). All are quick. Not so sure about Licht. But Leno, Torreira, Sokratis and Soyuncu are all athletes.

          2. Yeah, that’s what I’m reading. A really brave, athletic goalkeeper with insane reflexes, excellent distribution, and (SHOCK) is human as well!

          3. Is he error prone? I had no idea. I did a search of him on YouTube and saw this one one of his most viewed clips so I thought I would share. Seems like people are all up in arms about me sharing it though. Calm down. It’s possible to laugh at what’s obviously a hilarious mistake and still not get drawn to making judgments about him before he has played a match for us.

  20. Just put some Adderall in his Gatorade bottle for his concentration issues.
    Problem solved.

  21. ESPN is also reporting that we will “sell” Jack Wilshere. Sell? Who wants to be the first to tell them? 🙂

  22. Congrats Shard btw, on your country’s national team making it past Egypt and into the knock out stages 🙂

    1. Lol.

      That was a tough game to watch for me. I guess I don’t really care who wins or loses in that group, but it was sad to see Salah trying to make things happen while clearly not fit, and to see Elneny have a decidedly indifferent game (some are saying he had a bad game, but I’m not sure about that).

      Ah well, looks like Elneny will be joining the squad for pre-season after all!

      1. Yes, more Arsenal players back quickly please. Looks like Torreira is signed, but Uruguay will likely go through.

  23. PFo,

    I came across this stat for Ozil against Mexico…

    4 key passes
    88 touches
    75 passes with 91% pass accuracy (led all players)

    Yet he was the “worst” player on the pitch, according to some.

    Think Im officially pissed off with the pile-on, including from gooners. So unfair.

    1. Özil was being Özil and was here there and everywhere but the team around him stunk.
      And oh by the way, when Germany played Algeria in 2014, they were made very uncomfortable by the Algerians’ speed attacking their back line. Then we come to Mexico with better players and that same speed to counterattack that German back line.

  24. I’m not surprised, and it may well be the correct decision, but I’m still genuinely sad to see Jack go. I’m tired of people comparing him to the player he could have been without injuries. I just appreciate the player he is: a decade at the top, technical skill, great passing and link-up play, a good head, a fighter and he’s one of ours. I wish him all the best and hope he goes on to show his class at a big European club.

  25. New manager, check.
    New coaching staff (except for Bould), check.
    New CB, check.
    New RB, check.
    New DM, check.
    New GK, cech.
    I cannot wait for the new season to begin.

  26. Another impressive team buried in the FIFA rankings, Morocco taking the game to Portugal so far despite being down a goal to a set piece. This is a good game if anyone was waffling on watching it or not.

    1. HUGE fan support for Morocco as well as their bright red and green kit vs. Portugal’s bland white making it feel like a home game for them.

  27. I’m with you doc.
    I thought Marocco was hugely impressive.
    Unfortunately for them that’s what happens when you can’t score.
    In both games they were the better side and only got undone by two set pieces.

  28. So apparently one way to motivate their players is to publicly shame them after a loss ,and to threaten them with penalties after they come back home to Saudi Arabia.
    Public flogging , eye- gouging, or perhaps just revoking their driving privileges or ability to travel without another male escort until they turn 45?
    What a country 🙂

  29. Im done with this “plucky losers” bollocks. I like rooting for a small team and all, but man, have some of them been tactically naive. Looks like a North Africa sweepout — Morocco, Egypt and likely Tunisia. Egypt last night… what was that second half collapse all about? Zero points in 2 games, Morocco. And we criticise Arsenal for pointless pretty play.

    1. I posted that just before halftime. It’s hard to know much about Portugal from this game. When you score in the first 5 minutes, the whole game changes, and they were quite content to defend.

      As far as Morocco, I don’t want to be patronizing but I do think for a team like them to dominate most of a game against Portugal, regardless of the final score, is terrific. Ok, it’s a results business but there can be only one winner and it was never going to be them. I’d rather go out like they did, all guns blazing and showing the world what I can do, instead of skulking and flopping my way to 0-0 draws before going out in the quarters on penalties like some teams I could name.

      Didn’t see the Egypt game so can’t comment there.

      1. Also, in a broader football sense, it’s true that it’s better to be lucky than good, especially in a knockout tournament. But a broader sports truism is that in the long run, it’s better to play well consistently than to luck your way into a few results and then dive back into oblivion. If Morocco want to build a habit of coming to the WC and doing well at international tournaments and get their people and youngsters excited about football, they couldn’t have done much more than this.

        I remember watching Nordin Amrabat for Watford and thinking, meh, nothing special. But for Morocco today, he was their best player, possibly the best player on a pitch that also featured Cristiano Ronaldo. Moroccans will probably remember his performance in this game for years. That’s what the World Cup is all about for me.

  30. wilshere leaving for playing time is bollocks. when he was fit and in form, he played a lot of minutes. the only thing that restricted wilshere’s minutes were his health and his form and despite poor form, he still played a lot of minutes. wilshere left for free agent money, full stop. good luck to him.

  31. …and cristianooooo! despite portugal getting outplayed and deserving to lose, he’s still finding a way to get it done, putting food on the portuguese table. that’s what winners do. that’s what greatness looks like. hate him or love him, enjoy the show.

    1. He reverted to typical “it’s all about Meeeeee” Cristiano in this game which is probably why they only scored the one. But you are right, he is and will always be one of the greats. Particular to this game, in which I didn’t think he played well, it was still incredible for a player so skilled to also be able to score a goal like that on a corner through sheer strength of will and in the end that decided the game.

  32. Oof. That Uruguay v Saudi Arabia game was dull. But I did watch Torreira pretty carefully when he came on. He was ok. Liked the way he flew into some challenges (winning them, but then on a couple of occasions lost the ball after getting up), and made one really important one as a Saudi player was running into the 18-yard box. He had a shot on goal that looked like he shanked it. Can’t judge him on one performance, but he showed enough to suggest there’s talent there. I should also add that the Uruguay team generally was very poor, including Suarez (despite his goal).

    1. Never seen him play but his profile is pretty impressive! I hope he doesn’t do too well at the WC or the Samp chiefs might start to play hardball like Lyon did to Liverpool over Fekir.

      1. Apparently it’s all done. The Sampdoria president said on TV that they’ve sold him for 30m euros. That they took a chance on him, got him for 3m, they ‘won’, and the money will be reinvested.

      2. Ever Banega rumoured to be our next target for around 12m euros. Wilshere replacement I guess.

        1. Ainsley, Xhaka, Torreira and now Banega? That’s a damning verdict on Wenger’s midfield options (with which the old sage was quite content by all indications).

          Banega is more offensive than I thought. Almost 3 dribbles per game, 2+ KP per, high 80’s% passer, and whoa, 5+ accurate long balls per game. Looks like a player who can break the lines himself or look for a pass over the top. He does tackle a lot but, like Torreira, not going to win much in the air.

          I’d say he’s Cazorlaesque, which is high praise. I like it. Only issues I can see right off the bat besides defensively as mentioned above is that Whoscored lists “concentration” as a weakness which sounds troubling if we intend to pair him with Xhaka.

        2. I wonder if it’s just a matter of the papers connecting us with every player to have played under Emery in the past but it’s very interesting if true. He is a cultured mid-fielder but almost like a better version of Xhaka. Good dribbler, passes well, creative but needs to be a paired with a more defensive, ball winning midfielder (like N’Zonzi or Mascherano). If he comes in, my money would be on Xhaka eventually becoming a squad player (which is where he belongs).

  33. Iran look like a team coached by Carlos Quieroz to play like Pepe, I-XI. That flop by the GK trying to get Costa booked was disgusting.

  34. Not sure an Arsenal player has ever arrived to a more passive reception than Bernd Leno. But to me it’s interesting: we go and give Petr Cech the #1 shirt and then we sign a high profile keeper in the prime of his career from a CL club. I like competition in the team but Cech never seemed the type to need that push. Still, the club have insured themselves against the looming possibility of the veteran’s 16/17 campaign not being merely a down year and have brought in a ready made replacement. Bravo!

  35. Signing Banega makes no sense, given our midfield options, and Wilshere being told that he’d be short of games. I’ll be believe only when the Ornacle tweets from on high. Till then, I’m calling bs on those reports.

    I do like the player (though not for us). One of the first names on the Argentina teamsheet.

    1. agreed. is he really coming to arsenal to be a squad player? he ain’t starting. he’s too old to be trying to make the transition to the bpl in midfield. lo celso is the guy.

      1. PSG will sell? I highly doubt it. Not for the kind of money Arsenal would pay.

        Those same reports also said Banega is waiting to talk to Emery to be convinced on how he will fit in. Apparently he doesn’t want a repeat of his Inter days where he couldn’t adapt to life in a different league.

    2. Really? I’m surprised you said that Claude because it makes complete sense to me. I’ll give you 3 reasons why:

      1. If we want to play a midfield 3, I think we are a bit short. Ozil isn’t really a midfielder. AMN is still young, raw and inexperienced. I like Elneny but he is a squad player. Torreira is also relatively young at 22 and still unproven at the top level. It might take him a season or two to adjust to the pace and power of the premier league. That only leaves us with Ramsey and Xhaka. If either of them get injured (and we know Ramsey will), we are short on either experience or quality. I don’t think a midfield of Ramsey, Xhaka and Banega will work but Banega gives us depth in both quality and experience.

      2. Banega has played under Emery and familiar with what the manager demands. That’s a positive.

      3. We want to wit the Europa League don’t we? This is a guy who has won it multiple times and that’s pretty valuable.

      I agree with you that the news itself might be BS but my point is that I think another experienced CM will do us a world of good.

  36. i watched torreira play again today. like ever banega, italy suits him. he’s scrappy but too light in the drawers and will be overpowered by average bpl center mids. all the indicators suggest that deal is done but i really hope he’s not coming to arsenal.

    neither he nor banega excite me. n’zonzi does but he’ll be expensive for a 29 year old. i think he’s worth the money because he can give arsenal four good years and make arsenal legitimate title challengers as soon as this year. fernandinho is 33 and had a great season for city so four years from now, so could n’zonzi.

    i read an article claiming that sven wants to sign a french kid who plays for watford named doucoure. i remember seeing him but i know nothing about his game. he’s younger and would cost less than half of n’zonzi’s buyout clause. maybe they see a future n’zonzi in doucoure. maybe he’s a big step-down in class to n’zonzi. maybe the rumor is fake. we’ll see.

    1. A similar concern, about Luca Modric being too lightweight tor the premiership, turned out to be unfounded. And how.

      Modric said this about Arsene’s reservations about his size:
      ‘I don’t think he was the only one who questioned whether I could make it in a hard league like England. My whole career, when I was in Croatia, people questioned me, saying I wouldn’t make it, that I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t big and strong.”

      Now we have Steven Gerrard calling him probably the best midfielder in the world.

      Torreria’s size isn’t a disqualifier, any more than Nzonzi’s makes him a better choice. I’d like to think that the scouts approach scouting and recruitment in a thorough way, including watching and vetting a player extensively. They can still get it wrong, of course, but (and this is the second time you’ve stated this with utter confidence), I don’t think you have any evidence in support of your belief that Torreira is too lightweight for the EPL.

      What I see is a player with similar qualities to Flamini and Kante, with some of Santi’s ferrying ability. On age, ability, and price, I’d say we did very good business. But we’ll both see who’s right, at least by Christmas

    2. I like N’zonzi, I like Doucoure, I like Torreira. They all bring something a little different. Who is the better choice depends on how we want to play, and of course budgetary concerns. Anyone the club decides on, will be fine by me (I think Torreira is done)

    3. I just want to know what “too light in the drawers” means. Urban Dictionary’s got nothing

    4. I think Banega is top 4 quality. Xhaka isn’t. If our goal is to get into the top 4, I think another experienced CM is a good idea. Can Banega make the jump to the premier league at 29? I don’t know the answer but having played under Emery before and being familiar with what he demands from his midfield is a huge plus. Would I take N’Zonzi over him? Yes, because I think we could use a ball winner and I can’t see Banega working well with Xhaka but I do see him as an upgrade over him.

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