Arsenal win the Intercontinental Ballistic Cup

I used to play golf. I know the stereotypes about golf and you can shelve them: here in Washington we have nice municipal courses where you can have an evening summer round for a reasonable price. Golf was two important things for me – competition, which I love, and four hours of drinking, which I also love. Sadly these two things are incompatible and somewhere around the 12th hole I would be drunk enough to shank a ball into a water hazard and then wrap my club around a tree.

When I wasn’t drunk I noticed that golf is a funny sport. It’s one which you typically practice alone (unless you can afford a trainer, which I couldn’t) and because you don’t have someone there helping you with your swing, the more you practice, the more ingrained your bad habits become. I was great at putting and chipping, but tended to overswing with the long clubs. So, I practiced a lot and developed horrible muscle memory which was almost impossible to break once I did get professional help. If you want to see what I’m talking about google search Charles Barkley plays golf.

“Dad, why did he go down like that?” my daughter asked me as we were watching the penalty shootout between Arsenal and Chelsea. Cech had just done one of his now signature “ugh” penalty saves: where he knows he went the wrong way and doesn’t even commit fully to the save so he just sort of crumples on the ground.

“That’s the old bad Cech” I replied. “That’s how he used be in these penalties, always diving the wrong way but also knowing he went the wrong way so not even fully committing to the fact that he went the wrong way. It’s a mental thing.”

Earlier in the match, he did commit. He did go the right way. He made the save on Morata’s penalty. It was confident, a good save. And he would do it again to win the match. But in between those two penalty stops he had the one “ugh” moment. That one where he went back to his old, indecisive, penalty save approach. It felt to me like muscle memory. I’ve been there. On the golf course, doing any physical activity, and my bad habit suddenly slips back in and boom… I’m wrapping my golf club around a tree.

One time I was having a really good game, I had hit par on the front nine, and the back nine started out well. Then I hit a poor drive into the trees. Then I tried to do something over-confident and curl a shot onto the green, which hit another tree and put me further in trouble. Now I was losing my cool and with the ball sitting in deep, dry grass, probably on a bed of rocks, I pulled my club up just a bit at the end of the stroke and skulled the ball.  One hitch followed by two mental errors.

Instead of accepting that I had made a mistake on the drive and taking my penalty stroke to get back on to the fairway, I tried to make up for it and made it worse. Bellerin did that yesterday against Chelsea. As if trained by muscle memory to be out of position, he was beaten by his man, which he followed up with two mental errors and dived in for a tackle which gave away the penalty.

Mustafi, Bellerin, and Kolasinac had a number of these moments in this match. I noticed a trick that Sarri (the Chelsea manager) had his men doing, where they were passing around in order to invite Arsenal to “press”. As soon as Arsenal’s shape became compressed, their forward would start a run and one of the players at the back would try a chip. Arsenal weren’t playing that stupid “two at the back” that we did last year when this happened, we had a full flat back four, but the ease with which the Chelsea side were toying with our press and then springing that pass was quite astonishing.

Mustafi was caught literally just letting his man run past him, several times, and I think at least twice Arsenal benefitted by an incorrect offside call. The most egregious was when Bellerin played Drinkwater on but got the call anyway. The space Arsenal were conceding, combined with the slow legs of Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac, and even Bellerin made for quite the scary combination at the back. Maybe the boys were just shattered. But it looked like some familiar mistakes from players who are already being savaged by the fans (Mustafi and Bellerin). Emery has his work cut out for him there.

Guendouzi was a diamond again. I’ve only seen him play a few times and I’ve already run out of adjectives to describe his passing range. One thing that I keep thinking about is how Fabregas used to play for Arsenal. He has/d the unusual ability to not just kick a ball into a corner and let someone run under it, but pick out the runner and put the ball on his feet where he could get a shot off. I looked back at Fabregas’ numbers and he was quite the phenom. In the 09/10 season, he averaged 70% accuracy with his long passes, but only attempted 6.2 per match. But of those 6.2 per match, he created 0.8 key passess off long balls. 13% of his long passes resulted in shots. Xhaka averaged 66% accuracy on 7.4 long passes per game last season. But just 0.4 key passes per game off long balls. That’s 5%.

I don’t want to belabor this point (though I’m not stopping!) but Cesc Fabregas also averaged 1 throughball key pass *per game* the next season for Arsenal. Granit Xhaka had 1 throughball key pass all season for Arsenal last year.

Guendouzi and Fabregas are not the same. The point I’m making here is that Guendouzi has a much more incisive way about him than we are used to seeing from our deep-lying midfielder. His passes are onto toes, not just lumped into the corner. And he makes those throughball passes that we rarely see from Xhaka.

Good lord, calm down, I’m not saying Xhaka should be replaced. The point I want to make here is that I think this is why people are calling for Guendouzi to start the match against Man City. I see what you see: over the last few matches, he has shown a rare talent for midfield play and could possibly blossom into a player of Fabregas’ caliber.

But at the same time, you have to say that starting Guendouzi against a Pep Guardiola side that will press him like starched shirt is also a crazy suggestion. I understand where it comes from but he’s still so raw, so prone to hold onto the ball too long, that he could be targeted by Guardiola’s ruthless system. (edited: he was also at fault partly for the first goal, he went in with a wild tackle to win the ball back, leaving the back line exposed and on the corner he didn’t challenge for the ball at all, so defensively he’s very raw).

At the same time, Xhaka and Torreira haven’t played a single competitive match since the World Cup and there is only one more match (against Nazio) before Arsenal play City to kick off the Premier League season. So, I don’t know what Emery is going to do in that first match of the season. It’s a big game for a lot of reasons: the start of a new era, a new manager, a ton of new players, a new system, new physical training methods, new methods on the training ground, playing at home, and the fact that Unai has never beaten Guardiola in 10 tries. Starting Guendouzi is a huge call.

Arsenal also had a number of players either leave the pitch with injury or not start the match with injury. Ramsey, Kolasinac, and Bellerin all had knocks. Fullbacks are a serious problem with this team. Could you imagine the glacial pace Arsenal will have in their back line if they have to start 34 year old Licht, the lead-footed Mustafi, Sokratis, and Monreal in the first match of the season against Man City and players like Sane. I wonder if someone said that would be a nightmare situation? Who would have said that? I can’t think. Who would have said it? Hmmm… Anyway, let’s hope that’s not the starting lineup.

In my golf game, I eventually got the ball back onto the fairway. But by then I was so frustrated that I hit my next shot straight into a water hazard. While my friend was laughing at my calamity, I calmly walked over to the bag of clubs, picked it up, and threw the entire bag of clubs down the fairway. Like Hulk. HULK SMASH GOLF. I remember scoring a 10 on that hole. A perfect 10.


PS: Sarri is known as “Mister 33” because he supposedly has 33 different det pieces that he drills into his players. One special aspect of Sarri’s set plays is that they take advantage of man-marking. What happened on those two corners where Emile Smith Rowe was exposed was that Sarri targeted Rudiger/him with these specialized set pieces he runs. I do not blame Smith Rowe for getting caught out on that. Also, Guendouzi was kind of being pinned by Luiz. Anyway, let’s not mention it any further.


  1. For someone as mad about sport as I am and who has covered sports as a reporter, who likes and understands golf and who watches all the major golf tournaments on TV, I’m slightly ashamed that I’ve never even — not once — held a golf club. Let alone golfed. I’vs heard it’s an awesome sport for mentally re-attuning. Have to try it. Really do. I have, though, driven golf carts to fancy, faraway cabins on swish Caribbean resorts. So I do have a link with the sport. 🙂

    Hey, Im relieved that when you hit a spot of trouble on a golf course, you don’t do like Trump and somehow magic it out of your score. It’s said that guys who cheat at golf are really horrible people.

    About the football…
    Arsene liked to use an expression, mostly for players coming back from injury. “Ramsey will be a bit short”, he used to say when asked if he’ll feature in a particular game. Xhaka, Torreira and Lichtsteiner will all be a bit short for City, and I’d be surprised if any of them starts. So if Xhaka doesn’t, Guendouzi will. And I think he will. It’s not so much fitness as sharpness.

    As for RB, Chambers’ career breakout game was for Southampton against Arsenal, at RB. He looked very secure there when he replaced Hector, and even offered forward threat. I think he’ll get more games there than Lichtsteiner.

    The defence had some good moments against Chelsea, particularly Mustafi heading off the line. btw, Mustafi doesn’t seem all that slow to me. Have to look again. Still making up my mind about Sokratis, but he’s looked better as the pre-season has gone on. Thing that concerns me most about CB is lack of height. Mustafi is 6’1″, and Sokraits is 6’0″, most of that head, forehead and neck 🙂

    1. I think AMN is a good shout at one of the fullback positions for the City game, too (not saying this will happen, but maybe it should, depending on injuries and how slow the other defenders are).

      1. Agree about the lack of height. Calling Mustafi 6’1” is a stretch.

        Can’t escape the feeling that we planned to buy another CB this summer but ran out of cash. Or planned to sell Mustafi and then buy a new, younger, faster, taller CB, but ran out of time. It’s just so weird that we’d prioritize bringing in Socratis as our new CB leader (even granting the Sven connection), given that he and Mustafi seem FAR too similar and therefore not a workable starting pair AT ALL.
        Either that, or we’ve got huge faith in at least one of Chambers, Holding, or Mavro. Personally, I like em all, but have serious doubts that any of them are going to break out to be a top class starter for us any time soon (i.e. in the next 6 months, which is when we really need one of them to step up). And none of our CB options (not sure about Mavro?) could really be described as possessing serious pace. Compare that to when we had peak Kos and young Gabriel 🙁

        In related news, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: where did Hector’s pace go?? No way the guy who played yesterday breaks Arsenal’s all time sprint record. I haven’t seen him look super fast for over a year now. Worrying…

        1. 6’1″ is Mustafi’s officially listed height. Mind you, height isnt everything in aerial prowess, and at his best he wins a good amount of aerial duels, offensively and defensively.

          Bellerin concentrated on getting goalside of the Chelsea kid, and did. He then made a poorly executed tackle. I dont think he outran Bellerin, as reports suggested. Hector was out of position at the pass, did get gaolside, but let him cut back inside. Hector looks for all the world as if he’s now learning to defend.

          1. Actually, no, I mixed up our CB’s stats. Mustafi is an even 6’0″, and Sokratis is the one who is 6’1″. Mavro, at 6’4″ is our tallest CB.

            It’s the one position I wish we’d buy English. A big English brute.

          2. He started (not egregiously) out of position, yes, but that’s just the point: he didn’t really have the recovery pace (he got goalside because the lad slowed down as he got into the box). Recovery pace used to be his signature super power, if you will. Now it’s nowhere to be found. AMN regularly outdoes him in that regard, and no way AMN, though fast, currently looks faster than Hector did when he first broke into the side. Not saying Hector’s actually slow, relative to the average footballer or outside back, but he no longer looks like he can outpace speedy attackers the way he used to. Last season Sane looked quite clearly faster than him, for instance, as did the lad yesterday.

        2. I’m convinced Hector Bellerin’s pace disappeared with the red meat from his diet. Vegans can hate on me all they want, but there is mountains of evidence that vegan diets – unless very carefully constructed and depending on the genetics of the practitioner- lower testosterone and hampers recover.

          If we had to include Bellerin (and Ramsey) in a deal for Dembele I would do it, and I’ve generally been a Bellerin booster over the years.

          1. It’s an interesting theory. It seemed to me it disappeared (along with his form in general) after that injury he suffered midway through the season before last.

          2. I sort of half-jokingly referred to this theory in yesterday’s comments. Is it at all meaningful that his decision to go vegan (I believe it was before the start of last season?) coincided with a decline in pace? I know zero about sports nutrition, but I’m sure our backroom staff are aware of any possible issues connected to his diet. I’d like to believe it’s simply a matter of struggling with niggles or injuries, but he’s just coming off a nice holiday and consistent pre-season…so what’s up?

          3. I would like to see any objective evidence that he is in fact slower. I thought so too but the human eye is by no means a litmus test for these things. I thought he kept pace with that Chelsea kid pretty darn well actually.

          4. My dietician friend insists that all Vegans are self harming, but I’m sure that the club’s nutritionist/dieticians are aware of his food preferences.

          5. Doc,
            Of course you’re right: we only have the eye test, which can be deceptive. But here’s one (objective but obviously very imprecise) measure:

            1. Is there a single time, in our collective memory, to which we can point when Bellerin got beaten in a foot race with ANY PL FOOTBALLER in his first 2 years (roughly) in the league? I can’t think of a SINGLE time. Just based on foot races he engaged in, Hector was the fastest player in the league, or at least there wasn’t anyone faster (yes yes, I know he didn’t race literally every player in the league, but you get the basic point). (You can also add all those times when he recovered over a crazy long distance to make a last ditch tackle, e.g. on Pedro against Chelsea, Gomis against Swansea, etc. When’s the last time one of those jaw-dropping recovery runs happened? It’s been a while.)

            2. By contrast, in the last season and a half, I can think of numerous times (I can’t tell you the details off the top of my head, but I know they happened and we could go back to the tape and find them) when he was not faster than an opponent, and at least a few times in which he was clearly slower. Yesterday was one of those times: he “kept pace pretty well” with the Chelsea kid, meaning he didn’t get outright humiliated. But he was slower, and the kid was dribbling a ball while running.

          6. Where’s the evidence?

            I’d say that there’s mounting evidence, both anecdotal and from an academic standpoint, that vegan diets are at least a s good as traditional diets.

            These soft “scientific studies” that look at whether certain hormones or nutrients change with diets are absolute rubbish because they aren’t measuring any meaningful outcomes. And the only study I can find shows that men on vegan diets have higher testosterone than those that don’t.

            An elite athlete is absolutely able to get sufficient nutrition from a vegan diet. There are many examples, including power lifters, triathletes, marathon runners.

            There could be a whole number of reasons that he has slowed down (first one is that he hasn’t), vegan diet should be very low on that list.

          7. Lachlan

            The higher testosterone bit. That’s why I mentioned the pressure on the adrenal glands. You’re basically always near ‘peak’ output under a vegan diet. (It’s something to do with insulin levels, I forget the exact explanation of why) That’s why you feel stronger and fitter and lose weight and burn fat. Those studies that show higher testosterone than before probably measure it somewhere like a few weeks to a couple of months after the change in diet. (Something like how fasting also boosts growth hormone production,and why religions like Jainism have ritual fasting unto death for monks) But it’s stress. You’re overloading your body, which affects your recovery, and eventually loss of muscle mass (so as to need less energy to maintain itself)

            That’s as far as my ‘knowledge’ goes so I’ll shut up about it 🙂 In any case, I am sure the club and Bellerin himself will be monitoring the effects of this. Though results are sometimes counter-intuitive and maybe misleading in a new area of study like this?

    2. Golf is a frustrating pile of shit game. If you want to get mentally ‘re-attuned’ do yoga. Or meditate. Golf is the opposite of those things from a mental perspective. I love golf. But all of the above is 100% true.

  2. The joke on SS(!) Lazio’s name will never not be funny.

    Guendouzi is certainly looking very good. Much better than anyone could have expected. I don’t know what it means for Xhaka, but he seems to have jumped ahead of Maitland Niles at least and possibly, Elneny too.

    I am more concerned about the defense. We were quite poor, especially in the first half. With players not reading danger. Bellerin getting so comprehensively outpaced should lead to some soul searching on his behalf (Like Jack Action here, I think his vegan diet will have a lot to do with this)

    Mustafi can do some great things, and then do some stupid things, making him a liability. He’s lost my trust. But evidently he’s deemed to be the best of the bunch by Emery and that worries me more.

    What is this ‘tournament’? The commentators keep trying to call it a proper tourney but how? Random teams play random games and yaay, tournament. (Their plan is to set up the Super League I’m sure)

    The transfer window is going to close in a week for us. Ramsey to sign? Anyone else to come in?

    PS. Higuain moving to AC Milan is a weird one. Does no one in England want him? It’s even weirder because Bonucci moves back and Caldara moves to Milan. Seems like Juve are going all in for the next couple of seasons.

    1. Maybe he doesn’t want to move to England? Milan is only a 2 hour drive from Turin. Not a bad move. He’s been in Italy for 5 years now
      Everything I’ve seen from Juve fans is they’re furious that Bonucci is coming back. Not happy he demanded to leave in the first place & the he celebrated when he scored against them on his return. Plus Caldara is reportedly the best young CB prospect in Italy. Seems curious to me to swap him for somebody 7 years older when Barzagli is 37, Chiellini 34, Benatia is 31, and now you also have a 31 year old Bonucci. Talk about over thirty FC lol. Chelsea has been linked to their only other young CB 24 year old Rugani all summer.

      1. Yes. They also have Khedira, Matuidi, Marchisio, Mandzukic and now Cristiano Ronaldo who are the wrong side of 30. Juventus are weird, but then Serie A allows players to play longer, and I guess they really really want the CL crown and hope to get it before this lot have to retire.

    2. Lazio was also Mussolini’s team and is still a hotbed of ultra-right-wing racist groups. The club has tried to do some things to change this lately so, I should probably be more fair about tarring the whole club as Nazis.

      1. Yes I know the Mussolini connection and the ultras is why you came up with that joke. I think it’s even funnier that they are SS Lazio.

        Sure, you can be fair to them. I just think it’s funny and will remain as such.

    3. I don’t think a vegan diet alone is to blame. You can eat 6,000 calories a day and stay to a strict 40-40-20 lean, weightlifter’s regimen, or really any macronutrient regimen and stay vegan but you have to be VERY deliberate about your food. I guess that’s the same as any athlete. If his diet is the problem then it won’t matter if he eats chicken, fish, or soy isolate.

      What’s most likely the problem is that he’s not as focused and professional about everything it takes to be a top level footballer. He seems to enjoy the fashion aspect more than the football aspect and that’s the real killer.

      1. I’m no expert by any means, but since I have had to live with my knee injury I’ve started to look at related stuff. Based on my very rudimentary knowledge, being vegan leads to a loss of muscle mass (eventually), while loading up your adrenal glands. (I forget the exact mechanism) That part is what makes you feel good/fitter and even lose weight. A bit like fasting. But in the long term it leads to greater stress on the body. Which means longer recovery periods, and loss of muscle.

        Not sure that latter part is a fair criticism. It may be true, but it’s no more likely to be true for him than anyone else who has other interests but doesn’t talk about them. Maybe Cech’s problem is he plays the drums. Rosicky spent too long on his guitar, Auba would be even better if he didn’t love cars etc.

      2. Just two more cents worth… soy isolate is definitively linked to lower testosterone. Men should avoid soy products like the plague. So it would matter if he’s eating soy.

        I’m a Ori Hofmekler disciple, soy = evil.

        It’s not impossible for a high level athlete to be vegan, there are certainly plenty of precedents. But it does not make it easier and the margin for error and hormonal fluctuations is way way larger. I’m willing to be that if we sat Hector down to a few good steak & eggs meals he’d be 10-20% faster in about two or three weeks.

  3. Ah, you’re looking at the Higuain move from a position of EPL privilege (hah). Absolutely nothing strange about him moving to one of the great clubs in world football. If you doubt that they are, ask one Ivan Gazidis.

    Maybe the fact that we don’t have CL football (and/or the fact that we had a stingy budget) had something to do with it, but I wished that instead of going stop-gap, we’d gone all out in deciding who’d come in for Koscielny. Go big (VVD big), or go home. Maybe we’re keeping the seat warm for Mavropanos, whom I like.

    1. Haha. Nice one. EPL clubs pay more. But I meant it’s weird for Juventus to sell Higuain on a loan with an option to buy to AC Milan, rather than an outright sale somewhere else. Maybe Higuain just likes it in Italy. Or maybe there was no real market for him. I also think it’s weird to get back Bonucci and send Caldara the other way. But I like it because Serie A is getting more competitive.

      I was hoping we’d sign Soyuncu, but that rumour has just disappeared. Instead fanciful rumours of Dembele abound. Not happening. I think we’ll stay with the squad we have now.

        1. Agree that no one else is coming in. I’m more or less satisfied with that (I think/hope Iwobi and Nelson will step up and be decent cover on the wings), except for our back line. Nacho’s going to have to have another huge year for us, Hector’s going to have to get his act together, and Socratis is going to have to pleasantly surprise us all with how good of a defender and backline organizer he is, or else we’re going to really, really struggle defensively, not unlike last season. Though at least we have Torreira covering them!

        2. 31 in Dec 🙂
          Juve had potentially one hellluva over 30 FC lineup.
          Ronaldo (33) – Higuain (30) – Mandžukić (32)
          Matuidi (31) – Marchisio (32) – Khedira (31)
          LB 🙁 – Chiellini (34) – Barzagli (37) – Lichtsteiner (34)
          Buffon (40)
          Sadly, all their fullbacks are in their mid twenties. You could create a back 3 with Bonucci or Benatia but still missing an over 30 left sided wingback.

        3. Yeah he’s 31 I think, and that must play a part in this. Calhanoglu, Suso and Higuain should make for a fun attack for Milan.

          1. Definitely fat. Not really lazy. His movement is underrated. (True that this might not be enough for a league like England though)

          2. Shard took the words out of my mouth. He’s fat and a bit slow for England, but always has been a hard worker up top (maybe this part of his game has gotten worse the last few years in Italy; I don’t know).

      1. It’s for accounting, they probably have an obligation to buy after the loan. You push back the buy down the road. and it impacts the books later. Italians often do these deals.

        1. I get that it makes sense for Milan, and probably for Juventus otherwise they wouldn’t have done it, but it seems to me that they could do with the money right now after the Ronaldo, Cancelo, Perin, and Douglas Costa purchases.

          There’s apparently no obligation to buy. 18m euro loan for the year. Option to buy for 36m euro next year. Juventus seemingly really need to get rid of his 8m euro (net) salary but can do without the immediate transfer fee. (Probably due to a cash injection from Exor)

          1. I mean it’s a convoluted deal, the obligation might not be contractual, but I guess there’s a gentelman’s agreement in place. The deal also includes Bonucci’s return to Turin and Caldera.

  4. This would be my starting lineup with city…
    Bellerin Mustafi Sokratis Monreal
    Torriera Guendozi
    Ozil Ramsey Auba
    Nothing wrong to give the debut to Guendozi. He played all games thus far and at worst it will be a learning curve. Also this group offers us the best defensive press and quick transition option. Pretty neutral on Leno/Cech.

    1. Why is everyone stuck on a 4-2-3-1? Emery doesn’t play that system. it’s been 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 3-1-4-2 at Sevilla or PSG. Torreira won’t be ready for City and let’s assume Ramsey is history. We’re going to have Tim’s dream and Elneny is destined to start the first game alongside Guendouzi.


      1. Everything I’ve read suggests Emery regularly played a counterattacking 4-2-3-1 while at Valencia and Sevilla, only fully committing to the 4-3-3 at PSG (in large part because this was what the players were used to, with a very possession-centric game dependent on the Rabiot-Motta-Verratti axis).

        I’d be happy to be proved wrong; just reporting on what I’ve read lots of places. I know Emery himself talks about 4-3-3 as his preferred formation, but I think that can be explained by either (a) that he’s newly converted to it over 4-2-3-1, and/or (b) that plenty of people, even within the game, don’t always distinguish between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, since there’s a fairly fluid transition between the two, especially if your number 10 is more of a midfielder than a forward, as Banega was at Sevilla.

        1. PS I don’t think he’s going to play Ozil regularly in a “Barca-style” midfield three (Arsene experimented with this for a brief period midway through last season, e.g. our Liverpool home game), so whether we play 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 will depend largely, I think, on whether he keeps Ozil in a central number 10 spot, or plays him in a free role starting from one of the flanks in a front three (Emery himself discussed these options after the PSG game). And I suspect that decision will depend in part on what happens with Ramsey, whether he stays and how Emery decides to use him. (I doubt he’ll risk Ramsey as one of his starting pair at the midfield base in a 4-2-3-1, unless Torreira displays Kante-level abilities to cover all on his own.)

          1. I agree and only listed Ozil as a midfielder because let’s face it – until Xhaka and Torreira are available, we’re limited there – still. AMN and ESR are options I suppose. And really, we’re seeing that Ramsey has us over a barrel in terms of top class attacking midfielders who can play centrally.

            Emery will go 4-3-3 and the midfield 3 will be a tight triangle on the pitch. Whether the triangle is two at the base or one, I am convinced we’ll go with 3 in midfield.

    2. Re: Monreal and Torreira, I think it’s a massive risk to start two players who haven’t kicked a ball in a pre-season game. Emery will go with the players who have been with him for the majority of pre-season (and Ozil, just because, Ozil). I wouldn’t be surprised to see Monreal and Torreira get a run-out against Lazio, but in my opinion City will come too soon for them. Possibly Chelsea?

  5. It’s amazing how you can draw so much parallels between your life and the Arsenal, I love reading your blog. Arsenal are still at their best when Ozil plays centrally. His twists, turns and dribbles in that position are way more dangerous

  6. Anyone else here golfs, besides Tim? Bunburyist and Doc, I’ll guess, are members of the elevated bourgeoisie, country club set… (ducks for cover)

      1. I’ve played golf twice in my life. The first time was my bachelor party when we went to a golf course that also had larger holes for soccerballs (footgolf!) and while my golf savvy buddies debated clubs and angles, I chased the futball up and down the grass like a crazy person. It was 2016 so I was probably pretending to be Messi.

    1. Haha! I have had the great fortune to pursue and receive a good education, but I have never been anything but middling middle class. No country clubs in my family, past or present. All I’ll say is it’s a good thing I didn’t get into this professor gig for the money (or prestige!).

      As for golf, I played a bit growing up, but only on public courses with the rest of the plebes. I went to a driving range a few years ago. That was fun, in a comical way.

  7. The rubber is about to meet the road on the Emery era. My first instinct is to temper expectations. As Tim alludes very nicely, the players still have the muscle memory of previous defensive calamities and you could see that when they faced an outfit with real quality in midfield for the first time this pre-season; despite all the instruction and tactical tweaks (see Lewis Ambrose piece over on Arseblog for details on this), when the situations are happening in real time, players resort to fight-or-flight and their ingrained panic first defending.

    Unlike a lot of folks, I’m not that worried about our wide-backs (sorry I just can’t call them fullbacks, I can’t do it, don’t make me!!). Bellerin and Kolasinac are both in their early 20s and are just beginning to get settled in this new system. They also both have very able alternates in Monreal and Lichtsteiner if they need a break. I also thought Bellerin kept pace with the Chelsea winger bloke reasonably well, and I would not fault either him or Kolasinac for being exposed on those long passes. When defenders squeeze forward, the front players have to close the ball down better than that, or the tactic makes no sense. As a defender in that situation, you can’t break your offside line too early, but that means a good angled run will see you trailing play somewhat. Bellerin did concede the penalty but again, the situation that allowed that to arise was a consequence of poor defensive play further forward. ESR, a late entry instead of Ramsey, faced a steep learning curve in this regard and Chelsea’s midfield had their way with him. Chelsea also had their way with him on set pieces. Both times, Rudiger pulled out to his side and made runs off him, and both times had truly unmarked headers from inside 10 yards.

    What I do worry about is a relative lack of explosiveness and athleticism throughout this team. Bellerin is not who I’m worried about in this regard. We’ve assembled a collection of players who are excellent technicians but physically suspect, and summer additions didn’t necessarily buck this trend with the exception of Torreira, though I’d argue Lichtsteiner is an absolutely top athlete, albeit at the twilight of his career. It’s why I would advocate for a role for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, especially early in this season before the “panic memory” fades from the players. For one thing, he is an athletic powerhouse who won’t be outstripped our out-muscled by too many players anywhere in the world. For another, he doesn’t have the baked in panic response of playing in too many Wenger-era drubbings. I certainly prefer him to El-Neny for these qualities. He can also carry the ball a little bit, too. For me Guendouzi is too big of a risk against an opponent of such pedigree, especially if we are starting him next to the likewise raw AMN. That’s also why I prefer the experience and ball security of Sokratis over Holding. Finally, if we are asking the keeper to sweep then I’m opting for the spryness of Leno. This system is asking a lot of Ramsey’s legs (pressing the midfield supply line and covering wingbacks up and down) so if he is carrying an injury then maybe Torreira has to start.

    My team to face City would be:

    Bellerin Mustafi Sokratis Kolasinac
    Maitland-Niles Ramsey Xhaka
    Ozil Auba Lacazette

    1. A thing that I wanted to mention in the post, which I forgot and which I will go back and add in:

      Sarri is known as “Mister 33” because he supposedly has 33 different det pieces that he drills into his players. One special aspect of Sarri’s set plays is that they take advantage of man-marking. What happened on those two corners where Emile Smith Rowe was exposed was that Sarri targeted Rudiger/him with these specialized set pieces he runs. I do not blame Smith Rowe for getting caught out on that. Also, Guendouzi was kind of being pinned by Luiz. Anyway, let’s not mention it any further.

      1. Sarri has over 10 different set plays for… throw-ins.

        I picked up an Italian coaching book a few years ago and there was two entire chapters diagramming how and where to set picks on set plays. This is 100% illegal in football, but there it was, because when you think about it – what ref is going to spot and call a pick.

        1. That’s why Southtate has England coming out of basketball style stacks.

          Tim, just curious, why shouldn’t I mention this? My intent was to point out that ESR is far from ready at this level and those seemed like solid examples why. You don’t agree?

    2. This line up makes the most sense to me. Though the CB pairing makes me nervous, that’s pretty much the hand we have dealt ourselves.

  8. Is it just me, or has Auba brought a lot of positivity to the dressing room? Some achievement making Laca, the man whose position is threatened, his best mate. And they’ve both “adopted” Guendouzi.

    Even Mustifi looks happy, clowning around and all. Mesut looks at peace with himself.

    The dressing room had become toxic, as the results of last season got more dire. Hard to be definitive from the outside, but the players are looking and acting as if they think that a cloud has lifted. And that’s no small thing.

    1. Agreed, the Arseblog was going on about this on a podcast the other day as well and I couldn’t agree more. Headlines are necessarily about transformative individuals but football is such a consummate team sport that it’s usually the most cohesive teams that perform best in the long run.

  9. I look at the back line that started against Chelsea and I can’t decide who is the most error prone. That’s not a good sign. My hope is the collective will be > the individuals and that Torreira does a heck of a job as our new protector-in-chief.

    I think Xhaka will eventually become irrelevant in this team because Guendouzi is already better at doing the one thing that Xhaka does well which is playing the inch perfect long ball. Right now the two things Xhaka has over him is experience and physicality. Guendouzi plays a more mature game than his age would suggest but the demands of this league will probably keep him behind Xhaka for this season. I can see him and Torreira form an effective midfield partnership in the future because their qualities are complimentary.

    Going back to our defense, it looks to me like we have not yet replaced the BFG. We need someone who is good at reading the game and mops up while his partner does the dirty work. Both Mustafi and Socratis fall in the latter category and it’s difficult to see them creating an effective partnership. One of them will have to provide a calming presence but with so many individual errors from our back four, I fear this will be another season we struggle in defense.

    1. Xhaka has the capacity to get you 8 or more vital goals a season. Guendouzi currently doesn’t. That is significant.

      If Torreira lessens Xkaha’s defensive burden, he can deliver that. I like Guendouzi, but let’s not exclude goalscoring from midfield, which Xhaka also brings to the table.

      1. We have seen Xhaka play slightly higher when paired with Elneny and he has never looked like a goal scorer other than obligatory 25 yard shot once every match. He has scored 3 times in 70 premier league appearances for Arsenal. Maybe that improves slightly with Torreira in the team but even 3 goals per season in the league is a 100% improvement so I don’t see 8 goals a season from him – which is fine, because it’s not his job to score goals so unless he is significantly better at scoring than other players in his position (he isn’t), it shouldn’t be a part of the conversation when comparing with Guendouzi.

        One the positive side, he is only 25 and it’s possible that having scored a phenomenal goal in the world cup will boost his confidence when shooting. Maybe that will help him find his range with more regularity. I guess we will see but to be frank, I am not a fan/believer of Xhaka (which by now is obvious to anyone who has read my comments with any regularity). He does have a cannon of a left foot but I don’t think he plays intelligently enough to use it to good effect.

          1. I’m sure it hasn’t escaped Granit’s attention that his place is under threat… competition for places is outstanding. Rather than focusing on who is better, let’s celebrate having two decent options for the sameness positions.

  10. Arturo Vidal to Barcelona. They were talking about Thiago or Pjanic, and also Kante but settled for Vidal instead. Still, that’s one less option for Ramsey 🙂

    1. Not necessarily. Vidal would be Busquets backup. Different type of player to Ramsey, even if he pops up with the odd goal.

      1. Vidal is your prototypical box-to-box midfielder. He’s not sitting at the base of any midfield a la Busquets. The man is a running machine – and a fantastic footballer.

        That definitely is a blow for any Ramsey-to-Barcelona hopes.

        1. I dont think that Ramsey to Barcelona was ever credible. But Vidal is a DM with some attacking prowess. He has an overwhelming bias towards D. Ask his former midfield partner Xabi Alonso.

          1. Guys, guys. You’re both right: he’s far more defensive than offensive, and yet he’s not really suitable to sit and dictate a la Busquets. He’s a runner/disrupter extraordinaire. With Busquets, Rakitic, and Paulinho also all on their books, it’s definitely hard to see them going for Ramsey now, even as part of a swap deal with Dembele (which I don’t think was ever remotely realistic anyway).

            Let’s face it guys: Ramsey is moving to another PL club, or else staying with us this season (whether or not we get him to re-sign).

      2. I always saw him as a box to box player who is aggressive in the tackle. Kind of like (but better than) Nainngolan. Which is interesting because he was supposedly on his way to Inter too before Barcelona ‘swooped’ for him. So, I don’t know. He certainly doesn’t seem the Busquets type of distributor. But in any case, I agree Ramsey to Barca was always unlikely, and is not happening.

        It really does look like Ramsey intends to stay. And sign a new contract I’d argue. But of course it is his last big payday and he has to make it count. It’s up to the club.

        1. Here’s ar radar of Vidal:

          He’s or rather was one of the best allrounders, I remember him very well from his time in Leverkusen before he went to Juve. I prayed and hoped that Arsenal would get him, his contract was running out and he had only one year left, Leverkusen refused to sell to Bayern and then only Juve was interested. He would have been just the aggressive presence we would have needed back then.
          I think Barca is pretty skint i.e. they need to sell before buying. Vidal is the replacement for Paulinho. So maybe there’s still hope for Dembele.

  11. I will blame Bellerin’s loss of speed on Darren Burgress.

    Too much muscle mass; he is becoming more Kolasinac

  12. “Good lord, calm down, I’m not saying Xhaka should be replaced.”

    But I am saying that. Not by Guendouzi, but by Torreira. To be fair, I didn’t see him in action with the Arsenal shirt, but based on what we know I think we have expectations that he will be a starter.

    Hopefully Xkaka can learn some useful defending skills under the new coaching methods and can be used as backup. But I do not imagine him as a default starter anymore.

  13. He has competition for his place now which is outstanding for everyone involved. I have a higher opinion of him than most seem to on this blog and I want to see him as part of a tactically modern, cohesive midfield before I pass judgment on his ultimate suitability for a starter’s role.

  14. the first priority of the left/right back is to defend. the first priority of the left/right WING back is to provide width to the formation. while these positions are close in proximity and description, they are different positions. while it’s often possible, being a good full back doesn’t mean you’ll be a good wing back and vice versa.

    when arsenal signed kolasinac, they were still playing with three center backs, meaning sead was playing wing back. it’s the same position he played at schalke and he’s outstanding as a wing back. however, when arsenal moved to a back 4, he got exposed as a poor defender, especially 1v1, and was dropped for monreal. i argued the same should have happened to hector and arsenal should have played debuchy. for the record, i’ve never been a big fan of bellerin; i don’t think he’s tactically sound nor do i think he’s a good 1v1 defender and fullbacks have to be your best 1v1 defenders.

    players who know that they’re fast, like bellerin, tend to cheat; they’ll take up poor positions tactically, believing that their speed can bail them out if the get exposed. the problems occur when you play against clever players or another speedster. it’s tough to change that positional habit. hector hasn’t gotten slow, he’s getting exposed as a poor tactician. it’s like i tell my players, “no one cares how talented you are if you’re stupid”.

    1. Sure you can substitute a more defensively secure player for Hector but you’re giving up his attacking potential in exchange. It’s so much harder to find a wingback who can help you build possession play and break down a flat back 4 than it is to plug and play a functional athlete who wins headers or tackles. If you look around the top teams in the world, they all choose players with more attacking potential over defensive security at the position on at least one flank; why should Arsenal be any different?

      Hector’s not a fantastic wide back from a defensive positioning perspective but he could hardly be in a worse setup from that point of view. Calling him stupid for a team failure is uncharitable in the extreme. His coach instructed him to play suicidally high and his teammates further forward didn’t close down the passing lanes, so of course he was backpedaling on a regular basis. Emery’s emphasis seems to be to have him tuck in more and play less high at least in the initial buildup, common sense tweaks that will immediately improve the number of chances we give away. The Chelsea game was an anomaly in this respect where old habits resurfaced but I expect the team to address those in today’s game.

  15. I was a neutral observer of the Bundesliga until today. Now, I will root for Bayer Leverkusen with Mr. Brandt who today had Özil’s back. Credit to Julian Brandt for saying what should have been obvious to clowns like Hoeness, Rummenigge (who I never liked as a player) and Grindel who let politics corrupt their football.

  16. Kolasinac out for 8-10 weeks.!!! I guess AMN will deputize for Monreal. Not ideal attacking wise always cutting back on his right.
    Appears to me Arsenal has a serious lack of left-footedness. Other than Kos, the other 5 first team CB’s are all right-footed.
    I know Arsene always liked that left-right combination at the back.
    Seems like that’s something important the brain trust should factor in when it comes to buying Kosciencly’s future replacement.

  17. no way guendouzi doesn’t start on match day 1. when you’re good enough, age doesn’t matter much. how old was vieira? how old was fabregas? they played because they were good enough and everybody knew it. so is guendouzi. he’s played more minutes than any other arsenal midfielder in this icc; this includes players that didn’t go to the world cup like mkhi, niles, and ramsey. the questions arsenal fans should be asking is “who’s going to partner guendouzi in midfield”? that kid is f-ing ready.

    for me, guendouzi is a cdm. that puts him in direct competition with elneny and torreira. you guys already know how i feel about torreira. if emery decides to play the 4-2-3-1, maybe guendouzi will be partnered with elneny or xhaka. no way torreira starts ahead of any of those guys.

    tim, elneny doesn’t seem to be your cup of tea but i remember a similar thing being said about gilberto silva when he was with the invincibles. in fact, i remember the exact same thing being said about gilberto. it was also said about makalele with the galacticos. the only difference is arsenal haven’t built the team on elneny as a foundation yet. these are guys that make your team go and they don’t have to be brilliant technicians. they have to be intelligent and tactically sound. their job is to screen the defense and bridge defense with the offense. they were both good at it and i think elneny will be good at it, too. we saw how the galacticos fell apart when they lost makalele and what happened to the invincibles when they lost gilberto. remember, arsenal signed elneny when there was an injury crisis for only £5 million. that’s why he’s at the club and arsenal finished in the top 4 that season, higher than they have in the previous two seasons.

    1. No, Guandouzi is not a CDM. He’s a dictator of the play, which, as you know, is a different position. It’s like calling Fabregas a CDM. He wasn’t. Gliberto and Flamini, the man who displaced him, were. If you expect the young Frenchman to provide back 4 screening, then I must have been watching different pre-season games from you. Fabregas is the Arsenal player he most resembles.

      Guendouzi should start. He’s earned it. He’s been outstanding in pre-season. He is a sensational forward passer (especially to feet), and his field vision in a crowd of players is something else. Elneny because he has more match sharpness will probably be the deep-lying back 4 screen, and because AMN will be needed to either start or cover at LB because Kolasinac is out for 2 months. Torreira is short of a proper pre-season, and the City game comes too quickly for for him. But he’s best equipped be our CDM when we’re properly up and running.

      Ramsey if he stays is cert. Question is, who else will be first choice in a midfield 3 with him and Torreira? Xhaka or Guendouzi? I like the teenager a lot, but for the moment Xhaka offers a bit more goal threat. And MG needs to bulk up a bit upstairs. But I don’t think it’ll be too long before he leapfrogs Xhaka.

      And oh, Elneny is nowhere near the level of Gilberto or Makelele (or Deschamps, a very good exponent of the position). He’s not a water-carrier, for a start. He’s a kind of jack-of-all-trades midfielder, who (like Jack) probably hasn’t settled yet on his best position. What he is is positionally and tactically disciplined, and a valuable squad option (especially for his price).

      His purchase was a bit of a puzzler from Arsene. After crying out for a DM all summer, we bought only Cech. So when we got Elneny from Basel in January, mid-season, we thought, “aha! our elegant beast.” Only, he wasn’t. He arrived at Arsenal as more of an attacking midfielder, but Wenger has coached him into shooting less and defending more, even giving him a spell in central defence.

      And Josh are you arguing for Guendouzi and Elneny to do the same job?

      1. To slightly argue against myself, Arteta combined both the CDM and dictator roles. And Xhaka has been assigned it these past two seasons. But that is not how Emery sets up, and it’s not how I think he should. You need ball-winners/defensive organisers, with a bias towards that skillset. Busquets, Casemiro and Kante can both use the ball, but their primary role is defence and screening. The classic water-carrier is perhaps the most important position on the field.

        Madrid’s midfield is interesting. Caremiro to hold/screen, Kroos to dictate, Modric to ferry. Kovacic, a terrific box-to-box and dribbler could barely get a game.

  18. Yeah, it’s totally not about the nomenclature but about the roles and functions and how they mesh with each other. A great midfield is a symbiotic organism, moving in cohesion, with parts that complement one another. I don’t think we can say we really know what we have in Guendouzi based on his body of work thus far and the midfield as a whole is one big question mark as far as I can tell. Emery has some ideas and knows how he wants them to play but as far as who is best suited to partner whom, I don’t think he knows that yet not the least because he hasn’t had a full team with which to work until a few days ago.

    1. “A great midfield is a symbiotic organism, moving in cohesion, with parts that complement one another. I don’t think we can say we really know what we have in Guendouzi based on his body of work thus far…”

      Great philosophy lesson. Football…. Of course we can see what Guendouzi offers. It doesn’t mean that he won’t develop elsewhere. Santi was a No. 10. He played for us on the left wing, then the back of midfield with great distinction.

      We’re talking about now, this season. Guendouzi is not going to screen the back 4, because that’s currently not where his demonstrated skillset is. Torreira is.

      1. Well, if you play him as the regista who slides between the CB to build possession from the back then yes, he is going to occupy those deep areas and you are asking him to screen the back 4 simply because that’s where he’s going to be when the ball changes sides. That doesn’t mean that he has to bully people off the ball or wins physical duels to be effective, but you are putting him in a position where he will be tested in duels in crucial positions, and if your midfield isn’t controlling the game and/or if your forwards are allowing easy outlet passes then that could get ugly in a hurry. As with Hector, you choose to play an offensive minded player in a nominally defensive position because you want to tilt the balance of your team in favor of being excellent offensively rather than focusing on being defensively secure. Starting Torreira in the same general space on the pitch would be a nod towards wanting more security without the ball. I’d say that would be a wise move against City but against lesser opposition Guedouzi’s passing probably offers more. It’s always a balance. The two would probably complement one another quite well, although Torreira’s not bad on the ball himself.

  19. The scariest thing is it may applied to more areas of life than sports. I probably have poor muscle memory in my whole brain since I’ve never saw a psychiatrist….

  20. What I loved about that goal (against Lazio, 1st half) was that it came about because Arsenal shredded the Lazio press. Leno was the initiator. There was patience and poise as Lazio marked up in our half, denying the outlet pass, but after several what seemed like interminable seconds of scanning the field, Leno eventually spotted a forward free through the middle (I think it was Nelson) and played a press breaking pass up to him. That opened up a 3v3 situation in which culminated in Iwobi’s shot and Nelson was there to tuck in the rebound. That’s terrific football. In the latter Wenger years, the keeper would’ve just booted it upfield to Lichtsteiner and hoped for the best. Not this year. I thought to myself: I will enjoy watching this team.

    We’ve spoken about his defensive proclivities but I loved Torreira’s natural calm on the ball for Uruguay and in this game. Never seemed rushed or frazzled, just played the simple passes well and when it was on, he could also be more adventurous. Xhaka was definitely more skittish to start but then settled in well. After speaking above of my general feeling that we were short on athletes, Emery started a team chock full of them today.

  21. Liked….

    Iwobi’s energy wide left, and his combo plays with AMN and Nketiah, who took his chance well (his chance to play). Still has finishing issues. Should have hit the ball with his right first time, but took a touch and hit with his left for the chance that Nelson tucked in

    AMN looked a better option at LB than Kolasinac. call it the AshleyYoungification of the position. Of course, it takes crossing from wide off the table. And clever attackers will force you to make critical decisions with your “wrong” foot, but he rarely put one wrong today.

    Guendouzi when he came on was determined to cover every blade of grass. Lost the ball a few times, but he brought the energy. And for someone so young, he’s a real leader. Shows, instructs and is vocal. A rich man’s Flamini.

    Torreira’s calm. Will need a few weeks, from the looks of this to get up to prem speed

    Chambers’ progressive passing out the back.

    Lichtsteiner. Solid defender, and a take-no-sh1t personality

    Didn’t like…

    Rob Holding’s nervousness

    How we executed playing out the back. Good teams will for us into turnovers in bad places, and punish us here. Holding and Chambers seem unable to see press-breaking passes out, and passed back to Leno far too much.

    Bellerin is good going forward, but his crossing is substandard. Shocking how little he’s improved in this area. Play him and AMN, and we won’t get any decent ones

    Granit looked rusty. Hard to see him starting against City. He and Torreira lack that little bit of match sharpness. Left up to me, central midfield for the game against City would be ‘Douzi and Elneny (who looked lively today). Competition seems be bringing the best out in some players, including him and Iwobi.

    1. I think AMN can cross from the left, just
      a) if in the air, they will be curled in with his right foot (he did this really well in a game or two last season at LB), or
      b) he can hit it decently (mostly on the ground) at pace when he beats his man on the overlap. He did this at least once in the first half today, and although his final ball was not quite right, it didn’t look like that was down to not being able to hit it properly with his left–he just made the wrong decision.

      I agree with you that he looks better than Kola. He looked better today at LB than Kola’s looked all preseason. For the record, I don’t think Kola’s a terrible player. Not amazing but not terrible. I think his confidence has been hit after a poor second 2/3rds of the season for us (he started out very impressive going forward), but then many of our players had a poor season last year. And I think he’s definitely more of a wing-back than a left back, at least for now. This is about more than just being sub-standard defensively. It’s also about having to receive the ball under pressure further back in the buildup, and being able to get yourself out of tight situations and advance the team forward. This is a harder skill at LB, because you’re less likely to receive the ball on the run down the wing with free space in front of you. Kola’s touch is rough, his passing especially in congestion is very poor, and it’s noticeable how often when he receives the ball he turns back and inside, rather than opening his body up. Pressing teams will pick on that last weakness all day long, especially if he’s playing in a back four.
      So, yeah, even right-footed, AMN is the better option right now at LB. Plus his speed could be a huge advantage if we’re struggling for pace in central defense.

  22. doc, hector is a full back. his first priority is to defend. anything else he gives arsenal is gravy. if arsenal are counting on bellerin to create chances, they’re in a world of hurt. i referred to his play as “stupid”, not because of poor strategic decisions made by the coaching staff, but because of poor tactical decisions made by him. he’s a talented player who tends to be lazy and often takes up awful positions because he believes his talent can bail him out. once he makes those stupid decisions, he undermines his talent. eboue used to do the same thing. i used to do the same thing.

    claude, i agree with dr gooner. you’re playing a semantics game, often replacing player positions with descriptions of player styles. i referred to guendouzi as a cdm because he’s often the deepest center mid linking defense to the attack; that’s one of the primary roles of the cdm. his style of play has nothing to do with that. we’ve seen gilberto, xabi, pirlo, matic, and cazorla all play cdm at a high level in very different ways. the idea is to tell the players to do the job, not how to do the job. i suggested that guendouzi and elneny play together in a double pivot (4-2-3-1).

    btw, i agree 100% with your deschamps assertion!

    1. Glad you agree with me on Deschamps. The anti-flair players who move the ball out of defence and keep it simple are football’s unsung heroes. That’s why I was full of Kante love long before it was fashionable to be. There isn’t a team in the world now that wont have him at the base of their midfield

      I dont particularly care what the position is called, so I wasn’t playing semantics. I was talking about clearly defined roles, which are different. ‘Douzi’s and Torreira’s are different. True, you can’t be 100% definitive. Torreira CAN use the ball, and Matteo can defend some, but it’s clear as day that he’s not (yet) a CDM.

      Thought that Doc over-intellectualisea a pretty simple and straightforward point.

      As for your early raving about Guendouzi, he’s proving you right every time he steps onto a football field. If Emery is picking a meritocratic midfield, he has probably made himself undroppable, at least temporarily.

      1. Flamini broke into the Arsenal starting XI for 2006/07, displacing Gilberto, on the back of a strong pre-season. He was so good, he HAD to play. The difference between Gilberto then and Xhaka now, was that great Brazilian’s powers were on the wane, and .Xhaka is entering hi prime years.

        I thought today that Emery looked at inter-changeability. When Guendouzi and Xhaka were on together briefly, the youngster dropped back and Xhaka played more advanced. It lokked fora time too that Guendouzi was playing box-to-box. Miki also had a run in central midfield.

        I suspect that the one constant in his side would be his holding MF, and he’s going to switch things up a lot for the other position. He’ll have to. Ramsey, if he stays, WILL miss games.

        1. flamini replaced gilberto in the ’07-’08 season and the reason was because gilberto returned very late from copa america. it was flamini’s last year and he’d already agreed, in principle, a loan to birmingham city. however all of arsenal’s cdm’s were injured, meaning they had to hold onto flamini. but he did earn the right to play and nearly helped lead arsenal to a title.

          the difference between gilberto and xhaka is intelligence.

          i liked mkhi in the #10 role today. it was his best position at dortmund. likewise, i don’t care for mesut at cam because he drifts too much and he doesn’t defend enough for a center mid.

          i wish i could have raved about torreira the way i raved about guendouzi but i see absolutely nothing to rave about. he disappeared and when he was on the ball, he gave the ball away a lot. i really hope he comes good but, just like i said during the world cup, i don’t see him playing ahead of anybody in this arsenal midfield including niles and elneny. that is, like you said, if emery uses a meritocratic pecking order. i just don’t see a €30 million player. we’ll see.

          1. Right about the season, wrong about the reason why Flamini replaced Gilberto. Yes, he came back late form Copa, but the simple fact is that Flamini overtook him. He never got back into the starting XI ahead of Flamini again. Gilberto had clearly lost a few yards, and seemed suddenly laboured besides the energy that Flamini brought. I remember that well. We could see the comparative development and decline of the 2 players very clearly.

            Flamini took a massive step forward as a player that pre-season, and in the 2 seasons that followed. So much so that Cesc rates him and Gilberto together as among he best midfield partners he has had. And that includes the guys he played with at Barcelona.

            I’ll let Torreira’s football do the talking these next few weeks. You were a Torreira-skeptic before you even saw the kid kick a ball, and that’s fine. These things are of course subjective, but I thought he did fine today in his first ever outing for Arsenal. Calm, cultured, positionally sound, can see and hit a long pass, good on set pieces. He and Xhaka, understandably, looked short of match-sharpness, but he by no means had a bad game today. Your assessment of Elneny being a better player than the Uruguayan kind of speaks for itself, no? 🙂

  23. hey, i nearly forgot. i think ramsey will move to barcelona. when it was announced that paulinho was going back to china, my first thought was ramsey. i know barcelona signed vidal but he’s old and broke. he’ll probably miss most of the season for barcelona this year. barcelona bought vidal as a a bluff to say that they don’t need ramsey (or whatever player) but they absolutely do. hence, a ramsey plus cash deal for dembélé seems ideal.

    it may be the reason arsenal played so many center mids in so many positions today. the beauty is that arsenal haven’t missed aaron ramsey so maybe emery’s confident. if this is going down, it all makes sense why aaron ramsey has been “injured”.

    n’zonzi hasn’t moved either but he’s a 6. i prefer leandro paredes or lo celso to replace ramsey as an 8. we’ll see.

  24. max meyer goes to crystal palace? nuts! reminds me of moussa dembélé to fulham back in 2010.

    1. There are reports he’s on £170k/week on only a 3 yr deal. I can see why if that is in true the likes of Arsenal & Liverpool turned their nose on his financial demands.

  25. If Ramsey wasn’t oft-injured, I’d call bs on the explanation given for his withdrawal in Dublin. And he didn’t play today, despite the injury being deemed to be not serious. And Emery was clearly trying out alternatives in the Ramsey role today.

    That Barcelona read isn’t a bad one. Great if we get Dembele out of it, but reports are that he’s back from holiday a week early to fight for his place. The possibility of Dembele coming the other way would seem to be more remote than Ramsey going to Barcelona. We are betting that Dembele values his Dortmund-forged friendships with PEA, Sven and Miki more than he does fighting for a place alongside Messi and Suarez. I’d love it if that was the case, but I’d be surprised.

    And if Ramsey is injured for real, he’s not going to Barca this window, and he’s likely not signing before the window closes.

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