Hey folks, not only did Arsenal win and win handily but there was a fun weekend of Serie A football to report on as well.
Roma hosted Atalanta in the Sunday morning match. Kickoff was at 0400hrs and I’m going to be honest, I slept in a bit but luckily my DVR recorded it. It was a dire affair however. Atalanta scored first when their 18 year old center back, Georgio Scalvini, placed a perfect shot which kissed the post and went in. Atalanta would only get 4 total shots in this match and that was one of them. Roma, on the other hand, dominated possession and attacked at will.
It’s one thing to say that Roma had a 3.3 xG against Atalanta and that sort of tells the story. But what actually happened is that Roma missed 6 big chances in this match, including one by Abraham – who was clean through with the keeper – where he looked to me like he tried to push the ball around the keeper but kicked it 10 yards too far and out of play. And Roma were denied two pens both because of dives by Nicolo Zaniolo. Zaniolo kept grabbing the shirt of Okoli, who would then grab Zaniolo, and then Zaniolo would fall over theatrically looking for a penalty. The first was the most comical. It was the sort of dive that someone who hates football pretends that footballers do to dive. Literally seconds after contact has subsided, and with the ball still in front of him, Zaniolo just puts his feet straight out and falls over like a board. Then for the second, Okoli nearly rips Zaniolo’s pants off but again Zaniolo initiated the grabbing. I feel like the refs have no choice there but to not call either a foul.
The best part is that the Roma players and especially coach Jose Mourinho were livid. Mourinho got a red card after the first Zaniolo dive and was forced to watch the game from behind a concrete wall. Why he wasn’t completely removed is beyond me. After the match, Jose comically said that Zaniolo should have dived. Should have gone down. Maybe he needs to eat more carrots because Zaniolo literally couldn’t have dived more.
I also have to give a shout out to Monza who beat Juventus 1-0 for the first time in their history. Angel di Maria got a red card for elbowing a guy who was merely marking him. It was literally the definition of a red card, there can be no complaints. And Monza were good value in this game. It wasn’t a Mourinho-esque (Atalanta-esque now?) performance by Monza, they attacked Juve pretty relentlessly creating 4 big chances right in front of goal to Juventus’ two. Juventus look like a ship that’s lost at sea right now. No sails, no rudder, just spinning in the waves. Personally think Allegri deserves at least two years and that Juventus supporters should just trust the process.
But the best match of the weekend was AC Milan v. Napoli. Milan dominated the game in the first half by playing an almost English-style smashmouth football. Every defender was touch tight, they were very strong (read: fouly) in the challenges and the referee seemed to agree that this was how they wanted the game played. But critically, despite having a lot of the ball and in many ways shutting down Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (aka Kvara or Kvaradona) Milan struggled to create any real chances. This is one of my cautions about xG: because it aggregates shots a team can get a high xG with a lot of 0.1 xG shots but never really create that killer chance. That’s exactly what happened with AC Milan in the first half: 11 shots but only 0.8 xG. And not only that but their touch-tight marking was working to slow Kvara down but they drew two yellow cards to do it. AND they had to sub off Calabria at half time because he’d picked up a muscle injury from man-marking Kvara for 45 minutes.
In the second half, Napoli looked a lot better and Kvara won the penalty which turned the game. Napoli has had some problems taking penalties lately but Politano stepped up and.. well it was a horribly taken pen that luckily went under Mike Maignan’s armpit to go in. AC Milan stepped up their attack and created two great chances in the second half, one scored by Olivier Giroud, but the other fell to defender Kalulu and he is not known for his finishing. Napoli scored the winner in the 87th minute when Giovanni Simeone (yes, that Simeone’s son) scored a tough, tough header. He’d just gotten an inch on his marker there and popped the goal home. Simeone had a great season last year playing for Verona (he scored a career high 17 goals on just 10 xG) but I have to say I never saw this happening. I’ve seen him play a lot over the years and he’s never impressed me as a great goal scorer but he’s got two great goals (one in the Champions League and one in Serie A) for Napoli now in his last two appearances as a sub. It was a fun game to watch because you got to see young Kvara playing against a very tough team away and giving them fits. And you got to see Giroud doing Giroud things (he tried a scorpion kick, he had a number of his trademark one-touch crazy passes, etc.).
That’s your lot for today. Now we head into the International Break and I think I might see if I can watch some Georgian football, catch Kvara playing for his national side against some minnows. I bet he has a lot of fun.
Because my all-time favorite player is #3 Paolo Maldini, I enjoy your Serie A updates. Juve losing to (sorry) a team I’ve never heard of ’til now?
I love it!
Bayern losing to FC Augsburg. A rare delight in the most boring of all topflight leagues.
Because I am a quintessential neurotic Gooner, I am already hugely nervous and worried about our next league match. Losing the NLD at home would be a blow to this still developing team. Already have knots in my stomach and it’s two weeks away. WtF is wrong with me?
Ha! Normal feelings.
NLD is going to be a weird one. Hopefully, Arteta is smart about it and doesn’t play to give them 100 yards of space to run into. We all know that’s their #1 talent.
I’m phlegmatic about all this. If we win, great. If we lose, plenty to learn and plenty of football ahead. A draw is also ok. I just hope we don’t play stupidly, that’s all.
Defensive frailties are what will kill us at they did at Old Trafford. We give time and space to Son or as you say, play stupidly (I’m looking at you, studs-up-sliding-Xhaka) and it’s over.
Spurs are not as good as advertised. They’ve greatly over performed their expected goals so far both offensively and defensively. They don’t want the ball and they don’t really press, so that means we will get lots of time to pick passes in their final third. It will be a similar type of game to OT, which is a game we should have won. It’s also going to be the same type of game as Brentford, but obviously a greater level of difficulty because of the super hostile environment and because they do still have the best forward tandem in the PL if not world football (after Mbappe/Messi). That covers up a lot of the other cracks in their setup.
We have the better individual defenders and midfielders though and closed a lot of the gap up top so I expect to go there and have the better of the play. Whether that translates to points will depend on how well we can cope with the occasion mentally and avoid panicking. If we can match their intensity and don’t make any massive blunders, I expect us to win or at least draw.
Just had a great time with two of my favorite ladies, Megan and Rebecca Lovell of http://www.larkinpoe.com. And Rebecca’s husband Tyler Brant whobhas his own great band and is a truly excellent player himself.
They are currently touring with Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival. If you’re into roots music and blues rock you cannot do better than these two and their band. Consummate electric and slide guitar music. I love them to death.
Giroud would be such a perfect complementary piece in this Arsenal team right now. I know he’s getting up there but his game really never depended on athleticism, so it’s no surprise he is aging well. I can’t help but think in those games when we are camped out in the opposition half facing a deep block that he would provide a useful fulcrum and a target for Tierney’s crosses. Not only that but he would be content with a secondary role and is a great guy to have in the team from a personality point of view. Hindsight and all that but wow, for my money, cashing in on him was one of the worst decisions the club has made in recent years, especially to Chelsea. Separate but related, the Lacazette transfer that that was used to fund hasn’t aged well. If I told my 2019 self that three years from now, Giroud would be the better player, I would have laughed out loud and told my 2022 self to turn down the nitrous.
By the way how did Pablo Mari get on against Juve? Can we claim an assist on that one?
Sadly, I have to agree with you. Of all the departing Arsenal players since Wenger left, he’s the one I still have a thing on. Seems like he has heart, like Laca, but also physique and complimentary skillset to our team.
Always liked the guy too; anyway I think Wenger let Giroud go for his world cup chances, not so much to cash in.
I think the club got rid of Giroud because of Laca and Auba. Which was probably smart business considering the fact that Giroud had a bit part after leaving Arsenal and the scoring records of both of those forwards was superior to Giroud. Could we have kept him? Perhaps and of course I would have loved to see him play the super sub role for us that he had at Chelsea and AC Milan.
One caution though, older players in Serie A often have a late renaissance. It happens a lot in Serie A and I’m not 100% certain why. My instinct is that the games are slower and more cerebral than the Premier League but that doesn’t sit right with me because it’s a cliche. But there’s no question that the likes of Zlatan, Giroud, Ronaldo, Quagliarella, Mertens, Dzeko, Candreva, Caputo, and even Ciro Immobile. Most of those guys were in their mid to late 30s and still scoring in Serie A.
I get asked about the two strikers for Atalanta who are both in their early 30s (like Immobile) and I can say definitively that I wouldn’t want them at Arsenal. The Premier League is just crazy different.
the decision to get rid of giroud was bad business, full stop. in the end, wenger simply didn’t have enough faith in giroud to play him more, trusting laca almost exclusively. in the end, both laca and auba, although great players, were inferior #9s to the big hugo boss model.
at chelsea, giroud was renowned for being more than a super sub. in big games, all of the managers, from sari to tuchel, always went with giroud from the start. europa league finals, champions league finals, fa cup finals, etc. giroud got the start, not a sub role. at milan, he’s the undisputed main man at center forward.
i would offer that players like cristiano, giroud, and dzeko are exceptions to your older players coming to the premier league by virtue of the fact that they’ve played in the prem before. giroud is even more of an exception for two reasons. first, he’s simply built for the premier league. second, he hasn’t had to alter his game because of his age the way cristiano and others have to.
when lewandowski left dortmund to go to bayern, ciro immoblie came to dortmund on a big money move and he was an absolute flop. that was a long time ago so it has nothing to do with his age. immoblie is built for serie a only.
From 2016 until he went to Milan in 2021 Giroud had 45 Premier League starts. Even counting every single competition, Giroud only had 60 starts in 4 seasons at Chelsea. That’s 15 starts a season. He did start important games but he was usually used as a super sub. At Milan he had 22 starts last season and Zlatan started 11 games for AC Milan at the age of 39. Kinda crazy that!
As for the last two seasons, Pioli prefers to start Rebic at CF and has done since Zlatan left (Rebic and Zlatan often took turns at CF with Rebic played wide when Zlatan was available). But Rebic suffered a major muscle injury last season (which was why Giroud got 22 starts) and is out again this season with back trouble. Giroud will start in his absence but I expect Rebic will return as Pioli’s number one choice.
Just my observations as someone who watches Serie A.
Anyway, I agree we probably should have kept Giroud. We have a long history of selling ourselves short in key areas. I also think Wenger liked to be nice to his players and if Giroud wanted to leave he would have fostered that transfer.
i don’t agree with the assertion that giroud wasn’t athletic. if you say he was never fast or nimble, okay. however, the man is an absolute stud of an athlete. likewise, there is a sophistication to his game that allows him to compensate for the lack of speed. the europa league final is the perfect example. how did he beat koscielny to the spot to score that goal? how did he beat ainsley to the spot to win that penalty? we know those guys are faster than giroud but the big man was more clever. i call it tactical skill. these qualities are often overlooked because they’re not so in your face obvious.
it’s the same with mertesacker. everyone knows he wasn’t the swiftest but how many times did he get caught out for a lack of speed? you can count them on one hand and still have fingers left over.
feng is right, wenger didn’t cash in on giroud. it was apparent wenger preferred lacazette over giroud. he’d spent big money for laca. 6 months later he’d spend even bigger money for another frenchman in the form of aubameyang. giroud asked to leave. i like laca but, from day one, i always said giroud was the better center forward. time always tells.
I am a football fan first. I liked football before I liked Arsenal. What I am trying to say is thank you for your around the league write ups Tim.
Turning this into a pre NLD post: Early shout to Big Gabi opening the scoring. That new hairline is going to payoff.
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