Red Star Preview: United and Ready for Business

Football to the top of the agenda tonight with Red Star pitching up at the Emirates in the Europa League. A re-run of the match in Belgrade? I’m expecting a tight affair with not much adventure from the visitors. Their big match is in Barysaw later this month when they probably need to win to qualify.

Arsenal on the other hand win the group with victory tonight and BATE not winning in Cologne. Too good for the Europa League or a rethink about when the ‘big clubs’ enter the competition? I wonder if rejigging the format so Arsenal and their ilk come in at the Round of 32 might be better for the prestige.

Then again, it is a remarkably Arsenal view of the competition to sneer at winning it. The brainwashing is complete when I read that people view qualifying for a competition better than lifting a trophy in another. Which is peculiar when you think about it, particularly when the outcome is the same: a place in the Champions League.

Arsène’s policy of fielding a much-changed line-up received support from his opposite number. Vladan Milojevic envies Wenger’s choices and is in some sense, probably grateful it isn’t the first XI he’s facing. The changing face of the world and football means his club is a shadow of its’ former self.

He welcomed the chance of this game – “my players need these kind of matches” – for his squad’s learning curve. The same is true of Arsenal’s youngsters, he said, which is true, but for the experienced players – Giroud and Walcott are the prime examples – it isn’t necessarily the best option.

Knowing you are part of the ‘B’ squad with their international ambitions, can be damaging. Would Giroud sign for Everton knowing how this season would pan out in London?

United We Stand

Jack Wilshere is the man who has benefited the most, it seems. Arsène says no decision will be taken on renewing his contract until next month, which is a brave choice. Or foolhardy; another talented midfielder able to walk away on a free transfer next year? One is an accident, two is careless, three is an absolute disgrace.

The nightmare scenario for Wenger is that Jack says “Thanks, but no thanks”, followed by Ramsey refusing to sign a new deal. Replacing that pair with Özil and Sanchez? Arsenal don’t have the cash to replace that quartet, so they keep telling us. It genuinely doesn’t bear thinking about with the other issues in the squad.

Fortunately we don’t have to. The match is a very welcome distraction which may be the wrong way round at looking at things. Arsène’s press conference turned out to be a halloween hangover with the threat that David Ospina would be fit for Sunday. A ghoulish thought if ever there was one. That said after last weekend…

We’re looking at a makeshift back three – Elneny, Holding and Debuchy – with young wing-backs – Nelson and Maitland-Niles – forming a shaky defence. So, Rob, how does it feel to be the lynchpin? Elneny at the back tonight doesn’t fill me with the same dread it would in a Premier League match. I don’t expect Red Star to attack as wantonly as we see each week.

Maybe they will but doing so leaves them prey to the counter-attack. Walcott, Wilshere, and Giroud – with Willock in support – are capable of exploiting that. Tonight will be a good learning curve for the youngsters with much patience needed against an obdurate defence. And to see if the lessons of Köln have been learned. Eddie from the bench again? You wouldn’t rule it out.

Divided We’re Lumbered

Aware perhaps of the gathering storm of fatalism over the trip to City this weekend, Arsène sought to accentuate the positive. This is the most united, focused squad he’s ever known. I’m pretty sure he said that a couple of years back when it looked like not even the superhuman powers of Mathieu Flamini could get us into the Champions League.

I don’t know, maybe he genuinely feels that this is a remarkable group of players but it’s hard to believe they are as zeroed in on the task ahead as say, the Invincibles were. Maybe he’s trying to convince himself that the risk of rotating the side on what seems like a weekly basis, isn’t high.

“I am really honest when I say that. You cannot say that any player, in any competition, has gone a little bit easy. the focus of the team has always been exceptional.

“The key to that is the fact that there is a good understanding in the squad.

“They all know each other well and play together for quite a while. They have had positive and negative experiences and they always responded well and I think there is respect within the squad that is an important ingredient.”

There have certainly been a few negatives this season. As the tournament progresses, changes must be made depending on the opposition. Some youngsters will retain their place in the knockout phase, but you’re eight games from a realistic chance of winning the trophy. Do you stick or twist a few more experienced heads into the XI?

Dad’s Jukebox

Tonight is all about creating that problem for the manager. The line-up for kick-off:

Cech; Debuchy, Elneny, Holding; Nelson, Coquelin, Willock, Maitland-Niles; Walcott, Giroud, Wilshere

Good enough to win? It did in Belgrade, thanks to Giroud’s exquisite finish. Not a great goalscorer but a scorer of great goals, I believe the saying goes.

Finally Dad’s Jukebox returns later today with another Jukebox Classic, which is some kinda wonderful, I have to admit.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

167 thoughts on “Red Star Preview: United and Ready for Business

  1. With so many players falling over or doing the splits – the pitch seems to have been overwatered.

    Someone is going to overstretch a hamstring to go with it.

  2. HenryB,

    I think he was caught in two minds, shoot or pass to Giroud and Giroud being static didn’t help but he looked to cut it back. Outside of Maitland-Niles creating that chance, our attacker have looked lost.

    Elneny has offered the most from the pass and he is playing at CB. Holding and Debuchy are really really worrying me because not just lack of pace but both are playing like they are FB’s and not CB’s. They are carrying the ball up the pitch and not getting back or they are starting so high up the pitch and with Le Coq thinking he is an attacker it is literally leaving Willock and Elneny as the only two holding their positions and we get countered.

    Macey has save our asses twice so far and Elneny has come up with some key interceptions when Belgrade looked to be one pass away from a good chance on goal.

  3. Unlike my commentator, i think that was an entertaining half between two well-matched teams. My guess is the first goal will come from one of the increasingly frequent counter-attacks. Just hope it’s ours. We have the pace, I just wonder about our finishing instincts in the box. Bring on Eddie at 60′?

  4. You are right, C, Elneny has looked a class ahead of the rest of the team.

    L’il Jack seems unable to get into the game which is passing him by.

  5. HenryB,

    Elneny would be the best player on the pitch if not for Macey. The strangest thing and you spot it, the game is passing Jack by and Elneny is the player picking the passes as a CB.

    Jack, Giroud and Theo need to step it up because the kids and Elneny are doing the job thus far.

  6. In other news, Evra saw red before the match I think for literally kicking a supporter before the match, a kick that would have made Bruce Lee proud.

  7. HenryB,

    Its weird because for all the talk that Elneny is just another possession player, he surely does do a lot on the pitch to help his team whether its a timely interception or a quick forward pass to get a counter going.

    The other thing is he might not look muscular like most people want but he is wiry strong

  8. Macey has been my long term bet for an extended career at Arsenal, and like you, C, it goes to show that he has the talent with those saves, but he needs more minutes in games like this.

    Mind you I think Martinez was ahead of Matt — and he unaccountably was pushed out on loan, and I hope that is not the first step to being off-loaded??

  9. C

    0-0 at the half. Not a huge surprise. I think we will figure out a way to score a goal or 2 and win.

    I am not sure if it was Cbob or Yogi who turned me on to Theakstons Old Peculiar but I am having one right now and it is really good. Its tied my for my second favorite beer with Robinsons Old Tom which Yogi suggested. The best is still Fullers London Porter. If you are a fan of dark beers and have not tried any of those you should.

  10. HenryB,

    I think Macey and Martinez are the future, one of them will continue to push through. I have always liked them both and the one question I had about Macey was his athleticism and the more and more I watch him the more and more you see it.

    I too hope that Martinez’s loan doesn’t lead to him being offloaded especially since he just signed a new deal and was all set to be #2 until nobody wanted Ospina.

  11. HenryB,

    I also had high expectations from Martinez. He and Macey both look calm but very hungry. Is it not possible we’l lose Ospina next year and see Cech being demoted or moving on? In which case does Martinez come back, seconded by Macey? Or must we have a ‘senior’ keeper at the head of the pack?

  12. Alexis LLalas who is a former player and commenting on TV just mentioned that he thinks the reason Giroud stayed instead of moving to Everton and getting more playing time was probably wage considerations. Fits with what we were talking about a couple of days ago.

  13. Bill,

    If it wasn’t for 2 really good saves from Macey it wouldn’t be 0-0.

    Enjoy that, I know it might not sit well with most but I actually am not a beer drinker and actually hate the taste of it. For me, I’m a bourbon, whiskey, rum and moonshine type of person.

  14. Bill,

    Llalas did mention that, I’m not a fan of his commentary just think he is sort of all over the place with his thinking. It might have been wages but nobody knows

  15. WTF is Holding doing, his passing is absolute shit and leads to Belgrade countering.

    Somebody needs to have a chat with Holding to just keep it simple and find an open teammate and not try to do too much.

  16. The commentator mentioned that Nelson made a great run but he never got his head up and looked around even once. Hopefully he can learn that as he mutures.

  17. Holding letting the attacker right past him AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Macey was quick and the Belgrade striker was offsides but FFS they are attacking Holding at will and getting in every single time

  18. Just striking me what a dividend we’re getting from Arsene playing two separate teams for the PL and Europa. The energy levels are very high – no game looming for these guys in 3 days time. In the CL we wouldn’t be playing these youngsters and 2nd-stringers.

    Obvious, I know, but the penny only just dropped!

  19. Bill,

    Yea but you also have to remember that he is only 17 years old so he will learn but it was a driving run and forced defenders to make a decision and its what we need more of out of our attacking players.

  20. Bill,

    And then there goes Willock, charging into the box with no clue how to finish. He’s played well but there’s inexperience writ large. Fortunately not too costly (yet).

  21. 2 penalty shouts but I don’t think either were stone cold penalties, Jack was looking for the first one and the second could have been hand ball but doubt we see that given.

  22. C

    Again if we have to use the excuse that he can’t be expected to get his head up because he is still only 17 then why should we be using him in a game we want to win. We don’t get any extra credit in the results because the player is still young and can’t be expected to get his head up.

  23. Belgrade just taking the sting out the match.

    Well done by Maitland-Niles there to set up Jack and Belgrade clear it off the line.

    Maitland-Niles and Elneny have been the best creator for us. He sets Giroud up again and GIroud hits it into the stands from the 6 yard box.

  24. consolsbob,

    I don’t think anybody has said we are playing well especially with Elneny and Macey being our best players.

    Our attack has looked quite poor outside of the chances that Maitland-Niles created for Giroud and Jack and then the ball that Elneny played to Theo.

  25. Wailesy,

    Mark it down in history! He still won’t admit that if not for Macey we would be down 2-0 and Ospina isn’t making that save to tip it on the crossbar because Ospina is short and doesn’t have Macey’s length and athleticism.

  26. This match is shaping up to where its going to be Jack or Elneny making something happen we won’t score.

    Superb run again by Nelson and Theo is a big toe offsides.

  27. consolsbob,

    I’m with you on that Bob. The senior players have been particularly poor and are playing like strangers again. Holding is having a mare largely because he has completely forgotten all of the basic stuff. Another game where a better team would have scored a couple and where the keeper has kept us in it. This happens too often and I really can’t see how Wenger can be happy with it. How can you be comfortable seeing your team so disjointed?

  28. C

    Even before kickoff, I think we can predict with a very high degree of certainty which players you will think were our best players during the game. I wish I could bet on it because I would win a lot of money. 😉

  29. Wavey,

    Its exactly what I was saying, for all of the talk of the young players they have actualy looked the brightest along with Elneny; the senior players have been poor. Jack has grown in the game but has offered little, Giroud has been well Giroud and Theo has gotten into dangerous positions but his decision making has let him down. Holding honestly needs to go on loan or something because Belgrade are literally attacking him at will and getting clear through every-time.

  30. Bill,

    Are you telling me that Macey, Elneny and Maitland-Niles haven’t offered the most up until Jack started getting more and more into the match?

    I mean Wavey agrees with me about Holding and the senior players being poor so its not just me. Debuchy has done well at times but has pushed up the pitch far to much for my liking when you are playing with a back 3.

  31. Wavey,

    Spot on. The Senior players do not seem to see the responsibility that they carry. Content to just jog along, not lead. Very poor for such a ‘strong squad’.

    No fight or pride.

    Pose on.

  32. Vintage Coq! Clatters it wide after a brilliant run by Nelson. he should be given an honorary goal so he stops trying.

  33. Would prefer Maitland-Niles and Eddie to play the ball a bit earlier on that left hand side. They keep stopping to try to beat the man and get a better angle when they need to whip the ball in.

  34. Well, there’s 96 minutes of my life I won’t ever get back. Thank fuck I haven’t got to try and spin 1,000 words out of that one.

  35. Again, our youngsters were the better players for us until Jack decided to join the match. Debuchy was good at time. Elneny was good as a CB and Macey came up with 2 saves that kept us with a clean sheet.

    Holding, well it makes you again question why Gabriel was sold and it will be interesting because he was good at the end of last season but he looks poor.

  36. I know this is our second string, but we look a long way off CL quality. We certainly don’t have enough quality in depth to put out a team to challenge on all fronts.

  37. Well that was good enough to get us thru to the round of 32. It would be nice if we win the group but that is not really critical. Debuchy and Wilshere both looked good and we might need either of them on the first team. Disappointing that neither Theo or Giroud could find a way to score. Maitland-Niles is the most impressive of the younger players IMO. He is a square peg in a round hole playing at LWB but he still finds a way to look good and have some influence.

  38. Well I said earlier this evening that a draw would be acceptable, and we were a little lucky to get that — if Boayake could shoot straight they could have won it.

    Some OK performances by the youngsters but Jack, Giro, and Holding were a bit disappointing, with a special shout for Elneny as the best out field player and Macey had a good game in goal.

  39. HenryB,

    Theo’s decision during the match was worst than some of the U12’s that I have seen.

    Isn’t it funny that for all the talk of the youth and inexperienced players possibly hurting us or not helping us, it was them who have been the better players in the Europa and Carabou Cup so far.

    Shhhhhh don’t tell Bill but Macey was really good and outside of 2 stray passes, his distribution and with the ball at his feet was much better than Ospina 😉

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