City Preview: Smash and Grab Ahoy

Back in the 1970s when ITV was regional television was genuinely regional, the Sunday highlights package reflected your local teams. The Big Match in the Thames Valley, Star Soccer in the Midlands; each region had their own show and I can’t remember the others.

HTV, my local region in my teenage years, was a let-down. Having been reared on The Big Match, to find Sunday lunch involved watching Bristol bloody City for the most part or Oxford United, as they rose through the divisions, almost wrecked many a meal.

However, Bristol Rovers for a few years were some relief. They possessed a prolific strikeforce of Alan Warboys and Bruce Bannister which brought the presenters to life. When they animatedly hailed the pair by their nickname “Smash and Grab“, it was the only time we knew they weren’t dead.

Anyway, that’s the tenuous link to today’s match sorted: Smash and Grab. It’s how we’re going to get three points, maybe even a point. And it’s a nicer way of defining the fixture than ‘holding on for dear life’ to the point we possess at kick-off,

An injury scare surfaced yesterday when the pictures of the training session with Sead Kolasinac nowhere to be seen. The lack of fuss this morning suggests the patched-up Bosnian will be fit for this afternoon. His absence would prove a problem with Nacho Monreal the only other specialist left-back in the squad. Presumably Rob Holding would come into the defensive trio in his place.

Surely not Debuchy or Elneny, or worse still, throwing one of the youngsters under a bus to face the pace of Sane. There is form in doing so on the manager’s part but there is too much at stake this afternoon.

It’s simple maths for Arsenal: don’t lose. For the lunatics, a point or more keeps the title hopes alive; for the rest of us, it doesn’t kill the Premier League season early in November.

Crushed by the Wheels of Industry

Ah, November. The month when dreams habitually die and poor form undermines many a season. The international break saves us from a complete disaster but this fixture and a North London Derby either side? Defeat in the pair sends a shiver running down my spine and this in a house cold already thanks to a recalcitrant heating system.

A solid performance akin to the one produced at Stamford Bridge is the answer for today. Defensively diligent and accepting that the ball will be a stranger. Alexis Sanchez found himself questioned in sections of the media. Smiling and laughing at training yesterday, he wasn’t crushed by the potential damage he may do to future team-mates aspirations. How very dare he?

The point at Chelsea came through defensive discipline, a footballing concept not normally associated with Mesut Özil. Wenger is well aware of the benefits of including the German in his side,

“Özil is in very good shape physically. People speak now only about Sánchez but, for us, Özil’s performance on Sunday will be important as well. He will have to contribute a lot to the way we play. He can be an asset every time we attack because he creates chances.”

That’s not in question although as we saw last season in a dark five-day spell at Goodison Park and the Etihad, he is easily isolated. Therein is the conundrum. At Wembley in the FA Cup final, he cut an impressive figure as we deservedly beat Chelsea. That is the hard-working performance we need from him this afternoon. No, I never thought I’d use those words in a sentence about Özil either.

Syncopation for the Arsenal Nation

But he is the key, unless Wenger decides Iwobi’s diligence at Stamford Bridge is worth another try but I doubt it. Wenger’s words came after Thursday’s draw against Red Star, indicating Özil starts.

It’s a big test for the German. Routinely, he is dismissed after big away games, rarely mentioned in despatches in a positive sense.

Inevitably, the cameras, commentators, observers and probably the UN Peace-Keeping force will focus on Sanchez. Can he produce the goods to wreck City’s dreams? Nobody expects anything other than a lot of running around but we need maturity from him. A majestic performance where he doesn’t try to win the game on his own to impress his future boss.

That Alexis can make a world of difference, certainly with City’s defence genuinely no more solid than ours. A distinctly average Stoke City side scored twice against them. Guardiola probably cared more about that than the seven his side almost broke the scoreboard with.

The difference between City this season and last is in goal. Edersen is a lot better than Bravo and the defence seems more confident as a result. It’s time for someone to puncture that and why not us? It will happen at some point, you know that, and I’d rather we did it that waiting for the insufferable Mourinho to do so.

This afternoon’s team won’t show any changes from last week:

Cech; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal; Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Lacazette, Özil

But we do need an injection of concentration in a dose which lasts longer than the 90+ minutes on the pitch.

Kick-off is a few hours away so why not pop over to Dad’s Jukebox and while away the time with the Songs Jimi Hendrix covered?

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

235 thoughts on “City Preview: Smash and Grab Ahoy

  1. The first couple of seasons after Özil arrived he had had Giroud, PodolskI, Walcott and Ramsey as our best attacking players and he was reasonably effective and his supporting midfielders were an aging Arteta and Flamini and Le Coq and he found ways to be more effective. He was on pace to have the highest assist total in the league in the first 1/2 of the 15/16 with less talent around him then he has now and he has been playing for Arsène Wenger for his entire time. Now he has as much or more talent to work with and in the last 2 years he has become less and less influential. You can’t blame his decline on the manager or his team mates. For whatever reason he is just not the same player

  2. How often have we being second to the ball in the midfield in a fifty fifty contest. The way the manager set the team to play today looks to me like a defeatist mentality.
    How can you have your most lethal striker on the bench against an attacking side like man city. Its just the way the cookie crumble.
    Poor officiating or not, man city were by far the better team today and they would have scored more if not for their wastefulness in front of goal.

  3. Watching Spurs, man. City and Chelsea, it’s like watching a different game than we play.

    Dynamic, quick and committed players playing in the same way.

    We have fallen a long way. We set the standard once, both in Wenger’s time and before. No longer.

    Got an old programme from the ‘30’s somewhere. It has a poem in it about a defeat to a lesser side. I can’t remember it all but it started like this:
    ‘Oh how the mighty have fallen, and bitter their defeat.
    They fought and fell to better men who played them off the ground.’

  4. Wavey.

    The human brain only allows us to focus our vision on one object at a time. While you are watching a football game try to focus on something 10 feet away from the TV and see how well you can see the tv. The linesman has to focus on the ball so he knows the exact millisecond when the pass is made and at the same time he has to try to keep track of and then focus on the exact position of the players that make up the defensive line and at the same time be aware of all of the attacking players that are close enough to that line since he can’t anticipate with certainty to which attacking player the pass will go. I don’t think the missed calls are human error because I don’t think a human can be expected to get those close offsides calls correct on a consistent basis. I think the number of missed calls we see every week supports my theory. No?

  5. In the last 2 games against Man City the linesman disallowed a goal which should have stood and a allowed a goal that should not have stood and the same thing happens in almost every PL game. One went in our favor and the other went against us so it evened out but these are huge game changing decisions.

  6. BBC’s Panorama programme appear to have found evidence that Usmanov may have financed Moshiri’s purchase of Everton FC. The offshore company that administered the purchase may be controlled by Usmanov. The company appointed one of it’s own employees to Everton’s board and another of Usmanov’s employees is also on the board.

  7. Bill,

    You extrapolating when there is absolutely no need. My point is that the distance between passer and receiver was relatively close (and they were both on the linesman’s side of the pitch). So he was able to see everything. In that situation such a mistake is almost criminal even if the degree of the offside was slim. Those are the ones they should be getting right.

  8. Bill,

    And those two situations (whilst both incorrectly called) have no similarity whatsoever. The linesman could never have been able to tell whether or not all of the ball went out, but you can see when one player is ahead of another.

  9. Bill,

    And that is the point of their training. To try to see the ball being released and the receiver. It’s why they line up with the last player, so they can catch the movement out of the corner of their eye when the pass is made.

    If you want to give the linesman a pass for that it’s down to you. I don’t think he should be missing it. So I think we’ll just have to disagree.

  10. Wavey

    Do you agree that every goal should have a video review because that would have corrected the decision on both the goals that I mentioned.

  11. I think the linesman should leave his flag down on any close call because there rate of getting it right is about 50/50 and if the play leads to a goal it can be reviewed and the correct decision made.

  12. You guys have pretty much analysed that game as far as it goes. A lot of problems.

    The Guardian has also got a breaking news article – emanating from a German source – about the worldwide spread of the Usmanov empire.

    If nothing else, and providing it is proved to be true, it means that Moshiri did not buy his shares in Everton himself but was given them as a gift by Usmanov — so both are in breach of the PL rules on ownership. Watch the Guardian space — or the BBC Panorama programme, as Orson said.

    This could end in tears for the people involved.

  13. The shame in all of this is that all the talk of the Russian billionaire but Everton made the move to sack Koeman because they have talent and he wasn’t getting the best out of it, we have plenty of talent in this team yet there really does seem to be a lack of direction and understanding. We saw it with the ‘B’ team which is strange given they have played together in all of the Cups, they should be more coheaive yet we see the first team minus Lacazette and they are the same.

    For instance, my mate was watching the match and texted and asked me, “why doesn’t Ramsey pass to Sanchez, why does Sanchez seem to only pass to Ozil, Bellerin anD Xhaka and why is Le Coq even in the team after being so horrifically poor mid-week?” and I don’t know. We have a team full of players that don’t seem to enjoy playing with each other and don’t seem to enjoy playing for Arsene.

    I mean has Sanchez ever embraced Arsene like he embraced Pep after the match?

  14. C

    Problem with your analysis is how you define plenty of talent. You know I am not a fan of anything Arsene does but the reality is that over the years we always finish in last season very close to the top 4 and challenging for the top 4 is about what you would expect based on a realistic evaluation of the talent we have. IMO. I agree with something Henry said earlier today we don’t have the talent to compete on a consistent basis with a team like Man City or ManU or even last years Chelsea. 6th place and 12 points behind the leader and out of the title race by early November is about what you should expect.

    We have enough decent players on defense but we are really short of firepower and difference makers upfront and in the midfield. Lacazette looks like a 16-20 league goal per season type player and Sanchez could be that good but he has not been performing so far this year. After that we don’t have any other difference making players. You over rate players like Ozil, Xhaka, Bellerin and Elneny etc etc

  15. The thing that is frustrating about Arsene is he had plenty of money to spend on transfers and wages and plenty of time but he has never had a coherent plan to put together a team that has the potential to challenge.

  16. I am a fan of Sanchez and I think he is most talented player on our team but he has given us almost no production this season. We can’t blame that on Arsene anymore then we can blame Ozil’s poor form on Arsene. Players who are supposed to be our game changers and difference makers have to take responsibility for their own form.

  17. If Sanchez does not start to produce its very unlikely that we are going to be able to climb back into 4th place. We can grind out wins at home against teams like Swansea but we are going to struggle to take many points away from home and we are not going to take many points against the stronger teams at home. We will probably end up in the low 70’s in points at the end of the season and our final table position will depend on how well the other top 6 teams play.

  18. Bill,

    Do we have talent, absolutely. Its not about overrating players, Ozil can still be the difference maker that you think he can’t be as he has shown at times and I know you don’t think Germany counts but it shows he still has it in him. Lacazette and Sanchez are goal scorers and quality players that can do more than just score goals. Bellerin and Sead are really good players and the thing is, both are still young at 22 adn 24 years of age respectively. Ramsey, Xhaka, Jack and Elneny are all useful players in midfield that can do a job and Msutafi and Kos are good enough defenders while players like Mert, Holding and Chambers are good PL defenders. The problem that I have is that there is no direction, no sense of system, no sense of how the team wants or should play.

    For instance, look at say Citeh, is Kos, Mustafi and Chambers as good or even better than Otamendi and Stones of Citeh or Smalling, Jones and Bailey of Manure or even Luiz and Cahill of Chelsea; absolutely they are just as good and maybe a bit better but those players are in a system that takes advantage of what they do best and have a structure. Is Bellerin and Sead as good or better than say Walker and Delph of Citeh, Young and Valencia of Manure or Moses and Alons of Chelsea or even Aurier, Trippier, Rose of Spuds; absolutely but those players have structure and a system that they play, direction in what they are supposed to be doing. We have talented players, hell even Ramsey and Giroud who I think are average or barely above average PL players can give us something but we have no direction no system of how we want to play.

    Fuck it, if we are going to be an attacking team that goes gung-ho, then lets be that and start Ozil,Lacazette, Sanchez together and see what happens; but don’t talk about being and wanting to attack then leaving you best goal threat on the bench. Le coq is a nice player but FFS he just came off a performance not even fit for a U17 match but yet you start him over Elneny who might not be spectactular but he will be consistent and good.

    This team has talent but we have a manager who doesn’t know what the flying fuck he wants to do and because of that he tries to out tactics a manager who is widely considered one of the top 3 tactical managers in Europe. Talent, yes; tactics and using that talent properly, fuck no.

  19. We are on a pace to score less then 70 total goals this season and that’s after we knocked 5 past Everton and 3 against Leicester. We can’t hope for more then we have gotten from Lacazette. The only player we can realistically hope to get more production from is Sanchez.

  20. Bill,

    Agree with you on Sanchez, I think he was poor today. I mean think about the corners he took: the first one 90 seconds into the match was a terrible pass that led to Citeh easily intercepting it and almost scoring on the counter and the next one he took led to the same and the one after that the same.

    I know Ozil will take a battering but FFS, Sanchez was poor; Ramsey allowed De Bruyne all the space he wanted and defensively including Cech left a lot to be desired. I’m sorry but there is no more defending Cech.

  21. As expected, and someone mentioned earlier, Wenger has blamed the referee for today’s result. He said the penalty should not have been awarded as Sterling dived and the third goal was clearly offside. He also said referees are getting worse and they favour the home side.

    So we all got it wrong, nothing to do with leaving our best striker on the bench for an hour thus leaving Sanchez isolated, or playing a dodgy midfielder in the centre of the back three. It’s all the fault of the officials.

  22. C

    I agree that those Kos, Nacho and Mustaf would be able to compete for minutes on most of the other big teams. Kolasinac would probably play on teams that use a LWB. The place that we fall behind is without Sanchez playing well we have a big time shortage of firepower and difference making players in midfield and upfront.

  23. Unless something changes fairly quickly Lacazette is the only player in the squad who is going to end the season with double digits in league goals. The fact that we are currently on pace to score as many as 70 league goals is rather amazing given our lack of firepower.

  24. Bill,

    That wouldn’t be a problem if Arsene would actually play our record signing striker who is a goal scorer, one of the best in Europe from the start. I mean imagine if Iwobi’s 2 chances (one at the top of the box when he was in space and hit it into the stands and the one right before half-time) fell to Lacazette, surely one of those who have ended up in the back of the net and Sanchez would have been freer to do what he does because Lacazette would have been at CF. This is one time that we are in complete agreement, it didn’t make sense to start Iwobi at the expense of Lacazette. For all that, start Iwobi in midfield instead of Le Coq as a defender.

  25. Arsene said that Mert was sick, Holding had a thigh and Debuchy simply isn’t ready; fine so what about Chambers who was said to be back, but instead he played Le Coq and PART of his explanation of starting Le Coq as a defender was:

    “I don’t see that as a big problem.

    “To play in the middle, if you are a defensive midfielder it is exactly the same.

  26. This is not a team that has enough difference making talent to compete for the top of the PL table.

    I know it drives you crazy when people batter the players you like but Ozil is supposed to be one of our best players and he has been utterly invisible except for the Everton game and he has been mostly invisible for almost 2 years so I dont’ know what do you expect.

    Sanchez had the best season of his career last year so I still hold out hope that he can refocus and start scoring, but if he does not hit a good run of form soon then he deserves just as much battering. Those are the players who are supposed to carry us and neither is producing anything.

  27. The place where Arsene’s teams do not play up to the level of the talent on the pitch is the defensive end. We have a decent group of CB if you include Nacho and we held City as well as any team has this season especially at the Etihad. However, we are on pace to concede almost 50 goals and we should be doing much better then that given the players we have. IMO.

    Lacazette has been scoring about 1 goal every other game which is good but not a earth shattering rate and its about what was expected. However, with Sanchez hardly producing anything the fact that we have scored 20 so far is mostly smoke and mirrors.

  28. I thought Le Coq did an excellent job today. The TV commentors thought the same thing. As a group we held City as well as any team this season. I thought it had the potential to get really ugly if we lost focus on the defensive side of the pitch.

  29. C,

    Surely Arsene realised that the only way to compete with City was to snatch an early goal. Yet he benched Lacazette. But the biggest problem with this team is the appalling midfield. Nice chassis – too bad about the engine. I’m pretty amazed that Arsene thinks Xhaka is a better proposition than Elneny against a highly mobile side like City. I’m pretty amazed, actually, that Xhaka is playing in the Premier League, full stop. Can’t protect the ball, too slow and a lousy defender. Once someone’s past him, that’s it, he takes a breather. I mean, if you’re going to play a high press he is the last person you would want on your team.
    As Sanchez trudged off he thought: thank God I didn’t resign with this manager.

  30. The wrong players deployed from the start.

    Sent out with the wrong tactics.

    Carrying the wrong mentality to be competitive.

    Happy to hear from anyone who disagrees with any of those three statements about yesterday’s Arsenal team. Say what you want about any player, but all of those faults lie at one mans door. One man only

    It was completely expected. I enjoyed the spectacle, my lunch and a couple of pints while watching us get destroyed. I’m genuinely torn this morning over which sort of defeat is more humiliating. The ones where we’ve been knocked for 4,5 or 6? Or like yesterday, when the opposition know from the first whistle that they’ve got you and only move beyond second gear of their reportoir when we threatened to get within arms length of them

    The truly sad thing is that once upon a time I’d have been interested what a new man could do with this squad. I genuinely believe with the numerous contracts that are precarious, it will be decimated when it is finally passed to the next man

  31. Damon,

    “only one man”

    Let me guess, Ozil? Haha just jokes.

    I’m all for heaping responsibility on players as they are ultimately the ones doing the job on the pitch. But deary me. How many times does Wenger set out on these big away days with the wrong personnel, and non existent tactics. I’d like to see some quantitative metrics (sorry, objective metrics, whatever the fuck they are) on that.

    I did have a good laugh too, especially when Cech went the wrong way. I’m just pissed that City did it with some dubious decisions as it creates another rock for Wenger to hide behind. The man has to go.

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