Qarabag FK Preview: When Rebel Rebel Just Won’t Do

You know when the headline reads “Who’s not travelled for our game against Qarabag?” that we’re taking a strong squad. And the headline writer hadn’t yet drunk enough coffee. Unai Emery left Aubameyang (sick), Mkhitaryan (averse to being shot), and Aaron Ramsey (sick and tired of speculation).

The Carrier Bag FK coach, the wonderfully named Gurban Gurbanov – and that is the only wonderful thing about him – claimed Mkhitaryan was a coward because Armenian athletes compete in Azerbaijan all the time. He was, the coach reckoned, scared, claiming the Arsenal midfielder would find it a suffocating experience with the Carrier Bag crowd.

Presumably, the suffix ‘ov‘ in his surname is akin to ‘son of’? I know not but it’s as close to Neville Neville as we’re going to face this season. A pity that it doesn’t scan well enough to fit ‘Rebel Rebel’ so we’ll just hope he isn’t a Laughing Gnome at the end of the evening.

The difference between Arsene and Unai Emery became clear when the Spaniard deflected questions about the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. He went full-on Aretha, talking about respect – just a little bit, uh huh – R-E-S-P-E-C-T; for me, for you, for everybody.

Arsene, on the other hand, would produce a dissection of the problem with an analysis of its socio-economic impact. No football tactics but he well-informed on world affairs.

Emery promised not to take Carrier Bag lightly:

It’s very important for us in this competition. We are giving each competition our best preparation, our best performance

Unai Emery on the novel idea of preparing properly for a match.

The road is long, he observed, with many a winding turn making travel tough.

One Team Under A Groove

But the players are used to it:

We are one team with every player with this experience and also with the habit to play, to recover for another match and continue playing.

Unai is the latest foreign coach to be less than chuffed with the English football calendar

English resolve and stiff upper lips will see us through, don’t you know old chap. Spirit of the Blitz, old bean. Yes, you’re right; it’s mental that we’re playing Sunday lunchtime instead of Monday night but they have to fit a meaningless international break into proceedings. Got to fleece the fans for another pound or thirty.

Despite a strong squad travelling, I doubt it will be the strongest line-up. Leno or Martinez? I’ll be surprised if the German doesn’t start. He needs to build understandings with the defence and another 90 minutes here will help that along nicely.

I understand the element of caution in the coach’s thinking. However, there’s a danger of over-thinking the situation, leading to paralysis in decision-making. ‘What if’ thoughts are the worst to cross a coach’s mind when it comes to team selection.

And a player’s as well. One wracked with indecision was Alex Iwobi but not any more. We know he’s in the starting XI tonight thanks to UEFA’s press conference rules. His answers while trying to say nothing were illuminating.

There was a definite feeling of rebirth, renewal or resurrection. Choose whichever one you like and Iwobi definitely feels it. The frighteningly obvious beginning of his main point begs questions about where he was ‘at’ mentally before:

This season I’ve been working a lot more on trying to improve my finishing and also assisting my team-mates which is what I believe someone in my position should do to get to the next level.

Alex Iwobi on the new him

No Pressure Or Weight On My Shoulders

The question is what he was thinking before? I wonder if it’s an example of the failings of a laissez-faire style of coaching? Was he directionless last season? It might explain the plateau he reached, or be a significant factor?

You won’t find the truth, not even if the fabled book is written. Iwobi’s next answer was the most illuminating:

I’ve been focusing on that and also in training I feel like my team-mates have been giving me the freedom to express myself, as well as the new boss. There’s no pressure or weight on my shoulders. I’m just enjoying my football. The team is enjoying the new style and the new things we’ve brought into training so it’s not just me that’s enjoying playing with freedom, I’d like to say it’s not just me playing with freedom, it’s my team-mates as well.

Iwobi feels good like you knew that he would

It’s positive all-round and suggests Emery has restored some feelgood factor. There was a definite sense that things were stale under Wenger but the enthusiasm of Iwobi’s answers suggest all the players are benefiting to some degree from a new coach.

We’ll see if tonight is any different from the hundreds of other similar ties when we were less than convincing.

I’d expect the line-up to be:

Leno; Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Holding, Kolasinac; Guendouzi, Smith-Rowe, Xhaka; Welbeck, Lacazette, Ozil

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

48 thoughts on “Qarabag FK Preview: When Rebel Rebel Just Won’t Do

  1. It appears the team are being coached at long last….not just being told to go out onto the pitch and ‘express themselves ‘
    Thanks for yet another post YW……you certainly grind ‘em out ⚽️

  2. On a roll this week YW. Great piece, and Bowie crowbarred in too
    Shame you couldn’t crowbar Eddie in, but can’t fault your selection really. Hopefully he and Willock will get a half if things go well.

  3. Good stuff though I think Elneny will partner Guendouzi allowing the latter to do all the attacking and dictating while Elneny does all the dirty tackling and recycling.

    Wonder if the treatment of Ozil played a part in Arsenal and Mhkitaryan deciding against him featuring? Speaking of, I wonder if Ozil will feature or will it be Iwobi, Welbeck and maybe Nketiah.

  4. C,

    I think Iwobi will start and going by half time score be an early sub. I think Leno, Lichsteiner Mustafi holding Kolasinic with el Neny, guendouzi, iwobi, ESR, welbeck and Laca to start.

    If going well by half time iwobi, Laca and Ozil will come off. I hope to see Eddie start but I can’t see it happening. Can’t wait got Maitland Niles to be fit again. Looked very promising pre season and end of last season. Same for Mavrapanos. Holding and Marva a potential partnership of future.

  5. MesutsLeftFoot,

    Yea, that is what I’m thinking too. Mine as well leave Ozil on the bench and bring him on if we need him(which I doubt), but I really think Smith-Rowe and Nketiah will feature. Wouldn’t mind bith Ozil and Lacazette starting on the bench.

    The other thing will be maybe Lacazette starts and Aubameyang starts on the weekend with Mhkitaryan.

  6. Team news is in:


    Subs: Matinez, Bellerin, Lacazette, Ozil, Torreira, Mustafi, Xhaka

  7. Iwobi’s comments say a lot about the late-Wenger period. And it isn’t very positive. Young players need coaching, direction. Ditto established players – if they are the right sort. Wenger caught lightning in a bottle in his first five years at Arsenal. He definitely introduced new tactics, ideas, training and dietary methods to the league but he inherited some who were “the right sort”. This was also the period when MC and Chelsea were pretty much also-rans and Spurs were, well, Spurs. MU were in their pomp, of course.
    Sometimes, the worst thing is to get early success because it can blind you to the size of the task.
    Wenger was a victim of that, I think.

  8. Blue Yonder,

    Whatever happened , Wenger would never have selected this side. Not with the squad at hand.
    This is no criticism of either of them ,just an observation that they got very differing ideas, and I love a bit of variety.

  9. Just an aside. How pacey is

    Kolasinac on the wing. Not sure if he's got the tricks or the top speed, but I for one would like to try putting that fucker in my pocket!
    Q another Withnail moment, with the Bull.

  10. Ummmmmm what the fuck is Holding, Sokaritis and Guendouzi doing. Need our CB’s to wake the fuck up because we have been warned on several instances.

  11. Leno has had to make 2-3 good saves to keep this clean sheet.

    I’m sorry, Sokaritis and Holding have struggled. Isn’t it funny that Holding and Mustafi look more assured that Holding and Sokaritis, at least based on this match.

  12. Ozil being too unselfish.

    Lacazette coming on for Iwobi. Hopefully Iwobi gets the nod against Fulham at the expense of Ramsey.

  13. Excellent counter attack, Ozil to Lacazette who finds Guendouzi who scores his first goal for Arsenal and he took it well.

    3 shots on goal, 3 goals. Thats a pretty efficient night.

  14. My commentator is saying ‘0-3 doesn’t tell the story of the game’, which seems to be a regular refrain for us. But I’m happy winning improbably…and regularly.

  15. Lacazette does all the hard work, lays one unselfishly for Welbeck who was in acres of space with plenty of time and he skies it.

  16. Why is the English media so intent on picking out flaws….

    “3 nil Arsenal but same problems persist” is the title i just read, problem was we were conceding…did they miss the nil part.

  17. MesutsLeftFoot,

    Leno came up with some saves to keep it at nil but we did look possibly like conceding BUT the English media is a fucking joke.

    Think about this, they say were in crisis after losing to Citeh and Chelsea were lucky to beat us.

  18. And in other brilliany news, Santi buried the match tying 3rd goal for Villarreal in the 90+6′ from the the spot.

    Futbol is a better place when Santi is fit and playing after the hell he has gone through.

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