On Killer Defenders, Exes and UEFA Once Again

I was, I admit, suckered in by the headline. By the irony of the quote from the player involved, to the extent that I failed to check the site I was venturing to. That’s not entirely true; I was using an Incognito window so my tawdry secret was safe from prying eyes until now. However, who can resist anything where Shkodran Mustafi tells the world we can’t afford to make mistakes in Wednesday’s Europa League final.

I couldn’t. Then I found out that, more or less, those were the words he uttered. If we’re to avoid defensive errors, dare I suggest he be omitted from the starting XI? Do dare, do dare. A back five, for that is what Unai will surely choose, doesn’t need Mustafi. Monreal can complete the trio of centre-backs.

Focus on Cech v Leno for the goalkeeping slot meant Mustafi flew under the radar. Until now, that is. Now, after sticking his head above the parapet, the central defensive choice is in the spotlight. Koscielny and Sokratis are, so long as they are fit, automatic choices. Le Captain and Psycho, our murderous Greek.

Or that’s the reputation he’s earned himself. Slapping Marko Arnautovic when they were team-mates in Bremen to leaving Jurgen Klopp fearful in Dortmund; the Greek international is a winner. It underpins his philosophy:

My work is to defend. If this means sometimes I have to take a yellow card or do something that is not so good for me but good for the team, then I will. I hope fans understand football is not only a lot of technical things, that you have to do a lot of different things to win.”

Sokratis on Football…

It’s a world away from his chain-smoking Brazilian namesake’s view of the game.

Boys From The Black Stuff

However, it is the ruthlessness we need to show and a willingness to get involved in the seamier side of the game which has long been missing at Arsenal. While we played nicely, other teams – Chelsea included – mastered the dark arts or indulged in blatant thuggery. It’s nice to see us fight back.

There’s a balance between the two. The dark arts backfired in Paris in 2006 when Jens Lehmann brought down Giuly. That and Thierry Henry missing several routine chances; routine for him, that is. We were underdogs that day, just as we are for this final. To make the most of those odds, make sure you visit newbettingoffers.co.uk where you will find the best bookmaker offers on the web.

Emery must decide whether to play a back four or five. Four didn’t work at Stamford Bridge but at the Emirates, shut Chelsea out. The bigger question is whether we can defend properly. Mustafi isn’t entirely daft or clueless about his job:

It’s going to be a game where one mistake punishes you and that’s why we’ve got to be very careful. Our job as defenders is to try not to concede goals, but if you make 90 per cent of your job and in the 10 per cent the opponent scores a goal, people forget about the 90 per cent.

Mustafi and His Questionable Maths

90%? With our defensive record, it’s 75% at best and that’s collectively. Individually, I wouldn’t rate the German’s record at any higher than 60% on a good day with those being few and far between this season. That said, an extraordinary day in Baku if he plays might help us when it comes to selling him so fingers crossed, eh?

For what it’s worth, I don’t think he will play. A back four allows Emery more options in midfield and with Chelsea likely to start with Hazard in a central role, a back five is overkill defensively.

The Immutable Law of the Footballing Ex

At this point, Sarri will probably throw a spanner in the works and bring Giroud in, just to put the fear of the footballing gods into us fans. Not the players; that won’t faze them but us, those who believe the same pair of y-fronts are lucky and don’t wash them all the while we’re unbeaten? The immutable law of the footballing ex comes to life in the forefront of our minds and no matter what you do, there is no way of forcing it into the darkest corners of your mind where it can be forgotten.

The darkest corners are where UEFA lurk. Whichever way they try to cut this, choosing Baku as host city for this final – for any final – proved to be disastrous. Clubs returning tickets, sponsors returning tickets, disabled supporter access criticised, not just in the stadium but also the city’s transport network; all things undermined by the claim UEFA’s own asseswsors highlighted these issues as part of the bidding process.

That’s before the farce surrounding Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s safety.

UEFA continued their destructive path across football by banning Arsenal players from wearing pre-match training gear bearing the Armenian’s name. No show of solidarity with a team-mate is permitted in their dreary but harmonious footballing world.

A small show of defiance from the club and the players would go a long way in this instance. UEFA shafted everyone with this final, particularly us. A fine for showing solidarity? If we’re too hard up to pay it, launch a ‘Go Fund Me’ page, Vinai. Everyone will chip in a quid…

’til Tomorrow.

21 thoughts on “On Killer Defenders, Exes and UEFA Once Again

  1. Great post yogi. Like you I hope Mustafi is on the bench for the game and I really hope we can find someone willing to buy him this summer and we use whatever fee we get for him to buy a more reliable player.

    Some sports such as baseball lend themselves to very detailed statistical analysis when used to evaluate a players potential or his ability to influence the game. However I believe that the of statistical analysis in football can actually be misleading. I can’t prove it’s true but I have read that Arsene spent big money for Xhaka and Mustafi because they scored well on out StatDNA program. I would understand why both would score well in technical skill stats and perhaps they would score well in some defensive stats but those stats were clearly grossly misleading in terms of telling us those players ability to have a positive influence on the defensive end of the pitch. Passing stats are often very misleading IMO. Denison and Elneny both have brilliant passing stats but the passes they make can often down the tempo of the game and they become counterproductive. The chances created stat has been used to defend Mesut Ozil but if a player is creating lots of chances but not recording any assists then the passes which are being labeled as a chance created are not legitimate chances. Lucas Perez was actually the second leading chance creator in La Liga the year we loaned him back to Spain which again tells you how misleading that stat is. Tackling stats can also be misleading. The best defenders stay on their feet and defend without throwing in tackles.

    Goals scored and assist created are simplistic individual stats but they get to the heart of what’s critical in attacking football and they can’t be misinterpreted. Same with goals conceded as a team defensive stat.

  2. Only two points in my book…….
    1. Whoever Unai selects to wear the shirt should be supported. Mustafi is much maligned but the manager knows best. Likewise the choice between Cech and Leno.
    2. This latest edict from UEFA should be ignored and I hope Arsenal FC will do so. Pre-match training gear is the responsibility of the Club, not the sport’s governing body. This is a glaring example of UEFA making a mistake in their choice of venue and now desperately trying everything to make changes. 😎

  3. Again I don’t know if it’s 100% accurate but I read the statistical program flagged Lucas Perez as a potential transfer target which is the reason Arsene spent $17M on a career journeyman. There had to be some reason Arsene liked him because It seems strange that you could ignore an entire career of averageness

  4. I would take and build a team around the Brazilian Sokaritis 10/10 times and find a CB along the way!

  5. With the summer in mind and off the back of a very good season capped by a MOTM performance, I think Bielik would be a good squad option. Capable of playing both as a DM and CB, his versatility would allow for more cover elsewhere. Keeping him with the possibly departures of Elneny and Chambers along with Kos might mot be a bad option especially shoudl Holding come back fully fit and potentially another CB brought in.

    Mustafi will be interesting because for as much as supporters kill him, Emery must see something given he hasn’t lost faith in him. He is capable of a steong match as he has shown in the past but he, like all our CB’s including Sokaritis, tend to have 1 mistake in them.

  6. With reports of Kante being out, I would love to see a back 4:

    Leno
    Maitland-Niles—-Sokaritis—-Kos—–Nacho
    ———-Torriera——Xhaka
    Aubameyang—–Ozil—–Iwobi
    Lacazette

  7. My lucky Y fronts couldn’t survive The Invincibles.

    They ended up being an absolute disgrace & I had to burn them through embarrassment.

  8. C

    You have been campaigning for Bielik to be in the first team for 3 years ever since we bought him as a 17 year old. We have seen this many times before and there is no way to know what would have happened, however, he would have probably spent most of him time on the bench and he probably would have struggled just like most players his age. Don’t you think he is in a much better position now to potentially help the first team after playing regular first team football in the high pressure situation of a promotion battle at Charlton compared to where he might have been if we had kept him around the squad making occasional cameo appearances?

  9. Bill,

    I actually haven’t been campaigning for him in the first team the past 2 seasons because he had struggled with injuries while on loan, BUTT when he was fit there was nothing but rave reviews. I have never said not to loan young player, especially those on the cusp of first team futbol.

    The times that I have wanted him in the first team, it was when there was talk of keeping youth around or bringing in a player like Lichtsteiner or something like that. Would Bielik have developed, who knows because some players it works out for them on loan, and others like Le Coq are awful then do well in the first team.

    The one thing I do know is that this lad came with so much hype having made his professional debut at 16 and injuries aside, has developed really well both as a DM and a CB.

  10. I agree Bielik might just be ready to be in the first team squad. He’s had a good season at Charlton and the experience would have benefited him. If he develops like Holding then that’s our future centre half pairing.

    Don’t agree with the solidarity for Mkhitaryan on the pre-match training gear. Given the fact that our player’s psyche’s isn’t the most robust and that the stadium crowd on match day will have a strong local presence, due to UEFA’s decision to have it in Baku. This act will most definitely offend the locals and hostility from said local’s (including local match official’s/staff) might be the difference to us totally bottling it (like we’ve never done that before! Remember Birmingham!). It’s not that I’m against the idea. But I desperately want us to win and don’t want anything to jeopardise that! If we were going to take a stance, then we should have gone the whole hog and boycotted the game. Having pre-match training gear emblazoning the Armenian Football teams captain is just going to p!ss off the locals as well as UEFA. Sometimes you have to choose your battle’s. This isn’t one of them.

    C I had posted a list of potential centre back’s we could go for in the summer. I wanted your opinion on them:

    Magalhães – Lille
    Sarr – Nice
    Viergever – PSV
    Leite – Porto
    Luperto – Napoli
    Wober – Ajax
    Viergever – PSV
    Djene – Getafe
    Cabrera – Getafe

  11. C some left backs for your assessment:

    Koné – Lille
    Tasende – PSV
    Tagliafico – Ajax
    Telles – Porto
    Grimaldo – Benfica
    Rui – Napoli
    Gosens – Atlanta
    Stevens – Sheffield United
    Lewis – Norwich

  12. C

    The point is I have never understood the urgency a lot of people feel to be using U21 players in the squad and giving them a lot of first team minutes. Arsene did that more then any big team manager starting with the project youth years and even the most optimistic of us would agree that it has not worked out well for those highly rated young players. I also think it has cost the team a lot of points. Not just because the young players are inconsistent and often struggle but there is a natural reluctance to buy experienced players when you are counting on a highly rated prospect like Ox, Iwobe or Guendouzi to make the big break thru.

  13. Hello all, the anticipation is building i’m shaking with excitement. Oh wait no that isn’t excitement it’s nervousness that we will Mustafi it (havent forgetten Birmingham yet). Cheers to all, enjoy the day. Safe travels to all the gooners mad enough to go to this final. I mean, a cup final is brilliant and all. However sometimes for me I do enjoy staying at home with some good food and drink. The only downside is listening to Ian Darke and whatever jabroni is paired up with him.

  14. I understand why you someone might think it’s a good idea to keep your u21 best players in house. However the strategy of players of keeping u21 players around the fringes of the squad to go back and forth between the academy teams and playing a few cameo roles in cup games has not been a successful player development strategy. Throwing the really highly rated teens such as Walcott Wojo Denison Ox iwobe right into high leverage first team minutes has not worked very well either.

  15. I may be in the minority but I am insanely excited for the Final tomorrow. For all the talk about how this season has gone, if/when we lift the EL trophy (Emery’s 4th, it would be) then this season is stamped as a massive success.

    At the start of the campaign people said we would be lucky to even potentially make top 6 and if not for some defensive lapses(we all knew we had in us) we could have finished 3rd. Written off in the EL yet here we sit in the Final with a damn good chance not only because our strikers are scoring goals but we have a manager who simply knows how to win it.

  16. HenryNorrisDialSquare,

    Of that list I would gladly have Wober but his loan move also required then to make it permanent. Tagliafico would be the best option but I could see a potential bidding war happening for him. So if I had a choice, I would go Koné and 2 players not on your list in Romagnoli and/or Rugani.

  17. Bill,

    I hate when you say that, you do realize Klopp basically took project youth and won at Dortmund and thats just one example. Jardim did it with Monaco as another quick example. I can’t speak for others but personally its not about giving them all the mins, or rushing them into the first-team, but keeping them in the fold and there are PLENTY of mins in cups and the PL through proper rotation for the most highly rated to get mins and see what happens next.

    Lets also not forget that players like Jack, Ramsey, Cesc, Nasri, Theo and even RvP were all extremely talented who had shown their talent in the PL. The problem they all seemed to face, except Cesc and Nasri to a kesser extent, suffered injuries but also need those players around them to help them through the tough times. If your good enough your old enough but at the sametime, you have to have a manager and players around him/them to balance their youthfulness.

    Please don’t put inconsistency down to age or them being youth.

Comments are closed.