Laca’s Knack, The Defence Is Cack = The Arsenal’s Back & Transfer Gossip

Arsenal 1 – 2 Lyon

I repeated the mantra so often yesterday that now I believe it: I will not lose my sh*t over a friendly, I will not lose my sh*t over a friendly…

Which is just as well because yesterday offered plenty of opportunities to do exactly that. Instead, I will begin with the positives, the biggest of which is Joe Willock. Physically and in his approach to the game, the youngster is a tremendous prospect.

His performances in the USA!USA!USA! and in this Emirates Cup clash reminded me of the enthusiasm we felt when Tony Adams, David Rocastle and Mickey Thomas broke into the first team. You knew they were here to stay and remember, those were the days when clubs only named one substitute.

The other younger players also offer the promise of bright futures. They don’t strike me as being as ready for the first team, with the exception maybe of Reiss Nelson. The winger gave his best performance of the pre-season after coming on as a first-half substitute for Alexandre Lacazette.

He is an amazing sight when in full flow. Nelson is hard to knock off the ball and extraordinarily quick. So quick that he leaves his footballing brain trailing in his wake or that’s how it feels with the inconsistency of his final ball.

Nelson wasn’t the only one whose final ball wasn’t always up to scratch. Granit Xhaka can strike a ball sweetly. Except when it’s in the corner quadrant. His delivery yesterday was terrible and routinely failed to beat the first defender. It isn’t good enough in this day and age to habitually fall short in a key facet of attacking football. We’re not particularly good at set-piece delivery full stop so picking on Xhaka may seem a little unfair.

Lucky You

The rest of the team were little better from open play. I typed that part just as Mkhitaryan thrashed a cross to Aubameyang for a deft finish. Maybe I should do that more often, reverse psychology and all that. Football superstition plays a big part in people’s lives. Lucky underpants and all that.

Our big ritual at Highbury during 88/89 was someone had to go to the bar five minutes before half-time. Invariably, we scored a goal in that time – probably once but that was enough for the routine to start – and it carried on throughout the season.

As for the rest of the young players, it was a mixed bag as you’d expect at this stage. Nketiah needs a goal, but unleased his inner Sanogo yesterday. It’s tough coming on as a sub as a striker; your touch must be golden from the minute you get on the pitch. Rarely do we see that but his time will come.

Martinelli had what looked from first glance a perfectly good goal disallowed for offside. Portly Jon Moss and his motley crew decided to ruin the Brazilian’s ‘home debut’. Honestly, how Moss passes the PGMO fitness tests is baffling; they can’t be that tough. It looked like he’d enjoyed one too many barbecues on his weekends off. Certainly, the summer break didn’t improve his decision-making. He remains consistent, however. Consistently crap, that is.

Two major concerns emerged from yesterday’s match. Alexandre Lacazette’s ankle knack looks certain to keep him out of the trips to Angers and Barcelona. He should, however, be fit for the trip to Newcastle in just under a fortnight’s time. Small mercies, etc.

Defence? Too Late Degate Was Left Wide Open

Which brings us to the defence and where the mantra really kicks in. Both Lyon goals highlighted our weaknesses. Lax marking, poor organisation and for the winner, poor concentration having ‘scored’.

That’s not to take anything away from Lyon. Memphis Depay delivered an excellent cross for the first and Dembele’s header was even better. The second saw the defence by a fine pass and better finish. Let’s be honest as well. Were it not for Leno, we would have conceded more. Might have scored more but that’s a different story.

Defensively, we remain a shambles. Yesterday surely reinforces the need for several defensive signings in the minds of the club’s hierarchy? If not, they can all take themselves off to a remote island, along with Enos and Junior.

The solutions aren’t all down to opening a chequebook. Something wrong on the training ground with the lack of discipline endemic whoever plays. Routinely, we are shambolic, out of position with no positional sense or knowledge of our opponents’ movement.

This isn’t all down to Mustafi either; he wasn’t on the pitch when Dembele equalised which you will struggle to believe given the mindless minority who jeered his arrival. The German is probably the most ill-disciplined of the lot and not good enough for the level of football we strive to occupy.

However, what exactly did you achieve? Other than making a player feel unwanted. Whether you like it or not, will feature for Arsenal this season. Eboue’s confidence was shot to pieces by a similar reception? It didn’t influence Wenger’s thinking and nor will it Emery’s. By all means, critique a performance, highlight the good and bad which I fully agree is mainly the latter. But if your instinct is to boo him, just think again.

Transfer Talks While Bullsh*t Walks

Meanwhile, can we talk about coaching? It isn’t achieving any tangible defensive improvement in this pre-season with the same weaknesses from last season evident. Are we going back to basics? If not, why the hell not? Frequently, I wonder if Emery should adopt George Graham’s training methods, including tying a rope around each of the defenders to teach them to hold their line and positions. When all else fails, etc.

Meanwhile, Sami Khedira’s presence gave rise to a slew of speculation. We are apparently considering an offer for the perma-injured German. I looked at his injury record yesterday and the simple answer is that signing him is gross negligence. He makes Jack Wilshere look like an ever-present.

By the way, if we’re looking at old-stagers, why was Mikael Silvestre talking to Gilles Grimandi…?

Nicholas Pepe is in a permanent state of 72 hours from signing. This is useful advice for those whose lives are dependent on the winger signing:

Darren, by the way, has a new book coming out shortly which is reviewed here. You can get your copy here.

Following Unai’s admission that we’re looking for centre-backs, everyone and his uncle is giving advice on who to sign. Why one earth did we bother with StatsDNA and scouting software when we’ve got such a volume of feet on the ground doing the work for us?

That’s enough grumping for today.

’til Tomorrow.

20 thoughts on “Laca’s Knack, The Defence Is Cack = The Arsenal’s Back & Transfer Gossip

  1. Michael says:


    But i cheated and haven’t read it yet.

  2. Michael says:

    A very fair critique, now read, as usual.

  3. andy1886 says:

    YW, can’t you simply build a time machine and take us back to 1986? Surely has to be easier than selling Mustafi, MO and Mhiki?? Pretty much positive vibes all the way back then, at least for the first six years anyway.

  4. JonJon says:

    Pepe to the arsenal eh?
    I await with baited breath to see whether PSG swoop in to steal him at the last minute due to the neymar situation before i start dancing in my pants on the living room sofa, but if this deal is confirmed, i’ll sleep snuggly in the knowledge that the game plan this coming season is to lose 4-3 instead of 4-1.

    seriously though, the CB position is a tricky one to fix, its not like we are short of numbers there already, its more the lack of protection they get in front of them and the lack of game control our players have in general. I fear we could spend the full kitty on a CB and still be in the position where the midfield lose the ball in our own half and with the wing backs already pushed up we end up with the back 2 defending facing their own keeper, with gaps big enough to drive a jumbo jet through.

    we dont have enough direct players in the squad with the ability to keep the ball and keep the other team pegged back without the need for our entire team to push forward and therelies the bigger issue.

    we need to control the game better, keep the ball better positively, not negative 5 yard triangles like we saw in the latter wenger years but direct play that enables us to defend by attacking. keeping the other team scrambling in defence and enable our defenders to hold their ground and defend by facing forwards. easy to defend when your facing forwards. hard to defend when your facing your own keeper. unless your mustafi who struggles to defend whatever direction hes facing.

    if the pepe thing is true and ceballos can keep the ball in midfield we’ll go a long way to addressing the issues buying a new cb alone wont fix

    in my opinion the need for a new CB comes down to the issue that koscielnys a fuckstick who needs to be shown the door, mustafis shit and needs to be shown the door, and holdings injured until whenever.

    but we’ll have to see what unfolds. whatever happens xhaka in the first team and being named captain will piss and shit on anything decent we manage to achieve with the summer squad build.

  5. C says:

    Yesterday I found loads of positives from Joe Willock to Nelson, Leno looking more confident to even the 20 mins cameo by Ceballos who immediately showed he wants to nake thr midfield his(if this happens, bye bye Xhaka).

    The one thing I will say about our CB’s is that for all the shit that Mustafi, Kos and the lot take…Sokaritis is right there for me. Sure he can have a good match or 2 but his over aggressiveness, lack of discipline and mental lapses falls in line with all of them just not to those others levels.

    If we are to continue to play the highline and high press that our midfield(excluding Xhaka and Mhkitaryan) and attackers are best suited to, then we need a CB with some pace and/or quickness. With the addition of Tierney and return of Bellerin(Maitland-Niles can do the job for now) we will have that pace of FB. Rugani on a loan with option/required signing next summer would be brilliant business for both present and future.

  6. YW says:

    Yesterday was Sokratis’ worst game for some time yet he’s still better than any of the fit central defenders we have. Rugani? Pipedream I should think. Can we get the deals done? I doubt it.

  7. C says:


    All of that makes sense and that’s why I think if we can get Pepe to go with Lacazette (who has brilliant hold up play) and Aubameyang, that would give us a front 3 that would terrify anybody on the counter that will help defensively but the other thing is that those 3 players are more than willing to track back and work their socks off for the team.

    Ceballos is the player for me who I think we have missed since Santi in his ability to pick up the ball and not only drive forward (which he showed in his 20 mins) but also link between defense and attack. Sit him next to Torriera and you have quite a base to build on. Add to that Guendouzi and Willock and you have a young 4 that can do the job and while they are not the finished articles or overly experienced, they all have the ability.

    The goals that were scored yesterday though and the other times when we were opened, it was clear that we need pace and quickness and if not then we need to find a CB pairing that balances aggressiveness with a ‘reader’ of the game.

  8. andy1886 says:

    There’s the thing YW. Imagine that Pepe get’s hijacked and we start the season with the same defence. There would be a social media meltdown.

    @C, have to say that AMN really isn’t up to it at RB, maybe he has some future in MF but he’s not a defender.

  9. C says:


    Sokaritis worst game since the friendly before that when we faced Madrid. I think Sokaritis brings a lot and is an old fashion CB but I also wonder if part of the love fest with him is that he just happens to be the best (by a bit of distance) of a bad and/or inexperienced group.

    I don’t think Rugani is as big a pipedream as he was last summer. Juve not only signed DeLigt but they also signed Merih Demiral, and Cristian Romero (who they bought and loaned back to Genoa for this season) so they are well stocked with young highly-rated CB’s. Grabbing Rugani on a season long loan (as Sarri doesn’t fancy him) with option to buy next summer just makes sense for all parties involved.

  10. YW says:


    Sokratis got sent off because we demanded Nacho (or was it Carvajal, I forget) got a red card. They promptly crowded the ref when Sokratis committed the second foul. So, it was our own fault because the ref, initially, wasn’t even going book him for the second foul. But when it comes to shithousing, they are the past masters and they wanted revenge.

  11. C says:


    But given that knowledge and the fact he had just picked up a yellow, why even make that stupid unnecessary challenge?

    I’m not trying to tear Sokaritis down because I do think he is a good defender but his over aggressiveness geta him in trouble. Another ref on another day might call a foul on his semi-tackle of Dembele yesterday for instance.

  12. C says:


    He isn’t a RB and I hope he does get pushed into midfield but I actually prefer him to Jenks personally. He is also not right given his late scratch before Madrid and his injury against Lyon.

  13. C says:

    Sky reporting Pepe to have his medical in the coming days.

  14. Bill says:

    Great post Yogi

    Bad news about Lacazette. We are probably going to struggle to finish in the top 6 if either Laca or Auba goes down to injury for any length of time.

    The game against Lyon was only a friendly but the defensive vulnerability we showed was certainly reminiscent of so many games last season. I defended Emery for most of last season and I am in favor of giving him another season but if the defense does not significantly improve then we need to look for a new manager

  15. Mongolian Gooner says:

    L’Équipe says AS Monaco bid 30 million euros for Mustafi.

  16. C says:

    According to Ornstein, Pepe in London to have his medical today.

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