On Barcelona and the Defence – Transfer Clock is Ticking

Barcelona 2 – 1 Arsenal

About a week ago, social media was awash with criticism of those who thought the £72m spent on Nicolas Pepe was better spent on sorting the defence out. As the saying goes, those comments didn’t age well.

That’s a little harsh on the performance for this was a game of two distinct halves for Arsenal. The composed, disciplined interlopers of the opening forty-five minutes gave way to the last season’s Arsenal. Timid, loose with possession and frankly, all over the shop. A look at what we might achieve to what we will look like.

We even got the horror show of the Chambers / Mustafi axis in the centre of defence. Of course, the winning goal came in this period, with Mustafi ambling toward a gap and Chambers too deep to stop Suarez’s excellent finish. No Joe Willock saving lunge to clear the ball off the line this time.

The criticism for that goal is nothing compared to the defensive cock-up which gifted Barca the equaliser. Thank god Maitland-Niles got that one out of his system before the trip to Newcastle. It reinforces the point that he isn’t a right-back; he knows it, we know it, does Unai? Faced with the alternative of Carl Jenkinson, AMN is going to carry on until Hector Bellerin returns.

At that point, his Arsenal career hits a brick wall. He’s been overtaken in the midfield stakes by just about everyone. I honestly don’t see where AMN fits in unless there is an injury crisis.

Jekyll and Hide

It’s almost impossible to see him being given a fair crack of the whip in his favoured role with the current squad which I think is a shame. He’s earned it for the hard yards he’s put in out of position for several seasons. However, sentiment and football are uneasy bedfellows.

All of which is at odds with the Arsenal that began the game.

Crisp passing produced results as the pressing game worked well. The back four held a strong line and Barcelona found the going tough. Fielding a 12-year-old didn’t help their cause. You don’t judge your age by policemen looking younger these days; it’s footballers, especially the ones who look like they did a bunk out of their bedroom window to get a game.

Ozil, in particular, looked fresh and sharp which is not something I thought I’d say after an away game. His linking with Mkhitaryan showed what was possible, ably supported the continually impressive Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson, whose form improves with every game.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stole the show, however, with the opening goal. A thunderous strike, it threw off the shackles of pre-season and served as a warning to the Premier League: he’s found his shooting boots.

Crucially, the first-half performance underlined how we must play to get the most out of Nicolas Pepe. He’s ideal for away games if we’re going to build from the back. Sokratis’ value is in organisation; Chambers looked far more confident next to the Greek than Mustafi. However, the young Englishman has much to learn, creating as much uncertainty in Maitland-Niles as Barcelona swarmed over the defence.

Thumb Twiddlers of the World Unite

It’s important we don’t lose sight of the positives from the first half as much as the horror show of the second forty-five minutes dominates. The development of the youngsters this summer has been impressive and continued last night. We have a bright future but jam tomorrow is a hackneyed phrase around Arsenal; we’ve been promised the earth too many times before.

Maybe Martinelli, Saka, Willock, Nelson & co are the ones who will deliver?

Now the fixture is over reality bites. As opposed to Luis Suarez, who I thought at one point had bitten his nails so hard that he ate this thumb.

Philippe Coutinho isn’t coming to Arsenal, not that anyone seriously thought he would. His agent said he wouldn’t, so that’s that. The Transfer Window Action Team can now turn their attention to the defence. If Edu and Raul thought we could muddle through the opening games with the current defensive options, that second half was a rude awakening.

I don’t think they believe that anyway. Knowing negotiations are ongoing for Koscielny and reports Mustafi is about to do one mean we need reinforcements. As I said yesterday, I don’t think Kieran Tierney’s injury will stop our pursuit of his signature. Nor will any amount of Bhoys fans painting their faces blue and shouting “For freedom!” At least their accents will be more credible than Mel Gibson’s.

In a normal summer, the absence of names being thrown around would cause concern. Rugani is a persistent rumour but few others are. However, after the ‘shock and awe’ swoop for Nicolas Pepe – forget the confirmation which took longer than the average Pope’s lifespan – changed the game. Discretion is the byword, in the early stages of a deal anyway.

Until Friday, of course, when nobody else comes in and then we’ll know the silence meant the suits were just sitting around twiddling their thumbs…

’til Tomorrow.

32 thoughts on “On Barcelona and the Defence – Transfer Clock is Ticking

  1. Jonnygunner says:

    I was replying to one such fan from yesterday’s post when today’s post popped up YW…..you can call me lucky 🤠

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  2. YW says:

    We’re forming our own version of the seven dwarfs here. I’m Scary, you’re Lucky while Bill and C are Itchy & Scratchy…

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  3. YW says:

    Loitering and lurking, enjoying his dotage. Or that’s what he says anywhere. Drinking too much of the Devon Moonshine, I reckon.

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  4. MesutsLeftFoot says:

    Thought it was a good game, defence actually looked ok, Willock looked immense. I’d like to see Torrira and Willock or Ceballos and keep Xhaka as far away from the first team as possible.

    Chambers actually looked ok next too Papa but right and left side is still a weakness. Need Bellerin back asap and a LB/LWB in. If we had a genuine CB leader, we’d have a solid side.

    Can’t wait to see Pepe and Auba up top, Reiss Nelson looked good yesterday as well!

    Honestly, i’d have put Medley on in place of Mustafi yesterday!

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  5. andy1886 says:

    Our defensive issues show once again our failings in developing viable back up options at U23 level. For short term cover such as we have with Bellerin there really should be an U23 option that could do a job. We have the players in more advanced areas of the pitch (Willock, Saka, Nelson) but the best we can do at FB is midfielder AMN who it’s been clear for months now is not suited to the role. I can’t help but think that it must be due to the culture for many years that hasn’t really valued the defensive side of the game.

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  6. C says:

    YW,

    Well that would make me Itchy, since we all know Scratchy only sees the world in black and white.

    C: how brilliant is it to have a balanced team finally with midfielders who are able to pass and defend.

    Bill: 2 CF’s, 8 defenders and a GK is how you win futbol matches.

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  7. C says:

    andy1886,

    We actually do have a very promising RB in Osei-Tutu but he was sent out on loan. He would be the perfect sort of player you are referencing but I do think that with Jenks and AMN in the team, they thought it would be better for him to go on loan.

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  8. C says:

    The 1st half was bright and full of life. Willock continues to impress while Nelson shows a willingness to run and beat any and every defender that he comes across. Ozil and Aubameyang looked likely on the counter even prior to that inch perfect ball from Ozil and that turn and goal from Aubameyang.

    Even the 2nd half, the likes of Ceballos, Gabriel and Saka showed good. Leno looked much more commanding as well.

    What will be interesting is what happens with Xhaka and Mhkitaryan and to a lesser extent Iwobi. With the likes of Willock, Ceballos and Guendouzi coupled with Torriera, that they all look perfectly suited to not just the high pressing but also the quick 1-2 passing game Emery seems like he’s trying to instill. As for Mhkitaryan, well I think with Pepe and Nelson we have youngsters that offer a bit more but also allows for Mhkitaryan to be sold and forces Iwobi to take that next step to find more consistency and a bit more end product.

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  9. Wavey says:

    Only watched the highlights reel on AFC.com, but there was enough time to see Xhaka manage to make one of his usual passes to the opposition deep in his own half.

    Their second goal was very concerning as it shows that our defence are still liable to switch off at any given moment and let the opposition march through the middle of the park completely unobstructed. We’ve already see that happen more times than most of us can remember along with poor passes in our own half, an inability to pick up the opposition players at set pieces and the defence attempting to play a game of head tennis in our own area as nobody knows how to actually clear the ball. Row Z is that one just below the floodlights, aim for them and you should be fine.

    These all seem to be fairly standard things that any manager would like to train out of his players, but our lads appear stubbornly intent on putting up the same inadequate performances every game.

    So it looks like Unai’s game plan really is to just try to outscore other teams then.

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  10. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Tyreece John-Jules has signed a new contract. Really pleased we tied this young man down. Definitely one for the future.

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  11. andy1886 says:

    Word is that the club may sign Tierney but no CB is likely this TW. Hard to believe that they truly believe that we have enough quality already but it genuinely looks like they cannot see what is obvious to just about everyone else. Would honestly have preferred to have sorted out the defence than sign Pepe if that is what happens, as I’ve mentioned before this isn’t basketball and as an older fan familiar with the club’s historic defensive traditions the lack of focus on defending is nauseating.

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  12. Dukey says:

    I don’t know what to worry about more, our defence or the England batting line up??

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  13. C says:

    We actually played on the counter for most of that match, sure we pressed high to try and win the ball back but Emery’s plan was clearly to play on the counter and if not for those 2 mental lapses, it would have worked.

    This wasn’t some wide open affair but a plan in place.

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  14. nicky says:

    Can’t understand it. An unresponsive wicket. Ali’s offspin harmless. Then Lyon with the same sort of bowling, is virtually unplayable. 😢

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  15. Steve says:

    I guess the reason Pepe was signed was to ensure the opposition left back is kept busy throughout a game. His signing though as an offense player is also to help the defence. When the Dutch hero was in Bayern, they were unstoppable. Now that is out and no like for like replacement, they find it difficult winning matches. Yes we need a centre back but the need is not like people talk about it. We are making progress. Before now, yesterday’s game in Nou Camp would have been 5-1. Our defence is not good but Bayern scored 1, Barcelona scored 1 at home. We scored 2 albeit one is an own goal. We are making progress. By the time other teams are getting to understand us, Bellerin and Holding would be back.

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  16. Paulie Walnuts says:

    I don’t see us signing a centre back unless someone is stupid enough to buy Mustafi. …. so that’s very unlikely. Maybe he could be the mascot at home games. Even then he’d probably fall on his arse & give the ball away.

    I think Kos will go regardless.

    This won’t go down well but I’d sell Iwobi if we need funds or include him in a part exchange, as it looks like we’re stuck with Mikhi & Ozil & their fat wage packets.

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  17. Dukey says:

    nicky:
    Can’t understand it. An unresponsive wicket. Ali’s offspin harmless. Then Lyon with the same sort of bowling, is virtually unplayable.

    Well, the three amigos have had a year to work out how to rough the ball up without something so obvious as sandpaper!

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  18. Bill says:

    Another top post yogi

    It should be an interesting season. If Emery can find a way to decrease the number of goals we concede this season we have a real shot at the top 4. The ball is in his court and he has to come thru this time. If we concede more then 40-45 then he should be sacked.

    I understand the excitement about new players and I am really happy to see what Pepe can bring. We need that star power. As for the newest generation of academy players perhaps this group will be different then all of the others. However, we have been here and done this dozens and dozens and dozens of times in the past so I am not sure why we should expect this group will be any different then their predecessors

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  19. Blue Yonder says:

    Didn’t see the game but reviews suggest lack of confidence by the defence. Not to pick on one man but, when you know Mustafi is near and is likely to mis-cue at any moment, the other players’ confidence has to take a hit.
    (I guess that is picking on one man.)

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  20. jonnygunner says:

    C:
    Arsenal in talks to sell Jenks to Nottingham.

    Can’t believe he’s already 27..

    One newspaper referred to him as a veteran!

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  21. Stu says:

    The Beeb are reporting that Kos is off to Bordeaux. Deal done subject to medical.

    Let’s hope he passes the medical. Last thing we need is a veteran defender, who is past his best and doesn’t want to be here, on the wage bill. Time to move on, even if the circumstances and timing are far from ideal.

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  22. YW says:

    Waste of a career, JG. I understand the ‘living the fans dream’ element but he’s only made 160-ish appearances in his career. There are plenty of players under 20 with more. He should have gone to Palace when he had the chance.

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