Helter-Skelter Arsenal, The Comeback Kings

Arsenal 3 – 2 Aston Villa

Three goals, three points; on paper, we sit fourth in the Premier League, two goals behind Leicester City.

Football, Brian Clough famously declared, isn’t played in the air. It isn’t played on paper either. The grass bit? We’re still nervous, like Bambi on Ice.

The defining feature of Unai Emery’s reign thus far is how infrequently we control games. Stemming from a lack of defined style, Arsenal fail to impose themselves on teams with often catastrophic results in defence.

Fortunately, the attacking side of our game is working. God forbid an injury to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, saviour once more with an exquisitely placed free-kick for the winner. Captain Aubameyang; the first of the five Unai decreed, who actually stood up and was counted.

It didn’t help when Maitland-Niles went all Mustafi and slid in on Taylor. He won the ball but Jon Moss, sometime record shop owner and usually crap referee, decided it was a cautionable offence. His second of the day and already booked, the Premier League’s Teletubby issued a second yellow, an action which rendered VAR irrelevant.

One-down, a man down; things weren’t looking good for Arsenal or for Unai Emery.

Half-time was his saving grace. Chambers came on for Saka and someone inserted a stick of dynamite up the collective backsides. Well, some of them, one of whom Matteo Guendouzi, this week an inspirational midfielder and not the hapless recipient of lax defensive passes from goal-kicks.

His surging run into the area induced a panic-stricken moment in the Villa defence and Nicolas Pepe despatched the spot-kick. Aubameyang’s decision, apparently, to let the Frenchman take the penalty and a captain’s one. It’s lifted the millstone from around Pepe’s neck; now, we hope, to see the goalscoring form which boosted his fee to £72m.

Good But Not That Good

We are, however, The Arsenal and this iteration does nothing the easy way. Villa served notice with McGinn’s goal that they weren’t going to roll over and die. Wesley put them back in front within a minute or so of Pepe’s equaliser. It was typically lax of Emery’s Arsenal and it’s debatable whether we are any better at the back under Emery than we were during late-era Wenger.

I don’t even think that’s even up for debate.

Chambers would eventually redeem himself but ceded possession cheaply; Grealish, who like McGinn should play at a higher level than Villa will reach, made us pay, crossed for Wesley to head home. With ten-men, we can’t control the play because we don’t retain possession well enough.

The arrival of Willock and Torreira was the cue for a revival in fortunes. How Granit Xhaka comes back from the crowd’s reaction to his substitution is anyone’s guess. Losing the electronic fanbase is easily ignored; when the stadium turns against you, your number is up.

Calum Chambers is a case in point. He’s been sold a hundred times over but this season hasn’t done badly. Well, OK, he’s no right-back but then we lack cover so he is now. Redemption yesterday came relatively quickly with an excellent finish, opportunistically slamming the ball home with the outside of his boot.

Which left the stage for Aubameyang. An excellent free-kick, straight off the training ground with a body behind the wall shielding it from the ‘keeper as Auba ran up and then moving across to hide it for as long as possible. By which time, of course, it was too late and the ball nestled in the net.

The team spirit was amazing, we need to continue working and improving things. After this I hope we can improve and be strong. Together with the supporters we will be strong for the matches and hopefully improve. It is our challenge to improve defensively. They didn’t have a lot of chances to score.

Unai knows the score

Chances Schmances

Observing “they didn’t have a lot of chances to score” struck me as a defensive phrase to use. And as poorly positioned as most of the back four during the first half. We were at home and ought not to be facing a high volume of shots from the visitors unless it’s someone like City or the Bindippers.

But we still conceded two goals. As Emery said, it’s a challenge for us to improve. Challenging in terms of a task we face (his words) or a challenge because we’re simply not good enough (my words). However, I expect a much-changed backline when everyone is fitter and only one of the quartet in yesterday’s starting line-up will be there.

Which one is genuinely down to who makes the least errors between now and Rob Holding’s full return to the team.

Whether that will be Monday night is the unknown. He is, according to this afternoon’s team news, “available for selection”. He’ll play tomorrow, no doubt, but with a week to spare before United, I’d expect him to play on Monday as well. Unai and I, however, quite frequently have different ideas on team selection,

’til Tomorrow.

41 thoughts on “Helter-Skelter Arsenal, The Comeback Kings

  1. 49' says:

    Nice post.
    AMN definitely won the ball but Fat Moss didn’t believe what he saw.
    Remember when Emery said he’d rather win 5-4 than 1-0? He probably knew his team wouldn’t control games. I wouldn’t mind winning 1-0 for most of the season. We’re just too slow in midfield. And the defence…oh well.

  2. Dukey says:

    Yogi can you do me a notify me of new posts by phone call please!

  3. C says:

    To be fair, if Emery is going to take a battering he must also receive praise when he gets it right with subs and changes.

    The defending was absolutely school boy whether it was Maitland-Niles applying no pressure on Taylor for the cross, nobody in our midfield tracking runners other than Torriera and Willock, to allowing Grealish to ghost past you (looking at you Xhaka and Sokaritis but you still shouldn’t be booed but you should also no longer be automaticall selected).

    I know Guendouzi is getting all the praise, as he rightly should have because after half-time he was superb, but I thought the fight started with Pepe and Aubameyang. Watch those two and they were not only acting as outlets but tracking back and then busting a gut to get forward, then pressing and chasing. I think the armband should comfortably be with Lacazette and Aubameyang full stop.

  4. jonnygunner says:

    Dukey:
    Town rat.

    I’m really hurt Duke 😂😂🙋🏼‍♂️

  5. Ras says:

    Good afternoon YW. A Game Of 2 halves and much like the Watford Game had the Villa attackers been finishers we could be sat here today in different circumstances.

    I don’t think Emery is ready to give up on Xhaka just yet. Watching his post match Press Conference it was obvious he was going to defend Xhaka.

    I get the distinct impression that Xhaka is his man and he is not ready to even contemplate dropping Xhaka never mind dispensing thinking about Xhakàs future at Arsenal.

    I watched Pepe a fair bit last season whilst in Ligue 1. At Lille he was the ‘ main man. Everything was set up to obtain the maximum from Pepe. He ‘Pepé was given very little to No defensive duties to worry about.

    I’d like to see him given a chance in the middle, central of the pitch to see how he’d fair.

  6. YW says:

    I’d say, 49′, that he was sent off for the follow-through, which was studs high. That is the only thing I can think of.

    Still a shit decision.

  7. Spike says:

    I’ve said it before, but I’d love to see a back four of…

    Bellerin. Holding. Chambers and Tierney given a run of games. I think that has the makings of a sid back line.

    In front of them Guendouzi and Torreira. And Whillock and AMN could also be considered for games like tomorrow (if it wasnt for the unfair red Ainsley received).

    If the club persists with Emery and they probably will, and results and performances dont improve, we may have to rely on the kids even more when the likes ofAuba and Laca decide they’ve had enough and leave.

    I u like most it seems, really want Emery to suceed, and lead The Arsenal to a successful season. But it’s already really frustrating! We’ve dropped four points already and that was closer to 6 yesterday.

    Emery needs to take advice from others (I do hope Freddie is more of a strong voice than Bouldy) and give other players a chance and drop those he appears welded to. I mean, he kept faith with Saka instead of Nelson easily enough.

    But that was an easy one, he needs to drop the likes of Luiz, and Xhaka…

    But will he ever do that???? His job could depend on it.

  8. Spike says:

    Ras,

    It’s right manager defends his players in public. If Xhaka doesn’t play any part tomorrow then I think it’s obvious he will start against ManU and we will begin this cycle of shite all over again…

  9. Pete the Thirst says:

    Never in doubt was it?

    The midfield picks itself now surely? The Torreira & Willock subs looked like a desperate roll of the dice, but the immediate upping of intensity was obvious. Xhaka shouldn’t get a sniff of a start until there is an injury.

    Guendouzi MoM once again. Considering he is only 20 he will be world class.

  10. TH14 says:

    Good day all
    Just wondering, has anyone been watching our brand New shinny defender on loan in France?
    Is he having a good season, is he injured, should we have our hopes up knowing we have a great defender improving his trade in France, I think Saint Etienne
    Can someone on this blog that’s following the Ligue un give us info on him
    Thx in advance

  11. Bufallo says:

    Really a lot to like from some of the players yesterday and particularly the younger players, showing great fighting spirit and some decent attacking quality. Even more to like about Auba that he gave Pepe the penalty, a snub and an ‘i know better’ to the manger as well as showing positive initiative, good for Pepe’s mojo and fortunate he didn’t miss.
    In terms of Emery i don’t know what to think quite, lets see what happens with a fully fit back line but our defending and control are diabolical at present. He also talks a gargantuan amount fo waffle and i hope that is a reflection on his English language skills rather than his mind, so that may improve. If he doesn’t get the message about Xhaka soon or Xhaka doesn’t repay him fast then, as some have suggested, he will define the end of Emery. Mad to take a stance against the fans over an obviously unpopular player, especially when he plays like he does and Emery’s own position is not rock solid.
    Maybe yesterday can kick start the season proper.

  12. kenyan gunner says:

    Great post. The expectations on Holdings shoulders are immense. He’s a good defender but not yet great. Apparently he’ll have to grow up very fast! Maybe his inspiration will be Tony Adams who was captain at 21!

  13. thrillbo says:

    Thanks for the post and the comments all. Had a deep thought while watching the match. I think with this Unai side, we could start every match with 10 men and our season long total would likely not be that much different. Play a 4-3-2, give up acres of space out wide, attack quickly.

    The backline has it’s struggles but part of the blame has to be midfield support. Most teams we face have a solid ‘box’ of 2 CB and 2 CM. Recall the bayern domination era had a fucking rock solid box. Nobody got thru them.

    Our midfield offers little defensive support. Even yesterday Guendo (bless him) essentially just stopped tracking his man and let Grealish (or whoever) get thru our D-line with no opposition. He just stopped running. The effort, communication, focus, support, none of it is there for the team. We need that for our defense to start locking things down. We have enough firepower up front, why cant we tell our 2 Cm and 2 CB to protect our area and let the rest of the squad go wild?

  14. Buckagh says:

    C,

    His team selection is shite,
    Style and pattern of play is shite
    Defence do not know what they are doing
    There is no blaming a post wenger hangover at this stage.
    He has been given a considerable budget for his choice of players.
    He is a bang average manager IMo

  15. Woolwich Freddie says:

    C,

    Sorry, C. Those subs were made in desperation and performances so far this season suggested at least some of the subs should have started. I don’t know if I can give Emery much credit for them.
    I was trying to think on Sunday if Emery had improved anything from late Wenger. You’d have to say away form but that was poor and doesn’t help if we get softer at home. The other thing is that players seem more willing to take a shot, which has seen some rewards. I struggled to think of much else. I want to like the guy and was fully in favour of giving him time but I’ve really lost faith.

  16. kenyan gunner says:

    Agree with Ras. Would like to see Pepe out front. He should have started ahead of Auba the Frankfurt game!

  17. DALM says:

    I started with negative thoughts when I saw the lineup – much as I want to be fully behind they guys when they go out on the pitch –

    Luiz and Sokratis hasn’t been working against top or mediocre teams – why not start Chambers

    Xhaka – dreadful run of form, but seemingly undropable

    No real alternatives to LB and LB at the mo but given how we want to play this really hurting us –

    passing out at the back AND inviting pressure onto the defense -we aren’t good at that and it is costing us

    Individual errors – unforced but as a result of how we are playing (too deep) and from the same guys again and again

    at least we know that next Monday we will do our charitable thing and not beat a poor Utd side.

  18. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    I’m guessing both Leicester and Manure will beat us away from home. It will come as no surprise. I don’t have faith in this manager. I’ve said it before, he’s a cup competition manager at best. Is it any wonder we got to the Europa league final in his first season in charge. Because that’s what he knows best. Cup competitions. He knows nothing of league football. This persistence with Xhaka. It’s pathetic. How he can’t see that he needs to coach up 2 midfielder’s to sit in front of the back four, I have no idea. Sean Dyche can bloody well do it. Why can’t U.E.?

  19. Las says:

    Good day! Great post YW.
    We are still the same “2-half” team what we were last season. And when we were not it was worst. Emery really doesn’t know his best eleven which is obviously depends only on him. Maybe our best eleven are not that best. But still we (fans) have to have some understanding, common ground with the manager, whoever it is.
    The problem with Xhaka is not just his recklessness or (let it) unability but he ia debilitating the players around him. Just look at Guendouzi, or Torreira, they both play batter when Xhaka is off the field.
    I would and could be get on well with Emery even with the results if I felt that he is learning and changing with the experiences he have recently.

  20. Bill says:

    Great post yogi

    Fully credit where it’s due. Great comeback and 3 points. We have not played well this year but we are very fortunate the competition for the top 4 looks to be really weak this season. This win takes a bit of pressure off Emery but the defense still is bad and the manager has to take a majority of the blame. These are mostly his players and he has to get this fixed because we can’t count on scoring 3 goals per game. The league is trying its best to hand us a top 4 spot but we will choke away our chance again if we continue to concede goals at the current historically high rate.

  21. C says:

    Buckagh,

    To be fair, he hasn’t had the chance to pick his, probably preferred 1st choice FB’s and Lacazette has been injured so we haven’t seen the front 3. Pattern of play it looked obvious what was wanted: feed the wingers and FB’s and hope to have the midfield control things.
    You don’t win things as a bang average manager, and considering last season we finished higher in the table and made a European Final, and this season we currently sit 4th with our FB’s returning, a highly rated CB and Lacazette, and in despite of the shit shoe’s defensively that are Xhaka, Sokaritis and Luiz is quite an accomplishment.

  22. C says:

    Woolwich Freddie,

    Call it what you want, I’m just saying I find it interesting that despite all this talk of Emery being shit that he makes subs that provide immediate impact, he deaerves praise. Should they both been starting maybe at least 1 of them but as a manager you change and we have seen us go to shit. What has he improved, I think he has been a key figure in bringing to light the young talent of this squad.

    Defenaively we are a shit show, I will gladly admit and sure Emery deserves credit for the shit show but I also lay so much blame on the experienced international players who are making dumb ass mistakes. I’m sorry, Sokaritis should be dropped immediately as he continues to baffle with his defending. Big decisions to be made and will be interested to see how we get on with our players returning from fitness.

  23. Woolwich Freddie says:

    C,

    For sure, there is plenty of blame to go around, not least for the senior players.

  24. Spike says:

    C,

    I just dont think Luiz and Sokratis are a good pairing. Holding and Sokratis would be better. Or Luiz and Chambers. Ideally I’d still try Holding and Chambers though.

    And hopefully Mavroponas will actually stay fit and get a chance!

    The signing of Luiz was effing weird and smacks of Emery rather than the people charged with (and paid shed loads to) identify and sign new signings. But what was worse was how Chambers was dropped straight away to accommodate the Brazilian.

  25. Bill says:

    C

    When Arsene was manager we gave him 100% credit for the defensive ineptitude and blamed his lack of coaching for the players mistakes. Now everything is exactly opposite and the mistakes are all the players fault. That makes no sense. I understand you like this manager and your goal is to defend him but I would think there should be at least a hint of consistency in how we analyze what’s happening.

  26. JersiBennyman says:

    Bill,

    The truth is that Emery is not improving the team at all. Under Wenger, we were sure of winning at home against those outside the top 6 and in control/style too. This day, we don’t only lose away , but draw the lower half at home. With the Luiz and Socratis combo, we may end up with a negative goal difference at the end of the season.
    At Fifa’s end, winning the La Liga seems enough, shame!!

  27. Spike says:

    Bill,

    There doesn’t seem much if any live for Emery on here at least!

    I always felt he deserved at least a season to bed in and they and impose his ‘style’ onto the team and club. The early signs were good, but a lot of that was undone with the capitulation at the end of last season.

    Still, I felt it was all part of his learning curve and we would start the season with a better defence and Xhaka finally jettisoned!

    And again, that has not happened and theres little to suggest Emery is about to make any drastic changes, or heaven forbid, improvements to the team.

  28. Blue Yonder says:

    Ras: I get the distinct impression that Xhaka is his man and he is not ready to even contemplate dropping Xhaka never mind dispensing thinking about Xhakàs future at Arsenal.

    RAS, I quite agree with you, although I have no idea why Emery would tie himself to a player who could be his downfall. It can’t be stupidity and I don’t see Emery as being so stubborn he won’t make changes. Anyone’s guess.

  29. Blue Yonder says:

    Losing can be forgiven it an attempt is made to learn and make adjustments. But when under-performers like Xhaka and Luiz keep starting together and giving the same performances but no adjustments are made, then there is no excuse.
    It worries me that people appear to be banking on Holding’s return to magically fix the defensive mess. Don’t forget, it was only last season that Holding started to establish himself so don’t exact too much. Also, he’s been out a long time so is unlikely to be firing on all cylinders right away. Same for Tierney, plus he’s in a new league.
    Emery should start by sitting Xhaka and Luiz, playing Chambers and putting Torreira at the midfield base.

  30. C says:

    Spike,

    Tend to agree about Luiz and Sokaritis being a bad pairing but I’m not sure Chambers and Holding would be but mixing the 2 combinations would be ideal to me.

    Mavarapanos, physically has it all and is very interesting but can’t get fit which is a worry.

    Didn’t and still really don’t have a problem with the Luiz, its the pairing that is wrong I think plus no shield infront of our CB’s. With that said, with Torriera and Guendouzi I think it could be superb.

  31. Ras says:

    It’s clear that Emery still does not know his players.
    Football has 3 phases. Possession of the ball. Non possession of the ball and transition.

    The issue with our midfield is that you can’t have ‘Joggers’ In the modern Game of football. A team can allow 1 at most.

    Arsenal in midfield have 3 players Guendouzi, Ceballos and Xhaka whose primary instinct is not to protect the ball. Guendouzi and Ceballos are quite similar, they want the ball and like to pass it, spray it around. Ceballos is comfortable in tight spaces. Guendouzi likes to run with the ball. Xhaka to likes to spray long balls.

    None are truly defensive minded. None. They are players whom prefer to go forward. Emery appears not to understand the psychology of putting assembling the midfield.

    You can’t play the combination of the above 3. It’s suicide. There is no control. So the midfield is continually fire fighting.

    It’s so obvious.

  32. Spike says:

    Ras,

    It is ai obvious and its bloody scary that the one person who can fix it, doesn’t get it.

    And to think Emery allowed Ramsey to leave because of Xhaka!

    (That’s tongue in cheek btw, it was probably because of Ozils wages and Guendouzis development)

  33. Spike says:

    C,

    Who knows about the pairings? We wont know until Emery gives it a go, but will he?

    I think Holding and Chambers could work together really well, they have different strengths and Holding is very calming, which would benefit ALL the other CBs in our squad!

    I wonder who Emery will pick tonight? He could give our returning I hired defenders 45 mi utes?

    Martinez
    Bellerin Holding Chambers Tierney
    Whillock Torreira
    Nelson Ozil Saka
    Martinelli

  34. Anderslilya says:

    49′,

    Exactly, AMN took the ball, got stamped on, and then sent off. The Villa player easily conned silly Moss.

  35. Las says:

    Spike:
    C,

    Martinez
    Bellerin Holding Chambers Tierney
    Whillock Torreira
    Nelson Ozil Saka
    Martinelli

    I would love to see them 🙂

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