Liege Review: If Only The PL Was This Easy

Arsenal 4 – 0 Standard Liege

Easy victories are built on hard work and last night’s win was no exception. Everything about the opening 25 minutes was measured; the pressure applied, passing and of course, the goals.

And three outstanding finishes they were.

Brazitalian Gabriel Martinelli’s sublime angled header for the first will be in our top 10 goals of the season, no question about it. He isn’t a centre-forward apparently; with that header, he produced a passable impersonation of one. His second, curled around the defender, underlined his eye for goal from any angle.

Meanwhile, Joe Willock’s goal proved Johan Cruyff’s adage is right: “Football is a sport you play with your brain. You have to be in the right place at the right moment; not too early, not too late.” Digging the ball out of his feet, he reacted quickest to the deflection from a Liege defender. It wouldn’t be the last time

Twenty-one minutes on the clock and it was a question of damage limitation for the visitors.

Whatever problems we have in the elite competitions, cup football is proving remarkably agreeable to the second string. Does it mean they are knocking on the first XI door? In some cases, yes.

All eyes, however, were on the returning defenders. Hector Bellerin led the side with some aplomb while Kieran Tierney looks more and more like the best signing we have made at the back since Sol Campbell arrived on a free.

It’s easy to eulogise after nights like last night, to flippantly suggest swapping out half the Premier League XI for this XI. Reality? Well, that’s somewhat different.

Or is it?

Three defenders deserve a run in the first XI: Bellerin, Tierney, and Holding. None of the current incumbents is better than that trio, to begin with.

What Now?

You saw the game last night, how well we played. Squandered a few chances and genuinely should have scored more. Dani Ceballos’ debut goal was worthwhile, if not for the aesthetics, but certainly, for the determination he displayed in beating everyone to the ball.

And definitely for Martinelli’s exquisite chip over the tallest goalkeeper in the world.

There are a number of questions emerging from the performances. Ainsley Maitland-Niles put in a decent shift. A couple of mistakes, a couple of nice touches; not earth-shatteringly good but squad member good.

Reiss Nelson probably had his best game so far and is definitely at that ‘young player plateau’. Again, nothing to make Emery think he must be included in the XI but certainly progressing along those lines.

Willock, a goal to his credit, continues to show his abilities, with some strong and purposeful runs, driving defence into attack. There is, surely, a place in the Arsenal starting line-up for him. Which Emery seems to agree with…

But none for Mesut Ozil. Twitter, that bastion of common sense and dignity, was ablaze beforehand with the righteous bringing down brimstone and treacle on Emery for his treatment of the German. What that treatment was is never explained. Not picking him is the only thing anyone knows right now.

We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. Is there a feud behind this? Is Emery just sick and tired of the little ‘illnesses’ Ozil continually has? How is Mesut training? Trying his hardest? Doing just enough?

Certainly there is a hint of an application problem. Post-match Emery said “other players deserved [to play tonight] more,” which says a lot. Others are showing they are hungry to play. Ozil, it seems, isn’t showing the desire Emery wants.


The Spaniard clearly warmed to that theme when he talked about the weekend.

He needs to continue working. Tomorrow we have training with the players who didn’t play, and on Sunday we have another match, and we are going to decide the same. Our target is to win on Sunday against Bournemouth, and we want to carry on our same way in each match.

Mesut is told to get his arse in gear

I don’t know if Ozil will play on Sunday. Certainly, after missing the last two games it’s hard to see anything more than a place on the bench for him.

Of course, Emery is by no means an angel in all this. He had plenty of trouble at PSG with troublesome players, e.g. Thiago, Ben Arfa and Neymar; he didn’t win with the latter and was bloodied by the former pair.

He’ll win this one because it is in the club’s interests to divest itself of Ozil’s contract and I’m guessing completely here, Raul is backing him. Edu, too.

What is abundantly clear is that Ozil’s Arsenal career is over; the fat lady is gargling, ready to send him on his way this winter. Or next summer. Or whenever we can find some other sap to take on his wages or even part of them.

But the night wasn’t about him, it was about the ones who played. The next test for them comes at the end of October: Vittoria at home, Liverpool away.

The question is which of the experienced players will be guiding them?

’til Tomorrow.

13 thoughts on “Liege Review: If Only The PL Was This Easy

  1. Opus says:

    Damn that feels good 😁
    Thanks for your post yw. It was quite an interesting game yesterday, a display you wish to see from the team in the PL. I did enjoy the confidence our young/youthful/new players are exhibiting when given chance to play. I’ll call for patience with Pepe, he needs adaptation time. He just need to improve as he gets his minutes. He’ll definitely justify his price tag.

  2. C says:

    Good stuff Yogi.

    Beyond the defenders and Gabriel, the midfield balance was spot on and when you get that right, it makes the rest of the XI settle in. Torriera at the base with Willock doing thr running and Ceballos nitting it all together is what we have needed. Torriera, Guendouzi and Ceballos bring the same thing and should be our 1st choice XI with Willock swapping in.

    Gabriel might not be a natural CF but his goals, both last night and previously, were taken like one. I know we have been reliant on Aubameyang and no offense to Saka, but why not a front 3 of Gabriel/Aubameyang/Pepe in the PL.

  3. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Fair point C, the lads done enough for inclusion in the PL first XI. I liked the midfield with Torreira, Willock and Maitland-Niles. They had plenty of energy and Liege couldn’t live with it. Might be a little bit inexperienced when playing against a top 6 side. But they will grow in confidence the more they play.

  4. C says:


    I mean, if Saka’s inclusion was based on his performance in the Europa League, surely banging in goals as Gabriel has does. Also the fact he will work his socks off and is naturally a winger anyways, plus we know he has blistering pace and good skill.

  5. Michael says:

    Afternoon all
    I was pleased with Ceballos, he may be a RM player but I think he really enjoys playing here, the joy on his face after he scored can’t be faked. Let’s hope he continues in the same vein.
    The team as a unit are so easy to watch, which makes the Europa a pleasure, and at this stage of the competition.
    I can’t understand the logic of bringing Pea and Gwen on for the last 15 minutes though.

  6. Pete the Thirst says:

    Martinelli looks some player. He reminds me of Brazilian Ronaldo.

    Tierney looks a player too. The Premier League back 4 needs to include this lad, Hector and Holding as soon as physically possible.

    The effort that the youth players are putting in should put some of their senior colleagues to shame.

  7. Noon Gunner says:

    Thanks for another good, thoughtful read, YW.

    C – I’m with you is seeing a different steadiness all over the pitch because our midfield seemed more ‘held’, primarily by Torriera. Ceballos clearly enjoyed the freedom Torreira granted him. At the same time you might agree that St Liege pressed us a whole heap less, even in the first ten minutes, than our PL opponents ever do, so I was left wondering how much of our freedom of movement was down to that and how much down to Lucas (who was error-prone in the first half). Impossible to apportion – and what we need now is further experimental evidence, namely UE putting Lucas in that spot in some bigger games.

  8. C says:

    Noon Gunner,

    I’m with you as they didn’t press us but I want to see Torriera at the base with Guendouzi or Willock and Ceballos in the PL. I do think pressing teams find it easier with Xhaka as his turn or pace foot speed is slower and I think Torriera would be nuch kore difficult especially when yiu consider that Ceballos doesn’t mind dropping that bit deeper and we all know Guendouzi likes the ball at his feet.

    Come on Emery

  9. Blue Yonder says:

    Excellent article, YW, and right on the money – particularly re the Emery-Ozil saga. A game like this makes you wonder how all these young stars can find places in the first Xl, whereas the EPL games leave you wondering who on earth can play the game.
    In a perfect world, the young would push the old-ish to up their game or step aside. If Emery does his job properly, he will allow this to unfold. Should be fun to watch.

  10. G4E says:

    The young guns did us proud yesterday….but the PL is a whole different animal.

    * I agree Willock is knocking hard on the door and we need him as Ramsey’s replacement. He’s box to box and scoring the goals, just need to start scoring in the PL.

    * Martinilli has that instinct in front of goal, it’s great but how well would he do in the PL is another matter. Pepe is an example of that, he’s older, with more experience but he still needs time to get on with the English game.

    * Tierney for me is the best chance and a very good signing, just watch his crosses to know we needed him for a long time.

    Let’s not get overly excited but it’s good for the future.

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