Vitoria Preview, Xhaka Can’t & More

It’s not quite Wednesday night football but it will have to do; 3.50pm on Wednesday is one of the more quixotic kick-off times football contrived in its’ subservience to television.

Vitoria proved troublesome at the Emirates a fortnight ago and the travelling squad reflects that. Aubameyang, Luiz and surprisingly for an away game south of Watford, Mesut Ozil, didn’t make the trip to Portugal but everyone else did.

And that is everyone. For the first time in many moons, we have a fully fit squad. The same useless coach but a fully fit squad for him to confuse.

Granit Xhaka didn’t travel and it looks like it may be some time before we see him again. After eight days of procrastination which reflects badly on all involved, the Swiss is no longer one of the captains. The curse of the Arsenal armband strikes again.

It’s time to move on from it. Honestly, the farcical handling of the affair raised questions over the club’s senior management. Hot on claims they still believe Emery can turn things around, it doesn’t bode well for the future.

The Evening Standard claimed the club don’t want to follow Manchester United’s lead in the post-Ferguson era. Arsenal aren’t going to be a ‘hire and fire’ club. Which is fine and good. Indeed, there is a certain admirable quality in that.

However, it also masks indecision; an unwillingness to change something which is so obviously broken. Like United, we’ve got our initial choice wrong. There’s no shame in that but have the courage to admit it, to keep the season alive.

Lose on Saturday and we potentially finish the weekend nine points adrift of the top four. Emery isn’t going to close that gap.

Tonight, Matthew…

Qualification for the knockout phase of the Europa League is secured if both ourselves and Eintracht win. To get that out of the way would be a positive, at least.

It will also be something of a miracle. We have yet to win in Portugal, I believe and lost the last three. That bodes well because we’re a team which makes firsts. Like scoring five at Anfield and not winning.

The comfort from that performance is that we know there is goals in the squad. Unfortunately, there’s very little defence. I mean, we put players in the positions but don’t really have a plan what they should do when opponents have the ball.

There’s a temptation to save players, to wrap cotton wool around as many of the first XI as possible. Emery won’t do that, however; Xhaka’s absence forces his hand in defensive midfield so Torreira plays and probably Guendouzi alongside him.

Putting Ceballos in a trio is too lightweight, lacking bite. He could bring AMN into a 4-4-2 of some sort with Saka at #10. It’s the sort of flakey thing Emery would do and it might work. Probably not.

It means the line-up would probably be:

Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Kolasinac; Torreira, Guendouzi, Willock; Maitland-Niles, Martinelli, Saka

We still have two opportunities after this to get the necessary three points to qualify. Eintracht visit the Emirates. That’s the same Eintracht who beat Bayern 5 – 1 at the weekend. We then travel to Liege for what will hopefully be a dead rubber.

Whatever the case, we can make the matter irrelevant by winning tonight.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

81 thoughts on “Vitoria Preview, Xhaka Can’t & More

  1. jonnygunner says:


  2. jonnygunner says:

    They are indeed glum times YW.
    Ta muchly for the write up.

  3. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Nice one YW.

    It`s the sort of game we should win easily & I think we will.

    We certainly need a boost for the squad before we play Leicester.

  4. Allen Fryatt says:

    Watched the u21 game at Cambridge last night,I also saw the defeat at Peterborough, and the impression it has left is that even at this level we are not organised defensively.We played 3 at the back but the midfield just did not protect the defence.The question is,why ,even with different systems are we as a club not defending as a team?. In the two games I have not been overly impressed by any of our young players, especially with midfield where there are no powerhouse players.

  5. Ferkov says:

    Thanks YW.
    Can Emery take an opportunity tonight?
    As Hector will start , why not see what Chambers can do at CDM , or even CB.?
    Shouldy Couldy Wouldy

  6. C says:

    Good stuff Yogi!

    To be fair to the club, I wonder if the decision was made but just wasn’t announced until now, it’s a real possibility. With that said, decision was made and while I truly do feel for Xhaka the person, it almost must be said he knows and understands what it means to be captain. Emery hinted at he may be done, could Xhaka be sold ot loaned out in January?

    For the match, not a big fan of Saka at the #10.

  7. Ferkov says:

    Allen Fryatt,

    It doesn’t detract from the lack of defensive shape, but Freddie has pillaged the squad for the 1sts hasn’t he?

  8. Ferkov says:


    I don’t mind him there C. He’s got good eye for space, and a few tricks, he’s not easy to dispossess and he tracks back . Hasn’t got Mesuts eye for a pass, but v few have.

  9. Kneeyie says:

    We’ve won in Portugal last season vs Sporting 1-0. Hopefully we can get another clean result like that again this evening!

  10. C says:


    I think he is winger with the ability to cut in from the flanks. He has that pace and a few tricks that bode well on the flanks when he can run at people. In that #10, things happen really quickly so you don’t always have time for those touches.

  11. C says:

    Team News:


    Bench: Leno, Bellerin, Sead, Guendouzi, Torriera, Nelson, Lacazette

  12. Bufallo says:

    One of his weirdest lineups yet.
    Sort of game we will now win, giving a buffer for any adverse Leicester result and giving Emery the stay of execution he shows no signs of deserving.
    What a farce about the captain from top to bottom. He should have been made to apologise within 24hrs and immediately then removed as captain if that wasn’t forthcoming. His non apology leaves me hoping he doesn’t play for the club again and is sold in January. Let’s hope the dithering over the captain from all is not replicated with the manager if our poor form continues. If it’s over, it’s over for Emery no point in wasting the rest of the season, so much could be done by the next man.

  13. C says:

    Thinking about this line, makes me wonder if we will see a back 4 of: Bellerin, Chambers, Luiz, Sead against Leicester at the weekend.

  14. C says:

    I’m not understanding why we are almost refusing to give Pepe the ball. He is screaming for it in space.

  15. C says:

    Saka and Tierney just got hacked down and the it almost as if the ref didn’t want to call a foul on either occassion. No extra-time apparently.

    We are struggling to create chances and things keep dying out with either Maitland-Niles putting in a poor ball or Saka running down dead alleys. Need to move the ball quicker to.

  16. Noon Gunner says:


    Yes, C – we seem very easy to stifle with a moderately energetic press. We look like a team that’s playing off the individuals’ talents and instincts, with very little sense of tactical organisation. Underwhelming…which doesn’t mean we might not get lucky…or unlucky!

  17. Paulie Walnuts says:


    Thanks for the updates. It sounds thrilling.

  18. C says:

    Have ABSOLUTELY no idea why Holding is bombing forward to overlap Tierney and when he does, they exploit the massive gap he leaves behind.

  19. C says:

    Ceballos just did his hamstring it looks like.

  20. Noon Gunner says:


    Holding that high up is beyond belief, and very ineffective as an attacking tactic, too.

  21. C says:

    Noon Gunner,

    It actually looks like there is a plan in place but players just not executing. We can’t seem to pass to each other and the couple of times when it looked like we were set to open them up, a poor pass kills thr move. The strange thing for me is why Maitland-Niles final ball is poor, why Saka keeps running down the same black alley, etc. The players have to take some responsibility because our passing is shit.

  22. C says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    Absolutely thrilling, watching Pepe make a great run and time and again players not being able to play a 10 yard ball infront of him .

  23. C says:

    Noon Gunner,

    Right and if you watch, the rest of the players keep looking at him baffled, like “what are you doing?”

  24. Noon Gunner says:

    Finally a promising complex move in their box…and Pepe ruled wrongly offside.

    The stakes feel terribly low.

  25. C says:

    Good to see Guendouzi actually passing and connecting with Pepe.

  26. Noon Gunner says:

    Guendouzi-Willock feeling like more dynamic attacking midfield combo.

  27. C says:

    Noon Gunner,

    Guendouzi and Pepe look most likely. Tierney has put in some good balls.

    Will say, I really like Saka but is he scared to get into the box on the end of crosses?

  28. Noon Gunner says:

    Seems Holding is struggling to find his rhythm so far since his return. Not surprising, I guess.

  29. C says:

    For some strange reason Holding pulled back a player when Gabriel was running away with the ball and picks up a yellow for it

  30. Ras says:


    The Midfield is sat to DEEP. With 3 at the back . Why in the first half has Ceballos and Willock been dropping back Do deep ? It’s criminal. It’s the defense Holding or Mustafi whom should be charged with bringing the bell out of defense.

    It’s one example of the lack of in game managent by Emery.

  31. Noon Gunner says:

    …or maybe it’s as simple as ‘The Curse of the Armband’

  32. C says:


    It is sat deep but it might be partially because Holding is overlapping Tierney and nobody can figure out why. I don’t think Willock and Ceballos worked out how to have one go and one stay so both stayed and when they did that, it resulted in then being so deep.

    My problem has come with the poor passing and final ball.

  33. C says:

    Not sure how that’s a foul on Mustafi, he literally is standing in place and the player ran into him and fell.

  34. C says:

    Torriera for Willock. This may free up Guendouzi to push and stay higher up the pitch.

  35. Noon Gunner says:

    Perfect free kick from Pepe and a super-definite header from our super-hero Mustafi!!!

  36. C says:

    Pepe with a delicious ball and Mustafi heads it home!

    1-0 to Arsenal on the only shot on target in the 2nd half by either team.

  37. Noon Gunner says:

    Creeping towards the front edge of my seat. Not sure why…

  38. Noon Gunner says:


    Gee, I needed reminding of that, C!!

  39. Noon Gunner says:

    How did I guess?? 1-1 Defensive muddle.

  40. C says:

    Ofcourse they almost score on the counter, luckily they finish like Yaya Sanogo….

  41. Bufallo says:

    Not bothered, we’ve been pretty terrible, hoping this hastens the end for Emery

  42. C says:

    Noon Gunner,

    Haha and ofcourse they would equalize in the 90′. Holding beaten again, Maitland-Niles loses his man again and we have 7 players in thr box and somehow they score.

    And then Sokaritis loses his man and it flicks off of Mustafi almost an own goal

    And off thr corner, Maitland-Niles loses his man again and almost score.

  43. C says:

    Noon Gunner,

    Best 1-0 team in Europe…..if your a neutral or the opposition.

    Holding is having himself quite a match

  44. SUGA3 says:

    Christ Josh, do the right thing and sack this useless idiot, put Freddie in as caretaker and beg Keown to take the no.2 spot as defensive coach.

  45. Spike says:

    Come on Arsenal!!

    Rid us of this clueless clown already!!

  46. SUGA3 says:

    This is relegation form. Simple as that.

    Emery can’t even get them to perform as sum of the parts. The fans don’t like him, another set of players has made him their bitch, etc.

    I think sacking him is the only sensible thing to do. The players may shake themselves out of this malaise and surprise a few people against Leicester.

  47. Michael says:

    Seems falling asleep after about 20 mins was the right thing to do.

  48. Spike says:


    Are the board/owners/Edu at al just hoping things dont get too shit?

    Well theres little evidence to suggest Emery has the wherewithal or knowhow to change things for the better!

    It’s sad really, I dont want Emery to get pilloried because of the lack of decisive action by the powers that be.

  49. Bill says:

    At least we don’t lose a lot of games. I was so happy to see the kronkes bring in some new football people into the front office and move on from Arsene that I would have been happy with almost anyone. I thought Emery was an excellent choice because of his reputation for meticulous preparation and attention to detail. I thought would be exactly what we needed to organize the defense. I was certainly wrong about that one.

  50. SUGA3 says:


    I honestly do not have any sympathy for someone being so comically out of his depth and paid this much money. We all know someone at work who blagged the interview, right?

    Too much is at stake, another season without CL football and money will do too much damage to this club. Time to get rid of Mr Gazidis’ final ‘fuck you’.

  51. C says:

    I’ll say this, Holding looks miles away from being match fit and having any sort of rythm to his game.

    O yea, and Mustafi had a good performance. Give have shambolic Sokaritis and Luiz are as a partnership, I wouldn’t be opposed to a Chambers/Mustafi PL pairing.

  52. SUGA3 says:



    You can go through the whole season unbeaten, drawing all the games and get relegated. Just saying.

    The problem here is that we score and then start defending a lousy 1:0 lead against some two bob Portuguese team. I mean, come on.

  53. Spike says:


    I wouldn’t be opposed to that either, while Holding gets up to speed.

    But we all know who the CB pairing will be Saturday.

  54. Spike says:


    Dont get me wrong, I’ve wanted a change in coach for some time. The rot set in towards the end of last season. I do think Emery was unlucky to lose Holding and Bellerin to long term injuries, but still he has made no progress in 18 months despite significant investment.

    He needs to fuck off.

  55. Woolwich Freddie says:

    Sounds like Holding still struggling to come back. Looking ahead to next season, I wonder where Saliba will be expected to fi into all this? Sounds like he’s had injuries this season and I assume he would be given some time to adapt to the league. Assuming he’s fit, adaption goes smoothly (I know, I know), who partners him in defense? If we shift Mustafi, do we get another CB? And, of course, the eternal question: will he play behind the fabled defensive midfielder of yore?

  56. G4E says:

    This Emery dude is not going to make it in the Premier League world.

    Don’t feel like we are a solid team, and now we don’t even look like a threat either.

    So where is the progress to the tune of where is the beef?

    We bought the players and on paper they should be able to progress, but I don’t think it’s a player problem.

    Say what you will about Ozil, but Emery handled that very poorly and it backfired not just on the field but outside the field as well.

    I think PSG and Arsenal are too big for him to handle, he should go back to mid-table team in Spain or anywhere else.

  57. SUGA3 says:

    Arsenal have now faced 60 shots this Europa League season, fewer only than FC Astana, FK Krasnodar and Dudelange.

  58. C says:


    That’s so very very true. Holding, neede more match time against this level to knock off the rust and find his timing.

  59. C says:

    Woolwich Freddie,

    Saliba has a couple injuries, but he has been in brilliant form. When he was out, they were 18th or 19th, not 8th and keeping clean sheets, less shots on goal and more solid. If Holding gets fit then he partners him IMHO and if not then Luiz.

  60. Bill says:

    I am not sure what Holding has done in his career to make anyone confident that he is a top quality CB. He has been with us for 3 seasons and looked good for a grand total of 2 or may be 3 months at most. He was our best CB for about 1 months last season but that’s not saying much. Better then Mustafi Kos and Sokratis is a rather bar to set. Even if he completely recovers from his injury which is not a slam dunk he still has not proven he can be a solid CB for a top of the table team

  61. Blue Yonder says:

    I’m as fed up with Emery as anyone but, even with a poor manager, there’s way too much talent in this squad to explain the pathetic, lacklustre performances. So, I don’t see who could come in, wave the magic wand and perform the needed miracles.
    That doesn’t mean a change shouldn’t be made but I’m not expecting any miracles to happen. We’re going down the same road as MU – staggering from disaster to disaster, interspersed with the occasional miracle.
    It’s as if a virus invaded the club (several seasons ago) and it’s destroying everything around it – managers and players.

  62. SUGA3 says:

    Blue Yonder,

    It is not any virus. It is the culture of accepting failure. Top to bottom.

    Trust me, if Emery got sacked on the plane home, the team would absolutely fly out of the blocks against Leicester. Why? Because it would send a strong message: no more fucking around.

  63. Buckagh says:

    Blue Yonder,

    Melodramatic bullshit.
    There is no virus
    just weak pathetic management from top to bottom

  64. Buckagh says:

    Leicester on the horizon and I fear they have a hat full of goals with them

  65. Mattack says:

    That Mustafi looks a good player…. why doesn’t he get more chances… 🤣

    Sack Emery and if no-one available go with Ljungberg/ Arteta/Henry plus Keown to sort out the defensive shambles til end of season

  66. Damon says:

    SUGA3: Arsenal have now faced 60 shots this Europa League season, fewer only than FC Astana, FK Krasnodar and Dudelange.

    Most regulars know stats aren’t my fav thing for judging players, but it’s more applicable for teams as a whole. Even more so with a large sample size over a period of time.

    This one tells you everything you need to know about this team and what’s wrong with it.

    Then you remember Watford’s 30 something shots inside a 45 minute period and you know it’s not a coincedence

  67. Bill says:

    Blue Yonder

    I just don’t see where you or anyone else gets the idea that we have so much talent in this squad. I understand why people get excited after watching the league cup game against Liverpool but we have been seeing the same thing for 15 years and you can’t judge players based on those games. Every attacking player on the pitch is going to look great in a game where no one plays defense. The only top level talented players in this squad right now are Auba and Laca are they are both playing well. The manager is not hurting them. Other then those 2 which one of the other players in our squad would be playing regular minutes for one of the teams who is in the top 2 in their group in the champions league. The correct answer is almost none.

  68. Bill says:

    I suspect most fans would say Guendouzi has been our best player not named Auba or Laca. How many of the worlds top 15-16 teams would use a U21 player who has a total of 0 goals and 1 assist in our league games as a regular starter? The correct is probably almost none.

  69. Slarien says:

    Someone’s worth in a football team isn’t just judged solely by the amount of assists and goals they make, Guendouzi is labelled as one of the best players in the team because he consistently puts in high energy and intensive minutes, he tried to press and drive the team forward.

  70. Bill says:


    True about Guendouzi and his energy. However, you have watched the same games I have and if he has been effective in driving the team forward why does our midfield struggle so much to get the ball into the attacking 1/3? I am not suggesting its all his fault but he certainly has not improved our midfields overall effectiveness. Same thing on the defensive end. Again I am not suggesting our poor midfield defense is his fault but he has played more then 3000 minutes but all of his energy has not made our midfield even slightly better at defending against counterattacks and controlling the flow of the game. Guendouzi’s energy and work rate are admirable and eye catching but eye catching is not the same as effective. He brings 0 end product in the final 1/3. He is not a defensive player. To date, where is there any evidence to suggest that he has improved our midfields overall attacking or defensive nous?

  71. Bill says:

    Again I am not suggesting that our problems are Guendouzi’s fault and I think he probably has been our best player outside of the 2 forwards. However, if his job is to drive the team forward and break up play, disrupt the opposition and control the midfield then he has not been doing a very job of either. As a team we are struggling mightily to get the ball forward and our midfield defense has been every bit as poor as anything from the Wenger era.

  72. C says:


    Age shouldn’t matter, if your good enough, your old enough. You always bang on about international call ups, Guendouzi is now part of a supremely talented French midfield last I checked. More to that, his role in the team isn’t to score goals or really assist in them but more be that link between defense and attack. Again, you focus so much on age, but fail to remember that the past couple of years under Arsene, we had a team full of mid to late 20 somethings and they were widely inconsistent.

  73. Dukey says:

    We got our old Arsenal back. Just without the holding on to the one nil lead bit…….

  74. C says:

    Since we can’t defend, lets have a go at Leicester and see who outscores who.

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