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Lazy weekend thoughts
Man Utd did enough to win but looked average and Sanchez was poor.
Arsenal had their moments but were soundly outclassed by City.
Liverpool put 4 past an average West Ham.
is it 2017??
George (like the look of Guendouzi though) AFC, Wellington, NZ
Arsenal should pass it back to Cech more often. Worked really well.
G Thomas, Holland
The mentality of the players (oh please don’t crucify me just yet) – for a number of years now whenever it started to go badly for the team (usually when the ref blew for the kick off) the Arsenal players start whinging, whining, moaning and acting like spoilt brats as soon as anything went against them. That was almost entirely missing last night. The players seem to try rather than whinge went it went wrong – frankly if that is the only improvement this season from the change of manager I for one will take it.
In three games last season against City we conceded 3 goals in each and looked wretched, really really wretched. Last night we only conceded 2 goals and looked somewhat wretched. I make that a 33% improvement.
Ramsey up front or very near the front. It didn’t work but the manager tried something new, tried to come up with an actual plan to beat a better team. I have faith that this manager will actually improve the team rather than moan about why he couldn’t.
Guendouzi, (no me neither) I can not remember the last time a young player made his debut for Arsenal in the league and actually improved the side. That is not to say we haven’t had talented youngsters debuting but for some years now they have looked overawed when they have. Guendouzi may not be the future but it seems that how youngsters are being prepared for their debut has improved. Or maybe because he came from another team to Arsenal rather than through the youth ranks explains this.
And sure Guendouzi was ghosted past by Sterling when he scored but at least he was there to be ghosted past, how many Arsenal midfielders haven’t even been in position to support the full back over the last 10 years? (answer – pretty much all of them).
Torreira looked good, he managed to pass or equal just about every positive game stat as the man he replaced in a mere 20 minutes of game time. True City had mostly gone to sleep by this stage but I am looking for positives here.
I thought Mkhitaryan looked our best attacker in the game and he seemed to be involved in most of our best moments going forward. And generally we looked more dangerous in this game against city than in all three combined last season; but that is setting the bar pretty low.
Arsenal were trying to play from the back and City were pressing them very effectively – leading to what could have been the own goal of the season by Cech. The plan wasn’t working so at one point Cech said enough and sent everyone up field and kicked the ball long from a goal kick. It was nice to see a senior player take charge of a situation during a game and improve it. Cech may well be replaced soon but I have hope that he and some other senior players may whinge less and lead more going forward.
We were easily beaten and as 16 Conclusions pointed out, City played the last 20 minutes at well under their best.
Mkhitaryan was ditched by Mourinho for a reason, if you want to press from the front then having a player that was dribbled past 3 times like he wasn’t there isn’t going to work, especially if behind him is Xhaka and a young midfielder playing out of position as third choice left back. To be fair none of the front line looked any good at pressing and it was a disjointed effort when they did but it took Klopp a while to get it working at Liverpool and I think he started with players better suited to it.
Xhaka was almost utterly pointless, check out his opta stats for the game – 1 tackle and no interceptions in defence (an inflatable kids toy probably would have finished the game with more interceptions) and his only positive contribution to the attack was being fouled once. Gilberto Silva was called the invisible wall because you didn’t notice him but nothing managed to get past him, Xhaka is the invisible player because you don’t know he is on the field until he is substituted. Seriously; when the camera panned onto him when the teams were setting up for the second half I thought he was a half time substitute.
Okay Ramsey looked poor in a new position but he has repeatedly shown he is an intelligent player and he may thrive in a new position but on this display it needs a lot of work.
Ozil just looked off his game, his game being passing. The number of times our attacks fell over because he was offside or couldn’t pass to a team mate was too high. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of a world cup hangover and just the fact the front line is still relatively new to each other and playing a new style. If this is a reflection of how Ozil is going to pass for the rest of the season we are in real trouble because he is still our lynch pin in attack (even off his passing game he still managed 2 key passes which was as many as anyone in the Arsenal team).
The two center backs looked too slow and too static. The same problem existed in last nights game as previous seasons, the center backs got very little protection from the midfielders and didn’t have the speed or seem to have the intelligence to cover for the fact. They looked out of position and unable to react quick enough for both of City’s goals. Sure 40% of the defence was new to the team (and 1 other I believe was playing his first competitive game as a full back) so I don’t expect perfection but on this evidence a heck of lot of work still needs doing. But optimistically I think this manager has more chance of fixing the defensive problems than the last one.
Overall we were easily beaten with more negatives than positives from the game. Most worryingly the preseason talk was about how good our attack is but it was disjointed and seldom troubled the City defence and mostly in the last 20 minutes when CIty had dropped a gear. The evidence though is the team have a better mentality than last year which frankly is needed and bodes well for the season. Based on this one game we could be Europa cup winners and have a better run at the top four than last year.
Not only did I actually watch the Arsenal game last night but I was a season ticket holder at the Emirates last season, during the period many call ‘Peak Arsenal’.
Yesterday was obviously not the result the fans were expecting. Yes there were some of the same failings on display, such as foolish playing out from the back,disjointed play in the final third and poor crossing/final balls. Pundits will bemoan the ‘same old’ result, however to my eye I could see a definite attempt at a different style.
Guendouzi (although he shouldn’t be considered the answer) was very good. He played with a bite and willing to drive from midfield too often unseen in seasons past. Torreira will take over that spot once he is back to full fitness.
Arsenal were bad in the final third, and seemed like they still didn’t have a coherent attacking plan. But this will develop over time and what was most encouraging was the attempt at actually attempting to play through the lines and move the ball forward quickly.
I didnt see as much of the nonsense sideways lethargy as was the mainstay last season.
Ultimately we were playing Man City, who have a definite coherent attacking plan, midfield press and quality defense. They were odds on favourites for the game and are heavy favourites for the league title for good reason.
I am not entirely disheartened by this first result.
The Chelsea game will be the bigger test.
1 point from these opening fixtures would be decent. Naturally 3 would be great considering the form from the previous few years. Let us all remind ourselves that Arsenal target is 4th.
Final note, I have been calling for Danny Welbeck to play full back for the whole last season. He has the athleticism and his main skill seems to be getting in teh way of the ball, so at least if he can do that in the defensive third it would be a benefit to the team.
Look at how Valencia/Young/Moses were converted, I think Welbeck could do a similar job and do i well. Hope Emery gives him a chance.
Hats (This season is gonna be fun)
1 – We kept City out of a Champions League position
2 – We only lost 2-0 to the best team in the country
3 – Is anyone really bothered? The new boss has only been there a couple of months, it’s going to take more than one game to sort our problems
4 – Again, is anyone really bothered? This season is about getting his feet under the table and imposing his way of playing. We will probably still finish in the top 6. First world problems.
5 – Liverpool might be quite good though…
6 – Our battles are going to be against everyone who finished 7th & below last season. Let’s be realistic. Chances are we may not win the league this year…
Chins up fellow Gooners, this is only the beginning. We’re going to batter Chelsea*.
Stu in France (*this may not happen)
Are City scared?
Cracking content as always, been an avid reader for a long time.
Just wanted to raise a point to fellow readers about the time wasting by City in yesterday’s game. I was quite surprised as I have never ever seen that from any of Guardiola’s teams (yes the faking of injuries, but never over corners etc) – so I can’t imagine this instruction came from him.
When I think of City all I think of is aggressive football. Very rarely do they take their foot of the pedal, until they’re at least 3-0 up and even then they always look like they can score more. Hence why yesterday’s actions were so surprising. Initially I thought it was just Mahrez and his small club mentality that haven’t adjusted, but even Ederson was taking an age over goal kicks until the ref had to intervene.
I just think that there is a shift in mindset from last year. Last year the mentality was to bulldoze everyone to reach the top. This year, they have something to cling on to, and it’s almost as if they are scared of losing it.
I don’t think City will run away with it like everyone is predicting. I think it will be very close, with Liverpool the most likely to jump them. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but as an Arsenal fan, I despise everything connected to Mourinho, so Man Utd and Chelsea will both hopefully get relegated.
I think Sp*rs will struggle as well, no real additions in the summer, and with Harry Kanes form being electric for the last few years, a dry spell has to come soon. Dele is overrated, and if rumours are to be believed and Madrid come in for Erikson, then that could be the first of a Domino effect for the likes of Kane/Lloris et al.
Arsenal are some way off and won’t be challenging for the title, but I think we’ll surprise a few people and finish comfortably in the top 4.
Curious case of Tottenham
I’ve heard people laughing at Tottenham not bringing players in as their first XI can’t be improved.That’s missing the point.
By can’t improve, it doesn’t mean, there are no better players. It means that Spurs can’t afford the better players, both transfer fees and wages (and no, they can’t compete financially with the elite). Similarly, it doesn’t make much sense to spend that much at backups given their transfer history. See, Soldado, Sissoko, Janssen, Llorente, you get the point. Spurs decided to stick with what has worked for them which is sticking with what they have and improving it instead of replacing them impatiently. See, Son, Lamela, Kane, Alli etc.
By no means, they had a good transfer window. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have a good season. Looking forward to a wonderful season after a good start over Newcastle who were pretty good and should hold their own themselves.
An Optimistic Spurs Fan
The real MVP
New season and an opportunity for us nerds to score points. I thought we could do with MVP(most valuable player) and MUP(most useless player) of the weekend. My assertion is based purely on the always reliable eye test, as opposed to the scientific mumbo jumbo called statistics.
MVP: Sadio Mane. His two goal were a result of a well oiled attacking machine. It’s his pace and trickery that is most threatening. He has also improved his decision making in the final third and the relationship with Mo Salah and Firminho is almost telepathic. His anticipation for the first goal when everyone stood still was magnificent. Special mention to James Maddison, Jorginho and Pogba.
Worst player of the weekend: Alexis Sanchez. With a full holiday and a proper preseason to condition his body, he should have been Man U’s best player, but not only did he look amateurish, he actually slowed down and killed off the attack plays. He is not expected to be the best player at the club, they have Pogba for that, but he was expected to kick on and deliver. Signs are omnious that Man City dodged a bullet there. Special mentions for Jagielka and Ozil.
Dave(Arsenal look really good, if they play like that all season, they will have a successful campaign), Somewhere
Genuinely my only thought about the Fulham match before Saturday afternoon was “I hope it doesn’t take us seven games to score”. Fortunately, this Roy Hodgson Derby was played in good spirit between two evenly-matched teams. The result could have gone either way and while Crystal Palace could be deserved winners, Slavisa Jokanovic’s side on another day – a “typical Palace” day – could have easily claimed the points.
*Crystal Palace lined up nominally in a 4-4-1-1 with Christian Benteke up front and Wilfried Zaha given a free role behind him. This was effective because on either flank the Eagles have a combination that worked very well together: on the left, Patrick van Aanholt and Jeffrey Schlupp had their hands full with Andre Schurrle, but both have good attacking instincts and combined well for the first goal.
On the right, Andros Townsend and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were impressive. Townsend had one of his quieter games but he played an incredibly mature game to effectively mentor his young right-back through the game. Wan-Bissaka was not perfect, and on occasion needed both Townsend and Mamadou Sakho to bail him out, but for the most part he was superb. His strong run and delicate pass to create Zaha’s goal was a magnificent sight.
*Roy Hodgson take the bold step of leaving out all four of his summer signings, in the name of team cohesion, which meant some bold calls, and they came off. Firstly, a lot of Palace fans are hard on Wayne Hennessey, and we were scratching our heads before the game, as surely Vicente Guaita had been signed to play ahead of the Welshman. However, Hennessey had the game of his life – nothing like genuine competition for your place, is there?
Where Hodgson deserves most credit though is in giving Wan-Bissaka a start. Last season an injury crisis meant he was thrown in at the deep end but acquitted himself well against the likes of Liverpool and Hotspur, so it’s unlikely facing exciting players like Andre Schurrle and Ryan Sessegnon would worry him. However this is what sets Hodgson apart from the other English managers he so often gets lumped together with. Palace are a club with a long history of producing exciting young players, of whom Wan-Bissaka and Zaha are just the latest of many examples. However, prior to Hodgson the club had favoured the sort of manager who isn’t interested in young players. When giving Wan-Bissaka his debut last season, Hodgson made a point of saying that the whole reason clubs have academies is to produce players capable of playing in the first team. It’s not very difficult to imagine that any of Sam Allardyce, Alan Pardew or Tony Pulis would have preferred to use a centre-back out of position, and would then have demanded money in the summer to sign a new right-back.
*No one’s getting carried away at Palace, but after last season, it’s nice to have after one game the same number of points it took us eight games to run up last year. The main thing to be optimistic about is that we have a good first XI but also have depth, as several of those who started at Craven Cottage will not be automatic starters in every game. Next up are Liverpool for the first Selhurst Park Under The Lights of the season. You’d expect them to slaughter us after what they did to United yesterday, but you never know.
Some United thoughts
United fan’s perspective:
1. Is there anything better than an error leading to a penalty in your opponent’s box in the first two minutes in your first game in the Premier League? Talk about a way to settle nerves and make Mouronho’s life easy?
2. Although a little frantic at times, United looked like they had a real desire (until they got tired). This is not preseason, and they know it. Jamie Carraher mentioned after 70 minutes that Leicester were controlling the game. I think that United were in more control than Leicester.
3. Leicester had a few chances, the most dangerous (before the goal) being from the highly impressive coming from a very impressive Madisson. He was quite effective, and you would never think it was his debut.
4. Bailly played extremely well, (up until the goal) his defensive duties were impeccable. Lindelof was quietly strong as well. Is this the righty-lefty-forceful-delicate CB partnership we have all been waiting for? Remains to be seen.
5. Sanchez played absolutely terribly, by his standards. Misplaced passes galore, missed tackles, poor positioning and not really offering Shaw much help. Maybe preseason doesn’t suit him?
6 Mata wasn’t the most dangerous either. Yes, he always has a killer pass in him, but I always feel he limits play as a winger. Rashford honestly looked more dangerous on the right. A striker, though, at this moment, he is not.
7. Pogba was quite quietly efficient I think. A couple of sloppy moments, but for a man with zero preseason, he looks like a he has matured and progressed.
8. Congratulations mister Shaw. You have finally made the contribution everyone was waiting for. He looked dangerous in the first half and a fine finish. Will he be a bonafide left-back? Not a bad opening argument.
9. Fred appeared to be intent on making a mark. Good passing, good intensity. I’m excited to be honest.
10. 16 is a lot of conclusions.
(11. Yes, I did write this with 75 minutes gone and only went back to insert the final bits in parentheses. You got me.)
– Donnacha, Bogotá
The Leicester view
Not a classic match but I’m pretty happy with our performance there. All-in-all slightly unfortunate not to come away with a point. a few thoughts:
– We are now almost unrecognisable to the team that won the league both in playing style and personnel.
– Maddison and Perreira looked class at times. Really looking forward to seeing more of them throughout the season.
– That being said I’m slightly concerned about how much we are relying on Maddison already. Throughout preseason and last night, everything seems to come through him.
– As much as Ihaenacho seems to be improving, we are always more of a goal threat with Vardy on the pitch. I thought his place would be under threat this season but I’ve quickly changed my mind.
– How is Wes Morgan still in the starting 11? I’m hoping and expecting this to change very soon with our new signings coming in.
– Sanchez is nicking a living. makes me wince every time I think of his wages.
– Rashford has to be a strong contender for the most overrated player of all time.
– Pogba is just a joy to watch.
Liverpool 2018/19: this feels different…
I know this is a long one for a Monday, but bear with me. Watching the game last night (in Australia) as a Liverpool fan was almost surreal. In years gone by as the season began, the preseason hype behind the team was not matched by the performances once the real games started, particularly early on. Once again this year the hype was there, but it felt different. This time it appears as though success will not be determined by a Gerrard masterclass or a Suarez/Torres screamer – there are now foundations in place at Liverpool that sustainable success can be built on; a definitive style and playing philosophy from a manager who is able to effectively communicate and implement his tactics, a squad that is high on quality but also buys into the philosophy to the point where there is a willingness to follow the tactical instructions for the good of the team rather than personal glory, and finally owners and a board that are prepared to accept, fund and execute the managers plans.
Since I started watching football in the early 2003 there have been two ‘great’ Liverpool teams that almost won the league – Rafa’s team with the spine of Reina, Carragher, Alonso, Mascherano, Gerrard and Torres in 2008/09 and then the Suarez led team in 2013/14. Whilst they were great fun to watch and ran the league very close, both teams were built around talismanic players (Gerrard & Torres, and then Suarez) and generally the performance of the team went as those players did. Because of their sheer quality, those Liverpool teams were very good but ultimately fell short of the title. And so when Alonso and Torres left/broke down post 2009, then Suarez followed suit in 2014 the ‘success’ from those previous almost-seasons was not able to be replicated. There are a few reasons for this, whether you look at the replacements brought in that were not of sufficient quality (Aquilani, Carroll, Balotelli etc) or because the previous successful season was largely predicated on performances from the player who left (Suarez). In these situations there has been more than one person responsible for the drop in quality – the owners/board who are in charge of brining in the new players, as well as the manager who’s plan A was to win through the talisman, but then didn’t have an adequate plan B (which is why I understood the decision to sack Rodgers).
This version of Liverpool feels different though, right the way through the club. In FSG we have an ownership group that have invested in expanding Anfield, recognising the importance of maintaining the connection between the club and the fans, and understanding the importance of preserving the ‘soul’ of the old stadium (I feel their experience with Boston Red Sox has helped them here – Boston and Liverpool fans have a similar tribal connection with their teams). They have also appointed a strong willed, forward thinking manager with the understanding that he would be allowed to pick his own transfer targets, moving away from the dark days of Damien Comolli’s transfer committee. Michael Edwards has been appointed as Sporting Director and has established himself as an efficient and effective negotiator (78 million pounds for Sakho, Benteke and Ings!) and there appears to be a good working relationship between he and Klopp. As has been pointed out numerous times there is a clear benefit behind getting your transfer business done early, and Edwards deserves a lot of credit for doing that this summer.
And finally, Klopp and the players. The squad put together by Klopp have clearly bought into his philosophy and tactics, there is a good blend of youth and experience, and a willingness from Klopp to utilise the players that were already available to him – not just from the first team, but also the youth academy (TAA and Gomez – although he arrived at 18). Klopp has given players a chance to impress rather than coming in and immediately making whole-sale changes, just in the squad yesterday against West Ham Firminio, Milner, TAA, Henderson, Lallana, Sturridge and Clyne; all were at the club before Klopp arrived, and you can add Lovren to that list too, who would be starting if not for an injury.
Any changes that have been made to the squad have been because of the decision to improve it, rather than scrambling for replacements because someone has left (Coutinho aside, although even then Klopp was happy to wait and show faith in his system and the players available to him rather than panic buying). FSG have supported Klopp and have not been afraid to spend big to bring in the players he wants with world record fees for Van Dijk and (at the time) Alisson. Klopp has also been willing to wait for the ‘his’ player to become available, rather than just filling a position as was the case with Van Dijk and Keita – again demonstrating that he has a very clear philosophy and has the strength of will to deal with media and public scrutiny over the clamour for immediate replacements.
The squad itself is the strongest I have ever seen after 15 years as a watching fan, you simply need to look at the bench yesterday and the plethora of quality options available – injuries at centre back notwithstanding (mercifully Klavan will be back soon). This differs to squads from the past as I have touched on above, where Liverpool were beatable if you stopped one or two players. Now, it is more a matter of ‘pick your poison’ for opposing managers – yesterday Firminio didn’t look particularly sharp in front of goal, although the work ethic and link up play was there. Yet we won 4-0, and it easily could have been 6 or 7. Success is now generated from a team effort in executing a clear tactical strategy at an elite level.
There have been a few recent examples of Premier League teams that have had success, and even won titles but were unable to maintain that level of achievement. Most recently Chelsea under Conte had the short terms success, but their infrastructure didn’t allow for a sustainable relationship between club and manager, and that quickly permeated down to the players to the point where a number of them were clearly glad to see the back of Conte. In Manchester you currently have examples of both what happens club and manager are aligned in philosophy and execution, and what happens when that is not the case.
And that is why it feels different this time at Liverpool. Without getting too hyperbolic, there is appears to be a harmonious relationship from ownership and board, to the manager and the players, right down to the fans. For the first time since I became a fan there is a blueprint for sustainable results at Liverpool, much more similar to City than to United and as F365 have rightly pointed out, success at Liverpool will now be justifiably measured by silverware rather than a top 4 finish, and that as a Liverpool fan is pretty damn exciting.
Hustle, loyalty and respect
It was the first Premier League opening fixtures for 16 years without Wayne Rooney, and so many probably think Wayne is collecting his pay packet in semi-retirement in the States.
For those that haven’t seen what he’s been up to, check out his last-minute heroics tonight – all with a nose broken in a game two weeks ago.
I’ve never been much of a fan of the guy, but I’ve got to appreciate the hustle.
Patrick O’Harra. Dayton, Wyoming, US