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monthly Sep 2020
article / Nicolas Pépé : His season to shine
One decision by Mikel Arteta has raised a few eyebrows, however, which is Willian playing ahead of Pepe who has had to settle for a role on the bench. Some fans are concerned whether Pepe is going to come good after the huge sum we invested for him, whilst others are questioning the decision altogether.
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monthly Aug 2020
article / Arsenal end of season awards
A great end to what has been a tumultous season, Arsenal are FA Cup winners for the 14th time, qualifying for the Europa league in the process. Mikel Arteta has his first piece of silverware and we have some level of finance to operate in the coming window, the team spirit is high and we can be hopeful of this momentum carrying into next season. Lot of things to be positive.
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monthly Jul 2020
article / Thomas Partey to Arsenal analyzed | PART 2
Back in April when we were all in complete lockdown, I did a piece analyzing three key factors determining Thomas Partey's potential transfer to Arsenal, which are: #1 - Player' desire to stay/leave Atletico Madrid #2 - Is Arsenal an attractive proposition for Partey? #3 - Can Arsenal afford Partey? At the time, there wasn't a lot to know regarding these three things.
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monthly Jun 2020
article / The positional brilliance of Bukayo Saka
It is so good to be back to winning. This is our first away league victory since West Ham in December and Mikel Arteta's maiden one in charge. Two Hale-end jewels in Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock were on the score-sheet and there were plenty of promising performances in other areas. In this blog, I am going to focus on Bukayo Saka who is going from strength to strength.
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monthly May 2020
article / The main improvement area for each player in the Arsenal squad
While the lock down means no proper training, this is a great time for players to introspect and identify areas to improve - which can add more value to their overall game. 'Homework' as Arteta likes to call it.Here's my thoughts on the 1 most important area specific to each player they can look to work on:1. Bernd Leno: When it comes to set piece defending, Leno is better than what he was last season. However, he still has the tendency to get beaten by the flight of the ball.2. Emiliano Martinez:His distribution is off a lot of the time - In the modern game, goalkeepers need to be equally good with their feet as they are with their hands.3. Hector Bellerin:His ground balls are very good, which saw him amass 5 assists at the start of the 2018/19 season, but an area for Hector to work on is the accuracy of his aerial crosses. 4. Ainsley Maitland Niles:Sometimes, he can be way too casual on the pitch. This seems to have translated to his work ethic in training, with Arteta insisting that he needs to work harder to get his place back in the squad.5. Shkodran Mustafi:Staying on his feet. A lot of the time, especially in 1 v 1 situations, Mustafi tends to get sucked in to the ball and falls over way too easily. While he's showing some improvement, he needs to sustain this for a longer duration.6. Rob Holding:His best spell was in 2018 when he played as a left center back. However, Arteta has used him on the right hand side and he looks a bit uncomfortable playing there - Not defensively but in terms of his passing which has been off, so he needs to adapt.7. Calum Chambers:Showed great calmness and never really put a foot wrong at center back, but a small detail he could look to work on is his first touch when he receives the ball from the keeper. 8. Pablo Mari:We haven't seen much of him, he looks a good defender, but seems to be on the slower side. The pace of the league seemed to overwhelm him. He needs to figure out how to position himself accordingly to adapt to the intensity of the league.9. Sokratis:Isn't convincing on the ball at all, a key reason Arteta has preferred Mustafi. Our style of play entails the center back to be more progressive with his passing.10. David Luiz:Has that reckless moment in him where can do something really silly. However, he is willing to learn and he's been heavily praising Arteta to English and Brazil media, stating that he is learning new things everyday despite being so experienced in the game. 11. Sead Kolasinac:His passing can be off at times. This is largely due to his awkward body shape whilst receiving the ball. Leads to cheap possession giveaways in dangerous areas.12. Bukayo Saka:If Saka is going to continue being played as a left back, an area for him to work on is 1v1 defending when he's more isolated. He's had Xhaka who covers very well for him, but next season, Arteta may want the left central midfielder to be more attacking.13. Kieran Tierney:Looked faultless from the few games he played, but needs to try and ensure he can stay fit in the future as he will be a really important player for Arsenal.14. Matteo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos:Positional awareness is the biggest issue for both. They get drawn to the ball way too easily and can be over eager in wanting to win it back. Leaving their positions in midfield can leave us open.15. Lucas Torreira:Needs to be more progressive with his passing. He certainly has the skill set, but his mindset is always to play the safe pass. You seldom see him playing diagonals or incisive passes to open up teams, which is why he's lost his place to Ceballos.16. Granit Xhaka: On certain occasions, he gives the ball away cheaply in dangerous areas in our final third during the buildup which he needs to cut out.17. Mesut Ozil:Teams don't play conventional 10's right now - It is an outdated position in the modern game considering how physical the game has become. He needs to try and adapt to be a midfielder in a 4-3-3 for which he needs to do a lot more work off the ball. 18. Joe Willock:His decision making can let him down. He does very well to win the ball high up the pitch and gets into great positions, but has the tendency to pick the wrong option.19. Gabriel Martinelli:His passing can be off at times from wider areas in the build-up phase. Needs a little more refinement in this area.20. Reiss Nelson:Physicality. Nelson has superb natural talent and is one of Hale End's best products. However, he needs to bulk up more to cope with the physicality of the league. This also opens up more options for him - Could potentially be a #10.21. Nicolas Pepe:Pepe can use his skill set to be more unpredictable and cause more damage. Arteta says he makes Pepe defend as the full back, to try and understand better when is the right moment to pull out a particular piece of skill.22. Eddie Nketiah:While he is a very good player inside the box, Arteta has entrusted him to drop deeper and link up the play. This is something he can look to improve on - His first touch, his gait whilst receiving the ball and how to utilize it best. 23. Alexandre Lacazette:Lacazette needs to be more clinical in front of goal. He needs to put the 'easy chances' to bed. Last season, most of his goals were top, top quality. He needs to put away the easy ones more often. 24. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang:Dribbling. Aubameyang is being utilized on the left and while he grabs goals for fun and puts in a great shift, I feel he can do more in terms of ball carrying in certain situations, especially considering he is also blessed with pace.Thank you for your patient reading and stay safe!
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monthly Apr 2020
article / Thomas Partey - The 3 variables influencing a potential Arsenal transfer
BACKGROUND - WHY DO ARSENAL HAVE AN INTEREST IN THOMAS PARTEY?:Thomas Partey is a player I've always admired and wanted at Arsenal. The reason being, we do not have a player of that profile at our club in midfield. Someone who can break the lines with his passes, is commanding, physical and at the same time has sound reading of the game so as to be able to consistently step up in key defensive moments.Truth be told, we haven't had this type of player since the days of Gilberto and Vieira. They do not grow on trees. That explains why Arteta is reportedly interested in a player like Partey, who offers such a complete skill set. To be able to switch to a 4-3-3, it requires a complete player at the base of midfield and Partey fits this requirement.FACTORS THAT WOULD INFLUENCE A DEAL:#1 - Player desire to stay/leave Atletico Madrid: As reported by the ever reliable Fabrizio Romano for The Guardian, Atletico Madrid have offered Thomas Partey a new contract, with Diego Simeone supposedly desperate to keep the player. There have been quotes by the player himself in the past expressing his love for Atletico and his desire to become a legend at the club. Just one thing to consider though - every player says such things, whilst VERY few actually follow through on their words. Look at some of our own former players such as Fabregas, Nasri and so on. Even someone like Harry Kane who has said similar things in the past is now flirting with the possibility of leaving Tottenham. David Ornstein, who in my opinion is Arsenal's No.1 source for reliable news, stated back in November for The Athletic that Thomas Partey was 'apparently desperate' to join Arsenal last summer. Now forget 'Arsenal', we will come to us in a bit. The fact that he was very open to the idea of leaving Atletico last summer is quite telling. It's no secret that Atletico have been trying to get Partey tied to a new contract for quite a while now, but not to any avail. This tells you that he's a player that is unsure and considering his future options. #2 - Is Arsenal an attractive proposition for Partey? There's a few things we need to consider. Firstly, Atletico Madrid are a Champions league club. Yes I know they've struggled this season and currently stand #6 in La Liga, but with Arsenal likely to miss out on Champions League football for a 4th season in a row, we are a club in a downward spiral. Atletico, on the other hand, have been a stable club over the years.It will be contingent on whether Arsenal can sell a project. Last summer for example, we were able to sign Pepe and Tierney despite their respective clubs qualifying for the Champions League/Champions League qualifiers. As per Sports journalist Freddie Paxton (@Freddie_Paxton), who gets featured on outlets such as Guardian, Times and ESPN among others - Thomas Partey is keen on moving to England, amid interest from a number of Premier League clubs (including Arsenal). This news was broken a few days back. Even the player' father speaking to Marca stated that his son would like to play in England should he get the opportunity. In the Premier league, if you look at the top clubs, they already have players who can play a similar role to Partey:Manchester United - Fred, McTominay, Matic (Contract Extension)Manchester City - Rodri, FernandinhoChelsea - Jorginho, Kante, GilmourLiverpool - Fabinho, HendersonAt Arsenal, he would be a starter from the get-go and would become one of the team's main men. Along with this, bring in the fact that he was 'desperate' for an Arsenal move and the appeal of living in London, with world class training facilities and the modern stadium.It isn't objective to simply compare one club to another in terms of their size and say 'This club is bigger, so they will get a particular player.' There are so many factors involved and Arsenal do tick most boxes in this regard. #3 - Can Arsenal afford Partey?As per David Ornstein - The release clause of EUR 50m proved too much for Arsenal as a bulk of our funds were set aside for a wide player (Pepe). Also, in addition to this, we signed Tierney, Martinelli, Saliba, Luiz and Ceballos (loan) for roughly around EUR 70m. One deterrent about Partey's release clause is that while the sum seems on the lower side for a player of his quality, we need to pay this up front, which is not going to be easy at all in a time when clubs are struggling for liquidity as a result of the coronavirus crisis. This, along with the likelihood of no European football for next season makes it even trickier.To afford Partey's release clause, we would likely have to generate good value from player sales. Considering a direct exchange deal like Lacazette/Torreira for Partey sounds way too idealistic in my opinion, but I don't want to rule out the possibility of a swap deal along with some cash. Especially considering the fact that Atletico have a long standing interest in Lacazette and have even been linked with Torreira in the past. So in short - It will depend on cash we can generate from sales, as well as the signings we make in other positions. It is also unclear as to exactly how much existing cash we have to spend and to what degree Stan Kroenke is going to help us. But the fact that we have established contact with Partey's agent is a good sign. TO CONCLUDE: There is a lot of uncertainty regarding the future of football, so I don't see us completing any major deals like this one until our finances are clearer. Having said that, this is one transfer saga to keep an eye on and will be interesting to see how it all plays out. I feel intuitively on the optimistic side about this one, but don't hold me to it!
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monthly Mar 2020
column / Ranking Our Post-Wenger Signings.
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that William Saliba will not be included in the list. Although he has been very impressive for Saint-Étienne yet again this season, he is still yet to feature for Arsenal in any capacity, so the circumstances are not necessarily comparable to the other players in the ranking. Similarly, Pablo Marí and Cédric Soares will not be included due to a lack of minutes. Secondly, this list is certainly not solely representative of the ability of the players included. For example, I believe that Kieran Tierney has the potential to be a key player for the club in the years to come, but he hasn’t featured enough to warrant a place in the upper half of the list. Finally, the list will take the player’s entire spell at the club into account, rather than simply this season’s performances.11. Denis Suárez. Denis Suárez was somewhat unlucky with his move. Although he didn’t set the world alight during his time at the club, chances were at an absolute minimum due to recurring injuries. The deal had a rumoured option to buy, which Arsenal opted against activating in the summer of 2019. The Spaniard returned to his parent club following sporadic cameos in London. Although I feel for him in that regard, it is impossible to place him any higher on the list.10. Stephan Lichtsteiner. One of Unai Emery’s first signings in charge was that of Swiss captain Stephan Lichtsteiner. Although everybody knew that the former Juventus defender was past his best, many believed that he could add a much needed winning mentality to the dressing room whilst also pushing Héctor Bellerín to perform to the best of his ability. I think it is safe to say that this signing didn’t work out as we had all planned. Only the squad members and staff will have insight into his impact on the dressing room but, on the pitch, we can all agree that he was sub-par. Although he was predominantly played against lesser opposition, he consistently struggled. Upon his inclusion in domestic fixtures, this struggle was only enhanced, with performances at Anfield and The Etihad springing to mind in particular. Thankfully, his contract was only one year long in duration, and the club opted against extending his deal.9. Kieran Tierney. Ninth place for Kieran Tierney is a false position. Personally, I am a huge fan of the Scottish international, and feel like he will be one of the club’s leaders in the future. However, he arrived following a hernia operation and didn’t feature until our Carabao Cup game against Nottingham Forest in late-September. Upon returning to full fitness, he was snubbed in favour of Sead Kolašinac by Unai Emery - this was one of many decisions which left fans scratching their heads at the time. In early December, Freddie Ljungberg selected him in our team to face West Ham at The London Stadium. Unfortunately, Tierney picked up a shoulder injury in the first half, which has ruled him out up until the present. Thankfully, a return to the pitch seems imminent. His performances have largely been impressive whenever he has been involved, particularly in the Europa League and League Cup. By this time next year, I feel like he will be much higher on this ranking, and I can’t wait to see him given a proper chance at the club. However, for now, his restricted opportunities have limited him to 9th place on my list.8. Dani Ceballos. Dani Ceballos is yet another player whose potential Arsenal career has been hindered by injury. The Spaniard arrived at the club following a very successful set of displays at the U21 European Championship. The midfielder had a reputation for being talented, but struggled to break into the Real Madrid midfield on a weekly basis. With Euro 2020 taking place this summer, he wanted to play regularly in an attempt to maximise his chances of selection. He made a phenomenal start to life at Arsenal with a sublime display against Burnley at The Emirates Stadium on his full debut for the club. Unfortunately, he struggled to sustain this level of performance, and his form dipped significantly in the months that followed. He picked up an injury against Vitória in the Europa League, and faced a relatively lengthy spell on the sideline thereafter. Upon his return to action, his role was altered by newly appointed head coach, Mikel Arteta. He is now playing in a pivot, as opposed to the number ten position - which was the norm under Mikel’s predecessor. This has reduced our reliance on the Spaniard for creativity, and it allows him to dictate games more effectively while maintaining his position. Since returning, he has been very impressive, and I would imagine that the Arsenal hierarchy are potentially exploring the possibility of making the signing permanent. Whether he will become an Arsenal player or not remains to be seen, but hopefully he can propel us to a top four/five finish between now and the end of the season. He places higher than Tierney on my list purely because he has featured more often.7. Sokratis Papastathopoulos. In the latter years of Arsène Wenger’s reign, Arsenal were renowned for having offensive quality, but being very weak at the back. The centre back position played a key role in this perception. In an attempt to counteract this, Sokratis Papastathopoulos was signed in the summer of 2018. Realistically, fans were fully aware that this was a short-term fix. Most people who watched the Greek on a weekly basis felt like his best days were behind him. In my opinion, he has been solid at times, but has had numerous games to forget. The poor defensive set-up of Unai Emery certainly didn’t help him, and often left him exposed. Nonetheless, his leadership qualities have been a good addition to the dressing room. Also, he played an important part in our route to Baku, regardless of how that ended, and he has made a respectable start to life under Arteta - particularly when you consider that the majority of games have been at right-back. He isn’t perfect, and I don’t feel like he has the quality to be a starter in the years to come, but he has certainly had a positive impact at times. 6. David Luiz. David Luiz is a similar scenario to Sokratis. With the 2019/20 season close to commencing, Arsenal were very short of options in the centre-back position. Laurent Koscielny had departed. Nacho Monreal, who played as a centre half on numerous occasions, looked like he would follow our former captain. Shkodran Mustafi was up for sale. Rob Holding was injured, as was Dinos Mavropanos. William Saliba was set to spend the season on loan in France. Questions still remained regarding Calum Chambers - both in terms of his quality and his best position. On deadline day, Luiz signed from London rivals Chelsea. As mentioned regarding Sokratis, it was more of a short-term fix than a long-term option. The signing certainly raised some eyebrows, but it has proven to be successful in some regards. Although he struggled during Unai Emery’s tenure - as did almost every defender who was selected - he has added a real presence to the dressing room. Not only is he a leader, he is also a winner. He has won league titles in both England and France, as well as both major European competitions. This attitude was much needed in our camp. He has also helped youngsters such as Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka settle to life with the first team. Since Arteta has arrived, the Brazilian has been very impressive. A system which is more possession-based suits his ball-playing qualities, and the added support of Granit Xhaka as a makeshift left-sided centre back has kept his one-v-one defending to a minimum. Everyone has always known that he is more than capable when in possession, but the same could not be said for some of his defensive work. Thankfully, this transition to life under Arteta has brought the best out of the 32-year old, at least for now. Personally, I am not convinced that he will be a starter in the 2020/21 campaign. Presumably, Saliba will come into the first XI, and we appear to be in the market for a new addition in that position. Nonetheless, for the ~£9m fee, David Luiz has proven to be a smart short-term stop gap if nothing else. Hopefully he can sustain his recent form for the foreseeable future.5. Nicolas Pépé. In July of 2019, we smashed our transfer record in order to acquire the services of Ivorian winger Nicolas Pépé from LOSC Lille. Expectations were high, and his somewhat slow start to life in England saw him come under scrutiny on numerous occasions. However, he has not been nearly as bad as rival fans would like you to believe. As mentioned in previous articles, there were numerous factors which influenced his barren start to life in London. Among these are Unai Emery, the African Cup of Nations and the language barrier with his teammates. Nonetheless, despite these issues, he has slowly but surely improved as the season has progressed - particularly since Mikel Arteta’s arrival. As it stands, he has managed six goals and eight assists. I am not claiming that this return is world class, far from it. We all know that he is capable of producing much better numbers - as both Mikel and the player himself have acknowledged. However, players such as Leroy Sané and Heung Min Son has similar returns in their first season’s in England. These are among the best wingers in the league nowadays. Pépé has shown moments of absolute brilliance that very few others can replicate, and I firmly believe that the best is still to come from him. Mikel’s added trust, when coupled with Nicolas’ ever-improving understanding with his teammates, has seen a dramatic upturn in his performances since the turn of the year, so hopefully this improvement can continue into the future.4. Mattéo Guendouzi. Our final signing of Unai Emery’s first window in charge saw the arrival of French teenager Mattéo Guendouzi from Ligue 2 side Lorient. The fee was minimal and the player was largely unknown outside of France. Due to the late arrival of Lucas Torreira following the 2018 World Cup, Guendouzi was included in the XI for our opening Premier League fixture of the season against Manchester City. Although we lost the game in question, the Frenchman was a standout performer and retained his place for the following weekend - an away fixture against Chelsea. Although Torreira did come into the side shortly afterwards, Guendouzi still featured for over 3,000 minutes during his first season in England. This included a particularly impressive spell during the festive period. Mattéo made an extremely strong start to the following campaign aswell. In a run which saw many of his colleagues underperforming, he seemed to be one of the few team members who was pulling his weight. This resulted in numerous call-ups to the French senior team. However, since the dismissal of Unai Emery, things haven’t gone to plan regarding his development. His performances have dropped significantly, and he finds himself behind Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Dani Ceballos in the pecking order. As well as this, there have been whispers of a fallout with Mikel Arteta during our training camp in Dubai. While this is undeniably concerning, it is important to acknowledge that he is still only 20-years old. Due to the fact that he hit the ground running, we expect a lot from him. Also, the presence of both Saka and Martinelli have altered our perception of what youth talents should be offering to the side. Arsène Wenger once said that including a young player in your team may cost you points in the short-run, but it has the potential to reap rewards later in the individual’s career. I sincerely hope that Guendouzi can put his head down between now and May. We all know what he is capable of, even if he hasn’t always demonstrated it in recent weeks. Hopefully it will just be a blip in a long and fruitful Arsenal career.3. Lucas Torreira. During the 2018 World Cup, the eyes of most Arsenal fans were focused on Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira. Throughout the entire tournament, as well as beforehand, reports claimed that Arsenal were very interested in the defensive midfielder, and discussions with Sampdoria were already underway. Most publications echoed that a deal was agreed, and that an announcement would follow once Uruguay’s time at the tournament came to an end. Their impressive run was ended by the eventual winners - France - and the reports regarding Torreira’s future were proven to be correct. Lucas didn’t participate in a full pre-season due to his involvement for La Celeste but, upon his introduction to the side, he was very impressive indeed. Up until Christmas, he was essentially faultless, with notable displays against Spurs at home and Manchester United away. His form dipped slightly during the festive period, as he was accustomed to a winter break in Italy, but he slowly returned to form as the season progressed, without ever reaching the heights of his first few months at the club. The opposite has been visible this season. He had a slow start due to the tactics and preferences of Unai Emery, but has improved significantly as time has progressed. During Freddie Ljungberg’s short spell in charge, Lucas was reintroduced to the side in his preferred role and he reminded us of just how effective he can be. He won our Player or the Month award for December and continued this form upon Mikel Arteta’s arrival. In fact, he found a new level entirely. A partnership alongside Granit Xhaka brought out the best in the Uruguayan, and he was making great strides up until his recent injury. Similarly to Guendouzi, it is easy to forget the fact that Lucas is still very young in comparison to the so-called traditional prime years of most players in his position. Hopefully he can make a speedy return to fitness and continue to kick on under the guidance of Mikel.2. Gabriel Martinelli. The first arrival of the 2019 summer transfer window was that of Gabriel Martinelli. The 18-year old was completely unknown outside of Brazil. Recruited from fourth division side Ituano, he appeared to be a prospect for the future, as opposed to an immediate first team regular. Less than a year on, he certainly remains an unknown no longer. Ten goals and five assists despite limited opportunities have quickly made him one of the most exciting prospects in European football. His seemingly endless energy levels, along with his quick feet and eye for goal have caught the eye of many fans. In fact, his performances have been so impressive that both the Brazilian and Italian senior national teams are interested in acquiring his services. Following our match at Stamford Bridge in January, Italian international Jorginho allegedly had a lengthy conversation with the teenager, in which he attempted to convince him to opt for Italy at senior international level. Over the past few weeks, he has been used more sporadically, but one thing is for sure - he has bags of potential. Whether or not he will manage to fulfil it remains to be seen, but it will certainly be interesting to monitor his development in the years to come.1. Bernd Leno. Since the exit of Jens Lehmann, the goalkeeper position has always been one which has caused us issues. From Almunia to Szczesny, from Ospina to Čech, problems have remained constant. In the summer of 2018, Bernd Leno arrived with the intention of changing this. Although he initially had to wait for his domestic opportunities due to the presence of veteran Petr Čech, he made sure to seize the chance when it came his way. Have there been mistakes along the way? Absolutely. However, you probably couldn’t find a goalkeeper in world football who doesn’t have an occasional lapse in concentration. Not only are these errors much more infrequent than those of his predecessors, he also more than makes up for them with numerous top saves. This season has been one to forget for many players, but Leno most certainly is not one of them. The lack of defensive solidarity under Unai Emery in particular has resulted in an influx of opposition chances, and the German has risen to the challenge. He has saved us points on countless occasions and, currently, only Martin Dubravka has made more Premier League saves than our number one this season. For the first time in many years, I truly feel safe with Bernd between the sticks. He is still only 28, which is very young for a goalkeeper. Many of the greats have not peaked until they reached their thirties, so hopefully that trend can continue in this case too. His performances from this campaign will undoubtedly attract interest from elsewhere, and some media outlets have claimed that Bayern Munich could pursue him as a successor to Manuel Neuer. Regardless of whether we are short of funds or not, we simply must keep hold of him. Selling key players in order to generate revenue to reinvest into problematic positions may prove to be a viable option this summer - but Leno simply cannot be one of those considered. He has the potential to be our first choice for many years to come. For me, he has been our best signing post-Wenger.This concludes my ranking of our post-Wenger signings. If you have any additional thoughts or differing opinions, then feel free to let me know in the comments section below. I will try my best to get back to all of you. Thank you as always for reading.
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PatrickTimmons1
monthly Feb 2020
article / Rambo to Return?
Rumours don’t stop just because the transfer window has closed, and there are stories circulating around Aaron Ramsey and a possible return to The Emirates.The Welshman left Arsenal last summer on a free transfer, after eleven years at the club. The Welsh midfielder built a special bond with the fans after scoring some important goals for the club, none more so than his FA Cup Final winning goals in 2014 and 2017 against Hull and Chelsea respectively.Ramsey left for Juventus, but sounds coming from the Turin club are that Maurizio Sarri is willing to let Rambo go from the club after just one season. The Welshman has struggled for fitness in his time in Italy, and when fit he has flitted in and out of the side too. This has led to speculation that Ramsey could well be on his way out of the club early doors.Ramsey and fitness struggles are nothing new and it was perhaps this that meant that Ramsey never quite fulfilled his massive potential at Arsenal. While he was far from a failure as a Gunner, his talent and his time at The Emirates should have etched him firmly in the list of legends.However, he never quite managed that. He scored plenty and some of his goals – his backheel volley vs CSKA, his backheel against Fulham and his thunderbolt against Galatasaray – will live long in the memory. But Ramsey left under a cloud after initially refusing to sign a new contract offer. The Welshman was in the belief that he should have been one of the top earners and demanded more.Ramsey then reneged on his refusal, but the club had also gone back on their offer so Ramsey then had no option but to leave, leading him to sign for Juve. With no transfer fee, his wages are on the high side, and while there are stories linking him with a return to Arsenal, if he does leave it is more likely that he would go to a club who could pay more, with United leading the queue for the suspected summer mover.Ramsey still has time to leave his mark in Turin and could well make the move a successful one, but as it stands, the Welshman could be leaving after just one season.Keep your eye on The Arsenal Review for the latest developments.
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JokAFC
monthly Jan 2020
column / Player Ratings Since Mikel Arteta’s Arrival.
Firstly, I would like to apologise for the lack of articles in recent weeks. I have been very busy with exams in University, so my studies were my main priority. Thankfully, the exams went well and articles should resume as usual. My last article was written following our 2-1 loss against Chelsea, and there has certainly been much to discuss since then. For my first article back, I have decided to focus on how each member of the squad has performed so far since the appointment of Mikel Arteta. I’ve included the 18 most prominent players, based on their involvement and availability since the Spaniard’s return to London. Bernd Leno. Since his arrival at the club, Bernd Leno has been incredibly dependable. Without question, the German is one of our most consistent performers and is certainly in with a shout for our player of the season award. He impressed under both Emery and Ljungberg, and under Arteta it has been no different. Unfortunately, he made an uncharacteristic error against Chelsea in late December, which inevitably cost us points. Nonetheless, all players make an occasional mistake, no matter how good they are. Outside of that one lapse in concentration, he has been very solid. His clean sheet tally may not reflect that, but that is largely down to the defenders in front of him. Overall, very solid. 7/10. Emiliano Martinez. Due to the performances of Leno being very consistent, Martinez’ opportunities have been limited to the cup competitions this season. Since Mikel arrived, he has featured on two occasions: against Leeds United and Bournemouth. In the former, he was very impressive. In a first half where we really weren’t at the races, the Argentinian kept us in the tie as we survived an early onslaught. Thankfully, we emerged with the win, which was largely down to Emi’s clean sheet. Against Bournmouth, the same did not apply. He was largely untroubled during the game, but couldn’t hold on to his clean-sheet as the hosts scored in injury time of the second half. Overall, he has been impressive, but hasn’t featured enough to warrant a substantial rating. 6/10. Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Prior to the arrival of Arteta, Maitland-Niles’ Arsenal career was at a standstill. Nobody was sure of his best position and he had only featured sporadically since his dismissal against Aston Villa in September. A half-time withdrawal against Vitória in the Europa League was a notably poor performance which ha an impact on both his confidence and involvement. Honestly, Ainsley looks reborn in the new set-up. Mikel’s tactics allow him to essentially play as a third central midfielder while in possession, mixing the defensive qualities that he has learned from his time at full-back with his natural ball-playing ability. He hasn’t started a game since Héctor Bellerín’s return to action but, at just 22 years of age, he certainly has a key role to play in our future. 8/10. Héctor Bellerín. After 12 months on the sideline with injury and setbacks, Héctor Bellerín returned to action at Stamford Bridge. Following a rich run of form from Ainsley Maitland-Niles, some fans had started to question whether of not the Spaniard had a place in Arteta’s plans. The new head coach put those queries to bed when he handed the captain’s armband to Héctor, in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang due to suspension. Following David Luiz’ early dismissal, every player was up against it from an Arsenal perspective. A man down and a goal down against a top four rival. Every player had to dig deep, and Bellerín was no exception, particularly when you consider that he was no longer accustomed to playing 90 minutes, let alone with a one-man deficit. He went on to score our second equaliser in a 2-2 draw, and was very impressive throughout. His second display came in the FA Cup against Bournemouth and he handled everything thrown at him by Ryan Fraser. He was largely untroubled during the game, but playing 180 minutes in just under a week was a huge step in the right direction regarding his fitness. He has been very impressive so far but, similarly to Martinez, he hasn’t featured enough yet to warrant a substantial rating. 6/10. David Luiz. In my opinion, David Luiz has been exceptional since Arteta’s return to Arsenal. The system suits him perfectly. We build from the back, which is something that he thrives at, and are more compact as a unit, which lessens his need for one-v-one duels, which he sometimes struggles with. Granit Xhaka often fills in as a third central defender when we are in possession, and this allows us to have more protection defensively if there is a potential turnover. Luiz was sent off at Stamford Bridge, but it was very much taking one for the team. I don’t feel like any fan has criticised him for the incident, and rightly so. His influence in the dressing room also cannot be overlooked. A key figure off the field. For me, he has been one of our best performers so far. 8/10. Sokratis Papastathopoulos. Similarly to David Luiz, Sokratis has been much improved over the last month. Under both Emery and Ljungberg, he looked lost at times and was a contributing factor to our leaky defence. However, so far, this doesn’t appear to be the case under the new man in charge. There have been minimal mistakes and the Greek international even played a game at right-back against Leeds United in the FA Cup third round. He looked impressive on that occasion, and his displays at centre half have been no different. He also managed to get on the scoresheet on New Year’s Day against Manchester United. Unfortunately, he hasn’t featured as much as he would have liked due to the relevant precautions associated with a head injury and also illness, but there are certainly encouraging signs. 7/10. Shkodran Mustafi. Shkodran Mustafi is a strange one, as has been the case for much of his career at the club. For the most part: solid. However, you never feel truly safe with him in the side. He has a mistake in him, no matter how well he is playing. This was visible at Stamford Bridge as his under-hit pass resulted in the eventual dismissal of David Luiz. Following this incident, Mustafi reacted well and kept his concentration for the remainder of the match. He followed it up with a very promising display against Bournemouth. His passing range was phenomenal and he dealt with everything that Solanke offered. Unfortunately, he suffered a seemingly nasty injury in the second have and it would appear that he faces a lengthy period on the sideline. Regardless of his performances or ability, I wish him a speedy recovery. Overall, he has been solid for large periods, but his mistake against Chelsea and the lack of regular minutes reduce his mark. 5.5/10. Bukayo Saka. Bukayo Saka has been nothing short of excellent since Arteta’s arrival. He clearly views himself as a winger as opposed to a full-back but, due to injuries, he has had to fill in at the back quite often. However, this is only when the side are out of possession. In possession, it would appear that Mikel has instructed Granit Xhaka to fill in as a left-sided centre back, allowing Saka the freedom to venture forward without leaving us overly exposed defensively. Despite the fact that he is arguably better suited to playing out wide, his defensive qualities are visibly improving with every passing game, and his offensive ability has always been clear to see. He set up the opener against Sheffield United and managed to get a goal and an assist against Bournemouth last night. It is important to keep everything in perspective with young players, as they could face a dip in form at any moment. Nonetheless, he has been very impressive, and could have warranted an even higher mark if he had featured in more games. 8/10. Sead Kolašinac. Unfortunately, Sead Kolašinac hasn’t featured too often due to injuries. However, he has been quite solid when he has been involved. Similarly to Saka, he has thrived due to Xhaka’s new role, as we all know that Sead is more effective going forward than chasing back. He volunteered to play against Manchester United when we had an injury crisis at the back and was a key figure, as he essentially set up the opener. This was very admirable, but it would appear that he is still suffering the consequences of returning to action too soon. Hopefully he will be back to full fitness soon and can get a chance to show his quality. The potential battle between himself, Kieran Tierney and Bukayo Saka for the left-back spot could be intriguing. 5.5/10. Lucas Torreira. Following a successful first season in England, Lucas Torreira failed to make an impact in the early stages of the 2019/20 campaign. However, this wasn’t entirely his own fault. Unai Emery favoured a pivot of Granit Xhaka and Mattéo Guendouzi, which forced the Spaniard to play Lucas further forward. We all know that this doesn’t play to the Uruguayan’s strengths, and his performances suffered as a result. Upon his arrival, Arteta reverted Torreira to his natural position and the result has been fantastic. He has been arguably our best player under Arteta, and this was emphasised when he was voted our player of the month for December. He carried this form into January and has been an ever present domestically. Many fans, myself included, had forgotten just how effective he can be on his day. It is sometimes hard to believe that he is still only 23-years old, as he plays with such maturity. Hopefully he can sustain his form for the rest of the season and beyond. 8.5/10. Granit Xhaka. The reemergence of Granit Xhaka under Mikel Arteta has been incredible. This time two months ago, I felt like he would never represent Arsenal Football Club again, and that his future lay elsewhere for a price cut fee. Fast forward to now, and I would argue that he has been our standout performer since Mikel’s arrival. Reliable in possession. Equally reliable out of possession. Disciplined. A key figure off the field. Also, he is incredibly unselfish. He sacrifices his qualities in an offensive sense to allow the likes of Saka/Kolašinac to venture forward. His relationship with the fans is improving every week and he definitely looks like one of the key figures around which Arteta will assemble his side. Everyone involved deserves immense credit for just how well they have handled the situation. 8.5/10. Mattéo Guendouzi. After a fantastic start to the season, Mattéo Guendouzi faced a significant drop in form. Some fans were over the top, and completely wrote off the Frenchman. As a fanbase, it is important that we stick by the players when they are struggling in order to maximise their chances of success, particularly those who are as young as Guendouzi. Although the Frenchman hasn’t been first choice under Arteta, he has certainly shown signs of improvement compared to his latter months under Emery. He has largely had cameo appearances, but his discipline appears to have improved considerably, as has his positional sense. He was included from the start last night against Bournemouth and it was an incredibly mature display. As usual, Xhaka filled in at the back when in possession, which left Mattéo both outnumbered and isolated in midfield. Despite this, he held his own. The second half in particular was a very assured display, as the host’s had the reliant share of the chances. He stuck to his task, kept his concentration and was very solid throughout. Hopefully he can build on this performance. There is undeniably a player in there. 6/10. Mesut Özil. Many fans and journalists felt that Mesut Özil would not be a part of Arteta’s plans, but it would appear that this is not the case. The German has started every Premier League game under the Spaniard, and it seems that he is back in favour. His performances against Bournemouth, Chelsea and Manchester United were superb. It was like watching the Mesut Özil of old. His form has dipped since then, but that is arguably to be expected. The festive period is draining for even the most energetic of players, and it is important to remember that Mesut is 31-years old now. Playing 180 minutes per week, every week, perhaps isn’t the most realistic. Nonetheless, he has been impressive and has proven a lot of people wrong. He didn’t feature last night in the cup, which will hopefully allow him to get some much needed rest ahead of our trip to Turf Moor on Sunday. 7.5/10. Nicolas Pépé. Although his output might not necessarily reflect it, Nicolas Pépé has been impressive since Arteta’s arrival. He offers us something completely different on the right-hand side. His electric pace in behind forces teams to drop deeper, in attempt to counter our threat on the break. This was evident when we went a man down against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Nico appears to be gaining a better understanding of when to attempt a trick as opposed to when it is most logical to simply retain the possession. Obviously, his trickery is a key part of his game and he is a high-risk, high-reward winger. Personally, I have been very encouraged by his displays, and it seems that Mikel also agrees. Hopefully his end product can start to match this visible improvement. 7/10. Gabriel Martinelli. In June, who would have thought that fans would be calling for Gabriel Martinelli to be starting games ahead of Alexandre Lacazette by January? The Brazilian teenager has been a revelation, and a shining light in a disappointing season. He missed the early games of Arteta’s reign due to injury, but he has excelled since being reintroduced to the side. He scored our opener against Sheffield United and followed it up with a memorable solo effort at Stamford Bridge before setting up Bukayo Saka last night. It is important that we remain realistic, but Martinelli’s potential is incredible, as acknowledged by Ronaldinho in a recent interview. His rating would undoubtedly be even higher if he had been available from the offset. Hopefully he can continue his recent form and develop into the player that we all know he can be. 8/10. Reiss Nelson. After a period on the sidelines with injury, Reiss Nelson started Arteta’s first game in charge against Bournemouth. He struggled in the first half, but was much improved after the interval. In the following game against Chelsea, he was a key figure in our fantastic first half performance. His only goal came against Leeds United in the FA Cup, but he has certainly shown encouraging signs. Unfortunately, any chance to gain some momentum was thwarted by a recent injury, but it would appear that he is close to full fitness again. Hopefully he will be available following the newly-introduced winter break, as we need everyone available as the fixtures are coming thick and fast. With the Europa League and FA Cup games added to the mix, everyone in the squad will get opportunities, so I hope that Reiss can continue to seize them. 6/10. Alexandre Lacazette. Unfortunately, there is no ignoring the goal drought of Alexandre Lacazette. Our player of the season from last campaign has failed to find the net since our home game against Brighton in December and hasn’t been on the scoresheet as of yet during the Arteta era. Fans have been quick to criticise him, but he clearly has the full support of his manager. Mikel has emphasised that he offers so much more to the side than solely goals. He believes that he brings out the best in others with his link-up and his pressing leads to rewards collectively rather than individually. I would be inclined to agree with our head coach, but obviously Lacazette can offer much more than this. The player himself will be fully aware of this fact. Hopefully he can break his duck this weekend and have a strong end to the season. 6/10. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. As ever, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been reliable. Regardless of our collective struggles as a team, who the manager is or where he is playing, our captain always manages to get on the scoresheet consistently. This is a testament to just how gifted he is. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen him in any of the last three games due to his suspension following a straight red card at Selhurst Park, but he was immense up until that incident. He scored our first goal under Arteta and followed it up with the opener against Chelsea just three days later. He might not have found the net against Manchester United, but his overall display was impressive. There has also been a notable improvement in his work-rate and he has emphasised the fact that he is happy at the club, which is encouraging given the many reports linking him with a move away. Hopefully he can continue to thrive under the new man and lead us to a Europa League triumph. 8/10. Overall, there have been many encouraging signs over the past month, and numerous players have drastically improved. If you have any additional thoughts, or believe that I have been overly kind/harsh with my assessment of an individual, then feel free to let me know in the comments section below. As always, thank you for reading!
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monthly Dec 2019
article / What Have We Learned From Mikel Arteta’s First Two Games In Charge?
As Mikel Arteta’s first full week in charge of Arsenal comes to an end, we only managed to pick up one solitary point out of the six available to us. However, I think all fans would agree that this is by no means an accurate representation of the progress that we have made so far under the Spaniard. Throughout this article, I will examine some things that we learnt from his first two games in charge. Attitude and energy levels seem to be much improved. Before his first game, Mikel Arteta claimed that his first challenge would be to change the energy at the club. He went on to say that it was important to convince the players about what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. They would have to accept a different process and mindset. According to him, this will allow everybody at the club to have the same mindset. So far, it would appear that the players have taken all of this on board. Although the results might not reflect it, the level of performance has improved significantly - both individually and collectively. So far this season, many individuals seemed relatively uninterested when the going got tough. Reactions to substitutions, workrate off the ball, etc. Thankfully, these issues seem to be a thing of the past. In our opening two performances of the Arteta era, everybody seems rejuvenated. For example, Mesut Özil is often regarded as a player who doesn’t offer enough when his side don’t have possession, but his work-rate was faultless against Chelsea. Until he was withdrawn in the 76th minute, he chased down every lost cause for the good of the team. Similarly, some fans had been questioning the hunger of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, yet he was seen leading the press on numerous occasions. For the first time in a long time, the players appear to be fully committed to learning Mikel Arteta’s ways in order to maximise our success as a club. I believe that this will be crucial to our success in the future and hope that players don’t lose patience after yesterday’s late turn around. Mesut Özil still has a lot to offer. Mesut Özil has always been a player who has divided opinion. On the ball, he is incredibly gifted. His creative stats from over the years speak for themselves, as does his list of individual honours. You don’t provide the most assists in Germany, Spain and England without having an eye for a pass. This has never been disputed. However, many fans question his desire to defend when it is asked of him. Since the departure of Arsène Wenger, Özil has seemingly left Unai Emery and Freddie Ljungberg unimpressed with his work off the ball. Many people were skeptical of whether or not he had a role to play under Mikel Arteta, but the past two games have answered that question. Against Bournemouth, the German created four chances, all of which were from open play. No player on the pitch created more, despite our number ten being withdrawn in the 75th minute. Following this display, he found himself in the starting XI yet again against Chelsea. Özil was instrumental in the first 45 minutes, both on and off the ball. He was efficient with his distribution, picked up some dangerous positions and was visibly more focused on remaining solid collectively when not in possession. Mesut has been my favourite footballer for many years, but I was unsure of just how he would adapt to a new philosophy, particularly when Mikel Arteta was so vocal with his desire for the players to work hard. Admittedly, it has only been two games, but I feel as though Özil has certainly earned a chance to prove himself further under the guidance of Mikel. Hopefully his form can continue, and he can reach a new level between now and May. There is definitely a player in Reiss Nelson. Reiss Nelson returned to Arsenal in July following a very successful season on loan in Germany. Although his opportunities were limited due to both injury problems and selection issues, the teenager managed to net seven goals in just 628 minutes. Expectations from fans were high as a result - arguably too high. Nelson started our opening Premier League fixture at Saint James’ Park and failed to make a significant impact. He wasn’t noticeably poor by and means, but he didn’t set the game alight. Following this, he retained his place for our second game against Burnley at The Emirates. Although he had a goal disallowed, he was largely ineffective and was withdrawn at half time in place of Nicolas Pépé. Since then, opportunities have been limited domestically. Injury problems have undeniably played their part, but it appeared that he didn’t suit the systems of either Emery or Ljungberg. However this does not appear to be the case under Arteta. Although he struggled in the opening 45 minutes against Bournemouth, he was much improved after the interval, and was seen having an in depth chat with his coach post-game as the pair returned to the dressing room. He was included in the starting lineup yet again yesterday and looked a constant threat. He found a good balance between taking on his man and retaining possession with simple infield passes to the likes of Mesut Özil. It is a big statement for Arteta to include a largely unproven teenager in place of our record signing, but it is clear that Reiss is showing signs of potential. There will be learning curves along the way, but it is important that we all stick by him in an attempt to maximise his chances of success. Lucas Torreira is still very solid when utilised correctly. Upon his arrival in England, Lucas Torreira took the Premier League by storm. The tenacious Uruguayan was quite possibly our best performer during the first five months under Unai Emery. He won the hearts of many fans due to his passionate nature and seemingly endless willingness to run for the good of the team. However, his form dipped as we reached the festive period. Torreira was accustomed to a winter break whilst playing in Italy, and the adjustment to the busy Christmas schedule in England took its toll. It is important to acknowledge that this happens to many players. We have also seen the performances of Mesut Özil and Alexandre Lacazette drop during a similar stage of their debut seasons in England. Lucas’ form gradually improved between February and May, but I think we can agree that he didn’t ever replicate his form from his opening few months at the club. The 2019/20 season has seen things go from bad to worse. Unai Emery altered his role in the team and it saw the Uruguayan being asked to offer more creatively. Not to mention that his opportunities were also extremely limited, with our ex-head coach preferring a pivot consisting of Granit Xhaka and Mattéo Guendouzi. Freddie Ljungberg reintroduced Torreira into the starting XI, and he looked much more comfortable as a natural defensive midfielder. Since the arrival of Arteta, his performances have improved even more significantly. Against Bournemouth, he was arguably our best player. Just three days later, he was one of our better performers against Chelsea. I feel that many fans, myself included, have forgotten just how effective he can be. There have been some reports linking him with a move back to Italy, with Napoli allegedly interested, but I sincerely hope that we can keep hold of him. So far, he appears to be a key figure under Mikel, particularly when you consider that he is still just 23-years old. Results won’t change overnight. Unfortunately, there is no denying that a huge job lies ahead of Mikel Arteta. The club is in disarray, both on and off the pitch. The job would prove very difficult for even the most experienced coaches around, let alone for a man with no experience as a head coach. This means that we, as a fanbase, have to remain patient. Regardless of his ability, he won’t arrive and simply flick a switch which alters our results. Our opening two games under his guidance have been a clear indication of this. We have witnessed two of our best domestic performances so far this season over the past six days, yet we emerge with one draw and one defeat. Football can be a cruel sport, and results don’t necessarily match their relevant performances. Nonetheless, I feel like both games have been a step in the right direction. We appear to already have more of an identity than we managed in 18 months under Unai Emery, so it would appear that Arteta is building for the future. There will be many setbacks along the way but, ultimately, Mikel needs us. For me, Sunday’s defeat hit me harder than any other game this season. Why? Because the players left everything on the field. We deserved more than we emerged with. At Arsenal, that has certainly been a rarity this season. Despite the scorelines against Bournemouth and Chelsea, the team has improved so drastically in such a short space of time. Arteta has repeatedly stressed the importance of connecting with the fans and we have already witnessed the impact that toxicity within the stadium has, particularly against Crystal Palace this season. It is crucial that we avoid a similar fate this time round. Stick with the team. They really need us now. The best chance of succeeding is together. Unfortunately, in football, results are what is most important. You can dominate a game, but if you emerge on the losing side, it still hurts. With that being said, performances are vital. You can win games without playing well, but only for a certain amount of time. This season, we witnessed our luck running our first-hand and it has undeniably contributed to the rut that we now find ourselves in. If we manage to slowly but surely increase our performances on a weekly basis, I believe that the results will follow. Although we finish the week with just one point gained, I feel like we have shown many signs of progress. Hopefully Wednesday’s game against Manchester United can provide the first win of a memorable era under Mikel Arteta! As always, thank you for reading and feel free to let me know your thoughts on Arteta’s start to life as Arsenal head coach in the comments section below.
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