Wenger’s legacy is fundamental. Free flowing, attacking football by a club with integrity and class.

Arsenal v Burnley: Old Habits Die Hard

Positives from Newcastle

Despite a depleted squad, Arsenal opened their season with an away win at Newcastle. Players were out with injury, still recovering from international commitments, or in the case of Ozil and Kolasinac dealing with death threats to them and their families. Under the circumstances, and considering our poor away record over the last two seasons (11W-8D-19L), this win is no mean feat.

Another pleasing aspect was the Arsenal academy graduates played and didn’t look out of place. Nelson and Willock provided some verve and thrust, while AMN turned in, what was for me, a MoTM performance. His interception, run and assist for Auba was the key moment of the game.

Well timed substitutions handed debuts to 3 new signings as well, and these players can be expected to make important contributions over the course of the season.

Despite all these positives, I came away from this game feeling underwhelmed and even a little frustrated.


Heat map of Newcastle v Arsenal with the familiar hollow down the middle

The above image illustrates why. It continues a trend from last season where the football was just not fun to watch. There’s only so many times you can see the midfield forego building through the middle and pass it out wide for cutbacks, ineffectual at that, before you’ve got to accept that this is the plan.

No doubt the likes of Bellerin and Tierney will help execute this better. Pepe and Ceballos should add some dribbling. When Ozil comes back he will help find a killer pass, even if he is shackled by the system. So there should be improvements, soon enough. All the same I can’t help but feel that this will never amount to a sum greater than its parts.

Even playing the youth, which offers its own excitement, seems to have been more a case of needs must than a priority for Emery. This too would fit the pattern of last season, something the club have tried to address by creating the Freddie led Transition Team.

Results vs Performance

The club’s target of course is Champions League Qualification. Even if he ignores the aesthetic and entertainment value of football, if Emery achieves what we took for granted all these years, he probably gets to keep his job. Which is bad news for lovers of the beautiful game. Needs must I suppose, but I maintain that not only is it not necessary, but that just like last season, playing this way will always carry the danger of missing out on the target. Dropping out of the top 4 with the complete collapse at the end of last season was a direct result of the sort of football and approach we had.

The talent and depth is now clearly there in the squad. Can the coach deliver the results, if not the performances?

Next up is Saturday’s home game against Burnley. This is a team which we have a good record against in recent years, but one which always has the potential to cause problems with their rough and tumble style. No doubt Mike Dean, the referee, will be lenient in their favor, making it more difficult for the Gunners. At least we can reasonably hope VAR will curb his ability to make critical game-changing decisions against the Arsenal, as was that penalty vs Chambers at West Brom two seasons ago. But most of all, building on the positives of Newcastle, here’s hoping the players can help deliver not just a victory, but also a beautiful game of football.

By: ShardGooner


  1. Factual, balanced. Give ShardGooner some props with your comments.

  2. Atkinson last week and Dean this week, the PGMOL are already wheeling out their big guns for us

  3. Thanks Shard.

    Arsenal Column writes in his match review (worth reading for any Arsenal fans over 99% of the other shite!):

    “In the end, they only managed 8 shots, underlining again, the clinical efficiency of their strikers. (Last season they only average around 12 shots a game, which is mid-table standard at best)”

    Therefore & by the numbers the objective reading is that:
    Emery and Raul are lucky the old team snagged Aubamayang. And that the owner has spent a lot of Wonga in recent times.

    Including buying up Chelsea’s senior CB, that should helpfully fill the void they mistakenly thought Koscielny could fill (20 plus PL games), fortunately for the Arsenal Koscielny’s agent wore the trousers in that negotiation with the “Head of football relations”.

    Ignoring the two Raul and Unai who destroyed their own reputations* in the game last year:

    The Brazilian kid signed by Edu looks like a great prospect.
    Freddie made a career running off the flanks from midfield alongside a ten feeding him. It’s the hope that keeps me going!

    *any Don bullied by the agents of Ozil, Koscileny and Rambo can meow at me anytime

    • Ozil key in the corresponding fixture last season.
      Even if he starts he won’t be fully fit for this fixture after the break in his training.
      Expecting a tough fixture, looking forward to more Pepe and an overall improvement in the play as players find their rhythm. losing Xhaka won’t help but will give an opportunity to another player. COYG.

  4. I wonder what the starting lineup will be. Will it be Chambers and Sokratis again, or does David Luiz get his debut? Personally, I hope it’s the former. Is Xhaka fit? Is Ceballos fit? What about Torreira? Do Willock and Nelson get to keep their place? I imagine Pepe will start. I’d also expect both Auba and Lacazette to start. So, I guess that’s a no on Nelson. Martinelli photographed with the U23 squad. So does he make the subs bench again?


    AMN Luiz Sokratis Monreal
    Xhaka Ceballos
    Pepe Laca Auba

    Subs: Martinez, Chambers, Torreira, Willock, Nelson, Mkhitaryan, Martinelli

    • Oops. Forgot Guendouzi.. So normally that would mean Willock is out, but just saw that Xhaka won’t play.

      • Xhaka out as announced.

        Guendouzi Cebellos

        Is the midfield.

        Very. Inexperienced. With more experienced players on the bench. I hope the logic is that Torreira isn’t fit yet, same as Nelson over Pepe.

  5. I reckon Pépé, when he settles in addition to others might hopefully make the team more expansive, the likes of Bellerin, and from what I have seen reported, Tierney will also help, though Kola is pretty useful going forward as well.
    Should be a very decent attacking unit, even our new CB seems to like an attack
    Mike Dean, annoying, but fear him more away than at home.

    • Mandy, all these players will help us play better. But the style of play will never be expansive under Emery. In addition, it’ll never be great defensively either.

      I just saw his pre match press conference. Leave aside the fact that he repeatedly refused the opportunity to offer some words of sympathy and encouragement to Ozil and Kolasinac, the only time he spoke with passion and excitement was when asked to speak about Burnley’s strengths. And then he says he doesn’t know if we’re stronger this season and again unloaded his ‘idea’ about wanting commitment (as if that was the problem last season)

      He’s dragging us and the players down. Everyone can see it. Even those who do not want to accept it yet and keep hoping for better (no offense meant, that is just how I see things) Emery is out of his depth.

      • Fortunately the Gunners have players of the quality who can pick up a scrappy ball following a corner, turn several defenders and nutmeg the keeper whilst falling over!

        Who needs to pas the football through the middle of the pitch when you have Auba and Laca!!! (Please refer to a cup final in May).

  6. Guendouzi a bit of a passenger that half, described by the commentator as a holding midfielder, but well, the goal sums up his defensive nous

    not blaming him or saying he’s poor just very inexperienced to play CM in the PL.

    If you watch him off the ball very often he’s out of position when defending, or moves to the wrong position not allowing his teammates to pass and move when in position.

    Emery’s off the ball game is poor:
    hence is inability to use Ozil unlike Mourinho etc.
    That’s what it is.

  7. Correction

    < or moves to the wrong position not allowing his teammates to pass and move when in possession.

  8. Too many changes? Three brand new starters in the Arsenal team v Burnley. Xhaka, arguably best player last wek out with injury, also Mkhitaryan and Chambers. In come Ceballos who is playing a #10 which is not his traditional position. Luiz and Lacazette.

  9. Fins: We had no control of midfield in that 1st half. Despite all his good work 1st half, Ceballos is not a #10. He was more a B2B midfielder often dropping deep to assist the central midfield and bursting forward to link up the counter attacks. I count absolutely zero throughballs.

    • Shotts

      Danny is categorically not a ten,
      A quick look at his assists and goals record is self explanatory.

      Good midfielder. Hopefully he’ll not be asked to play the role he can’t (ahead of the midfield), but, well…


  10. Saved by Auba, again. A broken play thanks to Ceballos determination to win back the ball and Auba does the rest.

    • Almost an inversion of the winner at Newcastle.

      such errors are less frequent from better quality opponents

  11. Great result but questionable performance. Shard was absolutely right; old habits die hard.

  12. Winning a game covers up a lot of sins. Ceballos was good but Burnley’s midfield was poor. They are a long ball team who rely on getting it wide and making crosses. Like early last season; Arsenal once again bailed out by Auba. By the way: Arsenal has a talent but they are not set up by Emery to control central midfield. His preferred way of playing is to attack down the flanks.

  13. Released:

    Ramsey, Cazorla, The Jeff & Wilshere for free, started and lost a fight with Ozil.

    Brings in Cebellos to replace all of the above. On a loan.

    That’s the quantifiable equation to explain the inability to control possession or play good football – people are kidding themselves if they ignore the facts and think AFC were competing without Rambo on the pitch against the better teams last season.

    Hardly a surprise when it’s a struggle against Burnley at home not forgetting the hopelessly biased officials which is the obvious explanation for the away form unless you’ve been drowning your head in a bucket of your own excrement these past two seasons.

    Danny looks a good footballer.
    We know that the above are…

    • The thing is Emery is allergic, suspicious and weary of skilled CMs who are good at attacking and playing through the lines of the opposition. He takes the easy way down the flanks. He loves Dani Ceballos because he is a #8 masquerading as #10. But with Willock and Pepe he has players who are comfortable attacking the lines. The signs are not good.

  14. Great 3 points, bit nervy at times but job done. I thought that Ceballos did well, I think we need to hold off on the statue for now, will be interesting to see how he does against better teams and once other teams break down his tendencies. As for his 2 assists they were hardly the Ozil beating 7 players with a pass variety but well done.

    I really enjoy the play of Joe Willock, I think he might become our best central midfielder, fast, passes well and is involved. I rate him right after Xhaka for now. Merci Arsène for our 2 strikers, both goals were the fruits of their labour.

    Pepe did well, his passing is not of Kolo quality but a few passes were not pro worthy, how/ why do pros pass the ball 2 meters behind a player?

    As for Unai, I won’t copy paste my past posts on his windmilling…the war and peace length instructions must be worth a listen. I can’t help but think that players must nod furiously in hope that he shuts up before doing pretty much what they think is best…

    Encouraging start to the season but after the next 2 games we’ll see what we have….

    • Am sorry RedShark but 6 points from two poor teams, good individual performances (Auba and Ceballos) but poor teamwork has me reprising the same frustrations I had last season I am not encouraged when it is clear we will be smashed by better teams especially away from home.

      • Hey Shotta, I am not all that impressed either. Just trying to get behind the team, which I am struggling to do! As I said, after the next 2 games we will know more about this team, I think it will take 10 games before there is decent cohesion amongst the players….

  15. Utterly reliant on individual quality. The players had good games, like last week. The system is preventing the team from being better.

    And fins is right. Mourinho used to rely on individual quality up front too (why he played Ozil), but his coaching in maintaining defensive shape was great. Emery is Mourinho-lite. He imagines himself to be just as much of a boss figure, and throws ‘friction’ into the midst of the team. But he can’t coach half as well, and he’s misusing the side.

    More than anything, it’s sad to see. After we wasted the potential of the team last season, to see it done again. It’ll be the players who carry Emery to top 4 if we make it. He’s dragging them down.

    • Here’s a nugget for you Shard:

      Whilst the PR consultants have been projecting that modern coaches don’t use tens anymore using Klopp as a reference a quick look at his record shows him managing Goetze and Mikitaryean and also, this is he good bit:

      signing Firminio who played in Germany as a ten to do a decent impression of RVP under AW.

      There it is! Lord A’mighty Billy The Big Blagger is truly a cunning linguist.

      And Emery couldn’t and can’t flip it to have Laca behind Auba and Ozil same as Low would. He would freak out at the thought! Which is a shame as this was his best bet of beating Chelsea in the final without Rambo.

      Let’s see what he does going forwards but really it is only a matter of time before the players take it into their own hands again the hope is with players committed to the club over Emery (Luiz won’t want to waste his last seasons and we know he respects his teammates even if Emery can’t!) that they’ll just take matters into their own hands without dropping tools like at the end of last season where the mutiny was clearly led by the most important footballers at the club at that time.

      Billy The Big Blagger ignores the boot room for many reasons one reason is they’d have to acknowledge what happened last season in the dressing room.

      Pepe and Luiz as fresh faces hoping to stay for the next period will hopefully allow a more settled dressing room to play their own game. It’s the hope that keeps me watching.

  16. New post up.


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