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WHU v ARS: Will 3rd Time Be The Charm?

#WHUARS

I’m not sure what to say about the Brighton game. For one, I only caught the final 20 minutes and I will confess to not watching it in its entirety. It’s been a busy week. I followed the text updates during and it was frustrating. The final 20 minutes though, gave me a sense that our belief in our ability has been completely destroyed.

I don’t even blame just Emery for it. I’m sure his insistence on making every opposition seem like an existential threat didn’t help. Nor would his power plays with players, then his subsequent inability to make up his mind about any of it. This has to have affected the players.

Unfortunately I think the malaise is deeper. Or rather, higher up at the club. You can point to the decision to keep Emery around after last season, or hire him in the first place, or even keeping him around till after the international break.

Heart ripped out

But for me the biggest issue at Arsenal is that we’ve had our heart systematically ripped out over the past 12-15 months. The way the club has behaved with its most loyal players, with its staff, breaking its word, valuing agents over scouting, virtually erasing Wenger from the club’s history etc. All of it has resulted in Arsenal no longer being Arsenal.

This tends to not be valued so much because it isn’t always tangible, and because the media doesn’t talk about it. But organizational culture is what keeps everybody on point. When that north-star starts to waver, you have disarray. It’s so sad, because all of it was so unnecessary. At this point, I don’t think a new coach can fix it. What we need is Edu or an actual Technical Director to set the direction of the team, hire the coach accordingly, and then scout and recruit players for the tactical roles. Any more short term fixes and I worry it only gets worse. A negative spiral, if you will.

Meanwhile, I’m still going to support the players, and Freddie as the coach. In fact I think Freddie is doing a decent job against heavy odds. But of course, as he himself will agree, Arsenal need results. Not for the top 4, nor to avoid relegation. But just to get us moving in the right direction again. It’s been way too long since Arsenal won a game.

Looking down the table for the first time

We now find ourselves in 10th position in the table (11th at time of publication – Editor). Just 4 points off the relegation spots, but 10 away from 4th place. As I typed this I realized this is the first time in my 23 years of following Arsenal that I’ve first looked down from where we stand in the table instead of looking up. I didn’t have to look too far to see our next opponents West Ham. Well it’s 6 spots, but it’s only 3 points. The good news is they likely won’t go ahead of us even with a win because we’re 6 ahead on goal difference.

Can they beat us 3-0? Sure they can. But I’m going to say it won’t happen. Instead, Arsenal will record their first win in 2 months, and the first ever of Freddie Ljungberg’s Arsenal managerial career. He represented both clubs in his playing career, and hopefully he’s fondly remembered by them too. No divided loyalties from him though. He’s Arsenal through and through.

West Ham underperforming

In my opinion, West Ham ought to be better than they are as well. They’ve got some skilled players and a good coach. If we make defensive errors like we’ve been doing, they have the quality to punish us. They don’t create a lot of shots and don’t score a lot of goals. However, they do tend to spread them around. Seb Haller is top scorer with 4 of their 17 goals. The next 2 are Cresswell and Yarmolenko, both with 3. They also have some technical ability in midfield, which is where we tend to lose out these days.

Ideally, we should look to attack them early and hopefully take a lead into halftime. That ought to be our first target. They’ve lost 4 of their last 5 games, so this could well be about who takes the initiative and gains the upper hand.

It’s a short time to implement any new tactical instructions but Freddie admitted we lacked intensity, and I think he’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again. After that, if we can rekindle the belief that we’re good enough to beat them, which is the truth, then we could be celebrating come the final whistle. I’m expecting a nerve wracking, anger inducing game of football, but with it being all worth it in the end. This is where we arrest the slide and start heading in the right direction again.

Predictions

Team: Leno, Bellerin, Chambers, Luiz, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira, Guendouzi, Pepe, Saka, Aubameyang

Subs: Martinez, Holding, Tierney, Willock, Ozil, Martinelli, Lacazette

May not be the most technically proficient team we can put out there, but hopefully an intense team. A few changes to account for the fact we played on Thursday, and going with an all action front 3 with Auba as the spearhead. This is the team I’d go for on Monday evening.

Prediction: 2-0 Arsenal. Yes. Not only a win, but a clean sheet as well.

Come on Arsenal. Prove me right!

15 Comments

  1. Thanks Shard for your excellent write-up. Your optimism stands in stark contrast to the growing pessimism about the future. We may well win this game although in our podcast George was not hopeful. But a win at some point is inevitable. Will it change the general trajectory?

    But what struck me was your predicted team has Ozil on the bench. Despite all the multitude of data pointing to the weakness in our midfield, its growing inability to dominate possession and control games, your selection would exclude the only attacking midfielder who provides a consistent threat in the final-third, even in the loss to Brighton How do you explain this?

    Reply
    • I have an easy answer to that! Ozil has bveen overplayed after not having been played at all after the pre-season – he’s probably due a rest by the fitness coach’s measure – is there a fitess cpoach left at the club or is Daddy Raul making these calls too along with all the others?

      I remember back in the day when Ken Friar used to massage the players legs’ with Deep Heat with his very own hands eh? Just like the old times is it not…& that is why “I really like Raul!”

      Reply
      • Yes. I said that the changes are accounted by the fact that we played n Thursday. Ozil has faded towards the end of games as well, and I don’t think we should risk injury to him.

        However, looking at Ozil’s instagram picture it seems he’s been told he’s starting,

        Personally I went for an all action midfield with Xhaka providing deep passing and Torreira and Guendouzi running interference for him, while the forward line is just an up and at em instead of very technically proficient (they are no slouches but you know what I mean)

        I would suggest that has more chance of working than a careful considered style. Not just because of our abilities, but because we lack the confidence to pull off great passing moves.

        But we’ll see.

        Reply
  2. Thanks Shard

    I Hope you are right. But it’s not going to be easy.

    People appear to be in denial of the scale of the meltdown here.
    Was the club captain telling the club to fuck off before walking out in 1982? Immediately to be followed by the very next club captain telling the fans to fuck off, his own fans, in front of the watching world? Immediately to be followed by the next club captain telling his team mates to fuck off?

    That’s quite the hat trick under the leadership of our unqualified management consultant.

    Yet apparently people are kidding themselves that this is what it was like in the 1970’s.

    Where can I go to take such Nostalgia, snort up the amnesia?

    Hiding in the past is sometimes easier then facing up to the future.

    I have a simple question for the criticisms in the previous two articles: please show me a football club that people would want to watch play football that is managed by a management consultant? I won’t repost my long comment from before, that simple question will do.

    Because if Raul succeeds in avoiding Arteta then he’ll make sure that the likes of FL and PM will never have such power at the club again. This is it: the last chance saloon for the Arsenal as we know it.

    I seriously hope FL flukes that win tonight.
    But Raul has set him up to be his fall guy.

    Reply
  3. Hey Fins: Something is wrong with your email account? My email to you bounced back.

    Reply
  4. This comment by Fins in the last post is very appropriate:

    “Arsenal were a football club before Venga”

    Is this season’s equivalent to:

    “Ramsey & Ozil can’t play together”

    Different season. Same stale gravy.

    Anything as in ANYTHING to ignore the career and presence of Pat Rice at the club and the simple fact that for the last 24 months The Arsenal have been run by a management consultant with less then zero Football experience (indeed if you look you will find he has a frightening record in the game). Raul. And his gimps (including Edu?).

    Utd could cope with one of these parasites in Woodward as the worlds richest clubs.

    But Woodward had to reverse everything to save his job and attempt to re-create a boot room in recent times re-hiring people he’d sacked like Phelen. In fact Woodward’s first act after Phelen coached Utd to their last title was to sack Phelen and here is several years later trying to save his job with the re-appointment. But can you rebuild a boot room after several years? With Utd’s money you can, but that’s Utd. Not The Arsenal.

    Are things at AFC so bad after just one full season of his stewardship that the Clown Raul will feel compelled to appoint Arteta after having ignored him perviously? An Identical story to Pehelen

    Sir Chips, O’Leary – some commentators on these pages are failing to imply saying these people were just tippy tappy Venga/EU yes boyz yes? The comments are there!

    We can witness on your pages people identifying themselves as Arsenal lovers arguing against the demand for the presence of Football people at the club and what the current structure signifies.

    Are LCFC being run by a bunch of unqualified and previously disgraced management consultants or by football coaches and scouts etc backed by their owner? It’s a simple fucking question and there’s been a lot of guff written on these pages by people when:

    You all know the answer.

    we have witnessed people fail to airbrush the career of Pat Rice from AW’s time at the club, during the years of the false AKB vs WOB construct.
    Now we can read people accusing you or I of being some kind of Vengerista, as you say Shotts taking refuge in that awful AKB vs WOB made up construct – when we all have the knowledge and experience that no great coach works alone. OK if that is where they want to go then therefore let’s simply flip this question for Dave and friends:

    Has there ever been a football club managed by management consultant(s) worth following (regardless of even results)?

    *opens bag of popcorn*

    Reply
  5. “Has there ever been a football club managed by management consultant(s) worth following (regardless of even results)”

    Stop living in the past fins. It’s the modern way after all. You’ll like it because the media, the pundits, the bloggers, even the league themselves will tell you that it leads to a better product. Pretty soon we’ll all come to look at it as Wrestling in the kayfabe days. Liverpool have spent enough to gain favour this year. For 500m, maybe one day Arsenal will also be allowed to win a title shot and go on to headline Wrestlemania. Until then, profit loss statements and excuses about FFP will take up your time more than the silliness of kicking a ball on a field of grass*

    Meanwhile, all the modernity will not be allowed to mess with the true traditions that matter, such as referees being infallible beings of unimpeachable integrity, and Englishmen being the paragons of honesty and bravery provided they’re not trying to improve their technical level and make the rest of them look bad. That’s just not cricket.

    *percentage of plastic compounds may vary

    Reply
    • Good calls on the line up Shard.

      Chambers our best CB this season (in re-season and Newcastle) is back in the team. Luiz probably knackered and rested not dropped.

      As we suspect, with such a toxic dressing room and broken spirit FL had no choice but to reset the dressing room and that explains the previous selections. Not rocket science.

      COYG!

      Reply
  6. Shard if as our firend ian at PA says “Football is indeed cyclical even in these money laden times” then why is the professional game in 2020 so different to the amateur game in 1959?

    If this applies across the borad then:
    Does this mean that there is actually no difference in using a leather or plastic ball in game of Football?

    Caveat: Ian does indeed know a damn site more about The Game then my pea sized football brain.
    But the above is still a fair question!

    As dave and others appear to be ducking the question I’m going to fire this free kick over the wall and into the net:
    I have found one other club run by management consultants and yes even by the fans!
    Here it is:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebbsfleet_United_F.C.

    I think that IMO they’d have been better off giving the keys to the park to Sol Cambpell…then some spivvies who have never kicked a football. (I hope i don’t get accused of disrespecting a Legend for stating the obvious)

    Reply
  7. Freddie’s team today is probably the most athletic Arsenal can put out, but apart from Ozil there are no Attacking Midfielders. Two wide forwards in Martinelli and Pepe are not the greatest passers but they can beat you on the dribble. We can hope. COYG.

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  8. Confidence eh?

    At the start of this match an arsenal team in the top league were at their lowest level of confidence in decades. A dressing room even more messed up then the one salvaged by Arteta Mertesacker & Cazorla.

    A goal down.

    And then…

    Perhaps destiny demanded that Freddie’s first win would be over his other English team The Hammers.

    Perhaps he negotiated his way through the horrific circumstance of one full session in between three fixtures in a week whilst resetting the dressing room and calculating for fatigue and injury and shown brave wisdom?

    Paul and others who know better then me over on PA said Pepe would come good.

    I’ve said Chambers whilst not perfect is one of our best CBs. Two starts in the PL this season at CB. Two away victories. Freddie will note that stat.

    And FL has put himself in a favourable position with all his squad in order to rotate them through the upcoming Xmas fixture crunch. Especially Auba & Laca.

    That’s why I think he waited to finally go for this formation that many wanted to see. I understand Shotta’s concerns in the CMs but there’s an onus on Xhaka there (once the team picks up more rhythm), overall the team needs to score more goals and I think a 433ish template with variations is what we’ll see. And goal power is what we saw in that spell. A real confidence builder.

    I for one am impressed. Given the circumstances.

    Reply
    • Agree with every word Fins. I stand by my concern that the decimation of central midfield is a fundamental weakness. All 3 goals today prove my point; they all originated when Torreira able to break the lines with quick accurate forward passes. So periodically we will be able to take advantage of teams that cannot sustain pressure on our back-6. One game does make a trend but long may it continue.

      In the final analysis: It was a win for Freddie and a loss for Sanllehi and his gimps.

      Reply
  9. I was genuinely surprised to see the teeth gnashing over on Twitter during and after the first half. I thought it was a much better performance than previously. Not because we were good. But because we were doing exactly what we needed to do. Getting a feel of the ball in the first half, dull as it was, is the key to this victory. We played our way back into form.

    I was wrong about the clean sheet but I didn’t account for Mike Dean. That goal came as a result of our concentration and momentum being broken up by Dean not even awarding a foul for what was a red card worthy tackle on Pepe. When Pepe signed I looked at some of his highlights and a few passages from games and said only bad coaching and bad refereeing can stop him from being a great player for us. Now that the bad coaching is gone, the refs are going to step it up maybe? Great to see him smiling with Freddie when he was going off though.

    After we scored the first goal, from an Emery style Kola cross at that, we immediately looked better. Almost as if it was an issue of confidence, I tweeted then. We saw how our pace of passing and movement went up immediately after. Emeryball was then left behind and the players were having fun again. This is what Freddie wanted. It’s by no means the end of the process, but we’ve gone a long way to shedding the baggage that Unai imposed on us. Of course, the fat, croaky hobbit still sits on top and can throw a spanner in the works. But it seems his planted rumour of the players not listening to Freddie, in the hopes that we’ll lose yesterday and allow him to install a puppet, didn’t quite go to plan. We love you Freddie, we do.

    Reply
  10. Shotts as Eddy over on PA described: that pass from Torreira to Kolasinac, inside out from the attacking side of the centre circle could be the defibrillator for the season.

    I thought Torreira had joined the exodus, was playing like it of late,
    Perhaps like the rest of us perhaps he just needed run off the negativity from the previous period, to get that serotonin pumping through the ears!

    Kolasinac possibly showing his best form so far? Is Sven’s dud a bud that will turn into a late bloomer? We need him to be with Tierney out.

    Going to take a few games yet before we see a coherent ninety minutes probably not till after the crunch.

    Freddie made some subtle nudges and tweaks last night. Swapping over Xhaka & Torreira helped the Arsenal regain the midfield. Ozil pushed slightly higher behind Rice in the second half, Freddie earning the plaudits from Tim Sherwood hehe for acting like some kind of a coach as opposed to a craven bludgeon.

    That’s the worry though. Raul, being ignorant and stupid thought he could draw out Unai’s season. Now he realises top four is gone and his hope will be that the sooner he brings in one of his soulless gimboids the better when the fact of the matter is any half decent Football coach just needs time to help remind this Football squad how to play some Football.

    I’ve said a long time ago, many times, that I’d take Benitez ages and others ago during the now forgotten period, even though I don’t like his Football style and this puts the accusations against us not appreciating “defending” in Football into it’s proper context.

    However we all know Rafa is too cool to be one of the names in the Clown Raul’s book. That’s the worry!

    And so Freddie shows his quality as a coach and as a person this past week. even though he doesn’t know when Raul will come for him. And he is coming. Like some kind of infectious poison, he’s still a figure at the club. And beyond with his PR. Which we know he likes to pump, as it recently blew up in his face, like “noisy” sewage. And we laughed!

    When Tim Sherwood shows more decency, class and support on Prime Time towards FL then a former team mate then anyone critiquing FL on prime time (with Raul’s instruction) without reason (before his first game) as he genuinely tries to rebuild this Arsenal camp will get some criticism from me
    and if anyone has a problem with that that is their problem.

    Reply

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