Awful Arsenal bottle it at Old Trafford! Plus player ratings…

Not sure what to make of that one.

Tonight saw two big teams who are in transition and struggling for form, and nether side were prepared to take the initiative to try and win the game.

One of the few positives was that Guendouzi and Saka, two of the youngest players in the team, put in really excellent performances. And Joe Willock again, when he came on, was fantastic.

Calum Chambers did well considering he was out of position, and Kolasinac did well on the other side. Luiz and Sokratis were okay, not brilliant but okay. At least neither made any stupid mistakes tonight.

Apart from that, we were uninspiring, timid and lacked any invention. And worst of all, the quality in the final third was horrendous. If we even showed even a slight bit of quality, we would have won that game.

Pepe was dreadful, overhitting crosses, misplacing passes and worst of all, giving the ball away cheaply, and not even attempting to track back! Aubameyang had no service all night, except for a brilliant pass from Saka, so struggled, and Torriera looked lost.

All night we couldn’t make the final pass or show that bit of quality – Reiss Nelson scuffed a great chance towards the end, Ceballos wasted a great chance to cross from a free kick right at the end, Pepe’s corners were terrible… it was extremely frustrating watching Arsenal tonight. Simply put, Arsenal were scared tonight.

Yet another chance to get 3 points at Old Trafford wasted.

Player Ratings

Bernd Leno: 8/10

Solid and made some good saves, especially towards the end from a Marcus Rashford free kick. Had no chance whatsoever with the goal we conceded.

Calum Chambers: 7/10

Did well tonight considering he was exposed for most of the night by Pepe who didn’t track back. Got forward when he could and tried to make things happen. Another solid performance after a good week in the Arsenal first team and he has stepped up and shown that he can be counted on which is great.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos: 6/10

Didn’t make any stupid mistakes so that’s good right? Overall did okay and did well against Rashford.

David Luiz: 6/10

Didn’t make any stupid mistakes so that’s good right? Linked up well with Sokratis on the whole, but did give away a needless free kick right on the edge of the box right at the end of the game which could have cost us dear. Did make some good and important interceptions.

Sead Kolašinac: 7/10

Did well and was solid all night. Looked comfortable defending and tracking back, and pushed forward well, and gave Aubameyang a great pass which the forward failed to read.

Lucas Torreira: 5/10

Gave everything as usual but struggled to impose himself against Manchester United’s midfield.

Granit Xhaka: 6/10

Didn’t make any stupid mistakes so that’s good right? Did okay, but still not sure what he brings to the team as Guendouzi and Torreria did all the running.

Matteo Guendouzi: 9/10

Excellent performance from Matteo get again. Full of running, full of purpose and tried to drag the team forward. Made some really important tackles and interceptions, and didn’t get involved in any of the silly games that he’s sometimes prone to – a real mature and measured performance, and deserves all the plaudits.

Nicolas Pépé: 3/10

Dreadful. We all know it takes time to get used to the Premier League but it doesn’t mean he should smash the ball into the stands every time. Showing a real lack of quality on the ball which is worrying. Of course he can’t help the price tag but you would think £72 million would get you someone who can kick a ball properly.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 7/10

Couldn’t impose himself on the game because of the lack of service from the Arsenal midfield and the poor Nicolas Pépé. Ran for the cause, leading from the front and tried his best. Took his goal with absolute class, something badly missing from the rest of the team tonight.

Bukayo Saka: 8/10

Brilliant performance, one of the best in an Arsenal shirt tonight. Never shied away from a challenge, always willing to receive the ball and take on Manchester United – a really mature and impressive performance from a fantastic prospect. Deserves to feature in more games this season and gives Arsenal something else from an attacking perspective. Gave Ashley Young problems all night.

Dani Ceballos: 4/10

Failed to impose himself on the game, and gave the ball away too many times. Had a great opportunity to deliver a good cross at the end of the game but only managed to hit the first Manchester United player.

Reiss Nelson: 5/10

Tried and had some decent runs forward but again, showed a lack of quality at important times. Scuffed a chance from 12 yards out and should have done much better.

Joe Willock: 7/10

Was only on for 10 minutes but was bright, calm and composed on the ball. Had some good runs forward and always found a pass. Certainly deserves more playing time in the Arsenal first team because he’s currently one of the most talented players in the squad.

 

5 Important Talking Points From The Europa League Final

I can’t describe how I’m feeling today. I feel like complete sh*t, I’m depressed, I’m gutted – I’m just down and out. 

The problem was last night was huge for Arsenal, and the future of the club. Obviously we are in a rebuilding process but last nights defeat has set us back 5/6 years. A win would have allowed us to play in the Champions League, win a major European trophy and give us the opportunity to build on some success – attracting players and giving us more money to spend in the transfer market.

As it stands, next season we’ll be playing in a competition nobody wants to be in – we have to contend with travel to some really obscure places in “Europe” (I’m sure half of these locations are more like Asia) and the Thursday / Sunday fixture list is a massive disadvantage to us in regards to Premier League form. It’s just horrendous.

You might be thinking I’m making out that the future is really bleak but the reality is that it is. Last night was a huge setback and could have more negative repercussions than the Champions League exit in 2004 and the Champions League final defeat in 2006.

There are 5 major talking points from last night (and this season) and they are highlighted below: 

The Penalty Decision

Even after taking off my Arsenal tinted glasses – that was a penalty. There was contact and Lacazette had every right to go down. That decision would have changed the game and being 1-0 up would have been massive for us, especially when we dominated the first half an hour and needed something to show for it.

And did they actually use VAR?! I’ve seen a few Champions League games and they have the VAR logo on the screen, then the referee goes over and takes 12 years to check a slow motion replay 2134 times, then they finally come to a decision. Last night, it was almost swept aside and you wonder if it was actually used?

The Formation & Tactics

As soon as I saw the line-up, I was worried.

Our success against Chelsea this season (which was well reported) was when Aaron Ramsey sat on Jorginho and stifled his influence. With Ramsey injured, it was important to replace him with someone who could do a similar job, and the right person was not Mesut Özil.

Alex Iwobi should have (and deserved to) start the final in my opinion, and he would have done a much better job of linking the midfield and attack (which was non-existent with Özil on the pitch). And when he came on, he changed the game – not as much as we would have wanted – but there’s only so much one man can do in half an hour, and without conceding penalty who knows.

But the fact was the change was too little too late. You only get one chance at a final and we don’t have a second leg to salvage things, so why Mesut Özil started his baffling to me. Iwobi has more endeavour, energy, pace and desire so him starting was a no brainer – especially when you’re starting both Lacazette and Aubameyang and need an attacking midfielder who actually tracks back??

Mesut Özil

He needs to leave. Now.

Özil’s time at Arsenal was coming to an end already based his non-performances this season which quite frankly have been scandalous. He’s the second highest paid player in the Premier League and doesn’t care. He couldn’t influence the game yesterday, like most games this season, and when he was taken off he left the pitch like a petulant school kid.

He gets paid too much, doesn’t perform unless we’re playing at the Emirates – it’s time to part ways.

Unai Emery 

For me, Emery needs time and I think he will get it. But while I’ve always said be patient and give him time to implement his methods, certain questions need to be asked.

Tragically, the way the Europa League final panned out mirrored how our season ended. We started the campaign strong, played some good football, but ultimately collapsed at the last.

Up until half time last night our Europa League campaign was pretty much flawless. Then at the last (the second half) we just crumbled. Just like our Premier League form, until the last 5/6 games we did really well, putting ourselves in a very good position. But then we again crumbled, losing to Crystal Palace and failing to beat Brighton at home, which in the end proved fatal. 

Did our team get worked too hard throughout the course of the season? Did Emery fail to prepare the team for the crunch games? Are we mentally weak? Can the squad just not cope when the season reaches an important time?

For what it’s worth, I think Emery has made improvements this season, and don’t forget he’s inherited a lot of rot from the Wenger era – but that being said there have been some worrying aspects to his reign so far which are less than encouraging (Premier League collapse and Europa League final second half).

Petr Cech

There was a lot of debate on whether Petr Cech should have started the game, considering he was offered a position at Chelsea and the fact that Leno is the better goalkeeper. 

For me, the offer of the Chelsea job summed up that club. Perfect timing of the “announcement” was enough to shed doubt on Arsenal’s preparations and cause a bit of sh*t, while their style of play was a lot to be desired (kicking our players, the highlight of which was someone stamping on Lacazette’s Achilles).

Personally, I thought Leno should have started. I completely understand that not starting Cech might have disrupted the dressing room and affected morale, and I understand that there might have been an agreement earlier in the season about certain goalkeepers playing in certain competitions. That said, Leno played the first few games in the Europa League remember so I don’t think it would have been that much of a shock. Added to the fact that Leno allows us to play from the back which is an important part of our game, whereas Cech only knows how to kick it long which would only work (ironically) if we had a player like Olivier Giroud.

 

Can Arsenal Finish Third in The Premiership?

Arsenal’s 5-1 thumping of Bournemouth stated the team’s intention of finishing fourth in the final Premiership table – or even higher. The title race is a foregone conclusion as it will go to either Liverpool or Manchester City, both of whom, given their current form, have unassailable leads. But what’s wrong with The Gunners aiming for third place?

The North Londoners rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Burnley, followed by a hugely disappointing performance (only if you’re a Spurs fan of course) against Chelsea – Arsenal’s second main rivals after Manchester United for the fourth (or third) place slot.

Tottenham face Arsenal this weekend, and they still have to play Liverpool at Anfield and Manchester City at the Etihad. Although they step up their game a little when they meet the better sides, it really does look like they have lost their bottle, and if they carry on dropping points, it can only be to the good of Arsenal.

Most impotantly – if Unai Emery’s men can beat Spurs, they will be only one point behind them with all to play for.

The Gunners have already played Liverpool and City, so that is to their advantage in terms of vying for a fourth or third place finish. The next crunch game in achieving their bid, on the assumption that they can humble Tottenham, will be when they entertain Manchester United at the Emirates of the 10th of March.

Many soccer pundits seem to have accepted that Tottenham will finish in third place. But the rivalry between the two North London clubs is part of the fabric of the game, and if the Gunners can take that third-place spot at the expense of their neighbours, that will be sweet indeed if you’re a Gooner.

So, with everything to play for, Arsenal must be prepared to take what’s on offer and win both games – first against the Lily Whites and then against the Red Devils.

Tottenham are there for the taking. Pochettino admitted when they lost to Burnley that his team are now out of the title race. After the ensuing defeat by Chelsea he has now told the world that Spurs are ten years away from being real title contenders. With Spurs’ moral at an all-time low, now is the time for Arsenal to assert themselves.

But Emery needs to get his tactics right, and one of the questions uppermost in many peoples’ minds is whether or not his will pick Mesut Ozil in his starting eleven. Ozil had a terrific game against Bournemouth. He opened the scoring himself before setting up Henrikh Mkhitaryan to score and he was the main contributor of making the team tick.

Emery was quick to recognise Ozil’s performance when he said how much he helped to seal an emphatic win with his quality and work.

Given the underwhelming start to Arsenal’s opening form this season, no-one would have thought they would now be challenging for a fourth or even third place finish. We mustn’t also lose sight of the fact the Gunners are still in with a chance of winning the Europa League.

Making all this happen won’t be easy. But if they can, as suggested by former player Laureano Bisan-Etame Mayer, (more popularly known as simply Lauren), it will turn an average season into an excellent one and it will grant them a place in next year’s European Champions League.

From Unai Emery’s point of view, coming in after the exit of Arsen Wenger was no simple task. If his team does land a third-place finish and lift the Europa League crown, it will have been a more than satisfactory start to his reign.

 

Mesut Özil’s Masterful Performance Against Bournemouth

Mesut Ozil delivered a masterful performance to inspire Arsenal to a 5-1 victory over Bournemouth at The Emirates on Wednesday night. The German playmaker opened the scoring with a deft chip, teed up Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the second and looked extremely dangerous throughout. He also displayed fantastic work rate in a bid to prove to Unai Emery that he can fit into the manager’s high intensity style of play. The Gunners look a much better team with Ozil pulling the strings and there is now a strong case for Emery to reinstate him as a first team regular for the rest of the season.

In mitigation, this was a game tailor made for a player of Ozil’s talents. Bournemouth had lost their previous nine away games and they were unlikely to offer much resistance to Arsenal’s attack. Eddie Howe’s men simply cannot bring themselves to park the bus and they always try to play expansive football, which leaves plenty of space for Ozil to wreak havoc. He will need to turn it on against a higher calibre of opposition in order to convince Emery of his newfound worth to the team, but the signs are positive.

Arsenal now enters a crucial phase of the season as they desperately try to claw their way back into the Champions League. Emery and co need money to plug gaping holes in the squad, and the absent owner is not a fan of investing his own cash in the project, so the riches that Champions League football brings would provide a huge boost. They have two avenues: finish in the top four of the table or win the Europa League. A Bookmaker review and an analysis of the betting lines reveals that they are underdogs in both markets.

Chelsea are the clear favourites to finish in the top four after beating Tottenham on Wednesday, while Man Utd are second in the betting and Arsenal are third. Spurs could yet get sucked back into it, but Arsenal are still outsiders in this market. Chelsea are also the favourites to win the Europa League, followed by Serie A outfit Napoli and then Arsenal, who are once again third in the betting. Yet the Gunners will take a huge amount of confidence from the manner of their victory over Bournemouth this week.

It followed a similarly dominant display against Southampton in their previous outing and it is encouraging to see so many attacking options at Emery’s disposal. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came in for Alexandre Lacazette and looked equally impressive, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan is in the best form of his Arsenal career thus far, and the ability to rotate players will be crucial in the run-in. Yet there is a case for Ozil being the first name on the team sheet. He has an infuriating tendency to go missing in big games, and also to miss lengthy spells through illness, but when he is on song he is unplayable.

Without Ozil in the side, the Gunners often huff and puff, but lack incision. The German can deliver precise through balls, his movement is exceptional and he links midfield and attack with aplomb. Emery is a demanding coach and he clearly grew sick of Ozil’s lack of endeavour, but it would be amazing if Arsenal’s highest-earning player has actually responded well to a spell on the sidelines and the team will benefit from a re-energised, motivated player that is ready to lead this team to greater glories. Arsenal are fourth in the table, so their destiny is in their own hands, and there are no excuses in the Europa League as Chelsea are a mess. If Ozil shines for the next couple of months it could yet end up as a successful season for Arsenal and spark optimism for a bright future under Emery, so the case for him to give his star man a chance is compelling.

 

How Do You Think Arsenal Are Doing Now We’re Half Way Through The Season?

Arsenal lost against West Ham 1-0 today as we still sit in 5th place, which could change depending what happens to Manchester United tomorrow.

The question is how has our season been so far? Has Unai Emery done a good job so far? Is he underachieving or overachieving?

Personally, I think his impact has been overwhelmingly positive and he’s brought new ideas to the club. For me, he needs time and with the amount of money Silent Stan will give him he needs at least 3/4 seasons to make his mark.

After this weekend Arsenal would have played 22 games – having won 12, drawn 5 and lost 5.

With the mess of a squad he inherited, I think Unai Emery has done a great job. Several players like Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka and Alexander Iwobi have improved under the Spaniard, and we do play with more of a structured system.

The ridiculous scenarios regarding Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey are in no way down to him and a result of the mis-management from Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis. Under Emery, he can improve things.

So how do you think we’re doing this season? Are you happy with the progress we’re making so far?

Leave your thoughts and comments in the section below!