I read someone in the comments say I didn’t write match previews these days. It is true, as I’ve been gunning to do the match report right after the whistle, but today, I’m gonna do one for you DivineSherlock.
I’m very much buzzing for an FA Cup final. At this point, we’d probably have pitched up at The Greenman, 4 beers deep after a meet up at that ‘Spoons a Liverpool Street. I’d be meeting cousins, my dad, the extended Le Grove family. My brother would be leading the charge on pints, lapping me by at least 3. My dad would be holding court about Alex Song and Arsene Wenger.
‘No Dad, it’s ok, Wenger’s gone now’
We’d all laugh at the guy slumped in the corner that had wet himself, then we’d applaud as he got up in time for the walk to the stadium. The good times, the good times.
Ahh, I miss it. I miss hanging out with the Arsenal family. I’m gutted for all the kids that miss out on a day like today. Semi-Finals are iconic days out. They are special. You always remember them.
This year is different, no fans are allowed in the ground, so we’ll be watching the players battle it out to an empty stadium. That doesn’t mean it lacks importance. For Arsenal, a win defines our summer transfer window. Currently, it’s a roll of a dice as to whether we make it into the European positions. We can finish anywhere from 10th to 6th. The FA Cup guarantees us a place in the Thursday night trophy (sad that we’re pining for that level of comp these days).
Arteta was realistic in his presser. He knows Manchester City better than anyone. They’ve scored the most goals in the Premier League this season, on their day, for me, there’s still no better side technically. Peak Guardiola football is mesmeric. They also have a team of game-changers. The shapes, the off the ball movement, and the decisiveness in important moments makes our task daunting.
The gameplan versus Liverpool was not to get absolutely battered for 90 minutes, but that’s what happened. I don’t think we’ll be able to ride our luck like that for a second game in a week. Arsenal have to show up, they have to play a better game of football, we have to try and control their strengths, but also play to our own.
I don’t know how we change it up in this game, but we know there is a path forward, because the first half against Leicester showed that there is a football team that can express themselves like Arsenal somewhere hiding in the squad.
That’s what we’ll try to do as much as possible! Like any other team they have some weaknesses, as you mentioned, and as well it’s about stopping their strengths.
They have a lot. It’s part of any gameplan. It’s not about City, it’s about any other opponent we are facing. Tomorrow we will do exactly the same.
One of their weaknesses this season has been away days. They’ve been pitiful for their standards on the road. They are also susceptible at the back if you get at them with pace in the front line. I’d imagine we’re going to try and load up with pace, Auba, Saka, and maybe Pepe. Then it’s about bringing the most stable backline offering we have (👀). It’s really hard to decide what that looks like these days. Rob Holding grew immensely with the Liverpool game, he feels like a better option than Kola. I thought Cedric Soares looked off his game, does he get the nod over Bellerin, or dare I say it, AMN? This is what he said on the 22 year old.
He’s a player who can play in many different positions, we have discussed the things in my opinion that he can improve or adapt to his game because he has incredible quality. He has every quality that you need to be a football player to play the highest level and he just needs to do it in a little bit more of a consistent way, but he is someone who can adapt to any position as well.
AMN could be a very good player, he showed it against Wolves. Focus is his weakness though, that said, it’s hard to say that focus isn’t an issue with at least half the starting 11 we roll with game to game.
That also leads us to Mustafi, does he start? Probably. We have to hope that we get the best version of him, because the German Superman, flying into challenges, is not going to help against City.
In midfield, it’s pretty clear what we’ll do. Arteta was effusive about Ceballos.
Well that’s a conversation that we are having with the club, to see what we can do in the future with him. But I’m really, really happy with the progress and how much he’s improving and giving to the club.
I always give the example that he’s a loan player but when you see his celebrations for every goal, the way he trains every day, how much he cares, he’s fighting, he’s top. I’m really happy with him.
Dani has been excellent for us. He moves the ball forward and his defensive contributions get better with each game. Xhaka will no doubt sit next to him despite a little dip in form of late, likely due to fatigue. Then the question is whether Torreira starts. I suspect he will.
It’s extremely important we come out of the gates this time. Starting smartly generally leads us to better performances. Wolves and Leicester showed us that. We are a team that has fragile confidence. If the game plan looks good, we have a great chance. If it’s off, the players tend not to recover (Spurs). When we let Liverpool take control, we never took it back. I appreciate it’s Liverpool, but we’re not a team that should allow another side such a large chunk of possession. City with have more answers to a deep block than Liverpool.
We have to nip at City, we have to ask questions of their defence, and we have to play a more positive game.
Arteta was asked about Mesut Ozil again, his response was a terse, ‘he is in training.’ It’s clear there is very little chance of him returning this season. Fans remember the wrong Ozil when they don’t see him. This is a guy that was the best #10 in the world, he is not that now.
Here are his numbers.
Last 3 seasons:
Last two seasons:
3 Villa players have matched/more assists this season than Ozil has in had in 2 years (Grealish, Hourihane, El Ghazi). Andy Carrol has the same assist numbers this season as Ozil has had in 2 seasons.
He is the best chance creator in the team, still, but his 2.3 chances per game is more than half what it was back in the day, and those numbers don’t outweigh the negatives of having a player that regularly doesn’t show up in important games. Are we beating Liverpool with Mesut in the week? No chance.
Arteta also cleared up the SPEND SOME FUCKING MONEY comments he made in the week.
No, that was misinterpreted. It wasn’t my intention. We work so closely with everyone at the club, with the owners to put the plan that we need to take the club forward. Everybody has the same ambition, we are in all of this together. But if you ask me if I know right now what do I have and how can I do it, I’m sorry but I don’t know because there are a lot of questions that we can not resolve right now with the situation we have.
One is financially and the other one is because we do not know if we are in Europe, and because we have players that we don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s the reality. It’s not about sending a message, we all have the same objective which is to try to bring the club back as quickly as possible, fighting with the top teams in the country and in Europe and that’s it, and I want to do that as quickly as possible.
I don’t think you can knock a coach for pushing the club to give him funds to compete, though some obviously will. Hopefully, we’ll make Europe, that’s the first place to find some money, and if we don’t, Arteta will just have to deal with the consequences. His point about money is that it allows you to get there faster, which is an obvious statement, but one that is more important this summer because a little injection of credit could give us a lot of bang for our buck. As I said in the week, it’s new to hear an Arsenal manager fight for the football, and I welcome it. Stan K, for all his problems, is not an owner afraid to spend money, remember, Unai Emery had a higher net spend than Klopp and he was only with us for 18 months. Question is, can he afford to give the club an injection of cash when ALL sports are fucked from COVID and he’s a sports business guy? Doubtful.
Still, Madrid aren’t going on for Mbappe this summer, so if the Spanish big dogs are fucked, then he can hardly take offence at Arsenal not having a lot of cash to burn.
ALSO, I know people are uncomfortable that the manager keeps pumping players in press. I am too. Mostly because we’re unsure whether he means it. I am almost 100% sure he’s being a salesman here. He is pumping value, he is playing the reluctant seller, and you’ll see where his taste levels are at this summer when he has to move on big names.
Finally, before I go, I would ask you to all take a read of this from The Athletic. It’s a very well sourced piece about how we do business at Arsenal. I know plenty don’t believe things when they come from me, but hey, look where the mainstream media is going with something I’ve been banging the drum on for a while. If you are bored, take a read of this story about how we landed where we did. A nice compliment.
Enjoy the game, see you in the comments!