Torreira, Our Saviour.

If there was ever a match I felt more confident about, it would be a home match against a struggling, relegation placed, Huddersfield Town. But once again the Premier League proved that even the smallest of teams can give the giants a scare, and they did just that.

This seemed like the type of game Unai Emery would use to rest some of his key players ahead of a very busy December, and a lot of people were hoping that the likes of Torreira, in particular, would be rested for this match to give him a break from the shifts he put in against Tottenham and Man United. I however, was hoping he’d play a strong squad, get a good lead and then take Torreira off to rest. The manager went on to say that he was going to give this match 100%, as not getting a win against Huddersfield would make the draw at United pointless. I was ecstatic to hear this, as a lot of managers make the mistake of underestimating smaller clubs in the Premier League, and get bit in the arse more often than not.

Image courtesy of Arsenal on Twitter @Arsenal

The boss put out an interesting squad to say the least. With Holding out for the rest of the season due to a ruptured knee ligament, this meant that our veteran Stephan Lichtsteiner would take his place, only on the right. Emery then also decided to play all three of our prospective defensive midfielders in the center of the pitch. Of those 3, it seemed like Guendouzi would have more of a free role going forward, and it seemed to me like he was given the responsibility of being the creator in the centre. No Iwobi or Mhkitaryan starting, which I was a little bit bleak about because I thought they could use this game to rack up more minutes and potentially increase their confidence. We need our players firing on all cylinders for this December period and these two haven’t been bringing anything to the table as of late. However, Emery went with a new formation on Saturday, playing a 3-5-2, with Aubameyang and Lacazette starting alongside each other as the front 2. I was damn sure that they would at least get a goal each. Oh, how wrong I was.

The match also saw Paul Tierney officiate his first game at the Emirates, and boy, I really hope it’s his last there. This ref was so inconsistent with his decisions and calls, which pissed the Arsenal fans off immensely. Three bookings given to our players for dives, where only one of those was the probably the right call, and that was Guendouzi’s dive in the box around the 80th minute. Perhaps the kid thought it was the only way we were going to get a goal and tried to help us out, but such behaviour is embarrassing and very Tottenham-like. I really hope that’s the last time we see that from him. Huddersfield however, also had two dives, and had no yellow cards for either. The worst decision on the day was probably the one which saw Lacazette’s goal disallowed in the first half. A horrible back pass gave the Frenchman the opportunity to take advantage and put it in the net, but oh…what’s that? The officials decided to call it offside. Fucking ridiculous.

It wasn’t the best of matches to be honest. Huddersfield’s offence hardly threatened us, but they were keeping a tight defence at the back and denying us where they could. Aubameyang and Lacazette both had brilliant chances in the first half to give us a comfortable lead, but sadly none of them capitalised on them. Laca at least put it in the net afterwards, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, the goal was unfairly ruled offside. It wasn’t until the 82nd minute that we finally scored. Guendouzi played a beautiful ball into the box which Auba brought down brilliantly. Auba couldn’t get his shot off, but improvised and chipped the ball into the box, where our little Uruguayan lion was waiting ever so patiently. Torreira, having been denied by a brilliant save in the first half by Lössl, decided that this time, the keeper wasn’t going to get to it, as he leapt up in the air and smashed the ball past Lössl with an acrobatic volley that left the rest of us, and Bellerin, astounded.

Image courtesy of Stuart MacFarlane on Twitter @Stuart_PhotoAFC

Scenes. The whole Emirates erupted after being disappointingly quiet for majority of the second half. The “One-nil to the Arsenal” chant followed shortly and it felt like everything was at ease again. Ref decided to add the majority of the first half’s stoppage time onto the second half’s stoppage time, and coughed out an extra 7 minutes which would’ve made Alex Ferguson proud. Is Tierney under Fergies payroll? Perhaps, but we were able to see it through until the final whistle. Arsenal 1 – 0 Incompetent Refs & Huddersfield. Bernd Leno finally got his first Premier League clean sheet and we extended our unbeaten run to 21 games! Wow. 

I’ve rated the players here, but the man of the match award was given to who other than Lucas Torreira. That’s his 5th MOTM award in the last six games! Signing of the season? Most probably, but he had this to say after the match:


I am really happy, really happy. I work really hard throughout the week to make these moments happen at the weekend, because that’s the most important thing.


These goals help the team to keep winning, keep improving and keep building confidence. We have a fantastic team and a great group and we enjoy playing together.


The goal is for the fans too – they show up every week and follow us to all the different stadiums. They’re always there so this goal is for them first and foremost.

Lucas Torreira

Arsenal fans are absolutely adoring him! So much so that Sampdoria FC had to ask Arsenal fans to stop flooding their Twitter timeline with #ThanksForTorreira tweets! You’ve got to love him! Our little Uruguayan maestro has saved our skins this time and it’s only right that Emery gives him a proper rest this week. We’re up against Qarabag at the Emirates on Thursday, and because we’re already through to the knockout round, you can expect Emery to play the youngsters and give the more senior players a rest. Who knows, maybe Koscielny will feature for us on Thursday night as well? Hopefully we get the win to take us to 22 unbeaten going into the Southampton game. We’ll be without Mustafi and Sokratis for that one, but I’m sure Koscielny and Monreal will be able to help us out there.

Come on you Gunners!

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Arsenal vs Huddersfield – Player Ratings

In what was arguably one of our poorest performances this season, the Gunners came away with a 1-0 victory at home against Huddersfield Town. Here are my player ratings for that match.

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Leno – 7/10

Was hardly tested throughout this game. No brilliant moments but no dull ones either. Got his first clean sheet!

Bellerin – 7/10

Really played well! Found spaces behind the defenders and did some good running today. His face after Torreira’s strike was priceless.

Lichtsteiner – 6/10

Probably shouldn’t have got that involved after the tackle on Torreira. Booked for his reaction. But at the same time, we need defenders who don’t take shit from anyone. Played well enough for the half.

Mustafi – 6/10

Pulled his hammy and I hope it’s not too serious. Was a threat in their box once again, and should have won a penalty after being fouled. Got booked for a dive instead and misses the next game.

Sokratis – 8/10

The man has got passion running through his veins! Had a really good game. Ran well, tackled well and called Depoitre a diving bastard. Celebrates good tackles like he’s won the league. Love it!

Kolasinac – 6/10

Kola wasn’t the main outlet today, as it looked like our attacks were coming in from the right. He was limited in the second half when we switched to a back four, but for the times he did go forward, he showed good speed to get in behind the defenders and try to pick out a cross.

Torreira – 9/10 *

Where would we be without our little Uruguayan Lion? That’s another stellar performance he’s put in, and he grabbed the winning goal with a beautiful acrobatic volley. Also had a beautiful shot saved. Arsenal fans really loving him now. My MOTM goes to him.

Xhaka – 7/10

Captained and controlled the side well today. Got the first yellow card of the game. I think we missed him in Manchester.

Guendouzi – 6/10

Had an off day in my opinion. Passing wasn’t the greatest and he was given the responsibility of creativity in the midfield. Booked for a silly dive, but was responsible for that lovely ball floated into the box which eventually led to our goal.

Lacazette – 6/10

Had a torrid time out there. Fucked a beautiful chance up by slipping. Also had a goal wrongly disallowed. Subbed off at half time, which will probably dent his confidence a bit.

Aubameyang – 7/10

Didn’t have a great game either. Missed his chance to get his 11th of the season. Frustrating day for him as he didn’t get the service he wanted but at least he chipped in with an assist in the end.

Subs:

Iwobi – 6/10

Sent on to provide width and creativity. Had a few bright moments but other than that, nothing special.

Mkhitaryan – 6/10

Same as Iwobi.

Monreal – 7/10

Came on for an injured Mustafi. Slotted right in and handled the back 3 well. Nice to have him back again!

Other:

Emery – 6/10

Nearly got it wrong this time but when you have limited options due to injuries I guess you have to make do with what you got. I thought the decision to bring Lacazette off so early was the wrong one. Celebrated greatly though and managed the team on the sideline throughout the game.

Fans – 5/10

From what I could hear, the fans were not at it today. For long periods of time the stadium was quiet. Not good enough.

Refs – 0/10

The ref was absolute horse shit on the day. First time at the Emirates, but will hopefully be his last. So inconsistent with his decisions. Booked 3 of our players for diving, but when the other team dived, all we got was a free kick. Lacazette’s goal unfairly disallowed! And what was up with the 7 minutes of stoppage time at the end? Did he combine the first half’s stoppage time with the second half’s? I suspect he works for Fergie.

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There you have it. Let me know whether you agree or disagree in the comments below.

Robbed At Old Trafford

Old Trafford has always been a difficult place for Arsenal to travel to in the league, as we’ve seen for the last 11 years. Our last win there was in September 2006, when Arsenal won 1-0 thanks to Adebayor. So naturally, we as Arsenal fans have feared travelling up North because history tells us that we’ll struggle.

But this time around it felt different. You see, Man United have started their season horribly, and with Arsenal hot in form after a sumptuous victory against Sp*rs, now was as good a time as any to go to Manchester and grab all 3 points. I wasn’t feeling too good about the game, but the faith drilled into me by Emery gave me the sense that we could win this, so I was a little more confident than what I normally was for this fixture. A part of me was hoping that we would beat them senselessly, so that Mourinho could be sacked as a result of Arsenal…oh how great that would be! But another part of me wanted us to do okay, just so that he can keep his job a bit longer and drive United’s bus a bit further into the mud. Well, it turns out we went the latter route and did okay, only for us to bring 1 point back home.

Mourinho made a shitload of changes to the squad that drew 2-2 to Southampton, whereas Arsenal only made 2. Granit Xhaka was serving a 1 match suspension, which gave Guendouzi the chance to start alongside Torreira, and after an impressive display off the bench against Tottenham, Ramsey made it into the starting 11, only for Mhkitaryan to make way after a spell of poor performances recently. I was wondering how we would get on without Xhaka in the squad, and whether Guendouzi was ready for a fight against United scum. Turns out he did just fine, but I do get the feeling that the team missed Xhaka a bit. I say this, because for most of the first half we didn’t really have control in the midfield. Our players really looked nervous on the field, which made me nervous. But all of those nerves seemed to die down after we took the lead. I’d said it before, and I’ll say it again: Mustafi thrives in big fixtures like these! The man is always a threat in the oppositions box when set pieces are being taken. Granted, De Gea gave us that goal by basically throwing the ball into his own net, but it was Mustafi who found the space and headed the ball towards goal, only for De Gea to do the rest for us.

Image courtesy of David Price on Twitter @priceyd101

That lead didn’t last long though, as Martial went down after Guendouzi supposedly fouled him outside the box. The free kick was saved by Leno, but also parried back into play whereby an offside Herrera latched onto it, crossed it in to Martial, who shot and scored. I’m not blaming Leno completely for that goal, but maybe he could have just tipped it out for a corner? I don’t know. What I will blame is our sleepy defenders in that situation and the linesman. We had barely kept the lead for 5 minutes and the score was back at 1-1. The rest of the half wasn’t appealing to watch though, as fouls were being thrown around, players were play-acting and Andre Marriner was handing out yellow cards like an unsigned rapper handing out their mixtapes on the street. So yes, we went into half time again without the lead, but on a side note though, I wonder what would happen when we do eventually go in with the lead. Will we lose in the second half though? I’m not sure, but I sincerely hope not, because it seems like us going in with a draw or loss gives Emery something to talk about at half time. Anyways…

We brought Ramsey off at half time due to injury which gave Mhkitaryan the chance to do damage to his former employers in the second half. That wasn’t the case until Emery finally decided that Iwobi was playing absolute horse shit, and brought Lacazette on for him. I don’t know what’s going on with Iwobi, but it seems his form has dropped ever since we switched to the 3-4-3 formation. Maybe that formation doesn’t suit him? But I digress…

Mhki and Laca had some good link up play which eventually lead to our 2nd goal of the night. Lacazette’s dangerous presence in the box forced Marcos Rojo to make a tackle on the ball which accidentally put it past De Gea for an own goal. That’s the 4th own goal teams have scored for us now! But our celebrations were cut shorter this time, with Jesse “Angry Bird Eyebrows” Lingard capitalising on a horrible defensive mistake by Kolasinac to make it 2-2 not even 15 seconds after kick off. Kolasinac was clearly distraught about the incident after the match, but our classy manager had this to say to him afterwards:


Sead you had a very good match, offensively you give us a lot of circumstances. 
It can happen this action in defence, but you need to continue and most of all, be positive and learn from this action.

Unai Emery on Kolasinac’s mistake.

That’s really nice to hear from a manager, and I hope that optimism and faith in him helps him learn from the mistake and improve. Arsenal pretty much bossed the game from then on and came close to scoring on a few occasions. De Gea brilliantly denied Aubameyang twice, as well as Torreira in the dying minutes of the game. Mhkitaryan came so close to putting us 3-2 ahead but his effort went over the bar. I really hope he works on his finishing and regains his confidence back soon. Near the end of the match Fellaini also fouled Guendouzi by pulling his hair, and I still cannot believe he didn’t get a red card for that. The Belgian clearly jealous and resentful by holding onto something he let go. I was livid, and I was hoping some action would be taken after the match, but as I’m typing this I’ve just learned that no disciplinary action will be taken against him, which is utter bullshit!

Image courtesy of David Price on Twitter @priceyd101

So the full time whistle blew and all ended square at Old Trafford. I can’t help feel that we were robbed a bit, but with the way both teams played, I guess a draw is a fair result? The fact that the Arsenal players were disappointed not to get the win, speaks volumes and is a sure sign of progress. We see that result as 2 points dropped… not 1 point gained. You can find my player ratings for the match here.

We’re still unbeaten in 20 games though, which is a very impressive feat! I really hope the boys rest up well before Huddersfield come to town, and I hope the injuries picked up during this game aren’t too serious. We’ve got a string of fixtures coming up that we should win, so it’s a chance to build up confidence before we face Liverpool at Anfield on the 29th of December.

Come on you Gunners!

North London Is Red!

What a wonderful morning and start to the week! I mean, after yesterdays triumphant win over Tottenham, Arsenal fans all over the world are absolutely buzzing and deserve the bragging rights , once again. I myself couldn’t help but wake up with a wide smile, knowing that there are Sp*rs fans out there who woke up salty as fuck.

Going into this match I was confident that we were going to beat them, but I didn’t think we were going to give them a hiding. I knew it was going to be tough, especially because Sp*rs had a 12th man on the pitch in Mike Dean, and oh man I was dreading the controversial decisions he was going to give in Sp*rs’ favour. I caught a glimpse of the line up as we were heading to the Arsenal Supporters Club in Johannesburg, and I was a tad surprised to see Emery go with a back 5 again. I was also dumbfounded when I saw that Özil was nowhere near the squad or the bench, which had me worried a bit if I’ll be honest. Lacazette was also on the bench, which made me think that Emery would use him as a super sub, which he did indeed.

Due to some technical difficulties with generators and Eskom’s load shedding bullshit in general, I was forced to watch the opening 20 minutes of the game on my phone, but the way I see it, no data is wasted when you’re watching the Arsenal. The Gunners took an early lead when Jan Vertonghen handled the ball in the box and I was pleasantly surprised when Mike Dean decided not to turn a blind eye to the situation. Yellow card for a Spurs player and a penalty for us meant that this game started exactly the way we would have wanted it to. Up stepped Auba and put away his 9th goal in the Premier League. One nil to the Arsenal!

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When the generators came back online, we carried on watching on the televisions and were treated to some very beautiful attacking football from the Gunners. Sead Kolasinac was ripping up the left wing and was the outlet to most of our attacks, but Son from Tottenham was giving us just as much trouble. The South Korean forced Leno into a save after some brilliant dribbling in our box, and later then drew a foul out of Sokratis to win a free kick. That free kick then led to Sp*rs’ equalising goal, with Eric Dier who got on the end of it to put it past Leno, who in my opinion, should have done much better. His celebration of “shushing” the Arsenal fans was deemed disrespectful by our veteran Stephan Lichtsteiner, who tried to calm the situation. Sissoko then pushed the Swiss quite violently and that’s where the Arsenal bench got involved in the bust up. Nothing like a good old fight on Derby Day. I thoroughly enjoy these types of moments when you can see the passion from the players and how much this means to them. I particularly enjoyed some of the new boys getting involved in it all, especially Guendouzi, who has never experienced a North London derby before, but showed enough fight to make a certain Jack Wilshere proud.

Shortly after tensions had cooled down, Sp*rs won a penalty thanks to their good friend Mr Dean deeming Son’s dive in the box to be a “legitimate foul”. This ref had done us in again, and the cheating antics of Tottenham gave them the chance to take the lead. No doubt Harry Kane put the penalty away, and the Spuds went 2-1 up before half time, which extended our run of win-less half time scores. Although I was a bit worried, I knew that we still had the second half to salvage a result. I mean, after all, we’re Second Half FC remember?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a manager bring on 2 subs at the start of the second half before. Even if I had, it’s something that one doesn’t see every day, but that’s the thing with our new manager you see? He’s prepared to throw his cards down early if it means he can grab a win, and he knows exactly when to make his substitutions. Off came Iwobi and Mhki, to be replaced by two game changers, Lacazette and Ramsey. It didn’t take too long before Ramsey was in the thick of things. Bellerin played an absolute beaut of a pass through to the Welshman, who laid if off for Aubameyang with his first touch. Auba then shot it first time and curled it into the bottom right of the goal from outside the box. Lloris could do nothing but pray that the ball was going wide, but unfortunately for him it didn’t and rippled the back of the net.

We were all over Tottenham after that. That equalising goal gave us the strength and determination to search for a winning goal, which came in the 74th minute after Rambo won back possession in Tottenhams half and played Lacazette through. The Frenchman took his time with his shot but thanks to a deflection from the shushing Dier, the ball crept into the bottom left corner to give Arsenal the lead. The stadium erupted after that! I erupted after that! Lacazette’s passionate celebration also showed how much it meant to him to score against Tottenham in the North London Derby. Wow I couldn’t believe it. But the best was still to come… Not long after that goal Aubameyang played Lucas Torreira of all people through and the little Uruguayan fired the ball past Lloris into the bottom corner. Everyone in the room absolutely lost it. The fans in the stadium lost it. I lost it, along with my voice. He chose the right match to score his first goal for Arsenal and he’s fast becoming a lot of peoples favourite player. My word… the scenes that ensued after that were terrific. That wasn’t the last bit of action in this match though, as Jan Vertonghen picked up a second yellow after a naughty followed through tackle on Lacazettes ankle. Laca luckily came out uninjured, but the Tottenham centre back was sent off, much to the delight of the Arsenal fans.

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My Player Ratings:

Leno: 7/10

Had a couple of good saves to keep the Spuds out, but was at fault for Tottenhams equaliser. Also seemed to struggle with Eriksen’s crosses.

Bellerin: 8/10

Fast becoming one of my favourites again, and showing that the RWB role is suiting him well. Nearly gave a goal away by passing it to Son, but Leno bailed him out of jail with a good save. Chatted shit to Vertonghen after his red card which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Holding: 7/10

So unlucky to have conceded a penalty due to a Son dive, but had a pretty solid game at the back.

Sokratis: 9/10

Fouled Son which led to the equaliser, but played solidly throughout the game. Showed grit and ugliness during the game which is something we’ve needed for a very long time in matches like these. Also called Son a diving bastard after the match. +1 point for that.

Mustafi: 8/10

Was involved in winning the first penalty for us. Loved his passion after winning the penalty as well as whenever we scored goals. Was extremely dangerous in Tottenhams box during set pieces. I’ve noticed he really thrives in big games like these.

Kolasinac: 8/10

Constant threat down the left hand side and timed his runs really well. Really getting back to his best form, and will probably keep Monreal out of the starting 11 when he returns.

Xhaka: 8/10

Captained the side well today and kept his cool. Solid performance from him.

Torreira: 10/10

Commanded that midfield again and showed grit. Scored his first Arsenal goal to put the nail in Tottenhams coffin. Won man of the match for the 3rd game running. Really happy for him and he’s proving to be the signing of the season.

Mhkitaryan: 6/10

Had a better game on the day but had to make way for Ramsey.

Iwobi: 7/10

Also played quite well in the first half. Came close to scoring but his shot was saved by Lloris.

Aubameyang: 10/10

Put in a stellar performance! I really found it difficult to choose my MOTM, but with 2 goals and an assist, I think Auba just just edged past Torreira.

Subs:

Lacazette: 8/10

Came on and made a difference for the team. Played wide surprisingly and stretched Tottenhams defence. Contributed with a goal to take us ahead of Sp*rs. Loved his celebration.

Ramsey: 9/10

Absolute game changer! Came on and ran riot. Provided the 2 assists that got us level with Sp*rs and then ahead as well. Worked really hard and I enjoyed the beef between him and Dele Alli on the touchline in the first half.

Guendouzi: 7/10

This youngster gets it. Wasn’t on for too long, but played well with the minutes he was given. Also got involved with the touchline bust up and for someone who’s new to this derby, that kind of passion was great to see.

Overall it was a fantastic match to watch and is by far the best match I’ve watched this season so far. It had everything from penalties to red cards to fights and good goals, all of which you’d love to see in a derby. I’m so psyched after that match and can’t wait until we play United on Wednesday night! That’s 19 games unbeaten now, and Emery’s Arsenal is slowly starting to prove that we’re a force to be reckoned with. I’m so excited about the future of our club right now!

Come on you Gunners!

Back To Winning Ways

The international break had finally ended and once again it was time to watch our beloved Arsenal play once more. Thank God that was the last interlull for the year, as we head into a very busy end-of-year fixture list for Premier League clubs. First up on the list was Bournemouth, a side who beat us in this fixture last season for the very first time ever.

Bournemouth have been very confident lately, and their results have been showing it, so this away fixture was going to be a lot trickier than playing against any of the other clubs outside the top 6. And plus, we had drawn our last 3 games in the Premier League, so it was time to pick up another win and gain our confidence back… especially because of who were going to play in our next 2 fixtures. So yes, I was a little nervous for this game but I had the reassurance that some of our key players didn’t participate in the international break and were well rested. That reassurance died down a bit once I saw the team news released. No Lacazette? Özil on the bench? Holding, Mustafi and Sokratis playing? “What’s going on!?” I thought as I looked at this new look to our team. But I tried to look at it from a tactical approach, and I tried to see it how the experts would see it. With all 3 of our center backs playing, as well as Bellerin and Kolasinac, this meant we were resorting to 5 at the back, something we haven’t seen Emery play with before. You see, with the 3 central midfielders, this meant that Bellerin and Kola had license to bomb forward more, and provide the width… but it also meant that there would be more stability at the back. Maybe he realized the attacking threat of Bournemouth and decided that he needed more defenders, or maybe he took a chance on a new system just to see how it pans out? Either way, it worked, but only just.

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We were extremely lucky not to have gone 1-0 down in the opening 7 minutes. Brooks scored for Bournemouth but his goal was deemed offside luckily. Looking at some of the replays, you could see that has was marginally onside as the ball was played to him. It’s those kind of decisions that won’t go in our favour next year when VAR is implemented. Lucas Torreira struck the post not more than a minute later after a great interception ad run. That would’ve been the Uruguayans first goal for the club, and it was too bad he was denied by the upright. In terms of first half displays, it wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t the greatest. Our defenders couldn’t really cope with the speed of Bournemouth’s attackers, and so resorted to some wresting moves occasionally to bring them down. However, from an attacking perspective we did a little better. Kolasinac and Bellerin worked really hard down those wings and were often the outlet for all our attacks. One of those balls that Kola crossed in led to one of the most beautiful own goals I’ve seen since Carl Jenkinson scored for us in pre-season a few years ago. Lermer tried to block the cross coming in but instead toe-poked/volleyed it past Begovic to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal.

It seemed like we were going to go into the break with the lead for the first time this season, but on the stroke of half time Bournemouth hit us with a counter attack after we committed too many bodies forward in search of a second goal. Josh King was unmarked in space, as Brooks played the ball to him, only for him to curl the ball beautifully into the top left corner of Leno’s goal to make it 1-1 before half time. Fuuuuuuck… So close! But at least we weren’t in a losing position. I knew that we were stronger in the second half, so I wasn’t too worried at this stage.

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We looked a better side in the second half, and grabbed a goal half way through after Lerma brought down Mustafi. The free kick was taken quickly, and Alex Iwobi played a beautiful ball in for Kola to latch onto, who then played it across the face of goal towards Aubameyang, who slid to get a touch on it and placed it in the bottom corner. 2-1 to the Arsenal and we had our lead back. A few moments later, Torriera was subbed off for Guendouzi, which shocked me a bit, because when you’re holding a 2-1 lead, you need someone like Torriera to help see out the game. But Emery stated in the post match conference that Torreira seemed to be tiring and didn’t want to risk him getting an injury. Fair enough. The other substitution saw Iwobi come off for Ramsey, which baffled me even more. I really thought Emery would bring Mhki off as he was having a torrid game in my opinion. Bournemouth continued to threaten for the rest of the half and came close as Lerma struck the same post that Torreira did in the first half. They had a 95th minute free kick outside of our box as well after Mustafi pulled one of his classic fouls out at a dangerous time. I genuinely thought they were gonna score from that, I mean, that’s the luck you deserve when your defender makes stupid decisions like that, right? But alas, Stanislas blasted it over and the referee called an end to the game, meaning that we were 17 games unbeaten and 1 point behind Chelsea in the top 4.

My Player Ratings:

Leno: 6/10

Didn’t have much to do. Make a couple of good saves but his distribution on the day was off.

Bellerin: 7/10

Provided a constant threat down that right hand side. Good running on the day.

Mustafi: 5/10

Not bad, but not his greatest game. -1 for conceding a foul in a dangerous area at a dangerous time. Had me real nervous.

Holding: 6/10

Pretty standard game for him. I think he struggled to cope with the pace of Bournemouth’s attack at times.

Sokratis: 6/10

Great to have him back, although showed some signs of a Greek wrestler within him. Still made a couple of good tackles though.

Kolasinac: 8/10

Great game from Kola today. Misread a couple of passes but was a threat down the left and bagged 2 assists in the end. Probably my MOTM.

Xhaka: 6/10

I thought he captained the side well today in the absence of Özil. Controlled the midfield quite well.

Torreira: 7/10

Good game for him as well. Passed well and made a shit load of interceptions to win possession back. Came close to scoring by hitting the post.

Mhkitaryan: 4/10

Probably the worst player on the day if you ask me. Nothing was coming off for him and his passing wasn’t great. Also, what was going on with his hair on the day?

Iwobi: 6/10

Had an average game, showed some attacking promise at times. Fed that beautiful ball in to Kola for the second goal, therefore he assisted the assister.

Aubameyang: 7/10

Won the game for us in the end, but went missing for a large portion of the game which frustrated me. Great finish though… Tied on top of the list of most goals next to Sergio Aguero.

Subs:

Guendouzi: 6/10

Still shows so much confidence on the pitch! Passing was good.

Ramsey: 6/10

Didn’t have much time to play but linked up well with Xhaka in Midfield.

Nketiah: N/A

Was on for way too short for me to rate him

So in the end we triumphed and walked away with all three 3 points. That was a much needed win to get our spirits up before the big North London Derby on Sunday. First up we’ve got some Europa League action on Thursday, but with us already through to the knockout stages,  hope Emery rests a lot of the key players so that we can put out a strong side for Sunday’s match. I think we’ll win it!

Come on you Gunners!

 

Arsenal Bitten By Wolves

Coming off the back of 2 draws, you’d expect the Arsenal to pick up the pace again and start getting back to winning ways. Sadly that wasn’t the case, as we watched what was arguably our worst performance this season so far.

We all knew what Wolves were capable of, and we knew their defensive record was pretty solid, but did we expect them to come to the Emirates and put on a performance like that? I certainly didn’t. And you’d think that with the 11 Emery put out on the day, we would walk out comfortable winners. I mean, we had Iwobi, Laca, Auba and captain Özil to terrorize the Wolves’ defense… but did one of them rise to the occasion? Fuck no. I was at least pleased with the sight of Kolasinac starting games again, and I thought he’d be as much of an attacking threat as he was against Liverpool, but he too, let me down.

First half was shambolic. Wolves took the lead as early as 12 minutes in, receiving an absolute gift of a pass from Arsenal. Both Granit Xhaka and Sead Kolasinac at fault for the goal, as Kola played a strange pass towards Xhaka which made him think the pass wasn’t for him. The lack of communication was apparent as Xhaka let the ball roll past him into space where Wolves picked it up, drove forward into our box and put it away. It reminded me of the Xhaka in the past, as I disappointingly murmured “Here we go again.”

Leno Saves

Arsenal drove forward quite promisingly a good few minutes later and came really close, but Lacazette’s shot was blocked off the line. Iwobi’s follow up shot was also blocked as Wolves threw bodies in front of their goal. They then caught a break and sprung a counter-attack with Helder Costa, who played extremely well on the day if I may add, and forced a great save out of Leno, who then so bravely threw himself in front of the follow up shot and smothered the ball. Wolves came bombing forward again later and Costa, again, forced another diving save out of Leno. Arsenal started yet another game really slowly as we went into half time in losing position. Even though I know we like to pick things up in the second half, I’m really starting to worry about this. There will be times where 45 minutes is not enough time to win a game, and I really hope we can work on starting games a bit better and getting the lead early on.

Second half started with a substitution, with Iwobi coming off for Guendouzi. I was quite puzzled by this, as I thought Iwobi was a positive in our side, trying to make things happen. With this sub, our formation shifted to somewhat of a 4-4-2 diamond shape, allowing Guendouzi and Xhaka to play as our CM’s, while Torreira sat deep as our DM. Özil then at the top of the diamond, with Laca and Auba as our main strikers. Surely this had to work? But it wasn’t as effective as we’d hoped…

Guendouzi registered our first shot on target in the 48th min. which is quite ridiculous if you think about it. No one testing the keeper in the entire first half? C’mon man. However, this shot from Guendouzi didn’t really test Rui Patricio though, as he gobbled it up quite easily. It was only on the 60th minute when he was tested truly, with what was quite a thunderbolt of a shot from Lucas Torreira. Patricio had to read it well as it was swerving and dipping in the air, but did so and tipped it over the bar. Loved that from Torreira though, having a shot when there was space and a chance. It’s something we don’t see too often from the Arsenal as they are programmed to look for a pass rather. Arsenal had a couple of clear cut chances afterwards, the first of which Bellerin placed over the crossbar. The second one, was supposed to be a goal, and can only go down as a bad miss from Aubameyang. Bellerin did well to drive in a cross which had to be tapped in, but Auba didn’t make the right contact with it, as the ball hit the outside of the post and went out. It was at this point where I was furious and confused, looking to the roof and wondering exactly what we had to do to get a goal.

Auba Miss

Emery had seen enough from Özil and Kolasinac, as both weren’t having the greatest of games, and brought on Mhkitaryan and Rambo, the former being the most effective sub as it turned out. Wolves hit us with another counter and Leno once again came to the rescue. Later on, Guendouzi found Ramsey in the box, who brought it down well, turned and shot, but Patricio saved it as the ball went out for a corner. After that I accepted that it just might not be our day, as Wolves were clearly putting everything on the line to stop us from scoring. But with the corner taken quickly, Ramsey played the ball back to Mhki, who took a touch to look up and see who was in the box. He then sent in a curling effort which no one got on the end of, but confused the keeper enough for him to leave it, and ended up in the back of the net. 1 – 1 with 4 minutes + stoppage time to go to find a winner.

The dying minutes of the game saw Wolves come exceptionally close to nicking the game. With Arsenal throwing bodies forward to try and find a winner, Wolves hit us with another counter attack, this time Traore leading the attack. He beat Rob Holding, but Leno chose the right time to come out and denied the striker. Wolves again came close in the last minute, but their shot hit the inside of the post and bounced back into play, where Traore picked it up but was offside. Full time saw Arsenal draw their 3rd consecutive match in all competitions. I know we’re artists when it comes to football, but if we could stop drawing, that would be great.

Player Ratings:

Leno: 9/10 

Was definitely the man of the match, as he made some significant saves and kept us in the game. It’s great to see that he’s not only good with his feet, but with his hands too.

Bellerin: 6/10

Put in a good shift, had that key pass to Auba which should have been put away. Also had a shot blocked in the first half. However, also had the chance to bring us level but fucked up his shot.

Mustafi: 5/10

Was pretty quiet in this game. Didn’t do anything significant. Had two clear decisions go against him for throw ins, which was quite annoying, but those weren’t his fault I guess.

Holding: 6/10

Held his own pretty well. Very worried about his pace but overall he’s becoming a solid defender. Not his greatest game though.

Kolasinac: 4/10

I think we used up all of Kola’s energy in the Liverpool game. Looked tired and his passes weren’t coming off. Wasn’t tracking back enough, but hopefully he comes back refreshed after the international break.

Xhaka: 5/10

Definitely at fault for the goal. I would’ve given him a 4, but he showed real determination to drive forward in the second half, which I quite admired.

Torreira: 7/10

Loving this guy more and more. Had two attempts at goal, one of them forcing a save out of Patricio. Won back possession a lot for us and played the ball forward. Really solid player.

Özil: 5/10

A bit disappointed in Özil . Lacked creativity and service. Visibly frustrated and wasn’t the captain we know he could be on the day. Had to come collect the ball deep in midfield which is not what we like to see, unfortunately.

Iwobi: 6/10

Unfortunate to be subbed off at half time. I thought he posed a threat in the first half, and looked like he wanted to get the boys in front. No idea why he was subbed though…injury? Hopefully not.

Aubameyang: 4/10

Aubameyang was nowhere yesterday. He and Lacazette were very quiet and had no impact. -1 rating point though for missing that sitter.

Lacazette: 5/10

Lacazette, as mentioned above, had a quiet game. Not the greatest of games for him. Admired his attempts to make something happen but nothing came off. Also had his shot blocked in the first half.

Subs:

Guendouzi: 6/10

Glad to have the teenager back after suspension. Only played in the second half but put a few good passes in and seemed composed in the midfield. Registered our first shot on target.

Mkhitaryan: 8/10

Him and Rambo only played for a few minutes. I thought he did well in that time. Got the goal that leveled things up and preserved our unbeaten record.

Ramsey: 7/10

Had a chance to score but his effort was brilliantly saved. In the end he provided the assist that got us on level terms.

Leno MOTM

Overall I was also quite disappointed in the crowd as well. From what I could hear, we weren’t singing and chanting enough. I feel like we should be doing this when we’re level, as well as when we’re losing. Not only when we’re winning. How do you expect these players to perform better when they can’t hear the support they’re getting? I also thought the ref’s were a bit ridiculous, especially in the beginning when they gave two throw ins to Wolves when it clearly should have been ours. Like Charlie Austin said in his post-match interview on Saturday, these officials need help now.

I was left bitterly disappointed after our display yesterday. It almost felt like I’d been cheated on. I guess we as Arsenal fans were left on cloud 9 after performing so well for so long, and now we’ve crashed down back to earth. We were very lucky not to lose that game. I normally don’t welcome international breaks, but this one I will. I think the boys and the coach need to take a breather and reevaluate/rebuild after these draws. Hopefully we come back after the interlull relaxed and ready to win again.

Come on you Gunners!

A Point to Prove

I was expecting a good game, but not one as intense as that. Both teams went into that fixture with the intent of winning, but at the end of the day they both came out with the same result. I was real nervous for this game to be honest, but as kick off drew closer I grew more and more excited, especially after I saw the team Emery was putting out on the day.

The squad we put out has arguably got to be one of our best. Leno has cemented himself as our No.1, even after Cech came back from injury. Hector Bellerin was deemed fit as well as the tank, Kolasinac, which meant that we had 2 full backs playing in their natural positions. Thank God, because this meant that Xhaka could slot back into his usual CM role alongside Torreira, seeing as we didn’t have Guendouzi for this match, who unfortunately got a Red Card in the week against Blackpool. Mustafi and Holding, who’ve formed quite a partnership, retained their place in the starting 11 as Papa Sokratis was still injured. Xhaka and Torreira seem like our strongest midfield pivot, and ahead of them were Lacazette, Özil , Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan… a very threatening attack. I was a bit disappointed that Iwobi wasn’t starting in place of Mkhi, given the form the Nigerian is in, but at the same time I want Mkhi to start regaining his form and form that old love affair with Auba on the pitch again, so I didn’t mind him starting.

team

We started the half off very very well and absolutely dominated the first 15 minutes of the game. Sead Kolasinac proved very effective on the left wing and created a couple of half chances. Ohhh how I’ve missed him. Auba also came close but the best chance was probably that Mkhitaryan header which went just wide as he beat Allison to the ball before the Brazilian took him out in mid air. Now I don’t know if that should have been deemed a penalty or not, but no one seemed to complain too much, and the ref made nothing of it. Shortly after that we were left with our hearts in our mouths as Firmino was played through and took a pop at goal, only to see it hit the post. Sadio Mané was quick with the follow up and put the deflected ball in the back of the our net, but the goal was disallowed due to Mané being ‘offside’. Whether it was deemed offside in the first phase of the play or the second phase, I’m not sure. But we were incredibly lucky not to have conceded the first goal there. Just minutes later, Liverpool gave us another scare when Virgil Van Dijk decided to be a striker and brought the ball down (quite brilliantly I must add..) from a Salah through ball and was 1 on 1 with the keeper, but Bernd Leno made himself very big and made the save, with Mustafi helping out by scrambling the ball away after the save was made. Whew!

But the chances did not stop there. Arsenal showed some great attacking football with Mkhitaryan flicking the ball beautifully into Aubameyangs path, only for him to mishit his shot. Xhaka and Özil also collaborated well to set up Lacazette moments later, but the Frenchman couldn’t get his angles right and blasted the ball across the face of the goal. We did, however, put the ball into the back of the net shortly after that, but the goal was once again disallowed for an offside call on Mustafi. Liverpool came extremely close on the stroke of half time, with Van Dijk beating Leno to a header which saw the ball bounce off of the upright, only for Torreira to clear it out. It wasn’t the greatest of goalkeeping decisions, but we got away with it in the end and went into half time scoreless on the back of what was quite an entertaining half of football to watch.

Unai vs Liv

The second half started off pretty decently, but it wasn’t until the 60th minute before the game saw it’s first, non-disallowed, goal. Mané was played in behind our defence where he was required to use his pace to get onto the ball. He then whipped in a dangerous cross towards Salah but Leno dived to intercept the ball. The German goalkeeper should’ve caught it, and to some extent you can see he was trying to do just that, but instead parried it into a dangerous area where James Milner latched onto it and drilled it low and hard into our net. 1 – 0 to the Scousers and I was bitterly disappointed that we were behind after all our hard work. One thing we have to admire though is that not one single Arsenal players head dropped after conceding that goal. NOT ONE!

Arsenal pushed on and went in search of the equaliser and that’s something I really love about our team these days. Lucas Torreira had a chance but his effort was straight at Allison. Iwobi and Welbeck were also brought on to provide a different attacking dynamic and it was the former who made the most impact in the end. With just 9 min left to play on the clock, Iwobi found Lacazette’s run in the box. Allison came out but didn’t want to commit as the Frenchman took the ball away from him. Laca then turned, set himself up and curled the ball beautifully into the net… all while keeping his head down. It’s as if he just knows where the goal is, and doesn’t need to look twice to make sure. Absolutely outstanding!

Boom XhakaLaca

The crowd erupted after that goal, and I haven’t heard an atmosphere in the Emirates like that for a very long time. Emery, despite it being his birthday on the day, has given us the gift of a united fan base again, restoring peace among the Arsenal faithful by delivering results along with some beautiful football. The managers passion on the touchline is most certainly admirable and quite beautiful to watch, actually. The game ended 1 – 1, which is probably a fair result, but if you think about it, our progress under Emery has been immense. 16 games this season and we’ve lost 2, drawn 2 and won 12. Also, Jurgen Klopp has had 3 seasons to rebuild his team, and has spent around 400 million on new players. Emery, on the other hand, has only been at this club for 6 months and is already showing that he can compete with the best. We’re not favourites to win the title, but we most certainly proved a point (literally) against a team that is.

I’m having a hard time deciding my MOTM. Every single player out there played their heart out on the day. We’ve extended our unbeaten run to 14 games and we can now look ahead to the Europa League on Thursday night against Sporting Lisbon again. I’m pretty sure the boys will be quite high on confidence and deliver another win for that one.

Come on you Gunners!