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Boxing Day brings a traditional festive local derby against the team from the bus stop in Fulham. However, the mood in the Goonerverse is anything but festive and was further soured by inept defending in Tuesday’s League Cup QF. We come into this fixture in 15th place, 4 points above the drop, with a shocking home record and the worst start since the Club’s low point in 1974-75:

P14 W4 D2 L8 F12 A18 Pts14

Our last 5 games have seen 4 defeats and one draw, a nail-biting 10 man rear-guard against Southampton, hailed in some quarters as heralding an upturn in our fortunes. Losing away at Goodison in our last PL outing was no disgrace but our travails this season are amply illustrated by abject home defeats to Burnley and Aston Villa.

Mikel Arteta’s vision for The Arsenal that he is said to have sold to Partey, Gabriel, Willian, Martinelli, Saka and Aubameyang is clearly proving difficult to deliver and this transition period (if that’s what this is) is very difficult to watch. Defensively we don’t look as secure as we ought to be, 18 goals conceded placing us ‘mid-table defensively’ at 10thequal. However, that’s an excellent position compared to our other stats which put us firmly in the bottom three! I shan’t burden you with the details.

Clearly, the major deficit in this side is in midfield with the honourable exception of Saka. Perm any two from Xhaka, Ceballos and Elneny and you will be treated to frequent pedestrian circular movements with only sporadic progressive passing. Partey’s contributions have unfortunately been limited and as a result he has attained the status of a much-awaited saviour but it’ll take more than his return to correct the creative deficit in this midfield. I am reminded of Gorgeous George’s remedy for his inept midfield of McGoldrick, Selley, Hillier, Carter or Jensen. He completely cut them out of the possession game by instructing Seaman and the defenders to hoof the ball over their heads down the channels for Wrighty, Campbell and Merson to chase. That style of football would be intolerable to watch for those attracted to The Arsenal by Wengerball but it was significantly more effective than our current efforts are proving.

It’s difficult to cast the blame for our lack of attacking potency entirely at the feet of the forwards given the lack of decent service but last season’s reliance on Aubameyang’s outstanding chance conversion rate has proved this season’s Achilles heel as his eye for goal has dulled. In fourteen games this season we have scored a paltry twelve goals which is the fourth worst record in the Premiership. Only Burnley, Sheffield United and West Brom have scored fewer goals and we conspired to gift Burnley one of their eight! It’s not as if our forwards have been missing loads of chances either. We simply haven’t created enough clear chances whilst failing to take the few we have created. This has been a problem all season long apart from our opener against Fulham and it has, in truth, also blighted our three other PL wins. Unfortunately, it appears that Mikel Arteta hasn’t yet found the answer to our creative apraxia. Can he rediscover last season’s knack of turning over top four opponents for this Boxing Day fixture? There’s no doubt that our likeable young manager is now under more pressure than any of us wanted.

It’s not too difficult to predict Mikel Arteta’s selection for this match given his hitherto persistent selection of certain players despite their previous performances. I have no doubt he will see this match as Willian’s redemptive opportunity to show his previous employers that they made an error letting him go (cough!). The faithful have long since deemed many of these players to have earned an extended spell in the ‘reserves’ (or the outer galaxy) to allow our talented youngsters an extended opportunity to show whether they can cure our chronic malaise. After recent results, I think there is considerable merit in that view.

On the basis of his previous selections and his selections on Tuesday probably being slightly jaded, I expect Arteta to start:

Leno

Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney

Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka

Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang.

Personally, I would retain AMN at RWB after his largely good outing at Goodison and give Willock another 90 minutes in midfield to show his ‘smarts’ instead of Xhaka, for as long as he can last alongside Ceballos. There’s no question that a front three of Nelson, Balogun and Martinelli might be more exciting to watch and could even be more effective than our misfiring regulars. Sadly, Martinelli’s injury on Tuesday will probably rule him out of this match but hopefully not much longer. ESR would be a promising alternative on the wing and a fresh breath of creativity. Fielding a lot of raw talent is definitely a risk but let’s face it, our senior players have repeatedly failed to deliver. Desperate times call for desperate measures and we now need to throw caution (which does seem to have been this team’s overriding philosophy) to the wind. Same old, same old ain’t cutting it, Mikel!

This is a good match in which to give young players an opportunity to show whether they can do better than their elders. If the youngsters were to fail to win this game, they’ll be doing no worse than we might reasonably currently expect of the senior players who have been failing all season. Moreover, while we are obviously desperate for points, our Boxing Day visitors aren’t going to be direct rivals this season as we currently move in very different circles. In reality, Brighton, Burnley, Fulham, Leeds, Newcastle, West Brom and perhaps even Sheffield United are our direct rivals at this juncture. Very, very sad, but I would argue, entirely realistic. A few 6 pointers lie in wait for us just after New Year. They will be the more important games to win whatever the outcome on Boxing Day.

Whoever Mikel Arteta chooses to start, I hope he finds his fighters!

What of the visitors? They appear to have had a good transfer window, bringing in Mendy and Thiago Silva to address last season’s goal keeping and defensive problems (fancy that – a focused purchasing strategy!), and adding a pair of good young German attackers whilst despatching yet another declining pensioner to their north London retirement home. Having looked like being Liverpool’s strongest challengers a few weeks ago, they have had a couple of recent wobbles, losing 2 and drawing 1 of their last 5. However, they seemed to get their show back on the road against the Hammers on Monday though a better opponent might have punished several dodgy defensive moments. They sit fifth in the table with 25 points, 2 points off second place, having won 7, drawn 4 and lost 3, scoring 29 and conceding 12 in the process. They’re looking upwards again rather than downwards. Perhaps we can spring a shock result?

Hopefully our visitors will have another wobble on Boxing Day and that Handsome French Bloke won’t come back to haunt us.

The Holic Pound

I always prefer to back The Arsenal to win but I never waste hard-earned cash on three-legged horses. Unless we can somehow lose our safety-first mentality and acquire creativity and clinical execution, I can’t see us scoring many, if any, goals with the midfield we are likely to field so I’m going to back us to scrap out a 0-0 draw at 9/1. I sincerely hope we do better than that.

Christmas Day – Goonerholic Remembered

On 25 December 2019, David Faber, ‘the Guvna’, who established the ‘Goonerholic’ blog upon which this site is modelled, sadly died. This Christmas Day, a special post will be published on ‘Goonerholics Forever’ in tribute to that lovely, lovely man who is sorely missed by the global community of friends and followers that he created through his warmth, wisdom and wit.

35 Drinks to “B.B. King Has a Song for The Way You Feel”

  1. 1
    Osakamatt says:

    Thanks Bath for the preview and
    the reminder that tomorrow is a
    year since the awful news that
    The Guvnor had passed on.
    In his honour I will go with 3-1
    against Chavski and raise a glass
    tomorrow night. Cheers Guvnor,
    forever remembered.

  2. 2
    BtM says:

    Good preview and Let The Good Times (continue to) Roll.

  3. 3
    Cynic says:

    Thanks for the preview, but I cannot be glass half full until we have at least six points from nine over Christmas. And even then it would be a quarter full at best.

    Elsewhere, I see a list of names trotted out as being Arteta’s “fighters”, which includes the name of Thomas Partey. The same Partey who walked off the pitch in a NLD?

    And as for Dave, may he forever RIP. There are many people who are described as a good bloke or a nice guy or whatever, when they pass away but no words could ever really do justice to someone like Dave. So all I will say is that I miss hearing that voice, in print and on podcasts. Somehow, it seems far longer than a year.

  4. 4
    Cynic says:

    Tuchel’s been sacked.

    So there are now two managers of real quality available and we’re going to persist with Arteta.

    So Tuchel may be damaged goods, but at least there was something to damage in the first place.

  5. 5
    Cynic says:

    And no, the second manager is not Ian Holloway before anyone asks

  6. 6
    Trev says:

    Thanks, bath – a fine preview.

    We’re going to need a Christmas miracle to beat that lot. Your expected, rather than desired, selection would be a very unwanted Christmas gift. Those players have been so bad, what’s to lose in going with a team of energetic youngsters that we could at least get behind with a bit of optimism. ESR, Martinelli, Saka, Willock, AMN, there’s quality there that needs to develop – what exactly are we waiting for ?

    For now, I’ll look forward to the tribute piece to ‘Holic, a fella with genuine qualities who is missed by all.

  7. 7
    Dorset Mick says:

    Bath,

    Which B. B. King song would be most appropriate – “Three o’clock blues”, or “The thrill has gone”?

    Raising a Downton Brewery Endeavour to the guvnor, and to all who use Goonerholics Forever.

    Cheers!

  8. 8
    Bathgooner says:

    Cheers Dorset Mick. Good to see you, mate. In the end I couldn’t choose a single title and went with that headline. That’s probably best as it’s a very personal choice determined more by temperament than anything else. I was, for my own part, leaning towards “The thrill has gone”.

  9. 9
    TTG says:

    A very balanced preview Bath. How sad that after this most traumatic of years off the field we find ourselves worse off than where we were last season ! Frankly a 0-0 draw would be a result I would take . We then need to acquire points against more modest opposition, but fewer teams are more modest than we are on recent evidence .
    Martinelli is optimistic about playing but I hope we are cautious with him . I wouldn’t have Willian or Xhaka anywhere near this team and I hope we are bringing in appropriate reinforcements asap. This is a big Christmas for Arteta . It may very well be his last one in charge if things don’t look up . But I hope he can come through. I still believe but that belief is a trifle battered !
    Merry Christmas everyone !

  10. 10
    bt8 says:

    Wish The Guvnor could come back to tell us that despite the odds, the thrill is indeed not gone at all. Thanks bathgooner for your excellent preview and realistic assessment of where we stand. I’d snap your hand off for a nil-nil with Leno hoofing it with regularity at this point.

  11. 11
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Measured and pragmatic preview Bath. I fully agree that many of the youngsters deserve a chance ahead of quite a few of the seasoned pros who now not only look less skilled but also, more damningly, less bothered.

    Tim Stillman, in my opinion, is accurate in his assessment of Mikel’s short-termism and the consequent inconsistencies in decision making.

    Don’t go chasing waterfalls

    Hopefully the senior stalwarts will start justifying the manager’s faith in them. If not, the manager should be held as much accountable for his persistence with underperforming players as the players themselves.

    Gabi is back fit as per Arsenal website. If he is really fully fit the benefit of starting him is his urgency can be infectious to rest of the team as many of them start the matches with the languorous ease of a stoner walking back home from the gelato shop with a cone in each hand.

    Score some goals Arsenal!

  12. 12
    Cynic says:

    That’s an excellent article.

  13. 13
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers Baff. That is a really excellent piece. Very reminiscent of Dave, and I have no higher praise to offer.

  14. 14
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    We might win.

    I am not expecting us to win. We are far more likely to lose.

    But we might win.

    If I ever stopped believing that I’d do something else with my time.

    COME ON YOU ARSENAL!

  15. 15
    Countryman100 says:

    Great preview Bath. I’m going to spend Christmas enjoying having my family around me (especially as many will not be lucky enough to do the same), eating some good food, drinking some excellent wine and thinking about Dave Faber. Late Boxing Day afternoon I will turn my mind back to The Arsenal, but not before. Merry Christmas everybody.

  16. 16
    scruzgooner says:

    fair and clear-eyed preview, baff. thank you.

    i fear we will get a tonking with that lineup on the day, and so expect that is who will start. at some point mikel will have to change things, but i don’t see it saturday. i was really hoping in xhaka’s absence we’d suddenly find our shooting boots, and defend like a she-bear does her cubs, but alas absent that stark a change it looks to take more senior player failures before the obvious, appropriate choices are made on the teamsheet.

    as for the blues, i think this is more where i am at, with arsenal as “my baby”: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YxqnKmTo4SY

    and in remberance if dave, the replay of mike feinberg’s memorial podcast is up on youtube, if you missed it: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7MM2xRxBQR8&feature=youtu.be

    merry christmas, everyone, drinks on the bar of your choice. thanks for making this still the most reasonable, interesting site in the goonerverse. rip, dave. a drink on the backbar eternal for you, my friend.

  17. 17
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks for the continuing beacon of (reasonable) sanity to all responsible for maintaining this blog. I reckon the previous landlord would be proud.
    Merry Christmas to you all and wishing for an Arse resurgence in the season’s second half.
    Remember Anfield ’89.
    UTA.

  18. 18
    Bathgooner says:

    Thanks fellas. I’m still hoping for a miraculous transformation of our style, creativity and fortunes. No better time than now for such a miracle.

  19. 19
    scruzgooner says:

    play this for the lads. might bring up a christmas miracle.

  20. 20
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

  21. 21
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Baff @ 18.

    Me too.

    That’s the (Christmas?) spirit.

  22. 22
    Bathgooner says:

    You can’t beat the original crooner for a Christmas song:

  23. 23
    TTG says:

    Dr.F
    Thanks for the Stillman article . He usually brings new perspectives and he has in this piece. Partey is back in training but I do hope he isn’t rushed back for Boxing Day . Whether we win , draw or lose I’d like to see a good, solid performance which we can build on . Christmas at the Arteta household will, I hope be pleasant , but the man is under huge pressure . Let’s hope after the holiday period that pressure is considerably eased
    Ps- I’ve been told we are paying off Ozil’s contract this January .Has anyone else picked this up?

  24. 24
    scruzgooner says:

    thinking about dave, and the others in my life gone these years.

  25. 25
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    @24

    Great shout Scruz

  26. 26
    Bathgooner says:

    What GSD said @25.

  27. 27
    North Bank Ned says:

    As upbeat a preview as you can get in current circumstances without drinking the Kool-Aid, bath. 0-0 wouldn’t be a bad result.

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    Just because it is so silly. And the double bass player seems to be having a hoot.

  29. 29
    Osakamatt says:

    Happy Xmas everyone
    👋🎅
    I hope we’ve all been good boys
    and girls so Santa brings us 3
    🎁 🎁🎁s

  30. 30
    North Bank Ned says:

    The season’s greetings from everyone at Castle Ned.

    And a special glass raised to the Guv’nor. As Cynic says @3, no words could ever really do justice to someone like Dave. All we can do is honour his memory with every post and every drink.

  31. 31
    scruzgooner says:

    indeed, ned. sláinte! a hearty glass of red for you and wee drams of felton’s finest mead for the monks!

  32. 32
    bt8 says:

    Merry Christmas everyone, and agreement with what the lady at c100’s right said on the podcast about ‘holic. A genuinely nice man, who was consistently nice to friends new old and in-between, and brought us together to our great fortune. Also in agreement with everything c100 said on the podcast (and most other places). 👌

  33. 33
    scruzgooner says:

    one more before bed. i think holic would have liked this:

  34. 34
    Bathgooner says:

    He would indeed, scruz @33 and you’ve absolutely nailed it, Ned @30!

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  35. 35
    Bathgooner says:

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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