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Following a recent turnaround of performances and results — inspired primarily by Hale End graduates — in the league to drag Arsenal up into a less catastrophic position on the table, last Thursday, Mikel Arteta’s team came up against what has been their most troublesome nemesis this season: a low block of dogged defenders at the Emirates. Though that match against Crystal Palace wasn’t entirely without positives – the clean sheet, a number of attempts on goal that with a bit more composure and precision could have earned us a victory – the overall impression was one of lacking enough creativity or nous to keep our newfound momentum going for any considerable stretch of games. 

Hence there was a well-justified trepidation in the Goonerverse going into our 19th match of this maddeningly (or thrillingly, depending on whom you are asking) erratic league season. Our league position was no longer darkened by the shadows of the relegation zone, but still a depressing 11th. However, the numerical gap in points with the European contender positions being tantalizingly close, the more optimistic among us could be forgiven for harboring a glimmer of hope that with the right set of results, come end of season we can be relatively excited about where we stand. 

Arsenal welcomed an out-of-form and beleaguered Newcastle United side against such a chiaroscuro backdrop of emotions. Would we further solidify our mid-table mediocrity which for much of the season seemed to have been our deserved lot? Or would we build upon the flashes of pedigree shown in the last few weeks to remind everyone, but most of all ourselves, that the Arsenal are on their way back to where they belong?         

The team selection had little surprise except maybe for Cedric starting ahead of Bellerin whose attacking display against Palace was rather mediocre. We welcomed back Thomas Partey who – despite playing only a few matches in the injury interrupted start to his Arsenal career – had already shown that he is head and shoulders above the rest of our central midfielders. David Luiz kept his place even though his younger Brazilian counterpart – and from this reviewer’s perspective, a more imposing and effective presence in defense – Gabriel, had been declared fully fit. The magnificent maverick Scot too had recovered fully from his niggles and reclaimed his rightful place on the left side of the pitch. 

A well-balanced 4-2-3-1 formation: 


Cedric – Holding – Luiz – Tierney 

Partey –  Xhaka

Saka –  ESR – Aubameyang 


Newcastle started with purpose as Almiron floated a cross in the first minute, but it was merely catching practice for Leno. Cedric and Saka were involved in these early minutes down the right, looking for an opening to get outside the Newcastle defense who were compact down the middle. 

Arsenal’s first meaningful chance came in the 8th minute when Aubameyang found himself on the ball with empty space in front of him. He drove purposefully into the box, the defender kept him away from an attempt with his right foot, and an off-balance Auba shot at the keeper with his left. 

In the 14th minute Saka earned Arsenal a free-kick following a quick counter-attacking move by Emile and Bukayo. Cedric sent in a powerful and accurate delivery from the free-kick with the right amount of dip in it, Luiz headed wide. 

A minute later, following a neat interchange between Saka and ESR the Newcastle goalkeeper did well to touch a perfect pass across the goalmouth from Saka meant for Aubameyang. The touch diverted the ball just enough and a slightly off-balance Auba managed to hit the post, ignoring the invitation of an empty net.

In the 21st minute Arsenal put together a good-looking move with Partey in the middle of it. He had an albeit difficult, chance to end the move gloriously as Saka set him up for a clean strike at goal from outside the box. Partey’s shot flew over. It would have been a great first goal for our Ghanaian midfielder whose dominating presence and control over the match grew throughout the rest of the game. 

Newcastle, despite a somewhat positive looking set-up, weren’t offering anything attacking wise. Just to break the monotony of Arsenal possession the speedy Almiron combined with Andy Carroll (the commentators never tired of reminding us of all his past exploits and how dangerous he could be etc., etc.) but at the end of the move he shot over the bar. 

Even though the overall tempo of the game was ordinary, it was evident Arsenal had prepared well to mix a few tactical variations in attack. This time there was no high press, recognizing that Newcastle wouldn’t be playing out from the back, sometimes willingly conceding possession as a kind of enticement to get Newcastle out of low blocking defensive shape then to hit on the counter, especially down the flanks. Aubameyang shot over the crossbar from one such counter-attack involving Partey and ESR. Even though he didn’t appear to have fully regained his confidence as his rare goalscoring drought continued, Aubameyang was noticeably more involved in the penalty box compared to his outings in the last couple of months. 

In the 37th minute, Tierney sent in a cross from his right foot. His magnificent right foot curler against West Bromwich Albion had already shown us that he is not without abilities on his weaker foot as well. 

In the 40th minute, Auba attempted a very clever finish with the toes through a small slit of an opening between two defenders, but the ball rolled out. 

A few minutes later his shot from the left side of the penalty box was almost deflected into Newcastle’s goal but for a good save by their keeper. From the resulting corner Saka’s delivery was met by Luiz who despite finding himself with only the keeper to beat got the angle of his header wrong. That was the last action before the interval. Given how poor Newcastle were for much of the first half, going into the break without scoring a goal was a little frustrating. Xhaka, and increasingly so Partey, completely dominated the midfield. And ESR and Saka combined well with each other with ESR especially taking up intelligent positions and trying to create triangles. But the movements – on and off the ball – lacked pace and incision.  

The second half started with Arsenal raising the tempo of passing and movement. In the 47th minute Lacazette manufactured an excellent shot for himself through a melee of defenders, but the goalkeeper made an equally impressive save. 

In the 50th minute the deadlock was finally broken. From a Newcastle move, Lacazette – always willing and able to help out his defense – cleared the ball to Partey. Partey picked a fabulous pass to find Aubameyang down the left flank. Auba drove into the box, anticipated well that the defenders would block his right side, switched the ball to the left and finished wonderfully into the roof of the net. 

Arsenal 1 (Aubameyang 50’) – Newcastle 0

The quality of the passing and inventiveness in moving the ball vertically as well as by switching flanks improved after the goal. Partey’s reassuring presence – there is a certain charismatic simplicity to his game that helps his teammates to be more imaginative and less burdened with fear – contributed towards that. 

In the 60th minute ESR, hugging the left touchline, received a pass from Auba. He strode forward past defenders in the penalty box, went towards the byline and provided a perfectly weighted cutback for his mate Saka to slot in nonchalantly. 

Arsenal 2 (Aubameyang 50’, Saka 60’) – Newcastle 0 

By his lofty standards Tierney was relatively quiet from an attacking perspective. It is possible he was playing well within himself, per instruction, to ensure his fitness given the games coming ahead. He was still a noticeable presence on the left on both sides of the ground. 

On the right flank Cedric was a revelation. He played by far his best match in Arsenal colors. Defensively he didn’t have too much to do – someone like Saint-Maximin, if fit, might have given him and Rob a bit more trouble – but on the attacking third he combined excellently with both ESR and Saka, and supported Partey well on the right side of the midfield. In the 66th minute Cedric and Saka combined superbly and following a clever flick by Cedric, Saka created enough space for himself to send in a sumptuous cross that Laca headed decisively only for the goalkeeper to make an excellent save. 

Elneny replaced Partey in the 67th minute. If there were supporters in the stadium Thomas would have left to the sound of a standing ovation. 

Elneny slotted in well in the midfield and kept up the tempo of the passing. The actions stayed mostly in the Newcastle half with a third goal now looking more than a distinct possibility. And it duly arrived in the 77th minute. 

Saka and Cedric combined well again on the right side. Cedric made an excellent run from Saka’s pass, cut inside, and even though the ball bobbled up kept enough of a control to provide a precise and powerful cut-back that Aubameyang simply guided into the goal. 

Arsenal 2 (Aubameyang 50’, Saka 60’, Aubameyang 77’) – Newcastle 0 

This was our captain’s 400th match in European top tier football, and his exuberant celebration of his goals numbered 205 and 206 should now set up a return to form following a rare lean patch. His Arsenal numbers are eye-catchingly extraordinary: 78 goals and 16 assists in 129 matches. And long may that efficiency continue. 

Willian was brought in for Aubameyang around the 80th minute. And Gabriel Martinelli – back in the squad after missing couple of matches due to injury – replaced Emile in the 81st minute. There were a few more pleasing moves from one of which Laca earned a freekick in a promising situation. Willian – who in all his career has been a genuine expert in set-pieces – with full concentration hit the free-kick straight at the wall. Let us hope that he finds his own unquestionable qualities sometimes soon and proves all the doubters (including this reviewer) wrong. 

A fourth goal would have been nice but there weren’t many more opportunities created. One noticeable event as the match petered out was a gratuitous elbow right on the face of young Martinelli, and the perpetrator was not even cautioned. 

A promising performance especially in the second half, a convincing 3-0 victory, the return of Thomas Partey, a return of our captain to his goalscoring habits, one more clean sheet and the continued excellence of two academy graduates. Arteta and the team should start to feel more confident and optimistic about the rest of the season. 

One minor statistic from today’s match: ESR’s assist to Saka meant that they are the first English pair to combine for three goals in premier league before either player has turned 21. Already known for his technical abilities on the ball, ESR’s performances have been remarkable in their maturity too. Maturity in positional awareness, in defensive discipline when needed, in tireless attempts at creating openings and driving the team forward. In his five appearances since the Chelsea match, he has created 10 goalscoring opportunities in the league. Add that to his deadlock-breaking finish in the FA Cup. He was my man of the match. 

60 Drinks to “A Sparkling Second Half Showcases the Promise of Arsenal”

  1. 1
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers Doc.

    That’s an excellent report indeed. Very much the game I saw and I haven’t got much to add as you covered everything brilliantly.

  2. 2
    Esso says:

    Cheers Doc!

  3. 3
    BtM says:

    Excellent summary, although there was no trepidation from this seat. Always a game we were going to win even before the first whistle. Should really have been a baker’s half dozen.

    When Auba isn’t on song Arsenal are never truly in tune. There’s little point in agonising over imagination if nobody is capable of harnessing it and putting the ball in the net (which has been the constant, critical feature of this season). PEA has been a stranger in his own body since September. That changed in the second half last night. His ability to sustain this level will be the primary determinant of our league position when the fat lady sings.

    Play better. Keep winning.

  4. 4
    TTG says:

    What’s not to like ? A very good report Dr.F which sums up all the key features of a very easy win . It was a heartening night and BtM is right to point out the importance of Aubameyang recovering his mojo . The one factor which we have to take into account is that Newcastle were utterly pathetic. It wasn’t a case of them only being allowed to play at that level by us. If that was an attacking statement by them I’d hate to see them shut up shop . But from our viewpoint many things went well. Cedric was excellent, Holding defended well and Xhaka ( boy I love him 😍) and Partey formed a strong framework in midfield .ESR is such a valuable commodity because his work rate is very high but his positional work is so imaginative.Sadly Willian didn’t provide the icing on the cake when he entered the fray . The icing melted and slid onto the plate forming a gooey mess but in truth he didn’t have long to influence affairs .
    We now must hope that our upward trajectory can be maintained against better teams . There are encouraging signs that it could be .

  5. 5
    North Bank Ned says:

    Excellent, indeed, Dr F. You’ve captured a game of two halves and its takeaways well.

    Cedric’s play is a mirror image of Tierney’s in a way that Bellerin’s is no although I cannot quite put my finger on why not. It may just be that having Saka, not Pepe, in front of him probably gave Cedric more scope to get behind the opposition defence. However, the result is that we are no longer predictably left-sided in attack as we can progress equally down either flank.

    I will concur with TTG’s observation in the previous drinks that Xhaka has played better of late, though I still hold that he is too ponderous for the way this team is developing. ESR’s comment after the game about how he was happy to play a one-touch pass as he knew where the ball would be going after he received it was telling. In contrast, Xhaka seems not to think about the next pass until after he has got the ball. Defenders have time to shut down our open players and runners, and he ends up passing backwards. ESR injects pace into our attacks; Xhaka removes it.

  6. 6
    Bathgooner says:

    A fine report Dr. F and very much the match I saw. The second half was a significant upgrade on the first which did leave half-time doubts about whether the Palace frustrations were to be repeated and whether, despite the Yuletide renaissance, we had hit a ceiling after Epiphany.

    Nonetheless there were several positives over the piece, as detailed in the match report notably the ESR-Saka dynamic dualism, TP’s midfield strength and vision and PEA’s eventual rediscovery of the road to goal. Given the poverty of the opposition’s attack, I reserve judgement on the defenders and Xhaka but Cedric did provide excellent wide right offensive support.

    The forthcoming challenges are more testing but we can now approach them in good heart.

  7. 7
    TTG says:

    I think your points about Xhaka and Cedric are very well made .
    My praise of Xhaka is partly to give credit where it is due because he has put a string of decent games together but I would be horrified if Arteta were to decide that he was a cornerstone of the side for precisely the reason you mention. He is ponderous and generally too conservative in his use of the ball . The other reason is I want people to admire my generosity of spirit and fairmindedness!
    Your point re Cedric may prove to be spot on . While I don’t like inverted wingers , it does help if you have full backs who can bomb on on either side and wide men who work back effectively. We had this last night and Cedric’s quality of cross was much better than Bellerin’s usually is . Cedric needs to do it against a much better team than Newcastle but his input as cover was much better than AMN’s last week against Palace . But AMN has played very impressively against good wingers . I saw him subdue Zaha at Palace after he had run Bellerin ragged and that was at right back . He curbed Traore at Wolves last year on the left . Last night boded well re Cedric

  8. 8
    North Bank Ned says:

    They will admire your humility along with your generosity of spirit and fairmindedness, TTG. 🙂

    One other point about Xhaka is that for a left-footed player he is often reluctant or fails to see when there is a pass on to the left flank, preferring (when not, of course, playing backwards) a long, cross-field ball to the right. I will acknowledge that he might be doing that under instructions. That is part of the Pep playbook for exploiting an overload on one wing by switching play to the other, but so often is the chance for quick progression down the left lost.

  9. 9
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for an excellent report Faustus. Willian did put in one decent corner after he came on although Luiz was not able to get his head angled correctly to get it on target. I know it was a school night but was the young Faustus not illustrating the PEA drama this time?

  10. 10
    Steve T says:

    Nice stuff Doc. Thank you.

    The definitive game of two halves. We do still seem to struggle still to break sides down who clearly come to just sit back. The second half was a totally different affair. Saka is a joy to watch. ESR has great vision and great awareness. Hopefully both will continue to develop and both be real stars of the future. It was great to see Partey get a good run out. I thought he was excellent last night. The one thing I thought he also did was to show how poor Xhaka is. I know he’s had the odd moment, but Partey looked so far ahead of him at n the hour he played. If we can find one more like that from somewhere???

    I was really pleased for PEA. I was pleased in the first half that he was still happy to try and shoot, even if with no success. The two second half goals will hopefully do him the world of good. His goals have carried us for the last two years and so in my opinion he’s entitled to have the time he needs to regain his form. We will be the ones to benefit in the long run.

    I also think that the defence deserved a degree of praise. There are many that have questioned Leno. I have never known why. KT3 has been outstanding. However, for the first time in god knows how long, we seem to now have a crop of centre backs that can all play the game. Holding I think is not the most gifted. But he is brave and incredibly hard working. He certainly does Make sure he is the best he can be. I’m also a big fan of Luiz. He has the odd brain fart but generally, he’s bern excellent. He is also creative and is a great organiser. Then you have Mari and Gabriel, who has been the best of the 4 all season, to add to the mix. It actually feels like we are now actually strong in that department.

    I’ve always believed that to have a top side, you need to have a proper spine. For the the first time in ages, we appear to be developing one.

    Some tough games ahead. Hopefully we can carry the good form on and who knows what will happen.

    Keep the faith.

  11. 11
    Goonersince54 says:

    Newcastle were so poor I think even the Ramblers might have given them a game last night.
    But you can only beat what is in front of you, and we did that comfortably, and improved our goal difference in the process.
    So onwards to an early pre lunchtime kickoff away at the Saints in the Cup on Saturday.
    It’s a big week next week, with the Saints away again on Tues night in the league, and then a big one against Man Utd at home next Saturday.
    Quite how Utd are leading the table is beyond me, but it’s symptomatic of how strange this season has been.
    A few selection headaches for Arteta coming up with 3 crucial games in 7 days,
    can Partey play 3 games in a week, ?? I expect Gabriel and Martinelli to start in the Cup, can KT play 3 games in a week as well, given his calf issues, the same problem plaguing Mari and Ceballos.
    The mot important thing is the balance of the team, clearly shown in the 2 contrasting games against Palace and Newcastle, so let’s hope Arteta gets it right next week.
    And away from football,
    What a wonderful Test cricket series we have just seen between Australia and India, culminating in a quite amazing last day run chase by India to score 328 to win the final test at the Gabba and the series 2- 1 with 1 match drawn.
    Australia hadn’t lost a home Test match in Brisbane since 1988, and given India had none of their first 5 frontline fast bowlers, or their 2 best spinners, all out through injury, and Captain Kohli was back in India due to birth of his first child, no one gave them a hope in hell, yet through sheer bloody mindedness, grit and no little skill, they showed what can be achieved by team spirit and camaraderie among the playing group and support staff with one common goal, to make their Country proud and not die wondering.
    They did that in spades, and it sets up a cracking 4 Test series against England starting in India next month.
    If it is half as good as the series just finished, we are in for a treat.

  12. 12
    Osakamatt says:

    Fine report thanks Dr F.

    It was an odd game really as
    Newcastle had Wilson, Carroll and
    Almiron on the pitch but no idea
    how to attack.
    I suppose the scoreline makes it
    seem a game of two halves but if
    Auba had scored as he should have
    done in the first 15 minutes we
    might have got a hatful. It was just
    a matter of getting the first really,
    and as BtM said as goes Auba, as goes
    our lot these days. Nice to see him
    Cedric was a competent right back in
    the PL before he joined so his performance
    was no big surprise – it’s the length of
    the contract that is the issue given how
    little he’s played. Hopefully he can push
    on and challenge Hector now.
    Be interesting to see how the team goes
    now in some tougher games ahead

  13. 13
    North Bank Ned says:

    All of what Clive said @11.

  14. 14
    Esso says:

    @11 Goonersince54

    Got 9 tests in a row vs India; 4 away, then 5 at home. Followed by Ashes away in the winter. 2021 gonna be a massive year for English cricket.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    North Bank Ned says:

    And confirmed by the club: https://www.arsenal.com/news/thank-you-papa

  17. 17
    North Bank Ned says:

    And confirmed by the club: https://www.arsenal.com/news/thank-you-papa

  18. 18
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words.

    bt8@9: Faustus Jr. indeed watched the match with me as he does. Celebrated the win. It was also a school holiday (MLK birthday). But he had a few other things to do in the evening and didn’t draw the Auba somersault. :–)

  19. 19
    North Bank Ned says:

    With Omar Rekik joining the U-23s from Hertha Berlin, Hale End scholar Alex Kirk signing his first pro contract and Harry Clarke seemingly doing well on loan at Oldham, we seem to be making sure our CB cupboard will stay well stuffed in the future.

  20. 20
    OsakaMatt says:

    Best of luck to Papa, I thought he wasn’t a bad player
    but another in a run of right side CBs who haven’t been
    at the level we need.
    Hope he finds a new club, can’t see why he shouldn’t

  21. 21
    TTG says:

    We also have Danny Ballard doing well on loan at Blackpool , Mark McGuinness impressing at Ipswich and we’ve taken Medley back from Gillingham . So the cupboard is bursting to overflowing.
    I can’t work out why we didn’t take the steps to scrap Mesut and Papa’s contracts in the summer . That possibly cost us over £5 million . Nor can I see why we don’t bin Mustafi . He is on £95 k a week .

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@21: Ballard would seem to be in the catbird seat among those three, now that he is a full international. He and McGuinness are both right-footed, and we seem less well set for right CBs than left CBs. That is Medley’s misfortune. He has Gabriel and Mari ahead of him in the pecking order.

    Setting aside Ozil’s contract for the moment, as that is a different and somewhat rotten kettle of fish, I would guess that there was some hope that Sokratis and Mustafi could be shifted either in the summer or this window (and in Mustafi’s case, the situations of Holding and Saliba may have been sufficiently uncertain that Arteta felt he still needed Mustafi in the squad). Both might have gone on frees rather than being sold, but at least they would have been cleanly off the books. Terminating contracts prematurely usually involves an agreed buyout of the remaining term. If there is no hope of Sokratis being in either of our squads and there isn’t a taker for him, the club might as well salvage whatever pennies it can by paying off the contract. And unlike Ozil, Sokratis is decent enough not to wring every last penny he can from the club. At least Mustafi is available in the event a plague of locusts devours its way through our cupboard of CBs as his contract runs down.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    Esso says:

    Well I do. Dave used to be quite understanding.

  25. 25
    RAJAN BHATT says:

    Top report Dr.F as usual.

    NBN@8, I would partially agree with your point about Xhaka not finding the left flank passes. But that holds true only when we are deep in our own half. When playing further up the pitch in the opposition half, Xhaka does play the pass between the opposing centre half and right back particularly well and he has found Tierney (also Kolasinac during Emery’s reign) in behind quite frequently with that one. I would like to know from the monks as to how many games did Xhaka and Cazorla play together? In my memory it was only one game and our midfield that day looked fantastic (Of course it helps when you have Alexis & Ozil playing in attack). I always think Wenger bought Xhaka to play with Cazorla – Xhaka giving the longer pass option and Cazorla moving forward with the ball at his feet and dribbling past the opposing midfielders. Cazorla’s unexpected injury and our subsequent inability to bring in a player of that type (not necessarily quality because you don’t get many Cazorlas in the market!) who would give that forward thrust carrying the ball at feet meant that our midfield was always imbalanced for the past few seasons. This has also exposed the shortcomings of Xhaka repeatedly. Still whilst Ozil was a regular in the team, Xhaka combined really well with him and Xhaka to Ozil was our most frequent passing combination in building up attacks. When Ozil also went, the one vertical pass that was always available to Xhaka (because of Ozil’s clever finding of pockets of space) also went away. This really hung Xhaka – a player of limited abilities, out to dry. Partey carries the ball forward or rather glides forward with the ball really quickly and makes for an ideal partner for Xhaka. Xhaka would look a far better player when he plays regularly with a partner like Partey and an advanced midfielder like ESR. That is what top players do – they lift the average players around them. Realistically a team with the finances of Arsenal won’t have 11 top players, but having 7-8 of them with 3-4 average players would be a healthy balance. What I like about Xhaka is that he never hides and also his remarkable fitness. I don’t think anyone has played the number of games as he has for us in the past few seasons. He just does not get injured or pick up niggles. Also interesting was the fact that there were a couple of times in the game when Auba and ESR both made very good runs in behind the defence but Xhaka reverted to habit and played it sideways and then raised a hand of apology to them acknowledging that he should have played it to them. His recent upturn in form has shown a marked improvement in playing the forward pass quickly from him and that hand of apology is an indication that the team is working on ironing out the passing sideways habit from Xhaka.

    Clive@11, it was a fantastic test series indeed and an against all odds terrific win for India. To do it with so many first choice players unavailable and a bowling attack comprising of a collective experience of 3 tests was what made it even more special. A true team effort where everyone contributed. Esso@14, the two home and away series against England truly promises to be a really competitive one. Both teams would be favourites at home. England doing well against Srilanka and India’s healthy pace attack though is a sign that both teams have ingredients to win tests in the away series. Test cricket is well and truly alive and these two series will hopefully enhance the appeal of the longest version of cricket even more. Looking forward already.

  26. 26
    'desi'gner gooner says:

    That’s me @25 with my actual name!
    Forgot to fill the name field before posting I guess 🙂

  27. 27
    Esso says:

    and Dave was the most non-judgemental bloke I ever met.

    Miss you Maestro xxx

  28. 28
    Goonersince54 says:

    Esso @14
    It will indeed be a big year for England.
    We have sent an understrength squad to Sri Lanka, obviously with the trip to India in mind, interesting to see if spectators are allowed for the series there.
    Quite why we only play 4 tests away and yet get 5 at home, baffles me.
    But hopefully both series will be ultra competitive without the need for the petty sledging and childish behavior shown by the Australian players when things weren’t going their way.
    Desi @25
    I’ve always loved Test cricket,
    I was lucky my Dad did as well.
    We used to go the football in the winter and the Test and county cricket in the summer.
    Lords was our home ground following Middlesex, who have had some wonderful players down the years who went on to represent England including 2 captains in Brearley and Gatting.
    If you look at the Ashes series in England recently and now India in Oz, both series were electrifying, and nothing can replicate the long form of the game.
    There is a place for the short form hit and giggle stuff for those with a short attention span, but it has never interested me.

  29. 29
    Uplympian says:

    Esso/Clive/Desi. India have developed the best all round bowling attack for all conditions. Our batters will need to be on top form to counter them. With two top team competing against each other maybe the best fielding side ( holding onto catching opportunities) will be the eventual victors.
    Two youngsters of promise who went elsewhere to seek their fortune scored for their current teams this evening. JET scored the equaliser for Livingstone v Celtic & Chris Willock ( older brother of Joe ) scored the winner for QPR at Cardiff.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    North Bank Ned says:

    DG@25: Interesting analysis of Xhaka. I take your points. He and Santi certainly played together in more than one game, although you are right to say Santi’s injury cut the partnership short. Santi got injured eight league games into the 2016-17 season and did not play another game for us again. He and Xhaka played together in nearly all of those and in two of three possible CL games; not always both the full 90 but sufficient minutes to say they were the established dual-pivot at the start of the season. We only lost one of the nine games in which they both appeared, the very first one against Liverpool when they both came on as second-half subs.

  32. 32
    Trev says:

    Thanks Dr F – comprehensive as ever.

    I have to admit to being disappointed though to have experienced a chiaroscuro of emotions without even realising it. Is it some kind of spicy sausage ?

  33. 33
    bt8 says:

    Just now getting around to watching our Europa League game at Dundalk, viewing it as an interesting vignette in the progression of ESR to the first team. So far he set up Elneny’s golazo and set up Pepe who should have scored, and looks like the best player in the game. Sorry if this is old news.

  34. 34
    'desi'gner gooner says:

    Thanks for the info Ned@31. Yeah I remember Xhaka being only brought on as a sub in his initial months and fans getting frustrated about that because there was so much anticipation about his arrival. As for him and Cazorla together, I remember a game against Stoke or Burnley I think(it was a game stereotypically built up as one of those tough physical games which Arsenal didn’t fancy) when we scored 4 goals and those two running our midfield expertly. At the time it seemed like Xhaka was a marked improvement from Coquelin and an ideal partner for Cazorla.

    Clive, I remember seeing some classic test innings from Gatting during the years 1989 to 1994 – my initial years of watching the game as a very young wide eyed test cricket fan with my Dad explaining the nuances of the game. He had followed the great game on radio for years and he was overjoyed to see it live on TV. Unfortunately Gatting’s legacy has been tarnished a bit because of Shane Warne’s masterful ball of the century. Uply@29 – you rightly pointed out India’s all round bowling attack. I think the series in India will hinge on English batsmen’s abilities against spin(especially days 4 and 5) and the Indian batsmen’s abilities to play pace and swing.

  35. 35
    'desi'gner gooner says:

    **I meant the series in England would depend on Indian batsmen’s abilities to play pace and swing…

  36. 36
    Goonersince54 says:

    If it came down to catching, India would be cactus.
    They dropped some absolute dollies in all 4 tests.
    India would have to be favourites at home, not many teams win over there.
    As Desi points out, English conditions might bring them undone, but let’s hope the bowlers use their brains and guile to get wickets rather than trying to knock them out with incessant short pitched bowling, as the bone headed Aussies tried to do.

  37. 37
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I am certainly looking forward to the test cricket.

    I am not looking forward to more Granit Xhaka.
    Desi, you are kind to him indeed.
    If his constant availability to slow down an attack by playing a backwards or a sideways pass gets him credit for never hiding then I wish he would hide more.
    He regularly fails to play forward passes, often to the left wing and often in the final third. The fact that he sometimes makes them (sometimes to good effect, for which he gets credit) doesn’t alter the ones he doesn’t even try to play. I can’t possibly give him a pat on the back for his new found habit of raising a hand to acknowledge that he had seen a pass was on and then chose not to play it anyway.

  38. 38
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Man City scored an offside goal yesterday that apparently VAR and the rules of football say is not offside. They have messed about with that rule beyond sanity. I have never seen a more clear case of a goal that the spirit of the offside law is meant to disallow. Whoever is responsible for the rule change should not be involved in lawmaking in the future and the current rule should be immediately changed.

    Doesn’t Arsene have control of this now? Sort it out.

    I am resentful that this ridiculous law has made me feel quite sorry for Dean Smith! He seemed right on the edge of his emotions in his interview yesterday, and I had every sympathy with him.
    And he is right that Jon Moss is a clown.

  39. 39
    TTG says:

    I picked this up from a tweet by Charles Watts .
    Sheer wealth destruction. As we thrash around trying to sign someone on loan look at this

    By the summer Arsenal will have let go Sanchez, Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla, Wilshere, Sokratis, Mustafi, Mkhitaryan and Welbeck in the past three years

    Money spent on fees: £190m
    Money received: £0

    Sold propitiously we might have raise £150 m there . That’s without what we’ve wasted on wages

  40. 40
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Trev @ 32: Thanks.

    Chiaroscuro … not spicy chorizo, but more like a Churrasco: the best in Rio de Janeiro can be had at Caravaggio’s. You can ask Edu.

  41. 41
    Countryman100 says:

  42. 42
    TTG says:

    It looks like Arsenal are very tempted by Odegaard the young Norwegian prodigy who so interested Wenger but went to Real Madrid and like lots of prodigies who go there didn’t play . He went to Real Sociedad last year on loan and did really well, so much so that Zidane summoned him back to the Bernabeu to be part of the first-team squad but he still has scarcely played .
    This boy got people as excited as Haaland did a few years ago and it looks like Real we’re ready to loan him to Sociedad again but he appears to be tempted by a move to London and Sport ( a Catalan newspaper so no great predictor of Real Madrid situations ) suggest he is very close to joining Arsenal. He is a 22 year-old left-footed playmaker ( very similar in style to ESR ) and it would be interesting to me if he could also play in the Xhaka role , ie a bit deeper . London and Arsenal are still a big draw if you want a shop window and Arsenal and Real seem to get on well hence the Ceballos deal .
    My biggest concern would be in getting a keeper in but Odegaard would be a low-risk option as a loan and might be able to be purchased if he settles in well . We are becoming a very left – footed team but I can remember us having Nelson , Brady, Rix and Macdonald in the 1978 team and they worked pretty well .

  43. 43
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@42: Odegaard would tick a lot of the right boxes, at least on paper, although if it did come to pass and work out well, I am not sure where that would leave ESR as Odegaard is still only 22 despite making his debut for Real Madrid in 2015. Wenger bought the Norweigan to Colney for a trial in 2014 when it looked like he was going to Bayern Munich but in the end he signed for Real Madrid. We reportedly had another look at him during the dying embers of the Emery era when he was on loan at Real Sociedad.

    C100: I hope Arteta can work something out that keeps Balogun. However, I have read that the youngster is asking for £60,000 a week, which seems a bit stiff when Saka and ESR, who are, after all, starting in the first team, have only recently got raises to £40,000 a week.

  44. 44
    TTG says:

    I did the obligatory YouTube review of Ødegaard and he reminded me of ….Dennis Suarez! That’s a bit tongue in cheek but he is extraordinarily left- footed . By that I mean that he scarcely ever touches the ball with his right foot . Xhaka, Saka and especially Tierney use their left feet when they need to . If you remember our second goal in the 1979 Cup Final Brady forced out to the right produced an exquisite right – footed cross for Stapleton to head home . I’m not sure Odegaard has that option in his locker watching eight minutes of his best bits . YouTube flatters to deceive and is no basis for a proper assessment but I’d like to see him in a whole match against canny opponents.A loan might be way forward if we want to see what he is made of and back up ESR . I agree with you about Balogun . He isn’t worth that yet. Maybe a contract with built in increases if he performs?

  45. 45
    Countryman100 says:

    Ned, it looks like Balogun has that dreadful disease; a greedy agent.

  46. 46
    North Bank Ned says:

    There is a lot of it about, C100.

  47. 47
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@44: I see what you mean about Odegaard being left-footed. Pepe has already filed our quota of one-footed wonders.

  48. 48
    bt8 says:

    Half-ton being ripe

  49. 49
    bt8 says:

    For the picking

  50. 50
    bt8 says:

    Low hanging fruit’s my favorite kind

  51. 51
    bt8 says:

    Thank you very much.

    Hope you are having a pleasant tomorrow, Japan man.

  52. 52
    TTG says:

    It looks like the Odegaard deal has real legs ( a left one anyway ) . Desi’s very interesting post about Xhaka and his passing angles suggest too many southpaws might have negatives . But if they are not left footed they are right footed ! Not many Santi Cazorlas nowadays!

  53. 53
    Countryman100 says:

    We appear to have signed the Brighton goalie Matt Ryan on loan.


  54. 54
  55. 55
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Wow. What a good move.

    Welcome Mat Ryan!

    Premier league experience and quality. A loan until the end of the season, so no fees. And, presumably, it is a deal that could be made permanent in the summer if it has worked out.

    I thought the days were gone of announcements out of nowhere. But I love them!

    Well done Arsenal.

  56. 56
    North Bank Ned says:

    Mat Ryan is a good loan signing. He buys Arteta time to sort out who are the keepers, so to speak, among our own keepers and will provide us all with more reassurance that should Leno get injured we won’t have to play Runarsson.

    BBC saying that Real Madrid would prefer to loan out Odegaard to us than a direct league rival like Real Sociedad. So as TTG says, this story may have a leg. https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/55764001

    Well in for the half-ton, bt8, but a pre- and a post-assist? VAR must be taking a look at that…

  57. 57
    TTG says:

    Great signing he’s not home-grown but GSD sums it up well. We desperately need a good back-up and he’s about as good as we could get . He has been in my Fantasy team for about three seasons and has done very well . Brighton fans will tell you he has lost form recently but over the last two seasons at our place he has been brilliant. And he’s a Gooner!

  58. 58
    TTG says:

    I hear we may de-register Runarsson as he is not home-grown and we are struggling to find a slot for him so hopefully we can loan him out . Not happy with the due diligence on this deal. He was voted 17th best keeper in Ligue Un and several people in France commented adversely when he was signed . He was a hunch from the goalkeeping coach which left us dangerously exposed for half a season . He is nowhere near the level of keeper we require

  59. 59
    bathgooner says:

    TTG @58, if he’s going to prosper at the Arsenal, that goalkeeping coach had better have other qualities as his recommendation to sign Runarsson is a major black mark. All signings are a risk but that signing displays a severe lack of judgement. There are rumours that Macey was not expected to leave and that the Icelandic lad was never intended to be Leno’s back-up but his inadequacies were evident pretty quickly. Mat Ryan is an excellent option as a number two keeper.

  60. 60
    Pangloss says: