Feed on

The defence improved. Thirty-nine goals were conceded in the league against 48 the previous season; third-tightest defence after Chelsea and Man City as opposed to eighth-best in 2019-20. Twelve clean sheets were two more than during the previous league campaign and fifth-best in the league (ninth-best in 2019-20). Yet, the improvement was not consistent enough to prevent 13 league defeats and 18 in all competitions.

Arteta’s priority was defensive stability, both to stop shipping goals and because it is his platform for attack. He made progress, as the switch to a default back four from a five attested. Eight of the ten highest-ranking Arsenal players in the CIES/InStat Performance Index, which measures players’ contribution to team success across the season, were defenders — Gabriel, Chambers, Mari, Cédric Soares, David Luiz, Bellerín, Tierney and Holding in that order.

Better organisation, fewer, though far from no individual mistakes, and the rediscovery of a capacity to dig in and defend when backs were to the wall were the key. Without turning this into a stats-fest, the numbers show the defence got better at defusing attacks while the double pivot protected the back line more securely.

On average, Bernd Leno had 30% fewer shots to deal with each game than the previous season. Consequently, we conceded one goal or less in 47 of our 59 games in all competitions.

The defence also became more comfortable playing out from the back to break high presses — even if that was not necessarily true of those watching them doing it. It still looked vulnerable to counterattacks when run at directly and at speed. When the backline got pulled out of shape, it could quickly look extremely ragged.

Thirty-three-year old David Luiz and Gabriel, ten years his junior, settled as first-choice centre backs with Holding and Mari as backups, following the January clear out that saw Sokratis and Mustafi released. David Luiz’s various absences meant Rob played the most games. He benefited from regular football, settling into Arteta’s way of playing and improving all-round, particularly in forward passing.

At full back, neither Bellerin nor Soares could make the right-sided position their own, providing an unexpected opportunity for Calum Chambers to grab. On the left, Tierney, when fit, was an automatic first-choice, but Arteta had to make do as best he could for the frequent periods when KT3 was out, especially after Kolasinac was shipped out on loan. Xhaka was fine there defensively, but at the cost of midfield stability, just as using Saka meant less attacking creativity.

With David Luiz gone, whether Arteta brings in an experienced centre back to partner Gabriel will indicate how much he trusts Holding as the senior right-sided centre back and how much opportunity he will give Saliba to establish his credentials. The manager can probably box and cox his way through another season at right-back if necessary, depending on whether Bellerin and Soares leave. Still, an upgrade would be welcome now and essential at some point. Buying cover and competition for KT3 is an urgent priority.


1. Bernd Leno — A couple of howlers that cost goals and some rough spots, especially early in the season, reopened the argument about whether selling Martinez and keeping him had been the right decision. But he consistently produced crucial saves, and his overall performances improved as the season progressed. The final record shows 48 goals conceded in 49 games in all competitions and 16 clean sheets. With ter Stegen injured, Leno will be Neuer’s backup for Germany at the Euros, which speaks to his quality and recovered form.

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13. Alex Rúnarsson — Precious little was seen of the Icelander, which was for the best. An underwhelming if emergency signing that should be undone in the summer.

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33. Mat Ryan — On-loan from Brighton since January, the Australian international looked good enough to be competition for Leno, not just an experienced backup. He should be signed permanently or at least secured on loan for the full season.

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Out on loan

Dejan Iliev — At 26, he is too old for the U-23s, but the closest he has got to a first-team appearance is sitting on the bench three times. Likely be let go this summer or next when his contract runs out with better-regarded prospects coming up.

Coming up through the ranks

Arthur Okonkwo and Karl Hein, who will likely be keeping for Estonia at the Euros, look the pick of a herd of young keepers at the club. Both 18-year-olds trained regularly with the first team and will be looking to be the ‘third keeper’ next season if Rúnarsson goes.

Full backs

2. Héctor Bellerín — Improvement on the previous season was there but mixed. Hector was still short of his pre-injury best. The conviction grows that he always will be, having lost the half a yard of pace that was crucial to his attacking and defending. Unable to make his old spot his own again, he may leave in the summer after ten years with the club. A fresh start may rejuvenate him.

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3. Kieran Tierney — A player of commitment and character, KT3 was one of the first names on the team sheet when fit. However, injury again restricted his minutes, even if he is the embodiment of Irn Bru — made from girders. Our attack was a more dynamic threat on the left whenever he played. Few defenders in Europe matched his attacking and possession stats, but his defensive ones were disproportionately down the pack. He needs cover and competition.

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17. Cédric Soares — A touch error-prone, but did well enough when called on, including to fill in at left-back. His defensive stats were better than Bellerin or Tierney’s, although worse than his previous season’s. He fell from Arteta’s graces for reasons obscure towards the end of the season. His long-term contract makes it likely the club will try to move him on in the summer if Arteta is not going to play him.

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21. Calum Chambers — Last summer, who would have expected him to end the season as first-choice right-back, or even when he returned from injury in December? His experience at CB and DM helped him play the way Arteta wants of his right-backs, and he crosses better than Bellerin or Soares. At 26, he is yet to establish himself in the side. With a year left on his contract, next season will be make-or-break.

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Emergency cover —Xhaka and Saka filled in competently at left-back but at the cost of weakening the team in other areas. A backup left-back is a priority summer signing.

Out on loan

31. Sead Kolasinac — Shipped out to Schalke in January to no one’s dismay, despite being the only cover for KT3, which says it all. He is likely to be sold or given away this summer even though he still has a year left on his contract.

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15. Ainsley Maitland-Niles — Possibly cheating to include him as a full back, but most of his appearances before going out on loan were in that position and he had the potential to make it his own if he had followed Lauren’s example and overcome his misgivings about being converted from a central midfielder into a full back. Hard to see him not being sold unless he has a conversion on the road back from the Hawthorns.

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Coming up through the ranks

Ryan Alebiosu and Daniel Oyegoke on the right and Joel Lopez on the left appear to be the nominated up-and-coming full backs, but none is ready for prime time. The U-18’s Brooke Norton-Cuffy is a longer-term hope.

Centre backs

6. Gabriel — The pick of our defenders across the season, despite only turning 23 in December, playing his first season in the Premiership and contracting Covid-19 mid-season. A big, burly defender, he was powerful in the air but skillful enough to carry the ball out off defence. The flip side was some ungainly challenges and newbie decision-making. Improvement should come with experience. The raw material of a top-class centre-back is there.

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16. Rob Holding — A solid season re-established Rob in the team after injury. With David Luiz’s missing many matches, he ended up the fourth most used player, with performances improving as the season progressed. He is an unflashy but determined defender first and foremost, but at 25, he still has to make himself an automatic first choice for Arteta. That may happen next season, absent new arrivals, but he will be looking over his shoulder at Saliba’s progress.

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22. Pablo Mari — Like Soares, a loan signing given a permanent contract. Injury restricted him to a handful of games before February. Calm and mostly assured, he paired well with Holding. He is a better defender than he is often given credit. Yet, it is hard to see him displacing Gabriel as first-choice left-sided CB. He will remain a quality backup.

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23. David Luiz — An influential and enthusiastic figure on and off the field, but missed many games because of injury. However, unlike another Chelsea pensioner, he justified the high price paid for his experience and leadership. One of the best long-range passers at the club, but his defending could be as erratic as heroic. Not renewing his contract was the right decision, and at 34, he leaves the club in good standing.

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Out on loan

4. William Saliba — A rocky first half, mainly with the U-23s when he would have been better out on loan. Once he got to Nice in January, his season picked up, earning increasingly good reviews. Will get a fresh start with Arteta in preseason to determine whether the 20-year old super-prospect is ready for a first-team squad place.

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Konstantinos Mavropanos — A second season-long loan in Germany at Stuttgart, was blighted by injury but earned decent reviews when he was fit. The 23-year old Greek last played a senior game for us in December 2019. It is difficult to see him playing another one.

No Arsenal appearances


5. Socrates Papastathopoulos — Left out of the Premier League and Europa League squads at the start of the season and given only a couple of U-23 games. He was released in January, joining Olympiacos with whom he won the Greek Super League.

No Arsenal appearances

20. Shkodran Mustafi — Another frozen out by Arteta as a suspected member of the Özil cabal. Joined Schalke on a free transfer in the January window. With Schalke relegated and his six-month contract expired, he is now without a club.

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Coming up through the ranks

Daniel Ballard won plaudits and promotion with Blackpool and inclusion in the Northern Ireland squad. Of the young centre-halves at the club, he looks to have the best chance of breaking through to the first team. The U-18s’s Zane Monlouis and Alex Kirk are longer-term prospects. But it is a long time since an Academy centre back made the grade.

143 Drinks to “Season review: Goalkeepers and defenders”

  1. 1
    Bathgooner says:

    A very interesting and nicely illustrated analysis, Ned. I was surprised at several aspects:

    1) how high Gabriel, Chambers, Mari and Soares are in the CIES/InStat Performance Index;

    2) how much less KT3 contributed in several key defensive actions, particularly when compared to Soares and Chambers

    3) how much less Luiz contributed in almost all defensive actions.

    Who’d be a coach?

  2. 2
    Countryman100 says:

    Many thanks Ned. I will confess to not usually being a big reader of stats but these tell a story. I think it was TTG who said the other day that Arsenal were going down the Moneyball (loved that book) route of picking players with good stats rather than those easy on the eye. If the key stat in baseball was OBP (on base percentage), or variations thereon what is the equivalent in football?

    Can’t leave without chuckling at the Spuds. I was getting quite concerned there for a while.

  3. 3
    Cynic says:

    Goals for, goals against, matches won, points gained are the only stats that are relevant.

    Everything else is part of the bullshit that surrounds 21st Century football. If we still used jumpers for goalposts, no doubt there’d be a stat somewhere that attempts to tell everybody Rayon is the best goalpost material. It’s all wank. Cotton FTW.

    /grump old man who hates summer.

  4. 4
    bt8 says:

    Hey Ned, Great stuff complete with graphs, charts and stuff. Not sure what it really means but Calum’s blue looks like a monster in that spiderweb. So much so, it stopped me in my tracks but now to read the rest of your article.

  5. 5
    Pangloss says:

    Excellent stuff, Ned! Long on information, short on opinion. Who’d a thunk it?


  6. 6
    North Bank Ned says:

    Thank you, gentlemen.

    Pangloss@5: I feel confident that I can rely on the rest of the bar to make up for any opinion deficit — and more.

    bt8@4: The spider graphs show how each of our defenders ranked compared to other players in their position across the Premiership season. The nearer to the outside edge of the web, the higher the ranking. I chose a basic set of actions that defenders perform to give a sense of how our players stacked up against each other and those of other teams. I don’t pretend that it is a deep or sophisticated analysis of performance, just indicative of relative general strengths and weaknesses to kindle discussion and perhaps test some assumptions we have formed based on what we saw with our eyes. I did root around in a lot more numbers than those in the charts to confirm my assertions that KT3 was among the top attacking full-backs in Europe, never mind the Premiership and that Rob Holding had markedly improved his long, forward passing, which may explain why Arteta played him more. Of course, the numbers don’t say anything about important intangibles like leadership, organisational skills, determination, ability to read the game, will to win, etcetera.

    Cynic@3: Stats are pieces of information, individual pieces of the jigsaw of what is happening on the pitch. They have to be put together to create a picture, which means understanding what each one measures, how well it does it, and judgement about how they fit together. I believe that the more information you have, the more that helps understand each player’s impact on a game. But I would also be the first one to say that stats shouldn’t be followed slavishly. It is important to avoid ‘the McKinsey fallacy’, not measuring what you manage but managing only what you can measure.

    C100@2: There is no magic bullet, no single stat that says it all. That applies to on-base percentage in baseball, too. It was developed in the 1940s (long before Moneyball) by the pioneer of modern baseball stats, Allan Roth of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to give context to the then standard measure of a batter, runs batted in. Even on-base percentage is a flawed stat as it counts hits and walks as equal.

    bath@1: I, too, was surprised at KT3’s relative defensive numbers, although when he was out injured, we didn’t tend to say, that will hurt our defence; we said it would hurt our attack. But it reinforces the point that you have to look at all the numbers in the round and not fixate on one or two.

  7. 7
    TTG says:

    This is an outstanding analysis of the defensive performances and sets a high bar for those who follow . I think you’ve actually given some very clear opinions on several of those who have fallen short .
    It will be no surprise that I diverge from Cynic slightly in that I think you can deduce very interesting stats in relation to defenders . As a unit we defended better and our performance in conceding goals was a big improvement . To provide some clarity on Tierney he is usually employed as a wing back even playing in a four because Xhaka covers across for him . He isn’t as solid playing wide mainly because he is often in advanced positions . His defensive prowess for Scotland where he plays as the left centre back in a three ( where he played in our successful FA Cup run the season before last ) suggests to me he can defend but that we ask a lot of him !
    I thought Holding had a very good season and was reliability itself although he’s not the fastest. You describe Marí and Gabriel perfectly and I would claim we broke about even on Luiz in his two seasons with us .His passing and goal threat offset the occasional brainfarts!
    I’ve always liked Chambers and felt Bellerin was massively overrated but we do perhaps need to try to find a more dynamic right-back if we can, a Tierney on the right . I don’t think we have any young full-back prodigies likely to break through . Swanson has a nasty injury and little experience and Lopez left me massively underwhelmed .
    My Arsenal -liking Blackpool mate assures me Ballard has been excellent for them. Maybe another loan with them next season at a higher level might tell us if he can step up . I hope Saliba can step in to provide a Luiz-type quality passer from the back . Hopefully he will get the chance .
    Top stuff Ned and very thought-provoking

  8. 8
    Sancho Panza says:

    So Buendia to Villa for 30 million. Wonder what that means?

  9. 9
    Bathgooner says:

    I have to confess that I haven’t seen enough of Buendia to know if we have missed a trick here (though I did notice him stand out as a talent in the Norwich team a couple of seasons back) or indeed if we were even interested in him let alone keen to sign him, as some, including Chris Wheatley, have suggested. But he’s off to Villa:


  10. 10
    Countryman100 says:

    I think it means Grealish is off somewhere for three times that.

  11. 11
    bt8 says:

    Re: Sancho. Especially mysterious if you believe the stories that Arsenal offered £35m but Villa came out on top with an offer of £33m. Hmm.

  12. 12
    TTG says:

    Buendia is a right-sided playmaker . How would you describe Saka? I think Buendia was seen as a no.10 by some but how would you describe ESR ? Buendia was a promising-looking player in the PL two seasons ago but he didn’t create the impact that justified paying £35 million . Standing out in the Championship doesn’t mean he will be brilliant in the Premier League . We also have an attacking midfield player potentially returning to us in Willock . Do we really need Buendia?
    We have to be incredibly careful with our transfers in and out this window and I suspect there is a real interest in acquiring Odegaard. One minute you hear Odegaard is staying with Madrid, then we hear Real are broke then we hear that Odegaard may be available on loan ? Unless it were a loan I wouldn’t go for Odegaard either .
    We’ve lost a possible twelve or more fixtures next season by falling out of Europe . That gives us reduced opportunity to use a big squad and give opportunities to the likes of Azeez and Martinelli . I think we have to ‘ trust the process ‘ and believe there are no more Willians coming our way

  13. 13
    TTG says:

    If we did look at another playmaker the boy Pereira at West Brom stood out for me last season in a very poor team .Maybe a year loan for him might be feasible ?

  14. 14
    bt8 says:

    …Villa offer rising to 38 million when incentives are included as per the story cited by Bath …

  15. 15
    bt8 says:

    Back to Ned’s review of the Arsenal defenders, I read the whole thing and must commend you for an excellent and fair analysis of every player and our back line collectively. Having written the review of our defenders following last season when our defensive performances had indeed been considerably more dire I must agree that important improvements and culling of deadwood were achieved. If only Auba and our midfield had not underperformed as they did we might have gone a few places but I’m looking for continued improvements from our young defence to serve as our foundation for better things to come.

  16. 16
    Silly Second Yella says:

    Season review?

    What season?

  17. 17
    bt8 says:

    TTG, Between Saka and ESR we do have a fair share cornered in the common market of proven youth and flexibility. I was hoping to make it a trio or quartet by now but Gabriel, Martinelli and one or two others are knocking firmly on the door. Will Arteta hear their rapping or keep his eyes laser-focused on his cards?

  18. 18
    bt8 says:

    SSY Studs maybe, but I’m not sure how far the acne is going to get us. Just saying.

  19. 19
    bt8 says:

    The shortlist of the willing to become Tottenham’s next manager would appear to be getting shorter and shorter but among them are (again from appearances) Harry Redknapp, Fat Sam and Dicey Sean. Entertainment at its finest. 😉

  20. 20
  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@7: You prompted me to compare KT3’s defensive stats playing in a back three with those when playing in a back four. They improve a bit and the mix of strengths and weaknesses changes. To be clear, his defensive stats in either position aren’t horrible by any means; they are just not up at the top in the way his attacking ones are. If you create a set of defenders with a similar stats profile to his, he is in elite company.

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    Buendia doesn’t play in the Grealish position. He is more likely to displace/replace Bertrand Traore, who was signed from Lyon last season and has been OK but not set the world alight. As mentioned above, we already have Saka for that right-sided playmaker role. Our midfield priority is a CM/DM to play alongside Partey. That isn’t Buendia either.

  23. 23
    bt8 says:

    @22. A convincing argument and I hope the club had it in mind.

  24. 24
    OsakaMatt says:

    Just had a leisurely read through Ned, an excellent piece. Full of very reasonable conclusions and I couldn’t find even one to disagree with 👍

  25. 25
    OsakaMatt says:

    One question would be did Medley go?

  26. 26
    bathgooner says:

    Matt @25, not as far as I can see. He returned to Arsenal at the end of the season after spending the first half on loan at Gillingham and the second half on loan at Kilmarnock. I have no idea whether he was a success at either.

  27. 27
    Cynic says:

    For the blind optimist (or mug punter) Arsenal is 66/1 to win the league next season with SkyBet, which is the longest odds on winning the league I have ever seen for Arsenal, going back to the 80s.

    Chelsea a flirty 11/2

  28. 28
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks Bath.

  29. 29
    OsakaMatt says:

    If you shop around you can get 80/1 on us winning the league next season. Unfortunately the each way bet is only a third the odds for the top two.

  30. 30
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@25: As Bath says, Medley was on loan at Gillingham and then Kilmarnock. Reportedly he started both loans well but subsequently lost his starting place. I think he falls into the category of our young centre backs who are talented enough to have decent professional careers, perhaps even in the Premiership, but not with us. I’d put Mark McGuiness and Harry Clarke in the same category. Zach Awe might end up there, too. One to watch is Omar Rekik, who joined the U-23s from Hertha Berlin in January and has just been called up by the Tunisian national squad.

  31. 31
    TTG says:

    Ned sums up our CBs perfectly . If we have a diamond among them it might be Danny Ballard rather than any other but we haven’t seen Rekik yet . Chambers can also play Centre back ( and defensive midfield ) so we have a ridiculous number of centre backs always assuming the BFG has definitely retired !
    I think the player we might see coming in at no.10 is Aouar who can also play as an 8 I believe . If fees do come down he might be in range . But is he in form?

  32. 32
    BtM says:

    An excellent analysis, Ned. Spider diagrams took me back down the years to days gone down of gainful (never painful, occasionally productive) employment.

  33. 33
    Trev says:

    Thanks, Ned – excellent job.

    The spider diagrams are a great way of comparing those groups of defenders. I would expect Rob Holding to be very pleased with them – Hector Bellerin maybe not so much.

  34. 34
    Trev says:

    I see above that Gillingham and Kilmarnock failed to get a tune out of Medley, but Rekik has a date in Tunisia.

  35. 35
    North Bank Ned says:

    BtM & Trev: Thank you, gentlemen.

    Rekik will be pitted against Algeria, Trev.

  36. 36
    OsakaMatt says:

    I was going to tell that one, but
    Ned pipped me to it

  37. 37
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks for the Medley info Ned.
    These days it’s more of a surprise
    when one of the young players makes
    it than not – that’s not a criticism, it’s
    just that the bar is so high

  38. 38
    bathgooner says:

    Is it that the bar is so high or is it in part also due to the selection and developmental processes adopted by the club’s academy? We have ample evidence of flawed processes in the management of so many aspects of this club’s procedures that we cannot glibly assume that all is well in its nether regions.

  39. 39
    TTG says:

    Bath makes a good point. The U23s nearly got relegated . Bould was sacked and when I saw them ( on Twitch get me!) they were extremely perplexing with some very weak players brought into the club in odd circumstances. Players like Dinzeyi and Lewis were seemingly surplus to requirements at lower levels at other clubs and Akinola was similarly puzzling. You hope they proved you wrong but these didn’t. We’ve discussed the fact that we have about 10 centre backs and the plan appears to be to loan out the most promising. Someone like Dinzeyi who was let go by S***s is apparently in to fill up gaps rather than as a contender .
    There are a lot of exciting young midfield players in the U18s but they didn’t achieve any great success in their competitions and so many of the players play in similar roles . We are stuffed with attacking midfield players but have very few exciting full backs for example.
    I can think of around ten goalkeepers at the club . Some are on loan ( some to non-league clubs) but there is concern that we may lose the very best prospect Okonkwo . This might be because he scents chaos and potentially arrested development .
    I always find myself impressed by Mertesacker when I hear him but I don’t think under the first team there looks to be a coherent pathway and I am surprised that we got Balogun to sign a contract I hope a more clearly structured pathway becomes apparent because we have some real talent but the lack of a Europa League place prevents us from showcasing it and the loan system while it has advantages is dependent on so many other factors . I really do wonder if Edu has the right stuff for a Technical Director at a club like Arsenal

  40. 40
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Late to the party but thanks Ned for an interesting piece.
    I had a nightmare that Xhaka stayed for another sideways year. Someone please tell me that it won’t come true.
    66/1 to win the league – sounds good to me if I remember Leicester. What were their odds at a similar stage?

  41. 41
    TTG says:

    Jeorge Bird covers our U23 dilemmas on Twitter this morning
    We have 33 professionals plus a host of breakthrough players

  42. 42
    North Bank Ned says:

    Goalkeeper is probably the most difficult position for a youngster to breakthrough into the first team for all the obvious reasons. You can be top-quality and still spend much of your 20s sitting on a bench. Ask Martinez.

    Okonkwo is highly rated and now a nose in front of Karl Hein in the pecking order. The U-18s lost another outstanding keeping prospect, Joao Virginia, to Everton 18 months ago. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to lose one keeper may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

    The loan system seems to be becoming very hit or miss for our players. I do wonder if Premiership clubs should be allowed to run B teams in the Football League, as happens in Spain. The best young prospects would get regular, competitive senior football, and the U-23s side would become unambiguously a development team.

  43. 43
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks Ned for a superbly written analysis — full of insights and clear statistical demonstration supporting observations. The Monks deserve a few of the rarest of the Chartreuse bottles from the cellars of their Carthusian frères!

    Given that the very process of human visual perception is essentially statistical — finding closest pattern match from a torrent of random noisy data — and hence inherently non-objective (pre-established patterns are shaped by experiential and environmental biases), I completely agree with you that adding meaningful statistical analysis in addition to what we think we saw provide a much more comprehensive picture.

    I wish I could borrow the monks when writing my pieces. 🙂 🙂

    I thought Chambers was consistently good once he was introduced as the right back. And I think we should be fine going in the next season with him as the first choice, and assuming Hector is leaving and given that we don’t have any European competitions Soares is okay enough an option for the second choice right back. We do need a backup for Tierney though.

    Saliba ended the second half very well at Nice. The Ligue 1 fan’s team of the season had included him in the shortlist https://dailycannon.com/2021/06/william-saliba-team-of-the-season-shortlist/ , which I think is an achievement given that he played for half of the season in a mid-tier team. I would love to see him given chance to prove himself on the field for us.

  44. 44
    TTG says:

    Great point Re goalies Ned
    My concerns are that we brought in Runarsson who was no 2 for half a season . Having jettisoned Martinez it does place a question mark on those deciding our goalkeeping hierarchy

  45. 45
    Trev says:

    It certainly does, TTG,

    and whether I’m supposed to forget about him cos he’s gone or not, I think we clearly sold our best keeper last summer. Ryan is more commanding in the air than our current number one, and both he and Martinez are also better with their feet. Leno has made some great saves but beyond shot stopping I don’t see him as highest level. Has his possible wish to move on been squashed now – I really don’t know ?

  46. 46
    TTG says:

    Leicester seem to have a very effective transfer strategy .
    In recent seasons they’ve signed Maddison , Ndidi ( Kante before him ), Tielemans , Iheanacho, Justin, Fofana , Castagne and Soyuncu . Several were linked with us and few have been duds . They have also got a tune out of Jonny Evans who we got close to signing.
    Now they have acquired Soumare from Lille and are about to sign Edouard from Celtic . In the meantime they’ve sold Mahrez and Chilwell for premium prices . It’s a club that looks to me to be much better run than we are ….and the fans love the owner too !

  47. 47
    North Bank Ned says:

    Fans love the owner? What sort of football club is that…

  48. 48
    TTG says:

    Ned@47 ……an unnaturally happy and stable one from all accounts .
    They seem to have very clear transfer priorities and this may be because they’ve had stability in their management structure .
    In the last four years looking at transfers we’ve had …Wenger, Gazidis , Mislintat , Sanllehi, Edu , Arteta and more recently Lewis and Garlick . And of course Joorabchian !

  49. 49
    North Bank Ned says:

    On goalkeepers, I read speculation that we are interested in the Ajax keeper, Onama, who is serving a doping ban until February, unless it gets shortened or overturned on appeal. If he is signed, that would indicate that Leno is leaving.

  50. 50
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@48: That is true. And an owning family that, like Abramovich, actually seems to like football.

    Leicester is also good at bringing players through from its academy.

  51. 51
    Pangloss says:

    Re Management of Goalies over the past 12 months: Maybe my memory is at fault, but to the best of my recollection, we came into the closing stages of the last pre-season transfer window with two excellent goalkeepers and common agreement that it would be impossible to keep both happy and that we should cash in on one of them. We came to an agreement with Aston Villa very late on and needed a replacement prontissimo. At this stage we picked up Runarrson and he turned out not to have been of the desired quality.

    You can argue that we should have moved earlier, and you can argue that we ought to have acquired a better keeper. I’d have no problem with either of those suggestions, although I might not agree fully with the implication that our lack of success correlated absolutely with a lack of effort. I do have a problem with suggestions that there was a simple, obvious solution that was overlooked due to stupidity.

  52. 52
    Pangloss says:

    Re Unnaturally happy and stable clubs.

    It’s a hell of a lot easier to maintain sweetness and light when your club is experiencing its most successful period for fifty-plus years, than it is just after club has declined from its most successful period for seventy-odd years.

    Just saying.

  53. 53
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for the perspective Pangloss. The long term view certainly is rosier than this thorny present.

  54. 54
    bt8 says:

    Holding’s season was certainly decent but he missed more critical headers at the attacking endrogan I care to remember. And these were often in games when his chances could have made all the difference. Big room for improvement but.

  55. 55
    bt8 says:

    endrogan = end than

    No ifs, ands or buts about it, actually.

  56. 56
    TTG says:

    Cause and effect .
    Arsenal’s extraordinary changes of tack in management structure and philosophy are creating so much of the instability . We entered this season ( see posts on night of Community Shield ) in good spirits but subsequently the disastrous form between October and Christmas ( especially at home ) destroyed the season.
    Re the goalkeepers you are absolutely right about our inability to keep two keepers happy. But we let the wrong one go and would have been better to have sold Leno than Martinez, who is a better defensive organiser, better on crosses and superior with his feet, Rúnarsson is nowhere near good enough to be a no 2 and we were dangerously exposed with him as back-up . Two mistakes there – signing him in the first place and elevating him to understudy . Ryan is a highly competent back-up and I hope he returns . I don’t consider myself to be a technical expert on keepers but I have had a lot of recent input from gentlemen who most certainly are! They are massive Martinez fans

  57. 57
    North Bank Ned says:

    Dr F@43: Thank you. Generous words.

    The monks are always at your disposal with sufficient notice. It is the devil’s own business getting them awake and sober concurrently.

    Pangloss@52: Spot on.

  58. 58
    OsakaMatt says:

    Personally I wasn’t greatly fussed whether we let Leno or Emi go, I did and still do just prefer Leno of the two, but as long as we kept one of them I was fine 😁
    Leno’s mistakes this season got more exposure obviously as most of us watch every Arsenal game whereas we don’t with Villa. I did see a few mistakes from Emi this season but nothing to change my opinion that he’s a good keeper too. No mistake there that I can see.
    Runarsson wasn’t a good signing as back up and Ryan was, though we couldn’t have got Ryan at the time we signed Runarsson. It’s the nature of transfers that many don’t work out and it just didn’t this time. At least we didn’t go with Macey as some suggested for our back-up keeper and who couldn’t get in the Hibs team in the league though he is the cup keeper it seems.

    It seems like overall a fair job on the decision-making. Hesitant though I am to disagree with TTG’s math, I make that three correct decisions and one wrong 😉

  59. 59
    OsakaMatt says:

    Some good points Ned, there seems no easy answer as many are opposed to the B team system. And loans aren’t always a good indicator too – using Martínez as the example, who had several unsuccessful loan spells. It’s almost like it’s a guessing game rather than a science😁

  60. 60
    North Bank Ned says:

    I can understand Football League clubs objections to B teams, OM. They would lose access to a supply of good players they could not otherwise afford and have more well-funded competitors for titles and trophies.

    We seem to have many youngsters who go out on loan but do not play much and/or get injured (I have no idea if the same is true for other clubs). It would seem to defeat the object of development loans even if it gets the youngsters out of the Arsenal Academy bubble and into the somewhat grittier world of senior football.

  61. 61
    TTG says:

    Speaking to some very knowledgeable Arsenal goalkeeping authorities they believe there is a BIG difference between Leno and Emi. The Cup Final triumph was achieved because Martinez brought solidity to the defence . We sold him because we had a bid for him and needed money rapidly and the goalkeeping coach preferred Leno ( the man who chose Rúnarsson) Those are two bad decisions . Leno is a very good shot-stopper but very unimpressive on crosses and nowhere near as good as Emi with his feet . I’m not aware I mentioned Macey I’ve only seen him play once and he was a big unit but I didn’t firm much of an impression of him . Ryan was a good acquisition .
    I think my maths was based around the fact that Martinez should have been retained and Leno sold ( I think most Gooners believe this ) , Runarsson shouldn’t have been at Arsenal except as a spectator and certainly not on the bench regularly . His performances against Man City and Dundalk ( away) were terrifying . That’s three very clear decisions which I believe are wrong .

  62. 62
    TTG says:

    One further point about Martinez.
    You said he had several unsuccessful Lian spells . His last loan was at Reading and he became a club legend . My cousin who has a season ticket there said he was the best keeper he has ever seen . He developed over the years – ironically he was very flawed in the 7-5 League Cup victory at Reading but I think he did well at Getafe. It may be an example of the way the loan system does improve players

  63. 63
    North Bank Ned says:

    I am not sure there was a ‘wrong’ decision in footballing terms in which of Leno and Martinez to sell. They are both top keepers, among Europe’s best. Their performance stats in the PL last season were much of a muchness, even though Emi was worked harder (half as many saves again to make and 25% more crosses to deal with than Leno).

    Emi had the better save percentage but gave away more goals per game. There was a scant difference in their kicking; Emi kicked longer more often, but Leno was more accurate when he did go long. They both barely misplaced a pass or goal kick of under 30 metres (both 99% plus completion rates). On dealing with crosses, they had identical success ratios. I am lukewarm in my enthusiasm for expected goals (xG)-derived stats, but both keepers kept out more goals than they were expected to, Emi marginally more. Overall, Emi arguably just shaved it on the numbers last season but by no more than a VAR toe-nail offside.

    None of that accounts for intangibles like presence, influence on and off the field, etcetera.
    As TTG says, the club had an offer for Martinez and not for Leno. That became the deciding factor. I also wonder if we had rejected Villa’s offer, i.e., decided Emi was the No 1, whether Leno would have joined the Ozil/Mustafai/Sokratis club and would have had to be written off and released for nothing in January. No way of knowing, of course.

    Signing Runarsson, on the other hand, was a clear mistake…

  64. 64
    bt8 says:

    For the benefit of the Arsenal scouting staff who otherwise may have missed the news. https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/57398060

  65. 65
    bt8 says:

    Depends which website you read but Nuno appears to be on the verge of becoming the new manager of Everton or Crystal Palace. If he values his potential for feeling good all over with his decision however it might suggest Sky has it right. https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11706/12328000/nuno-espirito-santo-crystal-palace-close-to-appointing-former-wolves-boss-as-replacement-for-roy-hodgson

  66. 66
    TTG says:

    Our discussions Re goalies put me in mind of the situation in 1990 . We had just won the league but fell away in our defence of the title and George Graham decided on transfer deadline day to try to sign David Seaman. The deal fell through prompting an outcry in defence of the popular Lukic who served us extremely well ( twice ), George was determined to get his man and did so in the close season, Seaman’s first season was extraordinary and fully justified the deal . I’ve not seen an Arsenal goalkeeper play better than that . Lukic left for his original club , Leeds and won the league with them before returning to us .
    George later told me that he felt the difference in quality was worth the disruption and Seaman went on to have a stellar career with us . He felt the whole defence was sounder with Seaman in goal . That is my sense with Martinez but your stats are interesting Ned .
    Sounds like ESR is signing until 2026 . That is great news

  67. 67
    North Bank Ned says:

    bt8@64: That is one of those stories, ever more frequently seen on the BBC, that begs more questions than it answers. Why did this happen in the first place? What’s the backstory?

    At least Stuttgart is more forthcoming: https://www.vfb.de/en/vfb/latest/news/professionals/2021/silas-wamangituka-stellungnahme/

  68. 68
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@66: When you have Dixon, Adams, Bould and Winterburn as your defence, you wonder how much sounder they can be.

    You make a fair point about the intangibles of presence and leadership, which are not captured by any performance stats. You reminded me of what GG said about John Lukic, I still think John Lukic is one of the best keepers in the country; I just think David Seaman is the best.

    I always liked Martinez as a keeper. Had the decision been made the other way, to keep him and sell Leno, I would have been perfectly happy with that.

  69. 69
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks for the link, I saw also that Van Aanholt is out of contract and leaving. I wonder if we are considering him as a back-up for KT. Though he may want a club where he has more chance of a starting place I suppose.

  70. 70
    OsakaMatt says:

    @60 Ned
    Yes, the B team system is a good solution for us or better than the loan system anyway but I’d never agree if I was a League One or Two club owner. About the only plus I can think of from their point of view is it might increase crowds as many local supporters of the bigger clubs may come along.

  71. 71
    OsakaMatt says:

    I was going to answer your several good points about the keepers but I’d just be repeating what Ned said! My own non-stat conclusion just from watching is no big difference between the two. If you think Emi is clearly better then of course your math is impeccable😁

    Also, I didn’t mean to imply you personally favored Macey as No 2, just that I recall reading that at the time and disagreeing (no clue who said it).

    Emi’s loan spells may be a factor in his sudden rise, though as I recall he couldn’t hold down the No 1 spot at Getafe. He is quite an unusual case really as he did fantastically well when his chance came after years on the sidelines.

  72. 72
    Bathgooner says:

    Could the Arsenal be considering another left back from north of the border?

    Hibs set Josh Doig fee as Premier League clubs monitor left-back

  73. 73
    Cynic says:

    So… the fan-led review of football will be publishing an interim report before the summer with a full report due in August. They’re looking at everything from an independent regulator to ownership structures and supposedly looking at grass roots football as well as the pro game.

    I won’t be holding my breath on that one. Grass roots clubs are arguably more important on a community level than any professional club, yet they’ve been allowed to run their own shop, pretty much unrestricted, for as long as I’ve been alive.

    The era of the dodgy owner, brown envelopes for players, tapping up, dodgy agents (even as low as step five and six, maybe lower) and general financial chicanery never went away at grass roots level. If you want to know where FA grant money goes at that level, the answer is that nobody seems to care (clue – how do clubs with average crowds of 40-50 still manage to pay their players £50 a match?)

    They won’t really care about anything below NL level, but steps 3-6 need a bloody good sweep out.

  74. 74
    Trev says:

    Ned, I am absolutely convinced that Martinez is a better keeper all round than Leno.

    Would you please not cloud the issue for me with a whole load of facts.

    Thank you ! 😉

  75. 75
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@74: 🙂

  76. 76
    Doctor Faustus says:

    A relatively well-written piece on Rambo, though the role of Arsenal in his development and maturity is underplayed https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/57364456 .

    He didn’t start off as a player with great technique especially compared to what Arsenal used to have back then, he always had a great engine, a fearlessness on the ball, and his skills grew over the years. He mastered the art of finishing moves to complement his energetic style, and he thrived most when surrounded by players visionary enough to spot his late runs and skillful enough to set him up. The article made a reference about how “he was not accepted by all Arsenal supporters” but I thought that’s really must have been a very small minority because most of us supported him through all the ups and downs.

  77. 77
    North Bank Ned says:

    Ramsey is another one whose career has been blighted by injury, and not just the Shawcross tackle. Had he stayed fit, he might well have become a Juve legend.

    His departure from Arsenal was another indication that the back office had been overrun by headless chickens. That may be where the impression of divided opinion about him may have been formed.

  78. 78
    TTG says:

    Sir Dave Brailsford is persona non grata nowadays but I remember going to hear him at a business event talking about marginal gains and how you improved Sports teams by improving lots of different elements by small percentages .
    I’m not sure Arsenal are in a position where the basics could be tweaked to bring success but the Lukic story Ned refers to is a great example of a marginal gain that was effective . As Ned said we weren’t weak in defence any way but we possibly turned three or four draws into wins by signing Seaman .
    Before you tweak a very well-oiled machine you first need a very well-oiled machine and we aren’t there yet .
    It is interesting to note how low the figures quoted for Xhaka and Guendouzi are and this may be indicative of a drop in transfer values . A lot of big continental clubs have not got a pot to piss in . Or it may be that we are not very good at selling assets in the way that Wenger at his peak was .Lets hope it’s the former .
    Anyway the window is beginning with Xhaka leaving . What’s not to like! 😀😀

  79. 79
    bt8 says:

    If KSE “don’t need the money” then why don’t they spend more to improve the team? They canna have it both ways.

    Daniel Ek ready to make improved offer to complete Arsenal takeover

  80. 80
    Trev says:

    Emi Martinez – “so so good throughout” according to the commentator, was carried off with a head injury while playing for Argentina against Colombia.

    Hopefully no lasting effects.

  81. 81
    North Bank Ned says:

    As you say, TTG, the Brailsford approach is for already well-oiled machines where there are no step gains to be made, and we may not be at such elevated levels yet. But you can see traces of the approach in the way the defence gave away fewer fouls (thus faced fewer set pieces) and improved its short pass completion rate, so it gave the ball away less.

    Transfer prices will be a combination of many factors. Lack of funds is but one. Xhaka and Guendouzi are on the remainders table. Everything there sells at a discount.

  82. 82
    Trev says:

    Dr Faustus @76,

    It wasn’t a very small minority that didn’t take well to Ramsey at one point. At least not in the stadium anyway. There was a period when his form was quite poor – after his “scoring season”, which was 2013 from memory ? – but he seemed to be undroppable to Arsene Wenger regardless and quite a lot of fans got quite frustrated with it.

    Maybe that was just another example of the faith Wenger had in some players, ultimately vindicated by the player that Ramsey became. He wasn’t helped by recurring injuries but he wasn’t always the player we got used to seeing in the last two or three years before his departure to Juventus.

    If he’s reading this, I must say BtM always shared Wenger’s belief in Ramsey and continually predicted he would become an Arsenal captain.

  83. 83
    TTG says:

    I think I share your frustration with the Kroenkes but my grouse wouldn’t be their willingness to spend per secit was their oversight of the club and how the money was spent . We have one of the highest net spend in Europe, buying high and selling low .
    Last summer we had a kerfuffle on here or the WA group or both when Sanllehi was fired and we’d just bought Willian and Keir Joorabchian was giving what appeared to be Arsenal transfer strategy to the press . I’m not sure the significance of that registered with everybody . Tim Lewis is ensconced now but I think we are far from effectively run. Yes it would be good to have unlimited wealth at our disposal but would a KSE run outfit spend it properly? Wenger at his peak significantly outperformed SAF despite having nowhere near his disposable income .

  84. 84
    bt8 says:

    TTG. Point well taken.

    On the UEFA front there has been little ado about the elephant in the room.

  85. 85
    bt8 says:

    Premier League with an assist in the gloss-over on that one.

  86. 86
    OsakaMatt says:

    To be honest I didn’t mind Rambo leaving as we only seemed to get
    10-15 match patches of excellence each season and the new
    contract he was apparently offered and then not offered looked a big
    gamble. Trev’s memory matches mine, many supporters were
    frustrated with him for a while, my impatient teenage son used to
    complain every time he was in the starting XI. Very useful when fit,
    and we’ve missed him. He just might have fit well with Thomas.
    Leaving for free, on the other hand, was poor management or
    something worse.

  87. 87
    North Bank Ned says:

    Poor management at the Ems, OM? Surely not.

  88. 88
    Countryman100 says:

    Matt and Trev
    Completely agree about Ramsey and the view in the Stadium. Although he came in with loads of goodwill, having binned off Man United in favour of us, he was by no means an instant success. He had a habit of circling round, like a dog getting into his basket, when he got the ball, which slowed us down, and he was very fond of tricksy little back heels that drove me mad, as they often went straight to the other team.

    I think the Shawcross incident brought him closer to the fans hearts (especially with that vile song that Stoke fans still sing) and of course when you get the winner in two FA Cup finals you graduate to legend.

  89. 89
    TTG says:

    Endorse what has been said Re Ramsey .
    I saw him in that early League Cup team with Wilshere and Vela and he was sensational.
    He had huge swings in quality often linked to injuries but he has something only Wilcocks aspires to which is breaking from midfield to score with late runs . But his legend is assured- he also liked to score against the Scum ! .
    Having said that his injury problems will always be with him and I don’t think we can accommodate him especially for twenty games max a season

  90. 90
    North Bank Ned says:

    Corriere dello Sport says Roma are paying 18 million euros for Xhaka including add-ons, and that the deal is almost done.

  91. 91
    bathgooner says:

    I too was a Rambo fan but was also occasionally frustrated by his spells of unproductive toil and propensity for flicks and tricks though wasn’t it delightful when the latter came off! I was disappointed when he left and more particularly that he left for nowt. Although I sympathise with the decision to cease the mega-contract approach (although we subsequently revived it for Auba) is particular contributions to the team, not least his goals, have never been replaced. Ramsey’s contribution would quite probably have been much greater and would certainly have been more consistent but for the GBH assault by Shawcross. However, his time with us is firmly in the past and returning to the Arsenal would be a mistake for both parties. Furthermore, the effects of his injury will continue to have an impact and may have a greater impact than we have already experienced. I personally thank Aaron for his contributions to the club and wish him good luck with the rest of his career.

  92. 92
    TTG says:

    My spillchucker has revealed its ignorance of things Arsenal by substituting Wilcocks for Willock.
    It’s hard to get much of a sense of fees and value and certainly impossible to equate it to fees paid . We wildly overpaid for Xhaka ( and Mustafi ) and when he looked like he was leaving after his spat with the fans the only bid was from Hertha for a similar amount to the amount being offered now – and that was pre-pandemic . We’ve had five seasons out of him and he’s won two FA Cups . Arsenal are in a similar position to Everton who tend to get taken to the cleaners because they are perceived to have wealthy owners. Roma were hard to deal with on Mkhitaryan and like most continental teams are struggling financially. The PL really is a lot wealthier across the board than the other leagues . Granit won’t need to take up my offer of a lift to the airport ( which has stood for years ) because he’s already in Rome.

  93. 93
    OsakaMatt says:

    Though I’m glad we’ve finally bitten
    the bullet and sold Xhaka, I will still
    wish him well in Roma.
    With Dani leaving too it’s a big chance
    to upgrade in the center.

  94. 94
    bathgooner says:

    Good luck to Granit – thanks for a few good moments over the years but the brain farts do somewhat tarnish the lustre.

    In other news, Andre Onana, the Ajax keeper who confuses Frusemide with Aspirin, has had his ban reduced to 9 months on appeal and can start training again at a club in September and play again from November. I suspect he’s seen by the Arsenal as a very good value for money option as a back up keeper and in time a possible replacement for Leno.

  95. 95
    TTG says:

    Well what an interesting and arrogant comment from dear old Granit ‘ Football is a team sport and you are only as good as your team’ ! I wonder what a lot of the better players who found themselves disadvantaged by Granit’s efforts make of that ?

  96. 96
    bt8 says:

    Re: Granit leaving. No comment based on “If you have nothing nice to say say nothing at all.”

    Acronymic addition: GR GX

  97. 97
    ClockEndRider says:

    Is that a confirmed quote from Xhaka? If so, it’s stunning. On the football pitch the man is a walking definition of the term iatrogenic.

  98. 98
    bt8 says:

    In the managerial vacancy filling sweepstakes Wolves pip Everton and Palace to the wire. https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/57328554

    Whether the quality of an the appointment was also considered and not just the speed of same I am not qualified to judge.

  99. 99
    Bathgooner says:

    Lays on a Bergkampesque curling ball into the box for a simple tap in.

  100. 100
    scruzgooner says:

    nice post, ned. quiet here, from california. busy summer 🙂 hopefully capitola rob will continue his upward ascension, and chambo will nail down the right back spot with a series of excellent displays.

  101. 101
    Countryman100 says:

    Nice ton up Scruz. Excellent assist Bath.

  102. 102
    TTG says:

    I read it in the Metro , how could it be wrong!

    Granit Xhaka says ‘you’re only as good as your team’ as Arsenal ace closes in on Roma transfer

    It appears to be a genuine quote !

  103. 103
    bt8 says:

    Mourinho and Xhaka deserve each other. But that’s now Roma’s PR problem. Whatever we’re they thinking?

  104. 104
    bt8 says:

    Nasty unwanted and unintended apostrophe in the above. Blasted predictive text should be shipped right along to the land of the mafiosi with the other two guys.

  105. 105
    bt8 says:

    Excellent finishing @100 Scruz reminding me of many a fine striker quietly lurking but striking when the iron is hot. 👍🏼

  106. 106
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well in for the ton, Scruz.

    Corriere dello Sport says Roma’s announcement of Xhaka’s move is imminent. It also says he is getting a four-year contract of 2.5 million euros a year after tax (plus bonuses), which may represent a modest pay cut from the £5.2 million a year pre-tax that he has been getting from us.

  107. 107
    North Bank Ned says:

    If you read the Metro’s full story, you could what Xhaka said in a different way to the one the headline is suggesting you do. And the ‘really bitter’ sub heading is his bitterness about finishing eighth, not seventh.

  108. 108
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yeah, I saw that Ned. Reprehensible by the metro really but par for their course I suppose.

  109. 109
    OsakaMatt says:

    The question from the Swiss journo seems to have been something about Xhaka having a good season – and then he said the quotes attributed.
    He was quite correct of course – 8th was mediocre and so was Xhaka.

  110. 110
    bt8 says:

    Evening Matt. Hope all’s well with the rising or risen sun.

  111. 111
    Osakamatt says:

    hey bt8,
    all good, summer is here and I was
    woken with the mosquito’s bite this
    morning – first of the year 😁

  112. 112
    Osakamatt says:

    on a very slightly more important
    note it seems the olympics are
    going ahead although most people
    are against. Covid is receding
    and the bars will open again on
    21st June

  113. 113
    Osakamatt says:

    In the Japanese version of lockdown
    everyone can do everything except
    get a drink in a bar. Seems to be working
    to be fair

  114. 114
    Countryman100 says:

    So who’s going to be watching the Euros and who’s going to be giving them a swerve?

  115. 115
    North Bank Ned says:

    Or watching the Copa Americana?

  116. 116
    TTG says:

    I shall certainly watch them now I’ve finished the box set of the Sopranos. I think I’m a little more optimistic than most on here about England but I don’t rate Southgate and think we are suspect in defence . I think Scotland will supply a severe test to them

  117. 117
    scruzgooner says:

    will be watching what i can, of the euros, of the copa, and of the basketball playoffs. lots to choose from. starting with italy turkey this morning.

    cheers all, nipping in to get the ton was fun.

    i wonder when scum fans are going to have a whine about fonseca. 🙂

  118. 118
    bt8 says:

    Italy-Turkey. What’s that, a reenactment of the Battle of Lepanto? If so batten down the galleys. Should be decent food though.

  119. 119
    bt8 says:

    Turns out to be halftime already, 0-0. I’m considering turning on the Telly.

  120. 120
    Countryman100 says:

    Best thing in that first half was the toy car bringing on the ball.

  121. 121
    scruzgooner says:

    watched the first half, c100 you’re so right. turned it to the tennis at halftime, then off. nothing doing. tennis was much more interesting, but had to get back to work.

    now i see italy rolled them in the second half, vai ITALIA!

  122. 122
    TTG says:

    That was a very impressive opening performance by Italy. I was far from impressed by Turkey but I’ve rarely seen an Italian side play with such enterprise and pace .I think we’ve had so much televised football it’s not a treat anymore but it is good to see ( and hear) fans in the stadium and if the home nations do well it will lift spirits in the UK . Arsenal have been linked with many players in the Italian and Turkish teams but I don’t expect much to happen while the tournament is on

  123. 123
    North Bank Ned says:

    Or when it is over?

  124. 124
    OsakaMatt says:

    Though I’m not sure Ned was joking 🤔

  125. 125
    Countryman100 says:

    Bit of Xhaka vs Ramsey at 2pm today ….

  126. 126
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yeah, 10pm Japan time so I’ll
    watch that one. 2-1 Switzerland
    I think

  127. 127
    bathgooner says:

    Ben White? Really?

    Another centre half? And we thought George had an obsession.

    Not the most sensible use of allegedly scarce resources IMHO unless we have already sorted out our two glaring deficits in midfield.

  128. 128
    TTG says:

    I’m similarly bemused by the White news although he is a splendid young defender . We would need to unload a couple of centre backs and that might mean au revoir to Saliba . I usually eschew Untold Arsenal but they are very critical of the stupid stories flying around Arsenal – we are being linked with seven or eight midfielders ( and that is the priority for us ) and I agree it is ridiculous . Let’s flog off those surplus to requirements and then bring in what we need . According to the speculation that’s about six players !

  129. 129
    bt8 says:

    Interesting report and numbers on the season in yellow(s), as well as a comparison of Arsenal’s cautionary season with their record of previous seasons and that of other clubs. Arsenal had a big drop-off compared to the season before, and for that Arteta would appear to deserve big credit, and especially considering the contribution of David Luiz in this area. Or was reds his speciality?


  130. 130
    North Bank Ned says:

    bt8@129: Thanks for the link. Confirms my @81 about the contribution of fewer fouls to our defensive improvement.

  131. 131
    TTG says:

    At 13.40 GMT May I say that England line-up looks very meh to me. I hope we do the job but I disagree with about five picks . Thankfully Southgate knows more about football than I do

  132. 132
    North Bank Ned says:

    bath@127 & TTG@128: One scenario would be: White and Holding as right-sided CBs for next season, with Saliba out on loan for another year’s development/convincing Arteta. Holding sold next summer, with two years left on his contract, making room for Saliba to return for 2022-23, or if Arteta is still not convinced by the Frenchman, the club triggers Holding’s one-year extension or possibly beings in Ballard.

    I assume Mavropanos gets moved on, regardless.

  133. 133
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@131: Twenty minutes before the first England game of a major tournament is probably peak self-delusion for most England fans.

  134. 134
    OsakaMatt says:

    England 1-0 up, 10 minutes to go. Been a cagey game really and to be honest I’m pleasantly surprised England are in front.

  135. 135
    Countryman100 says:

    I thought England thoroughly deserved the win, much to my surprise. I was very worried about the CBs but they were never really threatened. Kelvin Phillips excellent, Sterling and Foden threatened with pace. Super goal.

  136. 136
    Sancho Panza says:

    Obviously as a Spaniard who doesn’t actually exist I’m not exactly bothered about England.

  137. 137
    North Bank Ned says:

    Does Don Quixote know you don’t exist?

  138. 138
    TTG says:

    Very much agree with your view .
    I was worried about the full-backs but they defended well if they attacked rarely. The CBs were excellent and Philips was MOTM with Mount and Rice impressive. A good start

  139. 139
    bt8 says:

    Re: Ned. Does the lovely Dulcinea know Don Quixote doesn’t exist? She never saw him on her Telly I’m willing to wager.

  140. 140
    bt8 says:

    Did the lovely Dulcinea watch the Euros? I very much doubt it. Much more a Copa America kind of woman.

  141. 141
    OsakaMatt says:

    For a change Ned, I think peak self delusion may have been 20 minutes after the match😁

  142. 142
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@141: 🙂

  143. 143
    Bathgooner says: