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21/22 First Team Friendlies General Match Reports

Rangers 2-2 Arsenal: Friendly – 17/07/2021

In all the frenzy of England inexplicably reaching the EURO 2020 (played in 2021) final, the signing of Nuno Tavares, the imminent arrival of Albert Sambi Lokonga, the news that the team will be the subject of an Amazon documentary and the fact that a £50m bid for Ben White has been accepted, Arsenal fans could be forgiven for not knowing that there was, in fact, a pre-season match to be played.

After a depressingly sour run out against Scottish team Hibernian (Arsenal lost 2-1), Arsenal played their final game of their Scotland training camp against Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.

Last year’s Scottish champions were confirmed to be a pre-season friendly opponent many months ago, however, preparation tends to go out of the window in games such as these. The main focus of pre-season has always been to build confidence in tactics, familiarise yourself with the potential youngsters who could be coming through next season and, most importantly, for the players to build match fitness.

The absence of established first-team players, Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka and Bernd Leno did not stop Arsenal from fielding a very strong side from the get-go, including goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo (fresh off signing his new contract with the club) and new boy Nuno Tavares.

The game got off to a pretty decent start. Arsenal created plenty of chances and had the lion share of possession. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a number of easy chances (a recurring theme throughout the game both for him and the team) and Rangers punished Arsenal’s misfirings with an expertly worked corner, which was headed, a little easily, past Arsenal’s goalkeeper to give the home side the lead.

Nicolas Pépé in action.

It wasn’t really particularly deserved, but Arsenal continued to create chances and soon, one was snapped up by Nuno Tavares on his (unofficial) debut! A hint of handball would likely have seen the goal ruled out in the Premier League, but Tavares’ determination to burst forward, carried him into the box where he bent his effort into the far corner, in a finish that would have had Thierry Henry (or an on-form Aubameyang) clapping.

The break saw wide-scale changes. The difficult with pre-season is knowing who remains and who leaves, with commentators themselves often struggling to keep on top of the substitutions. However, one notable addition was Kieran Tierney. Though the former Celtic man was routinely booed by the minimal home support at Ibrox, it was nevertheless refreshing to see Tierney (also fresh off signing a new contract with the club) appear for the team so quickly after Scotland’s unceremonious (if not predictable) EUROs exit.

What wasn’t so refreshing, however, was to see Arsenal concede yet again from a set-piece. This time, Rangers’ substitute Cedric Itten rose highest to put the ball in the back of the net.

Arsenal did respond with a stupendous effort from Eddie Nketiah deep in the second-half, but it had the familiar tale of Arsenal of last season. So many chances created, so many oppourtunities to kill the game off, and yet, mistakes or lack of concentration means Arsenal end up getting nothing from the game.

A 2-2 finish didn’t really reflect the game as a whole. Arsenal were much the better side, and but for their goals, it’s hard to remember Rangers really threatening either of Arsenal’s goalkeepers.

Cedric Itten gives Rangers the lead for the second time in the match.

It was a bad day at the office for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Though the Arsenal captain will likely be spared his blushes by virtue of the fact that the game was a pre-season friendly, there was something ominous about the Arsenal captain’s poor finishing on the day. Confined to the annals of pre-season and in isolation, the poor finishing on display can be forgiven, but Arsenal fans will hope that this doesn’t follow into the next few matches, as well as the new season. One particularly poor miss, following good work from Emile Smith Rowe is one that the Gabonese forward would rather consign to the nightmare fuel highlight reel.

It was a decent performance from Nuno Tavares as well. Very little happened down his side and he was rarely, if at all, troubled, but he showed his willingness to both attack and get back and defend. The leggy left-back’s pace looks to be an extremely useful resource for the forthcoming season and his goal (taken with his right-foot) will also be welcomed too.

The other main issue for the team seemed to stem from Arsenal’s sudden, inexplicable issue at defending set-pieces. The arrival of Nicolas Jover from Manchester City as set-piece coach in the wake of Andreas Georgson’s departure will mean that extra scrutiny will be placed on Arsenal’s set-pieces from now on. The vulnerability will likely have been aided by youth players not used to senior football and the fact that this is only the team’s second match in as much as two months, but the worries are there nevertheless, especially given Arsenal’s spectacular defensive record from set-pieces last season, in which Arsenal only conceded 5 of their overall 39 goals last seaosn from dead ball situations.

Arsenal’s next pre-season game is in the Florida Cup, in which they face off against Inter Milan and their newly appointed coach, Simone Inzaghi.

Arsenal team:
33.) Arthur Okonkwo (Hein)
17.) Cédric Soares (Bellerín)
16.) Rob Holding (Chambers)
22.) Pablo Marí (Kolašinac)
20.) Nuno Tavares (Tierney)
25.) Mohamed Elneny (Willock)
  5.) Thomas Partey (Willian)
32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Maitland-Niles)
19.) Nicolas Pépé (Nelson)
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Nketiah)
26.) Folarian Balogun (Lacazette)

Arsenal subs:
44.) Karl Jakob Hein
21.) Calum Chambers
  2.) Héctor Bellerín
  3.) Kieran Tierney
31.) Send Kolašinac
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
28.) Joe Willock
24.) Reiss Nelson
12.) Willian
30.) Eddie Nketiah
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette

Rangers team:
  1.) Allan McGregor
26.) Leon Balogun (Simpson)
  6.) Connor Goldson (Kelly)
  2.) James Tavernier (c) (Middleton)
  3.) Calvin Bassey (Edmundson)
  4.) John Lundstram (Hastie)
18.) Glen Kamara (Patterson)
  7.) Ianis Hagi
10.) Steven Davis (Arfield)
25.) Kemar Roofe (Itten)
  9.) Jermain Defoe (Wright)

Rangers subs:
33.) Jon McLaughlin
15.) Jack Simpson
34.) Lewis Mayo
16.) Nathan Patterson
29.) George Edmundson
40.) Glen Middleton
27.) Stephen Kelly
37.) Scott Arfield
22.) Jordan Jones
11.) Cedric Itten
32.) Jake Hastie
23.) Scott Wright

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21/22 Backroom Staff European Super League FA Cup First Team Friendlies General League Cup Match Reports New Contracts Premier League Transfers Youth

All or Nothing: Amazon Documentary to Look at Arsenal

Arsenal will be the focus of the famous Amazon documentary series All or Nothing. The documentary will cover the inner workings of the club across the 2020/21 season, giving fans an insight into the work behind the scenes and also and the kind of preparation required for senior football.

Previous All or Nothing documentaries have focused on Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus, the Brazilian national team and Tottenham Hotspur, with Mikel Arteta contributing greatly to the former during his tenure as Manchester City coach.

The documentary series grants a rare, unprecedented level of insight into the inner-workings of the club. Though fans will be treated to seeing how the players and manager prepare for games and an exclusive look at half-time teamtalks, the documentary will also show the work of other important figures at the club, such as Josh Kroenke, Vinai Venkatesham, Edu Gaspar and Per Mertesacker.

The failure of last season was thankfully not broadcast.

The documentary will be filmed across the course of the season and will likely be shown in its entirety at the end of the season in May, exclusively on the Amazon Prime video subscription service.

All or Nothing: Arsenal will be produced by 72 Films, executive produced by Mark Raphael, Clare Cameron and three-time BAFTA winner John Douglas.

Dan Grabiner, Head of UK Originals at Amazon Studios said: “Arsenal is a historic club going through a fascinating period, and we can’t wait to take viewers behind-the-scenes on the journey of this crucial season. All or Nothing is about intimate access to the passion and commitment behind elite sport, and in Arsenal we have the perfect subject for the next chapter. We are looking forward to Prime members around the world experiencing another Premier League season with a new club, through All or Nothing’s signature quality storytelling and access.”

While such unprecedented access to the club is certainly an enticing thought for fans, it is nevertheless a cause for concern. Documentaries of this nature are almost always a “tell-all” kind of scenario that usually leaves no stone unturned and in the case of a disappointing season, often becomes a central hub for memes and unnecessary insight into the way the team works.

All or Northing: Arsenal will arrive on Amazon Prime in 2022.

There is also something sacred about the dressing room atmosphere. Mikel Arteta’s half-time team talks being broadcast for everyone to see, while fascinating, also provides people with insights into how the team works and what sort of tactics the team are likely to use, which is usually best kept behind the curtain.

Much like a magician revealing how he did his trick, some things are perhaps left behind the scenes.

We are looking forward to giving our fans around the world a unique insight into how we work day to day. We have one of the biggest global followings in the game and one consistent thing we hear from fans is their desire to see more about what happens behind closed doors at the club, All or Nothing will give our fans and sport lovers an opportunity to learn more about what makes Arsenal such a special club, our trophy laden history and our ambitions for future success.”

Mark Gonnella – Arsenal’s Media and Communications Director

However, one fascinating question remains, who will narrate the series? Manchester City’s documentary had Ben Kinglsey, where Tottenham had Tom Hardy, so who will narrate Arsenal’s?

Arsenal are not short on celebrity fans, with JAY-Z, Piers Morgan, Dido, Idris Elba, Roger Daltry, Prince Harry, Roger Waters, Mick Jagger and the Queen are all Arsenal fans, though any royal inclusion seems unlikely, if not impossible.

Categories
21/22 Community Shield FA Cup First Team Friendly General League Cup Match Reports Premier League

Premier League Fixtures For New Season Announced

The fixtures for the 2021/2022 season have finally been announced. Mikel Arteta’s side ended last season in a very poor manner, failing ti qualify for a European competition for the first time in 25 years.

With new boys Brentford, Norwich and Watford now in the Premier League, the fixtures have been announced.

Depending on Arsenal’s progress in the remaining two competitions, the League Cup and the FA Cup, the fixtures are subject to change, as well as their opponents’ progress.

Looking at Arsenal’s opening three matches, the need to strengthen in the transfer market is more pressing than ever.

August 2021
14th: Brentford (A)
21st: Chelsea (H)
28th: Manchester City (A)

September 2021
10th: Burnley (A)
11th: Norwich (H)
25th: Tottenham Hotspur (H)

October 2021
2nd: Brighton & Hove Albion (A)
16th: Crystal Palace (H)
23rd: Aston Villa (H)
30th: Leicester City (A)

November 2021
6th: Watford (H)
20th: Liverpool (A)
27th: Newcastle United (H)
30th: Manchester United (A)

December 2021
4th: Everton (A)
11th: Southampton (H)
14th: West Ham United (H)
18th: Leeds United (A)
26th: Norwich City (A)
28th: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)

January 2022
1st: Manchester City (H)
15th: Tottenham Hotspur (A)
22nd: Burnley (H)

February 2022
8th: Wolverhampton Wanderers (A)
12th: Chelsea (A)
19th: Brentford (H)
26th: Liverpool (H)

March 2022
5th: Watford (A)
12th: Leicester City (H)
19th: Aston Villa (A)

April 2022
2nd: Crystal Palace (A)
9th: Brighton & Hove Albion (H)
16th: Southampton (A)
23rd: Manchester United (H)
30th: West Ham United (A)

May 2022
7th: Leeds United (H)
15th: Newcastle United (A)
22nd: Everton (H)

Season Ends.

Categories
20/21 First Team General Match Reports Premier League

Arsenal 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion: Premier League – 23/05/2021

Thank God, the season is over. A truly disappointing campaign can only be offset by the news that Arsenal, for the first time since 1995, will not play any kind of European football next season.

A truly drab campaign did have the silver lining of allowing fans back into stadiums to watch the final two games of the season and for once, Arsenal fans were treated to a display of the highest quality from Mikel Arteta’s side.

Sunday’s match was seen as a farewell for some players, whether they were picked or not and as a chance to start next season off with a good win at the end of the season.

Nicolas Pépé caps off a stunning performance.

Arsenal started the match at a truly blistering pace. Attacks flew in from all around and Brighton were unable to hold back the tide. The free-flowing movements of Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Ødegaard and Nicolas Pépé proved to be too much.

In fact, Arsenal were exceedingly unlucky not to have a goal in the first-half. Rob Holding managed to scramble the ball over the line, but the goal was disallowed owing to a foul in the build-up.

From there, Arsenal seemed to lack a little more intensity and seemed happy to play the game at a walking pace, which is perhaps why half-time beckoned with the score at 0-0.

However, the second-half saw a more resurgent Arsenal as they began to finally put Brighton to the sword. A low, but powerful cross from Calum Chambers was deftly controlled with the left foot of Nicolas Pépé, before being fired home with his powerful right to give Arsenal a well-deserved lead.

Togetherness and cohesion for Arsenal as they hit Brighton for two.

It didn’t take too much longer before they added a second. A brilliant move from Arsenal saw Pépé once again in an advanced position and ignoring the cries of his colleagues for him to pass, the Ivorian hitman placed his shot into the far corner to cap off an impressive Arsenal performance in style.

However, the result was dampened by the news that Tottenham Hotspur had managed to overcome their result at Leicester and had won, which left Arsenal without European football.

It was a tough pill to swallow, but Arsenal will now have a summer to prepare the players, sign some exciting new ones, jettison some unwanted ones and to really try and make a push for next season.

Thank God the season is over.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
21.) Calum Chambers
16.) Rob Holding
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
  3.) Kieran Tierney
34.) Granit Xhaka
18.) Thomas Partey
19.) Nicolas Pépé
11.) Martin Ødegaard (Martinelli 86’)
32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Saka 74’)
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Lacazette 79’)

Arsenal subs:
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
22.) Pablo Marí
17.) Cédric Soares
25.) Mohamed Elneny
  8.) Dani Ceballos
  7.) Bukayo Saka
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette
30.) Eddie Nketiah

Brighton & Hove Albion team: 
26.) Robert Sánchez
  3.) Ben White
  4.) Adam Webster
  5.) Lewis Dunk (c)
33.) Dan Burn
13.) Pascal Groß
  8.) Yves Bissouma
15.) Jakub Moder
16.) Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Lallana 45’)
10.) Alexis Mac Allister (Alzate 66’)
11.) Leandro Trossard (Connolly 45’)

Brighton & Hove Albion subs:
23.) Jason Steele 
61.) Tom McGill
  6.) Michał Karbownik
25.) Moisés Caicedo
17.) Steven Alzate
14.) Adam Lallana
22.) Percy Tau
  7.) Aaron Connolly
29.) Andi Zeqiri

Categories
20/21 First Team General Match Reports Premier League

Crystal Palace 1-3 Arsenal: Premier League – 19/05/2021

Before we get into the match report here, there’s something that needs to be said. Last night’s match was the last home game of Roy Hodgson’s career and Sunday will be his final time as manager in the modern game after he announced his retirement.

It’s rare to come across men who have impacted football the way that Roy Hodgson has. While Arsenal’s very own Arsène Wenger normalised the idea of a foreign coach in the Premier League, Hodgson normalised the idea of an Englishman abroad and his legacy as a coach is as undisputed as his class and as great as it was that fans can be back in stadiums, it’s a shame that so few were allowed to wave goodbye to one of the greatest managers football has ever known.

Now, back to the action.

On the back of an entirely undeserved victory over Chelsea, Arsenal encountered their second London derby in as many weeks. While Arsenal fans are all scrambling for this season to be over, there is still a certain amount of pride left to play for and the chance to possibly leapfrog their great rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

Arsenal started well. A number of quick and precise attacks seemed to show Palace what Arsenal were capable of. Though Palace had a few chances of their own, it was Arsenal who looked the more likely to score, dominating possession and keeping the midfield as tight and compact as possible.

Nicolas Pépé gives Arsenal the lead.

It therefore came as no surprise to see Arsenal take the lead. Quick play down the left-hand side by Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney saw an intricately mesmeric move come to a flourishing end as Nicolas Pépé latched onto Tierney’s cross to bundle Arsenal into a deserved lead.

It was a stunning Arsenal move that had everyone off their feet and seemed to dispell the notion that Arsenal were unable to create.

The second half however, brought a very different story. Arsenal completely took their foot off the gas and Palace hit them hard. With the added bonus of having their fans back in the stadium, Crystal Palace fought hard to pin Arsenal back. Their efforts were soon rewarded as Andros Townsend’s cross found its way into the box and Christian Benteke headed the ball home for a Palace equaliser in the Ian Wright derby.

It will be a controversial decision for Arsenal fans, who would argue that Benteke was lucky to remain on the pitch following a controversial tussle with Mohamed Elneny in the first-half which Var inexplicably failed to turn over.

VAR decisions aside, Arsenal looked decidedly run through. Wilfried Zaha’s tendency to fall to the ground in the box was starting to give Arsenal a route back into the game as the Ivorian focused more on pantomime theatrics than actual goals.

A few sweeping changes by Mikel Arteta saw Arsenal regain a slight foothold. The pace and power of Gabriel Martinelli, the intricacy of Martin Ødegaard and the firm approach of Granit Xhaka appeared to be exactly what Arsenal needed.

The former two combined beautifully in the dying embers of the match as Ødegaard drifted in a sumptuous ball that would have had Mesut Özil on his feet, which was met by Martinelli who scrambled the ball in to give Arsenal a not entirely deserved would-be winner.

Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli were some of Arsenal’s bright sparks on the night.

Palace heads dropped and Arsenal were able to round off the scoring nicely with a superb run from Nicolas Pépé, who rounded thee Palace players before doubling his tally for the game.

It was hardly a vintage Arsenal performance, but the three points are all that matters and Arsenal have those.

VAR was once again shrouded in controversy as Crystal Palace were granted two VAR reprieves. The aforementioned incident with Christian Benteke and Mohamed Elneny was matched by an earlier incident wherein Cheikhou Kouyaté crushed Calum Chambers’ ankle in an early tackle which was bizarelly not given a red card by VAR or on-pitch referee Anthony Taylor.

It was an infuriating call, especially as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had been dismissed for the same tackle at the same ground last season.

It was another promising showing for Arsenal’s youngsters. While Bukayo Saka was perhaps not at his very best on Wednesday night, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli more than made up for it, combining well and creating chances galore for Arsenal.

Thankfully, the season draws to a merciful end on Sunday and Mikel Arteta will be glad to know that Arsenal fans are back in the stadium for Sunday’s match against Brighton & Hove Albion, but more importantly, that focus can begin for next season as Arsenal look to right the wrongs of this unacceptable season.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
21.) Calum Chambers
16.) Rob Holding
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
  3.) Kieran Tierney (Xhaka 78’)
25.) Mohamed Elneny
18.) Thomas Partey (Martinelli 78’)
19.) Nicolas Pépé
32.) Emile Smith Rowe
  7.) Bukayo Saka (Ødegaard 65’)
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c)

Arsenal subs:
33.) Maty Ryan
22.) Pablo Marí
17.) Cédric Soares
34.) Granit Xhaka
  8.) Dani Ceballos
11.) Martin Ødegaard
12.) Willian
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette

Crystal Palace team:
31.) Vincente Guaita
  2.) Joel Ward
  5.) James Tomkins
24.) Gary Cahill
27.) Tyrick Mitchell
  8.) Cheikhou Kouyaté
22.) James McCarthy (Riedewald 82’)
15.) Jeffery Schlupp
10.) Andros Townsend
11.) Wilfried Zaha
20.) Christian Benteke (Ayew 79’)

Crystal Palace subs:
  1.) Jack Butland
34.) Martin Kelly
17.) Nathaniel Clyne
  3.) Patrick van Aanholt
39.) Jesurun Rak-Sakyi
44.) Jaïro Riedewald
14.) Jean-Philippe Mateta
23.) Michy Batshuayi
  9.) Jordan Ayew

Categories
20/21 First Team General Match Reports Premier League

Chelsea 0-1 Arsenal: Premier League – 12/05/2021

Arsenal have in recent years seemed to reverse the trend of Chelsea being their bogey team. Gone are the days when Didier Drogba would taunt the Arsenal defence for fun or when José Mourinho would make it his personal mission to unsettle Arsène Wenger before a match.

Nowadays, it’s Chelsea who struggle with Arsenal. Arsenal do seem to grind a result out when they least deserve it, but they usually have something on the line to scrap for.

Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side happen to be in utterly blistering form of late, having reached both an FA Cup final and a UEFA Champions League final in a short space of time since Tuchel’s arrival in the wake of Frank Lampard’s subsequent (but utterly telegraphed) sacking.

Arsenal’s set up saw them revert to the back three formation that won them an FA Cup last season. It seemed as though Mikel Arteta was more interested in frustrating Chelsea than relying on his team’s doubtless attacking qualities.

Arsenal celebrate the game’s only goal.

And that seemed to be the tactic for a long while. Chelsea were all over Arsenal for the majority of the game, with Arsenal’s only real attacking promise coming down Kieran Tierney’s left-hand side.

Despite this, Chelsea were undone by an utterly gifted goal. While Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has copped a lot of flak in his time with the club, he wasn’t to blame as Chelsea midfielder Jorginho rolled a pass back to the goalkeeper that was scrambled off the goal line, fell to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who promptly squared it for Emile Smith Rowe who gave an Arsenal a surprising and utterly undeserved lead.

It was a comedy of errors and the kind of goal that Arsenal usually give away not this season’s Champions League finalists.

From there, it was one-way traffic. Arsenal struggled to even get out of their own half, such was Chelsea’s dominance. Though Chelsea did have the ball in the back of the net through Christian Pulisic, it was rightly ruled out by VAR for an offside, with the American himself seemingly aware even as he was reluctantly celebrating.

Emile Smith Rowe was one of the team’s standout performers on the night.

Chelsea came close a few more times with a lopping header from Kurt Zouma being tipped onto the crossbar from Bernd Leno and former-Gunner Olivier Giroud smashing the subsequent rebound against the post.

The final whistle was perhaps the most welcome sound in the world for Arsenal fans as the team staggered to a very undeserved three points to keep their Europa League tilt alive.

It was a very poor performance from Arsenal. Though a clean sheet is always a welcome bonus to a win, it has to be said that the team really did not play well at all. Exceptions can be made for Thomas Partey, Rob Holding, Bernd Leno and Emile Smith Rowe, however, the rest looked either tired or poor.

A win was very much against the odds and the fire shown by Mikel Arteta in his post-match interview with Sky Sports seemed to serve up something his team would have been good to show in the match.

It was however, a very uncharacteristically solid performance from the Arsenal defence. Rob Holding was solid, while Pablo Marí and Gabriel Magalhães struggled early on, they soon grew into the game. It’s clear that the defensive improvements this season are palpable from Unai Emery’s tumultuous teure at the club, however, it may not be enough to rely on defence over attack alone moving forward.

Arsenal will need to be better as they face Crystal Palace on Wednesday night.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
16.) Rob Holding
22.) Pablo Marí
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
  7.) Bukayo Saka (Bellerín 66’ (Chambers 88’))
25.) Mohamed Elneny
18.) Thomas Partey
  3.) Kieran Tierney
11.) Martin Ødegaard
32.) Emile Smith Rowe
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Lacazette 79’)

Arsenal subs:
33.) Maty Ryan
21.) Calum Chambers
  2.) Héctor Bellerín
17.) Cédric Soares
  8.) Dani Ceballos
12.) Willian
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette

Chelsea team:
  1.) Kepa Arrizabalaga
28.) César Azpilicueta (c) (Ziyech 78’)
  6.) Thiago Silva
15.) Kurt Zouma
24.) Reece James
23.) Billy Gilmour (Hudson-Odoi 45’)
  5.) Jorginho
21.) Ben Chilwell
19.) Mason Mount
10.) Christian Pulisic
29.) Kai Havertz (Giroud 65’)

Chelsea subs:
16.) Edouard Mendy
57.) Tino Livramento
  3.) Marcos Alonso
33.) Emerson Palmieri
55.) Tino Anjorin
22.) Hakim Ziyech
20.) Callum Hudson-Odoi
11.) Timo Werner
18.) Olivier Giroud

Categories
20/21 First Team General Match Reports Premier League

Arsenal 3-1 West Bromwich Albion: Premier League – 09/05/2021

With their European fate all but sealed, Arsenal entered Sunday’s match with Wes Brom with an air of failure ripe in the air.

Crashed out of the FA Cup fairly early on, a humiliating exit to Manchester City in the League Cup and a humbling defeat from former-manager Unai Emery, it’s no real surprise that Arsenal fans want this season over and done with.

This would seem to be the ideal time for Mikel Arteta to start shaking things up a little bit, try some youngsters out and stop giving game time to those on loan. However, while the absence of Folarian Balogun and Miguel Azeez were offset against the continued selection of both Dani Ceballos and Willian, there were still some bright choices in the selection. Bukayo Saka was returned to left-back, Emile Smith Rowe was given an unencumbered look at a central creative role and Gabriel Martinelli was started as the lone-forward.

Emile Smith Rowe celebrates his first-ever Premier League goal.

Arsenal started off fairly slowly. West Brom had the majority of possession and continued to create chances as they continued their fight for Premier League survival.

It therefore came as a hammer blow to the Baggies as Arsenal took the lead throigh a stunning goal from Emile Smith Rowe. A brilliant ball down the line from Willian was met by Bukayo Saka, who’s quick cross into the box was volleyed home in superb fashion by Smith Rowe for his first-ever Premier League goal.

West Brom seemed to accept their fate from there as Nicolas Pépé sprung forth barely six minutes later, cut onto his left-foot in Arjen Robben-like fashion and curled an unstoppable effort into the far corner to double the home-side’s advantage.

Half-time seemed to give West Brom new life however, with Sam Allardyce clearly reminding the players that relegation met anything other than a win that night. A brilliant and mazy run from Matheus Pereira gave West Brom a lifeline and led to some nervy moments from Arsenal, with former-Gunner Kyle Bartley reportedly shouting to his teammates “Come on boys, one goal and they’ll shit themselves!”

Nicolas Pépé and Willian, Arsenal’s two other goalscorers.

Thankfully, Arsenal did no such thing and despite some nervy moments, Arsenal kept control of the game well. West Brom’s fate was sealed when Willian stepped up to curl home his first-ever Arsenal goal from a free-kick in his 37th apperance for the club(!).

It was a decent win for Arsenal all things considered and was probably a good sign for Arsenal’s continued (albeit unlikely) push for a Europa League place next season.

The questions were still there though, why was this performance not replicated a few days ago against Villarreal? Why was it that Dani Ceballos was only able to provide this kind of performance against relegation fodder and why has it taken Willian so long to score a goal?

Questions that will likely never have a definitive answer to them any time soon and questions that most likely stay long dormant into next season as a summer of upheaval beckons.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
21.) Calum Chambers
16.) Rob Holding
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
  7.) Bukayo Saka
25.) Mohamed Elneny
  8.) Dani Ceballos (Partey 76’)
12.) Willian
32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Tierney 63’)
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli (Lacazette 60’)

Arsenal subs:
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
  2.) Héctor Bellerín
17.) Cédric Soares
  3.) Kieran Tierney
18.) Thomas Partey
11.) Martin Ødegaard
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
30.) Eddie Nketiah
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette

West Bromwich Albion team:
  1.) Sam Johnstone
  2.) Darnell Furlong
  6.) Semi Ajayi
  5.) Kyle Bartley
14.) Conor Townsend
  7.) Callum Robinson (Diangana 68’)
35.) Okay Yokuşlu
10.) Matt Phillips
12.) Matheus Pereira
18.) Conor Gallagher
17.) Mbaye Diagne (Robson-Kanu 56’)

West Bromwich Albion subs:
25.) David Button
45.) Taylor Gardner-Hickman
22.) Lee Peltier
49.) Caleb Taylor
27.) Dara O’Shea
  8.) Jake Livermore
11.) Grady Diangana
29.) Karlan Grant
  4.) Hal Robson-Kanu

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20/21 Europa League First Team General Match Reports

Arsenal 0-0 Villarreal (1-2 agg): Europa League – 06/05/2021

The last chance Arsenal had of achieving European football next season has evaporated after the team slumped to a 0-0 home draw to Unai Emery’s Villarreal.

It was a disappointing tie for Arsenal, who seemed to treat the first-half of football as an exercise in fear. Too scared to get forward and work the shaky Gerónimo Rulli, Arsenal seemed to be offering a sense of what playing the new Resident Evil Village will be like, rather than what a game of football should be like.

In fairness, Arsenal came close on a few occasions, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hitting the post twice and Emile Smith Rowe’s cute little chip just glancing past the post in the second-half.

Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah commiserate Arsenal’s appalling performance.

Other than that, Arsenal were utterly bereft of ideas. At a time when the team needed their best players to show up, they seemed to recoil. Héctor Bellerín was once again average at best and terrible at worst, Thomas Partey seemed to be on a different planet, Martin Ødegaard seemed totally uninterested and Alexandre Lacazette was completley isolated.

The game management of Mikel Arteta once again seemed to expose the manager’s total lack of game management experience. Bellerín was hooked off with four minutes to go rather than forty-five, Gabriel Martinelli wasn’t started from the get-go and was then brought on too late to have a meaningful impact and the hapless and totally useless Willian was thrown on for reasons probably best kept to himself.

It was a total masterclass in cluelessness. Mikel Arteta and co. have spoken at length about Arsenal needing to be daring in the transfer market this summer, but it begs the question of who would even want to join this mess of an Arsenal side?

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came close twice.

The team looks highly unlikely to qualify even for the qualifying rounds of the Europa League, they are likely to be hit with a pretty huge fine from UEFA for their part in the proposed European Super League, which will likely have a further impact on signings and available funds and it also begs the question of who on earth would want to buy these players?

Unless there are some serious changes in the team’s tactics moving forward, Arsenal look dead in the water and their match against Villarreal was just a microcosm of that.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
  2.) Héctor Bellerín (Nketiah 91’)
16.) Rob Holding
22.) Pablo Marí
  3.) Kieran Tierney (Willian 80’)
18.) Thomas Partey
32.) Emile Smith Rowe
  7.) Bukayo Saka
11.) Martin Ødegaard (Martinelli 66’)
19.) Nicolas Pépé
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Lacazette 80’)

Arsenal subs:
33.) Maty Ryan
53.) Arthur Okonkwo
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
21.) Calum Chambers
17.) Cédric Soares
25.) Mohamed Elneny
12.) Willian
24.) Reiss Nelson
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette
30.) Eddie Nketiah

Villarreal team:
13.) Gerónimo Rulli
2.) Mario Gaspar
  3.) Raúl Albiol (c)
  4.) Pau Torres
24.) Alfonso Pedraza (Moreno 91’)
11.) Samuel Chukwueze (Pino ’30 (Moi Gómez 91′))
19.) Francis Coquelin
  5.) Dani Parejo
14.) Manuel Trigueros
  7.) Gerard Moreno
17.) Paco Alcácer (Bacca 72′)

Villarreal subs:
  1.) Sergio Asenjo
21.) Jaume Costa
  6.) Ramiro Funes Mori
20.) Rubén Peña
15.) Pervis Estupiñán
18.) Alberto Moreno
30.) Yeremi Pino
32.) Álex Baena
23.) Moi Gómez
34.) Fer Niño
  9.) Carlos Bacca
12.) Dani Raba

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20/21 First Team General Match Reports Premier League

Newcastle United 0-2 Arsenal: Premier League – 02/05/2021

Given the state of things at the moment, Arsenal’s season hangs in the balance. With all the talk of proposed takeovers, European Super Leagues, talented youngsters signing new contracts and a Europa League tie with a former manager that threatens Arsenal’s European chances next seasons, its understandable why the Premier League has been on the back burner this season.

Heading into Sunday’s game against Newcastle, it’s clear to see where Mikel Arteta’s priorities are at the moment. After naming a fairly understrengthed side against Fulham, it seems Mikel Arteta has once again placed all his eggs in the Europa League basket.

The team saw a number of key changes to the side, including Maty Ryan once again displacing Bernd Leno.

Arsenal started off well, creating chances and giving Newcastle plenty to be concerned about. Usually, in these instances, Arsenal start well and create plenty and then slump to an early and entirely preventable goal, but this was not the case this time around.

Mohamed Elneny fires Arsenal into the lead.

Clever work from David Luiz to find Héctor Bellerín meant that the Spaniard could easily pick out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the middle of the park, only for the Gabon captain to inexplicably miss the chance. It made no difference though as Mohamed Elneny was on hand to smash the ball home from outside the box to mark his first-ever Premier League goal.

It was a well-worked goal that would have likely been even better had the initial chance converted. Arsenal continued to create but never really tested Martin Dúbravka very much, but for a speculative effort from Granit Xhaka, which nevertheless forced the Slovakian goalkeeper into action.

The second-half saw more of the same. Newcastle seemed utterly uninterested and Arsenal never really needed to push out of second gear.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s acrobatic effort rounds off the afternoon nicely for Arsenal.

It wasn’t before long that Arsenal added their inevitable second. Good work on the left-hand side from Gabriel Martinelli allowed him to fizz a tantalising ball across the box and this time Aubameyang made no mistake with an acrobatic effort making its way into the back of the net to double Arsenal’s tally and round-off the scoring.

The rest of the game passed without incident, until the dying embers of the match, when Newcastle defender and former teammate of Mohamed Elneny, Fabian Schär needlessly threw himself into a tackle from behind on Gabriel Martinelli, ensuring that Mike Dean didn’t end a game without brandishing a red card.

It was a stupid, needless tackle and seemed to sum up the home side’s performance on the day.

Many have said that it was a stunning performance from Arsenal, but that feels like hyperbole. That’s not to say that Arsenal played badly, because they didn’t, but it did feel like Arsenal never really got out of second-gear and didn’t need to. Newcastle were so lethargic and so uninterested in the match that it was surprising that the even found their way onto the pitch.

In terms of performances, it was a good day for Mohamed Elneny. Though the midfielder is often maligned for his lack of ingenuity or his propensity to play the ball sideways or backwards, the Egyptian was virtually unplayable against Newcastle and his importance to the team was noticeable in the club’s recent Open Mic YouTube video.

It was yet another bravura performance from young Gabriel Martinelli as well. His assist for Aubameyang’s goal was simply stunning and a sign of just how talented Martinelli really is and it seems essential that the Brazilian simply must start against Villarreal on Thursday.

Thursday beckons now for what will be a season-defining game. Is Arsenal’s European fate sealed or are they about to bring off an unprecedented comeback against Europe’s perennial Europa League specialist who will be out for blood at his old stomping ground?

Arsenal team:
33.) Maty Ryan
  2.) Héctor Bellerín
23.) David Luiz (Chambers 53’)
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
34.) Granit Xhaka
25.) Mohamed Elneny
  8.) Dani Ceballos
12.) Willian
11.) Martin Ødegaard (Partey 85’)
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Pépé 78’)

Arsenal subs:
  1.) Bernd Leno
22.) Pablo Marí
21.) Calum Chambers
17.) Cédric Soares
18.) Thomas Partey
32.) Emile Smith Rowe
  7.) Bukayo Saka
19.) Nicolas Pépé
30.) Eddie Nketiah

Newcastle United team:
  1.) Martin Dúbravka
23.) Jacob Murphy
18.) Federico Fernández (Schär 72’ 🔴)
  2.) Ciaran Clark (Gayle 84’)
  3.) Paul Dummett
11.) Matt Ritchie
36.) Sean Longstaff
  8.) Jonjo Shelvey (c)
24.) Miguel Almirón (Joelinton 73’)
10.) Allan Saint-Maximin
13.) Callum Wilson

Newcastle United subs:
29.) Mark Gillespie
17.) Emil Krafth
  5.) Fabian Schär
15.) Jamal Lewis
57.) Elliot Anderson
16.) Jeff Hendrick
  4.) Matty Longstaff
  9.) Joelinton
12.) Dwight Gayle

Categories
20/21 Europa League First Team General Match Reports

Villarreal 2-1 Arsenal: Europa League – 29/04/2021

The Europa League seems to represent the last possible chance for Arsenal to qualify for the Champions League next season, and barring some miraculous upturn in form in the league, any European competition at all.

The chance to see former manager Unai Emery in the dugout will likely have piqued most people’s interest, but the sideshow was to take a back seat as Arsenal looked to push forward.

In reality, Arsenal couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start if they had tried. The same lackadaisical defending that so often permeated in Emery’s days at the club were once again exposed.

Granit Xhaka, deputising at left-back, had been relatively untested in the position, but Villarreal began to attack with real gusto. Xhaka pointed to teammate Dani Ceballos to pick up Manuel Trigueros, who found himself free in the box, only for Ceballos to totally ignore the instruction and stare in horror as Trigueros fired a stunning effort into the bottom corner.

A nightmare start that could be easily rectified if Arsenal just kept their heads. But then again, this is Arsenal we’re talking about, a team that doesn’t “keep their heads” and roughly 24 minutes later, poor defending from a corner led to Villarreal doubling their advantage. No one picking up the back-post and the same shambolic defending that had been shown up earlier was again exposed as former Real Madrid defender Raúl Albiol turned in an unencumbered effort.

Arsenal apeal Dani Ceballos’ second booking.

Nicolas Pépé was brought down for a penalty, but VAR turned the decision over after a handball in the build-up.

Half-time could not come soon enough, with Villarreal looking like they were going to score with every single attack.

The second-half saw a drastic improvement in performance from Arsenal, who began to create more chances and began to keep the ball more. Anyone who saw Arsenal under Emery, knew that his Villarreal side were due the same fate.

But before Arsenal could do much more, their situation went from bad to worse as Dani Ceballos, already on a yellow card, was given a second (somewhat harsh) booking and was dismissed from the field of play. Though former Tottenham and Watford midfielder Étienne Capoue met the same fate later in the game, it was of small comfort, especially when Ceballos should have been withdrawn much earlier.

Bukayo Saka burst into the penalty area and was tripped by goalscorer Manuel Trigueros, to hand Arsenal a lifeline. VAR checked the decision and was upheld, and Pépé, Arsenal’s only bright spot on the night calmly dispatched his penalty. Arsenal fans who were dreading a reverse of the Juan Román Riquelme situation from 2006 were spared that particular indignity.

Arsenal had a chance to draw level in the dying embers of the match as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shot was blocked by Gerónimo Rulli, though the Gabonese hitman had slipped as he shot, which likely didn’t help matters.

The final whistle would have been welcome for both managers, who will leave the Estadio de la Cerámica feeling their team should have done more.

The performance of Dani Ceballos once again sent Arsenal fans into a frenzy as the Spaniard once again cost Arsenal a European tie. His poor marking, terrible zonal play, inability to make basic passes and his subsequent yellow card pretty much made the minds of Mikel Arteta and Edu up that the Spaniard will not be back at Arsenal next season.

Nicolas Pépé’s penalty has given Arsenal a lifeline they don’t deserve.

His performance was arguably one of the worst, but the decision to keep him on was yet another baffling one. Arteta has met criticism in recent weeks for leaving his substitutions far too late and his game management was again under scrutiny here. Though Arteta told CBS reporter James Benge that he was “planning to take Dani off“, it was still bafflinf that such a poor performance in the first-half hadn’t brought about his removal earlier still.

Emery, for all his faults, knew when to change things and when the tactics weren’t working and was not averse to making halftime subs (as was also shown on Thursday night).

The performance falls squarely on Arteta. It felt, once again, that the Spaniard was too smart for his own good. Poor selection in the draw at home to Fulham, had very much been his downfall and Thursday was no different.

Seeming to take heart from Pep Guardiola’s constant “revolving false-nine” tactic, Arteta decided to start the game without a recognised forward, meaning that Emile Smith Rowe started through the middle, and Nicolas Pépé, the obvious choice, was shunted out wide.

Yet another baffling tactic was why Arteta refused to pick Gabriel Martinelli. Martin Ødegaard having just come back from injury seemed like a poor suit to Arsenal’s gameplan, who needed a far more frenetic press. Though the Norwegian is no stranger to a high press when needed, having only just come back rom injury, he seemed to be a risk not worth taking.

Arsenal have been granted an impossible lifeline in the tie now, but they will need to perform much better than this if they are to stand a chance of reaching the final and given the blistering form of Manchester United on Thursday night and the likelihood of them reaching the final, Arsenal will not hold up if indeed they reach there.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
21.) Calum Chambers
16.) Rob Holding (c)
22.) Pablo Marí
34.) Granit Xhaka
18.) Thomas Party
  8.) Dani Ceballos 🔴
  7.) Bukayo Saka (Aubameyang 85’)
11.) Martin Ødegaard (Martinelli 63’)
19.) Nicolas Pépé (Willian 95’)
32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Elneny 95’)

Arsenal subs:
33.) Maty Ryan
53.) Arthut Okonkwo
23.) David Luiz
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
  2.) Héctor Bellerín
17.) Cédric Soares
25.) Mohamed Elneny
12.) Willian
24.) Reiss Nelson
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
30.) Eddie Nketiah

Villarreal team:
13.) Gerónimo Rulli
  8.) Juan Foyth (Pérez Martínez 70’)
  3.) Raúl Albiol (c)
  4.) Pau Torres
24.) Alfonso Pedraza (Moreno 80’)
11.) Samuel Chukwueze
25.) Étienne Capoue 🔴
  5.) Dani Parejo
14.) Manuel Trigueros (Gómez)
  7.) Gerard Moreno
17.) Paco Alcácer (Coquelin 45’)

Villarreal subs:
  1.) Sergio Asenjo
  2.) Mario Gaspar
21.) Jaume Costa
  6.) Ramiro Funes Mori
15.) Pervis Estupiñán
18.) Alberto Moreno
30.) Yeremi Pino
19.) Francis Coquelin
32.) Álex Baena
23.) Moi Gómez
34.) Fer Niño
  9.) Carlos Bacca