20/21 European Super League First Team General Uncategorized

Arsenal Withdraw From The European Super League

Arsenal have formally announced that they are withdrawing from the European Super League.

In a dramatic 48 hours in the world of football, the intervention of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the reported sanctions from both FIFA and UEFA have meant that the project has been “suspended”.

Arsenal’s statement was released around 22:55pm, just as the Super League began to crumble around them.

As a result of listening to you and the wider football community over recent days we are withdrawing from the proposed Super League. We made a mistake, and we apologise for it.

Arsenal’s apology.

While no Arsenal fan is likely to believe the talk of wanting to preserve the future of the club, it is a small comfort to know that Arsenal were the only team to apologise for their actions.

As with the rest of the top six in the Premier League, Arsenal are left with egg on their face as they shamelessly return to the Premier League.

A planned protest against owner Stan Kroenke is planned for Friday night’s match against Everton and will likely continue when Arsenal return for games against Villarreall and West Brom.

As usual, the Arsenal owner was once again, unavailable for comment. The American businessman was thought to be at the very forefront of the idea and his reticence to speak out in favour or in terms of an apology has not gone unnoticed.

UK Prime Ninister Boris Johnson, is said to have been crucial in the downfall of the European Super League.

Then again, this is somewhat atypical of Kroenke’s management of Arsenal since he became the owner. Kroenke has rarely made any public statements on Arsenal and he has been even more silent now, even the tried and trusted method of wheeling out Josh Kroenke for a little bit of positive PR seems unlikely to undo the damage now.

Héctor Bellerín was the first Arsenal player to speak out against the league, by sharing a quote from former-Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who, in his farewell speech, asked Arsenal its fans to protect the values the club cherishes.

Despite the players slowly beginning to make their feelings known, the damage seems irredeemable for Kroenke now. While the American has never been particularly popular with Arsenal fans before now, his role in the signing of Atlético Madrid’s Thomas Partey as well as the hands-on approach of Josh Kroenke and the appointment of Tim Lewis to the board of directors, Kroenke seemed to be slowly but surely turning the tide against fan antipathy and was starting to look relatively good in the eyes of Arsenal fans.

Stan Kroenke has very much become the villain of the piece more than ever.

What little goodwill these decisions may have built up for Kroenke, seem totally dashed.

Kroenke has never been interested in selling Arsenal before now, despite the hatred from fans, but now it seems his position is untenable.

Whatever fan’s previous feelings over Kroenke and his ownership were before are nothing compared to now. Kroenke’s decision and his involvement with such a project is so diametrically opposed to the values that Arsenal holds dear and the hatred from all corners of the fanbase are so high and so unlikely to dissipate in his lifetime that selling may be the best option now.

Stan Kroenke is said to have invested his own money for Arsenal to sign Thomas Partey.

The proposed European Super League was perhaps always doomed, but the message from football fans everywhere was sent loud and clear, football is for the players and for the fans and that football without sporting merit and football that seeks to exclude and outprice has no place in the modern game.

Elsewhere, questions are to be asked of the executive team. What will happen now to Edu or Vinai Venkatesham? Edu’s position seems relatively secure, since he likely had minimal influence over the decision and little to no sway in how the club moved forward, however, Venkatesham’s position may not be so secure.

Given that Venkatesham stepped away from the European Club Assosciation (ECA) as part of the proposed Super League, it seems unlikely that Venkatesham will be able to continue in his role without some serious public grovelling.

How long has Vinai Venkatesham got left at the club now?

A fan forum debate is still expected to go ahead later this week, but Venkatesham’s position is looking as untenable as Kroenke’s and with the news that Manchester United’s Ed Woodward has resigned from his post, pressure on Venkatesham may be increased.

Arsenal fans will also be happy to see that the stakes are returning to their match against Villarreal now. Of course, Unai Emery will want blood and will want to prove his doubters wrong in a grudge match against his former club, but the lure of a European final, with the potential to qualify for next season’s Champions League is back on.

20/21 Europa League First Team Match Reports Uncategorized

Slavia Prague 0-4 Arsenal: Europa League – 15/04/2021

Given the nightmare of their first-leg performance against Slavia Prague, Arsenal entered their second-leg tie with a feeling of foreboding. Thursday night was a must-win game and anything other than a win (or a high-scoring draw) would result in elimination.

This was a particularly daunting task as Slavia Prague had not lost at home since 2019 and have been one of the toughest nuts to crack for most of the teams they’ve played.

This, however, did not seem to unsettle Arsenal as much as one would have thought it would. Arsenal’s mentality in recent months has been under harsh criticism as the team has slumped to defeat to draw to another loss without a second’s thought.

Thursday night, therefore, provided something of a rest-bite from the usual mentality, as Arsenal came flying out of the gate.

Fresh off the back of their 0-3 demolition of Sheffield United, Arsenal attacked with the same gusto that had served them so well on Sunday. Emile Smith Rowe actually had the ball in the back of the net before a lengthy VAR check deemed the goal to be offside.

This did not deter Arsenal though. The team seemed to take the decision as a great personal insult and began to attack Slavia with everything they had.

It didn’t take long for Arsenal to get the game where they wanted it. A mazy run through the defence from Emile Smith Rowe allowed him to play in Nicolas Pépé, who dinked a cute finish over the goalkeeper to grab his second goal of the tie and give Arsenal a deserved lead.

Nicolas Pépé gives Arsenal a deserved lead.

But Arsenal weren’t resting on their laurels, as Smith Rowe picked out Saka in the penalty area, only for the England youngster to be brought down in the box by Jakub Hromada for a penalty, which was promptly dispatched by captain Alexandre Lacazette.

Arsenal looked dangerous with every single attack and whatever hopes Slavia Prague had of saving the tie were quickly extinguished as Arsenal added a third right before half-time, with an excellent run from Saka, who shifted the ball onto his favoured left-foot and smashed it in the bottom corner to put the game beyond doubt.

Much like against Sheffield United, Arsenal hadn’t really wanted half-time to come! The second-half was a bit of a staler affair for both sides. Slavia failed to really put a dent on Arsenal and Arsenal were happy to sit back and enjoy their 0-3 advantage.

However, it didn’t mean that Arsenal wouldn’t attempt to attack where possible, soon enough, Granit Xhaka’s excellent through-ball found Nicolas Pépé, who squared the ball to Lacazette, who had all the time in the world to shift the ball past two defenders and smash the ball into the net with his weaker foot to well and truly kill the game off.

The final-whistle was certainly a welcome affair for Slavia, but for Arsenal, it signified a job well done.

It was a fantastic team performance, but there were a number of individual standouts, not least from Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, the latter of which was unlucky not to find himself with a goal to his name.

The two Hale End graduates were at the heart of everything that was great about Arsenal and their attack. Slavia simply couldn’t handle the blistering pace of the counter attack or their quick feet! Smith Rowe and Saka seem to have developed something of a shorthand in their play, as was also evidenced when Arsenal beat West Brom 0-4. The duo were simply unstoppable and Saka seems to be asking questions of England manager Gareth Southgate as to whether or not he will be on the plane for the EUROs in the summer.

Arsenal celebrate.

It was another brilliant performance from Pablo Marí as well. While Granit Xhaka’s composed performance at left-back, Calum Chambers’ strong performance on the right flank and Rob Holding’s aggressive tackles will likely recieve the plaudits, Marí’s performance was one that will fly under the radar.

Holding seems to thrive on a good-cop-bad-cop dynamic, something that worked excellently when he snuffed out Diego Costa in the 2017 FA Cup final and he seemed to thrive off it with Marí too. Marí was cool, calm and composed and played out from the back with total ease and was happy to clear up his teammate’s messes (not that there were too many of those).

And last, but by no means least, Alexandre Lacazette. It ever there was a captain’s performance from an Arsenal player, it was this one. It was the sort of performance that typified all that is great and all there is to love about Lacazette. The Frenchman was at the heart of the attacking moves Arsenal strung together. He was strong in the tackle and his dogged determinedness to win the ball at all costs was essential to the victory and a nice fix for him after a disastrous first-leg performance. Lacazette’s stance of taking the knee in the face of racism, staring down the opposition without a flicker of fear in his eyes is worth more than a 100 goals.

Next up for Arsenal is Fulham, then Everton and then it’s a trip to the Estadio de la Cerámica, for a match-up against former manager Unai Emery, who will almost certainly be out to prove a point as he looks to win yet another Europa League.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
21.) Calum Chambers
16.) Rob Holding
22.) Pablo Marí
34.) Granit Xhaka
18.) Thomas Partey (Cédric Soares 79’)
  8.) Dani Ceballos
  7.) Bukayo Saka (Martinelli 79’)
32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Smith Rowe 67’)
19.) Nicolas Pépé (Balogun 88’)
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette (c) (Nketiah 79’)

Arsenal subs:
33.) Maty Ryan
45.) James Hillson
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
  2.) Héctor Bellerín
17.) Cédric Soares
25.) Mohamed Elneny
66.) Miguel Azeez
12.) Willian
24.) Reiss Nelson
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
30.) Eddie Nketiah
38.) Folarian Balogun

Slavia Prague team:
  1.) Ondřej Kolář
  5.) Alexander Bah (Višinský 45′)
  3.) Tomáš Holeš
  6.) David Zima
18.) Jan Bořil (c) (Dorley 45′)
  7.) Nicolae Stanciu (Lingr 45′)
25.) Jakub Hromada (Masopust 45′)
17.) Lukáš Provod
23.) Petr Ševčík
16.) Jan Kutcha (Tecl 71′)
  9.) Peter Olayinka

Slavia Prague subs:
13.) Jan Stejskal
31.) Přemsyl Kovář
32.) Ondrej Lingr
27.) Ibrahim Traoré
19.) Oscar Dorley
41.) Denis Višinský
28.) Lukáš Masopust
12.) Abdallah Sima
11.) Stanislav Tecl

20/21 First Team General Match Reports Premier League Uncategorized

Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle United: Premier League – 18/01/2021

As the January window rears its ugly head once more, Arsenal are faced with the prospect of being linked with every player under the sun (usually Julian Draxler as well for good measure). But while the January window is still a big area of consideration for Arsenal, the results on the field need attention and ahead of their second match against Newcastle in seven days, any potential signings would need to be pushed to the back of the mind. 

Following Thomas Partey’s return from injury, Arsenal were able to stop the usual midfield merry-go-round of who will be partnering Granit Xhaka and start working on a potentially deadly midfield pivot. 

The first half was a solid affair from Arsenal. Defensively, Arsenal looked unlikely to concede and in midfield, Newcastle were barely bale to get a foothold, it was upfront where the issues laid. 

Though Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe continued to create chances, Arsenal were unable to finish them effectively, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang coming the closest with a chance that glanced off the crossbar from an acute angle. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fires Arsenal into the lead.

It seemed as though Arsenal knew they would have chances, but making those chances count was the hard part, especially when Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have been yo-yoing in and out of form for the most part this season.

The second-half saw the final pieces of the jigsaw click as Arsenal began to click into gear. Thomas Partey’s excellent ball forward allowed Aubameyang an untroubled run at the one-man Newcastle defence and though he was shown onto his far weaker left-foot, that didn’t stop the Arsenal captain from rifling home the game’s opening goal. 

Ten minutes later, Arsenal doubled their lead. Superb work down the left-hand side from Emile Smith Rowe saw the young midfielder break into the penalty area and then lay the ball on a platter for the in-form Bukayo Saka, who slotted home from close-range. A goal made in Hale End. 

For their third goal, Arsenal switched their attacking preference over to the right instead, with Cédric Soares’ fairly heavy touch being compensated for by his wonderful cut-back for Aubameyang who rounded off the evening with the Gunners’ third. 

Though Arsenal were certainly rampant in the second-half and were playing more of the kind of football that fans have wanted to see for a while now, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Newcastle were not at their very best. 

There were plenty of positives to take from the match, namely the return of Thomas Partey. 

Thomas Partey’s performance was outstanding.

Since his switch from Atlético Madrid, the Ghanian has found it difficult to cement a place in the Arsenal midfield, owing mainly to his injury issues, but Monday night’s match served as a reminder as to why Arsenal were so keen to sign him and why his £45m switch is so important for the Arsenal midfield.

Partey has long been keen to work alongside Granit Xhaka in midfield and Monday night’s match seemed to show why the pivot has the potential to work so well. Partey was everywhere, cleaning up messes all around him and his progressive passing was exactly what Arsenal have been missing in the past few weeks and is a huge part of Arsenal’s first goal. 

The continued rise of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka is another encouraging sign for the club as well. Smith Rowe was at the heart of everything good about Arsenal’s performance, frequently finding himself jinking in and out of tackles and creating space for the attackers to run into. Saka, on the other hand, seemed to be everywhere, his quick feet and penchant for spotting runs made their link-up a joy to watch.

Though it is unlikely that Arsenal could rely on Smith Rowe for the remainder of the season as their sole attacking presence (especially given his injury record), there are positive signs that Smith Rowe could be the internal solution that Arsenal have been looking for.

Elsewhere, Cédric Soares’ performance gained praise as well. The Portuguese right-back was a constant threat on the flank and was near impossible to get past as well. Though it is true that Newcastle didn’t really offer much in the way of an attacking threat to Arsenal in many ways, Cédric’s defensive performance was very promising to see.

The attention will now turn to Arsenal’s FA Cup match against Southampton on Saturday as Arsenal look to continue their defence of the competition. 

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
17.) Cédric Soares
16.) Rob Holding
23.) David Luiz
  3.) Kieran Tierney
18.) Thomas Partey (Elneny 67’)
34.) Granit Xhaka
  7.) Bukayo Saka
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c) (Willian 79’)
32.) Emile Smith Rowe (Martinelli 81’)
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette

Arsenal subs:
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
  6.) Gabriel Magalhães
  2.) Héctor Bellerín
25.) Mohamed Elneny
28.) Joe Willock
12.) Willian
19.) Nicolas Pépé
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
30.) Eddie Nketiah

Newcastle United team:
26.) Karl Darlow
17.) Emil Krafth
  6.) Jamaal Lascelles
  2.) Ciaran Clark
15.) Jamal Lewis
24.) Miguel Almirón (Anderson 87’)
  8.) Jonjo Shelvey
  4.) Matty Longstaff (Hendrick 78’)
  9.) Joelinton
  7.) Andy Carroll (Murphy 69’)
13.) Callum Wilson

Newcastle United subs:
  1.) Martin Dúbravka
19.) Javier Manquillo
22.) DeAndre Yedlin
14.) Isaac Hayden
16.) Jeff Hendrick
23.) Jacob Murphy
11.) Matt Ritchie
36.) Sean Longstaff
57.) Elliot Anderson