Arsenal 4- Liege 0: Youngsters romp to victory with verve and vigour [Positive Needs & Hopes]


‘TRANSFER NEWS…. Arsenal advised to sign Joy and Freedom’

…..on free transfers no less!

I’m not convinced that the noticeable increase in joy watching my Arsenal and the freedom that they played with against Liege was solely down to weaker opposition.

They’ve had three cracks at this similar line up and won 0-3, 5-0 and 4-0, but more than that they look like a totally different group to the Premier League 11.

The Premier League team looks set up to react. They look burdened with confidence issues.
This group is being set up to initiate and then keep pounding the opposition.

The back five are hard to judge because they’ve had little to do.
The midfield is an entirely different story though.

The midfield last night was balanced, almost perfectly.
A destroyer, a dicatator and an accelerator with added goal threat.
Did you notice how they rotated between the three positions? Kept the triangle shape but all appearing in different areas. Premier League Arsenal can’t do that. Huh?
My hunch is that Emery will stick with Xhaka until he gets 1 more yellow card (he’s on 4) and the three that play when he’s absent will have to prove that they are MUCH better. They may well do this.

The front line looks littered with options.
Martinelli is the hottest young striker in Europe alongside Haland at Salzburg.
Saka is flying. Nelson had his best game of the season.

Sometimes the best coaching I found is to step off. There’s a great argument that if all that Emery did in the next round of games is to tell the players to ‘go for it’ and play the players who are not wearing shackles then the Premier league team could start blitzing the opposition as well as cup opponents.

It’s up to Unai Emery.


POSITIVES: (This could be a long, but joyful list)

* Reiss Nelson is a natural footballer.
He took the shackles off tonight and stopped thinking. What a difference!

* Kieran Tierney….. sometimes you forget what a great talent is until you see it again

* Dani Ceballos looks like he flourishes in a team that wants to dictate. He seems to struggle in our PL transition team.
He dictated the game. Looked like a conductor. Maybe we should let one of the most talented young midfielders in Europe conduct?

* Martinelli is making it hard to leave him out of the team.
I’d actually start him AND Saka on Sunday. Much like Emery started Saka when he hit fire, I’m hoping Emery doesn’t dim Martinelli’s flame now that he has done the same.

* Sometimes the best way to analyze the value of a player is to erase the part of your memory that knows his age and past.
Forget that he’s just come from the Academy, forget his youth just judge with your eyes.
As I’ve said all season he has everything. He’s not great at everything but he can do everything.
If you forget his age and where he came from you’ll see a weapon that almost no other PL club has in a midfielder. An accelerator and a consistent goal threat. We are complaining that we are too reliant on Auba whilst Joe sits twiddling his thumbs.
Time to play him.

* Credit Mustafi for his improved passing (first goal…. great ball) and his general desire to not exit stage left when the going gets tough.
Maybe it’s because the pressure is off him?


* Talking of pressure have you noticed that Martinelli is better when the chance is more difficult?
Some players are like this because easier chances make them tense up.

* Ceballos’ over the shoulder passes break lines.

Guendouzi is far more defensively cautious in a 45/55 situation than others…. smart/mature.

Martinelli hides behind the DM and back tackles. Always a threat to steal and counter.

Tierney provided 7 perfect crosses.
You know how hard that is to do?
4 vs 7 in the box and he found one of the four on 7 occasions!

Did we have finishing practice this week?


* I remember (quite a while ago) watching Arsenal and coming away from the game not really knowing how good our opponent is.
I miss this.
Last night I felt this again. I’ve no idea how good Liege are or any of their players.
It’s seems to me that Arsenal fans are ok with beating Villa 3-2 at home IF we play to dominate, stream forward but play a true DM/double pivot to close the back door.
What they struggle with is playing Villa at home as if Villa are City.

* Much talk about Pepe this week.

I get the feeling that it’s driven by his price. If he was a £25M winger folks would be talking more in line with what a threat he was against Liverpool.
I don’t dive into new signings who are adapting to so much as I know I’m gonna look a fool later.

If I was coaching Pepe I’d take the pressure off on Sunday and play Martinelli.
I’d show him that his positioning is conservative. He always receives in front of defenders rather than behind making his life harder. If he wasn’t always confronted by two defenders he wouldn’t be so hesitant as he’d be free.



* Bellerin was rusty and gave the ball away a few times. Maybe best to play Chambers/AMN on Sunday and let Bellerin wear the rust off in more U-23 games or Carabao.

* Even though Dani Ceballos was fantastic, I get the impression he could do more. I don’t expect to see it yet but look forward to seeing more goals from outside the box and game changing moments.

* If Emery was trying to see what Martinelli on the left and Aubameyang in the middle looks like then I understand the substitution.
If this wasn’t his thoughts then it was a needless risk, as was playing Guendouzi.

* In years to come I think people will look back on this era of football and one of the things they will wonder is why teams played with such a high defensive line on attacking free kicks.
I’d say that 1 out of every 2 maybe 3 of them leads to a free header 6-12 yards from goal. Not worth the upside.

* I don’t want to put a downer on Martinelli‘s instant impact but I do wonder how patient he will be.
He looks like he’s going places and perhaps he’s ready for a run of games.
Someone in Europe will offer this to him if he only plays Cup games for Arsenal.
Personally, I think he should be satisfied but I get the feeling he wants more.


* Here is my take on the Mesut Ozil situation.

Much like my view on not judging Pepe and looking like a fool, I am
shy to claim I know and certainly am not going to be extreme when there is clearly something we don’t know.


What seems to be the case is that the club have moved on. It looks like they tried to move him on in the summer but he’s comfortable.
It looks like they are trying to make him uncomfortable.

Back in pre season I wanted Emery to not use senior players that the club were trying to move on. No point playing Mkhi (on the out) in 4 pre season games and upset Nelson (wanting to keep) who gets disillusioned and asks for a move.

This is how I feel about Ozil.

I wasn’t the slightest upset that he didn’t play.
In fact I would have been miffed as it would have robbed Nelson/Martinelli of a big day.
In previous seasons I wouldn’t have minded so much as we didn’t have a truckload of young players trying to catch the coaches attention.

I also think that when some fans get upset at Ozil not being involved they are visualizing the 2016 version.
Last season Ozil went from the top assist leader in Europe to barely registering any.
Maybe he has just lost interest in being his best self? It’s a shame but don’t pine for a player that isn’t there or is rarely there, I say.

I hope this doesn’t drag on in the media and unsettle the team. If they were to come out and just tell us that he will be here until January then they won’t have the constant chatter and guessing after every press conference.

Finally, none of these thoughts match up or can explain why he is one of our captains.
Perhaps we are all entirely wrong and Ozil is still mentally rattled by the knifing situation and he will return in time, and captain us to glory.




There are at least 32 PL games this season that Emery could play on the front foot.
He has top players, great new signings, the best group of young players coming through in Europe alongside Chelsea and most pertinently, the players to play the way he wants.

Arsenal should get third.

Emery will decide whether we do.

Follow the author ….
@mike_mmcdonald and @GunnersTown

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