Tag Archives: Kieran Gibbs

Forget Laca. Forget Auba. When we need a goal, it's La Cabra!

Image result for monreal goal west hamLa Cabra has struck yet again, delivering a crucial equaliser that re-seized the momentum as we won us our first match of the season. His goal, coming minutes after Arnautovic opened the scoring for West Ham on a day when we looked just as likely to score as to concede. What’s remarkable, though, about Monreal’s fourth goal of 2018—third-best in the squad after Aubameyang (10) and Lacazette (6)—is that each and every goal that Monreal has scored for Arsenal has lifted us out of a draw or brought us back to level terms. That’s a stunning stat that shows how vital Monreal has been going forward.

Before we get to the stats, I have to take a moment to apologise to Mr. Monreal. It was after his signing that inspired me to take to bloviating in the first place. To see him establish himself so firmly in our XI (and, sadly, to see that Gibbs has been sold to West Brom, relegated to the Championship) means I know even less that I pretend to know. So it goes.

At any rate, here’s a quick rundown of those notable goals:

  1. 16 March 2013—scores to make 0-1 at Swansea. Arsenal win 0-2.
  2. 9 March 2015—scores to make it 0-1 at Old Trafford in FA Cup quarterfinal. Arsenal win 1-2.
  3. 23 April 2017—scores to make it 0-1 vs. Man City in FA Cup semifinal. Arsenal win 2-1.
  4. 1 October 2017—scores  to make it 0-1 vs. Brighton. Arsenal win 2-0.
  5. 22 October 2017—scores to make it 1-1 at Goodison Park. Arsenal win 2-5.
  6. 20 January 2018—scores to make it 1-0 against Crystal Palace. Arsenal win 4-1 (Monreal assited the second and third goals, but that’s another story for another day).
  7. 30 January 2018—scores to make it 0-1 at Swansea. Arsenal lose 3-1.
  8. 15 February 2018—scores to make it 1-0 vs. Östersunds FK in Europa League knockout. Arsenal win 3-0.
  9. 25 August 2018—down 0-1 to West Ham, Monreal scores the equaliser. Arsenal win 3-1.
Not too shabby, eh? If not for the one loss to Swansea (goal #7), we could really go out on a limb to say that when Monreal scores, Arsenal win; therefore, we should simply redeploy the man as our striker and keep feeding him cross after cross after cross until, inevitably, he scores. Still, his habit of scoring vital goals should be overlooked. Of those ten goals, seven established a lead and three brought us back to level terms, and a record of nine wins, no draws, and just one loss from those ten games is more than you can shake a stick at. There’s no secret to it; scoring first dramatically increases your chances of winning. Still, a fullback who can find a goal that often is a precious asset.
If we can sort out our defensive issues, which looks possible if Guendouzi can continue to impress and Torreira can stabilize the defensive midfield, this should afford both Monreal (and Bellerín) to get into those dangerous positions that much more often. The issue isn’t so much down the flanks anyway. Where we’re still getting exposed is through the middle—witness the goals scored by Arnautovic and Morata, both of which came through the heart of our defence, not to mention the numerous opportunities that Man City, Chelsea, and West Ham found down that same path—so let’s hope that Mustafi, Sokratis, Torreira, Xhaka, and Guendouzi can bed in.

After all, with a bit more steel and structure through the midfield, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, and Lichsteiner should find more opportunities to cross, to assist, to score, all without exposing us to counters (fingers crossed). 

Arsenal 2-0 West Brom: Vote for Player Ratings/MOTM!

In a match in which Arsenal seemed bound and determined to highlight their reputation as long on style and short on substance, and in which West Brom seemed just as determined to confirm the reputation of Pulis-managed sides for physicality, it was set-pieces and penalties that made all the difference. Lacazette pounced on a well-saved free-kick from Alexis to make it 1-0. He then slotted home from the spot after Ramsey was barreled out of bounds. West Brom felt hard done by on a few non-calls that could have changed the complexion of the game, but the run of play was firmly if not always under Arsenal’s control. After all the to-do about Gibbs’s return to the Emirates, there’s not much to say about his impact for good or for ill. Let’s get down to the poll to rate the lads!

Kieran gives the kiss of death to Arsenal's "British Core"…

There was a time, not so long ago, when Kieran Gibbs might have been the left-back of choice for England and for Arsenal. It wasn’t so far-fetched to think that he would eventually overtake Leighton Baines as the heir-apparent to none other than Ashley Cole for country if not club as well. Then, along came Nacho Monreal. Way back in January 2013, as the transfer-window was about to slam shut, Gibbs suffered an injury, and Monreal’s signing—potentially set to happen in the summer window to follow—was pushed through. The significance of this sequence of events is brought into high contrast as West Brom, the club that finally agreed to take Gibbs off of Arsenal’s hands, pays a visit to the Emirates on Monday.

Those were the days…

There were such high hopes for the vaunted “British Core” that Arsène had finally deemed worthy of his interests after years of seemngly going out of his way to find each and any Francophone available. It’s one thing to sign Thierry Henry or Robert Pirès or Marc Overmars. It’s quite another to sign Yaya Sanogo, Pascal Cygan, or Sebastien Squillaci. It had seemed for a time that Arsène was willing to set aside at least one stubbornly-held principle, if only for cynical reasons. He looked beyond that certain je ne sais quoi to make room for British lads to play for the Arsenal. Heck, he even let them start.

Well, it seems as if that flirtation is all but over. The sale of Gibbs to West Brom is certainly not the first signal, but it may be the most telling. As alluded to above, Gibbs looked likely to supplant Cole and Baines for England; in the process, he would have salved the wounds left by Cole’s departure to Chelsea—and Clichy’s to Man City along the way. In short, he would stand as a stalwart symbol against the oil-money that was threatening to obliterate Arsène’s vision for Arsenal’s future.

Alas, it was not to be. Gibbs would not be the first to fall, and he would not be the last. There have any number of loans that at first seemed, as loans should seem, temporary: Akpom. Jenkinson. Chambers. Wilshere. Each of them had featured for Arsenal to varying degrees; some of them had even delivered memorable performances. In short, it was starting to look like Arsenal, the most-foreign of the First Division and the Prem’s clubs, was at long-last starting to resemble the country in which it played.

If only.

Many of these British players now look as if they’ll never again get a whiff of first-team action. Likeable lads such as Jenkinson, Akpom, and Chambers might still have futures as squad-players, ready for cameo appearances in low-risk fixtures like the League Cup, early FA Cup, or the Champions League (ahem) Europa League group-stage, but it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see them in crucial fixtures as we seek to win the Prem or any other silverware.

Still, they’re little more than cannon-fodder. Brighter prospects have fallen on harder times. Oxlade-Chamberlain has been sold, with hearty cheers all around for hood-winking Liverpool. Theo Walcott looks fortunate to feature against non-League sides in League Cup and FA Cup ties. He might even score in Europa League play if he’s especially lucky.

Against this backdrop, the sale of Gibbs to West Brom, reportedly for a fee as low as £6.75, should signal to other players that no one’s future at the club is safe. Heck, even Jack Wilshere, heralded as the future of the club since his performance against Barcelona in 2011, has had his future doubted. There were open and persistent questions about whether his loan to AFC Bournemouth would become permanent.

He’s back, at least for now, but the idea of a British core under Arsène seems dead in the water. His first-choice XI features only one hold-over, and that one comes with an asterisk—Aaron Ramsey. He of course is Welsh, which doesn’t quite count as being British in the same sense that an American opining about football doesn’t quite count as being insightful.

[Cough].

Look at that. We’re about to face a club managed by Tony Pulis, and we’re only just now getting to him. Saints be praised, Gibbs has not yet adopted the Neanderthal “tactics” that Pulis preaches. He (Gibbs, that is) might still have a future after all.

As for Saturday’s clash, it goes without saying that we’ll do our level-best to see the Baggies relegated. We can’t quite count on Agent Kieran to play his part, so it’s up to Ramsey and the rest to see us through…

Ox? Gone. Gibbs? Gone. Mustafi, Pérez, Alexis? Rats…is it a sinking ship…

Oxlade-Chamberlain is off to Liverpool. Gibbs will slink away to West Brom, perhaps suggesting that hsi chances at silverware are better over at the Hawthorns than they are at the Emirates. Mustafi looks to be loaned out to Inter, having been exposed as inadequate in a 3-4-3 if not a 4-2-3-1. Pérez joins the want-aways amidst rumours of a loan to Deportivo, but leading the rat-pack has to be none other than Alexis Sánchez, with persistent rumours of a move to Man City. At some point, it starts to feel as if the ship is sinking, and if these and other rats are abandoning ship, it feels like Arsène is doing little more than dithering over the rearrangement of deck-chairs on the Titanic.

In seasons past, we’ve suffered through the sales of players under the ostensible excuse of having to finance the stadium-debt. The sales of  Clichy, Nasri, Fàbregas, and van Persie, among others, were defended as necessary in order to pay for the Emirates. In more-recent years, we were led to believe that our days as a selling club were over, that the debt was paid down, and that we would start to see aggressive moves in the transfer-market. To a degree, we did. Özil came in at £42m, followed the next summer by Alexis at £38. The summer after that, Xhaka came in at £40.5m, and Mustafi followed at £36.9m. Each of these transfer-fees more than doubled the club’s previous record—£17m for Santi Cazorla.

One might think that splurging to that degree might have bolstered Arsenal’s competitiveness. After all, under Arsène, the club has become the butt of various jokes on stinginess. For as noble and as principled as Arsène is to insist that a club be self-sustaining, that stance more than ever before comes across as foolish, short-sighted, and stubborn. Yes, it is ridiculous to pay a £45m transfer-fee for Kyle Walker, to cite just one example, but that is the water in which we swim.

Arsène, more than ever, is refusing to swim and risks drowning in that water, which has deepened with each passing week. It’s more than a bit shocking that a club like Arsenal can’t find the money to sign Lemar, Draxler, or any other player, despite having started the season in a disastrous fashion. In previous seasons, we might have tolerated Arsène’s stinginess because it allowed him to make a signing or two as the result of some othe club making a massive signing—Real Madrid signs Bale and sells Özil; Barcelona signs Suarez and sells Alexis; Chelsea recall Courtois and sell Čech. Sloppy seconds, at best.

By all accounts, we’ve clawed and scraped our way out from under the stadium-debt. However, in this transfer-window more than in any other prior, we’ve seen an arms-race to eclipse any other. For as much as I’ve respected Arsène’s belief that a club should be self-sustaining—that it should finance player-acquisitions through its own revenues rather than the free-wheeling spending of an investor or owner—it’s abundantly and painfully clear that we’ve missed the boat that might have saved us. Tottenham sold Walker, Everton sold Lukaku, and Swansea sold Sigurdsson for exorbitant if not extortionate fees.

Meanwhile, we’re on the verge of selling off three or four players, each of them in his prime, at the very same discounted fees Arsène was once renowned for paying for stars in the making. I’d love to say that he’s jumped the shark, but this would imply that he’s got his head above the surface. That, sadly, is not the case. Instead of selling players to finance the stadium, it appears that we may now be selling players because the manager prefers to balance the books, not defeat opponents.

Unless something dramatic changes in the next few days, we face the prospect of (a) selling off unhappy, want-away players, or (b) holding them to their contracts and suffering as they sulk. In either case, it’s unclear whether we’re close to signing anyone to strengthen the squad. Given that we’ve played roughly 20 minutes of actual football across three matches, losing two of them, it’s hard to believe that we have any leverage over any clubs from whom we might hope to prise away players. “Er, um, yes, you see that we have struggled to, erm, succeed, but footballistically speaking, we are quite successful if you do not look at results or style of play. Please may we purchase ________ for a fraction of what you value him? No? Ahem.”

In any other circumstance, I might say, “well, at least we can look forward to beating Bournemouth”. At the rate things are going, both over there as well as here, I’m not so sure. We’re in a right mess. I’ve gone from regretfully wishing Arsène would retire to aggressively insisting that he be pushed out. There. I’ve said it.

A point earned or two dropped? Ask Manchester City.

Well, that was frustrating to watch. Coming into Sunday’s derby, we knew that Manchester City had been held at Villa Park and that we had a golden chance at pulling ahead of them, if only for a few weeks. Instead, we sleep-walked through most of the first half while Tottenham pressed up the pitch, coming alive perhaps only as a result of Tottenham’s tired legs in the second half. If those Spuds find the fitness they’d need to keep pressing, or if Pochettino figures out how to defend a lead, they’re going to start inching up the table. For now, though, let’s review how we ended up dropping two points at home to a hated rival…

One moment of madness is all it took.

It won’t show up as an error that led to a goal, but Koscielny’s attempt at playing Kane offside backfired, and this allowed Kane to go through on goal unchallenged. Kane was comfortably onside for Rose’s pass and was untroubled as he ran into the box to slot past Čech, who narrowly missed making the save by diving right as Kane’s shot went to his left. Tottenham would have other great chances, but this was one that resulted more from our own mistakes than their own industry. It was reminiscent of that harrowing 2-1 loss in 2013 when Bale and Lennon got in behind our defense to score. If Koscielny’s timing had been better, if Čech had held his position rather than diving, if…
Alexis and Giroud just don’t work well together…
Is it a coincidence that Alexis has hit a dry patch at approximately the same time that Giroud has resumed his role as centre-forward? His goal against Watford closed a six-match span in which he scored seven goals in four matches; since then, however, he’s not scored at all in five matches—all of them alongside Giroud. Yes, Giroud has scored four goals in his last six appearances and is now apparently scoring more goals per minute than any other striker in the Prem, but at what cost? Hefar less clinical than Alexis, and his hold-up play seems to, well, hold Alexis up. Giroud has never assisted Alexis. Contrast that against the combination-play we’d seen from Alexis and Walcott, who’ve each assisted the other twice despite having never played so close together before this season. Alexis and Giroud have had plenty of time to develop better chemistry but just can’t seem to make it work.
…and neither did Campbell and Debuchy.
Of course, neither of them has had much time on the pitch together, and so there is bound to be poor chemistry, but that doesn’t explain just how poorly they seem to combine. There were times when it even seemed as if Campbell resented or even refused to pass to Debuchy despite his availability, as if giving Debuchy the ball might undermine his defensive contributions and force Campbell to track back even more. Most of Tottenham’s attack was going to come down our right flank, and this did give Debuchy a chance to make nine tackles (most in either side). Whether this reflects his tenacity or Tottenham’s tactics is an open question. Each player on his own was decent, but this is again a case when the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
Tottenham could get into the top four.
Not just on this result, but on the basis of wider-ranging improvements Pochettino has instituted. I commented before the match on their new-found defensive organization, but I failed to address their high-energy pressing. It was only as their energy waned in the second half that we started to get the upper hand. If Pochettino can make adjustments to keep legs fresh, that style could deliver even more-impressive results—such as the one their mauling of Man City a few weeks ago. They’ve lost just one Prem match (at Old Trafford to start the season), Kane may have found his scoring boots after a sluggish start, and the squad as a whole looks much more c onfident than it has in recent memory.
At least we didn’t drop points to relegation fodder…
Man City went into Villa Park to face a squad that seems determined to achieve relegation by Boxing Day but struggled to come away with a point, which is certainly two points dropped against a squad no one has any business dropping points against. Whereas we can gnash our teeth at dropping the same number of points at home against Tottenham, the opportunity cost is much lower to us than to City. Yes, they were without Silva or Agüero, among others, but we’re without Wilshere and Welbeck and Walcott and Ramsey and Bellerín. One ingredient in the Prem-winning recipe is to keep all of the points in matches against clubs in the bottom half. City dropped the ball there; we simply dropped a few points.
I know that it stings to drop those points to a crosstown rival, but, strategically, it’s not that big a deal. If anything, Tottenham have to come away the disappointed side. They had a plan, the plan was working, and we were playing poorly. Despite all of that, they could still manage just a draw on a day when they had outplayed us thoroughly. Emerging with a win would have given them more than three points. It would have given them confidence to carry them into future fixtures, whomever they’d face. 
We’ll go into the the international break a bit frustrated, to be sure, but we’ll come back with reinforcements and goet into a string of fixtures that is much softer than the one we’ve just come through.