Arsenal 2019-2020 - Because Thursday Games are the Best Way to Start the Weekend

SoxFanInCali

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California. Duh.
Noticed something unusual while looking at the table. Only the top 2 (Liverpool and City) have fewer losses than Arsenal, but only the bottom 2 (Watford and Norwich) have fewer wins.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Looks pretty likely Arsenal will sign Pablo Mari from the Brazilian club Flamengo. He's in London now for a medical.


He's Spanish, and was with Man City but never played for them as he was always out on loan. But supposedly he's done well in Brazil, including when Flamengo faced Liverpool in the Club World Cup.


Arteta should have a good idea of him, since they overlapped at City, and presumably Arteta followed his loan progress.

He's 6'3", left-footed, and 26 years old. Rumored to cost about 7 million pounds.

Most importantly, he is not Mustafi.
 

shaggydog2000

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Looks pretty likely Arsenal will sign Pablo Mari from the Brazilian club Flamengo. He's in London now for a medical.


He's Spanish, and was with Man City but never played for them as he was always out on loan. But supposedly he's done well in Brazil, including when Flamengo faced Liverpool in the Club World Cup.


Arteta should have a good idea of him, since they overlapped at City, and presumably Arteta followed his loan progress.

He's 6'3", left-footed, and 26 years old. Rumored to cost about 7 million pounds.

Most importantly, he is not Mustafi.
His not Mustafi-ness is a hugely admirable trait. In fact, it's the only thing I know about him, but it's enough for me to want the loan to go through.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Wow, this club is something. The Pablo Mari deal is off (for now?) and he has gone back to Brazil.

Translated:
At the end of last week, Flamengo agreed to sell defender Pablo Marí to Arsenal, from England, in a negotiation that was about to be made official. On Saturday (25), the athlete was already in England to carry out the last steps and be made official as a reinforcement of the English club. However, this Monday (27), the transaction had a major obstacle. The main reason, according to the Coluna do Fla report, was linked to the financial issue. After agreeing to pay about 9 million euros for the defender, Arsenal indicated that they would not be able to afford the cost. With that, the tendency is for the defender to return to Flamengo.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Before that update had come out, the original story was that Mari was always scheduled to go back to Brazil, so hopefully this is just some transfer window negotiating ploy, but nothing will surprise me.

Talks between Arsenal and Flamengo over Pablo Mari are "ongoing". Player was always due to return to Brazil.@TheAthleticUK
— gunnerblog (@gunnerblog) January 27, 2020
A one-minute highlight video of his performance against Liverpool had gotten my hopes up, ha. Yes, I know, someone could put together a highlight video of Mustafi that would make him look amazing, but it's fun to dream on the mostly unknown player who has yet to reveal any of his faults to me.

Mustafi is starting again in the FA Cup match against Bournemouth that is about to begin. Flamengo probably figure they are a Mustafi-error or two away from a little more leverage (only half-kidding).
 

The Gray Eagle

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Mustafi got hurt and now it looks like the Pablo Mari might be back alive.
Charles Watts (no not that one):

View: https://twitter.com/ZRAFC/status/1222182562547884033?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1222182562547884033&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fs9e.github.io%2Fiframe%2Ftwitter.min.html%231222182562547884033


Arsenal remain optimistic the transfer will go through before Friday's deadline for a fee of €10 million. Flamengo bought him for €2m. Pablo is ready to fly back at any time now once the deal is agreed and he will become Arteta's first signing at Arsenal. [
@ESPNFC]
If this does go through, Mari will have flown from Brazil to England, back to Brazil, and back to England in a few days. Greta Thunberg will not like Arsenal's transfer dealings.

I should have known to never talk about any transfer rumors until the team's website posts photos of the new guy, or the deadline closes.
 

shaggydog2000

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Tuff Ghost

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The Pablo Mari loan is official. The Edu/Brazil connections will continue to be an interesting development for Arsenal, I think.

The 26 year-old joins us from Brazilian side Flamengo, where he helped the Rio de Janeiro based team win the Brazilian Serie A title and the Copa Libertadores last year.

Mari made 22 appearances for Flamengo after joining them last July from Manchester City, where he had been since 2016. The left-footed central defender had three three different season-long loan spells during his time at City – in Spain with Girona for the 2016/17 season, then to the Netherlands with NAC Breda in 2017/18, before returning to Spain for the 2018/19 campaign with Deportivo La Coruna.

We have an option to make the deal permanent in the summer.

Technical director Edu said: “Pablo is an experienced player who will provide us with additional defensive quality. We have been monitoring Pablo’s career for a while and we are very pleased to have reached agreement with Flamengo for him to join us initially until the end of our season. ”
 

Tuff Ghost

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Arsenal also look to be bringing in full-back Cedric Soares on loan.
Expectation is Arsenal will complete signing of 28yo Portugal full-back Cedric Soares from Southampton within 24hrs. Loan until end of season will earn #SaintsFC £5m inc full salary cover + put #AFC in pole position if they want permanent when free agent in summer @TheAthleticUK
@David_Ornstein

He is primarily a right-back, but supposedly can also play some left-back. Perhaps Arteta is interested in playing Maitland-Niles more in a mid-field role, his original position, and with Bellerin still working back to full fitness, another reliable right-back is needed. Or maybe this is simply because Saka (our 18 year old winger!) is the only healthy left-back at the moment and they'll let Soares get some time over there. But then again, I now see that Soares is currently injured (of course)!

Soares himself was taken off during Southampton’s last Premier League game with a knee ligament injury which is expected to keep him out for around three weeks.
-Arseblog News

Either way, shoring up an injured, inconsistent, and out-of-position back-four with these two signings (Mari and Soares) seems like a reasonable expenditure for January. It certainly beats Denis Suarez.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) has a decent write-up on Pablo Mari on Arseblog. Mari will bring some height (6' 3") to the Arsenal defense and looks to be a decent choice to back-up David Luiz on the left. He's the only other left-footed CB on the team currently. The Athletic also had an article this morning speculating that he is getting a chance to prove he could be a possible partner with Saliba (6' 4" and right-footed) next year. That may be getting a little too far ahead, but Mari is an interesting player, one who has taken an unusual path to premier league at 26 years old, but sometimes a center-back can develop later.

Flamengo has a Portuguese coach (Jorge Jesus) and have played a more European style than many South American teams, which makes it a little easier to see how he could fit into Arsenal:
Stylistically, Mari is potentially a good fit for Arteta’s team, Flamengo broadly play the sort of aggressive, front-footed style Arsenal are looking to emulate. Arteta looks to push his left-back up the pitch and Mari is used to covering that left half-space at Fla with Filipe Luis encouraged to push forward.
It sounds like he is not just left-footed, but particularly reliant on that left-foot:
Mari is also left-footed [he’s veeeery left-footed, Nigel Winterburn levels of left-footed] unlike all of Arsenal’s current centre-halves. He uses the ball well and can play long or diagonal passes with that left-foot too.
He does not have great pace, but stays on his feet pretty well, making a lot of stand-up tackles:
He is much more a reader of the game and he makes stand-up tackles, he is judicious and rarely leaves his feet to make challenges and is strong in one-on-one duels. His lanky frame makes his legs appear telescopic as he pokes them out to burgle opponents of possession, he has quite a Mertesacker-esque frame.
He played with a very strong Flamengo side, so it is hard to say how much of an impact he had directly on the defense, and they were often playing far inferior competition, so the Premier League should make for a challenging adjustment:
The presence of the still excellent Filipe Luís at left-back makes playing the left-sided centre-half role far easier and Rodrigo Caio is a very good partner for him in defence. Fla are so far ahead of their domestic counterparts and so good at pinning opponents back that their defence is rarely exposed... Mari was the final piece of the jigsaw rather than the kingpin of a Flamengo defence that is better than Arsenal’s on both a collective and individual level.
Finally, the expectations should be set realistically that he is probably not here to claim a first-choice spot at CB, but rather a backup option.
This looks more like a replacement for Chambers or Mustafi than Sokratis or Luiz.
(All of the quotes are from the Stillman article.)

In other news, Saliba returned from injury yesterday and played in Saint-Étienne's 1-0 victory over Monaco. The last time Saint-Étienne had a clean-sheet was when Saliba played in November.

@TheFalseNein:
Saint Etienne are unbeaten when Saliba has played this season. 5 wins 3 draws. 5 clean sheets out of 8 games. Insane at 18 years old to be so pivotal.
 

lars10

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I do, actually.

Klopp had actually accomplished things prior to Liverpool so there was already a track record also.
Sometimes you're just insufferable.

edit: so.. because Klopp had a track record and still finished in 8th you would have not brought it up a few games into his tenure?
You're ignoring all of Arteta's work with ManU because he was the assistant I suppose? And you've seen no improvement here with the players that he has inherited? Because of this game?
Nothing else to mention other than your misgivings? Nothing positive to see in the shots on goal numbers going down or the defense looking at least mildly competent?
 

mikeford

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The defense looks better and the offense looks worse, what's your point?

And the defense doesn't even REALLY look that improved if you look at xGA

Chelsea game: 1.50 xGA (2-1 loss)
United game: 0.72 xGA (2-0 win)
Palace game: 0.31 xGA (1-1 draw)
Sheffield game: 0.92 xGA (1-1 draw)
Chelsea game 2: 3.27 xGA (2-2 draw)
Burnley game: 2.25 xGA (0-0 draw)

Our xG has been under 2 for every game.
 

Tuff Ghost

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It is pretty harsh to lose confidence in a manager who just took over mid-season in a completely congested fixture schedule. He has been in charge for 9 games in a 38 day span. There has not been a lot of time to re-invent the club (this winter-break that they are taking in Dubai hopefully will help a little); regardless, they certainly look better than they did in the latter days of Emery. To show any signs of improvement that quickly is promising.

On top of that, the defense has been in a bit of crisis with the top two left-backs injured (Tierney, Kolasinac), the top right-back just recently getting back into form (Bellerin), Chambers out with an ACL injury, Holding in poor form since his return, and now Saka (a winger filling in at left-back) is injured.

They have played significant portions of two of their games under Arteta with 10 men on the pitch.

They played three of the games under Arteta without Aubameyang, someone who has 14 of their 32 Premier League goals.

Xhaka has played emergency left-back and center-back in two games under Arteta.

It is way to early to lose confidence in Arteta. He may or may not be the savior we are all hoping him to be, but he has already notably changed the attitude around the club, said the right things, added structure and organization on the pitch, and used tactics that make the best out of the players he has.

I am more nervous about Raul Sanllehi being in charge than Arteta managing. The big spending on Pepe is making me worried now that three consecutive managers (Emery, Ljungberg, Arteta) have not chosen him for matches at various times. Per David Ornstein, the loan-signing of Soares was apparently a shock to Southampton, who thought originally they may loan him to a Championship side, but then he got hurt and they thought they were stuck with him leaving on a free in the summer. Then, in came Arsenal and signed the deal, while Soares wore a knee-brace. Up top, I have some continued questions, but I am not giving up on Arteta after this stretch. Far too early.
 

Tuff Ghost

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During the winter-break, several Arsenal players have taken the opportunity to very openly state that Arteta has improved communication, tactics, and team morale in his short time at the club. The obvious inferred inverse of these statements is seemingly how bleak things were for the players under Emery.

Leno:
“In this short time he has made a big impact. You can see the intensity [with which] we play. Also, the structure in the team and the mentality all over the pitch. Before, I don’t want to say it was a mess, it was a little bit confusing. Everybody was doing different things. We were not a team, not in the dressing room, not on the pitch, and you could see this."
Ozil:
“Even the players – let’s say that after 60 or 70 minutes, if that player’s changing, everyone knows now in which position they have to play or how [the manager] wants to attack or make a lot of pressure on the opposite team."
Bellerin comparing Emery and Arteta:
“They’re very different type of managers. Mikel has always been very tactical in his work and in his whole life – he’s very professional with very clear ideas. He’s put that into the team very quickly. The discipline in the dressing room has also changed a lot and that’s a very important pillar to then build on.”
Emery, probably getting ready for future jobs, has taken to defending himself a bit:
Arsenal was a club on the downward slope for two years when I arrived... I obviously am partly responsible, but you see that the team has not exactly done better since I left.
There also have been a couple of articles that show the precipitous downfall of Arsenal's creativity and attack in the past three seasons.

7am Kickoff shows:
(2017/18 > 2018/19 > 2019/20)

Passes per game:
526.9 > 481.8 > 437.6
Final 3rd passes per game: 46.3 > 33.6 > 30.0
Shots per game: 15.7 > 12.2 > 11.1
xG per game: 1.7 > 1.5 > 1.3

It's easy enough to place a large part of the blame on Ozil, as his offensive numbers have dramatically fallen since his amazing 2015/16 season, as shown by the Athletic. But with the team's overall offensive play falling in line with Ozil's play, it is not so easy to say if the problem is that he is not creating or more that he does not have the players around him like he once did. Surely it is a combination of both, but it is clear that Arteta, so far, is using Ozil differently at this point.

Ozil has more tackles, duels, and recoveries under Arteta than he ever has before in the Premier League. He is running and he is participating defensively, but he is also making mostly safe, sideways passes back to the mid-fielders. One question is, does an Ozil playing this way have any value to the team? The other question is how do they improve the creativity from the mid-field because Ozil cannot create alone, certainly not at this stage of his career.

An interesting final quote on Ozil and Arteta's focus on solidifying the defense, taken from the Athletic article:
In 2015-16 Ozil passed most frequently to Sanchez and the next best combination was that willing forward runner Aaron Ramsey. This season after Guendouzi, the next favoured pass is to Lucas Torreira and then Granit Xhaka. That’s three defensive midfield players rather than two players with attacking instincts who love to take risks. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is, bizarrely, eighth in the list of players found by Ozil.

Current Arsenal are not constructed to have that variety of option around him. He was able to aim at Giroud’s head, exploit Walcott’s speed, unleash Sanchez’s dynamism, and pick out Ramsey’s runs from midfield. The pressure trying to find better balance in midfield to more securely protect a defence that had been leaking chances has taken a clear toll on the team’s collective attacking urge.
I'm along for the ride with Arteta and look forward to, hopefully, continuing to see incremental improvements when they return versus Newcastle on Sunday.
 

lars10

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The defense looks better and the offense looks worse, what's your point?

And the defense doesn't even REALLY look that improved if you look at xGA

Chelsea game: 1.50 xGA (2-1 loss)
United game: 0.72 xGA (2-0 win)
Palace game: 0.31 xGA (1-1 draw)
Sheffield game: 0.92 xGA (1-1 draw)
Chelsea game 2: 3.27 xGA (2-2 draw)
Burnley game: 2.25 xGA (0-0 draw)

Our xG has been under 2 for every game.
You're telling us your confidence in the hire has waned after not even half a season in which he hasn't made a single transfer or even choice for who he has on this team.
As tuff ghost wrote.. they've had a number of injuries and he's had to scab together a backline.. he's been forced to play Mustafa ffs. And even with that the D (to my eye) looks far more focused and together on D than they ever were under Emery. The team also looks like it's actually playing with one another and working as a team. As they said in the quotes they also know where they're supposed to be... he's actually playing people in the positions they feel comfortable.

Your opinion varies I guess.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Three points. After wandering through the barren, purgatory-like desert of draws, Arsenal got a result and it was a good one. The 4-0 scoreline might be a little generous, but it was clearly a well deserved victory.

Arteta made a couple of bold selections coming back from the winter-break: Nketiah over Lacazette (and Martinelli) and Ceballos over Torreira/Guendouzi. It sounds like this was at least partially due to how the players were performing in training. Arteta noted that Ceballos has been training "like an animal" and Guendouzi reportedly (per the Telegraph) had a bit of a dust-up with staff in Dubai, and he was left off the squad completely on Sunday.

I don't think it was a coincidence that Ozil and Pepe each had one of their better games with Ceballos in the mid-field. Xhaka seemed quick to get the ball right to Ceballos, and Ceballos showed that bit of creativity and attack-minded play that the midfield has been lacking. With a team like Newcastle content to sit back in a defensive block, Ceballos's play was essential.

The counter to this is that Ceballos looks pretty lacking defensively. He gets dribbled-on as if every player on the field is Zaha or Traore. Newcastle looked dangerous on the counter, and Arsenal have not looked this vulnerable to counter-attacks since Arteta took over, so it should be said that something was sacrificed to get Ceballos's creativity out there.

The first half started pretty slowly for Arsenal. Aubameyang was in the inside-left channel again, but often drifting even wider to the left, which is not the best use of his skills. Watching him make a weak left-footed cross from wide left is depressing. I don't love seeing him over by the touchline.

After half-time with the game still 0-0, Arteta clearly changed tactics and had Aubameyang play much more central, almost as in a true front-2 with Nketiah. He was no longer drifting wider than the penalty box and he looked much more dangerous.

Saka's nutmeg on Lazaro and assist to Pepe was a great moment. Ozil's goal, which was setup with 35 passes involving all 11 Arsenal players (the most passes to lead to a goal in the Premier League this year per @OptaJoe), was another cathartic moment for the team and its supporters, who want to believe that things are changing so badly. Lacazette's relief and joy at bagging a late goal (badly shanked off his plant foot, but he'll take it) was vividly on display in the celebration.

For Arsenal supporters, it was a fun day made even more enjoyable because we've been starved for them recently. Pepe looked dangerous and the numbers clearly show it. Here's to a few more days like this the rest of the way.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Yeah, there is already a lot of talk about getting him (Saka) signed to a new long-term contract. He's been awesome.

All of a sudden, Arsenal are on a pretty decent run. In all competitions in 2020, they are 5-4-0 with 5 clean sheets. Everton on Sunday should be a nice test (another team in good form). Arteta adjusted the team's traditional travel schedule for a European match. After the game last night, they stayed in Greece to get proper rest, recovery, and nutrition, rather than hopping right on a late flight back to London. The Friday morning flight decision seems like a sound one, hopefully it pays off and they are slightly fresher on Sunday, especially with Everton coming back for their first match since their winter break.

I think they were pretty solid last night. I did not love Aubameyang starting wide-right, he looked rather lost and was wasted out there. He looked more himself on the left after the second half substitutions.

Sokratis at right-back was a little surprising. I was ready for the return of Maitland-Niles because Bellerin obviously needs the rest. I wonder about Maitland-Niles future at the team (especially with Cedric being available soon) if he could not get a start in this one. I don't think he's going to break into the midfield either.

Willock was alright. He is such a different player from Ozil when playing in the inside-right of the attack. He runs hard and presses (as has Ozil recently), but unlike Ozil he is happy to carry the ball for 30 yards at a time, using power and speed. He attempts more dribbles and more shots than Ozil, but he does not have Ozil's finesse/touch.

The solitary goal was setup by a nice 40+ yard diagonal pass from Mustafi around midfield to Aubameyang down almost to the left corner flag. Saka made a nice run into the left side of the box, Aubameyang passed to him, and Saka set up Lacazette in front of the net perfectly. Lacazette did not have the best night, but getting a 2nd goal in two matches has to have him getting some of his confidence back.
 

lars10

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Hoping that with their current run of form and hopefully good end to the season that Aubameyang decides to stay. Arteta seems to have the team playing more for each other.. although they were sloppy on defense again today they seemed to track back as a team much more than they did before this season. Auba especially made a number of plays tracking back. Mustafi even had a decent game.. here's hoping they can win a few and challenge for top 5...everything is so packed the top half of the table.
 

Time to Mo Vaughn

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It's always a good result when mikeford doesn't show up and proclaim how much this team sucks.

The team is now 4 points out of 5th place and 7 points out of 4th. While there's a lot of teams bunched between 11th and 5th, I think that talent wise Arsenal is close to anyone outside of Liverpool and City, and the additional time under Arteta is going to have them outperforming most of the teams they're grouped around.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Yeah, there were definitely some anxious moments in the last 25 minutes when Everton was the better team, but they fought hard and got another positive result. I think the fact that they were playing their 3rd game in 7 days, while Everton were coming off their two-week break contributed, but thankfully they did not need any excuses in the end.

I had just finished giving my wife a dissertation on how impressive Saka has been as an out-of-position (it's getting harder to call him out-of-position every week) 18-year old left back, when he went on his worst run of form we've seen. He made a series of errant passes, culminating with him falling over while in possession and giving the ball to Everton in a dangerous position. Kolasinac's injury necessitated him coming on, but Saka looked like he desperately could use some rest. I hope we don't run him into the ground.

What more can be said about Aubameyang and his importance to the club? Obviously his goal production is essential to the team's success, but he is absolutely working his butt off tracking back on defense. He is such a team player and the joy he has while playing is contagious.

Arteta had this to say about Aubameyang:
“I am so happy with him,” said the boss. “Obviously, because he’s scoring very important goals but also because as a captain, he is giving a great example to everybody else that a player of his calibre is able to work the way that he is working defensively because the demands every three days are big and he is willing and happy to do it."
David Luiz may be a target in the game threads and that poor header that led to an Everton goal was ugly, but anyone watching Arsenal closely can see that he has been a net-positive under Arteta's watch. The progressive passes he completes (including a beauty to Aubameyang, leading to a goal) are very important to the attack, especially when some of the midfielders struggle to advance the ball. He is not the perfect center-back by any stretch, but there's only one Virgil Van Dijk.

Finally, the details of Guendouzi's incidents in Dubai came out today in Ornstein's column, which included a disagreement on the training pitch with a teammate, but I found this bit pretty hilarious:
But also during the five-day camp, Arsenal’s technical director Edu had to tell off the Frenchman for his behaviour at an external event. The group were enjoying some local music when Guendouzi briefly removed his shirt and waved it around in support of the act.
 

mikeford

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Last 25 mins of that match were pure end days Wengerball white knuckling

They really need to win the next 4 games to stand a chance at 5th
 

Tuff Ghost

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They really need to win the next 4 games to stand a chance at 5th
With the Manchester City game postponed, the next four Premier League games (West Ham, @Brighton, @Southampton, Norwich City), definitely would be nice games to pick up some points.

There is quite the cluster of teams, so it is really hard to say how many points it is going to take for a team to get 5th (or 4th).

Pos. Team Points Points/Gm
4 Chelsea 44 1.63
5 Manchester United 41 1.52
6 Tottenham 40 1.48
7 Sheffield United 40 1.48
8 Wolves 39 1.44
9 Arsenal 37 1.37


Here are some projections based upon the teams playing (a.) at the same exact points/game pace, (b.) at a 1.75 points/game pace (66.5 point season), and (c.) at a 2 points/game pace (76 point season).

Team Current 1.75/gm 2/gm
Chelsea 61.93 63.25 66
Manchester United 57.70 60.25 63
Tottenham 56.30 59.25 62
Sheffield United 56.30 59.25 62
Wolves 54.89 58.25 61
Arsenal 52.07 56.25 59


A reasonable range of expectations for 4th place then would be:
  • Low: 62
  • High: 66
And 5th place:
  • Low: 58
  • High: 63
With several teams ahead of them, the chances are that at least one of these teams will play above their current pace (and others below), so for Arsenal to have a chance, they are almost certainly going to have to play at least a 2 points/game pace to get up to 59+ points. It's possible, but they do not have any room for error, so as you said, the next four are must wins.
 

SocrManiac

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Mikel Arteta: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doesn't need trophies to prove he is world class... look at Harry Kane

I'm starting to like Arteta. That is a world class backhanded compliment.
 

The Gray Eagle

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They still had a golden chance to win it, even after coughing up the goal, but still fucked up the easiest chance of the night!

It's really something.
 

Tuff Ghost

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That was a real gut punch. I felt pretty confident coming into this with a 1-0 lead on aggregate (with an away goal), and then a strong starting XI selected, but it shows anything can happen and the team still have a long way to go.

One thing I noticed in the first half was that they seemed to be building up play more often on the right, which is different from the very left-sided attack (Saka and Aubameyang/Martinelli) that we've seen in recent weeks. With the ball more often on the right it became obvious that Bellerin is still a long way off from being a reliable, fully-fit contributor.

Additionally, Pepe's weaknesses were on full display. He has elite physical skills, but so far seems to have less than optimal vision and lacks the ability to choose the right pass. Watching him continuously try to cut back onto his left foot while defenders swarmed on him was frustrating. Hopefully it is something that will improve with time and more experience at this level. They have to keep running him out there at this point.

The other notable thing is how weak they've been on set-pieces in recent weeks. Just like against Everton, David Luiz did a poor job on aerial clearances and it cost them. Mustafi is by far their best at aerial duels at this point, so it hurt to lose him for extra-time.

It's time to let the younger guys get a good chunk of the Premier League experience to build for the future: Nketiah over Lacazette, Martinelli getting starts on the left (with Aubameyang central), Nelson or Willock over Ozil. Also, I'd like to see what Mari can offer.

Pros:
  • No more Thursday nights to worry about for the rest of the year, so hopefully they can maintain health and find some success in the Premier League, creating some positive momentum into next year.
  • I can cancel my B/R Live subscription
Cons:
  • Financially, they are going to fall even further down the Deloitte Football Money League.
  • An Aubameyang sale this summer is pretty much necessary. I thought if they miraculously slipped into Champions League via Europa that there may have been a chance he'd be re-upped, but it really is in everyone's best interest that he gets sold; hopefully, Barcelona are willing to pay a hefty price
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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That was pretty brutal and will likely have long term repercussions as Tuff Ghost notes.

Our lack of creative playmakers really showed. We progressed the ball very nicely and then ran out of ideas in the final third. Neither of Arteta's subs made sense to me. Ceballos is your most creative central midfield, why take him off for Torreira when you need a goal and have all of the ball? Bellerin was awful all game so I didn't mind subbing him for Willock. But the positional shift took Xhaka, your second best passing CM, out of midfield and into the back three. So now you're trying to break down a 10 man defense with Torreira/Willock as your CM duo. I can understand not wanting to use the third sub until extra time as if you use them all and have an injury, you're screwed. But the second sub really should have been Martinelli for Laca.
 

Tuff Ghost

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I agree, the substitutions seemed overly-conservative, as if there was more fear at 0-1 of giving up a second away goal (meaning Arsenal would have to score at least two), rather than trying to simply score one themselves.

Olympiacos were well organized defensively and made for a frustrating opponent.
 

Tuff Ghost

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With all of the injuries at left-back, I am hoping that Saka can get some rest today in the FA Cup match-up with Portsmouth. It is possible that Maitland-Niles may move over to the left-back position. Bellerin certainly needs some rest, too, (coming back from his ACL injury), so I think Sokratis will again be at right-back. Not ideal, but hopefully they can get by Portsmouth regardless.

Injury updates on the full-backs:
  • Kolasinac is out for at least four weeks, hoping to return to full-training around the end of March
  • Tierney is aiming to be in full-training this week
  • Cedric Soares is aiming to be in full-training next week
Saka's playing time is making me think about what happened with Bellerin last year (via an older Athletic piece with Arsenal's former director of high performance Darren Burgess) when he was overworked:

Arsenal did suffer some significant injury blows, with Danny Welbeck, Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin all missing at least half that season. Burgess says Welbeck and Holding’s injuries were “unavoidable”. Bellerin’s case is more debatable, as he had been overplayed in the wake of an injury crisis at full-back.
“Once you get close to your game average, particularly on metres sprinted, that puts you in a really high-risk scenario — whether that’s in training or in a game. And that ‘red zone’ could be across a game, a week, or a month. If you’re approaching, or above, your previous week, previous month or previous game, particularly on sprinting distance, that puts you in danger of a muscular injury.”
 

Tuff Ghost

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The first 20-30 minutes were a little shaky, but the young squad Arteta chose ended up controlling the game against Portsmouth (League One, 3rd place). Arteta went with 6 players aged 20 or younger in the starting XI.

Reiss Nelson's return from injury was a strong one. He got two assists on a couple of beautiful crosses, and almost had a third on a Martinelli missed header. He hits his crosses with a lot of pace. The Sokratis goal was a true-striker's finish and I when I realized it was he who had hammered it home, I only could laugh. He was so casual in his celebration, too, as if he scores that kind of goal on the regular. I hope Nelson gets some decent playing time the rest of the way to get some more experience for next season.

Pablo Mari's debut was solid. It's tough to judge a CB by a game against a League One side, especially when Arsenal had the ball for almost the entirety of the second half, but Mari looked solid defensively and assured on the ball. He completed 13 of 17 long passes. He'll be an interesting one to watch the rest of the way.

The Torreira injury looked scary, like a possible season-ender, but there is talk that it may not be quite as bad as it seemed, although he did leave Fratton Park in a walking-boot and on crutches. Hopefully just an ankle sprain of the more mild variety and we'll see him in a few weeks before the season is out.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Jesus fucking christ, Arteta has coronavirus.
A horrible, bizarre, insane season just gets worse and weirder. Hope he recovers soon.
 

Time to Mo Vaughn

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Mar 24, 2008
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Jesus fucking christ, Arteta has coronavirus.
A horrible, bizarre, insane season just gets worse and weirder. Hope he recovers soon.
Better him then Wenger I suppose.

I'm beginning to think there's no more games this season.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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This is a pretty thorough analysis of how Arsenal can rebuild and also works as a condemnation of just about everything they've done the last four years.

The core argument of this piece is hard to argue with: Buy good, younger players who are undervalued by the market and find a coach that will develop them and make them greater than the sum of their parts.

The bizarre thing is that the writer doesn't seem very familiar with what Arsenal has actually done from a player acquisition standpoint in the last couple years. Other than Pepe, buying cheap young players has been the core of their approach. They haven't spent over £30m on any player other than Pepe. While they've added a few cheap veteran CBs to try to compete in the short term, their buys have been largely cheap younger players (Martinelli, Saliba, Guendouzi, Torreira, Tierney, Leno was 26 but he is a GK, Mari was 26 but he is a CB). And they've promoted five academy players into the first team during the same period (Saka, Willock, Nketiah, Nelson, Maitland-Niles).

The club has been doing the right things from a roster construction standpoint. But Wenger dug them into such a massively deep hole that its going to take a long time to get out. And, of course, just because you buy cheap young players doesn't necessarily mean you buy the right ones. Only time will tell on that account, but the article would be more credible if it gave at least a mention to Martinelli or Saliba, probably the two most promising young players on the team.
 

coremiller

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"Other than spending 70m on Pepe, Arsenal have been rebuilding with young cheap players" is kind of an "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show" argument.
 

Tuff Ghost

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Yeah, that article seemed kind of obvious with its ideas and the writer did not give the impression of having an in-depth understanding of where Arsenal stand. You could basically apply that article to any team (be more like Liverpool = success).

I have a lot of hope for Saliba (here is a recent Athletic article on Saliba), but I do fear his injury history already. Martinelli has been very impressive, Tierney is still young and yet to show off what he can do (injuries, again, are scaring me), Nketiah has shown potential as a striker, Torreira has looked good again under Arteta, and others have shown competence and potential at young ages (Guendouzi, Willock, Nelson, Holding). There are plenty of interesting young players on the squad.

One of my larger concerns are the finances and how little they'll get for Aubameyang due to the new situation. They had a chance to get a decent fee for him this summer (one year left on contract), but I cannot picture any significant spending now, so he'll either hang around for one year (I do love watching him play) and leave on a free, or they'll get a small fraction of what his value would have been pre-COVID-19.

Ozil has made it clear he's not leaving before his astronomical contract is up in over a year (link). Saka still does not have a new contract (one year left), which is making me pretty worried he'll leave the club because they cannot afford him. Torreira pretty clearly wants to go to Italy (link), so who knows if Arteta is even going to have him in his plans.

Arteta pretty clearly has his hands full, but I am still cautiously optimistic based upon what I have seen from him so far. I think this Athletic article is a more accurate analysis of Arsenal than the previously linked one.
 

mikeford

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"Other than spending 70m on Pepe, Arsenal have been rebuilding with young cheap players" is kind of an "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show" argument.
this makes no sense when the comparison is how liverpool built their team. they splashed for the time on mo salah and they splashed on VDV, whats the difference?
 
It's definitely fun to be thinking about Arsenal's approach to squad rebuilding instead of thinking about Arsenal's manager and/or players being infected with COVID-19.

As far as the remainder of this season goes, I kinda have to think that playing in front of no fans can only be a net positive for Arsenal - it's not like the Emirates crowd is the most passionate or encouraging in the Premiership, is it? Maybe they can get off to a running start and challenge for the top four after all...
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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"Other than spending 70m on Pepe, Arsenal have been rebuilding with young cheap players" is kind of an "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show" argument.
Meh. Focusing overwhelmingly on Pepe is a lazy way of thinking about what Arsenal has done in the last two years. As is writing an article exhorting Arsenal to buy younger and cheaper players with high ceilings and not mentioning Martinelli, Guendouzi, Saliba, etc.
 

shaggydog2000

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Meh. Focusing overwhelmingly on Pepe is a lazy way of thinking about what Arsenal has done in the last two years. As is writing an article exhorting Arsenal to buy younger and cheaper players with high ceilings and not mentioning Martinelli, Guendouzi, Saliba, etc.
Yeah, their problem has been screwing up contracts for their star players and selling them for little or seeing them walk away. There has been a huge drain in star power, and no money coming in from the sales to replace that. That when they have spent that money it hasn't been wisely spent just exasperates that. But the academy players and young purchases have been good.
 

lars10

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Well, Leno was a positive today, but... whatever the opposite of glory is, Sideshow Bob covered himself in it.
Has one player been more responsible for his opponent's goals over the course of a season? He's basically been good for -1 goals all season.
 

Tuff Ghost

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"Our commitment to being Arsenal is absolutely unrivaled. Take Arsenal away for however long you like, bury it deep beneath the earth for eons in a titanium capsule from which no part of our essence can be seen, heard or felt, and we can just dig it up and go from zero to full-on, turbo-charged, hyper-drive, light-speed Arsenal in the blink of an eye.

"What a club."
-
Arseblog today

Well, the return featured Arsenal playing some of their latest, greatest hits:
  • Controversy over Ozil not making the match day squad for "tactical reasons"
  • Untimely injuries (Xhaka and Mari)
  • Luiz deserving man-of-the-match for creating two goals for City and then having a bizarre press conference afterwards
  • Leno getting barraged with shots, and fortunately, looking pretty good
As Arteta said afterwards, "I want to delete the game from the hard drive." City is obviously at a different level from Arsenal, but the dominance was staggering.
  • City shots: 20, City shots on target: 12
  • Arsenal shots: 3, Arsenal shots on target: 0
I am struggling to look for a few positives (besides Leno), maybe a few early moments where Nketiah looked a little dangerous...? Bellerin and Tierney playing a full match was good to see. Not much else.

The fact that Arteta started Nketiah, Willock, and Saka (at wing) over Lacazette, Ozil, and Pepe seems to indicate he's going to give the younger plays a shot to close out the season, so maybe he'll at least get a better idea of what he has with them.
 

blueline

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The fact that Arteta started Nketiah, Willock, and Saka (at wing) over Lacazette, Ozil, and Pepe seems to indicate he's going to give the younger plays a shot to close out the season, so maybe he'll at least get a better idea of what he has with them.
Also seems to indicate that Wenger, Gazidis, and Raul all made really poor transfer market and wage bill decisions over the last few years. The performance yesterday was such a mess, but I also look at a number of players and wonder why we spent so much on them. We've been "rebuilding" for 2 or 3 years now but still feels like we're at square one with limited talent and limited resources due to poor decisions.