Lacazette Gets Unexpected Card On Valentine’s Day

Online Ed: Arsenal beaten in Belorussia

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There was an assumption that the Europa League round of 32 tie would be something of a walkover for Arsenal. They’d beaten Bate Borisov 10-2 on aggregate less than 18 months ago, so it was a reasonable assumption. Add in the fact that the Belorussian team had not played a competitive match for two months, and that their league does not start again until the end of March, and the dice were certainly loaded in the Gunners’ favour. You want more? Bate started the 37 year old Alexandr Hleb (remember him?) in midfield.

Any mitigation for Arsenal’s poor performance? The stadium might have looked very futuristic from the outside, but the playing surface was like something from the 1970s. There were evidently bobbles everywhere and at times it was hard for the players to keep their footing. This was presumably a consequence of the winter weather in Belorussia. Anything else? It was cold? Hmmmm.

In fairness, Arsenal did start well and really should have been at least a goal up before the interval, such was the number of decent chances they created. The starting line-up showed Unai Emery’s intent. Let’s try and wrap this up in the first leg, presumably with the plan of rotating next Thursday so as to save some of the first choice players for the Southampton game at the weekend. Granted, Aubameyang was on the bench, but that was due to his recovering from illness. Mesut Ozil reputedly did not travel because he had not trained as much as Aubameyang since his own illness, even if he posted a picture of him looking fully involved in the open training session the day before the game.

Arsenal’s failure to score saw them punished, typically with the half-time whistle beckoning, as Bate took the lead from a set piece. Kolasinac was beaten to the ball by Dragun from a wide free-kick and Petr Cech stood no chance of stopping the header. Remarkably, Arsenal’s last five matches in this competition had seen them keep clean sheets, and another one last night would have established a record. How ironic that would have been.

In the second half, Bate allowed Arsenal to have the ball, only rarely foraying forward. Emery’s team created less than they did in the opening 45 minutes, only finding the net once, but Lacazette being flagged offside. Aubameyang, Torreira and Suarez were put on in place of Maitland-Niles, Xhaka and Kolasinac, but it didn’t make Emery’s side any more potent.

To make matters worse, Lacazette received a straight red card for an elbow and will miss the next game, and in the event of Arsenal qualifying for the round of 16, presumably one or two more. It was a deflating evening and certainly raises questions about why there was so much optimism about the Gunners’ chances in this competition. However, at least they have the opportunity to turn it around in a week’s time. It was interesting to see yesterday morning that the return game had actually sold out to silver and red members, meaning season ticket holders can put their own tickets on ticket exchange. With the game kicking off at 5.55pm, there will be a large number of season ticket holders who do not attend. Yet with the game now actually having more importance than seemed likely, perhaps the crowd will not be as low as previously suspected.

The danger of course is that, with no away goal, Arsenal will have to score three if Bate do get one. That they managed to beat them 6-0 the last time they were at the Emirates gives cause for optimism, but Emery’s men will have to be a lot more clinical than last night. They should have enough to go through, but that second half was concerning. It typified a lot of displays of late, in which the team have struggled to create opportunities. Even if they were conceding cheap goals, in the period of the unbeaten 22 match run that ended in December, the attack was compensating by finding the net with regularity. In recent matches, they have run out of steam. Is it that Ozil does not play any more? Have other sides simply worked out how to stop them? It’s a problem that needs solving because the defence looks unlikely to improve in the short term.

So not a great day at the office and a long trip home for the travelling away support. With no match this weekend, they have to wait for the return leg next Thursday to get last night’s disappointment out of the system. You would have to believe that if Ozil does not start, he is unlikely to figure in Emery’s plans again, and there is a feeling that his not travelling to the first leg means that decision has been made already. One thing that is certain though. Creatively, this team is in need of something to get out of this lull.

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  1. markymark

    Feb 17, 2019, 08:51 #113251

    Hi MBG - I think from a critical standpoint you are correct up to a point that Wengerites will be looking for revenge . The two delusional ones who left the site would be in this bracket. There is also a group who were critical of Wenger and may not fully comprehend the difficulty at the moment ( that might be me ). The problem I’m having is that football is ever more about a style, if you don’t have this then you can’t join the big boys club. An example is Mourinho is effectively finished as a top manager because of his super pragmatic cautious approach . Obviously we lose out with change as much as we gain . So as football becomes marketed to tech savvy generations . I suspect the joy of a grinding defensive performances will appear archaic. I fear for Emery . I’d love him to succeed but fear he’s struggling to form a style and all what he promised in the form of protagonistic football has become hollow. Amazingly he also appears to be losing a PR war against Ozil ! See Neymar at PSG. An intensely hardworking coach very unlucky with injuries. I think the international element is difficult for him. Sadly I think Arsenal is proving a step too far. We will see but Sanllehi storming out of the Bate match is not a good look for Emery and suggests the board may not be happy.

  2. mbg

    Feb 16, 2019, 00:43 #113239

    The wengerites have raised their heads again, it's only a matter of time until we hear bring back wenger.

  3. Cyril

    Feb 15, 2019, 22:02 #113238

    I won’t be back for a good while. It’s shambolic. I like a bet and had the Man City result and boris Karloff result after half time. It’s self harm and I have never bet against them before. Gutted, it’s this way, I agree that it’s likely we will go through. I’m sure there will be more people at the return leg as a result. Oddly, I might take a punt on winning this competition. I really suspect that this whole gig is fixed. I have done for a long time. You see, if I knew we couldn’t eat at the top table, i would cut my financial cloth accordingly. One thing that huge amounts of money and investment leads too is sadly the truth....

  4. markymark

    Feb 15, 2019, 20:03 #113237

    I’m starting to hear one or two whispers that all may not be well with the hierarchy and Unai. Could be rubbish but he may be getting starved literally so that a new guy can work with a budget . Sanhelli will sack anything that moves until he is sacked himself. I’m mentally shortening odds that it could end as a Moyes / Rioch style interim appointment with Ivan being seen as the man responsible for the hire. The issue will be lack of style. You’ll find Adidas kicking off and crowds drifting away


    Feb 15, 2019, 19:25 #113236

    Ron, forgetting L'Arse for the moment, I think that your predictions regarding the old powerhouse footie areas are exciting & just hope that, in addition to the Manc clubs, Liverpool, Wolves, we can look to a successful Leeds & Newcastle ( post the odious Ashley) as well. What a healthy renaissance that would be for those of us of a certain age. I could get excited about that new look to the PL. As a side note, I reckon that a Governmental "laissez faire" attitude to property taxation in Central London, in particular, has greatly contributed to the influx of dodgy money, dodgy owners & hence a fluffy, worthless culture at their Clubs.

  6. itsRonagain2

    Feb 15, 2019, 17:01 #113235

    ps - and poor as they are right now, Everton will emerge i think even before they leave Goodison Park.

  7. DJW

    Feb 15, 2019, 16:57 #113234

    Now Uncle Stan has bought out the Russian and it is a closed shop he can syphon off whatever he likes. With no shareholders to answer to, he and his 'football expert son!' can take out whatever they like, forget about putting anything in. Emery's brush with Neymar has meant he is using Ozil as a scapegoat and we have no creativity at all I am not Mesut's biggest fan but Mkhitaryan and Iwobi really? Also has anyone else noticed that Dick's English is getting worse as the season drift on into mayhem???

  8. itsRonagain2

    Feb 15, 2019, 16:54 #113233

    CG - good point that you raise. I know Tottenham are riding a crest of a wave right now, for them anyway, but i think London football will decline rapidly. The cost of paying for a stadium will bend Tottenham over soon enough but yr La La description is dead on describing it. Chelsea salad days are over too. The NW is going to rule football now for many years i think. 3 powerhouses there now. In central region too, the ownership of the Wolves have great ambitions. Molyneux is going to be brought up to 50000 capacity soon enough and its a fine club waiting re awakening. They have the money now. Reality is though, that if AFC record wasn't what it was, football has always been dominated by the NW and the Midlands. As for Arsenal specifically, they really do look like a club that has totally lost its soul, its mojo and has no idea of any direction. Its my view that we re going to see a repeat of the 60s for the club and for London generally, there might be the odd Cup success, but it ends there, same as the 60s.


    Feb 15, 2019, 15:48 #113232

    Utterly depressing result, performance, pitch, everything. Have to admit AFC beginning to look like a club in free-fall. Some good sides still in the Europa & we look a mile off top 4 in the EPL. I would love to know the inside gossip because what I don't "get" is Dick's trio of Europa wins - you can fluke one maybe but 3? On Thursday it just looked like everyone was thoroughly demotivated from Dick downwards. I remain convinced that he was a sound choice at the time ( there have been several top performances in the league) & at 47 can hardly be a burned out Maureen yet, surely? It's got to be a terminal case of Kroenke's Disease. Probably Dick will succumb to it but, unless a post Brexit realism sets in & sponsors start seeing through the sheer La La Land nature of the London football world in particular, regrettably things will probably only get worse. It's difficult to see what the fanbase can achieve without a sponsor revolt. No bums on seats would be good but modern fans decisions as to whether to attend a match or not are now more likely to be based on social or business considerations.

  10. itsRonagain2

    Feb 15, 2019, 14:57 #113231

    RobG - Summed up nicely. Thats it, exactly as Rob says lads. Get used to it. Grim stuff. This is Arsenal FC.

  11. Exiled in Pt

    Feb 15, 2019, 14:09 #113230

    Peter get used to the fact the owner of the club is not going to change any time soon and will do nothing but milk what he can for minimum investment ! The coach needs to be given time but i do agree he has lost his way recently , i also agree that a loan signing of Gary Cahill instead of Suarez would of been more practical but it did not happen . Personally i think he needs to give Ozil a run in the team and these two games would of been ideal ! Pointless paying all that money and not playing him . Better chance of selling if he has an opportunity to show he has something to offer ! At least play him while we have a run of mediocre opposition ........

  12. TonyEvans

    Feb 15, 2019, 14:04 #113229

    Anyone who hasn't reconciled themselves to the cold hard truth that, barring some sort of miracle, things in the Arsenal garden are not going to be coming up roses anytime soon is living in cloud cuckoo land. Even so Bate whatever there name is should still have been brushed aside without too much trouble. Very sad, after all the joy of Wenger finally being prised away from the club.

  13. RobG

    Feb 15, 2019, 10:06 #113228

    Didn't see the game. And surprised by the result. But there you go. I can understand people letting off steam but we are not changing the Coach - and we're certainly not changing owners, any time soon. Like it or not - them's the facts. And not only is Kronke not putting a bean into the Club, with the debt he has, I doubt if he's got any spare cash. We'll be lucky to stop him taking anything out. He didn't even allow Arsenal and Emery a chance to speculate in the last transfer window just passed. So we are stuck with what we have. It ain't good. But it ain't changing - at least Coach wise, not before the end of Emery's contract which is May 2020 when the break clause applies. It cost £17 million to part with Wenger and his pals and Kronke ain't going back down that road. So we are where we are.

  14. peter wain

    Feb 15, 2019, 08:16 #113227

    what ever way you dress it up the performance was awful. The organisation of the team is non existent and the passion invisible. Why get a midfield player on loan when we have no decent defenders. Why employ the clown at all. How can Dick keep his job when he sends out teams who cannot pass mark or tackle. Some coach some manager! We need a new owner and manager now and in the summer we need to ship out al of the dead wood whatever the cost. The Yank can pay this is what owners are for after all.