Kevin no Friend as Arsenal opt out of another away game

Online Editorial: Gunners confirm template of how not to play on the road

Kevin no Friend as Arsenal opt out of another away game

Arsenal, as usual, fail to keep clean sheet away.

(Ed’s note - My thanks to Simon Rose for covering for me on the editorial for yesterday’s game)

I don’t really understand our away performances. Away games are half of your entire league season, yet Arsenal are quite the paradox: we seem happy to smash all-comers in home matches, yet unhappy to exert anywhere near enough effort away from home. We play away games like sulky teenagers, miffed that our parents want us to go out for the day as a family.

Everton wasn’t just another pitiful Arsenal non-performance away from home: we borderline abstained in the first half. Listless and lacking any sense of urgency through to half-time, we were too slow to catch a cold, as my Dad used to say. Ramsey and Aubameyang warming up on the pitch during half-time inspired mild hope that we could swiftly pick up our pace levels in the second half and compete. Yet Ramsey’s first involvement was to miscontrol the ball and almost present possession straight to Everton. That moment comfortably encapsulated our entire display: second best. It was a portent to our overall inadequate lack of improvement.

Elneny played the first 45 minutes and his lack of appearances showed. He was slow, his control was poor, he delayed moves and largely played backwards passes. I do like Elneny, but he scampers around like a shaggy dog on a beach. While it’s certainly hard to get the pace of the team without playing, Elneny does at least train with the squad. He should have offered more. Ramsey took Elneny’s place and I suspect that we won’t see much of Elneny again, before a likely summer exit.

Iwobi only played the last 15 minutes but he was our most dynamic player. I was quite surprised that Ozil made way for Iwobi, as I felt that Mesut was doing pretty well at getting across the pitch and spreading the play. Mkhitaryan had been less effective, often holding onto the ball too long and Ozil looked the one person likely to create openings. Iwobi immediately made direct runs at Everton’s defence, unsettling them with tricks and quick thinking, but he would have benefitted more from having Ozil to bounce off.

I wrote in the current issue of The Gooner that I can’t decide if Aubameyang’s non-existence in away games is down to him, our tactics, or both. Aubameyang has such little impact on away games that we could sit him down with a book near the half-way line and he’d be just as involved. At Goodison, he popped up on the right, then the left, but we barely found him on either wing. When Auba and Lacazette drifted central, we still didn’t look for them through the middle with early passes, but preferred to slide it out wide. Everton were quick to respond to whatever we tried and were determined to intercept all options. As a result, Aubameyang barely saw the ball. Lacazette got more action, but Everton largely fouled him to arrest his progress. Unable to reach our strikers, we were blunt.

Our key tactic at home is for Kolasinac to overlap on the left and ping in crosses. Aubameyang often benefits from this, but we don’t try it enough away from home. Perhaps Kolasinac lacked Iwobi’s cover at Goodison, but we didn’t give enough commitment to this tactic. Everton banked up and just rebuffed us. Kolasinac went off at half-time yesterday, but Monreal couldn’t find teammates when he tried to get in behind. Everton did their utter best to block everything going.

What starts the cycle of inept away days: poor performances, or a lack of confidence? One perpetuates the other, but which one comes first? We play away from home like kids who can’t bring themselves to behave, after being told off for misbehaviour, as they’re too upset at being told off to behave better. Repeating misbehaviour is rarely a good look and Sokratis got booked yet again, for his 10th yellow card in 22 games. It means he now faces a two-match ban, away to Watford and at home to Crystal Palace. Sokratis likes to bundle into opponents and pretend, straight-faced and arms in the air, that he’s done nothing. But the joke is wearing thin. He should have dropped that nonsense when he got found out for it with a red card at Rennes. Ten bookings in 22 games is not something that can be shrugged off.

One of the worst performances of the day came from the referee. Kevin Friend’s decisions seemed so one-sided, he was certainly no friend of ours. Offsides, fouls and cards seemed to go Everton’s way and Friend was certainly unlikely to do Arsenal any favours once we started to call him out for his odd decisions. Pilloried by Arsenal’s travelling support, he was less Kevin Friend and more Billy No-Mates. But we cannot blame the ref for losing at Everton: we are responsible for our own performances. We must play well enough to overcome everything if we are to maintain our top four objective.

What is so different away from home? It’s not our pitch? It’s not our dressing rooms? There’s more of the other team’s fans and they’re noisy? It’s still a football pitch and our players are professional footballers. Home teams certainly seem to try that much harder than when they visit us, as perhaps they assume they’ll lose at Arsenal, but we must overcome this. We cannot afford not to contest half of our games each season. The simplest hope is that we use the Everton non-performance as a benchmark for how not to tackle our remaining away matches. I want to see us face them like they’re home games. Take the match to the opponent. We can’t afford only to win our two home matches left and just lose the four away games. Go and assert your game on the opposition. Then next season hopefully we will have some pace in this side and can perhaps largely counter-attack away from home. Right now, we can’t play with pace as we barely have any.


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  1. Wengerballs

    Apr 11, 2019, 10:02 #113506

    What John F said. Look at that midfield that started, the word mediocre is a compliment. And Emerys constant tinkering wtf? We've shipped how many talented young players now to the Bundesliga? Its time to show some faith in the hungry young next generation and ditch the old, slow Colney creche overpaid has beens.


    Apr 10, 2019, 19:57 #113505

    We all know the problems. Most of us like Dick who I think has, if anything, overachieved with the overpaid "talent' at his disposal. Quite simply "it's the owner, stupid".

  3. Exiled in Pt

    Apr 10, 2019, 16:49 #113504

    Have to say it reminded me of the last time i traveled to Goodison when they did us 3 nil in 2014 , it was a gutless display then and thou not quite so humiliating this time still very poor. Have to agree with PW with regard to the obsession with a winger , when we have kids good enough to fill that roll instead of being shipped off to Germany! In defense of Dick , we don't know how obsessed he is as most of the so called transfer drivel in the press never happens anyway . Think the playing of Ozil is the proverbial shop window rather than a new found belief in his ability. Lets be honest he needs to sell him to give himself the funds for a lot of major surgery to the back four as it is not coming out of the Yanks pocket .......

  4. itsRonagain2

    Apr 10, 2019, 14:21 #113503

    GR - 'Earning the right to lose' a game is the preserve of successful winning sides in my view and not the privilege of gutless weak teams with no character who fold over to be licked every time they go past the M25. Arsenal have earned no rights this Season other than to have advertised who in that weak spirited squad needs shipping out pretty smartish. AFC are really a re constituted West Ham circa mid 60s to mid 80s. Some talent, some guile, some skill but with an underbelly made of blancmange, especially on their travels.

  5. itsRonagain2

    Apr 10, 2019, 14:10 #113502

    Hi Lads. I also think Peter is right about whats needed and what positions need addressing. Lets face it, its nothing new to when Wenger was there really is it. His est cost is about right too. As for that Everton game, it was just another Arsenal couldnt care less surrendered game that we ve been doing for years every time theres a euro tie the following week. As soon as you saw Elneney in there it was obvious the game was being thrown. So gutless, but doing that is imbued in the fabric and culture of the Club. Emerey has got a bit more milage out of the many poor players he has there but we ll never know his true quality unless hes given some money to clear out the rubbish and buy some vital players alongside developing the youngsters.

  6. Don Howe

    Apr 10, 2019, 9:19 #113501

    Thanks PW for explaining. Broadly I agree with Mr Bard, but how nice is it to have reasoned debate. Answer, very nice. I like Dick, but his continued choice to include Ozil is mystifying unless he's trying to get rid and needs a shop window for those purposes. Agree about including the youngsters.

  7. Bard

    Apr 09, 2019, 15:42 #113500

    PW thats a pretty damning post. I dont disagree with a lot of it bar the PV4 for manager bit. Im not sure about Dick but am giving him the benefit of the doubt largely because he inherited a dysfunctional club, with a load of piss poor players on huge wages. I dont think anyone could turn it around in one season. There have been games when we have looked a much better side mentally than anything Wenger put out in the last decade but yes like the Everton game we have also looked no better than a Wenger side at its worst. Changing the culture at the club is massive task.

  8. peter wain

    Apr 09, 2019, 12:59 #113499

    Well Don I suppose I think Dick's team selection and tactics are poor. They certainly were for Sunday as it was obvious that Everton's midfield would be too strong for us and the result could have been 4 or 5 if Everton had taken their chances. His performance in the transfer mark looks weak and the way Kroenke plays him makes him look ,I think, pathetic. To be honest I wanted PV4 as our manager. We need a complete new back four. The left back is ageing and Klosiac is not up to replacing him. Both centre halfs need replacing( particularly Mustaphi who has been an expensive mistake) and a third added if possible. We also need a right back. Then we need to revisit the midfield and get some steel in their. This will cost in excess of £250 million so will not happen. Quite why Dick is worried about a winger is beyond me. With only £40 million to spend I would promote Nelson and other youngsters and save the £40 million so we could have £80 million next year. Of course the yank will not agree to this. We should complain to the FA over our owner being a fit and proper purpose to own Arsenal as the only reason we have no money is that it has gone to America to prop up his other failing franchises. As things stand I do not see a return to Champions league for a very long time.

  9. Bard

    Apr 09, 2019, 12:52 #113498

    We are currently overachieving by a country mile. We have so many piss poor players in the squad. As others have commented, having Genu and Elneny in midfield isnt even championship standard. We are nowhere near a true top 4 team. Dick has done incredibly well with the resources he's inherited. He needs at least 2/3 transfer windows before we can judge him. All the this angst about top 4 is a distraction. The real issue is how to improve the squad, including getting shot of Ozil, Mustafi and a few others.

  10. Paulo75

    Apr 08, 2019, 19:39 #113497

    Poor performance and poor team selection. Ozil and Miki in the same side away from home vs teams like Everton who are more than willing to fight for everything is a non starter. Watford and Leicester will be similar opposition so we have to shape up very quickly. Too many no shows when the stakes were huge.

  11. GoonerRon

    Apr 08, 2019, 18:43 #113496

    Listless sums the performance up perfectly. Three at the back with Guen and Elneny in midfield didn’t fill me with confidence before the match but I still expected more. The ref certainly cannot be blamed for the result, although I wonder how the game may have gone if we were given a penalty in the second minute? Those where the player gets a shot away the instant before being wiped out never get given (I think Laca was on the receiving end of a othe blatant one last season), yet if it was a midfielder playing a pass in the centre circle and getting mashed after the ball is gone he always gets a feee kick. No idea why. The one positive is that our recent run of 5 wins in 6 (plus the other top 4 contenders dropping points) means we’ve earned the right to drop these points and it still to be in our hands - it just means our margin for error is virtually zero.

  12. Don Howe

    Apr 08, 2019, 17:32 #113495

    As a former malcontent of substantial proportions myself I'm keen to engage with Rev Wain. What is the basis of your poor opinion of Mr Emery? Please expand as I'm keen to understand. The way I see it he has gone a long way to giving us our self respect back. I think that he knows that his hardest job ( apart from close season signings) is kicking the team up the bottom to stop this Jekyll and Hyde difference between away and home performances. I suppose that he has to put his " hardest" XI together and get them to scrap. One thing to do would be to have some of the lads from the stiffs in the team. Whenever I see them they are pretty tough and generally know what they are doing. I would not have Ozil within a million miles of any of our teams. He has his own event horizon. But he's only one player. Guts and hard work is what we need.

  13. RobG

    Apr 08, 2019, 14:12 #113494

    Thoroughly lacklustre and disappointing. However, we are still very much in with a good chance of finishing in the top four (although not if we play like that) and the players have to grasp it. Watford getting to the Cup Final should work in our favour. The players have to show fight and resolve like they did against Spurs. This matters because where we finish, will clearly impact on Emery's transfer kitty and the ability - or otherwise - to attract who we want. This is job in progress ; and is one year out of a minimum of three. People have to realise that.

  14. John F

    Apr 08, 2019, 14:01 #113493

    As soon as I saw Elneny and Guendouzi in the starting line up I knew we would lose.It is hardly a midfield that scares the opposition and must give them confidence and drain Arsenals.The players must be confused with the rotation policy and are probably wondering like me why Ramsey did not start.Elneny is very limited and Guendouzi is just to young and physically weak.I have high hopes for Guendouzi but it is going to take a few year for him to mature physically and mentally.Lacazette one of my favorite players was abysmal yesterday.Only Iwobi comes away with any credit and that says it all.

  15. peter wain

    Apr 08, 2019, 13:41 #113492

    complete rubbish. the chances of a top four finish non existent. Emry out now and get some solid transfer money in. We need a complete back four and a new midfield. Get you wallet out Stan.