Job Done With Mix and Match Eleven at Newcastle

Online Editorial: Arsenal open Premier League campaign with three points

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It was a scrappy game played in conditions that didn’t really suit Arsenal’s preferred style of football, but critically, Unai Emery’s side managed to overcome Newcastle United to get their Premier League campaign off to a decent start.

The starting eleven omitted any of the new signings, although the bench was stuffed with every new face that was not injured. Three of them eventually got some action. The selection of Calum Chambers ahead of David Luiz was an eye opener, although there were questions over the match fitness of the arrival from Chelsea. Defensively, Arsenal limited their opponents’ chances, and calamitous mistakes were not committed, although both Granit Xhaka and later Dani Ceballos’ sailed a little too close to the wind in passing to the opposition too close to their own penalty area for comfort. Generally though, the back four played with discipline, with both full backs frequently aiding the attack. Of course, when assessing the degree of their resilience, the quality of the opposition needs to be remembered. I do feel that Newcastle already look like a team that will be involved in a relegation tussle.

The last time more than two Academy developed players began a game for Arsenal was apparently 1998. Unai Emery fielded Maitland-Niles, Willock and Nelson to give us a taste of what needs to be a more fundamental part of the plan – using homegrown. All played well enough, Maitland-Niles the standout of the three, with an assist for Aubameyang’s second half winner after intercepting a Newcastle attack. Up until that point, the final ball was too often found wanting. Given the mix and match nature of the side, a degree of uncertainty was inevitable.

The new players came on one by one, and in fairness didn’t make a significant impact on the game. It’s early days, and all three, none of whom with any Premier League experience, will need a few games to find their feet. With this in mind, Emery’s decision to start with players that were already established at the club looks a good one. It’s not been an ideal summer in terms of preparing the squad for the season for a number of reasons. The Copa America, African Cup of Nations and Euro U-21 tournaments will effect other clubs as well. Emery’s challenge is to integrate everyone as smoothly and quickly as possible and hope that the injured players can return before too long. In all honesty, it does feel like the matches against Liverpool and Spurs will come too early, although if Emery can field Torreira and Lacazette from the start, the team will be stronger. We wait to see how long it will be before Pepe and Ceballos are starting league matches.

So, not easy to conclude too much from this game except that Aubameyang has not lost his ability to fashion chances and convert enough to win points. But most important of all is that Arsenal took the three points. They really need to try and take as close to 60 points as is possible this season from the 20 matches against the teams that will finish in the bottom half of the table, of which Newcastle will surely be one.

One final prediction – in years to come, Arsenal’s starting eleven might be the subject of one of those fill in the blank team formations. It was a curate’s egg of a line-up, but it did the job. Seven of the players might not figure in Emery’s strongest starting line-up, so credit to the manager and the squad for securing the points yesterday.

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  1. Don Howe

    Aug 15, 2019, 07:51 #114605

    Ronald. I have mixed views about Mourinho. On the one hand he is all that you say but on the other, he knows how to set up a defence. Like fat Sam this has a certain cachet with me after years of Laissez Faire in its purest from from the Fraud Francais. I have no illusions about Sky. They do however have an enlightened policy on female presenter retention unlike the rest of the media. Looking forward to Saturday?

  2. itsRonagain2

    Aug 13, 2019, 22:22 #114603

    Off topic now. What did you guys think of Mourinhos punditry ? I thought he was snide , used the game as a vehicle to convey his nasty little parochial issues with the clubs and certain players but lacked the guts or perhaps wasn’t allowed to really express his views. A totally poor decision by shite Sky Ltd to use the self obsesssd little runt. His mission was clearly to disagree with such as Souey at every turn. But , they managed to stoke up some contentiousness didn’t they, which is all Sky are any good for at base level.

  3. Don Howe

    Aug 13, 2019, 18:58 #114600

    The worst. And I’ll tell you why. If I win all my cases for 5 years and then start losing them year in year out world without end and drag my firm down with me and leave my clients homeless then I stink. Never mind my good 5 years. I stink. Wenger was given the very best team in London and made it the third best. No manager of AFC has stunk the place out like that. Before or since

  4. markymark

    Aug 13, 2019, 15:53 #114597

    Arsenal for that short period of Dein / Fizman / Wenger had it all. Though Wenger always in my opinion liked too small a squad. Even at our best when injury hit you’d be sweating on a really raw backup . Luckily Nigel , Tony , Steve and Lee usually walked and talked a player through it. The Dein departure which removed a control and push factor on Wenger. The death of Fizman created a mighty power vacuum that no one was willing to fill. he should have gone after 8-2 , he went into hiding around Dein’s house who told him to carry on. Sorry David i know he was your mate but it was a massive sign he was truly off the pace. I always thought a principled man would have resigned on Deins departure but I suspect Wenger sniffed opportunity. So sad that I ended up loathing him. I’ll take 20 years of finishing 2. 4th is a trophy and the secret conversation between him and Fergie over RVP. He massively undermined us along with his dweeb sidekick Ivan. Thank god they’ve left us.

  5. itsRonagain2

    Aug 13, 2019, 14:28 #114596

    Hi Don- i used to love Arshavin. That night at Anfield. Awesome wasn't it and his goal at OT in a game we lost 2-1 but really ought to have won after his great goal that day. Remember being right in line with his shot as it sails like an arrow into Man Us net.Quality lad wasted as you say. Do you really think AW was the worst? I always thought some thing didnt quite ring true about him, but we cant argue with his first part of his time surely. Had he have gone after the 8-2 at Utd in 2011, i think he d have gone with the blessings of most.

  6. Don Howe

    Aug 13, 2019, 13:21 #114595

    I don't think that you can compare what happened under Wenger with what happens now. Podolski, Joel Campbell, Perez, Gnabry, the Russian Arshavin, all frittered away to nothing because the worst manager in the history of the club was in fact a know nothing amateur. There is a strong argument for saying that you must pace the introduction of young players. Proof - (1) the way that even seasoned pros from abroad take a season to adjust to the Premier League (2) Sideshow Bob aka Hairbear. 19 years old. Brilliant player but fell off a cliff in the final third of the season. Our 3 players, AMN, JW and RN are in fact tough as old boots and they have STEEL in them. You can see it and they will grow if they are played. So you are both half right.

  7. itsRonagain2

    Aug 13, 2019, 10:08 #114593

    As for Gnabry , you have a point. He always looked physically able and as if he was ready for a good try in the team but he apparently fell foul of Wenger it seems and hes gone on to have far better coaching and is doing great. Pleased for him. I liked the look of him right from the off.

  8. itsRonagain2

    Aug 13, 2019, 10:03 #114592

    'Rubbish' or not, they're not physically ready for regular games nor in my view do they have the match nous to play often and against better teams. Watching them play provides the proof of that. If they were they would be played regularly but they wont be. Moreover, the performance v Newcastle was far from impressive. Its my view that we were lucky to meet NU while they're at the level that they are. Its not relegation talk at all, its whats nearly every body thought, apart from you of course and yr entitled to yr view. I dont call yr views rubbish or cobblers do i?

  9. Wengerballs

    Aug 13, 2019, 07:29 #114591

    That's rubbish Ronagain to say any top 10 team would have 'pulverized' us yesterday. Loser talk as if we are relegation fodder. And cobblers that these young players are 'not near ready'. If they were no where near ready they wouldn't have played yesterday, period. They are clearly ready some of them or not far off. They've shown it in preseason and showed it yesterday that they deserve first team playing time. Look at Serge Gnabry, considered not good enough or not ready but now a star at Bayern. Reiss Nelson has also been an international rep all his youth and has been consistently impressive in the bundesliga.

  10. itsRonagain2

    Aug 12, 2019, 22:18 #114590

    W b. Yes, maybe in time but Willocks not near ready for the job yet is he? He looked Ok on the week end but he was playing a team of plodders against whom his errors didn’t matter. That line up we put out would have been pulverised away from home by more or less any top 10 team I think. The kids we ve got show some promise but they’re raw and not near ready. Any kid playing at that level who is good enough to get a speedy regular spot in a top team emerges every 10 to 15 yrs , Rooney types. None of them at Arsenal have that maturity or physical constitution. Long process to bed any of them in I reckon matey.

  11. Wengerballs

    Aug 12, 2019, 20:52 #114589

    Bit of a droll article for the opening victorious game of the season after a surprisingly good transfer window. Has anyone seen Xhaka sprint? I never have. Don't think hes physically capable of it. Joke that such a plodding donkey error prone player is our captain. Swap him for Willock any day.

  12. markymark

    Aug 12, 2019, 19:58 #114588

    Oh Ron2 - no not the return of the Badone ! Dear God no ! Lol

  13. itsRonagain2

    Aug 12, 2019, 19:41 #114587

    Bard. Dons a stalwart on here but somehow I can’t ever see him arguing that Kallstrom was a bold and positive signing of a class player. Westie , bless him. This site misses him. Who else could think bookies weren’t corrupt!! Non of us are on here too much these days but I reckon the site misses Westie and Baddie too. Some of the rows were majestic. Ha ha.

  14. CORNISH GOONER

    Aug 12, 2019, 18:24 #114586

    Apart from the Editor I don't think anyone has mentioned the weather oop north - it was appalling - wet & windy & against well motivated Tooners. I don't like Brucie but he is one of them & will do a decent job. For a team that everyone consistently says "don't like it up 'em" I thought we did OK, well motivated & solid at the back with Chambers very respectable. Mikki did at least try but should be moved on. Martinelli with his short cameo appearance really does look as if he has settled very quickly & has something about him - find of the season maybe? All in all a probable banana skin avoided.

  15. Bard

    Aug 12, 2019, 18:07 #114585

    It was a good result but a terrible game. I dont think we can read too much into the performance as half the side wont play when everyone is fit. AMN had a good game but he is benefitting from having a season under his belt. Willcox and Reiss need the same but I doubt they will get it. Dick is under too much pressure to give the youngster a bit of time. Still think we look a shambles at the back. The debate about Xhaka is largely evidence of how desperate we are for positives. He is too slow and a liability in the tackle. He is bang average in my opinion. I would rather we gave Willcox a season in his position. He looks to have a bit of pace and the necessary physicality. Mikki gave another invisible performance. The new additions didnt do enough to get any real idea of whether they will thrive or die in the prem. Don H you are becoming the Westlower of the site ( one for the regulars). Good on you mate for your positivity.

  16. Don Howe

    Aug 12, 2019, 16:22 #114584

    I actually like Xhaka but he's a defensive accident waiting to happen and a sending off risk without the real intimidatory factor which makes that acceptable as it does with midfield destroyers, Micky Thomas K Richardson, Grimandi, Petit , Vieira, Flamini, Torreira. Who cannot love his piledriver long range shots ? Time to go though.

  17. itsRonagain2

    Aug 12, 2019, 15:55 #114583

    Xhaka will never be Makelele but the criticism of him is often a bit unfair. He actually lets his presence be known in all games and puts his foot in and Australians would say that theres a touch of the mongrel about him too. Maybe we need better than he to do the job he does but we dont have better. Hes alright and hes not an angel. We need it as we ve had halo wearers throughout the club for 12 years all approved and anointed by St Wengo, non who ever made the opposition bow down, pay homage and submit to us. The game on the week end wasnt an indicator of any thing or any player really i thought as NU were abysmal, poor body language and looked affected by the fans discontent and posed little threat. 3 pts though. It end there really.

  18. ArsenalMagna

    Aug 12, 2019, 14:57 #114582

    *Oh and just to add, Xhaka does give the ball away far too much, especially in danger areas

  19. ArsenalMagna

    Aug 12, 2019, 14:48 #114581

    @Don Howe - agree with everything you have said. Though I'm not entirely sure re: Xhaka's value. Sky Sports ran an article where they showed that in terms of his completed passes into the final third, his stats are up there with the very best players in the league like De Bruyne. It's useful that he can be a deep-lying playmaker, starting attacks for forward players, without us losing someone in the DM slot in the process, and tbf some of his passes yesterday were sublime. On the other hand, his defensive work leaves much to be desired: he lacks agility, pace and his positional awareness can be poor.

  20. Don Howe

    Aug 12, 2019, 14:24 #114580

    Playing with 11 men helps though the reason for Ozil's exclusion is appalling. More importantly, playing with a more defensive strategy overall is encouraging, though whether Dick will stick with that remains to be seen. Sokratis is our best central defender and I'm really looking forward to seeing him play together with Luiz. Holding is a good central defender and Chambers seems to be capable as well. That's 4 with Saliba to come next year. We need to offload Mustafi. I love Kolasinac but he isn't really a defender. He is a huge impact player on the wing. I assume that Tierney will be our regular full back and assume that Bellerin will fill the other slot as a priority. So the defence needn't be as awful. Willock, Nelson and Maitland Niles must be brought through this season. They are strong they are serious and they are Arsenal. The latter is SO important. Hair bear is wonderful but he can't tackle to save his life. Once again Torreira will be a huge part of our season. We need steel in midfield and as AML moves away from his right back role, he can hopefully be brought into his natural position. I like Mkhtarian but he needs a boot up the bottom. Xhaka needs to be elsewhere. Laca and Auba and Martinelli. Lots there to be supported by some wing play. If we are lucky we might have a bit of fun this season. The club have started to really hose down a house heavily smeared in Wenger. Let's hope the paint underneath cleans up freshly

  21. jwe1981

    Aug 12, 2019, 11:06 #114579

    great to see a whole article with not one mention of gambling for a change!

  22. GoonerRon

    Aug 12, 2019, 10:08 #114578

    I doubt there’d be a single Gooner who wouldn’t have taken a 0-1 yesterday, especially one that was relatively fuss-free. Chambers and Sokratis had a no nonsense feel about them, no risk-taking, getting into decent positions and dealing with it. Hopefully Mustafi’s omission from the squad is the jolt up the arse he needs to realise his career is best served elsewhere.

  23. ArsenalMagna

    Aug 12, 2019, 10:05 #114577

    Last season we got one away clean sheet only, and that took us till April to achieve vs Watford, courtesy of Deeney's early sending off. The thing that impressed me most about yesterday was how balanced we were overall. Guendouzi and Xhaka sat nice and deep and closed down fairly well, and the fullbacks did occasionally join attacks high up, but mostly we seemed to focus on countering with the front 4, which is what you should do away from home. Still not looking totally convincing in defence, especially aerially, but this will improve if we are at last seeing a change in doctrine defensively, as yesterday perhaps indicated. If you've got Laca and Auba, you can focus more on being defensively sound than attacking openly, because those two players are so clinical at taking their chances that they only need a few. Also thought Nelson and Willock showed some flashes of brilliance, but you can see their games lack a bit of maturity and consistency right now. Early days but everything I've seen from Martinelli makes me think he'll be ready soon to be a fairly regular player for us. Selling Iwobi already looking an inspired decision from the club. I think Chelsea will really struggle without Hazard this season and hard to say with United, but if we can combine last year's home form with a new-found away approach, then we should definitely get top 4. A shame that we probably won't just focus on the EPL and will instead knacker out the first XI with Europa League matches.