Work In Progress as Ceballos shines

Online Editorial: Arsenal defeat Burnley to top the table for a couple of hours

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Ceballos - One season wonder... so make the most of it!

Unai Emery started a couple of the new signings against Burnley, something he decided against last weekend at Newcastle. Both turned out to be good decisions, as David Luiz had a solid enough game, whilst Dani Ceballos demonstrated why Real Madrid would not agree any deal that meant Arsenal could purchase the midfielder outright. He was the home side’s standout player.

Ceballos played in the Ozil role, behind a front three of Nelson, Lacazette and Aubameyang. Reiss Nelson was hooked at half-time, to be replaced by Nicholas Pepe. Luiz was the only change to last weekend’s back four, whilst Granit Xhaka was rested due to injury, meaning Joe Willock dropped to partner Matteo Guendouzi in central midfield. It was a very young combination, and perhaps the combination of youth and unfamiliarity amongst the players in front of the backline contributed to the amount of chances Burnley were allowed to create. Nevertheless, I thought Willock performed well generally, although I anticipate he will be demoted to the bench for the trip to Liverpool, given Ceballos will surely keep his place and both Xhaka and Torreira should be in contention for a starting spot.

Defensively, there’s still work to do, no question about that, but we should be encouraged that the attacking side of the team produced enough to garner maximum points, as they did at St James’s Park. Yesterday was a lot more conducive to quality football, and we certainly saw a better game than Arsenal’s previous outing. And in fairness, that goes for both sides. Burnley played some pretty decent football themselves and at half time, you’d have to say they deserved to be level. The other thing they did so well was close down the space in which Arsenal had to play, and this led to some hairy moments when Emery’s team, doubtless under orders, played it out from the back at goal kicks. It’s a laudable tactic on one level, but when it’s not executed quickly it becomes too easy to pressure the player in possession. The Gunners got away with it yesterday, but if they don’t mix it up a bit, I predict they will pay a heavy price for such a tactic at Anfield next Saturday.

The two Arsenal goals were very distinct, Alex Lacazette’s opener a tribute to his tenacity, whereas Aubameyang’s winner was simply a thing of beauty. It was interesting to see Raul Sanllehi getting high fives from others in the directors’ box as the celebrations followed that excellent strike. The decorum seems to be changing, and perhaps things are a bit less stuffy than they were before with more Latins involved in the club hierarchy. Sitting next to Edu were former Gunner Mikael Silvestre and agent Kia Joorabchian – an Arsenal fan apparently, although I suspect under Arsene Wenger’s tenure he wouldn’t have been let him anywhere near the director’s box. Another occupant was a certain Josh Kroenke, sporting red socks. He wasn’t going mad at the second goal, having been broken in by Sir Chips Keswick since becoming a director.

Arsenal were worth the win, if only for showing more ambition than the visitors. Ceballos looks like a very decent player – creative in possession, demanding the ball and willing to scrap for it, unlike the club’s more established creative midfielder. He brought a dynamism to the position that contrasted with the laconic and sometimes uninfluential nature of Ozil. He could make the difference that means the club return to Champions League next season. Nicholas Pepe gave us 45 minutes of feints and tricks, but needs to understand he can be more useful to the side if he learns to release the ball after beating a man. He was guilty of trying to do too much at times, maybe in his anxiety to impress. But you can see he will be a threat with his unpredictability and pace.

Emery is still bedding in his players, as well as waiting on the return of three key defenders to fitness. Maximum points from the first two fixtures was all we could ask, and Emery has achieved this in spite of the handicaps that the way the summer panned out have handed him. David Luiz really seems to suit the kind of game the head coach wants his players to play, a Brazilian, he’s naturally comfortable on the ball. Sometimes he doesn’t leave himself too much margin for error, although I expect we will just have to get used to that.

Things get trickier now with two matches against sides that finished above them last season, but Spurs is at home, and derbies have their own rules – form or reputation is not always a factor. Liverpool away nobody expects anything from, so anything would be a bonus. In truth, Arsenal probably aren’t ready for Anfield, but let’s just hope they don’t get hammered, as they did last season.


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  1. markymark

    Aug 21, 2019, 19:35 #114640

    The biggest surprise was Josh indicating the January window will be active. Sounds like one or two deals that didn’t get over the line will be revisited . Whatever happens to Unai it’s starting to look a lot better within the club. Freddy is beginning to look like a potential future manager for us as well

  2. Don Howe

    Aug 21, 2019, 13:09 #114636

    MM. You say its not a popular view but I for one am pleased that the owner and his people have reacted and behaved in such a positive way this transfer window. The club remains in many ways smeared in Wenger but the extra strength Dettol and pressure washers are well and truly out. Get rid of Ozil and other unnecessary objects and we will be well on the way to getting the Club's fighting spirit back. I don't think that Ozil's lack of chutzpa on the pitch can have failed to be spotlighted into piercingly sharp focus in anyone's eyes by Ceballos' performance on Saturday. Hopefully Ozil will never play for the club again. There are others on the list of surplus to requirements. I am very pleased that Ramsey has gone elsewhere. Of the remaining wenger players, probably only Nacho has my respect. Others may pull their socks up. On the access all areas video of the Burnley game released by the club today they showed an internal piece of artwork panelling in praise of the old fraud. Let's hope that all mention of him can gradually be excised from the fabric, memory and history of the club. A period of shame when Arsenal was associated with poor defending, lack of effort, corporate softness, amateurism and the supine acceptance of third rate status and regular and heavy defeat. Now hopefully well and truly over.

  3. markymark

    Aug 20, 2019, 11:09 #114632

    Probably not the most popular view on this site but at least Josh is doing interviews with Ornstein and appears to have a little more about him. He’s young enough to want some major silver ware I hope

  4. markymark

    Aug 20, 2019, 09:14 #114631

    ItsRon2 - the Scousers have issues with Vans . They smashed up my builders van when I was doing a property up in Dingle. Accused my Builders of thieving ! eh eh calm down , calm down . Love em otherwise just don’t go near em with a Van!

  5. GoonerRon

    Aug 19, 2019, 17:07 #114630

    Oh @its Ron, you’re picking at all my scabs today! The highlights for game 50 came up on Facebook the other day. They should have had 3 or 4 players sent off in the first half alone. Throw in fat Rooney’s dive too and the massively United-slanted commentary from Martin Tyler it had me in a right rage. I’d love to see that game re-referred today with VAR!

  6. itsRonagain2

    Aug 19, 2019, 14:13 #114629

    GR - t was a tough loss to take that night wasnt it and yr right about the non pen. I could be wrong but the powers that be were always going to ensure Liverpool progressed via that tie. Arsenals 1st half performance was as good as any of Wengers teams had ever played in my view. Im of the view many games in football are fixed here and abroad and ive been of that view for years. That night was one. Game 50 was another. Arsenal could have had 20 players on the pitch and they would have lost that afternoon.

  7. GoonerRon

    Aug 19, 2019, 13:16 #114628

    @ it’sRon - that QF defeat still pisses me off to this day. On top of what you’ve said, we also had a blatant penalty not given in the first leg too - I think it was Kuyt that wiped out Hleb and we got a corner. Comeuppance time this weekend!

  8. itsRonagain2

    Aug 19, 2019, 12:12 #114627

    GR - The night i lost all respect for Liverpool FC was in that CL Qtr Final. I was at that one too. The cretinous english angel and paragon Gerrad kicked the hell out of Flamini that night and after he went off we lost the midfield and their cheating and diving got them past us plus the pen given for the dive. After that followed 2 tyres let down on our van, Paint thrown on it and being spat at by scousers and seeing them picking fights with AFC fans all over the place.But hey ho, they never do that sort of thing ..............................................

  9. itsRonagain2

    Aug 19, 2019, 12:05 #114626

    GR - Hi matey. Agree. We used to go there and do well under Wengo actually didnt we. I ll always recall the FAC and the LC hammerings we gave them back on 08 time in space of a few days. Yes, strong gut feeling we ll get a result there. High time that we did. The thrashings have been embarrassing haven't they. The 5-1 was worse than the OT 8-2 i think.

  10. John F

    Aug 19, 2019, 07:03 #114625

    From what I remember we had a few injuries across the defence last season against Liverpool and paid the price.I do not think we will put up such a poor display this time around but I am not expecting a win as I think this game is too early for us.If we had Tierney and Bellerin playing and Pepe had more time to bed in then it would be a different game.I hope he doesn't decide to give Ozil a game.

  11. GoonerRon

    Aug 19, 2019, 05:50 #114624

    @ it’sRon - hopefully it’s more down to our performance rather than law of averages but we definitely need a ‘stand up and take note’ performance away at one of the big boys. We largely addressed this at home last season but such was our dire away form generally, and with our twattings at Anfield in recent memory, the team needs to go there and really compete. Possibly because it’s early season and Mane, Salah and Firmino might be a touch undercooked after their busy summers, VVD isn’t looking quite as imperious as last season, plus no Allison in goal, it feels like a decent time to play them. I’d take a draw all day but I have a feeling we’ll go there and give them a bloody nose.

  12. itsRonagain2

    Aug 18, 2019, 22:39 #114623

    I say this with no rational reason or considered deduction and certainly without being convinced that we re much more than Wengo orientated still but AFCs record v Liv at Anfield is so shockingly dire that I think we re due a result there just based on the law of averages. Arse to beat Liverpool 2-0. PS. I don’t think Liv will re produce last years energy and momentum this time.

  13. markymark

    Aug 18, 2019, 21:10 #114622

    Post after post talking about options, how far we’ve travelled in 6 months . My God it’s like we’ve become a football club again! Keep the scousers down to a 2-1 defeat and I think we are on the way. A thrashing would tell us that Unai has not got to grips. I’m already hooked on this season with surprise drawers and the relegation fodder doing pretty well.

  14. mbg

    Aug 18, 2019, 20:49 #114621

    It's a work in progress alright but it's looking good with great movement and play, the problem is we're not going to get away with this tippy tappy and playing out from the back against the big boys, hopefully emery will realise that and adapt, RVP reckons he hasn't got a philosophy, good, if that's it we'll be punished, look where the last manager and his philosophy/philosophys got us.

  15. ArsenalMagna

    Aug 18, 2019, 10:08 #114620

    Yes I should have said we do still work to do on the defensive front, especially in aerial defence - a big reason why I wonder about Torreira's role from now on. You might be right GoonerRon, if everyone is fit, our best starting midfield could well be Ceballos, Guendouzi and maybe Torreira or Maitland-Niles?

  16. GoonerRon

    Aug 18, 2019, 09:41 #114619

    More attacking verve than last week which was good to see and, totally agree with ArsenalMagna about the slightly more controlled aspect of our defensive balance. Ceballos a delight, perhaps a tiny bit ‘showboaty’ early in the game but clearly revelled in his influential role. I wonder whether Luiz’s passing range means Xhaka’s role in the team becomes more under threat than previously thought. If we have the ability to play through the lines, wide switches etc without Xhaka we can replace him with a more energetic CM. We might not be ready for Liverpool but based on their defending in the first two games against the might of Norwich and Southampton, I’m not sure they’re ready for us either.

  17. ArsenalMagna

    Aug 18, 2019, 09:28 #114618

    Kev you didn't mention what is undoubtedly the most important thing in all this: the pre-season, Newcastle and Burnley matches showed we're finally trying to play BALANCED football. No more reckless throwing forward of players, especially full-backs, with us instead focusing on keeping it tighter at the back and creating fewer chances. You can certainly afford to create less chances when you've got world class finishers like Laca and Auba, so I'm so glad to see this new approach. I thought Willock and Nelson were pretty poor to be honest. They'll be great players but I'd give them all the cup games this year just to bed in in more conducive conditions. Like you say, Kev, the new signings looked so promising. Ceballos showing the type of commitment we've been begging for for so long, with fantastic end product to boot. Pepe showing flashes of brilliance, especially on the counter (I actually thought he needed to hold on to the ball longer and dribble into space more often). Luiz looked our most solid defender and some of his passing was amazing. The only thing is, playing more balanced football, we're likely to face threats more from the air than counterattack now, so does Torreira really fit such a system given his height? That aerial threat might only apply from the bottom half teams to be fair. In any case, it's so nice to see that we have 11 committed players on the field of genuine quality. As long as we don't panic and revert to gung ho football, if we ever fall short on points, then I think we stand a good chance of getting top 4.