BOOP – Hero Hunters Ep5 extensional crisis

The extensional crisis has begun.  We’ve been digging deeper and deeper into the forums.  People spend way too much time on this game.  Way too much.  And way too much money.  Jeff is spiraling on these issues.  Aaron is handing him a paper bag to relax.  Here is the forum post from today that has the guys talking.  We also talk about the customized offers within the game.  Here are two screen captures of the offer Jeff got and one of the offer Aaron got for the same character.  

adidas Alphabounce leather shoe review

OUTSOLE

The outsole on this shoe per Adidas is a “grippy rubber outsole” which you can see in the image below.  I found the nubs to actually feel pretty unstable at first.  I live in Fargo, ND and I got these shoes in January.  They weren’t great on snow or ice.  As I broke in the soles the nubs became less slippery and more tacky or grippy.  The nubs or lugs are rounded and maybe this is why they don’t delivery great traction out of the box.  Or maybe they just aren’t made to tackle snow or ice.  Regardless they aren’t amazing when water in any form has been involved.

When you run in these shoes periodically I’ve found myself land on a stone or a rock right on one of the lugs and that doesn’t feel great.  There isn’t a rock plate so clearly I shouldn’t be running through rocky patches but I also don’t sweep the path before I run.  The traction when running was fine as long as I didn’t run through mud or puddles.  Then the shoe never felt secure but that could be more of a fit issue.  In my daily use at work I’ve never had a traction issue outside of the snow/ice being slippery but that’s just what snow/ice are.

Alphabounce-1.jpg

MIDSOLE

The entire reason I purchased this shoe was to try out the Bounce midsole.  Right out of the box (again middle of January) I put it to the test on an elliptical and a treadmill.  It felt great.  After my first run I told my wife I was good getting rid of a pair of older shoes and just working these into the primary rotation.  The cushion felt great.

One of the words that the adidas Terrex Agravic Speed brings to mind is simplicity. The outsole mentioned above isn’t very complicated and just uses a simple design and good materials to get the job done. Likewise, the midsole of this shoe is one that eschews much complexity and opts instead for a simple layout with really only one nod to embedded technology. Made from a simple, lightweight EVA the midsole of the Terrex Agravic Speed has no rock plate in place, simply the foam covered by the outsole. Hidden in the mid foot there is adidas’ Torsion Bar which is meant to keep the foot supported while still allowing the front and rear of the shoe/foot to move independently.

I will get more into this in the RIDE section below in a second but for now I want to remind everyone that this shoe is something of a racer (or at least, that’s what myself and others think). As such, light and fast is the name of the game so some may find the lack of midsole protection a bit lacking for their taste in an every day trail shoe. To be honest, I wasn’t THAT put off by the lack of a rock plate though I do think that an offering with a minimal addition in that area would go a long way toward making this a more “daily driver” trail shoe. The Torsion Bar in the midfoot isn’t really something that stood out to me very much and I have to wonder if that’s not the point; having a subtle support for forward motion without being too intrusive. Ground feel in this is excellent to the point of likely being harsh to some people who look for more cushioning. For the stack and drop nerds in the crowd (like myself) this shoe comes in with a stack of 25mm in the heel and 17mm in the forefoot for a net drop of 8mm.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

UPPER

There are a few different variations of the upper for this shoe.  The construction is an internal booty with an overlay.  In my specific pair the overlay is leather.  That’s where the Alphbounce Leather name comes from I’m guessing.  The other ones are EM for engineered mesh.  I’m guessing the EM are cooler than the leather just because I assume they’d breather better.  These breath just fine.  The uppers and the booty are great.  I thought the leather might stretch and I haven’t noticed that at all.  The fit and ride aren’t perfect for me because the heel is too wide.  The lock-down in the midsole via the upper and the laces feels fine.  The leather is tooled and styled to add a pop appearance-wise but it doesn’t apparently effect the technical aspects of the shoe.  There is a seam inside the shoes right at the cuff of the ankle.  The booty is fused to the outlay here.  The booty inside the shoe is seamless per my feeling.  The booty really does feel nice on the foot, even if you go sockless.

I’ve worn these for about eight months and pretty much five days a week for the past three months.  The uppers are showing hardly any wear.  The shoes are pretty easy to clean-up if I get them muddy or dirty in general but they are this olive green color that doesn’t really show grime.  I thought the laces might show dirt as they have a reflective material woven into them but that hasn’t been the case of yet.  Pretty stoked to be able to wear these on the daily within my office and still pull off going and viewing industrial sites for work.  SO far they’ve been pretty sturdy.  They are easy to get on and off too due to the internal booty.

FIT

What I had experienced with Adidas shoes in the past was based on a number of pairs of Sambas, a few pairs of Superstars my brother had sent me while he was in Germany.  The shoes were always narrow and my only knock was they weren’t super cushiony.  Those specific shoes had that minimalistic design and were pre-boost or bounce.  I was expecting a narrow and possibly tight shoe.

Instead, I got a pretty narrow tow-box which I was good with but the heel is just a smidge too wide.  There isn’t anything with the laces or the booty to correct this outside of a heel cup or additional socks.  As I transitioned off the elliptical (at home) to the treadmill (at the gym) I noticed this right away.  On the elliptical, there is not heel strike because I’m not lifting my foot off the pedal.  I realized that the heel wasn’t tight but it didn’t feel loose.  As soon as I had half a dozen heel-strikes in I knew this shoe wasn’t going to be great.  I still wanted to give it a shot at least on the elliptical.

Adidas says the fit for this shoe is supposed to be for daily runs and allow for multiple directional motions.  When I read their descriptions on their website I typically assume things weren’t written in English and then they were translated because I’ve never spoken to anyone who says “yeah these shoes are great for multidirectional movements, you know running for your sport if you need stable training movements” but that’s their description.  I’ve got a narrow heel so anything that doesn’t run narrow in the heel isn’t great for me.  This shoe might be perfect for some but for me, this was relegated to an office/walking shoe almost immediately.  The only time I used it for a run was when I was taking my daughter in the running stroller, had her loaded up already and these were the shoes by the door.  This was also when I stepped on the rock and thought I might have hit a freaking nail in the middle of the road because I felt said rock all the way through the top of my head.  The length on my size 14s was spot on but the heel just was a C to a D+ for me.

Alphabounce-2

RIDE

The ride on this shoe was initially great.  I loved the Bounce and how it left my feet feeling alive after indoor training runs.  The outdoor runs and extended walks I’ve taken this shoe didn’t live up to my expectations.  I don’t know maybe the bounce already bounced and I need new shoes but I can’t imagine I’ve put 500 miles on these yet by the time they got outside.  The outsole is still in fine shape, the uppers look great and the booty is fully intact.  Its just the bounce isn’t that bouncy anymore.  On the treadmill, these felt pretty solid.  On a 5k they felt fine and the ride was fun but that night my feet were sore.  Thought it might’ve just been me or the route.  I wore different shoes on the same track the following day with no pain.  Then went back to these on day three and I had the same soreness.  The reveal for me is the bounce isn’t what I thought it’d be.  That threw the whole ride off for me.  To me this is a daily trainer that is best suited for light use or within the gym.  This isn’t something I’d plan on using for extended use outdoors or plan on putting into a training rotation.

Alphab-5

OVERALL

Heel fit was rough for me.  I still like wearing these shoes.  I wear them almost daily.  Instead of being a running shoe they are work shoes that don’t look super Dad or boring officy.  I think this shoe is marketed towards serious runners but I think it is more of a backup shoe, a gym shoe or a casual runners shoe.  I’d still take the Boost over the Bounce in this model and that might make it smooth enough to warrant throwing on an extra pair of socks to get that heel fit to a usable place.  For now and going forward this is going to be my goto shoe in the morning as I head to the office.  At least until there is a half foot of snow on the ground.

Arsenal V Chelsea London Derby Part 1 aka Match Day 2

Arsenal v Chelsea has been a fun match for years.  More fun if you are a Chelsea fan but fun regardless.  The ManCity match largely felt sloppy on both sides.  I felt like Arsenal didn’t have a cohesive feel to their play but City was also choppy.  This match felt like neither team had an identity.  I fell in love with Arsenal’s beautiful passing combinations and understood that those beautiful passing sequences at times left them open at the back.  Like most Arsenal fans I felt Wenger’s time was up.  Either the dressing room no longer listened or maybe the game had moved to a place that no longer suits his style.  Match Day 1 against the reigning champion I largely felt okay to not be played off the pitch.  Match Day 2 was on the road to a to cross-town rival, a team that finished better than Arsenal last year, but like Arsenal a team with a new manager trying to find themselves on the pitch.  

  • Arsenal and a high defensive line haven’t been the best cohorts historically for my liking.  
    • Most recently it was Per Mertesacker getting caught out for pace over and over
    • Presently, we are seeing Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi stretched for pace.  
  • The high defensive line is paired with a short-passing game from the back that hasn’t really developed to this point. 
    •  Cech looks uncomfortable but so does the backline.  Having options left and right about 10 yards from the goal gives Cech two quick outlets. Chelsea kept pushing their striker and wings up to put immediate pressure on the ball.  Cech had to get the ball moving quickly and as soon as he passed it the recipient was under pressure too.  
    • Bellerin feels like he’s still finding his legs in this current role.  Bellerin has loads of athletic ability, namely pace.  Receiving the ball so deep on the field might eventually work out well.  Right now he doesn’t appear to be comfortable.  Bellerin also doesn’t appear to have a clear line of communication developed with his right-sided partner.  Henrikh Mkhitaryan might also still be learning/developing his role within this system.  The communication between the two players helped lead into the first two Chelsea goals very clearly with more on that to come.   It must be said on the last second chance Giroud had Bellerin busted his ass to get back and put in a challenge.  Watch that in the highlights.  Guendouzi gives up on the play as if to almost say you got me Giroud you got me.  Bellerin doesn’t give up even though he’s been on the field the entire match.  Bellerin is 10+ yards further up the pitch than Guendouzi too.  How Hazard doesn’t put that away himself is questionable and has to be chalked up to a World Cup hangover.  Giroud missing is classic Giroud.  The one he should bag gets stopped but the next three he shouldn’t have a sniff on are converted with ease.  
    • Nacho seems fine.  Nacho might not be the best footballer, the best athlete or the best fit in any one position.  When Nacho is deployed he plays.  From having watched Nacho for the past few years my sense is that he is really smart and can adapt to the game around him.  Ask Nacho to play a high line, and he’ll be vocally leading it.  Ask Nacho to play a CB and he’ll be fighting with the opposition’s tallest players.  Slide Nacho into a spot and he’ll do his damnedest to adapt.  When Nacho is beaten it is typically due to being outplayed not being out-positioned or being in the wrong spot.  In this match, Nacho largely dealt with his charges.  Chelsea appeared to be deliberately moving the focus of the attack to the other side of the pitch.  Don’t forget that if Nacho doesn’t make that interception the first goal doesn’t happen. 
    • Sok looked good to me in the last match.  This match Cech, Sok, and Mustafi didn’t seem synced.  The third goal was a series of stupid plays that ended in Cech getting 5-holed.  I largely felt like the communication and interplay between the three improved as the match progressed and then they hit a wall just before that 3rd goal.  Arsenal was already out of subs at that point in time with only Lichtsteiner on the bench defensively it would’ve been more of a formation change than fresh legs in that rear triangle.  
  • I have more questions about the midfield after the match than before the match.  
    • The initial line-up of Xhaka-Guendouzi-Iwobi-Ozil-Mkhitaryan morphed into Torreira-Guendouzi-Lacazetter/Aubameyang-Ramsey-Mkhitaryan
    • 35 minutes in I was thinking we might see Mkhitaryan slide into a bench role before too long.  I don’t love his interplay with Bellerin, largely due to his apparent apathy to defensive work.  Then he’s directly involved in both goals.  Like I said last week I’m still feeling him out as a player.  In the attacking third, he’s brilliant.  Can Emery find a system, pairing or positioning to minimize his weaknesses?  Or can he simply be coached into a stronger role within the team?  Its apparent to me that there is something there and he should be used.  His partners within the midfield also need to help paper over his weaknesses.  
    • Guendouzi has looked pretty stellar for a 19-year old.  Even more than Torreira, Guendouzi may be playing Xhaka off the pitch.  If Torreira is to be the anchor of the midfield Guendouzi appears to be the water-carrier at present.  Relying on a 19-year-old guy who hasn’t played in the Premier League before feels like it might come back to bite the team in the long-run.  Even if the midfield gets turned over to the kids in Torreira and Guendouzi they still have Ramsey/Xhaka/Elneny available.  
    • Lacazette coming on in the 2nd half isn’t how I feel he’s best used.  I love the idea of fresh legs coming on and stretching the opposition.  I think I’d rather see Laca and Auba starting together.  If they aren’t paired up top I’d like to see them able to swap the lone striker role.  Iwobi looked fine, got on the sheet and gave way to fresh legs.  I do like having Laca as the scoring threat off the bench more than I’d like Iwobi.  I also like having a hard-working winger on the left side than the Ozil/Mkhi thing from the City match.  
    • Ozil feels underused.  There wasn’t enough possession to really maximize his tools.  I didn’t mind his game I just don’t see this formation being able to maximize his potential.  Then again I don’t see any formation that has questions at the back as a formation to maximize Ozil.  Ozil needs to be able to be looking forward, finding space, runs, and weaknesses to exploit.  Tracking back isn’t his strength so playing him into a role where he needs to win balls limits his potential and sucks the life out of the attack.  If he converts that chance in the first 20 minutes it’s a different game.  I think this chance was every bit as bad as Auba’s miss.  Ozil just sliced it wide of the frame.  Auba blasted it over.  There were so many near misses.  This one from the guy that has so much pressure on him from the coach requesting more defense to the weekly wages that it just would’ve been nice to have.  
    • Xhaka can’t really be to blame for the early goals.  The first goal goes to the formation questions.  Dual midfield pivots and a high-line with defenders napping on the first goal.  The shot Barkley put over the bar (its in the highlight package below) shows the space that is still between the holding midfielders and the defenders.  On the second goal, Xhaka is higher than Guendouzi and has drifted left of him.  Mustafi clearly needs to deal with that play differently from cutting Morata off from the ball or just winning the tackle.  Cech guessing wrong didn’t help either.  The yellow card seemed to be more of a statement of intent that Arsenal wasn’t rolling over.  It was a rough place on the field to need that much steel but it didn’t feel horrific. Honestly, I’d be more interested in seeing Xhaka allowed more space slightly higher up the pitch in more of the role of a true number 8 instead of a number 6.  It feels like two number 8s are being played as 6s to fit Ozil the number 10 on the pitch while still having two wingers.  I’d rather see more of a diamond in the midfield.  Give up the width if you have too and play two strikers.  
    • Torreira didn’t sell me on being a straight-away starter.  Torreira got beat for the game-winner.  There were a handful of plays where he wasn’t in the correct hole.  He was marking Hazard for a chunk of his time on the pitch.  This felt more of a case where having the two number 6s actually lead to more confusion as to who was the last line of defense in the midfield, who needed to step-up or back.  I really think putting a single pivot into the formation will clear up the confusion.  It will also allow for tighter marking.  On the game-winner, Torreira lets him man slip by and I only assume this is because he thinks his man is drifting far-post and will be picked up by Guendouzi.  This type of error should be resolved with more repetitions within the system or by clarifying roles.  
    • Ramsey needs the entire length of a match to put his stamp on it.  Coming on for 20 or so minutes, in the end, doesn’t seem to be a strength.  Maybe the plan was to salt away the draw.  I can see that as making sense.  If that was the plan I’d rather have seen Elneny come on to pair for Torreira with Guendouzi moving up the pitch.  This again would lead me to think there should be more of a presence centrally within the midfield.  38% of the possession is paltry.  Jorginho/Kante/Barkley won the day clearly.  There is so much talent in the midfield that Emery needs to sort this out in the next two to three fixtures to get a hold on possession to feed the attack.
    • Iwobi worked hard.  Helped create the first goal.  Converted the second goal.  Quieted the right-side of the Chelsea attack Azpilicueta/Kante/Pedro but in doing so didn’t put extended pressure on the opposition.  The guy is involved in two goals and yet I was left wanting more.  I think I’ve just never been sold on his touch or possession skills.  Having said all of this he put in a good shift and shouldn’t be overlooked unless the formation shifts to improve the midfield or to include Laca in the attack.  
    • Lacazette as the super-sub only made sense if Lacazette isn’t starting.  I’d rather see him making runs, rotating with Auba from the left-wing position for the entire match.  There was space to be had by cutting in from that left wing.  Laca brings pace and a willingness to get into the area.  He wasn’t given the time to really be a threat in my eyes.  The possession wasn’t there either.  I’d rather see him and Auba up-top together.  Sigh
    • Aubameyang missed a goal.  Let’s get over it.  Next time he’ll probably convert.  Auba needs more service.  All strikers need service.  Playing two 10s in the midfield and not getting Auba service possibly means two 10s doesn’t make for a great midfield.  Auba, Mkhi, Ozil, Laca, and Ramsey are all attacking pieces that Emery inheritable with the job.  I didn’t watch a ton of PSG the last few years but sorting out the attacking talent there wasn’t an overnight situation.  I know that from watching Cavani longingly from a afar.  
  • The goals all sucked to give up.  The first goal Mkhi and Bellerin aren’t talking and Mkhi gets caught out long.  Then the whole defense is scrambling.  The second goal showed some great individual effort by Morata but again Iwobi is closing on the ball before it was played long but instead of forcing it in he lets it go wide.  Then Sok wasn’t crashing back to support Mustafi.  Mustafi doesn’t stand Morata up and maybe that’s fine because maybe Morata really is as good as his transfer fee.  Cech probably needs to rush out.  Later in the match, he does this a few times.  Maybe he just was slow to see this one, maybe he was thinking about Bobby Convey or maybe he thought yeah the really good central defender in front of me isn’t going to give this ball up easily.  The third goal Laca is trying to find a release valve.  The midfielders are too far back, he shouldn’t have passed it back.  It was a bad back-pass.  Then Hazard takes it easily.  Pressure is half-hearted on the ball.  Clearly, Arsenal was worried about it being played into Giroud’s head and the quick ball into feet caught the defense in an unimaginative state.  
  • Two losses from two matches.  Emery isn’t getting fired but he needs to be questioned.  Were these the best formations to trot out against these opponents?  Is this the set-up that gets the most out of the team?  I’m not presently sold.  After the Man City match, I just felt it was sloppy.  I never felt like the team was compact or tight in this match either.  I didn’t know Emery’s previous teams well enough to know his real individual style.  At PSG he had all-time greats.  I didn’t really take much from those teams.  I want to see a new identity emerge.  Sloppy isn’t what I was looking for.  There is clearly talent in this roster.  My expectations from these two fixtures had been to not look bad and the high-side was a single point.  I’m not sounding the alarm.  I just want to see progress in the next match.  I want the guys to seem like they know what they are doing collectively.  I don’t want to question the set-up or the on-field communication.  All of the teams in the Premier League have at least one talented player on the roster.  While there isn’t one guy I can say is going to open Arsenal up regardless they’ll have to watch Javier Hernadez’s pace if he plays and the physical presence that Marko Arnautovic brings to the pitch.  Jack Wilshire making his return to the Emirates should be fun.  Man, won’t it annoy the fans if Jack and company control possession this weekend?  Let’s hope this is a case of the attack finding its wings because the midfield is able to help loft it up to where it belongs.  I really hope there is no conversation about the high-line and the quick passing game from the back after this match.  

Arsenal Fall to Man City but seriously people it was Man City

Manchester City dropped 14 points last season.  They lost two matches and drew four.  I knew they were amazing last year but I hadn’t really thought about that run.  Arsenal’s Invincibles season they had 12 draws aka dropped 24 points.  I’ve included a quick graphic of ManCity’s roster below.  The text below the image links back to their Wikipedia page.  

Manchester City First Team Squad 2018-2019

When you look over ManCity’s roster there are a few things that stick out immediately.  First for me is the talent.  They are stacked everywhere.  They have multiple starting-caliber players everywhere.  I’ll hear an argument for Fernandinho being older with no clear replacement.  The tale of finding a replacement 6 is long and storied.  The next thing that I see is the experience.  They have bags of caps.  Seven guys on the roster with over 100 appearances for the club.  They have multiple scary goal threats.  They only have a handful of guys who run out of contract at the end of the current season.  Three that I see.  One is a youth player so his deal will essentially just roll-over.  One is Kompany and I’m sure they’ll let him play on one-year deals till he wants to retire or they will allow him to sign a big money deal elsewhere at the end of the season.  The City Football Group owns several other clubs throughout the world so if they wanted to let Vincent go elsewhere they could or he could go to a deep-pocketed club for one last pay-check.  The other on the final year is Mangala and he hasn’t really lived up to the hype or the transfer fee.  I wouldn’t be totally surprised if he walks.  There is always hope he could find his game and renew.  No one can pay him more than City so there is that too.  The last thing that sticks out to me is the transfer fees.  These are just the reported fees on freaking Wikipedia.  Only nine people on this roster have come to the team for less than £10m, yeah you read that correctly £10m.  One of those was Komany who transferred to the team in 2008 when fees weren’t quite to the current level.  Four (Denayer, Diaz, Foden, and Grimshaw) are academy graduates.  One came on a free (Gomes) and is a youth player.  Two were acquired at the end of their respective youth contracts (Sandler and Zinchenko).  The ninth player acquired for less than £10m is Fabian Delph who came to City from Aston Villa.  Villa was in the midst of major financial turmoil and Delph wanted out.  That’s a talented, experienced, dangerous and spendy roster.  The depth on this club would start at most clubs in the Premier League.  

I played soccer when I was younger stopped in my middle school years and came back to it via a good friend in college.  When I was getting back into soccer in 2002 my teams where Arsenal, Manchester City (my non-big 4 club) and DC United.  (Side note if you haven’t seen Rooney’s play from last night get on it.)  I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for City for years.  I used to get tapes of Claudio Renya bossing for City sent to me from my now father-in-law then girl-friends Dad when I was in college.  Haven’t been a huge fan of the City Football Group coming in and spending boatloads of money but that’s soccer and we all need to accept it.  Me not getting too worked up by a loss to City is because I see their roster, their manager, the cycle they are currently in mid-crest of and the infrastructure the team has put in place behind the first-team.  They are good, scary good and it should be exciting to watch them run through the Premier League this year.  I hope they can hold their own in Europe too.  

Last year in the same fixture Arsenal lost 3-0 at home to City.  When the City machine was humming.  This year going into this fixture I wasn’t expecting much to be honest.  I wanted to see a draw.  I assumed Arsenal would still be feeling out their balance under a new manager and City would be starting to prime the pump on defending their title.  What I expected is essentially what happened.  

I haven’t done a right and proper preview for Arsenal yet this year.  I should just so I can get my thoughts out of my head and really focus on the roster.  There is legit talent on this roster.  There are holes, clearly and areas where reinforcements are needed.  I was glad to see a few key pieces picked up over the summer and I’m also glad to see that Emery hasn’t done a wholesale changeover.  This way Emery should be able to feel out of the squad completely and start making moves in the subsequent transfer windows.  When I saw the lineups I was surprised and excited to see new faces.  Left-back was going to be a worry with the current injury situation.  The reports out over the weekend that Welbeck has been training at left-back turned out to be a smoke-screen that I’m guessing Pep didn’t bite on anyway.  

Arsenal v Manchester City Lineups

The match wasn’t nearly and clean and crisp as one would hope for two teams vying for the top end of the table.  City makes sense to me because its a long season and they don’t want to grind down guys that played deeper into the World Cup.  Arsenal also made sense due to the number of new faces.  As I’m not really focused on City here is where I stop breaking down their game closely.  I’ll mention some things but mainly I’m focused on Arsenal herein.

The line-up deserves some ink.  The back-line will be a question all year long.  As Koz deals with injuries the center back pairings will have to be more creative.  Koz is coming tough injury with the achilies tear.  Sadly, his best football might be behind him.  Even when he returns to “full” health I’m hoping the team doesn’t play him twice a week and basically gives him ample time between matches to recover.  In the center of the back-line Mustafi becomes the most important player.  His health, form, and performance will be a tell-tale for the club this season.  Sokratis Papastathopoulos got his first cap in this match.  I didn’t hate what I saw for the most part.  There were a few timing issues early.  Set pieces seemed much cleaner than we’ve seen in years for the Arsenal defense.  Sok mistimed a tackle for his yellow but at least he did it outside of the box.  The other options at CB are Rob Holding (who I’m good with rotationally), Konstantinos Mavropanos (who I haven’t seen), Nacho (currently injured and better outside), Sead Kolasinac (currently injured and I’m not sure if he’s better outside or inside), Carl Jenkinson (who is hopefully still getting loaned for playing time) and Stephan Lichtsteiner (who is new to the club but is primarily known as an outside back).  I didn’t list Hector Bellerin as a potential inside man because right now in his career he’s an outside back or a flanker.  Bellerin’s pace is one of his key weapons, putting him anywhere in the lineup that doesn’t allow for him to blaze limits his potential.  Would I rather see him in central defense than say Ramsey or Welbeck, yeah sure.  At that point in time I’m hoping we’d just be going into the youth squad for bodies over playing midfielders out of position.  

Playing midfielders out of position is what we did do with Ainsley Maitland-Niles by sliding him over Welbeck into the left-back spot.  I had assumed Lichtsteiner would take the left-back spot with Nacho and Sead out injured.  That’s probably what will have to happen with Ainsley getting hurt during this match.  The reports seem to be that its minor and he should be back soon.  While I will agree that Ainsley has more to give in terms of top-end talent to reach at this point in their careers.  Lichtsteiner represents a defender who is known for having great fitness.  To me when you are lining up against a team with weapons across the pitch getting another solid defender out there makes some sense.  I also understand the vibe on getting Ainsley minutes regardless.  It didn’t work this time.  Ainsley made it 35 minutes.  In that time Kyle Walker gave him a few fits, including the play Ainsley got hurt on, and Ainsley didn’t really show much in the attacking half.  Mahrez most dangerous play came when he had cut inside but there was still space for Mahrez to attack because Ainsley wasn’t going to allow himself to be beat long.  

Sokratis got the nod in central defense.  I think the more interesting aspect was that it was a back-four and not a back three.  There are so many talented midfielders on this team that I had sort of assumed that we’d see a back three with Bellerin and Ainsley/Lichtsteiner at the wingbacks.  Who would lineup in the back three?  The two we had and then I’m not sure. Maybe Lichtsteiner would’ve been the sensible third in the back.  Bellerin seems much more comfortable in a back-four.  That doesn’t really make sense to me as I see him as a threat getting forward.  Maybe I see a wingback as having more flexibility than they actually do.  The initial lineup sans Ainsley made sense given the options. 

The midfield and forward pairing I understood too.  Aubameyang got the start.  If the 3-5-2 had happened then Auba and Lacazette together would’ve made some sense.  In the 4-5-1 variation Arsenal lined-up, Auba was solo up-top.  The real surprise was Guendouzi starting in the second holding role.  Guendouzi next to Xhaka shielding the defense showed a lot of faith in the young Frenchmen.  Did it really make sense to play Guendouzi against Man City on the first day of the season?  For as solid as he looked he was involved in the ManCity goals but if he wasn’t they would’ve been set-pieces or completely blown assignments.  If you watch the Silva goal you won’t see Guendouzi and that’s because he wasn’t sprinting back into his position.  Xhaka is there to shield on the right-side and Guendouzi is late to the scene.  Not saying the space Silva found to score from was clearly Guendouzi’s but if he had busted it back it might’ve been at least a more difficult goal.  On the first goal, Bellerin passes Sterling off to Guendouzi and its all happening on the edge of the box and for me that’s a guy not completely confident to get stuck-in in that position on the field.  This is the first match I’ve watched Guendouzi but before I had taken him more as a creative midfielder or as a box-to-box or number 8 not as an out and out 6 in the holding role.  That speaks to how difficult it is to really know a player until you’ve seen them.  For the initial lineup, I would have assumed Torreira would’ve been paired with Xhaka to give the spine to players with real defensive attributes.  Xhaka hasn’t really lived up to the hype of his arrival but he’s shown quality and the ability to expand his game.  As it was constituted I’m not sure who the water-carrier for this team is when Ramsey isn’t on the pitch.  Ozil linked up with the defense but he didn’t nor does he boss the midfield.  Ramsey is a competent 8 but making runs into the box is a strength of his when he’s on form.  Guendouzi as the 8 would slide Torreira into the second 6 role or just take the formation from a 4-2-3-1 to more of a 4-1-1-3-1.  I’m guessing that is more of the plan.  I’d still prefer to see Torreira on the pitch with either Xhaka or Guendouzi in that 8 role.  I don’t dislike Mkhitaryan but I am not sold on him to date.  Last year I felt like he came in as a guy that was being under-utilized at ManU in that part-swap for Lexi so Wenger had to play him to show why the trade made sense.  The money spent on him in transfer fees and wages to me would still feel better spent on Mahrez and possibly Mahrez was never willing to come.  Mkhi just feels like a good footballer that doesn’t have that world-beater quality just a lot of great qualities.  Ozil can outpass just about anyone on the planet.  If Mkhi’s best quality is passing isn’t that a bit of an overlap?  Wouldn’t pace on that flank change games more too?  Give more interplay with Auba?  Laca or Auba could start on that left flank and give a goal-scoring threat with pace.  Ainsley could also slide up that high in the formation.  Granted I need to give Mkhi a few more matches to see really what he is all about and I hope I’m eating crow in a month or two.  

The attack is where I felt Arsenal were going to hang their hat this year.  Auba, Laca, Ozil, Mkhi and Ramsey to name a few create option in the attacking third that not many teams have.  Granted City does but as I covered before City dropped 14 points last year, and they are a unicorn.  We can’t hold ourselves up to City today as an apples to apples we can aspire to beat them but the talent isn’t level today.  When the talent isn’t level the game plan needs to make up the difference.  I didn’t see the plan to put City to the sword.  I didn’t see the plan to stifle them either.  While I still like our attacking talent on the roster I want to see more creative means to apply the talent.  We need to stretch the capabilities to reach the top four.  Mere 10-goal seasons from Auba and Laca won’t cut it.  

Starting off the new era against ManCity and Chelsea sucks.  I don’t think we’ll see the real formation till after those fixtures.  After those two fixtures the Gunners get some air and a little bit of room to develop an identity.  I had hoped to see a plan from Emery to snuff out City.  Play on the counter, use speed to switch the field or just suck up as much of the possession as possible.  Instead I felt like the team came out at home to play their brand of football.  Honestly, there is something to be said about this strategy too.  When you are at home you play your game.  City is a juggernaut but when you are at home you play your game.  I think Emery was saying something here too.  There were chances.  Ramsey miss-hit a ball early that ended up just dribbling on frameAuba had a chance when it was 1-0 and put it five yards wide of the frame.  Then when it was 2-0 he had a similar look and found the same result.  Chances like these will get converted as the season progresses.  Not at 100% rate but they’ll become goals instead of frustrations.  The plan through the midfield and the attack will have to be defined.  Will this be the beautiful passing game Wenger initially brought or will it be more of a probing slower build that I saw from PSG most recently.  Emery gets time and space to develop his Arsenal brand.  Game one against City will not be where he is judged.  Game two against Chelsea won’t be either.  Chelsea are in the midst of a chaotic run.  A new manager who was hired late into the summer.  The first choice keeper sent out to Real only after a young unknown was brought in for insane sums.  I’m looking for more tactically from Emery into match-day two than I felt I received in match-day one.  Some of the tactics may have been shaped by the available players.  I like Ramsey more than Mkhi so I’m biased there but taking Ramsey off for Laca felt like the wrong play.  Maybe I didn’t see a knock or a few questionable plays from Ramsey.  I’m not watching the entire field so I’m not sure if players are in the positions they have been coached to be within.  I saw a lack of midfield presence until Torreira came on in the 70th.  Torreira’s presence from the 70th on had me feeling like he’s a starter if his fitness is where it needs to be.  

I didn’t see a plan B once the plan A wasn’t working.  The play off the bench in the attack seems to be to just add more of the same.  Iwobi and Welbeck are both fast less proven version of Laca and Auba respectively.  The past few years Arsenal have had Giroud and that’s a clear plan B option.  If you start Giroud putting on pace is a clear plan B.  You don’t have to roster a battering ram to have a plan be.  Just moving Ozil and Mkhi from the attacking wing position into a 10 role changes things too.  Putting the pace on the outside is a change too.  Once Emery saw that Ozil and Mkhi weren’t going to break-through I would’ve like to see a reshaping of the midfield.  They both worked more centrally by the numbers but then the team lost its width and became easier to funnel.  

Going forward let’s hope we have a little different focus in the midfield.  There are lots of potential attacking options but we need to find our 8 and we need to see if we have depth.  If we don’t have depth we need to realign the midfield.  If there isn’t faith in Ramsey and Xhaka the fall back is Elneny and youth.  Youth got run on Sunday but it didn’t positively change the game.  

The final thought goes to the keeper.  I didn’t see the horrible errors that Twitter was spotting in Cech’s day.  The odd clearance in front of the goal-mouth was questionable.  Doesn’t really make sense to give Leno his first start on the opening day against ManCity either.    When Arsenal signed Leno for £19.2m he was brought in to push Cech.  Cech is the vice-captain so with that he gets the nets to start.  Cech has been a great addition for Arsenal.  The last few years he has saved the club from a worse fall from grace.  Until our central defense is squared up and we have the holding midfield sorted I’m fine with Cech getting burn.  If Cech has some howlers then we have Leno to push him.  Leno will get plenty of time in the various cup competitions.  The last few years Ospina has seen plenty of caps when he wasn’t worthy of it anymore.  Let’s let Leno and Cech work it out together and find the better keeper in due time.  Making a switch in the first week just would’ve felt panicked.  

Premier League Preview – Arsenal F.C.

  • #WengerOut
  • Unai Emery IN!!!
  • Players movement
    • Per retires
    • Santi moves to Villarreal with an epic reveal
    • Cap’n Jack leaves for West Ham United and says a lot of stuff in the process namely that Wenger  got sacked
    • Chuba didn’t work out
    • Lucas Perez decides being the 8th choice striker on huge wages isn’t fun even if you have huge wages
    • Stephan Lichsteiner comes on a free from Juve (they had to clear someone out to make room for Ronaldo)
    • Bernd Leno strolls over from Bayer to push Cech between the sticks
    • Sokratis Papastathopoulos is brought in for CB cover
    • We have a 6 as Lucas Torreira makes a move from Sampdoria after getting his braces and World Cup showing settled
    • Matteo Guendouzi from Lorient is an interesting creative midfielder
Transfers In
Loans Out and Overall transfer activity

Premier League Preview – Newcastle United

  • Does he stay or does he go? Rafa edition
  • Is Mike Ashley out of money again?
    • Selling Mitrovic for £22m seems like good business
    • Not bringing in anyone to replace Mitrovic outside of Salomon Rondon and Yoshinori Muto seems like a lot of faith is being placed in uncharted waters.
  • I’ll enjoy the midfield regardless

Premier League Preview – Leicester City

Getting these up a little late but its better than never. 

Leicester City have had a well-chronicled path through the Premier League.  Promotion in 2014 to a title in 2016.  2018 saw a 9th place which was an improvement of three spots from 2017.  What will 2019 bring? 

  • The lead-up to the season saw Harry Maguire star for England at the World Cup.
  • Riyad Mahrez finally depart heading to Manchester City for £60m
  • Several additions
    • James Maddison from Norwich City for £25m
    • Ricardo Pereira from Porto for £22.5m
    • Danny Ward from Liverpool for £12.5m
    • Caglar Soyuncu from Freiburg for £19m
    • Jonny Evans from West Bromwich Albion for £3.5m
    • And several other free or undisclosed players

On that list there were no true reinforcements behind Jamie Vardy.  The talismen clocks in at 31 to start the year but his January birthday will see him finish the season at 32.  Vardy’s pace and timing of runs are scary.  Will age slow him or will he just transition to a different style of scorer?  Vardy’s first year in the Prem is his only sub 15 goal season.  For Leicester to stay relevant it would appear Vardy needs to stay healthy and in-form.  

The defense looks to be in capable hands with no worrying departures.  Robert Huth left on a free but his departure should be more than offset from the additions and by not losing Maguire.  

With the opening fixture of the year being a 2-1 loss to Manchester United that saw Vardy start on the bench and score as a sub.  Leicester won’t really be a known quantity until they are starting their full squad.  Depth will be a question all year long.  If they can perform in an above the midline fashion for the first three months I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few reinforcements come January.  If things aren’t looking great look for a reboot with the hopes of staying clear of relegation.  The quality should see them to a mid-table finish.  I don’t see anything higher unless they bunker and find a midfield combination that can snuff out the life of the higher powered Prem talents.