“…And then I put my goggles on…” – Arsenal clash with Real Madrid brings much-needed clarity for season ahead



Do you have anything in your football world that you really don’t understand?

I do.

I don’t understand fans that think friendlies are pointless or that pre-season is just for fitness.
From my vantage point friendlies are for making BIG decisions about the upcoming season and who stays and leaves. What formation will work, which strategies are worthwhile and nowadays… giving fans worldwide the once in a lifetime chance to watch their team. Fitness is a by-product of the games.

Arsenal’s pre-season has been positive. We have learnt a good amount about the above.

Then Real Madrid vs Arsenal happened.

I was again blessed to be at the game. I was walking away from FedEx Field and thinking about what I would write.
There was one word that I couldn’t shake…. clarity.
The game felt like swimming under water. You have limited vision until you wise up and put your goggles on. Then…. clarity.

Due to Emery’s decision to play his ‘team for Newcastle,’ we got to see some big calls…..


1) The biggest was not only the decision to not play Mustafi, but even bigger, that he wasn’t used when Sokratis was subbed. Monreal was. Wow!
Finally, finally, finally Mustafi loses his place and seems (please) to have tumbled down the pecking order.
To illuminate and give even more clarity, Chambers was arguably our best player. I’d have been happy to lose 0-5 if that was the takeaway.
If Mustafi was truly injured (hmmm 🤔) then at least we got to see Chambers not be Mustafi.

2) Xhaka may well start against Newcastle simply because the other options may not be ready.
The ‘clarity’ I felt when watching Xhaka was due to the direct comparison I was making to Arsenal’s imminent signing, Dani Ceballos.
Xhaka is a good player who has already hit his ceiling. Dani Ceballos is potentially world class, one of the best young midfielders in Europe.
Not only is Ceballos better than Xhaka at the things Xhaka does well, but he adds the three qualities that none of our midfielders have. He is press resistant, penetrates on the dribble and has goals in him.
So what was so different about Xhaka vs Real?
You know when you see someone do some really nice things on the ball but then you realize that his best is just ‘good.’

3) Was Emi Martinez played for 90 minutes to test him against a great team so we can see if he’s up to being second choice?
Alternatively, as I mentioned in my last blog, I think Emi Martinez is going to the top. Perhaps the competition with Leno is real. He did so much well but more importantly, he makes you feel confident.


4) Sokratis is about to meet VAR.
His moment of head loss may well teach him to be smarter.

5) Joe Willock was very good, again.
I’m sure Emery needed clarity on his potential and so needed to see him in a ‘real game.’

6) Mkhi will be the next to be replaced. For me, even if we don’t sign a winger, Nelson and Saka are offering more in 20 minutes than he does in 70. Not even sure I needed the goggles to see this.

7) If anyone tells me that Nketiah, Nelson and Saka ‘aren’t ready’ then they are not watching what I am.
Try telling these three (who honestly represent all of our youngsters on tour) that pre-season is just to develop your lungs.
When they were about to run on the pitch I turned to my friend and said,”don’t think we are throwing the game. Our youngsters have been changing the game.”
And they did.
All three terrorized Varane and co.
Perfect impact subs in the PL.

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8) Tactically we saw clarity in a favored formation.
Before the red card, our 4-2-3-1 was putting our better players in their best positions and made them the focus rather than Kolasinac. We looked Real’s equal, at least.

Clarity happened because Real were 0-2 down and became embarrassed.
The game completely lost its friendly status and therefore we could get a much better idea of what a more competitive game will look like.

The score line will make little difference.
The fact that Emery was given a pair of goggles to watch it through will make all the difference.



* Zidane picked out Ozil and in particular, Willock as the players that impressed him.
That’s a big compliment for Joe Willock.

* Unlike many others it seems, I was impressed that the ref sent off both Sokratis and Nacho.
What’s important to remember is that as much as we don’t want red cards in friendlies, the alternative would have been a violent game.
Players sense injustice and when Real are involved they rarely need to be encouraged to play over aggressively.

* Well done to Carl Jenkinson.
Real clearly targeted him second half (maybe because Ozil was his ‘help’), and he made many important tackles and blocks on Marcelo.

* Auba and Laca are combining better each game.
Would have loved to see Auba stay on the right more however.

* We are consistently starting to show the ability to successfully play 1 touch in small spaces and create chances.
We are also counter attacking with greater threat.

* Ozil seems to be enjoying playing right now.

* This tour has been huge for the belief that the youngsters have gained.
Many have gone from playing Aston Villa U-23’s or FC Neverheardofit to Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Not just this, but they had big successes.
This can’t even be opinion. They can hang.




* For Emery to trust Chambers. He will need time to forge an understanding with Sokratis so he needs to start the remainder of pre season

* Whichever way you look at it, we need a right back.
Dani Alves is still available for free!

* Ditto, but a left back.

* I’ve heard that the CB will likely be a loan.
I’m ok with this as if the future is Holding and Saliba then the present doesn’t necessarily need to be permanent.
Somebody at Juventus is leaving and Rugani will be the likely one.
Would be a great opportunity for him to impress at Arsenal.
If City get Maguire and keep Otamendi, I’m wondering if Stones becomes available on loan?

* We haven’t looked threatening on set plays yet.
There is time to correct this.



* That we see Smith Rowe and Holding during pre season.

* As Guendouzi, Torreira, ElNeny return and as new players are signed, I hope we still see Willock, Nelson, Nketiah, Saka and Martinelli.
They will feel so encouraged by a positive tour. Please don’t squash their enthusiasm, Unai. They are on a roll.

* I’m hoping that the opportunities given to the youngsters encourages Amaechi to sign a contract.

* The most discouraging news of the summer so far is that Emery isn’t interested in Bielik.
He’s still on holiday but upon his return he needs an opportunity.
If he doesn’t I will struggle to understand how a player who has done nothing but impress people wasn’t at least given a chance to show that he can play at Arsenal’s level.
Has a much higher ceiling than Xhaka for a start.

* I noticed that Real looked like they started their ‘first team.’
Marcelo didn’t start.
If Tierney is off, I’d go for Marcelo.
What a player!



Our tour success is starting to create a buzz.
If we push through a RB, CB, LB and winger on top of the Saliba and Ceballos deals then optimism will be as high as it could be.
The Real Madrid game was as close to perfect as you’ll get when hoping for clarity to rear it’s head.

Here’s hoping that Emery was wearing his goggles.


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2 Responses to “…And then I put my goggles on…” – Arsenal clash with Real Madrid brings much-needed clarity for season ahead

  1. Omar El-kilany July 24, 2019 at 10:28 am #

    Excellent as usual from you Mike, Can’t fault anything you said, I do think that it seems that monreal, Mustafi, Mkhitaryan and Xhaka didn’t look sharp and I sure won’t be at Arsenal in the long term when the kids came on it changed the game for us, we dominate the first half they did the same second half until the kids came on they seemed to know how to play the Emery way and understand his tactics

  2. Segun July 24, 2019 at 12:58 pm #

    Well said, all round. Emi Martinez does give you confidence and I have had high hopes for him for a while now. Right height, right focus and nimble footwork, for such a big man.

    Can’t fail to notice you’re one of those who dislike Mustafi, but he was injured yesterday or he may have played. I feel the man needs to be shown some of the Arsenal love, so long as he plays for us as all the negative comments about him can’t help the situation for him and the club (in the event we want to sell). There is a good defender in him somewhere; he just seems to have lost some confidence and this can come back with one good game.

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