Like two middle aged men fighting with mops round the back of the school gym after going home time, this was the battle of the caretakers.
Freddie Ljungberg for The Arsenal and Duncan Ferguson for Everton had both been parachuted in to hold the fort after their teams’ failing managers were ousted for crimes against points acquisition.
By yesterday morning both knew this would be their last game in charge, with new managers already announced: Mikel ‘Action Man’ Arteta* for us, and Carlo ‘Could Be An Extra In The Sopranos’ Ancelotti for them.
So, two temporary bosses in their final game; two teams under the watchful eye of their incoming managers; it could have turned out to be anything.
In the end it was a dull 0-0 draw with Arsenal shading it as the better team (just).
Freddie’s final game in charge ended with a clean sheet, a point away from home and a half decent performance.
Our legendary Invincible was dealt a very bad hand when he stepped up from assistant head coach to temporary head coach. The team was on a run of terrible form with confidence shot to hell and no perceptible style or tactics.
To add injury to insult, when Unai Emery was shown the door, his coaching team left with him, leaving Freddie with no back-up. Per Mertesacker joined him from the youth academy but it was still a massive ask to turn things round.
His brief tenure comprised an away draw at Norwich, a home defeat to Brighton, an away win at West Ham, an away draw at Standard Liege, a home loss to Man City and, finally, an away point at Everton: P6 W1 D3 L2.
So at this point I think I can speak for all of us at AA when I say: Thank You Freddie!
In the circumstances it was probably as well as any stand-in could have done results-wise, but Freddie also acquitted himself well in the way he conducted himself and the way he talked about the job (in particular with his courageous frankness about how little support he was getting from the club).
Throughout his tenure Freddie showed a willingness to give young players a chance and that was reflected in his starting 11 for the Everton game.
Emile Smith-Rowe was given his first Premier League start, Saka was again preferred at left back (with Tierney and Kolasinac injured), Maitland-Niles at right back and Nelson and Martinelli further forward.
If Freddie has doubts about some of the senior players, his decision not to pick Ozil, Lacazette and Pepe was an elegant way of expressing them. (Ozil was not on the bench and is allegedly carrying a knock).
After a bright first couple of minutes we fell back into some of the bad habits that have become too familiar recently: poor first touches, misplaced passes, lack of running off the ball, risky balls that fail to come off and put us in immediate trouble. David Luiz in particular seemed to want to misread every pass and foul every Toffee that came in range.
Gradually – very gradually – we settled down and although Everton had the better of the first half, they never threatened our goal and for once Bernd Leno had a quiet time.
We looked good on the break occasionally, with Saka, Nelson and the tireless Martinelli all causing problems at different times. We had one great chance to get a one-on-one with Pickford but Smith-Rowe fluffed what should have been a simple pass to put Martinelli in. And Martinelli would later get through to the left of the Everton goal only to slice his shot wide of the near post.
In the second half our confidence and comfort level grew, even if we were creating few chances. The best opportunity of the game fell to the largely anonymous Aubameyang when a ball across the penalty area reached him on the edge of the six yard box. Unfortunately it was at an awkward height and he could only shin it towards the net without much power (although it still forced Pickford into a good reaction stop).
In the end 0-0 was probably fair given that neither side’s attackers were able to make much headway.
There was plenty for Arteta to feel positive about (especially the young players) and also plenty for him to work on. I said in comments after the game that I feel a lackadaisical attitude has been allowed to creep into our squad in the last year or so. I get the impression that Emery was to discipline what Attila the Hun was to diplomacy and that players were seldom called out for sloppy mistakes.
In his first interview as Arsenal boss Mikel talked about being ruthless and about making sure the culture was right. I think he’ll need to take a firm hand for a while (and risk being disliked by some senior players) until the team learns who’s in charge.
Frankly this group of players probably need to hear some hard truths, so I hope he has at it.
*For American readers, Action Man is the British equivalent of the GI Joe toy, with perfect plastic hair, just like Arteta.
For once had a quiet game and got the clean sheet that his excellent recent performances have deserved.
A very decent all-round performance from AMN. He was alert, strong in the challenge and offered help in attack at times.
Calum Chambers 7.5
He’s looking like our most accomplished centre half at the moment (at least until Holding returns). Got the MoTM award from Steve McManaman on the television.
David Luiz 6.5
Had an erratic first 20 minutes but was pretty solid thereafter.
What a good young prospect this lad is. He did well with his defensive duties and was dangerous when he attacked. This sort of experience (playing fullback) will make him a better attacking player in the long run.
A really tidy game from Granit. He is always comfortable on the ball and was our best outlet when we had to play out from the back through Everton’s press.
Tried one silly and unnecessary flick pass in the first half which almost put Everton through on our goal, but overall had a solid game.
I was delighted to see him start, but whether it was nerves or just an off day he seemed to be playing with steel capped Dr Martens instead of footy boots. His first touch was terrible and his passing was way off. In the second half he had a decent chance to take a shot at goal but hesitated because he seemed to be intimidated by the presence of Aubameyang (who was in a worse position to take the shot). It doesn’t matter though. We’ve seen enough of this young man to know he’ll come good.
A solid shift and some good attacking moments, but there were times when he could have imposed himself more.
How can any Arsenal fan not love this kid? Non-stop chasing, running and pressuring despite being kicked off the park. He could have done better with a shooting chance but his attitude is exemplary.
Not involved for most of the game. It’s not really his fault as he does not work as a central striker with the type of system we were using. Looked a bit peeved when substituted. I don’t see him as a captain.
Came on for Smith-Rowe and looked pretty good.
Had about 15 minutes but the chances didn’t fall his way. His effort was as good as we’ve come to expect.
Head Coach 8 (MoTM)
Thank you Freddie.
Wow, we’ve been thoroughly spoiled this weekend with your posts, Rocky! Thank you!
Action man 🤣 I prefer Ken… I found a picture of the spanish Ken doll…
Great work Rocky, thank you.
I think the game was about as good as we could expect and was certainly a good insight for Fuego (Spanish Ken doll) in terms of assessing the potential in some of our young players.
Saka, Willock, M-Nyles and Martinelli are all showing they have first team capability. ESR has had two lacklustre performances but I’d stick with him. One goal, or just a game when things come off for him may be all he needs to ignite his game.
I have nothing but gratitude and admiration for Freddie. He did his best and was brave and true to his word in his team selections, I hope Mikel decides to keep him in the first team coaching staff.
We’ve got some difficult games ahead – to be fair, every game looks difficult no matter who the opposition is. We should forget league position and just look at performance as our first benchmark … we just need to start playing better and then the confidence will grow. The young players don’t need to be told this, the older players are the ones who need to buck their ideas up.
Good report, but a bit generous with the ratings IMO. Must be your Xmas spirit Rocky.
It all starts today for Arteta with a meeting of the backroom staff (if my info is correct) and I’d be surprised to see Mertesacker step back from the role he’s had for a few weeks. I’m sure there’ll be a top job for Freddie if he want’s one.
I know this looks like I’m blowing my own trumpet … but … this link is to an article I wrote back in 2012 where I broke A R S E N A L down into an acronym (of sorts).
The thing most people disagreed with was making the first A for Arteta. I did it because I could see how much he brought to the stability of the team …. I hope/believe he can do the same as manager …
Well done Rasp – great call from 7 years ago! (And an excellent Post by the way).
I’m liking what I heard from Mikel in his press conference and I like what I’ve heard from Freddie today about Ozil (that even if he’d been fit yesterday, Fred would not have selected him because of his petulant reaction to being substituted in the previous match).
I’m not an Ozil hater. At his best he is world class. But there is no room in a successful and united dressing room for individual players – even and perhaps especially star players – acting like spoilt kids.
By that comment along Freddie has earned a prominent pace on Arteta’s coaching team.
SR and Sue
In hindsight I was probably a bit generous with the marks. I think they’re fine relative to each other, but could probably all come down a point.
Well if Holding comes back soon, then we could see him partner Chambers in Central Defense under Arteta and that could lead to Luiz being pushed up the middle…
Leno, Chambs have been rather good this season and then Martinelli and Saka have proven to be good surprises too.
Auba is not playing great but still leads our scoring chart and am really hoping to see Laca back on the pitch.
Csnt wait for Arteta s first line up and game in charge.
Thanks for a great post and agree with all the ratings
Agreed about Ozil. A unique talent but not a team player in terms of his attitude. He represents part of the ‘culture’ that needs to change.
I wonder if Mikel will be allowed to recruit if we sell a couple of players in January.
I know there is a management team that is responsible for many of the things that Arsene used to undertake, but I find the idea that the first team coach has little say in terms of recruitment quite ridiculous.
I understand Mikel takes a great interest in emerging talent in other clubs around the world. I do hope that part of his agreement was that he could play a part in shortlisting possible new players – otherwise what’s the point of him trying to develop a style of football?
Chambers collected his 5th yellow card in the league against Everton and shall serve an automatic 1 match ban when we visit Bournemouth in our next match.
Just all should know that Sokratis was missing from this game because of his own 1 match ban for 5 yellow cards.
Currently, both Xhaka and Guendouzi are on 4 yellow cards each but should be on the clear as we approach the 19th match-week. The next cut-off is 10 accumulated yellow cards (2 match ban) before the 32nd match-week, followed by 15 yellow cards (3 match ban) before the 38th match-week.
Great read, as Sue says we have been totally spoilt this weekend.
I agree with all the ratings and the comments along side.
What I would like to know is who gave the half time team talk because they came out of the dressing room a changed side: determined, motivated and potent, all good, shame we couldn’t find a goal.
There is one thing that no one has mentioned and that is not something that Arsenal did but something Arsenal didn’t do.
Did you notice how we didn’t get caught on the break? We have been caught like that in every single match that Emery was in charge, there became an identikit in how to beat Arsenal and many did.
But not yesterday, spared from the usual scenes of having to watch Xkaka chasing back trying in vain to catch an opponent racing towards our goal on his way to putting his team, often, further ahead.
No, there was a little bit more steel about the set up, a lot less Emery, a little bit less Wenger and just a tad more George Graham.
Although, naturally, if you move towards GG the goal tally suffers.
I am going to miss Freddie, I miss him already.
David De Gea 🤣 what a howler!
Mancs 2 nil down now … Watford have new manager bounce!
Our draw at Vicarage Road doesn’t look so bad now 🤣🤣
Nice smacked arse look on Jose’s face 😁😂
Watford should fire there manager every week lol
Yes agree, we have all been spoilt with excellent Rocky posts. Thank you Rocky.
Also agree with LB, I will miss Freddie. I thought he was slowly improving the team each week. Imagine what he could do if he had a full coaching team behind him and some more time. He will become a sought after coach and I hope we can retain him.
I was chatting to an Everton supporter yesterday. He had hope in Ancelotti but was cautious in case Ancelotti was simply a short-term mercenary wanting the big money (he is supposedly getting £11.5million-a-season in basic wages). They really have not had sich a world class coach before and the last succcessful period was under Moyes.
I am excited for how the season will finish. Manure lose, Spuds lose. New and old coaches enter the fray. Arteta now has to show that he is a number 1 and get results. Walk the Walk time for him.
We have it all in front of us now, Onwards and Upwards, COYG!
This tweet interested me from Mesut, just PR or actual hoped for a better relationship?
I’ve read –
Arteta has effectively ruled out a January exit for Mesut Ozil –
‘He’s a massive player for this football club. What I want is I want to understand how they’re feeling and what they need,’ Arteta said. ‘You have to understand them because sometimes with conversations you get to understand a point. ‘When you understand them I can take the excuses out of them and focus on the things that are relevant and have an impact for the team on the pitch and off the pitch. ‘Of course he’s a massive player. I worked with him and I know when he ticks what he can bring to the team. My job is to get the best out of him, of course.’
Looking at training pics on Arsenal.com from Mikel’s first session (also interesting as all the players were there on a Sunday morning) Mesut is in quite a few pictures and comments above indicate an ambition to get the best out of the squad and give them an environment in which they can flourish. Rasp earlier (by about 7 years 🙂 ) explained his thoughts on the stability Arteta brought as a player he sacrificed his own attacking instincts to provide a base for Mesut and others, I hope he can instil same mentality in to his players as coach, as LB said there was something a bit more steely about our performance on Saturday but surely can’t have been Artetas influence that early.
The thing is when Sam Allardyce is able to criticise Arsenal players for not being prepared to pass the ball forward hiding and taking sideways option something needs to change.
I will miss you to LB
It’s Christmas Eve Eve!!! 😊🤩
Morning all … speedily knocked up ….
… New post ….