A very clever game plan, hatched by Arteta and superbly executed by the team, enabling us to come away from Molineux will all three points. No easy task as that ground had become a fortress and seen a fair few top teams unexpectedly tumble.
Continuing with Rocky’s theme from his excellent pre-match, I wouldn’t say Wolves were slain, it struck me as being more akin to slowly having the life squeezed out of them, not the deadly rapid bite of a rattle snake but the slow asphyxiation of a large Boa constrictor.
The horse-shoe football that took place for the best part of the first half was clearly designed to drain Wolves of enthusiasm. Luiz to Soares, back to Luiz out to Kolasinac, back to Luiz, over and over creating the shape of a horse-shoe. Of course, I cannot be certain that it was Arteta’s plan to drain Wolves of enthusiasm but it certainly worked on me. Occasionally, the ball would be played to Xhaka or Ceballos in midfield but they simply played it back and the horse-shoe continued. It was starting to get hard to see how things would change. Saka and Soares looked strangers and understandably so as it was the first game they played together and you know when things are bad, when Mustafi has to shout to try and get the front line to make runs.
But then it changed, like an arm wrestle of evenly matched men, something eventually has to give and it did. A cross from Tierney was deflected invitingly for the waiting Saka to hit home. Not as easy to score as I have just said as he still had work to do to readjust his body quickly after the deflection but the young man did so superbly and deserved his first premiership goal.
Wolves naturally increased the pressure in search of an equaliser but it was back to the hypnotic defensive horse-shoe and Wolves remained under our spell for the remainder of the half.
Arteta’s game plan became more readable with the sequence that the substitutes were introduced. For a moment it didn’t make sense why AMN replaced Tierney but then it all fell into place; AMN was sent on to be the enforcer, to add some street fighting brute strength to deal with the marauding Traore and he carried it off well, controlled but forceful.
By this time Wolves had thrown caution to the wind and were coming on to us very high up putting pay to the horse-shoe, good in one sense but a bit worrying in the other as it seemed only a question of time before an equaliser appeared. Time for more substitutions; Bellerin and Willock came on to shore things up and they did so effectively. Hector looked serious; he has got some real competition for his place at last and Willock slots into that role of chasing down and carrying the ball out so well but as Wolves may have started to think that it may not be their day we were still not out of the woods. Time for further substitutions and what turned out to be the coup de gras. Is there a player who likes scoring more than Lacazette? He just lights up, it is as though it is the reason he lives, a superbly taken goal and as it turned out, game over.
Martinez: my MOTM, I arrive at this by asking myself: who played better than is normally expected? All the team played well but for me our man between the sticks certainly played better than I was aware he could. 9
Soares: defended well in his first start, obviously need more time to really get to gripes with what he is about but so far so good. 7
Mustafi: solid, no mess ups, all good 8
Luiz: back to his commanding best. 9
Kolasinac: didn’t realise he had the discipline to play in a three man back line but 2 clean sheets can’t be stiffed at. 7
Tierney: going from strength to strength. 8
Ceballos: slightly more subdued after his commanding performance against Norwich. It was his job to feed the attack which left a bit to be desired, still, very glad we have him. 7
Xhaka: hmmm, one of his key jobs as a midfielder was to create chances for the forward line, he wasn’t really doing that but there is no denying that his experience is very useful. 7
Saka: If Martinez gets injured would Saka go in goal? He probably does have the skills to play keeper. A very exciting versatile prospect, although, it wasn’t all champagne and new contracts today, but hey, if you score you get extra points. 8
Nketiah: really good first half shot that surprised the keeper, all still going in the right direction. 7
Aubamayang: got better and better as the game went on, a class act. 8
Thank you LB for the post. It certainly was a very good game of football made even better with an Arsenal win 🙂
I do like your choice of pics.
Lovely report LB.
I can’t find anything to disagree with…
…I would rate Xhaka a little higher because I don’t necessarily agree with your definition of what his job was in that game.
You say “one of his key jobs as a midfielder was to create chances for the forward line.”
He can do that sometimes (he has the ability to pick out a great pass to an attacker now and again). But in our current set-up I see his role somewhat differently.
To me he is there to give us an element of control in central midfield, to move the ball around with (mostly) simple short passes, to not give up possession, to occupy space where attacking midfielders might threaten us and generally to act as a metronome in the team.
In fact, in this role, he is crucial to your splendid Horseshoe analogy.
Which, by the way, is a brilliant way of describing our style of play yesterday. When I read it I thought “Yes! – that’s exactly what it was like.”
And what’s not to like about a lucky horseshoe?
If Xhaka is not in the team “as (an attacking) midfielder to create chances for the forward line”, since he is definitely not a defensive midfielder ( unless you are looking for an early heart attack!), I see no use for him that Torreira, Willock and Smith-Rowe couldnt do better. And when/if Partey arrives, he would be adding to the 3 million, IMO.
Great write-up LB and Rocky comment – between you have seen what I saw, contrary to most other reports. I still feel our midfield is lacking physicality which Partey might bring but Xhaka lacks skills/mobility, Ceballos seems lightweight as Torreira but has the skills, the latter easily brushed aside by larger opponents.
I look forward to seeing Arteta’s recruits.
With our current personnel (never mind the players who ‘might’ be here next season), Xhaka is the only one who can play the metronome role at the base of MF.
He’s certainly not a DM (in the Gilberto mould). And that, I believe, is why Arteta has switched to a back 3/5. The ability to have five defenders helps obviate the need for a traditional DM.
The other player in our current squad who could, in theory, play the metronome role is Torreira, but I am not convinced he can do it as well as Xhaka (although his tackling is undoubtedly better).
If you want to see what difference Xhaka makes at the moment, look at how we fared without him in the game-and-a-half against City and Brighton.
If… and it’s a big IF… we’re able to bring in someone like Partey for next season then I agree that Xhaka may become surplus to requirements.
But right now he’s the best fit for what we need.
You sum up my views of Xhaka, Torreira and Ceballos perfectly.
Ceballos shows glimpses of potential for being an outstanding creative CM, but the fact he has really only had two great games for us – and both against relatively weak opposition in Burnley and Norwich – casts doubt on his ability to play that role against better opponents.
Still dont understand Rocky!
You want a player at the base of midfield able to move the ball on, sideways or backwards, with short passes!
If that is ALL that is required, why can’t Torreira do it ( and we’d have his tackling and guts as well). If he is a doubt for you, it is, I would suggest, because Emery corrupted his role by telling him to push further forward on the right. We bought him as a holding midfielder to play in front of the back line, as he did for Sampdoria.
Xhaka was at the base of the second goal. It is not all about the final pass. But a good report, LB. Horse analogy is great.
Rocky Lives comment is totally on the money.
LBG, I’ll be honest I’m not totally sold on Torreira, notwithstanding his misuse by Emery.
Compared with Xhaka I think his passing and decision making are sub standard. And he is way too easily brushed off the ball by stronger players.
You ask: “You want a player at the base of midfield able to move the ball on, sideways or backwards, with short passes!”
What I want is irrelevant, but that is exactly what Arteta seems to want at the moment.
But… as always… I could be reading this completely wrongly and you might be right that Terrier would be a better option.
“The Lucky Horseshoe” Damn, why didn’t I think of that 🙂
We are all comfortable with the idea that Saka can play several positions, I don’t see why that cannot apply to Torreira; he is a very good DM but has impressed when playing further forward, and when he does, he adds so much more to the high press with his superb tackling skills.
Good post LB!
Right now we are somewhere between a top team and an up-and-coming team you can say a team in transition. 🙂
But what is really uplifting now is the teamwork. It was encouraging to see all the players to know, understand and execute the gameplan. Disciplined performance at every department. This is something we missed from the artillery. I can-t wait watching Arsenal against Leicester and Spurs.
Despite Emery’s encouraging start, we definitely reached a point later in his reign where the players really didn’t seem to have a clue about what the game plan was or what they were supposed to be doing.
I recall in some matches you could see players looking at each other mid-game with expressions that almost said “HELP!”
One of the most encouraging things about the recent run of games, and the run we were on just before coronavirus lockdown, was the sense that (a) there was a plan and (b) the payers understood it and were buying into it.
Excellent match report LB, thank you. I agree completely with your assessment of Arteta’s tactics. It wasn’t the most scintillating performance, but highly effective and for once everyone knew their role and was performing it to a high standard. We got the three points and we’re above Tottenham … perfect day!
You know what makes bellerin shine? A good competition. When sagna and jenkinson were injured he got his chance and made it his. He practically ended the Frenchman’s arsenal career. Just when you think he couldn’t get any better he ended another Frenchman’s arsenal career ( debuchy). But without any competition he seems to relax. Hopefully we will see him at his best again because I get a feeling Cedric will not be leaving soon. And he will push him.
To LGB, there is a reason why coaches like like xkaka though his lack of mobility and speed are glaring to the eyes. I think we will see more of him next season. Even though we are looking at signing partey who I think is xkaka plus mobility. Looking at it from a tactical perspective, I think our midfield and attack looks more like Liverpool’s than city whom we are mostly compared to. City plays with two attacking midfielders in Silva and debruyne both of whom shift to the side to provide width while the wide attackers move towards the middle in goal scoring areas. We currently don’t play with an attacking midfielder with ozil being the only one. But like liverpool our width comes from the wide backmen bellerin and Tierney who crosses into the box and instead of attacking midfielders. And like liverpool our midfield is tasked with providing cover for the wing backs instead of wingbacks covering for the whole left by the midfield. Because our central defence is not good enough to play this formation we sacrifice a midfielder for a central defender who can pass the ball and move into the midfield against weeker opposition( David Luiz). The question that remains is of our midfield players who are best for this role. Looking at liverpool’s wijnaldum, fabinho and Henderson we need players who have physical presence, sense of position, ability to cover defensive positions, intelligence to control the game, ability to spread the ball from one dangerous side of the attack to the other. They should also be able to be dangerous from distance. From these am sure you all have xhaka in your head as the best suited to that role. Little wonder it the beginning of this season one of liverpool’s former players was saying he would walk straight into thier team.the next best is Torriera whose obvious weekness is physicality. Then ceballos whose weakness is defensive awareness and physicality, same with guendouzi. If you think you need an upgrade on those, might I suggest Sir Thomas Partey. At least it’s what I think.
Excellent analysis Umar
players with ” physical presence, sense of position, ability to cover defensive positions, intelligence to control the game, ability to spread the ball from one dangerous side of the attack to the other”……”dangerous from a distance”
“am sure you all have Xhaka in your mind as best suited to that job”.
Difficult for me to believe your above sentences!!! Physical presence 5/10, sense of position 3/10, defensive positioning and skills 2/10, intelligence to control the game 4/10, ability to spread the ball (on rare and rarer occasions!)6/10, dangerous from a distance ( perhaps three examples since he joined us) 4/10. No, Umar, IMO, he IS NOT the first who comes to my mind.
Henderson is so superior to him in all above areas, especially creatively and defensively, and in Liverpool terms I dont even rate him highly compared to others of the last ten years!!!
I would swop Fabinho and Wijnaldum for him any day.
All a matter of opinion of course, but doubt you would have significant agreement from most on this site.
Trust we will get Partey and one other established creative midfield talent to teach Smith-Rowe and Willock their trade, and that Xhaka will then become irrelevant!
Morning All – New Post
Arsenal need to warning arteta about of bench ozil and lacazette.