We have been particularly poor away from home against Big 6 teams. Arteta has not really managed to improve our form away from home in terms of points collected but since he took over, we are harder to beat which is a bit of a consolation.
The good news is that Man Utd have been struggling at home in the EPL this season but the bad news is that I feel like they are hitting form, especially Rashford. I like Rashford and I d be delighted if he joined AFC once Auba leaves 😛
I was not happy with our performance in our last EPL game against Leicester and our win yesterday was expected and nothing to brag about except for the positive performances from Runnarsson, Willok and RN.
We are on a good run against Utd (won 2 out of the last 3 games ; have not lost any of the last 4 in the EPL) and I hope it continues but I am going into the game with no confidence because we seem to struggle to create chances and also because Luiz is missing and Leno is not having a great start of the season.
As an Irishman it pains me to write this, but Dundalk FC will be one of the most objectionable teams we will entertain in N5 this entire season.
Yes, they come from a charming little town in the Irish Republic, just a bit south of the border with Northern Ireland.
Yes, they are currently the best team in the Republic and the top-ranked team in the country according to UEFA.
And yes, I’m sure many of their players are charming fellows with whom you would happily share a Guinness and a few yarns in MacManus’s pub to the background sound of a fiddle, pipe and bodhran trio knocking out a jolly jig.
But there is one big problem with Dundalk FC. One very big problem. It’s their nickname.
Take a deep breath, sit down… Dundalk are known as… The Lilywhites.
I know, wash my mouth out, scrub my keyboard clean. How can I let such filth emanate from my laptop.
As we all know, there’s another team not to far away from N5 that call themselves The Lilywhites. And we all know what we think of them. For the benefit of any Irish readers, our neighbours are eejits. They’re feckers. Flutes. A bunch of gobshite hoors.
And Dundalk, I’m sorry, but you are guilty by association. If you call yourselves Lilywhites, you must expect to be met with the scorn and derision that Lilywhites deserve.
And so to the game.
We had a disappointing result against Leicester City on Sunday. Despite dominating for large parts of the game (as GoonerB skilfully detailed in yesterday’s Post) we lost by a single goal.
This weekend we face an away trip to Manchester United, which will surely play a significant factor in El Patron’s team selection for tonight.
Disrespect to Dundalk, (I would normally say “NO disrespect”, but I can’t do that for the aforementioned reasons), despite being the top team in Ireland they are many, many levels below Arsenal.
So we need to start an entire second team against them, with a strong weighting towards youth.
By all means have a few of the big boys on the bench for any ‘break glass in emergencies’ scenarios, but leave it to the second string to bring home the points and leave the Lilywhites feeling blue.
My line-up would be as follows:
Soares – Saliba – Gabriel – Kolasinac
Maitland-Niles – Elneny – Willock
Pepe – Nketiah – Nelson
I have included Gabriel because of our injury problems at CB, and I’m starting Pepe in yet another attempt to boost his confidence by giving him the chance to bag some goals.
Anything other than a comfortable Arsenal win and a bunch of wilting Lilywhites would be a surprise, not to say an embarrassment.
I have (in my own mind) put the game against Leicester in a less negative perspective, but at the same time I have a couple of slight concerns that have started to take shape.
The result against Leicester was against the general run of play and the stats were heavily in our favour in all the areas that mattered except the one that ultimately really matters… the end score.
I saw a stat (that I can’t find anywhere now) about touches in the opposition box where we were significantly dominant. The stat for shots inside the box was 9-2 in our favour and the goalkeeper shots saved was one for us and four for them. All of this indicates a game we should not just have won, but won with room to spare.
I know some pundits, (with the gift of commenting after the game), like to portray it as a Rodgers tactical masterclass against our rookie manager but this is seriously annoying punditry nonsense.
Arteta can’t help Laca missing a sitter and VAR chalking off a legitimate goal which would have seen us 2-0 up at half time. In fact such was our first half dominance, especially in terms of touches and shots inside the box, that 3-0 at half time would not have been undeserved.
It only becomes declared as a Rodgers tactical masterclass because we didn’t capitalise and VAR failed again. Exactly the same game with VAR getting it right and us being even a smidgen more clinical and all of a sudden the pundits are harping on about how Leicester and Rodgers got it completely wrong… such is the fickle nature of today’s pundit. It looks the easiest, best-paid job in the world.
So, with those kind of dominant stats, what went wrong? In addition to the the VAR joke decision, and Laca’s sitter he missed, the other key factor was our tactical formation not being balanced enough to exploit the domination we had, at least in the first half. Here, unfortunately, I have to call out our young manager (for the first time really) as having got a couple of things badly wrong.
I am still slightly unsure of our set-up on Sunday. Was it 3-4-3 or 4-3-3? Some reports have it as a 3-4-3 with Xhaka as a left sided centre back but others have it as a 4-3-3 with Xhaka as one of our midfield 3. The latter seems more true to me but maybe someone can shed some light on this. Perhaps a heat map of the midfield three, particularly Xhaka, will provide an answer.
Arteta has used the 3-4-3 since late last year and it served us well at the end of last season, but I think it is a system that should have been largely considered one of temporary necessity, and we should be looking to adopt the 4-3-3 moving forwards.
We are seemingly lacking creativity and must apparently buy Aouer to solve all our problems (which I’m not against, by the way), but I think we should be making better use of what we have and finding out how that shapes up before we go down the familiar path of all our problems being seemingly solved by buying this player or that.
The 4-3-3 gains an extra midfielder over the 3-4-3 and critically that extra midfielder is the attacking (Ozil type) one that plays between the two (primarily) anchoring midfielders and the front three. This is the player that looks to create for the front three and overlapping full-backs and also to offer a goal threat as well.
Playing Partey, Xhaka and Dani should have released Dani into the role but somehow they ended up all strung out as a deeper horizontal three too often, rather than forming up in nice triangles to move the ball around and break their lines of defence.
Dani was either instructed not to play the more attacking role, or maybe he is not as comfortable pushing further up. If it is the latter then keep him as one of our four options in the deeper two (Partey, Xhaka, Dani, Elneny). In reality the question is who partners Partey?
That means we need another player to play in front of them. Personally I think Saka could shine there given a chance, but I also think it is probably Willian’s best position and we also have ESR coming back as well. That’s three good options to try in that position in the 4-3-3 formation.
Beyond this the other (and possibly more self harming) major problem – and the one I really don’t get – was playing Auba from the right and Saka from the left in the front three. I have said this many times before but literally no top team operating a front three plays the right footer on the right and the left footer on the left.
The angle for shooting on goal with the stronger foot is narrowed down compared to cutting in from the opposite flank, and it also removes that option of cutting inside and wrapping your foot around the ball, starting it off outside the post with it curling back in… far harder for the keeper to save. Henry always preferred to attack cutting in from the left when he could.
Personally I think we increase our goal-scoring threat by some 30% if we have a lefty on the right and a righty on the left. If you look at the prolific wing forward types currently (and in the recent past) it tells you everything needed to know. Just ask yourself which side of the pitch all the following play from, relative to their strongest foot: Salah, Mane, Sterling, Mahrez, Son, Bale, Rashford, Hazard, Messi, Robben, Ribery, Gnabry e.t.c, e.t.c
It seems utterly perplexing to me that Arteta went the other way around, and I have my first serious questions about his judgement. He is touted as being a brilliant tactician but it is almost like he is trying to be too clever at times. It felt like this with Willian as a false 9 against City as well.
We can play Laca, Nketieh or Auba as the 9.
We can play Auba, Nelson, Martinelli, or even possibly AMN on the left of the front three.
We can play pepe or Saka on the right of a front three.
We can play Saka, Willian, Smith-Rowe, and possibly Dani as the ACM in the midfield three.
We can play Partey, Dani, Xhaka, Elneny as the two anchor players in the midfield three.
To me we have the players to be far more creative and carry a greater goal threat right now than we have been showing if we get them in their strongest positions.
I am sure most of a certain age remember Claudio Ranierri “the tinkerman” in his stint at Chelsea; it failed. However, funnily enough, when he got to Leicester with fewer options but with some good and dangerous players to whose strengths he consistently played , they won the league.
Arteta remains the man for me and has been for some time now, however I would like to see more basic pragmatism in playing players in their stronger positions and in a way that makes the team more balanced and stronger. I don’t want to be getting the square pegs in round holes out of room 101 again.
The wonderful singer-songwriter Johnny Nash, who died two weeks ago, had a hit in 1972 with the song ‘There are more questions than answers.’
That’s a pretty good way of describing our feelings about Arsenal right now, as RA demonstrates in today’s Post.
By the way, if you’re looking for a positive omen of how things might go from here, Johnny’s other big hit was “I can see clearly now.’
We have all been happy with Mikel and the way he is reshaping the team, and it is accepted that he has a big job to pull the team up closer to the top.
He has brought a feeling of contentment to many of us, and the progress at the end of last season and winning the FA Cup and the Community Shield as well as beating Citeh and ‘Pool added to that.
We have been pulled up short with recent results, and that is only to be expected as we had all hoped we would continue progressing this season.
It is also normal for the most reasonable fans to try and rationalise what has happened, with a mention of player injuries; player tiredness; unlucky results; poor refereeing; et sequentia.
And that is an adult way to ‘box’ disappointment, with an implied feeling these things can be changed in forthcoming games.
It is also OK to use this time of setback to open our eyes and assess what has also gone wrong.
I, for one, do not want to say “Oh, it will be OK – it’s just something that Mikel will sort out,” because that is the sort of rationalising that soon starts to unleash the more morose fans when things do not get resolved quickly, and it might swiftly lead to “Arteta was the wrong appointment …… etc”.
Rationalisation is normal, but there are things that are not easily explained, such as the choice of players for the team. For example; we have an injury with Holding, Luiz, gets a hammy but don’t worry, we can bring on Mustafi (who wants to leave) — and we seem to be slipping back into the same old, same old set up.
What has happened to homegrown Zach Medley, or Saliba or one of the number of promising youth players we have sent out on loan?
What has happened to our £72m winger, Pepe – crap buy, or still settling in?
Is it possible to play Lacazette alongside Aubmayang?
Should we persevere with other players in the team who were apparently on their way out, like Mustafi, Xhaka, Kola, but are now back in the fold, which I find ridiculous, personally?
Were we not promised, by inference, that more youth players would be brought into the team, like Nketiah and Saka? There are many more of them in the U23s, and these are players for the future and should be used while the rebuild goes on, rather than using players like the above who are just waiting to be sold or for their contracts to expire.
This is not just giving up – far from it – Mikel is the lynch pin at Arsenal, and in time will sort it out – but there short term solutions (mentioned above) and longer term solutions, and I am not happy with the former, and really would be much happier with the latter.
I said in yesterday’s pre-match that this was a ‘barometer’ fixture for us.
Win, and we could reasonably start expecting good things from this season. Lose or draw… not so much.
Well, it was a painful but entirely deserved defeat, the winning goal coming inevitably from Jamie Vardy, who has joined the likes of Drogba and Rooney as an Arsenal nemesis.
We had a reasonable first half hour without creating many opportunities, just one or two half chances. For the rest of the game we seemed to be bereft of ideas in the attacking third.
I’ll leave it to the better tacticians among our commenters to get into the nitty gritty of what we did wrong, but the big picture was that we lacked creativity, we were slow to the point of glacial in moving into attack and too many players were below par (Aubameyang had to take a tablet part way through the first half – was he fit? He didn’t seem it. Dani Ceballos meanwhile looked like he’d taken a tablet before kick-off – a sleeping tablet).
Taking stock of this season, we had a comfortable opening day win at Fulham which looks less impressive as each week goes by and Fulham’s uselessness is further exposed.
We lost away at Man City and Liverpool. Meanwhile our home wins against West Ham and Sheffield United were both very hard fought and – if we’re honest – a little lucky.
So that’s one really good performance this season out of six, and that was against the worst club in the division.
Before you accuse me of being too negative, let me state that I love the extra organisation and commitment we have gained under Mikel Arteta, but there is something missing.
I back El Patron to find the answer, and I’m sure it will be something to do with the way we set the team up, but we haven’t found it so far.
Leicester deserve credit for their win. They defended well and, once Vardy came on with half an hour to go, they broke with speed and purpose. They showed us how it’s done.
Yes, our early disallowed goal perhaps should have been allowed, but it’s not as if we didn’t still have the best part of 90 minutes to win the game even after that disappointment.
Somehow Arteta has to find a way of releasing our creative potential without undermining the solidity he has brought to the team.
Old Toilet next weekend would be a good place and time to regain our momentum.
It’s Leicester at the Emirates tonight and, to me at least, this feels like a big and important game.
Most Arsenal supporters agree that Mikel Arteta has done a good job since he came in. He salvaged our 2019-20 season by winning the FA Cup.
He has replaced the tactical confusion and defensive fragility of the Emery period by establishing a well organised system in which the players all seem to know their duties.
He has restored morale and gives an air of firm leadership at the helm of HMS Arsenal.
In simple terms, to continue the maritime metaphor, he has steadied the ship.
Surely all this work hasn’t been put in so that we can just settle for being a well drilled upper-mid table team that can compete with the big boys without quite being good enough but will always Hoover up enough points elsewhere to maintain respectability? That would suck.
No, I’m afraid the time has come for Arteta’s Arsenal to move into the next gear (I’m switching from sailing metaphors to motoring ones now. Do keep up).
If a team in championship winning form can be said to be speeding along in sixth (top) gear, then you could argue that – under El Patron – we have moved from second and into third and now it’s time to put the foot down.
And that means we have to beat the Foxes today.
They are a good side, level with us in the table with a marginally better goal difference, but they are a team we need to be vanquishing at home to demonstrate that we really are progressing.
There are no distractions. The transfer window is closed, the interlull is over, the players and coaches have had time to work together. No distractions and no excuses.
That’s why I see this as a barometer match: win, and you can start to see that we might actually do something interesting this season (and let’s agree, so far this season the Premier League looks more open than it has for years); lose and it means that our ship still needs steadying (oops, we’re back on the ocean blue again) and we may need to recalibrate our view of what this campaign may hold for us; even a draw tends towards that latter analysis.
Yes, it’s only one game and we are always told not to place too much store on any single result, but I’m not buying that.
Action Man has fulfilled his brief so far and completed Stage One. Stage Two starts this evening.
As for the line-up, apparently Ceballos is fit again and Willian is a doubt with a calf strain.
There has been debate about whether Aubameyang should play through the middle and it remains to be seen if new boy Thomas Partey will start after his hugely impressive full debut against Rapid Vienna on Thursday.
Arteta talked about Auba needing to be in and around the box more and some have seen this is an indication that he will be played through the middle. I don’t buy that. I suspect El Patron has other ideas for how to involve him more, possibly using Saka as a left wing back so Auba can move inside more frequently.
Leicester’s central defenders are not the quickest, so I would go with Eddie Nketiah ahead of Lacazette.
My midfield partners Partey and Elneny, with Saka forming a third midfielder when we are in possession.
This wasn’t the FA Cup and this time the apprentice did not get one over on the master.
We went down to a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City in which our lads put in a creditable performance, but you’d be hard pushed to say that City did not deserve the points.
We had good spells, created a few decent chances and might even have had a penalty if the VAR bloke had not gone off for a pee at the crucial moment, but overall we were second best.
The positives were that (a) we looked – as usual under Arteta – like a well-organised team whose players all knew their jobs and did their best to carry them out, (b) we limited a very talented team to only one goal and (c) we were still in it right to the end.
The negatives: that there is still a quality gap between our players and theirs and that we caused them so little trouble in the last half hour despite needing to chase the game.
We probably should have had a penalty at the end of the first half when Kyle Walker’s boot reached low earth orbit altitude and almost smacked Gabriel in the hooter. The fact that VAR did not even take a look makes you wonder…
And for all City’s superb close passing and movement, they also gave a masterclass in cynical rotational fouling, breaking up all our break-out attacks with trips, pulls and obstructions. Some (though far from all) were penalised, but the fact that the ref never really made them pay for what was obviously a deliberate tactic is frustrating.
With our next two league games being Leicester at home and Manchester United away, a result yesterday would have taken some of the pressure off those upcoming fixtures. Now you’d have to say we need to be looking for four points from those two tough fixtures. Let’s just hope that Ole is still in the hot seat at Old Toilet when we play United.
Has a habit of deflecting shots into danger areas. Perhaps there was little he could have done, but I’m not sure. The Martinez discussion (as Redders pointed out in comments) is redundant but I like a ‘keeper who prioritises catching over deflecting or punching. Apart from the City goal, there was another moment when Leno deflected a shot right into the danger area late on (although in that case the shot came from much closer in so he probably had less chance to adjust). On the positive side his footwork was good as we tried to play through City’s high press and his willingness to come out of his box as a sweeper was important on a couple of occasions.
Struggled with the City attackers but had some decent moments getting forward. He was criticised by the TV pundits for letting the City attacker cut inside him and shoot for City’s goal.
Mostly solid game from the Brazilian mophead, with one almost-classic Luiz moment when he tried to slice a clearance into his own net. His ball usage coming out of defence was pretty good overall.
Defensively strong and imposing (he definitely adds solidity to our back line). On a few occasions he lost possession with sloppy passing, which is really bad news in a game where we struggled to keep hold of the ball.
Generally defended well and also got forward well at time. Was on the end of some rough treatment from the City players, mostly ignored by the ref.
I actually think Granit was an important part of the reason why we stayed in this game. He was always available in midfield and kept possession really well. The problem is he is just not a particularly progressive player so, most of the time, he took safe options with his passing.
Dani was relatively uninvolved in the first half. Towards the end of the game as we were chasing a goal he got into the game a bit more, but overall this was not his best performance. It must be hard chasing City players all game long and I can’t fault his work rate, but he wasn’t able to impose himself.
Saka 7 MoTM
Was involved in all our brightest moments and was unlucky not to have bagged a goal when one-on-one with the ‘keeper. Kept trying and looked like our most dangerous outlet.
I had high hopes for Pepe in this one but he struggled to make an impression. I did notice him tracking back well and taking his defensive duties seriously, which is a positive.
Made virtually no impact on the game at all and the decision to play him centrally in attack was a mistake. He was too lightweight to contend with City’s strong defenders and he just didn’t do enough on the ball to cause them any problems.
Had very little opportunity to get on the scoresheet. One chance (incorrectly flagged for offside) was saved by City’s ‘keeper and he almost got on the end of a good Luiz cross late on. He still looked like class whenever he had the ball but just could not make anything happen.
Ran around a lot but spoiled a couple of our better opportunities late on by making bad passes.
Nice to see him make his debut, but there was to be no ‘dream start’ to his Arsenal career.
Internationals are OK in big tournaments (World Cup, Euros, African Cup of Nations etc) but the rest of the time? Nah.
This evening Mikel Arteta’s carefully tended Arsenal revival faces a significant challenge away at the Etihad.
There are several interesting dimensions to the clash: Action Man facing his old boss and mentor Pep Guardiola; a possible first run out for Thomas Partey in an Arsenal shirt; Manchester City coming off the back of some questionable results including a thrashing by Leicester and a draw with Leeds.
As Arsenal fans, all we can hope for is that the growing improvement we have been showing under Arteta’s leadership maintains its momentum, regardless of the result.
We have definitely been better organised and more defensively secure, although we have still made heavy weather of some games, including the victories over Sheffield United and, a few weeks earlier, West Ham.
However, we seem to be able to up our game against the “better” teams, perhaps because they don’t sit back and defend so deeply against us, which exposes our lack of midfield creativity.
This is a tough one to call and I would be happy with a point, but also feel we should go in to the game seriously intending to win all three. Auba will be our principal threat as always, but I have high hopes of Pepe getting on the scoresheet.
Indeed my line-up includes a start for Pepe (he deserves it after his showing against Sheffield) and, I’m afraid, I have limited our new boy Partey to the bench, but with a debut appearance at some point in the game.
My reason for not starting Partey is that he joined up with the squad only a couple of days ago after his international exertions and will not have had much time to absorb Arteta’s coaching preferences. However, as I say, I expect him to get a run out from the subs’ bench.
I am leaving out Tierney because, at the time of writing, it is unclear whether he has been declared safe to play after having come into contact with someone who had Covid 19, but the omens don’t look good. We could really do with him against City. In his absence I prefer AMN over Kola.
Given City’s attacking prowess, it has to be a back five, but switching to a back four when we’re in possession.
My starting 11:
Bellerin – Holding – Luiz – Gabriel – Maitland-Niles
Congratulations to Eddie Nketiah for becoming the top scorer of all time at England Under 21 level.
It raises a question: how good can Eddie be? Will he be Eddie the Eagle? Or Eddie the Beagle?
Nothing against beagles, of course, but we don’t associate them with soaring to great heights, do we?
I happen to think he can be very, very good so I have been surprised by the lukewarm reaction to him from fans generally, including from commenters here on Arsenal Arsenal.
A couple of things to mention about his achievement last night in the U21 game against Turkey: first, he scored not long after missing a penalty (he hit the post), which shows character; second, he was the team captain on the night, which tells you what the England set-up think of him.
That late goal gave him 14 goals at U21 level, eclipsing the previous record holders, Geordie legend Alan Shearer and the unlucky former Arsenal player Francis Jeffers, whose career was blighted by injury.
So, what about the perception of him among Arsenal supporters? Before you all jump on me I’m not suggesting that we haven’t appreciated his efforts or aren’t rooting for him to do well.
It’s just that I don’t get any sense of excitement around him, in the way Manchester United fans were hugely optimistic when Marcus Rashford emerged, or the way Chelsea supporters got all tingly about Tammy Abraham and now Mason Mount.
I reckon that many of us see Eddie as a good young home-grown striker in a long line of good young home-grown strikers who never make it at Arsenal.
Jay Simpson, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Chuka Aneke, Chuba Akpom, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, Jeremie Aliadiere, Arturo Lupoli, Jerome Thomas, Jay Bothroyd, Tyreece John-Jules (still with us but on loan at Doncaster) and others too obscure to mention.
Will Eddie’s name be added to that long roll of not-quite-honour?
Time will tell, of course, but I fear we supporters are underestimating Eddie. He looks to me to have some of the qualities of Ian Wright in the way he makes his runs into the box and the composure he has when tucking the ball away.
This season he’s had two goals in six appearances, some of which were substitute appearances. It’s not a spectacular return but not bad in terms of goals per minute.
More importantly, Mikel Arteta and his team seem to think highly of him and are starting to trust him with important game time, including starting matches.
The odds are stacked against any young striker making the grade at a top club, but I have more hope for Eddie than I had for any of the players on that long list, and I suspect the club has the same hopes.
This could turn into a breakout season for the young South Londoner who was originally snapped up by Chelsea’s youth scouts before we poached him and brought him into the light.
And what an asset he would be if he can continue developing: a player who will have cost only the sums invested in bringing him through the youth system but who might end up being worth many tens of millions. Someone who will either score many goals for us or bring in a very large transfer fee if he moves.
In the heyday of Arsene Wenger’s reign in N5 the phrase “Arsenal’s DNA” came into common parlance and most people understood what it meant.
It stood for a style of play that was attacking, intelligent, skill-based and successful. It was in opposition to what were then the ‘traditional’ values of the English game: blood and thunder, physicality, “let them know you’re there,” defenders told to “just hoof it.”
Wenger’s teams, while perfectly capable of standing up for themselves physically (especially his early teams) preferred to win with greater skill.
And the idea of having ball-playing defenders was more or less pioneered in this period.
That was Arsenal’s DNA under Wenger.
But what is the club’s DNA under our new boss, Mikel Arteta?
Is it too early to ask that question?
If not, what answers might we consider?
We would like to propose that the Arsenal/Arteta DNA can best be described in one word: flexibility.
Flexibility in players (Saka, Maitland-Niles, Smith-Rowe, Tierney, Willian and others all used in different positions).
And flexibility in formation, depending on circumstances such as the nature of the opposition, the phase of the game, whether or not we are in possession and so on.
How would you describe Arsenal’s DNA under the leadership of Mikel?