*It’s your lucky (or unlucky!) day today: not one match report from AA but two. You can find RC’s report (first posted last night) here: https://arsenalarsenal.net/2021/02/06/saving-private-arsenal and here’s the second one…
An old disease has returned to haunt Arsenal.
In the later Arsene Wenger period, through most of Unai Emery’s reign and on occasion during the Mikel Arteta era we have suffered from the virus of self destructiveness.
We don’t need opponents in order to lose games: we’re perfectly capable of losing them all on our own.
The symptoms of this disease include mystifying defensive mix-ups, an abundance of red cards and penalties conceded, suicidal goalkeeping and own goals.
In our good run of form since Christmas I had allowed myself to believe that we were finally shaking off the ailment; that whatever treatment had been stumbled upon by Arteta and his assistants was beginning to work.
Alas it was a false dawn.
In the last two games we have lost twice because we were outplayed by Arsenal. At Wolves Arsenal beat us by giving away an unnecessary penalty and reducing our ranks to first 10, then nine men. Yesterday at Aston Villa Arsenal beat us by gifting the opposition a goal in the opening two minutes.
We’ve seen it all before, of course, you know the type of thing: bad defending that leaves our centre backs flat footed as an opposition striker bears down on goal, forcing the former to rugby tackle the latter; miscommunications of the “After you, Claude” variety where two of our players inexplicably agree to let an opponent walk between them and take the ball; always managing to get a vital toe on the ball when it’s heading towards goal (vital for the opposition, that is, in order to deflect it past our ‘keeper).
Please can Pfizer, or AstraZeneca or Moderna or Johnson & Johnson come up with a vaccination that immunises against self-inflicted stupidity?
I was really looking forward to yesterday’s game, but once we gifted a goal to Villa my heart sank. We really pick our moments, don’t we? Here it was the opening minute so that we get the energy sucked out of us before we’ve even started; at Wolves it was a few seconds before half time when we looked to be going in one up, then immediately after the restart so that whatever we’d planned at half time went straight out the window…
It makes me wonder why we keep pressing the self destruct button. The best teams don’t do it (or they do it so rarely that it’s an aberration, not a case of ‘here we go again’).
Are we lacking a Tony Adams to pin players up against the wall of the dressing room after the match and warn them that if they ever do that again they will be needing a visit to the dentist? Do we need a psychology coach to help our players concentrate better? What is it?
It’s not as if we didn’t start with an exciting line-up yesterday. Apart from the absences of Kieran Tierney and Bernd Leno we had arguably our strongest possible team out.
And if KT had been there I doubt we would have conceded the Villa goal. Cedric, a right footer playing left back, tried to cushion a pass back towards Gabriel, whom he’d seen start to move towards him. For some reason Gabriel changed his mind and moved away so that Cedric’s pass failed to reach him and Traore nipped in and collected the ball for Villa.
I’m not sure who was more at fault out of the two of them, but it was certainly a Classic Arsenal Miscommunication ™ in the time-honoured tradition.
The only thing you can say for conceding so early is that you have plenty of time to put the damage right but, as I’ve mentioned, the Villa goal seemed to discombobulate us. Whatever instructions the players had had drummed into their heads pre-game were immediately rendered redundant.
As the first half wore on we got into the game and occasionally threatened but, as El Patron pointed out afterwards, our decision making in and around the box was extremely poor. I thought Pepe in particular had a frustrating game: he was doing lots of good things to create dangerous situations but invariably fluffed his lines at the crucial moment (shooting when he should have passed, passing when he should have shot, running into defenders and losing the ball, over-hitting crosses). And don’t me get started on our dead ball situations.
Elsewhere on the pitch we were misplacing a lot of passes (even booting the ball straight out for throw-ins on at least three occasions that I can recall, two of them by Thomas Partey).
To their credit Villa defended very well and always looked dangerous on the break with Grealish, Barkley and Watkins.
Our best chance to share the points came from a Xhaka free kick which was beautifully placed into the top corner of the goal… and was brilliantly saved by our FA Cup hero Martinez (naturally). It looked to me like one of those shots that, had it gone in, would have been described by the commentators as unstoppable. But our old back-up custodian stopped it.
At the other end Mat Ryan, on his debut, had a very decent outing. He had no chance with the Villa goal because of an unlucky deflection off Holding, but he made several good stops and seems to have a knack for getting distance on the ball when he pushes it away (Leno please note).
Aubameyang replaced Lacazette for a half-hour of complete anonymity; Odegaard came on for Cedric on 65 minutes and for reasons known only to himself, Arteta brought on Willian when Partey went off injured with a quarter of an hour to go. Why not bring on Martinelli, who at least tries? Willian’s first contribution was to get to the by line and put the ball out for a Villa goal kick. Thereafter he did his usual trick of probing with the ball for a while before passing backwards.
I never thought we would score and we didn’t. We should have had at least four points from the week just gone, instead we have none.
Bring on the vaccination.
Ryan – 7
One of the few bright spots. Made some good saves, displayed fast, accurate distribution skills and came out well for a cross at one point. Looked solid.
Bellerin – 5
Hector got forward a lot but lost possession carelessly too many times and did not seem on the same wavelength as Saka and Smith Rowe. His defending was reasonably good but he has to be better when helping the attack.
Holding – 5.5
Probably should have got closer to Watkins for the Villa goal and made some careless errors. Not up to his own recent standard.
Gabriel – 5.5
At least partially at fault for the goal, but competed reasonably well thereafter.
Cedric – 5
On his wrong side again, but he shares the blame for the Villa goal and was uncharacteristically sloppy with his passing.
Xhaka – 6.5
One of our better performers. Always looks good on the ball and tried to get us moving forward.
Partey – 6
Bit of an in-and-out game for Thomas. Some wildly mis-hit passes, but also some strong play in the middle of the park until pulling up with injury. Let’s hope it’s not too serious.
Saka – 7
Singled out for brutal rotational fouling by the Villa players and given very little protection by a weak referee, but Bukayo got up from every foul and got straight back into the action. He tried really hard and was part of our best moves, but couldn’t find a way through the Villa defence.
Smith Rowe – 7
We saw plenty of his lovely movement, control, interplay and passing. Had a decent chance that was blocked in the six yard box. A more experienced player would probably have gone down for a penalty as he was being fouled.
Pepe – 6
Plenty of effort and some good skill, but frustrating lack of end product.
Lacazette – 5.5
Seemed a bit lower energy than usual.
Aubameyang – 3
Might as well not have bothered. His only real contribution was to play a beautifully cushioned pass into an attacking player who nearly scored. The problem was the attacking player was wearing claret and blue and he nearly scored for Villa. Whatever is going on with Auba needs to be sorted out or he needs to be kept away from the team.
Odegaard – 5.5
Looked slick on the ball and showed signs of linking up well with Smith Rowe and Saka. Had a good chance but blasted his shot over the bar. Nevertheless, it will be good to see more of him.
Willian – 4
More involved than the invisible Auba, but another immensely frustrating cameo. In a situation like this, where we are chasing a game, it surely has to be Martinelli every time. Even Nketiah. Willian currently offers nothing.
Good effort, RC, in a dismal game. It may just be me, but your usual very good English seemed a bit like the Arsenal performance today. 🤪
Don’t worry it was probably definitely me!
An excellent Post and ratings, thank you.
There is nothing I can say to add to what you (and RC) have written, because seemed so clueless, which, in part, was down to Arteta. As you said — why Willian and not Martinelli — or as GB said yesterday, why not put someone beefy, like Gabriel or Holding up front, because that would be creative and much better than the choice he made.
And that’s the problem in a nutshell: like someone with a strange chromosomal abnormality, we have too many Whys.
Very true — but there are many wheys and means to get the best out of a dead horse. 😳
You can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
Or as Dorothy Parker once remarked, you can bring a whore to culture but you can’t make her think.
There is a theory that when you find you are riding a dead horse … you should dismount …. or buy a stronger whip.
I suggest that may be the solution for Mikel to consider. 😎
Another game to be buried at the bottom of the garden.
If only Willian was more like Tom Brady, when the latter was told the Oatriots didn’t want him anymore he went to the Buccaneers and showed the Patriots why they were wrong. Why is it Willian, Luiz and some others have not done the same in their next opportunity?
Probably because willian and luiz was never really good
PS can’t really argue with any ratings or comments in the report, I agree with Rocky on the Cedric/Gabriel incident being 50:50 blame. And I’m not sure it would have helped having Tierney there as I’m pretty sure he would have played the same pass.
It is indisputable that KT would have helped us moving up the pitch overlapping for Pepe.
I agree that Pepe in his last two performances has shown more energy and desire, maybe being moved to the left wing has shown him that he is as unsafe as anyone else.
Odergaards signing while it may be good for him I can’t necessarily see being good for us unless we hope to sign him long term. He looks like a good enough player and it is early days but I haven’t seen enough to think great signing. Maybe that is tempered by both ESR and Saka being so much more in tune, but it will also be because if a player blasts over as he did from 12 yards out.
Fred maybe that’s a bit harsh, maybe not leaders in the team, although I think Luiz probably was moreso at Chelsea especially post John Terry, I know Willian played with some other great players, but he is also playing with good players now at Arsenal, ok maybe not Eden Hazard and Pedro yet but good enough to mean he can look on a level with them.
Luiz has always had mad moments in him. Was never a signing I was comfortable with but still expect more on the pitch especially as he matured, more fool me.
Honestly that my opinion on them and had those opinions since the played for Chelsea
Willian had one really good season which was the one right before hazard arrived, he was never been great at scoring so what’s the real purpose we bought him especially since he we needed more goal , imagine he has the likes of chamahk looking like superior
Luiz as u said always has a bit of madness in him, so since arsenal as always considered to have a soft defensive spine why get some who instead of shoring up that spine actually weakens it
Thanks RC and Rocky
So I will buck the trend and state that I am quite calm about the recent 2 disappointing games.
The first part of this season we were thwarted by playing wrong formations and not having players in their strongest positions. That’s on Mikel but he is a young manager and feels the right one for us so he gets a get out of jail free pass with that.
I honestly only analyse the season from the Chelsea game and that change to the right set up, and I still expected some blips from this time.
What is most important is the continual development of the team from that point in this correct set up. There have been some errors made by certain players that will need to be ironed out so that consistency shines through.
Those players that show the development to iron out the errors stay. Those that dont leave. We have the rest of the season to decide on certain players and certain positions before the summer.
Since the change in formation it has been a largely positive period with some blips, not unexpected. Even these last 2 games aren’t necessarily a massive disaster. Yesterday we gifted a goal to arguably one of the best current teams in the EPL at protecting a lead and being dangerous on the counterattack. It happens.
Wolves was more a travesty of officiating than the severity of the individual errors but there was some positive in the fact that we didn’t capitulate and remained in the game right till the end with 9 men and almost equalised. That resilience will serve us well as we add more fluid attacking play on a more consistent basis to our game.
For the last number of weeks our biggest game has been Benfica, more so than the City game straight after. I wouldn’t focus on our league position and eventual points tally because that will drive us mad and lose focus on the bigger picture.
Benfica is the key game indeed
In the past I have felt that we kind of used bad and inconsistent officiating overly to hide our deficiencies.
However, these recent incidences have really bothered me to the point I feel Arsenal, and maybe some other clubs, really ought to be doing more about it and taking it further with the FA and PGMOL.
There has always been a stink of corruption for many years, not in the same way as the Italian match fixing scandal, but it certainly feels like there is significant institutional bias. Mark Halsey intimated this a few years ago and it was conveniently swept under the carpet.
What is more troubling is the dismissive arrogance that the PGMOL and FA show in dealing with these inconsistencies. They act with impunity and are seemingly above question or scrutiny.
Any request or complaint is met with punishment. It is as if they are saying what we decide is nothing to do with you and dont you dare question us on it. This is as much a modern day dictatorship as any that we see in certain countries.
If you look at the EPL London and the South make up 8 of the 20 teams, almost half. 5 from the North West Manchester and Merseyside regions, 4 from the Midlands, 2 from Yorkshire, and 1 from the Nirth East.
That means that London and the South make up the greatest regional majority. How then is this reflected in the list if EPL referees? Well basically big a big fat zero of London or South of England born, or based, referees…..yes zero!
There are 18 listed EPL referees, but a couple of them are more often refereeing outside of the EPL. It goes as follows:
7 from the North West
4 from Yorkshire
3 from the Midlands
2 from the Nirth East
2 from the West country (one of them is midlands based now though)
All of this is overseen by one Mike Riley, of Leeds, Yorkshire. Now this should surely be a bigger public issue when you see how the decisions are being dealt with.
Personally I think the officiating has become too institutionally biased or corrupt to alter now and there is only one way out of it. That is to so something that I was dead against a while back and to turn our back on the English game and leagues as soon as the opportunity arises with the proposed European league.
I would hate to go this way on one hand but the FA and PGMOL are just too controlling, inflexible and dismissive to work with in a sensible way. It’s a one way dialogue and direction with them, which is we will do what we like, so sc-w you if you dont like it, and dont you dare challenge us on it
Hi all – new post.
@Sue – including the requested shirtless pic…
Here we go again. All the ref’s fault.
Was it the ref’s fault that we could only manage 3 shots on target?
Was it his fault that we sent over 25 crosses to no one who could do anything with them?
Let me ask, what is the manager’s job?
Is it to train the players?
To instruct them how to play?
To devise tactics to defeat the opposing teams?
To run up and down the touchline calling out instructions?
To encourage the players, perhaps?
Is it these or a combination of them or some others that I have not mentioned?
Whatever it is, why isn’t Arteta doing it?
We can’t attack, can’t defend, can’t shoot at goal, can’t entertain, and simply bore the pants off anyone watching.
If now if these or any combination of them are not Arteta’s responsibility, then he must be doing a good job, whatever that might be.
If they are then, what the hell is he doing?
I do not hate him or even dislike him.
I simply think that, like Emery, this job is not for him.
I would never have imagined that he would do worse than Emery, but, regrettably, he is, and it is getting even worse.