I hear West Ham have a new club song, that goes: “We’re forever blowing three goal leads...”
Not that we can afford to gloat. Yes, it was an impressive achievement to dig ourselves out of a 0-3 hole and get back on level terms by full time, but the way we got into that hole in the first place raises a lot of questions.
This is not a blow by blow report (I’d need an extra thousand words to cover all the incidents that happened); rather I have picked out three lessons I took from the game and from our performance.
- Lack of Professionalism
Not for the first time this season we started a game half asleep and allowed our opponents to run rings around us, such that when Lingard opened the scoring for West Ham it was not a surprise.
Remember the Manchester City game when we let them score after two minutes, Raheem Sterling – Raheem Sterling! – rising unchallenged in the middle of our six yard box to head home a cross while Rob Holding stood there like Eeyore? We allowed Leicester to score after six minutes.
Our habit of letting our focus drift at really important times (the opening minutes, the crucial minutes either side of half time) speaks to a problem of coaching, discipline and professionalism.
Then there’s the lack of awareness we frequently display. The most egregious example all season happened yesterday for West Ham’s second goal. We had just gone one-nil down, we needed to really up our game, steady the ship and fight our way back. Instead, what did we do when the Hammers won a free kick just outside our area? Several of our players ambled towards our goal with their back to the ball looking as if they were heading back to the hotel after a few bevvies at the beach bar.
A quick free kick and we were two nil down before some of our players even noticed!
I think Mikel Arteta is attempting to get to grips with the ill discipline and unprofessionalism at the club – it’s why he publicly disciplined Aubameyang for lateness and why he has been prepared to freeze out players like Ozil and Guendouzi. But there is a long way to go, judging by yesterday’s performance.
There ought to be consequences for such casual negligence as was displayed by the players who ignored the quick free kick possibility – perhaps a couple of games in the reserves (and yes, I know that the particular culprits in this case include some of our supposedly best players: Tierney, Partey and Xhaka who all had their backs to the ball, and Saka who was too busy arguing with the ref to notice what West Ham were up to).
Leno letting the ball in at his near post also shows that he was mentally on the back foot too.
But this disease needs severe treatment now. Come on Mikel: consequences, consequences, consequences.
2. Formation Problems
Leaving aside the broader question of whether Aubameyang is worth his place at the moment, it is clear that we function really badly when he plays with Lacazette.
Laca had a very good game yesterday (including bagging two goals, even if one of them was ludicrously put down as an own goal for West Ham). But when Auba is out on the wing and we are attempting to play a possession game, it effectively puts us a man down.
The captain’s contribution is so negligible except when he attempts to get a run on goal or to get on the end of a cross that we are playing with 10 men. If we had started yesterday with Smith Rowe or even Pepe in the Left Attacking role I’m sure we would not have found ourselves two down in 17 minutes.
As GiE put it starkly in the comments after yesterday’s game: “Aubameyang (does) not really suit the type of game Arteta wants to play, yes on occasion where we planned to sit deep and break he was the man, but when we are trying to control possession and a pass and move build up he just hasn’t got the tools in his locker, he is not a great dribbler, he is not a great passer and his first touch is woeful for someone so handsomely paid. And perhaps most importantly he has never been a player who can stand up to the rigours of a premier league defence, competing for high balls, playing back to goal and risking a knock or two are just not within his skillset.“
Unless we are playing the likes of Manchester City where, as GiE says, we aim to sit deep and break fast (as we did to win the FA Cup), there is just no real place for Auba in the side.
3. Light at the End of the Tunnel
Notwithstanding the points above, the way we played to get back in that game and salvage a draw was tremendously encouraging: not just because of the character it showed, but also because of the attacking football we played.
In the end we might even have come away with all three points (although in fairness we rode our luck at the back at times).
Odegaard was outstanding and linked up really well with Lacazette (whose versatility is really coming to the fore – he seems to combine well with Saka, ESR and now Ode).
Some of our attacking play was slick and pretty, properly Wengeresque. And although it was “only West Ham”, this Hammers team is the best they have had in years by a long way and is fifth in the table for a reason. Even so, we ripped them apart for the entire second half.
Right now we are a team that, if it can only exorcise its demons of carelessness and self-harm, has the players and the potential to be competing with the top four.
Leno – 5
Sleeping for their second goal and I thought he could have done better with the first. He was also leaden-footed for the third, although the fault for that one lies more with Luiz.
Chambers – 7
Assisted for two of our goals and had plenty of good moments, although I thought he looked nervous whenever we tried to play out from the back.
Luiz – 5
Not his best game by a long chalk.
Mari – 5.5
I don’t remember any particular mistakes but then I don’t remember him much from the game generally.
Tierney – 7
Was one of the guilty group with his back to the play for West Ham’s second, but apart from that did well.
Xhaka – 6
Seemed tired. Not entirely surprising.
Partey – 6.5
Steadily growing into his role, but I wish he would stop those long range shots before the England rugby team try to recruit him.
Saka – 6
Not as influential as he has been. He looks like a lad who needs a good long rest (and definitely does not need three pointless internationals in six days).
Odegaard – 8 (MoTM)
In his first couple of games for us I felt he was slowing things down a bit too much, but now he has slipped into gear and boy, he is a player.
Aubameyang – 4
Mostly a passenger and also managed to lose possession every time he got the ball, putting us in danger on several occasions. He should not be considered an automatic starter.
Lacazette – 7.5
Great link-up play and two goals. Led the line really well. We’re a better team when we start with Laca up front and any combo from Pepe/Saka/ESR/Ode behind.
Smith Rowe – 7
Pepe – 7
Martinelli – 6
Sometimes we have to bench big name players when they are not performing. Auba is one such player. I don’t see why he lasted that long on the pitch before being substituted.
Auba is a strange player i just dont get him he misses more than he scores.
Nothing to disagree with here. Your calm and measured approach puts me to shame!
Anybody else think there is a touch of our beloved Santi in Martin BOdegaard?
I don’t see Santi in him (Santi was much tricksier and loved to dribble out of tight spaces with those little dancer’s feet of his).
Ode actually reminds me a little of… (blasphemy alert)… Dennis! Yes, God himself.
Not that I see him being a striker/No 10 in the Dennis mould, but that when Dennis would drop deep into midfield and pick up the ball his movement, awareness and passing were in the same range as Ode’s.
I realise that is ridiculously high praise for Ode and he has a long way to go before really being mentioned in the same breath as the Almighty, but he is a really exciting prospect.
Magic and tragic all in one match! These lethargic starts will be the death of me 😂
I realise this isn’t going to be very popular, but I really struggle reading the comments about Auba! All over the Arsenal blogosphere.. some constructive, yes, I understand, but most are horrible!! He’s been our main man for such a long time – he’s still my main man 😊 – he’s going through a blip, most players do. He’ll be back!
Rocky – great post-match report as always.
LBG – I think Odegaard could eventually grow into a Santi type of player. He clearly has ability and vision but I still find him a bit slow at times.
In terms of disappointment, here is my list:
1. Auba, 2. Leno, 3. Luiz, 4. Xhaka, 5. Saka
5. Saka was tired so let us not dwell on it
4. Xhaka also looked tired but he was clearly at fault for 2 goals
3. Luiz, he is just that type of defender than can switch off for entire games
2. Leno – Nothing to do on the first goal but boy, the guy does not earn us points or keep us in games much these days.
1. Auba – Stop and go season but too long on “stop” mode like yesterday. He needs to deliver some goals as soon as possible…In any case, a little stay on the bench won’t hurt especially since Martinelli is so hungry to play.
In terms of ray of lights,
1. Chambers, 2. Laca, 3. Odegaard, 4. Tierney, 5. Partey, 6. Pepe
1. Chambers totally drowning in the first half and then working his socks off and delivering two assists. Great spirit!
2. Laca – the guy has a great attitude and I feel like most of his goals are down to this. He works hard for the team too.
3. Ode to Odegaard – a major player for us already.
4. Tierney – switched off on the second goal but again, very relentless. A future AFC captain?
5. Partey – a horrid 30 minutes and then grew into the game and took control of the midfield. A good game after the horror show.
6. Pepe – maybe not great as a starter recently but has done well as as an impact player from the bench. An expensive impact player indeed but if he can deliver assists and goals from the bench at least, I ll take it.
Where does that leave us? 9th in the table and we can’t complain. Now we just have to hope Mourinho does not finish in the Top 4 nor wins the Cup.
I think Arteta has some serious concerns to address this season but one thing is for sure, he is stuck with Leno for now and this is not good news…For the other positions, he has got options…
Would that be too risk to play the following?
Leno – Cedric, Holding, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, ESR – Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli – Laca
It could also be set-up in a 433:
Leno – Ced, Hold, Gabs, KT – Ode, Partey, ESR – Saka, Laca, Martinelli
What we need now is (1) to cut down the errors and (2) put chances away.
Hi Sue – I also think that critics are too harsh on Auba. He is just having a rough patch but it is a long rough patch to be honest…I am hoping he gets back to his usual scoring self very soon.
Sue – Mbappe reached 100 goals in the French League yesterday 🙂 16 for Monaco and 84 for PSG. For 60 minutes, PSG was very impressive then we struggles but for the first time this season in L1, I was impressed with the team’s performance and then there were unlikely heroes like Gueye and Danilo who were phenomenal and Abdou Diallo was also robust at Left-Back…
It is going to be hard to predict the line-up against Munich…
Navas – Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Diallo – Paredes, Danilo (?) – Di Maria, Verratti, Mbappe – Kean
Bench: Rico, Dagba, Kehrer, Kurzawa, Gueye, Herrera, Rafinha, Draxler, Neymar, Sarabia, Icardi
This summer, I think we will see Kekher, Kurzawa, Bakker, Draxler and maybe Gueye and Sarabia too. Huge summer for PSG coming up too.
As requested by admin sent a couple of possible Posts through on arsenalnuts.
Love the comments. I watched game again and tried to focus just on Auba.
1. He was often not in the picture (literally) on attack or defense. This is unusual for our left attack when played by ESR, Saka, or even Pepe. His “jogging about” was even less effective than Willian (he can be counted on to jog somewhat nearer to the ball). I think he made one tackle. Zero pressing.
2. There have been great attacking players who are given a pass on having to hustle or defend. Someone needs to show Auba that he is not a great attacking player. He’s just average bc of his lack of willingness to press, defend at the front, and win 50/50s. Sad how far off his past performances he is now.
Thanks LBG – great work
(But I’m not the management, just a squatter 😀 )
Thinking about the second Hammers goal, if I was a coach I would make it an absolute rule that when there is a dead ball situation for the opposition – wherever it is on the park – all my players must face the ball.
If they want to retreat to a position further back, do it jogging backwards – it’s really not that hard.
If even one of Tierney, Xhaka and Partey had been walking backwards towards their own area yesterday instead of turning their back on the play, that second goal would probably have been stopped.
Also, I realise my headline for this post was rubbish.
A rollercoaster goes up and down and up and down and up and down.
From our point of view yesterday’s game was just ‘down’ then ‘up.’
Perhaps a seesaw would have been a better analogy.
Your squatting has served us well in recent times, but ,of course, Peaches sits on her own untouchable throne.
“Face the ball”, “dont pass the ball across your own box”, “play to the referee’s whistle” ( even John Moss’s). Every coach, including me, was teaching this 50 and more years ago.
How about the suggestion that referee evaluations and consequently “bonuses” at the end of the season are based on ” how many times they have booked players”
Thanks for the summary Rocky, I’m a bit confused by the free kick, in that the highlights I saw show Moss talking to Saka, I know he doesn’t have to give an indication to restart play unless he has indicated it is required but if the referee is engaged in conversation with a player and gave no real indication with two hands that it was ok for West Ham to have played the pass (both hands up etc) then I do have some sympathy with our players, however not much with Leno as he should simply have done better with that.
As for the who is Odegaard most like question, well there is a tiny bot of Mesut in there, the reverse pass to Chambers was so obvious from the camera position, but it takes a player with vision to actually make the pass, as soon as he picked up the ball and moved towards West Hams goal he knew where that pass was going and his movement with the ball was all about creating the space and drawing defenders another yard out of position, well played that man.
Excellent post-match, Rocky, really top stuff. 😁
You have comprehensively covered everything I would have said myself had I the wit and knowledge.
At days end, I have an empathy with Sue and her wish to support Arsenal players thru thick and thin, and in particular, Auba who has been a top player for us in the past.
However, I think it would be remiss of us if we did not voice our disappointment with any or all the players if they do not compete in a way that we have come to expect.
It is not personal finding fault with individual players, it is simply a comment on their current performances, and we all understand that can change as quickly as their form might have deteriorated.
Auba is not alone in being both a good goal scorer and a poor team player.
Leno is another case in point. He can be a great shot stopper, and very poor at passing from the back.
Xhaka, too, is a liability, for example passing across the penalty area without looking, or taking so long to get his left leg into position to make a pass he frequently loses it, but he can pass diagonally at long range to start an attack from the wing.
These things are a question of balancing the individual player good with the bad, and that is what Mikel has to do.
Ultimately, when the balance goes beyond saving, as a seesaw plummets when one end is vacated and the deadweight smashes into the ground. That is when the player has to go.
The above is a principle which is hard to argue against, but opinions regarding the player’s abilities, or lack thereof, only count in the court of Mikel, and he has already said he wants to use the next transfer window to reflect his vision of the team’s needs.
We will see.
[Odd Bod was my MoTM too.]
I think that Auba is being Oziled.
He does not fit into Arteta’s plans because I suspect, he won’t do what he is told.
I suspect that Arteta knows that he will not get away with exiling Auba, so he simply makes him uncomfortable and unhappy, so he will want to leave.
This is the modern way for disposing of players that do not fit in with your plans.
It is the antithesis of wengerism which is what we learnt to expect and love, but that is where we are going.
The slow leaking of older experienced players by buying out their contracts or loaning them out until their contracts end is the Arteta way forward.
I think that we can expect more of the same until Arteta has all the players he wants, ie those who do what they are told.
I suspect that he thinks that this is the way to turn us into Man$ity lite and has sold that idea to the Kroenkes.
Will we be any better than mediocre. Let us wait and see.
Partey use to hit those long shots consistently for athletico that why he keeps trying
That comment from GIE in the headline post about Auba is scary good.
Thanks for the effort as always Rocky.
2 good things to consider out of yesterday’s game: Smith-Rowe replacing Xhaka very interesting and of course Martinelli replacing Aubamayang.
I am starting to get an idea of what Arteta is doing with Martinelli: when team’s have to come onto us as West Ham did late on and Olympiacos then Lehndakaria opts for the pace of the young Brazilian but if it is close quarters combat then he still opts for Willian on the left (not that I agree with the latter part) but that does seem to be the pattern.
The less said about the first 40 minutes yesterday the better.
I though Odegaard was outstanding. He really stepped up to the plate trying to drag the team with him.
Chambers also had a great game considering he has been out for so long.
Thanks Rocky. Great post, and can I just say you are a stalwart to us all alongside RC. Even when I can’t get on to comment I normally have a brief cheeky look and enjoy reading back on comments.
Interesting GIE’s assessment of Auba and I think there is possibly some merit in him not quite fitting our evolving style. Having said that I’m a bit with Sue that I don’t like all the negativity around him.
I still think that he and Luiz were largely responsible for our FA cup win and our now participationninbthe EL, which could still have longer positive connotations if we then win the EL.
I think we have a lot to be thankful for and maybe it’s just a blip and by seasons end we will be grateful again that he Grace’s our ranks.
I was more troubled with the assertion by a coue of bloggers that he wasnt putting in the effort on pressing etc. Being off form is different to not putting in the effort.
RC, your mention earlier about that line up and is it too risky. No I dont think so. It is pretty much what LBG and myself were debating last week about playing an attacking 4 behind a number 9 with 1 DM sitting behind the 4 instead of our current penchant for 2 DM’s.
We have a lot if options for 2 attacking wide players either side of 2 attacking CM’s. That extra attacking player I feel will give us an extra edge but as you say is it too risky in dropping to 1 DM?
The thing for me is that it seems the modern top attacking CM is a hybrid of a number 8 / number 10 and can operate like a 10 around the box but can also being the ball out from deeper positions.
It is that latter bit that is important because the more technical CM’s are better with the ball under pressure than DM’s like Xhaka. As long as they are also prepared to carry out some defensive duties like De Bruyne and Gundogan do then they can help with the playing out from the back as well as becoming a threat as we get in and around the opposition box.
That’s why I would like to see ESR and Odegaard operate as a double central pivot with 1 DM behind them. Either of them would be far more able to receive the ball in deeper areas and avoid the press better than the likes of Xhaka and could become our De Bruyne Gundogan players.
Hi RC.. 100 goals already!! Wow, what a talent!!
I’m looking forward to the Bayern game.. it’s going to be a belter!!
With regards to Auba, it wasn’t long ago his brace kept us in Europe…short memories!
GB… 👏 Spot on!
There is no doubt that Luiz and Aubamayang were hugely influential in our FA Cup win and they have rightly been praised for it.
But the whole point is that things have moved on and Auba is not fitting in.
I, like you, do not buy into the idea that he does not care but as GIE sets out so well above; he doesn’t have the skillset for the latest development of Arteta’s style of play.
Hi GoonerB, I think if we go with these players, we gotta play like City in a 41221 set-up traditionally known as 433.
I think we should not only bench the big name players for not performing but also the short name players. I dont think we should base it on the size of their name, we should base it solely on performance.
Great post! I do believe we are our own worst enemy. On our day we are capable of beating anyone but we are too inconsistent and enjoy gifting teams with unforced mistakes.