What a disappointing return to Arsenal football action that was.
In simple terms we didn’t turn up against Liverpool last night and the 0-3 scoreline was flattering to us.
Last season we would have put that down to ‘Pool being an exceptionally good team, but this time round they were playing us with some significant injury absences and coming off a run of six defeats in eight games.
I wouldn’t say they were there for the taking, but there were certainly enough questions about their state of mind that we had the opportunity to unsettle them.
Instead we laid out a red carpet for the visitors and did not challenge them in any area of the pitch. We got the result we deserved and many are now questioning Mikel Arteta.
Let’s start with team selection. Quite a few of our regular starters were ruled out before the game: Smith Rowe and Saka were still recovering from strains; Xhaka was sick and Luiz was injured in training and may well be out for the rest of the season. All four of those players might have made a difference yesterday.
Chambers was given another game at RB as reward for his good showing against West Ham and Holding was recalled for the first time since getting out jumped by Raheem Sterling against Manchester City.
Ceballos took Xhaka’s place in central mid, with Pepe and Aubameyang on the wings and Lacazette as central striker, despite the fact that the Laca-Auba combo seldom works these days.
In the first half our passing was sloppy and inaccurate, we lost almost all of the 50/50s and we seemed to have no obvious plan (at least not that these eyes could identify).
The only upside as we went into the half time break still on level terms was that Liverpool, despite having most of the possession and dominating the game, had not really threatened our goal apart from with a couple of long range shots.
We also lost Kieran Tierney to injury just before the break – hopefully it’s not serious, since we have very little cover at left back.
However, the portents were ominous and it did not take long after the game resumed for ‘Pool to turn their dominance into goals.
Substitute Jota got the opener, finding space between two taller defenders (Chambers and Holding) to head home from close range after a good cross from Alexander-Arnold. I’m not a defence coach and maybe it was just really good play by the two Liverpool players, but Holding seemed completely oblivious to Jota’s presence and Chambers was unable to get close enough to the attacker to put him off. There appeared to be a breakdown in communication between the two Englishmen.
A few minutes later Mo Salah rode an ineffective challenge from Gabriel and slotted home through Leno’s legs. Jota got a third in the 82nd minute of what had now become a training match for Liverpool.
As we trooped off at full time the only sensible response was “thank God it wasn’t five or six”, which it easily could have been.
Arteta was brutally honest about the performance: “First of all, I apologise to our supporters for the display and the show that we saw today that I am very, very disappointed about. When you don’t do the basics right against a team like Liverpool, you don’t have any chance even to compete in the game, which is exactly what happened.
“It’s unacceptable. At that level it’s unacceptable. To not be at 100% is unacceptable to our people and for a lot of work that we put in so what happened today is nowhere near what we want to do.”
Given that the whole team seemed off the boil, perhaps having different players available would have made no difference; maybe it was just a post-Interlull hangover. But surely Smith Rowe and Saka would have brought more threat to the champions than the ineffective Pepe and the invisible Aubameyang?
And the regular detractors of Xhaka and Luiz may want to ponder how important their roles are to the way we play: Ceballos struggled greatly and the team as a whole was less polished at bringing the ball out from the back than it has been all season.
So what does this mean about Mikel Arteta?
Not a lot. We know this team has deep-rooted problems and he was without some of his best assets yesterday. The lack of fight was alarming, but it happens. I suspect he is working through a process of establishing who can contribute to doing better next season and who can’t, and that outing will have helped make up his mind about certain players.
Our league campaign was already done and dusted and the focus now switches to what we can do in the Europa League, where a potential lifeline awaits.
However, one thing I would have liked Arteta to consider when faced with the sudden bout of injuries and illness before yesterday’s game was how he responded to a similar challenge earlier this season. Facing Chelsea and with several senior players ruled out through Covid, El Patron gambled on youth and it paid off handsomely.
Yesterday, instead of falling back on the likes of Ceballos, Pepe and Aubameyang, what might have happened if he had given some young players a chance? Perhaps starting Martinelli, Nketiah, Nelson and Azeez would have produced the same result – but would it have produced the same lacklustre performance?
Leno – 5
He made a few good stops when the game was already lost, but – as Rasp pointed out in comments – you could see his defenders doing their best not to catch his eye in case he gave them one of his suicide passes. At least he kicked long more often than usual, but with no ‘out ball’ it simply meant giving possession to Liverpool every time. The German is having a poor second half of the season.
Our defence had way too much to do in this game. Calum did some good defending at times but was seldom able to get forward the way he had against West Ham.
I love his defending (although he got done by Salah for Liverpool’s second) but his passing is atrocious. He works when Luiz is playing because he simply gives the ball to his fellow Brazilian, but he lost possession constantly last night.
Defended quite well in the first half. Did not seem to be sufficiently aware of the danger for Liverpool’s opener. Hard to judge overall given how poor the team’s play was generally.
Didn’t have much chance to shine before going off injured.
Had good moments, particularly in the first half, but with the players around him underperforming he was on his own in trying to get some control in midfield.
I feel sorry for Dani. He played a big part in our FA Cup win last summer but now seems to be going backwards. He takes too long on the ball and you always think he’s about to lose possession in a dangerous area as he has done too many times this season. There’s really not a place for him moving forward.
Barely got a look in and seemed incapable of linking up with either the midfielders, his RB or Lacazette. He also lost every physical challenge he went in for. A £7.2 million performance, not £72 million.
Might as well not have played. He should not be an automatic starter when others are fit and ought to lose the armband, although at this stage of the season I wouldn’t blame Arteta for waiting until the summer break before picking a real captain.
Never got into the game. Perhaps was our best option for getting some control to break up the waves of Liverpool possession and pressure, but was unable to do so.
Worked hard but the ball never reached him in an attacking context.
No howlers, but couldn’t do anything to swing the game our way.
Was better than Ceballos, though that’s not saying much.
Within a minute of starting he had already threatened Liverpool’s goal more than Aubameyang had in the previous hour and a quarter. The game shape was against us by then so there wasn’t much he could do, but it was good to see him get a run.
Please get real. Arteta is a joke and he is dismantling whatever courage and ability we had before his appointment Sitting next to Guardiola is not a direct route to stardom. I am sad.
Hi Rocky – u beat me to the report…I will write and post tomorrow.
Leno – 3
Chambers – 5
Holding – 4
Gabs – 3
Tierney – 6
Partey – 4
Ceba – 2
Pepe – 3
ESR – 4
Auba – 2
Laca – 4
El Neny – 4
Martinelli – 5
Arteta – 2
Thanks Rocky, sadly everything you say is true. Arteta said we didn’t get the basics right. How true. But that doesn’t explain why we didn’t seem to have the fight in us. I was obviously being flippant when I said they had 15 players and we had 7, but I swear that every time the camera panned out there were twice as many pool shirts in view. If we got the ball our player was closed down by 3 pool players without time to think – if they got the ball they had time and space. We lack a strong leader. Whatever the problem is with Auba it can’t be allowed to continue. His demeanour throughout the game was sucking the energy out of the team. I agree we missed Xhaka and Luis, but boy did we miss the energy and ambition of Saka and ESR. I agree we should give more of the younger players a chance for the rest of the season.
I didn’t think we could plumb any greater depths this season. I have thought a couple of times we had turned the corner. We haven’t. I say stick with Arteta, take a loss on the likes of Pepe and Auba and back the manager … then if we don’t look like a team that can compete next season it’s goodbye Mikel. I hate to think of the money we’ve wasted on players in the last 5 years … but it’s done, we have to move on.
I think Aubamayang’s hair style sums up our performance.
An extremely good write up Rocky, honest and accurate throughout.
It takes a lot of resolve to write a report after a game like that, and still not be to vitriolic.
I expressed my dawning doubts about Arteta on AA last night, and the Rasper made a valid comment that Mikel needs more time to assess the players who are not up to it and to take action in the transfer window.
You have also taken a similar route and I think you are both being fair to him.
Your player ratings are also fair, but I do not agree with your assessment of Odegaard.
Of all our players he, in a terrible team performance, stood out for me. He ran miles during the game trying to close down ‘Pool defenders, and their GK, while despairingly also pointing/waving to Laca and Pepe for them to close down the ‘Pool players closer to them.
Sadly, neither of them gave him any support, and neither did any of the other midfield players, so his efforts were lost in a slough of incredible lackadaisical ineptitude from most of his team mates.
No one can shine in quagmire of despondency, where the manager’s instructions were ignored, and the stench of defeatism hung like a miasma over the team.
[I am so glad you did the match report Rocky — otherwise I might say what I really thought about the performance.] 😁
We were absolute pants… Liverpool won’t have an easier game this season!
Nice, well balanced post, interesting point on Leno, not sure if the reported issues with his unhappiness over coaching are doing him any favours? Since the Brentford g/k coach took the reins we’ve lost Martinez, signed Runarsson and seen Leno lose form. Does this coach have the ear of Arteta and some influence and are we improving in that dept as a result?
I share the prevailing feelings of misery, but I am choosing to remain sanguine.
During Liverpool’s recent run they had some performances that were, by all accounts, as woeful as our performance last night.
Does that mean Liverpool are crap? That Klopp should turfed out?
To my mind we’re in a transitional phase and we’re performing like it, with periods of lovely Wengeresque football and periods of utter craptastic ineptitude like yesterday.
One or other of those trends will eventually dominate and dictate our future.
Arteta will be given slack for this season and will get a full transfer window to try and shape things the way he wants them.
But there will be no hiding place next season. If we’re mid table at Christmas, it’s probably all over for him.
Redders made a comment at the end of the previous Post: “It hit me last night that it is many years since we played wonderful football and when we were a force in the Premier League…”
The second half of that sentence is indisputable but I can’t agree with the first half. Under Arteta we have had individual games (sometimes just extended periods within games) where we have played terrific football – better than anything we saw under the constipated approach of Emery.
It doesn’t mean that we can truly claim to be on the upward slope yet, but there are glimpses of an upward gradient, whereas under UE it was all downwards.
Well done Rocky, even trying ( and succeeding) to write a report.
My only dispute would be marginally with you and more with RC at defence ratings. When the centre of the field “opens up” like a newly unwrapped Easter egg, it is very difficult for defenders ( especially NOT super quick ones) to do much to stop forwards of the quality Liverpool had. ( they should have had six or seven). Communication is not what it was in TA’s day, but I think it was the speed of delivery and accuracy of the cross from Arnold that took out Holding and Chambers.
Agree with comments regarding defenders being petrified of Leno, and that is now the biggest problem going forward, I believe.
Who will play on Thursday? Dont tell me Aubang was taken off to rest him! He had his rest for 70mins. Why cant Balogun, Martinelli and Azeez be given a good go. We would have nothing to lose if we play like yesterday!
At least we are unlikely to finish in position in League to go into the Europa League Competition, so it’s not all bad.
Happy Easter of whatever persuasion or otherwise, to all AAers.
Arteta has to let go of his own ego and bring back Mathieu Guendouzi. That boy undoubtedly has a great fighting spirit. The players we saw last night did not and for proof we lost every 50/50 ball during the match.
Troy Deene continues to be right…ARSENAL HAVE NO COJONES….and that includes the coach.
You are right about Ode’s non-stop effort in trying to prevent Pool from playing out easily from the back.
I saw how many times he went sprinting forward only to look round and see that Pepe and Aubameyang and, to some extent, Lacazette, were not putting in the same commitment.
I should have mentioned his effort in the report so I’m glad you pointed it out in comments.
It was one of those games yesterday where you could almost tell the players that want to and the players that don’t/can’t do what manager wants. I can’t really blame the defence yesterday they had literally nothing in front of them. Yes they could have done better with a couple of the goals but you also have to question any help they got from those in front. The left back crossed for the opener unchallenged, was Soares supposed to track Salah and then doggy back to Alexander-Arnold?
The problem is we can sometimes carry one or two in the 6 making up the midfield and attack like that as the other 4/5 make up for it, we can’t carry 3 and in the end their lack of enthusiasm or ability to play the game as Arteta wants will eventually spread. We need rid of them. I felt like Partey, Odergaard and Laca just looked around them and gave up as why bother if the others arent.
Yes, sorry, Rocky,
I should have written the sentence you disagreed with rather better, but one of the potential problems with blogging is that there can be time disruption with attempting a continuous discussion that has lengthy gaps, which do not change the argument as far as the writer is concerned, but is not clear to a reader.
What I mean by that is – last night, Peaches made the comment (my words) that the game was poor, but in reference to a another comment I had made earlier, she said that there had been other games where there had been good football. Obviously she was referring to the flowing football when Saka, ESR and Tierney were on top form) and I agreed with her.
Is there a contradiction with my subsequent comment that you mentioned above?
Not to me, but as I have admitted, I could have been clearer in what I meant.
— “It hit me last night that it is many years since we took for granted the wonderful football we played, and at the time when we were a force in the Premier League…”
But I am sure you will make allowances for an inarticulate blogger such as myself.
Just as a side issue, many people, fans, bloggers, pundits et al, claim that Arteta has been a big improvement on Emery, and you have made such a reference yourself, but the stats show a different view.
Yesterday was Mikel’s 50th game as coach of Arsenal, but in that time his teams have won fewer games than Emery’s did, and scored far fewer goals than Emery’s did — and that applies to a comparative with Arsene’s last 50 games too.
Win % –
Arsene = 54%
Emery = 49%
Mikel = 42%
Arsene = 96
Emery = 91
Mikel = 72
Perhaps I am not alone in not making myself clear?
For sure, Arteta has been disappointing in the EPL. He bought himself time with the FA Cup win but so far, his record in the EPL is rather atrocious:
50 games 21 wins 12 draws 17 losses
72 goals for ; 56 goals against
75 points ; 1.50/ game
This is just poor, it s basically mid-table form. He needs to solve this form ASAP. I am not sure he can afford to finish beyond the top 9. This is the least he can do with the squad at his disposal. I don’t think it s only the players to blame – he has his fair share too. He basically has to sort it out now…He has been at the club for over a year now…This summer will be make or break for him. There are already clear mistakes made:
1. Getting rid of Emi to favour Leno.
2. Sticking with Bellerin for so long.
3. The way he managed Ozil was not great either.
4. Seems we are missing an AMN type of player these days too
Overall, Arteta has brought positive energy and at times, our team was sensational and then shot itself in the foot but still, this is AFC and the squad has got talent for sure.
If we are not in Top 9 this season and Top 6 by the end of December this calendar year, he may be sacked and deservedly so…UNLESS of course, we win the Europa League this season 🙂
If we want Auba to be our main striker, then play him up front with Martinelli in a 4411.
If we want a more balanced team, then stick to the 4231, stick with Laca up front and play Saka, Ode, ESR behind him. It s that simple really…
Willock – a true Gunner depriving Spurs of a victory and maybe of Top 4 🙂
Haha – that will really piss off the Spuds.
AFC are in a bad way, as mentioned on blogs, twitter, and everywhere, for a very long time now.
stan the maN will not invest in players, am not talking about $ coming from the operational side!!! It is like a luxury tax in the NBA, and stan will not cough it up-ever!
Our scouting, in person and data analytics, has got us pepe, when we needed 3 $25 million dollar players.
Should have sold or loaned out earlier many youngsters if they are not going to play or be developed, Eddie, Willock, AMN and Nelson, to make way for other players in the system Balo and Azeez come to mind. Simultaneously should got ridden of senior players who are not good enough and made a profit and reinvested in younger and hungrier players, Chambo, Holding, Bel, Laca, Luiz, El Neny, darn near the entire squad.
Do not even know what to think with Auba and Willian’s anchor contracts.
We have no squad depth and it appears no actual 10 year, 5 year, and year on end plans.
Someone put it on another site, ” I love Arsenal; I’m just no longer in love with Arsenal.”
Really hard to see an exit strategy or plan B at this point.
All the eggs are in the EL basket, and unless Mikel wins it, he will be counting the days. AFC are not going to finish in the top 6, lucky if we get top 10 at this point. And with Tierney and Luiz injured, it is going to be a rough and tough ask for AFC to make it to the next round in the EL.
The statistics tell a tale! But Mikel is still suffering the legacy of a squad who couldn’t understand Emery’s tactics, couldnt understand his English ( and took the piss out of it), and probably most importantly were, in too many cases, too big for their boots, believing their agents regarding their worth and ability.
Regrettably he then made his own mistakes with Willian, Luiz and Aubang, players who seem to have a significant influence but not, IMO, for the good.
Both arsenal loanees have great games against London opposition, London red snitches
That Dwight Gayle first chance remind anyone of yesterday?
LBG – Arteta already been here for over 15 months now…we expect more although he is still of course working with a group that he has not moulded to his expectations yet
The point I was making is the majority of the originals cannot be “moulded to his expectations”, because they are no.more than journeymen.
RA, how much of Emery’s positive run was in the early days backed by the fans, new faces and taking over from a still fairly strong Arsene squad.
Emery’s statistics are slightly skewed by the fact that we went on an 11 game winning streak and unbeaten in 22 after he started, but as he started to put more of his stamp on the side we got worse. Arteta had to pick us up from a real low and maybe when we compare managerial statistics we should compare last x games of one manager vs first x games of the next.
Unfortunately there is. I budget to spend to strengthen so we have to find the talent from within the squad and be clever in the transfer window, do we have the back room staff to achieve that? I am not sure.
What I am hopeful of is the precautions around ESR and Saka are to prioritise Europa League and to protect their young legs and heads. They are our go to players and that is an embarrassment for the likes of PEA. Pepe I have always get a little sorry for he didn’t decide his transfer fee but he is not doing it and for that reason along with Aubameyang has to make way for others.
I’m also hopeful KTs removal yesterday was also precautionary and the key players were told if you get a knock or feel a twinge you tell us and we sub you because we need you for Europa.
What are Artetas options at the moment with the squad he has been left with? He should not have to be relying on the youngsters, and they shouldn’t be the players we as fans miss when they don’t start. That is on the senior pros who are robbing a living. We spent winter riding ourselves of Kolasniac, Sokratis, Mustafi unfortunately we also had to trim the squad further and send AMN and Willock out on loan.
I do worry that there is more going on above Arteta as I cannot seriously believe a manager that played Willock and AMN from the bench over the likes of Ceballos, Elneny at times is happy having to field them now.
Maybe I am wrong and he is not being told who to play.
This summer will tell us a lot, if we start the next season with many of the same players and Arteta does not resign then we can only imagine that he is in agreement and we can truly judge him. If on the other hand we see a clear out and he has youngsters to work with then we can also judge him, but with a young squad i think we would all give him a bit more time.
This pre season was all a bit weird with covid and the effects.
I also think there is a hurdle to overcome in terms of EU based players, no longer can we take a punt on players from Europe without them having a certain number of international caps in order to get work permits.
Orrecting my earlier comment I see most of the stats are comparing against Emery’s last 50 although as he only coached 78 games in total I would guess he probably only coached about 50 premier league games in that time.
Emery’s full Arsenal Record:
P78 W43 D16 L19 55% win record
P74 W38 D15 L21 51% win record
On paper it looks worse but I still think in the flesh we are generally better, especially when the likes of Saka and ESR are in the starting line up.
As I said earlier there was a winning and unbeaten run early in Emery’s reign that embellishes his numbers.
disappointing game after the high of beating the Spuds, qualifying for the Europa QF’s, the West Ham revival and the international break.
If Arteta wins the Europa after threading the needle of expectations then I am sure he will become one of our great coaches. Just need to see it play out before losing hope.
I am getting really fed up with this “we are in transition” nonsense that the apologists have been peddling for some time, together with the promise of jam after a few more transfer windows.
The money is not there to buy indiscriminately. Looking at what he has bought, hardly indicates that any future purchases will be any better than we have already.
Arteta has had 50 matches and has failed miserably.
In the time, we have, maybe, played well in a handful, maybe less and the rest of the time it has been mediocre at best and absolute rubbish otherwise.
When we have very occasionally beaten a top team or won the cup it was by parking the bus, hardly something that we should be proud of. Indeed, how many fans remember the FA cup win against Manure with pride, when we parked the bus and won on penalties.
How many good managers talk about their players to the media in such negative terms, and not only once but on a regular basis?
Arteta has forgotten that the buck stops with him every time and every time he conveniently passes it on.
The players clearly do not like or, perhaps, even get, his “style” of play and are showing that the way they are playing.
No one likes to remove a manager, but this one has gone the course and now needs to be removed. before he causes any more damage.
It’s worth remembering that that long unbeaten run at the start of Emery’s reign was characterised by poor play from Arsenal and a general sense that we were getting results in games that our performances did not merit.
I would take a few more of those games now…….
I missed your comment yesterday, and very good it was. 😁
Statistics can be both helpful in determining the ‘truth’ of someone’s argument, for or against a particular issue, but the interpretation of what they are showing can be key to whether they are only valid in an argument because they seem to support confirmation bias on behalf of the individual, but perhaps have the opposite ‘truth’ in the eyes of a larger group.
Emery has had an effect on many Arsenal fans who disliked him whatever he did, but these stats actually seem to show their views may have shown they were too critical of a manager who took over at the worst possible time, and was he was inevitability going to be a scapegoat because the fan base was so diametrically split.
In the same way, I do not think Mikel is having an easy ride, because he has had to get rid of players who should never have been bought by Arsene, or Emery, and has been left with some players who are still not good enough, and he has also gone against the wisdom of the fans by retaining a GK who is not loved by many, and instead selling a ‘Gooner’ GK who looked a far better keeper.
The purpose of showing those comparative stats was to let some fans who did not realise Emery had better results than Mikel.
Of course that galvanises those who believe they (themselves) are correct, to try and rationalise why the stats are not ‘true’ — and that is good for a blog discussion, because they might be correct when the stats are interpreted in the context of the events at specific times.
Anyway, I appreciate your comment — and I have to admit I do not have any hard and fast rule as to what these stats really mean, as they are a very small sample.
I am sorry but I simply do not accept the idea that Arteta’s problem is the players and the suggestion that he was left with a poor squad of players.
The squad is full of experienced internationals.
He has ditched many if these by buying out their contracts or sending them out on loan and replacing them with a number of his own choices some of which, like Willian have been total failures.
If he was the great coach as so many fans keep on telling us how is it that he cannot coach these internationals to play a consistent style of play commensurate to what he expect from our team.
He has now degenerated onto blaming the players every time in public and because the displays are so frequently abject he now does it almost every week.
It is not surprising that he is losing the players.
Have no doubts that that is what is happening. Is it just the high wage that has turned Auba from a world rate striker to an also ran? I do not think so.
Please remove your rose tinted glasses and look at the reality and not at the reality you would like to be there.
You seem to be the only one in town that believes those “experienced International players” are up to the job and it is Mikel who has got it all wrong.
I would be interested in which of those experienced International players are still doing the job for their International teams, in your opinion?