Arsenal’s Season Up and Running: Five Takeaways from Win at Palace

Palace Coup

Watching the Amazon Prime Video series about Arsenal’s 2021/22 season brought back horrible memories of our poor start last year, not least an opening day defeat at newly promoted Brentford.

Despite our encouraging form in pre-season this summer, I was concerned that playing away at Palace for our first fixture of the new campaign was another potential banana skin.

If we slipped up, I wondered, would all the positivity around the squad start to evaporate?

In the end my worries were banished by a solid all-round performance from a much-improved Arsenal team compared with a year ago.

It was certainly no walk in the park. If pre-season was all about flamboyant cavalier football, last night’s game was trench warfare.

Palace are a team comprised of heavyweight and middleweight boxers, some of whom have the speed of sprinters.

Overall we stood up to the physical battles well and deserved the win, despite some scares.

Here are five takeaways:

Saliba is a Rolls Royce Player

I keep telling myself not to get carried away by one performance but, boy, Saliba looks good. It’s not just his physicality and athleticism, or his passing ability and the timing of his tackles. It’s that he seems to instinctively make the right decision every time. And he’s only 21!!! As far as ceilings go, this lad is heading for the Sistine Chapel.

The Defence Stood Up Well

Not many teams will withstand the sort of fast, physical onslaught we endured at Selhurst Park last night. All the defenders did well, particularly the CBs. I felt Ben White was pulled out of position at times but his stats look very good and he coped better than most with the very real threat of Zaha.

Let’s Hear It for the Set Piece Coach

The opening goal was vital in that game and it came from a clever routine from a corner. Our new set piece coach, Nicolas Jover, has already had an impact on our campaign and we’re only one match in. I’m excited to see what other tricks this magician has up his sleeve.

Starboy Keeps Improving

I haven’t seen much mention of Bukayo Saka’s performance in the reports, perhaps because we spent 60 minutes of the match on the back foot. But I was watching him closely and his ability to bamboozle defenders and drive into dangerous areas is getting better and better. I don’t think there’s a more effective winger in the PL.

Our Fans are the Best

The Sky Sports pundits made numerous comments about the intimidating atmosphere at Selhurst Park (true) and the noise from the home fans. Yet it was quite clear from the TV coverage that it was the Arsenal fans making the most consistent noise. Our away support is amazing. The icing on the cake was the rousing rendition of the Vieira song towards the end when the points were in the bag (not that poor old Paddy seemed to care).



60 Responses to Arsenal’s Season Up and Running: Five Takeaways from Win at Palace

  1. TotalArsenal says:

    “As far as ceilings go, this lad is heading for the Sistine Chapel.” The champ is back. Five star review, Rocky.

    Here is to a great, VCC, season! CoyrrGs!

  2. fred1266 says:

    LBG seems like my fellow UK football watchers us in Trinidad would ne struggling to watch football, a new provider won the broadcast for this season and the cable companies opted not to take it so seems like our only of watching is to pay the provider or illegal streams

    Sitting watch games on computer doesn’t feel right

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  4. allezkev says:

    A very pleasant read.

  5. LB says:

    Joy of joys, an Arsenal win and a Rocky write up.

    (Saliba) “And he’s only 21!!! As far as ceilings go, this lad is heading for the Sistine Chapel.”


  6. pbarany says:

    A nice review overall, but especially good shout on the set piece coach.
    We already praised him last season for making the defense solid against set pieces, but now it is time to be lethal on attacking set pieces. Way to go!

  7. Las says:

    Thanks, Rocky!
    Excellent report. Spot on as always!
    For me, the most significant achievement was the calmness and stability at the back throughout the game except maybe a couple of actions from Ramsdale. But later he did well when it mattered most. We were not dominating the game by possession but it was an assured performance with a no-bullshit approach it was clear the points are ours.
    It long may continue.

  8. Aaron says:

    That is a great way to start the season!

    Been banging the drum on Saliba for a very long time. The guy has got IT!

    Started strong, Martinelli somehow missed one on a platter, but made up for it.
    Pressing was excellent and Palace stuggled to do anything past the halfway line, until the last 10 minutes of the 1st half.

    It was back and forth for the start of the second half with AFC edging it a bit.

    However, from minute 60-85, what the hell??

    Palace should have score 2 goals, but Ramsdale made solid saves and our backline snuffed out the rest of the chances.

    Tactically, Arteta did not make an adjustment to change the momentum that Palace had been building.

    The team kept it together enough to get it over the line.

    I know we did not have Tomi and Tierney to start, and it showed when Viera told Palace to attack over the top and having their wingers attack White and Zinchencko, both those two had a rough time of it during that time, as AFC really struggled to grab the game by the scruff and end it earlier.

    Very satisfied to get 3 points, keep a clean sheet and +2 on goal difference. Concerned with our midfiled after that showing, but Palace have been playing well against us at home for a while.

    Feel we need another mid for Xhaka, a backup for Partey, maybe Viera can slot in somewhere, but a true backup is required for Partey would be tremendous transfer window.

    Going to be a good weekend!

  9. omgarsenal says:

    Told you so Rocky!

  10. RC78 says:

    Great post Rocky! Thank you 🙂

    A good but difficult win in the end but we take 3 points and this is the most important.

  11. LBG says:

    Poor old Manure!
    This season will again be anybody can virtually beat anybody, and I think there could be a real surprise at the end – as long as its not the Shite Hart Lane boys, of course.

  12. RC78 says:

    Tavares – MOTM in Marseille’s win over Balogun’s Reims. Balogun also on the scoresheet….

  13. LBG says:

    Marquinhos and Tomi shine in U21 game. 3-1 to The Arsenal against Manure. Full half for Tomi. Soon have him and Kieran back to strengthen that defence even more. COYG.

  14. RC78 says:

    French league started well for all “big teams” except Rennes:
    – PSG, Lyon, Monaco, Marseille, Lille record win together with mid-table Lens and Montpelliler
    – Rennes loses to Lorient
    – Nice rescues a point thanks to Ramsey’s goal 1 minute after coming on

    Most impressive displays:
    – Lille, Marseille and PSG in that order

    AFC Players on loan: Tavares (MOTM + 1 goal) and Balogun (1 goal)

  15. allezkev says:

    Been to RC Lens a couple of time, haven’t they been in the doldrums for a few years?

    Great support from the local fans, a mining community, really friendly people, love their Le Foot, hope they have a good season.

  16. RA says:

    No need to express admiration for Rocky’s Post — other than good manners — it is always a pleasure to read – many thanks Rock>

  17. RC78 says:

    Allez – Lens is known to have the best fans along with Marseilles, Nantes, Nice, Lyon and PSG but the Lens atmosphere is really amazing…Like in Marseilles, the whole city lives its footie…

  18. LB says:

    Yay RA, nice to read one of your comments, hope all is well with you.

  19. Mike M says:

    My observation of why we struggled especially in the second half was that we allowed their CB (Andersen??) to constantly pump high balls down our flanks which Zinchenko and White had trouble dealing with. I thought after Eddie came on we were able to press their CB’s a little more and it seemed like we had less of those issues. A little worrying that White couldn’t deal with the long balls but KT definitely did better than Zinch after he came on. When Eze had their best chance, White lost the ball in the left mid. position and we got caught. Not ideal either, that ball should have gone into the stands so we could reset.
    I personally can’t wait for Tomy to return, not sure (on current form which is subject to change) that White will start. Same for KT, he should start ahead of Zinch. So does Zinch start ahead of Xhaka? I guess we’ll wait and see.
    Good “problems” to have. If we’d had them last season, we’d be in the CL. Hopefully that shows progress. On to Leicester, where Tielemens will obviously have a worldie with 2 goals and an assist because we didn’t sign him. Should be an entertaining 5-3 win.

  20. LBG says:

    Mike M
    So clear was the reason I found it unbelievable that Mikel didn’t order an instant close down of the Dane. I have seen comment that the temperature prevented a real press, but found this ridiculous as it only takes one of three to close quickly enough to make such long range passing less accurate. If I had been White or Zinchenko I would have been screaming for a close down. Seemed ridiculous to me!

  21. LBG says:

    Emirates Stadium “being renovated”. My beloved entry, with the boy Bastin, Tony Adams, Thierry Henry, AND LIAM BRADY, linked arm in arm to be removed. Of course they are looking a bit washed out now, but give us players/memories please, Arsenal. Not the blankness of the new Shite Hart Lane.

  22. LB says:

    My tuppence worth: I think everyone agrees that Tierney is injury prone and so needs protecting far more than he has been up to now.

    We obviously started Friday evening wanting to take the game to Palace and so it made sense to try and continue our preseason momentum by playing Zinchenko who we should not forget started at City as a number 10; there is good and bad in that: good going forward; he got the first assist lets not forget, but slightly less so in defence which is why Tierney looked so good; there is no doubt that the Scot’s principal skillset is in his ability to defend. The upshot of all this is I am sure obvious to everyone most of all Arteta, when we need a goal — Zinchenko and when we need to hold the fort –Tierney.

    I still believe that Zinchenko will alternate with Xhaka as well; again, being signed by City as a number 10 there must be a goal scorer in him and before Total says he never scored a goal in all his time at City, the obvious response is that he was converted to defence so early that he never got a chance to play further forward than the half way line.

    The other reason why this is more likely to happen sooner rather than later is Jesus and the importance of keeping him happy, do you remember the Brazilian going nuts at Xhaka for not playing the glaring pass for him to run onto — Zinchenko will.

    It is interesting how White’s performance is dividing the fan base; many stating that holding your own against Zaha is a job and a half for any defender while others suggest he was panicky. I am with the latter — the sooner Tomi returns to RB the better.

  23. allezkev says:

    RC, yes I’ve heard that about the RCL fans, apparently they’re compared favourably with the Geordies in terms of their passion for their team, I’ve also been to Lyon, lovely town but the Lens fans beat the Lyonnaise for support. So yeah I hope Lens do well this season.

  24. RA says:

    Morning, Peeps.

    AK – what are you up to, sending in a comment @ 3:38 in the morning? 😉

  25. RA says:

    Hi LB,

    I tend to agree with you re Ben White playing at right back, with the following provisos that it is early days for him and others to settle in, tho, I too, would like to see Tomi back from injury – altho he looks a little like Tierney in being a bit injury prone – and finally – every defender, especially when playing at right back, has to cope with the constant diving and complaining of Zaha in his attempts to “win” a penalty.

    [In a different matter – I was amazed at the shirt pulling/pushing that the referee permitted, as well as the tripping, and fouling of Arsenal players he seemed not to notice.]

    It seems the refs have decided to ‘let the game flow’ – which is convenient for them – and I never knew they had the right to decide what was lawful, and what was not.

    In summary, I thought the defence, overall, was damned good, and when Tierney and Tomi are back in the side, and Zinchenko is moved upfield they will be even better. 🤞

  26. allezkev says:

    Hiya Red, just finished work late, how’s things with you, looking forward to the season?

  27. pbarany says:

    All good points there, RA. A Tomi – Saliba – Gabriel – Tierney defense would be epic; especially if they could stick together for 30+ PL games.

    My only concern is about Zinchenko challenging Xhaka’s DM/CM place on the left side of the midfield. And while I am a great advocate for experimenting, and all for ‘let the better player win’, the arguments and statistics from last year about the effectiveness of the Thomas-Granit midfield partnership are overwhelming.

    Obviously all the proofs from last season shouldn’t impact the results for the current campaign; hence the fact that we didn’t have a better partnership than Xhaka-Partey it doesn’t guarantee that we won’t have one this year either.

    I just wouldn’t bet on Xhaka ending up on the bench. So if Tomi and Tierney are all fit – and starting – I think White and Zinchenko will start on the bench. But we’ll see; it could very well be Saliba, Tierney or Xhaka, too.

  28. LB says:

    My guess is that Arteta is eyeing a better way to deal with different opponents.

    And I will try and explain this by asking a question: Why have we bought Vieira?

    If we are playing a team that is camped out on the 18 yard line, the Partey/Xhaka axis is redundant, the last thing we need is Xhaka playing the ball across the midfield infinitum and Partey shooting from distance is just as much a waste of time. No, we need someone more fleet of foot to find a way past the opponents congested lines of defence. Well, anyway, this is why I think the young Portuguese super star has been drafted in.

    I also think we will see far more of the Pedantic Pep’s approach of using different tools for different jobs; his aim has never been to have a consistent team, it has always been a case of setting out a team to beat the opponents of a particular game and so with this in mind I think that wishing for the same back line for 30 games is unlikely to happen for more reasons than just fitness.

  29. TotalArsenal says:

    Also this season Xhaka will be first on the team sheet, even ahead of GJ9. Zinchenko is a great player and will play left back and midfield regularly but Tierney and Granit are normally first choice. The Ukrainian will play many games but will not demote Granit in the next couple of seasons. He is good but still an understudy of the versatile Swiss maestro. I have noticed that many English fans don’t get what Granit brings to the PL. I can only guess why this is but it is time to embrace this hard working, smart guy who truly gives all for the shirt and has the trust from all at the club. This is Granits seventh season in red and white, he really is key to Arteta’s revolution.

  30. fred1266 says:

    Wonder if xhaka would play for us like he played for switzerland in euros

  31. fred1266 says:

    Who are key replacing them with LBG

  32. LBG says:

    If X is the key to Arteta’s Revolution, God help us for another season.

    Spot on LB. Much was evident last year when teams parked the bus and that in-famous horseshoe reared its head ( if that isn’t a truly wierd mixed metaphor).
    I am intrigued an the acquisition of Vieira and hope for a Santi type player with quick feet. But my belief is the extra 20-30 goals Jesus/ a more mature Martinelli and Saka/ and even Marquinhos/ Nketiah will bring us is the real key to this season. Winning games dirty, with grit, holding on when inevitably down to 10 men ( if X plays), having decent alternatives to injured first choices, rotating efficiently with the evil Thursday/Sunday nightmare, are all the necessary parts of a successful season 22-23. COYG.

  33. TotalArsenal says:

    Just try and love him, LBG. I know it’s hard, but he is clearly asking for the fans to support him.

    You are all not seeing that there is another midfielder who is struggling to make the grade in Arteta’s revolution. I expect changes on Granit’s right shoulder this season, at least after Christmas.

  34. TotalArsenal says:

    Fred, I really like the way he plays for the national team. Once again he is the leader and executes the strategy and tactics of the manager. Very few can do it like he does it.

  35. pbarany says:

    There is nothing much to add to TA’s thoughts on Xhaka.
    He is a quick thinker – compensating his limited running speed – he is precise with his feet. People tend to disregard this, but Granit’s balls are really fast, which is vital in counterattacking, and also makes them harder to intercept. He is underappreciated by many fans and pundits, but not because he is an average player, but because pundits are biased cretins and fans are easy to persuade.

  36. pbarany says:

    Fred’s question on Vieira is the harder to answer. I don’t know why he was signed in the first place; however it doesn’t mean there are no justification, we just don’t know how he fits into Mikel’s plans. It could be
    – becoming the backup AM, as ESR will be converted to LW on the long run
    – adding goals and assist to midfield, as he could take over the first choice box-to-box CM role when Xhaka/Partey retire in 2-3 years
    – allowing Arsenal to play 4-3-3 without a #10 playmaker in games where we cannot afford to field 4 attacking players
    – acquiring a utility player who have played in 5 different midfield position 10+ games in his career of 6000 minutes
    – anything else

  37. LBG says:

    TA and PB
    I am not ” easy to persuade” and resent your implication. Xhaka is NOT quick thinking, and this is proved by his inability first, to see a late tackle or block will result in a yellow or red card ( five in five seasons) which will leave us in dire straights against 11. Secondly, he is not a quick thinker when, having blatantly committed a bookable foul he immediately argues vociferously and prolonged with the referees that he has done nothing wrong. ( This has given him a reputation which results in more cards. It was commented by someone on here ” you could see it in Antony Taylor’s eyes, it’s Xhaka I should book him!)
    Thirdly, he is not a quick thinker when closed down by two he regularly ” shovels shit”( a rugby expression) with a back pass putting a defender in trouble, rather than putting the ball out or to safety.
    Fourthly, he is not a quick thinker when, in the same instance, he tries to protect the balll and then falls down like a sack of potatoes when feather- brushed hoping and often not getting a free kick.
    TA, as I have said before, my views are based on close analysis of this third rate player. I cannot love him, because, rather than being a ” quick thinker” he is an imbecile of a footballer, who amongst others has been the cause of our longish period in the doldrums.
    This is the last time I will comment on X ( who I had already resolved never to use his full name again). Sorry for heartfelt rant.

  38. LBG says:

    Sent a few thoughts on Saturday via arsenalnuts e-mail.

  39. TotalArsenal says:

    Dear LBG,

    I respect your points and understand your dislike, but to call him an imbecile of a footballer is below you my friend. I hope you never these terms for your pupils.

    Of course Granit knows the risk of a tackle leading to a card. Should he therefore never attempt one? He does sometimes get an unnecessary card, but just watch next time how often the team improves after he gets such a card. I think he sometimes uses them to wake the team up, as to get out of a collective decline. He cannot call for a time out, so this may be his way of refocusing the troops.

    Your second point is just an interpretation, unless you can lipread. Xhaka, imho, anticipated the foul and there was initial contact. He fell over too obviously, but I don’t think he was planning a dive. But I like and you don’t and that is likely to cloud our vision. 😉

    Granit is coached to keep the ball into play. Team orders. Yet I cannot remember when he last put a defender under undue pressure. He is one of the very few players who looks around him before he anticipates the ball and that is why his passing is so clean and effective. The ball goes a lot through him and he remains cool under pressure. He may not be the most stylish ball protector but it is effective and fair.

    As PB pointed out, his passing is crisp, well timed and effective. He moves the game on but also knows when not to release the ball and go safe. If you watch the game v CP again you will see how many of his passes were effective and fast. He hardly went wide unnecessarily or played the ball backwards and was constantly involved. He laid the ball on a plate for Zinchenko which led to a decent shot on goal. He also was involved in the second goal and had a number of vital interceptions in and around the box. What more can we ask for?

  40. TotalArsenal says:

    Should have proofread my comment… but I think you get the picture. 🙂

  41. Mike M says:

    It’s crazy how we’re back to Xhaka !! Having read all of the commentary above, I have to say I have been in both camps (I thought he was a really good player when he first arrived and wanted him gone for the last 3+years) but I lie firmly in the middle now. I think he has some good attributes (all covered above) and some definite negatives (which we all know). What has tipped it for me in his favour is his attitude. I believe we need leaders and players to inspire and motivate the dressing room. I have been impressed with Xhaka in that regard – notwithstanding his stupid yellow against Palace. I try to think of it this way – If we’re trying to improve and make top 4 with a change in the squad mentality, could we do much better? Without spending a huge amount of money, probably not. If we’re trying to win the PL or the CL, could we do much better? Obviously and we will absolutely HAVE TO !!
    I think he works for where we are right now.

  42. RA says:

    Good Afternoon, fellow Gooners.

    It was sort of interesting to read the opinions of various AA people on here, and, of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions.

    Personally, I have always wanted to support and/or eulogise every player who had the honour of playing for Arsenal.

    Sadly, that has been impossible, in some cases, probably because the club have spent unwisely and eventually the manager(s) have recognised their recruitment error and sold the unfortunate player.

    “Unfortunate” ?? Well, the players who fall into the “not good enough” category – as decided by the manager(s) probably would be very upset to realise his/their career may be coming to a brutal end. C’est la vie.

    I try to avoid direct discussions about players abilities, or otherwise, because they can become pointless when other fans have equally strong but different opinions that brook no agreement, and end in arguments.

  43. LB says:

    Does anyone expect any changes to the starting 11 on Saturday?

  44. LBG says:

    In total disbelief of your assessment of the player concerned. We obviously watch football in a different dimension and I will have to agree to differ completely with you.
    I no longer teach children as I have been retired for eight years. I retract nothing of my description or observations of the player.

  45. TotalArsenal says:

    Mike, really hard to upgrade on Xhaka if you understand his role in the team. Mayby Frenkie de Jong.

  46. TotalArsenal says:

    LBG, it’s okay to disagree which we have been doing for years and still Granit is at The Arsenal. You argue your case strongly and I have no doubt you have given it proper thought. I always read your views with that in mind. Maybe one day we finally agree on Granit. 🙂🙏

  47. LBG says:

    Chelsea ready to sign De Yong and Aubang!! About time they got one of our cast- offs!

  48. fred1266 says:

    I expect the same lineup

    Would be really sad if Aubameyang does go there

  49. LB says:

    Random thought about players coming and going to Chelsea; we probably owe Willian a debt of gratitude for being such a waste of space; because, if you think about it, Arteta learnt very quickly and importantly very early that buying players of his ilk was not going to work, far better to concentrate on developing a young hungry team — which is exactly what he has since done. Thank you Willian.

  50. LBG says:

    Willian has terminated his contract ( with God knows who!) early so that he can make a surprise return …….to the Premier League. As long as its not to us…..Good luck.

  51. fred1266 says:

    Hearing willian on his way to Fulham

  52. LBG says:

    All these experts!
    “Arsenal were mad to have left Saliba in France on loan for three years!”
    -Really, and what do they have now in their 21 year old centre back? A Rolls Royce performer, with control and calmness on the ball, being compared to Rio Ferdinand ( an insult by the way as far as I’m concerned 😁). Do any of those experts believe that’s what we had at 18/19?

    Gabby (appropriate!) Agbonlahoare ( or similar) say ” White is a waste of money, and will be sold in a years time by Arsenal”.
    And yet, he has recent caps, is praised by Arteta for his total commitment to training/ learning tactics required. He may not be 6’5″ and may end up in front of a back four ( my preference), as holding midfield, but waste of money, I don’t believe. Get a proper job Gabby where you don’t have to be overtly controversial to get paid.

  53. pbarany says:

    LBG, on a final thought of Xhaka, check our first goal against Chelsea in the pre-season game in the US. I may be biased, but I don’t think many player (in Arsenal or playing for a different club) could have provided Xhaka’s pass to Jesus in that timeframe and precision.
    TA is right, contrary to popular misbeliefs there is not many player that would be a clear upgrade on old Granit. De Jong would indeed be one, but let’s be fair: he would be an upgrade on literally anybody; and he makes more than 3 times as Xhaka (which makes him unsalable, not his asking price). So we should appreciate that we have a committed, dependable player in the team with technical skills, stamina and leadership qualities costing only 100k a week (40k less than what White makes).

  54. pbarany says:

    Regarding the pundits we absolutely agree, LBG. These people think they understand football because they played 6 times for the youth international team or because they could make a rare diagonal pass, yet they are capable of so nonsensical comments, it’s difficult to wrap my head around it.

  55. LBG says:

    Thank God it no more X chat. Instead it’s the first home game of a new and bright season AND Pino collados all round.

  56. TotalArsenal says:

    Xhaka – Jesus the new Bergkamp – Henry 😀

  57. RockyLives says:

    In Canada at the moment and wasn’t able to see the game. Great result though. Brilliant to see Jesus off to a flyer and also to see Martinelli bag one.

  58. RA says:

    Hi ya Rocky,

    Like you and many others, I guess, we all have good feelings about (Gabriel) Martinelli – pretty much from his debut.

    He is full of beans, and knocked the wind out of many Foxes and in doing so, knocked the ball out of their possession too.

    If (Gabriel) Jesus was not so terrific and was playing in a similar brilliant Brazilian manner, I would have suggested Martinelli was the MOTM yesterday — but the other Gabby (J) was a playing delight.

  59. allezkev says:

    Excellent performance by our young team despite the odd knock-back and not least by ‘He, who cannot be named’ – good to see Smudge back.

  60. LB says:

    I thought he who cannot be named was one of 3 who were contenders for MOTM

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