Vitoria G 1 – 1 Arsenal: We Are Not Happy Even When It Rains

Vitoria Guimaraes 1 – 1 Arsenal

Well that game was not a compliment to the eyes but an away draw in European football is not bad, the statisticians will tell you, and Mustafi – MOTM – had one of his better games. I am afraid that is as positive as it will get in this post.

In all European competitions we have won only 1 out of 8 away games in Portugal, and we knew from the return game that Vitoria are a well organised, hard to beat, typical Portuguese team. On top of that it rained the whole game and things at the club are not great: Xhaka has been dethroned and that will not only have upset him in the team, we dropped seven points in the last three PL games, and our manager and our football look stuck in a cul-de-sac of a cul-de-sac. All are also aware that we will face the high-flying Foxes on Saturday and that game may well turn out to be decisive for the continuation of Emery’s Arsenal career.

Whether it is yesterday’s game or any other game we played under Emery in recent times, our biggest problems are the balance in midfield, the lack of cohesion in our play, lack of added dimension (our football is stale) and inability to get the best out of our players. In fact, the way Emery has us play seems to make our individual players lose their groove and confidence. He puts 11 players on the pitch but it looks like only 9 are playing. We allowed 15 shots, one every six minutes, with four on target; despite 65% of possession Arsenal only managed 7 shots of which just one was on target.

Our midfield set-up does not protect the back nor does it support the attack, and it makes every midfielder in Emery’s team look poor and clueless. Arsenal under Wenger were the masters of midfield play for the best part of 20 years, so this is extra hard to swallow. Don’t believe one second that Xhaka was only saddened by the poor response by some of the Emirates’ ‘support’ when he was so ostentaniously subbed by the manager; the way Emery has the team play and how that makes him play and look also made him mad. And I am sure he is not the only one who feels (or felt) like that!

We had three willing attackers in Saka, Pepe and Martinelli but they were constantly outnumbered where it mattered. We played 3-4-3 so this should not have been the case, but both Tierney and AMN struggled to aid the attack and the central midfield duo of Willock and Ceballos had just too much space to cover and sat too deep. Everything we tried was via the wings and the Portuguese had this covered all day long. We had nobody manning the hole, in fact there was an empty yellow/blue triangle from the Portuguese box all the way to the midfield line for most of the game. We hardly put more than two passes together in the areas where we could hurt them, as we were not compact enough, not mobile enough and were basically clueless and plan-less.

Pepe, Saka and Martinelli looked frustrated despite trying hard to make things happen. Ceballos had to come very deep to get the game going and covered many miles before he had to come off with a hamstring injury (no surprise really). He could not get the team going in the way we were set up to combat the rugged opponents, and Emery’s subs made a bit of change but not enough to improve our poor football significantly.  It was urine-poor for 90 minutes and I feel sorry for those loyal away supporters on that wet and insipid night of football that will have hurt the wallet hard.


The defence almost got their clean sheet but that game did not deserve a winner. Mustafi, who played the best passes on the night, scored a solid Championship sort of goal to get us ahead, but Vitoria hit back with some fine technical improvisation by Duarte de Silva who levelled things with a good scissor-kick that somehow eluded all our frantic defenders in the box.

We are close to going through to the next round and this game will be quickly forgotten. I reckon the same cannot be said about our pivotal encounter with the Foxes on Saturday. Sink or Swim.

By TotalArsenal. 

17 thoughts on “Vitoria G 1 – 1 Arsenal: We Are Not Happy Even When It Rains

  • If we don’t get our act sorted we will get sorted by Leicester.
    Tor is the main box to box player, Ozil in front of him to do the forward creative work. Both have to be backed up by none other than Xhaka. If these 3 are not playing i am not looking for a win or a draw this weekend.

  • I can’t give this time I’d like in response TA. (5:30am here, readying for work.)
    But it comes down to my view a little less than under two years back– when I’d predicted AW’s departure and when.

    Along with which, to a lesser extent, I’d propounded that Arsenal’s (Gazidis, the Board) intent was to keep Arsene for another full season, to allow for the full changeover to occur within the club’s structure.

    Instead, we got a huge boilover campaign online to oust AW that May (2017).
    And we are left with this effing mess– and a manager we now know was far from a good choice.

    Had we been able to retain Wenger last season and weathered the slings and arrows of the vocal minority? Arsene may have been the voice of reason that settled Raul and Sven (and Vinai) into a partnership that clicked.

    So much more to say on this– but have to run now.


  • TA … well done.

    Also excellent read the link on Xhaka saga except that it’s Fan Power 2-0 Arsenal. The MOTM yesterday (Musti) is the 1st goal conceded.

    I think Emery is broken (questioned in my last post). It is in the nature of the very stubborn (Ozil drama) to suddenly brake. At PSG he suddenly succumbed to Player Power. Here I think he has succumbed to Fan Power. In reality, for both, he ceases to be in charge. The best in such a situation is the sack. We haven’t got the right personalities in our squad for a Player Power take over.

    The Arsenal Board should act quickly and decisively. Emery might be poor in tactics but he seems an absolute disaster in public relations (the opposite of Wenger) which does not auger well for the health of the club not counting our field performance. Only one thing can now save Emery or our campaign: the gods of football and that’s not something we should place our faith on.

  • @jw1

    IMO, Arsene would have never left or accepted to have his role reduced to “just” head coach. He would have seen that as a downgrade in his late years and as an insult to his Arsenal legacy. His work with Raul would have been impossible, especially with Raul’s superagent ties, romantic dinners and business deals. Raul thinks that cause justifies any action while Arsene is of a different material. Enemy, on the other hand, knows that he is too weak to deal with big stars and that Arsenal is his last chance saloon to do well in a big club so he’s ready to bow as low as he can go to Raul’s wishes.

    I’m trying to imagine a conversation in which Raul suggests, politely, using ambigous sentences, to Arsene that he should play David Luiz in every game because Mr Joorabchian would be very pleased with that or that we have to break the transfer record for Pepe as Mr Mendes has offered us a special deal that won’t be on the table for too long. I’m also imagining Arsene trying to get his foot out of Raul’s bottom afterwards.

  • Points all well taken Admir.
    But I also think that had AW not been shown the door because of the public influences– that Gazidis would not have pulled his ripcord about 6-7 months earlier than he’d planned. The transition was in place the previous January– when Sven and Raul had dipped their feet into the TW. Raul had no overarching power until the coup-within-a-coup. Once Gazidis lost his nerve to spend his remaining capital– and keep Sanllehi leashed? It was all but over. Raul had not only beheaded AW, but forced Gazidis’ hand and flushed Sven. IMHO? That was not the plan in January through mid-March 2017.

    Once we lost to Spurs, Brighton, and City in the PL– Ostersund in the EL at home and City in the League Cup Final– the online and public cacophony became overwhelming. That’s when I predicted (here, within a week, the date of) when Arsene would announce his resignation.

    Honestly believe the plan was to keep AW on through 2018. That the braintrust then would have brought in Mikel Arteta at some juncture– for a handoff from Wenger.


  • I’m not happy for the 5-2-3 formation, but the only positive signs I get from this game is that Willock, Saka and AMN are reserved for cup games. They aren’t PL quality yet, but they need the minutes and experience to get there.

    From our promising young contingent the only player I seriously consider to be either already PL quality or only half a season away is – against all Guendouzi-hype – Reiss Nelson. I feel sorry for him missing the last month and a half, because he could be on the fringe of the first team, replacing or substituting Auba or Pepe on the wings if necessary. ESR, Willock, Saka and Martinelli are also from the finest material, but still rough diamonds at the moment. They have the quality to shine, but lack the consistency to perform at the same level.
    Guendouzi is starting to reach the maturity to constantly perform at the same level, but for me this level is not high enough for a starting spot at the Premier League. His energy and enthusiasm is remarkable, but the example of Jack Wilshere shows that the sheer will is not everything, unless it is supported by high technical and decision making skills.

  • Well…

    I can’t really add anything (about the match) having not bothered to plunk down the 57 pesos ($299) to watch it…not to mention the time…nor the energy (to give a sh*te)… but, it doesn’t sound great… I will say that I got some laundry folded, dishes washed, etc., etc…while still keeping up on the narrative, so not all bad for me…Personally…

    (Which, if you’ve been following my general take on things is what this “club” is all about. When we look in the mirror and think, “Arsenal,” the only question we seem to be asking is, “Does it work for me?…”)

    Obviously, we’ll be fine in terms of advancing to the (extra round of ) EL elims… (Ugh, more games… 😦 or is Yay, more games… 😀 )

    The real drama, of course, is about our head coach and what it might mean for this match at Leicester where we’re (again, maybe) in can’t lose territory. “True” supporters want us to get a result up there, but many hope for failure (the more abject the better?…) and a change of scene/figurehead for our disgruntlement.

    Personally, I love the comments above from Admir and JW about who’s really pulling the strings and the motivations re: what happened (in the past) with inferences for the future. I agree with Admir, that Arsene-L made a deal with the devil (Kroenke) to push towards a “live within your means” (on the pitch…) model that would promote a profit sharing scheme for top Euro clubs (insuring profits, forever, for our man Stan). Now, with AW gone, it’s every man for himself, including Raul, Emery, and–turning a blind eye (or 4) to how the deals get done–the Kroenke’s old and young… Hey, that rhymes… 😀 😦

    And, as many are noting, the Fans (with a capital F-you…) have a role to play, for worse (or better)…

    Onto the game ahead…and, our car crash unfolding slowly… Most definitely, I will be watching…

    Frankly, we’re not expected to beat the teams above us so a draw with LCFC would be the most frustrating result of all…and one which might serve to draw out this agony in the most excruxiating manner…as I’m basically (again) with Admir, that Emery and Raul need one another and, as long as “success” (promotion back to the CL) is mathematically possible Emery is (probably) the best for getting us there. (He’s not the “enemy,” however, IMO, just another self-interested character in this drama…) There could be a short term excitement (and boost in results) if the figurehead were to change, but we should look down the table at the cautionary tale of installing a nice Scandinavian former player. OGS at ManU (a “bigger” club than ours, in truth…) has taken 13 points from his/their 11 league games… 😮

    With a full Int’l break for deals to be negotiated–and nobody does details/contracts/etc. better than agents and our (above Emery) managers, there’s also the specter (spectre?) of the Moo-Man… Gulp…

    So, let’s win this match. And, having seen very little of our season to this point, AND, not knowing jack about football, I STILL will weigh in and tell Emery how he can prolong this (agony). Play your two left-footers together…or even three of them…

    OK, you only need one for the FKs and corners–and NONE of them can defend–and they were (are) too expensive, but, maybe, just maybe, because they’re left-footed and actually approach the game at a high level (physically and/or intellectually) Ozil and Pepe (plus Xhaka) might just complement one another, make space for one another and play each other in towards goal…from where, with the right bounces, the (opponent’s) net might bulge… (more times than LC bulge ours)…

    It’s just a thought, and I can hold off for a couple of weeks if the NEW coach says the right things and finds a way to play them together…


    Maybe we CAN lose (by winning or drawing at Leicester)… 😦


  • Apparently Torreira wants to leave. He is probably over-excited with the genius head coach we have.

    It would be amazing if it turns out our new regime has managed to prolong contracts of two players we either got rid of (Elneny) or might try to offload come January (Xhaka) while Aaron Ramsey’s contract offer was withdrawn. Benny Hill FC.

  • TA, that link to the article on Xhaka and fan power got me scouring for this article in which Arsene Wenger predicted (or made some comments about) Fan power, back in 2018. Note that before that, he had equally shared similar concerns with the dangerous trend the vocal minority using social media to influence the narrative about football clubs.

  • Good job with this post, TA. You summed up one key observation of mine too where you wrote “Our midfield set-up does not protect the back nor does it support the attack, and it makes every midfielder in Emery’s team look poor and clueless. Arsenal under Wenger were the masters of midfield play for the best part of 20 years, so this is extra hard to swallow”.

    On the one hand, Emery got fans believing he prefers “hard working” midfielders whereas, on the other hand, all that hard work just seems to make no sense anymore when he sacrifices creativity for the graft, thus shoe-horning talented players into a mould that doesn’t suit their skill sets. This also allows the opposition free rein to accost our vital areas, ceaselessly. The one thing that keeps opposition at bay is the knowledge that Arsenal had fluidity in midfield and the players were capable of keeping the ball, driving forward with guile and had an eye for the through ball (or over the top balls) to hurt defences. These days, with Emery’s preference for 3 midfielders all playing defensively, yet with the expectation of linking play with the forwards, it makes for a disjointedness in play and keeps our forward players outnumbered and repeatedly falling back to get any action.

    The prospects aren’t looking good for the team spirit. Emery doesn’t strike me as a strong character who can stick to his principles and that’s why I fear this team isn’t going anywhere fast with him at the helm. He will make changes to please every pressure point. He couldn’t back Ramsey for a new contract; didn’t stick up for Ozil when (it would seem) the hierarchy wanted him frozen (and frustrated) out of the club to cut down wages. Now, he succumbed to pressure by subbing off his captain in a game Xhaka hadn’t done much wrong (David Luis was perhaps, our worst player in that game against Palace, misplacing numerous passes and diving in, then failing to pick out Jordan Ayew for one of the visitors’ goals), not gauging the fans dislike for the player, thus resulting in the ugly incidents that ensued.

    I fully expect the players to stand up to Leicester and take the 3 points, but it will be a game in which our frailties will be tested/exposed by the quick passing, intelligent play of the Leicester midfield and attack. Plus, Brendan Rogers loves nothing more than to have one up on a “big name manager”. Let’s hope he selects right and allows the players to express themselves.

  • Eris, good comment. We look lost in midfield. Unless Emery know what Xhaka and Tor does best, and let them protect the defenders and dictate play from the back, we will still be headless.

    Dictate play from the back without protecting the defence is what kills the careers of so many managers.

  • Cheers Eris, when Wenger speaks we need to listen and he is right about strong heads. The rule of the mob rather than the expert is a dangerous thing and players will have to brace themselves. We have failed Granit Xhaka and as a club we will be paying for this.

  • Great comment, Eris, and all agreed. I think there is a small chance we will win on Saturday and a much bigger chance for a mauling. Our only chance for a result is playing all three of Xhaka-Torreira and Ozil, with our without Guendouzi as extra midfielder (and one less attacker of the PALs). I expect Emery to play Guen-Torr in the DM pivot and to be overrun by the Foxes’ midfield.

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