Football can be cruel and yesterday’s late defeat at the Home of Football was a slap in the face with a rotten blue fish, but…. Arteta is making massive steps forward with our team and we are playing good, attractive football again. There is method in the madness and a number of players are getting to their very best again. So let’s be happy: we are on the road to somewhere sunny and sweet.
Fat Frank’s Chavs are a fit and organised unit and they remain strong for 90 minutes; they are ahead of Arsenal in those respects. Arteta did not have great options on the bench to freshen things up in defence or midfield, and in the end we paid for it. The last third of the game we sat back too deep and too much, and in the end we paid for it. We needed to push Chelsea back into their own half but did not manage to do it, despite great efforts by the likes of Torreira, Auba, Ozil and Nelson.
Guendouzi got an early yellow card and played with fire when he tugged back Abraham, but he tried hard to support Torreira and reestablish himself in the team. Did we miss, Xhaka? Well you know my answer to this question, but I wonder whether you saw it too?
Arteta wants the two DM’s to play tightly together, especially when we are defending: they need to form a mobile wall in front of defence and be able to push up and hem the opponents deep into their own half. This really suits the partnership of Xhaka and Torreira, and it explains why Arteta wants to keep hold of the Swiss maestro. Having said that, I thought the Torreira-Guendouzi combo did okay in the first half, even though simply too much was asked of the Uruguayan Terrier and in the end the man was shot.
I was really impressed with the full backs, AMN and Saka. They were calm and collected and are clearly instructed to not bomb forward all the time. Could it even be that Arteta is telling them from the bench when they can, unexpectedly, join the attack (as on command)?
Auba, MOTM for me, had one of his best games for Arsenal and was a great help to Saka and the midfield all game long.
Laca is out of form and tries to compensate for this with hard work, but we need him to deliver that extra bit of quality up front rather sooner than later. Once this will happen we will start winning games. Martinelli, in the meantime, will be eager to show Arteta he is ready to replace to Frenchman, and let’s hope is available for the next game against MU.
I was also super impressed with Nelson, who is starting to gain confidence and show us all what a complete wing(based)player he can be. His battling performance and desire to break through defensive lines reminded me of the our assistant-coach in the stands: Fab Freddie, and I think we will see much more of him in the Arteta-era. I was equally impressed with young Saka who made the whole left flank his again and impressed in all areas.
Luiz had a great game too, but the turning point came when we lost Chambers to injury so early in the game. Luiz does much better with a relatively calm and organised CB next to him, and this Mustafi is not. Still, I think that the German did well enough, and yes he should have stopped Abraham from scoring but the Chelsea front man did work his opportunity extremely well and some credit should go to him. Under Wenger, Arsenal also often badly responded to losing a central defender in a big game early on, and this time we did so too. I have no doubt that this will change under system-of-football man, Arteta, but it will take time to get everybody drilled into one or two roles they will need to master.
Ozil strutted his stuff and made a real difference but he needed more support in the second half when he does seem to get a dip in energy levels. Rather then sub him, Arteta may want to opt to give him an extra man in midfield and push up play again, as we were simply sitting to deep and inviting too much pressure in the second half. And then a mistake like Leno’s will sooner or later happen. Unfortunately, Willock and ESR do not seem to be ready yet to fulfil such a role and let’s hope Ceballos can help out rather sooner than later.
In summary, we are playing much better, compact football and are able to control a game all over the pitch now. The first half was ours. We need to work on our stamina levels and use the squad better to keep momentum going, and for that we need some key players to return to the squad (especially in defence). We did not deserve to lose but we will learn the vital lessons from this game and come out stronger and more determined.