Torreira On Fire, New Ljungberg on Pitch, Super Saka, Obvious MOTM: Arsenal v Chelsea Review

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.

bang by Laca

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.

By TotalArsenal.

21 thoughts on “Torreira On Fire, New Ljungberg on Pitch, Super Saka, Obvious MOTM: Arsenal v Chelsea Review

  • Well said, TA and very good read on the issues too. I take a lot of positives away from this game, though was looking forward to the win as a catalyst for a renewed assault on the top 4. Rather, we’ve lost and some are speaking of a relegation scrap.

    We need to win just one game, is what I feel. Just get a first win and continue to work hard, and we will push on from there. It all starts with the first win. If anyone cannot see that if we play like we did in the first half, few teams will be looking forward to playing against us. Just need to sort out the confidence of the back 5 and we should be good.

    Auba showed fire in the belly where Laca was out of sorts but did a lot of running and in the end, it told on his fitness levels. David Luis showed his old teammates he knows them and their tricks; many times he’s prevented them succeeding with some of the dark arts of the game (a few of which he authored while with the chaos); we need to be alive to these things at Arsenal too. Guendouzi got away with a tug on Abraham right in the box and so, we can say it evens out with Jorginho being let off the hook when he pulled back Guendouzi for a potential second yellow. He has also knocked Torreira over to have a free run on Leno’s back post to score.

    I won’t hold Abraham’s winner against Mustafi at all. Any touch on Tammy and the ref will give the call (as he looked like he was dying to do anything to give us the L) for a penalty. Mustafi does not need any more hate from the fans and did the right thing to stay on his feet and hope for a block. Don’t get me wrong; I will be doing it differently but after the flak he’s received from our fans, we got what we should expect from him. However, a scared defender is a liability to us, so it will do both parties good if they parted ways this window.

  • Thank you, Eris.

    Agreed re the referee keeping Jorghino’s second yellow in his pocket after letting Guendouzi off the hook earlier in the game. Had they kept calm I reckon the ref would still have done it, but Laca and co were too keen to get Jorghino sent off and so he decided otherwise.

    Also agreed on your views re Mustafi.

  • There are a lot of points to agree in your post, TA, including but not limited to:
    – Auba is MotM, especially his defensive eagerness was impressive
    – Luiz playing exceptionally (also against Bournemouth): not just making the most blocks and clearances, but critically important ones
    – Ozil showing again that he is capable of making the difference
    – Saka is so young and talented, that he can visibly improve game by game (but he was much more responsible for Abraham’s goal than Mustafi)
    – Jorginho should, while Guendouzi could have been sent off

    What we don’t fully agree:
    – This was an unlikely poor Chelsea in my opinion. Yes, they are not decimated by injuries and suspensions, but I can hardly think of any (other) PL team that they could have beaten in an away game with such a weak display
    – Nelson is not yet showing what he is truly capable of. Indeed, he is also improving, but I have seen him playing in U23 and the Bundesliga, and trust me, he’s so good. There is a lot more yet to come from him.

    To be honest as satisfied as I was with Arteta in the first half (good team selection, great tactics to overcome Chelsea), I was equally disappointed in the 2nd half, as the team was clearly gave up playing attacking football, focusing merely on defending organized and effectively: obviously trying to win the game by 1:0. It would be hard to believe that Arteta instructed otherwise, because if he did so, then what the team did was borderline mutiny. And just like you should never go full retard, you should never go for a 1:0 win either, because the unexpected can easily happen. Today Willock screwed up our only chance in the 2nd half, and Leno made an uncharacteristic terrible mistake. So we didn’t have a chance to win the game any more, and we were psychologically downhill, so even such a poor.-playing team as yesterday’s Chelsea could beat us in the Emirates.
    Don’t get me wrong, but Arsene would made 6 points out of the last 2 games…

  • Pbarany, I’d agree with you that Arteta should have been doing something about us playing deep and being unable to pass our way forward without losing possession. Maybe, the boys were more “terrified” about conceding as it would confirm old biases about our defending. Maybe, Chelsea pressure was just that good. One thing is for sure, it is a derby and to expect the other team would take going down 1-0 lying low is not to understand the way of rivalries.

    I disagree, though, that the Chelsea team was poor. Fact is we made them look poor but couldn’t sustain the high octane football we started with. Chelsea have been doing well against some good sides but have shown frailty against weaker sides, which we weren’t in a state of mind to take advantage of.

  • Pb, happy to disagree on the strength of Chelsea and Nelson. The latter was fabulous imo and I am sure there is more to come from him given that he is young and inexperienced.

  • TA,

    You have a great knack of finding encouraging signs in the midst of a painful defeat.
    We were back to our best in the first 25/35 minutes and then Lampard made an astute early substitution that turned the game in Chelsea’s favour.

    It was obvious to all that we, as yet, are nowhere close to where we need to be but Arteta really seems to have the knowledge and vision that we missed during the Emery debacle. I look forward to 2020 and our return to the winning type of football that we experienced in the AW era.

  • Indeed, TA, I’m not rallying against Arteta. I just hold him – partially – responsible for playing less dangerous in the 2nd half, as in the first. Mikel is innocent in the whole tradition, but it seems as we are reluctant to deliver the killing blow, and rather sit back after a thin one-goal cushion.

    Regarding the strength of Chelsea, there are 2 factors to consider. First, shown performance: they had mere 2 shots on goal (and the first one was a gift). And not because they had a lot of attempts, but they were attacking unimaginatively. Second, current squad. I don’t want to insult Chelsea fans, but for a team that not long ago played attackers like Hazard, Costa, Pedro (even Morata), a trio of Mount, Abraham and Willian is a joke. And they weren’t strong in defense either: Tomori, Zouma and Rudiger are not straight successors of Terry, Luiz or Cahil. Not to mention Lampard, who is not a tactical genius, Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know when will we have similar chance to beat them with such a clear margin.

    On Nelson, I wasn’t criticizing him. I’m just optimistic, that he will keep giving Arteta a head-ache regarding whom he should sit on the bench, when Pepe, Auba, Martinelli and him are all available – assuming Laca and Ozil are not considered in this position, and Saka needs more muscle for playing on the wing.

  • I share your optimism, GN5, as long as we don’t sell Xhaka in January (without a proper replacement – which is hard to come by), and we don’t loan Torreira back to Italy either.

  • pbarany, Buying and selling has been one of our weakest links in the past 3/5 seasons and it is a major cause of our fast fall down the table.

  • Well said TA! The past two matches have filled me with a real sense of optimism regarding Arteta’s reign.

    I saw my old Arsenal again, true midfield domination (though not for the full 90 minutes in either game). Players running rings around the opposition’s midfield, as well as protecting Leno’s goal well. Just missing that final bit of composure and class in the final third.

    The second half against Chelsea was a bit puzzling though. We dominated the midfield 3v3 versus Kante, Kovacic and Mount; They dominated us in return with the introduction of jorginho.
    Everyone seemed to stop attempting building up from the back completely in the 2nd half (instead hoofing every goal kick and defensive actions). This surely couldn’t have been Arteta’s instructions, could it? Though I fully expected Laca to be sacrificed for another midfielder (which didn’t happen) which would have given us numerical superiority in the middle.

    Nonetheless, I was impressed with the improvements with most players, especially Torreira & Mesut. As you have stated, we did miss Xhaka in the middle. Guendouzi adds bite and energy but lacks Granit’s ability to feed Ozil in his no.10 position. We better hope Ceballos returns ASAP, he’s the only one who can replace Granit at this moment.

    Considering the noticable improvement in 10 days, this makes me wondering how far we would be had we replaced Emery during the international break. Super optimistic with our new head coach regardless. We’ll rock the EPL next season.


  • GN5, I reckon the forced sub combined with the 1-0 up got us out of our stride. I don’t think MA had many options to rectify the second half imbalance in midfield, and FL indeed made an astute adjustment there.

  • Pb, thanks for the response. I think Arteta missed the means to make the tactical change required (Xhaka and Ceballos not available) and it was a mistake by Leno that got them back into the game in the end. More is to come from Arteta and I think you are being a wee bit unrealistic/ impatient.

    Re Chelsea, I have watched quite a lot of them this season and nobody played better against Pool and Ajax this season than them. Mount, Abraham and Wilian are anything but a joke and would all take places in our Arsenal first eleven right now imo.

  • Cheers Lucas 🙂

    Agreed on all and good analysis of the midfield changes. I would have preferred an extra man in midfield too to readdress the balance there and keep using Ozil to release the pressure somewhat.

  • Appointing Arteta sooner would indeed have made sense, Lucas, but we have him now and the rebuilding can begin. In the league we have to try and finish as high as possible – let’s aim for fifth or sixth, but maybe Mikel can do some magic in the cups already. I just want to see a plan and us getting better and better executing that plan!!

  • TA .. good work. You haven’t allowed the wind to blow you off course.👍👍

    I’ve never been more tense watching a match. I was pacing up and down the front of the telly, wondering if it wasn’t best to switch it off but at the same time unable to take my eyes off it. To me there was too much at stake. And I knew I wss exactly the mirror image of our players on the field. Too much was at stake for them and as the experts say leading 1-0 is the worst score line to manage when confidence is low. One is caught between defending the lead ánd going for more. Kind of sitting between two stools.

    Looking at myself I can only sympathize with them but the good thing is they’ve reached their nadir and going through such is getting hard boiled. The team that would make us proud is emerging. COYRRG!!!

  • Auba for me as well TA– as MoTM. His defensive track-backs stanched several potential situations from becoming a danger.

    Seems many in the blogosphere were as impressed with Lucas Torriera as we are here at BK.

    Borrowing from Amy Lawrence’s piece at ‘The Athletic’ ($$ req’d):
    “Torreira has warmed to Arteta’s instructions even in the short time he has been under the new man’s wing. “Every coach has his own style,” the Uruguayan says. “He has very clear ideas and we understand what he wants. We want to train really well to show this on the pitch. He wants us to be in contact with the ball, to try to break lines, give options to our team-mates.

    “It is difficult at the moment because we haven’t been winning consistently for a long time. We have to leave all this behind, get on the ball, get a grip of the game, make things happen and hopefully achieve the wins we need. We keep going and keep working.”

    The supporters recognised that desire as Arsenal took the first steps along the way to improvement, which is why they stayed with the team and at the end offered applause rather than the catcalls that had become commonplace here at the end of defeats during the end of the Unai Emery era. “The fans were more in contact with us and we have to work really hard in the second half of the championship to get results,” Torreira notes.”

    Very positive piece all-in-all. Most of it revolving around the need for the Board to realize the magnitude of Arteta’s task. That time and patience aren’t the only requirements. But to allow him to further shape the squad– and back him in the transfer windows. Importantly, this next one if he sees fit.

    “Up in the directors’ box, in the trademark red cashmere scarf, one of Arsenal’s guests of honour, George Graham, knowingly watched the young new coach taking on the challenges of a team in need of a serious shake-up.”

    Ms. Lawrence’s article was themed on the parallel between what Mikel Arteta is currently faced with– and that of the arrival of George Graham. The fashion with which he took the club by the shoulders and steered it to the course he sought. MA’s style in this day and age will certainly be different than that of GG. But the club’s hierarchy has to know they’ve been ‘given a do-over’ with Mikel Arteta’s arrival.

    To make it right– to overcome ‘Emery’s Burden’ as it were? Arteta will need the resources to make it work. If there are players MA wants in this January– or out? It’s a time not to hesitate.


  • GN5 I fully agree with you on condemning Arsenal’s past selling practices, but I’m kind of proud to our buying. We don’t pay unrealistic premium for 1-season stars (Bissaka, Zaha) and don’t try to impress the fans by the sheer volume of spending. I think Holding was a gem for 2M, just like Torreira, and even our higher expenditures were proven good investments, like Ozil, Sanchez or Aubameyang. As Arsenal cannot enter the “most expensive player ever” race, we analyze the market for top class, yet cost-efficient players for particular positions – that happened with Cazorla, Leno and Tierney too. The few occasion, when we manage to sign players for free, are also usually turn out to be good investments (Kolasinac, Flamini). And the gambling with unknown youngsters usually turn up to be good decisions (Guendouzi, Martinelli, Mavropanos). Of course, we had flops like Asano or Sanogo, but really failed signings are only Arshavin or Perez (and the jury is still out on Mustafi and Mkhitaryan).
    If we only could sell our star departures (Sanchez, van Persie, Fabregas, Giroud, Walcott, Henry, Vieria, Song, Szczesny, Cole, Reyes – not to mention Ramsey, Wilshere, Sagna, Welbeck, Pires or Arshavin) for a reasonable price, just like Liverpool and Tottenham did with Coutinho, Suarez, Sterling, Torres, Modric, Bale, Walker or Berbatov, we would have the strongest and most valuable squad in the Premier League.

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