Arteta is a career-salvager genius – 8 observations from Molineux Stadium (Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Arsenal).
- We are so lucky with Emiliano Martinez. Not just because he is a capable keeper with quick reflexes and fine distribution, but also because he is patient, doesn’t mind playing second fiddle behind Leno, and yet doesn’t disappoint when he is given a chance. I don’t know how many teams have a back-up (cup) goalkeeper with 6 clean sheets out of 8 league starts. He was humble in his years with the club, and I’m happy he is making up for lost time. He made a long journey from his blunder against Reading in that unforgettable 5-7 game to having back-to-back clean sheets in away games.
- Kolasinac has been reinvented big time! He was signed with high expectations, as he was the LB of the Bundesliga team of the season just before his (free) transfer. And after a few decent performances we had the understanding that his best position is LWB as he is a beast in attack (’the Bosnian Hulk’), but largely unimpressive – if not untalented – when it comes to defence. Well, yesterday he was WhoScored’s MOTM, and while we know that this is a statistics-fetishist bunch, hats off to Sead for his 4 tackles (field high together with Xhaka and AMN), 5 interceptions (field high), 2 clearances, 1 block and 1 dribble. And I didn’t notice Wolves were deliberately targeting him.
- TA sometimes has demonic prognostication skills. He didn’t only foresee all 11 starting players (and 2 substitutions) in his lineup-prediction below GN5’s fine preview post, he also foretold this being young Saka’s evening. And Buyako – who has recently signed a new 4+1 year contract, committing his future to the club – did deliver, scoring his first Premier League goal. Thus becoming the youngest Arsenal goal scorer in a PL game since the Ox in 2012, the youngest British Arsenal goal scorer in an away PL game since Robson in 1981 and the youngest Academy graduate ever scoring in the Premier League (assuming Fabregas is a La Masia graduate).
- As LeGall pointed out perfectly, Lacazette showed not only his greatness as a striker but as a team-mate as well by not complaining about the internal competition with Nketiah, but playing full steam when coming in, pressing and harassing the defence. He has the skills and experience to use the occasional technical or mental slip as the opponent’s CBs grew tired, and he finished with aplomb. That was surely good for his confidence, but was good to Arteta’s and the team’s self-esteem as well. Him competing and mentoring Eddie is a great promise for the upcoming seasons (unless he ends up swapped for Thomas Partey).
- Arteta is gambling with substitutions, but so far it seems to work. To be frank I didn’t expect to substitute AMN for Tierney. If I would have to replace the tired Scotsman I would either have substituted him with Holding and have swapped Rob with Sead, moving Kolasinac into LWB/LM, or have substituted Kieran with Nelson, moving him to RW and reposition Saka to LM. Anyway, bringing in Ainsley was a genius move that AMN acknowledged with a solid performance – his best of the season. The Saka-Willock move was also unexpected – especially as he had a genuine RW on the bench – but was similarly successful.
- Let’s keep Joe Willock. If you followed my comments, I wasn’t the biggest fan of young Joseph. I saw him as a diligent, hard-working, muscular athlete, but I wasn’t fond of a midfielder with such limited passing skills. I never doubted his dribbling and shooting abilities, but he didn’t feel Arsenal quality for me. And while I still wouldn’t prefer him a starter the last few games showed me how valuable his pace and aggression as a late sub are. He can make up for his lack of technical savvy with his speed and energy in the final phase of the games, he is driven, can bully midfielders and defenders alike. Well, I still don’t know if Willock is an AM, B2B CM or a winger, but if he can maintain this intensity for the last 20 minutes, pressing high and creating chances, then who cares?
- Despite the obvious and important improvement at the back, this is not Wengerball, not even Emeryball. Probably it will never be. But putting this clearly fine performance into perspective, we painfully didn’t create enough chances from open play in the middle. Yes, Arteta changed our luck with VAR, hitting the post or forced errors – peace be upon him – and greatly improved our wing-play, but without Sanchez, Ozil and Ramsey we don’t have a squad capable of playing attractively and scoring the eye-candy goals like we did against Leicester and Everton Last season. I’m obviously old school but I would swap 2 dangerous crosses from the byline to a through ball from the middle by our CM/AM any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
- Arsenal has developed game management skills. This might be even stranger than beating a team above us on the table in an away game. We played focused – especially in closing minutes of both halves, without the trademark lapses of concentration. We responded to the changes made by the opponent. We played a disciplined way – even though I didn’t particularly like the time wasting in the end. We pressed as a team when trying to dominate the game and we defended united when the opponent put their pressing in the 5th gear protecting our lead. We committed some tactical fouls to release some pressure. I’m not saying I would prefer to see this in every game, but it is good to know that the boys are capable of this side of the game, too.