Spuds 2 – 1 Arsenal
I was not looking forward to this NLD at all. I will never put money on Arsenal loosing a game, but if I had to have done it, it would have been with this score. I knew we would be the better team, or at least be playing the better football, but get more and more frustrated as the game went on and then would concede… and sadly we did.
A Mourinho team will suck the blood out of you and try to finish you off when you are at your weakest. Arteta probably knew this but still wanted to go out there and play his football. He is building a team and has no time for negative tactics. Good for him and for the development of the team. We were not ready to play a Mourinho team, but there was no way out of it. Unfortunately, for the supporters this was a hard game to watch given the history we have with Mourinho teams.
We have to hope that Mikel uses this NLD encounter to see who has the personality to stand up in a game like this; who can be counted on and who just does not make the grade. It is just one game of course, but we will face a different but even harder challenge in a few days when we host the brand new champions, so he will have another opportunity to judge his players ability to stand up and be counted..
I saw a lot of good stuff today, and some less inspiring stuff, and here are my player ratings.
Martinez: 9 – MOTM superb and faultless performance. Intelligent, brave, athletic, present when it matters.
Mustafi: 5 – possibly a game too many for him. Started well but faded late on, especially as he was left exposed time and again by his colleagues (Bellerin and to some extent Ceballos). But he also made poor defensive decisions that cost us.
Luiz: 7 – tried hard to control the defence but there is only so much he could do with wild boys Mustafi and Kola on each sides of him today.
Kola: 4.5 – cardinal mistake after we just went one up. We need more calm and maturity in our defence and Kola is all energy but not much else.
Bellerin: 4.5 – poor game all-round. He is not a wingback and at this stage of his career he should be Mr Arsenal – carrying the flag for the team. Something is missing.
Tierney: 6.5 – tried hard to make things happen from the left wing but the Spuds doubled up against him and he was often left isolated by Auba. Our attackers need to try harder in anticipating his whipping crosses.
Ceballos: 7 – good first half but became less influential in the second half. Left his defensive duties too often behind and as a result was co-guilty of making our right side our weakest point from which the Spuds eventually succeeded to beat us. Still some fine attacking moves and passes, and good partnership with Xhaka.
Xhaka: 7 – balanced performance and good contributions to Laca’s piledriver of a goal.
Auba: 6.5 – tried hard to make the difference but did not take his chances (at least three) when they came his way. Bit unlucky when he hit the woodwork. Hoped for a bit more leadership by him.
Laca: 7.5 – great goal and worked his socks off in attack and midfield (and sometimes defence).
Pepe: 6 – some good moves and link up play but still much too tame for PL footie.
Subs did not play long enough to rate them.