Arsenal Are on a Decline: Why We Need a Willian or Coutinho

The catastrophic decline of chances created

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Arsenal v Man city

Before starting to analyze the PL games under Emery, Ljungberg and Arteta, let me share a few claims and disclaimers:

Claim 1: Arsenal is topping the chart of dropping points after leading. The common consensus is that this is a mentality problem – leading to many pundits proposed replacing most of the team. I strongly oppose this narrative. I think it happened, because by shifting the focus of the defence, we gave up on the ball-possession and chance-creation play signature to Wengerball, and when playing for a 1:0 victory (successful against Newcastle, Bournemouth, Leeds, Olymoiakos and West Ham this season), this is a risk impossible to eliminate.

Claim 2: Playing for 1:0 is unattractive, and is a mid-table strategy. I know – zero irony used – that nobody is playing literally for 1:0 at Arsenal. Yet, when prioritizing the defensive midfield at the expense of pressing, and shifting to counter-attacks instead of the trademark possession game, that might still not be playing for the 1:0, but ’not minding’ if the score remains unchanged.

Disclaimer 1: While the number of goals or assists could be intuitively a fine indicator of „attacking intent”, I discarded it along with the ball possession percentage. The one and only KPI used in the analysis below will be the number of key passes. This is good for individual statistics (shows who is capable of consistently providing them), disregards unproductive ball possession like back passes and side balls, and doesn’t care about excellent goalkeeping or poor finishing. For the sake of this post let’s consider the number of key passes as the equivalent of (half) chances created.

Disclaimer 2: This is not an anti-Arteta post. I love the guy. I admire what he did with many of the players. I have no difficulties in sharing his vision or values. Yet I might be challenging whether we are going in the right direction. While the goals conceded did improve (and there is a lot of space for further development) we paid the price of scoring less goals – especially against mid-table opponents.

Sorry for the long introduction, so let’s get started.

In the paragraphs below I will show 6-6 games (5 PL + 1 other) from Emery, Ljungberg and Arteta, the scoreline, the key passes of the opposition and us, distinguishing from the chances created by the starting line-up (unless there had been a substitution in the first half). There is no intentional pattern which games I chose. All data are from WhoScored. And – spoiler alert – I will show how many key passes were performed by Mesut Özil. (If TA could make a table out of it, that would be perfect.)

Unai Emery

Arsenal 2:1 Burnley

KP: 15 + 0 (-) vs. 12

(Legend: 15 key passes from starting players [including substitutes before 46’], 0 KP from other subs, Mesut didn’t play so no KP provided, 12 key passes by the opposition.)

Arsenal 2:2 Tottenham

KP: 15 + 3 (-) vs. 9

Arsenal 2:2 Southampton

KP: 8 + 1 (4) vs. 15

Leicester 2:0 Arsenal

KP: 15 vs. 6 + 0 (1)

Arsenal 1:1 Wolves

KP: 7 + 0 (3) vs. 16

Arsenal 3:2 Vitoria de Guimaraes

KP: 11 + 2 vs. 11

Fredrik Ljungberg

Norwich 2:2 Arsenal

KP: 11 vs. 8 + 0 (4)

Arsenal 1:2 Brighton

KP: 8 + 1 (2) vs. 16

West Ham 1:3 Arsenal

KP: 6 vs. 7 + 1 (2)

Arsenal 0:3 Manchester City

KP: 3 + 0 (1) vs. 11

Everton 0:0 Arsenal

KP: 5 vs. 5 + 1 (-)

Standard Liege 2:2 Arsenal

KP: 7 vs. 10 + 1 (-)

 

Mikel Arteta

Bournemouth 1:1 Arsenal

KP: 8 vs. 12 + 0 (4)

Arsenal 1:1 Sheffield United

KP: 7 + 1 (4) vs. 6

Arsenal 4:0 Newcastle

KP: 12 + 1 (4) vs. 8

Arsenal 1:2 Olympiakos (120’)

KP: 9 + 2 (2) vs. 11

Arsenal 2:1 Liverpool

KP: 1 + 1 (-) vs. 19

Aston Villa 1:0 Arsenal

KP: 7 vs. 3 + 2 (-)

Key findings:

  • Arsenal created more chances under Emery (possible legacy from Wenger).
  • After Özil missed the first 3 months of the campaign he became an integral part of all 3 managers’ first team and was the main source of key passes.
  • The best games we played under Arteta he was the orchestrator of the attacks: 2:0 against MU (H), 2:2 against Chelsea (A) with 10 men, 4:0 vs. Newcastle (H), 3:2 vs Everton (H), 1:0 vs West Ham (H) – his last game.
  • Even when the attackers don’t shine, Özil delivers.
  • The other notable victories happened without him and without convincing attacking play:
    • In the 2:0 win vs Southampton Nketiah was gifted a goal, and we scored the 2nd against a 10-men team
    • We managed to deliver our 2nd 4:0 victory in the PL against Norwich, with 2 gifted goals by Auba, irregular (but fine) goals from Xhaka and Cedric with only 6 key passes in the whole game
    • In our surprising away win against Wolves they had 10 key passes, we had only 4. Our first ’assist’ was a lucky deflection, and 3 of our 4 key passes came in the dying minutes
    • We won against Liverpool by playing Russian roulette for gifted goals – a feat that will be impossible to replicate
    • We beat Man City fair and square in Wembley – the only game on this list which was a real joy to watch – yet we had 4 key passes compared to City’s 15 (KdB provided 9 himself)
  • According to Premier League history Arsenal created 88 (first place) „big chances” in 2015/16, 81 (2nd place behind Man City) in 2017/18, 72 (5th place behind City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Bournemouth), and 48 this season tying 12-14 places, behind clubs like Burnley and Southampton.
  • Arsenal’s main chance creators in the PL this year: Mesut Özil (2.1 KP/game) 6th best in the Premier League behind KdB, Maddison, Grealish, Buendia and TAA (defender), while on level with Willian and Fernandes – others are Nicholas Pepe (1.3) and Dani Ceballos (1.2). Saka provides 0.8 KPs (+ 2.3/game in the EL), plus Nelson, Xhaka and Tierney have high EL key pass statistics. Ceballos is not (yet) our player, Ozil’s days are counted, and many pundits consider Pepe a flop, wishing we signed Zaha instead (0,9 KP/game) with 9 goal contribution in 3300 minutes compared to Pepe’s 17 in 2627.

My conclusions:

  • While most reviews, analyses and press conferences conclude that we have to be more ruthless in front of goal, the statistics show that we score quite many from our key passes while we concede far less from the lot of key passes by the opponent. The lack of ruthlessness is a problem only because we create so few chances.
  • In fact we deliver a distressingly low number of key passes. And not only against the strongest opponents, but against peer mid-table teams and relegation fugitives. This often leads to boring, unentertaining games, even if we take all 3 points at the end of the day.
  • I’m not reasoning here for Mesut Özil! I like the guy, admire his technique and charity work alike, but more is required of him. I’m arguing here to have a midfielder in the team who is capable of providing quality key passes on a consistent level.
  • We have to take care of the chance creation challenge really soon, preferably in this transfer window! Especially if Özil leaves and Emile Smith-Rowe is not yet at the level of dealing with this responsibility alone.
  • While we have to strengthen the midfield I wouldn’t recommend going for Thomas Partey. He is expensive, and he is a DM with a single assist in 3600 minutes.
  • It’s never about splashing the cash. Arsenal is famous for making good signings: Martinelli, Auba, Holding, Leno, Cazorla, Tierney, hey even Luiz and Sanchez were great purchases. I don’t envy Barcelona’s investments in Dembele or Malcolm, or United paying top dollars for Maguire, Lukaku or Fred, not to mention Chelsea’s crazy spending spree for Kepa, Torres, Kovacic, Bakayoko, Batshuayi or Drinkwater. But paying reasonable money for a niche position shouldn’t be out of question.
  • Let’s face it, we missed most of the assist-kings already. Fernandes went to MU (I demanded well ahead to sign him in this very blog), Nkunku joined Leipzig (where he assisted 15 time in the Bundesliga), Havertz seems to go to Chelsea, Szoboszlai agreed with Napoli, Jonathon David is heading to Leeds. Not too many of them remained: Donny van de Beek from Ajax, Rodrigo Bentacour from Juventus, Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, and Isco from Real Madrid are the big money players (MV around 40M), while Jesus Corona (FC Porto), James Forrest (Celtic) and Evander (FC Midtjylland) could be signed for about 10-12M.
  • Still, if we believe the gossip, Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona/Bayern could be our savior (a swap deal for Guendouzi and some pocket money is rumoured); the Brazilian attacking midfielder made 17 goal contributions this season (scored 9 and assisted 8) in merely 2000 minutes. He knows the Premier League inside out, he has just turned 28 in the summer, so seems like a surprisingly good deal to me. His salary is a big issue, but hopefully could be resolved among the parties involved.
  • I really like our wingers. All of them, even Mkhi. But we cannot rely on them providing enough dangerous crosses to compete for CL places without a huge striker like Giroud (or Crouch). We need players who have the vision and passing skills to assist our attackers even in central midfield. Keeping Ceballos might be a step towards the right direction, clearly not enough. Anyway, while crossing and heading is the epitome of British football (at least it used to be), it is clearly not the Arsenal way.

And let’s not forget that our key passes and big chances statistics are mediocre only because they include the last wave of Emeryball and the performance of Mesut Özil. Without him – or a proper replacement – we might be re-living the late games against Leicester, Tottenham and Aston Villa. And don’t kid yourselves, no matter how much do you appreciate youth development, you will find the Arteta-OUT train more and more appealing.

I’m not saying we cannot go down at Villa Park. But before getting used to that we should start scoring 4-5 goals against Watford, Brighton and Sheffield like Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea did, even in away games. Let’s aim for a 4:0 win every match, and worst case scenario we still end up winning 3:2 on unlucky days.

By PBarany.

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20 Responses to Arsenal Are on a Decline: Why We Need a Willian or Coutinho

  1. TotalArsenal says:

    Super post, PB. Great research and use of stats and a compelling argument for getting a key passes/chances creator this (short summer). When we play 3-4-3 we do need two solid midfielders who can firstly defend and secondly add attacking prowess. The combo of xhaka and Ceballos has future and both have done very well in recent games. Who then should produce the key passes in addition to Ceballos and Xhaka? Where would Ozil or a similar replacement fit in? The only place I can see is one of the attackers. Auba is not an assist producer and neither is Laca, and I think that is the main problem. Pepe is getting better at this and there is hope he will be much better in his second PL season.

    I have always rated Willian as one of the best players in the PL. Love watching him and IF he were to come I can see him playing up-front and add tremendously to the key passes tally. So more from Pepe, more from Willian (hopefully) and more from central midfield would be a step forward. Coutinho? Not sure where he would play and whether he would be better than Ozil in helping out our defence/ fitting in with Arteta’s game plan.

    Key for me is that Xhaka can be convinced to stay, which I dont think is a given. Then we need to look who to play next to him. Ceballos is improving but we need to add bodies there, as an injury to either of them would hurt us. So that is where I would spend my money, especially if we can land the fantastic Willian as well.

  2. 5am says:

    Fab post there PB – am busy working for the day so will have to try and comment later on if I can :-]

  3. pbarany says:

    Willian is indeed a fantastic player, TA, but he is a winger. The position where Arsenal has the most talent. Unless he reverts to AM he will compete for the RW position with Pepe, Nelson (and occasionally AMN); so
    – Arsenal’s record signing
    – the player with the (2nd) highest salary
    – and the most talented Academy player (IMHO)
    will be fighting for the same spot.
    I would rather make him an attacking midfielder (his secondary position according to https://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/willian/profil/spieler/52769), or would prioritize Coutinho instead. And we can’t even move Pepe to LW, as we have Auba as the first choice player there along with Martinelli and Saka, who are not bad players either. I would not be really comfortable with having 6 world class (or soon to become World Class) in the squad. It will be quite difficult already to find minutes for Saka, as if Mari is fit and plays LCB and Tierney is playing LWB/LM then he should be fighting with Martinelli and Auba for the LW spot. It wasn’t an issue this year as Tierney arrived injured, Mari played 2 games altogether and Martinelli suffered a major injury himself, but this will be a problem next year (unless Tierney will inherit the LCB position – with Mari as his substitute – and Saka will play LWB/LM in the long run; but that will not be his ultimate wish, nor Tierney’s).

    Back to the front 3 – where we have seven top players already.
    If we were looking to incorporate an AM in the team, we should consider the 3-4-1-2 version of the 3-4-3 family, but instead of having 2 wingers we should have 2 central forwards.
    In fact, we can have 3 version of that. Assuming that the goalkeeper, the 3 CBs (Mari, Luiz, Saliba), the double pivot (Xhaka & Ceballos) and the AM (Özil/ESR/Coutinho/Willian) is given, than we might have
    – a defensive, counterattacking formation, with 2 wingbacks (Tierney, Bellerin) and 2 strikers (Lacazette, Nketiah)
    – a hardcore attacking formation with 2 wingers playing LM/RM (Saka, Nelson/AMN) along with our most lethal attacking duo of Auba and Laca
    – and a striker-less winger-extravaganza, where Tierney and Cedric would support Auba/Martinelli and Pepe/Willian who can run a lot, can operate on both the flanks and up front, even Coutinho could play a false 9 and score from long range.

  4. GunnerN5 says:

    Wow!! PB that is an extraordinary post and takes some reading.
    It deserves of far more comments.

    You have an incredible ability of analyzing statistics, I’m also a supporter that relates to stats but in a very different way than your good self. it’s great to be on a blog that has so many varied blogger skills.

    I’ve maintained myriads of stats on Arsenal games – to a degree that I know who scored in every Arsenal game, but I never seen such in depth analysis as yours on a blog.

    Unfortunately I cannot offer any cogent comments to your wonderful post – as my mind works in a different manner.

    But I will offer these thoughts on our team.

    Personally I don’t think we need a big cheque book to improve our team as we have a fine mixture of youth and experienced players already – but a few astute signings in both defense and mid-field would certainly go a long way to rounding out the squad. If we lose Aubameyang it would be a crushing blow and to replace his skill and ability would be impossible, without him our path up the table will take longer. There are obvious misfits that have been sat out and they need to be sold to generate cash.

  5. LE GALL says:

    thanks for the post, pb, and for all the details you provide us with. i don’t have much time right now, and i’ll try to post a more detailed answer asap. let’s just say that i’m far less enthusiastic about willian than yourself and ta.
    i’m not discussing the raw talent of the guy – who in his right mind would? – but lads … he’s 33!! after cech (33 when he signed up for the arsenal); luiz (33 when we gave him an extension), now willian? have we really become the chavs’ old people’s home? is that our/mikel’s ambition?
    as for coutinho, he’s a bit younger, and he sure is a brilliant player, but i agree with ta; his favoured position is not where we need reinforcement
    as i said, i’ll try to amplify this answer asap, out of respect for the work you put in, pb, but … am i the only one to smell a rat?
    four-year-deal to soares, even though we had osei-tutu/swanson willing and ready to back hector – not to mention the fact that we had also ainsley who, imo, is far, far superior to cedric
    but … cedric’s agent: joorabchian
    luiz’s extension, which i have just mentioned …
    luiz’s agent: joorabchian
    coutinho now
    his agent: joorabchian
    shall we talk about willian?
    his agent: joorabchian!!!
    well I don’t know about you, but such shady deals just set my teeth on edge – I’d very much like to know what arsène is thinking, at the moment
    at the very – very – least, should all of these deals be completed, we – arsenal members – should be given full, transparent information about the dough edu/raul/joorabchian will have pocketed after that
    lastly, I haven’t made the maths, but I guess that with all the cash we seem to be about to cast on 30+ players (if we add auba/mesut/papa to the list above), we sure could afford van de beek (my favourite player on your list, pb)

  6. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers PB, I see Willian as right for the right wing or indeed in the hole. He works hard and tracks back. Pepe can play anywhere in attack and I am expecting Auba to leave.

    3-4-3:

    Willian – Pepe/Laca – Auba/Saka

    4-2-1-3

    ————— Willian – – – – – – – – – –
    Pepe – – – – – – Laca ——— Auba/Saka

    There are many more combos but for me Willian would be a great addition.

  7. TotalArsenal says:

    He will become 32 on Sunday, LeG. At least two good seasons in him and so experienced.

  8. TotalArsenal says:

    The Soares deal looks questionable, LeG, I give you that. But time will tell. Luiz was a good move: we need his experience and leadership. Willian can help Pepe, Nelson and Saka in more than one way, so his inclusion makes sense to me…

  9. TotalArsenal says:

    Willian is a double PL winner and we need such experience within the team.

  10. pbarany says:

    Thanks for your kind words, GN5.
    I have a calculation mayhem in my sleeves, but there is no rush, we have the whole August without competitive football.
    A absolutely agree with you that it is not about the check only to improve the team. We have young players – mostly in attack and central midfield, but I’m optimistic about our 19y goalkeepers too – and good, reliable players in the remaining positions. I think Luiz, Auba and Xhaka are great for leadership, but signing Rakitic for a low price couldn’t hurt. I would say that the last year on Özil’s contract could be enough to coach and mentor Emile Smith-Rowe, but apparently I’m the only one hoping that Mesut has a future here, even if it is only about a year. But if he leaves that creates a vacancy in attacking midfield. And I know that at the moment the 3-4-3 formation favored by Arteta doesn’t suit an AM, but I devoted this post to argue that – even though we managed to beat Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea without many key passes, but apart our pride for winning the FA Cup we lost or drew a handful of games that could have been easily won by Wenger or Emery, thus making the lack of attacking midfield a risky decision.

    I don’t know if selling Özil is a possibility or just a dream. Even for free his wages cost 18M a year (23M in US$). On the other hand, selling or gifting him frees up this amount. Or half of it if we sing someone for 175k a week.

  11. allezkev says:

    That was quite an effort PB, respect to you and well done mate but I’m afraid I’m not a modern stats person like GN5 either, maybe it’s a generational thing, so I’m not sure that I’m smart enough to decipher and add anything on that level, but I think someone like Willian could be beneficial because he fits what seems to be the player that Arteta likes a player that is versatile, a player who can fit different systems and be comfortable, a player who can adapt to Totaal Voetbal because that’s where this is coming from. From Ajax, from Cruyff, via Barcelona, to Pep Man City and Arteta and on towards Arsenal. It’s genetic, it has a life of its own but it needs players who are adaptable to different systems in games, so that Arteta can switch during matches, so you have Tierney all over the place, Maitland Niles down the flank then moving inside, Lacazette dropping into the No.10 linking Aubameyang and Pepe and the midfield but then spinning and getting into the box, the basics are there and once Arteta has upgraded a few positions we’ll fly…

    I have absolutely no concerns about where we’re going under Arteta and losing a few points from winning positions, well that happened to Pep and Klopp initially and they’ve not done too bad.

    So trust in what you see PB and how you feel about it, the rest will will take care of itself.

    14 FACup eh?

  12. pbarany says:

    Le Gall, you clearly have a point.
    When experienced players in their 30s feel that they cannot perform against the highest expectations any more, they usually spend their final (couple of) years in a lower division or a country with less extreme competition. This happened with most of the legends, including Iniesta, Henry, Raul, Klinsmann, Xavi, etc. (But there are notable exception including this blog’s godfather the majestic Bergkamp, as well as Shearer, Zidane, Giggs…)
    But generally speaking buying players of top clubs is not an honor. And might be an indicator of having a lower bar than these top clubs. Unless these players are actually capable to perform on the highest standards for 2 more years, and these clubs were either too snobbish to field them (or there were some authority conflict between the players and the coach/management).

    The past occasions are not fool-proof indicators of Willian’s case, but in my opinion Petr Cech was keeping Arsenal’s goal on a high level. He was clearly not on par with Oblak or Neuer, but he was not a step back to Szceszny or Ospina either, so he was on the ‘affordable quality’. Luiz was clearly our best defender this year (not to mention his impact on young players). And albeit a Mustafi-Sokratis CB pairing is a ticking bomb, both played at a very high level most of the time when they were ‘assigned’ to David. So signing the Brazilian was a masterstroke from Arsenal. And while anyone may say that him being the best defender in our ranks say more about the club than Luiz, I honestly think he is (still) clearly better than Zouma, Christensen and even Rüdiger. We bought Sokratis at age 30, and he had 2 good years in him (but probably is close to his expiration date).

    Regarding Kia Joorabchian, I don’t think he can be so influential to Edu, don Raul or Arteta to hijack our transfer activities. (But I have a tendency to be naive, I admit.) He is indeed the agent of Coutinho and Willian, but it is his duty to find an inspiring club that could reinvigorate Philippe’s career – and I can imagine that Arsenal is the perfect opportunitiy for him. Luiz belongs to a different agency (called Bertolucci Sports), and Soares didn’t have an agent at that time, so Kia helped out (probably not for free). But he is an EC winner with a lot of experience and Arteta seems to like him, so I’m still optimistic.
    You clearly have more faith in AMN than me. He occasionally has great games, but I couldn’t see him performing on a constantly high level neither under Wenger, nor under Emery. But Arteta has his ways to bring the best out of players, so never say never, but Cedric has some potential too. (I haven’t seen Osei-Tutu play, maybe we see him more next season. However he just transformed into a winger from a right back, so another loan deal or even selling him is also on the table. But I’m not optimistic about Swanson. He has no international call-ups, and while he had only his first year at U23 level, I don’t see him [yet] a prospect to the first team.) Anyway, we don’t need reinforcements in the full-back positions

  13. pbarany says:

    Hi Kev, here is a great piece on the cup final, and it basically agrees with you on Tierny, AMN and Auba: https://arseblog.com/2020/08/tactics-column-artetas-flexible-arsenal-win-record-14th-fa-cup/

    Regarding Pep and Klopp, they are vastly different managers. Maybe not from their preference for attacking play, but Guardiola always managed the best, most valuable and richest team of the league. He is a great coach and a great guy, but his aim was always to “keep staying ahead”. He never head to overtake the stronger teams in the division. On the other hand Klopp was always the #2 that challenges the champion. And he managed to do that both in the Bundesliga and in the PL. That’s a completely different mentality. He had to build a team for the future, and had to accept that his best players are often sold (Sahin, Kagawa, Götze, Lewandowski). At Liverpool he had limited constraints as well as more funds to break world transfer records for both goalkeeper and center backs, which unfortunately does not apply to Arsenal. But at least we have our academy…

  14. 5am says:

    I feel extremely privileged in getting this to 14 comments :-]

    As said earlier a well researched piece and here’s to hoping we get Willian; Coutinho AND keep Ozil – totally bad business sense and logic but wow what talent to have at hand when you need a dearth of creativity which can never do with enough of (imho).

    If looking at previous terms with the likes of Rosciky; Santi; even Arteta,, it allowed the team to have that panache of style to be able to make a difference. If anyone can then coach a work ethic within that, it’s Arteta I feel 🤞

    If wanting a cheaper option to Partey, then Doucoure might not be half bad. I also think there’s a need for another striker, even if Auba stays – perhaps Josh King to add back up size and if available at a discount maybe?? 🤔

    Also wonder whether some funds might be raised by selling one of our excellent keepers at a premium ….

  15. TotalArsenal says:

    Good point about need for an additional attacker, 5am. Something worthy of a separate post, I reckon. 🤗

  16. TotalArsenal says:

    I have learnt recently that you should never focus on just one set of stats. Whilst it is absolutely true that we have created less chances under Arteta, it is not the whole story. Since the lockdown break for example we scored 23 and conceded 14 in all competitions, beating MC, Pool, Wolves, SU, Chelsea and Southampton – all PL top-12 teams – in the process. We drew with Leicester and lost to the Spuds. We may be producing less chances but we are also giving less away, yet with 1.8 goals per game scored and just over 1 goal per game conceded we are clearly much improving. So should we create much more chances or become even more efficient?

  17. njk84sg says:

    I watched the post match discussion between Shearer, Cashley and Wrighty. Although i am still not a Cashley fan (and never will), i am in agreement with something that he said: which is that we need to bring in senior players to complement the young players so that we have a bit of stability.

    One or 2 more old heads to be brought in (or back) will be good.

  18. allezkev says:

    Thanks for that PB, that’s a really good piece, easy to follow, very clear and simple for luddites like me to decipher.

    I guess what I was trying to put over is the feeling you get as a supporter but it’s not easy to explain, in the words of Van Bruekelen ‘you can taste it’…

    When George Graham came to Arsenal, the club was in flux some would say disarray but it didn’t need a lot it just needed organising and direction. George knew what he wanted and what he didn’t want, out went the big time Charlies and into the team came the young players. He organised things got the team playing a pattern, got the best from Charlie Nicholas, Steve Williams, Viv Anderson, Kenny Sansom and revitalised Paul Davis, you could see it in the way the team played, the fans picked up on it immediately and there was a buzz at Highbury. There was a feeling that Arsenal meant business again, you just knew it, you felt it.

    The same applied when Arsene Wenger arrived, he did it a bit differently but there was a purpose, you can sense when the team has that something about it. Arsene created that and the fans knew.
    I had a strong feeling we were going to win the league in 1997/98, I felt it at Elland Road in our first game, a 2-2 draw but the team was rocking, we could feel it.

    It didn’t happen under Emery despite the winning run, the cup final, you wanted it to be but it just didn’t feel right.

    Even under Freddie, we wanted him to succeed, he was an Arsenal icon, he had BFG next to him, but, it just didn’t feel right.

    But with Arteta I felt it almost straight away, even after we lost to Chelsea at the beginning, it’s there, that something that you can’t put your finger on but it was there when we lost to Man City, it was there when we beat Wolves, it was there when we beat Sheffield Utd and when we lost to the Spuds. I wouldn’t exchange our manager for anyone else out there and I mean that, my only concern is keeping him…

  19. jjgsol says:

    Thanks for a great post.

    I have no doubt that Arteta is fully aware of this problem, which he has already confirmed, that we have little or no creativity.

    I suspect that his priority since the restart has been to sort out the problems in Defence and that he has decided to do that at the expense of creativity.

    Whether he has succeeded in working it out remains to be seen next season.

    Whilst there does seem to be an element of ill will with regard to the exclusion of Guendouzi, I detect none with regard to Ozil.

    There may be other reasons why he is not playing that everyone is keeping to themselves, but certainly, we could not expect to have even moderately successful season from September unless and until the creativity is substantially increased, either at the expense of the defence or the attack.

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