We have had Alezkev’s precise player ratings already, now let’s focus on a bit of post-game analysis.
Eight observations from a game that brought us down to earth – just what we needed:
- I am loving the CF ’60/30 swap deal’ we have at the moment. There is Laca who always prepares for a ‘bruises and scratches’ battle with the opposition’s defenders; and there is Eddie who uses his energy so efficiently and effectively and always looks so robotically in control, without him lacking passion though. I know there is still doubt amongst some Gunners but just look at Nketiah’s movement and positioning and then his composed finishing. This guy will become better and better and he is keeping Laca on his toes, even though I don’t think he needs that. I hope we see a lot of 60/30 minutes per game between them, and either of them can start the game if you ask me.
- As Kev pointed out in the previous post, we have scored five goals and our captain only scored one of them. Are we starting to spread the goals out or is Pierre just waiting for the Pool game?! 🙂 It is early days of course, but it would be great if we can keep sharing the responsibility for making the opponents’ nets buckle between a number of attackers and other players. That would be real progress.
- Leno has to fill a big hole. We all fell in love with Martinez Happinez over the last few months, and we are missing our big teddy bear in goal. But Leno is also a great keeper and I still think the better one and we have to stay behind him, as confidence and support means everything to any player, especially a goal keeper. Martinez had the benefit of a settled ‘three at the back’ in front of him, yet Leno had to work with brand new organiser-CB Gabriel and without Luiz until now. And Kolasinac simply is not at the same level as Tierney. Still, Leno only conceded one goal and he had no guilt in that one. So let’s all get behind Bernd the beast in goal.
- We lost our shape and composure v the Hammers and, to me, it felt like a step backwards. Emery struggled to get the midfield balance right (and so did Arsene in his last years) and this will remain Areta’s biggest challenge. We allowed 14 Hammers’ shots of which three were on target; these are the sort of stats we used to see under Unai. Although we had 63% of possession we only managed half of Hammers’ shots. At Fulham we allowed just 5 shots all game, yet we had 13 shots ourselves at the Fulham goal. That is quite a swing. The late loss of Tierney made a difference but, as you will expect of me by now, I believe swapping Ceballos for Elneny as Xhaka’s partner was the biggest cause of our regression. This does not mean that Ceballos had a bad game necessarily. He did some good attacking and defensive moves, but positionally and physically he does not offer what is required in our team as yet. Elneny does. We need two hairy-arsed yet technically good carpenters in deep-midfield and leave the creative woodwork to our attackers. 3-4-3 demands it, our defence needs it, and our attack will NOT suffer from it. The Xhaka-Elneny combo will push up better and keep it tight and THEN the likes of Willian, Saka but also Xhaka and Elneny, or Ceballos in a more advanced position, will pick the creative passes much easier.
- Willian had a decent game but as per observation four I think he performs much better with a more solid, regularly high pressing midfield, so he does not have to track back too much and has players to combine with in attack AND midfield. He still delivered a fine ball for Saka and the young Englishman should have done better with his chance, but Arteta will need to get the balance in midfield right to get the best out of our fine Brazilian.
- Talking about Saka, it is so good to have him back in the team. I love AMN’s solidness in defence/midfield, especially when we need this, but when Bukayo has the ball you know things could happen. I think he was quite keen to do well and perhaps a bit nervous and/or rusty, but boy he delivered some finely-weighed, Ozilesque, key passes which led to our goals. Bukayo is a super talent, perhaps the best we have had since Cesc. He needs a run of games now and I hope we see him again on Wednesday and Monday.
- Gabriel is quality. You can tell he is finding his way in our team and sometimes he is struggling to hide his bewilderment at the way we can defend as a team, yet he keeps a cool head and is so effective when it matters. Big Gab will raise the standards in defence in no time. I cannot wait to see the Holding(Saliba)-Luiz-Gabriel partnership to get some games under their belt.
- West Ham deserved a point from that game, maybe even more. We got away with it to some extent. But our sheer hunger to get all three points got us there in the end and that was great to see. JW1 put it very well in the previous post: “The old-school term (over here for what Arsenal accomplished is ‘winning ugly’. I was a big fan of that in my day when required. Perseverance tempered by experience. That once you’ve done it frequently enough– it becomes second nature when called-for.” How often did we see Ferguson’s MU win games in which they were below par? Far too many, but successful teams need to be dogged… a resolve to fight till the end and not just rely on technical quality alone… and we have been without it for far too long. Hopefully, under Arteta we will get the perfect mix of quality and winners-mentality. We have come down to earth again and that is just what we needed after all the good post lock-down games and our FA cup win. We have a battle to fight in each and every game… and thank you Hammers for reminding us of this for free!