The New Sol, What a difference in 4 months, A beautiful Partnership at LW: 8 Observations

The morning after the night before and I am sure not to be the only one who feels a little bit deflated. There is a feeling that we could have gotten more from that game but lacked a bit of confidence to go home with a point (or more). What it demonstrates, however, is that we are making progress but aren’t there yet. This should of course not come as a surprise, but we just cannot help those high expectations creeping in; and when this happens we will sooner or later get a little disappointed. The Big picture is good, very good, though.

Raheem Sterling

My player ratings would be a bore for you. I would give everyone a 7, except for Gabriel, Tierney, Xhaka and Saka who all had excellent games. Everybody worked hard and stuck to the plan, very few mistakes were made, chances were created. We just did not get a result.

Instead, I will give you my eight observations of the match and these may be better discussion points for all of us:

  1. The key stats for this game tell you a story, a big story of progress. It feels like ages but we played MC away only just four months ago exactly. This is how the two games compare (17/6 v 17/10): possession (%) 67/33 – 59/41; Shots 20/3 – 13/11; Shots on Target: 12/0 – 5/3; fouls 9/7 – 15/10 and corners 5/2 – 6/6. Okay we played a big part of the June game with 10 men and Citeh missed KdB yesterday, but to have almost equal numbers of shots on goal and shots on target and equal numbers of corners tells us that we were much closer to a result in this game – it could have easily gone our way – and tactically so much better than in previous games at Man City.
  2. We gave that one goal to MC away very cheaply and that will hurt Arteta and the team. It was a simply break from midfield and Foden was able to cut in with ease past scrambling Bellerin and hit a strong shot at Leno. The German saved the shot but it spilled into the danger area and Sterling could not miss. Xhaka had been ahead of Ceballos, and when Mahrez found Aguero in free space in midfield the rusty Argentinian was able to run away from Ceballos and feed the young Englishman. We had three in defence but all were running back and there was no shield for the defence from midfield. It was poor positioning by the team and Luiz should have provided better cover for Bellerin as the cutback should have been anticipated. Some have criticised Leno for palming the ball away to the danger zone but it was a reflex safe (and Martinez would not have done better!) and it fell fortuitously to a free Sterling. That’s football.
  3. Once again our left side was our most dangerous one and it was a joy to watch how Tierney and Saka – often left too isolated by fellow ‘attackers’ – made things happen and almost got a reward for it. Saka was our most dangerous attacker and was a bit unlucky to meet a goalkeeper in form on the night. But the boys worked together really well and they were the only ones who really tried to take the game to MC without thinking too much about their tactical instructions.
  4. Our right side was once again too quiet, and I reckon this is due to Pepe’s lack of ball controlling and passing ability and Bellerin just not being a wingback for the Twenties. Launch Pepe into space and he can be a menace but in these dense, space-less games we need him to hold onto the ball and do the intricate passing football with his teammates. Willian played a more central role and was often too isolated, and his partnership with fellow players is as yet not ideal shall we say. There is more to come from Pepe and Willian of that I am convinced, and we need it as we cannot rely too much on our left wing for our attacks at the moment. I also believe that Soares is the better option as wingback.
  5. Our biggest issue is that, once we got unluckily behind, we were not able to, or did not dare to, push up and put Citeh under more sustained pressure. When you saw how easy it was to score against us when we are out of position, it is not hard to understand our reluctance. Arteta knows that and was hoping that we would once again take one or two of our (few) chances when they would occur (which they did eventually). I applaud this as many a 2010-18 Wenger team went out on full attack after conceding the first goal at Man City and got then punished mercilessly. Once again we were in this game till the end, as we were v Pool in the league, and that is progress. We want more and it will come but we need to remain patient.
  6. Unfortunately, we tired in the last 25 minutes and this was to be expected. Xhaka (after full on international games v Spain and Germany the week before) especially became less effective then and Ceballos – who played overall a disciplined game – was also tiring. Partey got only 10 minutes and maybe Arteta should have put him on earlier as to reinvigorate our efforts. I guess the game just came too early for our new shiny signing but I liked what I saw of him nevertheless.
  7. Instead, Arteta had hoped for re-invigoration to come from the introduction of Laca but this backfired. His passing was rusty and his runs and positioning did not cause the Citeh defence any issues. I don’t think Alex is suitable for being the supersub for us: this man needs to grind out performances from the start: he is more of a wolf than a jaguar.
  8. My final observation goes to Gabriel dos Santos Magalhaes who looked solid and confident. Yes our player with the highest number of passes this season misplaced one or two balls, but I never worried about him and he looked so at home in that game. He so strong in the air and on the ground and he combines great intensity with calm almost continuously. This is Sol Campellesque if you ask me and a big positive to take away and build on.

By TotalArsenal.

34 thoughts on “The New Sol, What a difference in 4 months, A beautiful Partnership at LW: 8 Observations

  • TA, great ratings.

    Slept through the game due to a long day yesterday, but it seems that contrary to some reports that we had been the defensive side, our shots on target were actually better than previous games against them and had a few good chances that we failed to capitalise and score from them.

    Good for Gabriel and Tierney, as they are so different from the rest of the defenders.. they were so dynamic and intelligent in their play. That’s why we bought Partey in, as he reportedly played well after coming on, but i have not seen snippets of him in Arsenal’s colours yet, and will do later.


  • Thanks for the positivity Total because that game left me feeling a bit flat, I just saw it as a missed opportunity for that elusive win at a top six ground (does winning at the Emirates count?).

    I thought Aguero was very lucky to escape at least a yellow card for his condescending behaviour to the woman linesperson who I actually think is very very good and I predict will be doing ‘middles’ in the not too distant future. Woman enjoy chastising men so I’m surprised that there isn’t more women officials in the Premier League and in general ( I’m joking 😉 ). But in all seriousness I thought that the referee let down his linesman, he bottled a difficult decision just as he bottled our penalty claims, a proper referee would have been straight into Aguero’s face and telling him in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t demean one of ‘his’ assistants and get away with it – flourishing a yellow card into the bargain. A very average performance by the referee and those pillocks on the VAR.

    It was a poor day for VAR in general because Pickford should have been straight off for serious foul play, no debate, see ya later, but no, another bottled decision, is it a VAR pandemic?

    Arteta had a plan and kudos to him for trying it but maybe a change earlier would have been beneficial when it didn’t seem to be working effectively.

    I don’t blame him for not bringing on Partey sooner, he’s been in the U.K. for 5 minutes so I’m not expecting miracles, maybe a start in the Europa could be on the cards, see how he goes?

    I reckon we’ll go up there in the League Cup and beat them, we are after all still a cup team. Things are improving but there’s still issues to work through before we can think about challenging for the league, the positive thing for me is that I’m thinking that we can compete for the league because previously I’d seen the league as an impossible dream – not anymore!

  • It was a Varce, Kevinski.

    The fouling when we are about to break is killing the game too. But we are making progress and that is what matters.

  • Very good observations TA! The fact that we’re talking about how we should/could have won away against the top two sides from the past two seasons is progress. The expectations are rising so rapidly and I’m excited to see how Arteta further expands our offensive play while not sacrificing our defensive structure.

    I’m still wondering how we can be more expansive in attack with the current structure and not just simply adding in another midfielder and taking out a CB. Our current attack functions as a 4-3-3 anyway, so I’m assuming we still need to improve there.

    Our front three options look strong on paper but always seems to lack chemistry. There also seems to be an inability to beat a man 1v1 that you often see wingers on other teams do (aside from Saka when he plays further forward).

    Do you have any suggestions/solutions to the above two? I refuse to believe that it’s simply adding more talent because it looks like we have at least a talented enough squad to compete for the top 4. Time likely plays a part in developing greater chemistry, but interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on how to improve the above two points.

  • Thank you for your thoughts Total – you are always able to stay upbeat – which is moat refreshing.

    Tony Adams was a pundit on DAZN and at half time his main observation was that he wanted to see the front three get more involved in the game – sadly they never did. Pepe is beginning to look like a waste of space and (and money) and we can see why Chelsea were so willing to let Willian run his contract down. Both players are very disappointing and we only see rare glimpses of what they can do at their best.

    The game showed just how far we are behind the top four and the next two games against Leicester and Man U will be another big test. I have not given up hope of us finishing in the top four but Arteta has a lot of work ahead of him.

  • It seems Total that all the publicity around Thomas Partey has reached into the deep caverns of the PGMOL because after allowing several tactical fouls including pulling opponents back the referee couldn’t wait to get his yellow card out for Tommo. I bet he was ringing around all his refereeing mates after the game and bragging to them how he got him first…

  • JAMES Olayinka believes his loan switch to Southend United will enable him to grow as a footballer. The 20-year-old midfielder will be with the Shrimpers from Arsenal until the end of January. And Olayinka is confident being with Blues will be beneficial for his career, despite their poor start to the season.

    “I’m very pleased and very excited to be here,” said Olayinka.
    “It’s a good place for me to continue my career and a good place for me to grow as a young footballer too.
    “It’s also a good opportunity to get more minutes and more experience.”

    Olayinka was unable to feature in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Cheltenham Town. But the youngster watched from the stands and feels the Shrimpers’ style will suit his own game.

    “After watching them at the start of the season and even last season as well the way they play is the way I think football should be played and they keep the ball on the ground,” said Olayinka.
    “They pass and move and look to attack and score goals and that’s something I can help the team with.”

    Olayinka will be looking to make his debut against Salford City on Tuesday night. And he is looking forward to working with Blues boss Mark Molesley.

    “He had success at Bournemouth and I’m sure he will here too,” said Olayinka.
    “As a young player it’s good to have a manager who has worked with other young players and knows what to do.
    “It will be good to learn under him.”

    But Olayinka already knows what to expect from League Two having finished last season on loan at Northampton Town who won promotion via the play offs.

    “It’s difficult but it’s a good experience,” said Olayinka on life in League Two.
    “At this level every game is different and some games require different parts of your game to come out.
    “That’s something I will adapt to but the spell I had at Northampton will definitely stand me in good stead and I can’t wait to get started.”

  • John Jules got a thigh injury with England and is being monitored by Doncaster Rovers.
    Both Bola and Iliev made their debuts for Rochdale and Shrewsbury yesterday.

  • Wow spurs were coasting but somehow West Ham came back from 3 -0 down to tie it just made my weekend a lot better now!!

  • 3 shots on target is better than 0, I agree, but hardly worth getting excited about.

    We are averaging 3 shots on target this season, that is one shot every 30 minutes.

    Hardly a statistic to give the impression that we are on our way to better things.

    However, when I point this out, the impression I get is that so many people are willing Arteta to succeed that they cannot see the wood for the trees.

    By the way, please tell me what does a player have to to do earn 7 out of 10 in a game.

    On the BBC sport website last night, only 2 of our players, Saka and Tierney were given more than 6 and 8 Man$ity players were given a higher rating than Saka, our best.

    Were you watching the same game?

    Willian was our worst, according to their ratings, which I think are based on ratings given by a number of people, at 5.17.

  • Thanks HH and good observations.

    I think our attackers are often too isolated from the rest of the team and there are two solutions I can think of: get an Ozil like player to play between midfield and attack and thus create the link up or dare to push up and have many more passing options and thus link midfield and attack that way.

    I think we will see a change once Partey and Xhaka are a full partnership. They will help us to push up whilst having the recovery skills this required: Partey with his energy, intelligence and aggression and Xhaka will his good reading of the game and positioning. Elneny will make good back up for either of them and so does Ceballos if he keeps working hard on the tactical side of things (which I think he is).

    We need to push up more in order to support the attack better as otherwise we rely too much on a good day by Auba.

  • GN5, I can understand your disappointment in a few players but, for now, I see the issue to be more about working as a team to give our attackers a chance to become more effective than either Pepe or Willian to be bad players. MC defended well and had prepared well to eliminate our options up front. Once Xhaka got knackered our attack became more disconnected and against a team like MC there is no way an individual can just make the difference on their own, i reckon.

  • Total,
    I’m going to say that this was a masterful summary on your part. Mostly because I agree so much lol.

    Beginning with… Tierney and Saka being the best thing we had going, along with Ceballos, when these players were on the ball, I felt we at least had a chance of something positive. Not so with Pepe and Willian. They are becoming the place our attacks go to die. Not good when we already have midfield issues, and our lack of chance creation reflects both of these situations. Pepe needs to be scolded about trying to hold the ball himself when he can pass to a teammate and potentially get it right back in a better position to make a move with it.

    Also a great observation about Bellerin. After all these years, something I came to accept a couple years ago…. solid overall player as a traditional right back. Horrible crosser, and as a wingback, he is substandard, especially by Arsenal standards.

    Leno made an excellent save (that kept the game in hand) and played well overall as usual. Ederson was very good as usual, and thats why i said that we could have had a draw with a little luck. Even with luck I don’t think we would’ve deserved a win.

    I said here at the time that I didn’t like bringing on Lacazette because we were still playing almost exclusively in our own half, and he doesn’t have the pace even if we make a break. It was very frustrating, at about minute 75, watching us slowly passing the ball from left to right in our own box, for a long time. That was making us look dominated. Our old friend Retsub voiced that yesterday about watching our CBs passing to each other all game.

    There were also great points by Makayah yesterday the I really felt…. about Tierney looking our most effective attacking player. It should not be that way. He and Saka should be adding to Auba, Willian and Pepe, which would make our attack something fierce, as it should be with our squad.

    I agree with Kev from yesterday in a point about Reiss Nelson. I don’t want him to turn into the next Gnabry, because if he comes good its another tragedy, and he is going to push to leave soon if he doesn’t get a chance.

    There is something wrong with the overall tactics. I can’t give give Arteta a high grade for that if he is only improving the defense at the expense of the attack. That is the best summary of how I feel.

    So even though the result wasn’t horrible, and we stayed in the game, I can’t overlook the problems we all see. I’m also not sold on the personnel decisions. I was not for the Willian signing because I see him blocking Reiss Nelson and Martinelli when he comes back. Dont forget, we’d also like to see Smith Rowe gets some time with the big boys too. I heard Torreira started and looked great for Atletico, by the way.

    I’m praying that Partey adds a little something that connects the back to front, and somehow we bring Auba back into relevance, because he should be a monster for defenses to deal with, and right now, he is barely troubling opposing teams.

    Overall we have games with City and Liverpool out of the way, and although we didn’t get a point, we were in both games, even if not impressive. We need a lot of improvement to stay in the top 4 race in this difficult league.

  • Cheers J and fair comment. I think we needed this game out of the way. Away to MC straight after the interlull was never going to be easy. The next two league games will tell us a lot more where we stand I reckon.

  • Total, The Twelve, Channel 4, a courtroom drama from Holland, saw it this evening and it looks very promising, give it a try.

  • TA, C19 here is pretty much in control.
    However, most of us are still restricting our social meetups and the community cases are down to 1 per day lately.

    Hows C19 over there?

  • Aston Villa are the surprise package so far, along with Everton, this is turning into a very open season where everyone can beat everyone, it makes me wonder how the lack of fan influence has levelled the playing field?

    Good assessment J I agree with you, but for others it’s down to the individual I suppose, glass half full or half empty, for me our problems for a long time were defensive and Arteta has addressed them by and large and is now working on the midfield. He’s been our manager for less than a year and has worked wonders in making us competitive against teams with endless funds or team who’ve been developing for 5 or 6 years not 10 months – but if you cannot see what a major dysfunctional job he’s had to deal with then there is no hope for you.

    I find it incredulous that some fans are turning on Arteta already, many of them are funnily enough fans who excused some of the worst excesses of Wenger’s team assembly.

    Arteta has been doing his work during a pandemic with a severely reduced budget, trying to move on players nobody wants, a reflection on previous regimes and has won a major trophy to boot, if that doesn’t work for you then I’m at a loss.

  • Positive take on events, as always TA and you may just be right about it all…..till we get the next two games out of the way and see if we show a bit more gumption in attack.

    Speaking of which, HH made a fine observation and put up a poser which Arteta will be best placed to answer, but my twopence take is we can be more expansive in attack in the current structure by shifting to a strict 4-2-1-3 (2 CBs, 2 FBs with license to go forward, one at a time). This will work better if the Xhaka/Elneny – Partey partnership proves shield enough. In the alternative, retain a 3 at the back with Elneny as the 3rd CB with a dual function of covering for the right of the central defence, while also passing forward or going on forward sorties with the purpose of an auxiliary midfielder.

    The second poser has to do with the apparent lack of flair in our front three, deemed a lack of chemistry and I posit that the players are keeping with the demands of the manager to stay in shape and retain possession of the ball, as a first consideration. I think the players are so well drilled on the details and now focus more on the tactics, so are wary about being caught in possession or being dispossessed that they simply do the safe thing: pass backwards or sideways. If Pepe feels there won’t be recriminations, you bet he will be willing to take more risks attempting to dribble more often, without the pressure of “consequences” of losing the ball in the process; especially as he isn’t the most likely to track back to good effect, like a certain Alexis Sanchez could do.

    For the players to feel confident to take on defenders in a 1 v 1, they need to be secure in the ability of those behind them to make up the grounds and save their bacon if possession is lost. Unfortunately, in team sport, you have to go with the program so we will have to wait a bit for Arteta to build the team we all crave; one with defensive solidity and strong/intense attacking play. With players who have no fear taking on their man (I saw the Villa front three and it was just young men who were happiest when showing skills and party tricks in the opponent’s half; good looking side, so far). Hopefully, that time comes for our team, sooner than later…….

  • TA, nice response. Hard to accommodate an Ozil like player while remaining in the current formation though!

    I’ve seen Partey play some exquisite passes and same with Dani and Saka (even Xhaka too). I feel like part of the problem is our front three are all more inside forwards than true wingers looking to create. The chemistry and directness is still not there yet, as the understanding of where to move and pass to, in order to combine and break down a team is still a work in progress.

    Fulham game aside, we looked our best in attack this season with Willian central, Auba up top and Saka/Pepe on the wings. If Arteta dares to move to 4 at the back, there could be a solution. I am maybe just a bit naive to think there’s still more we can maximize in the 3-4-3 to create more chances.

  • Glad to hear that, 84. Must be hard not to be able to socialise but I hope you are able to see your mum now.

    Here things are getting quite bad again, I am sorry to say.

  • Spot on Kev. You either see and feel it or you don’t.

    Lack of fans could indeed be making a difference. The game could be played anywhere and it is more than ever now 22 legs v 22 legs. I like it that we have non-top-six teams setting the pace of the PL this season; it gives Arteta the opportunity to get through these tough first third of games without too much league-table damage.

  • VvD’s injury is a serious one and I wonder whether the FA will still have a look at Pickford’s onslaught or whether he will get away with it. Anywhere on the field that would have been a red card, so why not in the goal mouth?

  • Cheers Erismus

    I also like 4=2=1=3 as a formation even though it could leave us with a vulnerable midfield once the attackers have been by-passed. The ‘1’ should really help with connecting midfield with attack. I also think you make a v good point re instructions by Mikel and ability to be spontaneous without getting in trouble straightaway. Where Wenger was one of individual expression on the pitch and letting the team sort themselves out once they were on it, Arteta is working on shape, roles and tactical discipline. The latter is vital and the former is likely to come at a later stage. That is the bit that jjgsol doesnt seem to get.

  • HH, rather than responding in a comment, I am writing a quick post so we can get more comments on the topic (on top of Eris’ excellent one)..

  • I agree with all 8 observations – which doesn’t happen often.
    You summarized everything well. The gap is clearly closing, and even if we reach Manchester City’s level (which we will not achieve soon), we can still end up losing 1:0 in the Etihad without shame.

    My only remark is that despite the similar statistics and our good stint in the early stages in the 2nd half we weren’t really playing the same football as the hosts. Their 13 shots came from Foden (4), Mahrez (6), Agüero and Sterling – so CM/AM, winger and 2 forwards. While from Arsenal 6 of the 11 shots came from defenders (Luiz, Gabriel and Tierney 2 each) and none from PEA, Willian, Lacazette or Nketiah. That – in my opinion – indicates a different (less predictable, but also maybe less mature/developed) approach to offense orchestration.

  • Spot on, PB. Our attackers were isolated and the defence had done their preparations well. MC are further than us of course, but we are getting there.

  • Indeed.
    Now let’s collect 7 points from the next 3 PL games with a lot of goals and 3 clean sheets from the 3 EL matches in between.

  • PB,
    good observation about many of the shots coming from our defenders, I hadn’t noted that. We really need to find a way to at very least, make the opposition worry about Aubameyang, and do some damage. Of course Willian and Pepe are part of the agenda too.

    I hope something clicks with Partey to unleash our forwards more. I love Xhaka and I know he’s one of the first names on the team sheet, but I wouldnt mind occasionally seeing Partey with Ceballos against certain less formidable teams to test how it works.

    you spoke my mind when you said the next couple games will be an interesting test. It really will be enlightening for us, and I like Arteta being positive about how we performed. We had a shot for a draw late in each of the Liverpool and Man City games. that is an improvement for sure.

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