Mature Eddie, Leader Joe, Dancing Pepe and Reiss & Roll: 8 Observations Arsenal v Dundalk

Arsenal 3 – 0 Dundalk

Nicolas Pepe

Well that was a refreshing game to watch. The Railwaymen of Dundalk lacked the power and imagination in midfield to really worry The Gunners, but they parked their carriages rather effectively in front of their semi-ancient goalkeeper and the boys had a job to do.

Eight Observations:

  1. Pepe was unchained in a much freer role and played with a smile on his face. His goal with his porcelain right foot was a beauty: a little Irish dance of a left-foot-right-foot with the ball and then he posted the stamp in the top right corner. But it was Nico’s overall involvement, movement and presence that really surprised me; and, as with him, it put a smile on my face.
  2. Runarsson started and this game will have done him good. We did not see him much in action so it is hard to have a first impression, but I liked his distribution and energy.
  3. Joe Willock was majestic throughout the game. He danced with and without the ball, mastered it in the tightest of spaces and added total unpredictability to our game. His goal was classy and composed and I liked his presence on the pitch. Here was not just a player who was prepared to do his tasks for the night, but one who took the bull by its horns. And that’s what had been missing for a while. Joe is a technical athlete with good vision and leadership, and last night we saw the proof of it.
  4. It was Reiss & Roll for Nelson who, like Pepe and Willock, felt like dancing with the ball last night. We spoke about the need for movement of our attackers as to worry defences and find the holes and opportunities, over the last few days; and Reiss was keen to make things happen alright. I loved his dribbles and team play, and he needs a few more games like this to get to his best form… and then the assists and goals will come too.
  5. Eddie scored the all important first goal and Laca will have been proud of him. He pounced on a half-opportunity and breached the Fortdalk in a flash. It was not pretty but just what was needed, as Dundalk had defended valiantly until then and strong aggression was required by the Gunners. Nketiah scored a very mature goal. He had more opportunities and will know that he should have added to his tally, but, just as with Laca in many a game, if a CF works hard for the team all game long they will sometimes be too tired or unfocused to take good chances.
  6. The wingbacks/fullbacks, Soares and Kola, were involved but did not overly impress. Kola tried hard and I always appreciate effort, but he is well below Tierney in terms of effectiveness. Soares seems to be a man of a few moments in every game and I would like to see more full-blooded performances from him. The right wingback position is there for the taking for him.
  7. I predicted Elneny to play in defence but Arteta surprised by putting Granit at the back. It was very effective and he didn’t have to break too much sweat, so well done to the Maestro(s). Elneny, supported by AMN and Mustafi, kept it tidy and organised in midfield and allowed the boys in front of him to play all night long.
  8. The last observation is on Arteta’s game plan, and I will use two quotes from fellow bloggers. First is from Allezkev: “I think that Arteta got just about everything right this evening all the way down from his initial selections, his tactics and down to his substitutions and taking guys off that he might need at Old Toilet this Sunday. I’m glad that he seems to be finally getting the hang of making subs, tonight was, according to Martin Keown, his 39th match as a manager so good for him… Second is from Highbury Harmony: “It’s nice to know that Arteta’s game plans are good and have attacking intent, it just took players who have been at the club for a while that know how to play the Arsenal way to execute it. I get that the level of the opponent makes a difference, but it was nice to see a total performance.”

27 thoughts on “Mature Eddie, Leader Joe, Dancing Pepe and Reiss & Roll: 8 Observations Arsenal v Dundalk

  • I agree with practically everything you wrote, TA, but before we go into worship mode, let’s not forget that this – defensively solid – Irish team would probably go down against Arsenal U23 as well. While I agree with the team selection, we shouldn’t evaluate Arteta’s the game management and the tactics based on the easiest match of the season.

    It was a nice game nevertheless, with fine performance from the youngsters and composed ones from the ‘seniors’. We won the shots challenge by 25:4, and the key pass mini-game by 15:3.
    Willock played way better than expected, Nelson played almost as good as I expected. Rúnarsson didn’t have many chances to prove himself, but he didn’t do anything wrong, so that’s also an encouraging debut. In hindsight we probably didn’t need a DM like Elneny, as Dundalk came for a 0:0, so I would have traded his single interception for some creative and/or attacking intent.
    The only aspect bothering me (only a tiny bit), is the impact of the substitution of Ceballos and Willan. I really expected that they would put the game to bed, but in fact they put me to bed.

  • Elneny was vital in keeping the defence protected and allowing Joe to strut his stuff. So I don’t think an extra attacking midfielder would have been the right thing to do.

  • Thanks for the post Total, I really enjoyed that game, which given the present atmosphere around the club, PPV, Ozil’s PR team, Arteta, was a tonic and very welcome on many levels.

    You can only beat the team that is put in front of you and we beat Rapid, who on the night actually gave us a tough examination and Dundalk who frustrated us for long periods and despite a few missed chances it took a goalkeeping error to open the game up.

    Rapid were, before our game, being touted as the standard bearers of an Austrian football revival and we probably were a tad fortunate to beat them, but now Molde have beaten them so maybe our performance will be seen as less impressive. Dundalk had fought their way through the early, tough rounds of the EL and into the group stages and shouldn’t be disrespected, an inferior but organised team can always trouble a better team as Tottenham discovered in Antwerp and so we move onto Molde themselves, a team I know nothing about but they’re on 6 points like us.

    If Arsenal take 6 points from Molde then ‘it’s only Molde’ if we don’t then who knows what the reaction will be?

  • That is correct, Kev: we can only beat what is in front of us and we fielded ten different players for this one. An Austrian team beat Feyenoord away last night, so I dont think we should pooh pooh our victory in Vienna. The Austrian teams are on the up.

    but as you say, they frustrated us last night and you still have to somehow break through.. and that we did.

  • Guys, I might be a bit too dependent on TransferMarkt evaluation, but (the total squad of) Royal Antwerp – who beat Tottenham last night – worth 48M (the equivalent of Aubameyang and ESR combined), while Dundalk worth 2M (Rúnarsson alone worth as much as 25 from the Irish squad). This has nothing to do with respect or disrespect. These figures represent team depth and quality – the word used by commentators on BT Sport 2 last night, even though I don’t like using this term to people at all.
    Anyway, clubs that we are not familiar with don’t necessary worth the same. Tottenham had a harder task last night – harder than ours, but objectively not really hard – and they failed. We will host Molde next Thursday, where the entire squad’s market value (12M) is lower than Reiss Nelson’s; so indeed Kev’s ironic words will come to effect:
    If Arsenal take 6 points from Molde then ‘it’s only Molde’ if we don’t then who knows what the reaction will be.

    To put the squad value’s into perspective: in the PL every team is above 100M, and in the Championship only Wycombe Wanderers worth less than 11M. So – assuming TM values are reliable – Molde is a League One equivalent with realistic chances to get promotion to the Championship, while Dundalk is the League One team that will be relegated at the end of the season. My earlier remark on our U23 team being expected to beat them at home is neither disrespectful, nor inaccurate. (Eintracht Frankfurt, who we played last season in the EL group stages is a Fulham-Leeds calibre of a team, against whom we should be favorites, but such games are far from being clear must-wins, unlike against our opponents this year.)

  • Cheers PB, luckily football is much more than the sum of price tags. It is 22 legs and 11 heads against … 22 legs and 11 heads and the – as the Dutch say – the ball is round (anything can happen). I get your point and everybody is expecting Arsenal to win these games, but that does not mean we cannot praise the players and their performances if and when they do. Looking for the positives is something we like doing on Bergkampesque, but it does not mean we don’t see the bigger picture (but the transfer market value thing has never convinced me).

  • Highbury House?! Who is that TA 😉

    Love the positivity and the observations. Aside from Pepe’s goal, I was quite disappointed with him and felt that he should have dominated the game more consistently like Nelson did. He did look slightly better when he moved to the left though.

    Nelson looks like he could have a breakout if he will be given more chances. Same goes with Joe. Both players need more game time to be just a bit more decisive and fluid with their final ball (Joe’s goal was well taken but he could have had another one or two!). If they get that game time, it’ll naturally become muscle memory and they’ll get used to where their teammates will be in the final third.

  • You called it (almost) when you predicted Elneny at CB; it happened to be Xhaka, and he didn’t have too much to do in the end. It was a nice workout for him and I bet statDNA must have assured the coaching staff he is one of our fittest players seeing how many times he is used by club and country.

    For the first time in a while, I thoroughly enjoyed a game involving us (under Arteta); don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the (Cup) wins, but not with a smile on my face as I had yesterday. There was fluidity and freedom, like we’ve advocated the team needs; Pepe was let loose, without too much defensive responsibility and he shone… But not even close to Reiss Nelson or Joe Willock. Happy for those two and glad they took the game by the scruff and gave the manager something to think about.

    As Kev alluded to, his (Willock’s) interview after the game would get any true fan mushy as he oozed humility, class and good upbringing. I saw a bit of why TA always rooted for him as I have not thought much of his contributions to the first team in the EPL games he’s been involved in.

    Elneny was tidy, as always, but I didn’t see too much of AMN as a midfielder but he was energetic and held his own on the left side. I liked the Balogun cameo as it portends possibly a new contract or that we are putting him in the shop window for interested suitors to see why we value him so much, despite his age.

    Overall, a good workout, quality of opposition aside (you can only beat what’s in front of you) ; the big one comes up Sunday and it would be nice to see one of Nelson or Willock feature at some point, in that one.

  • I didn’t expect Runarsson to start, but then, I left that to Arteta’s knowledge of the opposition. Happy for him as the clean sheet will do him good.

    The more I see Cedric play for us, the more I wonder if he is still overwhelmed at being sought out by a club as ours, because I feel he played better at Southampton. Need to see more from him so that he can push Bellerin onto better performances.

    Anyone know if David Luis is back from injury? I know we are likely going to keep that information under wraps till game time. We will need his nastiness in a game as that. Not sure Willian has done enough (or if he is even fit enough) to get the nod on Sunday. For me, I’d try Nelson behind Laca, if we persist with Auba on the left flank. Ideally, it would be Saka and Nelson on both flanks, with Auba as top striker. With a midfield trio of Xhaka, Partey and Ceballos. Okay. I am jumping the gun there…….

  • You got me wrong, TA.
    I’m not against praising the players and their performances at all. They played well, and even though there was more difference between the 2 sides the result is reasonable, as the boys didn’t play much football recently. Especially Willock and Nelson, and those 2 played the liveliest. (Is there such a word?)
    My one and only limitation to the euphoria was aimed at Arteta’s tactics, as due to the difference in quality of the 2 teams I wouldn’t talk about a managerial masterclass (or coming back to the old days with attacking intent). My game plan like “go out, press, and score some goals” would have resulted just about the same outcome. 🙂

  • I can tell you are in a relaxed mood, Eris, as that is a balanced and enthusiastic comment. Well there actually are two comments!

    Re AMN, I think he sat deeper to allow Kola to bomb forward a lot, similar to what Arteta did with XhakA and Tierney v Leicester. On the other side Soares seemed to allow Willock to do most of the attacking whilst the Portuguese supported Elneny and AMN to keep the Railwaymen hemmed in.

    This may be the Arteta Way going forward.

  • Interesting to see that Huss Fahmy has left the club, he being the contracts guy, no mention of a replacement so will that mean that Edu is in charge of contracts or that our manager will have an input?

  • Cheers PB, I think you underestimate the difficulty of making a second tier team play very well against a clear but highly motivated underdog in an empty stadium. Ask Mourinho about that… 👍🏿

  • ‘Ideally, it would be Saka and Nelson on both flanks, with Auba as top striker. With a midfield trio of Xhaka, Partey and Ceballos.’

    I would very much like to see that front 6, Eris. Not necessary trying out against Manchester, but if they have enough time together, that could be a hell of a (half) team, with Bellerin, our best RCB (Chambers, Nelson, Saliba?) Gabriel and Tierney behind them.

  • I’m going back to read the comments when I have time. Quick impressions….

    The most lively I’ve seen Willock, ever.

    Pepe had a right foot?

    I still think AMN is not being utilized enough. Looks like a great all around player. I hope we don’t waste his talent as a backup fb/wb.

    Eddie’s dive early on was shameful. I would have given him a yellow.

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