Well that was a dreamlike Thursday evening game of football in the City of Roses. Molde stayed in mold with some disciplined positioning and determined defending, but we had all the answers for it. The Gunners pushed up high and had plenty of footballers in and around the opponent’s box, and then the chances came as by magic. If there was a game that shows a typical creative nr10 may no longer be needed, it was this one. Combine, probe, run and pass and the chances will come. Arsenal had 18 shots, nine on target; our opponent had 1 shot on target.
The four at the back stayed in position and all played a decent, traditional defensive game. The only way Molde were going to score was via speculative crosses into the box, and initially both Soares and AMN were guilty of letting their opponents cross the ball without being chased down quickly enough. That let to a few hairy moments and Molde got very close to a goal, but poor – in more than one sense – Sinyan missed the goal by a whisker only then to violently hug the post with both of his legs as well as his manliness! Aiaiaiai!
I loved that Arsenal pressed Molde in their own half but also the way we worked the ball out of defence with both Xhaka and Willock playing some fine midfield football, working the ball forward quickly and decisively so our wingers could be reached in time and in the right areas. As a result we saw some quick and easy on the eyes attacks and some good old fashioned wing-play by both Pepe and Nelson, who both tormented the sturdy but mostly unexciting Norwegians all night long.
Arsenal scored three classy second half goals and have now qualified for the next round in the UL. I don’t think this has ever been easier for us as all three opponents were not of EPL standards, BUT it is still not easy to gear the team up and put in a committed performance on a dark and cold night in October and November, and Arteta has managed to do so in all four games. And that goes a long way.
Rúnarsson: 7 – I liked his composure and body language and at times I thought Leno was in goal. Did almost nothing wrong and will feel good about his performance.
AMN: 8 – Loved his maturity and ease on the ball at the back and in attack. Really showed he is ready for the PL games. Arteta must play him more or we lose him.
Luiz: 7.5 – Committed and Led by example.
Holding: 7.5 – Took over from Luiz seamlessly.
Mustafi: 7 – Tidy job.
Soares: 7.5 – Tiday job with some nice link up play with midfield and attack.
Willock: 8.5 – Mature and measured performance in central midfield with two fine assists. Very close to MOTM.
Xhaka: 7.5 – Solid, calm and driven.
Pepe: 9 MOTM: Found his inner-Robben and his left-peg was on fire all night long. Great goal, great balls into the box and good helping out in defence and midfield.
Nelson: 8.5 – Also very close to MOTM. Just wonderful to see a player attack players and make space and thus chaos and opportunities. Took his goal well from a peach of a Willock cross.
Eddie: 7.5 – Unlucky not to be on the score sheet after a great poke-in, but also missed an easy header from a sumptuous cross by Pepe’s left wand. Worked hard to keep defenders busy and create space for others.
Laca: 5 – Was he at the game all that time or did he have a little hide-away under the pitch? It’s like the game more or less passed him by; I wonder how many touches he had. Lack of form or motivation? Or am I too harsh?!
Subs (other than Holding):
Ceballos: 7 – Took over well from Xhaka when the game was won. Some fine passes.
Tierney: 7 – Arteta just added class to the final 15 minutes of the game.
Smith Rowe: 7.5 – Loved his added drive and half a point extra for a well measured assist. Welcome back ESR!!
Balogun: 7.5 – Did not get much time from Arteta but needed even less to get on the score sheet. Fine goal reminiscent of Wrighty: good first touch, quick turn in the box and just hit the fecking target. Well done and welcome to the first team, Folarin. I can see a song coming for him: Fooolarin Oho, Foolarin Ohohoho… 🙂
Rest in Peace Diego Maradona
Hymn of the Cherubim (Excerpt) – YouTube
48 thoughts on “Arsenal Player Ratings: Pepe and Nelson Break the Molde, Mature Joe and Ainsley, Folarin Oho Folarin Ohohoho!”
Fair ratings after a confident win, and the Pepe-Robben metaphor was apt.
Pepe got 10.0 from WhoScored, which is clearly a bit overrated, but I don’t remember when was the last time we faced a similar issue. 🙂
I’m happy with your ratings. 🙂
Pepe had a strong performance and responded well. I (want to) believe there is a lot more coming from that left foot of his.
Obviously, there is a conundrum about what is the ceiling of his team-mate on the other wing. Two of the most exciting Bayern Munich teams were/are built around strong wingers (Ribery-Robben, Coman/Perišić-Gnabry, now Sane-Gnabry). Why Nelson wouldn’t become our Gnabry when Gnabry didn’t?
Those exciting wingers have been aided for over a decade by Thomas Müller, a player without a single top drawer physical or technical characteristic but with a talent to find space so unique that they had to invent a name for his position (Raumdeuter).
Which leads us to Joe Willock. Or Willöck.
When Arteta said the other day that Willöck is the only player in the squad with certain characteristics, he had the last night performance in mind. Willöck operates in the space that has been too empty for our own good in the previous matches and that’s how he gets the best out of wingers and a striker. Willöck, if you analyze him part by part, is the least exciting youngster in our team. Not the quickest, not the best with the ball in his feet…yet he seems to do the job. Maybe because 4/7 of his last name is “will”.
Tongue-in-cheek alert: another game for Aubameyang without scoring – it was almost like he wasn’t there at all.
Speaking of EL, I hope Atletico won’t f..k things up again and end up on our driving lane again. There are a few more teams I’d prefer to take down each other in EL (Spuds, Leicester, Milan, PSG/Leipzig/Man U) rather than we have to deal with them but then again, if you want to win a European competition, you have to be prepared to beat every team on your way to the big prize.
Thanks for the ratings TA. My only ratings that differ are for Eddie, AMN and Pepe. I though my the first two were well below average (Eddie with his finishing and AMN with his passing). Pepe was very good but as a risk/reward player, he lost the ball too many times and had some complete headscratchers with his decision making (crossing to no one and holding onto the ball too long when we had outnumbered them on a counter).
That’s really just nitpicking though and I thought it was a great performance by the boys. Really excited to see Balogun and ESR kick on – I think Balogun’s got more of a future as a complete ST than Eddie the more I’ve seen of him 🙂
Ok HH, that sounds a big big call, but I’ve not really seen enough of him to judge and if you are right and he’s the next Ferenc Puskis then yeah, £22m is a steal if we can get him for that?
My only reservation is that we have a lot of young attacking midfielders who are probably about a year away from really developing, Matt Smith, Miguel Azeez and young Patino, who could see their progress hindered, but if your man is that good, then get him and see who comes out on top?
And Total, I promise to give Willian a lot more latitude from now on, point taken…
Space Investigator, I never really saw Willock as one of those, or even a Space Invader for that matter, but he certainly has some qualities that many don’t quite appreciate as much as we should.
I like him and I’ve always liked him and if he turns out anything like the most unlikeable player in the Bayern team then I won’t complain.
Kev, all of the midfielders you mentioned are completely different from Szobozslai. Smith, Azeez and Patino all operate in deeper areas of midfield and pull the strings from the back. You also have to remember that Szobozslai, at 19, is already performing at very high levels against the top teams in the world in Champions League. You can never have enough creative players in your team and the more options we have, the more dangerous we can become in attack.
I would love to continue to see opportunities for our youth, but as fans, we have a tendency to overrate our youth players at times too. The jump from youth level football to senior men’s football can be quite significant and we should have a team with more quality where we can slowly integrate youth and not have to rely on them (playing them too much leads to injuries very early on). Unfortunately, with the poor investments we’ve made over the years in the transfer market, it’s left us in a position of a lack of quality in our squad (and thus the reliance on a promising starlet like Saka).
Szoboszlai – yes, yes, yes, yes.
He would be a perfect spicy ingredient from the Hungarian football cuisine.
Cheers Admir, TM is indeed an ugly yet useful midtacker who makes things happen somehow. The sort of player Ramsey could have been would he have had the frame and fitness of the German. Joe looks like a proper footballer when you see him on the pitch. He does not hug the ball like Ceballos or Guendouzi – like now I have the ball finally I will not let it go – but like these two wants to move forwards. He is also really good at finding space in the box and finishing off a chance when it comes his way, and you could be on to something that the same can be said about TM. I hope he rather turns out to be like Wijnaldum who is very important for Liverpool and just the sort of player we need too. I think we have him now in the form of Partey but Joe may well be even more suited.
Cheers HH, always good to read the Cannon of Cananda’s comments. 🙂
We can always argue about individual player ratings but it is fine as we all see things differently. Re Pepe (and Nelsoni): I want them to take risks and try things as that helps to confuse our opposition and makes things happen. I saw some stats on Pepe’s performance yesterday and he seemed to top all the players in terms of crosses, touches and take-ons etc. But I get your point that he also does frustrating things and I guess that is why we were able to get him and he didnt go to Bayern or Real Madrid… 🙂
TA, it’s funny because I asked many friends and other Arsenal fans if Wijnaldum could be within the range of outcomes for Joe and many laughed at me! I think Joe is more forward thinking than Partey (not that Partey can’t be more forward thinking, just that Partey is so incredible at breaking up the attack and pushing the ball forward with his passing that he’s more crucial in filling a different role).
I see Partey potentially becoming a Fabinho/Fernandinho type that can be midfield destroyer that advances the ball up field through some driving runs or long range passing opposed to a midfielder like Wijnaldum that can connect play, hang out more around the edge of the box and constantly runs up and down the pitch for a full 90 mins.
A Goulash Gunner is always welcome. 🙂
TA, yes I agree on needing to take some level of risk in order to help break teams open. My point was more that Nelson, at 21, is already smarter than Pepe and knows when to take calculated risks. He makes less mistakes than Pepe, while still being able to create and cause chaos for the defense. I think Arteta sees this too, which is why Nelson initially started over Pepe when he first took charge.
I don’t want to be too critical on Pepe after a very good performance yesterday, but I still question if he has the footballing IQ to make it here. He’s also incredibly inconsistent match to match, and even within a match, so there’s that to look forward too as well I guess. Ideally, he plays well enough that we can sell him on at not too much of a discount come the summer and find someone else who is more of a true winger that is less predictable.
HH, as Partey played for a very defence-minded team until now, there is indeed a clear picture of a destroyer-advancer. I think that unless he replaces Xhaka in the formation, he will be used more like a B2B, and Joe was used in a same way yesterday. I see Wijnaldum as the perfect mix between mid-defender and mid-attacker. In the Dutch national team he is played in a more advanced role and he is so deadly in the box, scoring for fun these days. Maybe Partey is not suited for the attacking part of the game and that would be fine too. But I definitely see Joe also as having a fine balance between defending and attacking in midfield. However, he has a long way to go to become a next Wijnaldum.
Nelson is very good, HH, and I agree that Pepe can be frustrating more often than not. He is a work in progress and I don’t think Mikel would have picked him if he had been in charge when the decision was made. Yes Nelson is much more an Arteta player.
I do see Pepe as the sort of player though who can score the winner out of nothing in a top game. His left foot is sweet as they come.
I would like to see us play a midfield of Xhaka – Partey and Willock (in front of them) and then Saka – Auba and Nelson in attack. Back up/competition would be Elneny, Ceballos(AMN), Willian(ESR), Pepe/?, Laca/Eddie.
Admir, re UL don’t forget that the loser of the very exciting battle between Liverpool, Atalanta and Ajax will also be a real threat this season…
One thing I’ve noticed with Xhaka and Partey in the only game they’ve played together is that they both want the ball and to be the conductors. The pass map for the Leicester game was hilarious and Xhaka frequently looked to bypass Partey the entire match (it didn’t help that Leicester essentially formed a box around Partey with four players defending him). If Arteta can get those two to figure that out, it would certainly be an interesting and potentially fruitful partnership.
If Arteta wants to play a midfield of Xhaka/Partey/Willock and a front three of Auba/Nelson/Saka, then he really needs to continue to adapt his attacking structure to take advantage of the pace up front in place of a traditional attacking pivot. Keep playing balls fast up the pitch and give our attackers space to run into with the ball to exploit. I’ve seen positive signs that we’re moving in this direction in the Leeds and Molde games, so I’m hopeful that continues.
The good thing is, HH, that we will see this work in progress in action over the next 6-12 months. The bad thing is that it will go wrong at least a few times before Arteta has got the boys dancing on the pitch.
Attentive readers will have noticed that made a prediction yesterday regarding Auba… that he will score eight goals in December. Does anybody else want to make a guess for a bit of fun?
My only advise to Arteta…. 🙂
There will be 9 games in December, 2 of them in the EL, so I would count Auba out.
That leaves us with 6 PL games and the Carabao Cup quarter final against Manchester City.
I assume Auba will play all 7 (or at least 6) unless an unforeseen injury or illness strikes, thus my guess would be him scoring 4 goals in December.
OK PB, game on ⚽
Anybody else have a guess?
Kev, no point to take my friend. I just want to support Willian but I understand the frustration re his performances at the moment. 😊🚖🌷
TA, my guess will be 7 goals for Auba in December (not one per game, but a couple games where he scores a couple and some where he doesn’t score).
Excellent, HH. ⚽
Thanks GN5 for your efforts on this!
Everton v Leeds = Away
W.B.A. v Sheffield United = Draw
Chelsea v Tottenham = 0-2
Arsenal v Wolves = Home
Southampton v Manchester U. = Home
Real Sociedad v Villarreal = Home
Arsenal U23 v Derby: Okonkwo, Chambers, Mari, Saliba, Alebiosu, Akinola, Cottrell, Azeez, Cirjan, Moller, Taylor-Hart.
“…Chambers, Mari, Saliba…”
That’s really good to see. 👍🏼
Arteta fielded three regulars to start against Molde– with some talented backups, mostly younger players. While Molde may not be PL caliber– they are 2nd in their league and know how to attack with a 2.5:1.25 GF/GA ratio after 25 matches. Arsenal’s combination had not played together as a unit until earlier this week. Nor in a 4-4-2.
Little wonder it took until the second half to get unstuck. Oddly, I didn’t have any of the anxieties I usually have in a scoreless 1st-half– against a team we should win against. With exception of the one Molde player ‘rattling the frame’ (if anyone deserved to score for their effort!)– there were very few other near-chances.
Could sense Pepe was infused. Wanting to begin to make amends on-pitch. He’d done and said all the right things after his dismissal. Up to Mikel to let him show it. I’m clear what WhoScored is– and what their criteria are for player ratings. A bit antiseptic for my taste. But it was the first time I’d ever seen an Arsenal player ever grade out at a perfect 10.0. Congrats to Pepe! Good on him for doing what was needed of him yesterday. He sparked the team. Maybe should have had a brace.
Keep hearing the rumblings about who we’d like to avoid in the EL dropdown draws. It doesn’t really matter. The one thing I can always get jazzed about– is Mikel Arteta prepping his team for a cup match.
Onward and upward.
Thanks for the tip to watch the U23s for free Kev. 👀
Good summary, JW, and all agreed. Arteta is a great cup coach.
Thanks for the heads-up, Kevin. Is great to see Okonkwo back in action, as well as Chambers, Mari and Saliba reporting for duty.
Somewhat strange that Alebiosu plays LB (or Chambers, anyway what happened to Lopez?), and we must be short on wingers if the U18 Taylor-Hart plays LW and Cottrell is moved to RW, but nevertheless it is a strong and capable team. I hope the individual skills will make up for the lack of team experience, and we will stay on our winning streak. I trust Möller to keep scoring.
It was a nice game overall. The youngsters did their best to prove themselves, resulting in a clean sheet and 17 key passes. Indeed, the opponent was not on PL-level, but the experience and confidence gained from such victories might help the academy players’ transition into the first team, as well as put pressure on the ‘senior’ players not to take their place in the starting line-up for granted.
Derby are, or were top of the U23’s I believe, so that was a really good performance PB, delighted to see Moller score again and that’s three wins on the spin now, confidence is a wonderful thing.
I’ve heard that Okonkwo saved a penalty and that Mari played 45 minutes.
Apparently the club is planning to recall Swanson as he isn’t getting any playing time in Maastricht, good to see the loans manager being proactive.
According to J.Bird PB, Lopez is injured.
Aubameyang to score 5 goals, 4 from open play and one penalty as we don’t get many penalties.
According to the Derby commentators a win would have leapt them over Pool into first. I linked in at about the 30 minute mark with Arsenal up 1-0. My first glimpse of these youngsters. Akinola was everywhere down the center of the pitch. Great vision it seems and awareness of everything around him. Cottrell reminds a bit of another wee Arsenal lad that wore #10. Kido Taylor-Hart knocked in the third goal cutting-in from the left, striking one inside the far post with a slight deflection that made it impossible to stop. Nearly had an identical one a little later less than a yard wide. Cottrell might have teed him up on a counter for a clear shot at a brace– but skied it over from the 18 in the middle. Moeller scored the second (believe on an assist from Cottrell). Might have had a second by taking a touch instead of deflecting one wide.
Saliba was solid. Advanced the ball up to midfield himself on a couple of occasions– and made a couple of passes through lines. He and Chambers controlled things fairly well together as expected. Saw a bit of Mari. He wasn’t really involved with the goal Derby scored. A tweener of a cross at the far post that I might have expected Okwonko to make a play on. In addition to the PEN (trailing leg) save– Okwonko made a diving save at the far post– that would have otherwise made it 3-2 just before Derby went down to 10-men on a second yellow infraction.
Entertaining. Looked quite good versus a top team. Think I liked Akinola most of that group.
Thanks again Kev!
TA, it should be: Folarin, sign da ting!
Lots of comments and interest… I’m going to go back and read all, but want to first talk about yesterday’s debate…..
PB, I often get the same feeling about Willian since I was against signing him, less on the cost, because if a fee was involved as well as salary, it would certainly cost more overall, even with less wages. I’d rather give the money to our new player than Chelsea. …. I mostly didn’t want to see our young attackers blocked from progressing. But if the manager wants premier league experienced winner, even if he ends up being used less than expected, we owe him the option of choosing some of his players. Also, a player costing less up front, in a year with no gate receipts, seems sensible too.
……Like Total, I think we should get behind him, because I have faith that he’ll at least work hard out of pride.
Now….. I have a big “I told you so” in general about Pepe. Before Leeds I said that if Arteta allowed Pepe to drift in towards the goal, rather than hugging the touchline, we would see him as the danger man that we thought we were buying. Even during the match at the weekend, though we didn’t score, I felt he was going to get a goal or create one in the second half. We all know how that was derailed. But on Thursday he picked up right where he left off …. we have to allow scorers to get in positions where they can maximize their specific skills. Even from the beginning I was confident he’d have a good game. He just missed a more beautiful goal and a pretty assist that Eddie wasted. He can easily score from outside the box with minimal backlift so defenders must come out to close him down. This also will open up opportunities for our other players. Let’s hope his confidence continues to grow, because with him threatening and Aubameyang as a center forward, we might get some flow finally. You know scoring is contagious too.
I still don’t think Lacazette will succeed the way he’s being used. It must be very frustrating for him. We should have sold him in the transfer window.
Jnyc, fully agreed on Pepe. He is improving much on his returns, as as you pinpointed perfectly, he is a constant dilemma to defenders: if they don’t close him down, he might score from distance, however if the rush to stop him well in advance, then he has the vision and skills for a key pass behind the defenders.
On Willian. I have an amazing track record of being misunderstood, but that can happen for a not native speaker. 🙂 I must stress: have nothing against the lad. And I want him to succeed as much as any decent supporter. We are stuck with him anyway (without any re-sale value due to his enormous wages), so there is no reason for wishing him fail. And a few months of adjustment period can be acknowledged. Plus I tend to agree with HH and TA, that Willian might have a future with us in an attacking midfielder role; but even the opinion of such couch-expert-trio carries limited weight as long as Arteta refuses to test our hypothesis. (I’m being only semi-ironic here as I truly and honestly believe that in this very blog we have better ideas and – for the lack of better phrase – ‘reasonable footballing competence’ than Kevin Campbell, Martin Keown and Tony Adams combined.)
Nevertheless my comment on Nelson vs Willian wasn’t slamming the latter, merely challenging the decision of signing him. Which was not a mistake – at least we (and him) need more time to come to any conclusion: it can turn out to be a mistake as well as a genuine success story or anything in between – but based on the evidence it is fair to say Willian’s signing wasn’t necessary. Or better put it: it was a luxury as we already had 2 class players on the RW position (which is not something we can say about most positions). And please don’t make it an Arteta-issue, as we don’t know whose idea was behind it. It could certainly be Arteta, my money would be on Edu (being keen to infuse Arsenal with a Brazilian culture & contingent), but it could have very well been Raul, who departed after Willian signed – by a single day. I’m clearly speculating, but I have a strong feeling that this summer’s marquee signing was more about hurting Chelsea as well as showing the world that we are a top club attracting the top players from top teams than actually a result of a thorough analysis on where the squad needed reinforcements (the most). And we didn’t even start discussing the youth-progress-blocking effect, but that would be unfair to blame Willian for this as the management is responsible to keep a squad size that provides proper cover for the crazy load of December without hindering the development of the fringe players. A well-known but really difficult expectation, that Arsenal screwed up big time (Saliba, Özil, Sokratis, Smith-Rowe).
This was a debate we already had in early August, ending in an ‘agreement to disagree’. But based on Kevin’s (similar) remarks from yesterday I just wasn’t strong enough to resist the temptation to point out that the evidence from the last 3 months seem to lean towards our point of view. Which – I am well aware – is far from the final result, but in such restrictions-driven low-stimulus times a pleasant “I told you so” moment, which I’m sure you also appreciate. 🙂
Anyway I am all for supporting Arteta and Willian by giving them enough time to prove their worth and against the binary, black & white approach confusing critiques (being harsh or justified) with wishing its object out from the club.
Great comments over night and in the morning, guys. It is good to agree and disagree as long as we do it in a decent manner, and that’s definitely the case. The last thing I say about Willian for a while is that neither Laca or Auba are firing at the moment so it does not surprise me that new bee Willian isn’t firing either. Just imagine when they start getting it together and the goals start to come…
Love the comments on our U23 game and well done guys for watching it.
Thanks JW, that’s very encouraging stuff on Akinola, J.Bird wasn’t too enthused by young Tim earlier on but he seems to be developing nicely and maybe calming down as he was said to be a tad wild with some of his challenges. Good scouting if he carries on in this vein as we as an Academy don’t produce many, if any, proper defensive midfielders anymore, Muamba is the last who springs to mind.
Yeah JW, I saw the goals and Taylor-Hart scored a beauty, good finish by Moller also.
Great comment PB, personally I was delighted when we signed Willian, mainly because Chelsea wanted to keep him and offered him a 2 year deal, in fact a lot of big clubs wanted him as well, so I understand, and also offered him the 2 years, but Arsenal got him because we were the only ones who put 3 years on the table. As you so rightly stated I enjoyed seeing us weakening Chelsea at the same time not that it’s turned out that way unfortunately.
My disappointment with him has been based mainly around what I see as the unfair criticism of Arteta and the players escaping any themselves. As many on here have said I want Willian to be successful and to continue to be successful for the three years he’s with us if he runs the full term, not least because that will seriously irritate Chelsea fans. Maybe the form of Nelson will put a rocket up his jacksy, but I still want to see Reiss given enough opportunities for him to develop into the player he can be.
You know Total a couple of goals from Willian and all of a sudden everything in the garden is rosey.
He needs those goals and maybe he’ll get them at the Middlesex Toilet Bowl. 😉
I have to admit I was concerned about promoting Azeez and Cirjan to the U23 level (they are both young and still eligible to play for the U18 side). Not that I had any doubt of their talents, but it seemed they have a very similar position (CM/AM) as well as portfolio of skills to each other and especially to Ben Cottrell, who was the main creative force to the squad last season, and still is the heartbeat of the team. In fact, they all have a very similar playing style to Dani Ceballos; central midfielders capable of playing in a more advanced role, but they all seem to prefer playing in a deeper role than from being a classic #10, and have substantial defensive contribution.
So I was worried that Azeez and Cirjan will have limited playing opportunities as they were behind Cottrell in the pecking order, and neither played any good out of position when they were deployed on the wings. Yet to my surprise Bould managed to squeeze all 3 of them into a (recently) efficient team, using the 4-3-3 formation and “pairing” Azeez and Cirjan with DM Tim Akinola, who is starting to show some Partey-esque characteristics, and his – useful, but often unnoticed – defensive work allows the CM/AM trio to unleash their creativity.
Sometimes ESR plays the role of one of the CM/AM, but in 4-4-2 he is the obvious choice of LM, which could make the team even stronger, but the formation doesn’t really click yet, but thanks to the predatory instinct of Möller and Balogun it is neither a liability in recent games.
Just seen a video of Arsenal training on You Tube and Martinelli was heavily involved.
Yes, Kev. And Auba was insanely efficient with both legs.
Hein and Rúnarsson made some decent saves, too.
Yes he needs those goals, Kev, and so do the other attackers. 🙂
New Post 🙂