Arsenal Player Reviews: Imperious Mari, Reborn Laca, MOTM was Unplayable

Well that was just fun to watch, especially for those very lucky 2000 fans.. We pressed high, passed the ball round really well and never gave the opponent much time to think or control over the ball. We can analyse the game and Arteta’s tactical changes over the next few days, but here are my player ratings for now:

Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring the first goal in front of their fans.

Rúnarsson: 7 – not much to do and not really at fault for the goal. Good interaction with fellow players and cover behind the defence.

Soares: 7.5 – looked comfortable at right back and worked well with Nelson and then WIllian. There is a nice balance to his play.

Mustafi: 7.5 – solid and relatively calm performance. His quick and often accurate forward passing is a big plus in our team.

Mari: 8 – extra point for the goal and his leadership on the pitch. Good to have him back. Close to MOTM.

Kola: 7.5 – less effective in attack but relatively calm in defence – half a point extra for the double block that almost prevented a goal.

Ainsley: 8 – so calm and yet such a force wherever and whenever he is on the ball. There is a total footballer somewhere in AMN.

Elneny: 8 – The Egyptian is a defensive midfielder and Ceballos is not. Excellent positioning and protecting the shape of the team, very nice ball circulation.

Nelson: 7.5 – the gadfly (together with Pepe and Laca) who never let the opponent rest. Give him the ball and he will get things moving and thus add another dimension to our game.

Lacazette: 8 – fabulous goal and great work rate. Really enjoyed playing in the hole and make things happen for the team. Really needed this game and that goal. Close to MOTM.

Pepe: 8 MOTM – what a performance for the team. Never sulked and just kept driving forwards with incisive passing and deadly dribbles whilst also using his head to make the best choices on the pitch. Was simply unplayable. Only thing missing was a goal.

Eddie: 8 – worked very hard and kept defenders busy, and he also got his goal albeit with some luck. There was more for him in this game (and the same goes for Laca) but it will come.

The Subs

Ceballos: 8 – superb 30 minutes of attacking midfield play. Picked passes at will and helped us keeping the tempo up. Plays so much better when we press high rather than sit deep.

Willian: 8 – also a superb 30 minutes of attacking football. Played with renewed vigour and invention.

ESR: 8 – just like the boys above, he brought renewed energy and purpose to our midfield play. And a goal as well.

Chambers: 7 – took over well from Mustafi and helped us see out the game.

Balogun: 7 – needed more minutes on the pitch but he showed great movement and had good connections with his fellow players.

By TotalArsenal.

29 thoughts on “Arsenal Player Reviews: Imperious Mari, Reborn Laca, MOTM was Unplayable

  • Have to concur with your thoughts and ratings TA.
    Really am pleased to see Mari go 90– and Chambers make an appearance.
    ESR needs some time on pitch with the first-team. Moves without the ball so well. In the right places. And his first touch passes keep things moving so a defense cannot settle. He’s very close.

    Thought I’d leave this here for anyone who might have missed it live.


  • (Guess my comment got caught in the spamcatcher. Try again.)

    Have to concur with your thoughts and ratings TA.
    Really am pleased to see Mari go 90– and Chambers make an appearance.
    ESR needs some time on pitch with the first-team. Moves without the ball so well. In the right places. And his first touch passes keep things moving so a defense cannot settle. He’s very close.

    Thought I’d leave this here for anyone who might have missed it live.


  • For ages I’ve been desperate to see Pepe play on the left instead of the right: what a revelation. Instead of checking back inside onto his left foot, as he habitually does when playing on the right, he has the more decisive and dangerous option of driving forward on the outside of defenders and throwing in crosses or shooting from the left. He’s twice the player in this role, and it allows our attacks to be quicker and more direct: please keep him there Mikel. In addition, we had a natural right-footer playing on the right side of attack (Nelson/Willian) and that looked good as well. At bloody last!

  • I’m about to watch the game now. For some reason I actually like reading all of your views from the previous post and this one ,even before I watch…. Its like having friends as commentators and pundits. Of course it’s super positive on days where we smash weaker competition. Though it’s even helpful on the down days.

  • No argues with the justified ratings. Just some interesting facts on Nelson – at least I found them fascinating when read them for the first time:
    – In the first half alone Reiss Nelson created more chances (5) than any Arsenal player has managed in a whole game this season
    – Although he didn’t score, Nelson did set up Arsenal’s second and third goal, created two other fantastic chances to score and finished the game with a remarkable 100 percent pass ratio – which included 15 passes into the final third.
    – Besides Nelson Ceballos managed to achieve the 100% pass completion rate; and due to the different positions there were 39 passes in 28+3 minutes behind Ceballos’ stat, while Nelson made ‘only’ 30/30 successful passes in his 62 minutes.

    Still Pepe was the MotM for me too, but it is good to see (and feel) that there were a bunch of guys performing in a similarly high level. I like TA’s ‘close to MOTM’ category. 🙂

    I know it was a home EL game against an opponent where the entire starting XI combined worth about Harry Winks alone (according to TransferMarkt), so by no means are either the fluid gameplay or the individual performances reliable indicators for having the same effects in a PL match, but it was nice to see some quality football, and it is good to know that the Arsenal’s ‘backup XI’ don’t miss their chances to knock the door of the first team. And let’s not forget that Spurs managed a mere draw against a team of similar strength than Rapid Wien.

  • Those are very fine stats on Nelson, PB. By the time Ceballos came on the hard work had been done and there really was more space to pass the ball through than in the first half. But he does pick those passes very well and it is his nr1 quality. Nelson is really the sort of winger Arteta will be so happy with: comfortable with the ball in tight spaces, makes space with runs, dribbles and passes and a total team player.

    Re the quality of the opponent: how often have we seen Arsenal play woeful against these sort of opponents in the past? It is all about taking it seriously and playing with intensity and a high tempo. This is not easy to do when the game is seen a dead rubber, and only because the manager and the players went for it from the start where we able to humble the opponent on the night. The small but passionate home crowd clearly also made a difference.

    The Spuds, indeed, managed only to draw and concede three in the process despite fielding a number of their first team squad; the difference was their focus and attitude. The Gunners’ was spot on.

  • Good point about Nelson. I hadn’t realised that his stats were quite that stellar, but good for him (and us). Playing Pepe on the left of course means that we can play a natural right-footer like Reiss Nelson (or Willian) on the right, and so again they are able to go outside defenders and put crosses in. He is a player that shows real promise and I’d like to see him given more chances to play in this position. With such wide options we stretch opposing team much more.

  • Fully agree on the Spurs draw explanation. But I think this disappointing result (of course only from their point of view) does not contradictory to the fact that many first team players were involved, but rather the consequence of it. Arsenal was passionate and focused yesterday because our (young, squad and fringe) players cherish every opportunity to show how close they are to the first team, and not taking this competition like ‘oh, not another mid-week game’ mentality.

  • TA, thanks for the ratings difficult to argue since everyone played well. Pepe left the game abruptly as soon as the whistle went without applauding the fans or acknowledging the other team (not sure what that was about). My MOTM was personally Mainsley – thought he was all over the place all match and even had 2 assists to his name in a very fine performance.

    I had told you before the season that if ESR could stay healthy, he could absolutely be that central missing link between our defense and attack – it’s wonderful to finally see him getting opportunities again.

  • I know the purpose was to discuss tactics and formation in a later blog post, but I simply can’t resist.

    I’ve started to wonder if the 4-4-1-1 would work in the league? Lacazette seems better suited for that Bergkampesque role and our ball movement was way more crisp. We essentially formed a midfield box with the two wide players drifting centrally to allow the fullbacks more space out wide (where they should always be opposed to Arteta’s previous tactic that had them drift in more and the wingers holding their width).

    The other benefit of the 4-4-1-1 and midfield box is that it allows for more fluid, quick interplay between the midfielders and fullbacks. Anyway interested to know people’s thoughts about the formation and if we should try it this Sunday.

  • HH– your idea was one I’d been pondering as well. Not so much a particular formation, as the idea of having Laca in a role that isn’t in-the-box in attack. He’s never really rediscovered his first-burst after injuring his ankle early last season (recurring). Considering Auba’s at his best when found ‘in motion’– the idea of someone with Laca’s ability to receive and turn with the ball in the final third could be the key to creating chances.

    Don’t feel it’ll be the second coming of the Mkhi&Auba Show at Dortmund years back– but it has some merit to create opportunities in the box– and elsewhere in attack too.


  • JW, it’s almost like we could see the Lesser Invincibles Part 2 in that formation? There’s a lot of similarities that you could draw between that squad and some of the guys we have now, just lesser versions of each (Auba/Henry, Laca/Bergkamp, Gabriel/Sol, Tierney/Cole, Partey/Vieira etc.).

    I think we need to start trying something different in the league until Arteta potentially gets the players he ideally needs to play the expansive way he wants to. I’ve enjoyed our Europa league games more than the league games, especially the last two where we’ve fielded a 4-4-1-1. I just don’t know if those tactics would work against more tactical managers and teams in the prem.

  • HH, that is an interesting idea.
    If you consider wingers on both sides of the ‘middle 4’ than it would be a 4-2-3-1, only renamed. But if we were looking for true LM/RM players, then it could be a genuine 4-4-1-1 formation.
    Following the latter scenario, Martinelli, Willian, Pepe and Nelson are disqualified, but Saka and ESR are candidates for the LM position, while Cedrick, AMN and Willock could possibly play at RM, however only AMN is considered to be a true right midfielder.
    So we can theoretically field such XI:


    I’m not sure if that would be a solution to end our chances/goals drought, but I won’t mind giving it a try – especially against tough opponents away from home.

  • PB, I would not say that Nelson, Pepe or Willian are not suited for the 4-4-1-1 formation as it’s what Arteta has been running the last two Europa league matches! The difference is that he’s no longer asking the wide players to hold their width and is essentially asking them to help play a midfield box (i.e. they act as forward midfielders to create better shape in central areas and also drift wide to support link up play with the full backs.

    It’s been quite effective in Europa so far vs. Molde and Rapid, especially with Lacazette dropping deeper to help with the build up. Given the subs Arteta made, it’s very possible that we see this formation on Sunday but I’m sure a tactical genius like Mourinho will be able to expose it somehow 😦

  • Total there is evidence to support what you say about only using Luiz in a 3 CB setup, many fans and bloggers have noticed as well. I expected Holding if a back 4 last week.

    Here’s sarcastic Johnnie…. Arteta not only hasn’t noticed, he also leaves him in after a knockout, bleeding and concussed. Ok, it’s a little negative, but I really feel like it cost us 3 points.

    One disagreement… family enclosure man… all we do in league games is put in crosses … Pepe and Reiss are both strong goal threats, and better Pepe on right, Reiss on left. I’d be willing to bet that they both enjoy it that way too. Everyone likes more shooting opportunities.

  • Nicholas Pepe, for some reason he irritates me and mainly because he has so much talent but doesn’t seem able to channel it effectively, enough of the time. I see him do some really amazing things and then he just gives away a loose pass or his final ball is poor or his cross over hit and although it’s probably just me being too demanding, it’s also the dopey look on his face when he does mess up.

    I know he can’t help his boat race (face) but it drives me crazy because it comes across as if he isn’t serious enough about his work. He is a player who could be as dangerous as Grealish is at Villa, but he’s not really, not for me and his goal return for a £72m player is bang average.

    The one positive about Thursdays performance is if Arteta does decide that he wants to go in a different direction and with a different type of wide player then the value of Nick will be enhanced by those kind of displays.

    I’m sure I read somewhere that Lucas Torrieira has fallen out of favour at Atletico recently and hasn’t been picked for the starting XI. Could Lucas return to Arsenal or will Arteta look to move him on back to Italy next summer where he seems to be happiest? A Torrieira/Partey combo, is that possible? We’d better ask ‘the wife’..?

  • Kev– there a bit to be disappointed with, Pepe included. Though to his credit– he didn’t put that price tag on himself– and Raul paid it (and took a slice for himself in some form I’m willing to wager). About 60% of the goals he’d scored at Lille that last season were PENs.

    You’re not wrong though. Their needs to be more of a return. It’s Mikel’s job to figure out how to maximize his left foot. Like your army’s main artillery piece– it’s on the general to position it where it can do most harm. On the RW– he has only one move, and from an acute angle. Once two defenders move at him to the corner of the box– he feels responsible to recycle the ball. That seems to me to be what he’s being coached to do. Arteta did well to swap him to the LW vs Rapid. He got a good return on his gamble.

    Thinking he needs to bring Pepe more central where shots and better angles at goal will increase. I’ve said this previously– that AW had a similar cannon-footed lefty at the club just awhile back in Lukas Podolski. He wasn’t much for footwork or assisting or defending– but he brought shots from the edge of the 18. Lukas played on the left– but he was rarely ever found in the corner.

    In a 3-4-2-1 with Auba at the tip and Laca-Pepe just behind– it leaves room on the flanks for Saka at LWB and Bellerin at RWB (or Willian and Nelson). With a pair of physical MFs in the middle such as Thomas and Willock/AMN Even Elneny. Round the back off with Mari(/Luiz)-Gabriel-Tierney– and there is dynamism and/or athleticism at every spot.

    Open up the pitch with Pepe able to see and use more of it– as AW employed Podolski. Much of the rest could well fall into place.


  • Lovely comments and banter, so far, guys. As for TA’s ratings, I can’t argue with them, especially as I haven’t watched the game (and still haven’t seen beyond a few highlights). I saw enough, though to see that Pepe and Nelson were unplayable while AM-N was making the case a role in midfield, at some point. There are games when I have hoped he could be played as a winger, right or left, it doesn’t matter. This is because that’s the role I had seen him play (2015/16, on loan to Ipswich town FC) when I realized we had a good player on our hands, with some careful nurturing.
    Speaking of changing things a bit for the PL, as a way back into scoring ways, I am in full agreement and have stated it before; the players look like they need something new to work on and nothing better than to have a new “project” to make work. Same way they looked excited to try out Arteta’s methods and looked successful at it. For a start, against the Spuds, we can surprise them with some aggressive pressing game with Nelson, Auba and Laca leading the line; Willian may come on late and (with that kick up the backside) should do better against tiring defenders.

    When he is eligible, Pepe should always start on the left with simple instructions to just seek to play with his full back and closest midfielder and to keep whipping in crosses; this would improve his game and reduce the burden he appears to carry of making big decisions to influence games; this should slowly wean him of the need to hold onto the ball unnecessarily and attempting needless dribbles when it is easier to go to the by-line to cross.

    Back to the game against Rapid, happy to see Mari, Chambers, ESR and Kolasinac get much needed playing time. I think it will push the first team a bit harder to do well in the next few league games.

  • Oh, and let me put it out there that I expect Arsenal to win the North London derby. It is something the lads will they’ve got to do to assuage the feeling of the fans who have lost faith in the team. Arteta seems to prefer playing as the underdog, to surprise opponents. We are the underdogs in this game too and, unless we suffer early injuries to key players or a dismissal early in the game, Spurs will be in for a game.

    Aubameyang’s chance to show he’s still got it and Laca’s to continue his scoring streak against his fellow French man in their goal. I do miss Olivier Giroud in games like this, though. He would have been up for it. And so must the rest of the team.

  • It gets even better with Partey, reportedly, training with the team on Saturday. May be a joker, if he’s deemed fit enough to start.

  • I really don’t want Lacazette to start a game like this. We’re going to need a pacey and super athletic lineup, as much as possible. Also look at his performance in league games lately, at least the way that he’s being used.

    Now watch him score a hat trick.

  • Jync, I do hope he now goes on to score a hat trick, as you reverse-jinxed it. With the way Auba goes through games, these days, avoiding much contact and not wishing to put his foot where it hurts, you would need a physical player keeping their defenders honest; Laca does that well, pouncing on lapses and errors. He may not start because he played on Thursday but he just has to get the call, at some point, for this one.

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