Arsenal Player Ratings: Two MOTM, Plenty of Positives, Poor Tactics Cost Us

Spuds 2 – 0 Arsenal

Harry Kane

So that was painful to experience, especially the first half. What not to do against Mourinho…? Allow them to give us the ball and go attack them whilst they are sharpening their knives. Yes it was a great goal by Son the Spud and the keeper should have done better with his positioning, but the fact was that the goal was predictable to a large extent. Our weakest side defensively is the right one and whether it is Mustafi or Holding, or whoever we play as RCB it seems, we just cannot get it right. This is largely due to Bellerin role of wing-back, one that does not suit him as he is not a natural winger and finds it hard to defend properly when played in such a way.

Half moon face received the ball in midfield, he passes it to Son the Spud and a dangerous attack is on us in just two moves. Even if that worldy by Son (made me think of Pires) had not gone in, sooner or later we would have been hurt from that flank/combination. The gap was there, and it was done. After conceding the first goal so early, what were we to do? Attack more and leave gaps only for the second one to go in at some point. Painfully, it came just before the end of the first half, and that was that. Bellerin joined the attack and for some reason decided to pass the ball behind Auba rather than in front of him so he could try and slide it in…. The Spuds break from that move and in no time have four attackers against two totally unprotected CBs. So painful to watch.

I wanted Elneny on the right side of midfield, so Partey could do the b2b stuff without leaving gaps behind him that neither Bellerin or Holding could fix. But I am no football manager and WTFDIK.

In the second half the boys put up a fight and they made me proud. It looked futile and that is probably how they felt about it, but they did not hang their heads and if either Laca or Auba had had a bit more guts, quality and luck, we would have been back into it. It was not to happen and that didn’t surprise anybody, as the team are in a valley psychologically and our opponent have the dirty wind of Mourinho in their backs and are on top of the mountain right now. For many, many years it has been the other way round but not so at the moment. Yet I believe Arsenal have the better future and I would not swap with the swamp dwellers one bit.

Player Ratings:

Leno: 6 – not much to do and was caught out a bit by Son the Spud for the first goal.

Tierney: 8 – shared MOTM. he is better than Bellerin in every department and delivered some phenomenal passes whilst defending with ease. Played with the right spirit for 90 minutes.

Gabriel: 7 – love that guy. Utterly unfazed by the occasion and just power and brains everywhere.

Holding: 6 – he is no Gabriel but was left far too unprotected by his colleagues. Has no relationship with Bellerin which is very costly to us.

Bellerin: 5 – asked to do a role that does not suit him, which makes his defending look much worse than it is. Has no relationship with Holding which is very costly to us.

Xhaka: 7 – much maligned player and I hope for him that Arteta will let him go back to the continent where he will be much more appreciated (and that is against my selfish wish of keeping him). Kept the left side of defence/midfield/attack ticking over as he always does.

Partey: 6 – loved his b2b stuff and fight all over the pitch, and he showed the right spirit from the moment the ball started rolling. Yet, he left gaps behind him and I am unsure whether he was instructed to play a more advanced role or not, but that cost us the game. I feel that Arteta is mostly to blame for this, though.

Saka: 8 shared MOTM – like Tierney he played with the right spirit all game long. Tried so hard to create chances and space for others despite being bullied throughout the game by the vile Spuds. Never gave up and ALWAYS wanted the ball. Fecking loved him for it.

Laca: 6 played with the right spirit from the start and made a nuisance of himself in the Spuds’ box and allowed to keep the pressure on them in front of their ‘D’. But no goals (or assists) once again.

Auba: 5 his fellow attackers and ‘suppliers’ worked their socks off but Auba is so out of form both mentally and technically. I don’t think it is a lack of attitude but Pierre is in a bad place right now. We have to stay behind him.

Willian: 7 a fans’ favourite for ire but I saw a very driven and committed player who was desperate to get us back into the game and made some fine moves and passes.


Ceballos: 7 – sat back and stayed in position and had a very good half in Partey’s position.

Eddie: 6 – brought some new energy.

By TotalArsenal.

72 thoughts on “Arsenal Player Ratings: Two MOTM, Plenty of Positives, Poor Tactics Cost Us

  • A rate of 8 is a bit high for me, but that is not the point.
    I agree with TA that most of the boys showed the right spirit. That was never in doubt, at least not from me. My main concern is that we don’t have our tactics right; or we don’t play according to our squad strengths.

    I know most of you are fed up with stats, but maybe some would find this one interesting or even meaningful. Tottenham made 4 key passes and a total of 7 crosses of which 1 proved to be accurate in their 31% of ball possession. On the other hand Arsenal made 6 key passes (still disappointingly low, but at least more than our opponent), and attempted a shockingly high 44 crosses – from which 8 did eventually connect with an attacking players of ours.
    I honestly think this can be a reasonable strategy with a striker like Klose, Crouch, Giroud or Carroll, but Auba, Laca or Eddie are more capable with their feet, and they aren’t as high as the opposing defenders of ANY team. Yet we are still forcing this useless wingplay and condemn Willian and others when they cannot assist. But they have an impossible job to do (maybe we should sign Tom Cruise?), if high crosses are inefficient, and low crosses are blocked and/or cleared by the opponents (who have lots of bodies in their own penalty box).

    I planned to finish my comment here, but while I was writing, a realized that it would be unfair to point to something that would only applicable to the Spurs game, so I quickly gathered the crosses/accurate stats from the previous PL games:
    – Arsenal: 35/3 vs. Wolves: 11/2
    – Leeds: 22/7 vs. Arsenal: 13/3 (but we were a man down
    – Arsenal: 26/3, vs. Aston Villa: 15/5
    – Arsenal: 20/6, vs. Leicester: 5/1

    The focus is not on the efficiency (percentages), but on the sheer number of opportunities wasted by going down the byline for a(n unlikely) half a chance instead of dribbling inside or looking for a one-two… Our 2 goals against Sheffield demonstrated the difference.

  • Cheers PB, realistically could Tierney and Saka have played any better? I would have given them a nine had they scored and ten for a brace or more, but imo they had incredible games, and I dont let the outcome of the entire game influence the score as much as I can.

    We are crying out for for a CF with height who gets stuck in there. Maybe it is time to play Miedema or that young Moller chap, Kevski keeps talking about.

  • Big issue in our attacking players,serious lack of commitment and creativity.As you said a big question concerning Bellerive playing position???

  • Morning all, we have a team in the early stages of transition and we need to stay behind them, it may be a hard slug but I have confidence in both Arteta and the majority of the team.

    We were beaten by two superb goals and it’s obvious that we lack players to finish off the few chances we get.

    I’m not the least bit depressed because I’ve seen far worse from our team plus the fact that my expectations are low. What is depressing is that we are continually vulnerable to attacks on the right side of our defense.

    I will be happy to see steady improvement while we wait to see what if anything will be done in the January transfer window.

    As usual a fine well balanced post game summation Total – thank you.

  • We need lot’s of bells and whistles this morning as we have our first perfect score of 6/6 in our weekly competition. Many congratulations to Kev the run away leader.
    Weekly results
    1st Kev with 6/6 plus 4 bonus points.
    2nd GN5 with 5/6 (I put my misguided faith in Arsenal)
    3rd Gooneris & PB with 3/6
    4th JWL with 2/6
    5th with 1/6 Total.
    Season to date:-
    1st Kev with 56
    2nd Gooneris with 37
    3rd GN5 with 35
    4th PB & JWL with 33.3
    5th Total with 25

  • TA, the problem with Xhaka is that he can only pass comfortably with one foot and turn in one direction, which is incredibly easy to expose in such a fast league. He is a big part of the problem in our slow build up and has played 1 key pass into the opponent’s box all season. See article explaining this here:

    The other problem is that Arteta is either extremely naive or he’s just incompetent at this point. Everyone knows just give the ball to Arsenal if you get a lead and hit them on the counter – so what does Arteta do? He starts both Xhaka and Bellerin – one who isn’t the most mobile and another who constantly gets caught out of position defensively (and Holding well how much more can you really expect from him). You need athleticism and pace against Tottenham if you want to have any chance against their counter attacks. Elneny and Mainsley both would have provided you with that, but maybe a bit at the expense of whatever it is that Arteta is trying to do.

    If things don’t change soon, he’ll lose the entire dressing room. I don’t even understand what one needs to do to get a league start at this point. It’s clear the current starters are inept or not motivated, yet he continues to persist with some of them. It’s clear we lack quality in the squad, but the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again without changing, which is where he’s heading. We still have some energetic players who are hungry (Saka, Martinelli, Gabriel, Tierney, Mainsley, Elneny, Partey, Nelson, ESR, Willock etc.) and it’s time he gave them a chance to see if their energy can be infectious to revive the rest.

  • Wow Kev, a pirrrfect score (I am saying this in a Steve Macmanaman Scouse accent)!

    Did I mention that the price, an Arsenal shirt, will have Pepe on the back?! 😀

  • Apologies for the negativity, but I simply cannot stand by the lack of determination or motivation I see week after week from some of our players. I would rather see a bunch of industrious, hard working players that give their all week in and out on the pitch than what we are currently seeing.

    I think things can be turned around, but Arteta either needs to adapt to the pieces we have or play the folks who are hungry until he gets the desired pieces he needs.

  • Cheers HH, I don’t think Xhaka is tasked these days to provide balls into the box, and I thought he had a good game v Spuds, but it is fine to disagree.

    Like you I am disappointed about the way Arteta set up the team in the first half. He stopped it by giving Ceballos clear instructions, but of course it was too late then. We are a work in progress, but I feel we will move forward soon. Top six by end of the month is a real possibility.

  • Its not working and i personally had a low expectations watching the match. Though couldn’t sleep for an hour and half after the match (match ended at 12 midnight). When things are not working i would have liked to see couple of things along with other things
    1. Play more younger players, surely they can do better than Willian, Xhaka etal
    2. Shoot from distance, i didn’t see other than Partey who did that. Xhaka was supposed to have some left foot.
    3. Offcourse crosses have to improve, 55 doesn’t mean anything if none of them pass the first defender

  • TA, I’m not here to criticize your opinion. I always admire the positivity and appreciate that you allow your blog to be a forum for us to vent as well – as long as it’s mostly constructive 🙂

    My problem is that the tactics clearly work in Europa, yet Arteta is too overly cautious in the league. I know the level of competition is wildly different, but sometimes it’s what works with the players you have that can unlock success in other competitions. If you want to develop successful patterns of play that is.

    You look at how he’s instructing the wingers to hold their width, but they then occupy the EXACT same spaces as the fullback. The most hilarious moments yesterday were when Willian or Saka were within a foot of Tierney on the left – no one was really making runs and they were literally running into each other. We’re more successful when we allow the wingers to drift in a bit to form that midfield box, which gives more space for the fullbacks for quick interplay and then we need the wingers, fullbacks and CMs to make those overlapping and underlapping runs to break down a team’s defensive structure.

    I have hope that Arteta recognizes this based on our EL performances, but then for some reason, he moves away from that strategy once we play in the league. At some point, it has to click, right?

  • Madhu, for #3 I would say a lot of crosses passed the first defender – the problem is that our strategy is a plan B that doesn’t suit the personnel we currently have. None of our forward players are headers of the ball and Arteta is essentially playing into his own hand that he did last season in the FA Cup to Chelsea. Force play out wide and have them rely on crosses when none of their players are good at heading the ball.

    It’s ironic that when we had Giroud, we played the ball on the ground a lot more and he often missed a lot of the beautiful chances we set up. Now, we’re playing the ball in the air when we don’t have a player like Giroud and are often missing the beautiful lofted crosses that we send in. Classic Arsenal!

  • Hey HH all good mate. Just because I call it a restoration project it doesnt mean I am not suffering like you and many others at times. I think the real disappoint came from the losses v Villa and Wolves. Not scoring against the Spuds is utterly possible (the Chavs and Blue Mancs) did the same. I believe in Arteta and that it is an iterative process for him. Learning the hard way it seems!

    I think as soon as we are going to play the big teams in Europe, Arteta will be much more cautious than he has been until now. So yes we play better in Europe right now and some of that play could be implemented in the PL. I really feel we will soon see progress and look back at this time as a hard but necessary process.

  • Highbury Harmony, I agree with Giroud we hardly crossed and Wenger i remember said about the huge pitch we have in emirates was to have wingers crossing. During this time, we always had the ball on the floor and made it a habbit to walk the ball into the net so to speak. But i just cannot understand that there is nobody who wants to shoot from distance or make a first time pass to release forwards. Its not this game which was difficult as Suprs played deep but other games for sure.

  • TA, the Leicester game was equally suffocating and difficult to watch. To not escape that match with at least a point was criminal. The problem is that Arteta is starting to out think himself and it’s playing perfectly into the hands of other managers (exactly what he’s hoping not to do if any one can even follow at this point hahaha).

    I’m hopeful that he’ll learn but he continues to make the same mistakes over and over again, which is not promising to say the least 😦

  • Thanks for the link, HH, that was a good read. It was somewhat funny that Nick Wright wrote it before the Spurs game, yet it did turn out as ‘predicted’: we managed to break our crossing record.
    I think the author found a crisp was to summarize it (at least from my point of view): “Often, it appears Arteta’s men are instructed to wait for openings to appear rather than seek them out themselves. They are passive rather than proactive”. This is exactly what I meant when complained about feeling like I was watching a handball game. A lot of safe, precise, short side passes, not only in midfield but in attack (against a prepared defense) too.
    I also agree with one of the main conclusions: “…little will change until Arteta’s side start moving the ball quicker as a team, and learn to use the middle of the pitch as well as the flanks”.

    However I agree with TA, that Xhaka does not do his things wrong, that is what’s been asked from him. He is capable to do much more, as we could see in the UEFA Nation’s League, where he plays for Switzerland (a team I think is weaker than Arsenal from a player-to-player comparison point of view) and performed well against Spain and Germany (teams that are probably stronger than any clubs).

    Regarding the EL games, I know I’m being harsh and I have a bad conscience when I say that, but these are bloody training games. Not necessarily in general, but our group is really very weak. These matches are good to get some confidence and earn some experience for the team, formation and tactics, but totally unsuitable to draw any conclusion on what to do and who should play in Premier League games.

  • Thanks for the review TA.
    Tierney did his job well. Saka? He’s full of effort and energy– but he lacks quality in his passing in the final third. Can’t tell you how many times this season I’ve buried my face in my hands on his choices, mistimed passes or crosses-in to him that have careened everywhere but toward the goal.

    To echo what Kev mentioned in the previous post and that PB pointed out here? We need an Oliver Giroud. Or just a reasonable facsimile. Play Gabriel or Mari up front if we are going to whiz in 25 crosses a game. Almost guarantee a goal or two by doing so.

    All jesting aside? Whenever a team I’ve coached or captained had gotten away from things we’d had success with– I’d found it helpful to return to those basics. Arteta’s team had a streak of successes over the Summer with a style of play and certain players involved. Arteta began to believe there were no wrong moves. After 3 consecutive wins to open the season? He started tinkering. Sitting Lacazette after 3 straight scoring games? Who does that? Why isn’t AMN in the first XI? Why is Bellerin still in? Why aren’t we pressing anymore? Why are we not running to close out an opposing player with the ball? These are basics we were doing consistently since the restart– through the third match of this season. What the heck happened?

    This was going to be a year of hits and misses– while a foundation was being built. Arterta could bring this group of players along and keep switching out players over time. Felt I knew what the plan was to bring in Willian and resign Luiz. This was a gap year. Where we have a number of potentially good to great youth players– who needed direction and experience present to help give them a leg up to become solid professionals. I’m sure he felt he’d upgraded with players like Willian and moving Saka into a wing position– but it’s changed the dynamic of how the team operated and what the expectations were of anyone who stepped on the pitch.

    There was always going to be a ceiling with this group of players. Mikel has failed to recognize that. He made the team as good as it could be based on the available talent and superb tactics. He’s now trying to force players into roles and a style that don’t suit the level of talent.

    There is not a way forward with how the team is directed to play at present. Mikel Arteta has to revert to the style– and the players– that allowed the team to flourish in the Summer.

    Basically? Start over.


  • “I’m hopeful that he’ll learn but he continues to make the same mistakes over and over again, which is not promising to say the least” – I told exactly this 2 games ago, HH, but it came down as trying to be smarter than Arteta, and that he surely understands and had already addressed the problem. Well… let’s hope for it, but if we will face a real opponent in the EL and fail to go through (let’s not forget, we fell out last season after a home defeat against Olympiakos Piraeus, hardly an ATM/Chelsea level opponent) than further fans will turn against Mikel.

  • I think the key word is ‘seems’, HH. What if he believes in a certain system or way of playing but is not getting it exactly right. Like trying to stop a leak in the roof, he keeps putting gum on tiny holes he believes could be the cause of the leak? We can call it stubborn and maybe he is? Or maybe it is a matter of persevering, at least for now. I am sure if Klopp or Guardiola were at Arsenal they would also want to persevere until they get it right…

  • PB, on the Europa League point. It’s only true until you try it and it doesn’t work in the league. What we’re doing in the league right now, clearly is not working and we are an identity-less team that:
    1. Does not tackle (last in the league for tackles per game and tackles won)
    2. Does not press (19th in the league in pressures per game)
    3. Does not shoot (18th in the league in shots per game)
    4. Does not create chances (17th in the league in chances created and chances created per game, also tied 18th for slowest in build up and 20th for most touches in own half).

    The EL players are offering more than the current league players are, which needs to be rewarded in some way, at least to the players that are not as green (Mainsley and Elneny). I’m not advocating for a full youth integration since you can see there’s clearly a gap in readiness (Willock, ESR etc.). When your league players are consistently not performing, there have to be some level of consequence or belief that you earn your playing time. Otherwise, it’s just complacency and a lack of motivation to perform better than you are.

  • Cheers JW, great insights.

    Re Saka, he tries to play football and get into the box with the ball and then find his pass (which is different from TIerney of course). Saka looks for quality passes and crosses and he is very good at it. But this is his second season and things are expected of him despite his young age, so I get the criticism. Yet I thought he was a phenomenal last night.

  • TA, I would agree with you except that we’re not doing anything well right now (aside from crosses per game lately, but we could honestly cross 100 more times and still probably not score). At least with Klopp and Guardiola, you could clearly see what they were trying to do in their transition years with new clubs – at Arsenal, I’m not exactly sure what Arteta wants to do at this point unless his plan is to go all out in January to acquire a target man and a creative player that will suddenly unlock everything?

    It seems a bit unsustainable to have an attacking strategy that is so reliant on crosses when you don’t have a target man or one that completely negates the center of the pitch unless you have a creative player. There’s more that can be done to maximize the skill sets of the players we have, Arteta just has to be willing to put them in positions to succeed (i.e. Willian is no longer suited for the wing, try him central!).

  • Yes HH, we all have ideas of how to do it better and they could all make a difference. But Liverpool don’t score many headers and yet they put in a hell of a lot of crosses and score from them. SO I see it all as a work in progress and also a lack of form and confidence by Auba, Laca and yes also Willian. I remain really positive about this squad and genuinely feel that the next two months will be much better. And once we have momentum and confidence again… the season could turn out to be a good one.

  • What happened to the coach who was bought in specifically for Set pieces not for defending but for dead balls and corners. Cant remember the last time we scored through a free kick. Why dont we look at other team’s players and players from championships, people like Ward Prowse, Ollie Watkins, Patrick Bamford, Grealish etc. Spurs got Højbjerg, Pool got Jotta and look at their performance. We are still looking at overseas players. Nobody would come in Jan but we should have seriously looked at them during Summer.

  • You know, Madhu, a few wins and people will say that about our players again. We have the players to do well…. we just need to get some momentum again. It will come soon.

  • Hope so TA, otherwise weekends are getting miserable :). Missus might curse even further. We cant even say Europa league may be the competition we are likely to Win, we will have to beat Spurs for that as well 🙂

  • Despite what the journos told us we pretty much played with a back 4. When Tierney & Bellerin were up the pitch playing as wingers this left us with 2 at the back. That’s not sensible unless there is cover from midfield. Neither Xhaka nor Partey provided that cover. Against pacey forwards that’s asking for the inevitable.

    Watching the players sweep forward and get caught on the break I wonder if that’s the instruction from Arteta? If not the players are wilfully abandoning their positions in an amateur way. Either way you can’t play like that and expect to come away with a win.

    As you pointed out Bellerin was exposed defensively for both goals. This isn’t a recent phenomenon. Aston Villa and Wolves both attacked the space he vacated. If he can’t affect the game going forward he needs to be given the chop for a while. Is Cedric really that poor? Possibly, but then Raul’s deals have a lot to answer for. So it has to be AMN then…

  • Cheers Pete, Pool play with three in midfield to allow the full backs to bomb forward and provide extra width. They also dare to push up properly and thus support the attackers much more. And yes when Bellerin goes and Partey joins the attack there is a enormous hole behind them. I hoped for Xhaka, Partey and Elneny in midfield and not to go out and attack…

  • TA, Liverpool have a bunch of mobile players that are able to recover their positions if they have their players supporting the attack. For all of Xhaka’s strengths, mobility is certainly not one, which leaves us incredibly exposed on the counter. If you’re committing bodies forward to break down a block, then you better be sure as hell you have players who have the pace to recover their positions from those central positions. If Arteta should not have attacked and wanted to absorb pressure and spring the counter with long balls, then Xhaka would have been a better fit.

    Imho, if you’re going to commit bodies forward, you need to have a midfield three of Partey, Elneny and Mainsley. All three add a level of dynamism we currently don’t have and if we’re not going to create from central positions like we play right now (with Ceballos and Xhaka), then we might as well go to Pool route in just having industrious CMs that bomb up and down the pitch to create organized chaos with their runs and interplay with the fullbacks and wingers.

  • Cheers HH, I am not sure that Henderson or Milner are more dynamic than XhakA. I think he has our left side of defence covered with Gab and Tierney.

  • TA, Milner does not start for Pool most games. Their midfield is generally three of Wijnaldum, Thiago, Fabinho, Naby Keita, Ox and Henderson. If you put Henderson and Xhaka in a foot race, I guarantee you that Henderson would blow Xhaka out of the water. Xhaka has the left side of the defense covered in the sense that he’s good at strategic fouls I guess – there’s a reason why there’s numerous tik tok videos of Xhaka getting abused on the turn by opponent after opponent (it hit an all-time high vs. Wolves).

    Again, I’m not trying to say Xhaka doesn’t have his strengths. It’s just the way we’re progressing to how we want to play doesn’t suit his style of play. He’s at his best in a counter attacking side that sits deep and where you need someone to dictate counters from deep to spring the attack.

  • I agree with the latter part, HH. Xhaka is now being played much deeper by Arteta and together with not playing Elneny anymore that is not a good decision by Arteta, I believe. But my main point is that Xhaka is not the issue right now.

  • TA, I agree that Xhaka is not the sole issue right now. Arteta has players playing tactics that are not suited to their game. It’s also our poor transfer strategy over the past 5-10 years that is costing us because we have a bunch of players that don’t fit a particular playing style/strategy.

  • Hi all… without reading all the comments yet, I want to give my first reactions, straight without much composition.

    We all expected and discussed here, a war of attrition all week. Both teams staying tight and playing on the counter. Mainly because there is no choice against a determined Mourinho. If you don’t do that, you are pulling a Wenger and will get a Wenger result. Inexplicable that Mikel didn’t go that way. I expected more practical planning.

    Why, why of all weeks wouldn’t he start Elneny? I said all season that though I don’t think he’s a great player, I’d use him against top teams for solidity and energy. Not only should he have started, but I would have told him to shadow Kane all day. I really expected that to be done by Arteta since he is very detailed on assignments. Kane is a major danger in midfield and as provider, incredibly effective part of his game now.

    Partey made a stupid player mistake…, if you absolutely feel you have to come off, sit down on the pitch. That likely cost us a goal. Parteys fault, not Artetas.

    I have been in the “trust the plan” group all along. But am not afraid to criticize. I know we are missing a creative midfielder, but this crossing obsession is ridiculous, and it’s sapping all of our players of their creativity. It becomes a habit, and mental laziness also….. PB gave the stat.. 44 crosses yesterday, 8 connecting with a gunner head or foot….

    Why would you do that after last Sunday.? 35 crosses touching 4 times. You would think that performance alone would make you want to try something different. I don’t have the stats for all the games but It ain’t pretty. Yes I have been complaining about it for a while. North London Crossers.

    I won’t even get into what you guys have said about not having the correct forwards for that style game. ……. I’ll be honest, Auba and Laca are seasoned professional strikers, and they do score headed goals at times, though it’s not their specialty.
    Even if we had Giroud in the lineup, I think this is horrible football and I don’t want to watch it. Try something different. I know it’ll never happen, but this garbage is why some people call for Ozil to be brought back in. That ship has sailed.

    ….. one more thing, re watch the 1st goal. Bellerin goes forward and puts in a (not even really a cross because was more diagonal and farther out) lob into the box, as he did it I was throwing my hands up in frustration! There was a 1% chance of a good connection, better odds on a hail Mary in the NFL, so obvious, a waste of possession with an impotent ineffectual play. This is why I say this habit is making our guys lazy and poor footballers. So of course they hit us on the counter, Bellerin was late sprinting back, Holding had to keep an eye on the player advancing in Hectors position… this is why he didnt get closer to Son. Hector came sliding in too late.

    This alone is a reason to start AMN at rb. Light a fire under Bellerin. If an injury occurs to our midfield in the game, Ainsley can move over in a pinch. If not, then get him in midfield, get us a little pace and hunger, it might even help creativity. What’s the downside? I almost forgot to mention throw ins…..
    Besides foul throws, all season, Hector throws the ball in to the opposition, again yesterday. But all of our players are struggling to find a teammate on throw ins, all season I’ve noticed. I don’t see any other team struggle this way, and I watch a lot of other games to see attractive football. How sad is that to say??? Other teams must have picked up on it and are pressing even more. Mikel, you’re a tough guy… so make them do extra training on that. Embarrassing but necessary.

    I’ve been feeling for a while that our guys are forgetting how to play football. First it was nailing down the defensive part, I totally understood and appreciated that. Now it’s a lack of ideas and I am blaming the coach more than the players. This kind of stuff makes me waver in faith in Arteta.

  • HH, I think you may be right re bad connection between style of play and available players. Still a bit early for me to come to that conclusion for me, but it is not looking that good right now.

  • Just wanted to say in theory, there are three ways to break down a low block, generally most are from wide areas:

    1. Crosses into the box
    2. Cutbacks from wide positions
    3. Movement to pull defenders out of position (usually overlapping and underlapping runs)

    In order to do #1 effectively, you either need a target man (like Giroud) to capitalize or at least be a threat (we don’t have one) or swing in a mix of fast, low and early crosses before the defense is set (we don’t do this).

    #2 was the classic Emery specialty and we only did it on two occasions yesterday but a dogged Laca could not get onto the end of the chance from Bellerin and Auba did not make the right run into the box on the other.

    #3 only happens if you have an ultra athletic midfield that understands the soft spots in the low block and how to capitalize on the half spaces (Mainsley is the only midfielder we have that can do this, along with Partey if he’s paired with a fairly mobile DM like Elneny).

    As you can see, we have not been doing any of the above lately, which is why we have still not been able to solve this puzzle. Of course, having a world class creator that is confident and skilled enough to play those incisive passes in central areas helps, but your attacking players still need to make the correct runs (not to mention that a good low block essentially eliminates the central creator all together).

    The answer then, is to coach your team on a combination of all three of the above, in order to provide some level of unpredictability in your attack. Liverpool, for instance, do #1, 2 and 3 exceptionally well, which allows them to often succeed against the low block. City do #2 and 3 well.

  • This is a very inspiring thread with a hell lot of wisdom and even creativity in many comments.

  • TA, feel free to use that as a post if it’s inspiring enough and would be good food for thought for others 😉

  • I really enjoyed the post Total even if I thought that you was a little generous with the marks.

    After some reflection and reading/listening to others commenting it seems to me that the consensus from those not spouting Arteta out is that we went with the wrong tactics and got mugged, I mean you only had to see how Chelsea faced up to Tottenham with Lampard well aware of how Mourinho wanted him to play and therefore doing the exact opposite and taking the 0-0 instead of being dumb and letting yourself get mugged off as was the case with Arteta.

    Arteta is young and inexperienced and both those traits are coming to the fore, he needs help and he needs advice from calm and wise heads, wise heads like Steve Round who was the assistant to David Moyes at both Everton and Man Utd. Then there’s Albert Stuivenberg who coached at Feyenoord, Genk and Molenbeek whilst also coaching the Dutch U17’s, but I wonder if both of them have enough nouse to help or are in over their heads as well?

    I won’t lie because I’m very concerned, I think that Arteta will be a great manager but I wonder if the Arsenal job is becoming too big for him? He’s had a lot to contend with, picking up the pieces from Emery, who funnily enough is doing well in Spain now, then there was the lockdown, coaching by video conference call and then our cup run, no pre season and a transfer window that leaves a lot of questions, Tim Lewis and the departure of Raul, absent owners continuing to be an issue, the toxin that is Mesut Ozil, then we have the Saliba situation both in terms of his loan and non loan and now him sitting in limbo, it’s all a bit messy and it makes me wonder how much help and good advice Arteta is getting?

    And where is Edu in all this because I’d imagine that he has been helping guide Arteta during this period and in particular with some of our transfer business, Edu is Teflon, he escaped the Raul purge even though he was involved and he’s now the main man, our Director of Football, but he’s doing a good impersonation of how Ivan Gazides disappeared when Arsene Wenger was under pressure a few years ago.

    No wonder Chips Keswick got out when he did…

  • Yes Total, like you I think that the major issue with Aubameyang is confidence, he needs badly to score a few goals, but it’s a damning comment on the rest of our team that we are relying so much on one player to score our goals.

    I know it’s unlikely but I wonder if giving Auba an hour against Dundalk might help, see him score a couple of goals and help restore his confidence. He’d probably enjoy playing with our Europa team in any case as they attack with pace and always seem to look to move the ball forward rather than the endless recycling of our EPL team.

  • GN5 it’s an interesting fact that Arsenal haven’t conceded from a corner this season so the hard work on our defence seems to be paying off.

    I wonder if three at the back would have prevented both the Totts goals on Sunday and maybe if Leno hadn’t taken that step to his right prior to Son shooting he might have just got his fingers to the Koreans shot?

  • I think that Xhaka misses having wingback AMN alongside him, using his pace to support Granit, as for Bellerin, he’s expected to do too much down the right with absolutely no support from either Pepe or Willian, no wonder he looks so exposed…

  • Totes I’m a little concerned with Saka, he’s been getting a lot of rough treatment recently and although he’s a strong boy I also remember how strong a certain Jack Wilshere was as a teenager. Jack was unfortunately not protected properly by Arsene Wenger, he was overplayed a too young an age and no doubt picked up many injuries due to fatigue when he should have been taken out of the firing line to protect him. Saka needs to be protected from himself because it’s clear that he wants to play all the time and therefore Arteta has to put his own situation to one side and take care of this young jewel that we have and want to enjoy for many years to come.

    When you have a player like Niles who can do a similar job it seems crazy to play Bukayo all the time whilst not utilising Niles…

  • Kev, I like your point about Saka. We have 2 young players, one overused and one underused. Give the latter more minutes to see if there’s a big drop off in quality. Might see him flourish at wingback/winger with more opportunities. Again, becauae of his versatility, he can always be moved to another position of we want to bring Saka on late.

  • TA, I remembered a fourth way to break a low block. I can revise and send to you tomorrow if that works?

  • Not sure whether Saka has been overplayed, Kev. He doesn’t play midweek so should be fine. AMN is a different sort of player, but he should also get more playing time. He should aim to replace XhakA more and more and that may be the plan.

  • Maybe start by giving Maitland Niles more games in midfield in the Europa and League Cup?

    Man City is going to be a tough encounter, I wonder what state we’ll be in when they rock up?
    Guardiola won’t go with a young side he wants to win everything.

    I get the feeling Total that you seem to think that Xhaka is coming to the end of his time as an Arsenal player? I’m not sure myself, I think that Arteta still likes him but with his contract running until 2023 the club maybe has to make a decision this summer.

    Looking at the guys whose deals expire in 2022 I wonder who the club will stick or twist with as well this summer, it’s a massive summer in that regard.

    The boys of ‘22

    Chambers: extend contract or sell?
    Nketiah: extend contract or sell?
    Lacazette: last chance hotel if we want to sell.
    Elneny: extend or sell? (I’d extend)
    Kolasinac: last chance hotel again.
    Guendouzi: a year is a long time in football but I see no evidence of him reforming so sell.
    Iliev: sell.
    Hein: extend or sell?
    Lewis, Akinola and Lopez are all in the development stage.

  • Regarding Saka, I just want to see us take him out of the firing line occasionally because he’s still growing Total, I guess I just worry to much. 😉

    You know, give Nelson some more minutes. Let them share the minutes?

    J, this Thursday will be an eye opener if word on the street is correct and Arteta is going full academy in the game vs Dundalk. One thing you can guarantee is pace, one touch and aggressive attacking football and a glimpse into what Arteta really wants from his squad.

  • Here are the selections for this weekends games.

    Wolves v Villa
    Newcastle v W.B.A
    Man U v Man C
    Everton v Chelsea
    Arsenal v Burnley
    Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid

  • Hello, people.

    I won’t write a usual long comment. I will just say two things:

    I don’t see why Arteta is at fault for either goal we conceded.

    The first goal was a long-range effort, perfectly taken by Son. Bellerin & Willian (right now things really look B&W for us!) didn’t do their job well and that’s why Holding was left in a no-man’s land when it comes to dealing with Son.

    For the second goal, it was literally a split-second thing between our forward (was it Auba?) receiving the ball properly in the Spurs’ box and making it 1-1 and start of their counter-attack. Sadly, once they opened a counter-attack 4 v 2, with Thomas getting injured again, there was only one possible outcome.

    Which leads me to another question: what the f..k has happened with our shooting?

    I hate to do this but take a look at Salah, Mane (previous seasons), Son or Kane. When they take a shot, it’s half of the goal already made. Our players either are scared to take a shot or mishit the ball/pick the wrong type of shot.

  • “I wonder if three at the back would have prevented both the Totts goals on Sunday and maybe if Leno hadn’t taken that step to his right prior to Son shooting he might have just got his fingers to the Koreans shot?”

    Been preaching how Arteta needed to revert to a 3-5-2 for a few weeks now. Like yourself Kev– I feel had there been another defender at the back– then Bellerin might have been able to contend with Son before he entered the final third. Instead Hector was in overdrive running to the 18 yard line to become that box defender. Where, of course, he promptly slipped and Mustafied himself.

    Three. At. The. Back. Mikel.
    Back to basics. Back to Summer’s tactics.


  • Thanks again GN5!

    Wolves v Villa = Away
    Newcastle v W.B.A = Home
    Man U v Man C = Away
    Everton v Chelsea = Away
    Arsenal v Burnley = Home
    Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid = Away


  • Admir, I agree with you that the first goal is not Arteta’s fault. (Nor is it Holdings, I – as a goalkeeper – would encourage the defenders to let them shoot from distance. We will concede a goal about 1 in 30, but I would take my chances.)
    The second goal is Arteta’s fault only in the meaning of him rushing Partey to return, or not having a substitution before half time if he saw Thomas was in distress. But you are right, there are more embarrassing things in life (and in football) than to concede in 2 vs 5.
    Where I feel Arteta has some responsibility is the misaligned tactics where – in spite of our 69% ball possession – managed to make only 2 shots on goal. If we had 12 shots on target but only manage to score 1 goal, than we can ‘blame’ it on the inspired goalkeeper, the nonclinical strikers or mere bad luck.
    Our defense wasn’t particularly great, but was far from disastrous. Our attack was; in line with the (attacking) performance in the last several PL games. And I don’t refer only the lack of goals scored (1 in the last 6) but the lack of chances as well.

  • Here are the predictions for this weekends games.

    Wolves v Villa = A
    Newcastle v W.B.A = H
    Man U v Man C = A
    Everton v Chelsea = A
    Arsenal v Burnley = H
    Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid = A

  • Unrelated to the current post, but Arsenal U21 is playing tonight in the Papa John’s Trophy ( And we play with a surprisingly strong squad there:
    Hein; Alebiosu, Sokratis, Saliba, Lopez; Akinola, Azeez; Cirjan, Cottrell, Martinelli; Moller.

  • Wolves v Villa = H
    Newcastle v W.B.A = D
    Man U v Man C = D
    Everton v Chelsea = D
    Arsenal v Burnley = D
    Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid = D

  • Just seen some info regarding the Papa John Trophy and Arsenal lost 3-0 at AFC Wimbledon, having Tim Akinola and William Saliba sent off. That’s the bad news!

    The good news is the return of Gabriel Martinelli who played 45 minutes – now I wonder if he’ll go with the squad to Dundalk? 5 subs, a 15/20 minute cameo at the end of the tie perhaps?

    Cottrell and Azeez also both withdraw with possible their senior debuts in Ireland pending?

    Apparently Saliba was harshly treated by a very average referee but had played very well before his 2nd yellow card, from what I read he wins the ball and quickly moves to progress it with snappy passes. Positive…

    Akinola played well but then was dropped in it by the goalkeeper who playing out from the back put him in the brown stuff and he got sacked – which led to the first goal.
    Akinola then lost his composure and got himself sent off by the pedantic man in the middle, a case of youthful enthusiasm. Don’t worry, he’ll learn to be cynical, they all do.

    Finally for those older readers, Kenny Sansom has just had a brain operation and touch wood it seems to be that our old left back is on the mend. A bit of a tortured soul is our Kenny!

    Seems like only yesterday when I was watching him making his debut at the Hawthorns back in the days of disco and wide lapels. 🙂

  • Nice writeup Kev. Agree with what I saw of Saliba in the recent match vs Derby.
    Even had some skill dribbling into midfield on occasion.


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