Eight Positive Arsenal Developments and the One Big Elephant on The Pitch

It has been very good since our win over Chelsea: some good football at times, five wins and a draw in all competitions, 2.2 goals scored per game and just one conceded. Something to build on and now we will face a number of challenging games and I bet the boys are looking forward to it, such is the hunger and confidence at the moment. How will we do against the likes of Southampton, Man United, Wolves etc? As always, we should only focus on one game at a time (OGAAT), but that does not mean we cannot look at the team and make a general statement about the strength of it. I have noticed a number of developments in the team which I would like to share with you. Please add yours if you can think of anymore.

Eight Positive Developments at Arsenal

  1. The first development is that after many seasons we now finally have real quality CBs… and there is competition. A good PL team needs a solid pair of CBs and Arteta can choose from four players: Luiz, Holding, Gabriel and Mari (and Chambers?). They are all fit now and eager to play and you tell me what the best pairing is! Many will exclude Luiz if they can but if he is surrounded by the right players he still has lots to offer. My favourite pairing is probably Holding-Gabriel but I have also really liked Mari’s no-nonsense and committed performances. This is a beautiful headache for Mikel and long may it continue.
  2. The second development is the balance we now have in midfield. Elneny has been fantastic in recent weeks and no doubt this is down to Arteta’s coaching. It takes a former midfielder to get the best out of his midfielders and I have no doubt that Arteta and Elneny get on very well. Xhaka is also one of his favourites and together they form a more than decent deep-midfield pair. But now, finally, Arteta can add Partey to the mix and he does offer something different. So, a good midfield can become a great one. Left-footed Xhaka and right-footed Partey seems to be the strongest combination, with Elneny a very good back-up for either of them. This should allow a youngster to try and claim the fourth spot, but neither Willock or AMN seem to have convinced Mikel that they have what it takes to fill one of these crucial positions in the team as yet. It would not surprise me if Arteta were to buy another left-footed defensive midfielder in the next six months or so but really hope that he doesn’t need to.
  3. The third development is the one we have been most enthusiastic about: the emergence of the three super youngsters, Martinelli, ESR and Saka. Okay we already knew how good Martinelli and Saka are from the previous campaign, but together with ESR they really have stepped up a level. Martinelli is so hungry and desperate to play and score; you totally sense that nothing else matters to him at the moment. ESR has been dancing on the pitch with the ball whilst always keeping his head up when it matters. Saka – the Silk – has been so graceful and powerful and he can just play anywhere where he is needed on the pitch… and that for a boy born just days before the 9/11 attack – yes that is how young he is! These three are loved by the whole team and they have great masters to learn from, and together they provide the team with the much needed energy. Without this sort of joy and existential energy nothing of note happens.
  4. The fourth development is the emergence of two equally dangerous wings. With Xhaka and Partey we can feed both wings with both defensive and attacking support. They both are very strong positionally and read the game so well. They are quick passers and can play the long ball well too. This allows the full backs to work with the advanced midfielders in a really effective way. ESR can help out on each wing and so we can increase the numbers when we are attacking on the wings. Auba/Martinelli and Tierney on the left and Saka/Willian and Bellerin/Soares on the right have been making a lot of progress in recent games. Hector’s attacking contributions remain under par but Saka’s plays well with the loyal Spaniard. Soares played really well v the Barcodes and he may actually be the stronger option for the right full back position. But the most important thing is that we can now spread our attacks and become less predictable.
  5. The fifth development is the rebirth of Alexander Lacazette. I must admit I didn’t think this would be possible anymore. He revels in the ‘free CF’ role for which he has the engine and right attitude. His link up play has been impressive and he always keeps defenders busy. I also really like his desire to get stuck in and get bruised. The only problem is that no other attacker seems to be able to play that role, other than Martinelli possibly. We are seeing less of Eddie at the moment and I wonder whether the new formation and style of play is something he can adapt to. I hope so as Eddie is a great lad who cares for the shirt (and his imaginary phone 🙂 ).
  6. The sixth development is the growing maturity of Bernd Leno. I think he really is benefiting from the strength of the CBs in front of him and the 4-2-3-1 formation. We play so much more solid now and hardly give anything away anymore, so Bernd can be calm and focused on the moments he needs to make the difference. He has made some superb saves recently, and you can tell that attackers are fearing him now. His distribution has much improved since last season too. The big elephant on the pitch is of course who is going to replace him if and when he is unavailable. This surely is our big priority this January.
  7. The seventh development is the Auba-Partey link up. Balls over the top from the right from right-footed Partey could just make the difference for Auba. Okay it is early days, but I sense that Auba will be more effective when the ball is played like that, as he can make the first touch with his left foot and can watch the pass all the way. Luiz, Tierney and Xhaka have all tried to supply Auba from the left with their left feet but it didn’t really work well until now. Auba is best when given the ball in space and the more he can be launched the better.
  8. The eighth development is the youth involvement. Paradoxically, because of the high level performances of young Guns ESR and Saka in particular, the bar has got higher and the likes of AMN, Willock, Eddie and Nelson are currently struggling to make the grade with Arteta. So they will have to work even harder but I have no doubt that they will get a fair chance. This may mean that one or two should go out on loan, which should never be seen as a punishment or demotion but simply as a good opportunity to grow somewhere a bit more suited to them at this stage of their footie careers. We are also blessed with more good youngsters coming through and Arteta may well feel that it is time for one or two (temporary) promotions. But there is no doubt in my mind that Arteta will give the youngsters a chance; how couldn’t he after the new life the team and he were given by Saka, ESR and Martinelli?!

By TotalArsenal.

40 thoughts on “Eight Positive Arsenal Developments and the One Big Elephant on The Pitch

  • Before getting into todays post, from yesterday, great stat comment from my boy Kev about the players that cost over 70 mil. Really interesting. Mostly disappointing. Kepa was by far the worst. After just a couple games i thought whoever pulled the trigger should have been fired. In our case, the Pepe culprit was fired, and it seems it was a little bit of corruption and club money spread around in a disloyal way.

    Total, your points 5 and 6 especially… Lacazette, we always rated as a good, professional striker, who we thought was underrated by most… but he was almost ruined by Arteta to a point where we almost gave up on him. I like Arteta, but he is no genius, no matter what he goes on to achieve as a manager. I say this because playing Lacazette as a number 10, or false 9, however you classify it, made no sense, and was awful to watch for too many games, and almost ruined the spirit of the player and the rest of the attack. Now, around the opponents box with proper interplay with teammates, it’s like a rebirth, and a rediscovery of Laca.

    Leno. Since he has been here, he never cost us any points, and saved us so many in the wild west of Emerys changing tactics and set ups. I never forgot that, and always had his back even with the emergence of the excellent Martinez.

    Best for last… point 2. Xhaka, Partey, and Ceballos looking great in a properly functioning midfield. Nobody gives much credit to Ceballos because he’s a loan we expect not to buy, but I appreciate every tackle and effort he puts in for this team, even if it’s just as a temp worker.

    I still find it kind of odd the over estimation of ElNenys importance here, and I’m waiting for the day I click on my favorite site and blog name pops up as changed to Elnenyesque. 🤣

  • Good one TA, Agree with all your points, but want to make 3 of my own.
    1. It will now be fascinating to watch on how Martinelli is integrated into this team. Honestly that’s a mystery now, will he play down the left or center? We will have to see on how this proceeds and that will add another bow to our arrow. Its going to be really exciting to observe. Hope he remains fit as there are many crucial bunch of games that are coming on the way.
    2. Looking at how ESR is performing, iam extremely upset on what has transpired with Mesut. We don’t know what’s happened behind the scenes. Where its upsetting is that we are piling pressure on ESR as there are no one who plays like him in the team. Imagine if Mesut had been given ESR to mentor, take him under his wings. That would have meant that we could have given ESR some rest. Looking at the games that are coming along, its criminal to expect ESR performing at this level and playing every minute. Without him in the team we are toast. The footballing intelligence of this kid is staggering and is reminiscent of Fabregas. What a cerebral football player. I will draw a parallel to Indian Cricket team to see what is the value of a legend mentoring the young guns. India won a series against Australia in Gabba the fortress with a Third Choice team under a stand-in captain. The reason is the work done behind the scenes from the legend Rahul Dravid. His meticulous planning as coach of Under 19s and A team to mentor the supply line. Each one of the player who performed in the Gabba test was his lads from his under-19 and A team. Its criminal of both Mesut and Arteta to waste a chance at creating a legacy with thier silly ego. Mesut may be a great player, but not a legend. A legend will know exactly when to gracefully hand the baton.
    3. The partnership between Xhaka and Partey is exciting. Partey is again from a different world. Its staggering to see how we had such a clear path of getting him. He played the game probably in second gear. What a player and with him now we have the ability to be menacing on both flanks. We are now playing with a footballing intelligence that i haven’t seen from this team. Just hope that Partey remains fit.
    Really exciting times and with games fast approaching, just hope we stay mentally fit and play the game not only on the pitch but in the mind as well.

  • Agree absolutely, except I don’t think bellerin played that bad, he contributed quite a bit when he came on, he cuts in a lot more; u can say he s a bit more choosy in his time to bomb forward unlike when he was young because of his sense of responsibility of defense. Soares has been overly hyped because of just one game! If U recalls his previous games, too predictable in blind crossing and can’t beat opponents one on one. Maybe chambers should play before him. Bellerin is still my first choice rb. Fans need to give him the right support to help him rediscover his passion for the club.

  • Cheers J, it is well noted here how big a fan you are of Ceballos. The boy has a good future ahead of him because of his attitude and eye for a deadly pass. I just don’t see him as a DM in our setup.

    You have always been a Lenoist, and one day he will thank you! 🙂

  • Madhu, great comment. Spot on re Martinelli who can probably play anywhere upfront even in ESR’s position. The boy is so hungry he could wat a football.

    Mesut is as good as gone and Arteta made the decision most likely based on non conformism by the German. We can talk about it another time. Love the Cricket analogy. That must have been a great match to watch.

  • Agreed, TA
    I think you could’ve added the Saliba/Sokratis/Mesut situation sorted out (I’m not talking about the way it was sorted out); as the “Independent” article about Mesut suggests, in the end his presence must have weighed heavy on the minds of everyone at Colney
    I would have taken off the question mark after Calum’s name – I really like him a lot, as a CB, but also as a versatile player (he can deputize in the RB and DM positions – and be very good at it, we don’t have that many players who can do that). He’s still young, actually he’s entering the best period of a defender’s career; what happens to him at the moment is a reminder of how hard it has become nowadays to fully recover after a serious injury, I hope the club’ll be as patient with him as they’ve been with Rob/Hector.
    I’m very happy to see Laca start a “second career” at The Arsenal – I think some brilliant things he does go unnoticed too often, because he makes them look so simple, like this delightful touch for Thomas that ended up with Auba’s first goal Monday. Now, he could, and should be more lethal in the box, he should definitely be on the scoresheet at the end of games like Monday’s. As for his backup, I keep thinking the best one is … Folarin, but there’s no news (neither good nor bad) on that front.
    Anyway, there are many things to make an Arsenal fan happy, right now. Come saturday, we’ll be entering the season’s “moment(s) of truth”. Successful or not, by the end of February, we’ll know among which ones 2020/2021 stands. COYG

  • Hi Michael, good shout for Bellerin. He is Mr Arsenal and always gives his all. Soares seldom plays in the A Team but when he does he looks good. Can we improve in this position by going out to market? I think we can.

  • Hey Legal, Ca va Bien?

    We have seen so little of Chambers this season, is he even fit? I agree he is versatile.

    Balogun as cover for Laca sounds realistic. Hopefully Arteta and the club can keep him.

    Agree with you that the letting go of players will have a good impact.

  • LG, I’ve seen that picture before or similar a few months ago regarding the field of taxis, it’s not surprising because if there’s no work out there then the drivers, or many, will return their cabs. The garages then stops insuring the vehicles and then look to find somewhere to park the uninsured cabs which is what I think we have in that picture given the number plates that I can see. I won’t rattle on too long (thank God I hear you cry) but many cabbies have other trades and have probably returned to them during lockdown.

    I thought that the guy from the Independent gave a fair assessment of the age of Ozil in North London.
    Compare his departure with the class Sokratis has shown during his.

  • Interesting point on the eventual future of Martinelli by Madhu, for myself I’ve always seen him as a centre forward because of his physicality, hold up play and finishing ( that boy is good with his barnet ).
    We currently have so many talented youngsters that I believe the club has almost every squad issue covered with an internal solution.

    Is that right Total, J is a Leninist, strewth I would never have guessed, ‘come the revolution’… 😄

  • Yep, Kev, the Independent article was definitely more balanced than the Guardian’s – and I liked the Zola/Silva allusion at the end of it, that’s probably exactly where Mesut belongs
    Rattle away, mate – I found the article interesting, it’s the kind of stuff I would have used with some classes (with the link about “The Knowledge” exam) before my retirement days

  • How’s the situation in France these days LG, is the State rolling out the vaccine in any numbers yet?

  • @allezkev, i agree with you on Martinelli’s eventual position. I would like to see him as the central striker, but i suspect Arteta sees him on the Left of front three. The reason he is required centrally is due to his hold up play. We haven’t seen much but considering his physicality and technique, he can do a good job at holding up the ball for runners around him,

  • Great observations TA!

    I would say that while it is still possible for Eddie, Willock, AMN and Nelson to become quality players, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that it’ll be at Arsenal, at least in the immediate future. But you know what, that’s ok! Not every prospect will make it at their respective club and sometimes a loan or move to another club helps to unlock that potential. As long as we are smart enough to sell those players on with various clauses, it helps us to reinvest into players that will hopefully make an immediate impact (we have not been doing this enough over the years).

    ESR is truly a brilliant player to watch. His ability to turn and pick out a pass is incredible, yet he’s willing to put in the work to press and track back that Ozil never would. Dare I say that even Grealish at the same age wasn’t producing at the level that ESR is for us now. I remember our ESR vs. Willock argument at the beginning of the season and am so glad to see how your opinion on ESR has changed over the season! You never fail to impress me in your ability to change your opinion when you are provided with new information, which I admire greatly – world class individual you are TA 🙂

    We desperately need a backup option for ESR, Leno and Tierney. I would really fear for the rest of our season if we didn’t find capable back-ups (even if they were just 6 month loans).

  • HH, I almost forgot we really need to figure out the backup keeper situation.

    I hate the rumours of incoming loans again. Virus or not, big clubs dont depend on loans. I don’t mind if there’s a set option to buy, then Its our decision, but otherwise it’s not our level, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s impossible for fans to fully embrace a player like that, and likewise for the player, No matter what their publicist tweets.

    Also, it prevents us from actually solving personnel problems, just prolonging it and sending it further down the road.

    Most of all, if a guy like Odegaard comes in and plays incredibly well, it hurts even more to see him go at the end.

  • JNYC, what I would say is that loans are often beneficial for the player to get acclimated to a team and if they do well, it sometimes influences their decision to want to join that team permanently if the option becomes available. For a club of our stature that wants to be self-sustaining and has a severely limited budget, loans are the way to go (at least for January). If it’s a 6-month loan and we have no options to bring in someone permanently, it’s better than doing nothing at all.

    For example, even a “big” club like Chelsea took Kovacic on loan and then ended up purchasing him at the end of that loan even though they had no option or obligation to.

  • Cheers HH, it is true I had my doubts about ESR and you were much more convinced. I just did not think he would be ready to play as he does now. But you did, so chapeau my friend. 🙂

    Cover for ESR is something Arteta appears to be keen on, so let’s see what will happen. Tierney will be hard to replace if he gets injured. It is a worry but I would like to see Gabriel play there once or twice (with two of Holding, Luiz and Mari as CBs). There is a real thrust in his style of play and he may have a good cross in him as well. Leno’s replacement is my main worry right now.

  • All good points TA. I agree that backup for Leno is likely our biggest concern, though I am somewhat devilishly curious to see what we have in Okonkwo (highly touted academy GK), but he’s only 18!

    I believe we recalled Tolaji Bola on loan as emergency LB cover, but so much of our attacking play is dependent on Tierney down the left that any other player we currently have just would not suffice. Xhaka, in particular, seems to have a great connection with Tierney in finding him with those line breaking passes into the opponent’s box.

    The interesting thing is that depending on what creative midfielder we bring in, they may not purely act as cover for ESR. There’s also the possibility that in certain match-ups Arteta could move to a 4-3-3, which would allow for two creative midfielders to help break down the defensive low block. However, with Odegaard’s name being floated around, he certainly seems like more of a 10 compared to ESR, who I believe is a hybrid 8/10 who could fit either system (4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3).

  • Cheers HH, I feel that we are now playing with two or three of nr10-capable players in a 4-2-3-1. Martinelli – ESR – Saka are such players and Arteta may want to increase the numbers with someone like Odegaard.

  • That’s right HH, I understand that not only Bola, but Medley and Coyle have been recalled although that may mean them going out on loan somewhere else?

    I meant to say earlier TA that you’ve made some really good points in the post, I couldn’t disagree with any of them, which was annoying… 😉

    Our youngsters seem to be the catalyst for shaking their elders out of their slump but as you say concerning Willock, Eddie and co, those lads are in the shade right now, with opportunities growing less and less as the importance of fixtures grow, no more easy Europa games or FACup ties, they all matter.

  • Just as HH, I’d be very curious to see more of Okonkwo. He’s very young indeed, but many keepers now come of age much earlier than their 20th century elders did (Donnarumma being the most famous, but not only, example).
    France, Kev? Well, I guess that, whatever the country we live in may be, we’re all on the same boat, so I’ll try not to moan too loudly. I guess that, like many of you, I feel exiled in my own country, now that we’re shut out of cafés/restaurants:cinemas/theatres/music venues/stadiums, and that family reunions are frowned upon
    Here the schools have stayed open, so much so that you can pack 30+ kids in 30square meters al day long, but the same kids are forbidden to play team sports after the 6pm curfew; people can be on top of one another in tube wagons to go to work, but can’t have a drink after. … I have a childhood buddy who is now a shrink, and he told me the other day that he never had so many patients in his career (he has been a practioner for 35 years), so I guess that’s what you might call a sick country
    I think we football fans are somewhat kept out of harm’s way, we have our own personal suspense tv series, whose episodes we look forward to, and fortunately for us they just bump into one anther.
    There’s this word in french: “adulescent” which was coined from “adult” and “adolescent”. it is often derogative, used to mock guys like us who have stayed true to their childhood passion, but I guess right now we’re the (relatively) lucky ones.

  • Cheers Kev, some develop quicker than others and there is plenty of time for Willock, AMN, etc. As long as they end up playing at a good level somewhere they will have done well. This could definitely be at Arsenal.

  • That’s really interesting LG, I have a cousin who is a bus driver, he’s been working throughout the pandemic and he’s always complaining to me how people crowd together on buses as if everything was normal, no social distancing with quite a few not wearing masks and have done so throughout the duration. Although it’s not allowed to use public transport and not wear a mask nobody polices this policy and he’s not going to stop people getting on his bus and risk a confrontation.

  • LG I’m sure that football has played a major role in keeping many people from going over the edge, it’s a touch of normality and far from being a juvenile pastime it’s actually an antidote to visiting a psychologist, although I’m sure that your friend is a decent person…

    As for those who denigrate football fans I wonder what they do in their spare time?

  • Well, we signed a backup-goalkeeper on loan for the rest of the season.

    The 28-years-old Mathew Ryan was BHA’s first choice goalkeeper – so it’s a strange signing – and he is also Australia’s #1. He isn’t too tall either (with 1,84, he is 2 cm shorter than Rúnarsson), but his experience is reassuring, and his 7.2M market value (according to TM) is exactly 4 times as much as the 1.8M worth of the Icelandic lad.

    Ryan’s top MV was 9M before the pandemic (but to be fair in comparison, Rúnarsson also used to worth 4.05M for a short period of time. Ryan has an Asian Cup winner, an Australian Champion and a Belgian cup winner (playing for Club Brugge) in his cabinet, while Alex is only a one-time Icelandic champion.

    Based on the press conference Ryan seems to be a humble and likable guy, but at that stage practically everybody does. Anyway, one pressure is lifted – even though the squad size increased again.

  • Welcome to Arsenal Martin Odegaard – Thor’s very own!!!

    We got a backup GK and cover at CAM, should be an entertaining second half of the season!

  • TA, Ornstein reported it on the Athletic and so did transfer guru Fabrizio Romano.

  • I should add that Ornstein said it’s 90% done and the two clubs are just working on finalizing the final details of the Odegaard transfer.

  • Good news then on the #2 GK. Shouted out here for the signing of Matt Ryan several weeks back. He really is a good keeper.

    Can’t say there was any drop in his performance from what can be discerned. But Graham Potter dropped Ryan like a hot rock after a 3-0 loss to Leicester on 12/18. What I’ve read– Brighton fans were shocked he wasn’t sold– just allowed to leave. Potter has gone with a pair of inexperienced keepers with a sum of 30 PL apps between them. Arsenal faced Robert Sanchez, Ryan’s replacement, in the 1-0 win on 12/29.

    Word is that Ryan, an Aussie, was having issues being so far from his fam– with an inability to visit or bring them to England.

    Here’s hoping he can settle in North London.

  • Addenda– Ryan’s deal is ‘on loan’ to Arsenal.
    Where I’d read in December– he was told by Potter he was ‘free to leave’. BHA was unable to find a buyer.

  • Hi all,

    Just so there is no confusion the Southampton v Arsenal game in our competition is the Premier League game on Tuesday 28th and not tomorrow’s FA Cup game.

  • Yes JW Ryan seems a sound signing and I wonder whether he will sign a proper deal in the summer. Till when is his current Brighton contract?

  • HH, I am a bit worried about his desire to stay in Spain rather than to come to Arsenal… Just a gut feeling but that does not feel good to me.

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