Arsenal v Saints Afterthoughts and Player Ratings: Only Two Above Par, No MOTM

Arsenal 0 – 1 Southampton.

Arteta rekent na bekerzeperd snel op nieuws over Ødegaard

Well that was a disappointing performance by the boys and sadly we are out of the FA cup very early on. The draw was unfavourable with having to play first Southampton and then Wolves if we had been successful today, and both were away games too. I was hoping for a strong line-up but Arteta made a whopping seven changes from our victory against the Barcodes. By doing so, he showed us that the league is his priority this season. But who could argue that the team he put out could not have been victorious today? On paper it was a more than decent team, even against an almost full-strengths Southampton, and I think that by putting out this ‘second string’ team (except for four regulars) Arteta made a statement to the BOD too: the wider squad is not as strong as you may think and I need some more players (and please try and sell a few to partly fund these).

For me the biggest disappointments were the lack of cohesion between the players and the rustiness of many of them. Big Gab tried to compensate for his rustiness with mad application of his duties; as a result he was all over the place during the first half. Martinelli was an eager beaver as we have become used to but there was no sharpness and connection with his fellow players today. Willian did not lead our attack as we should expect from him and also looked a yard short. Pepe blew hot and cold but luckily got a bit better in the second half.

It really looked like the whole team played together for the first time and that cost the Gunners the game. The Saints did not impress other than with their strong discipline and positional play. They created a few half-chances and had a lucky bounce of the ball for the goal that beat us. But they were the better team simply because they played like one, and Arteta has to wonder whether it would not have been better to play his first team with say just three or four changes instead. Momentum is important for us and a win is a tonic that lasts at least four days. I think I understand why he is prioritising the league: even winning the FA Cup would not be enough to compensate for a poor league finish this season; and Mikel will be judged by us, the BOD and the media mostly on how he will finish in the league. Let’s be honest about that. Not that I expect us to finish in the top four, or maybe even in the top six, this season, but during this traditional year Arteta will have to establish a clear sense of progress and a very strong base (system of play, team cohesion and performance culture) to build on next season. We simply have not got the squad depth and cohesion to do well in more than one or two major competitions this season.

The FA Cup and UEFA Cup are great prices but they also distract from the big plan: making Arsenal a top four team again as soon as reasonably possible. Yet I cannot deny that I am feeling a bit low tonight and that the boys have disappointed us.

Player ratings are hard to do as ultimately football is a team sport and an individual’s performance is affected by those of his team mates, and Arsenal did not play like a team today. I must also add that the way the pitch was half in very bright sunshine and half in a dark shadow did not help me in making a good judgement about the players’ performances. I am going to put all the players into three groups: Below Par (5), Just About Okay (6), Okay Plus (7).

Below Par: Eddie, Martinelli, Willian, Big Gab, Bellerin.

Just About Okay: Elneny, Xhaka, Holding, Soares, Leno, Laca, Pepe.

Okay Plus: Partey, Saka.

By TotalArsenal.

27 thoughts on “Arsenal v Saints Afterthoughts and Player Ratings: Only Two Above Par, No MOTM

  • I share your views and your disappointment, TA. The cohesion was painfully missing and we weren’t offensively as sharp as we could and should have been with 4 predators like Eddie, Martinelli, Willian and Pepe.
    It’s easy to accept the ratings, but I would swap Bellerin with Mo.

    The only difference in opinion concerns the number/quality of changes. It seems strange to consider Martinelli, Willian and Pepe as ‘second string’ (while I accept that Nketiah to Lacazette, Elneny to Partey and Soares to Tierney are all indeed downgrades). But you said right that it was a strong enough team, so I think at the end of the day it wasn’t the line-up that led to our undoing, but more like the tactics – or the lack of it. We could have easily been defeated with Kieran, Saka and ESR (he became first choice pretty fast), if we didn’t have our priorities straight, so Arteta has some heavy thinking to do before the ‘second leg’ on Tuesday night. Since Arsenal are obviously stronger when it comes to player skills he doesn’t have to outsmart Hasenhüttl; it will be good enough to deny him outsmart us again.

  • Cheers PB,

    I don’t think Arteta was outsmarted at all but his team did not gel and that was to be expected when seven changes are made.

    It will be better on Tuesday, hopefully!! 😁

  • I have to say, that taking into consideration everything that everyone has said up till now and agreeing with most of it, nobody has mentioned what an awful game the referee had and how Southampton got away with a string of questionable ‘tackles’… Even Walcott was putting it about!

  • I listened on radio, read all the comments here on this and the previous post. As someone said, and I agree, it shouldn’t be considered such a big downgrade to add 2 of our most expensive players into the starting lineup. Pepe on cost, and Willian on big salary. (Still furious about 3 years.. never, ever would I have sanctioned that, transfer fee or not).

    …. On the face of it, you might expect those 2 to provide some sort of spark, to turn their own seasons around and get a nice result. I’ve noticed Pepe working hard all over the pitch in his opportunities of late (can’t speak for today’s), but where is Willian’s sense of pride? The team Arteta put out should be good enough to give is a chance even against a strong Southampton. Going by the score, we at least were in it.

    There is though, something to Artetas record of listless 1st halves for a while now… only to come out with much more energy in the second half. If it continues to happen as often as it does, his job may have to be re-evaluated. The difference is so stark, that I’d say our 2nd half performances would have us fighting for the title this year if not for the poorer starts.
    As it is, I’m fine with focusing on the league, partly because we’ve been spoiled with FA trophies of late. It also may be true of the players motivation for this competition too, as many of our guys have, “been there, done that”.

    Arteta is within his rights to say we need more quality central midfielders. The fact that Xhaka can never get a rest is one sign. The other, and I agree with PB, is that Elneny shouldn’t really be starting except in emergency. I rate him for Carabao cup games, Europa group stages, to rest others. As soon as we won 3 league games in a row, I knew the owners would lose the sense of urgency to acquire a good midfielder. We need 2. In my opinion, loans are not a real solution, and I’m embarrassed that we resort to that like a small club. Of course I’m hopeful they’ll work out somehow, but the odds of that compared to a committed addition, are not promising.

  • Typically arrogant Arsenal ‘fan’ write up. Saints were not at full strength but also had no one on the bench with any experience to replace those on the pitch, therefore ensuring fatigue. The ludicrous sums splashed out on players £70m Pepe, £27m Gabriel, £45m on not much of Partey, shows up your moaning about lack of depth for what it is, an entitled brat moan. “Saints did not impress” , ha ha! “A lucky bounce for the goal”, ha ha. Some rubbish about the sunshine, ha ha. “I don’t think Arteta was outsmarted at all”, ha ha. Listen to yourself and stop writing these pathetic feeling sorry for yourself bits of drivel. As for Tuesday, same team again for Saints, no choice, no depth whatsoever, unlike your entitled club.

  • Marketeer some valid points. I don’t think we put down your team, I’ve enjoyed watching Southampton all season and I think your coach may have a great future. I made the same point as you, meaning we had overpriced players to bring in to start, even if they’re not 1st choice. That’s part of what a lot of us complain about here. Those were expensive mistakes, and we’re paying for them by not being able to add help where we need it now. Thank God for our younger talents stepping up.

    So we’ve made management mistakes… plenty, but i don’t think we’re entitled or privileged. Look at Man City, Chelsea, United, etc, for that description.

    You have a big chip on your shoulder even though a lot of us admire what your team is doing this season. I hope we smash you good on Tuesday. Come back and visit to stir things up, either way.

  • That’s a solid response J. I’ve watched Soton often this season as well. Only recently have they dropped from top-4 to top-6 to 9th in the table. Danny Ings lengthy injury has been the main reason why– while another injury to Jannik Vestergaard (CB) has had an impact too. Vestergaard, last season was one I’d been watching, hoping, Arsenal might see what I had. It took several matches this season for him to get an opportunity at Soton– and he grasped it with both hands until injured. Between Ings, Adams, Ward-Prowse and Vestergaard all supplying timely goals or assists in clutch situations? Without that pair of injuries Ralph Hassenhüttl had his team punching with top teams through the first dozen matches this season.

    As for the marketeer (was one myself for a large part of a career)? I can understand it might be bewildering to wander into an oasis of reasonable discourse and friendly support for one’s club. Should stop in and see it more often.

  • Hey Mark, you wasn’t that mouthy Saints fan I was standing next to at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff when those arrogant Gunners beat you in 2003?

    How we all laughed.

  • We agree to disagree on the outsmarting stuff, TA.
    There are the occasional YT videos or sophisticated analytic articles that explains, how Arsenal defeated the opponent with the proper tactics. You know, with the high line, counter-pressing, asymmetric transition to create overload on a flank and such seriously sounding things that beyond my subject matter expertise. (They could be bull$hit, but probably there is sound knowledge behind it.)
    However yesterday I think it was only Southampton that tweaked their play to Arsenal, as we did the same thing we have been doing since first experimented with the 4-2-3-1 formation. And it’s been quite a while, so Hasenhüttl had all the intel he needed to predict what Arsenal players were expected to be doing. And while there can be no proof to confirm or deny that, I just can’t stop thinking on Arteta sent the boys on the pitch with the sole instructions of “do what we’ve been practicing all week”, or maybe even “fight for your place”. Which could have been enough against bottom-table teams like Newcastle, WBA or Sheffield, but found wanting against an in-form strong team like Southampton in an away fixture.

    Kudos to your response to Mark. A Zen-monk would be proud of your composure as well as Willian in front of goal. 🙂

  • Cheers PB,

    I like to respond by copying some text from my post, as that is how I saw it and still see it:

    It really looked like the whole team played together for the first time and that cost the Gunners the game. The Saints did not impress other than with their strong discipline and positional play. They created a few half-chances and had a lucky bounce of the ball for the goal that beat us. But they were the better team simply because they played like one, and Arteta has to wonder whether it would not have been better to play his first

  • So I believe in technical ability and tactics but playing as a team, a well functioning structure, requires cohesion, automatisms and sharpness at the business end. We lacked this yesterday unlike the Saints…. Who played their first team.

  • JW, good analysis of Southampton. I really rate Bednarek, not sure about the spelling. A very athletic and calm center back. They are a decent team and the manager deserves a lot of credit. It is about time we give them a proper game of football.

  • Total, when Partey came on the whole dynamic of the game changed, Partey was able to keep possession under pressure and progress the ball, from then on Southampton dropped closer to their goal and we began to create situations, it’s a matter of quality and maybe we’ll see the difference when Partey and Saka start on Tuesday and Smith Rowe, Tierney and Luiz return?

  • I agree Kev. We became better in creating something. Unfortunately, the attackers did not take any of the chances or were too slow to anticipate one was coming their way to turn the game around.

  • If our second string team, tongue in cheek with a 72 mill winger and a winner all high salaried Willian cannot be trusted to put in a half decent performance then God save us. Pepe looks to have no control over the football, cannot keep the ball, can’t hit the target what else is he there for. Willian can’t pass to his team mates on a regular basis. What a shambles.

  • Arsenal have agreed to sign Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season, report David Ornstein and James McNicholas.

    The 22-year-old is set to become Arsenal’s second acquisition of the January window after they recruited Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan. Odegaard will also be their second loanee from Real Madrid this season, along with fellow midfielder Dani Ceballos.

    The Athletic understands Odegaard is scheduled to arrive in London later on Sunday and will undergo a medical on Monday. The player has an elite sportsperson exemption which means he will not have to isolate before joining the squad, as long as he returns a negative COVID-19 test.
    Why do Arsenal want him?
    In Mesut Ozil’s absence, Arsenal were in need of a playmaker and considered several around Europe such as Dominik Szoboszlai, Emi Buendia and Julian Brandt.

    Emile Smith Rowe, while very highly regarded at the club, is still thought of as a developing talent who could provide back-up and competition to a more established attacking midfielder.

    The club are keen for Smith Rowe to not carry the creative burden on his own, given his age and injury history, so Odegaard’s arrival will give them more depth in this area.

    Why have Real let him leave?
    Odegaard joined Real amid widespread media attention as a 16-year-old but has struggled to become a first-team regular.

    After impressing during his loan spell at Real Sociedad, Odegaard was recalled to Madrid.

    He initially seemed to have turned a corner in his Real career, starting the first two La Liga games of the season. He has, however, fallen out of favour and started one league game since — on November 21.

    Real boss Zinedine Zidane, who coached Odegaard in the club’s B team when he first joined and is now in charge of the senior side, approved the loan deal to give the Norway international more game time.

    Who else was interested?
    While Odegaard had interest from across Europe, Real Sociedad were the other strongest contender to re-sign him on loan.

    La Real initially agreed a loan deal that was with a view to a second season. But having helped Sociedad to sixth place in La Liga, Real Madrid cut short the loan in the summer.

    What will he bring to Arsenal?
    Earlier this month, The Athletic profiled several attacking midfielders that Arsenal could sign to bolster their creativity — with Odegaard among them.

    His stats from last season showed elite attacking output at Real Sociedad. The Norwegian scored highly on xG from shot creation and ball progression, showing he can be a creative force at a high level — despite his lack of game time under Zidane.

    At 22, he also fits the age profile that Arsenal are looking to sign in order to rejuvenate a previously ageing squad.

  • Both
    saying Arsenal and Real Madrid will revisit the Odegaard deal at the end of the loan. Will be an interesting one to follow. If Odegaard does well here and Zidane remains manager, can see the move becoming a permanent one.

  • I guess that a lot of Ozil posts will be out on many Arsenal blogs tomorrow Total, it would be nice if the things that have been published on his social media were actually from him himself, but there’s always an underlying feeling that his PR are behind them, I guess we’ll never know for sure?

  • Thanks for the thoughts and link, Kev. He is some player, could be another Santi. Let’s hope so. As for Mesut’s letter, Total is right. I think both sets of lawyers agreed upon statements from the player and the club which preserve reputations. Probably wise in the circumstances. I look forward to Total’s thoughts.

  • Very interesting article by the Norwegian Arsenal fan, Kev, thanks
    If the lad’s brought in to kick either Bukayo or Emil out of the starting XI, I really don’t see the point, tbh
    But what I find appealing in the article is the fan’s suggestion of a SmithRowe-Partey-Ødengaard midfield, or – in Pep’s MCity fashion – the equivalent of:
    which is indeed the promise of “enthusiasm, tenacity, work rate, technical ability, and offensive creativity”
    Anyway, welcome to him – he’s 22, he won’t have to carry the burden of an insane price tag, he understands (speaks) English perfectly, the possibility of the above-mentioned midfield is backed by his “defensive contribution”; what’s the risk?

  • It’s cold this morning, glad you enjoyed the articles fellas.

    My cousin got the vaccine yesterday, she’s the second person I know of who’ve had it, went to her local health clinic in Edmonton, North London, in and out in less than 15 minutes with hardly anybody there so I guess it’s ramping up now. Light at the end of the tunnel.

    We might not be out of the woods but if we can get back to level 3 and who knows level 2 then a sense of normality will return.

    What’s the situation Stateside J, things regarding the vaccine must be getting up to speed now under the new administration?

  • Great contributions over night and this morning, Kev.

    Re Odegaard, I have low expectations. It is a short spell and he will need to adjust to the speed etc of the PL. Let’s see what he can do for us.

    New Post New Post 🙂

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