The Villa Defeat is a Setback but There Are Plenty of Positives for Arsenal

Eight afterthoughts from a disappointing and unnecessary loss against an average team.

  1. When there are three games to be played within a week it is inevitable that they will influence each other in terms of fitness, team selection and psychology. The team worked their socks off at home to MU to get a win and then to protect a draw; then they played a sublime first half at Molineux until the double jeopardy decision by the ref after which the game turned and we ended up just losing it; on Saturday the boys wanted to make amends once again but a miscommunication between two defenders, followed by a bad bounce of a ball/deflection, meant we conceded an early goal, and the boys just lacked the fitness and sharpness to overcome this early, major set-back. The result of all of this is just one point from three tightly fought matches and a melancholic fanbase – not that the latter takes a lot these days.
  2. I must admit to feeling a bit low myself after the latest result, but I have come to realise that I was falling for the same old mistake we humans tend to make: the (subconscious) expectation that progress, once it has commenced, will continue in a linear way. It seldom does. We had some setback but none of the teams we lost points to were better than us; in fact, we were better than the last two teams we played but ended up leaving all six points in the midlands. Bitter but that is football. I saw enough to believe that we are playing much better football now but that we need to focus better and avoid those individual mistakes that keep costing us.
  3. We have to raise the question whether Arteta used his squad effectively in the last week. Legs and minds were clearly tired during the last game and some fresh blood could have made a difference. I guess this is something Arteta will have considered but believed not to be the right thing to do. Hindsight proves him wrong to some extent, as of course we do not know how it all would have finished if Arteta had opted for more changes to his starting eleven, but I do understand why a new manager who is trying to build something up likes to stick to the same team at this stage of team-development. Still, Arteta could have used some of the likes of Elneny, Martinelli, Auba, Ceballos and Odegaard from the start and I don’t think that would have dropped our levels but could easily have given us a boost of energy and focus.
  4. One of the good things to come out of the last game is that Ryan looked more than decent in our goal. He made the saves we expected him to make, but he did those with conviction and no mistakes were made. I also felt Ryan had good presence in the box and was calm and collected during the entire game. Having a good backup keeper is of course very vital for a successful season.
  5. Another positive were Odegaards twenty or so minutes on the pitch. Martin made a difference and got himself in a good position to score but he was just a bit too eager, I reckon. Emile, Saka and Laca may have been overplayed a bit by Arteta and I believe he will have to use the likes of Odegaard, Eddie, Martinelli and Nelson a bit more going forward. Luckily, the team have an eight days break now so all can have a well deserved rest. But Emile just cannot keep pulling this team forward on his own and Mikel must give Odegaard some starts pretty soon.
  6. I believe that Partey is a better all-round footballer than Elneny but have also noticed that we have dropped a lot of points since Arteta dropped the latter for the former. The Xhaka-Partey partnership has huge potential and they will form our base in midfield for years to come. However, I am not sure whether Thomas is fit enough right now to play that all important box-to-box-like role. At times we can see his real qualities but the pace and the intensity of the games seem to force him into mistakes, and he often leaves a lot of space behind him. Elneny is less adventurous than Partey but Mo is so tidy and organised; he gave real balance to the team. Mo is great back up for either Xhaka or Thomas but at the moment he may actually be required to start games for us until Partey is fully fit.
  7. One more positive is the development of Nicolas Pepe. He can still frustrate with a bad first touch or decision he makes, but Nicolas is starting to have fire in his belly and getting more direct when he is in front of goal. Pepe still needs to improve further but he really is getting more effective now, and Arteta must try and play him on the left (or centrally) as much as possible.
  8. The good news is that other than Man City none of our Top Four/Top Six competitors have been able to really run away from us as yet. A good run for us could still do wonders. Let’s hope for a bit more luck with the bounce of the ball and refereeing decisions, more sharpness up-front and the avoidance of unforced errors etc. We have a strong defence, a midfield with huge potential and a dynamic attack… and a team with fighting spirit and believe in their manager. Upwards and Onwards.

By TotalArsenal.

29 thoughts on “The Villa Defeat is a Setback but There Are Plenty of Positives for Arsenal

  • Thanks, TA. We can always rely on you for some positivity when we need it! The Villans were well prepared for us and fresher legs from the start might have made a difference. One of the positives from it for me was that Saka didn’t come away injured. He was clearly getting targeted by players who been taught the dark arts by one of their most evil practitioners. Yes John Terry I mean you! The ref should have been more alert to that and taken stronger action.

    We need players coming off the bench to make a difference and Odegaard certainly did that although he should have bagged himself a goal. PEA concerns me though, he didn’t get into the game at all. Perhaps his mother’s health is concerning him? Whatever the issue, MA and his support team need to help him. In the meantime, Martinelli would seem to be the better option and he would provide better support to his LB, especially if it is Cedric playing out of position.

  • Morning all,

    I will read your post later Total – but here are the competition results:-
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    For the week.
    1st – PB with 3/6 plus 4 bonus points
    2nd – GN5, Eris, Total & JWL with 2/6
    6th – Kev 0/6
    ””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Season to date:-
    1st – Eris – 76.33
    2nd – Kev – 73.00
    3rd – PB – 69.66
    4th – JW1 – 66.66
    5th – GN5 – 59.33
    6th – Total – 56.66
    7th – Le Gall – 27.33
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

  • Here are my choices for next weeks games:-

    Leicester v Liverpool
    Crystal Palace v Burnley
    Manchester City v Tottenham
    Brighton v Aston Villa
    Arsenal v Leeds
    Eibar V Real Valladolid

    There will be two bonus points for the correct score between Arsenal & Leeds.

  • Welcome and thank you, OML ⚽

    Good comment and all agreed. Saka is such a strong lad and yes he was targeted and the ref did nothing to protect him.

    I am worried about Auba too. I like him as supersub but not without another CF on the pitch.

  • TA you are the epitome of Positivity mate :). I for one was very upset and disappointed watching the match. Individual errors have cost us matches. Its really something that needs to be sorted out. I felt that, we didn’t look like scoring a goal even if we played for another hour.
    Watching ManC yesterday, they play without a proper striker, but the threat they bring to the defending team is unbelievable. Gündoğan is 30 but you see him screening in front of the defenders and next minute you see him prop up at the other end and put the ball into empty net. He is carrying ManC at the moment may be along with Sterling in the absence of DeBruyne. The fact that we have lost these easier games, ManC and Leicester matches are must won if we entertain any thoughts of moving up the table.

  • Total l was also disappointed about the loss – but not with the team. One simple under hit pass from Cedric and we were one goal down after 75 seconds.That gave us a whole game to recover but that was not to be. So two games in a row we made simple errors that cost us the points and our momentum. It’s now up to our leader AW to get the team back on the right track.

  • Here are my predictions:-

    Leicester v Liverpool – A
    Crystal Palace v Burnley – H
    Manchester City v Tottenham – H
    Brighton v Aston Villa – A
    Arsenal v Leeds – H – 3-1
    Eibar V Real Valladolid – D

  • Leicester vs Liverpool… A
    C Palace vs Burnley….. H
    Man City vs Tottnum….. H
    Brighton vs Aston Villa.. H
    Arsenal vs Leeds Utd…. H 3-0
    Eibar vs RealValladolid.. A

  • Mikel’s lot since coming aboard not yet 14 months ago (yeah, just a year!)– has been one of highs and lows. There’s room to be disappointed in moments, yet, could we really have expected much more to this juncture?

    Being honest with ourselves about Arsenal– is the best medicine– when it’s Arsenal that’s ailing you.
    I sum it up in capsule form: We can be good. But we’re not good yet.

    Take a pill. Be Calm. We have Mikel Arteta.

    With just this past transfer window has Arteta’s Arsenal slate been wiped nearly clean. What happens between now and Summer is educational in nature. Let’s see who sticks– and who needs to go. We are in a ‘No Whining Zone’ until next Fall at the earliest– with regard to the Arteta-and-Edu Show.

    Yeah, I get it. Does kick my arse to see the shortcomings of the past two games. But honestly? I’m good with how the team is progressing. We are starting a first XI that still relies on moments of brilliance to score and win. When being a winner relies on consistency. The consistency of making yourself irrepressible and impenetrable.

    Been watching what Pep has done since his team started out 7-5-2. He changed his team’s style. He pulled an Arteta to jumpstart City– by making them focus on defending first. And it’s worked out beautifully over an eight game winning streak. Eight wins and 7 clean sheets. City no longer had their engine David Silva– and Phil Foden didn’t measure up. KDB and Kyle Walker have been injured– and the attack wasn’t producing goals from their pressing tactics. So Pep decided to change his spots. City has been nearly leakproof since December.

    No different than how Mikel’s Arsenal intends to play every match. Only with less talent at his disposal. Which means, Arsenal will sometimes falter. For now anyway.

    I see the Arteta blueprint. Feel that Pep has actually confirmed it in action.
    Think I’m going to keep a ration of chill-pills at hand. Take 2 when necessary. 🙃

  • TA striking the right note as always.

    I’m largely feeling the way JW described. This season we’ll have to take it all in stride. There will be growing pains, but i believe we’re on the right track. Solid defending for the most part. Young quality attackers and established scorers. It’s been a couple of years we’ve been cheap in patching the midfield with loans, largely for the stupid Ozil contract. No excuse now.

    Partey can be a great player, but he can’t play every single week. He was given some regular rest at Atletico. We need to learn from that and fix the midfield accordingly, as well as someone the share time with Smith Rowe. It’s tempting to think about one good player who can fill in for both, but the correct decision is to add 2 midfielders since 2 loans are leaving. One won’t be enough.

    I think that’s not such a tall order. So that’s why I won’t let a few disappointments get me down, as long as we stay on the right track.

  • Indeed. mature and smart comments. Fully agreed with OML’s summary.
    TA’s was also fine as expected, with some true positives, but the ‘plenty’ in the title was a bit over-promising. 😛

    Of course a clean sheet is always welcome and a reason to celebrate, but I’m not too focused on that. There are always some chance to concede a goal – even with 5 defenders and 2 DMs – but we should be able to respond by scoring 3 or 4. So the one we conceded early on is not a tragedy. As TA properly pointed out, that was not even an individual mistake, but a miscommunication or misunderstanding between 2 good players who didn’t have the opportunity to play together much (in the current setup). So that happens. What was more concerning in my opinion, is that (the indeed average) Aston Villa had more and the more dangerous chances. Yes, they made Ryan MotM – according to FootballCritic – but we couldn’t create enough dangerous chances even with 4 attacking players (later 5 or 6) on the pitch.
    At the end of the day it is not alarming that the home team had 1.20 Xg for the whole game (scoring one), but we had only 0.68 (scoring none). Even Odegaard’s chance had just 0.06 Xg, which makes it only a half chance, not a clear goal scoring opportunity. https://understat.com/match/14655

  • That is the attitude, J.

    PB, thanks for the stats. I think it is to be expected that they had better chances. We were chasing the game and took risks to force the equaliser, which left them with space for counter attacks and turnovers, which led to better quality chances.

  • Not a lot happening in the world of Arsenal so it seems, so this would be, I humbly suggest, a good time for our blog historian from the land of the grizzlies to come up a famous player to write about.
    Just putting it out there… 😶

    And so, it looks as if Arsenal are to visit the Eternal City for our Europa League/Cup tie, and then after our visit to the capital of the Western Empire we face it seems another trek to the birthplace of democracy for the 2nd leg, what a palaver!

  • There’s a few rumours rattling around Twitter and the Arsenal superhighway, as there always is, one concerned Matteo Guendouzi and the fact that Arsenal are watching him very closely and with a view to his future – that would seem obvious to me but there ya go.

    The inference is that there could be a future for Matteo at Arsenal after all…?

    Hmm, I guess it would make sense not to cut off your nose to spite your face etc, but I also reckon that it would take a lot of contrition from the Frenchman before Arteta would welcome him back into the heart of his squad, although in football anything is possible. Needs must you know.

    There again it could be all a kind of game, you know, to let possible suitors think that Guendouzi is a valuable part of the Arsenal plan and if they want to prise him away it would be expensive. I’m all for that.

  • Lucas Torrieira was also mentioned, although no source was given so it could have been his agent, you know keep him in the Football public eye etc.

    Apparently Arteta is going to have another look at him in the summer and in truth this summer will be the first time in 18 months that Arteta will have a proper chance to see everyone he has at his disposal in a proper pre season, so let’s see what occurs because it might all depend on what he has to invest and if he might be better off trying to get more out of what he has?

  • Dinos Mavrapanos has been doing well at Stuttgart this season, his coach has recently spoken highly of our Greek defender and ‘the word’ is that Arsenal are encouraged by what they’ve seen by him this season, even when he’s played at full back.

    With Luiz leaving this summer (surely) and a large cloud hanging over Saliba an opportunity may arise for Dinos to restart his Arsenal career, he just needs to stay fit, in fact fitness has always been his problem, solve that and who knows?

  • Talking of young Arsenal centre backs I also saw some very encouraging comments from the managers of Oldham Athletic and Blackpool in regards of the young Gunners in their charge, both Harry Clarke and Daniel Ballard have fully embraced their loanee clubs and become valuable members and regular performers for those clubs earning enthusiastic praise from their bosses.

    With McGuinness doing so well at Ipswich and the arrival of Omar Rekik I can’t honestly remember a time ever, when an Arsenal manager had so many quality options at centre back.

    It doesn’t seem that many years ago now that Arsenal were scratching around for centre backs, it went on for season after season, with Gallas, Toure and the simply appalling Silvestre, we even took an ageing Sol Campbell back for a short period to plug the gap, what a state we got into.
    Why did it take so long to fix the obvious?
    I really don’t have a clue…

  • Great info Kev ! Could have been a nice post. You keep us so well informed.

    You know I love Guendouzis talent and think he’ll be a great player somewhere. Torreira also, can be a perfect addition to some club. Didn’t someone here remind us he was our player of the month for a series of months?

    I wasn’t thrilled with how they were handled overall. A blueprint on how to degrade the market value of your own assets. Thats ok if your club has oil money, not if working on a strict budget.

  • Indeed Kev, fine and informative comments. I am taking it a bit easy for a few days. Next post will be on Saturday.

    Keep trucking 🚛 🚛 🚛

  • Always nice to get a positive spin to an, otherwise, disappointing result for the boys in red & white. And it’s all thanks to TA to pick these out, no matter how trivial. The manner of the defeats at the midlands clubs was most galling. These are games we should be winning.

    I agree that Pepe has started to grow in confidence and is willing to try things in an offensive sense, while also putting in a shift defensively. It is great to see; he only needs to be less selfish when there are options about. There were a couple of scenarios where a well laid pass may have resulted in a goal and he chose to go for it himself. I have no doubt he may have been so encouraged by the coaching staff to do that more often, if only to build his confidence. However, for a man whose strong selling point was his Assists stat, he would do well to trust his better positioned team mates sometimes.

    I would have no complaints had Arteta started Odegaard over ESR for the Villa game. He looked a threat and may have been a surprise element. Plus ESR is able to remain fresh for the next game. Hopefully, there are enough games to see him shine and see us climb up the table again. We are running out of games with a few teams ahead of us having “games in hand” over us. We shall need to go on a Wenger-esque winning run to get anywhere close to top 4 (or 6, even) in May.

    Question is can the boys do it? Do they have the belief?

  • Kev, nice flow of information about our on-loan players. Let’s hope the pandemic slows down enough to allow for a proper pre-season, this summer. It will be a packed house and will afford Arteta time to run the rule over all the players and make for easy decisions about the first team in terms of the probables and the possibles.

  • GN5, here are my predictions for the next game week of picks:

    Leicester v Liverpool – D
    Crystal Palace v Burnley – H
    Manchester City v Tottenham – H
    Brighton v Aston Villa – D
    Arsenal v Leeds – H (4-2)
    Eibar V Real Valladolid – D

  • TA you’ve been putting out a lot of quality posts and content. Sit back and relax for a bit. You’ve earned it. See you at the weekend.

  • Your welcome Johnno, always glad to put something up to hopefully keep the pot boiling while TA takes a well earned breather.

    I honestly don’t know why Arsenal and Benfica can’t just settle their tie in a one off game, I mean in one breath you’re getting all the managers complaining about the burden of so many games an£ then when you get the chance to lessen the load they pass up the opportunity, I don’t get it?

    I mean a one off game in Roma, done and dusted, fin…

    Yeah Eris, more changes in the pipeline this summer, Edu is going to be a busy man.

    Finally let’s just take a moment fellas in these difficult times….

    And all laugh at Tottenham….

  • Morning all.
    Hi Total, I sent you a post yesterday.

    I’m missing predictions from :- Total, PB and JW1.

    Kev – it’s always great to laugh at Tottenham especially when they are managed by the “special One”

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