Arsenal v Leicester Afterthoughts

With the Arsenal players not returning to the U.K. from Athens until Friday and a midday kick off for Sunday at Leicester looming it didn’t leave a lot of recovery time for the players and with that in mind Mikel Arteta risked the wrath of the online #Arteta Out brigade and made six changes from the win over Benfica.

It was a brave decision and could have easily blown up in his face but Mikel put the health and welfare of his players first and therefore deserves all the plaudits. I can’t lie, when I saw the team I wasn’t confident myself.

It didn’t start well, a mix up between Xhaka and Willian saw Tielemans get a clear run on goal and with Pablo Mari backing off as he watched for Vardy and thus leaving a yawning chasm the Belgian just ran into it and fired across Leno and into the far corner. Leno then almost dropped an almighty clanger to let in Vardy but fortunately recovered the ball before ex England striker could take advantage. That’s when I went into the kitchen to make some lunch because it just looked like another away day tragedy in the making.

Anyway as I was scrambling some eggs in the kitchen we got a penalty and we lost it and got a free kick instead which Pepe didn’t make the most of. Then came the foul on Pepe that led to the free kick, taken by Willian it was perfectly flighted to where Luiz had lost his marker and where Xhaka blocked off another Leicester player so that Luiz had a clear run at the ball and where he met the perfect cross with the perfect header and it was all square. The Leicester players all looked a little shocked and frankly they never really recovered and ended up looking tired, a lot more tired than the Arsenal players.

As I ate my scrambled eggs we got another pen and this one was put away with the minimum of fuss by Lacazette who had led the line like a lion until replaced late in the game by Aubameyang. At half time the Arsenal players left the field with spring in their step whilst the Leicester players looked quite knackered.

The 2nd 45 was all about game management and just doing enough to save those tired legs, Pepe got the 3rd and that was that. Willian put in probably his best display in an Arsenal shirt, he seemed to have all the time he needed to do his thing and a fine thing it was, but, was he afforded those extra seconds because Leicester were knackered, I guess we’ll know more in the remaining games to come but it was encouraging to see him finally producing on the field?

Pepe had a fine game, he is an acquired taste a mixture of skill, trickery and daftness, nope never a dull moment when Nicholas is on the ball, but he was key to this result.
Xhaka was immense with another 90 minutes of leadership and commitment, he hardly ever misses a match and he usually plays the entire 90 minutes but you won’t hear him talking about fatigue.

Soares was very good, especially in the attacking half and after a slow start Mari improved and along with Luiz they had solid performances. I can’t actually fault anyone to be honest as they all contributed in this fine victory, even the subs which I thought Arteta used very wisely.

There was something else that I noticed about this game and for that matter some other games that I’ve watched in recent times and that is the slow debilitating creep of tiredness that is threatening to overwhelm some teams and especially those that don’t rotate as much. Their players are looking jaded and even exhausted with many of them picking up and suffering from soft tissue injuries and worst.

Today I saw what looked like a half fit Jamie Vardy who it seems has some groin issues, he wasn’t a threat for the entire game and that was great for us but Harvey Barnes limped of on 51 minutes and the veteran Jonny Evans limped off on 70 minutes. I’ve since discovered that Barnes needs an operation on I think his knee and that’s as tragic as it probably was avoidable. Smith Rowe also has a slight calf strain but he’ll probably be ok in a couple of weeks.

Back last summer there were moves to continue the temporary but eminently sensible policy of 5 substitutes and everyone across Europe and the Football League took that path, well everyone except a narrow minded group of clubs in the Premier League. It was suggested by them that it would give an unfair advantage to the bigger clubs with the bigger squads.

Well we got through the first half of the season without too much damage and then the 5 subs policy was revived again in December by those Premier League clubs who had originally suggested it and it was thought this time that common sense would prevail. But no. Aston Villa were thought to be the unofficial leaders of the Luddite group which included Burnley, C.Palace, Fulham. Leeds, Leicester, Newcastle, Sheffield Utd, West Ham and Wolves and they all voted it down again – well done.

As so here we are just over 10 weeks later and this is the injury list of those clubs:
Aston Villa 5, Burnley 4, C.Palace 9, Fulham 2, Leeds 7, Leicester 8, Newcastle 7, Sheffield Utd 7, West Ham 6, Wolves 4.

By contrast those clubs able to rotate are thus : Arsenal 1, Chelsea 2, Everton 2, Liverpool 8, Man City 1, Man Utd 5, Tottenham 1, and that with most of them having to negotiate european competitions…

Imagine now if the Aston Villa group had had those extra couple of subs to ease the load and what condition would their squads look like now?

By Allezkev

35 thoughts on “Arsenal v Leicester Afterthoughts

  • Thanks Kev for an excellent post in which you hit on something v important. I think the PL are suffering with fatigue and injury and games are regularly hard to watch: low tempo, misplaced passes, mistakes and bad finishing come to mind.

    I guess we were lucky to play a team that had also played on Thursday. Yes they did not have to travel like us but our boys will have had some sunshine and also drunken some of that fine Greek spirit on which the Western culture was established. And then there was that huge difference of euphoria v melancholia as a result of the Thursday results. We played with energy as a result of it and the Foxes played with their tales between their legs and sulky.

    But real credit to Mikel for making so many changes and yet having his boys play with such incredible hunger.

  • Thanks Kev. Thoughtful words. A fine team performance, even if the Foxes did look tired. Highlight for me was Willian coming alive, two assists and some very nousie play. He has a fine football brain, quick feet and carries the ball well, drawing fouls and relieving pressure. I agree, Xhaka was immense. Laca too, such an unselfish player. Fab to see the well worked free kick routine. Worth getting up for. Now I am off for a Poppa nap.

  • The fatigue issue has been on my mind for a few weeks Total and it certainly seemed to affect Leicester more than it did Arsenal yesterday, I’m just glad that we have six days to recover before Burnley this Saturday.

    Thanks Stuart.

  • Kev, a really fun read taking us through the stages of the match along with the stages of your meal.

    I’m with you on everything, especially the subs rule foolishness.

    On their goal, I can’t blame our guys for occasionally losing the ball, and our defenders were back in time to cover. What we got was a goal against for lack of continuity in CB pairing. The communication, or feeling where your partner is, or you expect him to go. If we have to blame one person, more on Mari. I still like him a lot. I think Gabs would’ve been more aggressive there….

    Nice to see Pepe actually combining with teammates, passing and moving. That’s the Arsenal way, and Total and I have been calling on him to do that all season, instead of always trying to go it alone and dribble his way out of everything.

    Brendan is a great manager, and he makes so many players much better. Today, I think he probably envied the depth of our squad. Apart from midfield, we have great players to draw on.

    As I mentioned to Kev the other day…. we will need another CAM to go along with ESR next season. It would be silly to expect him to do the job alone. His injury record, and plenty of other reasons.

    I’m so glad Saka got a break. I’d watch Tierney closely and would use Soares at any hint of fatigue or discomfort.

  • Good points Kev. Credit to Xhaka who seems to play all the time yet showing no fatigue. Glad we could rest Saka and looks like ESR might get a forced break now. Thank God we have Ode to take his place.
    I thought Mari did well and being able to keep vardy down to one shot all night was great. Cutting down individual mistakes would help as we come to the business end of the season. Only one worry is Martnelli hope he gets to play few minutes to come back to match fitness and find some form.

  • Agreed Jync I also noticed how Pepe combined with teammates really well and was involved in some nice moves and its obvious he as on the same wavelength with Soares but also links well with Laca and ESR. I wonder if this is the most lefties Arsenal have had on the pitch at the same time; at one point we had Mari, Xhaka, Pepe, Odegaard and Tierney. Hard to choose a man of the match so I would give it to Willian and Pepe for their all round performances and goal contributions but again Granit was a beast in midfield I am beginning to think like Saka he really gets up for the big opponents as well. The players did great but hats off to Mikel and his staff getting the players ready on such a quick turnaround and wiith so many changes to the lineup.

  • Agreed that Xhaka had a great game and this was partly due to his buddy Elneny who makes him and therefore the whole team better. We had a nice balance in midfield and the Foxes were mastered. Thought that ESR also did well, fingers crossed re injury.

    Pepe and Willian were great, and I could have given them MOTM, but they would have to share it with Luiz who had a tremendous game too.

  • Thanks Johnno, the eggs were a triumph, I think their goal came about as three Arsenal players were all drawn to Vardy, him being the Leicester danger man and our bete noire as both Elneny and Mari could have moved across to cut out Tielemans free passage into our box, but all’s well that ends well.

    Credit has to go to our medical dept who’ve done a great job in keeping our players in such good condition during the log jam of matches.

  • So many positives to take from that game even if the Foxes were jaded. MA’s selection was brave and it paid off. The performance should give confidence to everyone but, especially to Willian and Pepe. I hope they now go on to perform even better in the coming weeks. I have been critical of our free kicks and corners recently so my biggest celebration was for Luis’s goal.

    MA now has some nice selection problems ahead of Saturday’s match. I’m intrigued to see who will start.

  • Yes Luiz was also great and scored a wonderful headed goal and for once what a well worked set piece with Xhaka shielding that defender. It is also easy to forget the outstanding Tierney who just churns out 7/8 type performances with regularity. Glad to see Mo regain his form everything went downhill for him when he made the trip back home and contracted covid. I am so glad Saka got a full rest and here is hoping ESR bounces back in no time he was having a decent outing; fortunately we have Odegaard (credit to Edu) who himself is starting to show us what he is all about.

    I am also beginning to wonder who our best central defensive partnership is, I really like the look of Mari and if it were not for injuries I think Gabi will have a battle on his hands to regain that spot. Luiz has great periods and is the best at playing the ball forward but Rob is a favorite of mine and I have been seeing subtle improvements in his offensive game but he is still n prone to giving it away in dangerous areas in the middle of the park but the the other day I saw him glide past two players and setup an attack so there is more potential to unlock.

  • That’s a fine post game review – and more – Thank you Kez.

    Frankly I wonder about the “fatigue” issue as back in the day we use to play 3 time a week (Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning and Wednesday evening – on pitches that were more like farmers fields – quite often we had to clear off cow crap before the game could start. Admittedly the caliber of the football was way below EPL standards but we rarely had multiple injuries – which was just as well as we only had eleven starting players and NO subs were allowed.

    My belief is that it also has a lot to do with the fitness levels – today’s players are like fine tuned machines that can damaged at the slightest touch – whereas we were very sturdily built and were fortified by a few pints before kick off.

    We also played with leather balls that had leather lacing holding in the rubber teat – those balls just as dangerous as the opposition players – and caused just as much harm.

    However that was then – but I still wonder why playing two games within 3/4 days is an issue – I guess I’m a tad old fashioned………

  • Here are the results for last weekends games:-
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    For the week:-
    1st GN5 with 4/6 plus 4 bonus points
    2nd Gooneris & PB with 3/6
    4th Kev and Total with 2/6
    6th JW1 with 1/6
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    For the season to date:-
    1st Gooneris with 91.33
    2nd JW1 with 77.66
    3rd Kev with 77.00
    4th PB with 75.66
    5th GN5 with 71.33
    6th Total with 61.66
    7th Le Gall with 27.33
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

  • Here are my choices for next weekend:-
    ””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””’
    Burnley v Arsenal
    Aston Villa v Wolves
    W.B.A. v Newcastle
    Man C v Man U (correct score game)
    Tottenham v Crystal Palace
    Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid

    There will be an extra 2 points for the correct score between Man C and Man U.
    ”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””’

  • Interesting news coming out of Spain about Barcelona with reports that Josep Maria Bartomeu, current chief executive Òscar Grau, and Barcelona’s head of legal services, Román Gómez Pontí were arrested on suspicion of “unfair administration, corruption between individuals and money laundering.”

  • We’ve also got Chambers if we need a CB or defensive-minded midfielder! It was good to see him come on, albeit only for a short while. It has been such a shame how injuries have held his career back. I fear that he may have to move on in the summer.

  • This stuff at Barcelona was probably very commonly happening. Many of us had suspicions about Raul even, because of the price agreed for Pepe. Wondering if he got something out of it somehow, under the table.

  • Here are my predictions:-

    Burnley v Arsenal – A
    Aston Villa v Wolves – H
    W.B.A. v Newcastle- D
    Man C v Man U – H (3-1)
    Tottenham v Crystal Palace – H
    Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid -H

  • T, i just heard an interesting stat, in 44 starts Pepe has 29 goals and assists. Not bad. Its from twitter, so i hope its accurate.

  • It is indeed true, but the number of games started is not the best driver to put someone’s efficiency into perspective.
    Pepe’s 29 goal contributions happened in 72 games and 4629 minutes overall. The overall yield is on goal or assist every 160 minutes. When we compare the seasons it could shows some trend though:
    – in his first season he played 42 games, scored 9 and assisted 10 in 2717 minutes resulting a goal contribution per 151 minutes on average and covered about 72% of the duration of these games. He payed 14 games in their entirety, joining from the bench further 13 times and was substituted after starting in 15 games (often in the dying minutes).
    – this season (after the 2/3 of the games) Pepe played 1912 minutes in 30 games scoring 8 and assisting 3 – a major shift towards the goalscorer role – but his overall efficiency slightly decreased to one contribution to every 2 games (173 minutes) and his inclusion declined to only 70% of the duration of all possible minutes there with 10 games played full, 10 games coming from the bench and in 9 games he had started and been substituted.

    The interesting part is when we compare Pepe’s return with others from the team. Saka for example has 13 contributions in 2497 minutes, being ‘productive’ once every 192 minutes, while Martinelli’s 10 goals and 4 assists last year equal to a one per 104 minutes contribution stat. Emile Smith-Rowe’s 6 goal and 7 assist in this season’s 1457 minutes show a remarkable return on every 132 minutes, but if we focus on his first team performance only, it ends up with 8 contribution in 1206 minutes and a one per 151 minutes which is still the best in the team, but a bit less impressive.

    By the way Barcelona. Have you read that Arteta’s name came up as a possible Barcelona manager next season?
    https://www.football-espana.net/2021/03/01/barcelona-candidate-to-target-arsenal-boss-mikel-arteta-if-appointed-president-report
    https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/1403913/Arsenal-Mikel-Arteta-Barcelona-Joan-Laporta-la-liga-premier-league-news
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-9311685/Arsenal-Mikel-Arteta-emerges-managerial-target-Barcelona-presidential-candidate-Laporta.html
    Probably bull$hit, just for your entertainment.

  • Burnley v Arsenal – A
    Aston Villa v Wolves – D
    W.B.A. v Newcastle – A
    Man C v Man U – H (3-0)
    Tottenham v Crystal Palace – H
    Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid – D

  • Pb, excellent, thank you. I was hoping somebody would look into that stat. You gave us some fascinating info actually, because contributions per minute is one of the better gauges.

    Not that it can be done, but Saka stats broken down from when playing on the right vs left would be very illuminating. Also, i think he would be wasted as a wingback from now on.

  • Thanks GN5, yes I recall the 1979/80 season so so well, it was probably the worst season I’ve had as an Arsenal fan when it could have easily been one of the best, but Arsenal ended up exhausted, losing two cup finals and out of Europe, it was heartbreaking.

    I know what you mean about 2 games a week and what you say is true, but I think it’s the speed and intensity of the modern game, in the old days the players could take a breather, knock it back to the goalkeeper and he could pick it up, bounce it a few times, roll it out to the edge of his area, bounce it again and give everyone a chance to recover, not so now in these days of the uber press etc…

  • Total, you’ll be pleased to know that I also make a wicked cheese n ham omelette which hopefully you can sample in the not too distant future… 😋

  • There is no such thing as “can’t be done”, Jnyc, just too time consuming.
    Nevertheless I invested about 30 minutes in the analysis of Saka’s 2020/2021 season, and here are the results (every stat via TransferMarkt):
    – he was playing at CM for 4 games (behind the front 3 [back then], supporting the classic midfield duo), and he scored a single goal (without assist) in those 347 minutes. Efficiency is obviously 1 contribution in 347. We won 3 games (however the Carabao Cup tie against Liverpool only on penalties), and lost one (against Man City on the 1st of October).
    – Saka played LWB/LM in 6 games, without any goal involvement (apart from an own goal), but let’s admit that it is way harder from the back. We won the games against MU, West Ham and Leicester, drew against Southampton and lost against Everton & Aston Villa (all in 3-4-3 / 5-2-3), playing 536 minutes altogether.
    – Bukayo played 570 minutes in 9 games as LW, assisting once against Molde. His yield was 1 contribution per 570 minutes her. We had the terrible October-December run here (which could be either the cause or the effect of Saka’s lack of return). We had a few red cards there as well. If that changed Saka’s position mid-game, I disregarded here. We lost 6 games, drew 1 and won 2.
    – And Saka played RW predominantly in 4-2-3-1 in the remaining 12 games. That covers 1044 minutes with a shocking return of 5 goals and 6 assists, reaching a goal contribution every 95 minutes. Out of this 12 games Arsenal won 8, drew 2 and lost 2. In one of those games we played 5-2-3, the rest in 4-2-3-1.

  • Wow. Thanks PB. Those stats really tell an obvious story. Arteta and anyone else, including opposition should keep that in mind. With all his talent, we were feeling a lack of production, and most of us noticed the difference right away when he moved. Though didn’t Arteta just try him back on the left for some reason? Was it against Man City? The results were in line with previous. I’m sure he was attempting some kind of overload with Tierney, but that didn’t really produce anything in the past either.

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