Arsenal v WH 8 Observations: Three MOTM, THE Surprise, New Bergkamp, Laca Finally at Home?

Well beforehand I was afraid of the last twenty minutes of the game but all the damage was done in the first twenty instead. That is the unpredictability of football for you!

But the boys did us proud with a stunning turnaround and in the end they will feel sorry for not getting all three points.

Alexandre Lacazette
Football at its best: conductor Ode finds Pepe, who then delivers the ‘wrong-foot’ pass of the season, which finds Laca who rises between the West Ham’s giants to complete a fighting comeback.

Eight Observations

  1. It was both bizarre and painful to see us concede two goals early on, followed by a third one after just 32 minutes, and we were all fearing the worst. Was it going to be one of those nightmare days? The first one, although not without mistakes by the team, was one to accept and value. Lingard’s strike was sweet and deceptive and Leno, who excels at shot-stopping normally, could just not get his hand to it. The second goal should not have stood as the referee let the free-kick be taken from a different spot from where the foul had been committed, but we were also badly positioned and dealt with Lingaard’s cheeky move poorly. The third goal saw some bad positioning from us and then we were beaten by a quality, old-fashioned downward header. 3-0 down and what is going to happen next?!
  2. There were three players who stood out during this game and they are all my MenOTM. One directed the game like Beethoven’s ninth symphony, the other one totally surprised us with his fast-as-a-shark attacking contributions and the last one because of his ferocious, Centurion energy and attacking spirit. I will cover these three in the next few observations. What matters in football more than anything else is fighting spirit: a burning desire to defend the shirt. I am annoyed about the way we gave away three goals but these things sometimes simply happen, especially to teams that play Thursday UEFA League football. We missed the mobile bull-with-brains, Big Gab, hugely yesterday. Mari was left unprotected by Tierney, Xhaka and the rest, possibly because they got so used to Gabriel bossing the whole area. Mari just does not have the same mobility and of course had not been playing for a while… Before we knew it we were three down, two of which came from Mari’s/Tierney’s/Xhaka’s area. We were still cold and the Hammers were super focussed and we paid for it. YET Arsenal’s heads did not drop and the fight was taken to the opponent with real intensity. They made me proud to be a Gooner.
  3. The chief creator was a our loan player from Madrid: MO11. Odegaard had a superb game and totally took the game to the Hammers from midfield; it was a Bergkampesque performance by young Martin. I was so impressed with the team keeping the ball so well whilst West Ham pressed us from deep so aggressively when we were attacking, and Ode just kept finding space and players. He was comfortable with the ball and his passing was sharp and decisive. He was our chief creator, the master of attack, and the team were buzzing around him.
  4. Pushing up the full backs may have cost us a couple of goals – Moyes had done his homework well – but it also made a couple. Tierney put in some fine crosses and provided a constant threat from the left, and Chambers was brilliant in attack and my surprise of the day. He should have had two assists but for the OG has no assist maker rule. Calum produced fine cross after fine cross all game long and had a decent display in defence too (after initial rustiness). I love a player who takes an opportunity when it is there for the taking: Chambers did that.
  5. In attack, Laca was really impressive. He worked so hard and got in promising positions. Okay he was a bit lucky with the slight but vital deflection for his first goal but his second goal was pure determination and good timing. Laca, maybe for the first time since joining the Gunners, seems to have found his place and role within the team. He hustles and bustles, he is a thorn in the side of any defender, he links up well with his fellow dynamic team mates and he has the bite of a puma.
  6. In stark contrast, Auba is struggling currently. He is limited with the ball as a passer and is best suited to be launched into space, when he is simply world class. Football is changing rapidly and relying on a (world class) specialism may no longer suffice, as Mesut and maybe now Auba have come to realise. I remain a big fan of Pierre and am glad he signed for us last summer, especially for the psychological effect this had on the team and the club’s image. But it looks like combining him with Laca is not a good idea. It is a work in progress but it is important that we as fans stay behind him. You cannot turn a tiger into a wolf, but if there is one player who can score the all important goal in a top match it is Auba, so let’s cherish and (of course) support him. Mikel will find a way to keep getting the best out of him.
  7. There were plenty of moments of beauty in the game. Some of Laca’s balls to Saka were exquisite, and the latter got very close to scoring our second goal before the break which would have made it 3-2 at a vital moment. Tierney’s runs to the byline and well timed passes into the box are a joy to watch, and I already mentioned Chambers’ marvels into the box. But the absolute moment of heavenly football was certainly the moves for our third goal: once again Odegaard started it off with a well measured pass to Pepe into the box; the ball was so perfect that Pepe dared to cross it in one go with his weaker(!) right foot; what followed was an exquisite cross toward the far post past goal keeper and defenders that is a striker’s dream (and a defender’s nightmare); and there was the by now surely tired Laca who timed his run and jump to perfection to head-thump the ball in. What a joy of a goal. Forget results etc for a moment; this is what football adds to humanity’s art scene.
  8. Mikel has to ask questions to his team why we were so open on our left side throughout the game – from where we even almost conceded a fourth goal late on but for the post coming to the rescue – and why we started so disorganised. This remains a work in progress and everybody knows that it cannot continue. Our over-reliance on Xhaka as left-footed, deep midfielder, for whom we just do not have a like for like replacement, is a concern. Granit cannot be blamed for any of the goals – some have done so but for them he simply is the cause of all troubles in the world. It is impossible to expect him to play so many games per season and not have a game now and again in which he is less dominant (but still okay). I saw a fatigued Granit yesterday as he would not have allowed any of the space we gave away on the left normally. Furthermore, Thomas remains a work in progress for us: the talent and strengths are there at times but fully fit he is not, and it hurts us at times. With two games every week, three in effect from weekend to weekend, we cannot expect the Granit-Thomas partnership to keep us motoring on all season. Still I am proud of both of them for their workrate and passion for the shirt, and hopefully Mikel will get one or two extra midfielders this summer.

By TotalArsenal.

31 thoughts on “Arsenal v WH 8 Observations: Three MOTM, THE Surprise, New Bergkamp, Laca Finally at Home?

  • PB’s late comment to last post (relevant for this post):

    “While I’m less enthusiastic about this game than TA – in the first 30 minutes we were pinned to our goal, the players weren’t prepared for that aggressive pressing from West Ham, Leno’s goal kicks didn’t work, and the boys were unable to drive proper attacks; and even after the 30 minutes it wasn’t Arsenal that found the answer to these tactics, but rather West Ham lost the urgency (or stamina for that level of pressing). It wasn’t a slow start, it was constant panic (or as Partey said “they dominated from the beginning and we were completely lost”) that was uncharacteristic to Arsenal and a pain to watch. Nevertheless I appreciate the turnaround, but I kind of used to being the unfortunate team after a draw, so I’m not enjoying being lucky to steal a point from a David Moyes team. It is catchy that in the second half “we went all-out and everybody was fighting as a team”, but that should be the bare minimum from the starting whistle.

    However there are plenty of positive aspects to the game, too. Agreed with Madhu and Makayah on Chambers being good beyond reasonable expectations, and him becoming a factor when planning a RB on the team sheet. I also enjoyed the game overall; instead of a 6:5 chance creation balance around the end of last season yesterday we won the key pass minigame by 14:12. And the sources of our key passes were not limited to 2-3 creative players, but 8 of the boys provided key passes (Odegaard 4, Chambers 3, Lacazette 2, and 1-1 from Tierney, Xhaka, Pepe, Saka and Smith-Rowe). I also appreciate Arteta who dared to substitute Auba, Saka and Xhaka, but would appreciate even more not to start them next time, as playing only 73-80 minutes doesn’t really constitute giving them proper rest.
    I think the high spirit despite being 3:0 down is also a good sign, and based on the second half we literally going to the interlull on a high, which should be continued against Liverpool in April. And I think just the fact that we were the better team for 55 minutes shows that we are a better team overall, and hopefully the results will start to show it as well.”

  • I didn’t post pre-match but I was hoping that MA would start Cedric on the left. Tierney looked tired on Thursday and, although he played with grit and determination) even more so yesterday. I had predicted (hoped) that Chambers would start on the right as I felt we needed to be more defensive there, than we are with Hector, to stop their crosses coming in. I didn’t expect it to make us better offensively! It’s like a new signing!

    It is a pity that we don’t have someone who can be trusted to fill Xhaka’s shoes when he needs a break as he did yesterday.

    Odegaard and Laca were brilliant once we got going. Apart from his silky skills, I loved the way that way he was communicating with and encouraging his colleagues. Did you see him shouting and gesticulating at PEA in the first half, ordering him to press? I loved it. Martinelli should have started but at least he should have come on for PEA much earlier as he looked lost and that was not a captain’s performance.

  • Good comment, PB. I like the stats contribution which show that we did really well after those horrible first 30 minutes. And we turned this round ourselves.

  • Agreed OX10 that Martinelli should have had more time yesterday. It is a delicate one for Mikel as he knows that Auba is capable of taking the one chance that falls to him.

  • Maybe playing ESR in Xhaka’s position is a possibility. Barcelona are playing De Jong in various positions and he is doing well in all of them and Emile has similar talents and vision…

  • Morning all, I missed the game yesterday so it’s it’s good to read your post game TA.and all of the other thoughtful comments.

  • Thanks for the well-thought observations (as well as bringing my last comment from the previous thread), TA.
    I think all your point are valid, but I highlight a few that I especially agree with:

    – “I love a player who takes an opportunity when it is there for the taking: Chambers did that.”
    This is a very important point. While we all see the drive and willpower when fringe players like Soares, Ceballos, Martinelli, Elneny or Nketiah play, it is rarely at the same level of quality like Chamber and Pepe demonstrated in recent weeks. (Maybe Lacazette should be mentioned here, but I’m not sure calling him fringe player would do him justice.) For a few weeks I doubted whether Willian coming on from the bench is adding value to the team, but he is coming around nicely. And while I see ESR as a frequent starter for the future, I don’t mind him coming on as fresh legs and drive after the hour mark.

    – “But it looks like combining him [Aubameyang] with Laca is not a good idea. It is a work in progress…”
    Unlike Lacazette (or Nketiah) Auba is capable of creating his own opening, which proved to be useful numerous times when he was cutting inside from the wing, but he is indeed a limited passer. Laca is a different type of striker, maybe a less clinical finisher, but a big (physical) presence in the box, great at holding on to the ball, and (thus) creating plenty of chances for his mates. I think we should tailor the tactics to the opponent, and yesterday’s game didn’t benefit from Auba’s presence. But it doesn’t mean that he is on the decline, just his abilities suit different opponents better, and Moyes found the proper tactics to neutralize our captain.

    – “Odegaard had a superb game and totally took the game to the Hammers from midfield; it was a Bergkampesque performance by young Martin.”
    He provided the pre-assists for all 3 goals. Since this is never/nowhere measured, we don’t need the caveats for the own goals. 🙂 And the unexpected cutback to Chambers before our 2nd was the closest reminder to Dennis. (And Calum’s twisted lob to Lacazette – which was eventually cleared from the line – also had DB written all over it.) Such performances from Martin would drive his price up, but I don’t mind as long as we can buy him. Adrian Clarke will have difficulty to pick the MotM; I think he would mention Lacazette’s contributions notably, but will eventually assign the award to Odegaard.

    p.s. My biggest problem these days is properly perform to my (telecommunication) employer from home office while entertaining my 3-year-old (kindergarten is closed for a month) when my wife is also busy working with her clients and keeping the chaos at bay, but I didn’t realize it was – also – Xhaka’s fault. However it is difficult to constantly think outside the box, so I’m grateful for the explanation and perception to the more conscious and enlightened fans. 😛

  • Here are the results of last weekends competition.
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    For the weekend:-
    1st Kev with a perfect 6/6 and 4 bonus points
    2nd PB with 4/6
    3rd GN5, Gooneris & Total with 3/6
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    For the season to date:-

    1st Kev with 101.00
    2nd Gooneris with 99.33
    3rd PB with 87.66
    4th GN5 with 79.33
    5th JW1 with 77.66
    6th Total with 68.66
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Well done Kev for both your perfect score and taking over first place.

  • TA, I agree that ESR can be played in Xhaka’s position but he isn’t a like for like replacement. Still, the squad is looking a lot stronger than it did last season. Let us hope that we can hold on to Odegaard even if it is only on loan for one more season.

    I also agree with PB about Auba but Arteta should have reacted to the fact that he had been largely neutralised much earlier.

  • We have a change of pace for next weekend, we have five World Cup qualifying games and one Irish Premiership – to test out your prediction prowess:-
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Czech Republic v Belgium
    Norway v Turkey
    Slovakia v Malta (correct score game)
    Armenia v Iceland
    Ukraine v Finland
    Glentoran v Crusaders
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    There’s also an extra two points for the correct score between Slovakia v Malta

  • Czech Republic v Belgium: draw
    Norway v Turkey: draw
    Slovakia v Malta (correct score game): 3-0
    Armenia v Iceland: away
    Ukraine v Finland: home
    Glentoran v Crusaders: draw

  • Thanks GN5 and no Total, I’m not toying I’m just lucky, I mean a 3-3 draw, it’s all in the lap of the Gods.

    But for an outside bet, watch PB…

    As for the Euros, watch me crash and burn… 🙂

  • Czech Rep vs Belgium…. Away
    Norway vs Turkey……….. Home
    Slovakia vs Malta…………Home (5-0)
    Armenia vs Iceland……… Draw
    Ukraine vs Finland……… Home
    Glentoran vs Crusaders..Home

  • Cheers mate, good post btw and so pleased for Chambers, there’s nothing better than when you can solve a playing staff issue internally as it leaves more funds available for other positions. I actually think that the recent performances of Chambers and Soares have sealed Hectors fate, not that he’ll mind as he seems in need of a fresh challenge.

  • Czech Republic v Belgium: away
    Norway v Turkey: home
    Slovakia v Malta: home + 2-1
    Armenia v Iceland: home
    Ukraine v Finland: home
    Glentoran v Crusaders: away

  • Czech Republic v Belgium: – A
    Norway v Turkey: home – H
    Slovakia v Malta: home- H (3-0)
    Armenia v Iceland: – H
    Ukraine v Finland: – H
    Glentoran v Crusaders:- D

  • T, you are partly wrong in saying Xhaka was fatigued on Sunday.
    He was already exhausted on Thursday, and you’ll see me saying in the posts after Thursday and before Sunday that Granit and Tierney needed to be rested for this game vs West Ham. I also wanted Holding in for Luiz. Go back and watch the second half vs Olypiacos and see Tierney and Xhaka more tired than ever after a north London derby, walking on the pitch, not even jogging. To have an effective Cedric and not give a break to Kieran annoys me, as it did the last time he broke down from overplaying.

    To be playing against a team with no midweek game, already hungry and motivated by their current success… it was short sighted by Arteta. I wasn’t surprised at all by the first half performance.

    Chambers was late in getting back for their first goal, and I’m not sold on him having enough to keep up with pacey wingers as our back up right back in the future if Hector goes (I think we should sell Bellerin)…. but his great whole match shows just how lacking Bellerins contribution is in attack.

    Ødegaard shows how important it is that we either buy him permanently, or buy a very good player who can play that position, like Buendia, to go along with Emile.

    Lastly, we need to find more minutes for Pepe, who is doing everything right. His sublime pass for the penalty last week, and that right footed cross on Sunday. The spin on the ball was absolutely perfect for a head to catch or an own goal.
    He shouldn’t start every game, but he should start ahead of Willian and occasionally ahead of Auba on the left, especially for his new found defensive contribution.

  • Great points Johnno, yes Odegaard has consistently been good, improving with each game and up to a point to where you’re beginning to think that this guy is integral to the way we play, he has all the passing vision of Mesut Ozil without the moods, the laziness and the dramas, Martin is far more professional. He is mobile, likes a shot and is adapting well to the British style of more physicality. I’ve not gone overboard on him because of all the early hype and then disappointment with Ceballos, I’ve noted and enjoyed his good performances but didn’t want Arsenal to pay a shed load of dough on the basis of 2 or 3 games.

    So far so good and although I’d like to see us sign him next summer it’s quite reasonable to expect that Real Madrid would want to keep him or maybe another team to come in with a bid for him, like Liverpool or Chelsea or Man City, a team with bigger and better immediate prospects so we shouldn’t be too quick to hang our long term hopes on a guy who might not be with us next season.

    On the positive side he’s setting down roots in London, he’s making friends, playing for a coach he respects and becoming a Gooner, it does get under your skin this Arsenal, so familiarity and enjoyment of your working environment is a good thing, but he’s not adverse either to moving around!

    Before Martin arrived his job was being done by Emile Smith Rowe and very adequately, in fact many of us were concerned that the arrival of Odegaard could slow ESR’s development and even see him get frustrated and leave? But both players have quickly dovetailed and even if ESR is now more on the flanks and Martin is the main conductor they work well as a pair.

    So if Martin does go back to Madrid and Arsenal fail to agree a deal with them or Martin &co then we shouldn’t lose our sh*t because as disappointing as that might be we’ll still have the Croydon de Bruyne and he’ll be a year older and a year better and Miguel Azeez is almost at the point at where he’s ready to be introduced to the 1st team and he is another good lad…

  • Superb comment, Kev, and all agreed. You summed up all the sentiments well. Let’s enjoy Ode for this loan spell and see what happens next.

  • Thank TA, a positive development is the news that Gareth Bale has announced that he wants to return to Real Madrid next season and that might help us as I’m sure that Madrid had set their heart on selling Bale, getting a fee and losing his wages.

    Now if that doesn’t happen it might mean that Madrid will be more amenable to selling Martin as I’m sure the new president of Real will want to celebrate his accession to the throne with a Galatico signing and that’ll take a lot of dough..,

  • Kev If we can’t keep Ødegaard , I’ll understand, but I’m adamant that as a serious club, we can’t just expect 50 games from ESR. I’m not one to call for big spending,, but we should buy quality for the position rather than pin pressure on young players all the time.. We need to fix this midfield still. Ceballos is playing his way out of contention, and we are light there by 2 players without him and Ødegaard.
    I’m very happy with our depth in forwards and at the back, but I’d like to experiment more with Chambers at RB to see if he can be part of the solution for next season to move on Hector. I’m not sold yet but very encouraged off this performance.

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