Arsenal Leave it Late to Ruin Themselves… Or did They?!

Ooh that late goal against us was a kick in the proverbial, and it is once again all doom and gloom in Arsenaldom. The fact that this is a game of two legs does not seem to count any more. We are obviously doomed and should not even turn up for the away leg. All home teams in the Europa League failed to win last night. In fact, the other three lost their matches, so maybe a draw ain’t too bad after all?!

We were tentative but well organised in this game and were able to create a number of half-decent and good chances. The boys hit the woodwork a few times and on another night would have scored a few in the first half and it would all have been a different experience. The beating by Pool was still in the minds and legs of the Gunners and it showed. The boys were weary of the way Slavia Prague had somehow managed to dispose of Leicester and Glasgow Rangers and therefore showed the opposition a bit too much respect.

Yet I liked the way we created opportunities and put pressure on them when they played the ball out from the back. I also liked how Holding and Gabriel tried to put some balls over the top. It was poor initially but they got better as the game went on. It was great the way Auba connected with Pepe for the goal and I also liked the way ESR disposed of his rust as the game went on to finish really strongly. Then there was Saka who was so influential and competitive but just missed a bit of composure with his final ball; something to be expected from a 19 year old who has been out of it for a while.

I saw a focussed and keen Arsenal team throughout most of the game. The final ten minutes were a disappointment and we paid for the lack of professionalism at the entire back. It would be easy to hang one or two players out to dry, but for me it was every player at the back and midfield that should get the blame. I think they can do much better as indeed they have done during the season at times, but right now confidence and automatism between the players are not high/great. I can think of a number of causes but the only way to deal with this is through practice and getting it right again during matches. We are now at the business end of the season so we have to hope that Arteta and the boys will get it right asap.

I would have really liked it if Arsenal had kept a clean sheet but all is not lost. In fact, it may turn out to be the best thing that happened to us. Think back about the last round. The Spuds took a 2-0 home game to Zagreb but then managed to still get eliminated. The psychology of having to defend a cushy lead is not easy to grasp or indeed to prepare for. I could see Arsenal struggling with this too: do we attack or do we sit back, and if we do the former how committed will we be?! A team can struggle with such a proposition and I reckon we don’t have the leadership in the team right now to maturely see out a second leg on that premise.

The 1-1 means that we have to score at least once; that we need to win or draw 2-2 or higher. The mission is clear: play football and play to win. We have a better team than them, so much is clear from the first leg. This is no time for throwing in the towel but for standing up and getting behind the team. In six days time we will see a much better and determined Arsenal, that I will promise you. All to play for. COYGs!

By TotalArsenal.

29 thoughts on “Arsenal Leave it Late to Ruin Themselves… Or did They?!

  • TA as positive as ever. Let me state my viewpoint which i did ij the last post. The game and result in itself is not a problem for me. Home games have been bad for us and I reckon are better in away games cues from previous two Euro games.
    Various pods and blogs have talked about ESR and Saka game not being optimum, but that is where the optimisim for the future lies. I will take the result any day of the week with our future stars playing and not Willian. Iam still seeting with Martnelli getting 20 mins and Willian just jogging for 70 mins. Cannot condone noe understand Artetas management of youngsters. He needs to just look at how Arsenal is treating him putting him on a pedastal and his own treatment of these youngsters. He is seriously damaging our future. Hope iam wrong but the list of youngsters who are treated shabbily is a long one.

  • Optimistic article, TA. It’s hard to disagree with any of it, I can only challenge the underlying assumption that is ‘alright’ or ‘acceptable’ that the “beating by Pool was still in the minds and legs of the Gunners”. They are professional athletes, thus should be focusing on the next game. And while there could be some fatigue in the legs, Liverpool played 2 days sooner than us (well, they eventually lost, but a defeat at PSG could have other explanations than heavy legs). Similarly you seem to be equally sympathetic with Saka “missed a bit of composure with his final ball; something to be expected from a 19 year old who has been out of it for a while” as well as the coach’s decision to play him 78 minutes, while these 2 claims seem to contradict each other if I’m being rigorous.
    Nevertheless I fully agree with your conclusion: we have the quality in the team to win in Prague (for the first time in this season), and now the players have the pressure/motivation. Unfortunately the conditions are not met to see the game live from the Sinobo Stadium, but the boys will have our full support.

  • T A as you know I am a pretty quiet blogger these days, I think Arteta deserves the fans support, but only so far.. in some respects he has done well, but in others when he has been forced by injuries etc to play youngsters, we have looked much better when Saka, ESR, Tierney and Martinelli have played all have all done well when given the chance. When l look at the team sheet, if I see those names I feel confident. I am sure Martin O can add himself to that list if he maintains his form.

    The thing that really annoyed me last night was after we scored. Lots of hugging etc. What happened to the hungry team that wanted to finish team off. What happened to the centre forward who would grab the ball and place it on the centre spot? As far as I am aware Slavia couldn’t have scored if the ball had been down their end of the pitch.

    After Slavia kicked off Leno had the ball. He showed no urgency to get the ball upfield and eventually we managed to cock it up at the back as we nearly always do. That’s an attitude problem in my book and some something Arteta needs to address.

    Three other observations. When Auba came on he immediately looked like the Auba of old. I can’t understand how he can suddenly change from be disinterested and lazy into a superstar overnight. I know he has had some problems but that was a pretty incredible turnaround.

    I know you rate Xhaka very highly and I have to admire the way you battled almost the entire blogosphere in his support last season. Personally I still regard him as a very average player, although with a few notable exceptions he seems to have cut down on his errors. The question I have is why does he always go up for corners, I don’t remember him ever winning a header in the oppositions box, let alone score.

    Lastly,Arteta seems to be taking longer and longer to make substitutions. I didn’t think Willian was that bad last night, but had their been a crowd in the Emirates last night I am sure they would have been screaming for Martinelli.

    Sorry just a mini rant, but it does me good to vent a little now and again

  • Madhu, Arteta left Pepe and Auba on the bench and played youngsters Emile and Bukayo instead. He chose Willian for the number ten position which didn’t work out. Maybe Martinelli would have done better but we just don’t know.

  • Ask your other half how hard it is to mentally fully overcome a really negative, confidence shattering experience, PB.

    Saka was still one of our best players imo.

  • Great stuff, Retsub, agreed the goal celebration was over the top.. And was far away from our manager. I don’t think it is attitude of the players that did us towards the end but that’s just me.

    Re Xhaka… No further comments from me. 😊 ⚽

  • TA, I agree that we should be optimistic. Yes, Saka and ESR were a bit rusty last night but, most players are when coming back after time out for whatever reason. We have some great young players coming through and I hope that the stories that Balugon is to sign a new contract are true.

    I thought Saka played well in a team that was looking a bit tentative and if he had scored all the many fickle bloggers out there would have been raving about him today. Laca has also come in for some criticism too. He got very little service and the big chance he missed he created out of nothing through his own tenacity and tackling back. PEA was on fire when he came on, what a yo-yo season he is having. Let us hope that whatever inspired him yesterday can be bottled and sustain better performances from him for the rest of the season.

    The niggles (for me).

    MA has started making his tactical substitutions too late in the game. Earlier in the season, he would make a change at half time if necessary and it was clear that we needed an injection of energy from somewhere quite early on. His triple substitution was great and made the right impact. Imagine if we had been able to put 10-15 minutes more of that pressure on the opposition.

    We don’t know how to see out the game and, as Retsub said, we were pretty clueless after we scored. The final minutes are not the right time to be taking chances at the back as we did and we should have been looking for another goal. MA knew that as was evidenced when he was shouting at Leno who was trying to waste time over a goal kick.

    We also need to decide how we are going to press. We were much better at that earlier in the season and Pool really showed us how to do it on Saturday. Last night our attempts were half-arsed and only succeeded in wasting the energy of our forwards who were easily played around.

    I’m looking forward to next Thursday with optimism though. We need to take the game to SLP and try to score an early goal. The tie then could be very tasty!


  • TA, thanks for trying to lift the spirits with the positives, but I assure you it won’t be easy out in Prague, just because we have the better team.

    Winning or seeing out games becomes habit; so does losing or grafting for wins. I fear we are making a habit of becoming nervous wrecks when the heat is on…..when a winning mentality is needed. Those things come from confidence boosting results which we have not had, recently enough. I feel the boys easily feel sorry for themselves and withdraw into their shells. I would have been happier if we were playing a top 7 side next, rather than a team in relegation waters, frankly, because it is easier for us to be up for such a game than to play Sheffield United, fearful of losing.

    I did pick on Gabriel a bit yesterday; it was knee jerk reaction to the concession of a late goal. He was good last night. As were Holding and Cedric. Overall, we played well but that result was galling. We deserved better and may have to show fight to get anything in Prague. I repeat, it won’t be easy out there.

    So, the question is Can Arteta coax a winning spirit out of the boys on Thursday. First, though, there is the small matter of Sheffield United to negotiate. Do that well, and maybe, I would harbour some hope.

  • I’m with TA on Xhaka being important and hugely underrated, Retsub. (He is the captain of the Swiss national team, that is ranked #7 ahead of Italy or the Netherlands, but we didn’t find his best position or maximum contribution so far.) But I agree with you on your observation and challenge him going in the 6-yard box every corner. Besides him being a strong, muscular fella – which is not bad to have inside the penalty box – I don’t see him an aerial threat either.

  • Thanks Total. You dispense the balm of Gilead. If I were an Arsenal player I would take encouragement from your post. It is good to always try and speak or write of a person as if they were listening to or reading our words.
    While it is frustrating to concede so late, I thought Slavia were good for their draw. Our boys worked very hard and gave us some great moments: the goal was a wonderful example of transition, the pass to Pepe was Berkampesque in its timing and weight, Leno’s reflex save at his near post, Gabe’s tackle on the edge of the box. I fancy us in Prague, especially if MO10 can be restored to fitness and his otherworldly activity between the lines.

  • Haha Stuart, you and me could start the balmy army 🙂

    Thanks for the compliment and I am glad we both found beauty in that game. Yes that Auba pass was worthy of a Bergkamp comparison.

  • Cheers Eris, a very balanced comment and I agree that it will not be easy on Thursday. But that’s how it should be: winning the cup should be based on some awesome performances and turnarounds.

  • Saw this PL fact (one for PB to affirm): Both Chelsea (6) and Liverpool (10), have made more errors leading to goal in the Premier League this season. This mainly surrounds the insistence on playing out from the back in the light of how pundits have been going crazy over Arsenal’s persistence with the tactic.

    From what I have seen, we’ve handled it well, to some extent; we only need to know when to vary the play by kicking out on occasion. I recall PE took some time explaining the possible variations of that ploy, including using it to launch an attack with an accurate kick to a free midfielder who can turn the gambit into a counter, as the opposing team are outnumbered in midfield and the back having taking the bait. Real Madrid and Bayern have shown a proclivity for sucking teams in like that and do this efficiently.

  • Indeed, I did find sources confirming those stats.
    Liverpool leads with 10, Chelsea had 6 errors leading to goal, but – after Burnley and Wolves with 5 each – Arsenal is #5 with 4 costly errors. To be noted though: there are 8 clubs with 4 errors (including United and Spurs) so we are at the more and around the median. Leicester and Man City could be proud of their 1-1 errors, but there is not much difference among the middle 18 clubs.

    What might be equally interesting is that last year we made only 5 errors to goal, which can be repeated this season, so there is no obvious trend here. Newcastle, Aston Villa, Southampton and West Ham reached double digits in the 19/20 campaign, while the best team in this statistic was Watford with 2 and Chelsea & BHA with 3 each.

    To put all this into perspective: Arsenal topped the charts in 18/19 (Emery’s first season, with 13) as well as 17/18 (Wenger’s last campaign with 15). So from this 4 year period the improvement is clear and shocking, which can be attributed to partly to
    – better defenders (Mari, Gabriel vs. Mustafi, Sokratis)
    – keepers with reliable feet (Leno & Martinez vs Cech & Ospina)
    – better defensive coaches
    – more focus of discipline
    – intensive practicing playing out from the back helps eliminating errors
    – Arteta’s own value added

    Before we open a bottle of Champaign, let’s not forget that the number of goals scored have similarly started to dry out:
    – 16/17: 77 (W)
    – 17/18: 74 (W)
    – 18/19: 73 (E)
    – 19/20: 56 (E/A)
    – 20/21: 40 (after 30 games, which could be extrapolated to 51 at the end of the season)

    Regarding individual performance/discipline, last season Leno and Luiz caused more than 1 goals for us (2-2 while Pickford and Dubravka contributed 4 and 5 respectively), and this season only Xhaka has more than 1 (2), while Kepa and Alisson top the chart. So neither individually nor collectively is there to be ashamed of in my opinion (apart from the terrible chance creation and converting statistics).

  • Great comment, PB. By the way you must not put in more than one link per comment as they will not go through without authorisation..

    I think the good news is that since Christmas we are scoring more goals per game on average..

  • Thanks for the post Total.

    I’ve been under the weather for a few days, nothing serious, just a tad fatigued – but I’m bucking up now.

    To be honest the game was difficult to watch and we were very disjointed and it never really livened up until the final 30 minutes. Pepe’s late goal looked to be divisive but sadly we could not hang on and now we have to overcome the away goal. I believe that we will be in the drivers seat and only have to achieve a 0-1 victory.

    Lets hope we can gain some confidence with a decisive win over Sheffield United.

  • Thanks for the effort, PB. Glad to see we, in fact, bucked a poor trend under Arteta; we need to find a solution for the low scoring trend, though. That’s so unlike our club.

    City losing to Leeds at home is what makes me apprehensive over the game at Sheffield (other than our poor recent record in that City. Pep’s side had their heads on the game vs Dortmund; we can not afford to be thinking about Slavia Prague, until we’ve navigated Sheffield.

  • No Smith Rowe at Bramhall Lane due to a sprained ankle and probably to save him for Prague.
    No Aubameyang at Bramhall Lane due to Flu and probably to save him for Prague.
    I’m sure I also read a couple of days ago that Saka was doubtful for Sheffield.
    No Odegaard at Bramhall Lane due to his ankle injury and to hope that he’ll recover in time for Prague.

    So, predicting the starting XI today is going to be interesting, Lacazette, Pepe and Willian up front?
    Of maybe (hopefully) Lacazette, Martinelli and Pepe or Willian up front?

    Arsenal, so I read recently, haven’t won at Bramhall Lane since 1993, which surprised me but then the Blades aren’t always in the Premier League.

    I suspect that most pundits are expecting another poor Arsenal performance.
    Let’s see…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s