Slavia Prague 0 – 4 Arsenal.
It was a great win last night and we should be really pleased with the way the team played for 90 minutes. It is fantastic how Arteta has changed to shape and tactics of the team and, although we haven’t faced really strong teams with Sheffield United and Slavia Prague, there is real hope that these changes will give us a good return in the remaining matches.
- Xhaka to the left in defence/midfield is a masterstroke. Was he a left back or left DM in the last two games? I think we got a bit of both and it worked a treat. Partey was clearly the MD king in midfield and Ceballos was given a role with much more freedom – more about him later. If need be either Xhaka or sometimes Chambers would move up in midfield and help out defensively. Both can play in midfield and are confident passers, and so there was a real balance both in defence and midfield. Xhaka is not very fast for a left back but it never showed. He clearly does not bomb forward like Tierney does, but with Pepe/Saka, ESR and Ceballos in the team there is no real need for this. Our defence and midfield looked solid, and despite Slavia having more possession of the ball they seldom or never got anywhere close to where they could hurt us. It was very impressive how Arteta had set up the team and how much space we had when we attacked.
- Ceballos might finally have found his best position in the team. I think he is an okay footballer but always appreciate his workrate. In front of our defence he can be a bit of a liability but running between the lines and collecting and redistributing the ball really suits him. It is like having an extra man in the team to go and help others wherever he is needed. A very handy handyman who helps gluing the team together. There are more players in the team who can do this but it is really nice that Mikel is giving Ceballos a continued chance to proof himself.
- Calum had another fine game: very disciplined and keen to move forward where and when he could. He played in Saka well for his superb goal and helped out in defence very well too. During set-pieces or when we were hemmed back, the back-line of Chambers-Holding-Mari-Xhaka with Partey and the more attacking midfielders in front of them was very solid, resulting in two clean sheets. Okay it is early days but I am sure you will agree it was fun to watch us during those games. There is something about Calum that makes me, hmmmm cal(u)m.
- Being the main man in deep midfield really seems to suit Thomas Partey. He offers a lot of everything you would hope to see in a midfielder and we may well see the end of us playing two DMs from now on. Partey has real presence and a fine eye for where the action will be next. He controls proceedings with his good ability to hold on to the ball and excellent passing skills (and he is not yet 100% as far as I can tell). His interceptions and blocks are so effective and he really likes to drive forward too, without holding on to the ball anymore time than necessary. A joy to watch. But then there is Xhaka who with a fine left foot can help out with the distribution of the ball, both from out of the back and the middle of the pitch. This really has looked good over the last few games.
- Saka is just awesome. 19 years old and he has such a cool head. He always works hard but he does not overdo it. Bukayo is efficient with his energy and is making sure he does not get unnecessary injured. But when he senses an opportunity Saka is focussed 200% and what he does next is almost always so effective. He reminds me a bit of Marc Overmars who also had such a great efficiency/effectiveness balance in his game. His goal was just so clever and well taken and he almost scored a peach of a goal earlier but for the woodwork (and then ESR’s harshly given offsite).
- In general, it was that combo of a very solid defence and midfield and the fluidity of our attack that made us play such great football at times. The movement up-front was fabulous and it made us utterly unpredictable. Pepe, who scored a very good goal early on, ESR, Saka and Ceballos combined so well and used the available space on the pitch to perfection. ESR had a great game with his effective work between the line and fine passing and what a ball for Pepe’s goal. It simply was far too much for Slavia.
- The MOTM has to go to Laca. Alex took the penalty that put the game to bed (that goal was effectively worth two) and then he scored a masterfully controlled second late on. But it was his pivotal attacking play that was so good. Laca occupies defenders AND can then pass the ball into the space he has freed up so well. The other attackers love working with him and he loves working with them. Long may it continue.
- It is in the nature of some people to find something to pick on, as if all that sweetness is just too much for them (let’s be wary of them). Some, not on this site, have been picking on Leno for some reason. Bernd is a human being who, like all of us, will have many good periods and also the occasional bad one. We as fans should not want to make this worse by picking on him, even if there really is nothing to pick on. Leno may well not become Arteta’s long term choice – who knows? – but he is our nr1 goalkeeper this season and always wears the shirt with pride. Let’s stand right behind him.