The New Overmars, Arteta’s Masterstroke, King Thomas, Only one MOTM: 8 Arsenal Observations.

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.

8 Observations:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

By TotalArsenal.

18 thoughts on “The New Overmars, Arteta’s Masterstroke, King Thomas, Only one MOTM: 8 Arsenal Observations.

  • An excellent post, TA. I’m one of those who have not been sure about Leno but accept that he is our #1. That has been partly down to the way in which Arteta has been asking the defensive unit to play. Leno is a fine shot-stopper but there are areas of his game that he needs to improve (even the “greats” have weaknesses).

    One of the areas needing improvement is playing out from the back. There have been too many occasions where he must have seen that the opposition’s press meant that playing short was risky yet he has persisted with such a pass. Maybe he has been under pressure from MA not to play long or has taken his instructions too literally. Who knows? Anyway, there is evidence that the tactics may have changed and he has certainly played long when necessary in recent matches.

    Another is communication. This is an area where Emi was strong. Yesterday, Leno seemed much more vocal than normal even though he didn’t come under a lot of pressure. I would also like to see Leno taking much more responsibility for and ownership of his area, e.g by shouting for and claiming more crosses. Improvement in these areas will help give the other defenders better confidence.

    That said, it helps a goalkeeper’s confidence no end to have a good defensive unit in front of them and to be keeping clean sheets. The last two games must have been quite a tonic!

    We need a good back up to our #1. From what we saw earlier in the season, Runar isn’t quite ready but, now it doesn’t look like we will get the opportunity to see how good Ryan is and whether we should try to extend his loan.

  • I think a lot of teams would have studied our average formation variations and prepared accordingly, so the tweak in our balance must have had opposing managers scratching heads to adapt tactics. So, when you refer to that TA, I’d say you are on the money.

    With the back and midfield that solid, it is easier to unleash our “deadly forwards” on hapless, unsuspecting sides like SHU and Slavia Prague. Arsenal are a dangerous side when everyone is happy and the team in dancing mood. It’s worked a treat, so far. Hopefully, Arteta has another rabbit he may pull out of the hat, to befuddle our next 8 opponents, in all competitions.

    Thanks for the post, TA.

  • All good points, OX10. Arteta is asking a lot of him from a tactical point of view and the back four is constantly different, so, it is to be expected that Leno needs to adjust. I just feel we need to stay behind him and support him.

  • Thanks Total. Good post, mate. Yes, I love Autumn in Scotland, too. And doesn’t Rabbie capture it his “The fall of the leaf”.
    P.B.’s observation about the best ten minutes of Arsenal football he has ever seen got me thinking. Hark back to the 2004/5 season when we beat Everton 7-0 at Highbury. The game contained similar periods and passages of play which were astonishing, literally breath taking. Peak DB10. Similarly mesmeric were the minutes between 78th and 88th in our 2-1 CL home win v Barcelona in 2011. Only two goals but the occasion, the opposition… what a mountain top experience. Arsene gave us many a euphoric moment, and Mikel, having aspects of the great mans DNA will undoubtedly set our hungry hearts a racing many a time to come.

  • You have described Laca and Partey so well, it is infectious. We played a standard 3 at the back before Partey joined us and I predicted Arteta could not wait to switch to a back 4 so as to have a chance to put out two wingers and that Partey’s arrival would make that happen, and so it did. His confidence on the ball is evident while his distribution and ability to make just the right pass decision is uncanny, even. And he will get even better for us next season. If we do get Mbassouma, as is being speculated in the media, we would have a pair of ball playing defensive midfielders who can both give our defence security while also contributing (hopefully, taking turns at it) to the offensive impetus. Only concern is how much we would miss them during the next AFCON tournament; along with Pepe, Auba and Elneny.

    Lacazette was immense and has that bit of the total package in him, even where has some glaring weaknesses which can frustrate when he has a bad day. With him, defenders can’t relax when they have possession and he is about. Same thing when we have possession because he attracts attention but is willing to be a slugger in the mix, taking it and giving it in good measure. He deserves the Man of the match gong.

    Now, it is onto Fulham at home. More energetic play, please (as fatigue may set in).

  • TA, I recall even on here, fans were befuddled by the formation Vs SHU, right up until the second half. 😥

    And, while I rued Martinez’s departure, I support Leno to the hilt. He appears to love it here and that’s all I want to see.

  • TA, great points mate agree with you. I will put my hand up and cheer Arteta for the tactical change he has made for the team to play without tierney. While people may say it’s only Slavia but remember thye knocked out Brendon Rogers team who are in for a CL place. So cheers to Arteta and hope he is now completely bought on to youngsters and bins William for subs role.
    You have to shout out two of our wingers for special praise. Xhaka is a polarising figure but after Burnely he has put his head down and as a left back is doing his job. It’s a position he seems comfortable as even earlier he used to drop back and cover this position when Tierney bombs forward. Against a pacier winger I think he will still be ok as he is playing deep and doesn’t venture forward. We will know in teh coming weeks.
    Calum is an honest professional. No thrills or frills just an honest hard-working bloke. His pass to saka was equisite he had to be very fast as the pass to him was undercooked. Guess since he has played in midfield as well his passing range is better than what we expected. Defensively he adds height and old fashioned no nonsense attitude. May there is a case to not spend on Righ back and look at midfield and forwards in transfer window.
    Finally cheers tk our youth brigade who have rejuvenated our oldies and probably made this season slightly bearable. I guess for this specific reason we might call this season a success. Saka, ESR and Gabi along with pepe, Thomas and backline are the core of the team now.
    COYG and to the finals now hopefully.

  • Cheers Madhu, all agreed re Chambers.

    I think the youngsters are great and the experienced players are very helpful and there is a good mix now.

  • Well said, Stuart.
    The 7:0 game against Everton was supposed to be Bergkamp’s penultimate professional game as he already past 36 the day before the match. His display of 2 assists, 2 pre-assists and a goal is almost as memorable from the game as the crowd cheering “One more year! One more year!” Eventually Dennis signed and played 1400 more minutes to the club contributing 5 goals and missing the CL final because of a minor injury.
    The game when we defeated Barcelona was indeed one of the great moments of the club. I still rate the Slavia minutes highly as the boys practically scored 4 goals in 10 minutes, and the active play couldn’t be more than 6 due to the VAR evaluation, penalty and 2 kick-offs. Furthermore apart from a loose midfield pass the boys didn’t capitalize on errors from the opponent, but build up the attempts and created the chances from scratch.

    I hope that the Pepe-SmithRowe-Saka-Lacazette (Slavia) quartet will become almost as legendary as the Reyes-Pires-Bergkamp-Henry (Everton) and the Walcott-Fabregas-Nasri-vanPersie (Barcelona).

  • Madhu, that’s a fine point on Chambers.
    He might be a bit short (1’82) for a CB (7 cm smaller than Holding/Luiz, 11 cm shorter than Marí) but he is quite tall and muscular for a RB (4 cm above Hector, 11 above Soares), which is an advantage when defending crosses. As a – somewhat makeshift – defensive midfielder he has good passing skills as well as fine defensive positioning awareness, and from the CB he brings a lot of clearances to his game. Calum plays extremely fair: not a single yellow card in his almost 900 minutes, while Hector has 8, Cedric and Kieran 5 each, Marí 3, Gabriel 3 + 1 red – of course they played twice as much on average.
    And I absolutely agree with you on Arsenal not needing expensive full back signings this summer. Even if Bellerin leaves, Chambers seems like a capable right back with Soares able to deputize both flanks, not to mention Xhaka, who apparently can play any position. So let’s not spend big on Lamptey/Aarons/Hakimi, but focus our spending on a single – but class – midfielder instead.

  • I can’t remember the last time Arsenal had a back four so big and physically imposing as what we have now, it’s like the kind of back four you’d usually see playing for Burnley, just a whole lot more skilful.

    Two clean sheets tells it’s own story so maybe Arteta has again stumbled on the answer once more due to Soares and Gabriel messing up vs Slavia in the 1st leg, Luiz getting injured and Bellerin falling out of favour.

    When I read and hear other Arsenal views elsewhere I rarely see Mari suggested as a 1st choice, it’s always Gabriel and I don’t see Holding as a 1st choice suggested either it’s Luiz or Saliba, but this works and if it works it would therefore be a bit stupid to change it. I’m sure that this defence can negotiate most of the rest of our remaining games so unless Arteta fancies making the odd sub during a game to give someone a breather I’d be inclined to leave well alone.

    The Xhaka role looks key Total, it means we basically have two sitting full backs and that allows our young guns the freedom to attack at pace, at will and to drive into all those spaces we don’t currently have full backs running into.

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