Arsenal 3 – 1 Spuds
Well what a treat that first half was for us, hey?! A well deserved NLD win that was was easy on the eye and will offer us hope for the Arteta Revolution. The first half was simply sublime and Arteta seemed to show mercy in the second half when, just like Guardiola often does, he asked his team to control the game and sit back to do so.
Eight quick observations:
- Not a single player played below an eight today. This is the really big point to take today: they played like a unit, with a plan and with a level of cohesion we have not seen for a long time. Emile is the official MOTM and I think that was the correct decision, if indeed you would have to pick one. But everyone was just brilliant and what a team performance did we witness at the Home of Football: they totally blew me away. It was like the players realised that they were now all part of the a single jigsaw and all pieces were in place at last.
- Ramsdale is possessed with excellence. Think about the companies you worked for and how rare it is to have an employee like Aaron in your midst: someone who will give their all and set themselves and others the highest standards. It is infectious and you can see how the others are warmed, and sometimes even scared, by it. We have a leader from the back who is obsessed with clean sheets and it is totally amazing how Aaron has settled into the team. He pulled some great and crucial saves today and it just looked like he has been with Arsenal for a decade already.
- Tomiyasu was also playing like he’s been with us forever. Such a quick thinker and passer: one touch, no nonsense. Crucially, twice he was there to pick up the rebound from a Ramsdale stop before anybody else could get onto the ball. Takehiro anticipated really well and had no problem at all with the Spuds’ physicality. He was solid and as a result Saka could play higher up the pitch which was vital today. Tierney was also great on the left and together they were very important weapons of attack today.
- Ben White stood tall and formed a great partnership with Big Gab. Understandably, there were some doubts about giving Ben a start in this NLD, but he looked at home alright. White uses his head well and he will be the calm leader in our defence before you know it. There is a bit of Mertesacker in White and I can now see better why Arteta was so keen to get him.
- Partey-Xhaka partnership was king all game long. They really made it look like the Spuds had no midfield and would not let anybody through their gate as long as the game went on. They were both at the base of many attack and Xhaka was involved in all three goals. Partey perhaps produced the pass of the season which was only spoiled by Auba’s loose first touch. The double DM-pivot in big games like these is still a formidable weapon for Arsenal and today it worked a treat.
- Key to our mobility was the free role of Odegaard. Time and again, Xhaka or Partey would find him from deep midfield and then the magic happened. This really was key to our success and although ESR and Saka got the big stats of goals and assists today, I thought Ode was equally as important. We have a special young trio in Bukayo, Emile and Martin at Arsenal and they will find each other better and better going forward. Such a joy to watch today.
- Auba was a fab captain today. He ran and ran and created so much space for the other attackers. On top of that, he scored a good goal himself. It was good to see Pierre back to his best, and happy and what a contrast he made to the Spuds’ CF.
- The other really big point to make is how much balance we had in the team, based around a number of very good partnerships with complementary skill-sets. I really don’t know how Arteta managed to get us so balanced for this game. This line-up just worked a treat with a midfield that protected the back four really well, a defence that was just calm and solid for most of the game, wings that were very effective and an attack that was simply dazzling.