Having watched the Oily Barcodes game a second time, I think it is fair to say that the team have made progress since the start of the season. There is still work to do, but Arteta’s signature football is starting to take shape. Against Eddie Howe’s sorry-11 we had to be patient by finding gaps in the walls and being careful enough to avoid a counter-attacking goal or two. The really good thing about last Saturday’s early kick-off game was that we always looked in control at the back. This is a great feeling to experience and a rare one at Arsenal in recent years.
Partey had an average game, especially with his passing, but he was disciplined with his positioning and offered great protection to the defence in general. It allowed Lokonga, who was a close MOTM for me, to connect with our four attackers and run the show in an understated way. Our full backs can support attack but also have the engine to get back in time, epitomized by Tavares’ late run into the box and effective shoulder charge to avoid a certain goal. Tomiyasu also has that ability to be at the right place and right time in the box and then clearing the ball very effectively. The partnership between White and Gabriel (and in a way also with Ramsdale) is at the heart of our solid defending these days, and long may it continue.
The attack remains a work in progress of course and, although still hopeful, I am starting to doubt that whichever four of Auba, Laca, Saka, ESR and Ode will find anytime soon the right chemistry to really move our attacking play to another level. All are talented and quality players, but can they actually really work together?! It certainly remains a work in progress and on Saturday they needed a helping hand by our fab full backs who each produced a peach of an assist. But it should also be said that Saka and Martinelli finished their chances superbly, something that cannot be said of Auba lately. The good thing is we almost always find the net and with a lean, mean defence-machine we have a good chance of winning most games.
Arsenal are currently shared fourth and only seven points away from the top. The next two away games in the North-West – MU and Toffees – will tell us a lot of where we really stand, I reckon. The Red Mancs on Thursday will be the pivotal game for us. They need to win and get their season back on track, but their new, interim manager will not be able to lead them from the dugout. Is that good news or bad news? I don’t know but if we can keep the crowd as quiet as we did against the Foxes then we have a good chance. Should we absorb pressure and play on the counter or take the game to them from the start? I feel the latter is the best way forward and we will need to take our chances when they come. Hopefully Auba and/or Laca have a very efficient game. Key is of course to win the battle in midfield and we need a top-notch performance from Partey tomorrow. If Partey and Auba have a really good game, we will be victorious tomorrow.
My preferred lineup is:
Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners, Make us Proud!!