Palace 0-2 Arsenal 8 Observations: Super William, Mr Alacrity, One Big Area For Improvement

Eight Observations from a pulsating win:

  1. The new boys all did very well and totally seem to get how Mikel wants to play football. Jesus was a menace in attack, Zinchenko was full of good positioning and passing and Saliba was solid. They had to work their socks of and, as Kev pointed out so well in the last post’s comments, the MC boys looked totally done in as a result of securing the game only late on instead of in the first half as Pep’s team regularly do.
  2. It was a cup win for us, as least that’s how it felt. We started spritely and overwhelmed the Eagles with our creativity and tempo. We could have had a couple of goals but only managed one, which kept Palace in the game. We allowed them back in through sloppiness in our defence, giving away the ball unnecessarily and allowing the crowd to finally find their voice. Especially Ramsdale had a few iffy moments and also Partey lacked the calm and precision in his passing to keep us in control.
  3. The second half saw us sit back, perhaps too much. Palace were strong on the wings where we allowed them space, time and again. Zaha was excellent and we just about managed to keep him out. White, on a yellow card, just about managed to control the area, but it was Saliba who truly shone with his composure and timely interventions. Grand William was without much dispute our man of the match.
  4. Zinchenko pushed up a lot which made our left side pretty secure for Palace’s wing play in the first hals. But it also led to Xhaka getting crowded out as he had less space to move in. In the second half Arsenal sat deeper and that suited Granit better but not so much Zinchenko who now had to defend as a ‘classic’ left full back. This will need to be worked on for our next games.
  5. Martinelli scored the all important goal, and even though he missed a sitter before that, this really is very important for him and the team. It was a corner from the training ground and it was cleverly executed. Martinelli looked a bit more mature and he was a constant threat, one of his best performances.
  6. Bukayo struggled to get into the game early on, partly due to being carefully covered by Palace. Yet he had the preassist for the first goal and forced the mistske/own goal for the second. He was much better in the second half with some good defensive interventions and releasing of pressure by being a menace up front. The partnership with White is still a work in progress. I think we missed Tomiyasu quite a bit yesterday.
  7. The joy of Gab Jesus continues. He plays the Laca role really well but offers extra energy and alacrity. It’s like Laca on steroids, such enthusiasm and bite. GJ9, Mr Alacrity, will set the tone for the rest this season. What a signing!!!
  8. The main things to take from this game are our fighting spirit, the clean sheet and boost that three points from Selhurst Park will bring us. We need to analyse why we sat so/too deep in the second half and thus allowed so much pressure on us. Palace are of course a well drilled and physical team and Vieira was clever in not allowing our creative players much space or time. They were well positioned and made our flowing footie hard to execute. But still, we have the players to overcome this and should not have sat so deep, inviting all that pressure. We clearly feared their ball over the top and Palace’s wing play and were left with grinding out a result. The boys did this, and I am proud of them, but a better midfield domination and balance is our main priority for the next games.

By TotalArsenal

79 thoughts on “Palace 0-2 Arsenal 8 Observations: Super William, Mr Alacrity, One Big Area For Improvement

  • Really enjoyed your review TA, during the game I was ranting at the referee for allowing Palace to escape any sanctions for the holding, pulling and late challenges they used, but that’s normal for English officials and we didn’t let the home teams physicality put us off.

    The clean sheet was a massive plus as well and shows we’ve improved in defending a lead.
    Now we have to show we can come from behind and win regularly.

  • You are spot on with your review, as always, TA. Particularly with regards to how the first goal was a well executed training ground routine (you could see the glee on the face of our set piece coach). There is a sense of satisfaction when these things come off, so kudos to the lads and training staff.

    “Mr. Alacrity”. A befitting appellation and he will prove it more as the season wears on. However, I hope GJ9 doesn’t get sucked in into playing too much of the Laca role and rather keep his forward play and press game going. I want him to score loads, you see….

  • Cheers Kev, I thought the referee really helped the home team, as he let the game flow when fouls were made against us but blew the whistle time and again for any perceived(?) fouls against the Eagles, as if he knew how they like set pieces. But what is new hey?! 🤩 🤩 🤩

  • I get your point re GJ9 scoring goals, Eris. It will come but he makes space for others too and I don’t care who scores, as long as we do. 😊

  • I think it’s fair to say that we started better v Palace than Pool v Fulham. It also shows how hard these PL season opening games can be.

  • I expected a draw TA and but for Ramsdale we might have had to settle for that, the Premier League of the last 5 years is easily the most competitive I can ever remember from the English top division, every game is a battle, the quality is improving every year, there’s no certainties in this division anymore, the only issue are our referees and why I’d like to see the best referees in the world officiating in the Premier League.

  • Arsenal vs Man Utd U21’s, 1-1 at half time, Marquinhos is having a good game, Tomiyasu playing, Edwards scored for Arsenal, Azeez playing the Partey role – interesting…

  • Marquinhos crosses for Sagoe Jr, who shoots over. 3 minutes ago

    Goal. Arsenal 3 Manchester United 1. Good finish from Azeez. Superb assist from Marquinhos with outside of his boot. 6 minutes ago

    Marquinhos passes to Olayinka, whose shot is saved. 8 minutes ago

    Goal. Arsenal 2 Manchester United 1. Marquinhos scores his first goal for Arsenal. The winger’s initial effort hit…… 9 minutes ago

    James Sweet is replacing Tomiyasu at the start of the second half in a pre-planned change. Tomiyasu underwent a w…

  • I’m pleased with the result and satisfied with the overall display.
    Even though we didn’t play particularly well.
    No, I’m not returning to my bitter self, as it was a praise in disguise.
    I think the general quality has been elevated to a level where we don’t have to play our best any more to defeat most of the opponents.

    OK, Saliba was great, even with the hype in consideration. Zinchenko was lively, Xhaka did well, Martinelli brought his form over from the pre-season friendlies, and Jesus was full of energy and finesse. But Odegaard was uncharacteristically average, Bukayo was ineffective before the forced own goal and White blew hot and cold – albeit facing the biggest challenge on the pitch. Even Ramsdale was ‘only’ alright, as his 2 decent saves compensated for his below average long ball distribution and for putting the defender under pressure with his short passes.

    So there is a lot of reserve in the guys, and still Palace didn’t have big chances to turn the game around, and this is really encouraging for the next 4-5 games (where we can – and maybe should – collect the 3 points each).
    Mikel did well with the starting line-up, and the tactics/pressing was effective. Maybe a bit more experimenting with the subs and Arsenal could go surprisingly far.

  • It will be interesting to see what the plan is for Marquinhos but he won’t stay in the U21s for long if he continues to perform like this. He’s always looking to make something happen.

    Full time. Arsenal 3 Manchester United 1. A winning start to the Premier League 2 season for Arsenal. First 20 minutes of second half in particular were very impressive.

    Marquinhos very good. Azeez, Monlouis, Awe and Graczyk impressed.

  • Have to say a word about Ramsdale and the officiating. Our young keeper has to be reminded of how good he performed when he joined us last season, as a keeper sweeper; he was unhurried and usually found his man with the pass. His misplaced pass (the one which ricocheted against an oponent) was the moment things turned around and the home fans found their voices again. We came under pressure right after. A team like ours draws confidence from the back five so Ramsdale needs to get back to his Leno-displacing form.
    Anthony Taylor always looked like he was only waiting for any excuse to issue us a yellow card (kudos to Xhaka for playing with maturity while on a yellow). Any mistakes and we were certain to go a man down. Can anyone explain to me why Xhaka’s purported dive deserved a yellow, rightly, but that of Eberechi Eze and Ayew only got a foul? It is a shambles, honest.

  • Liverpool finding it tough going against a newly promoted Fulham side, at home, just puts into perspective the significance of Arsenal’s win at Selhurst Park, a ground where we usually have to battle for anything.

  • I agree with most of what you say TA but, although I was very pleased with how resolutely we defended our lead after we had invited pressure on ourselves, I thought that Arteta could have reacted sooner. It wasn’t just the MC boys who looked done in, Ode and Partey did too. When he did make substitutions we immediately regained the initiative and secured the game. A good result in a difficult fixture. I was particularly impressed with Andersen who was making the sort of passes that some of us are hoping for from Ben.

  • First things first.. for LE GALL… the “Lost” episode “constant” you mention was my other favorite of the whole series. It has won awards.. I felt such tension and emotion watching it I’m sure I cried. More powerful than most “films” that win
    Oscars these days.

    On the game. Fairly average performance from most of the players excluding Saliba and White. Don’t take that the wrong way T, but I know we can do better.

    Great news that Tierney was ready to play in a serious match, and he looked good.

    Early season lack of peak stamina affected the pressing game we want to play, preventing us from staying on the front foot for a longer period.

    Frustrating that our most important sub ESR not available, as usual. Also missing Vieira prevented us from making more changes sooner.

    Even with that in mind, Arteta still waited too long to get out Jesus and Ødegaard.
    Jesus was walking around the pitch long before he was taken off. Sambi could’ve come on earlier too but I liked that choice to take Ødegaards place. Smart sub.

    You’re going to hear this from me even more this year, because with 5 subs, and a much deeper squad, Arteta needs to take advantage … he was already conservative with subs before. Now he will seem like he’s not even paying attention. What was it? The 83rd minute?. Eddie needs to be trusted to help keep our main guy fresh. He can do the job.

  • OX10, good points. Subs when we are leading 1-0 away from home are a delicate matter. Will it disrupt the flow or defensive resilience or actually strengthen these? Hard call to make with such a slender lead.

  • J, a bit too harsh imo. It was 24 degrees at kick off time and the boys were fighting for 90 minutes. Of course we can do better and we will but Palace had a cunning plan to stifle us, so I am happy about our performance last night. Just don’t expect hallelujah football straight away, J.

  • J, I fully agree with your point on the late subs.
    But I don’t think it was due to the lack of Vieira and Smith-Rowe.
    Even Mikel’s greatest admirers admit him being poor with rotation and unforced substitutions.

    He didn’t replace Jesus for being out of breath, but (probably) because he promised Nketiah when signed his new contract that he will not be reserved solely for cup games.
    He didn’t make such promises to Pepe or the others, so he doesn’t make changes at the hour mark for the new guys to come on, therefore unless there is a justification for a starting player to come off, he will not start experimenting with substitutions as long as Arsenal is leading.
    To be fair, that’s what many fans expect from him.

    I still hope though that he will eventually embrace the 5-subs rule as an opportunity, as it could help the development of a lot of players and ensure that they don’t get frozen out. However when we keep beating opponents – on the road – that snatched valuable points from us last season, that is indeed not the top priority. But a priority nevertheless.

  • Peter, I think it’s a bit too early in the current campaign to focus negatively on Arteta substitutions just yet, last season we didn’t have enough quality in depth without the teams level dropping too much, this season we do, they just aren’t on the bench yet.

    Substitutions don’t always guarantee that you’ll finish stronger or get a positive result, Patrick Vieira made about 3 or 4 subs and still lost!

    I didn’t see many coaches go beyond 3 subs yesterday so it seems to me that everyone is getting used to the new regulations.

    There aren’t any midweek games so we have 8 days recovery time, Tomiyasu got 45 minutes in the Stiffs yesterday, Tierney is gradually being eased back into the routine, when Vieira is fit we’ll see him, all our other players are building up their match-playing fitness/sharpness. Trust in the Process…

  • Fair points, Kev, but I’m not focused, only mentioned it.

    However – only from statistical point of view – more coaches used the opportunity to have 4+ subs than 1-3, and literally everybody had their first sub before the 83th minute (when Arteta replaced Jesus and Olex with Eddie and Sambi).
    In fact Liverpool started substitutions in the 51th and did the last in the 78th minute, so sooner than even our first. Sure, they were chasing the game and didn’t win, but still… you understand what I mean. Villa also had 4 subs, all before the 83th minute. Newcastle, Tottenham, Southampton and Chelsea had used all their 5 substitutions. The latter despite leading against Everton had 2-2 substitutions in the 65th and 75th minute, so I wouldn’t go as far as implying Mikel representing or following the best practices; but you are right, he indeed have plenty of time to come around.

  • Arsenal still need to sell or loan a few more players to fit under the squad restrictions for the Premier League and in Europe. (Daily Cannon)

    As we enter the final few weeks of the transfer window, Arsenal fans are still hoping for one or two more additions to Mikel Arteta’s squad, but even before adding anyone new, the current squad is already slightly overstocked, so let’s take a look at how Arsenal’s squad fits under the current Premier League and UEFA restrictions.

    Premier League

    The Premier League allow you to have a maximum of 17 non-homegrown senior players in the squad, with the total number of senior players adding up to no more than 25. You can allocate the homegrown players however you want within those restrictions.

    As long as the total is 25 or under, and the total of non-homegrown players is 17 or under, there are no issues. There’s no minimum number of homegrown players required, only a maximum on the non-homegrown players.

    The other thing to mention is the u21 list. If a player is under-21 (which is specifically defined as being born on or after 1st January 2001, for this season), then they don’t have to be named in the senior squad. You can have as many under-21s as you want.

    With all that in mind, let’s take a look at how Arsenal’s squad breaks down.

    Homegrown players (10): Bellerin, Holding, Nketiah, Ramsdale, White, Maitland-Niles, Smith Rowe, Nelson, M. Smith, Olayinka

    Non-Homegrown (17): Runarsson, Turner, Tierney, Gabriel, Cedric, Tomiyasu, Mari, Zinchenko, Partey, Odegaard, Vieira, Lokonga, Elneny, Xhaka, Jesus, Pepe, Lewis

    Under-21s: Saliba, Saka, Martinelli, Hein, Marquinhos, Sousa, Walters, and the rest of the academy.

    The good news is that Arsenal are not over the non-homegrown limit, so they could take two players out of either category (homegrown or non-homegrown), meaning any departures will help.

    With Bellerin and Mari strongly linked with moves, that could be enough. But if Arsenal make any signings, they’d have to make further sales or loans.

    Unfortunately, the situation is worse in the Europa League.

    UEFA (Europa League)

    For the most part, the same rules apply in UEFA competitions. The squad limit is 25, the non-homegrown limit is 17, and “u21” means born after 1st January 2001.

    But UEFA add two extra restrictions to complicate matters.

    The first is that only four of your homegrown players can be trained at other clubs, the rest must be trained with your own. For Arsenal, that’s not yet an issue, as only Holding, Ramsdale, and White were trained elsewhere.

    The second restriction is that under-21 players must have been at your club for two years. If they haven’t (for example, Marquinhos, who signed this summer), then they have to go in the senior squad list.

    This means Marquinhos, Lino Sousa, and Reuell Walters can’t go on the u21 list this season.

    Joel Ideho is also ineligible until October 6th, as he joined on October 6th, 2020, which would rule him out of the list for Arsenal’s first two group games.

    Kaleel Green and Henry Timi Davies are also technically ineligible, but neither of them are anywhere close to the first team yet anyway.

    What this means is that Arsenal need to cut down their current 27-man squad to 22, if they want to include Marquinhos, Sousa, and Walters in the Europa League group stage, which would be an excellent experience for all three of them.

    All three youngsters would need to be named as non-homegrown players.


    If Arsenal want to include Marquinhos, Sousa, and Walters in the Europa League group stage, as well as making at least one more summer signing, they need to sell or loan a minimum of six players before deadline day.

    At least three sales need to be non-homegrown players, and if Arsenal’s new signing is a non-homegrown player, then at least four sales need to be non-homegrown.

  • Cheers Peter, thanks for the response, yeah each game has its different nuances I guess depending on whether you’re defending a lead, cruising in a game or are chasing a game, in the final analysis if we win the game then the correct decisions could have been said to have been made, it’s the flip of a coin.

    I actually don’t disagree in the essence of your points regarding substitutions but I drive a taxi and I don’t see the players on the training ground all week so I trust that the manager is making the correct decisions based on what he knows.

    I’d actually like to see more and earlier substitutions if I’m honest but I’ve seen Arsenal do that in the past and lose control so maybe, if I’m to use the term again, Arteta is being more ‘focused’ in securing maximum point from the opening 5 games before the cups kick in with a nod to our damaging start a year ago – it’s just a thought. 😉

  • Chelsea have spent £167.2m of the Saudi sponsored cash they’ve got to spend, so any hopes of rebalancing the Premier League has been flushed down the toilet it seems?

  • Paul Tierney is one to avoid this season, awful on the big decisions, substitute Xhaka for McTominey and it’s a red card, substitute Xhaka for Martinez and it’s a penalty and a second yellow, substitute Xhaka for Slabhead and it’s a red card for violent conduct…

    Well done Brighton, played the better football, tactically better and did it with the officials favouring the home side in those critical moments – where was VAR?

  • Thanks, Kev for the low down on how our squad could look under new EPL and Europa restrictions. I imagine those paid to keep an eye on these things will do a good job of ensuring we are not in breach of the rules in any form. It would be easier to deal with the Europa restrictions, in my view as we would have no problems throwing on a more of the younger lads until the winter window, when a revision of squads is allowed. Marquinhos, Azeez, Walters and Ideho will relish the chance to play for the senior team in games of such significance.

  • Yeah, GN5. I really enjoyed watching manure lose at home in their first game, after all the stuff about them, in the media. It is pathetic how the pundits and analyst keep looking forward to a new dawn for them, hoping for the Sir Alex glory days to just return without their having to go through a process of rebuild.
    Ten Hag is a good coach and he may yet find a solution. But I enjoyed that result.

  • Of course it’s early, and I know subs is one of my constant issues.. but we’re going for a clearly deeper squad, especially if we add 1 or 2 more players… at least 1 I hope.

    One thing.. Eddie’s fresh legs for Jesus tired ones had a noticeable impact.
    We all saw that… so it’s not like it’s just conjecture. He was involved in pressing and playing as soon as he was on.. also involved in the goal build up, I think.

    I was disappointed in Ødes big mistake right in front of the 6 yard box. I love him, but Changing feet there was awful. He should have just hit it with his right, instead, he let the ball get taken off him meekly. Even Jesus showed frustration it seemed.

    A healthy ESR, Tomi, and Vieira will help with subs depth soon, I hope.

  • First results in the PL make interesting reading. Manure and Pool start badly, Citeh strong given the away opposition.

    Watched the first half again and Arsenal played so well. Second half to come next.

  • nuno makes ot 2 in marseille!
    probably one of the lowest xG ever
    feeling of déjà vu, too: mirror-image of thuram’s goal for france against croatia in 1998 – a right-foot shot from the right corner of reims’s box
    there’s an endearing touch of madness about the lad, the stade vélodrome’ll love him

  • 15 minutes to go
    marseille 3 reims 0
    reims look like an appallingly weak team to me
    if what they show (or don’t show) tonight is what they’re really worth, folarin”s loan will turn into a way of sorrows, i’m afraid

  • 94th minute; 4-1
    last-minute counterattack of the leading team, a classic
    Nuno was very good after his goal – so let’s forget about the rest
    Fo looked very sharp, hungry, in a team so poor it scared the living daylights out of me – considering that’s where our lad is supposed to improve
    his moves, his touches … and his goal were a sight for sore eyes; only after he came on did reims look like something vaguely resembling a football team
    such a performance in such a context: hats off to him, really

  • Thanks for the low down, LE GALL. Keep them coming; I was just about to seek out highlights when I saw your report. Fingers crossed for Folarin, then. Sometimes, you learn in adversity.

  • Thanks for the post, Total, for the news of our squad make up, Kev, and for the updates on our two loanees, LG.

    Yes, that first half against Palace deserves a rewatch, particularly the first 25 minutes. As I mentioned earlier it was like watching a whirlwind. The hunger, the press, the movement, the first time passing was elemental, absolutely menacing. Finishing was not cutting edge, Ramsdale was called upon to preserve our clean sheet and, as observed by J and PB the substitutions could have come ten minutes earlier, but this was a terrific way to start the season. Loving a good tackle, I watched Saliba’s perfectly timed and executed effort against Zaha a dozen times.
    City looked imperious against West Ham, the spuds have a gem in Kulusevski, and Brighton “rocked” bringing a smile to all our faces. But this was our weekend. The boys are back in town. (Friday night they were dressed to kill…)

  • Thanks LG, maybe Balogun is going to do a Saliba this season, the goals will flow as his confidence grows and he’ll return next summer LANS.

    Rumours on Moussa Diaby won’t go away, I don’t really know anything about him but are these rumours a diversion or has Edu moved on from Gakpo?

    Ornstein keeps banging on about Tielemans but Leicester always ask big bucks for their players and usually get the dough so rumours of Arsenal paying £25/£30m are probably well wide of the mark, Leicester will want more like £55/£60m so Arsenal will wait. Leicester need to sell to buy and it’s a case of who cracks first but I don’t think it’ll be Leicester. Maybe Edu will wait until January and sign him on a pre-contract and get him for free next summer?

    The weekend nicely summed up Stuart.

  • Morning all,

    Here are the results of week 1 of our predictions competition.
    1st Stuart with 4 correct predictions and 2 correct scores = 8 points
    2nd Total, Eris & GN5 with 5 correct predictions and a share of the bonus for most correct = 6.33points
    5th Kev with 4 correct predictions and 1 correct score = 6 points
    6th Madhu & OX10 with 4 correct predictions = 4 points

  • These are the games for week 2
    Aston Villa v Everton
    Arsenal v Leicester *
    Southampton v Leeds *
    Wolves v Fulham
    Chelsea vTottenham *
    Werder Bremen v VfB Stuttgart

  • Aston Villa v Everton H
    Arsenal v Leicester * 3-0
    Southampton v Leeds * 2-2
    Wolves v Fulham D
    Chelsea vTottenham * 1-3
    Werder Bremen v VfB Stuttgart D

  • Aston Villa v Everton A
    Arsenal v Leicester * H 3-0)
    Southampton v Leeds * H (2-0)
    Wolves v Fulham A
    Chelsea vTottenham * H (2-1)
    Werder Bremen v VfB Stuttgart D

  • Aston Villa v Everton H
    Arsenal v Leicester * 2-1
    Southampton v Leeds * 2-0
    Wolves v Fulham D
    Chelsea vTottenham * 1-1
    Werder Bremen v VfB Stuttgart H

  • Aston Villa v Everton…..H
    Arsenal v Leicester……..H (3-0)
    Soton v Leeds Utd……..H (2-1)
    Wolves v Fulham……….H
    Chelsea vTottenham…..D (1-1)
    W Bremen v Stuttgart…H

  • AVilla Everton H
    Jesus and his Disciples 4 Leicester 0
    S’Ton 1 Leeds 2
    Wolves Fulham A
    Chelsea 3 You-Know-Who 2
    Werder Stuttgart D
    Congrats to the winner, indeed! However (Bill Burr would say) … well, not filing a complaint yet, and not to take anything from his merit, BUT I strongly suspect he has “someone” by his side

  • Good to have the competition back, GN5. Straight into it….

    Aston Villa v Everton….. D
    Arsenal v Leicester……..H (3-1)
    Soton v Leeds Utd……..H (2-1)
    Wolves v Fulham……….D
    Chelsea vTottenham….. H (2-1)
    W Bremen v Stuttgart… D

  • left foot in monaco
    right foot tonight
    this veerman lad does want to play the CL, doesn’t he?
    and what a team goal that was – again – hope keown’s not reading this, but it looks as though RvN’s good at coaching proper football
    monaco are better than a week ago, so great game ahead maybe

  • set piece
    melee in the 6-yard-box
    a CB gets the equaliser: 1-1
    groundhog night between these two teams – monaco has been pressuring very hard for the last 5 minutes at least; if better served gakpo might get the winner on the break; pleasant game of football this is

  • ben yedder on the break it’s been
    two passes, 60 yards won, and ben yedder doesn’t miss those (he’s one of the very best french technicians)
    De Jong had had a golden opportunity moments before
    RvN seems to be at a loss, he’s learning the hard way – veerman, maybe? the lad’s been excellent so far

  • 2-2, “scored with the teeth”
    if the away goal rule’d still be on, it’d have been game over at 1-2
    on for an extra 30 minutes of good football

  • 3-2 De Jong, after a great team move – again
    the winner?? with such games, you never know
    PSV’s skipper would deserve it, what a team player he is

  • great night of football, great atmosphere
    one more tie to go before the group stage for PSV, I’ll watch them again
    Gakpo worked very hard on his left flank, but didn’t have much left in his tank to make a difference in monaco’s last 30 yards
    monaco will play the EL – a tough nut to crack they will be

  • I already read it, Stu. There is also a good one in the Guardian. Nothing new for me BTW. Granit is the total professional and Arteta knew this.

  • LeG, I thought PSV is quite right flank focused when I watched them in the away game. This means Gakpo does get less involved but still has to do all tge running..

  • One for Mr Totaal

    Granit Xhaka interview: ‘We care more than people think – I cannot sleep when we lose’
    Arsenal’s great survivor reflects on Mikel Arteta’s methods, the captaincy and why he is optimistic about the club’s future

    By Sam Dean 9 August 2022 • 6:00pm

    Seasons have come and gone, managers have been fired and hired, dozens of players have been swept out of the club and yet still, despite all of the turbulence at Arsenal, Granit Xhaka remains. Not only in north London, but also in the Arsenal midfield. Still going strong, still a key player.

    Xhaka has seen it all at Arsenal, and he can now feel something stirring at the club. “We are building something very special here,” he says. “It is a shame I only have two years more on my contract. Let’s see what happens after two years. But I am seeing a big, big future for this club.”

    The reasons for optimism are obvious: an exciting transfer window appears to have left Mikel Arteta with a far stronger squad (with more signings to follow, Arsenal hope) and the evolution of the team is clear to see, despite their failure to finish in last season’s top four.

    “We know exactly what we have to do,” says Xhaka, who is a devotee of Arteta and his methods. “Not only the first step but the second and third after, with the ball and without the ball. How we prepare ourselves or how he [Arteta] prepares us is amazing. I never saw something like this before.

    “I have had many coaches but Mikel is maybe one of the top ones, because of how he explains and how he prepares. It is not normal.”

    Now 29, Xhaka remains as trusted as ever, a senior member of the squad and a key figure both on the pitch and behind the scenes.

    He even wore the captain’s armband again, for just a few minutes, in Friday’s victory at Crystal Palace. It felt like a significant moment, given his history with the captaincy: he was stripped of it by former head coach Unai Emery, lest we forget, after clashing with his own fans during a game against Palace in 2019.

    Martin Odegaard is the official captain now, but talk to anyone at Arsenal and they will tell you that Xhaka is the natural leader of this side, with or without the formal job title. “Of course you don’t need it [the armband],” he says. “Everyone can see the leaders in this team. I don’t believe a lot in the armband.”

    One day, should he choose to write one, Xhaka’s time at Arsenal will make for a riveting book. He has lived through all the change since Arsene Wenger’s departure, from the doomed Emery reign to the gradual rebuild under Arteta.

    “It is my seventh year now,” he says. “I saw the good things, I saw the bad things. But it was never so, so, so bad as people were saying. Of course now the group is younger. I’m not saying the dressing room five or six years ago was better or worse, because every player has their own character.”

    It is put to Xhaka that, with all these youngsters running around, he must feel like one of the elder statesmen of the team. “English people, they put you like a grandfather,” he laughs. “I’m 29, man! I don’t feel like a grandfather. After what happened with me three years ago [with the captaincy] I tried to come back as strong as possible with the new guys. I try to treat everyone the same. Age doesn’t matter.”

    Xhaka’s seniority within the squad is one of the reasons he is so important to Arteta. At the same time, there is no questioning the Spaniard’s importance to Xhaka, who has explained that it is only because of Arteta that he is an Arsenal player today. “He is the reason why I am still at this club,” Xhaka says. “Three years ago I was gone. My suitcases were packed.”

    The reconstruction of Xhaka’s relationship with the supporters has been steady, but significant. When he scored against Manchester United last season, there was a genuine warmth from both sides within the Emirates Stadium.

    “It was maybe one of the greatest moments since signing for this club,” he says. “Everyone now knows what happened three years ago. Sitting here three years later and to say this was one of the greatest moments… three years ago I would have said this would never, ever happen. But I feel much more love from the fans, from my side as well. I am trying to build something with them again.

    The hope of the Arsenal players is that the new ‘All or Nothing’ Amazon documentary (the latest episodes will be published this week) will help to strengthen those connections. Or, at the very least, show the world that these footballers are real people with real emotions.

    Such things matter more to Xhaka than most, given his history, and the Switzerland midfielder has long been pushing for more interaction with the fans.

    “The people who do not see us in training, for example, do not see how hard we are working,” he says. “They see us only for 90 minutes. Everyone has a good and bad day. That is why I spoke with the club, [asking]: ‘Why can’t we bring the fans maybe once a week so they can see how we train?’

    “It is not like we are coming here to waste our time and after we don’t care about the 90 minutes. We care more than people think. We can’t sleep after the game when we lose. But no one can see that. This makes me very disappointed, very sad. After [the matches] the people start to speak. ‘You didn’t give everything for the club, you did that, you did this…’ This is bull—-, you know?”

    Xhaka’s point is that, while things might not always go to plan on the pitch, it is never through a lack of commitment. After all, a player does not last so long at a club like Arsenal, becoming so fundamental to each of his coaches, without caring for his profession and his team. It is why Xhaka is so crucial to Arteta’s project, and why he remains such an important presence at the Emirates Stadium, even after all the changes over all these years.

  • Yep, CG11 wasn’t helped much by his LB (it had been the case in Monaco as well) who, as a German international, should do better than that
    There’s also Til, who seems to have difficulty finding his feet in Eindhoven (I saw him play several times last season with Feyenoord and he was excellent), and seemed unable to connect with him – during the first 30 minutes (or before the first goal, actually) the number of passes that were given away on that left flank before the ball could get to Gakpo was indeed appalling
    Let’s see how the boy fares in next tuesday’s battle, on your side of Hadrian’s Wall – will you be there?
    Did you know this Veerman lad? He was the tie’s most impressive player imo, he’s so comfortable with both feet I couldn’t help thinking of Santi …

  • LeG, Veerman joined PSV in January from Hereveen. He is only 23 and developing fast it seems. Not seen much of him but I like your description.

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