Ahhh we are playing meaningful football again and how good is that?! Having watched the game again, I just loved our focus and hunger to see the result over the line. Arsenal were Gritty in Pink! I love the ‘third kit’ even though it clashed with the ugly (imho) red and blue kit of the home team.
Do we still have the youngest squad in the PL? If so, it did not show as we had a lot of physicality, height and athleticism in the team at Selhurst Park. Saliba, White, Big Gab and Zinchenko in front of rocking Ramsdale gave us real maturity at the back. Nobody is going to mess with those five. In midfield, we have two established, strong midfielders who will not be bossed by anyone either. Even up-front we have the matured-again Martinelli, the tenacious Martinelli and Odegaard, and a surprisingly strong Gab Jesus.
Palace positioned well and had clear instructions to contain the creative players. They managed to subdue Odegaard and Saka for a while but Martinelli used the extra space on the left very well. He really should have scored from the Jesus pinball that came gloriously towards him. The same goes for the Ode who had a few decent opportunities for which the likes of Jesus and Saka worked hard only to be wasted. Luckily, Martinelli scored the all important first goals and the Ode at least found himself in promising positions, and it is of course only the start of the season. Still, Mikel wants to push on and these two guys will have to become more ruthless soon. The likes of Vieira, Nelson, Marquinos, Eddie, and a new wing player yet to be signed, will keep them on their toes.
Under pressure, a few of our players mis-directed their passes, especially White was at fault. But Ben is getting used to an slightly unfamiliar role and he really is trying hard. In this position he is much more exposed and his passing remains a work in progress. What cannot be denied is his physicality and good positioning and I just love that look on his face after a hard tackle, a yellow card or a foul he has committed: nothing does perturb him it seems.
Saliba is so beatifully zen-like. He oozes calm and focus and for such a young guy this is extraordinary. We know all about his key stats but how do you measure such great composure and positioning? Still, as a team we need to look why the two best chances for the Eagles fell in ‘his area’. I know for the second one White was out of position and there was too much space for the Ode to cover. Eze should have done better but Aaron positioned himself really well and put the young English midfielder off. The first one was a training ground exercise from a freekick, and we almost got, as the Dutch call it, ‘a cookie made of our own dough’. Andersen head-pumped the ball into an area of space and Saliba could not get to it, whilst White just about put off Edouard to give Ramsdale a chance to make a very smart safe. It was pretty similar to our first goal situation but luckily our goalkeeper was more alert than theirs. We were the better team, had more chances and deserved our win but the above also shows how small the margins can be.
The one player who seemed in and out of the game a lot is Partey. I did not notice this the first time I watched the game, but Thomas did seem lost in space and time occasionally. I am not clear what exactly his role is in our team. The deepest midfielder, shielding the defence? I did not see him do this very effectively? On a good day Thomas is just brilliant but all too often he seems to lack the dominance of midfield we think he is capable of. One to watch going forward. I predict if Tielemans joins us at last, he will become direct competition for TP5.
Watching GJ9 – Mr Emoji Face – again was pure joy. I still believe we need an extra attacker, but Jesus brings so much directness and energy to our team. Just bliss.
Well our first game is out of the way and three precious points are in the bag. Lessons will be learnt and I have heard the words ‘we have to remain humble’ by our players enough to trust that they will in no way believe the game against the Foxes will be a walk in the home of football.
Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners.