I could do my usual eight Observations but I think I would be repeating myself from previous summations. There is a pattern in our play now based around Mikel’s values, style of play, tactics and a settled first eleven players.
When Xhaka, Partey and the Ode are playing we have steel and panache in midfield. This is probably the strongest midfield in the PL right now. They bossed the Spuds in all aspects of the game.
In attack we have two very strong wingers who are also great support to their colleagues on their wings. The Guardian’s view is that we have the strongest wingers in the PL right now. I have said in the past that the arrival of Jesus has given us two great players; the other one being Martinelli. This mentor-apprentice relationship was electric at the start of the season. Marti is learning to shine without GJ9 on the pitch, and I liked how he went about his game yesterday.
Saka is at another level right now. He oozes control and unpredictability. The opponents fear him like thunder and lightning in an open field. 21 years old and having such an impact on the game. Wow.
I am loving Eddie now too. I had my doubts but he creates such fear in defenders with his unpredictable play, movement and choices he makes. Just like Jesus he misses chances as a result of fatigue from the way he is asked to play. He should have scored one perhaps, but I rather have a hard working CF creating space for others than the wait and pounce one that filled the position not so long ago.
The defence is just great. What a masterstroke by Arteta to move White to right back and play the Zinch on the left. They look so mature, and fearless and Ramsdale is great to make it an awesome five.
The first half was embarrassingly good. The Spuds were pealed, rinsed, boiled and mashed for 45 minutes. The face of Conte said it all. It was saying Mamma Mia please wake me up from this Gunners nightmare.
We are truly spoiled that we can rewatch a half like that eternally and never get sick of it.
The second half was full of grit and organisational excellence. And Ramsdale probably had his strongest game yet with exquisite saves and real presence in his area. That clean sheet deserves the biggest celebration. Aaron will be England’s Nr1 soon.
Oh what a glorious victory. All our opponents still have to reach the forty points mark while Arsenal can get to fifty with a win against the Hag men. On Sunday. I think Arteta’s motivational speech can be very short for that encounter: he just has to write in big letters ’50’ on the flip chart.
Is it the time for an away win in the North-London Derby? (15/01/23) – Game preview
There are many clubs based in London. In fact, there are 7 this season in the PL; in alphabetical order: Arsenal, Brentford, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. So literally we have a $h*tload of London derbies in a year (in fact there are 42, but who’s counting?), however only one – technically 2 – of them have the traditions, emotions and passion and prestige to rule them all. On Sunday we visit the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to fight for 3 points and the bragging rights.
I wish I could say that we are the favorites to win that game, because we sit 11 points ahead of Tottenham. However, that would be misleading. The ‘good ole days’ when we defeated Spurs by 5:2 back to back games are far in the past. Nowadays the tradition of the derby is that the hosts keep all 3 points, irrespective of the squad quality, the current form or the table position. That happened in the last 7 encounters, and Spurs will do their ugliest best to keep the tradition alive. Let’s collect the good and bad omens before the game, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses and the style of play of the infamous opposition. Nevertheless, the winning streak of the hosts is the worst sign of them all.
Bad omen II: Harry Kane is in an exquisite form. He is their talisman players – as well as the record scorer in NLDs – and he is in a fine form. Except for England’s 0:0 draw against the USA and their 01/01 home loss against Emery’s Aston villa, Kane has made (at least) a goal contribution in every game he played since mid-November. We are talking about 8 games here with 7 goals and 3 assists, and in his last 2 encounters he was awarded MotM. While I do not particularly like the guy, this is a performance worth admiration.
Bad omen III: Tottenham has an annoying tendency of coming back from losing positions. Out of their 37 goals, 10 have been scored in the first half, and 27 in the second. This could help them turn the game around if they concede early, but also shows that Conte has serious skills in making proper mid-game changes both from tactical perspective and also formation-wise, deviating from their preferred 3-4-2-1.
Bad omen IV: they are motivated. The North-London Derby is a huge motivation on its own accord, but taking into consideration that the top 4 places seem to have sailed away from Tottenham (should be allocated among Arsenal, Newcastle and the 2 Manchester teams), they have this game as a minor cup final. And I’m not sure it is the same for us, but even so, it’s a smaller final. Plus they have to get us back for the earlier defeat, so they won’t have to dig deep to find their cojones.
Good omen I: They have a long injury list, that includes quite a few (half-)decent players. According to the latest team news, they will be missing the services of Richarlison, Bentancur (their 2nd best in form player), Kulusevski (#5), Moura and Bissouma. On the other hand our match-day squad only lacks Jesus and Nelson, and while the former is indeed a big blow, he is seemed to be properly substituted by Eddie Nketiah, who scored 5 goals in his last 5 starts.
Good omen II: they are error-prone. Tottenham is not only known for making individual errors, but also for struggling when defending against skillful players. Now all 4 attackers are in great form, especially if we disregard our streak-ending draw against Newcastle. There is a good chance that Odegaard, Martinelli or Saka could open them up, and even though Romero is a fresh World Cup winner, his performance hardly reminds of that this season. Son doesn’t resemble the hitman he used to be, so if we focus on neutralizing Kane, we have good chances for a decent result, and even decent chances of a good result.
Good omen III: referee Craig Pawson. He is among the more reliable officials in the PL. Our only game with him this season was our 0:3 victory at Bournemouth (got a single yellow only). I’m not looking for favors here, but Tottenham is known to play the referees and diving, and I hope Craig will not be too susceptible with those tomorrow. And let’s not forget, VAR might help us with offside and handball, but when there is a minimal contact, everything will be up to the official’s interpretation.
Good omen IV: their strong and weak suits fit ours. Tottenham’s goals came from open play (25), corners (10!) and penalties. Arsenal only a single goal from corner, and none from direct free kicks or set pieces. Despite their really tall squad, Saliba and Gabriel M will fight off their aerial threats, while our creative players can cause problems to their robust, yet not too technical CBs, Davies and Dier.
Tomorrow’s game is not simply the clash of two antagonistic neighbours. It is also the fight of 2 different footballing philosophies. Tottenham represents the clubs where they bought their best players for big money (Romero, Richarlison), and they demand established, decorated managers to coach them (Mourinho, Conte). On the other hand, Arsenal prefers the smart purchases of undervalued players (Odegaard, Saliba, and all 3 Gabis), plus we pick our coaches based on long-term strategy and club DNA. Arsenal is known for their strong academy and giving chances to the young starlets (Saka, ESR, Nketiah), however this might be changing with Arteta (And the upcoming Mudryk-transfer is putting our smart transfer tradition in a different perspective, but this is a topic to be discussed under a different post.)
So we need to have Harry Kane disengaged, concentrate and focus while defending corners, disregard the intimidating atmosphere, and avoid situations where Tottenham players can appeal for penalties, free kicks and cards. I don’t think we need to have a preferred wing or particular tactics to score goals, as Spurs are not really good defensively, and without Bentancur they will struggle at midfield too. But they do have a lethal force, and even with 3 injuries Son and Kane are to be taken seriously.
Not surprisingly, I expect Tottenham to play in 3-4-2-1 (with Perisic and Royal on the flanks, and Gil + Son supporting Kane from the middle), while – even less surprisingly – we will be keeping our standard 4-2-3-1 with the usual starting line-up. I think even back-to-back NLD victories are on the table, but to be realistic I predict an enjoyable draw of 2:2 or maybe even 3:3.
What do you think of North London? Is it red? Is it blue? Or purple maybe? Be kind in the comments, but mostly to yours truly, not with Tottenham. 😛
We are playing Oxford United in the Forever Arsenal’s Cup and the boys will be up for it. A win will mean a first of three mouth-watering encounters with Mikel’s former master and our toughest obstacle to silverware this year. We want the bling, so we need to field a good team that will get the job done properly.
Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney
Elneny, Ode, Xhaka
Saka, Martinelli, ESR
I am hoping for an Emile start and to try out Martinelli in attack. Saka and Ode to start for consistency but to be replaced sooner or later by Marquinos and Vieira. Hopefully Sambi gets some time too.
It would have been great to win this one but it was vital not to lose. The gap after 17 games is huge with third placed Magpies, and this did not change as a result of our draw. We didn’t lose because we were the boss in midfield and were almost always in control when we had to defend.
There is just such a good balance in our starting eleven. They play with great maturity that belies their inexperience. We had enough attempts on goal to win this game by one or two goals but just lacked that bit of luck and sharpness after three big games in eight days. I can live with this as it happens to every team that plays multiple challenging games in quick succession.
My only disappointment was in the way we allowed our wingers, Saka and Martinelli, to get too isolated. Often the midfielders or CF would pass the ball to them and then not offer themselves as a passing option, but move into the box. The full backs were also less involved than usual. As a result our wing play was less effective.
This was a game for GJ9 all day long, and we missed his ability to create mayhem and find holes in the tightest defences. GJ9 has the added bonus of knowing how to do wing play (support).
Was there anybody on the bench who could have made a difference late on? Maybe Vieira but that’s it. We need to shop, maybe just a loaner.
Who should run VAR? Any organisation capable of being totally neutral and consistent. All we want is consistency and we are not getting it. Ask Amnesty International or the NHS to run VAR, anybody but the referees themselves. Anybody can learn the rules and apply them consistently, except the referees themselves. Take it off them and pay some independent organisation handsomely to do a proper job. The ‘world class’ PL and its supporters deserve it.
Tomorrow we will play one of the most anticipated games of the season. Two teams with young and talented managers with significant, yet not unlimited budget, focusing on smart transfers rather than spending huge on already established world class players. Still, I will not say this is one of the most critical games Arsenal face, as I am confident of a home win.
I’m not usually that optimistic – in fact I expect to gather 0 points from our 2 games against Manchester City (feel free, TA, to censure that remark) – but we are in a great form, they are slightly on the descend, we play home with almost the full squad available while Newcastle will miss main hitman Isak as well as Targett from their strongest line-up.
However, this post is not about my expectations or predictions (2:0 by the way), but a short analysis of the opposition. Based on the reception, it could become a returning column ahead of the PL games in the season, but let’s not look that far just now.
Newcastle is a popular club in England. Partly because they are currently the only PL club in a surprisingly large area, partly because they have an English-players-heavy squad. Their last silverware came from the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup back in 1969, but they had 3 FA Cup and 1 League Cup runner-up performance since. Even when they were in the top tier, they were rarely a top half team – not to mention being a top-6 contender – but this is expected to change this year, as per the upgraded circumstances: new owners, money invested in the squad and a talented manager started to bear fruits. We will play some close games with them, but let’s hope it will not happen tomorrow.
The most valuable players are Bruno Guimarães, Alexander Isak and Allan Saint-Maximin, but Isak is injured. Saint-Maximin plays for the Magpies for 4 years and was a smart transfer back than, but Bruno is the real deal (like White or Gabriel M.) it was a genius move to sign him even for 42M, and similarly was a genius move for Bruno to select Newcastle – even though Arsenal was reported to be courting him.
The most consistently performing Newcastle players this season are Kieran Trippier (the best RB in the PL, another smart transfer from both parties), the above mentioned Bruno, Joelinton, Miguel Almirón and Fabian Schär. Out of the 17 games Newcastle had played in the PL this season (W:9, D:7, L:1) their players were nominated MotM 13 times. That is 7 players with a single award, and Trippier with 6!
Formation-wise Newcastle is the easiest team to predict. They always play 4-3-3, and they rarely switch with mid-game substitutions. They have a really tall squad (like an old-school British club), so they love attacking set pieces where both attackers (Isak, Wood) and defenders (Botman, Burn) are aerial threats. Thank god we have Saliba and Gabriel who both are anti-aircraft towers when needed. On the other hand they are not really strong in ‘general striker duty’ with Woods and Isak both scoring twice, Wilson 6 times and all of them being caught offside countless of times. Their most clinical scorer is Almiron with 9, who is having his best year with the club, while Trippier (4), Guimaraes and Saint-Maximin (3-3) are leading the assist chart.
It also shows inefficiencies from the striking department that they scored only 5 goals from the 6-yard box compared to a 9.4 xG, while out of the penalty area they scored 8 while the corresponding xG was only 2.5! They scored 5 times from corners, which is quite remarkable, and Trippier is dangerous from direct free kicks. If we can neuter that then we are favorite to win the game, though. Newcastle scored the most goals (8 and 7 respectively) in the beginning of the second half and the end of the first half – so practically the middle of the game). While out of the 11 games they conceded, nine came in the second half, so they might be prone to fatigue or concentration lapses.
Since 2018 we have been winning all eight of our encounters with the Toons, apart from our very last, the 2:0 defeat at St. James’ Park that practically lost us the desired top-four finish. However we are on a five-games winning streak in the PL, while Newcastle just ended theirs with a draw against Leeds a couple of days back.
So how can we beat the Magpies now? Well, for a cliché answer: with dedication, hard work and luck. J
But if we want to go a level deeper, I think we should favour attacks in the middle and on the right, as Martinelli will face Trippier and Schär, two from the best in-form defenders in the entire Premier League. Let’s forget about high crosses from the byline, as Botman, Burn and Pope are really tall. So apart from corners, I wouldn’t bank on high balls into the penalty box. Yet, some of their old guard are more athletic than actually technical, so dribbling and 1-2 passes could be an efficient weapon against players like Longstaff, Lascelles, Murphy, Burn or Lewis. We should target their right flank, and play with short and quick passes as Pope is efficient against long shots and has great reflexes. I won’t mind if Odegaard becomes MotM for the 3rd time in a row, as Newcastle is an opponent that suits his strengths, and he is in an otherworldly form right now.
I’m not even wasting your time with a predicted line-up, as we all know that if possible Arteta will send the same XI to the pitch, which is not bad seeing the record-breaking run. Yet I would consider starting Tierney ahead of Zinchenko, as Oleks might be eager to press and support the attacks, while the key threat might be coming from Trippier. What we should take care of, tough, is that Saka and Saliba are on 4 yellow cards, and if they get booked today they will miss the NLD on the 15th of January. But if they stay sober/disciplined in January the yellow card count will be reset.
The 2:0 prediction might seem like a conservative estimation, but let’s not forget that Newcastle conceded the least goals in the league, and that 11 is almost 8 less than the quality of the attempts, so they have a good GK and some quality defenders.
Marten Odegaard is in the form of his life. He had to miss out on the world cup; oh boy is he making up for lost time. Hard work, super talent and an eye for beauty, just like the saint in boots this blog is named after used to offer. The Ode covers our game with the magic of the Northern Lights.
Eddie, Marti and Bukayo all scored which is great. Yet from our four goals only Odegaard got an assist. Martinelli has a strong eye for goal but not so much for his fellow attackers. This time we got away with it. I am all for directness now and again but picking the best option is key to long term success. Saka does this constantly; Martinelli needs to incorporate it into his game.
Eddie delivers again. Is he as mobile and involved as Jesus is for 90 minutes? No, but he works hard and delivers when it matters. Eddie is doing great.
Granit is a bit too quiet for my liking. I understand that he had a busy world cup and is easing himself back into club football, but we will need more from him in the next couple of PL games. Partey seems to have adjusted a bit better and was a rock last night.
Subs are such a balancing act. We looked like we wanted to ease out the game as soon as Ben White left the pitch, and it got worse when Partey was also subbed. The loss of cohesion and focus was palpable, but luckily we got away with it this time.
I love the roles of White and Zinchenko in Arteta’s system. Super mobile, multi-skilled and with strong personalities, they support all three areas constantly. They are where the action is and are the extra man where and when it matters, and they make a huge difference.
Saliba, like Xhaka, does not seem to be firing from all cylinders since his return from the Folly in the Sandpit. I am not concerned, though. This tequila will be slamming and fizzing soon enough.
I am so proud of our boys. With Citeh and the Oily Magpies dropping two points in not-hard home games (on paper), there was an extra incentive – but also pressure – to get three points from the high-flying Seagulls. They managed to do so and I salute them for it.
Supporting Arsenal has been a joy for more than 25 years for me, but this is certainly one of the best seasons so far. Maybe it’s the best one yet.
What is supporting a team all about? How do we measure success? Is winning silverware the ultimate happiness bringer?
We all have our views re this and I look forward to your responses.
First of all I believe in fairness. It should be ideally possible for all league teams to win the PL one day. We have some way to go here but at least we don’t see league domination by one or two teams as is the case in many other European competitions. Share out the money and have budget caps, and let it all come down to clever management and youth development. I can only dream, I know.
I like Arsenal’s management team to have a vision and strategy, and to adhere to a strong and appropriate set of values. This needs to be embodied in the linchpin and figurehead of the club: the first team manager.
This is where I believe we have become stronger than almost any PL club, bar Man City perhaps for now. Arteta constantly talks about non negotiables. It’s the talk of somebody who knows the awesome, all-winning power of a culture of strong values, which goes above anything. Arteta works very hard and is very strong tactically, but what I rate above all is his believe in values as the main prerequisite to success. His lives and breathes them.
We are starting to pick the fruits of this now. Yes we are top of the league but it’s still very early days; and this may change and is not what really matters this season.
What matters to me is how structural and solid it all feels now. We defend and attack as a team, we have strength in depth in two out of three areas – defence and midfield – and are close to it in attack. Arteta has buy-in from the players: they fight as a team and for each other; they play with a plan and with belief in themselves; they are growing from strength to strength together. Those who did not fit this culture have gradually left.
Arteta has also buy-in from the BoD whose strategy is starting to pay off.
There just is such a solid basis now that even if the team faces a blip in form it has all the components to bounce back strongly.
That, rather than our lofty league position, is what makes me so happy and hopeful for 2023 and beyond. And let anyone try and dethrone us!
Fellow Bergkampesquerers, I wish you a happy, healthy New Year full of growth, grace and hope both for you and your family and for our beloved Arsenal.
Victory Through Harmony. Enjoy the Journey with captain Mikel.
3-1 to the Arsenal, London is Red, and the Gunners are back on track!
We may have a young squad, look at our attacking line of Martinelli, Nketiah and Saka alone, but they all look so confident and mature when they come out of the dressing room. This alone tells you about the great work El Maestro has been doing with this squad.
West Ham defended their double walled castle like medieval Constantinople in the first half. They would have five players to defend either Saka’s or Martinelli’s wing, have the impressive Rice marshall the midfield wall and allow us very little space. Then they had a few dangerous forays that had our defenders working hard to just about stem the danger. The Hammers were impressive.
From one of those forays the Hammers got their lucky break. Saliba just about gave a pen away and, against the run of play, the Gunners were behind. But the team didn’t panic, didn’t start to rush things and just kept chipping away at the West Ham wall. Adversity is part of the game, just as much as luck is, and then a team (or indeed any individual) needs more than ever to fall back on their inner confidence and belief; and that’s what they did. Another sign of this team’s astonishing maturity.
The Ode was once again the master of invention. No brute force from him. No, this Wicky the Viking uses his brains to find openings. We may have lost the first half but I can watch it again and again just for Martin’s masterclass.
There was no need to panic, the spaces would surely come. The Hammers would get weary and tired, and then our big chances would come. We needed a bit more from Martinelli with his final balls into the box. He now has to show that he can thrive without his big brother, Jesus, next to him on the pitch, but other than that we needed more of the same.
The second half was brilliant. Spaces opened up and the boys sacked the Hammers’ citadel to the ground. This was a masterclass of how to do this by Arsenal. Saka was once again super effective. Almost everything he does has purpose and therefore carries a threat and this is so rare for such a young talent. Okay, we needed a bit of fortune to get us in front. Or did we?! The Ode shot/through-pass to Saka was well intercepted by Bukayo and his finish was Henryesque cool. I believe the Ode meant the pass to Saka. He saw the gap but it needed to be a very fast ‘shot’-pass. He did something similar for Granit in the first half. Whatever it was, it got us in front, and the rest became easy.
Martinelli scored a cheeky goal at the near post with the ball just bouncing over Fabianski’s outstretched right leg. And then Eddie produced his magic to roll his defender brilliantly and get a free shot on goal. There were more chances but 3-1 was a good final score to take us eight points above Citeh, who will face unpredictable Leeds tomorrow.
The big question at the beginning was will Eddie make us forget GJ9. Well, I think JYNC summed it perfectly in the previous post: “I saw enough of Nketiah to know that even though he was a top scorer in all youth ranks for Arsenal and England…. he’s a totally different player now. No longer a fox in the box poacher…It’s all happened in the past 2 years under Arteta. The power, pace, strength, explosiveness. Has picked up some habits from Jesus too.If he hadn’t scored today, I would have been praising his gameplay anyway. He worked for his teammates.” special mention also for Ben White who was instrumental in making our right wing so deadly strong.
Thank you for visiting and commenting on our webblog this year. A year in which the blog had its 10th anniversary and we have been witnessing Mikel’s transformation, making us the happiest club-supporters on these shores and beyond.
The Arsenal unite us but its the human warmth and support for each other that makes it extra special on Bergkampesque. Thank you for all the football and non-footie support this year. You have been amazing. I raise my Arsenal mug to you all!
Here is to a Blythe Yule an’ a Guid Hogmanay, as they say here in 🏴
Domestic football bliss is about to recommence and I, for one, cannot wait to see the boys in red and white strutting their stuff again. It’s been a long wait, and boycotting the WC was not easy I can tell you, but Boxing Day is almost here and the real, winter club football is of course no match to the average football on display in most WC games.
Arsenal’s players have come through the WC games more than reasonably well, I think. Of course the loss to injury of the (perhaps) too eager Gabriel Jesus, is a big loss to us. Eddie will get his chance and he will score goals, no doubt, but what we really need him to do is make us play with the high tempo and unpredictability that the Brazilian offered to us so incredibly enthusiastically during the first fourteen games. Is that Eddie’s game? I hope so.
But other than Gabriel’s painful loss, we may have actually benefited from the WC shenanigans in the big sandpit:
Aaron will have learned a lot from being part of the England squad for so long. He stayed fit and did not get injured. The same goes for Ben White and our French Tequila CB. They will come back fresh, rested yet fit, and eager to kick a ball properly again.
Bukayo got through the tournament uninjured and by all reports played very well. He will have matured again. Young Martinelli will have had a great experience and I also expect him to come back more mature and ready to show everyone how good he really is.
Xhaka and Partey played all available games and came through unscathed. They had plenty of rest since then, so I expect them to hit the ground running again. To have our central midfield pairing back is a huge bonus. Tomiyasu also played some national team footie and he will be ready to rock, if required.
And then of course, Arteta had the chance to rest a bit and work with all those really good players who did not make it to the WC. It is great to have the likes of Gabriel, Tierney, Elneny, the Zinch, Eddie, Vieira, Nelson and the Ode available to fight for every three points again from Monday onward. Mikel now also had proper time to work with the youngsters and let’s see who will get some PL minutes in the remainder of the season.
Finally, the really good thing is that A&E have the whole of January to seek reinforcement for our attack. Any further injury to Eddie, Martinelli or Saka would really see us short in attack, so a loan or permanent deal is surely highly likely.
But first we need to beat the Hammers and the Seagulls, on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve respectively, and that will of course not be easy. So let’s go back to OGAAT – one game at a time – and forget about the rest. The boys are ready; I have no doubt about that. Let’s hope the team will gel really well again and pick up where they had left things before the WC.