Emile Smith Rowes the Boat Gently Down the Stream to Derail the Tuchel Train

In our vacuum of post-European exit and not much to fight for – other than the off chance of still finishing in a position that will see us play in Europe somehow – the only thing we could ask and hope for is committed performances by the team. And that is exactly what we are getting. It means there is still spirit in our team and there is trust in Mikel Arteta, and there is nothing more valuable than that.

The Tuchel Train was on full speed and Arsenal could have easily buckled under this enormous force, but Arteta was not going to have it. We sat deep and sucked up pressure all game long. Jose Mourinho will have been proud of Mikel, no doubt. 😀

We had two great bounces of the ball going our way, to be fair: the wasted opportunity by Havertz after Mari got caught out and then the pounce of the Gunner-Hyenas a few minutes later that led to the only goal after a bad back pass. 1-0 the Arsenal it was and stayed, and the boys fought for it. Holdingho, Mari and Big Gab were a wall to reckon with; big-sausage-legs Tierney was on fire; Saka played with tactical discipline; Elneny and Partey did tons of dirty work; artists Ode and Auba put in a great shift and ESR was our star man. It was of course no total football and the purists will have suffered, but the rebuilding started two games ago and Arsenal have to reinforce the foundations and walls first… and that they did.

I am pleased we were able to win a couple of games without (my current favourite) Granit in the team. For a long time, we struggled to win games without him leading the team tactically, but we have looked good without him in those games. The Partey-Elneny combo was especially strong and I hope to see more of it in the future. But the big, big plus were ESR’s performances in the recent games. Emile was totally in his element and it was great to see him work the ball and space around him with very intelligent yet instinctive football. Against West Brom he played well but Saka stole the show; against Chelsea it was ESR turn to be our MOTM.

Arteta can build a team around these two super talents, especially if they are supported by a no-nonsense midfield and a number of centre backs with a great work ethic. In Auba and Laca we have attackers who will score plenty of goals if we create chances for them; and they have done so much more since the start of the new year. In Tierney and Pepe we have players who will grow over the coming years and are likely to become better and better. There are some good experienced wider-squad players to use like Cedric, Willian (just give him one more season to come good hopefully) and (now possibly) Xhaka. And then there are some promising youngsters to hopefully add to the team’s skill-set and ability. Buy a couple of players and let a few more go, and Bob’s your uncle.

Emile Smith Rowe, Rowe the Boat

Gently down the stream

Merrily, merrily, merrily. merrily

Life is but a dream.

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v The Tuchel Train | Predicted Lineup

Arsenal v Chelsea – May 12, 2021

The Thomas Tuchel Train

On 26 January 2021, Tuchel signed an 18-month contract (with the option for an extra year) with Chelsea, replacing Frank Lampard. He is the first German to be appointed as head coach of the club. Although expressing a desire to not come in mid-season so as to have a pre-season with his new team,Tuchel accepted the position after Ralf Rangnick rejected the proposal of interim head coach.

Tuchel took charge of his first match the following day, a goalless draw at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers, a match that set the record for most possession (78.9%) and passes completed (820) for a manager’s first Premier League game. Tuchel won his first game on 31 January, defeating Burnley 2–0 at home, and then won his first London derby (and his first away game) by defeating Tottenham Hotspur 1–0 on 4 February. On 11 February, Tuchel guided Chelsea to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a 1–0 away win over Championship side Barnsley, extending his unbeaten run to five games. This run was eventually extended to eight games after Chelsea defeated Atlético Madrid 1–0 away in the first leg of the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League, with Olivier Giroud scoring an overhead kick. This marked Tuchel’s first European victory as Chelsea manager.

On 8 March, Tuchel’s unbeaten run extended to eleven games after a 2–0 home league win over Everton, becoming the first head coach in Premier League history to keep consecutive home clean sheets in their first five home matches. After a 2–0 home victory against Atlético Madrid in the second leg of the Round of 16 in the Champions League on 17 March, Tuchel extended his unbeaten run to 13 games, setting the record for the longest unbeaten run by a new head coach in Chelsea’s history. This was considered to be due to the change to a three man defence and partly attributed to a pragmatic approach to games; Tuchel’s team took as many shots as Lampard’s team per game (13.8 v 13.9), but created fewer chances, leading to 1.1 goals scored on average per game, compared to 2.1 under Lampard. The unbeaten run ultimately concluded at 14 games, following a 5–2 home defeat against league strugglers West Bromwich Albion on 3 April.

On 17 April, courtesy of a Hakim Ziyech goal, Tuchel led Chelsea to the FA Cup final, defeating league leaders Manchester City 1–0. He later guided Chelsea to the Champions League final following a 3–1 aggregate win over Real Madrid in the semi-finals, becoming the first coach to reach consecutive finals with two different clubs.

Tuchels mangerial record

TeamWDLGFGAWin %
FC Augsburg2086804558.82
Mainz72466424828839.56
Dortmund6823 24511362.96
P.S.G.95131933710374.8
Chelsea1762341168
Total2729610894456057.14

Tuchel is a very consistent manager and has proved that at Chelsea losing only 2 of 25 games in all competitions. In a short three months he has turned Chelsea’ fortunes around guiding them into the final of both the FA Cup and Champions League.

I have a simple question – do you think that Arsenal should have looked around for a more experienced/proven manager before hiring Mikel Arteta?

Over to you…………..

GunnerN5

Predicted Lineup by TA (anyone’s guess really but I imagine it will be something like this, depending on fitness):

The Joy of Watching Bukayo and Emile | Happy Birthday Dennis Bergkamp

I don’t know about you but after a season-defining loss I always feel like taking a bit of distance from Arsenal, blogging etc. Not that I am extremely unhappy or even depressed as some seem to be; it is just good to reflect on things and thus allow time to get over the seasonal deception.

See the source image

Yet I did look forward to seeing Arsenal play again yesterday, and maybe this was based on simply having no expectation and just wanting to watch our boys play a game of football. We often forget that this is what it is all about and that 95% of all football supporters do it week in week out. The joy of watching your team play a game of football without continuously looking at where your team are and where they should be in the table. I spoke to an ex-colleague recently – a Manure fan – and he said to me how he is often jealous of some of his mates who support a non-top team and just enjoy every game with their focus just on the football on display. Enjoying football in the moment we Gooners seem to have unlearned.

Last night I sat back and let the game come to me. No expectations, especially not after I saw the lineup. In a way, I have never come as close to being like Fat Sam as I did then. 😀 It was wonderful. No stress, no swearing at the TV, no finger-pointing at players… just enjoying the ball being played round the pitch. Even the abysmal referee did not spoil my Zen-TV moment.

And I enjoyed it.

Image result for Saka and Smith rowe

I saw a great performance by the biggest talent Arsenal have produced since Cesc Fabregas. Bukayo can play everywhere and how silky were his moves, how sharp his crosses and passes into the box and how efficient is he at everything he does?! 19 years old and being the best Arsenal player on the pitch, WOW.

I saw ESR score a lovely goal and him being the team’s glue again, running between the lines and linking everything and everybody up with purposeful runs and passes. Another great talent who has come of age in no time and just keeps growing.

I saw a wonder goal by Nicolas Pepe. We all knew what he was going to do and for once there was a bit of space to do it in. These are the sort of goals one scores when one is bored and the mind goes wandering. We can watch it twenty times on repeat and celebrate it every time with the same passion.

I saw a surprisingly effective midfield duo of Elneny and Ceballos. As low as my expectations were, they both played a great midfield game especially after we scored the first goal. It was surprisingly effective and I hope that Mikel goes back permanently to two central deeper-laying midfielders. Okay they were partly at fault for the West Brom goal – especially Ceballos was left wanting – but Pereira – with Saka the two outstanding players on the pitch – produced a great run and he scored a fine goal that we just have to applaud. Pereira was in top form and I hope that Arteta took notice of this 25 year old top talent (10 PL goals this season for…. West Brom..).

I saw the most despised Willian score a peach of free-kick, his first goal of the season. The goal was fab but what was really nice to see is how his fellow players were so happy for him. To all those Willian haters: look at how his players value him and how much the goal meant to him. He is only human after all. Yes Willian did not deliver on our expectations but next season could see a big change. I have not given up on him yet.

I also saw two classical central defensive performances by Holdingho and Big Gab and thought: we are fine for CBs next season.

All in all, I saw four fantastic goals in an entertaining win and so enjoyed my evening. Bliss.

See the source image

Oh and Happy Birthday Dennis! It is time you come and join the coaching staff.

By TotalArsenal.

Mikel Arteta I am Right Behind You

So Arsenal are out of Europe now and there are just four PL games to go before the season comes to a close. It was a tough night for all of us and naturally many feel hurt and disappointed.

Clubiconen Arsenal schamen zich: 'Dit doet pijn: Arsenal wordt elk jaar slechter'

I was not convinced by the tactics but we will never know how the game would have finished if Xhaka had not been injured just minutes before kick-off. I am not going to explain again why Granit is so important for us as I have done so ad nauseam over the last few years. But whether he would have been played at LB or LM, Granit would have been the nr.1 translator of Mikel’s tactical plan for the game. During the whole 90+ minutes we were rudderless last night, and I think Mikel made a mistake with not giving Partey an extra man in midfield. Thomas was far too isolated and made a lot of mistakes; he just needed a ‘hoover’ like Elneny to help him out.

Mikel aimed for the 1-0 victory rather than go all out blazing for a big win, and I have time for this. Unfortunately, we did not produce enough chances and/or lacked quality and luck for the few good chances that came our way. I am all for rationally ananlysing games and throwing loads of stats in the mix, but we did not lose to a better team but a luckier one: the bounce of the ball went Villareal’s way on a number of occasions over both legs and that in my view made the difference. It just felt it was not going to go our way, and that is cup football for you. Arteta also made a very good point that his key players were either not available or not fully fit last night, and it cost us.

I would not have started with Bellerin who, to be fair, did not have a bad second half and delivered a peach of a cross that any CF would have loved. I would have played two in midfield, especially after Xhaka got injured. And I would have played Martinelli from the start and leave Pepe out (not that he played that bad last night). But I am just a keyboard manager and know very little of football management compared to Mikel and therefore have only respect for him. He got close to getting us to the final but it was not to be; just as it was not to be for Mourinho, Ten Hag, Rodgers and so many others in the UEFA League. Again that is cup football for you.

There will be calls to get rid of Mikel now.

I even have these calls on Bergkampesque. This is of course fine but I will not support you. The club moved mountains to entice Mikel away from Man City and his great master, Guardiola. Why did they go for a rookie? Well I guess because they believed that Arteta would build something like Wenger did in the late nineties: a legacy based on beautiful, winning football. Arteta has a vision and a plan but it takes time… much more than I thought it would take. The squad is not a bad one at all, but too many players cannot play passing football the modern way. Is that not obvious to any serious Gooner?! Pepe cannot play tight-space-football and neither can Auba; Laca is getting there but Eddie is not making the grade; Martinelli is keen but has dropped tremendously in form and also struggles with playing combo-footie in tight spaces. We have some good full and centre backs but only a few can pass out the ball well and can play a ball over the top when needed; Partey has struggled with the tempo and intensity of the PL this season and Bellerin also struggles with playing the high-intensity football that is required. Luckily, there are still a handful of great footballers at Arsenal and one or two of the above mentioned players may still improve.

So what to do? Kick out Mikel and start again? Hope that a new manager can get the best out of this squad again and make us go places? Or stick with the road and the man we went, on and with, when Emery was sacked? You know how I think about it. Believe in the vision and the man and have patience with the way he is going about things. A big summer TW is coming up and next season we will properly see what Arteta is made of… and I am right behind him.

“No difficulty can discourage, no obstacle dismay, no trouble dishearten the man who has acquired the art of being alive. Difficulties are but dares of fate, obstacles but hurdles to try his skill, troubles but bitter tonics to give him strength; and he rises higher and looms greater after each encounter with adversity.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v Villareal Expected Lineup for Biggest Game of the Season

It is almost time for our next biggest game of the season. Sometimes it is best not to say too much and focus on the straightforward task ahead: outscore Villareal on the night (including away goals) and we are in the final. That final is on 26 May and we all know that this is a special day in the history of the Gunners. But let’s not focus on that now. We need a top performance by the boys and I reckon they are ready for it.

Depending on fitness – Luiz, Tierney and Laca all get a late fitness test – I reckon this will be our team tonight:

Is Tierney fit? I feel somehow he is. If not, Xhaka with his left foot will play LB again and ESR or Elneny will play in Granit’s place. I don’t expect Luiz to be fit and Robbo will do a good job at RCB instead. Chambers back in RB, I reckon. Up-front we need movement and good passing and the trio of ESR, Ode and Saka offer this. It would be great if Laca could start but I reckon this is Auba’s night (and he sounds very ready for it).

COYRRGs!

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v Villareal CF: Eight Big Arteta-Questions for You to Answer

Well that was an easy, stress-free Sunday afternoon of football, wasn’t it? I am not entirely sure why this formation worked so well against, it must be said, a weak Newcastle team. A clean sheet, a good number of chances for Arsenal and two goals to the good; it was just what we needed. Arteta, as expected, made a large number of changes and the players who were picked did put in a shift, I guess with the hope of also starting on Thursday – the next game of the season.

Regulars on Bergkampesque know how much I rate Elneny as back-up DM and I was glad he scored a rare goal for the team. There is no doubt that Partey is the better player of the two but every team needs players like Mo on the bench/team: those who accept that they will not play all the time but will give their all when they get a chance. Mo is such a player and that is what I like about him. Auba also really needed a game AND a goal and he got one in fine fashion. All good.

Another good thing about yesterday’s game is that Auba, Odegaard, Ryan, Big Gab, Luiz and Martinelli got a full work-out before Thursday’s game. This will have made them match fit and so Arteta will have good options to pick from against fellow-slick-haired Emery on Thursday. Thank you Magpies for giving us this wonderful practice and preparation game!

See the source image

I know we have become used to cup success but we should not take it for granted that we are once again close to a cup final. We are a team in transition under Arteta and he is making good progress in my opinion. The problem is that he is not allowed to just focus on the team for next season and use the current one for this sole purpose. Mikel is also tasked to try and get us into the CL already this season for obvious financial reasons, and his only route to do so is through the Europa League. I was not impressed with the way he set up the team and especially the first half against Villareal, but the team fought back to leave the Madrigal with just a small loss and the very precious away-goal in the bag. It was pretty ugly but effective.

I really find it amazing that in this transitional year we are very close to playing in an European final again. For this we need one more fecking fantastic game from the boys and I sense that a) the players really know this and b) they are so ready for it. Some are worried about having to play the final, if we were to make it, against Manure who are currently playing very well. But a final is an unique occasion and Arteta has had the number of OGS in a few encounters already. As Mikel said recently: we can beat any team on the day.

So to make this post a bit more interactive here are a few questions for you for the Thursday home game against Emery’s Yellow Submarine – and I would love to hear your responses in the comments section:

  1. Which formation should Arteta pick: 4-2-3-1, 3-4-3, 4-1-4-1, other?
  2. Who should he put in goal: Leno or Ryan?
  3. Who should be our central defence: two (or three?) out of Luiz, Holding, Big Gab, Mari, Chambers?
  4. Who should be our full-backs (or wing backs): Tierney, Xhaka, Soares, Chambers, Hector?
  5. Who should captain the team?
  6. Who should play in midfield – three positions with either two ‘DMs’ and AM or one DM and two AMs?
  7. Who should play in attack: CF and wingers?
  8. Who should be the super-sub to potentially clinch the game in the last 20-30 minutes?

Over to you!

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v Newcastle United Preview and Lineup: Eight Changes to Zip the Barcodes

Arsenal v Newcastle – May 2nd, 2021

Here is a post game accounting of Arsenal’s first ever League game which was played at Manor Field, Plumstead,127 years ago. 

Date: Saturday 2 September 1893

Competition: Football League Division Two

Location: Manor Field, Plumstead

Attendance: 10,000

2 September 1893 Woolwich Arsenal v Newcastle United

Line-ups:

Woolwich Arsenal: C Williams, J Powell, W Jeffery, D Devine, B Buist, D Howat, D Gemmell, J Henderson, W Shaw, A Elliott, C Booth.

Newcastle United: A Ramsay, H Jeffrey, J Miller, R Crielly, W Graham, J McKane, J Bowman, T Crate, W Thompson, J Sorley, J Wallace.

Post-match comments:

Arsenal captain Joe Powell gave his opinion after the game: “We couldn’t have expected anything much better, and though at the time of leading by two goals to none we slackened down a little, it was the first goal of United that gave them heart to go and get another.”

When asked to single out individuals from his own team, Powell said: “We all did our fair share. Williams was fine, the halves rocks, and Elliott and Booth the pick of the front rank. Considering that Charlie Booth has to run four miles every morning to get down his flesh, the speed he gets up is a miracle.”

Of the new ground he said: “It’s a splendid place, and when we get all our terraces settled in place of those primitive erections, the public will agree with me.”

  1. William Graham the Newcastle captain, when it was commented that he looked “done up”, replied: “so would you be if you’d been travelling all night in a confounded train!”

He also spoke out against Arsenal’s second goal: “We were terribly unlucky to draw. The second goal of Arsenal was a fraud… our fellows appealed for offside and stood still.”

However, he was also complimentary of the Arsenal team when asked his opinion of them: “Spanking good, indeed”. They gave us as hard a game as we’ve ever had. Yet I think that when we get them up North we shall prove at least four goals their superior Williams is a perfect treasure, while I have seldom seen a better left wing than Elliott and Booth.”

Facts about linked to the match or players:

The crowd was entertained by the band of the 2nd Kent Artillery Volunteers.

Joe Powell would go on to die in tragic circumstances. Complications set in having broken his arm in a game in 1896. He died a few days later from tetanus. His funeral was attended by several thousand fans as well as representatives from Woolwich Arsenal and other football teams. A collection was organised for his wife and children, and the money raised was used to buy a tobacconist shop to provide ongoing income for his family.

William Graham wasn’t wrong with his prediction as Newcastle won the reverse fixture 6-0 later that month. However, in this game a number of Woolwich Arsenal players, including Charlie Booth, were struck by stones thrown from the crowd. The Newcastle committee apologised for the conduct of the home crowd to Arsenal director Fred Beardsley whilst the team were at the railway station making their way home.

Arthur Elliott has the distinction of being the first Arsenal player known to have been sent off during a game. He received his marching orders on 23 November 1892 against Ipswich Town for persistent foul play.

EPL Away Games v Newcastle
DateWDLGFGA
07-May-94  102
19-Mar-95  101
02-Jan-96  102
30-Nov-961  21
06-Dec-971  10
28-Feb-99 1 11
14-May-00  124
15-May-01 1 00
02-Mar-021  20
09-Feb-03 1 11
11-Apr-04 1 00
29-Dec-041  10
10-Dec-05  101
09-Apr-07 1 00
05-Dec-07 1 11
21-Mar-091  31
05-Feb-11 1 44
13-Aug-11 1 00
19-May-131  10
29-Dec-131  10
21-Mar-151  21
29-Aug-151  10
15-Apr-18  112
15-Sep-181  21
11-Aug-191  10
Total :10862623
ALL Away Games  v Newcastle
 WDLGFGA
Divison 2104617
Divison 113113167103
Premier10862623
Total :24194199143

The result on Thursday left Arteta with a very difficult choice of who to play against Newcastle, my hope is that he rests the majority of our key players and risks sacrificing the game in favour of getting a posivtive result next Thursday.

GunnerN5

TA’s preferred lineup:

This is a game in which we should save the legs of players who are absolutely critical on Thursday and work the legs of those players who really need a game. Ryan could do with a game and the same goes for Luiz, Gabriel, Soares and Bellerin. Partey, ESR and Saka need a break.. and so does Granit but we need him for leadership and structure reasons. Upfront, Auba, Ode and Martinelli could really do with a start. I have also picked Pepe but would be happy if Nelson would get a game tomorrow. COYGs! With a bit of luck, Tierney gets 30 minutes or so.

Arsenal v Villareal Preview/ Lineup. Time for 3-4-3 with Saka and Soares as wing-backs!

The Yellow Submarine is our new opponent on the way to the UEFA League final. They are of course managed by Arteta’s predecessor, Unai Emery, and if there is one thing that nobody can argue with it’s the fact that Unai is an UEFA-league specialist. Will the extremely ambitious Spaniard be extra extra motivated to give us a bloody nose tonight? You betcha!

See the source image

I must admit that I have not seen much of Villareal this season. They scored 50 goals in La Liga and conceded 38 and are currently seventh, so not much better than us. They play in the beautifully named Estadio de la Ceramica or (even more beautifully and unofficially named) El Madrigal. You can say anything in Spanish and it sounds beautiful, though. A cheese sandwich is bocadillo de queso and whereas the former hardly gets me excited the latter is simply mouthwatering! Tengo diez por favor! 😀 Furthermore, a small city/town situated near the sunny east coast and that prides itself for its oranges and ceramics is one I would love to visit, and what a shame it is we still cannot do so.

Arteta had some heavenly news for us yesterday; as per per Mikel’s own words on Arsenal.com: They are all in contention. All of them. Including Aubameyang, Laca and Kieran. They are all in contention for the game. Yes [it is good news].

So what can I say about our first team selection. If all are truly fit then that will have given Arteta a sleepless night. The only thing to compare it with is when you have been out and several girls (or boys) have been eyeing you up and made advances… who to pick, who to pick?! I guess what is key here is who is actually fully match fit? This only Mikel will be able to judge.

So I am going with my hunch regarding match fitness and build further on the great comments made in the last Bergkampesque post.

This would be my team to start against the Yellow Submarine, and I am going for 3-4-3 to make us stronger on the flanks and through the middle:

If Laca is fit then of course he should play but Martinelli must have been penciled in for this one. I expect us to play compact and attack with seven or eight at a time, so in reality it is more like 3-7 or 3-6-1 for large parts of the game because I expect us to take the game to them tonight. If KT is fully fit then we could play 4-2-3-1 again with Soares making way and Saka moving up a position. Pepe has been good in Europe but I would prefer (a fit) Odegaard to start as he is much more ball tight. I am sure Arteta will have a few surprises for us tonight and that I got it pretty wrong with my preferred selection, but as long as the boys put in a great performance we will all be happy. Looking forward to this one. COYRRGs!!

By TotalArsenal.

Four Big Arteta Decisions for the Villareal CF game: GK, LB, LM, CF

With just a couple days to go till our encounter with Emery’s Villareal CF, let’s have a look at how Arteta could make changes in order for us to get a good result. As always in an European two-legged affair, an away goal is crucial and Arteta will have to set up the team with this in mind.

There are four things Mikel needs to look at as to put up the strongest possible team right now:

  1. The first big question is who should be in goal? Leno has gradually lost his command of the goal area and has made some big mistakes recently. Arteta is not a man to punish a player for a mistake (thank God) and will always aim to give players confidence, but he has to make a big decision here, as the next two UEFA League games will determine so much for him and the club. Ryan may be the better option right now: fresh, wants to proof himself and he seems more confident in the air/work better with the current lot of central defenders. What do you think?
  2. The left back situation. Xhaka has done very well there defensively but he is less likely to be effective going forward and he is well missed in midfield. The main reason he is playing left back is his exceptional left foot: none of the current full backs has one and for playing out of the back it is essential right now. But I don’t feel that we can afford to play Partey on his own/ with Dani in these pivotal games. Xhaka has to be moved back in midfield and somebody else needs to take up the left back situation. Soares and Hector are options but what about Big Gab as left back? He is fast and energetic, a typical defender and with the calm Mari next to him Gabriel should be a solid option. What do you think?
  3. I can see the potential of a hard working Partey bossing the midfield on his own with a fellow midfielder who has a free role around him. This player needs to be very mobile with a huge engine. I think that man may well be Joe Willock but he is donning the barcode shirt currently. I can also see ESR in this role or even Odegaard, but Ceballos is not the right guy. As I mentioned in item 2, I believe Arteta has to reinstate the Xhaka-Partey partnership against Villareal, but what do you think?
  4. Who should lead the line? Will Auba be fit (enough to be effective)? Is Eddie the answer or is this the game Martinelli will put his name on the European map? Or is it time to gamble big and put the almost totally untried Balogun – newly signed up by the Gunners – up top? If Auba is not fit then from a loyalty point of view Eddie should play; he deserves this chance. But we need an attacker in the Laca-mold as that is the way we have been most successful recently; so a player who supports midfield and harasses defenders all the time, who is great at linkup play whilst also a fox in the box. IMO that player is Martinelli as I don’t know enough about Balogun. But what do you think?

By TotalArsenal.

A(nother) Howler and (Threat of More) Injuries Cost Arsenal Dearly

Let’s face this head on: Arsenal were poor and served up an awful performance. Everton were also poor but they played it well tactically and counted on somebody shooting themselves in the foot…

Statistieken tonen onmacht Arsenal aan: slechtste resultaat sinds 91 jaar

… This time it was an incredible howler by Leno that allowed the unbelieving Toffees to take home all three points for the first time in forever. And the Farce of VARce did the rest of the damage. Of course it was not all Bernd’s or even VAR’s fault. As a team we were losing most second balls and individual battles and our heads were somewhere else; and maybe understandably so given the monstrous developments in the cause of the last six days. The manager, players and the fans have had to deal with an emotional hurricane and it showed on the pitch. The BoD had made a terrible misjudgment and has now created a traumatic environment for those who both enjoy and play the beautiful game week in week out. We may want our Gunners to be mean, lean football machines but they are in the end just as human as you and me. And the same goes of course for the manager.

In a nutshell, Arsenal played at too low a tempo to surprise the Toffees’ defence either on the well-defended flanks or through the middle. Partey was doing well in midfield but looked isolated a lot. Saka and ESR played with the handbrake on and the through-treacle-running Ceballos was not made to be present everywhere in oceans of space (this role, incidentally, would suit Willock to a T). Dani is a hard worker but not an athlete and it showed painfully last night when the whole team did not press up but sat back. Eddie tried hard to play the Laca-role, but with limited movement and engagement by ESR and Saka, and the limitations of Ceballos and also Pepe, it really made for a poor showing by the entire team.

Now there is always a tendency to blame somebody when Arsenal lose a game, and indeed I have done so above. But others have started to call for the head of Mikel Arteta, even saying that he has no clue tactically. Even though we can ask critical questions of his tactical decisions yesterday, including the timing and manner of his substitutions, Arteta’s tactical ability is one of his big strengths, as he has proven many times in the past.

But let’s try and put ourselves in the very shoes that Mikel wears. That is what I did again this morning. It is all good and well to let off steam and put our keyboard-knives into some human flesh, but if you were to be Arteta how would you have managed this situation? The BoD have put a bomb under the already fragile club-supporters relationships: they gambled badly and are now licking their self-inflicted wounds from an ocean’s distance. Supporters gathered outside Ashburton Grove not to cheer on the team but to protest against the ownership right before kick-off – anything but ideal. Furthermore, Arteta knows that what this club needs more than ever is CL football; his very future will likely depend on it. European football is nice but, very sadly, the beautiful game for a club like Arsenal fully depends on the elites’ cash-cow that is the Champions League. Covid-19 has made this an even harsher reality. He clearly has prioritised winning the UEFA League over the Premier League and it showed last night.

Can I blame him for this? Of course I can because also I have a keyboard. But I am not going to. If I was Mikel I would have done exactly the same. Arsenal are missing key players and we cannot afford anymore injuries.

We are three games away from winning a big trophy (which matters more to me personally than playing in the boring Champions League next season, but now I am once again not standing in Arteta’s shoes) but with Laca and Tierney out, and Auba and Ode being fitness doubts, Arteta just cannot afford anymore injuries. Yet, for various reasons, he could also not afford to stage a second-tier team last night. So he sent out a strong team on paper with the nr.1 instruction to avoid getting injured at all costs. To me it showed as the likes of ESR, Saka, Xhaka and Partey normally always put in a full performance, but not so last night. If you think about it, it all makes tactical sense. Arteta has one golden nest for the club left and all its and his eggs are in it.

Stand behind our manager and players, put on your favourite Arsenal shirt on Thursday and sing our famous songs with existential gusto; the boys need us now more than ever.

By TotalArsenal.