Arsenal exorcise some demons

In a lot of ways watching Arsenal play Liverpool was surreal. We know how Klopp wants his team to play and they are the toast of the Premier League for it. They press high, they play with energy, and they attack opponents quickly, scoring beautiful one-touch little goals.

Liverpool are also one of the most organized sides in the League. In order to stop Arsenal playing it out from the back, they posted three forwards, spread them out perfectly in front of the Arsenal back four and dared us to try to play the ball to Holding and Mustafi who were split wide on either side of the box.

When Arsenal tried to play it out, they were patient in their press. In a way that was reminiscent of the old Arsenal back four, their front three played like they had a rope between them: pushing the ball back, trying to trap Arsenal into a corner, using the sidelines to squeeze space, and hope to force a turnover. This isn’t the haring around press of Arsenal with Alexis Sanchez, this was a team press. It was as fun to watch them press Arsenal as it was frustrating to watch Arsenal turn the ball over.

There were a few possessions where Arsenal kicked the ball long. There were a few times that Xhaka felt hot breath on his shoulders and kicked the ball out of play. But most of that happened early in the match. As Arsenal grew into the game, pressing from the front themselves, the midfield grew more confident, more assured, and passed the ball nicely through the tiny spaces that Liverpool allowed.

And that Arsenal press up front was something that was also fun to watch. Slightly less organized, Lacazette sometimes running full speed at Allison to close the keeper down, but winning the ball back in their own way. And putting Liverpool under pressure with their own front three attackers. There was even a funny moment where I was laughing because Liverpool’s front three were perfectly spaced and Leno had to go long – which is pretty pointless since van Dijk just swallowed up all the long passes and belched them back into midfield like Bowser spitting fireballs in Super Mario. But then when Allison had the ball, Arsenal did the same thing and there for a moment I saw what Unai was really trying to do with this team.  I felt proud of this team, there for that moment: they were breaking pressure from one of the best pressing teams in Europe, they were pressing them right back.

This was a modern football match at its best. Two players up top? Pushaw. That’s ok if you’re Eddie Howe. But this is Arsenal and Liverpool, both teams attacked with three players, Klopp even joked that he was waiting for Emery to bring on van Persie and Bergkamp.

It wasn’t perfect. Arsenal still had a few moments where Mustafi was caught ball watching. Arsenal didn’t quite press in midfield well enough to stop delivery, and Leno was called upon to make a few outstanding saves. Liverpool also struggled to get the ball through Arsenal’s midfield and both team’s defenses left a few gaps, just enough to get some shots off that really got the heart racing.

Is it sour grapes to mention that they were missing some of their best midfielders? No. Is it also sour grapes in return to point out that Emery has had just a few months with this team and when these two teams meet again, Torreira and Xhaka will be even better? No.

Emery likes to talk about the process. Trust the process he says. And part of that process is to slough off the demons of Arsenal’s past. Arsenal exorcised a few demons in this match: dealing with a press, pressing from the top. In the end though most Arsenal supporters have to admit that this Emery side has a lot in it to be excited about. This manager has a lot of potential to be excited about. And this match has the potential to be a hell of a matchup for years to come.



  1. Time to give Xhaka his due. His best performance in some time. In a way, even kicking the ball out of bounds shows some progress. He made a mistake where the mistake wasn’t going to hurt us. No switching off. No late challenges. Excellent ball distribution. Just like so many players, he is showing Improvement. The players and the fans really believe again – and it shows.

  2. Hot take: the brief stint at LB made him a better defender?!

    Poll: If we lost this game 1-0, are you still optimistic?

    1. I haven’t seen the stats other than xg- which we won – but my eye test says we were the better side yesterday- even with our makeshift lineup in back. So I would be a bit disappointed with the result but happy with the effort and mentality.

      1. I think I would feel the same. It’s more about the process than the results this season.

      1. Seems too short to have had a major impact but it can’t have hurt to have to think like a defender for, what, 270 minutes of football? My theory is that he never learned to defend space behind him because BM and Swiss teams both conced space in front and not behind. At Arsenal it’s oposite world for him. Then under Wenger he was thrown to the wolves a bit along with Bellerin. Now he has consistent structure and is gaining in confidence defending that space behind him. He will never be the quickest but with Torreira there to help offset that he doesn’t have to think about that as much. There are countless examples of impactful but heavy footed deep lying CM playmakers so I don’t see that as a fatal flaw. The concentration issue is what could kill him but I think that will improve with his confidence and with consistent instruction.

  3. A match of this quality is an example of what can make the Premier League so watchable.
    The unexpected 🍒 on top was the we got a result. Best I’ve felt after a draw in long while. And that goal by Lacazette? Could have been an impertinent Henry that scored that one. Absolutely delicious. We shared the 🍰 and ate it too!

    A win on Thursday and we can rest the big guns for last two European group stage games.

    I can feel it all slowly starting to come together…

  4. I think what I’m happy about most of all was that it was a high quality match. I suppose I would have been very upset if we had been denied a goal like Liverpool were, but those sorts of decisions still fall within the ‘acceptable’ range of errors for me (Though we should have VAR)

    Apart from that though, it was a good fun match to watch where the time just flew by. One thing I hope we can improve on is not being caught offside so much, because if we could have managed that better, we could have caused them many more problems.

    Also, Xhaka’s tackle on Salah made me realise how important it is for players to not doubt themselves. I was urging him not to slide in because I saw a penalty coming, but he did and won a great and important tackle. If he had any doubt, he would have missed and we would be bemoaning his continued stupidity. As long as it’s the right decision, I think we should be more understanding of errors, simply as a way of reducing them. The more they become a thing, the worse it is likely to get. No wonder Unai says coaching is very very difficult to do.

    1. So right Shard. He goes from MOTM to goat in one play if he takes another pen there. I gasped as he slid, assuming Salah would go down. ( Any Sp*r would have dived with arms flailing) preparing for the worst but the tackle was precisely brilliant. Any hesitation and it’s a completely different match. I have been harsh on Xhaka but he made me eat crow and I’m happy for it.

      1. Agree about Xhaka being one of the MOTM candidates but not necessarily about him possibly being scapegoated for one mistimed tackle

        Can’t speak for others but for me getting your timing wrong by a couple of inches while trying to prevent a clear goal scoring opportunity at full speed isn’t the same as sticking a lazy leg and kicking player on the knee like he did to Zaha.

      2. MOTM was Lucas Torreira (although VVD had the best overall performance of anyone on the field).

        Xhaka was terrific, but his wasn’t the best performance by a long way.

        Go find the gif of Torreira making two ball-winning tackles in 30 seconds. In fact, I think Torreira helped lift Xhaka to heights he simply hadn’t touched before in an Arsenal shirt.

  5. I wouldn’t.
    I don’t buy this “not being active “ bs while running towards the ball ( my guess is he thought he wasn’t off).
    Just because Firmino took charge of the situation you can’t tell me Leno wasn’t distracted by Mane, at least momentarily.

    Klopp can’t have any complaints though seeing as Liverpool were one of the clubs that voted against VAR.
    It’s laughable to expect linemen keep up with the pace of players like Mane.
    They need help.

    1. In terms of natural justice I agree with you. But that is how the rules are currently interpreted and I’d prefer consistency in sticking to that.

    2. On the penalty decision: this times a million. Nail on head.

      Can’t believe more fans/commentators aren’t at least raising this issue as a consideration. Everyone’s just swallowing the “official” line that because the offside came in the first “phase of play” he wasn’t off. But surely the question of whether he was interfering initially, when they both went for the ball, is open for debate.

  6. Great game to watch.. klopp actually commented it is a training ground routine to have one player offside(mane here) and have a runner come through ( firmino). Initial reaction to the play was offside as Mane also started. Moving to the ball…

    1. I like Klopp a lot but he’s being a bit disingenuous here if he says that’s what they practice in training.
      Having a player stand in an off-side position between the two CB’s while another attacker makes a well timed run to square the pass to him isn’t even close to what Mane did on that play.

      City putting on a clinic against the Saints.
      I don’t think there will be much of a title challenge by anyone else this season either.

    2. That slight move by Mane toward the ball would have caught Leno’s peripheral vision in my view.

      1. Irrelevant. Shard’s right. The rules are what they are. Liverpool were unlucky.

        We outplayed them to that point though, and Mhki should have had a pen from Allison foul, so cry me a river.

        1. If I am not mistaken, rules regarding offside, actually changed. So, by today’s rules Mane was actively participating in the episode, while being offside, therefore, goal was disallowed righteously. Whatever Klopp’s drill was, he clearly got it wrong or Mane didn’t quite get it.

        2. I guess I missed the memo about the rules: the rules talk about “interfering with play” and then use a bunch of VERY vague language, VERY open to interpretation, in their list of things that count as interfering. This seems to be a legitimate gray area (which of course are inevitable; the point is not that the offside definitely *should* have been given, but that it’s legitimately open for debate).
          Just because some prem refs have decided that what Mane did shouldn’t count as interfering, doesn’t mean that’s what the rules clearly state.

          1. Gallagher seems to be all over the place with his interpretations.

            Allison on Mhki no pen because nobody expects them given, but Leno on VVD a pen because he was very late and went through his back.
            Go figure.

            Mane doesn’t “impact “the play so the goal should’ve stood.
            I guess sprinting to the ball at least ten yards or so right in front of Leno is what you call not impacting the play.
            Got it.

  7. Tim like you I wished Klopp succeeded Wenger without going to Liverpool.

    Now, I think the club have (if rumours were to be believed) stumbled on the right manager. Arsenal needs Emery and Emery needs Arsenal (after what some people described as a failed tenure at PSG). Both can elevate each other to the next level.

    Also dare I say Emery seems to be a modern Wenger! Lovely attacking football, with a little bit of compromise at the back.

    Gazidis probably missed out on the limelight of leading the club out of Wenger’s shadows. Maybe he didn’t expect it to be this swift.

    1. Did you see the ‘news’ about the Super League discussions among clubs? Milan among the 7 clubs at the forefront of it. I think Gazidis’ decision was cowardly to leave at the point he did, but apart from the money, I remember thinking creating a Super League and becoming its commissioner/chairman was his endgame. He was involved in the MLS and I think he’ll position himself as the guy to build a league on a similar model.

  8. I think it’s remarkable what Emery has been able to accomplish with Arsenal in such a short time period. Goes to show how important it was to select a coach with a winning pedigree as oppose to a British retread (no names required), a solid but nothing special Moyes, a Dutch retread, media darlings (Howe, Nagelsmann, Tedesco, Rangnick , Sarri), or a rookie (Arteta, Henry). This bodes well for Arsenal’s future after more time for the processes to evolve and a few more transfer windows for Emery to bring his type of players.

  9. Man City giving a “master class” to Southampton. Please Rebecca. A team with only 1 win and only 6 goals only exceeding Huddersfield’s total of 4. This is a gold match all day long even with Man City playing. Super League can’t come quick enough. Not.

    1. When youre manifestly better than the other team you have to score. Dont wait till the 2nd half to turn up. They were 4 -1 up at the half. This is one of the things that separates us from the best team in England, and arguably one of the top 3 in Europe.

      We seem to place more enjoyment in the journey rather than the destination.

  10. Not only that, I mean you’d expect them to outplay the likes of saints with the talent they have , but it’s also how ruthless they are in their conduct .
    They argue every call, go hard into every challenge and never apologize to their opponents.
    The game was over on 18 minutes.

    1. Speaking of retreads, how does Mark hughes still coach in the top tier and who at Saints really thought that would work out?! I know it’s City but some of that defending was just shameful. Cpuld be worse I suppose, at least it’s not Pards… and at least he’s not dancing.

    1. He’s improving and in my opinion it’s where you’re going, not where you came from that really counts! 😀

  11. Dr Gooner asked this Q last thread….
    “A lot of the comments I’m reading say something along the lines that we will need to replace Ramsey when he goes with a big transfer. Is that really true though? He does not play in our best XI. He has not even been impactful as a sub or when starting against “lesser” competition. He is not the midfielder we remember from 2014. He is an attacker now, and we have plenty of those”.

    Doc, what’s totally lacking in that comment/question is nuance. Like your comment about Ramsey having the shooting ability of a new born foal (an uncharacteristic pub level observation), you just cant seem to locate it with this player.

    One, it’s the not so much the player. Forget Ramsey. It’s the skillset. As well as we are playing now, we need options for when the season becomes a slog, as it will. I think it’s pretty obvious that when Ramsey goes, we need to replace what he can bring, for the sake of a strong squad. I hope that until we replace him, he can give us what he’s capable of, despite what’s personally a difficult situation for him. Because, while those attributes are not primarily required as they were under the last coach, they’re still valuable in the cause of the squad, and could yet be deployed, either as a tactical switch up or on a needs/must basis. A squad needs balance, and variety. Keyword, squad.

    Outside of the strikers and Ozil, only Ramsey in the Arsenal First XIV (the XI minus Kola + 3 subs against Liverpool) knows how to find the back of a net consistently and with quality. Disappointingly, Iwobi and Mhki are both woeful in this one area, and shouldn’t be. That skillset matters in the squad scheme of things. Matters where bodies are going to have to be drafted into the cause, needs/must, when we’re playing matches every 2 days over the holidays.

    As for Ramsey himself… In his favoured position (not, crucially favoured by Emery) , he was Arsenal’s most effective player last year with 21 goals and assists. That was better impact than Ozil and Lacazette. But it was more than that. Tim’s BTN showed that he actually put in good all-round performances, offensively and defensively, so your description of him as “just an attacker now” isn’t borne out by the statistical evidence.

    The history of football is replete with examples of good players who didn’t fit into a coach’s First XI. He didn’t become a bad player over the summer. It’s simply difficult to fit him, Ozil and Mhki into a 4231, and something had to give. That something initially was playing Ozil wide, but apart from Ozil being a born No 10, the German didn’t bring enough graft to the wide position. So it was a straight choice. But even in a position to which he wasn’t naturally suited, the Ten Press, Ramsey led the team in assists until his minutes fell sharply when he lost his starting place, and he has a notably good understanding with Aubameyang. Nuance.

    We don’t play a box-to-box in our first choice XI anymore, and frankly, the team’s clicking nicely without it…..but, coming back to your question, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need the skillset in our team. A 4 trophy season is long. Every physical body (and everybody) will be needed over December/January. It’s not inconceivable that we could lose both primary attackers same time, to a combination of suspension/injury or injury/injury. Xhaka is one caution away from a suspension. Torreira is the only player we have who possesses his particular skillset, and if he keeps playing at this intensity he’ll suffer burnout, injury, or both. We’ll “red zone” him. More than one attacker could lose form at a time (Giroud/Alexis/Theo?). Heck, we didnt havea single fit centre back on the bench against Liverpool. We did not have a defensive midfielder on the bench against Palace. And it’s early November.

    1. Dr Gooner asked this Q last thread….
      “A lot of the comments I’m reading say something along the lines that we will need to replace Ramsey when he goes with a big transfer. Is that really true though? He does not play in our best XI. He has not even been impactful as a sub or when starting against “lesser” competition. He is not the midfielder we remember from 2014. He is an attacker now, and we have plenty of those”.

      Since I think the above comment was in a reply of my post, let me also join and add my 2 cent.

      Why I think that we need to ensure a top-quality replacement for Ramsey.
      1. Because we are getting thin on the position of Attacking Central Midfielder. Apart from him we have only Ozil in that role. Mkh can play it as well to certain extent, and maybe Iwobi, but we all agree that they are naturally more effective in the wider positions. Now, it is true that with the current system, an attacking central midfielder has become an equivalent of “a number 10” – a role that Ramsey doesn’t feel that good in – and probably that is part of the reason why he has been dropped and comes from the bench recently, but that doesn’t mean that a top replacement for that area of the field is not necessary.
      2. Because he IS a top-quality player. Even if not a starter anymore/at the moment, his qualities are out of question, I hope. If the club decides that he doesn’t fit anymore – ok, but then replace him with someone who does fit, otherwise you are simply losing squad depth

      1. Right Bai, I think you said it there, Ramsey represents squad depth now, quality depth at that, depth that I think we all agree makes this a better squad, but depth is not so hard to replace that we need to wring our hands about it. I think it’s a great sign for the club that we don’t have to fret too much about the future of Aaron Ramsey. I like him, I always have and always will and I don’t want to see him leave but I do think his place in the squad isn’t what it used to be and that’s a good thing.

        1. All this what you said somehow fits very good for.. Theo Walcott. But Ramsey will be missed.

      2. We have all argued the Ramsey pro/con to death, but I think another factor in the decision was the development of Smith-Rowe. No, he’s not nearly on Ramsey’s level, but I think Emery rates him very highly and sees/hopes Ramsey (this year) and Mkhi (the next couple years?) as a bridge to ESR taking minutes at the 10. That, plus the wage demands, and the lack of fit in the new system, plus Iwobi’s progress have conspired to squeeze Ramsey out. He’s brilliant on his day, but finding him a spot on this squad was going to be a problem that we couldn’t solve. We will miss him, but the club has to make tough choices, and in the end, it’s the right choice.

    2. Claude,

      We’ve talked to each other enough on here that you know I am just as interested in nuance as the next guy. Sometimes I can’t be bothered to write a treatise and I concede that leaves a lot of gaps to fill, as you have done for me here. The essence of my argument is unchanged though, as I said I am not persuaded that Ramsey is being held back in any way by his coaches, or that he is being kept out of the squad by something other than his own limitations. I agree he does add quality depth and I would rather see him on the team than off it but at this point that squad role of backing up Ozil or providing a motor off the bench is not commensurate with perceptions of his importance. I’d be happy for him to prove me wrong.

  12. i understand where doc is coming from. the operative word is “big” transfer. arsenal don’t need a big transfer but they do need to replace ramsey. in fact, i would say they need to upgrade but they don’t need a big transfer to improve on aaron ramsey.

    the club have probably earmarked at least one, if not several players, who they believe are better for the team than ramsey. likewise, they’re probably not “big” transfers. i don’t consider transfers for players like van persie, cesc, vieira, etc. big transfers but they became big players for the team. this is the type of signing arsenal need.

    bottom line, ramsey is not hard to replace. sure, you could tout his stats from last season but the qualities that are not listed statistically include the countless times he compromised the integrity of the team seemingly in search of those statistics. another is the fact that aaron ramsey is simply not that talented. it’s not to say he’s talentless but to say that there are dozens of players who arsenal could sign next summer that are more talented with a potentially higher ceiling and lower wage demands.

    lastly, ramsey’s wage demands are likely commensurate with a players who is, essentially, undroppable. if arsenal are willing to pay a droppable guy the money he demands, what will they have to pay to a starter or a truly undroppable player? with that logic in mind, the club’s decision to remove ramsey’s contract is sound.

    if ramsey wants to stay at the club, he’s going to have to renegotiate his arsenal contract from scratch and he’ll likely take a huge pay cut from the £130k a week he’s on right now, which he won’t accept. he may get a top six club to sign him but he won’t make the money he’s asking for and he won’t feature for a top club because, while he’s a favorite for some, he’s simply not that good.

    1. he should have signed the contract while gazidis was still at the club. he believed the hype, drug his feet, and lost out.

    2. “… he may get a top six club to sign him but he won’t make the money he’s asking for and he won’t feature for a top club because, while he’s a favorite for some, he’s simply not that good.”

      None of us know what exactly Ramsey has “demanded” (which also seems to have been what the club has actually offered, before that sudden change of mind), but generally speaking, I think you are wrong.

      I have the feeling that Ramsey will continue his career outside of England, but he might be easily lured by the PL money. Not sure if he will move to a “top 6 club” or he will prefer to be the star of a mid-table club, but for sure he will get the money he deserves.

  13. So I’ve been an Emery sceptic but he’s proving me wrong so far. The results have been good and the performances are starting to reach the level of the results. The players seen to relish playing a system that they understand and can rely on rather than winging it. Holding and Mustafi vs Firmino had all the hallmarks of a defence that’s watched videos and been coached pre-match. Xhaka and Iwobi at LB have demonstrated boldness and imagination. Subs have been good. Decision making good. A couple of lovely goals of late.

    My 2p on Ramsey: Emery got the manager’s job based on a deep knowledge of the Arsenal squad and a plan to improve them. His plan for Ramsey was clearly to play him at 10 and turn him into Firmino, hence the quotes about him being an important player. Gadzidis would have loved that idea. But that experiment was short lived so El Boss must have changed his mind once he worked with Ramsey and saw him in action. So the plan changed which resulted in the withdrawal of the offer because if Ramsey is not a 10 then I guess he’s not a great fit for the system.

    This struck me as pragmatic rather than classless but Claude might have a point.

  14. “So I’ve been an Emery sceptic but he’s proving me wrong so far. The results have been good and the performances are starting to reach the level of the results. “

    Fifth in the league on 72-75 points was my beginning of the season prediction and I’m sticking by it.
    Arsenal are on pace to reach 79 points which would’ve been enough for a top four in every season as far I can remember.

    I think Emery is over performing and keeping the 2,09 points average might prove to difficult to sustain over the rest of the season.

    That’s not to say Arsenal can’t make the top four on less points though.

  15. I don’t see how taking the Ramsey offer off the table is “classless”.
    I mean it’s not like Ramsey just blew his knee before he got a chance to sign it and the front office people said : “oh $hit, we better reconsider quickly cos he’s gonna be out for the season and might never come back to this level again”

    A healthy Ramsey in his prime can easily go elsewhere and get the money , if not more, that were on the table while he was taking his sweet time getting around to signing the contract.

    Pragmatic is exactly the word, Greg, if Emery is to challenge the likes of City United and Chelsea who can easily outspend Arsenal by a wide margin.

  16. A bit late to comment but… what a game! We were competitive for 90 minutes! That’s all I wanted, a team that could at least compete with the big boys and not lay a big turd in big games.

  17. I think you’re going back over (very) old ground with Ramsey, Josh, beating a dead horse, and missing the essential point. Which is squad depth. Let me repeat. Squad. Depth. And squad depth, especially, over the next few months. All the contract, shoulda/woulda business is WUTB. It is what it is.

    I mean, does Pep say we already have Bernardo and David Silva, so we don’t need deBruyne? For the record, I think that the Belgian is a better player than Ramsey, but the point is that there are other players keeping him out of the team. Or that they have Sterling and Mahrez and don’t need Sane anymore? Sane didn’t even make the squad a few games back.

    Im not saying that we need City’s personnel riches, but it’s such a small club and short termist mentality that because Ramsey doesn’t start, we shouldnt be thinking big for his replacement. Why not? Bai Blagoi is right on the point of what we are losing, and what we need to get back.

    We need the skillset. Almost all of our players outside of the small band of elite forwards (Iwobi and Mhki included), can’t be depended on for goals. And the SQUAD needs that, Ramsey or no Ramsey, starter or not starter, at a high level. We are not going to field the same XI, formation, and tactical setup in every game this season.

    No use going over old ground. And yes, the club management isn’t stupid. In showing Ramsey the door, they ARE making plans for replacements. Whether they find an unknown gem like Torreira or going for proven, I hope that they’re looking to throw long.

    I was simply taking issue with Doc notion that because Ramsey isnt a starter, we don’t need to replace his skillset at a big level. The argument about “big player” replacement makes no sense anyway, for 3 reasons. One, you want competition for places. Two, in a squad competing for multiple trophies, everyone will get minutes. Three, Cesc wasnt a big player when we bought him… we made him one. So what, really, is big? Torreira is a big signing in my opinion, but how many of us heard of him before June?

    If Arsenal wants to become a more competitive elite club, and we do, we are going to have to think like one. And it means thinking, ambitiously, beyond the current First XI.

    Oh BTW, Arsenal scored a one-two for BBC’s GOTM for October. Ramsey/Fulham beat Auba’ symphony at Leicester (which I think was the better goal) by a point in the voting. They’re both contenders for GOTS, in my opinion.

    1. i think we’re in agreement for the most part. one of the first points i made was arsenal need to replace ramsey, meaning arsenal need the depth he provides. likewise, i brought up doc’s use of the term “big transfer” and declared it relative. i even made the same point with calling cesc, rvp, and vieira transfers not big but they became big players.

      i think the only place we’re really in disagreement about ramsey is concerning his quality. you tout his stats and while they’re undeniable, i don’t think he’s that good. i care less about his stats and much more about how the team plays when he’s in the side. i’ve compared it to giroud at the world cup. while he didn’t put up big stats, who’s bold enough to say that france would have won the world cup or gotten to the euro finals two years ago without the contribution of olivier giroud? vieira didn’t put up big stats either but his performances in midfield made arsenal winners. gimme that and keep your stats.

  18. Gang…

    This got written in the Guardian yesterday…

    “Xhaka’s improvement is perhaps the most palpable sign of the difference Emery has made. No longer is he a fine but disassociated left foot bobbing unreliably around midfield, his positioning uncertain, the capacity for a mistake terrifyingly near.”


    Didn’t he just give up a penalty in his very last match??? And just a few weeks ago (playing in CM next to Torreira) he was running around fouling everyone by grabbing shoulders because he’d been beaten off a dribble by some clod hopper.

    That same article calls Torreira some “muscle” in Arsenal’s midfield.

    WTF is going on?

    I like where the club is headed, I see some incremental improvement from Xh*ka, but the Guardian saying that he’s now an assured, mistake-free DM and that Torreira is some kind of Kante-sque enforcer is really odd. I almost feel like they are setting him up for a fall or something.

    1. What do you expect from the press? Prior to the match, we were the team that no one believed in, since we hadn’t beaten anyone yet. Now we’re a title contender. Please. Hyperbole is the home turf of every hack sports writer. That’s why we’re so smart to come here. 🙂

    2. Arsenal are in fashion these days. Seems last seasons have set the expectations of the press really low, and now all of a sudden we make an unbeaten run, playing good against the Mighty Liverpool.. and the press starts to likenus and focus on our brighter sides. Whoever player makes a good game is lavishly praised.

      This is called “hype”.

    3. Did Wilson ever call him an assured, mistake free DM? The quote you paste above merely says he’s no longer terrible, which is hard to dispute.

      Torreira is very much like N’Golo Kante. I can’t think of a much better comp for him that that actually: both smaller defensive players who use rely more on quickness, balance and reading of the game to regain possession rather than muscle. Kante was a key cog in two title winning campaigns, so it was rather shrewd of the Arsenal recruitment team to go after a facsimile.

  19. Arsenal play Liverpool again quite soon, right before the end of the year. And it will be at Anfield, so I’m not sure the result will be better than this one.

  20. This Xhakaskeptic was the first person to come on here at halftime and say that he was having an outstanding game. And repeated it at the end. Just as I noted previously that he played well at LB, in both games. Credit where due. Having reservations about a player shouldn’t cause you cast fairness and objectivity aside.

    Shard makes an excellent point about the tackle on Salah. And after giving a penalty and 2 points away at Palace (something for which I absolved him of blame, on the basis that Zaha was troubling everyone with his pacy running), he deserves massive credit for not having the risk-averse response. Remember too that he’s a yellow card away from a suspension. He could have easily not done that tackle.

    Did the stint at LB improve him, as Doc suggested? I tend to think that yes, it helped his defensive awareness.

    I noticed one thing that he did differently against Liverpool… he used his natural gift, rather than trying to do things that don’t come naturally. And that gift is his physical strength. He did more “stand your ground” and shielding of the football when he needed to. One shoulder to shoulder sent Mane flying.

    He’s able to do that because he has his bad cop shielding him. Torreira. He brings to the party the things that Xhaka lacks… reading of the game, a nose for gathering danger, speed, tenacious tackling ability, defensive harrying. Listen to the Arsecast on Torreira’s performance. It was something.

    In a setup where you play with 2 pivots, Ramsey is a luxury, so there’s tactical logic there. Ozil is the far better forward link, even if he’s sometimes not a particularly hard-working one. Emery moved a step closer to getting the team to tick in the way that he wants it to. That he got Xhaka to play his best ever game for Arsenal weeks after getting Ozil to do the same, shows what an effective coach he is. That Ozil went from awesome to anonymous against Palace shows that we need to temper our excitement until we can see some more consistency. But Xhaka took a big step forward on Saturday.

    1. “Ozil is the far better forward link, even if he’s sometimes not a particularly hard-working one.”

      Claude – If I read this correctly, you are speaking about Ozil generally/in the past, more than recently? I am starting to see harder work from Ozil over the last few matches . He tracked back and attempted tackles that led to turnovers several times this weekend. I didn’t see work rate issues Saturday, but we of course have seen them previously. Ozil wasn’t superb, but he was better than I initially credited him on a closer watch. Arseblog had the same reaction in Arsecast today. Still not doing the kind of work that you might like, but definitely improving.
      And I think that sums up Arsenal under Emery. Everyone seems to be improving incrementally. In this game of inches, that can add up to enormous overall progress.

      1. Keyword 👉”sometimes”

        He was dreadful in that regard against Palace. Good against Liverpool.

    2. “That Ozil went from awesome to anonymous against Palace shows that we need to temper our excitement until we can see some more consistency.”

      I hear this leveled at Ozil a lot, sometimes fairly, but I do feel that the major underlying factor in his performance or lack thereof is Arsenal’s control on the match or lack thereof. That’s true of most creative players. It’s a little bit of a chicken/egg conundrum because Ozil helps with keeping control by his stellar possession play but out of possession he’s usually neutral or a minus, so in games where the opposition is winning most of the duels and the territorial battle, Ozil will never be really effective because he doesn’t get to operate in the final third very much. So Emery removes him but the catch-22 ensues whereby what little control we had was predicated on Ozil linking play in forward areas and being available to circulate possession. It’s a tough one for the manager but overall Ozil has stepped up his defensive intensity and the improved play of Arsenal’s midfield means he gets more opportunities to make a difference in forward areas too. That didn’t happen against CP because we never really controlled that game as a team.

      1. It’s simple, really,Doc. Ozil has to show greater commitment and energy in tackling, harrying and pressing when we don’t have the ball. Not doing it half heartedly, as is his wont. Sometimes he really comes to the party… too often he does not.

        He and Elneny — the worst tacklers in the squad — have this thing where they fanny about busily in the general direction of the man on the ball, rather than genuinely press and pressure him. He did that a lot in the first half against Liverpool, but (like Mhki) really grew into the game as it went on.

        He was removed against palace because he was listless off the ball (I called that at halftime too). He was not bringing any control, and therefore we couldn’t lose what we didnt have.

        When he has a great game, I’ll say so, When he has a stinker, I’ll say so too,

    3. Yeah I agree with almost all of this. I have seriously low expectations of sports writers as of all the areas of journalism they tend to jump on bandwagons more than most. It’s rare to read a newspaper article on any team that genuinely adds insight rather than repeating what everyone is already saying on twitter. Sometimes the pleasure of the writing is compensation enough, but sometimes not – and in this case “adding muscle” is a very inaccurate and cliched way to try to express what Torreira is actually doing. But I defer to Claude’s greater knowledge of how journalists and editors actually work.

      For me the whole point of the double pivot is that the two players have to complement each other and they both have to function as a unit. So when the midfield clicks as it did against Pool it kind of misses the point to praise Torreira without praising Xhaka at the same time. He doesn’t add muscle, he just plays intelligently and both play to their strengths. Anything good that one of them does is made possible by the support from the other – and the other players surrounding them.

      The thing I like best about Emery is that he seems to be less interested than Wenger in unique talents and more interested in creating a team that clicks. I can see Arsenal developing in a direction where there are few if any superstars a la Henry, Bergkamp, Sanchez, Ozil, etc. It’s great to have those names on the back of the shirt but it would be better to have Arsenal as a scary, fast, telepathic winning machine no matter who’s on the field.

      In other words if those two GOTM are the future we are in for a treat.

  21. Tim, was about to respond but saw a report on Twitter about Arsene to Milan. To join Ivan 😲


    1. that would be a good move for arsene. likewise, we can safely predict one of ramsey’s more likely destinations.

  22. Arsenal v Milan in Europe with Wenger in charge would be the most talked about tie in whatever competitive they might be facing each other.

    Ramsey to Milan?
    Unlikely. Not if he wants to earn top wages that is.
    Higuain is their highest earner on €145 per week and no one else anywhere close to that.

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