Under pressure

I have to admit that I’m still angry. It wasn’t just that Arsenal lost, it was that we were comprehensively outplayed – again – by Patrick Vieira’s team.

Right from the start Arsenal looked like a team who couldn’t come up with an answer to Palace’s pressure. Time and again, players were easily pressed into making a bad pass or turned into a cul-de-sac where they were tackled off the ball. And for most of the first half, we resorted to long-balls to no one.

It’s been a fact for a long time that Arsenal struggle when teams press them. What Arteta was able to do successfully in the last year or so is make it so that the opponent cannot or will not press. I’m still not sure how he did that (other than the normal way: speed of ball movement and player positioning) but what I do know is that if teams press Arsenal, they can get joy. When a team gets 45 or more successful pressures on Arsenal, they have won 4/8 matches, drawn 2 and lost just twice (Burnley and Southampton). Palace did this both times they played us and only dropped points the first time because of a last-gasp goal.

The second half was nominally better. Arsenal had two chances – one from Smith Rowe and one from Odegard – but depending on who you ask, those two chances weren’t really that great. Opta scored them as “big chances” and 538 has Arsenal’s xG at 1.3. But Statsbomb (via fbref) put the Arsenal total xG for that match at 0.8. The latter matches much closer to how I saw the game. I remember the two chances in question and at the time didn’t really think they were big chances. And most of the rest of our shots were very poor, because we struggled to even get the ball up the pitch, until well after they had already scored two goals on us because of their pressure.

The bad news here is that many of the teams remaining in our run-in have pressed Arsenal this season. Brighton (next up) secured a 0-0 draw on 45 successful pressures. Southampton lost 3-0 to us but they had 47 successful pressures. Chelsea beat Arsenal with 48 successful pressures. Man U had one of the worst pressing performances against Arsenal all season, so that game should be there for the taking, but somehow we always seem to manage to cock it up against Man United. West Ham are also a low pressure team. Leeds under Bielsa were a crazy high pressure side and still are (they had 91 pressure regains against Southampton on Saturday). Newcastle pressed us a lot last time but failed to win the ball back. Everton are a mess so I’m not worried about that game. And while Tottenham are kind of a low pressure side, I expect that they will come after us, especially in midfield.

The point here is that Arteta needs to figure something out, and fast.

Arteta’s excuse will be that he’s missing his first team fullbacks. There’s some merit to that. Fullbacks are critical to modern football and it’s clear that Tavares is not up to the task and it’s been clear to me since about his first game that Cedric will have a lot more bad games than good ones. But the problem with that excuse is that these are the players that we have. We can’t buy new guys and we can’t promote from within. So, we need to find a way to play football with the guys that we have.

I would also point out that these are the players that this management team purchased. Lokonga*, Tavares, and Cedric are all going to need to be played in the final 9 matches of the season. And Arteta needs to get the best out of them.

And I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think Arteta has it in him. He took Tavares off at half-time, which I guess showed some restraint from the last time he hauled Tavares off in the 35th minute against Nottingham Forest, but which probably signals the end of his Arsenal career? Or not? I thought that the 35th minute sub would be the last time he played for Arsenal but I guess I was wrong and maybe I’m wrong again. But Tavares played like a player with zero confidence yesterday and was so far out of step with the rest of the squad that I wondered if he’s even been practicing with the team. And somehow Arteta either has to integrate him back into the team or find someone to take his place.

But who can Arteta play there? Saka? We can’t really play Xhaka in that position because we need him in midfield to help Lokonga (if Partey is injured). Or do we go to a back three and play with wingbacks? It’s a tough problem and I don’t have the answer, I just hope Arteta does.

The bottom line here is that I’ve been saying all along that we were going to struggle to get top 4. I know what the stats say and 538 still has us beating Spurs to that spot by 1 point but the way things look today, with injuries and given the way that we played yesterday, I’m still predicting 5th place for Arsenal.

Even if you disagree, and that’s fine, I think we would all agree that we cannot have another performance like the one we had yesterday. We can’t even have another half like yesterday.

With that loss yesterday and the poor performance we have made it very difficult to get 4th place now.


*I’m not saying he’s a bad player, but rather that he’s going to need to be played now that Partey is out.


  1. I thought both the Odegaard and ESR chances were pretty good ones. Give those to an experienced CF, and they should definitely be making them. But our one experienced CF isn’t scoring at all, so I don’t know that he would have. Scoring is going to be a problem on the run-in, even aside from all the other issues. I’m not sure it’s a great option, but probably need to try Martinelli central instead of Laca. We’d lose some hold-up play, but at least he’d make defenders work.
    If Tomi can get healthy, we either play him at RB and move Cedric to LB, or move Tomi to LB. Cedric has been better than expected, and even yesterday, wasn’t awful. I was pleased to see him playing Zaha physically…it showed effort that was mostly missing in that first half. If Tomi’s not healthy, I’d probably move Ben White out and bring Holding in as CB.
    Definitely a bit concerning that all of Tierney, Tomi and Partey have missed major time with injuries. They are all quality players, but that’s meaningless if we can’t keep them on the field.
    Lokonga looked decent in the second half, but that may be because Palace eased off their press. Not excited about having to finish the season with a Xhaka/Lokonga combo, but that’s where we are.
    And yes, a lot of this comes down to the winter gamble around letting players go and not reinforcing. The difference between CL and EL money is significant. And if this really implodes, and we miss EL again, then we’re really going to regret not spending in the winter to get some scoring and depth. And the Pepe instead of Zaha decision continues to look bad 🙁

  2. And double argh. The Athletic reporting Tierney undergoing surgery and done for the season. Perhaps also a doubt for their WC qualifier.
    Partey undergoing scans of previously injured area.
    And Tomi not back to training until April 16, which if accurate, means probably not playing until May.
    We’re screwed. It may end up being a challenge to get an EL place.

  3. You are right. We don’t have the squad depth or quality to win enough of our remaining games. Those games will be much harder on average than those in our recent run of wins, during which we have been narrowly beating weak sides. Our first 11 is decent (Xhaka excepted), but we have virtually nothing coming off the bench. We must replace Xhaka and buy two center forwards.

  4. Excellent analysis.

    As an Arsenal fans, I’d say 2 things…

    1. I dont want to overreact to this result. Brentford tonked Chelsea, and yes, Palace ensured that our mirth was short lived. That’s football. That’s EPL football.

    2. Outside of the top teams, one side we’ve struggled against these past 5, 6 years is Palace. Arsene, Emery and now Arteta. Hodgson, now Vieira. Something about them, that smarter guys like yourself, Josh and a few others here can deconstruct better than I can.

    Im not Mikel’s biggest fan as folks here know, but it’s kind of simplistic to say that Vieira one-upped him in the coaches’ battle within the battle. Vieira does excite me, though, especially as he and Cesc are my favourite gunners of all time.

    My only rebuttal is to folks now pointing out how short we are. We’re in no position to plead poverty. We sent a posse of players out on loan… players who could have come in for the now injured parties. And it is clearer now that if anyone needed loaning out for experience, it was Nuno.

  5. Hopefully it was just a bad day at the office. It can happen after an international break.

    Palace’s mobility particularly Gallagher and Matete had us in fits. The priority this Summer has to be moving on the less mobile. That and a stand-in for Tierney who’s only fit enough for half a season.

    Can’t help but think some of the squad players should have been getting more minutes when the games were easier. If we get European football Arteta needs to up his squad management.

    We don’t score much outside set plays averaging less than 4 shots on target recently. It’d be nice to think there’s a golden boot winner just waiting to join in the Summer.

    1. We are in big trouble this summer if we finish outside the Champions League places. We need a top quality striker and I don’t think that top quality strikers will want to come to a team which is playing in the Europa League.

      1. This is the core of the angst. Arteta’s superpower has been convincing ownership to spend the amounts of money he wants on the players he wants. I don’t underestimate the value of that – Wenger and Emery couldn’t do it, whatever their other merits. Honestly, if we finish 5th and still spend another 150m this summer, I’m not going to hold it against Arteta that we finished 5th, even if I don’t think he’s as good a coach as his predecessors.

        But I suspect if we finish 5th, we’re going to go back to the “market is difficult” excuses we heard for so long, because it is in ownership’s interest to draw championship-level attention without spending championship-level money. And you can bet the vultures are looking for ways to raise ticket prices again, monetize other types of attention, and generally make back the money they feel they were “forced” to spend during COVID. They will drag Arteta’s dignity as a footballer and as a man through the mud to do it, because that’s what they did to Arsene and Unai.

  6. I agree that, all things considered, we are more likely to finish fifth than fourth and I too felt that before last night’s feeble first half display (is it too late to test their urine for date rape drugs?) and our recent injury news. Moreover these absences from our starting 11 may now make even making 5th or 6th difficult if the Spammers and Mancs can sort out their recent form. Our thin squad and lack of an incisive striker were always going to make this run in difficult.

    Hopefully last night’s performance was simply the result of our all too frequent slow start after an interlull combined with tired and unfocused players who were shocked by Palace’s vigorous and physical start. Two massive lucky breaks gave Palace an early 2-0 lead that looked a mountain to climb the way we were playing in the first half. In the second half we looked much better and made but spurned the chances to level but didn’t get as lucky as Palace. Others have suggested that last night, like at Goodison, showed these players can’t cope with the atmosphere of a very vocal opposition crowd in a claustrophobic traditional stadium. If that’s so, we are in trouble.

    Frankly we performed as badly as this at times when Vieira bestrode our midfield and we had a team of proven winners. It simply wasn’t our day and Palace played well and deserved to win. Now we will see what the coaching team and squad are made of. Go win, Arsenal

  7. I had been more bullish on 4th and every bit as bearish on Arteta. It’ll take quite some luck or change in form to land 4th, and I continue to doubt Arteta has that in his locker.

    There simply are no excuses. Arteta’s been here 2 years, along with Edu. This is the team they built together. Don’t have the depth? That’s their fault. Reliant on Tierney who has ALWAYS been fragile (since before he joined!)? Same.

    There have been some good buys (Ramsdale, MO), some bad ones and then some strange moves (extending Xhaka).

    But mostly this team has been saved by the breakthrough of Saka and ESR, two Hale End players scouted and developed by prior leadership. Arteta didn’t even play ESR until his back was well and truly up against the wall.

    Meanwhile, Auba is making a mockery of Arteta’s multi-season preference for Laca centrally. He’s clearly got bags of goals left in his locker. And Pepe, who really isn’t a great player but at least can create goals, continues to rot on the bench.

    I have no time at all for a manager who takes 2 years to get things just right. Look at what Tuchel and Conte achieved almost instantly upon arrival. The top, top managers win. As Bum Phillips said, “He can take his’n and beat your’n, or your’n and beat his’n.”

    We will lose games, but to fail to even compete at this stage of Arteta’s tenure is a staggering failure.

    1. To be fair to Arteta, that’s exactly what he did in his first season. Win. He won the Fa cup beating Man City and Chelsea along the way. Now, we are in a full rebuilding job after the majority of that team has moved on. And before I start I will give credit where it’s due, albeit intermittently, we have played some of the best football in years this season.

      However, I agree with you, that many of our current problems are of Arteta’s own making. The severe lack of depth is entirely his fault. No January signings at all, when you’re already putting u18s on the bench in December? Foolish. While ostracising Auba, who is clearly far from finished, just when you need a world class talent upfront to get you over the line for *3 more f-ing months*, when CL and your entire club’s future rebuild is on the line, was downright idiotic. You don’t sell him under any circumstances, let alone give him away for free.

      It is no coincidence Lacazette is now playing like his place is safe. And the lack of Arteta’s clever rotation since Christmas is coming back to bite him. There have been so many times when dead men walking such as Nketiah have taken minutes away from key squad players who actually have a contracts with us, such as Pepe and Nuno, who will be actively needed to contribute, and have confidence, in this run in.

      Let’s be honest, we could see this Palace result a mile off. First game back after the break. Away, Monday night, packed ground. There wasn’t a hope in hell we were getting anything there. And that is a real worry. Who can you rely on in this team? We don’t know enough about the new signings, and they are all young, learning on the job. The only ones with experience are Xhaka and Lacazette. Both of whom have great experience. Experience as serial bottlers in the Champions League race.

      Tierney out for the season, Partey and Tomi indefinitely. It is not looking good folks, not at all.

    2. Carlosla
      Persons slow on the uptake who take 1 1/2 year to stumble on a solution are not fit for a high paying job of aFootball Manager. This should put an end to all arguments on Arteta

  8. Thanks for the post Tim. We went thru a run of good form against a group of teams who are relatively less challenging but just like in the Wenger years a run of bad form at some point is almost inevitable and I expect it will be tougher to get results during the 9 game run in. We have played some good football but no matter how eye pleasing the football or how many xG you create you won’t score enough if there are not enough players who are good at scoring goals on the pitch. The manager can’t kick the ball into the goal himself and eventually the lack of firepower has to catch up with us.

    1. “you won’t score enough if there are not enough players who are good at scoring goals on the pitch. The manager can’t kick the ball into the goal himself..”

      You need to stop making this duff argument.

      Before yesterday, Mateta had 3 goals and Ayew 1. I can assure you that Vieira didnt kick the ball into the net for them. Zaha, who didnt score from open play, had 9.

      Saka and Smith Rowe both have 9 premier league goals — that’s two Arsenal players with the same tally as Zaha, Palace’s premier attacker, and they dont take penalties. Even Lacazette (4) had more than the Palace scorers.

      So yeah, we had players on the pitch who are good at scoring goals.

      1. I’m not entirely in Bill’s camp here, but I do think he has a point. I think to a certain extent ESR and Saka have overproduced.
        And we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to Palace, who are down in the lower middle part of the table. Spurs have Kane at 20 and Son at 15. And those aren’t really outlier years for them. We probably need at least one player we can count on to score 20, and I don’t know that we have that. Maybe eventually Martinelli.

        1. A decent manager would turn at least one of Lacazette or Aubameyang or Pepe or Martinell into a serviceable 20 goal a season striker. The fact that *none* of them have hit that mark under Arteta is a mark against Arteta.

        2. The point is that we could be making the same (duff) argument for Palace, which has less goalscoring capability than we do. But we won’t, because it’s a duff argument.

          Especially the part about the manager cant score himself.

          Have Emile and Saka “overproduced?” Who’s to say? What’s relevant in the now is that they are currently bigger goal threats than Zaha. And far more so than Ayew and Mateta. Even Laca is, and he certainly hasn’t overproduced.

        3. smith rowe, overproduced? possibly. saka? nope.

          as for 20+ goals per year players, how you score goals comes down to the strategy. man city didn’t have a player score 20 goals last season but they won the league. liverpool have two that regularly score 20 goals. it depends on how you set your team up to play.

  9. when wenger left the club, i only wanted one man to replace him and that’s patrick vieira. wenger always said he wanted nothing to do with deciding who his replacement would be. the only person wenger overtly said he’d support arsenal signing to replace him is patrick vieira.

    i’d been looking forward to this game for months and what i thought would happen is exactly what happened. vieira took the worst job in the premier league and, in less than a year, made that group into a proper team. it’s a team that, if not for a last gasp lacazette equalizer, would have done the double over arsenal, thoroughly outplaying them in both games.

    claude is right in saying arteta and edu can’t cry wolf concerning their lack of depth. the squad is thin because they allowed players to leave for free or worse, paid them to leave. who does that? xavi refers to aubameyang, a player he’s categorically declared does not fit the barcelona mold, as “a gift from the heavens”. yes, arsenal have the temerity to give a team like barcelona that kind of gift. who can say that tavares did a better job yesterday than callum chambers or ainsley maitland-niles would have?

    yesterday reminded me of the brentford and nottingham forrest games where they strategically put heavy defensive pressure centrally and simply outworked arteta’s side. arteta hasn’t proven he has a solution for that approach. expect to see it again.

  10. Claude and Josh.

    It worked for Crystal palace yesterday and anything can work for short periods of time but that is only one game out of 38. Everything the manager does and all his players look good when the team is in a good run of form. Despite them scoring 3 yesterday and being in the midst of that run of good form they have only scored 42 goals are in 9th place in goals scored and currently 9th place in the league table. Is that really what you want?

    1. form is bullshit! it’s a fake narrative that can be used anytime to justify poor performance. the bottom line with form is this; if you can’t replicate form on demand, it’s not worth discussing.

      as for strategy, you can’t form a strategy in a vacuum. the situation always dictates both the tactics and the strategy. the most significant situation to consider in football is the opposition. you have to create your strategy based on what you expect from the opposition. if they do something different, you have to adjust your strategy to give yourself a chance to find success. arteta has not proven he can change his plan against this particular opponent.

      it’s not reasonable to place results exclusively on the players when their game plan was clearly inadequate. we have a term for that; it’s called getting out-coached. vieira’s out-coached arteta twice this season and palace have taken results from both games. perhaps it’s more than coincidence that vieira has gotten the same results against man city that he’s gotten against arsenal this season.

  11. Less then a month ago we were praising the manager for the way the team has played and the improvements we had made. However, it was almost inevitable that as soon as we have a bad game of a bad run of games the manager is back to making mistakes and not understanding how to handle pressure. To me that seems crazy. We saw endlessly during the Wenger era that Players and teams go thru runs of good and bad form but managers don’t go from good to bad to good and then to bad again.

    Football and teams that play pressure defense have been around for >100 years and there are certainly time tested strategies to combat the pressure and tens of thousands of hours of film that coaches and managers can study. Arteta grew up in the Barcelona system, played for Wenger and learned to coach from Pep. To suggest that he does not understand the basics or isn’t giving the players the proper methods to break a press seems ridiculous.

    The problem is the players have to be able to execute better then the opposition and if they don’t there is no strategy which will be effective.

    1. Arteta started at LaMansia, realised he was 4th best with no chance to play and did a short stint at PSG where he couldn’t cut it so moved appropriately to Rangers where he became noticeable and Everton of those days bought him. Then moved in with penny pinching Wenger.
      Arteta’s problem is he is over ambitious. Should have started with a Championship side and moved up. Fortunately Arsenal are willing to pay in players and position on the table for his apprenticeship

  12. I think some players are given a bad rep unfairly, and chief amongst them, being Cedric. Thisnisna guy who has been a dependable Premier League player and a fixture on the international scene for a while. Like most people, it took him a while to acclimatise to the new environment that is Arsenal, especially during a period where the team didn’t have a set way of playing or was tactically confusing. He is by no means of Bacary Sagna’s quality, but shares similar characteristics in how balanced they are on both sides of the ball. He is dependable and seeks to provide forward momentum by pushing combinations or driving forward momentum, even if it means shooting on his left foot, he plays to cause a threat.

    Again, he isn’t exceptional on either side of the ball, but this is basically his first proper run of games in a row for us, as a right back. Shouldn’t we offer him a little bit of leeway? He is not great, but I feel like most a letting the great be the enemy of the good when it comes to Cedric. Our main competitors do not have the type of perfomances we get from our back up right back, just watch Dalot (crazy potential) and Doherty play.

    It’s hard for a player to sit on the bench for long and jump in straight to perform well in providing cover. It takes a while to get any rhythm and produce at your best. Cedric has been and continues to be good.

    On Nuno, I can understand the flaws and mistakes,. He is a young boy who just moved to a new country and signed for one of the biggest clubs in the world, Arsenal. It is required of him to understand the step up in level he signed up for and put in the work to play to that standard, or at the very least, develop accordingly. But what is happening is shocking management by Mikel.

    Anyone who has seen Nuno at Benfica would have seen a VERY attacking fullback, almost perfect for wingback type of player. A player who did a lot of things that require a high level of confidence to try. Underlapping, overlapping, pace on the attack and tracking back, stepovers, dribbling, passing and shooting with both feet, he is basically our version of Dalot at Man Und.

    The boy wasn’t bad to start off the season. We struggled with structure on that left flank and we were constantly exposed, even with Tierney playing. Tavares has played reasonably well for the most part, but his game has and continues to be defined by confidence. Not confidence in a sense of being very sensitive to criticism, confidence in his own ability as a player to do the things he does best. Mikel is making the boy doubt himself.

    This type of management can break players like Nuno and will. This type of management is also the reason a player with self belief like Guendouzi was always going to have conflict with Mikel because he can’t be convinced that he is not good enough, his self confidence is what has driven him to Arsenal and forced his way into playing regularly at such a club at 19, he won’t be convinced otherwise. It’s confidence, bordering on arrogance.

    Not many players react well to such treatment. I have seen worse performances from various Arsenal players over the years, This is the first time I am seeing a player’s confidence being beaten down like this at Arsenal. Especially a young player.

    I like what Mikel has done tactically so far this season, but his management style might be his downfall.

  13. Can I just say, watching Palace was a bit like watching late 90s early 2000s Wengerball? I mean it was FUN. If Vieira is anything like Wenger though he won’t leave the Palace job at this stage. Maybe after another season, or perhaps 2. If I’m running Arsenal, I’m keeping Arteta on the final year of his deal as I assess how Patrick builds on this season at Palace, and if he does well, then make a move for him and throw him an open chequebook to fill out the squad.

    But yeah, top 4. Money won’t fix the problem of players wanting to play CL and/or under the best coaches. Arteta, for all his PR, is not that. He does not have the track record as a player, let alone as a coach, and he lacks gravitas. I will again point out that all the overt support he enjoys is from players whose careers are best served at Arsenal as a stepping stone (at worst) right now.

    I’m not angry about Arsenal. We’ve been riding high on a wave and believing we’re better than we are. At some point this was bound to happen. I still think we ought to finish top 4, and if we don’t that is a huge black mark against Arteta and Arsenal.

    But watching the fans sing Arteta’s name after this defeat tells me this is not about football. I’m sorry but there’s no footballing reason to defiantly sing your support here after a performance like that against a team like Palace. It’s get on the boat and unity time apparently. A victory is proof of ‘the process’ working, a defeat is an opportunity to reaffirm your faith in ‘the process’, and frankly Arteta is (literally) the face of this vague process and why the club will keep him around for longer than they probably should.

    1. when you consider the difference in resources between the two teams, palace clearly got the better coach. vieira has the gravitas, both as a player and as a manager, to draw big names that arteta simply doesn’t. it’s why i wanted him in the first place and not arteta. vieira also has the ability to manage players with big personalities like aubameyang and guendouzi. arteta hasn’t proven he can do that either. could you imagine arteta getting a tune out of ayew or zaha? nuts!

      1. Watch some of his press conferences and he comes across as a quiet, unassuming, affable uncle.. until.. you see the steel and determination behind it. Unlike Arteta, he doesn’t need to show how hard and how much of a winner he is. I’ve been impressed.

        He’s doing at Palace what Wenger did for us. Overseeing the development of not just the team, but the club. New academy, improvements in infrastructure and he’s supposed to retain their position in the PL as they do it (much like Wenger had to stay in the CL) Palace stated their target for this season was to avoid relegation. He’s exceeding that target by far as of now. The second season will be interesting to watch. Will they get found out, or get better? How will they replace their players, especially Gallagher. Oh, on that note, he’s better at recruitment too.

        By the way, Edu and Vieira seem to be quite close to this day. If at all Edu has any sway at Arsenal, this Vieira appointment could happen some day in the future. But he seems happy at Palace right now and I doubt he’s looking to leave just yet, nor are we looking to move on from Arteta, even if we should.

      2. Question Josh….

        Going through Viera’s resume as manager, what makes you think he can draw big names and manage players with big egos?

        Emery was considered to be capable off of his time at relatively small ti medium sized clubs, and he showed that he wasn’t capable.

        Why does Viera get this level of endorsement?

  14. We were not very good. All 3 goals were soft.

    Vieira successfully targeted Partey with pressures and with cutting off his passing lanes, especially to Odegaard. It’s the obvious thing to do, Partey’s our key player, and on top of that he was having an off day. The injury to him is a big problem for us, there’s a lot of responsibility on Sambi and I don’t want us back with the double pivot.

    My main issue with the manager was when Arteta swapped Saka and Martinelli so that we were no longer playing inverted wide forwards. I’m sure there was a logic to it, we weren’t getting any joy inside the Palace fullbacks and Xhaka and Soares were not there to give us width, but I thought it made us a bit predictable and sideways. I would have liked to see Pepe come on instead of Saka.

    Soares was probably our best player, no? He was switched on, calm, tidy in possession, didn’t give up fouls and saved our skins more than once.

    The injuries I was worried about have now arrived, and the defeat just shows how thin our margins are. We have cut the squad to the bone and kept a very high standard, which has been impressive, but we do need a big reaction now to keep up the momentum – and in the long term of course, we all know that we need quality additions to make it sustainable and take us to the next level.

    I’m not sure that top 4 and CL is a requirement in order to get the players that the club wants this summer. We look like we have a recruitment plan and I’m not sure if we’re looking at players who would demand it (and big salaries) at all costs. But it sure as hell wouldn’t hurt, and would improve our options and position in the market. We have to be a CL club again, I just don’t think we’re there yet.

    One small thing – I love it when the manager and the players have the full support of the fans at the game, even in defeat. That’s the atmosphere everyone wants to be a part of, that’s the experience I want to have when I go to a game. It doesn’t mean that more sober analysis won’t happen on the way home, on blogs or in the club boardroom.

    1. Oh yeah and shout out to Eddie for that curler that came back off the bar – what a beauty that would have been

    2. Pepe was injured and not in the squad. But yes, he’d have been a great option.

      Good of our away fans to try to lift the team, but gooners are fickle. Lose 2 more and play at home and fans may serve up something different.

      Devlin, agree on Cedric. He was the best performer in a back line that had an off day. As a deputy RB, he’s as good as we can hope for.

      1. Agree, and happy to eat my earlier doubts about Cedric. He’s been about as good a backup as you could hope for. And now with Tierney out for the rest of the season, and Tomi for who knows how long, he’s a key player.
        It will be very interesting to see what backline shuffle Arteta chooses to make. At least the next match is one of the easier ones, rather than us having to immediately deal with Chelsea or Spurs.

  15. Looking at goal difference, this week Spuds have swung a +7 advantage which might be crucial at season end.

    Looking at last season (GD 16) and this season (GD 10) Arsenal are on track to score 1-2 more goals than last year but concede 4-5 more.

    There’s a case to say Arsenal are overachieving which might normalise over the next 9 games. Also interesting that we assume defence has improved but are on track to concede 10% more goals than last season.

    1. Just a few points here:

      1. We aren’t overperforming, our xG and xGA are almost exactly the same as our goals allowed and goals scored.
      2. We are 5th in xGD per90 with a scant 0.28.
      3. Spurs are 4th in xGD per90 with 0.62.
      4. We have the significantly more difficult run in of the two clubs.

      1. Interesting. I should have clarified. A GD of 10 is surprisingly low for a 5th placed team. The past six seasons or so 4th place has averaged around 20GD and 5th place around 15GD. There are exceptions notably Spuds in 2014/15 who managed 5th with 5GD.

        Take your point about the run in. Spuds also haven’t experienced the annual Kane crock and are also benefiting from a light schedule.

  16. Josh @ 1:43am.

    How in the world can you possibly believe that form is bullshit after watching the runs of up and down performances and results this team has gone through during the wenger era and now. Call it momentum or hot and cold streaks or whatever you want but good form and bad form have been a huge part of every Arsenal season for at least17 years and to suggest anything else is utterly incomprehensible

  17. Josh.

    Just a few weeks ago you were praising Arteta and how much he had improved and you praised his tactics. Now suddenly he and his coaching staff somehow forget all the good things they has been doing right and totally mess up the tactics? Yeah right.

    1. “…suddenly he and his coaching staff somehow forget all the good things they has been doing right and totally mess up the tactics?”

      Very reductive argument there, Bill. Arsenal dont win or lose depending ONLY on what Arteta does. There’s a manager and coaching staff in the other dugout also planning to win.

      Off topic… just watched a superb champions league game at Villareal. Emery’s team scored against Bayern, had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside (Coquelin), hit a post, almost hit a long range goal with Neuer stranded, and Lo Celso could have sealed it at the death. They won by a goal, and might have had 3 and all but killed this tie.

      They can still lose this QF, but talk about Emery making a dollar out of 50 cents.

      1. Sometimes I wonder what might have been if Unai had paid social media people to set up a bunch of fake accounts with his face as a profile picture. Perhaps posting gems like “mY ManEGer [insert picture with long coat blowing in wind]” or “3 Perfect Subs. 3 Perfect Points. Top 6 before Christmas” etc.

        Next time we have a manager I can comfortably get behind, I’m willing to be part of that crowdfund.

      2. I like Emery. And he certainly knows his way around a European competition. They spanked Bayern tonight and should have scored more. Shame Coquelin’s goal got chalked iff.

        At Arsenal he got screwed when the ‘new leadership structure’ imploded. Thankfully the club learned that you have to back the manager on player selection.

        He’ll always be just below elite but he’ll be able to show his grandkids an impressive trophy haul.

      3. sorry bro. emery had arsenal playing some cowardly football. i don’t like arteta but i don’t miss emery at all. i care more about how the team does in the league than in cup competitions. one play can end your cup. with that, i hope he does well as i despise bayern. we’ll see how they do in munchen.

        btw, it’s interesting that you mention coquelin and lo celso. those are two players i absolutely love. in fact, it was emery that gave lo celso his chance at psg and is doing the same at villarreal. i was disappointed when he didn’t bring him to arsenal, as psg made him available.

  18. Claude

    Arsenal does not win or lose based only on what Arteta or Emery does is an argument I have been trying to make for about 3 years now.

    Perhaps I don’t give the manager as much credit or blame as he deserves. However, the consensus on this blog seems to favor the idea the manager has nearly complete control of almost everything that happens on the pitch and just about every loss or bad game is felt be a result of the opposition manager somehow out coaching our manager. The reality is probably somewhere in between my view and the blog consensus but just like in any professional sport the manager has very little control over what the players do once they step on to the playing field and there is nothing he can do if the opposition has better players or if the opposition players do a better job of executing on any given day.

    1. Bill, would genuinely like your views on the following

      1) What do you think the manager of a football team does ?

      2) What should he be held accountable for ?

      3) How do you judge the performance of a manager ?

  19. The fact that Emery has been such a success at Villarreal helps to add more validity to what I have been saying. The consensus on this blog suggested that he was a poor manager who consistently got the tactics wrong. When we playing Villarreal in the Europa league the consensus on the blog was that if Arteta can’t beat a team managed by Emery then he needs to be sacked immediately.

    What Emery is doing in Villarreal confirms that his managerial and tactical nous is still very good and to suggest that he somehow had a 1 1/2 year brain fart and forgot how to manage while he was here at Arsenal is ludicrous. He inherited a squad that was completely out of balance and filled with overpaid underperforming under motivated players and their inability to execute his tactics and strategy are the reason Emery struggled at Arsenal.

    1. bill, you’re ridiculous. the consensus here has never been that emery consistently got tactics wrong. the criticism of emery was that he was a poor manager of the locker room and he had a cowardly approach to playing games.

      in my personal opinion, he is a very smart strategist but simply inundated the players with too much information. when at arsenal, they would have 3 games in a week and would apply three completely different strategies. that erodes the confidence and spontaneity as players have to think too much instead of enjoying the football. players are still humans, not robots. what emery likely should have done was variation as opposed to deviation; variations to the same strategy based on the opposition, not deviations to employ completely different strategies based on the opposition.

      at arsenal, emery had a team chocked full of attacking talent and had them playing super-defensively. that’s bad management of available resources, not bad tactics. there’s a difference between those two things. in my opinion, emery is better served being a #2 to a more charismatic manager.

      it’s interesting that you seem to never hold the manager accountable for the performances of the team; only retrospectively. that’s not the standard for management in any industry and neither should it be. the manager’s job, by both convention and definition, is to efficiently get the most from available resources while minimizing waste and confusion. everything else is nonsense.

    2. Let’s not get crazy here Bill, Villareal are 7th in La Liga and 11th in away form with just 3 wins in 15 tries (14 points). Away form in the League is Unai Emery’s consistent problem. From December 5th 2018 to May 10th 2019, Unai’s Arsenal got 12 points in 13 away games. Even counting his incredible early run (in which the team was overperforming by a huge margin) Arsenal only managed 25 points in 19 away games that season.

      The reason this happens time and again with him is not lack of motivation or lazy players or whatever, it’s that his approach to away games is fundamentally conservative. No matter what team he coaches they will try to be a counter-attacking side in away games. Big clubs just don’t do that. Big players don’t approach games that way. And so, as he lost away games with insipid performances he lost the dressing room. And once that happens, you have to go. This is the story of Emery EVERYWHERE HE GOES.

      The thing about this approach is that it can work in cup games. Being hard to beat in European away games, nicking a goal, was successful for Emery and some of that was especially because of the away goals rule! Which has been scrapped. Unai got a lot right yesterday, tactically, but it’s a slim margin and given that the return leg is in Munich and given Emery’s problems, tactically and with the fact that the away goals rule is gone, I would still put a lot of money on Bayern.

  20. Josh

    Emery’s team looked good on a paper but I think time has proven the majority of that supposed attacking talent was either well past its best years such as ozil or over rated such as Lacazette and Ramsey. Emery got the best out Auba who was a “top 4 level” attacking talent but outside of Auba the cupboard was mostly empty in terms of attacking talent.

  21. Tim.

    It’s my belief that Emery’s tactical approach looked more conservative then it was because the players were not able or willing to execute the things he wanted to do. Same with Arteta against palace or in the Everton or in the first game of the year against Brentford.

    Emery came to a club that looked really strong on paper but when he arrived the attacking talent on paper was mostly a busted flush and the only real way to get much joy was bombing down the left flank and getting the ball to Auba. To make matters worse players players like Kos, nacho Mustafi Holding Bellerin who looked good on paper we’re either well past their prime or or were not all that good or unwilling to play solid defense and we were conceding goals right and left.

    1. “It’s my belief that Emery’s tactical approach looked more conservative then it was because the players were not able or willing to execute the things he wanted to do.”

      Just to be clear, your theory is that in away games the players aren’t executing Emery’s game plan and that this has happened everywhere he’s managed? During the last of his three Europa League winning seasons with Sevilla they didn’t win a single away game under Emery. For most of his tenure at Arsenal he averages 1 point per game on away days. This season Villareal have 14 points in 15 games. He does ocassionally get his teams to play good in away games – for example his 2011 Valencia side had a very Arsene Wenger 1.9 ppg on away days. But since I don’t have stuff like xG that far back, I can’t say whether that was a big pinch of luck or what.

      I remember watching Emery, Bill. He did eventually lose the dressing room and you’re right in a sense that the players stopped playing for him but that was actually quite a long process which he earned with his crazy and often overly conservative substitutions. I’ve gone back through and watched some of his historic matches and he did the same stuff with his Spanish teams that he did with Arsenal. Often with just a slim lead and his team not playing particularly well he would take off his best and most creative players to bring on defenders. That kind of move seems logical to a lay person but it’s like blood in the water to the sharks that are top level players and coaches. Any sign of weakness like that and they will eat you alive. That’s Emery’s story: everywhere he goes, teams figure out how he will play, and then they take advantage of his conservatism.

      As for your last part, yes we had a lot of bad defenders, though most of those guys didn’t play and Unai brought in Sokratis and two DMs to help shore things up (he also brought in Lichtsteiner and David Luiz, if you remember). All very problematic purchases and players and also the problems with those defenders were exacerbated by Emery’s tactics as well.

      It’s the coach’s job to get the best out of the players. Emery definitely didn’t do that with his defenders and still doesn’t despite his often craven approach to games.

  22. I’m genuinely interested to see how fans end up viewing Emery’s tenure a few years from now when the big picture comes into focus.

    I’m not entirely sure yet how much I blame / credit him for anything very much. Before Wenger even left, Gadzidis transitioned us to a Director of Football (Sanllehi) + Head of Recruitment (Milsintat) model and I blame all 3 of those dudes as much as Emery.

  23. hey guys… my only reason for commenting on the Villareal/Bayern match was that it was the only CL game available in my market, and I watched every minute of it. What moved me to comment was that Emery’s team completely outplayed Bayern; and should have won 3-0. They’ll probably rue not killing off this tie, but to me it was remarkable that Emery had the tactical nous to outplay Bayern, a stronger team, and one that habitually gives Arsenal a leathering. That was outstanding play from them, and outstanding setup from Emery. I swear wasnt trying to starting a distracting discussion, or to make a wider point about Emery and Arsenal. I really wasnt.

    That said, it seems unfair to keep finding ways not to give the man his due. He’s a damn good coach. His problem with us was that we were impatient for the prodigal, and he stood in the way of his return.

    But I did support his removal, and the appointment that followed it.

  24. I agree with Claude’s comment at 1:17PM


    I agree that Emery lost the dressing room but I also think the dressing room had taken its foot off the gas or may be quit on Arsene in the last season. I suspect it would have taken a minor miracle for any manager to salvage that core group of senior players and win that dressing room. I can’t prove it but I suspect Arteta and Edu saw those players quit on 2 senior, well respected and relatively successful managers and they believed (probably correctly) the same thing would happen again and the dressing room needed a complete rebuild which is why they were non-negotiable and worked so hard to move a lot of those players.

    If you look at what has happened since they left I think time has proven beyond any doubt that almost all of the critical players left over from Arsene such as Ozil Kos, Nacho, Ramsey, Mustafi Xhaka, Laca, Bellerin Elneny Maitland-Niles etc etc were either well past their best years or not nearly as good as we wanted to believe in the first place. The squad was not top 4 level for Arsene and it was not nearly as good in reality as it looked on paper. To make it worse most of the key players were a year older and perhaps even less motivated for Emery.

    To top all of that off, Emery had to deal with a dysfunctional front office in transition. At least in my opinion the team culture and squad needed a complete rebuild and Emery had no realistic chance to succeed in a short time.

  25. PRVHC

    I can’t really give a good answer for your question at 11:31. I believe the success of the team is a combination of players and manager. However, my basic assumption is that most managers who make it to this level understand football and are tactically competent and have ton of resources that none of us have. They spend 100% of their time thinking about football and living football, they have a coaching staff to help them find things they might have missed, thousands of hours of film for themselves and their coaching staff to study, they watch the players every day in training and they have scouts to watch other teams play and help to understand their opponents tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. . All those things tend to level the playing field between managers (again assuming that they are competent to manage at this level).

    Its my belief that the quality of the squad and the players ability to consistently execute better then their opponents is by far the biggest thing that separates teams at this level. If that was not true then why are the teams which spend the most money and have the best players almost always on top. Everyone knows exactly what Pep or Klopp or Arsene’s invincibles were going to do in every game but their was nothing anyone can do to stop them because their players are so much better.

  26. Arteta knew before the game how Palace was going to set up and the pressure tactics they would use and Vierra knew what Arteta was going to try to do. I believe the biggest difference was Vierra’s players out executed ours.

  27. the manager can’t physically control what a player does on the football field. however, the manager is in charge and is ultimately responsible for what the players do and how they play. if the players don’t execute, you have to ask why. did the player understand the plan? did the player blow the manager off? was the player physically capable of doing what the manager wanted? does the player have the tactical nous to do what the manager wants? did the player do what the manager asked and still had a poor performance? is that the player’s fault? was it a bad game plan for that particular game? was the player properly trained?

    all of those examples are of faults with players but are all managerial responsibilities. sure, we know that if its a bad plan, it’s on the manager. however, if a player doesn’t know or understand what he’s supposed to do, doesn’t have the talent to execute, or is ill-prepared, that’s on management. managers should never pass the buck to the players. the buck stops with the manager. if something goes wrong, it may not be the manager’s fault, but it’s always his responsibility.

    i hate arteta’s pressers after a loss. he uses the term “we” but goes is hyper-critical of things that happened on the pitch. we’re not stupid and fooled by the term “we”. arteta wasn’t on the pitch. “we” is code for “they”. the sad thing is until he starts saying “i” or “me”, he’ll struggle to make significant improvement as a manager. if fact, if i were a manager, i’d never say “we” after a loss; it’s all my fault and i’ll get with the coaches and players to fix the problems that led to the defeat.

    1. it’s not enough for the manager to be tactically astute. the players have to know how to solve the problems they’ll likely see on the pitch. if not, the manager has to find a new solution. if he doesn’t, that’s a managerial failure.

      1. Tim

        That might be true for a manager if all players had the same in born ability to solve problems but they don’t. No amount of managerial training and guidance can turn Danny Welbeck into a golden boot scorer. Mesut Ozil at his best and Tom Brady had an ability to see things on the pitch and solve problems better then anyone else in their profession and that is not something that can be taught. If you could teach players to have that vision and problem solving ability then Arsene’s project youth would have succeeded. All players are somewhere are somewhere on the spectrum of really good to not so good. Any manager who has more players higher on the talent spectrum on any given day are always going to be at a huge advantage and win the vast majority of the time

  28. Josh @ 5:47am

    “If the player does not execute you have to ask why”.

    It does not have to be complicated. The answer to why a player does not execute in most cases is simple. The opposing player is trying to prevent our player from executing effectively and the opposing player is successful. The reason you pay a lot of money for better players is simply because they are better at executing and the team whose players are better on that day will usually win. If the opposing player or players are simply outperforming our players on any given day there is nothing the manager can.

    You seem to believe every bad outcome is because the manager either made a tactical error or didn’t properly prepare the players which seems crazy to me. Using that logic every loss and every bad run of results that happened during the Wenger era was a result of a mistake that Arsene made in his tactics or the way he prepared the team. If that was true he should have learned his his lessons and stopped making mistakes at some point but he never did. Your idea really seems completely off target at least to me.

  29. Josh

    Arsene’s record against Jose Mourinho was 2 wins 10 losses and 7 draws. That is a large sample size with an absolutely abysmal record for Arsene. Either you have to believe Mourinho was a much much better manager then Wenger or your theory about the amount of control managers have over the players performances and results is wrong. I certainly favor the latter. What do you think?

  30. Well, this is proving to be about the worst possible case. Xhaka at LB, which is where their goal comes from. Xhaka not in the middle, and we look disjointed there (Partey appears to be pretty critical). And Laca is a waste of space.
    Need to take Laca out, move Martinelli to CF, Tavares to LB and Xhaka into the middle. Nothing to lose at this point.
    And of course VAR screws us. Martinelli probably was offside, but not sure how that could be conclusively determined.

  31. We saw what good form looks like in December and for a couple of months before the Palace game and now we see what bad form looks like. The form reversal should not be a surprise to anyone who has followed us for the last 18 years

  32. SLC Gooner

    Just a month ago alot of people said moving Laca at starting CF in late November was the single factor which improved our performances and results and several were commenting just a month ago that his ability to facilitate play was one of the keys to our success. Now we have to drop him? That does not make a lot of sense.

    Martinelli has 1 fewer goal then Laca and 5 fewer assists. He has not done anything to indicate he will be a success at CF and suggesting we should move him seems like grasping for straws.

    1. ‘Just a month ago alot of people said moving Laca at starting CF in late November was the single factor which improved our performances and results and several were commenting just a month ago that his ability to facilitate play was one of the keys to our success’

      That was by people who didn’t know what they were talking about. Lacazette did very little then, he does very little now. Arteta simply doesn’t have the balls to drop him, maybe because that would mean acknowledging how badly the striker situation has been handled.

  33. PRVHC

    I think there a pretty solid consensus that laca was doing a good job but my concern was how long it could last. He had been mostly underwhelming for the prior 4 years and the larger sample is usually a better indicator of how good the player really is. The whole team was playing well and everyone looks good when the team is in good form. The real problem is we don’t have anyone who realistically looks like a better option at CF right now. We need to spend a lot of money for some goal scorers and a major upgrade at CF this summer if we really want to make a significant improvement in the team.

    1. ‘I think there a pretty solid consensus that laca was doing a good job but my concern was how long it could last’

      Not really. The argument was Arsenal, i.e the players around Lacazette, were scoring goals so he must be playing well, regardless of what the player himself was doing or not doing. Keep in mind, this argument was being made about a player whose primary responsibility IS scoring goals.

Comments are closed.

Related articles