Sometimes the simple explanation is wrong

That was disappointing but hey, we out xG’d them at least! And by a huge margin as well. But the bad news is that they won 18/22 tackles and whenever a team attempts more than 20 tackles against us, our record is 1-1-4. So, I guess it was just not our day.

I hate that I have to be explicit about this: I don’t actually care about the xG or the number of tackles and I don’t think that just because they tackled us a lot that’s why they won the game. Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea didn’t tackle us a lot and they won pretty handily. So, yeah, I’m not crazy*.

The reductionist explanation for this loss is that

  1. Injuries forced us to play with players who aren’t best in their positions
  2. Arteta chose to play Xhaka at LB instead of CM he also has persisted with Lacazette in CF who is in a 4 game slump
  3. The team aren’t actually really good enough
  4. Some mysterious things keep happening and the players just don’t start very well
  5. The refs jobbed us out of a goal

Let’s look at each one.

Yes, we have a lot of injuries. It’s true. It sucks. It seems to be something of a curse for us at Arsenal. But it’s also the difference between a team pushing to win the League and one which is hoping to luck into a top four finish. And the bottom line is that we need better squad depth. Yesterday, Arteta started our most experienced MFer at LB while he had a LB – which we purchased this summer as a backup to our oft injured world class LB – on the bench. And I’m going to be harsh on Arteta here – the thing with Tavares is his fault. Arteta is the one who has failed to train the player properly, then played him against Forest, then pulled him after 35 minutes, then played him again where he looked like a player who has never played with this team and who had zero confidence and pulled him again at half-time of that game.

So, partly of his own making, Arteta got the starting lineup wrong. To his credit, he did change the lineup at half time and we looked slightly better but we didn’t really create anything until Arteta went for broke and brought on Pepe in the 80th minute. As an aside, if Tavares had had the game at left back that Xhaka had, I think Arteta would have pulled him in the 30th minute.

As for Lacazette, his last good game seems to have come against Watford. He did score a penalty against Leicester so we can give him that one too if we are being generous. But the point here is that in his last four matches (against Liverpool, Villa, Palace, and Brighton) he has a total of 6 shots and he’s only even had 3 key passes with 0.4 expected assists. If Lacazette’s purpose in this squad is not to score but facilitate and help build play, that’s fine, I can accept that. However, he’s not doing that at the moment and he’s also not scoring goals.

I’m not scapegoating him, I don’t think that this is Lacazette’s fault. I think that this is a slump and that is normal. I also think that if Arsenal wanted to take fourth place, we needed to have some depth at the CF spot and options to bring on. The club – which includes Arteta – chose to get rid of Aubameyang and use Nketiah. The club also tried and failed to replace Aubameyang. And the manager – wrongly in the minds of many folks – persists with Lacazette despite this poor run.

Everyone wants Arteta to play Smith Rowe at CF this week (last week it was Martinelli) and I haven’t a clue as to whether that would work or not (Smith Rowe wasn’t great against Villareal in the False Nein and I think Martinelli was played at CF briefly in one game). But it would involve dropping the club captain, which is something you only do out of desperation. Are we there yet? Maybe.

But we have a manager who is reticent to make big changes and usually only does so when his back’s against the wall. And that’s normal as well. He’s a rookie manager. He’s going to make mistakes. He’s going to have periods where he persists with a setup that doesn’t make sense. Heck, Wenger did it too and he was a very experienced manager.

Which leads us to point three and four which is that the team just aren’t really that good. I can’t argue against that. There aren’t a lot of great players on this team – I didn’t say “none” – and we have no great goal-scorer. Ask yourself how many of these players would start for Man City or Liverpool? I think we have a number who would be backups but almost none who would start. These are just facts.

The club is trying to address this and last summer the club spent tons of money on the defense, which we needed to do, in the hope that we could ride it out one more year with Auba and Lacazette. Auba didn’t work out for us (though he has 7 goals in 8 games for Barcelona) and we couldn’t replace him. So we now have a team that struggles to score goals.

Why have we had two games in a row where we start slow? Well, last time Arteta said that he puts his own hand up and that it was his fault. Today he blamed the players:

It’s not a problem of attitude, for me it was a problem of the approach and the courage that we showed to play and we didn’t have that purpose. I know we didn’t have that intention to attack and step in and provoke the situation that we want to provoke and we’re looking at each other too many times instead of taking ownership and doing what we have to do and you cannot play like that, you have to make yourself count, step in and today we didn’t do it.

If you have just one game or a few players who do what he describes above (which is I guess, craven?) that’s one thing but it looked like a collective problem yesterday which is odd. And it’s two games in a row where we’ve looked disjointed and uncomfortable with a little pressure.

Arteta’s apologists will say that this is what happens when a team are hit by injuries. And also, maybe this is just a blip. Maybe it doesn’t mean much other than that we had a little slip. I’m fine with both of those arguments.

However, it’s also true that Arteta’s iron fist management style and perhaps his version of positional football can lead to these exact kinds of games. He has managed to pick fights with a lot of players that were well liked in the dressing room. He’s also ostracized his backup players as not good enough. He also tends to blame the players after games like this. And he spends a lot of time on the sideline yelling at his players. What effect does that have on the players?

I’m not saying that we have a revolution happening. Like I said above, maybe it’s just a blip. Maybe the team just kind of lost a little bit of steam over the last month. Maybe Arteta’s ultra rigid system is difficult for young players like Tavares to learn and so injuries make it much more difficult for us to play his football.

As for point five, the answer for me is yes. When I first saw the replay of Martinelli’s goal I thought he was obviously offside. However, you couldn’t make a definitive call because the Brighton players were all jumbled and blocked by the keeper. So I think what happened is that the VAR official saw that first frame (the one where it looked like Martinelli was obviously offside) and then went hunting for a frame to “prove” he was offside. This isn’t what officials are supposed to be doing. Is it their job to look for evidence to support their beliefs or are they supposed to be impartial observers? I thought it was the latter but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the whole point of VAR is actually just to prove their beliefs. But even if that’s the case, the frame that they finally settled on was less than definitive in my mind and I think that they got this call 100% wrong.

As for the game and the loss and how we didn’t show up for 80 minutes, it’s probably not just one of the things I’ve listed above. It’s probably all of them. Arteta’s rigid, the team’s not really great, Arteta started with a bad lineup (which by the way he bristled at when asked, lol), we are having a blip, which is caused in part by the way Arteta manages his players and the way that the club bought this summer and was unable to replace players in January. Oh yeah, and the referees absolutely fucked us on that VAR call.

Simple as that, really.


*Not in that way anyway.


  1. I detect just a slight hint of sarcasm, Tim. So I’m going to go out on a limb here, and call it as I see it… it’s all Arteta’s fault. The man is not a good manager, and neither he’s a good coach. He’s not even average but plain bad. We all knew we were one or two injuries away from disaster. It was never addressed. Everyone and their dead grandma knew better than playing Xhaka at left back. Yet Mikel persisted again. I can call one bad result/performance against Crystal Palace a blip. Two horrendous showings in a row is anything but… I can go on and on. But then again, at this point nothing really surprises me anymore under our current management.

    1. Upstate
      “ UPSTATE GOONER SAYS: April 10, 2022 at 10:58 am
      I detect just a slight hint of sarcasm, Tim.“
      Whatever, but must say that like a classical good writer Tim has the nous to put it in such an innocuous way.
      But we understand.
      How I respect and appreciate his writings for the content and honesty.

  2. Lots of extrapolation within the fanbase these days. I’ve been watching Arsenal for a while – we all have – and I’ll say that the form we saw from late December to the end of March was phenomenal. Some of the best play we’ve seen in at least half a decade. And it wasn’t fluky, running hot play either. It was no purple patch. Rather, it was a glimpse of the future. What this team can be if fully fit, fully focused, fully motivated. Spurs have been fluky of late, our run was different. So to say Arteta is a bad coach, I reject that. To say the players are not playing for him, that is patently untrue. To say this team isn’t good enough… maybe not to win the league, but we are proving ourselves to be the 4th best in the league, and maybe 3rd. That is certainly good enough for me.

    The international break, for whatever reason, disrupted our momentum. I don’t know if it was injuries, or something else, but you could see we lost focus. The fact that this team is so thin doesn’t help either. We got rid of a lot of deadwood that were no more than bodies, saving a lot of nice money, but that didn’t prevent injuries. And Arteta’s insistence on playing the same players again and again was foolish. It didn’t allow backups to integrate. If we had truly treated this as a season for growth, we would have rotated more, at the expense of points. We would have given more minutes to Lokonga and Tavares, and maybe those out of contract like Elneny and Nketiah too (although for those I understand not).

    So mistakes have been made. But to write off the coach and the team is to deny what our eyes have all seen these last few months.

    1. Let’s look objectively at the run since Laca was made captain

      1. Lost to Everton with an xG of 1.2 to 1. Ok, so a blip probably caused by dropping Auba.
      2. Beat Southampton both on the scoreboard and in xG. Solid performance.
      3. Comprehensively beat West ham. Our best performance of the season?
      4. Beat Leeds, again a solid performance, though we did allow 1.6 xG.
      5. Crushed Norwich. I think this is when I started to get real hope in the system. Very good stuff.
      6. Lost to Man City, but it was a close game. Another good performance. 5 in a row.
      7. Lost to Forest, he pulls Nuno. Very bad performance by both the team and manager.
      8. Two games against Liverpool where we dug deep and played ok for large portions.
      9. Drew at home to Burnley. I wrote “watching Arsenal is a chore”. We don’t get a good shot off until the 63rd minute. I think this is when I wrote that Lacazette’s profligacy in front of goal is going to cost us.
      10. Beat wolves. Good performance but we had to hang on at the end.
      11. Beat Brentford, good performance.
      12. Beat Wolves, much better performance than the first one.
      13. Squeaker against.. Watford? Conceded 2 goals. I thought this was down to luck.
      14. Beat Leicester comprehensively. Great performance.
      15. Lost a close one to Liverpool, one of the best teams on the planet. No real shame there but we never looked like we threatened them.
      16. Beat Villa 1-0 they had us locked in the horseshoe passing pattern for much of the game. The first half was poor other than the goal.
      17. Palace wiped us.
      18. Brighton wins but we probably should have gotten a point from this one. Sambi outplayed by Mwepo. Terrible call from Mikel to start Xhaka at LB.

      Like I’ve said, I see signs that we have improved (finally) under Arteta. Some of the football in there was good, some was terrible.

      This is Arteta ball.

      1. I think this is a very reasonable response. If this is Arteta-ball, I’m happy to stay on this ride a little longer and see how it plays out. The excuse has always been that Laca doesn’t score. And while I believe that is true (his Arsenal career has underwhelmed), I do worry that those who say Arteta’s system kills strikers may ultimately prove to be correct. I don’t know though. Hopefully Darwin Nunez/A.N.Other will answer th question definitely next season!

    2. Fortunately players will not dare to down tools against Arteta. They know they would be ruthlessly exiled to Siberia. Auba did and see what happened to him. Fortunately he missed the bus and landed in Barcelona instead.
      But that’s karma, guess

  3. Arsenal’s fully fit, first string deputy left back sitting on the bench while you further disrupt an already disrupted midfield sums up every misgiving I’ve expressed here about Mikel Arteta. Player mismanagement, squad mismanagement, to name two. Why is Tavares even at the club, if you dont have the confidence in him to play him when your senior left back is injured? You spent the most money of all European clubs in the summer, and yet youre saying that your squad has players who are literally irreplacable — for whom you havent built depth. Tierney, with his injury history, is irreplacable. Undeputisable, to coin a word. Imagine that.

    I dont have time for talk about a midfield shortage, because we have a posse of midfielders out on loan. Including one who could — in a pinch — have filled in for Tierney at left back. Im not saying AMN is 100m player. Im saying squad. A lot of gooners are saying that the absences of the 2 starters badly disrupted us, abut you cant leave your squad so paper thin — by design — and have 2 injuries unhinge you so badly.

    You summed it up well with Nuno, Tim. But I’d argue that we should have have played him. Whatever confidence he had left is in the toilet.

    Laca? It’s just not happening for him with bringing others into play. And as you said if he’s not doing that, it’s tough on the team.

    For me, these are the issues, not the loss itself. The last two “small” clubs we played have historically done well against us, so, in context, the results are disappointing rather than totally surprising. But hey, a good part of this is self-inflicted.

    1. Teams have worked out to cut off Laca making his passes by choking him off. Also now the referees have wised up to Laca running into opponents and collapsing into a heap. Overused and now diminishing returns.
      But importantly being one track predictable makes it easy to be countered.

  4. I think the referee issue is clear, but Arsenal fans will always have their concerns waved away, in much the same way that the crazy tackles were allowed against Arsene’s young sides because “they don’t like it”. At this point, they have won and made us look crazy. c’est la vie.

    But this performance for me is just part of the team’s progression. These types of games will come when you have a young team, with an inexperienced manager at the helm.

    I constantly berated Arteta for how he set us up and how many times he changed his approach, the team’s tactics and his alienation of players with personality on the pitch, which was what his team often lacked. But in the past few months, I have seen enough games where this side has shown what a good Arteta side looks like, and I am all in. All in for these runs where everything seems confusing and incomprehensible. All in for the games where the players just play like they are lost. I have seen all this before, they are growing pains (I hope).

    Obviously there are things that make me worry, like:
    1. Arteta-ball’s inability to create for a striker. I know everyone has stats on Lava, but even with Auba who is basically a cheat code for any team that can create decent enough chances for him, as he is showing bybbeing one of the driving forces behind the resurgance at one of the worst Barcelona sides in the last 20 years. Is this with person to sign a 50 to 100 million striker for?

    2. Our inability/unwillingness to really go aggressive after going down against sides that we should be dominating even when we are leading them. Our aggression in and out of possession when down is wierdly predictable and not that threatening. Or maybe it’s just my eyesbseeing that.

    I expected way worse from us and for Arteta to be fired way back in November, so our position now? I’m good with 5th. The only annoying thing would be Sp*rs beating us to 4th in one of their worst/confusing seasons.

    I think a gradual progess towards being a top side means going through the Europa League. I know we are not ready for the Champions League (look at the top 8 sides left in it, we are nowhere close), and we almost won the Europa in Arsene’s final season and Emery’s first. We lost out when it was the UEFA cup in the 99/00 season. I think this team could do it, and build from there.

    So, I expect more growing pains because going from not even making the Conference league to qualifying for the Champions League in the space of a year is pretty much impossible. But hope is still alive with Sp*rs being, well, Sp*rsey.

    1. Devlin! You’re back! I was worried about you and was going to send you an email to check to see if you’re ok. Glad to hear your voice and hope all is well with you and family.

  5. At this point, with the tough run in we have, it could be hard even to make the EL. And not doing that will be a problem for recruiting next year, and a problem for getting minutes for the backups.
    Not spending in the winter came back to bite us.
    And I’m not really convinced Laca is in a slump. He hasn’t played particularly well for most of the year. Either he’s done, or as above, Arteta’s system sucks for strikers.
    ESR looked like he was carrying an injury or something. Playing him at striker won’t work at the moment. Needs to be Martinelli or Eddie (who didn’t look too bad in his cameo).
    The bigger issue is with Arteta’s man management. He has favorites that he absolutely sticks with, but once you’re done, you’re done. I’ve never been Guendouzi’s biggest fan, but he would have helped yesterday. Same with Chambers.

    I’m afraid these nature of these last two matches have undone a lot of the goodwill that had built up.

    As far as that offside, he probably was. But I absolutely didn’t see an angle where that could have been determined conclusively. VAR shouldn’t be changed things unless it’s clear.

  6. Unless there’s a collapse it’s highly likely Arsenal finish 5th. At the start of season every fan would have signed on for that. Now, it feels a little disappointing as 4th seemed a lock ten days ago.

    Lack of CL will limit who we can buy and what we can pay this Summer. We’re woeful at raising funds so let’s hope Uncle E is prepared to write big cheques.

    There are concerns – We’re on track to concede more than 20/21; on track to match 2020/21 goals scored. We don’t create enough big chances; don’t score enough from open play. Results against the big 6 are the worst to date.

    Considering the light schedule is this as good as it gets? Is thus Arteta’s ceiling?

  7. Everyone wants to make excuses for Arteta, the results speak for themselves over 110+ games.

    Our attack is very close to what it has been the last two years and the same with the defense, even though we spent a boatload of money to improve it.

    There will be people that will say Arteta needs another year to take the sqaud to the next level, and I say to that you need to think about our reed thin squad and what Europa will do to it.
    Will save everyone the time and let you know a little secret, we will score about 57 goals and concede about about 45 which will put us squarely in the 5-8th deparment if we are fortunate with injuries. Yes, I just said that, and when have AFC been fortunate with injuries in the last 15 years?

    We can’t win when playing from behind, we barely have any chance creation, Auba’s proving our leadership to look like the fools they are, counting on juniors to carry the scoring load, when everyone including all our grandmother’s new we needed a cf in the transfer window.

    Arteta’s man management skills on the emotional quotient level leave a lot to be desired.

    We are right where we deserve to be, and playing the type of futbol that can be expected, however, competing for League and gaining a CL spot is most likely not happening anytime soon, sadly.

  8. Lacazette is going to look a lot better when, like Aubameyang, he finds a new team. Arteta is a striker killer. Auba carried the load, bought in to his process, and eventually it proved too much for him. Laca used to look a much more efficient finisher than Auba, until ‘the system’, which creates like 1 big chance per game and then the manager consistently denies that chance creation is a problem. Like, why? Why not just say ‘yeah we need to create more’? I can only imagine it’s because he wants his players to play HIS football instead of expressing themselves. Some, like Martinelli ‘learn’ , others, like Eddie, AMN, and it seems, tavares, don’t.

    He’s not a rookie manager. He’s managed nearly a 100 PL games for Arsenal Football Club. the best period we’ve had at the club since he ostracized Ozil was this purple patch where it seemed we were a shoe-in for the top 4. Now we look like we’re crumbling.. and in my view it all stems from not being able to score enough goals. And that is a function of how we approach games, and why regardless of investment (which we’ve really misused so far ..again imo) we’re unlikely to ever reach the top with this manager. He talks a far better game than he delivers. And it really annoys me more than the failures. It doesn’t fill me with any confidence in his capacity to grow and develop like he should.

    We’ll probably win the next 2 games.. or when it’s clear we’re out of the reckoning for top 4, and then the messaging from the club will go out pretending this is exactly what we needed as part of the process and we are positive about a better season next time around.

    I’m so tired of arguing about this. And yet I don’t see what else there is. I am not excited about anything at this football club right now, despite seeing, in isolation, the positives.

    PS. What Arteta is doing to Nuno tavares is outrageous. Or would be if it weren’t a pattern with him.

    1. To those who say Lacazette doesn’t know how to finish – you don’t put up 20+ goals in Ligue 1 three seasons in a row *and then* score via header despite being 5’8 or whatever five minutes into your PL debut off a fairly difficult cross without knowing to finish. Healthy assist numbers too until latest manager.

      So much theorizing over what kind of striker we need and why he falls short and what he provides that Auba didnt. Simple explanation – he’s survived Arteta’s culls because he doesn’t challenge Arteta’s instructions. And Arteta’s instructions are crap.

  9. Thanks for the post Tim. Of the 5 points you made the critical one is #3. We are not really good enough to be a top 4 team with the current squad. You have been saying all season and I agree. We are a Europa league level 6/7/8th place squad. A 6th place team in really good form can look like a top 4 squad for a month or 2 but when we the inevitable bad form comes like the last couple games that 6th place team will look like a 10th or 11th place team. Good and bad form balance out over the course of a 38 game season we will probably finish around 6th place which is what you have been predicting all along. Realistically it’s where we are right now. We can compete against other Europa league teams and potentially go deep in that competition. We have to spend a lot more money next summer on new players before we can expect to be a champions league level team.

  10. Based on Cucurella’s position, at least parts of his body that we could see on the freeze frame from the linesma’s angle, Martinelli was offside.
    Of course since Sanchez’s white cleats blocked the view of Cucurella’s feet completely, it was more guess work by VAR rather than a conclusive evidence.
    But I’m more or less ok with it.

    The less said about Xhaka at LB the better, considering he was 20 yards out of position when Dunk played his pass to Mwepu. And if you can’t play your fully fit back up LB against the goal shy Brighton, then what’s the point of having him on a roster to begin with.

    Laca getting usurped by Cedric on the free kick, which he put straight into the wall, was a true wtf moment.
    Three free kicks from about the same spot, two completely wasted.

  11. With regard to Taveras. If Arteta had started Nuno and he had struggled again we would be saying how stupid he was to start him.

    Managers have to be responsible for the entire team. They don’t have enough time to train and work with individual players themselves. Thats why they have a whole coaching staff. I am 100% certain Arteta has had the position coaches who work with Nuno spending double time individually with him. If the player is either not ready for some reason or just not good enough then there is nothing a manager can do. We saw this many times during he Wenger era. Squillaci at CB and Santos at LB come to mind.

    None of us are present at the training sessions and to suggest Arteta and the coaches are not working hard enough to get Taveras ready is ridiculous speculation that is almost certainly not true.

    1. His name is Tavares.

      I also like how you’re 100% certain of them training Nuno and then go on to say that none of us are at training so anyone suggesting anything about training is “ridiculous speculation.”

      Have a few days off Bill.

  12. MattB @ 12:57

    “There are concerns – We’re on track to concede more than 20/21; on track to match 2020/21 goals scored. We don’t create enough big chances; don’t score enough from open play. Results against the big 6 are the worst to date.
    Considering the light schedule is this as good as it gets? Is thus Arteta’s ceiling?”

    5th is almost certainly the ceiling for the squad as currently constructed.

    We are clearly not a ManCity Liverpool or Chelsea level, everyone has seen that. Kane and Son are the best 1/2 punch in the league and Kulesevski looks very good as their 3rd best forward. Fortunately ManU has imploded. Our only hope for 4th place was spurs also imploding but given their talent it was only a matter of time before Spurs started playing well enough to overtake us.

    1. Our only hope wasn’t wishing that Spurs went cold or we somehow had perfect health.
      Good recruiting and tactical decisions were a part of this, and little of that was in evidence.

    2. Bill,

      ‘5th is almost certainly the ceiling for the squad as currently constructed’

      I disagree. Most recent predictions had Arsenal qualifying for CL (538 had Arsenal @ 67%, some other models at 80%). To use a golf parlance, 5th would be about par, but not the ceiling.

      The current squad is 3 goals shy of last season’s total of 39 conceded, with 8 games still to play. £150M spent in the Summer and where’s the improvement?

      Arsenal are on track to score roughly the same amount of goals as last season. Again, where’s the improvement? (For reference, in the past 9 games Arsenal have scored 12, Aubameyang has scored 8).

      The idea a squad has a ceiling is flawed. Leicester finished 14th 2014/15, were predicted by most to be relegated the following season but then won the league in 2015/16.

      The idea that just spending money and lots of it automatically sees a squad improve is nonsense. United added Sancho and Ronaldo, were tipped to challenge for the title but are floundering. Everton have spent in excess of £500M in recent years and are flirting with relegation.

      To conclude, it’s how you marshal your resources (manage) which determines the final outcome.

  13. Auba up to 8 goals in 9 games. Maybe Arteta is taking the false 9 thing literally not figuratively.

  14. Exactly. Those set piece decisions were about the end for me. Not just the free kicks, but the corner at the end. Either the players are poorly coached or the coach has no control. Either doesn’t reflect well on Arteta.

  15. The more I see of him, the more inescapable the feeling I have that Arteta puts his ego before the club.

    He rarely swallows his pride in game and makes a smart change. The only time i can remember being vs Wolves, where he changed system and went for it, and what-do-you-know we pulled it out of the hat and won last minute. Because the talented attacking players were playing.

    How Pepe, who is a starting international, clearly this club’s most dangerous and threatening player, and the club’s most natural finisher, can only get 9 minutes at the end of a home game against bottom half opposition when you are chasing the game from early in the first half, is an absolute disgrace. I don’t care if his pass accuracy is not 95%. He plays with tempo. He fucking scores.

    This team HAS the resources to win, it simply does. It has the resources to be so much better, even with a couple of injuries.

    Instead of backing Nuno, who Arteta signed himself, to get his confidence back. He plays Xhaka at left back AGAIN, not only weakening the midfield, but turning LB into an open door for the opposition. Who is caught way upfield on their first goal? Xhaka is. Completely out of position, without a clue where to be. This is squarely on the manager.

    Southampton just got hit for 6, so they will be looking to bounce back. You can bet if they see Laca on the team sheet, their CBs will forget their boots all together and get those slippers on. They will not have an easier game all season.

    A couple of ideas for next game. If Nuno is shot, I would seriously consider playing Saka at left back. Him and Martinelli have proven chemistry. One inside, one overlapping. That has balance. While that would allow Pepe to finally get in the team. He has had one good cameo, one bad, but how can anyone build up some form with 5 minutes at the end of games? We cannot score. He needs to start.

    Secondly. I’d even consider Odegaard in the Laca role, he is not the strongest, but he can hold it, he can turn on a 6 pence, he can shoot when he wants. Try him at false 9, our strikers Martinelli and Pepe either side. Then Saka a bit deeper in an 8 role, he can play there without a doubt, and him and Pepe together would cause real problems. Sambi and Xhaka in midfield.

    Arteta needs to try something. Instead of problem solving, his grand solution was to make exactly the same error as Villarreal. I can accept mistakes. But not learning from them? Cummon man. That is just not good enough.

    Leave your ego at the door. Use your resources better, stop shoehorning your favourites into roles they cannot play, stop persisting with completely out of form players. It undermines your so-called meritocracy. When Laca hasn’t scored since the stone age and Pepe comes on with a point to prove. How about you back the guy who is making a fucking near post run in the 90th minute to save YOUR ass? Who dug you out of a hole against Wolves and who offers far more in both directions that this semi-retired false nine. Wake up.

    1. Agreed on all points. Pepe can have frustrating moments, but he produces goals and assists. He just does. He’s a lethal finisher and can be almost unplayable on his day when he’s feeling it, but Arteta hasn’t given him a chance to find any form at all. And while Pepe’s mistakes are more obvious because of their stupidity, it isn’t as though the rest of the team is bloody flawless. Arteta plays favorites, some players can do no right and others no wrong. If he personally doesn’t like a player, he can’t or won’t accept that they can be of any value at all. One does smell more than a whiff of ego in many of his decisions.

      1. I think the reason Pepe doesn’t play is pretty simple: he would take Saka’s place. No one wants that.

        I can’t see Pepe playing on the left or as a CF so, unless you want to drop Saka, you can’t play Pepe.

  16. Gents and ladies, just play Tavares at LB. Fix his defensive issues on the training ground. Maybe we’ve forgotten that he had a run of games when Tierney was injured, and wait for it… ARTETA KEPT HIM IN THE STARTING XI WHEN TIERNEY WAS FIT AGAIN (sorry to shout). Tierney rode the pine for Nuno for a while. He didnt suddenly become a bad player… what he is is a badly handled player. He’s a superb athlete who is great on the overlap, but he can get caught out of position defensively. It was not an issue when he was regularly starting games for us. The first time I saw him play badly was against Forest, but Djed Spence gave everyone a hard time on that day. Arteta’s 35th minute subbing seems to have completely destroyed his confidence. But to repeat… one does not suddenly become bad or unplayable. This where a coach has to earn his corn.

    But although Arteta has worked well with young players like Odegaard, he is generally not a good handler of young players with issues to fix. The young midfielder he couldn’t work with has improved his game leaps and bounds, and is unrecognisable from the player who started nearly every game for Emery (and quite a few for Arteta at the start). He has 14 goals or assists for club or country, and has arguably been the best midfielder on Arsenal’s books this season. This is what Jorge Sampaoli has to say about him.

    Arteta has to play Nuno for the reason for which he was bought, in the position for which he bought. Not Granit f****** Xhaka. The modern full-back covers more distances than any other player on the field. Xhaka has settled into a reliable contributor for Arsenal, but he does not possess the capability to play there.

    And give Pepe starts. He’s in rich form. Stop being so rigid. Of all of the false 9 solutions being made, Pepe is probably best equipped for it.

    1. Yeah, Guendo is playing well in France. It’s funny because when I came on here and talked him up a few years ago (as the replacement we needed for Xhaka) I got hatred in return.

      We are going to regret selling him for 12m or whatever.

    2. Arteta seems to have a thing where if you’re out, you’re all the fucking way out with no hope of getting back in.

  17. Thanks for the post Tim!

    Roughly in the same place I think – it’s been a fairly gutting week, there are issues, I’m not super happy with some of Arteta’s decisions (Xhaka at LB etc), but bad results will happen and it’s on the team and the coaches now to make sure it’s just a blip and not a crash.

    I think over the last few weeks we’ve seen all the strengths of running a lean, tight, well-motivated and well-integrated squad, and last week we saw the weaknesses. The stats seem to show that our successes are being won on pretty tight margins, and if we are not on it from the first whistle we can suffer. I said a couple weeks ago we were a couple of injuries away from being screwed and it has come to pass.

    Arteta has shown a preference for a small squad of trusted players but I’m not sure I agree that if you’re out you’re all the way out. Elneny was all the way out and then very back in, AMN was in then out then in then out again, Kolasinac was used a couple of times after his loan, Soares and Leno didn’t play for months but stepped up when we needed them, Auba was given several chances too.

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