The Dark Arts

I had a chance to watch the Atletico Madrid v. Manchester City match and setting aside the entertaining scenes of both teams pretending they were going to get into a fight, which culminated in one of the Madrid players throwing a fake headbutt from 2 yards away in the tunnel after the game, I thought that there was an interesting football thing that happened in that match: Atletico Madrid, could have beaten Man City. This theory of mine stems from how well Atletico played in the second half.

First, we have to credit Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side for a huge performance against Manchester City over two legs. Simeone rightly decided that since away goals don’t matter – if he could keep the tie close for the first 135 minutes, his team would have a good chance in the last 45 minutes and go for it.

In the first leg, in Manchester, they held the “best team in Europe” to 15 shots, with just 2 on target, and 1 big chance (which DeBruyne scored). Folks will point to the fact that Atletico got zero shots in that match and that’s true: it wasn’t ideal, they were going for counter attacks and got caught offside a few times. But the point of the first match for Simeone was always damage limitation, see if they could nick a goal, and get them back to Madrid with the game in the balance.

Simeone had spent the build-up to the 2nd match whipping the players and fans into a frenzy about Pep Guardiola (the hated old enemy) and their supposed “all-star” football. Simeone and Guardiola and Atletico and Barcelona go back a lot further than people may realize. The two of them faced off numerous times as players and Simeone’s Atletico (ironically Simeone played as a more forward MFer in his time, often as the #10, while Pep played as a deep lying playmaker) even did the double over Barcelona in the 1995/96 season when Atletico won la Liga.

So with the fans on his side, the players all geed up, the 2nd leg was always going to be much tighter.

Once again, Atletico’s game plan was to keep it tight until the second half and they did exactly that – limiting City to just 8 shots and no big chances. In hindsight, this seems crazy, but it does work in cup games (c.f. Unai Emery) and I suppose Simeone would say that this was his team’s best chance of a win.

The second half saw Atletico streaming forward, pressing, forcing Man City into an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers whilst also maintaining possession for themselves and only turning the ball over 7 times. Those skewed numbers of possession loss weren’t because Atletico gave up the ball, they actually won the passing and touch numbers by a slim margin, it was just superior athleticism, planning, and effort.

From a qualitative view I could see that the City players were rattled. They hadn’t been in this position before. They were being out-hustled to every loose ball and they couldn’t get organized quickly enough to kill the counter attacks with their tactical fouls – which is one of City’s “dark arts” that few mention these days. The result was a domination the likes of which I can’t remember seeing against a Man City team under Pep Guardiola.

From this outsider’s position, it looked a lot like the tables had been turned: Man City dropped deep to defend and hang on to the lead, while trying to hit Atletico on the counter attack, while Atletico relentlessly pounded their box. Of course, it was fun to watch Phil Foden roll out of play and then cynically back in to play to waste time and the reaction that got from the Atletico players. And credit to Man City for taking up the mantle of “shithouse all stars” for the end of that game.

But those dramatic moments aside (along with Savic pulling Grielish’s hair after the Englishman called him a C word) I was left wondering “what if”? What if Atletico had just played them in both legs the way that they had done in the second half of the second leg? Was it purely just an athletic decision? That the players couldn’t possibly give that much effort for 180 minutes? I don’t know about that. Playing low block defense – while trying to get sprints out for counter attacks – for 135 minutes is exhausting as well. But I’m not privy to the health data of the players, so I don’t know.

What I do know is that Man City are beatable. Very beatable. And I would love to see more teams come after them if for no other reason than to watch Man City’s supposed all-stars reduced to rolling out of play and back in to waste time.



  1. Couldn’t agree more Tim. Nice piece, as usual.

    Just wish athletico were more clinical. Is athletico’s tactic that difficult to replicate? It would even work better in the premier league since there are faster athletic players to punish city. To get a team to buy into the philosophy is another challenge.

    Arsenal had shown signs of this capability in earlier games against mancity and Liverpool in the first the late part of last year and early this year.

    I have my misgivings that Arteta’a learning curve is steep and we are paying a huge price for it. This is not just based on current losses but questionable decisions over the season.

    1.Playing an unfit tomiyasu knowing his importance for the main goals of the season.

    2. Playing xhaka at LB.

    3. Letting AMN go without a replacement considering his versatility was criminal. Not just as a manager he must have seen those consequences during his playing career.

    4. Poor squad rotation.

    5. Playing nketiah out wide in subs while having Pepe on the bench. Laca has been out of sorts.

    6. Either tavares has a very poor attitude/lackadaisical or Arteta has handled him poorly in terms of getting him match ready.

    This run in will give us better insight if he will still continue to make same mistakes. It’s better to make new mistakes but not the same over and over again.

  2. My thoughts exactly, Tim. I was wondering the same thing about Atleti not playing the same way in both games. Not a fan of Simeone and his style of football in general but he does get results, and nearly pulled it off again against one of the best teams in Europe.

  3. There are two sides City haven’t beaten in the league this season – Pool & Southampton. Guardiola was very complementary of Hassenhutl. They pressed City and City don’t like being pressed.

    On Atleti, Simeone (who I’m a fan of BTW) is a rich man’s Dyche. He has some very talented players but always plays to bring his opponents down to his level. “You’re better than that Diego!”

  4. Great stuff Tim

    Its fun to speculate on stuff like this. I think history has taught us taking an unexpected event such as the second half of the game and extrapolating over a full game or multiple games gives the wrong answer. Simeone is an experienced highly successful manager and he knows what his team is or isn’t capable of doing. No way to prove it but his team might have been smoked if he had tried to play that way from the start of the game or over 2 games.

  5. This is exactly what Ferguson did to us in the mid-2000s, to the point that I thought he was just a defensive manager who got way too much credit.

    Then I watched United against other teams (ugh) and discovered be was plenty capable of coaching attack. He was tailoring his tactics to play on our desire to keep the game moving at a certain rhythm. And very happy with a draw or a 1-0, which kept them well on track for a title run. Dominance, just not Arsenal style.

    1. And if you watch La Liga you know that Atleti aren’t Dyche defensive, they have scored 57 goals this season, 3rd behind RM and Barca and are 5th or 6th in touches in the final third and penalty box. They have 51% of the possession this season and don’t really play football like Dyche at all. He plays kick and rush.

      1. We really need that ideological flexibility if we want to win without spending as much as the petro-garchs. And you’re absolutely right, City and the others are beatable – the game itself is a leveler, to an extent.

  6. City looked very nervy towards the close of the 2nd leg, and Atletico had several good chances to score. Which they might have done, but for a boneheaded red card. It reduced them to 10 men when they looked most threatening, but they still mustered a really good chance.

    Hard to see past Liverpool or Madrid for this one. Benzema, at the moment, is the best forward in football.

  7. Pep’s teams have won the CL twice in his career but the last was 2011 and he hasn’t won since he left Barca. It feels like that competition has become his kryptonite. His teams will always be favorites to win the league because of the talent advantage over everyone else and that talent advantage prevails over 38 games. A lot of teams like Arsenal in Arteta’s first season can do things in a game or 2 in a cup competition that they cant do over a full season. The dominant talent is less of an advantage in a cup competition and every season in the CL it seems like Pep’s club runs into a team that can hold them from scoring for a game or 2. Chelsea did it last season. Atletico came close this year.

    1. sorry bro but declaring that dominant talent is less of an advantage in a cup competition is untrue. i’d always rather have dominant talent than not. cup competitions are about luck. an elite cup competition like the champions league is about strategy as well as dominant talent. however, you still need talent and a lot of luck.

  8. spurs being all spursy this morning…i love it! those guys are clowns.

    eddie gets the nod as lacazette has the rona. i’m happy he gets this chance and believe he will bring a different energy that will be exciting. likewise, the away fans will continue to cheer him, even if he makes a few mistakes. we’ll see.

  9. Well, that was probably the best lineup he could have fielded.
    We’re just not good enough. Don’t deserve CL, and at this point, we’ll be lucky to be in Europe at all given the remaining schedule. Massive mistake not to have strengthened during the winter.

    Given the amount of wasted money and the injury prone players, feels like we have had the worst recruitment in Europe in the last 5 or so years.

    1. …so much wasted money. wenger worked so hard and sacrificed so that the club could be in a healthy financial position only for this management team to come in and blow it all so quickly. the sad thing is that most of the money was blown because the manager couldn’t seem to get on with certain players; namely players with big personality.

  10. Josh.

    Having a big talent advantage is always helpful but it’s more helpful over the course of a long season. The FA cup shows that anything can happen in a 1-2 games but the cream will almost always rise to the top over the course of a full season. The person who leads the first round of a golf tournament is often surprising but over the course the course of 4 rounds the better players are more likely to win. It’s the same in any sport.

    It’s the same problem with our firepower shortage. We can look good for several games or even a couple months in a row or win an FA cup but over the course of 38 games we can’t compensate for the difficultly we have scoring goals.

  11. Arsene made a lot of money bad investments in players his last couple years. Xhaka Mustafi Elneny, lacazette, he traded Sanchez who was probably worth a lot even up for mkhitaryan. He sold Gnabry for almost nothing.

    Edu and Arteta saw the squad take their foot off the gas or quit on 2 experienced well respected and relatively successful managers in a row. No way for either of us to know what actually happened. I suspect they thought a cultural rebuild was needed because the same thing probably would happen again and the decision was made to move some of those players big personalities

    1. Look, Im trying to be fair. Not “positive” in the that Jack has berated some of us for not being, but fair. Late season collapses are not unknown to us Arsenal supporters. Yes, until recently those collapses have been 1st to 3rd, or 2nd to 4th. But it still remains true that we’ve been here before, too many times.

      We were playing sumptuous football at the turn of the year, and the fans and players had achieved a rare harmony. But it’s becoming plain that we needed perfect sets of circumstances to sustain that, and that is not how football — or life — is. Im tired of talk of how big a loss Partey is. Yes, he’s one of our best, most important players and central to how we play; but that is why you make provisions for his possible absence, especially as he has been prone to injury. Nuno played today… yay, Im glad. That why you bought him, remember? To cover for Tierney, who is also prone to injury.

      You want to sell Pepe, fine. But how’s he not getting a start in the absence of the club’s two most senior recent forwards? He and Auba are the 2 players most instrumental in winning Arteta his only trophy (with players he mostly inherited from Emery, it must be said, the dismal Willian apart). Eddie can play from now until Monday, he’s not going to add to his premier league goal tally, which is zero. There are trundlers for the relegation teams that have more goals than him and Laca.

      So let us, please, stop the pathetic excuse making on behalf of Arteta. The guy is plainly out of his depth. What more do we need to see it? Arteta continues to take Arsenal to new, unwanted places. The latest one is losing 3 in a row 2 times in the same season, something that hasnt been done in the premier league era. Last year he took us out of Europe for the first time in 25 years. Under him, we conceded losing records to teams that hadn’t beaten us decades. The season isn’t done, and we’ve lost 11 games. That’s a big ratio compared to even the bad Arsenal teams of recent past.

      Sure you can ditch your long reliable means of transport. But if you opt to walk instead of drive, you are hurting your ability to move around, and the consequences of your decision will be obvious.

      Culture, my foot. Tony Adams’ booze crew was more difficult to manage and more culturally toxic than anyone Mikel has had to manage. I want my team to not become totally unglued by 2 absences, important as those players are, if it’s the biggest spending team in the summer transfer window. Im not being unreasonable. We can preen all we want about non-negotiables, but football isn’t about making a point… it’s about getting the points.

      You dont entrust rebuild and corporate turnaround to inexperienced and callow management teams. But hey, KSE, is probably looking the the LA Rams model, and the indications months ago were that he’d be extended, no matter what. He’s looking like a guy promoted above his abilities, who, nonetheless, has job security. Stability is great, but it would be great, if he arrests this slide, for the manager to start showing that he is learning.

        1. “We can preen all we want about non-negotiables, but football isn’t about making a point… it’s about getting the points.”

          Brilliantly put.

          1. Indeed! It’s actually funny! Arteta gets rid of Auba who immediately starts scoring. Arteta gets rid of Guen who, a couple of years later, turns into a top midfielder. Saliba not good enough for MA but is called into the French national team. The guy does not have a clue. The only point he is making is that he cannot manage players.

      1. Okay.

        I will try to counter a little bit your very one-sided narrative. By no means I want minimize the problems we have. Your comment stating that ” that we needed perfect sets of circumstances to sustain that, and that is not how football — or life — is” – I think is a good remark and I feel the same way.

        Also, Soton were very lucky to win, but apart from the wonder-saves from the Soton GK, we did not create much given the dominance we had (Arseblog cited expected Goals Soton 0,9 – 1,3 Arsenal. We had many more threats, though 0,5 × 2,9).

        I know it is only a metrics and is also prone to subjectivity, but there is some data behind it. Anyway according to Arseblog post – since Liverpool game our expected goals for is 7,06. Our expected Goals against is 4,53.

        Now – we scored only 2 goals and conceded 8. That´s a terrible outcome and huge disparity. Are we just unlucky? Is it a bad form, the players stopped believing themselves? Is the young and inexperienced squad an excuse? Or is it about personal skills of players (Laca, Saka, Martin, Martinelli are not great in finishing chances, especially with comparison to certain Liverpool, Spurs, City and even United players…). Should we even take those metrics seriously? I don´t know.

        Also – I came across some data collecting expected goals, goals against and points in this season. Our team had by far the worst ratio between expected/reality in TOP 7. It is just a raw data and doesn´t tell you much without proper interpretation, though.

        1. I actually just went and looked it up. It’s not 7xGF since Liverpool, it’s 5.9. And that’s not just three games, it’s four.

          1. Thanks for checking that again. I did not and took it from Arseblog (as mentioned). Yes, 5.9 xGF in 4 matches (against those teams) indeed is pretty dreadful. Arteta has always prioritized defense, though.

          2. Tim. Doesn’t it depend on which site you use to get the stats. Part of the problem with the stats is the subjectivity of who decides what is a big chance or key pass or and xG

  12. “It’s very disappointing and difficult to explain, but this is what makes this sport different because again, in basketball, you have 25 shots and the opponent has one, you win 10 out of 10.”

    “It is what we have. The players that we have, they haven’t done it in this league. When you have a world class player that has been playing in the league for 10 years, probably you are not sitting here. But I am the first one to defend them, to support them. You see how they tried, and the only way to do it is to insist and what happened today might happen the next week or the next month”

    “I can’t remember a game that Arsenal have played in this stadium when they have created and dominated the game more and better.”

    “They are really down today and they are down because they cannot find the right answers, apart from what we can do better around the box not to win the match. That’s the frustration.”

    Performance and defeat aside, it is these kind of answers that make me have zero faith in this guy. He’s had all the advantages that many who have worked for years building their careers never did, and he is never short of an excuse. I know I said we should keep him to the end of his contract next year, but no. He should be out by the end of this season, and I’m tempted to say that should be the case even if we, through some miracle, make the CL. He’s wasting a whole lot of club resources.

    1. “It’s very disappointing and difficult to explain, but this is what makes this sport different because again, in basketball, you have 25 shots and the opponent has one, you win 10 out of 10.”

      Perhaps Arteta missed his real calling coaching basketball then.
      Sounds like he has a full grasp of the game with this comment.

  13. All that said by me and Shard, a die-hard Saints supporter/friend said that “it wasnt deserved”, and Arsenal could have scored 3 or 4, but for the brilliance of goalkeeper Fraser Forster. Apparently, the goalie had his best performance of the season, and Arteta, far from being churlish (as some of the quotes make him sound), may actually be accurate in his account of how the ball bounced.

    Just saying. My Saints friend is one of the fairest guys I know. And we won games playing worse than we did today.

    1. Ehhh.. I’m sure your friend is a fair guy, but he’s got his own biases about his own team affecting his analysis too. We weren’t as bad as we have been, that’s for sure. But I don’t think that goes in the credit column for the manager. We probably did enough to draw the game because we actually managed to take some decent shots.

      But just like Arteta needs a perfect set of circumstances in terms of injuries etc, he also seems to assume he is owed a perfect set of circumstances during the game, Players must take every single chance that comes their way or it was poor finishing that cost us. Players must always be full of enthusiastic energy or else you can’t blame the system. It’s like nothing can ever go against us, not even due to his own players, or it’s all so unfair to him, and unfair to hold him accountable.

      Like I said, the performance and result is one thing. It’s this response that makes me doubt him. He outright resorted to saying ‘they’ (players) can’t find the right solutions. Arteta’s a guy who keeps shouting at them throughout the game, even cost us a goal through a Gabriel error by making him second guess himself. He gives the players virtually no freedom, and then has the audacity to blame them. Oh but “I am the first to support them” he says.

      Sorry, but he’s not learning fast enough with this attitude, and without that, his lack of track record should speak much louder than anything in favour of him keeping his job.

  14. Claude

    Less then a month ago we were talking about great we were playing and how much improved Arteta and the team as a whole were. 3 games later the manager has suddenly forgotten everything he was doing right and needs to be sacked. It’s completely predictable short term over reaction but at the same time its ridiculous

    1. I acknowledge the fact that we had been playing well, Bill. ICYMI, Im re-pasting below 👇🏽

      “We were playing sumptuous football at the turn of the year, and the fans and players had achieved a rare harmony. But it’s becoming plain that we needed perfect sets of circumstances to sustain that, and that is not how football — or life — is.”

      The point is, that it depended on conditions that are not indefinitely sustainable. Our depth sucks, and much of why it does is self-inflicted. The argument about whether the manager has “suddenly forgotten” is reductive, and frankly juvenile. A result in a game isn’t solely up to one of the parties. Also, I did not make the argument that he should be sacked. Your wonky logic and frequent swerves past nuance are maddening.

      Also, see my comment about what my Saints supporting friend said. That puts things in another light.

  15. My recollection is that by the stats when we went on that good run, we were overperforming our xG. i.e. some low percentage shots went in. Today we underperformed it, partly because of Forster.
    But you’re going to have that. And you’ll end up in about your average position. Which I’m starting to fear might be 7-8. Based on his track record, how many top players are going to want to come play for Arteta especially if we’re not in Europe? Would Saliba want to come back at this point?

  16. We’re struggling at both ends. XG over recent games is 7 but we’ve scored 2. It’s a combination of chasing the game after falling behind but the flaw in XG which makes no allowance for who is taking the shot. Laca is dreadfully out of form and Eddie has yet to prove he can cut it in the premier league. This lies solely on Arteta for falling out with his leading scorer.

    At the other end we’re conceding more goals (and more than XGa). The defensive solidity that enabled the team to climb the table has disappeared. It’s hard to explain why.

    There seems to be a mentality issue at play across the whole team. Some will proffer it’s down to being a young side or missing key players. Personally, I think it’s a management style issue…

    Since the Liverpool loss Arteta has reverted to his conservative instincts. We don’t create enough opportunities, particularly quality opportunities. Yesterday Southampton took the lead and sat in to defend it. It was basically attack vs defence. Arsenal created lots of low quality opportunities and only 1 big opportunity. So when Arteta says after the game ‘We should have scored 4’ and XG was just above 1, he’s basically full of shit.

    The other thing I can’t help but think is that Arteta’s micro management has created a team which don’t know what to do when the plan isn’t working. We struggle with teams that press or sit in a low block. And this is a pattern game after game. Part of elite sports is developing a dealing with adversity mentality and I just don’t think Arteta is fostering that.

    If he doesn’t arrest the slide fans will turn on him and the team. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that.

    1. I hope it comes to that. The fans, and press, have given him more of a pass than his football deserve while he breaks all kinds of negative records.

      It’s often justified by people parroting that we’ve become harder to beat or people can “see what he’s trying to do”.

      We’re not hard to beat and he’s trying to serve up dull and unimaginative football. He’s had three seasons and 5 transfer windows to improve things and all he’s done is ruin the value of each and every player he coaches.

  17. Matt

    To create an XG it takes 2 things, someone who has the instinctive ability to get into a position where he has a good chance to score at the right time and then we need someone to recognize there is an opportunity and make the right pass at the right time to the player in good position. There is nothing a manager can do if his team does not have enough players who are good at getting into those positions or enough players who are good at making that pass. Then to turn an XG onto an actual goal scored you need someone who is good at making the game slow down in his head so he can pick the right spot to aim the ball when he shoots. The ability to make the game slow down and consistently find a way to put the ball into the goal is the most difficult skill in football which is why there are not very many who are good at it and why they cost so much to buy. Again there is nothing a manager can do if collectively his team does not have players who are good at finishing

    All of that may seem like captain obvious sort of stuff but it really seems like many of us believe that a manager should be able to take any group of players like the ones we have and turn them into a free flowing high scoring team. That is not how football works. We can perhaps rightfully blame Arteta and Edu for spending a lot of money and not buying enough of the right players but to expect Arteta to take this group and turn it into a consistent free flowing team that scores enough goals is just not realistic.

    1. Bill, he’s made the ream and players worse. Players he bought. He’s managed them badly

      1. This season he has taken a team that is very short on firepower which no one should have realistically expected to challenge for the top 4 and put them into a position where they still have a chance to make the CL next year.

        1. On one hand, yes, not many were picking us for top 4 with this team. OToH, not many were also expecting the struggles that Utd and Spurs have had.
          The issue, somewhat like the season where Leicester won the league, is that we didn’t take the chance presented to us. We were pretty well positioned at the turn of the year, but cleaned house in January and didn’t replace.
          Plus Arteta seems to be very stubborn. Almost 100% of the observers could see that moving Xhaka to LB was going to be a problem, but he did it anyway. And he seems to leave too many players out in the cold. Fergie had some famous bustups with Beckham and others, but they were back starting pretty quickly.

    2. Bill,

      Bednarek is a defender who has scored 4 goals. If Bednarek has ‘an instinctive ability to get into a position where he has a good chance to score at the right time’ surely EVERY premier league player can do the same. I rest my case.

  18. Claude @ 5:02PM

    I was telling you 2 months ago when we were in the midst of our best football this year that a reversal of form was inevitable at point. Anyone who followed the team during the Wenger era especially between 2005-17 had to know that a run of good form like that was not sustainable. The team is not as good as it looked during that good run and its not as bad as it has looked the last 3 games. Doesn’t it seem completely unrealistic to expect Arteta or any manager to sustain that sort of good run of form when arguably the greatest manager in Arsenal history and one of the best PL managers in this century could not do it?

    1. The ‘best form’ was scraping wins v the likes of Leicester, Wolves and Villa. It didnt look good during that run, it hasn’t looked good for some years. The last 3 games are pretty much the norm when we don’t score first or score at all.

      It’s not realistic to expect Arteta to maintain any sort of form, he’s a bad manager and never has. We’re wasting time and unfortunately money with this amateur

    2. Which run of good form? 5 of the 6 games we’ve won in 2022 have been by a single goal.
      Arteta hasn’t delivered any “good form” that’s above the level you expect at a big club like Arsenal.

      Arsenal has lost 11 games this season in the premier league. I don’t know how the manager can be absolved of responsibility.

      He sold Martinez, loaned Saliba and Guendouzi. Then bought Ramsdale, White and Lokonga. We could have kept those 3 players, save money, and invest it in other positions.

      Ask yourself this question and answer honestly: If Arteta had been a manager at Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Man City, Man United, Juventus, Bayern Munich, or even Spurs for 2 and a half years and spent the amount of money he spent at Arsenal, would he still have a job?

      Would they keep making excuses for him like Arsenal fans are doing?

      When you hear some Arsenal fans defending Arteta, you’d think he walked into the biggest rebuild job in football history.

      As bad as Emery was, he achieved more in the league than Arteta with a worse squad. Arsenal fans are the biggest enablers of Arteta, not Kroenke.

      When Arsenal fans (who supposedly know football) are singing Arteta’s name after a woeful performance at Palace, do you expect the owners (who supposedly don’t know football) to act.

      I can assure you, when the fans in the Emirates stadium turn, Arteta will be gone.

      Struggling at 6th and looking at 8th at this stage of the season is not Arsenal standard. Arsenal fans need to stop lowering expectations.

      You can’t be satisfied with 8th position and then call Kroenkes bad owners for not winning the league. You’re not demanding the league from them.

      In fact, some Arsenal fans are saying 4th was an outrageous goal for Arsenal this season after outspending every team in the league.

  19. We are going to score 55 and concede around 45.

    Said it long ago chance creation and finishing will leave us out in the abyss.

    Arteta is NOT that guy!

    Even watching the game yesterday, White looked like humpty dumpty, all taped together and laboring. Why not play Holding, we need scoring, so play ESR and Saka on the same side, Pepe can score some goals, put him in the center or Martinelli. Try something different.

    Arteta is about as creative as a 8086 chess game.

    The micromanaging is off the richter scale, is that not what practice is for?

    Arteta’s system is a cf killer. Auba has always scored when given service, yes he has his ups and downs like every cf, but he can still bang them in.

    But, AFC will probably keep him, Kroenke will back him, and we will have another average year.

  20. According to we are 6 th best in xG for the season just behind ManU. The idea that we have done a miserable job of xG does not fit with those stats.

  21. Notice I said chance creation and finishing.

    Not all chance creations are created equally, those metrics do not take that into account.

    And no, Eddie, Laca or most of the players in the squad finish at the same rate as Auba.

    Mikel has made a mess of man management, spent a boat load on defense, and $0 on attacking players.

    He will be not able to have his cake and eat it too.

  22. Aaron.

    I thought xG was the stat which corrected for the quality of the chances created.

    I agree that we should have spent more money on attacking players. That is the criticism I have for the current regime. However last summer I think I was the only person on the blog who was campaigning for buying better goal scorers. Everyone else was trying to tell me the problem was not our goal scorers but chance creation and according to xG we have improved. The other thing everyone said we needed was attempting more shots and I don’t know the stats but it certainly feels like our ball possession and shot attempts have improved. Unfortunately despite playing better football we are on pace to score the same number of goals as last season because we just don’t have the players who are good at scoring goals.

    1. No one is going to disagree with you that more potent goalscorers would equal more chances taken. That’s not rocket science, and I for one have agreed with with you on this.

      The best midfield chance creator on Arsenal’s books this season played his football in France (manager fell out with him); and the best finisher is in Spain (ditto, the manager). Yes he struggled, but he’s shown what he can do when given chances and when playing is a system to facilitate chance creation. Tim’s already explained with stats (several times) why he struggled at AFC of late. It was that and it was the system, that sometimes saw him tracking back deep in LB territory. At any rate, if youre ditching your car, you first ensure that you have a replacement. If not, you fix it. If you dont, you’ll be pounding pavement in the hot sun, a lot. Arteta elected to pound pavement, in order to score knockout wins in personnel disagreements.

      In any case, here’s the damning stat that youre missing… our defence has got worse. In 31 games we’ve conceded 37 goals. Last year, it was 39 in 38. All that with our most expensive purchases being a CB (55 million! for someone not named Maldini) and a goalkeeper. To keep pace with last year’s GA record, 5 of our next 7 games are going to have to be clean sheets.

      So congrats, Mikel. You’ve made the attack AND defence worse, while dropping the most cash on transfers of all EPL clubs.

      1. “To keep pace with last year’s GA record, 5 of our next 7 games are going to have to be clean sheets.”

        This isnt accurate, even. Accurate to say that in the next 7 games, we’ll have to concede no more than 2 goals.

    2. Bill, I can assure you that if you revisit the pre season posts and comments you’ll find many people were stating the #1 aim for this season was to increase goals scored. For the entirety of Arteta’s reign it has been unacceptably poor. Instead of investing in creative and attacking players Arteta chose to blow last Summer’s budget on defensive recruits.., and what a great success that’s been.

  23. Claude

    It feels like there are a lot of people on the blog who to disagree with us and seem to believe that having better goal scorers would help.

    No doubt that our defense is on pace to concede more is hard to explain and that is a problem. Its a head scratcher and needs to be fixed.

    I also agree that we should have purchased some goal scorers last summer but I was the only person I remember who was calling for buying a scoring forward

    Guendouzi has 6 assists this season but we have seen the stats players put together in Ligue 1 have consistently overestimated what they might do in the PL at least based on the players we have purchased in the last 12 years. I am not sure that extrapolating what Matteo is doing now to what he might have done if he was still here has a good chance to be inaccurate

    1. Your seriously expressed, considered judgement of Matteo was that “he runs around a lot and has nice hair.” With respect, I dont think youre best placed to evaluate his abilities 🙂

      But here’s the point (which isnt whether he starts or not)… it’s depth. And difference making. The manager has alienated difference makers and destroyed depth. We cant be in a midfield crisis if Partey gets injured. We cant be in a LB crisis if Tierney gets injured. And we cant be in a scoring crisis and give away our leading scorer

    2. You: “I also agree that we should have purchased some goal scorers last summer but I was the only person I remember who was calling for buying a scoring forward”

      Me, August 2021: “There are still some worries but I’m not going to get bogged down in that stuff. The striker situation needs to be ironed out but I wonder if that’s next summer’s project? We were definitely interested in Lautaro Martinez (which shows we are sensible) so I think the club knows what we need going forward. There are also questions about Arteta which are deserved. But in this case I think that Arsenal just aren’t going to fire Arteta unless we are truly in a relegation battle so there’s no point in debating it. I just hope he lands on a formula for good attacking.”

      Can you please stop making things up Bill?

  24. Tim

    Fair enough. I remember a lot of talk about needing fullbacks and midfielders and those were talked about a lot. The fact that we needed new players at just about all positions tells you where as a team. I remember a lot of people telling me that Auba, Pepe, Saka, Martinelli and Laca were more then enough firepower. I did not go back and review the posts and comments from last summer and perhaps my memory is wrong but any sentiment that we needed another scorer was mostly an afterthought and something to approach once we had all the other positions filled. To me a striker should have been our #1 priority and the fact we spent a lot of money but have not yet addressed that need is the single biggest complaint I have about the current regime.

    Claude. You make another fair point about depth. Based on what I saw for 1 1/2 seasons I am not a big fan of Guendouzi but he would have provided some depth.

  25. After the Brighton game there was a lot of sentiment that we should have used Taveras at LB and kept Xhaka in the midfield and dropped Laca. We did all of those things against Southampton and it did not help. That is the problem when the team hits a run of bad form. Bad form is not a strategic problem or a line up problem. Its a systemic problem that is generally unexplainable and the only thing we know is it was coming at some point. We also saw during the Wenger era that manager can’t do much to prevent or fix the problem. It runs its course.

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