It’s no longer in Arsenal’s hands

Arsenal lost 2-0 to Newcastle tonight and as much as I’d like to comment on the match itself, I stopped watching when Cedric came on for Tomiyasu. I went on YouTube and watched Japanese pottery videos instead. I looked up a couple times: both times when they scored and a few other moments, but for the majority of the match I just didn’t watch. And from the sound of it, I didn’t miss anything.

I have also heard from a lot of supporters that they are “gutted” or “devastated” not just from the match but the lackluster performance. I’m neither of those things. For this match, once I saw the teamsheet and lineup I knew we were in trouble. We had no real backups for defense (just Cedric and a 21 year old named Zak Swanson who’s never played a minute for the senior team) and the starters were both injured (or at least not 100%). Calum Wilson said after the match that when he saw the teamsheet he was “licking his lips” and I can totally understand why.

But the reason I’m not upset is that I’ve said all season that 5th place would be an achievement for this team. If you told me that they would get 5th place and maybe even 4th place (it’s still possible) I would have taken it in a minute. And if you told me that we would be the 4th best team in England after dropping him and then paying Auba to play for Barcelona I wouldn’t have believed it.

I was very down on this team in December and for good reason: two years into the Arteta experiment we were still playing some awful football. On December 7th Arsenal were 7th in the League, with a record of 7-2-6 and a goal difference of -4. We were averaging just over 1 goal scored per game. It was terrible.

But since then we’ve gotten 43 points in 22 matches with a +13 goal difference. And we’ve played good football for large portions of that time as well. Though we have lost 7 matches in that time, and 5 in the last 10 matches. The big thing that was clearly missing was a goal-scoring forward, just someone who could get those goals which would have turned some of those losses into draws.

And I’m also not that upset that we probably won’t finish 4th this season because I can see that if we get a forward (which we were definitely trying to do) I think we will be a lot better next season. That doesn’t mean that we can rest on our hind quarters this summer, on the contrary, we have a ton of work to do, but hopefully we can get the business done and improve the team.

What business specifically? Well, obviously one or two forwards, an upgrade on Xhaka, reliable backups for Tierney and Tomiyasu, bionic legs for Tierney and Tomiyasu, and I think we need a backup keeper (unless you believe Okonkwo is the real deal).

One thing, however, that is bugging me is that next year I’m worried that the competition for 4th is going to be even more stiff. Man U will bounce back. Man City and Liverpool are still going to be tough. And even though I think Chelsea is an unknown, if they can get an owner in, they are still a very good team. Add to that the fact that Newcastle is going to be competing with Arsenal for the same players this summer (but with a lot more money) and they are also going to be a very competitive team next year. Plus, we are going to be playing twice a week next season: Thursday and Sunday/Monday.

Funnily enough, Arsenal could still finish 4th. We would need to win on the last day and for Spurs to Spurs this up even more than we have Spursed it up ourselves.



  1. Reposting from the previous article:

    All the reasons for announcing Arteta’s new contract are valid, but I had also felt there’s a possibility the message it sends to the team may not be ideal. Especially combined with the we are ahead of schedule, and the story of offering the contract after the 3 defeats. Subconsciously, this says job done, and in part we’re seeing the results of that.

    In the larger scope of things, we’re not a CL worthy team despite playing fewer games than any Arsenal side in the past 35 or so years. For this to change we’ll need to spend but I don’t think that is the issue. We’ve not used our resources well, and I don’t see any reason to trust it’ll all just come together. Remember our goal is top 1, not top 4. Jumping from 8th to 4th is a lot easier than 4th to 1st. We’re just saying it’ll all get better because the young team will automatically get better, when the truth is more young teams fall apart than succeed. We have made some bad choices and portrayed them as essential. Including in January.

    Still, outside chance of Spurs being spursy, and of us capitalising. But realistically, we prepare for the EL, back Arteta this summer, and start making plans for who we’d want to replace him with for the team we do assemble. Oh, and be crystal clear about next season’s targets. None of this heads I win, tails I win attitude

    1. I think the only way that Arteta gets fired next season is if we are in a relegation battle and even then I’m not really that sure. This club has backed him and indulged his choices to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars and I’m not sure we have the resources to do that again with a new manager.

      1. But they wouldn’t and shouldn’t need to. Somewhere along the way they made this about culture instead of football.

        I think they’ll give him all of next season, but if we’re still not making the CL or at least winning a cup, then they will remove him.

        I get the Kroenkes are not interested in winning, but keeping Arteta around may be more expensive because no way that dude isn’t picking fights and alienating more players if things don’t improve. Unless selling Saka and Martinelli makes it worth it for KSE.

        1. “Kroenkes are not interested in winning”.

          Mate, that’s a laughable statement, even from you, Shard.

        2. Agree with Shard. Swing factor is whether people are willing to watch. I’m definitely not watching weirdly-timed low-stakes energy-conservation Europa League games. I’ve missed quite a lot of games this season for one reason or another and regretted pretty much none.

          1. Good Lord. 🙄

            The team will finish at least three places higher this season. We’re back in European football. The team is stronger, younger, and poised to get even stronger. Hopefully, Arteta is learning better man and team management.

            If you can’t find some joy…somewhere…in watching the Arsenal, I suggest you find some other activity. Geesh.

          2. If you can’t read some irritation/angst in the wake of irritating results, maybe find a church?

            Or, you know, we’re all fans, different people, opinions, it’s okay to express them as long as we’re not having a go at each other personally.

        3. “The culture” has been a theme from day one and it crops up every 6-8 months. We are constantly being told that Arteta is “fixing the culture”

  2. Good to have some perspective and you’re right, objectively 5th is not too bad given where we started. But…its’s the hope that kills! To be that close to 4th and see it slip away, and to be pipped for it by the Spuds, and to have to rely two of the ‘big money 5’ (the 2 Mancs, Chelsea, Liverpool and now the Toon – the Spuds won’t be up there for long, at least not without a different owner) mucking up in future – it feels like a lost opportunity in the same way letting Leicester win the League did.
    Our core of young tyros is a definite reason to be cheerful but we still need some serious recruitment and that will be harder now without Champs league status and revenues.
    Still, W Ham and Rangers have shown how to enjoy the Europa, so here’s to fun packed Thursdays next season.

  3. The striking thing about today was the lack of quality. Up front, I know you’d immediately say, but it’s the midfield Im mostly talking about today. Elneny lost his runner, and jogged alongside him and let him cross the ball into danger. I don’t really blame Ben White for the OG, but (to reference a discussion that Greg and I had) BW doesn’t read the game… he relies on athleticism to throw himself into blocks. Im not saying that the goal was his fault — it wasn’t — but he was one of those who showed their lack of quality on it. Cedric, meanwhile, was near the halfway line, having declined to put in a tackle on the wide man, standing off him and letting him pass to a man running into space. Elneny’s man in midfield ran into that wide right gap vacated by Cedric (RB for us, WLF for them). Cue Elneny’s half-paced tracking. Having played out of his socks for his contract in the games before the last two, we saw old Elneny on Thursday and today. Shadow tackling, jogging alongside runners, failing to tackle and waving a lot, like Flamini without the bite.

    Xhaka’s hurried, poor clearance in our box was again circulated, Odegaard missing a half hearted tackle. Xhaka froze, everybody let Guimaraes run onto to the rebound from Ramsdale, and Ben White fruitlessly threw himself into another clearance on the line. It was keystone kops defending.

    One of our buddies here end of the last thread did the “poor Arsenal/Arteta” handwringing thing… “didnt we do great because we’re going to get 5th on poor quality”. Well who’s responsible for the poor quality? Who brought Xhaka back after he had one foot out the door? What wouldnt you have given to see Guimaraes instead in an Arsenal shirt? Who’s on the point of re-signing Elneny? Who is pressing Eddie (another late contract performer) to re-sign? Who bought Sambi, and then decided he was mostly unusable? Ditto Nuno, to a lesser extent? Who sent better midfielders out?

    Come November, Arteta will be three years into the job. This is HIS team. And he still does not not have a well-developed sense of who to keep and who to churn. The result was today, a striking lack of quality. We were poor not just in our performance. We were poor in our quality. Newcastle were better than 2-nil.

    I dont put it all on Arteta. He taught them better defending than they demonstrated today. Btw, compared to last season, we’ve conceded 8 goals more with a game to go. Today showed why. We’ve scored one more. But I dont want this to be a moanfest. Saka and ESR have kep us in the hunt, and masked the self-inflicted absence of quality. I feel for them they wont get getting CL. And hey, dont tell them that they’re not good enough for it.

    1. Pretty much agree with everything you’ve said. Im tempted to think that the sparse improvement we’ve shown this season is more a function of Saka/ESR/Gabi getting more seasoned than anything else…

  4. The tricky thing about expectations is that you never really know where they should have been set in the first place. The 5th or 6th target most had at the beginning of the season likely didn’t take into account United and Spurs having to replace their managers and being garbage for extended periods.

    I’m also worried about our summer investment. Discounting Tomi, we had ~£130mm worth of new signings available to play, the ones who played did not impress and the one left on the bench (deservedly) couldn’t usurp El Neny. Not a game at all that makes the decision to spend £50mm on a centerback with such a sparse midfield seems wise…

    1. Ha! Good point about expectations. What I literally do is take my actual expectations and adjust them downward.

  5. – I thought the line-up was good, save ESR for Martinelli. ESR has some serious fitness issues, and I’m not sure he’ll ever be reliable. Those issues are hampering his development. On the other hand, Marti lacks end product. For a player as talented as him, he needs to work on his finishing.

    – I only watched the first half, and while the line-up looked okay to me, I know in 3 minutes we’d lose. We were not organized, not energetic, not confident. That’s usually a good predictor of the next 87.

    – We’d be crazy to sell Saliba, but at the same time, you can understand it happening if he refuses to sign a new contract. But we need a 3rd CB, and that ain’t Holding. He’s a good 4th choice for teams with ambition, and we definitely need 4 CBs. Wenger tried to pull this RB-as-4th-choice-CB shit a lot, and it never ever worked out. Because guess what, displacing your first choice RB has consequences. So it can’t be Tomi. And Holding seems perfectly happy to play only occasionally, and he’s been good more often than he hasn’t if we’re being fair.

    – People make the point that going form 8th to 4th is easier than 4th to 1st, but it also holds true that going from 8th to 6th is easier than 6th to 4th. After the painful descent of late-Wenger and the cluster of the Raul/Unai years, just getting to 6th was the goal. I wouldn’t say it would be an ‘achievement’, because it should have been the minimum short-term goal. We did it, and 4th would have been an actual achievement. Realistically there is one CL spot open for 4 or 5 teams competing for it these days (us, Spurs, Utd, Leicester, Wolves, Wham). 5th isn’t terrible.

    – I don’t buy that this was our ‘chance’. Getting 4th this year would not have made getting 4th easier next year. Easier to get better players, perhaps, but also a more taxing schedule. I also think players no longer go CL or bust these days. There are too many teams that rotate between the CL and EL. Seven or 8 years ago maybe the CL was a garbage competition, but no longer.

    – We were aided by some teams capitulating (Utd, Leicester), but also some teams overperforming (Wham, Wolves, Spurs). Next year will likely be the same.

    – Tavares was not the worst player on the pitch, not the worst of the back 6 even. That is improvement!

    1. The lack of energy was noticeable. And it was puzzling, because it was a “destiny” game. The sort of game about which they make films with moody soundtracks and plenty of slo mo. ‘Escape to Victory’ stuff. How do you not get up for that? One answer was quality. We lacked it in key areas, most noticeably in the middle of the park.

      All of us had hopes, but I’d no idea what to actually expect. My only fear was that we’re slow to bounce back from losses. The team sometimes shows a fragility. When its flying, its flying. But it sometimes does not seem resilient enough to knocks.

      I’m with Shard on progression, and on reminding everyone what the stated aim was. Was it delusion? Perhaps, but that was their plan. So unless you consider 8th to be par, then we underachieved last year. Therefore if we underachieved, 6th would be standing still. Therefore 5th is a micro improvement, but, given a quarter of a billion in spending over 2 TWs and a clear midweek schedule exacerbated by early cup exits, it’s effectively standstill as well. 3 games a week is what used to kill us on our run in. It’s ironic that we took an axe to one of the key advantages we enjoyed… depth without fixture stress.

      4th should have been within our capabilities, and the state of play a week ago showed that it was realistic, as some of have been arguing all season long. This is a collapse, plain and simple. It’s not our manifest destiny. Intentionally weakening what was a good but not great squad with decent depth at the start of the season, and cutting that depth to the bone, has backfired.

  6. “Former Arsenal captain Xhaka played the full 90 minutes on Monday and later accused his teammates of lacking “balls” in a post-game interview.

    Xhaka also claimed that some Arsenal players had not followed instructions from manager Mikel Arteta.”

    I dont believe the problem was attitude over lack of effort. The team played scared and this is what it looks like when we can not execute the game plan

  7. Hope kills. Especially hurts when we spursed it up so tragically. Our epic collapses over the past few years is a really a modern day Sisyphus act. Would have been a good fairy tale ending to shout about with this emergence of really promising crop of youth but it seems like its going to be yet another season of what ifs. Definitely not looking forward to the Sunday / Monday fixtures next season. Hopefully Norwich and Everton can give us some relegation “spurred” presents. We can only yearn for hope (might as well since we are already dead inside already).

  8. Another quote from the xhaka interview

    “Sorry to them [fans], I don’t have any other words.

    “The dressing room is very quiet. The game plan was totally different to what we did over 90 minutes.”

  9. It sucks…. that it’s 6 years without CL football…. That next season is the Thursday-Monday purgatory…. That the manager lacks experience…. That for all the talk of improved mentality this side is flaky…. That we won’t get our top targets in the Summer… That this was the year without Europe when others lost their way…. That Spurs were the ones to derail our season …. That it’s going to be so much harder next term.

    This feels like the Emery collapse. You never want to finish a season on a low. It will be very difficult to pick the team up. They knew CL was in their hands.

    We got over-run in midfield and couldn’t handle pressure. I’ve written that several times this season. A new striker doesn’t make those problems go away.

    1. I agree with you about midfield and have said it for a long time.

      It’s also not a surprise that once again no manager – no matter how much he changes the system to hide his flaws – can get Granit Xhaka into top 4.

      1. Xhaka – he’s like some dreadful hex.

        I’m struggling to be optimistic (not because of the collapse) but I think we’ll struggle to strengthen enough. Conte will get a war-chest; United have no spending limits and Newcastle will pay top dollar (and to be fair their ‘project’ is exciting at the moment).

        We’ve over-relied on the kids and their performances have tapered towards season end. How do we keep them fresh and increasing their ceilings next season with 30-40% more playing time?

        We may well look back on the past two games as definitive of Arteta’s project.

      2. This is so comical especially when the same man lays into the team he has systemically hamstrung.

        This season could have been better if the recruitment was realistic, it wasn’t.

        Keeping Xhaka, buying Lokonga & Tavares, plus $50m on Ben White only to discover they won’t be enough, is a joke.

        Especially Xhaka’s stay instead of moving to Roma over a fee disparity. If Arsenal truly wanted to do better, a midfield overhaul should have signalled this intention.

        The recruitment process is looking worse than the actual coaching and playing style.

        A summer sale of Pepe, Xhaka and purchasing replacements will determine how well next season ends.

  10. We’ve already signed a backup keeper, Tim. I’ve forgotten his name, but he’s the team USA keeper. Along with Auston Trusty CB of the Colorado Trust Funds.

  11. I’m not terribly disappointed by 5th, but it’s frustrating when 4th and maybe 3rd were achievable.
    Whether Chelsea is good going forward depends a lot on the sale. If things go badly with that, they could be in trouble. But United and Newcastle should improve, and Spurs will stay competitive.
    We need some better recruitment, and we need to keep some players healthy. Can’t believe how many muscular injuries we’re having. And the Auba thing continues to look like a mistake. That needed to be fixed, not blown up.
    Jury is still out on Arteta for me.

  12. sorry tim, but arsenal had a strong enough line-up to beat newcastle. if you were to combine both rosters, only wilson and guimaraes from newcastle get into the starting 11; i can appreciate an argument for saint-maximin and longstaff to get into that team but arsenal had the better players. where newcastle had the advantage was on the touchline.

    arteta, once again, got out-coached. in the first 5 minutes of the game, you could see that newcastle were a significant opponent. as the game progressed, you could see arteta hadn’t a clue how to solve the problem he had on the field. even if he did have a clue, that crowd was too loud. this is why you can’t win only with kids. you need some experienced players who know how to win tough games. well, we saw arteta come in and summarily dismiss any player that had any sort of balls and had won anything. this has been my perpetual argument against this manager; he doesn’t know how to manage players who aren’t kids. he doesn’t seem to know how to respect and lead men who are experienced campaigners; only if they’re yes-men.

    there was an argument that newcastle would essentially be on vacation as they had nothing to play for. well, i said a few weeks ago that there were plenty of players that were playing for their newcastle careers as they want to be part of this project moving forward and would not be on vacation. we saw that clearly yesterday

    tim, the disappointment is that, regardless of what expectations were in preseason, arsenal were fourth and 4 points clear with 3 games to go. surely, they could see that out, right? nope! they blew it. i mean like the atlanta falcons in the super bowl, blew it. you can blame the players but that’s on the manager.

    1. I’m sure you’ve seen Xhaka’s little screed against his teammates by now, I’m curious what you think of it? He literally says that the players didn’t listen to Arteta and that they were scared.

      1. So long as he’s including himself in those comments, then Xhaka’s comments were fair. The players did look scared. ESR was MIA. Gabriel and White looked hesitant, like they knew one wrong move and they’d pull their hamstrings again. I’ve never seen Tomiyasu pawing at players or whiffing on tackles like he against St Maximin in that first 30 minutes, who is really all feathers, not a lot of chicken – an in-form Tomiyasu laughs at the showboating. Elneny and Odegaard were bullied by a very physical press. Pepe was awful. Martinelli came on and was wearing cement boots.

        After we lost to Spurs I expected this, because the psychology of this team all season has been to lose in bunches. We’re streaky and Arteta has Guardiola’s need for the game to be controlled and measured. And when it becomes chaotic the team loses its head, the same way City lost its head against Madrid. I think there’s a reason we only have one dramatic comeback this year (Wolves) and we have such a lousy record when the other team scores first – we struggle with creating and dealing with chaotic situations. Newcastle knew this and came in with a very aggressive press, a very physical game that targeted our injured CBs, making them chase Wilson around the box with pulled hamstrings. We couldn’t handle the chaos.

        Which is why I think this game was lost on Thursday and when we didn’t go for the pragmatic, play-for-the-draw strategy. Had we tied on Thursday we’d be celebrating today.

        1. Xhaka was calling out his teammates. He said that some of them needed to stay home and that they didn’t follow Arteta’s instructions.

          No matter how you read it, or watch the interview, it’s a huge condemnation of his teammates.

          1. My take on Xhaka’s comments:

            – This is why Arteta loves him. He’s prepared to be his shit shield
            – Players never publicly blame the manager or coaching staff (how can they?)
            – Questioning the team’s character is dressing room talk. I don’t see how his comments help the team
            – All the talk of ‘lack of balls’ is typical Xhaka machismo. He talks like he plays
            – In all his years I haven’t seen an ounce of introspection from Xhaka. The guy who has let his teammates down more than any player and has done nothing to refine and improve his game.

      2. i don’t have a problem with xhaka’s comments. the fact that he said them publicly doesn’t make them less true. what i hate is this was the situation the manager created for that young arsenal team. fear is a real thing. people are human and you have to respect the human condition.

        i’m willing to bet my house that xhaka was talking about odegaard and that’s what’s the shame. martin is a great talent. however, he hasn’t lead that team to victory in a tough game. he’s too young and it’s not his time to lead yet but there he was, rocking the armband. he didn’t ask to be captain. did you see his face in the tunnel before the game? that tyneside crowd had him downright terrified. once again, that’s not his his fault. he’s doing his best. arteta got rid of all the guys with the personality and experience to lead a team in tough venues and replaced them with yes men and kids. that’s not to mention how i feel about attacking players wearing the armband anyway.

        what i love about xhaka is we know he’s no punk and when it’s time to fight, he’ll never hide. he’s a leader. i don’t understand the leadership dynamic at arsenal. conventional wisdom suggests senior guys taking the lead. however, it seems that the last person to get the armband for arsenal is granit xhaka. maybe it was the falling out with the fans. maybe arteta thinks he plays better when he’s only focused on his game. what i do know is the arsenal team has capitulated this top 4 finish due to a lack of on-field leadership in tough games.

        in easy games, particularly in the cushy confines of the emirates, the leadership is not so important. however, the tough games, especially away where the tackles are committed and the crowd is hostile, and the plan’s not working, you really need a leader on the pitch. odegaard wasn’t ready for that moment or the moment at tottenham. i want to reiterate, it’s not odegaard’s fault. he has no business leading a team like arsenal when he’s only twelve years old. when you see xhaka, ramsdale, and gabriel all yelling at him, it’s clear they don’t consider him the leader that has earned the team’s respect. he’s not the guy they’re going to look to in tough games. again, he didn’t make himself captain.

  13. claude, on their first goal, i have two schools of thought on elneney’s defending. first, if i were elneny and i had a center forward in that wide area, on his weaker foot trying to cross the ball into a 1v3 situation, i’m going to make that play as predictable as possible and trust my team mates in the middle to manage that cross being played in with his weaker foot. the alternative is to try and stop the cross but that allows joelinton to chop, putting the ball on his dominant foot and more newcastle players to get into the arsenal box. nope, i’m going to make him commit now and make the play as predictable as possible, especially when i have such a significant numbers advantage.

    the second thought is that maybe elneny wasn’t fast enough to catch and keep up with joelinton. we have to remember that mo elneny is not tomiyasu or even cedric so his 1v1 defending in the wide areas might look a bit weirder than we’re used to. what’s more disappointing to me is that ben white should have taken up a better position. like i said earlier, elneny made that play very predictable. white should have gotten to the spot. with that, i offer that perhaps white tried but, like his egyptian team mate, simply lacked the speed to get back in time. on the flip side, maybe you were right in white’s belief in his ability superseding his tactical intelligence and discipline to get to the spot early. i would certainly ask more questions of ben white than elneny.

    1. Fair points. Elneny looked laboured running after him. That said, he has to block the cross or the square, whether Joelinton checks back onto his sweeter foot or not. In cricket, we call that area into which he squared the ball the “corridor of uncertainty”. Two a penny defenders for bottom 3 clubs are not allowing him square or cross the ball with either foot. Defending is more effective if done earlier in the play. Block, reset, make them take the throw (Rory Delap excepted🙂). If Elneny puts in a tackle and loses, fair play to the attacker, but he doesn’t. And this is the criticism I’ve had of him for 5 years. He’s a marker of space, not of men. Yeah he’s cheap and a squad player, but at this stage of the never-ending rebuild, you want to move on from the likes of him and Xhaka.

      You mentioned Ben White being more culpable. Probably, and only in as far as reading the danger and moving earlier to cut it out. He actually had a good game overall yesterday, but all of this throwing himself into blocks gives me Mustafi vibes. Yesterday was marked by a lack of defensive composure that started in the midfield.

      Sad thing is that we are going to miss our top targets. To the extent that you can trust the reporting, Tielemans has reportedly said that he won’t join unless we have CL. It’s a frustrating circle. We won’t get the top buys if we’re not at the next level, and the duds we keep won’t get us there.

  14. Tim

    If you read the whole article I think Xhaka was saying he did not know why the team played the way it did. He said the dressing room was quite which suggests the team knew it did not play well enough in such a big game. He mentioned a couple times about not having the cajones and being nervous. I agree with Josh.. My belief is the players as a collective lost their nerve and when that happens they can’t execute the game plan.


    Be reasonable. The manager can’t go on to the pitch and kick the ball for the players and there is absolutely nothing a manager can do if the players can’t execute a game plan effectively.

  15. Thanks for the post Tim. I agree completely with basically everything you wrote. I suspect there were very few fans who really believed at the start of the season that we had a squad that could finish in the top 4. At the start of this season most realistic fans would not have been ecstatic if they knew we finished 5th and actually still had a chance to finish in 4th after 37 games. I think we have had a season which is much better then anyone should have expected and if we buy some good players this summer we have a realistic chance to go very deep and may be even win the Europa league. I also agree that the #1 need for this team is a couple forwards who can score and the same was true last summer. We have played better football most of this season but you win games by scoring goals and despite the better football we have only scored 1 more goal then we did last season. The difficulty we have scoring goals is a direct result on not have in enough firepower upfront.

  16. Josh.

    In My comment at 4:50AM I was going to say “I agree with Josh that we had more then enough quality to compete with Newcastle” but I was distracted and did not finish the thought I meant to write. Sorry.

    The bottom line from yesterdays game was the team is good enough to would have beat Newcastle on most days but we lost our nerve.

  17. A few things about Xhaka’s soliloquy…

    1. It was 0-0 at halftime. And more than apparent by then that they were not “sticking to the gameplan”. Halftimes are more than about sucking half oranges. It’s about making tactical adjustments. Perhaps he was better off being Churchill at halftime, in the dressing room, rather than to the press afterwards.

    2. It was his crappy clearance and switching off that allowed Guimaraes to run unchallenged through a static defence and steer in the rebound from Ramsdale’s save. He wasnt exactly doing as he said, was he?

    3. There was rather too much “they” than we. I like the honest expression, but he’s the leader of the team (irrespective of who wears the armband). All that came across as is a suck up to the manager. It is not a good look when a senior player throws his colleagues under the bus. Perhaps his reward will be the captaincy.

    Granit is the last person I want to hear blasting teammates. Which teammates blasted him when he left them short a man after a boneheaded red card? Which teammate blasted him in public when he tugged at Bernardo’s shirt… while the player was in the act of diving? Xhaka has cost this team more than the 2 points that they’re behind Spurs. That little speech “dont impress me much”.

      1. I don’t like the fact he had no answers. When the whole team fails to turn up for it’s cup final the guy in charge better know.

        1. mikel didn’t give any excuses because he was smart enough to know that nothing he said would have made him look good. likewise, he was preoccupied with the weight of knowing that arsenal’s chances for qualifying for the champions league were in his hand and he’s lost them.

          what’s more worrying is that, during the game, he couldn’t come up with a solution to the problem newcastle presented despite having better players.

          1. Our midfield lost basically every duel and couldn’t beat the press. The one change to try and circumvent it that I noticed was Xhaka dropping into the LB space after halftime to pick up the ball where a Newcastle player wasn’t immediately on top of him. I think it helped a little, but then we conceded the first and everything went doo-doo shaped fast. The last two changes (Lacazette and Pepe) probably made the team function even worse than before.

            Also, Guimaraes had all day on the ball, with no one closing him down effectively. I assume someone was supposed to (Odegaard? Nketiah?) If not, that was pretty negligent on Arteta’s part, as he tore us a new one.

    1. tim asked me a little higher up about xhaka’s interview. i think you posted when i was writing mine.

      i don’t think xhaka was critical of a mistake or error anyone committed. his comment was more about an approach or mentality thing. sure, xhaka has made a bunch of awful mistakes in his career but he’s never been afraid to show up anywhere and fight. i’m not going to regurgitate it all here. i posted more comprehensively higher up.

      1. Yeah, I think we did the 2 ships thing. Did he fight, though? Certainly not on preventing the 2nd goal. Watch him again. He’s rooted. Frozen after his clearance error. What he should have done if he was really being honest is taken collective responsibility, because he sure as hell was as culpable as anyone else in the defeat. Pashun (thanks Tim) and bellowing and looking gritty and committed isn’t the same as playing well, and he didn’t play well either. This is the main point I’m making.

        I think that in your reply to Tim, you’re harsh on Odegaard. Where is the evidence that Captain Xhaka has stiffened spines on the field? For Switzerland, yes. Not for us.

    2. I think Xhaka was chosen for the interview because this is how he answers after a defeat. I’m going to disagree with Joshuad in that I didn’t think he was talking about anybody in particular, rather as a collective. He was specifically asked about age being a factor after he said we didn’t perform the way we should, and that’s when he said age is not important to this and you shouldn’t play if you’re not ready.

      He said much the same thing under Emery once. I think it’s his way of not hiding from the outcome, and believing the players, himself included, need to be more responsible for the results on the pitch. We were scared, we didn’t execute the gameplan. He probably believes it too. I don’t think he says it to curry favour with the manager. He’s a pretty straightforward guy in my opinion.

      1. So who should stay home or stay on the bench if they’re not ready for battle? Himself?
        Who didn’t have the balls? Himself?
        And when did it become apparent that the game plan wasnt being executed? When they scored?

        The screed plainly wasn’t self reflective, or speaking to collective responsibility. The most I’ll allow him is unchecked frustration.

  18. Still having some trouble with the reply function at times.


    It was frustration but I don’t know where the idea comes from that he is separating himself from the blame. He said it’s difficult to find the right words, he doesn’t know what happened and why we weren’t listening to the coach. Ok, sure maybe you think that means he’s saying I listened they didn’t, but how else is he supposed to mention a team performance if he thinks that’s the issue?

    In the past he’s said we played scared, and Emery at the time denied/played it down. It seems to be his go to view of situations. We need people with balls has been his thing ever since Deeney and the media made it an issue.

    He mentioned stay at home or on the bench if you are scared only after he was invited to use age as an excuse. Yeah we’re a young side we will learn etc. Which is clearly not Xhaka’s thing. He’s never going to answer that question that way. So he said age is not a factor.. whether you’re 30, 35, 10, or 18.. you need to have the balls to perform. Clearly he’s being hyperbolic about this but I don’t see it as singling anyone out.

    1. I’ll disagree here – I suspect we’ve all heard some version of the self-exculpatory “we”. Just psychologically, nobody who is holding themselves accountable talks in those terms (from the video, not just the transcript). Also, we know Xhaka – if he held himself to high standards, his play would look quite different.

      Just imagine if after Saka missed that penalty for England, Southgate or an England player comes out and says “if you’re not ready to take a penalty, you shouldn’t be here”. In a general sense, it would be true, but Arsenal fans (and probably quite a lot of others) would have mauled them on the spot.

  19. I replied to an earlier comment, it seems to have gone in to the ether?

    Anyway – I’m disappointed at our form here the last 7 or 8 game, victories against Chelsea and West Ham aside. We really should have found ways to get points off Crystal Palace and Brighton and then played for the draw on Thursday and we’d be laughing now. But realistically, we’re the 5th best team in the league, it’s where we should have finished. As I said before, Spurs, had they had the intelligence to hire Conte in the summer, would probably be in 3rd right now, over Chelsea.

    That said, you can see that the January gamble to chop surplus salaries from the squad has now made us look thin and tired right at the death of the season. I supported the decision to let Auba go, but AMN in particular would have been useful the last few games. But c’est la vie.

    Let’s see what business they do this summer. We need to score about 20-25 goals more next season, and get into the 70’s to improve. One good striker and more improvement from Martinelli, Saka and ESR, some better finishing from Odegaard and that should cover our goal production which has flatlined the last 3 years. I don’t think this was our “last chance” to get into the top 4; let’s see if Man Utd can overhaul their squad and if ten Hag can coach in the PL and it looks like Chelsea will be fielding academy kids on defense next year. Spurs avoided major injuries this year, but we know that won’t last and with Kane being 29 and Son 30, they are just over their peak years now. We can do this even with Europa League next season.

  20. In mid season or in our best form we would beat Newcastle 8 out of 10 times. Its my belief when a team loses its collective nerve it starts play with an avoid mistakes mindset rather then being the aggressor. For example in the play Josh described in his comment at 3:37AM, Elneny had a couple choices of how to play it but either option could have turned out to be a mistake and instead of committing to one or the other you end up not committing to anything. The opposition senses that you are indecisive and they become even more aggressive and it starts to look like you are second to every loose ball and even though its not the case it looks like you don’t care as much as the opposition and you are not playing with 100% energy or commitment. The game plan goes completely out the windows because you can’t execute the things you want to do and even though its not true its looks like there was never a viable game plan.

    Pep could not stop the slide when his team melted down against Madrid in the recent CL semifinal. Arsene could not find a way to stop the slide in last 1/3 of the 07/08 or the 15/16 season and moar do us believe those are 2 of the best managers in the world. Expecting Arteta or any manager to be able to stop a slide like yesterday is just not realistic. No matter how smart the manager or how well the coaching staff prepares there is nothing they can do if for whatever reason the players can’t execute once they set foot on the pitch.

  21. Jack

    We have been here dozens and dozens of time in the last 16-17 years and history tells us we can’t count on continued improvement from Martinelli Saka and ESR. That strategy has not worked in the past. It would be great if they do get better but we can’t make that the centerpiece of our long term strategy . We need to buy at least a couple of scorers who can carry the load and if Saka, Martinelli and ESR do get better then we are that much further ahead.

    1. Oh, I completely agree. I said “one good striker” + improvement. If (big if) we sign Gabriel Jesus, what could he produce for us? I’m going to be conservative and say he’s a 15 goal/5 assist striker, he won’t be prolific. But he improves on Lacazette by 10-11 goals. We need 9-10 more. Folarin Balogun? Maybe good for 4-5 goals, he’s as good as Nketiah in my opinion. I can’t see us buying another striker, much as I’d like us to splash on both Jesus and DCL. But to ask Martinelli to score 3 or 4 more goals next year, ask Odegaard to get 2 or 3 more, ESR to repeat his double digit scoring, these aren’t unreasonable given their ages.

      Let’s also consider Pepe didn’t play much because he’s a defensive horror show and offers no control, no ball possession or ability to press on right flank, so Arteta didn’t trust him. If he’d played more, he might have scored 9-10 goals. I’m pretty sure he’s gone this summer and we’re either going to bring back Reiss-Nelson or integrate the new kid from Brazil – if either one of them show an eagerness to defend and press they will get time and score a few goals also.

      We just need to score more and we’ll be top 4.

  22. Spurs and Chelsea made a couple of big calls that paid off.

    Spurs wasted no time in getting rid of Nuno Espirito Santo, once it became clear that the job was too big for him. I agree with Jack… the hire of Conte was timely, and it might have even been better than 4th for them had he been there at the start. Secondly, they hired well in January… Kulusevsky. Instant impact player, and he had an effect on the NLD. Not a sexy big name… a good player they needed, and who perfectly fit their system. Conte’s Spurs beat City, and were unbeaten against Liverpool. Even when we outplayed a leggy City round new year when we had the advantage of a game off, we found a way to still lose to them.

    At Chelsea, there was no more of a beloved figure than Frank Lampard. He certainly had a far bigger impact at that club than Arteta did at Arsenal. His managerial record was no worse than Arteta’s at one stage. But they ruthlessly got rid, once they sussed that he wasn’t at the level to match their ambitions.

    Both clubs went into to the market, and got experience and proven top shelf. No time for sentiment or pie in the sky projects. The approach paid off for both of them. Arsenal, I dunno. Perhaps our approach will bear fruit in 5 years. There’s no evidence, currently, that it’s a winning one. But hey, Mikel may very well be the Sean McVay of the EPL, as KSE apparently hopes.

    Bill says: “Expecting Arteta or any manager to be able to stop a slide like yesterday is just not realistic”.

    Sorry, my bro, that’s literally the job of a manager and coach. And that’s another way of saying that comebacks don’t exist in football. Reminder… it was 0-0 at halftime. Not saying it’s ALL on the manager. But it isn’t all on the players either. Arteta is paid to find solutions… pre-game, post-game and in-game. And in-game, examples are too numerous to mention. Too numerous.

  23. Claude

    We still have remote chance for 4th after 37 games and we will most likely end up in 5th place and one the Europa league favorites next season. We did this with a squad where the top 2 scorers had 8 career league goals combined between them before this season. Stop and think about that for a second or 2. I don’t how anyone can downplay just difficult and unlikely finishing 5th place really was. Implying Arteta has not done a good job of on field management seems unreasonable at least in my opinion. Finding a way for this team to finish 5th should have been above any realistic expectations

    1. Way to move the goalposts, huh?. Dont want to talk about coaches having to win games from behind anymore? 🙂

      Regardless, we’re not getting 4th, fam. I think you’ll find that we began the season with more attacking resources than ESR and Saka. One of those resources is scoring for fun in La Liga. Accident? Don’t think so.

      After the lightest fixture list and highest spend in the club’s recent history, some of us seem oddly determined to call underachieving 8th to 5th an outstanding achievement. Look, we were 4 points clear in 4th with 3 games to go, and collapsed. You can dance around that however much you like.

      We’ve conceded 8 more goals with a game to go. And in 3 tries, Arteta is again going to fall short of Emery’s points total, 70. It’s not terrible, but it’s average, all circumstances considered. Arteta’s greatest conjuring trick is selling cotton to some fans, and getting them to call it silk. Cotton is fine, mind. But it’s not silk.

  24. Claude

    Pep is one of the worlds best managers and so was Arsene at one time but Pep couldn’t find a solution when his team imploded against Madrid. Arsene’s team had the league lead in 07/08 for most of the season and if my memory is correct we held first place over Leicester in January or early Feb. Are those guys bad managers because they could not find a solution when their players stopped executing as well as they needed.

    Its easy to say the managers job is finding solutions but you have been watching for football for a while now and you have to realize that there is nothing a manager can do when the players lose their nerve the way ours did yesterday.

  25. That was disappointing and heartbreaking. Shattered the dreams of a lot of young players. We have been hobbling to the finish line, and yesterday we just fell down. That was a very compromised back line, despite the fact that we had 3 of our preferred starters – none of them was 100%. I thought Nuno acquitted himself well, but Cedric was again a massive liability. He’s too easily beaten – not physically strong, big or fast enough to be a good FB or even a backup.

    Winning with 3 injured defenders and a second stringer at the back was going to take a miracle. As Tim’s twitter thread today has shown, Partey’s absence has been a big problem. That we managed to compete without him, against some big clubs was more of a feat than maybe we realized. Did Elneny make even one forward pass on the day? Dude never turned to push forward. Even when he wasn’t pressured, or we were on a break opportunity, he still passed backward. Xhaka wasn’t much better. That’s a lot of why Odegaard couldn’t get the ball. It didn’t get past the midfield much.

    This I will also put down to the manager. After a half of struggling to progress the ball, you have to make changes to address it. We had a few good minutes but reverted back to terrible very soon thereafter. To be fair, he was out of options. No one left to turn to. And yes, that’s at least partially on him for not replenishing in January. I’ve had a completely unfounded theory that Mikel’s trip to watch hockey in January was about exactly that. He told the Kroenkes he wanted more money for transfers to get some depth (or a striker) and they basically said no, but we won’t hold that against you if it doesn’t work. And it didn’t.

    I’m not satisfied with 5th. It should have been 4th, but I’ve seen progress this year, and been defended Mikel. I won’t give him the same leeway next year. Champions League or he’s out.

    1. Re your unfounded theory – my fear is that they told him we’re not spending Vlahovic money unless you guarantee top 4. Or we’ll spend it after you get top 4.

      That’s what this “three scenarios” stuff is about – one budget for CL, one budget for EL etc. If you think about it for a second, it makes no sense. If your squad isn’t good enough to make 4th, you should be spending *more* money, not less, to rectify that. Or improving management. But the club has gotten very proficient at presenting lowering of ambition as “sensible”.

      1. TH – It will be very interesting to see what the spending is like this summer. Having trimmed the wages, the club can afford to bring in some additional talent, and we need bodies for EL. Your point is spot on – buying EL-level talent won’t get us to the CL. It seems to me KSE see this as a long-term project, and aren’t in a hurry to get CL as much as we want them. To be fair, last-minute, ad-hoc buying in the transfer window doesn’t lend itself to long-term success, and the club need to avoid making the same kinds of bad deals we’ve done over the last 5 years or so.

  26. How many managers would be able to improve their teams table position the next season when the 3 players who scored 60% of the goals all crater and stop producing at the same time?

  27. “Its easy to say the managers job is finding solutions”

    It really is, Bill. Jobs are won and lost on the basis of this simple truth.

    You argue simultaneously that:
    (a) “there is nothing a manager can do” to affect play (what you want him to do? go kick the damn thing himself???!!); but

    (b) Arteta took a bunch of goal-shy players over whom he has no in-game control to a brilliant placement (5th)

    Is the manager accountable for results, or isnt he? Pick an argument, bro. You cant have it both ways. You cant put points lost solely on the players and points won on the manager.

    On your Pep comparison, no one called Arteta “a bad manager” because he lost the game. Pep lost to Real from a winning position, but his teams have done that to others.

    Look, you can make an argument that 5th is creditable, even good. Others here have. But with respect, your arguments are glaringly contradictory. Bad, even.

  28. 7th best offense to date
    8th best defense to date.

    Does NOT equal top 4

    Can’t win or draw when coming from behind
    Attack is anemic, been that way for last 2.5 years!

    Basically, the last 3 years everything is the same, except we have younger injury prone players.

    This guy is not taking any club to the promised land, take that to the bank.

    1. It seems most Arsenal fans are finding it difficult to realize this. Or maybe they’re filled with hopium.

      Watching Arsenal these days is now a chore. Even when we win. If you’re not an Arsenal fan, will you be watching these games?

      Whether it takes 1, 2, or 5 years, a time is coming when majority of Arsenal fans will see that Arteta is not the manager that can get us to where we want to be.

  29. I’ll say it again this team needs a stronger midfield that can control games. We all hoped Partey was the answer but he’s too injury prone (and that’s unlikely to improve).

    I’d be looking at Bissouma and Phillips this Summer and definitely move on Xhaka.

    Arteta missed his internal target. I firmly believe Kroenke backed him big in the Summer to make top 4. No matter how people rationalise it we threw it away.

    It’s easy to say a shiny new striker adds more goals but 2.5 years in the pattern of lack of creativity, lack of big chance creation and lack of goals is undeniably ArtetaBall.

    1. I’m with you, Matt. Part-time Partey + Xhaka and a bunch of mediocre guys won’t get us Top 4. Having said that, we also need goal scorers. I would wager our chance creation with a healthy Partey is actually pretty good. He’s just not consistently healthy.

      1. Thanks LA. Big Summer ahead. The club is going to have to raise funds to spend. A new striker is likely £50M+. I’m not sure what’s left after that? Guendouzi, Torreira and others will leave. Will Leno, Pepe and Bellerin stay? Can’t see it. I think come August we’ll all be moaning about how cheap we let players go and how few signings we made. And Xhaka will still be here. At least we can celebrate the ‘youngest starting 11 trophy’ and ‘most reduced wage bill medal’ 😉

  30. A few more stats which I got from Arseblog.

    Martinelli 1 goal in last 21 appearances
    Nketiah. 4 goals in last 20 appearances
    Lacazette 1 goal in last 18 appearances
    Saka 6 goals in last 20 appearances. 1 goal from open play in the last 12 games
    Smith-Rowe 2 goals in the last 18 appearances.

    In league games in calender year 2022 Son Hoeng-Min from Spurs has only few goal by himself then Martinelli, Nketiah, Lacazette, Saka and Smith-Rowe combined.

    Those are the 5 guys who have played almost all our minutes at forward in this calender year. One player for Spurs has almost outscored all of our forwards combined. The fact that we still have a chance to catch spurs seems almost miraculous. It just points out again how badly we need more firepower upfront.

  31. Matt

    Tim wrote a post on April 27 where he showed with a whole lot of stats showing that we have played much better football this season. That would argue against your contention the problem is in the midfield. Despite playing much better football you only have to look at the stats in the comment at 10:46AM to see that we still struggle to score and those numbers certainly suggest the biggest problem is lack of production from the forwards.

    1. A funny thing happened since April…

      Anyway, these things don’t have to be either/or. We need a new midfielder and a striker. I think we also need backups for the fullbacks.

  32. Gunnerblog (James McNicholas, an Arsenal supporting blogger who writes for The Athletic), reports that 3 of our back 4 went into the Newcastle game carrying injuries. White, Gabriel and Tomiyasu. Gabriel’s subbing off wasnt tactical. He couldnt last the game. Unbelievable.

    Welcome to Arteta squad management, where if he attempts to replace even one player out of his best, preferred XI, chaos reigns. Europe or no Europe; nominally 1 game a week, not 3. Nuno for Tierney? Shock horror… can’t have that. He’s the positional deputy, you say? Yes, but have you seen the qualitative drop off?

    Meanwhile Mavro is out on loan and now being eyed by Bayern, Saliba is making a name for himself as one of the best footballers in France, AMN is out on loan, Mari is out on loan, and we sell Chambers (who as Tim pointed out, is no less accomplished a footballer than Ben White). Don’t even get me started on the midfield, where we deployed 2 players who have for 5 years at least been symbols of Arsenal’s underachievement and stasis.

    Madness. We have learned nothing since we rushed Partey back, and it complicated his recovery. The people running things on and off the field are tinkling on the club, and some of us fans want to call it bracing, refreshing rain.

    If reports are to be believed, Juve want to buy Gabriel, and while it’s not clear if we’ll sell (we shouldn’t), we’ve put a valuation of £50m on him. Tell me again that Brighton didnt rob us for White.

    What a bunch of amateurs we look like sometimes. Sheesh.

    1. It’s not Chambers who is comparable to Ben White statistically, it’s actually Rob Holding.

      Now, I think Rob has a bit of a more childish mentality and I think Ben carries the ball better but their passing is very similar.

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