Get some getback

Arsenal mounted a comeback win over a very well organized, hard working, and talented Fulham side to retain their perfect start to the season and their place at the top of the Premier League table.

It was a comeback win for Arsenal but it probably shouldn’t have been. For the vast majority of the match, Arsenal controlled the action and was able to create chances almost at will. Fulham spent most of the time in their own box, stalwartly defending against Arsenal forays.

No player epitomized the Fulham approach more than the American left back Antonee Robinson. Arsenal constantly challenged him and he rose to the occasion with a great performance. Bukayo Saka went 3/12 dribbles and Antonee Robinson made 6/7 tackles*. Let’s not take these numbers as gospel but rather let them illustrate the point that Robinson made life tough for Arsenal’s star player.

But Robinson also struggled going forward and Arsenal largely made life difficult for Fulham with their high press. One possession illustrated this perfectly: Robinson won the ball off Saka with a brilliant tackle, surely stopping a play that would lead to a shot, but then was himself immediately tackled and Arsenal did end up getting that shot off.

Arsenal’s forward play was so good and their defending from the front so overwhelming that Fulham’s real first attack came in the 29th minute: a big cross for a shot well over the bar. It took them another 8 minutes for their second shot of note, a long range attempt which was as half-hearted a shot as I’ve seen in the League.

Meanwhile, Arsenal were piling the pressure on. Leno was forced into a good save on a 1 v. 1 with Bukayo Saka. A bit of a scrappy play, Fulham tried to close space, but the ball fell to Ben White and he played a delicious throughball for Saka who beat his defender with a behind the back dribble. Saka tried to curl a left-footed shot but Leno was hip to the move and made a save.

Arsenal attacked like that from the start. Xhaka in particular continued in his role as late-arriving centermidfieldforward. This new position that Xhaka has taken this season has sparked some conversation. For any fans wondering whether Arteta’s approach to matches has changed or what impact a manager has on a team they need look no further than Xhaka’s role in this team under Arteta.

Under Emery and Wenger, Xhaka was a nearly 100 touch a game player. He was expected to be the lone deep lying midfielder and DM, controlling the game with his wide array of passing. But his weaknesses under pressure and inability to cover ground in defense saw both Arteta and Unai try a double-pivot with him. That relieved some of the pressure, but Arteta’s early system was extremely rigid and Xhaka largely stayed in a box about 30 yards by 15 yards. Well back, and not as often involved in collecting the first ball from the defenders. And in the last 18 months, Arteta’s system has evolved. This formation has been growing over the last season and a half but we now see that Arteta has returned to Wenger’s lone DM. This change seems more permanent now, given that Elneny started yesterday and Arsenal still played the same way.

Arteta has evolved. We no longer seem to play the ultra conservative play of his early days. He seems to have found a wonderfully complimentary role for Xhaka. This is a compliment. Too many managers get stuck playing one way and one way only. Wenger was certainly guilty of this – he stuck with playing styles that didn’t fit for far too long and it was frustrating. I honestly believe that Arteta has taken criticism onboard (I’m not saying he listened to bloggers or whatever), I think he looked at himself and at how Arsenal were playing, and concluded that he needed to change the way that we play. He has done this three times by my count and in each evolution it has been exciting to watch. We are now at what I consider his best approach to the game.

Saka, Odegaard, and Martinelli have also grown together and now seem to have that sort of footballing empathy which makes them great teammates. They pass the ball so well in tight spaces that it’s as if they have been practicing rondos together in a broom closet against 6 defenders. The Ode goal illustrated this so well: Saka drove at the Fulham defense, retaining control despite many attempts to get the ball back, and dumps a perfect little pass to Ode who took a perfect step over and shot. There was a slight deflection but it would be rude to take that goal away from the Arsenal man.

Odegaard overall was incredible. Folks often heaped praise on Ozil for his ability to pop up in spaces and find the perfect pass to a teammate to open the game up. Ode does that same thing, lifting the ball over defenders, turning his marker, finding space and finding throughballs. But Ode adds something that Ozil was oft criticized for: he takes control of games. He took control of the match against Fulham. He only ended up with 2 key passes but he was the glue which bound Jesus, Martinelli and Saka together. His touch is almost always perfect, his vision is amazing, and his final ball is perfect when needed. And he is especially happy in his role in Arteta’s new system.

Arsenal, though, only found themselves with a 1-1 draw and clearly weren’t going to settle. Arteta brought on Nketiah and it immediately provided dividends. The work that Nketiah has put in, increasing his muscle mass, and on his attacking techniques is already paying off in certain areas and so close to paying off in goals scored. He turned a defender a few seconds after his inclusion in a way that would have elicited cheers from the other players if they were playing five a side. It was sick. And his touch for Ode’s lifted pass to him was soft and sumptuous: like a pillowy strawberry mousse, formed into a quenelle, and covered in white chocolate ganache. His finish wasn’t perfect but that’s something which Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp often mentions takes time for players to learn: they have to work with the ball, see the spin, see where to put their foot on it, and have that ice in their veins that lets them make the strike under the pressure of 60,000 watching eyes.

The only negative in the game was the mistake for the goal Arsenal allowed. Gabriel was caught on the ball by Mitrovic and the Fulham man put the chance away. Gabriel might get the official “error” but it was really Saka’s cross field pass which caused the problem – giving Mitrovic time to start his tractor engine and get up to full speed to close down. The good news, however, is that after the match Saka and Gabriel clearly had a chat about the pass and it looked like Saka agreed and apologized.

Gabriel would get his redemption, however. In the 85th minute, after a relentless attack by Arsenal, Gabriel scored from a corner. Bernd Leno felt aggrieved and VAR did their best to try to find a reason to deny the goal (after looking for a supposed foul which didn’t exist, they looked for a handball which didn’t exist), but the goal stood. Arsenal got the 2-1 win.

After the game the celebration police (which I guess is mostly those dipgoblins Keys and Gray and their cringey followers) piled in on Arsenal because there were a few high fives and smiles after the game. I honestly say: bring them on. The more we win, the more these utter brain dead morons will complain about everything we do. The best Arsenal teams had far more detractors than sympathizers. If guys like Geys and Kray are moaning, if that arse sniffer Piers Morgan is upset, if the league are mad at the manager for stepping outside his technical area, then we are doing something right.

Remember, there’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Arsenal way. We’ve always done things our own way. It’s what I love about this club.


*These are WhoScored stats via Opta. Opta measures dribbles and tackles as directly related actions. In other words, a dribble is only a dribble if there’s an attempted tackle. One caveat here is that Opta also has another type of tackle that some services (like WhoScored) lump together with the ground duels tackle. So, I’ve actually looked at a few opta-related sources here (sofascore) and they have Saka winning 3/7 dribbles and Robinson winning 8/12 ground duels. I don’t know why there’s such a huge discrepancy. My guess is that there’s another event in here that’s not being listed which Sofascore isn’t counting as a dribble but is counting as a ground duel and that WhoScored is counting as a dribble but Sofascore isn’t. This is why I don’t like using Opta stats and prefer the clearer definitions in Statsbomb (via FBREF). Unfortunately, the FBREF data wasn’t published before I wrote this. I’ll put the FBREF duels numbers in the comments after they are published this afternoon. So annoying.


  1. Could it be that Arteta always wanted to play this way but believed he needed to first teach the players control and defense?

    Sorry if this sounds like a stupid question.

    1. It’s not a stupid question but we have absolutely zero evidence this is how he wanted to play, the first two years were so conservative, players turning around in possession and slowing play down constantly, and no one overlapping.

      The styles are so incredibly different over the years that it’s inconceivable that this was the plan all along.

      I also don’t think he’s lucked into this style because he’s got new, better players. He’s grown as a coach. His approach to the games is different. We are more expansive. He lets certain players be more creative than ever before.

      It’s ok to say that’s he’s grown as a coach. If he hadn’t I’d be worried.

      1. Those first two years were extremely hard to watch.

        If he has grown as a coach, we have a world class one at Arsenal because he’s shown that he can change and would probably be able to adjust tactics and direction again if required.

        The change has been tremendous. I can’t remember the last time Arsenal looked so slick in possession like in that first 40 mins of the Fulham game.

      2. I think it’s okay to think that Arteta had a plan from the start. And that in keeping with the realities of the team he inherited, he wanted to change to this style at the rate that the team and team profile evolved. And In that time he had also learnt so much about the job and matured as a manager.

        I think it’s absurd to say there’s “absolutely zero” evidence this is how he wanted to play when infact the man had said this is how he wants his team to play. And this was even before he got the Arsenal job.

        Except you consider Manchester City’s style as conservative, I think Arteta’s experience as a prominent part of the setup that engineered a City team that plays a highly successful brand of expansive football would have more than likely made this style attractive to him at the very least.

        1. I think he had a plan in the beginning, but it’s not what we are seeing right now. The same applies to both Klopp and Pep. They both had ideas, but it is not only the squad at your disposal that will dictate the success of your vision, there are many other factors.

          Firstly the opposition will always let you know what you are capable of doing and what you can’t do. For example, In a league where most defenders are tall, it would be really stupid to rely on with long balls and high crosses into the box for chance creation. An example of this is Klopp whose high intensity in a 4231 with technical players left Liverpool at the mercy of English football’s love for a back and forth. English teams love to counter any side that pushes itself very high and the pace of players in England is way beyond what he was used to in Germany. Klopp had to learn and sacrifice his midfield to stop counters coming back at them at pace, so he sought out a functional midfield instead of one that had the likes of Gotze, Kagawa, Sahin, Illkay and etc. Pep faced the same thing and had to spend big the very following season on fullbacks to stop the counters, £26,500,000 on Danilo, £45,000,000 on Walker and £49,300,000 on Mendy.

          Another thing is your players’ creativity. As a coach, you can never be a know it all (which Arteta was). You can’t make every decision for your players or see the game on their behalf, players see things that no other person sees on the pitch and can come up with solutions that fit the team better than your tactics as a coach. An example of his, is Pep learning about the quality overload from wingers like Robben and Ribery. He had Alexis, Afellay, Pedro and etc, but in Robben and Ribery, his tactical approach changed and he has been signing similar players to those two since.

          Both Klopp and Pep had to go through periods of growth. Their initial plans are not entirely what we are seeing today because football changes year by year, league by league and also based on experience.

          Mikel has been on the brink of disaster. Two 8th place finishes and disappointments in cup competitions. At no point did he try to resort to this type of football to dig himself out. Chasing Willian is another example of his plan being different from what we are seeing now. If Willian was supposed to be here for our qualification into the Champions League, where would such a player fit within this side? Saka started playing right wing consistently just over a year after Arteta took over, before that he was switching between left wing and left wing-back. The introduction of Smith-Rowe helped him see something different he had not considered on the pitch, and conveniently occurred around the same time as Saka’s switch (One of the most obvious stumbled upon solutions I’ve ever seen in coaching). Selling Willock who would have been perfect as a left 8 goes against the loaning out of Saliba as a long term plan, he wasn’t thinking that far ahead.

          Mikel has grown in his time and I am hoping he continues to because his shortcomings are massive, and potentially club destroying.

          So it is Okay to say he planned this all along if you have no line of reasoning to support the assertion. Otherwise, it all points to him learning and growing with the team.

        2. There is absolutely zero evidence that this was how he wanted to play from the start. In fact there is a huge mountain of evidence that this isn’t how he wanted to play from the start. Pretending that this was the plan all along is contemptable and insulting to my intelligence.

  2. The beef I have with Eddie is trying to transfer the ball to his right foot to hit it. It was a sumptuous takedown, but unless he volleys it first time or hits it with his left, a defender is going to close the window. Yes, he’s beefier, bulkier and his direct running caused problems for a tiring defence… but to me, he showed the limits of his quality in that moment. I know I carry on a bit about two-footedness, but it is a real weapon in packed defences. You’re not going to be given a ton of time to get off your shot. Jesus has that gift. Even Saliba, a centre back, demonstrated its virtues with his strike the previous week.

    Nonetheless, I enjoyed our rousing cameback against a Fulham team that played well. And yes, I’ve been singing Xhaka’s praises (and Mikel’s for how he has him playing) for weeks. From a football intelligence standpoint, he’s been the player I’ve most enjoyed watching… Odegaard for the same reason these past 2 games. The weight of passing and the sense of knowing where his runners are next level.

    And did you see Saliba raking those long diagonals? Blimey.

    1. Claudevian
      First 3 games Saliba raked those accurate diagonal crosses and everyone was vow. But against Fulham Saliba was compulsively was passing only to the Left or Right backs , except once he drove it forward. But guess, given Saliba calmness and accuracy of passing , there might be an evolution in thinking and return to ante.

  3. I like the praise that Xhaka is receiving these days, but it is a bit disappointing when there is shock to most of what he is doing now, because it is not new. But I understand.

    There have been many complaints about Xhaka and what he could offer in forward areas, how a Tielemans would be an upgrade, or that Viera and Smith Rowe would be better in the role he currently occupies. They will not come close to him there…

    It is going to be hard to dislodge Xhaka from his current role because it is where he is meant to play. it is the role that fits Xhaka to a tee and maximises everything that makes him the player he is. For reference, Granit started off as an attacking midfileder. One of the most highly rated in his position on the planet. He played at every level at an age that would be considered very young. Xhaka and Shaqiri were the standout youngsters of a developing Swiss side and in 2011, they went to the u/21 Euros as 18 and 19 year old (Respectively) stars of the side that went on to lose to a star studded Spain (containing the likes of De Gea, Thiago, Mata, Azpilicueta, Javi Martinez, Parejo and others) in the final. Granit shone alongside Shaqiri at that tournament, as an attacking midfielder.

    Xhaka’s descent into deeper and deeper roles was not out his inability in forward areas, but instead that he played in sides that were smaller in stature and struggled to control possession enough. I was similar in my footballing journey and went from striker, to second striker, to box-to-box midfielder and finally to deep lying playmaker because the further up I played, the less the team saw the ball. I would become frustrated and drop deeper to get on the ball, but as I drop, the better our possesion got, so I was dropped deeper and deeper. As it happened with me, so it was with Granit. One thing that either of us lack is our willingness to work hard out of possesion and help out as much as possible, but that in itself is not a defensive skill or translate to defensive ability.

    Xhaka will get the freedom of his previous role in forward areas, and his willingness to defend will serve him well as a helper to our defending instead of a lynchpin. He is going to surprise a lot of people this season. Mark my words, Arsene was right to call him a box to box when asked years ago, but with the loss of Santi’s playmaking from deep, Arsenal needed him much deeper. Even at the risk of his defensive inability costing us from time to time, he would ensure control against the smaller sides.

    The breakout player for 22/23 season is Xhaka!!!!!

    1. Does it bother anyone else that there doesn’t seem a proper replacement plan for #5? For when he gets injured etc never mind anything else.

      Elneny is a good guy and did ok yesterday but he’s not a solo defensive pivot. Which therefore means putting Xhaka back there and eg ESR/Viera into Xhaka’s role; or changing our shape back to a double pivot so far as I can see. Either way it screws with Xhaka and our new found defensive front-footedness.

      I don’t understand why we appear to be looking for wingers rather than CDMs. Have I missed something or can anyone shed any light?

      1. One of my gripes with Arteta, and what I am looking forward to seeing as part of his development is his aversion to making changes and giving fringe players game time.

        Arsenal has a perfect replacement for #5 and that is Sambi. The presence of #5 is not something that we can just go out and buy (unless it was Bissouma), but when it comes to what it is that he does well, Sambi is perfect. The boy can beat his initial man, is a forward passer of the ball and doesn’t get bullied. Defensively he is still developing, but as a pressing side, I believe we can have him in the side without too many issues. I mean he played against the likes of Liverpool with 10 men arsenal, after not playing for a while, and held his own.

        This fascination with him as an 8 is just wrong and he is being pushed to cover for Elneny’s contract extension. This season was supposed to be one where Sambi covers for #5 and Xhaka gets some competition in his spot after Viera came in to compete with Odegaard. Xhaka and Saka are the two that need to be pushed and I hope signings come in those areas of the pitch.

        skills-wise, it would be a tragedy for us to not develop and utilise Sambi where he is best.

        1. Thanks Devlin. Truth be told I had completely forgotten about Sambi. Whether that speaks to your point on Arteta not giving fringe players game time or just that in my head he’s not ready I don’t know, but either way it’s good to know you view him as capable and ready to step in if/when needed.

        2. Yes he has the tools and I think the club originally brought him in as a Partey understudy. But I think his destiny is more as a box to box type. He seems to come alive when he can get involved with the play and get near the goal. I don’t think he enjoys the defensive side of the game much and you have to have that to play the Partey role.

  4. Another player that seems to somehow get judged without a full grasp of who he is as a player is Eddie. And again, it is understandable, but does hurt the player when his ability is questioned. With Eddie, this shock at his ability to cause chaos, take players on, make smart runs and his touch were questioned to the point where people wanted him sold, as he wasn’t “Arsenal” quality.

    If people followed Eddie at every age group level, he has shone and scored wherever he has been given game-time and “responsibility”. Finally he knows what his role is at arsenal and people will see what he is truly capable of. He is a natural attacker, plays without fear as he has at every age group (where he always played at a higher age than his own) and is going to embody the role of a back-up striker better than we have seen since Wiltord and Kanu, but even better.

    To see what he is truly capable of, one would just need to watch the 2018 Toulon tournament. Tammy Abraham was the striker for the side but they were a bit toothless in attack, so Eddie’s introduction as a left winger when he was known as a poacher at club level came as a shock, but his performance not only kept him in the side, but pushed England to the title, to show that he has a very well rounded game. If you have never watched, you can catch the clips here….

    I get it that we live in a world with Mbappe, Haalaand, Saka, Martinelli, Vinicius and etc, but not every young player in the world has to meet that standard to be a very good player. Not every player has to develop at the same rate as those I mentioned to become a truly great player.

    Eddie is better than most strikers around his age in world football. Eddie is better than Isak (Yeah I said it!). Eddie is a well rounded footballer and will bring far more than most expect, but not anywhere close to the sky high contributions of the super elite talents.

    Not only will he do for us, but we are lucky to have such a talent as a back-up.

    1. Thanks Devlin, a nice, well thought explanation of Eddie’s capabilities, and talents, plus a reminder to us all to not use cookie cutters for our evaluations!!!

    2. I have to say I completely agree. That cameo against Fulham was something else. I had my doubts about his decision making ability in the final 3rd, but he’s really put almost everything else together. Very impressed and very lucky to have retained him.

  5. The commentators moaning about Arsenal players & Arteta celebrating too much seem to be tapping into a classic cool-guy toxic masculinity, which deems emotional honesty and vibrancy as too feminine and not tough enough. In their view, football is combat in which you must defeat your enemy and a competition in which you must achieve perfection and can to rest until the ultimate reward (silverware). Experiencing and revealing happiness in the journey or at intermediate mini-achievements suggests weakness, a failure to keep focused on “what really matters” (silverware), and a dangerously complacent appreciation (acceptance! Oh no!) of the present moment, the joy of the *game*, and the emotional connection to fans and teammates. Scary feminine values!!

    So when I hear the commentators bemoan expressions of emotion before the 38th game of the season, I hear them projecting their fear of their own complex emotions and the creeping awareness of the falseness of a gender role dichotomy, and their panicked need to clamp down on any emotion (perhaps save flattened anger and aggression) to cling to their own idea of masculinity.

  6. +1 Jahan.
    Keys and Gray, and Keys in particular, are museum worthy ‘boneheads’. They belong to another era.

  7. You’ve never been fair to Arteta. Those materials he had would always receive dubbings should he play this more flexibly. I don’t know how you missed that

      1. I love the idea that he took 400m in purchases and yet somehow still managed to finish 8th twice and that it’s just my unfair criticism of him that was the problem and not his coaching.

  8. There’s this notion — often advanced in online forums like this — that an individual’s current improvement invalidates all previous criticism of him.

    You can simultaneously give Mikel his flowers, and point out that he’s improved on previously turgid play, and — seemingly — overall as a manager. By the usual standards of hirings at clubs, Mikel is lucky to be in the job this long.

    But if you’re being fair (either way), your evaluation wont be straightforward. He did win a trophy in his very first season, but he did so because of contributions from players he and a section of fans were later to discredit, and we were to discard. He came into the job around December ’19, and hadnt yet had a meaningful transfer window when we won the cup in May. Those were Emery’s players. On the other hand, it was tactical play and you can’t take that triumph away from him.

    He’s invested heavily in youth; yet he handed a fat, long contract to an over the hill 32 year old, and trebled Auba’s wages after doing an intense full court press on him to re-sign. He preferred Mustafi and Mari to Saliba (who was effectively in squad no man’s land for half a season), and yet we’re reaping the benefit of the young man’s determined development.

    We fell short of CL by 2 points. Contestable personnel decisions were probably/arguably/can never be conclusively proven cost us more than that.

    The thrilling development of this exciting squad cant be divorced from the fact that we spent half a billion dollars to get it — a financial luxury and largesse not afforded to any of his predecessor (Swiss Rambler has us spending more than that amount, in £, in the past 4 years or so).

    He had wingers lumping crosses to Lacazette one season ago, and this season his tactical deployment of Xkaka and Zinchenko has been a joy to behold.

    If we’re being fair, we wont engage in absolutes. So yes, you can make the case that Mikel is rather good now, but he wasnt that good previously. That he’s grown in the job. And as always, you have to weigh everything up. Im happy with Arteta. The financial reckoning will do its thing. This great club won’t die. May his excellent adventure continue.

  9. Some empiricals on Arteta…

    1st 50 games = 75 points
    2nd 50 games = 100 points

    That says improvement 🙂

    Devlin, on Xhaka… what he is doing now (for Arsenal) IS new. He’s getting deserved props now, but the past criticism of his boneheaded play was fair. We put him in positions that didnt suit his strengths, but you still have to have good decision making under fire. He was also prone to niggly fouling and ref baiting. Looks like he cut that out, touch wood.

    Tim made a really astute observation last season, and repeated it several times… Arteta has removed Xhaka from situations in which he has to make quick and last ditch defensive decisions in our own third, or in and around our box. His deployment this season is a further evolution of that. Did Arsenal miss a trick not previously playing to his strengths (and exposing his weaknesses) this much? Perhaps. But fans got on his case because he made poor plays defensively. We’re minimising his key weakness — slowness downstairs — and maximising his key attribute — his swiftness upstairs, in his head.

    And it allows us, as Tim said, to reset our pivot. As recently as last season, we had him playing just in front of our CB 2, and covering at LB. So one of his jobs when we played a high line was recovery coverage. It seems mad now, but that is how we played him only last season!

    Im not a tactics maven, but 2 things/players seem fundamental to how we now deploy Granit. The first in Zinchenko. I had to blink several times watching the Bournemouth game. Zinch was spending a lot of time the central/left of midfield, and sometimes taking the ball off Gabriel and bringing it up through the MIDFIELD. He and M08 dropped in besides Partey to help, a lot.

    The other is Saliba. His incredible foot speed and positional discipline gives us more security against high line counters when we press forward. Let’s shout out to Ben White, who, while not a natural RB, has also added to the feeling of security, and doing better than youd expect as an offensive overlap threat. It’s early, but I’d say that we improved the back line 40% with those 3 changes. Only 1 of the 3 goals we’ve conceded has come from teams opening us up. I dont see Tomi or Tierney displacing either full-back.

  10. You can’t play the way we are playing without massive technical security. Even against Fulham, the technical downgrade from Zinchenko to Tierney was painfully obvious and restricted our ability to hurt them in their low block. Zinchenko is like Cancelo or TAA, a deep lying #10 who can create from places they literally can’t cover from a low block. Tierney is a physical specimen and an amazing crosser of the ball but he looks absolutely lost being asked to do what Zinchenko does for the team in possession. And here we are talking about KT, who was possibly the best player in the team in ’19/20 and who we missed so much in the late season run-in.

    Just goes to show how quickly the squad has moved on to a different level, and I do believe that this has been the plan all along.

    1. It was the plan to buy Willian, pay him absurd money, and tell him he wasn’t allowed to take defenders on? That he had to carry forward and then pass backward? Willian went from 3.2 attempted dribbles per game at Chelsea (6.8 per game in the Champions League) to 1.2 attempted dribbles per game at Arsenal (1.4 per game in the Europa league, lol) to 6.2 attempted dribbles per game at Corinthians. That isn’t a player whose legs fell off. That was a player who was following orders.

      We were the least proactively defensive team in the League for two years running, that’s gone now too.

      I’m happy at where Arsenal are now but I despair at some of the revisionist history.

      I think it would be nice if people just admitted that he learned on the job, that we spent two+ years playing shit football (people have said that it was “the worst football they had ever seen an Arsenal side play”), and that we spent huge sums of money getting him the players he wanted and when they didn’t work out, we spent even more money getting rid of them.

      There has been a sort of plan the last 18 months and it has been to get younger players in but even the Ben White deal is kind of fucked up when you think about it. We paid 50m for a player to play CB for Arsenal, because he didn’t think the guy we paid 30m for was ready, even though he was more than ready, and now the 30m guy starts every game and the 50m guy plays at right back. That isn’t a plan. That is a bunch of leaders who kind of fucked up and are making the best of it now.

      Again, I despair.

      1. I’m not kidding when I say that the level of un-reality around Arteta is what makes me not want to even talk about Arsenal anymore. We are good now but it was shit and the plan was shit for many years. There was no master plan 48 months ago. There was no master plan even 24 months ago. They have struck upon something and thank fucking god but let’s please stop pretending that this was the plan 48, 36, or even 24 months ago because it absolutely was not.

        1. Same as I feel. Making this appear like a plan rather than an improvement , and along with that portraying the past ie. the decade Before Mikel, as some massive mess of which all Arsenal fans are just glad and grateful to be rid of.

          Both those things scream performative, flag waving, approximation of pride than an actual pride, love and belief in the ‘process’ or enjoyment of where we are now.

          Sadly, both those things are directly attributable to the club’s Media Machine Mikel.

          On that note of frustration, I would like to add that Garth Crooks (don’t really know who he is) said he was disappointed to see Arteta throw the ball away when Fulham had a throw in. I know it’s a minor thing and these ‘dark arts’ are all part of the game, but I have to agree. It feels like a loss to the club to see such things and have them celebrated.

  11. I think people (like me) like to believe that it was Arteta’s plan all along to play like this because we have false notions about perfection.

    You can love someone who is learning and improving on the job just as much as the “perfect” one.

    Arteta made mistakes, and corrected them along the way, and as pointed out, was lucky to have been given time to correct those mistakes.

    But I do think Arteta has the perfect face.

    1. Please give those of us with different opinions a bit more respect than that we must be deluded or impressed with the managers face. Yikes.

      I believe this was the plan all along for simple reasons. One, why would he want to play turgid football if there was another option? Two, he’s been Pep’s enthusiastic understudy and 4-3-3 judging de posicion was always going to be his preferred system. Three, please don’t tell me you can play juego de posicion with the squad we had in 2019/20. Please don’t tell me we could have counter pressed consistently and effectively with Ozil as our #10. Please don’t tell me we should have been able to play out from the back effectively with Mustafi and Sokratis as our center backs, Chechen or even Leno as the GK and Xhaka as #6. Four, the 8th place finish in 18/19 is not on him but on the recruitment policy of the club for years before that and on the coach he replaced to a lesser extent. You can blame 19/20 on him but I personally don’t. That squad was a disaster. Five, despite the situation he inherited, his 53 wins out of his first 100 games is only one shy or Arsenal Wenger and better than any other manager Arsenal has had, in his first job as a boss. That’s not luck and it’s not a dude fumbling about in the dark until he finds something nice.

      Luiz and Willian were bandaids. The squad desperately needed a hard working #10 and a ball playing CB to raise the floor of the squad. Luiz at least did that even though his defensive issues were also on display. The long term options needed to be brought in very carefully. The club has shown outstanding discipline in the market since then and has consistently bought the right players for the right positions or promoted and retained from the academy to get this squad to where it is today.

      Look, nobody is perfect. Not me, not you, not MA. I believe he has flaws as a person and as a coach. For example I think his teams relax too much when in the lead and I don’t like how long he takes to bring subs on. I also think he is too rigid for certain personalities that might otherwise have been able to improve the squad, in sharp contrast to the ever tolerant Arsene. I am very secure about my position on this issue though. I have a simple belief that he has ridiculously high standards for himself and for everyone else. I believe his goal every game is to transfer those standards to the pitch as the highest level of football possible every game. That’s what he lives for and nobody works harder at that than he does.

  12. Reading your description of the game makes it appear so much better than how I saw it. Not that you’re wrong, I agree with all of it. I also felt it was a lot of what Wenger would call ‘sterile domination’. But maybe that’s being uncharitable. I just feel like though we played ok, we were lucky to come away with a win. I also think that kind of luck is potentially earned as well. Don’t know if any of those flip flops make sense.

    Injury to Elneny apparently. Not sure what that means for the transfer market, but surely Lokonga ought to get the go-ahead? Plus as Vieira comes into the team, Odegaard can drop deeper too, and there’s always Zinchenko.

    For all of Arteta’s very apparent improvement, I have doubts about how he handles his squad, and how he deals with setbacks. Still, looking forward to finding out as the season unfolds, and that’s much more than I’d have said about previous seasons.

    1. To your earlier comment, I didn’t like throwing the ball away either. Leave that shithousery to 2019 Xhaka. That said, it’s not a huge incident. Pep, a hugely successful manager, doesn’t do that kind of thing. You don’t need to act performatively hard to be hard.

      We need to quit the messiah complex around Mikel. He’s not Jesus cleansing Sodom and Gomorrah. He’s a young manager in whom we reposed a lot faith, even when the returns were poor. We hired a bright young thing — the next big thing even — but he’d never head coached anything. We had nothing to go on except faith. The club projected, based on its initial belief in him, that he’d win the Champions League this season; but recalibrated when it was clear that he had a lot to learn. They revised. We all do when facts dictate that we should.

      They gave him far more transfer spending — far more — than they’d given any previous manager, we’re off to a flying start and hopefully this is our year. To me, he’s got a lot to learn about being the head coach of a big club, and hopefully the experience of coming close to CL and failing was chastening, and a competence building one.

      And I don’t like the revisionism around Wenger to make Arteta look good. Wenger wasnt indulgent. He did get rid of players he considered problematic. The difference is that he sold him to Barca for 15m, not gave him to them for free. And as much as he had that tw of only Cech, he certainly would not have intentionally weakened the squad to show his cojones, when he needed all hands on deck for the push to the end of the season.

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