No panic stations

In my old age, I’ve stopped drinking my coffee black. I started out as a creamer guy when I was in the army. Back when I was 18 and just needed stimulants to get up in the morning, I poured in the non-dairy creamer. You know, that powdered stuff that you can literally light on fire? I would dump it in.

But once I discovered that there was good coffee in the world, I stopped using any additives at all, and just drank black coffee. And I still do, when the coffee is good. A perfectly pulled espresso is sweet and creamy all on its own and needs no cream or sugar. Pour overs are also taken straight and I love me a nitro cold brew, no sugar or cream. But for my everyday coffee, here at home, I need a little something extra.

But the thing about creamer is that, well, I shouldn’t be drinking half-and-half (because of the cholesterol) and adding sugar to things is not good for you either. So, I’ve started my search for the perfect non-dairy, low sugar, creamer and one of these days I’m going to find it. It can’t have too much fat – and preferably no animal fat. It can’t have much (if any) added sugar. And also, I don’t like the taste of coconut milk (unless it’s in a Thai curry), so those are all out. So far, the best one I’ve found is the Oatly Barista mix. Maybe I’ll settle on that one. I don’t know, I’m still looking.

Yesterday, Arsenal lost to PSV and it was a performance which I would liken to one of those sickly sweet, coconut milk-based creamers. The kind that I mark off the list of edible products and quickly donate to my coworkers.

Arsenal started the game great. Combining down the left side with intricate little passes between Xhaka, Martinelli, and Tierney it looked like we were going to torture PSV and easily win the game. But then PSV’s game plan kicked into gear.

In the 8th minute, Ødegaard picked up the ball in their third, had two players on his left and one on the right, he tried an all-too-cute reverse pass which was picked off easily, and the PSV hit Arsenal for a counter. Xavi Simons’ long-distance shot was palmed away by Ramsdale, and my initial sense was that there was no real danger, but as it turns out, that was wrong.

Arsenal also didn’t sense what was going on. They got the ball forward well enough, they dominated possession high up the pitch, and all of these are the exact actions Arteta wants from the team. But the final ball to Nketiah would just be slightly off, or a pass here and there would just be misplaced, and the bang, PSV were getting in great positions against Arsenal in the counter.

Ramsdale even got in on the action, punting a terrible clearance up the field only for PSV to intercept and get Corey Gakpo a chance at Arsenal’s goal. That was followed by yet another chance for Gakpo, this time on a well worked play for PSV.

Arsenal had a corner and PSV dealt with it. Simons nutmegged Lokonga but Saliba was there to help and pushed play back. PSV swung the ball around and settled into a possession play.

Lokonga then followed his man (#23, Veerman) and got dragged out of the DM role. Xhaka stayed high up the pitch and Ødegaard handed his man off to Vieira and floated wide right. At that point PSV players made some runs, Xhaka followed his man, Veerman dropped deep to collect and Lokonga then stood off him for too long, and when Lokonga did finally press, Veerman passed the ball and then glided past Sambi who looked frankly surprised by the move. Veerman passed the ball to Gakpo who scored with a bodacious chip – from an offside position.

This wasn’t what we’ve come to expect from Arteta’s Arsenal. Here are players being dragged out of position, players not filling in, players turning the ball over uncharacteristically, and all around poor defending. Even William Saliba, who has been pretty solid for the better part of two years, gets caught with Gakpo ghosting in behind him for that first offside goal.

PSV scored another offside goal, just toward the end of the first half. This time we can’t really blame any one Arsenal player. One long pass and Xavi Simons just weaved his way through four Arsenal defenders and then scored past Ramsdale with a quick poke.

This pattern of play continued throughout the first half: Arsenal would get the ball into a forward position and PSV seemed to know exactly where to press to force the ball handler into either a bad pass or to turn around. PSV also limited our ability to switch possession – which is a key component of Arteta’s attack.

It should be clear at this point, that I’m not naming just one player. Xhaka had his share of awful passes and has been largely absolved of any defensive duties by Arteta. He doesn’t even press high up the pitch anymore. And in this match he did just that, while turning the ball over a number of times under pressure. Meanwhile Øde was also guilty of bad passes and poor positioning. Saliba was not only the one who let Gakpo run behind him, but also got caught on the ball, and failed to stop Xavi.

And in the second half, it got worse, much worse. Bojack van Nistelrooy outsmarted Arteta completely, bringing on Luuk de Jong and making him the center of their attack. Arteta seemed to have no answers for this incredibly basic move.

Holding is supposed to be our sort of “hard man” out there but instead he made de Jong look like prime Zlatan: de Jong sliced the Arsenal defense apart, taking down balls from the sky, turning, and playing a splitting pass; beating the Arsenal defense to every header; and turning Holding inside out like an old sock. That particular play also featured another brain fart from Lokonga, letting Veerman just run past him and score. Not a surprise that Arteta took him off literally seconds later. But as I have stressed repeatedly, this wasn’t just one player’s fault. A few minutes later Luuk de Jong even made Ramsdale look weak, scoring a headed goal as Aaron flapped at the ball. Gakpo had a chance ruled out for offside, and Luuk de Jong had another chance a few minutes later.

And to add a rotten cherry on top of a bad two weeks of football from Arsenal, Granit Xhaka did the most Xhaka thing possible: he got himself a yellow card for shoving Xavi Simons off the pitch when the PSV man had been signalled to be subbed. That yellow means he misses the crucial (now) match against FC Zurich, the one which will decide whether we play against the likes of Juventus or not.

Arsenal didn’t look tired. The passes weren’t a yard short like they were against Leeds. Arsenal looked weirdly out of position all over the pitch for the majority of the game, there were even moments when Holding was playing left back, Saliba CB and Lokonga dropped deep to play CB along with him. Arteta’s post match interview blamed his team’s lack of competition and added that he himself is responsible for getting the most out of the players, something I completely agree with.

Lokonga is getting a lot of the grief for this game – with some Arsenal supporters openly now choosing him as the scapegoat for Arsenal’s woes these last five games. I have a feeling, however, that had Elneny been fit this Fall and played in this run of poor form, he would be the one taking the blame. He has a lot of the same flaws as Lokonga. Ultimately, Sambi isn’t a defensive midfielder and I think we know now that Arteta’s attempts to convert him to that position haven’t been very successful. He still doesn’t seem to have the defensive awareness that is needed to play there. Very much like Xhaka, who was played in that position for much of his club career but who Arteta realized wasn’t a good fit. If Lokonga was allowed to play in the Xhaka role (the new one) I have a feeling we also wouldn’t be talking about Lokonga in this match, the same way no one seems to have noticed that Xhaka was poor.

But this game wasn’t just down to Lokonga. It wasn’t just down to fatigue. It wasn’t just that there was a “drop in quality” because we used some 2nd string players. There were a lot of individual errors. There weren’t obvious signs of fatigue. There was a drop in quality, but it seemed to be all over the pitch – including – and especially – our regular starters. I would also add that it looks like at least one coach might have a good plan for countering Arteta’s special brand of possession football. And finally, I would question Arteta’s in-game management: he had no answer for Luuk de Jong and his subs at the very end of the game were odd to say the least.

Arsenal have now had five straight poor performances all of which seem to have one thing in common: the opposition pressuring us off the ball and out hustling us. The easy thing to point to is that we are fatigued and maybe that is the case at times. But it feels like that’s too simplistic, that there are bigger problems with this team.

That’s not to say that it’s time for panic stations. Arsenal are still top of the League and in pole position to win their group in the Europa League. But many of the things folks worried about this Summer seem to be coming true. Hopefully, a good win against the bottom team in the League this Sunday will turn things around.



  1. Agree that the Oatley Barista is the best non dairy creamer option (and I use their regular oatmilk on cereal). That said, I’m mostly a black coffee drinker.

    As for yesterday, I couldn’t watch as I was travelling, but followed text updates on Arseblog. Didn’t sound good. I think it’s probably somewhat the law of averages catching up. We overperformed a little in the early season…we’re probably underperforming in the last couple matches.
    Certainly there’s a good-sized drop in a couple positions. Partey to Lokonga and Jesus to Nketiah being the most obvious. But that hasn’t been the only reason for the run of lackluster results. Nor do I think it’s all fatigue, though that’s a part of it. Having Zinchenko back as an option will help in a variety of ways.

    Hopefully Forest at home is a good way to turn things around. Not really worried yet, but if we play poorly again in that situation, I will be.

    And best wishes to Pablo Mari, a terrible situation for anyone to experience.

  2. I use coconut cream when I don’t feel like drinking my coffee black. You need to get the amount just right though, imho.
    Otherwise it just tastes like coconut. Works best with light roast.

  3. These are make or break games for Eddie. He has to show that he can compete with and adequately rotate with Jesus. — especially now that the latter has hit a patch where he’s not scoring. If Eddie cant make an impact in these games, he’s not that guy.

    Read a few posts ago a comment that Rob would start for other prem teams. Not any in the top 15. If Arteta wants to give Tomi minutes without dropping White, he should let him play some LCB when he rests Gabriel.

    PSV were excellent yesterday, and I take nothing away from them. We were beaten by a better team on the day. That Gakpo fellow — linked to us — looks a player.

    1. Yeah, well sadly if Eddie can’t be that guy then we are stuck paying him 100k a week for the next four years to just sit around and not be that guy.

      1. Or sell him for a decent fee having secured a proven goal scorer on a long term contract.

        1. He’s on 100k a week. I think we are going to be stuck with him, the way that we have with every Bosman we’ve ever had.

  4. I saw how many were blaming Sambi, but to the degree I indulge my hyperreactive arsenal supporter brain, I found the performance of Holding (more Arteta’s fault for playing him-his limits are well-known) and Eddie the most frustrating. Eddie in particular was dropping deep, then mishitting passes, turning possession over. Holding was involved in both goals. The most troubling aspect was how off our first team players looked when they were subbed on, Gabriel excepted.

    1. I agree about Eddie’s inability to drop and help out. I didn’t criticize him too harshly because he did get 4 shots.

  5. My main thing this season that I am looking to see, is if there is growth in Arteta’s ability to rotate and create depth while keeping a certain style of play with those changes in personnel.

    I have heard it said over and over again that he is the reason for a lot of City players thriving and growing their game, but I am holding out my belief that he is very much an individual coach rather than a collective coach. tactically speaking.

    So far we are top of every table and the football has at (Most) times been scintillating, but hopefully that is by design and not by accident. I have some faith, but the lack of a greater tactical structure that has similar responsibilities for the players (In certain positions) coming in as those that are starters is worrying me.

    The left back role is clearly defined and no matter who starts there, there are certain requirements asked of that role. The holding role is similar, which is why the clear gap in quality between Partey and Lokonga is frustrating many (Its not that bad guys). But everywhere else, players seem to be playing their own football. Eddie is not pressing like Jesus, which is a HUGE factor into how we disturb the build-up process and counter decision making of opposition teams, Nelson doesn’t put in the shift Martinelli does or try to take on a more ball playing element to his game, etc, etc, etc everywhere else.

    Now the problem is that partnerships do build and sadly break apart if very quickly when we introduce a single new element (Outside of left back and DM).

    It is only October and the first team players are far less energetic than the previous month. Arteta built a team that dominates possession without a true natural metronomic playmaker, akin to Klopp’s earlier iterations of his Liverpool sides. That means we dominate off of our physicality, or more precisely, our tempo on both sides of the ball. We look to keep the opposition playing at a tempo that their technical ability cant keep up. We disorganise every organised opposition play and force them to think on the spot, which makes them forget their own tactics and play to survive. This leaves teams making clearance passes to forwards where Saliba just mops up.

    Unfortunately, even Klopp realised that this ploy can only work for so long, and teams are now doing to us what they did to Liverpool and flipping it on us. Liverpool have Thiao and signed Arthur, they can kill the tempo when its necessary, they are the technical leaders on the pitch like how Santi was for us.

    For Arsenal, we are not some amazing side on the ball, we are an amazing side when it comes to the physical/tempo side of football. Teams have turned that back on us.

    Now if we can’t rotate effectively, without losing our shape nor our intensity, we can and should be one of the best sides in world football currently. But if the focus has been and remains on the 13 to 15 players that Arteta likes/trusts, this is going to be an insane fall from grace.

    I have faith though and hopefully he sees his shortcomings. Pre-season showed me that he wasn’t ready to trust everybody, his sides were mostly made up of the same players playing now. Not enough rotation happened, not enough young players were given a shot and the fringe players were not as organised as the first teamers. Something was right and off at the same time.

    But we are a good side, and these past few games just showed that we still have room to improve. And I am sure that we will. The World cup will be a blessing for us rather than a curse.

    Onwards and upwards… Damn we cant go higher than number 1 right???

    Onwards and Onwards I guess.

    1. Really interesting observations, Devlin. Especially the part about how we were able to out-physical opposition. I didn’t think of it that way but I’ll look for it in the future.

      One thing that I heard the other day is that football in general has become more about tempo than ever before. All the teams are able to play a pressing game these days and play at a high speed.

      1. The thing with football is how it can be so complicated within its simplicity.

        The best way to beat Tempo? Better technical ability.

        The best way to beat technical ability? Higher tempo.

        I think the increase in tempo has been far easier to see because the speed just jumps off of the screen or when watching in person, passes you by like a blur. But the level of technical ability has increased just as much, if not more.

        It is less in your face, but the level of technical ability to control and manipulate a football in an era where players are running around at these speeds is insane. We watch Martinelli dribble and think that he is doing a similar thing to Hleb at times, but its not. It might be as precise, but the speed is far higher. At the same time a certain level of pressing in games has become the norm for all types of football sides, and yet we still see players like Thiago, Jorginho, Rodri, Lobotka, Pedri, Kimmich and etc use their technical abilities to buy themselves space and time on the pitch.

        Balance, that is what everyone is looking for. Ask yourself this, have you seen Arsenal dominate the ball and control the game at a lower tempo this season? When we are not high tempo and dominating by getting Saka, Martinelli and Jesus running at people, with chance after chance, who is in control of the game?

        Now it is kind of impossible to find players that can dictate the play, buy themselves space and time, and play at a very high tempo, but football is a squad game. Having a healthy mixture of technical players with a good level of effort to aide the pressing, along with players who are very high tempo who still have a good level of technical ability. So far, I could say we covered those basics well enough, but here is the biggest issue (or at least I am assuming)…


        I remember you being excited by a rumour about us signing Jorginho from Chelsea some time back, not sure if it was last season or the season before. I was super excited about it because it meant that we would have a player who could help us impose our preferred tempo on sides, while also helping us cam down games when they get too crazy. In times where we are being dragged around, such a player can move the ball enough to kill a press and allow the side to reset defensively. And those times come in each and every game because we can’t run 100mph for 45 minutes, let alone 90, especially when a coach has 5 subs and doesn’t introduce them to maintain the tempo when he can see that there is a clear drop off in energy.

        However, for such a player to thrive, a coach must accept that he has to give him the keys to the team. This means he decides the flow of the game. Our micro-managing manager might offer players freedom in the final third to cause havoc, but we have been very predictable every season for how we move the ball in the first two thirds of the pitch and how we recycle possession in the final third.

        Arteta is leaving many forward players to their devices but a player who controls his team???
        Will he be comfortable with that???
        Will he be able to accept that player making decisions that he isn’t seeing from his view???
        Playmaking is as much about feel as it is about technical ability, so can Arteta accept a player killing the game if he feels like we need to slow down or speed up???

        I was against the Tielemans transfer in the summer because I wanted to see us sign someone whose quality could give us a boost in midfield like how Jesus has in attack. Names Like Sergej Milinkovic Savic got me excited. But now I am reconsidering. Seeing our squad make up, Sergej is another physical player with (excellent) technical ability, who will help us dominate physically/tempo-wise instead of helping us control the flow of a game. Danilo Oliveira, our DM target is the same, a young Fred (Tempo merchant).

        Maybe Youri wouldn’t be that bad. I have seen him dictate play for Leicester on the ball and off it as well. He is very intelligent and is constantly pointing and directing the ball circulation of Leicester City. He is good on the ball and has improved his stamina to run more (still not good enough though).

        I will wait to see what we do to correct this.

        Buy a playmaker. Have Arteta give up some amount of control and power to the players to decide what’s the best cause of action. We will see how he adjusts to accepting giving the keys away.

        Double down and out-tempo every side into submission. Its easy to get up for games against the top sides, tempo becomes automatic and sustained for longer periods, but to run hard against Crystal Palace, Villa, Brentford, PSV (lol) and etc??? we will see how he gets them charged for those games.

        1. Good points and I think that’s why a lot of tacticos are excited about Charlie Patino. He’s that type of tempo setter, a midfield control switch, a player who can dictate games., but he won’t be ready to do that at this level for another season or two at least.

          If you can have a criticism of Partey it’s that he doesn’t do quite enough of that, tries to be too direct or just drops out of the game entirely and that’s when we lose control. I thought that was particularly visible against Leeds in the 2nd half. Xhaka should be able to do more of that but he lacks the composure.

          Don’t get me wrong, I think they’ve both been tremendous for us this season and a huge part of why we are where we are. I think it will be really hard to upgrade on either of them and our fortunes this year will be massively linked to their availability because we don’t have anyone in the squad who can replace either of them. But when we do go shopping for our midfield of the future, those are two areas for improvement to keep in mind.

  6. I missed the PSV game and probably for the best by the sounds of it. We have looked a bit wobbly for about a month now and I agree it’s not just fatigue. I have tried to do a root cause analysis and came up with three items: opposition tactics, Gabi J’s form, and confidence.

    Teams now have a lot of tape on what Arsenal try to do and a sort of blueprint is developing. You get tight to the forwards when their back is to goal try to bully them off the ball. When they do have the ball you get every body in front of them and funnel possession wide. You double/triple team Saka. Then when you start to win some balls in midfield you play early passes into the wide channels to pace and power type forwards. You make lots of fouls and junk the game up so they can’t establish any flow. It’s a draining style to play against week after week, especially when there is a permissive style of refereeing.

    I can’t fault Gabi Jesus at all for his commitment or his general play, but does feel like his finishing and his sharpness around the box has fallen off of a cliff in recent matches. He’s shanking his shots, he’s miscontrolling passes, and he’s losing duels he used to win. One of the hallmarks of his early form was his ability to hold the ball up against bigger defenders. I haven’t seen that at all since Leeds. Fair or unfair, he has to provide more end product or this title charge cannot last, simple as that.

    Most importantly, and I think today’s match highlights this, is just belief that we can win every game. We forget how young this team is, and how much history they are fighitng every week, the ghosts of thrashings and soft goals past. You scratch the surface even a little and those old wounds are laid bare again. We are not going to get an easier fixture all season than Nottingham Forest at home, but we made hard work of it for much of the first half. We could be forgiven for thinking here we go again, Arsenal losing their grip on a 1-0 lead in a game they should win. As soon as it was 2-0 it was like the players could breathe again, and they said to themselves, right, let’s just get the result that we deserve here. They just don’t play with the confidence befitting their ability often enough. Once that sinks in and they develop a hard outer shell, watch out.

  7. Claudeivan, I read your reply from 4 days ago on the other thread. I was thinking of FBs who can also play CB in a back 4, not just any FBs. That’s why I’d never put Cancelo or Trippier or TAA or even Reece James and Kyle Walker (thouth they are closer to what I have in mind) in that list. Those guys are obviously elite creative talents, but that’s not what my list is about.

    There is tremendous value in a defender who can slot in to FB/CB seamlessly AND provide press resistant possession. That is so rare. Tomiyasu started as a LB and BW as a RB, two putative CBs who can both get forward and overlap but also win duels and headers. They offer interchangeability that’s rare in world football. When Saliba came off, BW could simply go to RCB. We could have also replaced Gabi M and played Tomi at LCB, or pulled BW and had Tomi play RB, all without worrying too much about anybody being out of their comfort zone. That’s hugely valuable.

  8. Tim, try Sown Unsweetened Oat Creamer. Very low fat, no sugar, decent texture and, for me, no overpowering of the coffee flavor. After my last physical it was clear that some dietary changes were inevitable, including axing the whacking great dollop of whipping cream in my morning brew. Like you I went through an extensive and disappointing catalog of almond/oat/coconut creamers and this was the only one that came close to what I was used to. I now keep three quarts in the fridge (it has an insane expiration date) for fear I might run out. (BTW, I didn’t try the Oatley Barista option so can’t compare the two. I don’t think it’s available at my local Sprouts market…)

    I think we may have found Saka’s backup…

  9. Back when the kids were small enough to sit still when I read to them, I read John Flannigan’s “Ranger’s Apprentice” series. He introduced me to the concept of putting honey in the coffee instead of sugar. Absolute heaven… I’ve never gone back.

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