I’m looking forward to the next one

Arsenal lost 1-0 to Man City in the FA Cup on Friday and there are only a few things to take away.

  1. Arsenal held their own and dominated for long periods
  2. Holding was removed at half time but Saliba came in and kept Haaland quiet
  3. Trossard was very lively and could have created more chances
  4. The Lokonga hate-takes are absurd and follow a pattern of hate toward Holding, Tierney, and White lately

A lucky goal from Nathan Ake broke the game open, which had been largely boring other than a few nervy moments from Arsenal and Man City in the opening 30 minutes. Arteta made six major changes to his usual lineup, starting Trossard, Holding, Tierney, Turner, Tomiyasu, and Vieira. Most of the Arsenal looked nervous to start with Turner making a number of huge errors on passing in the early game while Holding often just turned and passed the ball backward. Others had problems finding teammates as the City pressure amped up when Arsenal had the ball in their own final 1/3.

But after the nervy start, I thought Arsenal did well. And when Arteta finally put the full starting team on the pitch, Arsenal did very well. Sambi came in for a lot of criticism but he was part of that team. We only conceded the one goal, just 8 shots, and while we only created 5 shots these are the world champions of all football (the Premier League) and “the greatest team the world has ever seen”.

My only take from that is that I think we are going to give them two very good games in the Premier League this season. I’m not saying we will win both or even either of them but if we play the way we did yesterday, with our first team, I think Arsenal have a good chance to get a result in two weeks. That’s not something I expected to say, to be honest. I hate-watch them and they are a juggernaut. We did an amazing job shutting them down yesterday and even though Holding was removed at half time for his yellow card, and despite the slight drop in midfield presence when Sambi came on, and despite the less than stellar performance from Vieira, Tierney, and Tomiyasu a draw wouldn’t have been an unfair result. That says a lot about the character of these players and the quality of the system that Arteta has built. I’m actually looking forward to the match against them in the League.

That’s proof that fans, like me, have clearly shifted expectations this season. Starting out hoping Arsenal could finish top four, we are now (largely) thinking that Arsenal are title contenders. Add to that a growing expectation for Arsenal to buy players (because we have been) and a growing call from all corners to buy “in order to compete for the title” and we are now in the situation where I think a lot of fans want a January overhaul (we have already bought two players and many folks want at least 4 sold and two more brought in) in order to “push for the title”.

Furthermore, anxiety is heightened around this title push because so many clubs these days are either bankrolled by oil states or already have more money than god, and there are two major players who have struggled this season (Chelsea and Liverpool) and as a result many Arsenal supporters feel (probably rightly) that this season is our only real hope at winning a Premier League title before the League reverts to the norm.

This seems to be the perfect toxic brew for Arsenal supporters and many fans are turning on players like Holding, Sambi, White, and Tierney. To be clear, I understand supporters wanting to improve their team but I think a lot of the criticism has been over the top this month. Sambi, for example, is not a DM. He’s never been a good DM and he certainly isn’t great at the lone DM role. Playing him means either dropping Xhaka deeper (which Arteta did yesterday) or playing him alongside a more natural DM (which I think is his more natural position).

Holding is Arsenal’s third choice CB and believe it or not, all clubs need backup options like him and Arsenal need to keep a certain number of English players in the team – replacing him like for like could be expensive and upgrading on him with an English alternative is very pricey. We don’t know why White didn’t start in place of Holding, there could be something deeply personal going on with White or maybe he’s picked up a minor injury. Either way it’s irrelevant, Holding started and he clearly struggled getting the ball forward and defending Haaland. A lot of defenders are like that: John Stones got roasted by Trossard, and Rico Lewis looked poor at times yesterday. Unless you’ve had to play as a defender (man I remember getting roasted by 20 year olds when I was in my 40s) you probably don’t understand what it’s like to play against someone who is miles better than you. It’s like hanging on to a cliff’s edge as pebbles rain down on you.

One thing I’ve learned over the years – having watched myself make these same mistakes a number of times – is that we fans almost universally don’t have a clue what’s going on with the players. The Xhaka thing, where he walked off the pitch telling fans to fuck off, throwing the armband at a teammate, and then refusing to apologize, followed by his absolute redemption in this team was a huge hint that no matter what I personally think of a player, I should probably shut the fuck up about it. I learned that lesson having come down pretty hard on a number of players and also Arteta.

That’s me though. I should shut the fuck up. You? I guess you should do whatever you want. I’m not sure what we get out of this criticism of players, though. I guess we get a sense of satisfaction when we call it early? An excuse for why we didn’t win something (scapegoating the players and the club)? Nicking a living off outrageous opinions online? I don’t quite know. I haven’t figured it out. Even if you don’t feel like shutting the fuck up, you definitely shouldn’t abuse the player on Instagram or try to hound the player out of the club. That latter bit (hounding) is the part that’s particularly getting my goat this week. I’m sure that Arteta wants to win the League, I’m sure he knows what we need to do to do that, I don’t think this is at all like the 2015 season where Wenger stubbornly refused to add to the squad. We are obviously doing things (Caicedo is the latest strongly linked player) so yelling at the players we have online only does one thing: makes those players play WORSE. Obviously, we don’t want that. Because we to win the League.

Remember when the fans all stood up and applauded Saliba when he made his big error? We can’t possibly sell all the guys some folks want out so it might be smart to encourage the players rather than go on Instagram and tell them to get out of the club “while you still can” or whatever other toxic nonsense folks feel like doing.

That’s sort of where I’m at right now. I feel greatly encouraged by this team and this manager. I want to repay that and I hope that even if I contribute in a TINY way, it helps us get some points at the Etihad stadium and MAYBE, just MAYBE win the League.

What a fucking joy that would be eh?



  1. We are contending for the league right now. There is no going back, but we have to come up big against Man City at home at the Emirates. We still have Everton and Brentford before that, but there is every reason to believe we can take three points from that key fixture, especially after this cup tie.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this team are an absolute pleasure to watch and to get behind. The enthusiasm, the comradery, the self-belief w/o arrogance, and of course the talent and technical ability, make the youngest team in the Premier League the absolute best team in the Premier League to enjoy right now.

    They’re all coming for us, but in the words of the great Jimmy Cliff, “the harder they come, the harder they fall, one and all.”


  2. One of my favourite posts of yours, chiming exactly with my feeling. We all who is ‘by far’ though!

  3. Well said Tim. Like you, my limited experience has taught me that there is nothing to gain by attacking players. The coaches already know strengths and weaknesses.

  4. I generally agree with your points.

    I wonder how much any modern athlete actually personally utilizes their social media? Just as it was either Ramsdale or White realized the benefits of disconnecting his social media account, the modern footballer (or any athlete) would do well to stay off socials. I think many do already, and it is likely that many clubs educate their players about the dangers of social media engagement. All this to say, I think it highly probable that most fans spouting abuse online are shouting into a void.

    Now, on to Sambi..

    (Sambi, Sambi, Sambi…)

    I like Sambi. I think their is a terrific player in there somewhere, and, if any one can bring that player out, Arteta can. But Sambi has to want it. Let me ask you, the times Sambi has played, what vibe does he transmit to you?

    I see an immaturity. An unwillingness or timidity to assess danger and rotation and snuff it out. I also sense (an understandable) lack of confidence. He needs games to get his form, but, given his current form, he can’t be trusted with games.

    But the KEY thing I noticed was Odegaard’s reaction. Did you see it? There was a sequence when Ode rotated to trigger our team pressure, Sambi was slow to rotate, and Ode (very appropriately) let Sambi know about it. Very publicly. Couple that with Sambi heading straight down the tunnel (instead of applauding the away support with the team) AND Nketiah’s admonition as documented in that All or Nothing episode, and you have a player who seems to be on the outs with a lot of things.

    In an ideal world, we’d loan him for the remainder of the season and sell him in the summer. Our purchases (and our academy prospects) don’t portend well for Sambi’s future at the club…and that’s ok.

    I thought Vieira, Tomiyasu, and Tierney played well (caveat, I missed the first 20 minutes). All three can be trusted to spell for their starting counterparts.

    Anyway, roll on Everton. I want Arteta to shake Dyche’s hand at the start of the game and kick him the groin. Wonder how Richard Keys would react to that? 😎

    1. Tierney and Trossard especially played well together. I wouldn’t be surprised if they featured more as a left-side pairing.

      1. It works because Tierney loves to overlap and Trossard loves to come inside. Conversely, Zinchenko loves to come inside while Martinelli likes to work on the touch line.

  5. Great post Tim. The vile directed at players doesn’t help in any way and I totally agree with you on that. One thing that is certain though, the oilers are not going to win the league. Take it from me, that leaves one team, and one team only, in the foil. Arsenal are gonna be champions with or without further new recruitment. The mentality I’m seeing is nothing I’ve seen from us for all the time I’ve supported Arsenal. Onwards and upwards!!!

  6. I only watched the first half and I thought Arsenal were the better side. Agree with the message from the post: show support for the players we’ve got, that’s what being a team is all about.

  7. Not sure I feel like people have been too unfair to Sambi. We need cover for Xhaka and Partey. He hasn’t looked like he’s quite at the level we need for a backup. That’s not a huge knock on him, not a lot of players around that could do what Partey does at that level. Sambi certainly needs regular playing time, look what it’s done for Nketiah. Maybe that will get him there, maybe not. As far as a backup to Xhaka, we’ve got Charlie Patino in the pipeline as well, so Sambi isn’t a lock there either.
    But given where we are, suddenly competing for the league title, don’t feel it’s unreasonable for fans to have high hopes for players. As long as they aren’t rude/malicious in expressing those hopes.

    1. I don’t see a future with us for Sambi. I said the same thing about Eddie and I was wrong. Maybe lightning strikes twice? 😉

      Just kidding.

      What worries me is his effort and his attitude, not his mistakes. Eddie never let his frustration show like he has.

  8. Thank you. I love this article and the mindset behind it. Arsenal fans should please, imbibe this attitude

  9. Is Moises Caicedo worth 75m? I can’t believe that. He’s not played in a single pivot at Brighton or the Ecuadorian national team, so no guarantees he can replace Partey in the Arsenal system. Not sure why we aren’t just going with Ibrahima Banda for 1/5 the price and reducing the financial exposure, or planning on Zinchenko moving into the pivot if Partey gets hurt (or goes to jail). I get that they don’t trust Sambi anymore, but that doesn’t mean you make a desperation bid for a guy who’s played less than 30 Premier League games.

    1. Bamba seems like a legitimate option, I’d be excited about Tielemans as well. Hoping that Mudryk-Trossard pivot was a sign of things to come.

      Jorginho is a decent player (should’ve got him instead of Torreira, in hindsight) but please don’t subsidize Bolus. Please.

      1. Jorginho is slow and outside the age profile of recent recruitments. If you’re going after Chelsea rejects, you go for Conor Gallagher, but sounds like Everton have gone in for him. But he’s not a #6 anyway. Tielemans the same, not a #6, he’d be a Xhaka swap, and don’t see the point of that because Sambi seems more of a #8, so why blow money on Tielemans who is also going to want 150k a week? Arsenal need a #6. That’s a small pool – Caceido, Zubimendi, Banda, Rice, Onana, all fit the bill, none of their clubs want to sell in January. That’s life.

          1. Agree, Tielemans would be Xhaka cover only.

            Regarding Onana I feel the same as Bamba. No projects, not at this stage. As josh always reminds us, the deep midfield is a position much more about mentality than physicality. The best players in the world at that position aren’t necessarily the quickest, or tallest (thogh those things help) but they see the game brilliantly with and without the ball and can anticipate two moves ahead of time. That usually only comes with years of experience at the highest level.

          2. Dr – but… Caicedo is 21 and only became a starter this year. That doesn’t sound like years of experience. Zubimendi is 21. Partey didn’t play the sole DM at Atletico, and for years was a back up fullback. Playing the #6 is indeed a mentality trait and you can probably scout who has the aptitude at an early age. Would you want Xhaka there? I don’t. He’s too erratic. Why couldn’t a 20 year Bamba do the job?

          3. Hi Ronnie, excellent points. I would say Caicedo is special. That’s why we bid 75 million for him and Brighton still said no. It’s very unusual for such a raw player to come to grips with the nuances of central midfield at such a young age. A few players are just born with the ability to scan their surroundings and rapidly adjust to every possible permutation. A 16 year old Cesc Fabregas is perhaps the best example of this. I’m less familiar with Zubi but he’s been touted as the heir of Busquets, so he might be in similarly rarified air. These players are really hard to find!

            I would also say Caicedo plays in a double pivot with MacAllister, who is another precocious midfield talent. I agree that he wouldn’t be able to play Partey’s role in the same way that Partey does, not right away.

            The third thing is that the structure of the team around these players matters A LOT. When you leave an unathletic passer like Xhaka or Jorginho on an island, they will look ridiculous. You can’t do that. Arteta has the tactical nous to recognize this, as Tuchel did. He will pair Jorginho with athletes at fullback and midfield and instruct them to stay close together. Lampard and Potter didn’t always do that and the result was sometimes calamitous.

            Lastly on Bamba. Yes, you could plug him into the 6 and he would do lots of athletic things and win some tackles and headers. That has some value. He would be like Francis Coquelin. But as soon as the ball comes to him under pressure, as soon as he starts having to run towards his own goal, as soon as he has to decide when to push up and when to sit, as soon as he starts to look at complex 2nd and 3rd man runs and has to make split second decisions on who to track, he will be lost. You can’t put players into a position where they will be likely to fail. Bamba needs to go to finishing school first, and that probably means a couple of seasons on loan.

  10. Things are getting sillier and sillier. Chelsea supposedly in for Fernandez for 115M? And considering Caicedo too? This has surpassed Roman and City and now getting into Barca and PSG levels of financial levity.
    Not a fan of Jorghino on a contract. Loan might make sense for short term cover, but not if it enables Chelsea to get Caicedo or Rice.

    1. Chelsea management must know something about a freeze on the transfer market the next couple of years the way they’re stockpiling young players. Let them have Caicedo and Fernandez and put both on 10 year deals before UEFA clamps down on the length of contracts this summer. Arsenal didn’t get to this position by spending stupid, they shouldn’t start now. Go for Bamba, he’d be about 15-20m, he’s 20 yrs old, tall and skilled and a proper understudy for Partey.

  11. Jorginho for the rest of the season would be tremendous business. Talk about a plug and play option at the 6 who has been there and done that in the Premier league and Europe. Very different profile to Partey but actually in my mind superior to him in terms of ball retention and calmness under pressure (Partey is better at everything else). I wouldn’t want him longer term though. His skillset ages well, but further physical decline from one of the league’s least athletic players would be antithetical to the physical muderers’ row Arteta wants in his defensive line.

    I’d much prefer Jorginho in the short term to a project like Bamba. He’s the opposite of Jorginho: a physical specimen who is totally raw and not ready for this level composure wise or tactically. Arteta would never trust him in meaningful matches. See: Tavares, Nuno. No, we need a plug and play option to get us over the line, similar to Trossard. Jorghino could start vs Everton and wouldn’t look out of place doing so. He’s also won a league trophy and a Champions’ league and would add to the leadership group. I support this deal as long as it’s a short term solution and not a years long contract.

    Moises Caicedo is the best of both worlds, and I spoke about him at length in the prior thread. H would require a club record fee, and I dont think that’s realistic. A player like that needs to be a difference maker in front of goal and that’s just not what he does. He would be perfrect for Arsenal though as a player for both the present and the future and could fill in at the 8 and the 6. Worth paying over the true value of the player by 30 million for short term expediency? Probably not if a cost effective short term instant starter option like Jorginho is available.

    1. He’s never won any leagues that he’s played in. So he literally hasn’t done it in the PL.

      Also, he’s 31 and his numbers are falling off a cliff.

      I’d love to be wrong here but I don’t see it working for us. He’s a disaster in MF defensively, especially as the lone DM.

      1. My mistake on the PL title; could’ve sworn they won it recently.

        Didn’t do a deep dive on defensive numbers, but frankly I’m not bothered by his lack of athleticism. He’s like Busquets, a statuesque game controller. This is a bit like the Zinchenko thing (though Zinny is far from statuesque!). He gives you so much more control that you don’t really need him to be a ball winner. I don’t think we miss Tierney’s athleticism when Zinny plays because we just have so much of the play. He gives you more of the ball which means you have more of the play. Simple to say but so difficult to do. Players who can do that are hard to find! I bet Pep would love to have Jorginho play some of Rodri’s minutes. Ditto Xavi for Sergio.

        I think the most difficult thing about this transfer is that he’s a Chelsea player, and I Effing hate Chelsea, and we’ve bought duds from them in the recent past so it’s some hideous schadenfreude if it doesn’t work out. Each transfer should be evaluated on its own merit though. He’s not going to be the future of the #6 at Arsenal. He obviously wouldn’t start against City or in the Europa league final. He could absolutely do a job giving Partey rest at the end of games we’re winning without us losing control as a result (see: Brighton, Leeds, etc.) and he could also absolutely start against most Europa opponents and lower tier PL opponents without exposing us to too much risk.

        Bottom line is, if his name wasn’t Jorginho and he didn’t play for Chelsea I think folks would have a completely different attitude towards this player coming in.

  12. uefA ain’t going to do $h*te to anyone, ever….

    Every oiler nation and hedge fund club will appeal it to caSS and get it reduced or thrown out with their, well, you all know the rest.

    jorG, hard pass, when have the chavs or manure ever sold us anyone worth their weight in gold, NEVER!

    Does not fit the profile AFC has moved to and not worth the $.

    Just get it done.

  13. I think we’re going to break the British transfer record and single transfer season Janaury record in one swoop. Looks as though the Jorginho deal is secured but won’t move through until we get our guy, Enzo Fernandez.

    On Jorginho, he’s a bit like Willian. Past the best use by date on the package. Maybe if you got him like 3 years ago this would be a boon for your team.

    positives: composure, organizing presence, high IQ probing player( will often find players and give them opportunities in pockets of space that they like to operate in), decent presser, underrated tacker(on this note ppl will argue with me but as long as the volume of tackling/defensive work isn’t crazy Jorginho is respectable), one touch capability with a special first time ball over the top

    negatives: lack of aerial ability, poor defensive awareness(often can get drawn out and forget about his primary role to clog passing lanes), restricted ability to move out of trouble with the ball/ especially on half turn, and finally I have never seen him win a 1v1 dribbling duel

    Someone brought up a good point about the Brighton and the lack of control towards the end. I don’t think he would necessarily be my guy to close out games but I can see where you’re going with that. My problem with him is lately he seems to be hesitant to pick up the ball deep and progress it himself. He also needs to be babysat in midfield. He can’t operate as a pure single pivot. No question he needs a midfielder in close proximity because the speed of his legs does not allow him to quickly shuffle into the passing lanes. As a single pivot he will get bypassed and something you’ll notice is Jorginho will frequently be chasing the play from behind. Might have to switch to a 4231 and operate a bit more conservative.

    1. Also, for reasons that I’m not privy too, because he has the technique, Jorginho isn’t a high volume long passer and won’t switch the play very often. It seems as though Arteta is looking for a Cambiasso/Thiago Motta type player. A cultured guy who can keep the pressure on the other side by playing out of the press and reliably making good decisions. I don’t know if Jorginho has ever matched those levels of consistency and defensive ability. I definitely don’t think this iteration can match that standard.

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