Arsenal stay top thanks to a goal from Martinelli

One of my favorite moments in yesterday’s match was when the microphones in the announcer’s booth picked up a Leicester fan screaming “GET INTO HIM” (twice!) when Zinchenko had the ball in acres of space in midfield. It’s always funny to hear other supporters voice their frustration. But it was also a justified frustration on his part; Leicester played incredibly passive football for most of the match, allowing Arsenal to get forward at will, and only Arsenal’s profligacy with their final ball kept the scoreline from embarrassing the Foxes.

If the home fan was frustrated by his club’s lack of effort, Arsenal didn’t have the same problem. We were attacking and getting into them but what frustrated me was the final pass. Time and again, Xhaka simply passed the ball to no one or the opponent, or just turned it over. We often say that it’s ok as long as he’s trying to create something and I’ll grant that to some extent, but only if you’ll admit that he’s been struggling now for a few weeks and probably, ultimately, isn’t cut out for this role.

This left side of Arsenal’s attack has been a problem for a few weeks now and Arteta did the right thing, starting Trossard in the CF role and letting Martinelli and him play off each other. It was funny to see 5’2″ Trossard going up against 7’2″ Souttar but Trossard distinguished himself, never shirking an aerial duel and using his speed to run rings around the Leicester Ent. Trossard’s press made him a menace and forced Leicester to play nothing but long balls for the majority of the game. Meanwhile his speed and intelligence let him drop to collect passes while his Leicester marker was left looking around wondering how he’d done that. And Trossard’s flexibility let him drift left and Martinelli go centrally, giving them yet another flavor to look at and causing further chaos. He capped the performance off with a nutmeg assist from the left for Martinelli through the middle, through the legs of Souttar like a hobbit crawling between the legs of an Uruk-Hai.

Leicester decided to show dome fight (almost literally) late in the game when Brendan Rodgers threw on Rebekah Vardy’s husband and Youri Tielemans. After spending most of the match looking like they were ready for a trip to cancun they suddenly looked like a frat house high on skittles vodka and albuterol inhalers. Vardy tried his best to wreck an Arsenal player (which he does now every time we play) and Tielemans also tried to target Xhaka to rile him up. Vardy’s husband ended up looking like a man barely in control of his temper and I fear for anyone caught with him in a casino after he retires. Tielemans twisted an ankle while trying to elbow Xhaka.

Still, they did manage to make the final 20 minutes a bit more frantic than it probably should have been. I’m sure they pleased the man in the stands who has been screaming from the start.

All told it was a fairly comfortable performance from Arsenal. The move to drop Eddie for Leandro worked, though the profligacy of Xhaka in particular possibly suggests further rest is necessary.

Next up, Everton in London. I watched them play against Villa this weekend and frankly the Villains were incredibly unworthy of the three points. This is Arsenal’s game in hand and I don’t have to tell you how absolutely crucial it is to batter them and send them home with their tails between their legs. Sean Dyche bleating like a Northern sheep is a must.



  1. Xhaka needs to rest now that Partey is back, play J5 in front of Partey or play Vieira, we paid a lot for that kid.. It was a great game, just like u said, final passes let us down especially from Xhaka, Saka kept shooting to the stands, Martinelli was wasteful in the first half

    U said nothing about our disallowed goal OMG
    Clean sheet… How much we’ve missed it

  2. The VAR for the disallowed goal seemed very harsh but if that was a foul I’m baffled why Saka getting hauled to the ground was not a penalty. I know it’s quite popular these days to complain about decisions but yet another example is getting a bit tedious. A win is a win though, COYG.

  3. I don’t think it’s fair to say Xhaka is not cut out for that role. Over the last 2 years he’s proven himself more than capable. Everyone needs a break sometimes. I’d be curious to see more of Partey and Jorginho together, but against a team like Everton I’d be open to trying Vieira.

    1. I think he can do better than he is doing. He’s excellent defensively and organizationally and he’s a big character in the squad, so it will take a lot for him to lose his place. But offensively, he’s been dire lately. Teams know that he won’t dribble, that he’s not a threat to run behind them, that he’s not a threat to pass or shoot on his right, and that although he has a good left foot, he takes a long time to line up a shot. That’s a lot of limitations. That’s why Tim says he’s not really cut out for that role. Think peak Aaron Ramsey or Ilkay Gundigan for the paragon of that type of role: Insane motor, impeccable technique, perfect timing of runs and a killer instinct in front of goal.

      Like I said though despite his inherent limits he is much better offensively than what he has shown of late. I do think he could use a rest. The types of lapses he is having suggest a player who is fatigued mentally and not sure of himself on the ball. He has played every time he has been available this season, which is basically every game. We are where we are in large pet because of him so I’m not about to beat him up for a run of poor form in front of goal. But just like with Eddie sometimes you just need a break as a player and the squad could use a fresh look and fresh ideas.

  4. To put Trossard’s disallowed goal in context, have a look at Spud’s second goal against Chelski today. Dier climbs all over Mount like a vaulting horse to flick a corner to Kane at the far post, ridiculously more blatant and interfering than anything White did. Couple that with Saka not getting a penalty after being bundled over in the box and you can see why the inconsistency of VAR is driving fans crazy. We’ve been robbed again. Ho hum.

  5. No comment on the game: I missed it. The summary was great and very, very funny too. You seem to be in a very good mood, Tim!
    It is true that Xhaka seemed uninspired the last few weeks. Upon Gabriel Jesus’ return, I wonder if Trossard couldn’t take up that role when Granit needs a rest. He can shoot, dribble and pass. He has quick feet and mind. He is quite energetic and loves to create danger. But the defensive part would be an issue. Can he improve on that side?

    1. I really like Trossard where he is right now. I was worried about his size being a limitation, and it still is, but that seems to be outweighed by what he brings otherwise. An accomplished false 9 is a terrible conundrum for the CBs because the player he’s marking (Trossard) will just drift out to either flank or drop deep. If he follows him, that leaves a big gap. If he doesn’t, then someone else has to pick up Trossard, which leads to momentary confusion as the assignments are reshuffled.

      That little bit of uncertainty unlocks the positional fluidity of him interchanging with Martinelli, and that allows Gabi M to make the type of run he did yesterday for the match winning goal. He is the only one of the front 4 whose natural game it is to make runs like that and so he’s crucial to the balance of the unit. He hasn’t been able to make that type of run because the positional fluidity with him and Eddie wasn’t really there. When he just stays wide he can use his speed and his underrated passing to good effect, but it’s not his best trait and it’s relatively easy for tems to erase that with a double team. But when Trossard drifts wide, Gabi can prey on the spaces he vacates and on the uncertainty his movement creates. As a bonus, Trossard is really comfortable in wide areas, like Gabi J, and can play him in on either foot. That’s a tremendous dimension that he unlocks in our attack.

      I think he could also play the interior role, and that’s another advantage to a player like him. But I don’t think he’d be comfortable with the 10,000 underrated things Xhaka does in that role without the ball, such as at tracking runs, covering the space vacated by Zinchenko, winning duels or anticipating passing lanes. Besides which, if we wanted an offensive boost in the position, we have Fabio Vieira!

        1. Absolutely. I think Trossard’s game is much more analogous to Saka’s than it is to Martinelli’s. But Bukayo is so important I can’t see him being rested for any meaningful game. His mere presence alone causes a gravity effect that opens up space for others.

  6. Hey Timmy, greetings from London!
    I hope you’re doing great dude!
    The mood is quite good in London. I haven’t experienced this since I moved here. If you’re wearing anything with an Arsenal logo, random people suddenly start singing “Arsenal! Arsenal!” spontaneously on the street!!! I wish you could experience it. Definitely consider a trip here if you can, towards the business end of the season. Email me, and I’ll send you my contacts! Hope to see you soon!
    Here’s a little video I found interesting:

    1. Hi Alex, I’m surprised they let French people live in London! I don’t plan to go back to England any time soon. My next trip will be Japan. Plan to watch some JPL football when I’m there.

      You have my email address, drop me a note some time.

  7. I’m wondering if anyone else saw the Jorginho perfomance I did – worked hard and had a few excellent passes but also misplaced several passes in the middle of the pitch while passing to the side or back. I find the turnovers troubling, but the post-match supporter commentary only feted the Brazilian’s performance, probably to spite the Chelski support who applauded his departure amid criticism of his pass-backward style.

    1. He did have an unusually low passing % for his normal game. I can’t seem to find a pass map. Myscout won’t let me log in and the dot com chalkboard isn’t working.

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