I’m not going to sugar coat this: it was a boring game. I spent quite a bit of time during the match looking up how to dye disc golf discs. This is definitely something I’m going to get into soon. I was even a bit angry that the match was so boring because I had to give up a morning round of disc golf with my buddies. But they promised to play again at 11am and so I was kind of just stuck here watching a dreadful football match and ended up playing my best ever round after the game.
The most exciting part of the match happened an hour before, when Mikel Arteta dropped the bomb and announced that Vieira would start in midfield instead of Havertz. A lot of folks were worried because Vieira is nearly 10″ shorter than Havertz and last year Everton sort of bodied us for 90 minutes. But the logic was clear to me: Vieira and Martinelli are both close control operators and against a low block that’s exactly what you need to unlock a stubborn and organized defense. The last thing you want is Havertz’s very poor passing and inability to dribble. And it should have worked too, Martinelli scored a pretty good goal off an assist by Vieira but it was ruled out for offside. And Nelli popped his hammy, which meant Trossard was able to come on instead and do similar things: including getting the winning goal from a beautifully worked corner routine.
Nketiah started up top and I have to think that is strategic: Arteta must have been looking ahead to the Champions League match on Wednesday and the Spurs match on Sunday and saving Jesus* for those two games. Nketiah is never going to do well against a team like Everton where his “off the ball work” (i.e. runs) is extremely limited because there’s nowhere to run to and no one is going to follow him because that’s what a low block does, it stays in its zone. It was one of his worst games for Arsenal and we often looked like we were playing with 10 men.
The rest of the lineup was exactly as expected and once again Declan Rice was masterful in the #4 position. There is literally no one better in football at just cleaning up weak clearances and snuffing out counter attacks. Every single time I looked up from researching how to dye discs, he was doing the dirty work for Arteta’s men. It must be nice to be a center back with Deck in front of you. Declan Rice has got two dogs in him, one is Patrick Vieira and the other is Gilberto.
Part of what made the game so utterly boring was Everton’s craven approach to the game. Yes, I’m talking about the low block but that tremendous dipshit Sean Dyche intentionally left the grass as long as possible and unwatered which made passing and dribbling super slow. Dude doesn’t even realize it’s 2023 and that even Everton players will need to put the ball on the ground occasionally. Yes, it slowed us down and made the game ugly but it felt like every time they tried to make a pass on the ground, Arsenal were there to take the ball away from them and restart the (boring) attack. Dyche blamed the players after the match, of course, saying that they were too slow and timid in transition. Fucking lol. A delicious pair of own goals from the man most likely to be replaced by Sam Allardyce in November.
What else to talk about… hmm…
I thought Arteta was pretty funny bringing on Havertz and Tomi to shore up the defense in the 80th minute. The thing I keep seeing from people is that “Havertz excels at off ball stuff”. Yeah, ok, so we paid 75m for a forward defender? And like, uhh, can’t pretty much anyone do that? Look, I’m not a Havertz hater. I just think he’s going to take a year to get up to speed at Arsenal and people talking about his “off ball work” are really stretching credulity. We didn’t pay 75m for a guy who ‘defends real good’ at the #8. Ultimately, he’s going to be judged by the number of goals and assists he gets. He might get a pass if we win the Champions League or something but if he doesn’t score or assist (a lot), he will be considered a bad buy. Sorry! I don’t make the rules.
Oh yeah, David Raya had a good game. He was brought in to claim all of Everton’s high balls (which always sounds funny to me, an American) and he claimed all the high balls. He also showed off his excellent range of passing and kicked some absolute boomers. As I said on twitter, this man fucks. After the match Arteta was incredibly tetchy about the (extremely normal) questions about why he “rotated” keeper. He, apparently, wants to change football and make it normal to rotate keepers and even substitute a keeper in a game. I’m an iconoclast so I like watching people try new shit but even for me it’s a heck of a position to take. Let’s see if Arteta sticks with it and actually does rotate or if Raya is the new number one. Based solely on this one game (and all the data from last season), I consider Raya to be the better of the two keepers. I like Aaron, he’s outspoken and a funny guy. But this is sport and in sport sometimes the most likeable guy doesn’t win. I mean, look at Diego Costa. His entire birth country hates him.
Anyways, that’s it. I’ve blathered on too long. Tomorrow I’ll post about disc golf so feel free to skip it if you’re a hater! lol.
Bottom line: good win, good lineup. 100% would record the game in the future and watch it after disc golf, on 3x speed.
*Typically Jesus saves but this time the one set of footprints in the sand was when Arteta carried Jesus.