Arsenal 5-0 Crystal Phallus

Arsenal ran out 5-0 winners against a dour and uninspired Crystal Palace side this morning and here are a few observations.

Palace hit Arsenal with an energetic start which Arsenal was able to weather, albeit with a little trouble. I have to say that Arsenal still look vulnerable to a press and a team with a more organized press, who could turn it off and on over the full 90 minutes would have made this match a lot more uncomfortable for Arsenal.

One of the big problems in that regard seems to be that Arsenal have a number of new players who are still learning the system. As I said from the start of the season, changing the core of the team was going to take time to really gel and I expected this to be a top four finish season, with next season the real title challenge. Arteta and the boys had a hot start but we are seeing players struggling with positioning and the crisp touches needed to play Arteta ball.

One thing that they clearly worked on over the last 10 days is passing from front to back and specifically taking chances. Arsenal are one of the slowest teams in terms of getting the ball forward (Man City are the slowest) because we want to play with control (in order to set up the transition defense) and so we often seem to get lulled into a sense of security when teams sit deep. What we have been missing is a few more balls over the top or into the channels, which might not be perfect passes but at least they attempted to bypass some defenders. In other words, taking some risks.

Benjamin White, for example, tried two throughballs today. Neither was particularly good (one was too long and the other was too short, forcing Saka to literally drop back to collect the ball) but taking chances like that keeps the defenders honest. The same happened on the other side of the pitch and I rarely saw Saka and Trossard double-teamed as a result.

But that said, I still worry about what Arsenal’s gameplan is in attack. For most of this match, we played those long passes simply to get corners. And while we are exceptionally good at corners, this feels like a bad plan.

I say that but then again, Arsenal scored twice off corners to take what would end up being the insurmountable lead. The first corner was a surprise, taken by Declan Rice. Rice now has three assists this season but that was his first from a corner. In fact, he only even has a whopping 4 KEY PASSES from corners in his career (PL and EL).

I’m not complaining. Martinelli’s corners are pretty bad and Trossard is equally poor. Since Arsenal only seem to want to play inswingers (if it’s a lofted corner it’s 100% an inswinger) then we need a right-footed player to give us a look from that side. If it’s going to be Rice, then so be it. Reminds me of 2017/18 when Xhaka got 4 assists from corners. As an aside, to put into perspective how good that was from Xhaka: Bukayo Saka has taken every Arsenal corner from the right side for the last three seasons and he has 6 (total) assists from corners in that period.

After the two goals, Arsenal mostly settled into control mode with a few really nice forays into the opposition box. Jesus got the assist for the third but it was David Raya’s outlet from a cross which started the break. Trossard ran with the Brazilian and it still took a perfect cross to curl around the defenders and reach the Belgian. Trossard still had a bit of work to do and he sat down Cline and made the keeper play frogger before putting home.

Jesus looked a bit better than he had in December though I still think he’s carrying an injury. He did attempt 4 dribbles against Palace, which is one of his best this season but all 4 dribbles were in the middle third of the pitch and all of them happened in one sequence in the 2nd minute of the game.

With the game all but concluded, Arteta put on Nelli, Smith Rowe, Nketiah, Kiwior, and Jorginho. Nelli netted two goals off counters with an assist each from Nketiah and Jorginho.

After the match, Robbie Earle said “Crystal Phallus Pans” which is an amazing Spoonerism.

A win was much needed after the last 7 matches and Arsenal get a further 10 days rest before the next one (Forest away) to work on things on the training ground. Overall, I like that Arsenal are trying things that they weren’t before and trying to slot in passes into the channels and over the top. It will offer a different look if we can draw teams out to play us high up the pitch or in the middle – which is what Palace did, to their demise. If Forest just pack the box, which I expect them to, then we are going to need a fully resurrected Jesus to break them down in the box. Crossing the ball to him with their colossal defenders is going to be absolutely futile.

See you all after that!



  1. We did try the faster progression long pass thing a little more, and suprise! It worked.
    But still plenty of slowing the ball down, resulting in a packed disciplined defense, against which we made little progress. Need to keep mixing in the rapid progression, even from the start of the match, even if it occassionally means we turn it over quickly. We can’t count on goals from corners to continue generating a big chunk of the scoring.
    And ESR deserves a start in front of Havertz at this point.

  2. Martinelli scoring identical goals minutes apart, breaking down the left channel and scoring far post corner was fun to watch! We’ve got 10 days to enjoy this one before Liverpool at home, when they still might be without Salah.

  3. I noticed something whilst watching this game that looked new to me: Ødegaard drifting over to the left side of the midfield, Kai Havertz at times close to the right touchline, and Zinchenko in spaces you’d traditionally associate with a left back. It looked to me that Arteta was trying to be a little less predictable, as at other times, Zinchenko was tucked well into the center of midfield or even drifting further rightward, whilst Martin and Young Bukayo were doing their little two man show over on the right, with Havertz over in the left 8 position where he usually is.

    Did anyone else notice that? Is it in fact a new thing, or has this happened previously this season and I just didn’t notice (very likely, as I’ve been watching a lot more this season in company and not by myself with noise cancelling headphones as the good lord intended).

    I have to say, I enjoyed the hell out of that match. I get it, Palace were very very poor, but we played some exciting stuff at times (Raya had two quick distributions that bypassed basically the entire Palace team, and there were some first-time passes and flicks and a backheel or two), and OMG I loved Big Gabi’s thumping header for the first, Benjamin White’s snide little shoulder into the keeper that was probably maybe a bit of a foul for the second, Trossard’s absolute leathering of the ball for the third, and Young Gabi’s identical Henry-esque open body right-footed curlers for goals four and five. And the clean sheet! I love a nice crisp clean sheet, smelling of fabric softener and sunshine!

    1. I did NOT notice that. I’ll have to keep an eye next match.

      That third goal was very good. It was the kind of goal we scored a lot more often last season when we took a lot of early leads.

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