LEEDS MATCH DAY BLOG

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Arsenal vs Leeds is always a special game for me. Family connections, heated early 2000s rivalry, it’s usually a fun 90.

The big question this evening is how junior Arteta goes. Some are saying we should be going for the League Cup as we have limited trophy options. I agree with that, but also think we need to give some development minutes to players that aren’t out on loan.

Rumour has it that Salah is going to join the squad, possibly because Charlie Patino picked up a slight ankle injury. The attacking midfielder has been a regular feature in the post-game comps with the kids. He signed from Feyenoord on a free last season and apparently he’s a beast of a worker in training. His footwork is great, he’s very creative, and he looks like the type of player that is going to have goals in his future.

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ARSENAL NESTLED IN THE PACK

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Well hello my DARLINGS.

It’s Monday morning and I am just going to say it: That United beating kind of fired me up? You know that feeling when you’ve seen a fight in a pub? Or you’ve just watched Mike Tyson knock someone out and you want to go out fighting? That’s how I felt yesterday. Blood was in the air and I wanted some of it on my hands.

Is that weird? Maybe.

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SOME PROJECT PROPAGANDA AFTER A GOOD WEEKEND

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Results have been a bit of a mixed bag for us since Friday, but still positive. Arsenal will be 3 points off top 4, regardless of how the rest of Sunday’s games go (United getting pummelled, so we’re on the same points as them).

That’s where we need to be on January 1st. Why does that date matter? Because my suspicion is that by then, our players will have bedded into the club, performances will be of a higher level because the cognitive style of the system will have matured, and we don’t have any Europe to contend with, so we’ll be fresher.

Post-Christmas last season was very good for us. If we’d been within spitting distance of top 4 by January, we’d have been in the top 4 at the end of the season. It wasn’t to be.

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LACAZETTE, THE DIFFERENCE MAKER

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Mikel Arteta didn’t just need three points against Aston Villa, he needed a proper performance. Boy did we get one! I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the 90 minutes on display was probably the best of the season so far. Arsenal beat Aston Villa 3-1 and performed to a very high standard for about 80% of the game.

Every mediocre result at the moment brings a mediocre analysis from certain parts of the fan base. The Palace and Brighton games weren’t about bad tactics, the rain, or the end game of a destructive manager that plays dull football on purpose. They were a result of inexperience and a lack of confidence. Team sport is about psychology. If you are getting pressed hard and you are confident, you can break that press a few times early on, then put the opposition on the backfoot. If you let the press happen to you, you fall back on the easy option… long balls. We let Brighton have their way with us because the midfield wouldn’t show and the defence wasn’t confident. We panicked when we went a goal up against Palace, hoped we could defend, and we invited bad times. Villa was different.

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VILLA WILL COME TO PARTY

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Aston Villa are proving out to be Mikel Arteta’s Bolton. They don’t beat us up, but they have beaten us the last three times we’ve played them. Tonight, at home, I am not expecting anything different.

My expectations for this game are absolutely on the floor.

That is very negative, but you know what, my feelings count and that’s how they are today.

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NIGEL WINTERBURN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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Well, it’s pre-match-presser time already. A chance to get back into the mixer and make up some points in the table after a pretty disappointing draw against Palace.

This time, we’re playing Aston Villa. We know the routine. They might not have Jack Grealish available, but they do have plenty to offer attack wise. Dean Smith spent the money well this summer, he’s added goals, more pace, and creativity.

We have not dealt well with Villa over the last two seasons.

There are two ways this game goes.

Villa see what Palace and Brighton did and hit us hard early, force us into defending, and see if things unravel. This current squad has the tendency to buckle under pressure of going for the jugular and at the moment, their first instinct is to defend a lead, versus having the confidence to attack it.

The second way we could approach the game is that we rip into a team that has lost their last two games. Spurs absolutely battered them for the most part. Villa were dangerous on the counter, but spurs savaged them through the middle with a very direct game over 90 minutes. They had 17 shots with 8 finding the target, not bad for a team that registered just one shot on target against Palace.

There is going to be a lot of inconsistency this season, that is the nature of taking a different direction with the types of players you bring into the mixer, but that doesn’t mean our game shouldn’t move forward. What I’d like us to start doing is hitting a higher level of performance, even when the results don’t go our way. The pattern this season is that we we play well in spurts, but don’t keep that going for entire games. This system that we’re adopting requires confidence and it needs bravery. We’re not seeing that for enough of the game at the moment. Hopefully a win against Villa can make that happen, because we certainly need a bit of momentum heading into tough games against Leicester and Leeds.

One thing that would be nice: Better refereeing decisions.

We’ve been on the end of some bad ones already this season.

Cal Chambers being slapped in the face for the Burnley goal.

Bernd Leno being pinned for the Burnley second goal.

In the week, Bukayo Saka being actually assaulted by McArthur who should have gone considering his previous. I hate the blame the refs, but in this case, Mike Dean has been taken off Premier League duties this weekend because his approach to the kick was so bad… so there’s merit in suggesting that letting brutality fly worked better for Palace than it did Arsenal.

This doesn’t help Arsenal. More broadly though, how can the same cast of characters still be in the game when they’re not even performing with the aid of video? It’s one of those ‘but that’s just the way we do things’ moments. Why? Absolutely maddening that we have so much money in the Premier League, but we still can’t get the basics right when it comes to officials.

There are stories doing the rounds that our AFCON players (Partey/Mo/Elneny/Pepe) could miss up to 8 games across December and January, due to new covid protocols.

Quite something, wouldn’t you say? It’s just Twitter rumblings for the moment, but it really is something that AFCON can land in the middle of a season and decimate teams like that. If Wenger is right about anything, it’s that we need alignment on international tournaments.

Who will we play in midfield? We don’t even have bad options! No margin for injury either. We’re calling on Patino or Wilshere if things go south for hamstrings in the month that usually happens.

Arteta took aim at the abuse Steve Bruce has faced exiting over at Newcastle. It’s such a weird subject. The club he took over was a bag of mess, he kept them up last season, the football wasn’t great, but the viciousness that some people take towards managers, players, or execs really is a sight to behold these days. Why is it propagating? Because algorithms promote extremist views on the platforms. Dickheads say things that aren’t grounded in reality and the view gains traction. Then a little bit of that view sticks. So it goes again. The default mode online is disgust these days because it’s the only way you get attention. Doesn’t matter if the view is measured or grounded in anything real. But how do you stop it?

I’m not sure you can.

We’ve just seen the deadliest pandemic of all time sweep the world. People in hospital, fighting for each breath as the lights go out slowly, and painfully. A fucking tragedy of biblical proportions…. yet scientists banged out a vaccine in double quick times… still though, there needed to be a toxic debate about it. People lost jobs for the anti-vax cause. They took horse-dewormer because of Facebook posts. They literally died for the cause. If people are willing go against science and die… what hope have you got against @SteveBruceLikesGoats hate accounts? None.

You just gotta hope the generation growing up on more joyful curated tech platforms like TikTok might have a sunnier outlook on life. If the whole world was watching #FarmYardTikTok, the world would be a better place, I can assure you.

The bigger hope I have is the childish behavior online rarely seeps into the real world (mostly). If I’m in an Arsenal pub at Christmas, no one will abuse me (bar my friends). I’ll debate Arsenal and no one will scream. We’ll go to the ground and people will be behind the players. The internet is a shit hole, not sure you’ll ever truly change that… until something better comes along.

Ok my darlings… here we go… NIGEL WINTERBURN, left back LEGEND, trophied superstar, all round good egg, dropped an interview with Johnny and I last night.

We cover some great topics:

  • He talks about what it was like breaking into the professional game
  • He goes over contract negotiations with the legendary George Graham
  • He discusses Arsene Wenger and how he implemented big ideas with BIG players
  • He also talks about who he’s excited about and what Arteta needs to do this season

Well worth you time. Nigel, thank you sir, you are a hero to everyone that reads this site!


WEDNESDAY ROUND-UP

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Arsenal has a few days to get ready for a big game against Aston Villa. There are still 9 points to play for in this phase, so a win against the team that tried to steal our best player is would be very good news… and boy, does it feel like we need a bit of good news.

Palace saw another inconsistent day at the office for Arsenal. People complain about the tactics, the mentality… I’ve read people calling the Arsenal players weak.

We’re strugging with a lack of experience at the moment, which was always going to be a challenge this season.¬†When you watch the Palace game back, it’s hard to say that they deserved to beat us. Anything they created that was half decent came because of our mistakes. Our centre backs shouldn’t be letting balls go into feet with such ease, especially to Benteke. Our young players should be smarter about how they break up dangerous moves. The team should be building on goal advantages, not sitting back and letting life happen to us.

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