The Mikel Arteta era started with a 1-1 draw away from home. The 1 point wasn’t ideal, but I think most fans felt very good about what they saw. It was a first step, but for 5 days work, it’s hard to argue there wasn’t progress on the basics.
We conceded a customary goal, looked shaky at the back on occasions, but the team showed far more fight than they have in a long time. We pressed, the boys looked hungry for the ball, they actually turned up for an away game. I enjoyed myself, which felt weird.
Arteta was fairly happy.
“I’m very pleased with some of the things I’ve seen in terms of attitude, character and the passion we showed, and the fight and the spirit the team showed. Spot on, and probably better than I expected over 90 minutes,” Arteta said. “A lot of things that happened in the game [that] we prepared and I think they [the players] understood them and they tried to take them on board and we liked the final product at the end.
“I did not know how long the players would last at that rhythm with the demands I made of them but the attitude was spot on. There are no negotiables at this club, there are standards that have to be done at this club and they held them.”
Outside the simple basics like effort, we also controlled possession like we used to. Our movement going forward had more purpose to it. We only landed 2 shots on target all game, but we had 17 attempts. I think our poor efforts in front of goal were more down to rusty players, youth, and a lack of confidence over anything else. Our chances were in good places on the pitch, and on another day, we’d have scored 4. I’m still having nightmares about Willock at the end. Just blame the rain and too much vegan turkey.
Our delivery was also really bad, even for us. Saka and AMN are not even full-backs, so to be expecting them to deliver like Liverpool was always a big ask. Had we started Hector and Kola, it might have been different. I also thought we missed the power, drive and confidence of an on form Martinelli.
There were a lot of people grumbling about Pepe not starting. For me, if the Ivorian record signing has been ignored by 3 managers all under huge amounts of pressure, I would suspect he probably trains very badly. If you’re not putting the effort in under Arteta, it’s clear he won’t play you. That said, Nelson is way off the pace. He looked a bit more confident than he usually does but his decision making was woeful and his delivery is nowhere near where it should be considering he went out on loan last season.
I also thought Lacazette was off the pace. He made lots of incorrect decisions and his timing was well off, that one-on-one he blew was nailed on in 2016… but he’s been Emeryfied and it’ll take some time to shake that off.
Things I liked…
Arteta managed to get a performance out of Mesut and he talked about it to the press.
“He worked and could have been the difference; we could have scored three or four goals from his balls through,”
“To be fair his attitude in training since the day I walked into the building has been incredible. I said I was going to give a clean slate to everybody and I went to give it to him.
The German was instrumental playing between the lines. His quick passing and clever movement off the ball was a real nuisance. I liked that when he was subbed off you could see his face was blotchy from all the effort. He might not be the #10 of the future, but if we can get him firing, he’d be very helpful to our end of season run… and yes, I am aware Bournemouth are very good to players like Mesut.
Full backs tucking in, a City special, was on show yesterday. It seemed to give our defenders more options as they moved forward and made us a bit more resolute when being countered.
I also thought Torreira had a really solid game, he’s gone from being anonymous to an absolute brute in a week. Long may that continue.
… and say it quietly, Xhaka did a very solid job. Bournemouth are perfect opposition for him, but still, his pass completion was 94% and there was some ambition to his play. Shite defensively and not suited to the league, but you have to give praise where deserved. Word has it he still wants to leave to go to Berlin and I really couldn’t care less, as long as we have a replacement lined up.
So overall, a shite result, but plenty that points to a brighter future. This season might be a write-off (I hope it’s not) but we should start winning if we continue creating that many good opportunities… it’s a promising start. The players responded well to the new demands and the early signs are that Arteta has a good vision of what he wants to do, with the authority to get it done.
I went hard on Emery who couldn’t create an identity in his first 4 months (or ever), many thought I was unfair for this. I personally believe any coach worth a sausage will have his players showing serious signs of their ideas within 3 months. I will stand by that view with Arteta. It’ll take longer for results, because we’ll need better players, but this is a good coach who will take us to a far higher level than Emery or latter years Wenger could. I think we’ll see good things this season, even from these players. I am still excited. You should be too.
Onwards and upwards, a very messy Chelsea next, could be a good home debut for Mikel.
See you there!