Arsenal frittered away another 3 points against a top 6 side when they were downed by two late Chelsea goals. The result is very disappointing, the way it went down was very us, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many fans in that ground that weren’t happy with the way things are moving.
When it came down to it, there were some very fair mitigating circumstances the new manager was dealing with. We were missing Granit Xhaka, say what you will about him, he starts in this midfield. We were missing 3 full backs, plus Holding, Ceballos and Gabriel. That’s 7 players, which is a crisis. Then when we lost Cal Chambers, who was having a great game, and had to replace him with the absolutely dreadful Mustafi, well, you’re always going to struggle.
Both goals we conceded were very poor. I think the context, outside our limited set of players, was the amount of effort we were putting in. The players simply haven’t worked at that sort of level for a very long time, after 45 minutes, the energy levels noticeably dropped. In the second half that meant the players started to defend a lot deeper, which gave space for Chelsea to roam. We gave up our first goal from a hideous Bernd Leno error, he came racing out of his goal for a one-handed swipe at a cross, he missed, Jorginho was in at the back post for a finish he didn’t know much about. He’s been our best player this season, you just don’t expect that.
I don’t like to complain about reffing standards, but there’s no way Jorginho should have been on the pitch. In general, the tactical fouling on the halfway line was ignored by the ref for most of the day… arguably, if we’d been street smart enough, we’d have engaged in some of it for the second goal. Matteo G went for a header he was never going to win, he should have been sitting far deeper in my opinion, which is something I have no doubt will be fixed. Chelsea were allowed to run at us, Luiz and Mustafi dropped, and dropped, and dropped, the ball switched wide, Abrahams didn’t have Mustafi tight, he turned and put it past Leno. A shoddy piece of defending, but look, we’re not going to shake that in 2 weeks.
If there was a criticism to be had, I think it was about making aggressive subs a little earlier. Lacazette and Nelson weren’t offering much, I think there was a limited case to made that we could have brought on Pepe or John-Jules to bring more energy to the frontline. That said, when Pepe did come on, to watch and £80m winger spurn a chance because he couldn’t shift it onto his correct foot was quite depressing. Jules, well, an unknown quantity for a big game.
If we go to the first half, there was a lot more to be happy about. Firstly, the atmosphere is directly linked to what the fans are seeing on the pitch. We are energised by the efforts of the players, it’s fair to say the fans were buzzing for a large part of the game. Even after the game, there weren’t any boos, everyone respected the fight on show.
Arsenal were very compact. It was very refreshing to see our defenders a lot further up the pitch, people knew their positions, everyone was putting in a shift. I thought this new attitude was typified by the selfless performance of Auba. He held a very wide position all game and he actually tracked runners. A lot of people constantly rattle off the ‘not that sort of player’ line… well, Mesut Ozil and our best fox in the box are doing yards and making tackles now.
There wasn’t a whole lot of creation in the first half, but I think the purpose was more about containing Chelsea and nicking a goal where possible. Building from a solid foundation is what we’ve asked for over the years, we know we don’t need a lot of chances because we have elite finishers, so it was an interesting game from that purview.
I also thought we were very good in possession, again, it didn’t lead to much, but the passing in general was unrecognizable at times. We were seeing a different team that could move the ball out of the back fluidly, and shift the ball between the lines with relative ease. Chelsea were mostly chasing shadows for that opening 45, but what I loved is that were starting to reap the rewards of good off the ball positioning… Chelsea players were ratttled into making unforced errors just by where our players were positioned. Not perfect by any means, but you could see that we were difficult to attack.
Our goal came from a George Graham inspired setpiece. Cal Chambers, who is a beast in the air, nodded on for Auba at who was hunting in the box. It really was a shame he limped off with what looked like a serious injury.
A lot of people lay the genius of Chelsea at Frank Lampard’s feet when he switched Chelsea to a back 4 and brought on Jorginho. I’m not sure that was the difference-maker, I think Arsenal running out of steam was. When you’re tired, your body defaults… as a team, we defaulted to habits that Arteta hasn’t fully dealt with yet.
The game finished, but there were no boos. That was a heartening performance from a depleted team that’s about 2 weeks into a journey. We felt robbed, a bad feeling, but I didn’t expect to feel like that considering the circumstances. That’s a good sign.
I’m positive, I know most will expect me to be, but I think I’ve seen enough to know we’re heading in the right direction.
Arteta has taken over Arsenal in a chaotic fixture pile-up, with a broken squad, and very little confidence.
We’re seeing a huge amount of effort already. I read some people pondering whether Arsenal are capable of playing with intensity… absolutely. We’ve been playing with the handbrake on for well over a year, Arteta isn’t pushing Arsenal players to unachievable levels of effort, he’s bringing them up to a normal standard. It’s going to take time. We have a World Cup winning S&C coach who will be frontline shaping our intensity, we will be fine. Key thing for me, I was unsure if Arteta would be able to motivate players to push themselves to breaking point, he can, that’s good news.
The players are responding well. I thought Luiz had an immense game, Torreira is playing like a proper DM, and Mesut Ozil has turned up for the second game in a row, Auba is defending, and AMN is looking very solid.
David Luiz had this to say.
“For me he will be one of the best coaches in the world,” Luiz said.
“I am lucky to have have had many good coaches in my career, he is intelligent, he is clever and I think he will be one of the best.
Sure, I can take that with a pinch of salt, but no one was saying this about Emery. My point here again is that the players are showing you they believe in Arteta with the effort, but they are saying they believe in his ideas, which is even more important. It takes time to learn a new way of playing. It took Klopp and Pep a while to bed in the way they wanted to play, it’ll take Mikel a while, but you’re seeing good signs.
I’m also positive that the manager can raise the level of the squad. We have good players, saying we don’t is lazy, it’s also usually peddled by people that liked Emery. We matched Chelsea fairly comfortably with 7 players missing, with a brand new manager… they’re 5 months into their project with a fully fit squad. We haven’t had proper fullbacks for two games, even the addition of Kola will help. Holding is going to be immensely welcome when he joins, a ball-playing centre back with athleticism. I’m sure Arteta will draw more from Ceballos and I’m pretty sure Martinelli is exactly the mould of player he wants in his side.
The second part of having fit players is being able to select from a bench. A lot of criticism was levelled for his subs yesterday, but really, how many game-changing options did he have? Pepe can’t get a start ahead of Nelson, we can keep hoping he’s the real deal, but all logical indicators point to him not being that player right now.
We’ve also lost our ‘ex-captain’ to Hertha Berlin. 1) This is his level 2) We will have to replace him. Hopefully we find someone with the power and pace he lacked. They also need to be able to pass. That signing needs to be a game-changer, there has to be a good plan there.
Results have to come, they will come, but there need to be a level of realism. We’re in the most intense part of the season with a new manager who is having to communicate most of his ideas in meetings and one on ones. Still, we’re seeing the beginnings of an identity, which is what we all wanted. The players are fighting for the club, something we’ve not seen for years. Fans in the stadium are backing the approach, lots of positive sentiment during and after the game. Good things will come, the next 6 weeks will be rough, but we are moving towards something very exciting.
Right, see you all in the comments. x