Seeing where Areta wanted to take Arsenal from an artistic point of view has been clear since the first game, we understand the patterns, the organisation, and the vision. What we didn’t know is whether classroom theory could be implemented with the sort of leadership that takes teams to the top… that changed last night against Chelsea, arguably, the most impressive moment of our fresh-faced Spaniard’s 7 game career.
You could critique the selection of Mustafi in a horrendously under-gunned defence, but the simple reality was 1) he’s all we had 2) he played very well at the weekend. Outside that, the team was all-out action, no conservatism, we went to Stamford Bridge to win. My Chelsea pal even text me to say he was scared.
We were largely bossed for the opening 25 minutes, Chelsea took advantage of our captain who was fresh into the squad after a year out, and a left-back that’s actually winger, we really struggled in wide areas. We didn’t deal well with the press, but it kind of felt like the Leeds game… until #MustafiTime. The German World Cup winner fluffed a simple pass to Leno, Abrahams picked up the mess, David Luiz slid in and crunched him to the floor — penalty and red card.
Jorginho finished. This was the first game rehashed. It was despair for me, more wretched luck for Arteta, there was no way this team was recovering.
What a pathetic waste of a man I was to believe in that notion. If I were a handshake, I’d be damp and limp.
Arsenal recalibrated without making a single sub. Granit Xhaka dropped into central defence, calmed the troops and played like peak Baresi. We changed the dynamic of the game, Chelsea’s levels dropped and we took over the tempo. We actually ended the first half with more possession than Chelsea.
The second half saw Arsenal come out with more aggression, you felt something in the air, we weren’t going down without a fight. Our passing in the final third was absolutely atrocious, that might have been because we didn’t really have an outlet, but it could also have been a continuation of our drab attacking form this season.
The final ball didn’t matter, Mustafi released Gabriel on the counter, the Brazilian broke free of everyone from inside his own half, he carried the ball into Chelsea’s area and slotted home like AN ABSOLUTE HERO WHAT A GOAL FUCK YES I LOVE YOU GABRIEL!
We had some great moments after, we looked far more dangerous despite ceding possession stats to the blues… but we let it slip, we fell asleep from a freekick and let Frank Lampard’s team in on 84 when Azpilicueta nipped in front of Mustafi and slotted in at the near post.
Tragedy, I began to wish I had the guts to slit my wrists with the bic biro I had in my hands…
Arsenal saved me from my attention-seeking ploy, a year after Bellerin picked up an ACL injury he took control of the ball on the edge of Chelsea’s area, he made a yard and placed a perfect left-footed strike into the bottom corner… OMEGYBOJKN CASDK . KNKOVFENLK VE VEIRN TYESESSSSSS I LOIVE YOUR VEGAN LOINS!@
The game closed out 2-2, QUITE POSSIBLY THE GREATEST 1 POINT OF MY DAMN LIFE.
So, to ground things.
What we learnt tonight is the Mikel Arteta is the real deal. He’s more than classroom theory, he’s a leader that players go to war for. That Arsenal team was not built to deal with a red card to David Luiz. It was not supposed to come back from a goal down twice with Granit Xhaka in defence. This was supposed to be a loss. Arteta showed that he is a captain, and he made the case that with better players, he can take us forward to the promised land.
Man of the match for me was Granit Xhaka. I have done a total 180 on him and I’m not even ashamed. I wanted him out, I’d have taken a stale kipper and a pair of your ma’s soiled panties in exchange for him. What the fuck do I know? Arteta has turned him around. He was brilliant. He played well under pressure, he led like a demon, and he showed true balls under extreme pressure. Unreal performance.
Hector Bellerin came back into the mix as captain in a game I suspect came too early for him. He looked off the pace in the first half, but he grew into a captains performance as the game went on. He never gave up, he constantly bombed forward, and he turned up with a superb goal at the end. I am so happy to have him back in the side playing under a proper coach.
Saka recovered well, making the most tackles with 5. The kid is going to be such an incredible player. Left back, left wing… it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t drop, he never stops, and he is a handful going forward. I love him. I am so happy he’s going to get the education he deserves. What a night for him, he never stopped fighting.
Lucas Torreira had a good game. Lacazette, though not the outlet we needed made a lot of recoveries from the front… and say it quietly, but Mustafi hit some numbers making the most clearances (9), blocks (3), and headed clearances (6).
GABRIEL I LOVE YOU. That kid is a superstar. The only bit of doom that came out of that game is the biting reality that this kid is our £150m player of the future every major club in the world is going to want. He’s always excited me like Anelka did when he first joined, he’s electric, a little bit of Robin’s flair, a bit of Anelka’s pace, and the work rate of Adebayor. He’s a gladiator on the pitch. That finish was absolutely outrageous, HE IS A TEENAGER, the composure was disgusting. He’s the first sub-20 player to reach 10 goals for Arsenal since… Anelka. BEAST.
I could go on with the individual performances, but for me, this was all about the TEAM. We have lacked a collective being for over 15 years. We now have a team. The players want to fight, they want to show the fans they are here to play, and they look ELECTRIC. We were more than the sum of our parts last night, quite literally, 10 versus 11.
I wrote this before the game from Phil Knight.
‘No matter the sport— no matter the human endeavour, really— total effort will win people’s hearts’
Did the away fans stop singing at any point during the game? No. They were our 12th man. Why? Because the players left it all on the pitch. Fans react to that, it’s as simple as that. So fuck all the ‘expectations’ merchants, all we wanted was something to believe in, and that’s what Arteta is bringing to the table.
Do we need to start winning some games? Yes. I think it’ll still be a rough end to the season, but I hope that the manager now gets a little bit of slack from the vampires. He’ll need a big summer, he’ll need to be allowed to assess who is right and who is wrong for the future, but at least we know that when the Arteta squad is built, he’ll be able to drive it forward.
Last night felt good, I feel invested in my team again, I felt sick at the sending off, I was up and down all game, I needed a nap by the end of it. That’s what football is all about. I’d forgotten what it feels like to be invested.
I am excited again… and that’s all you want as a fan.
Right, listen to the pod I recorded with Alex and give it a 5* rating (there’s a bit missing that I’ll add tomorrow).