My oh my, did Mikel need that result. Finally, something to show for the all the process talk.
11th versus 12th is never a nice way to wrap a game, but that’s where we are. This was a very, very important 3 points for Mikel for so many reasons, not least, to counter some of the nonsense written about him by people eager for this move to be wrong for Arsenal
Things didn’t look good, the first half was pretty bad, the opening 25 minutes saw us register a miserly 1 shot at Newcastle’s goal. We grew as the half went on, but you sensed the fans in the ground going from deeply frustrated, to kicking themselves with internalised order to support a squad that was clearly trying.
The second half was a totally different beast. The manager clearly went hard at the players to be more aggressive in the final third. Dani Ceballos was put on the ball more, clearly instructed to pick up the tempo, his searching balls looked for openings for the front three, he was quick-witted, bold and he really made a difference.
Nicolas Pepe, a deeply frustrating talent at times really locked onto whatever was said to him, he was more direct, he looked to stretch Newcastle, and he took risks. He made the first goal, beating a man and finding Auba at the back post, that was a huge relief for everyone.
The second goal didn’t take long to land. Auba played Saka in, the left-back of the day beat two players and sent a ball at Mustafi in the box, Pepe took control of that scenario and buried his chance cooly.
I was really hoping we’d keep up the pressure, but we dropped a little, giving Saint-Traore the chance to rattle the post. I know he’s a nightmare to defend against, but he really did cause Bellerin more problems than I hoped he would. Our concentration wasn’t up to scratch in the final 20 minutes, but we did turn the game again, taking back the narrative.
Lacazette came on, he managed a goal and an assist in rapid time. He first set Mesut Ozil up with what looked like a bungled shot. Mesut’s shot was embarrassingly meek, but he scored with the help of a silly mistake from the Newcastle keeper. A goal that had 35 passes in the build-up. The moment eventually fell for Laca though, Willock worked Pepe into the box, allowing him to tee the goal-shy Frenchman up perfectly for a simple finish. A brilliant way to end the game.
So what did we learn?
I think today showed that we have more depth than we thought. Players that we thought were dead are showing up for the new manager, confidence is starting to pay dividends, it’s really great to see. Proper coaching, who’d have thunk it?!
Mesut Ozil had a brilliant game. He created 4 chances, he worked his socks off, and he kept the ball moving forward, something he hasn’t done over the past year or so. The goal was the cherry on top.
Dani Ceballos looked the player we hoped he’d be. Great energy, really good passing (96% pass completion, noting that he made more than anyone on the pitch), 3 chances created, and 9 ball recoveries. Arteta said he was the best player pitch, noting that his behaviour changed, now he trains and plays like an animal.
Lacazette finally delivered, Arteta said the players love him and he was pleased with the reaction. A lot of people asked why he hasn’t been dropped, seems clear he’s huge in the dressing room. Now he’s scored a goal, let’s see if he can go on a run and pay back the faith of the coaching staff.
Nicolas Pepe didn’t bring the heat in the first half, he was slowing play down, and he didn’t have much in the way of guts when it came to creating chances. Second half, he was a different man, he landed 2 assists and goal, he also looked scary. Running defenders ragged.
… come on, admit it, Mustafi looked elite. He was great, his passing was 89% accurate, he made 9 clearances, 5 headed, and he looked solid again. If he can continue to play like that, he’s welcome to be in the squad. Who doesn’t love a turnaround story? His one could be the most whiplash in football history… literally a meme last summer, now he’s playing like a beast.
We also brought some attacking flair to our game. Lots of people making the most out of a small sample of data to skewer the manager. One of the stats doing the round was that we’ve only managed an average of 325 passes per game under Mikel. Well, today, we were at 590. It’s kind of a pointless stat, but when it’s backed by 4 goals, I’ll take it.
I think overall, the second half showed us the type of football the manager wants us to play. We’ve lacked confidence in the final third for a long time, a 4-0 win should go a long way to restoring that. We have a great forward line, we just needed a system to unlock it. Next up… show some consistency. We are on a mini-unbeaten streak, let’s see if the squad can keep that going for the month.
My final shout goes to Saka. What a talent he is. Next season, I’d love to see him further up the pitch, he’s wasted at left-back, but think about it, he’s 18, playing a foreign position and still bossing it. A brilliant game for him.
The fans in the stadium were superb, they are so important to the success of this season and beyond, they’re behind the project and today showed that. I’m excited, you should be too, let’s see if we can bring a similar level to the 90 against Olympiacos this week.
See you in the comments. x