The morning after and I’m still feeling pretty immense about yesterday. It was the sort of game that builds the character of a team and shows who is there to cut the mustard and who there spreading low-fat mayonnaise like a melt.
Nearly everyone showed up, the key worry heading into that game for me was that Everton hadn’t played for 14 days. I mistakenly thought it was a week. That’s a lot of time to prepare, revive the legs, and get hyped to blitz a side on a shaky road to recovery.
For us, it was the 3rd game in 7 days. That has a huge impact when you’re fighting a team that’s had their feet up. The players looked toasted by the end, Mikel said they were cramping up, factor in that they only had two second-half subs to freshen things up, and the outcome was all the more impressive.
Everton gave us problems, no doubt, but they only hit the target 5 games in a match that was pretty evenly split for possession. I thought a lot of our problems came down Bellerins flank. We had a two-fold problem there, Hector looks disgracefully off the pace, I think we’re all seeing now why the club invested in a spare right back when the need didn’t look that important. We also saw the difference between what Pepe offers as cover and what Auba does. Chalk and cheese, the Ivorian needs to pull his finger out. He has so much to offer going forward, but the only way he’ll survive this regime is if he does his bit tracking back, especially when his right-back is struggling.
Talking of right-backs, it is sad to see that AMN has fallen foul of the new rules of the road. I suspect he’s complained about playing right-back (like he did to Emery), because surely that’s all it can be, he always works hard, hasn’t put a foot wrong when he’s played and looked a standout 5 weeks ago. Seems like a really silly thing to do, especially when your captain is playing on the left and mucking in defensively. Hopefully, he can redeem himself, I’d prefer to see him there than Cedric, so let’s see if his tune changes soon.
Thursday night will be an interesting test for rotation. Mari and Gabriel were both in the stands today. I struggle to understand the Gabriel omission, was pondering whether it was the body language and blow up at Xhaka on Thursday, the fact he’s played a lot, or a slight knock. Mari is going to be interesting, the Spaniard who just loves smiling needs to land some game time soon and a home match against Olympiacos could be a great way to introduce himself to the fans.
Arteta dropped some sexy hintations about Auba’s state of mind after the game.
“Hopefully not just the wins, but as well what we are trying to do,”
“That he really enjoys on the pitch every time he goes, that he feels very much part of what we’re trying to build here. And I think he’s with that mindset at the moment.
“I think it’s been tough for him. You know a player like him, there’s been a lot of disappointments in the last few months and years because he has big expectations. You know he wants to play for the biggest club in the biggest tournaments, and be up there with the best players in the world. And we have to try to support him and give him everything at the club so he really feels fulfilled here. That’s the challenge I have.”
I still think it’s a moonshot to get him to stay, but the manager has said over and over again that he’s our best player and most important. Hard to disagree. It was also interesting that he wasn’t sure if he could be the complete player, namely, could he defend (even if he wanted to).
“I had two questions. One was ‘ he doesn’t want to do it?’ or ‘he cannot do it physically?’. Once I found out that physically he could do it, it was just about convincing him he needs to do it every three days and he’s showing that.”
He’s certainly shown his hunger in bucketloads. If that leads to him to staying, you’ve gotta be onboard that hype train, if he leaves, we’ll land more money than we would of if Emery had stayed on.
The manager alluded to Saka being out of the line-up because of a fitness issue and also leant into some of the mistakes being geared around a little bit of believing-your-own-hype-itis.
“Well I’m never happy when something happens like that. With Kola, he’s been very unlucky with injuries. Bukayo had some issues as well before the game then he started to play after a few minutes. It was a great contribution defensively but as well there are other moments that he showed today that there is still a lot of margin for him to improve and he needs to keep his feet on the ground and we have to help him to.”
Finally, Mesut Ozil had a very good game again. He’s certainly not falling back into old habits, he has a coach that understands him now, and one that he very much seems to respect. Arteta had an interesting piece on him.
“Yeah, I’m very pleased with him. Obviously I played with him and I know him so I try to pinch him as much as possible to do what he needs to do because I know how much he can give on the offensive side. But as well, Mesut – it’s a good example for this game. When we are dominant, when the whole process is properly done and you find the player in the right position, it’s the type of game that he wants. When that game becomes like this (gestures back and forth) that’s not his game. So he needs his teammates, he needs the right structure and organisation for him to flourish. Sometimes it’s not his fault, it’s about the team that is not supporting what he needs.”
Arteta is incredibly open about everything, I love it, feels like we’re getting an inside look under the car bonnet, hopefully, he doesn’t stop with that. Anyway, I feel like that last part was interesting (and the pinching up bit tbh), because that game doesn’t always go the way of Mesut’s strengths, so what is the plan? Or does that mean that he won’t be the plan at some point. Anyway, great to see the player happy and contributing beyond just being a key pass quarterback.
Off-topic. Arteta beat Carlo in his first encounter. He also closed the gap on Spurs to 3 points. Mourinho is out here moaning about his lack of strikers like he’s the first manager to ever have an injury crisis and I have Spurs fans complaining the football he’s trying to play is straight out of 2010 and Nagelsmann made him look antiquated. He’ll tank, like he always does, just faster this time because he can’t shield himself with £500m of players. I’m still happy with who we hired.
RIGHT, I did a podcast for your ears, listen and enjoy. We have a VERY good bit at the end where we discuss hair cuts. We also do a deep dive into the Everton game, we touch on the players who are doing it, we slam veganism, we talk discipline, missing names, and what we think might happen this summer.
Dive in right this instant (and check out yesterday’s HUMDINGER of a match report)