Wooooooah, the less said about that performance, the better.
Arsenal took 3 very undeserved points at home against West Ham, the game was won with a VAR decision that overturned an incorrectly flagged offside, but the 1-0 victory didn’t disguise a ‘revert to type’ performance from a group of players that didn’t show up.
It’s easy to criticise every single line-up Arteta puts out because there’s not really an ideal starting 11. We’re a mess whatever we do and you can argue every player and their role. The one that seems to irk people the most is Auba out wide, especially when we have options on the left like Martinelli. I also think we debate the midfield over and over, but the reality is, we just don’t have a lot of good choices.
We were awful today, that was the most important thing to note. The midfield struggled to keep to West Ham at bay, the spacing between midfield and defence was off, and there were a lot of very poor lapses in defence. We are not a creative team, there’s no spark, no magic, no nothing. It’s painful to watch. It’s also interesting that the heavy pressing has gone, with the penny dropping for another manager that the squad aren’t fit enough to deliver on that without dramatically poor second-half performances (or injuries).
It is telling that we’re back to Bernd Leno being the MOTM again. He made some crucial saves, commanded his area well and took high-risk chances in tough situations. He was very quick off his line. It’s simply not good enough that we’re battered at home by West Ham.
More worrying is that moving forward, we just weren’t at the races. No one seemed to find their range when it mattered. We took too many touches, made the wrong choice, or just fucked up the momentum in attack.
Dani Ceballos had a great game from a numbers perspective. He made the most successful tackles, he had the most interceptions, his passing was fairly accurate, but to my earlier point, we didn’t make it count for anything. Our front three managed 2 shots on target. That’s miserable, especially when you look at the players we have at our disposal.
Still, when it comes down to it, the thing that matters most at the moment is the 3 points. We took them. Auba fired a speculative ball into legs, the ball looped up, Mesut Ozil was sharpest, he nodded a header to Lacazette who swept home a clinical shot. The players thought it was offside, the lino did too, but after 37.5 minutes of painfully nerdish deliberation, VAR called it a goal.
It was a bit embarrassing to win that game, but we kept up the pressure in the league and now we find ourselves right in the hunt for top 4. At the time of writing, there are 5 points between Arsenal in 9th and 4th (6 points if you go to 10th). Win our game in hand and there will be two points. It is staggering that this season has been so terrible to us, yet we’re a fluke win at City from being deeply in the top 4 hunt.
On the players, bar a bit of an iffy attempt at a clearance in the first half, Pablo Mari looked pretty solid. The worry in the league is always that you’ll be beasted by hulking thug forwards. He dealt with West Ham’s aerial threat pretty well today, he also won 3 out of his 5 aerial duels. He’s a good passer, he has a bit more pace than we thought, and he’s very composed. A solid Premier League start and his second clean sheet in 2 games. Let’s see how he copes on Wednesday.
Mesut Ozil was the decisive factor in the game, his quick thinking and cushioned header turned the game. He worked really hard, watching him lead the press in the final 20 was a sight to behold. He’s lost a lot of edge with his game-changing passing. He just hasn’t looked very confident of late… it seems odd that a player can lose the sparkle, with him, you do wonder if he’ll ever return to what he was.
Overall, our midfield was poor. We lack power and a tempo setter. Ceballos had good moments, but it didn’t feel synced to the wider team. We created next to nothing, Arteta has to find a way of addressing that in the coming games if we’re to stand a chance of making the most of this top 4 race.
Reality is that we’re still shit and I have little hope that we’ll surprise anyone on Wednesday, but it’s nice to hope, and it’s nice to know that everyone else around us is just as capable of failing as us. The mighty Nuno dropped points, United will have a tough game against City tomorrow and Spurs just went a goal down at Burnley.
Who knows what will happen… but it’d be very funny if we shithoused to top 5.