Congratulations Liverpool. I hate it, but you can’t be angry at Jurgen Klopp. What a manager, what a job, what a season. Well done.
The bloodletting has officially stopped for a few days.
We won a fucking game. Lovely.
It wasn’t always pretty; there were some heart-in-mouth moments, and there was some luck… but we won.
Arteta switched things up with 3 at the back and we looked pretty solid. He’s still prioritising defensive structure over attacking flair, but the formation allowed us to get in behind Southampton and force Hassenhutl into changing his approach.
Our two goals were pretty lucky, the first came from Eddie’s relentless pressure from the front, he chased down their keeper, forced an error and picked up an easy tap-in for our first.
The second, LATE in the second half, came off the back of some serious Saints pressure. Again, it was another error. Auba was professionally fouled in the build-up forcing the ref into a red card for Jack Stephens. The resulting freekick on the edge of the area from Lacazette was parried poorly, giving Joe Willock the chance to sweep home for the winner. It was great to see two of Arteta’s subs give us the edge after some horrible in-game ‘accidents’ during his short tenure.
So what to make of it?
Well, a few things. We’ve quite often been a bit shit against Southampton over the past 5 years, so it was nice to pick up an away win there (Arteta’s first in the league at Arsenal). Additionally, we have been a car crash off the pitch and even worse on it in the last two matches. Actually, when you layer in context, not as bad as everyone has made out, but let’s just say it’s been a miserable start, so anything that stopped the rot was happiness.
Sure, we weren’t great in the second half, but the fear kicked in. We’re dreadful away from home and the team was clearly nervous. It showed character for the boys to see out the win and stick to the plan.
Additionally, it’s clear that Arteta has a plan he’s activating against. He’s making it clear that a new dawn is ahead of us and there is a clearout that is certainly happening this summer. Mesut Ozil, Alex Lacazette and Saed Kolasinac all sat in the stands as the kids kicked on. That was a long overdue statement that I thought was pretty bold. A lot of people thought Arteta would bottle it and roll out the Ozil apology. He didn’t. That’s good leadership.
The coach also left out Matteo Guendouzi. This has drawn some anger amongst the fans because there’s a chart going around showing that the Frenchman is a standout talent on the stats front. I totally understand that, he’s exciting, he’s only 20, and the world is his lobster. However, we have to live in reality. If you work for an organisation and you are a precocious talent but can’t behave, you are a problem. This is elite level sport, we are looking to activate a high-performance culture, if you can’t play the game, you don’t have a right to be a part of the club. Being a massive whopper is not a key attribute worth having around if you don’t live up to the non-negotiables.
I have told you for a long while that he’s a problem. The staff find him difficult and even the players think he’s problematic and unfocused. More interested in Instagram babes is something I’ve heard, very unArsenal is something I’ve heard from other quarters. You can’t afford that in a team that is at the bottom. I’d draw parallels to Dennis Rodman who won a championship with the Pistons but was a wild child. The only reason the Bulls pursued him in is that they had two alpha males at the club they knew could control him. Matteo hasn’t won a championship, he’s just acting out like peak Mario B without the substance. Put him with Diego Simeone, maybe that’ll help him, but let’s not make out it’s an Arsenal problem if they can’t control a player who has fucked over 3 managers in a row. It’s a Matteo problem.
Still, the one positive with Arteta is he always leaves a door open for forgiveness.
Some additional positives from yesterday. I really thought Martinez looked good. He has a great frame for a keeper and the Premier League, he’s a good shot-stopper and he is shockingly good with his feet. I thought he was a calming figure in the defence yesterday.
Rob Holding, who was a little bit on the outside also had a good game yesterday. He’s regaining confidence, he looks stronger and a clean sheet will do him the world of good.
We also need to give a shout to some of our counter-attacking play. It was much better yesterday. We created 4 big chances yesterday. I thought Saka found a good stride yesterday and we were unlucky not to score more goals. Granit Xhaka, love or loathe, made a difference with his passing. We missed him, suck it up, it hurts to say it, but he was good. He made one sublime line-breaking pass in the first half that was very, very sexy.
The two worries were Spanish. Hector Bellerin still doesn’t look comfortable at right-back. He’s lost a bit of pace and he looks broken. His decision making isn’t quite there and you can see the nervousness in his game. I’m not sure if that’s just him moving forward, but he’s a shadow of his former self at the moment.
Dani Ceballos just ain’t it. We’re looking at a player that isn’t suited to Arsenal as an 8. Bake in that he doesn’t give a fuck about Arsenal, and, well, you have a hot pie with a nasty filling. We need a proper number 8 that has power, pace, great passing and a presence on the pitch. That has to be top of the list this summer, hopefully Kia has a good idea of what we can do there, because our midfield isn’t right. Does he know Dominik Szoboszlai by chance?
Big shout out to Eddie, he earned his bread yesterday. He’s a hard worker and he patrols that frontline with more and more urgency. I think he’s a good bet for the future, he needs a few more goals, but if you get his confidence in the right place there’s no telling how far he can go. Also, I am thankful for Auba when he plays in such a selfless way. He was unlucky not to get his 50th goal, hitting the bar early on, but overall, he had a great game.
Just before I tap out of the game commentary, just a reminder, last time we beat Southampton in November, we conceded 21 shots and lost on xG 2.71-1.91. Today, our xG was 0.76-2.53.
Final word for the coach. It was a solid performance. He was tactically correct, he lifted the players, and his in-game management was better. As I will continue to say, he is the least of Arsenal’s worries. The guy has it all, leadership, passion, tactical vision, communication, and positive vibes. Limited experience, but that’s what vision is about, taking a chance on potential. Arteta just needs a bit of luck and a very good squad overhaul this summer.
Onto the next game, an FA Cup quarter-final against Sheffield United. xxx