Rough performance, but a trip to Wembley secured

by .

What’s that I hear?

‘WE’RE ON OUR WAY TO WEMBLEY, WE’RE ON OUR WAY TO WEMBLEY’

You can’t knock that feeling people, the FA Cup is a great competition that we love to be a part of, and sadly, it probably presents our best way back into Europe this season. The competition is going to be outrageous once we land in the semi-finals, as I’m writing this we still have Chelsea, Leicester, United, and Manchester City in the mixer, so the chances of a win are slim… but, if we make it to the final, there’s a very good chance we make the Europa League because we’ll be facing a team with Champions League football.

So what about the game? Well, can I offer you up a nothing assessment?

‘It was a game of two halves’

Ooohhhh yes it was. Arteta stuck this his guns with the squad non-negotiables. He didn’t give Mesut Ozil a start, nor did he bring Matteo Guendouzi in from the cold. They didn’t even travel. I suspect Arteta is getting a little tired, like most Arsenal fans, of the constant circus around the two players. Again, it’s a big risk, you lose, the pressure heaps on you because our usual reaction to losing is to assume the team would be better with the rebels in it. That didn’t work out for Emery, so god knows why Arsenal fans are bemoaning a coach that sticks to his guns.

Anyway, we didn’t lose. Our 1-2 victory was only our second win in 9 going away to Sheffield United. This is a side that are built to cause Arsenal-like sides problems, they’re great in the air, they have an aggressive ground game, and their pressing has been problematic for us. The first half was fairly comfortable. We kept our defensive shape, we limited their chances, and our formation, 3 at the back, freed up space for our forwards to cause problems.

The standout performer of the half was Nicolas Pepe, he found a lot more joy working with Willock and AMN as a right back. The additional speed and confidence opened up his game. He moved inside a lot more and though he wasn’t swimming in touches, he picked up the ball in more dangerous areas than he had been.

We took the lead through a penalty. Lacazette, who was mostly eaten up by Sheffield’s defence was clipped just inside the box. Pepe, a dead ball monster, stepped up and took responsibility for the kick and duly buried it into the bottom corner. He looked very happy after that as we started to see glimpses of what he could be at Arsenal next season.

We knew what was coming in the second half. Sheffield United upped the aggression and energy levels and immediately got at us with the long balls. The confidence of this team is very fragile. For the 3rd time this season, a lead has caused us problems as the nerves set in. It wasn’t helped when David Luiz had a knee blowout (typical after signing a new deal). Rob Holding did not instil confidence in anyone and Sheffield United played on his reluctance to attack long balls into the box. There were a couple of warning moments, the worst when he allowed a floated ball into our area to go unchallenged. Add to that his erratic passing, and, well, you sensed what was coming.

Sheffield United enacted a Delap style throw into the box, Rob Holding mistimed an unchallenged header, Kola had no time to react, the ball was bundled into the net. You worried what extra time would do to the squad and I really had absolutely no hope for what was to happen next.

Kola cleared a long ball into our box and found Saka through the middle, he shifted the ball up to Eddie, he switched the play finding Pepe in the box, the ball was begging for a right foot volley, Pepe couldn’t muster it, the half baked clearance found Ceballos who slotted the ball under the on-rushing Henderson.

Magic. The second time in 3 days that the subs have come together to win a game.

So what did we learn today?

Arsenal is still very much a work in progress and the squad that we have is in desperate need of upgrades.

The individual errors keep costing us. I don’t know how you program a group of footballers to stop doing stupid things over and over again. Outside the poor Holding performance, there were plenty of other incidents that could have led to catastrophe. Granit Xhaka had one of those games where you worried he was on the cusp of doing something horrendous. He dived early on and won a freekick. That set the tone for two more occasions when he needlessly threw himself on the floor in dangerous positions, one on the edge of their area that led to a counter-attack, one late on just in front of our box. It’s problematic. He doesn’t need to do things like that.

There were a lot of positives to draw from.

Martinez has exceptional distribution. It actually looks better than Leno’s. I’m not sure he’ll be happy with himself for the goal, but overall, we’ve not seen a massive dip in goal.

AMN just needs to bite the bullet and accept he could be a very talented right-back for Arsenal. His power and mobility combined with his confidence moving forward could be honed into something special. He offered so much more than Hector has been able to over the past few games. A really impressive performance from him.

Tierney also had a fairly positive showing. His final ball still needs more work, but he gives us a lot of drive down the left and his recovery pace is exceptional. We really need him to stay fit.

It’s also worth remembering, we have been shit away from home for years and that was a big victory however it happened. The team showed great resiliance to come back from a goal down almost immediately. Also, we won a tough game without Auba, Ozil, Bellerin, Leno, and Torreira out of the starting 11.

The first half was more talk worthy. I thought we started to see glimpses of what Arteta is trying to bring to the club moving forward. There were better passing combinations, more confidence going into moves. The biggest miss is a final ball. We dominate possession, but we’re not really creating a lot of high-quality chances.

Our second half performances need addressing. Why do we come out so meekly? Also, part of that, how can the team be better at adapting to a bad moment with an injury or a red card. Better players, sure, but we can’t have that now.

The biggest issue we can’t escape is our midfield, if you think about the reality, we’re lacking a proper 6 that can control the middle of the park physically, we don’t have a proper #8 in the side, and our #10 doesn’t want to be a professional footballer. That’s quite a few issues you’re dealing with. The good news for me is that if you fix our entire midfield, we have quite a few very exciting attacking players to unlock.

Overall, it wasn’t pretty, but we won. We live to fight another day. We are still in with a chance of an FA Cup final. That’d be grand, wouldn’t it?

Right, see you in the comments. x

312 Responses to “Rough performance, but a trip to Wembley secured”

Jump to comment form ↓

  1. Valentin

    A lot of U21 strikers look good because physically they are already men playing against boys. However they never reach the peaks expected of them because they don’t the technique to match their physiques in the first place.
    I remember having argument here about Conor Wickham. Some were seeing as the next Drogba, while I kept saying that he was mid championship or bottom level premiership player.

    However I don’t see that with Folarin Balogun. He is hardly a giant. He relies more in his speed of execution. He can be raw, but with experience his enthusiasm can become an valuable asset.
    In my opinion if it is true that Brentford are interested, then His best move would be to join them. Again they are doing what I mentioned earlier picking up on the cheap category A academy players who did not get their chances.

  2. Graham62

    WE WERE NOT WRONG! It had to be done.

    If he’d gone when he should have done, we’d have been in a much better place.

    What you see is what you get when a decade of regression goes unchecked.

    PS: Knowing the game shouldn’t mean you think the FA Cup is the hardest trophy to win.🤪

  3. Valentin

    Looks like the reason Mesut Özil was not in the squad against the Blades was due to a minor back injury…
    Still can’t wait to see who will be in the squad for next game.

  4. CG

    Graham

    “””Guendouzi must be disillusioned.”””””

    I am disillusioned watching him and Luiz waddle onto the pitch every week.

    What do people see in this pillock, I have no bloody idea?

    Even if he ups his professionalism and his performances by 100% – there is still nothing there.

    He wants to leave.
    Let him leave.
    TODAY!

    Get Round on it, send him to Paris via Eurostar star today.

    I am sure all the other players will waive him bye!

  5. Gentlebris

    Record my word for it, Guen is going nowhere but the top. I saw this kid play against Citey, taking the game to Citey while our so called big players played like cowards. All other Arsenal players on the field seemed afraid to do anything with the ball other than to quickly pass it but Guen was holding to the ball, driving with it and drawing fouls from Citey players. Two more players like Guen on the pitch that day and we would give Citey a run they wouldn’t have forgotten in a hurry.

    If a very young boy like Guen has an issue, you wrap your arms around him and show him so much love that if once or twice you yell at him, he would understand that you are genuinely correcting him and not trying to pick on him. Like parenting.

    A 38 could father a 20, if Arteta is behaving with Guen like this and you honestly believe that is the way to go(unlike Sir P who is merely running a propaganda), then I have nothing to say to you unless you are in your twenties yourself.

  6. CG

    Graham

    “”””PS: Knowing the game shouldn’t mean you think the FA Cup is the hardest trophy to win.🤪”””””

    it looks pretty hard this year.

  7. Gentlebris

    ‘If he’d gone when he should have done, we’d have been in a much better place.What you see is what you get when a decade of regression goes unchecked.’

    According to most who share your opinion, Wenger was finished as far back as 2010, yet we remained in the CL for 7 years after, and added three more FAs to our collection. It would be a major miracle if we get to win the FA or get the CL qualification within five years of Wenger’s departure. Year three running now and it was a miracle that we beat Sheffield.

    You guys are forgetting your own narrative, the only reason you felt Wenger was finished was because he was not getting past the likes of heavy spending Bayern in the CL and not winning the prem ahead of heavy spending Chelsea and far more established United.

    I dare you to demand a CL semi and a prem title from Arteta in the next three years and fly planes over his head if he doesn’t deliver.

    Wenger gave you all he had, his brilliance and his faults as a man, he gave you everything and guarded Arsenal against the hyenas like he owned the club. Yet you haunted him and pushed him out of the club like he was not the same man who gave you your greatest achievement of INVINCIBILITY. Now the foxes are here and you are beginning to feel the heat.

    Let me tell you this fact; in forty, fifty years from now, people would look back and see Wenger’s era covered in glory, and they would refer to the people who flew those planes as crazy ancestors.

  8. Pierre

    CG
    We did beat league runner up city in the semis and league champions Chelsea in the final a few years ago .

    Still didn’t get a lot of credit for it though, even from a section of our own fans.

  9. Valentin

    Gentlebris,

    This is exactly the point that I have been trying to make. This is the classic mistake rookie managers (not just in the football sense) make.
    Trying too hard to be strong and consistent make them lose the individual human element perspective.

    When I was a child, there was a kid in my school who had Tourette syndrome. The kid was brilliant, and whenever he found a math solution he let go a swear word. His classmates and his teachers all found that funny and endearing. One year a new math teacher came and part of his list of demands was no swearing. Basically in 3 months time he ruined him. The kid moved to a specialist school. Luckily he had a great year and the following year was reintegrated into normal curriculum. The result at the equivalent of O Level, he was first in my school, yet according to the previous math teacher, he was a lost cause.

    Arteta needs to be his own man rather than trying to emulate Pep. Guardiola can be cold, distant, demanding with younger players because he has a great reputation and ManCity wallet behind him. Not every club can afford to lose their Jadon Sancho because he did not follow the headcoach strict rules.

  10. rollen

    Arteta was captain under Wenger.
    He bought gold watch for the snake Ivan.
    Its obvious be will be a yes men lover.

  11. Pedro

    Bris, amateur common sense would have the Arteta hire as a write off, which is why you are saying it whilst pining for a manager that can’t get a job now with all the experience in the world.

    Game has moved on.