Well, what a day yesterday was! Our best young player signed a new deal with the club and we beat Norwich 4-0 in our first home game in 8 years.
You can only play what is put in front of you; admittedly Norwich were not really up to much, but I’ll take the positives and there were quite a few.
The main one was lady luck, she’s been pretty absent for Arteta in general since he took over. Injuries, sendings off, bad luck on the pitch, pandemics, literally being the one that shut down the Premier League, you name it, we’ve seen it. So it was nice for a second game in a row to start the ball rolling on the scoring front with a nice dollop of keeping mess. Tim Krul tried to turn an incoming Auba, he messed his timing up, he was tackled, leaving one of the deadliest sharpshooters in the league to sweep home into an empty net. You could call it lucky, or you could salute the fact the manager has been hounding his strikers to shut down keepers because they are shit on the ball. If forcing errors is part of your plan, it’s not really luck.
The second goal was far sexier in its architecture. David Luiz pinged a long ball out wide to Kieran Tierney, he controlled the ball and slipped Auba into the box, then Granit Xhaka stormed through the middle like peak-Freddie to scored the second goal of the game. The Swiss certainly enjoyed that moment, he looked very excited.
The third was another gift, Norwich made a mess of a throw, the attempt to switch the ball out of danger was actually a well-weighted pass into Auba, he took his chance stroking a low shot into the far corner. Super cool, as ever.
The fourth was a fun goal. A right back I’ve been hyping as the future of Arsenal FC for a while made his debut after 150 odd days. Dani Ceballos drilled a bad corner into a Norwich clearance. Soares was the recipient, he controlled the ball, looked up, and cleverly lashed the ball into the bottom corner, ensuring a touch of deflection along the way to fool the keeper.
Soares, I’m sorry man, you’re the best and contacts scouting truly is where the game is heading.
Was the game a full 90 of bliss? No. We came out from the second half looking a bit of a mess again. We allowed Norwich to run at us and play some football. They didn’t really create that much that was truly dangerous, but we gave them time on the ball, and a better team could have punished us. Just to give some data to that observation on danger, the Norwich xG against us was 0.15.
I don’t really know what the problem is with the second half football, but it’s a bit of a theme. What I will say is that at least this time we wrestled control back and really got at Norwich towards the end.
Special shout out to Dani Ceballos, I thought he had an excellent game. He’s always at his best when he’s given time on the ball, he played some lovely dangerous balls and overall he was very sharp with his passing. Though it also has to be noted, his defensive works was great. He’s very quick at intercepting the ball, and he puts it about. The manager seems to like him as a player, I would as well if he could carry that sort of form into games against better clubs.
Martinez continued to impress. He really is quite good. He’s a bit more of a catcher than Leno. His huge frame allows him to command his box and it gives the opposition more to worry about from corners. We’ve gone over his great distribution, but more importantly, his shot-stopping really is a different class.
Finally, Auba. We love him. He’s the fastest striker to 50 at Arsenal. That’s incredible stuff. It was pretty clear watching him in the stands after that he’s a happy man. Arteta seemed very confident we could keep him at the club longterm. That’s really good news.
The issues… and I hate to do this, but Hector still looks below where he should be. It’s hard to tell if he’s lacking pace, confidence, or lacking confidence because he’s not at the races pace wise. Lacazette also stank the place out again, I feel for him, but he’s just not quite there. There’s no sharpness to his game and he looks a little sad on the pitch. Also, Kola just ain’t it, is he?
Finally, let’s pour out a warm Stella for the comrades that couldn’t make it again. Mesut Ozil has a sore back. Must tough carrying all that bad media attention. He’s basically done at the club, Vinnai and Raul need to cut him loose this summer. Matteo G was also missing, the manager basically said he hadn’t changed anything since the last time the press asked. I am glad that we are seeing strong leadership here. If you don’t put in the effort, someone else will. The trick for the fans is to stop getting so triggered when they are not there… and to not fall back on the idea that if we lose against Wolves, the missing ingredient was two players that don’t give a fuck. One of my pals in the Whatsapp said, ‘He’s clearly an arsehole but he doesn’t feel like ‘our’ arsehole’, I thought that was a deeply poetic observation for a group chat.
As for the manager, well, things are looking up. It’s a slow process, but it’s working. You cannot and will not deny that things are moving in a better direction. These sort of stats below are sexy to me.
Extrapolate that over a season and my guess is that even with this squad, we’d be higher in the league table. Does that mean we have a world class squad? No. It just means that better coaching has better outcomes for squads.
Then look at the numbers above which will only have improved as they were recorded before yesterday.
If your expectation was that we’d be playing like City before the season was out, you only have yourself to blame for the disappointment. If your hope was that we’d be more difficult to play against and we’d be more organised, it’s hard to deny that’s what you are seeing.
Outside that, the tactics, though not always executed to perfection, actually make sense. He has interesting spins on the Emery classics, and whatever he does, you get it as a fan and you can understand why he’s doing it. He has clarity in his ideas and he has not shied away from enforcing his principles. I also think it’s cool that he communicates to the players on the pitch in different languages. Super basic, but it’s good.
There’s still a very long way to go, there’s still some beastly games to tackle with plenty of disappointments to come, but I’m still very confident the club has the coach issues solved. Whether Edu and Raul have it in them to make smart purchases this summer is still very much up for debate, but you’ve read my thoughts on that in great detail this week.
Right, that’s me done. We have Wolves next, with a chance to close the gap on them to 3 points. Then it’s Leicester, Spurs, and Liverpool. Yikes. Fingers crossed Sheff U smash the Spuds tonight. x