Fulham Preview: Can Arteta solve for a deep-block?

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Well, here we are, the first game of the season. It’s pounced on us. I’ve barely had the time to miss football, yet here she is, back with a 3 game a week schedule for the next 3 months. I am VERY excited.

Fulham is a tricky game simply because we’re not really sure who is going to show up. Both teams could spring a surprise. Arsenal could turn up like they did against Villa. Fulham could roll over like they did that time we thought we had our Arsenal back.

We need a win. There’s no glory in a draw. Arsenal needs to start the season the same way they played the FA Cup final. Everyone needs to show up focused. This season we’re gunning for top 4. Arsenal can’t have another transition year. We have the talent to do it. Arteta picked up a bag of shite in December, he took us from 8th to 8th, but the half-season table showed that we finished 4 points off 3rd (in 5th). If we’re that close to 3rd in March, we have every chance of taking a Champions League spot.

There are 4 very important games coming up before the international break. Anything above 9 points will be classified as very good. Most would say the big game is the Liverpool one, but for me, it’s actually the Fulham, West Ham, and Sheff U games that pose the threat.

Arsenal’s challenge this season will be dealing with deep blocks. We lack creativity through the middle and we haven’t really addressed that this summer so far. There has to be a solution. Arteta needs to evolve how we play this season. It’s no good becoming the London version of Wolves. We need to rack up points against the little teams this season.

There are some potential solutions. The biggest bet we’ve made is that Willian will carry over his elite form from last season. He had a great record for balls into the box last season. We’ll need some of that trickery tomorrow. The big question is whether Arteta opts to play him out on the left, or whether he moves him into a modern #10 role.

We could also see Mesut Ozil back in contention. The German international is out of the cold and he’s making a fuss online that he wants to play. Say what you like about him, he’s a deep-block specialist and if willing, he’s more than capable of being a solve for us there. Question, as always, is how much does he care?

There are also some other potential solves that are little more far fetched. Saka ‘might’ get a shout as a #10 at some point this season. Could be a little early for that. Especially as he’s been so good from wide positions. We also have ESR who can play in those pockets. He had a great time at Huddersfield. Would Arteta take the chance? I’m not sure (not tomorrow as he’s injured). Especially not for the first game.

What we do know is this: Fulham under Scotty Parker are pragmatists.

They will set up with a sturdy team tomorrow and they’ll look to nick a goal on the counter. They clearly aren’t elite pragmatists (they finished 4th in the Championship and there’s been a serious debate about #ParkerOut among entertainment starved fans), but they’ll be an early test for us. They have some decent ball-playing defenders and they have a bully of a target man in Mitrovic. Those two factors combining have been the death of us over the years. Hopefully, there’s a strategy tomorrow to work around the obvious plan that’ll be rolled out.

So here we are, heading into our 13th year together (feeling so emosh). This should be fun. We have a solid setup. We have a brilliant young manager. We have a vibrant squad of young players eager to make it happen. We have a chance to make the top 4 if things fall for us. Let’s enjoy it, it’ll be a fun ride. Lots of ups and downs. But we’re heading in the right direction regardless. I’ve not been able to honestly say that in a very long time.

Enjoy the game and listen to the podcast. Whoever gave me a 1* review, I hope you have some mild internet disruption today. Yeah, I’m that serious about the slander.

Also, I fixed the link issue on the newsletter. It should not be working perfectly!


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1,072 Responses to “Fulham Preview: Can Arteta solve for a deep-block?”

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  1. Useroz

    Sadly, Barca fans watched yesterday’s game it seems and are telling Barca not to sign over Twitter.

    “Bellerin is just a sprinter… And for Cancelo… His crosses are never accurate… I don’t see much difference between him and Semedo.”

    Other tweets are more direct like buy but not Bellerin….

    Oh well…

  2. Useroz

    Watched how Liverpool got the 2nd pen and I am more than convinced it’d not have been given had it be Arsenal and a host of other clubs.

    Refs have same mindset and attitude towards clubs. A new season only means a new batch of crooks. And that’s before VAR comes into consideration. Let’s see.

  3. Pierre

    I never really put you down as an Ozil obsessive Tony , a Pierre obsessive possibly as you never fail to mention me in your daily ramblings.

    Anyway, on to more important things , namely Willian and Gabriel .
    At last we may have the creative player who us the link between our midfield and strikers.
    Is it a false dawn with Willian , I don’t think so.

    In our 2nd game last season we saw Ceballos put in a similar performance as Willian, he created a couple and many thought we had the creative spark that was missing, sadly they were wrong , Ceballos was not this creative genius.

    Willian will not disappoint creatively like Ceballos did, I think the team will enjoy playing with Willian, he is something of a free spirit on the pitch, he plays with confidence and he is a very intelligent footballer and plays like he loves the game with a smile on his face, his personality shone through in yesterday’s performance and his enjoyment could be infectious throughout the side/squad .

    A couple of days ago I made this comment on Gabriel

    “Whereas Gabriel looks the business in the air , powerful, dominant, good timing , a good leap and seems to relish the physical side of the game .”

    I will also add now that he looks like an organiser at the heart of the defence.
    I’m pleased that he has made his mark early as he will have already gained the confidence of his manager, which is always important for an new player.

    Ceballos may find it difficult to replace Elneny, another superb performance from him.

  4. TR7

    In our set up Auba is more suited to play from the left. Most of our play goes through wide areas which results in Auba getting a lot of touches on the ball on the left side with AMN and Tiernney overlapping. On the left he can use his pace more. Not sure how Arteta accomodates Saka though who is brilliant playing on the left wing.

  5. ramesh mathikumar

    Demyth about ElNeny!!
    Read a lot of comments that he “passed sideways & kept it tidy”.
    Please look at his highlights alone and you will be he progressed the ball forward a lot of times.
    His forward diagonal to Auba created the 1st Goal, is flick to Laca created the 3rd and apart from that he had 2 shots in prime areas as well.
    So much for a side way passer 🙂

  6. Habesha Gooner

    Good morning to you guys. I enjoyed yesterday’s game very much.

    Arteta’s tactical tweaks and positional interchangeable players is very interesting to see. We were defending as a 3 CBs with Holding, Gabriel and Tierney. Then when we attack It becomes a flat back 4 with Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel and Tierney. AMN creates an overload in midfield with runs from deep.

    I also liked how arteta freed Saka to be a winger from Left back with Xhaka becoming a quarter back from fullback and AMN covering in midfield as an Inverted fullback.

    Once we have very good players in midfield with burst of energy, deft touches and amazing technical abilities, these tactical tweaks will help us break down smaller teams. Arteta has picked up a few things from Pep. I am positive for this season.

  7. Emiratesstroller

    What we need this season is consistency. Personally I like our formation. It works very well for us and it suits certain players.

    For a start I think that both Bellerin and Maitland-Niles are much better playing in a team which operates 3-4-3 and if and when they make mistakes or lose concentration there is better cover.

    The arrival of Gabriel introduces a good footballer and most importantly a CB who can dominate in air. If Saliba is as good then the combination will improve dramatically and
    we have two young players who can be at Arsenal for several years.

    The forward line has now several options. Personally I would not sell Lacazette. We need to
    stop worrying about players running down contracts and wanting to leave club. If the team
    PLAYS WELL everyone who matters will want to stay.

    I still would like to see the club bring in one Midfielder who is a match winner, but that is it.
    We need to stop talking about selling everyone and recruiting new players just for the sake
    of it.

    Yes we need to offload unwanted players, but not those who are likely to play in first team.

  8. Pierre

    ” Not sure how Arteta accomodates Saka though who is brilliant playing on the left wing.”

    It’s the Saka conundrum that I talked about during lockdown and Arteta is no closer to solving it.

    Saka may have to be patient and wait for injuries and settle for Europa and league cup appearances and coming on as a sub in the league.

    As time goes by I expect Arteta to play with a back 4 in 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 which will also give players like Saka more game time

  9. Graham62


    I agree with your take on Lacazette.

    It was also nice to see Nketiah looking pissed off at the side of the pitch.

    Scoring 4 goals in a week for the England U-21’s shouldn’t mean you’re a guaranteed starter.

    Show a little bit more hunger/anger Eddie and things will improve for you.

  10. Adams jack mirror

    I think if El Neny stays and we bring in aour we’ll get the creativity needed and can forget about Thomas partey and still have a solid team IMO.

  11. Useroz

    If true this is more bs. We are bidding for a £10m Raya?? Huh??

    A Championship goalie with no nothing to show for , other than a blunder. At 10m when we are moving Martinez on for £15m rising to 20?!

    Arsenal got move away from being a joke of. a club when selling our assets. Ffs.

    We don’t need to sell even if Martinez throws the toy outta the pram. Yes, keep him and if he really aspire s to become Argentina no. 1, he’d fall in line. Give him some pay rise that he deserves.

    Again if media reports turn out correct, we net a messy £5m (rising to 10) plus a no nothing goalie. This is stupid business, forget about sports. How much did Ospina fetch? £3m I believe. Asked for £5’m. and we couldn’t nail down any takers.

    Isn’t Vinai a financial sort of guy? Any advisors worth a salt would tell you it’s bad business.

    For Raya, £3m at £10k pw may be. Plenty of goalies at this level who, like Pedro says, lives the draw of Arsenal and London!!

  12. Useroz

    “Elneny was a relegation against Fulham and has saved Arsenal money” is the exactly sort of shocker we wouldn’t wish to happen.

    No top half teams would bid for Elneny even at £5m.

    The back and side pass specialist is not an option to take us forward. At £50k pw, don’t need him on the bench either. Put a hungry U23 there. Would Willock be worse than Elneny if we only expect side and back passes?

    Btw, some Atletiic journo in the know says we had not bid for Edouard.

  13. Valentin

    The main difference that Both Gabriel and Holding introduced in our defense is that they are comfortable in 1v1. Gabriel is also pretty quick and will snuff out threat early on. Holding is not as quick, but is likely to be the fall guy when Saliba is up to speed. So even when Fulham (that was pretty much toothless upfront) were able to hit us on the break, they are good enough to stop their opponent and delay the attack, giving time to the defensive midfielder Elneny and both wingback to come back into position.

    People who kept arguing about Gabriel going to ground too much, have been mislead by YouTube video, because that has never been an issue at Lille. The only doubt that I had about Gabriel was his passing under pressure. Fulham in that context was not really a test, but after a shaky start he seems to grow into that role of main passer from the back. Holding is still not comfortable in that role. And when we restart attack, Tierney is morphing back into a fullback.

    Like Rio Ferdinand explained, AMN positioning is confusing the opposition because as opposed to usual wingback play, he underlap rather than overlap. That means that whoever is tasked to defend on that side, cover one player when attacking, but another one (Tierney who then come from deeper) when defending.

  14. Emiratesstroller


    The real issue is that Arsenal should build a stable/team and squad. It is crystal clear that
    we have currently on the books 17-18 players who are good enough to play regularly and form the basis of a very good team.

    From my perspective that includes Bellerin, Maitland-Niles and Lacazette who should only
    leave if they are agitating for a transfer AND we are receiving a FULL MARKET VALUE. That
    was the basis of Martinez departure.

    Everyone knows by now the players who are surplus to requirements and need to be offloaded. Clearly the defenders who need to be chopped are Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac and
    ultimately Chambers. In Midfield those who need to leave are Torreira, Guendouzi and Ozil..

    All these players want to go apart from Ozil and we need to secure the BEST DEAL possible whether it is a sale or loan.

    What I would like to see also is the club holding its nerve and not succumbing to the ridiculous and often one sided offers made by other clubs particularly in Italy who seem to
    think that they can steal players with absolutely no fee. We need to send a clear message that we are not going to roll over every time these clubs come calling.

  15. DaveCee

    My God emiratestroller, I agree with every word you say! Delighted that Mesut and Matteo weren’t indulged with a place on the bench today. Fuck those bad attitude guys.
    We move on without them. Very good result, hoping for many more

  16. DaveCee


    I completely disagree with your assessment of Elneny. He has been very good in his 2 games under Mikel. I would happily keep him if 5M is the offer. In fact I would keep him unless we are assured of Partey and 15M for him.

  17. Goobergooner


    What would the positives have been of keeping Wilshere? He’d have been on a top contract and played 1 game.

    It’s certain fans sentimentality in that instance that wanted him to stay, as he’d come through the ranks and was Arsenal through and through.
    But even if you have ability, if you can’t get on the pitch what’s the point.
    Luckily the club didn’t think it was wise to keep him.

    Wilshere and Diaby were paid millions for jack shit among others. Just like Ozil but that’s a little different obviously. Unless you believe he gets a back ache for a hard away match.