There’s no way to package that game up positively from a performance perspective. That was a 3 out 10 and it’s really hard to argue that we deserved anything out of the 90. Three shots on target, two goals, and 3 points.
You do have to win ugly in the Premier League. All games are hard. That though, was Elephant Man levels of grimness. It’s hard to really understand why Arteta changed his winning formula from last week from a team that was so very impressive. Elneny, AMN and Tierney (hip injury) all dropped out of the starting 11. In came Saka, Ceballos, and Kola. It really broke the system and it failed to click for the most part.
Our midfield dominated possession but failed to make headway into the opposition box, a constant issue. Deeper than that, Ceballos held onto the ball too often, slowing play down… compared to Mo last week he just kept the ball moving at speed. Yes, Dani was a key part of our win, but I think the performance will not have pleased the manager. I can’t imagine he was following instructions, if he was, they weren’t very good instructions for the day.
Kola was a non-entity out on the pitch. I don’t know why he’s anywhere near the squad. He’s mentally weak, he literally can’t get up for the games, and he wants out at Arsenal. It was unfortunate that Tierney picked up a hip injury, but more worrying that Arteta puts Kola in his spot despite clearly knowing he’s a bad player. How many times must he be reminded of this? Why do we have a player starting that isn’t committed to Arsenal?
Saka landed the two pre-assists. That’s some peak Alex Hleb stuff right there. However, I think you’d only call his performance good if that’s all you saw. We needed more from him out there. It was a sloppy outing, below is standard, but the sign of a class player is they still deliver when thing aren’t going well. He delivered.
Bernd Leno showed why many people had a preference for Emi Martinez. I thought he was really poor. He looked nervous for a start. He was flapping for crosses, he more often than not opted to punch, and he didn’t look in control of his box. The cross that he came out for an nearly broke his neck for was a stark reminder of how close we are to having to go with a really unsuitable keeping option. Leno needs competition, that was not the sort of game we needed to see from him after selling a keeper in purple patch.
My big positive was that Eddie and Pepe came on and both looked really hungry. I was at a table with a bunch of Gooners and we were saying that Eddie in particular needs to start impacting those 15 minutes when he’s brought on. He certainly did yesterday. He worked hard and when his chance came, he buried it. He needs a big season. Hopefully that’s a stake in the ground in a 15 goal season. He’ll need that because Lacazette didn’t look at the races again, it’s clear there’s no new deal coming and the club is going to have to sell him this window to avoid another no-fee disaster.
Ultimately, we found the tools to unlock a West Ham that looked far more organized than they have, but that sort of performance is a reminder that the old Arsenal still lurks in the wings. Bumming victories like that can be both a good sign, because it shows focus and effort, but it can also be a precursor to deeper issues further down the line.
The good thing about this coaching setup is there won’t be a celebration of that performance. They’ll be trying to fix the issues there and hopefully we’ll see a response for the Liverpool game. For me, the mistake was tinkering with a model that was working. West Ham and Fulham could have been taken down by the same starting 11 and it could have built a bit of performance momentum. I also think Arteta thinks he can change every player, hopefully the Kola performance was a reminder that there needs to be more than two players on that blackball list.
So we move on. We have 6 points out of 6. The Liverpool game is going to be a roll of the dice, but maybe a shitty run out like that one will refocus the minds in the training ground. I’d rather learn a lesson with a win, than take that sort of complacency across the board into the Liverpool game and get our backsides handed to us.
See you in the comments!