Liverpool in ‘quite good’ shocker + Edu, time to deliver a midfield

by .

via @Arsenal Instagram

Well, there we are. Liverpool look quite good and Arsenal have some work to do. Who knew?

We were downed 3-1 away from home to the best team in Europe. It was a less than cohesive performance from Arteta, but certainly more worthy than some of the embarrassing post-game shite-takes going around.

I thought the tactical setup for the game was pretty much spot on. It’s easy to have the exact solution after the game, but I think most of the selections could be justified. Ceballos, fancy haircut and all, couldn’t control the midfield against West Ham. If he was in ‘hold-on-to-the-ball’ mood last night, it might have been worse. Auba through the middle is a tired debate, we’ve seen why he’s on the left and we don’t complain when it works. Saka? Not sure he’s making the world of difference. Gabriel? I think experience wins out and Luiz was pretty decent. Plenty more trips to Anfield for our younger Brazilian.

We went there to win the game with limited possession, good defensive structure, and experience in our front 3 to take advantage of the counter-attack. Call that negative all you like, but please, tell me the starting 11 we have that could have gone to Anfield and bossed a game of expansive football, clue: it doesn’t exist.

Liverpool were utterly sublime at times. Their pressing was debilitating and their movement on and off the ball was masterful. We couldn’t match them, though we tried our best. The fact that we went 1-0 ahead said a lot about our doggedness. Lacazette working wonders to turn in a miscued Robertson clearance after we dropped a familiar ‘play out of the back moment’ again.

We couldn’t hold on, Liverpool retaliated with absolute brutality twice within 9 minutes. First, Mane tapped home a spilt Salah shot. Tierney will be having nightmares about the absolute roasting he took in the build-up. The second, Robertson was found totally open at the back post, and he duly obliged. Willian really has too much experience to be letting great players ghost in without a challenge.

The second half we were all expecting the worst, but Arsenal came out swinging as hard as they could.

The two big turning points were Lacazette misses. The first on 59, he beat the offside trap to latch onto a Willian pass, he opted for an optimistic chip, which was thwarted because the chip didn’t go higher than Alisson’s waste. The second, he was slipped in by Ceballos, he tried to cut some space outside Alisson, which he did, but he snatched at his shot, hitting the keeper. Really poor. You felt for him hiding under his shirt when he was subbed off, but a £180k a week 29 year old international should be doing better than that. Pretty sure Eddie would have converted at least one of those chances.

We didn’t have much else on after that. When you play Liverpool, they don’t gift you much. We didn’t make the most of our important spells in the game, then we were punished late on when a Luiz clearance found the Jota on the edge of the box, the exWolves star buried his shot.

So what did we learn?

Well, beating Liverpool 3 times in a row was always going to be tough.

What is clear from all of our performances so far against them is we need better players if we want to play at their level. We simply didn’t have the talent to beat them in that form without a huge dollop of luck. Over those three games we’ve averaged 20 shots a game against us and we’ve only averaged 6.3 shots per game and somehow managed 4 goals.

The criticism of the tactics still feels rich to me considering we’ve not moved the squad forward. I appreciate there’s an inquisition every time we lose a game, but going to the Champions to play the Arsenal Way™ hasn’t exactly been kind to us over the last 10 years. We set up correctly. We played to our strengths. We were always going to have to defend well and deal with the fact there would be an element of us getting battered. My ask in games like these since Arteta took over is that we’re competitive… and we were. We stayed in the game for a long time but we fluffed our lines this time.

Individual errors cost us and hopefully, that won’t always happen.

Tierney isn’t going to get rolled like an u18 every game this season. I also suspect on another day, Mane is red-carded after a rough challenge on Hector followed by a clear forceful elbow to the face of Tierney minutes later. Those are the margins that change big games. If he’s off, we have an advantage, unfortunately, he stays, and maybe Tierney was rattled in the process causing the lack of focus for his mistake.

Bernd Leno might rekindle that form that had us calling him world-class under Bu-mery. I thought he looked fragile again today. He’s not a catcher, which makes him a weak point in our defence. He looked panicked on the ball, it seemed like Liverpool players were roughing him up from corners. His step back from the cross that led to their 3rd goal wasn’t something that would have happened under Emi Martinez. We have to have a solid keeper if we’re going to play the way we play. Bernd has not looked close to the level of Emi this season.

Liverpool away was always a write-off game. If you genuinely feel aggrieved that we didn’t win, you have expectations that far outweigh reality. They, along with Bayern, are the best team in the world. We’re nowhere near that level. The best we can do is hope to compete and catch teams like that on an off day (which we have shown we are capable of doing).

The good news for our season is there aren’t many teams like that in the league. I’d argue that there’s only one team like that: Liverpool.

What is apparent is that our midfield needs both Partey and Aouar. We lack creative guile and mobility. It’s been clear for a very long time, this isn’t new, but Xhaka and Elneny (4 forward passes all game) against quality sides is only going to take you so far. We need to do better. Our desired targets at least move us into a new realm of possibility. The starting 11 yesterday was basically the same squad Emery crashed to 8th with last year bar Willian.

Regardless of my upset at the result, I was still impressed with the way we came out for the second half. We showed fight and bravery at times. There’s a resilience Arteta has instilled that wasn’t there before. I was also pleased with how energised Klopp was with his team in his post-match interview when he threw serious shade at Roy Keane for calling his side ‘sloppy.’ We asked a lot of questions of Liverpool. He called their performance ‘perfection.’ They were made to think. You haven’t always had to reach perfection beat Arsenal away from home, you’ve mostly just needed to turn up. We might not be at the level of personnel we need to be at, but I think the coaching and attitude is there. Klopp has had 5 years to develop that sort of devastation, Arteta hasn’t clocked a year yet. Trust in the process seems a tired line, but let’s be honest, we have seen more than enough to justify it.

Plenty will disagree with me and I’m here for it… buuuuuut you need to be aware that the new ‘perfection’ merchants are generally the folk that had no standards over the last ten years. I suspect they have a work TikTok dance video they did for a ‘laugh’, think their best life stage was ‘the carefree years at school’, and they’ll have a ‘can’t miss’ opinion on home brewing.

Let’s see what Edu can do to move the midfield forward, then see how we play against the rest of the top 8. Nothing will be harder than that, until we play Liverpool again on Thursday. Then it’s a kind of clear run. Plenty of opportunities to pick up more points, regain confidence, and bed in two world-class midfielders (PLEASE GOD).

Yesterday was a slap back to reality. There’s still plenty of work to do to return Arsenal to the top. Some good recruitment in the next week will give Arteta tools to show he’s the man capable of doing that. We move from there.

Over to you, Edu.

P.S. If you are still enraged, this Phillipe Auclair tweet thread was good.


960 Responses to “Liverpool in ‘quite good’ shocker + Edu, time to deliver a midfield”

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  1. Jim Lahey

    Pepe needs a run of 10 or so consecutive games in the team so we can actually judge him. Even last year he would come in, get a goal or two and then be dropped for the next few games.

  2. Jim Lahey

    @Sal –

    As a RW of course. I have a lot of time for Pepe, raw but a lot of potential there. You can see how defenders double up on him as soon as he gets the ball.

  3. Tom

    Dream10, attempting to moderate Trump is like letting a wild pig into you living room and getting upset it’s taken a shit on your carpet instead of politely excusing itself and going on a toilet.
    I hope they scrap the other two debates because it was a shit show of monumental proportions and a national embarrassment.

  4. Dream10

    Jim Lahey and Sal

    With the lack of technical security in the final third, I don’t see Arteta playing Pépé on the right when Aubameyang is on the left. Mostly.cup games for Pépé.

    Interesting to see what Arteta when Willian is relegated to the bench due to subpar performance. Does he opt for Saka who.has good end product or Nelson who can do a good job of.following his instructions over him? Despite the praise of Pépé in the media, I still believe Arteta is at best lukewarm regarding Pépé. Bad for us, because if he doesn’t hit double figures, highly unlikely we make CL.

  5. Nelson

    ” And fans have been perfectly fine with it. ”

    Not all the fans. I was one of the few in Le Grove who criticize Arteta’s handling of Guen. Mou and Wenger would just sweep the incident under the carpet. Now he couldn’t find any buying for him.

  6. Champagne charlie

    “It’s kind of weird that we’ve given up on Torreira, 24 yo and Guendouzi, 21 yo.“

    I don’t understand this sort of thinking. Players don’t suit certain coaches, age is an irrelevance to that, and Torreira isn’t going to be coached into being a mobile midfield passer anymore than Giroud can be coached into being an on-the-shoulder striker.

    Guendouzi is different, physically and stylistically I’m sure he’s an ideal fit for Arteta. But matter of fact is he’s not been able to deliver on the non-negotiable aspects of Arteta’s management to the point of being sold.

    Argue against that if you like but the claims of preferential treatment and personal mistreatment is a joke. Literally every player has featured under Arteta, some after falling foul initially of new rules and guidelines. If 9 months on you’re a player that is still falling foul then it’s not the manager with the issue, it’s the player.

  7. Champagne charlie


    I think that’s wishful thinking on Pepe, with every passing game he’s looking more and more like a talented waste of time. Saw an interview that his father gave as we signed him and it talked of how Pepe sees football as only fun, and that he needed to realises it was also his profession.

    A bit of a throw away interview, but a year later and you do wonder whether he’s really the type of guy that’s turning up daily and demanding the best from himself, or battling to improve areas he’s failing in. I’d like to think so, but he doesn’t fill me with confidence. We need him to perform more like the player we intended him to be.

  8. Jim Lahey

    @CC –

    Yeah it may indeed be wishful thinking. I would really like to see him just give 10 straight games to prove himself. But who knows what will happen.

  9. raptora

    You mean like when Martinelli was benched by Nelson and Nketiah?
    Or how he’s still not giving any chances to Pepe to get several games in a row.
    That Auba hasn’t played a single game as a CF but he decided he will never ever try it out in a real game?
    That Willock was ahead of Ceballos for months?
    That he begged Mustafi and Xhaka in the winter, and Lacazette and AMN now, to stay?

    There is a “reason” for every decision. We could swipe it under the floor of course. I’m sure anything I say would be answered with – “We won the FAC. So he was right.”

  10. Guns of Hackney

    Picking Pepe anywhere hear the first team is dark days Arsene.
    Dropping the new CB is dark days Arsene.

    Arteta is, alas, towing the party line. Which is what we were all afraid of.

    He has to go.

  11. raptora

    I hope this is true.

    “The Ligue 1 club have until now been demanding £55million for the midfielder, but are now said to be willing to accept £41million with potential add-ons” from football365.

    It would be very close to our last offer.

    £55m would be them mugging us.

  12. Tom

    Dream10, I know the shame an embarrassment have died of natural causes but America has turned from a shiny city on the hill to a trailer park on the outskirts.

  13. G8

    “wait, what? You can go to a masque in Turkey without any repercussions?
    That’s amazing.
    Can you write and publish a critique of Erdogan without getting thrown in jail though?
    Who cares as long as you can get some pussy to relieve your anxiety.”

    err.. yes you can! the guy won the election with only 52% and the opposition party is very potent !
    As I said people should stop taking their info from the Murdoch’s media when it comes to Turkey and the middle east ..

    The real tyrants who rule their people by swords, in Saudi, Egypt and other rich Gulf countries, you don’t hear anything because they pay the likes of Trump billions of dollars blood money for turning a blind eye

    The cold war is back again with different players and allies..same bullshit though!

  14. Henry+Root

    Arteta has to go?

    And be replaced by who ?
    I’ve neve4 read such garbage in my life a# I’ve read on this blog in the last couple of days. I won’t be regarded as a loss but I will never post on this blog again . The pieces by Pedro are excellent but the comments are a joke, utterly pathetic, moronic and worthless

  15. Guns of Hackney

    Axis of misery. Class.

    I’d call it, Axis of know the fuck what I’m talking about. Called Emery after 2 games. Hit that out the park.

    Called Arsene at least 5 years before anyone else on the planet. Back in 2007.

    I’d say, come to GOH for the SP.

  16. salparadisenyc

    Dream – Jim L

    Pepe needed to work, for obvious reasons. Hard to fathom Arsenal spent that much on him with what we’ve seen, cost roughly £20m more than PEA. That for what many now consider a very limited player, for me his mentality doesn’t remotely match that kind of spend the ability is very exciting but I don’t think we’ll ever see it blossom at Arsenal. Fact some are talking about playing him thru middles speaks volumes.

    Arteta assessed and jumped immediately for Willian on the bossman his first summer signing with club. The die seems cast if were honest. Club taking absolute bath as things stand, hope that changes.

  17. curse

    every time I see training pics I’m surprised at how big Gwen is. Given how much he likes being muscled off the ball and falling over…

  18. raptora

    In the case of Guendouzi, we were possibly looking at a £40m in last Summer window. Possibly more if he was to keep playing. And as things stand, Arteta managed to probably half his price and we’ll probably sell for £20-25m. Ayoze Perez cost Newcastle 30m.

  19. Guns of Hackney


    He’s on a knife edge. Unless there’s something we don’t know about forced team selections, he’s making mistakes that Arsene and Emery would make. Listen, if you green light over a million a week on the bullshit we’ve signed or resigned, something isn’t right. Agree?

  20. salparadisenyc


    “Knife Edge”

    Knee jerk would be an understatement, working with what he has whilst trying to have most effect in the transfer window under less than optimal circumstance economically for everyone.

    Pulled 6 of 9 points available thus far, surely adding a couple players with some of Wenger and Emery’s deadwood out the door. Not to mention added a trophy to the case taking down the leagues best.

    Lets talk in 6 months.

  21. Guns of Hackney


    He isn’t doing it. We have two CB’s that have to be better than Luiz and Holding. He hasn’t been consistent.

    Elneny? WTF is that? Pepe?

    I’m really disappointed to be honest. I had massively high hopes for Arteta but his team selections are odd. Unless we don’t know about injuries or illness.

    Also, why is it so hard for him to sell and other teams are cashing in or arguably, way worse players than we have?

  22. salparadisenyc

    “Also, why is it so hard for him to sell and other teams are cashing in or arguably, way worse players than we have?”

    Because those players are likely paid half of wage some of these characters are on like Kolasinac, Sokratis etc. Mental.

  23. Guns of Hackney


    Okay but he is the one who got Willian on a million a month. Resigned Auba on a million a month. Soares. The other fucking dink who I can’t remember. Resigning Luiz?

    This is on Arteta.

    I’m an equal opportunity critisiser. I don’t favour anyone. I judge based on facts.

  24. CG

    G Of H

    “””I’m an equal opportunity critisiser. I don’t favour anyone. I judge based on facts.””””

    They dont like them. Facts.
    Apart from whipping boys Fulham and Norwich City

    When did Arsenal actually last play cohesively and well in a league fixture?

    And when will we actually play some decent stuff?

    This is what happens, when you go down the UNPROVEN route- you just dont know what you are going to get.

    same for Chelsea with Fat Frank.

  25. G8

    I don’t think we get to the top 4 promise land with the likes of Xhaka, Lacazette and Bellend 1st team starters ,we need to upgrade at least 2 of those positions to stand a chance!
    And no Elneny, Soars and Nketiah are not the answer..
    Auba on his own can’t do it as we found out last couple of seasons

  26. Tom

    Turkey dropping to 116 place on the Democracy Index is hardly flattering to Erdogan’s regime, but you’re right , as an American I should probably withhold from throwing barbs at others when my own government is totally dysfunctional.

  27. salparadisenyc


    Auba earned it.

    I’m very cool w/ Willian, cover for the Pepe situation that Arteta is clearly not down with, a league proven player that quality. Length of contract is for club to work out as many things can happen in that last year. Luiz on for additional year in veteran capacity with two hopeful generational CBs being blooded in makes sense to me.

    Soares on the other hand makes no sense, i’d say I wished Martinez was convinced to stay as well but the blog may erupt in pandemonium. Regretful decision that one. As for Mari, I can’t say as we’ve really only seen him twice before getting injured, not ideal start.

  28. Marc


    Different subject – you asked why we can’t move on some of the dross and I gave you a reason.

    I don’t think paying Auba £250k a week is an issue – I think paying Xhaka £100k per week, Mustafi £100k per week, Sok £90k per week and Kolas £100k per week is an issue.

  29. englandsbest

    It seems that Arteta wants Aour and Partey but does not have the money to pay the asking price. In which case he is holding his nerve, trying to sell players to raise the cash, hoping the two clubs will drop their asking price.

    At the same time it’s reasonable to assume that there are alternative midfielders lined up that Arteta CAN afford . Perhaps a couple of Edu gems.

    And of course there are managers who want Arsenal players who are holding their nerve. Which is why Arteta is expecting a very busy week.