Spine looking good but the magic is still missing

by .

CREDIT: Arsenal Instagram

Arsenal kicked off their Europa League campaign in less than sexy fashion. If that game were a human being up in the cluuuuub, it’d be the ugly guy that pulls at the end of the night, picking up someone crying in the corner because they’ve messed their pants. 

It’s difficult to knock a win, but as wins go, this was another you’d put on the unimpressive list. Now, you have to caveat that the Europa League is not the competition young kids dream of growing up. It’s a form of punishment. It’s detention for elite clubs. We shouldn’t be there, the players know it, and that clearly impacts motivation on some level. Factor in that a chunk of that starting 11 was fringe, here on a favour, or we attempted to sell them this summer as well.

Rapid Wien were out the traps faster than us and their young side nipped, shoved, and kicked with vigour. The interesting thing is that the physical approach didn’t impact our spirit, it just kept the game from really flowing. We nearly conceded early when Bernd Leno had to claw at a Gabriel block that was heading over him. We had one good chance as well, David Luiz steered a beauty of a header across their keeper, but he managed to palm wide. They were the better team in the first half. We were slow on the ball, we didn’t create chances in the final third, and we looked a little bored.

The second half was different, we started badly, then conceded. We were playing out the back like we have done for 9 months, Luiz passed to Leno, the German took a touch, lost the ball, then flapped at the shot and it went under him. It was a poor mistake. He doubled down on it by making two more horrendous errors with the ball at his feet. Very concerning.

We eventually kicked into gear. We played with a bit more urgency, we moved the ball into pockets that caused problems, and we looked a little more interested. Our luck broke when another of their tactical fouls gave us a freekick. Nicolas Pepe whipped it into David Luiz who was on point to nod into the net.

Our second goal came when we brought on Hector Bellerin for Cedric and Auba for the anonymous Eddie. Mo Elneny drove through midfield, slipped in Hector B who controlled the ball and weighted a perfect pass into Auba who finished with casual ease.

There were no real problems after that. As a sign of respect, we ran the ball into the corner to see out the game.

An away win in our first Europa League game of the season, against the best team in our group, is not to be sniffed at… but we’re football fans, so let’s sniff at this like we’re looking at a semi-naked Newcastle fan in December after one too many.

ATTACK

We dropped 650 odd passes, had 68% of the ball, but only managed 4 shots on target. That might have had the Özil weirdoes in our fanbase rubbing their knees, but for everyone else, it had us wondering where the solve is coming from? I understand that the system is rigid because we want to be solid. We are solid. If that game doesn’t have a bad keeping error, we’re doing what we should be. But here’s the thing… we are always going to have to deal with mistakes, and we cannot rely on an outrageous conversion rate in every game. The pattern is clear, we do not create. This cannot go on all season.

MIDFIELD

Now, I thought our midfield looked pretty decent. Mo Elneny gets a lot of stick but he covers a lot of ground and he’s a good passer. He lacks ambition in a 4-4-2, but he didn’t do too badly… his assist for the assist was vital.

Thomas Partey was the star though. I think he’ll surprise people this season. He looks like a Rolls Royce outside a chip shop in EL. His positioning is excellent, he shields the defence really well, and he seems to have that special knack of knowing where danger will come from. More encouraging is that he was pretty sharp going forward, he progressed the ball nicely and he’s certainly no sideways merchant (sorry, Mo). Owen Hargreaves called it ‘one of the best debuts I have ever seen.’

After the game, Arteta seemed to make a point that he can control the midfield on his own.

‘I think he held the midfield by himself in the second half when we were a little bit more open,’

‘He started to take more chances attacking certain spaces with some players.’

‘I think he was fantastic and there is much more to come from him.’

That hopefully means there’s a 4-3-3 coming our way at some point. That begins to open up some options for a more progressive approach to our attacking play. Overall though, a really, really good debut. Controlled, classy, decisive.

  • Touches: 102
  • Completed passes: 83
  • Pass completion: 90.2%
  • Duels won: 10/13
  • Possession gained: 8
  • Tackles: 5
  • Interceptions: 1
  • Clearances: 1

DEFENCE

Well, a lot to unpack here. Firstly, someone needs to get Kolasinac and Cedric off of my screen. It is astounding that Cedric had to be yanked to save the game. Both can’t even perform against minnows in the Europa, shocking that they are still here.

… but, on a positive note. David Luiz might be a joke when it comes to freekicks, but he was a demon in the box last night. Two of our four shots on target came from his head. It’s great to get a turn out of him in a bland game. BUT, the real star, was Gabriel. What a fucking player this kid is, 22 years old, slipping into a new team, bossing games like a champion. He’s right at the top of the passing charts in the Premier League, and he took that form into last night. He’s clever with his immense strength, he reads danger really well, he’s dominant in the air, and he’s plenty fast. He just looks so incredibly comfortable on the ball. What a steal he was at 30m euros.

WORRIES

Nicolas Pepe did not look good again. Not even close. He managed to land an assist but it masked a largely ineffective game again. His confidence is rock bottom at the moment and I’m not sure his game suits the vision of what Arteta is trying to do… but come on man… be a little more direct. Try and stand up. Stop looking for the foul. Take some risks.

EXPERIMENT

My main takeaway is we keep giving bum players chances and we’re not using these competitions to learn things. Where are the Willocks and ESRs? Why not give Balo a place on the bench? Are we going to give these players a go this season? I don’t know how many more times we need to see Kola and Cedric stink out the place. Do we really need to see Pepe in that game? Hopefully, that was just first-game jitters and we progress at some point to using players with high ceilings.

MESUT

Top social media-ing from our man back at the ranch. I loved the Arteta comment.

‘It’s great, what I want from the players who aren’t in the squad, I don’t expect anything different.’

OVERALL

We won.

Sunday is the game that matters. Let’s move!

 

652 Responses to “Spine looking good but the magic is still missing”

Jump to comment form ↓

  1. Sid

    “Leeds will go without a win most of Jan and Feb, one of them freebies Sid always goes on about.”

    Arsenal will have more draws than Leeds will have either wins or losses in this period.

    Im telling you for free!

  2. Leftfootcurler

    Just saw that leeds ran 9 km more and made 73 sprints more than Villa.
    Madness.
    If they don’t get enough points by Christmas,they will get relegated.

    Will definitely burn out in the 2nd half of the season.

  3. Tom

    “If they don’t get enough points by Christmas,they will get relegated.“

    That’s a strange assessment to make.
    Leeds played 49 competitive games last season, 46 in Championship and 3 cup games,
    Depending on how seriously they take the FA cup and the League cup this season, they could easily see their number of games drop to 40.
    Why wouldn’t they be able to recover after any dip in form they might have over the course of the season?

  4. China1

    Haha I always say China is an awesome place and it is – but safety just isn’t a thing. I’ve realized It’s not even a disregard for safety even, it’s actually that people here don’t have a concept of what safety or danger are. It’s like an alien concept

    When my father in law takes my son out by himself it terrifies me. Less so now he’s 4 but when he was 1 or so it was honestly scary lol. Air quality would occasionally drop to ‘HAZARDOUS WARNING DONT DARE GO OUTSIDE’ levels and my father in law would be like let’s take the baby for a stroll outside! Or feeding him whole cherries before he even knew they had stones inside… I could go on all day but I’ll say half the things I’ve taught my son are undoing the dangerous lessons my his Chinese grandpa has been teaching him fml lol

  5. Tom

    If the top six and Arsenal go deep into CL and Europa competitions, not to mention the domestic cups, then it’s probably they who should worry about playing the well rested Leeds on three days rest and not the other way around.

  6. China1

    I doubt Leeds are going to be a genuine contender for top 4. They are quality but the PL is grueling and every season there are teams that make a good go of it but ultimately don’t make the grade. Sheffield utd, wolves, Everton etc have all been touted as top 4 contenders at various times whether recently or a while back but to actually make the grade over 38 games is a monumental task for a club that doesn’t have a deep squad and players who have experience of getting over the finish line at this level

    For that reason I doubt villa, Leeds or Everton etc are any genuine threat to the CL places – but what they likely will be are teams who take a lot of scalps, who nobody enjoys playing against and who will influence the top 4 places indirectly by taking key points off the teams above them who are genuinely in the race for it. In other words I think they could all be a massive nuisance this year but I doubt any are making top 4

  7. China1

    Sid if by bubble boy you mean working class English upbringing then ok, but basic standards of health and safety should be expected in the developed world (eastern China is highly developed)

    A few weeks back I leant against a lamp post which started swaying. I’ve been in a taxi that drove on the wrong side of the road down a motorway for 3 minutes to cut 1 minute off our journey time and Ive been in a taxi that was literally 30 cm away from being reversed over by a fucking steamroller because Neither driver was paying attention (someone actually was killed by a steamroller in my city only a few years ago as well). Then there was the Tianjin blast a couple of KM away from me which was one of the biggest non nuclear explosions in history caused by storing dangerous chemicals next to each other etc. and when I say the air being bad, 90% of the time it’s good, but on the worst 1% of days you can’t see 5 meters in front of you and the air quality index doesn’t even measure high enough to grade the air beyond ‘hazardous’.

    I don’t think it takes a sheltered life to recognize those dangers but I can’t speak for you and where you’re from!

  8. Tom

    Leeds are probably a mid table team this season.
    They don’t have enough quality to beat top teams once their legs become heavy.
    I just don’t think that they will collapse as some are predicting here.

    What’s really crazy about them though , when they lose the ball they all sprint back.
    Not just the mid and defenders either, the entire eleven.
    Nobody else does this.

  9. Receding Hairline

    I was wondering what the reaction would have been from Pedro if we had signed a goal keeper off the recommendation of one of Emery’s coaches or Raul’s associates we can’t trust to deputise if the going gets tough.

    This place would have been…

  10. Leftfootcurler

    Tom

    It will probably be a collapse.
    Their game depends on man to man pressing.

    If they burn out, they can’t run at that intensity.
    Will concede lots of late goals I the 2nd half.

    Pressing depends on coordination and fitness.
    Coordination greatly depends on fitness.

    Bielsa’s tactics depends greatly on physical fitness.
    If that decreases slightly, there will be problems.

    Big teams have bigger squads they can deal with playing every 3 days.

  11. Receding Hairline

    Dunno what your obsessions are with the way Leeds play, they played that way through a longer championship season and don’t have any European commitments.

    Seems you are just looking for ways to justify the tepid nonsense we put on display on match days as some sort of conserving energy for the marathon master stroke.

  12. Tony

    Leftfootcurler
    Do you have a background in modern football? Player/coach?

    Your posts always have interesting information and thinking.

    Syd
    Like China 1 I’d be interested to know where you’re from. I assume Africa: Nigeria?

  13. Leftfootcurler

    Tony
    No,I don’t have any background in modern football.

    I just feel it’s more interesting to discuss problems and possible solutions different teams face rather than the usual Leno is shit,xhaka is shit,Arteta is novice etc.

  14. Emiratesstroller

    The League this season is already unpredictable. So making forecasts on the Table outcome is
    premature.

    Liverpool would have been considered top two candidate, but with the loss of Van Dijk and
    absence of their first string goalkeeper look more vulnerable.

    Man City were selected by many to be favourites to win league this season, but are they?

    Chelsea and Man Utd have good midfield and attacking resources, but have looked fragile
    defensively in some games.

    Spurs looked exceptional in first 30 minutes against West Ham and went 3-0 but managed
    to lose game. Question is will Kane stay match fit?

    Several Teams have started well this season, but I question the strength of their squads and
    sustainability. I don’t think that Everton, Leicester or Aston Villa will finish in top 5. Their
    horizon is below that level.

    Arsenal are going to be a team who are difficult to beat, but their away form needs to improve and they need to take the handbrake off when playing against teams which are
    not better than us.

  15. Pierre

    LFC
    “Tony, I just feel it’s more interesting to discuss problems and possible solutions different teams face rather than the usual Leno is shit,xhaka is shit,Arteta is novice etc.”

    You are correct but , Tony is up there with the best at talking shit about football.

    Though i will say that if you are looking for a holiday destination to go to …..Tony is your man.

  16. TR7

    Our 9 of the next 10 league games are against Leicester, Man United, Aston Villa, Leeds, Wolves,Tottenham, Everton, City and Chelsea. Very very tough run of games.

  17. DivineSherlock

    Leftfootcurler

    Having Partey and Ceballos in the midfield might help solve that , even Xhaka and Partey . We were outmuscled last season in midfield . I believe having Partey will help us improve massively .

  18. TR7

    An Elneny-Partey-Ceballos midfield can keep the ball and move it around nicely especially if Saka plays on the left. We really need to go back to 60 percent plus possession style to create opportunities to score goals. 2-3 clear cut chances per game is not enough.

  19. Leftfootcurler

    Bottom 14 teams= 84 points over the course of the season.

    70-75 points generally get you top 4.
    In attack,you need 2 goal scorers and 2 creators.
    We have a good primary goal scorer (Auba)
    We have good secondary creator (saka/willian)

    We lack a good secondary goal scorer and a good primary creator.

    Biggest reasons for not being a top 4 team.

  20. TR7

    With Saka and Ceballos playing in and around the opposition box can also lead to good creative play. Arteta needs to pick up the right starting 11 and let players develop some on field partnerships. Under Wenger. we had several good combinations – Giroud-Ozil, Ozil-Ramsey, Alexis-Ozil, Santi-Coq etc.

  21. Graham62

    Anyone that can predict the outcome of COVID-19 EPL season 20/21 is a genius.

    This is not football as we’ve known it.

    Leftfootcurler, you forgot to mention one other thing.

    We have a substandard GK.

  22. Useroz

    China1. You must be congratulated in trying at least to living in China, presumably Tianjin.

    For an almost 3 year spell, needed to go see clients regularly in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Dalian and Beijing. Also couple of times in Shandong. Though 90% in /around the CBDs, it was an eye opener and discovered interesting things, at all times.

    Can’t help to recall those scary taxi trips from Pudong airport to the hotels after 11pm local time. Forgot the night charge, the taxi drivers seem inspired by F1 or the Fast and Furious sequels…and sped like no tomorrow at 150km/h on freeway with not exactly new cars!! I certainly wasn’t in any hurry and letting the drivers know hardly made any difference.

    Half a dozen luna park rides, the firms got me hired or hotel cars and it’s like another world! But at a price of course like RMB 600 for Shanghai and 450 or so for Hangzhou.

  23. Leftfootcurler

    Divine
    I disagree. When I am talking of ball retention or circulation,I mean in the final third.

    Basically players who play in pockets of space btl.
    Receive on the half turn, combine with fellow attackers and look to hit runners in behind.

    Ceballos and Partey’s good work with the ball happens in the 1st and 2nd phase not the final third.

    I don’t like Ceballos that much.
    He underhits passes too much.
    Just can’t pass with any kind of pace.

    Partey has a great ability to find attackers BTL but a lot depends on those attackers being in good receiving positions too.

    Last game against rapid wein is a good example.

    We actually progressed the ball smoothly from 1st to 2nd phase.

    From 2nd phase to final third, when Partey fizzed some balls to our attackers feet, they just couldn’t control the ball and play in tight spaces.

  24. TR7

    ‘Pepe, Aubameyang and Lacazette with a combined fee of almost £200m can’t control the ball and play in tight spaces, ‘

    This is sadly true. None of them is a good technician. Auba at least compensates for it by scoring goals.

  25. TR7

    Calypso

    Money spent on Pepe is absolutely mental. 70M plus on a player who lacks poise, balance, technique and vision is ridiculous. I don’t know who did the scouting but whoever did it does not understand what makes a good player. May be he was taken in by the media hype around Pepe.

  26. Pierre

    TR7
    “Under Wenger. we had several good combinations – Giroud-Ozil, Ozil-Ramsey, Alexis-Ozil, Santi-Coq etc.”

    As you rightly pointed out , there is no one better at building on field relationships than Ozil, he thrives on it.

    The sad thing is , players like Willian and Partey would benefit from having a player of Ozil’s quality in the team.

    Pepe is another who needs to be fed the ball as often as possible

    Willian needs someone to bounce off , that’s his game , give and goes and one two’s.

  27. Leftfootcurler

    Calypso
    “Whose fault is that?”
    Two people:-

    1)Arteta for not buying a btl creator.
    Should have atleast gotten buendia.

    2) And whoever thought it was a good decision to spend 72 mil on Pepe.

    Pepe has world class potential but he isn’t a world class player.

    We are not rich enough to spend 72 mil on potential. We need ready made world class players if we spend 72 mil.

  28. DivineSherlock

    Leftfootcurler

    I disagree , Ceballos has shown in fact he can deliver the final pass . Its just that he has to be cautious because if he misplaces Xhaka doesnt have the recovery pace to break the counter . Example would be the West Ham game.

  29. Leftfootcurler

    Graham

    You have seen Wenger get top 4 with alumina and bad version of flabianski.

    Chelsea got top 4 last season with the worst gk in the league.

    Gk is not the biggest issue for a midtable team trying to achieve top 4.

    It’s creativity and goals.

    Last game against rapid wein, despite Leno howlers our xA was 1.

    That’s not a the biggest issue.

    The bigger issue was that our xG was 1.4

    Against a championship quality team like Rapid Wein, we should not have xG less than 2.

    That’s the bigger issue.

  30. Leftfootcurler

    Divine

    I disagree.
    Emery played Ceballos at 10 at times.

    I don’t think he is creative.
    Against West ham, Ceballos wasn’t creative at all.

    He can play the final pass,yes,but generally lacks vision.
    I would say Saka and Willian are more creative players.

  31. Little Mozart

    Coming to think of it, I know we lack a creative mid fielder but our greatest undoing is our front three. They can’t play in tight spaces. Both prefer to be in spaces something that you won’t get in EPL that often. Auba, Kama and Pepe are all poor in tight areas. And non of them is any good at holding up play. We could survive with this mid if only our forwards were good in tight spaces.

    What will make or break us is how we will adopt to playing in these packed areas. I think M.A should start drilling this team on short, quick passes if, like rondos maybe?? That forward line needs open spaces and that is what you don’t get in epl. Of only we had a forward who could take on two,three defenders to create space for himself or others.

  32. Up 4 grabs now

    Morning,

    I’d like to see a proper 352 introduced.

    Leno

    Luiz, gabriel, Tierney, at the back with saka and amn as wingbacks.
    Partey, ceballos and elneney in the middle
    And auba and laca up top.

    That gives us a strong defence with a three.
    Creativity with ceballos and partey. The wingbacks providing width and creativity, but knowing if they get caught out theres a three behind them to help them out.

    And two strikers in and around the edge of the box.
    Rather than auba on the left and laca dropping deep so no one is in the box.

    This gives defences problems as they can get stretched and cause confusion over whose picking up who.

    It also means a late runner from midfield is less likely to be picked up as there isnt a spare centreback.

    Theres no need to play out from the back like we do either. Passing between luiz and leno in the six yard box to then lose it achieves nothing.
    The ball rarely goes forward or creates a chance and just leaves out with hearts in our mouths waiting for the usual screw up and losing the ball in a dangerous area.

    What would be better would be a quick release throw to the wing
    Backs or auba if he’s drifted out wide.

    Or a throw to partey or elneney who are in front of the 18 yard box to start a move or to thread a ball.

    It also doesn’t give the opposition time to regroup and reset there defence.
    Hell even a punt up the field is better, if we dont win the ball at least it’s in the opposition half, well away from our danger area.
    Until we get more creativity in the team we need to do things like this to break defences down.

    Why play out from the back when you can see leno isn’t comfortable playing like this.

  33. Emiratesstroller

    Divine Sherlock

    Last season Arsenal threw away too many games even against lesser opposition by losing control under pressure and conceding silly goals often late in games.

    The arrival of Partey will hopefully improve our control in midfield. This is an area of pitch
    where performance was weak last season.

    Arteta has made improvements in defence but until now that has not been the case in midfield and our performance level is dependent of a considerable upgrade in that department.

    Partey showed in second half of game on Thursday that his influence in games is pivotal
    on how we perform this season.

    Also we need to play a more settled team in the league than has been the case in last two seasons. Experimentation should be confined to midweek Carob and Europa Cup games.

  34. Sid

    Syd
    Like China 1 I’d be interested to know where you’re from. I assume Africa: Nigeria?

    Never been to Nigeria, pre teens East and southern Africa, spent my teens in Canada, college years in Perth, currently a beast of no nation.

  35. Graham62

    Leftfootcurler

    Wenger achieved top 4 with substandard GK’s because we had a fair few top notch individuals in the team.

    What I’m saying is that if we had had a top GK we’d have done, imo, even better.

    With Leno in goal we will not finish top 4.

    Again, imo.

  36. Emiratesstroller

    Working on the basis that Arteta will transition to a 4-3-3 formation I think that there are six
    players in the squad who are automatic first choice starters if fit.

    LENO [no alternative]
    BELLERIN
    GABRIEL
    TIERNEY
    PARTEY
    AUBAMEYANG

    This means that we have one position in defence to fill which is RCB with Luiz, Mustafi and
    Holding competing for that position.

    In Midfield the remaining two positions to fill are between Ceballos, Xhaka and Saka.

    The Forward positions are Pepe and Willian competing for RW and Lacazette and Nketiah
    for CF position.

    However, I would hope that Saliba will sort out his form and secure RCB position by end of season.

    Also Martinelli gains full fitness and form and will be competing for a place in forward line.

  37. Champagne charlie

    Leftfoot

    How do you see our midfield being structured as the season progresses?

    I’d said that Ceballos will be better served ahead of Partey and Xhaka to help our invention in the final third, but I’m also wondering if Arteta sees Partey being a sole base with two operating ahead of him – following comments about him manning the midfield alone the other night.

  38. Daniel Altos

    Up 4 grabs nowOctober 24, 2020 09:47:10
    Morning,I’d like to see a proper 352 introduced.LenoLuiz, gabriel, Tierney, at the back with saka and amn as wingbacks.
    Partey, ceballos and elneney in the middle
    And auba and laca up top.That gives us a strong defence with a three.
    Creativity with ceballos and partey. The wingbacks providing width and creativity, but knowing if they get caught out theres a three behind them to help them out.And two strikers in and around the edge of the box.
    Rather than auba on the left and laca dropping deep so no one is in the box.This gives defences problems as they can get stretched and cause confusion over whose picking up who.It also means a late runner from midfield is less likely to be picked up as there isnt a spare centreback.Theres no need to play out from the back like we do either. Passing between luiz and leno in the six yard box to then lose it achieves nothing.
    The ball rarely goes forward or creates a chance and just leaves out with hearts in our mouths waiting for the usual screw up and losing the ball in a dangerous area.What would be better would be a quick release throw to the wing
    Backs or auba if he’s drifted out wide.Or a throw to partey or elneney who are in front of the 18 yard box to start a move or to thread a ball.It also doesn’t give the opposition time to regroup and reset there defence.
    Hell even a punt up the field is better, if we dont win the ball at least it’s in the opposition half, well away from our danger area.
    Until we get more creativity in the team we need to do things like this to break defences down.Why play out from the back when you can see leno isn’t comfortable playing like this.

    Up for grabs thank u,this is what my next post was going to be about but you have put it very well for me.O was thinking exactly the same,since we are a back 3 side and can’t hold possession let’s just go all Conte/nuno 3-5-2 ….it gives us more bodies in midfield and can make is devastating on the counter.I just wish we had a target man like Giroud it would be perfect.