It’s tough hyping yourself to write a match report after beating a very average side in a tournament that generally doesn’t heat up until the semi-finals, but we have to make it work for a few hundred words, so keep with me.
Firstly, we won. You can only beat what is put in front of you and we did the job. We’ve qualified for the knockout phase of the competition which means our last two games should see some real minutes for some of the kids that are taking our fancy.
The performance wasn’t exactly electric, but we saw what need to from certain player. Nicolas Pepe had a major reaction after his dim sending off against Leeds. Again, he’s usually quite good against sides that give him the luxury of time and space that he doesn’t get in the Premier League but he still looked motivated and purposeful. He had 6 shots, he made the most passes, and his goal from a Joe Willock cross was lovely.
Arteta was pleased after the game.
‘He had a great performance, he scored one goal and could have scored another one or two. He created some good moments in the game and worked really hard for the team, so I really like it, I am pleased with that.’
‘We all know what his level is, and all the time the question is how often he can get to that level and how he contributes to other aspects of the game.’
‘Today is the example of the level he needs to hit, and he needs to keep doing it because he is capable of it and you can see that every time he gets in those positions win the final third, he is a real threat and a very difficult player to control because he can go with his feet, he can come inside, he can shoot, he can create crosses and he can go in behind you as well. That is what we can expect from him.’
It’s a shame we won’t see him for three games in the league now.
That might open up some opportunities for others. Reiss Nelson put in another good performance. His runs were direct, he was fast, his passing was crisp. I loved the goal he scored. He showed a lot of energy to get on the end of another Joe Willock cross. Again though, it’s in the Premier League where he needs to make it count. When the pressure is high and spaces are tighter.
Joe Willock had another game where you can see what he could offer the side. I think the glimpse of Emile Smith Rowe might have been a little more exciting, the manager seemed to be adament that we have a very good player on our hands. He created an assist very quickly, his clever run into space found the ball from Tierney, he’d already spotted Balogun who took a nice touch and bundled home for his first-ever goal for Arsenal. There’s something special about the two of them combining. Hopefully, that’s a partnership we see more of in the future.
Overall, the more attacking approach to the game had a positive impact on our numbers. We had 19 attempts at their goal, hitting the target 8 times. I’m not sure we landed a ‘performance’ out there, but I do think we are increasingly seeing why we’re not where we need to be as a squad. Another 2/10 performance from Lacazette who looked shite against a pub team. Another fairly anonymous runout for Eddie. Xhaka was far too slow in midfield again, even at this level. He doesn’t move the ball at pace and he’s a fairly one-dimensional player. We desperately lack craft with our final ball, even with space and time. Speed and precision is so important to this system Arteta is trying to move us towards. We need to find some of that in the January window otherwise it’s going to be more of this bland football we feel is unbefitting of a club like Arsenal.
The good news is Thomas Partey should be back this weekend. It’ll be interesting to see if he plays next to Mo or Ceballos. Then we’ll wait to see what he does about Joe Willock. Still, I’d prefer to play an attacking system badly, than give up and stick 11 men behind the ball. We need to move faster towards a creativity production line, so let’s see what we do against a very good Wolves side this weekend.
I hope it’s not the slap back to reality we had against Leeds at the weekend.