Arsenal capped off a very odd year with a win.
Do I care how it happened? No.
Am I happy? Yes.
Should you be? Yes.
If you thought the path back to midtable was going to be Chelsea performances week in, week out, you were mistaken. Arsenal’s pivot in football strategy landed with a warning label: It’ll be non-linear.
Arteta did exactly what we the people asked for. He binned two senior players that have been problematic. He stuck with the kids that saved his career in the last game. He was rewarded handsomely with a very sound win against a Brighton that are tough opponents.
The only change from the last game was the intro of Auba for Lacazette, who had a back issue. Our start was painfully bland. We reverted to playing out the back, revisiting the over-rehearsed slow football we’ve seen all season. Xhaka and Mo were crabs, they looked more interested in their pass completion stats than moving the ball with the pace they had done for the whole game against Chelsea.
Our front 4 were barely involved. Auba looked isolated. ESR wasn’t involved. Gabriel and Saka barely touched the ball.
I WAS WORRIED.
The second half saw a HUGE change in attitude and belief. We came out roaring. The players reverted to the Chelsea game plan. ESR dropped deeper and started to control the game. Gabriel, Saka and Auba all livened up.
The break came when Lacazette came on for a very tired Gabriel. Saka turned on the halfway line, powered into the box, cut Laca in, the Frenchman took his time and curled a shot near post to perfection. A wonderful goal, but most of the credit went to Saka who did so, so well in the build-up.
We stopped pressuring after that. It was a bit grim at times. We started time-wasting in their corner flag area like it was a cup final and we were Yeovil Town. But that was the pressure of the day. Brighton didn’t really have much to offer. We took the three points. Neil Maupay cried (I can’t prove this).
So what did we learn?
The blueprint for the future is youth. Two games, two wins. What we lacked in quality, we more than makeup for with passion and hunger. There cannot be a return to the seniors that have let us down so badly. The fans don’t want it. It hasn’t worked, and it won’t work.
Willian can go in the bin. David Luiz too. Play those that want to be a part of the project, fuck the rest.
We just have to accept that there will be days like today. Kids are inconsistent. Teams like Brighton will be tough. The upside is that we’re working with players that’ll grow and get better. That is the path forward.
The future of our attack is ESR, Saka, and Martinelli. It wasn’t quite the Chelsea game, but it was still brilliant in its own way.
ESR is just so impressive. He fast, he’s strong, and he moves like a #10. His first half was slow, but he listened at half time and he made an impact in the second half. He takes passes on the half-turn and seamlessly moves the ball at speed. I love how hungry he is, his late-game defensive work, his movement for throw-ins, his confidence to put his hand-up for freekicks. I love it.
Saka is our best player now. Let’s not continue to debate this. There’s no one more consequential in our squad. The maturity to own the game in the second-half belied his age. HIs run for the goal incredibly powerful, the pass was so composed, he’s a fucking hero. What’s more, he likes playing with ESR and Gabriel.
Talking of the Brazilian. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN. He is all you want from a forward in 2020. He does not stop, what a fucking terror that boy is. The goals will come, no doubt. The most difficult thing the club is going to have to deal with is how hard he runs himself. We need him fresh. A cult hero before he’s twenty, we are very lucky.
Our midfield needs an upgrade. Arteta said after the game certain senior players make the younger players better. He needs to understand that long-term, that’s not Xhaka or Mo. The two of them work hard, but honestly, together, it’s painful to watch. The return of Partey can’t come soon enough. There was a very incorrect rumour before the game yesterday that he was in the squad, it was wrong. I’m reliably told the hope is Partey will actually be about for the Newcastle cup game. He’ll help, but we still need to add speed to our midfield play.
If you don’t move the ball fast, there’s no point in the attackers we have. Arteta needs to give more time to AMN in midfield. He offers ambitious passing, he’s an elite athlete, he has swagger, and he’ll grow in value if he’s given time. Why isn’t he offered more minutes? Maybe it was hard to drop GX and ME because of Chelsea. For West Brom, we have to start AMN and give him what he deserves.
The defence returned to solid. The jury is still out on Pablo Mari. He’s looked a little shaky, but he’s barely played. Holdinho, to be fair, has been absolutely excellent. He’s just really solid. His passing isn’t always that sexy, but you can’t knock his leadership skills, aerial ability, and reliability. Hector is a tough one for me, he looked a mess in the first half, but he was sharp in the second. There was one point where he broke in the second in spectacular fashion, no one followed, I couldn’t work out if that was discipline or people knowing he’d not land a final ball.
The January window needs more than one signing. The major move is for creativity. There’s a lot of buzz around Isco. Outside everyone fat-shaming a guy who is depressed over his lack of game time, you’d be hard-pressed to tell me he wouldn’t give us something in quality an experience. I like the idea because he has something to play for. 1) A final contract because he’s old. 2) He probably wants to play for Spain this summer. 3) HE’S NOT ERIKSEN.
It’s clear we need more than just an Isco type. We need to shift on the deadwood. There simply MUST be a back-up keeper. I think we need more than one creative midfielder. BUT WE HAVE NO MONEY. So not sure what we’ll do this month.
Football might also be in the shitter. Covid seems to be going pretty wild again. I am half expecting the suspension of the season again. We’ll see though. I can’t work out if it’d be good or bad for us, but at least we could get everyone fit. BUT YOU, READING THIS, MUST STAY SAFE. I need those clicks. x
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