Arsenal lost to a very solid Aston Villa team on a frustrating afternoon that was defined by 3 players that cost about £650k a week. Cedric Soares had his worst afternoon in an Arsenal shirt, gifting Villa an opening inside 2 minutes. I can live with the mistake as he’s been good lately, but that’s a £100k a week player there.
The real eyesore came in the second half. We played some sensational stuff at times, the young players were taking the game by the scruff of the neck, Villa fans were texting me sensing a goal, we looked ever so close to breaking the back of the game. The sub of Soares for Odegaard, with Saka dropping into left-back was a crafty move and it opened the game up… Auba slotted into the forward line for Lacazette, then horror struck as Arteta replaced Partey with Willian.
This sort of political move needs to stop. Willian is the worst signing of the decade. He can’t move, he has no concentration because he doesn’t care, he can’t even beat the front post with a corner. His play is all about slowing things down, he can’t beat a man, he makes ponderous decisions, he looks like he’s trying to sabotage the team.
Why does Arteta keep doing it to himself? Look at what is working for Arsenal at the moment. Young players. Motivated talent that is additive to the side. Players that can move. Willian does not fit into the vision.
Say it quietly, but we’re also moving into the same territory with Auba. I know he might not be mentally there at the moment. But even before his absence, did his game look like it suited this new short passing game we’re developing? He’s a bystander. He came on, tried to look like he was involved in the game, but he had zero impact. Was anyone excited about his introduction? Lacazette is better in our starting 11, he makes things tick, he brings out the best in the young players. Auba doesn’t have the game… but he’s here, on Mesut Ozil money.
The move in the summer was probably Suarez, someone elite in tight situations, great a passing around corners, an aggressive monster, a battler. If we’d planned our squad better, someone might have stepped in and asked deeper questions about the two contracts we had on the table. I can stomach Auba, he’s been excellent for us, but it was still based on emotion over suitability. Willian? There’s no world in which I can have that he was the right move. How often has he changed a game over the past 5 years? How was he suited to our system? What made us unlock £220k a week?
Everyone makes mistakes, the issue here is that we can’t admit it. Mikel Arteta needs to get real. He has something very exciting brewing at Arsenal. We’re close to having a break out moment with this squad. A bit of confidence, the right players, and some luck… it’s there. But it’s up to the manager… is he going to keep making decisions based on salary band, or is he going to assess the reality… the players keeping this going are the £40k a week crowd.
£500k a week on the books that isn’t suited to our style of play is a terrible look for Arsenal leadership… but we cannot will these players to be what they aren’t capable of.
Let’s look at the positives. This week has been deeply frustrating because individual errors have crept back into our game. Villa scored because of a massive fuck up. Wolves weren’t in the game until David Luiz stepped into the fold. We’ll get a grip on those things.
Then what do you have? There’s some really exciting football brewing. When Saka dropped into the left back role, we were sublime. The whole game opened up. Odegaard looks incredibly sharp, we need him on the pitch, he’s decisive, he’s the level we need. Saka and Pepe were causing all sorts of issues between them. Smith Rowe didn’t have his best game, but he was much better in the second half.
If Arteta brings on Gabriel M on for Partey, the outcome might have been different, and the mood amongst the fans certainly would be.
We are now a midtable side this season. There’s no chasing anything. This week cost it all.
Arteta needs to use the rest of the season to get to grips with the players he has in the squad. He needs to spend time trying to cultivate young talent, versus rehabbing old players that don’t care.
Who else do we have in the youth ranks that could make a difference? If Thomas Partey is out again, let’s not go another 5 games with Mo Elneny in the side, let’s try something new. Let’s continue to evolve our game, because I’m telling you, there’s something brewing and we’re not far away
The frustration I have is the details. The politics. The small things that could make a big difference.
Arteta needs to flush out these PR disasters his levelling on himself. If he ignores Martinelli for Willian in the stadium, the anger won’t be directed at the Brazilian, it’ll go towards him. If he continues to give young players the chance to flourish, if he nutures the exciting green shoots we’re seeing, then the fans will be on his side and we’ll move forward together.
See you in the comments.
P.S. Well played Mat Ryan, a truly excellent debut.