Arsenal finally matched a good performance with a full 3 points. Mikel Arteta put on a well-choreographed win against a Leeds team that comfortably beat Leicester 3-1 a few weeks ago.
We pressed better than Leeds, boxing them in, forcing mistakes.
We controlled their attacking game with excellent off the ball work, closing down passing lanes and making it generally difficult for them to break against us.
We also took our chances, something we’ve been terrible with over the past month.
The game was mostly about the return of Auba. We’ve been waiting for a game like that from him for a while. He’s been off from a confidence level all season. He was then rocked by issues with his mother’s health. Yesterday, he seemed to shake all of that off with a really, really good game of football.
Arteta seemed to find a formula that works for his star striker. He built pace and creativity around him. Saka, ESR and Odegaard buzzed around him all game and gave him the freedom to do what he does best… score goals.
His first one was all him. He was found by Xhaka on the left, he dropped some Cristiano stepovers and dropped his shot into the bottom corner. His second was a penalty after Saka was fouled by the Leeds keeper. His third came from excellent ESR box work with a 6-yard cross he found. He also hit the bar with a first time shot.
There was also a fourth goal from Hector Bellerin. Dani Ceballos threaded a pass into him in a crowded box, Hector finished with a smashed low shot.
The first half was inch-perfect. We controlled the pace of the game, limited Leeds strengths, and played to ours.
The second half was always going to be tougher. Leeds didn’t ever stop. They came at us, they scored 2 within 11 minutes. We didn’t control the game in the way you’d have liked. Let’s be hoenst, most of us were watching that game through the lens of ‘TIOTE SCOOOOOOORES.’ It was unpleasant to say the least.
What also didn’t help the optics was seeing Mikel Arteta roll-on Willian as his ‘let’s control the game’ sub. The narrative of the game wasn’t on the Brazilian’s shoulders, but the sub just stuck in the throat for a number of reasons.
- You don’t control a relentless team of attacking kamikaze pilots with a player that doesn’t have legs, energy, or desire.
- Nicolas Pepe could have done with the confidence boost after putting on a show in his last few games.
- Martinelli could have done with the minutes after being dropped post-Villa after a drab performance
Willian didn’t ruin the game, I think we were on the way to that anyway… but he didn’t do anything to improve it. I read a stat that he lost the ball 5 times from 10 touches. If he was brought on for control, it didn’t arrive. Where was the value? Why does Arteta keep doing it?
The value should be in giving Martinelli and Pepe chances, not Willian, who is so obviously not part of the ‘non-negotiable’ set of principles everyone else has to abide by. Young players have to have perfect 10s every game to keep landing minutes. Willian? He can drop 6 after 6 after 6 and it just doesn’t change Arteta’s opinion of him. He didn’t even get dropped for going to Dubai unauthorised.
The story shouldn’t be about him. We just beat Leeds with Xhaka and Ceballos in our midfield. No Partey or Tierney. That SHOULD be the story… but we’re still talking about weird in-game management. We’re wondering if Arteta has it in for Martinelli? We’re wondering why the manager wants to die on the Willian hill?
We’re also wondering if the stories about Arsenal giving David Luiz a new deal are real? What could possibly justify that? His experience has us in 10th position in the league. Whatever he’s bringing to the table, it hasn’t worked, so why don’t we just cut our losses and give his place to a young player?
Dishing out deals to £160k a week Luiz as you cull jobs behind the scenes is why they fans get annoyed. Time to move on. It hasn’t worked for 2 years, this shouldn’t even be an agenda item. It might not be. It might be Kia PR trying to force a question in his next presser… the point is, it’s believable which shows there’s work to do.
Anyway. I hate that we have to talk about this.
Saka. What a fucking star. Once again, he was a difference-maker. His decision making was superb again, he was hard to mark, he won two penalties. We are a different beast with him in the side. He looks like he’s really enjoying his game.
Smith Rowe added another assist to his name with a world-class cross to Auba at the back post. I love how he passes around corners. He’s highly efficient, he puts numbers on the board, and he’s going to be a vital part of keeping Auba in the goals this season.
Martin Odegaard looks top-class. He was fairly quiet today, but I love the way he probes and searches the game out. He moves really well, his passing is fast and sharp, and I think he’ll be decisive when he finds his role in the league.
Big shout out to Granit and Ceballos as well. I thought they’d be in big trouble today. They weren’t. They were smart in possession, both had an assist, they were ZERO drama which is what we wanted.
Arteta still has a lot of work to do. We didn’t manage the second half as well as we could have. But overall, let’s look at the positives. The football was really good at times, our front 4 looks exciting, we kept the most productive team in the league to under 10 shots, and we continued our good form with chance creation clocking 13 shots.
We have a rough month of games coming, but we’re more than capable of delivering some good results. City is a write-off, but Leicester, Spurs, West Ham, and Liverpool are gettable.
It is ridiculous, but we’re 6 points off top 4. Liverpool lost. Everton lost. Spurs lost. Villa drew. I don’t think we have much of a chance, but a good run out of this batch of games, who knows. At least we’re in the mixer.
Listen to the on-the-whistle podcast with Demian and Matt.