Well, well, well… Klopp was the fraud all along. Arsenal win tomorrow, we’ll be 3 points off the Champions in the most nuts season on record.
It is quite incredible how a side can go from looking like the greatest footballing machine ever created, to total bums after one bad signing, a couple of injuries, and a global pandemic.
It’s a bit of a shame we’re playing Manchester City this weekend. They are one of the best teams in the world right now. Pep has managed the transition to a new vision with the same sort of deft innovation he always does.
The best manager in the world was pumping Arteta like he always does.
“All I can say is the last months show me that all managers need time and he is not an exception. What I see in the last two months every game Arsenal played is better than the opponent.
“Tomorrow we will have an incredible performance. They have an exceptional build-up, they have quality and they have energy. They have [Bukayo] Saka, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang and all the players with the quality in the middle.
You might think this is patronising stuff. He’ll probably beat us tomorrow. But he’s not far from the truth if you are watching The Arsenal develop through the correct lens.
There are still mistakes in the system, we’re not perfect, but Pep is not wrong… we’ve been the better in all our games since the Chelsea game.
The key thing for me… we’re unpredictable now. Pep will recognise that looking at our games. We can press, we can sit back, we can go long, we can build from the back, and we can execute a well-crafted plan of shit-housery. Look at how we’re developing, versus the mess Jose is overseeing now his one-trick pony strategem is injured.
I’ve been saying for a while now, something is brewing at Arsenal, and it’s hard to deny it. We might lose tomorrow and we might lose on Thursday, but don’t take your eye off the ball. All the reports I’m hearing are that the coaching is phenomenal behind the scenes and things are building nicely. More importantly, you can see it on the pitch.
I thought a big show of our improving style was the game Auba had the other night. Sure, he missed some big chances, but did you pay attention to his game? Look at those runs he was making. That was a man that could smell the potential of a killer pass. Auba was running the channels. He was taking risks. He wasn’t doing that before Christmas. Arsenal has gone from a side that could barely progress the ball from the back, to a side that has options all over the park. Auba’s game sums us up… you don’t take chances on runs if you know the pass won’t come.
ESR, Odegaard, Partey, and Saka can all pass round corners. They can deliver from deep. They can beat an aggressive press. They dribble past players. When that clicks in this Arteta system, it’s really, really tough to play against.
Compare that to pre-Christmas when we had 2 power plays, that one on the left being the main one, well, it’s night and day. The passing is starting to look cognitive. Players are recognising the patterns, they know where to move, they know the triggers, they might not be the most aggressive pressers, but they are very intelligent at it now. There’s thought in every tactical setup these days.
We totally controlled Benfica. Whine about the result, but don’t snipe at the performance from a team that had just had to deal with Leeds before a plane journey. We controlled possession, we drew them out, made late runs in behind, and we delivered 8 quality chances that unfortunately didn’t have the finish.
We’re doing that regularly now. The xG might not always show it. But the positions we’re taking up in attack are good. The chance quality is way, way better, and the football is getting close to sexy.
The interesting thing is you can see the phases. Last year, we stopped being whipping boys. No more walking through the middle. This season, we started well defensively, we mopped up setpiece defending… then it went to hell for a bit. But part of that was down to not having the right players. Part of that was losing your best midfielder (he’s still out). If Liverpool can lose VVD and crash, why would anyone think Arsenal could lose their best midfielder and not suffer?
Now we’ve found some of the missing links. Big players are coming back into form (Auba/Laca/Gabriel). Troubled players are more settled because part of their usefulness was only going work playing with certain profiles of talent (Xhaka/Pepe/Hector/Cedric). Young players are shining (Saka/ESR). We also found an Odegaard who added more quality and confidence to the starting 11.
You should be excited as a fan. I’ve never felt more confident the path we chose was correct. We’re starting to see the fruits of the time we afforded the manager. We have to navigate this season with progress in mind, then Edu, Vinai and Arteta have to NOT make the same fuck ups as last summer.
We shouldn’t be signing David Luiz to a new deal. We should be ageing down in player profile. We need a top centre midfielder. Saliba should be integrated. We should sign Balogun down as our 3rd choice striker. We should sell the names that aren’t working or loan them for the year to shop window them.
Interestingly, I did hear that Willian is a top guy and an excellent trainer. No joke. What Arteta says about him is true, it’s not PR. He’s very well-liked behind the scenes. It’s not working out for him because he’s just not the player everyone thought he’d be. I get the sense the deal was rushed (can’t imagine why). It’s simple, never take a chance on the roulette of age. This was a mistake, Arteta has to accept that and never do it again.
I also don’t think you should read too much into the Gabriel M stuff. He’s not playing at the moment because the side is buzzing. It’s hard to change something that’s working, especially for a player that is raw power. He’ll get his chance though. There are also a number of kids coming through that everyone is very excited about as well, so expect the youth theme to continue into the Arteta tenure, there’s still a lot to come.
I don’t really have a lot to say about today. My hope is it’s a great afternoon of football. Key for us is to not concede early and see if we can grow into the game. It is going to be absolutely essential to take our chances. CIty’s defence has been immense this season, Auba won’t get 5 good chances tomorrow, he’ll be lucky to have two… so let’s see what we can do. Should be fun.