Arsenal and West Ham put on a blockbuster London Derby for the neutrals yesterday as they shared 6 goals and the spoils. The game was the best and the worst of Arsenal. Truly a difficult one to rationally analyse. Arteta put it well after the game when he said there are two faces to Arsenal.
“The first half an hour was really disappointing, we weren’t at the races. We showed the face that we still have, but then we showed our spirit in tough conditions where any team could collapse, start blaming each other or show bad body language.
“We conceded a quality goal, but then we didn’t win enough challenges, we didn’t show urgency, and we conceded another two goals that were unacceptable. That keeps me awake. It has happened too many times too often. At this level you cannot do that because your opponents are too good.
He’s not wrong.
Matt from the podcast always says you know within two minutes which Arsenal is showing up, yesterday was no different. Smith Rowe said before the game that Arteta knows what’s coming, well, turns out David Moyes still has a trick or two, because he countered our thinking and dropped a 4 man high press.
We couldn’t cope. West Ham were running riot. They were fresher, we were slower, and the team didn’t have the tools to adapt to what was happening to them. Lingaard opened the scoring early on, David Luiz showing too little to Antonio who cut back to one of the form players in England, his thunderous shot was sublime, but Arsenal’s defensive structure was far too deep.
The second started because Bernd Leno’s pass wasn’t controlled, Partey gave away a freekick on the edge of the box, everyone was asleep to the quick pass, Bowen took advantage and bundled his shot under a weak Leno. Mari and Luiz looking like a couple of clowns in the process.
The third one was classic West Ham, a great cross from the right, Antonio bullying his way past Luiz to head home with embarrassing ease.
Plenty were writing Artetan obituaries after that, the only positive was we still had 60 minutes to claw something back… things couldn’t possibly get worse.
We did finally start to find our way around West Ham, they started to drop off, I suppose thinking a 3-0 lead was done and dusted. It was not. Partey to Odegaard, Odegaard to Cal C, Cal C to Lacazette who controlled and rifled a shot in off Soucek for an own goal.
We should have made it two, Lacazette finding the run of Saka who struck a low shot too early and close to Fabianksi.
That was what we needed going into half time. I thought there’d be some swift changes because there were some dreck performances, but Arteta resisted.
We came out the traps over the next 45. The football was very special. Cal Chambers slipped Lacazette in on 48 minutes with an outrageous ball, Lacazette lifted over the keeper but West Ham cleared the lines well.
Martin Odegaard decided that today was going to be all about him. He pulled the strings like he’d been taking tips from peak Zidane. His movement was fantastic, he demanded the ball, he made good decisions over and over. He was rewarded on 60, his reverse pass found the run of Cal Chambers who whipped in a ball so perfect, Dawson had to put it in his own net. Brilliant from the Arsenal right back.
West Ham were not without threat. There was a terrible mix up in our area and it looked like West Ham had an open goal, Cal Chambers snuffed out the moment. Benrahma made some space for himself, blazed across our goal, leaving Antonio to hit the post from a yard. Even Declan Rice unleashed a mazy run he should have done better with.
It was Arsenal who took their chance in the end. Partey found Odegaard in the middle again, the Norwegian slipped in Pepe, he found his balance and planted a ball perfectly on the head of Lacazette.
We really could have won it late on. Pepe will feel annoyed this morning over some of his choices in front of goal and there were a few moments at the back end of the game when Martin O didn’t make the right decision on a break.
Overall though, coming back against a very good West ham side from 3-0 down away from home will feel better for Arsenal than it will for West Ham.
So what did we learn here?
Arteta has a real problem with deference to senior players who let him down. The line-up today wasn’t right. Auba stunk out the Europa League tie in the week and he did it again today. Arteta reverting him back to a wide position where he’d have to put a shift in when he could barely crack a smile was just a bad decision. He keeps dropping disaster classes and he keeps getting back in the side. It’s a bit of a joke. Martinelli had a bad 55 against Villa and he’s ditched for 5 weeks. Where is the consistency?
Arteta also has a painful addiction to David Luiz. It has to stop. He wasn’t interested or focused today because he thinks he’s above games like that. He’s a monster when he knows it counts, against smaller teams, he doesn’t show up. He was really poor, he lacked intensity, and he didn’t take control or lead his defence in a bad situation. Why persist with someone like that? If he is the worldie guy, keep him fresh for worldie games and give the minutes to players that will treat West Ham like Real Madrid. Don’t give him a new deal, because these regular switch offs will get worse next season.
What is deeply frustrating is you know that the on-pitch product was an attitude thing, not a talent one. When we bucked our ideas up, we smashed West Ham. But that’s the thing with this squad, they always have that sort of performance in them. Arteta says he’ll have nightmares about that start, he should, I hope he wakes up in cold sweats… but mostly, I hope he remembers who made him wet the bed. Auba wasn’t there for the team again today, 4 sprints in the first half tells a story, it was like playing with 10 men, watching him pretend to challenge for crosses is painful viewing… but he was given 80 minutes. He was caught taking penny sweets from reception before the Spurs game and we sent him to football jail, on Thursday and Saturday, he broke into Mikel’s house and took a dump in his games room and Mikel is looking the other way telling people it was a show of commitment. Where is the consistency?
The coaching staff seems to have starfucker tendancies. It’s weird behaviour. They need to start matching their principles to their actions and treat older players the same way they treat younger players when it comes to shit performances.
Moving beyond the negatives, let’s look to the positives… we came back from 3-0 down away from home and took a point. We deserved a win based on the chances we created. That was an immense fight back and that sort of game will do the belief in the squad an absolute world of good.
Martin Odegaard is an exceptional talent, that result pivoted on his brilliance. His touch, vision, and patience is a sight to behold. We’ll be doing very well to keep him on the books next season. A magical talent that could take us to the next level.
Alex Lacazette, doing everything right again. An extremely unselfish performance marked by dogged work rate, beautiful combination play, and finally… some goals. I have been so, so impressed with the way he’s adapted to a new role. Hard to see him leaving this summer, he’s been too good.
I had a lot of love for Cal Chambers. I hear he’s one of the best people you’ll meet at Arsenal, everyone loves him. He was brilliant yesterday. He’s the sauciest right back at the club, his deft touches and ruthless deliveries were refreshing. If he had a little more pace, he’d be first choice there. I would love to see him given more of a go as a centre back as we head into the back end of the season.
Thomas Partey had a weird game. He is a high-risk player, and usually really good, but he put us in some spots yesterday. Overall, 91% pass completion is elite in a game like that. He made 14 ball recoveries. He was everywhere, but I just felt he was a little loose at times.
Overall, the message is clear… plenty to work on at Arsenal, but we’re still progressing. We don’t come back before Christmas. We feel sorry for ourselves and die. That’s grit and determination. The bigger issue we’re dealing with is how to stop ourselves from gifting opponents the way we do. We will never move forward until we bring that under control.
… and of course, our next game after the break is Liverpool. Would be a wonderful time to start getting our shit together. Hopefully, we can wrap a few of our youngsters in cotton wool in the meantime.
On that note, I’ll see you in the comments. Take a listen to our podcast with Johnny and Matt.