Well, that was a little better.
Arsenal beat Sheffield United with ease.
You can say we should be beating teams like that and you’d be right… but we did not beat a similarly bad Aston Villa side last season when we had our minds on a different competition. The players didn’t show up that time because they were saw the game as a punishment fixture.
We didn’t get that performance yesterday.
Arteta showed that he’s a very good coach. He deployed an interesting system. It was a 3-2-5 moving forward, sometimes a 3-1-6 which felt very Wenger chasing a game. Xhaka also tucked in at left-back giving us another option for accurate distro from deep.
There were little surprises all over the pitch. He shielded Dani Ceballos from himself by letting him pick up a position on the left. Saka was given a roaming #10 role, he was all over the place, picking the ball up from deep, floating left and right, even adopting centre forward positons at time.
We were dynamic in attacking, sometimes having 4-5 players running at a very confused Sheffield United.
It was pretty clunky for the opening 30 minutes, but it was a new way of playing and we didn’t have many creators on the pitch.
It clicked after a while. Our first goal was a thing of beauty, played through the middle, started by Thomas Partey, followed by some lovely interchanges with Saka, Ceballos, then finished off clinically by Lacazette.
Our second goal started with Nicolas Pepe winning a press, he powered into the Sheffield box, unleashed his classic far post shot, Ramsdale saved it, but Martinelli followed up for the tap in.
The third goal showed off the talents of Thomas Partey, the Ghanaian picked out a ball so perfect, Lacazette could get in behind and finish with a ferocious low strike.
The biggest regret of the game was that Bukayo Saka limped off with a thigh injury. The hope is that it was a dead leg, my suspicion is it’s something more serious. You could criticise his inclusion in that game, but I suspect the gamble was based on the reaction to Thursday from the fans, and the reality that the bad Liverpool loss probably contributed to that. We needed a momentum performance, you’re not getting that if you’re missing 3 creators, your captain, AND Saka.
If you’re a fan that spend Saturday crying about Arsenal dropping to 11th, you should probably pipe down about Saka’s inclusion in the starting 11. Our fans won’t tolerate dead-rubber run-outs, unfortunately.
Back to the game. There were lots of very promising performances that could be the start of something exciting.
Martinelli didn’t have his best game, but he made the runs Auba doesn’t on the left, he takes chances on lost causes, and he is way, way better at defending. He should start on Thursday. He gives far more balance to our forward line. Additionally, I love that he was given permission to move into more central positions. He wasn’t hugging the left, which made us far more threatening.
Nicolas Pepe showed the best and worst as usual, but on the balance of things, it was more of the best. His touch was rancid for the first 30, but then things started to click. He wiggled out of space, made good runs, and he gave Sheffield a torrid time. He’s an inch away from being a really problematic player for us.
Thomas Partey, on fraud watch with the section of the fanbase desperate to see him fail, dropped a proper Atleti performance. He’s just so, so fucking good. The creative part of his game, which he drops for Ghana, is starting to blossom. We need that Partey on Thursday, controlling tempo, bossing proceedings, being decisive. He was probably our most disappointing player last Thursday, he needs to avenge that.
Lacazette also proved that he is, without doubt, our best #9. Further to that, it’s clear that he cannot play with Auba. You either use Auba, a clinical #9, with runners to provide him. Or, you use Lacazette as the link-up man who brings pacey technicians into the game. We are more effective with a link-up #9, because the link-up player doesn’t have a passing interest in downing the manager.
We kept our first clean sheet in 6 years. Pablo Mari played pretty well with Rob Holding. The SPANIARD played a couple of very nice balls over the top. I think he’s preferable to the erratic Gabriel this Thursday. Cal Chambers also had a very good game, I love his volleyed crosses. He doesn’t have the pace, but defensively, he’s robust, and his final balls are very good compared to what Hector offers us.
Granit Xhaka dropped another solid performance. He did a job at left-back with commendable defending, but at the same time, causing problems for Sheffield by pushing up into midfield to become an outlet for our attacks. He’s the least of our worries right now, I wish the kids had his robustness when it comes to injuries. Guy is built from Captain America stuff.
We can’t get carried away, but, that was a performance and a much-needed one after the horrors of last 10 days.
I have no idea what the starting 11 on Thursday will look like, but if you have ESR doing what Saka did and you bring Odegaard into the mixer for Ceballos, we could do the same job, but with more precision.
We cannot fall back on players that don’t care about the project. Auba, at this point, is a liability who I wouldn’t trust to behave like a captain. Leave the job to Lacazette. He has form, he makes players around him better, and you know he’ll give to 100% in a tough away game in Prague.
Punchy write up today. Everything rests on Thursday. Pray for Saka. Pray for Martinelli who looked a bit limpy. Pray for everyone.
I want an Emery semi-final, so we can retire his fan club, Cuck FC, and move on from Bummery chat for good.
I’ll leave you with an on-the-whistle podcast with Johnny. Check out his fatherhood podcaster here. BUT, check out our football thoughts as well.