Arteta and his squad of inconsistent merry-men saw off a very poor Newcastle United team in a 90 minutes of pure control.
Elneny scored after 5 minutes, burying a mistimed shot from Auba. You can’t knock the Egyptian, he tries his hardest, spent the season practising his shots, and made the difference when he needed to.
Our second goal was a little sexier, Odegaard found Martinelli in space on the left, the Brazilian crossed beautifully to the back post where Auba was on hand to finish acrobatically from 6 yards. A great goal and a perfect piece of delivery from the under-appreciated Brazilian.
It was another game we dominated and the result didn’t really demonstrate the true power of the control we had. 19 shots, only 5 on target… we really should have mauled them, but this current side doesn’t really have that gear within them.
The build-up play was so much better with David Luiz in the side. It’s such a shame he’s ruined his hamstring because he really does add a layer of confidence to a defence lacking crucial pieces. It’s amazing that a player so unreliable can be so important to this process.
Gabriel Martinelli was absolutely exceptional. His direct runs, his movement, and overall energy should always make him a required started. Arteta made an interesting comment about his partnership with Xhaka, claiming his game suits the Brazilian more than Tierney’s. That’s a level of football nerdom I’m not equipped to comment on, what I can say is it’s an abomination that we go into the most important game of the season with him on the bench and ESR in the false 9 role.
Arteta was actually quite tetchy about the criticism of his reticence when it comes to playing him.
‘I can tell you I love him more than all of you’
It wasn’t said as a joke, he was seething underneath. The mask slipped as he reeled off other players he’s been hammered for dropping. I can’t have it. Arteta dropped Gabriel for 12 weeks after half a bad game, yet here we are, watching Willian drop nearly a whole season in the Premier League without a goal. Ruthless standards for kids, not for the seniors he’s invested in.
Another interesting perk of the game was watching Mat Ryan control his box with his hands and with the ball at his feet. He’s a fast mover of the ball, he’s almost thinking about where he’s going to pass as he’s catching the ball. Apparently, he was talking Spanish to communicate with certain players. Arsenal are likely going to lose Bernd Leno this summer, he’s done with the club, and he’s let his bosses know. Apparently, there are big problems in the coaching department. We’ve seen loved coaches leave, new coaches make questionable recommendations, witnessed the shocking dips in form, and now one of our big players is angling for an out this summer. How has it come to this? Who is being held accountable? That’s all on Arteta who seems to have selective non-negotiables when it comes to his staff.
Regardless, it does pose a big question. Who does he start on Thursday? If Leno is looking to exit the club, are we running into the exact issue we had when we rolled with Petr Cech in the Europa League when he was about to take a job at Chelsea? It’s a tough decision the manager has.
Thursday night is absolutely huge. It is a must-win. It is also reputational damage control for Mikel Arteta. His arrogance last week cost us the game in Spain. The decision to play a teenage creative midfielder as a #9 when he had Martinelli at his disposal was all about him. That he didn’t have coaching staff around him strong enough to call bullshit on him is another story.
Villareal is not a great side. Unai Emery knows he is in trouble. We have to take this home game by the scruff of the neck. Simple ideas for the right players. No galaxy brain thinking. No ‘maybe he’s fit’ gambles. No slow start. We need to pull them to pieces and make the final.
Let’s see what Arteta has, this is all on him.