Arsenal escaped Brighton with a point. I’m not sure if I’d call it a lucky point, Brighton managed 2 shots on target all game, but I would call it undeserved because Arsenal really weren’t at the races. The more experienced Arsenal fan was probably expecting a bit of hangover after the Spurs game. The hype was unreal and the setting for the next game was small, windy, and rainy. Doesn’t detract from the reality: It wasn’t the standard we expected.
There were two very clear problems.
We lacked courage
Granit Xhaka was absent and we missed him. That might hurt some people, but it’s true. The Swiss will drive you crazy with some of the dumb things he’ll bring to the table, but one thing you can never accuse him of is hiding. I thought Sambi and Thomas Partey hid today. Brighton gambled on a very high press. It worked, because our midfield couldn’t handle it. Brighton knew Ramsdale’s long balls to Auba were low risk because Auba isn’t big enough to battle lumbering centre-backs. So they went man to man and boxed us in.
Last week, Spurs tried that in the opening 20, but we had answers. There was always someone on call to receive the ball from the back 5. Xhaka started the move for a goal because we confidently played out the back. This week, we didn’t have that. Partey and Sambi were rattled and they hid. If no one shows, the keeper will go long. When your striker is Auba, you have to be accurate and in to feet. Ramsdale admitted after his kicking was poor in that regard.
The heavy press is about psychology. The best example of this was Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final. They pressed us hard, we beat the tactic 3 times early on, so they gave up, and we won the game. We didn’t have the cajones to do that against Brighton. The midfield didn’t want it and our striking options had no chance.
That set the tone for the game. The wind and rain made things even tougher, but really, for me, it was all about the midfield.
Awkward Press & Second balls
Our press wasn’t cohesive. Sometimes, Auba just isn’t ready to do what we need of him physically. He didn’t set the tone, nor did Odegaard. We let Brighton move the ball out of the back with ease, and we didn’t press as a unit.
The team also failed miserably with second balls. We were nowhere. They won it every time. That wasn’t the fault of one person, it was the entired team. Saka was nowhere. Smith Rowe wasn’t good enough. Everyone was a bit off their game.
If you let yourself get abused by the press and you don’t fight for second balls, you are going to struggle against Brighton, who are a very good team.
There weren’t many, I have to be honest. That was the worst performance of the season for me by quite a margin. There was very little football to write home about, we didn’t create enough chances, and we were lucky not to get rolled.
… but we escaped with a point and probably had the best chances.
We’d have lost that game last October.
Our defence had some shaky moments, but it delivered. Brighton didn’t have many good chances for all of their good posession. Gabriel and Ben White were excellent again. They are starting to build a good partnership.
Kieran Tierney and Tomiyasu had games to forget. Cuccerella continued his good form and tied Tomi in knots. Kieran, one of our best players, dropped a pass completion rate below 60%. Those two are better than that and we know it’ll be a rarity that they do that again this season.
The bright sparks?
This is the youngest team in the Premier League. Glenn Murray said it right.
Glenn Murray speaking some common sense. Some ‘fans’ are looking to bring their own baggage to this young team. This is a game to move on from. pic.twitter.com/4Mx42g2LdW
— Hale End Fan Account (@ddoublepivot) October 2, 2021
We’ll have games like that.
If you don’t want to see Granit in the starting 11, accept that we’ll have bad days. Young players get better. People moaning about this team don’t understand that in football, it takes time for new players to suss each other out. This new iteration of Artetaball is 4 games old.
The subs also made a difference. Pepe sharpened things a little in midfield. Lacazette did a much better job linking play. We had some very good chances, we just didn’t take them today.
AARON WATCH: The keeper had a couple of shaky moments, but he stepped in, and saved us points again. He’s decisive, he’s always communicating, and he’s exactly what we’ve missed character-wise since Jens Lehmann. Another good 90. I wonder if anyone has gone back to the comments on his IG to shame the muppets that abused him?
Before I move on, the fact that Martinelli was trending shows you how meek some of our fans are. The Brazilian has been bang average when he’s been given chances this season. In a game where we lacked control, he wasn’t the answer. Lacazette is far better and he proved that. There is part of the online fan base that is just desperate to make victims of professional athletes and it’s absolutely painful to read. Martinelli will find form, he’ll get his chance, and he’ll be comforted by all the success stories we have at the club.
‘Can we talk about how mean Arteta is to Martinelli’
It’s so embarrassing to read. Athletes don’t want to be perceived as sporting victims. That’s weakness. Pepe proved that last season. ESR did the same. Saka did after his penalty miss. These are strong young men, they don’t want Karen-at-the-school-gate making excuses for them on the internet. They want competition and they don’t need fan handouts from people that don’t understand what it is to operate in a high-performance culture.
Back to the club.
Look at the bigger picture.
You would have taken 10 points from 12 before the last international break.
You’d never have guessed that you’d love Aaron Ramsdale or that he’d keep 3 clean sheets
If I’d told you at the start of the season we’d be 6 points off top and 4 points off top 4 after 6 games, you’d have taken that.
This project isn’t for now. But, if it’s within spitting distance of top 4 come January, it will compete for top 4 this season. Simple as that. Last season, we smashed it after Christmas. That is what will happen this season.
We’re 2 phases into the season.
Phase 1: 0 points (from 9)
Phase 2: 10 points (from 12)
Phase 3: Palace (h), Villa (h), Leicester (a), Watford (h)
10 points from that lot will have us very close to the top 4. Can we do it? That’s a real litmus test for this season. I want to smash Palace. Villa is a weird internet rivalry, so we need to deal with them. Leicester is used against Arsenal, we need to bury Rodgers. Watford is a derby.
We need Arteta to win Phase 3, because Phase 4 is rough and runs for over a month.
Right, that’s all I have. Check out the latest podcast and wish Johnny a happy birthday. ALSO, last week was our best ever for the podcast. Ya’ll the best. Thank you for spending so much time with us. We truly appreciate the love. You are all so awesome.