by .

Mikel Arteta didn’t just need three points against Aston Villa, he needed a proper performance. Boy did we get one! I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the 90 minutes on display was probably the best of the season so far. Arsenal beat Aston Villa 3-1 and performed to a very high standard for about 80% of the game.

Every mediocre result at the moment brings a mediocre analysis from certain parts of the fan base. The Palace and Brighton games weren’t about bad tactics, the rain, or the end game of a destructive manager that plays dull football on purpose. They were a result of inexperience and a lack of confidence. Team sport is about psychology. If you are getting pressed hard and you are confident, you can break that press a few times early on, then put the opposition on the backfoot. If you let the press happen to you, you fall back on the easy option… long balls. We let Brighton have their way with us because the midfield wouldn’t show and the defence wasn’t confident. We panicked when we went a goal up against Palace, hoped we could defend, and we invited bad times. Villa was different.

It was about confidence.

Alex Lacazette was the catalyst for that.

Not only did he set the tone for aggression and work rate early on; he also proved a really useful pivot for the midfield. The players trust him. You can see that. Trust is absolutely huge in football. If you know putting a ball into Lacazette will result in possession, you’ll make the run. Every ball that went into Lacazette seemed to result in a positive move. Our defence was brave on the ball. Ben White too a huge early gamble when he beat the Villa press and went on a marauding 60 yard run. Everybody in the team clicked, Sambi was more ambitious, Thomas Partey was far better when he had a partner in midfield, Saka and ESR controlled the ball and moved with purpose.

Confidence was the difference between two draws and a win.

Did you notice that the players had been told to take less touches on the ball? There was so much one touch passing. The ball moved up the pitch at outrageous speed compared to where we are normally.

We rolled with a 4-4-2. Proper old school. The first half was a battering. It was total destruction. We finished the half with 14 attempts at goal, 5 big chances, 4 shots on target and a two-goal lead. Thomas Partey scored the first after looking very threatening from corners. The second one he connected with went across Emi. Our second came from a VAR decision that went our way. Auba had his penalty saved but scored when the parried save fell close to him.

The third goal was a beauty of a counterattack. Smith Rowe intercepted a rogue pass, Sambi laid off the Partey who found Auba in the middle, he flicked the ball into the run of Smith Rowe who struck home off Mings. Who cares how they come, it was certainly deserved.

Obviously, we conceded. Just to make things spicy. Thomas Partey put in a bit of a wet challenge on the edge of our box and they scored with a sharp strike.

You want to know what inexperience looks like when it lacks confidence? That was the last 20% of the game. We didn’t have the maturity to close out the game. I wondered if the instruction to BE BOLDER WHEN YOU ARE WINNING was taken too literally. Panic set into the system and we started making silly errors. The ball went from sticking to feet to no one being able to control it. Again, no need to worry, that is a learning experience and we’ll get better at it… but damn, it’s painful viewing.


… back to Lacazette. Dropping in to stop Douglas Luiz in the build-up? Outrageous stuff. He was so, so good.

Sambi Lokonga announced himself to the Premier League. I cannot reiterate how good I think this player is going to be. He’s so intelligent off the ball, he’s brave on it, he reads the game really well, and he’s BOLD. To deliver a performance like that after a mistake is special.

Aaron Ramsdale is just a brilliant young keeper. My big worry was he’d be a bit like Richard Wright. Great in a shite side doing 50 things a game. Bad in a side where he has 4 things to do in a game. I WAS SO WRONG! GIVE ME THE GoT SHAME BELL AND MARCH ME NAKED DOWN HOLLOWAY ROAD. He’s extremely alert to danger, he’s very fast off his line, and he’s a total athlete. Those daisy-cutter passes we thought were shanks in his first games are giving me life. Leno has ZERO way back.

Thomas Partey still has some work to do, but my oh my isn’t he better with a partner? I thought he bossed midfield. He was at fault a bit for their goal, but overall, he’s the first midfield since Paddy to give me Paddy vibes.

Emile Smith Rowe? 3 goals in 5? 2 assists and a goal for England U21? He played on Monday with a foot injury no one knew about. HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS GUY? He’s just everything we love in a player. A London boy, high energy, creative… and now productive. What a great story he is. England caps are coming soon!

Our defensive unit was solid last season, now it’s exciting. The fact that our world doesn’t collapse when we lose KT for a game is progress. Tavares was excellent all game. He’s an elite athlete, his directness is a gift, and his defending was far better than I thought it’d be.

I also want to give a shout out to Auba. When you give him early balls, he’s better. It’s very simple.

So how did we finish the game?

22 attempts at goal.

9 shots on target.

6 big chances.

That feels like we can move away from THIS SYSTEM DOESN’T CREATE CHANCES. I think that’s the 4th game we’ve registered over 15 attempts on goal this season. We’re now averaging 14.6 shots per game, which puts us 5th in the league. Not a bad stat when you consider we’ve played Chelsea and City (BADLY) already.

We’re unbeaten in our last 7 competitive games. After the start we had, that is pause for a little praise. It’s not perfect out there, but if you asked the question: When Arteta has the players he wanted, is it better? We ‘might’ be getting to the point where we can say yes.

One of the criticisms people keep levelling at the project is: ARTETA HAS BEEN IN THE JOB TWO YEARS. It’s a tasty soundbite, hard to argue factually, but it’s not really the right way to look at things. The squad has undergone a brutal transformation. We’ve shipped out a huge amount of experience, we’ve finally replaced it with players all under the age of 24 (after a few misses under Raul), we now have the youngest team in the Premier League. The project we all wanted started this season. A year late, no doubt, but this Arsenal is the one that has an actual chance of being decent.

There’s not even an agenda here. That starting 11 had 5 of his new signings and two Hale-enders (thank you @SheWore). Who is crying about Buendia with his 76% pass completion rate? He was so anonymous, Odegaard made more passes than him in 22 minutes. Anyone crying about Martinez this morning? No way. Out of the 6 players this summer, which has been a miss? Not one. Fans love all of them.

This new model means new expectations. The football is going to be up and down. There will be pain. We’re going to have more games like Palace this season, that’s just a fact. The job Arteta has to do is make sure the fans are plated up more games like the Villa one.

The objective of this season is Europe. Arsenal needs to be in the top 4 mixer come January. If they are, there’s a chance they might bang the back half of next season.

Where are we now? One point off top 4. Brighton play Manchester City this weekend. Liverpool play United. West Ham play Spurs. Brentford play Leicester. There’s a high chance the top 4 pack don’t move a lot this weekend because those games could be draws. We are in good shape if that happens.

People need to chill out with the doom prophecies after every mediocre result and look at our reality. We moved away from ‘experience’, we’re going for a young player approach, that requires patience and a bit of faith. You know who said we should show a bit of faith? Nigel Winterburn, on the podcast. So you should pay attention to him because he’s won more trophies than you.

Right, see you in the comments, check out our latest podcast!



Jump to comment form ↓

  1. Rich

    Not sure we need to worry about over playing our players this season

    I’d imagine we’d put out a second string against Leeds

    8 days between Villa and Leicester, then another 8 days until we play Watford

    It’s only really over the Xmas period, and losing 4 players off the back of the busy Xmas period to the African Cup, where we could get stretched

    ……..Holding Mari
    ………Elneny Sambi
    Pepe Odegaard Martinelli

    This team would be ok against Leeds, then go with a strong bench if we need a push at the end

  2. englandsbest

    It defeats me when I read some on here saying AFC ‘lack ambition’. Everything that’s happened since Arteta’s arrival shows ambition. I guess what they mean by ‘ambition’ is signing half a dozen of the world’s most expensive players.

    Let’s start with the owner. As a matter of fact Stan IS spending money. He has changed his tune – and not simply to calm the fans. He has become aware of his obligation as owner.

    Mistakes have been made by Arteta – name a manager who hasn’t – but to imply that he lacks ambition is simply ridiculous. His stated aim is a return of Arsenal to the elite. That is ambition. And the improvement on the squad he had to the squad he has now is proof that he is well on his way.

    But ambition shows in every part of the Clib, not just the players, manager, the owner. In the crowd too on match day. I don’t attend but from the people that do, and from what I see on TV,. their enthusiam and support is mind-blowing. The kind of response you only get at a Club that shows ambition

  3. Terraloon


    There’s the dilemma.

    Realistically there is far more chance of winning a cup than getting into the top 4 and even then winning a cup is going to be quite a challenge

    I don’t think Arteta dare go for too many changes.

    If Leeds go full tilt strength then I am far from sure that the 11 you suggest have enough in them.

  4. Rich


    I think the exact opposite, I don’t think he’ll risk White, Gabriel or Tomiyasu at this stage

    There’s no way he risks Partey with Xhaka injured

    Leno, Martinelli, Pepe, will certainly start if fit

    Leeds are in a relegation dog fight, I’d be surprised if they put out a first team, staying in the PL is worth £100 million, that’ll be their priority

  5. Pierre

    “Mistakes have been made by Arteta – name a manager who hasn’t – but to imply that he lacks ambition is simply ridiculous. His stated aim is a return of Arsenal to the elite. ”

    Yeah , it would be nice to get back to where we were under wenger for a couple of decades….seeded in the top 8 of the champions league for many years.

    Maybe the fans will show some appreciation of how difficult it is to stay in the elite if/when we do return

    Guaranteed that many have learnt a harsh lesson of never again to disrespect the manager who does get us back to the elite….

  6. Bradybunch

    Norwich away for Leeds next. Bielsa is an idiosyncratic coach , so I’m warey to second guess him, but to not get a result at Norwich would be pretty damning , considering their current form.

  7. Pierre

    The 11 you posted should be enough to beat Leeds, would probably play AMN instead of Lakonga , but other than that looks a strong side .

    I have my doubts as to wether Eddie will be in the league cup squad as he hasn’t even made the bench since he last scored in the league cup…..could be another case of the non negotiables, though of course i hope I’m wrong

  8. Terraloon


    However, we have the makings of a decent team with a combination of transfers and promotions from academy.

    I am getting twitchy in terms of what can be afforded in terms of incomings because it’s abundantly clear that for one reason or another the two main men up front PEA and Lacazette either won’t be around come next season ( Laca) or age inevitably will be taking its toll. As we know top class strikers don’t come cheap

    Martinelli and Eddie’s development seems to have stalled. Has Eddie reached his ceiling ? Has the injury impacted Martinelli more than expected?

    Balougan should have been sent out on loan he is no where near PL ready . So my question to you is how do you see the shortage of quality attacking options being addressed ?

    My brother as you may or may not recall is a Chelsea ST holder and after their demolition of Norwich last evening he sent me a text pointing out that yesterday Chelsea had 5 of their academy products on the field and to that they had two others out on loan who look more than PL ready . Gallagher at Palace and Borja at Southampton . Of those 7 all but one are 22 or under and between them they scored 6 PL goals yesterday . Those stats sort of struck me although I dare not make out to my brother that I gulped at those numbers

    It’s abundantly clear that there has to be a mixture of HG players and indeed transfers in but I do worry that far too much is being placed on the shoulders of Saka and ESR. Arsenal need more players to step up but I do worry that at this point in time there really aren’t any PL ready

  9. Gonsterous

    The bard

    I don’t know If I want to grow old and look back with regret at watching arsenal never be better than they currently are. That will be a sad way to go for an arsenal fan.

  10. Pierre

    I would have liked Arteta to have given players like, eddie, Martinelli, willock, nelson , Balogun , Guendouzi, Saliba a chance to prove themselves as the experienced players havent exactly covered themselves in glory have they..

    No one can tell me that Eddie , willock etc would have fared worst than Xhaka, willian , Elneny, Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe over the past 12/15 months or so.

    Arteta had a golden chance to assess some of the academy players at the end of last season when we had 5 meaningless league games , the problem was Arteta was in self preservation mode and probably still is in all honesty .

    Tavares and lakonga were only afforded starts due to injuries to xhaka and Tierney

  11. Nelson

    I think Ødegaard will benefit from watching how Laca plays his position in the EPL. His sh*thouse and the ferocity of his work rate rubbed off on all this teammates. Ødegaard is still young and possesses a super passing skill. If he could add some of Laca’s physical play, he could become one of the top ACM in the league.

  12. englandsbest


    Yes, the future lies with the young and vigorous but at present there has to be a mix with older experienced players. But window by window they diminish as the youngsters grow more experienced.

    As for Wenger, he deserves respect but only during the period when DD was there to control his egocentricity. With DD gone and in near total control of the Club his ego overcame his judgement. Qualifying for the CL is a tick. But never winning the competition in twenty attempts is a cross.

    Some of his actions are unforgiveable, such as selling RvP to an U, buying Ozil because Liverpool sneered at his ludicrous bid for Suarez.

    Worst of all, though, is the mess he left behind him. That deserves disrespect.

  13. Pierre

    There is nothing wrong with Odegaard’s workrate but if you expect him to play anything like Lacazette you will be disappointed.

    Odegaard has about as much ferocity as Ozil …none and i doubt if we will see him starting in the league any time soon despite being a better player with the ball than Lacazette..

    I made the point a few weeks back that due to the change in referees attitude towards the physical nature of the game, in that they are allowing more over physical challenges, that players like Odegaard will struggle as he is neither brave on the ball or brave off the ball and in all honesty , I’m not sure i can see that changing..

    The highly technical sides like city and chelsea use their superior technique to protect themselves , although Brentford gave them a run for their money.

    Fortunately Smith Rowe and Saka are brave on and off the ball , hence why you see them being clattered by the opposition as they are prepared to commit defenders when they are on the ball.

    Odegaard rarely ,if ever gets fouled as he is afraid to get clattered so consequently he doesn’t commit defenders.

    Many think Odegaard is good at the high press …he’s not..
    If you want to see gòod pressing look at Lacazette from the villa game, he was hungry to win the ball, he was prepared to get hurt in his attempt to win the ball and he was a menace to the villa defence and midfield as he wouldn’t let them settle.

  14. Karsa

    Taking a break from football for the evening. It’s Ind vs Pak T20 cricket in an hour

    Me too. The Sri Lanka/Bangladesh match has been a cracker so far.

  15. salparadisenyc

    What a day of footie ahead El Classico, Atletico vs. top o table Sociedad 🔥, PSG – Marseille, Liverpool – United, Juve – Inter.

    Hard to figure where to go here.

  16. Rich

    Reiss Nelson only getting off the bench in the 93 minute for Feyenoord

    Strange what’s happening with him, considered alongside Sancho as the standout talent in his age group at youth level

    Did well in his first couple of months in Germany, and has shone for England at under 21 level

    Wonder if he’ll just be a late developer, or one that never realises his undoubted potential

  17. S Asoa

    Toterers Hotspodes finding their place.
    Down 1-0

    Brentford vs Leicester game is better. Tells what a difference a good coach can do. Tactics instead of Systemic buzzwords

  18. Up 4 grabs now


    We rolled with a 4-4-2. Proper old school. The first half was a battering. It was total destruction. We finished the half with 14 attempts at goal, 5 big chances, 4 shots on target and a two-goal lead.

    And ive been banging the drum for 442 for about 3 seasons now. and kept getting shot down as its old fashioned.
    Leicester won the league doing that, just because its not the way pep or klopp play doesn’t mean it wont work.
    Back in the day, for harder games we went 451
    or proper old school 541 with a sweeper (remember them)

    we should be flexible for certain fixtures, as well as during games.
    it causes confusion and means we arent predictable.

    if we can continue playing the way we did Friday night then top four shouldn’t be written off, especially later in the season with no Europe to play.

  19. Chris

    That’s 4 defeats out of 9 for Spurs, and looking generally insipid and lacklustre. Can’t see Nuno lasting long term.

    SKY critical of Kane for not doing more to challenge Antonio for the goal.

  20. Chris

    Up for grabs

    Agreed. Let’s hope Arteta sticks with the set up for the Villa game. We looked so much more threatening going forward, looking to create something nearly every time we attacked.

    There is something rather romantic in football terms about a good ol 4-4-2. Perhaps just showing my age though!

  21. Up 4 grabs now


    its just the fact of having two strikers in or around the box.
    it splits center halves and leaves gaps for midfield runners.
    It also confuses defenders as sometimes they dont know who to mark. and that split second can be the difference in making a bit of space to get a shot away at goal.

    one up top means you end up out numbered and if your striker is having a bad game you have no one else to score.

    playing with wingers means your full backs dont have to get so far up field which leaves gaps in your defence.
    ramsdale was throwing the ball out so quick for the wingers it caught villa out as the ball was in their half within seconds and defenders didnt have time to reset.

    lets hope he sticks with it for the easy games.

  22. TR7


    Rational logic : more chance of Arsenal finishing ahead of United than Pool

    Irrational logic : I hate United so much that I would wish them to lose no matter who they are playing against 😎

  23. G8

    Manure outplayed so far ,but they might come they often do..
    Shambolic defending by Maguire and co..

    Auba would never make that run jota did for his goal, he would have stood back and expected a cut back cross.
    He rarely makes a move towards the ball when he is in the box
    Thats why he is not scoring as many as he used to do

  24. Pierre

    Watching the matches this weekend , to me it is all about the decision making in and around the opposition penalty area and this weekend we have seen city, chelsea and liverpool be totally clinical when they are in and around the box.

    Arsenal, Tottenham, west ham, United etc often make the mistake of shooting from long range, snatching at chances , no composure or more often than not make the wrong decision .

    It’s this part of the game that seperates the men from the boys.
    Smith Rowe is our best decision maker at present with Saka not far behind, the rest are found wanting.

    Is it because smith rowe and saka have come through the Arsenal academy …maybe .
    Even against villa we saw Tavares, Lakonga, Partey, Lacazette , Aubameyang make poor decisions when it came to shooting or laying off the ball.

    Today ,west hams decision making around the opposition box in the first half was dreadful …a littĺe composure and they would have walked the game ..

    United ,the same so far , no composure compared to liverpool.

  25. TR7

    You look at most of the United players and they don’t know what to do with the ball. People blame OGS but what about their players ? Pogba is the only one who does nice things with the ball, others make wrong decisions or are clueless what to do.

  26. salparadisenyc

    Madrid putting Barca down, Koeman on ropes. Poor ole Bamfoord with his man Ole getting this exposed with no reprieve on fixture list. This looks ugly.

  27. Kris

    A part of me doesn’t want United to lose too badly so as to prolong OGS tenure.
    The other says fuck everything, tomorrow’s tomorrow.

  28. Jamie

    “Poor ole Bamfoord with his man Ole getting this exposed with no reprieve on fixture list.”

    Imagine if he was still allowed to post here. Defiantly picking fights with everyone in defence of Ole and his excellent managerial credentials.

    He’ll be comfort-eating like a savage right now. Hate to see it.

    Utd players losing their heads.

  29. Ishola70

    Could be the end now for OGS.

    I know it’s been said before but Liverpool are Man United’s biggest rivals and to be embarrassed like this by your biggest rivals may finally tip the scales fully to see the sacking.

  30. Guns of SF

    all I know is that we must beat pool
    every season the invincibles record is under attack by them until some random team beats them
    Watford saved our record a season or two ago
    but this year ,they look really revved up…
    I hope Mike has the plan to defeat them!

  31. G8

    Klopp is the difference
    He could turn average footballers into outstanding and world class ones
    He is the best in the world
    Shame it hasn’t work with our Alex Oxlade Chamberlain..
    Guess he was wengerized too much
    0/5 now ..only 3 left lol

  32. Kris

    Salah, Messi, Benzema, and Lewandowski are surely the best 4 right now.
    But at the moment Salah, playing for a new contract, is top for me.