Arsenal continued their solid run of results with a win against Leeds at home. That has taken our unbeaten record to 8 in all competitions. Not the be sniffed at.
The club struggled with a non-covid bug going around before the game. Pablo Mari and Benjamin White had clearly been sharing cheeseburger, the Spaniard missed the game entirely, White had to come off as a sub after a storming performance.
I’d call the League Cup starting 11 a serious team. It was a blend of fringe players and first-teamers. The objective clearly was to win the game and progress.
My overall view of the game is that we saw a vindication of the summer moves. There are certain players that stepped in tonight that can’t do the things that the new first-teamers can. Concentration, bravery on the ball, and movement was lacking in certain moments.
Nicolas Pepe had another night to forget. His pattern is to frustrate with the basics, then make a contribution to the result. His header to Cal Chambers broke the deadlock. It’s a real struggle for the Ivorian. He’s clearly very talented, can do things others can’t, has worked on his defensive game… but he’s can’t pull the package everything together into a consistent flow. Still, he’s working hard, there’s always hope.
Martinelli also disappointed. He’s lost his zest. The bang-bang player we loved has gone into his shell. Confidence is low. He’s a far cry from the player Klopp called a GOD OF MEN. He’s young though. It’ll click at some point. Every player goes through it. Part of it will likely be that he’s having to reimagine his game to suit the needs of the team.
Eddie was really good again. His link-up play was great, his touch was really sharp, and his goal was good. A little lucky after he scuffed his shot, but it went in. Arsenal are keen to tie him to a new deal, but I’m not sure the player will have any of it. Which is a bit of a shame because I suspect he’ll go on to score a lot of goals wherever he goes next.
Benny Blanco was a standout for me. Cries of ‘HE WASN’T WORTH THE MONEY’ are looking like they were very much formulated in a vacuum of ‘I HAVE NOT SEEN HIM PLAY.’ Still, if you’re an Arsenal fan, the best type of humble pie to eat is on a saucy centre back that has extremely unique skills. It’s like having Aaron Ramsey in defence. If you press him, he can power 50 yards past you. If you sit back he can find people from distance, consistently. It makes him a tactical nightmare. Against his old club, he was a nuisance all evening. You can see confidence is starting to seep into his game and players around him are starting to understand how to work with him.
Couple of other notable points.
Bernd Leno was superb. He kept us in the game in the first half with some very clever saves. That’s how an ex number 1 needs to roll. Like a total pro. I also loved that he dropped a daisy-cutter through the middle like Ramsdale. He’s been working on that move now he knows what gets rewarded in the new system.
I also thought Bob Holding was good. He’s not a sulker, he puts it all on the line, and did you notice he went on a mazy run like Ben White? Very fun. Good competition improves everyone. It’s great to finally have some.
So we progress to the quarter-finals of the first cup of the season. Two games to get to Wembley (I think?). That’s a nice reward if you can do it. Competition gets harder now as teams begin to take things a little more seriously.
The big one is Leicester at the weekend. Hopefully, we’ll have a full squad of players to choose from. I can’t wait.