I thought I’d take the later post today, see how things pan out, then get into the mixer on the Leicester game.
So overall, we teed up another, THIS IS THE DEFINING moment for the club. The reason Leicester was so important was quite simple, they are a really good side and they will be in the mix for top 4 at the end of the season. We were also dealing with an away game, an area of inconsistency for sure.
Well, we certainly picked up where we left off against Aston Villa. We started with outrageous ferocity, we nearly scored after 2 minutes with Saka weaving his way into the box. For the next 27 minutes or so, we ripped Leicester apart. They had no answer to our pressing, they couldn’t deal with Lacazette, their midfield argued with each other about being overrun, and we actually made the pressure count… twice.
Our first goal came from another corner. Saka on his 100th appearance swung a ball in at the front post, Gabriel bullied his way there and glanced a beauty of a header past Kasper. A great start and another example of the good work Nic Jover is doing with the set-plays this season. He seems to be channelling a bit of that 90s George Graham energy at our corners. He’s also taking advantage of the fact most of our corners for 10 years haven’t made it past the front post… now that’s an asset.
You have to note that this happened on minute 5. We are early starters now, something we were not last season. This is how Klopp transformed Liverpool in the early days. He also had fitness challenges. Unai Emery let his side tire themselves out in the Europa Final, then pulled them apart after 60 minutes. Plenty to work on, but I love that we come out the traps.
Saka was in the mixer for the second goal, his run into the box found Lacazette, who was tackled, but the spillover ball fell to ESR who stroked his shot past Kasper. Our young superstar #10 has 2 goals and 3 assists in 10 Premier League appearances. Kind of special as Mesut Ozil is out of the Fenerbache squad for an away game they lost with no injury. Has anyone tweeted him to Trust the Process?
The opening 27 minutes was beastly. It was an absolute scene to look at. The only thing missing was another two goals. When this project is further down the line, we’re doing what City did to Brighton last week. You give them no way back, so when the energy levels drop, you’ve already broken the opposition.
The next phase of the game was equally impressive. Johnny said on the podcast that this game was important because you knew we’d been in a fight. I agree. Matt also said during the match that this moment was about character. Did we have the right mentality to deal with the waves of Leicester attacks?
We did. It wasn’t always pretty, but there was a standout defensive performance from the team as a unit, and there were some outrageous individual performances as well.
Aaron Ramsdale really was the star of the show. He is, without doubt, playing to world-class levels in this moment. You can’t argue it. There isn’t a weakness in his game right now. He has found a spectacular level in a short space of time and he’s answering all the questions we had about him emphatically. The big moment was the freekick. Facing into the sun, he somehow managed to scoop out an inch-perfect kick and put it on the bar. Peter Schmeichel said it was one of the best saves he’d seen with his own son on the pitch. There was more to his game than that, his passing was exceptional at times, his command of the box was dominant. He’s even revving up rival fans by finishing their chants for them. It also didn’t go unnoticed that he told Ben White to get the physio out to waste time. You LOVE to see it.
If there were one slight piece of feedback, it would be that his choice of kicking when we’re tired put us under more pressure. Arsenal still has work to do on controlling the game when we don’t have the ball. At the moment, he goes into long ball mode and we don’t really have an outlet to deal with that. This might be part of the strategy, but I don’t think so, because it invites waves of attacks and gives the opposition and their fans the upper hand.
Gabriel was absolutely elite again. He is the rock in the heart of that defence. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a genuinely imposing centre back. Gabriel is raw athlete. He towers over strikers. He’s strong, he’s fast, and his danger awareness has kicked up a level. You want his name on that team sheet, he offers so much assurance from set plays and now… from our very own attacking set plays.
I thought Ben White did a really good job dealing with Jamie Vardy. He used his speed to great effect and snuffed out a lot of early danger. Our full-backs also put in a very good shift. Tomi’s adaptation at 21 has been something special, especially when you watch Emerson Royal over at Spurs dropping 5/10s. Tavares has also been a revelation. His directness going forward has always been a known quantity, but not so much his defending, which has been really, really solid. Arteta went out of his way to credit Edu with that signing, a show that things are good behind the scenes now everything is working.
Back to the game. We had a rough middle part, but the subs that came on changed our style a bit. Odegaard created two chances. Auba was bundled over and Evans should have been sent off. Towards the end of the game, you felt Leicester were spent. We went home with the 3 points and moved up to 5th in the table.
So where are we in the season now?
We’re one of the form sides in Europe now. Spanish papers are writing about the turnaround. Pep was paying attention last week when he said Arsenal are improving one game at a time.
The early season problems can now be seen with mitigating circumstances in mind. Playing Brentford with a covid outbreak is always going to be rough, they put 3 past Liverpool with no injuries. Playing City with a (now) entirely back-up defence was always going to be hard, especially down to 10 men. Chelsea was the same. We’ve even seen this weekend that Palace and Brighton are decent after they took points from Liverpool and City.
It’s time to move away from #ArtetaOut after every result. Everything fans wanted to be addressed has nearly been addressed.
His talent ID along with Edu now looks elite. You can’t knock the signings. They’ve all banged. Outside Runarsson and Willian last summer, hard to not look at Gabriel and Partey as bangers as well.
The football, with ‘his’ players, can hit a level we’ve not seen in a very long time. Spurs, Villa, and Spurs all shone a light on where we’re going as a team over the next two years. No more donut football. There’s movement, speed, range and intensity.
We’re not just copying Manchester City. There’s something different brewing. We’re like a counter-attack specialist team. As a Gooner pal said, this side feels more George Graham than Arsene Wenger. The foundations have been built on an elite defensive system in which the whole team has to be participants… I think that’s quite exciting considering where we were under Emery at one point: Ranked 1st for errors leading to shots. 1st for errors leading to goals. 1st for penalties conceded. 4th for shots faced. 10th for goals conceded. We don’t have days where a Watford like side could pepper our goal with 32 shots. We are hard to play against.
The squad that he’s built and the football that they are producing has the fans on another level. People are bought into the project. Away fans are making loads of noise. Home fans are making loads of noise. Why? Because something special is brewing at Arsenal and we can feel it.
Say it quietly, but you can now say that maybe, just maybe… the table since Christmas a lot of people cried about might have been more predictive of where the squad was going than we gave it credit for. Why? Because we’re actually now sitting in 6th on that same points as the team in 4th (West Ham). We’re 3 points off Manchester City in 3rd and 5 off Liverpool in 2nd. I don’t have to splice a table to tell you that is impressive. I’m sure we won’t be there at the end of the season, but I suspect if we have a good December we’ll be closer to 4th than we thought we’d be after the first 3 games where people were saying we’d finish 8th this season.
There’s still a long, long way to go this season. There are going to be ups and down. The players are going to drop disaster performances along the way. We’ll win some we shouldn’t. We’ll lose some we should win. But it’s time to move away from catastrophising every result because we finally have clarity where the club is heading.
Let’s also laugh at Spurs. Let’s laugh at the Arsenal fans who thought Jose was a power move. Let’s laugh at the fact they hired their 4th choice manager. Let’s laugh that Kane and Nuno had a mega bust-up because he doesn’t want to be there. Let’s laugh that their fans BOOED Harry Kane. Lovely stuff.
Right, that’s me done. I know you want to watch our On The Whistle video where Johnny makes a confession that will SHOCK you to the core. Enjoy, like, and share the work. LOVE YOU ALL x