ARSENAL BATTLE THE TEMPTATION TO PLAY VICTIM (AND WIN)

by .

Watford: 19 fouls. 2 bookings.

Arsenal: 6 fouls. 4 bookings.

We start on a gripe because we won which means I’m allowed to complain. So what is going on here? Why are referees allowed to go into a game giving a bigger team a handicap because they want to even out technical levels with fouls. Why don’t that have tech that tells them rotational fouling is going on? It’s so shoddy refs can be conned like this. Or worse, just uniformly favor other teams. Considering how nonviolent our team is and how little fouls we make, it’s striking how bad our sending off/booking rates are.

I also want to bring this point up because some people, including weird Arsenal fans, are complaining that we didn’t kick the ball out of play when there one of their players went down in the build-up.

I’m sorry, but just as I don’t think the police should help drug dealers retrieve their ill-gotten gains when a rival gang steals from them, I’m not going to talk about class issues when a Watford player, feigning injury, 60 minutes into a rotational foul strategy, doesn’t get sporting behavior when he hits the ground.

It’s mildly amusing that the sort of Arsenal fans that talk up Conte for his ‘win at all costs’ mentality now want to talk about Arsenal dropping a bit of that for the first time in a long time.

So what about the game? I thought it was good for a lot of reasons.

Everything went against us. Saka had a goal disallowed early on, please don’t ask me to explain why that’s now offside, but apparently, it was.

Ben Foster had an outrageously good game.

Auba missed a penalty after Lacazette was smashed down by Danny Rose.

Danny Rose didn’t get sent off.

Auba took a touch on an Odegaard goal that made it disallowed.

The atmosphere was one of those weird muted Sunday types where people are sensing something rubbish might happen.

We basically had all the ingredients there for a sucker-punched 1-0 home defeat we’d have to ruminate on for a few weeks.

As it turned out, we weathered the game and its travesties really well. Not everyone was at their best, but as Arteta said in the week, everyone was united around the mission and worked like monsters all game.

Our defence was rock solid all game. Ben White had one of his best in an Arsenal shirt. He’s everything we needed this summer and more. He opens the game up because he’s a non-traditional centre back, you can’t press him, stand off him, or lunge in because he’ll beat you like Aaron Ramsey and go on a run. In fact, his run led to our first goal… a tackle on him allowed Laczette in, with ESR sweeping in to open the scoring. He’s also a good defender, he’s sharp in the tackle, he’s surprisingly good in the air, and he won’t be shoved about. Let’s be honest, the debate that we didn’t need to replace Luiz with a ballplaying centre back really was one of the worst. Who is talking about his price-tag now?

The full-backs were really good again. Tomiyasu in particiular. He contributed well to the final third with some line-breakers and good crosses. It’s also really nice to have a centre back like object on the right, because it means we have 3 defenders that are good in the air from corners. 4 when you consider the height of Nuno. The Portuguese had another solid game, he doesn’t look inexperienced and his stamina is off the charts. Those mazy late-game runs will count as he gets older. I thought he had another reassuring 90 and he’s certainly asking questions of Kieran Tierney.

Gabriel. I read someone say that you just get used to him dropping 8 out of 10s. He’s moving into that level of reliability we’ve not had in that role for a long time. No one intimidates him, his passing is great, and he is an absolute menace from corners. He was very unlucky not to chalk up another goal when hos downward header bounced off Ben Foster’s legs.

Auba didn’t have a good day out, but I won’t knock him. He’s doing an immense amount of work for the team regardless of how he’s playing in front of goal. He missed a penalty, he’s in a bit of a rut there, but I just love his attitude at the moment.

Lacazette, Smith Rowe and Saka all had solid games. They’re finding each other and working out patterns. It’s nice to see the bonds forming and the trust grow with each game. Again, Saka was really unlucky not to be the first scorer.

Ainsley had a super game next to Sambi. I’m so, so happy he’s focused himself this season. He has it all to do whatever he wants in the game. Arteta made the point after that he’s just different this year. He’s more urgent, his body language is better, and he’s thinking about his career a little more. I was a bit worried about the two of them in the middle, but Sambi continues to prove he was one of the bargains of the summer. His pass completion was 87.3%.

It was also worth noting that Odegaard came on and looked like he wanted to impose himself on the game. He played a few really good balls, he should have scored if it weren’t for Auba, and his running was truly appreciated.

Ramsdale nearly made his first mistake missing the ball. Luckily Josh King couldn’t make the angle. Overall though, I liked his game. He’s trying to find Auba with daisy-cutters into feet, which is quite the skill. That’s a big improvement on the launch balls he was doing earlier in the season. His pass completion rate was 81.3%, quite exceptional when you consider the ambition of his choices. I love him

So we did it. 10 points from 12. 4 very different games. Palace on that Monday now looks like a really good result, Lacazette set the ball running for a really good run.

9 games unbeaten. 6 cleansheets. We’re 5th in the table. 6 points from top. 2 points from Liverpool. Our goal difference is back to 0.

Arteta has a better win ratio than Wenger for the first 100 (matching GG on 56%). Considering the team he inherited and the moment in time we just went through, that’s pretty decent.

The team is finding performances. They’re digging deep. Every summer signing looks like a winner. Every senior player getting game time is putting in a shift. The squad is unified. The fans are unified.

The progress is very, very real.

I like that we’re finally a club where everything looks like it’s in good shape.

There’s loads to do this season. We have to improve our in-game management. Squad rotation needs to happen so players are ready for a busy December. We still need to do better in open play. The players are all still sussing each other out. But this train is finally moving and it feels good.

What I like the most out of all of this: We did things the hard way after trying to short-cut for 5 years. We took a chance on a young innovative coach and gave him time. We stopped signing old bums (time thiefs acc to Arteta) and aged down the squad. Our approach to recruitment considered the character of the players as well as the skillset put through a very, very specific vision of how the game should be played… and you can see more than green shoots now.

It’ll still be tough. There will be bad moments. But now we can see the promised land, we don’t have to catastrophize every blip along the way.

Right, that’s me done. I couldn’t do the OTW yesterday because everyone is out and about but we’ll have some content for you this week.

202 Responses to “ARSENAL BATTLE THE TEMPTATION TO PLAY VICTIM (AND WIN)”

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  1. Bob N16

    andy1886 – Mings was dropped by Villa a couple of games ago, only back in because of a suspension. His form like Maguire is poor. They are playing against Albania and San Marino though!

  2. andy1886

    @Bob N16, yes, I noticed that Mings was still in, just thought that Maguire has been even worse. Albania and San Marino are about their level at the moment though so we should survive. Hopefully ESR will benefit from being around the squad although I don’t expect him to play.

  3. Bob N16

    From an Amy Lawrence article 6th Nov, in the Athletic.

    Love the fact that at London Colney reception there is a new floor-to- ceiling image of a smiling Wenger. The club asked him if he would provide a message for the players which could be put on the wall. He came up with: “Here you have the opportunity to get out the greatness that is in each of you”

  4. AFC Forever

    It’s good news for ESR and his mate Saka, they will be pleased to be together. But I would prefer them not to be around Southgate.

    Andy, you are right about Maguire. He’s as mobile as a fridge, jogs instead of sprinting and his ball watching is alarming. He and Shaw shouldn’t ever be playing together.

  5. Habesha Gooner

    ESR and Gabriel with completely deserved call ups to their national teams. If they keep doing what they have been doing so far this season, then call ups will be a regular thing.

    I also feel white is very close to a call up. Mings, Coady and Maguire aren’t better players than Tomori and White. And eventually they will earn their call ups too.

  6. LoveSausage

    Andy,

    I always recommend everyone to watch All Or Nothing: Spuds because they are such a train wreck. But there’s one particular scene where Rose goes into Mourinho’s office and tries to be a hardman, telling him how he’s the best player they have in his position. And he just gets treated like an annoying toddler. It’s pure comedy gold.

  7. Janky

    Actually looking forward to the ‘pool game. After the break…….. I’m not expecting victory, and it isn’t an Arteta-out moment if we get turned over, but the team just looks so much stronger mentally than in recent memory that I feel confident they will go out there and fight. I just hope the tactics allow it and we don’t go ultra conservative.

    The back line is massive. Ramsdale as well. I am on record as being underwhelmed with the choice of White and Ramsdale back in the summer, so much money for a couple players that weren’t on my agenda and never caught my eye in the league. I was wrong, they are transformative characters. Ramsdale won’t be perfect, we’ve seen that, but he’s got so much in his toolkit that was missing with Leno. Just such a huge improvement. White is the same. He’s just such a good player next to Gabriel, the speed, the passing, the ability to carry the ball. Everything that’s already been said. Didn’t know we needed Ben White, glad the club did.

    The rest of the kids we bought are legit as well. Who isn’t surprised with how well Tavares has done? I was pro Lokonga from the start, but I sort of expected Nuno to struggle. He put on the shirt and never looked back. Both he and Loko, and obviously Loko has a harder position to fill, have work to do, but they don’t look out of place. How much better does it feel to watch Tavares and Lokonga performing so admirably whilst still having so much room to grow rather than watching the likes of Kolo or Mo grinding out performances that aren’t good enough and will never get any better? And Tomi? Just the same. Fantastic player, gem of a find, such an improvement over what we had.

    And so we win a game that had the feel going into it of one that could so easily bring heartbreak. I expected to win, Watford and all, but this time we ground it out. I wish a couple of the chances we should have had would have worked out, but 1-0 is three points and that makes it 10 on the bounce without a loss. That’s undeniable progress, even if the teams we’ve played haven’t been the best. Last year, neither were we.

    The way we scored doesn’t bother me at all either, maybe it should, but you kind of forfeit your expectation of sportsmanship from the opposition when you play with so little yourself. I wish there was more integrity in the game across the board, but there isn’t, so I won’t pretend like what we did was something extraordinary.

    Arteta, after some early missteps, looks like he may have found something substantive here, might actually be building a squad of players full of fight and ability. It’s this kind of win on top of the run we’ve had that gives you hope he can pull this off. Can go from a few years as an assistant coach to the manager of the huge sputtering wreck of a club we were and drag us back into viability and perhaps glory. Such a long shot, odds have to be worse than those Leicester defied to win the league. Crazy stuff, but it looks more likely every week. Just wow. What a time to be a gooner.

  8. Taylor Swift

    There is no issue with the throw in. They came here prepared to bully and cheat us into submission. They couldn’t. It’s been years and years since we have had a “fuck you” attitude and it’s great to see. We would have lost that game in any of the last 13 seasons.

    I’ve discovered a way to make Le Grove so much more enjoyable, stop reading posts by resident wankers, they are probably in their parents basement listening to Duran Duran.

  9. Janky

    “We would have lost that game in any of the last 13 seasons.”

    That’s exactly how it felt.

    And to have Danny Rose at the center of it, kind of makes it even less of an issue.

  10. Northbanker

    interesting how many Arteta haters have disappeared from the site. No doubt they will be back immediately when we lose our next game.

    I am still questioning his overall ability with his selection and in game mgmt and quite how he survived the three sacking moments that would have seen him off at almost any otherPremier League club. Yet people do learn as they grow into a role. It’s in many ways quite refreshing that our Board hold their nerve for as long as they do.

  11. AFC Forever

    Janky

    “I am on record as being underwhelmed with the choice of White and Ramsdale back in the summer, so much money for a couple players that weren’t on my agenda and never caught my eye in the league. I was wrong, they are transformative characters. Didn’t know we needed Ben White, glad the club did.”

    Classy comment Janky.

  12. Chris

    This isn’t a direct comparison but I see a young Paul Merson in Smith-Rowe. Let’s hope he continues the goal scoring form because he is certainly one of the ones who could step up to 10-15 goals a season at this rate. We needed goals from others areas of the team and he is doing his part right now.

    I thought we handled plucky Watford’s spoiler tactics very well, a great deal of maturity shown from the team.

  13. AFC Forever

    Chris

    “I thought we handled plucky Watford’s spoiler tactics very well, a great deal of maturity shown from the team.”

    The players showed maturity beyond their years. They were prepared for that because it never phased them at all. It’s easy for young players to get frustrated with teams that use the dark arts, cheating, but we just let them get on with it and didn’t get involved. Those are the games you drop points in if you’re not fully switched on.

  14. Kroenkephobe

    Kroenke – wasn’t Rose one of those ‘I only play football for the money, I don’t even like the game’ types

    Andy
    Maybe that’s it. A touch of beniblancoitis I think. I believe he also said at some stage that he was suffering from depression. Given how disenfranchised many of us are about work, I can imagine a fair few footballers who might also be suffering mental health issues. The glamour is easily seen through. The pressure, relentless repetitive training and the sheer number of tosspots (eg the Portugeezer and D Levy) involved in the game. For many of them, I’d imagine retirement can’t come soon enough. Not to be compared in any direct way, but I knew I didn’t want to play any longer by my mid 30s.

  15. David

    The officiating bias has been a theme for ages. To be fair Arteta’s miserable run last season was due in part to referee mischief. Sure no fan will ever say the refs are always kind right to them but no club plays Arsenal every week.
    An inquest should be brought upon.

  16. englandsbest

    Glad and sad about ESR. At most he might get a few minutes of San Marino, when he could be having a restful period.

    Looking ahead, and assuming England qualify for Qatar WC, I am wondering how many players will be looking for an excuse not to turn up. That goes for players in all the major leagues, I imagine. To be honest I hope the tournament is cancelled, a disgusting example of corruption in high places.that should never have been allowed. It will also mess up next season’s European league programmes as never before, worse than it’s doing right now.

    That is one of the reasons why I’m inclined to back European leagues run by Clubs, not FIFA or Eufa. None of the Qatar sh*t would have happened.

  17. bacaryisgod

    Instead of looking at the transfer value of individual players, maybe we should look at the entire group of players signed this summer.

    White, Ramsdale, Odegaard, Tomisayu, Tavares and Lokonga cost an average of 24.8m per player.

    Looking like a good deal right now.

  18. gnarleygeorge9

    “1 + 1 will eventually add up to 3”

    – Josh Kroenke

    I’m trying to decifer this, is it code? Does it mean Diet Pep Si + Edu = 3 Trophies 🙂 I’ll take 2 Premier Leagues :trophy: :trophy: + 1 Champions League :trophy: No, we need to counter the Chav claim that London is blue; 1 Premier League :trophy: & 2 Champions League :trophy: :trophy:

  19. Graham

    Now Gabriel gets a Brazil first team call up. I know as fans we worry the players will get invited, jet lagged etc but there is nothing to make a player more settled/unsettled in their club set up than being picked/dropped from their country.

  20. Le Professor

    “Everything went against us. Saka had a goal disallowed early on, please don’t ask me to explain why that’s now offside, but apparently, it was.”

    That’s been offside for years. TWO bodies behind the ball that may or may not include a goalie. Sigh

  21. Tony

    Love sausage
    My son came in my office as i was sorting out the Spuds and Palace docu. He looked at my iMac and asked what the ‘No All., Just Nothing label’ was and when I said the Spuds docu he walked out of my office laughing.

    He’s turning out to be a good Gooner and what it means to be one.

  22. LoveSausage

    Tony,

    Sounds like you’ve raised him right. My son is almost five and I’m doing my best to indoctrinate him. Lego Star Wars are still more interesting than Arsenal apparently, but I’m not giving up.

  23. Tony

    They say image is king and they are not far wrong when it comes to winning over people in the world of elite business or Fortune 500 and Blue Chip companies.

    The problem with billionaire offsprings is their tendency to take their playboy image too seriously.

    Females are probably worse, not that I have ever knowingly met any or been to the wedding of one, bar one mate who’s father owned a lions share in the northern entertainments worth hundreds of millions where I always went to look that their Ferrari range in their garage/wharehouse when I was visiting.

    Josh fitted the playboy mold perfectly in the way he too often put his foot in his mouth saying daft things that made us have very little respect for junior acting like the insufferable wiggy who can just about tell the difference between a football and a balloon.

    I looked at the new Josh K. The bearded wonder boy who has morphed into the face of Aqua-man and the body of Mr. Bean. Doesn’t quite add up in my view. He just needs a blow up muscle suit and he’s there, nailed it.

    Never going to work so I had another peak at the pic and thought ok, got it. Josh looks like a serial killer far more scary than Ted B.

    So Josh is hinting at a £70 transfer kitty for the jan TW. Sorry my bad its £70m.

    So that’s one elite or 2 potential elite players for January, nest pas?

    To be fair to Josh and to stop ES spitting out his toast or salmon and cucumber triangles, I’m leaning on the Josh is learning side of things away from his clueless thinking that so many Gooners including moi.

    £70m is better than nothing and may help us find cover for midfield and or a striker. It’s no good buying a potential elite striker when we have Martinelli, Bolagun and Eddie. It has to be a proven player over a couple seasons – not a one season hit wonder.

    My only complaint from the last TW was that White was £20m over priced and I still think that – think Gabriel’s price? Don’t get me wrong I like White and can see his value for £30m. To be £50m at this stage of his career he would have to be a VVD level at Southampton.

    I think Josh is waking up and smelling the coffee. I think he understands more than he is showing at the moment. I just hope he has the cajonas to keep daddy writing cheques.

    I believe Josh wants to keep us and prove he can do it in England and help us to winning top honors. I truly believe Josh doesn’t want to sell us to anyone – we are his baby to be used to prove he’s better than daddy or at least I hope he is.

    AFCF
    As I was skimming past your post I noticed you said to Janky something like “Classy post”.

    That’s where you lost me because your posts are far from classy or that you’d even know what classy means. .

    Stick to words you understand AFCF. Classy isn’t one of them.

    You get called out more than most by posters here.

    Just enjoy your football and being a gooner through rain , wind and snow on the terraces – extract from your Churchillian speech, and let others vent or cheer the team as they want or if you have something to say then point the posters to the “how to behave like a real gooner, not a plastic one” book by Yourself.

    I always have felt that PhDs are anal purely due to their ability to absorb incredible amounts of knowledge to have at recall at a moments notice.

    The anal ones tend to look down on others because of their superior intellect and you fit this to a tee AFCF and you don’t have a PhD or we would have known about it.

    Not dissing you PhD2020 because you are one of the learned people who use your wit and intelligence in the same way as us, except when you’re taking on the cretins here, such as Don and his multi personalities and your take downs on Bamford were legendary.

    You’re cool in my book PhD2020 no anal presence with you.

  24. Gonsterous

    As well as arsenal are doing, I feel arteta still has a lot to learn as a young manager.

    His in game management is non existent and he doesn’t read the game very well.
    His subs are always too late or forced due to injuries.

    Iron out those flaws and we have a great manager because atm, I see a lot of good qualities in mikel too, like his drive, ambition and motivation to do well.

  25. Tony

    Janky my son started liking football at 7 where it took precedence over all games, as did Tae Kwon Do where he managed to use a little of both playing central defender in his tackles.

    Had to change that quickly after he got sent off for a high tackle kick to the head that almost knocked a lanky striker out.

    Executed perfectly it was competition like.

    Wasn’t easy telling a kid will full on ADHD that football has different rules to Tae Kwon Do. We got there in the end without too many casualties.

    He’s 13 now and 1.78cm and trains in our gym to add muscle so he doesn’t look stringy as Wenger did/does. He can really move the 150kg punch bag in our gym with his kicks. His Dr. told me at golf that he should make 1.88 to 1.92cm if he continues to grow at his current rate.

    Thankfully, golf is his game now where he regularly has carries of 275 and 310 yards. He’s getting accurate now as well.

    Suits his ADHD perfectly, as there is always so much to learn.

  26. Tony

    I feel the Hammer’s press from the front beat the Dippers. It slowed down the feed to their midfielders and MF possession, so Salah was like Auba with little service.

    This is where we can get at Pool in the same way.

    Pepe scared the life out of VVD in a previous game. VVD hates fast, tricky, ball-control runners like Pepe that backs him up at pace. Pepe should get some game time fr the last 30 minutes when VVD is tiring.

    That’s where we will get points from the game, especially now our back line is more stable and quicker.

    I really feel we can get points from the Dippers. How many? Will remain to be seen.

    I wouldn’t play Auba. Laca and one of our 3 strikers in waiting. I’d go with Martinelli and Laca as a false 9. Pepe or Eddie on for Laca at 60 minutes.

  27. Goobergooner

    Man I am absolutely loving this haha. Good for tets, the new team is looking good despite the fact that they haven’t even had time to gel yet.

    And then we have the return of granite

  28. Chika

    When was the last time we had 3 players called up to the England NT? Our players are definitely improving under Arteta’s tutelage.

  29. Kroenkephobe

    DS
    In my view no. Were it to be an Ozil to Fener type deal where they continue to pay the large part of his wages perhaps, but that won’t happen. He’s the wrong age/overall fitness to play for this team. I reckon it’s very unlikely. Get Guen back for one last try.

  30. DivineSherlock

    Fair enough , I assume next year we replace Elneny with Patino . So we will have Xhaka , Partey , Lokonga , AMN , Patino and Guen . Also in emergencies we can use ESR and Odegaard as #8 . Still would have been good to have that experience around , wont have to play every game and so we can manage his fitness well too.

  31. Kroenkephobe

    DS
    I’m rather hoping that GX makes a recovery in time for a transfer to somewhere (anywhere!) in Italy. I agree Elneny’s days in N7 are probably numbered.

    Although I gather he’s not made a huge impact so far at Pompey, I think there’s room in that equation for Azeez and I hope Patino. The way Azeez morphed from a wiry teenager into a man over the summer was remarkable and he has considerable promise. It’s good to have these choices – credit to Freddie and latterly the BFG for overseeing it.