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.