Arsenal lost their first game since Manchester City away at Anfield to a team that has lost 1 in 27 games.
It was brutal.
A lesson in the true meaning of elite.
Fear not. This won’t be a blog post catastrophising the result because we have moved well beyond that sort of stuff. We’re not at the end of the journey with this squad. We’re at the start. Unbeaten runs are welcome but don’t think they will be the norm for at least a couple of years, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Losing 4-0 to any team is always going to sting, but it wasn’t the same as City at home, there we real positives. The first half was very good as far as I’m concerned. We competed with Liverpool, there was good structure, and everyone was up for the fight (including Arteta on the touchline).
The game didn’t turn on the first goal. We came out for the second half firing and we looked like a team that was going to have a crack. Sadly, the game turned on the second goal. Nuno Tavares, a player that has been very impressive, won the ball in defence, broke forward, and passed directly to Jota who did extremely well to finish past Ramsdale.
Everything went downhill after that. We saw firsthand the difference in experience and quality. Our heads dropped, the game plan fell apart, and we let Liverpool happen to us. Getting spanked like that always hurts, but remember, this Liverpool side turned around a 3-0 deficit at Anfield to a Barcelona that had Messi in it… they’ve been together 6 years, they are a team at the peak of their powers, we are a team at the start of our journey.
There are certainly some areas of concern. Our senior players didn’t really show up when we needed them.
We need to talk about Auba. I love him, he’s changed his game this season, the pressing is notable… but it’s not enough. He can’t become the striker this system needs. He’s not present enough because let’s be fair, his game has never been about that. We’re trying to turn him into something he’ll never be. We can ride it out against lesser teams like Spurs, but we’re always going to struggle in big away games because he doesn’t have the power or the game to be devastating against clubs like Liverpool.
The trouble with Auba and Lacazette is you need one player that adopts the strengths both currently share between themselves. Our team is crying out for a striker with the aggression and link-up play of Lacazette combined with the pace of Auba in his prime. We also need someone that can dominate like Adebayor or Olivier Giroud. Two of our most experienced players aren’t quite right and our younger strikers just aren’t ready. It’s no use shouting ‘GABRIEL MARTINELLI’ because we’ve seen him blow his chances this season against lesser teams. It’ll be baby steps with him and Liverpool certainly wasn’t the game for Arteta to drop on him.
Our biggest problem was midfield. They weren’t brave. The same issues we suffered against Brighton and Palace fizzed up in relevance again. The first half was compact, Thomas Partey and Sambi Lokonga did a really good job. They still didn’t play through Liverpool though. We didn’t really open up the game to our forwards the way we know those players can. We let Liverpool get into our heads, that made it hard for us.
I don’t want to say it, you don’t want me to say it, but a game like that needed a peak Xhaka next to Thomas Partey. He always shows, he never cowers, and he will move the ball forward. I’m actually really looking forward to having him as an option because in certain games, he gives us experience and skills we’re lacking a little bit at the moment. That’s not a sleight on Sambi Lokonga, there aren’t many 21-year-old midfielders in world football equipped to hold their own against Liverpool. It’s just part of our reality. Sambi is going to be a great in 2 years. This season, he’ll be great in certain games, because inconsistency is just part of the mix. If you need reassurance, just read what one of the Premier Leagues’ greatest defenders in Premier League history said about him recently.
‘The first thing I did when I saw Sambi is I went to Mikel and said, ‘You’ve got to watch this guy, he’s the new Yaya Toure.’
“What I like with Sambi – and it’s rare in football, what Yaya did have – is he wants the ball no matter what.
“If the teams not doing well, give the ball to Sambi. If the team’s doing well, give the ball to Sambi. He will never hide away from his responsibility.
“He has things he has to improve… if he remembers the conversations we’ve had, he will know exactly what he still has to work on but at the same time… Yaya was a finisher and that’s a very rare thing to have. I don’t know about that [with Sambi].”
“The point is you need players who are not afraid to have the ball when the going gets tough. As a centre-back, your job stops at a certain point on the ball.
“And you need to be able to give it to people who see the next pass, see the next move, take responsibility, take people on and put that tempo in when there’s no tempo in the game anymore. For me, that’s what Sambi has that makes him special.”
I’ll take his view over @Registorama⁰⁰⁷, 2000 Twitter followers, working at Carpetright in Slough.
Our defence conceded 4 goals, that’s not good, but I do feel confident that the group is going to get better and better. One thing is for certain now, we can play the ball out the back. Everyone is really comfortable. Ramsdale is just so, so elite. What a player. Hopefully, he doesn’t have too many games where he’s that busy. The rest of the unit is raw, but there’s a lot to love about them. Again, remember, the oldest player in our back 5 is 24 years old, there is SO much growth.
The investment this summer will pay dividends, but to move forward, we likely need a revamp of our frontline. If you have a DCL, Isak, Oshimen or a Tammy A in that starting 11, we’re a different proposition.
Games like Liverpool also show you the limitations of a project strategy like the one we’ve embraced. ESR and Saka weren’t at their prodigious best. That will happen. They are incredibly young to be occupying such important positions. That doesn’t mean their lapses don’t hurt us. Bukayo found some great spaces in the first half, there were three occasions when he had a choice to make that could have opened the game, each time, he picked the wrong one. Those moments change games. Simple as that. That’s part of the learning experience and the deal we do as fans when we have exciting kids in the squad. He’ll get better because of it, but that’s the difference between Arsenal and Liverpool. Salah and Firmino are both 29, ESR and Saka are 19 and 21. Want some context on that? Sadio Mane was starting his first season with Metz at 19 years old. He managed 22 appearances and 2 goals that season. Saka had made 85 Premier League appearances and started in the final of an international tournament by the time he was 20 in September. Mo Salah? He was playing for Al Mokawloon, he hadn’t made it to Switzerland or spent time with Jose Mourinho who would bin him to Roma. I really, really don’t want to be reading shite commentary that our Hale-End boys don’t have the skills to hit the highest of levels. You cannot treat Saka and ESR like they’re seasoned veterans, because they are not.
Arsenal is currently a very naive outfit. Liverpool isn’t just an outrageous squad from a technical perspective, they know the dark arts. Sadio Mane is a cheat, that’s why he riles everyone. When he’s firing into challenges, he’s a warrior, dropping elbows, crunching limbs, all under the guise of innocence… when he’s on the ball, someone brushes past him he hits the deck and screams like he’s been hit by artillery shrapnel. Arsenal don’t do that. We’re too honest. Tomiyasu is case in point, he’d stay on his feet if someone was clubbing him with a boot. Most of our players operate that way. We need to grow some fangs and find that edge that all the best teams have. It’ll come, but that sort of instinct for the game needs to be taught.
I did see a few people complaining about Arteta kicking off with Klopp, some journos suggested the game pivoted on that. Honestly, grow up. That for me was a ‘my manager’ moment. The greats kick-off and fight for their players. That’s the first time I’ve seen him do that. I loved it. Wenger did it. Fergie did it. Mourinho did it. Klopp and Pep do it. For 40 minutes, that game felt like a classic Arsenal game of the past. Everyone was up for the fight, the temperature was off the charts, and it felt like we were competing. It didn’t end that way, but look, Klopp doesn’t get that riled for games he thinks he’s breezing. It’s also extremely amusing that the crowd that whines relentlessly about the winnertivity of Guendouzi for having a go at Maupay AFTER a game had finished, are the same complaining about Arteta decorum. For the record, Simeone, Ferguson&Wenger, Pep G, and Mourinho have all been up to worse. If your moan today is Arteta stuck up for his players against a cheat, you need to get in the bin. Also, reference the last paragraph, it’s amusing that a segment of our fanbase is as green as our players. If you’re moaning about managerial decorum as Mane brings Masters Degree levels of shit-housery to the game, I really have to ask if you’re even paying attention.
Losing to Liverpool away at Anfield stings. We haven’t won there since 2012, so plenty of experienced Arsenal teams have dealt with this sort of defeat. We can do better, we will do better, but today we couldn’t do it. The internal target has to be to right the wrong at The Emirates.
The bigger job now is the next game. Arsenal, for 25 years, have always been awful after a great run of ‘unbeaten.’ Wenger’s teams were always clunky after a big run ended, Emery’s 21 game unbeaten run ended and the bad form didn’t stop until he was fired, Arteta had a good start last season, then sunk into hell. We can’t let this game kill our momentum. We have to react. That’s what big teams do.
We’re in Phase 4™ of the season. Arguably the toughest. This phase lasts until January 1st. It’s brutal. It happens fast. It goes a long way to deciding how a season finishes.
Saturday 20th November: Liverpool (A)
- Saturday 27th November: Newcastle United (H)
- Thursday 2nd December: Manchester United (A)
- Monday 6th December: Everton (A)
- Saturday 11th December: Southampton (H)
- Wednesday 15th December: West Ham United (H)
- Saturday 18th December: Leeds United (A)
- Sunday 26th December: Norwich City (A)
- Tuesday 28th December: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)
- Saturday 1st January: Manchester City (H)
There were 30 points to play for. We’ve dropped 3 already. 27 are available. Our target for this phase should be 20 points. If we can deliver that, I suspect we’ll very much be within spitting distance of top 4.
The back half of the season will see our big games played at home. Our young players will have adapted to the Arteta system and will have learned more about each other and the expectations of The Arsenal. The benefits of no European football should start to pay dividends as some of our rivals move into the next stages of Europe.
Arteta needs to pick the players up from this heavy defeat. Newcastle arrives in 7 days, then we have a really big test against a United that I suspect will have no coach by that point. That’s a chance to make a dent in their top 4 challenge to make it impossible for their next manager and it’s a chance for the coaching staff to earn a little fan capital back.
This season is still on track my friends. Leicester lost, West Ham lost, Palace drew, Brighton lost, and United lost. Spurs can’t go above us tomorrow, nor can Everton. We are still 5th in the table, 3 points behind 3rd, 5 behind 2nd, after a game we didn’t really have much of a chance to win. The most important thing now is winning our next game and making sure we stay in the pack.
Ignore the catastrophisers that had nothing to say during the 3-month unbeaten run. If you are a person that thinks there’s an ‘I told you so’ moment after an away loss against Liverpool, you are a f*cking idiot. If you see people calling time on the project today, just think about how sad their Arsenal existence is. Their love is not with the club, it’s with their dead agendas they are trying to resurrect because they’ve forgotten what being a supporter is all about.
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