If you’ve been following the site and the podcast this summer, you’ll know I’ve spoken of the pain I think we’ll feel this season as Arteta transitions his team from a predictable 13 to a formationally fluid 18. The draw against Fulham is a sharp example of that pain.
Arteta rolled with a very odd starting 11. He dropped Eddie, who has been on fire, Gabriel stayed on the bench with White lining up with Saliba, and both our full backs were not full-backs.
The football was not champagne; we conceded in under a minute, and the whole plan that was built on newness was blown instantly. Everything felt 5% off. Not shocking, but far from characteristic.
That said, we dominated. Some fixes were implemented at halftime. The team clawed the game back to 2-1. Then we blew it when Zinchenko brainfarted in open play and let Fulham get into our 3rd. We fluffed the corner – no big man on the front post, a great shot, a disappointing draw.
It felt like the easiest place to lay blame was Arteta.
11 shots on target.
4 big chances
xG of 3
We lost to a team that…
Hit the target 3 times
Scored 2 goals
Recorded a 0.43 xG
Only made 26 passes in the final third
Could the starting 11 have been better? Of course. But you have to be able to hold a long-term thought in your mind when you have a pop about that.
Arteta vision: Having 18 players that can play any formation, against any team, to create unpredictability for the opposition.
To get there, you need to try new things. New things come with pain. But do you take some of that pain early so you can be ready for the business end of the season?
Arteta has gambled on a yes here.
There are some worries from the game. Kai Havertz looked very Chelsea out there. He did good work off the ball, found some good positions, kept control of the ball well. But we didn’t sign him to be good at running around and I don’t think fans are going to show much patience for him this season. He has to be better, fast. I’m sure he will. Dennis, Thierry, Pires, and Freddie all started slow. Give the man more than 3 games.
Trossard – more like Drossard. Where did his game go? He was outstanding during preseason, great touch, impact every time he played, and output. He was WAY off the pace and deservedly took an early shower.
I don’t like playing Partey and Kiwior as full-backs. One, sure. Both? Seemed like a big risk. I know Kiwior has impressed in training and they wanted to give him minutes, but please, not when Partey is the other side.
Our finishing wasn’t up to speed. Saka, Martinelli, and Havertz need to better off 11 shots on target and some great openings. I’m not concerned though – we know this team has goals and they scored two today.
The subs were largely decent. Eddie was a difference maker. He occupied Fulham defenders, he was very direct, he forced a red card, and he was in the right position to finish. Same for Fabio Vieira. I got pelters for saying he’d be one to watch last year, fairly as well. But this year? Maybe we need to reassess. Let him seduce us into loving him. He was pivotal. He won the penalty, set up Eddie, and nearly scored a screamer late on. Let’s see where his game goes this season.
Unforced errors were the main concern of the day. It’s hard to shout “WE GOTTA STOP CONCEDING AFTER A MINUTE” because I’m sure the players know that. What might be a bigger catch-all is that individual errors have been costing us for the last month and our players are too good for that. Zinchenko had errors in him last season, Saka almost never does… correcting those is easier than correcting meek talent or a bad system.
Sadly, there are some times in football where you have to say… shit happens. Shit happened, we didn’t deserve a point, but we got one. We still have a chance to exit phase one of the season with 10 points which will be a good haul. United are a mess, they got VERY lucky against Forest, and Onana looks a total mess at the moment.
Arteta took a chance on Fulham. He thought rotating against them at home was a good bet. We can’t go too hard at him addressing an issue that blew up our season last year. Rotation is necessary, especially with Champions League. That said, I want to see a more serious 11 against United. That’s a blockbuster game and there’s no need to do anything mental.
So let’s see what we have. Big week ahead on the training pitch. Don’t get too down in the dumps over a point against Fulham. Plenty of time to catch up.
Right, see you in the comments. Check out the pod if you haven’t.