Call the emergency services, my EKG is still off the scale, and the game has been finished 12 hours. Arsenal took a cagey game against United into a marathon of overtime and put EtH to the sword with two MASSIVE goals.
It’s hard to know where to start – but we should address the bullshit narratives that have been peddled all week. Just flick through your twitter feed or your group chats and remember all those characters that have spent the last 5 days complaining about the world caving in because we drew against Fulham. How are Arsenal fans so damaged? What did those cold nights during the banter years do to them? How can putting Thomas Partey at right back trigger a reaction so bad I had to keep double checking we didn’t lose that game?
Who knows… but those people were ready with the knives out when Garnacho broke through on goal in the 87th minute.
Kai ain’t right…
Arteta has regressed the side…
United are going to surpass us this season…
WE SHOULD NOT HAVE SOLD HOLDINHO!
Then BANG… those pre-written obituary notes went in the bin and all the carry-on last week was forgotten and brushed under 180 pivot carpet with platitudes like: ‘well, he picked the team I wanted.’
Mikel Arteta tactically outsmarted EtH, again. The Dutch manager offered up the ultimate sign of respect by doing absolutely nothing adventurous all game. He parked the bus, instructed his team to waste time, and he thought his bland plan had worked when his sub broke free of the offside trap late on.
It wasn’t to be.
Garnacho was played offside by some incisive body-shifting from Gabriel.
Arsenal made the 12 minutes of added time count with two brilliant goals.
But let’s talk about the shape of the game because it’s important to remind everyone how good we were. The first half was totally dominant from Arsenal. We did well in the duels, we hoovered up second balls, and we kept United looking very ordinary. Our defenders stopped United’s main attackers from turning with aggressive pressing and hustling.
Gabriel was welcomed back into the side and he showed no signs of being upset about missing the first three games. He kept Antony at bay, not allowing him to fidget spin or cause other problems.
We were very buttoned up, but United snapped at us first the only way they know how: Marcus Rashford, in transition, with Aaron Ramsdale conceding from the first shot on target in the game for the 7th time in 2023. No team concedes more first-time shots in the league than Arsenal. The super annoying part about the goal was the error came from Kai Havertz sloppy pass. He looked upset, Saliba comforting him. Those feeling were likely exacerbated by his air shot early on when he had time and space. When it rains, it pours. No amount of off-the-ball work or defensive stability down the left (noting that all our goals are leaking down the right) will assuage some fans from planting a tombstone in his 4-game old career.
Back to conceding… My life was flashing before my eyes; what would the narrative be if we lost? How could I exist after pumping the side all week? But before I could even pen a single piece of propaganda onto Twitter, Martin Odegaard was found alone in the penalty box by Martinelli and he drilled home to level things up. Captain Fantastic at it again. There are some players that hit a certain level of consistency that is so top tier, you barely comment on them. That is Martin these days.
The second half was a little more cagey. We controlled, but it felt like a less confident performance because United were catching us in transition every error we made. Arteta will no doubt be looking at that this week, because against good teams, we’re going to get put to the sword.
The offside goal happened in the 87th minute. I sent out Whatsapp messages saying ‘TUCKED UP, AGAIN’ but I needn’t have worried. The big man in VAR heaven blessed us by putting down the magic graphical lines – showing that Gabriel played the offside trap to George Graham levels of perfection.
That gave Arsenal the chance to go for the jugular. United had nothing to offer. Arteta rolled on the chaos crew.
Jorginho (can’t remember)
Tomi (also brilliant)
It worked. The structure we had most of the game disappeared – Arsenal became ungovernable. United shot off green and white panic flares and tied white pieces of cloth to the corner flags. EtH, the manager who has spent £340m on players, rolled on Jonny Evans and Harry McGuire. We kept pressuring, poking, and ragging United left to right.
The moment came from a corner. Bukayo, fairly anonymous all game, found Declan at the back post, he brought the ball down on his chest, no one pressured him, WHACK on the half volley, GOAL, in off some United legs.
THE CROWD WENT WILD! RICE, RICE, BABY!
We still had time to play out – and there was enough of it for another goal. This time Arsenal broke on the counter, Fabio Vieira picked up the ball on the halfway line, most thought he’d roll it into safety to kill time, but the hot 8 slipped the ball into Gabriel Jesus, he powered down on goal, chopped the ball back, sent Dalot sliding down Holloway road, then he curled the ball past the extremely annoying Onana.
So where have we landed?
Are Arsenal back to being a good team after a week of doubt?
I think so.
There are certainly some areas to work on.
Kai Havertz looked a little lost. His confidence has been shot to pieces, things aren’t rolling for him, but I’m telling you, he’ll be a great player for us. If you think Arteta is going to give up on him, you’d be totally wrong. I’ve been told that Kai is a top professional, he’s great at training, he’s well-liked by everyone, and Arteta thinks he has incredible qualities. Clock the people that relentlessly bag on him over the next few months – and when the time comes to take vengeance, do not tolerate ‘I was kidding, gotcha.’
One thing that might impact Kai is the great form of last season’s ‘he should go on loan to Swansea’ meatbag, Fabio Vieira. The Portuguese came on again and delivered when it mattered. 2 assists in 50 minutes of game time. He’ll be eating up some of those Champions League games, no doubt. But fair play to him, he hasn’t had an easy ride, now he’s starting to look the part, even if he does still boast the frame of a medium build 15-year-old boy.
Aaron Ramsdale has conceded quite a few goals from very few shots on target. I’m just not sure how long his run is going to last with David Raya at the training ground. My prediction is Raya is going to start against PSV – then the countdown clock begins for Ramsdale. At the level we need to be at, you need your keeper keeping out the impossible, Aaron hasn’t been doing that consistently for a while.
Johnny said on the Podcast that the standard back 5 from last year did a better job than the group that was put forward for Fulham. I don’t agree at all. We limited United to two shots on target and still managed to concede. But the bigger worry is United carved through us numerous times after picking up erroneous passes. It was basically their strategy – refuse possession, wait for a bad pass, cut through us. On a different day, we’re paying a heavier price than one goal. I doubt the coaching staff will have missed that, regardless of how solid some of the individual performances were.
Eddie had a really powerful game. His movement was brilliant, he showed great strength all game, and he worked tirelessly. But when Jesus entered the fray, you could see the difference. Defenders stood off him, his skillset has a little more shine to it, and when he was presented a chance, he took it with gusto. Jesus is still number one, but now Eddie is a meaningful option to rotate.
Declan Rice. What a player. Matt said on the podcast he’s a blend of Granit and Partey and it’s hard to disagree. He was a boss yesterday. He has on pitch presence and charisma, his passing is outrageous, those switches are NSFW, he offers up composure well beyond his years, and now we’ve just been shown he’s a big game impactor. What a way to announce yourself to the Arsenal faithful. Not many players over £70m represent value for money – that ain’t going to be the case with Rice. He looks worth every penny.
So what about Mikel Arteta? He showed once again, he is a top 3 manager in the Premier League, and he reminded anyone that is willing to doubt him they are likely going to end up eating their terrible opinions. EtH was probably the last of the ‘we should have hired him over Arteta’ and I think we’re now seeing that that can go on the scrap heap with Carlo, Jose, Antonio, Allegri, and Potter.
The vision for Arsenal is clear – we’re going to use certain games to try new ideas and give minutes to players who are on the fringe. That keeps players fresh, it gives them experience in a live environment, and it makes Arsenal unpredictable.
There will still be big game teams like today that require us to play our best / most familiar 11. That starting 11 wasn’t the realization that we’ve been doing something wrong. That was Arteta matching the players, formation, and system to an opposition that merited it. Arteta needed Gabriel today to deal aggressively with a brilliant forward line. He was always going to revert back to Ben White and Zinchenko against the best teams because they are first choice. Our midfield picked itself based on the physical requirements needed against United – Fabio Vieira has been in great form, but are you really putting him in from the start against United? Kai did his defensive duties better than Vieira likely would have (and Vieira did switch off as part of the Zinchenko mishap against Fulham).
Everyone is entitled to bang the table and scream – but it feels like people are far quicker to do it than ever before. Writing Havertz off after 4 games is a fool’s game – I honestly can’t believe it has so much traction. Complaining Arteta has regressed the squad this summer is just silly talk. Loudly proclaiming the solution to moving the club forward is to do exactly the same as we did last season is beyond parody. It’s not criticism, it’s folly. We’ve gone from spending 15 years in the doldrums of European football to Premier League contenders – and our manager had to spend the last 3 days justifying new players and ideas he’s trying to implement because the reaction has been so bad he can hear it in the stadium.
It’s going to be a very unenjoyable season if people can’t be realistic about the challenge ahead… let’s hope that win was a sharp reminder that those who scream loudest these days tend to have the worst takes. We’re trying to topple a Manchester City team that has the best manager, best striker, and the best technical staff building a beast squad for 10 years. That’s not going to be easy and getting there won’t be smooth. But we have a powerful idea, we have a crop of young players up to the challenge, now we just need the timing to work out.
Arsenal did a brilliant job today – never underestimate this group. We’re on the righteous path. Now go and get screenshots of the naysayers and think of all the ways you’ll make them pay in the future. x