It’s North London Derby Day eve and I’m feeling pretty bullish about the home game we have tomorrow. On The Arsenal Opinion, we mused whether Big Ange would keep doing what he’s doing, or revert to the safer option of a dirty deep block so they could catch us in transition. Well, the very nice Aussie Spurs manager who always says the right thing… said the right thing about how he wants to play tomorrow.
“How do you know if you want to be that kind of team? That’s the question. If you want to be a team that challenges, you know you have to play that way irrespective of the opponent.
“There’s no point not using a game like Sunday as a measure to see where we’re at.
“If we shy away from it, don’t play our football, manage to get a draw and survive the experience, what have we really learned? Apart from surviving 90 minutes of football? Nothing.
“The players already know that’s what will be my message to them. We’re going to go out and play our football.
“If we’re short, we’re short and we need to make it up. If we match them it’s great isn’t it (because) we know we have a long way to go and we’ve already established ourselves and on the biggest occasions we’ve shown we’re prepared to play our football.”
This is the type of attitude I like to see in football. Tactically, it’s a risky roll of the dice for Ange. Spurs aren’t anywhere near the level Arsenal is, they are away from home, they haven’t had any bad luck this season, and they’re playing one of the best teams on the planet.
‘Do it out way’ vibes could lead to a spanking… but he has no choice. He’s a new manager with sexy football ideas – if he backs away from his vision of how the game should be played, it tells the players he doesn’t really believe in them. You can’t get away with that when you’re a manager with a small reputation – you have to be militant about your vision, just like De Zerbi has been with great success at Brighton.
It is interesting though – Mikel Arteta was an absolute pragmatist when he joined Arsenal. Our football wasn’t free-flowing and interesting for a while. His first job was to address the lack of structure; then he added bits to the playing style as we built out the side with better equipment.
Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that people were saying things like ‘he plays drab football because he was a drab player’ or ‘I honestly don’t think he’s capable of setting up an attack.’ These were moronic statements from clueless people, but on the face of it, the football we were playing was sad… but it was because Arteta was always very clear about the capabilities of his team.
Big Ange saying ‘fuck it boys, let’s have a go’ is great news for Arsenal – but only if we’re disciplined. PSV tried to come at us in the week and we sprung a trap. Spurs will try the same thing tomorrow, but they have better weapons going forward than most Champions League teams. Son will start as their loan striker, they’ll have Kulu in the system who has caused us issues in the past, and Manor Solomon will start with two assists to his name. That’ll be backed up by James Madders, who is on fire this season.
The key thing we have going for us? We’re better than them. By a long way in a post-Kane world.
Spurs are scoring more goals than their xG suggests they should be and they’re conceding less than their defence should be. You can say you don’t believe in xG and I’ll allow it… but every club in the world with professional coaches uses it, so we have to accept its existence and relevance to the truth. Teams always revert to the mean with xG. United were 13 points better off than they should have been last season, now we’re seeing the slow death March of EtH. Spurs play very nice football, the passing is sharp, and the desire to move the ball at speed is admirable… but they get wrecked through the middle often. Milk and honey to our players.
I don’t know how our luck is going to ride out. There are rumblings on Twitter that there’s another injury in the mixer. It’s quite nice that our ITK crowd these days aren’t revealing names because they know it’s part of the Arteta strategy to keep things to himself. Regardless, it’ll be annoying to lose another player.
Mikel was keeping his cards close to his chest regarding Martinelli, I would guess he’ll not be about. But we have plenty of options to come in behind him. I could imagine a surprise move in the front three against Spurs. Maybe Kai gets a run as a 9 after impressing in the week, perhaps we see Gabi Jesus take up a wing option, or maybe Luther Van Tross as a false 9.
The only thing we know for sure is Arteta likes to keep people guessing and there’s no reason to think he’ll stop this weekend.
There’s a 95% chance David Raya starts in goal. He’s not put a foot wrong so far and we can all innately feel what he’s offering to the team despite not really seeing him tested yet. I’ve been over this, but the clarity I have on the upgrade is unmatched right now.
He claimed double the high take crosses of Ramsdale last season.
Aaron Ramsdale doesn’t dominate his area consistently and sometimes he hasn’t looked as confident coming for corners. There was a period last season when teams were shooting from corners. I don’t think you’ll get that with a man who has trained with Brentford for half a decade. Raya is in the top 97th percentile for crosses stopped – Aaron is in the 18th.
Raya was 4th for saves last season
We’re yet to see Raya be heavily tested in a goal-peppering day out – but last season, after facing more shots, he save percentage was a whopping 10% higher than Ramsdale. No way Arteta hasn’t looked at the ‘conceded from the first shot’ stat and not thought hard about why that is.
Under pressure, Aaron Ramsdale puts the short to midrange passing in the bin, and he goes for the launch. This puts us under pressure because he’s not that accurate. David Raya is in the 97th percentile for launch pass completion in the league – Aaron is in the bottom 10%.
The more you look at what David Raya offers the team – the clearer it is that this is a big upgrade we’re making. I don’t see a way back for Aaron, even if there’s a howler tomorrow. There’s more confidence in every department of Raya’s game. It’s a shame, but I guess that’s the type of club we are now… you get a chance to improve, if you don’t do it fast enough, there will be an upgrade.
Our keeping department has seen a lot of turnover – and at some point, someone is going to point the finger at the person coaching these players. Aaron Ramsdale started strong, then faded. We’ve also seen Martinez, Runarson, and Bernd Leno pass through the club and 2 of them got better (Bernd one of the best in the league last season). David Raya absolutely cannot fail at Arsenal without there being a deeper question as to why everyone falls out of favor and tanks in form under the current regime.
The game should be good tomorrow – Spurs can’t defend but they can attack. The first goal will be very important, but both teams have goals in abundance. Is Ange more than good press clips? Are Arsenal able to move past the emotion of a derby game? Can Arteta spring a surprise and another tactical masterclass? We’ll see.
Ok, bit of a long one today. Let’s hope that the game is a BANGER. We’ll be LIVE on the whistle after. It’ll be a BIG one. Cannot promise we will be sober!
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— LE GROVE (@LeGrove) September 22, 2023