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Mikel Arteta told us top class players like Saka should play 70 games a season, he’s rolled him out for 87 Premier League games in a row, he’s seen him complain about injury twice in 2 weeks, he prides himself on super intense training sessions, and in the build up to the Manchester City game – a game he hasn’t ever had a full first team to pick from… he played Saka away at RC Lens and the young man hobbled off after the physios ran hamstring test on 33 minutes and deemed it a risk for him to carry on.

The one hope we had was the fact we did NOT see him pull up after sprinting. If he’d dropped down like Michael Owen in 1998, you’d know it’s over. The hobbling could be a protective measure, but the fact Arteta told the news conference after ‘it does not look good’ is probably the Mortal Kombat finishing move on that hope.

Arteta only has himself to blame here. He’s been reckless with Saka. The reality of an injury like this is it is related to wear and tear. If he didn’t pick it up tonight, he was going to pick it up in the next few weeks. The body cannot be controlled by ‘mentality monster energy’ vibes. If you treat it with disrespect, it will disrespect you by sitting you on your backside, grappling the back of your thigh.

Saka is not a ‘well hindsight is 50/50’ type of injury. It was entirely predictable. Arteta didn’t rest him, he failed to find adequate back-up over four transfer windows, and now we’re facing down the best team in the world without his presence.


Arteta shouldn’t have re-signed Reiss Nelson if he didn’t think he was a decent rotation option for Bukayo

City looks a little more daunting now.

The RC Lens game was a weird one. There are a lot of people jumping to nonsense conclusions about heart, fight, and valor. The simple truth of that game is we got slapped by a good team who had lady luck on their side.

We opened the game with a lovely Gabi Jesus goal supplied by Saka after he intercepted an errant pass.

The boys dropped the lead shortly afterward via a David Raya errant pass to Tomiyasu that was cut out. The goal was disgustingly special from Adrien Thomasson, he curled his shot tightly into the top corner on the half-volley. Unsaveable. But exactly what happens in the Champions League when you do dumb things.

Their second goal came in the second half. Arsenal got caught out by some electric passing near the 70th minute – Zinchenko’s kryptonite – he lost his run, the cross from Frankowski was immaculate, the finish was first time and painfully fox-in-the-box by Elyhe Wahi. We didn’t deserve it… but, that’s the Champions League, baby.

We threw on Eddie, Smith Rowe, and Reiss but it didn’t work.

Arsenal lost – our vision of this group being Europa-League-levels were off the mark. The French force fed us tarte de l’humilité – and I nearly choked.

So… what to think?

Firstly, we’re 2nd in the group on 3 points. Losing in the group stages of CL isn’t a disaster. We’ll still qualify for the next round if we can focus.

Secondly, the reaction is way worse than the reality…

  • Toothless
  • Meek
  • Gutless

… is par the course with a fan base that can’t handle anything other than a victory every game. It’s really painful to read. But we’ve seen it consistently over the past few years.

We had 11 shots, 10 inside the box, 6 hit the target. Our xG was 1.6 and we took one goal from that. RC Lens took 2 goals from 0.6.

The affair wasn’t as intense as a Premier League game. But that’s how Lens run things in their own yard. They take the energy out of the game. Champions League games don’t look like the Premier League game because European teams know they can’t win that way. Lens, a possession-based team didn’t break 240 passes. We had over 600. This was basically the story of Wenger-era CL Arsenal.

Our problem is the same one we’ve had all season: We’re way out of form in the final third. I’ve seen people joke that we take more risks in our own half – and it feels true. This new system isn’t creating as many chances as the one we had last season. The players seem a little more risk averse – as Matt on the podcast pointed out, we seem to be shifting from a blend of rock and roll Klopp-ball to near-total replication of what City do (control). Perhaps that’s Arteta’s attempt to reduce the 40+ goals conceded record. The problem seems to be we’re still doing dumb things in defence and our finishing is still below the elite levels it needs to be. Unforced errors are costing us and we don’t have the creativity we had before.

It’s all a bit dramatic – we’re a point behind City and unbeaten in the league. Still, we’re all feeling something we don’t like. The football isn’t quite as magical as it felt last season.

That’ll come down to the reasons I laid out at the start of the season.

  • New players
  • More fluid system
  • Heavier rotation

Our goalkeeper hasn’t clicked yet – in the mid-term, I think he’s an upgrade, but there will be mistakes like the one that happened today as part of his bedding in process.

Our attack is my deeper concern, but I think the issues stem from more than just Arteta’s desire to control. The issue is you have a new #6 and a new #8. They have to learn to feed the system what it wants. That’ll take some time.

The biggest problem is our defence is making mistakes – but the thing that gives me hope? We’re getting punished to the absolute max every time something marginal happens. That won’t last forever. Look at those finishes tonight. Ridiculous. Spurs aren’t getting punished like that every time their midfield makes an error. My hope is the luck improves as our errors drop.

Ousting City and winning the Champions League isn’t easy. Young players need to learn; inexperienced coaches need to get better, and fans need to accept that pain is part of the process even at this stage. Just remember the people that catastrophize, it’s always the same folk, they talk about elite mentality, but can’t handle anything outside perfection. Winning is hard. Competing against clubs like City is the biggest challenge in sporting history. There will be bumps.

Lens is a minor bump. Let’s see what the City game looks like this weekend. The best team in the world coming to North London will tell us far more about where we are.

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Jump to comment form ↓

  1. London gunner

    I love aguero Alvarez seems like a slightly less physically strong but potentially more subtly silky version guys technique is off the charts that doesn’t even look that fancy he makes shit look easy half the time i watch him

  2. into the red

    City finding their groove again. Pep will probably change it around on Sunday because he knows how to rotate and switch tactics. Galaxy will probably try to throw a curve ball.

  3. Paulie

    Arteta is far from being the best young manager in the world. He’s among the second tier of managers but until he wins something and learns how to stop his teams collapsing under pressure then will remain there. Too many excuses made on this blog for him he makes way too many errors and still can change a game that’s going wrong to ever be considered elite.

  4. Jamie

    Serge –

    “Would you swap them ?”

    I’m not sure. Just trying to work out what makes Tets more generational than Howe. A 2nd place finish last season?

  5. into the red

    When Howe was ‘resting’, I heard him on a football show doing some analysis, and there was clearly a sharp brain in there, discussing and breaking down tactics. Maybe Tet could do the same, although I have never heard him give a clear insightful explanation of a particular system, as Howe did. Doesn’t mean I would take Howe, but he’s clearly no fool.

  6. Pedro


    Who are the managers you’d have above Arteta right now? Tell me the managers that don’t make mistakes?

  7. Nigel Tufnel

    “If Arteta is ‘the best young manager in world football’, what does that make Eddie Howe?”

    Please tell me this genius is not saying he’d prefer Eddie Howe.

    This can’t be real.
    Can not.

  8. rollen

    lol Who was Arteta before Arsenal job, many promising young managers who would love big job like that.
    Anyway let’s see how this season will work out before changing manager.

  9. Pedro

    Rollen, he was a guy who had special sauce that everyone in football was talking about. Sure, there are plenty of young managers out there, but we’ve gone through the pain, now he’s the real deal.

    ‘He makes mistakes’ is one of the most bullshit critiques… because every manager makes mistakes.

    There isn’t a better manager for Arsenal right now.

  10. Pedro

    Batistuta, he does learn from his mistakes. We’ve never had a manager who rectifies issues as quick as Arteta. But… rotation and load management has been a huge blind spot.

  11. Madhu

    Well Man C losing streak ends at 2. They will be ready for Sunday without Rodri depends if we are? What type of Arsenal is going to turn up on Sunday is the big question. Great result for New castle as well.

  12. Ernest Reed

    “ But… rotation and load management has been a huge blind spot.‘

    You have a firm grasp of the obvious, Pedro. He’s going to wind up costing this team huge if he doesn’t wake up to these two concerns. For all the good that he has done and is doing, it will all be for naught if he breaks his work horses.

  13. Madhu

    But… rotation and load management has been a huge blind spot

    He has got.hia fav and that comes in the way of the above. Wonder what his support staff say to him or do they. Wasn’t that one of the critisism of Wenger and Pat Rice?

  14. MG42

    Xavi Alonso, Thomas Frank, De Zerbi and Howe are all better than Arteta. Managers are judged by results. Take the resources available to them and what they have acieved in less time then Arteta and Tets will draw the shorter stick, In addition person to person relationship and treating the players with empathy and dignity is not in Arteta’s tool box. The players will praise him on camera because otherwise they will feel his vindictiveness, Arteta’s day of revealing the manager in training he is will come until then it is pain and hurt for many Arsenal supporters.

  15. GD4

    Neither is Eddie Howe.
    What De Zerbi has done with the resources available to him and in spite of losing his three best players is simply unsurpassed … but you dont need to dog Mikel to big up those dudes… as for Xavi A, the jury is still out … more body of work needs to be seen. But I will say that none of these guys have had the financial support and patience like the Arsenal owners have extended to Arteta.

    Swallowing big contracts just pay off undesirable players and spending so much on questionable players is a luxury none of these others have been able to enjoy ..: he has to produce this season. No excuses

  16. Raulishuss

    But… rotation and load management has been a huge blind spot

    He has got.hia fav and that comes in the way of the above. Wonder what his support staff say to him or do they. Wasn’t that one of the critisism of Wenger and Pat Rice?

    Jesus christ madhu, it is normal human psychology to have favourite, bias towards something etc. No football coach is fair and I’m pretty sure all have their favorites. Y’all say this all the fucking time. Wenger, emery, tets all have their favorites according to Y’all without any context to it at all. We just finished second and just lost out first game of the season and we can’t seem to give the manager and the team the benefits of doubt before acting all hysterical. Dissenters was going non stop about ramsdale needing super competition as he was becoming complacent but all of a sudden he’s captain hindsight telling us how badly rams is been mistreated. This perfectionist agender driven lackadaisical glory hunting angry mobs are always looking for the slightest opportunity to bring the mood down. It’s not we haven’t seen a team having a slow start then picking up as the season progresses. Chill the fuck out people, imagining calling for Eddie howe when we have one of the hottest young coach in the world, its like some people expect us to be perfect all the time

  17. MG42

    While Frank & Howe may not have their teams finish above Arsenal, What Howe is doing in the CL and his approach to critical matches puts Tets in a bad light. Tets is a narcissistic wanna bee and it shows in his player management. The games on the horizon against Brentford and Villa will further show Tets lack of management nous.

  18. Raulishuss

    Same thing wenger faced. Trying to satisfy ungrateful fans who take every success for granted but magnify anything they deem as failure. People kicked wenger down for constant top 4 qualification even when it was obvious he was handicapped because they refuse to reason with common sense. We are having to be more unpredictable and add new layers to our tactics so what we have been a little iffy creatively? We’ve been grinding out results with the occasional reminder of our potential safe in the knowledge we can always revert back to last season tactics. Its only 5 year olds who haven’t seen a full season play out that’ll think a match in game week 9 is a must win and a title decider lol

  19. GD4

    It’s a game opinions and the facts will bare them out.
    I understand your position on Mikel and how frustrating some of his decision making can be, nevertheless I can’t see this club nor do I want it to start from scratch with another … anyway we will see

  20. EdTheRed

    Arteta was TWO YEARS into Arsenal job, when Howe took over relegation bound Newcastle.

    I think people still trying to undermine Howe’s achievement are looking more and more foolish with every passing game.

  21. Madhu

    Raulishuss that’s what fans are. Fans are allowed to have fav and not manager who needs to be fair to all his players and thier careers. Fans pay money to support thie fav club but managers get millions to manage the club. Fans are allwo d to demand but managers are answerable to thier bosses and club owners. If we are insignificant or entitled then ignore us please but you cannot take away the right of a paying fan to demand. As they say you have the right to disagree with my views but cannot take away to right to have one.

  22. China1

    Even if Arteta doesn’t think Nelson is good enough, he HAS to use him sometimes.

    This idea that he’s not a 50m winger so we can’t rest Saka here and there for him is just wrong.

    Even if he was a crap player, which he absolutely is not, you must not pick your best 11 every match. It’s a false economy. Win today, lose half your best players to injury tomorrow – lose more than you ever would’ve if you’d been willing to rotate a bit

    That Saka’s been repeatedly ending matches early hobbling for about 3 games in a row now is far more than the minimum required to show he needs protecting for a game or two whilst we let him fix back up.

    Reports today are that his injury is not that bad so he’s in contention vs city…

    What concerns me as much as anything is any cynical opposition Manager worth their salt is going to tell their defenders to go in extra hard on saka now knowing full well a few heavy challenges are likely to end with him hobbling off in the first half

  23. Siddeeq

    “”Who are the managers you’d have above Arteta right now?””

    It has taken Generational 4 yrs to get to his best. He has stagnated.
    It would take Per/Cesc/ Santi half of 4 yrs to take us to the next level.

  24. China1

    The underlying problem is if Arteta doesn’t trust Nelson to play the odd game that what’s his plan for when Saka breaks for 1-2 months?

    Not thinking nelson is in the same league as saka will do us no favours when he invariably becomes a needed squad member when Saka is toast

  25. NORG

    Cesc’s dream job is to manage AFC. It was his extra training periods (no Wenger) with the likes of Flamini & Hleb that helped the team over-achieve.

  26. China1

    A key issue we’ve had recently is we can’t depend on our CFs to score when they get a good chance. For this reason I’d rather use Trossard at city.

  27. Pierre

    “A key issue we’ve had recently is we can’t depend on our CFs to score when they get a good chance. For this reason I’d rather use Trossard at city.”

    I would say the key issue is we haven’t created enough big chances this season.
    As shown below we are 12th for big chances created this season with 10 created.

    For perspective، Haaland has MISSED 9 BIG CHANCES this season ، so it’s quite clear where our problems lie..

  28. China1

    No Pierre creating more chances is good but let’s not excuse our strikers from missing good chances. These are not mutually exclusive asks

    Even tho they miss some big chances, the mark of an elite striker is you always *expect* them to score when they have a great chance and to frequently take half chances as well

    When Jesus and Eddie are one on one or the ball falls to them in a good position in the box, how certain are you really that either is scoring? I find myself hoping rather than expecting and that hope is often left unfulfilled.

    By contrast if you look at the goals trossard has scored this season and last, you see what real quality finishing looks like. Yes he will miss chances here and there too, but you get the ball to trossard and give him a sight of goal anywhere in the box or a little outside and you fancy him to score. Many of his goals are made to look simple but are crazy technical as well and are often more half chances than great chances – ones that still require him to pull off something great to score – and he does

    How many times do we see Eddie or Jesus score half chances or ones which are not perfectly set up for them? Very very occasionally, but that’s not enough at this level

    When saka, Martinelli or trossard get through on goal you are waiting to see the ball rifle in off the post or the bar. I just don’t have that confidence with Jesus or Eddie. Both good players who I rate, but starting 11 for a team that wants to win the league and CL needs to be better if we’re honest

    Ask yourself, are our CFs more Henry, RVP, Bergkamp, Wright, Anelka…

    Or are they more Wiltord, Kanu, giroud?

    The latter are good, the former are great. We don’t need two of the latter. We need one of the former and one of the latter

  29. Useroz

    Watt saying Saka is likely due for a scan on his hamstring! Well, it doesn’t sound good then…

    Arteta lying or not about our injuries, can write off Saka for the City game and God forbids Vieira would start instead …

  30. Thorough

    How anybody can think Arteta is generational is beyond me.
    4th year in a job, circa 100mil spent through 4 goalkeepers and e still don’t have a first choice goalkeeper.
    No striker that we can bank on to give us 25 goals a season.
    No specific pattern or method to his madness.
    He’s practically just guessing and trying things without been sure of what works.

    IF he gets his team gutted like DE Zerbi yearly where exactly would we be?

  31. China1

    Another puff piece from sky sports to defend the officials. Their propaganda coming on strong to avenge the death of their prized assets credibility

    They describe howlers as occasional. Yet I’m seeing a handful per weekend and sometimes multiple in the same match

    The day after thr liverpool game brentford played and BOTH managers left the match furious at big var mistakes

    Occasional mistakes my ass FML

    All those sky sports talking heads lining up to defend the product should be ashamed of themselves

  32. izzo

    Pointless complaining. We aren’t winning anything this season. Arteta will see to that. The shine has been lost and I’m all for trying someone new. Managers shouldn’t stay longer than 4 seasons. We harp on about changing players and the same should apply to managers. Thats how the modern day in football goes. None of this nonsense having a manager stick around for decades. Fuck that.

  33. Nigel Tufnel


    The most joyful moment in the sad, bitter life of Pierre was when he found the big chance created stat.
    A totally bogus stat.
    The most subjective stat that exists of any you can find.
    Probably cried tears of joy when he realised he could always fall back on it to use against his favorite whipping boy…. AND…… at the same time work it in to defend Nketiah.

    Well, I’m glad he has found some joy in life, at long last.

  34. Nigel Tufnel

    Onana fanboys:

    You know who you are. Talked about him like he was the answer, and one of the best all round keepers in the world.

    He is in reality below both of our keepers. Not just for Arsenal fans, but anyone neutral would agree.

    Anybody here going to admit they were on his dck the past 2 years? I’d love to see some names.

    Of course not. Grovers record of player scouting and transfer wishes is worse than Twitter!