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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.

Get our podcast in your ears RIGHT NOW. x


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Did I start a conspiracy theory about the Saka injury – promoting the idea that Mikel Arteta was in cahoots with Saka about his problem in a bid to throw Pep G off the selection trail for the weekend? I did. Unfortunately, my next-level galaxy brain thinking was incorrect… but the outcome was the same. Bukayo is READY and not injured. Is there a player in the league better at taking himself off before a breakdown? I don’t think so.

The bigger story here is that Bukayo has had injury scares twice in the past two weeks. He needs a rest. I’d really love him to fake an injury when we’re 3-0 up against City this weekend so he doesn’t have to go away on another international break.

Our second jaunt in the Champions League is upon us. RC Lens at Estadio Bollaert-Delelis should be an interesting test of Arteta and the players. My suspicion is the manager is prioritizing qualification for the next round as fast as possible so he can rest in the latter games. That means we’ll likely roll with a big starting 11 this evening. The manager COULD rest a key player or two but he can’t afford a slip before the biggest game of 2023.

My hope is we can get ahead in the game nice and early, kill Lens momentum, then sub key names out late on.

If Martinelli and Thomas Partey are to play a role on Sunday, you’d imagine they have to be on the flight out there and that they have to have some minutes. No player is equipped to start against City cold. A few late laps around the track in France could be enough.

Lens is a possession-based team, it’s slow build-up from the back, and they lean on springing fullbacks into action. Their model was very successful last season, putting them within spitting distance of PSG at the end of the season (1 point difference).

It’s been harder for them this season. They lost key players. Their game has been disrupted and they started poorly. This makes them perfect for Arsenal, we love gifting a coach a boost, so we’ll have to be sharp.

The most important thing tonight is to avoid anything terrible happening before Manchester City. I don’t even mind an away day draw as long as we don’t have an injury pile-up.

City play away in Germany against a RB ‘we don’t want the ball’ Leipzig. City are obviously better, but Leipzig will want to avenge an awful result in the Champions League earlier in the season. The Germans are in fine form, City are in a crisis by their standards, it’ll be interesting to see how Pep approaches the game.

Come join us right after the game… big love x


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Sometimes, the narrative isn’t about you… it’s about your noisy neighbors.

Arsenal beat AFC Bournemouth. It was so professional and cutting. I’d call it pleasant/boring. You know the afternoons I’m talking about. Invincibles era vs Derby. A surefire three points. Second gear into town to pick up a paper on a Sunday.

… you know who wanted a day like that? Manchester City. They lost 2-1 to Wolves. Their xG was less than 1. Wolves scored two off of 0.5 xG. It was DELICIOUS.

… you know who else wanted a day like ours? Erik Ten Having-a-mare. A manager who definitely took the ketchup out of the player canteen has slumped from crisis to crisis since finishing the season in the top 4 through sheer luck. Now his brand of football is on the struggle bus. His tenure there has entered a death spiral. Players are leaking, journalists are ganging up, his tenure looks dead… and losing his 4th game of the season to Palace really did not help this vibe.

Arsenal didn’t care for drama – they just did the job.

Eddie won a penalty – Odegaard finished with a sputtery Jorginho-style run.

Saka scored the second when he was first to the Jesus header that hit the post.

Odegaard won the next penalty in the second half, but instead of taking it himself, he gave it to Kai Havertz who scored his first goal in something silly like 17 Premier League games.

The fourth came so late in the game I’d already switched over to the City game to see what was going down. Martin Odegaard flew a lovely freekick into the Bournemouth box, the only player who challenged was Ben White who saw his looping header slip into the top corner.



There were some really nice bits.



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I’m a bit late to the party on the Brentford game, but I have some hot takes.

1. That was a GOOD win.

Brentford doesn’t get beaten at their place often… we delivered a very clean win against a team packed with first-teamers. I thought we’d lose that game because of the amount of changes made. I was wrong. We’re finally getting to a stage where we’re a ‘next man up’ kind of club. Gone are the day where the player doing the domestic cups would mail it in. I loved the make-up of the squad, it was youth, a bit of experience, a random debut, and a spirited performance. For all the embarrassing histrionics we’ve seen this season, we’re now at 6 wins and 2 draws. Pretty decent, wouldn’t you say?



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Well hello there my dears – are you over the Spurs result?

I am. Kind of. Am I really? Maybe not.

I’m putting my Perspective FC glasses on and focused on Spurs fans prancing around like they just nipped us to the title after a fairly standard derby day draw. The levels are not the same.

We also have to be better about the catastrophization after every result. Two weeks ago Eddie was keeping Jesus out the side – now he’s not good enough for League 2. If you were buckled in for the season expecting us to win every single game, you’ll be having a thoroughly miserable time. If you think it’s easy catching City, then again, you’ll be disappointed because they are still really f*cking good.



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A draw in the North London Derby is never a bad day out, but this one stings and feels a little like a loss. Dramatic? Maybe. We’ve gotten so used to dishing out home beatings to Spurs it’s become expected we’ll put them to the sword. But it wasn’t to be. The result, upon reflection, wasn’t far off fair and the blame for the dropped points fell squarely on Arsenal again.

We didn’t kill Spurs when we had a gluttony of chances.

We didn’t defend well enough at home, again.



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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.”