DEFENSIVE NUMBERS MOVE FORWARD

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So we spoke a little about the need to ramp up the productions numbers in attack. The thing we didn’t cover is our defensive stats. There are some good numbers doing the rounds.

•Most blocks in the PL (includes shots and passes)

•Fewest times dribbled past

•Fewest tackles won

•6th most interceptions

•3rd fewest fouls committed

•4th most aerials won

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THE STORY OF ‘SHOTS TAKEN’

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Ugh, trying to be creative during a dead week is… tough.

How about a table?

Arsenal rank 10th in the league for shots on goal according to the Premier League data. We’ve had 92 shots across 7 games. That’s 13 a game.

Now, there’s a little bit of misleading context there. We’ve played City and Chelsea, the two best teams in the world, and we played them when we were in pieces with covid issues. Take them out and our shots per game looks a little healthier at 17.

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PHASE 2 LEARNINGS

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Welcome to Monday precious ones.

It’s international break. Kill me. Honestly, why do we need so many of these? Can you beleive Mr Wenger would ideally like this period to be AN ENTIRE MONTH OF FOOTBALL. Honestly, he fell off so hard. I cannot believe that all that good work he did managing his reputation, to just jump right into bed with FIFA and try and reinvent the game to have World Cups every two years, something he’d have hated as a manager. Really shoddy.

Anyway, I’ll take this break on the chin.

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DRAB BRIGHTON PERFORMANCE YIELDS A SOLID POINT

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Arsenal escaped Brighton with a point. I’m not sure if I’d call it a lucky point, Brighton managed 2 shots on target all game, but I would call it undeserved because Arsenal really weren’t at the races. The more experienced Arsenal fan was probably expecting a bit of hangover after the Spurs game. The hype was unreal and the setting for the next game was small, windy, and rainy. Doesn’t detract from the reality: It wasn’t the standard we expected.

There were two very clear problems.

We lacked courage

Granit Xhaka was absent and we missed him. That might hurt some people, but it’s true. The Swiss will drive you crazy with some of the dumb things he’ll bring to the table, but one thing you can never accuse him of is hiding. I thought Sambi and Thomas Partey hid today. Brighton gambled on a very high press. It worked, because our midfield couldn’t handle it. Brighton knew Ramsdale’s long balls to Auba were low risk because Auba isn’t big enough to battle lumbering centre-backs. So they went man to man and boxed us in.

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ARSENAL BATTLE POST-SPURS TEMPTATION OF COMPLACENCY

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Let’s talk young players.

William Saliba had a run out in Europe against Galatasaray. It’s interesting to actually watch his impact on a game over a 90 versus the curated hype videos. His passing is fantastic and fairly measured. I don’t think he’s quite as ambitious as Ben White, but he has that in locker. I think his best attribute is his calmness in one vs one situations, he’s certainly no lunger. The thing he needs to work on is his passivity as a defender, I don’t mean fighting players or standing up for himself, I mean that fire that Gabriel and White have to snuff out danger and rifle into the back of players with a press as soon as a pass moves. That’ll develop, no doubt, but I think he’d have arrived there faster if he’d taken a loan in the Premier League. I’m still caught in two minds as to what was best for him… but really, hard to argue that 40 games with Marseille is better than 12 with Arsenal. He’ll come back ready to bang.

I also took in some of the U23 game against Brighton. The kids did a really good job. It’s clear that Balogun and Patino are miles ahead of everyone. Balogun pulled off an outrageous piece of skill to win a penalty and his execution was cold as ice. He’s quite a way off fighting for a first-team place, he needs a loan in Championship where he’ll get minutes, accrue some battle scars, score some goals, and adapt to the physicality he’s really lacking at the moment. Patino is a dreamy player, his movement is outrageous, he’s 3 seconds ahead of everyone else, and his passing range is simply stunning. U23 looks too easy for him. His launched pass is a thing of beauty, you just can’t believe a man of that size can hit the ball with such power. The reality is he’s a little light for the Premier League right now. A bit like Billy Gilmour was last season. He needs to fill out if he’s going to endure the rigours of the league. But he’s still very young, that’ll come, and I’m sure that’s why he’s not on the bench right now.

All three names I just mentioned are going to the first team at some point. Arsenal has so much talent coming through. The best thing about this summer strategy is the more chances we give to young players, the more elite young players will be willing to push for a move. There’s a reason Haaland went to Dortmund. He knew they’d develop him, we need to be that club for the Premier League when everyone else is sticking to older.

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YOUNGEST STARTING TEAM IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE

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Are you still riding high off the fumes of that win at the weekend? I am. It’s such a great feeling.

You know what is also great? ‘Too small for football’ ‘game 1 failure’… Ben White, is in line for an England call-up. Inject that right into my veins. There’s a video clip of Arteta talking about the benefits of having a defender like VVD being able to pick out a pass from deep. It was almost a year ago today.

I honestly can’t believe we spent a summer questioning the need to sign a defender that could do all the things David Luiz could, but at speed, without the doughnut behaviours that were part of his baggage. Ben White is going to be a very good signing for us this season and I suspect no one will be questioning whether he was £15m too expensive for us by the end of the season.

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TRUSTING THE RECRUITMENT MACHINE

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Bad news on the injury front. Ironman Granit Xhaka is out for 3 months. Whatever you think about him, that is a massive issue for Arsenal because it depletes us of reliable experience and it means we’re a little closer to a 3 month Mo Elneny residency in our midfield.

It’s a killer as well because the injury was a total freak. How much bad luck do we consistently get these days? It’s always something.

This could be an opportunity.

No.

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