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Food for thought? (c) Getty Images.

Last week we spent Sunday evening with a spring in our step after a gutsy, organised win at Old Trafford. Today would tell if we could maintain this momentum.

In the weird world we inhabit now with no fans, eccentric VAR decisions and a much less physical game which if today’s Sunday Times is to be believed, may see heading outlawed by 2040, it was a concern to learn that Villa had not conceded away from Villa Park this year. 

Arsenal went with a predictable team. Holding, Gabriel and Tierney were at the back, Elneny and Partey in midfield and two rather fortunate individuals, Willian and Lacazette joined Aubameyang upfront 

As I looked up at the start of the game, McGinn scored a cracker from a Grealish pullback within the first minute. It was then referred to VAR because Barkley was in Leno’s eyeline and leapt into the air in front of the goalkeeper. To our massive relief the goal was chalked off. Shades of Leicester??

Tierney then slipped to let in Watkins but his cross was overhit. In the early minutes I couldn’t help feeling that we were starting too slowly again. On 9 minutes, an under-hit pass by McGinn almost let in Partey who just failed to reach the ball before Emi Martinez. The greasy surface was tricky, holding the ball up at times and occasionally causing passes to skid on uncontrollably. But pitches in November when I started watching Arsenal were much trickier than this. 

Thirteen minutes in Partey won the ball in midfield and sent Aubameyang clear but Willian completely skied a presentable chance. Then on 17 minutes nice play down our left put in Saka but he mullered the cross. 

Grealish playing wide left was a real handful for Bellerin. What a signing he would have been for us! Aubameyang accelerated past three Villa players on the left and was brought down near the byline. The free kick was well-worked but Tierney scuffed his shot.

After 23 minutes the increasingly infuriating Willian gave a ball away in midfield sloppily and Villa worked it patiently around before cutting us apart with a through ball and cross from Targett which Saka turned in at the far post under pressure from Trezeguet. 

Arsenal 0 Villa 1 (Saka og, 25

Villa were good value for their lead. I would already have been inclined to remove Willian but Arteta has greater belief in him than me. Towards the half hour we finally got behind Villa twice and a great block by Konsa denied Tierney’s driven cross. That was better and importantly quicker but when Villa moved forward they looked much more dangerous. A fizzed corner screwed behind off an Arsenal foot. Our midfield, so impressive last week and good here sometimes in possession, was struggling to win enough ball to influence the game. Partey lost possession and Trezeguet’s shot was blocked by Bellerin. Then a great ball by McGinn found Grealish and Gabriel blocked the shot. 

Bellerin moved menacingly onto a Holding chip, rode two tackles but rather than pull the trigger he laid the ball back and the attack fizzled out. Willian clipped in a fine cross that wasn’t converted and then a fine build up with Saka and Aubameyang saw Emi frustrate us with a block and as the ball ran loose Partey hammered wide. Better and importantly, quicker. 

On 40 minutes a wonderful Tierney cross was disappointingly headed over by Lacazette. A huge chance and indicative of the poor form of the Frenchman at present. 

Watkins was impressing with his strength, control and movement and he engineered a situation that saw a desperate block by Elneny after McGinn turned dangerously. A graphic appeared before half time showing Lacazette had only 8 touches in the first half. It was little surprise!

The half ended in the same pouring rain in which it had begun and Arteta faced his fourth home game where we were not leading at half-time. 

Half – time Arsenal 0 Villa 1

Mrs TTG emerged during the interval to inform me the name of the departure from Strictly Come Dancing and commented that I had been quiet! She appreciates that this is not a good sign but neither does she like me yelling at the TV. She then commented that losing to Aston Villa was not impressive. That was a little unfair to a very well-drilled Villa side that Smith has improved significantly in the transfer window. 

Our first decision of the second half was to add Danny Ceballos to the mix. He replaced Partey who surely must have been injured during the first half. That didn’t appear a good omen or a productive substitution. 

Elneny lost an early ball to Grealish and Trezeguet fired in a shot which Leno touched wide. Willian then screwed hopelessly wide after Lacazette couldn’t gather an Aubameyang cross. The game was starting to  cry out for Willock. Then Willian wasted another cross-field ball, something Don Howe used to call, ‘a Hollywood ball’! There was little glitz about the performance so far. Saka was fouled on the edge of the box on 54 minutes. They worked the free-kick to Ceballos who curled wide. 

At the other end an impressive move down the Villa left between Barkley and Grealish saw Grealish force a terrific save from Leno. Grealish then had a volley blocked by Tierney but we were being outplayed. Arsenal’s ball movement was cautious and slow and invited pressure. This was an obvious indication that Arsenal lack leaders on the pitch and we also seemed to lack an effective right side defensively as Villa played through us at will. 

We had the respite of a corner on the hour and Gabriel played in Holding who fired wide. Heads were dropping on the Arsenal side, especially Saka and Lacazette. Substitutes were clearly required and Nketiah and Pepe arrived to replace Willian and Lacazette. Not before time! 

Immediately Elneny hit a Tierney cross straight at Nketiah. It was wide of the target though and this was becoming a major mental as well as tactical test for Arsenal. It looked like we were now playing a front two. On 68 minutes Pepe fizzed a shot just wide but his aggression was heartening. We were playing a bit more direct football and Nketiah was creating more problems than Lacazette had been.

But then Villa got their second with a fine move – a cross-field pass was turned across goal by Barkley for Watkins to head home from close range. 

Arsenal 0 Villa 2 (Watkins, 72)

Immediately after this Ceballos blocked a Grealish shot on the line. However, their third was not long delayed as Grealish played in Watkins on the right of our box and he finished clinically.

Arsenal 0 Villa 3 (Watkins, 75) 

It was becoming a complete humiliation, the sort of defeat that provokes a massive reaction from the people you only hear on the blog when things are going wrong. All the benefit of last week’s win at Old Trafford had evaporated. The defence was torn asunder but largely because Grealish and Barkley were running through them almost unimpeded in midfield.

Saka was brought down in the last minute but it scarcely occurred to anyone to appeal. 

Defeat of this sort is hard to take but it is part of the life of a supporter. Sadly, this will increase pressure on Arteta from a fan base that are becoming increasingly fickle. Villa are a substantial side but lost recently 3-0 to Leeds. Arsenal’s next opponents are … Leeds! 

We must retain faith in Arteta who has done much more right than wrong since he took over the club but the nature of this defeat and the reaction it will provoke will set him unenviable problems. Certainly, we are largely toothless despite fielding one of the best strikers in European football. Willian is currently not worthy of a place in the side and it is surely time for us to find a role for Joe Willock. Bellerin had an alarmingly bad evening defensively and few players could hold their heads high although Tierney, Ceballos and Gabriel were among our better performers albeit at a disappointingly low level.

Arteta’s first crisis arrives as we go into yet another Interlull. When he needs time to work with the players he will be denied it. Let us remember he is a fine and resilient coach but he has much to digest tonight 

49 Drinks to “Seven Days is a Long Time in Football”

  1. 1
    Osakamatt says:

    A fine review TTG of a very poor
    performance. Nothing to add
    other than thank-you for your
    speedy work.

  2. 2
    BtM says:

    That’s a fair report, TTG. Never too easy to write about the games that the Arsenal lose.

    The better team won. It happens from time to time in football. Villa played a powerful brand of entertaining football tonight and were as good to watch as we were poor.

    Elneny looked a much lesser player tonight in the absence of Partey whose departure was disappointing. But not as disappointing as Laca’s continuing tendency to miss golden chances at critical moments.

    “The sort of defeat that provokes a massive reaction from the people you only hear on the blog when things are going wrong”. 🙂 🙂 🙂 The ScheisseMeister?

  3. 3
    Goonersince54 says:

    Fine summary TTG,
    Villa clearly surprised Mikel and our boys by playing and staying on the front foot from the off.
    I am certain that after 2 damaging home defeats, we clearly expected them to be low on confidence, put 10 men behind the ball and play for a point. !!
    Yet despite looking lethargic and 2nd best, we still created chances, but didn’t convert them.
    Losing Partey at half time, changed the dynamic, chasing an equaliser we needed his defensive security, and while pressing for that elusive goal we got done twice on the counter.
    I think on reflection we have to view the win at the Old Toilet last week through the prism of how abjectly poor Utd were, rather than congratulating ourselves on our performance, which in essence was only a penalty decision away from a disappointing goalless draw.
    Take nothing away from Villa and their Manager.
    They were clearly up for it, deserved the half time lead, but again they were under the cosh for the first period of the 2nd half, defending deep, but we couldn’t make the pressure count, and once the 2nd goal went in, we were done.
    I always find you learn more about your manager/players and the supporters after a demoralizing defeat like this, than you do when things are going well.
    Sadly from some of the posts on view on the blogs tonight we saw the toxic and caustic side.
    We will see the Clubs reaction at Leeds in 2 weeks time.

  4. 4
    Steve T says:

    Cheers TTG. When your best chance comes from a Gabriel cross to Holding, then you know you have problems.

    Tonight was as poor a performance as I can remember. The disallowed goal inside the first minute was a spot of luck. Regardless of anyone standing in front of Leno, the shot was hit so well that he’s not getting near it. Add that to the one that Ceballos cleared off the line and a 3-0 home defeat does not look too bad???

    We have a bunch of honest players that are just not good enough. On nights like this, they can get found out. Add that to far too many not even remotely performing and all of a sudden, it’s a bit of a mess.

    Arteta has a lot to think about in the coming weeks.

  5. 5
    Osakamatt says:

    Last week I watched the same
    Villa side more or less go 4-0
    down at home to Soton before
    making it respectable with a
    couple of late goals. Manure
    were dreadful against us but
    won 3-1 at Everton this week.
    So it’s certainly possible to turn
    things around quickly.

  6. 6
    Bathgooner says:

    Thank you for an excellent, detailed and very measured report of tonight’s massacre, TTG. A tough call, well answered.

    We were given a clear lesson by a more balanced, more motivated and frankly, better team. After the Lesta defeat we had straws to clutch about the disallowed early goal and the unfortunate late goal. The optimism following the OT performance and result led us to believe that we were moving in the right direction but tonight we have had a clear demonstration of how much work MA8 still has to do if he is going to take this club back to the top. The loss of Partey at HT did seem a bad omen though our first half performance had been generally pedestrian and in some quarters very poor and so it proved. The lack of creativity, poise and fight was very disappointing but sadly was also familiar. MA8 needs all our support and importantly also the support of the Board and the owner in the coming weeks.

  7. 7
    Trev says:

    Thanks, TTG !

    A very measured, restrained but fair summary of a dismal performance.

    The energy and spirit of last week’s performance were gone from today’s. Willian and Lacazette are a very poor and unproductive partnership on the right / centre.
    Tierney is currently caught between two stools as a makeshift centre back and the result today, with Bellerin having a game to forget, was that neither wing was defended at all. Holding was running in size 13 wellies today and couldn’t cope with Graalish or Barkley at all.

    All a bit sobering really and our inconsistency is a worry.

    Dirty Leeds and the Spuds next …..

  8. 8
    ATG says:

    That must of been hard to write TTG thank you for your quick report.

    If it wasn’t for the fact we had a great game against MU after the pile of droos we got serverd against Leicester we definitely got some sort of reaction from the team. It was a hard thought win at OD, however thnking that Arsenal are now world beaters would be a daft thing to say the least.

    After the loss against Leicester we knew beating United would for a while change things around and it certainly did. However being completely outplayed in your own back yard with having only ONE shot on goal is a bit of an embarrassment if you ask me. As soon as we lost Partey at half time it was game over. Yes it takes time to build a decent squad but we didn’t just lose this game we collapsed and couldn’t offer anything to at least try to challenge Villa in any way. We were toothless and without a plan B.

    Our setup is wrong we keep seeing the same formation and personel who disappoint week in week out. Blaming fans for spotting the obvious flaws in our game and calling it out shouldn’t be seen as out of order because we all hurt in different ways. I’m certainly seeing some old issues creeping up again, same old Arsenal is echoing in the background. We have seen it before and we are seeing it again. We learn for one game then we take two steps backwards in the next. Football is about consistently playing decent attacking football which sadly to say we are not producing. We have been struggling for weeks with this aspect of our game and we have not even tried to approach games differently. In fact we are way too predicrable and teams have already managed to work us out.

    Not taking anything from Villa they are a good side but we should have done better and let’s call it how it really is. For now it’s not good enough.

  9. 9
    Esso says:

    Cheers TTG.

  10. 10
    Steve T says:

    Possibly even more alarming when you look at the stats?????

  11. 11
    TTG says:

    Some very good posts and Steve’s stats are damning. Despite losing at Liverpool and Citeh we are clearly much better away from home tgan at home and it’s interesting to see Villa and Leeds are much better away. We are awful at breaking teams down and as ATG says it is repetition of the same things week after week.
    This league is very tough now and at the moment we are a mid-table side with the potential to be much better , but that won’t hapoen unless we make three or four major signings – we need a creative midfielder and another striker urgently and I think we probably need a right back and a partner for Gabriel. And we are skint . Somits a big coaching challenge for Arteta

  12. 12
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers TTG. Excellent report on a terrible performance.

    Lots for Arteta to improve. It will be a long interlull.


  13. 13
    BtM says:

    Last night was pretty bad but this morning has started even more badly.
    I spilled spot remover on my dog. Now he’s gone.

  14. 14
    Cynic says:

    “The sort of defeat that provokes a massive reaction from the people you only hear on the blog when things are going wrong”

    If that’s aimed at me I don’t really care, I have better things to do in the week than get excited about players like Willock, just because he’s beaten up the likes of Dundalk, and spend the whole week convincing myself he’s going to be any better than all the other players we’ve had who are going to be great, but end up plying their trade in the lower reaches of the pro game.

    And I was around for last week’s win, if you remember, but not exactly overjoyed about running the game and then spending the last ten minutes or so playing as if we were 5-0 down and trying to keep the score down.

    What’s the difference between Mikel Arteta and Unai Emery?
    Arteta won his final.

    There’s a lot more to it than that obviously and that’s a bit glib, because he’s largely having to deal with the same players who are incapable of doing it at this level on a consistent basis. I think the angry mob, which doesn’t include me thanks, won’t need much more of this kind of display to lose their shit completely. Not that anyone should care about them anyway, but with no fans in the ground maybe Arteta and the players are lucky.

  15. 15
    Uplympian says:

    Many thanks TTG for a well honed & measured report – a most noble achievement after yesterday’s shit show. We were outplayed by Villa and that says a lot. It was a real low in performance levels and not totally surprising – it’s hard to recall many league matches where we have dominated the opposition. Our lack of creativity is blindingly obvious combined with a current inability to put away the few chances we do manage to create. We are not even easy on the eye to watch unlike some of our previous incarnations.
    Our tactical set up is becoming known by the other managers and they are finding ways to exploit the weaknesses – particularly our inability to break down the low block. This is more apparent when at home where the normal expectation is to attack more – away teams are learning to counter attack much more effectively and this has resulted in a much higher amount of away wins if late. With the lack of supporters in the stadiums home teams are also losing the advantage of a vociferous home support spurring them on.
    With another interminable interlull upon us again this gives Mikel an opportunity to step back and re-think our approach to the problems the team currently encounters, it’s now a matter of urgency if we want to achieve our top 4 aspirations.

  16. 16
    Osakamatt says:

    I noticed that if we’d beaten
    Leicester and Villa we’d be top
    of the league. The inconsistency
    is maddening really.
    A lot of stick for Laca but Auba’s
    lack of goals is just as worrying
    to me.

  17. 17
    BtM says:

    We had enough chances to win against $iteh and Lesta, Matt. Had Laca scored the chance that Tierney laid on a plate for him last night at 0-1, the outcome might have been different, who knows? What is certain is that Vardy, Salah, Aguero and their likes would not have been so profligate and each would have netted, even with their eyes closed.

    We do have a world class striker of course. Maybe we should give him a try in a different role?

    That Laca is being asked to forage back and win the ball in midfield (he did this brilliantly at Old T) probably isn’t helping his sharpness. Auba covers the entire pitch remarkably well. But even Klopp doesn’t ask that of his front two.

    A young man in his 30’s, Arteta is on a steep learning curve. Life in any intense spotlight is hard. The halogen bright, laser sharp spotlight of global sports scrutiny has destructive potential. He’ll need to stand strong. While I think he has the strength of character to ignore the shit spewers, he’ll need all the support he can garner to see him through to what will be, I’m sure, a very successful future.

    I had a ‘sticky’ encounter with ‘irritable’ Arsenal fans going home from a $iteh FA Cup semi we’d lost. They gave the impression that their personal accomplishment level was low and Arsenal victories provided redemption. Their incandescence appeared to stem from their woe that (then Wenger) wasn’t delivering the ascendency they couldn’t achieve for themselves. There will always be some. Better ignored I think, Mikel.

  18. 18
    North Bank Ned says:

    Thank you for an even-handed account of another game I was not able to see, TTG. You channelled your inner Guv’nor with a report that did not sugarcoat any of the team’s shortcomings but avoided a sugar rush of negativity.

    Arteta has stabilised the team, particularly the defence, with a system that has several variants of formation. To Uply’s point, it is one opposing teams expect and prepare for. It is also one, as has been repeatedly noted in this bar, that depends on better quality midfielders than we can muster. That is what ‘lacking creativity’ really means.

    Arteta is a disciple of the positional play Guardiola honed at Barca, Bayern and now Man City but needs an Iniesta, Kroos or De Bruyne. All of them could force play through the middle, which is as key to a Pep/Arteta attack as overlapping on the left and underlapping on the right. Until Arteta buys or develops that player, we are going to stutter on, at best.

    With Auba going through a dry spell, Lacca a nightmare loss of form, Willian and Pepe not being consistent in the inside forward/inverted winger role, the absence of that player has become glaringly apparent.

  19. 19
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Measured and insightful as ever TTG, thank you!

    BtM and NBN had covered pretty much everything I might have wanted to add. Mikel himself is growing in this role and every single experience will enrich him, none more so than chastising defeats like this.

    Arsene writes in his autobiography how he was much more controlling about how the team should play etc. in his earlier years and learnt to strike the right balance where the team has enough self-confidence and awareness to innovate and execute solutions to novel problems presented in the duration of the match. Mikel is in that early stage of his career where when the game follows one of his expected tactical variations the team does well but when the match takes on an entirely different shape the team looks lost. That is further exacerbated by a lack of “magic” in the team, an unpredictable soloist with individual creativity that can consistently do something unexpected. If only Nicolas Pepe could add consistency to his game …

    I do think that opposition teams have figured out a way to keep Auba pushed out to the left in our current formation. I hope we will see a Saka-Auba-Pepe front three in the league soon. Towards the end of the last season Pepe was starting to find more consistency — with couple of noticeable performances in the FA Cup semi and final — and I think if he is getting more times on the pitch we will see a significant increase in the balls delivered to the box and shots attempted. He spots Auba’s runs well, is capable of excellent finishes himself, and if we can absorb a bit more risk by pushing Hector up and overlapping to Pepe’s right the defenders double-teaming him (as all opposition teams do) will open up gaps for Hector to run into. Willian has done absolutely nothing since the opening day. Yesterday he was just terrible in all aspects of the game.

    I fully agree with what others said about supporting Mikel through these times. He has already proven himself in many ways, and I am sure this is a challenge he will be more than equal to.

  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    Dr F@19: I agree that Pepe is our best hope for that bit of magic, to be the provider of that goal from nothing that all teams need especially to change the momentum of games.

    Beyond the consistency point, he also needs to be quicker at taking on players. Too often he will hold the ball in front of a defender for what seems like an age before he makes a move, by which time the opposition has double of even triple-teamed him and the space to run into has closed.

    Nelson, in contrast, although he does not have Pepe’s raw talent, will run directly at defences without a second thought.

  21. 21
    Steve T says:

    Blimey. If Pepe is really our best hope for a bit of magic then it’s an great deal worse than I thought.

    Sadly, at £72 million, Pepe is very much part of the problem.

  22. 22
    Barack says:

    I like Arteta, but why does he feel the need to dictate every kick, every pass, every run from the touchline? What are training sessions for? Teach the players how you want them to play, then let them express themselves on the pitch!

  23. 23
    bt8 says:

    Arteta’s biggest test yet? He succeeded in the big tests so far using a counterattacking strategy, which the team were able to employ very effectively. But we are impotent when called upon to break teams down. That is at least 180 minutes scoreless at home in the league, and traditionally that sort of stretch, if continued and not balanced by away victories, would become relegation form. Time for Willock and Nelson to get their chances to show us how they can help, I would expect.

    Thanks TTG for a measured account.

  24. 24
    TTG says:

    I appreciate the honesty laced with positivity post a hugely disappointing match . Its possible to see Arsenal finishing anywhere between 2nd and 14th and if we play like we did last night it will be nearer the lower end of the scale .
    I have to say that transfer activity is always a risk. We appear to have made two superb buys and one very disappointing one in the last window ( but eight games is still very early to judge ) . In the last summer window we paid way over the odds for Pepe , we seem to have slightly miscalculated on Saliba’s readiness and we have acquired Ceballos on loan, someone I think will prove a very good purchase . I also think the Ozil situation must be affecting the morale at the club . Training with him every day must be bizarre .
    But we may have to be more patient than we thought in the summer . This team will take some time to fix in every aspect of their play and we will need more quality in key positions. Emery had a great start to his career but couldn’t reverse things when they started to slide . There was a moment in the second half at 3-0 which reminded me of the Southampton game last year . Arteta has to show he has got the knowhow to fix our problems and not to let things slide in the way they did this time last year

  25. 25
    Doctor Faustus says:

    The money we paid for Pepe is not really Pepe’s fault. We should judge a player by his abilities, contributions and potential and not how much we paid for him. If I remember correctly there were a few other teams interested in buying him after his season in Lille where he ended up with third most G+A in all of Europe (after Messi and Mbappe if I remember correctly) and the price at that time was a reflection of an already inflated market.

    He has been inconsistent, sometimes ungainly, and even disorganized especially before Mikel took over. But he has produced goals and assists. In his first season, with all the uncertainties and changes and chaos about the team, he still ended up with the second highest G+A counts at the end of the season (bettered only by Auba). This season he already has three goals — each of them are of top qualities and no one else in the team currently scores goals like that — and two assists. He is a high-risk high-gain player, and his defensive solidity has improved significantly in last few months under Arteta.

    He is of course not solution to our problems, but he makes things happen at the business end and always produces a few attempts at goals and creates chances, even when he is otherwise playing poorly. He is 25, not 33 like Willian (who has been running around like he is 53 lately), and unless we can sell him off and find a better more consistently producing replacement he is a much better option to have in a team with limited creativity.

  26. 26
    bt8 says:

    I really wish we had done the right and proper thing, and vanquished the villainous villains.

  27. 27
    BtM says:

    Spot on, bt8.

    Good stuff, Dr F.

    TTG, In the working world in which I lived, my peer group was rated annually from 1-100. The bottom ten were put out to pasture each year. Often that meant they worked alongside all colleagues until they left. They tended to act with dignity and (I think) were treated with dignity and respect and not as lepers. Life went on. I suspect the situation with Ozil is not dissimilar. Its a competitive world, even when you’re not on £350kpw.

  28. 28
    ATG says:

    As per my previous post I would again echo the importance of playing different styles of football especially against those lesser teams, when we really struggle to open up defences. We are currently a one system team in the PL at least, I’m not going to include Europa League here as we have been winning our games in this competition.

    We have struggled to score in the PL for some time now so it’s nothing new as I’m sure others have also observed, I was really hoping MA8 would shake things up at half time and bring Auba up front with Saka on the left and Pepe on the right. Yet again we have continued with the same formation and personel and we know how that ended up. Auba’s face expression deep into second half said it all really, we are wasting one of the best strikers in Europe and playing him out wide. Auba shouldn’t be putting in crosses for Willian it should certainly be the other way round. It’s fairly obvious things are not working with the current setup, it worked for us when Arteta took over teams didn’t know what expect from us, however that is no longer the case.

    I’m sure Arteta knows his shit better than me but I would also like to see more of Nelson and Willock to take stage at a PL game, try a different formation for different games, mix things around and play those players in their desired positions. We have tried Laca up front for too long and it’s not working, time go back to the drawing board and rethink where are we going with this.

  29. 29
    bt8 says:

    Sergio Ramos reaches 100 goals scored for Real Madrid. As a defender. Is that an achievement, or what?

  30. 30
    Osakamatt says:

    Out of curiosity I checked O’Leary and
    Adams as comparisons due to a similar
    longevity – 11 and 49 goals, respectively.
    100 takes some doing.
    I imagine the monks will let us know if
    anyone has more.

  31. 31
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Thanks everyone for a great set of drinks so far. Really thoughtful, honest, well-expressed opinions all round. Dave would be chuffed with the quality in the bar, if not the quality at the Emirates on Sunday.

  32. 32
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    I would go to a proper back four against teams that low block and counter. Play an extra midfielder as a 10. Saka would be my first choice but Danny, Joe or the underwhelming Willian (who needs a goal, he surely must improve at some point?) can all play there. ESR too although he is unproven.

    I’d play Pepe. Because he is dangerous and we wanna get him on a streak of form. Drop Laca. Ditto Willian.

    Arteta has no 10 in his setup and that is the position where Aouar would surely have played? We would not be trying to buy a guy to play there unless the boss wants to shift to team away from a back 5 and have an extra guy up top, would we? We need a player in that role desperately. Even Auba on the left becomes effective again if we have a guy in the hole playing straight balls for him to run diagonally onto and straight at goal. Same for Pepe on the right.

    It is weird to say but I think we seriously miss Martinelli. In my best setup he interchanges with Auba between left attack and striker, Pepe plays on the right, and Saka plays 10. He scores goals, makes assists, never stops running and can interchange with Auba so defenders lose track of who they are marking, freeing them both up.

  33. 33
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Re Martinelli. He is also currently unavailable. Which obviously makes memories of him seem even better as Willian hoofs another chance over with all the composure of, err, Alex Lacazette trying to score a header from six yards out.

    Please lads, please. By now Gabigol seems like the new Pele in comparison.

  34. 34
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@30: Ramos barely makes the top 10 list of high-scoring defenders, which is topped by Ronald Koeman with 253 career goals, including two 19-goals seasons for Barcelona.

  35. 35
    North Bank Ned says:

    In a parallel universe, Ozil would be the #10, GSD.

    ATG’s @28 got me thinking about the best set-up against teams playing a low block (when did that replace ‘parking the bus’, btw?). In possession, I would play a back two with the full-backs pushed forward as wing-backs with a single pivot DM between them. Then two wide midfielders/wingers and a front three comprising a centre forward and two #10s, or a #10 and an #8. Out of possession, I would fall back to a conventional flat 4-3-3. You could see the outlines of that in the way we lined up against Dundalk, and even more, Molde.

    Putting names to those positions is straightforward at the back, but the further forward you go, the harder it gets until you come to Auba at centre forward.

  36. 36
    Doctor Faustus says:

    GSD @ 32 & 33: Agreed on all points.

    Mikel has completed the first transition of the team successfully: brought defensive resilience, structure, ability to play with tactical maturity, compete against teams with superior starting eleven, winning away from home. In the process he picked up a trophy or two which also given him some credibility among players and fans. Now the next transition needs to happen — how to play against teams that leave us no space behind defensive lines.

    A 4-3-3 with Saka-Auba-Pepe is something that we should definitely try. One frustrating thing with our current formation and players is that Auba’s runs and movements are rarely spotted or supported. Saka and Pepe have quicker eyes and feet and they both release the balls early while passing. Pepe’s goal against Molde was a good example. He was making those late cutting in runs all the match and not a single time anyone tried to support that. It took Saka just a little while to see that and provide a perfect cutback. Or Auba’s first goal against City in the FA Cup semi, Willian was just mechanically recirculating the ball while Auba was lurking around waiting for a delivery like that to come around the blind side of the defender.

    Mikel definitely has a natural preference for players who do a better job of precisely following his tactical directions even at the expense of inventiveness. And two of those players now are in a wretched run of forms and provide no creativity…I am sure he will learn to better absorb the price of creative unpredictability in the system.

    And in January either we get a new midfielder who can thread a pass through the defense or invent a time-machine to bring back the Ozil of 15-16 season.

  37. 37
    Bathgooner says:

    I have to observe that it’s all very depressing.

    @Depressed Gooner from the last drinks, I’ve just noticed your comment. I’m sorry to learn you are ill. I hope you get well soon, mate.

  38. 38
  39. 39
    Goonersince54 says:

    A bit of news to cheer us up.
    The under 21’s beat Gillingham away 4-2 on penalties in the EFL cup group stages this evening, after scores were locked at 1-1 at full time.
    A win that takes us into the knockout stages with a 100% record in our group.
    But the big plus was that Callum Chambers played the first 45minutes in his first game for nearly a year.
    Saliba and ESR also played, as did Balogun.

  40. 40
    TTG says:

    Thanks for some good news!
    I tried to get a stream for this game as it was shown locally. I am based in Kent.
    That was a decent win ( Gillingham have Medley and Coyle on loan ) and it gave some lads some much needed time on the pitch .
    Wembley here weccome!

  41. 41
    TTG says:

    I’ve seen a couple of snatches of film of tonight’s game . Saliba made a great run for the first goal and the cross resulting from his pass was messed up by young Zachary Medley who chested it back to the keeper only for Cirjan to steal in to score . To even things up Trae Coyle equalised for them . I only saw one penalty – it was a superb Panenka by Cirjan. We scored all four of ours tonight. Moller and Balogun were among the scorers

  42. 42
    Goonersince54 says:

    Evening TTG
    More impressive mate, is that all the under 21 teams in this comp, have to play their group games away from home.
    So well done to the boys.
    The round of 32 knockout games are in early December, so be interesting to see who we draw.
    Interestingly, the final from last season has yet to be played between Portsmouth and Salford City, which was cancelled last March due to Covid.

  43. 43
    Osakamatt says:

    We had 13 players on the pitch
    with Medley and Coyle. I’ll see if
    there’s anything on you tube later

  44. 44
    Osakamatt says:

    wasn’t much in the way of highlights
    it seems.

  45. 45
    BtM says:

    @37 Bath, you need to be like Clive and walk on the sunny side 🙂 Here are The Whites to cheer you up.

  46. 46
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers for the update Clive, commentary TTG and video OM. Much appreciated.

  47. 47
    Bathgooner says:

    Them thar’s genuine Country royalty, BtM @45. Them’s the Carter family. Their sentiment may be positive but I’ve never found them particularly cheering.

  48. 48
    Osakamatt says:

    I’d never heard of The Carter
    Family so a new thing to learn
    today 😄
    Distinctive guitar, awful song.

  49. 49
    scruzgooner says:

    thanks for a fine piece, ttg. in very tough circumstances.

    everyone needs to go and watch “o brother, where art thou” for renewal of purpose.