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Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

The moment that in my mind encapsulated the essence of Arsenal’s doldrum-shaking, cobweb-removing, well-deserved victory against Chelsea came around 61st minute. Tierney made one of his signature runs down the left flank and delivered a high quality cross in the middle of the box. Gabriel Martinelli – surrounded by Chelsea defenders — controlled the ball superbly, set himself up for an overhead kick which he went on to execute with acrobatic precision. The shot – which was on target and placed well towards the left corner — required a save from Mendy. But there wasn’t enough pace to really trouble the Chelsea goalkeeper. The moment came immediately after that when Gabi was visibly furious with himself for not making this opportunity fully count. It was a delightful display of elite attitude that has been missing through much of the Arsenal team for a while now. (One might even be tempted to say an elite attitude missing through much of the club at every level.) This was Martinelli’s first PL start since his return from long injury, the team was already winning 3-0 to which he has contributed significantly until then. Yet there was not an iota of self-satisfaction, no posturing about “see how cool that was”, no resignation to the fact that such attempts are extremely difficult to score from. Just pure desire to excel at every single action for every single minute he was on the pitch.  

That type of positivity, ambition, and drive has been singularly lacking this season. And by their performance today the young Turks of Martinelli, Tierney, Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe demonstrated just how much of a difference that attitude makes. Whereas Tierney and Saka have been the only relatively consistent performers of Arsenal team this season – maybe Gabriel and Leno too can get honorary mention in that category; Partey simply hasn’t played enough yet – this was the first start in PL for both Gabi and ESR, and yet the quality and intensity of their performance brought all the more focus to the paucity of creative abilities from their more illustrious colleagues.

Even though I had approached the match with the customary trepidation with which we have taught ourselves to face watching Arsenal in the league nowadays, once the team was announced I started to feel a bit more anticipation and excitement than what I was expecting to resign myself to. Even though Gabriel, Partey and Aubameyang all were absent for one reason or another, both the 4-4-1-1 formation and the first starts for both Martinelli and ESR at least promised something new, something more adventurous. The rest of the starting eleven looked reasonable enough. Mari was the natural left-footed replacement for Gabriel in defense. Xhaka, as expected, got back his (questionable) automatic position after serving a three-match ban for one more needless red card.   


Bellerin – Holding – Mari – Tierney

Saka – Elneny – Xhaka – Martinelli



Hector was given the captain’s armband.  And I must say throughout the match he lived up to the leadership expectations. Saka more often than not plays on the left but whenever he has been asked to play on the right, he typically makes his ability to deliver precise crosses with his left foot from an inverted winger position count.

Arsenal started brightly with a quick attack down the right flank. Hector’s cross in the first minute was semi-cleared by Chelsea defense and Martinelli, though attacking the middle of the penalty box well didn’t anticipate the drop of the ball accurately enough; his attempt at goal was not on target. A first minute attempt to score! The excitement deepened.

The bright start continued with ESR combining well with Gabi and Tierney down the left. Inspired by such display of attacking intent Granit Xhaka found himself the farthest forward on the left and we witnessed the rarity of a Xhaka cutback from the by-lines. From which we earned our first corner at the 5th minute. We took a short corner and Saka’s promising cross from the left side was well dealt with by Chelsea’s expert defensive duo in Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma.

A couple of minutes later Chelsea made their first foray into Arsenal half, a raking diagonal cross evading everyone including a Timo Werner who found himself with some empty space.

On the 8th minute ESR demonstrated a neat combination of steel and craft – dropping deep in the middle of the pitch he expertly held off challenges by two Chelsea players to come out with the ball and then earned his team a free-kick.  A minute later Pulisic ran through our midfield and then at our defense, but it seemed that the defensive set-up was acutely aware of the possibility of the talented American dribbling at ease past defenders and they packed the line dense enough to block him. Moments later Gabi showed his defensive strengths on the left flank, dropping deep, winning possession and turning past two Chelsea players.

By now Chelsea had started to see more of the ball. And a hint of tentativeness crept back into Arsenal’s game. Xhaka made a typical last-ditch tackle that gave Chelsea a freekick from a dangerous position, and Leno was relieved to see Mount’s excellent effort clipping the outside of the post. Couple of minutes later Holding – who had mostly a very good game, as he has known to do against Chelsea :–) – panicked a clearance right onto the path of a Chelsea player in Arsenal penalty box, but Hector saw out the danger by expertly defending against Werner. 

On the 16th minute Pablo Mari received Arsenal’s first yellow card for somewhat clumsily bringing Kovacic down to stop against a counterattack. I thought the anticipation of the danger was top notch by Mari, but not the execution of the tackle.

We were pressing noticeably better, and not just by the relentless Gabi who was often the trigger. There was a well-planned orchestrated pressing that Laca, Saka, ESR too were executing pleasingly well. Sometimes Xhaka or Elneny will move up vertically in a darting run to stop any free sidewise rotation of the ball.   

Lacazette was dropping deep to create an overload in the midfield and Chelsea was finding it hard to pass through or release their fullbacks. On the 19th minute, from such an overload Laca expertly stole the ball from two Chelsea players but Elneny failed to spring the counterattack which was opening up with Tierney, ESR and Gabi already on their way. Rather it was Chelsea who found a bit of an extra space and Werner drove inside from the wing with the ball at his feet. Holding made a perfect tackle to deny Werner.

A couple of minutes later Holding’s defensive partner managed to clear away a tantalizing cross from Chelsea’s right flank that Tammy Abraham almost got to the end of. From the resultant corner Zouma jumped above everyone but headed over.

In the next few minutes there was a flurry of activities in front of the Chelsea penalty box. Lacazette and Martinelli combined well but Gabi eventually found the Chelsea defensive line too resilient to drive past. Xhaka tried one of his long-distance shots which was blocked by Chelsea defense.

On 25th minute came our most promising attack yet. Saka and Lacazette together pressed expertly, forcing a turnover by Chelsea in their own half. Hector picked up the ball and drove straight into their penalty box. ESR ghosted in with a perfectly timed run into the box – reminiscent of Aaron Ramsey – but couldn’t quite get his feet sorted out for the close-range effort on goal offered by Hector’s precise cutback. Gabi picked up the ball and attempted a shot from the tight angle, the shot was on target but easily blocked by the Chelsea defense.

Lee Dixon and his fellow commentator Arlo White jokingly reminisced about Arsenal’s 94-95 season when even all the way into March Arsenal were still just five points away from the relegation zone. Lee wasn’t entirely convinced that if Arsenal were to find themselves in such a position at the sharp end of this season, they have enough leadership now to actually survive the scare. But I got a feeling he was playing a little bit to the gallery.

By now the match entered a 50-50 stage where both teams were making advances into the opposition box. For us Tierney and Martinelli increasingly were combining well, ably supported by  Smith-Rowe who was showing an awareness of space that must have drawn encouraging bravos from a few Arsenal players past and present – watching the match in their drawing-rooms — who were known for their preternatural ability to discover or create pockets of space to operate from.  From such a combination we earned a corner on the 31st minute. From the corner – taken by Saka from the left side – the ball was kept circulating by Arsenal players and Xhaka found himself with a bit of time with the ball on his feet. He spotted Tierney’s run and provided a delightful defense-splitting pass to find him. Kieran drove with ease into the penalty box past James, who trying to nick the ball away from Tierney’s fit clipped his left heel. Penalty! VAR did a review, but Michael Oliver’s instant decision stood. There really was no complain from the Chelsea defense and the replay was clear in identifying the foul.

In absence of Aubameyang and Pépé (and if I may say so, one Ainsley Maitland-Niles whose coolness probably overshadows the superb technique of his penalties), Lacazette was the natural option to step up. He sent Mendy the wrong way and scored his fourth PL goal of the season with a clinical penalty.

Arsenal 1 (Lacazette 34’) – Chelsea 0 

Saka, Gabi and ESR were rotating their positions quite well with a surprisingly good understanding of each other. Martinelli sent a couple of quality crosses into the box that were well handled by the Chelsea defense. On the other end of the pitch Holding defended well on the ground against Werner, and Mari made an acrobatic clearance from just outside the box.

Elneny, despite the odd mistake in passing, was playing with attacking intent and in tandem with Xhaka was providing a higher degree of verticality than what we have learned to expect from them. Mo worked well with Hector in the right side of the midfield to keep possession which allowed Saka to run at the defense. Saka was brought down by Kanté just a few yeards outside the penalty box. We took a quick corner before the wall was formed but a retake was needed. With both Laca and Xhaka focusing intently on the ball while Chelsea was busy setting up the wall, Xhaka was the one to eventually take the kick and he executed it perfectly. He has scored a few goals for us like this: the freekick had the right combination of power, spin, swerve and dip as it nestled in the top right corner.

 Arsenal 2 (Lacazette 34’, Xhaka 44’) – Chelsea 0 

Half-time ended with Arsenal again attacking down the left and Martinelli trying to drive through the defense.

Second half started with Chelsea bringing in Jorginho and Hudson-Odoi for Kovacic and Werner. We were unchanged. We started on the backfoot with Chelsea throwing bodies forward in search of an early goal. Bellerin cleared a cross with a great defensive header. Then Elneny and Holding combined to defend well on the ground in the penalty box and Pulisic and Co. tried to thread through.

On the 52nd minute Rob made a rare mistake but fortunately his bad pass across the defensive third wasn’t punished by Chelsea. Leno showed good readings on a couple of crosses to come out and catch early.

After this initial pressure by Chelsea at the start of the second half Arsenal started to move forward again and from our first foray in the Chelsea penalty box Saka scored a sumptuous goal with his right foot. The formation of the attack was quite pleasing too. Hector moved up the flank secure in his knowledge that Elneny is covering for him. Meanwhile ESR had moved towards the right corner whereas Saka drifted inside. Hector passed the ball to ESR who found Saka in some space with his pass. Saka chipped the ball with his right foot over the goalkeeper’s head onto the post and in the net. The commentators simply couldn’t accept that Saka might have meant it and their theory was that it was a cross that fortunately turned out to be this world class finish. However, it looked to me that neither Laca nor Gabi was anywhere close to the far post for Saka to attempt such a deep cross, there were likelier options if Saka wanted to set his teammates up, and the dip on the finish seemed to be quite intentional. In any case it was a fantastic goal by a fantastic young talent.    

Arsenal 3 (Lacazette 34’, Xhaka 44’, Saka 56’) – Chelsea 0 

Chelsea was throwing tantalizing crosses into the box, but our defense dealt with the flighted balls well. And not just Holding and Mari – whose height and physicality came in handy – even Lacazette joined in heading clear.

Photo by ANDREW BOYERS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Then came Martinelli’s overhead kick attempt – mentioned at the very beginning – at the 61st minute, and at this time it looked like we may be able to score one more goal. And we almost did a few minutes later.

On the 64th minute ESR controlled the ball well on the right side of the midfield and following a quick sequence of passes Tierney found himself with space to attack down the left. He cleverly delayed the release of the ball that allowed Gabi to position himself dangerously. Once Tierney delivered his cutback Gabi made space for his shot through the Chelsea defense. The slight deflection on the shot made the save easier for Mendy.

Immediately after that ESR was replaced by Joe Willock, another of our Hale End graduates. It was a performance of class, poise and intensity by Smith-Rowe and he now deserves to be a serious candidate for a first eleven role in our league matches.

On the 66th minute Xhaka defended well anticipating the path of a cross and calmly cushioning a headed pass back to Leno. A minute later there was another half-chance on the Chelsea end. After Lacazette put Saka through by a delightful one-touch pass, from Saka’s delivery into the box Joe hit over the bar from an acute angle but with only the keeper to beat.

On the 69th minute Pépé replaced Martinelli after an outstanding, scintillating performance on his return to the league starting line-up. Let us hope we can keep him fit, and his energy and attitude inspire the rest of the team, especially those who are in dire need of inspiration.

Chelsea wasn’t looking much threatening as our defense and midfield combined well to cut off Pulisic’s mazy runs or passing lanes for him and Mount. They were increasingly reliant on crosses and corners and our defense did just enough to put off Thiago Silva and Abraham to head on target from such deliveries.

On the 83rd minute Lacazette nearly earned himself a well-deserved second goal. He pressed superbly to force Mendy into a missed pass which Laca intercepted, set himself up and attempted a curler towards the top left corner. Mendy atoned for his mistake with a fine flying save.  A slightly more confident Laca I am sure would have attempted a chip over the goalkeeper’s head. He played very well the whole match, pressing intelligently and tirelessly, dropping back to link up in the midfield, creating fast transitions from midfield to attack, passed well in all areas of the pitch, and a second goal earned by diligence would have been fitting.

Mendy’s save earned us a corner. After the ball was cleared from the corner Elneny crashed a thunderous shot against the crossbar and then Rob’s goalbound attempt was blocked.

A minute later Chelsea scored their goal as from close-range Tammy Abraham converted a quality cross. Leno had no chance. The goal was initially disallowed for offside, but VAR decided to overrule the assistant referee’s offside decision. It was a true 50-50 and had we dropped points because of that decision we probably would be spending more time talking about it.

Arsenal 3 (Lacazette 34’, Xhaka 44’, Saka 56’) – Chelsea 1 (Abraham 85’)

Pépé on the left wasn’t displaying the kind of connection and understanding Gabi had with Tierney. And he would do well to learn to press a bit more aggressively. He was merely competent in his 20-odd minutes compared to the intensity of Gabi or Saka in the two flanks.

On the 91st minute Mari made a clumsy challenge in the box to take Mount down. It was a clear penalty. Up stepped the Brazilian-Italian Jorginho, and Leno – unimpressed with Jorginho’s unique penalty routine – judged the direction perfectly and pulled off a smart save low to his left. Leno has been an excellent goalkeeper for us, and in last two seasons he has earned us quite a few points. If we had conceded a goal at that time with 4-odd minutes still to go this could have turned into a very disappointing day. 

On the 92nd minute Mustafi came on to replace Laca, who had an excellent overall game.

The last action of the match came through one more corner kick from which Pépé won the challenge in our penalty box, spun around and moved forward sensing a free run at Chelsea goal and was brought down immediately, almost at the same time the final whistle was blown.

Let us hope the performance and the result were as much of a tonic to the squad as those have been to us the supporters. I don’t quite believe that Arteta actually really thinks some of the things he has been saying about too many things going against us for nearly two months now. I am sure he knows we have played well below our potential on paper, and whatever be the many reasons for the woeful performance and results might have been, some changes were evidently necessary. Whether the personnel changes today were forced on him by circumstances or whether they were purely courageous, progressive moves by him is in my opinion a moot point as long as he absorbs the lessons of those changes. There is no alternative to creativity, goalscoring ambition, intensity and willingness to take risks to create chances. Martinelli starting his first league match of the season had more shots on target in 70 minutes of football than his much more illustrious and experienced compatriot in nearly a dozen matches. That is a damning statistic. I am sure in the next 48 hours many such statistical revelations will be made which will all but prove what we saw with our naked eyes: the technical quality combined with a tireless intensity provided by Martinelli, Saka and ESR (and to be fair, also by Laca in this match) against Chelsea far surpasses anything we have seen from our frontline until now, and that reality should find its way through not only the considerations of the manager for the upcoming matches, but also the considerations of the club about how to move forward in the coming days. Who all should stay and who all should go.

We have a sequence of “winnable” (on paper) matches coming up. And I think they would be all the more tricky now because there is always the banana peel of complacency around the corner for Arsenal of the current vintage. Mikel and the squad will now have to do absolutely whatever it takes to win those matches and hopefully move Arsenal up the table to a little bit more tolerable position. If they need inspiration, they can always watch the recording of this match.

53 Drinks to “A Breath of Fresh Air”

  1. 1
    Gooner up north says:

    Fantastic result! I’m so pleased for the team. Great wright up as well. Keep the faith lads.

  2. 2
    scruzgooner says:

    get in, herr doktor faustus. that’s a treat to read. i do hope our winnables don’t turn to banana skins, as you say, but if we continue with the youth trend i have to think we’ll be in the running. and off to the races, kt3 said after the game they’ve been focusing on that in the last couple weeks, getting started faster.

    hat’s off to xhaka, he blew it, took a lot of stick, and didn’t look anything like the player running in mud to which we’ve become accustomed these past months. great freekick, even though i was screaming inside for laca to take it.

    love me some esr, too, and gabi. great energy, desire, skill, and application. let’s see more of them, and for longer in the game. i wasn’t pleased with the dropoff after they were substituted, and that’s down to pepe and joe. perhaps pepe more than joe.

    also, bernd’s save was key. 3-2 up with just a couple minutes to go and we could have shipped two points just through nerves. that would have been more destructive than an outright loss.

    good to see you here, gooner up north…welcome!

  3. 3
    ClockEndRider says:

    The usual superb write up we have come to expect from the contributors to this bar.
    It was wonderful to see the team playing as we did when Arteta first arrived – energy;commitment; pressing; swift, forward passing. Xhaka showed that he can do it. Let’s hope this is the end to the ineffable horseshoe football we had been watching hitherto. And a wake up call for various of the senior pros who had been treating us to the kind of performances reminiscent of some of the talentless plodders I remember from our mid-late 70s incarnation. Wake up you chaps. We have glimpsed the future and unless you pull your fingers out, you won’t be part of it.

  4. 4
    ClockEndRider says:

    And welcome, Gooner Up North.

  5. 5
    Countryman100 says:

    Excellent write up Dr F, burning the midnight oil over there in Boston. You know where you can stick your celery Chelski.

  6. 6
    BtM says:

    It looks to me like you hardly missed a single piece of the action there, Dr F. Super job.

    As mentioned after Bath’s excellent preview, the BB King song relevant to this game was always Let The Good Times (continue to) Roll. Arteta and his ‘keepers’ from this squad will learn much and emerge stronger from this very testing period. The only blue notes BB will be pulling on high from his B and E strings are those that accompany the line “How come you couldn’t make it six, guys?”

    Onward and upward.

  7. 7
    Osakamatt says:

    Great report Dr F. Though I might
    disagree that Mari mistimed his
    challenge – I thought he did exactly
    what he intended to do.
    Great win but of course now we
    must keep our feet on the ground,
    one swallow does not make a winter.
    Expectations need to be tempered
    as we march forward with our youngsters
    to ten consecutive CLs.

  8. 8
    bathgooner says:

    Thanks Dr F, for a fine report providing a most enjoyable reprise of a long-deferred proper Arsenal performance.

    The trio of Saka, ESR and Martinelli generated a rising tide of drive and energy that raised the performances of the selected older lags who had somehow forgotten the main objective of the game. We need to retain that critical mass of youthful fearlessness and vigour to provide the overall thrust which was always evident in the likes of Tierney and Saka but was sapped by the inertia of the rest of the team. If we retain the momentum generated by youthful exuberance we won’t need to look over the abyss.

  9. 9
    Esso says:

    Cheers Doc!

  10. 10
    TTG says:

    There will not be a better description of the action last night written Dr.F . Excellent description of events and the tactical reasons behind them. I sensed in the first five minutes that we were up for the game in a way that we hadn’t been before. I’m always blaming Xhaka for slowing us down but that was the best game he has had for a couple of years. He played further forward and passed quickly and he worked his arse off. ESR, Martinelli, Saka and Tierney gave us an attacking impetus that we haven’t had for ages. Laca worked exceptionally hard and I thought Rob Holding was excellent and Bellerin much improved. Mari is a solid defender but has the turning circle of an ocean going liner.
    A good friend of the blue persuasion congratulated me last night . One comment was interesting ‘ Luiz got Conte and Mourinho sacked, Emery sacked and is doing his best to get Arteta sacked – you looked better without him.’ Food for thought ?
    Willian was involved in a couple of the Chelsea down tools as well and I can’t see a place for him in the team .Pepe neither. We have three top- class players to come back in and as Dr.F says some potentially winnable games to come . Let us hope we can continue with the verve we showed last night

  11. 11
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks Dr F. for the valuable tonic – let us hope the dispensary remains open for some time.
    Thanks Bath in the last drinks for the magic carpet ride. I saw Steppenwolf top the bill at the Royal Albert Hall with Colosseum at #2 on the card when,imo, it clearly should have been the other way around.

  12. 12
  13. 13
    Pangloss says:

    Excellent report Dr F.


  14. 14
    Bosnian Gooner says:

    Top stuff Dr F!

  15. 15
    Dorset Mick says:

    Great write up, Doctor F.

    Gary Neville disagreed with your (and nearly everyone’s) assessment that the tackle on Tierney was a penalty. Considering how many soft penalties that he and his team mates conned out of referees at Old Trafford, he looks like a bit of a hypocrite to me.

  16. 16
    Cynic says:

    @ 12 – Basically Mesut Ozil and his agent, I would suggest.

  17. 17
    TTG says:

    Dorset Mick
    Firstly Hi and continued good wishes to you in your treatment .
    Secondly your point about Neville is quite right and Shearer confirmed on MOTD that in the current environment that is a penalty all day long . James knew this as you can see from his reaction when it was given.
    Neville is an obsequious little twat, a player whose limited abilities led him to kick superior players ( Reyes in 2004 for example) and whose disaster at Valencia underlines he isn’t a good enough coach to make a living anywhere serious . He talks a convincing sounding game but I’m increasingly of the view that he spouts cliches . Great analysts tell you when and why a game is changing . For all his appalling screechy Scouse accent Carragher is much more insightful.
    As for C100’s piece I’m convinced a group of older players are briefing against Arteta and we would be much better off without them . The leaks on fights , treatment of non- participants and rifts are being orchestrated . Some of our team have form in this resoect.

  18. 18
    North Bank Ned says:

    A comprehensive report of a game observed with your customary acuity, Dr F. I agree with your main points and notably about the youngsters’ energy and creativity and its infectiousness among the senior players. Concerningly, we looked a bit same old, same old after ESR and Gabi went off.

    Leno’s penalty save was critical. A draw would indeed have been as damaging as a loss had we surrendered a 3-0 lead. I am glad you also noted his assertive catching of crosses. I hope Runarsson was studying that closely.

    There is so much parity or, if you prefer, inconsistency among clubs this season that any team that can put together a run of wins will move up the table. Six points out of six from the BHA and WBA games is now the priority.

    And welcome Gooner up North. The first drink for your first drink is highly auspicious.

  19. 19
    Countryman100 says:

    Let’s not think Brighton are going to be a pushover. They are currently playing through West Ham with ease and Fabianski is by far the busier goalkeeper.

  20. 20
    Countryman100 says:

    And there we go. Brighton one up.

  21. 21
    Esso says:

    Not any more they aint.

  22. 22
    Countryman100 says:

    No. A 2-2 draw. Need to watch out for their midfield and their ball into the channels. Bit of a long ball game all round though. Hopefully they’ll be knackered when they kick off against us in 50 hours time.

  23. 23
    TTG says:

    But C100 is right that Brighton are a decent side and it will be a tough game .
    I think WBA and Sheffield United are certainties for the drop but I would think Crystal Palace are looking over their shoulders with apprehension. Them and S***s of course

  24. 24
    Esso says:

    They’re pretty shit. Team we should be beating. So lets do it.

  25. 25
    Esso says:

    Sorry TTG but 11 points from 15 games? They are not a particularly decent side.

  26. 26
    Countryman100 says:

    You’ve gone and done it now Esso ……

  27. 27
    TTG says:

    They will give us a hard game down there. But a day’s extra rest is a huge advantage .
    Potter is a decent coach and with more resources would be able to take a team higher up. They’ve missed Lamptey since he was injured but the boy Bissouma was excellent against us last season.

  28. 28
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind words. Writing a match report is much more fun when we play well and win. 🙂

    TTG@17: who do you think that clique of senior players be? Mesut’s friends like Mustafi et al.? Luiz and Willian? I don’t see Auba, Laca, Leno or Hector being disruptive … whoever they are the club must deal with them severely.

    I really hope that the proverbial penny finally dropped for Mikel about the type of players to choose and the approach with which to start the matches. I hope to see Nelson added to the match day squad and used more. He is technically not at the level of Gabi or Saka but he brings a similar type of energy and directness.

  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:

    Our record against Brighton in the Premier League is abysmal. P6 W1 D2 L3 GF7 GA8 GD-1 Pts 5. The win was when they were newly promoted in October 2017. Brighton manager Graham Potter has won three of his four games against us.

    Bonus trivia: Brighton didn’t score a goal against us until the tenth meeting between the two clubs

  30. 30
    bathgooner says:

    Despite the spirited and energetic performance against the Chavs, our morale will still be fragile and the changes Arteta will inevitably make to the team will restore some of the languid brigade. An early reverse must be avoided as I am not convinced that the erstwhile regulars have a backbone capable of rescuing a match. Personally, I would start the same 11. We don’t need the dead feet of Willian, Ceballos and Pépé in a must-win 6-pointer.

    Earlier I omitted to praise the individual contributions of Leno (great & critical pen save), Bellerin (energetic drive & leadership), Holding (rock-like but for a couple of terrible passes), Marí (wonderful professional challenge – not late but deliberate), Tierney (superb), Elneny (he kept recycling), Xhaka (like a man reborn – great FK), Saka (words fail me – love that boy), ESR (we have needed a visionary like this lad), Martinelli (his attitude and contribution brought a paradigm shift to the whole team), Lacazette (ice-cool pen & 85 minutes of huge effort).

    Pépé’s cameo demonstrated the huge advantage of having Martinelli’s 100% commitment. Barring his last minute contribution in our own box too win a free kick when he regined possession and broke away, he was a spectator. Very disappointing. Willock and Mustafi did their bit to help stem the Chav’s late fightback.

    We need to keep that youthful core in the team, fitness permitting, and consign to history a few unfortunate signings who have sucked the drive and directness out of the team.

  31. 31
    Cynic says:

    Dr F, you didn’t ask me but I’ll respond anyway 😉

    I believe it to be the obvious player with a grudge, agent talk and also perhaps a player who isn’t actually in the dressing room any longer but is talking to those who are and being mischievous, with or without the approval of their mates.

    They’re a bunch of whiny bitches whoever they are (I actually would doubt Willian as he’s not only new to the club but also has the confidence of the coach. So far)

  32. 32
    North Bank Ned says:

    Dr F@28: Cynic was undoubtedly right @16. The Telegraph’s story most likely emanates from the Ozil camp. The article lacks even a single quote to back up its central premise. Not even from an anonymous source (which is itself telling; no heads prepared to peek above the parapet). The sole quote is an Ozil social media post. You would need to press hard with a broad-nibbed pen to draw even a faint dotted line from ‘it is a difficult situation for everyone’ to evidence of a group of players demanding his return to the PL squad.

  33. 33
    Countryman100 says:

    Regarding West Brom, Liverpool have battered them but only scored one goal. In the 82nd minute WBA score from a corner. They won’t be easy to beat either.

  34. 34
    Countryman100 says:

    Finishes a 1-1 draw. At Anfield. Allardyce is as Allardyce does. Different team now.

  35. 35
    Countryman100 says:

  36. 36
    Countryman100 says:

    We all know exactly how Fat Sam is going to set up against us on Saturday. They will sit back. They will get free kicks and launch everything into the box. They will slow/breakup the game. It’s up to Arteta to come up with the game plan.

  37. 37
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Cynic and Ned — thanks for the clarification. Most unfortunate from Mesut’s camp. His social media team is probably way too clever for his own good.

    This stats article highlights how singular the contributions were from our young trio yesterday https://arseblog.news/2020/12/arsenal-3-1-chelsea-by-the-numbers/ . Astounding really.

    Also it proves the salient observation that lot of us have been making about the importance of the first goal and taking the lead. Arsenal absolutely have to start on front foot and try to impose early on. Once we are chasing it becomes that much harder to get anything out of the game because of the combination of our relatively ordinary creativity and increasingly sophisticated defensive formations, tactics and personnel in PL teams.

  38. 38
    TTG says:

    Nobody knows with any certainty ….but
    I’d look at the same suspects as you,Cynic and co have named . I’d look at the difference between Luiz under Emery and the Luiz we saw in Arteta’s early games……and the one we are seeing now . Willian doesn’t like the role he has been given and I suspect all the Joorabchian clients might be unhappy . Add to that the PR machine that is Ozil , Sokratis and perhaps understandably Saliba who has been very poorly handled by Arteta .
    Without getting too political we see Ozil getting plaudits for his condemnation of Uighur Muslims in China but no criticism of his best friend Erdogan for persecution of Kurds, Gulenist Muslims and Christians in Turkey . Everything he does is calculated to advance his image . I hope we get rid but I think he is determined to be seen as a victim . Just like Luiz he ran his legs off in the first couple of games under Arteta but we saw less and less effort as time went on .
    What won’t help Arteta is that Edu is a client of Joorabchian and is heavily invested in his project

  39. 39
    Cynic says:

    I wonder if Ozil will try to walk away from his multi million dollar endorsement deals because of Nike’s lobbying to weaken the Uyghur* Forced Labor Prevention Act in the US, or if it can be proved they do make use of materials supplied by China’s labour camps?

    Answer – No.

    *Spelling of the bill.

  40. 40
    TTG says:

    A couple of the better connected journalists at the club including Layth are suggesting tte club would be much better off without Willian and Luiz and this has prompted a number of comments surmising that they are the briefers against Arteta . Nobody in our position ever really knows what is going on in the current dressing room but there really does seem to be a need for Arteta to identify who is working on his behalf and who isn’t . It probably puts Edu in a close to impossible position

  41. 41
    North Bank Ned says:

    Semi Ajayi, who scored West Brom’s equaliser, is formerly of this parish. Played 30 games for the U-23s but never got a first-team game.

    Allardyce will certainly get his team to be disciplined in defence, hold their shape and play for set pieces at the other end of the pitch. As it happens, he has managed more matches against us than any other club, 34. Yet he has won only six, drawing eight and losing 20. If the game goes to historical form, we should win 2-1.

  42. 42
    Cent says:

    Very good review Dr F, great job.

    Per the Guardian article above; could it possibly be that it’s just a sports journalist inventing stories out thin air, you know, like click-bait sports journalists do?
    I would rather give our boys the benefit of doubt. Even if some of them have been naughty boys in recent times, they’re still our naughty boys.

  43. 43
    bt8 says:

    Thanks for a great match report Herr Doktor.

    Doesn’t Lee Dixon make a habit of playing a little bit to the gallery though?

  44. 44
    Osakamatt says:

    when Chavski unravelled under
    Maureen I remember Willian was
    one of the few playing well.
    Luiz has been playing ok I think
    and Willian hasn’t but I don’t see
    the lack of effort that some of you
    seem to see. Of course I have no
    idea what’s going on in the background

  45. 45
    Countryman100 says:

  46. 46
    bathgooner says:

    How we could do with a captain of Frank’s stature now.

  47. 47
    TTG says:

    Frank is a delightful man one of the great Gunners of all time . He still loves the club with a passion

  48. 48
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers Doc. An incredibly detailed report with much astute analysis. Nice.

    I’m still thrilled about that result.

    Of course it will count for a lot less of we don’t follow it up by putting more points on the board in matches that, on paper, look easier. But it has been so long since three league points i am gonna enjoy this victory a little longer before I turn my attention to the next match.

    As Blogs pointed out… I love these not losses!

  49. 49
    Trev says:

    Thanks, Dr F,

    And a big Happy Birthday to Frank McLintock !

  50. 50
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:


  51. 51
    Osakamatt says:

    well in GSD.
    And a happy birthday to Frank.
    My first Arsenal captain, they say
    you always remember your first

  52. 52
    Cynic says:

    He’s a bit older than 50, surely.


  53. 53
    Bathgooner says:


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