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Apologies if this turns out to be a short report but your author is currently struggling with household and waiting duties as Mrs Trev is out of action, recovering from surgery on a broken ankle suffered when she performed some involuntary gymnastics on the end of a helter skelter at London’s Winter Wonderland last week.

Pre-match news was that Arsenal were going for it. Kai Havertz was suspended and his place was given to Leandro Trossard with Declan Rice in the centre and Martin Ødegaard on the right. Otherwise we were unchanged from the game against Liverpool. West Ham had a makeshift centre back partnership of Mavropanos and Ogbonna so what could possibly go wrong?

What went wrong was that Arsenal had a Premier League record number of touches in the opposition penalty area, created a number of chances that were all missed and a couple of defensive mix ups resulted in a 0-2 defeat. I doubt anyone wants to read about our succession of missed chances so I will offer you a few opinions to argue with.

The first opinion is actually not mine but came from Amazon Prime’s pre-match chat with Thierry Henry. He pointed out how Gabriel Jesus could improve his own goal scoring by making better runs. Jesus is often selected as our “number nine” but just naturally seems to drift outwards to his more usual wide positions. Tim Stillman did a very good piece on Jesus which highlighted how he scores goals better from wide positions than he does centrally because that is what he is more used to doing. Thierry showed examples of his movement around the area taking him wider and making the shot more difficult where, once the centre back has moved, he could make a second run to come back into the central space and get a one-on-one with the keeper. The only times Jesus got chances in front of goal last night were unfortunately both with his head and both went begging. He always puts in a tremendous shift for the team and offers a lot – but unfortunately, not a lot of goals.

It looks like we need something different up front as it has all become a bit predictable. The three starting up front last night have a total of 10 Premier League goals between them this season. That’s why I was very interested to see what Emile Smith-Rowe could do. I would so like to see him succeed at the club as he has real talent, is someone who will run ahead of the ball and, of course, he is another product of the academy. His introduction last night came on 78 minutes when he replaced Trossard. Almost the first thing he did was to make a great run towards the West Ham goal which was spotted by Ødegaard on the opposite side of the pitch. Ødegaard’s long cross was just too high as ESR jumped to try and make contact near the post – which would have given the keeper little chance. The point was that ESR spotted the opportunity as soon as he saw Ødegaard look up with the ball and drove at the heart of West Ham. Too many of our players have stopped doing that but it is the first thing ESR looks to do.

Too much of our build up play is too slow to stretch a packed defence, with balls going backwards and forwards to feet in intricate patterns but too much of it in front of the opposition. We do play some wonderful passes inside the box too but the resulting crosses and cut backs are being hit into a crowd scene. A player like Smith-Rowe always looks to drive through the opposition and pulls players out of shape. His reintroduction from injury has been very slow even though Mikel Arteta has been very positive about his attitude. The same approach was taken with Martinelli after his problems and that seems, so far, to have worked well.

It’s strange that under Arsene Wenger we always seemed to have a strong attack but our defence, in the Emirates era at least, was often questionable to say the least. We now have possibly the best central back three in the world with Saliba, Rice and Gabriel, but our attack is struggling to fire despite having all high quality players in Saka, Jesus and Martinelli. I think the problem might be that, with Jesus constantly looking to wide areas, we lack a focal point up front, someone who can take the ball, hold it and turn on goal. And finish! This was obvious last night when Ødegaard was performing magic tricks with the ball but the chances he was creating fizzled out as there was no-one in the centre to take them.

Above all though, we need to move the ball more quickly to Saka and Martinelli, and beyond them to run on to, now they are always double marked. One way or another, they have to find space quickly otherwise they are left no alternative but to simply pass back to where the ball came from.

Zinchenko remains a conundrum for me. A very clever player who can find a subtle pass, a decisive through ball and help to control a game through midfield and possession. On the other hand, his desire to be involved in everything can slow our play down and cause some confusion with his teammates. We saw examples of that against Liverpool, and last night there was some kind of mix up with him, Gabriel and Raya trying to clear West Ham’s cross before their first goal. He isn’t a great defender in the sense of an old fashioned full back, but he is one of few players who can combine that role with that of the inverting midfielder when we have the ball.
For West Ham’s second goal, he started grappling with Mavropanos at their corner, but completely lost the bigger, stronger man who scored with a great, but free, header when the ball came across. He should not really have been trying to contend with Mavropanos but that must ultimately come down to the manager or the captain. I think he should be used as a proper “eight” but at the moment needs must until our other full backs have recovered from injury.

And now, sadly, we have to talk about VAR. West Ham’s first goal should have been disallowed. Just as at Newcastle, VAR said there was no conclusive evidence to change Michael Oliver’s decision of “goal” because they couldn’t see whether the ball had gone out of play or not. The problem this time was Bowen’s right leg which was obscuring their view of the ball. When played frame by frame though, the whole of the line could be clearly seen next to Bowen’s leg. As soon as the video moved on a frame, the very edge of the ball could be seen encroaching on the line. This was inevitably the frame VAR decided to use and after some 3 1/2 minutes the goal was allowed to stand.

When will someone put this miserable thing out of its misery? It’s operated by people who either don’t know how to use it, or decide how they want to use it in any given circumstance – protect your mate, please your alternative employer, even up a row with a disgruntled manager. It’s a disgrace – yes, I know what that means 😏 – and it really is!

We still sit second in the league, just 2 points behind Liverpool who will be coming to the Emirates in the next few weeks – so a chance to overtake them again. Not a bad position to be in but that was a surprisingly poor performance last night, albeit against a very well organised West Ham side, managed by David Moyes looking for his first ever away win against Arsenal in 23 attempts – and there are issues that need to be sorted out if we are to maintain a genuine title challenge.

43 Drinks to “West Ham Burst Arsenal’s Bubble”

  1. 1
    Esso says:

    Cheers Trev!

  2. 2
    TTG says:

    Given your domestic issues ( hope Mrs Trev improves ASAP and is as comfortable as possible ) this is a fine and balanced report.
    After disappointing defeats ( and we have very few under Arteta ) I try to think how Goonerholic himself would react . He was the epitome of good sense and never overreacted.
    Your analysis is excellent especially about Jesus . I think FFP may screw us unless we sell some of our better players which may sadly include ESR . I’d use Jesus wide IF we had a more recognisable focal point in central attack. Martin Ellie is struggling at present and I’d like to see Saka operating on the left . I think Toney would be interesting but he is likely to be overpriced and big issues cloud an investment in him. We weren’t robust enough last night upfront .
    The effort was terrific from everyone and I thought Saliba was imperious . Zinchenko is a very average defender but Arteta is a contrarian and an innovator and sees the game in a way that we don’t. I trust his judgment but the squad does need a bit of strengthening . Maybe we could sacrifice Partey and Ramsdale and Elneny , sign a back-up keeper on loan and invest in a striker .
    But let’s keep the faith. Every title win has been preceded by black moments and to their credit West Ham were superbly organised. Mavropanos looked worth much more than the paltry sum we sold him for and Kudus is a fine player . Somewhere in the archives I congratulated them on signing Bowen from Hull. He is a real handful .
    Onward to West London and hopefully a refresh with ESR starting and maybe Havertz upfront centrally ?

  3. 3
    TTG says:

    I’ve invented a new player through predictive text if mixed sex. Martin Ellie ! You know who I mean !😀

  4. 4
    Ollie says:

    Cheers Trev.
    Good points, and glad you went for that approach rather than painfully re-live the whole match.
    Could have been worsed, Raya saved the penalty!

    All the best to Mrs Trev for a swift recovery.

  5. 5
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks Trev and commiserations to your good lady.

    Last night’s game reminded me of our first defeat at the Emirates, against Alan Curbishley’s West Ham. In an uncanny prequel to last night, then we had 32 shots on goal to one, and lost 1-0 to a Bobby Zamora goal (when the ball hits your head and it goes in row Z, that’s Zamora).

    Some wise words by TTG above. We totally controlled the game, but couldn’t score and let in two sloppy goals. Well Mikel knows what to work on in training. No need to panic, but lots of work and maybe some rethinking to do.

    Nobody said it would be easy. On to Craven cottage.

  6. 6
    Las says:

    Cheers Trev.
    A fine analysis. During matches like this one it is painfully obvious we are still learning. It’s the first manager job for Arteta and he and Arsenal are still a work in progress.
    No panic.
    I hope Mrs Trev will get well soon.

  7. 7
    bathgooner says:

    Bang on the money, Trev.

    The relative impotence of our front three in several games this season, elegant trickery on the wings notwithstanding, has come home to roost with the extraordinary stats from this game on possession, touches in the opposition box, attempts on goal, shots on target and lack of goals representing the culmination of a tendency that has been evident in too many games. This is hardly likely to be due to loss of drive, skill or intent and, if due to a simultaneous triple loss of form of our front three whose goal scoring was so exhilarating last season, it is very unfortunate indeed. It’s much more likely to be due to the quality of opposition coaches, their defenders and their organisation of those defenders allied to the predictability of our team selection and their attacking movements. Our control of the ball and automatisms are now so familiar to us that we can expect them to be predictable to the best tacticians amongst our opposition coaches. The corollary of our slick and often successful automatisms may be a paucity of spontaneity and unpredictability when frustrated by well organised and determined defences.

    It would be rather nice to see a willingness to change things up earlier in the game. The occasional switching of Saka and Martinelli to offer wingers more willing to go on the outside and give the wide defender(s) a different problem, the more frequent willingness to take that early shot from the edge of the box – yes, it’s usually a crowd scene in the box but a deflection may yield fruit and the occasional outswinging corner would all add variety to the attack.

    Of course, the option of a different style of centre forward would be very welcome but that seems unlikely to be available before next summer.

    Onwards. Chins up. Thrash Fulham, please.

  8. 8
    OsakaMatt says:

    Best wishes for a quick recovery for Mrs Trev.
    And for The Arsenal top.

    Thanks Trev for the report, a very short straw to draw
    but you were very reasonable. And lest anyone think he
    is just making it up, I remember TTG saying Bowen was
    a fine player a while back.

  9. 9
    bathgooner says:

    And best wishes to Mrs Trev for a speedy and complete recovery.

  10. 10
    bt8 says:

    Thanks Trev for a brilliant match report at such a difficult time for you and Mrs. Trev to whom I wish the rapidest of rapid recoveries. I have only seen the second half of the game, which was not the easiest of watches but you have seen the second half I have seen. Only one team attacking but not attacking incisively enough against as packed a defense as we are likely to encounter.

  11. 11
    Ollie says:

    Guess what? Just checked in, found the departure and lounge area oddly crowded, soon to be followed by an announcement saying that traffic is interrupted until further notice, due to flooding on the high speed line in England.
    I don’t have the comfort of three points, and if I was hoping for a final peaceful journey this year….it might be a fail.

  12. 12
    BtM says:

    Very fine summary, Trev (I like this style more than a detailed account of the game). Some excellent builds from other Holics in addition, so pretty much everything has been said. But has that ever stopped me in the past? Or now?

    I really hoped that ESR would start as our number 10, number 10 (WTF is all this left 8 stuff). His brief appearance reinforced my original hope. I sincerely hope (now a triple hope) that I see him in the flesh rom the off on Sunday at 2PM.

    I think that Eddie is an impotent sub, I think that Trossard is a poor starter but a highly effective sub.

    I thought that our build up was pathetically slow. Zinchenko frustrated me muchly in that regard and with some of his defensive work. Ben White was equally bad and did nothing other than stop, look for Rice, pass to him, repeat ad nauseam. Bennie was also poor for the first goal, careless loss in midfield and slow to track back.

    The impact of both wingers has reduced because the balance of their come inside/go outside ratio has diminished to 99% come inside. That in turn is a function of White’s reduced willingness to quickly decoy for Bukayo and Zinny’s lack of desire to go wide let (in part because he crosses poorly with his left foot).

    Jesus isn’t lethal. He’s a magnificent disruptor, end off. In the last two games he’s shot over and wide on four occasions from inside the box (MUST hit the target at least) and failed to convert with headers that I’d have scored from. (I think the chances that Arsenal will buy a player charged with ambling are nil).

    Technology is available to determine whether the ball is in or out of play. Please deploy it.

    It’s a long season and still all to play for.

    Other than that, not much to say really. Fulham won’t try to play the game that the Spammers did last night – but there did win 5-0 against the bubble blowers on my/Bath’s last visit to Craven Cottage. Could be interesting!

  13. 13
    North Bank Ned says:

    First, I hope Mrs T is on the mend. I’m sure she is in good hands. (Matron!).

    That was one of those games in which we could have played all night and not scored. Yet had we got one, we probably would have scored three.

    The Saka-Jesus-Martinelli forward line has run into second-season syndrome, i.e., oppositions have worked out how to nullify each of them. When Saka and Martinelli were scoring regularly, Jesus’s relative weakness in scoring goals could be overlooked. Now they are not, it is more noticeable.

    Although no one has mentioned it, Havertz’s role to the team in creating some stealthy chaos was underlined by his absence, and his height would have helped to defend corners.

    ESR creates chaos more overtly. When he made the run for the Ødegaard cross that you mentioned, the thought crossed my mind that, were he playing more regularly, he might have made contact with it. I hope you are right that, as was the case with Martinelli, ESR is being carefully managed back to full fitness. Given his past injury problems and the concerns on the club’s part that he is fragile, that would be sensible.

  14. 14
    Ollie says:

    Traffic now announced as slowly resuming so I’m certainly hoping to be home earlier than after the Wolves game…

  15. 15
    Ollie says:

    Boardings are coming thick and fast. I’m next already, so delay shouldn’t be more than an hour possibly. Aka zero compensation, clever buggers.

  16. 16
    Sancho Panza says:

    I wish Mrs Trev a speedy recovery. No one has asked what on earth she was doing on a helter-skelter at a winter wonderland. Is that normal behaviour?
    Hope we can put this behind us but a loss of form usually implies players are either tired or carrying injuries. Highlights our lack of depth in the squad.

  17. 17
    bathgooner says:

    Here’s to a smooth journey home from here on in, Ollie! 🥃

  18. 18
    Trev says:

    Cheers all, good to see folks engaging after such a frustration.
    A collection of fine drinks, as usual.

  19. 19
    North Bank Ned says:

    The GHF Predictathon leaderboard for Match Week 19 has now been posted. Some jockeying in the top half. You know where to find the details…

  20. 20
    Trev says:

    And thanks for all the kind wishes for Mrs Trev !
    I’m also wishing her a very speedy recovery ! 😉

  21. 21
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thank you Trev for a well balanced and insightful report. I too prefer this type of analysis more than recalling the actions in a chronological order, especially when the match ends so frustratingly.
    Wishing a speedy recovery to Mrs Trev.

    Saka and Martinelli are two very young players, who spend every minute on the field with maximum focus and intensity, and despite Mikel’s public bravado (for reasons we can all guess) about them playing 50 matches a year etc. it is unreasonable to expect them to just keep on performing at that level every three days. I wonder why someone like Reiss cannot be trusted with a few more starts in the season. Even if he may not be as perfect a fit to Mikel’s game plan as our regular starters, a bit of rotation would help in many ways: freshen up Saka-Martinelli, allow Reiss to build some confidence so that when he is thrown in as a sub he can play more assertively, and present some unpredictability to the opposition.

    Against weaker opponents Eddie gets a job done as a starter, but coming off the bench he is generally not much useful, and especially against a defense as packed and disciplined as yesterday’s opponents he contributes almost nothing. I felt ESR playing centrally and making runs into the box and offering close control in protecting the ball would have been likely more effective. Or even Trossard centrally, who I think is the best finisher in the penalty box we have in the squad.

    It’s also telling that it has been more than a month and Vieira’s injury enforced absence hasn’t even registered. At no point of time yesterday it felt to anyone that if only Fabio… That speaks volumes about our bench strength.

    Kai on the other hand would have been useful in both boxes against a team like West Ham. With his ghosting runs and aerial presence.

    We will need a fit and firing ESR, and meaningful contributions from Reiss and Eddie in the second half of the season if we are to do better than the last season. Defensive solidity and set-piece efficiency alone won’t take us to the top; those are key foundations but in modern football you need goals to be scored in many different ways to be able to beat teams of different tactical set-ups.

  22. 22
    Ollie says:

    I’m having a little chuckle with myself as we had two annoucements stating we were 58 min late. The latest one coming with a side of ‘the train driver will try to reduce the delay further’ while telling us compensation kicks in only if the delay is bigger than an hour indeed.
    And three minutes later, we slow down drastically again. So I think the driver may be on ‘our’ side and we won’t make it on time. No bonus for him, but a small voucher compensation again for us….
    At this sort of time it is a lot more fun than nearly four hours delay in the middle of the night.

  23. 23
    Countryman100 says:

    Ollie there must be a book or a podcast in there somewhere. “Adventures on the Eurostar”.

  24. 24
    Ollie says:

    It’s not even going to be close. To be fair, that was rather certain after the last slow down, I’ve done that journey enough time to know. I’d say at least 65 min late maybe 70.

  25. 25
    Ollie says:

    They have officially thrown in the towel, announced on the PA and we’re practicallly stopping in the banlieue now as they know the next level of compensation is an hour away so no point in rushing.
    I’d certainly have a few tales to tell, C100.🤣
    Made me forget about the football too today, which is not bad!

  26. 26
    North Bank Ned says:

    Some well-observed points above about Eddie as a starter and a sub raise questions about his long-term future in the squad. He is not really a Plan B option for when Arteta wants to shake things up, and when he has come on in recent games, he hasn’t, to my eye, shown the demeanour of someone trying to force his way into the team.

  27. 27
    Trev says:

    Ned, apart from the pre-requisite of a level of ability, probably the next most important quality a manager will look for is consistency. Eddie unfortunately doesn’t have it. Ha can poke one in from three yards, blast one from 18 yards or turn brilliantly and fire home leaving a defender for dead. But how often does he do it. For a team like the Arsenal nowhere near often enough. Sometimes he looks like a very capable substitute / deputy and other times he looks like a raffle winner.

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@27: I know what you mean. If you exclude the hat-trick against Sheffield United, Nketiah hasn’t scored in the league since late August in just shy of 600 minutes of playing time. Yet Eddie’s overall stats per 90 minutes played don’t compare badly to Jesus’s and suggest he is a top, if not elite-level, striker.

  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:

    Congratulations to Vinai Venkatesham on being made an OBE in the New Year’s Honours.

  30. 30
    Uplympian says:

    Many thanks Trev for your match report or rather an overview of how we are playing at this petiod of time. It was an excellent idea which has brought some first class comments from the denizens of the bar. We certainly need to find a way to get back our attacking mojo – as Bath points out there are many excellent coaches at epl clubs who are finding ways to restrict our attacking formula. Whilst the recruitment of a top level striker would help the cause, coming up with a plan B would assist in the interim.
    Meanwhile best wishes for Mrs Trev’s speedy recovery.

  31. 31
    Ollie says:

    Looks like I was VERY lucky to come back at all yesterday.

    Same problem, only worse. The slowing down was indeed just between St P and Ebbsfleet (plus the extra in France to make sure we were late enough, thank you driver, still laughing).

    It’sa beautiful sunny day in Paris now, perhaps Sheffield Utd can pull a miracle and make it even better?

  32. 32
    Sancho Panza says:

    How can a railway tunnel built about 10 years ago be flooding already?. Obviously they needed Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the project.

  33. 33
    bt8 says:

    Re: Ollie, I am glad you made it home safely! But the phrase in that article, “as festive disruption continues” doesn’t sound good for the travel of others, who will not be feeling so festive about it I imagine

  34. 34
    bt8 says:

    At bottom of the same article I see that the weather could disrupt travel plans for the football this Sunday, with this forecast:

    “Meanwhile, there is a yellow warning for gusty winds for Wales and southern and eastern parts of England, which is in place from 11:00 until 03:00 on Sunday.
    Gusts of between 45 and 50mph (80.5km/h) have been forecast widely, while coastal areas in the west and south of England may see the strongest gusts of between 65 and 75mph.

  35. 35
    Ollie says:

    One has to wonder, Sancho Panza @ 32…
    Indeed bt8. Not for the first time, people who will have been looking forward for a long time to a great time around New Year, travelling with family, will see their plans badly fucked up by this disruption and one has to feel for them, it’s a sorry state of affairs.

    We’ll see what happens on Sunday. Good luck to all those travelling.

  36. 36
    bt8 says:

    So. The press reported that Manchester United staged a miraculous season-changing comeback last week. Does anyone think they will keep it up?


    I wouldn’t put any hard-earned on it.

  37. 37
    North Bank Ned says:

    bt8@36: The miracle is that that Red Mancs team is still in the mix for European places.

  38. 38
    North Bank Ned says:

    It seems the Eurostar chaos is being caused by flooding from leaking water pipes in a tunnel under the Thames, not the Channel.


  39. 39
    North Bank Ned says:

    According to the latest BBC report, the Eurostar chaos is being caused by flooding from leaking water pipes for the sprinkler system in a tunnel under the Thames, not the Channel.

  40. 40
    bt8 says:

    Manchester United fans chatting on BBC Acoverage of their defeat at Forest seem resigned to frustration, humiliation and failure. Happy days. The look of bewilderment in ten Hag’s eyes heralds much more of the same.

  41. 41
    bt8 says:

    I think they had high expectations of ten Hag, for some odd reason. How many Premier League coaches have outperformed him this season? (multiple choice question)

    A. 5-10

    B. 11-15

    C. 16 or higher

  42. 42
    Bathgooner says:

    Posted by Brendan (cba’s son) at 7.53pm on 24/12/23 but caught in the net, unnoticed until now:

    Glasses raised to David Faber
    God rest him and God bless him for a life well lived. A great friend to many
    All the very best wishes to his family and to you all here
    Happy Christmas and New Year to you from Donegal Derry Belfast and Glasgow

    Sláinte mhath, Brendan!

  43. 43
    scruzgooner says: