I Think We All Needed That

Online Editorial - Arsenal turn tide v West Ham

I Think We All Needed That

Arsenal’s Three Scorers Celebrate

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Well, so much for Arsenal’s more experienced players sorting out the team’s problems. Gabriel Martinelli and new boy Nicolas Pepe were two of the main reaaons for the Gunners recording a long-awaited and much needed win last night at the London Stadium. Freddie ljungberg’s team selection was generally well-received. The return of Kieran Tierney, moving Calum Chambers to centreback, dropping David Luiz, starting Pepe and Martinelli with Aubameyang in the middle. Ainsley Maitland-Niles at right back was not in the original plan, but Hector Bellerin tweaked a muscle in the warm up. Kolasinac, Willock and Lacazette dropped out to join Luiz and ultimately Bellerin as the changes from the eleven that started the home defeat against Brighton.

The game’s initial phase had the appearance of two countries in the third group game of a World Cup Finals in which a draw would see both of them qualify. The ball just seemed to be played around a lot in non-threatening areas – mainly Arsenal’s half, with West Ham letting them keep it – with no hint of anyone feeling the need to mount an attack worthy of the name. What we were watching were two poor teams with zero confidence between them. And bad as Arsenal have been, the Hammers have been no better. They definitely sat off, wary of conceding.

The first event of any note was the loss of Kieran Tierney after 28 minutes with what looked like a dislocated shoulder. Kolasinac had been added to the bench when Bellerin had to drop out, which was just as well. However, it was West Ham that opened the scoring after the ball pinged back and forth across the area. Granit Xhaka pulled out of a challenge to allow Ogbonna a free header. That might have been headed away by Maitland-Niles, but he didn’t like the look of the ball travelling towards him and turned his head away from it. The resulting deflection entered the net. It was rank, gutless defending, symbolic of what Arsenal have become in the cosseted world of a professional top flight footballer in 2019. You really wouldn’t want these guys in the trenches with you. Granit Xhaka is supposedly highly-respected in the dressing room, but on the pitch, he is a complete liability. One ball across the face of his own penalty area set up a West Ham attack.

The side was evidently so low on confidence, it really felt like they should play to their strengths, pump the ball forward and compete for the second ball. But no, they continued to play it out from the back. Let’s not be fooled by the win, there could be double figures on Sunday at home to Man City. The all-style and no substance nature of the play was demonstrated by Torreira trying a back flick from his side’s own penalty area D and it being intercepted. The players looked almost scared to make themselves available for a pass at times. The first 60 minutes of this match was as bad as I can remember seeing Arsenal. No shots on target in the first hour.

Fortunately, things changed. Torreira, Kolasinac and Martinelli combined for the Brazilian to justify his starting spot with an equalizing goal. A ten minute blitz and two more goals followed, courtesy of Pepe and Aubameyang. 3-1 up and the mood in the away end, which had turned very toxic, lifted. It was ironic when Granit Xhaka was injured and left the field even more slowly than that infamous substitution against Palace. As his team were 3-1 up it didn't matter and he even received a little polite applause from the travelling fans. He was poor last night though, adding little to the team except balls sideways and backwards.

West Ham didn't have a response and as the clock ticked down, it was good to see the home sections emptying and the proliferation of white seats. This was the final match in a theoretically ‘easier’ run of Premier League fixtures for Freddie Ljungberg’s side. With the games on the horizon, at 1-0 down, Arsenal were staring into the abyss. People have been putting bets on them getting relegated, and four points out of the last 21 available is certainly relegation form, with Leicester the only team in the top four faced in that run.

This was a much-needed win, but let’s not be fooled. Arsenal looked best driving forward, rather than looking backward for the safety ball and the idea of keeping possession at all costs, even though there is no threat to the opposition. They invite trouble and this is why I am fearful they will get ripped apart by Pep Guardiola’s team on Sunday. First, of course, we have the visit to Liege. The game should provide a chance to build further confidence, but Ljungberg would do well to experiment with his team’s tactics here and make them more direct, less ponderous. He stated after the game that the tactics worked because his team wore West Ham out with the gaps required after an hour had been played. Ultimately, they had three efforts on target and scored from them all. That West Ham only had four is, granted, a massive improvement, but perhaps that says more about the quality of the opposition than Arsenal’s defending.

Don't get me wrong, I am delighted the team won. But I have yet to be convinced that they have turned any kind of corner. The football came good last night because West Ham failed to take advantage of the Gunners’ defensive mistakes. I’m far from convinced other teams will be as generous. Time will tell, but on paper, Arsenal are two points off fifth place. The games over the next four weeks will determine whether the club focus their efforts on the Europa League once 2020 gets underway, and how long the club can afford to wait before a full-time manager is appointed.

One thing looks certain. The financial figures for last season released last week heavily suggest some player sales in the next two windows to balance the books. Fans might not worry about that too much if it is Granit Xhaka departing, but without new deals being agreed, more valuable squad members may well be departing. Arsenal remain a feeder club for those on a level they aspire to join. The only way you can retain big stars is by paying them outrageously (which the club now struggle to afford) or by winning the big trophies. It will take more than a win at West Ham to change that, but at least it settles relegation fears in the short term. Sunday will tell us more.


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  1. markymark

    Dec 11, 2019, 14:06 #115797

    Further to the points raised I really don’t think you can beat Islington and Camden as

  2. markymark

    Dec 11, 2019, 14:03 #115796

    Tottenham is a very rough spot in Middlesex end of. The Spuds continual moaning about the “Woolwich” is a reflection of their monumental error in not moving more centrally themselves. Probably one of the poorest transport served areas in London alongside Charlton I’d say.

  3. Cyril

    Dec 11, 2019, 13:01 #115795

    YEs guys, there are lots of positives to think about. I’m trying to keep a level head. All great posts on this site.

  4. itsRonagain2

    Dec 11, 2019, 12:54 #115794

    Islington was no doubt why Norris put us there i guess Cyril, once being out in the West End didnt materialise. A large part of the reason we all Loved Highbury was how it nestled into the Islington environs.Re Spurs - cant escape the feeling that ideally Levy wanted to get out of that dire place when they first thought of Stratford. Lets face it, who wouldnt!

  5. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Dec 11, 2019, 12:04 #115793

    Cyril - what a great post, Islington is indeed a "blessed plot"

  6. Cyril

    Dec 11, 2019, 9:09 #115792

    Why would anyone sell an asset like a football club in N5. I went on a memory lane walk and jaunt from Archway down and around the famous right angle that is Islington to Anna Scher Theatre around ‘CHAP’ and Barnsbury Road where I would work. Not that many changes really, people still trading and drinking locally. What a great borough. I feel more part of being an Islingtonian doing that than walking in that ground. They can replace the DNA of the club but not of our high streets in the area even with new generations of peoples. I never like to bring Spurs into the argument too much as I just promote my club (when I’m not bursting with frustration), but can Spurs fans really say that about their area. I know many Spurs fans and they love a pint in Islington that is for sure!

  7. markymark

    Dec 10, 2019, 22:34 #115791

    One thing that may be pertinent to both CG and Ron’s comments is that Stan is facing a big court battle that he may well lose in the states plus I hear he is deep in the hole with the LA business . It does jar against josh’s promise of more involvement and more investment . I do half believe Josh is sincere to a degree ( until dad says no ) but wonder if Stan might just put us up for sale if he does get strapped. We will see. With the club owners it’s only ever financial pressure forces them to sell the asset is simply to good to sell otherwise


    Dec 10, 2019, 21:11 #115790

    OK Marky - 1-0 to you & nicely done! Yes, I remember JC was a true Arthur fan. It was a "last ditch" thought to get rid of Stanley, as nothing else has worked so far, a socialist government threatening to tax the bastard's ill gotten gains. Mind you Stan isn't that shrewd as his flagship UK investment is currently tanking through his incompetent ownership. You would think he would have stuck with US sports of which he may hopefully have some knowledge.

  9. markymark

    Dec 10, 2019, 19:54 #115789

    CG - Corbyn wanted Wenger to stay . Not sure if John Lansman and Momentum felt the same way . Though I hear Tom Watson demanded managerial change and unfortunately was then pushed out by Seamus Milne. I could be completely wrong of course !


    Dec 10, 2019, 18:54 #115788

    And the managerial appointment farce continues - today a link to Sousa, more clubs than hot dinners for some unfortunates. Totally underwhelming - if the Club had any ambition, instead of trawling the globe they should have been able to come up with a shortlist of TOP candidates in five minutes flat. It's a complete joke & probably a turn off for any top guy who has some degree of self worth. The Board are probably very complacent today, "no need to rush things", but will likely be in panic mode come Monday. I give up!!


    Dec 10, 2019, 15:59 #115787

    Apart from the 10 minute spell which gave some relief, the "organisation" at the back was just appalling & THEY KEEP ON DOING IT, the same old, same old, don't they? Match after match, with or without Dick. Infuriating because with Pepe & Martinelli added to the mix we could have as good strike force as anyone. I think Sunday will bring us back down to earth with a bang. We clearly need a top manager from a different culture to that at AFC. But to get AFC back to where they should be, I am hoping for a Gooner Corbyn win on Friday morning because he would be the best way to rid the club, & these shores, of Stanley & hopefully his best mate, the odious Trump.

  12. Paulo75

    Dec 10, 2019, 15:30 #115786

    Welcome result if yet another far from inspiring performance. Quite why West Ham chose to sit off us at home I've no idea. Watching Chambers and Sokratis just playing it square to each other in the 1st half was excruciating. The days of Fabregas or Cazorla dictating midfield are long gone. Now we have to endure Xhaka's lazy performances and slack distribution.

  13. mbg

    Dec 10, 2019, 15:30 #115785

    We certainly needed that alright the last thing we needed was getting caught in a dog fight down the bottom, delighted for freddie too, good performance long long way to go but more of the same.

  14. itsRonagain2

    Dec 10, 2019, 13:11 #115784

    Hi Bard. Absolutely mate. I applies to Arteta , same as PV 4. The match last night - it was 3 pts and a couple of decent goals. Nuff said really isnt it.

  15. Colonel Blimp

    Dec 10, 2019, 13:04 #115783

    Pepe and Maitland-Niles linked up well. A welcome 3 points which does give us some breathing space going into a run of what looks like tough fixtures.

  16. ArsenalMagna

    Dec 10, 2019, 12:19 #115782

    That was a huge relief to see us win. Also great to see us play Chambers at CB (where he did well), Martinelli and Pepe in the starting XI. All that was missing was Luiz at DM - that was Xhaka's fault that West Ham scored more than anyone else's. I have been saying for months that the issue with our defence is actually the midfield, which only some have recognised, but I'd recommend the article 'Arsenal's malfunctioning midfield is a bigger issue than their defence' (Sky), where Nick Wright shows that it's a lack of speed, strength and agility, as well as erroneous tendencies at an individual level, from our DMs that make them unable to recover the ball properly/break up counters. I quote: "Opta's advanced metrics highlight the issue even more strikingly than the shot numbers. According to their data, only West Ham allow their opponents to progress up the pitch at a faster pace than Arsenal. Only, West Ham, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Crystal Palace, meanwhile, allow their opponents to progress further up the pitch per passing sequence." The truth is that playing at CB you can do a hell of a lot more wrong than you can right - it's protection that's the key issue. Guendouzi is young and learning, but Xhaka and Torreira are nowhere near good enough. Same with Ozil. I'd ideally play a 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 personally, of Leno, Bellerin, Chambers, Socratis, Tierney, Pepe, Luiz, Guendouzi, Martinelli, Laca, Auba.

  17. GoonerRon

    Dec 10, 2019, 11:00 #115781

    @ Bard - interesting comment about the wage bill but in truth the club has already started the process of ‘right-sizing’ the wage bill. Tens of millions was shed from it in the summer and unless they are sold beforehand (here’s hoping), Mustafi, Ozil and Mkhitaryan will all leave on a free at the end of next season which will save us £33m per year (ouch) and perhaps except Ozil have already been replaced.

  18. Bard

    Dec 10, 2019, 10:45 #115780

    Good to see us win but it wasnt much of a performance in all honesty. Martinelli seems like he has something special about him but we looked woeful in the first half. Pauljames if we dont sort out our off the field set up we might as well write off the next decade never mind the season. Ron I hear what you are saying about Paddy, although the same applies to Arteta, but which top manager would want to take this project on ? We are 'sort of' broke, we have shedload of over paid mediocrities clogging up the wage bill. We have a completely dysfunctional board and an owner who doesn't give a stuff. As I have posted before Paddy and Arteta are attractive because they are Arsenal legends, they will come cheap and will keep the fans happy for a while.

  19. Pauljames

    Dec 10, 2019, 10:13 #115779

    I think most of us accept that this league season is a write off, avoiding a relegation battle the only realistic aim. If we can stabilise in mid table and have a run in one of the cups, preferably under a new manager then I would take that for sure.

  20. GoonerRon

    Dec 10, 2019, 9:02 #115778

    So relieved to get a win. Whilst we were in no way progressive for the first hour, we also didn’t concede many big chances that I can remember so were always in the game. That said, I hope we look back on Martinelli’s goal as some sort of turning point for the season. It felt huge in the context of the game and could have more far-reaching effects on the team. We probably played more forward penetrative passes in the last half hour of this match than we have in the last 2 months combined (Xhaka, for all his faults, played a lot of them). The line up looked balanced for a change and sacrificing one of Laca or Auba was needed to help us achieve that.