Deep into December… and a lesser spotted Arsenal Clean Sheet!

Online Editorial: Gunners take a point in turgid 90 minutes against Everton

Deep into December… and a lesser spotted Arsenal Clean Sheet!

No shortage of work to do…

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Having watched Arsenal’s performance first hand last Sunday against Manchester City, Mikel Arteta will have had no illusions about the task ahead of him, and it was confirmed yesterday lunchtime at Goodison Park. It was ironic that Everton announced another of Unai Emery’s potential successors – Carlo Ancelotti – as their new manager an hour before kick off. The vastly more experienced Italian has agreed a deal a year longer than Arteta’s - doubtless on bigger wages - and probably with the promise of greater investment in the playing squad.

However, Arteta has a chance to forge a reputation as a coach by turning around a flailing giant currently heading south dramatically, and if he can pull it off, would probably have the pick of the jobs in world football. Should he return Arsenal to glory, one imagines it will be dependent on the ambition of the owners as to whether or not he decides to stick around should the likes of Barcelona come calling (not optimistic on that one), but let’s see if he can work a miracle in north London first.

Some of the less informed BT Sports presenters tried to make out that Arteta had an influence on the team selection. I’d beg to differ. What I saw was a reaction to the poor performance against Manchester City, with Ozil and Pepe removed specifically because of their lack of contribution when the opposition had the ball. With this being Freddie’s last game in charge, he had no reason to massage anyone’s ego, and perhaps the game might even have been broadcast in China. Other than that, the changes were down to injury or suspension.

Arsenal created two shots on target to Everton’s none. We’ve seen a fair amount of poor games at Goodison Park over the years, as well as a few corkers, but at the moment, neither side have too much in the way of evident quality or confidence, as their position in the table indicates. That both announced new managers on Friday and the day of the fixture says all you need to know.

The game itself does not require a great deal of analysis. Arsenal’s players looked, unsurprisingly, like they weren’t on the same wavelength going forward, a consequence of the changes in personnel, but at least it gave Arteta to look at some young players he would not have been too familiar with. After the game, Ljungberg described the goalless draw as a building block, and that's fair enough, but it feels like a piece of lego at the base of the Empire State Building right now.

Let’s be thankful for the point and wait to see incremental improvement over the rest of the season. The team will not develop confidence or understanding overnight, but for this to happen, Arteta will have to be consistent with his team selection and drill the players more than they’ve experienced under previous coaches. Good habits need to be established, and critically, discipline on all levels needs to become an indisputable aspect of how everyone goes about their jobs.

Arteta will probably put his greatest priority on having a shot at the Europa League, and at least he has two months before that gets going again. Aside from that, while embedding his method, he will try and get the team picking up enough points to make the Europa League next season (which is worth a decent amount of money so worth doing) – sixth place should be good enough for that. On paper, you could argue that, having played 18 matches, the team are still within reach of fourth place, but that would necessitate them overcoming all of Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United above them. Champions League football is critical to Spurs’ finances, which is why Jose Mourinho has been recruited. Given how much the new manager has to do, I’d be content with a top six finish and signs of a turnaround in the culture of complacency at the club.

Effectively, what Arteta has to do is an echo of George Graham’s work from his arrival at Highbury in 1986. The club had some big names who were coasting, and a group of developing youngsters. They hadn’t got too close to winning anything and were floundering a bit. Graham shook things up, gradually moved on the experienced players whose egos were unlikely to make them fit his plans and bought astutely whilst developing the homegrown produce. What's changed now is football. You can’t defend as Graham’s players did or you’d get red carded, so there has to be more emphasis on controlling the ball rather than opposition players. All the same, Arteta cannot afford to ignore this side of the club’s weakness. At least, at Everton, we saw more signs of defensive commitment than we have too often this season. And the first thing any footballer needs to succeed is a willingness to battle for his team. That has been notable by its absence, so alongside technique, the new head coach must work on attitude. And critically, dispense with those not willing to follow – which he has indicated he will do.

I don’t expect a dramatic turnaround on Boxing Day. If the players get tomorrow off (at least in terms of physical work), Arteta only has three days on the training pitch at London Colney to start introducing tweaks. But an upturn in commitment will be obvious at Bournemouth if he can instill that. From that foundation, he can begin to effect the much-needed changes that the team require in developing their gameplan. Let’s see how quickly he can turn chaos into order.


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  1. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Dec 23, 2019, 16:57 #115949

    There is talk of a top 4 finish, I do hope this designed to accept that we cannot possibly make top 4 but the effort in trying may achieve a Europa place - top 4, please Arsenal, get real.

  2. itsRonagain2

    Dec 23, 2019, 14:19 #115948

    GR - You could be right. There could be an attempted diet of 'pep lite' heaven forbid . Thats as impossible with those players as trying to defend properly. You can have all of the full team from the front defending tactics in the World but trying to play football without defenders who enjoy and relish conventional defending means failure. Your right if you're alluding to the teams poor midfield for years on end not having shielded the back line, but that only deals with half of a teams defensive responsibility. Pressing isnt a week in ; week out short cut remedy to tightening up a team. We need at least 3 quality defenders bringing in. A right back, a centre back and a shielding middle man.

  3. itsRonagain2

    Dec 23, 2019, 14:10 #115947

    I dont think that tackling has been outlawed entirely. The problem is more one that modern players cant tackle or they've forgotten how. I doubt its even coached these days.The poor mites would probably get 'offended' in today's game and resort to social media to claim uncivil attitudes by the employer to them in the workplace. Heaven forbid their hair was messed up or that grass stains ended up on their fashionable skin tight tracksuits. Thats simply unacceptable.

  4. GoonerRon

    Dec 23, 2019, 13:25 #115946

    Those who want a GG style drilled defence are going to be disappointed in my opinion. With the players we have plus Arteta’s schooling, I’d imagine we will try to defend better by pressing with more structure and intensity from the front, by keeping the ball better when we have it, by doing the defensive basics right when we need to and by tactically fouling when we have to.

  5. Seven Kings Gooner 1

    Dec 23, 2019, 11:59 #115945

    Well written piece Kev - a very good point about not being able to tackle the way GG's teams did, the Steve Bould first tackle "calling card" in particular has now been removed from the game. However you can close down and block shots as the team did against Everton and that pleased me no end. What concerns me is the talk already of playing football the right way, the Arsenal way? Sorry, but we have gone well past that point, we will have to learn to defend all over again before we can move forward. We have players in the team who cannot get about the pitch quick enough to play a defensive game and they will have to go, we must get our game right when we haven't got the ball. Under George Graham the team dropped into the bottom six, while a style and pattern of play was developed but the crucial part of GG's Arsenal was it's ethos of being hard to beat. My worry is that the fans and club might not give MA the time he needs to build a spine into the squad, that of course assumes that MA is the right person to do this job, time will tell but if certain players are still at the club after the end of January we will know that the "new broom" has failed, or that the board still do not understand how far we have fallen from grace.

  6. GoonerRon

    Dec 23, 2019, 10:04 #115944

    Oh, also, kudos to whoever started the chant “you’re getting subbed in minute, suuuubed in a minute, you’re getting subbed in a minute” when Moise Kean came on for Everton. Proper good one, that.

  7. Nicky3336

    Dec 23, 2019, 8:53 #115943

    The game has moved on from the GG era as have the way people feel they “should” be treated but what I cannot tolerate seeing is poor attitude and behaviour from 50% of our squad. Lack of effort , cheap words on social media and child like tantrums such as Ozil and Xhaka have displayed in recent weeks have hampered our performances and overshadowed results at our beautiful club. Roll on the January sales when in my humble opinion the following individuals stealing a living at Arsenal need to be put in the shop window, Martinez, MaitlandNiles, Luiz, Xhaka, Ozil, Guendouzi ( massively overrated), Auba ( at 30+ we need to take 40million from him as without his pace he is nothing more than a squad player. Good luck Arteta, you’re going to need some serious cajones to turn this around m

  8. Cyril

    Dec 23, 2019, 8:10 #115942

    I was invited to the gym that GG regularly attends but he wasn’t there. However, if I do casually unintentionally bump into him on my next visit, I will avail him of how much fondness and high regard he is held in by us real fans who know a legend and DNA when they see it. There is a whats app clip going around with Merson doing an ‘after dinner’ and he is just gushing about GG and how much of a master technician he was. With the amount of employees at Arsenal now- the powers could do worse than give the man a call for some careful advice on defending and man management (leave aside any misdemeanours). That’s all done and a very long time ago.

  9. John F

    Dec 23, 2019, 7:58 #115941

    According to the news feeds we are getting a new coach called Steve Round who worked with Fat Sam,Moyes,and Steve Maclaren at England ,not a good Omen as they all got sacked.There is a rumour that he had a relative on the Titanic.I am concerned as when the word Round is preceded by the word whose it usually provokes an Auto response in me that makes me suddenly pretend to do my shoelaces or take a trip to the toilet.

  10. Big Andy

    Dec 23, 2019, 3:23 #115940

    Great analogy with 1986, Kevin. We are right back there. Most of the older underperforming dross needs to be moved on and the youngsters need to be developed. GG also made a handful of astute signings and MA will have to do the same. And, like With George, the players need to be ruthlessly drilled in order to produce maximum performance.

  11. Wengerballs

    Dec 23, 2019, 0:10 #115939

    Lesser spotted clean sheet?? Most cumbersome article title of the year.

  12. GoonerRon

    Dec 22, 2019, 22:39 #115938

    I thought the second half was the most dogged we’ve looked for quite some time. We didn’t allow Everton to get going so their crowd never got going either. In actual fact, we defended pretty well I thought (did Leno make a save?) which is all rather strange. One thing Freddie has done (not seen the stats to back this up though) is to stem the flow of shots / big chances we’ve conceded. I thought Smith-Rowe showed a bit of character too - nothing came off for him in the first half at all but he came out and looked effective in the second half. This was a tiny baby step but something to build on.


    Dec 22, 2019, 20:45 #115937

    Mikel not looking such a big risk after dinosaur Mourinho crashes & burns today? I also predict Carlo will demonstrate that he can't cut it in the lower reaches of the PL.

  14. Goonhogday

    Dec 22, 2019, 13:48 #115936

    Yes, really hope (as mentioned above & below) that Arteta will be allowed to ship out the coasters, start more of the youth players with the remaining committed pros and work on building a spine into the defensive unit! New broom part 2!

  15. Reddragon

    Dec 22, 2019, 10:53 #115935

    Agree with AM that we need to ship out the toxic senior members of the squad. For me I wouldn't have Xhaka anywhere near the first team as he is playing with spite towards the club and the supporters who have grown tired of his poor play, week in and week out. Ozil is another who has had chance after chance and after only five games in charge Freddie had seen enough and dropped him. there are too many lazy uncommitted players who are a disgrace to their profession. No pride in their performance and no show of effort for the team or to the supporters who pay big money to pay their overblown wages. I really hope Arteta can restore some pride and a winning culture to the squad following his excellent press conference on Friday. He'll need time and a great deal of patience from the supporters, who I hope will give that time.

  16. ArsenalMagna

    Dec 22, 2019, 10:05 #115934

    Agree with what some other posters have said on this site, that actually that game yesterday was the first time there's real grit in an Arsenal performance for years. All 11 players committed, making tackles, blocking shots and passing lanes, closing down space and pressing/tracking back effectively. It confirmed for me what I said other day, that we need to replicate what Chelsea have done - building around a mix of youth and properly committed seniors. I think the club's biggest task is getting rid of the deadwood ASAP, as their toxicity will permeate throughout the dressing room if we're not careful. Just look at Laca and Auba - two phenomenal players whose heads are clearly turned now because they've grown exhausted at trying hard and doing well when players like Ozil slack off.