Incremental Improvement at Bournemouth, But Plenty Of Work Ahead

Online Editorial: Arsenal make a point at the Vitality

Incremental Improvement at Bournemouth, But Plenty Of Work Ahead

For his first match in charge, Mikel Arteta for the most part gave the established stars and top earners at the club the chance to prove their worth. The exception was Nicholas Pepe, who saw Reiss Nelson selected in preference to him, and there was no choice at left back, where 18 year old Bukayo Saka played.

I’d say that we saw commitment in the players and more of a notion of team shape. In the first half, the plan was for Torreira to pick the ball up off the defence and assist in moving it forward, Granit Xhaka a halfway point between the Uruguayan and Ozil. Basically a lot of triangles to aid getting the ball up the field under control. It led to opportunities, but Arsenal weren’t clinical and there was some very poor crossing. So an improvement in attitude and purpose, but quality was lacking in the final third.

They paid the price for the policy of playing out from the back and it all felt very familiar when Bournemouth went 1-0 up. Looking back at the goal, the obvious pass for Saka should have been to Ozil near the centre circle, but the number 10 was not screaming for it, or making it easy by running at pace into the space that would have made Saka’s decision easy. The left back was caught out of position as he lost the ball and it was ironic how the goal came from an overlap on the flank – given Arteta had spotted this as an area where Arsenal could be beaten two seasons ago whilst his then employers Manchester City were playing them.

Having said that, Arsenal didn’t give the ball away casually quite so often in their own half, so there was incremental improvement. Nobody is expecting a quick turnaround, although with Chelsea and Man United to visit the Emirates in the next week, there were hopes the team Arteta sent out would have enough about them to get three points yesterday. They created enough chances to have won this game, but only one was converted out of the two that were actually on target.

Defensively, there did feel like there was a little more discipline and organization, no mean feat given the personnel available. This may have been partly down to the new head coach spending half the game barking at “Papa!” Sokratis. After the interval, Arteta switched things around, pushing on his full backs when the team were building a move from the back, and dropping Granit Xhaka into the left side of a back three when Leno passed it out. It led to less pressure on the defence in possession, as they did not have to start from so deep.

Fortunately an equalizer came via Aubameyang when, for once, the passing in and around the Bournemouth penalty box was crisper, and the relief in the players and the travelling support was palpable. Too often though, Arteta’s team broke with enough space and players to fashion a goal, but poor decision making or plain bad passing negated the chance. In terms of the personnel he has to work with, it’s an obvious downgrade for the manager, but he improved Rahim Sterling’s wastefulness so he has history of getting more out of raw talent, and Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka are both young enough to benefit. The latter did well given the task he has been handed, but his contribution in attack is not yet reliable.

Anyway, the game predictably opened up in the final 20 minutes with both sides going for a win, but the big takeaway from the Vitality Stadium is that Arsenal, under Arteta, look far less ponderous, more purposeful. You did get the feeling they would have lost this match a few weeks ago. Chelsea, who are suffering a spell of unpredictability, visit on Sunday. Assuming the players get today off, that allows for one training session before the game. So we are not going to see much different in the next fixture (or indeed for Manchester United next Wednesday), and one assumes the starting eleven will be very similar, with the possible exception of Pepe coming in for Reiss Nelson. Mustafi might replace Sokratis if it is viewed he suffered from concussion, but hopefully it won’t come to that. In the limited time the German was on the field, reminders of why he rarely starts these days were all too apparent.

Arteta was gesticulative, went over to thank the travelling supporters, and acknowledged his team would have won the game were they more clinical in attack. At least there is no public denial of the obvious. Three points would have been nice, but more fundamental is the weeding out of bad habits and bad attitude. On that score, I’d say we’ve seen the beginning of what will be a lengthy process with inevitable lapses and setbacks.

It’s difficult to predict what kind of game we will see against Chelsea, although at least there is a sense that something is finally being addressed in a team that has gone rotten.


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  1. markymark

    Dec 27, 2019, 16:16 #115964

    Apparently Xhaka is upset with Arteta as Arteta has told the whole world how wonderful he is then taking him behind closed doors and said you’re free to go probably due to him being a complete c u next Tuesday . That Granit old pal, is a classic management style of not projecting your weakness but dealing with it brutally internally. I’m liking Arteta’s style. Think he means business

  2. Nos89

    Dec 27, 2019, 15:37 #115963

    There are signs of life in this team. Positives are that for the first time in a while we had more attempts on goal than our opponents did. The quality was missing but hopefully lacazette will find his shooting boots in the next two home games. Arteta is restricted with the defensive team selection due to injuries and suspensions. However, they worked as a team for a change. Arteta talks about demanding more from his players and we will see players leave naturally because they don' t want to match his demands. It'll be interesting to see who those players are. Xhaka is hopefully going, and I'd imagine that Sokratis, Kolasinac and possibly Lacazette head for the exit. Ozil appears to thrive when more is being demanded by the manager from him, which suggests that both wenger and emery simply didn't demand that much from him. The academy players will be thirsty to establish themselves in the first team. There are still two trophies to play for and hopefully Arteta will be able to deliver one of them. His only success with Arsenal was in the FA Cup. We are capable of getting to at least one of the cup tournament finals, and I'd love it to be the Europa League. Not because it brings champions league football but mainly because we embarrassed ourselves in the 2019 final, and we need to fix that.

  3. markymark

    Dec 27, 2019, 13:00 #115962

    As you say it’s all incremental with no sudden miracle cures expected. The crossing was dreadful hopefully this can be worked on. There does now appear to be a line in the sand Drawn . Let’s hope this becomes a solid base

  4. ArsenalMagna

    Dec 27, 2019, 12:51 #115961

    As with the game vs Everton, it's a relief to see genuine commitment and especially devotion to defending properly. That is the most important requirement for Arsenal and based on the early signs of our play, and his own words, Arteta recognises this and can implement it well. If that's at the core of his philosophy, then he's fundamentally different to Wenger in a hugely positive way. The only concern is whether he'd have us keep playing out from the back and 'high press' even when the evidence shows that can't be done, but we'll wait and see on that one. Squad still needs major surgery but encouraging signs. Both Xhaka and Torreira looked much better with the whole team defending in unison. Nelson played well. On the downside, Laca's finishing was bad yesterday but his link up play solid as ever - I'd play him as a 10 behind Auba for the next two matches. Put Luiz and Xhaka as deep-lying playmakers/DMs. I think a draw or two from the next couple of games would be respectable given the situation we're in, but think we're good enough to get a couple of wins.

  5. GoonerRon

    Dec 27, 2019, 12:02 #115960

    Some definite improvements in how we moved the ball more quickly, seemed to actually control the game in midfield for the most part and were energetic off the ball. Two MASSIVE games coming up at the Emirates next.