The Emirates Welcomes Back Arteta… In The Home Dugout

Preview of the 2pm kick off v Chelsea

The Emirates Welcomes Back Arteta… In The Home Dugout

The usual five talking points ahead of today’s Premier League game at home to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.

Arteta’s stamp
Reading some of the tactical analysis after Mikel Arteta’s first match in charge against Bournemouth, there was an interesting facet that will have been familiar to those who watch Manchester City regularly. When Arsenal changed things up after half-time, Granit Xhaka became a third centre back on the left-side when his team played the ball out, with the two full backs doing very different things. Ainsley Maitland-Niles moved into midfield alongside Torreira in what is described as a ‘double pivot’ (Torreira was on his own more in the first 45 minutes, but the full backs did not commit as much). Bukayo Saka was for all intents and purposes playing as a left winger. So, a 3-2-1-4 formation. Pep Mk II anyone?

Defensive options
Hector Bellerin is reputedly nearing fitness, and some believe he could start against Chelsea. For me, having worked on Maitland-Niles’ positional play, and enjoying a solitary training session since the trip to Bournemouth, I don’t see the head coach re-introducing Hector until the FA Cup tie against Leeds. However, one unavoidable change will surely see Calum Chambers, suspended on Boxing Day, take the place of Sokratis in central defence. The Greek left the field on Boxing Day with a head injury, and is ruled out of today’s game with concussion. Still, Chambers is surely a safer bet on the ball, and Arteta is not going to get his team playing it long, so defenders who can play football are the future. Ideally, ones that can defend a bit too would be handy. If we are being cruel, there are some at the club who can do neither. No names mentioned…

Will Pepe get a start?
I wonder if positional discipline will be the determining factor in Arteta’s selection against Chelsea. From the Manchester City bench, he would have seen City’s players waltz past Pepe in the build-up to their third goal, which might have influenced the selection of Reiss Nelson against Bournemouth. However, Nelson failed to take his opportunity with a disappointing display, and when he was replaced by Pepe, there looked far more danger on the right flank of the Gunners’ attack. The head coach may consider it too risky playing both Ozil and Pepe against Chelsea, viewing the latter as an impact sub. We’ll see later, but my feeling is we won’t see too many changes given the lack of time between games. If nothing else, after 18 months of rotation, rotation, rotation, as Arteta tried to embed his methods, he won’t want to be chopping and changing too much.

Good news for Lacazette
Such a policy favours the number nine, who also had a poor game at the Vitality Stadium. Of course, Lacazette seems to score the majority of his goals for Arsenal on home turf, so with Martinelli almost certainly still unavailable, you can’t see him being dropped unless Nelson remains in the team and Pepe comes in for Laca with Aubameyang moving central. Lacazette though, has scored three times in the last two games he has started at the Emirates. He’ll surely start.

Learning comes at a price
Chelsea had a very decent start to the season and it looked like Frank Lampard was going to achieve something special in his first season as manager. However, the season is long, there are a lot of youngsters in Chelsea’s starting line-ups and things have gone a little awry. Their last seven Premier League matches have witnessed five defeats. However, unlike Arsenal (nine draws in 19 league games so far this season) the Blues don’t seem to do draws. So something has to give this afternoon.

Arsenal have more or less given up on top four, that’s accepted. So what we need to see is the establishing of good habits and most critically, an end to giving away cheap goals. Bournemouth’s strike against the Gunners on Boxing Day was a gift as a consequence of the visitors losing possession in their own half, where the Cherries had plenty of bodies. We need to see an end to this, and some more clinical play in and around the opposition penalty area wouldn’t go amiss. A win would be a huge boost, but let’s talk reality here. Chelsea can turn it on when the occasion demands it, as their recent victory at Spurs demonstrates. So another London derby, and who can ever predict those. Arsenal need points though, and we've seen 18 points dropped with drawn matches already. If they’d been wins, the Gunners would be in in third place. And if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle. Let’s just aim not to lose as a starting point, eh? Then try to nick it from there. Memories of Baku are still all too raw, so let’s not get too carried away here people.


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  1. itsRonagain2

    Dec 29, 2019, 18:56 #115976

    PS. VAR has announced today at Anfield that having yr fingers offside now rules a goal out. First armpits , now fingers. I m sure it’s not long now before all and any protruding parts of the anatomy will be enough to deem offside ! Absolute joke of a system though I m equally sure Liverpool and Man U will be exempted from such calls.

  2. itsRonagain2

    Dec 29, 2019, 18:50 #115975

    Well at least there was some shape to them and heart and endeavour. Important though lads not to fall for Mrs Neville’s false pity for us. 2nd half Chelsea got to grips with it, got a hold of the midfield , imposed themselves by getting all of the ball. The goals were coming after about the 55 th minute I thought. Our middle toiled till then but the lack of quality did for us. We were lucky Chelsea only have Abraham up top , had they had a quality central striker , we d have been buried well before we were. Leno s feeble half commited effort to get the ball away for his error us all over this last 10 yrs. He was frightened of being clattered. The final part typical of us after the years of the Wenger wasteland was the teams inability to settle for 1-1 rather than gung hoeing it to get 2-2. Wengo must have called Arteta and offered him his learned counsel. Plus points tho was the obvious fact that MA has got into them in his short time there already. He just needs 4 or 5 new players now to assist him.

  3. markymark

    Dec 29, 2019, 16:27 #115974

    Sadly correct Arsenal Magna- seems like it played out as you suggested. Was driving home today so decided to just catch the result at the end rather than kill myself on the A14 due to total loss of concentration. This is probably as good as it gets 1half of pressing until they become so gut busting they can keep it gaining . The thing I’ve noticed over the last decade is there’s always an Arsenal player with a mistake in him. I’d suggest this is due to them being 10% off what is required (even when Wenger was treading water ) Arteta has a big job to do that’s for sure

  4. John F

    Dec 29, 2019, 16:26 #115973

    Spot on prediction AM. The ref was dismal and we deserved more out of that game. When teams are in a run of poor results luck and decisions go against them and it is going to take a massive effort to turn this around. The players will be thinking no matter what we do we still fail to get a result and this will create a dangerous state of mind as confidence will drain away. We are now in a relegation battle,

  5. ArsenalMagna

    Dec 29, 2019, 13:26 #115972

    I think today we'll try to press Chelsea in the first 30 mins to grab an early goal. Over the whole match I think the expectation of the home crowd will oblige the team to attack a lot, and Chelsea will just sit back and counter us. 2-1 to them is my feeling sadly. As for VAR, I don't think it's idiotic to have wanted it introduced - I'm an Oxford DPhil and I yearned to see it introduced for many years - it's simply that the current system isn't intelligently applied. Ron, a very intelligent poster, as well as the other smart guys who have posted below, I understand your misgivings about VAR in its current form. I'd add re: offside that the exact point the ball is played can't be 100% pinpointed, so getting pernickety about half a toe is absurd. Also Mahrez getting a pen at Wolves despite the 'foul' not interrupting his momentum is absurd. Both those decisions, however, as well as the many ludicrous handball ones given, are due to the poor design of the system, rather than an inherent and inevitable flaw that video refereeing produces. If VAR stuck to reversing/upholding the decisions 99% of people can agree on, (like Gazzaniga's penalty giveaway not being a foul against him! Imagine if that hadn't been overturned...), then we'd have a great system in place.

  6. Cyril

    Dec 29, 2019, 12:33 #115971

    Unanimous agreement of comments below. The outlaw of yesterday’s goal has now taken an element of art form from the game. The classic bending run to beat the offside trap. We all know that what ever level we played at when up front and running across a defensive back four , you would look at their feet positioning and then arc a run often at an angle with your feet onside. The natural propensity usually means your not vertical when you start. VAR has done the complete opposite of the previous guidance giving the benefit to the forward. QUE? It needs reviewing as J Redknapp stayed. Simply put, I would change the rule to only allow an offside if the feet are literally offside. Job done !!!!

  7. John F

    Dec 29, 2019, 11:47 #115970

    I originally thought VAR was a good idea especially with the thought of the bias that referees have afforded managers like Fergie in the past. Having seen it in action and the delay after each goal ruining the crowd celebration I have changed my mind. A compromise might be to introduce as they do in Cricket a limit to the interventions to say 1 each half per captain on goals or penalty decisions. As for today, we need to concentrate on what is happening below us now as we are edging closer to the bottom 3 and need a win. Chelsea played well against the Spuds and I am going for a draw.

  8. itsRonagain2

    Dec 29, 2019, 11:29 #115969

    Ps. What’s also as boring as hell as listening to that utter prat John Cross loading all of our failings and inadequacies on to Unai Emery and not one mention of reference to his beloved Wenger , the real root of Arsenal’s travails this last 10 year. What a shallow, self promoting, selective little squirt that man is and always has been. Him and that oaf Keown ought to get married.

  9. itsRonagain2

    Dec 29, 2019, 11:24 #115968

    Anybody with half a brain cell knows that football doesn’t and never did need VAR. it’s suited to spoets where thevrules are more scientific such as rugby and cricket and in saying that it is recognised that such sports are staccato and by nature do not ‘ flow’. However , football has got what it’s custodians deserve. The coaches, the players, the sports hacks , the moaning excuse seeking fans for years, nearly all to a man shouted about reffs and demanded ‘ consistency ‘ of decision making across games and demanded the same treatment of the rules by refs week on week across all games yet none had the foresight or the intelligence to realise that footballs rules are loose compared to those other sports I mention and that the fabric and enjoyment of football is what it was largely based on ref s discretion’s , rightly or wrongly applied and added to that , the fun of football is it’s controvery factor that was always given to it by referees decisions and also by arguable things that players do and did in pitches. In my view therefore , all of the airheads that spent years demanding the holy grail of consistency have got what they wanted and now need to shut the f—k up about it and celebrate their wishes being realised. The constant whinging about is typically British and it’s boring.

  10. markymark

    Dec 29, 2019, 11:01 #115967

    VAR offside is effectively based like a sprint or horse race photo finish. That is fine in a decider on a race and accepted by one and all. However With flowing games particularly where they are now adopting phases in offside. It would make an awful lot of sense to change the rule so that a gap is needed to be evidenced at point of strike or do a 50% rule so that 50% of body must be clearly evidenced to be offside.The recent decisions have appeared very harsh to forwards.

  11. Cyril

    Dec 29, 2019, 10:35 #115966

    Dear Editor, in this day and age your Auntie may have a pair of balls and still be your Auntie. On that note, I wish we could go back to the old days pre VAR. It’s ruining everything. The disallowed Pukki goal yesterday was soul destroying as a football fan. His feet were onside and most of his body apart from a bit poking out it seems. Heaven help us! How the tables turn, an Employer in the seventies would highly likely employ the glamorous lady with the massive ‘headlamps’. In this day and age, if you were choosing between the two when recruiting in the woman’s game, your gonna choose the flat chested one . Why ? cos the other one is gonna be permanently offside. Dear Dear! I’m off to the game today and am hoping for a win but see a draw - 2-2. Enjoy!