Arteta’s Arsenal Run Out Of Steam

Online Editorial: Defeat to Chelsea in new manager’s first home game

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In essence, a game of two halves. Arsenal won the first, and Chelsea won the second. But ultimately, Mikel Arteta’s side were undone by two things. One he can do very little about – Bernd Leno’s individual error. The second – which led to Chelsea’s winner – was a lack of fitness, or at least that’s how it appeared to these eyes. As the Gunners tired, it seemed that they were having far more trouble dealing with Chelsea’s press, with a drop in movement and concentration. When the counter-attack that led to the winning goal came, Bukayo Saka couldn’t make up the ground to prevent Willian from getting in a cross, leaving Mustafi to deal with scorer Abraham, an unfortunate mismatch.

Arsenal tried to get an equalizer, but it was a case of the spirit being willing, but the flesh weak. They’d run out of steam. Arsenal started well, and were one up thanks to a set piece flicked on by Calum Chambers for Aubameyang to head in. Chambers was injured ten minutes later, and the long stoppage affected the home side’s momentum. Chelsea got more into the game, helped by a switch from five at the back to a four giving them an extra body in central midfield. There was also a lot of tactical fouling, although it felt like Craig Pawson was far more lenient on the visitors awarding them four yellow cards over the 90 minutes in comparison to the five for Arsenal.

Ultimately, Arsenal didn’t deserve to lose this game, and the reality is that they were facing one of the poorest Chelsea sides we have seen for many years. That simply magnifies the task ahead of Mikel Arteta. The crowd got behind the team, the players definitely performed with greater purpose when going forward. They were far less ponderous overall. And yet, old habits die hard. Arteta, like Emery before him, wants his players to play out from the back, but as the game wore on and they became tired, this became more perilous. Chelsea sensed blood and pressed their opponents, who ended up too deep too often. Possession was sacrificed and before the equalizer arrived, you sensed it was only a matter of time. It was simply unfortunate the way it came about – a horrowshow for the keeper, who overall has had a decent season. However, his ability to deal with high crosses has long been a weak point in his game, and something for the new goalkeeping coach to work on.

The fitness thing is less simple. The team are halfway through the season, there isn’t much respite between matches, and the football Arteta demands of his players is taking its toll because, unlike under Unai Emery, they are actually putting in the effort. What they need to do is put games to bed so that they can take the foot off the gas in the second half. They were caught out for Chelsea’s winner due to there being too many bodies upfield as they tried to re-establish a lead.

And of course there are quality issues. Injuries have ravaged the defence, which led to Mustafi playing the majority of this game. The non-selection of Granit Xhaka, reputedly down to illness heavily suggests that he will be moving on before the weekend assuming a price with Hertha Berlin has been agreed. That would allow the club to enter the transfer market to use the money received on a replacement.

Still, the coming weeks and months will see Arteta work to embed the style he wants his players to adopt. And it’s not a mystery. Possession, movement, good use of space, moving the ball forward in triangles for the most part, with pace. It involves a level of fitness the team don’t currently possess, and a mental focus that lasts for 90 minutes that they need to develop. Technically, some of the squad aren't currently up to it, but this can be improved with drills. As for defence, organisation is key as well as eliminating silly errors. Everyone knows this is no overnight fix. Patience will be required before we know if Arteta is going to have the desired effect. The remainder of this season, aside from improving the players and identifying who needs to go, is about getting into 7th place with the hope that the two domestic cups are won by teams in the top six. That would mean Europa League football next season, which financially, the club do need. And of course, there is the wildcard Champions League entry ticket that comes with winning the Europa League itself this May. Arteta has two months to prepare his team for the first knockout round, and having gone through the experience of making the semi-final in 2018 and the final last season, there should at least be some confidence in the players that they can have a decent run in the competition.

It was notable that Josh Kroenke was again in attendance in the directors’ box. He’s been at home matches more regularly in recent weeks. I’m not certain I actually saw any of the board of directors in the box. Some may be away on holiday, although the executive team were all there in force. Arteta had his two new assistants Albert Stuivenberg and Steve Round next to him. I couldn’t spot Freddie Ljungberg on the bench, although he did play a part in the pre-match warm up. The Swede seems to be some way down the pecking order and will have to decide whether he wants to stick around and learn or move on to establish his credentials elsewhere.

Assuming the players have today off, that leaves tomorrow for Arteta to have a training session with any intensity with Wednesday morning used for instruction on a screen and tactics board. There are going to be ups and downs on this journey if Pep Guardiola’s former number 2 is to turn around the fortunes of the club, and it already has the feeling of a bumpy start.

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16
comments

  1. Cyril

    Dec 31, 2019, 06:31 #115992

    AM - I would like to politely take you to task on the previous thread discussion on VAR. I mentioned a solution to this which you feel is absurd. My reasoning in more detail is thus: Deciding to use the feet as the starting point for offside IF VAR remains is valid as all decisions on movement naturally are made with your feet. (Using your brain helps too.) Let’s take the example of a 100 metre sprint- nobody sets up a start by standing vertically or with their shoulders in a backward position unless you are the [cat in the hat]. Joking aside, all starting points will be at an angle to naturally favour you i.e - leaning forward. Perversely in this instance, the opposing defensive player is doing the same thing in a split second in the opposite direction but cannot be penalised as he or she is leaning into neutral zone due to the rules. WiTH VAR as exact science this has handed or more aptly put given the leaning of advantage to the defensive player. This of course is not the intention. This then will mean the forward will need to start the run slightly earlier if the shoulder is going to be offside. Therefore, having a starting point like feet as a reference is a useful reference point. There has been a lot of talk on VAR over the weekend on the very point I started the thread on. It seems the whole of the country has had enough of this too as it’s it a serious matter in the game. The latest murmurings are that VAR should only be used where it is more clear that is offside. But then, why would you need it in the first jeffing place!! No, there will too much prevarication and so if we are to use VAR, then there will need to be a starting point. And in my humble opinion, using feet which will tend to be before most other parts of the body gives the advantage (and our sanity) back to the attacking player.

  2. GoonerRon

    Dec 31, 2019, 00:10 #115991

    @ Ron - I respect your opinion but no way would a relegation be good for the club. More recent history is littered with clubs going down and very rarely rising back to anywhere near their best level again. There probably is a hint of something where supporters are looking for crumbs of comfort because it’s got so bad, but it is indisputable that the two games under Arteta have shown definite areas of improvement. There’s still obviously a massive amount of work to do to re-build, for Arteta to prove himself, for the players to prove themselves, for Edu and Sanllehi to prove themselves and the proof will undoubtedly be in the pudding.

  3. itsRonagain2

    Dec 30, 2019, 23:20 #115990

    It’s laudable looking for positives from that game and scratching away to see if there are any signs of the green shoots of recovery. Be honest guys, we ve Ben here before many times under Wengo when they would dredge a performance up that seemed to fly in the face of the old frauds wondrous philosophy. Here are the truths as I saw it. 40 mins of Arsenal endeavour doing things of trying to do things that were alien to them. 50 mins of Chelsea coming back to eventually throttle Arsenal’s short lived zest. Chelsea were better than Arsenal and whims its true they’re not near the Chelsea of years past, they still carry themselves like a club that’s there or there abouts and who will get closer. It won’t be Lampard that takes them back higher though. He’s a stop gap convenience. Therein lies the difference. Arsenal’s new Coach is charged with being a Messiah. MA will certainly need to delve into his book of miracles to shape that sorry lot up with no cash and an owner that doesn’t give a fuck. AFC need a min of 5 quality players to even start to recover from 12 years of neglect. I respect all of what you lads are saying here but guys, you’re grasping at crumbs like starving men in the arctic of the Wengo wasteland. We ll do well to finish 16 th. At risk of being too extreme, there s a case to make at the club that relegation could be beneficial in the long term. A chance to start again with a clean slate. The history of football is littered with eg s of clubs who slipped and fell at alarming rates over many Seasons and who went down to give themselves the chance to give their clubs a re birth, to inject oxygen into a dying carcass so to rise again like a phoenix after cleansing themselves of their dross and flotsam Maybe the time has come for our once fabulous club to do the same. With respect, this talk of Europa Leagues and FAC s etc? Don’t be silly. It’s fanciful. Arsenal are winning sweet fuck all with this bunch of hapless non entities.

  4. CORNISH GOONER

    Dec 30, 2019, 19:26 #115989

    Sorry, didn't mean to offend but I think you are being unduly pessimistic. I would love to see the back of the unloveable Stanley & Jnr. But I think we might have struck gold with Arteta who isn't just about soundbites & seems to have something a bit special - unless we ignore Pep & others opinions. I have not a clue about Mr. Round but is he not a stats man rather than a coach? I have approx. 70 years of supporting L'Arse with far more downs than ups & am feeling very positive that, at long last, overdue change is a-coming.

  5. blair207

    Dec 30, 2019, 17:42 #115988

    I wish it was comedy. Our points total is lower than Everton and Newcastle, let that sink in, take all the time you need. We can’t buy a win, we can’t defend, we have only one goalscorer who is consistent, and he rarely scores more than one goal in a game. We have a trainee manager with ZERO experience of the situation we are in. We have owners with ZERO practical football knowledge. We have Steve Round on the coaching staff who was David Moyes right hand man at Old Trafford and coached proven multiple title winning players into also rans. What’s so funny about pointing that out?

  6. GoonerRon

    Dec 30, 2019, 15:16 #115987

    The ref bottled it - he booked AMN and Torreira for identical fouls - everyone instinctively knew it was a second yellow (hell, even Lampard admitted it was). He makes the right decision there and we win the game. For their winner, as Willian plays the first ball into Abraham near half way Mustafi HAS to go with him and wipe him out, take a yellow and stop the counter - the only fucking time you want Mustafi to go to ground he stays on his twatting feet! Definite signs of improvement - the first 30 minutes were the best we’ve played for ages and even after that we had a good shape, discipline and restricted them. Gutted we lost.

  7. Gaz

    Dec 30, 2019, 15:07 #115986

    Two things. Firstly effort and commitment should be a given whenever an Arsenal shirt is put on and I’m becoming increasingly pissed off by these same players being praised for something that should be guaranteed regardless of who the manager is. Let’s be blunt if these sane players had applied the same effort and commitment in every game this season we wouldn’t be in a relegation dog fight. And let’s be clear after losing our last four home games and a run of one win in fifteen that’s exactly where we are right now.

  8. CORNISH GOONER

    Dec 30, 2019, 14:40 #115985

    I don't agree that this is one of the poorest Chelsea sides for many years. However, our lack of fitness is a real concern & clearly demonstrates what a holiday camp our club has become - Liverpool play match after match with intensity & virtually unchanged teams so, for me, our horrendous injury list plus the apparent lack of match fitness is an additional worry for Mikel to deal with BUT I am very impressed that already change is apparent. So not all gloom & doom & even Luiz, imo, had a good game along with Torreira, Maitland-N, Nelson & others. I also enjoyed Blair207's post - high comedy indeed! Any relation to Tone by any chance?

  9. Pauljames

    Dec 30, 2019, 14:06 #115984

    Ernie it was a clear refereeing mistake, confirmed by Dermot Gallagher on sky today , and Torreira was booked just minutes before for a carbon copy of Jorginho s “ challenge “. Basically Pawson bottled it. I agree Chelsea had more shots but did they really look like scoring prior to Bernd s moment of madness? Not really . Make no mistake this was 3 points that got away.

  10. Ernie71

    Dec 30, 2019, 13:57 #115983

    "Ultimately, Arsenal didn’t deserve to lose this game" Dont know what game you were watching Kevin? Arsenal played well for half an hour but once Lampard saw it wasnt working he made a tactical change and the game changed.Lampard wasnt afraid to make that early change while Arteta on the other hand waited till the 76th minute to make a tactical sub. Lacazette who was poor and Ozil should have been removed after an hour The second half Chelsea dominated oh Arsenal have been crying out for a player like Kante since Vieira left.The summer Chelsea bought Kante we bought Xhaka that just about sums the latter years of Wenger up. Even though Arsenal were the home team Chelsea had twice as many shots and twice as many on target as us.Arsenal had two shots on target but none after the our goal . And thats been the big problem in the previous 3 games we has a combined total of 5 shots on target. And Arsenal fans stop moaning about the referee the Jorginho non second yellow when he didnt send Guendouzi off for that foul in the box on Abrahams

  11. Pauljames

    Dec 30, 2019, 13:51 #115982

    If Craig Pawson had done his job and dismissed Jorginho we would probably have won, so we can add bad luck to our already lengthy list of problems . Would Chambers have done better than Mustafi on the winner ? Probably. That performance level over the last 18 games should be good enough to keep us up at least, but I think finishing seventh is optimistic to say the least Kevin .

  12. Colonel Blimp

    Dec 30, 2019, 12:33 #115981

    Running out of steam or no, the critical point of the game for us was Willock's miss that would have made it 2-0, a shocking attempt it was too.

  13. John F

    Dec 30, 2019, 11:59 #115980

    It reminded me of Liverpool when Klopp first took over. They would try to play at a fast tempo and worked extremely hard at closing down hoping that their forwards could take advantage before they would tire in the second half, unfortunately for us, our forwards failed to capitalise. Klopp worked with what he had but he knew he needed to add or improve his players and the same applies to Arteta. He is working without a recognised full-back and inexperienced players playing alongside players with a lack of quality. He is not a miracle worker. The worry is can he turn it around before it is too late.

  14. blair207

    Dec 30, 2019, 11:34 #115979

    It doesn’t matter how fit Luiz and Mustafi are, they are a liability. Arteta is totally out of his depth as are the Kroenkes. This is turning into a horror show. Big Sam should have been appointed to stop the defensive rot and save the season and then build from there with a proper manager. When I heard Steve Round had been I appointed I could not believe it. This is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  15. ArsenalMagna

    Dec 30, 2019, 11:26 #115978

    Just to add too, I think Arteta was right in saying that Chelsea didn't have a single clear chance before their goal, which is testament to the quality of the defensive performance. It was, I think, a combo of tiredness on our part and having a lead to defend, that allowed Chelsea to dominate possession; but as we know, having and using possession are two very different things.

  16. ArsenalMagna

    Dec 30, 2019, 11:13 #115977

    Multiple ways to interpret yesterday's game. On the last article I predicted 2-1 Chelsea and that we would press for the first 30 mins going for an early goal - I said that because it's generally what technically inferior teams seeking the win do to overcome superior opponents; athleticism through fast closing down and offensive runs offsets the technical disparity between two sides. However, after 30 mins you could say Chelsea asserted themselves well, or that we let them dominate the ball because we were comfortably defending a lead, maybe a combination of both. That was the best defensive performance I've seen us make for years, in any case. They didn't look threatening to me, thanks to really dedicated blocking and closing down. What's interesting though is whether this new-found commitment is just a new manager bounce or Arteta's philosophy making itself felt already, which will be long-lasting. All we can ask is Arteta get us performing and he did that vs Chelsea and Bournemouth - if we build on the positives from these two games we could come back stronger than we ever were under Wenger post 2008. Fitness is a worry - don't forget the final games of last season the players were dead on their feet, and playing a less physically demanding style of football. We need to start winning games again and quickly. Post Man United at home is when Arteta will have more time to work with the team and easier fixtures.