Arsenal’s Second Half Fill Yer Boots Session Brings Joy To The Emirates

Online Editorial: Newcastle dispatched 4-0 as all of ‘big four’ find the net

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No question it was a classic game of two halves yesterday afternoon at the Emirates. And the first half wasn't pretty as you pondered the tangible benefit of the break in Dubai, such was the pace of Arsenal’s football. Only one chance of real note was created, with Eddie Nketiah shooting tamely at the Newcastle keeper. The visitors looked more dangerous, although in fairness, this did look like two teams that were struggling for goals.

Arteta made some interesting calls in his starting eleven. Dani Ceballos in for Torreira, and Eddie Nketiah selected ahead of Alexandre Lacazette at centre-forward. Shkodran Mustafi looks like the first choice central defensive partner of David Luiz now, whilst Bukayo Saka retained his place in spite of the return to fitness of Sead Kolasinac. We wait to see how much rotation there is when the Gunners travel to Greece for the Europa League knockout game on Thursday.

Ceballos kept the ball moving, which one suspects was why he was picked. Arteta needed to find something that would lead to more productive interplay with his attacking quartet. In truth though, the biggest difference in this regard was Mesut Ozil, who was not only active, he was highly influential, finding space and using it. Most of this though, was after the interval. The Gunners notably upped the pace at which they were doing things and in the 54th minute opened the scoring.

There’s an interesting debate here. Does the effect Arteta often seems to have with his instructions at half-time make him an excellent coach? Or is that view somewhat coloured by the fact his team are often disappointing in the opening 45 minutes? Shouldn’t they be prepared and mentally right from the first kick of the game? If Arsenal continue winning matches, then we’ll accept the poor starts, but so far, it feels like a part of the reason that so many points have been dropped. The team only seem to play in spells rather than controlling matches more in both halves. Early days though.

The second half was the kind of thing we like to see, with the club’s four most expensive signings all finding the net. The 4-0 scoreline did flatter the home side, but we’ll take it. Newcastle could easily have scored twice when the game stood at 2-0. Bukayo Saka justified his selection with an excellent assist for the second goal, doing a nutmeg to beat his man on the flank. Pepe was in position to finish with ease. We had to wait until the game was almost over for goals three and four. By this time, the line-up had a more familiar feel with Torreira and Lacazette having come on for Ceballos and Nketiah. The latter is still finding his way, but at least got into position to have two efforts which were definitely convertible.

It’s difficult to imagine the club won’t try to sell Aubameyang in the summer, unless he suddenly decides to extend his stay, which looks unlikely. We’ll get an idea between now and then whether Nketiah is likely to have a future at the club, but right now, you’d say that what is most plausible is that Martinelli will replace Aubameyang positionally (especially given the relationship he has developed with Saka) with the hope that Lacazette re-finds his scoring touch. The number 9 set up Ozil for his goal after a multi-pass move which apparently featured every Arsenal player touching the ball, and at the death, managed to find the net himself to complete the rout.

On a miserable day, weather-wise, the storm had calmed by the time the fans made their way out of the stadium, and it must be hoped that things become less choppy, results-wise for Arteta’s players. They still have plenty to play for in the immediate weeks. Progress in the two cup competitions certainly looks achievable, whilst the run of fixtures in the Premier League does allow for the possibility of a winning sequence which could at least make the concluding games of the season in the league more meaningful. Don’t think that missing out on Europe completely next season is a definite plus. The Europa League really does make a difference in what the club will be able to afford to do in the summer.

The next five Premier League matches are Everton (home), West Ham (home), Brighton (away), Southampton (away) and Norwich (home). The aim really has to be to collect 15 points here and have 49 points as a platform going into the last seven fixtures (Wolves, Leicester, Man City, Spurs, Liverpool, Villa and Watford). Arteta has a big enough squad to rotate a little, but for the most part, I’d hope that momentum and wins will combat fatigue. The next two matches (Olympiacos away and Everton next Sunday) will tell us plenty about whether the remainder of the season could be as enjoyable as yesterday’s second half.


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  1. markymark

    Feb 18, 2020, 23:29 #116536

    Looks like UEFA are now widening their investigations into City. The forensic accountants will be all over them . Whatever City say it will be massive disruption. From what I hear UEFA got to see an email from a City insider celebrating the death of one of the investigators . A sort of 1 down 3 more to go quip. No matter whatever level of business you’re at theirs always one moron just ready to dump you in it with an ill conceived email / Tweet etc.

  2. ArsenalMagna

    Feb 18, 2020, 16:10 #116535

    @Ron I agree that the neurosis over handball is a blight on football. Body shape in football is so important, and yet it gets thrown out the window to avoid a handball offence being committed. The worst thing is that handball isn't a nifty, dirty tactic that has been developing over the years, which sees players getting an unfair advantage - it's just an irrational obsession by fans, refs and media. Seeing handball given for almost anything now is madness, as is seeing players tuck their arms behind their backs and losing balance. You only have to look at the new rule saying even accidental handball in the buildup makes a goal illegitimate to see how absurd is this obsession. Obviously we have our differences of view re: VAR, which I think could operate well with more intelligent usage. I think another thing to mention though is that there's a whole undercurrent of corruption dominating football now - the World Cup going to Qatar, the 2012 CL draw which was identical for its practice ceremony as the real one (2 million to one odds on that one...) etc. I don't know if you saw Chelsea vs United last night, but it beggars belief that the ref and VAR team were from Manchester (and it showed in their decisions...)

  3. markymark

    Feb 18, 2020, 08:21 #116534

    Hi Ron - lose / win, lose / win puts you 2 points ahead to 4 draw’s in the row rather than back in the days it was evens . Does create volatility doesn’t it with Chelsea suffering 30% more defeats yet 6 positions above us. Tottenham might be looking to kill of Chelsea over the weekend. A win against Everton ( not easy ) will be massive for us

  4. itsRonagain2

    Feb 17, 2020, 23:47 #116533

    Hi Marky. Not surprised to hear that. There are very persuasive arguments that support the view that 3 points given for a win coupled with the no back pass rule spelt the death knell for good defending. Lots of rule changes have come in between too. We ve reached the ridiculous hand ball rule now and VAR to speed through the relatively modern history of football while of course the game has sold its integrity to television, both of which are scattering the dust and dirt onto defendings coffin.

  5. markymark

    Feb 17, 2020, 20:27 #116532

    I’ve realised that if we still played 2 Pts for a win and 1 for a draw we’d actually be having a pretty reasonable season . No ones lost less than 6 all the way up to City . It’s the win ratio that’s killed us. Could point to a very good 2020-21 season if that can be improved

  6. markymark

    Feb 17, 2020, 15:10 #116531

    Least with MA we know he’ll not think twice of hoiking out players if they don’t put in the effort. From his latest comments he bases the team around their training. Guendouzi wasn’t trying hard enough in training so lost his place. One presume Ozil must be excellent in training? Next season will probably see the loss of Auba, Ozil possibly one or two others . It appears to be slowly coming together. Particularly without the rubbish over 4 captains and mixed messages from Emery

  7. itsRonagain2

    Feb 17, 2020, 14:36 #116530

    Right with you Paul. Better chance to rebuild properly then and no more Thurs/Sunday rubbish which is a barrier to good team building in my view. Add to that, its now a 2nd class micky mouse cup in truth isnt it. UEFA ruined a perfectly good Cup tournament that even now should be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in my view.

  8. Pauljames

    Feb 17, 2020, 13:27 #116529

    Nice report Kevin but I disagree on the importance of qualifying for next years EL. Yes it’ll cost us a few quid being out of Europe but it will almost certainly help us to achieve a top four finish next season which has to be the aim.We can do what Leicester are doing this season, and benefit from fewer games.

  9. itsRonagain2

    Feb 17, 2020, 12:45 #116528

    AM - I thnk he and others think Ozil is an addendum to a midfield really, not expected to do the hard yards and there to find the killer pass. For me, he does that v teams who stand off him and who do not have robust, hard running mid-fields of their own ie most of the better teams. When faced with them, he disappears from games. Im with you, the Ozil experiment hasn't worked and failed 4 or 5 years ago really. As you say, he OK in a team that insulates him with far better players than we have, as he had with Germany and Real Madrid at their best. Hes too old now to build a team around at Arsenal anyway isnt he.

  10. ArsenalMagna

    Feb 17, 2020, 12:29 #116527

    I have to say I'm not really impressed with Ozil. Having him in the team can only damage Arteta's proclaimed philosophy of hard work being 'non-negotiable'. Sure, he looks great when the rest of the team dominate the game for him, but that can only happen in spells given the athleticism it requires. We'll need better players to dominate the game for 90 mins. That said, I think we're really close to a complete squad. If we had a starting XI of Leno, Bellerin, Upamecano (£60m), Mari/Vertonghen (£7m/signing on fee), Tierney, Ndidi (£60m), Ceballos (£50m), Pepe, Laca (as a 10), Martinelli/Saka share the left wing, and then Auba or his replacement as a 9, that's a quality team that would be at least the third strongest in the league. We could sell Xhaka and Torreira to help fund those purchases too.

  11. itsRonagain2

    Feb 17, 2020, 12:26 #116526

    GR - Take a read of Keowns BBC web site stuff. Replete with its barely guarded resentment of MA and even worse, its underlying tone of 'how good things were under Wengo' and how we ve learned how score goals as we did under Wengo again!

  12. itsRonagain2

    Feb 17, 2020, 11:36 #116525

    In the main ,I've stopped listening to any of them a considerable while ago matey, depending on my own tolerance level on any given day and also on whos talking. I didnt hear him yesterday. As you say, hes ok some times, but other times he transports himself back to 1978 ish era too much for me. He s got a point about Ozil and we ve all all made that point haven't we. Largely these pundits and writers spout out only what we ve all said on blogs and to each other over many years. They sit there wanting to be seen to in the loop and contemporaneously as TV expects them to be while they sit there on that fat arses espousing pointless drivel for the most part. At least he was a really good player and hasnt needed to spend his years on the TV re inventing himself to be remembered as being some thing that he never was aka Keown, Redknapp, Morrison Cole and Kewell and Co. That rabble all think we ve suffered acute and serious memory loss since the days that they flattered to deceive on a football pitch with their moderate and ordinary performances, year in year out (when they were actually on the pitch of course and not laid up on a treatment couch).

  13. GoonerRon

    Feb 17, 2020, 11:16 #116524

    @ Ron2 - too right. Graeme Souness is a decent pundit in some ways but he did my head in yesterday. Bleating on about why can’t Arteta get Ozil to ‘do it’ in every game? I’d love for the presenter to ask him ‘considering you failed miserably at almost every club you managed, what would you do in Arteta’s position?’. Thats why you’re sat on the couch, Graeme and not in the dugout.

  14. itsRonagain2

    Feb 17, 2020, 10:43 #116523

    GR - Agree with you. MA has started at the right place - tightening us up. Basically what supporters, critics and all and sundry used to implore Wengo and Dick to do until we were going green in the gills. It will take time and a transfer window or 2 to perfect wont it. Media mugs still looking to cast doubt on MAs work so far though. Blind cretins most of them though. Same as it always been throughout my life. Oppo supporters, Silly newspapers, media and the World and his dog love to doubt us and knock us when we re stirring from a slumber and i love them all to bits for it. It means they're wary and frightened once more. Basically, every negative noise we hear from the odious SKY TV or from wherever is a positive in my book.

  15. Bard

    Feb 17, 2020, 10:28 #116522

    I agree Ron. I think it's the mental strength that makes the difference. They all have ability otherwise they wouldn't be at the club but its bring strong enough to play at a higher level. Let's nail him down on a long contract.

  16. GoonerRon

    Feb 17, 2020, 10:11 #116521

    8 goals conceded in the last 11 games in all comps is massively improved on the Emery days and keeps us in games like yesterday when we didn’t get properly going until the second half. Newcastle are no mugs this season so it wasn’t completely surprising that they held us at bay for long periods. With the team selection and squad omissions yesterday Arteta seems to be backing up what he’s been preaching about those that train well will get game time. I thought Pepe’s work off the ball was the best I’ve seen so hopefully him being dropped for Burnley had the desired effect. Likewise Matteo being dropped might wring more out of him. These next few fixtures will be key in us having any chance of competing for CL places as teams around us are playing each other - Chel v MU, Chel v Spuds, Spuds v Wolves, Chels v Everton, Spuds v MU all coming up soon.

  17. itsRonagain2

    Feb 17, 2020, 09:59 #116520

    Hi Bard - They need to get Saka pinned down dont they. Hes clearly 'got it' in the same way as Martinelli has hasnt he. Some times its easy to see a really good player in the making isnt it. Some players can show it later in their careers but of the school of thought that if you cant see it straight away, the said players unlikely to reach any impressive levels. Saka, has balance, ball control, physicality and a mature game nous already. Very impressive. He ll be ripe for being picked off though unless they make staying a real imperative for the lad.

  18. Bard

    Feb 17, 2020, 09:52 #116519

    Excellent second half. Saka looks a terrific prospect. I agree Auba is likely to be on his way. I wonder whether MA is assessing whether we have enough without going into the market for a striker. I thought Mustafi and Ozil had good games for once. Overall I suspect they are all auditioning to be here next season. As you said in a previous post if we dont get into the ropey league we are screwed. We wont have any money to buy anyone. Anyway that's for another day.

  19. itsRonagain2

    Feb 17, 2020, 09:32 #116518

    Hi Kev. A good win. Lots of sesire and effort from the players and a work ethic. Its been so long since we could say we ve seen that isnt it. This period reminds me a lot of that period from 1968 - 70. We had a few players then who we knew woiuldnt see a long future with us but the sleeping giant was clearly stirring. We had become tighter and goals were a bit hard to come by but the mid 60s flakiness was clearly disappearing and being replaced by a gritty toughness. It led to the 1971 team. Lets hope, the Wengo cobwebs, lethargy and general weediness are finally being banished 12 years after he and his cohorts sowed the seeds. The signs are good.