Alan Alger's opinion on events after every Arsenal match is a must read.
Here's his latest Last Word after the Gunners eased past Newcatle 2-0 at the Emirates on Saturday evening.
I actually consider what happened at the Emirates on Saturday night a victory on three fronts.
A game in which Mikel Arteta could have been in no doubt as to the weaknesses of some of his squad, a game where Auba got back on the scoresheet and also one in which we achieved the main point which is progress in the FA Cup, Arsenal’s cup!
Yes, after the game, Arteta was incredibly diplomatic regarding Willian’s shocking performance, but you’d have to expect that he will have huge reservations about including him in the starting line-up for any important game in the next few months.
The managerial speak, including the line “we’ll keep trying with him”, was hopefully just to keep the player on side.
Because like it or not, with the rate of games we have in this busy season and the amount we are paying him, the ex-Chelsea winger won’t exactly be disappearing from our screens.
FA Cup analysis
The all-round team performance for the regulation 90 minutes wasn’t anywhere near the level we require. I think we had to expect a drop-off from recent league successes when we saw the starting line-up.
I’m assuming the team-talk was addressed to players like Willian, Luiz and Pepe – stating that they’re now in the ‘cup’ squad and it’s only good performances in that team that earn you a league place.
We’ll have to wait until Thursday night at 7pm when the side for our home game against Crystal Palace filters through, but none of that trio seized their chance.
That said, Luiz and Pepe were by no means in the abysmal category that Willian occupied alone.
Pepe is a frustrating player that finds the odd killer-ball or brilliant finish every other game, but hasn’t dominated in the way we’d want a player of his value to.
Now he doesn’t choose his transfer fee and I believe a good player may be lurking in there somewhere, but I can also understand why some fans have lost their patience.
Between that trio there were a number of already fringe players that didn’t seize a chance to go above the more established names in the pecking order.
Joe Willock probably wouldn’t choose Mo Elneny as his ideal partner in the middle of the park, but both of them looked decidedly average. A number of times Elneny decided to pick a backwards pass towards the middle of our defence when there were much better options ahead of him.
I think the Egyptian is no pre-programmed to shift the ball backwards and play it safe and I can’t begin to think how Arteta gets that out of him.
He may still represent a good squad option for cup matches and shoring up games in the league, but he shouldn’t be starting matches with such a negative and conservative approach to his game.
Tierney: The Flying Scotsman
One man we don’t have to worry about being negative and conservative is Keiran Tierney, who definitely should have scooped the FA ‘man of the match’ erroneously awarded to Emile Smith Rowe by the absolutely woeful Danny Murphy on BBC co-commentary.
It wasn’t the only thing erroneously awarded to Smith Rowe, who survived a terrible and eventually VAR reviewed, red card.
Back to our flying left back though, and what a joy to see a player so committed and so up for every single game. I can imagine he wouldn’t want to take a rest even if the boss insisted, although we do have to be mindful of burnout.
The former Celtic man created so many good chances and once he had the measure of Newcastle right-sided defender it was minute after minute of quality crosses. The best of which a triangle move with Granit Xhaka to seal the game with Auba’s late goal.
Twitter overreacts (as usual)
As is always the case with social media, people decided to go overboard and ask if he could be one of our best full-backs of all time.
Let’s just enjoy the player we have on the pitch first! He still has a little bit to learn defending one-on-one with tricky wingers and he can sometimes lose composure when under pressure (look at the clearance he served up to Newcastle in this game), but predictions of a future Arsenal captain and club star shouldn’t be a million miles off.
Ian Wright Wright Wright
Ian Wright summed everything up nicely at the end of the game as the BBC redeemed themselves from the 120-minute Murphy horror show.
Wrighty correctly stated that Arteta had to resort to pretty much his current first-choice line-up to win the game at the end and that’s a lesson learned.
Let’s hope the personnel we see in midweek reflects that lesson.