Good afternoon all, hope you guys are having a great week!
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the best weekend/week for me…. Just like when Covid hit in March 2020 leading to game cancellations for 2 months, it once again made me realize how important football is in my life. Whether Arsenal are winning, or losing, what I look forward to most is the 1-2 games we play during the week. When that doesn’t happen, there’s a bit of a void. And I’m sure that some of you can relate to this too!
I feel most for the fans who spent months planning to come to the Everton and PSV game. They had hotels and flights booked and were ready to live their life dream, to watch The Arsenal playing live. I hope you get to experience the atmosphere at the Emirates very soon, just like every Arsenal fan should at some point in their lives. Apologies for going off on a tangent…..
Arsenal have started this season really well, all things considered. 7 games played in all competitions. 6 wins and just the solitary defeat at Old Trafford where we actually had a fantastic performance. Despite this defeat, the manner of our display made me believe that we’re truly a team on the rise.
Let’s get into some of the key learnings/takeaways from our season so far.
The best starting 11 is PHENOMENAL:
Right from pre-season, Mikel Arteta has been pretty clear about his preferred starting 11. Interestingly, the 11 that started in the pre-season fixtures against Chelsea and Sevilla also started the first 3 league games for Arsenal. We won all of these games, playing with great control for large periods. This was of course disrupted after injuries to Thomas Partey and Zinchenko. But with Partey back to training now and expected to return to action soon, I expect Arteta will revert to this team that has proved to be a resounding success.
Saka quietly influential, Martinelli making a HUGE step-up:
Bukayo Saka has come under criticism from certain sections of the fanbase, but he has been quietly influential for Arsenal in his own way this season. Until the recent games, he had little support from the full-back and was playing high, wide and always getting teamed up by opposition players. Given these circumstances, he has played just fine.
Saka was involved in our second goal Vs Palace, the Xhaka goal Vs Leicester City, Odegaard’s second Vs Bournemouth, Odegaard’s equalizer Vs Fulham and Martinelli’s winner Vs Aston Villa. The goal against Man United was long overdue and well deserved.
His fellow winger, Gabriel Martinelli is taking his game to another level this season. 3 goals in his first 6 games is a good start from him in addition to everything else that he does. Gabi looks in phenomenal shape physically.
Eddie’s cameos off the bench:
What I’ve loved a lot this season is the energy Eddie brings off the bench. Totally changed the game against Fulham when we were a goal down and gave us a different dynamic. When we had to close out the game against Aston Villa, he did similar – fantastic centre-forward play when we had to defend a goal lead. Got an assist and goal against FC Zurich. When he gets chances, he typically makes it count.
Duh Duh Duh Salibaaa:
Saliba has not just been a revelation, he’s also brought a real feel-good factor to this side. The love the Emirates crowd showed him after his own goal Vs Leicester City was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever witnessed.
He isn’t the finished product yet (which centreback is at 21?) but we have a world-class player on our hands. One of the best U-21 defenders in world football. He brings a sense of calmness to the side with his commanding style. Need that contract extension announced ASAP!
Tactical flexibility in defence:
Last season, we were screwed when Tierney picked up his injury. No disrespect to Nuno who I think can be a top player on his day, but he lacked the experience to step up in the key moments. With Zinchenko and Tierney, we have 2 top left backs.
Tierney has the qualities to be a very good sub option off the bench when we need to close out games, like Palace (A) for example. Zinny on the other hand helps us keep and progress the ball from deep in a manner that few left-backs are capable of doing. What a signing!
Similarly, if we’re to look at the right back, we were forced to play Cedric here last season when Tomi was unavailable. But with the addition of Saliba in central defence, we have the flexibility to use White at right back who provides very similar characteristics to Tomiyasu and is able to play the inverted right back role to a very high level.
The role Xhaka is playing currently brings out the best in him. He has many strengths but his engine for me is his biggest quality. He simply doesn’t tire. Weekend-midweek-weekend. No problem. Availability is an underrated aspect of football and this is something that Xhaka has always had.
I would go as far as saying that this is his best run of games with Arsenal since joining us 6 years ago.
Gabriel Jesus’ impact:
Finally, Arsenal have a competent starting #9. Gabriel Jesus is a striker that can run for starters, something we didn’t have previously. As harsh as it may sound, Alex Lacazette held back the team in numerous ways. He didn’t over anything in behind and was a non-existent presence in the box.
With Jesus, we now have what I’d like to call the chaos factor and this enables us to create something out of nothing. The opener Vs Leicester City and Bournemouth are clear examples of the quality of Jesus.
Set piece improvements under Nicolas Jover:
Arsenal’s offensive set pieces have been simply phenomenal. Defensively, we only conceded one goal from a set piece so far, against Aston Villa when Douglas Luiz scored from the corner. However, it was a clear foul on Ramsdale so we cannot read too much into it.
Still, I believe we’ve looked shaky in recent games on set pieces and need to work on defensive scenarios more. Brentford will punish us if we weren’t decisive.
Potential squad depth issues and internal solutions:
I was disappointed with the ending to the window. I made an entire article on transfer market approach that you can read right here. Ultimately, we are short in the #6 position and needed that extra wide player to bolster the team. If Saka picks up an injury (hopefully he doesn’t ever), we have the option to play Jesus on the right and Eddie up front. Furthermore, we have Marquinhos who really looks like a gem of a player. This is something that was echoed by Granit Xhaka.
Speaking on Arsenal’s official Matchday programme, taken Via Bleacher Report, he said:
“He reminds me of Gabi Martinelli when he first came.”
“Everyone was saying ‘yeah he will go to the under-23s first’ and stuff like this, but how Gabi adapted at this level was unbelievable, and I have the same feeling with Marquinhos as well.
“For his age, he is very developed physically, very fast, good left foot. Of course, he needs to adapt to this level first, this country as well, but I see a big future for this guy.”
The good news though, is that Partey is back in training as we exclusively reported a couple weeks ago. Hopefully, we can make it into the World Cup relatively unscathed!
Thanks for reading and as always, see you in the comments below! 🙂