Arsenal moved into 4th place in the Premier League, all on their own, with no one that can catch us with games in hand… and more tantalizingly, we’re a point clear in 4th and there’s no one behind us that can catch up if they win their games in hand.
Look at that form. 5 games on the bounce. Our is form only matched bye Liverpool and Chelsea. What Arteta is doing with this young squad is absolutely outstanding.
The Leicester game was a stern test, have no doubts about it. We played out game on the Sunday, so we had to win knowing United had picked up points and there was an opportunity to make moves on Spurs.
The team delivered.
Arteta rolled with a familiar line-up. After trying 38 different offerings last year, he’s found his winning formula and it’s working.
The boys flew out of the traps, the battered Leicester for the opening 25 minutes, nicking a goal on 16 minutes when Gabriel Martinelli punched in a near post cross for Thomas Partey. Nic Jover has more than earned his corn this season, that was right off the training field. It was even nicer to see that we’ve faced 119 corners this season and not conceded from a single one. That is exceptional coaching and world class discipline from our whole team.
The game took a bit of a turn. Nerves got the better of the players, they stood off Leicester, and the midlands club took advantage of our right side. There were some close calls. Ramsdale had one moment of heroism, tipping a Dewsbury-Hall top corner header over the bar. Maddison was also allowed to whip some awkward balls into the box.
I thought Arsenal were pedestrian, but really, those moments we suffered were just the reality of having a young squad that lacks experience. You have to learn how to absorb the bad moments of the game. That takes time. We’re building up our in-game XP as we move through the season.
The second half must have had a good team talk. The bravery flooded back, we snapped into the press, and we started opening Leicester up again. On another day, with sharper finishing, that game is 5-0.
Our second came from a penalty. The players flagged that Soyuncu touched a header from Thomas Partey. I’m sure the officials didn’t want to give it even though it was clear. The decision took an age, the ref had to go the monitor, once they realized there was no other choice or rule they could invoke, the spot kick was given. Lacazette buried the penalty sticking it top bins, it was a great way to cap off the afternoon.
Leicester had nothing after that. Arsenal held their nerve. There was some proper in-game management going on. We took the drama out of the game, players time wasted, everyone avoided doing stupid things.
The 3 points landed well with the home fans. The players celebrate a clean sheet and a massive win. We head into the Liverpool game a little more free.
The clear and obvious plaudits will go to Odegaard, Saka and Thomas Partey. They were sensational. Thomas Partey was everything to the midfield. He looked the £45m player we’ve been waiting for. Gone are the 4/10 performances, we’re not watching a consistent 11/10. He pins that entire midfield, he cannot be stopped. The man is fully press resistant. It’s so exciting to watch a happy player doing his thing.
Martin Odegaard gets better and better. He’s gone from exceptional technician, to something that feels more magical like. Each game he adds a little more swagger, the passes he picks, the concentration he carries through the game, and the confidence he gives everyone. He is easily a top 5 player in the league right now.
I’ll say it again: Do you remember the people that said he was boring? Remember those that abused him so much he had to shut his instagram? Where are you now?
Bukayo Saka is also moving to another level. He didn’t score a goal or assist yesterday, but it’s hard to look at the way he’s playing now and not be totally blown away by his talent and maturity. He moves with such grace and elegance, he brings others into the game, the speed of thought… watching him interplay with Odegaard is pure footballing joy.
I will skip into a bit of tough love. Gabriel Martinelli has a lot of energy, but his end product right now is a touch on the bland side. He has the power to get into great positions, but that final ball or decision on a strike is often a little late. His game intelligence isn’t in the same league as ESR, Saka and Odegaard. What Arsenal fans have to remember is that he’s only 20 years old. We cannot expect everyone to hit the ground running like Emile and Bukayo. The Brazilian will come good, he just has to work at his game. When the speed of thought matches what he’s body is doing… we’re going to have some player.
Let’s also give a shout out to the players at the back doing the dirty with a grin. We have defenders that save us points now. Ben White’s awareness stopped Maddison in the first half. Aaron Ramsdale pulled off a worldie save again to keep our momentum going. KT nipped in when he sniffed danger. When your defense is that attuned to the game, you know the culture at the club is firing on all cylinders. Every single one of our defenders is accountable. Cleansheets is everyone’s responsibility. It is a marvel. We’re a club that can defend, who’d have thought that was coming after Wenger and Emery?
Before I launch two footed into the project, say a little prayer for the Arsenal fans that spent all summer purring over Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumaré, saying that Leicester were now bigger than Arsenal. Martin Odegaard vs James Maddison might have been the one fair debate of the summer, not so much now, right? Leicester are 18 points behind, they’ve conceded 45 goals, we’ve just done the double over them.
This weekend, we have the chance to go 18 points ahead of Aston Villa. Football London reported that Emi Martinez, who shares the same agent as Emi Buendia, was a contributing factor to where the exNorwich player landed. Who is talking about the Argentine creator this season?
Let’s hope this side can continue making statements to all the doubters because it’s time to accept the Arteta Project has banged, there is still some way to go, there are still tough games to come, but we’re a formidable side to play against. I spent 18 months reading ‘WHEN YOU GONNA ADMIT THIS PROJECT IS SHIT’, ‘ARTETA IS A TERRIBLE COACH’. and ‘YEAH, PROPER SAUCY PEDRO’… I don’t read that much anymore. Mikel Arteta has sauce by the bucket load and it’s moved from Mayonnaise to something extremely high on the Scoville meter.
Think about this:
- We have the youngest team in the league
- We have one of the meanest defenses for the second season running
- We have one of the most potent attacks with a striker that doesn’t score in open play
- We are 4th place on March 14th
Imagine we didn’t have that horrendous COVID outbreak at the start of the season?
As Matt said on the podcast, if someone had offered you deliverable two years ago, would you have accepted it taking 2 years to get there?
You’re damn fucking right you would have.
We are now in a position where most Arsenal fans, rightly or wrongly, think we can have a crack at Liverpool this week. That’s progress in and of itself.
That game will be massive. Arteta will need a different game plan, it likely won’t be pretty, but teams like West Ham and Inter Milan have shown very clearly that if you break fast and get in behind Liverpool, their discipline goes out the window and they get rattled.
I appreciate it’s easier said than done, Liverpool are the best side in the world at the moment, but Arteta has shown once this year already that giving a good account of yourself, even in defeat, can be a huge boost for the project.
Right, that’s all I have time for. Please throw your ear lugs at our latest podcast.
It was a fun one. Johnny agreed with Jamie O’Hara, Matt purred over the joy of being an Arsenal fan, and I talked about Elden Ring. Give us a 5* rating, subscribe to the Youtube, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. x