RELYING ON KIDS, THAT’S THE PLAN + TOP 4 ASSESSMENT, WHERE WE AT? – Le Grove – The Arsenal Opinion Blog

… aaaaaand we’re back here at Agenda FM and today we’re talking about the top 4, kids, and tactical innovation.

Spurs beat Manchester City.

United beat Leads.

Wolves are level with Leicester.

The top 3 won again.

The only club to get a bloody nose this weekend was West Ham United against Newcastle.

So what have we learned?

Well, the Spurs result was probably the most interesting.

In the moment, I was panicked, I took a time out, cried a bit, but after taking a beat, I’m a little calmer about it.

The ‘Conte is Elite’ fans were quick to call time on Arsenal’s season after the result, pointing to the Italian as the genius behind that result, but scratch beneath the surface and I just can’t have that. Antonio is a world-class manager, no doubt, but he’s not getting world-class performances out of this current side. Beating City is a valuable 3 points, but frame it up against their 3 losses to Chelsea and getting beaten by Wolves and Southampton, and you get the measure of the team. City battered Spurs despite playing badly, and they were beaten by 3 goals that came from 4 shots on target. It would have been 4 goals from 5 had the disallowed goal been allowed to stand. That’s not managerial genius, that’s Harry Kane shop windowing himself to a side that he really, really, really wanted to go to last summer. No one scored 75% of their shots against the best defense in the league, that is an aberration and so, so far from sustainable.

Again, big reminder here, Spurs sit 8th, but they are 3 points away from Arsenal. For me, they are still the biggest threat to our top 4 hopes. One slip and they are right back in… and there will be a slip, because that’s the Premier League.

‘HARRY KANE IS SOOOO ELITE’ was the cry after the game, and look, he truly is elite, but this season? Not so much. Big thanks from Agenda FM to Rich in the comments for these stats.

LG COMMENT OF THE DAY

Kane’t the best attacking attacker or striker

Kane
1882 minutes
7 goals
2 assists
Goal contribution every 209 minutes

Smith Rowe
1380 minutes
9 goals
2 assists
Goal contribution every 125 minutes

Lacazette
1122
3 goals
5 assists
Goal contribution every 140 minutes

Saka
1741 minutes
7 goals
4 assists
Goal contribution every 158 minutes

Arsenal fans have a habit of looking at everyone else’s grass and commenting on how lush and green it is… even when that grass is mottled, covered in dog poo, with a naked homeless person on it. We’ve scored 5 more goals than Spurs and scored 5 less. Harry Kane is the boogeyman everyone fears, but he’s been very poor this season because his head has been turned.

It was also amazing after the Brentford game to read people lamenting the Brentford performance and the fact that Saka and ESR had to bail us out with individual brilliance.

Ok… so on the performance. We played a deep-block against a team that had no interest in coming at us. We had 24 attempts at goal, 8 shots on target and we registered an xG of 1.89 according to Scott at Crab Stats. What more could you want from the performance bar a clean sheet?

Now let’s talk about relying on ESR and Saka… they ARE the players we rely on, that is the plan, that isn’t an accident, it shouldn’t be seen as problematic that our number 7 and 10 are doing elite bits in games . That is what they are their for, that is why they have those numbers, those are the players Arsenal put their chips on. If you are asking why we’re relying on young players at this stage of the season, you missed the whole strategy.

Instead of asking if we should be relying on young players like this, the better comment should be, wow, it is phenomenal that ESR are Saka have better goal contributions than Harry Kane with less minutes… the future is very, very bright.

I also wanted to talk more about the general oddness that I see around Arsenal performances from people STILL grinding an ax about the project with 15 games to go.

⚽We rank 3rd for shots p/g (15)
⚽We rank joint 3rd for shots on target p/g (5.2)
⚽We have kept the 3rd most clean sheets (11)
⚽We have the youngest squad in the league (24.5)

Our players are delivering output like the above after only 20 games. We don’t have a proper striker yet. I’m honestly not sure how anyone can be posting on #ArtetaOut.

Remember, we’re at the start of a cycle, most of the teams around us are entering the peak or exiting it, there might be a shift of the world order at some point and we need to be there to pick up the pieces. Liverpool is not what it seems and when they have to renew, it’ll be very interesting to see how that goes. Pep G exiting City will be very difficult to manage because he keeps them to a standard that is too high to maintain under new leadership, then you have Chelsea who are clogging, Spurs who are going to have to deal with Conte for the next 18 months , and United which is a basket case.

For once, we seem like a normal club, capable of being dependent.

A few injuries could change the impression there, but overall, we’re in good shape. I’m going to the Wolves game this week, that really is a huge evening. It’s a #Top4 six-pointer for me. You know I really, really rate Wolves. They are more than capable of damaging us if we’re complacent… but win that, and that feels like a mini Cup final down. That puts us in good shape to hit Watford hard after the break. I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

Arteta went straight for the home fans after the press conference, talking about the Saka and ESR song the fans were belting out during the game. Again, I keep on saying this, but Arsenal fans have been MASSIVE (IRL) this season. The club was really worried about how the toxic online atmosphere of the summer would impact the players that didn’t really like playing at home. Well, they need not have worried. Our home fans have to be considered the most improved this season. The fans are there win or lose, creating noise, backing the young players, building fan > player relationships. That backing is worth xG, nay, it is worth points. This is not normal Arsenal fan behaviour, I sat in toxic stands during project youth, having to listen to our own supporters abusing Theo Walcott at corners. We’re a different breed now, we care about the project, and it’s paying dividends.

Remember, it is easy to be there when we’re winning… the measure of a fan is how they behave when times are tough. How did we behave after the three losses at the start of the season? We backed the boys.

It was also interesting to hear Arteta talk about that mythical week after the first 3 games. He talked about it again after the game. You kind of get the impression that the break was amazing because he learned who was in and who was out with regards to the project. I suspect that impacted how we operated in January with the exits. But however you cut it, the club has been very together ever since.

I wanted to talk about Xhaka, not the captain issue because that is irrelevant. I wanted to talk about Arteta moving him up the pitch. It’s interesting, it feels like we’re preparing for life without him. He plays further up the pitch and makes us less predictable to play against. Ideally, we’d have a more mobile final occupying that role, someone that can do some damage with ball passing and late runs into the box, but it’s interesting that it’s now working, even with Granit in that role.

What I like about all these things is there’s clearly a plan of where the club is going. There have always been reasons we don’t just play like City and they become clearer every time we tweak the system. This summer is going to be another round of hyper-specific signings, I just hope they land with the same impact, especially the striker.

I don’t want to go too deep here… but fuck me, refs, what are they like? I’m still struggling to come to terms with that handball yesterday not being given in our favor. I watched McTominay of United get away with some horrendous stuff today. That Everton non-penalty. It’s a fucking shambles. What makes me laugh about Jon Moss is how arrogant he was about being awful. The man isn’t fit enough, he’s not mobile enough, and he’s not good enough. We need a clean sweep at the top with refs, accountability should be the name of the project.

Right, that’s me done. See you in the comments. Watch the damn podcast.

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