There’s been a few media rumblings about how Arteta has only won two of his seven games in charge as Arsenal manager. It’s stat loading where its not necessary but if it gives somebody an angle they’ll take it. Which is why there will be another round of journos and writers chucking in the fact that we have drawn yet another game after last night’s late equaliser at Stamford Bridge, but that in no way tells the story. The result, in no way, tells the story.
The story here is of a team decimated by injuries, a man down inside 25 minutes and a goal down as well; double punishment away from home and as I spoke to my mate Ben at halftime, I said that I didn’t feel like watching the second half. After all, we’ve seen this play out a few times, haven’t we? You know the story; Arsenal go a man down away from home, wilt, then get served an absolute pasting by one of the better teams as they press their foot hard down on our necks and punish us for our poor defenders and man disadvantage. It wasn’t a fun 15 minutes and I dreaded what was about to happen in the second half.
Except it didn’t. Wilting? Nope, not Arteta’s Arsenal. ‘Not tonight’ this collective of Arsenal players said and the result was two shots and two goals having largely been forced to defend for our lives last night. It was brilliant to watch and this morning there won’t be many Arsenal fans that will be lamenting our 12th draw in the league this season.
That’s because this team formed a metaphorical roman ‘tortoise’ (when they all lock shields together), united in one, and staved off any attacks from a Chelski team who when they did get through to Leno, were stopped by our German, who certainly atoned for his blunder in the last game (that Ross Barkley header was a great save from Leno). The team were organised, difficult to break down, worked their socks off and got the reward.
And the reward was a slice of that ‘luck’ that I’ve been whinging that we hadn’t got much of lately. A Mustafi header out from a corner falls to Gabriel Martinelli, and the kid gets fortunate with a Kante slip but the rest is all on him. Bear in mind that he was running with the ball at his feet – which naturally slows you down – and he still outpaced all of the defenders behind him.
Martinelli is certainly the bright spark for this season. He’s a kid who was playing in minor leagues in Brazil who has been plucked out of nowhere and now has himself into double figures. That’s two in two for him as well and he’s essentially guaranteed himself a start away to Bournemouth. He’s out only other goal threat at the moment apart from Aubameyang.
Well, that’s strictly not true, because Hector loves a curling shot into the bottom corner. His finish was tidy but it was a weird one. It felt like it took an age to hit the net and I think even Hector looked a little surprised he managed to creep it in. It was a real ‘Champ Man’ game for us in that we had two shots and scored two goals but given the resilience of the team when faced with such adversity, it feels like it was deserved.
It also doubly feels the case because to me Chelski didn’t deserve the win at our gaff. We were skanked that day and it felt like this was some kind of realignment of karma going on.
Of course it wasn’t just luck though, because we had some really determined performances in there. Granit Xhaka, for example, played an imperious role as both central midfielder and central defender, which he was for most of the match. He was fantastic and it’s amazing to see his transformation under a manager who has given him belief. Sadly it reflects even more poorly on Emery as a coach but we move on.
I also thought the full backs were very good. Saka was grand both going forwards and backwards and for a man who I wondered how fit he was, Bellerin stepped up and gave a captain’s performance. It was epic.
I’ll quickly go through some of the less good parts before finishing off with a little more positivity though I think. Mustafi. Oh Mustafi. The enigma that is. I’ve said this a few times now and you’ve all seen it, but how can a guy play quite well for 89 minutes but still cost his team with such regularity. Mustafi won the header which set Martinelli away, but it’s hard to get away from the fact that every game he seems to play he seems to cost us a mistake through his ridiculous errors. Last night it was on display again and David Luiz paid the price for the German’s horrendous attempt at passing the ball back. Defenders make mistakes, we all know this, but if you’re keeping those mistakes to one or two a season then as a fan you can live with it if for 40-odd games you get good performances. Unfortunately with Mustafi it is more like 10 to 15 games a season in which he makes howlers. That’s not good enough for a Premier League defender and it’s why he has to be moved one or at least be a few rungs down the pecking order.
I also thought Ozil was very average yesterday. His performance was probably affected by us being a man down as it was difficult for him to find space and move defenders and midfielders apart when you’re a man down in your side, but before that he was virtually anonymous. Arteta has to keep on at him because we’ve seen better performances, but not for the status he enjoys in the team.
But let’s not dwell too much on those negatives, because so much of last night was positive. Like Azpilicueta scoring that goal that he thought was the winner, sticking his tongue like a proper little w*nker. Have that, you dirty little pr*ck. That felt good seeing Hector get that equaliser and thinking about what’s going through that Chelski players head. Happy days.
And today can be a happy day, because Arteta is slowly building a grit and determination about this team. We were good against Bournemouth but a little wasteful. We were good against Chelski but a little unfortunate (a sending off for Jorginho makes the world of difference). We were great against United. We did the business against Leeds having been poor in the first half. We were a man down for a third of the game against Palace, otherwise I think we win that game, likewise if we’d have got the rub of the green with a stonewall penalty against Sheffield United we’d have converted that into three points. In every match so far the narrative and way the game has played out has been slightly different, but we can take positives from every game so far.
We just need to start turning those draws into wins. I’ll take another draw last night though. Well done the lads.