As weekends go, that was pretty tasty, from an Arsenal perspective wasn’t it? We had our win on Friday, which meant we could just watch the games pan out knowing we had done our job. Then we had Everton stunned against Watford, followed by yesterday’s results, which were almost perfect. First the Scum were beaten by West Ham – who look good again this season and aren’t showing signs of fatigue or problems with their current schedule and European football. I thought Tottenham looked okayish in patches, but broadly speaking they hardly banged West Ham’s door down in terms of chance creation. Leicester are up against us next weekend and they won which will give them confidence, but from what I saw and the stats I’ve seen, they didn’t deserve it. I hope they play more like that against us on their own patch, because if they do and we step up like we did against Villa, then we’re in with a shout of picking up some points.
So whilst that was the result which wasn’t ideal for us to make it a truly perfect weekend, there are still positives to draw from that match. There was also plenty to laugh about for the 4.30pm kick off, because United got absolutely pulverised on their own turf against their bitter rivals Liverpool and honestly, it was hilarious. It just goes to show you how money can’t buy you everything because United had an array of expensive talent on the pitch and got their pants pulled down. Maguire and Lindlelof had a shocker, De Gea was hardly great, Ronaldo was fairly anonymous and their midfield of Fred and McTominay was…well…I don’t know what that was because it certainly didn’t feel like a back line to me. All over the shop. And that result is the type of result that could see a manager sacked. I hope not because the longer he is in charge the longer United will just bumble along not winning anything. He’ll pick up a few wins and they’ll say everything is fine, but then this sort of form comes around and that keeps him in the job.
People might say the same thing about Arteta, but at least we can see what the club are trying to do with the young players brought in. At least there is some projecting we can do about the trajectory of players like Ramsdale, White, Gabriel, Lokonga, Saka and Smith Rowe. There’s a core of young players who look like they have a potential up side. United have just invested tens of millions on an ageing Ronaldo, Sancho who can’t even get in the team, as well as ignoring one of their biggest problems which is that they didn’t bother investing in their midfield.
We’re far from perfect and we know we probably need to start thinking about a new centre forward, but in most of our positions at least we have some players that we say “yeah, they’re alright”. United fans are tearing their hair out because their choice in midfield is Fred, McTominay or an ageing Matic. Long may it continue. Of course they’ll beat us at the beginning of December when we play them – they always do at Old Trafford regardless of how sh*te they are (last year was an outlier) – but at least we can take some time now to appreciate the collapse that is happening and hope that the Glazer family don’t pull the trigger on their hapless Norwegian.
But enough about them, let’s look at us and yesterday I was out for my morning run, getting to think about football and I started to ponder the Lacazette/Aubameyang duet from Friday. I had speculated that both should start and that I’d like to see them together in a kind of 4-2-2-2 formation with Saka and ESR out wide and the pair up top together. When I saw the line up I thought that is exactly what Arteta had done but in reality I realised that trying to put a formation label on this Arsenal team is largely irrelevant. That’s because we change so much in game, depending on the game state, as well as whether we are in or out of possession. So at times on Friday we saw Lacazette drop in to more of a number 10 role, but not the ESR/Odegaard/Ozil-style number 10, but more the Dennis Bergkamp style number 10. What I mean by that is not by way of talent similarities between the two players, but more that Lacazette was playing almost as the second striker and that I think is the key learning from Friday for me.
Aubameyang and Lacazette need to be closer together when they are playing and they need to be more central so they can link up more. We started to see it when Lacazette came on against Palace. He instantly started linking up with Auba and created a chance which Guita saved within a minute or two of coming on. On Friday we was the perfect link man and I think he looked very comfortable knowing that he could drop in to a pocket to distribute the ball, knowing that Auba was just ahead of him prowling on the last man.
Id this a formula that Arteta has found that he could start to adopt every week? Maybe. And despite yesterday saying that I would prefer it if we could rotate our players for tomorrow night’s League Cup game, I do wonder if Arteta might use it as an opportunity to gather more data on this potential system set up. Personally I still think that we should be looking to give some minutes to some of the fringe players who haven’t had much game time, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Arteta did keep a few more of the first teamers playing tomorrow.
We’ll have to see what he says in his press conference today.
Back tomorrow with a match preview ahead of the game. Speak to you then.