Morning morning, fellow gooners! How we all doing? Feeling chipper after that absolute mauling yesterday? I know I am. On top of the world, in fact, because if you’re going to lay down a blueprint for how a pre season should draw to a close, I’m not sure many of us would disagree that giving a good side an absolute spanking on your home turf isn’t just about the best way possible.
I hosted a few old school mates for a barbecue. One of them, unfortunately, is a Spurs fan. To try to stoke some kind of banter he showed up yesterday and when I greeted him at the door and asked him how he felt, he said “I’m fine mate, Champions League, what about you?”
My immediate retort was to tell said Spurs fan that I was great, that Arsenal had just smashed the team his side struggled against just a couple of weeks ago. Now, at this point in this little anecdote I should point out that his brother is an Arsenal fan, who I speak to quite regularly. And he’s told me that my Spurs supporting mate has admitted to him that he is worried about what Arsenal are building under Arteta. I reminded him of this and under questioning he admitted it. So whilst he got an initial cheap shot in about the Champions League, I saw that look in his eyes: He knows that this Arsenal team are looking good.
And yesterday certainly showed that. From the first minute there was an intensity about the way we played. We were a cohesive pressing unit that put Sevilla under pressure from the opening exchanges and the fact we scored so early set the tone for what was to be a very impressive afternoon’s work for those Arsenal players.
What I liked about the high press was that it was sustained. Sure, you can’t do it for 90 minutes and in the second half we took our foot off the gas a little, but that’s ok, because the damage was done in the first half and it certain was damage that we delivered. Hunting in a cohesive press, Martinelli and Jesus followed up by Odegaard and Saka, felt right. It looked right. We looked hungry. we looked like a team with a point to prove. Do you know what it reminded me of? When Liverpool first kicked on under Rodgers and then later under Klopp. One of the features of that Rodgers team with Sterling, Suarez, etc, was that Liverpool came out the blocks quickly, with a high press, to try to blow teams away in the first 30 minutes. They did it a few times to us at Anfield. Well, yesterday, that was us; we got at Sevilla quickly, we forced them to make errors, we pressured and harangued their keeper Bono in to making a mistake for the third goal, we hassled and we drove right at Sevilla and in return, they folded like a pack of cards.
Yes it was a friendly. Yes it means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Yes we will face a tougher opponent away from home in the shape of Crystal Palace this coming Friday. But what you can also say is that yes, we also look like a team that is ready, is more complete, looks able to compete towards the top end of the table this coming season.
I said yesterday that I’d like to see what we do in different set ups and Arteta didn’t really change it much after halftime, but now that I’m looking back on it I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing; we have our set up, style and approach mapped, this team has won its last two games by an aggregate score of 10-0 (I’m not counting the Brentford one as it was the squad rotation players), we can go in to the new season knowing that we can give a good account of ourselves from the first whistle. Just think about how different that was this time last year. For the first three games last year we were a shambles, it cost us a potential nine points, we were all over the shop. But this year we have the first team ready to go and my hope is that this absolute drubbing will also give those Arsenal players a massive confidence boost as the season kicks off.
I cannot tell you just how excited I am at what this team can achieve right now. Words can’t explain it. Of course that could all blow up in our faces if we get the same shellacking that we got at Selhurst Park this season. That could of course happen and the pitchforks from the media will of course come out because that’s what they like to do with The Arsenal; but it doesn’t feel right now as though this team isn’t prepared. It feels like we are ready.
Let’s also not forget that we’re carrying injuries and absentees. Yesterday’s match day squad had no Tierney, Tomiyasu or Smith Rowe. These are all players with whom we’ll be expecting to make a big contribution this season. But Arteta has found an XI right now that even with those players returning, you shouldn’t be changing the side. Saliba was imperious and looks like a mountain in defence. Ben White was getting forward and doing a very similar role to that which Tomiyasu players. Martinelli was energy, passion, drive and a complete handful for Jesus Navas all afternoon. Then on the left you had Zinchenko tucking in field at times and popping balls around. Saka and Odegaard were they brilliant selves and had massive parts to play in the goals and, wouldn’t you just know it, but our new centre forward signing bagged a hat trick and looked every bit the mega upgrade we have been crying out for this summer.
What’s not to like about this Arsenal team right now? We looked balanced all over the pitch and that is fantastic to see. Arteta himself would point out that we’ve won nothing yet, but the signs are very promising indeed.
Catch you wonderful humans tomorrow.