Morning fellow Gooners. Hope we are all still feeling splendid after the weekend’s events? Well, those on Saturday, anyway, because that was where all the fun was to be had and last night I jumped on the Same Old Arsenal pod to wax lyrical about the North London Derby victory and it felt gooooooooood. I don’t know about you, but I read and listened to as much as I possibly could yesterday, drinking in everything from Saturday lunchtimes smashing of the Scum. And I’m going to keep on doing it for the rest of the week until we get to Bodo/Glimt on Thursday in the Europa League. So if you have any content that you want to send my way, just pop it in the comments because I want to absorb it all!
Yesterday was also fun to watch and see Man United being absolutely ripped to shreds by Man City in the Manchester derby. I’ve seen too much noise about the renaissance of Man United since Ten Haag took over, so to see them thoroughly dismantled like that was rather amusing. There will be those saying we should be wanting United to win to preserve a higher points gap over Man City, but I think any sensible Arsenal fan knows that City look like an unstoppable force at the moment. In 2017/18 they reached 100 points by winning 32 of 38 matches. They are currently undefeated and have won six of the eight they have played. We have won seven and it is unlikely that we’ll get anywhere near winning 32 games this season, but you could imagine that City probably could get to that given the firepower they have and the way the just sweep sides like United to one side.
So I’m not going to get too hung up on the fact that City look imperious, but rather have a chuckle at how bad United looked yesterday. They were cut apart time and time again and it made me think of our game against them. Not because we cut United apart like City did, but more that United looked flattered yesterday by the final score and the game against us certainly flattered them for sure. We were the better side that day and that has happened in a number of their games. They also didn’t look great when they narrowly beat Southampton, they were ok against a sub-par Liverpool team, they were beaten by Brighton and Brentford, as well as being fortunate to come away from the King Power stadium with a one goal win against Leicester. So of their first seven games, they’ve maybe done alright in one, which was against Liverpool.
I’m speaking about United far too much but I guess I’m doing it because yesterday’s result reminded me a little of our victory over the Scum. They had been playing average for most of the season. Their fans have said it, but were hiding behind a few “yeah but you haven’t played anybody good” tropes when looking at us. What they were doing compared to us, however, was to just scrape by. I watched the 6-2 win over Leicester and it hugely flattered them. Our 3-0 win over Brentford certainly did not. We’ve been playing like a team with swagger and it will of course not last the whole season; this is a young team that will mistakes and there will be matches in which we’ll be frustrated and disappointed, but the structure and approach of this Arsenal team feels like it is sustainable, repeatable and can see us through this season. We’ve also already had some of our injury worries and had to rotate the team at times and only in that United game has it come back to bite us, with Sambi perhaps just being a little naive in the middle of the park. But even then we deserved something from the game and had we not been robbed of that first goal I might be sat here talking about eight wins in a row.
The media narratives around the game before we played on Saturday were very much “Tottenham haven’t even started yet, but they are picking up results, so imagine what happens when they really kick on?” and I think they have been overplayed a little bit. The more I think about it, the more I read about it, the more I’m remembering that Antonio Conte’s teams ALWAYS play in this style. It is how he sets them up and I don’t think this is a Tottenham team waiting to click, I think this is a Tottenham team who just play like that. And that’s why I led with the title about ‘good versus evil’ football, because it was so pleasing that our play was rewarded, whereas the functional, less expressive, frankly boring, style of the Scum to soak it up and rely on their couple of superstars, ended up getting nothing. We won that game on Saturday and it was for the good of the game too that we won, because nobody should want to see that type of football win out.
And in hindsight I’m sure it can’t. You can’t be a team that sits deep, relies on occasional moments of brilliance, then expect that your high risk, high reward, strategy keeps paying off. We of all fans know this; we all sat there during the Emery 22 game unbeaten run saying things like “who cares about the underlying metrics. We’re winning and we’re undefeated”. We all enjoyed the fact that we went on a long winning run, but the stats behind it told a story that we were employing high risk, high reward football, which wasn’t going to last forever. We eventually suffered when the risks we were taking didn’t work and the fall for Emery happened quite quickly. In that season we gave opponents chance after chance, like Conte’s team are doing, so my hope is that his side are found out as quickly as possible.
What I’m also hoping for is that we continue to find different and creative solutions to win football matches. For one thing we’re not reliant on one or two players. This season alone we now have had 11 different scorers in all competitions. We have Martinelli and Odegaard on three goals each, Xhaka and Saliba on two and of course Gabby Jesus on five. We are spreading our goals around. Last season we had eight players on five goals or more in all competitions. The way things are going at the moment, you’d expect us to better that by the time May rolls around. That can only be a good thing.
We’re in a good place right now. The football is good, the players are performing, we’re showing different ways to beat our opponents. Most of us are sensible enough to know it won’t last like this all season, but we’re just enjoying the ride right now, which is a pretty cool one to be on I have to say.
Right, that’s me done for the day. Enjoy your Monday and I’ll catch you all tomorrow.