Benjamin the Great
A lot was made about the signing of Benjamin White when he joined Arsenal.
The clubs criticis would have you believe that we had spent £50million on a fancy-dan defender who, whilst great on the ball, could not head and was suspectable defensively.
After a tough start to his Arsenal career in that performance against Brentford, White has been nothing short of brilliant.
Against both Burnley and Watford, he showed his rumoured weakness under the high ball was no more than a myth.
Each game he is growing in stature at the back as part of a defence which has now kept 5 clean sheets (only Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have kept more).
He is also the best ball playing defender in the league.
His ability on the ball, both running out with it and his passing, is adding another dimension to our attacks.
Like with David Luiz in his prime, when White gets up a head of steam he quickly beats the press and dissects through the middle of an opponents midfield.
With these runs, he quickly transitions defence into attack and creates space for others.
He was unlucky to miss out on a place in Gareth Southgate’s England team as Conor Coady was picked ahead of him.
Southgate will not be able to ignore him for much longer.
The other half of what is quickly becoming one of the best central defensive partnerships in the league is Gabriel.
Gabriel is the leader at the back. The commander of the back 4.
The Brazilian barks the orders, sets the line and the others pick their position off him.
He is a huge reason why White is looking so comfortable in defence. And why Nuno Taveras is looking like a player 100 appearances for Arsenal under his belt, not just 10.
Gabriel is cool and clam. But he is also a powerhouse. A force to be reckoned with.
At one point on Sunday the Watford players were surrounding the referee complaining about something. In stepped Gabriel, arms out wide, positioning himself between the ref and the Watford players.
A one man army, Gabriel had taken control of the situation without the need for other players to get involved (and potentially talk themselves into trouble).
I do not know what level Gabriel’s English is as he does very few (if any?) post-game interviews. But if over the next 18 months he becomes fleunt in the Queen’s, he will inherite the armband from Aubameyang.
Gabriel is everything people think Virgil van Dijk is. And more.
Last season Arsenal suffered from a lack of goals – and no more so than from midfield.
Nicolas Pepe was our highest scoring midfielder with 10 in the league, Saka scored 5.
Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odergaard, Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos, Thomas Partey, Mo Elneny, Joe Willock and Willian scored 6 league goals between them. A frankly embarassing return.
We needed someone to step up to get close to hitting Aaron Ramsey numbers. Makign those late runs into the box. Getting double figures in goals.
When we sold Willock, the clubs critics said we had sold our only goal scoring midfielder (the Halen End graduate scored 8 in 14 whilst on loan to Newcastle). Some felt he deserved a chance back at Arsenal. That he would have played this role.
Willock is yet to score for Newcastle this season; highlighting that last season was perhaps a hot run of form and his real ability was the 1 league goal in 40 games for Arsenal.
So somone needed to step up from midfield – and that man has been Emile Smith Rowe.
He is playing left side of midfield but very much has a license to drop inside. This has led him to picking up some very good positions in and around the box.
Arsenal’as fluidity in the front line is what is opening up space for Smith Rowe.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang drops outwide dragging a centre back with him. Lacazette then fills the space ahead of him left by Aubameyang. This pulls back the opposing defensive midfielder marking him.
That then leaves a big load of space between defensce and midfield that Smith Rowe is utilising. It is a clever tactic.
4 goals in 11 Premier League games makes Smith Rowe our top scorer this season alongside Aubameyang.
Like White, Gareth Southgate can only ignore this form so long.
And 10 munutes after this blog was completed, it was announced that Smith Rowe was called up into the England squad.
Whilst everything about Arsenal is wonderful right now, Aubameyang will not be in a rush to re-watch the Watford game; his performance costing Arsenal 3 goals.
the officials were completely correct to rule out Bukayo Saka’s goal for offside. But the situation would not have risen if it was not for Auba.
Alexandre Lacazette had done all the hard work, finding a pocket of space and chipping the keeper.
Ben Foster’s touch landed at the feet of Aubameyang with the goal at his mercy.
An inform Aubameyang would have hit it first time. Out of form he takes a touch and then slots it home. What ended up happening is he completely misscontrolled it the ball. It then bobbled to Saka who stuck it away but was clearly offside.
Arsenal then won a penalty after Danny Rose clotheslined Lacazette. Upstepped Aubameyang who failed to convert from the spot.
I have never been a fan of Auba on penalties. It feels like he is not very good at them.
He never seems to put his foot through the ball, rarely finds the corners or side netting. Every penalty he takes is saveable if the keeper guesses the right way.
And it feels like that is Auba’s tactic when it comes to penalties – hoping the keeper dives the wrong way.
When someone like Harry Kane takes them, you feel even if the keeper guesses right the ball is beyong him.
Aubameyang missed against Aston Villa a couple of weeks ago and has now failed to score from 4 of his 13 penalties. That is a poor record.
The Villa, Tottenham and Watford misses were also very similar – all to the keepers right.
Auba’s anguish peaked when he got the last touch on a goal bound shot from Martin Odegaard – sticking the ball in the night from an offside position.
At this point he was desperate to get his name on the scoresheet following the poor touch and the penalty miss.
Odegaard’s shot was bending inside the far post. there was no need for Aubameyang to touch it. But he stuck out a big toe and the goal was ruled out for offside.
Aubameyang has 7 goals from 11 games this season. The Watford performance was just one of those games where nothing went for him.