Arteta’s big game gameplan doesn’t pay off – this time

The fall out from Arsenal losing 1-0 to Manchester City was surprising.

The amount of criticism and negativity I read after the game was over the top.

Mikel Arteta’s game plan in the games against tough sides is clear. The aim is to stay in the game, defend well, and take your chances when they come.

It is the same game plan that saw us beat Manchester United & Liverpool in the league last season. That saw us knock out Manchester City in the FA Cup and beat Chelsea in the final. Beat Liverpool in the Community Shield and draw with Chelsea in the league.

In the 12 games Arteta has faced the “Big 6”, his record reads:

Saturday we played to the same game plan that saw us win some big games under Arteta. At 1-0 down we stayed in the game. We just failed to take our chances when they came up, with Aubameyang missing a big one in the second half.

It was similar to the Liverpool defeat, when 2-1 down Lacazette missed 2 great chances to nab an equaliser.

Some might see “staying in the game” as negative football, but it is not.

There is not point lining up to play positive and being 3-nil down after 20 minutes. Not every team collapses like Tottenham.

How often have we been away to Chelsea, Liverpool or Man City in recent years and the game has been over in the first half? The answer is “too often”.

At least if you are within a goal as the clock clicks over to 70 minutes, it gives you a chance to have a go in that last 20.

Remember the limbs at Chelsea away in January? That would have been impossible if we were 2 or 3 goals down.

Instead we were losing 2-1 and got it back to 2-2 in the closing minutes.

We have to understand where we are at the moment.

Arsenal are challenging for the top 4, not the title.

For now Arteta is right lining us up to “not lose” away to top sides. As the team progresses, and the defence continues to improve, we can start travelling to these sides thinking we are in the chance of winning again.

Some might see this viewpoint as negative, but it is realistic.

Arsenal fans (in the minority) are moaning about Arteta’s defensive football. But this change in style was needed.

In the last 3 season, we have conceded on average 50 goals in the league. That is more than one a game.

That meant Arsenal needed to score at least 2, often 3 goals just to win the game by 1 goal. You are not going to finish top 4 needing to score 2 or 3 goals a game every game.

By working on the defence, it means that when we do score 2 or 3 goals, we are winning 2-0 or 3-1/ Not drawing 2-2.

Adding the likes of Thomas Partey and Gabriel to the squad will improve us defensively.

Once Arteta trusts the defence to play a back 4 rather than back 5, and Partey adds solidity to the middle of the park, we will become more attacking.

The transition from 343 to 433 will make us more attacking and give the side more balance.

Ultimately, you can take losing to Manchester City 1-0 if next weekend we go and beat Leicester City.

There is not point going to a top 6 side and putting 6 past them if you then do not win your next game at home.

We are 5th in the league after 5 games having travelled to both Manchester City and Liverpool.

Our next 6 games are at home to Leicester, Aston Villa and Wolves, and away trips to Leeds, Manchester United and Tottenham.

The simple equation is to win the 3 home games, beat Leeds and set ourselves out not to lose against Manchester United or Tottenham.

A draw and a defeat for those two tough away games will see us on course for 76 points. Taking into account we would have played 4 of our 5 hardest away trips in the opening 11 games, a realistic target could be 80 points. That will be more than enough for top 4.

Arteta has a game plan. He knows what he is doing. He has already won some big games in his short time as manager.

Losing a game is always tough to take. But we have to understand the process. We have to trust the process.


Match Report: Manchester City 1 – 0 Arsenal

(3-4-3) Bernd Leno; David Luiz, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Hector Bellerin, Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka; Nicolas Pépé, Willian Borges da Silva, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Substitutes: Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Rúnarsson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah.

Yellow Cards: Thomas Partey

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 43%

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

Assistant Referees: ian Massey-Ellis, Constantine Hatzidakis

Fourth Official: Anthony Taylor

VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Stuart Attwell; AVAR Andy Halliday

Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions

For our first match in thirteen days due to the international break, Mikel Arteta returns to the Etihad with a strong, hungry team that thankfully includes Kieran Tierney, who has been pronounced fit after self-isolating due to a coronavirus scare in the Scotland camp, and our new £45,000,000 Deadline Day new boy midfielder Thomas Partey, who is on the substitute’s bench, and in theory could make his debut in this pressure cooker of a match. Let’s go!

Unfortunately, Rob Holding had pulled his hamstring in the warm-up, and was replaced in defence by David Luiz at the last minute. The home side had the best of the early exchanges, with penetrating advances into our penalty area, which we found difficult to contain. Nathan Ake found Bernardo Silva on the left, who crossed the ball into the our 18-yard box, but thankfully Kieran Tierney headed it away. The pace of the match was quickening, and we managed to break out into the home side’s half with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang flicking a clever ball into the path of Bukayo Saka, but sadly the City defenders robbed him of a chance to open the scoring. Although most of the action was in our own half, we soaked up the pressure well, and we started to pass the ball between ourselves with confidence. After twenty-three minutes, Sergio Agüero picked the ball up in midfield, stopped and waited for support, and then passed the ball to Phil Foden, who ran inside and although his shot was parried away by Bernd Leno, striker Raheem Sterling was on hand to open the scoring in City’s favour. Shortly afterwards, both Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pépé were desperately unlucky not to score with two good efforts, and in return, Manchester City came back at us aggressively. With six minutes remaining of the first half, Bukayo Saka was desperately unlucky not to score with a clever shot on goal, that saw Ederson push the ball away for a corner; a few minutes later, Ederson made yet another important save when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked certain to equalise. As the half was finishing, referee Chris Kavanagh denied us a certain penalty when Kyle Walker’s high kick appeared to catch Gabriel, but despite appeals by our forwards, nothing was given, and so we went into the break in deficit.

We started the second half in fine form when Nicolas Pepe headed goalwards from a superb Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cross but Ederson easily retrieved his effort, which led to a period of intelligent football from us. The match started to level out for a while until we had a superb chance to equalise when we had a free kick awarded to us after Ruben Dias was deservedly booked for an extremely late tackle on Bukayo Saka. David Luiz took the free kick which sailed over the City bar. In order to give us more bite up front, Willian was substituted for Alexandre Lacazette after sixty-nine minutes, which was a good move by Mikel Arteta. The home side started to create chances, but thankfully none of them came to fruition; with sixteen minutes of the match remaining, Granit Xhaka made way for Thomas Partey, making his debut in an Arsenal shirt, along with Eddie Nketiah, who replaced Nicolas Pépé. This seemed to lift everyone, when just a few minutes later, a superb pass into the box by David Luiz was just over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s head as we continued to press City for the equalising goal. Two minutes from the end of the match, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was desperately unlucky to be adjudged in an offside postion when receiving an accurate pass from Bukayo Saka, and by now the game started to level out, and the only incident of note was when our debutant was booked by referee Chris Kavanagh for a silly tackle just a minute or so before the final whistle.

Okay, it was disappointing, but looking at the stats, maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. Forty-three percent possession, we both had eight shots off target (with City hitting the spot five times to our three); six corners apiece, with City committing fifteen fouls (with four bookings) to our ten (and one booking). We kept our structure through most of the match whilst keeping out Manchester City for large parts of the game. Thomas Partey looked good, and overall, score withstanding, there were some good points to take forward into Thursday’s match in Vienna.

Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Rapid Wien at Allianz Stadion on Thursday, 22nd October at 5.55pm(Europa League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.


Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.

Kieran Tierney available to get the Partey started against Man City

Proper football is back.

Although it comes with the caveat that you can’t watch games in the pub with mates; you can’t watch it your home with mates; you can only watch it outside with mates. And no more than 6.

Luckily I have no mates so it isn’t a huge issue.

Arsenal play Man City at 4:30pm. Where and how you watch it is up to you. Watch it on your own. Watch it in a pub with mates. Just be careful.

The good news for Arsenal is that Kieran Tierney is now available following Arsenal’s appeal against his isolation.

Tierney was adamant that he remained 3m from the Scotland player that tested positive. There was no evidence to the contrary and, alongside testing negative for COVID19 and positive for COVID19 anti-bodies, the authorities came to the right decision.

Deadline day for domestic transfers was yesterday.

William Saliba went nowhere. Neither did Sokratis, Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers or Shkodran Mustafi.

With the next window opening in around 10 weeks, I imagine we will use January to move on any unneeded players – whether on loan or transferred out.

Saliba was an interesting one.

There was plenty of interest. He isn’t registered in the Europa League squad. With a lack of central defenders in the U23s, maybe the plan is to play him week in, week out there till the new year?

Last little bit.

Got in an overnight discussion with some Spurs fans.

I questioned why people put Daniel Levy on a pedastool having overseen a period of 1 League Cup in 20 years.

One fan boasted to me that Levy had increased his personal wealth from £12m to £800m during that period. That’s a new one to stick into the trophy cabinet.

Hopefully today we get the Partey started!