Tag Archives: Arsenal

Referee blunders, Missed chances & lack of attacking options on bench – How did it go wrong for Mikel Arteta?

Last weekend Mikel Arteta got it wrong.

He did not recognise Manchester City’s vulnerability, we failed to attack them and lost. Likewise Sunday night was a tough performance to take.

Arteta actually got the line up right on Sunday – with the only debate being whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should be playing down the middle, and if the midfield 3 were in the right positions.

2-nil at half time

We looked good in the first half, creating more chances and attacking at will. We should have gone into half time 2-0 up.

The Lacazette goal that was ruled out was not offside. The linesman clearly thought Aubameyang had touched it in on the fair post when in fact it had hit the post and gone in.

Lacazette then missed an absolute sitter.

Football is a game of margin’s.

Had Lacazette’s first been allowed, I am sure he would have buried the second and there would be no discussion about him getting dropped. Instead, one was disallowed and he fluffed his lines for the second chance.

Lacazette looks like a man playing with the weight of the world on his shoulders. His trademark sharpness within the box is missing.

Arteta now needs to make a tough decision.

He needs to drop the Frenchman and play Aubameyang down the middle.

Aubameyang was fantastic last season on that left hand side, scoring goals for fun. But he creates very little.

When you have him out wide and Lacazette in the middle, you are sacrificing creativity for goals. The problem is when neither are scoring, something has to give.

Arteta needs to get more creativity on the field, and that is done through sacrificing one of his strikers for either Nicolas Pepe or Willian on the left.

Conceding from opponents first chance

Leicester City’s game plan was simple.

10-men behind the ball, stay in the game and bring Jamie Vardy on with 20 minutes to go to against a tired defence. And it worked.

It would not have worked if Arsenal were 2-0 up. But they were not.

When Vardy came on, the dynamic of the game changed.

Leicester started attacking more, balls over the top, into the channels.

Whereas Lacazette missed his chance in the first half, Vardy scored his.

Fine margins again.


Arsenal’s substitutions failed to affect the game.

It would be easy to say “Arteta got them wrong”, but his first 2 changes we driven by injury – firstly to David Luiz and then Bukayo Saka.

Lacazette should really have been taken off with 30 minutes to go, but with Saka hobbling, Arteta was unable to make the change.

Instead the young Englishman went off for Pepe, with Arsenal keeping the formation.

Arteta was also hampered by Willian’s injury.

 The Brazilian would surely have come on for one of the midfielders to make us more attacking. Without him on the bench we had a 4 / 2 split for defensive / attacking players on the bench.

It did not give Arteta many options when looking to chase the game.

Questions do have to be asked why Reiss Nelson was not on the bench. Would he have not been a better option than Eddie Nketiah?

Instead we ended up with 3 strikers on the pitch, but did not have the capability of getting the ball to them.

European hangover?

Sunday’s game was awful. Both teams played Thursday night in the Europa League.

Manchester City v Chelsea was equally as dull.

Manchester City could only draw with West Ham and Liverpool barely scrapped past Sheffield United at home.

With games more congested than ever, I think we will see more tired performances after mid-week European games; more surprise results.

Arteta put out a strong side against Rapid Wien on Thursday.

With our hardest away out the way and 3 points on the board, maybe it is time to rethink that and rest his planned weekend starting XI against Dundalk this Thursday.

Got to think we can beat the Irish side with a second XI. 6 points from 6 will be one foot in the next round.

Moving forward

When we lose a game like Sunday, it is very easy to quickly get into a negative mind set. Especially taking into account we have seen that sort of performance countless times in the last 5 years.

But there were positives to take.

Arsenal looked more attacking in the first half. We just ran out of ideas in the second half and did not have the personnel on the bench to change it up.

Arteta needs to stick to 433, but with a few tweaks.

Granit Xhaka needs to play in the middle of the 3. This allows Thomas Partey and Dani Ceballos to drive forward and offer assistance in the final 3rd.

Pepe needs to start ahead of Lacazette, with Aubameyang down the middle.

Then that gives Arteta an attacking option on the bench in Lacazette.

Lacazette needs to be joined on the bench by Reiss Nelson and one other attacking player. Ideally someone that creates (Willian if fit?).

There is not point having LAcazette, Aubameyang and Nketiah on the pitch if we do not have a plan how to get them the ball.

Sunday was a disappointing result, we are 10th in the table, but this is going to be a roller coaster season.

It is going to be tight as every side can drop points to each other.

After 6 games last season, Arsenal were in 4th place, but already 7 points off top.

This season we are 10th, we 2 points less. But just 4 points off top.

Had we won yesterday, we would have been 4th and Leicester 10th.

It really is going to be a season of fine margins.


A hat trick of defeats; a hat trick of bad VAR decisions

VAR was supposed to bring consistency into the game. To reduce mistakes made by referees on decisions they either missed, or thought were worse (or no as bad) in the heat of the moment.

When it was being bought in, one comment was “it will ruin talking about football as we will no longer have a bad referee mistake to talk about over a pint”.

They were right to an extent that we no longer talk about poor on pitch decisions over a (socially distanced) pint. But instead of VAR bringing consistent and improved decision making, we now spend our time debating if the right decision was made by a referee spending 2 or 3 minutes watching replays from the comfort of somewhere in middle-England.

Arsenal have lost 3 games already this season. Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester City.

Whilst in non of the games did we do enough to win, we have been on the wrong end of poor VAR decisions at key times that could have seen the game swing towards us.

With 2 minutes gone in the game between Arsenal and Liverpool at Anfield, Kieran Tierney and Sadio Mane were both heading towards the byline.

The Senegalese winger took a step towards Tierney, thrusting his elbow into the Arsenal players throat in the process.

It was an unnatural movement and was clearly violent conduct, a red card offence. VAR decided the referee had not made a mistake in only issuing a yellow card.

It would have left Liverpool playing with 10-men for 88 minutes.

In the 25th minute Arsenal took the lead before Liverpool equalised 3 minutes later. Their goal scorer? Sadio Mane.

Liverpool would win 3-1 and Mane would be named man of the match. He should have been sent off.

Arsenal’s next defeat would be against Manchester City.

Just before half time at 1-nil down, Gabriel went up for a corner. He was challenged by Kyle Walker, who went with his feet rather than his head.

Both men were jumping off the ground, with Walker’s foot being at the same height as Gabriel’s head as headed down. It was a high foot. All day long.

VAR gave nothing and the game continued.

Then against Leicester at home.

The score was 0-0 when Alexandre Lacazette rose at the near post to head it in, the ball bouncing off the far post.

The linesman immediately put his flag up, clearly thinking Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had touched it in.

Auba was in an offside position but did not touch the ball, and was not interfering with play. The linesman’s decision should have been overturned.

Instead, VAR supported the linesman’s flag by decided that Granit Xhaka was offside.

As the corner came in, Xhaka was standing on the keeper, but was not offside.

When Lacazette headed the ball, Xhaka had taken a step to his left and Kasper Schmeichel a step to his right.

This meant that whilst Xhaka was ahead of all outfield Leicester players, he was not interfering with the site lines of Schmeichel. He was not in an offside position.

The problem is VAR seemed to not use all the angles.

Based on the top picture, Xhaka was in an offside position, interfering with the keeper. But the side on view removes depth perception.

When you then look at the view from behind the goal, it is clear and obvious that Xhaka and Schmeichel were not as close to each other as the side on picture made it.

VAR should have overruled the linesman’s clear and obvious error and allowed the goal.

Neither Aubameyang or Xhaka were interfering with play, and therefore not offside.

In all 3 games we had further chances to score.

Lacazette missed a chance to make it 1-1 against Liverpool, and 1-0 against Leicester, whilst Aubameyang missed a chance against Manchester City to make it 1-1.

Had the strikers done their job, the poor VAR decisions would not have had an impact.

But as it is, Arsenal were let down by the officials.

A goal incorrectly disallowed, a red card not given, a penalty turned down.

We have lost 3 games this season, siting in 10th place and for the first time there is a little bit of pressure on Mikel Arteta.

A hat trick of defeats; a hat trick of poor VAR decisions.


Arsenal new boys “best signings in years”

Over the summer criticism of Edu creeped in as the transfer window rolled on.

The criticism was not unfounded, as Arsenal publicly struggled in their pursuit of Houssem Aouar and only completed the signing of Thomas Partey on the last day of the season.

But praise actually needs to be given for the transfer business we did over the summer. Especially with the recruitment of Thomas Partey and Gabriel.

Arsenal signed Brazilian centre back Gabriel on September 1st for a fee in the region of £24million.

He came with a good reputation in France, having impressed for Lille last season.

But there were questions marks.

Prior to 2019/20, he had a couple of uninspiring loan deals at Troyes before joining Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb, where he made just one league appearance for each club’s senior team.

His statistics, however, held up well.

Whether it was aerial duels, ground duels or passing, he was producing better statistics than anyone at Arsenal. Although this came with the caveat that he was playing in France.

He has taken to English football like a duck to water and should already be considered one of the best central defenders in the league.

When you consider Manchester City and Manchester United have spent so much on central defenders in recent years, and Chelsea had to settle on vetran Thiago Silva, Gabriel feels like a real coup.

Virgil van Dijk aside, it is a struggle to name a better central defender in the league than Gabriel. And at 22 (and with van Dijk out for a year), Gabriel will quickly establish himself as the best in the league.

Thomas Partey was signed on the last day of the transfer window.

We have only seen him for 90 minutes in the Europa League, but he confirmed what we already know about him – that he is a beat of a central midfielder.

A few people expected Partey to replace Granit Xhaka as the midfield anchor. But this would result in Partey losing 50% of his influence.

Just because you are a defensive midfielder, does not mean that your job is to sit in front of the defence.

Take Patrick Vieira for example.

One of the greatest midfielders to have ever played the game, he always played with someone behind him – Emmanuel Petit or Gilberto for Arsenal and Didier Deschamps for France.

That allowed Vieira to press forward, to bully players across the park. If he was the anchor, he would have to be more statics. Cleaning up rather than dominating.

Partey is in a similar mould.

You want the Ghanaian to have the freedom to press opponents regardless of where they are on the pitch.

Against Rapid Wein we saw this.

He would push forward, bullying players, with Mo Elneny playing behind him providing that cover.

Partey’s game is ready made for the Premier League.

In Partey and Gabriel Arsenal have made two big signings. Two players that we have missed for a decade.

A dominant central defender and an equally dominant central midfielder.

They are the men Edu now needs to build the team around for the next 5 years.

We might have finished the transfer window not adding the creativity we craved, but through Edu’s recruitment and Mikel Arteta’s coaching, we now look more defensively solid.

Once a manager has built that solid foundation, he will transition into a more attacking style of play.

Partey and Gabriel are Arsenal’s best signings in years.

We are looking good.