Tag Archives: Mikel Arteta

Nketiah staying, no one joining, all very quiet

Social media really does have a habit of making stories out of something that is not.

Yesterday a gutter journalist tweeted that Arsenal had announced they would be holding a press conference at 2:30, and commentated that this was odd as pre-game press conferences take place on Thursday’s, not Wednesday’s.

What was happening? People enquired? Who are we signing? Maybe Mikel Arteta is being sacked already? The rumour mill was spinning.

An hour or so later, a second journalist tweeted his dismay as the press conference had actually been scheduled for Wednesday since the start of the week and every journalist would have already known about it

The whole situation just highlights how people can manipulate a situation for attention.

Not much was said during the pre-game press conference. An update on injuries, Saed Kolasinac & Lucas Torreira both being assessed, Calum Chambers, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney still out.

There was a little chat about transfers. I have bad news for you guys, I have nothing to say yet! Arteta answered. Can we look to much into the word “yet” at the end? Probably.

John Stones and Franck Kessie were ruled out, although in response to the later Arteta uttered No truth at all at the moment. Like saying “yet” I am sure some will read a lot into this. And that was about that.

Bigger transfer news broke this morning. And in terms of it being big, it is when you consider we have had nothing yet in January.

Eddie Nketiah is staying at the club until the end of the season.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND – JULY 27: Eddie Nketiah of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on July 27, 2019 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Talk is that this is due to Pierre Emerick-Aubameyan’s red card, but with 2 games still to play in January we could have easily have kept Eddie till the end of the month. I wonder if the feeling at the club is that it is pointless him going to a Championship side and sitting on the bench again. He might as well be training with Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

There are some that are using Nketiah staying as evidence that Lacazette could be off in January. I can not see it happening, but can see a case where the Frenchman leaves us in the summer.

My feeling is that we will not sign anyone in January, and I have no issue with that. There is no point spending big on a short term option.

It is crazy that some people still try to make a living off transfer speculation when nothing is clearly happening!

Sheffield United this weekend. I still have dreams of finishing top 4.


Arteta’s Arsenal becoming harder to break down

Under Unai Emery, one of the most concerning statistics coming out of every game was how many attempts we were conceding against opponents.

Whether it was 18 at home to Burnley, 24 against Wolves or 31 against Watford. It was simple too easy for opposing sides to get a shot off against us.

Sides found it very easy to carve through our midfield and defence to see the whites of the keepers eyes. Only Bernd Leno’s brilliance saved us from conceding more in many games this season. Too many shots conceded was a huge part of Emery’s downfall.

In just a handful of games, Mikel Arteta has addressed the situation.

Against Crystal Palace, Arsenal faced just 6 shots. That was our lowest in the Premier League this season and just 1 more than our lowest in all competitions (we conceded just 5 shots against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup).

Whilst it was frustrating to come back from South London with a draw, there was plenty to be optimistic about, especially in the way our players battled for the ball.

Arteta has the team defending from the front.

He has also got Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira battling for every ball in the middle again. No longer are we seeing opposing midfielders run away from Arsenal players. They chase them down, win the ball back. Gone is the lazy running and half-hearted covering,

We have also seen Sokratis and David Luiz step up their game at the back. Now moving towards the ball and engaging with the attackers rather than standing off.

The fact is, the less shots you concede, you reduce the chances opponents have of scoring. When you let you opponents have 31 shots at goal, like Arsenal did against Watford, there is always a high chance 1 or 2 will go in.

In the Premier League under Unai Emery, Arsenal were showing relegation form when it came to chances conceded to opponents. In just 4 games Arteta has turned that around and we are now showing top 4 form.

Whilst Arteta wants to be playing free flowing, attacking football, he knew his first job was to come in and fix Arsenal’s leaky defence. Key to that was to reduce how many chances we concede to opponents.

Arteta’s Arsenal concede 40% less shots than Emery’s. A huge improvement.

With 2 clean sheets in the first 5 games under Arteta, Arsenal’s defence is moving in the right direction – Emery’s Arsenal had kept just 5 clean sheets in all competitions; 3 of which were in the cups.

The rest of this season is going to be about rebuilding the structure of the team. Getting us tactically proficient and raising fitness levels. Once Arteta has sorted out that aspect of the game he can then encourage the players to be more extravagant in attack.

Arsenal are becoming harder to score against. There is still some way to go but we are now moving in the right direction.


Time for Arteta to trust in Pepe

Labelled as one of the most exciting talents in Europe following 22 goals in Ligue 1 for Lille last season, Arsenal stunned the world of football when they signed the Ivory Cost winger for a club record fee of £72million back in August.

Back in April, we discussed how he could be the new Eden Hazard, who joined Chelsea from Lille, but also warned that Gervinho came to the Premier League at a similar age and reputation.

All 3 players came to the Premier League  in their early 20s with very similar scoring records over the previous 2 seasons for Lille. Hazard scored 34 goals in all competitions, Gervinho 36 and Pepe 37.

Hazard and Gervinho had very different Premier League careers. One was one of the finest players to grace the league in the last decade, the other was a flop.

Half-way through his 1st season, Pepe has been closer to Gervinho than he has Hazard. Some have gone to label him a huge flop already following his huge price tag and justified the opinion of some that he was a penalty stat padder (9 of his 22 league goals came from the spot last year).

Misses against Liverpool and Sheffield bought back memories of Gervinho’s wastefulness. The Ghost of Bradford had returned.

Despite the misses, it did not feel like we were watching the incarnation of Gervinho

Gervinho was very technically poor. You would not catch him bending shots into the top corner or scoring free kicks. He could not pass, could not cross, could not shoot. He was a physicaly player. Quick, strong with a burst of acceleration that got him into space and made himself chances.

Highlight reels of Pepe at Lille had already shown his ability in dead ball situations, with numerous goals from open play from the outside of the box. This was a guy who was clearly technical sound.

From day 1 at Arsenal he was taking corners. He must have been showing something on the training ground to be our 1st choice set piece taker.

Against Vitoria de Guimaraes he showed he did have magic in his boots with two stunning free kicks. Both unsaveable no matter who was in goal.

But he was still struggling from open play. And successive managers from Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and Mikel Arteta left him on the bench. He had fallen behind both Bukayo Saka and Riess Nelson.

He looked lightweight on the pitch, despite his 6-foot frame. Knocked off the ball to easy, he tired quickly and contributed little defensively.

Reports began to surface that he was not doing what was required in training.

Following being dropped to the bench against Norwich, Ljungberg told reporters “Pepe is a very good player, but I looked at what we did in training and what I see every day. And that is how I judge it.”

Pepe made his 9th start of the season against West Ham in the middle of December where he bent one perfectly in the top corner from just inside the box, reminding everyone that he has technical ability to go with his pace.

Against Manchester City he played a full 90minutes but looked laboured in what was his worst performance for Arsenal.

He failed to get off the bench in interim-manager Ljungberg’s last game in charge, and played just 12 minutes in Arteta’s first two games. The new manager deciding to start Nelson in both games and bring on Joe Willock before him.

Against Manchester United he put in a Man of the Match performance in Arsenal’s best result of the season, scoring with a first time finish.

Pepe was substituted off after 61 minutes and there are some clear conditioning issues there, but he is also clearly a big talent.

A lot will now come down to Pepe’s own mentality.

Does he buy into Arteta’s philosophy of demanding “120 per cent” commitment from every player? Is he going to follow Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s lead and start putting in a big defensive shift alongside his attacking prowess?

Despite having a slow start to his Arsenal career, Pepe has still has 5 goals and 5 assists in 1,245 minutes of football. That is a goal or assist every 124 minutes. That is a better contribution per minute that what Eden Hazard achieved in his first season (147 minutes) and the same as what Sadio Mane did in his first season at Liverpool.

What Pepe now needs is more game time. That will allow him to contribute more. Score more. Assist more.

With 17 league games as well as FA Cup and Europa League still to come, Pepe should be targeting to double what he has done so far.

20 goals and assists in his first season in English football will be a solid return and something that he can build on.

What Arteta now needs to do is trust in his record signing, play him. And Pepe needs to repay that by performing both on the pitch and at London Colney.

Pepe can become a huge player for Arsenal in the future. It is down to him to apply himself.