Match report – Player ratings – Video
Tell yourself what, if you wake up on a Sunday morning and write about Arsenal winning a soccer game, it’s far better than the alternatives. I like it and would like to do it more often.
I’m not going to go through the game from start to finish, but here are some things I liked yesterday.
Five of our six new signings this summer started this game, including a debut for Takehiro Tomiyasu and a first Premier League start for Aaron Ramsdale. It gave the team a different look, one that was less tired, less there, done that, worn the ragged old t-shirt that should really be used as a rag now, or thrown away because you can’t even donate it Charity shop.
I think maybe they overlooked how young the team was. The median age was 23.9 years and was pushed up by 32-year-old Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and 26-year-old Nicolas Pepe. We had a 20 year old, three with 22, three with 23 and two 24 year olds. It wasn’t perfect, but it’s a lot easier to see how we could be better when they play more together.
The Japanese international’s debut impressed me, especially when you consider that he only arrived on Wednesday and barely had time to get under the table. He was very good in the air, winning 5 out of 6 duels, recovering well a few times when things didn’t go right up to him, and for a player who didn’t make much progress in Bologna, he had two shots on goal in the first half – the second, a flying volley, was probably our most noticeable moment in the first 45 minutes.
It’s very easy to see why it was bought for this team, and while it’s obviously a very small sample size, it made a good debut.
Ben White and Gabriel
That is the partnership that has to work for us. I watched Ben White closely, and what struck me from the start was that whenever he received the ball, his first thought was how to get it forward instead of immediately distributing it to the right back. Whether a pass into midfield or self-supporting, he wanted to bring the ball further up.
I know it doesn’t quite fit because Tomiyasu only lasted 62 minutes, but he only fitted Tomiyasu three times, while in the Brentford game – the most analogous to this one – he fitted Calum Chambers 18 times. A change in approach and direction, perhaps, but it was remarkable how often he avoided the simple option. I suspect there’s more to come when he finds his reach and sits aside and his teammates see where to ping the ball.
Next to him, Gabriel was less adventurous with the ball, but very safe – and only just behind White when it came to offensive third passes. He won all of his defensive duels and produced a towering block late to keep Norwich from seeing the goal clearly. Again, early days, but you can begin to see how the balance of their partnership might work.
The visitors had some dangerous moments but Ramsdale was barely able to save from top to bottom due to the dedication of the defense, which is very encouraging when a team like us is in the doldrums. It shows a desire to change things, as well as moving forward and doing things at the end of the attack.
One of the big criticisms is that we don’t score enough, and that is of course a problem. We shot 30 shots yesterday, the most we have ever had in a Premier League game under Arteta. In the heat of the game I felt frustrated that I sure did a lot of you, that we didn’t make the game safer or that we were still a bit toothless, but I think you can even in the cold light of the day Look back and see opportunities / moments that we should have done better with. Tim Krul made some good saves between wastes of time and we weren’t as clinical as we should have been.
However, if you want to be on the lookout for green shoots, the fact that we had these opportunities is positive. Arteta pointed to the pressure the team felt and we all know why. Sometimes it felt like we were getting a little inhibited, like we were playing some kind of precarious tightrope where one misstep would have been catastrophic, but looking back we should have scored more goals and won more comfortably.
I really hope that the win took some pressure off the pressure valve and that in turn may allow us to play a little more freely and thus be a little more confident in the last third moments when they come up.
It is clear that there is a serious split when it comes to the coach, but I thought the team would be fully supported – that was very clear on TV and from those I spoke to it was on Floor obviously. It makes a huge difference if you are dissatisfied with the performance of your team or if you hate your team, which the media coverage of Arsenal fans seems to be way too common.
I really don’t like the trope of “true fans” that pop up after a game like this, as if the only people who really care are the ones who are in the ground or just looking for the positive, even in bad times. But on a day when the team absolutely had to shake up the fans, the fans also did their part and I’m glad it was a win and three points.
As I said above, it’s good and I enjoy it when it happens. I can’t tell you how tired I am of the sound police on social media trying to put everything in a negative light. Losing is bad, so if you complain that you have every right, but if you also complain, if we win, what are you doing with your life?
You see things like “It’s just Norwich” or “People are celebrating like we won the World Cup” and that’s such bullshit. Of course there is considerable room for improvement. We know it’s Norwich. We know we should beat them. We know the start of the season was terrible. We also know that winning a game doesn’t mean that everything is perfect again or that all of our problems are solved. No one has ever made this claim, but you get bombarded with this kind of thing all the time.
The reaction to yesterday’s game was a mixture of joy and relief, and I think fully justified. We needed a goal and a win from everywhere and we got it. It’s a small step in the right direction, and it is, but people have every right to be happy when their team wins a football game – even if it’s by and large minor importance. If you’re not happy, it’s up to you, but stop trying to tell other people how to feel.
Right, that’s it for today. More tomorrow, and James and I will go over the Norwich game in the Arsecast Extra.
Have a nice Sunday, weekends are much better when we win games, right?