In this podcast we look at the fantastic performance against Palace and try to work out what our realistic chances of winning the big prize.
In this podcast we look at the fantastic performance against Palace and try to work out what our realistic chances of winning the big prize.
Clinical and precise, Arsenal dismantled Crystal Palace on Sunday to go eight clear at the top. Barring a consolation goal and a couple of Zaha-generated scares, the win was wrapped up after an hour to quell talk of a post-Europe slump.
The Europa League should never have been an afterthought, and would have been great to win. To have done so would probably have represented Arsenal’s greatest victory in Europe, arguably ahead of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994.
Though, to digress, you have to remember that football talent was more evenly distributed in the 90s, and that every Serie A team had two or three world beaters. It meant you could expect to meet superstars like Cafu, Weah, Lombardo, Zola, Raí, Vierchowod, Asprilla and Mihajlović in Europe’s third competition, so it’s hard to compare.
Anyway, in 21st-century football, the Thursday-Sunday fixture cycle is a grim slog. The further you progress, the more you start to wonder if it’s a trap, as Man United may learn.
So we’ve broken out of it, and long-term that might be something to be happy about, but coming into this game we could speculate about short-term damage. We got a parting gift of tired legs and a key starter and a key backup sidelined for who knows how long.
But come Sunday afternoon, it was Palace that looked listless, and no wonder, having also played and lost midweek, and now finding themselves without a manager at short notice. Was it fair to sack Vieira? They had not won a game in 2023, but were also on the last leg of a brutal fixture list, so I don’t know.
It didn’t take us long to work out how they were going to try to get the ball forward, by drawing us up the pitch at goal kicks, and hitting their wingers in space. Had Joachim Andersen survived the warm-up you imagine he’d have been supplying most of that passing threat, because nobody else was up to it.
Arsenal were always on top in the first half, with decisive and eye-catching contributions from Martinelli and Saka, but everyone is due some credit. Holding, aggressive and powerful in the air, showed his ball-playing ability with three or four accurate cross-field passes early on. Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka and Zinchenko escaped with the ball from tight situations, while joining forces to squeeze Palace high up the pitch.
Ben White put on a masterclass. He was the one who stepped in to win it back to start the attack for our opener, and then got the ball to Saka with one of those ostensibly simple angled passes. When the dust settles on this season, we’re going to have to come to terms with the idea of an RB locking down the right flank but serving as Saka’s own private playmaker at the same time. Fingers crossed we can keep him fit for these last 10 games.
For much of the first half hour the ball bobbled to and fro across the Palace area, just out of reach of an Arsenal player. But finally, Saka’s cross made its way to Martinelli to cut onto his left and blasted inside the far post with his weaker foot. If Thursday night was a blow, he wasn’t showing it.
Then just before half-time, Ben White added nuance and danger to two successive moves, and Saka turned and shot low past Palace’s young goalkeeper, maybe showing his inexperience by taking up an iffy position.
While they looked ragged as a group, Palace have individuals who can turn a game, as we were reminded before we took the lead. Holding over-committed to a slide tackle high up the pitch, Schlupp pounced and Zaha loped into the space, going one-on-one against White.
Zaha shimmied and shot low against the post, and the ball ricocheted off Ramsdale’s calf and out for a corner. The replay showed that Ramsdale got a fingertip to the initial shot, so maybe he earned that moment of luck.
On the few other occasions Palace managed to hurt us, Zaha was the man involved. Just after half-time he went on another menacing run, and later forced a save from a narrow angle.
When they did start to make a game of it in the second half, Arsenal responded. The first of those replies was the best goal of the game. Zinchenko played one of his characteristic line-breaking passes to Xhaka, who laid it off first-time to Trossard who keeps showing us how well he can measure a final ball.
As with his chance against Fulham last week, Xhaka burst into the area, but this time prodded it into the net under pressure from the recovering defender.
Given the schedule, it’s understandable that Arsenal started to ease off with the score at 3-0.
All the same, Palace’s goal was needless. It came from a corner conceded with a strange clearance by White, who could have picked up the ball and recycled possession but slammed it into the Clock End.
We should have intervened as Schlupp brought the corner under control, but we didn’t, and he whacked it home. Palace barely merited a scoreline as narrow as 3-1, but might have narrowed it even further, when Zaha pulled it wide after some loose play, first by Ramsdale and then Partey.
We decided we needed to get serious again, and wrapped it all up a couple of minutes later. A Jesus run caused a bit of mayhem in the Palace defence, and the ball found its way out to Tierney who pulled it back perfectly for Saka to kill the game with a strike into the bottom corner.
Game over, with a win that answered a lot of questions, drew a line under Thursday and put everyone in a good mood going into the international break.
in this podcast Shotta tries to calm me down as I wax lyrical about the performance, team and Arteta.
If you missed the excellent review from Birdkamp yesterday, I suggest you go back and give it a read.
If other teams can work out whatever it is that allows us to have easy passing options at all times, then football will enter a new era.
Because when we’re flying we make football look so simple that it goes beyond personnel. You think there must be a recipe. Surely other teams are dying for an inside look at our training sessions, in the hope that they can isolate an all-important algorithm that drives the machine.
The first half against Fulham was a masterclass in teamwork, a lesson in subduing the opponent with your style. Some people are going to claim that Fulham didn’t show up. This just isn’t true.
They started at a clip, perhaps in the knowledge that we’d just got back from a game in Europe, and were coping with injuries and illness. Gabriel, White and Saka were all fouled early on as they tried to disrupt our flow.
Where Leicester were passive when we played them, Fulham were forcibly pacified, by the composure of individuals like Trossard and Xhaka, but also by our team’s fundamental connections.
You could compare the partnerships across the pitch to quantum entangled particles, communicating faster than the speed of light, defying what was previously thought possible. Or, to keep my waffle in check, maybe they’re like long-term couples who know each other implicitly?
Either way, a few minutes in, the ball was zigzagging up the pitch in short and then sweeping strokes, like tremors on a seismograph. Xhaka got loose and couldn’t quite cut it back, and then released Martinelli with a razor-sharp pass, for the eventual own-goal to be ruled out for what would, on another day, have been a controversial offside call.
When the VAR decision came through, Arteta made a rolling gesture with his hands, and the Arsenal factory went back to work. The great stationary engine began to turn and the myriad moving parts started to whir, and within three minutes we had the lead.
Trossard put in the mixer from a corner, and Gabriel towered over everyone to head it down and past Leno, who had may have been put off by a little tussle with White.
The machine was now at full tilt, and Fulham were in deep trouble. At this point they should have retreated to defend their own box for a few minutes, but they kept on closing down empty patches of grass recently vacated by a black and gold shirt.
After chasing a long sequence of passes they decided to commit half their squad to press an unconcerned Saliba, who looked up, spotted Xhaka on the other flank and switched the ball into so much space it might have been another ground.
The rest was about Trossard, who killed an awkward pass, stood the defender up and dug out a looping cross out for Martinelli, unchallenged at the back post.
Our football got even better, and in the 36th moment we almost added to the pantheon of great Arsenal goals. Odegaard angled the ball infield for Xhaka, who dummied and continued his run, leaving it for Trossard to tap a precise first-time pass ahead of him into the area.
Xhaka was all alone like Wilshere against Norwich, and, as if awed by the pure beauty of the move, gave us neither a shot nor piece of control.
No matter, a couple of chances later and Arsenal were 3-0 up. Partey seized on a loose throw, finding Saka who had wandered off the touchline to get in on the fun. He spread it wide to Martinelli in ample space, who fed it to Trossard in even more.
A deep cross got as far as Odegaard, who dropped his shoulder on a couple of broken, punch-drunk defenders and slotted it into the corner.
At half-time, have you ever in your life been more convinced that a game of football is dead? I don’t want to tempt fate, and I’m still totally on the fence about our run-in, but this performance had shades of 2002 and 2004.
We obliterated a team that didn’t know whether to push up or drop deep, and then spent the rest of the match with the safety on, and our gaze already turned to Sporting Lisbon.
Because of that cushion, there’s little to read into the second half, but Trossard, Xhaka, Martinelli, Zinchenko and Odegaard continued to dazzle.
And with Craven Cottage laid to waste, we could airdrop Gabriel Jesus, our one-man army, for a bit of a test run. Now, those three months weren’t so bad, were they?
Who knows what the next two months hold. But as of the 13th of March, with a sparkling team, a hopeful injury situation, and two seamless January signings, we can all agree that things are looking pretty good.
And as the home straight comes into view, we may soon have to grapple with the unutterable, and start to wonder if it can all get a whole lot better.
Hello one and all.
On this podcast we look back on Saturday’s miracle and revel in it. There’s a little bit of analysis of the game, but mainly just to old fellas being happy.
Deep in time added to stoppage time, Reiss Nelson gave us one of the great moments of the Emirates era, chesting it down and thwacking it home to seal a dazzling comeback win from two down.
Nelson’s goal sparked mass delirium, with the bench emptying onto the pitch, our captain collapsing to the turf, an inhuman howl issuing from the stands, and all of Arsenaldom sharing in a moment of rapturous joy. I have heard a crowd make such a ferocious noise, so loud it gave the commentators’ mics distortion.
It crowned the hardest of hard-fought wins, against an awkward team that was always elusive on the counter, and found innovative ways to defend with their arms while avoiding punishment.
Arsenal trailed for 70 minutes of the 98. This advantage played into Bournemouth’s hands, suiting their defensive gameplan and piling danger onto every turnover. Do not overlook the resilience and concentration to bring this back to 2-2 alone.
To start, Bournemouth turned the kick-off into an attacking set-piece by overloading the right side of the pitch, drawing our players to cover. The left was empty and they advanced to the corner of our box without facing a single challenge.
The cross snuck under Gabriel’s foot, though he can’t really be blamed for it, putting it on a tee for Billing who had an open goal. It was more clever from them than sloppy from us, but we didn’t come out looking good.
Our best chance of the first half came a couple of minutes later when Odegaard forced Neto to dive to the bottom right, and Saka followed up, striking the goalkeeper on the chest unawares.
The remainder was intermittent pressure on the Bournemouth box, alleviated by time-wasting and two or three troubling counter-attacks.
The most incisive of these drew a point-blank save from Ramsdale, although the replay showed that Solanke was probably offside when he broke, so it could have been ruled out.
After Saka’s chance, our best hope of a first-half goal was via a couple of penalty shouts. The first looked like a clear handball by a disoriented Mepham after a botched header.
Decisions like that make you doubt yourself, because I don’t know how it wasn’t given by VAR. I know even less now after the events of the second half.
The second big shout, just before half-time, looked innocuous in the moment, but the replay showed that Tomiyasu was first to the ball and was kicked by the defender. It might have been soft, but they have been called in the past, for teams that aren’t Arsenal.
Trossard went off with what looked like a muscle injury, leaving us with three forwards injured, and Emile Smith-Rowe coming on. ESR hadn’t looked fully fit before this game, and it was a bit troubling to see him on the pitch so early, knowing that we needed a contribution from him.
The second half was a harrowing blur of churning Arsenal possession, blocked shots, snuffled-out Bournemouth counters, wasted Arsenal corners, yet more potential handballs, and interminable time-wasting.
Every time we worked space for a shot it was straight at Neto, and as our corner count racked up did anyone else wonder that it would be typical if Bournemouth scored from their first one? That’s just what they did, when Senesi lost Partey and doubled Bournemouth’s advantage after an hour.
Partey had atoned within five minutes, seizing on the Cherries’ first moment of hesitation all game to get on the end of Emile Smith-Rowe’s looped header. Neto was booked in the aftermath, having successfully eaten into a big chunk of the game up to that point.
Bournemouth had looked less assured even before they extended their lead, and for the final half-hour we were able to put the squeeze on them without respite.
Smith-Rowe, evidently trying to find his feet, made way for Nelson, who has looked sharp when fit. The winger found space down the left, digging out a deep cross from the byline, met by White for his first ever Arsenal goal.
That was not an easy chance, but he adjusted his stride like a seasoned poacher, and the ball had already flown two feet across the line before Neto could paw it out.
I don’t have the energy to discuss all of the second half penalty claims. Maybe that’s how they get you, by grinding you down with confusion.
The biggest came on the back of the equaliser, when Saka’s cross was elbowed onto the post by Stephens, who leaned into the path of the ball. Looking back, it’s no wonder all of our other shouts were dismissed, if the claim had to be even more clear-cut than this one. I remain mystified.
With time ticking down, Martinelli went on a driving run from the halfway line, bursting into the box before blazing over. Saka, clearly flagging, then miscued.
More time was lost to delayed restarts and fake injuries, including a long one in the first minute of stoppage time, which is what gave us that one final chance, angled into the corner so adroitly by Mr Nelson.
With injuries and fatigue accumulating, who’s to tell what other contributions he might make before the season’s up?
As the ecstasy softens into a happy buzz—had anyone else forgotten about the power of back-to-back wins? I know I had. Because in two weeks we’ve put together 12 points. It took us three months to amass fewer in the winter of 2020-21.
A final thought for rival fans, squinting at spyware-riddled streams to witness Reiss Nelson blasting the ball into the net and the deranged catharsis that came with it.
In this podcast we discuss ,what I believe was a great performance and I go on a rant about corruption in football.
Can a game be called a nail-biter when the other team creates almost nothing—0.01xG to be precise—and doesn’t win so much as a corner? On today’s evidence, I guess so.
Arsenal were impossibly comfortable for an hour, before Leicester tried to get physical and turn it into a basketball match. From that point we had to be sensible, make sure the referee witnessed all of the many fouls against us, and close it out.
Even if you’ve only watched a couple of Arsenal matches this season, you’ll have noticed how things can swing wildly in 15-minute chunks. There are times when we are sublime, and make the other team look clumsy and inadequate.
Minutes later we are suffering, and sometimes it appears to be by choice, like we’re trying to get more suffering under our belts. We are experienced sufferers at this point, and called on all of that practice to stroll to 1-0 win.
In the first half we served up that smooth football that eases us from one box and one flank to the other.
You don’t need much of a tactical mind to know that Leicester are not a team to drill shape endlessly on the training ground. Arsenal found them very accommodating, opening up a lot of room in the parts of the pitch where we do the most damage.
In a pretty familiar pattern, the Leicester structure was being warped rightwards to cover Saka and Odegaard, and when we worked it left, we found Xhaka, Martinelli, Trossard and Zinchenko in boundless space.
Plenty of times this season the player who gets the ball on the left appears almost confused about how much space he’s in. And so it was today, with Martinelli overthinking his advantage more and more as the half went on.
Leicester’s threat in that first period was hypothetical—rare breaks that were easily cut out or broke down without much prompting.
At the mid-way point, after gliding up the pitch yet again there was a sense of the pressure becoming too much. Ward flapped at a corner, and it was laid off to Trossard who found the top corner with panache from the edge of the area.
VAR then gave the goal a kind of scrutiny not seen since the Zapruder Film, and Ward was deemed to have been fouled, unable to remove his arm from White’s no doubt crushing grip.
But for a penalty that should have been given on Saka, the long delay killed our momentum, and we drifted to half-time without a shot on target, for all of the danger we created.
Again, if you’ve been watching Arsenal this season you’ll know that we start second halves on a mission. Today’s spell yielded our only goal.
Barely a minute had passed when Gabriel passed/cleared the ball down the line for Trossard. The Belgian stood up Souttar, exploiting the Durdle Door-sized gap between his legs with a poked pass to Martinelli.
Speeding into the area, Martinelli had no time to overthink things; he took a perfect first touch and then swept the ball into the bottom corner, getting a stamp from Ndidi on the away.
For the next few minutes, we looked irresistible. First, Martinelli just failed to pick out one of the half-dozen Arsenal shirts in the box. Then Odegaard lifted the ball through for Martinelli to square for Saka, who scored what would have been a gorgeous goal, had Martinelli not been called offside. It was so tight.
After that, Leicester brought on Vardy, whose main contribution was to bodycheck Jorginho on the touchline. Vardy set the tone for his team, who got stuck in, and tried to overload the flanks, but were repelled by our defenders.
They got too aggressive a few times. Xhaka and Jorginho were roughed up in particular, but the closest they came to a goal was Souttar almost heading into his own net from Partey’s cross late on.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe they got away without a single yellow card, while Martinelli was booked for the most nothingy foul in the game.
Fine, it all ended with an away win, a clean sheet and two key players given a breather. So I think we’ll take it.
In this podcast we look back at the Villa game,a quick glance at the City defeat and a moan about children and their football jargon on twitter.
Back in the early days of the Emirates, Wenger’s Arsenal gave the word “brave” a new meaning, at least in football terms. For some, bravery will always be about barrelling into the 50-50s and putting your face in harm’s way like Phil Jones.
But for us, as we honed the short passing game that endures in Arteta’s Arsenal, “bravery” became sticking with your football principles in the face of setbacks, ridicule, and occasional violence.
It was in those days, not the glory of the Invincibles, that Arsenal’s modern identity was forged. This is our Plan A.
Our courage is about taking the difficult but more effective option. That might mean passing and receiving in tight areas, or looking for overlaps even when you know the other team is ready to pounce on the counter. Above all it means persevering, like Saka did all match, knowing you will be kicked.
That devotion to technicality even bled into our corners, in which we kept playing it short, and kept finding players in dangerous positions, like Zinchenko to make it 2-2.
Yesterday’s win at Villa, when Sauron’s eye was glaring at the manager and players was brave as hell. That was true for the final 20 minutes, when we continued to go for the win, knowing that counter attacks are Emery’s meat and drink.
Villa’s two goals were clinical in a way that makes it hard to point fingers at our players, but even if they were out of the blue they put us in a position where there was no longer margin for error, even when we’d been playing quite well again.
We revelled in that pressure this time. Take the passage of play before Zinchenko’s equaliser: Saliba tracked Watkins on a potential counter, ushered him down an alley and mugged him for the ball. It was a colossal piece of defending and exemplified a team shrugging off the baggage and rising to the challenge.
The past two weeks—yes, it’s only been two weeks since Everton away—Arsenal have played like a good team going through a sticky patch, as opposed to an average team that had finally been found out.
The way we look back at this run will always be coloured by the results, but in every game you could say that we’ve done the things that good teams do. For me, that applies most of all to the way we’ve worked the ball from defence to attack, only for things to break down.
Throughout this run, it has taken something special or a unique set of circumstances to take points off us.
But Villa are nothing special, and were the most vulnerable of any team we’ve faced since Wolves before the World Cup. They’ve got a lot of talented players, and Emery is still one of the best at preparing for individual matches, but their momentum has ebbed since the new year.
And while we’ve been doing a lot of things right recently, we haven’t been winning. Good teams win, and this was a winnable game.
There were other factors in play of course. One was the physical aspect, with under 72 hours between kick-offs. Another is morale. It would only be natural for heads to drop after a winless run.
And yet, even in the lowest point in this game, immediately after Villa had scored their second, we were brave enough to keep playing our football, attempting and succeeding with high-tariff passes through the lines to players in spots that made Villa uncomfortable.
Good examples were Xhaka finding Nketiah in the area from deep, or Saliba clipping a pass out to Saka on the move, as we tried to assert ourselves the only way we know.
Fast-forward to a match poised at 2-2, with six minutes added and a lot more wasted by Emi Martínez. If we had ridden our luck, Villa had burned through a season’s worth. And here we are, pinning them in their box, working it from side-to-side, looking for a yard. By hanging back, Jorginho found several, and he made the most satisfying connection.
The ball ricocheted off the crossbar and then off the head of Martínez, as poetic comeuppance, as if some greater force had looked at Arsenal’s last two weeks, had watched that guy’s World Cup celebrations, and said, “You know what, you deserve this.”
It was a fitting end to a week in which Arsenal were supposed to have been figured out and needed to come up with a Plan B.
No way, Arsenal must live and die by our Plan A, because our Plan A is who we are.