Arsenal take the short trip across the capital for their Premier League clash against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this evening; with Mikel Arteta looking for payback having suffered the only defeat in his short reign against the Blues.
Both sides come into this match on the back of disappointing results this past Saturday; the Gunners drew 1-1 with Sheffield United, with Newcastle United scoring in the last minute to run out 1-0 winners against Frank Lampard’s side.
It was always going to be a trying season for Lampard as his arm got forced by their transfer ban over the summer to bring in quite a few young players into the side.
But after just one point from their opening two league games they went on a decent run, winning eight of their following 10 (D1, L1), and things started to look on the ups. Then with fixture congestion after the November inter-break, the inexperience of his young side showed with them struggling to find consistency, losing six of their 11 matches since.
All things considered though, even with their ‘implosion’ thus far this winter months, they’re still in control of their own top-four ambitions, thanks to their strong start to the season.
In comparison the North London side have struggled all season, despite recent “improved performances”. Not because of matches lost per se, only three teams got less defeats than our current six, but largely due to a league high 11 draws from 23 matches.
Since the Spaniards arrival we drew four out of six league matches, including our last three away at Everton (watching from the stands), Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. Only one of our draws ended goalless and we surrendered the lead in seven of the other 10. This is such a frustrating stat because you’d expect us to do a better job seeing games out, especially with seven of those coming against sides outside the traditional top-six.
Another bit of info is that, despite our issues on the road, we haven’t lost an away match since that 2-0 loss at Leicester on November 9th. But once again, the draws are keeping us mired in midtable. If we are to claw our way up the table, we have to find a way to convert draws into wins so our results can start match our performances.
Just looking at our two recent fixtures; the Gunners looked on their way to wins against both Crystal Palace and the Blades after going 1-0 into the break, however, we failed to hold on. It’s true that we were let down by questionable officiating in both outings, but we also didn’t do ourselves any favours by being so off-colour in front of goal. These two results can be seen as wasted opportunities because if we had that four-point swing, we would be going into this game with a chance to close the gap on 4th-placed Chelsea to three points.
Which begs the question; are we really having a crap season that merits the term “relegation form”, or just an unfortunate one?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is suspended, with Reiss Nelson and Sead Kolasinac only expected back after our trip to Burnley. Sokratis, who missed our last game due to illness, will be assessed ahead of the game.
Chelsea have struggled at home in the league recently, winning only two of their last five at the Bridge. So Arsenal definitely got a chance here if we take the game to them, we have to put away our chances though, because that has been our biggest letdown since Boxing day.
Difficult games to call, especially with history not our side; we haven’t win there since the 5-3 back in October 2011, a game both head-coaches played in. I do fancy our chances though, with both teams to score. COYG!
that is our 12th draw in 24 games, but unlike nearly all of the other draws, that one felt much bigger than a draw, much bigger than a point.
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This is the type of game where a team can go on a serious run. Confidence must be through the roof. Really proud of the team.
from football.london, Arteta’s presser
Arteta on the response
“I am proud. I said to them I believe they can get back in the game and I’m very pleased.”
Arteta on the kids
“Tonight is going to be a great experience for them as in football anything can happen.”
Arteta on the subs
“With Martinelli I changed my mind because I didn’t want to send that message to the team. I asked them to be accountable.”
Arteta on Luiz
“He was disappointed but proud of his teammates.”
Arteta on Xhaka
“From day one I spoke with him. I tried to convince him this was the right place for him and everything I ask he’s willing to do. I don’t know how good he was going to be at centre-back.”
Arteta on Lacazette
“Amazing performance. He sacrificed a lot for the team and I am so happy with him.”
I see Newcastls goals came in the 3rd and 5th minutes of 4 minutes of stoppage time, now that is a late smash and grab, Everton must be kicking themselves
Granit Xhaka presenting Héctor Bellerín with his Man of the Match award in the post-match interview: “I didn’t know he had a good left foot!”
Bellerín: “It’s better after the operation!”
I like Arteta’s reasoning as to why he did not sub on Holding when David Luiz was sent off, that it would have sent out the wrong message to the team, that it would have meant we are trying to keep the score down, but by keeping all the forwards on it meant he was showing them that his words in training about being brave, and going for it, to show character, to believe, and to keep going for it no matter what, are more than mere words, he is true to his word. No Emery speak form our Mikel.
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So happy with that. Superb effort from players. It looked ominous to me before sending off, and when it happened, I’ll admit did not give us a prayer. Could barely watch for a bit but when I did we were doing quite well, though my hopes hadn’t risen any at that stage.
We fought, held on, worked tirelessly, played clever and did what we had to in order to have a chance, rode luck slightly maybe, then the joy of that Martinelli goal. Well before end I was ready to view it as a commendable effort even if late pain arrived. It did, but then we found another response! Pure joy.
Take your pick for positives, it feels like, but probably number one for me is that Hector looked healthy. The goal was a fantastic bonus but if he’s really back and like his old self that is the real good news.
Two 18 year olds who can surely have great futures doing well in such a game not far behind in feel good stakes either.
Collectively, it was about spirit and effort. We can dream tonight of what might be possible with more time, less injuries, maybe a player or two who is just what Arteta feels is needed.
Gabriel Martinelli become the first 18-year-old to score in consecutive Premier League matches since Nicolas Anelka in January 1998.
As Arteta says, they should all feel very proud of that performance.
Shot themselves in the foot, but fought with10 men, didn’t get the win but got a draw at a place with a bad history in recent years.
Mustafi made a bad mistake, but refused to wilt, indeed stood strong for much of the rest of the game, to his immense credit, Xhaka showed his awareness, strength and versatility, and leadership Mr Emery, Saka continues to grow, impressively, Lacca has lost his scoring boots temporarily but showed many other qualities today, Hector, how good was that to see him back, Arteta, he spread belief, urged them not to give up, and perhaps another HT bollocking, and then we can dream , it is possible we have a very , very special young player on our hands.
It was yet another draw, it will not help us finish in the top four, but there are other longer term gains to be made this season, as Hector said, this felt like something more than one point.
There was something of the FA Cup v Spurs Rosicky goal about Martinelli’s great effort last night. I just heard a clip from Arteta’s interview and was struck by the emphasis he made about the team spirit and the ethos they are building.
It’s great to wake up and have that feel good football feeling just imagine if we had won.
We do need wins of course but I am loving watching a game and thinking something might actually change if we go one nil down or create a nightmare error not alone three in a row.
It is such a welcome development from years of the heart sinking and thoughts of same old same old.
Let’s kick on.
Small thing but I was pleased with ref for booking their left back yesterday reasonably early. Looked under orders to be extremely aggressive with Pepe but after yellow calmed right down.
Was a completely deserved booking, as replay showed it was about four fouls in one, with last one worth it on its own, but still surprised me and made me momentarily grateful.
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