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.
I thought we played really well and Jorginho was magnificent.
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Nice one Birdkamp – as ever a 1,000 times more balanced, nuanced and insightful than I could ever be, thanks for a great read.
Very satisfactory result, away win against fairly tenacious if not actually threatening opponents.
Far from satisfactory, however, was yet another ref/VAR effort and we deserve great credit for dealing with the 13 man attack, all told.
No doubt this is just the dress rehearsal for us and the (largely) northern cohort of refs will not be doing us (m)any favours any time soon.
How they dug out the hand hold on Ward’s otherwise very successful clearance punch and minutes later showed zero interest in a penalty claim endorsed, later, by Detmot Gallagher and Mike Dean, no less. Even Adrian Durham and Gary Linekar could not see the justification in Trossard’s beauty being cancelled. It all just seems so ‘anti-football’.
And I know we are supposed to be good girls and boys, not mention anything in the surefire knowledge ‘it all evens out’ over the season. Presumably this mantra still applies if City beat us to the top by 2 points?
Yes, even now I’m still annoyed.
On to Wednesday with hope for a good game and fear as to what the refs will serve up next.
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I don’t just read Birdy’s write-up I inhale it….excellent stuff!
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Agree George, btw, Jorginho has been first class for two games in a row. Just can’t understand why so many were so lukewarm towards the former Chelsea stalwart. His ‘numbers’ are off the scale (if you want a very modern version of this comment).
Thanks AA and GP, and George for posting it!
I streamed this one live and tried to type as I watched. It’s funny how the tension can affect how you see the game—you can’t give enough attention to events that are bigger than they seem at the time, and as long as there’s one goal in it you never feel safe.
But looking back, what made it all seem tight was the inconsistent refereeing, and that included not cracking down on the fouling that crept in.
Even when Pawson went to the screen, I was wondering if he might ignore the VAR ref. There was so little in it.
Also, I know their contracts were up, but it’s mad how we picked up two of the most technically gifted players in the league just like that. EL suddenly looks like an opportunity to rotate without trading on quality.
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The saddest thing (not that sad tbh) is that Trossard’s goal would have been hailed as a worldy, with all the pleasure and increase of confidence that would have brought. I don’t think Jorghino and him slipped under the radar by accident: the best chess players are always several moves ahead, and know when to over promote opening gambits
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All away wins are good especially when you have been lax defensively as a team recently.
Strangely enough the stableness of our team was matched by an absolute staleness in the final third.
Leicester are a team who will let you play and we still struggled to create chances throughout the game.
Jorginho is another fantastic player going forward and some of the passes between the lines and inside the full backs were exquisite however he does get caught out on breaks and looks slow. He also, at the moment hasn’t adjusted to the rest of the team in running back towards his own goal and sometimes takes up the wrong position however I’m sure that’s just a matter of time.
The Jorginho, Partey, Xhaka triumphant was interesting and will serve us well in games where we are under pressure and are defending a lead.
I heard a lot of people saying the false nine worked but although Trossard himself played well the lack of chances in the final third proved it didn’t this time and maybe this was the wrong time to try it.
I think Eddie would have caused them all sorts of trouble with those Jorginho passes running in behind.
Martinelli scored but again he was generally poor especially given the space and time he was given on the ball.
At one point he received the ball in the area and held on to it for a full eleven seconds allowing Leicester to break the move down. This cannot continue the coaching staff either have to get him to change or he needs to be dropped.
The main thing this last couple of results have proved is that even though we have been going through a bad patch the squad is definitely getting stronger and when the games start bunching up and the hard final ten comes we are in a much better place to deal with them.
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This read is a highlight of my Sunday. Thank you it is always a balanced view which is hard to find on football sites.
I don’t think that anyone can deny that Arsenal are up against it in the Premier League on many fronts. However many do.
All we can do is dig in.
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What a shit footballing Sunday
Our ladies get knocked out of the cup by chelski usa
Spuds win a game they always lose
Manure win a cup
At least reading knocked the spuds ladies out the cup
Thanks Birdkamp. Thought the team were excellent , the refereeing, well, it’s either very poor or there is something else going on,or both. I suspect this club aren’t popular at the PGMOL after what happened to Mason .
Our new, inspired signings have fitted in magnificently, and quickly, and perhaps just as well.
But overall, just very impressive
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Jorginho – was present when he playing for the opposition when we played Chelsea, think it may have been Artetas first home game , or thereabouts back in 2019, he was a real handful, we started well but this player unfortunately turned the game in Chelsea’s favour, a bit of the master of the dark arts as well as a very decent player, he should have been sent off, prob twice over that day! Left the ground cursing him. He won’t get away with what he did that day for Chelsea when playing for us, but I’m sure he is smart enough to know that as well.
A very very clever and accomplished player , our players clearly love him , our supporters should as well.
what I find alarming about the VAR intervention/non intervention yesterday, was how keen so many Arsenal fans are to excuse it, we could see how much micro analysis of loads of camera angles VAR had to do to see White’s infringement, but when it came to the Saka penalty claim, many AFC fans are saying it could not be given as there was only a bad camera angle for the VAR to decide from. Which of course nonsense, they seem confused by the single camera angle the TV company decided to show the viewing public, and think that is all VAR get to view too, when in fact VAR has the use of cameras from all over the place. People need to stop excusing the corruption in the PGMOL and the EPL
I know loads of fans, and see loads and loads more, who have no hesitation in saying FIFA is corrupt, EUFA is corrupt, La Liga is corrupt, Seri A is corrupt, Lique 1 is corrupt, Bundeliga is corrupt, the UK government is corrupt, big business is corrupt, but no way is the EPL or PGMOL corrupt. It seems everything in English football is whiter than white, and corruption could never happen here, and is the only clean multi billion dollar business in the world. Can’t have reality nagging at you when its your favorite pastime that is up for grabs, now can we.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles made his 100th Premier League appearance in Southampton’s defeat to Leeds. His debut was for Arsenal against Newcastle in 2014.
what a waste of talent
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