Disjointed Arsenal Click at the Right Time.

Arsenal stuttered to a comfortable 4-1 win against Leeds on Saturday. And if the idea of stuttering to that margin of victory sounds stupid, well it was that kind of game. 

In true post-international break tradition, we started out blunt going forward and vulnerable to counters. 

But after Jesus drew a silly foul from Ayling in a rare moment of danger, the game flipped. Then, aided by what must have been an angry Arteta team talk and a tactical rejig, we had the whole thing wrapped up before the hour. We were even able to give most of our big players a rest. 

To my mind, Leeds set up a bit like Oxford in the FA Cup in the first half, pushing pretty high without the ball and playing with what felt like 11 midfielders. I recall Roca was doing something interesting early on, alternating between central defence and defensive midfield. 

Coming to The Emirates and containing Arsenal is not easy to do. But if opponents catch us on a sloppy day, they have big swathes of the pitch they can pour into. The game plan for individuals is pretty straightforward, too: Work hard, stay in position and break quickly. Summerville was on board, seizing on repeated turnovers, surging into our half, giving and going. 

As for us, how to put this? We were not good in the first half. Trying to work out what was wrong, I kept thinking of phantom limbs. This is a team that has flourished through instinctive partnerships, developed in the long-term and also over the course of this winning run. Against Leeds, key parts had been crudely lopped off, with Saka ill and Trosard moved out right.  

Everything was off-kilter on the right flank where Odegaard and White are accustomed to the crutch of Saka on the touchline to simplify things or turn up the heat. Several times they got the ball to Trossard tight on the flank where he obviously didn’t want it. When things fell apart, Summerville on their left was usually the man capitalising, 

Jesus looked pretty miffed about the whole thing. If you can interpret his gestures, it was like the team kept breaking a pre-match promise to play it forward earlier or find him in the channels. 

This is a guy who backs himself in any race or physical battle after all, unlike Trossard as a false 9, who drifts around so he doesn’t need to get involved in that stuff. So you can sympathise if he felt he wasn’t being harnessed in the right way. 

The upshot is that we were disjointed, while Leeds were menacing, testing Ramsdale as early as the first 20 seconds and then twice more half an hour in.

But everything changed when Jesus turned Ayling inside out, sending him to ground and going down over his outstretched leg. It was an obvious penalty and maybe an example of the chaos Arteta says he brings

It’s great that Jesus accepted the invitation to go down, where previously he’s tried to stay on his feet after getting bear-hugged in the box. It’s also heartening to see him take responsibility from the spot and get back to scoring ways at a crucial time. 

We improved after the goal, but saved our best football for the second half. 

Within a couple of minutes of the restart, Martinelli picked it up from Zichenko on the left, cut inside Ayling and angled a searching low cross for White to turn in, out of nowhere at the far post. Credit to Trossard for his early near-post run, which set the Leeds defence askew. 

At this point there was ample space to explore, and for the next 15 minutes we were flying. This spell yielded our best goal, when Gabriel Jesus got the ball to Trossard in a more familiar central position, where the Belgian’s nifty first touch bought some space in the area. 

Trossard shimmied to the corner of the six-yard box and cut it back for the arriving Jesus to finish. It was another of those cascading moves in the classic Arsenal style. 

The final half-hour was marked by several momentum-disrupting substitutions, but these were necessary on the back of a busy international break. At 3-0 up with 20 minutes to go and potentially the biggest six weeks in the recent history of the club ahead of us, you can’t blame the team for taking their foot off the gas.

Leeds were allowed back into it for a while. First Ramsdale had to save at the near post against Aaronson. Then they mustered the kind of counter previously seen in the first half-hour, with Harrison advancing 30 yards to the edge of the area. If they had been unlucky not to get more out of their chances in first half, they were fortunate here. 

Xhaka’s challenge diverted it to Kristensen, whose shot was deflected past Ramsdale off Zinchenko’s shoulder. 

But in 2022-23 Arsenal likes to have the last word. So it was, when Saka attracted half the Leeds squad on the right flank. He knows that in these situations a simple pass infield is enough to unbalance a team. Odegaard bent a cross to Xhaka who killed the match with a guided header and his third goal in three. 

Eight-point gap restored. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s probably Champions League football secured for next season. 

Leeds were not bad at all, and in the tougher moments forced Arteta to consider how to get more out of certain players, and the pros and cons of sticking with the same XI each week. The cohesion is powerful, but if one or two long-term picks drop out, the adjustment can leave us vulnerable. 


24 comments on “Disjointed Arsenal Click at the Right Time.

  1. Good morning all, and good blog Birdkamp, you did a great job of highlighting the problem of a 4-1 win actually being a bit of a struggle.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Morning! Cheers Bird as always. Plenty to learn from going into the Liverpool game.

    Sometimes I wonder if all the international games would be better played in a block pre-season? But I think the organisers like the stop start, thinking it makes it exciting? Nice to struggle but still win 4-1!


    Liked by 3 people

  3. A good, thoughtful analysis Birdkamp.

    Scraping a win whilst not being at your best, well, they always say that’s what the good teams do. So to win 4-1 in patchy form ain’t so bad.

    And we won despite having lost Saliba to injury and Saka to illness, initially, at least.

    We won although it was Jesus first start since God knows when and it must have been his and Trossard’s first time playing together in anger.

    We won despite Partey feeling his way back to fitness after his international withdrawal.

    On a more positive side, I thoroughly enjoyed the optics of Ben White playing and scoring so well making the failure of Southgate to select him for England since the WC look more dismal with every passing match.

    And I loved, yet again, the sight of Xhaka, once rejected by a sizeable chunk of the Arsenal fan base, scoring a powerful header to make it three in three for the brilliant Swiss who seems to have fewer and fewer holes in his game these days.

    So there WERE plenty of positives to take out of the game, along with the three points and the continuing spread of goals around several talents as opposed to a single, markable talisman. That Trossard’s assist contribution is off the scale given how recently he joined is, er, let’s just say the numbers are Ozilesque …

    Yes, the best teams find a way to scramble a victory in adversity so it would be churlish to complain too much. I think Birdkamp’s point is that on another day, with worst luck, a better opponent would carve us open.

    After yesterday, I’m not certain Liverpool are likely to be that opponent, though Citeh probably are. But in truth, it won’t be our results against those two games from our remaining nine that will determine the outcome of the league, although ANY kind of result against either will do us a HUGE favour.

    And to that extent, assuming the Injury Gods continue to smirk if not actually smile down at us, I do still feel confident for the League come May.

    Time will very shortly tell.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thanks for the nice responses PG, Mills and AA.

    I don’t know if I got this one right. I’m a bit burnt out this week, and holding out for the bank holiday. There were a lot of factors that could have counted against us, but we overcame them.

    Leeds could have scored before us, but that might have only woken us up and produced the same outcome.

    Mills, I fully subscribe to the idea of an international season. Condense it all to a three month chunk in the summer. For one thing, it would greatly improve the quality of international football to have players training and playing together for several weeks, and it wouldn’t disrupt the domestic season either.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks Birdkamp. Was a strange game, as mentioned, not the best start, do wonder of a few players might have been a little under the weather. Leeds often perform well against us, though usually without reward in recent games. Still our players played well once they got going, could have scored more .
    Just Hope to see Liverpool leaving as many holes in their defence next week as they did yesterday.
    Love the way Xhaka just drives this team on, think those in the ground appreciate him now as well. As they should.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. And as for the Southgate / White saga, whatever happened, we know who the loser there is .
    Southgate has done ok compared with most other England managers, which is generally not a high bar, but he does have his favourites, and if White is not one of them, or he was being punished for not doing his homework if some reports were true, suits Arsenal just fine, get the impression White doesn’t lose any sleep over it either

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Christ chelusa sack potter. Strange decision this late in the season.
    I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad for us considering we play them at the end of April.
    He is another manager I wouldn’t want to see at the spuds but that will have to wait

    Liked by 1 person

  8. so Rodgers and Potter both sacked in recent days, following on from Conte earlier in the week. Silly season is here again

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Arsenal Women with a great comeback win at home to Man City women today, Katie McCabe with a screamer for the winner, Arsenal currently 3rd, just the 3pts behind man utd, with a game in hand, CFC are 2nd and two points ahead of just

    Liked by 2 people

  10. 9 games to go and a maximum of 8pts needed to secure a CL place(top 4 finish)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Chelsea are complete idiots, how can any manager manage a squad of elite players that size? Impossible, and not Potters fault . Hope they pay him his £60 mil in full. Fcukwits
    As for the Champs league, no need to worry ,we will play there next season, and finish in the top 2 of the league this season, which is way above the expectations of anyone I have heard of at the start of the season, except perhaps Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus
    We have a very special manager and team

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Our team cohesion and coaching staff have proved it is better to stick rather than twist.
    To have three clubs at this stage of the season, all in different parts of the league, without managers is absolutely crazy.
    I think it how much other clubs panic when ARSENAL are playing well.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. OT: sorry to see Sakamoto has died.His legacy is a massive amount of music exploring a lot of different styles, which touched a lot of lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Yep this was another excellent review BK,
    It was generally a strange match with Leeds creating loads of chances and generally frustrating us so much so that Aaron was the possibly the MOTM certainly the player of the first half.
    Ironically we a player like Jesus who can find chances even when he makes the wrong decision. The pen for instance he was lucky Ayling just caught his knee because he should of passed just before that.
    As I have said before the fact we can criticise such small errors shows just how far we have come and just how good we are.
    When George said I was a miserable barstard he was absolutely right as after the euphoria of Saturday I then watched city dismantle Liverpool, which should of been one of their hardest fixtures, and I took a thousandth look at their remaining games only to get depressed again.
    The trouble with football is although I have always said city would win in the end,with every game that has gone by I’ve started to dream a little more.
    Liverpool are a completely different animal at home and this week will be a massive test,very don’t often win there.
    With games against city and Newcastle away and Chelsea and Brighton at home we have a nightmare run in.
    In fact all of our games look difficult and theirs looks easy, I no that’s just part of being a fan and everyone is saying just enjoy the ride as long as it last but I’m becoming increasingly shaky even when we’re winning
    Please someone cheer me up

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I think shaking all over versus Leeds was always going to happen after the break? But I had no deeper fear.That doesn’t mean my instinct is better or worse than anyone elses but somehow I still felt ok. If anything, it was a vast improvement on the shuffle and scrape game at theirs…the cauldron of sweat and high blood pressure.

    If I was Arteta, I wouldnt look over my shoulder…or look at the media,they have their own circus going on.Were the Toon expected to beat ManUre? This year was always going to be odd, and it will be till the end. Who knows what results my pop up. City have at least one draw or a loss in them yet. Half the division is fighting against relegation…If played on a Saturday afternoon at 3pm, three weeks from now, would Liverpool have collapsed so easily? Im not so sure.

    However, we can win every game, we really can. We’ve proved it so far.

    Problem is going up to Livercrutches, is that the weight of history hangs on Arsenals shoulder up there. Hardly ever do we dig out a win, its like we are scared of the place. The ghosts of Paisley, Dalgish champion league winners and even the creation of the modern fan ( organised singing etc)etc

    Even in 89 its seemed impossible as we hadn’t won up there since 1975. But we did.Its all in the bonce. GG and the lads knew it.

    We can beat anyone on our day, including City. I don’t just think the Toon, City and Chelsea and Liverpool will rise up, but every team will.

    But ‘so what?’ said Miles Davis? If we’re going to win the fkn thing, its about time we stopped getting intimidated and did the biz. Ok easier said than done, although so far we’ve been doing it.

    We have the basis/stats/results to go up there, stick to the game plans and come away still on the glory path. Yet shit! For some reason we all (all?) think Liverpool will win, and that they are the best club in the league. Where’s this coming from?

    I said about enjoy the ride ages ago because I didnt want to get hurt. Im a pussy and thats the way out for me, as the Arsenal hurt me loads in the life, and still do, as expectation and want often went down the kasi in the past and we were shite for two seasons under Arteta, and as this seasons grown into a possibility I didn’t want to commit whole-heatredly.But we can all play mind games with ourselves, as once a committed Arsenal fan, that’s the way it always is.You cant hide or run or get a divorce.You always want to win, and you want it now.Buts that’s only part of the reason we watch football?

    I also said the closer it got the more I would also do one in fear. I have that fear like you Ian.But I also have hope and some faith.Belief and non-belief are based on conjecture, yet we establish the beliefs by our own empirical understanding of events in live. And so far we are going up there with the chance to win, based on what we’ve seen this year. But somehow we also have that fear based on past results of a 4-0 thrashing and the Ox gloating that he made the right move.But this season we’ve proved that we can go most places and do the biz, if we are committed. Ok everyone’s idea of commitment might be different, but we play as we have been, then Liverpool will lose.

    Thats why Arteta and the lads shouldn’t look at us.Fear spreads. However anxiety is caused by looking into the future, and all football fans do, especially when you start to get close. Of course you remember the spectacular collapse of 89. But the miracle makers did it. So we are going to be anxious. Its going to get worse unless City pull way ahead of us.

    No, none of this will cheer you up, Im not sure anyone can cheer anyone else up,even if I tried to take my trousers off over my head it might not get a cheer.

    But all we have is faith; irrational, and unconvincing as it might seem for shelter, and perhaps not even real, but its all there is.

    (ps written in friendship as the bloody internet is so weird things can be read anyway which)

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Thanks Birdy, and I hope you get the rest and the break you need over the Easter weekend. Of course we could lose or drop points against any of the teams we still have to play, as all of them have players who could hurt us. But the difference for me this season is that with the exception of City none of them have players who are as good as ours.
    And on a theme of good players, Trossard’s movement and skill for Jesus’s goal was exceptional, as was Odegaard’s cross for Xhaka’s.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Thanks Mills, that does actually make me feel better.
    Tim, absolutely not only have we shared the goals amongst the team but the assists have been even more diverse.
    Apart from MO’s excellent ball Trossard had no right to get the ball back from there.
    Xhaka played an excellent ball to Jesus who really should of scored, Martinelli’s ball across was simply waiting for someone to smack it home.
    Partey, Saka, Nelson, Eddie, Tierney, Zinchenko, Ben have all contributed this season so teams just don’t know who is going to deliver that final pass.
    A great position to be in.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. like clicked.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I watched Everton play that lot with very mixed feelings last night. What a disgrace of a manager Dyche is, and I wonder how much of his ‘success’ is down to a conspiracy of silence with regard to the soft way his strong arm tactics are abetted by equally soft refereeing. Despite myself I started to hope for a Spurs win, until national hero Harry threw himself to the ground in his Oscar winning simulation after the merest of facial touches. But their supine tactics after going one-up, courtesy of a truly excellent penalty from said floored (flawed) hero was quite extraordinary, and one can only guess at the smug satisfaction felt by that cont Cunte as they folded gently under pressure.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. The only time the spuds should ever be supported for a win is if it makes us win the league, other than that stay far away.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Mitrovic banned for eight games. Typical shit from the PL and not because I think it’s ok to push refs but how much hypocrisy the officials let everyone every game get in their face but not even a card.
    This moment was almost invited. As any HR CIPD associate or union rep will tell you before you can discipline anyone a standard must be set.
    So several players can scream and spit in a referees face but a grab to stop him running away is a multiple ban as is a small push.
    Not to mention a manure player pushing a lino and a plethora of ex refs queueing up to defend him.
    I don’t mind discipline but this hypocrisy is total bollocks.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. There can only be one reason Fernandes gets away with what he does. He’s their star boy. Gets away with murder as does mctomunay and the Brazilian lad casimiro who has to commit 3 yellows to get one. He must be bad though as he has actually been off twice

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Hey guys. Am just catching up with the blog. Been busy with lots of personal stuff but I try my best to do the weekly pod with George. In yesterday’s edition we skimmed over the Leeds game and spent a lot of time looking forward to Liverpool. In our view it is a critical game if we are hold off the Man City stretch run. Its a big challenge given we haven’t beaten them at Anfield in 11 years. To get people’s attention I titled the podcast “After Leeds Arsenal Will Need Another Abou Diaby At Liverpool.”
    Would love to get your views.


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