Saturday, 13 August 2022

Arsenal 4-2 Leicester (full-time)

Who would guess it would be four more goals in the second half with three of them scored by Arsenal players.

Saliba was really unfortunate with his headed own goal, as perhaps Ramsdale's positioning was suspect. Then again, Saliba should have tried to get more of angle on his header, but he was under severe pressure from Vardy. Leicester brought on Daka, but he didn't get a look in, so accomplished was the youngster; nothing fazes Saliba.

Arsenal hit straight back, within seconds. Ward dropped the ball and Jesus squared to Xhaka, who tapped in.

Another Ramsdale mistake reduced the deficit, as the England keeper was beaten by a Maddison near post shot.

Once again, Arsenal bounced back, as Martinelli struck home a beauty.

Partey hit the post, in what was another impressive Arsenal performance.

Ratings - second half
Ramsdale 5 - disappointing, especially when letting in the second
White 7 (Tomiyasu 6) - came off injured, which is a concern
Saliba 7 - assured, despite the own goal. You could see the anguish etched on the Frenchman's face, but he continued to show character
Gabriel 7 - strong in the tackle
Zinchenko 9 (Tierney)- almost faultless  
Saka 6 (Smith-Rowe) worked hard
Odegaard 7 - measured his passing more precisely
Partey 7 - broke up attacks, but gave the ball away at times
Xhaka 7 - a goal, a smile and a heart shape. He's 'luvved up' with Arsenal right now
Martinelli 9 - capped a magnificent performance with a goal
Jesus 9 (Nketiah) - deserved a hat trick, but it wasn't to be.

Arsenal 2-0 Leicester (half time)

The Foxes arrived at the Emirates having dropped two points at home to Brentford, but they started to play with plenty of confidence and style, belying that early disappointment.

Although Arsenal weren't quite as impressive as they were at the start of the opening game of the season at Palace, Martinelli was causing havoc down the left. The Brazilian's bamboozling tricks resulted in his marker, Forfana, getting booked.

Arsenal weren't the dominant force initially, but that all changed when Jesus infeasibly spooned the ball over Ward for the opener.

He then added to his tally with a back post header from a Martinelli corner.

Jesus then started popping up everywhere, almost as if Arsenal had 13 men on the pitch, but, just to keep the Gunners on their toes, referee England awarded Leicester a soft penalty.

Luckily, Mike Dean in the VAR room recommended that England check the replays, which showed that Ramsdale made minimal contact on Vardy, who went to ground. England deserves the plaudits for reversing his earlier decision, much to the relief of Arsenal fans.

Half-time ratings
Ramsdale 7 - made a good save to deny Forfana
White 7 - solid, but not as busy as last week
Saliba 7 - gave away a silly free kick, but didn't do much else wrong. Looked good bringing the ball forward.
Gabriel 6 - some poor distribution here and there
Zinchenko 8 - another master class. To paraphrase Matt Upson, Zinchenko knows when to release the ball
Saka 6 - quiet, by his standards
Odegaard 6 - over-hit a few passes
Partey 7 - generally tidy and quite dominant
Xhaka 7 - an assist and a header on target, but lacks pace to get onto through balls
Martinelli 8 - a constant thorn in the Foxes' side
Jesus 9 - nearly perfect.

Thursday, 11 August 2022

All or Nothing: Arsenal episode 6

As much I love Arteta, I don't think this episode was the same level as the others, even though it was about El Boss.

It starts off with revenge tasting bitter-sweet with Arteta using Ivan Toney's 'kickabout' tweet as a motivational tool against Brentford. It was still a 2-1 win in an unconvincing performance.

We later get to see Arteta at home. Again, viewers will feel the key to success is a supportive family and he's got that with his wife and three sons.

Lacazette takes centre stage a bit more, confronting Smith-Rowe about his tasteless trainers, which is relatively amusing.

Later, last season's number nine is told to be more 'selfish' in front of goal, by Steve Round, as he needs more than a 'magic beenie' hat to hit the net. Nevertheless, in one of the games, to me, it was Laca's goal, although officially it was credited as an own goal. Round tells him he needs to more like Benzema, in regard to his movement.

The Wolves game at the Emirates is particularly dramatic, with Arteta's subs paying off, after going 1-0 down. So Pepe's goal drew the Gunners level and then Laca delivers. It took a deflection, but it was his goal!

As well as that, we see how well Leno deputised for Ramsdale at Villa. The unusual thing was a Ramsdale injury, as he had never had a significant one before in his career, as we saw in an earlier episode.

Ben White also gets lots of credit for being 'immense' in that game, and you can see how focussed he is on being the best. No wonder big things are expected of him.

It sounds like it's more disappointments, as well as entertainment in the next batch of episodes, as the series documents Arsenal's losing streak, amongst other things.

All or Nothing: Arsenal episode 5

I found this a little disappointing compared to episode 4. I'm not sure why, as it was still riveting viewing.

In this one, Auba is finally out of the door, breaking club rules again as he arrives in Barcelona ahead of a deal that only goes through at literally the eleventh hour.

Arteta comes out of it as a dignified leader, and Edu is a realist, telling Barca that they're living in 'Disneyland' if they're trying to tell him that Auba is simply in the city to see his family. Apparently, Auba should have been training alone at Arsenal, at the time.

Another thing that's come out of this for me is Lacazette, an unsung hero. During the January goal drought, it was the Frenchman who set up Gabriel for the only goal at Wolves.

In the previous episode, I felt Laca's contribution was underplayed. I'm not sure why. It was like he was being airbrushed out of history to some extent, a bit like Sead Kolacinac, who is on screen for the briefest of moments: blink and you miss it. Then, he's gone, leaving the club during the winter transfer window.

Granit Xhaka made me laugh, though, when he was trying to get Saka to say 'thank you' to him. It was about another silly red card that the Switzerland international picked up. It was a reckless challenge and he had to walk for it. In the end, Xhaka accepted the blame, but it was a lighthearted moment and made me realize why Granit is loved by his teammates: the guy is real character.

I do worry that Granit never learns, especially after the silly opening day yellow card against Palace. A lot of fans are trying to say he didn't deserve to be booked, but we all know fake diving always get carded, so where's the controversy?

One thing Arsenal fans will be more sure of, after watching this episode, is how much Granit cares about the club. The viewers can see what a lovely family he has too and surely appreciate him more, especially if he can stop getting sent off.

On that note, I felt sorry for Martinelli, who picked up two soft yellows in this episode. The truth is: justice is often harsh on Arsenal, but maybe that develops a siege mentality that makes the club stronger. Like George Graham before him, Arteta seems to thrive on that.

Therefore, despite the setbacks, only a fool would back against Arsenal reaching the heights of yesteryear again, even though this episode saw a massive clear-out of players.

It appears the club policy now is to do a lot of business in the summer and leave the winter window alone in regard to new signings. They see winter signings as an admission of summer failure. I never thought of it like that before, but I can understand their reasoning.

I think the next episode is going to painful, but entertaining, no doubt.

All or Nothing: Arsenal episode 4

Episode 4 begins dramatically with the end of Aubamayeng's captaincy and his exile from the club, as he trained alone.

People often ask me how I feel about Auba and my answer is: 'He is still a legend and one of my favourite players of all time.' The problem for me is Mikel Arteta is even more legendary, I feel, for the values he's brought to the club and I also can't forget what an exemplary skipper he was when he joined Arsenal as a player.

Luckily, the club and the fans mostly backed the manager, who is coming out of this documentary as potentially one of the best in the world.

This episode documented how it was the last straw with Auba, as he broke the camel's back. Perhaps some people think it's strange, but in the workplace, you often have to document misdemeanours, when you're in a managerial role. No one likes to do it, but it's often necessary. That's why I believe that Arteta was justified in assembling a dossier on Auba.

The Auba decision was vindicated by results and the episode ends with Arteta getting Covid, Gabriel getting sent off unjustifiably, Man City getting the softest penalty you've ever seen, and a defeat at home.

Watching from home, Arteta told the players how proud he was of their performance, and it's easy to understand why.

The other thing to come out of this was what a nice guy Martinellli is. You can see how hardworking and humble he is. Not only that, he's really talented.

To be honest, when he first arrived in England, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about but I was wrong: Martinelli is the real deal. Who says: 'nice guys can't succeed?'

I think the next episode promises to be full of disappointing news, as the winter transfer is open and we all know it was more about the exit door than the entrance to Arsenal Football Club.