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Gunner Thoughts

BOU-ARS: Standouts, (no) Worries, Surprise Stars

After an excellent 3-0 win over Bournemouth, it’s hard to select true “standouts”, but I did my best!

On a bright sunny day by the seaside, the Gunners put on an absolutely stunning show for their exuberant fans and keep this momentum rolling. Two goals from El Capitan Martin Ødegaard in the first twelve minutes started the day off right, and an absolute sweeping stunner of a goal from William Saliba finished it.

Oh, and the second clean sheet in three games is of course a nice touch.

The Gunners sit on top of the table — at the time of writing — with three wins in three games and a +7 goal differential. To make those stats even sweeter:

  • Jesus: 2G, 3A
  • Martinelli: 2G
  • MØ: 2G
  • Xhaka: 1G, 2A
  • PLUS: Saliba: 1G
  • Zinchenko: 1A
  • Saka: Forced OG

A great spread amongst our front five, even with Saka not yet getting on the sheet, and support from the back.

Arsenal fans know tougher matchups lie ahead of them, but it’s important to collect these points early and ride this wave while they can. So, let’s focus on yesterday, today, and move toward Fulham at home next weekend by looking at our standout performers.

Standouts

Martin Ødegaard

Ødegaard was my Man of the Match winner but if you want to argue on Saliba’s behalf, there is plenty of material to make a case. With two goals to Matin’s name, and as a continued presence and catalyst for the rise in our fluidity and work rate within our press, Ødegaard was a definite standout.

My favorite part of his performance is that it comes after many, like myself, have listed Ødegaard as someone who has worried them early in this season. His work rate is never in question, but as expectations and level of play surrounding this team rise, Ødegaard’s contribution in terms of, well, goal contributions has to rise with it. Yesterday, in the face of recent criticism, Ødegaard didn’t change his game or stretch himself to try and impress by being something he’s not. He simply played his game, occupied his spaces, and tried to be a little more present in collapsing on the box. The result: two nice goals from inside the box and a reclamation of form!

I tweeted before this season that I believed Martin Ødegaard would be in the running for Arsenal’s most improved player — POTS if Jesus wasn’t around — because I do believe he is on the brink of having his production really click. If he can find a way to contribute 16 G/A to the cause, that would be a wonderful result.

William Saliba

Some of you reading this will have felt this boy deserved Man of the Match and, as I said, there is plenty of material to argue a case. What isn’t arguable? The fact that Saliba was undoubtedly a standout performer against Bournemouth.

Saliba hadn’t put a foot – or head – out of line before his incredibly unfortunate own goal against Leicester City. Even that moment was one that happens to the best. He knows he has to make an intervention, does what it takes to get his head on the ball, but can’t quite put his clearance outside the post. A mistake, but miles clear of being as calamitous of an own goal as Arsenal fans have suffered through in recent years.

But here’s the best part: since that ‘mistake’, he has been flawless again picking up right back at the level of play we have seen from him. Like water off a ducks back, he finished the the Leicester game and strolled into Vitality Stadium yesterday like no one could question that he’s the best to walk the earth. Mature, composed, calm, and commanding.

With two large forwards in Moore and Billings, yesterday felt like a good test of how Saliba and Gabriel could handle a fight, knowing that Mitrovich is coming to town next weekend. Well, let me tell you, test passed with flying colors.

  • 76/76 passing (100%)
  • 84 Touches
  • 2 Clearances
  • 2 Interceptions
  • 6 Recoveries
  • 2/3 duels won

And one goal! Boy oh boy, what a finish. Stroked like he has tucked them away a thousand times. Is his spot in our backline already sealed?

Ben White

Ben White’s time at right back has been met with … mixed reviews. Personally, I believe he has acquitted himself quite well, but different people latch onto different aspects of his performances with varying degrees of harshness. Some people were very unsympathetic to him after his matchup with Wilfried Zaha, a player I would argue is one of the toughest matchups a right back will face in the Premier League. They then questioned him after a quiet game against Leicester that saw Arsenal’s right side have a quiet game.

Yesterday, White looked like a player that is really starting to find his footing in the right back role for Arsenal, no sign more clear than him adventuring forward in the attack and getting beyond Saka to provide space and options. And what happened? His first overlap leads to him delivering a ball that would end up in the back of the net to extend Arsenal’s lead.

White was good defensively, good on the ball, and seemed far more comfortable in all phases of play. To some extent, given Arsenal’s dominance of the ball, this could be expected. After all, White’s ability on the ball, and ability to step into the midfield alongside Partey, are two of his better strengths. There’s still room to grow and probably a few more difficult opponents in his future, but the right side hummed and he was a big part of it. Looking forward to the battle between him and Tomiyasu to claim the right back role.

Gabriel Jesus

Maybe I will get sick of including this man in these lists every game… maybe. Not likely. Until he stops showcasing another moment of brilliance — or momentS of brilliance — a new skill and contribution, or being outright one of the best players on the field, it’s pretty damn hard not to include him.

Yesterday’s moment that left me in awe: his contribution to Arsenal’s first goal.

Yes, the run at the defense is incredible. He beats two or three people before waiting until the last moment to play Martinelli into space for a clear shot resulting in a putback finish from Ødegaard, but the real aspect that leaves you star struck comes before the run.

A one-touch mis-pass by Ben White results in a soaring pass toward the frontlines that most would bet on a center back cleaning up like bread and butter. But Gabriel Jesus gets under the ball, puts in a physical bump to clear out the defender, settles the ball with a sublime first touch, spins, and takes off all in one motion. A skill that few strikers have, and certainly none of Arsenal’s previous stickers had. A move that made the Alexis Sanchez comparisons feel very accurate.

Another assist to his name, five goal contributions in three games, and even today, without scoring, he was a standout force in our attack.

Now, normally I would link to a separate article dedicated to Arsenal’s “worries” after the game, but today, I have none. I found that performance to be so complete and comprehensive that it’s hard to address any individual worries. If we want get nitpicky, it could be pointed out that Arsenal should see how they can address second half regression in their control and attack. Or maybe could one nitpick Ramsdale in the second half for continuing to try and push our transition quick, rather than control the game, but that all feels too harsh after such a dominating performance. So, NO worries.

Extra praise:

Arsenal Away Fans

I can imagine it all too well. You read that whole section on Saliba, reached the end and cursed my name. “How could you write about Saliba and NOT mention that new ‘Saliba’ chant?”

Well, fear not, my fellow Gooner. Saved for the “Extra Praise” section, those traveling Gooners have to be talked about. he Saliba chant, “You’re going down with United” chant, Super Mik Arteta chant… It was like we were at the Emirates. FEEL THE LOVE!!!!

On Friday, I wrote about a love reignited and fans support reaching visible, public levels that I haven’t felt in a long, long time. Yesterday, felt like another leap. The football was fluid, it was fun, and the fans not only embodied it, they extended and elevated it.

If you haven’t seen the video tweeted by Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) it’s worth the watch!

And THAT is a great, great thing.

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