In a match that started ominously and ended controversially, Arsenal gut out a grueling, grind, of a gargantuan win. Boy is that some obnoxious writing to kick this off. As grinding of a sentence to read as this match was for the boys.
It was far from Arsenal’s best performance of the year, perhaps their worst, but when you’re on the road, you have to do what you have to do to get three points.
Jesse Marsch came in to the match filled with the belief that his team is reaching toward their next level of performance, but simply missing the results. It’s easy to see why he feels that way — I imagine he will believe this was one of their best performances of the season — but the results still seem to elude them.
On the other side of the field, Arteta was fired up on the sidelines as the final whistle blew. There was a real pissed off fire in his eyes, as he punched the air with emotion. His team collects their ninth win of the season and have 27 out of 30 points to start the year. Everyone knows how crucial these opening games before the World Cup break will be, especially given that no one can predict how things will shake out after the break.
But before we take on this existential crisis, let’s look at Arsenal’s standout performers and maybe a worry.
Ramsdale’s time at Arsenal has been an interesting journey of ups and downs. There’s no doubt he was magical when he arrived with a point to prove, but plenty have asked questions about his overall performances since the second half of last season. Those questions continued into this year, when people began to weigh the positives of his distribution against his struggles in other keeping duties. Fans have began to demand we start really seeing him climb back toward the level of play initially on display, and yesterday’s Man of the Match performance was a perfect time to reclaim that form.
As Arsenal faced the most consistent onslaught of pressures they have all season, especially in that second half, Ramsdale turned on the magic. He was everywhere you want him to be to make saves, close down angles, punch away dangerous balls, and claim everything he could. His distribution wasn’t as good as we maybe want from him, but Arsenal’s front six struggling for long stretches didn’t help. Ramsdale ended the match with 4 saves, 2 punches, 1 high claim, 10 recoveries, and a splendid clean sheet.
Also, in his own words, he saved one with his balls and that alone deserves a spot in the standout listings.
There’s no avoiding the fact that Gabriel walked the line between hero and villain after his clash with Bamford at the end of the match initially saw him sent off, but the decision was corrected and as much as people want to comment on him losing his head, his performance the other 98 minutes was pretty fantastic.
Saliba had probably his roughest match of the year, but that just meant it was Gabriel’s turn to pick up his partner the way Saliba has covered for Gabriel at times — and he did. Gabriel had:
- 80 touches
- 54/60, 90% passing
- 3/3 tackles won
- 4 clearances
- 3 interceptions
- 2 recoveries
- 8/9 duels won
- 3 fouls won
He also made some wonderful defensive interventions and got himself in the way of at least one major goal scoring opportunity from Leeds that he blocked from really testing Ramsdale. Yes, he lost his head and flirted with danger after Bamford cynically barges him, but overall it was a fantastic defensive display to help deliver the clean sheet. Much needed from a center back some have had a few questions about in recent weeks.
Ødegaard and Saka
Lumping these two together tonight, because it’s arguable that they had a good but incomplete performance given the second half and fact that both were eventually subbed off because Arsenal couldn’t get back on the ball. However, it has to be commented that these two are really finding a groove together, and that groove continues to produce goals and dangerous chances.
Saka gets the winner and Ødegaard the game-winning assist which marks two straight PL matches with assists for Martin and 7 g/a for Saka in his last 7 matches. All together Saka has a team high 9 G/A in all competitions and Ødegaard is contributing another 5. After a sluggish start to the campaign, and a trip onto my Worries list, these two are raising their levels and it’s converting to serious production.
This whole season I have talked about Arsenal’s project being dependent on how high Martinelli, Ødegaard and Saka can take us and the leaps they can make in their own growth, wins like this and goals like yesterday’s suggest it may be pretty darn high. Saka finishes his goal with conviction and it’s a pair in fine form!
I think I have to start today off by saying I’m not sure I would qualify the below point as a “worry”, it feels to strong of a word. Maybe more of concerns or question, but the title is the title, so bear that in mind.
Relearning how to play every 3 days
It’s no secret that Arsenal didn’t have to play many midweek matches last season when they were knocked out of cups early and only had the Premier League to occupy their attention after failing to qualify for European completion. This year, they have the Europa League and even with the rotational abilities, there have been matches in which regulars are called upon to perform and stay fresh. Not only from a players perspective, there is a coaching staff and tactical plan that has to be constructed, taught, learned, rehearsed, and delivered on short notice. No longer do Arsenal get a full week to rehearse their plans and execute the little aspects that Arteta believes will deliver them an advantage, and no longer do players get to mentally refresh themselves before they are called upon once again.
It’s far too early declare this a worry, but as the month comes hard, fast, and consistently, Arsenal’s performances midweek against Bodø/Glimt and Leeds yesterday, both away from home, haven’t been stellar. This happens and wins are what matters, but as the team stares down two more tricky away fixtures at the end of the month, it’s important they get results. Hopefully the time this week at home helps them settle back into comfortable places and regain that dominant level of play.