Leandro Trossard: The perfect January addition (076)

Arsenal fans had all their hopes and dreams heavy invested in Mykhailo Mudryk, and when Chelsea scooped him from under our toes, it was undeniably heartbreaking, but Edu quickly pivoted and landed Leandro Trossard.

The move proved an instant success, with Trossard finishing the season with one goal and 10 assists, and against Fulham, he became the first player in Premier League history to assist three goals before half-time in an away match.

His introduction to the team came at the perfect time, with Gabriel Jesus’ injury really starting to take effect as Eddie Nketiah’s form had started to falter, and Gabriel Martinelli starting to look a little tired.

Trossard solved both of these problems, firstly by giving Martinelli a much needed breather against Aston Villa, and then by replacing Nketiah and coming into the team as a false nine, where he absolutely thrived.

As a false nine, Trossard looked at home, and his relationship with Martin Odegaard developed very quickly, with his quick feet and understanding of space allowing Bukayo Saka and Martinelli to exploit the areas Trossard vacates.

This has allowed Odegaard to flourish, as he has another extremely intelligent player around him, who can operate in tight spaces, and most importantly, receive and release off both feet which is critical to the quick build up that Arteta has implemented at Arsenal.

These facets of Trossard’s game have massively increased Arteta’s ability to rotate, and we have seen him playing left wing, right wing, false nine and left eight in just 20 games, which is why he quickly became a starter or the first option from the bench.

That versatility will be key next season, and will ensure Trossard plays the upward of 50 games across all competition, and will likely be a blueprint for any other attackers that Edu and Arteta look at this summer.

It is clear we need more depth in the attacking areas, as Saka and Martinelli can’t play 90 every week, so having a second player with Trossard’s ability to play across the front three is going to be key, as neither of our star wingers are going to drop out of the team much.

But, overall this move has been a huge success, and when you consider Arsenal got him for just £20m in January, it has to go down as one of our best signings in recent years.

For full and in depth analysis, make sure to listen to Farhan and I chatting through the game on Episode 150 of The Arsenal Therapy Pod, and be sure to subscribe below to be notified of our latest content.

Written by: Adam Keys (adamkeys_)

Jakub Kiwior: a surprise gem for Arsenal (075)

When Jakub Kiwior signed for Arsenal in January, he was very much an unknown quantity despite playing 39 games for Spezia in Serie A, earning nine Poland caps and playing in the World Cup before signing.

The signing was very much viewed as one for the future, and with William Saliba and Gabriel absolutely bossing it at centre back for Arsenal, there didn’t seem to be an obvious opportunity beside the Europe League for him to play.

When that opportunity came, he looked overawed, and failed to produce when called upon, however in truth it was one of the many Europa League games that Arsenal played at walking pace, and he wasn’t the only one not to turn up.

A poor substitute appearance at Anfield followed, and in truth it was a terrible decision from Mikel Arteta to bring him on, as he had just 10 minutes of Premier League experience before the game and was being sent into a rocking Anfield with Liverpool on the ascendency.

Again, he looked overawed, and his first action was to attempt a fly kick type tackle, which didn’t come off, and his nervous display only added to the team that was struggling to hold on.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Rob Holding’s horrible displays had pushed Arteta far enough, and he called on Kiwior to come in against Chelsea. This time, he delivered.

A nervy first five minutes quickly came and went, and he looked composed on the ball and solid in the tackle, and carried that form into the Newcastle game, where he was once again excellent.

His inclusion allowed Arsenal to play much higher up the park again, and play on the front foot, which was the biggest loss from Saliba’s injury.

However, Brighton was not his finest game, with him going down under a ‘challenge’ from Evan Fergusen, which left space for Brighton to open the scoring as Kiwior kept his arm aloft appealing for a free kick.

The decision did not go his way, and he should not have gone down so softly, but it will be a lesson to him, and one that couldn’t have come at a better time following the highs of the previous two games: play by the whistle.

Against Forest and Wolves, Arteta used him at left back and Partey at RB, and with his height, aerial strength, ball playing ability and pace, he could be a great fit there, especially if he wants to solidify the unit against more dominant teams.

Ironically, Kiwior has only managed to play in his preferred LCB role once this season, and it was also the only start where serious questions have been asked of him, so the fact he has done so well out of position in the Premier League speaks volumes of his character and quality.

With a full pre-season ahead of him, and further improvements to his English, he should be in a much stronger position come August, and will be much more settled in the group, because he looks like a real gem who was key to our end of season finish.

For full and in depth analysis, make sure to listen to Farhan and I chatting through the game on Episode 150 of The Arsenal Therapy Pod, and be sure to subscribe below to be notified of our latest content.

Written by: Adam Keys (adamkeys_)

Thomas Partey at right back: does it work? (074)

With the title hopes ending after our defeat against Brighton, Mikel Arteta opted to make some changes against Nottingham Forest, with Thomas Partey starting at right back and Jakub Kiwior at left back.

With the game ending in a 1-0 defeat, many thought the changes didn’t work, however Arsenal held 82% of the possession, played over 700 passes and restricted Forest to two shots on target, so that area of the pitch wasn’t an issue.

Against Wolves, we saw Arteta execute this again, with Kiwior playing in a flat three with Gabriel and White, and Partey inverting heavily, flipping the build up in the absence of Zinchenko at left back.

The move proved a success, however it is worth noting that Wolves were very much on the beach, playing flip flop football, so the overall impact of Partey in that position is difficult to truly evaluate.

That said, just being on the pitch in that position rather than on the training ground holds value in itself, as it still brings a greater intensity, even if the opposition are only half switched on, and will give Arteta an idea of the level of Partey’s understanding of his instructions.

With Partey, Arsenal have a physically strong player, with light feet and an excellent passing range, and one who did play as a right back during his Atletico days, so if there’s a player who can be used there, it’s him.

By using him in this role, Arteta was able to bring Kiwior in at left back, which gives Arsenal much greater height and defensive security, and with Partey, they have another tall player at the back who is strong in duels, as seen by him winning five of his six ground duels.

On the ball, Partey can bring huge value in this position, as we saw on Sunday when he swept the ball around the pitch with ease, taking 71 touches and completing 53/56 passes (90%).

These numbers sit very much in line with Zinchenko, who averages 80 touches and 55 accurate passes per game in the inverted left back role, and is what is needed to give Arsenal the control Arteta craves.

Where Thomas Partey’s weakness could come is his ability to go forward as we have seen him become stiffer at Arsenal over the last couple of years, which is likely down to his injuries, and his lack of overlapping skills could impact Saka.

This season, Ben White has made the second most overlaps in the Premier League, which stretches defences and gives Saka room to go inside, however if Partey did this regularly he could really struggle to last the 90 or get back to defend.

With Zinchenko, his lack of overlapping is fine, as White is doing it on the other side, however if Kiwior is playing, it reduces the threat for Arsenal in the wide areas.

On the whole, this feels like a very good option to have, and one that could work if Arsenal land Declan Rice, however it is one that should only be used as a tactical tweak, a rotation option, or if we have an injury.

For full and in depth analysis, make sure to listen to Farhan and I chatting through the game on Episode 150 of The Arsenal Therapy Pod, and be sure to subscribe below to be notified of our latest content.

Written by: Adam Keys (adamkeys_)

The season reviewed (073)

Arsenal finished the season against Wolves in a perfect fashion with five goals to bring down the curtain on one of the best seasons we have had for many years.

Whilst we are all extremely proud of what the team has achieved, there isn’t an Arsenal fan on the planet who can honestly say they aren’t gutted that we didn’t win the title, and anyone is says that they’re not disappointed, is quite frankly lying.

Optimism and disappointment go hand in hand, and to celebrate Arsenal finishing the season on 84 points, Adam and Farhan answered some end of season key questions, which you can also check out on episode 150 of The Arsenal Therapy Pod.

So, without further ado…

Player of the season:

Martin Odegaard – This season he took his goal tally to a whole new level, embraced the captaincy and impacted games in a way that we haven’t seen before. Incredible season all round, and for me, he deserves the award. (Adam)

William Saliba: There was a lot of pressure on him to deliver because of how we labeled him, and all the weird episodes he had with the club such as not being able to play the final with St Etienne and going back out on loan, and the whole ‘will it happen, won’t it happen’. He got his head down, worked and has become a Rolls Royce of a defender, who is so composed and still so underrated. The title race really did fall apart when he got injured. (Farhan)

Most improved:

Gabriel Martinelli – At the beginning of the season, I was hoping he would get 10 goals, which would have taken us further towards top 4. I never imagined him getting 15 and having the availability he has had all season after his injury problems in previous years. We’re now seeing a more composed player who sees the bigger picture and this is only the beginning. (Adam)

Granit Xhaka – He’s done wonders with his latter part of the game by pushing himself into the box, and his link up with Martinelli has helped him get more opportunities and create more spaces. Without him this season, it would have been difficult to maintain the structure and play the football we’ve plated all season. (Farhan)

Most impactful player from the bench:

Reiss Nelson – His goal against Bournemouth earned him the headlines, but he also bagged two from the bench against Forest and was a key player in our fight back against Southampton. Hoping for him to take the next step next season. (Adam)

Reiss Nelson – Nelson has shown time and time again that he is the real deal and is worth hanging onto. I still believe he is better moving elsewhere and playing regularly, but I also believe Arteta can bring the best out of him, and hope we see more minutes from him next season. (Farhan)

Game of the season: 

Liverpool at home – When Saka stepped up to hit the penalty, my heart was pounding. Throughout, it was a game I felt we should have won, but always had that doubt given our recent history against them, and the eventual win give the fans and players a new found belief. Superb result. (Adam)

Tottenham away – I remember the emotions more than the game, but winning at White Hart Lane was massive for me. We’ve had a really bad record there, and the win finally put that to bed and we really blew them away that day. (Farhan)

Moment you realized we were in a title race:

Everton at home – This was our game in hand, and was a mid week game when City weren’t playing, so all eyes were on us, and we had a score to settle after they beat us at Goodison. We overcame it with ease and it was the moment that it made me believe that we could handle the pressure. (Adam)

Aston Villa – It followed a 3-1 defeat at City and it was a cagey game where we showed that we weren’t going to be put down after a defeat, and it started a run of successive wins. (Farhan)

Most disappointing moment:

Firmino’s goal at Anfield – We justified the disappointment as it was the best result we’d had at Anfield in the league for years, however I believe this was actually the moment that things started coming apart, rather than West Ham. Coming so close to a win at Liverpool is always going to be very disappointing. (Adam)

Sporting Lisbon – I’ve spoken at lengths about this. It was a moment when we knocked ourselves out rather than being knocked out, but it had a domino effect, and led to an awful run of results (Leeds and Palace aside); the physiological impact was definitely carried into our league form. (Farhan)

For full and in depth analysis, make sure to listen to Farhan and I chatting through the game on Episode 150 of The Arsenal Therapy Pod, and be sure to subscribe below to be notified of our latest content.

Written by: Adam Keys (adamkeys_)

Arsenal wrap up a fantastic season in style (072)

The last day of the season always brings a party atmosphere, and Arsenal delivered exactly what we wanting by putting five past Wolves, and keeping a clean sheet.

In the build up to the game, much of the focus was on Granit Xhaka, with reports suggesting that Sunday was his last game for the club ahead of a move to Bayer Leverkusen.

The move hasn’t been the most popular with Arsenal fans after the season he has had, and whilst many believe we can upgrade on him, it would have been great to keep him within the squad ahead of what will be an intense season.

As the game started it was clear Xhaka was in the mood, scoring two in the first 10 minutes by attacking the six with intent and scoring from close range, with his first goal coming from a glorious cross from Gabriel Jesus.

Whilst much of the attention was placed on Kiwior and Partey remaining at fullback, the positioning of Saka and Jesus went under the radar, with Jesus drifting wide and Saka taking up the most advanced position at times.

This interchanging made it difficult for Wolves to live with the Arsenal attack, and allowed Saka to thrive despite not having an overlapper, as their left side didn’t know which of the of our attackers they were going to have running at them.

On 27 minutes, Saka punished them further, with a beautiful first touch fooling Killman, before he used him as a blocker to whip the ball towards the top corner with ease, past a stretching Jose Sa, who was well beaten in the Wolves goal. The perfect way to celebrate his new contract!

In the second half, the ease of Arsenal’s dominance continued, with the team playing Wolves off the park and attacking with intent, and went 4-0 from a Partey strike on 53 minutes only for the goal to be ruled out for a foul on Sa.

The decision was similar to the one we saw against Leicester and once again it was Ben White who committed the ‘foul’. Again, it was extremely soft considering that Brighton’s goal stood when Evan Ferguson stood on Kiwior, and Aston Villa’s goal at the Emirates when Ramsdale was physically held and prevented from reaching the ball.

Refereeing calls have been a controversial topic amongst Arsenal fans all season, and whilst this one didn’t matter in the end, it was another example of the inconsistencies we are seeing from the whistle holders.

The decision seemed to fire Arsenal on, with Jorginho playing an inch perfect pass to Trossard down the left on 58 minutes, who carried into the box, checked his man, pulled it forward and played a lovely cross with his left onto an on running Gabriel Jesus, whose controlled header put Arsenal 4-0 up.

And, then on 78 minutes, up popped Jakob Kiwior, whose scuffed shot was bundled in by Sa, to hand him his first goal for the club, and wrap up the season in style.

All in all, this was the perfect way to draw a curtain on the season, and bring back the optimism around the club before we enter into silly season.

For full and in depth analysis, make sure to listen to Farhan and I chatting through the game on Episode 150 of The Arsenal Therapy Pod, and be sure to subscribe below to be notified of our latest content.

Written by: Adam Keys (adamkeys_)

 Arsenal vs Wolves: Arteta’s press conference (071)

Ahead of Arsenal’s meeting with Wolves on Sunday, we took a look at what Mikel Arteta had to say in his pre match press conference.

Following the defeat at Nottingham Forest, the Arsenal players and Mikel Arteta will want to finish the season on a high, and give the fans a positive feeling going into the summer.

With the announcement of Bukayo Saka’s new contract earlier in the week, the mood around the club has been upbeat, however Arteta suggested that he has been carrying a knock: “We’ve had some issues this week, well, in the last few weeks. As you’ve noticed, some players were unable to play and to participate in the games, like Reiss. We have a little issue with Bukayo, which has been going on, and with Leo.”

The update is perhaps an indication of why the attacking performance was so weak last week, despite us controlling 82% of the possession and playing over 700 passes, only to muster three shots on target.

However, Arteta did deliver more positive news elsewhere: “The rest I think are going to be fine. Alex [Zinchenko] is still out. William is still out. Tomiyasu is still out. Elneny is still out. There are a few that are not available but the rest are all good.” 

None of those absentees will come to a shock for fans, however Arteta was buoyant on the recoveries of both Saliba and Tomiyasu: “I think he’s [Saliba] evolving in the right way. In the last few weeks, his progress has been much more positive than in the previous two months. 

“We wanted to protect him; it’s an injury that needs some care and attention. We’ve been pretty conservative to give him the best possible chance to have a good pre-season and go again in the next season.” 

With Tomiyasu he was much more definitive: “I think he’s really close.“Hopefully, he will be around for pre-season like Willy [Saliba]. They have been working so hard and it’s been a really difficult year for him with some of the issues he’s had. 

“He’s a tremendous person and a top professional and we just want him to be available because when he’s available he’s really helpful for the team.”

With the season drawing to a close and the title race all but ending a week ago, transfer speculation has gone into overdrive.

One player who looks close to leaving Arsenal is Granit Xhaka, with Sunday expected to be his last game for the club, however Arteta refused to be drawn on speculation: “I cannot talk and I won’t talk about any future of any players or members of staff. We have to wrap up the season, do what we have to do and then we still start to plan the following season.”

All in all, this presser was exactly what you’d expect from Arteta, with the usual level of focus and determination, despite the game having little to no consequences.

But, let’s hope the players deliver a repeat of last season’s final game, and welcome the new kit with a breathtaking victory!

Written by: Adam Keys (adamkeys_)

Odegaard’s stray passes: a discussion (071)

This season Martin Odegaard has reached a level many thought he was still a couple of years off, however he has got stronger as the season has gone on, and truly embraced the captaincy of the club.

With 15 goals and seven assists this season, he rightfully stands amongst the league’s best, and is only going to get better from here, with his ever hungry attitude repeatedly receiving praise from Mikel Arteta.

That praise hasn’t just been internal. Odegaard has been heralded by fans of all clubs, the media and pretty much everyone with an opinion on football, however it hasn’t stopped some petulant Arsenal ‘fans’ attacking him recently.

Against Sounthampton, his loose pass led to them attacking and scoring their second in the opening 10 minutes. Whilst his pass did lead directly to a Saints player, it’s important to look at two details of the move.

The first is Fabio Vieira’s positioning. He had drifted away from Odegaard and Partey and wasn’t on his toes in the way the Southampton defender was, causing him to react late, then fail to make any kind of attempt to bring him down.

The second is the move itself. Southampton had a pass, a carry and another pass before the ball reached the back of the net.That then becomes a team goal to concede. Odegaard’s pass should have been better, but you cannot be cut open when losing the ball that far up the pitch.

Next came City, and a low in confidence Arsenal looked shell shocked. Again, Odegaard give a sloppy pass to Thomas Partey, and like Vieira, he was heavy footed and slow to react. An in form Partey deals with that ball every day of the week, and we all know it.

But, football is a team game and Odegaard has to take responsibility as well. The pass lacked weight and was there to be intercepted, and it ultimately cost Arsenal at an important moment.

The worrying pass, and one that was 100% on our skipper was Saturday’s pass against Notthingham Forest that was intercepted by Morgan Gibbs White before a lucky finish from Awoniyi gifted them the only goal of the game.

The pass was lazy, and it cost Arsenal on a day when motivation and confidence were already at a season long low.

Typically, and Arsenal player would have been in that area to receive, however with so much rotation, that telepathic understanding has dropped, and Odegaard should have been aware of that, and looked up before making the pass.

On another day, he gets away with all three, but football can be a cruel game, and he will learn a hard lesson as a result.

But, let’s not get carried away. He has been phenomenal this season. We haven’t had a midfielder like him for a long time, and his performances and leadership are a huge reason why we have finished second.

If you’re one of those attacking him on social media, give your head a wobble. It’s been a long time since we had a player like him, and most clubs would kill to have him in their team.

Now let’s go out on Saturday, get behind our captain and make the final day of the season a happy one against a Wolves side who had been playing flip flop football for some time!

Declan Rice, Mason Mount and Moises Caicedo: a big summer ahead (070)

Last summer it was clear that the next step of Arsenal’s evolution would be upping the quality in the engine room, and that very much appears to be Mikel Arteta’s number one priority this summer, after a disappointing end to the season.

Declan Rice has long been touted as Arsenal’s number one priority, and reports suggest the club will make the first formal bid in June following West Ham’s Europa Conference League final, which will be his last appearance for the club.

This move would lift Arsenal’s level massively. Unlike Thomas Partey, Rice is a dynamic runner who can carry effortlessly through the thirds, break up play with ease and has vastly underrated technical qualities that could make him our Rodri.

Alongside these qualities, Rice has an ever present status, which is vital with the loss of Granit Xhaka, and the issues Thomas Partey’s fluctuating form and injury record has caused the club.

These qualities are further enhanced by his leadership, which this season has seen him drag West Ham out of a relegation battle and into the Europa Conference League final.

Despite all of these qualities, Arsenal still need at least one player in addition to him, and with Xhaka and Partey potentially leaving, we could need three.

Enter Mount and Caicedo. With these names, you have three very, very different players, all of whom would increase the quality of the team massively.

With Mount, you have a manager’s dream. He is technically gifted, light on his feet, creative, available and intelligent. No matter what the coach wants, Mount will carry it out to the letter on the pitch, and under a tactician like Arteta he would thrive, just like he did under Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea.

Like Rice, it would be an expensive deal, however with a year left on his contract and Chelsea needing to sell for FFP, the fee will likely be lower, however competition will be extremely strong.

Whilst it will be expensive, it will come in considerably lower than what Moises Caicedo would cost, however the pair are vastly different players.

Like Mount, Caicedo is technically gifted and intelligent, however he is a dynamic ball winner who can play at six or as an inverted fullback, so his signing would not address the attacking hole that will be left with Xhaka departing. 

The dream would be for Arsenal to sign all three, as it would transform the team, and address glaring issues that are currently in place, however given costs, that seems like a pipedream right now.

Arsenal may have Champions League money, but numerous new contracts and bonus payments will take up a large sum of that, so it will depend on what the Kroenke’s are willing to spend, and what Edu can bring in from sales.

If we can have a strong summer in the sales department, don’t rule out all three, or potentially Man City’s Ilkay Gundogan arriving on a free. We may as well dream.

Bukayo Saka’s contract has finally be made official (069)

After three months of waiting, Arsenal finally announced the long drawn out contract extension of Bukayo Saka today, with the club confirming he will remain at the club until 2027.

David Ornstein first broke the news in February that a verbal agreement was in place, and the final details were still being ironed out. At that point, no one expected it to take three months before the official announcement was made.

But now fans can relax knowing that one of our best players over the last three years will remain at the club for another four years, and we will continue to witness his rise to becoming one of the best players in world football. 

Since breaking into the team, Saka has grown year on year. He has never had a one off season. He has got better each season by refining his game, and there is still a lot of room for improvement, which is why this deal is so important for the club.

Much has been made about the value of the contract, with many outlets clinging to the top end figure, reporting that Saka will take home £290-300k per week, however Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail reported last month that his base wage was £10m per season, which is around £192k per week.

For us mere humans, that is an astounding amount of money, however in football terms, it brings him within touching distance of the Premier League’s top earners, and still significantly below a lot of the big boys in the league.

The one concern for fans will be over the length of the deal, with no option of an extra year in the way the club have secured with Martinelli, meaning we will have to extend again in two years time, but for now, let’s celebrate the fact we have this superstar for another four years.

This season, Saka has been key to our title challenge, with 13 goals and 11 assists, which is an incredible figure for a 21 year old, and one that should grow even further next season if Arsenal add the right depth and prevent another end of season burn out.

And, when it comes to recruitment, this deal is massive. It not only means that Arsenal do not have to worry about him leaving and replacing him, but it is a seal of approval for the project, and top players will be attracted to the club because of him.

In previous regimes, failure to extend star player’s contracts has led to doubts about whether players will remain at the club, however when Arsenal speak to the likes of Declan Rice, Moises Caicedo and Mason Mount this summer, they will be able to guarantee that their star players will be at the club for the foreseeable future, and that will be a massive carrot to attract top talent.

Written by: Adam Keys (adamkeys_)

Arsenal vs Nottingham Forest preview (067)

Arsenal can and should finish this season on 87 points.

It would mean an 18 point year on year improvement and it would show that they are ready to mix it with the big boys.

Nottingham Forest by contrast are on 34 points and are desperate to hit the 40 point mark, which is still a possibility with two games to go.

Arsenal simply cannot let this happen. The media narrative of bottling the title is already as loud as it is ridiculous, and a defeat to relegation battlers would intensify that, which is the last thing they need as the season wraps to a close.

With just two games left, Arsenal need to find the hunger to go out and finish strongly, because it won’t be long until the noise quietens and people begin to realize what a great achievement this season has been.

And if they can win those two games, that positive energy will be how this season is remembered over the summer, and new signings will be coming into an upbeat environment determined to right the wrongs of a season where they came so close, rather than one with lingering doubts about their own qualities.

The game won’t be an easy one, with Martinelli ruled out for the rest of the season and Zinchenko still a doubt, however Arsenal should have enough to beat them even without these two key players.

The game could be a scrappy affair, as Forest will try to make it tough for Arsenal by playing deep, and going long to Johnson orAwoniyu, with Morgan Gibbs White arriving from midfield to bolster the attack.

The 23 year old Englishman caused a lot of noise last summer when Forest paid £42.5m including add ons for him, however his five goals, seven assists and all round stellar displays have quickly silenced that.

With his runs into the box, Jorginho or Partey will need to be alert to track him, and Gabriel and Kiwior will have plenty on their hands too with the pace of the Forest attack, making this a tricky game for the Gunners.

Forest do however have the second worst defence in the Premier League, with 67 goals conceded this season, and Arsenal have already put five past them, so will be confident of causing more problems today.

With Martinelli out, Reiss Nelson or Leandro Trossard are the most likely options to come in for Arsenal, both of which have goals and assists in their lockers, and could cause a lot damage to a disjointed defence.

Make no mistake, this won’t be an easy game, as Forest showed when they held City in February, however if everyone is on it, three points is very much expected.