A convincing victory away at the Tech Community Stadium saw us return to the top of the table. An incredible performance in both attacking and defensive terms, it was a well deserved win and a return to winning ways after the loss to Manchester United, a sign that the mentality of our players has definitely improved from last season. This match featured the senior debut of the youngest player to ever play in the Premier League, Ethan Nwaneri, who is just 15 years and 181 days old. The news of Partey’s return was dampened by Ødegaard and Zinchenko being ruled out through injuries picked up in training. Kieran Tierney got another rare Premier League start this season due to Zinchenko’s injury, and Vieira got a chance to prove himself on his full senior debut after we saw him play very well against FC Zürich.
Arsenal started strongly as Martinelli had an early chance after a fantastic pass from captain Xhaka, but he didn’t get enough on it and it was an easy save for Brentford goalkeeper David Raya. However, we took the lead after our first corner of the game. Saliba managed to get in front of his defender and beat Toney for a header which caught Raya off guard as he swiped it out of the goal, but it was clear that the goal had crossed the line after a check from goal-line technology. Jesus soon doubled our lead after Xhaka picked out an amazing cross which Jesus headed into the far corner, well out of the reach of Raya. Brentford then found themselves in a good spell of possession and took some good set pieces with long throws and corners, but we were defensively solid and managed to keep them at bay until the half time whistle.
Returning from the break, it was clear that the next goal of the game would be the most important. Vieira clearly knew this as he scored a wonder strike for his first Premier League goal, courtesy of a pass from Saka. He took a shot 30 yards out which hit the post and deflected into the back of the net. The celebrations that followed were heartwarming for any Arsenal fan as he celebrated with his teammates and it was clear how much this goal meant to him. We didn’t stop there, though, and continued to dominate the game creating plenty more opportunities we just couldn’t finish, very unlike Arsenal who are notorious for sitting back and defending a 1-0 lead, often working against our favour. In the closing minutes of the match, Arteta made history as yet another Hale End graduate made his senior debut; Ethan Nwaneri. At the end of the game he was too modest to take any praise from the fans until Aaron Ramsdale forced him to, a lovely gesture to end an unbelievable day for the 15 year old.
It is definitely a positive heading into the international break, sitting top of the table with a healthy goal difference at this early stage of the season. However, October is a jam packed month with 9 fixtures, including a tough run featuring Spurs and Liverpool after our Manchester City game was postponed to allow for the Europa League fixture against PSV to be rescheduled. October will undeniably be a test but the international break will allow Ødegaard and Zinchenko to return to fitness and the Europa League fixtures will lead to some much needed squad rotation, which could feature Tierney, Tomiyasu, ESR, Vieira, Marquinhos, and Eddie just to name a few. And who knows, maybe even a rare appearance from Nwaneri. Squad depth could prove to be an issue in October, but our success in that month will have a big impact going forward as the Premier League stops for the World Cup on November 20th.
A near perfect start to our Europa League campaign saw Eddie Nketiah and debutant Marquinhos both grab a goal and an assist each. Mikel Arteta made seven changes to the side that lost to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, which was to be expected as the Europa League is a good opportunity for younger players and back up players to get their time to shine. We saw a senior debut for Marquinhos after some success with the U21s and Matt Turner also made his debut and was unlucky not to come away with a clean sheet after Nketiah conceded a penalty.
Having made seven changes, it understandably took the Gunners a little while to settle into the game and a shaky start saw Turner defenceless after a back pass from Gabriel went wrong, but luckily the shot from Tosin only hit the post. It didn’t take us long to respond to this, though, after a cross from Nketiah found Marquinhos who put it in the back of the net. It was emotional to see what this meant to him, as he fell to his knees and even began to cry as his teammates celebrated his debut goal on his debut performance. This was all allowed by a stunning ball from Vieira into Nketiah who has impressed in the CM position following Partey and Elneny’s absence through injuries.
Shortly after, we had a few good chances with Vieira coming close as he calmly flicked the ball over Yanick Brecher but he made just a bit too much contact with the ball and it bounced on top of the bar. Granit Xhaka also forced the keeper into a good stop as he smashed the ball towards the goal. We dominated possession throughout the first half but failed to execute in the final third and our narrow lead was undone by a silly mistake. However, just two minutes before half time, Nketiah made a rash clearance which resulted in contact with Fidan Aliti, and the referee awarded the penalty which was taken by Kryeziu, who sent Turner the wrong way and equalised for Zürcih. Despite not playing at home, the Zürich fans were incredibly vocal which undeniably helped the team to build momentum.
At half time, news broke that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away meaning both sides lined up for a minute’s silence before the game resumed. We returned dominating the second half much like we had in the first half, forcing Zürich to play out from the back and they were even struggling to leave their own half. However, Eddie soon made up for his previous indiscretion when he scored the winner at 62 minutes. Marquinhos provided an excellent cross to the back post, which Eddie headed low into the ground to open his scoring for the 22/23 campaign, much to the delight of the travelling fans who were sat just behind the goal. Matt Turner was forced into a beautiful save to deny a Zürich equaliser through a n Ivan Santini header, but we took all three points and topped the group, as the PSV vs Bodø/Glimt game finished all square at 1 -1 thanks to goals from Albert Frønbæk and Cody Gakpo.
This game was very much reminiscent of the Manchester United game, where we dominated possession but, due to our lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, we only managed to maintain a narrow lead. Moving forward, it is vital that our strikers are more alert in front of goal and manage to execute the goals we need to win, after all, games aren’t won by dominating. If we carry on making matches harder than they need to be by not putting the game to bed early on, which we are more than capable of, it will continue to leave us vulnerable to a come back, like we saw today and like we saw in both matches against Aston Villa and Fulham.
It is uncertain as to whether the Premier League matches will go ahead this weekend following the news of the Queen’s passing, however if it does we will be going head to head with Everton, who currently sit sixteenth in the table and have failed to win a game so far this season. This win in the Europa League will have boosted our knocked confidence and will set us well on the way to another Premier League win, whether it be this weekend or next, and in my opinion we should be confident going into the PSV game next Thursday.
Our Europa League campaign kicks off tonight away from home vs FC Zürich, and this season marks our return to European football after missing out last season for the first time since 2005. Arsenal have been deemed as favourites to win this year and it seems that a return to the Champions League either by a top four finish or by winning this trophy is the bare minimum expected from the fans after missing out is narrowly last season. Many fans have taken to Twitter to declare that this competition is a chance for the ‘B Team’, however in my opinion this isn’t the case and Arteta may be putting out a stronger squad than we expect.
Arsenal were the first team to be drawn in the group stage, putting us in group A with the Austrian FC Zürich, Dutch team PSV and Norwegian side FK Bodø/Glimt. Initially this seemed like an easy enough group, although this may not be the case and while it is my opinion that we will see players who don’t usually make the starting XI get a chance, for example Matt Turner, Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah, Arteta will still be bringing in essential players such as Saliba, Partey, Xhaka, Jesus, and Saka to pick up the pieces and get a result should this be required of them. The generous squad rotation we can expect to see is what will help us get through all four fronts; the Premier League, Europa League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
KT was once a key member the squad who wouldn’t be left out of the starting XI for any reason other than injury and he is the only part of Unai Emery’s defence that still gets game time in the Premier League, even if that is usually off the bench these days as he has seemingly been replaced by one of our key summer signings Oleksander Zinchenko from Manchester City. Having been quite injury prone, Tierney has only started one Premier League match this season, against Aston Villa, where it was made brutally clear how much we missed Zinchenko as Tierney’s linkup and movement down the right side of the pitch is simply not on par with Zinchenko’s. The Europa League will be a good chance for Tierney to regain some lost confidence and reassert himself to Arsenal’s defence, which will only improve the squad with more competition for the starting XI.
Eddie came through the Arsenal Academy after he signed for us in 2015 having been pushed out of the Chelsea squad. He became our number 14 in the summer after he was our only competent goal scorer when Arteta finally gave him a chance after Lacazette’s dip in form following Aubameyang’s departure in January. He scored 5 goals in 21 appearances for the club last season but was subsequently replaced by Gabriel Jesus in the summer transfer window as Arsenal’s number one striker. We have seen him make an impact off the bench this season in the Premier League but it will be nice to see him given a full 90 minutes to shine after he became a firm fan favourite following his importance at the end of last season.
Emile Smith Rowe
Another firm fan favourite that came through the Academy, ESR has also suffered from a lack of game time this season as we see Saka and Martinelli displacing him, and we certainly haven’t heard the Saka and Emile Smith Rowe chant nearly enough this season. He has only played a total of 47 minutes this season across four appearances off the bench. When Arteta was asked what ESR must do to make a return to the starting lineup, he responded “He needs to stay fit, train well, and perform at the level he is able to perform because when he does that, it is really difficult not to pick him.” Smith Rowe hasn’t played a full 90 minute match since April, and increasingly worrying is the fact that he has been suffering with an injury “for a while”, and after feeling increased discomfort following the Manchester United game on Sunday, he has been left at home to recuperate so will definitely not feature in tonight’s match against FC Zürich. Hopefully when he has returned to full fitness he will make a bigger impact in both the Europa League and domestic competitions.
All of that said, we all have our fingers crossed that we can make a return to winning ways tonight and kick off our Europa League campaign as we mean to go on; with a win. This will not only boost the players confidence, but also prove that this is a new Arsenal side with an improved mentality and that the loss on Sunday was only a blip.
A frustrating match at Old Trafford saw the end of our winning streak. However, it is safe to say that the score doesn’t reflect the performances from both teams and there are still plenty of positives to take away from the match. Coming into the match, there were already a lot of criticism over VAR following the weekends fixtures, which this fixture added to. Arteta only made one change from the team that beat Aston Villa in the week, with Zinchenko making a return following a minor injury he picked up against Bournemouth. The squad picked by Arteta was surprisingly strong, after there were doubts surrounding Martin Ødegaard and Aaron Ramsdale who picked up knocks against Villa. Thomas Partey was the only one still missing after he picked up an injury to his right thigh and missed his second game in a row, although it is now rumoured that he will be in contention to start against Everton next Sunday.
The match started at a frighteningly quick pace with shots from both teams putting the goalkeepers at either end under pressure. First Eriksen for United who hit the ball just wide of the post and then William Saliba narrowly missing a deflected shot from Granit Xhaka.
We were denied a dream start by VAR after a sensational strike from Gabriel Martinelli courtesy of a perfect pass from Saka. However, after appeals from Manchester United a VAR check concluded that our captain had committed a foul on Eriksen in the build up and the goal was unfairly withdrawn. The reminder of the first half showed Arsenal asserting dominance as Martinelli once again forced De Gea into two saves in quick succession. Neither found their way into the back of the net.
Ten Hag’s team took the lead shortly before half time. A tidy pass from Marcus Rashford through for United’s deadline day transfer Antony, saw Ramsdale beaten. Only one goal separated us at the break. 1-0.
We started the second half in a much similar fashion to how we ended the first; dominating possession and putting De Gea to the test. Not even ten minutes after the return we saw two efforts frustratingly not executed. First, Ødegaard misfired after a brilliant set up from Gabriel Jesus, and then Saka hit the ball just wide of the post. This luck soon changed though, as at the hour mark Ødegaard set Jesus up beautifully from a fantastic pass from Granite Xhaka. However, Martinez could do nothing to stop Jesus other than prod the ball into Saka’s path, who hit the back of the empty net.
Rather disappointingly, United responded in a fashion not dissimilar from our own so far this season as they regained their lead merely six minutes later thanks to a Marcus Rashford goal, which he later doubled to score two to take all three points for United. His second goal and United’s third happened just after Arteta made an unusual decision for his style of play with a triple substitution; Smith Rowe for Ødegaard, Eddie for Zinchenko, and Vieira, who made his debut, for Lokonga. Vieira came close to equalling Antony’s feat and scoring on his debut as he hit the ball just over the crossbar.
It is essential that Arsenal don’t allow this result to knock their confidence and rather allow this to be a blip which we learn from, as opposed to falling through a downward spiral. On Thursday night we face FC Zürich away as we open our Europa League campaign and then back at home to Everton on Sunday. Winning both games is definitely well within reach and a return to winning ways on Thursday will not only boost the boys’ confidence but also demonstrate that we are a force to be reckoned with this season. Let’s start as we mean to go on, COYG!!
At the end of last season it was clear that Arsenal needed to improve on many aspects, one of them being squad depth. Not having enough squad players whilst also failing to sign anyone in the January window left Arsenal short at the business end of last season which saw them miss out on Champions League qualification. Now that the Summer Transfer Window has shut, we can finally make an assessment of whether Arsenal have filled in those gaps that they failed to do in January.
It is fairly clear that the project at Arsenal is currently focused on bringing in talented young players in the hopes of moulding them into top elite performers who have the potential of getting into the first team. This summer Arsenal recruited 19 year old Marquinhos who plays as a right sided winger. Marquinhos joined Arsenal from Sao Paulo on July 1st 2022, where he stood out from the rest, forcing Edu to sign the teenager. Currently Marquinhos is playing at PL2 level with Arsenal’s U21 team and in the 3 starts he has made for the u21’s has scored 3 goals and assisted one. With injuries mounting for Arsenal’s first team, Marquinhos may be called up to the first team a little earlier than expected.
However, one of the key issues which needed addressing this transfer window was depth and quality within the midfield area. The club’s solution was Porto’s Fábio Vieira who signed without anyone hearing about the deal. Fábio Vieira is a 22-year-old attacking midfielder, and during his time at Porto, Vieira made 54 appearances in Liga Portugal, scoring 8 goals and assisting 16 throughout his time at Porto. Vieira’s versatility in terms of positioning made him a good target for the club, as he can play anywhere in midfield, out wide and has even had experience as a striker. This was a very encouraging signing because Arsenal had been crying out for a creative midfielder for most of last season despite having Odegaard. With the stats that Fábio Vieira possesses, the money that Arsenal spent on him (£31M) is justifiable.
Moving on to departures, during this summer transfer window we lost our number 9, Alexandre Lacazette who signed for Arsenal in 2017 and spent almost 6 years at the club, during his time, Lacazette made 206 appearances for the club, scoring 71 goals and grabbing 36 assists. He left Arsenal for his former club Olympique Lyon where previously he had made 279 appearances scoring 131 goals and getting 44 assists. Inevitably, Lacazettes departure meant Arsenal had to find another striker.
In comes Gabriel Jesus, the 25 year old from Brazil who was playing for Premier League Champions, Manchester City. Gabriel clearly felt like he wasn’t being utilised enough at Manchester City, especially with the arrival of Erling Haaland. Even prior to his arrival Jesus wasn’t playing in his favoured position as a striker, he was instead being played out wide which he didn’t fancy. Arsenal signed Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City on July 4th 2022, for a fee of £45m and signed a 5 year contract until 2027. During his time at Manchester City, Jesus made 236 appearances for the club and scored 95 goals, getting 46 assists as well.
The next issue that needed to be resolved was the left back position. As Arsenal fans are well aware, Kieran Tierney has suffered his fair share of injuries, so during this transfer window the club needed to sign someone who could challenge Tierney at left back. In comes another Manchester City player, Oleksandr Zinchenko. Oleksandr seemed an attractive proposition – purely down to the fact that he is so versatile and can cover a variety of different positions as well as Left Back. During his time at Manchester City he made 128 appearances scoring 2 goals and getting 12 assists. Zinchenko was also another one who fell out of favour at Manchester City so the move to Arsenal seemed a be an attractive one. Arsenal paid a mild £30m – which is a very good price for somebody as talented and as versatile as he is.
Of course during this window the signings of goalkeeper Matt Turner and centre back Auston Trusty were also announced after agreeing deals back in the January window, however Trusty was sent straight on loan to Birmingham City for a year long loan. Matt Turner on the other hand deputises on our number 1, Aaron Ramsdale.
Transfer Deadline Day then came around, and it was obvious to many that Arsenal were short in a few positions, however the priority for Arsenal seemed to be in the defensive midfield area. Following successive injuries to Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny, a few rumours started to circulate that Arsenal would make a deadline day signing. Starting with reports of Arsenal showing interest in Danilo Dos Santon de Oliveira – Danilo, who is a 21 year old midfielder for Brazilian club Palmeiras. However, reports suggested that Palmeiras were reluctant to let him go before January so eventually reports of Arsenals interest in him slowly faded.
Throughout the entirety of the transfer window, it was also reported that Youri Tielemans was a long term target, but Arsenal never followed up their interest. Finally on transfer deadline day Arsenal went for Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz who was another player who has been linked to the club for at least 6-9 months. 3 bids went in for the midfielder, however salty Villa were reluctant to sell, and having spent the entire transfer window dealing mainly with outgoings it left Arsenal with little time to bring in a defensive midfielder that they so desperately needed. With the fixture list being as congested as it is in the lead up to the world cup and next transfer window, it remains to be seen whether or not Arsenal can cope with a smaller squad.
Incomings Gabriel Jesus – Gabriel Jesus joined Arsenal from Manchester City for £45m. Oleksandr Zinchenko –Joined Arsenal from Manchester City for £30m. Fábio Vieira – Joined Arsenal from FC Porto for £30m + add ons. Matt Turner – Originally Joined Arsenal in the January transfer window from New England however it was made official during the summer transfer window, Arsenal paid £6m + add ons for the goalkeeper. Marquinhos – Joined Arsenal from Sao Paulo for £3m.
Departures Matteo Guendouzi – Left to go to Marseille after previously spending a years loan with them left for a fee of £8m+ add ons Lucas Torreria – Left for Turkish Club Galatasaray in the Super Lig for a total of £5m Bernd Leno – Left to go to Premier League Club Fulham for a fee of £8m Konstantinos Mavropanos – left to go to Bundesliga team VfB Stuttgart for a fee of £2.7m as the clause of obligation to buy was met. Hector Bellerin – after 11 years of service Bellerin left Arsenal on a free transfer to LaLiga side Barcelona Alexandre Lacazette – Left the club to go to Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyon on a free transfer. Nicolas Pepe – Arsenal’s record signing left Arsenal on loan to go to Ligue 1 side OGC Nice. Nuno Tavares – Left the club on loan to go to Ligue 1 team Marseille. Ainsley Maitland-Niles – Left the club on deadline day to go to Premier League side Southampton on a loan with option to buy. Pablo Mari – Left the Cluib on Loan to go to Serie A side Monza on loan with obligation to buy if Monza stay ins Serie A Auston Trusty – Left Arsenal on loan to join Championship side Birmingham City on loan. Runar Alex Runarsson – Left Arsenal on loan to join Super Lig Turkish side Alanyaspor.
Another 2-1 victory thanks to a winner from Gabriel Martinelli extended our 100% success rate so far this season to five wins from five. This is a feat we didn’t even manage to achieve during the invincible era, and a statistic from BBC Sport says that Arsenal have never finished outside the top two after winning the opening five games. Although some injuries left certain fans questioning whether we would win this fixture, Albert Sambi Lokonga stepped up after both Partey and Elneny were out with injuries. This was the only change from the side that beat Fulham, with Elneny being replaced due to a knee injury.
Despite a dominant first half performance, it was Villa who had the first real chance as Buendia hit a shot that flew just over the bar. This was closely followed by outrage as Saka has his shirt pulled several times before being pushed to the ground inside the penalty area, but a VAR check concluded no penalty. Our first attempt on target was from the main man himself, Gabriel Jesus, after a quickly taken free kick. The first half was very physical from Villa, who were lucky not to pick up any red cards in my opinion. At the thirty minute mark, Jesus scored after Martinez failed to properly clear a solid effort from Granit Xhaka as he put the rebound into the back on the net. We continued the first half and ended strongly, with a shot from Saka that was cleared in a chaotic scramble off the line.
Arsenal didn’t start the second half as strongly, with Saliba picking up a yellow card for a tactical foul on Ollie Watkins, but were soon back to dominating possession. Following an Arsenal corner, Martinez very strangely got Jesus in a headlock before falling to the ground as if he was the one who had been fouled. Arteta swiftly made his first change and replaced Ben White for Tomiyasu as it looked as though we would be defending out a 1-0 lead with us struggling to execute an actual goal, instead shooting just wide of the post or forcing Martinez into some awkward saves. This all changed, however, in the 74th minute after a Douglas Luiz corner curled straight into the goal, for the second time this season. Despite the fact it seemed clear that Ramsdale was being held by Watkins and couldn’t possibly have made the save, VAR allowed the goal.
Playing on equal footing didn’t last for long though, and just as the commentators were questioning whether Arsenal could restore their lead, Saka put in a beautiful cross to Martinelli who just managed to squeeze the ball in past Martinez, once again putting the Gunners in front and making the score 2-1. Arteta was forced into another change as Ødegaard was still suffering from a challenge from John McGinn previously, leaving a lot of us in fear as to his availability for the Manchester United game as he has been impeccable so far this season. Another concern is Aaron Ramsdale who seemed to go down clutching his hamstring, but as of now nothing has been officially released and we will just have to keep everything crossed that they will both be fit for Sunday’s game at Old Trafford.
It must be noted that both Gabriel Martinelli and Jesus put in an incredible shift across the 90 minutes; it is clear to see how well they work together and also with Saka, who has been creating more opportunities than executing them himself this season. Hopefully we will see him back to his typical goal-scoring ways soon as he singlehandedly carried the team last season. Ødegaard again proved why Arteta made him captain with another outstanding performance as he seemed to be everywhere for his time on the pitch. The manager really has unlocked his potential at Arsenal where it seems other previous managers failed.
Looking forward to Sunday, it seems that both Partey and Elneny will be unavailable, so we should expect to see Lokonga getting another much deserved start. It is still up for debate as to whether Zinchenko will be available, but these last couple of games have demonstrated how vital he is to the buildup and his ability to play all down the left hand side is essential, something Tierney hasn’t quite been able to match so far. Saliba seemed off form last night but we can hope for a better game for him against United and perhaps even see Eddie Nketiah get a bit more game time if the scoreline is in our favour as he undeniably had a huge impact off the bench.
Saturday saw us win our fourth league match in a row, the only Premier League club to do so this season, with an amazing attitude from the players on display for Mikel Arteta’s 100th match in charge and 53rd managerial career win. Only Arsène Wenger had a higher success rate in his first 100 matches (winning 54). But unlike the old Arsenal, we kept fighting until the very end and was eventually rewarded for those efforts after a 85th minute winner from Gabriel, who went from zero to hero, as we came from behind to take all three points. Mikel Arteta was forced to make two changes from the squad that played Bournemouth, with Zinchenko out as a precaution due to a knee injury picked up in training on Friday, and Partey out due to a thigh injury. They were replaced by Tierney and Elneny, who both got their first starts of the 22/23 campaign, respectively.
The first half was incredibly frustrating; there were several missed chances which I think we all felt should have resulted in at least a goal. Arsenal dominated possession but just couldn’t seem to break the deadlock. At the 15 minute mark, Xhaka shot just wide after an amazing build up from Martin Ødegaard and Gabriel Jesus. Bernd Leno had a fairly active first half with shots from Martinelli and Saka keeping him busy, whilst Aaron Ramsdale was relatively underworked.
Fulham returned after the break in a much more attacking force. Attempts from Cordoba-Reid and Mitrovič seemed threatening but Arsenal soon retaliated with good attempts from Ødegaard and Jesus. At 55 minutes Mitrovič broke the deadlock and gave Fulham the lead due to hesitation from Gabriel. In previous seasons, this would have been game over for the Gunners and we would have sat back, ultimately opening ourselves up to concede further goals. However, this season has shown a new and improved attitude from Arteta’s team as he brought on Eddie Nketiah to help keep the ball rolling.
This decision paid off, as only 8 minutes later, Saka fed a neat ball through to Ødegaard who saw his shot deflect off of Tosin Adarabiyo and find itself in the back of Leno’s goal. Gabriel also went on to make up for his previous error and score the winner in a chaotic scramble for the ball following an outstanding Martinelli corner. After a VAR check for a possible handball and possible offside, the goal was given. But the action didn’t end there, as Ramsdale denied Chalobah’s efforts for a late equaliser with an incredible save.
I think both Martin Ødegaard and Granit Xhaka were instrumental in this fixture, both clear captains with Ødegaard scoring an equaliser and both helping to create opportunities by moving the ball forward. Ødegaard has definitely proven himself as a worthy captain after a shaky start to the first game of the season, and Xhaka has shown time and time again with his feedback to players and words of encouragement that he too would be worthy of wearing the captain’s armband once more. It is definitely safe to say that Arsenal are not short of leadership qualities within their players, and the added squad depth from this window has definitely improved our team and our fighting attitude.
This is the first time since the 04/05 season where we have won our opening four matches, which bodes well for Villa on Wednesday where we can hope to pick up another three points and make it five wins from five against the team who have won just one match all season, losing the other three. It will be interesting to see what changes Arteta makes as we have played a largely unchanged squad, with Arteta seemingly hitting perfection from the first game of the season. But, as we have an intense run of matches now, surely we will see some other players get their turn as we rest our key players for bigger games ahead.
What a game we witnessed on Sunday evening! It was an incredible performance from all eleven of the players on the pitch and the five substitutes that followed, who all dominated the game and demonstrated total control and composure with very few mistakes. This game saw Saka marking his 100th senior appearance for the Gunners, the second youngest player to reach this milestone after Cesc Fabregas. We also saw the team pick up nine points from nine in the first three games for the first time since the 04/05 season. The team scored three exceptional Premier League goals, taking the tally to three Premier League wins this season, more than any other team.
Two goals from Martin Ødegaard, our Man of the Match, inside the opening ten minutes led the way to a brilliant 3 – 0 win for Arsenal over AFC Bournemouth, although we saw an incredible four goals with the final being ruled offside, including an absolute beauty of a goal from our very own William Saliba. Ødegaard scored a brace for the first time since October 2014, when he was playing for Lillestrom against Stromsgodset. Ødegaard’s first goal was a tap in after some incredible footwork from Gabriel Jesus, who slotted it into the feet of Martinelli who’s shot was blocked by the keeper but tapped in by Ødegaard. The second, another steal from Jesus, who himself wanted to have a crack at goal, only narrowly missing out to Ødegaard who got to the ball before him. It is hard not to feel as though Jesus was robbed this match, after his third attempt at goal was ruled narrowly offside.
One player we have to talk about is William Saliba. In the first half, he had 100% pass accuracy, long ball accuracy and won 100% of all duels, as well as making the most touches (65) and the most passes (63). Not only did he put in an impeccable defensive display, but he also curled the ball into the top right corner from a short Xhaka cut-back, taking the score to 3 – 0. This was Saliba’s first Premier League goal, and only his second senior goal. Zinchenko’s reaction says it all, with him saying “Oh my gosh, this guy is incredible, honestly he’s unbelievable.” in his post-match interview. Mikel Arteta also said “No, we’ve been practicing that all week.” When asked if Saliba’s goal surprised him, before adding that the players have been singing the Saliba song in the dressing room.
On the topic of Oleksandr Zinchenko, he also had an amazing game. Particularly in this match, we have seen the Zinchenko/Xhaka pairing work outstandingly, with them both creating space for each other and bouncing off of each other to move the ball down the pitch and create goal scoring opportunities. This pairing is key to helping Arsenal keep control of the game and continue to move the ball forward. Zinchenko also has the highest win rate in the Premier League with 82%, winning 65 games out of 79 appearances. At half time, Zinchenko was the best man on the pitch for winning possession on 9 occasions, followed by his teammates Saliba and Partey with 5.
Yet again, a dominant Arsenal performance, including Ramsdale’s second clean sheet of the season which will provide much needed confidence for Arteta’s young team; 15 players in the squad were under 25, emphasising the incredible potential Arteta is working with. Our summer signings have already proven their importance to our team, with us finally having a striker capable of scoring goals and creating opportunities. I also think it’s safe to say Ødegaard has beaten the fear of the captain’s curse, with an exceptional individual performance that he and his team mates can be proud of. It was also nice to see Tomiyasu make an appearance, albeit from the bench, to help see out the match and secure the clean sheet; this is definitely a good sign and will create some competition with Ben White; pushing both players to perform at their best. Looking forward to our next 5 games, Fulham and Brentford appear to be the most difficult games given Manchester United’s current form. Following our last three performances, would it be too much to expect 15pts/15pts?
Two Premier League games into the 2022/23 season has seen Arsenal collect six points, score six goals, and concede two. The Gunners are flying and have maintained their stunning pre-season form early into the new campaign, with the football on show matching the results. In years gone by, it may have been easy to simply praise the fixture list for giving Mikel Arteta’s side an ‘easy’ start, but with the performances as comprehensive and dominant as we have seen thus far, I feel that does Arsenal a disservice.
Let’s take a look back at how we won our first two games, the standout performers, some key moments within them, the way Arteta has deployed his team, and where we can continue to improve, before previewing Saturday evenings visit to The Vitality Stadium, where we will take on Scott Parker’s Bournemouth.
A factor in our strong start has been the consistency in team selection by Arteta, with the lineup remaining unchanged since Oleksandr Zinchenko signed for the club, and the current first XI boasting a strong record of four wins, and a 16-2 aggregate score in the four games it has played (including pre-season).
The side is playing with full confidence, and you can see the on-pitch connection and relationships improving with every kick of the ball amongst the group. The idea in this 4-3-3 system is to play a fluid 3-2-5 / 2-3-5 with the ball, that is if you want to try and give it some sort of structure.
This can change depending on the fullback pairing, but in the Zinchenko / Ben White dynamic I’d be confident in my description. The nature of the RB profiles at Arsenal means that whilst first choice Takehiro Tomiyasu and deputising CB White can both provide an overlap and attacking support to an adequate standard, neither are final third threats or presences in the mould of Reece James or Trent Alexander-Arnold. This means the Gunners have a three back hybrid available, suiting the strong defensive capabilities of the pair to stifle opposition attacks. Our LB profiles are the antithesis of this, with Kieran Tierney and Zinchenko boasting a strong presence going forward. Whilst both are able defenders, Tierney is a powerful runner who overlaps and delivers well from wide areas, whilst Zinchenko is a technically brilliant footballer, who can overlap as well as find himself in the pockets of space left by our LCM, the Ukrainian is known to play in midfield, and this versatility is highlighted and celebrated in Arsenal’s current system.
The single pivot player in the side is Thomas Partey, who is tasked with cutting out the ball, winning duels and distributing to those ahead of him, assisted by his defence who are adept at reading the game to squeeze the oppositions forward line and intercept high. Granit Xhaka has been reinvented as a box-to-box player within this side, with the Swiss finding himself popping up in all sorts of positions across the left hand side, as well as arriving late in attacking areas as an extra body. Pushed slightly higher is club captain Martin Ødegaard, who is a link between the less creative players in deeper roles and the attacking trio, tasked with making things happen on the ball, and supporting Bukayo Saka from his role on the touchline, making underlapping runs to drag defenders away from the winger. The pair also have a really strong combination pattern made possible by their understanding of each others games, and ability in tight spaces.
Then come the two biggest goal threats of the system via the in-form Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli. Both have scored two goals so far this season, and provide an electricity to the game when they have the ball. The LW in this system has plenty of space to operate in and is often more isolated with just one opposing defender, such is the support provided by those closest to him. For Martinelli, this means he has time to make runs into space off the ball, in dangerous zones between opposing RB and RCB for example, or he can use his strong dribbling and 1V1 ability to take his man on. The combinations on the left hand side are plentiful, and Gabriel Jesus has found himself operating in this space at times during the opening two fixtures, providing lots of options for his teammates and confusion for defenders, who find it hard to pick him up.
Jesus in the CF role has taken the team to a different level thus far, and represents the biggest difference between the team from last season and this term. Jesus highlights what Arsenal had been missing for so long, with the ball he links up perfectly with his supporting cast, dribbles and carries the ball exceptionally at a frightening pace, crafting goalscoring opportunities frequently, and creating space effortlessly. Without the ball the Brazilian is a bundle of energy, an irrepressible threat to his opposing CB partnership, battling with them all game. He demonstrates strength to hold his man off, ridiculous pressing capabilities, and the physical presence in the air or with opponents who are in possession, pestering and fighting until the opportunity is gone. He cannot be praised enough for his start in my eyes, he makes something happen out of everything in a match, big or small, pretty or not, and it is elevating us hugely.
In typical Mikel Arteta fashion the team without the ball can drop into a compact 4-4-2, with Ødegaard acting as the second man alongside CF Jesus in the central zones, defending from the front and pressing tirelessly. However, in the opening two games of the season we have seen this far less from the Gunners, possibly due to the opposition we have faced, or simply because we have evolved past the need to have to soak up pressure as much as we used to under Arteta. Palace had us pinned for part of our Premier League opener at Selhurst Park, however the team still attempted more of a high press in the game, not just purposefully sitting back and letting wave after wave of pressure arrive unchallenged. Against Leicester, the Foxes took a more reserved approach to the game, leading to no long spells out of possession, meaning the high press was mainly deployed to win possession back, and with the ball Arsenal displayed far more control.
The positives from our first two tests…
Starting with the positives, and I feel context is a largely important factor in my appraisal and disapproval of certain aspects of the performances against Crystal Palace and Leicester. Arsenal did not play their best game ever against Patrick Vieira’s side, however the opening 30 minutes was certainly one to behold, as Arsenal showed superiority in every aspect of the pitch, from winning duels and second balls, to playing with freedom and a creative flair which silenced the home crowd and laid the foundation for victory.
A set-piece routine provided the opening goal, scored by Martinelli to show the continuation of a theme from last season of Nicolas Jover’s genius. Out of position White marshalled Wilfried Zaha expertly from RB, giving the tricky winger a night to forget, and William Saliba greeted the Premier League with a dominant display, not putting a foot wrong all evening, breeding confidence. Outside of this I feel the well praised Xhaka and Jesus deserve their flowers once again, for playing with such a high intensity and desire to win. Eddie Nketiah also had a great cameo when welcomed onto the pitch from the bench, providing the thrust for the second goal, which killed the game.
As for Leicester, the Emirates was rocking for this thrilling Arsenal team, and they were not left disappointed. Arteta’s side had some brilliant individual performances once again, in the form of the aforementioned Jesus and Xhaka, who repeated a display of individual drive and skill, this time along with Martinelli, who’s second half goal was sublime, after he had caused havoc to Wesley Fofana and Timothy Castagne on the Leicester right hand side, almost getting the former sent off. However, it was the team performance that had improved massively from the season opener, with a much improved display of calmness on the ball and control to dictate the game at our desired pace, admittedly aided by Leicester’s pathetic attempts to press or win the ball, with Brendan Rodgers’ side opting to sit off and wait for counter-attacking opportunities instead. The performance was far more convincing despite the winning margin remaining the same, and as a unit the team nullified Leicester’s biggest individual threats for the most part in Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, and Youri Tielemans, remaining patient when building up, not biting at the repeated cynical fouls committed by Leicester, and keeping our heads when the deficit was halved twice in the game – overall the performance was commendably mature and displayed the qualities required to reach the top 4.
The weak points…
Onto the criticism for the performances, starting with Palace, and I would almost describe the teams performance from a structural point of view as the exact opposite to what I just described as the positives from Leicester. The team as a whole showed a considerable lack of composure, particularly in midfield, where it felt as though all three midfielders were often too nervous to carry the ball forwards, with Ødegaard the biggest perpetrator of this fault, showing no improvement on his performance in the corresponding fixture from last season. Our passing was erratic and rushed, which allowed for a Palace onslaught from around the half an hour mark all the way through to the 70th minute.
Palace were unlucky on the night, with some big saves from Aaron Ramsdale to maintain the clean sheet, however Ramsdale’s debut in the #1 shirt also featured some nervous moments, adding to a pattern of sloppy distribution stretching back to last season, with a long punt hitting Palace forward, Odsonne Édouard and looping dangerously close to the Arsenal goal. Debutant Zinchenko and Gabriel Magalhães on the left hand side of the defence all too often provided encouragement for Palace from a defensive standpoint, and Zinchenko struggled aerially in a mis-match against opposing winger Jordan Ayew – although the former Manchester City man added quality and calmness to the build-up. Overall, the Eagles created a few too many easy chances off the back of a sloppy structure, lack of focus, and individual errors that must be eradicated for us to succeed this season.
Onto the negatives against Leicester and whilst massively reduced, these once again focus on the defensive side of the team. There were certainly improvements to the teams structure and solidity post Palace, although as I mentioned the weak performance of Leicester combined with the setting for the game at home means I am intrigued to see how we control our next away test.
Another strong start was rewarded with a 2-0 lead going into the 40th minute of the game, with a marauding run from Fofana weaving his way through to goal before being denied by Ramsdale the only real Leicester chance, that was until Leicester were awarded a penalty by referee Darren England for Ramsdale’s alleged ‘collision’ with Vardy, latching onto a loose ball over the top. This decision was overruled when Mike Dean intervened via VAR, and this may seem harsh as it certainly was not a penalty, but I feel as though Ramsdale contested for the ball, rushing off his line when Vardy would have reached it nearer the corner flag than the goal, at an awkward angle, and with Gabriel and Saliba well placed to deal with the threat. In these situations I would much rather avoid giving the referee a decision to make, especially with how inconsistent VAR can be when intervening. These sorts of events can change games in an instant, along with the atmosphere inside of a stadium, and even if they are overruled, it can provide a way back for a team that was dead and buried by that stage, sending nervous energy around the ground.
A further defensive mixup between Ramsdale and Saliba led to the latter putting the ball into his own net early in the second half, in what can be put down to another lack of communication – which can be expected with the new players bedding in, but certainly not a strong point. Both players reacted incredibly positively though, assisted by the fans who got right behind them, as well as the quick response from Xhaka, which killed some freshly restored Leicester belief. Lastly, Maddison’s goal which restored some Leicester faith of a comeback for a short while was avoidable, players were slow to track Maddison’s overlapping run and the angle which he slots the ball through Ramsdale’s legs from is the sort of goal I can only imagine a goalkeeper would be furious with themselves for letting in. On that train of thought I do not want to heap more criticism onto Ramsdale, but merely hope that he can restore his true level, as he has shown a slight decline in overall performance since around April.
These observations may seem harsh, and I felt that way when writing, however I am harsh on this team because my expectations are high, and I believe in them and the manager to achieve greatness. It is important that incidents within games do not become patterns, eventually manifesting themselves as long term soft characteristics about the team – and a defensive frailty is the worst of the lot.
How will Bournemouth look to hurt Arsenal’s confident start to the season?
Scott Parker is certainly underrated in my eyes as a coach, for me he demonstrates a far more promising present and future in management than his other English counterparts such as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Parker has a strong and rigid style which matches his tough persona as a player, often deploying a back three or five, utilising both systems so far in the two opening games of the season. His teams have strong principals, and with the quality of the squads at his disposal (including here at Bournemouth), a lot of the big results he collects are a result of resolute defending, bravery from attacking players, and tactical nuances. Parker’s last meeting with Arteta saw the Englishman come away with a more positive result, back in 2021 when Fulham fought for a 1-1 draw at the Emirates, where Arsenal scored a 97th minute equaliser. Here is how he may lineup on Saturday evening…
Injuries: Jordan Zemura (COVID), Dominic Solanke (Ankle), Ryan Fredericks (Calf), Joseph Rothwell (Thigh), David Brooks (Medical Recovery).
Bournemouth opted for a 3-4-2-1 in their recent visit to The Etihad, although after a 4-0 demolition by the champions, Parker himself admitted that Pep Guardiola’s side were “just too good” for the Cherries to handle. However, in Parker’s opening day 2-0 success against Aston Villa, the team played a 5-3-2, with the notable difference being the inclusion of left back Jordan Zemura, who is a doubt ahead of Saturday evening after struggling with COVID recently. Also in that line-up was Dominic Solanke, who had a great Championship season last term, although will miss Arsenal’s visit due to an ankle injury.
Through a mixture of injuries and an attempt to get the best, most experienced members of the squad playing, Bournemouth have yet to show a settled XI or structure so far this season, hence the inclusion of new recruit Marcos Senesi, as well as Jamal Lowe, Phillip Billing, and Junior Stanislas as possible starters in my predicted XI. With Solanke out, it does feel that Welshman Kieffer Moore will struggle as the lone CF, opening up an opportunity for a change. Parker may also look to get Jefferson Lerma back into midfield from CB by including Senesi, especially against this well oiled, attacking Arsenal machine. A physical battle will certainly have to be relished by Arteta’s side if they wish to keep a clean sheet, and implement sustained pressure.
Some final thoughts on Arsenal…
Regardless of the enigma that is this Bournemouth side so far, I feel confident knowing that no matter how strong our opposition, at this stage in Arteta’s tenure I rarely find myself worried about how we will prevent the other team, focussing more on how Arsenal will win the game with their strengths. I think this system is good enough to dismantle any style of team when the players show the right intensity and act as a unit without the ball especially. Arsenal have a mix of measured buildup and individual brilliance, which can find its way around any defensive puzzle within a 90 minute spell.
Injuries: Fábio Vieira (Ankle), Reiss Nelson (Muscular).
As for Arsenal’s lineup, I believe it will remain unchanged once again, with only Tierney and Tomiyasu’s return to fitness threatening any re-shuffle by Arteta, however with the form of the side, it is hard to see any re-integration of injured players being rushed. This squad is blessed with the depth to allow for players to take their time when returning to the fold, with the same luxury being afforded to Emile Smith Rowe and Fábio Vieira – who both partook in the Arsenal U-21 sides triumph over Swansea’s U-21 on Wednesday evening, to rebuild fitness and match sharpness.
It feels as though Vieira is still a way from playing, although interestingly the highly adaptable Portuguese may well be used as an interior in midfield, replacing Xhaka in our best XI, as the attacking positions that Xhaka find himself in would suit Vieira’s game far better, adding another creative tool to pick the locks of opposition defences. This is a particularly exciting prospect in games against weaker opposition, especially when you factor in Zinchenko’s ability to invert and cover the central zones left vacant by the LCM.
Smith Rowe on the other hand, is much further along the injury timeline, and a cameo is more than likely from the bench on Saturday to get him back up to speed. On that same note, Nketiah has so far been a victim of the productivity and sensational form of Jesus and particularly Martinelli early in the season, preventing him from starting. This is a shame because as I’ve reiterated many times, Eddie has a big season ahead of him where he will certainly pleasantly surprise many, although his mentality leads me to believe he will stay patient and hungry whilst he works his way into the XI.
I am hopeful that Saka will regain some confidence on Saturday too, as the one negative to the system currently is his isolation on the touchline of the RW, as a result of the lack of attacking combinations from his fullback and from Ødegaard’s lacklustre supporting movement in the opening two games. Saka has looked quiet by his sky-high standards but I am not worried about him, he has created chances and certainly impacted our wins positively, even without goals and assists – which is arguably what the best players can do.
Overall, Saturday cannot come soon enough for me, Arsenal look brilliant and each game is a pleasure to watch at this moment in time. The connection between the fans and club is at an all time high in Arteta’s reign, and the positivity surrounding the performances will serve to maintain the high standards.
Vieira was one of our very first summer signings, but we are yet to see him in action following a foot injury which prevented him from taking part in any pre-season action. However, it is hopeful that he will make the journey to Bournemouth this weekend, even if it is just a place on the bench. But, who is the Portuguese international, and what can we expect to see from him?
We signed Vieira, the 22 year old Portuguese international, from Porto in the summer for £34 million. He first broke into Porto’s senior squad in the 2021/22 campaign, although he has been playing at the senior level since the 2019/20 season. Despite his lack of appearances in the first half of last season, he still managed an impressive 6 goals and 14 assists, which was the highest in the Portuguese first division, The Primeira Liga.
Vieira was undeniably vital to Porto’s game plan through his creative abilities, with his strengths including incredible close ball control, successful dribbles, and more importantly, progressive passes to create goal scoring opportunities for his team. He also appears calm under pressure and has an incredibly centre of low gravity, allowing him to move away from opposition players swiftly. These are all signs of a solid addition to our midfield and will blend well with with the qualities of Xhaka and Partey. He also boasts impressive attacking stats, competing amongst the top 5% of midfielders in the world for open play XA. Furthermore, he ranked amongst the best in the world for passing efficiency and key passes, especially those into the penalty area. He will be a vital player for Arsenal, as one of the things we struggled with most last season was scoring goals, a problem now seemingly fixed with the signing of Gabriel Jesus. We also struggled against defensive sides, but Vieira will help us improve with his flexible positioning and helpful build-up play.
Typically, Vieira plays along the right hand side of midfield, which will give us a much needed boost following comments made from our opening two games about the inefficiency of our right-hand side of Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka. He happens to be two footed and can also play as a wide midfielder, meaning he can make direct runs and cut into the box, adding goal scoring opportunities. This kind of versatility will provide the team with an incredible boost in attacking efficiency as he is suitable for almost all attacking positions in the front line. That said, he can also drop back and play defensively when needed, as shown by the infographic below. We can draw upon similarities between Vieira and Ødegaard, such as the technical style and positional play. This will provide good competition and challenge both players to consistently perform at peak levels.
Arteta has already made it clear that Vieira is an investment player for the future, who has the potential to really make a splash in the Premier League after gaining the experience to develop him into a more mature player, with improvements needed in his off the ball work rate. That said, he is already showing leadership qualities as he captained the Portuguese U-21s and was even declared player of the last U-21s Euros. I think we can expect to see him in the early rounds of domestic cup fixtures and potentially during the Europa League group stages, as well as being utilised as a substitute to preserve Ødegaard’s fitness for the bigger games in the Premier League and as we progress in other competitions.