The Arsenal Way is fundamental. Free flowing, attacking football by a club with integrity and class.

Arsenal Dominate Without Winning

In Arteta’s first game in charge, Arsenal did something they could only achieve twice under Emery’s reign. That was to register 17 or more shots on goal in a league game.

According to the stats from the Premier League website, Arsenal dominated in almost every category except the most critical, scoring more goals than the opposition.

Watching Arsenal felt like going 18 months back in time to Arsene Wenger’s final season in charge. That was when Arsenal time and time again would produce a performance dominating enough to win not one, but two games, only to somehow walk away with a point at best, especially away from home.

Ozil and Xhaka dominate

The same thing happened on Boxing Day, where Ozil and Xhaka dominated Bournemouth midfield in a way that we have not seen Arsenal do for a while and definitely not this season. The confidence and swagger with which we moved the ball around, especially in midfield, was all reminiscent of the Frenchman’s style.

Arteta has however added the awareness and the eagerness to hunt and win the ball back after losing it in midfield.

But despite of all the domination and the 4 clear cut chances that Ozil alone delivered on plate for his strikers, we failed to grab them as we saw Bournemouth get away with a point in a game which we really should have had won by the half time.

Before kick-off  a lot was made of Mikel Arteta and how he will approach his first game in charge. The word change is often cried out loud when a new manager walks in but what Arteta did was to just remind Arsenal about the importance of playing the basics of football and grinding it into their system.

Arteta wanted to keep it simple. Know your role, be eager to get on the ball and always try to find the right pass to either a free man or in a free space for someone to attack.

He brought back Ozil and Lacazette into the lineup while persisting with Nelson over Pepe, something that can only be described as a show of faith in the youngster who is yet to fully grab the opportunity this season.

Tweaks in midfield

Though the midfield partnership of Torreira and Xhaka remained it was anything but the same as we saw a change of roles between the two. Torreira was deployed the deepest and tasked with setting and controlling the tempo of the game with Xhaka given a free-er attacking role of a false No. 8. This saw him play close to Ozil but not advance as much forward as Ramsey used to do.

This small tweak gave Arsenal a lot of advantage as Torreira hold his role effectively and Xhaka was able to get in positions in which he was able to not only connect with Ozil but also find him in those little pockets of spaces where he becomes so dangerous. Probably the best use of him ever since the Frenchman’s departure.

As a result Ozil thrived and Bournemouth had no answers. On any other day Ozil would have got a hat trick of assists but he got none.

Tale of missed chances

First chance came to Lacazette who after finding himself one on one with keeper lost the ball in his feet after Arsenal had produced a stunning two pass counter.

Then, the ball came at the mercy of Saka who from 10 yards out was unable to find any of the 4 Arsenal players waiting for the ball in the box. Moments later, Ozil combined with Nelson to give another chance for Lacazette and high above the goal it went.

Lacazette then went close again after poaching the ball off the defender but failed to convert. Nelson then carved a chance for his own only to see his and then Auba’s shot blocked with the goal in sight.

Three (3) more chances followed for Lacazette and Aubameyang but none were to find the back of the net.

On the other hand, Bournemouth focused their attacks on the Arsenal goal down their right-hand side. They were clearly aware Arsenal had a striker and a winger defending that flank. Given a chance they pounced. Arsenal after trying to play from the back lost the possession and Stacey found space in box to attack and provide a cutback for Gosling to put the home side in front and leave Arsenal in a familiar place.

Kept doing the right things

This was the 10th time this season that the Gunners conceded the first goal of the game. But Arsenal did not lose confidence and kept doing the right things and would have felt unlucky to go behind at half time. They had done everything right apart from the finishing to much frustration.

That pattern continued in the second half with Aubameyang in the firing line this time. But soon, Arsenal found a moment. It was created brilliantly by a Xhaka pass between the lines that opened up space for Aubameyang to attack and attack he did. Initially he played the ball behind Lacazette and it felt like the chance had gone.But the Frenchman was able to control the ball enough to play Ozil whose lay off for Nelson saw the latter’s shot deflected off in the path of Aubameyang who slotted it home.

Arsenal was gaining in confidence but that confidence still did not improve our finishing as we saw Lacazette once again squander a one-on-one chance after being put in goal by one the most imaginative passes of the game by David Luiz.

With 15 minutes remaining Arteta decided to roll the dice by substituting Ozil off for Willock. The later did provide more energy and legs but offensively Arsenal went dead. From that moment our best chance seemed to be from counters. Even then we produced one, only to see Willock timidly shoot it straight in keepers gloves.

Frustration and hope

The game ended in frustration for Arsenal but not in the way we got so accustomed under the former Spaniard. It was not due to lack of style, identity and bizarre tactics. It was because we failed to get the 3 points we deserved after producing a display of total football with complete midfield domination and playing football “The Arsenal Way”.

The process on the pitch was as crystal clear as the ideas of Mikel Arteta in his interviews and press conferences. If we can see such a vast improvement in style and mentality in a week then I am excited for what the future holds. Arteta has made us dream again and given us hope. Seems after 18 months we have finally got Arsene Wenger’s successor!

4 Comments

  1. I enjoyed that Omair. You provided lots of tactical insights, not the same old stale narrative from the usual suspects. One thing you missed was the deliberate hacking of Pepe when he came on. Cook brought him down with a blatant scissors tackle and only saw a yellow card. Once again clever players, especially foreigners, offered no protection. No wonder it is so hard for us to win away from home.

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  2. Yes Shotts the pgMOB are cheating and fixing as much as they ever have done.

    The orchestration and media memes against the use of digital image replays (not video anymore!!!) in the EPL has unveiled just as you predicted and outlined for English football fans in your UniteForVar blog.

    However it’s the use as our friend Hunter and perhaps Orwell too hehe described so well of nationalism and football in England that we can see at work here. Wexit. Xhaka Ozil our out. We want our Arsenal back nudge nudge wink wink.

    In light of which we can quantify and place Henry’s latest critique of the club team and Arteta alongside Dixon’s unreasonable heckling against Freddie. he was just recently making a fool of himself in the Monaco dugout but here he is again holding forth for the broadcasters attacking the Arsenal. They still hate the Arsenal don’t they?

    Fair play to Adrian Clarke for calling out Henry’s gibberish. He did it. by simply talking about the Football.

    Henry not looking so clever as a result! Hehe.

    Fortunately Clarke is a lovely man and a diplomat but his words on Henry and the improvements in one match reveal what he thought of the preceding rubbish. must have been a hard job to not call out Raul and Emery in one of his Breakdowns, I don’t envy him. Fortunately the Arsenal Media team appear to have been biding their time…like AISA…like Sir Lord Chips. Clever? Softly, slowly…

    Any ex-player including Henry attacking the positive moves at the club after having been relatively silent during the Emery degeneracy, who won’t call out Raul (don’t worry Arteta already has!), can do one in my humble and insignificant opinion. And if that offends anyone they can do one too. Specifically when you can see the club is still up against the FA, and will be so in the future as Arteta represents the Football that they hate whereas say a protected clogging Alli who can’t play at 8, as an 8, represents their vision of Fixball sorry I mean Football.

    If it was so hard for Pep with all those billions against the FA then it’s going to be very tough for Arteta. And Pepe’s shins etc. Make no mistake people. Arteta unambiguously said that beating the “critics” to play their Football was his and Pep’s greatest achievement, i.e.: beating the pgMOB two seasons in a row was his and Pep’s greatest achievement.

    And who in the World of Football could disagree with this understanding?

    It’s the Arsenal or bust for me.

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  3. The war between Riley and Wenger has reached another level.

    After AW’s critiques of the crooked practices of the pgMOB I should’ve put money on Liverpool going unbeaten.

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  4. Correction above. Digital or analogue: it is still called Video!

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