Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa: Wonderful. Painful. Awful. Vital. [Positive Needs & Hopes]


Wonderful. Painful. Awful. Vital


Here’s some facts….

1) We rarely win when Chelsea, Spurs and Utd lose. We did.

2) We are 3 points ahead of all three of them after 6 games.

3) We played over a half with 10 men and won.

4) From a losing position too. Twice.

5) We are tied for third and essentially tied for top of the tree in our mini league as we aren’t competing with City and Liverpool, yet.

The thing is though, my abiding memory of watching Arsenal vs Villa was that I was hiding behind the couch and my son was under the table.

Then I go check out ‘Arsenal Twitter’ and way over half of my timeline aren’t talking about any of the above, but of wanting Emery out.

I don’t blame them as my overriding feeling is that at 0-1 and with 10 men we would have been hammered by a better team as we are a tactical mess and honestly, that was a clown car of a performance.

Individual brilliance 1 Team 0 ….and the fans are too educated to know that this fortune will last.

BUT…. the title of this blog happened. All of it. The five facts are true. They happened.

Just think that it’s not too much to ask  to play newly promoted Villa at home  on the couch rather than behind it.


Photo Credit: Getty Images


* Guendouzi is challenging me to find different ways to describe him. When he’s good, he’s brilliant.

I’m gonna try though.

Football changing is good and bad. One of the negatives is that footballers generally don’t care as much as they did generations back.

Players like Adams, Puyol, Gattuso and many others drove their teams to many wins that seemed beyond them.

Against Villa, Arsenal needed either a rousing speech, an intelligent tactical shift or someone to take the initiative and change it with their personal drive.

Matteo Guendouzi seems to thrive when we are struggling.

He seems to pause the game, run into the changing room, grab his cape and singlehandedly swing the momentum.

Is it too soon for him to be one of the captains? He plays many games as if he is.

* Aubameyang is largely responsible for all 11 of our 11 points.

Winners vs Newcastle, Burnley and Villa (9 pts) and equalizers vs Watford and Spurs (2 pts).

Important yet scary statistic.



* Emery saw that we had more energy  and offensive options when Xhaka went off. He also heard the crowd boo Xhaka. This is a positive.

* Kolasinac defended better and seems to give more of himself.

* Chambers comes across to me as a serious professional. Rarely can you accuse him of lack of effort. Plays as well as he’s able.

* We bypassed their midfield well and hit multiple productive balls to the wing.

* Credit to Emery for having the guts to start Saka and have the guts to put on energy in Willock and Torreira rather than seniority in Ozil.

* Whoever gave the instruction that penetrating on the dribble will often lead to fouls if nothing else is working. Maybe it was player initiative?

* Another clean and confident performance from an Arsenal goalkeeper.


* If there was an award given for ‘impressive play in a difficult situation’ it should have gone to AMN for not only his brilliant tackle but then having the intelligence to pull his foot back to try to avoid any thought that he might be trying to hurt his opponent.

Instead, he was sent off which quite honestly, was an embarrassment of a decision.

I understand that he went in hard but the concern is ‘going in hard on 50/50 or 40/60 or 30/70 balls’, not 70/30, right?

* If I was to point to Emery’s main repeated failing it is to find a system that makes it significantly harder for opponents to get into our final third.

We have good midfielders but they are consistently out of position or way too easily bypassed.

I maintain that you can’t press individually and/or have a midfield step and a defence back off simultaneously.

Secondly, our midfield has to engage in the final third and not fall back into the lap of our defenders (who are too deep also).

The scary part of it is that I can see this as can many I follow on social media and listen to on podcasts. It’s not that this is a coaching preference. It’s just incorrect.

* Kolasinac had a better game but he’s losing his ability to pick anyone out with his crossing.

* A theme emerging from our pre season to date is that the younger players are making fewer mistakes.

That’s not normal.

Younger players can’t risk what I suspect some of the older players are doing which is trying to manipulate the club to change coaches. A younger player is too busy trying to establish himself.

* The Nottingham Forest game could change our PL season and Emery’s future at Arsenal.


This is assuming that he plays Chambers and Holding at CB and doesn’t play Xhaka.

If Emery is not convinced by CB’s and Xhaka repeatedly showing him that they make at least one big mistake every game, then I’m hoping the alternative players can show him that they won’t.

This game would be one I’d experiment in for the future of the first team.

I’d try Luiz at DM.

With Holding coming back and Chambers deserving to be ahead of Sokratis, I’d see if Luiz can organize the midfield. He could also spring the forwards more frequently.

If Ozil has upset Emery again (suspect he has), I’d not play him vs Forest either. Play ESR in his natural AM position. Too many coaches play out of favour players over a player that could be on the up.

If you play an unmotivated Ozil who is on his way out anyway then you gain nothing as he won’t care and you’ve lost one of the very few chances to play a potential future star in ESR.

I think Balogun deserves a place on the bench at the very least.

* It’s going to be very interesting to see if Emery is willing to burn on the decisions to continue with Xhaka and not fixing our midfield. There’s an argument that not dropping one of Luiz and/or Sokratis could be his ultimate downfall too.


Photo Credit: Getty Images


* The decision to start Saka, to start Nelson and Willock previously will have given great hope to all the younger players at AFC and greatly helped the recruitment department in persuading future players.

I’d tell Nelson and Saka that whoever impresses most against Forest, starts at Old Trafford.

* I’m assuming that Aubameyang is one of the five captains after being given the armband when Xhaka went off.

If true, it’s justified. Keeps showing up consistently.

Also, he showed his team mindedness in giving the penalty to Pepe.

* I always like to point out players from other clubs that are impressing me in this section. I don’t ‘hope’ Arsenal sign all of them but do think they have potential to be an Arsenal player, if needed. I do also recognize that our Academy could be the solution in many areas.

Mings is my kind of defender.

Way too much importance is put on a defenders ability to play out of the back over his ability to defend these days.

Mings defends like he loves it.

At the youth level, when you pick a team you should always consider this… does a player hate to lose or love to win?

If he hates to lose, he is a defensive player. If he loves to win he will give his ‘extra’ at the other end.

Tyrone Mings clearly hates to lose.

* Here is another name to look out for… Raphael Leao.

He plays for AC Milan.

Insanely quick, powerful and skillful.

Played with Pepe at Lille last year.

Can see AFC looking at him in years to come to replace Auba/Laca or as a third choice if they don’t want to trust Nketiah, John-Jules, Balogun, Martinelli etc…



* Emery’s legacy so far is a handful of things but one that concerns is that we rarely ever beat lesser teams without a struggle and rarely cruise to any of our victories.

If I was Unai Emery I’d approach this run of games with a completely different mindset.

Front foot.

Overwhelm lesser teams by playing with such energy and speed of play from kick off.

I fear that Emery’s nervousness overwhelms him.

A loss for Emery or Solskjaer combined with a poor performance next Monday could be the end of one of them.

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2 Responses to Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa: Wonderful. Painful. Awful. Vital. [Positive Needs & Hopes]

  1. Omar El-kilany September 23, 2019 at 1:50 pm #

    Excellent read Mike, agree 100%, Kolasinac is good going up the wing but he didn’t have one good pass, will be glad when our proper full-backs are playing, Xhaka slow our game down and it easy for the opponents to see.

    Had the same thought regarding Luiz.

    Keep up the good work Mike

  2. Victor Thompson September 24, 2019 at 10:11 am #

    Mike, I recall that when Emery arived we instantly started to pressurise teams in their own half and we played at speed. Slowly though, we started to slow our speed of play and the dynamic pressurising stopped.

    I could not see what his change of tactics was producing other than indecision, and instead of forward passing we regressed to AW,s sideways and backward passing at walking speed. There has been no better example of our descent than in the Watford game when we were pummelled for the entire second half by a team which got battered 8-0 by Mam City in their next match.

    As to your remarks on Luis, I really do differ with you. Luis is just as likely to make a howler and cost us goals ( 2 penalties so far. ) When we had better game plans I used to love to see him playing against us. He is undisciplined and is often caught out of possesion. On such forays he can produce amazing kong distance passes, but his mistakes outweigh his positives.

    I do agree with your assessment of Chambers. He has always been limited by lack of speed, but his positional play is good and he does look as if he is trying to be a cog in the machine. He tries to create a relationship with his partners, unlike Luis, Mustafi or Sokrates. They are all selfish and either careless or just egotistical.

    Victor Thompson

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