Arsenal 1-0 West Ham: tough game as VARsenal dodge Hammer blow [Positive Needs & Hopes]


Nothing looks easy

Arsenal won yesterday but oh my, that was hard work.

Part way through yesterday’s game I started to complain about how West Ham look every bit as good as we are.

I then started to complain that we used to dominate games at home against almost everybody and that we are struggling (yet again) to do this even against the lesser sides.

Then I came to my senses.

Arsenal are not feared anymore.

Aubameyang is and perhaps Saka and Martinelli, but this is where we are.

The armchair fan would shout for better players. I’d say that we have the best level of player that we can expect considering our current status as an established Europa league team.

Arsenal have a good team, if unbalanced.

What is happening on game day now is that teams play us toe to toe and because our midfield lacks athleticism we get regularly penetrated.

So what’s the solution then?

I think Arteta has to find a way of creating easy opportunities.

There are many ways to do this. It could be done with effective individual brilliance, superior movement, exploiting the weaknesses of the opponent, or of course, better players. The issue is though that we are creating very little and when we do the opportunities are rarely easy.


I think that the truth is found in the predictability of modern day football. Have you ever thought that you know where the ball is going to be passed every time it’s on a player’s foot? The only player with unpredictability is Pepe but he’s unpredictable to a point where it’s getting ridiculous.



If it’s predictable to us as novices, it’s got to be obvious to the opponent. I think that defenses these days know the movements that they have to make as they are repeated so often. Easy for them.

I’ve always thought as a coach that’s the easiest way to score against a deep and compact defensive block is to go outside the fullback, cut into the box and find a simple passing lane. There is a very real chance of a penalty too if you cut your defender off and slow down.

Liverpool create much by using Firmino as a 1 touch pivot. This allows Mane and Salah multiple opportunities from 20 yards to curl one in or lay it off for a simple finish.

If they are not doing this they create 1 on 1 opportunities for their front three by countering with pace, something that Arsenal have never figured out.

The simplest solution is to improve our ability to counter attack as we can put out the most pacey attack in Europe but take negative touches frequently which allow the opponent to recover.

The reluctance to shoot from outside the box is a bigger problem than you’d initially think too. If a team shoots from 18-25 yards, opponents will start sending more than one defender out of the block, opening up space for your forwards.

I understand that shooting from distance isn’t ‘easy’ but we kill ourselves by having so many methods like this cut out by our reluctance to even attempt them.

I’ve even got to the point that I get most excited when we get a corner as it’s a toss up and probably a better opportunity than anything that we are regularly creating from open play.

A typical thought that I have when I watch Arsenal is living in hope that one of Aubameyang’s diagonal runs (that needs immaculate timing) is met by the perfect lofted chip (very difficult) and not intercepted by the keeper or more likely, headed out by the defenders (very likely).

Typical unfortunately that Arsenal are relying on the complicated.



  • When Bernd Leno learns to handle a crowd on crosses, he should become one of the best keepers in the world. He is regularly saving us from defeat.
  • Dani Ceballos is playing close to his peak. Pushing his ceiling in fact as he has greatly improved his defensive numbers. Every team needs a player that WANTS to dictate play, WANTS the ball and doesn’t let the score line affect this mentality. He will become even more important if he attempts to create more and this will likely happen if he’s partnered with an athlete that he can trust to cover behind him. Neither Xhaka or Ceballos are to be blamed for their lack of pace but the club needs to secure an athlete.
  • Mari was thrown in at the deep end against Antonio. I’m sure he’s defended better players but the PL is more physical and nobody more so than Antonio. I think Arsenal have a real defender here.
  • Lacazette won the game for Arsenal and that can only help. As happy as I am for him, I’m frustrated that Eddie lacks the emotion I feel that a centre forward needs to ignite the crowd and back a player that I feel that they want to back.



  • We may have to accept that we start cautiously. I don’t have to be pacified and I may be wrong but the crowd are a real advantage and 54,000 of the 60,000 support Arsenal and I think our ponderous starts to games makes 54,000 nervous and changes their mood from ‘excited to see my team’ to ‘ oh boy!’
  • Emery and Arteta both seem to like the pointless short corner. I’m lost on this one.
  • I was hoping that Willock was going to be the ball carrier from midfield but Arteta plays him as a 10, but we need someone to penetrate from deep even simply to change up the option of ‘pass only, plus Pepe.’


  • Until Arsenal become a physically powerful modern day PL team it’s hard to see us making much progress. If we were a superior technical team we could maybe avoid this need, but that’s not us. Thankfully, I think this changes in the summer.
  • I’m of the opinion that now we have Mari and Saliba, we should prioritize a creator to replace Ozil and a powerful destroyer in midfield and possibly a right back. If we chase down a centre back I’m a huge fan of Mings (loves defending) and Ake (going to the top).
  • Now that Tierney is returning there are calls for Saka to play at LW again. Not sure about this. The way we play, our LW plays inside, which suits Auba more, and Saka is doing extremely well at LB. Will we see Tierney at LB, Saka LW and Auba CF?



It might not seem that Arsenal won after that heart attack of a game.

I feel 50% relieved, 50% worried.

Until Arsenal become a dominant force I expect many games like this.

It seems like every game is pivotal.

Perhaps it’s the stress that is prohibiting our players from playing with freedom.

Actually, I’m convinced of this.


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5 Responses to Arsenal 1-0 West Ham: tough game as VARsenal dodge Hammer blow [Positive Needs & Hopes]

  1. Felix March 8, 2020 at 8:14 pm #

    Excellent as usual.
    What do you think will happen to the CB’s? I would sell Socratis, loan Chambers and Mavropanos and keep Mustafi and Holding. That would give us 5 CB’s. Holding needs to prove fitness at pre-season or he will be sold and replaced. I don’t expect anything from Chambers next season due to injury.
    Midfield is interesting as all can be let go and replaced. If a deal can be made, I’d keep Ceballos and sell Xhaka, Toreira and Guendouzi. I love Toreira but his size limits him in the PL.
    In attack, much depends on departures. Whatever happens, I feel we have too many CF’s with little wing creativity and goals. PEA, Martinelli are CF’s. I would let go of Laca and get a Hazard type number ten/winger for the left. Or use ESR and Saka there.

    • Chris Stark March 11, 2020 at 5:05 pm #

      Love Laca, I would give him another season to flourish under Arteta.

  2. Mike McDonald March 8, 2020 at 8:49 pm #

    Thanks for your kind words!
    Much appreciated

    I’m with you on the defenders and midfielders. I like Torreira but his lack of speed over distances larger than 10 yards hurts us especially as we have un-athletic players around him already.
    Looks to me like Arteta likes Xhaka so he will most likely stay. I’m 50/50 on what I’d do with Xhaka as I see value now, especially in his leadership.
    Ceballos has the highest ceiling and so I’d push him to be more creative in the final third.
    We need two athletic midfielders. I’d loan Willock (who could be one in the future) and sell Guendouzi to raise 40+M for other areas. I’d like to keep Torreira as an option.
    In the back I think we have good options now that Mustafi and Luiz are performing. I’d sign Mari and bleed Saliba in gradually.
    The same issue exists in defence as midfield, good players but lack of pace and athleticism. If Saliba can play the majority of games then you have pace but I think that’s unlikely. I’d swap Sokratis for Mings.

    The biggest need is a playmaker at 10. Ozil is better than he was but still nowhere near a constant threat. I’d love Grealish or Odegaard but that’s big bucks. I think Willian is coming and maybe he’s the solution. A wonderfully technical player that can play 10 or wide.
    I’d sell Lacazette and take a close look at TJJ or especially Balogun in pre season before I replaced him. Balogun could go to the very top so it’d be a shame to waste big money there.
    Strong argument for Martinelli/Auba at CF too.
    I’d like to see Pepe given a chance at a roaming 10 too as he may be the solution.
    I think the most interesting player is Reiss Nelson. Huge ceiling but seems to be intimidated playing at home and plays in a subservient manner.

    Your thoughts?

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Lari03 March 9, 2020 at 3:48 am #

    I thought our problems were fairly obvious and it was in the midfield. Ceballos and Xhaka had a torrid time in the 1st half, and we allowed so many breaks.

    While Aubameyang plays LW, the team is not balanced because he can’t really hold the ball, dribble or draw fouls from the opposition as a natural winger should and so it is important we play a stronger team than fitting all our top players onto the pitch.

    Eddie would have played better if he had a solid 4-2-3-structure behind him, but he constantly had to drop deep and the athletic nature of the West Ham players against an imbalanced Arsenal side meant we were second best on the day.

    If I were Arteta I would experiment with Willock, Maitland-Niles and Ceballos in an FA cup game. This will be to provide some athleticism to our midfield with the hope that they can step up and play consistently, otherwise we are 2 midfielders short at the moment.

  4. GPS March 9, 2020 at 3:59 pm #

    I think we’re really hamstrung by players’ ceilings, much more than would be ideal. The general lack of athleticism at CM is a bewildering scouting failure.
    At this point in his career, Ozil is too 1-note as a CAM, and it seems like that really stunts our attack. He can still pass, but he’s not a goal scorer, won’t dribble past anyone, and doesn’t really pressure the opponent (either in defense or in attack).

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