New Arsenal 2, Old Arsenal 1 [Positives, Needs & Hopes]

      New Arsenal 2 Old Arsenal 1

       Positives, Needs and Hopes 

It was the 57th minute. There I am sitting with Max and my wife in the Hops ‘n Holler Arsenal pub in Knoxville, Tennessee.

I was struggling to get a feel for what the problem was in the game. Fulham had just scored but there seemed to be something rather familiar even before that happened.

Then it dawned on me.

This Arsenal performance looked like last season. 

There were a couple of players playing rather well but the majority were good when we were in need for one or two of them to be great. As we know, we had a good and improved season last season but we were rarely comfortable on the score board. We also had too many games that we lost that we should’ve won. I vividly remember too many nearly moments last season predicated by bad passing choices or sloppy touches in the final third. This looked eerily familiar.

Not being at the game I wasn’t aware of anything beyond the screen and it was only after the game that I’ve read from multiple accounts that the crowd reacted very differently to last season when we were in this predicament. Energized and driven on by the crowd’s belief and support the team, supplemented by their new found attitude, turned it around in what might retrospectively be seen as a hugely pivotal moment in the season.

Old Arsenal would’ve been bummed. The home crowd would’ve been groaning and at best the game ends in a draw. 

Captain Odegaard

I think the difference is belief. The team believes. The crowd believes. You could tell that Arteta believed because he didn’t bring on any of our attacking subs beyond Nketiah which was a formation change. He kept faith and believed in the players on the field and that that message would resonate with the squad. I started to feel the same when Max was suggesting that Vieira should come on. I kept saying that the players on the field seemed capable and playing fine and I was wondering why I was trusting them. 

This season just feels very different to me. Clearly I’m not the only one. 

There are also a handful of other reasons why we turned this around.

You will likely remember that in preseason we played 3–1–4–2 on many occasions with Jesus and Nketiah upfront. I think the players were energized by that change which added to their belief. And Nketiah is a different animal and has been for most of 2022. One of the most improved players in the league. The other change that I noticed in ‘New Arsenal’ was one that all of the best teams have. Fulham’s goal didn’t make us sad, it made us angry. As I am writing this, I am re-watching the second half. You may remember in the seventy second minute that Martinelli cuts inside and Leno saved. I saw something that I certainly didn’t see last season. Two strikers on the pitch at the same time both running in for the rebound. Hungry. Angry and hungry.

The other change will be seen every week all season. The Premier League is simply getting stronger and stronger. Everybody has money and because teams in Europe don’t, you have clubs like Fulham who can sign players who ordinarily would go to clubs like Lyon, Napoli or Sevilla. 

Fulham were rather good. They defended admirably and up until the winner, Leno was excellent. He’s a perfect example of my example above. In a normal market Fulham would’ve had no chance of signing him and he would’ve gone to someone like Napoli. They have dangerous players on the counter attack and a centre forward that could play at a much higher level. This actually becomes a big accomplishment to Arsenal who have managed to win four games in a row in the most competitive Premier League that there has probably ever been.

Today’s blog headline sums it up.


  • It also doesn’t hurt that our new captain has levels that others don’t. Perhaps his mentality has changed due to the responsibility that he has been given. I would imagine that Odegaard will go up even more levels when Vieira gets on the pitch. Vieira can dissect the defense and much like Jesus’ signing has improved Eddie, I think that Odegaard will be motivated to show that he can do the same. For now, he is clearly the conductor of this team.

Odegaard and Xhaka

  • I predict that this alternate formation may be the difference this season. Every time I’ve seen it we look so energized. It looks like the players love it and there is so much trust in the back three whereas this formation could be seen as a gamble. I think that the other piece to this is that this is a formation that nobody else in the league uses. As football has become more about familiar patterns, defensive blocks often know what’s coming next. I think that this formation will be causing confusion to our opponents. How do they deal with both Jesus and Nketiah as well as Odegaard, Martinelli and Saka?
  • I never would’ve thought that Tomiyasu would struggle to get back into this team. White is a super footballer evidenced by the fact that he is a better right back than most right backs even though he’s a centre back.
  • Here is another adjective that you would’ve struggled to associate with us in the past… determination. The goals certainly had a spoonful of luck involved – but making your own luck is a corny saying that is true. The winning goal took bravery from Saliba and Gabriel to challenge Leno‘s fists. When you watch the goal again, see how fast Gabriel reacts. Thankfully faster than anybody else. Determination. That’s just one example and there were many others including important blocks in the last 15 minutes from all of our back four.
  • If you doubt that competition in depth is not the biggest motivation to a footballer then watch Granit Xhaka highlights this season. He’s not only playing well but he has elevated his game. He must know that the club has been looking for an alternative. His ability to play quicker and play forward has changed. The no- look pass has become an every match feature. His creativity is brand new. Likely because the risk factor isn’t quite there as he is 15 yards further forward but still. Credit Granit Xhaka.
  • ElNeny is another one in the same boat. Never seen such tempo from him in the past. Never seen more progressive passes. Regardless of where his career ends up I think that he will feel very satisfied that he fulfilled his personal potential. He is consistent at playing to his own personal potential. The issue with him is always whether his potential is enough for a big club.
  • Another sign of a top team is variety in goal threat. We now have this. I saw midweek that we have the highest average number of players in the penalty area when the ball is in there. All of our front three look like a goalscoring threat. Odegaard has decided to be one. Xhaka looks dangerous and offers aerial threat that will likely lead to a few headed goals, Gabriel is the biggest threat in the Premier League from set plays and we have threat off the bench from many players and some that we haven’t even seen yet. Last season there was way too much focus on Saka. This season they can’t afford to double and triple team him.
  • Ramsdale had another big performance. He seems to have his game back. Love it!
  • Eddie is making a habit of impressing. He has added dribbling and combining to his game too. I wish he would’ve trusted his left foot on that volley opportunity though.
  • Finally, the first half press. When the energy was available we utilized it very well. Again, another sign of a top team…. winning the ball back early.


  • Saka, again, had a game where he did good things. This season hasn’t quite lit up for him yet. I do notice that it would greatly elevate his game if he was willing to take the ball to his right and use his right foot to dribble around the outside. When he goes around the outside with his left foot the ball is exposed and therefore easier for the defender to tackle him. Ousmane Dembélé is one of the only wingers I know who always keep the ball on the furthest foot from the defender. Saka’s right foot is good so he should trust it.
  • Tierney needs deception in his game. Is it too late? He’s very much a straight line player. Runs in straight lines and moves with the ball in straight lines. This is why he was having his passes picked off. Just a little too obvious.
  • Did you think that Jesus’ energy was lower yesterday? I wonder why? I do think that Eddie will play against Villa as he is in good form and perfectly capable of carrying us to a victory. We have to start rotating now that three games a week will become a regular thing. I’m sure Arteta sees the Manchester United game as more difficult than the Villa game and so Jesus will be saved for that.

Jesus Amped

  • There were times in that game that I thought that this was going to end up being a game for a target man. I don’t want to seem like I’m losing faith too early, but if you’ve read my articles before you will know that I’ve been saying for quite a few years that we need that as an option. I will talk more about that in the podcast and Mitrovic in particular.
  • A corner won us the game. The corners were however a little off today in general. The first one looked like something they had been working on at the training ground but it didn’t work and many of the others were too high. Not complaining as again, a Martinelli corner won us the game, just an observation.

Gabriel Celebrates


I fear that Thomas Partey is actually not injured. I was very impressed with Mo today and was encouraged that his game seems to be quicker than previously. There is a mental security that Thomas Partey brings us that Mo will never be able to just due to athletic profile. I’m sure the club will bring in an alternative if he has to be missing for a while.

  • I love seeing Zinchenko celebrating the winning goal! I was a little concerned that a guy with a knee sprain was getting in the middle of a huddle of out-of-control 20 year olds though.
  • I will go into the transfer window more in my podcast but it is so nice to not have to be concerned that we will be left short as we have in the vast majority of previous windows. The club seems serious now and I respect the fact that if we are done signing players, it will be because it is in the best interest of the club, not a lack of ambition.


Yesterday may end up being a sliding doors moment in the future of Arsenal Football club. If we would’ve lost or drawn that game, perhaps doubt would sink in. Perhaps the players would wonder if they are good enough to compete? Perhaps the players would think that it is inevitable that they can’t stay at the top of the league?

As it is though, we have stepped up in our first moment of adversity. Fulham were good and were not easy to beat. There will be many games like this due to the strength of the league and this memory is in our favor. 


In my podcast below, I focus mostly on the transfer window. Thanks as always for reading and listening!


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2 Responses to New Arsenal 2, Old Arsenal 1 [Positives, Needs & Hopes]

  1. CTgooner August 28, 2022 at 11:59 am #

    Hi Mike……..I was also puzzled at our performance yesterday and in relating it to last season you hit the nail on the head. Both white and Gabriel were back to telling on the ball, waiting to find the perfect pass rather than trusting that Saka and Martinelli were in the right place for a quick pass…..and if they couldn’t think quickly enough they just passed the ball to each other.
    Tierney is not the player that he was when he arrived at the club……the drive and determination, the way he linked with Martinelli as a dangerous wing back was not there yesterday. We need to rekindle that drive and energy again. And we definitely missed Zinchenko and the confidence he inspires in Gabriel.
    Saka too needs to up his game……..still a brilliant player, but oh how I wish je would attack the defender around the outside, as you said.
    Under Marco Silva Fulham (and I love that club) have become a really good team…..very well organised the ‘Brentford’ of this season. I hope that they both become settled Premiership sides.
    I too am waiting in anticipation to see Vieira, and for how long can we keep ESR on the sidelines. I hope that Arteta will begin to ring the changes with our heavier Premiership load and Europe on the horizon.
    Finally Mike, it was great to see a photo of Max, as well as of you.

  2. Andy August 28, 2022 at 12:12 pm #

    Hello Mike. Agree that Fulham are good. They have some big games coming up and they will not be beaten easily by anyone.

    I didn’t think we had the same energy as in previous matches. A tad slower and safer than previous games. Until Fulham scored and the levels went up. Wonder if Zinchenko would have made it flow a bit quicker? Hope he will be back soon.

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