“…and the dominoes fell” – Joining the dots on why Arsenal’s season imploded [Positives Needs & Hopes]

‘….and the dominoes fell’

An Arsenal blog from a coach’s perspective 

I have debated over how to frame this game more so than any blog I think I’ve ever written.

I always try to not be angry as you can go to Twitter and find a small country’s worth over there. I’m not an angry head anyway. I think I have struggled because I couldn’t process that game. I was and still am somewhat baffled as to why that and this period have happened. The truth is that I can only make an assumption.

So, here is my best assumption:

Arsenal have fallen victim to the four components of sport.





No surprise there. At least one of them is always going to be the reason. What has been interesting whilst analyzing Arsenal is that one has led to another, to the next one and then 2 months later we have been tripped up by all four of them.

Arteta made the decision to play the same team far more than City did. He was probably right to do so as this decision kept us top of the league for 248 days and 85% of the season.

Then we got fatigued. That was the physical. It’s easy to say now that Arteta should’ve rotated more. I’m not even sure that he would change his strategy if given another chance because it got us to 10 points ahead. He kept trying to squeeze the orange hoping that there would be a few drops left in April and May.

Those of us that have played a sport as tiring as football will recognize that when the calves start burning you and your team lose their technical security. The majority of the goals that we have conceded in the last 15% of the season have been predicated by a technical mistake.

The next domino to fall is the psychological. Tired players with tired muscles watching different teammates make mistakes  No wonder Win the stress dog showed up. Only 5 of our players have experienced a title push and only one of them, Jorginho, was a first choice pick. The other four Tierney, Odegaard, Jesus and Zinchenko were either not first choice or played in the easiest league in Europe to win. I’d say that Jorginho was the closest we had to experiencing the stress in this way and I’d say that if Arteta could take one decision back it might be to utilize Jorginho more before it fell apart.

So, what happened on Saturday? My best guess was that Arteta chose to take what might be one of two opportunities to experiment so as to know what he needs to do in the summer. Arsenal are wanting to buy elite players and Arsenal have some elite players that might be able to flex and play other positions next season. Training only tells you so much. He chose to see if he could save between £20 and £65M on a right back is my thought. It looks like we want a DM as first priority so if Partey stays, could he play inverted right back. Allowing White to back up or play instead of Saliba, if still injured.

I’m not sure that this tactical experiment was the main problem but the formation switch most certainly took away automatisms and everything slowed down. You can always tell when the rhythm has been stunted as a team that is capable of playing with one touch yet stopped doing it. Ironically, the only time I can remember a one touch pass was when Odegaard went with his automatisms and passed to a player that is normally there, but wasn’t, which led to the only goal.

That’s the short story and the other half of this story is that our team was good enough to win the league but our squad wasn’t.

Many have said this and I am of the opinion that this is likely true but the truth is that we don’t really know. Arteta hasn’t trusted but just a few so if for example, ESR was given a chance to speak up, he might say that he was capable but not trusted.

I sit here as a writer but really just an Arsenal fan who even though I have to analyze, I choose not to overthink, blame and under-appreciate. I have loved being an Arsenal fan this season more than any other in my life. I’ve seen the glory but there is something about being surprised by your team and learning to be satisfied by such a remarkable overall effort.

Sad kid


  • I thought Ben White was very good. This will be lost in the frustration but it’s nice to see him return to the middle and remind us and the England coach (who keeps picking Harry Maguire) that he is a top player in two positions.
  • The Brazilian chap next to him who is also looked over by his national coach, has been consistently serious and focused all season. I think there is an argument for Gabriel being Player of the Season at Arsenal. I felt sorry for him as his effort to stop the goal was admirable and the end result was very bad luck.
  • I think that the idea of Partey as an inverted right back is a good one. If he is going to stay I’d be very interested in seeing the four big guys at centre back next season. Partey would be better inverting than Kiwior. City have used four big guys this season. Very few seem to have figured out why this is becoming a trend. I think it’s simple rather than high level thinking. What is the advantage of a smaller full back over a taller one, if you can find a full back with similar on-ball abilities but with significant physical advantages. Would we rather Saka be up against Nathan Ake or a Matt Target type? The other piece is set plays. Vital to almost all games. If your midfielders are more like Odegaard, Gundogan or Bernardo Silva types then you need more height and physicality elsewhere so as to combat the aerial assault. For Arsenal, if our midfield next season includes Odegaard and Caicedo and your forward line are Jesus, Saka and Martinelli, then perhaps Arteta is concerned that only Rice, let’s say, can truly help at set plays.
  • Fair play to Forest and some credit to Arsenal. Forest started quickly and actually touched the ball a few times. Arsenal did well to attempt to quiet the crowd by slowing the rhythm of the game down. Very clever, yet not rewarded. Those Forest fans didn’t seem to care though. They were committed to supporting no matter. Ninety of the ninety nine minutes of the game were defence vs attack or more to the point, defence vs possession, but the nervous faces in the crowd were comfortably smothered by those willing to sing for 99 minutes.


  • There are those decisions that are quickly called ‘blatant penalties,’ and these are normally obvious trips. In reality they normally need a keen eye to detect whether they are a dive or not or whether the attacker actually initiated contact like the serial cheater at Spurs. The easiest penalty to call and what should actually be considered ‘blatant’ is when a player is about to connect in the box and his arm or shoulder is grabbed. Obvious. Blatant. I can’t help myself but consider that referees have bias or are intentionally ignoring the bleeding obvious not so much when an incident like the Jesus one happened, but more so that it wasn’t checked or was checked and ignored. Not sure about you but I’m not believing that this is incompetence. I think it’s darker than that. In a world with no VAR the ref has an excuse. He has no excuse for what didn’t happen.
  • I loved Lee Dixon as a kid. I think it was more to do with the fact that he looked like my brother Robin than anything else. As a pundit to those of us in the US, he is a step or two above the ruddy awful Michael Owen or Jamie Reknapp but is becoming increasingly hard to listen to. He is grumpy before his time. He spent the whole game giving zero analysis and lots of blaming. Somebody buy that man a rocking chair and a porch and tell him to watch the birds fly by whilst contemplating unicorns and rainbows. Arsenal fans want to love you, Lee.
  • Jesus doesn’t seem fully fit. He was up for ‘Most difficult opponent to play against’ award at the beginning of the season but now seems like he is constantly in one of those never ending arm wrestles. I wish he would spend more energy inside the box. This is especially important when Martinelli, who is more dynamic in the box than Trossard, is absent.

Jesus PK appeal

  • On that note, I see such a great need to improve the short crossing and finishing. Both Saka and Martinelli get around their full back and to the side of the six yard box/byline area at least twice a game each. We will have scored a few from these positions but we will be way under performing our expected goals/assists from these areas. This could be solved if we go for a guy like this chap…..


  • Rasmus Hojlund.

It’s not the success of Haaland that prompts me to think this way. It’s more that Arsenal have had so few players with this level of hunger inside the 6 yard box in my lifetime. Aggressive, hungry and most importantly, fearless.

I strongly suggest you watch this…. 

I talked about Oshimen last week but this guy would cost 60% less and wouldn’t disappear to the AFCON either.

This would arguably in turn lead to us being able to afford a winger as well as two expensive midfielders.

  • One of my hopes for this season was to be a part of the Community Shield game in August 2023. It looks likely that we will even if it is through the back door. I honestly feel that Arsenal deserve the chance to start next season with a trophy more than Man Utd.
  • Is Reiss Nelson destined to be remembered as the one who was capable but almost every time he had an opportunity to start, he couldn’t.
  • Credit to Miles Lewis Skelly for his goal today for England. I hope we are taking him into account for a loan move next season. Alongside Reull Walters he will likely be the next one involved in the first team and capable of staying there. Credit also to Balogun. Twenty goals in France for an average team is what Mateta should be getting at Palace but hasn’t got close. I really hope we give him a pre-season chance.


  • I wonder what Arteta meant by ‘broken relationships?’ Fascinating. A little scary too. I suppose we will find out in time but I’m not going to assume here as it could be anything or anybody.
  • I’m going to be thinking about time wasting and come up with a clever solution. It is the new problem in football and it’s killing rhythm and therefore excitement. Not good.


The PNH part of this was shorter as last weeks blog was excessive. Sorry about that. Sometimes I get over excited. My writing is often too long probably because apart from Max and EllieAnn, I am the only one in East Tennessee who doesn’t see Arsenal as what is in their gun cabinet.

Blessings to you for reading

Catch up on the old PNH pods below if you’re stuck for things to listen to!


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2 Responses to “…and the dominoes fell” – Joining the dots on why Arsenal’s season imploded [Positives Needs & Hopes]

  1. NetBulger May 22, 2023 at 1:29 pm #

    Excellent overall summary, Mike. I can’t see Partey as a long term RB. Tomiyasu has the height, more speed and is genuinely two footed. Partey went from outstanding to very poor (not quite abysmal). That seemed to coincide with his most recent police interview. If his off field isn’t cleared up I think we may see him depart and Arsenal go flat out for both Rice and Caceido. Signing Saliba is the biggest priority of all. Jesus isn’t the answer at CF. He doesn’t score more than 15 per season, way below Auba at his peak and no RvP. Keep up the good work.

  2. Dennis the Menace May 23, 2023 at 10:29 pm #

    Another great article. Thanks. People often talk about having a plan B but for me it’s more like having different versions of plan A rather than throwing your playing style out of the window and smashing the ball upfield.

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