Stunningly unremarkable (Positives Needs & Hopes) [ARS 2-0 LUT]

Stunningly unremarkable

An Arsenal blog from a coach’s perspective

What a fan wants.

What a coach wants.

What a fan actually wants.

I sat there in the cozy corner watching Arsenal v Luton. Feeling a little guilty as I shouted at the TV with Lori just arrived back from Europe. If my wife is not watching, I make her jump. Maybe she is used to it but I feel guilty. Lori really enjoyed the second half and I think she noticed that Arsenal were going through the motions. Almost as if they had an agreement with Rob Edwards who didn’t want to risk his goal difference. My eyes are always on the TV when we play. Not just because I’m a fan, but because I write and I don’t want to miss a moment that I can use in my blog.

Conversation was flowing as I asked Lori about Barcelona and Marseille and the food. I could sense that she had that guilt that spouses have when they start conversation in the midst of the game. The second half drifted and meandered until it was no more and then Max and I debated whether we would regret not attempting to score more as we both think Liverpool will get 7 tonight.

After the game I listened to the Instant Reaction on Arsenal Vision and was reminded that we will look back on this game and be thankful for the opportunity to drift and meander.

The stadium was half empty at the end and I know that the fans who were at the Emirates probably felt underwhelmed but now I see that Arteta wanted an unremarkable game. Think on it. If you were him and you looked at the April calendar, you’d want to finish Luton off in the first half and go 50% in the second half. What we saw was actually quite stunningly managed, just not particularly memorable.

Sitting here now trying to find analysis points is harder than usual but as a coach, and hopefully an educated fan, I realize now that because winning the PL and/or the CL are where my mind is at, the Luton game was what I actually wanted.

It also adds to the list of types of game that Arsenal are offering. Rob Edwards pointed this out after the game saying that he thought Arsenal were the favourties for the league because they can win in more ways. It’s a really good point that we need to recognize. Arteta is intentionally building the most modern of modern teams who have ‘flexibility’ as their motto. The formation changes from defence to attack and multiple times in the game itself. The players look like they are playing a form of highly choreographed football ballet with their positional rotation. We win by dominating. We win now by blowing teams away. We play a high press or a mid block or both. We suffocate City to the point where the most consistent team in the world can’t even find ways to shoot. We are now a physical and athletic team. We are the best out of possession team in the world which is evidenced by yet another Arsenal goal scored off the back of ESR picking a pocket. We are technical from the back to the front which includes one of the world’s most technical keepers. So technical in fact that we are comfortable playing most of the second half in our half because we don’t give it away. We can have wide or central exit routes. We attack from all zones. You can’t give us a corner because we are the best at those. We rarely let you even shoot, let alone score and our keeper has 3 more clean sheets than the next best.

There is more but that’s more than enough.

We forget because we don’t have to play Arsenal, but we are an extremely difficult proposition for opponents. To the point where they are as concerned about protecting their goal difference as they are about trying to comeback in a 2-0 game.


Emile Smith Rowe:

Has that performance gone part way to changing Mikel’s mind? It wasn’t his brilliant best but I think he has found a position that fits his current skillset. Smith Rowe is the epitome of a modern footballer. He moves the ball very quickly, has a great understanding of space and opportunity and is positionally flexible. There are so few players that are so good at arriving in the box on time and also have elite finishing. He has both. Alongside Martinelli, I think he is the best finisher at the club. If he misses it isn’t by much. With improved fitness and opportunity at left eight I think we might have the player that we are looking for in the market. I think that alongside Trossard, he should always be an option to start in this team.

I’d also add that there is a lot of value in playing a player that the fans are busting to sing his name at the top of their lungs. Everybody wants him to score. Coaches are trying to get players to the level where their confidence flows freely. If you have a fan favourite at your club, he will likely get to his personal peak quicker because he feels the love. A factor that cannot be ignored. If you compare him directly with Trossard or Eddie, you can see it clearly. Both Eddie Nketiah and Leo Trossard have had many big moments in this team. Do the fans love them? Maybe, but it’s more ‘appreciate’ and ‘like’ than ‘love.’ If ESR had these opportunities I think he’d be a better option because Arsenal fans ‘love’ him and the roar would infect him and others on the field.

IMG 4225


You can see the coaching. He is getting so much more dangerous off the ball. Much more elusive. He runs behind, floats left for slot passes, comes back and connects and is looking more confident in front of goal. The issue earlier in the season was that Kai Havertz wasn’t affecting games. Now the compliment is real because even though he isn’t a regular scorer, the fans see how much he DOES affect games.

The Hoover

I thought Thomas Partey played well. I love his vertical balls. Zinchenko, too. I don’t think though that we noticed his defensive deficiencies before we signed Declan Rice. We had not seen a hoover like Rice since Vieira, and many haven’t seen him. I personally don’t see the full Rice in live games. I have to watch it back to fully appreciate what he finds intuitive. It’s his positioning mixed with his decision making. Standing in the right place is a footballing gift and decision making is based on sporting intelligence. When he makes a mistake it seems so rare that it jolts you.


If Leo Trossard had speed as well as the quickness he has, he would be the answer to our wing rotation. He has more tricks and variety than Saka and Martinelli who of course have the extra pace. I would imagine that this summer the winger chosen will have pace similar or better than BS and GM otherwise why wouldn’t you just use Trossard.


You might be familiar with the Coerver method. The Dutch school of ball skills that most coaches still use to teach ball comfort. It’s based on multiple very quick touches. I’d imagine that Odegaard practiced this method when he was young. His feet are so incredibly fast and he can take 4 quick touches in a second. He’s not seen as a dribbler but much like the equally comfortable Samir Nasri, he is press resistant which is an over used term. If I was him I’d use this to it’s optimal effect and make contact with defenders in the box as his feet are too quick.

Long ball

When I was in the midst of my WengerBall love, I hated any long ball. I saw football as a game of low risk, high percentage pass and move. As I’ve matured and as the game has evolved, I now see the necessity of variety. If you don’t go long then they can play a high line which crowds your midfielders. The same if you have no threat of pace behind.

We are now utilizing the long ball, especially to Havertz and quite regularly. It’s rare that it comes off but we are winning second balls off it with a more athletic and positionally aware team.


Is there any other full back in Europe who is as strong and confident in the air than Zinchenko? You almost expect a smaller full back to give up aerial duels, but not him.


Rob Edwards might get snaffled up by a bigger club. That was Luton’s first game that they didn’t score a goal in. They are better on the ball and as a genuine goal scoring threat than half of the league.


Reiss Nelson

I don’t understand you, Reiss.

It was just after half time and he was by the sideline, locked in by 2 Luton players and in his own half. He somehow managed to escape in a situation that would’ve upset Arteta if he’d lost it. Yet, when presented with a 1 on 1 in the final third, he almost always passes it backwards. Now I understand that he is trying to play high percentage Arteta football but come on, Reiss. It’s not as if he has no quickness or tricks. He is just so submissive. That game may have fully decided his fate, if it wasn’t already decided.

I’ve been thinking for a while that because of his reticence to attack full backs, that he is probably a better midfielder than winger. Fantastic in tight spaces like the half spaces that 8’s play in. Technically so comfortable. Good at late runs. I doubt this will be discovered at Arsenal but if I was signing him, I’d try it.


Our right flank, Saliba, White and Nelson fell asleep a couple of times in the second half. White has a tendency to do this every once in a while.


Take a look at Foden’s one touch finish against Villa. That is what I have been preaching for a while. It catches the keeper off guard who is waiting for you to take a touch first.



I think we are going to see more rotation in the starting line up than we think. One, two or three depending on the game. We are getting to the point where Tomi, Zinchenko, Kiwior, Partey, ESR, Trossard and Jorginho can definitely contest a starting spot without a noticeable drop off and sometimes an addition as Jorginho and Trossard have proven this season.


Skelly Alvero

skelly alvero - Google Search

Absolutely no messing around this week. You HAVE to watch this video, for Scout Max has dug up an absolute beauty today. There are players whose videos we watch and they seem just as good as the last video and then we remember that this is their HIGHlights and doesn’t show the whole picture. Then there are players like Skelly Alvero that you just think, ‘get me this guy.’ Especially if his price is as low as his Transfermarkt value of 4M.

Alvero is officially a Lyon player, on loan at Werder Bremen. He is 6ft 8 in tall. Yes, you read that correctly. The last player over 6 ft 4 in that I saw with this technical level was Kanu and he was 3 in shorter. The ability to play centrally and evade trouble like this is rare. Thomas Partey has it, but few others. His awareness stands out, also.

The appeal for me of Amadou Onana at Everton is mostly that we are elite at setting traps and stealing possession high. If your legs are longer than an extension ladder, you simply have an advantage and so does your team. I’m not suggesting that Alvero is the Partey replacement but at such a low cost you could do what Chelsea have done (most unsuccessfully) over the years, and buy then loan and develop. Arsenal would be better at this. I think this is a no-lose situation. Could be another Martinelli type signing where you strike gold for peanuts. The comparison in the picture above is quite accurate. Minus the doping.


I think Scout Max needs some flowers for pulling that beauty out of his Iphone.

Let’s reveal the legend.

The boy who has already watched many a Werder Bremen game (I know thats insane for an American kid living in rural Tennessee) in order to bring us this talent. Thomas Partey had no idea what level of future celebrity he was having his picture with.

IMG 1130

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5 Responses to Stunningly unremarkable (Positives Needs & Hopes) [ARS 2-0 LUT]

  1. Welsh Corgi April 5, 2024 at 9:19 am #

    Great post, and thank you. It is always a great read here.

  2. bathgooner April 5, 2024 at 9:51 am #

    Your usual informative analysis, Mike. That second half was definitely a planned exercise in not over-exerting. Congratulations to Max for pulling out a gem. I hope he’s alerted the Arsenal scouting team. If that clip is a true representation of his regular contributions, Alvero looks a perfect alternate/future replacement for TP5. Sign him up, Edu! And while you’re at it sign up Max too!

  3. Chiomba Mutindi April 5, 2024 at 12:15 pm #

    TP5’s ability to touch and turn vertically is insane. We forget how good he is. I’d love Arteta to unleash TP5 and Rice versus Bayern. No team in world football can outrun that midfield!

  4. Andy April 5, 2024 at 2:41 pm #

    Thanks Mike. Agree we needed a game like that. What impressed me was the amount of changes without any drop off in quality. Bodes well.

    I know looking at the fixture list we have the most tricky fixtures out of the top three but I think our stability will keep us there.

    Good shout by Max. I was impressed not just with Alvero’s foot work but his end pass looked good as well

  5. allezkev April 6, 2024 at 3:27 am #

    Good write up Mike, you’re going to be kept busy for the forthcoming weeks with hopefully a memorable piece to conclude around June 2nd/3rd…

    For some reason I didn’t expect Liverpool to get a hatful of goals and they in fact didn’t finish off Sheffield until the last quarter of the game. Arsenal’s goal difference superiority staying pretty much unaffected by both our rivals.

    I wonder who’s going to crack first, Klopp? Guardiola? or Arteta?

    If Arsenal keep up the pressure then I’ve a feeling the other two will slip up because they know this iteration of Arsenal isn’t imploding this season. We have The Red Wall defending our goal and neither of our rivals are similarity blessed in that regard.

    Well done to the Secret Scout (Max)

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