Three things learned from Arsenal vs West Ham
Arsenal moved into 4th place with a commanding 2-0 victory over 10-man West Ham. The backdrop of this match had been largely dominated by the fallout from the stripping of the captaincy from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. All those issues were largely forgotten as the gunners powered to another impressive home victory. There were signs of a team that are pulling in the same direction, and getting the better of a side that will be in and around the positions that Arsenal are competing for is a positive benchmark. There have been a number of false dawns for Arsenal this season already, but strong home form remains a deciding factor in the midst of continued inconsistency away from North London and concerns over chance creation. Here are three key takeaways from this London Derby:
Martin Odegaard is very necessary and brilliantly deliberate.
In the Summer, there was a debate about what the best option as Arsenal’s attacking midfield signing would be. The emergence of Emile Smith-Rowe meant it had to be a complementary addition and one that made sense tactically. The ghost of Aaron Ramsey continued to haunt those conversations, as Arsenal lacked goals from midfield and reminders from elsewhere (Joe Willock’s loan spell at Newcastle) brought this into focus. There were rumours (probably agent talk) about a certain James Maddison from everybody’s favourite smartly run club, Leicester city. However the club only really had one man in their sights, and that was former loanee, Martin Odegaard.
The Norway captain is a team player and demonstrated that on many occasions in the match. The 22 year-old was technically secure on the ball and offered help in every phase in build up. One sumptuous touch to almost set up Martinelli for a free shot at goal showed the level of technique he has. Of course Odegaard has form against West Ham. Arguably his best performance in an Arsenal shirt came away against the East Londoners, in which his intelligent and probing passing stirred the gunners to a 3-3 comeback. It was a different performance last night, the young midfielder is underrated for his pressing but he is in the 70th percentile (according to fbref) for pressures per 90, and that showed. time and time again, Arsenal won the ball back high and kept the hammers pinned back and Odegaard played a significant role in making this happen. The North Londoners were able to make their dominance count with the secession of extra space in dangerous areas and winning of duels.
Lacazette gives a glimpse of future
Poor Alexandre Lacazette. Have Arsenal ever known how to use the Frenchman? Since he arrived from Lyon in 2017, the former Le Gones captain has been hampered by lack of ideas and direction in the transfer market. But also a lack of understanding about the type of player he is. For instance, Alex Lacazette is part of a larger investment overall in Arsenal’s attack that still causes imbalance for Arteta and how he wants to build his teams. Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe have been out the teams for various reasons such as discipline or loss of form/complacency. Lacazette, however is seen as the striker with the rawest profile that suits the young hustling bustling players behind him.
The Arsenal community forget that the starting lineup and those that ended the game, mirrors THAT Chelsea game on boxing day of last year. This was widely seen as the birth of Arteta’s team as we know it becoming a coherent force. The Aubameyang contract and the continued casting out/ rehabilitation of Nicolas Pepe does not give room for combinations that closely match that performance ceiling to thrive. There should not be a separation in quality between those that find themselves on the bench for the gunners and those that are currently on the pitch. The quality gap, however, is emerging from the specificity of the options available at the moment. Alexandre Lacazette is demonstrating that his strongest game (hold-up play, interplay, passing) is the ideal profile for whatever upgrade the club intend on acquiring going forward.
Martinelli offers timely reminder of Arsenal forward’s past
“He’s able to put some gears in his play…it was one of the best in every aspect of the game.”
Mikel Arteta was effusive in his praise for Gabriel Martinelli and his growing understanding of the game. The young Brazilian has had a heavily interrupted year and needed to be nursed back to full fitness. A nasty knee injury last June, meant he missed 30 games in total for Arsenal and the staff have had different ways of training him due to his playing style and how injuries impact him.
Every Gooner remembers the mazy run and finish at Chelsea, but Martinelli also required a form of education in order to give him the best possible chance of playing weekly. When you watch Arsenal you still feel the maverick is the young forward, however the rawness is being harnessed, and it is less of a hindrance to tactical structure. When the Olympian scored a couple of weeks ago against Newcastle and then today, an Arsenal forward popped into my head. No, it wasn’t Thierry Henry. The Brazilian’s movement from out to in is reminiscent of Theo Walcott at his best for Arsenal and if the former Ituano attacker can be as direct threat as the former England international was, then he will be a useful addition (organised chaos) to a team purpose-built to be structured.