The knot is back and I don’t like it
What a horrible sinking feeling. The morning after the opening day defeat at Brentford last night, I have the same knot in my stomach that I had at the beginning of Unai Emery’s second season in charge. I feel like it’s just a matter of time until Arteta is gone and the only when, not if. Emery lasted horrifically until Christmas and it was agony. We all wanted him to be gone before the second international break which never happened and the pain was unbearable. Let me go back to before last night’s game.
Up until 6.45pm I was really nervous and not expecting anything from the game. The starting line up hadn’t been named. Arsenal fans were disregarding Brentford, not me. I knew how good they are under Thomas Frank (next time you see Thomas, just ask yourself how much he looks like an artist and imagine him in a beret in front of an easel painting a landscape). It was Brentford’s biggest game in their history without question.
Their first ever Premier League match in their brand-new stadium which was full for the first time. We were always going to be in for a hell of a game and so it proved. Then the line up was announced and all of my anxiety disappeared. I was thrilled with it and excited by it. It was a brave, attacking and bold line up by Arteta. I don’t know the facts but it must be up there with the youngest starting 11 we’ve seen in the Premier League.
The fact that Mikel Arteta still couldn’t get a tune out of the exciting young crop of players is really worrying. The Brentford players would have been so up for it and motivated for the reasons I’ve given before, but out team should have been the same. ESR being our new number 10, Balogun making his Premier League debut leading the line and staking his claim, Martinelli starting after being an Olympic gold medalist, Sambi and White making their debuts.
All of the team should have been highly motivated to impress. Even Xhaka after his excellent Euros was made captain for the first game of the season. But despite some lovely moments, some impressive individual performances from namely Sambi, Tierney and ESR, once again we really looked incredibly disjointed. Arteta makes some really poor decisions on occasions. In the second half, he substituted Balogun and moved Martinelli into the middle and for the five minutes he was there we started to look really dangerous. He made an incredibly good run and movement into the box from a corner and was unlucky not to score with a header and general play was really sharp from the front 3.
Arteta then subbed Martinelli and brought on Reiss Nelson and immediately our threat stopped. It was a baffling decision. That’s no slight on Reiss, he’s another exciting young player, extremely talented who’s career development has been wrecked over the last couple of seasons. He could have been a big part of the team if he’d have been loaned out for the last 2 seasons, but he’s been wasted by not playing and it’s criminal. The fact that he’s not even got any clubs wanting to buy him is so very sad because I know how talented he is, but it’s down to the club and not him.
Back on track following my tangent, we witnessed yet another disjointed performance and it can largely be put down to the fact that the team hadn’t played together before, the missing players in Aubamayang, Lacazette, Partey and Gabriel is also a reason, but as I watched it was the same performance as we saw all too often last season with all the players available.
I see weaknesses in the squad, but I also think we have a lot of very good players and I can’t believe that another Manager would be able to get exciting performances from the players we have. In fact, a certain Arsene Wenger would be rubbing his hands together to work with this squad. Another thing that drives me mad as I watch is the seeming inability Arteta has to realise that Pepe is our biggest goal threat, best finisher and most talented player and as such, he needs to be played closer to the goal and not shoved out on the touchline. When he is in the box, he’s lethal.
It’s only the first game, but it’s hard not to believe that we will be going into the international break with zero points and bottom of the league seeing as we have Lukaku’s Chelsea and Grealish’s Man City coming up next. Without our “sick” star strikers being out (this is a whole other story altogether, but a very worrying one. I’m certainly not buying the excuse that they’re ill that’s for sure) we will have even less hope than before, however I will not put it past Arsenal to follow up a loss against Brentford with a win vs Chelsea. If it happens, I’ll still have concerns about Arteta. I desperately want to be proven wrong, but my stomach doesn’t normally lie.