YAMA Weekly Roundtable: Marvel superheroes, season expectations and thanksgiving thoughts…
Each week, a few of the writers at You Are My Arsenal will answer questions regarding recent matches, transfers, squad developments, and other goings-on at Arsenal Football Club. Stay tuned for opportunities to have your questions answered by the YAMA writers in the future! In the meantime, Justin Fisher (@jtfisher34 on Twitter), Rasmus Pabst (@GamingPabst), and Dope Gooner (@dopegooner) have tackled a handful of Arsenal-related questions below:
In light of the Liverpool match and the xG conversation that has been raging online recently, how good do you think Arsenal really are?
Justin Fisher (@jtfisher34): I am personally of the opinion that Arsenal are not quite at the level of pushing for 4th, given the current form West Ham are on, and the league position is a bit misleading. However, I also do not think that Arsenal are as bad as the xG Difference table suggests. There are plenty of limitations when using xG Difference as a metric for comparison on a subset of matches that are not equivalent for each team, which causes the results to be skewed. When comparing Arsenal’s performances with the corresponding fixtures last season- we are slightly worse off suggesting Arsenal aren’t as good as last year. However even this metric is skewed since Arsenal beat Chelsea twice last season before they really surged and became Champions League winners. Ultimately, there is no perfect metric to assess how ‘good’ a team really is and the eye test may be the best one. There are clearly three teams who are in another league right now (Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool) and then there is a group of 5-6 teams where it is impossible to predict the outcome- Arsenal are smack dab in the middle of that cluster and could easily finish anywhere from 4th to 10th.
Rasmus Pabst (@GamingPabst): Scott Willis did an excellent article about how difficult Arsenal is to determine at the moment. The gist of it was that, when the score is level, Arsenal follow the same pattern as most Top 4 contender teams in terms of xG + G, but as soon as we either pull ahead or go behind, our chance creation just plummets. I think Arteta has had a very big hill to climb when converting Arsenal to a modern football club both on and off the field. The inclusion of Juego de Posición, a tight budget and a team consisting of players from several managers, DoFs and purposes, has been a very real problem. I do think Arsenal is going to do better, but the piece missing right now is a forward able to do the things Arteta wants from his strikers, and none of our strikers are able to do that. Either they’re not that prolific in front of goal or have trouble playing with their backs towards the goal.
Arsenal is, currently, statistically as likely to be 12th place as 4th place. So until we include a striker that works, that will probably be one of the places we take, with very little to separate the teams around us.
Dope Gooner (@dopegooner): I’ll go ahead and second Rasmus’ point about Scott Willis’ article (you can find him at @oh_that_crab on Twitter). It’s a great article that really makes the point about how difficult it is to determine how good Arsenal is right now. Essentially, the main concern seems to be how good our attack is. According to Scott’s piece, we are really good going forward in a neutral game state but are rather middling when we need to score or have a lead to defend. I think that stems from inconsistency you’ll naturally get with players as young as ours, as well as from issues with our midfield and a lack of a striker who can serve as an offensive fulcrum. But we’re currently 5th in Premier League in shot-creating actions according to FBref, which is encouraging. All in all, this is a team that on paper is probably 5th or 6th best in the league at the moment. However, the margins between every team from 4th place to 10th place this season will likely be so fine that a few bad games here and there could see us finish outside European places once again. There is a lot of work to be done to separate ourselves from the rest of this pack.
There seems to have been a pretty big shift in Arsenal fans’ beliefs regarding what this team can achieve. Do you think supporters need to manage their expectations more, and if so, how would you recommend they do that?
Justin Fisher (@jtfisher34): It is in the nature of every supporter to have hope and dream that their team can achieve great things. Arsenal are no different. Right now, Arsenal sit in 5th place, just 3 points off Top 4 so it makes complete sense that fans think Arsenal could make a real push for a Champions League spot after the beginning of the season was disastrous. I wouldn’t go as far as to say supporters need to manage their expectations- but that supporters should just recognize the current squad is heavily reliant on young players delivering on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, the downfall with relying on youth is the inconsistency will always be there. So while Arsenal may end up pushing for Top 4- it is no doubt going to be a roller coaster as performances naturally ebb and flow.
Rasmus Pabst (@GamingPabst): I agree with Justin. Fans have always rode whatever way the current might flow. At this point, last season, we had about the same amount of points that we have now, bar a much better xG. I think it’s extremely positive that Arsenal have managed to turn the fans’ frustrations around with some stellar team performances, and I enjoy the optimistic attitude we present. What is important, though, is to accept that spots of sunlight doesn’t always mean it’s time for tank tops and short shorts. Arsenal have shown they’re able to surprise, but right now it’s much more important to grind out victories against the 4th place contenders than good results against the three teams pulling ahead.
Dope Gooner (@dopegooner): I just think people need to remember that this Arsenal team is in such a different part of their cycle than Chelsea, City, and Liverpool are. Those three teams are packed with world-class players in their primes. We, however, have just assembled a team of players with potentially high talent ceilings. They may one day be as good as the players at the top three clubs, but they’re all still at the beginning of such a process. As we saw against Liverpool, there will be inconsistency. There will be moments when Arteta will need to manage and nurture players who are constantly being asked to do things they likely have never done before. So our expectations need to be manageable. If this group of players can get us into a Champions League place, that would be awesome. And they should try. But what I want to see is progress, development, and hopefully, a top-six finish.
Tom Holland, who currently plays Spider-Man in the MCU, recently outed himself as a Spurs fan, which is a massive shame. What Marvel superhero do you think would be an Arsenal fan, and why?
Justin Fisher (@jtfisher34): As someone who is not a Marvel fanatic this one is tough. Deadpool is the first one one that comes to mind mainly because I loved the movies. Although Ryan Reynolds is a new co-owner of Wrexham FC, it can’t be ruled out his first true love could be Arsenal. You never know.
Rasmus Pabst (@GamingPabst): Imma pull my nerd card out and say Rocket Racoon. As a master tactician and weapon specialist I’d just assume he’d be a fan of the Gunners. In the movies he’s also displayed as having anger management problems, which would make him fit almost seamlessly in with the rest.
Dope Gooner (@dopegooner): Honestly, I think it would be Iron Man. Very formidable and clever with a bit of attitude about him, but the fact of the matter is that there is a stratosphere of characters that he’s simply no match for. He’s a very mortal hero, and he has to work ridiculously hard just to keep up with folks like Thor, Captain Marvel, and yes, Thanos, due to their inherent powers. It reminds me a lot of Arsenal in recent times. They’ve had to be clever, lean on their luck a little, and make the most of their resources in order to even be in touching distance of clubs that simply are powerhouses these days. Hope that’s not too depressing.
Thanksgiving was celebrated in the United States last weekend. While it shouldn’t be the only time one does so, it is always a good moment to take a second and think about what you are thankful for. What about Arsenal are you most thankful for right now?
Justin Fisher (@jtfisher34): Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate! I am thankful for the community of friends that I found through supporting Arsenal even from abroad. During the hardest moments of the COVID-19 pandemic when we were all locked inside, talking about Arsenal with people brought such an escape from the outside world. Through Arsenal, I could connect with people and have much needed social interactions despite being in a lockdown.
Rasmus Pabst (@GamingPabst): I live in the cold and unapologetic Northern Europe, so having a day to be thankful for anything other than “Oh I managed to catch the 2-3 seconds of sunlight we had today ” is a bit far away from me. That being said I’m extremely thankful for the love and support Aaron Ramsdale has managed to reap for himself. I’m also thankful for the recognition Emile Smith Rowe has gotten, being included in the national team and all. Lastly I’m very thankful for the opportunity to connect with so many coaches, scouts and tacticians that following and writing about Arsenal has given me.
Dope Gooner (@dopegooner): I hope everyone who celebrated had a great Thanksgiving. I would like to say that I am supremely thankful for all the folks I have met through my mostly-online fandom. There are some extraordinary and special people among the Arsenal faithful, and it’s been a privilege to interact with some of them as often as I have. But I also want to state that I am immensely thankful for how likeable the current set of players at Arsenal are. Guys like Saka, Smith Rowe, Ramsdale, Martinelli, and Odegaard feel like little brothers to me. I just want to root for them and see them succeed. They also just strike me as genuinely good guys who love the club. And that’s made watching them and supporting Arsenal a lot more enjoyable at a time when, frankly, joy is hard to find in the world.