Three important things we learned from Arsenal’s draw with Brentford

It was another frustrating afternoon for the Gunners as they dropped points to a resolute Brentford. The performance was not good enough in the first half and Arsenal was lucky to go in still level, a much better second half saw Trossard get his first goal for Arsenal, but it was not enough as Brentford leveled matters a few minutes later.
Arsenal huffed and puffed but the visitors held on for a draw at the Emirates, here are THREE things we learned from a very tough day at the Emirates:
1) Granit Xhaka’s influence is diminishing.
  It is probably naive to think that Xhaka can continue his rich vein of form in his new role this season- this is not to blame him for our draw today but his levels have dropped post the World cup- even while he was at his best, I can’t help but notice some of his shortcomings in the role, but as Arsenal was winning and dominating, I felt there was no need to mention it.
This position requires a lot of intelligence which Xhaka has, but what the Switzerland international has lacked is the elite movement, link-up play, ball-striking, and consistent goal-scoring ability required to play in that position, (Smith Rowe says hi). This deficiency has often been by covered by the all-action Gabriel Jesus, however,  the striker’s absence and our games against low block teams have really exposed him, it is time to start phasing Xhaka out of the team.
2)  Arteta needs to be more flexible.
 I understand that Arteta wants to dominate the games, but there are some teams that just allow you to dominate just to hurt you on the break. When you play against such teams, you need more runners than playmakers. Having Zinchenko and Xhaka in midfield helps Arsenal dominate games, both players would rather have the ball to their feet than make runs in behind as they look to dictate play.
In all the games we have played against low-blocks,(Newcastle, Everton, and now Brentford) they have not been as effective as they have been in the other games, and it is not a surprise we could not win any of those games. To succeed against this kind of team, you need intelligent movements in and around the box, which is why I am disappointed Arteta did not change our setup tactically.
As Smith Rowe and Jesus are not available, Tierney for Xhaka and Trossard for Nketiah would have been a better change, this pushes Zinchenko into the Xhaka position,  Tierney provides an outlet for Martinelli, and also stretches Brentford a bit more. A defender could also be sacrificed in order to have all the aforementioned on the pitch at the same time. Whatever the manager does, he needs to find a solution to this quickly as many teams are going to set up this way against Arsenal now.
3) Jesus and Smith Rowe are needed urgently
Someone said to me, if Nketiah leads the line, he will score more goals than Jesus, but if Jesus leads the line the team will score more goals. Nketiah is not a bad player, in fact, I would not be surprised if he scored a hat-trick against City, but in this kind of game, Jesus is what you need.
I remember the game at Wolves, although Odegaard got the goals, Jesus’ role was so vital. Nketiah performs better against the big teams as they don’t really sit deep, but Jesus makes everyone better against any opposition.
It is easy to forget that ESR was our top scorer last season, the more I see Xhaka play the 8 position, the more I keep imagining  ESR in there. I am convinced he would be a massive upgrade to Xhaka as far as the position is concerned. Arsenal needs to get their dynamism and unpredictability back;  the return of ESR and Jesus guarantees that, I just hope it won’t be too late.
What do you think?

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  1. Very well put, I really agree with you. Trossard is a very intelligent player as is Zinchenko and Tierney playing his normal game bombing down the wing can give us an extra man in other positions. There are games we do miss ESR who was much of the reason we flourished for much of the latter part of last season.

  2. We didn’t dominate this game – there’s a difference between dominating possession and dominating the game. Arteta understands this – his system is designed to prevent sides from counter attacking. That’s the main reason for playing “inverted” fullbacks – they cover the middle part of the pitch when our moves break down to ensure we get it back quickly.
    We haven’t been sharp enough in winning the ball back quickly in the past two games, and have been less quick and incisive with our passing. I don’t believe the playing styles of any of the players has suddenly become a problem – we played against low blocks before, we were just more effective at winning the ball back early and keeping them penned back.
    I agree we need to change the personnel, but it’s because some individuals are off form, which may be due to fatigue in some cases (physical or mental). The system we are playing is good, we just need to freshen up imo.

    1. As you say, our pressing hasn’t been effective and decisive in the past 2 games, and we have played at too low a tempo.
      Those are the reasons, our performances have been below the very high average, we have seen this season.
      No one can reasonably expect us to keep it up in every game and go on to win 100 points.
      The “dip” can vey well be natural, and maybe not the only one to come.

  3. PGMOL just acknowledged VAR mistakes in Arsenal vs Brentford and Crystal Palace vs Brighton games. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will give us three points

    I agree we need some tactical variations, since the mid and low table teams have found that they just need to park the bus and make direct balls to get set-pieces

    Zinchenko was trying to do it against Brentford, by running into their half-space, but his teammates didn’t realize it quick enough. Arteta had better explore this option further, since Guardiola and he trained Man City players to attack the half-space

    I also agree that Jesus is really needed to make chances for the other attackers. Nketiah is a great finisher, but his hold-up play, trickeries and dribbling skills seem inferior to Jesus’

    As for Smith-Rowe, he has all the tools to be as good as Bellingham, but it will take some time before he fully recovers and becomes match-fit. In the meantime, we can try Vieira or Zinchenko in Xhaka’s position

  4. Zinchenko appears to be overdoing the inverted LB thing. He is coming too deep into midfield even when he shouldn’t. We are now playing too narrowly compared to the start of the season. Martinelli and Xhaka are the most affected by our current shape. Zinchenko is always in Xhaka’s space, fighting for the ball with Xhaka, while Martinelli is left isolated on the left. Martinelli’s form has not dropped; he is just not getting the support he used to get, which makes it easier for teams to defend against him. Xhaka is now confused about his role in the team. Saliba’s form is also not good

  5. Well Emerys Villa was no match at all for Villa. But no doubt he will find tactics to nullify us next weekend.

    Wednesdays game is season defining.

  6. Football is a sweet crazy game so anything is possible.

    My heart tells me it’s not over for us to win the league but my head tells me it’s over due to recent history and statistics.

    I pray we find a good solution and get back to winning ways as soon as possible.

    Arteta should make some changes to the lineup-up.

    He can always revert back to his favourite players in the second half.

    Something like this against City would be ideal for me –


    Trossard. Odegaard. Saka.

    Jorginho. Partey.

    Tierney. Gabriel. Saliba. Tomiyasu.


    In the second half he can bring in Martinelli, Xhaka, Zinchenko, and Tomiyasu.

  7. Point 2 is the most valid point. We need flexibility in the system as much as the rotation of players.

    Man City may be a turning point. We owe them for a dubious victory last season at the Emirates. I think we need a minimum of a draw.

  8. Rice will be Xhaka’s long-term replacement if they can get that transfer done, which solves that problem. The lack of goals is no surprise. Yes, Nketiah did well and had a great run for several games, but I think that dream is over and he’s looked more like his usual self the last couple of games, so yes Jesus (ASAP)+ another top quality striker are still badly needed.

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