But some fan’s are still only happy when moaning …. ‘Gunner be honest’ review
Two wins from two, what more do you want the team to do? Play entertaining football in every game of course! It is indeed three wins from three games if you wish to include the Community Shield victory and I’m also being facetious about expecting us to play entertaining football in every game.
The unrealistic expectations of some of our supporters will never cease to amaze me. If we were performing in the same lacklustre and generally flat way that we did against West Ham in every game, then I‘d certainly understand some of the concerns emanating from small pockets of our fan base following our somewhat undeserved three points against the Hammers. After all, consistently below par performances are not a recipe for success in the long term and eventually, poor teams do get found out. Just as we did under Unai Emery.
I’ve seen a lot of people saying that we would have lost that game against West Ham in Wenger’s final few years or during Emery’s tenure, I’m not so sure and no, that doesn’t mean that I’m trying to dismiss the obvious improvement that’s been made under Mikel Arteta. However, our home record under Arsene in his final few seasons was amongst the best in the league and during Unai’s solitary full season in charge, we often won, despite having played poorly and laboured to victory, particularly during our 22-game unbeaten run. In saying that, we’d have undoubtedly gone on to lose the game towards the end of his reign.
In our opening league game of the season against Fulham, aside from a shaky first ten minutes, where new signing Gabriel looked vulnerable before composing himself, we comfortably put the hosts to the sword without really having to break in to second gear. However, some supporters need to be realistic and shouldn’t expect that to be the norm. In arguably the most competitive top division in world football, there will be games where we will need to find a way to win ugly.
The minimum I expect from all our players is for them to play for 90 minutes and not to give up, so I won’t be going overboard by praising them for “battling until the end” like some supporters have. As an Arsenal fan, there are very few games where you should be content to see our team settling for a draw and West Ham at home certainly isn’t one of those fixtures. But credit where it’s due, it was pleasing to see the team searching for and finding a way to get the winner after a second half spell, where the opposition looked the more likely winners.
A big thumbs up needs to be given to Mikel too for his in game management and effective substitution, replacing Alexandre Lacazette with Eddie Nketiah, who has developed a nice habit of having a goal scoring impact when coming off the bench. Whilst I am on the subject of Lacazette and Nketiah, it is perhaps no coincidence that since Arteta started demonstrating his willingness to play the latter at his expense, Alexandre’s form has significantly improved.
A lot has been said about the departure of Emiliano Martinez and I have to admit that I’m firmly in the camp who are disappointed to see him go. As far as I’m concerned, his form during his previous years at the club is irrelevant if he was performing well in the here and now, which he most certainly was. After the way he impressively stepped in for Bernd Leno during his injury absence, I’m of the opinion that he had earned right to start the season against Fulham.
None of us know exactly what conversations took place between Emi and Mikel behind closed doors and no player should ever get guarantees from their manager about their place in the side. However, if I was in Arteta‘s shoes, I would have informed Martinez that he’d be starting our first game of the season against Fulham and then go from there. Had Emi continued his good run of form, I’d have kept him in the team because in the form he was in, he gave us a calmness and an aerial assurance that Bernd doesn’t.
I’ve seen some fans saying that Martinez lacked the bottle to battle for his place. As far as I’m concerned, that’s utter nonsense, especially considering the length of time Emi had remained at the club to be given a real opportunity in the first place. It would appear that some supporters are only happy when they are hating or abusing our ex-players. Perhaps after emphatically taking his chance with both hands, Emi was told that he still hadn’t done enough to earn a start ahead of Leno. If that was the case, I don’t blame him for moving on, anyone with ambitions of playing regular football would do the same.
It has also been suggested by some that Emi wouldn’t have been able to maintain his form once the fans were allowed back inside the stadiums and when he had Leno breathing down his neck following his return to full fitness. That is all conjecture, and, in my opinion, he should have at least been given the chance to prove those doubters wrong. Sadly, whatever happened behind the scenes, ensured this would not be the case.
Undoubtedly, I will get accused of jumping on the Emi bandwagon, however, it was several years ago when I first suggested in one of my early Gunners Town articles, that Martinez should be given the opportunity to be our number two, ahead of David Ospina, mainly due to his superior aerial ability when it came to dealing with crosses and because he had more of a physical presence. Well, that coupled with the fact that I considered Ospina to be a liability, with a very irritating chant!
Since Leno’s arrival, I’ve praised him in many aspects, but I’ve always been critical of his ability to deal with crosses. However, after having a goalkeeper who excels in this area, with Martinez between the posts at the end of the last campaign, Bernd’s weakness has naturally been amplified. Particularly in the game against West Ham, where Leno looked all over the place at times.
The reality is though, that any mistake Leno makes for us now, is going to be heavily scrutinised and repeatedly highlighted by the Arsenal supporters who rated Martinez. In the same way those who prefer Leno will take enjoyment from seeing Emi make any errors for his new club. That’s the nature of many football fans though, always searching for an opportunity to score points off their peers by proving them wrong.
In truth, I didn’t want us to sell either of them but at the same time, I also realise that it’s very difficult to keep two goalkeepers happy when they both have a strong desire to be first choice. More so when the club needs to find a way to generate funds for potential signings in other areas of the pitch. I just felt that at this stage of the season, the battle to be our number one hadn’t really commenced.
Whilst I’m disappointed that we sold Emi, it doesn’t mean that I stopped rating Leno or that I have forgotten his performances prior to injury, like many supporters automatically assume whenever other fans mention that they have a preference for Martinez. Leno also has attributes that make him a very good goalkeeper, one who often kept us in games before his absence, with his quick reflexes and his speed off his line in one on one situations being obvious examples.
I’m too young to remember myself, being only six at the time of his arrival, but I’m reliably informed by older supporters that when David Seaman arrived at The Arsenal, we already had a very good goalkeeper in John Lukic but Seaman was better. George Graham famously said Lukic was amongst the top three in the country, but Seaman was the best. If a successful manager can rate more than one goalkeeper, why can’t fans? Quite frankly, questioning another fans support of the club because they didn’t want us to sell a player, who has been excelling, just makes you look like a moron.
Whatever our opinions on the goalkeeping situation, Arteta has made his decision and whether we agree or not, after the way we ended last season, he’s earned our trust for the immediate future. I would guess that we’ve all had our say on the subject by now and regardless of what happens to Martinez at Villa, it’s impossible to conclude that the outcome would have been the same, had he chosen to remain with us. After all, players perform differently depending on their environment, who they are surrounded by etc. We keep being told we have to move on and it’s true, we do, but that doesn’t mean we have to be happy about us selling him.
One thing that our first home game of the new league campaign did serve to further illustrate, is the necessity for more midfield creativity to be added to the squad before the transfer window closes. The top teams such as Liverpool and Man City have several regular potential match winners, consistently capable of creating or scoring a goal out of nothing, I’m not sure I would say the same about us at the moment.
There is nothing wrong with analysing the past, after all, learning from it is how you improve but some members of our fan base always find it necessary to go over the top in their criticism. We all know that we weren’t at our best against West Ham. There will be times where we will undeservedly win games but by the same token, we will lose games that we’ve deserved to have won.
It’s a fair question to ask why Sead Kolasinac was brought in instead of David Luiz, to replace Kieran Tierney, who was injured during the warm up, but after a victory, is it really necessary for some supporters to focus solely on their perceived negatives of our performance. It’s as if some people can’t just be happy that we won, despite a bad day at the office, and look forward to our next fixture.
Mikel will know better than anyone where we need to improve, his post-match interviews are usually very honest assessments and I also believe that he’s the most tactically adaptable manager we have had in years. Even the greatest managers make mistakes and Arteta will too but at the moment, he’s undeniably taking us in the right direction….
Having been born in 1984, I’ve experienced Arsenal life before Wenger and therefore, I certainly don’t fear it beyond him. That said, I admire and respect his past achievements at the club. I often get called negative but personally, I prefer the term honest and honesty is something that I pride myself on. I joined Gunners Town after penning several ‘Dear Arsene Wenger’ letters on my Facebook profile and sharing them in Arsenal supporter groups. These were met with praise and the encouragement to start writing my own blog, from fellow Arsenal supporters, who felt my words summed up their own feelings perfectly. So here I am…..