From Frustration, Anger and Hopelessness to Excited, Energized and Hopeful in a Week! – A World of New Feelings

A World of New Feelings



Man of the Moment and the match

Do you remember frustration, anger, hopelessness and possibly a desire for a new coach? That was the 3rd week in December.

Two weeks later and I don’t know how you feel but I feel relieved, excited, hopeful and energized. Two weeks. Just two weeks later.

I remember writing a post in December about the craziest part of the barren run being that we had 180’d in such dramatic fashion. From the elation of the Cup Final to impressing at the Community Shield and excited after Fulham away, to the total deflation of a rather large balloon. Then out of nowhere we’ve 180’d again. I’d rather Arsenal get off the rollercoaster and just continue ascending the ladder with a stellar pair of extra grippy mountain boots.

The positive adjectives aren’t just connected to 3 fortunate results either. We decided to not only get 3 wins but put in 3 vastly improved performances too. Many of us couldn’t care less whether we played well or got incredibly lucky, we just wanted points. I think I was in this boat if I’m honest. Beyond the natural injection of confidence that our reversal of fortunes brings, we have become a threat and the threats are numerous…..

  1. It all started with the deliberate/accidental decision to play 4-2-3-1 and play Emile Smith Rowe. Martinelli was always going to play anyway and Saka has been Sakering for most of the season. This decision was the catalyst.
  2. Often a single player can change the attitude of the rest and it hasn’t just been these three. Sometimes when a player who has been sucking bricks for most of the season decides to play in a positive manner then others think, ‘well, if he can, then surely I can.’ I speak of Xhaka and his decision to turn, play quicker and play forwards. Many have followed suit or perhaps led the way (don’t want to give Xhaka too much credit).
  3. The high press returned. This may well have been the catalyst for the increased energy in the team. Teams don’t high press ‘expecting’ to win the ball. They do it to deny the opponents the optimal out pass or in the ‘hope’ that they might win the ball. What the high press guarantees however is that the others play with similar energy. It’s the attitude of ‘if he can sacrifice what is probably a low % chance of winning the ball then I can surely do it too.’ Some real psychology there.
  4. Returning back to ESR. His personal performances cannot be ignored. Simply filling the oval shaped chasm outside the opponents box was step one but his decision making, movement on and off the ball and energy to play the full width of the pitch have taken us from fixing the formation to finding a formation.
  5. The Holding and Mari partnership is a 2002 throwback. A time when defenders were just asked to be solid and not make mistakes rather than the current obsession of looking at a defenders ability on the ball as his primary quality.
  6. The finishing touch has been the finishing touch. We would’ve just taken a few 2-2/3-3 draws in mid Decembers simply to rediscover our confidence in front of goal. We have gone beyond that though by scoring a small catalogue of beautiful goals as the cherry.

ESR fits and makes a difference to the formation

As a by-product of all these improvements Arsenal are also showing signs of……

a) counter attacking in vertical lines rather than a forward pass followed by backwards and sideways passes.

b) confident and intelligent possession, even in adverse conditions.

c) appropriate and pro active risk taking in the final third.

d) a game like yesterday where the fans could relax in the belief that the game was won after the first goal

e) games won by more than 1 goal

f) this one is sad but true….. fun! I wasn’t enjoying watching Arsenal. Now I’m gutted that I have to wait a week       for the next one.

This entire 180 can be summed up in one split second moment. The 3rd goal.

We didn’t need the goal but there was something about it that gave me more hope than anything else. Ultimately in football if your striker/s are confident then we feel confident. Tottenham aren’t playing particularly well but I’m sure their fans have great hope as their two strikers are consistently scoring. As it’s goals that change the scoreboard this is huge. Do you remember Lacazette’s finish? 3 weeks ago he would’ve laced that and lacked the accuracy needed to score. He side footed it because he’s feeling it. That was an eye opener for me.


Reaching new levels



  • Was that 2 good halves of football? I forgot that was an option 🙂
  • Why is Bukayo Saka so much more effective than Pepe and Willian? Broadly speaking he is braver and simply makes better decisions. Specifically he is proactive. Willian can be too but it’s a rarity that he can be bothered to earn the 200,000 part of his 250,000 a week salary and take a player on. Pepe waits for defenders to bite. They don’t. He is stuck 1 vs 2. Repeat. Saka is proactive. He changes his pace. He can go both ways. He is more dynamic off the ball and the biggest difference….. he does all of this at pace so defenders are fearful to tackle.
  • Another favourite moment for me wasn’t Tierney’s goal as a whole but two small choices he made to make it happen. Firstly, the deception he showed in looking right whilst pushing it left around the defender. The game is losing the pivotal quality of deception and becoming too robotic. Somebody will figure this out, promote it to their team and reap the rewards, but that’s a whole separate blog posting. Secondly, this is the second time in 3 games that he has got in the box and cut off the defender. Very smart.
  • Three specifics that ESR brings to the game are tempo, the ability to accelerate play and in particular, scanning. Watch him before he gets the ball for Saka’s goal. He looks twice over his shoulder to see colour. Accelerates play from slow to fast by one touching to Saka and then accelerates it again by sprinting off the ball for Lacazette. Arsenal at their absolute best and what we all proudly point to as ‘Arsenal football,’
  • One of the benefits of playing the younger players upfront is their fearlessness in taking risks off the ball. Movement causes a defender to go from comfort and assurance to concern and possible panic.
  • I understand Holding getting a new contract if it is in the 50K a week range. He will likely become a squad player next season. If he does then we will have a third choice CB on 50K rather than Luiz or Mustafi on about double that.

Football: Lacazette gets a double as Arsenal thrash woeful West Brom 4-0, Football News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

  • I’m hoping that Lacazette can continue his run. At the very least he will become a cash asset in the summer and we have very few of those.
  • Glad to see Ceballos opening the defence up two or three times down the right with creative and quicker passing.
  • Auba played well and certainly contributed. He needs to be beware his negative body language though as he is looked up to. If he can stay in the team and we continue playing with this new confidence, he will get his goals. Probably needs to run inside for Tierney sometimes as well as being an option out wide.
  • I thought Arteta made one of his better substitutions of the season when he subbed Bellerin. He was on a yellow, we were two up and it was slippery out there. I also wonder if Arteta posted Big Sam’s comments from December 22nd on the wall…. “Arsenal are absolutely in a relegation fight.”



  • West Brom need undersoil heating. They are 20 years behind the rest of us.
  • Why oh why didn’t Arteta change us earlier? If we miss out on a European place by a few points he will have to look back on games like Burnley at home and ask himself if he was too stubborn because he was. Too reliant on failing players. If we can see the bravery of a player like ESR, he must have seen it earlier at Colney. Our experienced players go into a shell of protection and fear when things are not going well. Our Hale End boys don’t. Shame.
  • Saka may need a rest for a couple of weeks. He’s played a lot this season and he is not needed for the FA Cup game. I’d actually make 10 changes for next week. Keep Auba in to regain his smile, introduce Partey and Gabriel  back in and supplement with squad players. Give those that’ve played the most minutes a five day winter break.
  • Willian was actually better but he gives me the impression that he fights the devil of reluctancy when he plays. You see him slow down his energy levels and show clear reluctance to do what he knows he should before realizing that he ought to remind us that he used to be a very good player. Saka’s latest destination on his global tour of a football pitch now puts Willian’s minutes in serious jeopardy. Fine by me. I’m over him.

Return for FA Cup 3rd Round?


  • I hope Pablo Mari stays in the team for the next PL game. It’s important that Gabriel earns his spot back as it might help educate him not to be so rash in the future.
  • If we can’t make purchases this window and have to do loans, I have a couple of ideas. If the money isn’t there for a player like Bissouma then a short term deal for Idrissa Gueye would be ideal. PSG are looking to move him on and he was one of the PL’s best DM’s before he left. We have to be very careful when choosing our creative player. If we get a player that expects to play due to his ego and wages, we may kill the momentum that ESR has built up. We could either go rescue Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid’s bench and let them compete or do something arguably more intelligent. In my desire to get Buendia, I’m aware that he can play RW too. Trouble is though that one of Saka or ESR may have to sit out. What if we got a player on loan that can play Attacking Midfield and Centre Midfield? If ESR maintains his fitness and form he wouldn’t have to sit out if this player was also on form. Probably a smarter move as we need better options at CM than RW. The player I think of is Riqui Puig at Barcelona who is a technical whizz-kid. If we have a little money then Michael Olise is the one though.



It’s not just the window that should improve us. We are about to welcome back one of the best midfielders in Europe. Yesterday was exciting enough. Now I’m dreaming silly thoughts again. Stay on the ladder Arsenal. One rung upwards at a time is a better perspective.

Or should I start dreaming again?


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4 Responses to From Frustration, Anger and Hopelessness to Excited, Energized and Hopeful in a Week! – A World of New Feelings

  1. Andy January 3, 2021 at 9:45 am #

    Thanks Mike. Lots to think about. I have welcomed the Europa league as it has given the chance for the youngsters to play. I’d take hungry players over experience. ESR has given us balance and options. Means that Saka finally had someone to play with. The question for me is has Xhaka become quicker with his passing or does he have more options to pass forward? If the first why did it take so long if the second willian and pepe should not be allowed back in the team.

  2. allezkev January 3, 2021 at 11:56 am #

    Excellent post Mike, as always, Rob Holding might not be the most technically gifted centre half we have but there is more to his game than just technique. He is a more skilful player than we maybe give him credit for, it’s the reason why Arsene Wenger signed him in the first place.

    He brings other things to the table than just technique, he brings a strength of character, a determined attitude and leadership qualities, he actually reminds me in some respects of our great captain Tony Adams.

    When Arsenal are under pressure and our defenders are stressed Holding doesn’t bale out like Mustafi or Luiz, he doesn’t make unnecessary challenges and fouls he ‘fronts up’ he takes on opponents just as he’s done with high profile opponents like Sadio Mane and Diego Costa, it sends a subliminal message to his team mates and they then redouble their efforts, that’s the leadership coming through.

    His partnership with Pablo Mari has been a joy to watch, their calmness and serenity under pressure is contagious, it gives Tierney and Bellerin the confidence to bomb on as they know that the ‘back door’ is secure, it’s calmed down Xhaka and rubbed off on Leno who is looking like David Seaman in our goal.

    I love Gabriel, he is a wonderful defender and will I suspect become an Arsenal great but I’d be loath to tamper with our defensive set up as it is because it’s the foundations on what we’ve been seeing over the past three games.

  3. Norman Englender January 3, 2021 at 12:38 pm #

    Spot on Mike, although I think that one player needs a special mention – Alexandre Lacazette. ~He seems transformed, re-energised. He has regained his love of the game…n longer the indolent player disinterested in scoring, missing the easy opportunities. He has risen to the challenge of our younger players, as if to say “if you can then I can”. He chases lost causes, wins tackles, harries the opposition….and scores beautiful goals by being where he should be,
    I don’t agree that if nothing else he is giving us a more valuable player to sell. I believe that he is once again giving us a true CF…..who leads his line and who makes things happen rather than waiting for them to do so. If he continues in this vein then why sell him just to buy another CF?
    With Thomas Partey back and ESR retaining his place we don’t need Dani Ceballos, too often a weak link, and if Xhaka has truly discovered how to pass forward then a Xhaka/Partey pairing could be enough. Or better still, schemer paired with Partey as Xhaka’s temperament is too unreliable.

  4. George Ukaz January 3, 2021 at 10:28 pm #

    Now you think everything has changed? Listen carefully Mikel Arteta is a bias coach unless he change his wicked act he can not lead arsenal to a better standing in the table he is someone who has ego he think he has done very well by winning FA cup and the community Shield not knowing he has not started yet most of you pundit are also not steady you speak from both sides of your mouth to most you are praising him tomorrow you will condemn him please Mikel must be constituent before you praise him for now arsenal as a team has raised there game but is still remain let Arteta map a strategy that can sustain the tempo not to relax and not to think he is a big coach he should know when a player need to rest and be fresh again he must learn the type of players that suits certain games the type of substitution that will add bites to the team especially when they need constituent

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