Good morning folks.
The dust is settling a little bit on the North London derby, and while frustration remains, I’m a little more sanguine about things today. Historically this has often been a fixture which exists outside the realms of normal analysis, the sheer weight of the tension and expectation does strange things to teams and players.
I still think it’s a game we should have won. The Jesus chance, the Jorginho mistake, moments which could have gone marginally the other way (the shot a touch lower and Jorginho makes a pass) and we’d have been ok. But that’s true of many games, even Fulham – if Zinchenko makes a routine pass that he’s capable of, they don’t get a corner etc etc.
My main takeaway from this game is that while Gabriel Jesus is obviously a very accomplished player with lots of experience playing wide, as much as possible we should keep him at centre-forward. I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that our best attacking performance of the season came with him there, although I will acknowledge that PSV were very open and we made the most of that. For me though, it’s a LOT from column A (Jesus up top), and a little from column B (PSV being a bit crap).
Hindsight is always 20/20, and on one level I can understand the decision to start Eddie Nketiah in the derby. He has played a lot this season, so he’s match fit in a game that requires real intensity. However, unless you can marry that fitness with a performance befitting of the game itself, it’s not that helpful. I’ve praised him for good performances and contributions this season, but this was a real stinker, and having watched it again, he was quite lucky that he only saw yellow for that late challenge on Guglielmo Vicario. If one of their players had gone in like that on our keeper, we’d have been screaming blue murder.
What Mikel Arteta can take away from this is information. You try something, it doesn’t really work, you think about what can do different next time. Jesus up front, with Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Martinelli absent, gives you something of a headache. However, you have Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson as obvious options, and potentially even Fabio Vieira as a wildcard out there. It’s difficult to understand the thinking behind a new long-term contract for Nelson if he’s only considered fourth choice for a starting place on the left, but we have to assume that deal wasn’t just for fun.
Perhaps part of it is keeping something on the bench if you need it, and Eddie hasn’t got a great record in that regard. Nelson has contributed well as a sub, but even so, I think we look much more effective as a team with Jesus as the centre-forward, and for me that would go a long way to offset the use of a more ‘fringe’ option on the left. There is, of course, a wider conversation to be had about centre-forward and some investment in that area, but we’re a long way from January with plenty of football to play with the squad we’ve got, so we might as well park that for now.
Match of the Day had an interesting graphic about our attacking output so far this season in the Premier League:
Those are numbers which can obviously be improved, but of the 540 minutes of Premier League action (plus quite a lot of injury time too), Jesus has played just 114, and very few of those minutes have been at centre-forward. I strongly suspect that playing him there will go some way to making our attack more cohesive, and I don’t just mean the forwards. I think it will benefit those behind him, Martin Odegaard for one and, I hope, Kai Havertz who seems more compatible with someone like Jesus than a player like Eddie who is asked to a do lot, but to whose strengths we just don’t play.
Food for thought, at least.
Finally for today, Arseblog and Tim Stillman have been nominated for ‘Best organisation’ in the Women’s Football category. That might be a bit of a stretch, but if you could take the time to vote for us here that would be greatly appreciated.
There’s also a chance to vote for our good friends Poorly Drawn Arsenal and the ArsenalVision podcast too, so spread the love folks.
Right, that’s it for this morning. The manager meets the press later on ahead of our EFL Cup game against Brentford tomorrow evening, so we’ll bring you the main stories over on Arseblog News.
For now, have a good one.