Can We Rediscover Mental Strength As Injury Curse Strikes?

The first casualty of the international break surfaced: Reiss Nelson’s knee injury keeps him out of Monday’s game and the rest of October.

I’d say it offers a quick path to redemption for Mesut Özil but not at Sheffield United. No. Bramall Lane is altogether too rough, tough and manly for the German. The sedate pace of the Europa League and Carabao Cup suits him better.

Who knows, he may find Anfield as redemptive an evening as Julio ‘The Beast’ Baptista. Somehow, I doubt it.

The four weeks between now and November’s internationals feature seven games. Four in the league, two European and the trip to Liverpool. Europe, with seven goals scored and none conceded, can be put on the back burner with four points from the back-to-back clashes with Vittoria.

The Premier League matches, however, are tricky. The sort which tripped us up last season, embarrassingly so. From the visits of Palace and Wolves to the Emirates and our visit to Leicester, we took a measly one point last season.

Both the Eagles and the Foxes are within touching distance while Wolves are paying the price for being involved in the Europa League qualifiers. Instead of leaving them sharper than a tack, until the trip to Manchester City last weekend, they were lethargic. Will that win prove to be the spark their season needed?

It says much about the state of Arsenal’s season that despite being third in the table, there is wariness about these three games. Not that I expect the trip to Sheffield United to be easy. It’s a ground where we’ve played some notoriously bad matches. Usually in the pouring rain or freezing cold.

Having lost one less game than Manchester City, we should surely be more confident about these types of games?

Returning Heroes

Having gained so many points winning ‘ugly’, largely as a result of poor defensive play, we should be optimistic with the quartet of Tierney, Bellerin, Holding and Lacazette poised to feature in the Premier League XI. That’s ripping out half the side and replacing them with better players.

Too right but at the same time, it highlights the fragility of the squad. We’re constantly one injury away from a ‘lesser’ player coming into the team. We’ve seen first-hand how that can affect us, particularly if Emery gets back into the habit of rotating the squad.

Much speculation surfaced this morning about whether Gareth Southgate would revert to a back-three formation in Sofia tomorrow night. It suits the players at his disposal and following that logic, is it best for Arsenal?

Stop thinking Mustafi; he won’t make the three. It wouldn’t be the German although as he said the other day, he has yet to concede a goal this season. Put Chambers on the right, Luiz in the middle, Holding on the left or swap the latter pair? It works on paper.

Falls apart when you put Xhaka in the defensive midfield role, of course. But with the personnel at his disposal, Emery can use that formation if, for example, he wants to rest Pepe.

However, more likely he will stick with a flat back four. I don’t like the back-three with our squad; it wasn’t built with that in mind but when everyone is fully fit, then it’s an option.

In these coming Premier League matches, with the exception of the Leicester game, we’re going to face teams who sit back and hit us on the break. Hence the wariness I spoke of earlier; it’s our Achilles heel.

Xg Means…

I can’t readily think of any top-six team in the past decade which has been so vulnerable to the counter-attack. I saw a stat the other day on social media which said we allow an average of 17 shots on goal from opponents each game this season.

In itself, that’s not too worrying a stat; we’ve only conceded eleven goals eight games in so opponents are particularly wasteful is the only ‘on the face of it’ conclusion to draw.

However, where it is concerning is the possession we’re ceding to create that stat. Look at last weekend’s second-half performance against Bournemouth. Surely everyone knew they would play better given their abysmal opening 45-minutes.

If we did, we never reacted to their higher work-rate and were fortunate to get away with a clean sheet. It’s that aspect of Emery’s Arsenal I struggle with. For a coach who is quite capable of changing the game tactically, how is his team so poor to respond to pressure?

I struggle to think of one game in the past 12 months or so where we’ve turned a situation around convincingly. Purposefully. It’s down to a lack of leadership which is why I’m surprised by the quartet he chose as captains. I discard Özil; he’s never picked so hardly a leader.

The Gang of Four ought to be leading the XI on the pitch but few occasions arise where they show that leadership. Not just the grabbing people by the scruff of the neck or shouty ‘look at me being all captainy’ styles. But in actions, in responding to situations and getting the team to do the same. Too often our heads go down and stay there.

That, I think, is our biggest enemy. A lack of toughness, resilience, preferring instead to ride our luck rather than responding positively.

Therein is why the next four games are so important. Once November’s break is over, club football is relentless and we will need to dig deep. Question is, can we do that?

’til Tomorrow.

22 thoughts on “Can We Rediscover Mental Strength As Injury Curse Strikes?

  1. Michael says:

    I think its the midfield where we are lacking in genuine leaders, the back line isn’t too bad if Luiz doesn’t do something silly.
    But good post.

  2. Henry Root says:

    I agree with your basic premise but the North London Derby last season was an example of a superb turnaround in the second half. Last season we didn’t lead a game at half-time until nearly Christmas so we had to turn it around if we were to win.
    I’m really not sure about many aspects of Emery’s Arsenal. The biggest mystery is how we are third .

  3. Blue Yonder says:

    Arsenal have lacked that defensive steel since Vieira’s departure. Who knew the gap would be so long – and with no end yet in sight? That can’t be quickly changed but, in the meantime, there is enough talent in the team to paper over that crack. And it’s the manager’s job to (1) develop that talent, and (2) develop a strategy that reflects that talent and harnesses it most effectively.
    So far, he’s getting a failing grade in each.

  4. nicky says:

    Henry Root,

    But we are, Henry and when three of our back four return for good, we will be even better. Then, all the glasses of the doubters will be permanently half-full!

  5. Spike says:

    Blue Yonder,

    Emery’s contract runs out at the end of this season. I doubt it will get renewed.

    Oh and I’d say its Gilberto who we’ve missed most and not replaced.

    Wenger got obsessed with single handedly trying to change and shape English football: getting rid of brick shite houses in midfield in favour of twinkle toed ballerinas.

  6. C says:


    Been saying it for years, Vieira was a truly World Class player but Gilberto ‘The Silent Wall’ Silva is the player who gave Vieira the freedom and was the true DM in that side. Sadly, we haven’t replaced him but I do think that Torriera partnered with Guendouzi has the potential to be excellent. Obviously not, nor will they ever be, in the same class but the partnership brings similiar balance.

  7. JOEL says:

    We are in our current position more by luck than judgement.The next four games ate incredibly important and it will be interesting to see whether our witless Manager does indeed bring back Tierney,Holding and Bellerin into the back four.Holding was in all likelihood fit enough to replace the dangerously inept Sokratis against Bournemouth but Emery’s inane pragmatism prevented such a change being made.Xaka is only one inevitable booking away from a ban so I presume that we will at least… in the short term …see Torreira restored to his rightful defensive central midfield position front of the back four,,and the positive tactical effect that will have upon the team and it’s a ability to both defend and move the ball forward at the proper pace required in the Premier League.
    Arsenal like United have employed a man to manage who is clearly out of his depth.At least Solkjaer has a clear command of the English language but that’s not going to save him…just as Emerys unclear and muddled vision for Arsenal wont save him either…The sad thing is though…we actually now have the players to compete…its just a matter of finding someone to manage them effectively!!

  8. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Sheffield United under Wilder are nothing like some of the horrible sides Warnock presided over. They keep it on the deck & play out from the back with plenty of work rate & were more than unlucky to get beaten by Liverpool the other week.

    So…. any type of repeat Watford performance will see us in trouble.

  9. Steve says:

    If we lose, the coach is not good enough. If we win, it is luck or the opposing team is poor or did not take their chance. How do you then decide if a team or coach is good enough. Win and goals.
    Sometimes it’s like we struggle to admit the arsenal team is improving. We know there is improvement but we struggle to admit it. I think arsenal is playing smart. Conceeding possession, pressing high and punishing mistakes. We used to press in the middle. Now we press very high up the pitch. Most of our goals come from mistakes our opponents make because we press high. Not as beautiful as Arsene team but more efficient. Let’s move forward. People should not take us to the past where we dominate possession and one counter attack make our opponent win.

  10. Las says:

    Evening! Thanks, YW.

    As you said… “That, I think, is our biggest enemy. A lack of toughness, resilience, preferring instead to ride our luck rather than responding positively.”
    The thing is this mentality was somehow and unfortunately inherited from the late AW era. I had the feeling all too many times (every time) when we had a crucial game we lost it before it started. But this mentality has to go now! We have the players who have the fighting spirit and if Emery can’t sail with it than he has to go. The sooner is the better. Or get up and fight.

  11. Paul says:

    Toughness? Resilience? Responding positively? That’s where playing the kids comes in.

  12. jonnygunner says:

    I watched the England game tonight-fucking shameful behaviour by some of the Bulgarian thugs.
    To cap it all,Greg Clarke was interviewed after the game and he wouldn’t commit himself entirely in his summary of what he felt should happen.The man’s a disgrace and doesn’t want to lose his fat pay cheque every year…..he needs to grow a pair and tell it how it really is.
    Wrighty was spot on.
    Funny how these Bulgarian ‘hard boys’ cover their faces eh?…..they’d crap themselves if they were confronted by someone half tidy……this is 2019 for Christ’s sake-how is this still happening?

  13. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:


    Been saying it for years, Vieira was a truly World Class player but Gilberto ‘The Silent Wall’ Silva is the player who gave Vieira the freedom and was the true DM in that side. Sadly, we haven’t replaced him but I do think that Torriera partnered with Guendouzi has the potential to be excellent.Obviously not, nor will they ever be, in the same class but the partnership brings similiar balance.

    Are you saying Viera and Petit weren’t a solid combination! I’d argue that was when Viera was at the height of his prowess with Petit along side him.

  14. C says:


    Not saying that at all, not even sure how you got that (Are you Bill in disguise? Haha). The point I was making is that the vast majority of Gooners say we have failed to replace Vieira at the DM position to boss our midfield. Sadly, that is incorrect becaise Vieira wasn’t the DM, he was a box-to-box all purpose midfielder BUT he played next to Petit and Gilberto Silva who were the DM’s who would sit and break up play. Those are the players we have failed to replace.

  15. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:


    In which case I’m in agreement C. The best in the PL at that position is Kante in my opinion. Torriera isn’t at that level. So who would you recommend, in the current squad, other than Torriera that can fulfil that position? Who would you sign other than Kante to fulfil that position?

  16. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Eddie got a hat trick for the under 21’s, but it was the Chelsea boy who really shone in that game.

  17. C says:


    I think Torriera can be a player in that position. For me, I would go with Ndidi is the player I would want even over Kante at present. With that said though, I ro think Torriera and Guendouzi can be superb because Torriera has the ability to not only read and break up play but quickly get rid of it..

  18. C says:


    Nketiah can’t seem to stop scoring. Will be fascinating to see what happens when he comes back with Gabriel continuing to score when he plays.

  19. Spike says:


    Well, hopefully we can sign up Laca and Auba to new deals first! I think Eddie will be looking to get game time in one position, while Gabriel is more versatile.

    Also, can someone please tell me that Xhaka got injured on international duty????

  20. Bufallo says:

    When I moved from Real Madrid, it was a really tough time for Arsenal. But I always believed in what we could do and together we delivered.

    Delivered ?! Probably why he’s warming the bench or the sofa.
    If he intends to see out his contract and isn’t going to be playing football
    then he deserves no respect. Seems Ozil may sniff a chance that Emery
    is off this end season otherwise he needs to leave for himself, never mind his bank balance

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