Vitoria Review: Arsenal Nic Win But…

Arsenal 3 – 2 Vitoria

For long spells of last night’s game, it seemed as if a draw would be a good result. Certainly, a fair one but football is rarely equitable.

Two late sumptuous Nicolas Pepe free-kicks put paid to Vitoria’s dreams and reasonable expectations of victory given the way the game was playing out.

For the most part, we were unadventurous and disjointed. The introduction of Guendouzi added fire to the midfield belly while Ceballos brought some guile which AMN and Willock hadn’t been able to find.

But we looked like a team which hadn’t played together for weeks, a point emphasised by Vitoria’s compact playing style. Well-organised in defence and swift on the break, they took a deserved lead through Edwards. He was a Tottenham reject, doncha know?

Martinelli’s equaliser was a well-taken header and a signal that he is more of a goalscorer than initially thought. He is certainly hungry for first-team action and that desire is a reassuring sign.

But the same weaknesses which haunt our Premier League XI were evident last night. It’s a failure which is ingrained in Emery’s Arsenal, whatever team he fields: we are mightily vulnerable once we score and/or to the counter-attack.

Time and again last night, Vitoria pushed through the midfield unopposed and caused us problems. No matter who the opposition is we show that weakness and it is baffling that no solution is presenting itself.

Therein is part of Emery’s problems. Whatever is happening at London Colney is not translating into action on the pitch. And it needs to.

Captain’s Notes

It was left to Hector Bellerin to sum up the problems:

We’re human, we’ll make mistakes, but we need to keep pushing. Playing in the same way that we tried in the first half, in the second half we found the holes. That’s how it works: you need to keep pushing and doing what you believe in, then towards the end, everything falls into place.

What the Hec?

That’s after he noted that keeping the ball, passing properly, was all part of our “DNA”. The very things we couldn’t do all night.

Last night provided no relief from the failings which ensue from that. Vitoria, with just 32% possession, managed 17 shots on goal to our 15; five on target for both sides. It’s madness that we’re giving that many opportunities away and not seemingly able to do anything to reduce that number. No wonder we don’t keep many clean sheets.

But if Pepe has his eye in like last night, that won’t matter too much. Two excellent freekicks, both curled beyond the goalkeeper’s reach. Critics are quick to make the first seem a goalkeeping error. Really? Can we not just enjoy the excellent technique Pepe displayed?

The pressure on the second makes it a bit more special. My mind was a whirl with “This is into the crowd” and other positive thoughts; Pepe deserves immense praise for the finish and pushing any doubts out of his mind.

Overall, there are few tangibles to take from the game. Hector Bellerin is still a way short of match fitness and we may not see him in the Premier League for another week or so. Certainly, not this weekend.

The same can’t be said of Kieran Tierney. He’s ready and delivers better crosses/passes into the box than any other left-back at the club. It should be inconceivable why he isn’t in the PL XI but it isn’t. Emery is nothing if not contrary.

The Elephant in the Room

Of course, the performance unfolded and the absence of Mesut Ozil left an unanswered question over why. This is Emery’s take from his press conference:

on why Mesut Ozil wasn’t in the squad…
Tonight is not the day to speak about that.

on whether Ozil has a future at Arsenal…
I prefer to speak about the match. We have all the players who played.

on fans asking about Ozil…
He’s not in the squad. That is the decision tonight. Now we are going to work towards Sunday.

The relationship between the pair is broken and if Ozil doesn’t think it’s in his own best interests to leave now, then nothing is going to change that.

One thing is for certain. Raul and Edu – probably Junior – are backing Emery. There’s no way a £350k per week player is going to be continually left out without the club’s approval.

It’s at this point I acknowledge Emery’s contrary nature once again and begin to think he’s saving sickly-ickle Mesut for Sunday…

As it is, we’re three points from reaching the knockout stage which in terms of the Europa League, is job done.

Minds quickly turn to the Premier League…

’til Tomorrow.

26 thoughts on “Vitoria Review: Arsenal Nic Win But…

  1. Pete the Thirst says:

    Pepe finally has landed. Let’s hope he can kick on. Tierney looking a player.

    Why isn’t he playing Torreira in the DM role? A mystery. And AMN did himself no favours with that poor touch that led to their 2nd goal. He needs to sharpen up.

  2. Bufallo says:

    Haha belting picture choice YW !
    We got out of jail last night but that’s what a 70 odd million player
    is supposed to do, really pleased for him, he’s looked so promising but
    lacking in confidence, hopefully this could be his Dennis B moment. As you
    say to put away the second like that was impressive and shows his class.
    As for Emery he definitely has translation problems all over the place.
    Agreed Tierney should be starting in PL, again we don’t have the luxury to not be playing him.
    Trouble is at times we had as many holes in our midfield and defence as a wasps nest and a better side would have probably dispatched us. Are CP a better side? Are they the sort of bogey side we f@ck up against? Bring it on !
    Ozil is undeniably now the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, if he is still at the club and not playing on Feb 1st he clearly fancies chances of Emery being off or is quite happy picking up a weekly pay check…..would have thought best move for him is to Turkey where he’d be adored.

  3. Adebanjo says:

    A tedious game to watch but delighted at the few bright spots- Martinelli: a striker that can strike, Guendouzi: exciting and infectious with his energetic play and of course the arrival of Nicholas Pepe and yes a win and three vital points.

  4. Totteridge man says:

    Positive aspects: 3 Points and Pepe finally clicked. Talking with many fans at the end of the game, the opinion is Emery has not improved the team, and Wenger-like frailities showing. Emery is not coach the Club wants to continuewith.

  5. jonnygunner says:

    We didn’t deserve the victory-but there have been many times where we did….so I’ll take it

  6. Ras says:

    Morning YW. It was turgid to Watch.

    I find I’m unable to attempt watching, listening to Emery’s press conferences anymore. He was not very fluent in French when at PSG.

    You correctly sight Midfield as a festering sore YW. There are a number Players whom have to be jettisoned , shown the door at the end of the season.

    Arsenal don’t need Ceballos, AMN, Xhaka. I’d also be thinking seriously re Nelson also.

    We need to retain Guendouzi, Torreira, Willock . We could put Chambers in midfield.

    It’s the same for defense. One of the Chuckle Brothers Luiz or Sokratis needs to be moved on. The other young Greek hopeful be shown the Colney door.

    Up top I take Martinelli any day over Saka. This leaves Saka and Nketiah competing for a berth.

    So tired of eyes that suffer with blinkers. A midfield of Guendouzi, Ceballos and Torreira does not function and will not bring about any stability in midfield. Ceballos and Guendouzi are to similar. We need only one. Both want the ball and love to make runs thus leaving the midfield and defense exposed. It’s so evident.

    Ceballos gives you next to nada in the context of defense. He’s not the most mobile.

    The Arsenal midfield needs à type of Dacoure – Ndidi – Chaudhury a Player Of that ilk.

    I have no particular admiration for B Rodgers but in pure football terms he has shown He organize a Team and get them team to Play to its strengths . Period.

    You see Pep n Klopp both Excel at making Players want to play and perform for them. Do you see Emery in the same vein ?

  7. Adam Singh says:

    Thanks YW. Biggest issue for me is the midfield. Whilst Guendouzi made a massive impact when he came on I still don’t understand why Torreira was. played so far forward as n10 role.

    Also a bit worrying how easily Tierney got beat (twice) for their first goal. But I agree he and holding should go straight into the team for Sunday.

  8. Noon Gunner says:


    I agree, Ras, about letting AMN, Xhaka and Nelson go. Not yet sure about Ceballos. I like the idea that once we have a backline of Hector, Holding, Tierney and Sok-or-Luiz, put Chambers to sit in front of them, at least until we can buy an upgrade along lines you suggest.

    I disagree with you about Saka. I think he has that mixture of raw skill and steely hunger when he’s near the ball and I think he’s going to prove a handful for many a right back in the PL. I’ve always been less convinced by Nketiah, suspecting he’s psychologically too immature to be a consistent CF at this level, but no doubt that he has good striker instincts (though is an accomplished misser of the net, too).

    Finally, yes. The team mentality is off the boil. Last season there was a new-manager buzz and Emery had them on their toes and the opposition guessing, but Sheffield and Vitoria were clear evidence that the team’s strategic plans and tactical habits are only skin deep. Under pressure we revert to being a bunch of talented individuals desperately trying to make something happen.

  9. Ras says:

    Noon Gunner,

    I only state that Saka could be possibly let go simply as the Team has a number of strikers. I think Saka is a good player however for Me Martinelli at this point is slightly ahead in his all around Game bearing in mind it’s his 1st season and he’s an étranger .

  10. Bill says:

    Great review Yogi

    Strong work by Pepe. We could really use another goal scorer to complement Auba and Laca. He also brought creativity to the pitch when he played in France and we could use some of that also.

    I agree with your concerns about our midfield and having Willock AMN and Torriera on the pitch didn’t change anything. Guendouzi brings a lot of energy to the pitch and he can be a valuable piece if paired with a better defensive mid and a better creative mid. Unfortunately, Guendouzi isn’t a defensive midfielder and his minutes in the PL don’t give us much hope that he can effectively change defense into attack and move the ball forward quickly. He also does not bring any sort of end product to the pitch. Despite playing about 3000 minutes in the last 2 seasons he has not scored a league goal and only has 1 league assist. Torriera and Guendouzi played together in the midfield for close to 2000 minutes last season and our midfield defense didn’t improve even slightly during those minutes. In fact I would argue our midfield defense was as bad as anything we saw during the Wenger era. The idea that Guendouzi and Torriera would be excellent defensive pivots seems way off target given the evidence we have to date. Some have suggested that Torriera would suddenly morph into a top defensive midfielder if we moved him to the deepest midfield position but the idea that he can be only be expected to help solidify the midfield defense if he plays the deepest midfield position seems like rubbish. I think the bottom line is we need to rebuild our midfield and buy a better DM and a creative mid who can more effectively turn defense into attack and bring some end product to the attacking 1/3

  11. Bill says:

    With regard to Ozil I am only speculating but i suspect that he does not really care that much about whether or not he gets on the pitch anymore. He has his last big contract and there is nothing left to motivate him to work hard to win back his minutes on the pitch. He has to show up for training in order to get his pay check but he probably doesn’t have to put much effort into the training sessions. He has won the worlds biggest trophies and a huge world wide fan club and he has more money then all of us combined. He has nothing to prove and he probably doesn’t have much interest in playing Europa league group stage games. He has a new wife and at this point in his career family considerations outweigh football. He made it clear in the recent interview he plans to stay in London and unfortunately there is nothing we can do as long as he isn’t willing to move and he shows up when his contract says he has to. In reality I don’t really blame anyone who places family considerations ahead of work. A lot of us would do the same thing if we were at the end of our working career and could afford to.

  12. The Arseçores says:

    Ozil is being told, in no uncertain terms, that he is not wanted and we want him off the books so badly that we are willing to not even test which Ozil will turn up. He is mostly not good enough.

    If only we had such strength in deciding to attack on the field. When Klopp was in the same place, with a ton of firepower, he just attacked, attacked, attacked. Until he got the players who could get do a bit of defending.

  13. blazon says:

    when we lack in the middle
    we play second fiddle
    but from 50 yards in
    our free kicks are not what they’ve bin.

    our Ivorian star
    from nearby or far
    will now seed terrors
    leading one hopes to a plethora of errors .

    Unai, you know
    they say you should go
    spend more time at school
    communicate and don’t play the fool!

  14. Ras says:


    I Agree with you . There needs to be new players brought into the Team for midfield.

  15. Noon Gunner says:


    What you say about Guendouzi, Bill, is interesting. The stats tell a story, sure, but in several games this year his relentless energy and his forward drive have been a level or two above anything any other player was bringing to our flagging performance on the pitch, and I think that counts in a way that stats may not. That said, the tendency of all our midfielders at the moment to pop up all over the park is a sign, I believe, of a lack of match strategy and coherence in training.

    I would love to see Torreira, Ceballos and Guendouzi managed in a more disciplined way – they would spend less time headless chickening and more time looking, thinking and positioning themselves to head off opposition attacks and give birth to our own. They each have tremendous qualities but, as with late-era AW, it seems they are being left to work it out for themselves way too much.

  16. Bill says:

    Noon Gunner

    Guendouzi is an energy player and his work rate and enthusiasm are highly admirable and certainly eye catching and I think he is probably the best midfielder we have right now. However, while I am certainly not blaming him for our midfield defensive issues its pretty clear that having him has not improved our midfield defensive solidarity or made us less vulnerable to counter attacks so he hasn’t been an effective defensive player. He is also not an attacking creative midfielder and he not shown that he can be the focal point who moves the ball forward and turns defense into attack quickly. He brings no goals or assists in the final 1/3. You don’t expect big numbers from a midfielder but having zero end product is not ideal from your “box to box” player.

    IMO, at least so far Guendouzi’s best role would be as a high energy facilitator who plays between the more skilled defensive mid and covers a lot of ground and hopefully wins the ball back occasionally and can send it forward to the attacking players. I hope that makes sense because I think Matteo is a good player and has long term value but more as a complementary player rather then a focal point of a midfield

  17. silver gunner says:

    Been a while Yogi glad to see your still keeping up the good work for the arsenal masses that know how to read…..
    I am glad Arsenal have decided to come out of the dark ages and move like a modern premier league squad with a structure with not just one single point of failure.
    On initial evidence it looks like the management team have things under control, with Emery well into his 2nd year in his tenure I’ve got to say I’m not feeling with the same level of confidence and optimism I was feeling when he was appointed. However when I take a step back and look at the how Man U & Spurs are performing he might just do enough to scrape top four but is he the right man to take us forward?
    Does he have the back bone to make the correct choices about how to best utilise our playing squad. We still look hopeless in defensive transition, struggle to brake down well setup teams and often rely on individual brilliance to get us over the line.

    But on last nights game I was so happy to see Pepe get that free kick brace he was unlucky to have been taking off against Sheffield Utd on Monday as I thought he wasn’t the worst outfired player at the time. Lets hope he can kick on…

    On AMN its a shame we aren’t seeing the player we all know is in there in hindsight it was probably not a good idea to vocalise his unhappiness at being played out of position as now its all the more difficult for him with the added scrutiny.

    Martinelli is surely pushing hard to get more premier league minutes and for the life of me I want to see more of guendouzi, ceballos & torreira as our starting midfield. This fascination with playing Xhaka as the starting pivot in midfield must end asap, capt or not.

    Anyhow glad to see you are still keeping up the good work:)

  18. Blue Yonder says:

    A win is a win, and all that. But against a team of low standing like Vitoria, surely a more imaginative performance should have been produced?
    That said, there were positives besides the three points. Number one is Pepe’s brace, both for their brilliance and for the hope that this will really get his game going now. If that were all this game produced it would be enough.

  19. Fell says:

    We’ll get to the final of the Europa Cup only to be dicked by Sevilla, the football gods are a piss takig bunch

  20. captain senderos says:

    Brendan Rodgers is far better than Emery.. just look at how fearless Leicester City are playing like Arsenal teams of yesteryears…

  21. Noon Gunner says:

    captain senderos,

    Agreed. Watching them run rings around Soton I thought “Never mind the Spuds, success this season will be to finish ahead of Leicester.” We have the talent but probably not the manager.

  22. Bill says:


    You have been a Emery’s biggest supporter on the blog so you must believe in his judgement. You must have some theory. What do you think is the reason he has decided to drop ozil?

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