February 6 – Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 0

Long-term. Perspective. Breath. Calm down now. Two losses in a row. But I’d prefer to pick out the aspects that I like. In fact, that includes that previous defeat as well. In both cases we demonstrated we know how to play. This little period is unlike the prior losing streak. Even though this could continue. We seem to run out of luck. And we have Willian.

So many parts today (and against Wolves) were good. The quality of our football was there to see. Sure, because of their lead, Villa sat back and tried to hit us on the rebound. I can’t blame them for that. And Grealish is a player. Unfortunately.

But that opening goal was abysmal. We finally got rid of Kolinsac. And Mustafi. And then Cedric makes the type of pass that Kolinsac that made to David Luis against Sp*rs last year. Then they had the luck to get a nasty deflection of Handsome Holding. And poor old Ryan has to pick the ball out of the next before he’s even touched the ball. This was all Cedric. Oh where are you Tierney. I fear he’s in the same place that we’ll now find Partey.

Xhaka is a different player with Partey there. But I fear we’ll lose Partey again for another month. What is up with his hamstrings? When he was at Athletico, I believe, he did not have any injuries. The good news is that he fits out team perfectly. He makes us so much better. And, just maybe, Edu can find another player like this – but just less injury prone.

And the new MO. He looks like a player. In fact, he looks a little Ozil like with his incisive passing. Two great additions to this team. Of course, that’s offset by the addition of Willian. As much as I’ve tried to defend him and counselled patience, he really is a disaster. He has no confidence and limited ability. When he receives the ball he invariably goes backwards or sideways.

Saka, yet again, was fantastic. But, where is the outcry about the number of times he’s targets for systematic fouling. Any English player with this ability would normally cause the media to argue that this type of talent should be protected. He was continually fouled today. One day he will pick up an injury that will keep him out for months. So, where is this outcry? I can’t hear it. Could it possible be because though he’s English he’s not, you know, how do I say this. Oh, I know. He’s BLACK. Is it possible that there’s just a little piece of racism here. He’s not a great white hope for England so no-one cares about the systematic fouling he’s subject to? Anyway, this boy is such a pleasure to watch. He grows from game to game. Soon, surely, he will be playing for England. And, maybe then, referees will provide him with the protection he deserves.

And what about Pepe? Well, I was wrong. He is better than Willian. Even adjusted for his transfer fee. After his brilliant goal against Wolves, he became more of a threat today as the game progressed. Like most of the team, he was quiet in the first half but genuinely threatening in the second half. It’s a shame that we lost Partey. Because when Saka and Pepe where on the same side of the pitch Villa were torn apart. We had a few chances but nothing that clearcut. They also had chances but Ryan is no Runnyson and was able to deflect their attempts. And then we saw Aubameyang come on. But he was anonymous. With Pepe and Saka I’m not even sure where he fits. But with ESR and MO we have genuine creativity. Even if we also have poor old Hector unable to make simple passes.

Xhaka moved the ball well. He and Partey bottled up their midfield. Partey is so smooth on the ball and quick to distribute. I fear how this midfield will look without him. He provides Xhaka with the time to wander around our backline and protect them when they move forward. But we have no equivalent replacement.

A long time ago I gave up on this year. Liverpool missed out on Europe early on in the Klopp era. As did Chelski during one of their many changes in manager. We are not good enough to get into the Champions League. I don’t even see how we’ll make the top 6. But I’m resigned to that. This, and next year, are there for Arteta to re-build this team. And we can see how that it progressing. That first 45 minutes against Wolves was domineering. And towards the end of todays game you could also see the shape and style of our future team. We have managed to dispose of so many of our unappealing acquisitions and poor investments – Mustafi, Ozil and Kolinsac. And we don’t have to worry about Willock. Phew. But I’d like to have kept AMN. Without Partey we could have used him. Elneny, poor thing, is not up to the job. And Ceballos has gone all injured.

Missing out on Europe next year will give these key players more time to rest between games. It will hit our finances. But, they are already requiring the deep pockets of the Kroenkes’. So they’ll have no choice but to pony up more money. That’s the problem when you’re the sole owner. But we have the right manager. And he’s making the right progress. There will inevitably be bad games, and bad results. That’s only to be expected. And this year, of all years, have shown us the vagaries of the results. Look at a real team – like Liverpool – and how their performances oscillate from one game to the next. They lost 7-2 to Villa. They destroyed Sp*rs and then lose at home to Burnley and Brighton. How very Arsenal of them. And ManU. There are so many examples. It’s because the fixtures give little or not time to allow for recovery. And if your team is highly dependent on one or two players or does not have the depth of coverage then you’re going to be exposed in such a tight fixture schedule as this. And we have both of those situations.

So I’m able to rationalize defeats like today by looking to the future. We have the right manager. And we have some genuine talent in this team. We can build around Saka, ESR, Partey, , Leno, Tierney, Holding and, yes, Pepe. That’s nearly an entire team of real ability. This last transfer window showed that the club (i.e. Edu and Arteta) know what’s wrong with this squad and know what players have to be moved on. And, with Partey and the new MO, they also have an eye for the players we do need.

So, sure, we lost. And I worry about losing Partey to yet another injury. And I hate losing three points. But we are going in the right direction. And I have faith. And I look at those muppets that lost to Liverpool and then Brighton. Now that is a team in trouble. And that’s what happens when you put your faith in Darth Vader.

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