Daylight robbery. Te He. Undeserved and much appreciated. It’s games like this that make me pine for the international break. If only the game could have been shortened to 20 minutes.
The obvious observations will all revolve around comparisons between The_Man_From_Sengal_He_Played_For_Arsenal versus Arteta. One who’s been in their role for 3 months versus 22 months. So I’m sure everyone will pile onto how Arteta is not that man. How after every bright, uplifting performance we then hit the breaks with a performance such as these. That’s a cheap, easy comparison. And this site is nothing if not cheap and easy. So here goes. Come back in a year. Then we can assess the job Arteta has done. Today he was let down by his backbone. Partey and White undid Arteta. With a little help from Tomi. Three players that are key to this team – it’s backbone – each making mistakes. But he was also let down by his selection and balance. Or lack of balance. As soon as you see Saka on the left. And also Odergaard with ESR on the right then I knew this would be an unbalanced performance.
At least it changed at half-time. But it had to. Saka is wasted on the left. And Pep is a waste. I know he set up the Aubameyang goal but aside from that he provided no protection for Tomi. He remains such a luxury. One we can’t afford to carry. Not that he was the key to the result. That was Artetas system and tactics. Another game where he would have learned what works and does not. Our_Man_From_Senegal has managed three teams (at least) over a 5 year period. He has experience in this role. Arteta does not. And again, today, it showed. Partey was too exposed. Sambi should have started. Pepe should be playing in France somewhere – anywhere. Having said that we started well. And Aubameyang’s goal was that of a quintessential striker. A natural born poacher. In fact, this was one of the most energetic performance I’ve seen from him this year. He worked hard through – it’s just a shame we lacked creativity and starved him of the ball.
And them then on it was down into the abyss. Again, this was driven by the imbalance in the team. And Palace are not too shabby. They played a decent game and worked their way back into the match. Too often we were overwhelmed in mid-field. It felt like a role reversal from the NLD when we overwhelmed that rotten lot from up the road because they only have their #5 (the ugly Danish Bacon guy) providing defensive cover. We switched to their tactics – no wonder it did not work out.
The change at half-time was necessary but it should have been Pepe consigned to the bench though I’m sure the continuous fouling of Saka contributed. Dean was his usual inconsistent self, booking Saka after a single foul but letting McThug from Palace commit 4 foul before belatedly booking him for smashing into Saka’s leg.
It’s a shame that Sambi turned the ball over – more experience for him I suppose – to set up their goal. And White should have been tighter. And Partey paid homage to The_Man_From_Senegal by being caught on the ball – I remember that happening quite frequently in his playing days – to set up their other goal. For none of these would I blame Ramsdale. Again, his distribution and presence was re-assuring and comforting.
I am a little worried about Tierney though. He seems to have evolved into backwards and sideways Tierney. It’s as though someone has removed a few forward gears. Maybe it’s because he prefers ESR in front of him. But he’s lost his mojo. Though his cracking shot off the bar that narrowly missed Cigarette was breathtaking. Speaking of which, what a great substitution. Only with him did we become more creative. We had a focal point. Of course it helped that The_Man_From_Senegal retreated to a five man defense and ceded their pressing game. I’m convinced without that tactical blunder they would have grabbed all three points. So as people argue for a change in manager they should remember that. But again, these managers are learning on the job – some more than others.
We escaped by the skin off our teeth (not that I’m sure that’s a real saying – I don’t think teeth have any skin. But I digress). In prior seasons we’d have lost this game. Gaining a point from being 2-1 down in overtime is an achievement. But this was Palace. That tells you were we are as a team. Hopefully Villa will be a step forward after this step backwards.
We have to sort out our tactics and selection. It’s clear that the lack of Xhaka is impeding this team. Partey needs a partner. You can’t Partey by yourself. And that should be Sambi. Put Saka back on the right wing and put ESR on the left hand side. Then put some energy and urgency back into this team. We had it for ½ have in the NLD and for 20 minutes today (and maybe the last 10 as well).
We are a mid-table team with a team built at great expense. Some are young – Sambi, White – so mistakes will be made. And we will end the season as a mid-table team. Maybe 8th or 7th. It’s a long season. I can see us drawing or losing our next two games. We lack consistency. But I don’t see that changing too soon. So strap yourself in. Remember to thank the gods for the daylight robbery today. At least you can’t consider us an unlucky team. And remember the relief you felt when Cigarette extinguished The_Man_from_Senegal.