Discover more from Cannon Stats
Things on my mind: Monday morning edition
What’s next for Arsenal after a flat NLD?
I’ve decided to take a hiatus from Twitter, the land of 10,000 unhappy hot takes, so I’m taking to substack this morning with some of the things I might normally dedicate 280 characters or less to. Here are my assorted thoughts mid-hangover from a real no-show in the North London Derby:
That really wasn’t a good game. Arsenal had a lot going against them, like fitness, in-game injury and what I thought was ultimately a poor showing from Mikel Arteta, but the main culprit in my mind was that a number of players just had “no-show” type of performances, which do happen. Unfortunately Martin Ødegaard, Fábio Vieira, Eddie Nketiah, David Raya and William Saliba all dropped games I thought were less than their best (Saliba’s was more on the ball; I thought he defended well).
I’ve written in this space before about how skittish Arsenal fans are about injuries, and it’s not going to get any better this week. Declan Rice’s back is likely to be a major focus of the fan base, and anything more than a game or two missed is terrible luck. I simply don’t have the information to say with any certainty that Arsenal’s injuries are anything more than that terrible luck (combined with injury proneness in Partey’s case). Arteta didn’t select his UCL team any differently than any other manager would have.
The attack has looked meek at times this season, with plenty of territorial dominance but a general lack of incision. I’ve seen a lot of eulogizing over Arteta-ball but I do think it’s still a little early at this point. I also need to see the lineup that was intended to play this style; we still have yet to get a Nelli-Saka-Jesus game from the start, and Jesus has looked … useful. As he would say, he brings the streets to the pitch and is simply one of the best players in the league.
Cannon Stats is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Speaking of above, the striker discourse is broken. The declarations regarding Eddie Nketiah have been over-the-top since full-time. Yes, he had a poor day (and has other poor days). But he is a backup option who’s been forced into starts due to injury, and yet the talk is about him not being a “title-charge striker.” Of course he’s not, and I’m not sure why that’s the standard. Maybe Arsenal will sign Ivan Toney, who’s got slightly more goals from open play in the league than Nketiah, but he would instantly become the best or second-best striker option who’s not an automatic start in the league, if not the world. It took City the better part of a decade to create the efficiencies they benefit from today, and yet Arsenal are expected to turn over both the first and second strings in a matter of 4-5 windows, which doesn’t make sense to me. Meantime, Nketiah has been largely good this season in spot starts, has 11 goals in 22 starts the last three seasons, and won’t start once the side regains fitness. To be unbeaten at this point is in part a testament to him, considering he’s helped win games on his own (or put them in position to win, in Fulham’s case).
I tweeted about this yesterday, but I’m extremely frustrated at the state of football fan discourse in general. Social media is partly to blame for that, since it creates an echo chamber of unhappiness, but Manchester City is, too. The result is a league where you’re either demanding perfection or defending incompetence in the eyes of many. As we’ve seen to start this season, those expectations are suffocating and take a lot of the joy out of the game. Arsenal are a point worse off than the same point last season, but you really wouldn’t know it. Maybe Arsenal simply won’t challenge for the title this season, but the standard is on Mars in recent years, to say the least. Case in point: The Invincibles wouldn’t have beaten City on points in 3 of their last 5 title seasons. Klopp’s Liverpool have three of the best 12 or 13 seasons in league history, and one title to show for it. This simply isn’t normal, and it has degraded the league and its competitiveness. I won’t deign to tell you how to feel as a fan but I really try to manage my expectations by seeking what I feel is the best possible outcome from my club. I’m not sure the “Arsenal have to beat City or fail” crowd will ever be happy.
Looking ahead, Brentford strikes me as a match Arsenal very well could lose, and honestly I’m ok with that. The league cup is an afterthought, and the squad is in tough shape, so I wouldn’t prioritize it right now. I’m hoping we get the likes of Smith Rowe, Nketiah, Kiwior, Jorginho and Reiss Nelson for most of the game. I’ve seen shouts for youth players as well, and while I think there’s an outside chance Reuell Walters could play, I’d never bet against Arteta going stronger than online fans are hoping.
Bournemouth on the weekend will be a match with puffed-up stakes, in my opinion. I expect the standard to be a multi-goal win and clean sheet for many fans, but if we’re as short handed as I think we might be, I’ll mostly focus on surviving and advancing.
That was a lot of thoughts! I could probably go on, but I’ll spare you. As always, thanks for reading and subscribing, feel free to leave comments! See you around.