Joe Willock

Mikel Arteta
AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Mikel Arteta: Arsenal ‘on right path’ after FA Cup win

Leave a comment

Arsenal posted a comfortable-enough 2-0 win over Portsmouth in FA Cup action at Fratton Park on Monday, easing into the quarterfinals.

Manager Mikel Arteta and veteran David Luiz are happy with the progress but continue to plead for patience with the process.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“I’m really enjoying working with this group of players. It’s a process. I know everything has to be today or yesterday but in football it doesn’t happen like this. I’m seeing a lot of things I’m happy with but there is a lot of room to improve.”

It would be a major boon for Arsenal to collect a trophy so early in the Arteta era. The Gunners have claimed 13 FA Cups, more than anyone else in England. Manchester United is second with 12.

“There is a long way to go,” Arteta said. “But we’re on the right path. We’ll see what happens in the draw. We’ll keep going because we love this competition.”

Arsenal leader Luiz said the club is on the right track, especially given the fine performances from young players like Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.

The teens were joined by fellow youngsters Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, and Matteo Guendouzi in the Starting XI, and 22-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles came off the bench.

“We need to be humble and understand we are not there yet,” he said. “Tonight I was pleased with the team and the young boys, they have a great mentality and understand what is need at a high level. We need to be ready to react and understand football.”

Arsenal hosts West Ham United on Saturday.

Pepe stars, Arsenal crushes Newcastle

Leave a comment

Nicolas Pepe had a goal and two assists as Arsenal handled Newcastle United 4-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil scored the other goals as Arsenal moved into 10th place, seven points back of the top four.

It was a tale of two very different halves for Newcastle, who entered the day even with Arsenal on 31 points, and leaves it in 13th place. The Magpies were very good in the opening 45, and dismantled in the second stanza.


Three highlights

1. Arsenal defense finally approaching Leno’s level: There were moments for Newcastle’s tricky wide men, but Mikel Arteta‘s defense continued its improvement under his watch. Bernd Leno saved Arsenal’s lives on so many cases earlier in the season, and he’s finding life a lot easier as the Arteta era finds its footing.

2. Pepe powers Gunners attack: Nicolas Pepe entered the day leading Arsenal in assists and dribbles per game, and was second in key passes despite starting just 14 of his 21 appearances. Mikel Arteta trusted the Ivorian on Sunday, and boy did he deliver the goods in being involved in all four goals. But there’s so much more.

Pepe was credited with four key passes and three big chances created, winning 7 of 13 duels with an interception and two tackles. Three of his seven crosses were on target and he passed the ball at 83 percent.

3. Saka continues to impress: We’ve had to remind ourselves that Bukayo Saka is still just a teenager so many times this season. The 18-year-old burst onto the scene as a fun winger, but has become an able left back with incredible threat moving forward. The Gunners have a wealth of fine young players with promise. Imagine if they’ve found the boss to organize them.

Man of the Match: Pepe, with notes of appreciation for Saka, Saint-Maximin, and Aubameyang.


Arsenal held the ball for most of the first four minutes, but Joelinton drove past Shkrodan Mustafi to pick out Valentino Lazaro, whose shot was blocked for a corner.

Allan Saint-Maximin wanted a penalty call when fouled by Granit Xhaka, but neither Lee Mason not VAR thought it the case.

A training ground routine off a corner kick led to a Sean Longstaff rip from 25 yards, and Leno had to act quickly to stymy a deflected effort.

Joelinton then just missed a near-post chance after a bit of Saint-Maximin wizardry. The Frenchman soon drew a dangerous free kick that Longstaff sent into orbit.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The game was wide open, Bukayo Saka missing with an arrow meant for the upper 90 and Miguel Almiron wasting the end of a long, wonderful dribble.

Arsenal grew into the game and Eddie Nketiah looked more and more dangerous in tearing into a shot that Dubravka caught in the 38th. Dubravka then tipped a Nicolas Pepe free kick over the bar.

Saint-Maximin then dribbled the Arsenal team to push a pass through the six, but Joelinton was hobbled and didn’t follow the play.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Arsenal burst out of the halftime gates and Nicolas Pepe set up Nketiah for a point-blank chance cranked off the top of the crossbar.

Aubameyang pushed Arsenal onto the score sheet in the 54th minute, heading home from close range after a terrific Pepe cross.

Pepe got on the board soon after, the Ivorian star igniting the Gunners.

Ciaran Clark ripped a Saint-Maximin pass that was deflected out for a corner, and Saint-Maximin later smashed the far post with a shot from distance.

The third Arsenal goal was a Dubravka error. Ozil led a rush and spotted Pepe, who passed to Lacazette before Ozil pushed a clumsy shot to goal that defied Newcastle’s star keeper.

Pepe was back involved in the fourth, Joe Willock‘s incisive pass to the winger doing the heavy lifting en route to Lacazette’s finish.

Arteta praises Saka, Willock, speaks on transfers, Mustafi injury

Mikel Arteta
Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal’s day got a little dicey in stoppage time of a 2-1 win over Bournemouth in the FA Cup’s fourth round, but it was mostly very comfortable at the Vitality Stadium.

A lot of that comes down to Bukayo Saka‘s exceptional day on the left flank. The 18-year-old had a goal and an assist, and is proving a big part of Mikel Arteta‘s plans to return Arsenal to glory.

“Mikel is trying to bring back the philosophy of the Arsenal way,” Saka said after the win, via the BBC. “We did that well in the first half, not so much in the second half.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Saka took a lay-off from fellow teen Gabriel Martinelli to make it 1-0 in the fifth minute, then crossed for Eddie Nketiah‘s 26th-minute insurance goal.

A Sam Surridge stoppage-time marker for Bournemouth made an otherwise easy day feel a bit tricky at the end.

Arteta had praise for his youngsters, especially Saka and midfielder Joe Willock.

“They were terrific,” he said, via Football.London. “Their courage to play and make big decisions. I think Joe can be an outstanding player in that position.”

Saka came through the system as a left winger, but Arteta has asked him to help fill in at left back.

“What I like is that he put his head down and he is very willing to learn the defensive principles.”

Arteta also admitted that a Cup run would be great for the team, adding that Shkrodan Mustafi’s injury is a big cause for concern. He said the club has a clear plan for the rest of the transfer window, and that he wants Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay in London.

“We will have to assess him but normally it is not good,” he said of Mustafi. “We had a clear intention of what we want to do in the market and if we can do it, fine.”

Chelsea stun Arsenal with late comeback

Leave a comment

Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday as the Blues fought back from an early deficit and scored twice late on to seal a dramatic victory against their London rivals.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put Arsenal ahead early on but the Gunners couldn’t build on that goal as Frank Lampard changed Chelsea’s formation and subbed on Jorginho after 30 minutes. That worked a treat as Jorginho equalized and then Tammy Abraham popped up with the winner late on.

With their first comeback victory of the season Chelsea remain in fourth place on 35 points, while Arsenal stay in 12th on 24 points after suffering their fourth home defeat in a row, which is the first time that has happened since 1959.


3 things we learned

1. Lampard’s brave switch pays off: Lampard knew the 3-4-3 wasn’t working and he was brave enough to admit it. He hooked off Emerson and brought on Jorginho with only 30 minutes gone and Chelsea wrestled back control of the game. Lampard may not persist with 3-4-3 for much longer unless he can buy a quality left wing-back in January. This was a big call from the young manager and it swung the game in Chelsea’s favor.

2. Arsenal fade badly after strong start: The Gunners were dominant early on and should have been at least 2-0 up, but they couldn’t build on it. Mikel Arteta was unlucky with injuries as Chambers was forced off in the first half and Mustafi came on and struggled. Arsenal’s players were applauded off for their effort but that will be of little solace as their hopes of a top four finish look all but over after Bernd Leno‘s mistake and Mustafi’s poor positioning cost them dear.

3. Jorginho has huge, controversial impact: He came on in the first half and helped the Blues wrestle back control of the game but he could have been sent off in the second half. Jorginho picked up a yellow for a foul on Lacazette and should have had another. He then won a free kick cleverly and from that Leno’s mistake allowed him to equalize. Given the form of Kovacic and Kante, Jorginho has been the odd man out after a fine start to the season. Chelsea need the Italian midfielder back pulling the strings.

Man of the Match: N’Golo Kante – Helped Chelsea wrestle back control of the game and, as always, was everywhere. The Blues surged back and won the midfield battle and Kante had to be at his best to drive them on.


Arsenal came flying out of the traps and got their reward as they took the lead within the first 15 minutes.

A corner from the left was flicked on by Calum Chambers and Aubameyang reacted first to send home a diving header and make it 1-0.

It was all Arsenal early on as Ainsley Maitland-Niles played in Reiss Nelson who crossed into the box and Aubameyang set up Alexandre Lacazette but he couldn’t control the ball as N’Golo Kante arrived to clear.

Chambers was forced off with a knee injury as Skhodran Mustafi replaced him, as Chelsea improved the longer the first half went on and Lampard made an early tactical change as they switched from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3 with Emerson hooked off as Jorginho replaced him.

Matteo Guendouzi then appeared to pull Tammy Abraham down in the box but nothing was given and VAR wasn’t used to check the incident. Arsenal had a half chance just before the break but Aubameyang fired it into the side-netting as the Gunners were in control against their London rivals.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Kante had a low shot which flew wide at the start of the second half as Chelsea took the game to Arsenal in the second half.

A lengthy delay ensued after Antonio Rudiger and Mustafi clashed heads in the penalty box and the final stage of the games saw the Blues pin the Gunners back in pursuit of an equalizer.

David Luiz then blocked superbly as Abraham closed in on goal as Arsenal struggled to get out of their own half.

Abraham then sent a header straight at Bernd Leno as Chelsea wasted a good chance to equalize. Substitute Joe Willock then fired just wide as a glorious chance for Arsenal to wrap up the win came and went.

Chelsea then launched an incredible comeback as a free kick was missed by Leno and Jorginho tapped home to make it 1-1, and moments later it was 2-1 to the Blues.

Willian raced clear on the break and fed Abraham who turned and finished through Leno’s legs to make it 2-1 to the Blues as the away fans and Lampard went wild.

Lucas Torreira volleyed wide late on as Arsenal had a half chance to equalize but Chelsea held on to secure a big away win.

Bournemouth holds Arsenal on rain-drenched Boxing Day

Leave a comment

Arsenal was the more dangerous team on the day, but couldn’t find a second goal in a rain-drenched 1-1 with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Boxing Day.

Dan Gosling scored for the second-straight game as the Cherries again gained a result against a traditional London power.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang poked home an equalizer, but Mikel Arteta only saw a single point from his Arsenal managerial debut.

Bournemouth now sits 16th with 20 points, four behind 11th place Arsenal.


Three things we learned

1. Cherries get another big point: Bournemouth’s season has been disappointing, but Thursday saw another surprise from Eddie Howe‘s men. They were quite good versus Arsenal after beating Chelsea at the weekend, whereas the Cherries used to control the little guys and fail against the traditional powers.

Gosling is having a week, now with goals in a 1-0 win over Chelsea and 1-1 draw versus Arsenal.

2. Ozil suspect, and no Pepe, no party? Maybe Arsenal is trying to drive some sort of value into their German playmaker, but Mesut Ozil drew another start and was far from his best. He had played well in consecutive starts against bottom dwellers Saints and Norwich, but has struggled to impact the game since. Fair play on four key passes, but Ozil didn’t threaten the goal himself and failed in his only dribble attempt. He was replaced by Joe Willock in the 75th minute.

This leads us to another player he helped keep on the bench (until the 82nd minute). I can only imagine that one day we’ll learn that Nicolas Pepe hides all the toilet paper at the training ground and puts toothpaste in the salad dressing or something. Mikel Arteta has now joined Freddie Ljungberg and Unai Emery in keeping the dynamic playmaker out of the Starting XI.

3. Xhaka rewards faith of new boss: Mikel Arteta used his first pre-match presser as Arsenal boss to speak of his admiration for Granit Xhaka. Arteta said he wanted the midfielder at Man City, and the Swiss big man was strong in the center of the park. Xhaka completed 11 of 12 long balls and passed at 93 percent, paired with Lucas Torreira at the back of the midfield.

Man of the Match: Jack Stacey had a nice match at right back in the rain, just edging Xhaka.


There is no question Arsenal was the better side over the first half-hour, but the Gunners defense let them down again.

Stacey wound up deep in the Arsenal box and cut back into a sea of players, Gosling’s foot the first to the ball.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Aubameyang found the equalizer in the 64th minute, starting and finishing a play after Reiss Nelson‘s shot was deflected onto his path.

The rains grew heavier and Lacazette was deprived a goal from a nice David Luiz set-up.