Tag Archives: Danny Welbeck

Brighton Preview: they're droppin' like flies over there…

The nay-sayers will point out to you that we’ve only won twice in ten outings against Brighton, including a 1-3 loss in the League Cup back in November. That match does stand out as one in which Arteta got it wrong, not so much in fielding a heavily rotated side (only Saliba and Tierney started among a bunch of back-benchers) but in panicking late on, throwing on Martinelli and then Big Gabi and Zinchenko and Jesus and finally Xhaka in what looked like an increasingly desperate grasping at straws. Arteta may have learned from Pep that it’s imperative to fight for each trophy, but if he had wanted to win, he would have started as we finished. Ah, well. Water under a bridge or off a duck’s back. This is the Prem, a competition we know not to take lightly…even if our hosts will be lacking key players.

Since coming on back in September, Roberto De Zerbi has struggled to make his mark seeing Brighton to slipping from fourth place on matchday seven to their current seventh-place status. Things don’t get any easier, given the hand he’s been dealt (or the cards the referees have dealt…). In addition to missing Alexis Mac Allister due to his participation in the World Cup, De Zerbi may be without Danny Welbeck but will definitely be without Moisés Caicedo, who picked up his fifth yellow card against Southampton and will serve the subsequent one-match ban on Saturday Further shortening his bench will injuries to Jakub Moder and Adam Webster (Moder hasn’t played yet this season, so his absence matters somewhat less than Webster’s. In Webster’s absence, De Zerbi has had to rely on the 19 year old CB Levi Colwill, who has acquitted himself quite well so far in his five starts. To circle back, though, we should know better than to underestimate this squad given that they’ve been a bit of a bogey side for us over the last few years.

As for us, a lot of eyes will again be on Eddie Nketiah to see if his performance against West Ham was a one-off, as many of his critics will loudly proclaim; or if he can build on that. TO be frank, I don’t understand why so many of us deride Nketiah. He may not be Hale End, but he’s been here a while, he’s worked hard, and he’s gotten better and better. Is he good enough for our ambitions? No, not yet, but it’s not his fault that the injury to Jesus has thrust him front and center so suddenly. As I alluded to in yesterday’s post, we may not need a dominant, prolific, goal-scoring striker when the chances and assists and goals are coming from all directions. Heck, even the healthy Jesus was part of that attack-by-committee before going down. Nketiah did show against West Ham (as he’s shown in previous starts) that he is comfortable being more than a traditional big man in the middle, moving off the ball and across the front three to exchange positions with his mates to stretch defenses and create openings. That said, I really do hope he bags a brace or more, not just for the result but also for his development and, last but not least, to offer up a few more servings of humble pie or crow or their own words for his critics to eat.

He wears the shirt. He works. He presses. Heck, he scores. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, and so I struggle to understand why so many still lambast him.Much as I understand that players sometimes use criticism to get themselves fired up, I’m not foolish enough to believe that this is what motivates the critics. They have axes to grind and evidence to cherry-pick. Let them talk. I’m sure (okay, more like hopeful) that Nketiah will walk the walk.

My prediction: Brighton 0-2 Arsenal. Both goals from Nketiah. I’m feeling sassy. What say you?

It's Giroud's fault we didn't win the Prem in 2016.Really? Hmmm…

The moment when it seemed to come together…

One of the more-pernicious myths out there is that it was Olivier Giroud’s fault that we failed to win the 2015-16 Prem title. Giroud was and remains a convenient scapegoat; after all, he did fail to score in fifteen consecutive matches from January to May as we slumped to a second place finish behind Leicester. In a year in which 81 points was enough to win the Prem, we finished on…71. Surely, a striker who scored just 16 goals all season deserves the brunt of the blame, if not all of it? With the international break upon us, let’s revisit this hoary old cliche.

Let’s get one thing clear here. Giroud was only ever a decent striker, not nearly good enough to elevate our squad to win a title even in a season in which so many other clubs faltered. Like many players, he was not as bad as his critics insisted and not as good as his defenders maintained. Scapegoating someone is easy, convenient, and efficient..and frequently inaccurate. In Giroud’s defense, he was our only fit striker for most of the season. Welbeck would miss most of the season after knee surgery, and Sanogo was clearly not ready for prime time (Prem time? Nah…). Giroud therefore logged heavy minutes for across the Prem, Champions League (sigh…), FA Cup, and even the League Cup after having done the same in a busy summer for France at Euro 2016 and in international friendlies during the 2015-16 campaign. Simply put, the man got run into the ground, and the real wonder is how he finished the season without collapsing.

So, yes, he suffered a goal drought—but, of those fifteen matches, he only played more than 25 minutes eight times because Welbeck was finally fit. He became the de facto starter and Giroud went to the bench. it might have been nice for Giroud to play the role of super-sub, coming on late to exploit weakened defenders, but he could only do that if others around him could create the chances. 

This was the season in which Mesut Özil offered 15 assists in our first 19 matches, only to finish with 19. Maybe Özil didn’t feel it was right to match or break Henry’s record of 20? I think we might have forgiven him if it had lead to us winning the Prem. However, he’s not the only one who faltered. 

Aaron Ramsey, just two years removed from that scintillating 10-goal, 9 assist season, reverted to a milder form, offering just five goals and four assists. The current squad includes two players who have already surpassed that goals contribution: Jesus (five goals, five assists) and Saka (four goals, six assists). It’s looking like Ødegaard, Martinelli, and Xhaka will all overtake Ramsey’s total as well, and we’ve only played 14 matches.

On to Theo Walcott. Walcott only chipped in with five goals and three assists, with just two goals and no assists at all from Boxing Day to the end of the season. That’s eighteen matches for a man who always wanted to play through the middle to show that he could. He, like Ramsey and Özil, failed to raise their games as Giroud wilted and Welbeck struggled to fill his boots.

In the end, it was only Alexis Sánchez who seemed both willing and able to rise to the occasion, doing his level-best to drag this squad, kicking and screaming, towards the top of the table. Seven of his 13 goals and three of his five assists came in the last ten matches of the season. Most of them either saved or secured points for us, but it was clearly not enough.

None of this absolves Giroud of his own failings. However, it should offer enough context to lend a little more nuance to the legacy of that season. Did Giroud fail? Yes. Did others around him fail as well? Yes, clearly. I’ll spare you the tired bromides about it taking a team to win the title.

There are plenty of other reasons to scorn the buteur du charme, such as his taunting of Arsenal after he won the Europa League with Chelsea, but singling him out as the reason for our failure to win the Prem misses the mark. Anyone still willing to insist that it was Giroud’s fault should feel free to let me have it with both barrels. Bring it on.

Arsenal 1-3 Brighton—Highlight clips as they become available

With the match unavailable anywhere (thanks, ESPN+), I’ll scour social media to post match highlights as fast as I can find them.

Sigh. It seems that Arteta either doesn’t rate the League Cup or figured a rotated side could still get the result. Oh well. Fewer matches to wear us down in pursuit of a trophy that is not all that impressive. On to the next match, then.


Sporting Lisbon 0-1 Arsenal—Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

After 75 dour, depressing minutes in which it looked like our Portuguese hosts looked perfectly
content to settle for a point and stay level in Group E, Danny Welbeck burst through the back of the defense to run onto a through-ball, back-heel flicked ahead by Aubameyang, and finished with cool, clinical efficiency to earn us a our eleventh victory in a row. No, it wasn’t pretty, but this is: WWWWWWWWWWW.
We’re alone atop Group E, and we’ve shown that we can ground out a result just as well as we can run roughshod over an opponent. Nice. Let’s get to the poll!

Arsenal 3-1 Brentford—Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

A surprisingly strong Arsenal squad full of first-teamers, with only Smith Rowe breaking in, looked likely to overwhelm Brentford, especially as Danny Welbeck scored two first-half goals from assists by Guendouzi and Monreal. However, a fine free-kick brought Brentford back into the game and it got a littler nervy. The late introductions of Ramsey and Lacazette that we might press for another goal, but neither could find the final touch. Then, finally, Lacazette was able to pounce on a loose ball, emerge from the scramble, and score the goal that settled any doubts as to the outcome. Well, we’re through to the next round, more than can be said of Man U or Liverpool. Let’s get to the poll!