What a match, what a performance – and what a team. If you didn’t believe before yesterdays game, you might have after Reiss Nelson’s dramatic winner.
Yesterday was a rollercoaster of emotions, full of ups and downs, but here are 5 things we learned from that game:
1. Reiss Nelson is Arsenal’s Divock Origi
Every winning team needs that player in the squad who for whatever reason, produces moments of magic when needed. And for Arsenal, it’s Reiss Nelson.
He’s hardly featured for us this season, but that’s because he’s struggled with thigh injuries. But in the games he’s played in, he’s produced.
He came on against Nottingham Forest on 27 minutes when Bukayo Saka came off injured and scored twice and assisted once in a 5-0 win.
He assisted Ben White’s first goal for Arsenal (and our equaliser) before scoring that massively important winner on 97 minutes.
He’s played 85 Premier League minutes and produced 5 goal contributions! Talk about impact.
2. Arsenal’s backup players aren’t good enough
Yesterday was a huge result for Arsenal, and there’s nothing like a last gasp winner to take all 3 points. But I have to inject a (small) dose of perspective. The bottom line is we were 2-0 down and it could have been more if Aaron Ramsdale wasn’t in top form.
In terms of changes to our starting line up there were 2 main ones – we had Takehiro Tomiyasu come in for Ben White, and Fabio Vieira came in for Granit Xhaka.
I love Tomiyasu, I really do but Ben White has been simply outstanding and while both players are excellent defensively, Benny Blanco really adds another attacking dimension when he plays – his interchanges with Saka have been a staple for our success on the right hand side this season.
Football is about rhythm and Tomiyasu hasn’t been in the team enough to be able to just replace Ben White without ramifications. Against Manchester City I thought it was a mistake to start him and he ended up making the mistake for City’s first goal.
If Arsenal want to keep winning, they need to keep starting Ben White.
Then we have Fabio Vieira. Arteta clearly backs him, but while he’s a skilful player he’s not at the level Granit Xhaka is. Xhaka is a leader on the pitch and has hugely influenced games this season. He also has excellent link up play with Zinchenko, Partey and Odegaard.
I’m sure Vieira will prove to be an excellent signing for Arsenal in the future, I’m not sure throwing him into games in the business end of the season is the way to do it.
3. Martin Odegaard must stay on corner duties
When Arsenal have corners from the right side, it’s either Bukayo Saka or Martin Odegaard who takes them. But yesterday, when Odegaard took them the majority of the deliveries were excellent. He sent in a great delivery when we should have had a penalty (one of many) and he put it in a great place which ended up being headed out for Reiss Nelson’s last minute stunner.
4. Aaron Ramsdale is England’s best goalkeeper
I’m not sure how this guy isn’t England’s Number 1 yet. In so many games this season, when it’s been 0-0 or we’ve been behind, he’s made a massive save. He did it against Aston Villa when it was 2-2, and he did it yesterday when we were 1-0 down. He consistently pulls of huge saves which have ended up with Arsenal winning matches.
I don’t know what else he needs to do to start for England as he has been absolutely sensation this season and is one of the reasons we’re still 5 points clear of Manchester City.
5. The mentality of this team is outrageous
Every team suffers a blip this season and we had it when we lost against Everton, drew against Brentford and then lost again against Manchester City. But at Aston Villa when it looked like we’d leave Villa Park with a 2-2 draw, Jorginho pulled a rabbit out of the hat, and yesterday we all know what Reiss Nelson did.
Whatever the score, and whatever the situation, this team keep going right to the end. No-one’s heads go down, no-one sulks or moans – these players are mentally monsters and never, ever give up. The mentality Arteta has instilled in this young side is nothing short of miraculous.
Could you see Aubameyang fight to the end? We’ve got rid of players who only care about the money and flash cars, and now have a squad of players who will fight for each other, fight for the club and fight for the fans. And never give up.
I honestly haven’t seen mentality like this since The Invincibles team.