Man U v Arsenal: who is running the show these days for Arsenal?

By Bulldog Drummond

While there is a huge amount of focus on the ever rising talents of Saka and Smith Rowe, even to the extent that some are even saying they are “running the show,” there is a case to be made for two other players to be noted as the revelations of this season: Nuno Tavares and Takehiro Tomiyasu. 

Indeed even the negative Daily Mirror is having a little rave about them.

And if they are right (and watching the home games I would think there is something in what they say) this comes at a good time as we’ve not heard if Saka is going to be fit to play against Man U.

The Mirror’s point is that Tavares “set up Saka for the opener, before Tomiyasu got his first assist with a delightful ball over the top for Martinelli to finish.”

Certainly Tavares replacing Tierney (even though Tierney is fit again) has been a surprise, but a very welcome one given the regularity with which Tierney gets injured.   Although of course it could be the manager simply thinks Tierney needs as long as possible to get fully fit to stop yet another injury coming along as soon as he starts playing again.

The point about both players is that they seem to have endless energy which means that notion of the overlapping on the wing by the full backs – who then still have the stamina to race back and get into defensive positions when needed – is a fantastic bonus.

And credit where it is due, the Mirror does make the point that one can compare the way the full backs are developing with the way “Guardiola uses Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker at Man City”.  But I think it is also worth remembering how Tierney plays – with him on the left the back four often becomes a back three, as he is always edging up the field when there is an opportunity.

What is also notable, I think, is the way the defence is now operating.  Although it is quite true that Liverpool’s “let’s surprise them by upping the level of fouling” approach did completely take the defence by surprise, the rest of the time we have been more solid than ever at the back.  The last five games have involved four in which we have not surrendered a single goal.

Date Match Result Score Competition
26 Oct 2021 Arsenal v Leeds United W 2-0 League Cup
30 Oct 2021 Leicester City v Arsenal W 0-2 Premier League
07 Nov 2021 Arsenal v Watford W 1-0 Premier League
20 Nov 2021 Liverpool v Arsenal L 4-0 Premier League
27 Nov 2021 Arsenal v Newcastle United W 2-0 Premier League

So the defence is looking sound, but that leaves the question of “Where do the goals come from?”

One thing to note is that this is turning into an odd sort of season.  The Athletic, for example, make the interesting point, citing Opta statistics, that only eleven players in the Premier League “have managed five or more goals so far. This is a very low figure, considering the number of players to have scored 5+ goals after 13 matchdays in the previous three seasons was 14 last year, 17 in 2019-20 and 21 in 2018-19.”

And they go on to point out the across the entire history of the Premier League “this is the second-lowest number of players to have scored five or more goals after 13 matchdays.”

Of the eleven players who have managed five or more goals in the first third of the season, three are from Liverpool and three are from Watford.  Which suggests that having players who knock in five or more goals in a third of the season isn’t a guarantee of success.  Although it is always helpful!

We’ve looked at our goalscorers before, and it is worth noting again the rise of Smith Rowe…

Player number Player Games Goals Percentage goals per game
14 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 12 7 58.3%
10 Emile Smith Rowe 13 5 38.5%
9 Alexandre Lacazette 5 3 60%
7 Bukayo Saka 13 3 23%
30 Eddie Nketiah 2 2 100%
21 Calum Chambers 3 1 33.33%
6 Gabriel 10 1 10%
35 Gabriel Martinelli 4 1 25%
8 Martin Odegaard 8 1 12.5%
5 Thomas Partey 9 1 11.11%
19 Nicolas Pépé 7 1 14.29%

The Smith Rowe transformation is particularly welcome but we should also note that Lacazette can still knock them in when given a chance – and he has the second highest percentage.

But we are 13th in the league table organised by goals scored, so this really does need to improve, and a lot of us will be hoping that Martinelli has regained his goal scoring ability.   He has scored 13 goals for Arsenal in all competitions, so he can do it, and let’s hope he is now really ready to take on the Premier League.

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