Tierney’s switch of roles
It might seem strange to think that if Kieran Tierney hadn’t played in three games for Arsenal last season, the team probably would have lost all three. The Scottish international missed most of preseason because of an injury, and he was out of the starting lineup for all three of the Gunners’ first games. However, with the arrival of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Arsenal were able to deal with this, which was not the case in previous years.
But when word got out just before the game started that the Ukraine international would not be playing because of a sprained knee, questions started to be asked. They might not have been upset about how well Zinchenko’s replacement was doing. Tierney has been one of Arsenal’s most important players for years, and his absence at the end of last season may have been what kept them from making the Champions League.
But compared to what Tierney used to do, Zinchenko’s take on the left back role is like night and day. The former Celtic player was a traditional full back who ran to the sideline and tried to cross the ball every time. Zinchenko, on the other hand, was a number 10 with a strong sense of teamwork who had been brought in to be an important part of Arsenal’s buildup.
So, when Tierney joined the team, it was thought that Arsenal would change some of their strategies to fit a player who was very different from the rest of the team. Granit Xhaka had been playing a box-to-box role that was aggressively offensive, but with Tierney on the team, he would probably go back to the more defensive role he had played for much of Mikel Arteta’s first year in charge.
But as the game went on, it was clear that Tierney was being asked to play a role that was very different from what he was used to. The 24-year-old spent most of his time in the middle of the field trying to be an extra pass option instead of helping the attack. In fact, Tierney was almost right in front of Gabriel when Gabriel made the mistake that led to the goal (more on that later). This was because Tierney had been asked to play the opposite role of Gabriel.
Even though Zinchenko is a left back, he has changed the way Arsenal build from the back and take control of games. It looks like Tierney won’t be able to do this against Fulham based on how things are going so far. We don’t know if Arteta will try to change his game plan for Wednesday’s game against Aston Villa to take that into account.
Arsenal wins because of how well they know each other.
Last season, Arsenal’s inability to come back from behind was a common theme that the Gunners never managed to rise above. Only Norwich had a worse record in the Premier League than Mikel Arteta’s team in 2021/22 after falling behind. They only got four points.
Arsenal has had a great start to the season, but if there’s one thing that can be said about them, it’s that they haven’t had to deal with any tough times yet. But when Aleksandar Mitrovic gave Fulham the lead, the Gunners were in a situation that could have made them think back to last year.
This was a lot like Arsenal’s only win from behind last season, which was against Wolves after Gabriel made a terrible mistake that gave the other team the lead. This time, though, after cheering on William Saliba when he scored an own goal against Leicester, the crowd at the Emirates stood up to cheer on their other center back.
The Brazilian scored the game-winning goal to prove himself right, but it was clear that the 60,000 people in the stadium would have supported him no matter what. Martin Odegaard showed this when he scored the equalizer and ran right over to Gabriel to celebrate.
In his press conference after the game, Mikel Arteta talked about what was different from last season. He said that his team was more mature and had a better relationship with their fans, which helped them win.
He said, “We’ve grown up.” “We have more options, and I think we have also grown up. Playing in front of these fans helps because they also push you, and then it’s just a matter of having faith. A big part of that is believing you can do it, and now we have that.”
At the Emirates, the mood was electric all afternoon and into the early evening, and that wasn’t by chance. Even though people on the outside might criticize the happy scenes after the final whistle, there is no doubt that the better relationship between the players and the fans has given Arsenal the extra push they needed to stay at the top of the Premier League.
Arsenal comes up with a plan B.
Eddie Nketiah was the only player who looked like he had a full bar when he walked onto the field. This is because he has a lot of close friends. By Mikel Arteta’s standards, the 23-year-old was put in the game pretty early on, and he definitely made a difference.
Up front, Arsenal had been a bit slow and predictable, but Nketiah added a level of chaos that Fulham had trouble dealing with. His running in behind caused his former teammate Bernd Leno a lot of problems that he wasn’t used to having early in the game. If he had been willing to take Martin Odegaard’s lovely floated ball on his head first time, the England under-21 international might have been the hero of the day.
But it’s clear that Nketiah can change the game if he needs to. In past seasons, Hale Enders’ cameos seemed either too eager to impress or not physically ready to make a difference. Nketiah, on the other hand, now looks like a player who can make a difference off the bench.
This is not a coincidence by itself. If you go back to preseason, you’ll see that Arteta wanted to try out playing Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus together to find a different way for his team to attack.
Arteta said of his two number nines, “They have everything we need.” “First of all, both of them are very strong. The way they can press and keep pressure on the other team is great. Both of them can be dangerous from behind, which can give people room inside. They work well together and both have a good eye for the goal, which is what nines do. But they aren’t 195cm, they have other qualities. But they are great for the way we play.”
Last season, Arsenal’s team wasn’t very deep, which was a problem. If they had more players, they might have been more worried about the quick turnaround from Wednesday to Saturday instead of the tough schedule from Thursday to Sunday. But with Nketiah as their best option for taking control of tough situations in football games, the Gunners look like they are once again ready to handle the inevitable problems this season will bring.
Odegaard is as good as his armband.
After his first two games of the season, in which he didn’t do much to stand out, the jury was strangely still out on Martin Odegaard. Many Arsenal fans were worried that he wasn’t doing much, but his two goals against Bournemouth put those worries to rest. Now that he had that performance under his belt, Odegaard looked like he could do just about anything against Fulham.
It’s a well-known story that the 23-year-old is happy to finally be one of the main men after spending most of his early club career moving around a lot. On Saturday, though, we saw that come true in a big way.
Odegaard made it clear early on that he didn’t care about anything other than getting three points from this game. In the first half, the rest of Arsenal didn’t do much, but the former Real Madrid player could be seen yelling at William Saliba to get out of defense and getting his team in place after Kieran Tierney missed a free kick.
Even when the Gunners fell behind by a goal, the Norwegian showed a lot of courage. Odegaard showed how much of a team player he is by running over to Gabriel after he tied the game. He did this to help Gabriel get over his earlier mistake.
This intensity and desire to win quickly spread through the Emirates Stadium, making it feel like the last 30 minutes of the game were the last three minutes of extra time. Mikel Arteta thought he was the right person to take over as captain from Alexandre Lacazette because of how well he played when things didn’t go his way.
When asked about Odegaard’s play that day, the Spaniard told football.london, “Influence, and when things get tough, take the ball.” “Yes, he has done that.”
Arsenal is used to having leaders like Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira, but they haven’t had anyone who is willing to show up when the odds are against them. It took him a while to get used to his new job, but Martin Odegaard showed on Saturday that he is more than ready to lead this talented young Arsenal team on their way up.