Saturday, August 13, 2022

Saka: Arsenal can be proud of defensive efforts

Bukayo Saka says Arsenal’s new-look defence is “doing wonders” and that the team can be proud of the way they are not now making opponents work harder in the final third.

While Arsenal’s 2-0 result at Leicester was built on early efficiency in front of goal, the three points, which stretch the Gunners’ unbeaten Premier League run to seven games and help the team to sixth in the table, might easily have been squandered were it not for a heroic rearguard action. 

Aaron Ramsdale’s man-of-the-match performance saw him secure most of the headlines, but Saka made a point of highlighting the impressive shift put in by all those in front of him.

“We are really happy. We have really shown, in the recent weeks, that we can fight to hold onto a scoreline,” Saka told the Evening Standard. 

“And also, we can defend well. Last season we would maybe concede in this game, but today we really dug deep.

“Of course, Aaron Ramsdale did amazing for us and saved us a few times, but credit to the defence as well because they are doing wonders for us. I think that is something we can be proud of.

“Obviously, in the second half they (Leicester) changed the way they set up, so it made it difficult for us.

“Rammers did help us a lot in goal, but the back-four and everyone else in front did really well to help get the clean sheet.”

On Ramsdale’s incredible save to prevent James Maddison’s first half free-kick from curling into the top corner, Saka added: “From my angle, it was 100 per cent a goal and then he saved it. The second action, I thought it was going to be a goal again and he saved us again.

“I don’t know how he saved it, then he saved it again. So hats off to him from me. He was our best player today and he deserved a clean sheet.

“He just keeps surprising everyone and he is in great form. I just hope he can continue like that because he is making a big difference.”

After the match, manager Mikel Arteta also spoke in glowing terms about the contribution of Takehiro Tomiyasu. The Japan international once again produced a tenacious display at right-back making four out of four clearances, three interceptions (the most in the game) and a blocked cross.

“I am delighted to have him, first of all as a person he is such a great character,” said the boss in his post-game press conference.

“He is doing all the right things, top professional and I think he is giving us a lot of composure in the backline, the way he defends and understands the work that we want to do with him. So he’s been top.

“His adaptation to be a defender in this country, the way he’s done it, I think he deserves a lot of credit.”

The Gunners now have five days on the training ground before Watford visit the Emirates on Sunday.

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Cliff Bastin

3 points from the Watford game and that’s a relaxing interlull.

Johnny 4 Hats

Anyone else feeling a bit pissed off about Conte and Tottenham? Why would he go there? Isn’t he actually a really good a manager?

I was really looking forward to watching them attempt to scrape the barrel once again and get rejected.


Brady’s bunch

What changed his mind from the summer I wonder?? Don’t think he’ll do much with them this year.

Santi’s Thigh Grab

£20m and a 18 month contract could turn a lot of heads, even if it is Spurs. Conte about to get a rude awakening to the history of the Tottenham.


Nuno is a good manager, too, but the curse continues, and I suspect it will swallow Conte as well. Conte may well do his thing (bring instant success, then go full grump) over there, but many thought that instant formula would work with Mourinho and it really did not. Even if he does, it’s a one off — and then he’ll disappear. Levy will be paying top rates and Paratici will be making enormous promises, so unless the returns are magnificent this will ultimately hurt them even deeper. Desperate, desperate, desperate. While many believe their biggest recent mistake was firing… Read more »

Johnny 4 Hats

I hope you’re right.

It is a truly bizarre career move on Conte’s part. His cache couldn’t be higher. Won the league with Inter. Won the league with Chelsea. If he hangs on a bit he could be United manager potentially.

Has someone definitely told him about the history of the Tottenham?


I have a feeling that he wants back in the PL and ManU have indicated that they will not be going back for a former-Chelsea manager, especially one who burns bridges, even if Ole goes. If rumours are to believed, Conte’s agent has been knocking on the door for a while, and they won’t let him in. Everyone else in the top 6 looks set for the near future; Tottenham are the last option. Kind of Nuno in reverse, if you will. I also think that Conte, like Mourinho, isn’t worried about anything that happens at Tottenham sticking to him… Read more »

Brady’s bunch

You’d think that maybe the Newcastle project might appeal to him he’d be there at the start but Spurs I genuinely don’t get why anyone wants to go there.


Newcastle is going to take time and major commitment from the next coach/manager, and I think Conte wants to win and/or move on the next project before that comes to anything. Conte is a short-term coach and pop-up manager, not a builder.

Reiss Neverseen & the DicTeta

Your average newly-appointed football manager lasted 13.9 months in a top-flight job in the 19/20 & 20/21 seasons. Antonio Conte’s career average is 14.4 months per job due to his time in lower league divisions. Since his first big job at Juventus, he has averaged 20.5 months in each appointment. This isn’t 2005. Conte isn’t a short-term coach by today’s standards. You say he isn’t a builder but he left Juventus, Chelsea and Inter with much stronger foundations than when he met them. Bonucci,Barzagli and Pirlo were mainstays at Juve long after he left. Kante is still irreplaceable etc. Not… Read more »


You really think Conte is going to be at Spurs in 2025? I’ll take that bet …

You really think Conte is going to leave Spurs wealthy and built for renewable success? You’re welcome to believe that and admire from afar, but this smells a lot like Mourinho to Spurs, like Ancellotti to Everton – short-termism at its finest.

Reiss Neverseen & the DicTeta

20 months from now isn’t 2025. You’re willing to take on a bet that doesn’t exist my friend.

As for your other question… Yes, I believe that Conte will leave Spuds in a better position, squad-wise and table-wise than he found them. I can’t comment on Spurs’ financial future. Not even sure that even involves Conte.

Santi’s Thigh Grab

Three words: Erik Fucking Dier.

Johnny 4 Hats

Yeah. Good shout. I’m guessing United have told him no. And he didn’t get the Barca job either. He’ll be living in London again. Tasty paycheque.

God I hope he’s crap.

Alton Jarman

Levy is and always be the problem

AMN is the Assassin

How can Levy be a problem. He is the best thing to happen for them. Hope he stays forever.


Pissed off? It likely confirms that OGS is staying at manure, and the drama at sp*rs will be fun to watch.


I had a similar reaction, happy that he won’t be going to United, as if he did I’d expect them to finish above us in the table. As things stand at the moment, I’d bet on us to finish above both United and Sp*rs.

Alton Jarman

Spuds will still be crap Levy wont spend any money and Kane will be gone in the summer

Reiss Neverseen & the DicTeta

Pissed off? Not in the slightest. Just regretful the Arsenal board didn’t take the opportunity. I suspected that Conte wasn’t actually as elitist many in our fanbase were portraying him to be. If he was willing to join a heavily-indebted club with aging and wantaway star players… Chances are he would have been fine with taking the Arsenal job too.

Looks like St. Totteringham’s(?) day will have to be on a hiatus again this season. If a washed up Mourinho can still finish above Arteta… I can only imagine what an in-prime Conte could do.


Not as goog as Poch, whom they sacked.

Viju Jacob

To be honest, I worry about this sitting back in our own half and letting the opponents attack us in waves, hoping to hit them on the counter. On the odd days it will leak goals against us, so the team should keep their attacking intent going.

Johnny 4 Hats

I agree. Against Spurs, Villa and Leicester we let the opposition back into games that really should have been nailed shut. I’m a firm believer that the best form of defence is attack. But we are just getting used to all this. And I think there’s still a bit of old Arsenal in there which is afraid of capitulation. I think it will get better as time passes and we learn how to control a game without necessarily throwing all our players forward. We have a bit of a smash and grab mentality at the moment, which is fine. But… Read more »

A Different George

It’s an illusion that everything that happens–good or bad–is within our control. Sometimes the other team has something to say about how we play. Leicester is a very good team, and we completely dominated them for a half. They played much better in the second half and we could not dominate the same way–but they never got back into it.

Johnny 4 Hats

I definitely agree with this. Teams will always have moments. It’s about making those moments as non threatening as possible. However, the xG for many of our games in this unbeaten record suggests that we do not necessarily keep chances at a premium. I feel bad because this is by no means a criticism. More just an observation. I think the run we are on at present and the teams we are beating surpasses anything I can remember in some time. These are not games we traditionally dominate. But there is nuance in everything. I think we’ve been unlucky, especially… Read more »


Yes. We often give the ball away cheaply in midfield when we should be doing better game management.


This has come up a few times recently both in blogs and in podcasts but I think that we play this way under instruction from Arteta to an extent. We lack the midfield control and certain players lack the stamina to keep our feet on the gas for sustained periods. We press high and look for a fast start before settling into a block and hitting teams repeatedly on the counter. Not disimilar to the way West Ham play in fact.

Jeremy DG

Honestly I think a lot of this is down to fitness. As the team grow (and we are already seeing evidence of this) they are on the front foot for longer periods of the game. It will happen, but it will happen gradually.


It’s impossible to disagree with what you said. But we also all know that this is a long process. Step by step we’ll get there. First we wanted to start matches proactively. After achieving that, we wanted the team to continue pushing even if we’re 1-0 up early in the match. We’ve managed to do that in the last couple of matches. Next step now is to try and build our lead and then control the matches. This will be a bit harder because it requires not only superior quality but also superior mentality and fitness. Right now we’re not… Read more »


Exactly. And as the teams confidence grows so does its arrogance (in a good way) and subsequent desire to have a greater stranglehold over matches.


No team dominates for 90 minutes, even against weaker opposition. What’s promising is that we can still limit the amount of times other teams can pin us into our own half/cut through the middle.of our midfield. The ability to soak up pressure when ahead is something all big teams have.


No team presses for 90, it is actually risky and also requires a much deeper bench than any but the most corrupt teams have. I speak both about games and seasons.These are players not robots. We need to stop with expectations from when top 4 teams were so dominant and the lesser teams so inferior. Football is different now. Fans need to grow as well.


Think mathematically, think odds, think like a great manager. If we cannot press 90 min. what is a game winning strategy? 1) Score early with insane pressing then when teams are forced to open up and attack 2) Control, slow the games with mixed pressing and attacks. Know that because you have good ball controlling team…you force their limited possessions to be more aggressive, 3) counter them. It will not always work but odds are in your favor if that is executed well. THAT is what Arteta has had as his plan all along…for all those who questioned things. That… Read more »


Finally, if you think Arteta ( look at his hair ) has not had a meticulous plan, all along…observation is perhaps not a characteristic you should heavily rely upon.

Saka and Emile Smith Rooooowe

Added to the other replies to this; we’re a young side. Perhaps this is something they’ll learn to do better the more they play together.


We’ve been trying since the invincible to dominate teams by possession with limited success. Now it seems we have some balance between the two (possession and directness) I like that. We may at a higher tempo, I like that too. That naturally results in a bit less possession, but often more effective possession. And that’s what we’re starting to see play out. We have excellent counter attacking options (auba, Saka, ESR, Partey, sambi, tavarez, pepe), why focus on “beautiful” (questionable analogy) possession and playing away from their strengths (particularly auba)? I like this balance arteta is finding. Credit to him… Read more »

Santi’s Thigh Grab

You nailed it. We are better balanced and we can see that with our eyes. Remember, it was only a couple of games ago we started slowly, now we are firing out of the blocks. This team is changing and moving in a positive direction.


While protecting a two goal lead that shouldn’t be our biggest worry. My biggest worry is how ridiculous we look on the counter attack. Even if we got into a ten on one situation you would bet on the arsenal player slipping up or an over hit or under hit final ball. If we can work on our composure on the counter attack then sitting deep to protect a lead will be our last worry


It seems my man ESR with help from Auba had a very fine counter. It also seems our goalie is being praised for excellent countering distributions as well. It seems we are a young team, a young improving team. It seems your glass is perhaps in need of some H20.


It would be great if we could reliably turn to Pepe in the bench in these situations to be that counter attacking threat that can finish teams off when given a sniff. Still struggling to see that that is him though. He just seems to lack that last little bit of determination to make himself into a truly lethal player.

Santi’s Thigh Grab

Pepe appears to not have one of those football brains to match his football body.

Man Manny

Many of our first team – up to 8 maybe – are yet to get to the peak of their powers. Can they sustain an attacking game for a large part of 90 minutes? I don’t think so.
I believe that will come as they mature. Asking a team whose average age is somewhere between 22 and 24 to do that all game is unrealistic.

The Beast

Agree with most of the responses. This looks to be a clear tactic based on personel and where we are in the team’s development. We can’t sustain the energy we’ve shown in the first 20-30 mins of recent mtaches (not many sides can), so it makes sense to aim to capitilise on early chances and try to manage the game from there by drawing them in and countering when they lose the ball. Having said that, think Arteta’s already said he’d like us to improve on that phase of matches. This tactic undoubtedly means we concede a lot of shots… Read more »


I don’t mind relying solely on counter-attack approach after leading 2-0 provided we have a strong and reliable defensive line. Look at Man Utd under Fergie. Solid Vidic and Ferdinand partnership, Carrick to screen threat from midfield and launched long ball to Ronaldo. The point is very big clubs need this approach. Maybe we are all very used to Wenger’s approach of not changing style during the game.


Brilliant, the lads are allowing me to smile again. It’s been a long time coming.


off topic… Nuno Espirito Santo sacked, anyone else fancy the Sp*rs job?
I’d be prepared to suffer the shame, abuse and general embarrassment of managing that lot, for a few matches. Obviously I would guarantee they lost (wouldn’t be hard) before being sacked and getting paid off.


I could give it a go and hopefully set them back another 5 years before I get sacked…


Good to know that Antonio, wasn’t aware you were an Arseblog fan

The Beast

Happy to come in as sports psychologist if you’d have me. Think I can do some real long-term damage.


Looking at Kane lately, I think the damage is already done.


I am very happy MA has finally fixed the defence,This was something Wenger always ignored believing attack is the way.If he had swallowed his pride and improve the defence losses like the 8-2 would have never had happened.
As for MA ,Arsenal shd improve and if they can beat some of the top teams it would make the critics sit up, A strong defence can help you win games .


MA had already improved our defence – It’s great not to be a ‘soft touch’ anymore. The issue has been to have a potent attack at the same time. It’s still a bit one or the other (even during games).


Fixed the defence???? Are you serious?


The defense has been excellent.
But I wonder if sitting back after a 20-minute onslaught is a particularly repeatable strategy.


Anyone who has issues with how we attack early then rest, only needs to go back a few seasons when we’d concede within 7 minutes, stay asleep for another 13…

…then come out roaring in the second 45, but with no end product. 🤏


Okay. So no one is gonna talk about Ramsdale being Rammers?!



I saw that too.

Teryima Adi


Cranky Colin

I luv de smiley faces

Alton Jarman

At last the team has its identity back. A young energetic team full of verve and flair but with steel in the back 5.

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