Arteta hoping for early Xhaka return

Mikel Arteta has confirmed that Granit Xhaka is ahead of schedule in his recovery from injury and hopes to be able to call on the midfielder before the end of the year.

The Switzerland international revealed this week his recovery from medial knee ligament damage has been slowed due to a bone break but that he’s now making good progress.

The Gunners have been without the 30-year-old since the north London derby win over Sp*rs.

“Hopefully, he’ll be a little bit sooner than expected,” Arteta said in his pre-Newcastle press conference.

“He’s training and pushing himself and the staff so hard as he always does.

“He’s in a good place, he’s evolving well and hopefully we can have him a bit earlier. We have to see still, it’s a bit early to decide.””

Asked if that might mean he’s in contention before January, Arteta said, “I hope so, yes.”

The boss also confirmed that there were no further injury concerns for Saturday’s game. Arsenal are looking to bounce back after a 4-0 defeat at Anfield and could climb temporarily into the top four with a win.

Xhaka reveals the extent of his injury and provides return update

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Sidelined since September, Granit Xhaka hopes to make his return to full training in the next four weeks.

While the club reported the player had suffered serious damage to his medial knee ligament following a collision with Lucas Moura during the north London derby, the midfielder has revealed he’s also had to contend with a bone break.

“I hope to celebrate my comeback as soon as possible,” he told Swiss publication Blick.

“I’ve been gone seven weeks and a few days now.

“The bone was also broken twice. The problem with the bone is that it takes so long. I hope to be back in the next three or four weeks. ”

Arsenal’s most recent medical bulletin said Xhaka, who was pictured doing ball work at London Colney last week, would be back in full training in January. If his own timeline is to be believed, it means he’s ahead of schedule; no bad thing given we lose Thomas Partey and Mo Elneny to the AFCON, potentially in late December.

Xhaka, who signed a contract extension in the summer, also called on fans to be patient with the team following a turbulent post-Wenger period.

He said: “I’ve been here in London since 2016. Of course, I definitely imagined it to be different, that we’d always play in Europe, but it didn’t work out that way.

“When Arsène Wenger left us after 22 years, a new era began. We had a coach and another coach. Now we have Mikel Arteta, who does an amazing job.

“I know a lot of people are impatient here. They want everything to change overnight. But that’s football, you have to have patience and time.”

Garlick talks Arsenal transfers, contracts and why he joined

For the first time since being appointed Arsenal’s director of football operations, Richard Garlick has spoken publicly about the specifics of his role and his reasons for joining the club.

While it’s a little surprising it’s taken six months to hear from him, when you read what his day-to-day duties entail – an exhaustive list that sees him involved at almost every level of the club – you start to understand why.

Originally recruited from the Premier League as a direct replacement for Huss Fahmy, Garlick’s role appears to have broadened substantially.

In addition to assisting Edu on player acquisitions and sales, overseeing contracts at every level and helping Per Mertesacker with the ops side of the academy, he also seems to have swallowed many of the duties associated with the club secretary position which was recently vacated by David Miles. He even acts as an executive point of contact for Clare Wheatley, the head of women’s football, and a contact for external bodies including the FA.

It’s well worth reading his ‘Official Voices’ column that will appear in Saturday’s matchday programme (see here), but for those who just want a quick hit, we’ve covered a couple of the juicy bits below.

On his role in the transfer process…

“I’m a qualified lawyer, I was in private practice for 10 years, then moved to West Brom, where I was their legal counsel and club secretary for four years before my role evolved into a wider football role. I understand how to convert a transfer plan on paper into one in reality from a financial and legal point of view. Typically, as the transfer deals progress further, that’s when my involvement grows. We get to the point where we have contracts ready to sign, that have been agreed by the board, the finance department and the legal department. Then they are presented to the player and his agent to complete the signing.”

On Arsenal’s summer business…

“From a personal point of view, I was pleased with how the window went. I think there were 57 transactions in total, including renewals, academy registrations and the transfers in and out. The first-team plan was executed very well, I’d say 90 to 95 per cent of what we wanted to do got done. It was a difficult market, but we had a plan and we stuck to it. We have got a lot of good people behind the scenes at the club. They are very diligent, very professional, very hard-working so it all came together well in the end.””

On contract renewals…

“We are always looking ahead at players who might be coming to the end of their deals. Both in the near future but also 18 months or two years down the line. This applies to the men’s, women’s and academy teams. I won’t go into any names, but certainly I sit down with the board, Mikel, Edu, Per, Jonas and Clare and we discuss those players and what our plans are. We get a plan in place, then we start to execute it. That’s happening now for next summer, and the one after that. It’s a longer-term view. We have a strategy for each player depending on their situation.”

On why he joined Arsenal…

“When I got approached about this opportunity I was really excited. I already knew a lot of the people here, and it was simply one of those opportunities that don’t present themselves that often. I felt it was a good time to be coming here. I know there have been a lot of changes over the past few years, but I saw it as an opportunity to make an impact, to help stabilize and move the club forward. There have been some challenges of course: post-Covid, restructuring internally and so on. So a lot has been going on, but what I’ve found out so far is that there are a lot of good people at the club. A lot of talented people who all share the same vision of making this club a success and getting us back to where we were before, but also in a sustainable way. The ownership is very supportive as well.”

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Like we mentioned earlier, definitely check out the full article. 

Manchester United Women 0 Arsenal 2 Analysis: United overloaded into submission

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By now we know that Arsenal have a big left-sided bias in the way they attack, with Katie McCabe and Steph Catley often combining on the left flank and with one of the central midfield trio (usually Nobbs or Maanum) tucking in to create an overload. It was very apparent against Manchester United on Sunday again.

So much so, that when I asked Jonas Eidevall about the left-sided overload post-match, he quipped, “I can copy my answer from the Everton game, you had the same question then and it’s pretty much the same answer!” In the aftermath of that Everton victory, Eidevall elaborated, “When you watch the game you see that we were pressing Everton to get them to go over to their left and when you do that, you open up spaces on their right and we saw that many times today and when you have the quality of players you are talking about there, yes, you will cause problems for the opponent. We were able to get many two versus one and three versus two situations on that side, especially in the first half.”

Indeed, it was a very similar recipe here against Marc Skinner’s Manchester United. Arsenal often like to use big switches of play to feed McCabe and Catley on the left. Ordinarily these come from Leah Williamson at right centre-half or else from Lia Wälti in the number six position. The first chance of the game, when Beth Mead hits the cross bar, comes from this well-worn move.

Here, Lotte Wubben-Moy drives the ball out of defence and passes to Mead right over on the right touchline, so all of the United players are bunched up on this side of the field.

Mead passes in-field to Little, who looks to her left and sees a lot of space to find Katie McCabe. In two passes, Arsenal have gone from Beth Mead having the ball in a crowded area on the right flank, to McCabe getting it inside the United area on the left in space. Her cutback finds Mead, who crashes a shot against the crossbar.

With the very next attack, Arsenal again outnumber United on the left.

McCabe brings the ball in-field to Frida Maanum. McCabe takes Staniforth with her with her run and that creates space for Steph Catley to run into. You can already see that Battle is panicked by what is developing. She knows she has to sprint to meet Catley and there is already a big space between Batlle and Mannion at centre-half.

Kim Little runs into that space and Catley tries to find her with an angled ball but there’s just a little too much on it and Mannion comes across to clear for a corner.

Arsenal’s next attempt at goal has a familiar theme to it. Wubben-Moy drives the ball out of defence from centre-half before hitting a long diagonal to McCabe over on the left.

McCabe has Maanum and Catley to choose from, Arsenal have United outnumbered again. The ball is worked to Catley whose cross is blocked.

The ball comes back to McCabe and Catley makes an excellent decoy run towards the touchline which Staniforth has to follow. It leaves room for Maanum since Arsenal are still in a 3 on 2 situation and she shoots just over.

Look again at these stills as United try to get to grips with Catley and McCabe. Staniforth commits a foul which she has to do because of the space Frida Maanum is in behind her. McCabe tries to take a quick free-kick, which Battle encroaches on to block so that Maanum does not have a free-run.

Arsenal work that left-sided triangle once again when Wubben-Moy wins the ball off Russo in the centre circle and Maanum carries the ball to the left-hand side and finds Catley.

Catley tries to find McCabe in space in the area but her pass is a little off. But again, Arsenal are inches away from creating a clear goal scoring opportunity with that left sided overload.

When Vivianne Miedema breaks the deadlock early in the second half, the move starts from the left again for Arsenal. Katie McCabe collects the ball and Jordan Nobbs makes a run into the channel, which Aiofe Mannion has to run across to block.

United have obviously talked about Arsenal overloading the left because they have better numbers there to stop Nobbs and McCabe combining. Unfortunately for United, all this has done is take players away from more central spaces and now this means Vivianne Miedema has space and McCabe shovels the ball in-field to her. Mannion has been distracted by Nobbs’ run and is out of position.

Zelem tries to scuttle across to disrupt Miedema but it’s too late. If you give Miedema one second on the ball, there’s a good chance you’ll watch it sail into your net and that’s what happens here.

The left-sided overload didn’t happen quite as often in the second half. United did get better numbers over on the side but Arsenal were able to overload the right as a result. Jordan Nobbs stayed very close to Beth Mead and Noelle Maritz on the right and Arsenal created several overloads on that flank with United expecting another barrage on their left in the second half.

Nobbs blocks Zelem’s pass and finds Mead, who sets Arsenal away on the counter. Miedema has run into the space vacated by Hannah Blundell and sprints towards the area.

Miedema cuts back to McCabe, who is taken out by Aoife Mannion in the area. McCabe gets up to convert the penalty.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: By the numbers

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This match was never going to be easy and getting any points was always felt like it would take some luck. What this match was before kickoff was a way to measure Arsenal against one of the best teams in the world.

I think we got a resounding answer to how Arsenal stacks up, there has been progress during the unbeaten run, but the team still has a long way to go to compete with the elite teams.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: By the graphics

You may notice that these charts have changed slightly, I wanted to illustrate more of the uncertainty that is inherent in rating shots with xG. I wrote more about it here https://www.crabstats.xyz/thinking-about-uncertainty/

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: By the numbers

5 – Shots for Arsenal, the 5th time this season Arsenal have been held under 10 shots in a match.

19 – Shots conceded by Arsenal, the 6th time this season Arsenal have allowed more than 15 shots.

5 – Touches in the box for Arsenal, the fewest they have had this season, and tied for the fewest they have since April 3rd, 2021 where they also managed 5 against Liverpool.

39 – Touches in the box for Liverpool, the third most Arsenal have allowed this season and the 5th time this season Arsenal have allowed their opponent to have 30 or more touches in their box.

77.1% – Arsenal’s pass completion percentage, their 4th lowest this season and the 5th time they have been held under 80% passing

86.6% – Liverpool’s pass completion percentage, the 3rd highest Arsenal have allowed this season, and the 7th time a team has managed a passing percentage against Arsenal greater than 80%.

82.1% – The average passing percentage Arsenal have allowed this season, this ranks as the third easiest team to pass against in the Premier League.

One of the things this match made clear was how little trouble Arsenal caused Liverpool. Liverpool (like Chelsea and Manchester City before them) had one of their best-creating chances day of the season against Arsenal while limiting Arsenal from laying much of a glove on them.

The other thing this match highlighted was that Arsenal are relatively easy to play against. Teams have little trouble completing passes against them with an overall 82.1% pass completion rate against (third easiest), when the passes have an identifiable target the pass finds their intended target 87.8% of the time (easiest). Arsenal’s passes allowed in the opponent’s half per defensive action is the highest (lower pressing) in the Premier League. Arsenal have averaged 124 pressure events (a measure of how often a defender is challenging a player passing, carrying, or receiving the ball) which is 3rd lowest and if adjusted for the amount of possession would rank last. Arsenal also ranks dead last at turning pressure events into turnovers, forcing just 34 pressure-induced turnovers per match.

I thought the opening period (first 25 minutes) of the match was decent from Arsenal where Arsenal managed to limit the threat from Liverpool but the signs of trouble were there mostly because Liverpool were doing the opposite of what Arsenal were doing when it came to pressure. Some stats from that opening period:

3 – Passes completed into the box by Liverpool (that’s pretty good), Arsenal managed 1.

26 – Final third pass attempts by Liverpool, Arsenal managed 8.

5.9 – Passes completed in the defensive half by Arsenal per defensive action by Liverpool, Arsenal’s PPDA was 16.1

95% – Arsenal pass completion ratio compared to the expected pass completion, a number below 100% means they completed fewer passes than expected. Liverpool’s ratio was 103%

1 – Shot within 12 yards of goal for both teams

3 – Possessions that started within 40 yards of Arsenal’s goal for Liverpool, Arsenal managed 0.

Liverpool didn’t put up massive pressure numbers, partially because Arsenal didn’t have the ball long enough but when Arsenal did manage to hold on to the ball, Liverpool were very effective at winning the ball back.

6.7 – The number of passes Arsenal managed in their own half per defensive action by Liverpool.

37.9% – The percentage of pressure events by Liverpool where they won the ball back within 5 seconds.

57.6% – The reception percentage for passes that targeted Arsenal’s attackers (Aubameyang – 37%, Lacazette – 43%, Saka – 69%, Smith Rowe – 66%, and Ødegaard – 81%)

27.8% – The percentage of Arsenal’s possessions where they were able to enter the attacking third of the pitch.

This is tangentially related to another issue that really impressed me with Liverpool. After going up 2-0 against Arsenal they were able to control the match quite easily.

66% – Liverpool’s possession as a share of passes attempted.

64% – The percentage of field tilt (share of final third possession) that is in the favor of Liverpool

109% – Liverpool’s pass completion ratio compared to the expected pass completion, a number below 100% means they completed fewer passes than expected.

14 – The number of their passing sequences that 7 or more passes completed

7 – The number of possessions for Liverpool that started within 40 yards of Arsenal’s goal

2 – Shots allowed by Liverpool, both relatively tame with an expected goals value of 0.11 total.

5 – Shots for Liverpool, turning into 2 goals from 2.4 expected goals.

What Liverpool was able to do in this match is what I wish Arsenal could do to weaker teams when they take the lead. They weren’t nearly as heavy metal with their pressing with their PPDA rising (lower pressing) to 7.4 but it was still higher than Arsenal managed in any period of this match, but still very effective at disrupting Arsenal from developing attacks.

They were also very efficient in attack when the break was on springing quickly up the field but also at using their possession as a form of defense, methodically working the ball up the field when the break wasn’t on.

Arsenal is hiding in shame in this picture behind Leeds and Burnley

Overall this match shows that Arsenal still has a way to go to challenge at the top of the table and still probably needs to prove themselves to emerge from the messy muddle of midtable mediocrity.

@oh_that_crab

Sources: Opta via whoscored, statszone, understand and my own database. StatsBomb via fbref.

Arsenal v Barcelona Femeni kickoff moved forward to 7pm

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Arsenal Women’s Champions League game against Barcelona Femeni at Emirates Stadium will now kick off at 7pm at Emirates Stadium on Thursday, 9th December.

The original kickoff time was set to be 8pm and with West Ham and Tottenham playing home European fixtures on the same night, the Safety Advisory Group were set to cap the attendance at Emirates Stadium to 10,000.

Arsenal have nearly sold that number of tickets already before their more pro-active marketing activations in the coming weeks and have agreed to move the kickoff to 7pm on Thursday, 9th December to avoid that 10,000 cap.

Tickets are on general sale for this game here for £12 adults and £6 concessions.

Video: Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United Women – Post-match reaction

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Arsenal Women continue their unbeaten run in the FAWSL defeating Manchester United 2-0 at Leigh Sports Village. Arseblog News’ Tim Stillman was there covering all the action and brings us his thoughts about the game.

Jonas Eidevall reacts to 2-0 victory over Manchester United

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Arsenal were 2-0 winners away at Manchester United in the WSL on Sunday thanks to goals from Vivianne Miedema and a Katie McCabe penalty. Jonas Eidevall spoke to the press after the match, the first two questions are from Arseblog News.

On targeting the space behind Manchester United’s full-backs…
I can copy my answer from the Everton gamemy answer from the Everton game, you had the same question then and it’s pretty much the same answer!

On whether he was afraid at half-time that the game was following a similar pattern to the Spurs draw…
Not really because I think the big difference is that we were much, much better in defence and we had a much more solid formation. We understood the concept of compactness much better but, of course, you still need to execute on your chances so it was very pleasing that we could get that start to the second half, especially as we had to sub Kim Little at half time. We needed that start to the half. It made the second half an easier journey for us with a difficult opponent.

On Kim Little’s injury forcing her off at half-time…
The indication is that it’s not serious it as precautionary. We came in at half time and it’s a cold day and she would have needed to warm up again. We thought that was the best decision to take for the team and also to get a good rhythm for the second half, we didn’t want to end up breaking the rhythm of the half with an early substitution. We didn’t want to kill our rhythm.

On the unbeaten start to the WSL season…
It’s a big question with many layers! From a personal point of view I am still learning the league, the club and the players. I am very pleased with the results, but I am most pleased with this environment that we are learning in. That’s why I really like about working with this group of players and he staff as well. We don’t just look at the draw with Spurs, for example, with disappointment, we are learning from it. We are learning when we lose, draw and win. It’s nice to win the matches but you need to have that learning culture in place, that’s what I’m most pleased with.

On Tobin Heath’s injury…
It’s still not quite right, i know I said a few weeks ago it was a small injury and we probably tried to progress on it too early and we had to take a step back and we decided not to push forward on it too quickly, we need to ensure we get it properly right.

On the defensive performance without Leah Williamson…
Defending is not only the back four, it’s everyone. You see how dedicated a player like Vivianne Miedema is today in performing our game plan off the ball. The contradictory thing in football is that the defending starts with the forwards and the attack starts with the goalkeeper. When the whole team is so dedicated to the match plan it becomes so much easier to defend. When we attack it starts with our defenders being composed on the ball, taking up good positions to receive the ball so that we can play our way out, we can find the right passes and situations and that triggers runs from our forward players. It’s the collective i am pleased with today.

On whether Simone Boye, Mana Iwabuchi and Tobin Heath will be fit for the cup Final on December 5th…
I hope so, Tobin is staying home and not joining up with her national team, that’s a decision we have made to get her right. Simone isn’t joining up with her national team either. Mana couldn’t play today but we think it will be possible for her to play minutes for Japan, they have a camp in Europe. She will join up with them and we have good communication with Japan, hopefully she can play some minutes for them and be ready for the final.

1.Zinsberger, 16.Maritz (4.Patten ‘90), 3.Wubben-Moy, 5.Beattie, 7.Catley; 13.Walti, 12.Maanum, 10.Little (8.Nobbs ‘46), 9.Mead, 15.McCabe (14.Parris ‘77); 11.Miedema (19.Foord ‘86).

Vigar makes up for lost time with dramatic equaliser for Arsenal U18s

Since he signed scholarship terms ahead of last season there has been much frustration for Billy Vigar.

Last season the striker was restricted to just six appearances for Arsenal U18s, with injury disrupting his development.

It has been a similar story of disappointment in the early stages of this campaign, as, prior to yesterday, Vigar hadn’t played at all after suffering another injury.

However, the 18-year-old made up for lost time yesterday as he emerged off the bench to score a dramatic late equaliser for Arsenal U18s in their 2-2 draw against West Ham United.

Arsenal were trailing 2-0 at half time before an impressive strike from Charles Sagoe Jr reduced the deficit.

It looked as if Dan Micciche’s side were going to fall to a defeat, but Vigar intervened with a header in the 92nd minute to salvage a point for the young Gunners.

There is still much work for Vigar to do as he looks to earn a professional contract ahead of next season, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Vigar possesses impressive technical ability and will now hope for further opportunities to impress at U18 level.

Dislodging the prolific Khayon Edwards as the U18s’ main striker could prove to a difficult task for Vigar, but it is possible that the pair could play alongside each other.

There are plenty of other talented young forwards in the U18s setup, with Amani Richards, Kaleel Green and Henry Timi Davies among those still waiting for a sustained chance to prove their worth.

Now they will face further competition, with Vigar demonstrating that he is capable of making an impact for the U18s.

Jeorge Bird is the author of www.arsenalyouth.wordpress.com Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

Arteta keen to focus young squad on challenges ahead

Having promised in his pre-game interviews that Arsenal were focused on securing a big-name scalp at Anfield, it was sobering that Mikel Arteta left Merseyside admitting his side were second best from start to finish of the 4-0 defeat to Liverpool.

While his players stayed in the game for 39 minutes, the damage inflicted by Jurgen Klopp’s rampant attack in the second half was a timely reminder to the Spaniard that we have much to improve if we’re to seriously challenge for a spot in Europe.

It was painful. But, according to the boss, it also presents an opportunity.

“I don’t like learning like that, but there’s a lot of learning that we can take from the game for sure,” Arteta told Arsenal.com.

“One of the biggest learnings after a disappointing result is focus tomorrow on the next one. Don’t get carried away with what happened in the past because we have to look to the future.

“We’ll look at what we should have done better and why we got punished the way we did and after that put our energy and focus on the next game.”

While Arteta was at pains to point out that Liverpool are a tough test no matter what age you are, he did accept his young team could have varied their decision-making on the ball.

“I’ve seen some of the biggest teams in the world come here to this ground and collapse,” he told his post-game press conference.

“It can be – in certain moments I think we were a bit [insistent] when things were not working or when we lost some balls, we had to mix our play much better. But we didn’t and that’s it.

“They were better than us for 90 minutes and that’s the level. They’ve been together for six years and today you could see the difference in the moment that we lost control of the game.”

Arsenal’s next match will see bottom side Newcastle travel to the Emirates. We couldn’t have asked for a kinder fixture given the circumstances.