Arsenal opinion: It’s not losing to Villa that hurts, it’s the way we lost it

It would be harsh to go too heavy on a team that just lost their first league game of the year in the middle of April. Yes it’s crazy to write us off in the title race when we are only two points away from top of the table.

Yet it’s not losing those hurts, sometimes it’s how you lose.

Early on Sunday, Liverpool dropped points because they were wasteful in front of goal. The irony being it was the result at Anfield that made everyone at the Emirates anxious.

Arsenal slipped up simply because the pressure was too much, our players crippled by a fear of failure, the lights too bright, the stage too wide.

That’s why most Gooners will now be worried because, on that evidence, becoming champions this season is unlikely. If beating Aston Villa to keep your destiny in your own hands made everyone panic then it’s over, because the pressure is only going to increase, the stakes will only get higher. Not one player made an argument that they can handle that. If anything, the performance, atmosphere in the stadium, that feeling in our tummies …. it reminds me of 12 months ago.

It was like fans and players knew that without an early goal, the tension would become unbearable and play into the opponents hands.

It’s hard to write this without the accusations of me saying I told you so.

In reality ask yourself how I knew this was going to happen?

I can understand why you want to believe it’s just a reflection on my character. It’s harder to accept the truth. In reality for two decades, supporters my age have been burnt. We have read this story before, seen the ending of the movie, are aware how the play will end.

I sometimes wonder what do I actually write that is so bad ……

That we have a fantastic young squad which if we keep together will one day lift the title. At the moment we simply lack the mentality to get over the line when it matters.

That’s never meant to be criticism, simply a reflection of where our young squad is at.

Watch how Man City will handle the run in. Not just will they handle playing every few days under must win conditions, they will do it with a smile on their face, because they have a dressing room full of experience.

I would rather be negative but honest, than arrogant and dishonest.

I read in the last week how fans ‘won’t lose sleep’ over winning at the Etihad. The grief I got for suggesting we would have to improve our Porto display to reach the Champions League Final. The abuse for saying Nketiah and Reiss Nelson have no business at our club, yet when it matters do you notice neither are trusted by their manager, just like Smith Rowe hasn’t had any faith given to him by his boss in the last year.

I read this week that Havertz is better than Ozil!!!!

Arteta is now asking for his leaders to step up and ensure we respond. Yet if we had leaders, this weekend wouldn’t have happened.

It’s not meant to be easy, the best things in life are not meant to be straight forward.

We only need the Champions to slip up once and we will overtake them. Not impossible so how comes it feels so far away?

If we had left it all on the pitch it wouldn’t.

That’s why we feel so numb because this was a repeat of 12 months ago, a mindset we thought we were past. A leader demands composure at half time. He takes his peers by the scruff of the neck and insists we pass the ball and not panic; he points out that at 0-0 with 10 mins to go we don’t need to play like we are in trouble.

They demand that the occasion should be a positive not a negative. That should have been a match to embrace, a chance to write yourself into our history books, a moment to become immortal, a chance to live forever. Like Paul Merson said, ‘these moments don’t happen in your career that often’.

The likes of Gary Neville get mocked for trying to explain how hard it is to get over the line. Yet he’s the type of character we lack.

The irony that on the same day destiny was left not in our own hands, Granit Xakha (one of the few leaders we did have) was winning the title in Germany. Given how he was treated by a section of our fanbase, he deserves to get the last laugh?

I remember Roy Keane once described Ireland as, ‘ the usual excuses, weak mentality, scared, scared to take that next step.’

That’s Arsenal … whenever it’s time to take that next step we fail.



So here are some simple rules which I must insist commenters follow….

You agree not to give any personal abuse to other Arsenal fans. Everyone is allowed to hold their own opinions even if you disagree with them. It COSTS NOTHING TO BE POLITE TO OTHER ARSENAL FANS.

Tags Arsenal v Aston Villa


  1. “I read this week that Havertz is better than Ozil!!!!”
    You didn’t read that from me if that’s what you’re implying – I’d rather have havertz in our team than ozil, because I think he cares more and has a better mentality for tough situations, but I never said he was “better”. Hilarious that you follow that line up with a speech about leaders because ozil is the absolute last player you want for those kinds of situations – certainly the version we saw at arsenal.

    On the important parts of the article -basically, you’re saying we bottled it. I won’t say you’re wrong, I was dismayed by the lack of fight at the end of the game yesterday – Liverpool went down fighting to palace, but I thought we were nullified by the end. However, I don’t think we have enough information to say either way just yet. We’ll find out in the next couple of games.

    1. Excellent post DAVI. Contextually sensible too.

      On Ozil, as JA regulars will certainly know, I could NOT agree MORE.
      Ozil was IMO the most despicable fraud I have EVER seen wear our shirt. And I have been an active supporter since 1958.

      1. JF I disagree with you and agree with you
        Ozil was a fraud but had so.much talent
        I was a ozil out person …because he swindled us for his talent on a regular bases.
        Never had the consistency attitude or application and desire and I beleived he wasted his skills.
        As for Davi.. I feel like you right now as do thousands of others.
        It’s not how we lost, it’s because we lost. Not been use to that recently.
        Chin up. We have 6 to go. Can’t see city losing but can see them drawing and if they draw and we win, we go top again so not all doom and gloom
        Onwards and upwards

        1. Alan we do NOTdisagree at all on Ozil after what you write.


          But I also said countless times, that without any serious DESIRE to make that sublime talent become regularly effective , by using it to its utmost, he contented himself with coasting through games, using his talent but not his ABSENT desire TO MAKE THE MOST OF THAT TALENT .

          He wasted it by his constant idleness and that, to my mind, is NOT honouring, in any moral sense of the word “honour” , his contracts

          He put his own comfort in being idle, before the need of his club, his teammates, his managers and his fans. He WAS a low class character and that amounts to being a FRAUD.

    2. Love him or hate him, his defence splitting passes are more dangerous, successful and also more comfortable for the receivers to handle compared to what our current players have to offer. Odegard is close but more often than not his throughballs are not perfectly received by our attackers.

      1. Odegaard does a hell of a lot better in big games and stands up to markers, doesn’t just give up when it’s tough – you can’t fault his attitude, and all of our good attacking play yesterday involved him.
        Ozil would have done nothing in games like the one yesterday where the opposition made it difficult.

  2. One bad half in our last 12 league games, and fans are still complaining!

    Any realistic person knows that form wasn’t sustainable…for any team, yet the way some are carrying on, they clearly think we should be sustaining it.

    We were going to lose a game at some point, and it’s come against a very good team.

    The real disappointment won’t be about this result, it’ll be if don’t we respond. Not against Bayern, but in our next league game. We have to win it.

    1. Jen I see your point but I think what your missing is that wasn’t any half
      It was potentially the biggest half of football in our recent history and we froze
      If we had left it all on the pitch then fair enough but we didn’t
      That can only be because the pressure was too much
      And if pressure was too much Sunday, it doesn’t fill you with confidence for the future

      1. I disagree that the reason we lost is just because we “froze” or couldn’t handle pressure. This is meaningless nonsense that is regularly expressed in order to cast aspersions on the team’s mentality.
        There were tactically aspects of the game that Villa employed better than any other team has against Arsenal. Unfortunately, we could not overcome this and made errors at the back which lead to the goals. Credit has to go to Emery and Villa for this. Even then Villa were lucky that Arsenal were wasteful in the first half.

        1. It’s meaningless nonsense that we go missing when the pressure is on ?
          What about last season and season before ?

          1. It is meaningless nonsense to say we go “missing”. Such descriptions have no place in a rational analysis for a given game.
            In what way did we “freeze”? How did so-called “freezing” lead to Aston Villa’s winning goal?
            In any given game it is possible for a good team to get its setup right and capitalise on errors to win.
            Last season and the season before were really quite different from each other and both are different from this season.

            1. I would say freeze as in not being able to basic passing , trying to force play , defenders making mistakes
              I.think.its not a coincidence that happens when pressure is on .

              1. Almost every team that is trying to salvage a losing situation will get into positions where they are trying to force play and will be liable to make defensive errors.
                As has been pointed out elsewhere it is clear that this was a subpar half of football. However, that is no reason to immediately suggest a weakness in mentality.

      2. Given the points Liverpool and City were racking up, I could easily say EVERY game was a huge pressurerized must win situation, and we were dealing with that pressure every single time, even at the Etihad.

        But as I said, tough to sustain that insane level of performance all the time.

        So I completely disagree we have been struggling with the pressure, unless we now go on a horrible run.

  3. I thought it was a tale of two halves, and a tale of 2 Arsenals.

    With the one we are scrappy, effective, and controlling the match forcing our play on them; as we saw in the first half.

    In the second, we don’t commit for 50/50 balls, sloppiness is rampant, careless mental mistakes creep back in.

    We continue to struggle under pressure and in the spotlight, several years into the process. I thought Jesus and Zinchenko were brought in to address that issue, right? Jesus missed another chance, (Saka’s cross on a plate), and Zinchenko exposed again as a poor defender.

    Lastly, a poor lineup made a difficult task of beating Villa even harder.

    Havertz is producing as a striker, WHY drop him to midfield where he struggles to produce?

    Why start Jesus, who has become toothless upfront, and just reinforces our need for an actual striker?

    Zinchenko at LB? Much rather Kiwior or Tomiyasu, both of whom can defend; something Zinchenko simply cannot do.

    Hopefully lessons learned, and the mistake is not repeated. Havertz as a striker, or not at all. Jesus as a backup winger, or not at all. Zinchenko as a backup midfielder or not at all.

    1. @ Durand
      I agree with you fully.
      Just because Kiwior had one poor game against Sane who is pure quality does not mean demotion to the bench with OZ being promoted @ LB.
      The same goes for GJ.
      MA has to rotate. For the game against BM, I think we need to play GJ and push OZ into midfield playing Kiwior or Tomiyasu @ LB position.

  4. The players are extremely tired. The solution is signing more quality players for each position and rotate them well as the season goes by.

    This is something Pep does well, proper rotation of his quality players.

    1. Sj
      We can’t use being tired as an excuse
      Villa we’re better then us in the 2nd half and deserved the win
      Not sure what happened when we came out for the 2nd half but we lacked our normal self
      We can handle when a few don’t show up but most of the team were sloppy, wrong decision making 2nd half and didn’t kill them off 1st half.
      We played some sublime stuff but lacked the ball going in the net
      It happens. We go again and get behind the manager and team
      Onwards and upwards

      1. It’s actually tiredness that caused the drop in the second half. I have been noticing this tiredness since the Brighton game. The opponents just outrun our midfield and face our defence with a few passes.

        Rice is no longer making those fast recovery runs that he used to do earlier in the season.
        White couldn’t run fast enough to stop the ball from going out for a corner. That’s why he was taking off.
        Saka can’t outrun or dribble past his opponent again.
        Only Odegaard is still running and pressing fast.

    2. That’s definitely the answer but not one that can be done with a snap of the fingers – more’s the pity

      1. It can be done if we sell some players and the Kroenke’s still provide Arteta with more money this summer window.

    3. These are valid points and it will take time to have a sufficient number of high quality players to rotate as Guardiola does.
      Some people are being disingenuous when implying that Guardiola is simply better than Arteta or anybody else at rotation. Guardiola has a much better squad than everyone else.
      He joined a team that had won championships and had top level quality in the squad. It’s true that he has made significant improvements to the team but the base level he started from was higher than Arsenal’s and Liverpool’s, the two who are currently the main challengers for the PL.
      MC have a level of quality throughout the squad which is simply unmatched.
      MC also have relatively few injuries compared with most other top teams. This is, probably, also related to the point above. If you have players you can rotate in and out of the team without significant drop off in quality there is less risk of injury.

  5. Bar thr first half which isnt entirely perfect, we were poor across the board. Losing duels, unable to break the opponents defensive line and losing midfield dominance. Perhaps we could even be tactically inferior.

    Someone needs to tell Rice not to start dipping in form just yet and extend his honeymoon performance. Havertz works better up front but i do like his forward runs in the first half. Too bad he couldnt finish them with a goal.

    What baffles me is actually Martinelli. Lad goes into the game with the freshest set of legs yet he can’t outrun the opponent. What ever happened to his burst of pace? Same can be said for Jesus. Multiple times in the game where he lost a footrace with Villas cbs.

    As the author said, it is not the defeat but the manner in which we lost.

    1. Agreed 100%. Martinelli has actually regressed as a player the last 12 months. Even the goals he has scored have been either deflections like against city or against teams we are already 2 3 up against. Jesus just isn’t good enough to win us the league. Glad someone else appreciated Havertz runs in the first half, seemed it was only him and Odegard looking to break the deadlock.

  6. Before starting an “i told you so” open bus parade, why not wait till Mathematics condemns us? you must’ve think you’ve got one over us, the optimist. smirk!

  7. I largely agree with your article Dan, one I enjoyed, but have to question why you predicted (if I remember correctly) a 3-2 win for us if you thought we would lose?
    I don’t think we played with a lack of heart or effort, but Arteta made a few selection errors in my opinion, moving Havertz back to midfield, playing Zinchenko and leaving out Jorginho. Emery did a good job, sitting back in the first half, weathering the storm with a low block and changing it up in the second half when he saw we were somewhat bereft of ideas to break through. I’m hearing Ødegaard’s knock is not serious and hope we perform well in Germany, but we then have a difficult away game next weekend as well. Needing City to drop points now.

    1. I predicted we would mentally find the title race too much pressure to handle ?
      Again it’s not we lost , it’s how we lost
      Me predicting 3-2 does not make that performance okay

  8. You refer to the arrogance of certain posters but you put yourself firmly in that bracket. Unfortunately you chose to write about the I told you so argument. Until that point I considered the article to be a reasonable argument about the way things appear to be heading at the minute, but you lost me after that and bringing up Ozil who is wholly irrelevant to our result on Sunday

    1. Havertz going missing wasn’t though Sue ?
      It’s the point that we make players out to be better then they are

      1. Sorry mate , if fans are going to make arrogant claims, they will be called out
        If Eddie Nketiah scored 20 goals this season fans would every right to say I was wrong

  9. I can fully appreciate the frustrations of the writer and more of less agree with the sentiments expressed apart from the reference to Ozil who was never the leader he calls out for.The players have borne the brunt of the criticism yet I feel our Manager should not be absolved for his failure to trust certain players in our pool who have had little game time this season and in terms of fitness should be as fresh as daisies.The fact that the likes of Nketiah, Nelson and ESR are not considered good enough in certain quarters fails to recognise the energy they can bring to the team when a number of our first picks are clearly running on empty.Our failure to pace games is attributable to the tactics dictated by the Manager who expects us to attack at times when we need to slow the game down until we are in shape to avoid being exposed in the counterattack.The Villa second goal is an example of how not to defend yet ESR has been criticised by some fans when our centre backs were the real guilty parties.As our Manager and players gain experience under the pressure of competing for the EPL and Champions League hopefully they will lose the naivety of winning at all cost as ,in hindsight, a draw against a well managed Villa side would not have been a disaster but a hiccup.

  10. I’m sorry Dan, but I disagree with your main point, that we cannot take the next step, we already have!!

    It’s easy to react to Sundays disappointment and I’m 100% sure every single Arsenal fan is hurting and looking for explanations.

    But two or three GIANT steps have been taken this season and, following your example, I list them below.

    1. Beating City at our ground and not losing at the Etihad this season – four points out of six in the PL, the first time since Pep took over.
    Again, athough we beat city in two semi finals, it’s the first time we have beaten them in a match at Wembley that involved silverware.
    Before anyone says it’s just a friendly, I was there and saw how the city players, manager and fans were upset at the result.

    2. The amount of points taken from the two clubs battling for the title.. four from six from both city and liverpool, with neither club taking a point at The Emirates..Our record under Arsene in his latter years, versus the top clubs, was dismal to say the least.

    3. No second half of the season collapse – despite you claiming that one loss proves we haven’t learnt from previous seasons.
    Of course, that MIGHT still happen, but let’s wait and see.

    The CL record? Now this is one that I agree with you on.
    Those fans who moaned about our CL record, learnt some harsh truths last week.

    However, I believe that the villa result will galvanise us for the second leg, just as I believe it will in the PL.

    If we fall in either of these competitions, of course we have the right to ask questions, following the unprecedented backing given to MA by the owner and the fans. Just as we had the right to question him early on, when, as you, Dan, say he was making the same mistakes as he did in the villa game.

    Finally, it’s amusing how Ozil still gets into some fans heads and the same old, tired, hackneyed views are trotted out time and time again.
    Let’s remember, not ONE trophy has been won since he left, while nigh on £900 million has been spent trying to win something…your observations about “crossing the line” without him just passes over said fans heads as they continue to live in the past. Dinasour’s all of them.
    He’s gone for heaven’s sake, so what’s that got to do with today’s team and players?!

    To say we haven’t taken strides forward is wrong, but Arteta needs to learn from his mistakes, especially after FIVE years in the position… in my opinion.

    1. “Let’s remember, not ONE trophy has been won since he left” – well, one was won while he was effectively ostracised from the squad. Same old arguments, as you say.

        1. Because he played up to the third round – didnt play in the fourth, quarter, semi out final. Didn’t help us get over the line. That’s what the comment was about…

          1. That’s the rules of how you get a medal
            You can’t ignore the rules just because you don’t like it.
            Factually he came to Arsenal and won 4 FA Cups , got record amounts of assists and scored in CL

            1. Factually he won a fourth medal, and factually he didn’t play after the third round to get that fourth medal – factually that makes his contribution to that medal really quite small.
              Factually he was insignificant in almost all of the really tough games he played in.
              The guy turned up when it was easy and hid when it was tough – exactly the mentality you rightly denounce in many of your articles. Why the blinders for this player?

      1. And, of course, that one trophy was won with the so called “mess” he was left with… since then, after £800 to £900 million being spent, not a sausage.
        There’s can be no argument about that, unless we can win the PL or CL this season.

        1. I should say that’s a separate point to the one I was making – I was linking your comment to ozil (ie I read it as we haven’t won a trophy since ozil left, because ozil left), whereas I think you were more saying we haven’t won despite how much money we’ve spent, which is fair enough. We have spent a lot of money (to say the least) for no reward in terms of tournament victories.

          1. Then you read it wrong, or I didn’t make it clear enough.
            While Ozil was with us, we won three fa cups with a, supposedly, dross squad.
            He and most of the others from that time, were considered not good enough, so we spent approximately £850 million and haven’t won anything since.

        2. And Mr Wenger was mocked remember for ‘ only finishing top 4 and winning odd cup’
          Years later … We celebrate

    2. I agree with your three points, though, very much. We are better than last season, and it’s still not over.

    3. Yeah mate
      We are making progress of course and one year I think It will happen.
      I just notice with our young squad when it matters we go missing

      1. But it DIDN’T go missing against city and pool did it Dan and that’s who we are measuring ourselves against in the PL battle.
        That’s where your argument falls down.

  11. You may well be right Dan, but strange things happen in the Premier League. I believe we are still in with a chance. Mentality does become an issue at this point in the season and City are past masters as their record shows, but even the best can come a cropper in our league as was witnessed over the weekend. Winning the next match is now a must.

    It shows how tough it is to win the EPL, Klopp, in all the years he has been at Liverpool, only won it once.

    1. Yeah but can that Arsenal in second half win at the lane , Old Trafford and home to Chelsea
      Based on that second half ….nope
      So therefore it doesn’t now matter if City lose unless we win all games

  12. i think my main frustration/disappointment from losing to Villa was the un-necessary change in formation and system

    Jesus as Centre Forward
    Havertz dropped back to Attacking Midfield
    Rice dropping back to Defensive Midfield

    our system has been working brilliantly until then so why change it

    it was not just in attack we were less effective, but also defence where Jesus is not as good a high-press partner for Odegaard as Havertz

    and behind them Rice is better paired with Jorginho

    the other thing was Zinc at Left Back Inverted, instead of White playing the Inverted and Tomy/Kiwior defending

    it all felt an un-necessary risk to take for no obvious reward

  13. #Artetaball and #Artetateam dont do pressure. We can blame as some wrongly do, City have oil money. We now have Kronke money. Its funny how oil money only works in the last part of the season and Kronky money only works until April. Ivenot worked that one out. As rightly has been said, our games against our rivals have gone very well. Oil money didn’t stop us BUT as soon as the bum starts sqeaking, we wither and die. Obviously kronky money has no stamina.

    1. We are definitely catching up. This one result has brought out the nervousness of the fans because of the past. You could easily be right but we haven’t withered and died yet.

      As David pointed out, Man City (although success wasn’t achieved overnight and many players bought) were in a good position before PG arrived and we weren’t. A serial winner against a new manager and still not able to field a strong enough bench – yet – to keep us more competitive. It’s getting better, hence the QF of the CL and being competitive in the league again. When you have a talent like Cole Palmer leaving because he wanted regular game time then it shows just how strong City are.

      It’s a bit like the domination of Djokovic in tennis. Others are pretty damned good but he was just better. Murray at any other time would have had more success and it feels like that for all teams versus Man City currently

      1. But Sue, whole I do agree, somewhat with you. Why does Kronke money falter, in cups and April. Its ok the rest of the time.

          1. I don’t like harping back as it often serves no useful purpose, but having not been truly competitive for a good number of years then it takes time to become so.

            I think I must be a cup half full person, rather than always taking the negative. I am not yet convinced that we are going to go to pieces.

            What concerns me is that we don’t have sufficient top quality players within the whole group to be used successfully in terms of rotation. Pep can field household names week after week. Hearing that Rodri was voicing his tiredness levels, then our players must also be suffering. Perhaps it is less of the bottling but more of the amount of energy used up per game for our regular starters which caused a more lacklustre second half performance. I can only hope that all are suitably physically recovered to give their best on Wednesday.

  14. In spite of everything, and no matter what happens at the end of the season, I feel that the Arsenal team has made further progress this season.
    But the truth remains that our team is still a few notches away from the top team of our collective dream.
    This is made worse by having to compete with Manchester City, a team with seemingly inexhaustible resources and a manager who knows what to do with them.
    Without City I would still be dreaming of a PL triumph in spite of Sunday. But now those sheikhs have perched atop the tree, can’t see anybody bringing them down.
    But we live to fight another day.

  15. There is an old saying that once bitten, twice shy. I believe that is what is happening with our fan base. We have had so many previous disappointments that any sign of slip up makes us very scared. Obviously Man City are not machines and could slip up but equally so could we and that would be the end of our adventure. Man city is in a much stronger position now than their rivals. As some have observed, it was the unnecessary rotation of some players that us to this unfortunate situation. Several people have said that Zinchenko is not good as a defender but Arteta doesn’t give heed. I hope now he has learnt his lesson. Many of us have observed that Jesus is not good as a striker because of his profligacy in front of goal. In fact Havertz is better because he is more decisive. This is even proved by the goals each of them has scored this season.
    Is this the end of our season? I will say it depends how we respond in the coming games. If Arteta corrects his selection errors and we lift up ourselves and rise to the occasion there is still hope. If not, it will be same old story. However even if we come short this season it will not be the end of the world! We need to keep going and improving the team. We need a strong DM and an accomplished striker next season as we also get rid of players like Nketiah, Vieira, Nelson and others who have failed to justify their presence in the team.

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