Arsenal show great improvement against Man City, but still lacking in maturity

I was as proud of Arsenal on Saturday as at any point this season.

Like when we went to Anfield, I questioned did we have the mentality get a result?
Did we have enough leadership to cope at the moment we experience any adversity?

Would Arteta learn from previous errors?

As well as we played, it doesn’t change the fact that the moment we conceded a penalty we didn’t have the maturity to cope with the situation.

Lacazette as captain tried to compose his peers but the majority lost composure.

While great to see so many care about the badge you can’t get over emotional to the point it impacts your thinking.

Even if you think Xhaka didn’t foul Silva, you dust yourself off and tell yourself it’s still 1-1 with half an hour to go. That’s what a team of leaders would do.

You could even argue Martinelli would have not missed an open goal if he was calmer.

It was 2 mins between the spot kick and us going down to 10 men.

In that time Gabriel managed two yellow cards, one for needlessly trying to mess up the penalty spot.

While he sarcastically applauded the official it would be wrong for him to not take accountability.

The majority in the Emirates directed their frustration towards the referee and while we can debate the consistency of the usage of VAR, it would be doing ourselves no favours not to admit we show naivety too often in the big games.

A red card at Liverpool, a pointless penalty at Old Trafford now these key moments on New Year’s Day.

Both positive and negative, this 90 mins summarised where this group is at.

Tactically we had a plan, the players were willing to fight, Partey produced his best ever performance for us.

Make no mistake, there were plenty of reasons why the team deserved their standing ovation.

Yet ultimately, we witnessed why we won’t finish in top 4.

In the crucial moments of matches and seasons we lack game management.

While our youngsters learn, they need help from senior players.

We just haven’t got enough of those senior players to get us over the finish line.

I said I would hold my hands up if I saw progress and indeed I did.

Yet I also saw why this team isn’t ready to take that next step.

Not enough leaders, not street wise enough and mentally weak…

Be kind in the comments.


Tags Arsenal v Man City


    1. It good to see Dan acknowledgment of progress, these things take time to build a winning mentality. Chelsea, Mancity in fact all the top teams atm, didn’t just come from nowhere (apart from Leicester) to win the title. They all had transitional stage before becoming serial winners and then champions. But regardless of yesterday’s results, I feel excited by this team and I haven’t felt that in a while 👍👍

      1. Agree, i expect 4th, i have said from the beginning, the investment and the players we have, we are top 4 now. It must be remembered, we put up a good show but came away with no points, lose to spuds and it was all for nothing.

    1. It has been long I watched arsenal dominating city in possession and pressing high up the pitch like that,I could remember when Mikel arteta scored the lone goal at Emirates with Joe Hart on goaluder Arsene Wenger,I believe we learn when we lose than winning,the young one will still improve
      mentally,but it’s too late for granit xhaka he cannot learn fr many mistakes he had committed,once in every 4 matches,arsenal should have it in mind that calamitous xhaka will cause us to lose some points,he is our player,we know him,but I believe in Arteta,he will bring out the best from this team.

  1. I agree with the pundits and you about the importance of senior outfield players, to keep the composures of the young ones

    The captain should be someone they can look up to. Holding or Tierney could take that role if they play

  2. City were just a shade too classy for us that’s all no need to get all worked up. I am thrilled with our performance. We are definitely top 4 contenders. Who thought that after the 0-3?
    Absolutely no one that’s who. We lost to the run away leaders in the league in the 93rd minute after playing the last half hour a man down.
    Our only other home loss was to Chelsea earlier in the season when we were still recovering from illness and our 6 new players had less than 2 games for the club. The more tough football we play the better we will be so CL football is very important for our continued development. Every player was a leader, every player showed great courage, quality and comittment and mental toughness. Losing in the last minute to the best team in the land should be applauded. Just half way through year one of the projected 2 year rebuild is way in front of expectations. COYG 🙂

    1. here’s a New Years resolution for you FF, embrace the old adage “less is more”

    2. They were not classy. The referees helped them. Rodri kicked and kicked but no yellow card till he removed his shirt.

      Ake kicked Saka several times, no yellow card but when Saka complained yellow card. The ball boy was even given yellow for delaying.

      The referee for the game was Friend or Fruend but was replaced last minute by Atwell.
      Is it Arsenal nemesis Mike Riley, head of PGMOL at it again? Mike Riley as head of PGMOL was a recommendation by Sir Alex Ferguson

  3. Dan
    I’m not sure about taking the next step though. Id like to think that the progress you have witnessed will improve as we do have a young team and unfortunately, not too much in the way of leaders by example in the older bunch. Unfortunately, when Xhaka does well, he too frequently does something stupid to counteract any argument in his favour.
    I agree that top4 is rather optimistic – only because of the player strength at ManU plus Rangnick and Conte at the helm at Spurs making a difference. Still, the signs are looking better than for a long time.

    1. Sue, I am more confident of making the top four than I was before the City match.Gabriel needs to get help to improve his decision making but for the writer to suggest that our young players are ” mentally weak” is nonsence as proved by the fact that we came within 2 mins of digging out the result we so richly deserved.The fact that Partey will be missing for a spell is undoubtedly a blow as his display showed what a high calibre player he can be.As for Xhaka, his experience once again counted for nothing in a split second.

      1. Grandad
        I didn’t think there was too much mental weakness either. The desire to win and to work so very hard to save the game was admirable and showed what these young men can grow up to be.

  4. Dan you are spot on .
    However, is it a coach problem or the players’?
    The game change from the penalty, we could blame Chaka but Gabriel cost us the 3points, that was so silly of him to fall for Jesus trick, he was targeted and he lost it. They know we lack maturity, they couldn’t beat us fairly so they attacked our mentality because the team is immature we fell

  5. Excellent article Dan – good job and you’ve hit the nail on the head. Great steps forward (and faster than most of us believed possible) on tactical nous, skill and commitment, but the stumbling block now is the lack of maturity required to deal with different situations within the game ie game management, perspective and temperament.
    This usually only comes with age and experience, and we only have three first teamers in this category: Partey is an imposing player but not vocal enough; Laca, who is himself prone to excitement, doesn’t often play 90 minutes and is probably also off soon; and Xhaka – in crucial ways the most immature member of the whole team.
    We have future leaders in abundance but only with age comes that critical experience, and they’re all young.
    Tierney is a Scotland captain and highly thought of but I really haven’t noticed him assuming much responsiblity – being vocal, directing players, stepping in. He’s been quiet.
    Odegaard IS highly visible, directs all around him, seems very mature, calm and is Norway captain. He’s a smart guy. Look closely and he’s the one most often beckoned over by Arteta. If we went with any of the younger players, I would choose him.
    Or we buy in a ready made leader, probably a midfielder as that’s not only the easiest place to influence the team but also where we need players and they could walk into a team spot. Nice as it would be to buy another prospect, perhaps this is one time to invest in an older professional major star with gravitas and a reputation as a leader.

  6. At least Xhaka gave his American guests a day they won’t forget! You don’t tug on shirts in the box, talk about make it easy for the ref, they all know the bleedin’ rules!

    The more I think about it, the more disappointed I feel [Gabriel and Xhaka].
    I had a feeling we’d be up for it.. and we were.. just let down by brain farts [again].

    Oh well, time to move on and think about the Scousers (ugh).. Gabriel to miss that game?
    Very tough few weeks coming up COYG

    First team to reach 100 red cards since the formation of the PL..

  7. Arsenal have a young squad and they will learn a lot from yesterday’s game as it’s a painful one. We’ll, not sure Xhaka will learn anything though 😂

    Anyway, it was a good performance against the best team in the league.
    It’s too early to tell if AFC will finish in the top 4 but at the moment we clearly are serious contenders and there are reasons to be excited about that.

    The game against Spurs will be crucial are they are direct competitors. Let’s hope yesterday’s defeat will help players improve their composure.

  8. Arsenal 1 Man City 2
    Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2
    Man City 5 Arsenal 0
    Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0

    Arsenal 1
    City/Chelsea/Liverpool 13

    1. Actions speak louder than words.You have made your point Twig , but an improvement is also evident, is it not?

  9. Where I part company with Dan is that he says we lack leaders, but I say that many of our team that played City acted as leaders, Gabriel and Xhaka apart.
    The sheer guts, mentality and will to win of all the rest are to my mind exactly the qualities we need from leaders. So I say DAN IS WRONG.

    Ironically, the one man in the club who lacks any semblance of leadership qualities whatsoever, is the one oddly given the club captaincy, til being deposed.

    That is the idle Auba, also known by me as Ozil mark two.

    1. We conceded a penalty and Gabriel lost his head …..that’s weak mentality
      Happens too often to be a one off

      1. Hi Dan, I think you are being a bit harsh on the lads, as a team we are immature but not weak, we’ve won more games, than we have lost and drew combined, I don’t think that would happen if we are weak mentality. Remember Arsenal have capitulated loads of times, during the good old times (Wenger years for me) with great leaders and the best players, who have had players sent off( jens lahmenn reckless decision champions league finale.) 6-1 thrashing having Henry, pires, Cole ,seaman on the pitch.

  10. I think, it can be looked at in a slightly different way. Yes, Xhaka and Gabriel made mistakes, but our young team also pressurized the city to commit a penalty, which wasn’t given, a miraculous clerance off the line, and they kept their composure and kept City at bay for half an hour with only ten men.
    Maybe, these are signs of commitment and a mentality to get us into top 4 at the end of the season. Too early to write it off.

  11. When people realize Xhaka is a problem in the team.I love him as a man but let’s face facts xhaka
    1.Won’t improve at ever again after 5 seasons.He cost Unai Emery CL football on the last day when Arsenal was leading against Brighton and needed a win to qualify for CL at around 85th minutes booom !!! Xhaka penalty.

    2.The guys has a lot of unbelievable errors in him.At this level how do you hold a players jersey in the box?How many time has he let us down through his spupid red cards and errors leading to goals????

    3.Sell him or replace him with a better midfield this January.

    I can bet my last coins Xhaka that he will not learn from this but will do it again and again and again.

    1. The problem I have with our team is simply the amount of time it’s taking Arteta to put together a good winning team, like the team that played yesterday . That set of yesterday has been wonderful since they came together. Arteta and his crew have done a great job, but they are taking time coming around with the right personnel to comprise a winning side. Example, it was even happenstance that Aubameyang is no more in the side. His absence has changed so much in the team. We would have been better placed on the log if these team have been there since the season commenced, bar the first few matches that illness occasioned. Are we certain Arteta is not overly swayed by sentiment in selecting his first eleven ? Are we certain we are seeing the best Arsenal players on display right now ? All these players have been there all along and we have lost or drawn matches we had no business dropping points. Games like the Everton , Man u, Brighton and Hoves, Crystal Palace were all winnable games. These set would have given us the maximum points from those games, but we threw away precious points because the right calibre of players were fielded. Three players have totally changed this Arsenal side : Martinelli, Lacazette and Tierney. You can include Odegaard in the mix. Why did it take our respected coaches lo g time to arrive at this set ? I ask this question because we wouldn’t have had this turnaround if Aubameyang wasn’t sanctioned. His exclusion led to certain changes that heralded the strong play we are experiencing. Are we sure all our best players are always featured ? Much as I respect Arteta and the work he has done, I believe that our best players are not always available. I believe certain players like AMN, Guendozi, Saliba should be part of the team, even if it’s on bench. We cannot be playing Xhaka with his inconsistencies while AMN has not been tried at that role. Well, Arteta knows best as he works with these guys on daily basis, but these questions beg answers.

      1. Agreed with you on Guen,saliba and AMN. As strong as our display was, beholding our bench, you would see that it wasn’t that loaded except PEPE who might not even get a look.

        Man city bench had strong players. Saliba and Matteo for me as the latter thrives on games like this just that he needed to be managed.

        Xhaka is xhaka. He will not change. We need a replacement. Party showed his ability on Saturday. The progress was visible and if we apply a meticulous game management, we will be winning this type of matches.

    2. Then how can you possiibly say you love him as a man?? What on EARTH IS THERE TO LOVE!!

      You slate him as a player and correctly too but then claim to love him. Makes no sense, unless you are gay or female.

  12. A bit confused on how one can watch that game and conclude that we are top four contenders. Odds might still be against us but we are certainly in the conversation (and arguably ahead of schedule)

      1. You’re right! I left out “not” in my first sentence I.e. “…conclude we are not top four contenders”. My bad.

  13. Spot on.

    Experience is what we lacked as shown in our last fight.
    We still need to sort out a few new players for some of our positions to rotate our key players.
    A deadly finisher.
    We need depth to compete.

  14. Thanks Dan for a good writeup, but my opinion is that I don’t blame any of our player but the bias ref and people in charge of the var and some arsenal fans for slating every arsenal players is if the players are the something bad that other teams have not done….For examples, Xhaka pulling of shirt was just too soft and every body saw that Bernardo really dived, var and ref gave penalty and the fans were blaming Xhaka, you guys should go back and watch our game against Chelsea again where James pulled saka shirt and fell ref and var said play on, some of our fans were blaming saka for diving and trying to win penalty…. Its laughable as majority of our fans base were blaming Gab for the red card, ref gave him yellow card in the 57mins then without warning him after 2mins he gave another yellow, and you guys were saying that he is childish and immature as if this has never happened before in this league…. Xhaka foul against man city( first leg) was giving as red card even though his leg touched the ball, ball Kane two legged tackle against Robertson ( liv match) was checked by var and yellow card was given… Saka late kick against Norwich, some of our fans were saying it should be redcarded for the naivety but Mount did similar thing today against liv and var checked and nor card ( I never heard any foul or blame words from any Chelsea fans against Mount)….
    Who remembered Mane elbow kicked against Tierney, legged matching against tomiyasu and also elbow kicked today against Azpi, no red card given to him( but if it was our own players esp Xhaka, that have been doing that, our fans base would call fro his head and say he is immature, wicked and will never learn) I never heard any foul or abusing comments or words from Liverpool fans…..
    These arsenal players really tried and they really make me proud for going toe to toe against city and voicing out there frustration and anger against ref and var….Do you guys remember Arsenal of Arsene Wenger where every club always bully us and they always make jokes of us they we are babies and too soft…. Now that we are ready to face them in terms of challenge and out muscle our opponents, we are blaming them again that they are not mature and lack experience instead of us fans to support them and encourage them…

    1. The thing is with Xhaka he does this to often, if you look at Xhaka face on the replay, once he is passed, there is malice expression, an annoyance comes over him in that split second and forgot he is in the penalty area. I know this happens we are all human ( in fact L.Suarez, D.Costa are like that but deliver on performance so are worth accommodating ) But Xhaka is not that influential, not if we are trying to get to the next stage, and personally I think he is limited against more athletic teams. As I’ve said before he would be a much better player in Italy.

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