Why Fabio yelled at Martin Odegaard as Mikel Arteta discloses greatest Arsenal regret
It’s no secret that elite sports are determined delicately. Would Gabriel Magalhaes have been a shoe size bigger, Arsenal may have lost to Manchester United before the international break.
Mikel Arteta found those margins too narrow. Before Sunday’s encounter, the Spaniard was asked to evaluate his team’s season and indicated he was delighted but desired more convincing wins.
The Goodison Park trip was not. It was evident early on that this game would be close. Given the two teams’ dissimilar fortunes, Arsenal’s record at Goodison Park over the previous few years has been bafflingly terrible, and this game threatened to repeat Sean Dyche’s first loss after taking over.
Arsenal engulfed Everton in a red sea of attacking shirts, and Declan Rice’s quick interceptions gave them no time to breathe. Though clear-cut chances were scarce.
Gabriel Martinelli’s goal was controversially deemed offside, although Jordan Pickford hadn’t had to make a save. London Colney’s week-long work pays off in these situations.
Arsenal knew short corners were their greatest chance to damage Everton from set pieces. The Gunners are more physical now, but Sean Dyche’s side are stronger, so an aerial duel was never going to work.
This desire to keep the ball on the ground proved problematic for Everton, and as the second half began, Alex Zinchenko, Fabio Vieira, and Bukayo Saka all went close from short corners.
The pressure eventually told when Martin Odegaard took his time to pass to Saka, who passed to Vieira on the outskirts of the box. Zinchenko found Saka in a rare Everton space after the Portuguese midfield passed it to him. The Hale Ender sliced back to Leandro Trossard, who finished where Pickford could not reach it. Arsenal had won another close game, but this was no coincidence.
In his post-match press conference, Arteta told football.london, “Yeah we work on everything, as every manager does, to expose the opponents’ weakness and to hide yours.” Our efforts yielded that. After that, results follow.”
Set pieces have given Arsenal hope of winning this year’s title in a league where Manchester City has punished even the smallest mistakes. No team has scored more corners than them since last season (16), and these small margins may bring the Premier League trophy back to north London in May.
Arteta’s biggest regret
David Raya’s Premier League debut has always been a matter of when. Don’t sign Raya’s top goalkeeper to sit on the bench. Aaron Ramsdale hasn’t done much wrong.
A bet on the Spaniard’s first Arsenal start in Wednesday’s Champions League group stage opening with PSV would have been better. Arteta took Raya to Goodison Park.
A solid debut for the 27-year-old. Raya only had X touches, although he did accept backpasses when Everton pressed high. He showed off his pass repertoire after receiving the ball, with a mid-range throw to right back Ben White being particularly effective. Spanishman was great at coming for crosses. As Everton launched a late aerial onslaught, the youngster defied his modest frame to consistently claim balls above James Tarkowski.
Raya played a calm game. This wasn’t about his appearance. What Arteta said after the contest was more interesting.
Goalkeeping ranks differently than other positions. Rotation is rare. Arsenal signed Raya despite Ramsdale being the number one, which seemed to annoy goalkeepers union members like Peter Schmeichel and Ben Foster.
Arteta seems uninterested in tradition. He suggested that football is about to see something new.
“It’s something that has been done like this, but I cannot have two players like this in one position and not play them,” the Spaniard remarked in his post-match press conference. “David has great qualities like Aaron and Karl, but we must use them.
I’m a young manager. Since starting my employment three and a half years ago, I have few regrets. In two games, after 60 and 85 minutes, I felt the need to change the keeper. But I didn’t. I lacked guts. I can drop a winger, striker, or center defender to five and maintain that outcome. I was upset we drew those games.
“Someone will do it, and maybe *gasps*. That’s odd? Why? Why not? We have everything a goalie needs to change momentum. Do it. I regret it.”
Saying something revolutionary in a press conference is different from doing it in a match. While a mid-game goalkeeping substitution doesn’t seem likely, Arteta plans to rotate goalkeepers more often.
“Now my feeling is to get everybody engaged in the team,” he said. They must play regardless of competition. Need to do it. This is my message.”
Though it’s never worked before, Arteta has never taken the easy way out. It will be fascinating to follow over the coming months.
Vieira seizes it.
Arteta made other big decisions that day, including choosing Raya over Ramsdale. Kai Havertz was a major target for Arsenal fans before the international break. Arteta supported the German despite his poor Gunners start.
It was surprising to see him not in the starting lineup. Fabio Vieira replacing him was unexpected.
He impressed off the bench against Everton and Manchester United at 23. Arteta suggested after the latter performance that Vieira was gaining respect in the squad. Sunday demonstrated that.
Vieira was a shell last season. As Arsenal fell 2-0 to Southampton at home, the Portuguese midfielder hid and appeared afraid to receive the ball. Nothing like that happened at Goodison Park.
He frequently demanded the ball from teammates. He even felt confident enough to chastise captain Martin Odegaard for playing Bukayo Saka instead of laying him off for the shot. A timid boy who had underperformed in his first season in England was gone. Here was the man who had taken the Portuguese league by storm in his first full season with Porto.
What was arguably the most remarkable thing about Vieira’s performance in the left eight role was exactly how differently he played it versus Kai Havertz. The German has kept very center virtually going up beside Eddie Nketiah as a second striker at times. Vieira meantime was frequently interchanging the left flank position with Gabriel Martinelli and eventually Leandro Trossard. He had a significant role in both player’s goals on the day, supplying a wonderfully weighted slide rule pass for Martinelli’s first half strike that was subsequently ruled out, and starting the slick short corner move on the edge of the box that led to Trossard’s victory.
With how much Martinelli and Trossard like to drift into central zones it looks as though a player happy to come out to the wing is tailor-made for them to prosper. Granit Xhaka accomplished this on multiple occasions last season as the combination supplied unrelenting end product. Havertz on the other hand looks to be a less natural fit.
A dispute over the German can be addressed another time though because today was Vieira’s day. The 23-year-old has had to contend with being written off despite having an injury-hit and disrupted debut season at Arsenal. Perhaps now we’ll start to see just why Arteta was so confident that we were going to like him after all.
Arteta’s latest leader appears
Prior to this match, Arteta wanted to stay cryptic on the make up of his leadership group. Established senior pros like Granit Xhaka, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding all left the club over the summer. All three had worn the captain’s armband during their time with Arsenal, but Arteta was convinced that he would not need a formal hierarchy to replace their importance in the dressing room.
“It’s not about a decision or making something formal or public,” he remarked. “We have many leaders in the squad, including Martin as captain, and you can see in pre-season when number two and three change to four and five.
I’m interested in developing their human traits and ensuring leaders emerge since we have many capable people.”
Oleksandr Zinchenko has benefited from the strategy. Manchester City insiders will attest to his impact on the team. He was not seen as a leader externally, with Gary Neville questioning if he had the attitude to take Arsenal to the top. There are no doubters now.
With a solid Everton defense, the Gunners could have easily abandoned their game plan in despair, especially as the game went on. They kept playing the way that made them one of the country’s finest teams. Zinchenko preserved faith.
The Ukrainian discovered Everton’s tiny defense vulnerabilities and exploited them with pinpoint accuracy. He looped perfect balls over the Toffees backline twice in each half, and his slide rule pass to Bukayo Saka scored the winning goal.
This is different from the chest-thumping, tackle-crunching leadership Arsenal fans had with Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira. Arteta enjoys stylistic leadership.
The Ukrainian can take a more traditional approach, but fourth official Anthony Taylor confronted him for giving tactical instructions to his teammates as he wandered around the pitch after being substituted instead of going to the bench.
He fist-pumped as he walked to Arsenal fans after the match to enjoy their well-deserved adulation. After four-and-a-half months away with injury, games like this remind us how important he is to this Gunners team.
Why Fabio yelled at Martin Odegaard as Mikel Arteta discloses greatest Arsenal regret