Not ready to win it, but can Arsenal compete for the league?
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
As important as winning the big games is the belief gained.
If I were Unai Emery, I would ask the players if they felt they were at the same level as Liverpool.
Do not tell them.
Some may just see that as false motivation.
You would probably find that many would speak up and that the squad would start to realize that, their teammates have big hope.
I would say they felt Liverpool’s equal.
Some may legitimately think they are better.
You may think I am ahead of myself here but if we had scored a winner, I would be thinking we could win the league.
Belief would have been unreal.
With a draw, I say that Arsenal COULD compete for the league. I say that, as we were superior for long periods. So if we all think that Liverpool will compete then why do we think we can’t?
Think about this too….
In 3 months, there has been so, so much improvement.
Individuals have improved, accountability showed up, in game management is a new arrival, a coach winning games from the bench, a serious attitude about winning ALL games, we are harder to play against as opposing coaches don’t know what we will do etc..
These are clear positive signs and Emery started only 3 months ago!
What should we expect in a full 9-month season!
I always felt that when Wenger changed the club motto to ‘Forward,’ that he was manipulating our thoughts. Trying to make us think we were when we were not.
Unai Emery’s Arsenal are moving forward.
* All the talk pre-game was about a faster start, a better first half. It was clearly better.
* I was nervous throughout but Arsenal looked in control.
* Well done Kolasinac. First game in a long while and you did well.
* Could Holding save the club £50M?
I have said the same for Iwobi and the improvement in Xhaka and Bellerin could do the same.
Holding was imperious.
Seems to thrive in big games. We all remember Cup Final vs Costa.
* Xhaka and Torreira bossed the midfield. They were two vs 3, too.
Xhaka not only controlled the midfield but compare his defensive effort to Watford away last season. He is a commercial for Emery’s coaching and accountability.
Torreira stands out more than any other at Arsenal does because we have not seen his type for over 10 years.
I always thought Wenger did not buy a true DM because people were telling him to.
His tackling was so inspirational.
* Loved the first corner to near post. I am stealing it 😉
* Leno made two important saves but his decision-making on crosses was poor.
This always seems to be the difference maker for a goalie.
Not 100% sure, do not go out.
* Ozil’s positioning for a switch opened up many attacks down the left.
* I suggested last week that Arsenal need to practice combinations in the final third, as we needed more options than the ball to the full back.
Today, we combined frequently.
* Mustafi anticipated very well all game long.
* Lacazette’s back tackling makes opponents rush their subsequent possession.
* Liverpool’s chances today came mostly from a mistake somewhere. Ours came from good play.
I’d rather rely on good play than hope for mistakes.
* Bellerin was another who was very good today. Improving at both ends of the pitch.
* We won so many 1st and 2nd balls.
Was not expecting this against Liverpool.
* The team closed down Liverpool quicker and got tighter second half.
I am assuming that there was a conversation about this at half time.
* Liverpool were the most dangerous front three in Europe last season. This season they will be a similar threat.
Even though on paper we have similar quality, I see one big difference… their dynamic movement off the ball.
Not only are they all quick but they use their quickness more effectively.
They often make two opposing runs. Were you wondering why Salah was getting one on one on the right flank early in the second half?
It was Firmino.
When the passer looked up, Firmino was on Mustafi. Kolasinac was too high. Firmino would make a run to the left, dragging Mustafi away from Holding.
Rob Holding was then left 1 on 1 with Salah until Kola or Xhaka got back to help.
Arsenal are not there yet.
In addition, all three of their forwards make two runs. One to move the defender and create space, one to the ball.
If you watch Laca and Auba off the ball, they are easier to mark. They may slow down as defenders back pedal or cover the six yd. box to create a pass but, for example, when running into the box they are not losing defenders, as their runs are easy to track. Laca is most guilty. Watch him attack a ball in the box. He may get there but he has a defender right with him. He sees the front post and just runs there. Two steps towards the back post, a sprint to the front and you create 1 yd and a gap to finish in.
* Holding could be top level. Do not get so tight that they spin you, Rob.
His weakness is his pace in recovery.
* All these things I am mentioning will change as we finally have a coach that improves players.
I am looking for the coaching staff to get a hold of Auba and work with him on playing with his back to goal, making himself bigger and stronger.
* There is a modern disease in football…The high line on free kicks in the final third.
I fully understand that you can catch players offside.
I also understand that you clear a space for your goalie.
What my eyes tell me is that every team in modern football does this and the negatives are far outweighing the benefits. Mainly due to the quality of the delivery.
It seems that at least 50% of the time there is a free header and often there is a queue waiting for this freebie.
At these free kicks, I either adopt the squint, the stomach pain or just hide behind my seat.
* Didn’t really understand the Auba/Ramsey sub.
Auba has scored most of his goals late in games.
On Ramsey, I wonder if he is going to have fewer options than the media are suggesting.
He may end up at a higher profile club but for me he will be on their bench. I am starting to doubt this though as would you pay the £200+K a week for a sub.
His other option is to go to an AC Milan or an Everton to start but will they pay £200+K a week? Can they even afford it?
If he goes free maybe, they can.
* Kudos to Guendouzi for sitting with the fans today.
On Guendouzi…. I wonder if he could play as a number 10.
It was Elliott from Arsenal Vision that put this thought out.
His desire to go forward combined with his passing quality would be worth a look at.
Ozil has been good enough recently to keep his place but if Xhaka and Torreira are first choice CMids I would still be looking for a place for Guendouzi. He seems too productive to leave out.
* Rumours of Sancho, Pepe, Pavon etc…
Isn’t it smarter to give Reiss Nelson a chance first?
If we are tight for money then should we not see if he is the winger, we need before we drop a big fee?
He has started so fast in the Bundesliga and is consistently scoring / assisting.
* I have given my thoughts over last month on potential transfers.
I like Ziyech, DeJong and DeLigt (although the latter two will go bigger than AFC), Lascelles, Wan Bissaka, Zaha, Hudson Odoi, and Adama Traore as a late impact sub.
Here’s another…. Nathan Ake.
Improving all the time and much like Joe Gomez, he has a little of everything.
I think the executive committee is waiting on Mavropanos.
When we signed Sokratis I thought that maybe Emery had ideas of the two Greeks as first choice. Sokratis talking Mavro through games.
Been injured all season so we wait.
* Three Arsenal players to watch for…
Bukayo Saka will play for the first team before the end of the season.
Do not forget Krystan Bielik. Doing very well at Charlton and a fine player.
As is Gediom Zelalam who is on the comeback trail.
* Final ‘hope’ is that I am grateful that I have lots of it.
Follow me at mike_mmcdonald and @GunnersTown
And finally …..
Former Highbury regular. Moved to TN, USA in ’99. Married with 3 kids. Coached in UK and US for 27 years.
Mike McDonald Soccer Academy in Morristown TN, Olympic Development coach, Regional Premier League Champion.