Arsenal 2-0 Southampton: Gunners’ first half frolic sees them break into Top 4 [Positive Needs & Hopes]

xhaka laca

Did I see Intent, Rhythm and Fun?


As the season was about to start I remember wondering what I was going to see.
I remember thinking that we would quickly try to impress our new coach with a fluid, typical Arsenal rhythm combined with the obvious initial need of a more solid defensive unit. We have not seen either consistently but that first half today was different.
That is the first game this season where we have been playing a team we should beat and our first half approach was not sleepy. It looked like what I imagined back in August and expected us to figure out much earlier.
I’d love to know what went on between Thursday and Sunday.
I’m gonna take a guess.
It looked like they practiced quicker ball movement. 
It also looked like Emery sat down with the players individually and found the words to change their mentality. Perhaps he told certain players that their future was on the line? Maybe he simply asked them what THEIR goals were and then asked them if THEIR contribution would get Arsenal to achieve these goals?
These are challenges I’d have used and practiced.
This season to put it into simple terms, our players have individually been inconsistent and under par way too often. It’s hard to think of many who have consistently been very good. If you think of players like Mkhi, Ozil, Auba and Ramsey and ask yourself when were they at their best career form, you’d certainly not pick this season. I’m not totally ok with Guendouzi, Kolasinac and Iwobi being our Players of the Season. The likelihood is that Guendouzi will win Player of the Season and a 19 year old in his first year out of Ligue 2 should not be a contender for this.
Whatever Emery did worked. We looked like the players came on the field ready to ‘have fun’ and not with an overload of responsibilities and worries.
We started with intent. No slow start. Our movement off the ball and our ball movement was sharper and finally we had rhythm. Intent, rhythm and fun….. i didn’t expect all three to show up at once so kudos to the team and staff!


* Can Alex Iwobi do that every week? Emery has made him hug the touchline the last few games, giving him room to breathe before attacking the full back. He often has to fight first. The difference today was end product. He twice picked out the right cross for the two goals. Real difference making rather than just offering drive and threat. His left foot is improving too.
* Another player who looked like he’d had an important chat with the coach was Mkhi. Based on the season as a whole i’d sell in the summer but today I questioned that thought. He didn’t disappear like he often does and looked like he wasn’t content with passing the buck.
* Leno was bought to make the difference as Cech had largely stopped doing that. Today he made the difference.
* Xhaka didn’t just circulate and rack up a high pass completion. He used his passing range to create goalscoring opportunities. On the coaching side, you are supposed to not just scan before receiving but scan as far up the field as you can. If you do, then you will see the short pass. If you scan short only, you never see the longer option. I watched Xhaka closely off the ball. He scanned for Lacazette or Iwobi often rather than Torreira.
* Lichsteiner looked like the Juventus version. Some pace was evident and the crossing was significantly better. I think its important to not just label players as good and bad, but be fair when they are good and bad.
* Arsenal could use Kolasinac’s cult status to ignite the crowd. He played very well both offensively and defensively but is reluctant to shoot. Imagine he shoots more, scores occasionally and runs off thumping his chest. The crowd would love it. Just a thought.
* I’ve decided that Lacazette is consistently great, good, bad and ugly. Does a few of each. His goal was great improvisation. His general play was often good. His lack of composure today was bad and he gave the ball away for no reason twice which was ugly. To be fair, most centre forwards are the same as this,
* Many brave and important blocks today.
* Our first half pressing was pivotal to the performance. Players often feel discouraged when they press and get passed around. The thing is that pressing takes away their ‘preferred’ pass. Worth it.
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 29: An injured Stephen Lichtsteiner of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Cardiff City at Emirates Stadium on January 29, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)


* On the practice field i’d continue to work on quick ball movement but spend much time on our main attacking situation we find ourselves in every game…. the short cross from the left.
Again, we have too many players all waiting for the cutback, often hiding behind defenders too, the CF not losing his defenders with two runs and unless Auba is playing, nobody for the back post tap in. As we all see, the cross either gets cleared at the near post or blocked out for the corner.
* Did we not have enough energy to play the second half like the first? Did Emery instruct them to step off the gas? Were the players being complacent?
I don’t like option 1, 2 or 3.
 The second half performance gave Saints a great opportunity to come back in the game. We were a little lucky. If the players don’t have the legs for another similar half, I suggest a few options….. rotate team more, back off and counter but press when they enter the final third and my favoured choice…… go hard the first 15 minutes of the second half, kill the game then slow it down.
* I don’t think the 5 captain experiment has worked. I understand that making a new signing captain is foolish but next season, or earlier if your feeling bold, make Sokratis the captain.
* Xhaka needs to open his hips on his right foot and not just his left. He kills the switch from left to right when he receives it from the left flank.
* So, we bring up the center backs for all corners yet do the short corner to general play and don’t ever cross it. That’s risky for me. If we lose it we are possibly 3 v 3 on the counter.


* I think everybody hopes we start every game with intent. I hope Emery was convinced by this change today. I also hope that the one and two touch is here to stay.
* Its very early days but hands up if you saw Almiron on Saturday? I know its his first full game but oh boy, he was fantastic!
I weeped (privately) when he signed for Newcastle knowing that his price will double at least in one year and that an elite team will sign him within 18 months. I have been told by many that he is not good enough for Arsenal. They may end up being right. I think that in a short period of time that Migual Almiron and Jadon Sancho will be the biggest chance creators in Europe. Sancho statistically is already up there. I believe Almiron will join him.
It was only his first start but he created 6 ‘big chances’ for NUFC and generally looked like he’d got on the wrong bus and should’ve been on the City one headed for Wembley.
* I was ecstatic and confused when i saw that Wan-Bissaka is a target for Arsenal. He is an immense talent both defensively and as a former winger he has a far greater variety than Bellerin. I’m confused however as if we have 50M this summer then a back up right back is needed for sure, but replacing Bellerin is not a priority with a tiny budget.
* There is a link to Marcus Thuram. I’m guessing it’s a Welbeck replacement. He has impressive dribbling ability and very good balance for a big guy. Check him out…
* I like Oriel Romeu as a back up instead of ElNeny.


I REALLY enjoyed watching Arsenal play today.
The first half, anyway.

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One Response to Arsenal 2-0 Southampton: Gunners’ first half frolic sees them break into Top 4 [Positive Needs & Hopes]

  1. Marble Halls February 25, 2019 at 10:46 am #

    I wasn’t sure about the second half. I’m tempted to think the drop off on our part was deliberate. Soton had chances, but we managed to contain them. If anything, it should be a positive, but I’m happy we got the clean sheet.

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