‘The Game of 7 Truths’
Sometimes we watch and it’s obvious what went right and wrong.
Sometimes we watch and it isn’t because there were so many components to what happened.
That was Liverpool vs Arsenal.
So much truth and it comes from all directions.
1) Arsenal were dangerous going forward the whole game. They created more in the first half but were dangerous throughout.
The first ‘truth’ is that confidence, momentum and the score line will always swing on key moments.
Both Auba and Pepe could have changed the flow and the outcome if they would have scored when clean through.
2) The second ‘truth’ is that the game was won because of two Luiz errors and the coaching staff having Guendouzi mark the tallest man on the field at set plays. I’m a keen observer of this and I can tell you that it happens often and I cannot comprehend why Sokratis is better off marking Firmino than Matip.
Honestly, that’s comedically bad organization.
3) My third ‘truth’ is that we were fortunate that Liverpool didn’t rip us to shreds in the first half.
The strategy was to defend deep and deny two things… balls to the forward’s feet (with tight diamond), and to stop the ‘dink’ over the top that Liverpool regularly score from.
We did both but could have achieved both by also covering the flanks.
A deep lying 4-4-1-1 would have worked.
Also, adjusting AMN position as he played far to close to Sokratis and getting him closer to Robertson would have worked.
Playing such a compact shape against a multi faceted opponent doesn’t bother them.
Liverpool are the champions of Europe and they deserve to be because they have threat everywhere. So….. you have to adequately cover all of them, not just the front three.
4) My fourth observation is that I felt that the strategy and physical demands that Emery set us up in hampered us.
I understand that Liverpool are great and we are currently where they were in 2016.
It is one of the most beautiful truths of football though, that you don’t have to be better to win.
We were 6/10 and could have won with those first half chances.
So I ask myself, could we have fared better if we’d played to our strengths as we were on a bit of a roll pre-game?
Playing higher gives their front three what they want though, right? Sure. But our front three are fantastic too and we didn’t give them what I think they deserved. We also took the gem from last week (Ceballos) and made him just play defense.
On top of this we drained Guendouzi in particular as we repeatedly made him run 50 yards to help AMN and he looked exhausted after 20 minutes.
For me, this strategy was for last years Arsenal. This years Arsenal are 30% better.
I have no concrete evidence but I sense that the players are not fans of ‘new game, new strategy.’
The constant tinkering, I believe, was a large part of our collapse last year.
When you have a new team each year there are so many connections that you have to marry.
If your practices are always taken up with ‘new strategy’ and you don’t have an established team, then you get what you saw….. no ‘automatic.’ Players have to remember and look rather than play on instinct as their brand new friends keep moving house!
I do wonder if this will be the downfall of Emery. I hope not.
5) I’m learning that Unai Emery’s coaching ability is based on his heart rate.
He has proved he can win games with a clever pre match or half time strategy as much as he can overthink and get it wrong.
I’ve also noticed that he struggles when the game is hectic as he becomes hectic himself and seems to lack clarity.
During this game there were three crucial coaching moments he missed.
He was too hyped on the sideline and missed the simple change from the diamond to 4-4-1-1 to help Guendouzi.
In the second half he waited far too long to play higher and introduce Lacazette. Lastly, the balloon popped too quickly after we scored because he’d removed Ceballos who would’ve helped as we pushed on.
6) I had a mini and not too unique epiphany at half time.
When Arsenal become hard to beat they will become winners.
Our midfield is a match for Liverpool’s and our forward line has the potential to be as scary as theirs. Our keeper is similar and even though we’ve upgraded our back line we don’t yet have an ‘aura.’
Liverpool do and because we don’t we stay deep and didn’t trust them and so in attempting to nullify Liverpool we nullified Arsenal.
7) The final truth is that people like me probably over think.
If Emery’s forwards put us ahead or Luiz doesn’t make 2 big errors and we go on to get an admirable draw or even victory, do we wonder if we are going to compete for the League?
Then Emery is ‘the man,’ right!?!?
So were we closer than we think?
Was the game plan spot on but not executed?
Seven truths. My head is spinning.
* For his first full game away at the Champions of Europe, Pepe had a good day.
Always a threat and unpredictable to everyone including his teammates.
* Xhaka had a good second half and to his credit he always brings composure in a hectic environment.
If only he’d receive the ball on the half turn more then he could be more effective at his best attribute…. passing.
* If that is Monreal’s last game then I have nothing but appreciation for a very reliable player.
Every team needs a player like Nacho.
* Leno was sure handed again and better on crosses.
* Ceballos tried too hard. He will flourish when we are on the front foot as he wants to dictate, not be dictated to.
* A compact diamond can work as it theoretically fits our players. The breakdown started with the lack of pressure on the ball.
If you are pressed and have an opponent close you only have local options to play to and you can press them all.
With pressure being five steps away you can play round the entire diamond in one pass.
* Was Emery reluctant to push on for fear of being thrashed?
Even after we scored we didn’t push. Liverpool were nervous for 3 minutes and then realized that we took our goal as a mere consolation rather than a catalyst for more. Shame. We had some momentum.
* Is Emery waiting to announce his 5 captains as one or two may be leaving in the next week or so OR is it also because he wants David Luiz to be one?
If he does, I think he’s giving him time to get the teams respect as it’s very hard to make a brand new player one of your leaders.
Even though Luiz made mistakes today, I’d rather he be one of the captains than Ozil.
* I’m glad we play Spurs next. No time to be sad as fans expect your very best in this game.
Arsenal came into this fixture with energy.
I felt that Emery partially deflated the balloon.
Us coaches often try to create false energy at pre-game and half time because it inspires a positive mind.
I learnt many years ago…. If in doubt, play to your strengths.
It shows your players you trust them and gives them all the belief they need.