‘THE MOST IMPORTANT MATCH OF THE SEASON?’
I think so.
Unless Emery is stubborn or blind, he was smacked in the face with a handful of potential changes that he could make based on what we all
saw. Changes that could swing our season from ‘decent results, poor performances but fall short again’ to ‘top four certainty.’
1) The big one…. Torreira for Xhaka.
This one single decision could do the above all by itself.
Torreira was everything that Xhaka can’t be.
He can’t win multiple tackles because he doesn’t have Torreira’s quickness or agility.
He can’t anticipate and intercept because he positions himself in safer positions as he doesn’t trust his recovery speed.
He can’t back tackle without fouling because he doesn’t have the pace to catch opponents.
Torreira allows the players in front of him to play the game they wish they could….. if a player doesn’t trust what’s behind him then his wings will never fully open as he has ‘defensive responsibilities’ in the back of his mind. “Should I make this forward run? Better not, I can’t leave Xhaka.”
Finally, if one of Emery’s many nervousness’ is that he has to play Xhaka to defend set plays (some validity), then the introduction of Holding and Chambers adds at least one more with strength in the air.
Which leads nicely on to…
2) Holding and Chambers
Simply the fact that Rob Holding is back might be enough to replace one of DL or SP.
It was Forest and he had little to do but I think it’s only a matter of time.
Chambers could play one of three positions. CB, RB or DM.
Another very impressive performance and let’s be honest, he isn’t ever given a run of games to find his way into form, he just performs.
I’m sure he will be RB on Monday. Interesting to see where he lands after that.
There is a decent argument that with Pepe, Saka and Auba we could be a better transition team than possession team.
I don’t think the fan base has a problem with this against City and Liverpool but they want front foot football against the others…. and we have the players to do this.
I think it’s fair to say that the fan base aren’t questioning Emery based on Liverpool away. They are against Watford away, Burnley at home and Villa at home. No reason why the best squad we’ve had in a decade should struggle here.
The fans want and deserve for Arsenal Football Club to start on the front foot, stay on the front foot and finish on the front foot against the majority of the PL teams.
Rumors were circulating that Ljungberg ‘coached the Forest game.’
If that’s true then it would explain 5-0, rather than 2-1 AET.
4) Athleticism in midfield
I remind myself infrequently that we DO have the option to play ‘athletes’ in midfield.
The most frequently seen midfield this season is Xhaka, Ceballos and Guendouzi. They lack a change of pace defensively and it’s causing imbalance.
Torreira, Willock and AMN is full of quickness, line breaking penetration, pressing and sprints. We don’t have to play all three but don’t believe people who say we don’t have athletic options to at least try.
5) Higher defensive line
Sokratis and Luiz when attacked drop as far as their penalty spot.
Holding and Mustafi went as far back as 25 yards out and all Forest could do was chip balls that Martinez gobbled up.
This allowed the team to have smaller distances between their defensive lines. Huge.
Not a surprise as everyone expects him to be first choice. Just confirmation that his ceiling is much higher than Kolasinac.
Mr Emery, I know you like studying film. I know this is a Carabao Cup game that you might think you can overlook. Watch it until you see what could save your Arsenal career. This could be the most important match of our season?
* First game. Not going to over react but…. Kieran Tierney looks next level.
Quicker than Kola, bites into tackles with the same tenacity as Torreira, change of pace to beat right back, better delivery, gets closer to block the cross as he trusts his quickness if beaten and has the backing of the fan base.
* Willock doesn’t remind me of a young player. Doesn’t play like one.
I had a conversation with a Utd fan about him. He didn’t know anything about him. He asked me what his qualities are. I said, ‘everything.’
I told him that you may or may not see ‘everything’ but the boy can do it all.
Press, run with the ball, fight, defend, attack, sprint, score, pass, play with composure etc…
Willock played with a defensive seriousness that I’d not seen in him yet.
Always checking his shoulder to ensure he was blocking passing lanes, tracking runners and higher focus.
* Mustafi’s passing was very good. Got to be fair when I/we are quick to criticize.
* Martinelli is knocking on a door that may not open frequently for him due to the form and price tag of our forwards.
If he’s realistic about this then he will progress and not get frustrated.
What I see in him are penalty kicks. His feet are so fast and he is a ‘frequent touch’ dribbler making it hard for defenders to tackle him. They’ll try as they don’t know this yet.
* Martinez impresses again. Didn’t have anything exciting to do but that was largely because he diffused potential situations at source.
* The 5 captains will be Auba, Ozil (😞), Holding, Bellerin and Xhaka (😞)
I think the delay in announcing is because the club is prompting Emery to reconsider Xhaka as ‘main captain.’
* The commentator on ESPN+ was drooling over Ozil.
I didn’t see it.
I judge players on the talent they are blessed with and so I think Ozil is an underachiever.
He strolled through the match in 3rd gear but didn’t ever try to make the difference. I made a note in minute 4 that Ozil slowed down a fast break. Then I remembered that this is his recent mode. Rarely opens hips. Collects, glides effortlessly away from pressure but does it whilst turning in a huge circle which takes any impetus away that we had.
He could of torn Forest apart, but played too safe. Safe is what I expected from ElNeny.
* Nelson plays the quick two touch that I wish others would play. Personally, I’d prefer it if Nelson engaged his full back more. I think he’s lacking confidence right now to try.
* Will we try a back three now?
Tierney and Bellerin at wing backs sounds good. Luiz safer in a 3 man defence? An athlete and a passer at CM? Keep the 3 up top.
This system might actually suit us now but for me would fall apart unless Emery gets a grip on the spacing in his midfield.
* Hoping ESR recovers quickly. He needs to play with more individualism and trust himself to be the difference maker. He was passing the buck too often.
Emery has the tools to make the Top 4. I’d say we have the third best squad in the PL.
He has to fix himself.
Stop over thinking. Stop the anxiety as it’s bleeding through to the players and certainly in his tactics. Stop planning for the opponent over giving thought to Arsenal first.
Start playing on the front foot and please, please, please can we show up in both halves. Please.
(Oh, and Torreira, Chambers, Luiz, Ceballos, Guendouzi or my Auntie Ruth rather than Granit Xhaka at DM).
Part of me is super excited about what I saw vs Forest.
Part of me is calming the other part down as I’m unconvinced that Emery will make the right choices to fulfill our potential.
Part of me is winking at Mikel Arteta, Marcelo Gallardo, Julian Nagelsman and Lucien Favre.
Part of me doesn’t understand why our current coach seems to have the coaching ability but is just simply getting too much wrong.
It’s really on Unai Emery now.
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.