When bad is perfect
Positives, Needs and Hopes
I have two hopes when going into the first few games of a season with the team I coach.
I want to be exposed and I want to win.
I want to be exposed so I know what needs to change and be fixed before the bigger games show up.
This isn’t a new season for Arsenal but it certainly is in the life of Mikel Arteta.
Being exposed is particularly important at the beginning of January when there is a chance to correct in the transfer window.
So, the timing was perfection.
Don’t get me wrong, I was not feeling this way before the game or during the first half.
Just captured this thought after we scored.
This game was actually perfect because Arteta needed to see the following…..
1) That Xhaka and Guendouzi struggle technically under pressure and have very rarely worked as a two. One can’t burst away and the other is over confident and has no vision before he gets the ball.
2) Mesut Ozil struggles against man marking, sulks and reverts.
Quite honestly, they all did.
3) The best thing that Arteta saw was that Leeds are not only good but a modern day, athletic, fast team. So, they man mark because we don’t have the athleticism to escape.
He now knows, if he didn’t already, that here lies the biggest need for Arsenal Football Club….. Modern players.
4) That without a quick forward as an outlet you can’t escape the press and stretch them.
5) That Pepe and Nelson struggle to get their initial positioning right. They mark themselves.
6) That under stress, Xhaka is completely controlled by his emotions. Credit @yankeegunner for spotting this imposter from the recent past.
Was lucky to still be on the field. I counted 5 yellows.
7) That Guendouzi needs to tie his hair back so he can see around the corner. Backwards is his only out ball under pressure and he never passes over his shoulder unless facing forwards and rarely passes forward with one touch.
8) That Pepe may improve his ball retention in the middle third but as he frequently allows transition, he may be better served as a ‘check and spin’ player. Play him over the top. Alternatively, he could be tried at ‘10‘ where there is instant midfield pressure if he loses it.
The boy is a serious talent but he is also a liability the way he’s being played in transitions.
9) That AMN has made himself pivotal as the 3rd inverted CMid.
Against teams that man mark, Xhaka and Guendouzi don’t have the profile and desperately need help.
10) That the extra available man against a team that man marks you is a Centre Back. Not ideal as no progress is made.
Arsenal need to sign a DM option to Torreira (or try Ceballos), as a press resistant DM would’ve freed a player being man marked. So, 4-3-3 is better in this scenario.
Finally, if I was an opposing coach I’d plan to use the ‘Leeds plan’ against Arsenal.
The most important result that happened yesterday was that the players were apparently told pre-game how good Leeds are and what they’d do. They were. We were complacent. Our new shiny coach doubtlessly told them what he told the press:
“Maybe they needed to experience it for themselves “
He probably walked in at full time, waited for it to go quiet and then said, ‘maybe next time, you’ll listen to me,’ and walked out.
I hope he did.
* Great credit to Sokratis for playing to his optimum.
I believe he was played there so we had an out ball over the press, the aerial ball to Sokratis.
* It was a huge plus to see Nelson, in particular, accelerating in transition and running at their back line.
* Martinelli is a real player. A real threat and a very real option to ultimately replace Aubameyang or Lacazette.
If he could occasionally straighten his back when dribbling he would see his options better but maybe that will come.
* I wonder if Xhaka was encouraged to try break lines on the dribble. Never seen that before. He should have unleashed that left foot shot.
* The outswinging near post corner has worked on multiple occasions so far under Arteta.
* It’s still weird for me to see ‘aggressive Arsenal.’ I think we rattled Leeds who got edgy.
If we rewind our lives to when we played (maybe you still do), we will remember how important the first impression is. If you start aggressively, then even if you back off, your opponent will expect pressure and it will affect his touch and composure.
This was how Leeds reacted.
* English football has changed this season.
There are far better coaches as the TV money has spread the talent. Best example is Daniel Farke and Norwich. Even though they are currently struggling, nobody is beating them easily. In fact they have outplayed many teams, notably City.
This makes life as an Arsenal fan more stressful as there are no easy wins. What it does however, is force clubs like Arsenal to step up.
* If Lacazette’s balance issue is truly down to him carrying a lower body injury, when is the best time to rest him and let Auba play CF and Martinelli play LW?
* Pepe needs to offer a transitional pass on the touchline and with his hips open.
* Why did David Luiz play Cowboys and Indians with our defence in the first half? I thought we were past running away?
* No excuse for Guendouzi being so awful at heading.
* Martinelli will improve even further when he slows his wheels down before he releases.
Much like Walcott, it’s very hard to complete an action if you are moving at the speed that he is able to.
* So we saw Kalvin Phillips.
In a team that constantly dispossessed us in the first half, he made 9 tackles. He also bossed the game with perfect positioning, impressive composure and almost faultless decision making.
One of the only DM’s I know that can dictate play and destroy in equal measure.
My suggestion is to bid before he becomes fashionable.
That may be too late though.
* Why is Bellerin taking an extra month to recover and why has nobody asked why?
It’s concerning for Bellerin when you think that the Sokratis experiment might not be an experiment.
* Meslier, Leeds’ keeper (the oversized 13 yr old), was rather good. Fantastic feet.
The bigger point is for Arsenal to pay attention to teams that play the way we want to.
The list is growing as teams are getting braver.
It’s a far easier transition perhaps for Kalvin Phillips to come from the Championship than a player like Soumare coming from a higher level at Lille.
Players at Brighton, Norwich and Leeds do not have to learn a whole new way of playing if they were to come to Arsenal.
* Huge credit to Bielsa. Best team I’ve ever seen by far in that league.
If you were wondering why the coach who Guardiola calls ‘the best in the world’ is coaching a Championship team, he’s been a hot head too often.
Loses his calm and leaves or upsets people too easily and gets fired.
Every coach needs a game where they get to look like the smartest man in the room.
Establishes instant respect.
I was a little surprised they didn’t trust him initially.
I’d say they do 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.