The Players, The Club, but not The Coach
Positives, Needs and Hopes
At the beginning of the Arteta reign I wrote a blog about where the improvement would take us.
I felt and still feel that although the improvement gives us great hope, a decent portion of it is simply taking us back to neutral. To competitive.
We were so far below that and sliding down the league.
We are now more aggressive. Much needed. Does this make us better than others though, or just the same?
We have an attacking plan. Is that better or normal?
We are significantly more solid defensively. Is that better than most or just where you have to be to have a chance?
We have a co-ordinated press, but don’t all good teams?
We’ve started making tactical fouls in the middle third but I think we are the last team to figure out that the sport allows persistent, rotational fouling.
There are many more but point made.
What this tells me is that throughout the rest of the campaign the players and the club will be the focus. Not Mikel Arteta.
I think it’s fair to say that everything and I mean literally everything that is now significantly better at Arsenal is directly linked to Arteta’s arrival. As my first blog stated, ‘Everything just changed.’
I foresee Arsenal becoming increasingly fitter, more offensively dominant, shrewder, and again, much more.
This will have given the players all the tools and then the interesting part begins.
As we are starting to see, we are getting out of neutral and Arteta’s ideas are putting us into high forward gears.
So, when it doesn’t work out and we don’t get the wins it will be a clear exposure of the players abilities and then subsequently the eyes will shift to the club to see if they have the ambition to do anything about that.
I think Arteta’s ruthless’ comment was not just about present accountability for the players but the bigger decision.
The decision that will be made in May where he will sit down and tell the Club that he got us to neutral and then competitive. He then pushed us beyond to where we should be able to compete within the top four next year but certain players when at their optimum, are still not what’s needed and need to either go or be satisfied with a squad place.
The players I am specifically thinking about are Sokratis, Guendouzi, Lacazette, Ozil, Ceballos, Bellerin and Xhaka.
All of them that played against Palace were fine and some were good. Sokratis, Xhaka and Lacazette did some things very well.
I ask you though, is having a CB that opposing coaches target setting defensive traps based on his lack on the ball, good enough for Arsenal Football Club?
Xhaka has been quite impressive but can we move forward as a team when there are playmakers in the game that have Xhaka’s positive qualities but also posses speed, athleticism and the ability to drive forward on the dribble too.
Guendouzi is a heroic player. A player who likes adversity. Is he able to discipline himself positionally to show the coach that he can either dictate as a play maker or replace Torreira when needed?
Ozil is revitalized. Or is he? Is he simply at neutral? A level now where he is putting in the required physical effort which is considered a non-negotiable, not a benefit. Does he add enough going forward consistently to justify us keeping his huge salary that could be spread two or three ways?
Bellerin is good defensively and good offensively, but is ‘good’ sufficient?
Lacazette’s physical effort is beyond neutral compared to most every other CF in the game but he is clumsy in possession too often and is unreliable as a main target man. Hasn’t scored away in 336 days.
I think this summer we may see some surprises.
Reminding ourselves that Mikel Arteta and Raul Sanhelli have both seen elite players, I think some or many will get sold. They will feel aggrieved as they like ‘new Arsenal’ and the fans may wonder why, but the question will be….
Are there better and can we get them?
If there is then add in the fact that we will likely not be flush with the money to make Arsenal elite without selling, I see players with resell value, like Guendouzi, being sold.
Much of this showed up against Palace.
We needed a penetrative CM to commit their midfielders and create more chances for our forwards who had good movement but not the opportunity.
We needed a second aggressive presser and tackler when Torreira went off and Guendouzi can’t do this.
We needed a confident CF that wouldn’t have smashed the one second half chance we had from 5 yards.
Yesterday’s Arsenal were set up in such an impressive way that those players should’ve won with 11 men or 10.
Mikel Arteta can’t tell them that he is doing more than his part as it screams arrogance.
I can say it though.
* Continuing the above thought…
Is the fact that every player on the field are now not only playing in their best position but are also in a set up that accentuates their strengths and hides their weaknesses, something that a coach should do as ‘an expected?’
Honestly, I think that it should be expected from a professional coach but the truth is that most coaches don’t do this or can’t do this.
Example; Lucas Torreira….
Under Emery he was either out of position or in position but running 25 yards to tackle. Now he plays DM, runs 3-10 yards and has arguably been man of the match three games running.
* The first 35 minutes were highly impressive.
I’d say we haven’t seen such complete domination for a very long time. It was the 23rd minute before Palace had a passing move. What a turnaround!
* I loved how Lacazette followed the training guideline of waiting to pass until a defender commits before he assisted Aubameyang.
* The greatly improved attacking system included Pepe making a direct dribble 1 on 1 rather than delaying for 1 on 2 or 3. It also saw him run behind off the ball for the first time possibly this season. Hallelujah!
* If Luiz is still at Arsenal next season, and I think he will be, I think he will be the captain.
He is clearly bought in and this is crucial. He is a black and white player. Buys in and is an elite CB. Doesn’t like what’s going on and is a liability.
He’s acting like the captain now and I’d say Arteta has told him to do this as it’s not Aubameyang’s nature.
With Saliba coming we will likely need experience next to him. More likely is that it will be Luiz plus new signing as Saliba will need time to adjust, especially at 19.
* Every performance under Arteta has brought a longer period of dominance and ability to press.
* The defensive posture team wide was noticeably better. Lower and more able to change direction.
* Have Kolasinac and AMN improved both defensively and offensively to the point where they earn the right to stay at Arsenal?
Both seem much more serious.
* The ability to win the ball back in transition is not just because of our organization and new energy but the angles that we take up to deny the out pass they want.
* Pepe’s corner delivery will produce many more goals. Top level.
* The list of missing pieces is shrinking by the game.
As we continue to improve I think there is a chance we can win both cups.
* This is a small detail and I’m not sure if it would’ve impacted their goal but check out the replay.
A goalkeeper is taught to ‘get set’ prior to a shot. This is simply to stop lateral movement and bounce in a low posture.
It’s not just Leno that is guilty of this but I’m seeing many goals this season that were preventable if the goalkeeper bounced but wasn’t off the ground at moment of contact.
As it takes less than a second for the average shot to reach the goal, if the keeper’s feet are in the air at the moment of contact they can’t move in any direction and will only save it if it’s hit slowly or at them. Small details, big difference.
* In the modern game where we could all point where the ball is going next, we need more unpredictability.
The game is also becoming more of a choreographed coaches game which is a shame.
If you have a player who is unpredictable it will greatly confuse as the players are not trained for this.
I say this as I think that a big part of our failure to score the second goal was because Kolasinac had twice the opportunities that Pepe did.
Kolasinac is a system player. Pepe is a maverick and was making better decisions but was rarely involved.
* Three of our front four play play to not get hurt. When the game becomes a street fight like this one and we need them to hold it up, they struggle or refuse to use their frame to their advantage.
* I hope that the governing bodies look at repetitive fouling.
That game was one long free kick.
Coaches and players take advantage of the rules and we are seeing far less attacking football because of it.
Maybe the fourth official can keep a tally of who is fouling? He can help the referee to identify issues like Ayew making more fouls in a game than anybody this season without receiving a yellow card.
I’ve always thought that a 10 minute sin bin for either or both player/team foul accumulation would stop teams from intentionally manipulating the game. It’s getting beyond frustrating that you can’t get through a passing move without being deliberately fouled. Even though fans love the simplicity of the rules in football I think you can’t ignore how coaches tell players to take advantage of what are huge loop holes. The new patterns in the game unfortunately dictate that you have to change the rules.
* I’m hoping that if we find a midfielder in January, it is someone who can replicate Torreira’s ball winning ability.
We are a clearly weaker team when he’s not playing.
I notice that Leicester are equally struggling now Ndidi is having surgery.
Do you remember City at home?
Watch it again. Then watch the first 35 minutes today.
I can’t remember seeing such a 180 in performance in less than a month. Just need to add goals to the dominance.
Time for the players to match their coaches high level.
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.