Structure 3 Balance 1
Positives, Needs and Hopes
Arsenal are in a period of sacrifice.
It looks to me that the new coaching team has sacrificed needed work on our attacking game to focus heavily on defensive structure.
I’m not necessarily disappointed as Arsenal haven’t had a proper defensive structure for almost half my life.
It’s just not exciting and doesn’t necessarily bring wins by itself. Yet.
The single biggest difference that Arteta’s Arsenal have changed is that we are harder to penetrate.
I am very grateful for this as Watford away and the 32 shots on goal still haunts me.
We are rarely caught out of position. Players clearly know their defensive roles. This is good. This is better.
The attacking side of the game hasn’t been ignored. The thing is though that we look like a team reliant on passing patterns.
Passing patterns are a good idea if your players understand the balance between forcing the pattern practiced and playing what you see.
We started well and our passing patterns, which largely involve Saka, were opening them up.
After Saka got hurt we looked exposed. Half naked. The players were looking for the pattern that wasn’t available and so our initial quick ball movement changed 180 and we started and continued stalling. We looked somewhat baffled as to what to do.
Football is a players game. A creative game where players should be making decisions based on what they see as a priority over what they were told pre-game. The coaches advice and practices are supposed to impact your instinct.
My biggest concern with modern day football is that it has become a coaches game. Micro managed to the point where players minds are being robotized to what they are supposed to do vs what they know they should do.
This has happened as society sees young people on devices rather than local parks.
From a young age they are being over coached and so are programmed to ‘do as they are told’ rather than ‘feel‘ the game.
Unpredictable players are only allowed to be unpredictable if it is ‘risk averse unpredictability.’
This is clearly seen with the non-selection of Pepe. Structure and the importance of defensive shape meant that we were an imbalanced team lacking in individuality and with our attackers operating a system that gave more thought to structure than success.
Yesterday’s game worries me because when the plan stopped working, so did we.
Arteta seems to want to control everything, but this makes him no different than most good coaches.
My complaint is about football in general rather than Arteta as he has corrected our structure which was the priority. I just hope that as we develop our attacking game that we maintain a balance between coaching and creativity.
* I was very impressed with the intent at the beginning of the game.
Much quicker passing than usual.
The first twenty minutes of each half show you the coaches impact.
The last 30 speak more to the players ability to adapt.
* Mustafi and Luiz earned their wages. A bruiser of a game that they were up for.
* Bellerin was much better in the second half after being a liability in the first.
* Saka was looking like the key until he got hurt.
* Xhaka’s passing has started to unlock defenses on a more regular basis. We missed his forward passes when he went to Left Back.
* Is Arteta trying to impress us by rehabilitating Mustafi, Xhaka and Ozil?
I’m not against this as it has clearly worked with Mustafi and Xhaka.
My hope is that he doesn’t persist with Ozil if the therapy isn’t working.
* The game was there to win first twenty. Ozil found space, we countered. The runs off the ball looked were very poor, bar Martinelli’s runs inside to open up Saka. A clear need for improvement.
* Is Lacazette’s inclusion more about Arteta’s preference for Auba at inside left? I don’t entirely disagree that Auba’s movement at inside left is highly dangerous and that Lacazette’s physicality is far superior to Aubameyang at CF.
I think the bigger issue is whether Lacazette is good enough in the false nine role. I’m not sure he is. He seems to spend most of the game shielding and fighting to retain possession.
I just don’t think Alexandre Lacazette is mobile enough or has the ability to bring others into the game.
As he has almost zero unpredictability in his movement, whether inside or outside the box which leads to him playing his football under pressure at all times. My fear is that he is not good enough to manage this.
* In ElNeny and Guendouzi, Arsenal have managed to find two of the worst headers of the ball I’ve seen playing professionally.
So why was Guendouzi marking their biggest threat in the air at corners?
* We did a fine job of not allowing Burnley any set plays for most of the first half. We then got irritated with them and they took over, and should’ve won.
* The two major player issues that need to be addressed are Ozil and Lacazette.
Both are having the odd moment and both are working harder.
With Lacazette it’s form and ability that are lacking.
Ozil is the bigger concern as his ability to make the difference, even in wide open areas, has changed.
Some of that is the movement ahead of him, some is not.
Willock is the most inconsistent of all the young talent and I’m sure that Ceballos’ lack of desire to create isn’t helping him.
Nelson seems to be a favourite and may get an opportunity but I’d move Pepe inside.
With Ozil offering zero assists away from home in the last two years and Lacazette one goal away in the last year it’s hard to argue that it’s not working as these qualities are their main job.
I also wonder if the club fear that Auba and Laca are a package deal. Such good friends who have agreed that they both re-sign or both leave.
It just seems odd that Lacazette hasn’t been dropped yet.
* Not sure why AMN wasn’t on the bench as he could’ve helped in two positions.
* Leno is waiting too long when distributing. He allows them to set up.
* We may return from Dubai and the two week break with more options available.
Nelson, Kolasinac, Soares, Mari and Sokratis possibly all fully fit.
Hoping Saka is ok.
* I hope that next time we play a team with a completely different style, that we find a way to play our game with greater effectiveness than Burnley did their game.
* Pre-match Arteta talked about things not ‘being the way he liked.’ I’m thinking that there may be some pressure from the club that are affecting his decision making.
* Looking forward I’d guess that the club are looking to raise £40-50M this summer from the sale of AMN and Kolasinac. Possibly closer to £100M if they decide to let go of Lacazette. You then have Ozil, Sokratis and possibly Pepe.
That might sound crazy as Pepe has just arrived, but three coaches have dropped him in 7 months.
Just wanted to thank the many that read and gave feedback re; my NEW blog, ‘Heads Up.’
‘Heads Up’ is insight as to what Arsenal’s upcoming opponent will bring.
They will be out the day before Arsenal games.
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.