This feels different
Positives, Needs and Hopes
I respect the world of football stats but don’t search them out. There is something in me that resists stats and considers them somewhat unnecessary even though many are interesting and revealing.
I far prefer basing my judgments on feeling.
Maybe it’s because I’ve poured much of my life into football that I trust myself. Whatever it is, it’s my first port of call.
I was thinking of all that has improved in the two months that Mikel Arteta has been in charge.
The list is impressively long;
* Team shape and structure
* Defensive effort
* Balance between defensive solidity and attacking
* Belief from all involved in AFC
* Clean sheets
* Arteta the ‘Redemption Man’ (that’s another blog)
* Compact block
* Impressive interviews
* Individual improvements (almost every player)
* 1 stable formation
* The re-birth of exciting football
* Ruthlessness (wait till summer)
There’s probably more.
Even though I could point to each of these individually to understand why I have hope, it’s how I feel that guides my belief. I think most fans are like me, actually.
When I see how so many mid table teams have raised their level (Leicester/Wolves/Sheffield Utd/Everton/Man Utd), I feel relieved that Arsenal have got it together as the competition level is higher than anywhere in World Football.
I feel many happy thoughts when I think of the new Arsenal but to sum it all up… This feels different.
* Three special goals.
First, wonder cross. Perfection. Twice in two games Saka has achieved crossing perfection. That finish was aesthetically beautiful and not easy, also.
Second, Thierry Henry.
Third, look at Auba’s movement before Pepe crosses. Tiny detail that encourages the crosser to cross… Auba steps away from his marker into a larger pool of space. That movement is everything. Without it, he doesn’t score because Pepe isn’t encouraged to cross. Small genius right there.
* Sticking with Aubameyang.
Two headed goals in two PL games.
Did you notice Pepe celebrating his first before Auba actually even shot?
Finally, I’m not so sure that left inside forward isn’t Auba’s best position.
As a CF he lacks physicality and space to operate.
As much as I worry how long he can play at his age, running 80 yards back and forth, he’s rather good at it.
Of all the wide players at the club or even in the league, I trust his physical effort and team commitment more than any I can think of. Isn’t that important too?
His outside to inside runs (first goal) are deadly. Although Pepe sees less of the ball in wide spaces (second goal) at least this brings Auba to CF.
Got to weigh all of it up, I say.
* The true accountability that Arteta has brought is not only encouraging individual improvements where players achieve their best but it’s pushing them to widen their game. Dani Ceballos has been entrusted with the DLP task which he is doing admirably, but have you noticed how he’s winning more tackles, intercepting, following runners, blocking lanes too?
You will notice too that Ceballos’ involvement in central areas is giving his teammates a trust to use this tight area as he is technically perfect and so secure. When he left the field, Torreira did fine, but it’s about the trust factor.
The team as a whole don’t trust anyone like they do Ceballos so are reluctant to use central areas. This makes us too predictable which is a major problem as its vital that opponents don’t funnel you one way as you are incapable or unwilling to go the other way.
If Arsenal can get Dani Ceballos for the reported £25-30M then I believe they will as technical security is hard to find.
Only way I see us refusing is if RM change coaches and he wants him back or if Arsenal just want a different profile player.
* You could make a killer YouTube compilation of Mustafi’s performances over the last month. Make him look like Van Dijk’s twin brother. The £70M solution.
Credit to Mustafi. More credit too must go to the coach who has revived a player who had gone beyond CPR but flatlined yet has been healed to the point of multiple MOTM performances. Not sure I’ve seen this turnaround in any player, anywhere in a two-month period. Think on that.
* Pepe’s corners. Weapon.
* Are Arsenal overloading right side with Ozil, Pepe and Bellerin to drag midfielders that way, so we can use an emptier left side?
* Bernd Leno doesn’t lack much. My latest observation is how many saves he makes just by having great body shape on 1 on 1’s. Brave too.
Such clean hands, agile, reliable, improving with his feet, big game player etc…
Just needs to be more aggressive in a crowd.
* There was an obvious need screaming at us having not only watched their two goals but seen their other chances…. the need to practice everyone pushing out as ball is cleared.
* Concerning that Bellerin doesn’t seem to have any obvious high points right now. Could be recovery related so I’m not going in two footed, but he seems to have lost his electric speed and has never shown confidence in the final third when faced with an opponent and not on the move.
Was also concerned how easily and repetitively Everton got into the channels as Bellerin was tardy to recover.
* Little concerned too how we seem to be getting into a pattern of conservatism until the second half shows up or we are behind and get angry.
The first 20 minutes we don’t seem to want to take ANY risks. The movement off the ball in the final third is hesitant or largely invisible.
* This is not a criticism of Bukayo Saka, just an observation.
He seems unbalanced.
I have a theory…. he tends to slide his feet too close together and tries to change direction from a narrow stance. He fell over twice and I’ve noticed that this also impacts his ability to explode away from defenders when receiving the ball in a more static position.
Someone tag Arteta on this 🤣
* I don’t see the hunger I expect from Eddie Nketiah.
I think Arteta is playing him as he needs to know if he can replace Lacazette this summer.
He’s improved with his back to goal and his goal was special. I’d like to see him show significantly more hunger to dart in behind in compact areas. I think he’s too laid back.
* As a group I’d be working on second touch in the box.
Pepe, Martinelli, Nketiah, Saka and Auba are all electric yet apprehensive to put their foot on the ball to push it past the defender after they’ve initially touched it past them in the box. We’d be getting 1 PK per 2 games if this was a staple.
* Was Everton’s first goal a high foot?
This weekend was a ruddy nightmare for VAR.
I’d bin it.
It solves one problem but creates others. I think it’s only worth introducing change to the game if it doesn’t cancel itself out, like VAR does.
Goal line technology is great as it’s quick, precise and doesn’t create any problems. Great idea.
VAR causes many problems but the biggest is that football is a special game where there is no guarantee that you will score at all. So, when your team finally scores, you now can’t fully celebrate as you don’t really know if it’s a goal. That ruins the most important part of the game.
Not worth it.
* Here are a couple of players to keep your eye on……
One you just saw, Mason Holgate.
On researching Everton for my ‘Heads Up’ preview blog, all EFC fans said that he is their most improved player and that he will play for England sooner rather than later. Can play CM/DM as well as CB.
Rumours this week that Arsenal are keenly watching Johnathan David from Gent. A modern-day attacking midfielder with all kinds of athleticism, speed, assists and goals. Scored a delightful hat trick yesterday too.
When Arsenal start putting together 90-minute games of control and/or dominance rather than just halves or patches, how far can this team go?
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.