Nothing looks easy
Arsenal won yesterday but oh my, that was hard work.
Part way through yesterday’s game I started to complain about how West Ham look every bit as good as we are.
I then started to complain that we used to dominate games at home against almost everybody and that we are struggling (yet again) to do this even against the lesser sides.
Then I came to my senses.
Arsenal are not feared anymore.
Aubameyang is and perhaps Saka and Martinelli, but this is where we are.
The armchair fan would shout for better players. I’d say that we have the best level of player that we can expect considering our current status as an established Europa league team.
Arsenal have a good team, if unbalanced.
What is happening on game day now is that teams play us toe to toe and because our midfield lacks athleticism we get regularly penetrated.
So what’s the solution then?
I think Arteta has to find a way of creating easy opportunities.
There are many ways to do this. It could be done with effective individual brilliance, superior movement, exploiting the weaknesses of the opponent, or of course, better players. The issue is though that we are creating very little and when we do the opportunities are rarely easy.
I think that the truth is found in the predictability of modern day football. Have you ever thought that you know where the ball is going to be passed every time it’s on a player’s foot? The only player with unpredictability is Pepe but he’s unpredictable to a point where it’s getting ridiculous.
If it’s predictable to us as novices, it’s got to be obvious to the opponent. I think that defenses these days know the movements that they have to make as they are repeated so often. Easy for them.
I’ve always thought as a coach that’s the easiest way to score against a deep and compact defensive block is to go outside the fullback, cut into the box and find a simple passing lane. There is a very real chance of a penalty too if you cut your defender off and slow down.
Liverpool create much by using Firmino as a 1 touch pivot. This allows Mane and Salah multiple opportunities from 20 yards to curl one in or lay it off for a simple finish.
If they are not doing this they create 1 on 1 opportunities for their front three by countering with pace, something that Arsenal have never figured out.
The simplest solution is to improve our ability to counter attack as we can put out the most pacey attack in Europe but take negative touches frequently which allow the opponent to recover.
The reluctance to shoot from outside the box is a bigger problem than you’d initially think too. If a team shoots from 18-25 yards, opponents will start sending more than one defender out of the block, opening up space for your forwards.
I understand that shooting from distance isn’t ‘easy’ but we kill ourselves by having so many methods like this cut out by our reluctance to even attempt them.
I’ve even got to the point that I get most excited when we get a corner as it’s a toss up and probably a better opportunity than anything that we are regularly creating from open play.
A typical thought that I have when I watch Arsenal is living in hope that one of Aubameyang’s diagonal runs (that needs immaculate timing) is met by the perfect lofted chip (very difficult) and not intercepted by the keeper or more likely, headed out by the defenders (very likely).
Typical unfortunately that Arsenal are relying on the complicated.
- When Bernd Leno learns to handle a crowd on crosses, he should become one of the best keepers in the world. He is regularly saving us from defeat.
- Dani Ceballos is playing close to his peak. Pushing his ceiling in fact as he has greatly improved his defensive numbers. Every team needs a player that WANTS to dictate play, WANTS the ball and doesn’t let the score line affect this mentality. He will become even more important if he attempts to create more and this will likely happen if he’s partnered with an athlete that he can trust to cover behind him. Neither Xhaka or Ceballos are to be blamed for their lack of pace but the club needs to secure an athlete.
- Mari was thrown in at the deep end against Antonio. I’m sure he’s defended better players but the PL is more physical and nobody more so than Antonio. I think Arsenal have a real defender here.
- Lacazette won the game for Arsenal and that can only help. As happy as I am for him, I’m frustrated that Eddie lacks the emotion I feel that a centre forward needs to ignite the crowd and back a player that I feel that they want to back.
- We may have to accept that we start cautiously. I don’t have to be pacified and I may be wrong but the crowd are a real advantage and 54,000 of the 60,000 support Arsenal and I think our ponderous starts to games makes 54,000 nervous and changes their mood from ‘excited to see my team’ to ‘ oh boy!’
- Emery and Arteta both seem to like the pointless short corner. I’m lost on this one.
- I was hoping that Willock was going to be the ball carrier from midfield but Arteta plays him as a 10, but we need someone to penetrate from deep even simply to change up the option of ‘pass only, plus Pepe.’
- Until Arsenal become a physically powerful modern day PL team it’s hard to see us making much progress. If we were a superior technical team we could maybe avoid this need, but that’s not us. Thankfully, I think this changes in the summer.
- I’m of the opinion that now we have Mari and Saliba, we should prioritize a creator to replace Ozil and a powerful destroyer in midfield and possibly a right back. If we chase down a centre back I’m a huge fan of Mings (loves defending) and Ake (going to the top).
- Now that Tierney is returning there are calls for Saka to play at LW again. Not sure about this. The way we play, our LW plays inside, which suits Auba more, and Saka is doing extremely well at LB. Will we see Tierney at LB, Saka LW and Auba CF?
It might not seem that Arsenal won after that heart attack of a game.
I feel 50% relieved, 50% worried.
Until Arsenal become a dominant force I expect many games like this.
It seems like every game is pivotal.
Perhaps it’s the stress that is prohibiting our players from playing with freedom.
Actually, I’m convinced of this.