Polish the rocks to buy the diamonds
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
Many years ago I was in Memphis sitting in a restaurant late at night. I was chatting with a local man who was imparting one pearl of wisdom after another. As is life, we only remember the odd thing here and there. For some reason I remember something he told me. He told me that my life would be fine if I learnt to care. It wasn’t a sliding doors moment at the time but I remembered it for some reason. As I’ve matured as a man I’ve come to realize what simple yet wise words those are. Care about people. Care about what you do. Care about how you do it.
There have been times in the past 10-15 years that I’ve thought that my Arsenal cared. Not many, but a few.
I look at Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal and that is my overriding impression.
They look like they really care.
In footballing circles we know it as ‘buying in.’
I see a serious team who are willing to do the hard part.
I see organization which many coaches can teach but not many can inspire to implement.
I see stronger bodies, fitter players.
I saw savvy during the last 10 minutes. Playing for the benefit of the result not the player.
As a result of this we are starting to lay the foundations of big progress evidenced by three away wins at places (Southampton, Sheffield Utd and Wolves) we wouldn’t have won previously.
Perhaps the hardest yet most obvious benefit that Arteta has brought is improving players that were on their knees.
This will have a huge benefit in the medium term.
Arteta has polished up Xhaka, Mustafi, Ceballos, and looks to be shining up AMN too.
Willock, Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah, Martinez, Leno and Pepe may not have needed re-polishing but they’ve been shined to the point where they are able to have a large impact too.
The end result will be seen during the transfer window.
I was wondering how we were going to sign a first choice right back, a better centre forward, at least one modern centre back AND completely rebuild the midfield.
The fog is starting to lift and now it looks like two of AMN, Bellerin and Soares will work. Nketiah looks the real deal with Martinelli a very interesting alternative. All the centre backs are improving but it’s Mustafi that looks like he may be the one to bloom. For whatever lack of mobility Xhaka has he clearly makes our midfield more organized. Ceballos is starting to prove that he has the energy and penetration to possibly be a solution. Willock and Saka have been polished to the point where the athleticism in midfield we think we have to sign might just be in front of our noses.
I was wondering why we keep getting linked to both Partey AND Upamecano? How can we upgrade in just those two areas and get away with not addressing the other four? That’s £100M alone.
I think we might find that because Arteta and his staff have polished the rocks that we have and made them shine, that we might be able to buy a couple of diamonds.
I’d far rather have two or three diamonds than continue wasting money on six or seven dull rocks.
* Watch closely when we don’t have the ball. Our players frequently check their shoulder to ensure they are blocking passing lanes forward.
It slowed down Wolves’ desire to play forward quickly.
* I love Ceballos’ awareness to drop his shoulder before his first touch. He is doing it more often and leaving midfielders behind.
* Again off the ball you will see that our central midfielders are often being used as decoys. They will move towards the ball, call for the ball or drop deep. This moves the opponents around and opens up opportunities for the 3 forwards or the big switch of play.
We still need to find a connection between the back/middle and the forwards but you can see the intelligence in the midfielders moving the opponent’s compact central block to our ultimate advantage.
* If you get frustrated at the long balls and the lack of product from them consider this….. many coaches play long early to encourage the defenders to back off 5-10 more yards. This opens up the space between the lines for us to exploit. We didn’t take advantage of this yesterday but will in the future when we get a new creative playmaker.
* I’ve said this often but pay attention to our current CB’s when thinking of next season. I strongly doubt that we will start the next season with two new CB’s. If we were to sign Upamecano or similar he may start with Saliba but most likely with Luiz in a back three. That’s what this 1 year contract is. The club knows they are going to buy another young CB but need an experienced player to at least start the season with them.
If we play a back four then it will be Luiz +1 or Mari + 1 or Mustafi +1. The one will be Saliba or more likely a new signing with more years at CB.
On this note, Mustafi is putting himself in position to start next season. Good for him.
* Martinez has kept 7 clean sheets in the last 8 PL games he has played. Impressive.
* We may start next season with the current 3-4-3 system for the sake of 2 talented new CB’s and move in time to 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 again.
I am not demanding a certain system of Arsenal as many get caught up in because I’m frequently reminded that the system must match the players strengths. The current 3-4-3 suits almost everyone. Interestingly the one player that is still playing but that it doesn’t necessarily suit is Saka. Again, I’m not worried as he impacts regardless. Arteta’s comments about Saka having to be flexible for a while and then settling into one position make me think that we will stick with 3-4-3 in the short term.
* Arteta’s initial issues with game management were a natural problem as he adapts to being the decision maker. He is quickly improving and we saw that once again with his use of Maitlind-Niles and Willock. He then spotted Cedric, Eddie and Ceballos’ energy levels and introduced Bellerin, Lacazette and Torreira.
* The most important skill in football is your first touch.
The position that illuminates this is striker.
Strikers have less time, less help and more opponents to deal with.
We saw the importance of a golden first touch two seconds before Lacazette’s shot went into the net.
* What a compliment to Bukayo Saka that at the age of 18 he gets to start in one of four positions. Regardless of who else is available they move aside for him.
* We need to improve the weight of our passing from back to front. Nketiah struggled to connect to most of the direct balls.
* In a game of almost zero individual error, Kolasinac struggled with his positioning at CB.
* Oh boy, I wish we had an extra £80M!
Adama Traore is a devastating player with consistent accurate crossing ability in particular, in a sea of modern players who can’t cross.
I have a sneaky feeling though that he will end up as a striker.
* My biggest summer wish is Wilfried N’didi. It’s not going to happen and I’ve accepted this and hope that the most impressive ball winner in Europe is asleep on Tuesday.
* I don’t like to blindly tar one bad decision with the same brush as others when it comes to contracts.
Ozil renewing was a mistake. Doesn’t mean that Aubameyang will be.
The major clue was that Ozil was entering a new era of football where athletes rule and he chose not to adapt or keep up.
Aubameyang doesn’t lack athleticism or what is needed in the modern game. In fact, I’d argue that he embodies the modern game. I’d take the wages of Mkhitaryan and ElNeny and transfer to Auba’s account. Sell others if we need to adjust the wage bill.
Aubameyang, Lewandowski, Aguero, Ronaldo, Messi, Mbappe, Vardy and Cavani are the only strikers in Europe that have proved that they will get you 20-30 league goals a season. Sell Auba? Get £40M. How are you going to find that guarantee for £40M? Cavani? Sure! He’s older by the way so why do that?
I’d get Cavani AND keep Aubameyang and ADD to our goals. Selling Lacazette and Sokratis takes care of his wages.
I’m just hoping we add goals not subtract.
* Finally, we’ve been linked with this diamond…. Jeremie Boga.
I went a little big eyed watching this.
Could this be the dazzling winger Arteta wants?
Wolves went 62 minutes without seriously troubling Emi Martinez.
When was the last time we played a ‘better’ team and could say that?
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.