So that’s what it’s like to be Norwich
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
I was convinced as a kid that my Dad wanted me to support Norwich.
We went to Norwich every summer for a family holiday. Every summer.
My Dad took us to the castle every year too. Why every year? A kid doesn’t want to see Norwich castle once, let alone 7 times!
He once said to me that Arsenal didn’t have a castle, so I became suspicious that he was a ‘castle snob’ whatever that is.
The game yesterday gave me a glimpse into what it could’ve been like if my Dad would’ve got his way. I don’t mind playing a very solid defensive game, but I can’t remember watching a game where I forgot we were Arsenal and I was pinning for at least one passing sequences in the game.
I’m happy yet concerned. Amazed that we won yet keep refreshing to check we did.
I’m spoilt I suppose.
My biggest takeaway from that game was a scenario I’d be tempted to investigate if I was Arteta.
I’d go to the board/Kroenke’s or whoever is making the ultimate investment decision and make them watch this game. I’d tell them that Arsenal will be forced to go against at least 6 teams twice a season and play this way because our players are inferior and feel inferior. I’d say that our fans won’t accept this as they are not used to this. I’d say that our defence and midfield isn’t good enough to play this way where other teams can regularly have 8x more shots and we win.
I’m very impressed with the coach’s plan and not wishing we tried to play them toe to toe.
I’ve just seen enough of Arsenal Football Club to know that they can produce this stellar defensive performance occasionally but that hasn’t happened regularly for over half of my lifetime.
A very impressive and gritty win but a warning that this strategy may become normal unless we invest.
* Arteta took a risk yesterday.
He played to deny. He played a hybrid 4-3-3 with Saka staying right in between Alexander-Arnold and Salah.
He allowed Liverpool the left side but discouraged the right.
It wasn’t aesthetically pleasing but it worked.
The fact we didn’t crumble at 0-1 on top of the win gives us a real chance in the FA Cup.
City like Liverpool dominate the ball. The players might not be as technically confident as these teams, but the mental side took a real boost.
The interception traps were not luck. Our best phase in the game was the first twenty where we picked off many of Liverpool’s ideas. The goals came from the same level of attention paid to intercepting, pressing and believing in repeating these actions.
I do wonder if extra emphasis is put on pressing goalkeepers or if it’s a coincidence that we have scored about 5 times this season from this action?
* I would love to see Nelson given at least one more full game before the end of the season.
I’d just hate it if he was one that was sold before he ever had a run of games. His confidence seems to be brittle but technically he is a top player in the making if he can get the coaches trust and trust himself more.
* Luiz was the solid, focused, hardworking, shot blocking version yesterday.
* Tierney was our best player.
So focused and serious and almost completely nullified Salah.
One of my favourite Wenger interviews was when he was asked about his ‘most important quality in a player.’ He named grit.
He would’ve liked working with Kieran Tierney.
* I wonder if Saka’s hybrid role was partly for this game but also to practice stopping DE Bruyne who plays in the exact pocket Saka stayed in.
How does an 18-yr. old have this much discipline especially when he plays a different position each week?
* How does Martinez make you feel?
Think on that.
I honestly feel supremely confident with him in goal.
Perfect build for a GK. Great reactions focus and distribution and bi-weekly game winning saves.
A big plus for Arsenal.
* The biggest concern was the inability to keep possession. The small details were missing. Hips opened. Scanned ahead over shoulder. Willingness to get out of defensive shape to support. Bravery to be unpredictable.
Again, this shines a light on the need for one or both of the following… much more patience needed and work on training field to change habits and/or better players.
* I watched Firmino closely. I’ve watched Lacazette closely often. I wondered why Firmino can frequently drift into the connector space and have much time to turn and Lacazette doesn’t have room or time.
Part of this is Arsenal’s fear of playing high and pushing on floating players, due to our lack of recovery speed.
There was another noticeable difference. Firmino moves as the ball is moving. Eyes are transferring to the ball and from player A to player B across the field….and he’s gone. Wandered off. Lacazette as I’ve mentioned for two years doesn’t have any subtlety of movement. Lack of game intelligence
I’ve been wondering for a while if we will find ‘our Firmino’ by taking the unsettled Griezzmann on loan to play as a false nine?
* Holding became better as the game went on but was over cautious on the ball.
* Is it too much to ask a technically unsure team to show a little more imagination?
It seemed that they only had one exit route and were stuck when it was blocked off.
More an observation than a criticism.
* I enjoyed seeing Pepe elsewhere and occasionally wandering. Not sure why he played left when Auba came on though?
* The inbalance in our team was clearly seen when you have a largely redundant Nelson and Pepe, our two most technical players out there, with a midfield lacking in the technicality to get it to them. Nelson was at least intelligent enough to play on the shoulder of the defence often enough to get the longer ball.
I’ve concluded that Pepe has much talent but not the game intelligence to ‘feel the game.’
* As much as I’m concerned about the Kia Joorabchian issue at Arsenal, I see the need for players like Willian and Coutinho. Both have elite technical levels and tactical flexibility. The wages may make it prohibitive and this is a real issue, but I paid attention when Arteta talked about the need for PL experience in the market.
* As soon as we see a resurgence in the form of a player (Ceballos, Mustafi, Xhaka etc..) we hear that Arteta wants to keep them next season.
I just hope Arteta doesn’t fall in love with his work and get lost in it. I’ve seen coaches greatly improve players, they become like a badge of achievement and so they keep them.
All three of those guys have a very good case to stay due to their improvement. We just need the decision to be made without emotion.
We all talk about buying talent but never about buying attitude.
We talk about the need for creativity but don’t pine for players that are happy with accountability.
We talk about a more athletic model but don’t mention the need for PL experience if you want to improve quickly.
The life of a fan vs a coach, I suppose.
The most positive part of yesterday’s game was Arteta telling us about how we are capable of being the equal to the best teams in these unfashionable not talked about areas.
He gives me the impression that if you gave him what he asked for he could produce significantly more than he can with this team.
I don’t think anybody at Arsenal is too good for the club, even Aubameyang, but I keep getting the impression that Mikel Arteta will end up being above our level if we don’t find a way to at least try to give him what he needs.
The hope lies over where I live.
The Kroenke’s saw their LA Rams franchise failing and went and got a young 30 yr old coach who had much potential. They backed him. They got to the Super Bowl shortly after.
This might be the ultimate reason why they choose to invest in our club.
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.