The 90 minute commercial
Sometimes I wonder why Coca Cola bother with advertising.
Where I live many people call any fizzy drink ‘a Coke.’ That’s when you know you’ve got a successful product, right?
The Villa game was an inadvertent 90 minute commercial for the bleeding obvious…. that Arsenal need a creative player or two.
It’s not just our eyes that tell us this. We are 16th in the PL on chances created and with Ozil and Pepe combined we haven’t even created a 1/3 of the chances that Kevin DeBruyne has.
As Arsenal went left, right, forward and most certainly backwards, I felt that pain again. The pain of watching ‘predictable Arsenal.’
‘Predictable Arsenal’ play at least half of the Premier League games. They have the majority of the possession, don’t give the ball away much at all BUT play with almost no risk or adventure. It’s a fast spreading disease too. It even infects players who have the ability to play with creativity like Ceballos and especially, Pepe. This was clearly seen in the 61st minute when the ball was switched to Pepe and he was finally 1 vs 1. He delayed, attracted another defender and passed it backwards.
When these games happen I wonder if the players have been told to ‘focus and improve on their possession numbers,’ and then they take this too literally.
I also wonder why Pepe or Saka aren’t instructed to wander between the lines from a starting position on the right. Perhaps because the focus has been on defensive responsibilities and keeping shape?
Here’s the thing though, the 90 minute commercial that we watched yesterday was like a Coca Cola commercial. Not necessary. We all knew this and I’m sure the club do too. So, we just have to wait.
I’m ok with this and here’s why….. without a creative player to unlock a compact block, Arsenal play better against the bigger teams where they have to defend and counter. Suits our players significantly more.
This means we might just find the FA Cup Final easier than Villa away.
As for next season I feel confident that the focus will shift from defending to attacking and we will dramatically improve.
I just can’t see Arteta putting up with spinning his wheels and putting up with having such a glaring issue for longer than this short period as other coaches have in the past. He doesn’t seem the slightest bit interested in stagnation.
* Am I the only person that believes our coach when he speaks? I know I’m not.
By far the most encouraging part of the evening was afterwards. He was asked about the plane protest and said, “we have the full backing of the Kroenke’s and believe me I wouldn’t say that if we didn’t.”
I believe him because I believe he’d actually say something similar to the opposite of this if he felt like we couldn’t address our issues.
I also believe that even if we miss Europe, we will still address our two main issues…. an athletic, modern midfielder and a creative player.
This might be as simple as using player sales and achieving a zero balance anyway.
I needed to hear Arteta say what he said, and he did. So now I’ll relax and trust.
* I think I’m encouraged by the variety of free kicks and especially corners I’m seeing. I’m cautious as I see good ideas but the execution isn’t there yet.
* Do you scream ‘TURN’ at the TV screen when the ball is passed into midfield?
Again I say Arsenal are predicable in possession but could really open up many more adventurous possibilities if they’d turn.
It’s not always possible but our cautious nature is killing what chances we have to even attempt adventure.
From a coaching perspective you ask the player passing to always give some form of communication. You communicate with the type of pass you give, the foot you give it to or simply by saying ‘turn,’ ‘time,’ or ‘back.’
* What do Arsenal now do with this free game on Sunday? Rest those like Aubameyang, Luiz, Xhaka who have played much recently?
Do they play the same team that’ll play Chelsea in the same system to gain some automatic?
I don’t think you can exclusively do either. Watford will provide very different problems to Chelsea.
I’d give individual players challenges.
Tell Pepe to run behind the defence on and off the ball. Instruct Saka to take risks and be unconcerned at losing possession. Try (somehow) to get Lacazette to see the value in two runs on the off chance that he has a lightbulb moment and wins us the cup.
I’d also be tempted to play Macey as Martinez has had much match practice recently and I wouldn’t risk him getting injured.
* I’m a big fan of Tyrone Mings. He’s a natural leader, a big time organizer during the game and someone who loves the defensive part of defending.
After hearing that Upamecano isn’t our first choice I can certainly see that John Stones might be. I can also see Arteta loving Tyrone Mings, especially his desire to take charge vocally on the field.
* I’m also encouraged that we are looking at Said Benrahma. He is certainly a risk taker, highly creative and very different to what we have.
Beyond having additional funds for transfers, Arsenal like all big squads, need the European football.
If we don’t get it I understand that we get a cleaner run in the league but we also lose hundreds of playing time minutes that a big squad needs to satisfy and improve the squad players. All of sparkling younger players have found their way by cutting their teeth in these games. There is less pressure as a loss isn’t always pivotal.
If you don’t have it, you play the first half of the season in particular with minutes for only about 17 players. The other 8 become quickly dissatisfied and you need them in the second half of the season.
The group stages of Europe are the reason that big clubs can have big squads and retain them.
So, we try to secure this in the Final.
Not sure a team like Arsenal deserves to win a trophy this season as we’ve chucked away so many games and been impressive in so few, but here we are and I’m grateful.
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.