When will they notice?
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
I get the feeling that the outside world sees Arsenal as ‘an improving team.’
That’s fine. We are.
I think we are more than that though.
The foundation of my thought is this….
Arsenal won the FA Cup, Community Shield, beat Man Utd, Wolves, Chelsea, City, and Liverpool (twice) with an unbalanced team.
A team that the majority of Arsenal and non-Arsenal fans said and say, is average. Only good enough for 6th or 8th.
– Arsenal are now looking like a defensively solid team whether against the bigger or smaller teams.
Consistency is needed but there’s a clear shift.
– Arsenal are looking like one of the most defensively and offensively organized teams in England.
– Arsenal are leading the way in World Football with this modern, hybrid football where the coach changes formation multiple times during games. This is making opponents coaches head spin, I’m sure.
– Arsenal are matching their modern on field look with a coaching and executive group averaging 38 years of age.
– Arsenal are fitter than ever before. This is seen when watching the press during the last 10 minutes.
– Arsenal look like a team with a far stronger belief. This is seen when we go behind or get equalized on. The standard doesn’t drop because the belief is higher.
– Arsenal have a coach that by all accounts (Arsenal and non-Arsenal players) is hugely respected. Remember the water breaks? I intentionally watched other team’s and their players were semi listening to their coach at best. Our players, all eyes on Arteta.
– Arsenal are getting very close to having a team that fits the profile of the players. Liverpool achieved their incredible season because every player was suited to the job asked of them. The team style suited too.
At Arsenal we are no longer asking Torreira to be a number 10, we are getting the very best of Xhaka. No more Luiz in a 4 or Pepe too wide. We have AMN satisfying his midfield lean and utilizing his excellent 1 on 1 defensive ability by shifting from outside to inside and outside again.
Off the field our coach was acting like a manager whether negotiating pay cuts or being the main reason players sign, so we put him in his area of strength too and made him Manager.
– Arsenal are playing out of the back like many teams worldwide are attempting. We are perfecting it to the point where it seems we score at least one every two games using this strategy. Are other teams this successful? I don’t see it.
– Arsenal are developing a quicker 1 and 2 touch game seen against Fulham.
– Arsenal are clearly getting the best out of the majority of their squad.
How is this?
I say, accountability.
Many coaches try it but show chinks in their armour or give it up.
I loved that Elneny started. Why? Because he deserved to. Forget his lack. He deserved to. His Community Shield performance was very good and again yesterday, very good. What does this accountability do? It initially upsets players but when they get over it (Ceballos), they realize that the Manager is not for bending, so they give up or they decide to improve.
In any business be it sport or not, if there is no accountability you only thrive if all your employees are highly self-motivated.
So, if you’ve wondered why Arteta has improved so many, it’s because those who are lesser believe that there is real hope and those that are greater know that they can’t be less than great.
Average Arsenal are rising fast.
Average Arsenal are about to sign some even better players.
Average Arsenal aren’t average at all, they are actually good.
That’s why I predicted that we will finish second. We are beating the best with ‘average’ and about to become ‘very good.’
‘Average Arsenal’ look like they could definitely compete for top four. Why couldn’t ‘very good Arsenal’ aim higher?
I wonder when everybody else will notice.
* I said in my blog on Friday that Willian would likely be asked to play like Grealish. He floated everywhere, causing damage everywhere.
100% pass completion in the second half and many adventurous attempts. Willian will play because we need his skill set. Pepe will play too but Willian’s game is broader.
* Gabriel recovered very well from his early mistake to be very dominant.
There was a huge shift that he was responsible for too.
When Fulham attacked, he didn’t back off to the edge of his box. He stood his ground and held the back line high, forty yards out. Luiz has improved, no doubt, but he backs off too often.
This confidence and tactical shift will lead to significantly less attempts on our goal. Gabriel’s performance was even more impressive considering that he plays as a LCB in a four and not as a non-English speaking middle CB in a three.
* Alongside that big defensive improvement there was another one. When you play a weaker team it’s vital you don’t give them free kicks in the final third. They don’t create much from open play so don’t give them the opportunity to toss the ball into dangerous areas where they may be better than you.
* Holding is the latest one to be showing improvement. I was particularly impressed with how he shielded multiple crosses and defended them without touching the ball.
* I do still wonder if we will see Auba at CF in a 4231 with Willian behind him in certain games. Aubameyang showed me again today that it may be somewhat pointless with yet another goal from the left. As much as I’d like to see him try it in the middle again with two creative players behind, I am concerned that he would get the same kicking that Lacazette gets and not stay injury free.
* The defending at set plays was exemplary. Much needed.
* After an impressive result it’s perhaps a little tough to be critical but for Arsenal to get to a similar level that perhaps Liverpool are at, they need to be less risk averse in the final third.
As I write this, I am watching Liverpool play and what always impresses me are the movements off the ball in the final third and the creative passing in this area too. I’m always concerned at how creative players might become bogged down in pass completion statistics rather than being concerned at how many chances they are creating.
Football is becoming largely a risk averse sport with predictable passing patterns and I feel that the team who is willing to be more creative in the final third is going to win out.
Every team seems to be practicing the same patterns so defensive units are predictably picking off these patterns because they are a daily re-occurrence, including training.
Creativity will win out.
* I’ve said this often, but Alexandre Lacazette plays ALL his football under pressure.
He is seven out of 10 at almost everything. This is fine but could we get a CF that takes the pressure off Auba?
As we have a coach who is getting the best out of many of the players, we might be ok with Laca at CF but do we settle?
I often judge players based on feeling and when we have the ball out wide and Lacazette is in the middle, I don’t feel like we will score. His movement is one dimensional so therefore he has to always receive under pressure. As he is not particularly quick his life is made significantly harder.
* I hope the best for Emi Martinez.
I haven’t been this upset at a player leaving in quite a while but his persistence to succeed at Arsenal was so admirable and I was hoping that his aerial dominance and ability with his feet would see him as first choice. I suppose we are spoiled, but Leno is top quality too.
* I hope that this current group can score significantly more regularly than we did last season. Yesterday was a great start. The birth of my Lacazette issue is that I don’t trust him in this area. I’m hoping that Nketiah finds the net more regularly or that we have the funds to upgrade. Somebody will grab the next best thing in Patson Daka from RB Salzburg. You’ll see.
Maybe it’s good that everybody thinks we are average.
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.