The team that’s not there yet
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
I’m glad that I couldn’t watch the derby live. I got to watch it 8 hours after finding out the score. When I logged on to Twitter after the game many had unsurprisingly lost it with the manager and some of the players. Not living in England anymore gives me an advantage I feel in analyzing dispassionately. Many of you work with Spurs fans and I work with people who have never heard of them, so I get it.
Before I watched the game I was trying to come up with a theme for this opening. As the game went on I came to realize that what I was watching was much different to what I was expecting. I was suspicious when I saw that we’d only made one sub by choice and also after listening to Arteta’s post match comments about domination. I was also assuming that Mourinho’s flattering words were his usual nonsense. I’d even heard of comparisons to the latter days of Moyes’ Utd who aimlessly tossed in 50 crosses.
For what it’s worth, this is what I saw.
I saw the team at the top of the league showing true respect to the team in 15th. It was more than a clever Mourinho strategy. They were worried and had to play with full focus to beat us. Ordinarily the team in 1st doesn’t spend an entire 90 minutes on the back foot to the team in 15th.
I saw an Arsenal team that gave everything. I didn’t see a reason to criticize any player on this occasion and I have recently. On other days, but not here. I’d actually rather not go in on Arteta either but as much as I see many positives in what he’s done and is doing, I felt that we were trying to win the game with a team that’s not there yet. Again, it’s hard to criticize when much was the way you want it, but even though many of the crosses were good and the efforts weren’t bad, I didn’t think we were going to score.
Well…..because our strategy seemed intelligent in one way but based on next season in another.
Arteta was trying to go wide to avoid their strength and also nullify quick transitions. It’s ideally how you play Spurs, so you have to applaud his wisdom in this. At the same time it didn’t work because we have a CF who doesn’t go near physical contact and a second striker who did well but always makes his life difficult by lacking deceptive movement, alongside two small wingers. Add in central midfielders that have an allergy to the penalty area and it’s not a recipe for success. All of them up against 5 physical monsters.
I’m assuming Arsenal will get a target man to at least have as an option. I assume that we will also organize ourselves a player or two with more dynamic movement in the box, also. They weren’t there yesterday though so I felt that crossing on the ground was a good strategy, but not in the air. I also thought that shifting the ball wide to drag players across with the intention of squaring it to the edge of the box to shoot would’ve been ideal.
For me, that was a game won by a wonder strike and a goal that likely wouldn’t have happened if our DM doesn’t pull a muscle. It was a game where Arsenal really played as a motivated unit so I don’t feel comfortable allowing my emotions and disappointments to supersede my eyes.
Scoring goals is the hardest piece but I’m not overly concerned as the attitude and performance was one of a team whose fortunes will change when they get a couple of goals.
Sit tight and don’t ignore what is going right. That wasn’t supposed to rhyme.
- That we are closer to success than we think. The attitude has improved, the new formation is better and we have a transfer window upcoming to fix what is lacking. Confidence flips quickly and can be regained with a win vs Burnley and a big win in one of the next few fixtures. I can see this happening.
- Lacazette was our best player. Showed the energy to win numerous tackles and play a full 90 without dropping off. Created for others and himself. This box formation is worth sticking with as it is frequently involving his new found confidence and allowing Willian the chance to float which proved to be his second best game (low bar, I know). I’m all in favour of a formation that fits the current players rather than a formation that fits the future.
- Games like this would make Tierney a defensive hero and a crossing wizard if we had a target man upfront. His delivery is better than most all full backs and his seriousness at defending is evident.
- I don’t understand the criticism of Holding. The first goal was on Bellerin if anyone and he was a rock the rest of the game.
- Still not sure why we consistently have two central midfielders on the bench at the expense of Reiss Nelson. My fear is that we will be selling a few that we are playing and wanting to keep those that we are discouraging.
- We may have changed formation too early. Perhaps. Even though it worked in many ways yesterday, it might have been smarter to wait until January when the fixtures lighten up.
- I think I may actually weep if Maitlind Niles isn’t played at CM vs Burnley. Let Elneny sit and attack them with Willock and AMN running at them on and off the ball. PLEASE!
- I hope that before somebody goes off with a neck brace and oxygen that somebody will tell Harry Kane to stop undercutting players in the air. The press aren’t going to do it and we all know why. It’s probably going to take someone to confront him physically on the field before the spotlight is shone on him. He makes watching England games very difficult for me and I resent that as I enjoy cheering on England. It’s just hard when you have a player that dives, won’t ever leave the ref alone and clearly has no conscience to help guide him before he attempts to break someone’s neck. Alternatively, he may just be as stupid as he comes across so if that’s the case, my apologies to you Harry.
- As our Centre Backs all return to fitness it will be intriguing as to who gets to be part of the first team. I hope we rest Gabriel soon and give Mari a chance before Gabriel gets injured through overuse. I’m a fan of Chambers too and haven’t forgotten that he was our best player just before he got injured.
Be careful to be so aggressive towards the manager and the team right now. Post Wolves there has been an obvious attitude shift, a fresh fight. They need support not just because they need support, but because their effort deserves it. You can’t put that much positive into repeated games and not start getting results. They will come but I’m not going to be part of making it harder for Arsenal to achieve them.
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.