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A man for all occasions: how Arsenal’s Swiss Army Knife can transform in-form Gunners

The Swiss Army Knife

POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES

There’s a groove developing. A little swagger. Beyond the natural boost of confidence earned when you start winning and keeping clean sheets, what are the details?

1) INDIVIDUAL IMPROVEMENT

Have you noticed? We have 11 players that we can pick who are either on a run of form or starting to find form. Leno, Holding, Tierney, Xhaka, ESR, Lacazette, Saka are in the first group. Cedric, Partey, Auba and Luiz in the second group. The alternatives are looking a little better too. A little.

Leno is consistently very good. Holding makes me confident (a thought I didn’t think would occur). Tierney is currently the in form LB in the PL. Xhaka has stopped Xhakering and is becoming an asset (another thought that I didn’t think would return to my head). ESR looks like a first choice ’10’ which is a remarkable achievement in just 6 games. Lacazette has benefitted from the formation change and become a regular link up threat. Saka has to be the most consistent young player in World Football. Never below a 6/10 and regularly an 8 or 9/10.

Cedric’s display may benefit him but will likely benefit Bellerin more. Whenever a threat pops up for HB, he steps up. I wish he didn’t need pressure. I’d say if you asked Partey to score himself he’d have given a 6 or 7/10, yet to AFC fans we would give higher. It’s likely that this is more due to the other CM’s we’ve had for the last few years that a player that repeatedly passes forwards with minimal touches looks like Andrea Pirlo. Auba just needed goals. Goals = smile. Smile = the confidence with which he took his 2nd goal. First half Auba would’ve swung at it unnecessarily. Luiz is playing consistently without losing his head which makes him ‘good Luiz.’ ‘Good Luiz’ is very good, hence his stellar career.

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Improved Cedric

2) PARTEY’S LEVEL

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Xhaka and Ceballos have improved. With a player who is unarguably better than them their time is short. Decisions are being made or have been made already on Summer purchases. I said the same thing when the younger players starting the salvation attempt. The senior players/under performers won’t want to be shown up. Consciously or subconsciously someone offering levels far beyond what you’re offering will either make you resentful or annoyed enough to step up your own game. As I said above, Thomas Partey wasn’t even brilliant. He was just blinding evidence of the problem and therefore becomes the solution.

3) DEFENSIVE SECURITY

Leno’s form gives his back four confidence. Mari and Luiz’s consistency alongside the ever improving Holding give the defensive unit confidence. The improved performances in midfield are part of uptick in defensive security but it’s more than that. We used to feel that with Vieira and Petit bossing the centre of the park that games were won before they started. We are far off that but don’t underestimate the way that Thomas Partey makes the others feel. Going from the feeling of ‘we can’t catch them if they go past us’ with a combination of either ElNeny, Xhaka and Ceballos, we now have mental security knowing that we have at least 1 player who is in a new club and it’s not the ‘we can’t catch them’ club.

There is much talk of how much braver Partey is in possession in a crowd. That’s directly related to how he feels about the ‘what if’s.’ GX, DC and MO know that if they receive it in a crowd and lose it, they are toast. Thomas Partey knows he has the athletic capabilities to win it back as he has the needed athleticism. He also isn’t as stiff as Xhaka as he receives it with a more crouched posture. He knows he can accelerate like DC tries but not be tackled as he doesn’t drag the sandbag. He knows in this current midfield that his pass completion stats aren’t going to determine his minutes as ElNeny feels, therefore he doesn’t play the simple pass every time.

4) COUNTER PLAN

This is the new kid on the block. Arsenal with a plan and an effective plan to counter attack. This has only been 15 years too late, but let’s focus on the positive.

Did you notice that when we regained possession in our own defensive third that Auba or ESR would back pedal to the island of space on the left. I know you know what I mean because it led to Auba’s first goal. As it happened repeatedly, I’m inclined to give credit to our coaching staff for spotting that Newcastle didn’t spot this. Again, it was our Ghanaian who quickly and with minimal touches sent sweeping balls out to the left for us to capitalize on.

partey

Partey sweeping balls

So, the Swiss Army Knife isn’t actually the chap from Switzerland. It’s his next door neighbour. He is the common thread in most of this. A player who has multiple blades and compared to his competition, no apparent weakness. The biggest joy in it all is that if there are 10 blades in Thomas Partey’s knife, I think we’ve only seen five.

POSITIVES:

  • The fact that we score more goals in the 15 minutes after half time than anyone in the PL, speaks well for the words being said at half time.

 

  • Arsenal needed Granit Xhaka to step up. If it’s as simple as him playing 90 minutes without making a glaring mistake, I’ll take it. More than all that to make any progress at all we need a dominant midfield two. Let’s see how they do in this tricky run of games. Impressive start though.

xhaka-red

  • Is anyone talking about Arsenal’s work ethic? Part of me thinks that we shouldn’t applaud what should be considered as simply necessary for a professional football team, but I can’t ignore that these same players have increased the consistency of their desire from what was seen under previous coaching regimes.

 

  • This was the first time I’ve felt that we had a threat in the final third from both left back and right back. I hope Cedric keeps his place. Good for him, good for Bellerin who will have to respond and therefore good for Arsenal.

 

  • Arsenal need another attacking midfielder but ESR’s economy of touches alongside his general decision making will make him very hard to drop regardless of who it is.

 

NEEDS: 

  • As impressed as I was with our second half there is a small sadness that we don’t see the psychological advantage of starting games with the same desire to play with a similar high tempo. For years, my teams strategy has been this. Our team motto is actually ‘1-20.’ Before the boys go on the field we remind them to win the game in the first 20 minutes. We know that they are rarely going to actually sew up the game on the scoreboard in 20 minutes but we put great value in two thoughts. The other team will always wonder either how good you are or whether you are up for it. They’ll decide both by minute five. So we show them that we are both good and up for it. Secondly, if we go too gung-ho, we have 70 minutes to recover it. Even though the level is lower, I can give you 15 years of evidence that this strategy works at least 8 times out of 10.

 

  • We need to push our midfield up 15 yards when we are in the final third. We still concede counter attacks when they head balls out of the box and our midfield are closer to the halfway line than the top of the box. I’d push them up 10 yards when we are attacking too as those new forward passes could be penetrating the box rather than coming from the centre circle.

 

  • Tierney crossed the ball with his right foot and Xhaka didn’t pass it once with his right foot. I’m keeping count 😉 Both players kill many potential forward passes by refusing to use their right foot. Tierney often cuts back, starts dribbling backwards, sees a forward pass but doesn’t pass as the ball is on his right side. Xhaka has the same issue when he dribbles from the left side across the field.

 

  • I understand playing yourself into a game, but I do wish that ESR was braver in the first halves. He often returns the ball to midfield when they finally slide a ball between the lines giving him the chance to turn and create.

0 Emile-Smith-Rowe

  • Perhaps the finishing will organically improve as the confidence continues to return. I do wonder how often the club do finishing drills. I’ve always found it a great way to end every practice as it’s the most important part of the game and the players look forward to it too. Always leaves them with a smile going home.

 

  • I believe it was the WBA game where Saka rolled his marker on the halfway line setting up a goal. He needs to continue to be willing to lose the ball by rolling his marker as they are getting tighter and tighter. If he does, they will see him as a double threat and lay off him.

 

HOPES:

  • I do wonder if we will sell AMN. I wonder if Cedric’s involvement was to prepare him game time as a back up left back. I will be gutted if we do sell him as  I think he’s the most under appreciated player at the club.

 

  • I like Newcastle. I don’t rate Steve Bruce though. What was he thinking playing Carroll, Joelinton and Callum Wilson and never crossing the ball.

 

  • Watching our Academy graduates making such an impact and knowing that Arsenal want to keep Balogun makes me question his agent. The evidence is there that Arteta will play younger players so if i was his agent I’d tell him to sign in the knowledge that he will get the chance to prove himself. If he thinks that he’s better than Lacazette and Eddie, he will have a chance to prove it. For as much as Balogun is likely to have a good career anyway, I think he will regret not playing with those he grew up with in our first team.

balogun

  • Mustafi was getting Arteta’s trust as next choice CB. That’s done now.

 

FINAL THOUGHT:

Do you prefer stats or your eyes? I’ve always preferred my eyes. I also prefer feeling over stats. When Tierney is about to cross I feel that something good is about to happen. I don’t feel that way when Bellerin has the same opportunity.

I’m enjoying watching Arsenal again as I feel positive about the growth in the individuals. There are another group that could add to that feeling who will play against Southampton in the Cup. Coming out of the Southampton league game we could possibly have a team and a squad giving all of us this feeling.

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One Response to A man for all occasions: how Arsenal’s Swiss Army Knife can transform in-form Gunners

  1. Francis Redheart January 19, 2021 at 9:31 am #

    Hello,

    Thanks for your great posts as usual.

    The confidence and endeavour of the young stars has rubbed off on the senior players and we see a good response from the team.

    Saka has always been spectacular and his switch to the RW has been talismanic. However, it is the impact of ESR on the team that has been very positive. His overall play, decision making and assists have coincided with our recent form.

    The defence has also stepped up with clean sheets in a row.

    As I have said before, the team has been given the freedom to attach more with Lava concentrating on being in the box more regularly thereby having the stamina to finish off chances more.

    This season is already a write off with Arteta learning on the job. With Ôzil off, the and the club must make strategic signings to make the team more competitive as a good spine is building slowly.

    Finally, Partey was outstanding yesterday without much fuss. He has really been a huge miss for us.

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