Arsenal don’t but Arteta does
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
Mikel Arteta won’t feel like he walked away with a win yesterday. He didn’t. Yet, did he personally get a win?
As the coach of the team he may never know or feel this personal victory but I’d imagine when he pauses he will realize, if one of his coaching staff doesn’t tell him beforehand.
What is this madness I speak of? We drew the game, right? The team did and even though he’s the biggest part of the team he walks away with another nugget in the respect bucket. A personal win amidst the fog of frustration.
After the game, Lacazette said this in response to being asked what happened in the first 30 minutes, “we didn’t respect the coaches instructions.” He wasn’t prompted to say this either.
Shortly after this interview I read this from Arsenal fan and match reviewer, Alan Alger, “As someone who watches every single minute of both of these teams all season…. that’s the best/most comfortable 15 min opening to any game West Ham have had for a long time.”
These quotes can mean one of two things. Either the team don’t respect Arteta or they learnt a huge lesson in the value of respecting their coach.
The clue to which is in Lacazette’s honesty. Spurs’ players had the chance to say similar on Thursday but they don’t feel that way. Arsenal’s players let themselves down, the fans down and more pointedly, their coach down in that first period. The second clue was given in the choice to step up and dominate the second half, as a coach with no voice would’ve seen his side lose 4 or 5-1.
So, what was the pre-game message? We will never know but we can all safely assume that concentration was a part of it.
Arteta admitted after the game that our current group have “two faces.” The perfect description. There will come a point that may have arrived already that makes him realize that this may not be fixable with words or coaching and that it may need new players who have greater levels of concentration. He has got us to the point that we can compete tactically and technically. Physically we are close. Mentally, it’s an absolute coin flip. We struggle to ever stay focused for an entire 90 minutes. There are a handful of players that can relax to yoga state at any given time.
Arteta has had an ‘I told you so’ moment. He can comfortably tell them, ‘you would’ve won if you had listened to me.’ So Arsenal didn’t win, but Arteta did.
His message in the near future will be on repeat in the player’s minds as they will remember yesterday. If they don’t I’d say they know the consequences will go beyond the current high level of competition in the squad. It will be at the forefront of Arteta’s mind this summer and for some, it will be simply too late.
To be fair we showed a very strong mentality to comeback. That cannot be ignored. We just wish we didn’t have to be embarrassed in order to focus.
-Not only was Odegaard the thrust behind our recovery but he was the hope in the midst of our unfocused start. The importance of this cannot be lost. A player who gives you hope both in the good and bad is the first name on the team sheet.
The centre of the field was compact game long and yet West Ham couldn’t dispossess him or stop him creating. The sign of an elite player is having the same soft feet in heavy traffic as he has on the open road. A true conductor’s performance. His best performance to date too.
It has become blindingly obvious that he is the solution to our creative need. It now becomes up to others to make this happen. Interestingly, he has already played more minutes in the league for Arsenal (474) than in his entire Real Madrid career (264) [Credit; Orbinho]. This will certainly help.
-That might have been Lacazette’s best game too. The West Brom game in the snow was rather good but this was more important. He offered himself as a creative force, a pivot that not only protected the ball well but twice split the defence wide open. His first finish may have deflected but it’s rare to see him have success with two touches in the box. The goals and more importantly, the threat of goals have been whats kept him on the bench. The exact opposite could be said of Auba who hasn’t played as well as Laca but seems to make us believe that he will still score.
-Calum Chambers has given Arsenal a very good problem. The timing and delivery of his crosses combined with his obvious defensive attributes makes me question what we do with him. Firstly, I’d suggest we rotate Chambers and Cedric for the rest of the season. Secondly, I think he is an excellent squad player to have at the club long term. There will likely be a group of senior players that will leave soon. There are a group behind them including Chambers who maybe haven’t had the opportunity to be a voice in the changing room. In summary, Chambers is a consistent 7/10 player and sometimes better. I simply can’t say that of Bellerin.
-I feel like I saw what was practiced at Colney in preparation for this game. The Lacazette one touch round his shoulder to a bursting Saka. It worked twice and nearly worked more.
-The reverse pass from Odegaard setting up the goal was my favourite moment of the game. I am a strong believer that the best way to penetrate a low block is with deception. Every WHU player thought he was passing left and so he fooled 9 players in one moment. Chambers cheeky outside of the foot pass to Lacazette who lobbed the keeper, was another deceptive moment that beat their entire back line. More of this please Arsenal.
-Second PL game in a row that Pepe hasn’t been the main event but has been crucial. Right foot perfection too.
-Martinelli wasn’t a factor but the statement that the substitution made was big. Firstly, it gets him involved again. Secondly, to take off your main goalscorer when you are losing is a compliment and a statement both.
-Was the lack of automatic connections in the first 30 minutes down to the new look forward line? Is that something we can criticize? To be fair, it should take a while to get a groove. Not sure that this was the biggest factor in the slow start though.
-It was enlightening to me that there were two players in particular that were hiding in the first 30 minutes. On the rewatch I consistently see Xhaka and Auba either standing behind or next to an opponent or moving too late. If they would’ve moved as the ball is moving then our willingness to play one touch would’ve prevailed.
-You can tell when Arsenal are rattled. It’s seen in how they clear the ball. When we are composed we pass it out and progress. When we aren’t we send it and because we aren’t an aggressive threat upfront, it comes right back.
-That first half could’ve been fixed with what I assume will show up in the summer. We needed a ball carrier. Someone that can turn in tight areas and accelerate through a compact midfield. The stress was in central areas. It needed someone to release the tense air.
-As much as we are upset that half our team wasn’t looking at the quick free kick, I’m not sure that I can entirely blame them. Jon Moss was walking towards the ball with his spray already out. I believe that I’d assume the same as the players did and therefore I’m not going in two footed. Saying that, you should never turn your back on the ball. Ever.
-With the effort and goals that Lacazette brought, I’m wondering if Auba will get back in the team post international break.
After mentioning that Arsenal will likely buy a ball carrier this summer, here are the 3 options I’d be looking at;
Aurelien Tchouameni from Monaco
Zambo Anguissa from Fulham.
Ryan Gravenberch from Ajax
Tchouameni is one that may be a new name to you. I’ve only discovered him in the last couple of months. Young, super high ceiling and comfortable to play with tempo as well as to advance play himself. The stereotypical modern day athletic midfielder.
I wanted to thank Danny from ‘A Bergkamp Wonderland’ who has been nudging me to try recording my articles as an audio alternative. I just hope that it lives up to his vision.
The first episode is available below. Enjoy, share?
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.