Sometimes it’s not blame
It’s so easy to look for blame.
It feels good. It removes a part of the frustration as we pass it off.
I’m more than happy to apportion blame when I think it’s deserved. I like to remain as emotionally stable as possible so as to not live in the world of extremes that lives around us.
I write this just 30 minutes after full time and as frustrated as I feel I strongly feel that blame needs to be carefully thrown on this occasion.
The accumulation of regular frustration tells us that our knee jerk rage is best placed at the manager as he is the short-term route to fixing it all.
In my job as a coach, I watch football through the lens of evaluating the coach’s role first.
I want to see a motivated team. A team chosen that fits the necessary game plan. A team of in form players. A team of working partnerships. There is more, but that’s enough.
When the game starts, I am fully aware that there is a large role that the coach can still play. Adjustments, taking advantage of their weaknesses, controlling game state, the importance of controlling your own emotions etc…
Perhaps the most important piece is setting your team up to create and deny.
Throughout last night’s game I was particularly aware that Arteta was under pressure, so my lens was fixed even more acutely on him. What I saw was a team that consistently created openings throughout the entire game. More openings than we’ve seen even recently in our post-Christmas revival.
The other half of Arteta’s job saw our defensive unit continually deny Slavia bar a few scraps.
Even though the press was intense and the time limited, Arteta had scouted and trained our boys to make numerous out/in runs to get behind them. Slavia were well coached. They are clearly a good team, yet Arsenal grew more and more dominant as Arteta adjusted to counter Slavia’s territorial share of the opening 15 minutes.
But we still want a scapegoat, right?
Well, firstly for me Arteta should be your last choice. He did HIS job. It’s not always his fault when we are frustrated just because he’s been frustrating us recently.
The short answer was that yet again, it was the finishing. Now if the coach hasn’t been working on finishing then the blame can be refocused back to him but I’m not throwing blame that I’ve no idea whether it’s fair or not.
My overarching thought on Mikel Arteta is that more often than not, he sets us up to succeed. I think Arsenal are still an imbalanced team that lacks goal threat throughout and ‘quality of confidence’ in certain positions.
I get the strong feeling that if Arteta gets what he wants in the summer that Arsenal could be next seasons surprise package. I don’t think this because I want to believe it. I just keep watching games of football where I think the players are not at the same level as their coach.
A controversial opinion amidst the current blame throwing but I know what I’m seeing.
-I’ve heard some serious nonsense this last week about the players not playing for Arteta. The last game wasn’t good but over the last 3 months Arsenal have been a serious team. A team set up to inspire consistent effort leaving the result down to technical factors.
Last night mocked those that thought that Arsenal are fading due to the disappointment of the Liverpool game. If that were true then why was the captain, who was yet again denied a big game start, pressing and fighting for 15 solid minutes when he’s supposed to be supporting the narrative of the cheap shots that want to say that he’s a problem child.
I applaud the players for lifting their chins off the ground after Saturday’s disappointment and dominating a tricky team. I wish we could’ve applauded goals but that’s currently our greatest imperfection.
-Bellerin should’ve been sulking too, right?
He’s off apparently and been dropped recently.
Not what I saw. I’m not really a fan but he had a far better game than I’ve seen in a long while.
-One of my favourite moments of watching our current team is how Partey uses deception in almost every touch. He has a joyful gift of making his intentions unknown to his opponent and this is what separates him from our other ordinary midfielders. It’s not just the willingness to take risks but the fact that he is able to succeed in it.
-If there was an armchair quarterback criticism of Arteta last night it would be the selection of Willian over Martinelli. Willian was as good as he’s been recently. A solid 6.5-7/10. He nearly won us the game with a delightful free kick. The game was more suited to Martinelli however, as he’d have thrived in the first half high line. Of course, our own Dave Seager made the case for Gabi to start yesterday.
-We are still leaving attackers the freedom to turn in the attacking midfield area as the communication in the back is not sufficient from our centre backs for one of them to follow and deny the turn. It didn’t hurt us in this game, but it’s been a thread that needs fixing.
-Not only was the finishing of a poor quality but the crossing was too. Not helped by Lacazette’s continued unwillingness to separate himself from the defender and the lack of aerial threat too.
-I’m starting to see an issue with Gabriel in the last quarter of games. He can be very calm and solid throughout but if the game is tight, he starts to panic as he did last night.
-I think I’m one of the many who wants to see increased use of Martinelli in the rest of our campaign. Whether from the left or ideally a trial at centre forward. At the very least, we must know if we need to buy a centre forward in the summer and we can’t make a guess as to whether he is the answer. As we are drifting in the league, there is no better chance.
With more accurate finishing that game could easily have been a three-goal separation. My positivity isn’t living behind a blindfold but in the hope that when the finishing improves, it’s very possible that we still finish with a title and much hope for next season.
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.