Arsenal the Yo-Yo
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
My son: Are we gonna win today, Dad?
Me: No idea
My son: Why not?
Me: Because our players, form, line up or any part of it doesn’t seem to matter as to whether we are ‘good Arsenal’ or ‘bad Arsenal.’ Do you think we will win?
My son: No idea
We are talking about the emotion left out there if a team suffers from the inconsistency disease.
I have thought that Arsenal were inconsistent most of my life, until now. Now I know what true unadulterated inconsistency looks like….. the feeling of having absolutely no idea of the outcome regardless of opponent or circumstance.
This is perfectly demonstrated in the way I feel about certain players.
If you would’ve asked me if I had any interest in retaining Dani Ceballos, Hector Bellerin or Alex Lacazette a week ago, I wouldn’t have let you get the whole question out before I told you ‘no.’ Then out of nowhere, Hector Bellerin plays very well and much better against Slavia and so I wonder. Then yesterday happened. Our best two players were Ceballos and Lacazette. Could Dani get out of the midfield where he treats the ball like a girlfriend at the airport who you are dropping off to see her long lost Auntie Flo and she’ll be gone for a month? Dani in the final third played with tempo. One touch. Deception. Made a big difference. I’m back to being confused again.
Lacazette isn’t a striker for me as he desperately lacks movement and desire inside a crowded box but is he a ForMidFender. A new position. Like the best kid on the school playground who plays all 3 positions and generally wherever he wants. He played as if he was told to simply find the vacant hole on the field. But it worked. His marker wasn’t going to follow our new ForMidFender throughout the whole spine of the field so Lacazette was able to be available and connect and he looked like the future whether it’s him or another. A new position invented by Mikel and named by yours truly 🙂
It wasn’t just the players who surprised us though. The training ground had obviously seen a fresh tempo and a return to combinations on the top of the box. We’ve seen it before but then it vanished. Why did it vanish when it looked like the answer? Why do we only see tempo once in a while? More importantly, what was said at half time because it vanished again for half an hour!?!
I think the answer is in domination. I think Arsenal get too comfortable being comfortable and actually, comfortable being uncomfortable.
Arsenal need focused training on ruthlessness. Killing games. Taking advantage of the mental drop that opponents deal with after they concede. More pointedly, I think Arsenal need to start every game with tempo and the intent to be 2-0 up in 20 minutes. I’ve experimented with the psychology of this and it works. My team play as if the game is 20 minutes long. If it goes wrong we have 75 minutes to recover it. Roughly 80% of the time we have at the very least won the game within 20 minutes as the opponent is overwhelmed and has lost belief as we ‘look’ too good. I think Arteta doesn’t have a consistent way of approaching games intentionally. I think he tries to win games by himself. He tries with game by game tactics that the opponent didn’t prepare for. This isn’t necessarily wrong. It might be right. Trouble is that you have to believe that your players are so good that they can dilute their automatisms and pick up new habits each game. I don’t think he has a full team capable of this and herein might lie the problem.
Arsenal are a Yo-Yo.
Up and down.
Capable of making you wonder if you need to slap yourself harder as you swear that you see a Top 4 team. Then as soon as you’ve recovered from the slap you have to do it again because you can’t believe that a team so capable of playing with such high level spatial awareness, intelligence, modern tactics, zippy tempo and clinical movement can make you believe that these qualities live in a large bag that has been left on the team coach.
Just don’t ask me if we will beat Slavia Prague. Not sure which direction the Yo-Yo is traveling.
I feel this season is like one of those trick shots where you can’t tell what the Yo-Yo guru just did but you know you feel dizzy.
I can’t believe I’m saying this but shouldn’t we play this same line up on Thursday? We actually looked like a team. A cohesive unit that made me believe that we’d put Slavia Prague away. This relies on Saka being fit, of course.
-Having spent many column inches complaining that Lacazette has no movement in a crowded box, it’s fair to point out that his movement on the first goal was outstanding. He seems willing to run off the ball if the box is available which makes me believe that this strikerless ForMidFender idea is worth pursuing. That’s a sentence that spell check didn’t like.
I do actually wonder if this is a preview of Arsenal 21/22.
-Xhaka was imperious and his timing is excellent with Tierney’s season over. His left back duties will have to be a game by game decision as if he’s got Adama Traore running at him, not such a good idea.
-Martinelli is loved because he gives hope. It’s not just his energy but his toolbox. There are many lesser players that have energy but Martinelli can back it up. He is actually quite similar to Auba. The biggest difference is that he has aggression and fearlessness as well as the speed and two footed finishing ability of Auba.
-We have to be careful how we treat Partey’s ability to show deception when we are back in the stadium. As much as he takes unnecessary risks in the defensive third and needs to remedy this, we have to make him feel free to deceive further up the pitch as it is what separates him from all of our other midfielders and makes him an elite talent.
-Were we over coached at half time? Confused? Tired? We hope for the day when something positive is happening and we see it in the second half or in the next game/s.
-I wonder why Pepe’s first touch is sloppy? Does he think about it rather than trust himself? Is he too concerned about the defender?
If it’s a good touch you’ll see him pick up confidence and run more directly at the defender. If not, he plays with less risk.
-Lacazette coming towards the ball is working but he needs to be willing to receive the ball on his left foot as he’s got later day Ozil disease of turning in a big circle unnecessarily.
-Arteta’s substitutions may be his low point this season. I didn’t understand why Azeez couldn’t come on for 8 minutes after the 3rd goal. If he can’t play when you are 3 up against the leagues weakest team, then when? I know it’s early but…
-I am looking forward to the Balogun announcement very much. We won’t see him until he has fully committed and signed as that was the deal. I also hope that we see him on the field a few times before seasons end. If we do see both Balogun and Martinelli then perhaps we don’t have to waste 30+M on a striker when we have other areas needing upgrades and limited funds.
-I’m being positive and thinking that Arsenal will do whatever it takes to get one of ESR, Odegaard or Saka ready for Thursday. Crucial.
I’m trialing an audio addition…… A few weeks ago I did an audio version of Positives, Needs and Hopes (PNH) but I wanted to trial a new concept.
I call it ‘PNH Expanded.‘ Listen to it on Soundcloud or right here in your browser by clicking on the player below:
Give it a listen. I’ve taken a handful of the discussion points in this piece and expanded on them. Would love some honest feedback as if it’s rubbish that’s fine as it was a Herculian effort to accomplish as I had my son asking to play football in the basement, one of my daughters wanting a driving lesson and the Arsenal Vision Instant Reaction notification winking at me.
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.