Like a Panther
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
That was one incredibly well coached game.
Slavia insisted on playing out from the back and were fine in the first phase. Second phase their midfield couldn’t connect. I watched, paused, re-wound the TV and saw what was happening. Arteta had set us up to tempt them. To encourage them to continue playing out yet our midfielders waited and baited like a panther stalking and pouncing on its prey. The organization was really very good. The distances that Arteta has taught our players to give are hard to spot in the flow of the game but they give enough encouragement to the opponent to try the pass but allow us to pounce. The robberies started in midfield but were evident back to front. Encourage it, nick it. So clever. Slavia should’ve changed tactics as Arsenal were simply too organized. One robbery after another. To his credit, Dani Ceballos is the chief thief. One of his best qualities is pouncing. Perhaps he is the king panther. Slavia’s high line was looked at by the coaching staff and played right into our hands. Not with a pacy forward exploiting the space behind as we thought, but with defensive positioning suffocating their ambitions.
There were other very clever tactical nuances that I spotted….
Ceballos drifting wide is spreading out their midfield. They want to stay compact but have overloads often on both sides. This allows Partey space to receive and play.
I saw Saka making vertical runs to pull his marker away from ESR who had oceans of space.
I see ESR sacrificing himself with his high level off the ball movement in order for others to have time and space to operate in.
Pepe hugging the touchline to become a more natural replacement for what Tierney does.
When Arteta doesn’t overthink, become too clever or let his ego see a rival as a coaching challenge, he is an elite thinker. I’m not sure that the reason why Slavia were so bad is because they are bad. I think that we were so good, as we were so well prepared.
On a night where Arteta could’ve been ripped apart, he rose.
-Firstly, I loved the eyes that the team gave to Slavia at kick off. Stared them out. Like a silent Haka. An important stand against a weirdly bold opponent considering the racial focus they’ve been under.
-I’m coming around to the idea that Xhaka is perfect for Arteta. Best attitude at training. Plays multiple positions but more than that, he seems to have a full understanding of modern ‘coaches football.’ It’s a sign of a strong character that he has turned his career around at Arsenal.
-How often have I and others wished for ruthlessness from Arteta’s Arsenal. Not only a higher percentage of goals from shots taken but more the mentality of taking advantage of the opponents mindset. Those first 3 goals were scored in 6 minutes. Arsenal don’t normally hit the accelerator after scoring and they should. Two things happen after a goal is scored… firstly, the opponent becomes dangerous as they are angry. Secondly, they more often lose confidence. Experience a lull before they get re-energized. We haven’t been very good at taking advantage of that. I hope Arteta saw that today and encourages the accelerator or that the players like the addictive feeling of an adrenaline boost one after another and do it themselves.
-A big improvement that I spot is the second effort after we are beaten. If you want to see what level of ‘by in’ the players have watch them when the play goes past them. Do they sprint? Do they jog? Arsenal have sprinters now where under the two previous coaches they had joggers.
-Pepe on the left hasn’t been seen enough. He’s seems to be a bigger goalscoring threat and he is clearly more effective crossing with his left than right. With Saka being #1 on the right there is a real opportunity for Pepe on the left. Got to keep the goals and assists up as it’s super hard to ignore the two main requirements of a winger if he’s consistent.
-Ceballos continues to confuse me. I’m trying not to fall back in love. He has started to not only add deception to his game that the team as a whole needs, but he is eradicating errors which was the bigger issue. His dummy midway through the first half was clever, low risk and gave Arsenal a clear run through the centre.
-Yet another impressive performance from Xhaka. Surely I’m not going to fall for him too!
-Have you noticed that Leno, like Ceballos, has cleaned up his risk taking with his feet?
-I have a feeling that Pablo Mari might be our best Centre Back. I think he has the most positive qualities and the least negative ones. Beyond that he has the assurance that Sol Campbell gave us. Such calmness and authority.
-Saka needed a better night in front of goal. I feel like he’s been snatching at shots. Thinking about it too much.
-Holding needs to learn to dive, Partey needs to be stronger in the air, Laca needs to try 1 touch lay offs with his back to goal as he’s capable but seems insecure and Spurs need to sign Slavia’s keeper. Actually, we will sign him for you, Daniel Levy. We will give him a shave and take his helmet off. They’ll never recognize him.
There….didn’t want to spend too much time on needs when the performance was so good.
-That was a world of good decisions yesterday. From the line up to the tactics to the execution and professionalism. We’ve found a team that works. A group that gel. Hoping Arteta doesn’t over complicate it.
-I’m looking forward/not looking forward to watching Zambo Anguissa at the Emirates on Sunday. I think he could greatly improve the athleticism of our midfield for a good price. Hybrid player that Arteta would love.
-I was a fan of Coquelin. Always like players that maximize their personal potential. I look forward to seeing him in a couple of weeks but like Anguissa, not too much 😉
-Crazy thought….. Is Chambers developing into both a better defensive and attacking right back option than we could get? I just can’t see Arteta not using him in many games with his lean towards solid defensiveness and height, which is often needed.
Check out my ‘PNH expanded audio in the player below. Hear added thoughts on Saka’s finishing, Xhaka and Laca’s contracts, Ceballos’ future, Pepe’s threat and what Peter Crouch taught me.
I appreciate all the feedback on my blog and ‘PNH expanded.’ The more opinions, the more I’m learning.
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.
Absolutely fantastic performance! Best we’ve looked in some time. Definitely hope Mikel and the boys can keep it going moving forward. Keep it simple. Stick with what works. Helps having ESR back out there for sure. Everyone looked great really though. Maybe your thought about Chambers is not so crazy. He’s looked surprisingly good of late, but is he up for it against a pacy dynamic winger?
A good day at the office for Mikel. Everyone was, at least, a 7 out of 10. Can’t complain about the reduced attacking intent in the second half as we’ve all been clamouring for better game management. Leno didn’t have to make a save!