The 4 Minute Rebellion
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
I might be reaching here. Could be wrong. I’m happy to say this as it’s truth.
Watching the game yesterday something jumped off the screen at me. We had spent 90 minutes trying to execute Arteta’s passing patterns. We then binned them. Then we won.
It’s also fair to recognize that the first goal was the result of a perfectly executed pre-planned passing pattern. Beyond that moment though we yet again struggled to create clear cut chances or even half chances. This pattern is becoming as predictable as our passing.
So, how did we win?
What I saw was an Odegaard epiphany. We’d tried another pointless horseshoe. Then in rode the rebel. The devil on Odegaard’s shoulder told him to cross it in the air. A sin that I’m not necessarily in disagreement with as we don’t have the aerial aggression to wIn them, but a sin nevertheless. As the cross was an uncomfortable inswinger that the defense were fearful to touch, it worked.
The rebellion was complete when we saw Pepe not only ignore the corner flag but run directly at pace at the defenders and score a goal that saw the best of him.
Without exaggeration that was my favourite Pepe moment since he joined Arsenal. Not his most important but my favourite. I loved it because coaching can be easy. It can be easier than I think our manager makes it. I think you prioritize playing to your strengths beyond all else. Once you have a squad/team that is playing to its strengths you can create patterns that suit their skillset. Pepe has much talent but has always taken too long to attempt to beat his man if he does it at all. He should spend far more time working on using his flex hips to beat his man whilst running at full speed and in a far more direct way. If he slows down it’s simply to unbalance for a split second rather than as a way of tempting the defender to lunge which is his regular style.
Watching Arteta’s Arsenal I get the impression that he does it in reverse. I think he has his ideas of effective, modern passing patterns and the players slowly adapt. The total truth is that passing is one way of attacking. There is such a great need for more risk including direct and penetrative dribbling as well as shooting from range. As Tim Stillman often repeats, “Arsenal try to score the perfect goal, hence why we aren’t creating enough.”
To be fair to Arteta, I think he will add pieces this summer that suit his patterns and we will improve. The bigger issue however is the instruction vs the rebellion. The way we play is leaning far too heavily on the pre-game strategy than the game happening. The scenario we should arrive at is where the players consider the strategy and look for its opportunities. We currently play as if we are going to get spanked for disobeying.
What happened yesterday is that the players won the game. They won it because two of them rebelled.
The bigger thought is will Arteta be humble enough to recognize when he didn’t win the game and decide to utilize his players to their fullest.
- We started with intent. We started with frequent quick combinations out wide that got us into positions that I think will be more valuable when we either play a different striker or buy someone fearless to play there.
- The first goal had an important unnoticed element. Watch it again. Watch Tierney after he passes down the wing to Saka. He pauses before making his run. This is crucial. The defenders expect you to go instantly and because he didn’t they thought he wasn’t going to. This is an important tactical nuance. Pass, pause, then go.
- I absolutely loved the booing. I loved it because it was football again 🙂
- We continue to impress in our secure possession. I remember 18 months ago having anxiety watching us play out of the back. I then remember still gripping my couch when we had it in the middle third. I have a theory as to what Arteta is spending his time doing at Colney. Listen to the audio at the bottom as I explain why we may be frustrated as to the product in the final third.
- Leno has received many criticisms recently. I noticed that he comfortably caught 3 difficult crosses. Technically he is as clean as anyone. He seems to be more decisive in commanding his box now.
- It was a big step for Martinelli that he was preferred to Lacazette from the bench. A game changer that was allowed to change the game. Would love to see him start on Sunday.
- I think it’s important that Chambers is retained as a right back option. His aggression both on the ground and in the air will be needed as I’m sure the RB we buy won’t have these qualities. His crossing is becoming a consistent feature too.
- It was nice to see Gabriel’s pace again. We’ve not had to use him in a foot race recently and he comfortably caught Zaha and was intelligent enough to not try to tackle him. As he’s front footed this must have been a temptation but he is learning from his impetuousness.
- Smith Rowe’s most important skill currently is his willingness to turn and accelerate. It may not be his best skill but because others don’t carry the ball it is the most important. I wish he would add a shot to the end of his run as the. movement ahead of him is too vertical and easy to mark so the move somewhat dies.
- For a team who plays structured attacking football with set patterns, shouldn’t we be seeing these patterns more? The pattern that we all see is the horseshoe possession. We will sometimes see the overloads and combinations out wide but based on our improving passing percentage, shouldn’t we be more successful? If we aren’t seeing them shouldn’t we try other patterns or maybe (clench buttocks), improvise? My overriding takeaway from the end of our season is the obvious need to create more good chances. I think the reason that we aren’t is because we are following directions that our opponents have figured out pre-game and/or during the game.
- Part of the attacking improvements needs to be both a trust in our passing and more runs behind. These are intertwined. Our forwards do run behind but the defenders and midfielders don’t trust themselves to pass it unless they are called Thomas Partey or David Luiz. Secondly, our wingers both prefer to receive to feet rather than behind which slows everything down and allows opponents to get organized.
- If ElNeny scanned. If ElNeny scanned and passed forward. If ElNeny did both he’d be a huge asset as he is more willing to both support the ball and give such a high consistent defensive effort that he would be a great squad option rather than a sigh.
- Hands up if you also go to the loo when Arsenal have a corner? Maybe start a meaningless conversation? Perhaps reheat last nights spaghetti? I wonder if it’s possible to get a new set piece coach, Arsenal?
- That this little chap turns out to be the next greatest player of all time….
This is Leo Messo. He is 10 years old and he’s just joined Arsenal after moving from Kenya. Imagine if Leo Messi’s status in the game was replaced by Leo Messo!
- Got a feeling that Arsenal will be getting 3rd season Pepe, the superstar. Hoping.
- Why do players exaggerate contact? Why did diving become commonplace? Why do they pressure the referee? Example A….. If ElNeny falls over, Benteke is gone. By staying on his feet the referee doesn’t feel the same pressure to eject him.
- The Joe Willock debate….. In short, if we need the money then we need to ensure we buy goal threat with it. If we go 4-3-3, I would keep him as he is the perfect modern day late arriving midfielder. If we don’t then we need to consider a sale. I’d keep him as goals are the point and Arsenal aren’t very good at threatening the point. Even as a late sub, his pace, pressure and runs would be hard for a lagging defence. Finally, if I was Southgate I’d take him to the Euro’s. Why? Well because there will likely be 6-10 players that won’t play. Why would you not want the option of a goalscoring midfielder on your bench if you need a threat coming from deep? Doesn’t matter ‘how good’ he is in that moment. England, like Arsenal, don’t have many if any players with this profile.
I think Sunday might be vital. Vital because I think our main target has been Yves Bissouma for quite a while. He has multiple teams chasing him that are in the CL/EL and we need to impress him in order to get him. Sign Bissouma, Partey will blossom.
Thanks to the many who have listened to PNH Expanded. It’s my 15 minute audio podcast expanding on this blog. Take a listen below.
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.