A rectangular shaped problem
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
One of the joys of my coaching career was having the blessing of meeting and coaching a boy called Mark Sherrod. (Above)
Mark drove 45 minutes four times a week to play on our team and did so for many years. Mark was not only a fabulous human being but a monster on the field. He made me a better coach as I learnt how to capitalize on having a striker who had a terrifying athletic and technical profile. We became a more direct team as I encouraged him to run at players and not worry about having to include others. In particular I learnt that the big rectangle in front of the goal should be like Christmas Day to a striker. Everything we trained to do in order to get the ball into that big rectangle meant that our striker/s had to value their teammates by showing animalistic hunger to turn a situation where they are grossly outnumbered into a possibility.
Mark came alive in the box. Wide eyed.
His movement was that of a child on Christmas Day being told that he could go in the living room. He was so excited at the prospect of possibly scoring that not only was his movement aggressive and his finishing devastating, but he would often slide tackle defenders in the box as he didn’t want his present to be given to someone else.
When I watch Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang in our box I see none of that.
Lacazette is an out of the box striker. Does all his best work there. On the rare occasion that he gets a chance in the box, he’s rather clinical. You’d think this would bring the animal out in him, but alas. Auba is the height of predictability. Goes to the back post and stays there. If you get it to him, he will likely score but can you imagine defending him? It can’t be hard, right? You don’t have to worry about him stepping to the back post and then darting in front of you or aggressively attacking an aerial cross with you.
Tierney is gold. Best crosser in the league. He is being wasted with these two as targets. The team is being set up to attack primarily from the wings, putting crosses in. Why? It doesn’t suit our players. Honestly, if you are going to play Laca and Auba then play like Kane and Son. Laca come towards the ball, lay off, play Auba in behind. That would be smarter.
Our attackers, all of them, look like they are consumed with the organizational part of Arteta’s 5 lane attacking plan and/or their defensive responsibilities are overwhelming the freedom that they have in their heads and making them worry.
Thankfully, it looks like we are trying to upgrade. I find myself overly excited about Tammy Abraham who is still a good option, simply because he is more aggressive in the box and far more elusive. But I ask myself, should we be celebrating a striker who is simply doing what the job says on the tin?
Mark Sherrod went on to play for Houston Dynamo’s and San Jose Earhquakes in the MLS. He had a chance of being the striker that the US never had and thought Jozy Altidore was, but had two career ending knee injuries. He may have lost this opportunity but he never played the game forgetting that the big rectangular box around the goal should be treated like the living room on Christmas Day.
- As a fan of football in general, I was thrilled to see the way the game was refereed. I was under the impression that the change in rules was just going to apply to ‘deceiving’ the ref in the box only. I have been reminded this summer watching the multitudes of sports in the Olympics, that the authorities have let the deception in football get out of hand. Last season the deception combined with overuse of VAR was sucking the flow and joy out of the game. It will be quite hilarious watching players having to adapt. Xhaka may have to leave his collapsable legs in the changing room.
- It was a huge relief that Willian was left out. Even Nelson was preferred, a player who is always the first to be left out. We threw away much last season whilst persisting in encouraging a player who didn’t want to be encouraged and leaving out players who deserved the encouragement.
- Bar the Willian signing, I have been very impressed with Arteta’s choices to rebuild. I have to be honest and state that I thought that the Willian signing was smart at the time as he had just come off the back of a very good season at Chelsea and I felt we simply needed better experienced players. I am therefore calmer than most as I think we will buy the necessary players and that they will be good choices. More evidence that we are making good decisions is evidenced by the impressive Lokonga. Big kudos to Arteta for firstly finding him and secondly looking to start the season with him as yesterday’s start proved he can play Spurs so you’d think, right. He had 30 more tackles/interceptions than any Arsenal midfielder last season and looks far more progressive than our other fit options. His success seems to have shifted the priority to a creative player and a striker which could be pivotal. His ability to show composure, progression and tackle may well see him and Partey become first choice as Xhaka higher up struggled to offer anything like the same product and he seems to be insistent on hitting everything wide.
- Ben White was very good too. He just seems more confident in his abilities and decisions than any of our other CB’s. Stealing the ball higher up the field seems to be a feature of his play and will help our transition game.
- Tavares looks like athletic chaos to me. I’d imagine we will use him mostly late in games to run at tiring opposition.
- The introduction of Saka was needed to give him half a chance of being effective either from the bench or, due to Auba’s form, from the start.
- My biggest wish for the off season beyond transfers was that Arteta sat himself down in humility and did an honest review of his weaknesses. As many have rightly pointed out since yesterday, our attacking game looks as meek as last season. For as good as Arteta is at getting the players to perform the most exhausting part of the game in the detailed defensive organization, he desperately needs to translate that in persuading the attackers to be as effective.
- Please tell me that the corners were for the bin. That we aren’t revealing what we are really trying to do for the season. Last season the short corners never resulted in a goal. Never. What do we see repeatedly…. more completely ineffective short corners!! The plan was obviously to set up a 30 yard shot for a player who isn’t good at shooting from 30 yards. Unreal. If you told me that this idea was planned by your 12 year old self I’d believe you. If the idea is to just turn a corner into general play or a speculative 30 yarder from Bellerin then why are White and Mari in the box and not part of stopping the transition?
- I can only imagine that Bellerin is either playing to make him look ‘valued,’ so that we get a fee or that we are going to continue to sign more 21-24 year olds and the club has decided we need to keep Bellerin and Xhaka to balance it out.
- I’m not and never will be in the camp of complaining about the timing of transfers as I understand that the favoured targets may not be available until the end of the window. I actually feel bad for the club that their desire to finally spend big has been met withy the slowest market in a lifetime.
- Pepe unfortunately reverted to his old self. At the end of last season he had started to understand when to stop and receive it to feet and when to run behind. Pepe at his best does both at the right time and also finds himself in the inside left area to shoot. I fear that Saka will start on Friday which I think needs to wait, but Pepe has to start quickly as the competition is high especially when we sign an attacking midfielder and ESR takes a wing spot.
- It’s worrying that our attacking plan is centered around crossing when we have such predictable movement/lack of movement from our strikers.
- I hope Joe Willock plays in a 4-3-3. I hope Newcastle give him the freedom to be a third man runner. I hope his unique modern day goal-scoring talents get him in the England squad where I can cheer him on again. I hope Arsenal score plenty this season as bringing on Joe Willock for the last 25 minutes sounded like one of the best sub options in the league in a game where subs are winning games more often. I would’ve kept him but I understand that Arsenal also need to learn when to sell. This does however seem like it’ll end up feeling like Emi Martinez.
- I think that our attacking midfield wish-list is Odegaard, Maddison, Silva, in that order. I liked this order until yesterday. I watched Maddison again against Chelsea. He seems the perfect fit for our needs. It’s all about instinct for me. I was reminded today watching Odegaard play 25 minutes against Milan that although he has a good eye for creativity, his first thought is to protect his first touch or keep possession. Maddison’s first instinct is to look to create. When you have so much pace in Auba, Balogun, ESR, Saka, Pepe and Martinelli, you need someone to look at them earlier. Earlier. That word is key.
- In my last striker transfer blog on LeGrove I suggested that Vlahovic was the striker I’d choose. I like the Abraham idea but there is something about Dusan Vlahovic that is more terrifying for defenders. You may feel this way if you watch this.
I have a feeling that our season may not get into full swing until after the international break. The fixtures are not kind. I do have hope though. My hope is in the eye that Arteta has for what we’ve needed from the market for many years. I just hope that I can be complimenting his new found attacking tactical nous as well as his eye.
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.