Coaching concerns clear
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
I’m not sure I can think of a new coach that has had one unfortunate circumstance after another quite like Mikel Arteta. We know the list. I won’t bore you.
Yet again, he was confronted with another list of unfortunate circumstances with multiple key starters out and others getting injured during the game. Looking at the task of playing the European Champions at full strength, it would be fair to assume that 0-2 may happen.
What I didn’t expect was how it happened.
One of Arteta’s main improvements has been making us competitive in the big games regardless of result and matching and out coaching supposed better coaches. Yesterday, I saw something that concerned me though. I saw our opponent cruising in 3rd gear. I saw Arteta refuse to address a simple tactical issue on Chelsea’s right and I saw what I fear will be his downfall, a lack of humility. None of this has anything to do with unfortunate circumstances.
We started the game with offensive energy but such a stark contrast was clear in our defensive energy. In fact we played with more defensive energy the last 15 than the first. With the first full crowd in 15 months you’d think the players would be moving like a pinball fizzing around the field fully energized by a big home support. Instead we looked like we lacked conviction and belief when there was no reason to do so. Normally when players start that way they are either confused or lacking correct motivation from their coach.
The second issue was bizarre.
Ordinarily, we are quick to bring our wide forwards back to double up defensively. As Chelsea repeatedly pinged balls to James, Saka was stood in the centre circle, leaving Tierney to make a choice which he failed at. After the first time, you’d think Arteta would tell Saka to work back, but he didn’t. If Saka wasn’t fit enough to do it, why was he playing or more to the point why didn’t he switch Pepe and Saka and get Pepe to track back? So strange. It was almost like he intentionally told Saka to stay on the halfway line to discourage James from going forward. James wasn’t discouraged however.
This moves me on neatly to more coaching stubborness.
At half time it was clear that Mari and Holding needed help with Lukaku and a back three with Tierney inside and Saka as LWB would have solved both the central and Chelsea’s right side. I’ve thought and said here for a while that if Arteta loses his job it will be a lack of humility that causes it. It looked to me that he was unwilling to change for fear of looking wrong. Boy, that’s a dangerous coaching trait! It is evidenced by the stat that Arteta has only ever won a game that he’s losing at half time, once. It seems clear to me that he thinks that changing his initial message is a coaching weakness and so he presses repeat and hence we see ‘robotic Arsenal’ run back out there.
Ultimately, I’m coming to the conclusion that Mikel Arteta’s lack of humility is greater than his coaching mind. I think he sees the issues but chooses image over change.
Humility is strength where many see it as weakness.
Any chance someone could persuade Mikel of this before it’s too late?
- Well, Sambi is a good at football! His passing range, ability to turn and lose his man and his decision making are rather quite impressive. What is going to be fascinating is whether he sits when Partey is back. My guess is that he will because Arteta will over value Xhaka’s experience. I then predict that the fans will hate this and get on Xhaka’s back and then (repeat 2019)…..
- Leno was sharper yesterday. Perhaps the new signing will give him a fresh focus as he is going to have his eyes on the starting spot for Germany at the World Cup. Never doubt this motivation as it’s bigger than any that a club can give.
- Like many, I wish I could just go on Arsenal holiday until September. I think that we could look a very different team after the break with many players back and hopefully 2 more important signings. I’m still excited about the medium term as we have finally addressed the athletic and age profile at Arsenal. Just need some luck with injuries and illness and a coach that will stop getting in the way of himself.
- It may be reaching but I see a big long term positive in the non-performance of our attackers and right backs in the last two games in stark contrast to our opponents. The club has seen the gulf in effectiveness of teams with a physical striking outlet in Toney and Lukaku vs our many non-physical options. How many times yesterday did Lukaku cause problems simply because he was strong. Just that one quality. Everything that was positive for Chelsea stemmed from that one gift. To have so many strikers at Arsenal but not one that is capable of being physically dominant will limit our success regardless of talent. Modern football is deep block. Modern football is quick counter. Take your pick. Do one. Arsenal do neither effectively and that is in essence the problem. Again, at least that was illuminated the last two games with time to fix it left. Reece James also showed us the difference an athletic and confident Right Back can make. For me I think this is not as bigger priority as on their day our RB options are 7-8/10 but our strikers lack the most important tool in the box bar scoring ability.
- Chelsea rarely threatened down their left yet Holding should’ve trusted those on that side and shifted to take Lukaku so Mari could’ve shifted Tierney to James. The problems were magnified as our midfield was too far from our defensive line with no central DM to stop the ball to Lukaku.
- Xhaka not sensing danger is not a new thing. Ever wondered why he rarely plays one touch bar the pass in front of his eyes? He rarely scans. Both offensively and defensively so he misses runners off his shoulder.
- It may be in the Cup competitions that we see if Martinelli can play CF. He struggles there every time I see him even though as I see him fail to anticipate opportunities. There were a few times we got through on the left but Martinelli didn’t read the situation and was late in arriving.
- Scratched record alert!!!……. I don’t know how many corners we had but it was a lot. if we can’t penetrate in open play, you’d think 10 or so corners might provide something creative. Alas.
- Arteta has to win the Norwich game. Simple. If he doesn’t the pressure will instantly double as they look weak. I thought he’d get longer but that game may define his coaching career as we should win and win without fuss.
My ‘PNH Expanded’ 15 minute audio blog covers thoughts on the transfers to come…..
I wonder if Arteta plays full strength on Wednesday to establish some winning rhythm? I’d understand him doing this as it’s the first choice players that need momentum and there won’t be too many games this season either.
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.