Frothing at the mouth
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
Sometimes I find myself repeating thoughts in this blog.
If there has been any thought that I’ve repeated more than any other it has been my insistence that bar the odd occasion, it is always best to try to win the game in the first 20 minutes.
Preferably you wrap the game up on the scoreboard. It is possible to have won the game mentally even if the score is 0-0 as the opponent feels inferior and have lost belief. I maintain that regardless of reputation, your opponent is wondering what you are going to bring today. You can start sluggishly and their confidence rises. Align that with their pre game motivation and you have given them the upper hand and they are probably ahead. If you start fast and go behind you have over an hour to rectify it AND you have rhythm and energy that you don’t have to find. You have it. You just need to score as you have all the other ingredients in place.
I absolutely love our new kick off. It hasn’t worked yet, but it sets the tone. It’s as if we have a plan to score from kick off. As I’m in the mood I’ll tell you that my club teams did this and scored often. Much easier against teenagers I know, but the idea wasn’t just to try to score but more that I wanted the opponent to know that we are in the mood.
Arsenal have the delightful new habit of starting with this positive intent. This game was beyond that though. After the poppies it was like a pack of wolves being let out of cage into a pit of raw meat. Absolutely frothing at the mouth. The tempo was City levels. The press was Liverpool levels and the outcome was like a throw back to 2001 when we overwhelmed teams regularly.
The press, energy, tempo was matched by an absolute refusal to concede. Ramsdale was the obvious star of this refusal but it’s becoming quite clear that the whole team is buying into the desire to keep clean sheets.
Here is an interesting thought….There is a method by which you position players as they develop. If they hate to lose more than they love to win then they will be a better defensive player. If they love to win more than they hate to lose they will be an attacking player. The best teams have players that are both. This has to be our target and daily drive. How much can the coaching staff get our players to care? The ultimate coaching achievement.
Moving forward, Arsenal have a clear opportunity to get CL football. Perhaps before we thought we could. What we have to realize is that with 1 game a week we need to ensure that this is an every game feature as there are no excuses to only start with ‘the frothing mouth’ against strong teams. This league is more competitive than ever and although Watford (h) sounds like 4-0 in our current form, it will only be 4-0 if we respect the fact that Everton laid off them and lost 2-5.
- It seems like there are so many parts coming together at once. Not only has the tempo, pressure on the ball, energy and defensive solidity markedly improved, our set plays have gone from being some of the worst in the league to the most efficient. Credit to this guy, Nicholas Jover…..
Jover has ditched the ridiculous short corners and now uses White, Partey and Gabriel to rotate in attacking the near post. Long may this level of efficiency continue as it was years overdue. Credit also to Saka who has the best delivery and without that you have nothing.
- The simple fact that we are able to pick the same team and Arteta isn’t being too clever is a bigger deal than we probably think. We are developing automatisms and a much needed rhythm. The fact that Lacazette can’t play 90 minutes is actually handy as it gives Odegaard a weekly opportunity to show he needs to be back in the line up which he is more than capable of doing.
- The Tavares vs Tierney debate will start to get very real very soon. We all knew that Tavares is powerful going forwards but he has learnt the positioning side of Arteta’s defensive structure too. I won’t get too deep into the comparison yet as one has been playing at a high level for years even though he’s been somewhat off this season and the other has just showed up. What I will say is ‘Well Done’ to Edu and Arteta for finding exactly what we needed at a fantastic price. The need now is to find a capable alternative to Tomi but I’ll get into that later.
- The defensive attitude is quite chest thumping. If you haven’t thumped your chest over it, I think you should 🙂 The sign of defensive units going to this level are found in the following…. desire to block shots vs stand off and turn around, reactions to GK’s palming the ball out (see Ramsdale’s supersave and the reaction), when you are dribbled past, when you are trailing the play do you sprint or jog, the desire that White has to block through balls and most of all, what you do in adversity. There are others but this frames my point. The best word I can find to describe our current back 5 is ‘serious.’ An un-fancy word but it perfectly describes their attitude to their job.
- I get nervous when we are defending corners and dangerous free kicks but we are routinely winning the aerial threat. Maybe it’s normal to do so and I’ve had my head in ArsenalLand too long where we concede goals we shouldn’t. Either way, I need to trust more or just go to the fridge and chill. That was a Gary Lineker joke. I will never do that again. I’m sorry!
- If Gabriel has an obvious weakness then I can’t find it. As close to Centre Back perfection as you can currently find. Brazil need to pay attention as Eder Militao is good but there is an obvious difference now.
- I forgot another clear improvement. We remembered a few weeks ago that numerical advantage is a good thing. We now counter at pace rather than allow our opponent to get back and organize as if it was basketball. I really don’t know if I should applaud it or wonder why it took so long. It’s like giving a clap for your wife taking a shower.
- The obvious next step (as I stated last week too) is to find either more energy/fitness in order to make that 27 minute stretch longer and/or find a few more composure tablets for when the heat gets turned up. As much as I compared us to City and Liverpool earlier, I am aware that the difference is in the frequency and length with which they can impose their will.
- The second half once again showed the need for a physical option at centre forward. Every time we are under the kosh we stay under that same kosh, whatever a ‘kosh’ is, as we can’t hold the ball up under physical pressure. What is so hard to consider though is that Auba and Laca are working out currently and if we had Muscles McHoldUpGenius then it would be harsh to replace either of our current strikers. Either way, the option is still needed, even as just an option.
- When we go into our shell I feel that we are so petrified of transition that we lose confidence to attack. Petrified might be over egging it but it’s an issue.
- Is Saka an issue? He’s not as we are winning but I noticed that he was the first to drop energy levels after minute 27. When he returns to full form I’m sure he will add assists and goals. In the meantime here is a great shot of ‘happy Saka.’
- Was it weird for you that the midfield needed AMN not Odegaard? I got the feeling that Arteta wants to play Odegaard to keep him happy and that this might be affecting his judgement somewhat.
- If AMN isn’t the solution as a dynamic Right Back option then we ideally need to sign one. The difference in what Tavares is capable of and Cedric is like comparing Arsenal at the beginning of the season to now. I’d love Lamptey as he could also give us minutes at his original position of right wing as well as RB and he is an absolute dynamo when on form.
- I kinda love that Gabriel doesn’t play for Brazil and that ESR isn’t involved yet with England. It’s helping their fatigue levels, I’m sure. The other part of me thinks that ESR is about to announced as replacing Sancho as he deserves it.
I wonder if the Champions League has been vocalized as a carrot yet? I’d imagine so. It seems almost naughty of me to type those two words that we’ve not been a part of for a while but it’s becoming obvious that we have a chance. If Leicester, W Ham, Brighton and Utd can dream of it then we don’t need to be shy anymore. What an incredible thought when you rewind your mind to August!
Thanks for reading! Check out my thoughts on Ramsdale, Arteta, Johnny Evans and tap-ins on my 15 minute podcast 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.