A Different Kinda Thing
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
This post was going to be called ‘Scruffy something.’ I sat annoyed at myself trying to find the word that went with scruffy for way too long. The performance was definitely scruffy so i was locked into the headline. Then it dawned on me that not all of it was scruffy and more to the point, there were many players that were actually very good. One who arguably played his best game to date too. Then I paused and started to grow an appreciation for ‘A Different Kinda Thing’ that we offered that wasn’t served in a similar game in the past.
In the past if we were struggling to beat a team at home that should’ve been 3 fairly easy points we would’ve had a sweep of 5 or 6/10 performances across the entire team. Almost like Arsenal were all in it together, good or bad. When we were good we were all good and when bad it was hard to find players rising above the average. We might still have squeaked a win but reliant on a moment rather than positive performances.
A team that wins consistently wins when they don’t play well as the saying goes, but more importantly they don’t have players that accept mediocrity and follow the team down the abyss. They grab those around them and try to backpack them so the result doesn’t suffer.
Yesterday, Ramsdale wasn’t the best example but let’s start from the back…… He was clean in everything apart from the big blunder, but overall he nullified all the crossing threat and commanded his box admirably. Tomi won everything and again was a threat in both directions. Sarr is dangerous and only beat him once. Gabriel was quiet perfection. Starting to expect this from him. His header was excellent and kudos to Foster as the downward header is the hardest type to save. Tavares was again impressive and like Tomi, in both directions. His defensive contribution surprises me as he’s obviously eye catching going forward but his positioning and decision making in defence has been solid for the past 3 games. White was the chap I talked of above. He intercepted often, has greatly improved in the air, completed his usual heroic blocks and looks ‘Alan Hansen-like’ striding forward. Sambi was targeted and coped well. We all love how he turns and accelerates play which is in stark contrast to Xhaka. He’s braver. AMN turned some heads. Like Sambi he accelerates play but on the dribble and played with far more maturity. ESR was 8/10 again. Again.
Saka was the Saka of last season, consistently beating Rose which was quite the delight. Odegaard made a positive impact and arguably should have started against a team that needed to be threaded and Martinelli must have been tempted to burst towards goal and add to his reputation, but made the team decision.
It was really only Auba and possibly Laca who struggled and neither through a lack of effort. It simply wasn’t Auba’s day and Laca I think passed up opportunities to shoot.
All this shouldn’t really add up to the semi-struggle that it was but it’s a reminder that even though many players can have solid/very good games, the sport ultimately rests on goal scoring and Arsenal still lack a reliability in that area team wide.
The joy of yesterday came in a few places. Yet another clean sheet from a back 5 that never truly looked like conceding. A departure from not so long ago. The joy of going on a 10 game undefeated run with such a young team, especially the one that finished yesterdays game. Think on the end game line up and ages. Different to what others are daring to do. The big stand out point to me was the respect Watford showed us. From as not so far back as the Palace and Brighton games, we have become a team that is respected again. A team that is feared. If Watford would’ve played us in September I bet they would have taken the game to us with little fear of what we offered.
Confidence is the quickest swinger in sport. Hard to regain, easy to lose. Interestingly, Arsenal have regained it quicker than most I remember. A quite dramatic swing.
Me is a little bit intrigued to watch that Amazon documentary.
- Back to some of the players….. AMN was irritating me second half and I wasn’t sure why. Thinking about it afterwards I was bothered that he passed it backwards twice under little pressure. Such a minor point it seems but the real reason I was irritated was that he excels in adventure. I suppose I was disappointed as he is ordinarily more adventurous and capable of more than he was producing. I make no apologies for bragging with zero humility that I never gave up on him when others did. I just felt that he needed a decent chance. I felt and feel that a player with almost every tool in his box can’t possibly be as unequipped as many thought. Besides goals, I don’t find anything that he can’t do. Admittedly, he isn’t always as consistent and doesn’t always pull all of his tools out of the box, but the boy has huge potential. Will January change his life?
- It was honestly such a relief to get Saka back. His distinct difference to Pepe is that he is a proactive dribbler and therefore doesn’t have to stall.
- Tavares’ delivery. Wow! Begging for Vlahovic or similar. Such whip, bend and danger for keepers. When an aggressive CF is signed we will see Tavares’ value climb. I’d also like him to have a go at corners/free kicks as I’d imagine he’d excel there too.
- Give this a thought….. Would you swap White and Gabriel for anyone in the PL right now. They are playing with the confidence that normally shows up in a third season partnership. Imperious is the best description.
- ESR is quietly beginning the birth of his end product game. What is so refreshing is that when most begin this journey they don’t begin it with such composure. His 2 in 2 games have both been finishing perfection. Inside of the foot, accuracy over power. Southgate can’t ignore him for much longer.
- There are two elements that stand out to me regarding our improvement. We have developed a far more compact style especially out of possession. We are now able to suffocate opponents where they ran rampant before. Secondly, we have secured the fundamental areas of our game. Winning first and second balls. Body strength. Cleaner decision making backed up by an obvious clarity in defensive communication. Acceleration of play and taking advantage of counter attacks. Trust in aerial situations in our box. A legitimate danger at set plays. A variety of attacking threat is creeping in too. All of these should honestly have shown up earlier but I respect the clean up job Arteta has had to do and the breadth of the job.
- A sign of a well prepared team is whether the opponent’s danger man/men are nullified. Sarr was only allowed to run at us once and a substitution was made two minutes later so that energy could be introduced to stop it happening a second time.
- Attached to the last point is Arteta’s improvement in who and when he subs. He seems to be seeing the game clearer. I have a theory that as soon as Albert started wearing his airpods, our coaching staff have improved their in-game decisions. I’m thinking that a coach or two are positioned in an elevated position and tasked with fixing problems and communicating them to Albert and his air pods.
- Another sign of a team on the rise will always be the defensive desire. From the constant blocks our back 4 make to ESR sprinting 40 yards to stop a counter attack is the absolute opposite of what I saw Bruno Hernandez and Wan Bissaka doing the day before. One team seeing value in the harder parts of the game and the other putting in token effort.
- Should I be a little rattled that we started the Villa and Leicester games with significantly greater tempo and 1 touch football than we did yesterday? I hope we aren’t picking and choosing our opponents to respect.
- ESR was too deep in the first half. We seemed reluctant to find him between the lines so he kept coming deeper. We also seemed reluctant to use Tavares and AMN on the left in the first half. Tavares seems to have the stamina of an Ethiopian marathon runner and we seemed to wait to utilize it.
- Just a pet hate (peeve, if you are American). What is a ‘peeve’ anyway? Am I even spelling it right? Do I care? Do you? Anyway, I think that all defenders need to clear the ball sometimes with more of a 20-30 yard chip than a 40 yard whack. In the modern game the strikers aren’t on the halfway line as they are deeper and part of a compact all behind the ball block. I realize that it allows you to possibly get your shape back but it does kill any hope of turning defence to attack.
- Josh Kroenke might be rich but he desperately needs one of his lackies to nudge him into the bathroom and suggest that his ‘Evil Star Trek villain’ beard needs to go. Not the top of my list of ‘needs’ but I know you are concerned about his life choices too. Perhaps he has decided that he needs to intimidate us into not making ‘Kroenke Out’ banners out of fear of being zapped by his evil zappy gun thingy that his zapping minions carry. Also, his hair is black and his beard has grey in it. What man advertises his grey when he doesn’t have to?
- How is Ben White not better than Tyrone Mings currently? One is in imperious form and the other is having a confidence crisis.
- Not sure if I’ve said this publicly before but I’m pretty convinced that Pepe is as good as gone be it January or the summer. I think this third season was going to be ‘make it or break it’ for him and he hasn’t gained any consistency to show he can be trusted. What a shame. There is always the possibility that he gains it later but my bets would be against it. I think Noa Lang at Bruges is a very real target and he can play both sides equally.
- I’ve been wondering if Arsenal might just take a chance on their back up right back being one of Brook Norton Cuffy or Ryan Alebiosu. Both are excelling this season in the youth ranks and with the huge success of others I wonder if the club might just roll the dice.
Who is gonna say it first?
If we beat Liverpool then we are in the mix for the
I couldn’t do it. Not yet. I’ve been let down too many times. Either way, I’d take a top four challenge all day.
Check out my thoughts Danny Rose, unity, Ben White, Dusan Vlahovic vs Giroud and tuning in to my 15 minute podcast below.
Cheers for all the support of PNH!
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.