The Dummy Revelation
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
The loudest I got watching yesterday’s game wasn’t actually Odegaard’s goal. It wasn’t Godfrey trying to implant his studs into Tomi’s face either. It was the 97th minute. It wasn’t Auba’s miss either.
It was a raw reaction to the dummy that set up Auba’s miss.
I’d spent way too much of the game explaining to my son what Arsenal weren’t doing. He kept telling me that it looked like the nonsense from last season. In his 11 yr old mind he just kept saying that, “nothing is really happening, Dad” or “we haven’t had any shots,” and “why don’t they go forward quicker” and and and and etc…. I was trying to explain to him what over coaching is and what passing patterns are. “Whatever it is, it doesn’t work, Dad,” he kept saying. Then the naive lil chap spits some pre-pubescent genius. “Why doesn’t Arteta just let them decide what to do to create goals. They didn’t become professional footballers by having coaches tell them what to do in every moment. They are really good so why can’t they just use their own brains.”
I don’t even know who did the dummy quite honestly as I was too upset to watch a replay. That doesn’t really matter anyway. What my reaction told me was that we had waited 97 stinking minutes to be creative and open their defence up. We have an advantage or two over Everton, or we are supposed to. Part of that advantage is that our players are supposed to be a level higher. If that is true, why aren’t we utilizing this advantage. This version of Arsenal seems to be ‘win by coach.’ ‘Do what I say, and you will win’ rather than trusting in talent and creative minds.
Yesterday’s game needed a more varied game plan or more freedom of expression or both. When you play a Benitez side and a Benitez side called Everton in particular, your advantage is your players, not your coaching ability. The Spaniard has been a tactical wizz for a very long time whether you like his tactics or not. If you present him with the same passing patterns that he has just watched on the video then he will likely shut you down because you’ve leant into his strength. What Everton Benitez can’t stop is flair from superior players.
I’ll tell you exactly what happened in stoppage time though. It’s what happens almost every time with every team. They get desperate and so they ditch the coaches plan. Most teams lose trust completely and just go long and try to win second balls. What Arsenal did in the 97th minute was frustratingly beautifully. Their desperation manifested in picking up the passing pattern book and chucking it into the Mersey River.
I just wish that they’d done it a whole lot earlier but to be fair to the players, that is on the coach.
Arteta isn’t the first coach who when the pressure turns up, resorts to control over trust. He just needs to be humble enough to realize that less of him may be more for us.
- Arsenal lack consistency. That is obvious. Tomiyasu doesn’t. I had made the comment just before the 80th minute that he had nullified Everton’s most dangerous ball carrier in Gray. The winning goal wasn’t on him. What I’m seeing every week regardless of what is going on around him is that Tomi rises above it. He is stronger, aerially more dominant, a danger with both feet and generally non-conforming to the standard of the game around him.
- It can only be a plus that Odegaard has started to get into the box and started scoring. We are dry mouth desperate for goal scoring options so his finishing and desire to not always pass is an improvement.
- Arteta did not have a good night overall but I did see a marked improvement for the first 20 minutes after half time. Admittedly the bar was low after that first half, but the tempo and directness changed for the better. Coaches are evaluated on the whole game and so they should be. It is always interesting to see if a coach has good motivation and clarity and that can be seen in the first 20 minutes of each half.
- The decision to bring on Eddie is the part of that decision that is odd rather than what he did on the field. Beyond his bad miss, he was very lively and set up a couple of very good chances. Both he and Balogun have been playing from the left this season. Eddie played on the left in pre season where he was lively and Balogun for the U-23’s. I thought the idea to bring him on was better than out of form Auba or untrusted Pepe. The oddity is in why he is playing at all if he is leaving. I can only think it’s window shopping for others or trying to persuade him to sign a new deal.
- I loved this tweet from Clive Palmer at half time…. “Too many men behind the ball making every forward pass a pass to a man outnumbered.” Perfect analysis. I had been thinking this but can’t take credit for how clean this thought is. Our 3 targets don’t have hold up play as their strength so we are playing into defenders hands. Lacazette needs players in his locality to lay it off and that was absent. Martinelli needs to stretch the game but so does the player on the ball who could force a pass with communication and Saka simply gets snippered.
- The persistent use of Odegaard as an overload (2 v 1) with Saka on the right exemplifies the control that Arteta is using and suffering from. A ’10’ is supposed to float between the lines all across the pitch. He can favour one side but if he stays on one side then the opponent is given time to figure out how to manage it. Again, no unpredictability. Martinelli would thrive from a quick one two from Odegaard. Lacazette needs the closer link up and noticeably was not once played behind by Odegaard. That’s not utilizing Odegaard’s best talent. The other issue is that if your ball security is on the right then your left side better be especially secure and that is not Martinelli’s strength. Saka can be left alone as he rarely gives up the ball cheaply and arguably doesn’t need the help and definitely doesn’t need the crowd. Finally, the only way a 2v1 overload works is if the ball is switched quickly or it becomes a 2v2 or 2v3.
- Talking of Saka, is he backing out of 50/50 contact as he is being whacked so often?
- I maintain that Arsenal need to trust other leaders or bring in some more experience over relying on Xhaka. We still avoid playing through him and therefore become predictable. He is routinely targeted by opponents which speaks loudly. He was however, not the biggest problem yesterday.
- Ben Godfrey reminded me of Boris Johnson yesterday. He was running around doing damage without any accountability. His stamp on Tomi was a straight red as after his studs hit his face he didn’t remove them, he continued to twist his foot into his face. His ‘no look’ stamp also gave away what he was doing. He wanted to have an excuse as to why it was an accident so he looked away. If he was trying to avoid Tomi or if it was an accident, you don’t look away when your foot hits an uneven surface as you are worried about an ankle twist.
- I’ve always preferred to judge how my team is going to do based on how I feel rather than stats. Currently, I am surprised when Arsenal score, not expectant. That is a problem.
- The issue of imploding when we go ahead is being talked of everywhere. I intentionally try to raise different points here as you’ve read 15 other opinions on this. I will say that this is clearly a mixture between a form of nervous paralysis and lack of clarity from the coach. You can fix this in training quite simply. You play a game where 2 goals up, wins. You start small sided and then go 8v8 then 11v11 and the rule is that the game is over when you are up by 2 goals. One team scores and then instinctively knows one more and it’s over. So they play without fear and replace that with excitement and therefore energy. I’m here to fix all Arsenal’s training ground needs 😉 As Scrappy Doo says, ” Let me at ’em, let me at ’em.”
- The winning goal might just have been offside. The law states that if you are offside and blocking the GK’s view then you are interfering. He was directly in line with Ramsdale when Gray shot. Too late now though.
- Richarlison isn’t my favourite right now. What I can admit though is that he offers much of what we need. His willingness to engage physically with defenders, his aerial ability and movement are far beyond Auba and Laca. He also has superior technical quality with his back to goal. You might remember him releasing Gray and Digne with one touch lay offs early in the first half. Try not to see him as Everton’s striker. He often starts as Brazil’s striker.
- I watched Newcastle against Burnley the other day and was reminded again of Allan Saint-Maximin’s qualities. Although Saka has similar ability he has yet to develop similar guts. Perhaps ASM playing for Newcastle prompts him to feel the need to do it by himself? Either way, Arsenal lack an individual who seems to be driven by the need to win the game himself. Sometimes these players are infuriating but sometimes they are gold. Pepe should be this player but isn’t direct enough. Too much delay in his game.
How strange that Arteta has come full circle back to the time of the horseshoe football where Tierney is our go to attacking player and individual flair has been binned. I really thought he’d learnt that lesson. We were flying at home 2 weeks ago and he has either intentionally or unintentionally communicated fear and over structure to the players. The game looked like a massive game of keep ball where the goalposts were removed. I found myself pining for corners as I felt it was our only chance to win. Exhale.
I’m hoping Arteta has one of those “greatest 15 days of my life” moments again and has an awakening.
Can we have an international break?
Check out my ‘PNH Expanded’ podcast below. I discuss Ainsley, Sambi, experience and a very interesting conspiracy theory.
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.