No Intensity at the Beach
This opening thought is probably utter nonsense.
It is not reactionary though as I’ve waited half a day to process what I saw at the Emirates yesterday. Trying to make sense of the attitude towards the game is what rattled me as much as the unexpected scoreline.
My wife and daughters love going to the beach. Me and my son don’t mind it but I’m happy to follow along to make the girls happy.
It didn’t dawn on me pre-game that Arsenal are about to head off to the proverbial beach tomorrow. I didn’t feel concerned that we might have flip-flops on and that the players were focused on their favorite vacation destination of Dubai. I have now made a mental note that I need to personally attend any future Arsenal game where they are heading to Dubai the next day. At said game, I will start a chant that will sound something like…
“I’m gonna nick yer suitcase if yer crap.
I’m gonna nick yer suitcase if yer crap.
Gonna nick yer suitcase, gonna nick yer suitcase.
Gonna nick yer suitcase if yer crap”
I have absolutely no idea if the sluggish performance and playing at sleepville speed had anything to do with their focus on the beach rather than the game.
What I am saying though is that this is what it felt like to me, a fan.
I’m not really ok with drawing Burnley at home so I can’t pretend that I would be in any scenario. I can accept it though if we come out of the tunnel with the cannons blazing. What I struggle to accept is not just the overcautious, slow tempo, highly predictable first half that we saw but more concerning was that the second half started the same way. To be fair, this is on the coach. The first 20 minutes of each half are a reflection of what the coach has instructed or perhaps the confusion that he has portrayed.
The fact that I thought that the 4-3-3 system didn’t work and that the method of attack was wrong against an organized deep block is part of the problem. What fans have a hard time forgiving is the attitude. When the game started Max looked at me and made the 11 year old comment of “ Are they just going to pass it round the defence the whole game.” The kid has a gift being accidentally profound.
We all know that all teams have centre backs that have huge possession stats in the modern game. Again, it wasn’t so much that this was the problem. It was that throughout the game it looked like our players needed to be forced to go forwards.
As I often say, a team at the bottom of the league coming to your stadium will likely be expecting an avalanche of attacking waves from the first whistle as you try to impress your superiority on them with the home crowd advantage. The longer you show them too much respect and play with such unnecessary caution, the more confidence you give them.
If Arteta thinks that their minds were on the beach then he needs to redirect the plane to Blackpool and teach them a lesson in how you should play before a family vacation and an 18 day break.
If these two points dropped affect our ability to finish in the Champions League at the end of the season I think I will actually cry. Either that or I will write an even worse chant which will invoke a similar spirit as a Vinny Jones reducer.
Arsenal have got to get to the place where our opponents come off the field and aren’t chuckling at how the heck they got a result when they had to do so little to deserve it.
- Part of me wanted to throttle Sambi for unnecessarily passing the ball backwards too many times. The other part of me was very proud that he currently has to shoulder the job of being the only true midfielder on the field with an awful lot of responsibility both in attacking in defending. What I find most impressive is his future. He can do a little of everything. He’s willing to shoot and has been unfortunate that so many of his shots are blocked. He’s quick and good in the tackle. His passing has variety and his physicality has improved. I’m sure that next season he will greatly benefit from being thrown into the deep end this season.
- It is rather bizarre that we actually gained one point on two of our rivals this weekend. Out of the teams contesting fourth place, Wolves are actually the team in form. We are still placed favorably and need to shake off this result. If the messaging is correct then these kinds of unexpected disappointments can be avoided for the rest of the season as the coach can remind them that you don’t play the worst team in the league as if the game started at a 4-0 advantage to you.
- I feel sorry for Martinelli and Saka. Both played well enough to be part of a winning team but they are currently playing with central players who rarely make the right runs or are in the right positions to capitalize on the numerous times our wingers have the ball. As I say on my podcast frequently, when we get the right center forward we will see such a big jump in our productivity because we constantly leave so much meat on the bone in every game we play. Talking of Saka, if I was the club I would let him put his legs up for a week at least. He has been flogged and won’t last the season if not given a break.
- If the ownership needed prompting that we need incoming solutions now, then yesterday might be an accidental positive. It might be generous to see the Maitland-Niles transfer as a positive but they need to learn to replace before they loan.
- The 4-3-3 may well be a temporary thing until Partey and Xhaka return. If it’s here to stay then we need a specialist DM. For a team who have been so disappointing this season, Burnley had frequent counter attacks that drove them 50 yards up the field and offered genuine threat. Surely surely surely life should not have been that easy for them.
- Why do our center backs bother coming up for corners if we have no intention of crossing the ball in the air? Surely we are risking being counter attacked without specialists back there. We are wasting their gifts.
- Close your eyes. Remind yourself of Lacazette’s near post open goal miss. Tell me that we have scored at the near post more than twice the season because I can’t remember. We give up so many easier finishes because we never attack the front post. On my team we call it the ‘first chance.’ The ‘first chance’ is putting yourself in the position to be the first player to touch the ball. You might not be in the optimal position but at least you will have an attempt before the defender playing zonally at the front post clears it over and over again. I have no logical explanation as to why this has never changed and I will never understand why Laca seems so indifferent about scoring goals.
- Yet again, the referee was abysmal. The fact that he didn’t book Nick Pope as well as numerous defenders for time wasting at throw-ins was mightily frustrating. Was he being spiteful as it looked like he didn’t want to because we were telling him too. It’s not an exaggeration when Arsenal fans joke that Xhaka would have been sent off for doing what opponents do to us. I was also frustrated that Gabriel didn’t fall over and roll around a little bit to prove to the referee that he was whacked in the face. So unfortunate that you have to do that but you give the referee an excuse not to blow his whistle if you don’t.
- Am I overthinking this or do we look like a team who’s advantage became its weakness? I speak of the many times we have heard players say how much they enjoy our coach telling them what’s going to happen in the game before it was even started and how much they appreciate this. This cannot possibly cover every eventuality and every game. There will be times when opponents offer up something that we have not prepared for. If my initial theory of our heads being in Dubai is wrong then perhaps the reason for our poor performance was that we were playing on instruction and instruction didn’t represent the game that happened.
- What will get lost in the disappointment of yesterday will be that there were yet again many Academy players on the bench. We won’t put any value in the fact that they made the squad as they did not make the field. That’s not how they will feel though. They will feel included. They will feel respected. They will feel excited and motivated. We hope for transfers but the truth of how our last eight players came into our first team is that perhaps the best 2 weren’t transfers. They came from our Academy. We can’t possibly think that this is the end of the happy cycle of Academy graduates. I think our coach is doing a fine job of not being overly excited and reactionary when it comes to the careers of talented Academy players. He seems to be drip feeding them rather than asking them to solve first team problems.
- I hope that we realize that the next time we play Burnley, Ben Mee plays for them and not us.
There was so much that was so incredibly unnecessary yesterday. You probably had a moment that infuriated you that was due to a buildup of frustration. Mine was at the end of the game when Sambi received the ball in the center circle under no pressure and one touched it back to Ramsdale. I completely lost it! If it were me, I would run multiple sessions on ‘eradicating the unnecessary.’ There is still too much that we are doing that we don’t have to and too many holes and opportunities that aren’t being fixed that aren’t difficult to address. Ultimately, I trust our coach. I have felt from the very outset that there is something about him that is special. I think that if the club gets a centre forward that they want and one that works then everything will change once again.
In my podcast below I give reasons for why yesterday happened from a tactical point of you as well as a specific switch that could’ve changed our fortunes. There is also chat about alternative center forward options.
Thanks for reading about something that you’d probably rather forget!
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.