Headers and Volleys
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
Did you play Headers and Volleys when you were young?
I did. Every day. At lunch break. Rising like a salmon at the far post with a salmon sandwich in my hand. Actually, I don’t like salmon. I made that part up because it sounded cute.
For those unaware, Headers and Volleys was a game where everybody was trying to score on the same goal and the least popular kids went in goal or crossed the ball. All the cool kids got to stand in the box and try to score with a header or volley. If you missed the GK got a point. If you scored the attack got a point. First to 10 points. Headers and Volleys is likely the reason that I have a wicked left foot and a bad memory.
In order to write these blogs I often spend a period of each game pretending I’m a fan of our opponents. It really helps me to see things from a neutral perspective amidst all the emotion. It dawned on me after the red card that if I was a Wolves fan I’d be rather upset at my team. They were playing Headers and Volleys and forgot that there are other ways you can score. To be fair, the crosses were often good but Wolves were far too one dimensional. At the same time, Arsenal defended with great organization and didn’t really look like conceding. That thought alone is still strange to me. Still a foreign thought. I still expect us to crack and crumble. I suppose when you’ve been a fan of a team that has stressed you in the same way for decades you can forgive but forgetting is really hard.
I think Arteta’s greatest on field achievement to date is creating defensive solidity, organization and consistency. We are now at a place where clean sheets aren’t a surprise. This win was a mix of a little of everything. From fluid attacking, many successful passing patterns but few clear cut chances to a unique refereeing decision, the usual red card but a different outcome. Recent red cards have let us down on the scoreboard but yesterday’s result will stick longer with the players than the fans. For us it was a big result but not a fun game. To the players it was a vital win against the in-form team chasing Top 4 and achieved against the odds.
Those types of games add to the belief. Whether you are 10 vs 11 or playing a superior team, every team needs a memory that they can go back to that overcame adversity. Adversity, and lots of headers and volleys ourselves.
- No doubt the stand out players were the back five. Ramsdale didn’t have to stretch himself too often but his decision-making was impeccable. His natural determination to keep the ball out of the net is contagious as you can see that the centre backs in particular have the same disease. Gabriel and White won the game of headers and volleys and Holding was a very clever substitution and was nine for nine in his duels. Cedric had a very good game even though they rarely went down his side and Tierney has mastered the art of one on one decision making. Never gets easily dribbled past as he never gets nervous.
- Saka and Martinelli had impressive first halves on the ball but both doing things the hard way. Saka doesn’t have to get the ball to his feet and try to wriggle past three defenders. The same with Gabby even though he has less defending him. Both could’ve helped themselves and the team by making runs behind. There are no defenders to beat behind the defenders. The one time we did run behind, Lacazette was 1 on 1. I think it’s the fear of losing possession that encourages us to play safe. I’d rather lose possession trying to create easier chances to score.
- I was encouraged to see some really slick one touch attacking play on a handful of occasions. You can see how that level is so much harder to defend. Teams question whether they should press at all if you release it that quickly. More of that please.
- The performance of Cedric was bigger than it seemed. If he was poor/average then we would feel the need to rush Tomi back. He played in a way that he should be capable of more often. I would’ve liked for Saka to release him on the overlap a few more times as he made such great runs. The one time he was given the ball on the overlap his cross should’ve been finished by Laca.
- Beyond many crosses we faced we were also excellent at defending the many corners. I think I’m right in saying that we have not conceded directly from a corner this season which is quite remarkable and a huge credit to the new set piece coach.
- I think we need a higher level of consistency from Odegaard. He’s clearly so talented and so good when he is good but there are games like yesterday where we desperately need a link player all across the width of the pitch but he is rarely available other than to link on the right side.
- What do we do about the red cards? Are we ill disciplined? If we are then are we really worse than the other teams? I don’t see it. Some of it has been foolish, no doubt. I just don’t see Arsenal as a problem team in this area yet we are characterized this way. As an example, Arsenal have had 15 red cards since Burnley last had a red.
- I hope we don’t regret not loaning a short term physical striker. I look at Weghorst at Burnley and wonder how much more he would prefer playing for us for 4 months than three years playing for that grim team. As we seem to be making a habit of playing with 10 players we are not finding an exit route when under pressure.
- In the first half I was reminded of how the introduction of a progressive one touch midfielder would transform our ability to find Odegaard and ease the pressure. It would also stop us from unnecessarily having to go backwards. I do wonder if we will look at Frenkie de Jong.
- I wish we were playing on Sunday. Such a big and important win and yet we don’t get to use the adrenaline. Shame.
- Arteta was bold in stating that Michael Oliver wanted to send off Martinelli. He is likely right though. Look at this…
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.