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The fruits of patience: Club, Owner, Manager and Fans poised for Arsenal success [WAT 2-3 ARS]

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The fruits of patience

We are now in a position where our relationship with Arsene Wenger can be purely romantic. 

We don’t have to remember the frustrations. We can rewind to the first 10 years and see his legacy with the fog of the recent past subsided. We remember not only the titles but how he changed the English game. 

It is starting to feel like Mikel Arteta may have a similar effect on English football.

Society has no patience. Football mirrors society.

Arsenal have decided to go against the grain. Mikel has sold his Juego de Posicion textbook to the owners and asked for patience as he re-teaches football in this modern way.

Arsenal’s owners have agreed but that’s not new. Many owners sign up for change but there is always an asterisk. “My full support *unless…”

The Kroenke’s are quietly becoming the model of owner patience. No applause heard yet and that’s fine. In time I hope that the appreciation for what the owners have done right is given some balance. 

I watched the game yesterday and it was striking how obvious it was that we had been working on link play in the final third. In fact, and to my broader point, you will have seen clear evidence of what Arsenal have been improving on at Colney from the start of Mikel Arteta’s reign. He introduced solidity as a defensive group first and then swiftly added a few passing patterns. Playing out from the back arrived followed by learning to exit using the wide channels. We then progressed to bringing the ball out of the back and exiting through the midfield through central zones as well as wide.

Improvement individually in the attackers has been evident but we have been lacking the ability to create multiple clear-cut chances and in some instances clear-cut chances at all. Not only have the owners given our coach the belief that he didn’t have to win instantly but have allowed him to logically progress through the new text book and not rush in being hyper focused on winning the next game. This might sound bizarre to say as winning being everything is ordinarily everything to everyone. The reality though is that we came out of a period of short termism that didn’t really work and we learnt the lesson. The owners backed the manager’s squad building in the summer which has proved to have an instant impact. They have allowed him to coach methodically in an era where other owners crumble to fan pressure.

Arsenal have had a focus on winning but the crucial difference has been the practice field. Getting to coach myself I know how easy it can be to come off script and press pause on the methods that you know will eventually bring success, in order for short term relief. Yesterday we saw the fruits of patience and hard work on the training pitch in the improved link play, and beyond a few more summer additions we are close to the back of the textbook. Not only were our goals a product of quicker ball movement and automatisms but what was more obvious was the repeated combinations and the number of them throughout the game. You will have noticed that not only did we link well with Lacazette being the main pivot but we did it quickly which has been another huge improvement and one that is pivotal to ultimately playing at the elite level. This is particularly relevant as football has become a game wrapped in a ‘fear bubble.’ The game is so insanely organized now that you have to be able to move the ball quickly so the opposing players do not have time to react to the defensive automatisms that they have learned.

Beyond the obvious improvement in link play between Odegaard and Xhaka I am equally impressed that our coaches are intelligent enough to realize that there is more technical quality on that side of the field and finishing quality on the other. I think, and keep this quiet, but that is our general attacking strategy. Using Martinelli to finish and Lacazette to link with Odegaard and Saka being the first point of creation. I know that this is not worth a round of applause as it’s obvious but there are many teams in the Premier League that we are currently competing with that are not playing to the strengths of each player on the field. That should be a cornerstone of every team you coach but Manchester United, for example, seem to chuck players on then rely on individualism rather than a structure that brings out the best in the players and is team-based logic. 

Alongside the training pitch development and link play I think it was obvious that finishing was also worked on. Every finish yesterday was precision over power. I am a huge fan of this. I teach my players precision first, deception second and power third. Most finishers don’t need the third element if you have the first two. Less power more accuracy and let your eyes and body language fool the goalkeeper and only occasionally will you need power.

Even Thomas Partey went for precision over power and that should be clue.

So, Spring is coming and we are blooming at just the right time. Or perhaps the analogy is one of a fine Bordeaux red. A slow but intentional process with a fine wine starting to emerge. All this with an owner in the background who might end up looking more like Batman than the Joker.

Saka Bossing It

POSITIVES:

  • Saka is approaching the top of his game. As he finds top form we are starting to see his  improvements with greater clarity. His product in the final third is becoming consistent and he is not just a potential menace but a real world problem for opponents. I’m particularly enjoying the fact that defenders are literally bouncing off him. Not only is he strong but he is clearly using the trick of hitting the defender as the defender tries to hit him. And tensing his upper body so they bounce off.
  • Benjamin White wasn’t perfect  as evidenced by his clumsiness on Watford‘s second goal, but his positional sense and improving defensive patience balanced Gabriel‘s shaky start. If Connor Coady and Harry Maguire are in the England squad ahead of him then Southgate needs to be bombarded with a litany of wide eyed emoji tweets.
  • What I find most impressive about Ramsdale is his ability to focus and refocus. He comes across as being so serious about his job and so able to remove the backpack of frustration that most goalkeepers carry post mistake. His kicking was messy today but his shoulders didn’t slump. We also see this same personality when players around him make mistakes. Arsenal are quietly becoming a team that were once leaderless for a while to a team full of leadership and Ramsdale is one that is leading the way.
  • I love that we are being routinely booed for time wasting. We were naïve for way too long both under Wenger and Arteta. A necessary evil.
  • If Lacazette can have this kind of influence in our remaining games then a short term contract would be deserving as back up striker. His applause is normally for his defensive efforts and work rate. He shows the ability to create opportunities for others but he’s not as reliable as we need. Yesterday, he was reliable for 80 minutes and if the goals are flowing from other areas then Lacazette has great value as he has on field relationships that a new striker would have to build. Ideally, it would be intelligent to keep him around so that two new strikers are not burdened with the pressure of having to build quick relationships.
  • Kudos to Cedric who beyond a late mistake was very solid. That was one of our January risks and so far he has done well. He does need to keep an eye on players running off his shoulder off the ball though. This is his big weakness.
  • Watford made a big mistake in leaving Thomas Partey to have a party. Alone all game and directing traffic. He’s currently looking so smooth in possession and positionally more aware defensively.

Martinelli Celebrates

NEEDS:

  • Our corner kicks were a little bit rubbish. Top analysis there. We seemed rushed to me. A lack of focus on technique.
  • Do you get the feeling that Granit Xhaka gets frustrated if he’s not in the spotlight. As if he’s an attention seeker. If the game is meandering by and he hasn’t had a highlight he seems addicted in creating one even if it’s a negative one. I could be well off here but so many of his mistakes are hot headed moments that seem totally avoidable. He was also too deep to stop many of Watford‘s transitions. Almost as if he doesn’t trust himself to press high for fear of not be able to get back.
  • I hope we don’t get comfortable conceding. That might also sound a little mental but as much as scoring goals is a habit and provides rhythm, so does conceding. We are in a place right now where we look like scoring more than one in every game so if we can quickly return to solidity then I think top four is ours. A wise man once told me that you can’t ever lose if you don’t concede. Therefore, defending is more important than attacking. I hate to think this way but I am a believer that we will secure a top four finish  if we are defensively solid.
  • Ramsdale has to choose carefully when he plays those low trajectory balls out from the back. He needs to only drive the ball when he is not under pressure. That technique is extremely difficult let alone when you’re being pressed.
  • There were a few times that we didn’t follow runners which is quite frankly unacceptable. Concentration levels need to be higher. Alongside that a true belief that your opponent can really hurt you might be needed.
Xhaka Surrounded

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

HOPES: 

  • I wonder if Arsenal are keeping an eye on Emmanuel Dennis and Joao Pedro? Both have lots of potential and Joao Pedro would be a very interesting bench option for Arsenal.
  • Tierney plays football like a pre-programmed robot. A very efficient one I may add. I do wonder whether the lack of depth to his offensive game may see him challenged next season either by a new signing or Tavares? Maybe that is not necessary.
  • Hoping that Smith Rowe returns for the busy run of games. Rotation will be vital as we are not used to playing two games a week let alone three.

FINAL THOUGHT:

Tomorrow I go on a school trip with my students to Italy and Greece. Lucky me! The last time I took students abroad we were in England and we played Leicester at home. The game where Jamie Vardy fouled himself for a penalty kick you might remember. Hoping for a totally different outcome and I’m expectant as we have finally found consistency, the desire of every coach. 

My podcast below talks about the speed of play through Arsenal’s midfield, the reason Lacazette is being replaced and the next step in our teams impressive development. Take a listen!

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One Response to The fruits of patience: Club, Owner, Manager and Fans poised for Arsenal success [WAT 2-3 ARS]

  1. O March 9, 2022 at 2:04 am #

    Wonderful and informative article

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