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Nketiah and The Lost Puppy: Something’s broken at Arsenal and they better fix it fast [SOU 1-0 ARS]

Eddie Falling

Somebody at Arsenal has lost their puppy. 

The puppy has been kidnapped and sadness spread around the squad. 

Results aside, there seems to be a sadness. A stream of sadness that I have felt watching Arsenal the last three games. Admittedly, I am watching these games on the television screen and cannot see everybody all the time, but I get the sense that something has happened behind closed doors that’s really upset everybody during the last international break. 

I could be over-thinking this and perhaps it’s just the results – but we went from a team that looked enthusiastic to a team where not only do I see sadness, but I don’t see the enthusiasm and fire from players trying to rally the others when it’s needed. I don’t see the energy. The desire. 

I was somewhat excited at the lineup and felt a little energized at kick off. Glad that Tavares had been trusted, that Xhaka was back in midfield and that Nketiah had been given a chance. I was feeling fine until I remembered how I feel about Nketiah. He bothers me and probably shouldn’t. He’s clearly a good footballer but I was reminded that he typifies where we are currently at. It’s just something about his body language that gives me the vibe that he lacks passion for football. I always like to see fire or at least occasional fire in my team. I want to see the occasional smile, some level of happiness.

I saw today’s game as potentially a last chance for Eddie.  If he showed significantly better than Lacazette, then he would likely have at least a handful of games to save his Arsenal career. 

I’m surprised whenever he scores. It’s not that he’s not capable, it’s just that because he seems to lack desire and passion in his body language so I don’t believe until I see it.

I use Nketiah as the analogy today as he embodies how I feel about the team right now and I’m annoyed as he should be excited and our team should be excited because they have a chance to play in a competition that the vast majority haven’t played in.

Arsenal need somebody to energize them. Somebody really needs to shake their shoulders and slap faces. The performances in the last three games haven’t been terrible like the scoreline feels, but the vibe certainly has sucked the air out of the fan base and the lost puppy effect seems to have taken over. I wish we had a chest thumper now. 

I wish Eddie was that chest thumper as his opportunity should really have ignited a fire in him. A sliding doors moment in his career that also could’ve reinvigorated the team.

Part of me hopes that something has created the lost puppy vibe, because otherwise the accusation could easily be that we are fragile. Flying high in confidence and zipping the ball around four games ago and then fragility showed up when adversity knocked on the door.

I’m not worried about the coach like others are but I was getting excited about fast tracking our route back to the top like you probably were. At the beginning of the season, I would’ve taken a trip back to the Europa League as an outcome for the season and another rebuild with better versions of three or four of our current players in the summer. We had and to be fair, still have the opportunity for Champions League next season and the fast track to elite players instead of very good ones. If this is to happen, we are going to have to find that lost puppy and or shake off whatever it is that has turned us stale.

Arsenal Dejects

Credit: REUTERS/Ian Walton

POSITIVES

  • On the route to finding your form again, you have to stabilize. A performance where you play a little safer to slowly regain the confidence. I was happy for Gabriel, Tavares and Sambi in particular as they didn’t make any mistakes and stabilized their game. That should lead to either a small confidence boost or at the very least the spotlight turning away from their mediocre or poor moments in previous games.
  • I was happy with the opening half an hour and the quicker tempo to our passing. It encouraged me that we had been working on one of our recent flaws and found some success. We just needed to take more risks and have better movement but I’ll get onto that in a minute.

NEEDS:

  • Going on from my opening piece, I was also concerned that Martinelli lacked his usual hyper energy and fire. It’s not a criticism, but it normally ignites others if they’ve left theirs at home.
  • The movement the movement the movement. Oh how we lack dynamic movement inside the box. I suppose if anything is irritating and possibly concerning me about our coaching staff, it is that I have never really seen improvement in that area. The balls were being tossed into the box which because of the height difference in our players and their defenders is largely pointless, but more so as we don’t gamble and make the first movement before the ball is played. If you are smaller and not as strong then you’ve got to find an advantage.

The only advantage you have is if you move first and guess where the ball is going to be played. Also, if you move first then you catch the eye of the person crossing and he now has a target zone. I really don’t know why we don’t teach this and to be brutally honest why our players don’t do this without being taught. I’ve been teaching it at the high school level for 17 years. A professional striker should already have this tool in the box. If it were me I would be requesting Martinelli to make a run in the box from outside to in as Nketiah criss-crosses to the back post so that if you are going to bother crossing high balls into the box then if they are accurate you now have this advantage.

My son‘s observation was that we were too one dimensional in attack also. Good for him. I think he’s right. Apart from the odd Saka or Odegaard travel across the box shot, it was just playing into Southampton’s hands. A really strange primary tactic especially with such poor movement.

Another irritant for me in the last few games is the overcautious final third play. Many months ago, the complaint about Arteta was that our football was risk-averse. We had broke through that recently. There was a moment in the game that illuminated this point. With about 15 minutes to go Pepe checked to the ball in the central zone and Nketiah was just over his shoulder available for a one touch and potentially a 1,2.

The perfect example of how our programmed setting football dominates, as he set it back to midfield. 

It took away what was a very small risk in losing possession and one of the very few real chances to penetrate the Saints defense.

Eddie

  • I haven’t looked at the statistics. I don’t feel like I need to. If we aren’t the worst team in the Premier League at shooting from long range then we are certainly in the relegation zone. Again, another irritant as it’s not hard to persuade players to stay for 20 minutes after practice if the drill is shooting. The simple technical adjustment is a shorter swing. With a shorter swing the ball won’t go over the crossbar. That’s a really good start. I tell my players that they get one point for a goal and 10 points if they hit the back bar. The back bars are the two bars at the back corners of the net. The perfect visual for a player when he is waiting to shoot.
  • Ben White seems to be rash again. He started the season this way trying to be proactive and it’s not his strength. He looks like the main candidate for being a puppy owner.
  • We do seem to be having a low block problem. I feel like we started the game the way we should have ended it. Saka on the left is smart against a low block because the easiest way to score in the situation is to isolate one on one or two on one on the wing and go around the outside. What we did was more complicated with Saka and Odegaard running into the crowd and shooting.
  • Ultimately, this season might be known for an Arsenal team that kept the margins too close. Every game is tense and doesn’t necessarily have to be. That probably is a byproduct of a manager who likes control. His final vision for Arsenal hasn’t been discovered yet as we don’t have the striker but I’m hoping that we can get to a point where we start winning games comfortably.

HOPES:

  • I’m hoping that we get a good balance against Chelsea of watching their wing backs at the back post and not sending Saka and Martinelli back unnecessarily. We have to get our defensive spacing right. 

FINAL THOUGHT:

On a happier note, I’m writing this from here:

Atlanta Stadium

It has to be the most impressive sports stadium I’ve ever been to. I’m with some of the boys from my high school soccer team and as teenagers tend to do, they found a hilarious way of additionally enjoying the experience! Here they are in their T-shirts claiming that a variety of Atlanta United players are there dads! They are hoping to get on ESPN.

Boys will be boys

I’ll be honest, experiencing a third loss in a row is easier when you are with a bunch of 16-year-olds that just want to be hilarious.

No podcast today as I can’t get a break from the boys. 

Thanks for reading!… Mike

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One Response to Nketiah and The Lost Puppy: Something’s broken at Arsenal and they better fix it fast [SOU 1-0 ARS]

  1. CT Normie April 17, 2022 at 4:36 pm #

    Hi Mike…..as usual I thoroughly enjoyed your post and to an extent I agree with you regarding the sadness enveloping our team. I didn’t see yesterday’s game but one thing has stood out for me in all of our recent ones. That Ben White, and to a much lesser extent Gabriel, are the reason why we have deteriorated to such an extent recently.
    We are not counter attacking successfully…..and by that I mean catching our opponents out of position with the speed of our counter attack.
    Watch Ben White…..he gets the ball and then stops…literally S T O P S, one foot on top of the ball while he surveys the field ahead. He gives their defence ample time to get back, and then once he is satisfied that they are, what does he do….he tamely passes sideways, usually to Gabriel and the key to successfully counter attacking is lost.
    Our attack is stymied, defenders are ready for us, and you can see Saka and Martinelli fuming because we have lost that element of surprise. And it’s not an isolated incident……Ben White does this time and time again……he slows the game down, he slows our attack down ……what in heavens name is he waiting for? There was a time earlier this year when he acted quickly, passed quickly…..and usually to good effect, but now he has become frustrating to play with and seems to have no vision at all.
    Am I the only one to have noticed this?
    As for poor Eddie…….the game passed him by some time ago……he is a lightweight when it comes to being a centre forward and I do not understand why Arteta perseveres with him. Play Saka and Pepe/ESR on the wings, play Martinelli in the centre…..he may not see himself as a centre forward but the speed and drive he brings will create opportunities that will energies the whole team. And in doing so we will relieve some of the pressure on our midfield where Partey is sorely missed. Sake needs a Martinelli to work with, and probably more ESR that Pepe too.
    But we need to do something about Ben White’s play…..why he has lost his confidence and vision beats me but in the meantime he is costing us goals and points.

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