Firstly, what an absolute pain in the arse watching an away game in London is these days. I went to three pubs trying to find the game and it was a f*cking struggle. I eventually found one in deepest darkest, but what an ordeal. I can’t believe with the pub trade struggling up and down the country, SKY or the ruling bodies can’t weigh in to give landlords a bone and some extra business. Craziness. It’s so greedy. When I’m in America, I can watch whatever game I want, whenever I want. UK customers should be afforded the same privilege considering how much they pay all 32 of the companies you have to subscribe to these days to find the game you want.
Anyway, onto the game.
Emery is slipping into a familiar pattern. He picks the wrong starting 11, makes some bold decisions at halftime, then we go onto make the game look a little easier.
The big mistake yesterday for Emery was once again not realising that the team ticks a lot better when Torreira plays. The base of midfield contained Xhaka and Guendouzi and it just didn’t work. Add into the mix a keeper who really isn’t ever going to adapt to being a sweeper, Aaron Ramsey clunking away like peak Alex Song in a #10 role, and Mesut Ozil mostly silenced in the right of midfield (right-central-central midfield)… and you have a mess of a side.
The first half was a painful watch. The team couldn’t string a move together, Petr Cech managed to pass behind himself again, and we were letting a very poor Newcastle make a nuisance of themselves.
I think the really difficult part about watching Emeryball is the lack of pace in the play. We’re insistent on slowing the speed of the game down, we look to draw teams out, then I guess the plan is to move the ball up the pitch and make chances. It’s not really working for a number of reasons, the main one being we don’t’ seem to have the staff on hand to make it out the back.
The whole defence is at pains to move the ball forward, they look incredibly uncomfortable under pressure. There’s so little agression in the way we move forward, the opposition has time to reset and close off the angles. Things seem to get even worse when the ball does make it into midfield. The players really struggle to transition the ball into attack, no one seems to know what they’re doing and play just goes around in circles as we recycle the ball back through defence, quite often all the way back to the keeper. Another problem we have is the length of pass we play, we play lots of dangerous balls through midfield that are cut out or put the receiving player under pressure. The aggressive movement I’d hoped for isn’t really there yet, players often look lost as to where to move the ball to next.
The second half saw the introduction of Torriera, and once again the side came to life. Newcaslte lost a lot of their first half dicipline and Arsenal found their grip on the game. We created more chances and moved the ball a lot faster. Our opener was a little bit special, Xhaka stepped up to a 30 yard freekick and placed it high and to the right of the Newcastle keeper. A real dream striker for the under fire Swiss.
We struggled to make much count after that, though we never really looked under any pressure, you get the impression Newcastle know they’re shit. There was very little belief in their play considering they were only one goal down.
Mesut Ozil stepped up to put us two goals ahead when he made simple work of a Torriera rebound. Granit Xhaka the key man in a move when Monreal found his run in behind.
We still had time to give up our clean sheet. A long ball over the top missed by Mikhi, the offside ignored by the lino, a looping ball to the back post, Bellerin no where to be seen. A silly goal and a real shame.
I think the only way to look at the game, despite my annoyance at the time, is that we’re racking up points. Emery needs to win hearts and minds and the best way to do that is to sit on the same points as Spurs at this stage of the season and win three games on the bounce. That game was only our third away win of 2018, which is a stunning stat in how miserable it is, but you have to take it.
Staying on the positives, we’re working with a manager who can admit mistakes, he once again pulled Guendouzi off at half time so we could take control of a midfield that was all over the place. Torreira freed up Xhaka and he also brought everyone into the game. He’s mobile, quick witted and he speeds up the play in a team that can really lack urgency at times.
There are still quite a lot of issues at hand and there’s a lot that needs to get fixed. Cardiff, West Ham and Newcastle really aren’t the sort of games you can write things like ‘X player proved the doubters wrong.’ That Newcastle team is shite, it’s underinvested in, and it’ll likely get relegated this season. We shouldn’t be that close, and we shouldn’t be having halves of football as poor as that.
Emery is struggling with the same issue Arsene did. He has all these wonderful jigsaw pieces, but they simply don’t work if they’re all in the same box. He’s putting square pegs in round holes, and the output is clunky. Auba is not a very good winger. Lacazette through the middle is limited. Aaron Ramsey has been attrocious this season when he’s been given a specific role (shocker). Mesut Ozil really struggles to take hold of a game from the right of midfield.
There’s simply too much going on. We seem to be over complicating every single decision. When you change too many things at one time, things come to a grind.
Emery needs to work out what the most important items in his transformation are, then build around the vision of what he’s trying to do.
If your philosophy is focused around creating space and making the pitch bigger, and a core component of making that work is to have a keeper that can play with the ball at his feet, you need to play the best keeper at that job. Petr Cech has been excellent with his hands, but if the first 20 minutes of every game is the defence with their hearts in their mouths, you have to change something.
In midfield, we keep on persisting with a Guendouzi and Xhaka. It doesn’t work. There’s not enough urgency in the two of them and they get overrun easily. Make it easy on yourself, start with the best man for the job. Start with Lucas Torreira. Fitness can’t be an issue. We can’t keep trying something that clearly doesn’t work.
Moving onto the forward players is a little more difficult. The system needed a Malcolm like being this summer. Auba isn’t the guy to play out wide, and the challenge is he’s also not built for a system that doesn’t play incisive counter attacking football. We really need a striker with the hold up skills of Lacazette, but with the height, physique and power of Lukaku. I mean, let’s be honest, a Giroud with pace would be ideal right now, but that name doesn’t exist.
If you don’t have any wingers, and you don’t have strikers that can do it alone, do you opt for two strikers? Lacazette seems more than capable of doing the grunt work of dropping into midfield when needed.
The players baked around them make life even tougher. Aaron Ramsey isn’t skillful enough to be a pure #10. Mesut doesn’t want to do the dogs body work there. Mesut is limited out wide right, and he stunts Bellerin’s freedom moving forward because he spends the whole game creeping inside to get some of that central action.
What a shambles, right?
I really hope Sven has been working hard to address the issues. We’re still in an Arsene Wenger squad hangover. But it’s apparent there needs to be some brutal decisions this January because we’re not equipped to compete with the players we have moving forward. However, we could make life a lot easier by simply making the easy decisions in every game, versus having a flap at half time to make things right.
OK, that’s me done, see you in the comments.