Ok, let’s get the bad things out the way first. There are two issues from yesterday’s game.
The first one was that buried in the selection, was Auba. Our only fit striker, he is imperative to our strategy because we don’t create many chances and he’s the most clinical sharp shooter in the world at the minute… so why would you risk him away at a bang average German team in the first game of the group stages?
Emery made the same mistake last season in the group stages when he over-played first teamers, that had a knock-on effect and saw us battle through two very lethargic months. It was so bad he had to lower the intensity in training to bring back some freshness.
Europa League is a pub version of Champions League. It’s not important compared to the league. It is a HUGE advantage that Arsenal can theoretically rest players midweek, while our rivals have to battle hard with a first-team squad in a comp they can’t rest players in until much later in the group stages.
We shouldn’t be taking risks. If we lost Auba yesterday, we’d be in deep shit. That wasn’t a smart move and it’s worrying that Emery is making panic decisions like that because it shows he hasn’t learned from last year. Europa League should not be a primary strategy for CL this season, because it’ll be a coin toss final again, potentially against a very good team.
Bad shit, part two.
We really struggled defensively yesterday. We were open, we gave them space and we conceded 26 odd shots against a very average side. People can rightly talk to the quality of the shots and how they were lacking from Frankfurt, but from where I was watching, the reason the shots were so bad was down to shoddy technique versus a lack of openings.
The midfield was non-existent.
We signed a defensive midfielder in LT and we prefer to play him in a more advanced position. We have Xhaka, on the FBI most wanted list for crimes against football, stinking out the place with mistakes, poor positioning and fear. Then it’s a total mixed bag what the other player in the trio does. If the captain can’t lead, how can you expect kids like Willock or Ceballos to make a difference?
Emery is out of tricks. He doesn’t know how to make his midfield work. This is very worrying.
ANNNNND ONTO THE GOOD STUFF.
The kids did alright, didn’t they?
I thought Emi Martinez was an absolute rock in goal. He was decisive with the short passing, making correct decisions under pressure, not falling into the ‘PLAY IT SHORT EVEN IF THE PASS IS SUICIDE.’ I thought he was very light on his feet, he made some special saves and was always alert to danger (because it was everywhere). He had arguably his strongest performance to date… he looked far more solid than Leno has this season.
Willock also had a good game. He runs with the ball like a machine, he fights for every challenge and he’s decisive with his passing and shots. His goal was a joke, but at least he was there taking the shot when he had limited options. Very Frank Lampard of him.
Finally, the main man of the night… Saka.
I have been purring about him for a while. He did not disappoint. My intel was CORRECT about him starting.
What a little gem we have there. He is incredibly quick, his movement is hard to track. He prods, he pokes, he accelerates, he drops… he is a very tough player to deal with.
Most important thing for me is this: He stood up when we needed him.
We were an utter shambles in defence, it would have been easy to sink into the melee, but he shone brightly and made that his moment. His goal was composure beyond his years, his two assists were also lovely to watch.
I think the person most concerned with that game will be Reiss. Saka was so much better than anything we’ve seen from the more senior wide man. Same can be said of Pepe as well… this is the sort of internal transfer Wenger was banging on about for 15 years!
ESR also had some good moments, but I think he’s a little further behind in minutes and form than then others. Still, he didn’t let himself down, so no shame there.
Overall, a very fun game. Our transitions in attack were much better. Saka is clearly the new Dembele for Auba, so we’ve had a win there. The main grey cloud is always going to be the absolute mess we have in midfield.
The theory that Emery likes a tall DM seems to have merit… our manager sacrifices quality for inches… a sorry situation if ever I saw one, especially when you consider the height of the best DMs in the world at the minute.
Those midfield issues, if they remain, will have Emery fired by Christmas. He has to pivot.
P.S. For all the folk that said my attack on Emery’s communication skills was unfair… this is Saka on Freddie.
“He helps so much. Sometimes when I don’t understand what the coach [Emery] is trying to communicate with me, I have a better communication with Freddie. He speaks better English”
When you ponder why Emery’s ideas aren’t translating, sometimes you need to channel a bit of Occam’s Razor… simplest answer is usually the most boring, but it’s starting to look quite obvious, right?
See you in the comments. xx
Most of this pod still holds relevant.