I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this weekend is a HUGE moment for the Arsenal project this season. Win, and we’ve taken down a strong United side in a low moment for Arsenal. Lose, and everyone will throw a shit fit on the internet and life will be sad for a while.
So far this season, the fine margins approach of this new Arsenal squad has not worked well for us. We should have done better against Liverpool, we should have taken points at City, and we really shouldn’t have been beaten by Leicester last weekend.
The new challenge we have is teams have now learned that coming at us like we’re a banter club is not a thing. You can’t bully and press us high up the pitch because we have a couple of deadly moves in the locker that allow us to move the ball up the pitch and kill. We have been sussed.
The common consensus at the start of the season was that we’d struggle against low blocks against the small teams… well, now even the better teams are playing that game. Leicester low-blocking was not expected. Arteta calls this a sign of respect.
It’s a lot of things that we’ve improved on in my opinion and we have all the stats to do that. Our thinking after Leicester, the reason why they did what they did in their game plan, to sit so low against us when they are not normally a team that do that – they’ve been really dominant and play really attractive football – I came to the conclusion that we have the respect from other teams for them to do that. Now we have to try to change our strategy a little bit and try to train against more certain blocks that I think are going to happen a bit more often. We have made teams think, ‘If we do that, we’ll be in trouble so we have to try to do something else’. We’re going to work on that and the moment we improve that, we’ll become even better.
I’d agree that it is a sign we need to develop the thinking and be a bit less predictable. The good thing is he’s acknowledging these issues. What we see with our eyes… he’s seeing, and he’s trying to coach us to a better approach.
Easier said than done. Our squad hasn’t developed at the pace we needed this summer. We made ourselves very solid, but we still lack a bit of magic. We need someone that can do the things that Mesut can do, but sadly, that doesn’t exist. That means we have to get more creative with what we have. The game in the week showed some options that might exist. Would Reiss Nelson offer a more direct option on the right? Would Joe Willock be able to function in a midfield that had the support of someone like Thomas Partey? Can Willian or Saka step up?
Arteta thinks we have enough options, but the players need to show up.
That structure is just to limit our opponents to certain things when we lose the ball. The other structure can flow. We have so many different patterns to try to attack these situations, depending on the formation that they play, and the value of spaces. That will be in different things. It’s more about our aggression, when we have the ball, our purpose, our aggression, our runs in behind. When do players take someone on and think, ‘I have to make something happen’? We want them to think about themselves, not him or him, we want them to take accountability. They need to want to put the ball in the box more often, because this is what top teams do. If the other team want to defend the box, make sure they’re defending the box all the team, and that we’re being very aggressive in the final third. It’s something we haven’t faced so much since I arrived here, but I think it’ll happen more and more.
I do think there’s been an element of passing the buck when it comes to making things happen. That might be because the system has been too rigid, or players might think that Auba can score the goals. Hopefully, this is a game where we see a different mindset. There has to be more purpose to how we attack, doing it against Dundalk is one thing, United? Hmm…
We’ll see how the basics of what we saw against Dundalk translate into the United game. We cannot avoid the middle of the pitch. We cannot assume Xhaka is the only player that can move the ball forward. We cannot expect to win the United game without taking some calculated risks.
That said, I suspect the cagey approach we thought might be the recipe of the day… might have changed after the midweek decimation OGS handed out to Nagelsmann. United don’t like to sit back and I’m not sure they’ll do that this weekend… but we’ll see.
News leaked yesterday that Huss is out the door at Arsenal. Ivan G set out with a dream, the dealmaker at Barca, the Diamond Eyes guy at Dortmund, and the contracts person at Sky Racing. Well, that entire vision collapsed inside 3 years. I actually think it mostly collapsed because Ivan left and created a power vacuum. He botched the succession plan by assuming that dual leadership could work and that someone like Raul, chancer in chief, could be trusted to run things to the betterment of Arsenal. Well, it was a mess, but it’s being cleaned up.
Huss was supposed to come in and sort out the way we did deals. I’m not sure he can walk away having achieved much. Our wage bill is a mess, we’ve lost players on free transfers, and we have a collection of duds on deals so sweet, they won’t leave. I suspect his exit is quite tightly tied to Raul’s. He was the bag man for the bag man. If he was there overseeing the deals Raul was throwing his way, then it’s pretty clear why he’s out. He’s been given the quiet exit route out… very American. Sam Dean reckons we’ll bring in a lower level Head of Football Operations. We certainly need some expertise going back into the club. The jury is still out on some high profile staff and everyone knows it there, I hope we don’t continue the trend of letting average talent make huge decisions that sets us back years.
Finally… I did a podcast ON VIDEO, with the guys at Elite Football Show. I spoke with Haider and Ciaran about United and Arsenal. It’s a good listen, especially the parallels they draw between the United project and the Arsenal one. I also think it’s interesting to listen to other fans talking about what we’re doing… because generally, they are a bit more positive.