Damn, waiting two weeks for football after getting spanked by Villa is a very long time. I hope Arteta is sitting in a cupboard for the first week thinking about what he did, and more importantly, what he plans to do when we come out the backend of this.
The good news is that after the break, there are three big games where we can show to league what we’re made of… Leeds, Wolves, then Spurs. Put 9 points on the board there and we go from ‘OH MY GOD IS THIS IT?!’ to ‘OK MAYBE LIFE MIGHT BE OK.’
That’ll be three very different challenges. Leeds will spray attack-minded football our way, quite simply, they have no other way to play. Wolves will be tough, they tried to bully us last time and we beat them the way we caught a lot of good sides out early on under Arteta. Then it’s Spurs. Everyone is loving Jose now. He has three of the best forwards in the league at the moment, that, combined with a solid base has Spurs looking like they might do something this year if he can get more performances out of the team. It would be huge to down him.
All of that is a long way off. If you were on death row, you’d pray that your last two weeks were during an international break… it’d be the longest two weeks ever.
The brief to Arteta is very simple, he has to figure a way of making us better going forward. He’s never been under this much pressure as a young manager. Some wither and die, the best rise to the occasion and find a way to succeed. The thing ringing in my head is Steve Round saying the Moyes project was going places but they didn’t win enough games to justify it. That’ll be Arteta if he’s not careful. Points is the best stat for any manager.
Arteta’s struggle is he doesn’t have a City squad to call on. His attacking options can’t do what they could do at City. His coaching projects have gone from making £50m Raheem Sterling world-class, to turning Reiss Nelson into a Premier League player. He knew the challenges when he took over. He cannot hide behind ‘it’s not possible’ because currently, we’re near bottom for shots in the second half across 92 clubs in English football. It’s a stupid stat, but that’s the way football fans work, and the reality is, we don’t need stats to see that this current side has no ambition in the final third.
What Arteta might need to learn is that when you manage a non-elite spender, imperfect attacking options are better than total caution.
He might have to learn to trust people he doesn’t believe in for a period of time, because sometimes, these people surprise you.
He has to innovate on something that isn’t really working this season.
Currently, we have one of the best sharpshooters out on the wing and he’s not getting the ball or being served chances. The purpose of the move out there was to give him more space to shoot. I don’t care what the stats showed last year, the core narrative of this season is BIG chances keep falling to the guy in the middle, and that guy is not converting.
Watch this video.
Here are the numbers on those goals that I did really quickly.
31 goals scored:
- Inside 6 yards: 14 (45.16%)
- Inside the Box: 15 (48.39%)
- Penalties: 2 (6.45%)
So what can we draw from this sort of data?
Well, the eye test told me a few things. Auba is at his best when he’s fox-in-the-boxing. He has a sixth sense for knowing where he needs to be. It’s a bit of a myth that he relies on his pace for goals… he relies on instincts and fast thinking.
That particular Dortmund team has a few things our side doesn’t really have. Namely, a Dembele. His electric pace and final delivery is currently unmatched in this Arsenal team based on form. That said, if there’s a player that ‘could’ be him, it’s Nicolas Pepe. They both have electric pace, they can both ghost players, and let’s be honest… final ball is a form and coaching thing. Currently, we don’t get our wide players on the ball high enough up the pitch for this sort of player, and we don’t move the ball fast enough.
You could also argue that Gabriel M and Reiss could be trained to be more direct. They both have the pace for it.
The biggest miss we have compared too that Dortmund team is final ball merchants. Dortmund had Kagawa, Gotze, and Guerreiro, and Dembele. But more specifically, they have players that can do things through the middle of park. We don’t have that, but right now, we don’t have players taking chances from wide positions either.
My rough conclusion is that the best way to temporarily deal with a creativity problem is:
1) Put your best finisher through the middle. If Auba had played centrally all this season, we’d have more points, and we’d have taken the first goal in a lot of big games.
2) Take a chance on players that aren’t hitting the mark. If Pepe is whining that he wants to play in the media, give him a go. Be explicit about what you want from him. Pump his confidence in the media. Tell him to be more like Dembele 4 years ago. Do whatever it takes to max out the skills he’s not bubbling up… stop focusing all the attention down the left. Bring some balance by making your focal point involved where he’s most likely to score goals. Also, maybe give Reiss or Willock a go. Willock centrally is the only player that might be able unlock us centrally. Reiss is direct and his career is on the line. Try is, couldn’t be worse than what we’re seeing now.
What do YOU think?
P.S. Carrying on from yesterday’s post, namely, keeping players on that should be sold… I cannot believe we turned down a good bid for Lacazette from Roma. Shocking stuff. The biggest learning for Arteta in 2020 is that he needs to be more ruthless. No more old players that can’t deliver. Move them on. Go with elite young players with high ceilings.