It was quite the scene watching Real Madrid pick Liverpool to pieces last night… and once again, really highlighted the job we need to do this summer in the transfer market.
Madrid controlled the press, they were obviously extrememly efficient in midfield with Kroos and Modric pulling strings, and they moved the ball accurately at speed.
Who in our team, bar Xhaka on a very, very good day, could pick out Vinicius with a 2 yard advantage on Trent?
The most impressive part for me was how Madrid played around Liverpool and demoralised them. That really is the key to beating big teams with intelligent pressing, you play around them a few times early in the game and make them doubt themselves. Madrid did it with some beautiful one touch football and Klopp didn’t have an answer.
That sort of football from Arsenal can only really come when we have our best starting 11 out with the correct players in the right positions.
Arsenal need to start shaping our squad with players that can do things like the Madrid side can. An obvious statement, but if the direction we’re taking is highly technical, then we need highly technical players with the right physical attributes to be able to do that.
Currently, we have a good idea that can operate with certain players in the right mood. Take a few players our and we’re in a desperate situation.
We need more Smith Rowe like talents, his addition to the squad has been absolutely crucial. Without his intelligent running and quick passing, everyone drops a level. Odegaard is a fine player, but he was taken out of the Liverpool game with ease when there weren’t other creators around him
Technical means intelligence as well. I don’t believe for a minute Arteta didn’t have Trent down as a weakness, but he didn’t have players on the pitch that could execute a plan to take advantage. Madrid players don’t need a week to deliver on an plan, Liverpool don’t… Arsenal players aren’t smart enough to operate to a high level on short notice.
Auba and Lacazette don’t play well together, we have to give up that game and start playing the names that click on the pitch. If we’re playing Auba as the 9, we have to build technicians around him. We can’t try and have it every which way to appease the big names. It doesn’t work. Lacazette has good link-up play but limited threat in front of goal, Auba is deadly but won’t run the line or link-up. It’s a nightmare of our own making… but let’s be clear on Auba, he gave us the season we feared we’d have if he didn’t sign up for 3 years (no goal threat). Who saw that coming?
We also need to make decisions on the defence next season. If you need to be world class with the ball at your feet to survive in the Arsenal defence, let’s shape our squad that way and make sure we have players that are comortable playing a high risk game.
William Saliba is still very raw, he’s ony a kid, but his game is what we need from a centre back. He’s in the top 3 for ball recoveries, no one has run past him this season, and he can move with the ball at his feet. He needs to be in the four next season. What is the point in David Luiz next year? What is he preserving for us? If the coaching staff are looking at him, thinking he’s keeping us stable, and we’re 10th, it feels like they’re under-analysing the problem. None of the senior players are keeping us in the mix this year and none of them have a resale value. What’s more… the surgery… it’s a big fuck off siren… he’s old, fitness does not get any better. Old players that are injured all the time are not fun to be around at the training ground. Arteta can attest to that, not many people were huge fans of the man he was at the back end of his injury ravaged Arsenal career.
We should be experimenting for the future, not doubling down on a past that has had us 8th and now 10th or possibly lower this season. Calculate our unforced errors this season, look at the average age of where they come from, and you’ll find it’s probably over the age of 25. If you take even half those errors out of the system, we’re in the top 4 right now… but you have to have the guts to do that, and there are huge question marks over whether our coaching stuff is ruthless enough to make moves like that. If your most crucial players cost you the most points because of errors… then your squad is built to fail. The footballing equation can’t be ‘we play better with that person in the squad, but they regularly cost us games.’ That’s like building an electric car that thrills with 0-60 at 2 seconds… but regularly explodes and kills its passengers.
Arsenal will get to the end goal a lot quicker if we just do the difficult work now. At the moment, we’re the guy having one more beer before they hit the diet… we’re delaying the inevitable.
If there is one thing we’ve learned this season, it’s that players with a future to play for are far more hungry than those that don’t. Willian has no special qualities that are relevant to the now. David Luiz might be a great big game player, but if every 4 games he serves up a howler that costs us 3 points, what’s the fucking point? Our prestige names are fair weather. Who would I prefer as my #9 in a one on one with my house on the line? Auba. Who would I prefer over a 90… I’m not far off saying Martinelli this season.
Here’s the thing though, most of this post is directed at Arteta… it should NOT be that way.
‘He’s a bad manager but a good coach’ is something I hear at lot and I absolutely agree.
You could be a good coder, doesn’t mean you’d make a good CEO. All the brightest young managers in world football have brilliant systems built around their weaknesses. Nagelsmann is not a manager, he’s a coach, and he’s surrounded by people that know how to extract the most out of him. Marco Rose will not be handling the vision of a Dortmund when he’s hired there. There are so, so few true managers in world football right now because it’s an outrageous amount of responsibility to bestow on someone. We bestowed that on a novice.
We should have a strong technical director running the show. Edu should be the bad guy making the tough decisions. Arteta should be able to shrug and say, ‘I just work with what I am given’… it is farsical that a 39 year old is given so much power for delivering so little.
But here’s the thing, you don’t want Edu running things, nor does Vinai, which is why he promoted Arteta. When that sort of weakness runs through the clubs leadership, it’s absolutely clear why we are where we are right now. Too many people are learning on the job. Edu and Arteta should not be sharing roles. The blending of swimlanes makes it hard to see who is doing what. Arteta should coach, Edu should be building the squad. That said, I’m not saying we can’t succeed. I’m just saying we’re building out an unsustainable model based on the hope that one person can do it all… that’s not future proof. Might not even be now proof.
This summer is going to be massive. All three of the leadership trifecta have jobs on the line. KSE are unlikely to foot another rebuild bill. We’ll have to make money before we can spend. We’ll likely have to improve the level of our squad on lower wages. We’ll likely have to move a historic amount of talent both ways and keep stability in the first team.
A huge ask. If they pull it off, then I’ll back the fuck away…
One way to make the summer a little easier would be to win the Europa League, more on that tomorrow night.