Time is moving very slowly on the transfer front, so let’s have a little chat about what I liked about the game from yesterday PLUS some broader thoughts about where I think things are heading.
Auba is smiling again
There are certain people in this world with the power to lift or sink a room just by their body language. That is our captain. Auba spent a chunk of last season looking very sad for a whole host of reasons. The hope amongst Arsenal fans is that the main man from Gabon was hit differently by the mental strains of the pandemic.
He is a world-class finisher that underperformed last season. My hope is that overhead flick is the start of better from him. Once he realises he has a supporting cast around him that can get the ball to his feet where he likes it, I think we could see a different player this season.
Sambi Lokonga could be a steal
The Belgian made an instant impact at the base of midfield. He’s a versatile player who claims people around him say he’s better as a 6. Well, sitting deeper than Partey yesterday, you could instantly see why he’d been purchased. His one-touch passing, clever movement into space, and his unpredictable repotoire made an instant difference. He will play through the middle, he will run with the ball, he always make sure there’s an angle after he’s made a move.
Obviously, there’s a huge difference between United (lost 4-2 to QPR) and Millwall, but the point here is we bought promise. In his post-game interview, he said he’d been convinced to come to Arsenal because he was told we were building around young players. That is EXACTLY what the club should be doing. A super debut, hopefully he’s firing by January.
… also worth noting that he seems like a top guy. His interview on the .com showed a man who has a great grasp of English and a bit of a spark about him (also, like that Arsenal are using fans to interview players, love the energy Frimpon brings to the interviews).
Folarin Balogun has something different
I’m not pushing for a 19-year-old to be starting Premier League games, but I think his profile is something we lack in our forward line. His athletic offering is electric, his movement over 50m is something else. He forced his goal with a beautiful diagonal run. I really hope we keep him in the mixer next season.
Lacazette isn’t a bad idea
I know it’s deeply unfashionable to say it, but Lacazette is very good, if it weren’t for his deal expiring, I’d be game to keep him around the first team for another season. His link-up play and work-rate is second to none. He was our best striker last season and he opens up the game for players like ESR, Saka and Pepe in ways Auba can’t. If he does go and we land with Tammy, I wouldn’t be despondent. I think the English striker has a very high ceiling and he’s still extremely young, but it just feels unlikely Lacazette is landing £180k a week in a broken Europe.
Hector, Kola and Willock were all absent. This is good news because I suspect it means we’re moving them on. If Newcastle have £25m+ for a player who’d be on the periphery, then that is a great return on a Hale-Ender. The other two just aren’t right for what we need moving forward. Hopefully, Granit will find a club, this Roma thing is really dragging on, we shouldn’t be taking pennies for a midfielder that is 28 and landed a place in the team of Euros.
Cedric and Chambers look like they are going absolutely nowhere this season. If that’s the case, I can handle it. The English centre-back has found a role in the side, he’s not let us down, and his delivery is very special. I also don’t think Cedric is that bad, his biggest issue is fitness, but I don’t think he’s terrible back-up and he looks focused (rumours that he came back to training camp very fit). Both of them were involved in a goal yesterday. It’s also worth mentioning that Chambers is very well-liked behind the scenes, you can palm that off, but after last season, good eggs are going to be of value.
Again, goes without saying, preseason is about fitness and trying new ideas. It means nothing come the start of the season, but there are things I am looking for: Does the mood with the players look good? I would say so. Are the players we’re bringing into the club adding something new. I think so. Are the ideas that are being drilled into the team reaping rewards? Well, hard to tell, but the football looks better, less choreographed, and we’re getting up the pitch faster.
Football is so brutal at cycling through managers, most of us have never really experienced what a process can actually look like. If your ideas don’t work instantly at Chelsea, you are out. Same for a lot of the big clubs. Arsenal invested in a longer-term project and pieces have been moving forward. This idea that the football is shit because that’s what Arteta is all about is wide of the mark, we’re seeing glimpses of that. Perception will catch up with reality at some point and people will start seeing it.
We defend well. We are difficult to beat. If we bring in players that move the ball with more ambition at a faster speed, the whole idea that is being implemented will perform better. Just watching the concept of Lokonga, even against a weak side, shows you what we lacked. Now imagine what happens when you add a center-back that can do those things. Now add a CAM with end product. Things start to get sexy.
The other point that people miss is the football that Arsenal is trying to adopt is complicated. Arsenal was a dumb club. Dated ideas kept the lights on 10 years longer than they should have, then Emery tried to implement a philosophy that was anti-Arsenal. The re-education process has been slower than we’d have hoped, but you will see ideas settle this season. Players clicking with that cognitive style of football. Our football will hopefully go from learner driver mode, where every action requires a specific thought… to human auto-pilot, where the basics are natural, and everything flows naturally.
Well, that’s the vision. Young players pick up those ideas quicker because they are hungrier and all that matters is their career. This summer needs to land some finishing moves, but I’m happy with the bits we’ve already done, even happier that Arteta and Edu learned their lessons this summer.
See you in the comments.