The post-match reaction from Gooners seems to be pretty unified: A frustrating game we threw away.
Mike McDonald had the most incisive piece of analysis: The team that made the most mistakes lost.
The goals we conceded were all unforced errors.
- Ben White with a shocking clearance
- Nuno and ESR making a mess of a 10-yard pass
- Odegaard sliding in on Fred in the penalty area
Mistakes kill momentum, they kill confidence, and they fu*k up your position in the table. Our players need to learn from them and they need to make sure they don’t become part of the package like they were last season.
The biggest issue we have this season outside the striker problem is how poor we’ve been once we’ve taken a lead. Our comfort blanket is to sit deep. Our players have very little confidence or know-how when it comes to going a goal up. That’s an experience thing and we’ll get better at it. It’ll click at some point, it takes a collective boldness to make it happen, but with good players, it comes.
The usual suspect think this is part of the game plan, but they’re wrong. The players say that Arteta wants us to push forward, the manager says he demands the team pushes forward, and you can see him waving his arms frantically on the touchline encouraging the players to get forward. Sitting deep and ceding possession is not part of our approach, it’s a bug in the system we need to code out.
So how do we start to manage games a bit better? Our experienced players need to step up for starters. We have the youngest team in the league, they have limited feel for each other, they need support. At the moment, would you say that Partey is stepping up? He’s been our least impressive midfielder this season. Lokonga has outshone him. Elneny outshone him. Let’s be honest here, who would you rather see as our starting midfield pairing when everyone is fit? Probably Xhaka and Sambi as things stand. Partey needs to find his best form and fast.
I will say, a lot of people were wondering why Sambi was dropped for United, I suspect there must have been something in his data pointing towards the potential of an injury. No way Mo is rolled out for his first game against United if Sambi is fit.
Back to it…
We need to see the players take a little bit more ownership of controlling games. We know they are all good enough to play a high line. The players are much more impressive when they are chasing a goal or level. They need to bottle that. This team is 10 games old, logic would suggest that they are going to improve as the season rolls on. The danger Arteta has to manage for? December is a tight month. There’s not a lot of time on the training pitch. If we don’t beat Everton, we’re in a bit of a mess when we need it the least.
The other issue the players will be watching for is the Auba problem. Is he above being dropped for poor performances? He shouldn’t be. Everyone at Arsenal knows the issue here isn’t the person, it’s the player. The system has outgrown his ability. If you want to succeed with a Juego De Posicion, you can’t have a striker in there that can receive the ball into feet or run the line. We talk about the lack of chances in the system without acknowledging the painful reality that Auba is part of that problem. If your striker can’t hold the ball up or turn with it with his back to goal, your attacking system is not going to create to its optimum levels. Just think back 5 years ago, Olivier Giroud had his speed limitations, but his ability to stitch play together allowed Ozil, Sanchez, Ramsey and Cazorla to thrive from an attacking perspective. He could play one-touch, he could hold the ball up, he would bully defenders. His weakness was pace, which made it easy to squeeze up on us, but there are strikers within our reach now that have everything he does PLUS pace.
The Times is reporting our interest in lowly Everton’s Dominic Calvert Lewin. He’s a rough diamond. He looked like peak-Inzaghi at times under Carlo. What does he have? Speed. Power. Elite air game. He’s a gooner. He bullies defenders. We’re clearly looking to the future. We’d have Tammy A in our line-up if we’d been able to move on one of our strikers this summer.
It’s also interesting that we’re looking at Dejan Kulusevski, the Swede with Macedonian heritage (parents) is powerful, he has great control in tight spaces, his range of passing is very good, and he has red hair. His stats point towards a player that keeps the ball moving forward. Apparently, he’s ranked #1 in the league for one-touch passing accuracy, and he’s good for key passes.
He’s only 21, so he fits our profile, and when you look at his defensive stats, you see again, we’re looking for players that can do it at both ends. He ranks in the highest percentiles for pressures and tackles… and get this, he’s also in the 67th percentile for aerial clearances. Small thing, but having 6ft 1 attackers that can help from setpieces at both ends gives us additional weaponry. Remember Giroud from corners?
There’s also Ianis Stoica, the young Romanian, who is being linked with a move. Can do everything Lacazette can but with power and pace.
Basically, it’s clear that our attacking options are going to get a big reset over the next year.
But what can we do NOW?
Our options are slim. Eddie Nkeitiah is apparently training well. Say what you will about his output for Arsenal, he’d run the line better than Auba and Lacazette.
There’s also the potential of Gabriel Martinelli through the middle. I still feel that’s a bit of a lightweight option right now. He’s a top talent, but he needs that Wenger education out on the wing before we can think about him inside. We’d all love to see Balogun given another go, but I’m just not sure we’re at the stage where we need to be taking risks like that. We’re in the mix for top 4 this season whether we like to admit it or not. A 90 minutes like the Brentford offering and we’ll not come away with what we need. I think he needs a solid loan at a club where he’ll be guaranteed minutes.
A few were scoffing at Boro, but for me, that idea feels very interesting. Chris Wilder has been there for about a month, we know he’s a progressive coach that moved Sheff U a long way, they are mid-table. I have no idea what Ben Knapper’s model is for loan moves, but one would suspect he is painfully aware of what happens when you get them wrong. Eddie is a prime example here. Fortuna Dusseldorf nearly had a deal for him, Leeds came in with a fee, the player ended up going there and not getting any minutes. If he went to Germany, that wouldn’t have been the case, and he’d probably be further along in his career now.
The perfect loan is a bit of a Goldilocks formula.
If the club is chasing promotion, the stakes might be too high to let a young player flump around in the starting 11.
If the club is rock bottom, the stakes and emotion around the camp might be too high to let a kid slum it with the bigger boys.
You need a club that is in transition, safe enough to give young players time, and you probably want a coach that wants to make a statement about kicking up the technical level of a team.
I wouldn’t be against Boro’, it’s a tough place to be a pro, but if you do well, the fans love you. That or a move to a solid German club would be good for him. Emile cut his teeth at Huddersfield, Ben White at Leeds and Newport, Harry Kane went to Leyton Orient and Milwall… you don’t need a trendy loan move for it to be successful.
Finally, I’m writing this as West Ham put in ANOTHER huge performance against a top team. David Moyes really has been absolutely magnificent since he arrived. I’m not sure Chelsea are at the level of Liverpool or City this season. I’m looking forward to seeing how Tuchel deals with adversity. It also shows the importance of us grabbing those 3 points on offer on Monday. We need to keep pace with West Ham this month. They are top 4 contenders, no doubt. I don’t know why people keep using West Ham to pick holes at the club, a reminder, we win on Monday and we are 1 point behind them… also, West Ham are GOOD. One of the oldest squads in the league against the youngest. We’re in good shape. Loads to improve on, but we’ll get there.
I’m also watching Wolves put in a really good performance against Liverpool. They’ve been superb this season, their table position doesn’t reflect some of their performances, we are in for a TOUGH game on the 27th.
Right, jump on our podcast. People raving about the Matt Kandela performance, he started the game with a two-footed challenge on me and the crowd went wild.