We can all smell it – He can smell it – We are on the verge. It’s now about execution and belief.
What does Arsene do now? He has this new wonderful team that is fluid, intelligent and technically arrogant – but also starting to show the mentality required to win.
But football has changed. We have to EVOLVE – If you stand still we go backwards.
We have the Data Analysts (of our main competitors) watching all of our games – looking, pondering, wondering, focusing on our developmental weaknesses. We have many amateurs (like me) creating online fervour all adding to the increased expectation.
Can the analysts and super coaches like ’Brendan (joking) Louis Manuel and Jose’ analyse our pattern of play – who is pivotal – where do they receive the ball, how do they receive the ball?
Jose will be thinking ‘can we impose our mentality on Arsenal? Can we open up the fragility in their belief at the top table? AFC have not won a BIG trophy for a decade – can they make the step?’
Football has become a science – To stay ahead of science and create those ‘marginal gains’ you have to evolve. Today I will share my ideas on what that evolution for the 2015-2016 season will look like and how we evolved last season preparing the ground for in my opinion for the next level.
It’s all about Partnerships
When I was thinking about how Arsenal improved in the last 3 months of the season culminating in destroying Villa and it was the development and consistency of partnerships.
Let me explain:
Injury to key players like Ozil, Kos, Flamini, Arteta, Debuchy, Jack and the Ox meant partnerships were always changing. I will give you an example.
Arsenal team to play Swansea AWAY:
Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Alexis, Cazorla, Welbeck
Let’s assess the Partnership on show that day….
- Chambers and BFG – Not the most mobile right channel
- Chambers and the Ox – the Ox did not defend enough leaving Chambers exposed
- Flamini and Ramsey – Positional indiscipline. Both play erratically offering no structure
- Gibbs and Alexis – Gibbs does not take his position from Alexis and goes past him too much leaving space
- Santi and Welbeck – Santi better deep and no longer a 10 in my opinion. Danny hard to locate at times
- BFG and Monreal – Not an ideal CB partnership.
We lost this game in hindsight unsurprisingly. But over the season we developed and we developed with a technical stability based on improving consistent partnerships driven by improved fitness.
Arsenal Team vs Villa at Wembley:
Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Kos, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla , Ramsey, Alexis, Ozil, Walcott
- Kos and BFG – Brotherly love based pace and positional balance
- Bellerin and Ramsey – Bellerin’s recovery pace and mobility covered the weakness of a slow wide player
- Coquelin and Santi – Balanced off and on the ball. Season defining partnership
- Monreal and Alexis – Solid and mature. Movement is collaborative not selfish.
- Ozil and Everyone – Facilitator supreme. The glue of Arsenal who creates partnerships everywhere
- Theo and Alexis – Movement rotational flexibility and an aligned threat of pace
To develop AFC further Wenger has to develop more partnerships that form the basis of his rotational squad policy. Can he rotate while keeping the right balance in those partnerships? As Swansea shows get it wrong and we will be exposed.
Cohesion Cohesion Cohesion:
The buzz word of pre-season – Some fans are suspicious. Does the fact Wenger talks about cohesion mean he is building on familiarity of the current players meaning he would buy anyone to threaten the ‘cohesion’?
What is he trying to articulate?
Flow or Moments – Arsenal are a team that is based on flow.
I have been looking at MUFC and CFC in particular and they have a different efficiency. They play a game based on creating decisive moments by pressure and territory. MUFC with Fellani, Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger you have forceful players looking to dominate with presence and create moments for Rooney and Mata to be decisive. Diagonals that turn you and make you defend running backwards.
Chelsea when under pressure play percentages. They are forceful in their play – built on good preparation based coaching. They horseshoe teams into the attacking third and create repeat moments. If that does not work they go set piece, if that does not work they look to Hazard. They are a team built on belief structure and looking for decisive moments.
But Arsenal are different – Everyone knows to stop AFC you have to stop the flow.
‘Kill Wengerball tactics’
- Interrupt the flow
- Tactical rotational fouling
- Don’t let players like Ozil feel good about themselves.
- Get their heads down – Press
- Don’t leave space between lines
- Score first so AFC lose discipline and shape
Wenger will build on flow – Cohesion creates a higher percentage of flow execution. Pace speeds up flow and imposes our game on others.
Pace makes us proactive, pace makes others step back from us stopping them from implementing the Kill Wengerball tactics.
How can we EVOLVE
The end of last season was a joy. We gave a dynamic performance vs Villa that I have watched 20 times and struggle to find anything wrong. It was almost football perfection.
We have this abundance of intelligent midfielders who can do wonderful things on the ball but I’m not convinced we have the Thierry Henry rapier desperate to finish the unrivalled approach play. The quality of player is rising the standards are rising on and off the pitch.
How do we Evolve:
Add Leadership – Cech I admired him as a player but I never knew the man and it’s immediately apparent we have a focussed determined leader added to the dressing room. Its Wenger job now to empower Cech and maximise his presence not de-power him. He is exceptional and world top 3 keeper and he plays for Arsenal now and I hope he can drive us forward and influence.
Focus on Offensive Efficiency – We don’t score enough. Our execution is not as good as our approach play. We still give people chances. It’s not easy to play how we play. It involves risk taking and bravery but we can score more. We all want to solve this by buying someone but let’s look at how we train in the box. Let’s focus on finishing work. Goals change lives and goals maximise the flow we look to create. Get it right like we did vs Villa and all is good. Get it wrong like we did vs MUFC at home and it is crushing.
Create different ad varying Partnerships – I expect to see this in preseason. An example would be central defensive pairings of Gabriel and BFG then Chambers and Kos. Exposing we hope different attributes that could form a similar balance. Ramsey and Coquelin, Ox and Bellerin, Theo and Ozil, Jack and Aaron in centre mid. If we can solidify these new partnerships we can become harder to read while delivering consistent results because we can genuinely vary selection game to game with confidence.
Add Pace up top – The rumour that got be excited over the summer so far was and is the rumour of the Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He scores goals granted but his high energy high pressing style suits where we want to go. The fact he is the fastest player in Europe helps but also many of his goals come from the right side. We do have a weakness scoring from the right but in my opinion he suits our evolution. His arrival would say to everyone what we are about now. We are about devastation, early passing and the ability to transition from all parts of the pitch. This needs to be the identity of Wenger’s AFC.
Don’t Accommodate – We have a number of players in direct competition. We have many that want to play centrally and drive a team from those playmaking positions.
We know who they are!!
Jack Aaron, Ozil, Santi Arteta, Flamini, Coquelin – All want central positioning so to accommodate we play some of these central players wide. This in my opinion threatens evolution of this team to an identity based on technical cohesive pace based flow. Having slow centre midfield wide men who can cover wide but do not consistently perform out of position. I hope Wenger can stay strong and not accommodate players just to let them play where they are strongest. On occasion we play the extra centre mid wide to dominate the ball but how I feel it’s time for tough decisions and play people where they are best and ensure we have the goals and penetration wide to create space and threaten behind.
Develop more partnerships develop improved partnerships and we shall reach our goal.
Thanks for reading – Let’s see Wenger apply his super intelligence.
AFC fan of 35 years. Grew up in Luton wishing I grew up in Upper Street and could just not get enough of AFC and the area.
I was a child influenced by Charlie George but it got serious for me was in the Liam Brady, Graham Rix and Paul Davis era’s.
Home and Away fan in times gone by – More selective on games today due to prices and middle age.
Priorities – I now watch my 12 year old son play Academy football which gives me a more holistic view of the coaching aspect of the game. I study players the profile of players in relation to squad and team building. I want Arsenal to be as big as we are.
My Hero – Vieira
Happiest Day – Copenhagen v Parma
Saddest Day – Paris 06 & Cfc in the CL quarter Finals 2004
Biggest wish – Wenger to win again and for the gap between the fans and the club to narrow.
The best days are ahead.