As we approach the end of the international break we all heave a collective sigh of relieve and turn our thoughts back to the Premier League, and in our case: a visit to St James Park. We are all hoping that Emery’s new Arsenal can build on two hard-fought (if not entirely convincing) wins over West Ham and Cardiff as they take on Rafa’s uninspiring Newcastle. Arsenal are currently at 2/1 to get a top 4 finish and if you’re thinking of putting any money on them this season, you may want to get some football betting tips first to make sure any money you put on is going to be worthwhile. The Gunners are also at 50/1 to win the league, but they’ve undeniably got a way to go to get to that stage.
After a tough start to the league campaign, which yielded as many points as most expected, the fixtures for the next eight games were not, on paper at least, unkind to Arsenal’s new coach. Now is the time for him to embed his ethos, his structures, combinations and tactics, in winnable matches to gain momentum and confidence before the sterner tests arrive.
Have we seen that fully yet? I think not – if I am honest – but perhaps we will in the next few weeks, starting this weekend and here are five facets and features I hope to see on Saturday:
Torreira to start
I will not be alone in wanting to see the Uruguayan start his first match since his arrival from Sampdoria. With the player himself admitting he knew Arsenal was his destination before the World Cup even started, it is hard to fathom why Emery has not yet started his big-money addition. When Lucas comes on, he simply speeds us up and makes the transition from defence to attack swifter. The finest players know what they want to do as they receive the ball and this can often mean that the second touch is a pass. Having this ability as the deepest lying midfielder is invaluable and for all his other attributes, Xhaka does not move the football quickly enough, The Swiss looked more effective with his passing range as the further advanced of the pivot ahead of Torreira and I sincerely hope we see that from the outset against Newcastle. It of course lessens the danger of one of Xhaka’s regular ‘brain fart’ moments costing us if he is slightly more advanced.
A change in the Centre Backs first receiving position
As my learned colleague on our radio show, Giles (@GrimandiTweets) pointed out to me, whilst it admirable to try to play out from the back, the positioning of Sokratis and Mustafi is too wide. Both are actually on the touchline when they split to receive the pass from Cech, whereas other teams that play the same way with success seem to have their central pairing split to the edge of the area.
This current Arsenal way seems to be creating two obvious problems to me. Firstly, the pass from Cech to the centre back is longer, which gives the opposition a greater opportunity to press – and even intercept – than the shorter pass to the edge of the penalty area. Secondly from a starting position on the touchline the only 2 options for Sokratis of Mustafi is to the receiving central midfielder, or if that pass is cut off, as so often has been the case, then the forced pass to back to Cech. It is this that has caused us problems but if the starting position when in receipt of the ball was the edge of the area then the option of a third less dangerous pass is available, and angled pass to the further advanced Monreal or Bellerin who are on the touchline.
That minor tweak would enable Emery to stay true to his beliefs but assist his goalkeeper and centre backs, who are all getting used to the new style. After all football at its best is a simple game and makling angles on the pitch for team mates is at the core of this.
Allow top players to make the right on pitch decisions
I thought this before chatting to former Arsenal goalkeeping legend, John Lukic, this week but he reaffirmed my view; senior players, good enough to pull on the cannon, should be entrusted to make the correct on pitch decisions when they cross the white line. So whilst we as supporters should trust and have patience with Emery as he imposed his playing style and the players should follow his instructions, they must also be able to make alternative judgement calls. So if Cech feels the safe option is to clear long he should feel empowered to make that call with 20 years of experience behind him. Indeed if a quick throw to a midfielder in space to launch a quick counter presents itself, he should be free to use his discretion.
Similarly, whilst the centre backs should be encouraged to continue playing out and applauded as they improve and gain confidence in so doing, they too must on occasion make the safety first call or be trusted to make a long pass is they feel able to do so and spot the appropriate more advanced player in space.
Just a few considered thoughts ahead of the weekend. You may or may not agree