Sheffield United 1-0 Arsenal: The Points, the Table, the Fixtures or the Games


‘The Points, the Table, the Fixtures or the Games’

Before every game I pick the team in my head.
Before every transfer window I pick who I’d sell and buy too.
Every once in a while I imagine what I’d do if I was Raul, Vinai and Edu.

I sit here tonight thinking about the three in charge.
I ask myself what I would do with Unai Emery if I were them.

This is where I land….. I think that we have a trio in charge that put Arsenal in a far better position this summer not only with filling almost every transfer need but by installing Edu himself and promoting Freddie Ljungberg.
I think the fans feel good about our three behind the scenes.

I think that the fans look at the squad and *probably not after a PL game* feel like we have talent, options, experience and youth, almost the complete package.
So, behind the scenes and in the changing room there are many reasons to feel very optimistic.
In short, we have moved forward in these areas.

This is the opposite of how almost everyone feels about Unai Emery.

The club is moving forward and Emery is taking us backwards.

I’ve held off from being that definitive but apart from the Cup games I see such little sprinklings of progress mixed with an ability to find new ways to underperform and new ways to lose.


The club has to recognize the dichotomy and at the very least be talking about an alternate plan.

They could look at the points and the table and realize that we are one weekend from a reversal of fortunes and end up back in the top four where we all want to be.
They could look at the fixtures and believe that in December that we could be firmly in the top four.

Alternatively, they could look at the games and see that everybody around us has played well at least 3 or 4 times this season. At best, Arsenal have played well for a few halves but not a whole game in nine attempts. They are all experienced enough to know that you can’t keep playing poorly and expect progress.
I sure hope that they realize the fans part in this too.
Arsenal fans, all of them, know what bad looks like. They’ve seen it far too often in the last few years. There could be a situation very soon where the fanbase becomes hostile again.

Do the club believe that Emery will turn the performances around? If they do, he stays because the facts are that we are close to where we want to be in the league table.
If they don’t then I don’t see how Emery can hold on.

I’ll just go back to my imagination and it’s telling me that if I was the club I’d be actively looking for a better coach and readying myself if I need to pull the trigger.


Simple….. the club is moving forward and I don’t now trust Emery to move the team from backwards to forwards.

If we gamble, wait and hope then the likelihood is that the club will be seen as going backwards as well as the team and so all the positive work they’ve done behind the scenes and in the changing room could fall away.

They’ve worked hard to change how we are perceived by agents, players and the football world as a whole and made strides.

I wouldn’t risk it.



* Xhaka was much better offensively. He offered himself to dictate play which I hadn’t seen in the same way previously. He was a foot away from a glorious strike.
Unfortunately, I have no idea what he was doing when they scored.

* Pepe was our best player. No idea why he was subbed.
I have much patience with Pepe because final third product and the choice of areas where he plays is all he’s lacking. He looks like a very good footballer with magic in his feet.
I also love how he avoids trouble with two feet.

* Ceballos added possession when we needed it. He will shine again when he extends himself to trying to make the difference in the final third rather than just being a master at protecting the ball and circulating possession.

* Saka has once again proved how composed he is when crossing. Such a delightfully composed clip to Ceballos, who should have scored.


* When all is going wrong for me as a coach I always return to the same place.
That place is reminding myself that in order to stand the best chance of winning a football match I need to get the best out of each players talents.
So, back to my imagination…. if I was coaching Arsenal I’d ask myself at the end of each game the following…

Did the forwards receive early balls from Luiz as an option?

Did Kolasinac have opportunities to cross early as this is his strength?


Did Xhaka and Ceballos shoot in the final third or did they endlessly circulate possession or try to thread the needle? Xhaka has a thunder of a left foot and Ceballos has bent many balls in the top corner pre-Arsenal.

Did Willock make third man runs or just sit between the lines and not penetrate? He does one very well and the other not so.

Did Saka run at them or sit between the right back and centre back and play as a pivot with his back to goal?

Did Pepe dictate play from 40-50 yards out or did he run behind the defenders on and off the ball?

Did Aubameyang get the service that has gotten him a Balon D’or nomination or was he invisible and why?

Was Lacazette played in for angled shots or just used to fight the centre backs and supply others?

Want to figure out a style? Always look at your players talents rather than forcing them to play ‘your way.’ Once you’ve identified their strengths, find a system that frequently illuminates them.

Get a positive response in the majority of these and we win.

* If Kolasinac played because he ‘hasn’t done anything wrong,’ I would argue “Tell me what he’s doing right?”
The list is short so I wonder, do we wait for players to be poor before we recognize that one has a far higher ceiling than the other?

* First half Willock was smothered playing between the lines because Pepe and Saka came inside too soon allowing Sheffield Utd’s block to be super compact.

* Should playing out of the back be a system or a moment by moment choice?

* Our midfielders are doing well in one of the three areas.
In the first phase (the first and second build up pass) they are giving us options and offering us the opportunity to play from the back.
As mentioned above, they are struggling in the second phase as there is often nobody between the lines to link the play or the option there is smothered.
The final phase is where we flatlined in this game. Not only are Xhaka, Ceballos and Guendouzi rarely attempting to create/assist but they are even less often trying to help the forwards on the scoresheet.


* Always important to remember that tactically the best way to beat a high performing low block is to go outside the full backs or shoot from range.
Secondly, drive into a crowded box on the dribble as defenders start tip toeing around your feet.
Again, Arsenal rarely did this.


* Just the one.
My opening thought.


The fans remember last seasons home game against Crystal Palace as it stabbed them in the heart.
If that happens again I can only hope that the club has already discussed a plan.
If I was Unai Emery I’d play Tierney and Bellerin on Sunday and fly forward from the first whistle.
If he plays them both on Thursday then tells us they can’t play 2 games in 4 days, over thinks the game plan and we don’t win then I wouldn’t want to be him at the following home game.

This is a pivotal moment for Arsenal.

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One Response to Sheffield United 1-0 Arsenal: The Points, the Table, the Fixtures or the Games

  1. Andy October 22, 2019 at 11:53 am #

    Thanks for the analysis Mike. My thoughts are that we lost the game in the first half because the midfield is too weak to fight for control of the game. We need to fight for the space to feed the forwards but we had nobody to do that. My issue with Emery is his refusal to play Torreira. I watched Xhaka closely last night and he only played well once we were losing and no longer had any pressure on him to defend. I don’t get what he does. He doesn’t defend, he doesn’t create, he can’t do set pieces and when the ball is passed to him he passes it straight back to the person who passed it to him. I predict that on Thursday with a midfield with these two players swapped will be a much better one.

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